How can I use a wireless network between floors?

May 9th, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, networking, wireless 1 Comment »

I have just changed to ADSL2 & I got a wireless modem as I am now using laptop & Desk PC at home office. I live in a three floor townhouse in a strata property & the concrete floor slabs are proving too difficult for the wireless network if I’m on a different floor to  the modem location when using laptop. The ISP  told me to get a “cheap” wireless router but i am unclear how this will help if i have to plug the router into the modem.

Can you help explain?

Since changing to ADSL 2 I have had bad phone connection so I don’t want a router to make that deteriorate further.

The problem you have is the construction of your building, it’s almost certainly built with reinforced concrete floors which contain metal bars to make the concrete slabs stronger. This combination of rocks, cement and steel make it almost impenetrable for wireless networks.

You might be able to improve the signal between floors by putting the router in or close to the stairwell so the signal can get between floors, but even that will probably not get you good coverage throughout the house.

Probably the only reliable solution will be to run cables between each floor and set up a wireless base station on each. This shouldn’t affect your phone signal.

The phone signal problem is probably related to your phone not having line filters properly installed, we cover this in our Bad Phone Connection After Installing ADSL Post.

I have a bad telephone connection after installing ADSL

May 9th, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, Internet No Comments »

I’ve had an ADSL internet service installed to my house and since I’ve started using it, my telephone line quality has become terrible. How do I fix this?

ADSL internet services use a certain part of a phone line’s signal which is one of the reasons why you can still speak on the phone while surfing the web.

Because of this, the ADSL signals have to be separated from the other phone services using a little device called a filter, this makes sure the phone and ADSL won’t interfere with each other.

What’s probably happened at your home or office is that a filter is either not installed, not fitted properly or defective.

Check each device that has a telephone connection in your premises has a matchbox sized filter attached and that they are plugged in correctly as shown by the labels on the plugs. If the problem still continues, then you’ll need to unplug devices (called an isolation test) until the problem goes away which will tell you which filter isn’t working correctly.

Are PC Health errors stopping CDs from working?

March 24th, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, software No Comments »

Help! My computer is telling me PC Health Advisor says I have 510 problems. Would this be why I am unable to burn CD’s through ITunes?

Any help gratefully accepted!

It is possible that the errors PC Health is reporting are related to being able to burn CDs although it’s difficult to say without seeing the error report.

Generally we don’t like programs like PC Health Advisor as they try to prove their worth by reporting minor issues as errors, so most of those 150 errors are probably trivial things that would be fixed with a computer clean up. You may want to follow those instructions and see how the computer’s performance improves.

CD burning is a black art. You can have ten identical computers and each one will have it’s own quirks with burning CDs. Generally we recommend burning at the lowest speed for the best reliability.

We also find that different brands of blank CDs work better than others. Again this varies with every machine. We recommend always steering clear of the super cheap blank CDs as well given some of them are of pretty poor quality.

The problem may be with iTunes and its Digital Rights Management (DRM), so you might want to check if you can burn CD’s from other programs or even if they are playing in your system. It could be the CD burning issue might be hardware.

Should my son build a computer?

March 16th, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, Hardware 1 Comment »

My son is interested in building his own computer. I have concerns that if it doesn’t work we will have to spend more money on another computer.

He has checked out various websites and feels confident he can do it.

His requirements are:

  • 1-7 960 CPU
  • Asus Sabertooth X58 Motherboard
  • 12 GB Ram
  • GTX580 Graphiics card
  • 1T Hard Drive DVD Player

Generally I’d recommend just buying one. Like cars, it’s cheaper to buy one rather than build one from scratch.

However, it’s a good experience to build one from scratch so I’d recommend your son giving it a go. Just make sure he includes an anti-static wrist strap (around $15) in his budget and make sure he reads the instructions closely.

Remember that nothing on a computer should be forced and screws only need to be a little past finger tight.

Building your own anything is a good learning tool for kids and adults, even if it does cost a bit more than buying a brand name.

Defrag is reducing my hard drive space

January 22nd, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, Windows 7, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows Vista, Windows XP 1 Comment »

I’m defragmenting my hard disc and I’m noticing a strange situation here! before defragging my free space was 110Gb and now when its 31% defragged the free space is 92GB and its decreasing continuously.. any ideas about what I should do now??

Mechanical hard drives store data in blocks, which are like parking spaces in a car park. When Windows saves data onto a drive it “parks” the new information in the first available space and often will break up files bigger than a single block (which are most files) across different parts of the disk. This slows down the system when you want to open or save a file.

The Windows defrag program rearranges the data on your hard drive so all the bits in each file are parked next to each other, making the process a lot more efficient.

Because defrag has to shuffle the stored data on the hard drive, you’ll see the amount of free space available grow and shrink as it goes about figuring where the best place to put data is. It’s the same as when you reorganise a cupboard or workroom.

So don’t worry about it unless you find there is substantially less free space at the end of the process. If that does happen, check your drive for bad blocks or give your drive a clean up.

My computer screen’s gone blank, is my hard drive damaged?

January 16th, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware No Comments »

I have a Sony Vaio CR Notebook that I purchased in 2008. It was working fine until Thanksgiving. I noticed the screen blurring and I would sometimes have to restart it to get a clear picture. It was mimicking a TV screen that was hit by lightning but to my knowledge, no single event caused it to begin this.

I could partially see and it was loading my icons on my desktop as usual, It just couldn’t be used. Now, it is comletely unusable. The screen is black.

My research papers and pictures are saved on the hard drive under my documents or in Windows Photo Gallery. Is it possible to determine if the hard drive is damaged? and if not…could I somehow extract that information off my sony using some external device? I am a teacher and use computers but am clueless about the logistics of computers. Can you please tell me if I have any options? I would greatly appreciate it!

The good news is it sounds like the display – or the associated cabling and electronics – are causing the problem, not the hard drive. So all the data on the drive should be fine although repairing the computer probably won’t be worth repairing.

You’ll need to take the computer to a computer technician who can remove the hard drive and copy the data to a new computer, DVD or send it to an online storage service. Either way, all of your information should be fine.

Canon Pixma IP 1000 no longer prints text

January 5th, 2011 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, Printers No Comments »

My Canon Pixma IP 1000,  3 – 4  years old and been fine. Suddenly won’t print text. Same in Word, Publisher, Notebook, Excel etc. Graphics, pictures, lines etc all  print OK, but no text….. Have cleaned nozzles tried new usb cable,  Reinstalled driver…Grey scale test works fine…. But still no text.  Any suggestions please?

It sounds like the black ink cartridge or print head isn’t working properly. The fact it can print greyscale and graphics indicates the printer’s color heads are fine.

You may want to try running another head clean before replacing the black ink cartridge. When you do it’s a good idea to try printing out something that is very heavy in black text.

Keep in mind though that the Canon IP1000 was a very cheap printer at its time and it simply isn’t designed to work forever so it might be time to consider a new printer.

Do I need a VGA and USB cable to my monitor?

December 30th, 2010 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware No Comments »

Do I need to use both the VGA and the USB cable for my Monitor. I am using Vista.

What you’ll find is the USB cable is probably for the USB ports and other accessories such as webcams or TV tuners that might be built into the monitor. Generally the monitor connects either with a VGA, DVI or HDMI cable, USB is almost unknown as a way to connect a monitor to a computer.

It is best to connect both as without the USB connection you’ll be unable to use the accessories included with the monitor.

Hardware has not passed Windows Logo testing

December 13th, 2010 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, Printers, software, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP No Comments »

I am operating on Windows XP.

Whilst installing the latest version of AVG Free and after re-booting a dialog box appeared with the following message:- ‘The software you are installing for this hardware Non-Plug and Play Drivers has not passed Windows Logo testing to verify its compatability with Windows XP”.

It recommends not continuing,which I did.

What does it all mean ? should I have carried on or not.

The Windows Logo testing refers to Microsoft’s program of certifying that devices and software is compatible with the current version of Windows. The aim is to let consumers know what products are guaranteed to work on their computers.

While the program is a good idea, it involves quite a bit of cost for vendors and Microsoft so not all equipment is certified. Also older products won’t be certified for newer Windows versions and manufacturers rarely bother certifying new products for the older versions of Windows.

So generally you can ignore the warnings and proceed with the installation, just note that running uncertified products on your system might increase the chances of the computer being slowed down or becoming unstable.

Finding a Windows7 or Vista printer driver

December 12th, 2010 Paul Wallbank Posted in Hardware, Printers, Windows 7, Windows Vista No Comments »

How do I safely download a printer driver for Vista for an older printer without having my computer scanned. I do not trust the “let me scan your computer” scam.

You’re right in not trusting services that ask to “scan your computer” before allowing you to download software. Most of them are a scam and you should avoid them.

One of the barriers to using a Windows Vista system was that many manufacturers dropped support for even comparatively recent hardware like printers and scanners, which meant many people reverted to Windows XP when they found their often recently purchased hardware wouldn’t work.

A way around this is to run your printer in “Emulation Mode”. Printer emulation is where the computer pretends the printer is a different, usually older, model.

Running a printer in emulation usually means you’ll lose some features that the older printer doesn’t support and if you’re running a multifunction device with a scanner and fax built in, you will probably find those aspects don’t work on the computer.

Microsoft have a detailed description of how to set a system up in emulation mode at their website. While these instructions are aimed at Windows XP 64 bit users, the instructions largely hold for Windows Vista and 7 systems.

Some printers, particularly the multifunction systems, don’t have an emulation mode and will only work on the systems they have software for so you may have to search the manufacturer’s website for the right drivers.

In many cases the printer manufacturers never released Windows Vista software, this was disgraceful behaviour by printer manufacturers and if you find this is the case with your printer, you may want to consider a different brand for your next device.