In the August 2018 issue, your response to Mr. Monarrez on a Time Machine alternative caught my interest. I lost a version of a file because I modified it twice between backups. I don’t use File History because it only looks in certain folders, but I have a financial program called Quicken with a neat option that lets you add a date stamp to the file name every time it’s backed up.
The other programs you mentioned seemed to be backup-oriented. However, I’m looking for a utility that sits in the background and only backs up the files I select whenever they’re saved to disk (preferably with a date stamp). I know there are programs like this in the coding world (version control), but I haven’t found anything that satisfies my requirements for Windows.
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS: Don’t give up on File History. Go to the Windows Settings home screen, click “Update & Security,” then choose “Backup.” Under “Back up using File History,” click the “More options” link. “Back up these folders” does give you control over the locations that Windows monitors for changes. By default, the OS saves those files every hour, and keeps backups indefinitely, but you can force Windows to check for updates every 10 minutes.
Alternatively, there’s an open-source synchronization tool called FreeFileSync that maintains multiple versions of old files with added date stamps. Beyond the software’s backup capabilities, you can open its synchronization settings, change the “Deleted files” option to “Versioning,” and choose a naming convention. “Replace,” “Time stamp [File],” and “Time stamp [Folder]” all affect the utility’s behavior in ways that suit various organizational styles.
Building a Secure PC
Hi Doc! As the saying goes, I’m a long-time reader and first-time caller, hoping you can help with a question on addressing the Meltdown/ Spectre chip issues.
A few years back (alright, it was 2014), I took great pride in following one of your PC building guides. I ended up with an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard, Intel Core i7-4820K CPU, GeForce GTX 760 graphics card, Samsung 840 EVO SSD for my OS, and a Seagate 3TB hard drive for my personal files. I installed Windows 8.1 but claimed the free upgrade to Windows 10 when it became available.
I did some reading about the Meltdown/Spectre issues, and it looks like Intel published microcode to mitigate my CPU’s vulnerabilities. However, Asus hasn’t updated the Sabertooth X79’s BIOS to apply it. Given that the last firmware was released several years ago, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
I’m considering a motherboard and CPU upgrade (probably DDR4 memory as well). At this point, I might as well spring for an entirely new build, including fresh installations of Windows and Office. But that seems like a lot of faff. I was really hoping to just yank the board, processor, and RAM, replacing them with everything else intact. My wife uses the PC often, so I want the result to be transparent for her. Same drives, same programs, same look and feel, etc.
Can you offer any suggestions? I can’t be the only “mature” PC novice with an aging build facing security
concerns due to unsupported components. Thanks, and keep up the good work!
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
Don’t feel pressured to replace your platform if you’d rather not mess with its configuration, Adam. Microsoft offers a software patch for Windows 10 that injects microcode to stymie Spectre Variant 2 attacks. The patch should roll out automatically via Windows Update, but use the InSpectre tool ( www.grc.com/inspectre. htm) to make sure you’re protected. If the utility says you’re not, visit Microsoft’s Update Catalog ( www.catalog. update.microsoft.com) and install KB4100347.
Since older CPUs, like your Core i7-4820K, do incur a more significant performance hit post-patch compared to Intel’s newer processors, an upgrade may still be timely. As suspected, you’ll need a CPU, motherboard, and memory kit at the very least. But before you start dropping Core i9s or Threadrippers into an online shopping cart, remember that silicon with baked-in fixes for those security issues is due.
The Doc suggests securing your system as it sits, waiting a while longer, then taking the leap once hardware-based mitigations close the door on documented vulnerabilities.
Growing a RAID Array
Doc, I have a Plex server running in RAID 1 with three 4TB enterprise-class disks, giving me a total of 8TB for storage. I still have 2.5TB available but am envisioning a time when I’ll need more. I asked my computer guy, and he does not know the answer to this question: If I want to swap in 6TB hard drives, is there a way to do this without starting from scratch? The OS and programs are on a 500GB SSD. –Bruce S. Bevitz
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
It should be possible to swap in one drive at a time, rebuilding the mirrored set after each new disk is installed, until you can expand the pool. Or, if you have enough SATA ports, create an array with the 6TB drives, and copy your media over from the 4TB disks.
