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InfoHQ Computer Tech Advice - Hardware and Installation Problems

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Hardware and Installation Problems Index
Hard Drive/CD-ROM/Floppy
Modem/USB/Serial Port/Networking
Video Card
Printer/Parallel Port
Bios/CMOS
System Crashes/Lockups
CPUs/Overclocking
Upgrading/Build Your Own
Laptops
Miscellaneous
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Computer Hardware System Requirements * New * Help Getting that New Game Running - Instead of Crashing - An InfoHQ Original Article.



Hard Drive/CD-ROM/Disk Drive Problems
Hard Drive
Drive 0 hard drive detection and bios set up Recovering Win95 or Win98 Crashed Hard Drive
System can't detect new hard drive System locks up during hard drive defragment
Hard drive can't read partition Fdisk doesn't load
Win95/Win98 hard drives and partitioning Installing additional IDE devices
Deletes files, drive still full Scandisk stops with lock violation
Hard drive will not boot
CD-ROM and CD R/W
CD-ROM can't read CD CD-ROM read problems
CD-ROM doesn't work CD Writers and CD R/W
CD-ROM Install Problems Compatibility Mode and DOS CD-ROM Driver
Vanishing CD-ROM Device Sound from 2 CD-ROMs
Disk Drive
Floppy discs getting damaged Floppy drive works in Dos - Not in Win95/98
New floppy drive doesn't work

Drive 0 hard drive detection and bios set up.

Drive 0 is your C: drive and the "auto" bios setting needs to be corrected. You should go into your bios (hit delete during the Dos memory test) and have your bios detect your C: drive. If your system is old, and there is no choice for auto hard drive detection in the bios, then you will have to perform this procedure manually. You will need to know the correct bios settings for your hard drive (heads, sectors, size etc.) regardless, to make sure the drive is set up correctly. If none of this makes sense to you, find someone knowledgable to help you.

Recovering Win95 or Win98 Crashed Hard Drive

Boot off your Win95 recovery disk, and do a directory command on the C: drive to see if it still reports being empty. Try the DOS fdisk command to see if the disk has been partitioned. Read any other partitions with the Dir command to see if they still contain data.
It would also help a lot if you could find out if the disk was compressed with doublespace (not good if it was). If you have have remaining data on the hard drive, you could back it up to a Zip Drive and try to reinstall a more compatible version of Dos (probably with little chance of success).
If you still can't find your data, it has probably been deleted and I doubt any disk utility could recover it. If this happens again, the best bet is to reinstall Win95 or Win98 into the same hard drive directory, thus replacing any damaged system files while preserving the hard drive.

Win95/Win98 hard drives and partitioning

Prior to Win98 and Win95B partioning a drive was the smart way to go as it kept disk usage optimized. However, with the advent of FAT32, partitioning is optional unless your bios cannot handle larger drives.
I run a 10 GB IBM hard drive with no partitions. The reasons I choose to do this are: I was tired of my Syquest drive trying to insert itself between my hard drive partitions, all programs want to load themselves in the C:\programs directory, and I think it's easier to manage directories as they do not have physical size limits like partitions.
The answer to your question on how big a drive your system can handle is - you can handle any size drive with the manufacture's partioning utilities. You may not be able to boot off of a drive larger than 8 GB in Win95 unless you have the full version (not the upgrade) of Win95.

Hard drive can't read partition

There are several critical areas of a hard drive, including the master boot record and partition table. My guess is that you developed some kind of error in your partition table, which made your partition unreadable. The free way to protect yourself from this type of error is to regularly run scandisk. If you want to be really safe, invest in Norton Utilities or Nuts and Bolts 98. Both have programs to recover hard drive crashes, and disk utilities to check your drives for errors. All hard drives over time will eventually develop some unreadable sectors.

System can't detect new hard drive

A couple of thoughts. First, did your computer correctly detect your hard drive in your bios? If you are letting your bios detect the HD during startup this could be causing your problems. Go into your bios during boot, and use your auto detect feature to set the correct drive specifications: heads, cylinders, etc. Check to make sure these settings are correct by either reviewing your HD manual or HD manufacturer's web site. Save your new bios settings.
After, you get the drive setup correctly, boot off of your Win98 startup disk, and reformat the drive. You need to do this because Win98 is not compatible with Dos 6. Use FDisk to add the system files to your HD so you can boot (create a DOS partition) and to partition the drive further (optional).
Now pull out the startup disk and boot your computer from C: . You should boot into Dos and get the C: prompt. If you get to this point, you should now be able to install Win98.

