Checking your internet settings

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Checking your internet information, ie IP address, Router Address (Default Gateway) and Subnet Mask, can be a very important step in diagnosing an internet network.

To check all of this information in Windows, open the command prompt (Start -> Run -> cmd) and type “/ipconfig /all”. This will present you with a screen of information that tells you all of the information you need to know about your internet connection.

In Mac OS X, open your Network Preferences (Applications -> System Preferences -> Network). Then click “Advanced” -> then the “TCP/IP” tab on top. This screen will show you all of the information you need.

Checking these numbers is the first step in the door to learning how to fix a large number of network related problems, so being able to tell your IT professional these numbers will greatly help them out.

Keep a straight head,

-Kyle

Apple Internal iSight Issues

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

A good friend of mine sent me a message saying that his internal iSight wasn’t working anymore on his MacBook.

For this issue the first thing to do would be to go to the Disk Utility, Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility. Then click on Macintosh HD, then click “Repair Permissions”

This should clear up any issues that your hard drive is having with the iSight.

Yet for some people this doesn’t work. The next step is to shut down your laptop, and remove the battery. Hold down the power button for 5-10 seconds with the battery still out, then put the battery back in and turn on the machine.

This should clear out the system BIOS for any issues with the iSight as well. From there, if your iSight continues to malfunction it is most likely hardware based, and unless you want to void your warranty you need to at least take to it apple care.

Keep a straight head,

-Kyle

Categories: Diagnostics, Mac OS X Tags: ,

Two Machines into ONE!

November 27, 2009 1 comment

Today I got two computers from a business friend of my dad’s, and seeing as I wasn’t at school I had nothing better to do than fix them. John Smith (the person who’s computers they are) uses these computers for different business purposes, including the use of Social Security numbers and Credit Card info for his customers. To that end, he had an old piece of security software, PointSec, installed on both machines. Due to the nature of PointSec, which encrypts the hard drive it is installed on so that only PointSec can read the disc, and John’s lack of knowledge about proper installations and settings for PointSec he was permanently locked out of both machines. This is where I came in.

The first step in a project like this one is the assess how bad the damage really is. When I tried to log onto the first machine (machine A) I was greeted with the blue PointSec login screen. After several frustrating attempts to bypass the username and password, including root level attempts and remote password bypassing, I came up empty handed. So I got in touch with John to inform him of the current situation and to get approval to format his hard drives and reinstall XP on his machine. John also told me that he would prefer to have one ‘super’ computer compared to two mediocre ones.

The next step involved the dxdiag command so that I could compare the two systems hardware and assess what I would take from each one. Machine A had 512MB of PC2700 DDR RAM, and machine B had 256 MB SDRAM, these different types of RAM are NOT compatible with each other. They each had comparable video cards, machine A with an ATI RADEON 9000 ALL-IN-WONDER which has a DVI port. Machine B had an nVidia GeForce2 AGP card which does not have a DVI port. Seeing as DVI is the higher quality connector when compare to VGA there wasn’t too much question there for me. The harddrive from machine B was considerably larger, 120GB compared to 60GB in machine A. Moving the hard drive from machine B to machine A is simple, first disconnect the power cable from the hard drive, then the PATA cord. After I had removed the drive from its enclosure I made sure to set it to ‘cable select’ mode. Each drive has different jumper settings, so be sure to check them before you put the drive into the machine. Cable Select mode means that the actual cable coming from the motherboard itself decides which drive is the ‘Master’ and which is the ‘Slave’. Master drives are the main drive that the operating system is installed onto, slaves are usually used just for storage.

Once the machine was fully assembled I began to explore the best method for me to format the hard drives. My first thought was to go in through the Windows Recovery Console to format the drives using the command line, but that was stupid compared to the second choice. Instead, I just threw in a copy of Windows XP Professional edition and booted from CD. If you need help booting from CD, check out THIS guide.

Once the Windows installer booted up, I simply selected to install Windows, to over-write the current file system, and to reformat the drive with the NTFS file system. It takes about 30 minutes for this step to complete, so during this time I was about to fully disassemble machine B into its respective parts. I think I might use machine B for a larger amount of tutorials in the future, seeing as it was a free setup with a half-decent power supply.

