Get Rid of the Conflicting Driver and Reinstall It

You purchased a brand new graphic card and enthusiastically installed it only to find weird issues. After installing your new hardware, you are not able to install a new driver, even if you are able to, your system hangs at restart and it even crashes (BSOD) and restarts for infinite times. You are perplexed and wondering what had really happened. Not only you, but thousands of people also experience the same kind of issue everywhere. 99% of the times, the problem is with the old driver installation.

If you are facing driver issues, don’t fret. Here I’m going to walk you through the steps for resolving it. There is a nice utility called Driver Sweeper which can help you in resolving driver conflicts.

How to Reinstall Conflicting Driver

To remove old video drivers and install afresh, you need the following

Driver Sweeper

Your New Video Driver

The process of cleaning your old driver is pretty simple. First, install the latest version of Driver Sweeper. Then, use the default uninstaller that came with the old driver. It can be found under Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel.

Add/Remve Programs

Uninstall the driver manually

Once you uninstall the old driver, reboot your system in Safe Mode.

  • Once you are in Windows Safe Mode, run Driver Sweeper.
  • Select an option (this depends on what you want to clean, like AMD, Nvidia Display etc.)

Analyze

  • Click Analyse.
  • The next window shows all persistent files that weren’t removed during uninstallation of the driver which is possibly causing the issue.

clean

  • Select all files and select the button Clean.

Now all traces of the old installation are removed. Now, restart your system normally and install the new driver.

Now that you have removed all traces of the old driver installation and installed afresh.

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How to Remove Fake Antivirus Software

If you have the habit of browsing the internet a lot, you would have encountered the following screen.

OMG, it’s a virus scan and it says my PC is badly infected.

How to Remove Fake Antivirus Software

You get panic that your system is infected and immediately start downloading the “security software” download that pops up all of a sudden. After installing it, you find that your system behaves strangely. From now on, a nagging message window shows up, asking you take “immediate action”.

Now you also find that you are not anymore able to open the Task Manager, Registry Editor, “msconfig” and many other essential Windows tools including “Run” window.  Depending on the rogue program, you may not able to open other applications like Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Firefox etc. Some of them even disable internet connectivity. If this happens, you have to remove the fake antivirus software immediately.

How to know It’s Fake

How many times have you encountered this error message? Have you thought what you were doing when you received the “scan” window? I’m sure many of us are not aware of what happened and how the system got infected. If you look at the above image, you can clearly see that it’s a browser window with an Explorer disguise. If you are using Windows XP, open My Computer and see how it looks. It will look the same but without the “scan log”.

Keep in mind that a browser window will never show C:, D: and so on. It won’t also have the Windows Explorer links like “Add remove programs”, “My Network Places” etc. Lastly, a browser cannot scan your system all by itself. There are legitimate online virus scan websites but without your intervention, a browser won’t scan your computer and no virus scan can scan an entire drive this fast.

Since there are many fake and rogue applications, I can’t post the image of all of them here but you can do a Google image search for “fake antivirus” (without quotes). This will give you an idea about it and how to remove fake antivirus.

When does it happen?

It can happen when you are browsing. When you click an innocent looking link or image from some other website, you immediately see this “scan” window. It can happen even when you click Google web or image search results. If you see this type of suspicious window, close the window immediately. If your browser prompts you to download anything at that time, cancel it.

How to Remove the Fake “Antivirus Software”?

Though there are many tools that claim to remove these types of fake security software, my favorite is Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, which has never let me down whenever I try to clean up my friends/relatives PCs. This free security software is surprisingly effective at eliminating rogue apps even when your regular antiviruses fail to do so.

If you keep on receiving fake alerts, download Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, install it, update it, and do a thorough scan (Perform full scan). Once the scan is done, remove all traces of malware.

But chances are there that you are not even able to use internet to download Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. If this happens, restart your system and just before windows loads, press F8. Now select Safe Mode with Networking. If you are not able to install any antivirus under normal mode due to an infection, you can install it under Safe Mode.

