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    Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting - 1st Edition

Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting
  Edition #1

Collected from PCBUILD,

Compiled by Max Timchenko, 2000-01
   NOSPIN Group, Senior Staff Editor

Version 1.00, released 30th January, 2001, posts cover 1st January - 20th August 2000

by the way, it is very recommended to search the database by entering keywords, and not simply looking for the right post..

Posts by (in alphabetical order as in mail headers):

Alexandre Breveglieri  
Art Cassel   
Arthur Young
Bill Cohane
Bill Kapelas
Bjorn Simonsen
Bob Wright
Boyd Ramsay
Brad Boutwell
Brad Loomis
Brendhan Horne
Bryan S. Tyson
Byron Wolter
Carlos Diaz
Carroll Grigsby
Chris Hayes
Chuck Watters
Daniel Wysocki
Dave Gillett
Dave Jones
David Nasser
Deborah Anderson
Dennis Noble
Don Kendrew
Don Penlington
Donald Gaither
Donna Cook
Doug Simmons
Earl Truss
Eric Greenberg
Ernie Goens
Frank R. Brown
Frank Suszka
Guido Piraino      


Guido S. Piraino
Herbert Graf
James Ritchie
Jeff McConnell
Jim Griffin
Jim Meagher
Jim Woodford, Jr
Joe Baire
John Chin
Joseph Hallare
Jun Qian
Kees Kouwen
Kenneth Alan
Boyd Ramsay
Kyle Elmblade
Larry  Fisk
Mark Rode 
Martin Kurr
Mary Wolden
Matthew Ballard
Oscar Vi
Patricia Osborne
Patrick Black
Paul Mailhiot
Paul Traynor
Peter Hogan
Peter Shkabara
Richard Tabas
Rick Glazier
Roger Griffiths
Russ Poffenberger
Russell Smith
Steve Wolfe
Sunil Bector

Susan Stubbs
Wanda Irby
Yui Shin 



BIOS - All but keyboard


Any reason for some bios motherboards to have as default stopping at errors "ALL BUT KEYBOARD"?

 Actually, there is a purpose for this.  It is not uncommon for someone to want a server or workstation set up to be able to boot without a keyboard. In most cases it's a server that you do not want to dedicate a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to.  You boot it without these and all works fine. However, if the BIOS is set to stop on the error of no keyboard, there is no way to completely boot the machine without having one attached. 

- Kyle Elmblade

 BIOS - Beeps on POST

 If a PC repeatedly beeps that is a sign of the BIOS there is a hardware problem you can even figure out by the "sort" of beeping which hardware problem for more information go to this site:

 - Kees Kouwen 

BIOS - Entering BIOS in Compaq Prolinea 575


        When the computer starts to boot up, there is a point where a small white box blinks in the upper right hand corner.  Hit F10 when you see the box. 

- Donald Gaither

 BIOS - Tweaking and Reference

For those who may be interested in finding out more about "Bios Tweaks", I have these sites book marked for use when building or repairing computers.


As with anything you do to a computer you must use caution. Changing certain settings may cause your system to balk on start up or not start at all. If you need to change the settings, make a log of what the settings are at the present time so you will have a backup in case something doesn't work. When you do change something, write down what you changed. <smile> In a panic you will probably not remember what you changed or why.

 - Frank Suszka

 CD-ROM - Audio CD - D/A Output

 The 2 pin connector that you refer to is for Digital audio (SPDIF) from your cd rom. 

 If you have a sound card that supports digital audio, you can connect your cd rom to the sound card digitally, which according to SB is supposed to keep the digital sound signal pure until it is converted to analog for your speakers.  If you also have digital speakers then the sound is never converted to analog. 

 The sound Blaster Live series supports Digital audio, but not all cd roms that have the SPDIF Digital connection truly support the SPDIF connection.  SB used to have a place on their site where they had tested different cd roms and told you which ones did support SPDIF connections.

- Mary Wolden

 CD-ROM - Cleaning

I was able to resurrect a dead cd rom using this cd rom cleaning fact.  It explains exactly how to clean the inside of your cd rom drive.  I figured I had nothing to lose by trying.

 - Mary Wolden

There are several sites you might want to try. I use this one when I'm in need.


The other two,

are very helpful if you are a tech. I hope that one of these sites will answer your question and get your son back on the road... As far as computing goes.

 You didn't mention how old the system or CD-ROM was. If it is an older version, it may not be worth trying to fix.

 - Frank Suszka

CD-ROM - Not recognized on cold boot

 Try setting your Bios for the IDE CDROMs, to None, or CDROM, instead of using Autodetect! I have found this option to work with problem ATAPI devices.


-  Steve Wolfe


CD-ROM - Troubleshooting - Read Errors


> I have mounted the drive above my CD-RW drive. Could this cause a heat problem as I notice that drive was quit warm when it crashed? There is no room between the drives for air circulation.


You will see heat problem. There should be at least an empty bay between your CD-RW and CD drive, and possible extra fan should be used to avoid heat problem. If you can feel the heat from CD drive when it crash, it is heat problem. I have seen a true story about how a CD-RW burned itself because the user mounted CD-RW and CD drive next each other. About two years ago, I had heat problem (when play games, very similar to your situation - I ran a game for 4 hours, I almost burned the CD), now I have left a 5" bay open (I removed the cover), and have an extra case fan.


- Jun Qian


CD-ROM - Vertical switch


I just noticed on my CD drive that I have a vertical switch, which is currently in the off position. What is this?


The switch, when turned on, is to allow you to use the drive in a vertical position, or turned side ways.  Although most people use the drive horizontally...   if you were to turn the tower on it's side, (assuming it is in a tower case and not a desktop), this would allow you to slide the CDs in to the drive and have them function.  These drives and other build specifically and tested specifically to be mounted vertically are often also used in Rackmount cases where nearly all drives are mounted vertically in the front.


- Bob Wright


CD-RW - Installing


I just ordered an Internal CD-RW. I have never installed or used a CD-RW but I have installed other hardware such as hard drives, CD-ROM, video, and sound cards. I would like to know of any caveats that I should be aware of with the installation and/or use of this new hardware.


When first plugged in, the CD drive will "look like" a normal CD drive to the system.  To burn anything, you will have to install at least one program. Your drive will no doubt come with at least two programs. They may (or may not be) "stripped down" versions of  full retail products.


One "type" of program allows you to burn Audio and Data CDs of both the write once and the erasable type. Another program will allow you to use the CD-RW drive as a hard drive with removable media.  It is important to understand the difference. After that, it is a virtual "minefield" filled with lots of new and sometimes difficult questions. One thing people forget is that cheap media is just that, in some cases. Get a few name brand CD-RW disks and play with the software for awhile and get used to it before you start turning out "write once" CD-R disks. Note that if you want to play music in a normal CD player it must be recorded in Audio CD format, and "generally" (for compatibility reasons) will work better if a CD-R disk is used.  You can put music on a CD as data, but almost nothing other than a computer will be able to play it.


When buying CD disks, 74 minute disks will work with all drives. To use 80 minute disks, you must have a drive and burning software that will support them.


- Rick Glazier



For the hardware, nothing special than a normal CDROM, however I did see some CDRW/DVD don't like to be slave drive (may caused by software however).


You may have problem running the software. I have a sence that you are going to use Adaptec software. In my exp, it is buggy (unless you have the latest version with lastet patch), and I don't like its DirectCD, I would recommand to use Nero or some thing else rather than Adaptec. If you have no other option than Adaptec, for your own good, when you do the installation, do a custom install - install Easy CD Creator only! Avoid DirectCD as possible as you can.


- Jun Qian


CPU - Cooling - Fans, connectors w/ 2 or 3 pins


The extra wire is for the RPM sensor. Your motherboard probaby doesn't support it. You can plug it in just fine. If you ever get a motherboard that has the monitoring chip, you will be able to read the fan RPM, either through the BIOS, or through one of the Windows based hardware monitoring programs available.


- Russ Poffenberger


CPU - Intel - 80486 - L2 cache performance


> Does anybody remember any hard data as to performance with or without a L2 cache on a 486 ?


     From what I have experienced L2 cache does not supply as huge a performance boost as people tend to believe. At higher clock speeds where the core runs 4 or 5 times the speed of the memory bus L2 certainly becomes more important (in cases where the L2 runs at either core or close to core speeds) but in 486 class machines L2 cache has never in my experience supplied more than about a 5 to 10% boost. L1 cache is much more important. Now again, it does depend, some tasks benefit from L2 more than others. A lack of L2 cache will not impede the additional performance of additional RAM and processing speed. I myself ran a 486DX4/120 (overclocked from 100) with 16MB and it "managed" win95 OK, not stellar but usable as a backup system. I have found that Linux is very good at getting every last bit of performance out of a machine. While X might be a little sluggish on that machine I am sure that it will run quite well. If you forgo X it will fly pretty well.


- Herbert Graf


CPU - Intel - Difference between PPGA / FCPGA


The FC-PGA package is used on Pentium® III processors, and is referred to as the Flip Chip Pin Grid Array package. The PPGA package is used on Intel® Celeron™ processors, and is referred to as the Plastic Pin Grid Array package.


The PPGA package used on the Intel® Celeron™ processors has the actual silicon core facing down towards the motherboard. The silicon core is covered by a heat slug helping to dissipate heat from the core. The heat

slug transfers heat from the core to the heatsink. As processors get smaller and faster, the ability to dissipate heat from the processor core is become more and more critical. The FC-PGA package, flips the silicon core over

facing up. The core sits on top of the actual package and is exposed. The silicon die is exposed and makes direct contact with the heatsink.


They are all in the Socket 370 style of sockets, just how the die is possitioned is the difference in PPGA vs. FC-PGA.


- Patrick Black


CPU - Intel - Pentium II - Verifying authenticity


Visit the Intel site below to find a utility to give information on CPU family, model and stepping.  Look under the heading "Processor Authentication" and subheading "Verifying a processor purchase and current operating speed".


- Joe Baire


CPU - Intel - Pentium III - E, B, and EB explained


Look at figure 1...half way down the page.


Basically, there are the "E" and the "B" and the "EB", and there are the "no letter after the speed" Pentium III processors.