Adios, Legacy Support
Hello Doc, Over a year ago, I noticed that HP was removing support pages for older systems from its website. Drivers and specs disappeared. More recently, I had an issue tracking down information on a 2011era Lenovo IdeaPad Z560 model 0914. Just because a computer is seven years old, doesn’t mean it can’t still be used for word processing and email. Luckily, most drivers were installed by Windows 7. I did have to search Google for a Wi-Fi driver, which was still listed elsewhere on Lenovo’s site.
During my search for more updates, I found a beautiful page on Intel’s site that detects hardware devices and available drivers ( http://downloadcenter.intel. com). It provides details on your processor and chipset, how much RAM you have, hard drive information, and more. I looked to see if AMD has something similar. Its website has a link to a utility that is supposed to autodetect hardware, but it looks like that page is down, because it points to a support page for manually choosing what you need to download.
It’s a pity that tier-one manufacturers are removing support pages for older systems. –Leon Garfield
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
AMD’s autodetect tool is dissimilar from Intel’s in that it was only meant to look for desktop graphics hardware and Windows versions. If the utility determined a newer driver was available, it would help with the download. This functionality is no longer needed; you can check for updates through AMD’s Radeon Settings interface (right-click the desktop and select “AMD Radeon Settings,” or click the Radeon Settings icon in the system tray).
Upgrade or Replace?
Hey Doc. I’ve been on the fence about whether to upgrade or replace my PC. I have an Alienware Aurora R4. It has a Core i7-4820K overclocked to 4.1GHz, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD as the boot drive, a 2TB data drive, and a GeForce GTX 780.
I was thinking about replacing the graphics card with a GeForce GTX 1080, though I believe I’m limited to boards with one eightpin power connector, due to my PSU. Thanks to the cryptocurrency crash, prices on graphics cards are still coming down. My existing configuration still runs games at decent-looking quality settings (mid to high), but has a hard time utilizing my 144Hz monitor at more demanding detail presets.
One perk of a new system would be that I’d build it, rather than buying a preconfigured PC. What do you recommend? – Jack Morphy
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
Intel’s Core i7-4820K is more than five years old, but its Ivy Bridge-E architecture, four Hyper-Threaded cores, and 10MB of L3 cache are still capable of high-end gaming. Most of your other specs seem ample as well. However, that GeForce GTX 780 is a bottleneck, especially if you’re trying to play fast-paced shooters at 2560x1440 on a 144Hz display. Upgrading to a GeForce GTX 1080 (or even an RTX 2070—both require a single eight-pin power connector) would have a huge impact on frame rates without the cost of a completely new PC. And when you do finally build an updated system, simply move the graphics card over to its new home.
I have a Dell Inspiron 15-5559 laptop with Windows 10 Pro. It plays host to 8GB of memory, a 256GB SSD, and built-in graphics (from Intel, I believe). Is there any way to improve video performance? I’ve read that it’s possible to build or buy an external contraption…. – Stu Parker
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
According to Dell’s spec sheet, the Inspiron 15-5559 was available with Intel sixth-gen Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs. That means it included HD Graphics 510 (with 12 execution units) or HD Graphics 520 (with 24). Either way, performance was anemic at best. Dell also lists an AMD Radeon R5 M335 discrete option, but it wouldn’t have been much faster.
Higher-end graphics wasn’t in the cards for Dell’s Inspiron 15-5559. Pictures from the service manual show AMD’s GPU soldered to the mainboard. You can’t pull it out and drop in something bettersuited to gaming. Moreover, a lack of high-speed I/O means there’s no way to connect an external graphics enclosure (the contraption you referred to). Most turnkey products use Thunderbolt 3, while some homegrown solutions hook up via an ExpressCard slot. The Inspiron has neither; its fastest interface is USB 3.0.
FreeFileSync supports file versioning, enabling you to roll back .
The GeForce RTX 2070 offers fast frame rates and modern features, starting at $ 500.