Unbricking Android, System Restores and Other Tech Quick Fixes

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Let’s face it, we’re not Fonz so hitting our gadgets doesn’t work for us no matter how smugly we smirk. This is something I’ve always known, but seems the universe saw fit to remind me of…all in the last week.

Here are some common, annoying tech problems and roadblocks and how to bypass them without losing your cool: System Restore

Chances are if you’ve troubleshooted a PC, then you know what System Restore is. If you haven’t, system restore is a Windows utility that makes registry backups of your computer. If you get a virus, you can restore your registry to a previous date when the virus wasn’t wreaking havoc. The same goes with software–a system restore will remove any software installed after the restore date.

But what about those of us who can’t access System Restore through the Utilities or Control Panel?

If you’re using XP, you need to hit F8 during boot and select “Safe Mode with Command Prompt.” Once your system loads, type into the command prompt “%systemroot%system32restorerstrui.exe” and hit enter. Follow the on-screen directions.

Another trick I recently learned while troubleshooting Vista is that you can use a Windows 7 repair disk to repair the OS. That’s right, it works with Vista!

Linksys Wireless-N Broadband Router WRT160N Wireless DNS Issues

There are many out there who Linksys has left out to dry. For those with the Wireless N WRT160N line, you’ve probably noticed that sometimes when you type in an address in your browser it takes you to a completely different, unrelated site. I couldn’t figure out why Facebook redirects to MySpace, Wikileaks or a variety of other sites.

This is a problem with the firmware the router is running. To resolve this issue, open up command prompt (windows key + r, then type in “cmd” and hit enter) and type “ipconfig /flushdns.” This will flush the Domain Name System. This is only a temporary fix, however. For a permanent fix, you’ll need to download version 8 of the WRT160N firmware and downgrade by logging into your router and uploading the firmware package.

No Windows Installation Disc

After trying a system restore or repairing your OS with a Vista/7 repair disk, you still might be out of luck. This meant that my best solution was to format and reinstall the operating system. But I didn’t have the boot disk, and most companies simply don’t include them anymore with your computer purchase.

So what do you do?

You can call up tech support (in this case, Toshiba) and they’ll walk you through 45 minutes of useless motions. If at the end if you’re successful in convincing them you know what you’re talking about and you need an installation disc, they’ll mail you one.

If you have Windows 7, you cannot reinstall the OS with an in-store copy. Windows 7 users can only reinstall their operating system with an official repair disk.  This is because the method in which the operating systems are installed at Toshiba (or Dell, or whoever you bought from) is different than a user manually installing the OS. The keys do not match, so don’t think you can reinstall 7 with a disc your buddy has and just use your license key found on the underside of your machine.
Luckily for XP and Vista users, you can use any disk available to reinstall the OS.

But what if you don’t have a disk around (seriously, who has an XP boot disk nowadays…)? I could call up Toshiba and go through the motions (I’d rather watch C-SPAN for 24 hours) or you could find a disk image on a file-sharing site or on a torrent site. (Note: I am not advocating installing a cracked version of an OS; I’m simply saying you can download the disk image that still would require a valid license key.) The disk image will be in .iso or .bin or .cue form, so you’ll need to download MagicDisc or DAEMONTools (or any virtual drive and burner software programs) and mount the image. Once mounted, you’ll need to burn it to disc.

Guess what? You’ve just created your very own boot disk that will work with the license key found on the underside of your machine.

Win!

Unbricking Your Android Phone

As I’ve written previously, Android is awesome. But what’s not awesome is bricking your phone during the root, custom ROM, kernel upgrade, or downgrade process. While I won’t get into rooting your Android phone, I will let you know how to unbrick your phone.

My Droid Incredible wouldn’t boot past the first screen. Booting into recovery mode (holding down the power button + volume down simultaneously) and then trying to restore my ROM with ClockworkMod didn’t work. Trying to restore with TitaniumBackUp didn’t work either. So what did I do? Did a factory reset and wiped all the data off — including the data that made the phone actually work.

Solution? Instead of freaking out that you just made your $500 phone into a powered paper weight, google your phone model and “downgrade” or “unroot.” You’ll find community postings with links to  the stock ROM (usually between 150-200MB). Download that file.

Now format your SD card (use the SD adapter and plug it into your computer) with FAT32. This can be done by right clicking on the SD card in Explorer and following the menus from there. After it’s formatted, put the file you just downloaded on the card. Eject the card from your system and insert it into your phone.

Boot your phone into recovery mode by plugging your phone into your computer with the provided cord, and then holding down the power button and volume down button (HTC Evo owners should Google their specific steps). Let your system load the ROM (there will be a progress bar). You want to apply the update and then reboot your phone when prompted.

Voila! After completing these steps, you’ll have a stock phone. It will most likely require you to download updates (such as Android 2.1 or 2.2). The upside is you don’t have a brick.

Directions for unbricking your Droid Incredible can be found on DroidForums. You can also check out this guide to rooting your Droid Incredible. Rooting the Droid X is similar, as well as other popular Android phones.

Reducing Firefox Memory Leaks

Firefox is fast becoming the browser of choice for many.  But with every upgrade, add-on and plug-in comes more memory being used resulting in a slower, less productive computer.  This is especially true for Mac users who are continually thwarted by the “spinning beachball of death.”  An easy fix is a simple modification to your Configuration (thanks to SimpleHelp.net):

  1. Type about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Click on “I’ll be careful, I promise!”  (and really DO be careful!)
  3. Type browser.cache in the filter bar.
  4. Scroll to the entry browser.cache.memory.enable and make sure the value equals true (if not, double-click on that line to change the status.
  5. Right-click (or Control click for Mac users) anywhere on the page and choose “new” and “integer” from the pop-up.
  6. Type browser.cache.memory.capacity in the box and click OK.
  7. Enter a value representing the acceptable memory usage amount which will be relative to the amount of memory your computer has (somewhere between 4096 for 256MB RAM or less up to 8192 for 512MB or more) and click OK.

For more information on any of these processes (or to share tech hacks of your own), leave a comment. It will save you time and your sanity! 

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