SOLUTION: Switch Windows 10 from RAID/IDE to AHCI operation

PSA: You should not be attempting these fixes unless you’re a professional!  And it goes without saying, you will ALWAYS need your local admin password, recovery media, and backups of your data before fooling around with low-level storage driver configuration — or really anything else for that matter.  See the comments section below for examples of a couple of people who ran into mishaps after encountering other underlying issues or forgetting their admin password before starting the process.  PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

It’s not uncommon to find a system on which RAID drivers have been installed and something like the Intel Rapid Storage Technology package is handling storage devices, but where an SSD might require AHCI operation for more optimal performance or configurability. In these cases, there is in fact a way to switch operation from either IDE or RAID to AHCI within Windows 10 without having to reinstall.  Here’s how.

  1. Right-click the Windows Start Menu. Choose Command Prompt (Admin).
  2. Type this command and press ENTER: bcdedit /set {current} safeboot minimal
  3. Restart the computer and enter BIOS Setup (the key to press varies between systems).
  4. Change the SATA Operation mode to AHCI from either IDE or RAID (again, the language varies).
  5. Save changes and exit Setup and Windows will automatically boot to Safe Mode.
  6. Right-click the Windows Start Menu once more. Choose Command Prompt (Admin).
  7. Type this command and press ENTER: bcdedit /deletevalue {current} safeboot
  8. Reboot once more and Windows will automatically start with AHCI drivers enabled.

That’s all there is to it!  Special thanks to Toobad here for outlining this procedure.

Guide: Western Digital WD5000F032 External Hard Drive Disassembly

Everyone who does any sort of data recovery knows that Western Digital external hard drives can be a real pain to break into if they fail.  While I’ve found plenty of extremely helpful visual guides to disassembly of these models in the past, the model I received today for repair wasn’t among them.  It’s a WD5000F032 (also WD5000C032, and perhaps other similar model numbers as well), and the method to disassemble it is completely different.

So I took it upon myself to create a guide of my own.  Hope this helps you!

Western Digital WD5000F032 external hard drive Disassembly

Western Digital WD5000F032 external hard drive Disassembly

Step 1 - Remove the rubber liner

Step 1 – Remove the rubber liner

Step 2a - Press the plastic tabs on top...

Step 2a – Press the plastic tabs on top…

Step 2b - ...and bottom

Step 2b – …and bottom

Step 3 - Slide the contents out of the shell casing

Step 3 – Slide the contents out of the shell casing

Step 4 - Remove screws

Step 4 – Remove screws

Step 5 - Remove more screws

Step 5 Step 5 – Remove more screws

Step 6 - Remove the final screw

Step 6 – Remove the final screw

Step 7 - (Optional) remove the drive from the bracket

Step 7 – (Optional) remove the drive from the bracket

SOLUTION: Google Chrome process will not close; Chrome will not re-open

A frustrating issue that I have encountered on multiple recent customers’ PCs is an inability to completely close all Google Chrome processes–and, even more frustratingly, a consequent inability to reopen Chrome once it has been closed on the machine.  This happens regardless of whether the Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed checkbox is checked in Settings.

Two workarounds exist: either reboot the machine or open Task Manager and kill the hanging chrome.exe process that is responsible for this problem.  But, of course, this is no long-term solution.

Fortunately I have found the long-term solution!  Keep in mind it may be different in your case depending on the cause, but it appears that this problem is always a product of one of two conditions:

  1. A problematic plugin/extension, or
  2. Corrupt User Data of some sort.

For sake of justification, in the case of my customers’ machines, the first one was caused by a problematic QuickTime plugin (disabling it fixed the problem), and the second one was a corrupt Cookies store–one which could not be cleared using the Clear Browsing Data dialog.

