Ask the Doctor


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

Read the Doctor's thoughts after the jump.


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)?


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


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

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


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?


Read the Doctor's answer after the jump.


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?


Read the Doctor's response after the jump.


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

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


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

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


New Drive Failing

Ask the Doctor LogoSo I just recently diagnosed my hard drive as having bad sectors and replaced it with a 750GB WD Caviar Black a few days ago. However, occasionally, as with my old hard drive, my system will lock up. When I reboot I get the following error: “Disk boot failure, please insert system disc and press enter.” Sometimes after a restart I will receive the same error, other times the hard drive will boot but my keyboard receives no power. I haven’t figured out why, but everything seems to sort itself out eventually.

One note: I have an old IDE drive that I was using once my old SATA drive became completely unusable. This hard drive never crashes or gives errors, and the keyboard never loses power.

I’m puzzled, and am running out of time to RMA this hard drive if I happened to get a bad one. Please help!

—Jesse Dresselhaus

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


Windows 7 Fails Where XP Succeeds?

Ask the Doctor LogoI have Windows 7 Home Edition 64-bit. When I download pictures from the Internet, I want to save them to a specific folder—let’s call it ABC. I right-click the picture and select Save Picture As. Then Windows Explorer sends me to Libraries\Picture Library. I then navigate to ABC folder and click it, then click Save. I right-click the second picture, but I’m sent back to the pictures library! The save dialog in Windows XP would open right at the last directory I saved photos to, so I didn’t have to click back to the ABC folder every time. Why won’t Windows 7 do the same?


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



Ask the Doctor LogoI’d like a program that can safely and effectively clean my hard drive so that no deleted files can be recovered. Can you recommend something? I see a bunch of stuff out there but it’s for permanently deleting files, not for already-deleted files. And I don’t know which programs are clean—free of malware or other crap. It must be good enough that I can feel safe about giving an old PC to someone else and not worry about identity theft. Also: What would you recommend to minimize any data being stolen from a hard drive if your PC was stolen? I am presently using Splash ID to store my passwords and sensitive data but would feel better if the entire hard drive was protected.

—Norm Shaver
Read the Doctor's advice for Norm after the jump.