My laptop is probably my main tool in my computer repair business. It holds my accounting program, it gets used for troubleshooting and for data recovery. It’s a 9 year-old business class Lenovo Thinkpad. You can tell it’s a business laptop because it has a docking port, external audio controls and the inner frame is aluminum and hardened plastic.
As nice as it is, the hard drive is too small and filling up and the battery doesn’t hold much of a charge anymore. The operating system doesn’t update any longer and the hinges are loose with too much play in them. I’ve tried to repair the hinge play and I couldn’t do it.
I’ve procrastinated buying a new one partly because of the cost and one other reason. The older laptops I own are easier to repair and work on newer ones. They are made to easily remove sub-components like the RAM and hard drive. The newer ones I repair have sub-components which are harder to access by having one cover that is harder to remove than older laptops. Not all newer laptops are like this, but the one’s I’ve seen are like this.
I got a phone call on a Saturday this month about a Microsoft Windows 10 laptop. It wouldn’t allow my new client to log in to Windows 10 because the keyboard wouldn’t respond – yet the mouse wass responsive. They tried all kinds of things to get past this like restarting the laptop, shutting it down and removing the battery and the AC. Nothing worked and they dropped it off to me Sunday.
I won’t bore you with the details of my troubleshooting procedure as I usually do. One thing I wanted to do was determine if it was hardware or the operating system. I ran the built-in diagnostics for the laptop and nothing failed the test and this meant the hard drive, memory, CPU were ok. I tried two external keyboards and they didn’t work either.
Using my Linux boot DVD, I let the laptop boot into Linux and I found the keyboard was fine. Now I could focus on Windows as the problem. Perhaps a virus was the culprit and it disabled the keyboard so it could do what it wanted behind the scenes. My anti-virus CDs were used to scan for malware and three infections were discovered and cleaned. I restarted the laptop but the keyboards still didn’t work in Windows. It was challenging trying to log in to Windows with no keyboard.
I discovered a way to log in to Windows using my clients PIN which is only 4 characters instead of their longer password. I used the Accessibly options on-screen keyboard to enter the PIN. Eventually Windows started and I could troubleshoot from here. Unfortunately, the keyboards were still dead. A Windows message appeared which said a recent Windows update disabled a piece of hardware. This was probably the culprit. A Windows update must have disabled the keyboard. I tried disabling some of the updates without any luck. I decided that a system restore is the best approach if I could run it without a keyboard. Using just the mouse, I browsed through file explorer to find the system restore program. It was ran and I got it back to the time before the keyboard disaster. My client was happy to get their laptop in working order again and so was I. This was one of the most challenging service calls I’ve had in a while.
I acquired an old, low-end Dell Inspiron laptop a few years ago and it got used occasionally for simple things like web browsing. It originally came with Microsoft Vista as the operating system and I didn’t want Vista any longer. The two reasons are Vista was having problems and it has been retired from Microsoft updates. At some point in it’s life, Linux Mint was installed over Vista and I forgot about the laptop.
Last week, I discovered it in my inventory and started using it again. Most things worked, but I noticed the built-in WiFi didn’t function. The wired, ethernet network did work, but it would be helpful to have the freedom of portability. I tried different things to get it to work and they all failed. It would be a shame to abandon this laptop because the battery can still hold a 2 hr charge.
Brainstorming began and I remembered that in my inventory two USB WiFi adapters were available. The first one, a DLink failed to respond so it was discarded. A second one from iConcepts was tried next. It was plugged into the laptops USB port and I tried the Network Manager applet in Linux. No “Wireless” entry appeared as the “Wired” did.
Then I recalled to get some hardware to function in Linux a special, built-in program must be run. “Driver Manager” was run and It showed the USB network card! I selected it and the link LED lit on the USB adapter and it connected to one of my WiFi networks. I was amazed to see it working because I bought this USB network adapter in 2005! It was designed to work in Microsoft Windows XP and no mention of Linux was made on the package! Now I’m browsing on the internet and getting the Linux Mint updates thanks to a USB network adapter I bought in 2005 at Big Lots.
Last week I had a Fort Wayne computer repair client ask me for a service call. One of their problems was an HP inkjet printer that printed faintly. At some point during troubleshooting, I opened the printer lid to see the ink cartridges. I tried several times to get the print carriage with the print cartridges to slide out where I could easily see them, but nothing worked. As I looked closer at the print carriage, something didn’t look right. There weren’t any print cartridges just some plastic hoses running to reservoirs on the side of the printer! This was the first time I encountered one of these ink tank or inkwell printers. I thought one of the hoses was plugged because the four tanks were full.
We tried the manufacturers web site and finally called the company. The technician asked me questions and had me run the print head cleaning process. The instructions said it may have to be run at least three times. This did the trick and my client was happy to be printing again.
My client was wondering why it had stopped working and I asked when the last time it had been used. They guessed about a month ago and I surmised the ink had dried up and that’s the reason inkjet printers can’t be left idle for long periods or the ink drys out.
Over the phone yesterday I was talking to a friend who is also a computer client. They have an interest in computers and like me, use the Linux operating system. They have a Microsoft Windows 10 computer which has built-in memory stick reader which worked at one time. One day, they noticed it wouldn’t read memory cards any longer and started troubleshooting. They tried many different things to no avail. They other day they noticed it was working again and they didn’t know why since everything they had tried had failed. Then they noticed two Windows ten updates had been installed the day previous and they figured this was the reason.
You never know when OS updates will break or fix problems and this is a good example of an update fixing a problem.