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Laptop PCs: Choosing, Using, Upgrading, Fixing Problems and Repairing Laptop/Notebook Computers - Page 3


LAPTOP/NOTEBOOK PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Click here! to go to the laptop/notebook problems dealt with on this site.


Intel's Centrino laptop/notebook package

The Centrino is not a specific processor made by Intel, as many people think it is, it's a bundle of mobile (notebook PC) chipsets for video, sound, wireless networking that has advanced from using the Pentium M mobile processor (the mobile notebook computer versions of Pentium 4 processors), to using Intel Core 2 Duo mobile processors.

Intel Centrino Duo mobile technology -

"With the breakthrough mobile capabilities and energy-efficiency of Intel Centrino Duo mobile technology, now available with the 64-bit capable Intel Core2 Duo processor, you can do more of the things you love where and when you want to do them. Plus, you'll experience enhanced wireless connections increasing your freedom to connect around the globe.+" -

http://www.intel.com/personal/our-technology/centrinoduo/index.htm

Centrino 2 laptop computers are now available.

Intel Centrino 2 Processor Technology -

http://www.intel.com/products/centrino/index.htm

Click here! to go directly to the information on wireless networking on this website. Use your browser's Back button to return here.

802.11g isn't perfect. Interference in the home can sharply degrade performance. Hence the move to the 802.11n wireless standard, which hasn't been approved as a standard yet, but is supposed to address the interference problems, provide backward compatibility with 802.11g, and become the new, "perfect" standard. Only pre-N equipment was available in 2006 and early 2007. The standard is expected to be ratified some time in 2007.

Click here! to go to information on 802.11n on this website.


Beware of phoney laptop hotspots

For those of you who don't know, a hotspot is a place that allows a user equipped with a laptop computer that is itself equipped with a wireless network adapter to log on to the Internet, either as a free or as a paid-for service.

It can be difficult to determine if you have logged on to to genuine hotspot or not. All a con artist has to do is give the wireless connection installed on a laptop a plausible name or SSID (Service Set Identifier), and set it to be connected to on an Ad Hoc basis that connects computers equipped with wireless adapters directly to each other instead of via a wireless access point (a wireless switch). Then, when someone comes along to the bar or pub, etc., who is under the impression that it offers a hotspot to its customers, that person's wireless-equipped laptop will identify all of the open networks in the area. If the person decides to network with the con artist's computer instead of make use of the genuine hotspot, he or she won't be connected to the web. If the genuine hotspot requires users to enter a credit-card number before it allows them to use it, the con artist can create a phoney web page that allows those details to be stolen. If the unsuspecting person is able to make use of websites, such as the sites of banks, etc., they have been cached on the con artist's laptop computer. Any logon or account details that the person enters will also be made known to the thief.

Anyone who makes use of a hotspot is best advised to make use of them to access public websites only, but if you have to access a private account of any kind, you should make sure that the site address starts with https:// instead of just the http:// and that the secure yellow padlock icon appears on the bottom bar of the browser that means that the connection to the site is securely encrypted. You should also make sure that your wireless network settings are set so that you have to connect manually instead of automatically to wireless networks or hotspots.

To disable the ability of Windows XP to connect automatically to any available network or hotspot, double-click the wireless network's icon in the System Tray (Notification Area) in the bottom left corner of the screen. In the window that presents itself, click Change the order of preferred networks, and then click the Advanced button that appears under the Wireless Networks tab. Enable the Access point only option and disable the the Automatically connect option, and click on Close.

How to protect yourself at wireless hot spots -

"They can be an invitation to disaster, says Preston Gralla, who offers a surefire plan to avoid security breaches." -

http://www.computerworld.com/action/...

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Click here! to go directly to information on this website on wireless networks, and visit the Networking Problems pages on this website to find out which problems have been covered.


