Driver Troubleshooting Calls For Serious Tools

I spent some time poking around at techsupportforum.com in their Windows Vista Support area. For those not already in the habit, let me observe that it’s amazing how much you can learn from reading through other user’s problems along with the tools and techniques that knowledgeable experts suggest to help them ease their afflictions, or at least start shooting back at what troubles them. While reading through a thread from a person suffering from driver problems, I learned about the Windows Driver Verifier, aka verifier.exe. But that’s not all I learned…

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Thermaltake Vi-ON 3.5″ External HD Enclosure

Thermaltake makes some terrific products for PC enthusiasts and professionals inclined to pick up tools and computer components and indulge in a little do-it-yourself activity. In another recent review, I examined their nifty eSATA/USB hard drive dock, which led them to send me an actively ventilated and much more attractive eSATA/USB drive enclosure: This device is known as the Vi-ON ST0008U 3.5 External Hard Drive Enclosure with Active SMART Cooling System, and it retails for between $44 and $50 online (list price on the Thermaltake product page is $60). For the rest of this review, I’ll simply call it the Vi-ON for brevity.

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Should Software Makers Clean Up After Themselves?

In case you don’t already know, I make my living by writing articles, white papers, books, video scripts, help files, technical documentation, and other forms of information about computer software, systems, and networks. I’ve been doing this for a long time (since 1986 part-time, and since 1994 full-time). Over the years, I’ve seen some terrible things happen to PCs when users decide to uninstall some particular piece of software, use the vendor’s uninstall utility, and then start encountering problems.

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Tools: A Lightning Tour of msconfig.exe

The Windows system configuration tool, msconfig.exe has been around for some time. The easiest way to launch this utility is simply to type msconfig in the Start menu’s search box, but you can also access this utility by typing “system configuration” into Windows Help and Support, then selecting the “Start System Configuration” item that appears in response to this search. You must have administrative privileges, or be able to elevate access, to run this utility.

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Recent Vista Fixes: Windows Search and WMI

After a new Vista install, you’ll find there are numerous clean-up tasks that must sometimes (or always) be performed in its wake. Two weeks later,  I’ve gotten far enough past major post-install clean-up issues that you’ll find documented in other recent blog posts and articles here to dig into my Event Viewer logs to see what else needs cleaning up. So far, I’ve found and fixed two common sources of Error events in the Application log: WMI, aka Windows Management Instrumentation, and Windows Search.

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Network Discovery Doesn’t Always Confer Network Access

In the last week, I’ve reinstalled Vista on my primary production PC. Over time, this has led me back over ground that I’ve crossed many times before. It’s also helped me to recognize some differences between Vista and XP behavior, in all kinds of interesting ways. Take printing, for example: I’ve got an old but incredibly reliable HP LaserJet 4M hooked up to my wife’s Windows XP PC, which is available to machines on our household LAN.

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Configuring Windows Vista Services

One of my favorite long-time haunts on the Web is http://www.blackviper.com/. It’s the work of computer enthusiast Charles M. Sparks of Yreka, California, USA. Its main attractions are a series of detailed Windows Services lists with multiple recommended levels of settings. The draw comes from a simple statement about Windows “Disable unneeded services to reduce resource consumption.” Yeah, right! How do you know which ones you need and which ones you don’t? To give you an idea of what’s up here, my “clean” Vista installation lists 102 local services inside that runtime environment. This site lets you know which ones to keep, and which ones to reset or disable as your needs or wants dictate.

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Help! Windows Update Won’t Work After Vista Install

Having installed and reinstalled Windows Vista half a dozen times or so in the last month, it’s finally dawned on me that there’s a clean-up, post-installation step that Microsoft has not documented as an explicit part of that process. The symptoms of the problem that this step addresses are straightforward: when you run Windows Update, and use its Check for updates left-hand menu option, instead of getting the typical “Windows is Up to date” status window showing in the next screenshot, you get an error message that reads “Windows Update error 87002EE2: Unable to access Windows Update!”

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Forced into Vista reinstall

OK, so I’ve been forced to bite the bullet earlier than planned, and am now starting into reinstallation of Vista on my primary production machine. Here’s what propelled me into an emergency rebuild: I run my system disk in a RAID 1 (mirrored) array of two drives, and yesterday morning, one of the drives in that pair failed. I didn’t have another drive of the same type, size and model with which to replace the failed member, so I first had to drive down to Fry’s where I scored a pair of Samsung HD502IJ 500 GB drives for $80 apiece. Then I got home, and plugged them into a couple of SATA drive caddies to format them for NTFS. It turns out this was unnecessary and I could have saved myself some time by skipping what I thought was a mandatory step because the Intel raid utility automatically reformats any drives you place in its clutches to turn them into “RAID drives.”

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CPU-Z Offers PC Hardware Insight and Info

CPU-Z is the work of Franck Delattre at CPUID.com, the same outfit that also offers the excellent freeware programs called PC Wizard and HWMonitor, (I’ve also reviewed HWMonitor on this site; see my article on TJMax). I’ve been using CPU-Z for years, thanks to its widespread use at Tom’s Hardware for reporting on PC hardware and related configuration settings.

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