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FAQ: Troubleshooting Windows hardware

Have a question about troubleshooting Windows hardware? You may find the answer in this FAQ about Windows hardware troubleshooting.

Issues often arise when working with any Windows hardware component, particularly computer memory and hard disk drives. Below you'll find some of the hardware troubleshooting questions Windows administrators asked of Bernie Klinder,'s hardware guru emeritus.

Why doesn't external disk drive recognize C: drive?

I recently formatted my C hard drive. When I was reloading my external hard drive that I use as a backup, it loaded as a device with a removable disk. Now I cannot get it to recognize my hard drive as a disk drive.

Unplug the external disk drive, check the cable connections (including power) for the internal drive, make sure it is configured as the master hard drive, and confirm the BIOS.

How can I calculate how much physical computer memory I need?

What are the counters I use to detect physical memory constraints and how can I calculate how much physical memory I need?

The traditional way to do this is by using Performance Monitor to check the status of the memory counters for "available bytes" and "pages/sec," the logical disk counters for "% disk time" on the drive that holds pagefile.sys, and Server "pool nonpaged failures" as well as "pool paged failures." A simpler, straightforward, and graphic base tool I often use is a utility called MemTurbo, which is designed to recover unused system memory when the machine hits a certain threshold. The GUI is similar to Task Manager and easy to use. With Memturbo, you can monitor memory usage in real time to see how your system reacts throughout the day.

Sizing your server is a little different. There are a number of factors to consider, including number of concurrent connections, application requirements, server functions, etc. The minimum amount of memory I would use for any server is 512MB, and then add memory from there based on vendor recommendations. It's a bit dated, but there's a great book excerpt from Tuning and Sizing NT Server.

How can I double-boot two separate systems?

What's the easiest way to double-boot two separate HHDs on my system? It's a ASUS A78X Mb.

That depends on what operating systems you wish to dual boot. For more information, check out this Microsoft article.

Why does my system constantly ask to reactivate Windows XP?

When I reboot my Windows XP Pro machine it asks me to reactivate Windows XP. It always reactivates with no problems, but this is getting a little annoying. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

This behavior is not normal, however before you reactivate again, try running the system file checker utility. Click Start --> Run --> and type "sfc.exe /scannow" without the quotes. This utility checks to see if critical system files have become corrupted and it replaces them. If it doesn't work, I would consider reinstalling XP before you run out of activations.

Why can't I create a backup on Windows 2000 Server SP4?

I'm having problems trying to create a backup on my Windows 2000 Server SP4. I go through the wizard steps and start the backup. After a few seconds it comes back with an error saying I do not have access to media even though I am logged on as the administrator. What am I doing wrong?

There are a number of issues that can cause this issue, and it would be easier to troubleshoot with the exact error message and content of your event logs. However one of the most common causes is a corruption of the Removable Storage Manager (RSM) database, which will prevent creation or access to a media pool. For more information check out Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 288856 .

Why do I receive an 'invalid product code' error during WinXP install?

I installed a new copy of Windows XP but got an error saying "invalid product code" and Microsoft refuses to activate. Is there anything I can I do or must I take it back to the store?

That really depends on the specific issue with your product code. The store that sold you the PC should have provided you with a paper license that contains a watermark and hologram with your license code.

Some unscrupulous shops don't want to pay Microsoft's license fee and load a version of XP using a pirated license code, or a code that has been used before. If you do not have the paper license, go back to the store and demand one. If you do have the paper license, make sure that you are typing in the information correctly (the numbers 8 and 5 often looks like a B and S). If the store won't help you, report the problem to Microsoft's piracy center.

What does a 'hardlock driver' error message mean?

I just upgraded my Windows 2000 Pro machine with XP SP2. I am getting a strange error message when trying to update my Symantec antivirus using the Intelligent Updater download. The error message reads "HLVDD - Hardlock Virtual Device" and then says "Cannot find ///FAST Hardlock Driver." I also get an event ID 7000 referencing Hardlock service in Event Viewer. Any idea what that error means? The only time it shows up is when updating the virus definitions from Symantec.

A hardlock driver is usually a related to a physical dongle that is attached to a USB or serial port as a arcane manner of software licensing. There is no reference to it in Microsoft's or Symantec's knowledge base, so I can only imagine it must be related to something else you're running.

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