Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition book cover

Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition

By: Dan Gookin Published: 05-22-2017

Need a PC problem fixed in a pinch? Presto! Troubleshooting so you can get back to making it work for you. There's nothing worse than firing up your PC only to discover it's inexplicably unresponsive. With this guide, you'll gain all the skills and insight you need to need to bring it back to life and to prevent it from ever leaving you in the lurch again. Find out what's behind common PC problems Solve email and web woes, both big and small Perform regular maintenance and get serious about backups Troubleshoot to find solutions to your issues and learn proper maintenance to head off future headaches!

Articles From Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition

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36 results
36 results
How to Search for Files from the DOS Command Prompt

Article / Updated 11-02-2021

By opening a command prompt window, you can search for files that Windows truly doesn’t want you to know are there. It’s a little technical, but when you really, really need to find a file, the method described in the following steps does the job: From the Start menu, search for and open the Command Prompt. Type CD, a space, and then the backslash character. CD / Press Enter. This command propels you to the root directory (folder) on the main hard drive. Type DIR and a space. Type the name of the file you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for the file secret.doc, type secret.doc. You can type upper- or lowercase letters. When you don’t know the full name, replace the part you don’t know with an asterisk (which is a wildcard). For example, you type secret* to search for all files beginning with the word secret. Don’t type any spaces. If you must type a space, use the ? (question mark) character instead. Type another space and then /S, a space, and /P. The complete command line to look for the file secret.doc appears like this: dir secret.doc /s /p The /s option directs a search of all folders on the hard drive; the /p option pauses the display after each screen of text. Double-check everything! Press the Enter key. The results display one screen at a time. Peruse the screen full of results. If you find a file that matches, you can open a Windows Explorer window to display the file’s folder. Press Win+E to open a Windows Explorer window. The pathname is found above the filename in the results. The pathname reads similar to this line: Directory of C:UsersDangDocumentsForgotten If the file isn’t found, press Enter to see the next screen (if necessary). The prompt reads Press any key to continue, but the Enter key is the “any key.” Repeat Steps 7 and 8 to review the results. Type the EXIT command to close the Command Prompt window when you’re done. Yes, this method is not only technical — it’s tedious. But the DIR command does a thorough job of scouring the entire hard drive. Sometimes you may want to use it just to confirm that a file doesn’t exist.

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How to Use Unallocated Drive Space in Windows

Article / Updated 11-02-2021

To make the unallocated portion of a hard drive useful, you must create a new volume, one that’s recognized by Windows. You can create three types of volumes: Simple: This typical hard drive is the type that most PC users have in Windows. If you’re shrinking a volume to create a new logical drive, such as a new drive F (or something), this option is the one you want. Spanned: A spanned volume combines two or more unallocated volumes, even on separate physical hard drives, creating a new drive. The new drive combines all the space of the various unallocated volumes into a single volume. Striped: Striped volumes are used to improve disk performance by spreading information between multiple disks. The net result is that several drives are used to quickly access information, which makes all disk operations faster. You need two or more unallocated chunks of disk space to set up a striped volume. If you’re using the new volume to install another operating system on the PC, do not create another volume in Windows. Just leave the volume unallocated and let the other operating system’s installation program do its thing with the drive. Using Disk Management to allocate space To allocate the unallocated space as a usable hard drive in Windows, follow these steps: Open the Disk Management console. Open the Control Panel. Open the Administrative Tools window. In Windows 7 and 10, choose System and Security and then choose Administrative Tools. In Windows Vista, choose System and Maintenance and then choose Administrative Tools. In Windows XP, open the Administrative Tools icon. Open the Computer Management icon. In Vista, click Continue or type the administrator’s password. Choose Disk Management. Right-click the unallocated volume. Choose New Simple Volume from the shortcut menu. The New Simple Volume Wizard appears. Click the Next button. Set the size of the new volume by using the Simple Volume Size in the MB text box. The size is already preset to equal the entire disk capacity, which is recommended. If you need to set it to a smaller size, do so. The remaining space on the drive continues to be unallocated. Click the Next button. Windows lets you assign the drive a letter, or you can mount the drive on an NTFS volume as a folder. Or, you can do neither, depending on how you fill in the wizard. (Optional) Choose a letter for the new volume. My advice is to use the letter that’s provided. Click the Next button. Ensure the option Format This Volume with the Following Settings is chosen. Ensure that the NTFS format is chosen. Click the Next button. Click the Finish button to create the new volume. Windows prepares the disk by formatting it, laying down the tracks (or parking spaces) for the files. The amount of time taken to complete the operation depends on the size of the volume. Larger disk drives take longer to format. The display in the Disk Management console shows the drive being formatted; you can watch its progress in the Status column at the top center of the window. The drive isn’t assigned its new letter until after it’s formatted. When the operation is complete, you can close the Disk Management console. The newly created disk drive appears in the Computer window. It’s immediately available for use. The new volume may have less capacity than anticipated. The missing bytes are overhead, used by the formatting process.

