Tricks and Tips

Proper Approach In PC Troubleshooting

Today I will discussed some troubleshooting approach that may help shorten your time in solving/isolating a particular PC problem.

Based on experience, I often encountered problems that seems a major problem when its not.
An example of this is a blackout motherboard only to find out that cmos enable switch is wrongfully set or there is no jumper inserted on the CMOS enable switch.

Another example is that you just transfered your PC in a different location, and when you plug everything you got a non responsive unit or PC on a continues reset, only to find out that PC was wrongfully inserted on the 110V power source, instead on the 220V outlet.

There are other scenarios that you will encounter in troubleshooting a particular problem, but with the right approach you can shorten the time in your troubleshooting.

Listed below are my basic approach in PC troubleshooting,

1.Talk to the user first what he/she noticed before the PC bogged down, often it will perform strangely, it this way you may have a hint to were you start your troubleshooting.

2.Try to establish if the problem cause by a software or a hardware, in this way you can cut half of your time in troubleshooting.

3.Look for minor cause of a particular problem first before digging deeper unto it, you may wrongfully reformat a PC that intermittently resets but later you found out that its just a case of poor memory contact on its slot or a clogged processor heatsink.

Thats all for now folks, I hope this particular topic help enhance your troubleshooting skills!

Just another LAN problem with a twist

Its another busy week, one problem I encounter that I want to post here is about a LAN connection problem on a problematic RJ45 connection.

The problem indicates a no connectivity even if LAN cable is inserted(take note that this is a previously working connection), on the first look of the situation there are possible scenarios that may have caused it, it maybe cause by problematic LAN cable or RJ45 connection,a LAN card problem or perhaps a software problem.

The first thing I did is checked and re-crimped(without replacing the connector) both ends of the LAN cable(visually connection looks fine) but problem still the same. I go ahead on replacing a different LAN card(PC is using a PCI LAN card), when I rebooted the system it detects the new hardware and load the corresponding driver but still a no connectivity exist. What else is left, a cable or a software problem? this will requires a lot of work if I will replaced either of the two, so I look for other ways to confirmed the problem.

Before I continue, I just want to add more info about this particular problem, the problem occurs after the two PC has switched location.The reason I include this fact because this will be bring twist to the problem. I re-inserted that problematic cable to another PC, it's actually the one being previously switched and to my big surprise the connection did work fine.

I re-insert both PCI LAN card to the other PC, still no connectivity exist. The LAN device used on the particular PC where the particular connection work is on board(strange?), I replaced both RJ45 connectors on the problematic connection and connectivity backs to normal.

A not so good RJ45 connection exists from the very beginning the LAN cable was installed its just it works on the original PC which is using an on board LAN, the problem was only discovered when the user switched PC.

One of my most unforgettable moments in pc servicing?

The year is 1997 and I am just starting on my new job in one of the leading IT companies in our country, one of my task that day is to replace a not fully functional keyboard in one of our clients. The company is one of the biggest tire manufacturer at that time and the unit was an Acer Pentium 1 CPU used to run their company's quality assurance software. Considering the degree of work to be done I am not expecting I will experience some problems on that particular task.

When I arrive on site, the unit is turned on and its running the application mentioned above. One of the QA engineer informed me that they cannot shot down the unit because they are running some tests and it will take some time before the tests is done. Since I cannot wait all day long, I suggested that I will just pull out the old keyboard and plug-in the new one while the unit is turned on. At first they are hesitant, but after consulting in one of their in-house programmer they let me do the thing.

Technically speaking it is possible that you unplugged and plugged keyboard even if CPU is turned on(but not safe if CPU is performing a task) , so I am confident that everything will be just fine. So I unplugged the old keyboard and plugged the new one but after the new keyboard is plugged, the system hangs-up and I started to feel nervous. The operation was halted and I have no choice but to restart the system, but the worst is yet to come because after restarting, the system already indicates a disk boot failure and later I found out that the hard drive crashed and all their precious data is gone. The department supervisor got mad at me claiming that they have no back-up of that application and it will be difficult to rebuild the database. Later I was brought to their IT manager for questioning and threatened to have me pay any loses I have made. I explained my side and insists that I was given a go signal in one of his staff.

Finally, after almost 3 hours of questioning and redundant explanations I was allowed to left, with the promise that I will do everything to recover the data. The next day I was called by my Department Manager to hear my side and after hearing my explanations I was freed from any liability, but he emphasized that next time I have to be extra careful in dealing PC's that runs application with very important functions.

