Feb 25

I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with a browser not launching before,  but at some point last year I think I must have installed a dodgy browser extension then uninstalled it. From then on, Firefox just wouldn’t launch for me and I kept getting the Crash Reporter:

Firefox crashed

I tried all kinds of ways to resolve the issue. Having said that, I didn’t know about launching Firefox in Safe Mode (hold down the Shift key while launching Firefox) until just recently and that may have helped. If that doesn’t help,  it does give you an option to restore Firefox to its factory default state while saving essential information. So this may be your best first option if Firefox doesn’t start for you.

Anyway, here’s my troubleshooting routine. I first ran malware scans with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and SUPERAntiSpyware to see if that might be the problem but my system came up clean. I then tried uninstalling Firefox and reinstalling it. I tried uninstalling it using Revo Uninstaller and reinstalling. I tried launching Firefox from a portable version on a USB drive. I tried older versions of Firefox. None of these options worked and I just got the same old Crash Reporter error. I also tried restoring a Firefox profile I had backed up as discussed in my backup routine. That also didn’t work suggesting that both the profile and the backup profile may be corrupt and the cause of the problem.

So it seemed that as well as uninstalling Firefox I should also delete the browser profile. I tried that knowing that I would have to reinstall my Firefox extensions from scratch. This wasn’t a big deal as I’ve been using Chrome for 3 or 4 years now and I’m quite happy with it. But it’s nice to have a working backup browser just in case I ever experience any problems with Chrome. In Windows 7, the Firefox profile is at C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox. So I uninstalled Firefox and deleted everything in this folder. I downloaded the latest Firefox installer and installed Firefox. During the installation, you do get the option to import your bookmarks, history, etc from Chrome, which is nice.

Firefox Import Settings

 

However, you have to reinstall your Firefox extensions again. Not really a problem in my case, just an opportunity to start again and install just what I actually need. And that was it, Firefox was working again. So the problem was a corrupt profile.

I hope that’s helped in troubleshooting Firefox when it won’t start. Lessons learned? Well I know about Firefox Safe Mode now, and I won’t backup a corrupt Firefox profile over a good one again.

Have you experienced any problems with Firefox not launching? How did you get it working again?


Jan 8

No internet accessIt happens to us all too frequently – our internet connection has gone. Generally, we just disconnect and reconnect, or failing that restart the router. But what if that fails to get your connection back? What next? Well I had this problem recently. Internet access just stopped late one evening. You’ve probably all seen it – a little yellow warning triangle appears over the Network icon in the tray. When you open it, it says you are still connected to the home network, but that there is no internet access. If you disconnect and then reconnect, everything is usually fine, but not this time or next morning when I restarted my PC and router. No other devices in the house could connect to the internet either.

Troubleshooting no internet access

Here are the steps I took to troubleshoot the problem:

1. Check for a dial tone on your phone line. Might seem obvious but maintenance could be taking place on your phone line by your telecom provider. No dial tone, no internet. I had a dial tone.

2. Anything newly installed or settings changed? No I hadn’t installed anything new or changed any settings on my PC and there had been no antivirus updates. The internet had just died of its own accord so the problem likely wasn’t on my PC.

3. Try a backup router if you have one. I have an old router I keep as a backup just in case my Netgear router packs up. Tried this and still no joy so it wasn’t a faulty router.

4. Check your router’s LEDs. I have a Netgear N300 and one of the LEDs was red during this time. They’re usually all green.

Netgear N300 no internet

The Netgear N300 manual I downloaded indicated that this particular LED is for the internet connection. A solid red light means that the internet (IP) connection has failed. Check your manual to see if your router has a similar LED.

5. If you have a smartphone with a data plan, check your ISP’s service status webpage.

6.  If not, phone your ISP. They may have a freephone number playing a recorded message if there are any reported problems. I didn’t have a freephone number for them as this problem hadn’t happened for a long time. I phoned my ISP on a paid number I had on file since I signed up and eventually got through to a recorded message: ‘…we are currently experiencing a nationwide issue for some customers… For updates, phone this freephone number…’. So that seemed to be my problem. ISP down. Later I tried again on the paid line to get specific information about my particular situation but there was a 30 minute queue so I left it. The connection came back later that day after 24 hours down.

