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Technical FAQ for general troubleshooting of your laptop and desktop

General    Laptop/PCMCIA    Touch Pad/Pointing Device  Battery    Disk Drive/Floppy  Video   Display/LCD  Laptops    General Notebook Care


Q: My computer is not running  correctly!
A: Troubleshooting problems on your computer is generally and a  matter of narrowing down, step-by-step what the cause is. In  general, some of the most common areas that cause your computer to function  abnormally are:

  • New software installed
  • New memory added
  • New hardware device(s) added
  • Windows/Programs were not shut down  properly
  • Viruses
  • Spyware & Adware 

The best thing to do is backtrack. If  you have added something new and then all of a sudden your system starts to  misbehave then undo the steps and see if the computer is back to normal. If it  is, then you know that the problem occurring is due to whatever was installed.  Not sure? Call us.  arrow_top Top

Q. What is a computer virus?
A computer virus is a malicious computer  program that infects the computer memory or hard disk. Some are comical and will  simply change the display on your monitor while most are designed to do damage  to the data on the computer. Boot sector viruses are especially damaging since  they rewrite the information needed to start up and access your computer’s hard  disk. Trojan horses are destructive programs disguised as something harmless  like a game. Worms are programs written to replicate themselves until the  computer’s memory or hard drive is completely used up at which time the computer  crashes and becomes inoperable. A good place to learn more about computer  viruses is CERT’s web site  arrow_top Top

Q. How do I keep from getting a  computer virus?
A. If you buy no other piece of software for your  computer, buy a virus protection program. Some common programs are Norton AntiVirus and McAfee VirusScan. Don’t share files without  first checking the files or disks with a virus protection program. This includes  downloaded files from the Internet.  Know the source of the file before you  download and activate the virus protection plug-in for your browser. Two good  virus protection programs are from McAfee (VirusScan) and Symantec  (Norton AntiVirus).

  • Never open e-mails coming from unknown  senders or containing suspicious subject headings
  • Block all e-mails containing .EXE,  .VBS or .SBS attachments
  • Make sure all servers are well patched  and hardened; latest patches for Microsoft IIS servers can be found at
  • Update antivirus software  daily  arrow_top Top

Q: What if my system freezes up?
A: If your system freezes, press Ctrl, Alt and Delete simultaneously.  In the "Close Program" window, highlight any programs that are "not responding"  and click "End Task" or "Shut Down" if this doesn't work.  arrow_top Top

Q. My computer is slow.
A. If  you have less than 128 Mb of RAM in your computer, the number one upgrade you  can perform to increase speed and efficiency is to install more memory. At the  present time, memory is at an all time low! Call us today! You may be surprised  at how affordable it is to double the amount of RAM you presently have in your  system. Even if you have to completely replace what you currently have in there,  it may be worth your while. arrow_top Top

Q. My computer has locked up and the  power switch will not work. What can I do to reset it?
A. If a computer  is locked up the power switch will probably not respond and will need to be  reset. Completely shut down the system. Most power buttons will force the computer off by holding them in for five to ten seconds.  Unplug if necessary. If this does not  shut down the computer, remove the battery (laptops), then reinsert the battery  and turn the power back on. Sometimes new computers need to be powered off by holding in the power button until the system shuts down.  arrow_top Top

Q. How do I shut down my  PC?
A. To  properly shut down your computer, click on the Start button and select "Shut  Down." This will give you the option to restart or shut down your computer. The  computer will close any open programs that you are using and ask you to save any  unsaved data before it shuts down. You will want to restart your computer if you  get error messages such as "invalid page fault" or "program error in module xyz"  to clear the memory and reset the computer. The second time to turn off the  power switch is when the computer stops responding to keyboard or mouse  commands. You may lose data in open applications if you have to do this so be  sure to save your data frequently.  arrow_top Top

Q. What is a Warm Boot? What is a  Cold Boot?
A. You perform a cold boot every time you turn on the power  switch of your computer. To "boot" the computer means to start it up and reset  the memory and BIOS. Pressing the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keys simultaneously while the  computer is running performs a warm boot. You may need to do this if the  computer stops responding because of memory problems or the "Blue Screen of  Death" appears. The computer needs to be reset before you can continue. If the  warm boot fails to restart the computer, you will need to resort to a cold boot  by shutting off the power switch, waiting ten seconds and then turning it back  on.  arrow_top Top

