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Sep 16
Should you buy a more powerful router?

ADSL ModemThe power output of consumer wireless routers is limited by design to avoid signal congestion and although slightly more powerful models are available they rarely make much difference to your wireless connection. Part of the problem is that wireless data flows in both directions, so while increasing the router’s output means that PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones receive a stronger signal, there is no improvement in the strength of the return signal, from the device to the router.

Repeaters and extenders can definitely help, but only if they are installed strategically around your home, and it also helps to use an external USB wireless adaptor on the PC or laptop, preferably one with an external antenna.

Relocating the router – higher is usually better – and connecting it to a more efficient or directional antenna can also improve coverage but to determine the best position you need a Wi-Fi signal strength meter. If you have an Android smartphone there is an excellent free app from Google Play, called Wi-Fi Analyzer. This quickly shows how effective each change in location is, and helps to identify dead spots, where a repeater can do the most good.

Other things to check include accessing the router’s setup menu to make sure that it is using the more efficient 802.11n standard. If you are experiencing weak or noisy signals this may be the channel that your router is using so while you are in the router’s online administration interface try changing the channel to a different one. (Wi-Fi Analyzer can show you what channels are free).

Finally, make sure there are no other wireless devices or noisy appliances close to the router, which may cause interference. If so, move the router as far away as possible.

Finally, if you decide to buy a new Wireless Router make sure that it comes with a built in ADSL Modem so you can plug it into your telephone point.

Aug 19
Power cuts will cause your PC to shut down

APC BE700G-UK 405 WattsIf your Windows PC loses power while it’s starting up or shutting down, it could cause minor damage to your windows installation or even a greater disaster, such as the inability to start your computer up.

So when the lights go out make sure your PC stays alive by investing in a battery-backed uninterruptible power supply unit (UPS).

I’ve always used a good back up routine and my battery-backed UPS is yet another investment that’s paid off on more than one occasion by keeping my PC alive and booting even while the lights went out.

If you run a small business then you may well be in the middle of some work when a power cut occurs. In this situation a battery-backed UPS will be indispensable as it will give you time to save your documents and shut down your computer safely.

Obviously laptop users already have a “battery backup” built in, so they have less need for a battery-backed UPS.

So, what kind should you buy? I have no specific recommendations, but you can find popular models like the APC BE700G-UK 405 Watts for as little as £65. That’s very similar to the one I’m using right now and I have no complaints. A small business might buy a slightly more expensive battery backup such as the APC BR900GI 540 Watts which costs around £175 from Amazon.co.uk.

A battery backup will certainly cost you a few pounds, but I believe this is an essential purchase if you own a Desktop PC and even more important if you run a small business.

Jul 22
Fix and Prevent Registry Problems

Registry ViewTo keep your computer working well, it is essential for you to clean your Windows Registry on a regular basis to remove all unwanted and malicious entries from your computer system.

A usefull registry tool will have a simple and user-friendly interface that makes it easy, even for novice users, to perform Registry maintenance.

Registry tools use complex algorithms to perform a thorough scan of your Registry and weed out all junk entries residing within it. You can also use these tools to scan for orphan uninstalled programs entries to ensure complete program removal. A good Registry tool also helps you completely get rid of malware programs by removing all malicious registry entries that have been added deep within the Registry tree.

Registry tools are usually safe to use because they generally take a backup of the Registry before making any changes.

To keep your Windows Registry clean and you computer free of junk files I thoroughly recommend CCleaner. You can download this free software from my website – http://www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/downloads/ccsetup415.exe.

Jul 1
Monitor Display Problems Part 2

Blank ScreenMonitor display problems are not always the result of a faulty graphics card. For example, if your computers monitor has a black screen on startup with an amber or orange flashing light it could be caused by one or more of the following things:

1. A Dead or Dying Power Supply

The first thing to look at is your computer’s Power Supply. It may not be providing enough power to your motherboard so that it cannot start up your Windows PC. This scenario can cause a black screen and the flashing orange or amber light (depending on your PC’s BIOS). This might also mean that the Power Supply itself is dead or dying. If you do discover that the Power Supply is dead you will have to replace it.

2. Damaged Connections

The next thing that can cause a flashing amber light and a blank screen is a damaged connection. For example, a bent pin on a device that is connected to your PC or a faulty USB connection could disrupt and short out your motherboard. This can make it look like you have a dead motherboard but in fact it is a problem that can be easily fixed. Some brands of computers will show you a solid amber light in this instance but others will show you a flashing light.

3. Motherboard Failure

Another reason for this black screen problem is that your PC’s motherboard is dead. Computer components do fail eventually and sometimes even before their time is up. So your only option is to buy another motherboard and fit it into your PC.

May 1
Monitor Display Problems and Graphic Cards

Samsung 15.6inch LaptopMost of the time you can tell if your computer’s graphic card is deteriorating by seeing little tell-tale signs, such as a black screen with horizontal lines that may be flashing off and on. But sometimes you get no warning at all. And screen display problems are not always the result of a non-working graphics card.

If you see a single vertical white line blinking in the upper left hand corner of the screen (on either an external monitor or a laptop monitor) – you may need to do a clean install of the Windows Operating System.

In fact, a single vertical white line blinking in the upper left hand corner of the screen shows that the hard drive or the boot sector cannot be seen by your computer – or, for some reason the Windows Operating System is badly corrupted so that it cannot be loaded (If you have taken a recent drive image, use that to put your PC back into action). The worst case scenario is that your hard drive may have failed and you will need to buy a new drive on which to install Windows.

If your computer’s monitor shows the just a black screen but with no blinking white vertical line in the upper left hand corner, then your graphics card may have died. You can try removing your video card and using on-board video, or replacing the video card to see if that resolves the problem.

Mar 18
Two free software tools everyone should be using

PC  ProblemsKeeping your Windows PC in good shape means that you must keep virus attacks at bay and keep spyware and adware off of your Windows PC. All these things can slow your PC down or even cripple it. Of course everyone no doubt has a decent anti-virus program running on their computer, but if not you must download at least a free anti-virus program right now – http://www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/PC%20Help%20Articles/bestfreeantivirussoftware.html – but what about spyware and adware?

As you surf the Internet you will get a lot of potential junk building up on your computer’s hard drive, but this need not be the case. To keep your PC mean and lean you should make use of the two free programs that I always advise my clients to use.

The two free software tools are CCleaner and Malwarebytes Anti Malware. Both of these can be downloaded for free from my website.

CCleaner scans your PC’s registry for unwanted, corrupt paths and gives you the option to make a backup before cleaning begins. It also finds and clears all your Windows Temporary Files and can remove all your browser and start menu run histories, cookies and a whole lot more.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is an easy-to-use anti-malware and spyware application available in both a Free and PRO version. It can detect and remove all traces of malware, including worms, Trojans, rootkits, rogues, dialers and spyware.

Running These Programs

CCleaner should be run each and every day when you have finished using your computer. In fact, it should be run just before you shut down your PC. Malwarebytes can also be run daily if you wish, but I advise all my clients to run it weekly, i.e. after 5 or 7 days.

I have personally used these programs for many years and on many computers and have therefore minimised any potential problems that might have arisen. Both of these free programs are regularly updated by the software companies that provide them.

So make good use of CCleaner and Malwarebytes Anti Malware to keep your PC in tip top shape!

Feb 19
Missing autochk program during boot of cloned C: drive

Crucial M500 SSDI recently cloned the existing Windows 7 installation on my C drive using the free version of Macrium Reflect. My aim was to use the clone for a new 480GB SSD (Solid State Drive).

I disconnected the existing C Drive and left the SSD connected. As soon as I tried to boot from the SSD I received the error “autochk program not found – skipping AUTOCHECK”. Despite several reboots I always got the same error message.

I entered the BIOS and set the CD/DVD to be the first boot device. I then used my Windows 7 Professional installation disk to enter and run Startup Repair. This made no difference. I noticed that the SSD did not have a drive letter allocated so I used Paragon Partition Manager to assign the drive letter D: (By now my existing disk was back in the PC and was recognized as the C: Drive).