Windows - Safemode with networking

Once booted, download Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and do as explained before.

After cleaning your system of fake antivirus, it’s also recommended that you scan your system with CCleaner.

On the Registry tab on CCleaner, select Scan for Issues. Once the scan is complete select Fix Selected Issues.

This should remove any remaining malware registry traces.

Top 8 Things You Must Know Before Overclocking

After a series of “How Tos” here, I think posting some of the most important overclocking tips would be useful for everyone. Whether you are overclocking for fun or for benching, the following tips will help you to get the most out of your system for sure.

Top 8 Tips for Overclocking

8. Cool your Cabinet: Do it at any cost. Install more fans and try to exhaust hot air out of the cabinet (also keep in mind that having lots of fans doesn’t mean they can efficiently cool your cabinet, ow you place thens does matter). As a general rule, the fan with the highest CFM should be the fan on your CPU heat sink and the next one is the exhaust, preferably at the rear.

7. Get a Good Cabinet: As it’s very important to keep your cabinet as cool as possible, your cabinet should be spacious and very efficient at venting hot air. If you have a cheap cabinet, get rid of it and get a new one with lots of space in it.

6. Get an Aftermarket Cooler: If you don’t have a good CPU or GPU cooler, don’t overclock yet. I have seen lots of guys who start overclocking without installing a third-party cooler and later come and ask “is my CPU too hot?” If you overclock, be assured that your CPU or GPU is certainly going to overheat, and that will not only impact how much you can push the chip but also how your hardware is going to last. You may not kill your CPU immediately by overclocking but over time, you may face crashes and BSODs.

5. Keep the Ambient Cool: If you are in a place where the atmosphere is hot, consider switching on the AC. Cooling your room to 22 degrees Celsius and below will get you 200 MHz (CPU) extra. You will also see that you are now able to overclock more with low vcore.

4. Know How to Manipulate RAM Clock: If you have a CPU with unlocked multiplier, well and good. But not many of us have one. If you are struck with adjusting the base clock (FSB/HTT/BCLK), you have to know how to separate RAM from getting affected by the adjustment of these base clocks. If you have an overclockable RAM, learn how to manipulate it and also the timings. Many people simply increase the base clock without even knowing the relationship between base clock and RAM. This also applies to NB frequency. There are lots of resources on the internet for you to read and understand the proper process of overclocking.

3. Overclock in Increments: Every piece of hardware is different and hence you may not be able to push your CPU or GPU like others. To find the max frequency, always overclock in increments. Increase the base clock just 5 MHz at a time and stress test.

2. Learn to Stress Test: There is no use of overclocking if you don’t stress test your hardware. Follow this link to stress test your CPU or follow this link to stress test your GPU.

1. Get a Good PSU: You follow all the above points and fail to get a good power supply and you will be in deep trouble. Power Supply Unit (PSU or SMPS) is the one responsible for providing clean power to the system. If it can’t provide the needed power, it will be overloaded. Quality PSUs have built in measures to counter any unfortunate scenario but those Chinese made cheapo PSUs don’t come with any kind of protection. They simply blow up and fry other components when stressed even little. Even if you don’t overclock, get a good PSU for your system’s longevity. Corsair and Seasonic are some of the very few companies that make good PSUs.

These are the important things you have to know before overclocking. As a side note, I also want to mention that you have to know how to clear CMOS. You have two options – right from BIOS or on your mother board. Check your motherboard manual for more details.

How to stress test your GPU – Test Your Graphic Card for Stability

Stress Testing a Graphic Card – GPU Stress Testing

Stress testing or torture testing your overclocked GPU is extremely important to ensure it runs stable all the time. If you have just started overclocking by increasing the clocks in increments, a 10 minute test is sufficient so that you can try pushing you graphic card more. If you have already reached the wall, do a test for 2 hours. In continuation with my previous blog post on GPU Overclocking, where I explained how to overclock your graphic card, I’m going to discuss how to stress test a GPU to ensure stability.

