Ask the Doctor: Dual Dual-Boot Questions, Ancient Computers, Router Confusion, and more

Maximum PC Staff

The doctor tackles Dual Dual-Boot Questions, Ancient Computers, Router Confusion, and more

Dual Boot 7 and Linux

I am a bit of a newbie, but 76 years old. Can a Windows user install both Windows 7 and a Linux distro on a solid-state drive—particularly a Samsung 840 EVO drive?

- Charles Greenwood

The Doctor Responds:

Yes, you can install both Windows and Linux onto the same SSD, just as you would on a mechanical drive, provided the drive is large enough to accommodate both operating systems. The Doc would recommend at least a 256GB drive, if not larger. The best way to do this is to install Windows first, then install your Linux distro. Ubuntu makes this particularly easy, as its install process allows you to install it side-by-side with Windows, and guides you through the process of shrinking your Windows partition to make room for Ubuntu. If you want to shrink your Windows partition from within Windows, see the next Doctor question. See this help page for details:

If you’re not planning to install Ubuntu or one of its variants, the procedure will be slightly different, but the answer is the same: Yes, as long as there’s room, and install Windows first because its bootloader doesn’t play nicely with Linux if Linux is on the drive first.

Dual-boot 7 and 8

I have Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and Windows 8 Pro 64-bit. I’d like to have both installed on my system and choose between them when I boot up. I don’t really like Win 8 and really do like Win 7. I have a 128GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD with about 16TB of other hard drives. I am looking to upgrade to a 256GB drive so that I can better run both OSes on. I am hoping you might be able to give me proper instructions as to how to have a dual-system boot on my system.

- David Dube

You can use Windows Disk Management to shrink full-disk partitions, enabling you to create another partition on the same drive.

The Doctor Responds:

You can certainly dual-boot Windows 8 and 7, but the Doc thinks it’s a waste of space, since you’ll be using double the disk space to install nearly identical operating systems. The desktop portion of Windows 8 is virtually the same as Windows 7’s, except better, and the annoying parts of Windows 8 can be minimized or turned off entirely via the use of Stardock’s Start8 and ModernMix.

Anyway, assuming your mind is made up, the best way is to install Windows 7 first, making sure to only use half of the free space on the drive for your Win 7 partition. If you accidentally use the whole thing, no problem. Once Windows 7 is installed, go into Disk Management (right-click on My Computer, select Manage, and go to Storage > Disk Management), right-click the C partition, and select Shrink Partition. Resize it so that about half the space on your drive is free. It’s best to do this right after installing Windows 7, of course, so you have free space on the drive. Leave the newly created free space as unallocated space; don’t put another partition there. Then, shut down your computer and boot from the Windows 8 install media. The Doc is assuming that you bought the physical media or were able to create a bootable flash drive or DVD from the download tool.

When the installation wizard gets to  the part where it asks “What kind of installation do you want?” select Custom, then choose the unallocated space on your drive, and the rest is a cinch. After it installs and you restart your computer, you should be able to choose which OS to boot into, and which one you boot into by default.

Ancient Motherboard Problems

Doc, I’m having problems with my motherboard. I’m running an MSI K8N Neo4 with a dual-core AMD processor with 1GB of RAM and a 500-watt PSU. I’m trying to reinstall Windows XP. I started a clean install, but halfway through the computer just shuts off. The power light on the computer flashes on and off. I have to wait 15 minutes to restart. At first, I thought it was overheating, but it never gets over 29 C. I set the BIOS to not shut down on errors. I also swapped the video card to a smaller one that requires less power. Then, I thought it was the power supply, so I replaced that, but my PC still shuts off.

Finally, I started unplugging the power to the motherboard and plugging it back in. By doing this, I found that I could restart the computer right away. The solder and pegs of the power socket are intact. Do you have any ideas, or is the motherboard toast?

- Darrel W

The Doctor Responds:

The Doc would take a good long look at any capacitors on the motherboard. If any of them are bulged out, it’s quite possible you are a victim of bad caps. You can actually replace the cap yourself, but most people elect to move on. For those who don’t know the ancient history, the electronics industry as a whole was a victim of sub-quality capacitors that urban lore claims was the result of one vendor using a stolen electrolytic formula. Basically, an unknown number of PCs, televisions, and all other sorts of electronic devices have failed due to bulged or bad caps. Vendors are so sensitive to this old issue that they all like to proclaim that they use military-grade capacitors made from unicorn horns in their motherboards.  That MSI motherboard is a little late to be part of the bad caps era, but it’s still possible.

