APC and its readers can be one giant helpdesk. If you have a technical problem, chances are one of us can solve it.
We fix readers’ computing problems
WINDOWS RESTORE MISSING TILES TO START MENU
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
MAC CAN I IMPROVE MY MAC’S GRAPHICS?
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
WINDOWS DISPLAY RESOLUTION PROBLEMS
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
WINDOWS WINDOWS KEEPS LOCKING ME OUT
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
MAC EXTERNAL DRIVE TROUBLE
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.”
STORAGE SET UP PERSONAL CLOUD
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
LINUX UBUNTU DIMINISHED?
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
STORAGE HOW DO I BACK UP A 3TB iTUNES LIBRARY?
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
HARDWARE WINDOWS 10 WON’T RECOGNISE DVD DRIVE
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.