Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Boot Error– "Unexpected Interrupt In Protected Mode"

If you turn on your computer and Windows fails to load to your Desktop, but instead displays the following error message, Unexpected Interrupt In Protected Mode, there are a couple of things that might be happening. Here are some troubleshooting steps which you can try to get your machine up and running again.

First, try rebooting your machine. If that doesn’t “cure” it, keep reading.

Causes: causes for this particular error message may be hardware-related: a failed or failing motherboard, or failing (or over-heating) CPU, or it may be related to a corrupted BIOS. Since the hardware issues most likely will require replacement parts and/or a trip to the shop, lets first tackle the BIOS possibility.

What is a “BIOS”? Your computer’s BIOS is a very basic set of instructions that tells your machine where to look for a keyboard and mouse and an operating system. It runs when your machine is first powered on. To make changes in the BIOS, you’re going to interrupt the boot process before Windows loads, so you need to use a keyboard that is plugged into the PS/2 port on the back of the machine, and not a wireless one. 

1) Reboot your machine, and get ready to act quickly. Very early you will see a little bit of text that says, “hit F2* to enter setup.” (*Different manufacturers use different keys– F2 is the most common, but it may be the Esc key, Del, or F10. Refer to your computer builder’s website if you cannot determine which key to press.) Rapidly hit the suggested key several times, and enter “Setup” — this is your BIOS control panel.

2) Look to the bottom of the screen for Setup’s menu choices. Now look for the Function Key choice that will reset the BIOS to its default configuration. This is frequently the F5 key, but it may be F6.. In the screenshot above, look to the lower right: for this BIOS, it is F5 we want. “Setup Defaults”.

3) Save and Exit the Setup utility, and reboot. (In the sample BIOS, that’s the F10 key. But you may have to hit Esc, an then answer “Yes” to the Save? question. It varies.)

If resetting the BIOS to its defaults does not restore Windows functionality, I recommend you take your machine in to a qualified tech who can determine the hardware issues.
If it did restore it, you want to ask yourself what caused the BIOS corruption? Usually the answer is a recently installed program, or malware– be sure to run an antivirus scan.

Today’s free link: from Uniblue. Scan, backup, and Update your PC’s drivers. Folks– I have only just now used this new tool. I learned of it from Bill Mullins, who is as reliable a source as I have ever run across. To read his review, click here. This is a 30-day free trial, which normally would disqualify it from being posted here, but I am impressed enough to make this one-time exception.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

August 29, 2008 Posted by | advice, BIOS, computers, how to, PC, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Replacing your hard drive

Hard drives die, and that’s a fact. In fact, it happened to me just the other day.
The HD that died was a very old and very hard-worked unit that came in a Dell Pentium-III (circa 1999) workstation, and I was not terribly surprised by its demise (actually, when you think about how hard-drives operate, it is more surprising that it lasted as long as it did.).

There is no real way to predict when a hard-drive will fail; and there’s no real “rule of thumb” that says, “replace your hard-drive every 10,000 miles.” Basically, you just run it until the wheels fall off, and then replace it. There is an option available on some motherboards (enabled in your BIOS) called S.M.A.R.T., which monitors your hard-drive’s activity and attempts to warn you when certain parameters may be indications of looming failure.. but this has had a dubious history. If you have S.M.A.R.T. enabled, and it warns you of such a thing, it’s certainly time to make a system backup.. but you may get two days, or two years (or longer) more service.

When my drive failed, my replacement steps were greatly aided by the fact that I had an “image” (sometimes called a “ghost”, or “ghost image”) backup, which I simply copied to the new drive. I simply cannot iterate enough: do you have a full, system backup? Stored someplace other than on that drive? If not, I will say that this is definitely a situation where an ounce of prevention will save you a ton of pain. To read my article on automatically making system backups, click here.

Tip of the day:Buy the right type of hard drive. Currently, there are two basic “types” of replacement hard-drives. [A brief aside: there is some new hard drive technology that has reached the consumer market — namely “hybrid” drives, and “solid state” drives. These drives use Flash Memory (such as in a thumb drive) to improve performance and/or remove moving parts. While these drives are the wave of the future, they’re quite expensive.. and “new”. When it comes to these drives, I advise “Wait.”] These two types are the older IDE and the more recent SATA. A quick glance inside your computer will tell you which one you have.

