LC’s Computer Maintenance Tips
(A Message for Non-Geeks)
Part 1: Hardware

This is a follow up to my last newsletter A Funeral for MY CPU (A Tale for Geeks). Please read that first if you have not already. That one is meant to be funny. This one is not. It is also a companion piece to my article Disclosure! It is best to read all three so you know what is going on.

This is a very long newsletter. Here are some links to help you quickly navigate to the section you need.

PART 1: Hardware
Computer Battery
Beep Codes and Blue Screen
Hard Drives and Connectors
PART 2: Software, Settings, and Tools
System Restore
Backing Up Everything, External Hard Drives

As a thank you gift to the person who gave me the computers, I decided to share with him my knowledge in computer maintenance, and especially after the situation I spoke about in Disclosure! After speaking with other people, I realized that many would like to know more about computers and certainly everyone would like to be able to avoid getting ripped off by computer technicians. I wonder how many gullible people have been charged hundreds of dollars to have a “virus” removed from their computer, when the problem was simply a dead battery.

As I mentioned in Disclosure, I am sitting here typing this on my old faithful computer which is running perfectly fine now that I have changed the battery.

I want to make it clear that the person who gave me his computers is by no means computer-ignorant. He is a very intelligent person, and I am sure there are aspects of computers in which he knows more than I do. However, my specialty is keeping elderly computers running. In fact, not only do they run, they perform really quite well. And I realize most people replace old computers rather than tinker with them, but I know this man has young children who will undoubtedly all get their own computers at some point, and they will probably not be new ones, so even in that respect, it is good to know how to keep an older computer running. And furthermore, from what I hear about other people’s computers, I have FAR less problems with mine. A little know-how goes a long way.

OK—about the battery. I have never had a computer battery go dead. I still have my old old computer that I used when I wrote for the Vindicator. My neighbors Marion and Smitty had gotten it as a discard from a business and they programmed it for me. It is probably at least 25 years old. Yes, it still runs, though it is limited in functions because it only has 256 MB of RAM. But it’s there in a pinch. Anyways, if you are paying attention, you will have noticed that the earth’s magnetics are getting screwy, due to the damage being done through chemtrails and HAARP. I cannot run a regular flashlight in my house any more. The battery goes dead in a few minutes. I use those high-powered rechargeable white lights that you can get a Lowe’s for ten bucks. My camera batteries go dead quickly, too. And light bulbs burn out in half the time they used to. Keep that in mind concerning computer batteries, and try changing them before you go to a technician. Incidentally, if you’re clock starts doing goofy things, your battery maybe going dead.

Changing the battery in a computer takes about a minute.

Caution: Always unplug the power cord before opening up your computer.
Ground yourself by touching a metal part of the computer.
Static electricity can damage computer components.

The battery is often located near the RAM sticks.
There is a little metal tab that you just push with a screwdriver or other tool, and the battery should pop right out. Seat the new one snugly. If your battery had gone completely dead, you may have to press F! during boot-up to continue. It may run a ChckDsk if files need to be restored. After that, it should re-boot normally.




This is the old battery I removed from my computer. They are about the size of a nickel and very flat and thin, and reflective like a mirror as you can see. The second image is on the Dell computer just given to me. The battery is right below the RAM stick slots. The battery from another view in the third image.

RAM, or Random Access Memory loads data from your hard drive to make it quickly accessible. Unlike your hard drive which stores all your programs and data in a specific place like a CD, RAM is short-term memory, for what you are working on. The sticks empty when you log off. The stick itself has no data on it when your computer is not running. They fit into the slots pictured above and are very easy to change. They have a fitted groove, so you cannot put them in wrong. Press down firmly, and the little end tabs will pop into place. Push them until they’re snug and vertical. In the image above, the two sticks are side-by-side and the second two, to the left of the battery, are empty. Usually, if you only have two sticks, you put them in matching color tabs (here, both white tabs). But there was a problem with one of the slots, so I moved to a different slot.

RAM sticks

RAM sticks

Here, I’m pointing to the stick with in the white-tabbed slot. There is a stick in the black-tabbed slot next to it, and the next two slots are empty. There is a better view in the second image.Do you see the difference between the white tab that is holding the stick and the empty one? The tab needs to be snugly holding the stick in place. In this computer, they are to the left of the CD/DVD drive. You can see it plugged into in the second image.

Your motherboard, (the circuit board which contains all these components), determines the maximum amount of RAM your system can handle. Both this computer and my regular computer hold 2GB, in the form of two 1GB sticks. You want as much RAM as your system can use. If you go to you can download a scanner that will tell you how much RAM you can use, and give you the type of stick you need. You can buy theirs or another brand as long as it’s the right type.

Here is a great explanation of RAM at

Ok, so since we’re on the subject of RAM sticks, let’s talk about “Beep Codes” because a defective RAM stick can prevent your computer from booting up.

