Using a UHD Display
Have you got a 4K TV is
where I should start? With my eyesight slowly worsening I decided
to get a larger TV so chose in place of our Sony 40 inch to a
new 55 inch model whose name was unknown to me, but being half
the price of the equivalent Sony model it won hands down. I made
sure the new set didn't use the term "capable" but
offered 4K as standard, but what do these terms mean? Years ago
most expensive computers had a high definition monitor capable
of displaying a picture called 800x600 meaning it had 600 vertical
lines. A UK TV set used to have 405 lines which over the years
improved to 625 lines although some of these lines were used
for things other than the actual picture meaning a 600 line monitor
had similar definition to a decent TV set. A computer needs lots
of memory set aside for displaying its picture and due to its
cost the memory content of a computer (lets call it a PC) was
limited. As the amount of memory in a PC has a significant bearing
on its speed pinching some for the monitor wasn't ideal so a
so-called "graphics card" came into being. This was
equipped with its own memory (lets call it RAM) and freed up
the PC's own RAM for running programs.
Once processing speeds improved
the size of a picture displayed on a monitor could be increased
and in turn monitors got a lot bigger. A 19" monitor was
by now very bulky and exceedingly heavy and took up loads of
desk space. Picture sizes were now 1280x1024 meaning 1024 lines
and a higher definition. As time progressed flat screen monitors
appeared and widescreen displays became the norm. Picture size
could now be 1920x1080 meaning 1080 lines and the description
"HD" was applied.
As TV size increased it became
apparent that something better than 1920x1080 was needed and
the terms "UHD" and "4K" appeared. This brings
me to the reason for writing this screed. Although you can buy
a 4K TV receiver a 4K PC is uncommon as I write in 2021. Most
new PCs until recently had a maximum picture capability of 2560x1600
whilst a new 4K TV will be 4096x2160. As you can see the term
1K meaning 1024 relates to 4K being 4096. A new PC though has
a spec of 3840x2160 which has the same number of lines as 4K
but is slightly narrower. Stepping back.. an old PC monitor had
a picture defined as 4:3 (=800x600 as an example) whilst a widescreen
of 1920x1080 is 1.77 recurring.. meaning 16:9. The later style
of 4K is 1.896 but 3840x2160 is 16:9.
2560x1600 is 1600 lines with
an aspect ratio of 1.6 but the slightly lower spec of 2560x1440
or 16:9 is also available. Currently to move to a higher spec
(circa 4K) either means moving up the processor generation or
to purchase a better graphics card which is what I did recently.
As an example my latest PC purchase is a tiny fan-less box capable
of being mounted on the back of a monitor. It uses a lowly spec'd
processor but gives me a perfect 4K display on my new TV. To
keep within financial contraints I bought a graphics card for
my i5-3570 PC costing about £50. This has a spec of 2560x1600,
but can actually supply 3840x2160 at its HDMI output (or so goes
its written spec). My monitor is showing an actual display of
roughly 622x319mm (1.95).. but UHD is 1.77 and 4K is 1.90.. and
I'm using 2160x1600 =1.6 and the icons are slightly stretched
so I give up...
Currently I'm viewing
my new 28 inch UHD monitor at 2560x1600 not 3840x2160 because
the £50 graphics card has been sent packing. For starters
there wasn't a driver CD, just a paper in the box suggesting
I go to the manufacturer's website, look for the appropriate
driver and Bob's your uncle. I removed my Asus graphics card
and plugged in the Palit GT730, turned on the PC and proceeded
to install the new drivers. A message came up telling me to reboot
and then Windows decided to kick the Palit card into touch and
install not the Palit drivers but its own low definition VGA
drivers. I tried several times but got the same result so went
to the GT730 drivers from Nvidia. No luck. I then downloaded
an Nvidia program designed to correctly identify my card, select
the best driver and install these. To do all this meant I had
to sign up and obtain an account but everything worked out fine
and my UHD HP V28 display ended up showing a UHD display (or
at least 3840x2160). Of course as you might already know, when
moving upwards the desktop icons end up so tiny you can't read
their accompaying text, but by using a pair of Windows features
the icons can be made larger. By the time I'd finished things
looked really good except... I pressed the Windows key and pressed
"L" to change to an alternative desktop and the PC
crashed. My display was now showing about 30% of the picture
and was a nasty shade of green and the icons that were visible
were blurred. More annoyingly even than that there was no way
the mouse would work so I had to judiciously fiddle with the
tab key and Enter to reboot the PC. Try as I might I failed to
fix the crashing.
After hours of fruitless experimenting
I checked Windows logs to see what the PC thought of all this.
To my surprise the System log folder was completely full of hard
drive paging errors.. in fact something like 40,000 warning messages!!