The "no letter" 600 and below are fabricated using .25 Micron technology. (The smaller the number, the better. Because the transistors are smaller, a die can hold more of them and the processor will use less power when running). These .25 micron processors have 512 KB of off die (half speed) L2 cache....just like Pentium II processors.


The "E" versions are the ones that are .18 Micron and have 256 KB of on-die L2 cache that runs at full processor speed. If the processor is faster than 600, they don't bother adding the "E". In other words, they're all "E" after 600 MHz. so they stopped specifying it.


The "B" versions run with a 133 MHz. FSB systems. In other words, the Pentium III "B" processors are half integer devisable by 133. (If dividing by 66 or 133 gives approximately an integer, it *may* be a "B".)


The "EB" versions are .18 Micron, have the 256 KB of L2 cache, and run at 133 MHz front side bus. If faster than 600, they don't bother adding the "E" to the name.


An example: 800 MHz divided by 133 MHz. is 6.01 (close enough to 6) and there are both 800 and 800B. (I'd say 800E and 800EB, but everything over 600 is an E.) There are both 800 = 8 X 100 and 800B = 6 X 133. (6 and 8 are the multipliers, 100 and 133 are the FSB frequencies.)


Finally, there are both slot one and 370 pin versions of many Pentium III processors. (Check the link above to see what versions come in slot one and which are socketed.)


There is a slot one 800, and a 370 pin 800, and a slot one 800B, and a 370 pin 800B.


The place where it really gets confusing is with 600 MHz processor because there are so many versions of the 600 MHz Pentium III: 600, 600E, 600B, 600EB...all in both slot one and 370 pin versions. There are eight different versions of the 600 MHz. Pentium III.


- Bill Cohane


CPU - Intel - Slot 1 to PPGA connector


> I have a Soyo socket 370 MB 7WI/L or something like this, can't remember, but I would like to install a celeron 300a slot 1 cpu I have on hand in it. Is there an adaptor made to do this?  I know there is the 370 to slot 1


AFAIK, no. It would be too expensive, too physically unstable, and the adapter probably wouldn't be electrically stable either (because of the lengthy path runs on some traces and not on others).


- Herbert Graf


CPU - Intel vs. Athlon


from the CPU side: athlon 700 is much much faster than P3-550. If you use some programs that specify to ONLY use P-3 SSE instruction set, the programs gain performance increase from P3, but AMD will be still faster. However, when you talk about whole system, there are lot of other issues. I can list some here, you may need to give more details on these components:

1) which mobo is used (in both system)

2) if graphics performance is important to you (for graphics, games ...), which video card in used (in both system)

3) which operation system you are going to use, windows 2000 may have hardware related issues.

4) what programs are you going to use. "bad" designed software can make good system looks bad, eg. some video driver could work better under Intel than AMD system (this kind of problem should be fixed when there are update available).


Personally, I would go for AMD.


- Jun Qian


I can tell you that I was at a presentation a few weeks ago demonstrating the speed of the new Athlon CPU's. We were shown 2 identical system, (not quite identical, as the Athlon uses the AMD and Via Chipset, and the PIII uses intel.) But, these 2 machines were sitting side by side, both running 600mhz CPU's, one PIII- 600 the other the Athlon 600.


The two machines were started with a mouse click to run the Latest version of WinBench. All I can say is the Athlon Blew Away the PIII, as it finished the test almost 3-minutes faster than the PIII. I was impressed enough, that I now am the proud new owner of an Athlon 700, and love it. It is fast, and runs solid as a rock! Not a single crash or lockup in over 2 weeks.


Hope this answers your question, and doesn't seem too Biased  :-)


- Steve Wolfe


While several factors affect the performance of a system, assuming that the two systems are as close to identical except for processor, an AMD700 with BLOW AWAY a PIII500, chances are an AMD700 is faster than a PIII 700. AMD really has something with the Athlon, I hope that more MB manufacturers

start producing high quality boards.


- Herbert Graf


CPU - Multiprocessor System


We have at least three dual processor systems in the Network Operations Center here at The NOSPIN Group.  I know that we definitely did not realize a 100% increase in processing over a single chip system of the same speed, although the systems are certainly faster.


One significant issue is with the programs that you run.  For an application to take advantage of multiple processors, it has to be "multithreaded", that is, it has to have the capability to be "split" into multiple parts that can run simultaneously or almost simultaneously.  You'll probably find that most programs that you use aren't multithreaded, although a lot of new graphically challenging games (like Quake III and others like it) are.


All is not lost, though, because most multiprocessor operating systems (including Windows 2000) can use multiple processors efficiently by assigning different tasks to different processors, in effect "balancing" the processing load between processors.  In our situation in the NOC, that's generally where we see the most improvement in performance.


Without knowing exactly what applications you'll be using, if they are non-multithreaded, you could see as much as a 50% increase in performance. If the applications are multithreaded, then you might see something approaching a 100% increase, depending upon what other areas of your system those applications impact.  As a seat of the pants estimate, I'd say that our web server runs about 50% faster and the mail server is around 75% faster than before.  But those are systems that perform no graphical operations and have relatively slow processors (366MHz and 233MHz respectively), so they are not bound by video or disk bottlenecks.  If your applications are video or disk intensive, you may see lower performance increases.


- Drew Dunn


Floppy drive - Troubleshooting


A floppy drive is not all that sturdy a device. If you open one up and take a look at the heads you will see that they are on a pretty flimsy mount that can easily become misaliged if you insert a floppy with a bent metal slider. The heads can also become dirty.There are <cleaning > floppies that can be used to clean the heads. If the heads have been moved out of position you might be able to realign them but you could never really trust them to work without errors.


It has been my experience that once a floppy starts to give you problems and if you can not immediately rectify it with a  cleaning floppy or by re-seating the cableing then it is time to replace it. A new Teac 3.5 inch floppy drive can be purchased from for as little as 15 dollars.


- Mark Rode


General - Backup - The Best Way


Can anyone tell me what is the easiest way to set up automatic or almost-automatic backups of data.  Zip drive, Cd-R, tape?   We're looking for the easiest solution.


Depends on what you want your backup system to do for you.  The three major contenders are removable drives like the Zip drive, CD-RW and tape.


With the larger size of hard drives these days, Zip disks, even at 250MB are too small, medium expense per disk ($8-10) but many needed - too many disk swaps to backup a lot of data and they are not very fast.  Can only transport disks to another system with a Zip drive ($80-160) or requires moving the drive with you.  On the positive side, it is usually quite fast to recover a small number of files.  Backups can be done in background.   Most backup programs will use removable drives.


CD-RWs are bigger and faster and cheaper ($1-3)  but still may require backing up chunks that fit on a CD (640MB) or swapping a few disks. Usually quite fast to recover a small number of files due to the speed and size of the disk.  Most systems these days have CD-ROM drives but many older CD-ROMs will not read CD-RWs.  Backups usually require dedicated time due to chance of causing problems with writing disk caused by multi-tasking.  CD-RWs are more versitile and can be used for many other purposes besides backups.  Backup programs that will use CD-RW are not common.


Tape is expensive ($20 per tape and $100 and up for drive) but you may only need one tape because they will hold several gigabyte each. Cheaper tape drives are very slow - faster drives are very expensive. Tape drives are like Zip drives in that not many people have them and you would need to move the drive with you to move files to another system.  Backups are easily and usually done in background or can be scheduled to run at night.  Almost all backup programs will use tape of one kind or another.


I use tape because of the amount of data that can be written without swapping and because of scheduled night-time backups.


- Earl Truss



I have a contender for a fourth type backup that I use all the time.  I use an external parallel port hard drive with Ghost software.  It has the advantage of being portable, can fit the entire hard drive contents, can restore my entire hard drive, or file by file with Symantec's Ghost Explorer, and is cheap.  I use one of the DataTank external hard drive boxes that has a DOS driver.  My 3 gig hard drive takes about 45 minutes to make a complete copy in the Fast Compression mode. I use a DOS boot disk with the hard drive driver and can then use the hard drive as if it were installed in my machine. Something else to consider.


- Doug Simmons



For automatic backups? Tape by a LARGE margin. While ZIP drives and CDR are great, they are just too small for backing up hard drives. If on the other hand you are just backing up a few MBs then ZIP drives are a nice choice. CDR and CDRW are OK but a little too error prone for me to consider them a automatic backup solutions. For manual backing up they are great though. TTYL


- Herbert Graf


General - Cleaning your PC


First of all be careful of using a standard vaccuum cleaner as it could cause an electrical arc and damage some of the components, becase they are usually not shielded. Sometimes you can buy mini attachments which are

plastic and then you're a bit safer in terms of using a regular vaccuum.


Second, a cheap investment is a can of compressed air. Turn your computer off and blast away (carefully).


Third, a small brush to dust away the inards is always a safe bet.

Hope these suggestions find you well.


- Guido Piraino


I have used a bicycle pump before, the kind with a flexible hose, although it takes to people (one to pump and one to point).  Also, "canned air" is available from many stores (make sure you keep canned air upright while

spraying, though).


- Martin Kurr


General - Finding a free IRQ


If you are running win98/95:

Right click on "my computer", click "device manager", double click "computer", there you go, you can see if there is an IRQ free.

I think you will see there is no free IRQ left, but as you can see, IRQ is able to be shared (some devices don't like to share IRQ with others, some do). Even you don't have free IRQ left, there should be no problem to add an exteral modem (it uses IRQ for com port which it attached to), just be careful with internal modem, you should not go for a "soft modem" or "Win Modem" in this configuration. Hardware based modem does not mess up your system and they can be removed easily.


- Jun Qian



At a DOS prompt, enter MSD (then Q) on Windows 3-plus systems. This should show you what you want, and more - without risk.


- Boyd Ramsay


General - Lightning strike


A good friend just called me this morning saying his computer (an HP Pavilion Pentium III) won't start. There was a whopper of a lightning storm last night. You've heard the story before, right?


Start by checking the power supply fuse. And any other fuse elsewhere. You may get lucky; most likely not, but try the cheap stuff first. If the modem was plugged into the phone, you may get "lucky" that the phone was an expensive fuse for the modem. Try another power supply if replacing the fuse doesn't work. Go to a basic system: power supply, mobo, CPU, ram. Add the other stuff in the obvious order. Do the cheap fixes first.


