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Top 10 Hard Drive and Peripheral Problems

Desktop computers provide the technological support that small businesses depend on to complete everyday tasks. Improved hard drive capabilities have resulted in greater productivity while Internet communication via modems helps small businesses keep in better contact with partners and customers--for less money than traditional communication. Computer peripherals, such as scanners and printers, enable small businesses to complete many projects in-house that had to be outsourced in the past. But, the more complicated a system becomes, the more there is that could go wrong. To help minimize downtime and tech support costs, it's wise to troubleshoot computer problems yourself. With our ten hardware tips and tricks under your belt, you may be able to resolve your computer problems quickly and easily.

For any computer problem, check the obvious before you panic. Make sure that all cables are connected, and the power is on. Then, document the problem. Think about when the problem occurs. What other applications are running on your PC? Determine whether it's a hardware or software problem.

 

Below are ten common hardware snags with some potential fixes:

 

  1. The Hard Drive Is Slow
    If your system is slow, it may simply be in need of routine maintenance or you may be able to change your computer configuration to maximize performance. Try these tips for maximizing hard drive speed:

    Regular Maintenance: Two utilities that can help you to maximize hard drive performance are Norton ScanDisk and Norton Defragmenter, both features of Norton Utilities.

    ScanDisk is a program included in DOS and Windows operating systems that checks for errors on your hard drive (e.g. lost file clusters, crashed programs, and corrupt files). It then corrects and repairs problems, if it can. Give yourself plenty of time--the scan can take up to two hours.

    Defragmenter is also included in computers running DOS and Windows operating systems. The more you use your hard drive, the slower it gets. After continuous use, the system can't find a whole block of space on your hard drive, so it saves files in a scattered arrangement. Defragmenter rearranges these files in continuous blocks again, making it easier for your computer to retrieve the file next time. This speeds up file access times and extends the life of your hard drive because the actual mechanical movement of the drive is reduced. It's a good idea to run the Defragmenter often. Always run Defragmenter after ScanDisk, so errors are checked before the files are rearranged.

    In addition to ScanDisk and Defragmenter, you can improve system performance by removing extra documents, temporary Internet files, and old email from your hard drive.

    System Configurations: You can also speed up hard drive speed by changing the "role" of your computer from Desktop Computer to Network Server. To change this setting, go to START/SETTINGS/CONTROL PANEL, choose SYSTEM PROPERTIES and then select the PERFORMANCE tab. In the Advanced Settings section at the bottom of the window, click the FILE SYSTEM… button. Under Settings in this window, "TYPICAL ROLE OF THIS COMPUTER" switch the selected role from Desktop Computer to Network Server.

    If your system is still slow, you can modify system files to improve performance. Select START/RUN and enter "sysedit." This will open your critical system boot files that you can modify. Typically, tweaks to the "AUTOEXEC.BAT" and "CONFIG.SYS" files are most likely to improve system performance. You may want to get help from a technician to do this. Remember to create backup copies before changing anything.

    Windows Updates: It is also a good idea to use Windows Update frequently to keep your operating system current with the latest free patches and upgrades.

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  2. The System "Hangs"
    Different things can stall your system, including memory and power supply problems, but drivers are often to blame. The drivers that ship with hardware are rarely up-to-date and often buggy. To solve this, back up your hard disk and create an emergency boot disk by inserting a clean floppy disk, then go to START/SETTINGS/CONTROL PANEL and select ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS. From the STARTUP DISK panel, click CREATE DISK. Then, check the Web site of the vendor for a new driver to download.

  3. Windows Can't Find New Hardware
    First, check the manual to verify the device is installed correctly. If it is, click MY COMPUTER/PROPERTIES/DEVICE MANAGER. Find the problem device. If it's flagged, use PROPERTIES to see what the problem is. If this doesn't solve it, click REMOVE, and restart the machine. Now Windows should re-detect the hardware you just removed and install the proper drivers (you will need to have a copy of the new driver on your system first). If it doesn't, use the ADD NEW HARDWARE wizard to select the device and drivers manually.

