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Persnickety Second DVD Drive

Ask the Doctor LogoI have a problem with my second DVD drive: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. My system is a home-built Biostar TA790GXB A2+ motherboard with an AMD Athlon II X2 250 running at 3GHz, a GeForce GTS 250 videocard, 8GB of RAM, two 500GB Hitachi hard drives, and Windows 7 32-bit, with all the required updates installed. There is also an LG CH08LS10 SATA Blu-ray ray drive (assigned drive F by Windows).

Now to the problem: drive E. Sometimes it runs, sometimes it doesn’t, and there is no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes it starts fine, recognizing DVDs or CDs and burning DVDs and CDs as necessary, and runs well all day. Sometimes it starts and won’t even recognize any CD or DVD (to read or to burn) I put in it—and won’t all day.

Originally, I had installed an LG SATA DVD drive. When it acted up as described above, I replaced it with a BenQ DW 1640 from my old computer. It’s an IDE drive. Same thing happened. No problem with the Blu-ray drive.

So, there you have it. Two different drives, using different controllers on the motherboard but malfunctioning the same way. Any ideas? Does Win7 think people shouldn’t have more than one, or more than one type of, burner? Is there some jumper I should be moving or software setting I’m missing? Did I just find a Win7 bug?

—Rick Thompson

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RAM Preventing Wakeup?

Ask the Doctor LogoDoc, I have a 2-year-old Dell XPS 720. It has a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, a GeForce 8800 GT, and runs on Windows XP. It shipped with two 1GB DIMMs. A few months ago, I decided to upgrade to four 1GB DIMMs. I bought the RAM from Crucial. The machine boots and shows the correct amount of RAM and runs great. My problem is coming back from a sleep or hibernate state. The PC’s hard drive just spins and nothing happens. If I take out one DIMM, it will boot right up. I can shut it off, replace the fourth stick of RAM and it comes right up. It doesn’t matter which stick I remove or what slots they are in. I’ve updated the video drivers and BIOS but it didn’t make any difference. Any ideas?

—Jim Leiferman

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Yet Another RAM Timing Question

Ask the Doctor LogoCan you please explain to me this idea of the front-side bus and memory timings being the same speed? This doesn’t make any sense to me. I have an EVGA 750i FTW board, a 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 running at 333MHz FSB, or 1,333MHz effective, for 3GHz, two EVGA GeForce GTX 260 cards, and 8GB of OCZ Gold 1,066MHz. I had the memory set (all “unlinked”) to 1,066MHz at 5-7-7-18 28, 2T @ 2.15 V. Several forums on OC’ing the Q6600 recommended an 800MHz speed, so now I have the memory set to 800, 5-6-6-16 26, 2T @ 2.1 V. I don’t see any real difference in performance. Should 1066 not be faster than 800? What is the story, Doc?

—Spencer Taylor

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Playback Sucks

Ask the Doctor LogoI recently purchased a Sony Handycam HDR-CX150. It records in full 1080p HD and saves the files in .m2ts format. When I first transfer these files from the cam to the computer and play the .m2ts files on my Sony software, the video is clear, crisp, and looks the way I think full HD video should look. But .m2ts won’t play on any media player on my computer except VLC Player, and then the quality is horrible—it tears and won’t play right. So I am forced to convert it to a full HD H.264 file or something of the same quality. I have tried every converter program from HandBrake to AVS Video Converter. I don’t care about cost or hard drive space; I just want to know if there is any way to convert my full HD .m2ts files to a format that will not lose any, or barely any, video quality. I don’t care if the output file is larger than the input file! I have 12TB of storage between my computer and server. I’m using a 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.7GHz, a Radeon HD 4890, and 6GB of DDR3; I don’t think my hardware is the problem.

—Christopher Basquit

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Shrinking Partitions in RAID

Ask the Doctor LogoI read your answer regarding partition resizing with 64-bit Vista (“64-Bit Partition Resizer,” December 2009). My 1TB of storage consists of two 500GB hard drives in RAID 0. I would like to shrink my partition to allow a dual-boot with 64-bit Windows 7. Should Vista’s Disk Management utility be able to handle this (the menu option I get is Shrink Volume)?

—Lawrence

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Is My CPU Running Too Hot?

Ask the Doctor LogoI have a custom-built gaming computer made by Magic Micro housed in a Thermaltake Soprano case. It has 4GB of RAM, a 3GHz Core 2 Duo (model unknown), a 500-watt Antec power supply, two 1TB Seagate hard drives, and a Sapphire Radeon HD 4870. Things are fun and fast here. The desktop sits right under the air-conditioning vent in my library. Using SpeedFan, I recorded the max temps to be 158 degrees in the Core 0-1 areas and 124 degrees at the CPU. Am I in trouble? Normally it runs around 98 degrees combined, but it was a hot night. I turned the AC on and it all cooled down quickly back to 98 F. Is my desktop OK or do I need to do something?

—Chris Buemi

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What's the Deal with PCI Express?

Ask the Doctor LogoAre x1 PCI Express cards and x16 PCI Express slots compatible? Can I insert my x1 PCI Express soundcard into a x16 PCI Express slot? And maybe this question isn’t relevant, but why do motherboard companies always put their x1 slots between two x16 slots? Even if you install one videocard it will block access to the x1 slot. Of course, you can install your videocard in a secondary x16 PCI Express slot, but how do you know it’s not running at x8 speed? Moreover, if you want to install only one videocard, the motherboard manufacturer instructs you to install it in the topmost x16 slot. But is that required?

—Vitaliy

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Are Default Drivers Enough?

Ask the Doctor LogoEvery time I try to join a multiplayer server in Battlefield 2, my computer freezes with no sound for nearly a minute, then resumes again. I can’t seem to diagnose the problem. I have installed the newest patch (1.5). I have reformatted my hard drive and reinstalled Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. All the drivers were automatically installed by Windows, so I only had to install my soundcard drivers. My computer is connected to a cable modem via a Linksys wireless router. I have also manually updated my PunkBuster files. Any idea what’s causing the pausing?

—rtschchand

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Is Hardware Virtualization Necessary?

Ask the Doctor LogoI am running 32-bit Windows 7 and I have a CPU that does not support hardware virtualization. I need virtualization software that does not require Intel VT, and was wondering if you had any recommendations. I have heard of VirtualBox but I’m not sure if you need VT support. Does VMWare have any products that don’t require hardware virtualization?

—Josh Morgan

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Upgrading Frankenstein's Monster

Ask the Doctor LogoRight now, I’m trying to upgrade to Vista Ultimate (so when I can get Windows 7, I can keep everything) from XP Pro SP3. At the end of the installation, a blue screen pops up for a second and restarts the entire machine, ruining a five-hour install. I tried installing new RAM (the old DIMMs were faulty) but it failed to work. I can’t build a new rig as I don’t have the cash to make a proper one, and I don’t want to do a clean install as my PC has a nasty habit of being terribly unstable without certain patches (due to something CPU-related). My computer is an M3A78-EM motherboard with an AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE CPU (which amazingly, has survived a full motherboard short-out), a GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card, and two 2GB DDR2 RAM sticks. Both of the operating systems are 32-bit. Is this problem software- or hardware-related?

—Brandon Hurley

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