Ask the Doctor


Why the 2TB Ceiling?

Ask the Doctor LogoI have been putting off building a home file server for more than two years now. I have been patiently waiting for the 2TB SATA hard drives to be surpassed by 2.5TB SATA drives, in the hopes that prices for 2TB hard drives go down to $80 per unit. Needless to say, my patience is running short. It has been more than two years now and hard drive manufacturers seem to have stalled at a 2TB capacity limit for all SATA hard drives.
What do you think is causing the stall in hard drive capacity growth? Is it this bad economy? Is it due to Windows XP’s inability to read from hard drives that exceed 2TB? I would really appreciate it if you can provide any insights on when you think this long-standing 2TB capacity limit will be broken with the introduction of 2.5TB hard drives.


Read the Doctor's advice for Ivan after the jump.


SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.



What's Inside?

Ask the Doctor LogoI have an older Dell with an Intel Pentium 4 CPU. As you know, it’s not easy to track down specific hardware configurations for old Dell machines. Can you direct me to a source for info so I can find out if it’s even possible to get an updated BIOS and/or a better CPU for my PC?

—Tom Winn

Read the Doctor's advice for Tom after the jump.


Sata 6 Mysteries

Ask the Doctor LogoAre 6Gb/s SATA ports on the newer motherboards backward compatible like USB 3.0 is with USB 2.0? I’m eventually going to purchase either an Asus Crosshair 4 Formula or a MSI 890FXA-GD70 motherboard.

I need to know if my two Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB hard drives will work in these motherboards’ 6Gb/s SATA ports. I won’t be using any RAID configurations. The first drive is for Windows 7 64-bit and programs. The second is going to be for the Documents, Downloads, Music, Photos, and Videos folders.

Also, when are 6Gb/s SATA hard drives for desktop computers going to be available?

—Keith Brooks

Read the Doctor's answer for Keith after the jump.


Dual BIOS Necessary?

Ask the Doctor LogoI am looking at a new build with an AMD CPU. I normally use Asus, but I see that Gigabyte puts out a board with a dual BIOS. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a dual-BIOS board?


Read the Doctor's advice for Rich after the jump.


Help Rock out My System!

Ask the Doctor LogoMy current rig is an HP Pavilion M8530F with a Viola-GL8E motherboard. The CPU is a 2.2GHz Phenom X4 9550. The board is AM2+. I asked HP for a copy of the mainboard’s user manual hoping it could tell me what AM2+ chip I could drop in. However, I find myself even more confused. I think a 2.6GHz Phenom 9950 X4 will work even though it is a 125-watt chip and my current 9550 is a 95-watt chip.

I’d rather not spend the money only to be proven dead wrong and be stuck having to borrow my fiancée’s Vaio laptop. It may be nice, but it’s not my desktop. So far, the only change made to my rig in the two years I’ve had it was the addition of a graphics card cooler, of the intake variety. I’ve done research and the more questions I have answered, the more confused I get. If I could, I’d just buy/build a new rig, but that’s not an option. Some newer games, like BioShock 2, require AMD core speed in excess of 2.2 GHz, and mine barely meets the requirements. Even the budget upgrade article in the July 2010 issue is vague on whether I can upgrade. Doc, please steer me in the right direction, lest I crash on the rocks of inaction.

—Lucas Allain

Read the Doctor's advice for Lucas after the jump.


Kill In-text Pop-ups

Ask the Doctor LogoRecently, a lot of websites have started to put little pop-up advertisements in their text. I read with my mouse, so as I follow along with my pointer I hit a word like “Film” and it pops up with a little box about local theaters. It interrupts what I am reading and is really annoying. Is there a way to turn this off? I know it’s an advertisement and a source of income but I get enough of that when I have to sit through a commercial to watch a movie trailer or get an ad page in between going to a new web page. I use Chrome as my main browser, and Firefox and IE when I have to.

—Gary Davidson

Read the Doctor's advice for Gary after the jump.


A Sharper Image?

Ask the Doctor LogoI’ve been contemplating purchasing a 120Hz monitor for some time. After reading the May 2010 review of the Acer GD235HZ, this now looks like more of a possibility. I currently have a GeForce 275 GTX, and my understanding is that in order to take advantage of the 120Hz, I need to connect to the monitor with dual-link DVI. However, will this 120Hz monitor do for games what 120Hz has done for movies and TVs? Does it deliver that same crisp image that makes it feel like you are right there with the cast? Also, would a streaming service, such as Slingbox, have that same feeling if I’m steaming at HD speeds (2Mb/s+)?

—John Paul Scarpatti

Read the Doctor's advice for John after the jump.


Disappearing RAM

Ask the Doctor LogoI have two 1GB DIMMs of DDR/400 installed on an Intel D875PBZ mobo. The board has four slots, and I have the DIMMs arranged in dual-channel mode. I have double-checked it and I have one DIMM in channel A, slot 0 and one DIMM in channel B, slot 0. About once a week, every few restarts, the machine reboots with the error saying that the RAM amounts have changed. When I check, it shows each DIMM as 512MB instead of 1GB. On occasion, it will show the correct amount, but it will be in single-channel mode only! Keep in mind, I swapped in these 1GB DIMMs recently from a pair of 512MB DIMMs. I tried updating the BIOS but have had no success at all.

—Jeff Copeland

Read the Doctor's advice for Jeff after the jump.