Apple WWDC: What We Expect Best Mattress Deals Assessing Viral Sleep Hacks Netflix Password Sharing Meal Subscription vs. Takeout Best Solar Companies Verizon 5G Home Internet Best Credit Cards
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

The Real Deal 172: Computer repair

Rafe Needleman and Tom Merritt talk tips for fixing your own computers, as well as take live calls from the audience.

Rafe Needleman and Tom Merritt talk tips for fixing your own computers, as well as take live calls from the audience.


Subscribe now: iTunes (audio) | iTunes (video) | RSS (audio) | RSS (video)

Episode 172 – Computer repair

Give us a call 888-900-CNET. We’re taking live calls and answering email questions all show today.

Overall remember – computers always break and technology sucks. It’s not you.

Step 0: Maintenance.
Backup. And verify your backups!
Do your updates.
clean. Really. Dust kills PCs.

Calming excercise.

1. Look it up. Somebody else has likely had this problem. Ask friends too.

2. Get your tools. Screwdriver, usb drive, etc…

3. Opening the patient. Static guard. Keeping track of screws.

4. When is it time to call in an expert.
Can you trust experts? Geek Squad etc? Advice: Get multiple opinions if possible.

Rafe’s advice
Only do one thing at a time. If you try multiple things at once you will make things worse.
Don’t do repairs past bedtime. Your judgment is off.
This goes double when you are fixing your mom’s computer

Warranties – AppleCare etc?
Worth it? for Apple, yes.


G’day Tom and Rafe,

I was thinking about your computer repair show and I remembered the computer shop’s hard drive secret weapon. Spin rite from

Steve Gibson makes a great product, I’ve used this on a few hard drives I’ve thought were lost for ever and nothing but fantastic results.

keep up the good work guys, love the show.

Shaun, the graduate computer engineer STILL looking for professional work from sydney australia.


Give us a call 888-900-CNET. We’re taking live calls and answering email questions all show today.


Latitude D531 overheating


Sony HDR-XR200v



Hey Tom and Rafe I’m heading off to college next month and am looking to get a Macbook pro 15″ for video production. I was thinking of getting a refurb seeing as they are cheaper and seem to be the same thing. Should I get the refurb or buy new? Also what specs should i look for? thanks for the help. been listening for a long time and love the show!


Answer: Refurbs are great. I have a refurbed THinkpad and Tivo. Highly recommended. Not the absolute latest specs, but who cares?


Tom and Rafe (Brian),

Long ago my best friend and I sent audio letters to each other. He
in Texas, while I was in England. I got an ION tape digitizer and
used Audacity to make an mp3 of one of the tapes. I then imported it
into Itunes, then moved my Itunes library to an external hard drive.
My appletv was in sync with that library. Then the drive died. The
only copy of the tape is on the Appletv. How can I get it off? Help

Mike in Tucson

ANSWER: Hack the Apple TV with This will enable FTP on the Apple TV. During the hack be sure to note the username and password of the FTP server on the ATV. Then use FileZilla, CyberDuck or some other FTP client to connect to the Apple TV.


okay, i don’t need 49 USB ports, but i would like a good hardy few, but I haven’t had good luck with hubs in the past….

i have a laptop with only 3 ports and a bad sound card, so i like hooking up my usb soundcard, usb to vga adapter(for that all important 3rd monitor), wireless mouse dongle, iphone sync/charge cable, webcam, oh wait, i ran out of ports a while ago.

my problem is that the powered hub i already have(an off brand 4 port hub) doesn’t handle the usb-vga adapter, the usb soundcard, my iphone won’t sync through the hub, and even my wireless mouse reciever acts up when going through the hub.

Do i have a bad hub? is there even a difference in quality when it comes to hubs? and is there a limit… above 49 of course that USB can handle before it starts breaking down?


dwight stone
iatse local 80 grip

Answer: You would think all USB hubs are the same, but they’re not. I’ve had problems with hubs from all vendors, and sometimes swapping out a hub makes a big difference. Connecting hubs to hubs can be a real problem. Get powered hubs. Also, if your laptop has multiple USB ports, try moving the hub from one to another. And for the really picky peripherals, plug them directly into the laptop. Basically, juggle the plugs.


love the show. Is there a software way to upgrade my USB ports to 2.0 or is this a hardware change only?
Hardware. But it’s cheap.
Steve Ducar (sjddenton in chat)



Hey Tom and Rafe,
I know you have a difficult question ( hope you answer it) for you. I want to virtualize in (Ubuntu) windows xp in virtual box. That sounds easy right… but here is the problem the I have already have xp installed on my laptop (its the same laptop I want to virtualize in). Now I have thought of a solution which is I image my xp partition and copy it to a a virtual box hard drive. Can you tell me if this solution is legal and practical … or you can suggest a better solution. Also do you know of some free hard disk cloning apps.
Thanks in advance
Love the show,


from India
ANSWER: According to Rolf Frankhauser on the Virtual Box forums You can convert the harddisk to an image using dd (linux command, see man dd), then convert this image to a virtual harddisk in vdi format using VBoxManage (see UserManual.pdf under VBoxManage reference VBoxManage convertfromraw). Now you can setup a XP VM and boot from the virtual harddisk.



In your last show you were talking about chip speeds. During the manufacturing process the gate transistor size can vary in width and this can change the overall speed of the processor or memory device. When the chips are going through the final tests some are faster than other due to this fact. They are then marked accordingly. The specs can be pushed as the testing conditions are much more rigorous than most usages. Also, if there is too little demand for the faster chips and too few slower chips, then some of the faster ones might be marked as slower ones to meet the market needs. You don’t know if the speed is limited by physical or market forces.

I enjoy your shows,


Hi Tom & Rafe (thanks for filling in Brian!)

In episode 171 you asked “What happened to 1 year phone contract?” Well I think “This” happened:

Scenario 1:
You sign up for 12 months, get bored with/embarrassed by your phone in around 9 to 12 months, you hang out until your contract ends, you shop for the best deal and possibly switch carriers. Repeat ad nauseam

Scenario 2:
You sign up for 24 months, get bored with/embarrassed by your phone in around 9 to 12 months, you CAN’T hang out until your contract ends (Need New Phone for Cred), so you call your carrier who’ll likely do a “deal” for you & you sign on for another 2 years. Repeat ad nauseam


1 You get a new phone every year but probably not the best deal long term, but hey, at least your not using “Last Years” tech!
2 Your carrier effectively gets you FOR LIFE!

If I were AT&T, O2, Orange (insert name)…….I know the buisness model I’d follow!!!

Love The Show!

Neal (Chiseldon, Wilshire (that’s “shire” pronounced “sure”), England :)

Now live Thursdays at 4 PM Eastern / 1 PM Pacific on

Next time: Road Test: Nav