If the Doc were in your shoes, he’d look for the next possible failure: inadequate cooling due to thermal paste that’s disappeared. If the machine is roughly 10 years old, the thermal paste could be kaput, causing the machine to overheat and reboot. So, consider reseating the processor and reseating the heat sink with fresh thermal paste. You should also try removing one of the pieces of RAM (assuming you have two) and trying to reproduce the issue. Do so with both pieces of RAM. The last step may be to actually remove the motherboard from the case and see if it was installed incorrectly in the first place. Sometimes a poorly installed motherboard mount will short out the system. But in all likelihood, the board is bad. You should also know that Windows XP is at end-of-life status and will no longer receive updates from Microsoft. You should upgrade to a newer OS so that you can continue to receive security patches. The nForce 4 chipset on your board is also long dead as a supported product, so maybe you can accentuate the positive and use the opportunity to get something a little more fresh.

Chronic Router Model 420

Your February 2014 802.11ac Router Buyer’s Guide has me re-evaluating if I want to continue my subscription to your magazine. Do you folks have your lab in a state that has legalized marijuana? Reflected in the chart labeled AC Routers Compared, you show up to 419Mb/s throughput using the 802.11ac Asus router. This is really fantastic, but where did you get an Internet connection of, what, 500Mb/s? Did you generate that in a lab?

Since you did not state your download speed, I will assume it was around 500Mb/s. Who has Internet that fast? Now, if your chart had a statement showing these routers all have linear ratings, and that if you only get 50Mb/s you can divided 50/500 =.1 and then take the Asus router’s speed of 180 Mb/s (in the bedroom at 10ft) and you can be assured that at a download speed of 50 Mb/s, your speed will be: 419 x .1 = 41.9 Mb/s for the 802.11 AC and 180 x .1 = 18 Mb/s for the 802.11N. That could turn this useless chart into a useful chart, if in fact there is a way to deduct these figures. As it stands now, it is absolutely useless crap.

If you want to publish a magazine that is helpful to the vast majority of the readers, then tailor it to some level of reality. Also, it might have been useful to add that at present, as far as I could find, there are NO Apple 802.11ac adapters on the market as of Feb 16, 2014.  And finally, show router input (download speeds and from where) and output (upload speeds). Then add the nifty theoretical specifications for future possibilities.

- Dave Shaff

The Doctor Responds:

Thanks for your feedback, Dave. While our state hasn’t yet legalized marijuana, it’s pretty easy to get a medical-usage card.

First of all, you’re correct that broadband speeds in the United States are pretty dismal, and you don’t need an 802.11ac router to get maximum performance from your broadband connection. But there are several things you’ve overlooked. The first is that we tested performance between the test laptop and a PC wired to the router’s Ethernet jacks. The speed of the broadband Internet connection was not tested, precisely because Internet connection speed varies so widely.

Secondly, performance just doesn’t scale down linearly like that, even if we were talking about download speeds from the Internet at large. You can’t take the 419Mb/s the Asus router got on the Wireless-AC test, and the 180Mb/s it got on Wireless-N on the same computer in the same location, and just apply a linear reduction in the way you seem to think you can, even if you are working with a slow Internet connection.

The Doc has around a 30Mb/s connection at home, with an Asus RT-AC66U router. So, we ran SpeedTest a bunch of times, just for kicks. A desktop wired directly to the router’s Gigabit switch got 28.48Mb/s down. A laptop with a dual-band Intel AC 7260 Wi-Fi card 15 feet from the router got 28.54Mb/s on its 5GHz AC connection, and 22Mb/s on the 2.4GHz N connection. There’s no 50 percent linear reduction going from Wireless-AC to Wireless-N across the board. So, even if you have a relatively slow Internet connection, like most of the country, your router isn’t going to bottleneck you at the rate you assumed from the chart. You’d have to have an extremely fast network connection before you started seeing your router limit your download or upload speeds.

Thirdly, the reason to get one of these fast routers (and the reason we test their PC-to-PC speeds, not download speeds) is for fast in-network transfers, like streaming HD video from a home server to  an HTPC, or backups. But if you’re not doing that, you’re correct, you don’t need to spend $200 on a router.

Finally, as far as Apple goes, the 2013 MacBook Airs and Pros have Wireless-AC built in, and have since last year.

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