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Maintain your hard drive with SpinRite

When it comes to maintaining a hard drive, running a disk check will usually find any software related issues. But when I need to check the hardware inside of a hard drive, I will use SpinRite from Gibson Research Corporation.

Intro screen from GRC SpinRite
Intro screen from GRC SpinRite

SpinRite is a magnetic storage data recovery, repair and maintenance program and works only on HDD's (Hard Disk Drive) and not SSD's (Solid State Drive). SpinRite includes a feature called DynaStat that can reassemble missing data from bad sectors. SpinRite is a self-contained program that runs on top of a version of FreeDOS (Free Disk Operating System).

Graphic Status Display screen from GRC SpinRite
Graphic Status Display screen from GRC SpinRite

SpinRite has five (5) levels of operation, each building on the previous level.

  1. Examine the hard drive surface. This level will read every sector of the selected partition(s) psychical surface looking for areas that appear to be healthily but could possibly fail in the future.
  2. Recover unreadable data on drive. This level will read every sector of the selected partition(s) psychical surface looking for unreadable data. Spinrite will then attempt to recover unreadable partition data using the built-in advanced recovery technology.
  3. Refresh the hard drive surface. This level will read and write every sector of the selected partition(s) psychical surface, essentially exercising the hard drive. It basically test and verifies every sector on the partition(s).
  4. Locates surface defects. This level will read, write and invert every sector twice of the selected partition(s) psychical surface. This tests and verifies that every 'bit' on the selected partition can be successfully written to and retrieved.
  5. Restore known good sectors. This level does everything that all of the other levels do and restores any areas that may have been previously mark as defective, but now are found to be reliable.

DynaStat Data Recovery screen from GRC SpinRite
DynaStat Data Recovery screen from GRC SpinRite

To run SpinRite you will need to create a bootable media, either a CD or USB drive. Normally, if your computer is running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, all you have to do is insert the bootable media and restart your computer. If your computer doesn't boot up to the SpinRite media, you may have to change the boot order in the system BIOS (Basic Input/Output System).

If your computer has Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, more than likely your computer has UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) enabled BIOS. To run Spinrite on one of these systems, you defiantly have to go into the BIOS and turn off the UEFI boot functions temporality.

Now, if in either scenario SpinRite doesn't recognized your hard drive, you may have to also change the drive mode in the BIOS from AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) to ATA (AT Attachment) temporarily.

SpinRite is available from Gibson Research Corporation for $89 (as of this writing). For more information on SpinRite, just follow the link below.

Gibson Research Corporation SpinRite

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

When it comes to desktop computer repair, one of the most common hardware failures are CD/DVD/BD drives. If you're having problems with getting the disk tray to eject or disks are not being recognized, it may be time to replace it. Here's how to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer.

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

So you're tired of trying to get your old desktop CD/DVD/BD drive to work and are ready to replace it with a new one. Having to use a paper clip to manually eject your computer's CD/DVD/BD drive tray can get old really quick. Replacing a desktop CD/DVD/BD drive is fairly easy; you just have to make sure you get one with the correct connections and dimensions.

Find a new drive

The majority of CD/DVD/BD drives on the market nowadays will have SATA (Serial ATA) connectors for data and power. But there are still quite a few older systems that still use PATA (Parallel ATA) for data and 4 Pin Molex for power. SATA type drives are the de facto standard, so finding PATA replacement drives can be tricky. Newegg and TigerDirect are good places to find these older style drives.

SATA and PATA drive connections
PATA and SATA drive connections

Desktop CD/DVD drives have standard width and height dimensions, so all you have to do is check the depth of your existing drive. Sometimes you have room to put a deeper drive in and sometimes you don't. Always check to see what kind of space you have available before purchasing a replacement drive.

Uninstall the old software

Once you have your new CD/DVD/BD drive you will need to uninstall the software that came with your old CD/DVD/BD drive. It's usually a version of Nero or PowerDVD and it is branded to your old drive. Once you remove the old drive, the software that came bundled with it won't work anymore. Your new drive should have come with its own disk burning software.

Install the new drive

From here we need to turn the computer off, disconnect the power cord from the back of the system and open up the case. Now there are two possible ways of mounting the CD/DVD/BD drive in the case: screws or quick release rails. You may have to remove the front bezel from the case to get the CD/DVD/BD drive, as it will need to come out the front of the case. Make note of the connections and remove the old drive and replace with the new one.

Drives attached by screws and quick release rails
Drives attached by screws and quick release rails

Install the new software

Once you get the system back together, power it up and let Windows discover the new CD/DVD/BD drive. Windows may require a restart to finalize the setup. After that you are ready to install the software that came with the new drive.

The most common computer video display connectors

When it comes to computer repair, you have to be prepared to work on different types of systems. One of the biggest issues is having the correct video display connector. With more than ten different types of connectors it can be difficult to identify the correct one. Here is a list of the most common video display connectors.

What type of video connector do you have?

Most common video display connectors  
S-Video
3 variations - 4, 7 or 9 pins.
S-Video display connector
VGA (Video Graphics Array)
2 variations - DE-9 (9-pin) & DE-15 (15-pin).
VGA display connector
DMS-59 (Dual Monitor Solution, 59 pins)
It provides two DVI or VGA outputs in a single connector. An adapter cable is needed for conversion from DMS-59 (digital) to DVI (digital) or VGA (analog).
DMS-59 display connector
DVI (Digital Visual Interface)
5 variations - DVI-I (Single Link), DVI-I (Dual Link), DVI-D (Single Link), DVI-D (Dual Link) & DVI-A .
  • DVI-I (integrated, combines digital and analog in the same connector; digital may be single or dual link).
  • DVI-D (digital only, single link or dual link).
  • DVI-A (analog only).
DVI display connector
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
Electrically compatible with the DVI.
HDMI display connector
DisplayPort
Backward compatible with VGA and DVI through the use of adapters.
DisplayPort display connector

My digital toolbox

Every computer repair technician has a digital toolbox, more than likely several. They are either on a CD / DVD or USB drive and contain programs that we use on a regular basis. Here are a few of the programs that I have in my digital toolbox.

My Digital Toolbox

All of the following programs have one thing in common, they don't require installation. Just right-click on them in File Explorer and select Run as administrator, that's it. Some of the programs may require access to the Internet for complete functionality.

AdwCleaner

One of the best stand-alone adware removal tools I have found yet. Right out of the box and it will scan your system with a generic set of definitions. But if you are connected to the Internet before you start up AdwCleaner, it will download a current set of definitions. And if you select uninstall, it will remove any quarantined files and then delete itself.

AdwCleaner

.NET Framework Cleanup Tool

When it comes to resolving .NET problems, sometimes you're better off just removing and reinstalling the framework. The .NET Framework Cleanup Tool is a stand-alone program that does just what its name implies. Just pick the version you wish to remove (or all) and click Cleanup Now. Once it is complete, just reboot and use Windows Update to reinstall whatever version of .net framework you need.

.NET Framework Cleanup Tool

Sysinternals Suite

Hands down the best collection of Windows trouble shooting tools. All of them are stand-alone programs, over 70 altogether. From seeing everything that automatically starts up with Autoruns, exploring running processes with Process Explorer or monitoring network usage with TCPView. When it comes to Windows diagnostics, the Sysinternals Suite cannot be beat.

Sysinternals Suite

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Doing computer repair for a living, I get a lot of questions about how to speed computers up. When it comes to improving the performance of your computer, adding more memory has always been the best 'bang for the buck'. And it's not that hard to do. Here's how to upgrade or add more memory to your laptop or desktop computer.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

When you start to look at upgrading your computer's memory, there are three (3) things you need to know: type of memory it uses, how much memory you currently have and the maximum amount of memory your system can handle. Computer memory is installed into slots on the motherboard. Laptops use SO-DIMM (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module) slots and desktops use DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module) slots. The amount of memory slots varies from laptop (1-2) to desktop (2-8). High performance motherboards, like the ones used in servers, can have 16 or more memory slots.

There are a couple of ways to find out the memory specs of your computer. The first is the tried and true method, the manufacturers manual (either system or motherboard) and physically checking the slots in the computer (some laptops have the memory slots in two different locations). Or you can use an online tool like the Crucial System Scanner to find out what type of memory is in your computer. In some cases, instead of just adding more memory, you may have to replace the existing memory modules with larger ones.

Once you have found out what type of memory you need, it's time to go and purchase it. You can buy it on-line or locally. But remember, if you need to return it, it's easier to do it locally. Also, if you need two or four modules of memory, many vendors offer twin and quad packs of memory for less than the individual price. Once you have your new memory, it's time to install it.

Note: Remember to disconnect the power going to the system before working on it.

  • Desktops - Disconnect the power cord going to the computer
  • Laptops - Disconnect the ac charger and remove the battery (if possible)

How to remove a laptop memory module from memory slot

How to remove a laptop memory module from memory slot

  1. Spread apart the securing clips on each end of the memory module slot until the module pops up.
  2. Remove the memory module from the memory module slot.

How to install a laptop memory module into memory slot

How to install a laptop memory module into memory slot

  1. Align the notch in the memory module with the tab in the memory module slot.
  2. Slide the memory module firmly into the slot at a 45 degree angle, and press the memory module down until it clicks into place. If you do not hear the click, remove the memory module and reinstall it.

How to remove a desktop memory module from memory slot

How to remove a desktop memory module from memory slot

  1. Push the release tabs near both ends of the memory module slot until the module pops up.
  2. Remove the memory module from the memory module slot.

How to install a desktop memory module into memory slot

How to install a desktop memory module into memory slot

  1. Align the notch in the memory module with the tab in the memory module slot.
  2. Insert memory module vertically and press down until it snaps into place.

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

Our in-shop computer repair service  is based on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

Contact us

Geeks in Phoenix
4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

Geeks in Phoenix have the best computer repair technicians providing computer repair and service in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona. We offer In-Shop, On-Site and Remote (with stable Internet connection) computer repair service.

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