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Reformatting and drivers

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Live and learn. I volunteered to help a friend reformat his old Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop. He didn’t take care of it particularly well; it had lots of old programs, not fully patched, multiple anti-viruses…all of which were out-of-date, maybe even infected, etc. etc. Even though I have scant experience doing so, I figured the best thing to do was to reformat.

 

That part went well. What didn’t go well was the aftermath, namely, problems with the installed hardware not working (like the wireless card, video card, sound card, usb’s, etc) because, I think, the drivers were lost. When I go to Device Manager, I see a number of devices with big, bright yellow question marks next to them.

 

I’ve been spending time going to Dell’s Drivers and Download website. The biggest challenge is figuring out which drivers to pick from. That process remains ongoing and is a royal pain.

 

If and when I get this laptop fully functional again, I plan on imaging it before giving it back to my pal. But I’m curious: What should I have done to make this “driver” problem easier to deal with? Today I did a bit of searching on the web and saw two small programs that are used to backup drivers and then reinstall them. One of them is Driver Backup and the other is Double Driver. Could it have been as simple as me using one or both of those apps to backup the drivers before reformatting and then using the apps to reinstall the drivers afterwards to avoid this headache?

 

Like I said…live and learn.

 

(PS - I posted this in the Hardware section, but if it belongs in the Software section, please feel free to move it.)

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Ideally, downloaded all of the driver installers before reformatting. I think windows lets you update drivers through Device Manager, but it doesn't always work. Might be a windows 6.x thing.

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I’ve been spending time going to Dell’s Drivers and Download website. The biggest challenge is figuring out which drivers to pick from. That process remains ongoing and is a royal pain.

Since it's a Dell computer look all over the place on the computer for a Dell Service Tag - should be a sticker somewhere on the system - if you can't find it have your friend call Dell and give his info, etc., and they may tell him what the service tag is. That service tag can be inputted into Dell's website to give a much better match for the drivers available for that particular system - do note that in some instances it can show incorrect drivers, etc., for a system however it will alleviate allot of the frustration you're having.

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Ok I just looked on my Dell system, so you can also find the Service Tag number in the system BIOS, should be at the very top on the first BIOS page.

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Problems choosing the right driver?

Most of the time you can go to start/run & type in dxdiag, then hit enter, & it will bring up a direct-x diagnostics screen that will show you the model of your machine that you should look for.

In addition to that, I use the display tab to see if someone has 128 MB graphics in order to know if they can support Windows 7 aero (if they want to update to 7).

__________

 

When you get to the website, you will need to know:

 

- Operating System (XP/Vista/7)

- 32/64 bits

- Drivers needed, as indicated by yellow ? in device manager.

 

* You can find the Operating System by right clicking My Computer & selecting properties. The General tab will show the OS as well as the service pack.

* You can find if it is 32 or 64 bit, because 64 bit will say 64, while 32 bit will not.

* Drivers needed can be found using -> http://www.halfdone.com/ukd/

__________

 

What can you do to make it simpler in the future?

 

As long as you can boot into Windows, it is much simpler to make a driver backup of all the hardware, then right click that driver backup, send it to your flash drive.

When you are done re-installing Windows, you can right click the unknown devices in your Device Manager, then choose update driver, & browse back to the folder containing the right driver.

 

99% of the time, you might can get by with only backing up the non-MS drivers. But there are exceptions, & you may find yourself trying to find some power management device driver, or some other weird stuff like your flash card device driver if you do not back it ALL up.

 

I generally make 2 backups via 2 programs, because I have seen where sometimes one program would fail to capture all the files needed, & the second one would save my butt.

__________

 

If you download off the manufacturer website, the main drivers that cause problems & must be re-installed are usually:

 

- Audio

- Video

- Ethernet

- Wireless

- Modem

- Card Readers

- Power Management

__________

 

So far as the right driver backup program to use, I would not use Driver Backup! as it requires .Net to be installed, & that may be something you cannot setup due to malware/restrictions/misc reasons at the moment. Not to mention that on slower systems, it would be time consuming.

 

I love http://www.drivermagician.com/Lite.htm

That is a very simple, free, easy to use program.

 

I also use Double Driver from time to time, & I have played around with various driver backup programs.

 

Generally, Driver Magician Lite + Double Driver works quite well.

__________

 

* Windows 7 is a lot better on re-installing drivers, because it will allow you to scan an entire folder of drivers, then auto-detect the right driver from that folder & set it back up, where in XP, you had to navigate to the exact folder in order to get it to work. I would assume that Vista is like 7 in their driver behavior, but I am not certain.

 

Some say that you need to download manufacturer drivers firstly, but it is simpler/faster/easier to just run a driver backup program such as Driver Magician Lite, let it back up all drivers (to be on the safe side, so you also have the power management/card readers/hd audio, etc), then export to a flash drive. Running a backup also with Double Driver may be a good idea. I generally just grab the basic non-ms drivers with this one.

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Thanks guys.

