Ask the Doctor

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Ask the Doctor

The doctor tackles Hot SLI Setups, Old games, 2.2TB Partition Limits, and more

2 Cards 2 Hot

I've got a solid gaming setup right now with a Core i5-750 at 3.2GHz on an Asus Maximus III Formula and 16GB of PNY Optima RAM. My problem is my two EVGA Superclocked GTX 550 Ti cards in SLI. Housed in a HAF922 chassis, I'm idling at 60 C and 40 C, and hitting 95 C and 80 C, respectively, under load, which is dangerously close to the 100 C maximum safe operating temperature. Ambient room temp isn't an issue, and the Core-i5 stays under 40 degrees. What would be the best option? I can go to a single GPU, though the 550s are super effective in gaming. I could get aftermarket cooling for the 550s. Or should I just get an even bigger tower?

- Vivaldi

The Doctor Responds:

Have you tried adding an intake fan to the case's side panel? The HAF 922 can support another 20cm fan on the side. It's not the most elegant airflow solution, but blowing cold air directly onto the GPUs will help bring temperatures down.

The Doc believes that aftermarket cooling for your 550 Tis is probably not worth the expense. Put that money toward your next single-card setup, when the 550s can't keep up with your needs anymore.

Upgrade Path

I'm a retired soldier. I need an upgrade path for my current build. I am running an Asus P8P67 Pro Rev 3.1 with an Intel Core i5-2500K chip. I have two Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards. I still don't trust SSDs, so I have a normal hard drive. Besides a hard drive upgrade, what would you recommend as my next upgrade? And yes, money is an issue.

- Peter Walkoviak

The Doctor Responds:

Sorry to hear you don't trust SSDs, because that's exactly what the Doc would recommend to upgrade your rig. The 2500K is still a fine CPU, and two 560 Tis in SLI should make quick work of most games. An SSD would dramatically improve your boot and load times and generally make your PC feel much speedier.

Other than a storage upgrade, it's hard to make additional recommendations without knowing what you use your computer for—and, say, how much RAM you have. You could get a newer CPU, like an i7-3770K, or you could upgrade to a faster, cooler, single GPU, but both would be more expensive than a good 250GB SSD such as the Samsung 840.

Rapid Start? More Like Doesn't Start

I have a 3-month-old Dell XPS 13 (model L321X) Ultrabook with a Core i5-2467M processor and a 128GB SSD running Windows 7 Home Premium. The Intel Rapid Start technology has not worked properly from day one. I've updated all the drivers and the BIOS but that didn't help. It works properly about 15 percent of the time, but the rest of the time this happens: The OS puts the computer into the S3 state, Rapid Start wakes it back up as designed, and then it hangs with a blank screen. It never transitions to the S4 state. The only way out at this point is to force a shutdown by holding the power button. Then on the next boot, it of course says Windows did not shut down correctly.

This is so annoying that I'm considering disabling Rapid Start entirely and going back to the standard Windows hibernate functionality. Would that have any negative long-term effects on my SSD?

- Geoff

The Doctor Responds:

Dell acknowledges that the XPS 13 has had a problem with Intel’s Rapid Start Technology, which basically slims down the image that needs to be written to “disk” and then hibernates it to a special 8GB partition on the SSD—think of it as fast hibernate. The problem is related to having the Trusted Platform Module enabled, which causes the system to hang. Dell apparently corrected the issue in a new BIOS, and with the latest drivers it should work. Should work and works are two different things, though, so you may want to try disabling the TPM if you’re not using BitLocker on the machine to see if it helps your situation. For Rapid Start Technology to work, the system can’t be in legacy IDE mode, and must have 8GB or less. It also doesn’t work with Dell encryption accelerator cards, and certain devices might have conflicts if a BIOS password is set. You may also want to disable iRST, uninstall it, and reinstall it again, and then re-enable iRST.

Remove Files, Keep OS

I am giving my old laptop to a friend and I would like to delete everything but Windows 7 Ultimate. I have done some Googling on this, and the best result was to use Add and Remove Programs. But that does not get rid of documents, pictures, etc. I don't want to reinstall Windows because it’s a real pain to do so. What do you suggest?

- Daniel Tassone

The Doctor Responds:

Assuming your photos and documents are all in your user folder (My Documents, My Photos, My Videos, etc.) you can delete them by removing your user account. If your user account is the only one on the computer, you'll need to create a new one first. Then go to Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > Manage Another Account. Select the account whose data you'd like to delete, then click Delete the Account. You'll be given an option to keep or delete the files associated with it; make sure to delete them.

After this, you should do a once-over of the rest of your hard drive, including your downloads folder and shared folders, to make sure there aren't still personal files in them. Be sure to empty the Recycle Bin before you hand the computer over. If you’re really paranoid, you might want to run Erase (free from http://eraser.heidi.ie) to pave over the empty space to prevent someone from unerasing data.

