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PC and Network Hardware Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my pointing device start moving on its own?
The little finger-point nubs in the center of the keyboard on laptops (common on Toshibas) are self-calibrating. They have to determine what is moving, and what is at rest. If you maintain a consistent pressure in one direction for an extended period of time, the pointer starts to think it is in its "rest" position, and it re-calibrates. That means that when you move your finger OFF of the pointing device, the pointer believes that you are actually moving it in the OPPOSITE direction. Just let it go... in a moment it will reset itself.

My laptop screen just died! The computer seems to be on, but the screen is black. What happened, and how do I fix it?
Some laptops have a tiny mechanical switch that turns the screen off when the lid is folded down. At times, this switch will become stuck in the "down" position, and the screen will remain switched off. On the Toshibas our company uses, it's just a little spring-loaded pin that is supposed to pop up when the lid is opened. Snapping a fingernail on it will usually be enough to fix it.

I'm trying to hook up the case connectors for my PC. Which wire is the ground?
Although lots of stuff will work just fine even when the connector is reversed, some things (like the IDE LED) won't. The ground wire is usually indicated by a very small triangle on the end of the connector. The motherboard manual will usually show which pin is the ground for the mainboard's connector block.

I'm trying to set up an old HP printer using a JetDirect card, and it's asking me for a password. I don't know what the password is. How can I reset it?
On many HP printers, you can kill the password by resetting the JetDirect card to its defaults. This is what HP calls a "cold reset." A cold reset will erase any custom configuration you've already done, which is kind annoying if you already went through the pain of setting up an IP address by using those goofy-ass buttons on the printer... but oh, well. To perform a cold reset, turn the printer off, then hold down either the "Go" or "On-line" buttons while powering the printer back on. Incidentally, it's worth remembering that the settings for the JetDirect card are stored on the card itself, and not in the printer. That means if you're replacing a dead printer with an identical model, you can sometimes save a bit of setup by removing the JetDirect card from the old printer and putting it in the new one.

When using cable select for EIDE hard disks, which drive goes on which connector?
First, it's important to realize that in order to use cable select, you need to have an actual cable select cable. At a glance, older 40-conductor ribbon cables look the same, but they're not identical. Although cable select cables are the same width, they have 80 conductors squeezed into the same space. Cable select cables are usually color-coded. The blue connector on one end should be connected to the host adapter. The black connector on the other end should be connected to the master drive. (If there is only one drive, it should also be connected to the black connector.) The gray connector in the middle of the cable is for the slave drive.

My case fan has a four-pin connector, but my motherboard's chassis fan connector has only three pins. How can I connect the fan?
One of the fan's four wires -- usually blue -- is a control wire. It doesn't actually need to be connected for the fan to operate. If it's not connected, the fan will run whenever the computer is on. If that doesn't bother you, you can go right ahead and attach the fan, leaving the blue wire out over the edge of the motherboard connector. (There's a nice page at showing this, and providing a greater technical details.)