Tag Archive: Hardware

The HP 250 G4 is a budget business notebook computer that offers some great hardware configuration for its price. However, there are a few downsides with the notebook, and one of those downsides is the integrated display. Depending on the computer’s configuration, you may have a display panel where the color looks washed out along with a blue tint. If you’re technical enough, you could replace the display panel with a better one, or you can do some color adjustments that can drastically improve the color.

Note: These color adjustments are my personal settings and were preformed on a HP 250 G4 notebook with Intel graphics. AMD/ATI graphics may yield in slightly different results depending on its software. Similar HP models also apply as well as any notebook using the same display panel and modern Intel graphics.

First, make sure you have the latest Intel graphic drivers installed.

If the notebook is running on batteries, plug in the AC adapter and turn the display’s brightness up to 100%. (You can set it back after you’re done).

Go to the Control Panel and open the Intel HD Graphics applet. When it opens, click on Display.

On the left hand side, select Color Settings. Make sure the Select Display is set to Built-In Display.

Select the Basic tab.

Select Red and increase the brightness to 3.

Select Blue and decrease the brightness to -10 and the gamma to 0.6.

Select the Advanced tab and increase the saturation to 25.

Apply your settings. You can also save the settings in a profile and export them to a file so you can recover them in case something happens. This is an extremely good idea if you upgrade Windows as the color settings will default back after the upgrade.

There’s one more step that needs to be done. Hold down WinKey+R to open the run dialog window. Type dccw and click OK. This will open the Windows Color Calibration. (Windows 7 or higher).

Basically what you are going to do here is click the next button a few times until you get to the screen that allows you to adjust the gamma. Drop the slider down slightly from the center but no more than 1/4 of the way down. By doing this, you help improve the dark colors on the display that are otherwise washed out by the backlighting. Going too far down will make the display look dark. (Using a photo with contrasting colors as a reference helps). When you’re satisfied with the results, click next and keep clicking next until you get to the end of the calibration. (You don’t need to make any adjustments to the brightness/contrast/balance settings). If desired, you have the option to run the ClearType Text Tuner, which helps improve readability.

Now your faded blue display is a thing of the past!* If you need to make adjustments, you can repeat these steps and tweak the levels to your liking. You can also return the display’s brightness back to where you had it before.

*These adjustments do not apply outside of Windows.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have never had any luck with Western Digital hard drives. They always seem to fail in a short amount of time, regardless if they are constantly in use or in storage. Their quality in my opinion is somewhat poor and sooner or later read errors will likely occur on these drives.

Let’s go back to when we (my family) had our second computer. It was a Packard Bell with the then-new Pentium processor and a hard drive that was only 429 MB in size. When we started running out of room, we turned to a brand new 2.5 GB Western Digital drive. A few years down the road while online, the computer just suddenly threw out an error message and everything locked up. After rebooting the machine, we found that Windows would no longer load. Not experienced with computers at the time, my dad took it to a repair shop, and a few hours later the guy called him back and said that the bearings in the spindle motor seized. My dad ordered another Western Digital hard drive of the same size and a few years later, it too started having problems. This time we were experiencing all kinds of read errors.

My dad ordered another Western Digital drive, again, the same size. By that time (1999) we were looking into getting another computer so we could retire the Packard Bell. That third 2.5 GB Western Digital hard drive was removed from the Packard Bell and repurposed for another system. It later spent some time in a friend’s computer before coming back to me. Surprisingly that hard drive still works fine as of this posting. It has been used in a few older computers since getting it back and has to have the same usage and run time as the previous drives, probably more.

But my misfortunes with Western Digital drives don’t end there…

During my summer break, I helped the Technology Director at my high school remove the old computers and replace them with new ones. Since most of the old computers were headed to the dumpster, I had the opportunity to part them out. Among the 30-some hard drives (1 GB – 3.2 GB) that I took home, ten of them were Western Digital. The rest were Maxtor. After erasing and testing the Western Digital drives, only five of them were considered good. The bad ones all had read errors as indicated by the click of death.

All the good hard drives were put in storage until 2-3 years later when I dug them out just to test them again. Out of the 5 Western Digital drives that I deemed good, three of them developed the infamous click of death, just by being in a box in my closet. BTW: I only had one Maxtor that had an issue when I originally brought home and tested the hard drives. Another Maxtor bit the dust after spending some time in storage.

It’s not over yet…

Over the past 7 years I’ve collected used hard drives that are much bigger in size, mostly between 15 GB – 80 GB. (Yeah, that is considered small nowadays). The Western Digital drives that fall within these sizes seemed to be a bit more reliable than those made in the past. One thing that plagues these drives is that they all suffer from whiney spindle motors which can become irritating.

When my dad bought a new computer back in 2003, it came with an 80 GB Western Digital hard drive. I advised him to replace it in the future as it could be problematic. Despite doing so, the hard drive held up until he got his current computer in 2009. Until then, the hard drive was in use almost every day for a few hours, sometimes more. It exceeded the typical 5 year average life span and almost made it to 7 years of constant use. That hard drive still works as of today and does suffer from the whiney spindle motor.

Now the part that makes me disapprove of Western Digital, probably forever…

At the beginning of 2009, I bought a new hard drive enclosure capable of both PATA and SATA, and with a SATA drive, you could use the eSATA interface instead of the USB. While looking at hard drives, I was trying to decide what to go with, and since they had a Western Digital 160 GB SATA on sale, I decided to go with it. I figured that by now Western Digital finally had some quality control and that newer drives would be much more reliable than those in the past. Boy was I wrong.

Immediately after installing the drive in the enclosure, I downloaded and ran Western Digital’s diagnostic program for Windows and did a “long test” to check for bad sectors. After a few hours, the program told me that no errors were detected. The drive was then used for backing up data and constantly sits on my desk. Last year I noticed slow access times when trying to open a photo on the drive, and right away I knew this was a sign of bad sectors. I did a chkdsk on the drive and it found several bad sectors. Great, and the warranty recently expired. I ran the Western Digital diagnostics that I originally used when I first got the drive and to my surprise it did not report a signal bad sector.

As of recently, I noticed that the read errors were getting worse. I ran another chkdsk and this time it hung at 11 percent. I downloaded and ran the DOS version of the Western Digital diagnostics hoping to get errors. The DOS version did find errors, so many errors that the program halted halfway through the test saying that I have “too many errors” and that I need to contact tech support. Way to go Western Digital. These errors were probably present when I bought the drive, but if Western Digital’s stupid diagnostic program would have caught the errors at the beginning, I wouldn’t be in this mess.

I booted the computer back into Windows and ran Speccy. I was stunned when I looked at the statics for my Western Digital drive. The power on count was at 102 and the power on time was 2.5 days. The S.M.A.R.T status was still good. I downloaded a copy of HD Tune and ran an error scan on the drive. At about  53% of the way, the scan drastically slowed down and started throwing out errors. The scan finished after 18 hours (!) and HD Tune reported that 46.9% of the drive was bad. I took the drive out of the enclosure and physically installed it into a computer. Running the scan again, HD Tune reported that 1.9% of the drive was bad. OK? What gives?

wd1600aajs hard drive wd1600aajs hard drive 2

Now, here’s the mind boggling part. After copying my data onto another drive, I was unsure on what to do with the problematic drive. I popped in a copy of Derik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) and erased the drive just in case I decided to toss it out. When DBAN finished, I was surprised that the program did not report any errors on the drive. Interestingly, after running Chkdsk and HD Tune again, both programs did not report a single error. The drive is now sitting in my closet unused as I don’t know what to do with it. I still can’t understand why the errors suddenly disappeared after running DBAN and I can’t trust important data on it.

In conclusion, I will never again buy another Western Digital hard drive. I gave them a second chance, and they failed. They lost me as a customer, probably forever. I’ve bought and used Seagate drives in the past and never had any major issues with them. Maxtor (before merging with Seagate) also made solid hard drives back in the day, except for the low profile design which was prone to PCB failure, usually destroying the spindle motor controller. Seagate is much more reliable then Western Digital and I would recommend them to anyone.

My Dell Dimension 4600, a really good, stable and fast computer that I got for an incredible price! Before I go on with my story, I want to list its original specs.

  • Intel Pentium 4 processor – 2.66 GHz, 533 FSB, 512 KB cache
  • PC3200 memory – 256 MB total (2 sticks of 128 MB)
  • IDE hard drive – 40 GB, 5400 RPM
  • CD drives – 1 DVD/CD reader, 1 CD-RW
  • Power supply – 250 watts
  • 3 PCI slots
  • 1 AGP 8x
  • 56k modem
  • Integrated peripherals – PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, printer port, serial port, video port, 5.1 sound card, network interface, and 8 USB 2.0’s (2 in front, 6 in back)

Back around March of 2008, I found the used Dell Dimension at my local Goodwill store. The price… $3.00! Don’t get too excited, a lot of parts were removed from the system. Main parts that were still included with the system were:

  • The two original optical drives
  • The CPU (surprisingly was there, but not in the socket)
  • The motherboard (plastic bracket that held the heat sink on the processor was broken)
  • 56k Modem

The computer was well worth $3 dollars for the two CD drives, assuming that they worked. If the motherboard didn’t work, then I would just throw the whole machine out. So I went ahead and bought the computer.

