InfoHQ Computer Help Archives

InfoHQTM - Computer Buying Advice
Computer Help MailBox

InfoHQ HomepageComputer Hardware Buying AdviceGoto Online CPAInfoHQ Contact USInfoHQ About Us

InfoHQ Site Search
- Search other articles on this site

InfoHQ Daily Computer News and Rumors

Click HereRecommend this page to your friends!!
Search Other Sites for Information in the Search Box Below
GoTo.com: Search made simple
Affiliate Info
Crucial DDR US
Pump up your computing power with Crucial RAM! Upgrade your memory factory-direct at Crucial.com and save 10% on every Web order.

Welcome to InfoHQ's Computer Help MailBox. The Computer Help Mailbox is a collection of the latest questions and comments we have received from our readers. The Computer Help Mailbox is a place for you to ask questions, comment on our articles, or introduce new topics for discussion.
We believe the Computer Help Mailbox column will be of assistance to all of our readers, as we intend to update this information as new questions are received.

Email Policy: Due to a large number of emails received and our limited time, we regret that we cannot answer all email and that we have to prioritize replies. Please see our helpful advice on sending us e-mail so that you will have the best chance of receiving a reply.

Other help pages. We have created a new page Fixing Computer System Crashes which contains all our letters and recent articles on system crash recovery.

Computer Help MailBox Index
Date (Click on item to read, use your Browser's back button to return to the Index.)
May 10 How can I run programs from my old hard drive on my new Windows Me system?
May 9 Creating VCR Tape with a Digital Video Camera
May 9 Choices for booting different operating systems
Feb 28 Dirty CD-ROM drive prevents Windows from loading
Feb 28 Transferring files from one computer to another
Jan 03 Inadequate case ventillation causes Athlon crashes
Nov 21 Confused over CPU bus speed
Oct 29 Computer building problem -- Abit BX133-RAID Checksum Error
Sep 12 How can I fix a slow loading Windows installation without reformatting my hard drive? -- Fixing Windows without reloading.
Aug 22 What are your recommendations on which laptop I should buy?
August 3 Does the Celeron have a full speed L2 cache or doesn't it? The myth explored.
July 12 Recommend a Pentium III Motherboard
July 4 TNT2 driver troubles
July 4 RDRAM or SDRAM? Which to buy.
June 22 Serial port trouble when attempting to download digital camera pictures
June 17 Which is better, a 64 bit or 32 bit PCI bus?
June 17 How to clean a computer mouse
June 2 Joystick/Gamepad Trouble and Hacking the Windows Registry
June 1 Dual Processor Game Machine; Fact or Fiction?
May 18 Step-by-step on how to do a fresh re-install of Windows
May 15 Recovering files from a crashed hard drive
May 8 System continues to crash during power-on tests.
May 7 How to install a CD RW drive and buying tips
May 2 Motherboard's built-in video and lack of system RAM cause poor performance
May 1 Reader asks for advice on buying a used laptop.
Apr 26 InfoHQ Tip: E-mail Backup; Preserving your E-mail with Eudora, Outlook Express, and Outlook
Apr 17 I have reloaded Windows 98 five times on my K6-2 system and it still crashes. What else can I try?
Apr 16 Is it possible to uninstall Windows 2000 and reinstall Windows 98?
Apr 11 Should I upgrade my dual PII 300 motherboard with a second processor, or should I buy a new system? -- The old, "Are two heads better than one?" question.
April 5 Trouble getting a home-built Athlon system to boot.
April 5 What is causing Windows 98 computer to lose drivers and to enter Safe Mode?
April 4 Reader wants to know if he should buy outdated hard disk drives. - That's a definite No.
April 3 Mac user wants to know the best way to be PC compatible. Emulation software? Disk reading programs? I think not.
April 3 How can I recover data from a crashed hard drive that will no longer run Windows?
Mar 29 What types of RAM are interchangeable?
Mar 26 Where can you find free marketing data on computers and software sold in the US?
Mar 22 Computer show bargain computer not so cheap after all.
Mar 14 Building a computer, or buying -- which is cheaper?
Mar 14 Buy a video card now or wait for a better one? - the ultimate dilemma.
Mar 14 Online Auction locator sites -- a reader suggests an addition.
Mar 8 A college professor straightens us out on reported hard drive capacity.
Mar 8 It it possible to upgrade your notebook's hard drive without sending it to the factory? Well ...yes and no.

Home Systems: Great Deals from Dell Computers
Special Offers from Dell Home Systems

May 10 - How can I run programs from my old hard drive on my new Windows Me system? I have transfered my hard drive from my old computer to my new computer. I now have a 20gb hard drive and a 60gb in my new machine. My old drive has WIN98, my new one has WIN-ME. How can I access and use the programs on my old drive without tranfering all the info to my new unit?

InfoHQ Answer. Windows can only run from one directory. So if you have a Windows Me directory on C: then your programs on your D: drive are no longer recognized as Windows programs. This is because Windows has only one registry, and your Windows Me registry has no knowledge of the old programs on drive D:. While it certainly is advisable to have Windows programs on the D: drive, these programs have to be reregistered with the new C: Windows Me.
There are several ways to run your old programs:
1. You can reload your software programs from disks or CD-ROM, which is very time consuming but gets the job done.
2. You can use software moving programs to move programs from your old drive to your new drive, which saves you the hassle of reloading your programs. Commercial programs that can move software from one drive to another are Norton Utilities' CleanSweep, Norton Ghost, and others. (It is not possible for you to copy software directories and move them to the new drive as this still does not register the moved program in the current Windows registry).
3. While it is not advisable, it is still possible to boot from the D: drive and run the programs under Windows 98. This could be done with a Windows 98 Startup Disk or by using commercial software programs like System Commander.

May 9 - Creating VCR Tape with a Digital Video Camera. I have a Panasonic NV-DS11EN digital camcorder and have no idea how I can capture, edit and transfer back to VHS tape. I tried a Studio 400 from Pinnacle but that was a total failure and Pinnacle say they do not support the product any more. My PC is a Hewlett Packard Pavilion M70 with 12.5gb available hard disk and 128 RAM. Could you point me in the right direction?

InfoHQ Answer - First you need to get the digital video from your camera into your computer. This is best done by buying a PCI Firewire card and cable, and appropriate software (MGI VideoWave 4 or Ulead Videostudio or others).
The next step is to convert the video from Digital to Analog format with a Digital to Analog (D/A) converter such as Hollywood DV-Bridge by Dazzle ($259) and copy the video to tape. The Hollywood DV-Bridge package includes VideoWave 4 software and the Firewire cable. You still need to buy a PCI Firewire card for your computer.

May 9 - Choices for booting different operating systems.

1. If the operating system you want to boot into first is not on the C: drive, then change your BIOS to boot to the device that has the other operating system. So let's say you have a Linux CD. If you change your BIOS to boot the CD first, and then your hard drive (D:, C:), you can choose to boot Linux first by putting the Linux CD into the CD-ROM drive. If you want to boot your other operating system (Windows) then don't put a CD into the CD-ROM and your system will boot from your hard drive.

2. If you want a menu type system that asks you what operating system you want to boot into, you have 2 choices; write a DOS batch file, or buy the commercial program System Commander. Some versions of Linux include System Commander or other dual boot solutions and would in fact cost you less than trying to buy the commercial version of System Commander.

February 28 - Dirty CD-ROM drive prevents Windows from loading. I have a problem that I can't find a solution for. I recently had one of my PC's crash a hard drive. As a result I have had to replace the drive. As such I have upgraded to a larger drive.  So far everything has been completed on the rebuild. New BIOS, HD-Partitioned and formatted.
I try to use the BOOT disk to re-install the CD-ROM driver. I says that it has completed the install, but when I try to install the OS (Win > >95 later version) it does not recognize the CD. The program continues to ask me to place the CD into the DRIVE.
Do you have any suggestions?? I have tried the install drivers from the manufacturer (they are the same files that are on the BOOT disk). Need some advice. Thanks.

InfoHQ Answer. Clean your Win95 CD with a soft cloth and inspect it for damaging scratches. Sometimes built up dust and dirt will prevent a CD or DVD from being read. If this doesn't work try reading a different CD from DOS. If you still can't read a CD disk, invest in a CD-ROM cleaning disk.

Reader Reply. Thanks for the Help. I took the drive apart and found that the Optical eye was covered with dust. After having cleaned it out, it works just fine now. Thanks

February 28 - Transferring files from one computer to another. I just bought a new computer and I need to transfer my old files into my new computer. How do I do this? I have no read write drive. Any help will be greatly appreciated!! thank you

InfoHQ Answer. There are several ways to transfer files between computers.
1. If both computers have an Internet connection you can upload files to an online file service like xdrive. (You can also hook your modems together with a phone line and set one to receive and use the other to send.) (no cost)
2. Use Microsoft backup and transfer programs with floppy disks. There are also shareware programs that allow large files to be copied across several floppy disks. (cost $10 for disks).
3. Connect both computers with a null modem cable and use a shareware program like Zipft to transfer the files (cable cost $10).
4. Buy or borrow an external Zip drive ($100 new).
5. Buy a LAN kit and connect the two computers together in a LAN ($50-$150).
6. If you have two desktops you could slave one hard drive to another (cost $0).
7. There are various commercial programs that will transfer files from one computer to another and some also include cables (cost $50 -$200).

January 03 - Inadequate case ventillation causes Athlon crashes. My system is a home-built athlon 900 and KT7 motherboard, with a G400 16MB Matrox, a 300W AMD-compatible PSU, 128MB Crucial CL3 Memory. I'm using a Cooler Master fan and heatsink on the CPU.
I have removed all the other devices except a 3.2 blank WD hard drive, a floppy and a DVD drive. My system crashes frequently, generally lasting for about a minute when it locks up. I recently replaced the PSU, and the motherboard is not touching.
I am also very worried about the temperature the processor reaches in the BIOS, it reaches about 95 Celsius and then crashes. Surely this can't be normal, at the moment while I'm tinkering the case is off and the system temperature about 25 Celsius with good ventilation. After my system has been reset, it crashes in less time than from cold. Is this a heat problem, or something related to memory?