I tried everything to rejuvenate the disk but to no avail, it was a Seagate 540MB hard drive and base on records at that time, that particular model is sensitive on a lot of factors and often problematic. I may point it to an ailing hardware but still I have to accept the blame considering I may have triggered the whole situation.The company was forced to replace the defective hard drive for free and I was lucky that it was not deducted on my payday.

The lesson learned here is doing some shortcuts can sometime brings us trouble and if you are not willing to take the risk, just perform the proper way to avoid disaster.


Since the internet becomes so popular all around the world, an era of the so called cyber criminals was also born and until now it continue to mess on someone's online activities. In fact as individuals, banks, private establishments and government institutions relying more often and doing business via the internet, cyber criminals also grows its numbers.And inspite strict measures in certain countries to go after these criminals, still its not enough to stop these people from committing such crime. One cyber crime I would like to discuss in particular is called Phishing(in case you dont know).

Phishing is the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information.

One example of this is my own experience, at one time I received an email from the admin of Yahoo(as to what I know that time) saying that congratulations you are one of those who win on our daily raffle worth $500 to claim the price please click on the link, if you still don't know what is phishing all about, you will really say that's the email is genuine and and you will jump to click on the link.After clicking the link it opens a site that resembles just like yahoo, and it will instruct you to further click on the link to claim you price via an e-currency company(if you have one, otherwise you will be obliged to open an account) and the last part just about you are finish transferring the $500, another message pops-up saying that you are not yet a premium member of Yahoo games and you have to register in order to claim your price, the cost is just a little over $8 so you will not suspect thats its a hoax, you will pay the said subcription price and found out later that no $500 goes to your account, and its just a work of a phisher but I thank God I only lost 8$. Phishers can steal password and user name to a site that you log-in regularly even in a Friendster or Yahoo mail account. Lots of E-bay members was also victimized by these phishers.

If you received an email, requiring you to upgrade your password, user name or something dont act on it, call or email the involve company to verify if it comes from them.Normally legitimate businesses will not let there members upgrade vital information via an email link, especially if password and user name are involve. You can also verify the given link on a domain verification site like , in most cases it will give you the details of the particular link.
In IE7 there is already anti phishing features, while Opera and Firefox will warn you if the site you are about to open is not safe or bogus.

Helpful tweaks on Windows XP !

This tweaks will not make your PC runs so fast, but it may help in improving Windows performance.
1. Speed up showing of your start menu by doing the following changes of your registry. Go to the Registry key HKEY_Current_User\Control Panel\Desktop\Menu Show Delay the default is 400. Set it to your desired value, the lower the value the faster the menu will show.
2. Setting your Windows Kernel to run via RAM by setting the DisablePageExecutive DWORD value to 1. EditRegistry key Hkey_Local_Machine\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\DisablePagingExecutive to 1 to disable paging and have the kernel run in RAM. Remember, any applications will run faster in RAM compare in a Hard drive or a virtual memory. After making the tweak, exit registry and restart windows. Take note that do this procedure only if your system has a 256 MB or higher RAM.
3. Disable the 8.3 naming convention in Windows XP,expert says that this naming convention can degrade NTFS drive performance, unless you are still using a 16 bit applications dont perform this tweak. Set the Registry DWORD Key Hkey_Local_Machine\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem\ntfsdisable8dot3NameCreation to1.Exit and Restart.
Reminder: Back-up registry before you perform the following tweaks, so that you can reverse to an earlier state in case something happen.

Bulging capacitors on your motherboard!

The next topic that I would like to discuss in troubleshooting is how a bulging filter capacitor(s) on your motherboard mess up your troubleshooting work. Capacitors that is mounted on your motherboard are called filter capacitors(refer to image), this type of capacitors are called electrolytic capacitors. The purpose of this capacitors is to smoothen the voltage within a particular circuitry, you can see lots of this beside the area of your microprocessor. As time passes some of these capacitors pops up causing an unfiltered voltage within your system, thereby making the motherboard to perform strangely. Some of the common problems you will encounter if you have a bulging filter capacitors are, system blackout ; resets intermittently; blue screen or system hangs-up while in the middle of your work.Often times this problems(except on blackout) are mistaken as a software problems prompting you to format your hard drive and later you found out that its not the software that is causing the problem. If you encounter problems I mentioned above, I suggest that inspect first the physical conditions of your motherboard filter capacitors before you reformat your hard disk, it may save a lot of time in your trouble shooting. If bulging capacitors are just too many, more often you will have a system black-out. Replacing bulging capacitors on your mother board will sometime do the fix but its a tedious process, motherboard replacement will be a lot easier but expensive. You decide what is best for you or to your customer.
Note:Filter capacitors are black tubes like shapes with silver on top; the appearance on top of this capacitors should be flat and clean otherwise its a already defective.(Please refer to the image above- the capacitors at the right are the good ones)