Q. Why can't I upgrade my  computer?
A. You probably can. But, you may not be  able to upgrade to what you want given your current system. Or, the "upgraded  system" you end up with may have only the floppy drive and case left over from  your old system. For example, the first Pentium processors run on a single  voltage, supplied by the motherboard. Newer Pentium processors require different voltages and slots to fit into. If your current motherboard does not have the right size slot for the processor, you cannot upgrade your processor without a new  motherboard. Often, it is more cost effective to purchase a new unit which will also include a warranty.  arrow_top Top

A new hard drive is  always nice to have plenty of room for those multi-CD games, video and image files. But again, you  must be sure both your motherboard and operating system can handle the larger  drives. Earlier versions of Windows cannot "see" some of the larger 200 and 300 (GB) drives. So, if you want a 200 GB drive installed on such a system, it  will have to be partitioned into several smaller drives or your system may have to be upgraded.  arrow_top Top

Q. How can I protect my computer  from power surges?
A. One of the best things that you can do for your  computer is to purchase a surge protector with built in battery backup which will protect the system from shutting down when the power blinks. This is different than a power strip.  While both may offer a single on-off switch and multiple electrical outlets,  only the surge protector will prevent your computer from lightning or  fluctuations in the electrical current in your home. A power strip will only  shut off if the circuit is overloaded. If you have a modem, purchase a surge  protector that includes outlets for phone plugs. If a bolt of lightning hits  your phone line and the phone jack is not protected, you could lose your modem  or other components in the computer. For a little extra money, you can purchase  a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) which will keep your computer running long  enough in case of a power outage so that you can save data and properly shut  down the computer. We offer an excellent workstation APC UPS for only $59.00.  arrow_top Top

Q: My system won't boot.
A:  First check the obvious possible causes. If you are running on AC power (as when  it is plugged into the wall socket) check to make sure the AC connection is  good. Plug in another appliance that you know works. There are many reasons why  this problem can occur, from a bad power supply to a bad hard drive or corrupt  system files. Call us we can help.  Also check the floppy drive and make sure there isn’t a floppy in the drive.  arrow_top Top


Q: My notebook does not recognize my  PCMCIA devices.
A: Most PCMCIA problems occur from the installation of  more than one card manager. Windows has internal support for PCMCIA devices and you do not need any additional card manager. arrow_top Top

Q: I can't get my laptop to use my  PCMCIA card, why?
A: You probably do not have the right drivers  installed. Check to see that you have loaded the appropriate software for the  card you are trying to use. If you still have problems getting the card to work,  contact the PCMCIA Card manufacturer for product support, and find out if the  card is a listed compatible product for the model you have and the version of  Windows you are running.  arrow_top Top

Q: I reinstalled Windows, now my  PCMCIA modem is not working, now what do I need to do to get the modem to  work?
A: You probably do not have the right drivers installed. Check to  see that you have loaded the appropriate software for the card you are trying to  use. If your PCMCIA modem is not working, check System Properties, Device  Manager, and check to see if the Controller of the PCMCIA socket is Intel PCIC  compatible PCMCIA controller. If it is, then go to Control Panel, Modems, click  on Diagnostics, click on the COM Port that is listed for use by your modem.  Click More Info. That should tell you whether your modem is installed properly  or not. If you cannot find a COM port listed with your modem, then you have not  loaded the modem driver. If that is the case, try installing and reinstalling  the modem driver.  arrow_top Top

Touch Pad/Pointing Device 

Q: My Touch Pad is overly  sensitive.
A: The Touch Pad is operated on static energy as your finger  glides over the pad. If your Touch Pad is overly sensitive, you may tune down  the sensitivity in the control panel. If it
is still too sensitive for you, you  may wish to use an external mouse.  arrow_top Top

Q: My mouse is sluggish/not  responding/not moving in one or more directions.
A: The ball and its  contact points need cleaning. Refer to your user's manual for directions on how  to go about cleaning it. Also, consider upgrading to an optical mouse that  doesn't require cleaning.  arrow_top Top

Q: When I click the left mouse  button nothing happens.
A: Over time, trackball-pointing devices can lose  their ability to make the connection necessary for the button to work. Contact  us for service or to replace your mouse.  arrow_top Top

Q: My touch pad-pointing device is  acting up.
A: Some older model touch pads can become extremely sensitive.  Even newer ones can sometimes respond erratically. First try adjusting the  sensitivity of the touch pad under Control Panel, Mouse.  arrow_top Top


Q: Why don't some notebooks charge the battery while the unit is on?
A: This "feature" was taken out as it can cause memory effect on batteries. The unit has to be off in order for the  battery to be charged.  arrow_top Top

Q: When my computer runs from  battery it starts beeping after 10-15 min.
A: Condition your battery by following these steps:

      1. Plug your AC adapter in, and power on your system. Go to the CMOS setup (usually by hitting the delete key at  bootup). Take a look at the % of the battery, and remove the AC adapter and let  it discharge here.