Fdisk doesn't load

Have you set the hard drive parameters in the bios and saved them? Or is your bios auto-detecting the hard drives every time you boot?
Your bios could be incorrectly identifying your hard drives. Go into your bios, write down the hard drive parameters, and use the auto detect feature on your hard drives. You need to make sure the bios settings are correct by confirming the hard drive fields against the manufacturer's specifications. If you don't know what they are, then you need to visit the manufacturers web site. Also, most hard drive manufacturers have many helpful disk utilities available for download on their site.

System locks up during hard drive defragment

You may not have enough room on your hard drive to support the caching that is necessary during a defragment. Make sure you have 100MB free (for a large drive) to support the cache during the defragment. If you don't, backup and delete unnecessary programs.

Hard drive will not boot

First make sure your hard drive is still set up in your CMOS by pressing the delete key when your computer finishes the DOS memory check. The bios should show the correct capacity for your hard drive and its parameters. Write down this information.
If your hard drive was not set up in your bios, use the bios' auto detect feature to set the parameters of your hard drive - confirm them to your system manual or the hard drive manufacturer's web site. If you cannot set the drive up in your bios, turn your computer off, and check your hard drive ribbon and power cables to make sure they are firmly seated. Turn the computer back on.
If this doesn't cure your problem then boot off of the a: drive and see if you can use the dir:c\ command to read the contents of the drive. If you can read the contents but still can't boot the drive, I suggest you back up whatever you want to save as it all may be lost.
If you cannot read the contents, the boot block and/or partition table have become damaged. You will need to use disk utilities to repair the drive.
You can try to run scandisk to repair the drive, or you can download shareware from CNet (or other sites) or programs from the drive manufacturer to repair the drive. Once you can boot the drive, you should run an updated virus checker.

Installing additional IDE devices

There are 2 IDE "channels" in all newer computers - a primary and a secondary channel. Each channel can have two IDE devices attached to it. Hard drives should be on the primary, and CDs should be on the secondary. If you have a newer computer you should buy an additional IDE ribbon cable and move your CD-ROM to the secondary channel with the CD R/W. On the same channel/ribbon cable, one device has to have its jumper pin set to master and one has to be set to slave. If you have problems attaching the second IDE cable or configuring your devices, its time to find some help. (PS - An IDE drive will not work on a parallel port without buying a $100 drive enclosure with appropriate software).

Scandisk stops with lock violation

Two ideas:
1. Have you enabled the virus protection feature in your bios? This prevents writes to certain areas of the C: drive.
2. Do you have a virus checker running with boot block protection or C: write protection enabled? If so you should disable it.
I believe your C: drive is partially write protected, and scandisk is detecting an error that it is unable to correct with this feature on.

Deletes files, drive still full

Sounds like your deletions are being stored in Window's Desktop Recycle Bin. Empty the Recycle Bin when you delete files to reclaim your disk space by double clicking the recycle bin icon and selecting empty.

CD-ROM can't read CD

Sounds like a read problem. Inspect the CD for dirt and scratches. Clean the CD with a soft cloth. Make sure its clean and dry and try again. If you see some serious scratches you may have damaged the CD and you'll have to replace it. If the CD-ROM can not read other CD disks, buy a CD-ROM cleaning kit and clean the drive.

CD-ROM read problems

Some things to try: 1. Clean the lens of the CD with a CD cleaning disk/kit. 2. Clean your CDs with a soft cloth. 3. Make sure all cables are secured to the CD-ROM. 4. Make sure you are using the latest driver for your CD-ROM. If none of this works, contact your manufacturer for warranty service.

CD-ROM doesn't work

The steps below need to be performed in the order they are written. 1. Does the CD-ROM drive's power light come on during boot, and does the tray work? If not, the power cables and/or IDE ribbon cable may be loose. 2. Is the CD-ROM detected by your computer's bios? Press Delete during the bios memory check and make sure the CD-ROM is listed as a device in your bios. It is also possible that the CD-ROM is auto detected during boot. If so, you would see a message during startup. 3. If the drive is correctly attached to its cables, and is detected by the bios, then your CD-ROM software driver needs to be reloaded. If the CD-ROM driver is still on your system, you may be able to resurrect it in safe mode. Press F5 (Win98) to enter safe mode. After you have booted into safe mode, go into Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager/CD-ROM and see if your CD's driver is there. Double click the device icon and enable the device. (Note: CD-ROMs do not work in safe mode). 4. If above (3) doesn't work use ADD/Remove Hardware to search for your CD-ROM.

CD-ROM Install Problems

Not knowing anything about which operating system you are using, I would have to say the first thing to try is reloading the CD-ROM's driver. Also, if you are running Win95/98 you can go into Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/CD-ROM and see if your drive has been identified. Double click on the drive and make sure there are no conflicts. If the wrong CD-ROM (or no CD-ROM) appears in the Win95/98 procedure above, reboot Windows, hit F5 during boot and select safe mode. After the boot into safe mode, go back into Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/CD-ROM and see if your CD-ROM is listed. Select your CD-ROM and deselect any incorrect drive. Reboot windows and hopefully the CD-ROM will work (this procedure helped me resurrect my CD-ROM after upgrading to Win98).

CD Writers and CD R/W

First I am not aware of how long you could store data on a CD or R/W CD but it must be for a very long time as the data is burned into the plastic. R/W CDs cost around $15-20 and should be used for backups that you want to change. Writable CDs are written to once and cost about $1 in large quantities. Older CD-ROMs cannot read all/any R/W disks. And there were some older CD writers that could not use CD R/W disks. Which ever CD type you choose, the data on the CD will last much longer than the computer used to make it

Compatibility Mode and DOS CD-ROM Driver

Looks like your compatibility mode is being caused by your CD-ROM. Find a Win95 driver for your CD-ROM or toss it and get a new one (they're real cheap now). The lack of a driver for your CD-ROM is causing your hard drive to use the 16 bit mode.

Vanishing CD-ROM Device

I would guess your problem is caused by using a Win95 CD-ROM driver in Win98.
I have an external EZ135 Syquest and an external CD-ROM hooked to a P133 Dell at work. My CD-ROM is occasionally available on startup and is always available on a warm Windows restart. As far as I can determine there are no Win98 drivers available for my old 4X CD-ROM.
As I have had other Win95 driver problems in Win98, I believe your problem is caused by the lack of a Win98 CD-ROM driver.

Sound from two CD-ROMs

I hooked up a Soundblaster 32 with two CD-ROMs. The sound blaster has two audio cables - one digital and one non-digital. I put one of the cables in each drive and it worked perfectly. Of course only one drive can play sound at a time.

Floppy discs getting damaged

Floppies are very easy to damage, and if you use cheap ones, they are very unreliable. Buy brand name floppy discs and protect them in a floppy carrying case to keep them from being crushed, also protect the discs from any magnetism as this will erase them.

Floppy drive works in Dos - Not in Win95/98

If the drive works correctly in Dos then the problem has to be an incorrect/corrupted Device Driver. Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager/Disk Drives and see if the floppy disk device is shown with no conflicts. If there is a conflict, try to fix it, if not, you might want to just delete the floppy device and let Windows try to detect it on your next startup. Or you can use the add new hardware to detect and install the floppy.

New floppy drive doesn't work

If you have your boot sequence stated correctly in your bios say A: C: or C: A: it should seek a bootable drive on either device.
Below are some reasons if you put in a system disk in A: that it will not boot to an A: prompt.
1. The cable is not attached correctly to the drive. Pin 1 on the controller is attached to Pin 1 on the drive via a ribbon cable. problems: A pin is bent on the drive or controller. Your drive cable is defective. Your drive is defective.
2. The power cable is not attached correctly. (Drive light always on). problem: Pin bent on power connector. Connector attached upside down.
3. The drive controller is shorted. Difficult to test. If nothing else works than this should be suspect. Make sure the motherboard is seated correctly and that it is not making contact with the case.

Modem/USB/Serial Port/Networks

Dos Serial Port Conflict - New Modem Downloading and Modem Performance Problems
Internal or External Modem? Modem connection speed
What are the options for networking two computers Is modem sharing software necessary for networked computers to use the internet?

Dos Serial Port Conflict - New Modem

It sounds like your new modem is trying to use a serial port that is already in use. Do you have a serial mouse or printer? Unplug it and see if the problem continues.
Com1 and Com3 are serial port 1. Com2 and Com4 are serial port 2. You usually cannot share a serial port between devices - so no using Com1 for a mouse and Com3 for the modem etc.
Move the external devices to a different serial port to correct the problem.

Downloading and Modem Performance Problems

Some Ideas:
1. Do you have over 16MB of RAM and at least 500MB of free hard disk space? You need adequate system RAM and hard drive space for your system to work efficiently.
2. Have you obtained all the latest updates to IE 4.01? IE 4.01 functions better with the latest updates.
3. Do you have plenty of free system resources? If you run a lot of programs at start-up your machine will run slow. Turn off your virus checker and other "memory hogs" to reclaim system resources. The programs in the START\PROGRAMS\STARTUP folder appear as icons in the bottom right of your screen. If you don't want them to run on start-up just delete them from the above folder. This does not delete them from your hard drive, it just keeps them from running at start-up.
4. Have you set you serial ports to their highest baud rates? First go in to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager/Ports and click on your modem's serial port and set the baud rate to its highest speed in port settings. This is the speed your system transfers data through its serial port, not the speed that you modem connects at.
5. If none of these ideas work, might be time to get a new ISP. Your ISP might be experiencing severe slowdowns and causing your system to perform poorly. Try a new one.

Modem connection speed

Achieving a V90 or other 56K connection is a function of your phone lines, your modem, and your ISP's hardware and software.
.If you have never had a 48K connection or better, you may have phone line trouble or your ISP is not able to provide 56K in your area. Best to shop for a new ISP that can provide the faster connection.
If you were previously connecting at higher speeds, it my mean your ISP has converted to V90 and no longer supports the K56 Flex or X2 standard. So your option is to upgrade to V90, buy a new modem that supports V90, or switch ISPs.
While there are software settings that can effect modem speed, the two problems listed above are the big players.

Internal or External Modem?

It is more of a preference than which is better.
External modems are good for the added information they provide with their many status lights. They are also good for portability - undo the cable and stick it on another computer. Downside is the cost and the space on your desk.
Internal modems are cheaper, and are harder to install correctly. Also, there is much less user information available as there are no status lights (although you can use software to provide this information). It's a personal choice, as there is no performance difference between the two.

What are the options for networking two computers?

The cheapest method is probably a hardware/software kit.
Most of the kits (and maybe all, include software to allow the two computers to access the internet through one modem). You have several options, ethernet wired systems at 10 and 100 megabytes per second (Mbps), high frequency radio systems about 1-2 Mbps, and phone line systems at 1-2 Mbps.
The cheapest and fastest systems are the wired systems. The easiest to hook together in different rooms are the other two types (notice they are about 5 times slower than the wired method).

Is modem sharing software necessary for networked computers to use the internet?

If you have only one computer with a modem, you need some kind of modem sharing software. Or you can be patient and wait for release 2.0 of Windows 98 which will include the software.

Video Card Problems

Voodoo II card runs slow on a Pentium system Poor Video Card Performance (Voodoo Banshee)
New Video Card for a Cyrix 686? A good 16MB 3D card for video capture

Voodoo II card runs slow on a Pentium system

The Voodoo II card was made for PII class machines. There is little difference in running a Voodoo or a Voodoo II card on a Pentium or equivalent machine. Avault shows the regular Voodoo card running Quake II at about 29 fps and the Voodoo II near 60 fps.

Poor Video Card Performance (Voodoo Banshee)

A faster CPU will not noticeably improve your graphics performance. Your graphics card is not performing properly. Your 3D performance should be slightly slower than a Voodoo II card's. The Voodoo II is almost twice as fast as the Voodoo chipset. Some ideas. Do you have the latest video drivers from your manufacturer's web site? Do you have enough free system RAM and free hard drive space? Are you running a lot of background programs and using up all your Window's resources? If these ideas do not improve your video performance, it's time to contact your manufacturer's customer service department and get some help.

New Video Card for a Cyrix 686

Your motherboard has to be PCI 2.0 compliant to run a newer video card. You should start looking at a new computer or motherboard upgrade if you want to run a newer video card.

A good 16MB 3D card for video capture

From cards currently available, I would suggest the ATI Rage Fury or All-in-Wonder 128. The cards are very fast in 3D, they have 36 MB of memory, built-in hardware DVD, and a TV out port (the Fury has better 3D characteristics but the Wonder has video capture and compression). The cards are shipping in limited quantities now and should be readily available in March. See the ATI site for full specs http://www.atitech.com .

Printer Problems

Incorrect Printer Setup and Out-of Memory Error When Printing Parallel port and printer don't work

Incorrect Printer Setup and Out-of Memory Error When Printing

Several things. When your computer says you do not have enough memory it is referring to system RAM (it is tested when you start your computer) not your hard drive. If you have 16MB or less of system RAM you could easily be running into memory problems when printing large documents. Second, does your printer show it is properly set up (no red Xs or yellow exclamations) in Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager/Printers? Your printer will not work unless the printer port it is connected to (LPT2:?) is properly set up also.

