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Sony Vaio Upgrade Options

Kat Delong replied to my initial query on upgrade options for the Sony Vaio VGN-SZ3XWP/C. I have two follow up questions. First, she mentioned a hard disk upgrade of a 7200rpm drive but did not mention a max hard drive size. Also, will copying/ghosting the existing partitions in my hard drive then copying them over to the new drive work, i.e. after the ghosting process I stick in the hard drive and just boot as normal? Second query is, I want to upgrade the internal wireless card. Will this laptop model accept the Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN, and is it a simple swap over? Are there any drivers to download? Is it worth upgrading the internal card as opposed to just getting a USB or express card supporting the 802.11n standard?Kat Delong

I hope my original advice helped you some. Let's see if we can answer these questions. Because the model you have is for the UK market, I had to base most of my answers on the US versions of that laptop, but most answers will apply for the Sony Vaio VGN SZ line as a whole.

Hard Drive Upgrades

The example I gave you on the hard drive was based on replacing the existing one with a Seagate 100GB hard drive with 7200 RPM. After looking at all of the compatible hard drives, it looks like you can go up to 500GB SATA/300 7200 RPM if you don't mind spending the extra money, or go for a 250 GB SATA/150 7200if you want to go for something in between. Like most things, this decision comes down to need and how much money you want to spend.

Ghosting Hard Drives 

As for copying your hard drive to the new hard drive, there are a few ways to go about it. Most people use a program like Norton Ghost or Acronis True Images. It is easier to ghost on a PC because they have extra IDE ports to copy to. On a laptop, you will connect the old hard drive to the PC then use the ghost software to copy the old hard drive information to the new one and then install the new one in your laptop. If you already own the ghosting software, this is probably the way to go.  If you need some help, has forums that deal with the use of all versions of Norton Ghost.  You will also need two laptop hard drive to EIDE adaptors.

Ghosting Software

If you haven't bought ghosting software yet, you may want to look into getting a data transfer kit that is easy to use and is specifically for your situation. You transfer the data from the old drive to the new one using an external enclosure and a USB cable connected to the laptop's port. You then run the cloning software that is included to copy the info from one hard drive to another. You can then use the enclosure and the old hard drive as an external backup for your laptop. There is a popular one called EZ-up that is available from Drive Solutions for about $45/US.

Wireless Card Upgrades

Changing the wireless card is really up to you. I often subscribe to the "if it ain't broke" theory on these things, but if you are having trouble with the one that came with the Vaio, then by all means change it. From what I can tell, the Intel you name should work with your laptop - many Vaio models are shipping with that particular card installed, and it should work with the Intel Centrino Duo technology. Apparently Intel is keeping the support and drivers for XP, even though for awhile it looked like they were going strictly with Vista.

Hope that helped and you get the laptop you want after all of these upgrades.

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Installing DVD Drives

Attempting to install a new DVD drive on my work computer. I wish I had a computer guy to help me....Celeste Stewart

Installing DVD Drive Basics

Installing a CD or DVD drive is an excellent first project for anyone who wants to become more hands-on with their computer. Computer cases generally have a dedicated spot for the drive if the computer wasn't originally equipped with a drive. When replacing a malfunctioning or obsolete drive, you simply remove the old one and insert the new one (with a few additional steps to finish the job).

Step One: Preparation

Since you will need to physically open the computer case, the most important step is to unplug the computer from its power source. You don't want to risk your life for a DVD installation. Next, ground yourself so that you don't also risk damaging the computer's delicate components from static electricity.

Look for the screws that hold the computer's cover in place and carefully remove them. Use a magnetic screwdriver if you have one as it's quite easy for those screws to fall into the depths of the computer.

Step Two: Removing the Old Drive

Once the computer is opened, locate the old disk drive and remove any screws holding it in place. Unplug the cables from the drive to the motherboard and power supply, making a note of which cable is which. You'll later attach your new drive to these same cables. Slide out the old drive.

If your computer never had a drive, you'll need to locate the area where the new drive will go and knock out the cover on the face of the tower. This is usually a plastic cover that unsnaps out of position. Locate the cables that connect the CD drive to the motherboard and power supply and get ready to install the new drive.

Step Three: Installing the New Drive

Most drives these days do not require any unusual jumper settings, but double check the documentation with yours to be sure and set them accordingly if applicable. Carefully slide the new drive into place, usually from the front of the computer case. Before securing it into position, attach the cables. Secure into position and tighten any screws that may be required.

Step Four: Reassembling the Computer

This part is a simple matter of doing everything you did earlier in reverse. Find all of those tiny little screws and reassemble the computer case. Reconnect your computer to its power supply and attach any peripherals that you may have removed earlier. When you boot up the computer, it should automatically detect the new DVD drive and install the appropriate device driver for it.

Step Five: Install the Device Drivers

While Windows should find the correct device driver for your new DVD drive automatically, this doesn't always happen. If it doesn't, you may need to install the drivers on your own. If the computer has a separate CD drive, you can use that drive to install the drivers from the installation CD. However, it's usually a better idea to download the most current set of DVD drivers from the manufacturer's Web site and install those. The newer drivers could solve known issues with the drive, so you want to take advantage of any fixes released since your drive was manufactured.

Finally, install any disc burning software that came with the drive. These programs are usually optional, so use your best judgment. For example, if you already have a program such as Nero installed, installing a similar product may be redundant and cause unnecessary conflicts.

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Reformatted PC Cannot Read USB Sticks

Susan KeenanSince doing a format and reinstall of Windows XP, my two memory sticks 1G and 4G no longer show up in my computer or in the browser when I insert them into my USB hub or USB ports. They do show up in the hardware manager which reports that whichever stick is inserted is working correctly and enabled. I have uninstalled and updated the drivers and also tried changing my web cam and WiFi ariel to different ports. My memory sticks still work fine on my laptop and work machines.

Sounds like you have been doing a bit of troubleshooting already, so I will tailor my comments to strategies that you haven't already tried. Since the USB stick is recognized, the good news is that your USB ports are still working, even if not perfectly.

Troubleshooting USB Stick Error: Corrupted Registry Files

One of the common causes behind problems reading USB sticks is the presence of corrupted registry files. Correcting this should resolve the problem. Simply clean the registry using a good registry cleaner such as RegCure. This could resolve the issue between your Windows XP software and USB sticks.

Troubleshooting USB Stick Error: Deleting Ghost USB Sticks

This one is a bit tricky, so read through it to get a full understanding of it before trying it. You are going to delete any "ghost" USB devices that could be creating this problem. Just follow these directions.

1)      Open a command prompt window. (Start>Run>type cmd)

2)      Click "OK."

3)      Type in "devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1" and press "Enter."

4)      Type "start devmgmt.msc" and press "Enter."

5)      Navigate to "View" and select "Show hidden devices."

6)      Delete all "non-present" or "ghost" devices. These will appear in grayed-out text.

7)      Now, you will clean up your USB devices by scrolling down and clicking on the + next to the words, Universal Serial Bus Controllers." Uninstall the USB devices by right clicking on them. Uninstall any USB devices with signs of trouble (yellow or red exclamation points).

8)      Reboot the computer.

Troubleshooting USB Stick Error: AutoPlay Repair Wizard

Microsoft has a nifty little download that is designed to repair the autoplay settings for your computer devices. Visit their website for the download and run it on the computer. It scans the computer for defective settings and repairs them. It sounds as though this might work for you since the USB sticks are recognized without actually starting up for you.

Troubleshooting USB Stick Error: Incompatible Devices

Are any of the USB devices that you are using with the computer new? It is possible that some incompatibility exists between one of them and your USB sticks. Consider unplugging one of these devices, rebooting the computer, and seeing if that makes a difference and fixes the USB stick error. If it does, you have an issue with compatibility. I've read of cases where one USB device effectively knocks out the ability to use other USB devices.

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Troubleshooting Laptop Charging

I plugged my laptop into its charger and it started charging for about five minutes then the screen then went bright and it stopped. I held the charger in my hand and it was hot. I plugged it in again and nothing is happening. The laptop is less than a month old and I don't use it every day. It's is a Toshiba Satellite L300. Can you please tell me what the problem might be?Kate Dubensky

Check the Power and the Connections

This is going to sound silly, but you should first make sure that the wall outlet is working properly. Try the lamp test to make sure that power is flowing from the socket, or try the laptop in a different outlet. You should also check that the AC adaptor is properly connected to the laptop and the wall, that the laptop is recognizing the charger. There should be a battery icon on the taskbar when the charger is properly connected. You might have a bad charger, or a bad battery, but in either case it should be returnable since the unit is so new.

Power Surge?

Since your laptop screen went bright before the charger quit, it is possible that there was a power surge that fried either your charger, your laptop motherboard, or both. When you take the laptop in to the retailer they can check for signs of power damage.

Check the AC Adaptor

There might be a more significant problem with your laptop, such as a main board failure. In this case, you can troubleshoot the issue by removing your computer's battery and plugging the laptop into a power source wall outlet using only the AC adapter. If the computer gets power, then the problem is likely in the main board. If not, then it might just be the charger.