InfoHQ Answer. I'm sorry to say this, but I think your CPU may be heat damaged.
The normal operating temperature of an Athlon is in the 40 degrees centigrade (or less) range with 50 C (122F)probably being too hot.
The general test for CPU heat is the CPU/heatsink should never get too hot to touch.
It appears your Cooler Master fan is on AMD's recommended list (http://www1.amd.com/products/athlon/thermals) and that it is installed correctly on the CPU (the CPU temp gage shows 25C with the case open). As a reminder, a very thin layer of thermal compound should be used to attach the heat sink to the CPU. Too much compound negates the ability of the heat sink to function.
It sounds like you have improper case cooling as your CPU reaches the extreme temp of 95C (203F) with the case on.
AMD recommends that at least one of your case fans exhausts heat out of the case. They also recommend that that an exhaust fan be located at the back of the case so that it can draw air over the CPU. AMD has written a short article on case cooling which you can find at http://www.amd.com/products/cpg/athlon/pdf/cooling_guide.pdf .
The fact that your system shuts down faster after being restarted is a sign of heat damage. I recommend you run your system with the case off until you can install adequate case ventilation.
If your system keeps locking up, then you can try replacing the CPU and/or video card as they both may be heat damaged. I'm not sure what effect that amount of heat could have on a motherboard.
After providing adequate case cooling, the best thing to do may be to have a good technician check out your system.

November 21 - Confused over CPU bus speed. I'm looking at getting a new computer, that has great speed and can handle many software programs.
I am looking at the Athlon AMD 1ghz. However, it only has a 100mhz front bus line for processing, and I have heard that with that kind of speed, 100 won't cut it, and that closer to 200mhz front bus line speed is recommended. Now it gets confusing, I was told that can be iffy all the same, and they haven't found a front bus line speed that truly matches those speeds. Is this true? What does the front bus line do for processing?

InfoHQ Answer. The CPU bus speed that you are referring to as "line bus speed" is the speed at which the CPU communicates to RAM memory, and external L2 caches. The CPU bus speed is referred to as "front-side bus speed" on Pentiums and Athlons.
Coppermine Pentium IIIs can have a 100 or 133 MHz front-side bus speed and Athlons have a 200 or 266 MHz front-side bus speed. Pentium 4s have a 400 MHz front-side bus speed.
That being the case, you should not assume that the CPU with the fastest front-side bus is the fastest performer. There are many factors that influence CPU speed, the most important are, its design and efficiency, the internal clock speed of the CPU (the MHz or GHz it's rated at), and the speed and efficiency of its L2 cache and floating point unit.
Having said all this, in choosing your PC CPU, you should buy the fastest CPU speed Athlon or Pentium III you can afford, at the highest bus speed for the CPU family you are looking at.
Example: I would choose the higher bus speed Pentium III (133 MHz) over the lower bus speed Pentium III (100 MHz) if the price was right.
You should not assume that the Athlon is faster than a Pentium III or slower than a Pentium 4 based on bus speed.

October 29 - Computer building problem -- Abit BX133-RAID Checksum Error. I bought a new Abit BX133-RAID motherboard and a Pentium 3 850Mhz FCPGA retail box CPU. I put the system together. Only peripherals are SB16 ISA sound card, STB Velocity 4400 AGP video card, 8.4GB Maxtor HD hooked as master on IDE1, Toshiba 40X CD-ROM hooked as master on IDE2, floppy drive, 1 64MB DIMM PC100. That’s it, pretty basic system.

When I put it together and booted the first time, I got the following message:

Main Processor Pentium III 566E Mhz

Memory Testing 65536 ok

Primary Master 90845D4 GAS5411Z

CMOS checksum error – defaults loaded

Press F1 to continue, DEL to enter setup

07/03/2000-I440BX-W977-6A69KA1CC-S2

No matter how many times I rebooted, held down the delete key, or repeatedly pressed the delete key, I could not even get into setup. I tried clearing CMOS, still same thing.

Since the BIOS looked to be defaulting to the 566 Mhz speed, I thought that was the problem. So I used the dip switches instead of SoftMenu III to set the CPU parameters. Then when I rebooted, it said the correct 850Mhz, but still the same CMOS checksum error.

The motherboard manual has a small paragraph that says :

"Normally, if the CPU clock setup is wrong, you will not be able to boot. In this case, turn the system off then on again. The CPU will automatically use its standard parameters to boot. You can then enter the BIOS Setup again and set up the cpu clock. If you can’t enter the BIOS setup, you must try turning the system on a few times (3-4 times) or press "INSERT" key when turning on and the system will automatically use its standard parameters to boot. You can then enter BIOS setup again and set up the new parameters."

Well I tried all of the above in various combinations, and still the same error message.

I am out of ideas. I will try removing everything, even though there is not much to remove, and retrace my installation steps.

Any advice would be appreciated. Please email me at jklein@netzero.net.

I have seen some similar errors posted around the web but no solutions.

InfoHQ Answer. I believe that you need to upgrade your motherboard's BIOS. There was a BIOS upgrade for your motherboard released on 9-5-2000 that might fix your problem entitled beruk.exe which you can download at ftp://ftp.abit.com.tw/pub/BIOS/bx133-raid/beruk.exe.
Read the instructions on BIOS upgrading at http://www.abit-usa.com/english/download/bios%20update/help.htm. It is supposed too fix problems with the 135 MHz bus but it might have other upgrades also.
Your 850 MHz Pentium III runs at a bus speed of 100 MHz and therefore, should have a clock multiplier of 8.5. If you set the bus speed correctly your motherboard should automatically use the 8.5 multiplier.
Intel's web site has a very good table of all the Pentium III versions and their bus speeds on the web page at http://developer.intel.com/design/PentiumIII/prodbref/.

September 12 - How can I fix a slow loading Windows installation without reformatting my hard drive? This has to be the oldest problem in the book, but it's making my 486 laugh at my pentium. Windows takes 5 excrutiating minutes to boot and 5 more to shutdown. There's hard drive strain like crazy, all the time, even long after Windows has finally appeared. And when I shutdown, it just hangs there on the blue sky screen. 5 painful minutes. Once in Windows, the performance is ordinary, although obviously sub-par for a 400 mhz.
So I performed the basics:
-Scandisk
-Defrag
-Uninstalled ALL my games (freed 2 gig!)
-Uninstalled programs running in the taskbar
-Modified the booting sequence ("startup" in msconfig.exe) so only the essentials are loaded. >
-Removed all shortcuts from the desktop. >
-Several registry checks for problems, removing all bogus entries.
Nothing! It fixed nothing! I've been told that this is 'normal', that Windows simply deteriorates over time and that the only solution is a reformat. That is unfortunately *not* an option here. I know I only have 64 megs of ram but that can't be why Windows takes forever to boot? Do you have any idea what the problem is and how can I fix it?

InfoHQ Answer. First you should review your computer's BIOS settings to make sure the settings are optimized for your computer. If they have never been changed, this may be a low priority.
If your BIOS settings (especially hard drive settings) are configured correctly, the next thing to suspect is registry or Windows system file conflicts.
I suggest you either buy Norton Utilities 2000 or download a 30 day trial version from their site at www.symantec.com.
Use the Windows utilities to clean up your Windows installation. Use the registry optimizer to make your registry load faster and to optimize your swap file. Do not use the registry editor unless you know what you are doing.
While I have not made any kind of study, from personal experience I think Norton works at least 50-60% of the time and I have not had it cause additional problems -- like every other disk utility program out there.
If you load an Internet browser like IE 5 when your computer starts, you need to periodically clean up the cache and temp files saved by your browser. Use a good disk cleaning program like CleanSweep.
** Never let any utility program clean up your registry unless you have backed up the previous registry to a floppy disk. I have experienced instances when my computer would no longer boot Windows after such cleaning experiences.**
If after following the above suggestions, your system is still thrashing the hard drive, I think it would be time for you to upgrade your RAM to 128 MB. I have a 550 MHz Pentium III with 128 MB of RAM running Windows 98 and when I have several large memory hog programs running at the same time, I get very tempted to install more RAM. Additional RAM would certainly speed your system up, regardless of its other problems.

PS - Make sure you look at our Curing Windows Crashes page for other thoughts on speeding up Windows.

August 22 - What are your recommendations on which laptop I should buy?

I am currently in the market for a laptop and since it looks like you guys

did your homework I of course would like your help...
I need, actually 'would like', something light, fast, and like you said,

since this is a "one time shot" buy, I would like to buy something that 

is

not going to be obsolete in a year or two. I want to know basically what 

the

"best" brand you've come across is; in terms of performance and more

important reliability.

In doing my own comparison it looks like my best bet is the Compaq Presario

1700 (17xls275). I like this model because is not only very light but I 

can

also get a CD-ROM and CD-RW as well for it; This is attractive to me since

I'm trying (God knows why) to replace my desktop. Another option is the 

Sony

PCG-F560. The problem is that I have heard mixed feeling about both Compaq

and Sony-which you are paying mainly for the name.

What is your feeling??? I do a little $$ which I've saved over time but 

to

me is very hard to spend it on the "wrong" laptop or brand as I don't just

have money to throw away, if you know what I mean; which is why I'm sending

you this e-mail.. what are your recommendations if you had about $2500 in

your pocket to spend on one..
I appreciate your time and help on this...
InfoHQ Answer. The brand of laptop you buy is very important. While you can buy cheaper laptops with more features, the brand name laptops will reward you with better quality and better customer support -- qualities that become very important as the laptops grows older.
The laptops that are rated highly by business surveys include Dell, Compaq, IBM, and Toshiba. Sony laptops are very popular with the non-business crowd. Of the above companies, Dell has the best customer support based on surveys and awards. The other four have fair to good support.
I'm not going to tell you which brand to buy but I will give you some thoughts:
-- If you can, get an Intel SpeedStep processor. It's the fastest available Mobile CPU.
-- Get an active matrix screen.
-- Make sure it has a modem, sometimes this is an extra.
-- If you are going to move the laptop around a lot, get a 3 year on-site warranty, the first repair will pay for the warranty.
-- Try it before you buy -- if possible.
-- If you don't like it return it (make sure there is no restocking fee charge).