Parallel port and printer don't work

1. Make sure your printer device LPT1: or LPT2: has its own interrupt (IRQ). No yellow exclamations or red x's in device manager.
2. Make sure your printer driver is the correct driver for your printer by clicking on your printer in device manager.
3. Do you have the correct type of cable attached to your printer? If your printer requires a bidirectional cable then that is what you should use.
4. If none of the above corrects the problem, you may have a short in your parallel port or its ribbon cable - replace both.

Bios/CMOS Problems

Deleting Startup (Bios) Password CMOS checksum error - defaults loaded, CMOS battery failed
Added new DRAM into an older computer and it beeps at start-up and says "CMOS Memory Mismatch Error" Buying and Installing DRAM

Deleting Startup (Bios) Password

If you have a motherboard jumper to reset the CMOS use it.
If not, turn off the computer and pull out the CMOS battery. Restart the computer with the battery out and the CMOS should reset itself. Turn off the computer and replace the battery (you might want to wait a few hours so the battery drains its charge), restart and change your bios settings.

CMOS checksum error - defaults loaded, CMOS battery failed

Your problem is you have a dead/unconnected CMOS battery. Open your case and look for a flat round battery the size of a nickel. That is your CMOS battery which stores your settings. With the system off, remove the battery and make sure the battery and all contacts are clean. Reinstall and see if it works, otherwise replace it. One of the things the CMOS controls is booting from floppy disk. Another is your hard drive settings. You must solve your battery problems, so that you can change your CMOS settings when your system is performing the RAM test, by pressing the Delete key.

Added new DRAM into an older computer and it beeps at start-up and says "CMOS Memory Mismatch Error"

Make sure you have the correct kind of memory (EDO or non-EDO). Some older computers also required parity DRAMs.
DRAM memory is installed in SIMM pairs of equal capacity known as a bank. You cannot mix DRAMs of unequal capacity in the same bank. Nor can you insert DRAMs one at a time - they have to be inserted in pairs of two. The reason you are experiencing the beeping is your RAM cannot pass the start-up memory check. Make sure all DRAMs are correctly and firmly seated. It would help if you had the motherboard or system manual which would explain DRAM banks and their capacity.

Buying and Installing DRAM

Buy DRAM from someone you can return it to. Bulk DRAM is unbranded and is the poorest quality.
The main thing you have to worry about when installing new DRAM, is shorting out the DRAM or the motherboard with static electricity. To make sure you don't short anything, leave the computer plugged into the wall with all the power off and touch the metal chassis of the computer.
The only other advice, the DRAM chips face in the same direction and should not be forced in.

System Crashes/Lockups

Computer crashes after "Verifying DMA Pool" message Black Screen - Dead Motherboard?
Computer dies after pulling power cord from wall Motherboard Replaced 3 times

Computer crashes after "Verifying DMA Pool" message

The message verifying DMA pool data is a DOS check of your IRQ settings and your DMA channels. It sounds like you have a device conflict. A device conflict occurs when two different hardware components or cards try to use the same interrupt (IRQ) or the same channel (DMA). If you have installed any new items on your computer lately, I would suspect that device as causing the problem.
To check for device and IRQ conflicts in DOS, type "msd" at a DOS prompt. Review the IRQ section to see which devices have been assigned interrupts and which have not.
In Win95/Win98 go in to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager and look for any yellow exclamation marks or red Xs (open all the device directories so you can see individual items). These indicate a device that is not working properly.

Black Screen - Dead Motherboard?

Some thoughts and questions.
Do you have power to the motherboard? Power supply fan and CPU fan running? If you have no power, you may be shorting your motherboard to your case. Check and recheck that the motherboard is correctly seated and does not contact the case.
Did you try the 450 MHz CPU in your friend's board?
Have you tried reseating your video card a couple of times? (It took me about four attempts to get my AGP TNT card to seat correctly. No, I didn't know that was the problem. My screen was black also on my ABIT BX6. So I just kept fiddling with the AGP card.)

Computer dies after pulling power cord from wall

Well it sounds like you have power supply problems. Removing plugs and cables from the computer when the power is on can cause serious shorting. It is likely you shorted your power supply (I hope you didn't short your motherboard also). If you wanted to sure the power supply is the cause of your problems, you could test it with a voltmeter. Power supplies are relatively cheap $30-$50, I suggest you get at least a 235 watt power supply.

Motherboard Replaced 3 times

Well obviously your system is functioning abnormally. Whether the cause of the problem is the motherboard, case, peripherals, or the people installing it, is difficult to tell. Motherboards usually do not fail 3 or 4 times in a row. Probably, a decent motherboard fails 10 in 1000 at the most.
So your motherboard is probably being shorted when installed, or you have some serious power problems in your house, or one of your components is shorting the rest of the system. If you have the motherboard replaced, have them burn it in for a couple of days with your components installed. If there are no problems at the shop, I suggest you buy an UPS for your home.

No video after upgrading with integrated motherboard

Well if you are not getting any video and your motherboard has power you either have a problem in your video system (chip, video port, cable, or monitor) or a short somewhere.
If there is evidence that the computer is booting, hard drive/floppy power up light goes on and off several times, I would think that shows you have a definite video problem. Check and make sure your cable is attached correctly and that no pins are bent on the video port. If you still have no video try the monitor and cable on a different computer. If the monitor works, then your video chip or your graphics port is shorted.
If you system is not attempting to boot the hard drive/floppy then you have a short somewhere else. Make sure your ribbon cables are attached correctly to the motherboard and drives (pin 1 on the cable meets pin 1 on the device socket). Try reseating your DRAM chips. If they have not been inserted correctly your computer will not boot.
At this point if nothing works, it might be time to visit the repair shop while you still have some hair left.

CPUs/Overclocking

New CPU not detected by bios AMD K6-2 with poor performance
Overclocking 400 MHz Celerons Safe Overclocking of Newer Celerons
PII 350 or Celeron 400 MHz

New CPU not detected by bios

You might need to upgrade your bios. Your CPU could be functioning perfectly but your bios is too old to read its speed. Look on your manufacturer's web site for a bios upgrade.
If you don't want to upgrade your bios (which can cause problems for the novice) you might want to check your CPU's speed with the shareware program Wintune. It will tell you the true operating speed of your CPU.

AMD K6-2 with poor performance

Make sure your L2 cache is turned on (I hope you have at least 512KB) and that your SDRAM speed is correctly selected in your bios. Make sure you are not running in DOS compatibility mode by going to Control Panel/System/Performance. If you computer is properly configured, you should be able to get a respectable score in Wintune 98.

Overclocking 400 MHz Celerons

An overclocking review of two 400 MHz Celerons at FiringSquadsays that production models of both PPGA and SEPP CPUs will be ratio-locked, so that changing the multipliers will have no effect.
You supposedly can still change the bus speed to:
400 MHz (6x66)
450 MHz (6x75)
500 MHz (6x83)
600 MHz (6x100)
618 MHz (6x103)
672 MHz (6x112)
798 MHz (6x133)
Of course, the only safe speeds to run at are 66, 75 and 100 MHz and they could not get the 400 MHz Celerons to post at 600 MHz. So it looks like the best bet in overclocking the Celeron 400 is the 6 x 75 setting for 450 MHz.
The best Celeron to overclock is the 300A and run it at 450 MHz. <-BTW my 266 MHz Celeron is running just fine at 400 MHz->

Safe Overclocking of Newer Celerons

As you can't change Intel Celeron CPU multipliers, you are stuck with overclocking the bus speed. I would say that safe overclocking (if there is such a thing) occurs at bus rates of 66, 75, and 100 MHz.
Obtaining an overclocked speed above 500 MHz is highly unlikely and takes increased cooling and/or CPU voltage manipulation. So based on the above, the Celeron 400 can be overclocked using a 75 MHz bus (6x75) to reach 450 MHz. The 366 MHz Celeron can be safely overclocked to (5.5x75) 412 MHz using the 75 MHz bus speed.
Overclocking, in time, shortens the life of a CPU. If you use the 75 MHz bus speed, you shouldn't have major problems. If you decide to experiment with other higher bus speeds all bets are off.

PII 350 or Celeron 400 MHz

Well that depends on how you will use your computer. The larger cache size of the PII will improve its performance about 5% over the Celeron in business and other non-graphic applications. The 100 MHz bus is thought to increase speed 2-5%. The Celeron only has the advantage of its clock speed - which would make it slightly faster in graphics programs and games. As they will no longer make Celerons in SEPP catridges faster than the 433 MHz Celeron, I suggest you buy the PII 350. This allows you to upgrade to a PIII without having to replace your CPU bracket.

Upgrading/Build Your Own

Upgrading P166 PII vs. Celeron
Upgrading CPU on Pentium 166 MHz system K-7 and Voodoo 3 vs. Pentium III thoughts
Pentium III for Web Browsing Upgrading K6-2 350 to faster K6-3 or K6-2
PC 100 SDRAM On a 66 MHz Bus Choosing a motherboard
Using old 486 case with new AT motherboard 64 MB PC100 SDRAM doesn't work on Pentium system
Testing home built system New home-built system beeps and doesn't start up
System runs for 3 seconds and then shuts off, case lights do not work

Upgrading P166

First, get your system RAM up to a total of 64MB. That will increase the speed and performance of your system. Cost depends on how much more memory you need to buy (should be less than $100).
Second, you can probably put in an Intel 233 MMX for about $100. Consult your motherboard manufacturer's web site for details (you will probably need a bios upgrade). That's about all I would do.
The RAM is the most important of the two. You will not receive more than a 15% (guesstimate) total speed improvement from adding more RAM nor more than another 5-10% total speed improvement from the new CPU. If these speed improvements aren't enough for you, save your money for a new system.

Upgrading CPU on Pentium 166 MHz system

Based on the type of your CPU, you probably have a Socket 7 motherboard (unless you have a laptop or the CPU is soldered to the motherboard - not good). Your CPU should be sitting in a plastic socket with a little lever release handle on the side.
If you do have the Socket 7, that does not mean you can use any AMD CPU you wish. There are two things required when replacing a CPU, your motherboard must produce the correct CPU socket voltage (as specified in your motherboard's manual), and your bios has to be compatible with the new CPU (you can usually obtain flash upgrades at your manufacturer's web site).
It is unlikely that you could put a CPU faster than 233 MHz into your motherboard without a voltage adapter socket. The voltage adapter socket, is sold with the new CPU in the form of a CPU upgrade kit. One company that makes such kits is Evergreen.
Keep in mind that even if you upgrade your CPU's speed as much as 100 MHz (266 MHz) your real world speed increase will be 20% or less. This is because you are still using your old motherboard and its outdated components. You might just want to save the money for a new system.

Pentium II vs. Celeron

There is roughly a 6% performance difference between a PII and a Celeron at the same clock speed (PII is 6% faster). If you buy a Celeron system that has a BX chipset motherboard and a Celeron SEPP CPU (looks like a PII in a cartridge), you could upgrade it to PII or PIII. Of course this depends on the motherboard, but most new boards should be OK.
However if you buy a Celeron system with a PPGA CPU (looks like a Pentium CPU), you can't upgrade that to anything but new PPGA Celerons.

Choosing a motherboard

Well everyone has there own opinion on this, but there are a few thing to keep in mind.
1. As long as you are buying a PII/Celeron motherboard, make sure you get a BX chipset motherboard. Most newer BX boards will run Celerons, PIIs and PIIIs.
2. Buy an ATX form factor motherboard and an ATX power supply. The old AT board and power supply are lacking several features of the ATX.
3. Compare features of the boards. Do you want PCI/ISA slots, and how many? What is the maximum amount of SDRAM the board will take? (important for future upgrades)
4. Opinion time - I use ABit and FIC motherboards.

K-7 and Voodoo 3 vs. Pentium III thoughts

There has been much speculation about the K-7, however no testing on the chip has been released. It has been suggested that the K-7 will not be as fast in games as the PIII, due to the PIII's SSE instructions.
You should also be aware that the PIII is being redesigned under the name of Coppermine and it will be released at the same time as the K-7. The Coppermine PIII will be a more advanced form factor CPU design than the K-7 and it will also have a full speed cache (like the Xeon).
While the Voodoo 3 is supposed to be twice as fast as the Voodoo 2, again it is speculated that 4X AGP cards (like the second generation RIVA TNT) will be faster. My advice is to keep an open mind and see what develops.

Pentium III for Web Browsing?

The reason you were told to use the PIII for web browsing, is some web sites will be optimized for the PIII's multimedia SSE instructions. The SSE instructions provide a 20-60% speed boost. The number of web sites that will use the SSE extensions remains to be seen. The good news is that any software or game written with Microsoft DirectX 6.1 support, will get the SSE speed boost.

Upgrading K6-350 to faster K6-3 or K6-2?

The main benefit of the K6-3 over the K6-2 is that it has 256KB of full speed L2 cache (vs the K6-2 L2 cache which is half speed and on the motherboard). The K6-3 can also access an additional 2MB of L3 cache on the motherboard.
CPU caches are mostly of benefit to non-graphic business apps like word processing, spreadsheets, databases and server applications. So the likelihood of you getting faster gaming from a K6-3 400 vs. a K6-2 is small. You may get faster internet performance from the K6-3 depending on the amount and type of graphics used on the web site.
To tell you the truth, I wouldn't bother upgrading your current CPU at this time, as the performance gains will not be significant.

PC 100 SDRAM On a 66 MHz Bus

Yes you can buy PC100 SDRAM and use it on a 66 MHz bus. Ask if it is backward compatible before you buy it. Also, while your motherboard will boot into DOS with EDO and SDRAM on the motherboard, it is unlikely that you will be able to run Windows with the mixed RAM. So plan on replacing all your EDO RAM.

Using old 486 case with new AT motherboard

Your power supply should be compatible with an AT motherboard.
However, you should be aware that you may have to go through a lot of grief to have the motherboard fit securely in the case. The older the case, the more likely the motherboard will not fit correctly.
I think paying $60 for an ATX case and power supply would save you a lot of time.

64 MB PC100 SDRAM doesn't work on Pentium system

Some thoughts.
1. Not all PC100 SDRAM is backward compatible - check to make sure the SDRAM you purchased can be used in a Pentium system.
2. Your motherboard may not be able to reliably run 64MB SDRAM. Does your motherboard manual say you can use DIMMs of this size?
3. If you have no problem with the above, did you change your DRAM settings in your bios? Speed and Latency?
4. Try using one DIMM instead of two. Most Pentium computers are actually slowed down by the addition of RAM above 64 MB.
5. If nothing else works, return the 64MB DIMMs and buy two 32MB SDRAM DIMMs.

Testing home built system

To determine if you have installed the CPU, SDRAM, keyboard, video card, and all power connectors correctly, turn the system on. You should get the bios start-up screen. If you do not get this screen, then you have shorted or incorrectly inserted something. Re-check everything (including re-inserting the video card a few times) and try again. Once you have seen the start-up screen you can move on to inserting disk drives and installing your operating system.

New home-built system beeps and doesn't start up

Beeping means something is connected wrong or that something is not connected.
To start your computer the following have to be attached correctly.

Motherboard - It must be seated correctly in its case and it must not touch the case except where the support screws are inserted. Otherwise you have grounding.
Power Supply - Cables should be firmly attached to the motherboard and not stretched. Fan should run when system started.
CPU - Correctly inserted without being forced in. CPU fan should turn on when you turn on power to the motherboard.
DRAM - All DRAM and SDRAM should face the same way. You need to have the correct kind for your motherboard. Should fit snugly but not be forced. Sometimes it matters what slot (bank) you use first. Consult your motherboard manual or your manufacturer's web site.
Video Card - Securely plugged in to computer and cable secure to monitor. You need this to make sure your machine posts (passes the startup tests).
Keyboard - Must be correctly attached for your system to post.

You do not need to have your drives (CD, hard dive or floppy) attached to past the post tests (the computer will test memory and stop and then say it can't find a system disk). I suggest you disconnect them if they are attached as this would be one less component you have to consider as causing the problem.
I would definitely reseat the video card and SDRAM chips as it is possible they are not inserted correctly (I had to reseat a video card four times before it would work).

System runs for 3 seconds and then shuts off, case lights do not work

Sounds like you have a short in the connections between the motherboard and the accessory case items. Review all your connections, they should all face the same way. On my ABit BX-6 the front of the plugs face the case.

Laptops

Active Matrix vs. Dual Scan, XGA and SVGA

Active Matrix vs. Dual Scan, XGA and SVGA

Active Matrix (TFT) is much brighter, more defined, and displays faster than Dual Scan monitors. Also, dual scan monitors are much harder to see in bright light or sunlight.
XGA and Super VGA refer to the number of colors the graphics adapter and video memory can produce. XGA is 16 million colors and usually requires 4MB of Video RAM. Super VGA is capable of 64,000 colors and requires 1-2MB of Video RAM.

Miscellaneous

Keyboard Spacebar doesn't work

Keyboard Spacebar doesn't work

You probably have a dead/stuck key. Remove the cover from the keyboard and inspect it. If it is stuck, gently work it loose. Clean gunk with Q-tips or a soft cloth. If this doesn't work, I suggest you buy a new keyboard.

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