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Windows XP Crash Recovery – When all else Fails

January 21st, 2011 1 comment

WARNING: Do not use the procedure described in this post, if your computer has an OEM-installed operating system (Dell, HP, Compaq, etc). The system hive on OEM installations creates user accounts and passwords that were not there previously. If you use the procedure described in this post, you may not be able to log back into the recovery console to restore the original registry hives.

NOTE:

  • This post assumes that you have tried other recovery methods and still can’t access the system, except by using Recovery Console. If you haven’t tried other methods of recovery yet, try them first. Click here to know a few other methods of recovery, before you try this method. However if you’ve already tried the other methods, go ahead and try the one mentioned below.
  • Make sure to replace all five registry hives. If you replace only a single hive or two, this can cause problems because software and hardware may have settings in more than one location in the registry.
  • This procedure assumes that Windows XP is installed to the C:\Windows folder. Make sure to change C:\Windows to the appropriate windows folder if it is in a different location.

Since your Windows already crashed, you’re probably viewing this post on another computer. It’s better if you take a printout of this post, because you’ll have to type many commands to recover your corrupted Windows XP installation. Even if you don’t have to type them, it’s better to have a printout. If you don’t want to print the images, here’s a text-only version of this post.

It’s possible that somehow your Windows registry is corrupt. But there is a backup of the registry! Since Windows doesn’t start, we’ll have to restore this backed up registry files, manually. How do you do that? Follow the procedure detailed below.

1. Boot the computer with your Windows XP CD in the drive. If you see a message like "Press any key to boot from CD …", go ahead and press a key on your keyboard.

Press_any_key_CD_boot

2. If you don’t see any such message or if your computer doesn’t boot from the CD, go into your BIOS/CMOS setup, by rebooting the computer and pressing the appropriate key (like F1, F2, F10, DEL, etc).

image 

3. If you don’t even see the message to press the above keys to enter the BIOS setup, read your motherboard manual on how to enter the BIOS setup. These videos about BIOS and CMOS may be helpful too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKaKj6uRLSM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLaoajhiN_k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exU85jk9UyM

4. Now, when booting from the XP CD, when you see the Welcome to Setup screen, press R to start the Recovery Console.

XP_Welcome_to_Setup_Screen

5. You will see the following screen. Type 1 and press the Enter key. You’ll have to enter the Administrator password. If you didn’t set a password, when you installed Windows XP, just press the Enter key.

Recovery_Console_Admin_Login

NOTE: If you have access to another computer, to save time, you can copy the text in step six and seven, and paste it in a text file called "Regcopy1.txt" (for example). You can also download this text file and save it on a USB pen drive, before you run the below command. To use this file, run the following command when you start in Recovery Console:

batch regcopy1.txt

To know, how to access files on other drives when in the recovery console (USB pen drive, for example), type the following three commands, one per line, and press the Enter key after each command (make sure to type the space on both sides of the equal sign):

AllowWildCards = TRUE
AllowAllPaths = TRUE
AllowRemovableMedia = TRUE

6. Now type the commands you see below, one per line and then press the Enter key, after each command:

md c:\tmp
cd\system32\config
copy system c:\tmp\system.bak
copy software c:\tmp\software.bak
copy sam c:\tmp\sam.bak
copy security c:\tmp\security.bak
copy default c:\tmp\default.bak
del system software sam security default

After you enter each of the above copy commands, the system will reply with a message like "1 file(s) copied".

7. Now, type this set of commands, one per line and press the Enter key after each (Take care to type the space and the dot as shown):

copy c:\windows\repair\system .
copy c:\windows\repair\software .
copy c:\windows\repair\sam .
copy c:\windows\repair\security .
copy c:\windows\repair\default .

8. Now type exit and press the Enter key. The system will reboot.

9. Remove the CD from the drive and boot into Windows normally, as you do before. If, even after doing each of the above steps correctly, Windows doesn’t boot, you’ll have to do a clean install of Windows, after taking a backup of your data. There is no other way to recover.

But, the question is – How do you take a backup of a computer which doesn’t even boot or start Windows? Click here to read more on this topic and backup your computer before you format the hard drive or reinstall Windows from scratch.

However, if the system boots into Windows, then do the following:

a. Start Windows Explorer. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options and then click the View tab.

Windows_Explorer_Folder_Options

b. Under Hidden Files and Folders, select the radio button "Show Hidden Files and Folders", and then clear the "Hide Protected Operating System Files (Recommended)" check box. Also clear the "Use Simple File Sharing (Recommended)" checkbox. This is the last checkbox under the Advanced settings, so you’ll have to scroll down.

c. Click Yes when a dialog box is displayed. Then, click OK to close Folder Options.
Folder_Options

d. Now, check whether you have an NTFS or a FAT32 file system. How do you check if you have NTFS or FAT32 file system? In My Computer or Windows Explorer, right-click the C drive (or your Windows drive, if other than C) and then click Properties.

C_Drive_Properties

e. If the file system on C drive is NTFS, Windows won’t let you open this folder, but there’s a solution. Under the C drive, right-click on the System Volume Information folder and select Properties. In the drive properties, click the Security tab. Click the Add button, and then in the box that’s labeled "Enter the object names to select", type the username that you use to log on to Windows. This is shown in the image below.

If your file system is FAT32, you don’t have to do anything like the above. You can access the System Volume Information folder without any problems.

System_Volume_Information_Add_User

f. Now, open the System Volume Information folder. This folder appears dimmed, that’s fine.

g. This folder contains some _restore {GUID} folders such as "_restore{87BD3667-3246-476B-923F-F86E30B3E7F8}". Open a folder that was created before the current date and time. You may have to click Details on the View menu to check this.

h. There may be one or more folders starting with the name "RP x", under this folder. These are the restore points. Open one of these folders to locate a Snapshot subfolder.

_restore_folders

i. The following path is an example of a folder path to the Snapshot folder:

C:\System Volume Information\_restore{D86480E3-73EF-47BC-A0EBA81BE6EE3ED8}\RP1\Snapshot

j. From the Snapshot folder, copy the following files to the C:\tmp folder with the mouse (by Ctrl-clicking them):

_registry_user_.default
_registry_machine_security
_registry_machine_software
_registry_machine_system
_registry_machine_sam

_restore_snapshot_folder

k. Rename the above five files as given below (using the mouse or the F2 function key):

_registry_user_.default        default
_registry_machine_security     security
_registry_machine_software     software
_registry_machine_system       system
_registry_machine_sam          sam

l. Once again, put your Windows XP installation CD into your CD Drive and reboot the computer.

m. Again, press R for the recovery console when you see the message for recovery, just like you did in step 4 above.

NOTE: If you have access to another computer, to save time, you can copy the text commands in step n, and paste it in a text file called "Regcopy2.txt" (for example). You can also download this text file and save it on a USB pen drive, before you run the below command.To use this file, run the following command when you start in Recovery Console:

batch regcopy2.txt

n. At the console, type these commands one per line and press enter after every command (take care to type the dots exactly as shown in each command):

cd\system32\config
del sam security software default system
copy c:\tmp\software .
copy c:\tmp\system .
copy c:\tmp\sam .
copy c:\tmp\security .
copy c:\tmp\.default .

o. Now, type exit and remove the CD. Boot normally into Windows and you must be back to normal. In case, the restore point is not the one which you wanted, you can use the System Restore to restore a different restore point. This time you are already in Windows so you don’t have to use the recovery console. For more information, how to use the System Restore in Windows XP, click here.

All About Backups

November 22nd, 2010 1 comment

What is a Backup?

