Tech – for Everyone

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

Advanced Troubleshooting – Checking For Bad RAM

Some computer problems (aka “issues”) are fairly obvious.

For example, if you knock your laptop off the table, it hits the floor hard, and now the screen is black, and there are several large cracks zig-zagging in the glass.. and maybe some small shards of glass have fallen out..
Well, I don’t think you would need to hire me to tell you you need to replace either the laptop’s LCD screen, or the whole laptop.

Other computer problems require a bit more brainwork.

Such as the ones where something suddenly stops working, and a very unhelpul “error message” appears. You know the ones. Maybe SuperNerd from planet Zorkboo understands Stop error “0x0000000A” IRQ NOT LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO, but… you’re thinking, “in English, please?”
For those, you can start by using your favorite search engine, and search for the exact error message you saw (if it stayed in view long enough to copy down verbatim). Or you may need to hire a SuperNerd from planet Zorkboo (shameless plug: such as myself. See Aplus Computer Aid).

Yet other computer problems are so vague, or.. seemingly random, that even SuperNerd isn’t quite sure where to start troubleshooting (I call these issues “gremlins”.. as in “maybe your computer is haunted by invisible imps”).

An example of this might be a PC that simply randomly reboots itself for no apparent rhyme or reason, on no particular schedule. This could be due to a failing power supply, malware, corrupted system files, overheating, hardware failure, software failure, or gremlins. Where do you start?

Years of experience, special tools, system logs, and a formula of trial-and-error-process-of-elimination helps us computer techs zero in on the problem in a fairly time-efficient way. (Hopefully.) And today I am going to tell you about a free tool, built into Vista and Windows 7, that tests for one of those “hardware failures” that leads to gremlin type symptoms — a RAM memory module going faulty — named the Memory Diagnostic Tool.

“The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the Random Access Memory (RAM) on your computer for errors. The diagnostic includes a comprehensive set of memory tests. If you are experiencing problems while running Windows, you can use the diagnostic to determine whether the problems are caused by failing hardware, such as RAM or the memory system of your motherboard.”

To test the integrity of your comupter’s RAM:

1) Click on the Start button

2) Type memory into the search pane. Now, above in the results window, the top result will be Memory Diagnostic Tool. Click on that.

mdt1

3) A new window will open, offering you two choices. Since the diagnostic tool needs to run before Windows starts up – you have to reboot (restart) your machine. The question is – do you want to do it now, or later? Odds are you want the first option — NOW. Save and exit any work you have open.

mdt2

4) Click Restart now and check for problems. Your machine will reboot, and a basic startup screen will show the tool’s progress and results. This should take several minutes, as many different low-level test are being run.

mdt3

When the scanning tests finish, you should know if your RAM memory modules fail miserably (and need to be replaced) or if you can eliminate RAM as your “gremlin”, and move to the next item on your troubleshooting checklist.. such as the power supply. Hopefully your RAM will pass, but if it doesn’t, the good news is, RAM is not too expensive, nor difficult, to replace. (For a tutorial on laptop RAM, click here.)

Good luck and happy computing.

Oh, yes. Did I mention? Sometimes it’s simply best to hand the headache off to a Pro.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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May 10, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Firefox problem a result of malware?

If you are using Firefox to surf the web, and you see some odd behavior that has you thinking you may have been infected with a computer virus, the following information – provided by Mozilla (the authors of Firefox) – may help you. The links contain diagnosing and troubleshooting How To’s.

Is my Firefox problem a result of malware?

Malware is short for “Malicious Software”. It is a term generally used for software installed on your computer that is designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. Computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware are different types of malware. Sometimes a problem with Firefox may be a result of malware installed on your computer, that you may not be aware of.

Table of Contents

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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May 9, 2011 Posted by | advice, antivirus, computers, Firefox, hackers, Internet, performance, security, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Fix Firefox “Initialize” Error

A reader asks how to cure a “could not initialize” error in Mozilla’s Firefox.