Back at home, I removed the CD drives from the computer and hooked them up to my IDE-to-USB adapter. Both CD drives worked perfectly without any problems. After I was done with the CD drives, I wanted to see if I could get the entire computer working. If I could, it would be a nice replacement for my aging and not-so-upgradable Dell Optiplex GX100. I didn’t have the available parts that were compatible with the motherboard, but I was able to barrow some parts from school (college).

After getting permission, I was able to barrow some memory, a heat sink, and a power supply. I was also able to keep a heat sink bracket (to replace the broken one) and a Dell-style fan. During installation, I noticed the CPU had a few bent pins, possibly from laying in the case. Carefully, I was able to bend the pins back into place. I removed the old heat sink bracket and installed the new one before installing the heat sink. After making all the connections and installments, I was able to boot the computer to the BIOS. I installed an old hard drive and attempted to install Windows XP on it. After installing Windows and the drivers, the computer seemed to work fine with no problems.

After running the computer for several days, I decided that the motherboard was in good shape. I returned the parts that I barrowed and spent about $50 on memory, a power supply, and a copper heat sink. Since I didn’t get the fan assembly with the shroud, and the motherboard had only one fan connector, I had to buy a fan adapter that tapped into the power supply. I was able to request the recovery CD’s from Dell so that I had a licensed copy of Windows XP on the computer. I was also able to find a spare hard drive that I had lying around.

Success! All that hard work and I got a decent computer working again! All for under $60! For over 3 years, it has been running perfectly. Very fast and powerful. After being used as a secondary computer, I decided to replace my main desktop with the Dimension to help stay up-to-date with newer software. I also decided to upgrade its components…

Current Specs (As of June 2013)

  • Intel Pentium 4 processor with Hyper threading – 3.00 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 1 MB cache
  • 2 GB of memory – PC3200 400 MHz
  • 160 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache hard drive – Serial ATA (1.5 GB/s)
  • Both optical drives write to DVD double layer discs, one has Lightscribe
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6200 AGP video card with 256 MB of memory, VGA and DVI out
  • Internal floppy disk drive
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 Value (CT4780) Dell OEM

At the high school I use to go to, (between 2003 to 2007), there were many computers scattered across the place. Most of them, actually, all of them were Dell OptiPlex’s. Most of the computers at this time were being replaced by newer, faster computers, branding Dell OptiPlex GX240, GX270, and GX280. The older Dell models that were being replaced were the OptiPlex Gs+, GXa, GX1, and GX100. These computers were simply outdated as they had a low amount of memory and a slow processor. And although all of them except the Gs+ could just barely run Windows XP Professional, many of the students took their anger out by abusing these computers. (The Gs+ still was able to run Windows NT, which is what all the computers had originally installed for the school). Students scratched the outside of the chassis, broke CD-ROM doors, and drew on the computers and its accessories. In addition, floppy drives were ruin, eject buttons were pulled out, some CD-ROM drive trays were ripped out, Dell emblems were pried off.  This was the worst abuse to computers I’ve ever saw!

Being a computer geek, I knew the technology director at the school, and during my summer break in 2005, I helped him throw out a lot of the Gs+ to make room for new GX270’s. Almost every Gs+ in the building was scheduled to be thrown into the dumpster, but I had the opportunity to degut these systems. I grabbed Pentium processors with a speed of 200 MHz, 16 MB SIMM EDO memory, 1 GB hard drives, 16 bit ISA sound cards, some power supplies, some cables, some heat sinks, and working CD-ROMs and floppy drives. I also saved a few motherboards, most of the screws, and some drive bezels. There were some GXa’s and GX1’s that were going to get thrown out too. I grab parts out of those systems also. From the GXa’s, I grabbed the Pentium II processors (300 MHz with MMX), DIMM memory, heat ducts for the processors, 3.2 GB hard drives, fans, some power supplies, some video memory, and other stuff that the Gs+ didn’t have. In the GX1’s, I grabbed Pentium III processors (450 MHz), and other stuff which were similar to the GXa’s. Along with the parts I degutted, I also kept a keyboard, a mouse, and a couple of monitors. Most of the GXa’s that were sitting on the teacher’s desks were donated to another school, probably a school where the students respected technology.

