APC and its read­ers can be one gi­ant helpdesk. If you have a tech­ni­cal prob­lem, chances are one of us can solve it.

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We fix read­ers’ com­put­ing prob­lems


Af­ter Mi­crosoft sup­port re­cently fixed some is­sues with my PC, they were un­able to tell me where many of my Start menu tiles had gone. Can you please help me restore them? Charles Church Start menu tiles can be added quickly enough from a va­ri­ety of lo­ca­tions on your com­puter. This step-by-step guide will help you both restore and man­age your tiles into groups... 1 Click the Cor­tana or Search Win­dows box next to the Start menu. Start typ­ing the name of the app you’re look­ing for — if it shows up in the list, right-click its en­try and choose ‘Pin to Start’. This works for both desk­top and store apps. 2 Click the Start but­ton and scroll through the list of in­stalled ap­pli­ca­tions on the left. When you find the one you’re look­ing for (if it’s be­hind a folder en­try, click that en­try to re­veal its con­tents), again right-click it and choose ‘Pin to Start’. 3 If you have any por­ta­ble apps sit­ting on your hard drive, or apps that haven’t placed a short­cut in the ‘All Apps’ sec­tion of the Start menu, sim­ply browse to the rel­e­vant folder, right-click the pro­gram’s ex­e­cutable file and then se­lect ‘Pin to Start’. 4 Once you’ve added all the tiles you want, click the Start but­ton and man­age them by drag and drop — group re­lated items to­gether, then click the = bar above them to en­ter a suit­ably de­scrip­tive ti­tle. Nick Odantzis


I’ve seen in­for­ma­tion about ex­ter­nal GPUs for lap­tops. Would I be able to use one with my Retina 5K iMac (Late 2014) to en­hance gam­ing? Pete Pa­gan You can hook up an ex­ter­nal GPU to a Mac’s Thun­der­bolt port to de­liver im­proved graph­ics per­for­mance. One sup­plier of the nec­es­sary kit is Bi­zon, with its lat­est Bi­zonBOX 3. This is ex­pen­sive, par­tic­u­larly as you’ll have to ship it to Aus­tralia which costs well over $100 as it is, but it can be cus­tomised to pro­vide the graph­ics card which you want. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Bi­zon’s own tests, your iMac could only use this as a CUDA ac­cel­er­a­tor (CUDA is a graph­ics API used by some apps), so you’re un­likely to see a no­tice­able gen­eral graph­ics boost in OS X. Bear in mind we haven’t tried out this kit our­selves. Also, In­tel only of­fi­cially sup­ports eGPUs as of Thun­der­bolt 3, so we wouldn’t ex­pect sup­port from Ap­ple for any is­sues you might run into be­tween Mac apps and Bi­zon’s kit, which is de­signed for older Thun­der­bolt specs. In Win­dows, you should get worth­while ac­cel­er­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly in games. How­ever, right now, no one is sure how the eGPU mar­ket will de­velop for Macs. Howard Oak­ley


My dual-boot sys­tem is ex­hibit­ing strange be­hav­iour — the icons in Win­dows 7 are about a quar­ter of the size they are in Win­dows 10. How do I make them smaller in Win­dows 10? Jamie Mar­shall This prob­lem sug­gests the cor­rect dis­play driv­ers haven’t been in­stalled for Jamie’s graph­ics card. He first needs to iden­tify its model in Win­dows 7 via De­vice Man­ager, then source the lat­est avail­able driver for Win­dows 10. This should be easy if the graph­ics chip is iden­ti­fied as Nvidia or In­tel — visit ei­ther www.nvidia.com or down­load­cen­ter.in­tel.com re­spec­tively. If it’s an AMD chipset, it’s likely the card is an older one, not sup­ported by Win­dows 10 — go to bit.ly/ati-legacy and down­load the Soft­ware Suite to ob­tain a Win­dows 8.1 driver that should still work in Win­dows 10. If this fails, it’s time for an up­grade. Mayank Sharma


Over the past few weeks, Win­dows 10 keeps lock­ing me out of my ac­count ev­ery three to four days. I’ve been forced to use a pass­word re­cov­ery tool

to get past this. I then set a new pass­word for my ac­count, but it doesn’t seem to stick. Can you help please? John Wal­lis John was log­ging into Win­dows us­ing a lo­cal user ac­count — we sug­gested switch­ing to log­ging in us­ing his Mi­crosoft Ac­count then, if he wished, switch­ing back to the lo­cal user ac­count to see if that re­solved the prob­lem. If the prob­lem per­sists, it may in­di­cate a cor­rupt user ac­count, which would in­volve cre­at­ing a new user ac­count, then mi­grat­ing files and set­tings across from your old ac­count us­ing a tool like Tran­swiz ( www.foren­sit.com/ move-com­puter.html). In the end, John chose to stick with log­ging in through a Mi­crosoft Ac­count. Cat El­lis


