I have a just-out-of-the-box Microsoft Surface which would not connect properly to my primary wireless network. Fortunately, I have a variety of networks around here and found that it would connect to another of the networks. There seems to be no end to the reasons why this might happen, I tried the one where you don’t let it turn the power off to the adapter – no go. The problem here appears to be with N-band connections as the primary network here offers N and the secondary one (that worked from the get-to) is G. This fix is ridiculously easy, I hope it works for you. Get logged on to a G network somewhere, you neighbour, Starbucks, McDonalds, whatever, if you can log on to one of those, run Windows Update. That’s all mine needed. I haven’t figured out where to see what updates have been applied, they’ve probably removed it from Windows 8 because it was useful, but one of the updates fixed it (I suspect the wireless adapter driver as that appears to indeed have been updated).
It’s tricky getting a recommendation for an antivirus. If you ask your friend or neighbor or even read comments on forums on the internet, you’ll find people who love their AVs usually with the comment, “I’ve never had a problem with it since I started using it.” Unfortunately, this is like having someone tell you that his/her spare tire is fantastic because s/he’s never had a flat tire while carrying it. I’ve been personally testing and looking at the current crop of antivirus studies to update my recommendations which I’ll share here. Seeing lots of infected and non-infected computers also gives me a pretty good overview.
My antivirus preferences are based mostly on the following criteria:
- Effectiveness (as measured by independent and academic testing) of protection,
- Lightness of resource requirements (like memory and processing power),
- Robustness, not interfering with the operation of the computer,
- Privacy, an emerging concern.
Free vs. Paid
A quick comment about this. I think it is a false choice. There is more variation between products than there is between free and paid products as a group. For example, while the paid version of Avira offers marginally greater protection than the free version, the free Avast is a better product than the paid McAfee. Support should be better on the paid versions but support is always a dubious service in the IT world. For example, I’ve never heard a good story about Norton support. I have limited personal experience with this support bit but my experience with Norton is bad as well and good with Avira and Bullguard.
Suites vs. Antivirus Only
I’m still not convinced of the value of the security suites that offer firewalls and other functions beyond just the antivirus. These products are often as much as twice as expensive as their antivirus cousins and they most certainly do not offer double the protection – if they offered 10% better protection I would be surprised. Moreover, they offer redundant functionality, Windows already includes a firewall, it’s just one more thing to go wrong or to foul-up some other application that you have. The advantage of the suites is that they might possibly stop a virus from entering your system via the internet where with an antivirus you might only see it as it’s written to the disk. I have seen no convincing proof that this is a practical advantage. [A special note here about Norton 360 - why are people paying a premium for this product over Norton Antivirus? I've never seen anyone use the backup function and the Tune-up features are of dubious value. Bring me your computer every couple of years, I'll tune it up better and save you money.]
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2013 – Great virus recognition and defence for the last couple years. Easy to install and configure. There are still a few bugs in the program (for example if you have unhidden your system files, it will re-hide them and not let you take control of them again) but all-in-all it appears to be a much-improved and good product. I rank them low on privacy. This is a paid product, there is a free one as well that I’m currently testing on my Wife’s Windows XP computer. It appears to be operationally good but whether it is nearly as effective as the paid version is in question.
Norton Antivirus – Symantec have pulled out of some of the major international testing and so it’s hard to get a feel for how good their product is in 2013 (it was smoking-good in 2011 and 2012). But I’m sticking with them for now. I give it an OK on privacy.
Avast Free Antivirus – By some accounts this is the most popular antivirus on the market right now (or it might be AVG). The test results for the product are consistently good. Unlike some other free products, Avast does not overwhelm you with screen and email spam (I’m looking at you Avira Free), but you have to tweak the settings to calm the product down. Testing shows it to have top-notch virus recognition and the latest version has a nice feature that monitors your Adobe Flash and other products to help you keep them up to date. I rate it OK on privacy.
