Maximum PC - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - ↘ sub­mit your ques­tions to: doc­[email protected]­i­

File Ver­sion­ing

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.

–Derek Hamil­ton

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!

–Adam Col­ley


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 (­tre. htm) to make sure you’re pro­tected. If the util­ity says you’re not, visit Mi­crosoft’s Up­date Cat­a­log (­a­log. up­date.mi­ 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


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://down­load­cen­­tel. 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


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


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.

Lap­top Graph­ics

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


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.

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