A backup is a copy of your data, which can later be restored when the original data is lost or corrupted for any reason.

Why to Backup?

Everyone has experienced data loss at one time or the other. When data is lost,  you may be in need of some important files from that data. If you compare the time and money that goes into trying to get the data back, to spending a little time regularly to backup your data, you’ll start backing up your data too. Just a little time spent regularly for backing up, pays off when you lose data.

One of the reasons why people don’t backup is that they think nothing will happen to their computer. But, every computer and hard drive will die or become corrupted someday in the future. It cannot be said when that will happen.

Another reason why people don’t backup is that they are just lazy. They don’t want to backup at the end of a tiring day. They also tend to think that when they come back the next day, their data would be safe.

Another reason for not backing up is spending on expensive backup devices. Even if one wants to buy a backup device, which device should one buy or which one is the best is a question for them which confuses them.

And there’s one more reason why people don’t want to backup – what type of backup to use? People are confused when they hear that there are many types of backups. They aren’t clear as to which type of backup is suitable for them. And they don’t want to sit and learn about something, just to be able to backup!

These reasons make people tend not to backup at all. But, sooner or later, they are bound to repent and after losing some valuable data, they’ll spend on some kind of backup device. Whatever your backup device is, or whatever the backup type, some kind of backup is better than no backup at all.

What are the Causes of Data Loss?

There can be one or more of the following that can cause data loss:

  • Hardware Failure, including hard drive failure
  • Software Problems
  • File or Folder Corruption
  • Accidental File Deletion
  • Accidental Hard Drive Formatting
  • Viruses
  • Theft
  • Disasters

When to Backup?

The time to backup is now, not tomorrow or later. When you aren’t sure that your computer would be functional tomorrow, is it safe to leave it without backing up your valuable data, for which you have spent a lot many hours? So, better backup now than repent later. Another good time to backup your data is when you are about to make some changes to the operating system, install or uninstall new hardware or a software program, or do anything that may affect the computer.

How often to Backup?

You should backup up important files as often as possible. In the past, creating a backup was a time-consuming and tedious task. But today, there are many good backup solutions available. Good backup programs provide automating the backups. You don’t have to spend time on manually backing up daily. The programs do that for you, every hour or every day – whatever you set them to, once.

It also depends on what amount of data you create and how often. If you create new data daily, then doing a daily backup is a good idea. If you are creating lots of data every hour, then it would be better to choose an hourly backup plan.

How to Backup?

  • Manual backup You manually select the files and folders to backup and copy them to the destination device like a CD/DVD or to a USB Flash drive. Manual backups are time-consuming and a task which most people like to avoid doing daily. Manual backups can be useful in case of doing a full backup of your hard disk, using an imaging software program like Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image. But this is not required frequently, and you can do it once in a while, if you are using an automated backup program.
  • Semi-automated backup Backup programs do the backup automatically, but you have to remember and run the program manually to do the backup. If you forget to run the program someday, your data won’t be backed up on that day and there’s a possibility of losing this data the next day.
  • Automated backup Automated backups are created regularly and automatically, without your interaction with the backup program. The backup program does everything regularly and efficiently, in the background, once it is configured to do so. This is set once and forget it type of backup, and you don’t have to worry about your data, once you’ve configured it.

What to Backup?

You can backup only the important files. Any files that cannot be replaced and you can’t afford to lose, should be backed up. This includes your typed documents, emails, photos, recorded videos and any such thing that you cannot afford to lose.

Before you configure your backup program, you should go through all the folders on your hard drive and make a list of the ones that you want to include in the backup. This may include folders and files with any personal data, important software and music files that you don’t want to lose, documents, email, address books, bookmarks or favorites, etc.

When you lose data, due to reasons like a corrupt hard drive or an operating system corruption, you have to spend precious time to reinstall the operating system, the drivers, software programs and then restoring the already backed up data. This may even take up a whole day or more.

Using some disc imaging programs like Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image, you can create an image of the hard drive or of different partitions, and keep them on the backup media. Then, when you need to restore your operating system and data, you only have to restore the image from the backup. This is much faster than manually installing the OS and restoring your data.

Difference between Full, Differential, Incremental and Mirror Backups

  • Full Backup A full backup is a complete backup. It includes everything that you want to backup. Restoring a full backup is fast because you have to restore only from one set of backup. The drawback is that the full backup itself takes time and is slower than other types of backup. Another drawback of a full backup is, it takes more space on the target device to store full backups. Since your backup program will usually store multiple backups on the target device, there will be many full backups, taking up a high amount of storage space.
  • Differential Backup A differential backup is a backup of only those files that have changed since the last full backup. The files which are not changed after the last full backup will not be backed up.If you do a differential backup more than once, each time, it will backup all the files, which were changed since the last full backup. It will take backup of those files even if those changed files were backed up in a previous differential backup.Backups are faster than a full backup, since only a few changed files are backed up. Also, it takes little space even for multiple differential backups on the target device. For restoring all the data, you need the last full backup plus the last differential backup. Differential backups are a little slower to restore, than restoring from a full backup, but faster and less confusing than incremental backups. But, a the time taken for a differential backup is a little more than an incremental backup.
  • Incremental Backup An incremental backup is a backup of only those files that have changed since the last backup of any type (full, differential or incremental).For example, if you took a full backup on Sunday and an incremental backup on Monday, the incremental backup would contain any files changed after the Sunday’s full backup. If you took another incremental backup on Tuesday, it would only contain the files changed after the Monday’s incremental backup.Incremental backups are the fastest and take the least amount of storage on the target device. But, restoring is the slowest because you have to restore from the full backup plus from all the incremental backups. It may also be confusing when doing a restore, for some people.
  • Mirror Backup Some backup programs provide another option than the above three. This is nothing but a mirror copy of the folder or directory that you specify to backup. After whatever time you specify, the program will copy any files that were changed since the last time, to this mirror backup folder on the target device.A mirror backup is similar to a full backup, except that the files are not compressed, so you can access the backup folder anytime by opening Windows Explorer.  Because the files aren’t compressed, this is the fastest backup method. Restoring is also the fastest, because you only have to copy the folder back to the original location. The drawback is that the storage space needed is more than all other backup types.

Where to Store Backups?

  • On-Site Storage This is the most easiest and common place of storing your backups. In simple words, this means to keep your backups in your home or office, at a safe place. This may be fine for normal users, but if your backups contain extremely sensitive and valuable data, disasters like floods or fire in your area can make your backups useless.
  • Offsite Storage This method of storing is very good for protecting your data. If there is any kind of disaster in your area, you can still get your data back, if it is lost.
  • Online Storage This is also a kind of offsite storage, and very good for protecting your data. But you don’t have to spend on any extra devices for storage. You can also access your backup immediately using an Internet connection. There are free online backup services available, and provide space from 1 – 2 GB. This much is enough for backing up normal documents and images. You can buy more space, if needed.

Two examples of free online backup services are: http://mozy.com and http://www.idrive.com/

To know more about online storage and online backup, view this page.

Where to Backup?

  • Floppy Disk A few years ago, when someone mentioned about data backup for personal computers, all that people would think was the 3.5” floppy disk. Nowadays the floppy drive itself is obsolete and you can’t even find it on new computers. Even old computer users have removed it, since floppies are very less reliable and have very low storage space.
  • CDs/DVDs Blank writable CDs can hold up to 700 MB of data. These are very cheap. You can also get re-writable CDs which cost just a little more and data on them can be erased many times.On the other hand, you can also use DVDs or re-writable DVDs which hold about 4.7 GB of data. New type of double-sided DVDs can hold much more data. These re-writable discs can be used multiple times for backing up your data.
  • A Second Hard Drive You can use an additional hard drive for saving backups. You can also get external or portable hard drives which connect via USB to backup your data. These are very easy to carry around.
  • USB/Pen/Flash Drives These are extremely cheap these days, replace the old floppies, hold large amount of data, are much more reliable than floppies and can be carried around extremely easily. There are even mini-sized versions called as thumb drives. They are readily available up to 64 GB and 256 GB versions are expected sometime later this year.If you use them for data backup, make sure that you use two instead of one. Even the ones that have lifetime warranty can fail soon. If you want a better backup option, spend a little more and buy an external/portable hard drive.
  • Network This is similar to backing up your data to another hard drive. It’s fast and reliable. If the other computer has a high-capacity hard drive, you can store a large amount of backup data on this networked computer. Also, you don’t have to spend on backup devices. The drawback is that you should know how to network computers and use network resources. If there are any network problems, you may not be able to backup.
  • Magnetic Tapes These are normally used by organizations to store large amount of data. You won’t find them with normal computer users, and most users don’t even know what they are. The cost of the device is quite high. They are slower than other devices, when you want to retrieve particular data files, because data is accessed sequentially. They also have a shorter life-span than other devices. They were the only backup medium at one time, for large organizations. But now there are other devices available. Normal computer users won’t want to select this as the backup medium.

Which is the best, free software program to use for backup?

If you search Google with the keywords “free backup software”, you’d get more than 71,000,000 hits. There are many good backup programs and they widely vary in features and ease of use. Many people, however have found Cobian Backup from CobianSoft to be a nice, feature-rich and easy to use backup program. It can backup to local backup devices as well as online / ftp accounts.

If you want help in installing Cobian Backup, click here.

If you want to know how to configure Cobian for local backup, click here.

If you want to know how to configure Cobian for online/FTP backup, click here.

If you want to know how to restore data from a backup made by Cobian backup, click here.

Microsoft IntelliPoint (64-bit) Driver Update

October 18th, 2010 No comments

Are you looking for a driver where you can improve the performance of your pointing device in 64-bit Windows? Well, worry no more since Microsoft IntelliPoint x64 Mouse Driver 8.0 is now available for your PC.

IntelliPoint lets the computer system detect and install any mouse that is connected to it almost instantly. It also allows users to reconfigure the actions of each button, including the mouse wheel button, to perform specific commands even if they’re using more than one mouse on a single computer.

Furthermore, users can also optimize the performance of each pointing device, such as their pointer speed, precision as well as their scrolling acceleration and speed. The software also lets users to turn its auto-updates on or even be involved in the customer experience improvement program to get the most out of the software.

Microsoft IntelliPoint Mouse Driver 8.0 for Windows x64 became available for download on October 18, 2010. You can still get one for your PC if you visit this site. This driver update can only be installed on computers that run on 64-bit Windows XP or later.

In this version, smooth mouse scroll has been improved in numerous applications. However, this driver update no longer supports PS/2 devices. Therefore, it will most likely work on USB and wireless mouse.

Categories: Hardware, Input Devices Tags:

USB Audio ASIO Driver Update

August 30th, 2010 No comments

When a digital audio application and the sound card interact to exchange data for processing or reproduction, the signal typically travels through several layers of mediating software from the operating system. This, among other factors along the signal chain, is what causes latency and poor audio quality. The ASIO or Audio Stream Input/Output protocol for audio drivers is one of the solutions that address this problem by enabling audio applications and devices to bypass the operating system and communicate through a more direct route.

Not all sound cards come in a PCI card-type form factor or are on-board chips. Some, usually the professional-grade models, are completely external devices that connect to the PC through high-speed ports such as USB or Firewire. The USB Audio ASIO driver is underlying software that can support this type of configuration. This particular audio driver provides the ASIO advantage for systems that use ASIO-aware applications (Cubase, Reason, Native Instruments, etc.) in tandem with external USB sound cards.

This update for the USB Audio ASIO driver is version 2.8.45 released August 30, 2010. Among the audio performance-enhancing improvements introduced in this version are: broader sampling rate support (32, 44.1, 48 KHz), wider sampling resolution (from 16 to 24-bit), and support for ASIO 2. Compatible platforms for this update are Windows 2003, XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008.

A free trial version of USB Audio ASIO driver is available here for download. Take note that this trial version will produce a short beep every 30 seconds of audio.

 

Categories: Hardware, Sound & Audio Tags:

How to speed up a slow or sluggish computer?

May 12th, 2010 7 comments

My computer has become slow/sluggish. What should I do?

The following are some of the ways to improve the performance of your Windows computer:

1. Disable unneeded services

Click Start and then click Run (or Search, in Vista and 7), then type the following command and press the Enter key: services.msc

services.msc

services.msc

If you have a standalone desktop computer at home (i.e., not networked to other computers and not an office desktop), you can safely set the following services to “manual” or “disabled”, as mentioned below. Depending on whether you have a Windows service pack installed, you may or may not see all of these services listed. Ignore the ones that you don’t see in the services list.

For each of the following services, right click it and then click Properties. In the Startup drop down menu, click “manual” and then click “OK.”

Services Control Panel

Services Control Panel Applet

Disable a Service

Disable a Service

a. Set the following services to manual:

  • Fast User Switching Compatibility Service
  • Application Layer Gateway Service
  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  • COM+ Event System Service
  • COM+ System Application Service
  • Cryptographic Services Service
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client Service
  • Indexing Service
  • IPSEC Services Service
  • Network Location Awareness (NLA)
  • Service Portable Media Serial Number
  • Service Print Spooler Service (You may set it to automatic, if you have a printer attached and print frequently.)
  • TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service
  • Telephony Service
  • Terminal Services Service
  • WebClient Service

b. Set the following services to disabled:

  • Alerter Service
  • ClipBook Service
  • Distributed Transaction Coordinator Service
  • DNS Client Service
  • Error Reporting Service
  • Messenger Service
  • MS Software Shadow Copy Provider Service (Set it to manual, if you use the MS Backup utility)
  • Net Logon Service
  • NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing Service
  • Network DDE Service
  • Network DDE DSDM Service
  • NT LM Security Support Provider Service
  • Performance Logs and Alerts Service
  • QoS RSVP Service
  • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager Service (Set this to manual, if you use remote desktop)
  • Remote Registry Service
  • Routing and Remote Access Service
  • Server Service (If you’re on a network, don’t disable it )
  • Smart Card Service
  • Smart Card Helper Service
  • SSDP Discovery Service
  • Telnet Service
  • Upload Manager Service
  • Volume Shadow Copy Service
  • Wireless Zero Configuration Service (Don’t disable it, if using a laptop and a wireless router)

2. Free up Disk Space

Click Start and then click Run. Type cleanmgr and press the Enter key.

Start, Run, cleanmgr

Click Start > Run, then type cleanmgr

Select the Windows drive (usually C) and then click “OK“.

Select Drive to Cleanup

Select Drive to Cleanup

Select the files you don’t want, and click OK to delete them.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup

You can free up more disk space by clicking on the More Options tab.

Disk Cleanup "More Options" Tab

Disk Cleanup "More Options" Tab

You’ll have to run the cleanmgr command, once again, to go to the More Options tab. These are the three options on the More Options tab, which would free up more disk space. You should use each of these:

  • Uninstall Windows components
  • Uninstall unused or rarely used programs
  • Delete old restore points except the last one.

In addition to the above, you should delete unneeded files or move them to another partition, drive, or back them up to CD/DVD or USB flash drives. Check your My Documents folder and see how much space it takes!

3. Disable some startup items in MSConfig

Run the command msconfig and click the “startup” tab.

msconfig > Disable Startup Items

msconfig > Disable Startup Items

Uncheck any items that you don’t need at startup. Some apps run their services, which enable them to start fast (like MSOffice, Acrobat Reader, etc). Expand the heading named ‘Command‘ so that you can see what command is being executed for each startup item. To expand the Command heading, hover the cursor near the right end of the Command column. When the cursor becomes a double arrow, double click with the left mouse button to expand it.

This will help you understand which items are not needed at startup.

After clicking OK, if msconfig asks to restart, you may restart, or just click ‘Exit without restart‘, if you are doing some other work. After you reboot, msconfig will show this dialog box. Just check the “Don’t show this message …” checkbox and click on “OK“.

4. Remove some items from the Windows Startup group

Check the startup folder under Start -> All Programs. Remove any items that are not needed or not used often. They are just taking up system memory, because they are running all the time in the background. You can run these programs as and when needed.

5. Clean up your Registry

Clean up your registry regularly.  Use a free program like ccleaner. It also has an option to optimize (compress) the registry, but NT Registry Optimizer is better at compressing and optimizing the registry. You may also download and use the Emergency Recovery Utility from the NT Registry Optimizer page, for backing up your registry regularly and automatically, from the NT Optimizer page.

6. Remove unneeded/unused fonts

Remove unneeded or unused fonts from the Control Panel -> Fonts. Many software applications install their own fonts in addition to the standard Windows fonts. There are too many unused fonts sitting in the fonts folder, which never get used. Each of these fonts takes valuable system memory and Windows loads all the fonts from the \Windows\Fonts folder into the RAM, when it starts.

You can safely remove many of these fonts. When in the Fonts folder, click on the View menu and click ‘Details‘. You can double-click each font to view it, before clicking delete. If you think you might need these fonts in the future, you can move the unneeded fonts  to another folder on your hard drive instead of deleting them.

7. Enable Cleartype for LCD Monitors

If you have an LCD monitor or a laptop, click Start -> Run. Then, type the command, desk.cpl and press the Enter key. Click the Appearance tab on the Display Properties. Click Effects and check to enable the second option (select ClearType if it isn’t already selected).

Enable ClearType

Enable ClearType

You can uncheck the ‘Show shadows under menus‘ and ‘Show menu contents while dragging‘. You may also want to download the cleartype tuner from Microsoft.

8. Defrag the Windows drive

In “My Computer” or Windows Explorer,

  1. Right click Drive C (or whichever drive, Windows is installed on),
  2. Select Properties
  3. Select the Tools Tab.
  4. Click ‘Defragment Now‘.
  5. Then, click the ‘Analyze‘ button.
Defrag Analyze Results

Defrag Analyze Results

If defrag recommends that you defragment the drive, proceed with it. This would make Windows and applications load a little bit faster. You may want to run a disk error check from the same “Tools” tab, before you defrag the drive.

Check Disc

Check Disc

9. Disable short file names to speed up Windows

By default, Windows XP and Vista create 8.3 format filenames for all files. This is done to maintain compatibility with 16-bit (old DOS based) programs. These programs need the old filename format. If you don’t use any such DOS-based programs, you can safely turn this feature off. This will speed up Windows to some extent. Run this from a command prompt, by running the command – cmd from the Run box.

The command is:

fsutil behavior set disable8dot3 1

Note: Windows XP environment variables %TEMP% and %TMP% use short filenames. Some programs use these variables. If disabling short filenames causes problems, restore the short name function with the command:

fsutil behavior set disable8dot3 0 

10. Disable timestamp for last access to a file to speed up Windows

Disabling the timestamp for last access time of a file can speed up Windows too, because Windows doesn’t have to keep track of the last access time for each file. Again, run this from the command prompt:

fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 1 

Some backup programs need to access timestamp. To restore it, use the command:

fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 0 

11. Disable DLL caching

(NOTE: Use this only if you know how to edit the Registry)

Windows Explorer caches DLLs (Dynamic-Link Libraries) in memory for some time, even after the application using them was closed. This is a waste of memory. To stop Windows XP from always caching DLL files, create a new registry key as detailed below.

Click Start and then click Run. Type regedit and press the Enter key. In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

Create a new sub-key named ‘AlwaysUnloadDLL‘ and set the default value to ’1′.

This would disable Windows, caching the DLLs in memory. The change would happen only after you restart Windows.

12. For Windows Vista, disable superfetch

Run the following command from the Search box:

sc config Superfetch start= disabled

(The space after the = sign is intentional)

13. Disable the Windows’ built-in zip feature

It’s common to have many zipped or compressed files in today’s computer world. Windows XP and later have a built-in zip feature, which allows you to view zip files as normal folders, from within Windows Explorer. This can take quite an amount of CPU time in uncompressing the files on the fly. So, you should disable this feature and use a program like Winzip, to open zip files. Since Windows treats zip files as folders, they are also searched, when you search for a file, making the searching extremely slow.

To disable this feature, in the Run box, type the following command and hit the Enter key:

regsvr32 /u %windir%\system32\zipfldr.dll

The above command, without the ” /u ” would again enable the zip feature, if it’s disabled. A reboot is required for the changes to take effect. These commands may not work in Windows 7 or Vista. If you are new to Windows, you may like this feature, and may not want to disable it.

14. Optimize VGA settings

In Display Properties, click the settings tab and then click the ‘Advanced‘ button. Click the ‘Troubleshoot‘ tab and check that the hardware acceleration is set to full.

15. Disable Extra Visual Effects

Right click My Computer and then click Properties. Click the Advanced tab, then click “Settings” under Performance, then select the Visual Effects tab.

Disable Visual Effects

Disable Visual Effects

Uncheck all the settings except for the following:

  • Show shadows under menus
  • Show shadows under mouse pointer
  • Show translucent selection rectangle
  • Smooth edges of screen fonts
  • Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop
  • Use visual styles on windows and buttons

16. Adjust Paging File size

Adjust Paging File Size

Adjust Paging File Size

In My Computer Properties page, click the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory, make sure that the initial size is at least 1.5 times your computer’s physical memory (RAM). For example, if your computer has 512 MB of RAM, set the initial paging file size to 768 MB. If you are confused, don’t play with the settings and let Windows manage the page file size.

For optimal performance, read Bill’s and Petri’s pages about paging file and Windows performance. You can then use Doug Knox’s page file monitor utility and set the initial page file size accordingly. If you want the best performance, you can buy 2 GB or more RAM, then set the minimum paging file size to 2 MB and maximum, to 50 MB. This can dramatically improve performance.

17. Install good AntiSpyware and Antivirus programs, then run them periodically

Install Malwarebytes’ Antimalware and SuperAntiSpyware. Both are free. Note that Malwarebytes’ Antimalware doesn’t always keep running and you can manually scan files or drives when needed. But SuperAntiSpyware keeps running in the background, scans each file whenever you or the computer accesses it, and sits in the system tray. This slows the computer down, so you should remove it from the startup by using the MSCONFIG utility and then run it manually, whenever needed.

You may also want to install a free antivirus program like AVG or Avast. Both are light on resources and free too. Never install two Antivirus programs on the same computer, although you can install two AntiSpyware programs. You can, however, keep another Antivirus bootable CD or a Virus removal tool, to use once in a while. Any Antivirus program takes away a little of your computer speed because of the on-access and background scans. It’s best to leave the on-access scan enabled.

