Every week we open up our reader mailbag and answer your pressing tech questions. This week we’re looking at a computer that doesn’t keep the time, using Wake-On-LAN, and rolling your own karaoke tracks.
Computer Doesn’t Keep the Date and Time Correctly
Dear How-To Geek,
For the last week or two my computer appears unable to keep the time and date correctly. When I boot into Windows the date and time is always just after midnight on January 1 2002. I reset it from within Windows and then the next time I reboot it is back to the old (and incorrect) date.
One additional thing that might shed some light on this situation: when I boot up the boot process halts and my computer asks if I want to press F1 to enter setup or F2 to continue. If I press F1 it takes me to the BIOS menu and I can set the time there. The time is always wrong in the BIOS but if I set it there everything is fine when I got into Windows (until the next reboot of course). What does this mean? How can I fix it?
Date Skipping in Daytona
Dear Date Skipping,
Fortunately for you the problem sounds very clear cut. There’s a 99.99% chance the problem is that the CMOS battery on your motherboard is dead. It’s a thin watch-type battery that maintains the system time when computer is powered off. They wear out eventually and need to be replaced.
For a desktop computer it’s usually as simple as opening the case (with the computer unplugged and properly grounded) and swapping out the old battery for a new battery. Laptops can be a little trickier as manufacturers sometimes do strange things to fit the batteries in (on the tiny Asus Eee PC netbooks, for instance, the CMOS battery is actually tethered to the board by a 4” wire pair and tucked into an empty corner in the case).
Regardless of your computer type we strongly recommend hitting up Google for the specifics on your model/motherboard. Swapping the battery is really simple but you need to make sure you have the right type of battery for your particular machine (putting a non-rechargeable battery in a rechargeable slot, for example, is a fire hazard).
On the off chance that it isn’t the CMOS battery, it may be the BIOS on your machine. It would be rather rare that the issue would be caused by a BIOS error and not simply a dead CMOS battery but it can’t hurt to check. Visit your computer/motherboard manufacturer’s website and check to see if a newer BIOS release is available. If so, upgrade and see if the upgrade takes care of the issue. If it doesn’t, you can go pickup a compatible CMOS battery for $3-5.
What is Wake-On-LAN and What Can I Do with It?
Dear How-To Geek,
I’ve been reading over the manual that came with my new computer and there is a brief (very brief!) mention of some feature called Wake-On-LAN. I’ve got the general idea, that it’s some network-based technique for waking up my computer, but what is it exactly and how would I use it to my advantage?
Waking in Wisconsin
At it’s most basic Wake-On-LAN is a protocol for sending a packet to a machine in a deep power saving mode and telling it to wake up. There are a multitude of reasons why you may wish to take advantage of Wake-On-LAN. You may have a file server that you’d prefer to be in power-saving mode when it isn’t being accessed but you don’t want to do something as definite as booting it completely down for X hours a day. Maybe you want to access your computer when you’re away at work but don’t want to leave it on all day just on the off chance you want to stream some music or grab a file—here’s another situation where Wake-On-LAN is a perfect fit as it keeps your computer ready to boot back up without the drain of always on power usage.
For further reading we’d suggest checking out our HTG Explains on the topic here, our guide to using DD-WRT to schedule specific wakeup times, and if you’re feeling extra curious the Wake-On-LAN Wikipedia entry has piles of interesting facts about Wake-On-LAN.
Roll Your Own Karaoke Tracks
Dear How-To Geek,
I don’t know how I got roped into it, but I told my kid sister I’d put together a karaoke playlist for her birthday party. This seems like it would be pretty straightforward except I can’t find karaoke tracks of some of the songs she wants. Are there any applications that remix songs with the vocals removed? It seems like a longshot but I figured if anybody could help, you could!
Karaoke Madness is Kansas
Dear Karaoke Madness,
There isn’t a program sophisticated enough for a single-click scrubbing, alas. Fortunately, however, you’re not the only one with an interest in rolling DIY karaoke tracks. Check out our guide to removing vocals from music tracks using audacity here. Start with the original CD or a multi-channel audio rip for best results.
Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to answer your question.