I ran another Startup Repair to see if the drive mapping could be fixed. The Startup Repair seemed to complete successfully and on reboot my existing C: Drive started up. On checking My Computer it now showed both my existing C: Drive and my new SSD Drive as the D: Drive. I then removed my existing drive to see if windows would now use the SSD as the boot drive. It started to load but defaulted to “autochk program not found – skipping AUTOCHECK”. If left to its own devices my PC ends up in a loop continually restarting and stopping at the skipping AUTOCHECK message.

I suspected the cloning might be at fault. So again I re-cloned the existing C: Drive to the new 480GB SSD. This made no difference, so the cloning itself was not a problem.

The only thing I could think of was a problem with the Windows installer when doing its Startup Repair. It must be seeing something different to what the cloned SSD drive set up actually shows. This could even be a continuation of the mismapping problem I mentioned earlier.

To try and fix this pesky problem I used my Windows 7 installation to get access to the recovery console. At the Install Windows screen, I clicked Next and then pressed Shift plus F10 to launch an elevated command prompt. At the command prompt I typed diskpart to launch this handy program. When I was at the Diskpart prompt I typed list volume to show what volumes the Windows installer sees. At this point its easy to identify the real C volume by its size even if it bears a different drive letter, such as D. My C: drive was shown as volume 2 and seemed to be mapped correctly as C:. I then exited diskpart (by typing “exit”). At the command prompt I typed regedit to open the Windows Registry Editor (if you lose your command prompt, Shift plus F10 will get you another one)

In the Registry Editor I selected HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and then clicked on File (in the menu above) and from the sub menu chose > Load Hive. I then opened the Windows\system32\config\SYSTEM file on my C: drive (the SSD) and saved the file as Win32OpenHive.

I expanded the “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE” folder again. Within it was now a folder called Win32OpenHive and an existing folder called SYSTEM.  Win32OpenHive shows you what the existing Windows 7 installation could see (not the installer!), while SYSTEM tells you what the installer sees as it tries to load the Windows DVD to perform a Startup Repair.

Under each of these folders I opened the Mounted Devices sub folder to check if \DosDevices\C: had a matching ??volume. The trick here is to compare \DosDevices\C:’s Reg data entry and the appropriate \??volume in both Win32OpenHive and SYSTEM and make them exactly the same (see the images below)

volume C drive

 

dos C drive

 

So now with \DosDevices\C: and its appropriate \??volume being the same on both the Windows 7 Professional installation and the SYSTEM installer detail. I now clicked Unload the hive in the File menu, and then rebooted my PC.

I then did another System Repair on the SSD and on reboot it accessed the newly set up C: drive very quickly. What a difference an SSD makes. Faster booting, quicker program  start-ups and a swift close down. A truly responsive PC!

Thanks to superuser.com whose post helped so much when putting this solution together http://superuser.com/questions/290612/missing-autochk-program-during-boot.

P.S. Let me know your thoughts on this post by commenting on this page.

Jan 27
Control your PC with a Remote Control App

Control your PC with a Remote Control App If you need to access your files on your computer at home while you are out then a remote control application may be of considerable use to you.

There are literally hundreds of applications available but the best for personal use are probably the ones listed below:

1. Team Viewer – http://www.teamviewer.com and,
2. LogMeIn – https://secure.logmein.com.

All you need to do is download the appropriate application and install it on your home PC, the one you want it to control.

Once you have signed up for an account with Team Viewer or LogMeIn and you will be able to get full control of your home based PC from any laptop, PC or MAC – anywhere in the world.

These two companies also offer apps for the iOS and Android operating systems so you can control your home PC using a tablet or a smartphone as well. So if you need remote access why not give one of these apps a try.

Dec 4
Computer Software Spring Clean and Upgrades

windows 7In a few cases it’s perfectly obvious what part of a PC system needs upgrading. If, for example, you’ve run out of hard drive space, the solution is either to add a second hard drive or replace the original with a larger-capacity hard drive or even a solid state drive (SSD).

Similarly, if you fancy a larger screen, a better keyboard or a cordless mouse, your decision is already made. Unfortunately, things are rarely that simple.

Probably the most common reason for considering an upgrade is that your Computers performance has become rather lacklustre. It might have been blisteringly fast when you first bought it but, over the years, it has become gradually slower and slower. If you’re using exactly the same software but your computer has slowed down it probably indicates that your system just needs a good spring clean.

There are plenty of tools that can clean up the clutter, from Windows’ built-in utilities such as Disk Defragmenter to third-party offerings such as Ccleaner and others.

More drastically, you could reinstall Windows. In this case, you can probably restore your system to factory settings (however, all your files and programs will be removed) and you might not need to upgrade after all.

However, the slow-down might be because you’re trying to run more demanding programs which have a greater appetite for your PC’s resources. If this is the situation you find yourself in, you will need to decide which component is the weakest link in the chain and therfore the most likely candidate for an upgrade. In the case of a general dissatisfaction with performance, the culprit could be the main processor, the graphics processor, the amount of memory, or even the hard disk. Working out which of these components is the bottleneck isn’t always easy, but I can give you some pointers.

First, your the applications you are using might give you a clue. Video or audio editing and encoding, mathematical or scientific computing using Excel, and 3D rendering using Photoshop are all pretty demanding of your PC’s processor. If it’s only gaming where your PC really starts to show its age (and it can’t even run the latest games smoothly), a likely upgrade is the graphics card. If your PC doesn’t have a plug-in graphics card (which means it’s using the built-in graphics chip) then the obvious answer is to buy one that will fit your computer(check whether you have an AGP or PCI Express slot).

If you do a lot of multi-tasking, switching between applications, or if you run virtual machines in VMware or VirtualBox, or are serious about video or photo editing, it could be the amount of PC memory (RAM) onboard that’s letting you down.

Finally, if the pedestrian performance is more general, perhaps related to the time it takes your PC to boot and applications to load, a faster hard disk, perhaps a solid state drive (SSD), might do the trick. In fact, an SSD is usually the best-value upgrade for both PCs and laptops as it makes them much more responsive.

However, when it comes to gaming, it will be better to install the very best graphics card you can afford, which will make your PC perform just as well as new models. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for laptops. On the whole, you can upgrade only the hard drive and memory in a laptop.

If you’re being drawn in the direction of a new processor, you need to consider one important fact – your motherboard might not be compatible with the latest models. It’s vitally important, therefore, that you check the motherboard manual that came with your PC and the specification of the new processor, to ensure that the two are compatible. See my related article ‘Speed up a PC with hardware upgrades‘.

Nov 18
Speed up a PC with hardware upgrades

meshpcAfter software the most important factors in the speed of a PC are RAM Memory, the Processor, Hard Drive Storage options and the speed of the installed Graphics Card.

For example older PC’s may have only shipped with 1GB or 2GB of RAM so the option to upgrade is compelling. And you can never really have too much PC memory, because adding more can make your computer more responsive. However, 32-bit desk top computers and laptops can only effectively use 4GB RAM. To take advantage of more than 4GB of memory your PC needs to run a 64-bit operating system as 64-bit systems offer direct access to more virtual and physical memory than 32-bit systems and therefore process a lot more data per clock cycle. This makes your PC run faster and perform everyday tasks much quicker. To check what memory upgrades you may be able to do visit Crucial’s website and download the memory advisor tool or just ask Crucial to scan your computer.

Installing a new processor is difficult, but not impossible. It’s also likely to be quite expensive (and you may reach the point where a new PC or laptop may be a better idea). But it is possible, and my article ‘How to upgrade your processor (CPU)‘ shows you how to do this.

Another possible upgrade is to install a Solid State Drive (SSD) into your PC or laptop – if you don’t have one installed. Solid-state storage is much quicker than a traditional spinning hard drive. And if your Windows operating system is installed on an SSD you’ll find that your whole PC works faster. Of course you will need to reinstall all your programs as well. It’s best to keep all your documents folders on your old hard drive and only install programs on the SSD that will benefit from the increased speed. To learn how to fit a solid state drive (SSD) to your PC read my article ‘How to install a Solid State Drive‘ .

Finally, another hardware upgrade is to improve your graphics card. This can be expensive, but is effective if you want to enjoy faster gaming or better quality HD video. The installation is not difficult but you must make sure the card you buy is suitable for your PC. If your PC is a few years old you might need to find an older AGP based graphic card. A more modern PC will no doubt have a slot for a PCI Express based card. To find out more read my article ‘How to upgrade a Graphics Card‘.

Any one or more of these hardware upgrades will certainly give your computer a useful speed increase!

Sep 5
Using System File Checker to repair damaged system files

system file checkerThe Windows System File Checker utility can be used to scan and then automatically replace any corrupt or missing system files. In fact, this tool should be part of the essential tool kit for every computer user.

When Windows programs are not running or operating as they should do e.g. perhaps double clicking a file does not open the program that should open it, or perhaps you can’t even boot your PC, then System File Checker may be able to help you to get things working well again.

If you can boot to the Windows Desktop and want to repair a damaged Windows file (i.e. miscellaneous operational problems) the time has come to use the System File Checker tool (SFC.exe). This will determine which file is causing the issue, and then try to replace that particular file.

To run this tool open an elevated command prompt. To do this, click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator.

At the command prompt, type sfc /scannow (leave a space between sfc and /scannow) and then press Enter.

NOTE: The /scannow option is the most commonly used switch for the sfc command that can fix multiple problems with Windows system Files.

System File Checker may prompt you for a Windows Installation disc, which is either the disc you used to install or upgrade Windows or the system recovery disc provided by your computer manufacturer. So have your disc handy, just in case it’s needed. System File Checker will only ask for this disc if corrupt system files have to be replaced by fresh ones from the Installation DVD.

System File Checker fixes what it can. Mostly, it moves through its processes and displays the percentage completed like 10%, 30% and 50% as it goes. When it completes it shows ‘Verification 100% complete’.

What you see after this line depends on the results of the scanning operation.

When nothing is wrong, you see this text:

Windows Resource Protection didn’t find any integrity violations.

If problems have been found and also repaired, you see this:

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them. Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. For example C:\Windows\Logs\CBS \CBS.log.

If problems have been found but cannot be repaired for some reason, you see this text message:

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them. Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. For example C:\Windows \Logs\CBS\CBS.log.

To find out which files could not be repaired by System File Checker open an elevated command prompt as described earlier.

At the resulting command prompt, type the following command: findstr /c:”[SR]” %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >”%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt”

The Sfcdetails.txt file contains details of every time that the System File Checker tool has been run on your PC. It includes information about files that were not repaired by the SFC tool. So by verifying the date and time of entries you may be able to determine the problem files and may be able to fix the problem another way.

The following sample log file contains an entry for a file that could not be repaired:

2007-01-12 12:10:42, Info CSI 00000008 [SR] Cannot repair member file [l:34{17}]“Accessibility.dll” of Accessibility, Version = 6.0.6000.16386, pA = PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE_MSIL (8), Culture neutral, VersionScope neutral, PublicKeyToken = {l:8 b:b03f5f7f11d50a3a}, Type neutral, TypeName neutral, PublicKey neutral in the store, file is missing

In the above snippet the file Accessibility.dll is damaged and SFC cannot repair it.

To fix a damaged file you need to extract the file from a windows DVD or download a file from a suitable online site.

Once you are ready follow these steps:

At an elevated command prompt, copy and then paste (or type) the following command, and then press ENTER:

takeown /f Path_And_File_Name

For example, type takeown /f E:\windows\system32\jscript.dll.

Copy and paste (or type) the following command, and then press ENTER to grant administrators full access to the file:

icacls Path_And_File_Name /GRANT ADMINISTRATORS:F

For example, type icacls E:\windows\system32\jscript.dll /grant administrators:F.

Type the following command to replace the file with a known good copy of the file:

Copy Path_And_File_Name_Of_Source_File Path_And_File_Name_Of_Destination

For example, type copy E:\temp\jscript.dll E:\windows\system32\jscript.dll.

Note: You will need to adjust the drive letters in these examples depending on where your system is installed.

Other Useful SFC Switches

sfc /verifyonly

This sfc command option is the same as /scannow but without repairing anything.

sfc /scanfile=file

This sfc option is the same as /scannow but the scan and repair is only for a particular file.

For example sfc /scanfile=c:\windows\system32\ieframe.dll

Here, the sfc command is used to scan ieframe.dll and then repair it if an issue is found.

Help Switch

Use the help switch /? with the sfc command to show detailed help about the command’s several options.

Jul 23
How to Customise the Windows Security Window

fully customised login screenWhen you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete while logged on to Windows 7, you see the Windows Security window, which contains the following buttons: Lock This Computer, Switch User, Log Off, Change A Password, and Start Task Manager.

Of these five commands, all but Switch User are customizable using Windows 7‘s group policies.

So if you find that you never use one or more of those commands, or (more likely) if you want to prevent a user from accessing one or more of the commands, you can use group policies to remove them from the Windows Security window.

Here are the steps to follow:

group policy editorFirst open Windows Group Policy Editor by opening the ‘search programs and files box’ and then typing gpedit.msc.

When the Group Policy Editor pops up open the User Configuration | Administrative Templates | System | Ctrl+Alt+Del Options branch.

Now double-click one of the following policies:

1. Remove Change Password — You can use this policy to disable the Change A Password button in the Windows Security window.

2. Remove Lock This Computer — You can use this policy to disable the Lock Computer button in the Windows Security window.

3. Remove Task Manager — You can use this policy to disable the Start Task Manager button in the Windows Security window.

4. Remove Logoff — You can use this policy to disable the Log Off button in the Windows Security window.

When you click on one of the above policies a policy dialog box appears. So now click Enabled and then click OK.

Repeat this simple procedure to disable all the buttons you don’t want to display.

Jul 2
My Easy PC Repair Guide is now only £1.78!

Easy PC Repair GuideMy Easy PC Repair Guide is now only £1.78, far less than the cost of your weekly shopping. In fact at this price point nearly everyone who reads this post will be able to buy this amazing repair guide!

So what value does my eBook provide to everyone who purchases it?

Firstly, with my Easy PC Repair Guide you can keep your PC in tip top condition so you can keep working or playing your pc games. And to help you track down any problems that might occur this repair guide is clear, concise and very easy to use. It covers everything you need to know about your computer from the day to day running, through to the fixing of crashes and hardware problems.

Secondly, this unique guide also covers the installation of computer memory modules, graphic cards, hard drives, power units, CD/DVD drives, processors (CPU) and motherboards. And it is well illustrated to help guide you through the many complexities of the computer world.

Unfortunately not every problem can be solved with this guide because sometimes problems involve hardware issues, like hard drive failure, or there may be a virus which cripples your computer to the point that it must be completely wiped clean. Even so, I believe this wonderful Repair Guide will solve more than 98% of any computer problems you might experience during the ‘lifetime’ of your Windows PC.

Even if you only fix one or two problems with your Windows PC or manage to tune up your computer to run and perform tasks more quickly, my Easy PC Repair Guide will pay for itself in no time at all. It’s therefore the best £1.78 you’ll ever spend!

And at no extra cost to you, I regularly update this best seller whenever a new section or tip is needed. Recently I added a whole new section on Windows 8. My eBook is now at version 5 and I’m currently working on version 6.

The very first version of my Easy PC Repair Guide had only 130 pages but version 5 now has a colossal 191 pages of expert PC help and advice. And the big advantage of my PDF eBook is that it’s fully search-able and very well indexed so you can track down PC problems as they crop up – and they will certainly crop up at some point.

Why not check out the full details of this essential PC toolkit and see what you can get for only £1.78 – www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/easypcrepairguide.html

P.S. If you are not 100% satisfied with my Easy PC Repair Guide just send me a quick email and I’ll be happy to refund your money in full. So what have you got to loose, download my Easy PC Repair Guide right now!

Jun 10
What Type of PC Memory Should I Install?

Computer RAM modulesI often get calls about what memory to install in a PC as part of an upgrade e.g. someone wanting to increase their PC’s memory from 1GB to 2GB etc.

The advice I give to everyone is to visit the website of Crucial Technology and use their excellent memory advisor tool. This will examine your PC and tell you exactly what memory you need and even how many slots are free on your motherboard.

By the way, if you wish to find a manual for your PC’s motherboard try Motherboards.org. They offer a good range of manuals, for most makes of board, and the manuals can be downloaded in PDF format. If you do not know the make of your motherboard a clue to its manufacturer may be available as your PC begins to boot up, but you will need to be very quick off the mark to hit the Pause/Break key before the info begins to scroll off screen. The other way to determine the make and model of your PC’s motherboard is to open your PC’s case to try to spot the make and model panel on your motherboard.

May 24
Microsofts Skydrive

sky drive for windows desktopMicrosoft’s SkyDrive now has 250 million users according to a recent news report. So what can SkyDrive offer you?

Microsoft’s offering gives you 7GB of free cloud storage but does charge a monthly fee if you wish to use even more online storage for all your files. This compares with the likes of Google who offer 5GB of free storage and Drop Box who offer only 2GB.

By storing all your files and photos in the cloud you will be able to sync your documents across all your computers in your home. You can even edit and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents in the cloud. You can even access the latest version of your Microsoft Office documents from any computer or Windows Smartphone and no cables or USB flash drives are necessary.

For greater control over SkyDrive and your files, download the SkyDrive for Windows program. The desktop program creates a special folder on your computer that mirrors what’s stored in the cloud. That makes SkyDrive particularly easy to use, because when you change the contents of that special folder on your computer, Windows automatically updates SkyDrive, as well. All you need to do is drag and drop files into your Desktop SkyDrive folder to automatically upload them to your cloud storage account. When the files are synced a green checkmark appears to show the upload is complete.

With the desktop app, you can sync individual folders or you can choose single file. If you want to later change which folders or files are synced, right-click the SkyDrive desktop icon in the notification area at the far right of the taskbar. Then click Settings, and then click the Choose folders tab.

Incidentally, once you have SkyDrive, Microsoft’s OneNote becomes even more powerful. You can save your notebook to your SkyDrive folder and then access it from anywhere. Check your study notes, review your shopping lists, or just stay organized right from your Windows 8 phone.

Note: The Windows 8 SkyDrive app makes it fairly easy to open files you’ve already uploaded to the cloud, but it offers little control. If the Windows 8 Start screen’s SkyDrive app is too simple for your needs, head for the Windows 8 desktop and visit SkyDrive to download the desktop program.

Apr 29
Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10

Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is designed to scan, disinfect and restore an infected operating systems but it should only be used when it is impossible to boot the operating system from a cold start.

Kaspersky Lab products are always upgraded and renewed. So to its best to keep your rescue disk up to date. You can easily download the distributive of Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 from Kaspersky Lab’s servers.

Once Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is downloaded, record it to a CD/DVD or any USB device and then start your computer from it.

In order to successfully record Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 to a removable USB device, the amount of free space on the drive must not be not less than 256 MB. The connected USB device must also be formatted as a FAT16 or FAT32 file system. If the NTFS file system is already on the USB device, you are will have to format it as a FAT16 or FAT32 file system.

The Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is built on a Linux-based core so will start up in any PC that has a non boot problem. You’ll be pleased to know that Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is very easy to use and has a Windows-like interface to work with.

You get the equivalent of a taskbar which shows running applications and a start button that pops up a menu. Multiple windows can be opened on the desktop and there is the Rescue Disk software itself, a registry editor, web browser and file manager.

There are quite a few customisation options in Rescue Disk 10 and these are accessed through the gear icon in the top right corner. For example, you can choose what to scan and how deeply to scan.

As the registry editor is so like the Windows version you will immediately feel at home when using Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10.

Mar 26
Acer Travelmate 2312LM-L power jack broken

acer travelmate 2312I recently had an Acer Travelmate 2312 laptop, running Windows XP, in for repair and it would not start up as no power was getting into this machine.

Using my electrical tester I checked out the AC Adapter (a Liteon PA 1650-02) to see if was still producing a charge, and it was – so there had to be a problem with the power jack that it plugs into.

