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Ask the Doctor

The doctor tackles Too Much GPU, Wi-Fi Upgrades, Disabling SkyDrive, and more

From Integrated to Top-Shelf

After almost 30 years developing software on stock PCs, I finally performed my first build from the pages of Maximum PC. I scoured your pages from many issues and planned a build during a long weekend and it’s been purring along for 18 months.

I have a Core i5-3570K on an Asus P8Z77.V board, with 16GB RAM, two 128GB SSDs, a 3TB backup drive, and 850W PSU in an NZXT Phantom 410 chassis. Now I’m thinking of adding a graphics card. I don’t do a lot with graphics, so I’ve managed with onboard but I might do more. The GeForce 780 Ti sounds very cool. Will it work well in this system? Will overall performance improve? Apart from a Hyper 212 CPU cooler, I’m only using the Phantom’s stock fans. Will I need more cooling?

— David Kates

The Doctor Responds:

Yes, performance will certainly improve—that’s one of the best graphics cards on the market, period, and it’s going to be faster than your integrated graphics by a factor of four or more. But if you’re not gaming or doing much graphically intensive work—and that seems to be the case—the Doc thinks the GeForce 780 Ti might be a little overkill.

There’s nothing wrong with overkill, and your rig can certainly handle the 780 Ti, but if you’re just getting into applications that need more graphical oomph, the Doc suggests starting with something cheaper, like the GTX 760. It’s roughly a third the price of the 780 Ti but has the oomph for gaming on high settings on a 1080p panel. If you won’t be gaming and just want a little more graphical muscle for everyday tasks, you’ll be fine with something even less expensive.

HD Storage MIA

I recently bought a WD Green 3TB hard drive for backup purposes. I have it in a Thermaltake BlacX USB 3.0 cradle outside of the PC. I have tried a hundred different things I found online, from different partitioning hardware to updating drivers and BIOS, but I can’t get the PC to recognize any more than 746GB. From what I saw online, lots of others are having the same problem. I run a Phenom II X6 1090T in an MSI 890FXA-GD65 motherboard with BIOS version 18.9, an AMD 7970, and 16GB of RAM. Any ideas would be appreciated.

— Gayle Curry

The Doctor Responds:

It looks like the problem is with that Thermaltake BlacX cradle not correctly supporting Advanced Format drives like the WD Green series with 4KB sectors instead of 512B sectors. Depending on the model, Thermaltake lists its BlacX docks as supporting “up to 2TB” or “up to 4TB” drives, but it depends on the USB controller inside the cradle, and its firmware. It’s also possible that you can update the firmware for the USB controller on your cradle, but Thermaltake’s website is a little wonky—we couldn’t find firmware update tools for the BlacX 5G, for example.

WD’s support page indicates that you may be able to get it to work if you attach the drive directly to your motherboard’s SATA ports and format it as a GPT partition in Windows Disk Management, then remove it and put it in the USB dock.

Wireless-AC Upgrade

I have a Dell Inspiron 15R-5520 with an Intel Centrino Wireless N-2230. I just purchased the Nighthawk Netgear router R7000. I would like to upgrade the wireless adapter. I contacted Dell to no avail, and can’t even find an email address for Intel. Do you think that the Intel Network 7260 HMWG Wi-Fi Wireless-AC 7260 H/T Dual Band 2x2 AC + Bluetooth HMC is compatible with the Inspiron 15R? At present I can’t use the 5GHz band.

— Carlos H Castillo

The Doctor Responds:

It looks like you ought to be able to put that Intel Wireless-AC card into your Inspiron 15R. The Inspiron takes a half-height mini-PCIe wireless card, like the 7260, and the slot is user-accessible—given a generous interpretation of “user-accessible.” You do have to take apart most of the laptop to get to it. Dell’s service manual for your model is at http://bit.ly/1crLreZ, and we found a YouTube tutorial for your model  at http://bit.ly/Kedtkr. Be sure to download the appropriate drivers from Intel’s support site.

Some laptop manufacturers use a whitelist in the BIOS to restrict which wireless cards you can use with the laptop, but your particular model doesn’t seem to be one of those. Your model seems to have two antennas, and the Intel 7260 has two antenna leads, so everything looks good there. Dell representatives answering other peoples’ questions online seem to indicate that the 15R 5520 can accommodate adapters with 5GHz bands, too.

The standard caveat applies—neither Dell nor Intel support or recommend Wi-Fi card installation by anyone but a professional technician, and there’s always the risk that it won’t work. But if it does, well, you’ll have legendary Wi-Fi speed on that Inspiron.

Mysterious Files

I am preparing to upgrade from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro. While cleaning up my system and removing unnecessary files, I noticed a string of files in my C folder, with names like bdlog.txt, bdr-im or -bz, and so forth. I have attached a copy of the file names, but I have not been able to identify what program they may belong to. I was hoping you might have an answer as to how I can identify them so I don’t remove something I need. As they occupy over 8GB of space it would be nice to know. So far my Internet searches have not found anything and trying various programs on my system to open them have not worked, although one file did have a note stating it could be opened with a bootloader program.

— Eli Cohen

The Doctor Responds:

Those files are normal, provided you’re using BitDefender antivirus. Bdlog.txt is a normal activity log, and the various bdr-im and bdr-bz files are related to the Rescue Mode bootable Linux environment. Apparently BitDefender just dumps all this stuff into the root of the C drive rather than in a Program Files/BitDefender folder. So it’s just annoying, not malicious.

GoodbyeDrive

I have been reading about the new Windows and deciding whether to make the move. I have no use for a touchscreen operating system, so it was with relief to see it is now possible to launch Windows directly into the desktop mode. However, I still have a concern. It appears that when Windows 8.1 is installed it automatically sets itself up to save files to SkyDrive by default. This gives me great concern because I do not want to use any cloud servers. Is it possible to use Windows 8.1 without using a cloud server?

— Bruce Noren

The Doctor Responds:

Yes, you can disable SkyDrive, but it isn’t obvious. Once you’ve installed Windows 8.1, run gpedit.msc, either by typing it into the search bar on the Start screen or by starting the Run command (Win+R) and typing it there. Go to Local Computer Policy, then Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > SkyDrive. You’ll see options to save documents and settings to the local PC by default, instead of SkyDrive, but it sounds like you want something more drastic. The second option is “Prevent the usage of SkyDrive for file storage.” That’s the one you want. Double-click it and, in the box that pops up, select Enabled. This is somewhat counterintuitive; you’re not enabling SkyDrive, you’re enabling the policy that disables SkyDrive. Thanks, Microsoft!

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