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Old 24-10-2018   #1
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Frustrated old git

Anyone who has followed my other posts will have gathered that I'm very interested in diagnostics. After a lifetime in and around the motor trade there are not many mechanical problems which defeat me these days - I have the tools and knowledge to tackle all but the heaviest of tasks, although, at 72, the body is not always up to it!

Although coming late to electronic diagnostics (there was always a "bright younger lad" in the workshop who "knew about" computers so I tended to get given the difficult mechanical jobs) I find myself now understanding, at least some of, the procedures I can perform with my VCDS and Multiecuscan and I'm learning more every time I use them. Causes less annoyance to the neighbors too when compared to removing a gearbox etc!

As you'll probably know, these programs run on windows and I have them installed on my quite new HP laptop. That's where the problems start! This is the second laptop I have owned and I've never actually had any proper training on how to use it! I stumble around, making the most terrible mistakes, until something catastrophic happens or I run into a dead end where I just have no idea what I'm doing, when I have to go and make a nuisance of myself with any friend who can help sort it out! Buying a bright blue one was a mistake too - hands get very dirty in the workshop!

I would like to learn how to properly manage and use the laptop. I have looked at local education courses but they all seem to want to teach office skills (how to use word etc). I still have the old laptop (which, due to my lack of understanding, actually saw little use) but the problem with it is it's absolutely stuffed with updates and has virtually no disc space left. It would be nice to use it in the workshop, for a start it's black, but there's not enough space on the disc to load a program let alone then save results etc! A friend says that I should wipe the disc and reinstall the program (Vista) which would sort it? but I've no idea how to do that.

So my question is - how can I go about acquiring the knowledge I need to use my laptop properly so that I can get on with learning to use my diagnostic programs without being sidetracked into, sometimes hours, sorting about a silly problem which I've caused due to my ignorance? Another illustration could be the troubles I had loading Multiecuscan into the laptop, because I didn't understand about com ports, or even know what latency is, it took me 3 days of intermittent messing about before I got it working! Once I'm into the diagnostics themselves I'm much more competent but when purely "computery" problems occur it all goes to pot!

Any help and advice/recommendations most gratefully received!
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Jock
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Old 25-10-2018   #2
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Re: Frustrated old git

You don't have to wipe the current hard drive, you could buy a bigger drive and clone your old drive onto it then put the bigger drive in the machine. Personally unless you have to use Vista I would update the laptop to Windows 7 IF it would run it. Vista is slow and uses to much memory.

Also you might find that local colleges etc. do courses for beginners in computers. Worth a look to see if they have one local.
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Old 26-10-2018   #3
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Re: Frustrated old git

Quote Originally Posted by Zeewulf View Post
You don't have to wipe the current hard drive, you could buy a bigger drive and clone your old drive onto it then put the bigger drive in the machine. Personally unless you have to use Vista I would update the laptop to Windows 7 IF it would run it. Vista is slow and uses to much memory.

Also you might find that local colleges etc. do courses for beginners in computers. Worth a look to see if they have one local.
Thanks very much for your reply Zeewulf. I have some understanding of what you suggest. It would be lovely to have a bigger hard drive (at present it's 250 whatsits. 500 or 1terabite would be great) but how to swop them over, clone them and I bet you couldn't just plug it in without doing some clever computery stuff to get the computer talking to it? I take on board what you say about windows 7 and other friends have made the same suggestion. For a start I don't know how you'd do that but also to buy windows 7 isn't cheap and I would much rather spend my money on my cars rather than buying computery things.

As regards the training situation. I've been looking, mostly, at community education courses so far. Perhaps I should try a direct approach to local colleges? Thanks for putting that idea in my head.

All the best to you
Jock
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Old 26-10-2018   #4
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Re: Frustrated old git

Around the country there are various 'old folks' groups that have very simple basic computer courses. Age Concern run some, 'University of the Third Age' is another organisation with local groups dedicated to entertaining and educating older but interested people. Your local library should hopefully have details of any such group.

Local technical colleges might run basic computer 'use' courses, rather than computer science courses.

Trying to talk you through any procedures via forum posts is unlikely to be good for any of us.

Vista did get a lot of updates. It filled my laptop drive just after the year's warranty ran out.
Cloning the drive onto a larger drive may not work. Most computers these days have a hidden partition containing a compressed image of the original installation, and this is used to recover it to as new state in case of failure. There is a 'master boot record' that knows the configuration of the hard drive, and will 'break' if cloned to a larger drive. They sometimes break if cloned to an identical sized drive.

Let's backpedal a little. What the dickens is a partition you may be asking.
Think of the hard drive as an electronic filing cabinet. It can be electronically configured (partitioned) to pretend to be two two-drawer cabinets, instead of a single 4-drawer cabinet. The recovery partition is a hidden bit, only accessible from the recovery program, accessed via the 'master boot record' (MBR), which is like a master index of what is in the drive. The MBR knows the size of the drive, and the sizes of the partitions, and of cloned (copied) to a larger drive will become confused and behave like a stroppy toddler, refusing to boot the machine at all. Similarly, if there are two partitions, one for the operating system and one for files, and these are changed in size, the MBR breaks again. Been there, done that, had to get a Vista disk off Ebay and start again.

The hard drive can be removed from the machine, and popped into a caddy to be read, to recover any files you need to keep.
A new hard drive, bigger, can be fitted, then a new install of Vista done, then copy your files across to the new drive. To do this you need all the drivers for your machine. If a good brand, these will be downloadable from the manufacturer's support site. Dell and HP used to be very good, but have trimmed their server space and have deleted the oldest files. For HP, they don't go back very far. Acer seem to still have some very old files, so good on them.
Drivers are small programs that act as interpreters between the computer operating system and the component. Think of the operating system as speaking English, and the Wi-fi transmitter/receiver being French. They need an interpreter. Vista drivers will probably not work with Win7.

As suggested, if your machine can support Windows 7, that is a better option. Download the drivers for Win7, grab a disk from Ebay (make sure you get a licence key too). Win 7 is probably the best windows ever. (In my opinion) Works reliably, simple interface. It took all the good bits of XP and Vista, made them work properly, and presented it well. Then we got Win8. Horrid. A facelift to 8.1 was just an elastoplast. Win 10 sorted the main issues with 8/8.1, but lost a lot of functionality for older hardware. But is based on Win 7 core programming.
Before trying the Win 7 route, check the support website to ensure your machine can support Win7, and the drivers are available.

Have you lost the will to live yet? Sorry.

My Vistas laptop was scrapped three years ago. Just looked. I still have the Vista Home Premium disk, with a licence key. You are welcome to it if it helps, but Vista is old now and may not update (might be a good thing), but could be good just for a workshop machine.

You have children. And I think grandchildren. Do any of them know anyone, friend, friend's parent, etc., that is knowledgeable and willing to sort this for you? Sadly, I'm a bit far away to offer. Installing onto a new drive and transferring all your old files will be a full day of swearing and impatiently waiting for installs and silly messages. Possible a half-day more. Tears will be shed. (Should have kept the old Vista machine, ready to insert into a microsoft programmer.)
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Old 26-10-2018   #5
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Re: Frustrated old git

WOW! Thanks for that PB. I'll need to read it through a few times to take it all in. I read a lot for recreation, mainly Sci-Fi, Techno Thrillers, War and Car Technical stuff, so I'm a regular at our local library. I'll ask a few questions next time I'm down there. Local colleges I've so far contacted want to teach me windows etc!

My old laptop is a Toshiba Equium A200-1V0. It's got a Pentium dual core according to the label on the front! I like the idea of windows 7.

Yes we have 3, now grown up, children and a nice week clutch of grandchildren! My daughter's husband is an aircraft engineer and pretty good with all this tech stuff. Unfortunately they live at the other end of the country! I'll have a word though and perhaps he can do something around Christmas/New Year.