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How to Determine If Your PC Has Bluetooth Capability

Article / Updated 11-02-2021

Much like everything else in your computer, Bluetooth functionality requires both hardware and software. Like a camera without film — one won't work without the other. Unfortunately, not all PCs arrive Bluetooth-ready right out of the box, especially older models. If your PC didn’t come with Bluetooth hardware installed, you can easily add some by purchasing a Bluetooth USB dongle. Using Device Manager to find Bluetooth hardware To determine whether your Windows PC has Bluetooth hardware, check Device Manager. Follow these steps: Open the Windows Start Menu to search for and open the Control Panel. Choose Hardware and Sound, and then choose Device Manager. In Windows 10, the Device Manager link can also be found beneath the Devices and Printers heading. Look for a Bluetooth drop-down menu in the list. If any items are listed here, your PC has Bluetooth hardware installed, and you can safely assume that the software has been set up as well. Close the various windows you opened. Adding a Bluetooth device Bluetooth software is typically supplied by Windows or whatever installation drive came with the hardware, so you shouldn't have to worry about setting that up too often. To connect to a new Bluetooth device, however, follow these steps: In Windows 10, go to Settings and then Devices. Click on Add Bluetooth or other device. Choose the type of device you want to connect to from the list. Make sure the device is on a "discoverable" mode. Check the device's manual if you don't know how to do so. Once discoverable, the device's name should appear on your screen. Select it and Windows should take care of the rest. You may now close all windows. Bluetooth devices are paired, which means that they are assigned to work with only one device at a time. The wireless networking used by Bluetooth isn’t as robust as Wi-Fi. For the most part, Bluetooth is a low-powered system. You can’t move a Bluetooth gadget more than 10 feet or so from its paired device without losing the signal.

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Test the Microphone on Your Windows PC

Article / Updated 10-06-2021

For a microphone to work on your computer, it must be plugged into the pink jack on your PC, unless it’s a USB microphone, which simply plugs into the USB port. After plugging in the microphone, test the thing. Testing works differently depending on your version of Windows. To test the microphone in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, heed these steps: Ensure that the microphone is properly connected. Open the Control Panel and choose Ease of Access. Choose the link Set Up Microphone, found beneath the Speech Recognition heading. The Microphone Setup Wizard materializes. Choose the type of microphone you’re using: the headset, cheap-o desktop microphone or the they-saw-you-coming microphone that the guy at the music store sold you. Click the Next button, and so on. After seeing a few meaningless screens, you eventually approach the Adjust the Microphone Volume screen — pay dirt. Speak away. Say: “Enunciation is the prestidigitation of audio infatuation.” Or be a wienie and say, “Test, test.” Watch that green bar go! Basically, by seeing the visual feedback, you confirm that the microphone is working. Continue working through the wizard or just click Cancel. If you’re satisfied with the results, you can bail out on the wizard. Otherwise, keep clicking Next and eventually you arrive at the Finish button. To confirm that your microphone works in Windows XP, follow these steps: Plug in the microphone all nice and snug. And stuff. Open the Control Panel’s Sounds and Audio Devices icon. Click the Voice tab. Click the Test Hardware button. The Sound Hardware Test Wizard appears. Click the Next button. Hum a jaunty tune while the hardware is tested. Speak into the microphone to test the volume. The volume meter on the screen should dance up and down as you vocalize. Click the Next button after confirming that the microphone works. Click the Finish button. Your computer may not be configured to use the specific microphone jack that your microphone is plugged into. If your PC came with specific audio software, use it to configure the audio jacks to accept microphone input. You don’t want to spend too much or too little on a PC microphone. Cheap microphones don’t work well, record poorly, and are annoying to hear for audio chat and online communications. Expensive microphones may require a mixer or pre-amp to work properly. Good microphones can be found in any computer or office supply store. A microphone headset provides both headphones and a microphone. It’s perfect for online communications and gaming.

