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Showing posts from 2012

Hackers are relentless

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/11/ff-mat-honan-password-hacker/all/ is a very scary story in hacking.

Free better Windows caching app

A+: If your Win7 Install Goes Wrong

If the system won’t start, you can still view log files. However, this depends on the type of installation and how far the installation got. If it was a clean installation, you should boot to the Windows 7 DVD; select Repair your computer, then access the System Recovery Options menu, and select the Command Prompt. If it was an upgrade that didn’t get far, and if Windows Vista/XP/2000 was previously installed on an NTFS drive, you can boot to the System Recovery Options in Vista, or the Recovery Console from a Windows XP or 2000 CD and view the log files from there.
 If you cannot start the clean installation or upgrade, check the following: • Processor speed and memory size: Verify that your computer meets the minimum requirements for Windows 7.  Make sure you are installing the correct type (32-bit or 64-bit) and version of Windows 7. • Windows type and version: Make sure you are installing the correct type (32-bit or 64-bit) and version of Windows 7 (Starter, Home Premium, and so …

A+: Did your Win7 install go OK? Use the logs to check

When you complete the clean installation or upgrade, verify that your installation has gone smoothly by testing it. For example, attempt to navigate through Windows, access administrative functions, connect to the Internet, and so on.

 If you have confirmed that Windows is working normally, update the system. Install the latest service pack and additional updates as necessary. It is possible that the service pack was included on your installation media, but if not, download it and install it before going any further. Then, download any other updates that are necessary utilizing the Windows Update feature.

Installations usually go smoothly, but not always. If an installation fails for any reason, or if the installation completed but Windows doesn’t seem to be behaving properly, consider reviewing the log files to find out more about the problem and why it occurred.


The following table refers to variable directory called %WINDIR%. By default, the name of this folder in Windows 7 will be…

A+: Win7 Clean Install

By far the most reliable Windows 7 OS is the one installed 'clean', not an update from a previous version of Windows. Differences between versions of Registry entries and DLLs can make an upgraded version less stable. You will lose your installed apps, but you can reinstall from the original source where you got the app, right?

Now that you have decided on the version of Win7 to use and have verified compatibility of hardware, it’s time to install. The Windows 7 installation is more simple than earlier versions of Windows. 
Here we cover the steps involved in a “clean” local installation of Win7. Keep in mind that this type of installation will remove any data currently stored on the computer’s hard drive. The following steps detail an installation of Windows 7 Ultimate. Step 1. Begin the installation from the DVD-ROM. There are two methods to perform a clean install of Windows 7 from DVD: • Install Windows 7 by running the Setup program from within the current version of Wind…

A+: Updating to Windows 7

Do you need to install Win7 on a Vista PC? Then, you _can_ update, which in theory will preserve your installed appps; but, it's not guaranteed, and it's far better to do a clean install of WIn7 anyway, as clean installs result in more reliable PCs.

That being said, upgrades are done in essentially the same manner as clean installs. The difference is that all the settings, applications, and user files will ultimately be kept in place if the upgrade is successful. It is recommended that those files and settings are backed up previous to the upgrade. However, before starting the upgrade, you should first check to see if your computer (and operating system) is compatible and if it will survive the process. You can also use the following utilities and websites to do this:

• Windows Upgrade Advisor: This is a website that is accessed by clicking on the Check compatibility online button when you first insert the Windows 7 DVD. Of course, the computer that you want to upgrade needs t…

A+: Install methods for Win 7*

You can install Win7 from DVD-ROM, from a network, from a USB flash memory drive, from a recovery disc or partition or by restoring a clone image.

Local DVD-ROM: Load the Win7 DVD into your computer's optical drive, boot from it and answer the questions as presented. 
Network install: Install once connected to a network using Windows Deployment Services or Remote Installation Services. Unattend.xml allows unattended installs if you preprogram that XML file for your installation.
Disk image: Apply an entire disc image from external media using apps like Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost or other apps. C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep should be run after applying a clone to alter the Security Identifier (SID) so every PC on a network is unique; if DHCP is not used for automated IP assignment, also change the IP address manually before attaching the PC to your network.
Recovery disc or partition: These contain an image of Windows as if it was installed at the factory. Often the image is on…

A+: Versions of Win7 and requirements*

Windows 7 includes the Starter version (which limits how many apps can run at once) as well as Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise. Here's a partial reference to versions and features:

FeaturesStarterHome PremiumProfessionalUltimateWin XP ModenonoYYDomain JoinnonoYYBackup to LANnonoYYBitlocker EncryptionnononoY
* The formal minimum requirements for Windows 7 (which is never enough speed to keep any user happy)  are:

ComponentRequirementProcessor1 GHzMemory1 GB (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)Disk space free16GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)VideoDirectX 9 w/ WDDM 1.0 or better driverOptical driveDVD-ROM
The Windows Compatibility Center  allows you to check your Windows PC, as does the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, or running {Win-R} | msinfo32.exe . 