In light of this, there is a relatively easy way to solve either.  Here is the process by which I propose you approach the solution in your particular case:

  1. First, open Chrome and navigate to chrome:plugins.  Disable all plugins and restart the browser.  You may have to kill chrome.exe manually once and then reopen/reclose the browser to test this.  If the behavior persists, reenable the plugins one-by-one to narrow down the one which is responsible.
  2. If this doesn’t work, reenable all plugins, then navigate next to chrome:extensions and disable all extensions next.  Repeat the close/open process to see if the behavior persists.

If this still doesn’t work, now that you’ve ruled out any plugin/extension issues, you’ll need to employ this final phase of the fix, which involves locating corrupt User Data and fixing it.

METHOD 1: From The Ground Up

The first approach involves recreating a new User Data store for your Chrome profile.  This is the most surefire way of correcting the issue as it involves working from the ground up with a new profile and reintroducing customizations (such as Bookmarks, Preferences, etc.) until you find one which is a problem (in my case, it was Cookies).  Here’s how it works:

  1. Open up a folder browser window (a Windows Explorer window) on your PC and navigate to the folder %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome
  2. Inside this folder, you will find a subfolder called User Data.  Make sure Chrome is closed (including the hanging chrome.exe process), then rename this folder to something such as User Data.old
  3. Open Chrome again and close it.  Voila, no problems.
  4. Note that a new User Data folder has now been created which is blank.  Here’s the tricky part.  The new profile doesn’t have any of your previous data in it (as you probably noticed).  If you’re simply using a roaming Google Chrome profile (such as one where you sign in while opening the browser) to retain your settings, it’s as easy as signing in again to repopulate your stuff.  But if you aren’t, you’ll need to manually copy over the data from the corrupt profile.  To do so:
    1. Navigate to %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data.old\Default to get to the old corrupt profile data that you are no longer using.
    2. Open another folder browser window and navigate to the new profile data here: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default 
    3. Close Chrome (if it isn’t already) and copy over the following user data files within this folder one at a time, opening and closing Chrome in-between each time to check for a hanging chrome.exe process after the file is copied:
      1. Archived History
      2. Bookmarks
      3. Extension Cookies
      4. Favicons
      5. History
      6. Login Data
      7. Preferences
      8. Shortcuts
      9. Top Sites
      10. Visited Links
    4. If you copy a file and the behavior reappears, that’s obviously your culprit.  In my case, it was Cookies, which you’ll notice I didn’t even list above because I bet that’s what your problem is too!

METHOD 2: From The Top Down

You can reverse this method if you want to try and retain as much as possible of your profile (i.e., if you have a ton of extensions installed that you don’t want to redownload–though to restore those you can technically also simply copy the subfolders within the Default folder as well that relate to them).  First I would create a backup of the User Data folder before beginning just in case, and afterwards I’d begin renaming suspect files one by one until you find the culprit.  Start with Cookies and go through the rest of the files in the Default folder until you find the problem.

Thank goodness this is solved!  It’s an annoying one.

SOLUTION: Facebook error – Invalid URL. The requested URL “/”, is invalid.

Two days ago a client of mine contacted me regarding problems accessing Facebook.com.  Whenever the client attempted to access the site, he was met with the following error:

Invalid URL

The requested URL “/”, is invalid.

Reference #

Bizarrely, this only occurred when attempting to access Facebook.com, and never on any other websites.

Of course, the first thing I checked was his hosts file, which actually was completely empty/default.  Next, I flushed his DNS resolver cache with ipconfig /flushdns.  This also failed to solve the problem.

At this point, I began doing some research and found other users experiencing intermittent issues of the same sort across various internet forums.  The cause is unknown.  The solution, as it turns out, is easy: simply force the PC to resolve Facebook.com to the correct IP address and the problem is solved:

  1. Open the system’s hosts file.  Navigate to %windir%\system32\drivers\etc and open the hosts file using Notepad when prompted.
  2. Copy/paste the following line into the hosts file where the addresses are located:

69.171.228.74 https://www.facebook.com

That’s it–problem solved!