Q: Hey guys,

Recently I let Firefox update itself and now it has errors. It says it cannot open the security component and that I should check to make sure my disk is not full. My computer is new and has almost nothing on it yet, so I don’t see how this could be. Is there a way I can go back to my old Firefox. I do not want to use Internet Explorer as my son has told me it isn’t safe. Thanks!

A: Dear Reader,

Sorry to say there is no “guys”, there is only me. Without looking at your machine, mind you, I suspect two things: one, that the errors reads..

“Could not initialize the application’s security component. The most likely cause is problems with files in your application’s profile directory. Please check that this directory has no read/write restrictions and your hard drive is not full or close to full. It is recommended that you exit the application and fix the problem. If you continue to use this browser session, you might see incorrect application behavior when accessing certain security features.”

and, two, that a file necessary for Firefox to function correctly has become “corrupted”, and needs to be repaired/replaced.

1) Open Firefox  (use Firefox’s “Safe mode” if you have to) and from the menu bar, click on “Help” and then on “Troubleshooting Information

FF_help

2) Click on the “Open Containing Folder” button, and then scroll down until you can see the file cert8.

FF_help2

3) Right-click on the cert8 file, and click on “Properties”. Make sure the checkbox for “Read only” is not checked. If it is, uncheck it and click “OK”.

This should solve the problem, but if it doesn’t, or the checkbox was already unchecked, delete the cert8 file, and restart Firefox. When Firefox starts up again, it will automatically create a new, ‘correct’ cert8 file for you.

Firefox should now be working good as new, and.. that was not too tricky, was it?

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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February 4, 2011 Posted by | advice, browsers, computers, Firefox, how to, Internet, PC, performance, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated)

5 6 Methods For Getting Old Programs To Run On New Computers

This article is an updated and improved version of  Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help!, a “reader question” article that has proven quite popular. It seems quite a few people want their 12-year old, 16-bit, Gen 1 games to play on latest generation, 64-bit machines, (I don’t blame them) but it doesn’t always work. Here are some tips for solving the problem. They are in the appropriate order, IMHO. (These work in Vista as well.)

1) Turn off “hardware acceleration”. A common cause of errors and “playability issues” is the old games’ use (or lack of) of hardware “acceleration”, which is referring to the “video card”, or more accurately, the graphics driver. Most graphics drivers allow you to turn off the hardware acceleration (which may resolve your issue).
Click Start in the lower left corner of Windows.
Click Control Panel, click Appearance and Personalization, click Personalization, click Display Settings, and then click Advanced Settings.
Click the Troubleshoot tab, and then click Change Settings.Move the Hardware Acceleration slider until it is one notch to the right of None. This is the basic acceleration setting.
Click OK twice, and then close the window.
Restart the computer.

[you can also get there via the graphic adapter’s Properties in Device Manager]

Graph_Acc

[Note: Change Settings will be disabled if the graphics card drivers do not support disabling hardware acceleration. You may need to check the video card manufacturer’s website, and download the latest driver.]

2) You may need set the troublesome games to launch in “Compatibility Mode”, and tell them to run under Windows XP SP2. This article, https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/compatibility-tricks-for-old-programs-new-machines/ shows you how. The “Compat Mode” section is about half way down the page.

3) You might need to try repeating Step 2, but this time install directly to your C:\ drive (by default, Windows will install programs to C:\Program Files or C:\Program Files(x86) folder) using the “Custom install” option during set up. This will eliminate some of the Permissions issues that keep older programs from running correctly.

4) You may also – if the game is old enough – need to turn off all but one CPU core. This is called “setting the affinity”. Also see, Compatibility Tricks for Old Programs, New Machines. If this resolves your issue, the article includes a download for a tool to make this setting ‘stick’.