How to make sure your overclock is stable

To stress test your graphic card, you need the following tools.

MSI Kombustor

Stress testing a GPU is really easy. Fire up MSI Kombustor.

MSI Kombustor

  • Select Fullscreen
  • Select your resolution
  • Under Burn-in test, select Xtreme burn-in
  • Select GPU BURN-IN

This will invoke a furry object on screen which actually does the stressing. Let it run for 2 hours (just 10 minute is enough if you have just started to find the max overclock by increasing the core/shader in small increments at a time). But you have to closely monitor the temperature as this test will produce unrealistic load on the GPU and as a result, the core temperature will skyrocket. Increasing the fan speed to 80% or even more is recommended before running Kombustor.

Observe the furry object carefully for any artifacts. Anything other than the furry object is an artifact. If your GPU is stable, everything will be fine; otherwise, you may see graphic artifacts on screen or your system may even crash or become unresponsive. In that case, you will only have to hard reboot your system. This is an indication of a too much overclock and you will have to reduce a few MHz (of core/shader/memory).

I’m not able post a screenshot of graphic artifacts because my system simply becomes unresponsive or throws BSOD when my GPU becomes unstable.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Stress Testing Your GPU

I can’t stress this enough. You may have to find the maximum safe temperature of your GPU by doing a Google search. Once you get to know that, you have to make sure the core temperature doesn’t exceed that. You can keep the temperature in check by increasing the GPU fan speed using MSI Afterburner and by installing more fans on your PC cabinet. If possible, you can also get a third-party GPU cooler.

Ensure that you have a good power supply (PSU). Cheap ones are not recommended even if you don’t intend to overclock anything. Stress testing a graphic card will really pull lots of power and your PSU must be able to provide the required power with as little ripple as possible. Get a good PSU from Corsair, Seasonic etc. Cooler Master is okay but be wary of the fact that the Extreme Power series PSUs are notorious for blowing up under load, yet I see a lot of people still use them as they are cheaper.

If you live in a hotter area, switch on the air conditioner. If the ambient is below 23, you have greater chance of hitting even more MHz.

GPU Overclocking – Overclocking Your Graphic Card

Overclocking your graphic card is the easiest way to increase your system’s gaming performance. Though a good CPU is important for gaming, GPU, aka graphic card determines how good your gaming experience is going to be. A system’s gaming performance is determined by its graphic subsystem and overclocking it can make a lot of difference. For eg: if you get 35 FPS in a game, chances are there that it gets choppy during intense combats where the GPU has to render more number complex objects. Overclocking your GPU will increase the number of frames rendered by it per second and that can have a positive impact on your gaming experience.

To overclock a graphic card, you need the following

Note that you need a good power supply (PSU or SMPS) for overclocking. This is because the PSU is the component that provides/distributes power to all components of a system. Since overclocking increases power consumption the PSU should be able to handle the increased load. If it can’t provide enough power, it may shut off or even explode taking out other components along with it. A good power supply not only provides its rated power, but also “clean” power, with the least amount of ripple. If you have a good power supply, you can safely overclock your PC components.

How to overclock a GPU?

Install MSI Afterburner. This tool is based on the venerable Rivatuner.  But I prefer Afterburner just for its intuitiveness. It’s extremely easy to use that even a first timer will be able to use it right away. Below is the screenshot of Afterburner. The main window has 5 sliders – Core Voltage, Core Clock, Shader Clock, Memory Clock, and Fan Speed. If you are using an AMD/ATI card, you will see that the slider Shader Clock is not available for adjustment.

Before overclocking, you need to increase the fan speed. Just move the slider under Fan Speed to the right and make it 80% and press Apply. If the slider is grayed out, select the button Auto.

To overclock your GPU, follow the steps below.

1. Increase Core Clock

Overclocking the Core yields the most performance boost in most of the cases and for this reason, you should always try to overclock the Core Clock to the maximum your card allows. The second slider is Core Clock. Use it to increase the core clock by 10MHz and select Apply. Open GPU-Z and keep it side-by-side to see if your overclock takes effect (Don’t consider the values shown by Afterburner’s hardware monitor as it shows only the 2D clocks now).

Now you have to stress test the GPU for stability. Select the icon K on Afterburner. This will load MSI Kombustor. By default, it won’t show the GPU temperature. Press T on keyboard to toggle temperature graph and closely monitor the temperature. Before overclocking, you have to know the max safe temperature of your graphic card. You can do that by checking your GPU’s specifications. You should also ensure proper cooling. Run the test for 10 minutes. If your graphic card isn’t stable, you may get BSOD, system lockup or graphic artifacts. If your system runs fine, you may proceed increasing the Core by 10MHz.

Do the same procedure (increase 10 MHz at a time and stress test) until your system gets unstable, that is, your system crashes, becomes unresponsive or produce graphic artifacts when you run Kombustor. Once you have found the max overclock, reduce 10MHz and run the stress test for two hours. If your system doesn’t get locked up, you are lucky. If not, reduce in 10MHz increments and do the stress test until the GPU passes the test for two hours without crashing.

2. Increase Shader Clock

Now that you have found the max Core overclock. Now select Reset in Afterburner to reset all settings. Increase Shader Clock slider by 10MHz. run the stress test. Find the maximum Shader Clock just how you just did with Core Clock.

Note that I’m using a Radeon HD5770 which doesn’t have the shader clock and hence the slider is not activated in Afterburner.

3. Increase Memory Clock

Just like Core and Shader clocks, you can also overclock the memory. Reset everything to stock settings by clicking Reset. On Afterburner, increase Memory Clock by 10MHz. Do the same thing you did before to find the maximum overclock.

4. Core and Shader

Now that you have found the maximum core and shader overclocks. Now you have to set the maximum overclock to both core and shader and see if your graphic card successfully passes the stress test. On Afterburner, increase both core and shader clocks to the max values you have just found and select Apply.

Now run Kombustor by clicking K on Afterburner. Run the test for two hours. If the card isn’t stable, reduce shader clock by until you get stability. You may also reduce the core clock a bit for stability.

5. Core, Shader and Memory

Now, set all clocks to the maximum you just found and run the stress test. If the card isn’t stable reduce memory clock until you get stability.

Voltage Tweaking

Note: If you don’t know what you are doing, it can permanently damage the graphic card. If you don’t know the max safe voltage for your GPU, Google it. You may be able to find that in overclock.net and extrmesystems.org

MSI Afterburner makes it easy to increase the core voltage on supported GPUs to push your graphic card even further.  By default voltage tweaking is disabled. To unlock, select Settings and in the next window, select Unlock voltage control and Unlock voltage monitoring.

Now you will have the Core Voltage slider unlocked. If you want to overclock the core and shader even further, you can increase the GPU V-Core in 10 mV increments and overclock these two clocks just like you did before.

A Great Tip

This may sound trivial but if you are in a hotter place, just switch on the AC and bring down the atmospheric temperature to 22 C or below.  This will certainly increase your overclock.

My MSI 5770 HAWK is able to reach 1GHz with 1.3v.

Aah, and one more thing, My graphic card reaches 1GHz only if I increase the GPU V-Core to 1.3v. But when air conditioned, it reaches the same clock speed with no bump in V-Core 😀

GPU Password Cracking – Bruteforceing a Windows Password Using a Graphic Card

GPGPU computing is getting lots of attention these days. GPGPU computing simply means doing general calculations on graphic cards (GPUs) rather than CPUs. Traditionally, GPUs were used only for getting graphical output, rendering frames in games and other purposes related to graphics. Lately, people started realizing that GPUs are far more efficient at handling highly parallel tasks and that there should be a way to code for graphic cards. Though GPGPU computing is still at its infancy, a lot of progress has been made toward this direction. For example GPUs are used to speed up video conversion, video processing, doing scientific calculations, folding and password hash cracking.