Avira Antivirus Premium – Avira is moving the wrong direction in my view, but their paid product still offers excellent virus protection, is fast, and low on resources. It also ranks high in privacy. I no longer recommend Avira’s free product, it’s too pesky with screen spam and Avira have chosen to affiliate it with known problem applications and spyware.
Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus – This product operates in an unconventional way with most of it’s processing done in the cloud. By various accounts, this turns out to be extremely effective and extremely low on computer resources. On the other hand it gives it my lowest rating for privacy. I’m currently testing this on my personal laptop where I’ve found the configuration to be easy, resources low and when I purposely downloaded a virus, it found it and stopped it immediately. If this were a horse race WSA would be a long shot on which you’ve got a hot tip.
Bullguard Antivirus 2013 – Can someone tell me why Bullguard offer a 60-day trial on their Internet Security product but only a 15-day trial on their antivirus? Anyway, I’m testing this product now. It gets good marks for effectiveness and performance from the independent tests. I find it to be a little slower than Avira Antivirus Premium but still acceptable. I’m provisionally giving it an OK privacy ranking on the grounds that this is a UK company and they have pretty strict data privacy laws there, I do no like the fact that you have to sign up for an “account” though. Bullguard claim to have great customer-service. I was able to online chat with a support person during the evening and only waited 2-3 minutes in queue.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – This product is getting a look because of the great ratings for its sibling mentioned above. As mentioned there, I am currently testing it and it appears to at least not cause any problems. I’ve put it on a few customer machines, no calls or problems that I know of. There is some question as to whether it is as effective as the full version and some anecdotal tests to suggest it is not. If that proves to be the case then we’ll drop this free version as I don’t like it for privacy and it is basically riding the coattails of the paid product.
AVG Antivirus Free – It’s very popular and the protection provided appears to be somewhere between OK and pretty good. It’s just that I’ve taken viruses off of so many machines with AVG installed that it’s hard for me to get excited about it.
Kaspersky Antivirus – This Russian antivirus, pushed hard by Best Buy and The Geek Squad, is very good at finding viruses. It has consistently ranked high over the last few years. Kaspersky also make some great products for cleaning infected computers. However, on many of the machines I get, it’s AVP process is a massive resource hog taking a lot of RAM and sometimes all or most of the machine’s processing power.
Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus + – OK, Trend have graduated from my $#!+ List. It used to be that every time I saw a computer with Trend Micro on it, Trend Micro was the problem. Now, I don’t see that many Trend Micro machines – I assume that’s because they’ve improved it. It has ranked very high in finding viruses so that’s good. My experience with it says that it’s a resource hog but I haven’t seen enough of it lately to make an informed opinion.
Antivirus $#!+ List
McAfee (any product) – I have removed more viruses from machines running McAfee products than I have from machines with no antivirus product installed. That’s not scientifically significant, but indicative of the quality of protection provided by this product I think. Independent testing generally seems to back up this view. Even if they improve their virus detection, McAfee would likely still be on this list for their resource-hogging. Who cares about privacy when the product is this bad?
Avira Free Antivirus – Partners with known spam and spyware makers? Massive quantities of screen spam? Scary email spam? The product manager for this once stellar product has clearly lost the plot.
Microsoft Security Essentials – When it first came out a few years ago it rocked – not anymore – it’s gone from rock to rock-bottom. It probably won’t mess-up your computer like McAfee or some others, that’s good. It might find a virus now and then and I like it from a privacy perspective. But from a safety and security perspective it’s like carrying one of those mini-sized spare tyres in your car – you wouldn’t want to have to depend on it.
Hartland Computer Repair, Lexington, KY, (859) 536-4107
Yikes! This job was a nightmare! But it’s finally done. If I see “A disk read error occurred, press Ctrl+Alt+Del to retart” again, I’m going to scream.
This was a straight-forward clone of a failing 250GB drive to a new 500GB drive both Western Digital. The computer was an IBM / Lenovo T60 running Windows XP SP3. There were a lot of moving parts that were potential problems for the clone, a source drive with sector errors and NTFS problems, moving to an AF (Advanced Format) drive, the Pre-desktop area on the T60 and a slew of problems with the source Windows installation. I’ve lost the page of information that another poor slob put together listing all the things that didn’t work to solve the problem, my short list is: Chkdsk, Fixboot, FixMBR, Defrag, Fix allignment, a different target hard drive and three days of phaffing about with it. If you want to read some background that might be helpful, here are just some of the links I used:
What finally worked for me was something called a “Reverse Clone”, a version of which is described in the last link above, modified for the special problems caused by the IBM/Lenovo T-60 et al. I could not use Macrium Reflect to do the clone because the machine would not accept the WAIK install required. I could not use the Western Digital Acronis cloning software because it claimed I didn’t have a Western Digital product (yes WD/Acronis software, this middle finger is for you!). In the end, I used good old Easeus Disk Copy to do the job. Here is how I did it:
- Enter BIOS, disable PreDesktop Area (IBM T-series only)
- With source drive installed on T60, install Easeus Disk Copy, create bootable CD.
- Shut down computer.
- Insert target hard drive (500GB) into computer, connect source hard drive via USB enclosure to USB port on computer
- Boot from Easeus Disc
- Follow instructions to clone data from the old smaller drive to the new bigger drive (don’t get them confused, check this three times, walk away, come back and check it again – you don’t want to get this backward)
- Start clone
- Go to bed
- Wake up, make double-espresso with just enough frothed milk to make it a Caffè macchiato, enjoy.
- Shut down machine
- Boot to BIOS, enable PreDesktop area (IBM T-series only)
- Restart machine, see Windows boot, pat self on back, you rock.
Now, there are still a couple more steps. Easeus make some other nice software for repartition the drive which needs to be done to take advantage of the bigger drive. After that, I’m uncompressing this particular drive, then I’ll CHKDSK it again, then defrag it.
For Computer Repair in Lexington Ky: Hartland Computer Repair (859) 536 4107
This is a mysterious problem that seems to come out of no where. The best discussion I have found on it, for the general case is here. The solution presented here is for what I believe is a special case (still, it might provide some insight to the general case).
My customer wanted a computer repair on an old Dell Inspiron 6000 running Windows XP. The problem she complained of was that she could not boot the computer and that it only would display the error “A disk read error occurred, Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart”. All conventional diagnostics indicated that the hard drive was OK, the file system was OK, Windows was OK, the boot records were OK. Everything was OK. Yet still we got this error.
The hard drive in this machine was a Seagate 160GB PATA drive. As I recall, it had a single partition (suggesting maybe that Windows had been reinstalled on it at some point in the past, perhaps the whole hard drive had been replaced at that time). That single operating system partition was sized at 149GB. Here is where my special case lies. The Dell Inspiron 6000, an a few other Dells of that vintage, can only access partitions of 137GB and less. If you opened the BIOS screen on this machine, you would see that it was reporting the drive size as 137GB. Well, that dog don’t hunt.
I pulled the drive from the machine and resized the Windows partition to 80GB (I had an 80GB drive standing by in case I needed to change hardware). As soon as I re-installed the drive it booted to Windows perfectly, no problems.
Now, why did this ever work and why did it stop working? I don’t know. The Windows installation had some malware on it but nothing that looked vicious to me. Perhaps some malware tried to mess with the partition on the drive or the boot records to install a hidden boot partition and this upset some delicate balance the unit had maintained. This is not a very good guess but it’s the only one I have.
For Computer Repair in Lexington KY call Hartland Computer at (859)536-4107
Google, the most intrusive company on the planet, will not let you send an email with a .exe file in it even if you put it in a zip file with a password AND change the extension. Think for a minute about Google’s mindset here on opening your attachments and going through them at the binary level – any company that uses Google as a mail provider is absolutely insane or has an IT department that has no concept about data security. Anyway, to solve the problem, you can change the name of your .zip file to .zip_ and that currently fools Google into letting your attachment go through.
