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Al's Life Lessons

Tutorial based articles relating to a wide array of subject matter

  • Preventing Hard Drive Problems

    Retrieving lost data from a damaged hard drive is expensive and, at times, may not even be possible. It is frustrating and a big waste of time, getting your computer back in working order.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, with hard drives. You just need to follow a few precautions to ensure the best longevity and performance from your hard drive, and to prevent the loss of your data.

    The most important piece of knowledge you need is that hard drives must be handled with care. From the time it leaves its package to the time you put it into the tower, it needs to be carried gently. And whether you installed it yourself or not, the hard drive in your computer tower is still delicate, so make sure the tower is well protected from anyone, or anything, that might knock it down.

    One of the easiest ways to fry a hard drive is to hook it up to a dirty power supply. Your hard drive is sensitive to fluctuations, spikes, and power outages. Spikes in the power can burn the electronic components of the hard drive. Use an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) source for your computer station.

    Make sure programs and the operating system are turned off, before you turn off the power to your computer. Make sure the power supply button isn’t somewhere it might easily be bumped and turned off accidentally.

    Manage dust and humidity in the room you keep your computer in. Dust and humidity can wreak havoc on a hard drive. Also, keep all magnets away from the tower. This includes magnetized toys or alphabet letters, for example, that children might be tempted to stick to the tower. The hard drive is electromagnetic, and so can lose data if exposed to other magnets.

    Finally, make sure that you use an external hard drive to back up all your files and keep an operating system boot disk to protect your operating system. This way, when the hard drive does go, all you have to do is replace the hard drive, reboot your system, and resave your files from the external hard drive.

  • Fixing a Hard Drive Boot Problem, with Windows Vista

    If you’re computer is refusing to boot up, you may worry that you have a failed hard drive. However, it could also just be some corruption of system files. Or, perhaps you added or swapped a hard disk and you haven’t reconfigured the starts settings. Before you get too stressed out, there are a few things you can try yourself, to troubleshoot the problem.

    The first thing you should try is to run Startup Repair. Use the Windows Vista DVD and start the setup. This will only work, of course, if your computer is configured to boot from an inserted DVD or CD.

    When you see the option, click on “Repair Your Computer.” It is located on the bottom of the screen under the much larger “Windows Vista… Install Now.”

    Startup repair can do most of the work for you, at this point, detecting the problem and giving you the option to “Repair and Restart.” Use that option. If that did it, your computer should restart normally.

    If that doesn’t solve the problem, restart the computer again with the Windows Vista DVD. Click “Repair Your Computer” a second time. This time, select “Startup Repair” from your system recovery options. It can detect corrupted files or misconfigurations, again doing the toughest job for you.

    It will prompt you to remove the Windows DVD and restart the computer normally. If neither of these paths took you to where you need to be, your problem is most likely a hardware issue. Hopefully, you keep a backup of your files on an external hard drive, because your hard drive may have failed.

    You can try a few final things before seeking further help: Disconnect all your USB devices, remove any newly installed hard disks, and unplug the cables from all your hard drives and reconnect them. If that doesn’t work, you may need to replace your hard drive.

  • Adding an External Hard Drive To Your Playstation 3

    Whether you are a serious gamer, or just a casual player, you want to make sure your Playstation 3 (PS3) game progress is saved. In order to do that, you will need to buy a PS3 external hard drive. But, it’s not just that simple.

    To get up and running, you need to follow several steps. Start by plugging the USB cable from the PS3 external hard drive into your computer. Open the “Start” menu and select "Control Panel," then "Administrative Tools," "Computer Management," and "Disk Manager," all in turn.

    Now you’ll need to select the PS3 hard drive and look at the “File System.” If you see “NTFS,” then just select “Delete Partition” to make sure the partition is “FAT32.”

    If it is not “FAT32,” there are a few extra steps before you can continue. Download the freeware, “CompuApps Swiss Knife.” You can find it easily with a search engine. Using the program, configure the settings in the PS3 hard drive as follows: “Partition Type-Primary," "File System-FAT32" and "Volume Label." Then, select "Create."

    Once you know you have “FAT32” as your partition, open “My Computer” and double click on the PS3 hard drive. In the same area, right click and scroll down to “New.” Select “Folder” and name it “Photo.” Do this three more times, making folders for “Music,” “Video,” and “Game.” Now the folders on your hard drive will exactly match those on your PS3.

    Finally, eject the PS3 hard drive from your computer. You can do this by selecting the green arrow on the bottom right corner of your Windows screen and clicking on “Safely Remove.” Just make sure you eject the right piece of hardware.

    Once the computer indicates that the hardware is safely removed, you can unplug the external hard drive from your PC and hook it up to your PS3. Now, just play your favorite games and relax, knowing your progress will be backed up on your new PS3 external hard drive.

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