Since this episode, I now have my ISP’s freephone number for service status and I suggest you find out if your ISP has one too. Worth having.

Getting internet access when your ISP is down

I work from home so I really need internet access throughout the day. So how do I go about getting connected when my ISP is down? Here’s some suggestions.

1. Well the obvious one, just use your smartphone. That’s fine if you (a) have a smartphone and (b) have a data plan on it, but I have a pay as you go smartphone with no data plan. Don’t need one much – I work from home. But since then, I now have a free Vodafone SIM card with data and minutes. Just top up £10 and you have 300 texts and 500MB of UK web access to use up within a month. That should help get me through any future short ISP failures. Once you have that set up, you can tether your phone and use its 3G connection as a wifi hotspot.

2. Get a prepaid 3G USB dongle for your laptop or PC. This should give you internet access while your ISP is down.

3. Get down to an internet cafe or some other wifi hotspot you trust. Check this out before you have a problem.

So there are some suggestions for troubleshooting when your ISP is down and getting internet until it returns. Have you any more suggestions?


Sep 1

With the recent talk about vulnerabilities in Java 7 Update 6, I decided to uninstall Java completely. Reading around posts and forums, it seems it may be possible to get by without Java so I thought I’d try that. If anything actually needed it I could reinstall it. Uninstalling Java 7 update 6 was no problem using Control Panel > Programs and Features, but I’ve long had a problem removing an old Java update (Java 6 Update 26) which was still sitting there in Programs and Features. After uninstalling Java 7 Update 6, I tried again to uninstall the old version but got the same error as before:

Error 1723: There is a  problem with this Windows Installer package. A DLL required for this install to complete could not be run.

So I tried googling this error and found that many others have had the same problem in relation to Java. But one comment here looked hopeful:

FixIt2

So I backed up my registry using Quick Restore Maker, just in case, then followed the link to FixIt: Program Install and Uninstall and ran the program

FixIt1

I picked Java 6 Update 26 from the list of programs it showed and followed the prompts to uninstall it, and sure enough, it’s now gone from my system. At the end, FixIt offers to place a link to the FixIt Solution Center on your desktop, which seems very useful and well worth a look. Under Windows problems alone, it’s currently offering 24 Run Now solutions.


Aug 24

Reliability Monitor1

I occasionally post about how I try to resolve any unusual happenings on my Windows 7 PC so it may help others in the same boat. Yesterday, my son was playing a YouTube video when the PC shut down abruptly. I wasn’t there at the time. He restarted it again okay but he didn’t reopen the browser as he thought the crash was caused by a virus. After he told me what had happened, my first thoughts weren’t a virus but either overheating or a hardware problem, possibly the hard drive or the power supply. I’d installed my 1 TB hard drive with Windows 7 in November 2009 so it’s almost 3 years old now. The power supply must be at least 6 years old.

So fearing the worst, I booted up the next day and figured I’d check it out with some free utilities – Acronis Drive Monitor, Windows Reliability Monitor and Windows Event Viewer to see if they might give a clue to explain the Windows crash.
Read the rest of this entry »


Aug 23

I always try to post about sorting out anything unusual happening on my PC in the hope that it may help someone else with the same problem.

I had a strange thing happen with Google Chrome browser this morning. I have Chrome set to open five tabs when it launches but none would open and I just got one tab of a blank page. When I opened Options (under the spanner icon), in the Basics menu, under On Startup , everything seemed fine. Open the following pages was checked and the correct 5 URLs were listed there to open on start up. So I closed Chrome, reopened it and the same thing happened. Chrome seemed to be ignoring the instruction to open 5 tabs and for some reason was just opening a blank home page.

So I played around with a few things and got nowhere until I opened task manager (Ctrl-Shift-Esc) and saw that even when Chrome was closed, a bunch of Chrome processes were still running under the Processes tab! It seemed that, although I’d closed Chrome, it was still running.

