Category Archives: Hardware

Answers to common and obscure hardware issues.

Diskette drive 0 seek failure


Your computer appears to not start with the cryptic message:

Diskette drive 0 seek failure

Strike F1 to retry boot, F2 for setup utility


Diskette is the key term to catch here. Relax, your hard drive is fine. If your PC has a floppy drive, it has either failed or had a cable come loose inside. If you have a newer computer that does not have a floppy drive, it means that somehow your BIOS has gotten changed to expect one.

In either case, a quick fix is to press F2 for the setup utility, look for the floppy drive and set Floppy A to none. Save the settings and now it will work.

This is evidently an issue on some newer Dells. I had to charge a client to fix a Dell that is still under warranty. Dell tech support said pop the case and check connections. Of course, the client was not comfortable with this. After checking cables and trying several other options, I googled the message. One would think that Dell has a knowledge base with this message that should remind the support tech to ask if there is a floppy drive. If no, then no need to crack the case. Instead they tick of one of their customers.

Dial up Problems

If you use a dial-up service, such as, AOL or Juno to access the internet, and things are slow or not working, there are several possible explanations.

  • The modem is mis-configured.
  • The modem is worn out.
  • The software for the dial-up service needs to be reinstalled.
  • Spyware infestation.
  • Virus infection.

A mis-configured modem can be identified in the device manager. It may require using add/remove hardware to tell Windows it has been removed. When the computer is re-booted, it should find the modem and offer to “re-install” it.

If a modem is worn out or failing, it may not operate at full speed. This is most noticeable if you have more than one PC with its own modem and one computer is faster online than the other.

To re-install the dial-up software, the best procedure is to uninstall it, reboot the computer and reinstall it. Make sure you have the user name and password before attempting this. The installation program will have an option to install for an existing account.

If your computer has spyware, it can be addressed with the free program Spybot Search and Destroy. If the infection is particularly bad, it may take several scans to remove all of the spyware. This software is updated every Wednesday, it is wise to keep this updated and scan your computer once a month to insure it is free of spyware.

When there is a virus infection, it can be tricky to resolve without internet access. It is often easier to download utilities to help remove a particular virus using a computer that is not infected. Virus software is only useful if it is kept up-to-date. Most anti-virus vendors have daily or weekly updates. A good free program is Grisoft Anti-Virus (AVG).

Other factors that may come into play are mis-configured firewalls, Windows has not been updated with the latest security fixes, or firmware updates have not been applied.

My Linux Printer

I found a good black and white laser printer for under $80 this fall. It is a Brother HL-2040. It installed easily in Slackware Linux 10.2. The print is great. It works just as well as it does on Windows XP SP2. On my dual-boot PC, there is no trouble using the printer from either Operating System.

It came with half the amount of ink as a new cartridge, but I have printed about two reams of paper, and still going strong. I would have spent nearly $200 on ink for my Lexmark injet printer.

I think it is wrong for ink to cost more than my printer, unless there is value in it. With the Brother I will spend about $150 for a new ink cartridge, but it will be able to do several reams of paper. With my Lexmark, I was lucky to print about 100 pages, using the ink save setting. When the new cartridges cost $30, it costs about $150 to print a ream of paper. I could print about 6 reams of paper for the same cost of ink on the Brother.

Now, the only reason I use the Lexmark, is if I need something printed in color, which is not very often. I will not buy another ink jet printer! Lexmark has enough of my money.

Linux Printing Scorecard

While I believe that Linux is mostly ready for the desktop, there are a few rough edges. Some hardware is just not useable or easy to use with Linux. Printers are items that you will want to investigate before jumping headfirst into Linux. If you cannot print, your PC may be next to worthless. Like other hardware, if the manufacturers do not make drivers, or provide specs so the Open Source community can develop drivers, the hardware may be a paperweight under Linux.

From my experience, most USB devices just work in Linux. The exception is printers. If a printer is specifially designed for Windows, there may be no way to get it to work with Linux. For example, I have a Lexmark Z23 ink jet printer that came with a PC I bought 4 years ago. Lexmark is semi-friendly to the Linuz community and provided a Linux driver. I was able to crudely print using Red Hat 7.2, but once I upgraded to Red Hat 8, then 9, and then Fedora Core 3, it will not print. The OS recognizes that the printer is there, but none of the work arounds on the net work. When I try to print, it ejects a sheet of paper. This kind of printer keeps me tied to Windows, and the need for a dual-boot PC, so I can print.
To avoid headaches, has assembled a Linux Printer Scorecard of various makes an models and how well they work with Linux.

Check this list before going whole hog with Linux. It is less painful to learn you may not be able to get your current printer to work BEFORE you make the switch.

The simple rule of thumb is if it is a cheap printer that is bundled with a cheap PC, and the ink costs more than the printer, it probably will not work with Linux. The Linux Printer Scorecard will tell you what others have experienced and which printers in your price range are easiest to get working with Linux.