You've Got To Keep Them Up-to-Dated

I'm a stickler for keeping my PC's software updated and currently use Secunia PSI, SlimWare Utilities’ SlimCleaner, and FileHippo Update Checker. Each one misses updates, so I need to use all three to complement one another, which can be a pain. Do you know of any single updater (freeware or commercial) that will do the job alone?

- KT Renaud

The Doctor Responds:

Unfortunately, we don't know of a single updater that will do a better job than those three combined. In fact, the more security-minded Maximum PC editors recommend running Qualys BrowserCheck (free, http://bit.ly/Sd8Vxn) as well, to plug holes in your browsers that the other updaters might not notice.

3TB Partition on Windows XP?

I have a 3TB Seagate hard disk drive. I have downloaded the Seagate Disk Wizard, which can locate the 3TB hard drive in the system.

Unfortunately, it splits the HDD into two partitions, one 2.1TB and one around 0.8TB. Both partitions I have NTFS formatted, no problem. However, I would like to have a single partition of around 2.8TB. Is this possible, and if so, how can it be done? The individual partition can be formatted using the Disk Manager on my XP operating system. I have tried Partition Magic but this does not allow me to expand the larger partition up to its maximum capacity.

- Trevor R. Wilkin

The Doctor Responds:

In order to create a bootable partition over 2.2TB, you need a 64-bit OS that supports GPT partitions, as well as a motherboard with a UEFI rather than an old-fashioned BIOS. Unfortunately, Windows XP—even 64-bit Windows XP—can't support a partition bigger than 2.2TB. You'll need a 64-bit version of Vista or later.

Why do you need a 64-bit OS and a motherboard that supports UEFI? Because without those two things you're limited to 32-bit MBR-formatted disks. The MBR, or master boot record, tells the OS where everything is on the disk, and it uses 32-bit integers to do so. Two to the 32nd power is 4,294,967,296. Multiply that by the 512-byte sectors the disk is divided into, and you get 2.19TB—the maximum size of an MBR-formatted partition. A 64-bit system with a UEFI-capable motherboard can format a disk to use a GPT (or GUID Partition Table) that doesn't have that limitation. The good news is that you can still use that drive in XP; you just can't make a 3TB partition. If symmetry is your thing, you could use that Partition Magic software to make two 1.5TB drives.

Windows has built-in compatibility settings that can help fix problems with programs designed for older versions of the OS.

Windows has built-in compatibility settings that can help fix problems with programs designed for older versions of the OS.

Resuscitating Old Games

I dug out some old games I'd love to play again: RollerCoaster Tycoon and its Loopy Landscapes expansion, Railroad Tycoon 2, and Re-Volt. Since I don't have a Win98 box any more, I bought VMWare Fusion 5 for my (I know) MacBook Air.

After loading the games in the Win98 VM machine they still won't launch. Something about sound drivers. I dug out an old Alienware rig circa 2003 with a 3.06GHz P4 processor, 2GB RAM, and GeForce 5600 FX GPU, loaded up 32-bit Win7 and installed the games. Only Railroad Tycoon works. I understand making a Win98 partition on the same HDD as Win7 is a nightmare. I also have a GeForce 6200 GPU I can try.

- Gee Gi

The Doctor Responds:

There are a few ways you can fix this. First, you can try installing a sound driver in your virtual Windows 98 machine on your MacBook. Looking around at forums, VMWare's Win98 virtual machine seems to use a virtual SoundBlaster PCI 128 card, so you need to download the driver for it from Creative's website, which at press time you can find at (http://bit.ly/c1eTj5).

If that doesn't work, you can try to get the games running on your old Alienware. The Doc would recommend swapping in the GeForce 6200 you mentioned, only because there still seem to be Win7 drivers for it on Nvidia's website, where none are available for the 5600. Once you've swapped in the new card and updated the drivers, if the games still don't launch, it's time to check compatibility.

Right-click the .exe file for each game and select Properties. In the Compatibility tab, select "Run this program in compatibility mode for" and select Windows 98 / Windows ME. Go down to Privilege Level and select "Run this program as an administrator." Click OK and try to run the game again.

If absolutely all else fails, you can find a Windows 7–compatible version of RollerCoaster Tycoon Deluxe, which includes Loopy Landscapes, on Good Old Games for $6 (www.gog.com). Re-Volt is available in the iOS and Android app stores, and RollerCoaster Tycoon should be available on both this year.

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Richard Mason

I have a Dell XPS 430 that I purchased from a dealer in used and outdated computers. I didn't receive a manual or a Vista disk with the Dell. I installed 8gbs of ram, an ASUS EAH 6870 graphics card and used an upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. It currently has a Core 2 Quad cpu. A Q8300 and I would like to replace it with the fastest processor I can. Can you tell me which one that would be. Also I would like your advice on a SSD for my sata 2 computer. I have learned almost everything I know about computers from Maximum PC. Any information you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Richard Mason