You're right that lightning is strange stuff when it comes to what was spared and what was fried. Truly an act of God. The weirdest lightning strike I had was a friend's Compaq Presario. Came in via phone line. Fried internal modem and all, count 'em all, user usable expansion slots -- the compaq video card and such are on the mobo. The rest of the computer worked fine. Put an external modem on a serial port and the computer runs just dandy, still, about six months later. Go figure.


- Jim Griffin



You are asking us to speculate without any symptoms beyond it will not start.  That is difficult to do in this case.   But, with that said, the odds are very great that it is a complete waste.  A small spark of static electricity is enough to fry most parts inside a PC, including the CPU, motherboard, ram, hard drives and so forth... the modem is probably the least of his worries if the lightning passed through the PC.


Most home owner insurance policies will cover lightning damage to a PC, at least that is what I have found here in the US.  You might have him check to see if they have insurance.


- Bob Wright



There have been a lot of good comments on this topic but one recurring comment that concerns me is that people keep equating surge protection with lightening protection.


Comparing electrical surges to lightening is like comparing a drip in the kitchen sink to a full blown, Mississippi River flood. Surge protectors and lightening arrestors are not the same thing.


Do not rely on a UPS or a surge protector to save you from lightening.  If you value the equipment, unplug it.


- Jim Meagher


General - Overclocking - 75/83 MHz bus problem


I have an LX chipset Soyo MB with bus speeds of 66,68,75 and 83.  CPU is celeron 300a which runs fine in a BH6 board @ 100 b us.  In the lx board it will only run properly at 68 bus.  At 75 it will boot up and run ok except for graphic programs, like PhotoDeluxe, etc, or internet pages, and will lock up...


Well as you guess, your problem is your other devices. When you overclock to anything above 66 on that board, you also overclock the PCI bus. Some cards don't mind, other's do. The fact that it is crashing in graphics

programs leads me to believe that your video card is the cause. It could be a heat problem, try throwing a cooling fan on the main chip of the video card and see if that helps.


- Herbert Graf




General - Overclocking - Why can't?


> Using Softmenu, I have not been able to overclock this setup at all. Not even 400Mhz. It should clock upto 550 easily with the big cooling fan.


While it is possible that the memory is PC66, the most likely thing is that the CPU just won't work at 100 MHz FSB.  In overclocking there are no guarantees.  While virtually all Celeron 300A's will work at 100 MHz, there are some that won't.  I got lucky, mine works flawlessly at default core voltage.  All other Celeron processors have a higher element of "risk."  I have a 366 that will only function at 550 with core voltage raised to the max, until CPU usage gets heavy, then it collapses.  I know others that have no problem at all running at default core voltage and FSB's exceeding 120MHz.  For a slight premium, you can purchase CPU's that have been tested at higher speed, but that really takes the "fun" out of overclocking.  Give it a shot at 75 and then 83MHz and see what happens.  It may be that you're going to have to settle for that.  BTW, did you make sure that your PCI was set to 2/3 on SoftMenu?


- Art Cassel


General - Overheating


I have a AMD 233 mounted on a super 7 motherboard and a decent cooling fan and a layer of thermal paste in between. However, the 233 heats close to 61c and higher and then the system stops. What else, if anything, can I do to reduce this heat? The power supply fan works fine.


Well the easiest way is to install another fan. I have 4 fans in my system, one in the power supply, one mounted on the CPU and two in the case, one at the front of the case and one in the middle. An alternative is to install and better heat sink/fan combo on the CPU, but my wind tunnel cools the whole system, not just the CPU.


- Herbert Graf



You should first verify the voltage is properly set for your AMD 233 on this motherboard.


CPU cooling fans are rather deceptive. It really is not the fan itself that's most important, but the cooling fins on the fan. You need maximum air exposure (surface area to mass ratio), in a design that will dissipate heat synergistically with the cooling fan.


You can also add an intake fan in front of the case, which would blow external air over the CPU.


Check your case airflow, since you have an older system. Blow the dust off your motherboard, the components and the power supply (and its exhaust fan) with a can of air. Re-work the cabling so your airflow is improved. Sometimes taping closed some of the holes in the case will improve your airflow (increase the draft) over vital components.


I would also remove the thermal paste and either (1) leave it paste-free; or (2) reapply new thermal paste. Some thermal paste applications may harden or lose conductivity with age, and sometimes are not properly applied (non-ceramic top AMD CPUs are difficult applications) . I quit using thermal paste myself.


Most hard core computer enthusiasts leave part of the case off to access devices, but they also do this to keep the system cool. Some even point a external fan into the case to lower temperatures further.


Even if a computer is running properly, within operational temperatures, reducing the heat by a few degrees will increase the life span of your electronic components.


- John Chin



General - PC/Motherboard Form Factors


Last time I cared about motherboard form factors I knew about Baby-AT, Full-size AT, LPX, ATX, Micro-ATX, Flex-ATX, NLX, WTX and Backplane Systems. There are also many proprietary designs, of course.


The NLX specification was developed by Intel as a low-profile case and motherboard. NLX systems are designed to use ATX power supplies, even though

the case and motherboard dimensions may be different. NLX computers use a riser board and the motherboard plugs into the riser (unlike LPX where the riser plugs into the motherboard). The power supply connects to the riser, as do the disk drives, front panel lights and switch connectors, etc. So the motherboard in an NLX system has no internal cables, cards or connectors attached to it. If you want to take out the motherboard, no boards or cables have to be removed. Simply slide it out the left side on rails. You can find more information about some motherboard form factors in


- Oscar Viסas


General - Purchasing - Places to Shop


I buy all my components from either  ( or  (MultiWave Direct).  They both have killer prices and very courteous sales reps.  My only complaint is that MultiWave sometimes cannot ship my orders the same day I make them...


- Brad Boutwell (BDB Design | Tulsa, OK)


If you need a specific major component (i.e. a new hard drive) you might want to try the following strategy:

1.) Go to, locate the price/vendor list for the component. Maybe print a page or 2.

2.) Start with the vendor with the lowest price. Go to, look up the lo-price vendor, see how they rate. If they have a dubious customer service record or other problems are indicated, go back to the pricewatch list, try the next vendor. Continue until you find a vendor with a "good record".


If you need minor components (i.e. little cables) you might want to locate a parts supply house in your area. Try the yellow pages.


- David Nasser


Try this site out. It's Canadian. It was once called MegaDepot, but it has changed. I have not ordered anything because the prices did go up slightly.


- Guido S. Piraino


Try I just placed an order with them and was quite pleased with the shipment.


- Jim Woodford, Jr


My favorite shopping site is Not a glossy site but carries scads of computer-related products with excellent prices. Availability is well documented per item. Customer support is the **best** I have ever encountered. Highly recommended!


- Patricia Osborne


I might as well get into this fray with a few more sources:


Ingrahm-Micro is one of the largest warehouse distributes in the US :

You need to setup an account to access their web site, but they have a vast amount of hardware.  The catalogue they send me regularly is over 4 inches thick...  they really have everything.


Merit Distributing in Seattle is also an excellent choice for the US west coast and once again you need to setup an account to access the web site deals :


EBC Computers in Salt Lake City, Utah will sell to anyone over the phone or take your order online: They have a limited inventory, but very good pricing


Specialty hardware, mostly cases, cables and such...  try Cables Unlimited:    Once again, they require you setup an account and they have a minimum order requirement of $50...


Micro Pro is in Illinois, US and they have an excellent line of computer components, often great pricing.


These are but a few of the places I have regularly used for sources when buying computer components.   I can recommend all of these from personal experience.


- Bob Wright


General - Troubleshooting - IRQ Conflict


>   I've got a problem. On friend's PC, his Sound Blaster Live! and

>   Rockwell PCI WinModem both take IRQ 12 and I can't change it (the

>   Settings window shows Can't change this resource).


(Solution 1/2)


Hi, I just had a similar issue this morning involving a STB display adapter and a 3Com NIC. They were both sharing IRQ 11 and did not allow maual configuring of the settings in Device Manager. These cards also lacked jumpers for on-board settings.


My fix was as follows:

     1.) I disabled(not removed) the STB in device manager, ( by disabling your device you can still save the settings.)

     2.) I removed the 3Com from device manager to be redetected.

     3.) After rebooting, I enabled plug & play in BIOS and reserved IRQ11 to get Windows to place the 3Com elsewhere.

     4.)Plug and Play placed the 3Com on IRQ10

     5.)I re-enabled the STB on its current settings which was IRQ11

     6.)One more reboot completed it.


This won't work if you don't have any free IRQ's. And if you're using a newer BIOS you may be able to assign IRQ's as opposed to reserving themlike I did.


This conflict may have occured because plug & play was disabled in BIOS. I've read Windows can not properly recognize what settings are being allocated in such a situation.


On a final note you can always remove the cards and reinstall them one by one. I usually, install in this order: video, sound, modem, nic to ensure favorite settings are allocated. And of course this method works best on a mb/BIOS which has plug & play enabled.


- Yui Shin


(Solution 2/2)


If you cannot modify either device's irq, I have solved this by removing one PCI device and putting it in another slot. I beleive some of the shared orq are detemined by the motherboard. ie PCI slots 1 and 3 will share an irq. If you force by changing the bios them to move they will move together and share another free irq. Thats PNP.


- Bill Kapelas


General - Troubleshooting - Won't Boot


Open the case and check for loose connections and/or loose boards/cards.


First and foremost ---- make sure the power cord is unplugged. (to protect you)  Second, make sure you are always holding the metal frame with one hand or the other. (to protect the electronics)


Now GENTLY wiggle and push on each wire connector to make sure they are plugged in completely.  Do the same for each I/O card.


Cleaning the edge connectors is a good idea too, but I prefer using denatured alcohol and a Q-tip.  Erasers are abrasive (just like sand paper) and will wear down the metal contact pad  - not a good idea, as you already surmised.


- Jim Meagher



General - Tweaking - Case temperature


My case is a full tower with a high performance, 4 inch, power supply fan blowing air out of the case and two high performance 3 inch fans blowing air into the case from below creating a positive pressure inside the case. The delta T from room to inside case temp is usually 5 ~ 8°F. Standard mid/mini towers that I have tests are usually 15 ~ 20°F.


