How-To Geek

Ask HTG: Connecting a Reluctant Laptop to Wi-Fi Router, Growth-Friendly Backup Plans, and Explaining Camera RAW


Once a week we round up some of the questions pouring into the Ask HTG inbox and share them with everyone. This week we’re looking at how to connect a particularly stubborn laptop to a Wi-Fi router, setting up a growth-friendly home backup plan, and what to do with RAW camera files.

Why Won’t My New Laptop Connect to My Wi-FI Router?2012-02-20_145158

Dear How-To Geek,

I’m tearing my hair out here. I have a new laptop and it absolutely will not connect to my home Wi-Fi network. Everything else will: my iPad, my wife’s laptop, my desktop with a Wi-Fi antenna, my Wii, everything will connect. Everything that is, except for my new laptop. I know it’s not the laptop because it will connect just fine to open and encrypted networks outside my home (work, coffee houses, and so on).

I’ve double checked all the settings, I’ve rebooted, the router, I have no idea what to do. How is this even possible?


Wi-Fi Crazy

Dear Wi-Fi Crazy,

This is one of those moments where a reader writes in with a problem that we’ve also torn our hair out over. While we can’t promise this solution will work, it worked like a charm for us. In our case, we had a netbook that simple would not connect to our office router. It worked fine everywhere else but the office. We did absolutely everything we could think of: changed encryption settings, rebooted the router, turned off the encryption, etc. but nothing worked. You’ll never believe the solution. At some point in the trouble shooting we noticed that the router was set to enforce Wi-Fi G only (and not allow devices to select from B/G). Now that makes sense to have on, right? It has been years since any consumer devices used B. Only it turns out that the netbook in question was really picky about it and, apparently, wanted to ability to pick B or G (but always ended up picking the speedier G connection). Once we turned it from G-only to Auto everything was fine. We can’t promise that’s your solution too, but this is the only time we’ve ever run into this problem and that was the immediate fix.

Where Can I Find a Backup Solution That Scales Well?


Dear How-To Geek,

I’ve been hearing more and more about cloud-based backup solutions, but so far I haven’t really found a solution that seems to scale well. What if I want to do more than just backup a handful of files to a remote server? What if I want to back up to other computers on my network? To my brother’s computer across the state? To removable media? I’d prefer to not have to run four different programs. Can you point me in the right direction? I’d really like a simple solution that lets me add/expand my backup plan as I feel the need.


Backup Serious

Dear Backup Serious,

What you’re requesting is a bit of a tall order, but we think Crash Plan is probably the best fit for your all-in-one needs. CrashPlan has a great backup suite that is totally free (you only pay for anything if you end up subscribing to their cloud-based storage model). Using CrashPlan you can easily backup to your own external/internal drives, network storage, removable media, and remote locations (i.e. your brother’s house if he is willing to run CrashPlan too). Add in their cheap $10 a month basic online storage plan and you’ve got yourself a multi-prong backup solution that includes two remote locations and as many local online/offline backups as you wish. Check out our guide to getting started with CrashPlan here.

What Are RAW Camera Files?

Dear How-To Geek,

I recently upgraded from a little point-and-shoot digital camera to a full-size DSLR. So far so good, but there is one thing I’m unclear on. The camera is capable of shooting in RAW file format. Other than the files are bigger and it’s an alternative to JPG, I’m not really sure what the point is. Clearly it’s in there for a reason and I’d probably benefit from using it, I’m sure (?) so would you mind shedding some light on what exactly this RAW business is all about?


RAW Wondering

Dear RAW Wondering,

The quick and dirty answer is that RAW is a very minimally processed capture from the camera’s sensor (while JPG is a heavily processed capture). Think of RAW as being a digital negative and JPG as being somewhat like a finished product (as the camera, unseen by you, already made a ton of decisions and corrections to the photo the moment you took it). Many people prefer to work with RAW because it allows them a much greater flexibility in post-processing to fix mistakes made in the field and push the photo in a new direction. Check out our full run down on the RAW format here.

Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at and we’ll do our best to respond.

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 02/20/12

Comments (7)

  1. LadyFitzgerald

    RAW files are the data the camera sensor sees before converting to a storage format, usually JPG. The disadvantage of RAW files is you can view and work with them only with certain software; not just any graphics program. RAW files can vary from camera brand to camera brand. Also, as you have already mentioned, RAW files are larger. For a serious photographer, these disadvantages are greatly outweighed by the advantages.