August 3 - Does the Celeron have a full speed L2 cache or doesn't it? The myth explored. An email was received from a reader with the following comment.
The reader quoted from our Desktop CPU Roundup article the following passage,"Now that the Celeron is in the 0.18 micron form factor and has the SIMD extensions, one would think that there would be very little performance difference between the Coppermine Celeron and the Coppermine Pentium III. However, the Celeron still has a slower 128 KB half speed L2 cache while the Pentium III has a full speed 256 KB L2 advanced transfer cache."
The reader then stated "The new celerons have FULL speed on die cache. Just thought you should know."

InfoHQ Reply. That is a Celeron myth propogated by several sites. There is no reference in any of the Intel documentation that any Celeron has a full speed L2 cache. While it is on-die, it is not similar to the Pentium III E's or Xeon's full speed L2 cache.

Reader Comment. http://support.intel.com/support/processors/celeron/24766.htm#2 . Scroll down just a bit... all I have to say. < The reference is to an Intel table that says all Celerons since the 300A have a full speed on die cache.>

InfoHQ Reply. While the Celeron does have a L2 cache that runs at the full MHz of its core, it is half as fast as the equvalent L2 cache on a Pentium III. This is because a Celeron has an L2 cache that is half disabled. A full explanation of the Celeron's L2 cache is available at http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1264&p=2.
The reference you pointed out is the only reference I have ever seen from Intel about a full speed L2 cache on the Celeron . It is misleading, and that is why you don't see that fact trumpeted around their site.

July 12 - Recommend a Pentium III Motherboard. I want to configure a new PC. Mainly to connect to internet, music downloads some gaming and basic use of Office2000.
In my country we do not have much choice of components.
I will be travelling to the US shortly and would like to purchase the main components there. I donīt want to risk however, buying components that are not compatible. Do you recomend the Intel SR440BX, which I understand comes with sound and video integrated? If so, can you give me the specs of the 600 or 700 MHZ processor that goes with it + 128 MB memory. Otherwise please recomend an other board with no sound or video.
I want separate a 16 or 32 MB Video card (Guillemont Maxi Gamer Xentor 32MB and Matrox Millenium have been suggested and a good sound card if it is not integrated). Could you also suggets a reliable online supplier?

InfoHQ Answer. I would suggest you not buy the Intel motherboard because: I do not like onboard audio and video, it doesn't support Coppermine Pentium IIIs, and the BX chipset is somewhat dated.
Instead I suggest one of the following motherboards; FIC A31 (Slot 1 CPUs, VIA 133A chipset - which supports 4X AGP and PC133 SDRAM) price $94 or ABit VT6X4 (Slot 1 CPUs, VIA 133A chipset) price $101. Both motherboards support any slot 1 Pentium III or Celeron CPU you want to put in it (if you want to use Socket 370 CPUs you would have to buy an adapter card).
Another new motherboard, the ABit SE6 ($165) lets you use a FCPGA socket Pentium III with the Intel 815E chipset. The 815E chipset is no doubt faster than the VIA 133A chipset, it supports ATA 100 hard drives, and it also supports 4X AGP and PC133 SDRAM. However, it does have onboard sound (again, which I'm not a fan of).
You can get information and prices on these motherboards, with and without CPUs at http://www.tccomputers.com.
I would suggest a 32 MB NVIDIA TNT2, GeForce, or GeForce 2 based card made by Diamond, Creative or Guillemot. For a sound card I would suggest any of the Creative SoundBlaster Live series cards.
If you haven't purchased your SDRAM yet, I definitely recommend buying PC133 SDRAM for Pentium IIIs that use the 133 MHz bus.
In addition to the Web site listed above, you can find other online stores recommended in our Vendor Guide. Once you decide on what you want, I suggest you compare prices at several of the listed sites.

July 4 - TNT2 driver troubles. I have just installed a new video card on my pc but suddenly no video or games seem to be able to run on it. There seem to be no problems with ordinary programs. I have tried using the directX diagnostics tool, and it suggests that I should not examine the directx since it may have caused problems the last time. If I choose to ignore directx "files"?? no problems are reported, if I choose to include the directx the machine freezes and has to be rebooted. What may be done? I have installed the "Apollo TNT2" Nvidia card with 32 mb on board. I have also installed directx 7.

InfoHQ Answer. I would say there is some problem with the video driver you are using. Luckily you don't have to depend on your graphics company's drivers, you can download a video driver direct from NVidia. These drivers are for the whole family of TNT and GeForce NVidia graphics processors. The latest version of these drivers is called Detonator 2. Download the correct driver for your OS at http://www.nvidia.com/Products/Drivers.nsf. I would suggest you make a Windows Recovery disk and make sure you backup any sensitive data, just in case this video driver causes you more problems. Also, run a good virus checker prior to installing the new driver.
<The reader did a clean reinstall of Windows and used his old video driver to correct the problem.>

July 4 - RDRAM or SDRAM? Which to buy. I am a heavy Internet user (via cable modem), mainly financial information, music listening and downloads, some gaming. I want to change computers. Is it worthwhile investing in a motherboard that supports RDRAM like the VC820 or can I go for a SR440BX with SDRAM? I understand that there is a significant difference in price.

InfoHQ Answer. RDRAM costs about 4 times as much as SDRAM (e.g. a 600 MHz 64 MB RDRAM RIMM is priced around $210 at www.kingston.com, and a 64 MB PC100 SDRAM DIMM runs around $60). In my opinion, you would be much better off with PC100/PC133 SDRAM and buying a faster CPU or video card. The performance increase from RDRAM may generate a 5% speed boost depending on the application.
<PCWorld and Intel tests have recently shown that there may not even be a 5% advantage when using RDRAM ovr PC133 SDRAM see the PCworld story for more information.>

June 22 - Serial port trouble when attempting to download digital camera pictures. I just got a new digital camera, loaded the software, and connected the camera to the serial port as instructed. No problems until I attempted to download photos, and was told that there was no connection to the camera. The online help site said that I probably have a serial port conflict even though my serial port is available for plug in. They suggested that I could troubleshoot serial port conflicts by running a simple utility program that checks the status of one's serial port(s). Could you direct me to such a program? Could you give me some advice? Say I find out the status of my serial port, what do I do next? What can I do to make my serial port accessible so that I can use my digital camera? Any assistance you could offer would be greatly appreciated!

InfoHQ Answer. If you go into the Windows Control Panel and click on the System icon, then click on Devices, then click on Ports, you will see the serial ports available on your computer. If there are any red or yellow "X" or "!" or "?" marks then that means the port is not properly configured.
Here's some additional information about serial ports: Com1: and Com3: devices use serial port 1, and Com2: and Com4: devices use serial port 2. You usually cannot share a serial port between devices - so no using Com1: for a mouse and Com3: for the modem etc. Move any external devices to a different serial port to correct the problem.
To have a digital camera be recognized for download, the download software has to be loaded, the serial or USB port has to be functioning correctly, and all cables have to be correctly attached.
Other alternatives for picture download include USB card readers and floppy disk adapters.

June 17 - Which is better, a 64 bit or 32 bit PCI bus? I am looking for a high performance PC for CAD and 3D purposes (use of Autodesk 3DSMAX for important architectural project), the machine with the highest hard disk performance (working with big files up to 50 MB) for the moment I found the new HP Kayak XU800 256 MB HDisk ultra3 10 000 rpm equipped with 64bits PCI controller and other PCs for example IBM Intellistation or Compaq AP550 which are equipped only with 32 bits PCI controller.
Please note that I will purchase ULTRA M160 hard disk and ultra3 SCSI controller; however may you let me know the differences between controller card with 32 bits PCI bus and 64 bits PCI bus.
Also, did the Ultra m160 hard disk works better with a 64 bits PCI card ? Is 64 bits PCI needed in order for having highest performance?

InfoHQ Answer. The 32/64 bit data size together with the bus speed (33 MHz, 66 MHz, or 100 MHz) define the maximum bandwidth of the PCI bus. The maximum raw limits of the PCI BUS are 528 MB/s for 64-bit, 66MHz; 264 MB/s for 64-bit, 33MHz or 32-bit, 66MHz; 132 MB/s for 32-bit, 33MHz. Note that this does not mean that data is transferred to system memory that fast, which is an entirely different issue.
The fastest data transfer rate from the PCI Bus is 160 MB/s with Ultra SCSI 160. So theoretically, one Ultra SCSI drive transferring data at 160 MB/s would max out a 32-bit 33 MHz PCI controller which has a maximum transfer capacity of 132 MB/s. If you had a 32-bit controller in a 66 MHz PCI slot, the controllers capacity would be 264 MB/s, so it would be able to handle one Ultra SCSI 160 drive at its maximum capacity (160 MB/s) and would be able to handle most of the load of another drive.
Of course this is all conjecture, as the specific hardware and software will determine if the drives and controller can reach their maximum capacities. By the way, the HP Kayak is no longer being produced in the US.

June 17 - How to clean a computer mouse. My mouse is not functioning properly and I know the ball can be removed and cleaned. My question is what is the proper way to do this?

InfoHQ Answer. Remove the ball and clean the rollers with Q-tips dipped in a little bit of rubbing alcohol.