      2. Your battery icon will start to  blink when the % gets low. Try to get the % to the lowest possible it will go.  Once this is done then power off your computer.

      3. Plug the AC adapter in and let the  system charge the battery. The charge should take any where from one to two  hours. Once the charge light goes off then remove the AC adapter and power on  your unit. Go into the CMOS settings as in step 1 and verify the charge % on the  battery is 100% or close to it. If it is not then exit out and power off your  system and plug your AC adapter back in and let it charge further taking note  how long the charge light remains on.

      4. After doing all of this please power on your unit and re-verify your %. Your battery should be charged.  arrow_top Top

Q: How to condition the battery to  get a better charge.
A: Please do the followings:

      Full charge the battery.

      Power on the system.

      Go into the CMOS setup by hitting "F2"  or "delete" on power up.

      Run the battery down while staying in  the setup screen until the unit completely dies.

      Repeat the process at least 3 times, to  get better battery performance.  arrow_top Top

Q: My battery does not seem to be charging. How long does it to take to charge my battery?
A: Normally it  takes two hours to charge the battery if you are not operating the system. If  the battery does not seem to be charging, cycle the battery. In other words,  discharge then recharge it. If the charging function stops, which is indicated  by the battery icon on the status panel, and the battery has still not fully  charged, unplug the AC-adapter then reconnect it. If it still does not charge,  you may need a new battery, as the old one may no longer be  functional.  arrow_top Top

Q: Does my notebook accept Lithium  Ion or NiMH batteries?
A: It depends on the model. Newer systems will  accept Lithium Ion batteries. Earlier models use Nickel Metal Hydride type  batteries.  arrow_top Top

Q: How long does the battery last,  is there a Lithium Ion battery available? (Any notebook)
A: Battery run  time will vary depending on usage. A typical high-drain usage is when the CD-ROM  and hard drives are being accessed. Check your User's Manual for tips on  improving battery run-times, but common is 2-3 hours.  arrow_top Top

Batteries should be periodically (once  or twice a month) deep-cycle discharged. This is one of the most effective means  for prolonging battery life. The factor that most affect battery life is:  Display brightness/contrast settings Hard drive activity Internal and External  options (PCMCIA cards, etc.) Power Conservation settings. There is no magic  combination of Power Conservation settings and battery maintenance procedures  that work best for all situations. Power Conservation settings are very  personalized and the values used depend greatly on the type of work being done.  The best way to find out what settings work best for you is to experiment with  the available options and regular battery maintenance.  arrow_top Top

Disk Drive/Floppy

Q: Why can't I hot swap my floppy  and CD-ROM?
A: Some notebooks are not designed to do a hot swap, meaning  you cannot remove and insert the CD-ROM or FDD while the unit is on. You will  damage the unit and this is not a warranty issue.

Q: I get a message "not a bootable  diskette" or "disk failure drive A."
A: If your floppy disk drive won't  work with diskettes that you know are good (you can check them by trying them on  another personal computer system) then your floppy disk drive has probably  gotten out of alignment or needs cleaning. A malfunctioning floppy disk drive  can scratch diskettes on the boot sector, causing the boot failure message. This  problem is especially prevalent on older drives.  arrow_top Top

Q: I have tried using brand new  floppy diskettes, but my floppy drive still won't read/write.
A: If your  notebook floppy disk drive won't work with diskettes you have tried on another  system, your floppy disk drive may need service. This problem is especially  prevalent on older drives. Contact customer service for repair  information.  arrow_top Top

Video Display/LCD

Q: Why is the display quality so  much better at 1024 x 768 resolution than 800 x 600?
A: The display  system was created to optimize XGA screen resolutions; therefore, 1024 x 768  will provide a much sharper image than 800x 600 . LCD monitors have  the exact number of display pixels for the resolution they are designed to run.  Therefore, an XGA display is 1024 pixels across.  arrow_top Top

Q: What is wrong with my video  display it keeps flickering, distorted or no display at all?
A: Evidently  your system is experiencing an intermittent display problem associated with the  VGA controller and/or the display unit. Call us for diagnosis and  advice.  arrow_top Top