The cables will tell: If your PC is more than a few years old, you almost certainly have an IDE/ATA drive. These are also called “EIDE”, “ATA”, and “DMA” and sometimes have the word “Ultra” attached.. as in “UltraATA”.
Newer computers use “serial” ATA, or “SATA”. This newer Standard is faster, and uses a skinnier cable.

40pin.jpg   sata.jpg
The older, IDE cables (that run from your motherboard to your drive bays) are typically grey and are wide ‘ribbons’. The newer SATA cables look more like cables than ribbons, and are usually colored — red and blue being popular.

The next step is to “set the jumper” on your new hard-drive. This is a small plastic ‘bridge’ which fits over two contact pins.

The two main choices are “Primary” (often called “Master”) and “Slave”, and unless you have multiple hard-drives on your machine, you will want the Master jumper position.
(Some of the nicer hard-drive manufacturers will have the jumper there already, but it pays to check.) There may be a diagram for jumper positions on the hard-drive itself, or the instruction sheet which came with it. And the manufacturer’s website should list it as well (this comes in handy when the replacing drive is itself older).

Now completely power-down your PC and unplug it. Use an anti-static wristband, or ground yourself by touching the computer’s metal frame before reaching inside (do this each time) your computer– a very small electrostatic discharge can ruin your whole day. Unplug the 4-wire Molex power lead, and the data cable from the back of the deceased hard-drive; and then remove the (typically, 4) screws holding the drive into the drive bay.

Reverse the process to install the new drive. The cables should only ‘clip on’ in one direction, so don’t try to force them onto the drive.. they should slip on to the connectors fairly smoothly.

Now power-up, and boot your PC. Since there is no operating system on the new drive (no Windows to load), you will see an error message, and that’s okay unless it says “disk not found” (read this message carefully!). A “Disk not found” message here means that the PC’s BIOS does not recognize the new hard drive. If this happens, the first thing to do is hit the F2 and enter (system) Setup and make sure the entry for “Hard Disk 0” is set to “Auto”– if it is, power-down and double-check and re-seat your cables and the jumper to ensure everything is correct and then try again.
If it still fails, you may have a defective unit: take it back to the store.

The next step in hard-drive replacement is to load (and update) Windows, your programs, and your files. This is a arduous, all-day process.. unless you have a good backup.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | add device, Backups, BIOS, computers, hardware, how to, PC, shopping for, tech | , , | Leave a comment

How to boot from a CD

There may come a  time when you may need to boot from a CD — to run a ‘pure’ antivirus scan, or repair Windows, or some such thing. I have referred to this in a few prior how-to articles, and I told you that (during the boot) you will be presented with a small line of text that says “press any key to boot from CD….” And that is true if you have set your boot order in your BIOS.

Tip of the day: Set your BIOS boot order allow optical disc booting. What is a “BIOS”? Your computer’s BIOS is a very basic set of instructions that tells your machine where to look for a keyboard and mouse and an operating system. It runs when your machine is first powered on. To make changes in the BIOS, you’re going to interrupt the boot process before Windows loads, so you need to use a keyboard that is plugged into the PS/2 port on the back of the machine, and not a wireless one.

Step 1) Reboot your machine, and get ready to act quickly. Very early you will see a little bit of text that says, “hit F2* to enter setup.” (*Different manufacturers use different keys; F2 is the most common, but it may be the Esc key, or F10.) Rapidly hit the suggested key several times, and enter “setup” — this is your BIOS control panel. The screenshot below shows a fairly common BIOS screen; but if yours looks different don’t worry, the steps are basically the same.
Step 2) As you can see by the menu at the bottom of the screen, you cannot use a mouse to navigate here. You will use your arrow keys and the the – and + keys (upper row, not numberpad) to make your changes. Hit the right-arrow key three times to get to the “Boot” tab.
This poor quality screenshot shows a fairly typical default boot order, except for the last option — a network share (let’s ignore that one). What this tells us is that the machine will look, first, for an operating system on the floppy drive. If it does not find the code there, it will then look to the hard drive. If it doesn’t find the code there, it will look to the CD. If it doesn’t find the code there … you will get a boot failure error.