Travelling (US: traveling) with laptops and security measures

Unfortunately, because the housing of laptop/notebook computers and other electronic devices, such as PDAs and GPS devices, can be used to contain high-explosive bombs, they come under special scrutiny when their owners are passing through the security screening at ports and airports. Being expensive, such devices are the favourite targets of thieves. Fortunately, there is plenty of free information on the web that can help ease your way through security screening and help you thwart thieves.

It is safe to put a laptop PC through the hand baggage x-ray scanner, but you shouldn't put it through the higher powered checked baggage scanner. You should make sure that the battery has enough charge to power up, because the security officials can ask you to turn the computer on to make sure that it is working and hasn't been emptied and filled with explosive.

The following article provides travelling tips and advice on how to thwart thieves.

Travelling With Laptops In The Post-9/11 World -

http://www.informationweek.com/...

How Not to Pack a Laptop - http://tech.yahoo.com/gd/how-not-to-pack-a-laptop/...

10 Tips To Secure Your Laptop -

"Whether you're home or on the road, these security steps will help protect you and your computer from wireless scoundrels." -

http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml...

What do I have to know in order to use my notebook computer in the US and Europe?

Question

I will have to use my laptop computer when I travel to the US and Europe from the UK. Are there any important considerations that I should know about in order to be able to do that?

Answer

You shouldn't have a problem charging the laptop in the US or Europe, because the power supplies on most laptops can accept 100-240V at 50Hz or 60Hz. However, make sure by checking the label. However, you will need an adapter in order to be able to plug it into the mains. Someone using an American laptop in the UK would have to use an adapter that allows it to be connected to the UK mains system. You can also buy surge protectors for additional safety. Read the information on these two pages:

LAPTOP USE ABROAD - http://www.travelproducts.com/store/laptops.htm

ELECTRICAL MATTERS - http://www.travelproducts.com/store/electric.htm

It has become more difficult to take a laptop through airport security. You will probably have to switch it on to prove that it is a working computer, not a disguised bomb.

You can use a laptop on a plane, but you should deactivate the wireless network adapter, because you don't want to log on to other laptops wirelessly and you don't want other laptops logging on to yours. You can do that via Network Connections in Windows XP by right-clicking on the adapter.

Note that the computer's warranty might not allow it to be serviced outside the UK, so check with its manufacturer before you go abroad. You should also have sufficient travel insurance to cover the value of the computer in case it is stolen, lost, or damaged.

For more information on laptop security, of which there is plenty on the web, you can make use of a search engine. Entering a search query such as laptop security brings up many useful links.


Cooling - Overheating: Laptops are prone to overheat

You can read the following Q&A on this website and then use your browser's Back button to return to this point on this page: My laptop/notebook PC keeps freezing and crashing I'm certain because of overheating because it gets very hot. Is there an easy way of fixing this?

The image below shows a gaming laptop with its bottom cover removed, showing the two copper heatsink and fan units - one covering the processor and the other covering the graphics card - that keep it cool. Removing the cooling unit is usually just a matter of unscrewing a few screws. It will be cabled, but you should be able to lift it out of the case enough to be able to give it a good cleaning.

Internal view of a gaming laptop  with its bottom cover removed showing  its two  copper heatsink and fan units

Because laptop notebook computers have powerful, miniaturised components that, at their best, can offer almost the same performance as desktop processors, the best methods of keeping them cool also have to be miniaturised and therefore aren't as effective as the best full-scale methods employed in desktop computers.

The components used in laptop computers aren't as highly standardised as they are in desktop computers, for which there is a high degree of technological uniformity. Different laptops/notebooks can employ different technologies, such as different internal architectures and different power and cooling systems.

When a laptop/notebook gets too hot, the causes are almost always one or more of the following: environmental factors, an accumulation of dust and dirt blocking the airflow inside the case and a dead or dying fan.

Most laptops have heat-sensing circuits that can shut the computer down when the internal temperature reaches a dangerously high level. Data might be lost in the process, but the hardware will probably survive. If the overheating laptop doesn't shut down automatically, data errors or lockups will probably start occurring. Again, data will probably be lost. The computer itself might be saved from component failure by quickly executing a manual shutdown. In a worst-case scenario, or after repeated overheating episodes of a lesser degree, an overheating laptop can be rendered useless and irrecoverable.

