WARNING You do not need to read a 1000-page book in order to fix a computer

A common misconception about computer repair and maintenance is that you need to know a lot in order to fix a computer. No, you don’t need. The key to simplify the process is to understand what a FRU (Field Replaceable Unit) is.

A FRU is a part that a technician can work on. The most common FRUs for a computer are Central Processing Unit (CPU), motherboard, hard drive, memory module, CD/DVD drive and network drive. Usually CPU and motherboard are very expensive parts to be replaced. It is usually very difficult, if not impossible to detect a faulty CPU. When a computer has serious problems, a technician usually said that “there is a motherboard issue”. Sometimes, a standalone motherboard costs the same price as a new computer. As a result, almost no one is willing to replace a motherboard.

Hard drive and memory module are the most common FRU that a technician can work on. Hard drive problem is not easy to detect. One way to do is to download a trial version of a commercial software from www.disk-monitor.com. The most useful feature of the software is to check each hard drive sector to make sure everything is OK. If there is a single faulty sector inside a hard drive, it is time to replace a hard drive.

Detecting memory module issue is relatively straightforward because you can use the built-in Memory Diagnostic function of Windows operating systems.

Fixing CD/DVD drive and network drive issue are easy. In most cases, you can just buy an external CD/DVD drive and an external Wi-Fi USB Adapter and you are ready to run without any downtime.

PC Building Report My daughter wrote the report and I posted it here without any change

Building a PC has become an exhilarating project for millions of people around the world, ranging from office workers to hard-core gamers. It has become a very normal topic to converse about as well, no matter your environment. Countless students from middle school to college happily rave about the new CPU they installed, or share pictures of their new setup. Online communities share their builds, and exchange opinions on different parts, and brag about how well their PC runs. Often times, a PC is used in order to play the millions of games out there. With numerous new video games coming out, PCs require beefier and more recent parts constantly in order to keep up with the astonishing new graphics. This happens to be my case with my upgrade from a little 2012 laptop prone to overheating to a new, custom-built PC.

I had wanted to build my own PC for about two years, though my father and I never got around to it. It was finally settled in December of 2015, with my father agreeing to build a PC for Christmas. Hopes high and giddy, I excitedly began to search for which parts to use on the website www.pcpartpicker.com. I began with the CPU, sifting through reviews and prices until we settle on one with high quality and a decent price, the i5-4590. The reviews deemed it satisfactory to many, fulfilling all the wants of a gamer or a designer. It was priced to be $179.99 at the time, but had risen to about $198 once bought. After taxes and shipping, the total was brought up to a hefty $217.40. You pay for what you get, as they say, and I would much rather pay a bit more for a reliable CPU than pay less for a less reliable one. Next, I moved on to find a cooler for the CPU. The search ended in a single click, for the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO was at the top of the list, basking in its 4.5 star rating. At a total of only $32.76, the price and performance ratio was astounding. So far, the build seemed to be coming along quite nicely. My father had given me a budget of $700-800, allowing me to get a fair amount of good parts. With $550 to go, I went on with my mission.

Now was the time to look for a motherboard, the brains behind the entire PC. Just like the CPU, I wanted something high quality that I do not have to pay an arm for. I chose the Z97 PC Mate from MSI, an ATX Intel motherboard with several interesting BIOS options. As the best bang for my buck, it came to $101.58, a price that seemed to fit. Moving along to the RAM, I began with only 8 GB, picking the Corsair Vengeance Pro until my father came to tell me to upgrade to 16 GB. I followed through by switching to 4 sticks of 4 GB, all from the G.Skill Ripjaws X Series. It was totaled to $65.53, which was remarkably lower than any 16 GB set with two sticks of 8 GB. RAM was RAM, and there was not a whole lot that could go wrong, so pricing did not seem a large issue. Next came the graphics card, one of the most important parts. It went right beside the CPU, for both are major factors when dealing with FPS in a video game. I found it rather tricky when finding a balance between price and performance, since you didn’t want one too expensive or too cheap. One too expensive might not be worth all the money, and one too cheap may result in bad frame rates, a short lifespan, or prove unreliable. The EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti proved its balance with its price of $163.86 and remarkable performance, giving the player high FPS even with the highest settings. With two fans covering the surface, it easily stays cool under heavy loads. I was now down to roughly $219 left in my budget, a decent amount left to work with. Plenty of leeway was left, so I kept going without too much of a worry.