I've seen something not unlike this before when RAM is accessed
wrongly. Bearing in mind the card is fitted with 2G of RAM and
the PC is fitted with 16G of RAM I suspect there's some kind
of overflow taking place which is resulting in a program going
wrong.. perhaps the routine for paging?
Switching users via Windows-L,
I imagine causes the present PC status to be stored away so that
reverting to the previous user is seamless. The paging routine
being messed up fails to communicate with the hard drive and
calls an error suggesting the hard drive is faulty. In fact the
hard drive, thankfully is fine. I recall a major problem with
some hard drives when local storage demsnds resulted in data
overflowing into the executive area of the hard drive. Once the
bit in the executive area used for "busy" had been
inadvertently set the hard drive was bricked. Either you sent
it back to Seagate or if technically inclined one could build
a simple connector used with a DOS routine to wipe the busy bit
and load new firmware.
Why should customers of PC hardware
have to fit new firmware? This is never straightforward so I
just got an RMA number and returned the graphics card for a refund.
Having unplugged the new
graphics card how can I drive my new UHD monitor?
I tried the old card which is
a GT210 but as it could only manage 1920x1080 its no use at all
so I removed it and looked at my motherboard options. The P8Z77
has an HDMI, Displayport and both analogue and DVI plus VGA connectors...
a full house!
I plugged in the Displayport
lead and found I could use 2560x1600 so here I am using 1600
lines. The icon sizes have been rejigged and everything is nice
and stable. To avoid complicating the description of my experiences
I didn't mention that I'm using twin monitors. My old 1920 monitor
is now rigged to display my security cameras and is fed via its
analogue VGA lead. Oh.. and I'm using Windows 7.
Interestingly my new HP display
has three rear connectors so presumably I can plug its HDMI lead
into another device if I wish?
I tried plugging a second PC
into one of its two HDMI sockets and sure enough I can now switch
to a second computer. Presumably this could have been a laptop.
After a day I'd fiddled with the various settings and, as I'd
found before with my previous display, the thing eventually was
messed up with brightness/contrast/saturation and other settings
miles from optimum. I'd taken the trouble to download a user
manual and recalled a factory setting button. This worked perfectly
so I looked in the settings of my old HKC monitor and found a
factory reset for this and after lots of button pressing I managed
to hit the right combination of pushes and now both monitors
provide perfect pictures.
Upgrading a RAID mirror
to Solid State Drives
Now that SSDs are reliable enough
to be used in place of the standard electro-mechanical hard drive
in a PC I decided to take the plunge but, because of currency
fluctuations causing the price of SSDs to rise sharply in the
UK, my intention to wait for drives equal in size to my existing
drives had to be ditched and smaller SSDs purchased instead.
It's not the first PC I've built using
SSDs. The first two I made a year or two ago suffered from early
hard drive failure. One Kingston 128GByte drive just "bricked"
and the second Mushkin 256GByte model strangely changed its name
in BIOS to something including the word "encrypted"
and failed to be recognised in its host computer. Both drives
were replaced by the manufacturers but left me feeling it was
too early to change my own business PC to SSD. I've also cloned
existing hard drives on both PCs and laptops to SSDs without
too much difficulty.
My business computer has evolved over
the years and had twin 1TByte boot drives operated in a mirror
configuration known as Raid 1. I use a hardware based method
which sets the hard drives to work in conjunction with BIOS settings
and motherboard circuitry to produce two exactly identical main
boot drives. In the event of a hard drive failure the PC will
seamlessly carry on working with no loss of data. This has happened
fairly regularly over the years and the failed drive can be removed
and a new one fitted with the system automatically resuming its
operation. This method is doubly expensive in terms of the price
of storage space, but has extremely good reliability and minimum
down time. I also have a data hard drive of 2TByte. This is also
mirrored to an identical duplicate but uses a software method
of automatically preserving data. This has suffered from two
failures, a dead drive and a software glitch.
Over the years I've supplied many Raid
1 computers to customers that need their PC for business and
touch wood these have worked fine, occasionally spitting out
failed drives to be replaced with new ones.
Over the years my own PC has worked
well. Hard drives have come and gone but programs and data are
still OK. As with most PCs it has gradually become clogged up
with superfluous junk and multiple copies of stuff and the main
boot drive has been swapped from its initial 500GByte to 1TByte
to reflect increased demands on storage space.
Bearing in mind I didn't wish to buy
a pair of 1T SSDs because these are too expensive, the first
step was to see how much occupied space could be freed up. To
help with this exercise the principle of making copies on the
2T drive of stuff held on the 1T drive will need to change. Instead,
the data drive will be used more or less exclusively for storing
data with back ups for this held on external drives or DVDs.
However, data used in my day-to-day work will remain on the SSDs
but backed up on the data drives.
