Why is my computer slow?

March 27th, 2016 1 comment

I’ve written on the topic of slow computers before and even created a nifty infographic to illustrate why it happens. But there are a few new things that are causing computers to be slow right now and I wanted to bring them up and offer some thoughts on what you can do about it.

We’ve Recently Crossed a Tipping Point With Memory – The amount of RAM that’s in your computer has an impact on how fast your computer feels. Not enough memory will make your computer slow. Most Windows 7 computers came with 4GB of RAM, many of them came with only 3GB of RAM (typically ones with a label that says, “Intel Pentium Inside”), this used to be plenty of RAM for most people, it isn’t any more. 4GB is just barely enough RAM to run Windows 7, Vista or Windows 10. We’ve upgraded a number of machines from 3GB to 4GB lately which has helped these relatively low-spec computers get another year of life out of them. But if you have a higher-spec machine that seems to be slowing down, an upgrade to 8GB will probably help a lot and buy you several more years of use.

Windows Update is Hurting the Performance of Computers – Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think Microsoft has degraded the performance of Windows Update on Windows 7 computers in its drive to coerce people to upgrade to Windows 10 (don’t fall for it). Regardless of the reason, it is objectively clear that a machine that is not fully up-to-date will be slowed down considerably by the Windows Update framework programs. Windows Update will swallow-up literally all of your RAM until it is satisfied. It will also eat into your CPU. If your computer seems suddenly slow, open Windows Update and make sure your computer updates will ALL of the important or recommended updates (stay away from the optional updates unless you know what you are doing).

Accessing the Hard Drive is Killing Your Performance – This is particularly evident in Windows 8 and Windows 10 installations but it applies to Windows 7 users as well. The slowest part of most computers is the hard drive. It’s a mechanical device that gets slower with time for a number of reasons. Most people know that “defragmenting” a hard drive can speed it up, and if your computer is a few years old, this may be worth trying, but if you want to see a magical transformation of your computer experience, upgrade to a Solid State Drive (SSD). SSD drives are getting really cheap now, the price of them has dropped by more than 50% in the last year. I’ve converted my own laptop and I’m telling you, it makes it feel like a brand new computer. I’ll get years more use out of this machine.

There you go. I’ve covered at least 90% of the cases of slow computers between these two articles. There’s no reason for you to suffer any longer!

If you need help, Hartland Computer can help you with your slow computer, call us on 859.546.4107.

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SOLVED: Windows 7 stuck on “Identifying…” network

March 20th, 2016 9 comments

When your computer fails to connect properly with its network, you can get an indication on in control panel and on the networking icon on the task bar that Windows is stuck identify… the network.

I’ve seen this problem dozens of times going back to the Vista. It used to happen constantly in those days but fortunately does not happen as much in Windows 7, 8 and 10. This used to happen quite often occurs after a virus had messed with the computer in some way but now the reasons seem to be a bit more random but quite often related to a broken antivirus installation.

When you try and connect the computer to a network, you never connect, never get a DHCP address and if you look either on the networking tooltip or in the Network and Sharing Center, you see that Windows is waiting to identify the network, usually with the word “Identifying…” in the top graphic and in the place where the network name is.

Before going on here to the solutions, my suggestion is to uninstall (not just disable) your antivirus to see if that solves the problem. The second thing I would do is switch from using WiFi to connect to your network and instead plug in an Ethernet cable. If the latter fixes the problem, you’ve got a WiFi issue, not a networking issue and you need to concentrate on fixing that. We had a unit like that this week where we needed to update and/or reinstall the WiFi driver to fix the problem.

In addition to not connecting to the internet, I discovered that the DHCP service would not start because a service that it depends on, AFD was not starting properly and this seemed to be related to the TDI Support Driver service also not starting properly.

I’m sure I have spent hundreds of hours trying in vain to solve this problem, until now. Neither have I found anyone else who has anything but the most rudimentary of fixes for it. But Brian at Select Real Security has discovered the solution and even put some simple batch and registry files online to help you with the fix. These worked in my case, I hope they do in yours as well.

If you need help with virus removal in Lexington, call Hartland Computer Repair, 859.536.4107.

Solved: Broken keyboard clip

March 19th, 2016 33 comments

This article describes how to repair a broken motherboard keyboard clip on a laptop. 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 in any practical sense – if you break it off while repairing a customer’s computer, you’re probably going to have to get 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). The electrical connections on the keyboard tab are on the bottom side and must firmly touch the receiving contacts on the motherboard side of the clip.