The last one – password cracking looks very interesting and we are going to discuss about just that. Recently I came across a free password hash cracker called ighashgpu. This tool is developed by a guy called Ivan Golubev. It’s a command-line utility meaning, there is no GUI. Though allergic to command-line utilities, curiosity made me to meddle with the tool to see how fast my Radeon 5770 would crack passwords and the results are simply amazing.

The tool supports these hashes;

  • Plain MD4, MD5, SHA1.
  • NTLM
  • Domain Cached Credentials
  • Oracle 11g
  • MySQL5
  • MSSQL
  • vBulletin
  • Invision Power Board
  • and more …

Cracking an NTLM Password Hash with a GPU

I’m going to use the NTLM hash here. If you are wondering what NTLM is, your Windows (NT and above) logon passwords are not stored as plain text but encrypted as LM and NTLM hashes. They are not reversible and hence supposed to be secure. LM hashes can easily be broken using Rainbow Tables but NTLM hashes are relatively stronger. But that’s not stopping us from cracking them.

For comparison, I’m going to use another popular and free security tool – Cain & Abel. This is an excellent tool for breaking different passwords, using the CPU.

To crack a password, you need to have the NTLM hash of that password. Fortunately, Cain & Abel has a hash calculator. So let’s do some password cracking.

A password with 5 characters

Using Cain, I generate a random password “fjR8n” whose NTLM hash is “AA8251D1BB587ABFAE6403194216041F” without quotes of course.

Now that the password has upper, lower case letters and a number. So the character set should be like this in Cain to crack the password.

As you see, Cain has taken about 24 seconds to crack the password at the rate of 9.8 million passwords/sec.

Let’s see what ighashgpu has to offer.

The password is found in less than one second. Secondly look at how many passwords the GPU has churned out per second. Dude, it’s 3.334 billion passwords.

A password with 6 characters

Let’s now take “pYDbL6” as the 6 character password. The NTLM hash for that password is CB898E9CA230D14413756875DD8BF71D.

Now that Cain reports it would take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to crack our password. Note that this is the maximum time Cain would take to crack the password. It could even be less than that, depending on the password.

What about ighashgpu?

Ighashgpu finds the password in staggering 4 seconds. Also note that the maximum time it would take to crack a 6 character alphanumeric password is about 17 seconds. See the difference between GPU and CPU computing?

A 7 character password

Let’s take “fh0GH5h” as the 7 character password whose NTLM hash is 29152D8B2EB5806302EB5829635309E6.

Cain would take about 4 days to crack the 7 character alphanumeric password.

But ighashgpu would take about just 17 minutes and 30 seconds maximum to crack the password hash. Also note that the password is already found in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. This means, my GPU would only take 17 minutes and 30 seconds max to crack ANY 7 character alphanumeric password.

An 8 character password

Let’s make things more interesting now. I take “t6Hnf9fL” as the 8 character alphanumeric password whose NT hash is 7B0E126699A3EE5F0108D07926448E47

Aargh, Cain would take almost one year to crack that password.

What about ighashgpu?

Isn’t it astonishing? Ighashgpu can crack this hash in 18 hours and 30 minutes.

Okay, let’s give some challenge to my GPU.

A 9 character password

Our candidate here is “kfU64FdB8” – 75A7AF26871E71BCF853509C47DB3475

Err, you have to wait for more than 43 years before you find the password if you use Cain.

Let’s move on to ighashgpu.

Isn’t 48 days better than 43 years?

Okay guys, we just saw that a Radeon 5770 GPU would take 48 days to break a 9 character password. My tests also revealed that a 5770 would take 8 years and 70 days to break a 10 character alphanumeric password. Now it’s time to add special characters to the mix.

First thing first. Our 7 character mixed symbols password and it’s hash “F6&B ls” (note the space) – B438599AC14AB16E2F889A4471F7C76F

Cain will take 75 days.

