Having trouble installing Windows 7 from USB? Disable USB 3.0.

I had trouble installing Windows 7 from USB on an Asrock Q1900M motherboard. It was the most difficult time I’ve had in years. Creating a bootable USB stick from my Win7 DVD went flawlessly, and the Asrock booted off it just fine by hitting F11 to pull up the boot menu, but then Windows prompted me for a driver, and when I navigated to the drivers directory that Asrock provided, none of the drivers would load. The mouse didn’t work either, and the only reason the keyboard worked was because I still use PS/2 keyboards.

The solution was to go into the UEFI, dive into the USB configuration, and disable USB 3.0. After I did that, Windows could see the USB drive and other USB devices just fine. This issue is likely to get more common as time goes on.

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How to boot a Toshiba Satellite from USB

Recently I needed to boot a Toshiba Satellite from USB (specifically an L505D-S5983). It didn’t automatically boot from a USB thumb drive when I plugged it in. That is often the case with name-brand PCs I’ve seen. You either have to pull up the boot menu or change the boot settings.

The easiest way to boot off USB

The easiest way to get it to boot from USB is to plug it in with the power off. Next, power it on and hit F12 until the boot menu comes up. In theory you only have to hit F12 once, but your timing has to be right. My practice is always to just hit F12 as many times as I can until it registers. When the boot menu comes up, USB will be one of the options–probably one of many options. Pick that option, and you’re off to the races.

When that doesn’t work

If the USB option doesn’t come up, try the drive in a different port. Then hit Ctrl-Alt-Del to reboot the system and hit F12 again. This time the option should be there. On some systems, a USB device has to actually be present before it will give you the option to choose booting off USB.

I don’t know for a fact that all Toshiba Satellite laptops use the F12 key to bring up the boot menu. But F12 is a safe starting point. If F12 doesn’t work, watch the screen. Odds are just before Windows starts loading, you’ll see something at the bottom of the screen that says what key to press to bring up a boot menu. That’s the key you want.

Of course it would be nice if all manufacturers would settle on a particular key to bring up the menu. I know better than to expect it to ever happen. It’s amazing we have as many standards as we do.

But now you know how to boot a Toshiba Satellite from USB. Good luck!

Keeping your NAS off Google

I read in a couple of places the last few days about search engines picking up data stored on poorly configured consumer routers acting as a NAS. This isn’t a case of being evil; rather it’s a case of people accidentally posting stuff in public where search engines will find it. Finding difficult-to-find data is what search engines do for a living, so I don’t fault any of the search engine companies for this. Keeping your NAS off Google is probably something you want. Here’s how to do it.

The solution is to know what you’re doing when you need to access your data both at home and on the road. I apologize for the snark, but there are consumer-friendly ways to do it, like using a cloud provider.

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Bringing back old HDTVs

Over Thanksgiving weekend I picked up a discarded 23-inch LCD HDTV, a Samsung LN-S2341W. The television’s biggest problem, it turned out, was that it didn’t have an ATSC tuner so it couldn’t pick up over the air broadcasts after analog broadcasts came to an end in 2009. Read more

USB malware: What you need to know

Tomorrow morning on Fox 2: How this USB drive could be worse than the worst malware you’ve ever imagined!

Yes, when a security vulnerability hits TV news, it’s a big deal. It’s probably also sensationalized. And it’s not time to panic yet. Read more

Cleaning USB drives with Linux

A longtime reader sent me a really good question today. If I had a USB flash drive and I didn’t know where it’s been or what it’s done, how would I clean it to make it safe to use? He said using Linux was fair game, so that made the answer a lot easier.

Note that as of 2015, a knowledgeable attacker can make a USB drive that will survive this cleaning method, so I only recommend this 90% of the time, and the problem is, it’s impossible to know which 90%.

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What to do with an old laptop hard drive

So you replace the hard drive in your laptop with a bigger model, or better yet, an SSD. What do you do with the old drive if it still works?

It’s good to keep the drive for storing backups or for extra storage when you’re working on storage-heavy projects. It’s a lot more convenient for both if you put the old drive in a USB enclosure. Read more

Disable USB mass storage to solve the USB drive-in-the-parking-lot problem

If you’re not concerned yet about the danger of people finding random USB devices in parking lots and plugging them into work PCs, eventually you will be. The answer to the problem is to disable USB mass storage on business PCs. Of course, then there’s the question of how you connect hard drives for legitimate company use.
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How to make HP and Compaq computers boot off USB

Booting off USB is easy. You go into the BIOS, find the option that says USB boot, enable it, and then go into the boot order, select USB, and move it to the top. Well, not if you have an HP or a Compaq, you don’t. How do you make HP and Compaq computers boot off USB?

I’ll tell you.

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Updating Windows without a network connection

Problem: I have to get three Windows servers patched up to date tomorrow. I found this out about 3 this afternoon.

Second problem: No network connection to the outside world, under any circumstances.

Third problem: Any rewritable media used on said servers must be destroyed after use.

Impossible? Believe it or not, no.Normally we keep a copy of Hfnetchk Pro in this environment for pushing out patches (copied from an Hfnetchk Pro server that does have a connection to the outside world), but someone saw fit to blow that server away. Ahem. Someone can expect a thank-you letter from me. And perhaps a thank-you present from my dog.

As for why servers with no connection to the outside world need patches to protect them from the outside world, well, I don’t make the rules.

So the answer in this case is to get my grubby mitts on ctupdate, a tool written by the wonderful German IT magazine c’t (their few English-translated articles are so brilliant, I wonder sometimes if I should learn German just so I can read the magazine).

Ctupdate will go download your updates, make an ISO image for you to burn to CD or DVD, and the result includes a nice menu so brain-dead easy that even a CIO could use it. (Oh, did I say that out loud?)

The catch? At present, a full collection of Windows XP or 2003 updates is nearly 800 MB in size, so make sure you have a fast network connection and either a DVD burner or a big USB disk if you plan to use it.

With a ctupdate-created DVD in hand, I can walk up to those isolated servers, pop in the disc, click a couple of buttons, have a cup or two of coffee, and then move on to the next one. Or better yet, copy the DVD to a network share, run the executable, click those buttons, have some coffee, and get on with the day. Problem solved.

This works for some slightly less convoluted situations too. If you expect to be asked to fix Windows PCs for a relative or twelve while you’re on Christmas vacation, prepare by downloading ctupdate, downloading all the updates, and either burning them to DVD or copying them over to a USB device. It works with Windows 2000, XP, and 2003 updates.