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. There are other materials that might work for this shim, a stiff thick piece of card stock might be a good choice too

Computer Repair - cutting plastic

Cut a notch matching the length of the socket

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. Most keyboard tabs have tiny stubs on the left and right side about 0.25cm from the front edge, these stubs sit in tiny notches on the receiving clip on the motherboard. 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 make 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.

Computer Repair - Keyboard tab

Slide shim in above the tab

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.

Computer Repair Lexington - keyboard repair

Bend tab down so that it’s flat, then apply hot glue

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

 

SOLVED: ACPI\SNY5001 Unknown Device

March 19th, 2016 12 comments

Summary: After reinstalling Windows on a Sony laptop, the Device Manager shows an entry of ACPI\SNY5001 Unknown Device. Windows Update doesn’t have this driver, here’s where to find it.

I spent (wasted) a ton of time tonight trying to find the darned download for this device that for a Sony VGN-CR116E. After installing Windows on the machine, I had all of my devices except one troublesome one identified at ACPI\SNY5001. Clearly this isn’t the only unit that uses this device and I suspect than many laptops running Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 10 upgrades will be missing this driver upon a re-installation of Windows. I haven’t run into this problem on a Windows 8/8.1 laptop but you may find the same issue there as well. If Sony include the driver in their standard download section for this computer, I sure couldn’t find it.

After re-installing Windows you may find that this driver is missing in the Device Manager. After the re-install, it will probably just show up in the Device Manager as “Unknown Device”. The driver you need is for the Sony Firmware Extension Parser (whatever that is), the Vista 32-bit driver can be found here. and the Windows 7 64-bit driver is here. These drivers are embedded in an executable file so just download the linked file and run it to install the driver.

If you need another version for this device, try Googling “Sony Firmware Extension Parser Device”, you should be able to hit it directly on the Sony eSupport site. My understanding in the notes below is that the Windows 7 64-bit version works under Windows 10 as well. On Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10, you may also want to try doing a Windows Update to see if that downloads and installs the driver automagically.

If you need computer repair in Lexington, contact Hartland Computer Repair on 859.536 4107.

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SOLVED: SFC says “There is a system repair pending…”

March 18th, 2016 66 comments

Update 7 December 2015

This technique still works in Windows 8.1. I needed to use both DISM as described below and then delete the \Windows\winsxs\pending.xml  file as described in the first comment below by Icon Era – David. After that, I was able to run the SFC command and do a repair. This machine was getting stuck at 9% sitting on the Asus POST screen saying “Updating System”. Once it gets to 9% it will sit there for a while then reboot. My theory is that it’s a bad Windows Update and this is my last option for fixing it it as there are no restore points (thanks to the fools who designed Windows 8 turning that off by default) and no other repairs have succeeded. Honestly, I have my doubts about whether this will fix my problem, my experience with Windows 8 and Windows 10 non-booting problems is that you almost always have to reinstall.

Update 18 March 2016

I have yet to have success in Windows 10 with this technique. Alas, I have found fairly consistently if you are having to work “under the covers” of Windows 10, you’re in trouble and are going to eventually have to re-install. If anyone has luck fixing Windows 10 using all or part of this technique, please come back and write a comment and tells us how it went.

Original Entry

Frequently when I’ve removed a virus, I want or need to run the SFC /scannow repair program. Quite often it seems, in Windows 7 and Vista, the command can’t run an returns an error message of:

“There is a system repair pending which requires reboot to complete. Restart Windows and run sfc again.”

Try as one might and regardless of whether you can boot into Safe Mode or are using the Recovery Console, this error just won’t go away. However, I have found a command finally that overcomes this problem. On a machine that I was working on today, from the Recovery Console command prompt I entered:

dism.exe /image:C:\ /cleanup-image /revertpendingactions

After that, I rebooted the machine into Safe Mode (this particular computer would boot to Safe Mode but is BSODing when booted to normal mode). In Safe Mode, I opened an elevated command prompted and issued the SFC /scannow command and it now runs.

If you need computer repair in Lexington, contact Hartland Computer Repair on 859.536 4107.

WKYT Interview on Digital Afterlife

March 15th, 2016 No comments

We were recently interviewed by Miranda Combs from WKYT for a piece she did on your digital afterlife, what we leave behind online after we’re gone, who owns it and how to access it. As the lawyer, who dominates the piece says, there are some serious legal considerations about this data. We think there are practical ones as well and frankly wonder how good an idea it is to leave this all up to the lawyers to sort out.