 

Andavari - Your suggestion about the Service Tag is a good one and it's one that I tried. Unfortunately (and oddly) it didn't filter the drivers very much. For example, Dell's Drivers and Downloads web site still showed 12 video drivers to pick from after I entered the Service Tag. That doesn't make sense to me. I assumed entering that tag number would pinpoint the drivers specific to that particular laptop. Oh well...

 

I figured out the correct driver for the wireless card by opening up the covering and looking at the card. So I'm back in business in that regard.

 

My next driver problem to tackle with this laptop is the video card, I think. The words and icons and images on the monitor display are all very tiny. Hardly legible. Super Fast - I'll see if dxdiag provides any insight. And a question: how do you make a driver backup of your hardware?

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Guest TexShane

If you have Windows 7, drivers are not much of a problem, Double Driver is what I would use, its so easy to use.

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My next driver problem to tackle with this laptop is the video card, I think. The words and icons and images on the monitor display are all very tiny. Hardly legible. Super Fast - I'll see if dxdiag provides any insight. And a question: how do you make a driver backup of your hardware?

-> Having trouble finding the right drivers? Try http://www.halfdone.com/ukd/

-> Make a driver backup using either Driver Magician Lite. It is simpler & easier to use than Double Driver. Fewer clicks, & it backs them up faster.

 

* Just corrected the link. For some reason, the link I posted got ruined when I posted it, so I edited it, & it should work fine now... I think.

 

Try downloading & using Unknown devices. It can help you locate the manu of the unknown cards in your machine. At least give you info (in a lot of cases) about whether it is a Conexant/Broadcom, etc device, so that you know the right driver to download off the Manufacturer website.

 

After you have all the drivers successfully installed & make a backup, you can save space by right clicking the driver file & choose send to .zip file. Usually save around 50% to 75% space. In the future, it is simple to extract the files from the .zip folder & use Device Manager to update the drivers again.

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There are many applications to find drivers for you, though many are not free.

Very true.

 

Unknown Devices (free) can help you figure out those yellow ? hardware devices are under device manager, & driver magician lite (free) + double driver (free) can help you back it up.

In general, 1 driver backup may work great, but sometimes you find a certain video/audio/wifi driver was missing a file, & the other program will have it & save the day.

 

If you have trouble finding certain drivers for download, or the manufacturer website is down/offline, a search on http://www.driverguide.com/ (free membership) can help you locate drivers from a community of people that may have uploaded their drivers for your specific device.

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Keeping my fingers crossed...but I may have successfully added all the missing drivers. Device Manager now shows all devices functioning properly; that is to say there are no yellow or red problem indicators next to any of the listings.

 

I've still got some rebuilding of this laptop to do. Need to add service pack 3. Maybe an upgrade of IE...although I'm planning on putting FF portable on it instead. Also need to decide on a free AV. It's an older machine with not a lot of horsepower. I'm thinking of MSE along with Sandboxie.

 

Lots of good information in these posts. I do appreciate everyone's input. I'm learning much via your comments and suggestions.

 

Chris.

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Good luck! Drivers can be a confusing subject, and often tend to get out of hand when you need to collect many.

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I'm thinking of MSE along with Sandboxie.

If you are fixing an older machine, I would recommend Google Chrome for a slower machine, as it seems to run better on older/slower hardware. I like firefox the best, but I have a decent machine to run it on.

 

Check MSE mem use on this site > http://free.antiviru...ng/performance/

It is one of the highest memory users listed, only topped by the very last entry up there.

 

AVG free uses 1/2 the memory that MSE does, & seems to do a good job.

2012 edition of AVG can be downloaded from filehippo.

 

They do have Avira, but it has nag screens, & that is annoying unless you can block them. I can, but too much trouble to list at the moment.

Avast is another free one, but the last time I used it, I have a few hundred thousand files, & it had a much higher false positive rate than the other A/V I tested.

I will test sometime soon to see if they changed any in recent versions.

 

AVG seems to do about the best job (my opinion) in protection while utilizing low resources & being less naggly in the freeware AV.

A higher detection rate means nothing, if that includes all the false positives they flag in their reviews.

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Just to give a different opinion and confuse you more CC, I would go along with MSE and Sandboxie a combo that I use on a couple of machines without any problems.

 

However in the end it might be best to install an av and see how it suites you, and your machine, before you make your final decision.

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Thanks for the opinions regarding anti-virus options. Sandboxie is a definite. I'll create a sandboxie desktop link so the browser will automatically open sandboxed.

 

I don't have personal experience with any of the free AV's. I think it will come down to giving some a trial run.

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Also need to decide on a free AV. It's an older machine with not a lot of horsepower. I'm thinking of MSE along with Sandboxie.

I'm at a 50/50 split between Panda Cloud Antivirus Free and MSE, I like them both allot however I settled on using Panda simply because it's much lighter on resource usage on Windows XP systems, and it's supposed to also run good on underpowered laptops and notebooks. Of course it works best with an always-on Internet connection, if the laptop isn't always connected to the Internet then MSE would obviously be a better choice.

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Almost got all 100+ Windows Updates downloaded and installed. Man, this is slow work.

