Disappearing Drives, Connectors, and Copy Protection Problems.

Nathan Edwards

Screwed-up USB Storage

I have a Maxtor 500GB OneTouch 4 external hard drive that isn’t loading properly to my desktop, which is  running Windows XP Home Edition SP2, an AMD Athlon XP 1600+ with a VIA chipset, and more than 1GB of RAM.

My older Maxtor 3000LS 40GB drive works perfectly. I know the Maxtor OneTouch 4 is OK because it works with my Toshiba Satellite laptop with Windows XP.

When I plug the OneTouch 4 into my desktop, I get a yellow question mark in the Device Manager for Other Devices, which suggests that Windows recognizes the drive on some level. However, I still get a Code 28 message that says drivers for this device are not installed. What can I do (without reinstalling Windows, updates, or other programs) to load the proper drivers? Is there anything in the registry that might be added or deleted to make this work?

—Len Kane

The OneTouch 4 should just pop up and work as normal in Windows XP since the drivers for the external storage device are written on the device itself. You don’t have any discs or downloads to turn to.

The Doc suspects the drive itself is working just fine. After all, if it didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to pull it up on any machine, period. To find an answer to your dilemma, the Doctor hit up Seagate for assistance.

The company suggests that you reset Windows’s Infcache.1 file. To do this, launch Windows Explorer and type C:\windows\inf in the Explorer bar. Press Enter, which will pull up the inf folder. Search for the Infcache.1 file and delete it. Unplug your OneTouch 4 and restart your computer. When Windows boots again, the operating system will have rebuilt the Infcache.1 file. Seagate says this should fix the problem that’s causing Windows to issue a Code 28 message when you plug in the drive.

If it doesn’t, you have one alternative: Run a repair/restore installation of Windows XP since something is probably mucking up your USB drivers.

Sharing Data

Do CPU-intensive programs perform better on a drive that’s physically separate from the OS drive, especially if the drives do not share the same data cable? In other words, the OS is on a SATA drive and the hard-hitting program is on an IDE drive, for example. Where does the page file come into this? Should it be placed on a third drive?

—Timothy Joyce

If the application is truly 100-percent CPU-bound, you are unlikely to see an impact by moving the output to a second or third drive. For example, encoding a two-pass H.264 video is almost entirely processor driven and produces very small disk writes and reads. But if you are editing a large Adobe Photoshop file that is caching to the hard drive, having Photoshop write to a secondary or tertiary drive will actually help performance. In that scenario, your performance is gated by the CPU and somewhat by the drive you are writing to.

You can always try putting the Windows page file on a separate drive, but you’re probably better off adding more RAM—unless, of course, the original drive is a complete loser; then you might see a small performance boost, but nothing extraordinary.

CrossFire and nForce?

My latest rig has a Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5 motherboard, and I’m using an ATI Radeon 1950XTX. I had an Nvidia 7950 GX2 originally and was going to use it in an SLI configuration down the road. That card ended up being a real pain, so I exchanged it for the ATI. Can I add a second ATI card and run CrossFire since the cards would be sitting in an Nvidia-chipset mobo made for SLI? I’ve found conflicting info on the subject and don’t want to spend the money on a second card if it won’t work.

—Greg Bauman

HP’s Blackbird 002 machine is one rig that can run CrossFire AMD cards on an nForce-based motherboard, thanks to custom drivers.

There’s no good reason you can’t run two AMD videocards in CrossFire on an SLI motherboard, but there is a political reason—and as usual, politics trumps fairness. HP’s Blackbird PC allows two AMD cards to run in CrossFire mode on an SLI motherboard, but AMD has no plans to release the drivers that support this to the public. Still, AMD is making special drivers for Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Alienware that will allow the companies to run CrossFireX cards on nForce SLI boards. AMD says it will only do so because those OEMs can ensure that the drivers work properly on nForce motherboards.


I built a PC about a year ago, and now I’d like to add a Blu-ray drive so I can watch movies on it. I think I am screwed by HDCP. Is there a workaround available that will let me watch HD movies without having to buy a new graphics card and monitor? I am using DVI connections, but I understand that this is not the same as HDCP, despite both products being advertised as HD-compatible. My videocard is a Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GS (256MB) and my monitor is an Acer AL2423W.

—Wade Tanev

Your Gigabyte card is indeed “HD compatible,” but that doesn’t mean it will play copy-protected Blu-ray movies because, as you’ve guessed, it’s not HDCP compatible. The same goes for your monitor. HDCP is a digital-rights-management scheme that requires a digital handshake at every stage of playback, from the disc to the videocard, and from the videocard to the display. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. It’s not free, but it’s much cheaper than replacing your videocard and your display. Buy SlySoft’s AnyDVD (49 euros) and AnyDVD HD Option (30 euros). Install this software on your PC and you’ll be able to play back any copy-protected DVD or Blu-ray disc without an HDCP-compatible videocard or display.

You can have all the right connectors yet still no high-def signal going between your computer and your monitor. Thanks, copy protection.

You should be aware, however, that decoding Blu-ray video is extremely processor intensive. Your 7600 GS will rely on the host CPU for much of this decoding effort (CPU utilization could range as high as 100 percent). Newer GPUs from both AMD (beginning with the RV670 series) and Nvidia (beginning with the G92 series) are capable of offloading the entire decode process from the host CPU.

Freeing up the DVR

I’ve got a Comcast DVR (Motorola DCT 6412) that’s chock-full of content I want to watch, but the hard drive is filling up faster than I can watch the programming. The cable box has a number of connectors, including FireWire, Ethernet, and USB. I’ve heard rumors that there’s a way to download content off of the hard drive in the box but have not been able to get it to work on my Windows XP laptop (a Dell E1705). Any ideas?

Are there any legal issues involved? Lastly, there’s a lot of HD content on the DVR, but my laptop doesn’t have an HD writer. Can something be done to make the HD content work when played on a laptop, or is it just too much bandwidth for the technology I’ve got?

—Michael Collins

The Doctor knows you can plug a USB hard drive into a Dish Network DVR, but he doesn’t think Comcast has ever activated the USB ports (or the FireWire or Ethernet ports either, for that matter) on its set-top boxes. The Ethernet port on the Dish boxes is active, but only for downloading on-demand movies over the customer’s network via broadband (you can’t transfer files to a PC over the network).

So, in short, your content is locked to your Comcast box. If you want to expand your ability to transfer TV programming, you should look to another service, such as TiVo.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at doctor@maximumpc.com for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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