5) For really old, DOS-based games, install DOSBox. DOSBox is a great tool, especially for old games. I would suggest reading the tutorial, here: http://www.dosbox.com/wiki/DOSBoxShortcuts#Windows

6) Though I view this as a bit of a ‘last resort’, you can install a “virtual machine” and run the game in there.
* If you have the Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate edition of Windows 7, you can download XP Modewhich is really Virtual PC – for free. If you have other editions of Windows, grab Virtual PC 2007 from the same place.
* Perhaps a better alternative is using VMWare Server (free), from www.vmware.com/products/server. I have read that the VMWare handles the hardware acceleration better.

In both cases, you’ll have to supply the copy of (old) Windows yourself, and install it (into the “virtual machine”) from scratch.

… I hate to say, but it is possible that you may try all these things and get unsatisfactory results. I keep an old Pentium II machine (Windows 98) around just for playing those old games (which I wouldn’t dream of connecting to the Internet!). The games play best on the hardware/OS of their day. You might need to do the same. Or.. say goodbye to your old friends.

Progress!

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 25, 2011 Posted by | advice, Compatibility Mode, computers, device drivers, Gaming, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, software, tech, troubleshooting, tweaks, Virtual Machine, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Help for Updates, “Stuck” Printer Jobs

This week included the second Tuesday of the month; or, as we here at T4E Headquarters call it, “Patch Tuesday” – the day Microsoft releases the majority of its new Updates and “hotfixes”. This time around there were “critical” patches released, and a known attack was “plugged” (“patched”.. “fixed”). Folks, I repeat: you want updates, and having to reboot to apply them really is a trivial inconvenience. Please read, What’s With All These Updates?!

If you experienced trouble (or, ever do) after installing an Update, click the link below and scroll down to the bottom answer. See IE’s Menu bar, Taskbar icons, and bad Updates*


I came across a small, free utility which can help clear ‘stuck’ print jobs from your printer que. This tool is for when you have tried the proper method (see, The print job won’t stop printing) and you still cannot “delete” the file from the list. (Or, cannot “Cancel all documents”.)

The tool is called Stalled Printer Repair. It is “portable”, meaning it does not need to be installed, only “run”. You can get it here.

[note: If you should for some reason prefer (or need) the “manual method”, see How To Deal With Stuck Print Jobs]


If you like tech websites: Bookmark4Techs
Bookmarks4Techs is the largest repository of listed tech sites currently available on the internet. If you have the desire to learn about computers and information technology, then Bookmarks4Techs is your place to start!“

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 13, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How To Restore A Missing Optical Drive*

Reader writes and asks for help with “The Case of the Missing Device”.

Sometimes Windows “Loses” The CD Player..

CDROM Q:Paul I need your help. Yesterday I put a CD in my computer nothing happened. It has been working fine, and usually it will just start playing the first song. I put in a different disk and again nothing. I opened My computer and there was no icon for the DVD. Just icons for the Floppy A:, Local disk and no CD player. It just vanished! I rebooted and that didn’t help. What happened? How do I get my CD player back?

A: The exact steps required will depend on the cause of the issue, so the following answers are ‘generic’, and may not apply to your particular situation. Read through the list to find the appropriate one for you.

1) Windows XP (and older) have a reputation for “losing” optical drives (but I have seen it occur in Vista) after uninstalling disc burning software — such as Roxio or Nero. (Sometimes.. after installing; but usually it is an uninstall failing to work properly, which leaves incorrect values in your Registry.
Sometimes, though less frequently, a Windows Update, or other software change can cause this as well.)

Sometimes Microsoft gets it right:
If this is you — you have uninstalled Roxio, say — the solution is to visit Microsoft Help & Support and click the “Fix It” button. (I have written about using the built in troubleshooter before, see Microsoft “One-click” Fixes) The appropriate Fix it page/button is found here. One click should do it!
Added bonus: the Fixit Center also repairs other common ‘glitches’, to see those, click here.

[note: MS Fixit Center requires .NET Framework 2.0 to work. If your PC is up-to-date with Windows Updates, you should already have it (.NET is up to 4.0 now). If not, click Start > Windows Updates > Custom Install. Let it scan. Look under “Optional, Software” and check all .NET Frameworks.]