I saved one computer from each model group and took them home. (The rescued computers). I took these computers home and blew the dust out, cleaned the outside, and started them up. After installing Windows Me on all the computers, they seem to run pretty good for a computer designed at that time. I also installed Windows 98 on all the computers. Windows 98 seemed to work fine too, but for the GX1, it appears to have some shutdown issues. For the GXa and GX1, I tossed on Windows XP Home Edition. I knew XP worked really slow at school, but here, it worked good. The setup was a little slow and starting Windows was slow too, but it seemed to work better. However, the integrated ATI graphics prevents Windows XP from going into standby. The Gs+ is about maxed out. I’ve installed the most memory it can take, (4 32 MB EDO SIMMS that equal 128 MB), the 200 MHz Pentium I switched with a Pentium with MMX, same speed, and the video memory is maxed out. In addition, I added a SCSI interface controller card, a 2 port USB card, and a 32x CD-ROM drive.

Left: Optiplex Gs+ (low-profile chassis) on top of an Optiplex GXa (midsize chassis), Right: Optiplex GX1 (mini-tower chassis).

These selected computers are now in a safe haven in my house where they are away from the students who abused them. They can continue to work at optimum performance, the way that Dell indented. As for the GX240’s, GX270’s, and GX280’s that the school currently has, they are already seeing abuse. Even though they all have Pentium 4 processors, doors are being ripped off, emblems are missing. Most commonly, the belts inside the DVD-ROM drives are being plucked off the motors that open the drive’s tray, confusing the drive when the trays are pushed closed, and wearing out the motor so that they have a hard time opening the tray when the belts are replaced. These computers will probably not see replacement for a while, unless they are really abused. But when they are finally outdated and ready to be tossed into the dumpster, I hope that someone like me will save some of these systems, fix them up, and keep them at their house where they will never see another student who can abuse them.

HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario systems, those sold in 2004 that came with an AMD Athlon XP processor, may have an audio issue with the integrated Realtek/VIA audio controller when using certain programs or applications.

The problems include:

  • Popping or clicking sound while playing audio
  • Windows Media Player playing audio about 1 second in advance at the beginning

The motherboard these systems uses is a ASUS A7V8X-LA, It can be identified by the large “A7V8X” text between the PCI slots. The sound hardware on these boards is branded as Realtek, but uses a VIA controller. Windows Device Manager displays the sound hardware as Realtek AC’97 Audio for VIA (R) Audio Controller.

Updating the drivers for the sound hardware doesn’t fix the problem. In order to fix the problem, you will need to use a driver version older then what you currently have installed. A good example of the phrase “newer is not always better”.

You will need to obtain version of the Realtek AC’97 Audio for VIA (R) Audio Controller driver. Luckily, you maybe able to find it if you are using the OEM copy of Windows XP that came preloaded with the system.

Go to the HP folder located in the C: directory. The folder is hidden by default, so you would either have to show hidden files or simply type C:\HP in the address bar. Once there, you should see a folder labeled drivers. Open the drivers folder and you should find a folder labeled audio_Realtek_5.10.00.5570. Open that folder and and check for files. If files are present, uninstall the current Realtek AC97 Audio for VIA (R) Controller driver and right-click on Alcxwdm.inf and select install. Once the drivers have been installed, reboot the computer and see if the above problems are solved.

If you find a version older than the one mentioned here, you should be OK, but I don’t recommend using a version higher than because it may not solve the above problems.

Zonet USB to Ethernet Adapter (ZUN-2210)

A while back, I bought a Zonet USB to Ethernet adapter (ZUN-2210) just in case I wanted to temporally connect an Ethernet cable to a computer that lacked an onboard Ethernet jack. The adapter works ok, it is somewhat slow if the USB port is 1.0, and Zonet isn’t a good brand name anyway.

If you have one of these adapters lying around in your house and you’re about to toss it in the trash, hold on there! The three blue ultra bright LED’s on the adapter are worth saving.

Take a small flat blade screwdriver and pry the two halves of the adapter casing apart. Once the

The ultra-bright blue LED’s you will find on the circuit board.

bottom of the adapter is off, pull the circuit board away from the top half of the case. You will see the three LED’s. The LED’s have a good amount of leg length, making them easy to remove from the circuit board. Using wire cutters, cut each leg of the LED’s at the circuit board until they are freed.

There you go! You just saved three perfectly good LED’s from ending up in a landfill. Use your new LED’s for your electronic related projects.