Step 3) Typically, it will find the OS on the hard drive and so it will never look to the CD, and so you won’t see the “press any key to boot from CD..” option. To get this option, we need to change the ‘look to’ order from floppy >HD >CD to floppy >CD >HD. Use the down-arrow key to highlight the CD-ROM Drive, and then hit the + key one time to move it up. Or, highlight the Hard Drive and use the “-” key to move it down one … same thing.

Final step) Now we need to exit the BIOS Setup Utility and Save our change. In this BIOS you hit F10 to do this. In some BIOS’s, you hit esc to ‘exit’ and then you will be asked, “Save your changes? Yes No” with “Yes” already highlighted. Hit Enter.
That’s it, you’re done. Now whenever you boot your machine and you have a “bootable” CD in your CD/DVD drive, you will see the “press any key” option. If you don’t want to boot from the CD — you just forgot it was in there, say — just don’t hit any keys. The option will time out, and your BIOS will look to the next source (your hard drive) and boot from there.

Today’s free link: Thinking of upgrading your Internet connection? Just want to know if you’re paying too much? Broadband Reports is the best place to look for ISP’s in your area, see the latest price deals, test your Internet speed, and find “speed tweaking” tools and advice.

Copyright © 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

August 3, 2007 Posted by | advice, antivirus, BIOS, computers, hardware, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 163 Comments

Put your thumb drive to work (updated)

I often use a specially configured USB “thumb drive” as my portable PC repair kit, and use it as an alternative to a “boot CD”. I have made it “bootable” and loaded it with useful tools and repair applications (like an antivirus scanner). It has come in handy, from time to time. With the price of these drives being as affordable as they are, there’s really no reason you cannot have a portable PC repair kit (on a stick) too.

Tip of the day: Making yourself a toolkit-on-a-stick requires a couple of steps; first you must format it to make it bootable, and then you must load it with the tools and applications you think you will need — if the thumb drive you’re planning to use is small (say, 512MB), you will want to get the “portable”, or “Lite”, versions of these programs if they’re available.

1) Make the drive bootable. The geekier (remember, I use “geek” as a compliment!) of you out there may be already familiar with the DOS utilty FDISK, and if you are and you still have a Windows 98 Install CD (or a Win 95 boot floppy) laying around, you can format the drive using the format /s command as outlined here.
If that doesn’t fit your description, or you are going to use a larger thumb drive, I suggest you download and run (it is a Wizard, so you just follow the prompts) a tool offered by HP (the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool), which should do the work for you: get it here.

2) Now that your thumb drive can be used to boot a machine, it’s time to load it up with some useful programs and utilities. I started with the DOS tools FDISK, scandisk, and format. There is some debate amongst my fellow Tech Support-types as to which utilities are “must have’s” (but we all agree on some version of antivirus and anti-spyware) and I’m not going to trouble you with that. Instead, I’m going to point you towards today’s free link (below) and a wonderful pre-made suite of very handy portable applications, and suggest the addition of (my previously mentioned) HiJack This!

If you used the copy-the-system-files method (the “format /s”) you will already have chkdsk and fdisk and a few others.. or if not, these can be added. If you are not going to install Portable Apps, I suggest you do install Portable Firefox (or similar Web browser) so that you can access the Internet, for downloading device drivers.

To make it more of a “repair kit” you can add: a Registry cleaner/fixer, such as CCleaner and or AMUST Registry Cleaner, Process Explorer, and another anti-spyware like Spybot Search&Destroy.

Click here to read my article on the steps for installing programs on thumb drives.

Today’s free link: Portable This collection of portable application runs completely from the USB thumb drive. It has a Webbrowser, word processor, antivirus and more. Get started on the road to thumb drive power here.
[Update: Bill Mullins has brought to my attention a program for running apps on your thumbdrive that seems superior to others I have mentioned. To read his review, click here.]

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

June 28, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, BIOS, computers, hardware, how to, PC, tech, thumb drives, Uncategorized, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments