Ask HTG: Trouble Shooting Monitor Bars, Retrieving a File from System Restore, and Finding Duplicate Files

By Jason Fitzpatrick on December 26th, 2011


Once a week we round up some of the reader questions we’ve answered and share them with the greater How-To Geek audience. This week we’re looking at trouble shooting a monitor with black bars, how to retrieve a file from a system restore point, and finding duplicate photos.

Why Does My Dual Monitor Setup Have Black Bars On The Sides?


Dear How-To Geek,

I love your blog and I know you can help me! Here’s my problem: I have a dual monitor setup on a Windows 7 64x machine. One monitor is an Acer X233H and the other is an Optiquest A201wb. When they are both hooked up in the dual-monitor configuration with the Acer as the main screen there is a black band around the sides and bottom of the Acer monitor but the Optiquest monitor looks fine. I’ve downloaded new drivers for the video card, new drivers for the monitors, and made sure Windows is up to date. I’ve read over the manuals for the monitors and found nothing that would help me. I’d really like to use all the screen space I paid for! Help!


Asymmetrical Screens in Sacramento

Dear Asymmetrical,

Barring some sort of strange hardware issue, it sounds like your need to make sure that your monitors are set to equal resolution or, at minimum, resolutions with the same aspect ratio. If you set the monitor resolution to a non-native and/or mismatched aspect ratio then you will have black bars on the sides (and sometimes on the top). While you’ll never get a perfect match with two different sized monitors (you’re rocking a 20” and a 23”) if you have matching aspect ratios you’ll at least get full use of the screen real estate.

Pull up the start menu and in the quick launch box type “screen resolution”. Click on “Adjust screen resolution”. From within the screen resolution menu check the resolution settings for both your monitors. If you can set them both to a matching resolution that would be great (i.e. 1920×1080). Barring that you need to make sure they have the same aspect ratio. Thus if you set the Acer at 1920×1080 (a 1.77 aspect ratio), whatever you set the Optiquest to should also have a 1.77 ratio.

How Can I Retrieve a File from a System Restore Point?

Dear How-To Geek,

I need to recover a file that I know is included in a past system restore point in Windows. The problem is that I don’t want to roll back to that restore point (and make a bunch of system changes in the process) just to get to that file. What can I do? Surely there has to be a way to pull a single file out of the restore point?


Recovering in Reno

Dear Recovering,

You’re not the first person to run into this problem and, thankfully, there’s a free tool to help you: System Restore Explorer. The app allows you to mount a system restore point like you’d mount a hard disk. Once mounted you can browse around inside and copy the file you need (all without having to roll back to that previous restore point). Check out our guide to using System Restore Explorer here.

How Can I Find Duplicate Photos On My Hard Drive?


Dear How-To Geek,

I’m really good about backing up my digital photos and keeping multiple copies on my various system drives. The only problem is I think I’ve gotten a little too redundant and made too many local copies. How can I sort through all these pictures and get rid of some of the duplicates? I really don’t need 10 copies of the same file stored on the same computer!


Copy King from Canada

Dear Copy King,

We have two programs you can trot out to help with your bounty of files. The first one works with any duplicate files, not just photos. Duplicate File Finder is a robust Windows-based file finder that scans the directories/drives you specify, compares files, and even has a file preview so you can double check file contents before deleting.

SimilarImages is a duplicate file finder focused on photos. Instead of giving you a massive file list (like Duplicate File Finder), SimilarImages displays the dupes side by side so you can make sure you’re deleting the right one. It’s slower to run (although it maintains an internal database so it won’t take as long to run the second time you use it) and slower to use (you’re comparing the photos in more detail than you would a simple file list) but if you’re nervous about deleting your photos it’s a more thorough way with less chance of user error. 

Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at or visit our helpful How-To Geek forums!

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/26/11
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