    One of the biggest problems with JPGs is lossy compression, the amount of compression varying from camera to camera, even within the same brand. I have two Canon cameras, one a high end point and shoot and the other a more compact model. The high end model has less compression than the lower end model (which is still more than I care to see). This compression is mostly what limits the amount of editing one can do without too much loss of resolution. Some people get around this by converting the JPGs to TIFF first. It works to a degree but once data has been lost, it can’t be recovered. Working with RAW works much better because you are working with pristine files. Every time a file conversion is done, data is lost, even when converting to supposedly lossless formats.

    Some cameras have the option of saving in RAW or JPG or in both. If your camera can save to both formats with each photo, you can review your shots on the JPGs and edit from the RAWs.

  2. LadyFitzgerald

    Depending on how many computers you want backed up, Carbonite may still be less expensive than CrashPlan. Simple cloud storage for one computer is $59/year. Two computers would require two plans which would cost $118/year total. CrashPlan is $120. For $99/year per computer, you can also back up external harddrives and mirror the harddrive on your computer. I personally do not like mirroring because if you mess up something, the mistake will be mirrored. Versioned back ups are far safer and is offered by Carbonite.

    While controlling all of your back ups from a single application is convenient, if, for some reason the program crashes, you will suddenly have no backing up happening and may not even be aware of it. Running more than one back up program will provide a bit of redunancy that may protect you from that. Also, Carbonite will email you if you go a week without back ups which will let you know if the program has crashed and you don’t notice it.

    Now if running more than one computer, external harddrives, and want to have more than one cloud back up (and you have someone willing to let you use his or computer to keep back ups on) then CrashPlan alone sounds pretty attractive.

    Another advantage of Carbonite is you can remotely access your data that is stored online from another computer. I don’t know if you can do that from CrashPlan.

    I have only one computer that I am backing up online so I’m using Carbonite. I am going to look into CrashPlan because of the multiple media capability for local back ups (it does look interesting) but I’ll probably continue to Carbonite for online back up simply because it is less expensive I only use external harddrives for back ups, not permanent storage) and is known to be reliable.

  3. crab

    RAW isn’t just for fixing mistakes, or for minimizing compression artifacts. I shoot RAW because It captures a much greater range of information than jpeg, which gives me more control of the final result, particularly in increased dynamic range and more precise color balance for difficult lighting situations.

  4. Jenita

    Back up each and every file so it could be easy in recovering when system leads to crash.

  5. LadyFitzgerald

    I researched some reviews of CrashPlan as well as checking out the website. The article doesn’t quite do CrashPlan justice. They do have a single computer unlimited cloud storage plan that is less expensive than Carbonite. Carbonite’s initial back up is faster but above certain storage levels, file transfer will be throttled. Also, versioning is for only 90 days; CrashPlan’s versioning is for until you delete the file.

    Reviewers stated that CrashPlan has better customer service. Carbonite has used a typically pathetic Indian call center for the the first tier of customer “service.” I found that their website has an option to contact their head guy. You won’t get him but you will get a U.S. based rep. Because of customer complaints about the poor tech help, Carbonite announced late last year that they were going to move to their tech help from India to the U.S.

    Carbonite uses Amazon’s servers to store backups on. I’m still trying to find out where CrashPlan stores theirs. If different than Amazon, it could be worthwile to use both for additional redundancy.

    I’m still mulling it over but CrashPlan is looking more and more attractive. I renewed my Carbonite account only a couple of months ago so it probably will be a while before I actually try out CrashPlan.

  6. Julie

    Carbonite has one massive disadvantage that I didn’t discover until after I’d subscribed to their service: their backups automatically *exclude* executables and program files. You do have the option to add them to your backup manually, but since my primary objective was to back up my software library, this turned out to be a nightmare of significant proportions.

    If all you want is a backup of your photos, then Carbonite works just fine.

  7. LadyFitzgerald

    Carbonite will back up executables but you have to right click each one to tell Carbonite to back it up. I do it all the time. If you need to recover the backed up executable, it will come back as a file type other than .exe which won’t run. Just change the file type to .exe and the file will be fully restored and will be fully functional.

    Program files can’t normally can’t be backed up; the best way to back up a program file is to back up the installation file so it can be used to reinstall the program. The exceptions are a mirrored drive or a drive image and, even then, the entire drive gets backed up, not just the program file only. Carbonite is only intended to back up data files. Program folders often contain data files that can be backed up but you have to manually instruct Carbonite to do so.

    I don’t know if CrashPlan will automatically back up executables and data contained in program folders or if it has to be done manually. What I’ve read makes it appear that it does.

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