Jun 26

Are you backing up your data?

I often come across customers who have lost their important  documents to a computer disaster. Most times they didn’t have a backup strategy in place, or they did, but they weren’t implementing it. I always stress this to my customers. Backup your data. Set up a backup strategy and stick to it. One key aspect of a successful backup strategy is keeping your data in as many places as possible.

Most operating systems include some sort of backup feature that allows you to set up a backup schedule. There are also services that backup your important documents online (services such as Mozy Backup or Carbonite for instance). You can always purchase an inexpensive external hard drive and copy your files manually or with a backup utility. Anything you choose to do is better than not doing anything.

If you are running any flavor of Windows 7 on your computer, you have access to an easy to use and reliable backup utility. It takes a few minutes to set up, and you just need to plug in an external hard drive. Getting two external hard drives and alternating between the two is not a bad idea either. As I said, keeping your data in as many places as possible is a key part of a successful backup strategy.

If you run a business, it is a good idea to hire a professional to help you come up with a reliable backup strategy that fits your business needs and policies. You can always give us a call. I may post something related to business backup strategies in the future.

On your personal computer, a backup strategy is something simple to set up.You just need to use a backup utility to set up a schedule and make sure the backup runs.

You can always use a third party utility or copy the files your self, but, if you are running any version of Windows 7, you can set up the backup schedule in a few easy steps.

Click on the start menu and type “Backup” in the search box. One of the items you will find is called “Backup and Restore” – click on it. This will open the Backup and Restore center. In this window you can check the status of your existing backup schedule if you already have it set up. You can also modify the backup settings or set up up a new backup schedule.

Plug in your external hard drive or thumb drive (make sure there is enough space to hold your data or complete system drive). Click on “Setup Backup.” This will open the Setup Backup Wizard. The wizard is pretty straight forward. Just select the destination on the first section (the external hard drive.) Select what you want to back up (you can let Windows choose for you or select the option to choose yourself if you want to add locations outside of your libraries – documents, pictures, videos, etc). Modify the schedule on the next window. Then click save settings and run backup. That’s pretty much it. Now you just have to make sure the computer is on and the hard drive is plugged in whenever the backup will run.

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Jun 24

Find out what caused a Blue Screen of Death in Windows.

If you’ve used a computer with any flavor of the Windows Operating System, you’ve certainly experienced the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). These BSODs or Stop errors, as Microsoft calls them, occur when the Operating System detects a problem with either hard-ware or software, and it “stops” to prevent damage to the system. Depending on the computer configuration the computer may restart or simply wait for your input. It also writes a file to the hard-drive. This file is called a memory dump file, small memory dump file, or minidump file. This file contains information that may help you identify why your computer stopped responding.Your computer has to be configured to write this memory dump. It also needs to have a paging file of at least 2 MB on the boot drive.

To verify that your computer is set to write the minidump file and that the paging file is the correct size and in the right location follow the next steps:

  1. Click the Start Menu, Right Click “Computer” or “My Computer” and click “Properties…” Alternatively you can press the Windows Key and the Break key at the same time. This will open the System Properties.
  2. Click the “Advanced Tab” if you are using Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003, or click “Advanced System Settings…” if you are using Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008.
  3. Click the Settings button under the performance section.
  4. Click the Advanced tab and click the Change button under the Virtual Memory section.
  5. Make sure the boot drive is selected and that the size of the paging file or virtual memory is 2 MB or more. I like to set it at 1.5 times the size of your RAM or 4096 MB, whichever is less. It is also safe to let Windows manage the paging file for you.
  6. Click Set and then OK to set the paging file size.
  7. Click the Settings button under Startup and Recovery.
  8. Select “Small Memory Dump” under debugging information and click OK.