Q: Why should someone buy a  notebook?
A: Anyone who ever needs to take their work on the road, even if  it's just to the library or across town between home and office. Laptops make it easy to hook up wirelessly. Traveling  businesspeople-- especially salespeople-- are obviously the most likely notebook  buyers, but other candidates include people in education (students too);  small-business owners who never take off their various professional hats, even  on leisure trips; and other professionals who must always have access to email, faxes, the office server, and other communications.  arrow_top Top

Q: What advantages, if any, do  laptops have over desktop models, besides portability?
A: Portability is a great benefit of a notebook but not the only one.  In addition notebooks take up less desk space and consume less power. Today's large screen notebooks offer usability gains over desktops too. Drives and ports are accessible, for one thing, and they're  often hot swappable. (That is, you can switch connections without powering down  first.) What's more, notebooks offer a modular capability few systems can match.  For example, many units allow you to remove hard drive with the press of a  button-- so you can protect your data from theft or swap in a larger hard drive  almost instantly. Also, laptops have built-in battery backup (not surge  protection) so if the power flickers you don't lose data. They take up less  space and LCD monitors are easier on the eyes (no or low
radiation).  arrow_top Top

Q: Laptops, portables, and  notebooks: Are the terms interchangeable?
A: Yes, they all mean the same  thing. There are quite a few categories of notebooks, we see four main  categories emerging: value notebooks, mid-range notebooks, state-of-the-art  notebooks-- we sometimes call these "desktop replacements"-- and ultra  lights.  arrow_top Top

One last piece of advice: If you really  want to get a sense of how a notebook feels-- you'd be surprised how important  this is, especially for desktop replacements-- it's a great idea to go to a  local computer store to play with a few different models. Even if they don't  have the exact machine you want at the exact price, at least you'll learn what  you want in a keyboard, weight, screen size, and input device (touch pad or  pointing stick).   arrow_top Top

Q: Is there any danger in leaving a  laptop on 24 hours a day?
A: As long as it's in a well-ventilated area,  there's no real danger. At least, no more danger than there would be if you left your desktop computer on all day. The main danger to laptops is overheating. Because  all the hardware is in such cramped quarters, it tends to get very hot. The  bottom gets hot, so be careful where you put it. You may even want to put it on  something raised so the air can get to the bottom. If you leave a laptop on  blankets or a bed, it will often overheat because the insulation of the material  is keeping the heat in. A tip that may help you when you're transporting your  laptop is to take out the battery to ensure that you don't accidentally leave  the laptop on.  arrow_top Top

Q: What's the difference between  DSTN displays and TFT displays?
A: The less expensive DSTN (double-layer  super twist nematic) is a passive-matrix display. The TFT (thin film transistor)  display is active matrix. The cheaper dual-scan screen is not as bright,  readable, or fast as the active matrix screen. While the DSTNs are still good  screens, if you move your mouse too fast, you'll notice that it disappears.  That's because the DSTN has a lower screen refresh rate. Also, you can't read  DSTN screens at a wide angle. A TFT active matrix screen can be read at almost  180 degrees. To be able to read a passive matrix DSTN screen, you need to be  right in front of the display. A shallow viewing angle isn't always a bad thing.  Some people prefer the passive matrix screens for privacy reasons. For example,  if you do a lot of traveling on airplanes, you probably don't want your seatmate  reading everything on your screen. You can just compare two types of screens and  see if you can tolerate the less expensive one. If you're happy with it, that's  all that matters.  arrow_top Top

General Care &  Maintenance

Q: How much damage is done to a  laptop that is left in a hot car?
A: There are many things that can  potentially damage your laptop, including heat. But if you leave your laptop in  the car, it's probably going to get stolen before it has a chance to overheat!  To answer your question: yes, the heat inside a car can get well above the  temperature at which a chip can function properly, so be careful.

If you love your laptop, follow these  tips:
-- Never leave your laptop unattended.
-- Never expose your laptop  to extreme heat or extreme cold.
-- Don't let your laptop out of your  sight.
-- Don't expose your laptop to resonating noises, for example loud  bass noise from speakers, heavy machinery, and so on.
-- Properly care for  your laptop battery.
-- Keep magnetic devices away from your laptop.
--  Minimize exposure to airport x-rays.
-- Avoid eating and drinking near your  laptop.
-- Keep your laptop clean and dust free.
-- Never leave your  laptop unattended.  arrow_top Top

Q: Will a PCMCIA card modem drain my  laptops battery if left in when not in use?
A: Often, yes. In fact, modem  cards are notorious for draining batteries dry. Some modem cards drain the  battery even when you're not online. To stop up the power leak, just make sure  you shut off power to the modem card when it's not in use. .