The tests I referred to earlier have been done on a number of systems over the last 2 years or so using different CPUs, coolers, cases, etc. with different cooling configurations. Additionally, the CPU was run for 20 minutes at idle and also at 100% utilization to insure stabilized results. The CPU temp was measured by a thermocouple on the top center of the CPU via a small hole in the heat sink to insure the greatest accuracy. Inside case temperatures were taken in several locations to insure a realistic mapping of the inside air temperature and gradient.


Speaking of inside case temps, I think it was this mailing list that someone commented that the case was designed to work with the sides on for best cooling. This in theory is true. In reality, WRT most tower (all sizes), the temperature around the CPU cooler is lower if the sides are open because the usual one fan in the power supply can not flow enough air to keep it as cool as with out the sides. Even with most cases that have a second fan, this is true because there are not enough unrestricted air inlet/outlet resulting in a fan that operates at less than 50% CFM rating and/or actually recirculates internal air.


- Daniel Wysocki


General - What is OEM?


I can help with the OEM part. It is an acronym for Original Equipment Manufacturer. In the world of computers, an OEM could be anyone from Dell or Compaq down to the local computer shop that builds PC's for resale. Component manufacturers -- the guys who make the motherboards, hard drives, CPU's, and all of the other bits and pieces that go in the box -- are able to reduce their prices to the OEM's by leaving out the fancy box, the instruction manual, and sometimes other stuff (see below). A lot of stores sell these components to their customers, and usually at pretty good prices. I buy most of my equipment that way.


My interpretation of your posting is that the Thunderbird is only available as an OEM product; there is no retail version. If it's similar to other motherboards that I have seen, it will include a manual, some or all of the cables and connectors, and a disk (usually a CD-ROM) with drivers. Likewise, the multimedia kit comes in either a plain white box or a polyethylene bag, and probably doesn't have a lot of fancy full color brochures, or free software. It should, however, contain a technical manual and the essential drivers.


There is one potential pitfall, however, and that concerns the manufacturer's warranties. They are often greatly reduced, or there may not even be any. The OEM (read "store") takes care of any defective goods in return for the lower price that he pays. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. My own dealer does a good job of informing his customers that the OEM stuff does not have the full manufacturer's warranty. Not all stores do. If you are willing to assume the risk, this can be a good way to save money. I've been fairly lucky -- well, until last week when a two-month old CPU in my son's computer died.


Beware of the guys who sell OEM components but don't tell their customers. Avoid them -- if they lied to you when you bought it, they aren't going to start being honest when you have a problem.


- Carroll Grigsby



HDD - Adding a partition


Is there a utility that will let me add another partition to my HD without losing the current single partition and its contents(which only use a small portion of the drives capacity)


There is always a risk in using programs for this purpose, Partition Magic by PowerQuest will do what you want.


- Matthew Ballard


HDD - Choosing


One of the best sites I have found for hard drive information is:


- Peter Hogan


HDD - How to copy?


> Is there a way to copy one hard drive to another one? I am thinking about getting bigger drive but I don't want to reload the software to make it the primary drive.


Download Ranish Partition manger, still free for personal use I believe, at The new beta (version 2.38) includes both a "copy partition" and "copy disk" feature. Just select source partition and press C for partition copy or D for disk copy, and it prompts you for the target. I'm  not sure if the "copy" feature is available in the previous final release(2.37), I don't think so. The target partition must be the same size or larger than the source. I've tried "copy partition", and it worked just fine for me. Fast too. The only thing that doesn't work quite as expected in the beta is the boot manger(*). The partition manager seems to work just fine though. Very useful partition Wizard in the new version as well.


- Bjorn Simonsen


HDD - Low Level Format


>Could someone answer the following questions please.

>1.  what is the purpose of a low level format?

>2.  In what situations is such a technique required?.

>3.  If special software is needed are there any freeware or shareware utilities to be found on the net?.


First, we do not "low-level-format" IDE or ATA hard drives.  This term is a misnomer from the old MFM days when a drive could have the tracks and sectors defined using a low level format.


The IDE or ATA drives we use today have all this information preset at the factory and a real low level format would destroy the drive or at least slow it down radically...   you cannot redefine the tracks and sectors on these drives with a true low level format.  Of course this is highly simplified for this discussion, but let us suffice to say that you cannot change the logical geometry of current IDE/ATA drives without destroying it...   since we have two different issues: physical geometry vs. logical geometry...   and they a quite different.


Fdisk only writes to the Master Boot Record on the hard drive to create logical areas of the drive to divide the drive, even if it is only to set it as one large area.  These areas are defined as partitions.  So, FDISK does

not perform a low level format, but only writes to one small area, the Master Boot Record or MBR, located in the boot sector of the drive.


What is usually called a low level format is a utility that writes or refreshes the drive by over writing the drive to clear out all information.  This is actually a mid-level format or maybe more accurate a re-initializing of the

drive.  The only recommended, factory recommended manner to do this is with utility programs supplied by each manufacturer.  You can download these software programs from the manufacturer's web site to clean out the drive and prepare it for a fresh partition.  Using these utilities will overwrite the entire drive and all data will be gone, including the MBR, (Master Boot Record).


Once the drive has been re-initialized you will be required to build a new MBR using a partitioning program, such as Microsoft's FDISK.


SO...  Why would you re-initialize a drive?

1) To remove a virus located in the boot sector

2)  The hard drive has developed a large number of bad sectors and they are increasing

3)  You wish to change from one operating system to another


Once this has been finished, you will need to repartition the drive, this is when FDISK can be used.   Finally, you use format or a high level format utility to prepare the drive to receive data in the manner the operating system requires.


- Bob Wright


HDD - Ultra DMA 66 Cables


>I believe one can use these ribbon cables to connect to dma33 drives. Is there any condition where this may not be true or where there use coul daffect system functionality - ie Windows?


The UDMA66 cable is backwardly compatible with all IDE devices and the motherboards today that support UDMA66 have over come the issue with data transfers reduced by slower drives on the a controller.  So,

you can connect just about any IDE device to these cables.  There are some motherboards that have issues with some IDE devices on a UDMA66 controller, but these are rare.


- Bob Wright


In order to run at ULTRA 66 three things must be present.

Your controller must support Ultra 66.

You must use the special 80 wire ribbon cable to connect the controller to the drive. The blue end is connected to the motherboard.

You must load the ULTRA 66 drivers for the operating system you are running.


- Mark Rode


>Which is it the difference between a cable ATA66 and ATA33?


ATA 66 cable has 80 wires, 40 of them are ground wires. This is to reduce cross-talking.


- Susan Stubbs


Keyboard - Compatibility


I was wondering how do you tell if a Microsoft keyboard from Gateway would be compatible with a Compac keyboard. I really like the Compac over the one I have now. It's like having to stomp on each key to get it to register.


If both keyboards are standard (no special keys) then they are completely interchangeable.  Unfortunately,

many PC makers are now building keyboards with unique and specialized keys (like a special key to load

the web browser).  These new specialized keyboards might work, but those extra keys will not.


- Jim Meagher


A caveat on keyboards:  there are two kinds of plugs for keyboards, which means keyboards are not always physically interchangeable (although adapters are available for only a few dollars).


- Martin Kurr


Keyboard - Not working


Some older machines don't have a USB bus, the only other alternative (I know of) for a keyboard.  I have had problems with some motherboards where the keyboard connector has parted from the motherboard. It sticks out from the MB and with the tugging and pulls, it is very vulnerable for this type damage. A solder job _may_ be able to fix the keyboard connector back to the motherboard and fix the problem. I have had mixed success in doing these repairs.


- Doug Simmons


Also, look for a "pico" fuse - looks like a 1/4 W resistor without the color bands.  Usually you can see a rating such as "2 A" printed on it.  Use a low-voltage ohmmeter or "beeper" to check continuity.  Something like a

loose screw in the keyboard, or even fumbling the keyboard connection with the power on, could blow the fuse.


- Kenneth Alan Boyd Ramsay


LS-120 - Information


The LS-120 is an IDE device. If you don't have BIOS and/or Windows 9X [LS-120] support, you have to use the drivers. The SUPERDISKs, as they are also known, are standard ATA (IDE-based) Removable Media Devices, so you have to configure them as a master or a slave on the IDE channel and connect them to a 40-pin IDE cable. You don't need to set any special CMOS settings.  You should not have any problems if you have a current system and use Windows 98 or later. Earlier versions of Windows 95 (and DOS) require the drivers.


You can get more information, support and drivers at:


You should retain the 1.44 MB floppy disk drive. Although some people use the LS-120 as an A: drive, you'll require L-120 support in BIOS for boot purposes. Replacing a floppy drive (a low-tech but mostly reliable/useful boot drive) with a LS-120 is not recommended and can be problematic.


I installed LS-120 drives in all my computers and I have an external, Parallel Port LS-120. Works fine for my needs, which includes carting around a large number of often changing files, and backing up data from other people's PCs (the LS-120 real mode drivers/TSRs will fit on a 1.44 MB boot floppy).


- John Chin


Modem - Call freezes the PC


> I have a Sportster Express external 56k modem. I'm using Windows 98 SE. My problem is that if the telephone rings my computer freezes. Ctrl-Alt-Del does nothing and I need to reset my computer.


        Sounds like the port your external modem is connected to is using an IRQ used by some other active device. Check what IRQ the com port the modem is connected too and see if any other device uses the same.


- Herbert Graf


Modem - Internal vs. External


What are the pros and cons of external vs. internal modems?  If an external plugs into the serial port, does that mean some other device can't be used? I want a speakerphone to speak to people I call at their house (and I don't like headsets).  There sia 3com external faxmodem pro that comes witha highly-rated speakerphone.  If I had an internal, how can I do the same thing?


Although I use both types, I recommend an external if you don't mind the extra space it occupies. Here are the advantages of external:


1. no question of compatibility with software - winmodems are internal and will not work with all operating systems and software

2. easy to move to another computer if needed

3. does not create additional heat inside the computer

4. if lightning strikes a phone line, it is less likely to damage the computer if you are using an external modem - this happened to a friend of mine and he will never use an internal modem again!


