16 PC Mysteries Solved!

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Why does iTunes lose track of where my music is?

If iTunes often forgets where your music is stored and displays a 'File Not Found' exclamation mark, the reason may be that you store your music on an external device iTunes can't always connect to.
When I use iTunes to load music onto my iPod, I have to tell iTunes where I keep my files, by dragging them into the iTunes library. This creates a link for each song, informing iTunes of where to find it­--but when I disconnect my portable hard drive, the links become invalid; so iTunes displays a 'File Not Found' error and asks me to reconfirm where the file is on my hard drive.

To stop this problem from happening, open the File menu in iTunes, navigate to the Library section, and select Organize Library.... From here, check the box next to Consolidate Files, and iTunes will create copies of every media file played via iTunes in the iTunes Media folder, which ought to be located on your PC's internal storage. This method may cause your hard drive to fill up with media files in the long term, but it will eliminate those annoying 'File Not Found' errors.

Why does my new monitor randomly go blank when I plug in an HDMI cable?

Monitor with HDMI
Illustration by Parko Polo
This problem occasionally crops up when an HDMI cable fails to sync up correctly with your display port. Since HDMI is a digital interface, it incorporates a security measure called the High Definition Content Protection protocol that is designed to discourage illegal duplication of media transmitted via the cable.

When you plug an HDMI cable into your PC, the cable verifies that everything is legit by exchanging a sequence of numbers unique to that device with the port; this process is commonly referred to as handshaking. But if a device transmits an incorrect HDCP sequence, the HDMI cable will not work properly.

Though your monitor may be malfunctioning, the likelier reason why your display occasionally blacks out when you plug in an HDMI cable and then comes back on 5 to 10 seconds later is that your devices are completing the HDCP handshake. The same thing can happen when you bring your monitor back from sleep mode, as the HDCP handshake protocol must be completed every time your HDMI cable comes back up to full voltage.

HDMI devices occasionally fail the HDCP handshake due to a transmission error or a surge in voltage, so if your monitor blacks out and stays black when you plug in an HDMI cable, switch inputs to HDMI, or bring the monitor back from sleep mode, you'll probably have to power-cycle your display or completely restart your PC.

Why does my OS hide some of my critical system files?

The goal is to make it harder for untrained users to modify or delete them, and thereby cause a system error. The precaution is sensible because most people shouldn't tamper with those files (like config.sys).

If you're curious to see what files and folders are hidden on your Windows PC, here's how to peek behind the curtain.

Open Windows Explorer, and navigate to Tools, Folder Options under the File menu. Windows Vista and Windows 7 disable this menu by default; to make it appear, hold down the Alt key. After opening the Folder Options menu, select the View tab and click the Advanced Setting menu; then find the setting that controls how Windows handles hidden files and folders. Enable the Show Hidden Files, Folders and Drives option, and you should be able to see all of the hidden files and folders on your PC.

After finding the file you were looking for and making all necessary changes, consider disabling the option. Leaving your critical system files visible in Windows Explorer in­­creases the chance that someone will accidentally move or delete one of them, leading to an even greater mystery when your PC suddenly fails to boot properly one day.

In what ways does USB 3.0 differ from USB 2.0?

usb 2.0 and3.0
USB 3.0 data transfers have a theoretical maximum speed of 5 gigabits per second, in contrast to the theoretical maximum speed of 460 megabits per second of USB 2.0. Though you probably won't obtain 5-gbps transfers during daily use, you should find that you can move files significantly faster via USB 3.0 than via USB 2.0.

Transferring data between USB 3.0 devices is also more efficient, because USB 3.0 permits simultaneous data transfers in both directions; USB 2.0 devices can transmit data in just one direction at a time. Of course, to take advantage of these upgrades you'll have to invest in new USB 3.0 devices and cables. Though USB 3.0 is backward-compatible and will work with all old USB 2.0 gear, you must buy a USB 3.0 cable if you want your new USB 3.0 devices to exchange data at full speed.

Why do I need administrator access for some tasks?

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