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  1. #1
    iNET Interactive
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    LANGALIST PLUS

    What speed LAN hardware do you really need?


    By Fred Langa

    It's always tempting to buy the fastest-possible hardware, but sometimes it's just a waste of money.

    Fortunately, some free tests can help you ensure that your networking gear is the right speed for the tasks you actually perform.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2010/11/04/05 (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by revia; 2011-01-19 at 13:43.

  2. #2
    New Lounger
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    Optimum Online Ultra has speeds up to 101Mbps, where gigabit hardware is not only recommended but required by Cablevision. I purchased this for the public library I consult with and we have an abundance of bandwidth now after dropping our crappy T1. In fact, I've got to upgrade some of the network hardware to keep up with the ISP connection. $120 per month for 55 computers is amazing!

  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    Regarding the speed of your networking hardware -- I hear your logic on medium speed equipment because your ISP is only so fast, but I have a Windows Home Server on my network and backups go MUCH quicker with the faster hardware. For me, it is a matter of fast connections INSIDE the house to keep things moving. Speed of the ISP is a secondary consideration. I also keep an N router next to my G router and connect only the computers to the N. My printers, music servers, Wii consoles, etc. all connect to the G network.

  4. #4
    2 Star Lounger
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    Hi Fred,
    Regarding your comment on the external USB-drive:
    just had someone who uses his notebook with a USB-dongle.
    Couldn't connect to this provider anymore.
    Found out this one port on his notebook didn't produce enough power to get him/it going.
    No problem on the second USB-port.

    Just an add-on to your comment or rather an illustration of it.

    Regards,
    Sjors

  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    hi fred,
    just wanted to say that in a case where an external usb drive just won't show up, or shows up as a "raw" unformatted disk, sometimes it's because the file allocation table or whatever it's called (hey, i'm a musician, not a TOTAL geek) may be corrupt. i had a 1t drive loaded not only with wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much software, but also most of my original music when it failed.
    i was really freaked out, and afraid i'd have to either spend some big bucks to get my data back or bite the bullet and hang my head and cry...
    but my friend marty helped me out...he is a total linux guy. not for me...
    but in this case it saved not only all my music, but over 330 gigs of data.
    what he used was a "live" linux distro called "puppy"...you download it, burn it to cd, then reboot with the cd in the drive and mount the linux os in your ram. because linux apparently doesn't care about things like the afforementioned indexing file, it allowed me to "see" all my data and recover it (minus some that was lost when my friend thought he could get away with making some "salvage" folders on the same drive, not realizing that windows apparently likes to spread data all over the place).
    i've since used puppy to recover stuff off failing hard discs, even back up cd/dvd's that windows claims are corrupt and will not display.
    i just figured i'd hip you to this, if you're not already hip to it...it saved me, and may help some of your other readers.
    thanks for all the help over the years!
    namaste
    jimi
    what, me worry?

  6. #6
    New Lounger
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    Hi Fred - I have a similar problem and don't know whether it is a hardware problem or a software problem. Both my new 1TB external hard drive and my old one are not "seen" by Windows even though they appear in "Devices". I am running Window 7 64bit . All my USB ports seem to be functional with camera, printer, mouse, keyboard and even USB coffee cup warmer. Both ext. hard drives work on my husband's laptop. I have tried the hard drives on each port and took the new one back to the shop where it was tested on Win 7 64bit set up. I really don't know where to go with this now. The odd thing is that my old external hard drive was initially able to be read by Windows which is why I realized I needed a new, larger ext. drive. The last change made to the computer before this was an addition of another 2G of RAM.

  7. #7
    New Lounger
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    USB external drive: when my computer (Vista) doesn't recognize an external drive the problem is usually that there is no drive letter assigned.
    when I go to administrative tools/disk management the drive is listed there as raw formatted, but when I assign it a drive letter it
    recognizes it is NTFS and then it shows up the way it should have in the 1st place

  8. #8
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    Thank you for your excellent column! I worked as a sys admin for an organization that requires a lot of network drives to be mapped when a user logs on. I've found that Windows often can't 'tell' if a drive letter has already been taken by a mapped drive. When the user inserts their USB drive, the OS allocates it to a drive letter that is already mapped to a network drive and it appears as if the USB drive is missing. Going into Computer Management and manually changing the drive letter assigned to the device will fix the problem...

  9. #9
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    I have experienced hardware failure of external drive enclosures 3 times. Twice with off-brands and once name brand. The actual HD was OK, the enclosure electronics had died. All 3 times I was able to recover the data by searching online and purchasing identical model external drives, disassembling both new and failed drive enclosures and swapping the actual drives. Upon rebooting the drives I was able to read and move data to a trusted drive. The first time I also had to run Spinrite to fix some corrupted files and I now routinely do that once a year or so. Tip: Spinrite executes much faster on drives removed from their enclosure and mounted in a PC. Yes it voids the new drive warranty, but which is more valuable: the drive or the data? I haven't had a drive yet that Spinrite hasn't fixed well enough to recover data. I do believe external drives are much better quality now than they used to be.

  10. #10
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    In the most recent windows Secrets newsletter Fred Langa discusses "What LAN speed hardware do you really need?" Fred, you left out one important consideration! Many of us use wireless networking around the house for one or more of our computers. Often you can boost your speed by replacing a 54Mbps wireless-g router with a faster 150Mbps or 300Mbps wireless-n router.

    At our house, for example, we have a pc that's one room away from the router, another that's two rooms away and a laptop that might be anywhere in the house or on the deck outside. We also have a couple of pcs on a wired connection near the router. Only very rarely are we surfing or downloading on more than two computers in the house at the same time. For a couple of years we used a wireless-g router and wireless-g adapters. During that time Comcast increased our maximum download speed from 6Mbps to 8Mbps then a year later to 12Mbps. Download speeds on our "wired" pcs improved significantly, but we saw only a very small speed boost or none at all on the computers using wireless-g adapters.

    A few months later good ol' newegg.com had a smokin' hot deal on a wireless-n router (under $30 with free shipping) so we decided to try one. It's a 150Mbps type (not the fancier dual-band) but it made a huge difference. First, we enabled WPA-2 encryption for wireless security just like you taught us. Then we ran some speed tests. Guess what? Our download speeds doubled on the computers using wireless-g adapters. The new wireless-n router sends out a stronger signal that penetrates walls better and goes further. These results prompted me to upgrade to a wireless-n adapter on our HTPC. Downloads are a little faster now, but streaming from Netflix is about the same. If this pc was more than one room away from the router then there would likely be more improvement.

    There are other factors, too. Our service provider offers a "turbo boost" for the first ten or fifteen seconds of a download. So, depending on time of day and internet traffic, we see up to 24 Mbps - 26 Mbps speed test results on our wired connections and up to 12 Mbps - 16Mbps on our wireless-g systems. Not bad. Also, I wonder if routers limit the speed if you have several computers using the internet all at once? If so, then wireless-n speed is again beneficial.

    One more thing. If you're on Comcast internet, try the internet speed test that uses their servers - www.speedtest.comcast.net .

    This note is longer than intended but it seemed a good idea to include all the relevant facts!

    Regards

  11. #11
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    About making a driver backup repository:

    The easiest free utility for doing this that I have found is DriverMax . Its purpose is to update drivers, but it also backs up all your system's drivers (or just the ones you select) to a single folder called MyDrivers which is created in your MyDocuments Folder. Make a backup copy of this MyDrivers Folder to an external drive, and it's a one-click reinstallation -- all, some, or just one driver from the DriverMax archive.

    About LAN speed requirements:

    Many folks are now streaming HD Video content directly from their computers to their HDTVs. This requires a lot of bandwidth and speed, which may justify more pricey hardware. And locally in the Chicago Area, we have AT&T U-Verse and Comcast X-Finity, both of which offer speeds in the 15-20 MBPS range at nearly all times. And higher speeds are expected, even for DSL, within the next two to three years. So, unless we live out in the Boonies, an initial hardware investment for faster local networking speeds or greater local bandwidth may be justified. Even some 4G Wireless modems and hotspots are topping 5 MBPS download speeds.
    -- Bob Primak --

  12. #12
    New Lounger
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    Tried the Home network adapters, NETGEAR 85Mbs version and my speed actually dropped from my old wireless G router.

    Couldn't believe it so I spent a hour or two going back and forth to replicate the issue. Guess my house wiring isn't the best!

    Talked a great length with the NETGEAR folks, good tech support

    Ernie

  13. #13
    New Lounger
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    Fred

    I don't think you answered Steve from England fully. He wanted to know about "year, genre, and description fields" in addition to ratings. Under WMP 12 you can't edit those or other fields. And I also can not edit those fields under Properties with Win Explorer (I can, however, edit WMAs there.)

    Thanks for a great newsletter.

    Dave

  14. #14
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    Re: A specific type of backup — just device drivers

    When asked about restoring windows on a laptop, my first question is - Is there a hidden partition on the computer with a "back to factory settings" image on it - A lot of laptops ship with that instead of a restore disk. Saves a lot of hunting for machine specific drivers if you install a generic retail windows edition.

    Thanks for a great Newsletter

    Keith Guthrie

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