Thanks again - much appreciated.
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Old 26-10-2018   #6
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Re: Frustrated old git

I just said above that the local collages wanted to reach me windows. What I meant to say was word, as in word processing and spreadsheets etc. Probably something I might aspire to learn but windows itself is probably where maybe I should start and my neighbor has, just tonight, said he'll lend me a beginner's guide book to windows 10. So that might be as good a place for me to start as any.
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Old 26-10-2018   #7
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Re: Frustrated old git

Sadly, books and learning windows courses will not touch on reinstalling. That'd be in more complex computer science, but is the most basic. But still worth looking into. The library may well have a book that describes the process.

I've had a look at Toshiba's support site. They list a lot of alternative drivers for Vista, but fewer for Win7. At least they list Win7 for the model, so an upgrade is possible. It shows a 120Gb hard drive as standard, but does not say whether it is SATA or the older IDE type. Being a Vista machine,I'd expect it to be SATA, which is still current, so a larger hard drive is easy to come by. These are the communication methods for the drives and are not interchangeable. If it is an older IDE type, you'd be better off binning the whole thing as new IDE drives are rarer than hen's teeth, only in smaller sizes, and used could be unreliable by now.

Next task is to go through "Control Panel" and identify all the drivers needed. A lot to explain, but all need to be identified, for network drivers, wireless driver, display, etc., which will then help determine if Win 7 ones are available.
The RAM spec is 2Gb as standard, a bit small by today's standards, but adequate for Win7 if only running one program at a time. It's all I've got on my 'workshop' machine. Can be doubled up to 4Gb max, if desired.

You're glad you asked now. You at least have an idea. Anyone offering to help will understand these terms and tasks. If they do not, find a better helper.
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Old 28-10-2018   #8
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Re: Frustrated old git

Thanks PB. I've been stirring it about on the basis that I can only learn and if I wreck something it doesn't matter!

You are quite right to say it has 2GB of RAM and it has 250GB of hard drive storage which I think is SATA. Going to amuse myself going through the control panel and seeing if I can make any sense of it. I do have one ace up my sleeve in that the fellow who lives 2doors up the street from me does consultancy stuff for DELL (,something to do with security programs I think) He knows more about computers than I can imagine! He is not a close friend but seems friendly enough and I helped him sort out his new mini a year or so ago when it was overheating and loosing coolant. It was he who helped when I had troubles getting Multiecuscan to communicate between the laptop and vehicle. I don't want to bother him too often though as I may need him in an emergency!
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Old 29-10-2018   #9
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Re: Frustrated old git

Bumped into my neighbour on the way to buy milk this morning. He says we can almost certainly get my old Toshiba working with windows7 and do some memory upgrades etc. However his opinion is, like you PB, that the spec of the machine is pretty basic and rather than spending to upgrade and still having a machine of limited potential, I would be better putting the money I will need to spend towards buying a new machine. He is going to do a bit of checking on what is available which would work for me and he knows discount suppliers where I should get a good deal. So, I'm going to wait 'till he gets back to me. May be a wee while thought as he has to go to some "computery thing" in the US. but that's fine, I'm in no desperate hurry.

In the meantime I'm enjoying exploring "stuff" on, and via Google, in, the Toshiba - it's very liberating when you know it doesn't matter if you click the wrong thing, makes you ever so bold

Thanks again PB
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Old 18-02-2019   #10
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Re: Frustrated old git

I went Apple Mac in 2012 and not looked back. It just works which is all I want from a PC. But it wont run MES so has anyone tried the "paid for" iPhone version? Does it do all the PC versions can do?
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Old 28-02-2019   #11
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Re: Frustrated old git

Quote Originally Posted by Pugglt Auld Jock View Post
He says we can almost certainly get my old Toshiba working with windows7 and do some memory upgrades etc. However his opinion is, like you PB, that the spec of the machine is pretty basic and rather than spending to upgrade and still having a machine of limited potential, I would be better putting the money I will need to spend towards buying a new machine.=
Well, I've been having a lovely time "digging" into the old Tosh with abandon. Been "Googling" and "You Tubing" a lot of stuff too and I think, for me, this is the way to do it by addressing specific questions as they arise. This gives me time to fully digest before moving on to the next thing.

