BIOS Bother

Your re­ply to “Buyer Be­ware” ( Au­gust 2018) about buy­ing all the com­po­nents at one time does not fix real- life prob­lems. I bought an Asus B350 mother­board and an AMD Ryzen 5-2400G within a week of each other. To make a very long story shorter, af­ter build­ing the sys­tem, I had no video. Af­ter calls to Asus sup­port, I was told that the mother­board had an out­dated BIOS and had to be shipped back to them for a BIOS flash up­date. Great. They wanted me to ship the board back at my ex­pense, they would up­date their out­dated BIOS, and ship back to me. I pay for the ship­ping to them, wait a week or more, and then might have a work­ing sys­tem. They re­fused to pre- ship me an up­dated mother­board (at their ex­pense— I was will­ing to have a hold placed on my credit card un­til re­turned), ex­plain­ing their pol­icy to me about up­dates.

I in­tend to re­turn the Asus board, and buy from a re­li­able com­pany that might have true cus­tomer sup­port. So, prob­lems do ex­ist even if all the com­po­nents are pur­chased to­gether.

– Jeff Good­stein EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: That’s a re­ally un­for­tu­nate turn of events, and you have our sym­pa­thies. There’s a chance this sort of thing can hap­pen when re­sellers have stock that then needs up­dat­ing to take into ac­count new chips, par­tic­u­larly when those pro­ces­sors are APUs, and you need ac­cess to the in­te­grated graph­ics.

One op­tion you do have (if you haven’t al­ready re­turned the board) is to pop a graph­ics card into the mother­board and up­date the BIOS your­self, al­though this re­quires a spare graph­ics card to achieve. Even still, it’s a shame that Asus couldn’t have been a bit more flex­i­ble with sort­ing out the prob­lem for you.

Drive Time

I read your Au­gust ar­ti­cle on the Sam­sung 970 Pro 512GB M. 2 SSD. The ar­ti­cle in­di­cates a PCIe 3.0 x4 in­ter­face is needed, and that the NVMe con­trol pro­to­col is re­quired. My com­puter is a 2011 HP Pav­il­ion PC p7-1067c, which has PCIe in­ter­face slots, and I am run­ning the lat­est ver­sion of Win 10. Will the Sam­sung SSD work on my com­puter, or is the PCIe in­ter­face too old? – Ge­orge Clendenin EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: The first spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the NVMe pro­to­col was fin­ished the year you bought your ma­chine, but the first hard­ware to sup­port the stan­dard didn’t start ship­ping un­til 2013, and con­sumer op­tions sur­faced even later. So, un­for­tu­nately, your ma­chine is too old, and doesn’t have the nec­es­sary pro­to­col sup­port to use the drive.

You also need to phys­i­cally con­nect the drive, which isn’t as straight­for­ward as you might think—you can’t sim­ply plug it into a PCIe slot; it needs to be an M. 2 con­nec­tor. While there is a PCIe mini card con­nec­tor on your mother­board, it isn’t com­pat­i­ble. At the time these moth­er­boards were pro­duced, the main fo­cus of these slots was for up­dat­ing the wire­less ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the ma­chine, not for adding su­per-fast stor­age.

Es­sen­tially, then, if you want to ex­pe­ri­ence the joys of a qual­ity NVMe M. 2 SSD, you’re go­ing to have to up­grade your ma­chine. Given your ma­chine is seven years old, you could maybe treat your­self to some­thing a bit newer and faster— un­less, of course, it does ev­ery­thing you want

al­ready, in which case, such an up­grade isn’t nec­es­sary.

Fit for Pur­pose?

Just wanted to men­tion that CloneApp, while promis­ing, is not re­ally ready for prime time. Al­though it is up to ver­sion 2, it is so buggy and miss­ing fea­tures that it should be a 0.9 beta. Did any­one fully check that out be­fore sug­gest­ing it?

– Sal­va­tore Fat­toross EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: While we ad­mit that CloneApp may not be able to do ev­ery­thing you could want from a backup tool, and in­deed only sup­ports a limited num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions (roughly 250), the fact that it’s free off­sets this a lit­tle. If you don’t have a lot of ap­pli­ca­tions in­stalled, then it could be all you need. Ob­vi­ously, if you have a lot more in­stalled, then chances are it’s go­ing to strug­gle. But yes, we did test it be­fore­hand.

Backup Ad­vice

For off- site backup, we rec­om­mend Car­bonite for our busi­ness cus­tomers. We re­cently re­cov­ered 25 com­put­ers, with as­so­ci­ated de­sign and draw­ing data, for a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany whose main of­fice build­ing burned. Suc­cess­fully, be­cause the com­pany was us­ing Car­bonite. Why was there no men­tion of this ex­cel­lent prod­uct in your re­cent ar­ti­cle? It has suit­able of­fer­ings for in­di­vid­u­als up to and in­clud­ing larger com­pa­nies.

We do agree with the good words about Syncback, our reg­u­lar rec­om­men­da­tion for in­di­vid­u­als. – Clare Zick­uhr EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: Car­bonite is in­deed a great op­tion for busi­ness (and speak­ing to our IT guys, Veeam is also a wor­thy con­tender), and while we didn’t men­tion it in the ar­ti­cle in ques­tion, that doesn’t mean that we don’t rate it, or rec­om­mend it. It’s purely a case of try­ing to cover the most rel­e­vant op­tion for our read­ers. The prob­lem with backup soft­ware is that there are now so many op­tions, with so many spe­cific uses, that it’s dif­fi­cult to rec­om­mend some­thing that will ap­peal to ev­ery­one.

