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This chapter is from the book

Disk and Drive Dilemmas

Nothing lasts forever, and that includes disk drives. That's why people are paranoid about backing up files. Disk drive failures don't happen often, but when they do, they can be catastrophic if you are not prepared. Likewise, you may be deceived into thinking your disk drive has failed when there is really a simple solution to the problem.

The Floppy That Won't Fit

Floppy drives have been available with PCs since the beginning. However, there's a possibility that the PC you have may not have one (this is because floppy disks are very low capacity and are no longer used as often today as they once were). If that's the case, skip ahead to the next session.

Here again, there are several things you can try in order to isolate the problem:

  • Verify that the disk you are trying to insert is the same size as the drive into which you are trying to insert it. An ancient 5.25-inch disk stands no chance of fitting into today's standard floppy drive, and diskettes can't fit into a CD drive.

  • Is the disk in the right position? A disk that is upside down or sideways will not fit into the drive. In the case of CDs, even if an upside-down disk fits, it can't run using the wrong side of the CD.

  • Make sure you are really trying to insert the disk into a disk drive and not a vent in the system unit.

  • Examine the disk for any abnormalities such as warping, sticky spots, and other things because any of these could potentially cause a problem for you.

  • If there is still a problem, you may want to have a qualified person check out the drive itself. Under no circumstances should you ever stick an object other than a disk into the disk drive, especially when the machine is plugged in.

The Unrecognizable CD

CD-ROMs can be very finicky, depending on the sensitivity of your drive. If you run into a glitch, try the following:

  • Open the CD drive, take out the disk, and blow any dust off of it. Blow any dust out of the drive too. Examine the disk for any scratches, since they can also cause problems. Replace the CD and see if the computer recognizes it now.

  • A more thorough cleaning may be in order. Cleaning methods vary depending on whom you ask. There are plenty of commercial cleaning products on the market from which to choose. However, if you want to try cleaning a CD using things around the house, start by finding a soft cotton rag. I use an old cloth diaper that was used during infant feedings. It has been washed a million times and is softer than just about anything else around. Next, take out the CD and breathe hot air onto the bottom of the disk. Finally, wipe the CD gently from the inside of the disk to the outside in a straight line and retry it in the drive.

  • If that doesn't cure the problem, try putting another CD in the drive. If everything goes smoothly, you can attribute the problem to the CD itself. If it still doesn't work, you might want to try a third CD (perhaps a music CD, if the problem CD was a data CD, or vice versa) before calling technical support.

Monitor Messes

A computer is useless without a monitor or display. It is completely understandable to panic when the monitor starts acting up, but you can troubleshoot many of the common problems.

All Powered Up and Nothing to See

If your computer is on but there is nothing to see, don't write off the monitor yet. Try the following things first:

  • If the monitor was on when it "died," check to see whether it is in Power Saver mode by moving your mouse or pressing a key. If it comes to life, you may want to consider either disabling or at least adjusting the Power Saver setting. Do this by clicking the Start button on the Windows taskbar and then clicking Control Panel. Click the Performance and Maintenance link near the bottom of the screen. On the bottom right corner of the Performance and Maintenance screen, you will see a link to Power Options; click that. The Power Schemes tab of the Power Options Properties dialog box shown in Figure 3.4opens. Use the drop-down arrow buttons to make any desired changes and then click OK to save your settings.

  • Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 Using the Power Schemes drop-down box, you can optimize your computer's power for use as a laptop or home PC.

  • Verify that the monitor was not shut off manually, as opposed to with the rest of the computer via the power strip.

  • If that doesn't do it, check the monitor's connection to the back of the PC and make sure that the monitor is plugged in.

  • Still in the dark? If the monitor's LED power light is on, you might want to try tweaking the brightness and contrast on your monitor. Because the location of these controls can vary depending on your monitor's manufacturer, consult the documentation that came with your system.

  • If it is still dead, it may be time to call your friendly technical support people. Be sure you have any warranty information with you when you call, along with the information you wrote on the tear card at the front of this book.

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