So I took the laptop apart to check the power jack and it was badly damaged. It had been pulled away from its mounting point and part of it was broken off. I phoned my client to see how this could have happened and he told me that his laptop had been dropped with the power lead still attached. It must have landed really badly to cause such damage!

So I removed the damaged power jack and purchased a new one over the Internet (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ACER-TravelMate-2312-6231-DC-Power-Jack-Socket-Port-Connector-Pin-/150825477854). This then had to be soldered into place.

Plugging into this new power jack started to charge the flat battery so the repair was complete.

So if you have a laptop that only operates when you hold the AC Adapter power plug in a certain direction or only runs on battery power (until the battery runs out of power and can’t be recharged) a broken or loose power jack may well be your problem. The only way to verify this is to open up the laptop so you can see the power jack itself to check if its damaged.

Mar 8
Installing Windows XP Home on a SATA Hard Drive

Recently I had a Mesh Windows XP Home PC to sort out as my friend wanted it wiped and the Operating System reinstalled. He kindly left me with a blue Mesh Recovery Disc to work with.
mesh pcThe PC was very sluggish and had pop ups on the desktop that could not be cancelled, so as the friend had asked I tried using the Mesh Recovery Disc to wipe the PC and install Windows XP Home but the Mesh disc was not recognised.

Not to be beaten, I wiped the drive using my Microscope Toolkit, and thoroughly formatted the drive, back to factory standards. I then tried the Recovery disc again and Windows XP started to install but halted complaining it couldn’t find any hard drives.

I opened the PC’s Case and discovered two SATA drives. I know from past experience that Windows XP does not recognise SATA drives unless you load the SATA drivers during Windows set up. As my friend did not have a SATA drivers disk, the fun really started!

Grabbing a torch I opened the PC’s Case yet again and checked the make and model of the motherboard so I could go to the manufacturers web site and download the right drivers for this Windows XP set up. It turned out to be an ASUS A7N8X Deluxe board so using Google I searched for the SATA drivers and found this page which lists all the necessary drivers for this particular motherboard – http://support.asus.com/Download.aspx?SLanguage=en&m=A7N8X+Deluxe&p=1&os=

I then downloaded a copy of nLite and using Nero 10 turned a copy of the Mesh CD into an ISO file. Using nLite I then compiled a new disc that contained Windows XP and all the necessary driver files. Using this compilation CD I was able to successfully install Windows XP Home onto the Mesh PC.

For a step by step example of how to use nLite take a look at my article – How to Install Windows XP on a SATA Hard Drive without access to a Floppy Disk Drive.

Feb 19
Microsoft’s Fix It Tool

Microsoft fixitA large proportion of PC software problems are fairly easy to fix but the other 10% or 20% often need specialist help.

Microsoft can also help with its Fix It Tool.

The Fix it website can be used to diagnose and solve many different software issues that can occur within a Windows computer.

The Microsoft Fix it site is very easy to use as it splits the various problem areas into Top Solutions, Windows, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Entertainment, Office and Other. By clicking on these top levels a detailed list of possible fixes is displayed, some of which may help to fix your ailing PC. There’s also an optional list of task based activities that you can select from.

So before you rush of to get your PC repaired by the ‘guy down the street’ try Microsofts Fix It tool it just might be the solution you need!

Feb 8
Child hackers ‘targeting games’

hackingChildren as young as 11 years old are writing malicious computer code to hack accounts on gaming sites and social networks, experts have said.

A report from antivirus company AVG detailed evidence of programs written to “steal” virtual currency.

Most were written using basic coding languages such as Visual Basic and C#, and were written in a way that contain quite literal schoolboy errors that professional hackers were unlikely to make – many exposing the original source of the code.

In one instance, a program that gathered login details from unsuspecting users of online game Runescape contained code that sent the information back to an email address in Canada. Researchers traced the email to an 11-year-old boy.

The company said children must be educated on coding “rights and wrongs”. “As more schools are educating people for programming in this early stage, before they are adults and understand the impact of what they’re doing, this will continue to grow.” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at AVG. Mr Ben-Itzhak added: “You teach your children that you can’t take a toy without paying – so I think this type of a message needs to get to the kids when they’re writing software too.”

Source BBC Tech

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