Just my thoughts. Others may have different opinions.


- Peter Shkabara



I have always used internal modems.  Why?  Less clutter.  However, some of my tech friends swear by externals, and will use nothing else.  One reason is they like the touchy-feely thing about being able to see the blinking lights to prove it's working.  Hmmm...  The other is because an external is inherently faster.  Their contention is that the modem does not rely on the PC bus or processor, which provides a better throughput.  I have a tendancy to side with them on this issue, but I would argue that it depends on the quality of the modem as well.  3Com is about as good as you will get, IMHO.


Both the modems in my system allow me to use my computer like a speaker phone.  I have the mic hooked up to my modem and a patch cable goes from the modem to my soundcards line-in to process the sound.  It works great unless you get the mic too close to the speakers.  Then you get that wonderful screech called feedback.


- Kyle Elmblade



Here are some more advantages of external modems . . . .


1. You can reset external modems by powering them off and back on again. With an internal modem, you have to shut down the entire operating system and restart the computer to reset the modem, which is time consuming and a bother in Windows.


2. It is usually easier to configure an external modem, since you are using an existing COM port, usually a standard feature on the motherboard. With an internal modem, you have to do one of the following:


  (a) share an IRQ (and plan not to use the other device whilst using the modem);

  (b) use a non-standard IRQ, I/O port address and COM port assignment; or

  (c) disable an on-board serial port and assign its IRQ, I/O and COM port to the internal modem.


COM port assignments are based upon I/O port priorities, not IRQs, and you can become easily frustrated trying to configure a non-standard COM port modem on a device-ladened system.


An advantage of internal modems . . . .  External modems must rely on the existing serial port.  Therefore, if you have a buggy or slow serial port (such as those found on older motherboards without the latest UART chip), then an internal modem will provide an UART chip upgrade in the bargain.


- John Chin


Modem - No Handshake


I am not able to connect so two ISP's though I can connect to one. A dial tone is heard, the modem dials, tone is heard from the remote modem, my modem answers with a tone but then nothing happens. There is no handshaking.


you may have 2 TCP/IP protocols present in your network section of control panel.


- Paul Traynor


Modem - Settings - Display correct connection speed


If you add an ATW2 to the modem init string in the properties it will show

the connect speed.


- Dave Jones



Modem - Settings - Volume regulation


Go into your modem properties, click on configure, then connection, then advanced and in "extra settings"

add what you want from the following (this being an excerpt from my USR modem's online help (AT$) but should work for most other modems):


Mn    n=0  Speaker OFF

         n=1  Speaker ON Until Carrier Detect

         n=2  Speaker Always ON

         n=3  The speaker is ON after last digit dialed, OFF at carrier detect

Ln    n=0  Low Speaker Volume

        n=1  Low Speaker Volume

        n=2  Med Speaker Volume

        n=3  Hi Speaker Volume


        For example, to always have the modem's speaker on with full volume (I don't think anybody else would appreciate this!) enter M2L3 in the extra settings section. Hope this helped,


- Herbert Graf


Modem - Using two modems


You can do it with any two modems, provided you have two phone lines, support in your OS and the ability to log into your ISP twice at the same time (many charge extra for that). I don't know with what version of what win95 gained this functionality, but my install of Win95B and IE5 has it. To enable the feature, open up your dial up networking folder. Right click on the account you want to enable it on and click on properties. Click on Multilink and go from there. Since I only have one phone line I have never tried it, however I do have a friend who relied on it until they got Cable Modem access.


- Herbert Graf


Monitor - Colour gone deep pink or yellow or blue


The first thing to check is the monitor cable and any extension cables. I once had a customer whose office monitor turned yellow. The background was a distinct yellow haze. After verifying the video card by checking with another monitor I ordered a replacement monitor. When I pulled the <bad > monitor out from the tangle of wires behind the desk I realized that it was plugged into a short extension and was not cable locked. The connection between the monitor cable and the extension cable had backed off a millimeter which was enough to break a connection with one of the pins resulting in the loss of full color bandwidth. I pushed it together and it

worked normally.


- Mark Rode


I once had a client whose monitor was blue then red then normal, randomly changing at various times and frequency.  It was fixed by the first thing I checked - the power cord, which was almost ready to fall out of the wall. It seems simple, but check that power run and bypass any surge protector to test.  If the monitor has a self-test mode (I know some KDS monitors do, for example), turn on the monitor without the PC on.  Also if you can test the monitor on a known stable PC (someone with a laptop and video out port is the easiest IMHO) you can determine if the monitor itself is the trouble right off the bat.  Good luck.


- Marilyn Wilson


This might not be hardware at all.  If the person is running Windows 2000, and using the Liveware 2.0 drivers with a Soundblaster Live, there is a driver issue which causes the background to be pink (at least with TNT2

cards).  It also shifts the rest of the color pallet around a bit.  A restart usually fixes it, but it returns up on random restarts.


- Jeff McConnell


Monitor - Multi Monitors


I guess I was fortunate in that I didn't have to do much for my dual monitors. I run win 98se and have a diamond stealth 64 pci as primary and a agp rage pro as secondary.


I added my second card after windows was set up and it didn't recognize it first so I had to go to control panel system and delete the exsisting video setting and then reboot it recognized both and asked for drivers for each. The second screen only comes up with a message that says if you can read it you have properly installed it and to go to display in control panel to activate it. You then have to give it it's size and color range and click apply and it should stat to work for you you may have to rearrange the images on your desktop . Also both monitors should have the same size settings if one is set for 800x600 the other one should be to.


I have had it crash because I carried something from one side to the other and they were at different setttings. the color settings can be different i have one set for true color and one for 16 bit color. That has not given me any problems. I have an award bios and did not make any adjustments to it to accomplish this and I have no idea how to set refresh rates and wouldn't know why I should. I know that win NT runs dual also and the idea is the same but I have never actually done it I do know that my two moniter setup has made like a lot easier to work with this. I wish I could give you more of the technical info you were looking for but maybe someone else here has that.


- Brendhan Horne


I am currently running two monitors on win98 (not 98SE)  using a Matrox Millennium  G400 dual head AGP video board. . . Machine is AMD K6 II 400Mhz with 192Mb RAM on DFI P5BV3+ MB My experience has been generally good. . . at least the viewing is great. . .


The downside was setting up. . . necessary to get the latest drivers from Matrox and a Via specific chipset 4-in-1 driver for the Via chipset on the motherboard. Also, windows would not shut down properly after installation of the Matrox card and drivers. . . to overcome this problem, I had to flash the motherboard BIOS.


After overcoming thie installation woes I find the Matrox card as solid as a rock. . . am able to switch resolutions and color settings for the individual monitor with no problem. My refresh rate ar set at "optimum" with the rate for my large, (20 in) monitor held to 75 Hz as per my monitor repair shop's suggestion.


- Don Kendrew


Monitor - One of the  Colours Missing


> I have problem for my PC 15 inch colour monitor. The monitor is standard Super VGA. Sometimes the Blue colour just gone when system boot and never show on the screen. But sometimes is OK no problems at all.


    If it is an intermittent problem , I could guess that either the signal cable from the monitor is damaged somewhere along the cable or in  the connector,(the one that plugs into your PC, or some monitors have plugs at BOTH ends). There could be a pin in the connector to the PC that could be pushed inside the connector shielding.Examine the plug ,and verify that all the pins are straight and of the same height. If it is a molded shield you cannot take it apart and fix it, but you can try to pull the pin out.  VERY GENTLY with a small neddlenose plier, taking care in not flattening the pin itself. (BE SURE TO UNPLUG THE MONITOR FROM THE AC PLUG, AND THAT YOUR PC IS NOT TURNED ON)


   Sometimes those pins could get bent while trying to plug them into your video card plug also.


- Carlos Diaz



William, this is rarely (but not impossible) a driver problem. It is a usually a hardware problem.  And that limits the problem to these three components:  the monitor, the video card, the cable that connects the two.


The quickest and easiest troubleshooting test is to make sure all the monitor wires are connected firmly and tightly at the monitor and the back of the PC case.


If everything is plugged in good and tight, then next move the monitor to a different computer (a friend or at work) to see if the problem follows the monitor.


If it does not follow the monitor, then borrow a known good monitor and plug it in to your pc to prove the problem is in the video card.


- Jim Meagher


Motherboard - Choosing - BX vs. VIA KX chipset


The base line is: BX chipset can be overclocked to 133 and beat VIA KX133A chip, Intel expensive chip. The only problem to overclock BX is AGP speed, it has to run an 87Mhz, that's a problem with some graphics card. If you don't want to overclock BX, then KX133A is the best price/performance chip, it is much cheaper to get a KX133A mobo and you'll save huge $ to avoid RDRAM instead by using PC133 SDRAM, the performance is good enough to compare with Intel RDRAM solution. The most important message is: whatever you do, DO NOT use Intel i820 with PC100 SDRAM, it is the slowest; and i820 with PC600/700 RDRAM is no better than KX133A with PC133 SDRAM, but you'll have to pay way too much for it.


There is a complete long "history" of article on about RDRAM vs SDRAM, BX vs KX133 vs i820 vs i840 you need to read them all, then you'll know the difference between different solutions.


- Jun Qian


Motherboard - Choosing - low-end


I, personally, would recommend the SiS boards.  Many of the Amptron boards I've used were a big disappointment.....defective.


- Byron Wolter


Motherboard - MicroStar


<< Has anybody ever seen a product review of (or even USED) one of their boards in the past? (let's say since Jan. 1999) >>


I built an athlon system just last week w/a Microstar board.  I use and like them.  If I'm not mistaken, they're one of the boards that AMD recommends for use with their chips.  If you check the AMD site, they give a list of recommended boards for use w/each chip.  Microstar is one of them, although I can't speak specifically to the K7 1G's.


- Donna Cook


AnandTech  <> rates the Microstar #1 out of all the AMD 750 boards they tested, included Asus and Abit boards.


- Sunil Bector


Motherboard - VLB


> will someone please explain what a VLB motherboard is?


Vesa Local Bus. In the days of the 486 to Pentium transition there were two competing standards for a higher speed local bus (well three if you count EISA but EISA never really caught on outside of the server market. MicroChannel bus (I think that is what it was called) by IBM could also have been considered a contender but being IBM only I don't think it had any chance and it wasn't much faster than ISA).