I got lots of errors saying, “The specific error code is 0x800b0100 (No signature was present in the subject). This file is necessary to maintain system stability.” when I ran SFC on a problem XP installation. Looking in the error log it appeared that each time it found a problem it would say that the file “could not be copied into the DLL cache”. The first thing I tried as to use SFC to delete the cache, SFC /PURGECACHE. This did not seem to work as the event log started filling up again with these errors as soon as I retried it. I got similar results after trying the Microsoft Fixit 50652. However, I realised that I had been trying to cheat using an XP SP2 disc when SFC asked me to insert my XP Pro SP3 disc. I reasoned, since there is no such thing as an XP Pro SP3 disc AFAIK, that it wouldn’t matter. Turns out that it apparently does. When I substituted an XP Pro disc with SP3 slipstreamed onto it, no errors were generated.
Last week, a customer brought me a laptop on which the retainer clip for the keyboard connector had broken off. This problem is the fear of many of us who work on laptops because this clip is soldered to the motherboard and is not really replaceable, breaking it off means you’re buying a new motherboard. Until now! Using a hot glue gun and some materials I had around I was able to fix this problem in a way that I believe is permanent.
To replace the functionality of the keyboard tab locking clip you need to create downward pressure on the tab (to ensure electrical contact between the tab and the socket) and inward pressure (to ensure the tab doesn’t slip out of the socket). To create downward pressure, I made a shim out of a piece of that hard plastic bubble-packaging they use to package stuff that hangs on the shelf and Best Buy. I measured the length of the socket and cut a piece of plastic a little over 1/4 inch or around 8mm deep.
Now, insert the keyboard tab into the socket fully, making sure that the it is seated straight and fully into the slot, wiggle it around until it’s in place, it should fit snuggly with no right/left wobble. Once you have the tab securely in place, slide your plastic shim in the slot above the inserted tab. At this point, you want to made sure you are curling the keyboard tab in such a way that it puts constant, even, hard pressure forward on the inserted tab so that it doesn’t wobble or come out of place.
Next, holding the tab securely in place in the socket, manipulate the rest of the tab so that it sits flat against the motherboard for another 1/4in or 8mm past the end of your shim. Holding everything steady, drop a small bit of hot glue onto the edge of the tab that extends from your shim, if you can catch a bit of the shim, that’s great. Do this on both the left and right of the tab.
You’ll see in the picture above that I have a little glue “stopper” in the middle of the tab, this was to keep the shim from squeezing out prior to gluing the edges. Hold this in place for a few minutes until the glue sets.
Finally, flip the keyboard over into place, start the computer and test it. You need to test all the keys (use notepad or something) to make sure all your contacts are contacting. If you find that some of the keys don’t work, it probably means that your tab is not inserted properly and squarely into the socket. Use your fingernail to pry up your hot glue and try the procedure again. It took me 3 tries to get this all just right.
Hartland Computer, Computer Repair Lexington KY, (859) 536-4107
Every Computer Repair business needs some goals for the year:
- I will not install Windows 8 on any computer I need to use for real work
- I will keep trying to find a reason to use a tablet
- I will always check for cockroaches inside the case BEFORE taking the computer up to the shop
- I will take a day off now and then
- I will not stock Samsung or Hitachi hard drives no matter how cheap I can buy them
- I will finally repair my wife’s computer
- No, I won’t really
- I’ll find someone who has the skills, expertise, attention to detail and maturity to work for me on computer repairs so I can expand this business
- If I ever go away for Thanksgiving (the biggest sports weekend of the year) again, I will not stay with any in-laws who do not have television or internet service
- I will stop telling customers that they are better off with no antivirus than to use that awful McAfee
- No, I won’t really
- When my Mac-using mom asks for help on something, I’ll stop telling her that “the only person who knows the answer to that is Steve Jobs and he’s dead”
- I will be the first person to discover and document at least two virus fixes
- I will find a way to keep the Computer Repair business open during Kentucky basketball games
- I will not go ballistic if my 3-year old grabs a syringe of thermal paste and empties it by shooting it all over the office (again)
- I’ll continue to make this business the best it can be and always give God at least a 15% discount on services when he sends me business
Hartland Computer Repair
859 536 4107
One of the main reasons you’ll get this condition is if your hard drive has started to fail. The boot process goes to look for some file it needs that is on a failed portion of the drive and the whole machine just seizes-up because the data can’t be retrieved. If you have this black screen blinking cursor symptom, you first need to identify whether your hard drive is failing and take remedial action (there are a lot of ways to do this, if you need help, take a look at these instructions for diagnosing a possible failing hard drive).