June 2 - Joystick/Gamepad Trouble and Hacking the Windows Registry.
I purchased a new game and a new gamepad. The game is from Eidos, the gamepad is from Gravis. The gamepad works fine with all my games but this one. I get erratic movement from the character even though I'm not even touching the gamepad. I contacted both tech support. Not surprizingly, they say it's each other's fault. The gamepad is not the problem, it works perfectly and it's 'OK' in the gamepad window.
Eidos says it's a driver problem, which seems likely. But I upgraded *EVERYTHING* to the latest version. My sound card drivers, DirectX 7a, the game, the gamepad, the videocard, name it, it's up to date. There are no conflicts in Windows' device manager. The only thing I can think of is a defective or low quality gameport. Since my motherboard is an Intel SE440BX2, it has a Yamaha onboard card, therefore an onboard gameport. And onboard stuff is always trickier.
1. Do I have a software or hardware problem? Who do I believe?
2. How can I know for SURE my gameport is defective or not?
3. If there is a problem, how do I fix it besides buying a new soundcard?
Thanks in advance

InfoHQ Answer. When your hardware works fine in all games but the one you are playing, 90% of the time it is caused by the game, 10% the hardware driver. The game probably was not written to be compatible with your controller.
However, sometimes work-arounds are found by users, so don't give up. The best thing to do is to find an active gamer's bulletin board and see if anyone else has experienced the problem. The best place to do this is at sites that discuss or promote the game you are having trouble with.

Reader's Reply. That unfortunately cannot be the problem, as my game has behaved erratically with ALL my gamepads (I have 3) and even more, it has worked fine with all of them at a friend's house on his machine. That's what had me believe it's something specific to my system. Furthermore, the game company's tech support is dead convinced of that too, as he said I was describing perfectly a driver's problem. But there are no conflicts anywhere, my hardware is working perfectly with everything else and everything that needs to be "Microsoft certified", is.
Thanks, I had already been to such sites. However, no one seems to have experienced what I'm experiencing. I'm running a game that supposedly has been through hell and back to work with all possible gamepads, and I use a gamepad that supposedly has been through hell and back to work with all possible games. I'm a mystery. The only thing I need to know is how to be certain if my gameport is defective or not. Nevertheless, thanks for the support.

InfoHQ Second Reply. There is a very simple test to see if your game port is working correctly from Windows.
While your game is running, press and hold down the Alt and Tab keys and then release them - this should take you into the Windows Desktop. Go into the Control Panel via Start/Settings/Control Panel and click on the joystick icon. You can see the status of your controller and also test it. If the controller is inactive, that means the game is interfering with the functioning of the controller. I would suggest you uninstall and reload the game, if the gamepad works normally otherwise.
If the pad is functioning normally in Windows, check and see if DirectX is also correctly identifying the gamepad by going into C:\Programs\DirectX and choosing Diag.exe. Click on the tab for game controllers. This will tell you whether or not the gamepad is correctly read by Windows DirectX. Try both tests without the game running.
If your gamepads works correctly in Windows and DirectX you can safely assume you do not have a bad gameport and that all your drivers are operating correctly.
After uninstalling and reloading the game and the gamepad still doesn't work, I would suggest you go through the steps in our article Help Getting that New Game Running - Instead of Crashing. Pay particular attention to the BIOS settings example.
If you still have problems with all this after the above steps, the last thing I can think of is you could try hacking the Windows Registry. Using the Start/Run menu call regedit.exe and search the registry for the game's name. Maybe you can see a likely setting to delete e.g. "joystick no" etc.
Let me know how it turns out. You certainly have an elusive problem.

Reader's Second Reply. Well whaddaya know? It was a bogus registry entry all along! I ripped out everything that was named either "joystick" or "Logitech". The Logitech part felt surprizingly good to destroy. And here's the kicker: Logitech have on their website a small utility that automatically deletes joystick entries from the registry. That's the first thing I tried two weeks ago. Looks like it hadn't made the best of clean up jobs after all, eh? Imagine what people with no computer knowledge can go through. So there, it works, I'm kicking butt in my game, thanks a million, you're a genius!

June 1 - Dual Processor Game Machine; Fact or Fiction? Here is the deal. I don't have the necessary funds to test processors and different configurations, so I am asking your expertise. Taking into account only 2 factors, cost and speed, which is better, one single processor that is a higher frequency (MHz) or 2 processors (dual) of lesser frequency. I am trying to compare at a somewhat similar cost. Also, I am mainly wondering about gaming, so not really benchmarking the windows and apps, more so how would it handle quake 3 and halflife?? I really appreciate your time.

InfoHQ Answer. Where your money should be spent is not on the processor, but on the video card. Specifically, on a Geforce2 GTS. The GeForce2 renders four times as fast as a the GeForce 256 and it is twice as fast as the not yet for sale Voodoo5.
So let's assume you have spent the $350 to acquire a GeForce2 card and you have money to burn on one or two fast processors. What to do? To make the question simpler, we'll assume you will run a Pentium III E Coppermine processor with an Intel 820 motherboard and RDRAM. So one Pentium III at 1 GHz, or two 800 MHz CPUs on a dual motherboard?
First, you must know that in real world tests the 1 GHz Pentium III does not usually out perform the 800 MHz Pentium III by 20%. In reality, you are lucky to get a 15% speed increase. So can two 800 MHz CPUs make up or beat the 15% difference?
The answer boils down to two things: the extent the software has been optimized for parallel processors and the type of data being crunched. Without software optimization, two processors are actually slower performing floating point calculations, and games are big time users of floating point calculations.
So the question is, "Exactly how much has the game been optimized to run with dual processors?” I have not heard any specific speed claims made about dual processor Quake 3 or Half Life. Unless you know the speed gain you will receive, you are buying into the unknown.
I also talked to a salesman at alienware.com (makers of custom game machines) and even though they sell a 2-processor game machine, they say it is only for individuals that want to run a server and to also play games (an interesting combination). Otherwise, they recommend one CPU for game machines.
So my advice to you is to buy a GeForce2 card and the fastest processor you can afford. A Pentium III with RDRAM will be about 10% faster than an Athlon with SDRAM. If you can't afford RDRAM (and who can?) then the performance of the Pentium III and Athlon is about even when used with SDRAM (cost wise
the Athlon is the best bet).

May 18 - Step-by-step on how to do a fresh re-install of Windows. I got my computer a year ago. It seems slower today. I would just like to start over. The only file I would like to save is my IE favortes folder. How do I proceed to erase my hd and reinstall windows 98. I use my computer for internet access and games. My plan was to download the lastest bios and video drivers once I reinstalled windows 98.

InfoHQ Answer.Over time, all Windows computers slow down. As you load and delete more programs, Windows begins to chug along. While reloading Windows to the same directory is often a cure for missing or corrupted files, a reload does not cure a damaged or bloated Windows Registry file.

There are many programs that claim to clean the registry, my experience is that they either do not clean enough or they clean so much that they create worse problems.
<I also have the same opinion about file uninstallers. If the Uninstaller asks if you want to delete any system files, the best answer is to just say "No!".>
So having made the decision that you want to reformat, the question is, "What do you need to Save?".

My list of things you should save or do before you reformat your hard drive.
1. All dial-up Internet phone numbers and modem settings. (write these down)
2. Email that is stored on your hard drive (see our article on saving Email in the InfoHQ Help MailBox).
3. All Internet favorites. (This is accomplished in IE 5 by choosing "File/Import and Export" from the IE menu bar).
4. All work files e.g. word processor files, graphics files, MP3 files, spreadsheet files, hardware drivers, and any other files you don't want to lose. (If you want to save your programs, you should use one of the aforementioned "uninstallers" to move your applications to backup media.)
5. Make a Windows Startup Disk if you have not done so already. (Instructions for this are in our Adding a Second Hard Drive article.)

Where to save your information. If you have a backup hard drive, removable disk, or tape drive, these are the best places to save large amounts of information. Floppy drives are good for small amounts of information. Another good resource are the Internet file drives like Idrive.

Once you have all your information backed up, put your Windows Satrtup disk into the A: drive and reboot your computer (the Cntrl-Alt-Del keys pressed at the same time twice works nicely). If your computer is not setup to boot from the A: drive, then press Del during the DOS memory check and go into your BIOS and change this.
Otherwise, let the computer boot from the A: drive. The Startup Disk should load DOS and your CD-ROM driver. Type "A:" (don't type the quotes) at the DOS prompt to change directories to the A: drive. Then type "format C:". Your computer should then format your hard drive. Repeat the format process for any partitions you might have.
Once your drive is formatted, it is not bootable as there is nothing on it. You need to add the DOS file system to the drive which is done by using the "fdisk" command. Type fdisk (from the A: prompt) to call the DOS hard drive partitioning program. Choose the 2nd option "Set Active Partition" to install the command.com and other hidden files which will make your C: drive bootable. Now is a good time to create new or to delete old drive partitions by using the 1st "fdisk" option, Create DOS Partition or Logical Drive.

After you have formatted and set an active partition you are now ready to reinstall Windows. Put your Windows CD in the drive and call the Windows setup routine with E:\setup (your CD drive device letter may be different e.g. E:, F:, etc.). Hopefully everything will go smoothly from this point, depending on how much software you want to load, you could easily be facing several hours of software loading after Windows has installed.

May 15 - Recovering files from a crashed hard drive. My hard drive crashed. I have to send it to the factory to get it replaced. I can get into the files through a recovery disk using ms-dos. I have several files that were not backed up on disk. I would like to transfer them to another computer with a cable pc/PC I tried copying them to a floppy. But whatever the problem with the hard drive it won't allow me to write to the floppy. What is the best way to do a DOS to Win98/computer to computer transfer? What software might I need to do it?

InfoHQ Answer. I have attached a small shareware file, Zipft, that will allow you to transfer files between your two computers with the purchase of a $10 null modem cable.
The only catch is, Zipft has to be running on both computers (which of course is the problem with any DOS file transfer system). So I hope you can at least copy this program to a floppy and run it in your computer with the messed up drive or this method will not work.
A null modem cable is a serial cable with serial connectors on both ends. Computer stores sometimes carry them, if you can't find one locally they are available off the Internet.
You plug the null modem cable into a serial port on both computers and then you have to use Zipft to transfer the files (a Word instruction file is included in the Zipft program, I suggest you read it thoroughly). The commercial programs Laplink and FastLynx also use a similar cabling technique , and may or may not be easier to use (any time you use DOS it requires some work) and will be much more expensive.
The second possibility I can think of is to remove the drive (if it is a desktop computer) and make it a slave drive in your second computer (a friend's computer could also be used). Files could then be copied directly from the damaged drive to your healthy hard drive, or onto floppies or to Internet drives like Driveway.com .
Procedures for removing the hard drive and reinstalling it can be found in our article, Installing a Second Hard Drive .
Both solutions discussed are not for novices. If you feel uncomfortable about the procedures, get a friend or a computer repair shop to help you.