———————————

2) If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you can next try restoring your system to a prior (working) state by using System Restore. Please read How To Use System Restore To Fix Windows for instructions.

3) If that doesn’t help, or isn’t appropriate..
Open your computer’s case and check to make sure the power wires, and the ribbon cable are firmly connected to the back of the drive and to the motherboard — they may have become loose or disconnected.

No? Then open your Device Manager. Right-click on “My Computer” and select “Properties”. In Vista, click on Device Manager in the left column; in XP, click on the “Hardware” tab, and then click the “Device Manager” button.

In Device Manager, find “Optical drives” on the list, and expand the category by clicking once on the “+” sign. You should now see the device and a yellow triangle – which is telling you there’s an error.

Right click on the device’s name, and click “Uninstall” from the menu which opens. Answer “Yes”, you want to do that. Then restart (aka “reboot”) your machine. Windows should “find” a “new” CD-ROM and install it for you, thus restoring functionality.

4) If these steps fail, there is something else going on (maybe malware) and I recommend you contact a knowledgeable repair tech.. such as myself (shameless plug).

Today’s free link: KidsEmail.org. Along with ZooBah, something to consider when your child wants their own e-mail address.

Today’s free download: GOM Player is a free multimedia player with popular video and audio codecs built-in. GOM Player supports file formats such as AVI, DAT, MPEG, DivX, XviD, WMV, ASF. Users don’t have to install codecs separately. GOM Player is capable of playing incomplete or damaged AVI files by skipping the damaged frames. It can also play locked or partially downloaded files.

Today’s reco’s reading: CES 2011: The biggest winners and losers

The Consumer Electronics Show is the Super Bowl of the technology industry. As much as industry analysts and the tech press whine about CES being too big and being a relic of a bygone era, there’s no better place for tech companies to make a big splash that will be remembered throughout the year, and in some cases for years to come.

* Orig post: 5/4/09

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 10, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reader Question: Slow downloads problem

Q: Hello, my normal internet speed is 50kb/s. But Now when I download programs, It’s always very slow from 3kb/s- 9kb/s. How can I fix this problem?

~ Mitchell  slow-internet-connection

A: Mitchell,
I have to assume you really do mean to use a little “b” (“bits”; a “B” is “bytes”) which tells me that you are on a dial-up Internet connection.
I also have to assume you only get this slow down when actually downloading files.

Okay. My answer is two parts.
1) If it is at all possible, get off of dial-up. Dial-up technology was fine for the era when it was used (1985-1998) – teletype, e-mail, and text-only websites. Look to http://www.broadbandreports.com/search to find a ‘high speed’ (aka “Broadband”) provider in your area. Or, maybe, look at satellite. (Frankly, I would not use dial-up, except to send an SOS.) 3kbps, even 3KBps, is ridiculously slow… slow to the point of un-usability.
2) There are two factors which determine speed: your ability to receive, and the server’s ability to send. File servers are (almost) always set to use a low speed.. “low” meaning 300KB’s or so (800 x’s faster than your getting) as well as use a different protocol (FTP). If upgrading your service is simply not doable, for some reason, about the only thing you can do is use a download manager program to break up the file into several parts, and establish multiple ‘requests’ to download those parts simultaneously. (Firefox does this automatically) I have not used a download manager in over a decade, so I am unfamiliar with the current crop, and don’t have any personal recommendation, but CNet Editors give this one, Internet Download Manager, five stars.

by techpaul

Related: This article has some good tips for dial-up users: Browse the Web Faster on a Slow Internet Connection

To see what your bits-per-second are, click here, http://www.speedtest.net, and then click “Begin test”.

Quote of the week:The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

Reading reco: NEW Online Photo Sharing Service that is Drag and Drop Easy

There are numerous ways to post and share photos (or pictures) on the internet; however, the processes  to share your photos can be quite confusing.

If you are looking for an online service that makes photo sharing fast, fun and easy, then take a look at.. (more)”

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 30, 2010 Posted by | computers, Internet, performance, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments