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Pc Maintenance Guide.

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    Babadinho Administrator

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    PC Maintenance Guide

    "Take good care of your PC, and it will take good care of you."

    It's a nice sentiment, but reality is more like "Take good care of your PC, and it won't crash, lose your data, and cost you your job--probably." Follow these steps to stop PC problems before they stop you.

    Your PC's two mortal enemies are heat and moisture. Excess heat accelerates the deterioration of the delicate circuits in your system. The most common causes of overheating are dust and dirt: Clogged vents and CPU cooling fans can keep heat-dissipating air from moving through the case, and even a thin coating of dust or dirt can raise the temperature of your machine's components.

    Any grime, but especially the residue of cigarette smoke, can corrode exposed metal contacts. That's why it pays to keep your system clean, inside and out.

    If your PC resides in a relatively clean, climate-controlled environment, an annual cleaning should be sufficient. But in most real-world locations, such as dusty offices or shop floors, your system may need a cleaning every few months.

    All you need are lint-free wipes, a can of compressed air, a few drops of a mild cleaning solution such as Formula 409 or Simple Green in a bowl of water, and an antistatic wrist strap to protect your system when you clean inside the case.

    Think Outside the Box


    Before you get started cleaning, check around your PC for anything nearby that could raise its temperature (such as a heating duct or sunshine coming through a window). Also clear away anything that might fall on it or make it dirty, such as a bookcase or houseplants.

    Always turn off and unplug the system before you clean any of its components. Never apply any liquid directly to a component. Spray or pour the liquid on a lint-free cloth, and wipe the PC with the cloth.

    Clean the case: Wipe the case and clear its ventilation ports of any obstructions. Compressed air is great for this, but don't blow dust into the PC or its optical and floppy drives. Keep all cables firmly attached to their connectors on the case.

    Maintain your mechanical mouse: When a nonoptical mouse gets dirty, the pointer moves erratically. Unscrew the ring on the bottom of the unit and remove the ball. Then scrape the accumulated gunk off the two plastic rollers that are set 90 degrees apart inside the ball's housing.

    Keep a neat keyboard: Turn the keyboard upside down and shake it to clear the crumbs from between the keys. If that doesn't suffice, blast it (briefly) with compressed air. If your keys stick or your keyboard is really dirty, pry the keys off for easier cleaning. Computer shops have special tools for removing keys, but you can also pop them off by using two pencils with broken tips as jumbo tweezers--just be sure to use a soft touch.

    Make your monitor sparkle: Wipe the monitor case and clear its vents of obstructions, without pushing dust into the unit. Clean the screen with a standard glass cleaner and a lint-free cloth. If your monitor has a degauss button (look for a small magnet icon), push it to clear magnetic interference. Many LCDs can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol; check with your LCD manufacturer. Wipe your LCD lightly: The underlying glass is fragile.

    Check your power protection: Reseat the cables plugged into your surge protector. Check the unit's warning indicator, if it has one. Surge protectors may power your PC even after being compromised by a voltage spike (making your system susceptible to a second spike). If your power protector doesn't have a warning indicator and your area suffers frequent power outages, replace it with one that has such an indicator and is UL 1449 certified.

    Swipe your CD and DVD media: Gently wipe each disc with a moistened, soft cloth. Use a motion that starts at the center of the disc and then moves outward toward the edge. Never wipe a disc in a circular motion.

    Inside the Box

    Before Cr@cking open the case, turn off the power and unplug your PC. Ground yourself before you touch anything inside to avoid destroying your circuitry with a static charge. If you don't have a grounding wrist strap, you can ground yourself by touching any of various household objects, such as a water pipe, a lamp, or another grounded electrical device. Be sure to unplug the power cord before you open the case.

    Use antistatic wipes to remove dust from inside the case. Avoid touching any circuit-board surfaces. Pay close attention to the power-supply fan, as well as to the case and to CPU fans, if you have them. Spray these components with a blast of compressed air to loosen dust; but to remove the dust rather than rearrange it, you should use a small vacuum.

    If your PC is more than four years old, or if the expansion cards plugged into its motherboard are exceptionally dirty, remove each card, clean its contacts with isopropyl alcohol, and reseat it. If your system is less than a couple years old, however, just make sure each card is firmly seated by pressing gently downward on its top edge while not touching its face. Likewise, check your power connectors, EIDE connectors, and other internal cables for a snug fit.

    While you have the case open, familiarize yourself with the CMOS battery on the motherboard. For its location, check the motherboard manual. If your PC is more than four or five years old, the CMOS battery may need to be replaced. (A system clock that loses time is one indicator of a dying CMOS battery.)

    Look for Trouble

    Give your PC a periodic checkup with a good hardware diagnostic utility. Two excellent choices are Sandra Standard from SiSoftware and #1-TuffTest-Lite from #1-PC Diagnostics. Download the free version of Sandra (the full version of the application costs $35) or to download #1-TuffTest-Lite (the fully functional version is $10).

    Sandra Standard:
    CODE
    http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_d ... ,ur,00.asp


    #1-TuffTest-Lite:
    CODE
    http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_d ... ,ur,00.asp


    Adding and removing system components leaves orphaned entries in the Windows Registry. This can increase the time your PC takes to boot and can slow system performance. Many shareware utilities are designed to clean the Registry.

    Windows stores files on a hard drive in rows of contiguous segments, but over time the disk fills and segments become scattered, so they take longer to access. To keep your drive shipshape, run Windows' Disk Defragmenter utility. Click Start, Programs (All Programs in XP), Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. If your drive is heavily fragmented, you could boost performance. Defragging may take hours, however. Disable your screen saver and other automatic programs beforehand to keep the defrag from restarting every few minutes.

    Disk Defragmenter won't defragment the file on your hard drive that holds overflow data from system memory (also known as the swap file). Since the swap file is frequently accessed, defragmenting it can give your PC more pep. You can defragment your swap file by using a utility such as the SpeedDisk program included with Norton SystemWorks 2004, but there's a way to reset it in Windows.

    In Windows XP, right-click My Computer and choose Properties. Click Advanced, and then choose the Settings button under Performance. Click Advanced again and the Change button under Virtual Memory. Select another drive or partition, set your swap file size, and click OK.

    If you have only one partition and no way to create a second one, and you have at least 256MB of RAM, disable the swap file rather than moving it: Select "No paging file" in the Virtual Memory settings. If you have trouble booting, start Windows in Safe Mode and re-enable this option.

    Hard-Drive Checkup
    Windows XP offers a rudimentary evaluation of your hard disk's health with its error-checking utility: Right-click the drive's icon in Windows Explorer and select Properties, Tools, Check Now. (Windows can fix errors and recover bad sectors automatically if you wish.) If the check discovers a few file errors, don't worry, but if it comes up with hundreds of errors, the drive could be in trouble.

    To conduct a more thorough examination, download Panterasoft's free HDD Health utility, which monitors hard-drive performance and warns of impending disaster:
    CODE
    http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_d ... ,ur,00.asp


    The program works only with drives that support S.M.A.R.T technology, but nearly all drives released since 2000 are S.M.A.R.T.-compliant.

    Many hardware and software designers humbly assume you want their program running on your PC all the time, so they tell Windows to load the application at startup (hence, the ever-growing string of icons in your system tray). These programs eat up system resources and make hardware conflicts and compatibility problems more likely. To prevent them from launching, just click Start, Run, type "msconfig" and press Enter. The programs listed under the Startup tab are set to start along with Windows. Uncheck the box at the left of each undesirable program to prevent it from starting automatically.

    Four Tips for Longer PC Life

    1. Keep your PC in a smoke-free environment. Tobacco smoke can damage delicate contacts and circuits.

    2. Leave your PC running. Powering up from a cold state is one of the most stressful things you can do to your system's components. If you don't want to leave your PC running all the time, use Windows' Power Management settings to put your machine into hibernation rather than completely shutting down. In Windows XP, right-click the desktop and select Properties. Click the Screen Saver tab and select the Power button. Choose the Hibernate tab to ensure that hibernation is enabled, and then select a time beneath "System hibernates" under the Power Schemes tab. (Note that this option is not available on all PCs.) Computers running older versions of Windows may or may not provide similar power-management features. Look under the Power Management icon (Power Options in Windows 2000) in Control Panel to evaluate your machine's capabilities.

    3. Don't leave your monitor running. The best way to extend your display's life is to shut it off when it's not in use.

    4. Avoid jostling the PC. Whenever you move your system, even if it's just across the desktop, make sure the machine is shut down and unplugged.

    Alves Member

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    Since defragging the disk won't do much to improve Windows XP performance, here are 23 suggestions that will. Each can enhance the performance and reliability of your customers' PCs. Best of all, most of them will cost you nothing.


    1.) To decrease a system's boot time and increase system performance, use the money you save by not buying defragmentation software -- the built-in Windows defragmenter works just fine -- and instead equip the computer with an Ultra-133 or Serial ATA hard drive with 8-MB cache buffer.

    2.) If a PC has less than 512 MB of RAM, add more memory. This is a relatively inexpensive and easy upgrade that can dramatically improve system performance.

    3.) Ensure that Windows XP is utilizing the NTFS file system. If you're not sure, here's how to check: First, double-click the My Computer icon, right-click on the C: Drive, then select Properties. Next, examine the File System type; if it says FAT32, then back-up any important data. Next, click Start, click Run, type CMD, and then click OK. At the prompt, type CONVERT C: /FS:NTFS and press the Enter key. This process may take a while; it's important that the computer be uninterrupted and virus-free. The file system used by the bootable drive will be either FAT32 or NTFS. I highly recommend NTFS for its superior security, reliability, and efficiency with larger disk drives.

    4.) Disable file indexing. The indexing service extracts information from documents and other files on the hard drive and creates a "searchable keyword index." As you can imagine, this process can be quite taxing on any system.

    The idea is that the user can search for a word, phrase, or property inside a document, should they have hundreds or thousands of documents and not know the file name of the document they want. Windows XP's built-in search functionality can still perform these kinds of searches without the Indexing service. It just takes longer. The OS has to open each file at the time of the request to help find what the user is looking for.

    Most people never need this feature of search. Those who do are typically in a large corporate environment where thousands of documents are located on at least one server. But if you're a typical system builder, most of your clients are small and medium businesses. And if your clients have no need for this search feature, I recommend disabling it.

    Here's how: First, double-click the My Computer icon. Next, right-click on the C: Drive, then select Properties. Uncheck "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching." Next, apply changes to "C: subfolders and files," and click OK. If a warning or error message appears (such as "Access is denied"), click the Ignore All button.

    5.) Update the PC's video and motherboard chipset drivers. Also, update and configure the BIOS. For more information on how to configure your BIOS properly, see this article on my site.

    6.) Empty the Windows Prefetch folder every three months or so. Windows XP can "prefetch" portions of data and applications that are used frequently. This makes processes appear to load faster when called upon by the user. That's fine. But over time, the prefetch folder may become overloaded with references to files and applications no longer in use. When that happens, Windows XP is wasting time, and slowing system performance, by pre-loading them. Nothing critical is in this folder, and the entire contents are safe to delete.

    7.) Once a month, run a disk cleanup. Here's how: Double-click the My Computer icon. Then right-click on the C: drive and select Properties. Click the Disk Cleanup button -- it's just to the right of the Capacity pie graph -- and delete all temporary files.

    8.) In your Device Manager, double-click on the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers device, and ensure that DMA is enabled for each drive you have connected to the Primary and Secondary controller. Do this by double-clicking on Primary IDE Channel. Then click the Advanced Settings tab. Ensure the Transfer Mode is set to "DMA if available" for both Device 0 and Device 1. Then repeat this process with the Secondary IDE Channel.

    9.) Upgrade the cabling. As hard-drive technology improves, the cabling requirements to achieve these performance boosts have become more stringent. Be sure to use 80-wire Ultra-133 cables on all of your IDE devices with the connectors properly assigned to the matching Master/Slave/Motherboard sockets. A single device must be at the end of the cable; connecting a single drive to the middle connector on a ribbon cable will cause signaling problems. With Ultra DMA hard drives, these signaling problems will prevent the drive from performing at its maximum potential. Also, because these cables inherently support "cable select," the location of each drive on the cable is important. For these reasons, the cable is designed so drive positioning is explicitly clear.

    10.) Remove all spyware from the computer. Use free programs such as AdAware by Lavasoft or SpyBot Search & Destroy. Once these programs are installed, be sure to check for and download any updates before starting your search. Anything either program finds can be safely removed. Any free software that requires spyware to run will no longer function once the spyware portion has been removed; if your customer really wants the program even though it contains spyware, simply reinstall it. For more information on removing Spyware visit this Web Pro News page.

    11.) Remove any unnecessary programs and/or items from Windows Startup routine using the MSCONFIG utility. Here's how: First, click Start, click Run, type MSCONFIG, and click OK. Click the StartUp tab, then uncheck any items you don't want to start when Windows starts. Unsure what some items are? Visit the WinTasks Process Library. It contains known system processes, applications, as well as spyware references and explanations. Or quickly identify them by searching for the filenames using Google or another Web search engine.

    12.) Remove any unnecessary or unused programs from the Add/Remove Programs section of the Control Panel.

    13.) Turn off any and all unnecessary animations, and disable active desktop. In fact, for optimal performance, turn off all animations. Windows XP offers many different settings in this area. Here's how to do it: First click on the System icon in the Control Panel. Next, click on the Advanced tab. Select the Settings button located under Performance. Feel free to play around with the options offered here, as nothing you can change will alter the reliability of the computer -- only its responsiveness.

    14.) If your customer is an advanced user who is comfortable editing their registry, try some of the performance registry tweaks offered at Tweak XP.

    15.) Visit Microsoft's Windows update site regularly, and download all updates labeled Critical. Download any optional updates at your discretion.

    16.) Update the customer's anti-virus software on a weekly, even daily, basis. Make sure they have only one anti-virus software package installed. Mixing anti-virus software is a sure way to spell disaster for performance and reliability.

    17.) Make sure the customer has fewer than 500 type fonts installed on their computer. The more fonts they have, the slower the system will become. While Windows XP handles fonts much more efficiently than did the previous versions of Windows, too many fonts -- that is, anything over 500 -- will noticeably tax the system.

    18.) Do not partition the hard drive. Windows XP's NTFS file system runs more efficiently on one large partition. The data is no safer on a separate partition, and a reformat is never necessary to reinstall an operating system. The same excuses people offer for using partitions apply to using a folder instead. For example, instead of putting all your data on the D: drive, put it in a folder called "D drive." You'll achieve the same organizational benefits that a separate partition offers, but without the degradation in system performance. Also, your free space won't be limited by the size of the partition; instead, it will be limited by the size of the entire hard drive. This means you won't need to resize any partitions, ever. That task can be time-consuming and also can result in lost data.

    19.) Check the system's RAM to ensure it is operating properly. I recommend using a free program called MemTest86. The download will make a bootable CD or diskette (your choice), which will run 10 extensive tests on the PC's memory automatically after you boot to the disk you created. Allow all tests to run until at least three passes of the 10 tests are completed. If the program encounters any errors, turn off and unplug the computer, remove a stick of memory (assuming you have more than one), and run the test again. Remember, bad memory cannot be repaired, but only replaced.

    20.) If the PC has a CD or DVD recorder, check the drive manufacturer's Web site for updated firmware. In some cases you'll be able to upgrade the recorder to a faster speed. Best of all, it's free.

    21.) Disable unnecessary services. Windows XP loads a lot of services that your customer most likely does not need. To determine which services you can disable for your client, visit the Black Viper site for Windows XP configurations.

    22.) If you're sick of a single Windows Explorer window crashing and then taking the rest of your OS down with it, then follow this tip: open My Computer, click on Tools, then Folder Options. Now click on the View tab. Scroll down to "Launch folder windows in a separate process," and enable this option. You'll have to reboot your machine for this option to take effect.

    23.) At least once a year, open the computer's cases and blow out all the dust and debris. While you're in there, check that all the fans are turning properly. Also inspect the motherboard capacitors for bulging or leaks. For more information on this leaking-capacitor phenomena, you can read numerous articles on my site.
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    Al3ksA Retired Moderator

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    Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Maintenance

    Here's a good number of things to do to your PC on a regular basis to keep its innards healthy and its coat shiny.

    Continuously. Keep an up-to-date antivirus program installed and running. Keep a firewall up and running. Keep your operating system updated. Business users, your PCs will likely have a good corporate antivirus utility installed, but many outfits depend on their employees to update their individual programs. Hone users often have utilities installed on their machines when they take them out of the box, but the drawback to these is that they're usually time-limited and won't update for free after their terms expire. Either purchase the software and update it regularly, or download a free antivirus program such as AVG or AntiVir and keep it updated. XP users have a no-frills firewall utility on their machines, but a freebie such as ZoneAlarm or Agnitum is better; other Windows users need to install a firewall utility if they don't already have one. (Most corporations and businesses have some kind of firewalls up...most, but not all.) Updating your operating system is usually as simple as choosing Windows Update from your Start menu. Find out more about share- and freeware security software at my AntiVirus, Security Programs, and Password Managers page.

    Daily. Scan your disk quickly. Use ScanDisk or Norton's Disk Doctor to check for problems, cross-linked files, etc. If you like, you can put a program shortcut in your Startup folder so you automatically scan every time you start up Windows. At the end of every day, back up the files you've modified. Elsewhere on this site are instructions how to organize your data into neat folders and subfolders for easy backup.

    Weekly/BiWeekly. (Only the most powered-up power users need to do these on a weekly basis; the rest of us can get along doing it once every 2 weeks or so.) Back up your whole hard drive. See elsewhere on this site for backup info. Defrag your drive -- info on using Windows' Disk Defragmemter utility is available on this same page, or you might use Norton's Speed Disk or another defrag utility. Scan your drive thoroughly, using the scanner's slowest and most thorough settings.

    Monthly. Good god, what else should I do? You should delete all files older than one week from your C:\WINDOWS\TEMP folder. You should also test your backup files by trying to restore a few files from various folders, preferably files that are expendable. If you can't restore them, your tape drive (or Zip drive, or CD drive) is faulty. After you've done this, update your virus definitions through your virus scanner's Web site, or use your virus scanner's built-in Update tool. Win 98/ME users, you can use the Disk Cleanup option (found under System Tools and also under My Computer -- right-click the drive you want, select Properties, and there it is) to get rid of various temp files, empty the Recycle Bin, and so on.

    Once. Make emergency boot floppies (see here), and make sure your CD drivers are on there. If your virus scanner lets you make emergency boot floppies, do so as well. Write-protect all your boot floppies and store them somewhere safe from rain, sleet, family pets, and destructive children. Buy a surge suppressor, and not the $12 El Cheapo model from JunkMart. Look for one with a UL 1449 rating of 330 volts and 240 joules at the minimum, and make sure it has enough outlets for your use. You might want to snag a surge suppressor with phone jacks to go between your wall outlet and your modem. Get a tape drive, or some kind of high-capacity storage medium such as a Zip drive or CD-RW, and use it to back up your hard drive. Buy a good set of utilities such as Norton Utilities, OnTrack SystemSuite, or McAfee's Nuts&Bolts, and a good virus scanner if it isn't included in your utilities package. Organize your data files (detailed elsewhere in this site) for easy access and backup.

      Win 98/ME users can go through the Maintenance Wizard, found in System Tools, to schedule regular "tune-ups" of your system. Go through the Custom settings to see exactly what is available and what you want to mess with. There are a lot of options! The Express option sets things the way most non-power users need; if you find the Custom menu intimidating, go with Express instead.

      ScanReg is a utility bundled with Win 98/ME that keeps copies of your Registry in case of error or system failure. It makes a new copy of the Registry every time you reboot the computer, keeping the last 5 copies in the C:\WINDOWS\SYSBCKUP\ directory. (Can't find the folder? It's "hidden," so you'll need to enable the viewing of hidden files and directories in Windows Explorer through Tools, Folder Options, Advanced.) The file names are RB001.CAB, RB002.CAB, and so forth through the fifth file. If you don't shut down your computer very often, ScanReg doesn't get a chance to make recent copies of the Registry. You may want to consider adding the SCANREG/BACKUP command to your Scheduled Tasks. How to restore the Registry using ScanReg's files? Simple, just open a DOS prompt and type C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND -- when you get into this directory, type SCANREG\RESTORE and choose from the files available to you. Reboot to restart Windows with the restored Registry. If you want more control over what is restored, then use Windows' simple command-line utility called Extract to restore the files inside a CAB. The file is in the C:\Windows\Command directory, so you may need to type its full name of C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\EXTRACT before the PC will find it. Extract with no arguments provides a quick help screen that describes how to use it. If you just give it the name of a CAB file, Extract will show you the contents of the CAB.

      One neat idea from Fred Langa is to keep all of your maintenance utilities on a CD-R for easy use. It obviates both trying to run said utilities from a possibly inaccessible hard disk, and trying to find boot disks lost in your desk drawer.

    Formatting Floppy Disks

    So exactly what's the easiest way to format disks? You can do it one of three ways: full format (recommended for new disks and disks whose contents are unknown to you), quick format (recommended for reusing disks whose contents are known to be OK, just not useful any longer), and system disks (covered here). Your best bet is always the Full format choice. Insert the disk into the drive, double-click My Computer, choose the A: drive, and click Format on the menu bar. Select "Full" under Format type, choose a label (title) if you like (11 characters max), and click OK. The drive whirs and mutters to itself for a while, then you're done. Windows has wiped the disk clean, checked it for errors, and formatted it for file storage. (In theory, you can put a Macintosh-formatted disk in for reformatting, but I've seen some computers refuse to recognize the disk, so don't get your hopes up for reformatting that fistful of old Mac disks.)

      Quick formats are even easier than full formats, and take less time. Just shove the disk into the drive, double-click My Computer, choose the A: drive, and select Format. Select "Quick (Erase)" and, if you like, a label (title) for the disk up to 11 characters long. Click OK, listen to the drive hum, then when prompted, click Close and then OK again. That's all there is to it.

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    10 Reasons why Pc Crash,Note This

    Fatal error: the system has become unstable or is busy," it says. "Enter to return to Windows or press Control-Alt-Delete to restart your computer. If you do this you will lose any unsaved information in all open applications."

    You have just been struck by the Blue Screen of Death. Anyone who uses Mcft Windows will be familiar with this. What can you do? More importantly, how can you prevent it happening?

    1 Hardware conflict

    The number one reason why Windows crashes is hardware conflict. Each hardware device communicates to other devices through an interrupt request channel (IRQ). These are supposed to be unique for each device.

    For example, a printer usually connects internally on IRQ 7. The keyboard usually uses IRQ 1 and the floppy disk drive IRQ 6. Each device will try to hog a single IRQ for itself.

    If there are a lot of devices, or if they are not installed properly, two of them may end up sharing the same IRQ number. When the user tries to use both devices at the same time, a crash can happen. The way to check if your computer has a hardware conflict is through the following route:

    * Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager.

    Often if a device has a problem a yellow '!' appears next to its description in the Device Manager. Highlight Computer (in the Device Manager) and press Properties to see the IRQ numbers used by your computer. If the IRQ number appears twice, two devices may be using it.

    Sometimes a device might share an IRQ with something described as 'IRQ holder for PCI steering'. This can be ignored. The best way to fix this problem is to remove the problem device and reinstall it.

    Sometimes you may have to find more recent drivers on the internet to make the device function properly. A good resource is www.driverguide.com. If the device is a soundcard, or a modem, it can often be fixed by moving it to a different slot on the motherboard (be careful about opening your computer, as you may void the warranty).

    When working inside a computer you should switch it off, unplug the mains lead and touch an unpainted metal surface to discharge any static electricity.

    To be fair to Mcft, the problem with IRQ numbers is not of its making. It is a legacy problem going back to the first PC designs using the IBM 8086 chip. Initially there were only eight IRQs. Today there are 16 IRQs in a PC. It is easy to run out of them. There are plans to increase the number of IRQs in future designs.

    2 Bad Ram

    Ram (random-access memory) problems might bring on the blue screen of death with a message saying Fatal Exception Error. A fatal error indicates a serious hardware problem. Sometimes it may mean a part is damaged and will need replacing.

    But a fatal error caused by Ram might be caused by a mismatch of chips. For example, mixing 70-nanosecond (70ns) Ram with 60ns Ram will usually force the computer to run all the Ram at the slower speed. This will often crash the machine if the Ram is overworked.

    One way around this problem is to enter the BIOS settings and increase the wait state of the Ram. This can make it more stable. Another way to troubleshoot a suspected Ram problem is to rearrange the Ram chips on the motherboard, or take some of them out. Then try to repeat the circumstances that caused the crash. When handling Ram try not to touch the gold connections, as they can be easily damaged.