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How to Undo a Windows Update

Article / Updated 09-15-2021

When an update doesn't go as planned, roll it back. You can do so within Windows, or, under dire circumstances, you can roll back an update from safe mode or when using the Windows Recovery Environment. First, if you can get into Windows, follow these steps to roll back an update: Press the Windows key + i to open Settings. Choose Update and Security. Click the Update History link. Click the Uninstall Updates link. The Control Panel's Installed Updates windows appears. It lists all updates that Windows monitors, which includes Windows updates as well as updates to specific programs. Choose the update you want to undo. The updates are categorized by program and then by date. Choose the top item in the Microsoft Windows category to remove the most recent Windows update. Click the Uninstall button that appears on the toolbar. Not every update features the Uninstall button. Minor updates may not show the button. Follow the directions provided on the screen. If prompted to restart Windows, do so. The update should be removed successfully and your system restored. If not, or when the computer won't start, boot the system into the Windows Recovery Environment and enter safe mode. You can also use System Restore to recover from a bad Windows update. If you can't access System Restore in Windows or in safe mode, use the Windows Recovery Environment.

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How to Restore a System Image on Your Windows PC

Article / Updated 10-20-2017

The only time you need to restore a system image on your Windows PC is when the entire hard drive is dead, missing, or replaced with a cheese sandwich. With all that data gone, you have to rely upon three items: A recovery volume: Use this media to start the PC and access the Windows Recovery Environment. The tools presented help you navigate through recovery. The system image: Use this information to restore Windows and other partitions as a base to rebuild your computer system. Tools on the recovery volume help you use the system image information. File History: Finally, with Windows restored, you run the File History program to recover your PC's lost files and programs. You don't need to restore a system image if you merely need to recover from a Windows disaster. The first thing you should try is System Restore. Second, you can try to reset the PC. Otherwise, the process of using the system image works like this: Start the PC by using the Windows Recovery Environment. Choose Troubleshoot. Choose Advanced Options. Choose System Image Recovery. Point the system image recovery tool at the location of the system image files, and then sit back and wait as the system is rebuilt. Yes, the process is more complex than four simple steps. For example, you may need a replacement hard drive. The good news is that you have the system image if you need it. Along with a recent backup, you can fully restore your system no matter what happens to the computer.

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How to Create the System Image for Your Windows PC

Article / Updated 10-20-2017

If you haven't already, create a system image for your Windows computer. This is a backup copy of Windows that you can use to rebuild the system if disaster strikes the PC's primary storage device. Follow these steps: Tap the Windows key. Type backup. Choose the item Backup and Restore (Windows 7) Control Panel from the list of search results. The Windows 7 Backup program is still available on your Windows 10 computer. You can use it as the PC's backup software, though File History is better. For these steps, however, your purpose is instead to create a system image. On the left side of the window, choose Create a System Image. The Create a System Image wizard runs. Choose a location for the system image. Use the same external hard drive that you use for File History. You can use network storage, but Windows displays a warning. If you're certain that the network storage is secure, you can use it. Click the Next button. The wizard lists drives (partitions) to save with the system image. If your PC features UEFI and Recovery volumes, they're automatically included in the list along with drive C, the PC's primary storage device. Add other drives to the items included in the system image backup. Adding any other drives is not recommended, unless you're certain that they're not being backed up. Click the Next button. Review the system image backup details on the screen. Click the Start Backup button to create the system image. Windows creates the system image file on the media you selected. The amount of time this process takes depends on the amount of data backed up and the connection speed. When the process is complete, you may see a prompt asking whether you want to create a system repair disk. The repair disk, or recovery volume, is what makes the system image useful. If you don't already have a repair disk, create one: Click Yes and follow the directions on the screen. You need only one copy of the system image. This process isn't something you must repeat every so often. When you have the system image, you can restore it later, should you need to. • Beyond security, another limitation of using network storage is that the computer must have network access if you plan to rebuild the system. If you must boot into safe mode to restore the system, ensure that you enable networking. You can use the Windows 7 Backup and Restore program to restore files from an older Windows computer. In the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window, click the link Select Another Backup to Restore Files From, and then browse for the older computer's backup files.