Beep Codes are a message from the motherboard telling you there is a problem and giving you a code to tell you what the problem is. This happens before the OS (like Windows) kicks in. Your computer will do nothing but beep. When I first brought the computer home that was given to me, I got a 4-Beep Code:

Beep Beep Beep Beep (pause) Beep Beep Beep Beep (pause). I Googled Dell Boot-up Beep Codes and got a page listing Beep patterns and what they mean. Defective RAM stick are a very common cause of Beep Codes, though they can be for many other issues. I had noticed earlier that the one stick was not seated properly, so I pulled that one, and it booted up right away. A couple days later, after I had reconfigured everything, I went back in and put the stick into another slot, and it worked. Beep codes can be scary because your computer will do nothing but beep and it seems serious, but it usually isn’t.

Also, for modern computers, 2GB is certainly a small amount of memory. I have very little software programs installed, however. Most of what I do on my computer involves my website, and since I do everything from scratch, I need few tools. But I often keep a number of windows open as I work. Right now, I have two Word pages, Firefox, my Canon ZoomBrowser, and Microsoft Office Picture Manager open. Sometimes if you overload the RAM, you will begin a memory dump and that’s not good. If I find that everything is slowing down, I shut down my programs and re-boot. I also re-boot if I am planning to do something totally different, to clear out everything I just did. Remember, RAM is temporary memory for what you are currently working on.

And while we’re here, let’s talk about Blue Screen. Those are a little more frustrating because if you’re in the middle of a project, all your data will be lost if it wasn’t saved. I have my Word program set to save every minute, but Notepad, which is the program on which I write code, doesn’t auto-save at all. A Blue Screen will shut down everything, except for a blue screen that usually has a code. Write that down, then Google it. I have had Blue Screens for a defective RAM stick and for a keyboard that was going bad. With Blue Screens, you can re-boot, and sometimes go for days before it happens again, but eventually it will, so it’s best to fix the problem quickly.

And while we’re talking about hardware, here’s bit more.

When my computer wasn’t running, my first thought was to put my hard drive into the computer that was given to me. My regular computer’s hard drive is from the old interface system called IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) which uses the space consuming SCSI (Small Computer System Interface, pronounced “Skuzzy”) connectors. More modern computers use SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) interface, which is much more compact and allows for computer cases that are much smaller.

Below is the inside of my present computer, showing the SCSI connectors. They look kinda like big plastic seatbelts. This computer, by the way, lives in a very cool old gaming computer case. The second image is of my old, old computer, showing the hard drive connection (bottom) and the floppy disk connection (right above it). In the last image, you can see how much more compact the SATA interface is. The lower right corner is the hard drive and above it is the CD/DVD drive.




Below is a typical IDE hard drive, showing the 40-pins for the SCSI connector. The last image shows the SATA connectors in the Dell computer. There are adaptors available to convert IDE to SATA or SATA to IDE connections. According to the “expert” technician I talked about in Disclosure! hard drives can only function on the exact motherboard on which they were programmed, but that is not true. However it is true that not all hard drives are compatible with all motherboards.

SATA Hard Drive

 IDE Hard Drive

IDE Hard Drive

And a further note on hard drives and RAM: Your hard drive determines how much space you have available to install programs. My regular computer’s hard drive is only 112GB, miniscule by today’s standards, but since I don’t have many programs installed, I still have about 80% empty hard drive space. The Dell computer that was given to me has a much larger hard drive capacity—298GB, and after I removed the former owner’s programs and data, I went from 74% empty space to 82%. The person who built the computer I am using now, (not the Dell) told me that once you fill up 60% of your hard drive, that’s about the limit for it to function efficiently. However, both computers only have max 2GB RAM, so in that respect, my old computer is more efficient. It doesn’t matter how much hard drive space you have, it is the motherboard that determines the RAM capabilities and without sufficient RAM, you will always have performance issues You can always update your motherboard if keeping your hard drive is important. Or you can buy another compatible computer and use your old hard drive as a secondary one (called a slave).

Caution: Risk Involved

The last thing about hardware I will discuss concerns cleaning. The way I do it is extremely controversial. Some technicians say you should never do this and others say it is OK with precautions. The fact is, cleaning the inside of your computer is NOT an option. Dust can actually debilitate it to the point of non-function. There are many ways to clean the inside of your computer. Do research and choose the method you feel comfortable with.

Caution: Always unplug the power cord before opening up your computer.
Ground yourself by touching a metal part of the computer.
Static electricity can damage computer components.

Since I have all wood floors, no carpeting, and I keep my animals out of my office where my computers live, I personally feel safe with this method because I have very low static electricity in my house. I have done this for 13 years and never done damage, but that doesn’t mean this method is right for you. I buy cheap little craft brushes at Wal-Mart or a dollar store, because they get ruined after a couple uses. Then I just gently brush away the embedded dust on the motherboard and especially in the fan for the CPU (Central Processing Unit), which absolutely NEEDS to be clean and working properly. On the Dell, the CPU is right by the RAM sticks. Gently clean the circuit board itself and all other cards and components.

Cleaning Cards

Cleaning Circuits

Cleaning CPU

And this ends the section on Hardware. Please go to the next page for Part 2: Software, Settings and Tools.

All material on this site copyright © 2016 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.