If you don’t want to leave your loved ones completely in the lurch about your online accounts, sharing your passwords by using a password manager like LastPass or DashLane is a good idea. This could come in handy if you are incapacitated in some way too but moreover, it’s the recommended way to handle all your passwords so you don’t even have to die to take advantage of it.

 

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Should I Upgrade To Faster Internet?

March 12th, 2016 No comments

I get this question a lot from people suffering from computer problems and seemingly slow internet speeds. Faster is always better, but is it necessary and will it solve your problems? In most cases, I do not think so.

Here is a screenshot that shows the internet usage on my network currently. At the moment, I’m streaming ESPN over the internet in HD on my TV and streaming a radio station from iHeart Radio on my laptop. I’m surfing in the background a little, we have an internet radio on upstairs, my phone an Amazon Echo and about 5 computers are connected to my network.

bandwidth

What you see here is that I’m using about 500KB/s which, in terms of the way they measure Internet bandwidth is about 4Mb/s, that is, 4 Megabits per second. So to run my multiple streaming applications, including High Definition Television and all my other devices, I need about 2/3 the bandwidth of Time Warner’s Basic 6MB/s service and just a little over a quarter of their Standard 15Mb/s service.

If my TV picture started stuttering or my browsing started to feel slow, would having the top of the line 50Mb/s service help me? Not unless my ISP is doing some kind of monkey business and I don’t think they are. In my experience at home, and with customers, streaming and speed problems are almost always related to WiFi interference or overloading a WiFi channel (I’ll cover diagnosing and fixing this problem some other time).

I’ve got mixed feelings about suggesting we don’t need faster internet, America in general is woefully behind the rest of world in delivering bandwidth to consumers. But make sure, if you’re going to get the high bandwidth services from your ISP (50 Mb/s here now), you do it for the right reasons. In my view, two good reasons would be:

  • The $30/mo. difference in price doesn’t phase you,
  • You have a house full of streamers, watching Netflix upstairs, streaming YouTube downstairs, playing online gaming in the basement and who knows what else.

I mention gaming above and it probably constitutes a reason all by itself. Online games are notoriously resource hungry and sensitive to all aspects of communications, if you’re supporting a gamer no amount of bandwidth is too much (or even enough).

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FireEye reports that hackers are impersonating IT staff

February 24th, 2015 No comments

Corporate data breaches, ones that effect all of us, are getting ever more sophisticated. Recent breaches and Anthem, Home Depot and others have exposed not just our credit card data but also much more personal information on us (and our children). The security company FireEye has today come out with a report detailing the state of corporate hacking (sign-up required).

As their summary states, criminals have access to the target networks for 205 days on average, that’s a lot of time to collect a lot of data. But another thing that I thought was interesting was the prevalence of miscreants impersonating IT personnel and using other social network tactics to target employees of their prey. According to FireEye, they observed hackers impersonating IT staff in 78 percent of phishing schemes directed at companies, in comparison to just 44 percent last year. What makes this interesting to me is that it means the bad guys may be targeting you directly if you work for a large firm like Toyota or Lexmark or KentuckyOne, in order to gain access to your employer’s data.

Keep your guard up Lexington.

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Campus Computer Repair is Now Open!

October 21st, 2014 No comments

Hartland Computer welcomes Campus Computer Repair to our growing family of computer repair facilities. Campus Computer, located at 252 E. High St. in Lexington will provide the same high level of customer service to UK Campus and downtown Lexington customers that Hartland Computer has provided its customers for the last 6 years. Campus Computer Repair can be reached on 859-475-5805.

SOLVED: Autoruns crashes using “Analyze Offline System…”

September 19th, 2014 2 comments

Autoruns is a great little program and for years I have hoped to use it on various slaved hard drives where I’m doing a computer repair and want to make quick and easy registry changes or just see what was going on on an unbootable computer. But every version has had the same problem for me, it will load some of the offline drive’s entries then it will crash. I have often seen people who have the same problem ask about it but never have I seen a useful response. BUT TODAY IS DIFFERENT, I finally got it to work! Here is what worked for me.

Run Autoruns on the host machine and let it enumerate you hosts registry. When it finishes the main menu item “User” will turn from greyed-out to black. Click on the User item and change the user from the default to “NT AUTHORITY/SYSTEM”. Now go to File/Analyze Offline System… and select your slaved drive’s Windows folder and your slaved drive’s target user.

 

Hartland Computer Repair
859.536.4107