Dedicated mobo threads are a big help!

MSIK7n2-LBoard.jpgI remember when I still had two desktops at home (I eventually traded my other desktop with a laptop for space considerations, but since I can’t afford a gaming laptop, LAN games have effectively stopped at home much to the chagrin of my friends), maintaining the two desktops was a bit of a challenge because, even though I was able to source the same processors (AMD Athlons), I was not able to get the same motherboards. One of my desktops had an MSI motherboard, while the other had an Epox motherboard.Doing maintenance on either desktop could sometimes be an exercise on confusion. I had to memorize two different and distinct solutions to two different symptoms simply because they have different BIOS. I also need to look at different manuals for the post codes generated by both motherboards. It became quite tedious because even researching for each motherboard will take its own time, something that I do not have a lot of.

It is a good thing that a forum like extremeoverclocking.com has instituted a separate section just for motherboard manufacturers. This is a big help for any PC owner because it will be so much easier to talk, discuss and ask help from people who also own, not only the same brand of motherboards but even the same motherboard models. Talking shop with people who own the same PC parts as you do makes it easier to really compare notes and ask for help. And since each brand and model has dedicated threads, you know that the advice and tips being shared is something that you can use. Furthermore, you can better anticipate the effects of the tips as it is implemented because the owners will also post them.

Commercial case modding services

casemods.jpgCase modding is one of the most recent iterations of the computer hobby that we have come to know and love. Whereas before a computer hobby consisted of just sourcing and using fast computer parts in order to get the most performance out of your computer and also tweaking each part in order to further get the most juice out of it and make it perform beyond its stated speed. Now, it has spilled on to the actual aesthetics of the computer, most particularly on the case itself.The initial case modding projects actually involved functionality more than aesthetics. The first mods that computer hobbyists made involved providing better airflow in the case – this involved putting additional blowholes in the case (actually drilling holes that would be big enough to accommodate additional fans) as well as better cable management (before the advent of rounded IDE cables, hobbyists actually individually stripped each IDE cable so that they can make their own rounded cables while others meticulously folded the flat cables in order to make it smaller and thus provide more air circulation inside.

But in recent years, modding has become more commercialized with lazy hobbyists now turning to case modding companies to make the projects for them. This recent trend has actually removed the element of these projects being home grown and being a labor of love. There are even forum threads that discuss the services offered by commercial case modding companies that offer “Custom” services to computer owners. I am ambivalent about this development, on the one hand I cannot fault these people for taking advantage of an obvious demand for such services. But I also have to say that modding is really a hobby that you should be doing on your own so that you can feel pride in your work.

Cold Cathode Light Dilemma

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I have been modding my computer cases for the last four years. No really drastic moddings though – more efficient cable management, drilling additional blowholes and more efficient air flow by inserting carefully placed fans inside the case. I am not the flashy type of guy so I hardly put in any “bling” on to my PC in terms of lights and all those UV reactive parts. I just do not think that those kinds of modding ideas are for me. The only light – related accessories I have is my illuminated keyboard and mouse pad (which is quite useful when gaming with no lights on, lest you wake the kid) and my optical mouse with changing lights from Belkin, a giveaway given to my wife by the local Belkin distributor here.I felt that I had no use for cold cathode lighting that is quite popular among other modders who want to transform their drab PC cases into virtual light shows. At one point I did get enticed to at least put one cold cathode light in my rig for more practical purposes – I want to clearly see what is inside the case if I want to check out the fans or find out if it already needs cleaning. But partly through laziness and an inability to find a cold cathode light that is not a garish green, magenta or blue I decided to forego the project.

And it looks like I did the right thing, based on a thread at Casemodgod.com, it looks like cold cathode lighting is a bit of a hazard because the inverter has a tendency to overheat and actually melt down and catch fire, while the light still remains on! I’ve seen one of those infamous pictures where the inside of the case looked like an arsonist had a barbecue and it made me realize that, yes, I made the right decision after all.