All these pieces needed to go inside something, so I began to check out several cases. I was looking for an ATX Mid Tower that was rather wide in order to accommodate my CPU cooler. Several proved to be too flashy, with extra details and bright, unnecessary lights, as well as a bit pricey for my tastes. The higher quality cases averaged about $80 dollars, which was more than what I was willing to pay. Yes, good quality is often times worth the price, but a line must be drawn eventually. However, I soon found the Corsair 200R, a sleek and simple black case that cost only $54.61, a big improvement from what I had seen. For the power supply I bought the EVGA 500W 80+ for $41.55, an LG optical drive for $17.65, and an Acer 21.5 inch monitor for $98.31. I decided to buy a USB Wireless Adapter for $9.99, allowing me to remove it easily in the case that it does not work. Ethernet was not an option due to the distance between the desktop and the router, resulting in a little extra money. Once you add everything up, it comes down to $222.11, 3 dollars over what was left of my budget. This is without rebates, which gives us $20 dollars back. So in the end of it all, I managed to stay under budget while purchasing multiple high quality parts.

Fast forward a week and all the parts had arrived. Nothing had been broken in transit, and everything I ordered had arrived. Boxes and instruction manuals littered the ground as I began to put everything together, beginning with the case. Easily opened and sturdy with several included fans, I was quite satisfied with it. I slipped the motherboard out of its packaging, examining it for any scratches or broken pieces. After finding nothing, I continued on, popping the CPU in, applying thermal paste, and screwing on the bulky CPU cooler. My father was the one who placed the motherboard inside the case; I didn’t want to handle something so delicate in fear of damaging it. The I/O shield proved itself a bit of trouble, stubbornly refusing to snap the back ports of the motherboard into their designated positions. After messing with it for several minutes, I gave up on it and simply allowed them to be free. The main purpose was to protect the motherboard from the outside elements, which it could still do. I moved on to the power supply, slipping it into the correct spot in the case. It fit snugly, screwing into the case quickly. The RAM and video card were easily snapped into their slots, and the optical drive and hard drive slid into their own slots. Once everything was in place, it was time to connect all of the cords. It went by easily with the manuals given, for I only needed to find the corresponding socket and plug it in. Everything was plugged in and good to go, so it was time for the moment of truth. The power was plugged in, the button was pressed, and everything began to run. Soft whirrs of the fans could be heard, all the lights turned on, and so did the monitor. All that was left was to install the operating system, download the necessary drivers, and everything was finished. The first time building and nothing went wrong, which is something that rarely occurs. Nonetheless, my gift was made and ready to take what was going to be thrown its way in the next few years.

How to Minimize windows on the desktop using shake

I had to admit that I felt like I was a fool when I read an article about it. I thought that I have known enough knowledge about Windows operating system to teach other people. Apparently, no one is able to have an extensive mastering of every details of a monster like Windows.

I know how to close all windows on a desktop by pressing W (Windows key) + D. However, I never knew that I can easily close ALL OTHER windows except the one that I am working on. Here is the way to do that. The following is the direct quote from Microsoft’s website:

You can use Shake to quickly minimize every open window except the one you’re shaking. This feature can save you time if you want to focus on a single window without minimizing all your other open windows one by one. You can then restore all of those windows by shaking the open window again.

The feature should work under Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10. If you are using Windows XP or Windows Vista, the feature is not supported.  Sorry.

Got virus? Blame yourself

How did you get virus or other junks? It is because you have downloaded a crafty software package or open an email message from a total stranger.

I have fixed a lot of computers with viruses. The common cause is this: a parent let a child install any computer program without any supervision. Since a child usually does not have a lot of money, the child usually download free software from the Internet. Those free stuffs usually asks you to install other software packages as a result of the installation process.

Resist the temptation to install everything. Understand the value of self-control. A disciplined computer user does not randomly install software package. He/She gave it a thought before saying “yes” to an installation.


Less is more for ordinary computer users

Less is more. We have heard a lot from parents and old friends. In terms of computer usage, it is a principle that everyone should remember.

How many anti-virus software do you need? ONLY one. Actually, Windows Defender (For Windows 8, 8.1 and 10) and Microsoft Security Essentials (Microsoft MSE) are solid free anti-virus software that I have used for the last 5 years.