Once Windows finished installing, I was presented with the usual ‘Welcome to Windows’ installation screen, and after entering the appropriate data was in a working Windows XP environment. However, there were a few things missing, one of which was the all important Ethernet Adapater Driver. Without this driver, the computer would not be able to connect to the all powerful interweb. The driver clearly was not on my Windows XP Professional disc, or else it would have installed the first time, which lead me to believe that I needed to consult Dell’s website for assistance. I looked up the ethernet drivers for the Dimension 4550, which is the model number for the machine in question, and found the appropriate file. As it turns out the driver was the super generic “Intel 10/100 Ethernet Driver LOM” and I was amazed that my Windows disc didn’t have it, but whatever.

After the driver installed, I had to transfer it from my laptop to the PC via flash drive, the computer is in 100% working condition. I called John to let him know that his work was done, and if there was any other software he needed installed before I return the machine tomorrow. For his business he needed a few piece of software that are distributed by his employer, he gave me the relevant information and I installed them. Also I installed Mozilla Firefox, FoxIt (free PDF program), and Winamp.

Overall, the entire operation took me about 4.5-5 hours to complete, due to the annoying PointSec encryption. Apparently when a drive is encrypted by PointSec it takes considerably longer to reformat said drive, reformatting both of the drives took almost 2 hours. Some people may ask, “why didn’t you use the NTFS (quick) formatting option?” the response to this is that when you try to rush a full reformat the hard drive can have sectors that get glossed over and partially formatted, leaving traces of icky other file systems on the machine. Instead, if you really want the machine to operate at 100% you definitely want to use the non-quick option. This job was a fun one, and I this is some of my favorite IT work to do, because it involves just about every aspect of basic PC repair.

To John – Thanks for the machines and the work, I hope you enjoy the new one :)

-Kyle

p.s. Pictures tomorrow!

How to access your system’s information

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

So, since the first step in diagnosing and repair any type of technology is being aware of exactly WHAT you have. This guide is focused towards computers for the most part, seeing as few electronics need to be profiled in the same way that a computer does.

For Windows users:

The best way to find a good system profile is using the DxDiag command from your ‘Run’ menu. To run DxDiag, click “Start” -> “Run” -> type “dxdiag” (without the quotes) and hit enter.

An example of a DxDiag window

DxDiag is a executable file that will bring up a window with all types of information about your computer. Unless you are very interested in understanding the types of hardware that you have under your hood then simply click the Save button at the bottom of the window and save the file as a .txt.

This file will give me the relevant information about your system so that I can properly diagnose and instruct you.

 

For Mac users:

In Mac OS X the system profiler is the best way to go. To open the system profiler, open Finder -> Applications -> Utilities -> System Profiler

This is an example of what my MacBook Pro’s System Profiler looks like

Then go to File -> Save As, then select “Rich-Text Format (.rtf)”

Again, this will give me the relevant information about your system so that I can properly diagnose and instruct you.

Categories: Diagnostics Tags:

Welcome to HandyGeeks

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Welcome!

This is the HandyGeeks blog, a resource for all of your technological repair needs. Let me tell you a little bit about myself, my name is Kyle Montag and I’m a 19 year old IT technician. I have been working in the IT field since 1999 when I got my first computer. Construction and repair are my two favorite aspects of technology, and I enjoy constantly challenging myself with new tweaks and fixes. Being an IT geek I also engage in the usual geek activities, and a few that aren’t so geeky. Video games are definitely one of the best ways to pass the time in between jobs, and I’ve played quite a few. Currently I am also a college student and Northeastern University in Boston, MA. College has been a really good time thus far, yet living in Boston is definitely NOT cheap. On that note I started up fixing computers for my friends and roommates for next to nothing, basically 10-20$ profit a fix. This plan however hasn’t allowed me to be challenged in the same way that I like, simple college laptop fixes are not the most engaging. This is why I come to you, give me your problems, ask me questions. Anything and everything is fair game here, and if I personally do not know how to fix your problem I can access my large network of IT resources and fellow technicians to help solve your problems.

In the coming weeks I will be assembling guides for many common problems that people encounter on computers and electronic equipment. If anyone has some requests for fixes then definitely let me know and I will get right on it. The best part about the college lifestyle is that I have all kinds of free time, and even if the time isn’t “free” I am always on the computer.

Again, welcome to the site and don’t forget to keep your head on straight.

-HandyGeeks

Categories: General Tags: ,
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