Air cooling the silent way

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Any computer user who has a knack for fitting their computers with high performance parts will know that fans, though effective coolants for a hot PC, have one major drawback – they can be too damn noisy!When I upgraded my computer almost two years ago, I decided to spring for a copper heatsink for my AMD Athlon 2500+ Barton Core. I knew that AMD processors had a reputation for running hot (hotter than Intel processors, so they say). I wanted to protect my PC from any catastrophic overheating problems because I use it for work so even if it was not in my budget I got a Thermaltake Volcano 7. The heatsink was enormous and on top of it was also a huge fan designed to wick away the heat absorbed by the copper fins. The whole contraption even had a variable fan speed control, which I found quite nifty. I installed the heatsink with excitement but that excitement was replaced by surprise. The fan of the heatsink is so noisy! Even when I toggled the fan speed from hi to normal, the noise levels only improved a little. I was stuck with a PC that sounded like a miniature plane is about to take off. It can be quite distracting sometimes.

I know that many PC users also get the same level of frustrate if their computers are quite noisy because of outside elements. It is a good thing that a website like OCForums.com has decided to put a sticky thread regarding air cooling that is powerful but also quiet. This is a great resource especially for people who are just beginning to discover the innards of their systems. It will also be a great read for computer users wanting to dabble in PC cooling.

Documenting a computer problem

ibm computers.jpgAt some point in the lifespan of your computer, it will be inevitable that you will encounter a problem. This could either be with a certain software or application that you have installed (probably the most common problem) or it could be with regards to certain hardware issues. There are some problems that you can actually fix on your own especially if you have even just an intermediate knowledge of computers. These are problems that you should not worry about as much because you already know how to solve it. The real difficulty comes with problems that you yourself cannot handle and solve on your own. These are the kind of problems where you will need professional assistance.In order to help the professionals solve your problem quickly you will need to document the problem that you encounter. You can do this by Copying the image on your computer screen. Here is how to do it:

* You can decide to press either Shift + PrtScrn or Alt + PrtScrn in order to copy an image that is displayed on your computer screen and place it on the operating system’s clipboard. Pressing Shift + Prtscrn will cop the whole screen while pressing Alt + Prntscrn will only copy the active window.

* Now open Wordpad which is located at Start / All Programs / Accessories / WordPad

* Type and describe as accurately as possible what you had been doing with your computer before the problem happened in the WordPad window.

* Now click on Edit / Paste in order to copy the captured image on to WordPad

* Save the file and then print a copy of the document. You can then give this document to the technician or IT professional so they can have an accurate account of the problem.

Computer maintenance tips: some last minute tips

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The past two blog posts have been about tips that I’m sharing with PC users a way for them to keep their PCs in great shape. Maintenance is the key towards having a trouble free PC. If you do not even do any kind of cursory maintenance on your PC chances are that you will encounter problems more frequently and sooner than a PC user who keeps regular maintenance of his computer.Below are some last computer maintenance tips that you should perform on your PC. Follow these tips to lessen any problems down the road:

* Ensure that your hard drive is performing optimally and its physical condition is ok by performing Scandisk regularly. Doing this will allow you to know if you are beginning to get bad sectors on your hard drive, the kind of information that you should know about ASAP especially if you have sensitive and important data stored on the hard drive.

* Delete the temporary internet files to free up space and also speed up browsing. You can set up Internet Explorer to automatically delete temporary internet files by going to Tools/ Internet Options/ Advanced. Go to the bottom and select “Empty Temporary Internet Files when browser is closed.”

* It would be a good idea not to use Internet Explorer as your browser because it has a lot of security flaws that could potentially harm your system. Consider using Firefox or Opera instead, two browsers that are less likely to have security breaches.

* Try to get the latest Java download to keep your system up to date.

* Download the SiteAdvisor plugin, which provides safety ratings for the sites that you visit, helping you prevent visiting websites that can harm your computer.

More computer maintenance tips

pc2.jpgBelow are a few more tips that will help you keep your computer in good working condition:* Install anti spyware software in order to help you detect malicious software like spyware and opportunistic cookies and scripts

* Put up a personal firewall. A growing number of anti virus applications are beginning to bundle personal firewalls in their products. A personal firewall acts like a barrier of “safety” between your computer and the digital wild. By setting up a firewall you can protect your computer from hackers and other attempts to breach the security of your computer. Personal firewalls also give a level of protection against spyware.