Return to Retailer

Since your laptop is so new, you should definitely return the charger - or the whole laptop - to the retailer for replacement. I didn't see any recalls for your specific model, but new batteries and chargers should work, and shouldn't get too hot if they are used reasonably. The manufacturer might just decide to replace your battery or your charger, or even your whole computer. Since you should still be covered by the retail warranty you should take your unit in and make sure it's dealt with while you can. You might need to replace the component, which the retailer or the manufacturer should be willing to do, as long as it hasn't been damaged by use.

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New Monitor Conflicts with Sound

I have just put a new screen on my computer and now I have no sound. The sound used to come from the hard drive. Help?Kate Dubensky

Check your Monitor and PC Connection

While the sound on your computer is generated from the hard drive, the sound itself might now need to route differently through the new monitor in order to work properly if the monitor includes built in speakers. If this is the case, there will be an input port on the back of the monitor that you will connect to the green sound port on the back of your PC tower. You should be able to consult the monitor user manual for specific details about where to find the port. It might be difficult to see at first, but it should be there.

Troubleshoot with External Speakers

The other possibility is that your old monitor had built in speakers, providing your sound, and that the new one doesn't. This isn't very likely, since most new monitors include speakers, but it is possible that you are missing an amplifier or some other component that the system needs. The best way to troubleshoot this is by connecting a pair of external speakers to the green sound port on the back of your PC tower. You can buy speakers inexpensively at any computer or electronic store.

Troubleshoot your Drivers

Another possibility, if all the speaker connections are properly set up, is that the installation of the new monitor messed with some drivers for either your old monitor or another component of your system. You can troubleshoot your drivers in Device Manager.

  1. Click My Computer, then Properties
  2. Choose Device Manager
  3. Scroll through and click the + signs to expand the sections
  4. Look for any yellow or red ? or ! symbols - these imply a problem with a device or a driver
  5. If there are any, click them for more information - you can then visit the website of the manufacturer of the device and look for recent driver releases on the downloads page
  6. You can choose to remove the drivers, if there are issues, and then reinstall them
  7. You might also consider removing the monitor, making sure that any drivers from the old monitor are gone, and then you can reinstall the new monitor, and the new drivers.

I hope this helps, if you are still stuck, write us again, and let us know what you've been able to try and we can go from there. Good luck!

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Pros and Cons of Triple Core Processors

I'm buying a new computer, and I'd like to know if a triple-core processor is good, because they're not too common. Can you please tell me some pros and cons and details about them?Susan Keenan

Currently, quad core processors are being developed, so the focus on triple core processors has diminished somewhat. While there are some benefits to having a triple core processor over a dual core processor, it actually depends on what you are going to be doing on the computer as to which one is better for you.

Triple Core Processors versus Dual Core Processors

Many computer applications are designed for use with dual core processors. Therefore having a triple or even a quad core processor isn't going to show a great improvement in performance for computer users who aren't thoroughly invested in gaming and multi-tasking online.

Pros of Triple Core Processors

For those computer users who like to multi-task, triple core processors are the ideal way to go. You'll be able to fly right through such tasks as downloading software, installing a printer, playing a game, and running a scan for viruses all at the same time.

Triple core processors are touted by their manufacturers as being a dream come true for digital media enthusiasts along with avid gamers. They're designed to provide enhanced experiences for PC users with support for most formats. Additionally, they are said to offer better viewing experiences, particularly with Blu-ray titles as far as stalling, lag, and dropped scenes. They are also supposed to provide better graphics that are almost lifelike with increased performance for gaming. In particular, 3D performance should be enhanced with a triple over a dual core processor.

Another one of the pros is the simple fact that the prices of some triple cores are far lower than the price of some dual cores. So, if pricing is an issue, you can shop for either a dual core or a triple core if you aren't necessarily in the market for something bigger. One of the primary benefits of multi-core processors is that no additional licensing fees apply if you are using Microsoft Windows as your operating system as opposed to using two or more separate processors.

Cons of Triple Core Processors

Since quad core processors are quickly emerging onto the market, triple cores will no longer be developed in the same manner as when they first came onto the scene. What manufacturers have already produced might be all that you will see, one of the reasons why there currently aren't a whole lot of them available compared to dual core processors. Quad cores simply provide a fourth core for those who plan to use the computer at all angles at the same time so to speak.

In general, triple core processors will be wasted on computers that are only used lightly. Most applications can get by on a single processor, especially if only one or two applications are being used. The waste is enhanced when the applications being used go easy on resources rather than hogging them.

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