Friday, December 28, 2012

Desktop Icons Missing?

empty-desktop-windows-7I ran across an interesting problem recently, all the icons on the desktop were missing!  The first thing I looked at was the desktop folder to make sure there where actually icons there, and they were there.  The desktop folder can be found under: My Computer >> Local Disk C (default location) >> Users (Documents and Settings under Windows XP) >> [User Name] >> Desktop.  The desktop folder contains all the files, folders, and shortcuts on your desktop.  Some of the shared shortcuts, including links to My Computer and Network shortcuts will not be in the folder.


Now there are quite a number of things that can cause desktop icons to disappear, the most common that I have seen are Viruses and accidental deletion.  In this case there was no virus and the icons were in the desktop folder so they were not deleted.

The problem in this case was that the Show Desktop Icons was unchecked!  To access this option, you need to right click on an empty space on the desktop, go to View and Show Desktop Icons (not sure why you would even want an option like this? except for maybe a Halloween prank!).


If you have a problem with your icons disappearing after a virus then I suggest trying this program:

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to clean a Keyboard?

This something I get asked every now and then; so, I thought I would show you how I clean my keyboard.  Now, just as a warning I am not liable if you damage your keyboard if you clean it my way!  If you want a safer method then I would suggest you use a can of compressed air and a keyboard duster that fits down in between the keys.  Also you probably should not use this method on any of the fancier keyboards that built in screens or other specialty keys/mechanical keyboards.

First off a little explanation of how keyboards are built (not mechanical keyboards).  First you have the keyboard case, which is usually compromised of two pieces, the base and top which holds the actual keys.  Inside the keyboard there will be a couple layers of film plus a rubber keypad.  The top and bottom pieces of film both of electrical contact points for the all the keys while the middle piece of film has holes for the contact points.  Pushing keys presses the rubber pad which pushes the top and bottom film contacts together.

To clean the keyboard start by removing the top part of the keyboard case which holds the keys.  In my case I have a Dell keyboard with 12 screws on the bottom that I simply remove, then while holding they keyboard together, I flip the keyboard back over, and remove the top.  I then wash the top of the keyboard and the keys (not the bottom or the film!), this allows me to thoroughly clean the keyboard and makes the keyboard operate much smoother and quieter.  Just make sure the keyboard is completely dry before reassembling!  I have tried this on a number of different keyboards and this is the best way I have found of cleaning the keyboard.  While it may seem a bit strange to put your keyboard under water, by removing the top with just the keys, the electronic part of your keyboard will remain dry.  Although for anyone that is curious you can dunk the whole keyboard in the water as well – you just have to make sure it is completely dry before trying to use it!

Below is my keyboard (or at least one of them…)!


The bottom of the keyboard with 12 screws, 4 along the top, 4 in the middle, and for 4 along the bottom.


Below is the keyboard with the top removed (the part that you are going to wash).  You can see the rubber pad in the picture; this is actually what provides the resistance in the keys.


Below is the rubber pad rolled over revealing the layers of film.


Below the first layer of film with contacts is rolled over and the middle layer with holes and bottom layer with contacts is visible.  The middle layer is very hard to see because it is almost completely clear.


Below the bottom layer of film with contacts is visible.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fixing Corrupt Data on a Hard drive–CHKDSK

Corrupt data (files) on a system can cause all kinds of problems; for example, not being able to boot the computer.  Fortunately fixing this problem is fairly simple at least as long as the hard drive with the corrupt data is not a system drive or you have a second computer you can plug the corrupt system drive into to fix the corrupt data.  Just to note, by system drive I am referring to the hard drive that has your operating system (such as Windows).  In my experience trying to fix a system drive while using it does not work that well – even though it is possible.

What can cause corrupt data?  There all kinds of reasons that you can end of with corrupt data on a hard drive; the most common one that I have seen/experienced is the result of an improper shutdown; which can be a result of powering the computer without shutting it down, pulling the plug, power outage, ect.  Probably the second most common reason I have seen is a result of viruses and other malicious software; malicious software has a way of wrecking data on a hard drive and it is not a bad idea to check your hard drive for corrupt data after a virus.  The final reason I am going to mention is the result of a failing hard drive, failing hard drives in my experience usually give a little bit of warning before they fail and constantly corrupting data can be a good sign.  If you are constantly having to fix corrupt data on your hard drive, this can be a very good sign that your hard drive is failing – assuming you are not have trouble with the other two reasons (improper shutdowns and viruses) I mentioned.

CHKDSK is a command line program that has been around since the DOS days.  There is also a GUI (graphical user interface) program, which I will cover in this post as well. However, I actually prefer the command line program CHKDSK, contrary to the fact that I usually prefer GUI’s.  CHKDSK is accessed from the Command Prompt or a command line.  Also, in my experience it works best if you do not try to perform a CHKDSK on a hard drive that is currently booted and in use.  Obviously if it is the only hard drive in your computer – which is likely the case – and you do not have a second computer or the capabilities to hook up the hard drive to the second computer then you will have to try to perform a CHKDSK on the boot drive.  This will most likely require you to restart your computer in order for CHKDSK to check the hard drive.

To open Command Prompt, go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt [Right Click] and Run as administrative.  You should receive a warming about the program making changes to your computer – just click Yes.


In the Command Prompt window type in: chkdsk [Drive Letter]: /f then press Enter on the keyboard.  In my case I decided to check drive I, so I typed in chkdsk I: /f.


Finished results, this hard drive is in good shape so I did not receive any errors:


The /f command fixes any found errors on the disk, alternatively you can also use /r or /b.  If you want more information about the CHKDSK command you can type in chkdsk /? which will bring up the help section.  You may also have to use /x command if the hard drive is in use. 


How to Preform a CHKDSK from Windows without the command prompt (GUI).

If you do not want to use the command prompt, you can also preform the check from My Computer.  First open up My Computer, either the Computer/My Computer link on the desktop or under the Start Menu.


In My Computer, right click on the hard drive you want to check, and click on Properties.


In the Properties, click on the Tools tab, then click Check Now….


Check Disk will give you option if you want to automatically fix file system errors as well as scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.  I recommend checking both boxes, just be aware that checking the second box for scanning bad sectors will make the scan take a long time.


When done you will receive the results of the check – in my case no problems were found!


Just to note here, if you try to perform this on your boot drive while in use, you will receive a warning that you can perform the check, and you will be given the option to schedule a check on the next startup.