  4. The "Plug-and-Play" Hardware Won't Play
    With the PnP standard, you should be able to plug a new device into your computer and have the computer instantly recognize it. However, PnP can wrongly detect or even fail to detect new hardware. If this happens, back up your hard disk, create an emergency boot disk, and reboot. If this doesn't help, the problem might be an IRQ port conflict. To find out, check the Device Manager. Click on any wrongly installed device that you see flagged. Now click RESOURCES, and uncheck USE AUTOMATIC SETTINGS. Under RESOURCE TYPE, click the ports and upper memory blocks that are conflicting with other devices. Now fill in EDIT RESOURCE, click OK and reboot.

    ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) cards and motherboard resources can also cause PnP problems. The system BIOS could assign a PCI slot an IRQ that is already taken by an ISA card. To fix this, try turning off or reassigning motherboard resources through the BIOS.

  5. The CD-ROM Drive Is Not Reading Your CDs
    Check to be sure the cable hasn't come loose from the motherboard. If this is not the problem, it might be that you've enabled the Uninstall Device Manager for the CD-ROM. Go to CONTROL PANEL/SYSTEM MANAGER/ CD-ROM and uncheck Device Manager. If that's not it, clean the lens and check the driver.
  6. The Printer Won't Print
    First, perform a self-test on the printer to be sure the problem is not the printer itself. Barring that, there are a number of things that may trip up your printer.

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    • Cables. Check the connections, and if possible try a different printer cable.
    • Drivers. If the printer that you are using isn't set as "default printer" or the driver isn't installed, you could get garbled characters. To fix this, go to the Program Manager and click MAIN GROUP/CONTROL PANEL/PRINTERS. Highlight your printer, and then click SET AS DEFAULT. If you don't see your printer, click ADD, insert the driver disk, highlight the printer, and choose SET AS DEFAULT.
    • Application Conflicts. If you are able to print from Windows applications, but not from others, make sure the printer is configured within that application.
    • LPT Port. If you get a "cannot locate printer on LPT port" message, you may have plugged the printer into the wrong port.

  7. The Scanner Won't Scan
    The main problem with scanners is often the parallel port. If you do not have the port configured correctly in the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), you can run into problems. Check the BIOS by hitting DELETE while booting up. Click it while the memory is counting on the start up screen--before Windows opens. Check the resources for the parallel port. You may want to set this port for BI-DIRECTIONAL. Also, note that trying to use the printer and scanner at the same time won't work. If this seems to be a problem get a parallel switch. Another culprit could be the software. Some software bundled with peripherals is less than desirable. Try uninstalling the software and reinstalling it. This will fix any corrupted files and drivers.

  8. The Modem Won't Work
    If the modem is internal, make sure it's tightly in the expansion slot. If it's external, make sure it is in the correct port. Next, make sure it is connected to the phone line, and that line is in the correct jack. Then, check any special dialing prefixes, and disable call waiting so you are not getting kicked off-line by incoming calls. If that doesn't solve the problem, go to SYSTEM PROPERTIES/CONTROL PANEL and check out your IRQ (interrupt request line) assignments. It could be that your modem is trying to share IRQs with another device. Lastly, check for a COM port conflict. For example, if you are using a COM 1 mouse rather than a more common PS/2 mouse, then obviously the mouse is taking up that port--so your modem can't. Try setting the modem for COM 2 or 4.

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  9. The Monitor Doesn't Show a Picture, or Displays Limited Color

     

    • No Picture. Check to see if the power light is on, cables are plugged in, and brightness and contrast settings are correct. If all these things are working properly, swap the monitor with another one, and reboot the machine. If this works, the first monitor may have gone bad.

    • Low (or No) Color Display. Check DISPLAY OPTIONS/CONTROL PANEL. Select "256 colors" for "standard display." If "16 colors" is selected, your screen may display limited color. If your screen is completely white, your video card may be faulty.

  10. The Mouse is Not Responding
    If the mouse isn't showing up on screen, or is having movement problems, go to START/SETTINGS/CONTROL PANEL/MOUSE. Tabs across the front of the mouse window allow you to control mouse functions. If the settings are correct, make sure the mouse is plugged in correctly. You can also take apart the mouse and clean it with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab.

     

    While many of the glitches that you encounter are things that you can troubleshoot and take care of yourself, you may have to call a professional. Don't despair. The computer and peripherals vendors can either provide you with tech support directly, or give you recommendations for qualified computer repair centers.

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Monitor this page for changes.  It's private powered by ChangeDetection

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Updated: 18/01/2013