Curing random errors when installing Office 2013

I got lots of random errors installing Office 2013 when I went to do it, including error code 112-4 and error code 0-4, and some other install errors mostly ending in 4 that aren’t documented on Microsoft’s web site. Although previously undocumented, these errors are fixable. Read more

Using the OSI model to troubleshoot video

I was at church on Sunday and the video projection wasn’t working. After a few minutes of watching everyone struggle, I volunteered to take a look, and working together, we were able to get the video working again using a simple, repeatable methodology: Using the OSI model to troubleshoot video.

I’m going to share that methodology now.

Read more

Don’t forget the .NET Framework when troubleshooting

I’ve been troubleshooting a program that’s written in a combination of Java and .NET (yes, now I’ve seen everything), and the program misbehaved. It misbehaved a lot, and the vendor was confused too. About four hours in, one of us had the idea to uninstall the .NET Framework 4.0 and install the newest .NET Framework 4.5.1. The 4.5.1 framework is designed to be backwards compatible with multiple predecessors.

It turned out to be the miracle cure that had eluded us.

Read more

How I fixed an infuriating printer problem

Windows 7 and my HP Laserjet 4100 weren’t getting along. And I was pretty livid about it. I paid $125 for my Windows 7 upgrade, and for that money, I got to mess around for 4 days trying to get better-than-1997 functionality out of what’s supposed to be the latest and greatest. I was about ready to trade it even up for a copy of Windows ME and Microsoft Bob. Because at least then I’d be able to print.

I finally fixed the problem, but finding the solution wasn’t easy. So I’ll present the symptoms and the ultimate solution here.

Read more

Fixing my b0rken WordPress installation

A little over a week ago, WordPress started acting weird. First, it just got dog slow. Then my site stats page started freezing until I scrolled down and then back up again. Then I started seeing a WordPress.com logon screen on my site stats page. I had to look that account up. Thank goodness for Gmail. Then my Akismet spam filter quit working. Then my stats page stopped working entirely.

I lived with it for a couple of days. I figured maybe WordPress and Akismet had changed something. Or maybe my Linux distribution had. And maybe some update messed things up, and some other update would come along and fix it. No such luck. Read more

Completely bizarre computer problems? Check your system date

PC Magazine’s editor in chief wrote a long column late last week talking about his weird computer problems and a Quixotic quest to fix them. Among other things, his antivirus wasn’t working, and Windows wanted to be activated and wouldn’t let him. He thought he had a virus, but all his scans came up clean.

It turned out his computer thought it was 2013. The date and time were right, but the computer was trying to live three years in the future. Read more

Operating System Not Found, Missing Operating System, and friends

So the PC that stored my resume got kicked (as in the foot of a passer-by hitting it) and died, and the backup that I thought I had… Well, it wasn’t where I thought it was.

Time for some amateur home data recovery. Here’s how I brought it back.This machine ran Windows 2000. The first trick to try on any machine running any flavor of Windows is to boot from a DOS boot disk containing FDISK.EXE and issue the command FDISK /MBR. This replaces the master boot record. A corrupt MBR is the most common malady that causes these dreaded error messages, and this is the easiest fix for it.

That didn’t work for me.

The second trick is to use MBRWork. Have it back up the first sector, then have it delete the boot record. Then it gives you an option to recover partitions. Run that, then run the option that installs the standard MBR code. I can’t tell you how many times this tool has made me look like I can walk on water.

No dice this time either.

Next I tried grabbing the Windows 2000 CD and doing a recovery install. This has brought systems back to life for me too. Not this time. As happens all too often, it couldn’t find the Windows 2000, so it couldn’t repair it.

The drive seemed to work, yet it couldn’t boot or anything. I could have and probably should have put it in another PC to make sure it was readable. But I didn’t have a suitable donor handy. Had there been such a system, I would have put the drive in, checked to see if it was readable, and probably would have run CHKDSK against it.

Lacking a suitable donor, instead I located an unused hard drive and put it in the system. I booted off the drive just to make sure it wasn’t a hardware problem. It wasn’t–an old copy of Windows 98 booted and dutifully spent 20 minutes installing device drivers for the new motherboard hardware. So I powered down, installed both drives, and broke out a copy of Ghost.

Ghost, as I have said before, doesn’t exactly copy data–what it does is better described as reinterpreting the data. This allows you to use Ghost to lay down an image on dissimilar hard drives. It also makes Ghost a fabulous data recovery tool. Ghost complained that the NTFS log needed to be flushed. Well, that requires booting into Windows (and I think that’s all that’s necessary), but I couldn’t do that. It offered to try the copy anyway, so I chose that. So it cranked for about 15 minutes. I exited Ghost, powered down, and disconnected the bad drive. I powered back up, and it booted. Fabulous.

Now I can use Ghost to copy the now-good drive back over to the drive that was bad in the first place. I’ll do that, but sending out the resume takes much higher priority.

Fixing a computer that shows the wrong partition size after resizing

So, I’ve got these Windows 2000 boxes that didn’t have enough space, so I resized some partitions. No error messages, no problems. I reboot, and the drives still show their old size, even though in Disk Administrator they show the right size.

What gives? Microsoft acknowledges this issue in Windows XP, but hasn’t released a fix yet. But these aren’t XP, they’re 2000.

I’ve got a crazy solution.

If you have a copy of Ghost by Symantec, take a Ghost image of the partition that’s sized wrong. Then, immediately after creating the image, write the image back to the partition you just Ghosted.

Makes no sense, right? Well, but Ghost doesn’t do a bit-by-bit copy. It makes sure it gets good copies of your files, but it saves an interpretation of the partition, rather than the partition itself. So when it writes it back, minor errors that were there before get wiped out.

Now, why there can’t be a disk utility that does this same thing to a partition without the imaging runaround, I don’t know.

I just know I’ve brought a lot of computers with weird disk problems back to life over the years by making Ghost images of them and then writing the image back. This one today is just the latest in that long line.

Advice on troubleshooting and buying printers

I gave some out-of-character advice this week when someone came calling looking for help troubleshooting an inkjet printer.

Essentially, I told him that unless the problem turned out to be a problem with his cabling (it was–his USB hub had gone bad), he’d be best off just buying a new printer.

Read more

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux