Picture Problems, Repairing and Sharing in Vista, Cross-Country Tech Support

Nathan Edwards

It All Went Blank

I recently purchased an LCD monitor, but when I installed it, no picture appeared. When I replaced the new monitor with the old monitor, I again got just a black screen. The computer is running and the connections are correct. I’m deciding between building a new computer or just buying a graphics card and hoping the picture returns. Is there a better solution or has the motherboard been fried?
—Stephen Janes

The Doctor is willing to venture that you haven’t toasted your motherboard merely by plugging in a new monitor, though it is curious that your older monitor no longer works. Odds are good you’ve jiggled something out of place. Unplug your monitor, unplug your computer, open up your computer, and reseat your videocard—detach it from the side of your case and remove it from the connector on the motherboard. Dangle the card in the air for a few seconds and then reattach it. Make sure the card is firmly and properly placed, you’ll usually hear a clicking noise if you’ve done this correctly. Screw the card into place, plug your computer and monitor back in, flip the power switch, and see if that doesn’t fix your problem.

OEM Vista Repair

I have Vista Home Premium. After doing a Windows update, my computer would not boot. The OS reported that the registry was corrupted. I tried to boot off my Vista DVD to start a System Restore from outside of Windows, but to my surprise, Windows Vista Home Premium doesn’t offer a repair utility option when booting from the DVD. I have a Lenovo Laptop 7757.

What options do I have? How does one perform a manual restore of the registry files if Microsoft doesn’t offer System Restore from outside of Windows?

—Leon Garfield

It sounds as though you have an OEM version of Vista, which lacks options for repairing Vista installations when you boot from the DVD. First, try to boot into Safe mode. Jam on the F8 key while your computer starts to pull up Vista’s Boot menu. Boot the computer into “last known good configuration” first­—ideally, that should fix the problem. If it doesn’t, head back to the Boot menu and select Safe mode. Once there, select Vista’s System Restore feature and roll back to an earlier restore point.

If you can’t boot into Vista, try to borrow a non-OEM Vista disc from a friend and boot off of it into Repair mode. From there, you can run a chkdsk or let Vista automatically repair the operating system. But you’ll never get to that option from an OEM disc.

Speed Me Up, Scotty!

I am paying for a 5Mb/s cable download speed. I have a router that has both wireless and wired connectors on it. I have two stand-alone full-size tower PCs connected to the router by wired connectors. When downloading very large files, I noticed that my top download speed is 660Mb/s.

I believe that the bottleneck is my 1Gb/s NIC card, so I would like to use two ports on my router and use two NIC cards in my computer to increase my bandwidth. In my opinion, it does not make any sense to pay for a truly high-speed cable connection if you have a severe bottleneck with the network interface card. Right?


The Doc is scratching his head over this one, but since you say your broadband connection is 5Mb/s, he’s going to assume that the top download speed you’re seeing is 660 kilobytes per second, which is about what you’re paying for. Even so, it’s difficult to formulate an answer without more information, such as how you’re measuring your download speed and where you’re downloading from.

For starters, there’s a massive speed difference between the connections—(be they wired or wireless) on your local network and your connection to the Internet. Even an awesome net connection will be an order of magnitude slower than Gigabit Ethernet. Even if your network interface card and the wired portion of your router are both of the Gigabit variety and you’re using Cat5e or Cat6 Ethernet cable, you won’t get a full gigabit per second of throughput due to protocol overhead.

But it’s also important to note the distinction between your connection speed and the speed at which you can download files from a given website. Bandwidth can be costly, so most sites put limits on the speed at which a remote client can download files. Just because you have a 5Mb/s broadband connection doesn’t mean every website will allow you to suck down files at that pace because they have to pay for the bandwidth consumed at their end of the pipe.

If you want to measure your Internet connection speed, point your web browser to a site equipped with a tool designed for that purpose, such as Speed Test, ( www.speedtest.net ). If this tool indicates that your connection speed really is 660Kb/s, then you should ask your service provider to explain why you’re not getting what you’re paying for.

As for your idea of combining two router ports and two NICs to double the bandwidth of a single PC, it just won’t work with typical consumer hardware. You’d need to buy spendy enterprise hardware to do that.

No Login Screen

My old computer’s login screen won’t display. When I boot the rig, I get past the XP loader only to get a black screen, where the user accounts should be. I’m currently dual-booting XP and Vista on one hard drive. The computer has an Intel chipset with a Pentium 4.3GHz CPU and a 400-watt PSU. Is there any way to load XP without wiping my hard drive?

—Kyle Windsor

The Doctor is willing to venture that you’re having an issue with something display related, be it your monitor, videocard, or drivers. Enter Safe mode by repeatedly pressing the F8 key while your computer is booting. Safe mode should resort to a bare VGA display, which will allow you to perform a number of troubleshooting options on your PC.

From the Control Panel, go to System Properties. Go to the Device Manager and uninstall your videocard’s display drivers. Restart your computer; you should be able to enter your normal Windows XP operating system. Then hop online, grab the latest drivers for your card, and install them.

If you’re still finding no success, you probably have a critical Windows issue. To test this theory, fire up Vista and back up all your critical XP files. Then wipe your XP partition and reinstall the OS—this will give you some funky boot-loader issues since you’ll be installing an older OS after Vista, but you should be able to pull up both OSes after running Vista’s boot repair wizard.

Vista Kills Network Transfers

I just built a new PC, and I’m dual-booting Vista and XP. When in Vista, I cannot seem to transfer files to my file server. In XP, on the same machine, it works great. When I transferred a 72MB folder across the wired network using Vista, it took over two hours. The same files in XP took less than two minutes. Oftentimes, Vista times out with a “program not responding” error. Any suggestions before I totally banish Vista?

—Shannon B. Tatu

Quite the brouhaha is raging on the Internet right now regarding Vista’s slow transfer speeds—the operating system seems to keel over and die when it tries to copy files on a single drive, across drives, or especially across a network.

Microsoft has yet to come up with a solution for your woes, though it has managed to find a potential reason for the problem. Network transfer speeds will be drastically diminished if you’re running an application that uses Vista’s Multimedia Class Scheduler while transferring files. For example, Windows Media Player will kill network-transfer speeds.

Aside from that, your best bet is to install the most recent Vista SP1 release candidate. It isn’t the final SP1 release, so caveat emptor, but this update dramatically improves network-transfer performance. Updated Vista rigs are capable of transfer speeds that are three times faster than those of non-updated Vista machines. While the Doctor hasn’t experienced the extreme slowness you’ve described, the numerous tweaks and fixes in SP1 might very well set your transfers right. Give it a shot, as really, it’s your only option right now.

Whatcha Got, Mom?

I want to upgrade a few things in my mom’s PC—namely, the RAM. We live on opposite sides of the country. Is there a way she can find out for me what kind of RAM is in her computer?


Have your mom grab CPU-Z ( www.cpuid.com ). When she runs the app—a single no-installation-needed executable—a ton of information about her computer will pop up. She’ll be able to tell you about her processor, socket type, and motherboard, as well as the kind of RAM currently installed in her machine.

The Doctor plans to release a version of himself that’s entirely wireless. With the Doctor Air, you’ll be able to clone his mass of knowledge and carry it with you. Unless, of course, you just feel like emailing doctor@maximumpc.com for old time’s sake....

Around the web