Every time a laptop computer suffers from overheating, the components will be weakened, and an accumulation of overheating events can eventually result in complete failure. Therefore, it's wise to make sure that overheating never takes place.

To avoid overheating, don't leave or use a laptop in strong sunlight for long periods, don't leave it in a closed car on a hot day, and don't place it on or use it near heat sources such as radiators, hot-air vents, etc.

Read the laptop computer's user manual, which should provide tips on how to keep it clean and troubleshoot problems, and visit the manufacturer's website for technical information, software utilities, and updates.

If a laptop computer is under warranty, opening its case usually renders the warranty void, so whatever you do has to be done without opening the case. Anyhow, it's not a good idea to open the case because the highly integrated nature of the components makes them inaccessible, and many of the components, such as the RAM modules, can be killed by static electricity discharges that are transferred to them from the user's body. However, it's always a good idea to open the battery compartment and remove the battery before cleaning a laptop computer.

You can test if a cooling fan is dead or dying by placing your hand over the fan's outlet at the back or the bottom of the case. If there is little or no air being expelled, you have to install a new fan yourself, or have a professional technician install it. It is not usually a difficult operation with the latest laptops, but you must obtain the correct fan unit.

With some laptops it's possible to clean or replace the processor's fan by unscrewing a cover on the computer's underside that is over the fan's inlet. Unfortunately, other laptops require a complete disassembly in order to get at the fan. If that is the case you should at least be able to clean the fan by making use of a can of compressed air.

It's amazing how quickly dust can build up in desktop and laptop/notebook computers. With desktop computers, dust can accumulate in the processor's fan unit and within the case, including over the motherboard. Spiders can spin webs inside desktop computers that can cause electrical short-circuiting. With laptops, the dust builds up in the fan unit and on the keyboard, but there isn't enough free space in a laptop for spiders to spin their webs. Dirt can accumulated around any of the inlets.

Most laptops/notebooks that use one or more fans to draw air through the case for cooling usually have one or more air intakes through which cool air enters the system and is then expelled through one or more outlets.

A heat exchanger (heatsink) radiates excess thermal energy from the processor or the system as a whole into the incoming cool air. The kind of fans used are miniaturised versions of the same type of fan units used with a heatsink in most desktop computers. However, some laptop/notebook systems are cooled by natural convection. They have case openings and an internal heat exchanger, but don't make use of a fan. Other units, such as handheld computers and some smaller laptop computers don't even have case openings for airflow. The case itself is used as a heat exchanger. Such computers tend to be low-power units and don't generate much heat, so overheating isn't usually a problem with them. Turning such a unit off for a while, or moving it to a cooler spot is usually all that's necessary to remedy any overheating.

How to remove accumulated dust and clean a laptop/notebook computer

Removing the fan(s) from most recent laptops in order to clean it/them is a simple matter which is usually outlined and illustrated in the model's service manual that most major laptop manufacturers provide as a download from their websites.

To remove accumulated dust in an air-cooled laptop computer, all you have to do is use cotton buds to loosen the dust and a can of compressed air (available from most computer shops) to send blasts of it into the the air intake(s) and outlet(s). You can also use the compressed air on the keyboard to blow out accumulated dirt. I use cotton buds to remove any grime or dirt from around the outlets and drive bays. With some laptops, the keys can be removed so that you can clean underneath them. Just make sure that you put a particular key back where it came from or you'll get the wrong character coming up on the screen when you press the key.

A relatively cheap can of compressed air costing a few pounds or dollars can last for several cleanings. It produces directionally controllable, intense bursts of dry, clean air, and usually comes with a long plastic nozzle that's used for cleaning dust out of crevices and other areas that are difficult to reach. There should be instructions on how to use it in the packaging, or on the can itself.