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Browsing File History

Article / Updated 10-20-2017

For a full view of files and folders that are backed up on your PC, you can use the File History browser. You might find this file recovery method better than hunting down files and folders and right‐clicking on them. The File History browser window is shown here. To visit the File History window, follow these directions: Tap the Windows key. Type File History Choose the item Restore Your Files with File History. It probably won't be the top item in the search results. This list of items you see in the File History window match those folders you selected for backup when File History was configured. To restore an item, select it and then click the big green Restore button. As with restoring individual files, you'll be prompted about whether you want to replace the original file. If you want to restore a file, folder, or group to a specific folder, click the Gear icon and choose the Restore To command. Select a folder for the backup files. Use the left and right arrows to browse your file history. The backup date and time are shown at the top of the window.

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Recovering an Older Version of a File with File History

Article / Updated 10-20-2017

The File History utility in Windows gets its name from its capability to recover older versions of a file. This feature is part of all backup programs, though it's often called Restore. The idea is the same: From the backup archive, you pluck an older version of a file. The File History feature makes it easy. To pluck an older version of a file from the backup drive, follow these steps: Right‐click the file. You can also right‐click a folder to recover all its contents. Choose Restore Previous Versions from the shortcut menu. The file or folder's Properties dialog box appears, with the Previous Versions tab upfront, as shown here.That's it. You're done: Go to Step 4. Otherwise, you see a list of older copies of the file. Choose a previous version from the list. Ideally, you should select the most recent version, though if you're after an ancient version of the file or folder, you can pluck it from the list instead.Your next step depends on what you want to do with the older version of the file: To replace the current version: Choose Restore, and then choose Replace the File in the Destination. The current file is replaced with the backup. To keep both the current version and restored backup: Click the Restore button's menu and choose Restore To. Select a destination folder for the recovered file. To preview the archived copy: Click the Open button. The file isn't restored, but you can peruse its contents to see whether it contains the information you need. Close the file or folder's Properties dialog box when you're done. When no previous versions exist, you see the message There Are No Previous Versions Available after Step 2. This means the file is new and hasn't been backed up, that the file hasn't changed, or that a backup copy doesn't exist. The File History utility isn't a substitute for recovering a file from the Recycle Bin; if you delete a file, you need to recover it from the Recycle Bin. File History works only on files in folders you've selected when configuring the utility.

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How to Select Folders for Backup on Your PC

Article / Updated 10-20-2017

The File History feature in Windows 10 automatically selects your user account's folders for inclusion in the backup. All files in the listed folders, as well as files in subfolders, are backed up. To check the list, and change the list of folders, follow these steps: Press Win+I to visit the Settings app. Choose Update & Security. Choose Backup from the list on the left side of the window. Choose More Options. You see the Backup Options screen, illustrated here. Below the heading Back Up These Folders (toward the bottom), you see a list of folders monitored for inclusion in the File History feature. Refer to the figure for the specific location. The list of folders is pretty much identical to the folders in your user account (or user profile) folder. Add two folders to the list: C:\Program Files C:\Program Files (x86) These folders hold your programs. Should anything bad happen to the hard drive, you'll want to restore those programs as well, which is why you need to add them to the list. To add folders to the list, click the Add a Folder button and use the Select Folder dialog box to locate each folder. Open the Drive C icon to find both folders. You can add other folders as well, if you don't see them in the list. Review the list carefully to ensure that the folders you use are all there; not every folder in your account's folder is listed. For example, cloud storage folders aren't listed, which is normal because these folders are backed up on the cloud.

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