Retiring PC ticking time bomb

January 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

Well, it has been a long time and all my computers now use Windows 7, the more stabler than Vista and XP versions of windows. If I run into issues and solve them I’ll post them on my personal blog unless there are too many that will demand a blog of its own.

Warning signs of a weak battery in your UPS and other issues

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

In a country like India where voltages are not steady and  where there are frequent outages it pays to keep a reliable UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) as backup. A UPS is also particularly useful when you need power to perform a small task on your computer when the power is down.

Personally I have had a lot of success with APC and I highly recommend them. Apart from the reliable backup another reason why I would recommend APC is the simple procedure involved in changing a worn out battery. No need of running to a technician. You can do it yourself.

There are a couple of things you need to be on the look out that will save you a lot of trouble. 

The warning signs you need to look out for are:

1. Weak or worn out battery
Normally on the APC UPS the red flashing lgiht or a flickering red falshing of the diode confirms that the battery is worn out. Check your UPS manual to find out the warning signals that indicate a weak or worn out battery. Promptly replace the battery with a new one. Note that the new battery may not be charged. You may have to charge it for a 4 to 8 hours or more (details can be checked on purchase) for full charge.

2. UPS not charging the battery This is a queer case. In normal cases your UPS is connected to the mains power which is always switched on (i.e the socket on the wall is switched on) and whether the UPS is switched on or not it must continuously charge the battery inside till the battery has reached full capacity.

Tip – To check if the battery is being charged by the UPS once in a while deliberately turn the mains power off i.e switch the power on the wall socket off so that the UPS switches to batter mode and starts supplying your computer with power from the battery. Carefully wait till the continuous beeps are heard or for the warning that the battery is going into its final moments of supply (normally when this begins you have two minutes of power supply from the battery) and shut-down the computer. Now power-on the mains and let the UPS charge the battery again. After a couple of hours (or after the full duration of your battery re-charge) repeat the process to see if the battery is able to supply power. If the battery is not supplying power for the duration it is supposed to or if it is going into the final burst i.e last 2 minutes of its power supply, then you can be sure that the UPS is not charging the battery properly. In such a situation take your UPS to a technician and have it serviced.

If your battery is weak i.e if it is not being charged or if it cannot supply power for the time period it is supposed to, then you may find your PC blacking out in case of a voltage drop or spike in the mains. If this happens while you are powering up or shutting down the PC you may corrupt the boot.ini file and you may encounter is the unmountable_boot_volume BSOD. (the Unmoutable_boot_volume BSOD error will be explained in a subsequent post).

P.S – If you are using the APC UPS the on-off switch on the UPS can give you problems as the  spring behind the switch is prone to wear over time and usage. This can be fixed too by referring to the a qualified technician.

Safe CPU, GPU and Hard Disk temperatures and how to monitor them

September 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

What are safe CPU, GPU and Hard Disk temperatures and how to monitor them?

Well one answer is to check your BIOS but unfortunately your BIOS can be accessed only on Start-Up. But not to worry, there are other methods to find them.

But first how to know the safe operating temperatures for your CPU, GPU and your Hard Disk. One way to do this is to visit the manufacturer’s website and locate the details of your processor, or graphics card or hard disk. The other method is to read forums. The latter is more tedious.

I have noticed that not a lot of websites provide accurate information on the CPU temperatures. However there is one very good site maintained by Chris Hare. Here you can check the maximum temperatues for both AMD and Intel processors. For instance my Intel Core 2 duo E4300 CPU @ 1.80 GHz can go up to a maximum of 61.4 Degrees C. So if my CPU were to heat up above 50 Degrees then I know I have to watch out.  On my PC if the temperature of the CPU were to go above 50 degrees then the fan starts spinning faster and I can hear the noise.

For hard disks and GPUs (Graphical Processing Unit) or the Graphics card, manufacturer sites are good enough. Graphic Cards can take more heat and on an average have an idle temperature of around 50 Degrees and can go up to a 100 Degrees. Normally after a good game play they should be in the 60’s. As for hard disks anything above 50 degrees should be taken seriously.

The software I have been using for monitoring are free to and you can use them too. For  CPU temperature monitoring download Core Temp

Core Temp program window

Core Temp checks only CPU temperatures but here is a software that you can download to check CPU, GPU and Hard Disk temperatures, voltages, fan speeds etc., – Hardware Monitor.

CPUID's Hardware Monitor program

I have also noticed that sometimes Hardware Monitor does not report GPU temperatures. In that case you may download TechPowerup‘s GPU-Z. Another piece of software that you may also consider is Speccy. Speccy also lets you know if the Hard Disk temperature is Ok, or if it is heating up, critical etc., You may click the individual links for the various components for additional information too.

Speccy Program Screen

CPU-Z is another popular free software from CPUID that gives you information about your CPU, Motherboard, Memory, GPU etc.,

There are software where you can set thresholds, vary span speed, set alerts or perform shutdowns if the temperatures goes over a particular limit. But tampering hardware values with such software does require skill and patience and so I will not be recommending them. Misusing the software could also damage your computer.  There are even software that will monitor your hard disk’s health and report if there is a problem. At this juncture it may not  be very important. I’ll try and explain these in a subsequent topic. For now the above software is good enough to let you know the temperatures, voltages and details of your computer’s components.

A note about the values in reported in these programs – Sensor based programs are not 100% accurate but their values will certainly give you a fair idea of the temperatures of your components.

Remember to close programs and websites and exit gracefully

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

How many times has this happened to you? You sit at a computer at an Internet Browsing Centre only to find that the person who used it before hasn’t exited from his or her e-mail account.  If a spammer has access to such an account havoc can be wreaked and the person who left their account open is blamed.  In such places remember to not let the website, browser or the operating system store your password.

Another thing I have read is about people storing passwords in an e-mail under drafts or in an e-mail sent to themselves in their inbox. Never resort to such a thing. Note that even if you logout from your accounts your passwords are still vulnerable in case someone hacks into your e-mail account.

Anyway the main reason for discussing this topic is to ensure you close from programs and exit gracefully before shutting down your computer. It may be a messenger or a big program such as Adobe Photoshop. If you are done remember to close the program. Click File -> Exit or the close button at the top right corner or simply use Alt+F4 on your keyboard.  Before shutting down ensure you don’t have any programs or applications open either on your computer or in your internet browser. Finally close the browser too. If you are downloading stuff make sure you pause them or stop them before closing those programs as well.  Closing downloading programs abruptly may also terminate partial downloads and you may have to begin all over again.

Most importantly closing programs and exiting gracefully only helps your OS and in turn your PC.

Avoid Bloatware

September 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

Remember  when you purchased your DVD/CD writer it came with a CD that contained the DVD/CD burning software. Most likely you must have got a scaled down version (not the complete version) of Nero or Roxio or some of the other popular burning softwares in the market today. Even these scaled down software may occupy close to 150 MB of your disk space.  Did you know that you could do almost all the tasks of these CD/DVD burning software (that came with your product) with others that will take lesser than 10 MB of your disk space.

I was amazed when I looked into the Add or Remove Programs window in Windows to see how much space my Roxio CD/DVD making program was taking up. It also installed a bunch of other software like Album Cover Maker, Image editor etc all that I hardly use. Totally the programs ran into several hundred megs. If you are just buring data for backup or creating iso’s you could do the same with several free programs that are hardly over 10 Mb like this one that I use called BurnAware. The free version can do most of your CD/DVD and Blu-ray burning tasks and best of it all, it is just 5MB in size. Why load your computer with a huge chunk of .dlls that you may never use?  Of late I have used CDBurnerXP which is also a small program and does the burning jobs flawlessly.

The same goes for your Digital Camera too.  Instead of installing the “bloatware” that comes with your digital camera you can transfer images and movies with a simple Multiple Card Reader. No need of installing any additional software. Most of these readers can read a variety of cards including the older compact flash (remember that card?). Check out this post for more details.

Other bloatware come packaged along with regular software asking you to install toolbars, web browsers, antivirus, antispamware, malware removal software and trial software. Just avoid them as they eat up your valuable disk space. Many CD’s that accompany products like Motherboards and Graphics Cards also come with tonnes of software you actually don’t need.

(Added – Sep. 13’th, 2010)Adobe  Acrobat reader itself feels like bloatware. The current downloadble version is around 42 MB. When installed Adobe Acrobat reads 144 MB  inside the Add/Remove Programs dialog box. Compare that to Foxit Reader which is only 6.5 MB and it can easily read all your  .pdf files.  And while trying to install the Foxit reader it asks if you need to install the Foxit Search bar, a desktop icon to connect to Ebay, I just don’t believe it!

Good and bad Hard Disk Drives

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi and Samsung make up for most of the hard disk drives sold in the market today. This post is not about which hard disk is the best but it will give you a fair idea what to go for and what to avoid.

I have had great success with Maxtor (both internal and external) hard disk drives.  My first computer, a DELL had a 13 GB Maxtor internal HDD. It worked perfectly for over a decade and  it continues to perform well. Maxtor was bought by Seagate who are the current reigning champion when it comes to manufacture and sales of Hard Disks. I have had a good experience with Seagate too, first with a 40 GB and more recently with a 500 GB one.  My current DELL Vostro uses a Hitachi. The only thing that I have observed with the Hitachi HDD is that it gets pretty warm very soon. Sometimes Speccy displays that it is over 50 Degrees C which is of some concern.

The only serious problem that I have noticed in all these years is with a Western Digital Hard disk that my sister’s HP computer had. The hard disk would make a loud “krrrrnnggg, krrrnnggg…” noise and in a few minutes the PC would throw up the BSOD (Blue screen of death) screen. The hard disk eventually had to be replaced.

I also should mention that I have used an iomega external hard disk without any problems for at least four years now.

So to play it safe I would recommend Seagate anytime.

AVG antivirus issues of the past

September 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of the most downloaded and one of the best Antivirus free programs is AVG. I have been using it for many years now.  As of this writing the AVG antivirus software is in its 9.0 version. However if you have downloaded an earlier version you may have come across two problems particularly while updating the software. These are the missing .bin file error and the “Invalid Update Control CTF File” error.  I have explained how to solve both these problems in earlier posts on my personal blog.

For the missing .bin file check out the solution here.

For the “Invalid Update Control CTF File” error find the solution here.

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