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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Must Have PC Hardware For A Built From Scratch Computer

You are taking the bull by the horns by building your own computer. Well, before you pat yourself on the back, make sure you have the best technology possible. This is a great feat you are tackling and you want it to turn out as close to perfect as possible. When your PC is complete you want it to hold the best hardware you can find.

One of the biggest benefits of building your own computer is that you can customize it. You know what is most important to you. Maybe you are a graphics user. MP3’s might be the closest thing you have to a best friend. Perhaps you are writing the great American novel and you are mainly interested in text. Well, since you are building your own machine, you can concentrate on what you want.

Collecting the hardware for your new computer is the most time consuming part of the process. You want to make sure that you get high standard equipment that works well with your needs. Take your time and don’t try to skimp on your hardware. If you don’t heed both of these suggestions, your computer could strike back later.

If you are building your own PC, you probably know that the Motherboard is the most important part of your computer. Everything that you plug into your computer will meet here. Be especially choosy when buying a motherboard. And make sure that there is an instruction manual. Some cheapies will not have one.

Be aware that the Motherboard will control the future of your computer. All upgrades will have to be compatible with your Motherboard. The chipset in the Motherboard deserves careful investigation. What will it support? Find out before you buy. Take your time. There are a ton of chipsets out there.

Pay close attention to how many PCL slots the Mother board has. The more, PLC slots the better because they fill up quickly. How is the board laid out? Check for any problems such as something blocking your long PCI slots.

When selecting a case, be aware of the form factor. You want an ATX form factor because that is what almost all new systems are operating on. Try to go with a screw free form factor because it will be easier to work with. One equipped with fans would be optimal.

Three are three groups of processors; low end, average and high end. The low end processor is okay for simple tasks. Letters, invoices and other noncomplex applications can be performed on a low end processor. If you do choose to go with a low end processor, realize that these are fast becoming outdated.

Average processors are faster and they are just a bit more expensive. For a few extra dollars you will be able to access higher level applications without hassle. This will provide more speed as well satisfying the average computer user.

High end processors are the cream of the crop. They are expensive and usually reserved for those on the high end of the pay scale. You will have high memory and no problem accessing complex CPU programs.

Memory is a vital element of your computer. Spend the money and purchase the best you can afford. If you don’t, more than likely you will need to go out and repurchase a better processor later. Also you will want to make sure you get memory that works with your system.

Get a video card that suits your purposes. If you are a small business owner, go with a cheaper, jack of all trades card. If you are building this computer for home use you might as well reward yourself with some perks. Now don’t go and spend five hundred dollars on a video card that a top financial institution might buy. Purchase a card that provides just slightly more than you need, but not so high end that it cost as much as the rest of your hardware.

You have your mouse and keyboard, right? Get a good hard drive. Buy a new one, opposed to used, to make sure you are getting the best quality.

CD-ROM drivers are cheap. Spend a little extra cash and get a really good one. If you want a more advanced unit, buy a DVD player. A DVD player will play CD-ROM’s and DVD’s. It will serve multiple purposes.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Completely Free Hard Drive Recovery Software

Have you lost your data due to accidental deletion, corruption, or computer virus attack? If yes, then I bet you would be happy to know that there are some free hard drive data recovery software solutions out there today. All of these free hard drive data recovery software tools were designed and developed to help you recover your lost files and even repair your failed hard drives.

If you want to know what free hard drive data recovery software solutions are offered these days, below is a short list of the available free hard drive data recovery software solutions. Please continue reading.

PC Inspector File Recovery

Depending on how your files were lost, it may be hard to retrieve them. But, thanks to PC Inspector File Recovery that recovering those lost files is now possible. This free hard drive data recovery software basically works to recover lost files and locate partitions automatically, even when the boot sector of your machine has become damaged or deleted. Another great capability of this free hard drive data recovery software is that, PC Inspector File Recovery can recover the lost data even when a file's header entry is no longer available. This free hard drive data recovery software even lets you save the recovered files on network drives, and it is capable or retrieving data with the original time and date stamp.

VirtualLab Data Recovery Software v4.8.8

VirtualLab Data Recovery Software v4.8.8 is but another notable free hard drive data recovery software that can reunite you with your lost data. This free hard drive data recovery software connects to a powerful recovery server and employs artificial intelligence. That artificial intelligence is capable of comparing your scenario to the previous data recovery sessions. What's more, VirtualLab Data Recovery Software v4.8.8 works with FAT 12, FAT 16, Fat 32, and NTFS file systems. And, this powerful free hard drive data recovery software can even find the disappearing data from Jaz disks, Zip disks, and digital camera media, as well as from a computer hard drive.

WhoLockMe Explorer Extension v1.04 Beta

If you're having problems deleting a file, you might consider using the WhoLockMe Explorer Extension v1.04 Beta, another well-known free hard drive data recovery software. According to some product reviews, this free hard drive data recovery software has a handy Explorer extension that shows which Windows process is locking the file. This free hard drive data recovery software also works by killing the process of viruses for just a click, and after which you can erase the tenacious hanger-on.


As you may know, there are a lot of programs that permanently delete files and recover them. Well, the Restoration, which is a free hard drive data recovery software solution, can do that job for you. This free hard drive data recovery software can actually rescue your accidentally deleted files and permanently those that you want good and gone. What's more, this solution can live on a floppy, so it leaves no trace of its activities.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

10 Reasons Why PC's Crash

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 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 ( Another is Norton AntiVirus 2000, made by Symantec (

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

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 or

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.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Do More With Your Send To Menu

The Send To menu is one of features of my context menus that I use the most. The ability to right-click on any file and have a shortcut for it sent to the desktop is invaluable. All of the other features are very useful as well. How would you like to make it even more useful? It is very easy to add your own items to the Send To menu, such as folders that you can send files to. Do you have a folder that you store all of your music in? How about a folder that you store all of your digital photos in? Just follow the quick steps below to add anything that you want to your Send To context menu entry.

1. Open up My Computer and browse to the C drive, or whatever drive you have Windows installed to.
2. Browse through the Documents and Settings, your user name, and the Send To folders.

Tip: If you do not see any of the folders that are required in this section, you may have hidden files turned on. Because these folders are hidden by default, you will have to tell Windows to show all files. To this, refer to the section on working with hidden files towards the end of this chapter.
3. When you are looking at C:\Documents and Settings\Username\SendTo, you will see all of the files that appear in the Send To menu. If you want to add an entry to the menu, just copy a shortcut to this folder.
4. Let's say that you want to add your Digital Photos folder to your Send To menu. Just navigate to your Digital Photos folder and right-click on it and select Send To desktop. Then just cut and paste the shortcut that was created from your desktop into the SendTo folder.
5. If you ever want to remove some items from the Send To menu, just delete them from the Send To folder.

Hide Your Hard Drives

Ever wish you could make one of your computer's drives invisible to anyone snooping around on your system? Well, happy days are here my friend! Whether you have sensitive docs, pictures, or any other private data, this is one of the easiest ways to keep them safe. Keep in mind that you'll still be able to access your hidden drives; you just won't see that they exist in Windows Explorer or the My Computer folder. Back up your registry before you start!

1. Open Regedit.

2. Navigate to one of these strings:

CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer - this only changes the settings for the current logged in user

CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer - this changes the settings for all users on the machine. You may have to create the key folder "Explorer" manually.

3. In the Explorer key folder, create a new DWORD value by right-clicking Explorer, then choosing New DWORD value. Name the value "NoDrives" (without the quotes). This value defines local and network drive visibility for each logical drive on the computer. All drives will be visible as long as this value's data is set to 0.

4. Following the table below, enter the decimal number corresponding to the drive(s) you want to hide as NoDrives value data. When you right-click on NoDrives and choose Modify, make sure you select Decimal base, not Hexadecimal.

Drive Number to hide
A: 1
B: 2
C: 4
D: 8
E: 16
F: 32
G: 64
H: 128
I: 256
J: 512
K: 1024
L: 2048
M: 4096
N: 8192
O: 16384
P: 32768
Q: 65536
R: 131072
S: 262144
T: 524288
U: 1048576
V: 2097152
W: 4194304
X: 8388608
Y: 16777216
Z: 33554432
All drives 67108863

If you want to hide more than one drive, you simply add the drive amounts together for a combined total.

For example, to hide the D:/ and T:/ drives, add the decimal value for the D:/ drive to the decimal value to the T:/ drive.

8 (D) + 524288 (T) = 524296

To disable all of your visible drives, set the value to 67108863.

You must reboot your PC to see your changes. Have fun!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Swapping Motherboards Without A Clean Install

At the speed at which technology moves today, software is becoming more demanding on hardware. Today's video games, photo editing applications, and video editing software require a lot more computing power. While memory, graphics card and perhaps a faster processor are fairly easy upgrades that don't require you to alter the OS that much, some will want to replace the motherboard also to take full advantage of our next generation technology. I've seen the question asked on many forums if it were possible to swap out the motherboard without having to reformat and do a clean install. Through my searching a while back, I came across this guide. I have not tried this, but if you're going to replace your motherboard anyway, it's worth a try. You can download it here. Download...

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