May 8 - System continues to crash during power-on tests. Critical fault is PC wont boot past the initial "tone" stage on bootup, less than two seconds after hitting ON button. It doesn't even get to the "do-do-do" sound??? It normally gives a beep, then continues the process, but it now gets to the tone stage, and continually beeps. If it is turned off and tried again, it has booted up OK after the third or fourth try. Other symptom is the system is very slow on closing down after selecting "shut down computer". Otherwise system is showing no other problems. Been running for the last year with no problems.

InfoHQ Answer.
Possible causes. First, for a computer to boot, the CPU must be properly installed, RAM must be installed, all power connectors have to be attached, and the keyboard must be attached. Needless to say, if any of these items are not connected properly they could cause your problem.
Another cause of the problem could be your motherboard's BIOS is not configured correctly. This is resolved by comparing your settings to those that are recommended by your computer/motherboard manufacturer.
A third cause of the problem could be a malfunctioning component, such as an unstable or overclocked CPU, a malfunctioning power supply, or a shorted motherboard.
How to figure out what the beeps mean. The beeping can be interpreted by what type of BIOS you have. If you have an AMI BIOS the power on self test (POST) beep codes can be interpreted at http://www.ami.com/amibios/support/beepcodes.html .
If you have an Award BIOS you can find information on their beep and POST codes on page 7 and 8 of the document at http://www.phoenix.com/pcuser/bios-award-postcode.pdf (Award and Phoenix merged in 1998).
Not only do the above documents provide an explanation of the beep codes, they also provide good information on how to troubleshoot and resolve problems, and I recommend you read both documents.
Additional Help. If you get nowhere by yourself, its time to turn to a professional. Computer repair shops can obtain additional information on POST failures with diagnostic equipment. It might help to ask them the question, "Do you have equipment which can read ______ BIOS POST codes?" before you hand them your computer.

May 7 - How to install a CD RW drive and buying tips. I have been seriously considering purchasing a CD RW. The problem is, I am very new to computers and do not fully understand the importance of speed and ratings. Can you advice me on what I need. I intend to burn my own CD's. Price is a factor that I must seriously consider, at the same time I do not wish to wait hours upon hours to record or read. Also I have a 24x DVD read ROM, does it make sense to leave this unit installed and add to it. I am going to attempt the installation myself. Thank you in advance for whatever help you may be able to provide.

InfoHQ Answer.
Installing the drive. The first consideration is that you have an empty 5 inch drive bay, with access to the outside of your case, to house the CD RW.
The next thing you have to worry about is how to hook it up. Assuming you have one hard drive and one DVD ROM drive, you should be able to connect the drive on your secondary IDE channel along with the DVD drive. CD and DVD drives should not be slaved to a hard drive on the primary channel as this will cause poor hard drive performance.
You should open your case (after turning off the power to the computer, do not unplug it unless you have to) and make sure you have a free power connector and a free connector on the DVD drive ribbon cable to connect the CD RW. You will have to understand how to slave the CD RW to your DVD (of course you could choose to remove the DVD, or slave the DVD to the CD RW). If you choose to slave one drive to another, you will need the jumper pin settings for the DVD drive. I suggest you read our article, Installing a Second Hard Drive for procedures and illustrations of the cables and and in-depth discussion on jumper pin settings and slaving one drive to another.
Usually, you do not have to worry about BIOS settings for DVD or CD drives. However, if it becomes necessary to manually configure your BIOS for the new drive configuration, the procedures are described in the above referenced article. Test you drives to see if they work, before reassembling your computer case.

Selecting a drive. CD RW drives have three speed ratings e.g. 6X 4X 24X. The first number is the record speed, the second number is the rewrite speed, and the last number is the CD ROM read speed. The record speed is the most important number. Newer CD RW drives are available in record speeds from 4X through 10X. Prices range from $180 or less for an IDE drive with 4X speed to $300 and more for 10X IDE drives. I would suggest you stick to name brand drives like HP and Sony, and avoid the cheap off-brand drives.

Last thoughts. If you feel overwhelmed about installing the drive, large chain stores will sometimes install the drive free ( or charge a small fee) if purchased in their store. You can also buy external USB or parallel port CD RW drives.

May 2 - Motherboard's built-in video and lack of system RAM cause poor performance. Hello I'm a big fan of your website. I upgraded my computer recently from a Pentium 200mhz, 32mb memory & 1.6gb hard drive to a Pentium 3 450 MHz, 32mb memory & 1.6 hard drive. Unfortunately, I am not happy with the performance of my computer. Do you have any solution for my problem ? By the way the motherboard I'm using is a Tomatoboard 810 on board Sound and video card.

InfoHQ Answer. First, go through your BIOS settings and make sure you have the motherboard configured correctly. Assuming you have the board optimized, the question comes down to why isn't
your system performing acceptably?

What might be curtailing your performance.
1. System RAM -- 32 MB (of PC100 RAM) is not enough RAM. You are choking your system with 32 MB of RAM. If your on-board video card doesn't have its own Video RAM you are actually running about 28 MB or less of RAM. Go out and buy at least a 64 MB DIMM and upgrade your RAM to 96 MB.
2. Onboard Video -- After you fix the RAM problem, buy yourself a good 16 or
32 MB video card. I suggest a Voodoo or NVIDIA based card. Slow video (which
you have) will make a Pentium III run like a snail.

After these two upgrades your system should be a performer. If it still isn't running correctly, invest in a brand name motherboard like ABit, Asus, etc. Don't buy another  motherboard with onboard video or audio.

May 1 - Reader asks for advice on buying a used laptop. I have been looking at Internet sites that specialize in selling used computers and equipment (despite your "do's and don'ts" advice). I wanted to buy a stand-alone laptop to be used mainly for windows-based word-processing and limited internet access. I cannot afford a new or top quality used laptop, and I do not need any fancy features. This is something more for personal use and not something that will necessarily need to be that upgradeable. I'm looking for something simple (CD-ROM drive is not necessary, but a floppy drive would be helpful), yet not completely obsolete. Do you have any advice? Specific brands and models to look for or avoid? Web sites that are more reputable than others? I'm, perhaps optimistically, looking for something that will fall into the $200-$350 range. I have seen a lot of Toshiba's, Compaq's and IBM ThinkPads advertised on the internet, but I am very uninformed as to what I should be looking for. I would greatly appreciate it if someone could answer my questions or point me in the right direction. Thank you.

InfoHQ Answer. Here's how I see the used laptop market with the best choice first and the worst choice last. <Of course as you assume more risk, the price of the Laptop/Notebook drops.>

1. Remanufactured from the Factory. Most of the big computer manufacturers resell returned and obsolete laptops and desktops. You can get a 10%-20% discount on these items with decent warranties. Usually you are also provided full factory customer support. Most can be returned for a full refund within a trial period.

2. Large computer stores and Internet dealers. These Laptops and Notebooks are cheaper but they will typically have only a 90 day warranty. The source of the laptop/notebook could be from the factory or it could be castoffs from large corporations. Most carry a 15% restocking fee fine for return.

3. Auctions, Newspapers, Swap meets. No warranties usually are given other than not dead-on-arrival (DOA). Source and condition of the laptop is difficult to determine. Counterfeit parts are a big problem in desktops, sometimes in laptops. On the other hand, these laptops are heavily discounted. Usually, cannot be returned unless defective or DOA.

Conclusion: Unless you are buying a remanufactured notebook from the factory, my advice is that the inexperienced buyer should not try to buy a used laptop. This is because 1. you have to be able to rapidly access whether or not the laptop is fully functional in a very short period of time, 2. there is no warranty or customer assistance to help you with hardware and software problems 3. you can wind up with a pile of broken nothing if you are not careful and 4. in most cases you would be much better off buying a low-end new laptop then buying someone else's 3 year old beast that may only last a year.
To illustrate my 4th point, I recently saw an IBM Pentium 166 MHz notebook with 40 MB of RAM, a 12.1 TFT screen, a 3 GB hard drive, and CD-ROM selling for $800 with a 90 day warranty. Perusing our Sunday Shopping Watch, I see that the cheapest Laptop on Sunday April 30th was a HP K6-2 475 MHz notebook for $999. The HP notebook's processor is three times as fast as the IBM's P166, it has 32 MB RAM (4 MB is shared video RAM, however it is probably faster than the IBM notebook's), it has a 4.8 GB hard drive, 12.1 inch HPA passive matrix screen (that may be as good as the IBM TFT?), Polk Stereo Sound, and a one year factory warranty. So for $200 more, don't you think the new laptop is the better buy?

Final thoughts. You might be still be thinking, "I can get that IBM on EBay for $500 and I would save some money!" Again, you might be lucky and save money if you know what you are doing, or you just might be unlucky and buy yourself a $500 headache. I have no web sites that I think are better than others for used laptops and notebooks and frankly, I think the used computer market is best left to professionals and serious hobbyists.