    Parity error messages also refer to Ram. Modern Ram chips are either parity (ECC) or non parity (non-ECC). It is best not to mix the two types, as this can be a cause of trouble.

    EMM386 error messages refer to memory problems but may not be connected to bad Ram. This may be due to free memory problems often linked to old Dos-based programmes.

    3 BIOS settings

    Every motherboard is supplied with a range of chipset settings that are decided in the factory. A common way to access these settings is to press the F2 or delete button during the first few seconds of a boot-up.

    Once inside the BIOS, great care should be taken. It is a good idea to write down on a piece of paper all the settings that appear on the screen. That way, if you change something and the computer becomes more unstable, you will know what settings to revert to.

    A common BIOS error concerns the CAS latency. This refers to the Ram. Older EDO (extended data out) Ram has a CAS latency of 3. Newer SDRam has a CAS latency of 2. Setting the wrong figure can cause the Ram to lock up and freeze the computer's display.

    Mcft Windows is better at allocating IRQ numbers than any BIOS. If possible set the IRQ numbers to Auto in the BIOS. This will allow Windows to allocate the IRQ numbers (make sure the BIOS setting for Plug and Play OS is switched to 'yes' to allow Windows to do this.).

    4 Hard disk drives

    After a few weeks, the information on a hard disk drive starts to become piecemeal or fragmented. It is a good idea to defragment the hard disk every week or so, to prevent the disk from causing a screen freeze. Go to

    * Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter

    This will start the procedure. You will be unable to write data to the hard drive (to save it) while the disk is defragmenting, so it is a good idea to schedule the procedure for a period of inactivity using the Task Scheduler.

    The Task Scheduler should be one of the small icons on the bottom right of the Windows opening page (the desktop).

    Some lockups and screen freezes caused by hard disk problems can be solved by reducing the read-ahead optimisation. This can be adjusted by going to

    * Start-Settings-Control Panel-System Icon-Performance-File System-Hard Disk.

    Hard disks will slow down and crash if they are too full. Do some housekeeping on your hard drive every few months and free some space on it. Open the Windows folder on the C drive and find the Temporary Internet Files folder. Deleting the contents (not the folder) can free a lot of space.

    Empty the Recycle Bin every week to free more space. Hard disk drives should be scanned every week for errors or bad sectors. Go to

    * Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-ScanDisk

    Otherwise assign the Task Scheduler to perform this operation at night when the computer is not in use.

    5 Fatal OE exceptions and VXD errors

    Fatal OE exception errors and VXD errors are often caused by video card problems.

    These can often be resolved easily by reducing the resolution of the video display. Go to

    * Start-Settings-Control Panel-Display-Settings

    Here you should slide the screen area bar to the left. Take a look at the colour settings on the left of that window. For most desktops, high colour 16-bit depth is adequate.

    If the screen freezes or you experience system lockups it might be due to the video card. Make sure it does not have a hardware conflict. Go to

    * Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager

    Here, select the + beside Display Adapter. A line of text describing your video card should appear. Select it (make it blue) and press properties. Then select Resources and select each line in the window. Look for a message that says No Conflicts.

    If you have video card hardware conflict, you will see it here. Be careful at this point and make a note of everything you do in case you make things worse.

    The way to resolve a hardware conflict is to uncheck the Use Automatic Settings box and hit the Change Settings button. You are searching for a setting that will display a No Conflicts message.

    Another useful way to resolve video problems is to go to

    * Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Performance-Graphics

    Here you should move the Hardware Acceleration slider to the left. As ever, the most common cause of problems relating to graphics cards is old or faulty drivers (a driver is a small piece of software used by a computer to communicate with a device).

    Look up your video card's manufacturer on the internet and search for the most recent drivers for it.

    6 Viruses

    Often the first sign of a virus infection is instability. Some viruses erase the boot sector of a hard drive, making it impossible to start. This is why it is a good idea to create a Windows start-up disk. Go to

    * Start-Settings-Control Panel-Add/Remove Programs

    Here, look for the Start Up Disk tab. Virus protection requires constant vigilance.