 

Andavari, I'm not familiar with Panda Cloud. I plan on doing some reading about it. The laptop has 512 mb ram, and somewhere around 50 gb hard drive (don't remember exactly right now, but I think that's close). The owner of this laptop wants something that runs quietly and is low maintenance.

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My friend said he wanted the least annoying/complicated/difficult-to-use AV possible. So based on his request, I focused on Microsoft Security Essentials and Panda Cloud.

 

I installed MSE last night on the laptop and ran into trouble. For whatever reasons, CPU usage frequently kept spiking to 100% and dragging the system. According to Task Manager, a process called MsMpEng.exe was the culprit. I googled that and saw a few things to try to alleviate the problem, but they didn't work. So I uninstalled MSE and tried Panda Cloud.

 

Aside from doubling the start up time from a cold boot (2 minutes versus about 50 seconds), Panda Cloud is practically non-existent on the machine. The interface is very simple (much like MSE). So, I plan on giving that a thumbs-up for now.

 

Thanks again for everyone's input.

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It doesn't take much to run a CPU spike to 100% on a 512 MB machine.

You will find that $30 or so to update the RAM to 1 GB or more, will be more than worth the headache.

 

The fact that your machine will:

 

- Run cooler

- Run faster

- Last longer

 

make you happy that you did!

 

*Crucial Memory Scanner is an easy way to find/order the RAM. I used it many times, & so far, they are one of the companies I have used that the memory just works. I believe they check each memory stick before it goes out the door, from what I heard. Never had a problem so far. Try upgrading your RAM & you will be much happier than trying to fight every day with 512 MB

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Crucial have excellent after sales service.

 

A few years ago they scanned my 512 MB laptop and I choose a 1 GB RAM to replace one of my 256 MB RAM's

They took my credit card details, charged about £90-00, and it came through my letter-box the following morning.

I was a Happy man.

 

Scrutinised all the paper-work and found a discrepancy in component type identification.

Returned to Crucial site to review details of what I had seen when ordering.

Shocked to see a 30% price reduction overnight. Kicked myself for ordering too soon.

 

I phoned to say I seemed to have got the wrong device and would they please take it back and refund yesterday's price,

and charge today's price for the correct one.

They took all the details and explained to my satisfaction that the same basic device can have either of two legends printed,

but only the same installation sheet was shipped with either.

They also advised that the price reduction was a surprise overnight instruction from the other side of the Atlantic.

 

I semi-jokingly asked if I could still do a swap to get the benefit of today's price.

They said I did not need to do that - they would put a charge-back on my card for the difference.

 

I was then a VERY Happy man.

Especially when upgrade went without a hitch - Start-up was flawless - and operation much smooooooooother.

 

A day or so later I checked up and my Credit card had received the refund as promised.

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512 RAM and 50 GB's of memory? That laptop is pretty much old and outdated and that's why I suspect you had trouble finding drivers for that. The laptop has XP isnt it? In the case of using Windows 7, if you want to look for driver updates, going to the "optional" section of Windows Update gives you a pretty good chance to see and download available drivers for your hardware but on Windows XP, I'm not too sure.

 

I would also suggest that you install the free version of a program called Cleanmem. It supposedly cleans your memory every 30 minutes by default which is great if you are running on a machine with low RAM. Check this out:

 

http://www.pcwintech.com/cleanmem

 

 

A discussion on this forum was even made about that program:

 

http://forum.piriform.com/index.php?showtopic=28918

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Ok I just looked on my Dell system, so you can also find the Service Tag number in the system BIOS, should be at the very top on the first BIOS page.

If that doesn't work, you can also go to start/run & type dxdiag & enter. I

It will usually show your model #, which you can then use to find your drivers.

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I'm making pretty good progress. Got all of the drivers installed, I think. The last one pertained to the touchpad. It wasn't behaving well. Then I realized I hadn't installed a driver for that. So found it on Dell's web site and it seems much more stable now.

 

Cleanmem was one of the first apps I installed, but thanks for the suggestion. I could have easily overlooked it. I've got it set to run every 10 minutes.

 

I'll let my friend decide whether he wants to put more ram in this thing. Physically, it's been pretty banged up; it looks like it's been through a lot.

 

Panda Cloud continues to run very silently, along with Sandboxie.

 

I put IE8 on this, along with FF 7.0.1. I'm a bit surprised that IE is snappier on this machine than FF.

 

Anyway, it's been kind of fun rebuilding this old laptop.

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I put IE8 on this, along with FF 7.0.1. I'm a bit surprised that IE is snappier on this machine than FF.

I believe the 7x series targets higher end machines.

 

The latest in the 3.6 series may be better for lower end machines.

You can find this on Filehippo.

 

Part of the reason IE "feels faster", is because Windows preloads part of IE on boot.

Of course, IE still crashes more than FF, which is easily verifiable if you open more than 5 to 20 tabs on it.

IE 9 is the first truly stable IE MS has created.

 

Another choice for low end machines may be Google Chrome.

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Another choice for low end machines may be Google Chrome.

Yeah Google Chrome seems very snappy and it would install quite fast as well. Feels neater than IE or Firefox to me.

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