Take care when aiming compressed air at the laptop's fan(s). A strong blast can over-rev a fan sufficiently to cause damage to its motor or bearings. To prevent such damage, keep the fan from spinning as you clean it by, for example, inserting a clean cotton bud between the fan's blades to secure it.

Quite a bit of dust can be expelled with the first few blasts of air. Note that with some makes of can it's possible for a super-cooled liquid to be expelled if you invert the can, which won't do either the laptop or anything else the liquid may come into contact with any good, so make sure that you follow all the instructions that come with the particular product you use.

The TFT LCD screens of laptops are far less robust than the glass-covered screens of standard CRT monitors, so care should be taken when cleaning them. The laptop's user manual should provide tips on how best to keep the screen clean.

A laptop/notebook computer should never be used if one or more of its fans are dead, because permanent damage may be the result. Replacement fans can be purchased from some suppliers. If a laptop is out of warranty, you can open the case, remove the dead fan, and install the replacement yourself. But if the laptop is still under warranty, or if you're not confident of your abilities, it's best to get a qualified technician to do the job.

A free temperature, fan-speed, and voltage-monitoring utility

SpeedFan is a free thermal monitoring utility that can monitor the temperatures, fan speeds, and voltages of many computer systems. Not all of SpeedFan's features work on all systems, but temperature monitoring, which is its most-important function, works on most systems that are equipped with the kind of thermal sensors that most laptops have.

Fortunately, all current AMD and Intel processors and desktop and laptop PC motherboards have temperature sensors built into them that allows software to measure their temperatures and even give warnings when particular temperatures are reached. You can use the free CPU-Z utility to identify the processor used in your desktop or laptop PC and then look up its maximum operating temperature on its manufacturer's website and then use SpeedFan (search for speedfan download), to monitor the temperatures and even set warning levels, which, incidentally, the system's BIOS can usually also be set to do. Note that it is not advisable to use the advanced configurations provided by SpeedFan unless you know exactly what you are doing, but the basic temperature readings are safe for anyone to use. Most current laptop processors are specially designed to work at very high temperatures, maxing at 100 degrees centigrade, which would cripple a desktop PC's processor.

Note that Dell notebooks are non-standard, with some proprietary hardware. Standard temperature tools may not work on a Dell notebook. Speedfan is supposed to be able to deal with Dell notebooks, but it may not work. I tried it on a new Dell notebook and it could sense the temperatures fairly well, but it couldn't control the fans reliably. So I tried using the free i8kfan from http://www.diefer.de/i8kfan/. The tool's name was derived from the fact that it was designed for Dell's Inspiron 8000 notebooks, hence the i8k. But it also works on other Dell notebooks, including these: Inspiron 9100, Inspiron 9200, Inspiron XPS, Inspiron 6000, Latitude D610, Latitude D810, and Precision M70.

Processor frequency control for laptops/notebooks running Windows XP

Another related freeware tool is provided from the same site as i8kfan.

SpeedswitchXP - http://www.diefer.de/speedswitchxp/index.html

It is a "CPU frequency control for notebooks running Windows XP." It has a number of dynamic and set processor speed modes that allow the processor to increase or decrease its speed (frequency) as the situation demands, or remain at a set speed. By reducing power consumption it reduces the radiation of heat and extends battery life when the notebook is running on battery power.

The combination of the control of the fans by Speedfan and control of the processor by SpeedswitchXP has made the Dell notebook run as much as 10 to 15 degrees C cooler than it was before using those tools. That is an impressive reduction in temperature that should help extend the life of the machine.

Using a USB cooling unit

Very effective USB cooling units (powered via a USB port) that you fit the laptop into are available. This search of the amazon.co.uk website provides several kinds of cooling solutions, including USB cooling units:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/tag/laptop%20cooler/products/ref=tag_dh_istp/280-7415867-5478708

Using a laptop/notebook stand

If you are working with a laptop on a desk, it is a good idea to place it on a stand that allows air to flow all around it, its bottom in particular. Using such a stand reduces a laptop's temperature markedly. Here is a very good, cheap stand:

Kensington Easy Riser - Notebook stand -

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kensington-Easy-Riser-Notebook-stand/...

Using a LapDesk

Using a LapDesk that sits on your lap ensures a good flow of air all around the machine while you work with on your lap.

Targus Notebook Portable LapDesk -

http://www.targus.com/us/product_details.asp?sku=PA243U


Gaming laptops/notebooks

To play the latest games with performance coming close to the performance that high-end desktop computers (that are designed for gaming) can deliver requires a laptop computer running a desktop processor and powerful video chip (graphics processor), because raw processing power is required.

The most powerful power-saving mobile processors that Intel and AMD have created for laptops can be used, but they can't perform as well as the most powerful desktop processors, because they're designed to keep cool and to save battery power.

Therefore, a laptop designed for playing the latest games, such as Doom 3, gives off plenty of heat. Consequently, large heatsinks have to be used, and that results in a bulky case.

Battery power won't last very long if a non-power-saving desktop processor is installed in a laptop. Consequently, the user will probably want to carry the mains power adapter around with the laptop. But doing that isn't going to be very comfortable with the bulkiest gaming laptops, because they usually have matching bulky brick-sized mains adapters.

Another vital specification of a gaming laptop is a TFT monitor with the fastest available pixel response time, which is now down to as low as 2ms (8 milliseconds). A monitor with a pixel response time of 25ms or even 16ms is too slow to display high-frame-rate, rapid-motion video undistorted or without ghosting, but you are unlikely to find a laptop with a pixel response time that high nowadays; nearly all laptops have an acceptable response time.

SLI & Centrino 2: Gaming Laptops Battle -

"Roundups of any sort are always tricky. Matching apples to apples is rarely possible, and the brand loyalists are always quick to defend their build of choice. So we made this roundup easy. We reached out to some of the most prolific names in gaming notebooks and asked them to send us their best and brightest example of a gaming machine. Price be damned, we wanted to see some stunning performance numbers."

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-notebook-roundup,review-31344.html

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The Gaming section of this site provides useful information on gaming and games using the PC and console gaming platforms.


Installing Ubuntu Linux on a laptop/notebook computer

I have a laptop PC that was running Windows Me that I was going to bin, but I decided to experiment by installing Ubuntu 6.06 Linux on it. [Version 12.04 was available in May 2012. Updates occur relatively quickly compared to Windows and Apple's OS X.] The computer was running very slowly, its Ethernet network card was no longer working, and there was not much space left on its small 10GB hard disk drive.

Ubantu recognised all of the computer's hardware, including the Ethernet network card. I added a wireless network card. When Ubuntu was installed with all the free Linux software I needed, there was plenty of disk space left, and the computer worked at a respectable speed. Ubuntu has a very good-looking desktop interface. The computer is now part of my home network.

Since then, my positive experience of Linux inspired me to install a more advanced Linux distribution on a new laptop. The free open-source Beryl/Compiz Fusion desktop that I use on my new laptop is very attractive, and the amount of quality free open-source software matches any software for Windows.


Convert vinyl records to a CD/DVD format

Many people would like to convert their vinyl records to a recordable CD/DVD format such as MP3. If you want to use a laptop computer to do that, if it doesn't have a line-in port, you have to equip it with an external USB adapter or use an external USB sound card that is the equivalent of a standard PCI sound card.

How To Record Vinyl Records (singles and LPs) to MP3 files and Audio CDs -

http://www.br0wn.co.uk/vinyltocd.htm.

You can find other such pages by entering the relevant search query in a search engine.


Reviews: laptop/notebook computers

What Laptop and Handheld PC: http://www.whatlaptop.co.uk/

Laptop reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops

LAPTOP/NOTEBOOK PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Click here! to go to the laptop/notebook problems dealt with on this site.


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