A+: How to Treat Customers' Property

The old Aretha Franklin song said it best: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Whether it’s the device you’re servicing (laptop or desktop PC, PDA, printer, monitor, or other peripheral), or the telephone, respect it. Here’s how: • Don’t use customer equipment for personal tasks. Make personal phone calls with your own phone (you do have a cell phone, don’t you?). • Don’t go poking around their hard disk or PDA folders unless it’s necessary to solve the problem. • Don’t “test” the printer by printing personal information. Use your own printer to print your resume or a pinup of your favorite movie star, sports figure, or car. • If you need to reset the resolution on the display for testing, change it back when you’re done. Ditto with any other changes necessary for troubleshooting. • Don’t make the customers sorry they called you or your company for help. Customers who become ex-customers have a way of helping potential customers call somebody else for help.

A+: Professional Behavior

Passing the A+ Certification exams isn’t an end in itself—it is designed to help start (or advance) your Information Technology (IT) career. In most IT careers, how you deal with customers, whether they’re people you see day after day in your company or clients you might see only once or twice, can have as much of an impact on your career progress as your knowledge of hardware, software, firmware, and operating systems. The following sections will help you master the “soft skills” you need to move up in the computing world. How to Talk to Customers According to pop-culture references like the Dilbert comic strip and innumerable others, computer techs are incapable of relating to “normal” people in either social or professional situations. Unfortunately, these comic stereotypes are based on a lot of real-world data. Here’s how to reverse the stereotype, one customer interaction at a time: • No matter how difficult the problem, maintain a positive attitude and tone of voice—…

A+: Vacuum Cleaners compatible with computers

Vacuum cleaners are great for cleaning homes and offices, but typical models use plastic parts that can build up harmful static electricity. So, instead of using an ordinary office or home vacuum cleaner to clean a computer, purchase a model especially suited for computer use. Computer-compatible vacuum cleaners have features such as • Small-sized tips and brushes perfect for cleaning keyboards and working around motherboards and add-on cards • Antistatic construction • Hand-held with an adjustable neck for easy use inside a system
Tip Use a vacuum cleaner as an alternative to compressed air whenever possible, especially when working at the client’s site because it’s neater—there’s no flying gunk that can land in awkward places.

A+: Cleaning and Maintenance Tools *

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Some of these items clean computers and peripherals to help prevent failures and keep systems in top condition. Other items can be used as spares for replacement testing or to replace missing components.

• Compressed air— Cleans gunk out of cases, fans, and power supplies • Keyboard key puller— Safely removes keys to allow effective keyboard cleaning • Computer-rated mini-vacuum cleaner— Cleans gunk out of cases, fans, power supplies, and keyboards and dust off motherboards and add-on cards • Wire cutter and stripper— Used to build network cable • Extra case, card, and drive screws (salvage or new)— Used as spares to replace missing or defective screws • Extra card slot covers (salvage or new)— Used to replace missing covers to maintain proper system cooling • Extra hard disk and motherboard/card jumper blocks (salvage or new)— Used to replace missing or defective jumper blocks when needed to configure devices • Antistatic cleaning wipes • Replacement ATA/IDE (40-wire and 80-wire), flo…

A+: Useful Hardware and Software Tools

Troubleshooting best methods expect you to know the use of basic diagnostic devices, so a review of this section will be useful before your A+ exam. The following list of items also provides you with a handy reference for what you should bring on service calls.
Hardware Diagnostics Hardware diagnostics tools can help you determine what components inside of a bootable system are not working correctly. Testing software used as part of the diagnostic process can also be used to perform burn-in tests on new hardware to help find problems before systems are put into service.Some typical products include a blank CD-R and DVD-R, bootable antivirus disc, blank floppy, POST card for PCI slots, and diagnostic/testing software such as QuickTech Pro and its loopback plug set which link transmit to receive lines for diagnostics..  Also, acquire testing software such as Burnin Test Professional (www.passmark.com), CheckIt Professional Edition (www.smithmicro.com), AMIDiag Suite (www.amidiag.c…

A+: Where to Go for More Information

After you’ve gathered as much information as possible, you might find that you still need more help. User manuals for components often are discarded, software drivers need to be updated, and some conflicts don’t have easy answers. Use the following resources for more help:
• Manufacturers’ websites— Most system and component manufacturers provide extensive technical information via the World Wide Web. You’ll want to have the Adobe Reader program in its latest version available to be able to read the technical manuals you can download (Adobe Reader itself is a free download from www.adobe.com). These sites often contain expert systems for troubleshooting, specialized newsgroups, downloadable driver updates, and other helps for problems.
• Printed manuals— Although many vendors have switched to web-based or Adobe Reader (PDF) manuals, some vendors still provided printed manuals or quick-reference diagrams. Be sure to file these in a way that permits quick access when needed. • Web-based…

A+: Best Sources for Replacement Parts, and Keeping Track of Solutions

“Known-Working” Doesn’t Mean “New” To perform parts exchanges for troubleshooting, you need replacement parts. If you don’t have spare parts, it’s very tempting to go to the computer store and buy some new components. Instead, take a spare system that’s similar to the “sick” computer, make sure that it works, and then use it for parts. Why? Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it works. I once replaced the air conditioning compressor on my van with a brand-new, lifetime-warranty alternator that failed in less than a week, and six more replacements failed (all from the same batch or defective parts). Whether it’s a cable, a video card, a monitor, or some other component, try using a known-working item as a temporary replacement rather than brand-new. Rather than give away, sell, or discard working video cards, hard disks, and other components you have replaced with faster, bigger, better upgrades, keep at least one of each item to use as a replacement for testing purposes or a…

A+: Points of Failure on the Outside of the Computer

The front of the computer might provide valuable clues if you’re having problems with a system. In case of problems, check the following common points of failure for help. • Can’t read CD or DVD media— The drive door on the CD-ROM or other optical drive might not be completely closed or the media might be inserted upside down; press the eject button to open the drive, remove any obstacles, reseat the media, and close the drive. You can also eject optical media with Windows Explorer/My Computer. Right-click the drive and select Eject. If the drive doesn’t eject the media, there could be a problem with the drive’s data cable, cable connection, or power connection. • Can’t shut down the computer with the case power switch— The case power switch is connected to the motherboard on ATX, BTX, and other modern desktop systems, not directly to the power supply as with older designs. The wire might be loose or connected to the wrong pins on the motherboard. Keep in mind that most sys…

A+: What Components to Check First

As the previous subsystem list indicated, there’s no shortage of places to start in virtually any subsystem. What’s the best way to decide whether a hardware, software, or firmware problem is the most likely cause? Typically, hardware problems come and go, whereas software and firmware problems are consistent. Why? A hardware problem is often the result of a damaged or loose wire or connection; when the connection is closed, the component works, but when the connection opens, the component fails. On the other hand, a software or firmware problem will cause a failure under the same circumstances every time.
Another rule of thumb that’s useful is to consider the least expensive, easiest-to-replace item first. In most cases, the power or data cable connected to a subsystem is the first place to look for problems. Whether the cable is internal or external, it is almost always the least-expensive part of the subsystem, can easily come loose, and can easily be damaged. If a cable…

A+: Thorough Troubleshooting *

Virtually every subsystem in the computer has hardware, software, and firmware components. A thorough troubleshooting process will take into account both the subsystem and all of its components. The following steps are involved in the troubleshooting cycle: Step 1. Back up customer data (if possible). Before you do anything to a customer’s system, you should ensure that the system’s data has been backed up. The easiest way to ensure that you can restore the system to its “as-was” configuration is to use a disk-imaging program such as Symantec Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image. The current versions of these programs perform disk-imaging to preserve the contents of the system drive (and other specified drives) at both a data and operating system level. However, if you need to restore specified files only, the current versions of these programs also permit file-level restoration. For speed and convenience, use an external hard disk connected to a USB 2.0, FireWire, or eSA…

A+: Is a Problem Is Caused by Hardware or Software

The oldest dilemma for any computer technician is determining whether a problem is caused by hardware or software. The widespread use of Windows operating systems makes this problem even more acute than it was when MS-DOS was the predominant standard, because all hardware in a Windows system is controlled by Windows device drivers.
A troubleshooting cycle is a method that you can use to determine exactly what part of a complex system, such as a computer, is causing the problem. The troubleshooting cycle used in this section goes into more depth than the CompTIA six-step troubleshooting process. The first step is to determine the most likely source of the problem. The client interview will help you determine which subsystem is the best place to start solving the problem. In the previous example, the printing subsystem was the most likely place to start. A subsystem is the combination of components designed to do a particular task, and it can include hardware, software, and firmware com…

A+: Recording Symptoms and Error Codes

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If tests rule out power and interference, proceed to tests focusing on the hardware or software that appears the most likely cause of the problem.

Which test or diagnostic routine is the best one to start with? Before you perform any specific tests, review the clues you gathered from the client. Examples of places where symptoms and error codes can be found include • Event Viewer— The System log records error information regarding drivers and system files, while the Application log records information and errors about applications within the operating system. • Device Manager— If a device in Device Manager is disabled it will be marked with a red x (Windows XP) or a down arrow (Windows Vista); if it is not configured properly there will be an exclamation point against a yellow background (Windows XP and Vista). Device Manager also displays codes in the Properties window of a device indicating particular issues. • On screen messages— Various messages can popup on the scree…

Defragmentation explained - hard drive si, SSD no

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/06/inside-the-ssd-revolution-mobile-devices-and-modern-oss/ is an excellent explanation of defragmentation of hard drives, and why you shouldn't do it with solid-state drives (SSDs).

A+: How to Evaluate the Client’s Environment

Depending on the clues you receive in the initial interview, you should go to the client’s work area prepared to perform a variety of tests. You might need to perform several tests to rule out certain problems, and must look for three major issues when evaluating the customer’s environment, and 

    • Power issues
    • Interference sources
    • Symptoms and error codes—this might require that you try to reproduce the error


TEST...........REQUIRES
Power..........Multimeter, circuit tester
BIOS beep, error codes...List of BIOS codes, POST card/display device
Printer self-test........Printer, paper
Windows bootlog..........Start Windows w/ Bootlog option on
I/O port.......Connect loopback plugs, run 3d party diagnostcs
Video tests..........Third-party diagnostics
Hardware resources...........Windows Device Manager
Device drivers...........Windows Device Manager



Testing Power Systems that won’t start or that have lockups or shutdowns with no error messages could be the victims of power problems.…

A+: Client Interviews

The client interview is the all-important first step in solving any computer troubleshooting situation. During the client interview, you need to ask questions to determine the following information: • What hardware or software appears to have a problem?— The user might have an opinion about this, but don’t be unduly swayed by a statement such as “the printer’s broken”; the device or software the user believes to be at fault might simply reflect a problem coming from another source. • What other hardware or software was in use at the time of the problem?— The user probably will answer these types of questions in terms of open applications, but you will also want to look at the taskbar and system tray in Windows for other programs or routines that are running. Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del will bring up a task list in Windows that has the most complete information about programs and subroutines in memory. To determine the exact version of a Windows-based program in use, click Hel…

A+: Troubleshooting and a six-step process

Two factors make for successful troubleshooting: extensive computer knowledge and an understanding of human psychology. You must understand how hardware and software work to troubleshoot them. You also must treat customers with respect. By combining these two factors, you can quickly detect and solve computer problems.

To become a successful troubleshooter, you need to

    • Learn as much as possible during the client interview
    • Evaluate the client’s environment
    • Use testing and reporting software to gather information about the system
    • Form a hypothesis (a theory you will try to prove or disprove)
    • Use the troubleshooting cycle and the CompTIA six-step troubleshooting process to isolate and solve the problem, to wit:

1 Identify the problem
2 Establish a theory of probable cause (and question the obvious)
3 Test the theory to determine the cause
4 Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution
5 Verify full system functionality and, if…

A+: Hazards

Computers and their peripherals can kill or injure you if you don’t take reasonable precautions. Here we discuss computer maintenance and the precautions you can take against these dangers.

Computer equipment and supplies can pose a number of potential hazards for the technician (and, in some cases, for computer users):

    • High voltage sources, such as computers, and peripherals, such as printers and monitors
    • Mechanical devices, such as printer mechanisms
    • Power or data cables running across floors or other locations where users could trip and fall
    • Liquids, such as those used for cleaning or refilling inkjet cartridges
    • Situational hazards, such as unsafe temporary equipment or cabling locations
    • Atmospheric hazards, such as those created by the use of toxic cleaners or the discharge of computer-room-rated fire suppression chemicals
    • Moving heavy equipment, such as laser printers, servers, large UPS systems, or print/scan/copy devices.


Computers and …