VLB consisted of a standard 16bit ISA slot with a 32 bit VESA slot on the end of the ISA. It was great for the reason that every slot that was a VLB slot could take a standard ISA card instead. It lost, for various reasons. The first was the cards were VERY long and prone to slipping out of the slot (which I have experienced many times). Also the bus was tied directly to the CPUs bus (no buffer of any type) which meant alot of instabilities could be introduced to the system by a bad card. Bus length was very short, subsequently the max number of slots I've ever seen was 3. I believe only one slot could be a bus master, I don't know if PCI has a similar constraint.


Also, the VLB had big compatibility problems with the Pentium architecture, I don't remember the details. I think the biggest reason it lost is because Intel was a major supporter of PCI (maybe even the creator), and we all know Intel's influence back then. Most of the late 486 boards were VLB, while most of the Pentiums were PCI (although there were a few PCI 486 boards and a few VLB Pentium boards).


- Herbert Graf


Mouse - Cleaning


You know how to clean your mouse occasionally---you unscrew the lid, put it aside, clean out the little wheels inside and the rubber ball (I find an old toothbrush good for that), and screw it back together.  And you still have a sticky mouse.


How many of us remember to clean out the lid as well?  It can accumulate a lot of dirt.  The ball revolves in the lid (actually the base), so dirt in the lid can affect mouse performance.


Next time you do a mouse-clean, don't forget to clean inside the lid.


- Don Penlington


Mouse - Hooking up two mice


Yes, it's not only possible, but quite handy. I have a Logitech Marble FX on my PS/2 port, which I use all the time. I also have a Logitech USB Mouseman Wheel that I use for FPS games. They both are functional all the time.


- Ernie Goens


Mouse - Microsoft Optical


I have been toying with the idea of getting one of these new Microsoft Optical mice since I am tired of removing gummy guck from the wheels inside my mouse.


I noted that they have two versions: the cheaper Microsoft Intellimouse Optical Mouse and the more expensive optical Intellimouse Explorer mouse. Other than colour, I am hard pressed to figure out the difference, although

they are priced about $30 (Can.) differently. Looking at the specs on the box, I can't see what extra I am paying for in the more costly version.


Can anyone tell me if they have had good or bad experiences with either of these, but especially, what is the difference between them.


I've never used an optical microsoft mouse, but I have used other optical mice, and don't much care for them. The ones I used were distinctly flakier that 'ball-mice'.


I've used many brands of ball-mouse (ibm, compaq, hewlett-packard, generic) that gummed up almost instantly.I blame the mice, not the ball-mouse technology.


I have had uniformly good experience with many generations of microsoft mice.  (I've had limited experience with a re-branded logitech mouse, which also seems okay.) I never use a mouse pad.  I use a normal desktop (typically wood, formica, or laminate), in a 'normal' state of cleanliness. When using a laptop, I might use the mouse on whatever magazine is handy, or on the fabric arm of the sofa.


Works great.  Depending on usage I might have to do a quick mouse-clean (literally half a minute, or so), maybe once a month.


My recommendation:  get a properly desigend ball-mouse (I don't know what they do differently, but in my book that means microsoft) --- works for me, at least.


- Frank R. Brown


Mouse - Overheating


I have had two clients, two separate brand new computers, where their ps2 Microsoft intellimouse locks up their system and the bottom of the mouse actually gets really warm.


There was a series of the Intellimouse mice about 3-4 months ago that would develop this problem. Had something to do with the type of mouse pad they were used on. They would have conductivity with certain ones, and would lock on one of the circuits inside causing heat to build up and the mouse to eventually die. A reboot usually solved the problem and MS reworked the mice design.


- Ernie Goens


Network - Cable Modem - Tweaking the settings  has a section on Win98 registry changes for speeding up cable modem connections.


They also have a webpage where you can download patches that will make these changes (and others) automatically. See


I have heard (from a fellow PCBUILD member) that using default registry settings (which are usually optimized for dial up connections) can result in very slow cable speeds...almost as slow as dial up. Following Speedguide's advice can fix this.


- Bill Cohane


Network - General


Useful sites:


Network - Hub, Switch or Switching Hub?


I went out to buy a hub for my network and I was offered :

1. A Hub   2. A Switch   3. A Switching Hub

What are the essential differences between them and what are the speed and money factors involved.


In terms of networking PCs, a switch and a switching hub are the same thing.


Basically, a hub is a box or device which allows you to connect the cables from two or more PCs into a central point so they can communicate.   A hub is either 10Mbps or 10/100Mbps.  A hub strictly speaking moves data across the entire network at the speed of the slowest Network card or hub connected to it, (this is if you have other hubs connected to the first hub). So, even if you have two PCs with 10/100Mbps network cards, a 10/100Mbps hub and one PC with a 10Mbps network card, the data will only move across the network at 10Mbps, the speed of the slowest device.


The switch or switching hub has the ability to allow the faster devices to continue to connect with one and other at the higher speeds, in the above case, if the hub was replaced with a 10/100Mbps switch, then the two PCs with 10/100Mbps network cards could communicate at 100Mbps, though data would only move to the PC with the 10Mbps network card at the slower speed, no matter what machine received or sent it.


The switch in the hub increases the price.  Hubs are relatively inexpensive today and the price of switches has dropped dramatically this year.  Personally, I purchased a 10/100Mbps switch for my network for about $55US recently, where they were over $150 just a year ago.


- Bob Wright



I was under the impression that a switch was more than just a speed sensor. A switch, as it is my understanding, gains knowledge of the physical address of the NICs on each port. On receipt of a packet a switch analyses the destination address and transfers the packet to the port where that NIC can be found. A hub on the other hand just transmits everything it hears to every port. A switch GREATLY reduces the number of collisions on a network. Basically there are two major types of switches, cut-through and 'store and forward'.


Cut-through switches only look at the destination address and transfer the packet based on that address, they don't check the packet for correct size or CRC. However these types have very low latencies, barely slower than a dumb hub.


Store and forward switches suck in the whole packet and make sure it is valid, they then forward the packet to the appropriate port. These types of switches have relatively high latencies but make up for it by reduced traffic and bandwidth needs.


There are a few other types of switches but they are just combinations of the above two, a "best of both worlds" concept.


- Herbert Graf



Network - MAC address conflict


How do card manufacturers are sure that there is no two cards with the same mac address? In my LAN when I try to install an e-mail client in one of the Pcs a message appears warning there is a conflict with the mac address of other pc.


  There are a couple of ways that this could happen.  Although the number encoded into the card is unique, it can be overridden in software.  Win9x, for instance, records the MAC address during the Windows install, and keeps this address even if the hardware changes.  So if you pass around a network card amongst different machines,

you could easily get an error message like this.


- Dave Gillett



Network - What is a router?


  In general, a router is a special case of gateway, a machine that is a member of two (or more) different networks for the purpose of "internetworking" -- allowing traffic between hosts on different networks.


  [There are two basic kinds of gateway:  proxies, which hide the fact that there is a whole network beyond them (amongst other things, this makes protocol conversion practical), and routers, which do not.  In a typical TCP/IP setup, a proxy rewrites header information at Layer 3 and a router rewrites header information at Layer 2.]   There are, of course, lots of extra complications that can be added to the routing piece:  media conversions, security, multiple networks, dynamic connections....


  On my desk at work, I have a 10Mbps Ethernet-to-Ethernet router that cost less than $200; I'm awaiting delivery of a multi-port router from Cisco whose pricetag was about $23K.  Of course, a router *could* just be a standard computer with multiple NICs and appropriate software running.


  Connecting a network to the Internet is going to require some sort of gateway.  Whether that gateway is a router or something else is a choice to be made.


- Dave Gillett



Parallel Port - Settings


The ECP setting is the fastest IF you can get it to work with your combination of equipment and available resources.  It takes a DMA port resource to work.


The EPP is next fastest and is fairly reliable.


Bi-directional setting allows communication both ways between the parallel port device and the computer. Very reliable.


Uni-directional is also a setting available on some older machines.   It has one way communication to the parallel port attached device.


- Doug Simmons


Ports - Adding a printer port


I bought a digital camera. It downloads the images through the parallel port.Is there some device I could get so I don't have to disconnect my printer to dowload pictures from the camera?


You can purchase an ABC parallel port switch box for your camera. I have 3 devices on mine including a printer.  It is available in either automatic or manual model; I use the manual kind which is cheaper, about $20-30. All you have to do is turn the dial to which device you want to use without disconnecting anything.


- Deborah Anderson



You should be careful with the manual switches - some printers do not like them (namely, Hewlett Packard).  This is especially true if the printer has any kind of multi-function abilities, like scanning or faxing. There are some switches (digital, maybe?? not sure what made them special) that are made to work with these types of printers.  I seem to remember that Belkin makes one.


- Jeff McConnell



If your computer is USB equipped, you can buy a USB Hub with parallel & serial ports on it.


- Wanda Irby


Ports - COM port doesn't work


I have here an old 486DX2-66 computer and have problems with the COM1 port. I haven't any documentation of this PC. Last week, when I tryed to install a modem I found that the COM1 port didn't work, although Windows' Control Panel says that "This device is working properly".


I have experienced some troubles with some on-board serial controlers in 486 and Pentium Mother boards. Some MB models use a different connector for serial ports, with a non-standard pin position. Make sure that both serial connectors and ribbon cables you're using are the same, because maybe they were switched in the long life of your 486 and, like I said before, not every connector works on that kind of board. If this not help maybe you have defected serial port, it's pretty normal that, even though the port doesn't work anymore windows report it as "workin properly", try a hardware test software (like norton utilities for dos) with a serial loopback on the port.


- Alexandre Breveglieri



If you're running Win95 then you may need to disable the COM port from CMOS and let Windows install it when the wizard launches during boot up. It fixed a troublesome modem problem I had on a Pentium 75 using this technique.


The link below will give you more detail information.


- Roger Griffiths


Power - Testing


I have a volt meter. If I put one probe of the volt meter into the socket hole that goes to a red wire, and the other probe into the socket hole that goes to the adjacent black wire (and the same for the yellow wire and the adjacent black wire) will this give me the voltage readings that I want?