So I opened Chrome again and went to the Options menu as before to see if a preference setting was causing this. Sure enough, when I looked at the Under the Hood menu, the option at the bottom of that page called Background Apps was checked allowing background apps to keep running when Google Chrome was closed. Once I unchecked this and restarted Chrome, everything was back to normal and my usual 5 tabs opened without a hitch.

Chrome background apps

So how did that box get checked? Well, it wasn’t me. However I had run CCEnhancer/CCleaner just before opening Chrome and this may have somehow reset the preferences. Anyway I know what to do if it happens again. Hope this helps in troubleshooting this Chrome problem.


May 28

A few weeks ago, there was a flurry of posts about the Chrome extension Super Google Reader which lets you read RSS feeds in full form in Google Reader. Some blogs only give truncated feeds and you have to visit their website for the full post so I thought I’d give it a try. Once I had reopened Reader, I had access to full RSS feeds using the Readable tab which Super Google Reader had added at the top of the posts as shown below.

Super Google Reader

But I noticed that Google Reader had slowed down considerably after I enabled that extension. Refresh, Mark All as Read and changing folders were all unacceptably slow so I ran through my slow Reader checklist which I’ve already posted just to ensure that the Google servers weren’t at fault. They weren’t. When I disabled Super Google Reader, speed was back to normal.

So if you’re experiencing Google Reader to be slow and you’re using Super Google Reader, try  disabling the extension and see if that helps.


May 6

On 4th and 5th May, I found Google Reader to be suddenly significantly slower than usual in Marking all feeds as read and opening new folders of feeds. I use Chrome browser. Of course the first thing that crosses your mind is what have I done? Is it my fault? Have I done anything or added anything new (eg browser extensions) which may have slowed it down? I know that buggy extensions can cause slow-downs and I’ve blogged about this before.  I hadn’t installed any new software or any new browser extensions on my desktop PC and none had been updated. So I loaded Google Reader in Firefox – still slow. Okay, so I booted up my Acer Aspire netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Edition and Chromium browser – Reader still painfully slow. All other sites including GMail seemed to be okay, so the problem seemed to lie not with me but with Google’s servers. How could I double check?

First port of call, the official Google Reader blog – but no mention of anything there. So then I turned to Twitter and searched for “Google Reader” slow. I counted about 18 tweets on 4th May reporting something along the lines of Google Reader is painfully slow for me today. Most seemed to indicate a recent slow down and weren’t rants about Reader being generally slow.

Google Reader slow

So that seemed to confirm it. Just sit tight and put up with it and see how things are tomorrow before taking more drastic action like changing feed reader. Sure enough, things were much better the next day. Running the same search on Twitter as before, I found only 2 relevant tweets on 5th May and none on the 6th. So the ‘Twitterverse’ seems to be a really good mirror of slow online services.

So that’s my quick diagnostic on a slow online service. Just a pity that the official Google Reader blog didn’t take the time to alert us of the temporary problem.

Is there anything else I might have tried? Have you any tips on troubleshooting a slow online service? Drop a comment below.


Feb 25

No Date in Xplorer

If your Date Modified information in your file manager only shows day and month and not year, there’s a quick fix to get the year back. This seems to affect Windows Explorer, the file manager I use xplorer2 and also the date display in my email client Eudora. It may also affect MS Outlook but I can’t confirm this as I don’t use it.

You won’t find a fix in the Options for these programs as they all pull the date information from the Date and Time format settings for your PC. In Windows 7, you’ll have to change the Short Date display to show the year and this will be then used in the other programs. It must have been modified by someone in the past to show only day and month. You can modify  the Short Date format by going to the Start button, Control Panel, Region and Language and on the Format tab, change the Short Date to include the year.

No date in Xplorer2

You can set up the Short Date display just as you want it by going to the Additional settings button shown on the image above. Once you apply it, that date format including the year will show up in your date information in your file manager.


Feb 10

dust in PC

Does your PC shut down for no apparent reason, then shut down again when you reboot? Is your machine becoming increasingly sluggish or are you experiencing unresponsive programs? There could be a number of causes but there’s one pretty simple procedure you can try and eliminate as the cause before you have to resort to a PC repair tech. Your machine may be overheating. This can be fatal for your CPU and your hard drive and can lead to an expensive repair and possible data loss so it needs to be tackled as soon as possible, or better still prevented. Simply open the PC case and see if there’s a thick layer of dust over all the components. This could be the cause of overheating and subsequent shutdowns as dust acts like a kind of blanket insulating all the electrics and preventing heat from escaping. If you have pets or a smoker in the house, or you live in a dusty environment, the likelihood of dust accumulation in your PC increases.

Okay, so you haven’t opened your PC case before… don’t panic it’s not too difficult. In fact, there’s literally thousands of guides online so I’ll just point out a couple of tips to guide you on your way. Google opening a PC case for lots more help in getting inside your machine.

First check your manual to ensure you’re not voiding your warranty by opening the case. Then it’s up to you whether you proceed.

Next if you haven’t done this before, doubtless there’s a horrendous clutter of cables going into the back of your PC. Switch off and unplug the PC. Take a photo of all the cabling with your digital camera to help you reconnect everything afterwards. You could also stick coloured labels on the cables and corresponding coloured dots on where they go on the back of the PC. Disconnect all the cables.

Put your PC box up on a table with the back facing you. To open and check for dust, you only really need remove one side of the case. Generally it’s the right side panel you have to remove to see everything inside. Check your manual to see how the panel comes off. Either there’s a couple of screws at the back holding it in place or it may be a screwless case with a lever possibly at the top middle of the side and which unclips to open the side panel.

Once you’ve opened it and if you’ve found a thick layer of dust over everything, you can remove the left side panel. Now you’ll need to get a can of compressed air from a local supplier and a face filter if you wish. To avoid getting dust everywhere, take the PC out to your back yard (obviously if it’s not raining) and carefully blow the air over the components. Don’t do this in the house! Don’t hold the compressed can too close to the components and be careful you don’t get showered in dust. Get upwind if it’s breezy outside.

Once you’ve blown the dust off all the components, you can brush any remaining lodged dust out with a soft clean artists brush. Then replace the side panels again on the table and finally plug all the cables back in again and reconnect to the power.

Reboot and see if the shutdown problem is resolved. If not then at least you’ve eliminated dust as the shutdown problem and you won’t have to pay a repair tech for that when he goes on to diagnose the problem.

If dust build-up was the problem, then obviously you’re going to have to repeat this procedure on a regular basis. Have a check again after say 3 months and see how things are.

Monitoring the temperature inside your PC

If you’ve opened up your PC and established that dust build-up is a real problem where you live, it would be well worth installing a temperature monitoring program to keep a constant check on the conditions inside your machine. One free program worth considering is SpeedFan. Among other things, this monitors the temperature of the CPU, the hard drive and the ambient temperature inside the computer.

SpeedFan

It can be set to run on computer startup and can sound an alarm when preset temperatures are exceeded. SpeedFan also monitors the speed of your fans. Fans are obviously important in dissipating heat build-up in you PC. A build-up of dust can clog the fans so it’s worth monitoring they’re not slowing down. And obviously if some fans aren’t working at all and there’s no dust, you’ve probably found your overheating problem.

I’m very lucky that dust build-up in PCs isn’t a serious problem where I live in Scotland but listening to the Podnutz Daily computer repair podcast, it’s clearly a problem in many parts of the US and doubtless other parts of the world as well.

Have you experienced PC overheating? Any tips for us or stories? Drop a comment below.

Image credit: eurleif


Apr 15

Swiss Army knife

In the first part of this two-part series, I looked at some basic precautions that would be really worthwhile implementing in preparation for a major PC problem. Here’s some advanced precautions aimed at those who want to roll their sleeves up and try and sort out the problem themselves. Bear in mind that this is written by a non-PC repair specialist but I hope it gives a reasonable round-up of suggestions at a more advanced level.

