ABC Tower   702 Weekend, 17 March 2001

Tips & Hints

Posted 21 March 2001

On the March 17 show we discussed how to keep your Internet bill down and what a BIOS is. Unusually we had only one Internet problem and most of the calls were hadware related. Two of the calls had problems that related to the BIOS.

The BIOS, Basic Input and Output System, is the most basic part of the computer. When the computer starts the BIOS checks that the system is okay, what accessories, components and peripherals are connected, starts the computer and hands the system over to the operating system. Unless you know what you are doing you should never play in the BIOS.

Sleep mode never wakes up
Greg has a number of computers, some of which will not wake up after going into sleep mode. While this problem is usually a BIOS problem, it can be caused by software. Try disabling the sleep function settings in the Power section of the Control Panel, or setting it for Windows to control the power management. For laptop computers it is best to check with the manufacturer for any known problems.

Usually this is a BIOS problem: Modern computers have settings within the BIOS that tell the computer when to wake up (wake on keyboard, mouse, com1, LAN, etc.) Sometimes these settings haven't been set properly and sometimes the BIOS needs to be updated. Updating a BIOS is a serious procedure which ruins the motherboard if it goes wrong. Never update a BIOS unless you have a very good reason for doing so. If you have to, only allow a professional to do it.

Computer keeps detecting hardware
Lynette had another problem that could be a BIOS problem. Her friend's computer keeps detecting a PS/2 mouse. This can be overcome by disabling the PS/2 function in the BIOS, unfortunately you may find your mouse stops working. On some systems, Windows will still detect the feature even if it has been disabled.

Another solution is to let the system detect the hardware, but not reboot once it has detected it. Once the computer is running, open the System section of the Control Panel and disable the newly detected hardware in the Device Manager section.

A third solution is to force a redetect of the all the system's hardware. This is a risky and long process that should only be carried out by experienced computer technicians. If you do decide to do it, make sure that your operating system and driver CD-ROMs have been copied to the hard drive before you delete the plug and play BIOS in the Windows Device Manager as you won't have CD-ROM support when you restart the computer.

Cannot detect scanner
Another problem Lynette had encountered with her friend's computer was the scanner that could not be detected. Parallel port scanners can cause a lot of trouble on computers, if your system supports USB, then buy a USB scanner. The most common problem with a parallel port scanner is that there is a printer or external drive conflicting with the scanner software. Uninstall any software that may use the parallel port and see if the scanner works. You may also have to change the parallel port settings in the BIOS.

Blue screen: System Halted Memory Parity Error
Miranda has a computer that keeps reporting a memory parity error. Parity errors are almost always hardware problems, though they can happen when you upgrade an operating system or install the wrong driver for a device installed inside the system, such as a video or SCSI card. Because Miranda had just had her computer's memory upgraded it is almost certainly the RAM that is causing the problem, it may be defective or it might not be sitting in its slot correctly.

Internet keeps disconnecting
Nicole's computer keeps disconnecting from the Internet and she wondered if it was a problem with her ISP. Internet problems are one of the hardest things to diagnose because there are so many links in the chain. It is usually a matter of systematically eliminating all the problems.

If you are getting disconnected, the first thing to do is to take off anything on your phone system that may be causing problems. Disconnect telephones, fax machines, answering machines and anything else that is connected to the phone lines. Some devices send a regular signal down the phone line that upsets modems.

Should you find this does not help, check your computer. Is your e-mail set to disconnect after checking for mail? Other settings to check include the disconnect on idle time, this should be set between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on your preference.

The next step is to check your phone lines. If you can hear crackling on the phone line when you are talking then you have a problem with the line. Modems are very sensitive to line problems and the crackling is enough for the modem to disconnect. Call your telephone company to organise a line test.

Thank you
A thanks to all the people who called and to those who waited but couldn't get on. We'd like to hear from you next month. virus screen702 Weekend, 17 March 2001
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