With this in mind I managed to reduce
the space used on the 1T drive down to 185GBytes from something
like 600GBytes. This enabled me to select a pair of SSDs with
a capacity of around 500GByte. I could have reduced this to 240
or 256GByte but that would have been a bit short-sighted.
I selected a pair of Crucial 525GByte
SSDs which were very much cheaper than similar products. I chose
normal SATA drives because my PC motherboard does not have the
newer M2 sockets.
Once the new drives had arrived
I needed to work out how to fit them whilst still maintaining
normal access to my PC and what follows below leads from failed
methods to a method which actually worked perfectly.
a Raid Mirror with Solid State Drives
The method I used to upgrade to
SSDs is based on hard drive cloning and the software that I've
always used (and found reliable) is produced by Acronis. I use
"Acronis True Image" and its latest incarnation in
my PC is a genuine full version that I won in a competition run
by our local newspaper, or to be more exact, won by a friend
who kindly gave me the voucher.
Interestingly, Crucial have negotiated
a deal with Acronis to supply a link to a "free" version
of their cloning program but that was not my first approach.
The first step was to clone my boot
drive to one new SSD. If the SSD had been exactly the same size
or larger than my boot drive I could have merely unplugged one
of the 1T pair, plugged in an SSD, and the Raid software would
have mirrored the old drive to the SSD. I would then have unplugged
the second 1T drive and plugged in the second SSD and this would
in turn be mirrored from the first SSD. Really easy; however
it's not an option because my SSD is only half the size of my
1T drive. In the past I've tried reducing the partition size
but that doesn't work because the Raid software looks at the
total drive size, not just the partitions in use.
My first attempt failed because Acronis
baulked at the cloning process, coming up with an error message
immediately before commencing the final stage of cloning. I tried
several times to no avail...
Scouring the Internet for help gave
me a new method. This was to use a free program called "Macrium
Reflect". I downloaded this, plugged in a new SSD and cloned
my 1T to this. The cloning program factors the partition sizes
and works fine, cloning to a smaller drive. This part of the
process worked perfectly but the new SSD boot drive did not have
the Raid code included. Cloning in this way does not add Raid
data from the source drive, so back to the drawing board.
In the past I've often cloned to a spare
drive previously used in a Raid 1 computer and noticed it has
the Raid code included but this didn't really matter in the computer
in which it was used. Bearing this in mind I opened my copy of
"Intel Rapid Storage Technology" and converted both
my new SSDs to Raid 1. This process erases any existing data
however so I ended up with two new blank drives but fine for
cloning from the boot drive because they both now have Raid 1
This time I decided to fit not one,
but both new SSDs and attempt to simultaneously clone the pair
from the 1T Raid boot drive. At this stage my computer was configured
with two 1T boot drives, two 2T data drives and two new 525GByte
SSDs. Intel Rapid Storage Technology showed all six drives..
two pairs of Raid 1 drives plus two separate 2T drives, as these
are used in software Raid.
I ran the Acronis program. It still
baulked, giving me the same error message as before even though
I'd installed their latest updates. Clearly Acronis need to sort
out their software as surely I'm not their only customer wishing
to upgrade to smaller SSDs.
I then downloaded the special Crucial
version of the Acronis program but was surprised to see a message
telling me it couldn't be used because I didn't have a Crucial
SSD fitted. I'm surprised because I had, not one, but two fitted.
Clearly Acronis haven't sorted out their new offering. Come on
Acronis sort out your bugs
I then tried my new free version of
Macrium Reflect. I was reassured straight away because it displayed
my 1T drives as "Raid 1" plus my two Crucial 525GByte
drives as "Raid 1" also. A good start.. and having
proceeded with the requisite mouse clicks the cloning process
began. It took about 90 minutes before declaring success. I turned
off the PC, unplugged both 1T drives and plugged in the two SSDs
using the original 1T cables and SATA ports.
Switching on the PC showed all was well
and turning on the Intel program revealed the pair of SSDs were
operating correctly in Raid 1 with 489GByte capacity.
Let me compliment the Macrium software staff and suggest to the
Acronis people to continue development
Post script: I re-read the leaflet below that came with
the new Crucial SSD. It sort of doesn't quite make sense. What
it means is you'll need to read the instructions on say a laptop
whilst messing about with the computer on which you'll be adding
the SSD. Maybe it would have been better to include the instructions
on a leaflet then you wouldn't need to borrow another computer
to read the instructions?
It also covers the method of
attaching your SSD prior to cloning. It suggests using a SATA
to USB adaptor. This is not included in the box so you'll have
to procure one. This would be the only sensible option if it's
a laptop you're upgrading because this would have only a single
SATA connector. For a normal PC, assuming it has a spare SATA
connector it would be better to use that. Another method would
be to use your SATA DVD or CD plugs. That means you do not have
to find extra cables. Using USB may be one option but may take
considerably longer to clone the old drive, especially if the
spec is USB 1 or 2.
