I’m A Noob In The Hardware Department, Anyone Else?

Telling you what, I’m a noob (i.e., a newbie) in hardware!  Sure, I know all the basics such as certain graphic card that I must need for my system specifically, power supply and its wattage potentials, must have cpu (i.e., type and performance), and other unimportant components (i.e., not something as a motherboard) — but in reality I only had experience in replacing graphic card and RAM (Random Access Memory).  Fortunately, I was bold yesterday and went ahead with the upgrade of my computer’s power supply and graphic card.  It was really a challenge since hardware to me would always be difficult.  I guess I was more of a software person.  Anyhow, in any case, power supply should be the easiest to remove and install right?  Wrong, because power supply came in many shapes and sizes and wattages.  Getting the wrong one will get you nowhere and a lot headaches since you might have to reconnect bunch of connectors such as SATA connectors.  Also, you might not be able to fit the power supply into your case correctly if you’re getting one that is too big for your case (i.e., mid range case or smaller).  Getting the wrong one might not give you enough power to support the many hardware that you intend to rig for your computer system (i.e., enough power to power many hardware at the same time).  Getting the wrong one will not allow you to have the right connectors so you won’t be able to power your mother board or CPU — I’m looking at you Dell (i.e., Dell sometimes has rigged/wired their computers differently then the standard blueprints that most computer manufacturers/brands would follow closely).  This is why sometimes I think it’s best for you to build your case from start, but how can one do that if one has very little experience in hardware?  Me, me, anyone else?

Anyhow, Dell XPS 8100 is what I got for Windows 7 computer/Desktop.  I upgraded Dell XPS 8100’s 350w stock power supply to OCZ ZT series 550w.  I figured I needed a better graphic card, and 350w would never allow me to use a better graphic card.  The stock graphic card that came with my Dell XPS 8100 was ATI HD Radeon 5770.  Sure, the ATI HD Radeon 5770 was plentiful, powerful for most games and whatever else that needed the graphic power.  Unfortunately, it was not powerful enough for the games that I wanted to play.  Witcher 2 and Star Wars The Old Republic had ATI HD Radeon 5570 ran hot.  Anyhow, I might have been too extravagant in upgrading graphic card for naught (i.e., gaming isn’t glamorous in practicality of all things).  Nonetheless, I wanted to upgrade the power supply since I used it to power so many external hard drives and internal hard drives (that I had installed) to a point which the power supply’s fan got extremely loud and annoying.  The new power supply is super quiet and has a bigger fan which cools my system down (CPUs) tremendously.  Of course, with modular power supply, cable management is way more fun and somewhat providing better airflow, consequently somewhat cooling down the graphic card in the process.  Newer graphic cards tend to run quieter and using power ever more efficient even though one might use them to play extreme graphic taxing games.  I find this to be true with my new graphic card.

The reality was that it took me way too long just to install the power supply and the graphic card.  What was worse was that I thought I had destroyed my whole computer system right after I powered up the power supply and the computer.  How come?  The power supply did power up the motherboard as an amber light was lighted up inside the motherboard, but nothing else had happened — no graphic on monitor and no spinning fans at all (e.g., power supply fan, case fans, cpu fans).  It was a noob mistake, and I was a noob in hardware so it was not a surprise.  It turned out my motherboard required only 4 pins connector to power the CPU, but I did not use the right cable with the right pin to power the CPU.  The funny thing was that the PCI-e connector was able to fit onto the 4 pin power controller for CPU on the motherboard.  Even more funny was that the right cable had labeled PSU/CPU, but as always when it came to hardware I just went on without looking into details.  Luckily, nothing was shorted or broken, and I figured it out in time to have the CPU powered, consequently allowing the computer to work correctly.  Luckily I wasn’t crazy and stupid enough to think brand new power supply was broken, because I could have thought so since I had to actually and tightly snuck the darn power supply with some force so it would reluctantly melted with my Dell XPS 8100 case.  Obviously, this case wasn’t built for having great power supply, because you would know what I meant if you actually had to install something much bigger and more powerful than 350w power supply inside a Dell XPS 8100 case.  If I had thought the power supply was damaged from beginning, I definitely would have wasted even more money to buy another power supply which might just turn out to be not too great either.  In the end, the power supply fitted nicely with the case as if it was made to be married to the case, although a forceful one.

Nothing to be worried really, I was able to get power supply and graphic card installed without blocking the airflow of the case even though the power supply was a little bigger than the original one.  Gotta thanked the four screws that held the back of the power supply to the case!  Anyhow, so I thought everything would be smooth sailing from here.  Indeed it was somewhat until I saw ATI’s drivers complained how my system didn’t run the correct drivers.  Of course, software is my turf and so I went on to simply uninstall ATI’s Catalyst Control Center (CCC).  Unfortunately, ATI drivers were too tightly embedded into my system, therefore removing ATI’s CCC was a futile effort for removing ATI’s drivers altogether.  The same annoying warning (how ATI’s CCC would not support the current graphic driver) came up after rebooting the system.  A quick look into the Windows Task Manager, I saw annoyed ATI’s processors of all types appeared.  Some of them refused to end even though I had killed these processors.  The simplest solution I had was of course went into C drive, typed name of the ATI’s processor into the search box, did a right click on one of the result and executed open file of location, deleted the file — lather, rinse, and repeat!  Unfortunately, it turned out some of these files that belonged to ATI’s drivers were protected with permissions.  So I had to take ownership of these files and changed the permission of these files to full control for everyone, and then I was succeeded in deleting these files.  Finally, I was tired of deleting each file at a time, and so I deleted the whole directory of AMD/ATI’s drivers — of course one had to be sure all files within such directories were belonged only to AMD/ATI’s drivers or else one might delete important system files.  At the end, I used CCleaner to clear up the registry as uninstalling and deleting AMD/ATI’s drivers might leave unused registry behind.

The whole experience told me that I have got a lot to learn in hardware department.  Obviously, each time I decided to upgrade something, I had learnt something new.  The whole upgrade process for whatever components had always been fun and scary at times.  Soon, I’m thinking of upgrading the stock CPU’s fan and perhaps the CPU itself.  Obviously, this has got to be within the limits of the motherboard that I got, because the ultimate upgrade has got to be building one’s own computer which obviously points to the whole idea of getting a brand new motherboard.  I think I won’t be able to build my own ultimate computer for whatever purpose just yet, because I have got a lot to learn on the hardware department.  Perhaps, I might build a physical NAS box next which will use FreeNAS as the OS.  This project might be a lot easier than building a brand new computer since it requires less research!  After all, it’s not so hard in using a spare computer that can support more than three hard drives that come in size of 2 terabytes.  Software RAID anyone?  Until then, I think I’m just going to dream about me getting all work up again about upgrading something or building something that is computer related.  Until then, I be mucking around with more software and writing.  Until then, I keep on being a noob on the hardware department…

Using Netstat And CMD To Find If There Is Any Established Suspicious Connection/Process On Your Windows System. A Sign Of Being Hacked? (Video)

A candidate icon for Portal:Computer security

A candidate icon for Portal:Computer security (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I was poking around on YouTube and I stumbled onto How to find out if your pc is hacked video which embedded below so you could watch it.  Anyhow, even though the video’s quality was bad and the upload date was dated since 2008, the content within should be helpful and relevant still.  The video simply instructed you to compare the process IDs of the established connections from netstat’s output list in CMD window against the process IDs of the running services inside the Windows Task Manager, and if you find the pairing of the process IDs of established/active connections/services are suspicious (i.e., check the process names and locations within a system and compare these suspicious processes to known process names and locations from the reputable process resources from the Internet) — you can then either run an excellent antivirus software to confirm if your system is hacked or not or investigate further.  What if you can’t find the process IDs which netstat’s result list shows inside Windows Task Manager?  You might want to click on the button near the bottom inside Windows Task manager which labels as Show processes from all users.  Also the video instructs you to add a Process ID column into your Windows Task Manager so you can view and compare the process IDs from Windows Task Manager against the netstat’s result list.  According to the video, the command to execute netstat so the states and process IDs of the connections would show is [netstat -ano].  Also, to add a process ID column to Windows Task Manager you should go to View > Select Columns > and check the box that says PID (Process Identifier).  For your information, this instruction is tailored for Windows 7 when I had done it to confirm the accuracy of the instructions within the video.  Check out the video right after the break and enjoy!

Start Button On Windows 7 Stops Working, How To Fix Without Restarting The Machine?

Windows 7 - Splash Screen

Image by Brent Schmidt via Flickr

Sometimes, odd things might happen on Windows 7.  One of those odd things I had encountered recently was the Start button refused to open up and stopped working for some strange reasons.  I could always reboot the machine and had the problem fixed, but I was in the midst of doing something important.  Fixing this problem without needing to reboot my machine was easy enough.  I had to:

  1. Open up task manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc)
  2. Highlight explorer.exe
  3. End process of Explorer.exe (i.e., kill the Explorer.exe process)
  4. On the top menu, click on File >> New Task (Run…)
  5. Type in Explorer.exe for new task and click OK.

After doing the steps above, I was able to use the Start button again!  The steps above could also work for some other problems too, because often killing an old process of a task or a program and renew such a process would actually help to get rid of the problem!