April 26 - InfoHQ Tip: E-mail Backup; Preserving your E-mail with Eudora, Outlook Express, and Outlook. Sooner or later the time will come when you will need to backup your E-mail Inbox and Outbox folders. Whether you want to upgrade to a new computer system, reload Windows 95/98/NT to a new directory or hard drive, or you want to preserve your E-mail from future disasters; knowing how to backup your E-mail is a must. First, let's look at how E-mail works before diving into the subject of backup.
How E-mail Works. Your Internet Service Provider (the company name on the other side of the "@" symbol, e.g. @aol.com, @mindspring.com, @infohq.com) receives E-mail addressed to your server mail folder --yourname@ISP.com. When you go online and check your mail, your ISP transfers the mail from your server mail folder to your computer. Your computer then stores the transferred mail in an Inbox folder on your computer. Unless you choose the E-mail program option of "leave a copy on the server", your mail is deleted from the server when it is transferred to your computer.
Once the E-mail is downloaded, it becomes your job to read it, save it, or trash it. We all know how to delete unwanted E-mail, but exactly how does one go about saving it?
Backing up the Good E-mail. In Eudora, Outlook Express, and Outlook, E-mails can be saved one at a time by selecting an E-mail and then choosing the "File/Save As" menu command. Also, you usually have the choice of saving an E-mail in an E-mail format or as a text file (E-mail format can only be read by the E-mail program, text files can be read by many different programs including word processors, data bases, and spreadsheets). All well and good, however, what happens when you want to save an entire Inbox, Outbox, or Mailbox?
In Eudora, the files In.mbx and Out.mbx located in C:\Eudora or C:\Program Files\Eudora need to be copied to a different directory for backup purposes. The easiest way to read them would require renaming your current In.mbx and Out.mbx and copying the old files back to the original directory (remember to rename the current files or you will write over them and destroy your current E-mail).
If you are using Outlook Express, backup is a little easier. To locate your Mailbox, select "Tools/Options/Maintenance/Store Folder". You will see the local path of your Mailbox displayed and the choices of "Change", "OK", or "Cancel". Don't select any of these choices, instead write down the file name (or if you're a Jeopardy player I guess you could remember it) and then select cancel.
Use "My Computer" on the Windows desktop to locate the Mailbox and to "copy" it to a different directory. Once you have copied the Mailbox I suggest you rename it to something descriptive by 'left clicking' on the copied file name and selecting "rename".
To use the backup Mailbox you would again select "Tools/Options/Maintenance/Store Folder" and this time you would choose the selection "Change". You would then choose the file that is your backup mailbox. Make sure you write down the location of your current Mailbox so you can revert back to it once you are finished using the backup.
Backing up E-mail with Outlook, is the busy man's dream. Of the three E-mail programs mentioned in this article, only Outlook has a "Save to File" option. By selecting "File/Import and Export/Export to a file", not only is backup painless, but it also becomes very useful. You can export the file as an Access, Excel, Foxpro, dBase, or other comma delimited file. Or you can select the .pst file file type if you just want to backup your mail without changing its format.
Again, no matter which file format you choose, name the file something relevant and save it where you can find it.
To read exported mail, use the Export and Import command and choose the appropriate import option.

April 17 - I have reloaded Windows 98 five times on my K6-2 system and it still crashes. What else can I try? My K6-2 450 system has 128 MB RAM, 8.4 GB HDD, and 4.3 GB Slave(empty). Using Diamond Stealth Extreme S540 w/32 MB RAM. Running Win98, Mcafee Virus etc. My system locks up on various programs for no reason, sometimes I get the famous blue screen. I had to reload Windows 5 times in last month. If I install win 98 SE. it wont run at all. It won't keep the sound card loaded, it dumps about twice a week. Any ideas?

InfoHQ Answer. I noticed you said that you upgraded your system. I'll have to assume that at one point the computer was running correctly after the upgrade. Hardware issues that could be problems could include RAM speed settings or wait states being set incorrectly in the BIOS. Review all your BIOS SDRAM settings with your motherboard manual handy. You could also try some of the less aggressive BIOS settings discussed in our article, Getting Your Games Running Instead of Crashing .
If that doesn't help, and you have no hardware conflicts reported by Win 98, then I might also suggest that Windows has become corrupt to the point it cannot be reloaded to the same directory. Also, when Windows is loaded to a different directory on the same drive it can still retain some settings. If I were you, and you are sure you have no hardware problems, I would format my drive and reload Windows from scratch.

Our Reader Responded: I took your suggestions, I followed the book page by page and rechecked ALL settings to include the ram chipset. I then low level formatted the hard drive and started from scratch, so far so good. I reloaded win98 and the win98 SE. then reinstalled the video card and no lockups of any kind. The problem then reoccured when I loaded the SR-1 patch. This I beleive to be the culpurt.
I then redid everything from scratch one more time but left out the SR-1 patch, it now seems to be running great. So it seems the patch is not a good idea till Microsoft manages to fix the bugs in it.

April 16 - Is it possible to uninstall Windows 2000 and reinstall Windows 98? My son added Office 2000. I want to take 2000 off and return to 98. Can I remove 2000 and will 98 still be on the machine? If I remove 2000 and 98 is not left on the computer can I reinstall 98? Thank you for any help.

InfoHQ Answer. I found this on Microsoft's site at www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade,"Windows 2000 Professional does not provide an uninstall feature. You will not be able to return to your previous version of Windows after installing Windows 2000 unless you completely reinstall your older version of Windows and all of your programs."
I would assume that after booting Windows 2000 you could insert your Windows 98 CD and begin reinstalling Windows 98. However, if your son converted your disk drive to the NTFS file system (Windows NT file system) you will not be able to load Windows 98. Per Microsoft, "The conversion to NTFS is one-way. You will not be able to convert your drive back to FAT <Windows 95/98 file system> if you choose to upgrade your drive."
If your drive was converted to NTFS, you will have to reformat your drive and reload all your software.

April 11 - Should I upgrade my dual PII 300 motherboard with a second processor, or should I buy a new system? -- The old, "Are two heads better than one?" question. I am considering the purchase of a new pc for 3d modeling/animation. I primarily use 3d Studio Max, Photoshop, AfterEffects... However, I have an old pentium II 300 128MB system that I could upgrade with a second processor (it has a dual motherboard). My question: Is it worth upgrading the older system or should I invest that money in a newer system? (also, will Windows 98 or 2000 recognize the second processor?)

InfoHQ Answer. Your situation is a tough call. Obviously, the upgrade of your old system is much less expensive. However it is becoming dated, and may or may not be worth an additional investment. So let's look at the numbers, and what performance you should expect to gain, from an upgrade to the old system vs. the expense of buying a new system.
First we need to discuss the benefits of having two processors. Two or more processor systems are mostly used in server applications. The reason for this is the benefit of the second processor is mostly realized in non-graphic business applications. In its role as a server, the second processor can provide almost a 100% percent speed increase over a single server system. This is demonstrated by looking at Zdnet's test results of several dual Pentium Pro machines and comparing the performance of the the systems running the ZD Server Benchmark with one and two processors (the Dell is a good example).
Okay. So we know two processors are good for processing a high number of server transactions. However, the software you have listed is graphics intensive, and therefore the speed of the floating point coprocessor on the CPU is the main factor (in addition to the speed of the graphics processor on the graphics card) in achieving high performance.
So will we see a doubling of graphics processing/floating point speed by adding a second processor? Sorry, no. As a matter of fact, dual processors actually test slower than single processor systems when performing floating point operations.
A review of the benchmark floating point tests performed by ScientificWeb.de on several different processors including dual and single Pentium II and Pentium III systems shows the weak performance of dual processor systems when performing floating point operations.
To illustrate, a Pentium II 400 MHz system, running Windows NT 4 Service Pack 5, actually tested 20 % faster (484 vs 619, 20% faster) than a Dual Pentium II 400 MHz configuration on the same motherboard with the same operating system, and was actually 14% faster than the dual Pentium III 450 system running Linux Kernel 2.2.12.
Furthermore, a single Pentium III 550, also running Windows NT 4 Service Pack 5, was tested to be 24% faster than the single processor Pentium II 400 system (390 vs.484).
So are these tests the gospel truth? Probably not. These machines appear to be tested individually with uncontrolled configurations. However, they do show a trend in that the dual processor machines could not best the single processor machines in floating point. However your question was could a dual processor machine could run 3d Studio Max, Photoshop, and Aftereffects faster.
To take full advantage of two processors, a dual processor capable operating system has to be used (Windows NT, Windows 2000, BeOS, or Linux), so you would not be able to continue using Win98.
The second requirement is that the software has to be written to take advantage of multithreaded processing. Both Photoshop 5 and 3d Studio Max have been written for multithreaded processing.
I could not find multithreaded speed gains discussed on Adobe's site. The only allusion to it is per Adobe, "The following plug-ins enable multiprocessor support in Adobe Photoshop. Both plug-ins are included on the Photoshop CD-ROM and are installed by default: - The Multiprocessor Extension plug-in for Mac OS - The Mthread.8bx plug-in for Windows NT. Multiprocessor support can enhance Photoshop's speed by allowing it to divide work between two chips. Photoshop functions that utilize this technology are determined by the hardware, not by Adobe." Doesn't sound very promising, does it?
On the 3d Studio Max discussion forum, users claimed to be experiencing a 20% to 100% rendering improvement when using two processors when performing specific tasks.
In summary, its very difficult to tell what performance gains you would experience from having two processors. Obviously, in graphics programs that have no multiprocessing support, there will be negative, or small, gains in speed. For the programs that have been optimized the speed gains are difficult to determine.
The cost of the second CPU is not the biggest factor in this decision. The bigger problem is, "Do you want to learn a new operating system (OS)?" Not only will you have to learn a new OS, which has to be Windows NT or Windows 2000 to run Adobe products, you also have the problem of some of your hardware/software not working with the new OS.

Conclusion. First Choice: If I were you, and the speed of your computer is acceptable, I would not put the second processor in. Instead, I would buy an additional 128-256 MB of RAM and do no other modifications to the system. The additional RAM will allow you to load more graphics into memory without your system accessing the hard disk which will slow a single or dual CPU system down. Dumping memory data to the hard drive is also known as using "virtual memory" or a more adequate description is disk thrashing. The cost for 256 MB of SDRAM is around $200.
Second Choice. Buy the additional memory and add the second processor. Also, pick a new OS out, debug it on your system, and hope your software can experience the promised speed gains. Total cost: $150 CPU, Windows 2000 $200, 256 MB RAM $200 = $550 (assuming all your hardware and software is compatible with Windows 2000? or other OS). If you want to experiment with two CPUs, but still be able to run Windows 98, I suggest you buy a program called System Commander (about $70 at Best Buy). System Commander will let you load and run multiple OSs on the same system. So if the Windows NT/2000 experiment doesn't work, you can still use Windows 98 to run your programs.
Third Choice: New system. Cost??

April 6 - Trouble getting a home-built Athlon system to boot.
Hello, I am building a complete new system based on the Athlon processor. When I turn the system on I get no response -- fans come on, CPU warms after a bit of time and hard drive comes on. There is power going where it is supposed to.
The only components used that are not on the Athlon preferred list of AMD are the case, which is still slot1 compatible, 250watt ATX power, and the SDRAM, which is Micron P133 128meg (the serial number is not listed with the other Micron compatible SDRAM listed).
The video card is an ATI all in wonder 128. I tried removing and replacing a couple of times, still no luck. I have no display on my monitor. The keyboard I am building with is an older one using a p2 adapter till my new one gets here but I don't think that could cause no display, not even a cursor on the monitor.
I was extremely careful when assembling, have done this once before (4 years ago with Motherboard and CPU) with my older system, and have always upgraded cards and components myself, yet never had a problem like this. Motherboard (FIC SD11) is mounted correctly (on a rear slide out type case).
SDRAM is Micron SDRAM # MT48LC8M8A2TG. The recommended Micron SDRAM has a -8E at the end. Not sure if it is different than what I have. I disconnected all drives before starting up the computer, still no screen (stays on standby setting).
I tried other monitor, with same result. Tried older PCI video card, no change. My only other thought is....could the Motherboard or CPU be dead on arrival? or, am I doing something wrong? Any, and I do mean Any, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

InfoHQ Answer. I have a couple of thoughts on this. First, I believe this is not a video card issue since you tried different cards with no result. Also, the likelihood of the motherboard or CPU being damaged is very low if you handled them correctly. So assuming the video card is OK, makes me also believe that your computer is not getting to the DOS memory post test.
The keyboard issue is not a player as the computer will pass the memory post test before failing the keyboard check, and this would be reported on your screen. After reading several reviews on the SD11, and visiting the FIC and AMD sites, I have a couple more thoughts.
1. I think the RAM you bought could keep the computer from booting. There seems to be specific requirements on the FIC site and I can not identify the RAM you bought. The AMD web site specifically states that unbuffered SDRAM must be used. Can your RAM be exchanged for one of the recommended RAM part numbers? Before you return it, try reseating it a few times.
2. Another thing that could keep the computer from reaching post is the accessory case connectors not being attached correctly. Make sure they are connected to the correct pins on the motherboard and that they all face in the same direction or you could be crossing the pins.

I have attached a couple of statements from some of the motherboard reviews that I thought were relevant.
From: http://active-hardware.com/english/reviews/mainboard/sd11-3.htm "The SD11's weak points are its total lack of frequency adjustment options, the impossibility of using a 133Mhz system bus - and consequently PC133 memory, a lackluster software bundle, and a complete lack of all the functions typically found on the majority of motherboards."
From: http://bxboards.com/mainboard/athlon/fic-sd11.shtml "Copious RAM tweaking options are available. While the BIOS configures itself by SPD EPROM by default, SPD tends to be conservative, so for those with PC133 or other fast RAM, there is plenty of tweaking potential. The board as supplied for review had no bus speed selection. However the latest BIOS, available for download from FIC's Taiwan site, allows the selection of 120 and 133Mhz. I can't say any more about this, other than it didn't work for me, although another BXB staffer, Craig had some limited success at 120Mhz."

The FIC web page on the SD11 motherboard is http://www.fica.com/English/product/motherboard/slotA/sd11.htm .
The AMD web site page with hints, tips, and requirements for building an Athlon system.
http://www1.amd.com/athlon/config .

April 5 - What is causing Windows 98 computer to lose drivers and to enter Safe Mode?
Pentium 100 MHz 48 meg ram 6 gig HD Windows 98. Was working OK till a normal shut down. On reboot it goes to window protection mode, either requiring resetting the video settings due to conflict?, or goes to illegal function and locks up, either way it shows an illegal function at so and so location and locks up.
Has been losing the video setting recently and coming up in window protection mode. Even lost the time and date setting yesterday. It appears to be increasing it's problems. No detectable battery on motherboard.
Two days ago it would call for a resetting the monitor settings and then be OK till a power outage or normal shut down. We normally leave the machine on 24 hours a day.
Question: Do we have EPROM problem, a CMOS problem, or a board problem or??????
Thanking you for your advice.

InfoHQ Answer. I suspect you have software problems due to Windows 98 becoming unstable. The failures you describe are typical of Windows errors. Microsoft even admits that Windows 98 crashes and average of once a day.
There are a few things you should do before we assume it is caused by Windows. The first thing you need to do is run an updated virus checker, so you can eliminate a virus as the cause. The second thing you need to do is run Windows Scandisk  (click on MyComputer and right click on your hard drive icon and then select properties, then select tools). The purpose of running Scandisk is to make sure that errors on your hard drive are not causing the crashes. Numerous hard drive errors are an indication that your hard drive is failing and should be replaced.
Once these two causes are eliminated, its time to look at problems caused by Windows. Over time, Windows 95 and 98 can become corrupt as programs are added and deleted. It is not untypical that drivers are lost, especially if old drivers exist on the computer or new equipment has been recently added. Even running several  programs at one time can cause a computer to use up all its available RAM and crash. These crashes can also cause loss of video and other drivers.
So what are the remedies? There are two ways to address an unstable Windows installation: the easy way and the hard way.
 The easy way is to reinstall Windows into the same directory it is currently installed in and hope it overwrites the corrupt files. You will lose none of your settings or software installations and it should only take about 30 minutes. One of the drawbacks of the easy way is that it causes Internet Explorer 5 to be uninstallable. This could prevent you from upgrading to new versions of Internet Explorer (note that there are cures for this, but we'll leave that for another time).
The hard way is to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch. You will have to reinstall all your software, drivers, Internet settings etc. (so write down any information you need to remember, like Internet access numbers, before you format your drive). This method could take many hours to complete, however you would not have any "garbage" remaining in your Windows directory. Many "purists" believe in the hard way as the only way to deal with an unstable Windows installation as it cleans up all the old drivers and files that could have caused the original problems.
I recommend you try the easy way. It only takes about 30 minutes and you're up and running again. I have reloaded Windows 98 over itself on the same machine at least 5 times and have cured similar corrupted/missing driver problems. Now as you might suspect, my machine probably crashes more than it should, but I load and unload so many programs on my systems that it is hardly worthwhile to do it the hard way.
One last thought in closing, power outages can cause software corruption due to surges and low power brown outs. While it is not the policy of many businesses to use uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) on desktop computers, anyone that is concerned with protecting their computer from data loss and physical damage should use an UPS.  While surge protectors can save your computer from catastrophic damage, they do not regulate the power entering the computer like an UPS does.

April 4 - Reader wants to know if he should buy outdated hard disk drives. - That's a definite No.
Hi, I have some question regarding buying hard dives. I don't know this is the right place for asking questions about hard drives, but.. My questions is what are the common things I should be look for or what are the things about hard drive I need to look for before buying this product?
* Is Micropolis Mustang a good hard drive to buy?..
*What can i do if product was not tested or formatted, should I buy it and test and formatted it myself ?
Thank you very much for your time.

InfoHQ Answer. It seems like the company Micropolis is out of business. Links to their web site do not work. The drive I keep turning up is a vintage 1998 2.5 GB drive. I have no idea what model you are talking about?

I think you should leave these drives alone unless you want to do a ton of work to get them running. Sounds like the drives are not low-level formatted, which means you would need a utility to do this. The fact that you are writing to ask about the drive is enough reason for me to tell you to leave these drives alone.
You can get brand new in the box 2.5 GB drives for well under $100. Why would you want to buy a headache?

April 3 - Mac user wants to know the best way to be PC compatible. Emulation software? Disk reading programs? I think not.
I am buying a new computer. Problem is, I have always been a Mac user, however I am now freelancing on personal accounts for clients with PCs. I would like to take my work home rather than work on their computer.
The only way to do this would be have a PC or have a program on my Mac to enable running the PC stuff. How effective are these programs and what are pros and cons? Or should I just bite the bullet and convert to being a PC owner? Is there a way I could keep my old Mac info? Is this a dumb question??

InfoHQ Answer. I am a PC user that rarely uses Macs. I have always heard the PC emulation programs ran slowly or not at all. I have no idea what the latest and greatest emulation software is, nor how fast or reliably it would run on a G4 with large quantities of RAM.
However, it would probably be a safe bet that you could buy a low-end Win98 PC for around $600 and run all the programs better and faster.
I would recommend that you buy a reasonably priced Celeron (K6-2 can be substituted if money is a problem) system with a speed of 400 MHz or better with at least 64 MB of RAM that comes with Win 98 installed. You might need more RAM if you are using RAM hungry programs like Adobe Photoshop 5. You may or may not need a new monitor, depending on what you use for your Mac.
This should run all of your work software, while allowing you to save up for your new G4.

April 3 - How can I recover data from a crashed hard drive that will no longer run Windows? My hard drive crashed. I have to send it to the factory to get it replaced. I can get into the files through a recovery disk using ms-dos. I have several files that were not backed up on disk. I would like to transfer them to another computer with a cable pc/pc. I tried copying them to a floppy. but whatever the problem with the hard drive it won't allow me to write to the floppy. What is the best way to do a DOS to Win98/computer to computer transfer? What software might I need to do it? Thanks for your help. I hope my question is understandable.

InfoHQ Answer. I have attached a small file, Zipft - a shareware program available for download at http://www.zdnet.com, that will allow you to transfer files between your two computers with the purchase of a $10 null modem cable. The only catch is, Zipft has to be running on both computers (which of course is the problem with any DOS file transfer system). So I hope you can at least copy this program to a floppy, and run it on your computer with the messed up drive or this method will not work.
A null modem cable is a serial cable with serial connectors on both ends. Computer stores sometimes carry them, if you can't find one locally they are available on the Internet. You plug the null modem cable into a serial port on both computers and then you have to use Zipft to transfer the files (a Word instruction file is included in the Zipft program, I suggest you read it thoroughly).
The commercial programs Laplink and FastLynx also use a similar cabling technique, and may or may not be easier to use (any time you use DOS it requires some work) and would be much more expensive.

2. The second possibility I can think of is to remove the drive (if it is a desktop computer) and make it a slave drive in your second computer (a friend's computer could also be used). Files could then be copied directly from the damaged drive to your healthy hard drive, or onto floppies, or to Internet drives like Driveway.com . Procedures for removing the drive and reinstalling it can be found in our article, Installing a Second Hard Drive.

Both solutions discussed are not for novices. If you feel uncomfortable about the procedures, get a friend or a computer repair shop to help you. Let us know how it works out.

March 29 -What types of RAM are interchangeable?
I have been trying to locate information on what types of RAM are interchangeable or compatible with each other and am having no luck at all. I realize that it depends on the motherboard chipset specs. In general, what types of RAM are interchangeable and what are the performance specifications of the different types of RAM currently in use? Thanks-you have helped before-am looking forward to your answer.

InfoHQ Answer. There are basically three types of SDRAM that can (notice the word can) be interchangable:
-- PC 66 (for Celerons, older K6-2s, older Pentium IIs) which is designed for a 66 MHz bus
-- PC100 (for Athlons, Pentium II and IIIs, and newer K6-2s) for the 100 MHz bus
-- PC133 (for motherboards that support a 133 MHz bus which is used for all Coppermine PIIIs, and is just being made available for Athlons).
Now some points to remember. RAM cannot run faster than the bus it is installed on. So it does no good to use PC133 SDRAM on a 100 MHz bus, as it will only run at 100 MHz (unless of course you overclock the bus to a higher speed).
Also, you should never use RAM that is slower than the CPUs suggested bus speed e.g. don't use PC66 SDRAM for a Pentium III.
You can mix the three speeds of SDRAM, if you buy the same voltage and type. You cannot mix ECC and non-ECC SDRAM together.
If you mix different speed SDRAM in the same computer, the RAM will only run at the speed of the slowest DIMM no matter what the bus speed. So say you have a 133 MHz bus and you mix PC133 and PC100 on the same board. The fastest the RAM will run is 100 MHz.
Rambus DRAM and DDR DRAM are twice as fast as PC100 DRAM and cannot be mixed with other types of DRAM.
You can find more information on RAM types and speeds on our Computer Hardware Predictions page.

March 26 - Where can I find free marketing data on computers and software sold in the US?
Thanks for your quick reply. I rummaged around a little more (that is I fumbled around for two hours before I found it) and came up with the market share data I was after on the Gartner and Dataquest sites, http://www.dataquest.com/. In case anybody asks. It was free, and I found 1999 market shares for both chips and PCs.

InfoHQ Comment. We were stumped on this one, however our reader persevered and passed this info along to us.

March 22 - Computer show bargain computer not so cheap after all.
Hi, my name is Carlton. I would like to have seen your site before I went to a computer show here in my hometown. I thought I had knew a little bit about buying a home PC and thought I could get a better price. The PC was great for the couple of months before it started to have problems. The tech support was a long distant call the store that I had purchase the PC from turn out to have closed and went bottom up, so I was stuck with a broken PC. So I would like to tell everyone that this is a true site to review before buying your own PC. Thanks, Carlton.
P.S. Thank you for showing the do's and don't before buying your home computer!

InfoHQ Comment. Leave computer shows, swap meets, and auctions alone unless you are a very experienced computer buyer. Purchases from these places are usually not guaranteed by the seller, or the seller may not be around when something goes wrong.
Please see our How to use Online Auctions, and How to Buy a Computer pages for more information.

March 14 - Building a computer or buying -- which is cheaper?
I am looking to build a desk top computer at some point in the near future and I was wondering if you could answer a question (or two) for me. I was wondering, is it cheaper to buy parts and build a computer, or cheaper to buy one already built? Also, if it is cheaper to build one, do you know of any companies that sell parts at a good prices?

InfoHQ Answer: It is cheaper to build a computer if you know what you are doing. It is very difficult to assemble a computer from parts and to have it work when you press the power button. You have to be very comfortable with installing hardware, changing BIOS settings, installing software drivers, and manipulating IRQ settings.
Weird things can happen when you build a computer. On my last computer, I had to reseat my video card four times before it would function properly. That being said, you should consult our Computer Vendor page for places to buy parts from.

March 14 - Buy a video card now or wait for a better one? - the ultimate dilemma.
I can't decide on a good video card. I want to play Diablo II (2d game). I also want to play Teamfortress II(3d game) and I want the best fill rate, color, and speed all in one.
I'm pulling my hair out here, and am deathly afraid of being out dated. If I spend $240 for a Pro Annihilator (GeForce 256 with 32 MB DDR memory) now how long will I have to wait before someone comes up with a better card for under $300? Please help.

InfoHQ Answer: You can expect new improved video cards to come out at least every 6 months. If you try to buy high-end video cards every 6 months to a year, you will go broke. If you settle for a mid-range video card (like a RIVA TNT2 or Ultra) you will not be on the cutting edge, but you will be able to replace your card more often and you don't have to go through the video driver update/debug process. <Last week NVidia announced GeForce 256 64 MB DDR cards, see our InfoHQ 3D Video Card Roundup for more information.>

March 14 - Online Auction locator sites -- a reader suggests an addition.
Another site worth mentioning is BiddersEdge.com I usually prefer it to bidfind, plus they send you alerts and show historic average prices of the auction.
Your site is very helpful, funny I hadn't heard of it before.

InfoHQ Answer. Thanks for the feedback. I've added biddersedge.com to our How to Use Online Auctions page with your comments.

March 8 - A college professor straightens us out on hard drive capacity.
Reader's Comment: I just discovered your site--very nice. I'm about to teach a class on buying a computer and InfoHQ will definitely be one of the resources I point my students to.
One minor quibble. In the 'adding a second hard drive' page you state that a gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 bytes. That's not quite true (though often close enough for casual conversation). Like most things computer, quantities are always in powers of 2. A Kilobyte is 1024 (2^10) bytes. A Megabyte is 1024 Kilobytes or 1,048,576 bytes (2^20) and a Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes or > 1,073,741,824 bytes (2^30). I think if you apply those numbers you'll find that, indeed, Windows does report the drive size correctly.

InfoHQ Reply: Thanks for your comments. After a little more investigation, I have found that you are indeed correct. I suppose the HD manufacturers use the "literal" meaning as it results in larger capacities.
In conclusion, it appears that hard drive manufacturers report the capacity of their drives literally" -- 1 GB = 1 Billion bytes as this results in a larger reported capacity, while Windows reports the "true" capacity of the drive -- 1 GB = 1,073,741,824 bytes which results in a smaller reported drive size.
Thanks for your input, we updated our article Installing a Second Hard Drive, with your comments.

March 8 - Is it possible to upgrade your notebook's hard drive without sending it to the factory? Well ...yes and no.
Reader's Question: My question is: Where can I find information on how to do my own hardware upgrade on a Hitachi laptop computer? In particular, instructions for HDD replacement. Hitachi considers all tech info to be proprietary so that users will have work done at Hitachi authorized service depots.

InfoHQ Answer: Laptop innards appear to be a closely guarded secret. As a result, there are no build your own laptop motherboards or cases -- at least none that I'm aware of. You could try posting your question to bulletin boards like those on CNet.
However, I will give you some general advice. All major components of a laptop/notebook are controlled or limited by the motherboard's BIOS e.g. video properties, LCD screen compatibility, RAM type and capacity, and hard drive type and capacity.
A couple of things to keep in mind; you don't want to fiddle with your notebook if it is still under warranty unless you are very sure of what you are doing and you want to be sure that your laptop can handle the type of hard drive you want to install. Usually the specs of the notebook will state the maximum size hard drive that can be used.
Once you know what you can upgrade to, the next step is to take the laptop case apart. You need to expose the inside of the laptop so you can find the hard drive. Once you have found it, you should be able to uninstall it and put in a new drive. Let me know how things turn out.

Reader's Reply. Thanks for the advice. I was able to resolve the size and compatibility issue by speaking with Hitachi "techsoup" as I now like to call them. They (could not?) would not tell me if it was 8.5, 9.5 or 12mm that I needed. I am familiar with desktops (mine, relatives, friends, etc) so the key problem is "safely cracking the box" on the notebook to find the size (which is most likely 9.5mm) and then change it. If I find documentation and/or good sites for this problem I will try to see that you get copies.
Reader's Second Reply: Here is what I found out. The M100D is one of two models of Hitachi notebooks that have internal HDD (as opposed to module or bay?). Access is "a closely guarded secret" and "a chore" even for those who've done it before. Screws are removed, top and bottom separate (but not easily), three (easily damaged) ribbon cables to the keyboard restrict separation and must be carefully disconnected. The remaining is still a chore requiring significant disassembly.
The drive is not 8.5mm, 9.5mm, 12mm (the normal standards I am told) but is 12.5mm. The M100D is HDD supported for up to 2GB only and warranted only if service depot installed. There have been cases where larger drive upgrades have caused over heating and MB burnout (i.e. known problem"). What the Hitachi service depot will charge to install a HDD... about CA $400 - 2GB or CA $500 - 4GB not including shipping to/from my location.
If your notebook is out of warrantee and you don't 'depend' on it and you are a gung-ho Do-It-Yourselfer then you might want to try it at home but not me. If I upgrade the internal HDD I'll do it thru Hitachi authorized service.
My Solution: StatuQuo. Sacrifice more seldom used applications. Wait to see if prices come down. If I was going to spend CA $500 on capacity problems then I think I would look for a good deal on an external scsi/pcmcia solution. A little inconvenient, but, even if it is a little more $, one has the consolation of keeping it after the notebook is replaced and also, with the purchase of another adapter, using it with other systems such as the desktop.

Home Systems: Great Deals from Dell Computers
Special Offers from Dell Home Systems

 

| Top |Computer Buying Advice |InfoHQ Homepage|

|Data Privacy Policy | Copyright© Notice|