When my iMac crashed to­day, its logs were full of mes­sages about “Failed to com­pos­ite im­age for de­scrip­tor” er­rors prior to forc­ing its shut­down. I also saw some re­peated er­rors from the ker­nel about a ‘disk1s2: I/O er­ror’. I’ve only re­cently up­graded to El Cap­i­tan: does this in­di­cate an in­com­pat­i­bil­ity with it? Mark Sy­der The up­grade process may have brought on your prob­lem, but the more crit­i­cal and wor­ry­ing of those er­ror mes­sages are those re­lat­ing to disk1s2, which is likely to be an ex­ter­nal hard drive. In­put/out­put er­rors like this are nor­mally the re­sult of a se­ri­ous is­sue with a drive, pos­si­bly even com­plete drive fail­ure or a de­fec­tive elec­tri­cal con­nec­tion. En­sure both ends of the drive’s con­nect­ing ca­ble are fully in­serted into its ports, and that the ca­ble is a good one. Check the drive us­ing Disk Util­ity first, and per­form any nec­es­sary re­pairs. If that re­ports a SMART sta­tus er­ror or other hard­ware fail­ure that can’t be fixed, eject the drive and shut it down im­me­di­ately. Sev­eral util­i­ties, such as the ex­cel­lent DriveDx, can pro­vide you with more de­tails about SMART warn­ings, er­rors and other faults, but once your drive has failed, there is lit­tle point in hold­ing a post mortem. If the drive hasn’t died, it might still be re­cov­er­able. When you have a re­place­ment, you might be able to sal­vage the old drive’s con­tents and copy them over to your new one. Un­for­tu­nately, sud­den drive fail­ures can still be the cause of crashes, al­though OS X is get­ting more re­silient to such hard­ware is­sues. Howard Oak­ley

“Sev­eral util­i­ties, such as the ex­cel­lent DriveDx, can pro­vide you with more de­tails about SMART warn­ings, er­rors and other faults, but once your drive has failed, there is lit­tle point in hold­ing a post mortem.”

“Bill didn’t say which backup soft­ware he used, but it sounds like he backed up the sys­tem but not the /home di­rec­tory. That would ex­plain why none of his in­for­ma­tion or set­tings were in­cluded.”


I’m in­ter­ested in set­ting up my own per­sonal cloud and have been look­ing at the Synol­ogy DS215J. Can you rec­om­mend this (or an­other) unit and as­sist me in get­ting its per­sonal cloud to work so I’m free of the con­straints of a third­party ser­vice like iCloud? Ray Din­ning We are happy to rec­om­mend the DS215J as a good en­try-level drive for those look­ing for a bit more than just ba­sic net­work drive ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ray duly pur­chased and in­stalled it, but wanted to know how to use it to keep files in sync be­tween two desk­tops and lap­tops. We pointed him to­wards Synol­ogy’s own Cloud Sta­tion tool — you need to set this up on the Synol­ogy through its web in­ter­face, then down­load and in­stall the Cloud Sta­tion Drive on each PC.

A step-by-step guide is pro­vided at bit.ly/cloud­stn-setup. We rec­om­mend choos­ing the ‘two-way sync’ op­tion to keep a folder in per­fect sync be­tween com­put­ers (and store a cen­tral copy of those files on the drive it­self). Alex Cole


My ev­ery­day sys­tem is Ubuntu 16:04, which has moved through the up­grades very nicely over the years. Un­til I up­graded to Ubuntu 16.10 when I got mes­sages that some pro­grams hadn’t been re­stored. This has never hap­pened in the past. I need to use rgb­paint, which is no longer avail­able and I can’t view videos from my car dash cam as I can­not load VLC. It would ap­pear that this new up­grade is a cut-down ver­sion of the old sys­tem. I can no longer search the long lists of pro­grams that were avail­able; this new sys­tem only gives one a small choice of ap­pli­ca­tions. As the main user this is all I can see. There doesn’t ap­pear to be a way to look for old pro­grams. I reloaded one of my back­ups — but the sys­tem didn’t re­vert back as the wall­pa­per, and sys­tem set­tings were all the new ver­sion. I also no­ticed it didn’t restore any of my lo­cal fold­ers of old emails in Thun­der­bird. Bill The Ubuntu Soft­ware does seem to be a some­what lim­ited at­tempt at a pack­age man­ager, tak­ing the KISS (‘keep it sim­ple, stupid’) ap­proach rather too far in our opin­ion. We rec­om­mend you use it to in­stall Sy­nap­tic, which is a more use­ful pack­age man­ager GUI. With Sy­nap­tic, you can man­age soft­ware re­pos and search for and in­stall pack­ages. It gives you al­most as much con­trol as the com­mand-line tools but with a friendly in­ter­face. VLC should be avail­able, it’s more a case of it not show­ing up for what­ever rea­son, but Sy­nap­tic will find it. It may be that you need to en­able the mul­ti­verse and/or uni­verse sec­tion of the re­pos, which Ubuntu doesn’t use by de­fault. That is sim­ply a mat­ter of tick­ing a cou­ple of boxes in Sy­nap­tic’s set­tings.

