16 PC mysteries solved!

Our digital detectives uncover the truth behind some of tech's most baffling questions.

By Alex Wawro, PC World |  Hardware, HDTV, PCs

When you turn on your computer, UEFI's firmware will run an inventory of the hardware installed on the system; after checking that everything is functioning properly, it will launch the operating system and turn control of the PC hardware over to the software (and to you). UEFI supports a wider range of chip architectures (including 32-bit and 64-bit processors like the ARM chips that will be in Windows 8 tablet PCs) than does BIOS, which is limited to running on 16-bit processors.

The new spec works very well, and nearly all UEFI firmware images in­­clude support for older BIOS services, so you should never have a problem upgrading from a motherboard flashed with BIOS to one flashed with UEFI.

What is 'Free Public Wi-Fi,' and why doesn't it ever work?

The "Free Public Wi-Fi" network you see in various public places is the result of an old Windows XP bug that causes the OS to set up an ad hoc data-sharing network for connected PCs if it can't connect to a trusted wireless network automatically. Windows names the ad hoc setup after its previous Wi-Fi network connection. Long ago, after failing to connect to a trusted network named "Free Public Wi-Fi," a Windows PC created just such an ad hoc entity. Drawn by the word "Free," local laptop users hoping to get online connected to the impotent ad hoc network, and thus began broadcasting (and perpetuating) it themselves.

Connecting to this type of device-to-device ad hoc network rarely poses any immediate danger, but it won't get you onto the Web, either. And malicious users could spy on the connection and steal valuable information from you.

To ensure that your PC isn't inadvertently broadcasting an impotent ad hoc network, update it to at least Windows XP with Service Pack 3. If you run Windows Vista, 7, or 8, you have nothing to worry about; nevertheless, avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks with names like "Free Public Wi-Fi" or "Default."

Why can't I upgrade from 32-bit Windows to 64-bit Windows?

Upgrading a copy of Windows 7 from 32-bit Home to 32-bit Professional is simple enough, but upgrading to a 64-bit version of the OS re­­quires you to do a fresh installation.

Windows handles information differently depending on whether you use the 32-bit or 64-bit version. In extremely broad terms, a 64-bit operating system can process data in bigger chunks than a 32-bit system can. That's why you can't use the Windows Easy Transfer utility to move files and applications between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows: The CPUs on the transferring and re­­ceiving machines use fundamentally different data architectures.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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