Installation tip when installing device drivers on a fresh formatted PC!

I have notice that during installation of device drivers on a new PC(mostly IBM PC compatible),you always have to restart for each driver that the software install(bundled software with your motherboard).To save some time, instead of restarting you can just click "I will restart later...", then click start > click logoff instead of shutdown> click logoff again> and click the user that appears on the screen and you will redirected back to your desktop and it will continue installing the next driver.Repeat the process until all drivers are installed.

Note: This procedure is also applicable even if you are simply loading a device driver on your PC

Tips in taking care your PC (Part 1)

Here's a few tips to make your PC trouble free:
  1. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can conduct electricity and cause corrosion of computer parts.The smoke residue can infiltrate the entire system, causing corrosion and contamination of the electriclal contacts and sensitive componensts such as floppy drive read/write heads and optical drive lens assemblies.You should avoid smoking near computer equipment and encourage your friends or company to develop and enforce a similar policy.(Dont sound good for smokers!LOL)
  2. Be careful with ESD(Electrostatic Discharge), which can damage components when cleaning electronic components.Take extra precautions in the dead of winter in an extremely dry, high-static environment.An antistatic grounding wrist strap is recommended or if you dont have a wrest strap touch a metallic frame or your PC chassis before touching any components of you PC. It is easier to ensure proper grounding while the motherboard is still installed in the chassis, so it is a good idea not to remove it.(Unless you feel necessary)
  3. If you do not leave a system on continously;at least give it 15 minutes or more warm up after a cold start(means you just turn it on that day) before writing to the hard disk.Power up the system and go get a cup of coffee, read the paper, or do some other task.This practice does wonders for the reliability of the data on your disk, especially cheaper units.

Developing a Preventive Maintenance Program

Developing a preventive maintenance program is important to everyone who uses or manages a PC. There are two types of preventive maintenance procedures exist-experts classified it active and passive.

Active preventive maintenance includes steps you apply to a system that promote a longer, trouble-free life. This type of preventive maintenance primarily involves periodic cleaning of the system and its componest(every 3 months is the usual).Examples of active preventive maintenance are resocketing and cleaning of card edges, removing dust on your Mainboard and related peripherals, check up of software conditions.

Passive preventive maintenance includes steps you can take to protect a system from the environment, such as using power-protection devices, ensuring a clean, temperatured controlled environment; and preventing excessive vibration. In other words, passive preventive maintenance means treating your system well.

Trouble Shooting Tip (Part 1)

Proper way to troubleshoot a particular problem!
Problem: No display appears on your monitor screen upon turning on your PC

Performs the following:
  1. Check both power indicator of your monitor and CPU it its lit? If it's lit observe HDD LED if its actively blinking or press Numlock or Capslock keys to see if keyboard responds. If keyboard responds, it is possible that the problem lies in your monitor(try also adjusting brightness control of your monitor-applicable for older models only).If none of the above works,chances are that you have a defective monitor.
  2. If you hear beeps (usually 3 beeps) just after you turn on your PC, keyboard is responding and HDD LED is active, the problem maybe cause by a defective or ailing VGA Card, try re-socketing the card and clean its contact edge by a pencil eraser. Try replacing a known good VGA card when you feel necessary.
  3. Check for loose cable connections.
  4. If Keyboard dont responds and monitor displays "No signal", its possible that the problem lies in the CPU unit,try removing the memory chips and clean contacts by a pencil eraser. If still nothings happen continue your isolation test in your micro processor, mainboard and power supply.You may also try removing other devices attached to you PCI slot, until the defective part is identified.
Note: When attending a specific pc problem, always perform basic troubleshooting first,before suspecting a defective hardware device . Ask,Is the power cables, keyboard and mouse connectors properly connected? Is the power rating going to the PC sufficient?Performing this simple task might save you time in fixing a particular problem.

Modify an old CD to read DVD Disk

If ever you have an old CD-ROM drive and want to experiment on something, you can try this stuff. CD ROM above 40x has an easier procedure compare to CD-ROM at lower speed.Practically mostCD-ROM's can be modified to read DVD disk.

Procedure for CD-ROM 40X and under:(Trial and Error Procedure)
  1. Open your CD ROM cover, locate the lens assembly, behind it there is a small trimmer(you have to use a jeweler set to rotate it),Adjust it randomly until your CD read a retail DVD Disk.The concept behind it is to fine tune the size of the laser beam to be able to read the pit of a retail DVD Disk(DVD5).Do not use a DVD9 format it wont work.Be patient on this part it might not work on a few tries.
  2. Once you got the adjustment right disable the 12 volts supply of your CD-ROM(cut or remove the yellow wire from the molex connector of your power supply),tape it to avoid short circuit. The purpose of this is to lenghten the life of your CD-ROM while playing DVD Disk.
Procedure on CD-ROM above 40X:
  1. To avoid extra cost in production,CD/DVD manufacturer produce the same circuit boards for both CD/DVD products, they only disable the DVD function for circuit boards installed in CD ROM. Now locate the label that says "DVD Jump" at the back of your CD-ROM printed board.
  2. Once you find the label, jumper it using a thin wire, make sure that there is no short circuit with other connections.Now try it, if it can read a retail DVD Disk.
  3. Follow step 2 above in disabling 12 volts of its supply.
Note:Modified CD ROM cannot be functional at DOS.It cannot read DVD 9 format.I suggest that do not experiment on your existing CD-ROM,it might mess up the whole thing.Get a spare CD-ROM to experiment. This technique might not work on all brand of CD.

CD-ROM Stacked up!(Money Saver)

One day you noticed that your DVD/CD-ROM drive is hard to or do not eject at all even if you already spent lot of times pushing its eject button. You checked at "My Computer" the CD is detected by the system. Before thinking of replacing your DVD/CD-ROM device, I suggest trying this simple trick I have found.

  1. Turn off your CPU, eject your CD tray by inserting a paperclip/small pin on the manual eject hole infront of your CD panel(locate the pinhole at the front panel of your CD)to push out the CD tray.
  2. Once the tray is ejected insert it with a known good disk and push the tray back to return to its base.
  3. Now turn on the power and browse "My computer" to check if the disk you inserted is being read by your CD/DVD.
  4. If it functions normally, try to push the eject button if it will eject normally.
  5. The trick is that you always have to put a disk on your CD/DVD ROM, if by chance you can eject your CD tray while your CPU is ON, you can bypass steps 1 to 4.
The reason behind the problem is that the spindle motor of your CD/DVD ROM developed a strong magnet causing it to stacked when attached to its upper holder,disallowing the cd tray motor to push the tray out.When the CD disk is inserted, the gap between the two parts widen, making it easier for the CD tray motor to push the tray out.
Note: If none of the above mention works, its possible that your CD/DVD ROM is already defective.

Unit is black-out after moving in a new location

You just move in to a new place or location, when you turned on your PC it power's on but it did not initialize(No Display).Dont panic, performs the following:

1.Check the output voltage of the AC outlet if its in the especified voltage, it you dont have a multi tester try plugging to a known good AC outlet.
2.Check the power cord if it is inserted in the proper outlet of your AVR, some AVR has 110 and 220 outlet(Applicable only in countries when the voltage rating is 220V).If you happen to insert the power cord in the 110V outlet CPU will not initialize(No Dsiplay) or it may initialize but CPU will resets continuously.

If you happen to encounter such problem in the future,make sure to perform first the steps above before suspecting a defective CPU.

Self-test on Epson dot matrix products!

This topic will be helpful if you are encountering printing problem in your PC with an epson dot matrix products!

1. Power on unit (It should initialize and a steady green power will indicate)
2. Insert paper on the manual feed paper bin
3. Turn off unit, press hold LF/FF or Load/Eject button while turning on the power
It should start printing by now a combinations of text and characters.
If printer prints normally it means that it is in working condition. The problem may be caused by its printer cable or by your CPU.
Note: Make sure to printer finish printing for at least 1 page.