Kaspersky is one of the best Antivirus programs and even though it is not free, they offer their Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool for free here. Here’s a Kaspersky Bootable Rescue Disk ISO image, which you can download and burn on to a CD and boot the computer from it. After booting, if an Internet connection is available, you can update it online and then scan the computer.

18. Enable DMA / UDMA in Device Manager for each drive

Enable DMA / UDMA for each Drive

Enable DMA / UDMA for each Drive

Click Start -> Run. Then, type devmgmt.msc and hit the Enter key. In Device Manager, expand the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers. For each device under this category, double click the item and click the Advanced Settings tab. Make sure that DMA if available is selected for each device.

19. Install Microsoft Tweakui Powertoy

Download and install the Microsoft TweakUI Powertoy. It has many Windows tweaks and options that you can enable or disable with a simple mouse click. There are surely some that you’d like to use. To  know more, what it can do for you, click here.

From the Microsoft TweakUI page: “This PowerToy gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more.”

20. Periodically, reinstall Windows

It’s a good practice to periodically reinstall Windows. Don’t forget to backup your data files before the reinstall. If your system is infected with too many viruses or malware it may be better to format the hard drive and then reinstall Windows.

Here are some Youtube videos about installing Windows:

For installing/reinstalling Windows XP:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_932T4FAAY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSJTgvet9QY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0cop_am1WM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf2Ffm33DhA

For installing/reinstalling Windows Vista:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeBjxHm19pk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puY4vRhAKYo

It can be quite time consuming and a big hassle backing up your data, re-installing Windows, then re-installing the proper drivers and software programs and then restoring the data. You can use a professional disk imaging program like Acronis True Image or Norton‘s Ghost to  “image” your already installed and working copy of Windows, along with drivers and software programs.

These programs are very nice, but not free. However, here’s a link to a similar free disk imaging program from Easeus. Using these programs takes 10 minutes or less to restore the whole Windows partition, with everything installed. There are a dozen such freeware programs listed and detailed here.

21. Upgrade the RAM

The more the amount of RAM, the more the number of simultaneous applications you can run. Nowadays, 1 GB and 2 GB RAM is pretty common.

Here is a youtube video on how to properly install the RAM, if you want to upgrade or add more RAM.

Click here to search for RAM prices.

Help: The Sound on my Computer is not Working

April 21st, 2010 4 comments

The Sound on my computer is not working. What should I do?

OR

I can’t hear any sounds from the speakers or play any music on my computer. What is the problem?

There can be more than one reason, why the computer can’t play any sounds. These are discussed below.

If you have a desktop computer, it may or may not have a separate sound card. But in case of laptops, the sound card is integrated into the motherboard and cannot be removed, so some of the solutions may not apply to laptops.  Also, laptops come with built-in speakers, so the external speakers and cabling problems may not apply here, unless you use external speakers or headphones.

So, where do you start, when you can’t hear any sounds from your computer? Try the steps given below, one by one.

1. Reboot the computer

Before we start with the solutions, did you try the simplest solution first? Rebooting or restarting the computer is the simplest solution and should be tried first. If you didn’t already reboot, try it now. The sounds may just work after a reboot.

2. Enable the System Sounds

Can you hear the Windows startup sounds from the computer? If you can hear the Windows startup and shutdown sounds, the sound card is working fine. If you can’t hear any startup sounds, enable the System Sounds from the Control Panel, if they are disabled.

Enable_System_Sounds
Enable System Sounds. (Click for a larger image)

If you aren’t able to enable the system sounds and they are grayed out, you may need to reinstall the sound driver.

3. Is the problem only with an audio CD?

Are you trying to play an audio CD, and not getting any sound? If you can hear the System Sounds, but can’t hear anything from the audio CD, even though your audio player software shows that it’s playing the disc, the problem is most likely with the digital cable (see image 1 below) that goes from the CD/DVD drive to the sound card (image 2 below) (or to the motherboard).

One side of this cable goes into the back of the CD/DVD drive and the other goes into the sound card or on to the motherboard (in case of motherboards with built-in sound).

CD_DVD_Digital_Audio_Cable   CD_DVD_Connectors
Digital Audio Cable                IDE CD/DVD Connectors
 

4. Are the speakers properly connected?

Are the speakers connected to the proper sound port / jack, at the back of the computer? Are they powered ON? External speakers generally have a separate power adapter, which plugs into the wall socket or any other power source. Is the speaker volume control, set to a comfortable level? If not, turn it to the middle position.

If in doubt, test your speakers by connecting them to another sound device like CD/DVD player or a radio/tape player, or any sound source. If you can hear sounds from the speakers, they are fine.

Check that the speaker pin is connected to the green jack at the back of the computer.

Sound_Card_Jacks
Sound Card Jacks

Also, check that the sound (check speaker icon in the system tray) isn’t muted. Such a simple thing, which can happen accidentally, can confuse some people when they can’t hear sounds from their computers. This can get overlooked because the speaker icon may be lost between many other icons.  Click it and un-mute the sound, if it’s muted.

Note: If you can’t see the speaker icon in the system tray, you may need to enable it from the Control Panel. From the Control Panel, double-click "Sound and Audio Devices" and check the box that says "Place volume icon in the taskbar" and click OK.

Taskbar_Volume_Icon_Enable
Add volume Icon to Taskbar

5. Test with a pair of headphones

Try plugging in a pair of headphones in place of the speakers, to check whether you can hear anything. Play a song or music CD or any sound file, which you may have on the computer. If you don’t have one handy, you can run a command to test your sound:

Click the Start button, and then click Run (or Search, in Windows 7 / Vista). Type the following command and then press the Enter key:

dxdiag

DirectX_Diagnostic_Tool
DirectX Diagnostic Tool

If you can’t see the name of the sound driver, or aren’t able to hear the sound by using the ‘Test DirectSound’ button, or you get an error, the problem may be with the sound driver. Reinstall the sound driver.

6. Try doing a System Restore

If the sound worked sometime ago and now it isn’t working for some reason, the simplest solution for re-installing the sound driver is to do a System Restore. Restore the system to a date that you know, when your sound worked. Check out the following links for a YouTube video and short tutorials on System Restore.

Note: Current documents, files and e-mails are not affected by System Restore. If you get an error like “Restoration Incomplete. Your computer cannot be restored", undo the last action by selecting “Undo my last restoration”. If you restored the system recently, the “Undo my last restoration” option is displayed in the System Restore list. You can use it to undo your most recent restore. This option is available only after you do a restore.

Here’s a YouTube video on how to restore a system with System Restore.

For more information about System Restore, visit the following link:

Sytem Restore FAQ

For Windows 7 or Vista:

http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/using-windows-vista-system-restore/

http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/76905-system-restore-how.html

7. Manually, diagnose the sound driver

If System Restore didn’t help or you get a message that System Restore couldn’t be completed, try the following:

Start the Device Manager (Start -> Run -> devmgmt.msc and hit the Enter key).  In Device Manager, Click the + sign next to "Sound, video and game controllers". See that the sound driver that you noted from dxdiag above, is listed.

Double-click this sound driver. Device Manager should give a status message that the driver is working fine. If the driver isn’t there or if it shows a yellow exclamation mark, shows under other devices, or gives any other kind of status message, or there’s no sound driver at all, reinstall the driver. In any case, it doesn’t harm to reinstall the sound driver.

From this sound driver properties page, you may also click the Troubleshoot button, to open the Sound Troubleshooter in the Windows Help and Support Center.

Sound_Troubleshooter_in_Windows_Help
Sound Troubleshooter in the Windows Help and Support Center

You can also visit the following link about tips for fixing common sound problems:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Tips-for-fixing-common-sound-problems

8. Enable/disable the built-in sound support in the BIOS

If your motherboard has built-in sound support, make sure that it’s enabled in the System BIOS/CMOS. However, if you have a separate sound card, and your motherboard’s built-in sound is also enabled in the BIOS/CMOS, there can be a conflict between the two sound cards. In this case, disable the built-in sound support from the BIOS/CMOS, if it’s not already disabled.

 Enable_Onboard_Sound
Enable/disable the built-in sound support in BIOS

Here’s a video on how to enter the System BIOS/CMOS:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLaoajhiN_k

And here’s another one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc1t3c5Yke8

Here’s a three-part video about everything you would want to know about the System BIOS/CMOS settings:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKaKj6uRLSM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLaoajhiN_k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exU85jk9UyM

9. Reinstall Windows

If your motherboard’s built-in sound isn’t working, even after re-installing the sound driver, doing a System Restore, you can try reinstalling Windows.

Here are some YouTube videos about how to re-install Windows:

For installing/reinstalling Windows XP:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_932T4FAAY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7usco-1nXGg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSJTgvet9QY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0cop_am1WM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf2Ffm33DhA

For installing/reinstalling Windows Vista:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeBjxHm19pk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puY4vRhAKYo

If you have to re-install Windows, you may want to backup any critical data files on to CD/DVD discs or USB flash drives/portable hard drives, before starting the installation. Click here to search for prices on flash drives and here for portable (external) hard drives.

10. Add a separate sound card

If your motherboard’s built-in sound isn’t working, even after re-installing the sound driver, doing a System Restore and re-installing Windows, you need to add a separate sound card. The easy option for non-technical people is to get a USB sound card. Such a card is also helpful, if your motherboard has no free expansion slots for an add-on sound card.

What are USB Sound Cards? USB sound "cards" are actually external boxes that plug into the computer via USB. The sound is produced in the software which runs on the  computer. These boxes only provide for connectivity from the pc via the USB bus to an external device like a microphone or line in/out connector. It’s more appropriate to call them as audio interfaces.

USB_Sound_Card
USB Sound Card / Audio Interface

Click here to search for prices on Sound Cards.

11. Update the sound driver

Here’s an easy way to download and install/update your sound card driver.

12. Inspect the sound card

If updating the drivers didn’t help and if you have a separate sound card (not a built-in one on the motherboard), it’s possible that the drivers are correctly installed, but the sound card was displaced a little bit from its slot. This may be because there’s no screw holding it, or the card’s face plate misaligned with the computer case, which caused a loose contact between the card and the slot.

If you suspect this, you should power the computer off, unplug the power cord from the wall outlet, open up the computer and pull out the card. Then, re-insert it firmly into the slot or insert it into another slot, if you have another one free. Make sure to tighten the screw, which fixes the card to the case, and put one there, if it’s missing. Here’s a YouTube video about installing a sound card.

13. Test the sound card with a Linux Live CD distro

If none of the above methods worked, power off, unplug and open up the computer. Then, pull out your sound card and test it in another computer.

You can also download and boot from an Ubuntu Linux disc (about 700 MB), or the very light DamnSmallLinux (50 MB only), just to test the card, in case you can’t test your card in another computer.

You’d need to burn the ISO file with the “burn image to disc” option, in your CD writing software. To know more, how to burn ISO files, visit this post.

14. Downgrade to Vista or XP, if using Windows 7

If you tested your sound card and it worked with another system, and you have Windows 7 on your computer, it’s most likely that Windows 7 doesn’t support your sound card yet. Here, you have two options – downgrade to Windows Vista or XP, or get a sound card which is supported by Windows 7.

Here’s a list of Windows 7 supported sound cards from Microsoft.

This page lists Windows 7 compatible hardware and software.

Check the compatibility status of your software and devices, here.

If the card didn’t work even with another system, try

another sound card.

15. Test by using a different USB port

If the card is a USB sound card, try connecting it to a different USB port, especially the ones at the back of the computer, if you tried only the front USB ports. If you can’t get the card to work, try it on another computer. If it works on the other computer, the problem may be with the USB ports on your computer.

Test your USB ports by connecting other USB devices. You may also try removing the USB drivers from the Device manager and let Windows re-install them upon reboot. If  your computer doesn’t recognize any USB device, try the solutions in Troubleshooting USB connections”.

16. More information

For more information, visit the following links:

http://answers.microsoft.com/hi-in/default(en-us).aspx

http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/xpmusic/threads?filter=answered

Here’s a video about troubleshooting sound issues. If you can’t hear any sound on your computer, you should watch it on some other computer where sound works, so you can hear the guy.

Troubleshooting a Computer that Turns ON, then Immediately Turns off

March 29th, 2010 5 comments

 

I press the button to turn the computer on, and the button lights up. Nothing appears on the screen and after about 2 seconds, the computer turns itself off.

I have pulled the power cord out and in, hoping that would fix it, but nothing happened.

Is there any way to turn the computer on?

There may be one or more of the following reasons, why your computer shuts down immediately after powering ON. You should go through each of the below troubleshooting steps to solve this problem.

1. Is this a newly built computer?

Did you recently build this computer? If yes, you should re-check your configuration. There may not be a problem with the hardware but something may not be properly configured, which is causing the computer to power off, after turning on.  Check your motherboard manual and see if the jumper settings, if any, are correct.

2. Has something inside the computer become loose?

Remove and re-insert all the cables, cards and RAM. A loose connection can also make the computer to power on and then immediately power off. This is a basic step in computer troubleshooting and more than 50 percent of the computer problems are due to loose cables or cards.

3. Do you hear a musical siren from the computer speaker?

If your computer gives a musical siren (a sound like dee-doo-dee-doo) for sometime, before finally powering off, it’s shutting down because of the CPU overheat protection circuit. This may happen if there’s a loose or improperly connected heat-sink/fan, or if the fan becomes defective and stops. Check and make sure that the heat-sink is tightly fit to the processor (the CPU) and the fan connected and working at a good speed. Most motherboards have a CPU fan  speed monitor in the BIOS setup.

Here are some YouTube videos about properly installing a CPU, heatsink and fan:

Intel Cpu Install 

Installing a Processor and Heatsink

How to Build a Computer – 15 – Installing the CPU

How to Build a Computer – 16 – Installing CPU Fan

4. Is the 110/220v voltage selector switch at the back of the power supply, set up correctly?

Most computer power supplies have a power selector switch at the back-side. The selected voltage is printed on the switch. Setting this switch to an incorrect voltage setting can damage the power supply and your computer. In most cases, your computer won’t turn on at all, if you set it wrongly, but it’s possible that the computer may turn on and immediately turn off.

The voltage that this switch should be set to depends on the country where you are. In some countries, it is 110v, in other countries, it is 220v. If you’re travelling to a foreign country with your computer, you should check this information before using the computer in that country, and then set the power supply switch accordingly, before you power up the computer.

If your power supply doesn’t have such a switch, it selects the voltage automatically and you shouldn’t worry about this. Click here to watch a video showing power supply removal. The voltage selector switch is clearly explained in this video.

5. Test the computer power supply.

A simple and easy way to test the power supply is to remove it from the computer and connect it to a working computer. Then, power it ON. If the computer boots up, the power supply is fine.

Another method to test the power supply uses a power supply tester.

You can get a cheap power supply tester for less than 8 USD. Click here for a list of power supply testers, which you can buy online.

If you don’t have access to another computer or can’t test the power supply in another computer for any reason, don’t want to spend on a power supply tester, here’s an easy way to test it yourself. But be careful, as shorting the wrong pins can have bad results. Also note that just the power supply fan spinning doesn’t always mean that the power supply is good, but if you can’t test it in other ways, this method can be useful.

On the ATX power connector, as shown below (a 20 or 24 pin connector, which connects to the motherboard), simply short pin no. 14 (in case of 20 pin connector) or pin no. 16  (in case of 24 pin connector), which is the green wire), to any of the (black) ground pins, which are 3,5,7,13,15,16,17.  These pin numbers are usually printed on the back of the ATX power connector, but even if they are not there, you can still recognize the green colored wire. There is only one green wire on the ATX power connector, so you can’t go wrong.

SNAP0104 SNAP0107 SNAP0108

Note: Shorting means connecting a piece of metal wire between two points.

For this, you may even use a U shaped, metal hair pin. Or use a paper clip straightened and made into a U shape, to short the two pins, as shown in the above images. After you short them with the paper clip or hair pin, turn on power to the power supply. The power supply fan at the back should start spinning. This tells us that the power supply is good.

Here’s a YouTube video about testing a computer power supply, using the above method.

If you tested the power supply as shown in the video above, and the power supply fan doesn’t spin at all, the power supply is dead or the fan is defective. It’s dangerous for non-technicians to try to replace the power supply fan, or repair the power supply, so just get a new power supply or use an old but good and working power supply.

6. Check and replace the power ON switch.

In rare cases, the power ON switch (on the front panel of the computer case), may be faulty.

You may test it with a multi-meter, which is set for the continuity test.  But an easier way to test the power ON switch is by plugging-in the reset switch’s connector in place of the power switch connector, on the motherboard. And then, power on the system.

If the computer powers ON with the reset switch, the power ON switch or the connecting wire is faulty. In any case, you can use the reset switch in place of the power ON switch, without physically replacing the switch. Just leave the power ON switch disconnected and use the reset switch on the front panel, to power ON the computer.

If you don’t like to replace the power ON switch with the reset switch, you can get a switch at electronic stores like RadioShack. A switch shown here may work for you, or you can search RadioShack for more such switches.

7. Does the computer power up with minimal parts?

Open up the computer and remove any add-on cards. Disconnect any drives including the hard drive and the CD/DVD drive. Also disconnect any external devices like printers, scanners or any USB devices.

The minimal parts needed to boot the system are – the motherboard with the processor, heatsink and fan, RAM, video card and the power supply. If the computer powers up in this way, then add the other parts, one at a time. Then, power up after adding each part. This way, you can easily identify the part or device that is causing the computer to shutdown. After identifying the problematic part, you can then test it in another computer, or replace it.

8. Does the motherboard power up on the bench?

Power off and unplug the computer’s power cord. Then, remove the motherboard out of the case, along with the RAM and the processor with its heatsink and fan. If there’s a separate video/graphics card, use that too. Also, remove the power supply and connect power to the motherboard. Don’t use any other card or device. Connect the output of the video card to the monitor and check whether this barebones system powers up on the bench. If it powers up this way, the problem is somewhere inside the case.

Here’s a set of images, showing the motherboard powered up on the bench:

Motherboard on bench (Image 1) Motherboard on bench (Image 2)

Here’s a set of videos, showing how to take a computer apart:

Part 1 Taking a Computer Apart

Part 2 Taking a Computer Apart

Part 3 Taking a Computer Apart

9. Is there an electrical short inside the computer case?

If the computer doesn’t power ON, even with minimal parts inside the case, power it off and unplug the computer from the mains. Then, closely inspect the computer case for any shorts. Usually, shorts are caused by screws that fall inside the case. These screws may come in contact between the motherboard and the case, and cause a short. The motherboard may also be touching the metal case at some place to cause a short. There could be other causes of a short and again, you should closely inspect the case.

Hold the computer case and gently shake it sideways. If there’s a struck screw, it may come loose by doing this. If you see a screw at a place where your hand can’t reach, use a pair of long nose pliers or tweezers to remove the screw.

If you tried to power up the motherboard on bench (see point no 8), and it powers up fine outside the case, an electrical short inside the case is most likely the cause of the computer not powering on. But at times, this may cause the computer to power on for a second and then power off immediately. If you’re unable to detect the reason of the short inside the case, you may want to take the help of a computer professional, or replace the computer case.

10. If you tried all the above steps and your computer still powers off, after turning on, you should take the help of a computer professional, or from a computer repair service. You can also take help from your computer manufacturer. Here’s a list of computer manufacturers and here’s a list of computer hardware device manufacturers.

Troubleshooting USB connections

February 26th, 2010 2 comments

Having problems with your USB connections?

This can be a tricky problem to troubleshoot because of the fact that each USB device requires different hardware settings, which can conflict with other USB devices. Since multiple USB devices share a single path into your computer, it can be confusing (and time consuming) trying to isolate the problem.You might be dealing with driver issues on a single USB device, compatibility issues between the devices plugged into the same USB slot on your computer, or even a problem with your USB cord or slot in your computer.

Before you start troubleshooting a USB problem, double-check the fundamentals: Does your USB cable have a good connection? Confirm that any USB hubs are properly connected and plugged in to powered electrical outlets. Many failures can be traced to unplugged equipment or devices that are plugged into outlets that are not receiving power.

To isolate the problem, have a simple USB device that works properly on another computer, such as a USB mouse. You can test this device on the computer experientcing the problems to verify that the USB port, not a faulty device or cord, is causing the problem. Here are some other common issues with USB connections and how to fix them:

  • No USB device will work

Possible causes: Operating system compatibility, controller/hub compatibility, configurations for USB controllers, controller drivers

Make sure that your operating system supports USB, then check all of your devices to make sure they are supported by the controller. Next, check the controller’s settings and drivers. (Each of these things must be compatible with each other.)

  • All devices occasionally stop working at the same time

Possible causes: Controller drivers, Power management, USB controller configurations, bandwidth

Bandwidth can be an issue if several devices are transferring large amounts of data. Common devices that hog bandwidth include printers, scanners, hard drives, cameras, and DVD/CD drives. To solve this, you might try dividing the USB devices between different USB root hubs.

If your system experiences sporadic controller failure, you probably have a problem with power management. You might have bus-powered scanners or hard drives that are drawing more power than your computer can provide. If your computer requires more power, try replacing your computer’s power supply with one that provides more watts.

  • Several devices work fine, but others won’t work

Possible causes: Controller/hub compatibility, USB controller configurations, power management, controller drivers, device drivers, bandwidth

First move one of the working devices to another root hub to see if the problem is in a particular root hub or with the devices themselves. Next, remove external hubs from the equation to see if they are the problem. Try the problematic devices individually on the computer. If they work, it’s either a device driver or power issue. If they don’t work, it’s a controller compatibility issue, a device driver problem, or a lack of bandwidth. To solve compatibility issues and driver errors, try updating the drivers.

  • Several devices occasionally stop working at the same time, while others are fine

Possible causes: Power management, device drivers, bandwidth

First, try to isolate the particular event that’s common to all failures. Your system might be experiencing a sporadic controller failure if your devices are split across root hubs. Try moving the devices to another root hub to see if the problem is in a particular root hub or the devices themselves. Remove external hubs from the equation to see if they are the problem. Try the problematic devices individually on the computer. If they work, it’s a device driver, power issue, or bandwidth pinch.

  • One device never works

Possible causes: Device drivers, Controller/hub compatibility, Power management

If the device works on another computer, check to make sure it is compatible with your controller. If your device is bus powered and it never activates, lights up, or registers with your computer, then a power issue may be to blame. Next, check your drivers to see if they are compatible or need updated.

  • One device occasionally stops working

Possible causes: Device drivers, power management, bandwidth.