Here are some general tips to help keep  your notebook humming:

-- Use a lithium (Li) ion battery if  your system supports them.
-- Shut off power to peripherals when you're not  using them.
-- Take advantage of Windows 98's Advanced Configuration and  Power Interface (ACPI) specification, along with Advanced Power Management (APM)  1.2 extensions.

ACPI lets you use various Power Schemes  built into the Power Management control panel. Power Schemes are designed to  save power in various ways optimized for your computer's hardware setup. If you  have a laptop, that might be a reason to update to Win98.  arrow_top Top

Q. How do I decrease the size of the  border around the display on my notebook computer?
A. This border is  normal on a notebook computer with an SVGA display when it is set to a  resolution of 640 by 480. The border will be smaller if you set the resolution  to 800 by 600. Under Windows, right click anywhere on the desktop, choose  properties from the menu and select the settings tab.  arrow_top Top

Q: Can I install Windows XP or Vista on my  notebook, which originally shipped with  an earlier Windows OS or Windows Home Edition?
A: While it is a user's option to install any software, our support is limited to the operating system  that shipped on the unit. If you would like to install an operating system other  than the one that shipped on the unit, we recommend you purchase the proper licenses and check with our
technical  support analysts prior to making any changes.  arrow_top Top

Q: Where do I get DirectX drivers  for my notebook?
A: DirectX is a Microsoft product. Get it here\directx  arrow_top Top

Q: If I install a BETA version of an  operating system or third party application, where should I go for  assistance?
A: For assistance with these please contact the vendor of the  software/operating system.  arrow_top Top

Q: Why is my 56K modem not  connecting at 56K speeds?
A: Several factors can affect connection speed,  such as line noise, number of people connecting or connected to your ISP, and  the age and condition of the telephone lines. A 56K modem does not guarantee all  connections at 56K; rather it offers the ability to connect at up to 56K baud.  Presently FCC regulations limit speeds to 53K maximum and this is with  absolutely perfect conditions.  arrow_top Top

Q: My unit shipped with a built in wireless adapter.  Will I be able to get Internet on the road?
A: Yes, if you are near a hotspot that offers free Internet access for wireless users.  Airports, coffee shops and some libraries are among the establishments where wireless internet is available.  However, if you require wireless high speed Internet with more accessibility, Verizon offers a high speed wireless Internet service which requires a PCMCIA broadband modem and their monthly fee-based wireless service.  arrow_top Top

Q: How do I condition my  battery?
A: There are different ways to condition your battery depending  on which type battery you have. There are battery conditioning instructions  located in the Users Guide for your notebook that pertain to your notebook /  battery combination. You can find a link to your Users Guide on the Technical  Support page. arrow_top Top

Q: Which PC-Card can I use in my  notebook?
A: The PC Card industry is a fast growing and ever-changing  industry. Every day new cards are being manufactured. Please check with the  manufacturer of the PC Card for information on their products and the PC Card's  performance in your notebook.  arrow_top Top

Q: I'm not going to be using my  notebook for a month or longer. How should I care for my battery?
A: If  your notebook is to be stored for a month or longer, turn the machine off, and  remove all Lithium ION batteries. Store your notebook and batteries separately  in a cool, dry location. If you store your notebook with a battery installed,  the battery will discharge, and battery life will be reduced.

Caution: If your battery is installed  with your notebook while in storage, and the battery is faulty, this could cause  damage to your notebook.  arrow_top Top

Q: My notebook "locks up" during  boot (start-up) or only starts in the Windows Safe Mode. What should I  check?
A: Has any new software or hardware been added to the machine just  prior to the problem? If so, boot in safe mode and uninstall that item. Then  boot normally to see if the problem is resolved.

Q: My battery seems to discharge  overnight on my notebook. Is this normal?
A: Are you shutting down the  system properly by turning off the unit with the power switch on the side of  your computer? The Windows 95 shutdown procedure will shutdown the unit and  leave the notebook in a suspend mode state (still using some battery power).  From that point on, the unit will run on the Primary Lithium battery. This  Windows 95 shutdown feature is part of Microsoft's Advanced Power Management  requirement. To completely shutdown your unit and not lose your battery charge  through drainage, please switch off the power manually, using the main power  on/off switch.

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