Ask MTE: Checking Hard Drive Health, Configuring TOR, And Many More… (Windows, Week 22)

Whether your computer is giving you weird errors or you simply have a curiosity about the Windows operating system, we’re here to answer any questions you may have at “Ask a Windows Expert.” Today, we start the 22nd edition of the Q&A we’ve been posting weekly, answering questions by readers like you. If you have a question of your own, don’t hesitate to use the “Ask Our Experts Now!” button on the right side of any page here at MTE. Now, let’s get to what’s popped up in our inbox so far!

A: I’ve noticed that the article teaches you how to do a low-level format of a pen drive. If you still can’t do this and have error messages, it’s possible that the pen drive itself is corrupt. If you’ve had this drive for a while, even if you haven’t used it, the drive can get corrupted for a number of reasons. For the sake of experimentation, try the drive on another computer to see if you still get the same error. Some computers might give you an error when there’s nothing wrong with the drive. Then, it would be an issue that stems from the system itself.

I’m sorry I can’t really help you with this, but if you follow to the article to the letter and still get an error, there’s not much you can do other than scrap the drive and get a new one.

A: Your computer already has utilities for drive health. In fact, it has two of them. One of them (chkdsk) is used to check your drive for errors that could lead to a failure. The other one (dfrgui, or ‘defrag’) can be used to make your drive operate more efficiently.

In order to access chkdsk, click on your start menu and type “cmd.” Once inside the black command line window, type

chkdsk c: /r

Remember to replace “c:” with the letter for the volume you’d like to check.

winhelp-chkdsk

This specifically tells your computer to check the hard drive and recover any readable information from bad sectors. It also implies that the computer must fix any errors that appear on the drive. A bad sector isn’t something uncommon, since hard drives often suffer from wear and tear brought about by accessing a certain sector of memory repeatedly.

If you have any further questions about using “chkdsk,” please post them in the comments section below.

A: I’m assuming that you didn’t configure Tor on the other client? Using onion routing can be tricky, and we can take it for granted so easily that we forget to configure it on other clients we use. This is crucially important to circumvent filtering systems that mess with your domain resolution. Don’t forget to configure Tor for your other client as well.

If the client you’re trying to use doesn’t have the ability to configure a proxy, then you must resort to getting an application that allows you to hook onto the process running that application. For this, I advise you to use AdvOR. The software is open-source and rather easy to use, allowing you to use features you never dreamed of using in a regular Tor application.

To create a process hook in AdvOR, select the “Processes” item from the list on the left under “Intercept.” Scroll down to the executable name of the client you’re running (i.e. Google Chrome = “chrome.exe”) and click on the checkbox next to the executable name. Newer versions of AdvOR allow you to import blacklists to ensure you don’t get tied up with the wrong connections. Here’s a little peek for an example:

winhelp-advor

The software may look confusing at first, but it’s a godsend once you have worked out all the kinks. If you’re looking for something with function rather than form, you’re in for a treat.

A: Ruling out the chance you might be running a background service that’s leaking memory, I think you are running more processes than you think you do. The programs you open yourself aren’t the only things running when you boot up your computer. You might have installed some programs on it that are set to run at startup in the background.

Look at the first piece of advice in this article¬†at MTE. You can use MSConfig to check the startup processes that might be affecting your performance. You’d be surprised to see how many are there! If you start eliminating some of them, you’ll notice a slight increase in performance.

Here’s the thing, though: Have you considered getting a RAM upgrade? I know Windows 7 runs on 2 GB of RAM and, in some cases, can even run perfectly on 1 GB, but you could do with at least double your current memory to give the operating system ample space to load up the memory for its “superfetch” feature.

Oh, and that’s another thing. If you want to use less RAM, you can also disable Superfetch. This is something detailed in another article in MTE, which you can see here. Read the section called “How to Disable Superfetch.” If you search this site using the keywords “Windows” and “RAM,” you’ll find a host of other articles written by our talented authors with advice on how to make your computer more efficient with regards to RAM.

We’re always happy to answer each and every question you submit. If you’d like to submit your own question, as mentioned in the introduction to this segment, click on “Ask Our Experts Now!” on the right-hand side of any page here! We’re listening and working around the clock to answer your question!

If you have something to discuss about the questions already answered here, please feel free to use the comments section below.