Pack­ages are dropped from time to time. Man­ag­ing a dis­tro in­volves mak­ing choices about soft­ware that is no longer ac­tively main­tained, es­pe­cially soft­ware that uses ob­so­lete or un­sup­ported li­braries (rgb­paint

“Fre­quency of back­ups, an im­por­tant fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing re­quired ca­pac­ity, de­pends on how of­ten files change.”

uses GTK 2). When the soft­ware be­comes in­com­pat­i­ble with the rest of the sys­tem, or the main­te­nance bur­den be­comes too high, soft­ware may be dropped, but there’s usu­ally a more up-to-date al­ter­na­tive you can use. In many cases, it is pos­si­ble to find pack­ages of the older soft­ware in a dif­fer­ent repo or a PPA. A web search with the pro­gram name, dis­tro and the word “in­stall” should yield point­ers.

Bill didn’t say which backup soft­ware he used, but it sounds like he backed up the sys­tem but not the / home di­rec­tory. That would ex­plain why none of his in­for­ma­tion or set­tings were in­cluded. We would rec­om­mend us­ing a sep­a­rate par­ti­tion for / home when in­stalling a dis­tro. That way, up­grades will never touch your per­sonal data as that filesys­tem will not be touched by the in­staller. APC team


I keep my iTunes li­brary on a 6TB WD My Book Thun­der­bolt Duo, which is set up as a mir­rored RAID ar­ray that gives me 3TB of ac­tual stor­age ca­pac­ity, but the drive is run­ning low on free space. I also have a LaCie 2big Thun­der­bolt drive with two 3TB disks set up as a RAID mir­ror. How should I use these to en­sure my li­brary is prop­erly backed up? John Broom­field To im­ple­ment a so­lu­tion, you need a strat­egy that meets your need to be able to restore the con­tents of a failed drive con­tain­ing your whole li­brary. If the li­brary’s con­tents were bought from the iTunes Store, they could all be down­loaded again; de­vot­ing ex­pen­sive stor­age to back­ups may not be a good use of those re­sources. How­ever, re­down­load­ing 3TB of tracks would nor­mally take a very long time. Fre­quency of back­ups, an im­por­tant fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing re­quired ca­pac­ity, de­pends on how of­ten files change. Most con­tents in an iTunes li­brary are likely to be un­changed over time. One po­ten­tially ef­fi­cient so­lu­tion would be to keep your cur­rent drives, each op­er­at­ing as a 6TB vol­ume, and use Car­bon Copy Cloner to main­tain a backup set from one drive to the other. This pro­vides 6TB, so your li­brary can grow, but it’s prone to data loss if one disk in each ar­ray fails at the same time (com­pared to up to three in your cur­rent, less ca­pa­cious ar­range­ment). Un­less the li­brary changes daily, you may only have to run that backup rou­tine ev­ery few days or so. Howard Oak­ley


I had no prob­lems up­grad­ing my HP lap­top to Win­dows 10, but since up­grad­ing my three work PCs, we’ve dis­cov­ered all three DVD drives won’t recog­nise any discs. Two are generic, one is an LG model. Can you shed any light? Paul Younger We went through ev­ery­thing to try to re­solve this prob­lem — the drives all con­tin­ued to ap­pear in the BIOS, but re­fused to show up in Win­dows, ei­ther in De­vice Man­ager or in File Ex­plorer.

How­ever, when Paul’s col­league Ron plugged in an ex­ter­nal DVD drive, that worked per­fectly. We sus­pect the is­sue might be with the moth­er­board — a Gi­ga­byte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P board with AMD 790FX chipset. We checked on­line and found it to be seven years old, and no longer sup­ported, so Win­dows 10 chipset driv­ers weren’t avail­able.

Rather than con­tinue to trou­bleshoot the prob­lem, our next sug­ges­tion was to take a drive im­age, then try a clean in­stal­la­tion of Win­dows to see what ef­fect that had be­fore restor­ing the cur­rent setup.

Both Paul and Ron have since de­cided to in­vest in new Win­dows 10-friendly com­put­ers. Alex Cox

You can add tiles to the Win­dows 10 Start menu in a va­ri­ety of ways.

Nvidia cards are sup­ported for much longer than AMD ones.

Cor­rupt Win­dows user ac­count? Trans­fer your files and set­tings to a new one.

SMART sta­tus check­ers, such as DriveDx, are use­ful be­fore fail­ure; af­ter, try re­pair­ing in Disk Util­ity.

Pur­chase a NAS drive for the ul­ti­mate pri­vate net­work stor­age.

Sy­nap­tic is a GUI for dis­tros that use De­blan’s pack­age man­age­ment sys­tem.

Trusty Car­bon Copy Cloner can main­tain a copy of a drive’s con­tents, and a his­tory of changed files.

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