Microsoft offers tools to read and debug this memory dump file (Dumpchk.exe, WinDbg, and KD.exe), but there are other tools available that are a lot easier to use. One of the tools I like to use is called Blue Screen View. This utility is lightweight and easy to use. You run it and it detects and debugs the memory dump files for you. The information provided in these dump files is really useful when troubleshooting these kind of errors. Most of the times you will be able to find out what driver was causing the problem. The next step would be to remove or update the driver that caused the BSOD. Some times the cause of the problem may not be so clear even when looking at the contents of the minidump file. In these cases, more tests will be required, but that is a conversation for another day. These simple steps should help you pinpoint the cause of the issue if the issue is caused by a bad or corrupt driver – most stop errors are. When the errors are caused by a hard-ware malfunction, running a hard-ware diagnostic utility will usually help you pinpoint the problem (Memtest to test the memory modules for instance.).

You can get the Blue Screen View utility from the www.nirsoft.net website.

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Jun 22

Google Voice No Longer Invitation Only.

Google now allows anyone in the United States to create a Google Voice account – no invitation required. Google Voice gives you the ability to have one telephone number that rings all your phones. You get free text messages and calls in the U.S. and Canada. The voice mail feature allows you to transcribe messages, and you can access it just like you would access your e-mail. Up until now you could only access the service if you were invited, but now you can create an account any time.

I have been using it for over a year, and it is pretty good – and free. I like the features it offers, and having one number ring all your phones is pretty awesome. I recommend you give it a try. You’ll like it.

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Jun 21

Services fail to start and you may lose network connectivity after installing MS08-037 on a Windows Server 2000, 2003 or 2008 Computer.

This is an old issue. I first came across it about two years ago. Most Sys Admins or IT Consultants are probably familiar with this issue, and they probably know how to fix it already. Still, I thought it would be a good idea to write about it. In the past few months, I’ve had three calls from new customers that were experiencing issues caused by this update. They either didn’t update until now, the issue didn’t present itself until now, or their previous IT Consultant didn’t  bother to make the required configuration changes to prevent the issue.

In any case, after installing the Microsoft Update described in the Knowledge Base Article 953230 and rebooting the server, some network services will fail to start and your server will lose network connectivity.

MS08-037 is a security update published by Microsoft designed to prevent DNS Spoofing. This update is described in the KB953230 article.

The update changes the way the DNS Server Service allocates the UDP source port  for DNS queries. DNS by default will randomly pick 2500 ports when the service starts up. If another service is already using one of those ports, the service will fail to start. This problem occurs when the MaxUserPorts registry entry is present. This registry entry is added by default by Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft ISA Server, and Microsoft Small Business Server 2003.

Microsoft is aware of this issue and they’ve published a Knowledge Base article detailing the instructions to solve it. The steps are outlined in the KB956189 article .

The following steps are taken from the previous article:

To resolve this problem, add the port that is needed by the service to the ReservedPorts registry value. This prevents the DNS Server service from listening on that port. The following ports are known to cause conflicts:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
Ports Program that uses the ports
1645-1646 IAS
1701-1701 L2TP
1718-1719 H.323 Gatekeeper (ISA 2000 only)
1745-1745 ISA Server 2000 or ISA Server 2004
1812-1813 IAS
2883-2883 AUTD
3500-3619 ISA Server 2000 only
4500-4500 IPSEC

To configure the ReservedPorts registry value, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
  2. Locate and then click the following subkey:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
  3. Right-click ReservedPorts, and then click Modify.
  4. Type the range of ports that you want to reserve.

    Notes

    • You must type the range of ports in the following format:
      xxxx-yyyy
    • Do not replace the existing values. Instead, add the additional values.
    • To specify a single port, use the same value for x and for y. For example, to specify port 4000, type 4000-4000.
    • If you specify the continuous ports separately and if one port is reserved and is not used, the next port is not reserved correctly, and the port is used.
    • ISA Server settings only apply to Small Business Server 2000 or to Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition.
  5. Click OK.

    Note If you receive the following warning message, click OK

    Warning:
    Data of type REG_MULTI_SZ cannot contain empty strings.
    Registry Editor will remove the empty string found.
  6. Exit Registry Editor, and then restart the computer.

Notes

  • You must restart the computer after you make these changes for the changes to take effect.
  • If you are using any third-party applications on the server that might require you to use a static UDP port that is higher than port 1024, you should also add it to the list of reserved ports.
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