What are Hotfix Uninstallers?

by jim on May 26th, 2011

Every so often I run a suite of tools designed to clean up space on my computer and speed it up. One of the tools is Piriform’s CCleaner, a fantastic freeware tool that does a mighty fine job of cleaning up the registry.

As I was looking through the Advanced section, which is normally all unchecked, I decided to check them all (except Wipe Free Space) to see how much I could save. Apparently I had 800+ MB of Hotfix Uninstallers that I could remove. What the heck are Hotfix uninstallers?

It turns out that every time you update Windows with a hotfix, it stores some data into an uninstaller just in case the hotfix breaks something. These are those hotfix uninstallers and they simply accumulate over the months and years. Chances are you have a few hundred megabytes locked up in these hotfix uninstallers. As long as you haven’t experienced any problems since the last update, you can safely remove them.

Keeping your system tidy is one way of helping it run faster.

Microsoft XBox E74 Error Warranty

by jim on May 19th, 2011

Two days ago, as I was playing Mass Effect 2 on my XBox 360, I noticed that the visuals were getting weird. There were random pixels appearing all over the place on some screens, perfect on others. I knew immediately, since this had happened just one year ago, that my XBox was about ten minutes away from dying with a classic E74 error. You’ll usually see one red light (lower right quadrant) and an ominous all text message on the screen.

The E74 error is a generic class of errors related to video output, which can mean anything from a bad cable to a bad graphics chip. If you’re lucky, it’s just the cable and you can just buy a new one. Chances are… you’re not lucky. It’s probably a failure in the ANA/HANA (for HDMI) scaling chip because the chip has come loose. When you run the XBox for extended periods of time, it heats up. Normally, this isn’t an issue, except in the case of this one ANA/HANA chip because of how it’s seated and mounted. After a while, the chip can come loose and you’ll experience an E74 error. This is what happened to me.

There are a lot of home-brew fixes, from wrapping it in towels to holding the chip down with pennies, but the only real permanent solution is to open it up, remove the chip, and reattach it. You can usually find someone nearby willing to fix it for around $40 (some guy in his garage) to $100 (a store).

One nice thing is that there is a three year warranty on XBox’s for this specific error. I bought mine refurbished last November (yes, it’s only lasted six months) and was researching local repair options (I’m really not that interested in opening it up and doing it myself), when I thought to check the warranty. It turns out that the person who previously owned it had it repaired last May… so I was within a one year warranty. I had until May 21st (yes, that’s in two days) to request a repair. I got off lucky.

If you have an E74 error, how do you check if you’re still under warranty? Easy, head over to the XBox Service Center, register your console, and then request a repair. You will find out if you’re still under warranty (at which point you can request a repair) or learn when it expired. Be sure to indicate it’s a E74 error, so they know that the warranty is for 3 years, otherwise you may not get the correct answer.

And do it now… the last thing you want to find out is that your warranty expired yesterday.

I use a portable hard drive (one of those Western Digital Passports) to store most of my files because I often find myself using several computers. It’s nice to have a local copy of some of my more often used documents, especially when I’m on travel and can’t necessarily connect to the internet (or I have files I don’t trust to be floating around the interwebs). As a result, I have several folders and file shortcuts on my desktop that get all jacked up whenever the drive letter of the Passport changes. What I don’t want to do is change each shortcut every single time, that’s a hassle. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution.

Really Easy Temporary-ish Way

The easiest way to do this is to use the subst command. Just go to Start -> Run and enter the following:
subst [drive 1] [drive 2]
This will map Drive 1 to Drive 2. In other words, if your shortcuts say E:\filename.txt and the file now resides at F:\filename.txt, you would enter:
subst e: f:/

This now maps both E: and F: to that drive, until you restart your computer. If you want to make that permanent, you’ll have to create a batch file, dump a shortcut to it in your Startup folder, and then it’ll do it every time.

Easy Way

Since I want my drive to always stick with one letter and because I’d rather not create another file to throw into Startup, this slightly less easy way will assign the letter to the drive permanently. If you did the subst, you’ll want to undo it:
subst [drive 1] /d

You can confirm the mapping is gone by typing in subst
Now, right click on My Computer and select “Manage…”. This brings up the Computer Management window, find the Storage item and then Disk Management underneath. In the list of drives you should see your USB drive, right click that and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths…” Make sure you aren’t running anything before you agree to the warnings and the drive should be mapped.

That’s it!