* Be extra careful when downloading and installing software that you do not know about on the internet. There are many PC users who get so excited about getting various software on the internet that they completely forget that some very nasty things may be riding on these executable files and will attach itself to your computer when the executable file is run. Some of these problems can be so severe that you will have no choice but reformat your hard drive and reinstall your OS.

* Look at the programs installed on your PC and uninstall any applications that you think are unnecessary or useless to you. This is a good way of freeing up hard drive space and it also streamlines your system.

* You should also be careful when downloading music on the internet. If you really want to download and you do not want to stop at least stick to one website that you trust and do not download stuff without any compunctions.

Performing computer maintenance

You do not need to be an IT professional or an advanced PC user in order to keep your PC in tiptop shape. Just follow some of the steps and recommendations below as a way of keeping your computer in shape so and thus eliminating certain factors and conditions that could result in problems further down the line.* Do not forget to install a goo anti virus software on your computer. This is probably one of the most crucial pieces of software that you should install in your computer in order to keep your computer in good shape and prevent any problems from happening. Installing the anti virus application is only half of the preparations though. You should remember to set the program to download the latest updates and then install it automatically. You should also use the anti virus software by doing regular full system scans of your system. Lastly, you should always check if the virus definition files on your anti virus software is up to date.

* program your PC to download and install Windows Updates automatically. The Windows Updates usually include system patches for your operating system as well as patches for both bugs and security related matters. By installing these patches you can limit the incidence of problems on your computer and on the software.

* You should install an anti spyware application as a means of monitoring your system for any possible spyware intrusions. This application can also help you detect and eliminate any spyware.

Deleting infected files

You may take the most circuitous and complex security precautions in order to keep the environment of your PC free from any kind of malicious software or virus because you know that once it enters your system you will have quite a big problem with it.But sometimes, even with the utmost protection a virus or Trojan may still be able to successfully infect your computer. When this happens you will have the difficult task of purging the virus out of your computer. You can always use an anti virus software to remove the virus from your computer. This is the no frills and easy way to do it. But sometimes even your anti virus software will not be able remove some of the files that have been infected by the virus. When this happens you have no choice but to remove the infected files manually.

Below are steps you can take in order to remove the infected files from your computer:

* Reboot your computer into safe mode. You can do this by restarting the computer and when the computer is going through the booting process press the F8 key rapidly. If you have a very fast computer (one where the boot process is very fast) you can rapidly tap the F8 key in order to successfully bring the computer to safe mode.

* Log into your computer as the admin or Administrator

* After logging on try to locate the infected files, select it and then hold Shift and press Delete. Doing this will completely remove the file without it going to the Recycle Bin. Determine what exactly the file is before you delete the file because you may inadvertently remove a file that is crucial to the Operating System or a particular application.

Keyboard cleaning made simple

Your computer’s keyboard get easily dirty because of many factors. First of all, the accumulation of dust and dirt is a big culprit. Then there is food. Yes, food. A big majority of PC users love to eat in front of their PCs and inadvertently food can get in between the keys. This is most likely to happen if you love eating food that has crumbs or crumbles like toasted bread, chips and croutons. A dirty keyboard, if left uncleaned, will continue to accumulate dirt and dust until it reaches a point where it could actually affect the performance of the keyboard itself.Cleaning the actual keyboard can be quite a troublesome proposition because it is near impossible to get the dirt out without any kind of mechanical manipulation of the keyboard itself.

Here are a few steps that you can do to clean your keyboard:

* Turn off your computer and disconnect the keyboard from the CPU. Do not ever attempt to remove the keyboard while the computer is on as it may damage the computer.

* In order to remove any loose dirt from the keyboard simply turn it upside down and lightly shake the keyboard to dislodge dirt, crumbs and any kind of loose gunk that may have accumulated inside the keys.

* While still upside down you can use a can of compressed air in order to further dislodge any other dirt or pieces of rubbish inside the keys. Make sure that you are cleaning your keyboard in an area where you can easily clean up.

* If you are inclined to do so and you really want to clean your keyboard, you can remove all of the keys by prying them up gently. With all of the keys removed you can now thoroughly clean the keyboard.

* After cleaning the keys you can now replace them on the keyboard and plug it back to your PC.