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Troubleshoot your computer and more for free with Sysinternals Suite from Microsoft

Have you ever wanted to see what programs start up when your computer boots? Or maybe defrag your pagefile? Or how about finding out what files, registry keys, etc., are currently open? You can do all this and more for free with Sysinternals Suite by Mark Russinovicha and from Microsoft.

The Autoruns program from the Sysinternals Suite
The Autoruns program from the Sysinternals Suite

Sysinternals Suite is a collection of handy utilities for Windows. I have been using them since Windows 95. From an everyday user to a computer repair technician, there is something here for you. There are currently over seventy utilities included in the Sysinternals Suite.

The Process Explorer program from the Sysinternals Suite
The Process Explorer program from the Sysinternals Suite

For the everyday user, there is Autoruns, Desktops, and PageDefrag. With Autoruns, you can see what programs are configured to start when your system boots automatically. Desktops allow you to create up to four virtual desktops and switch in between them. And with PageDefrag, you can defragment your pagefile and registry.

The TCPView program from the Sysinternals Suite
The TCPView program from the Sysinternals Suite

For the computer repair technician, there is Process Explorer, Process Monitor, and TCPView. With Process Explorer, you can see what files and folders a program has open. Process Monitor is a real-time monitoring tool that provides detailed information (PID's, path, etc.) for files, registry, and processes. And TCPView gives you a detailed listing of all network endpoints, local and remote, with addresses and port numbers.

For more information on Sysinternals Suite and all of the free utilities included, follow the links below.

Sysinternals Suite

Sysinternals Utilities Index

A computer that randomly and frequently freezes up

When it comes to computer repair, you have to a detective of sorts. And once in a while, I come across a really good mystery. I recently got an HP M7360N in the shop that would randomly freeze-up in Windows XP when you moved the mouse. It would run perfectly fine in Safe Mode. Maybe a bad driver?

A check of the event logs yields absolutely nothing, not a single error. I check Device Manager and find the hard drive controller listed under the Unknown category, even though it is correctly identified as an Intel controller. I uninstall it inside Device Manager and then scan for hardware changes. The hard drive controller reinstalls back into the Unknown category.

The system is still freezing up randomly when the mouse is moved. I tried a PS2 and USB mouse and got the same results with both. I disable all non-essential drivers and reboot with no change. I download the original and latest drivers for the system, trying all with no luck. Maybe a corrupt installation?

I create an image of the hard drive and then wipe it clean. Using the supplied recovery disks, I proceed to re-install the operating system and recovery partition. The system froze-up three times during reinstallation. But this time, the hard drive controller is under the correct category, IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers. It's starting to look like a hardware issue.

I run a few DOS-based utilities to test the memory, hard drive, etc. with no luck. I even try the HP recovery diagnostics. Every test I run tells me that there is nothing wrong with the hardware. Using the keyboard only in Windows, I can install another utility to test all of the motherboard components. I allow it to run for six hours, and the system passes every test.

The BIOS is the next place I look and find it's a few versions older than what is currently available for download. I download and install the latest BIOS version, and it still keeps freezing up randomly when the mouse is moved. I start searching the internet for clues.

After a few different search queries, I come across an article at Badcaps.net discussing symptoms of capacitor failure on motherboards, one being 'system randomly and frequently freezes'. I check the motherboard thoroughly and find no capacitors that look bad. I start checking the expansion (add-in) cards, and all at once, the mystery was solved.

There on the graphics card was a bank of capacitors that the tops were swollen.

Top view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and bad capacitors
Top view of the graphics card showing the difference between good and bad capacitors.

Side view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and bad capacitor
Side view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and a bad capacitor.

The movement of the mouse on the screen was causing the graphics card to freeze-up. I re-assembled the system with a new graphics card, and the issue was gone. Another computer repair mystery was solved.

How to manually eject your computer CD / DVD drive tray

This article shows how to use the Eject Pin Hole to manually eject the tray on your computer's CD / DVD drive. There will be times when you need to open the tray on your computers CD / DVD drive when the system is powered off.

  • You need to boot your computer using the CD / DVD drive
  • You need to retrieve a disk without starting up the computer

Caution: Turn off power to the system before manually ejecting a disk.

All CD / DVD drives have an Eject Pin Hole. The only thing we need is a paper clip to use it (I am using a #1 size for this article).

All we need is a paper clip

All we have to do is bend it at the first curve 180 degrees (straitening it out). Then take the second curve and bend it 90 degrees. Now we need to locate the Eject Pin Hole.

Desktop CD / DVD drive Eject Pin Hole location

Desktop CD / DVD drives:
Gently insert the modified paper clip into the Eject Pin Hole until you feel it make contact with the gear underneath the tray. Firmly pressing inward, you will notice the tray to start to move out. Press inward until you have enough room to get your finger under the tray and then pull it out the rest of the way. If you can only get a small portion of the tray out, you can use the other end of the paper clip to gently pry open the tray enough to get your finger under it. Once done, gently push back the tray to the closed position. It will close firmly when the system is powered up.

Laptop - Notebook CD / DVD drive Eject Pin Hole location

Laptop - Notebook CD / DVD drives:
The trays on laptops/notebooks are spring-loaded, so all that is needed is to release the locking mechanism. You do not have to insert the paper clip as far as with a desktop CD / DVD drive, as you are not connecting to the gearing under the tray. Gently insert the paper clip into the Eject Pin Hole. Once you feel it make contact, gently push in, and the tray will eject immediately. Once done, gently push the tray back inward until it locks back into place.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows Vista and Windows 7

You can help solve some computer problems and improve your computer's performance by making sure that your hard disk has no errors.

Click on the Start button.

Click on Computer.

Right-click the hard disk drive that you want to check, and then click Properties.

Click the Tools tab, and then, under Error-checking, click Check Now. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

To automatically repair problems with files and folders that the scan detects, select Automatically fix file system errors. Otherwise, the disk check will report problems but not fix them.

To perform a thorough disk check, select Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. This scan attempts to find and repair physical errors on the hard disk itself, and it can take much longer to complete.

To check for both file errors and physical errors, select both Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.

Click Start.

Depending upon the size of your hard disk, this may take several minutes. For the best results, please don't use your computer for any other tasks while it's checking for errors.

Note:
If you select Automatically fix file system errors for a disk in use (for example, the partition that contains Windows), you'll be prompted to reschedule the disk check for the next time you restart your computer.

How to perform a clean installation of the operating system on a netbook

In my last blog, I reported on the new Acer Aspire One Netbook (Model AO571h) I had just purchased. It came pre-loaded with Windows XP Home. Since I need to connect to a domain, I needed Windows XP Professional on the netbook.

Typically, I check the hardware manufacturers web site(s) for the latest drivers and download them. Then I just wipe the hard drive clean and boot to the installation media. Once it finished installation, I immediately installed the specific drivers for the hardware installed, starting with the chipset.

But the netbook's hardware architecture is new, and a standard OEM version of Windows XP does not recognize the hardware correctly. I contacted Acer and was told that they do not support installing any operating system other than what was shipped with the computer. But their web site had the drivers for all 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista.

It became apparent that I had to add the chipset drivers to the Windows XP Pro cd. I extracted the chipset drivers and found the instructions for adding the drivers into the installation media. I then created an image file from the installation media and opened it up for editing. I added in the chipset drivers that I had downloaded and saved the file. I then burned it to a cd.

The netbook booted right up on the modified installation media, and the setup went flawlessly. I installed the rest of the drivers I had downloaded, and it's running beautifully on Windows XP Professional.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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

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Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

At Geeks in Phoenix, we have the most outstanding computer consultants that provide the highest exceptional service in Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Arizona. We offer in-shop, on-site, and remote (with stable Internet connection) computer support and services.

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