Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dust and Drivers


PC maintenance is a total drag.  Nobody likes to do it but if you don't it will come back to bite you in the butt. 

I've had my Toshiba gaming laptop semi-permanently set up on my desk in my office for some time now.  I have it propped on a cooling pad with an external monitor and keyboard attached.  Since I bought my netbook I have little reason to disconnect the Toshiba.

I decided I would try something out during the PokerSlut Tour and connect the Toshiba to my router via a wired connection instead of wirelessly for the Skype chat .  I finally got all settled into the guest room (home of our router) with Skype and Full Tilt running when my system just shut off. 

OMGWTF!?!?!? Don't do this to me NOW!

I started it right back up and before the Windows login screen could even show up it did it again.  I waited a little longer this time but, sure enough it blipped right off ONCE AGAIN!  Eff this!  I took it back downstairs and set it up on the cooling pad again.

I've never had overheating issues with the laptop before and I couldn't understand why I would have them now.  The cooling pad made the difference and everything ran fine. 

The next day I decided to test it out again and took the Toshiba into the living room. Once again within minutes it shut itself off.  Sigh.

Preliminary research on the internet indicated I should vacuum out the fans and vents.  Mkay.  I fired up my "suck the paint off your car" Dyson and went to town on the vents and fans.  I was shocked at the wad of dust that came out of one of the fan inlets.  HUGE wad of dust. 

Mind you, I have used compressed air and the vacuum on my keyboard but it never occurred to me to do the same with the fans.  Suddenly no more issues with overheating and the system ran quieter and smoother than before.  I found a temperature monitoring utility that I will keep in my tray from now on as a reminder to keep an eye out for overheating.

Eerily, the next day I received an email from my mother complaining that her cheap Acer laptop was doing the same thing to her.  I ended up calling her in Germany to discuss it with her since, clearly, I wasn't going to catch her on instant messenger.  She mentioned that dust had collected on her cooling pad but she never considered that it would collect in the machine.  After a quick vacuuming her machine is now behaving normally.  Score 2 for vacuuming out your laptop!


One of the things that impressed me most about Windows 7 was the driver library.  It is easy to discount the effect of drivers on the performance of your computer.  After all, it still runs, right?  Most people NEVER ever update the drivers on their machines. 

Some manufacturers have developed software that will look for and install driver updates automagically for you.  They have learned to do this as a way to keep their computers running at peak performance. 

Now that we have more computers than people in this house I succumbed to purchasing a driver updating subscription service which is working out quite nicely. 

Perhaps the best thing that happened as far as drivers are concerned is NVidia's decision to offer updated drivers to the public.  Previously you were stuck waiting for updated drivers from your manufacturer who really had little or no incentive to provide you with the most current drivers.  When you consider that NVidia is famous for releasing new drivers almost daily (ok, I exaggerate slightly) I can understand a manufacturer's reluctance to keep up with that.

Before NVidia started releasing drivers to the public it was possible to find modded drivers but it was sometimes painful wading through the compatibility lists looking for the latest driver for your video card. 

Was it worth it?  Oh, absolutely.

A few days ago NVidia released a new driver for my Toshiba laptop.  On a whim, I decided to re-run my Windows Experience Index after updating the driver to see if there was any difference.

Here is my score calculated right after I installed Windows 7:

Here is my score after updating the video driver:

Now that's a significant improvement!

Your computer is no different than that high maintenance girlfriend/boyfriend: sometimes you hate them but if you put forth the effort to keep them happy they will do that thing you like so much (email, AIM, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube anyone?).


Memphis MOJO said...

I love it when you talk high-tech.

Rakewell said...

What's the temp monitoring utility?

gadzooks64 said...

It's called SensorsView. I have the free version which works nicely. It can stay in the tray or you can keep a small window open on your desktop.

I'm not sure how I found it - google more than likely or at