ask the doctor


Are Default Drivers Enough?

Ask the Doctor LogoEvery time I try to join a multiplayer server in Battlefield 2, my computer freezes with no sound for nearly a minute, then resumes again. I can’t seem to diagnose the problem. I have installed the newest patch (1.5). I have reformatted my hard drive and reinstalled Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. All the drivers were automatically installed by Windows, so I only had to install my soundcard drivers. My computer is connected to a cable modem via a Linksys wireless router. I have also manually updated my PunkBuster files. Any idea what’s causing the pausing?


Read the Doctor's response after the jump.


Is Hardware Virtualization Necessary?

Ask the Doctor LogoI am running 32-bit Windows 7 and I have a CPU that does not support hardware virtualization. I need virtualization software that does not require Intel VT, and was wondering if you had any recommendations. I have heard of VirtualBox but I’m not sure if you need VT support. Does VMWare have any products that don’t require hardware virtualization?

—Josh Morgan

Read the Doctor's answer for Josh after the jump.


Upgrading Frankenstein's Monster

Ask the Doctor LogoRight now, I’m trying to upgrade to Vista Ultimate (so when I can get Windows 7, I can keep everything) from XP Pro SP3. At the end of the installation, a blue screen pops up for a second and restarts the entire machine, ruining a five-hour install. I tried installing new RAM (the old DIMMs were faulty) but it failed to work. I can’t build a new rig as I don’t have the cash to make a proper one, and I don’t want to do a clean install as my PC has a nasty habit of being terribly unstable without certain patches (due to something CPU-related). My computer is an M3A78-EM motherboard with an AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE CPU (which amazingly, has survived a full motherboard short-out), a GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card, and two 2GB DDR2 RAM sticks. Both of the operating systems are 32-bit. Is this problem software- or hardware-related?

—Brandon Hurley

Read the Doctor's answer for Brandon after the jump.


New Drive Failing

Ask the Doctor LogoSo I just recently diagnosed my hard drive as having bad sectors and replaced it with a 750GB WD Caviar Black a few days ago. However, occasionally, as with my old hard drive, my system will lock up. When I reboot I get the following error: “Disk boot failure, please insert system disc and press enter.” Sometimes after a restart I will receive the same error, other times the hard drive will boot but my keyboard receives no power. I haven’t figured out why, but everything seems to sort itself out eventually.

One note: I have an old IDE drive that I was using once my old SATA drive became completely unusable. This hard drive never crashes or gives errors, and the keyboard never loses power.

I’m puzzled, and am running out of time to RMA this hard drive if I happened to get a bad one. Please help!

—Jesse Dresselhaus

Read the Doctor's advice for Jesse after the jump.


Windows 7 Fails Where XP Succeeds?

Ask the Doctor LogoI have Windows 7 Home Edition 64-bit. When I download pictures from the Internet, I want to save them to a specific folder—let’s call it ABC. I right-click the picture and select Save Picture As. Then Windows Explorer sends me to Libraries\Picture Library. I then navigate to ABC folder and click it, then click Save. I right-click the second picture, but I’m sent back to the pictures library! The save dialog in Windows XP would open right at the last directory I saved photos to, so I didn’t have to click back to the ABC folder every time. Why won’t Windows 7 do the same?


Read the Doctor's answer for Glenn after the jump.



Ask the Doctor LogoI’d like a program that can safely and effectively clean my hard drive so that no deleted files can be recovered. Can you recommend something? I see a bunch of stuff out there but it’s for permanently deleting files, not for already-deleted files. And I don’t know which programs are clean—free of malware or other crap. It must be good enough that I can feel safe about giving an old PC to someone else and not worry about identity theft. Also: What would you recommend to minimize any data being stolen from a hard drive if your PC was stolen? I am presently using Splash ID to store my passwords and sensitive data but would feel better if the entire hard drive was protected.

—Norm Shaver
Read the Doctor's advice for Norm after the jump.

New Machine Won't Boot

Ask the Doctor LogoDoc, I just built a new system with a 2.66GHz Core i7-920, Asus P6X58D Premium, 3GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, two GeForce 8800 GTs in SLI, two 250GB Barracudas, and an 850W Corsair PSU in an Antec 1200 case. It’s all stock-clocked and the GPUs, HDDs, and PSU were from an older machine and functioned fine.

My problem is that my new rig doesn’t work. I power on, but no boot. No POST, nothing on the screen, no beeps. The MEM_OK LED is on and it is red. The manual says that means the RAM is not properly installed.

So, I check to see if they are all in the correct slots, and they are. I pull them all out and put them in, one at a time, and none of them work. I took a stick from a working computer and it doesn’t work. I try it on every slot, same. I take my Corsair RAM and try it in the working computer, and it all works. I power on the system with no RAM installed, and same thing; no boot, no POST, nothing on screen.

After all that, I put the Corsair RAM in and took out the videocards. I then put a 9800 GT from a working computer in and the problem is the same.

So, any thoughts? Aside from assuming that the board is defective, I don’t know what else to try troubleshooting. I have heard that Asus has had some problems recently with RAM slots not working. I may have fallen victim to that. Maybe a jumper I don’t know about? As far as I can see, the only jumpers on the board are related to OC’ing, and I didn’t change any of them. Let me know what you think.

—K. Diaz
Read the Doctor's response after the jump.

Radiator Fans: Removable?

Ask the Doctor LogoI’m debating switching to water-cooling. I was initially worried about maintenance or the unit leaking, but those issues seem to be a thing of the past. What happens, however, if the fan stops working on the radiator? Is the fan difficult to replace? Would you have to replace the entire unit? Anytime I see reviews or ads, they never specify whether the fan is replaceable or permanently attached to the radiator unit.

—Joe C.

Read the Doctor's advice for Joe after the jump.



Ask the Doctor LogoAre there any benefits to flashing or updating a PC’s BIOS? Are there any dangers to my machine by doing this?

—Andrew Wilson

Read the Doctor's answer after the jump.


Alcohol and Nude Parts

Ask the Doctor LogoIs it OK to use alcohol to wipe clean an Athlon CPU without a heat spreader?

—Avery Sio

Read the Doctor's answer for Avery after the jump.