If you have established that your drive is not failing, your Windows 7 boot problem may be caused by the computer failing to find the right boot partition or run the proper boot manager with the correct settings. This, I have found is the second most likely cause of the problem – and is especially likely if the computer has or has had a virus. Here is the way I have found to solve this:
First, you’ll need a Windows 7 installation disc. Any one should do but if you don’t have one, the best I can suggest is to check here (these downloads used to be free and I can attest that those worked just fine, these ones that they are charging $10 to download I have never used personally). WARNING: DO NOT START THIS PROCESS WITHOUT THE DISC, IF YOU GO TO THE WINDOWS RECOVERY ENVIRONMENT USING THE F8 TECHNIQUE YOU WILL END UP IN A BLACK HOLE WITH YOUR COMPUTER UNBOOTABLE AND NO WAY TO RECOVER.
- Boot computer from installation disc and select “Repair your computer” from the first screen, this will take you to the Windows Recovery Environment
- Open a Command Prompt using the last item in the menu
- Type “diskpart“
- Type “select disk 0” (that’s a zero and if you have more than one hard drive, you’ll need to make sure that disk 0 is the drive with your Windows installation on it)
- Type “list partition“. This will show you the partitions that are on your drive. You may see names like “Recovery” or “System”. You are looking for the partition that has Windows on it which will be the biggest partition by far, almost the size of the whole drive. Note that the Size column mixes partitions measured in MB with ones measured in GB. Note the partition number of this partition.
- Type “select partition <n>” where <n> is the partition number where Windows resides
- Type “detail partition“. The result will include an entry telling you whether this partition is Active. If it is, then stop here, these instructions will not help you.
- Type “active“. This will make the Windows partition the System Partition.
- Type “exit“
- At the command prompt type “bootrec /fixmbr then bootrec /fixboot” (sometimes I use bootrec /rebuildBCD here but I do not think it is required)
- Reboot the computer
At this point, I expect the computer to come back and say “Bootmgr is missing” if you let it boot from the hard drive. If you ignored the warning above and do not have a Windows 7 boot disc, you are now screwed.
- Boot the computer once again from the installation disc and let it do an automatic repair if it asks, if it does not, select Startup Repair from the recovery environment menu.
- Reboot the computer
- I do not expect the computer to boot from the hard drive here, I believe it comes back again with the “Bootmgr is missing” error.
- Boot the computer from the installation disc, it may try to do an automatic repair but normally it will not. Instead, select “Startup Repair“, the first item on the recovery environment menu and wait for the repair to complete. When it is done, reboot.
- I expect your computer to now boot into Windows 7 like there was never any problem.
If you are a *nix genius, you may want to track down one of the many Byzantine solutions I ran into while trying to solve my problem. If you’re like me, casual Ubuntu user just trying to get your files back, here is a pretty easy fix for your problem.
I had a damaged hard drive pulled from a Mac. It had hundreds of sector errors making it unbootable. Since it was unbootable, that meant that journalling was on and could not be turned off without the use of a time machine.
The information here is pretty helpful in setting up the environment to see the drive and its files (especially comment #21). This allowed me to read the drive but I could not write to it. I could not open the folders because of the permissions and I could not change the permissions because the drive was unwriteable (for whatever reason).
However, using the Terminal it turned out that I could simply copy the folders to my own drive and all permissions problems went away. For example:
sudo cp -r /media/<HFS+ drive mount point>/Pictures /media/<my drive>/<recovery folder>
That’s it, that’s all it took. Copied the user files over and they were fully accessible. I hope it works for you too.