Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hardware Drivers

One of the most common problems with a Windows PC is missing drivers for hardware.

Missing hardware drivers may impair the performance of the PC if it is a driver for a critical component such as the Power Management feature of a mainboard which in turn will result in the CPU speed not being optimized by the system.

Attached is a screenshot of the above mentioned.

To find out if your PC have such an issue, Right click on "My Computer", Select "Properties", "Hardware" and click on "Device Manager" within the same tab.

If there are any exclamation[red in colour] or question[yellow in colour] marks, there may be some hardware drivers issue.

To resolve them, one way is to find the hardware driver on the web via manufacturer's site.
But complication arises when the exact manufacturer is not know or the device name on the above screen is too generic to identify which hardware is causing the driver problem.

Thankfully there are easier ways to identify the hardware which has driver problems and update to its latest driver.

Though there are many tools to automatically update your device drivers, these have had some negative reviews as it provided outdated drivers or in some cases made the PC worse than before.

The surefire way to update or correct device driver issues would be to identify the hardware that is causing the problems. But let's face it, not all hardware terms are easily understood by most users. And the average user would not be knowledgeable enough to troubleshoot by removing pieces of PC hardware.

A good and reliable tool is required.

I have been using DriverGuide to download hardware device drivers since its early beginnings.
It's involvement in providing users with correct device drivers has allowed it to evolve to a point whereby, they have their own application to scan the PC for device drivers related problem and will recommend updated or correct drivers for the user to install.

If you are not comfortable in installing this software, you could also use the webtool, whereby only an ActiveX module is installed in your Internet Explorer.

If you choose not to use the application, there is also a step by step guide to identifying the problem hardware.

Registration is required but its free to register.

Today is 26th March 2009
Time now is 13:14 hrs
Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 13, 2009

Windows Registry

In the very early versions of M$ Windows, pre 3.1, most of the applications installed would have their own configuration file, to setup the hardware required or to initialize its environment. These files used to be known as the initialization file and hence its extension (.ini).

However, as more applications gets installed, each of their ini file gets placed all over different folders, some in windows folder, some in windows/system and some within their own application folder.

To solve such issues, M$ introduced the Windows Registry in Windows 3.1.
The Windows Registry makes it easier to track the configuration of such applications within a single file. Windows configuration are also stored within the registry and applications requiring information about the current Windows system can pull info from the same file.

Fundamentally, the registry is made up of 5 parts.

Stores info about registered applications such as file associations etc

Stores info and settings about the current user

Stores settings that are general which applies to all users

4) HKEY-USERS [ abbr. HKU ]
Stores subkeys which are corresponding to HKCU

Stores info generated during boot, renews info after each reboot [Non permanent]

Though it all sounds logical, having that much info all dumped into a single file, which is a database of records, makes it easier for applications and the operating system to track and use.
However, as the PC multitask more applications nowadays, the amount of read/writes to this database is accessed and controlled by applications and operating system alike. When it grows to be a large database, searching a particular record can take up some time, especially when there are many applications also reading and writing to it.

And due to this registry being one of the most critical component in having a working operating Windows system, any erroneous read/writes or bad clusters on the registry file will result in a "inoperable" windows. Some severe cases will result in not being able to boot into the "Graphical User Interface" aka GUI totally.

To access the registry, it requires a application to access the database in a readable format.
Regedit is a built in application within Windows that allows the user to view and edit this database. Inexperienced users should not edit or delete anything within the registry without finding out in detail the repercussions. Failure to do so had resulted in many complete re-installs.

Though it takes time to learn most of the common parameters within the registry, there are some 3rd party registry cleaners and optimizers that will trim and optimize the registry in a safe and recoverable manner.

A few popular ones such as the 3 listed below have free and paid variants.

Registry Mechanics
Tweaknow Registry Cleaner

These above listed are for optimizing the registry and clearing away junk keys which remained even after applications had been uninstalled.

There are also registry tweakers that will help to enhance and speed up Windows itself by tweaking some operating system related settings within the registry.

A personal favourite of mine is


The above application tweaks the system for performance by adjusting hidden parameters not available to the common user.

A lot of its tweaks are based from manual "regedit" tweaks from here.
Seasoned registry tweakers will manually tweak via regedit. But X-Setup present everything in a easy to understand user interface.

Today is 13th March 2009
Time now is 10:36 hrs

Bill Gates
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Outlook's Inbox Repair Tool

If you are using M$ Outlook as your mail client, and your email inbox is increasing every day,
you might experience sluggish operations when opening Outlook.
Note : This article is for Outlook users, not for Outlook Express. Most users whom purchased M$ Office should have M$ Outlook also. Outlook Express is built-in with Windows XP.

At times, it even hang or refuse to respond when you click on the Outlook icon to open the application. One of the possible solution to this problem is that you can use the built-in "Inbox Repair Tool"

The Inbox Repair Tool or scanpst.exe is located at

C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\MSMAPI\1033

If you are unable to find the scanpst.exe file, you may consider downloading from here.

A PST file aka "Personal Storage Table" is actually a the file which contains all your emails and its subfolders within Outlook itself. Outlook organizes the emails and folders within a PST file. By default, when a new email address is created for receiving mails in Outlook, an "Outlook.pst" file is created.

Before running the scanpst.exe file, it is recommended to close Outlook first. If Outlook had not started properly, you should use "Task Manager" to end the Outlook.exe task.

Once you open the scanpst.exe file, you will need to tell the Inbox Repair Tool where to find the PST file. Outlook usually creates this file in a folder within the current user's working directory.

C:\Documents and Settings\USER_NAME\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\

Once the scanning starts, it'd take some time depending on the number of emails which are in your INBOX and its subfolders. When it completes its scanning, it'll prompt the user for actions.
It is recommended to create a backup of the original Outlook.pst file before beginning to repair.

Once this is done, Outlook should be able to start normally.

To have proper housekeeping of Outlook inbox emails and subfolder emails, it is recommended to "regularly" archive your emails by creating another PST file to store older emails and to delete emails which are no longer relevant or no longer needed to keep for records.

After the deletion of emails and emptying of the deleted items folder , the PST file should be compacted to recover the space.

For ridding yourself of the Outlook problems, you can consider one of the following opensource email clients for XP/Vista/NT etc:

1) Mozilla Thunderbird
2) Qualcomm Eudora
3) Pegasus Mail
4) Gmail [ Web based client that can also receive and send emails via external domains ]

For a more concise list of email clients and their features and comparison, visit Wikipedia here

Today is 10th March 2009
Time now is 15:11 hrs
Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 9, 2009

POST Beep Codes

Usually if there is a hardware problem with the PC, it refuses to boot up normally. The common tell-tale signs would be the output screen stays blank.

But such tell-tale signs tell nothing but just an indicator of something is wrong inside the PC.
If your PC is able to power up but unable to show any display on the screen, do look out for another indicator which is audible instead of a visual indicator.

Most mainboard have a boot sequence even before it allows the harddisk to start booting the installed operating system. This boot sequence is controlled by something called the BIOS. The boot sequence itself is known as the POST [ Power On Self Test ].

So the BIOS will check for all installed hardware on the mainboard and ensure that critical components such as RAM,Video display and CPU are installed before going on to check other devices which are of lesser priority [ ie not absolutely necessary for PC to startup ].

Since the BIOS is able to detect the presence of critical and non-critical components, sensing that if there is any critical components missing, the boot sequence will be incomplete. Thus resulting in what most of us experience when the PC cannot boot up. Besides stopping the PC from booting up, the BIOS will also present a set of audible signals to the user. These audible signals come in the form of beeps generated by the internal PC speaker [ usually embedded in the PC casing ].

Though some newer PCs don't come with these internal PC speakers nowadays, most still do have this little speaker that does nothing but generate beeps. To find out if there is such a speaker in the PC, just listen for quick beep whenever a PC is turned on. If you can hear such a beep, it means the PC is equipped with such an internal speaker.

So, the BIOS upon detecting missing critical components it'll generate a sequence of beeps upon completing the POST. For each detected problem, it will generate the beeps in different sequence. The PC owner, knowing the issue faced, can then proceed to troubleshoot the PC in the specific hardware/region as the POST beeps codes has already narrowed down the possible causes to a fewer causes. This then help saves time for troubleshooting whereby the user have to test each and every hardware for problems.

Below is a set of standard beep codes and its detected errors.

If your mainboard is using AMI BIOS[ America Megatrends ]
  • 1 Beep - Memory Refresh Failure (check memory)
  • 2 Beeps - Memory Parity Error in first 64KB block (check memory)
  • 3 Beeps - Memory Read/Write Error in first 64KB block (check memory)
  • 4 Beeps - Motherboard timer not functioning (possible motherboard replacement)
  • 5 Beeps - Processor Error (may need replacement Processor)
  • 6 Beeps - Gate A20/keyboard controller failure (possible motherboard replacement)
  • 7 Beeps - Processor Exception Interrupt Error (may need replacement Processor)
  • 8 Beeps - Display Memory Read/Write Failure (reseat or replace video card)
  • 9 Beeps - ROM checksum Error (replace BIOS chip or motherboard)
  • 10 Beeps - CMOS shutdown Read/Write error (possible motherboard replacement)
  • 11 Beeps - Bad Cache Memory - test failed (replace cache memory)

If your mainboard is using Phoenix BIOS
eg. 1-1-4-1 means the beeping sequence will be *----*----****----*
  • 1-1-4-1 - Cache Error (level 2)
  • 1-2-2-3 - BIOS ROM Checksum
  • 1-3-1-1 - DRAM Refresh Test
  • 1-3-1-3 - Keyboard controller test
  • 1-3-4-1 - RAM Failure on address line xxxx (check memory)
  • 1-3-4-3 - RAM Failure on data bits xxxx of low byte of memory bus
  • 1-4-1-1 - RAM Failure on data bits xxxx of high byte of memory bus
  • 2-1-2-3 - ROM copyright notice
  • 2-2-3-1 - Test for unexpected interrupts
To know if your mainboard is AMI or Phoenix BIOS, it's usually shown on the display as the PC boots before it starts loading the OS.

For more reading, visit Wikipedia page on POST

Today is 9th March 2009
Time now is 08:56 hrs

Free Windows Vista/XP/2000/NT registry scan to optimize your system to top speed
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How to install Wifi routers at best locations?

Normally when we install Wifi routers, we tend to place it as near to the cable modem or adsl modem as possible. This is mainly due to the fact that there aren't much places to consider because there are limited phone jacks and cable points around the house.

But do bear in mind that between the ADSL or cable modem to the wireless router, you can afford to lay a 30-40m network UTP cable without losing any speed or efficiency of the network speed.

So now that we know locating the wireless router within the house is not limited by the location of the modem, lets begin to learn what tools to use.

Normally for the average M$ Windows user, we rely a lot on the signal bar as shown by the networking icon on the bottom right corner of the screen. Usually this is a 4 bar indicator. However, the 4 bar indicator may not be entirely correct, no thanks to the people at Redmond.

In any case, there is an alternative software out there that does very detailed scans and display accurately the actual signal measured in "decibels".

Decibels is the proper unit of measure of a RF aka radio frequency waveform.

To put things into perspective, decibels (dB) are usually in the negative values.
In the ambient surroundings, we have what we call white noise. This white noise is merely weak RF signals from all over mixing together and producing a non-important result. This "white noise" will usually have a power of -100dB.

Wifi signals transmitted to an intended recipient are expected to have a received signal power level of -60 to -85dB. These range is considered to be stronger [ aka more positive ] that -100dB. Naturally, if we were to plot the values out on a graph, the -100dB signal will be placed lower in the chart.

But if the transmitted signal travels too far or encounters too many obstacles, the received signal level seen at the receiving radio may be as low as -99dB. That is when problems arises. When a legible signal transmitted to the receiver location loses its power to the point that it is as good as noise, then the receiving radio will have problems trying to differentiate the original signal from noise itself.

Imagine speaking in a normal tone in a canteen full of kids during their break. This is somewhat similar when a signal strength seen at the receiving radio is near to the white noise signal strength.

A tool is commonly used by amateurs and wireless professionals alike for deploying wifi locations in order to maximise coverage, performance and efficiency.

This tool is known as Netstumbler.

A simple rule of thumb will be to place the wifi router at the test location and check using a laptop installed with Netstumber if the usual computing location can have a good received signal from the wifi router. (i.e. To have a received signal level as far away from the detected ambient noise is possible )

For example, if the ambient noise is -99dB, it is better to have a received signal level of -60dB than -80dB. Having a strong received signal level as far away from noise means that it will not be affected by noise and hence will be a strong and reliable signal.

If you need additional help, do not hesitate to contact me for more info.

Today is 3rd March 2009
Time now is 01:31 hrs
Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 2, 2009

Save costs by switching to OpenSource office and email applications!

A typical office IT workdesk requires a few software that is critical

Software to open,view and edit MS word,excel,powerpoint files.
A email client is also required so the staff can receive emails.

Just so he or she can achieve the above basic computing requirements at work, the employer has got to buy a US$200-300 software aka "M$ Office".

The PC hardware of the workdesk already cost the company close to $1,000 and on top of that, there will be more software costs just so it is a functional workdesk fulfilling basic IT needs of the white collar employee.

For an company whom employs more than 10 staff, the software costs can add up to a couple of significant thousand of dollars. Money that can be saved and who knows it may be this reserves that saves the company one day.

How to save such software costs?
The answer is opensource.

Openoffice has compatible suite of applications that can allow the user to open,view and edit M$ office documents such as :


Mozilla Thunderbird is also another opensource software that is a fully functional email client capable of doing pop and imap mail.

Best of all, it is free.
Free as in free beer.

Internet giants such as Google also have online spreadsheet application which one can use to open and edit excel documents. Gmail can also be configured to receive dotcom domain emails and they give users up to 7gb of email space.

Make the switch today... Or at least try it out using the home computer.

Openoffice Productivity Suite

Mozilla Thunderbird Email Client


Google Apps

Support opensource by using them!
Ultimately, its better than using pirated products.

Today is 2nd March 2009
Time now is 13:03 hrs

The keyword is "free"!
Bookmark and Share

Live Traffic Map