Again, isolate the particular event that’s common to all failures. Move the device to another root hub to see if the problem is in a particular root hub or the device itself. Remove external hubs from the equation to confirm they are not the problem. Also, try using the device when no other USB peripherals are connected. You probably have a driver problem, but it could also be a problem with the power or bandwidth.


Solving USB Issues:

Operating system compatibility
Several operating systems don’t support USB:

  • Some Windows 95 releases
  • Windows NT
  • Mac OS prior to 9
  • Linux kernels prior to 2.2.7

If you’re using Windows 95, go to USB.org, check the FAQ, and download the USBReady.exe program, which will tell you if your Windows 95 computer is USB compatible. The new USB 2.0 standard may require additional drivers or patches that aren’t included with the OS. Check the device’s documentation for more information.

Controller/hub compatibility
USB computers manufactured more than a year ago are limited to USB 1.1 devices. USB 2.0 is much faster and is usually backward compatible with the older 1.1, but it’s possible that a USB 2.0 device could refuse to work on a USB 1.1 controller or external hub, so check to see if there’s a compatibility issue.

Assuming a firmware update is available, you may need access to a USB 2.0-equipped computer to apply it. Check the manufacturer’s Web site for information on using your USB 2.0 device in a USB 1.1 system.

Configurations for add-on USB controllers
Check the Windows Device Manager to see if the USB controller is recognized or is experiencing a conflict.

  • For Windows 2000:
    Click Start, Programs, Control Panel, System. Then choose the Hardware tab, and then click the Device Manager button.
  • ForWindows XP:
    Click Start, Control Panel, select the Systems applet, click the Hardware tab, and then click the Device Manager button.

The Device Manager will likely refer to the USB controller as a USB Root Hub, USB Controller, or USB Bridge. The usual suspects of IRQ addresses and memory address conflicts are the first things to check. PCI devices shouldn’t have many problems, being Plug and Play, but EISA cards may require more adjustment.

If the hardware appears to work, reinstall the drivers. If that fails to resolve the problem, relocate the card to another slot in case a master/slave configuration error is occurring.

Integrated USB controller settings
If you suspect the trouble is with your USB controller settings, check the Device Manager for a conflict. Depending upon how well integrated the controller is with Windows, you may be able to adjust the IRQ or memory address settings from the Device Manager.

Next, try rebooting your computer and entering the BIOS configuration. USB settings are usually listed in the “peripherals” section. You’ll need to check for an entry marked “USB Controller” that is off or inactive. If this entry is already active, check the IRQ and memory addresses. Use the Device Manager to ensure that no other device is using those settings. You may need to reboot a few times to find a valid IRQ/memory address combination that won’t conflict with other devices.

If the hardware settings are fine, reinstall the drivers.

  • USB keyboards
    When editing the BIOS, enable “DOS USB Keyboard Support.” Enabling this option will allow you to use a USB keyboard when booting a system with a boot disk.
  • Controller drivers
    Check the motherboard manufacturer’s web site for driver updates. Many motherboard suppliers release driver combinations that include a number of hardware drivers. Confirm that you have the latest driver installed. Some operating systems also provide drivers, so make sure you have the latest available software patch as well.

Power management
Most computers have some form of sleep mode connected with the screensaver. A controller is not harmed when an energy setting kicks and eliminates its power. However, the OS may fail to power up the controller again. You can eliminate this error by opening Power Options and disabling System Standby.

In Windows 2000, access the Power Options applet by clicking Start, Settings, Control Panel, Power Options.

In Windows XP, go to Start, Control Panel, Power Options. You’ll find the System Standby option on the Power Schemes tab, which opens by default.

For laptop computers, you shouldn’t disable the power management permanently. If the manufacturer doesn’t have a patch for the laptop, consider switching to non-USB devices when possible. You could also create two profiles for users: a portable profile with power management enabled and a desktop profile with power management disabled.

Excessive loads on the bus can also cause power problems. The USB controller can power USB devices. Small devices like your mouse and keyboard aren’t a significant drain, but larger devices, such as scanners, hard drives, web cams, and speakers can draw considerable power. You might be able to eliminate the problem by spreading the power-hungry devices across multiple root hubs. Otherwise, acquire a good self-powered external USB hub.

Inexpensive external hubs sometimes fail to meet the USB power specifications and subsequently cause all devices on the hub to fail. Upgrading to a USB hub that supplies more power solves this kind of problem.

USB device drivers
The ability to hot-swap USB devices is a great feature, but it relies on a somewhat oversimplified set of all-purpose drivers. Some devices may appear to be general-purpose devices when in fact they are not. You need to install the drivers before you connect the device to the PC. Sometimes you need to reboot to give the new drivers priority over the all-purpose drivers. Skipping the reboot will break the whole process.

If you think the new drivers aren’t receiving priority, completely uninstall the device in question. You may have to leave the device connected to uninstall it properly. At other times you may be able to remove a device’s drivers using Control Panel’s Add/Remove Programs applet, just as you would with other software.

Sometimes it’s necessary to upgrade a device’s firmware, which is basically a driver that runs on the peripheral. The more advanced the device, the more likely it is that the firmware can be upgraded. Your mouse probably doesn’t have any firmware upgrades. Scanners, hard disks, printers, optical disks, and other sophisticated peripherals likely have upgradeable firmware. Check the manufacturer’s site to make sure that you have the most recent update.

Bandwidth
USB root hubs can each support up to 128 devices, but they can run out of bandwidth, depending on consumption rates. USB 1.1 is limited to 12 Mbps, not counting the bus management overhead. USB 2.0 has 480 Mbps with about 420 Mbpsavailable, so it can support more devices. Combine an Ethernet adapter, a printer, and an external CD-ROM or hard drive on a single USB controller, though, and the PC can quickly exhaust its capacity.

The only solution for bandwidth problems is to either stop using all the devices simultaneously or distribute the load. Make sure you put devices that will always see use, like Ethernet adapters and USB speakers, on different root hubs. You may need to get additional USB controllers, which are inexpensive, typically costing less than $40.

How To Access Device Manager in Windows Vista

January 11th, 2010 No comments

The Device Manager is a part of Microsoft Windows Vista. It gives you an organized view of all recognized devices installed on your computer. The Device Manager is used to change options, manage your drivers, enabling and disabling your devices, such as your hard disk drives, USB devices, keyboards, sound cards and more.

To access the Device Manager in Windows Vista:

  1. Click the Start Menu
  2. Type “Device Manager” and hit return
    screen_start_type_device_manager

OR

  1. Click the Start Menu,
  2. Click the Control Panel,
    btn_control_panel
  3. Click the Device Manager Icon
    icon_device_manager

Error Message: “This device cannot start. (Code 10)”

November 9th, 2009 No comments

A Code 10 error occurs when Device Manager can’t start a hardware device. This error is usually caused by corrupted or outdated drivers, so most often the solution is pretty easy.

  • The first solution to try is to restart your machine. Some error messages can be caused by a temporary problem.
  • Next, did you just install a new device or update? If you did, this might have caused the problem. Either roll back the driver you installed, or use the System Restore to undo recent Device Manager changes.
  • The most common fix for a Code 10 error is to uninstall and reinstall your device drivers. If it is a USB device device is generating the Code 10 error, uninstall every device under the Universal Serial Bus controllers hardware category in Device Manager as part of the driver reinstall.
  • You might also try to update the drivers for your device, if a more current version is available.
  • You can run an update for the Windows Service Pack. There might be a patch available which will solve your error.
  • If all of the above solutions don’t fix it, you might need to replace your hardware.