Back-to-school special

Back-to-school special

By Richard Heller

Back-to-school special

Now that the kids are back in school, the family computer will start getting a workout. Let’s take a look at some of the more common problems that can happen that will prevent your computer from working after sitting all summer without being used.

The first thing that you should do is to unplug everything from the computer and reconnect it one cable at a time. This will loosen any corrosion that might have occurred from the humidity and also assures that all cables are connected.

One problem that can appear is the computer will report the error message “Invalid system information – Please run setup.” What this means is that the battery inside the computer that stores the information such as hard drive type, amount of memory and other vital information has either gone dead or needs to be recharged. Most new computers will reset the settings if you allow the setup program to run. If you have to do this each time the computer is turned on you will have to have the battery replaced. The battery is usually a coin-cell type that fits in a socket inside the computer, and a replacement can be purchased in a camera department.

If you get an “Unable to access drive C” message, it would appear that your hard drive may have quit working. The only thing that you can do is to boot from a floppy disk and see if you can access the hard drive. If you can’t, the drive might need to be replaced.

Another hardware problem can occur with your memory chips. The little circuit boards have contacts that are either gold- or solder-plated. The sockets that they plug into should have been plated with the same metal. If the contacts are not the same, they may corrode, causing a memory failure. To correct the problem, you can remove the chips and then reinsert them. If this doesn’t work, the memory might need to be replaced.

Another frequent problem has to do with the printer not printing. On an ink-jet printer, the ink cartridge might have dried out. Run the cartridge cleaning function or remove the cartridge and wipe the print head with a damp paper towel. If neither one of these methods restores the printing, it’s time to buy a new cartridge.

If your modem does not work and it was left plugged into the phone line over the summer, it is very possible that the modem took a lightning strike. Replacing the modem should correct the problem, though other internal damage might have been done.

If you spilled anything in the keyboard last spring, it will now be a sticky mess. You can either try to clean the board or replace it. While you’re cleaning, you should also clean the mouse. Remove the cover on the bottom, remove the ball, and wipe it with a damp paper towel. Use a toothpick to clean the lint from the rollers inside the mouse.

By following the steps above, you may be able to avoid a service call.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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