Don’t forget the utilities you already have on your PC. When trouble strikes, it’s easy to forget what’s already in place on your PC. Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 all have a built-in Event Viewer for viewing event logs. This may help to identify your problem. Here’s a good overview of Event Viewer. Vista and Windows 7 also have a Reliability Monitor and here’s a post about that on How-to Geek.

Turn off automatic reboot so you can read ‘Blue Screen’ (BSOD) error messages. When Windows XP crashes with a Blue Screen it will automatically reboot, often too fast for you to read any error message. Turn this off now to avoid automatic reboots when you have problems. Here’s how to turn it off in XP so you can read the error messages and here’s the Vista instructions.

Bookmark Windows error messages. So you don’t have to go hunting around when you have a problem. Here’s a site for searching for error messages.

Bookmark Windows stop messages. Have a look here or search stop codes here.

Print out beep codes for your BIOS. In Part 1, I discussed how to access your BIOS. Make a note of your BIOS manufacturer and print out a list of beep codes for your BIOS. As with the earlier info you gathered on your system, put this in your folder in case you can’t access the internet when you need this info. Or put Beep Code Viewer on your USB stick.

Load up your USB stick with portable repair tools. Get a suite of portable repair apps on your USB drive, just in case. Here’s a ready-made Portable Repair Utility Kit with a whole bunch of great repair apps to give you a head start. Currently, it’s a two-part download of 102MB and 77MB so may take a little time to download on your system. And for good measure here’s another selection from TechRadar. Technibble is a great resource for PC repair technicians and they have been highlighting a repair tool each week for a couple of years now. Beef up your repair kit even further with a selection of these on your thumb drive. For example, BlueScreenView for analysing what caused a ‘Blue Screen of Death’ crash. I’ve set up a Google search here to list the repair tools recommended on Technibble.

Tool up with some rescue CDs. In the first part, we talked about having a Linux rescue disk on hand in case of emergency. Knoppix is another good Linux rescue disk for disaster recovery. Here’s a post on Computer first aid using Knoppix.  The Ultimate Boot CD is also worth getting hold of. Here’s a quick tutorial on UBCD. Podnutz have released an audio podcast on UBCD for Windows and Technibble have a great video showing some uses for UBCD: Recovering Windows from Common Errors that Prevent it From Booting.

Flowcharts for PC repair. There are flowcharts at Foner Books and Boing Boing for PC repair. Print them out and put them in your folder ahead of any trouble.

Save time in a reinstall after a disaster by slipstreaming OS updates and service packs into an updated install disk. Use nLite (for Windows XP) or vLite (Windows Vista) to create a customised Windows install disk before disaster strikes.

Invest in a spare power supply unit and RAM. If you don’t have access to a backup laptop or PC and you rely heavily on one machine, you might do well to invest in a backup power supply unit (PSU) and memory (RAM) for peace of mind. If you run into boot problems, Memtest86 will check out your PC memory and you can have new sticks installed straight away if this is the cause of your problem. Get a PSU with the same (or better) specs as your currently installed one so that if your PC suddenly dies (and replacing memory doesn’t help), then fit the new PSU. Okay, Sod’s law, it may be a motherboard failure but hopefully not, and your spare hardware may have done the trick. If not perhaps later when you do buy a new PC, you can replace the hardware in your old machine at some stage with the new PSU and RAM to extend its life as a backup machine.

Listen to some PC repair podcasts. If all this had whetted you appetite for PC diagnostics and repair, I can highly recommend the archive of Podnutz Daily PC repair podcasts. A fascinating insight into the detective work involved in PC hardware troubleshooting, virus/spyware removal and life in a PC repair shop.

Further reading

The Complete PC Recovery Toolkit

Expert guide to preventing PC disasters

How to fix Windows 7 when it fails to boot

If I’ve missed anything important in these two posts, please drop a comment below. What steps do you take to prepare for a PC disaster?

Some tips on preparing for a PC disaster is a post from Tech and Life. If you’re reading it in full elsewhere, it’s been copied without consent. Please go to Tech and Life to read the original post and many others in the archive.

Image credit: herzogbr


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