Hard Drive Not Recognized

If you install a new hard drive and install an Operating System on it and it suddenly acts like it is not there, it may be a loose connection.

If a bootable CD, such a s Knoppix, is not able to read your hard drive, it can have several causes. The list of possibilities below can also be used for troubleshooting hard drives, floppy drives, and CD/DVD drives.

CAUTION: Make sure the power is off and that the PC is disconnected from power. Also be sure to avoid static electricity, or you will need a new PC. Do not force any thing. All parts should easily fit together if they are properly aligned. Sometimes you may have to push or pull harder than you think. Just be careful to make sure any levers or buttons that hold it in place are not overlooked.

  • Least likely is that a new hard drive has failed. Try the other options before assuming it is the new hard drive. If all of the below do not work, and it is a new hard drive, contact the manufacturer. New hard drives should include very good instructions for installation and troubleshooting. When in doubt read the instructions.
  • Open the case and make sure that all the connections are correct.
  • Unplug the power supply connection, make sure there are no bent pins, and plug it in securely.
  • Repeat the procedure with the connection to the motherboard, make sure no pins are bent.
  • If you have multiple drives, try hooking up just one drive to make sure you can read it.
  • Make sure that the power supply, and other components are working correctly. It is possible that another component of the PC has failed.
  • If you have another PC available, try connecting it to the other PC. This could point to failure of the power and/or motherboard cables in the original PC.
  • If none of the above works, call in professional help. You can also beg a friend or family member to help. If you cannot pay a friend or family member, a good meal, is a nice way to get them to rescue you again.

Volume Settings

I am frustrated with the lack of individual control of the volume on a shared PC. It is a dual-boot Windows/Linux PC. I can have the volume just right in Linux, but be blasted out when I boot to Windows. Likewise, I can have the volume for one Windows user just right, and another user will change it, and it affects the volume settings for all users.

If documents, wallpaper, etc. can be controlled by individual users, why can’t the volume be controlled to each user’s tastes? The volume is in part a function of the sound card, but there ought to be a way to control it to the taste of each user. If anyone knows of a free or low-cost program to keep sound at the level set by each user, please send me an email.

On a related note, I wish that all TV and radio stations had to use the same volume level, so I could change the channel and avoid the situation of not being able to hear some channels and then getting blasted out by others. This is not only frustrating to the person trying to watch TV or listen to the radio, but late at night it can lead to an unhappy spouse who was rudely awakened. Other than having to spend money to get a Tivo or similar device, if they can handle this situation, I think the only option is for the FCC to step in.

CD Will Not Run/Play

If you are having problems getting a CD to run its program, or read a file from it, or play music, there are many simple explanations.

Now that most people are familiar with CDs this first one is less likely, but make sure you put it in the drive label up. If you want to really challenge a PC support professional, put the CD in upside down and see how long it takes them to figure it out. If they suggest popping the cover, let them in on the joke.

Other simple reasons that a music CD will not work are that the sound is turned down or muted, or that the speakers have been unplugged. If you use a headset, did you leave it plugged in? Are the speakers plugged into the microphone jack by mistake?

Any CD that is scratched or chipped will either not work, or work sporadically. There are repair kits that can smooth out scratches and make unusable CDs work again. It is a good idea to make a copy of any data you want to keep, in case it is damaged bad enough to not be a permanent fix.

If the shiny material is exposed, the CD is ruined for anything but a coaster or other ornamental use. CDs that are cracked or split should not be placed in the CD Drive, or it could possible damage the drive.

Spilled Drink On Keyboard

If you spill your drink on your keyboard, power down your PC and unplug it from power. Get a towel to get all the moisture you can. Turn the keyboard over and lay on the towel. Once it has had time to dry out, you should be okay to continue. If it is a sugary drink, such as regular soda, you can use a damp cloth to get the sticky off. Sticky drinks may make the keys less responsive. On a standard keyboard, the keys can be removed for individual cleaning. Since keyboards sell for about $10 – $15, it may be easier to buy a new one. If it is a laptop, you may need to pay for servicing, if the keys do not work properly. This will most likely void the warranty, if any. Laptop keyboards can also be replaced, but the price will vary by manufacturer and model. You can always plug in a regular keyboard, since they are cheaper, but it makes the laptop less portable.

My Computer Is Smoking

If smoke comes out of your computer, it is most likely caused by the failure of the power supply. If this is the case, the computer will just stop and lose power. There is a cooling fan inside and the motors eventually wear out. Unplug the computer from power immediately to prevent possible damage to the hard drive (all your data is here), or other components. If it is the power supply, a new one can be purchased to replace the old one and you can get back to work.

If the smoke is coming out of your monitor, turn off and unplug your PC and monitor. Smoke should not come from your monitor unless you have configured it to operate outside its design parameters, such as the display frequency. If your monitor smokes, plan on buying a new monitor.

Another cause could be a short in one of the internal wires. If this happens, it is possible for their to be a small fire. Plan on a new computer if this happens.