Certainly you can test these wires with a volt meter.   Here is something from a recent question I answered that may be of some help:


There are four wires on every connector for hard drives coming from the power supply.   The Yellow wire is 12v and the black wire next to it is the ground for 12v.  The red wire is 5v and the black wire next to it is the ground for 5v.



      /                         \

      |   0    0    0     0   |


  red  black  black yellow


  +5v  -5v     -12v    +12v


I hope this helps.


- Bob Wright


Power - Wattage


> I just found my original specs. on my 95 Gateway 200 MHz, Mine has a 145 watt power supply. Question is , is this too low a power suppply to add new board and say 500-550 AMD cpu?


I'm sure it is too low. You will need at least 250w these days.


- Jun Qian


A standard set up of 1 hd and a videocard,sound card,modem,floppy,cd-rom,cooling fan would make me very leery of using anything less than a 200 watt power supply. And if some of the perphials are high end or that AMD was being overclocked I would not leave the low pwr supply in. I just prefer to err on the side of caution and have something a little stronger than what I need than the bare minimum.


- Brendhan Horne


Printer - Choosing a new Inkjet


I was very impressed with Lexmarks printing and bought a 3200.  Took it back because it was way too slow on every type of printing and it was going through ink like the stuff was free.  The ink usage is a common complaint of all the Lexmark owners I know.  The quality of color printing was excellent.


Next came a Canon 5100.  Very, very fast.  Color was ok but black and white graphics were terrible with one or two cartridges installed.  Very serious banding problems and customer service treated it like it's a normal thing.  Back it went.


I ended up with a Canon 6000.  I have no complaints about it.  It does superb color on glossy paper, it's almost as fast as the 5100 and it does excellent black printing.  With the dual cartridges (using a color cart and a photo cart), it make amazing color photo prints.  I particularly like the fact that individual color tanks can be replaced and they are transparent so you can see how you're doing on ink supply.


I have too many friends with HP printers to consider buying one.  They have had far too many paper path problems.  It is a Rube Goldberg contraption if ever there was one.  Why they choose to make feeding paper into such a mechanical monstrosity is beyond me.  Too many mechanical breakdowns.  A friend has a 1100 (reads photo memory cards and prints two sided copy).  We did a print comparison of his 1100 and my Canon 6000.  His was slightly sharper and mine was truer colors to the original.  The 1100 is $499 and my Canon was $89.


I've always avoided Epson because the printhead is part of the printer and seems to be a very expensive machine to maintain due to this.  I only know one person with an Epson and he swears it's the greatest printer in the world as he tells me about his latest $100+ repair.  All the others I've mentioned have the print head as part of the cartridge so it's replaced with the cartridge.  All seem to do quite well with good quality ink refills as long as you replace them periodically.


Going for maximum bang for the buck, I would recommend Canon and Lexmark.


- Art Cassel


Printer - Inkjet - Epson - Clogged print head


Hello, I myself also had a problem with an Epson printer. For at least 1 year it was used everyday a lot. Then it was used occasionally. Here is where the problems happened.


You must use at least once a day or ink dries. I called Epson after trying everything & ready to get a new one. This is what they told me & it worked. Go to where you do the head cleaning, start cleaning & then nozzle check. If it is a bad test (broken or missing lines) start process over. Never hit finish or cancel!!!! They said that I would have to run this process 10-15 times. The idea is to build up pressure inside the heads. This is why you never hit "finish or cancel" until the nozzle clean is perfect. This will use a lot of ink.


By the way I have always refilled my cartridges with no problem. As I said the problem is when the printer is used occasionally. Hope this works as it did for me, as mine was ready for the garbage.


- Arthur Young




  On these injet printhead cleaning questions, extremely hot distilled water cleans well. Inkjet ink is water soluble.

In extreme cases I have added a drop of household ammonia to  a shallow saucer of near boiling water and soaked the printhead for a couple hours. After a few bouts of this, I don't buy or recommend any printer where the printhead

is a built-in  part of the printer. (like Epson)

Be careful not to get the ammonia solution on the electrical contacts or it will eat them.

Only submerge the very tip with the jets.

Again only use ammonia when the straight hot water won't work, and the alternative is to trash the head/cartridge.

  Also helps sometimes to apply a little positive pressure (use your imagination) to the vent on top of the cartridge if possible.


- Larry  Fisk


Printer - Inkjet - Feedback


I have a Lexmark 3200, and it is excellent. It's fast, reliable, and delivers very high quality output. In addition, if you like to refill your ink cartridges, the Lexmark 3200 cartridges are easy to refill. You should be able to refill 4 times or so before needing to buy a brand new cartridge.


- Bryan S. Tyson


Same for me -- I've Lexmark 5700, trouble-free for already 9 months and saves me $15 on each refill :)


- Max Timchenko


Printer - Inkjet - HP 660C - Grinding Noise


Hi, my deskjet is making a grinding noise when printing and it is not the problem with the clutch actuator misaligned on the metal and plastic gears as discussed on HP's web support site.  Has anyone been able to fix this problem without going back to HP's repair center? How do you fix that aweful noise?


 Your printer is probably about thrashed. While Hp printers are very good, the 600 series are not their best product. I've worked on several of this vintage and usually the grinding noise is the problem.


 You can probably get a little more use out of it by cleaning the cartridge guide bar and applying (very sparingly) some high quality light oil to it. Don't use 3 in one oil, use sewing machine or gun oil that won't get gummy. Some of the new teflon or silicon lubricants might work well also. Be very careful not to get oil on the mylar strip that runs behind the shiny round guide rod. I usually just put a drop or two on a paper towel and rub it sparingly on the guide rod.


  Yes, I know this isn't recommended by HP, but I've done it on numerous printers and normally it will make it work for a while longer, if it has no other problems.  What do you have to lose?


 If you do have to replace it, the discontinued model  722c or 720 (same printer) Hp deskjet is excellent and is selling for as little as $100 at my local Costco (Boise) .


- Larry  Fisk


Printer - Inkjet - HP 722 - One Color Missing


Two days ago I fixed a No Yellow problem on my HP printer cartridge (HP 722).  These cartridges are the sponge type and do occasionally trap air bubbles in the sponges.  I cured mine with a sharp rap down on a firm surface.  I wrapped tissue paper on the nozzle to catch the ink that came out of all the chambers and then rapped the wrapped printing end on my desk two or three times.  It had been skipping and erratic in printing yellow for three or 4 weeks, but I had not had time to investigate. I read about the trapped bubble problem on an inkjet re-filler company troubleshooting page.


- Doug Simmons


Printer - Inkjet - HP Deskjet 500 - Feed problems


I have a 7 years old HP deskjet 500 printer. It still works alright untill past day. The paper feeder has lost its strength, so paper in tray cannot reach the paper feed wheel, as a result, I have to push each paper to the wheel if I want to print something, otherwise the printer

will say "out of paper".


These sorts of problems with printers and faxes are most often caused by a dirty paper pathway. Dirty rollers cause the paper to slow down or hang up.


The first thing to try is to clean the paper path way with 100 percent alcohol and a swab. You can also use rubber rejuvenator on the rubber rollers although keep it off the plastic parts or it might melt the finish. Sometimes you have to keep going over the rollers giving them a good scrubbing.


You can also use a special lubricant that won't degrade plastic on any gears or other moving parts. Only use this on parts where you see existing lubricant.


- Mark Rode


Cleaning it as Mark suggested might solve the problem, but you should also check the paper lift mechanism in the tray.  The paper load mechanism is an ear-shaped black piece located on the right side of the In tray.  As this piece turns, the paper is lifted up to the rollers.


If the load mechanism is jammed, turning the black piece to the right and to the left  a few times may clear the problem.


- Bob Wright


Good day, I have been following this thread with interest as I have a HP855C that had also developed paper pick up problems. I would have to push a page into the feeder to get it to pick up. After seeing what people have suggested to remedy this problem, and the "Brillo" item below, and the previous "sand paper" solution, here is what I did. I took some 400 wet-dry sand paper, pushed the manual feed button and allowed the rollers to be scuffed, mindful to not allow the paper to be pulled into the innards. I did this until I could see that the rollers had been buffed up a bit, by looking at the wet or dry paper and the color of the rollers. I then used some Windex on a shop towel, cloth, as suggested in my "Bigelow's Printer Troubleshooting Pocket Reference" not alcohol, and cleaned the rollers. Followed by a blast of canned air to get any grit that may have been left behind. I then ran a couple of test pages to get any other crud off the rollers. The old reliable, 5yrs, works like a champ again. Just thought I'd pass this along.


- Brad Loomis


Printer - Inkjet - Lexmark - Refilling


I've been refilling my Lexmark 7200 with aftermarket inks for about 18 months with perfect results. The 7200 is esentially the same as the 5700. The Black cartridge just gets a hole in the top where you can just shoot the ink in, the color cartridge must have the red top removed, which can be done easily with a little muscle and a set of pliers. I guess you could also do it with an x-acto knife, should you desire. once open, the proper fill holes are very obvious.


You get 4-5 refills out of a cartridge before the built in print head is too worn to use. At that point, the cartridge is useless, you toss it and open a new one.. The key is to get your ink from a reliable source. I have a digital camera and print a lot of pictures, so the refilling is a necessity for me. The prints from the refilled cartridge and the ones from a factory filled cartridge are virtually identical. Good luck, my friend.


I have been getting my inks from a vendor at a local computer show, he's a person whom I've been dealing with for several years. The inks are, as far as I know, just called "Lexmark Compatible ink jet refill ink...  As far as the costs, I pay $28.00 for a box of 4 colors, yellow, cyan, magenta and black, about 6 ounces of each. Despite the fact that I have a digital camera and a four year old son who always needs things printed in quantity for school, that $28.00 box of ink has so far lasted 16 months. Remember, you are still replacing those cartridges every 4th or 5th refill, so you have to count in the fact that they are filled at the factory. All I know is that the Lexmark cartridges here in the US are $39.00 for color and $30.00 for black. (I'm sure they are quite a bit more in your country!) Reloading saves me a TON of money.


- Richard Tabas (Phillykid)




Printer - Inkjet - Recovering dried-up cartridges


The print output from my venerable Desk Jet 500 was getting faint, so I bought two cartridges. When I removed the old cartridge, I could see it was abut half full of ink. Thinking maybe it was clogged, I tried to wipe off the head with alcohol and a q-tip. I  removed a lot of dried-up ink from the print head.  That did not help at all. Is there any way I can salvage cartridges like this one?


I've salvaged similar cartridges by sitting pouring roughly half an inch of alcohol in a bowl and sitting the cartridges in it.  Press down gently every couple of minutes for about ten minutes or so.  Then dab dry with a paper towel.  When you press the cartridges against the paper towel you should see a bit of ink flow out.


Dry the cartridges completely, place back in printer and print two or three pages of something typed BOLD.


This clears up my cartridges most of the time. Occasionally, they don't start printing perfectly for a few hours, but usually the process is very quick.


- James Ritchie


Printer - Laser - HP LaserJet 5L, 4L - Feed problems


 I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with either the HP laserjet 4L or 5L printers.  We have several of these printers on campus and they all have the same problem (At the start of the printing process several pages are advanced instead of a single sheet, causing a paper jam)  I've tried cleaning the main pick-up

roller with Alcohol and fanning the paper before loading, but nothing seems to work.  This problem occurs whether I load 5 pages or 25 pages. 


I would go a step further than alcohol.  Try sandpaper.  Typically, it's not that the rollers are dirty, but that they are so worn that they've lost their grip.  Sandpaper roughs them up and gives them grip again.  I have done this with HP II's, IIP's, III's, IIIP's, 4L's, 5L's, 4P's, and 5P's, all with a realative measure of success.  Sometimes there is no substitute for new rollers, but finding them is another issue alltogether.


- Kyle Elmblade


We service HP printers and HP has released a kit to fix this problem. It is a problem with the seperator pad and spring. Also HP says DO NOT fan the paper as it causes static electricity and contributes to the problem. As a side note you need to get some rubber rejuvinator to use on your pickup rollers, it does alot better job than alcohol.


- Chris Hayes


We used to have that sort of problem when we stored our paper in a supposedly dry drawer until we noted

that the problem would resolve on a freshly opened ream of paper. The placement of a dessicant canister in the drawer along with the paper solved the problem.


- Joseph Hallare


Printer - Laser - Lexmark 4029 - Drivers


Thanks to everyone who sent a solution. The unfortunate thing was that none of them worked. So after frustration and hair loss I called lexmark. Tech support is $25.00 per incident. I got on

with a very nice gentlemen in Lexington, Kentucky. Who ran me thru most of the basic tests and then started to get to brass tacks. We tried the lexmark drivers to no avail. He then asked some of his higher ups. Who came back and said. With the 4029 with an IBM label(mine has a small one on it.) you use HP laserjet series II driver. I added that one and all is ok. Except for the $25.00 on the phone bill.


- Brendhan Horne


Software - Diagnostics


We have been searching for quite sometime now for a quality hardware diagnostic software package to recommend...  a shareware package that can be downloaded from our web site...  and we believe we have found it:


 DIAG  by Dominik Marks


You can download this file, "DIAG", from our web site at:


We are still testing the software at this time and we will have a full review of it on the web site soon.  In

the mean time, from what I have seen so far, I can highly recommend this diagnostic tool.  It works with even the latest CPUs and chipsets...   and it is as functional as diagnostic software costing hundreds of dollars.


- Bob Wright



I think diagnostic software can come in very handy on occasion.  I have used Troubleshooter as well with success.  It set me back about $300.00, and I can't remember what I paid for QAFE, but these are the two I use.  If you buy the whole Troubleshooter package it comes with feedback plugs for serial and parallel cables, a Post-It card, and a few other nifty things, but I didn't have the money at the time to get the whole thing.


- Kyle Elmblade


Sound - Full duplex or half duplex?


> Is there an easy way to determine if a sound card is full-duplex or half-duplex?


      Well there are several techinques, however the easiest I find is to try one of the internet phone services, they often tell you whether it is full duplex or not. For example,; if you register with them and open the java applet the program will imediately report your card as half duplex if it is, it doesn't mention anything if it is full duplex.


- Herbert Graf


Sound - hi-fi speakers


I am not sure whether the AWE64 has an onboard amp, but it doesn't matter, if it does don't use it! :) On board sound card amps have very little power and will distort rather quickly on any size speaker. Your best solution would be to get an external amplifier, connect the line out of the sound card to one of the ins on the amp and the speaker to the amp, this will produce much better quality sound than computer speakers would.


The connection from sound card to amp will most likely require a stereo 1/8" plug to two RCA male plugs. The speaker to amp connection will most likely require bare leads, although it depends on the jacks on your amp and speaker. Any old amp will be satisfactory, chances are you have one laying around. If not, most thrift shops have good ones for really cheap prices.


- Herbert Graf


USB - Not working on VIA MVP3-based MB


Without giving the specific MB model I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling that the motherboard you have selected uses the VIA MVP3 chipset.  I checked the Redfox web site and some of their boards do use this chipset.  There have been problems with this chipset and USB.  However VIA has provided a USB Filter Patch on their web site.  Check it out at or if that is too slow check out (mirror sites).  After you download the patch, your problems should disappear.


Please do not install this patch if you are unsure what chipset your MB uses.


- Eric Greenberg



Video - 50' cables


> Is there any serious loss in performance from extending the SVGA cable from the standard to a 50' cable? I have read stories that a booster may be needed.


    Well, it depends on what resolution you are using, but I'd have to say with 50' you will notice SERIOUS degradation at any resolution you use. I have a 3 meter (9 foot) cable that degrades 800x600 noticibly, the whole screen is just a little more fuzzy. Granted I don't have an amazing cable but SVGA signals need ALOT of bandwidth and the signals degrade very easily. Just look at the original VOODOO 3d accelerator, it used a very short (a few inches) pass through cable and the biggest complaint about that setup was the degradation of the video signal at higher resolutions due to that cable. A booster will help but finding a good one is difficult.


- Herbert Graf



I run a 50' svga cable with no problems.  Been working for a couple of years now without any booster.  works great.  cable cost $50.


- Chuck Watters


Video - GeForce not working on Gigabyte MB


I tried to install a Geforce256 (3DProphet by Guillemot) on a Gigabyte GA-686LX4 motherboard. This board uses the intel 440LX chipset. About 2-3 minutes after switching on the PC, the PC freezes.


The Guillemot GeForce card does not work on the Gigabyte 686LX3 because the AGP 2.0 specs require one power supply of 6amps at 3.3 volts for the AGP port and one power supply of 2amps at 5.0 volts for the AGP memory. Unfortunately this motherboard and an Asus LX motherboard fail to deliver more than 5amps (and 2amps) causing random crashes.  The Gigabyte 686LX3 and LX4 appear to be almost the same board with the LX4 having one more Dimm slot.  I would suspect that power is probably your issue.  If you have another video card can you check to see that everything works with a different video card?  Unfortunately the GeForce is very power hungry and some users have had to raise their I/O voltage in the BIOS (when the BIOS is capable of doing this) to get the GeForce to work.


- Mary Wolden


Video - Installing Matrox G200 AGP as 2nd card


>To install a Matrox AGP video card, does the old videocard really need to be physically removed?


I don't believe you can run two video cards in Win95...unless a patch has come out that I am not aware of.

You may be able to leave it in the PCI slot without installing it in 95. Dual monitor support didn't become available until Windows 98 and was one of it's new features ...but NT4 supports it. Even then whether or not a particular video card combination will work has always been a try it and see situation. Some will cohabitant together and some won't.


- Mark Rode


Video - Voodoo III 2000 card


I bought a computer some time around feburary it is an HP with an AMDK-2 500. The motherboard inside is an Asus p5s-vm. This motherboard has what they call an onboard VGA card with 8 mb allocated from the system ram for video. Well while this is all good in theory it really was not worth a flip. So i went out and bought a new Voodoo3 2000 PCI card and installed it. I also downloaded the newest driver for the voodoo card, it is from July 1, 2000. The problem that i am having is while i am playing games the system locks up. I cannot do any endtasks or even get to the desktop. Just freezes.


I did the same upgrade on a similar PC (pentium 2 cpu instead of amd) with the same card and had the same problem. The fix was to put an older driver for the video card.


- Paul Mailhiot


ZIP Drive - Non-proprietary software


I called Iomega and they tell me that their drives are completely proprietary.... Standard Norton Utilities will not run on their drives and attempting to do so will destroy them.


That's what they like to espouse. However, as a former consultant to Iomega I can tell you that I have used NU without any problems on scores of Zip and Jaz drive cartridges. You think Symantec is going to write software that will destroy data files or hardware? *;-) Probably the same folks who believe that will tell you a virus ruined your hard drive and you need a replacement.


OK here is my can not use windows or DOS to partition or format the drives ..Iomega provides proprietary software to do this.


Windows and DOS works fine on Jaz and Zip media...I have used it countless times with /U and /Q switches over the past 5 years. The Zip disks are just overgrown floppies (see that shutter?). Did you ever use proprietary software for your last batch of floppies? The Jaz disks are hard drives using the proven Winchester technology. You can

format all of them with Iomega's stuff or use Microsoft's utilities.


Is there any simple way to error check them [disks] and if so how?


Norton Disk Doctor. *;-) Scandisk can also be used.


- Russell Smith


ZIP Drive - On OS reinstall, won't read disks


I just recently upgrade one of my computors to Win 2000. I backed up alot of important data on zip disk. Problem now is I can't seem to access the disk.


I currently use Win 2000 with NTFS and also back up data using a Zip drive. In the past, I have had installed zip drives marketed by NEC. I never installed the provided NEC drivers because they caused the Zip drive to format and save data in a format that was not recognized by other standard Iomega Zip drives. If you used the above mentioned driver, once Windows 2000 was installed, it will use the standard and MS supplied drivers. Because of this, the system would not recognize the disk until it is formatted to the standard Iomega zip format.


I don't know if this is your actual problem, however, I have seen the above scenario allot in the past and would instruct my clients of this problem. I don't know if there in an NT or 2000 driver for this drive. Have you tried to

format and use a disk with the current MS Iomega type drivers?


- Dennis Noble


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