    A virus scanner requires a list of virus signatures in order to be able to identify viruses. These signatures are stored in a DAT file. DAT files should be updated weekly from the website of your antivirus software manufacturer.

    An excellent antivirus programme is McAfee VirusScan by Network Associates ( www.nai.com). Another is Norton AntiVirus 2000, made by Symantec ( www.symantec.com).

    7 Printers

    The action of sending a document to print creates a bigger file, often called a postscript file.

    Printers have only a small amount of memory, called a buffer. This can be easily overloaded. Printing a document also uses a considerable amount of CPU power. This will also slow down the computer's performance.

    If the printer is trying to print unusual characters, these might not be recognised, and can crash the computer. Sometimes printers will not recover from a crash because of confusion in the buffer. A good way to clear the buffer is to unplug the printer for ten seconds. Booting up from a powerless state, also called a cold boot, will restore the printer's default settings and you may be able to carry on.

    8 Software

    A common cause of computer crash is faulty or badly-installed software. Often the problem can be cured by uninstalling the software and then reinstalling it. Use Norton Uninstall or Uninstall Shield to remove an application from your system properly. This will also remove references to the programme in the System Registry and leaves the way clear for a completely fresh copy.

    The System Registry can be corrupted by old references to obsolete software that you thought was uninstalled. Use Reg Cleaner by Jouni Vuorio to clean up the System Registry and remove obsolete entries. It works on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE (Second Edition), Windows Millennium Edition (ME), NT4 and Windows 2000.

    Read the instructions and use it carefully so you don't do permanent damage to the Registry. If the Registry is damaged you will have to reinstall your operating system. Reg Cleaner can be obtained from www.jv16.org

    Often a Windows problem can be resolved by entering Safe Mode. This can be done during start-up. When you see the message "Starting Windows" press F4. This should take you into Safe Mode.

    Safe Mode loads a minimum of drivers. It allows you to find and fix problems that prevent Windows from loading properly.

    Sometimes installing Windows is difficult because of unsuitable BIOS settings. If you keep getting SUWIN error messages (Windows setup) during the Windows installation, then try entering the BIOS and disabling the CPU internal cache. Try to disable the Level 2 (L2) cache if that doesn't work.

    Remember to restore all the BIOS settings back to their former settings following installation.

    9 Overheating

    Central processing units (CPUs) are usually equipped with fans to keep them cool. If the fan fails or if the CPU gets old it may start to overheat and generate a particular kind of error called a kernel error. This is a common problem in chips that have been overclocked to operate at higher speeds than they are supposed to.

    One remedy is to get a bigger better fan and install it on top of the CPU. Specialist cooling fans/heatsinks are available from www.computernerd.com or www.coolit.com

    CPU problems can often be fixed by disabling the CPU internal cache in the BIOS. This will make the machine run more slowly, but it should also be more stable.

    10 Power supply problems

    With all the new construction going on around the country the steady supply of electricity has become disrupted. A power surge or spike can crash a computer as easily as a power cut.

    If this has become a nuisance for you then consider buying a uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This will give you a clean power supply when there is electricity, and it will give you a few minutes to perform a controlled shutdown in case of a power cut.

    It is a good investment if your data are critical, because a power cut will cause any unsaved data to be lost.
    • Administrator
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    Babadinho Administrator

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    Nice one dudes..
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    FITZ GL Legend

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    Baba thumbs up
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    FITZ GL Legend

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    Pls dis thread needs update each day,i'm enjoying it

    wilnze Upcoming Guru

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    nice thread

    Alves Member

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    How Long Has Your System Been Running?

    Here's how you verify system uptime:

    Click Start | Run and type cmd to open a command prompt.
    At the prompt, type systeminfo

    Scroll down the list of information to the line that says System Up Time.

    This will tell you in days, hours, minutes and seconds how long the system has been up.

    Note that this command only works in XP Pro, not in XP Home. You can, however, type net statistics workstation at the prompt in Home. The first line will tell you the day and time that the system came online.

    Alhassanu Member

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    am so inlove with this thread. My pc crashed n i think its due to lack of maintenance. Dust,low hard dist,dead battery, unstable power supply, moisture,overheating. U name it. Am dead. How do i get over this?
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    Thumbs up Alves.
    We need more update

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