Pop­pin’ Tags

I was very pleased to see the “Bar­gain Hunt­ing” ar­ti­cle in the July is­sue. I did that very thing with this ma­chine back in 2010. It’s an HP/ Com­paq 5320f, which came with a dual- core 2.8GHz Athlon II, 3GB of RAM, and on­board Nvidia 6150se graph­ics.

I'm a Linux user whose only sys­tem- in­ten­sive ap­pli­ca­tion is Se­condLife, so it worked fairly well for me. (I have the PS3/ PS4 for any gam­ing.) Then, as the years went on, I up­graded it bit by bit.

I first slapped an EVGA GT220 in there in 2011, then a GT640rev2 SC 1GB GDDR5 in late 2013, along­side a Cooler Mas­ter 550W power sup­ply. In 2014, I maxed out the RAM (I thought) to 4GB, and then up­graded the CPU to a quad- core Phe­nom II 925. Last year, I dis­cov­ered that the mobo does sup­port more than 4GB (some­one re­ported that it could han­dle 8GB), so I upped it to 8GB of Kingston FuryX, and up­graded the video card to an EVGA GTX 1050 TI SC 4GB. Last week, I de­cided to take a chance and see if the mobo could han­dle 2x 8GB SIMMs, so or­dered me up some Kingston ValueRAM, in­stalled them yes­ter­day, and they’re fine.

I can't re­ally up­grade the CPU and RAM any fur­ther, and the CPU is prob­a­bly the weak point now, so I was think­ing about do­ing a sys­tem up­grade next year by find­ing some bland of­fice re­furb box with a nice CPU, and do­ing the same thing I had been do­ing. And lo and be­hold, your ar­ti­cle shows up with some great point­ers. Thanks! – Ron Rogers Jr. EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: Glad you en­joyed the ar­ti­cle. We’re plan­ning on re­vis­it­ing this idea later in the year with a cou­ple of ma­chines, to see what sort of magic we can weave on the tight­est of shoe­string bud­gets.

Rout­ing for You

In the July is­sue’s let­ters, you re­quested in­put as to de­sires for router re­views. I would ap­pre­ci­ate a com­par­i­son of router se­cu­rity sup­port pol­icy. That is, how long will ven­dors con­tinue to sup­port de­vices with firmware se­cu­rity up­dates? I’d like to see a stated pol­icy guar­an­tee.

I have a Linksys router that is a sub­ject of VPN­fil­ter mal­ware. It is a model still avail­able at re­tail. Linksys states it is end- of- life, and does not ap­pear to be plan­ning a firmware up­date.

I would also ap­pre­ci­ate a VPN­fil­ter ar­ti­cle that is more ex­plicit as to the stage1at­tack vec­tor. Af­ter a re­set to de­faults and a change of pass­word, is the de­vice safe, or is a firmware change manda­tory (mak­ing my Linksys de­vice ob­so­lete)? Also, if a router of­fers a set­tings backup/re­store, is it safe if de­fend­ing against VPN­fil­ter? – Jon Rol­ing EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: Hope­fully, this month’s deep dive into the tech­nol­ogy pow­er­ing Wi- Fi will sate your hunger a lit­tle, un­til our router roundup ap­pears. We’ll be tak­ing a look at the grow­ing prob­lem of router se­cu­rity in a fu­ture is­sue, as well.

Per­sonal Backup

Ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle on “Per­fect Back­ups,” pro­vid­ing info that’s very good to know and think about now and then. I’m shar­ing my method, sug­gested prod­uct (I am a long- time sat­is­fied user, noth­ing else), and ques­tion. I use a Win­dows 10 Home x64 Dell PC, with 1TB SSD, and two HDDs (2TB each; dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers, to en­sure fail­ures don’t hap­pen to­gether, hope­fully).

Typ­i­cal OS and pro­grams on C, user data on D, se­cond HDD F ( WD Black) as backup to C and D, and USB HDD (6TB) as re­mote backup (only con­nected when back­ing up, and stored else­where).

I use and rec­om­mend a backup pro­gram called Se­cond Copy. It’s low cost, and has worked for me since Win XP, through Win 7, and now Win 10. I’m now us­ing Se­cond Copy ver­sion 9. The au­thor is very re­spon­sive to bug fixes ( very few; none crit­i­cal). I’ve been do­ing this for over 10 years, have had no prob­lems, and very few re­cov­er­ies have been needed so far.

My method is to use Se­cond Copy to back up C and D data au­to­mat­i­cally to F on a sched­uled ba­sis, with con­trol over how, when, what, and where from/ to. I can man­u­ally run any pro­file as needed from the taskbar.

For any crit­i­cal work, I might sim­ply man­u­ally copy files to the F drive and/or the USB HDD.

I back up the OS im­age et al us­ing Win 7 Backup and Re­store, and the F drive to the USB HDD two to four times a year, de­pend­ing on the im­por­tance of data. I store the USB HDD off­site.

This ap­proach works for me. Do you see any po­ten­tial flaws I should con­sider chang­ing? Feel free to share my con­cept with mag­a­zine sub­scribers. – Doug Schafer EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR, ALAN DEX­TER, RE­SPONDS: The thing about any backup regime is that you need to trust what you do and ac­tu­ally use it, and given you’ve been do­ing this for 10 years, you’ve ob­vi­ously got a sys­tem that works and that you’re happy with. We wouldn’t change a thing for that rea­son alone.

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