Microsoft Office is the must have for most office workers. In fact, a big percentage of people spend most of their office hours using Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. For those people, it is very important for them to master most common shortcuts and functions available in Microsoft Office.

You don’t need to master all types of web browser in order to do your daily work. I mainly use Google Chrome for most of my work. In the cases where Google Chrome does NOT work, you may want to use Internet Explorer/Microsoft Edge because some website are optimized for Microsoft browsers.

How do you got so many viruses? Because you are greedy and want to install some fancy programs. It turns out that those programs may also install other junks with your own permission. The tragedy is that most users do not pay much attention to the “fine print” associated with software installations. Attention, shoppers, you may get a lot of junks if you are not careful.

7 Ways to backup your personal files stored in your personal computers

Unless you are a top boss that just needs to give instructions to his/her administrative assistants, you need to create files for different purposes. I use the term “personal files” because it is created by individuals, as supposed to “public files” that are created by someone else and you can just consume it. The difference between “personal files” are “public files” is that you cannot afford to lose “personal files”, as for “public files”, you can always get another copy from other sources.

Best examples of “personal files” are: resumes (hey, almost all of us need jobs), tax returns, personal pictures, work and school reports. The question is : how do we backup them so that we can restore them in case of computer disaster? The following are 7 ways that you can try.

  1. Email to yourself. A lot of people does not realize that you can have multiple email addresses for free. Yahoo email has unlimited storage. As a result, you can sign up for one Yahoo email address and use it as a storage email.
  2. USB drive. USB drive, or thumb drive is convenient to carry. It can be used as a backup device. One advice that I can give is like this: do NOT store the only copy of a file in a USB drive. If that is the case, once you lose the drive, you lose everything. I have seen many cases where people come to me with tears in their eyes. Why? The USB drive is broken and it contains the only copy of their school/workplace writings.
  3. Portable external drive. Portal external drive usually holds much more data than USB drive. It is a good choice for many purposes. My advice is the same as USB drive: store copies in both the computer and the external drive. In Windows, you can use “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” functionality inside Control Panel. In Mac OS, the similar function is called “Time Machine”.
  4. DropBox. It is the choice by many to store their personal files. It has more than 400 million users. It is an easy choice for many people.
  5. OneDrive. It is a product by Microsoft. It is similar to DropBox as mentioned in option 4. However, OneDrive allows you to “edit” files online. For example, you can create a Microsoft Word Document and edit it inside a browser. As a result, you do not need to install Microsoft Word in your own computer.
  6. Mozy and Carbonite: These services aim for whole computer backup. In case of computer crash, it restore everything that it has backed-up over the Internet. The downside of these service is that it may take days to fully recover everything that you have stored over months or years.
  7. Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. These are professional services aimed at IT professional. However, you can still use it for “personal files”. Suppose that you are a professional photographer or videographer, you may find that those two are actually good choices.


Do not install Google Chrome if customers do not ask me to do so

I am a big fan of Google search and Google Chrome. Whenever possible, I would like to install Google Chrome so that I can work on a familiar environment. It works fine for me until a customer taught me an important lesson.

When working on a customer’s Windows 7 computer, I found that she used bing.com as the startup page on her Internet Explorer browser. I looked at programs and found that Google Chrome was not installed. I naturally wanted to install Google Chrome because almost all of my former customers have installed it. However, I asked this customer for her permission. To my surprise, my customer’s answer is: “I like bing.com better than Google.”

Frankly, if you like vivid pictures instead of a boring (but less distracted) interface, you may prefer bing.com over Google.com. Bing.com provide wonderful pictures. At the end of the web page, it display the headlines in a unique format. Basically, Each headline has one sentence and one picture. The following is the screenshot.

bing with headline news

Lesson learned:next time, when I work in customers’ computers, I only work on things that I was told to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

Do I need to upgrade to Windows 10??

The following is what I got in my inbox today:

Max –

On the computer that you set up for me, I have Windows 7, and I am getting ‘offers’ for a free upgrade to Windows 10.

Is there any reason for me to do so??

Please remember that I am a computer ignoramus and don’t do anything on my PC other that ‘playing’ on the internet and writing simple pages (such as letters) in Word!!!  I don’t have any idea how to do anything else!!!!


My reply to him is short: Windows 10 is more reliable, faster. What is your thought about Windows 10?