I won't get rid of the Tosh because as my knowledge increases it's good fun trying things out on it safe in the knowledge that if I really mess up it doesn't matter.

As I'm understanding more though I'm also understanding why my pal is advising against putting any effort/money into upgrading the Tosh. I'm intrigued by the idea of a refurbished laptop. In Edinburgh we have one of these companies (and they seem to be quite a big player) - Pure IT - where I can get a big name "business quality" machine with the likes of an i5 4GB ram and maybe 320/500GB storage, with a good spec and guarantee , for around 250 maybe 300. Anyone got any opinions?
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Old 11-03-2019   #12
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Re: Frustrated old git

Quote Originally Posted by Pugglt Auld Jock View Post
I'm intrigued by the idea of a refurbished laptop. In Edinburgh we have one of these companies (and they seem to be quite a big player) - Pure IT - where I can get a big name "business quality" machine with the likes of an i5 4GB ram and maybe 320/500GB storage, with a good spec and guarantee , for around 250 maybe 300. Anyone got any opinions?

Good morning fellow Fiat fans!

Just thought I'd "nudge" this thread to see if anyone would care to offer an opinion on refurb laptops?
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Old 11-03-2019   #13
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Re: Frustrated old git

There are companies that sell refurb or factory refurb that are otherwise new. Shop display stock, or bought and returned, so are reset to as new spec, so no stuff on the hard drive from any user, but may show some cosmetic damage and come in a plain box. These can be good value.

Older laptops that have been cleaned of user detritus can be ok, provided the technical spec is up to the job you need it for. So pay careful attention to the memory and hard drive specs. Check the original manufacturers' websites for specs, and support. Hard drives can be replaced, but reinstalling an operating system requires a disc or download, and the 'key', which should be on a label on the machine. You also need the hardware drivers, from the support site. Dell are very good at this, as are Acer. HP only keep for a few years.
RAM is often less easy to upgrade, as the maximum the motherboard will cope with can be quite low on older machines. More RAM is probably the best upgrade for any machine, as it takes a load off the processor and hard drive, makes it all a bit quicker.

If you just want something to operate MES, I'm still using an old netbook. Windows 7, An Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor and 1Gb of RAM. It takes a while to boot, and also MES loading takes time, but once up performs fine. So a high spec not needed.

If you wish to use VCDS on the Seat, I'm still looking at that, so no experience of requirements or speeds. Not sure I can justify the cost for occasional use.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #14
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Re: Frustrated old git

Thought you might all enjoy a little update to this thread? I'm continuing to understand more and more about using my laptop for the things that interest me. I've got Multiecuscan and VCDS running very nicely on my new 15" HP but, as it's a "trendy" blue colour I continue to worry about getting it all marked up in the garage and also find it rather bulky for using in place of the Hudl when browsing on the sofa in the evenings. I need something more manageable and not so "precious".

Now that the Hudl has definitely bitten the dust and the (very old) Toshiba has become my "experimenting" machine, I need to decide what I'm going to do about this and I've decided to go for a smaller, maybe 14", windows laptop. I mentioned previously about being interested in refurbished machines but knowing little about them I felt nervous. I've been doing a lot of on line research and I think you could catch a cold going down this route if you're not careful. However there do seem to be some very professional outfits who get good recommendations. Up here in Edinburgh we have Pure It who seem to be one of them. I've rung and had a very interesting chat with them. They do "Business quality" Dell and HP machines so very high spec with the advantage, apparently, that when/if things go wrong individual components can be easily renewed. The cheaper ones run win7 but you can pay a small premium for win10. Still thinking about it but I think I'm going to give them a try. Any thoughts anyone?
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #15
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Re: Frustrated old git

I've allways found dell laptops to be a reasonably good quality
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