The picture below shows a laptop
hard drive mount. It's really easy to remove a hard drive from
most laptops but certainly not from all. In fact some laptops
don't support an SSD.
During the intallation procedure
instructions it suggests installing some additional software
to further speed up your upgraded computer... alas it tells you
it does not support Raid...
Was the whole exercise
With the pair of SSDs in place, boot-up
time is now measured only in seconds rather than minutes. It's
certainly not as quick to boot as a brand new computer with an
SSD because my Registry is now several years old and consequently
pretty large and I'm using lowly Windows 7 compared with the
slicker Windows 10. Applications open much faster and in fact
certain tasks are so fast that you don't realise they're done.
I did notice however, now that things are pretty slick that opening
a Word document takes too long, and also opening folders carrying
thousands of files takes ages. I eventually found the reason
for both these problems.
December 2021 and
After 4 years the box has changed and the edition of
the SSD has moved from MX300 to MX500. SR 530 to 560MB/s; SW
Warranty from 3 to 5 years with MTBF 1.Mhours now as quoted
Again, I'm upgrading my
RAID1 and again I used Intel Rapid Storage Technology to mark
the new SSDs as RAID 1 then used Macrium Reflect which performed
faultlessly and took around 20 minutes to clone the old 525GB
RAID 1 SSDs. Once completed I removed the two 525GB drives and
plugged into their place the new 1T drives. I turned on the PC
and it booted up exactly as before but showing a little more
free space on C drive. As the cloning had been default without
extending partition sizes the Windows boot partition was unchanged
at 100MB and the main drive as before indicating 488GB. At this
point I could either use the surplus amount of space as a data
drive or extend the main partition. I chose the latter which
took just a single key click to reveal 559GB free from 931GB
total instead of 117GB free from 488GB total.
Miscellaneous tips and tricks....
Opening a Word document
is very slow
Whenever a document is opened
or closed a file called "Normal.dot" is used. The location
of this file varies depending on one's operating system, but
in Windows 7 you'll find it in a folder called "Templates"
which is here... Users, Allan, AppData, Roaming, Microsoft, Templates
(where the computer user in my case is "Allan"). When
I opened the Template folder I discovered Normal.dot was 3.68MB.
It was called "Altium Schematic Template" in the Type
field which I found a little odd. Because Normal.dot will simply
be regenerated if it's lost there's no problem just deleting
it. I tried deleting it but no luck.. I got an error message
about Word being open and deleting the dot file wasn't allowed.
In fact, Word wasn't open but I did notice in the folder two
other files, one of which was called "~WRL0004.TMP".
The squiggle usually means the file is open, but I didn't recognise
it but, being a temporary file, I reckoned I could just delete
it.. which I did. I then tried to delete the .dot file and this
was now successful.
Opening a Word document at random was
now virtually instantaneous as was closing it when previously
opening and closing would have taken some 8 seconds, even with
my new SSD. I checked the new .dot file and discovered it was
now a mere 36KB which, if my arithmetic is right, is over 100
times smaller than the original. How did the problem originate?
The fact that the name "Altium" is present suggests
a bug in the Altium program. I downloaded this application because
I needed to open some circuit diagrams that had been produced
by it. Maybe Altium was to blame for the very large .dot file
or maybe it wasn't, but it's odd that the .dot file carries Altium
in the type field.
Opening a large folder
is very slow
For ages I've been plagued by
a long wait before a folder with a really large number of files
is opened, and once open it can take ages for the files to be
sorted. I construct family trees and one folder which I use regularly
currently carries 2,785 files. If I click on the name field the
entries are reshuffled instantaneously. This wasn't always the
case. It would take several minutes when my old 1T hard drives
were in place and maybe 40 seconds with my new SSDs. The same
delay occurred when opening a folder carrying hundreds of holiday
The basic reason behind the delay is
that each folder is defined as carrying either "General"
or a specific type of file. You can check this on your own computer
if you'd like it to work much faster. Locate a folder carrying
lots of files.. not a shortcut, but the actual folder. Right
click the folder and select Properties and you should see a tab
labelled "Customize". Click this tab and you'll see
"Optimize this folder for:" with the drop-down menu
having entries; "General Items", "Documents",
"Pictures", "Music" and "Videos".
Select "Documents" then "Apply" and close
it and you'll find the folder will then open a lot faster. Note
that there's a box which, if ticked, applies the customization
to contained folders so tick this box also.
Opening a CD or DVD can take ages as
well, and you can apply the same trick by opening a sample CD
and changing the file type to "Documents". From then
any CD or DVD should open a lot more quickly.