Ighashgpu wouldn’t even  take 7 hours to finish the job.

What about an 8 character password?

While Cain would take more than 19 years, ighashgpu can crack the password within 26 days. Far better.

Okay guys, we have just seen what ighashgpu can do for us. It’s fast, really fast indeed for password cracking, since it uses GPU. It can crack any simple and short password and even a simple 10 character password within acceptable time limits. With GPUs becoming more and more powerful, things are only going to get worse. So what length is safe? Can we say a 12 character password is safer? Maybe, but chances are there that we may choose mixture of common words (like names and numbers) as long passwords which may be easily broken with a simple dictionary attack.

If your password contains just numbers, even if it’s 10 characters  in length, it can easily be broken with ighashgpu. Let’s take a random 10 character numeric password – “8457317452” whose NT hash is 1089F7DE94ABEE2F38BFBA428C782905.

Look at the image. It’s horrible to know that this password is broken in less than two seconds!

Now I’m running out of patience to know how long my GPU would take to crack mixed (all symbols found on an US English keyboard) 8 character password.

Password: g&4K 3gI

Hash: 02944DC7857DFDDDE7DE6FDF38E9CC95

Just a little more than 25 days.

What about a 9 char password?

Password: H<k7$6fVJ

Hash: 4F5BBAB78A3551E369E205A3022920E9

Now it’s almost 7 years.

Got the drift? The more complex the password is, the longer the GPU will take to crack the password. So when you choose a password, make sure you don’t choose common words and names and always mix your password with letters, numbers and symbols.

We have just witnessed the power of a GPU against a CPU. GPUs are really fast and highly parallel. My Radeon 5770 is not the fastest card around but packs way more punch than a traditional CPU. It also looks like Radeon cards are faster than their Nvidia counterparts especially when it comes to password brute forcing and the latest Radeon 6990 graphic card should be several times faster than my Radeon 5770 and should make ANY 8 character password obsolete.

Have a look at my GPU in action.

Disclaimer:

As interesting as it may seem, password brute forcing can also be used for illegal purposes. I request you not to use the steps provided here for cracking others’ passwords and I take no responsibility for that.

How to Stress Test Your CPU

Stress testing also called torture testing is very important for overclocking. Without stress testing your CPU, you can’t be sure that your CPU is fully stable at overclocked speeds. Stress testing software applications provide the highest and unrealistic work load to hardware components that if an overclocked component is stable during stress testing, it can take any other type of load.

So how to stress test your CPU?

What you need

OCCT

How to stress test your CPU

OCCT is an excellent application to stress test your CPU, GPU and Power supply. Download and extract it somewhere (like Desktop). After overclocking, do the following to stress test your CPU;

  1. Open OCCT.exe
  2. Select CPU Linpack
  3. On “Test Type” select Custom
  4. Enter the desired time. I usually enter just 10 mins when I first overclock a CPU to find the max overclock to save time. Once I find the max OC, I stress test the CPU for 2 hours.
  5. On “Test Mode” select Max (90% free mem)

Once the test is over, OCCT will report whether there was any error during the test and also generate very useful graphs. These graphs report CPU usage, CPU temperature, ripple on power lines and CPU VCore etc.

If you see an error during the stress test, you may have to up the CPU v-core a notch. If you have done that already and still getting error, you either have to adjust the memory settings or have already reached the OC wall.

If you think the CPU gets too hot while stress testing, stop the test and provide more cooling. Check out the manufacturer website to know the maximum temperature your CPU can run at.

I’m planning to update the post with graphs and show how to analyze them in future.

Note:

Before overclocking and stress testing, make sure you have a good power supply (PSU). Using cheap ones will only result in burnt system components. If you don’t have one, never try overclocking and stress testing. I have also seen people overclock their processors and stress test without even knowing what PSU they have. If you don’t know which one you have, open the cabinet and check for yourself. Never trust those Chinese PSUs as they are not even capable of providing 50% of the total power they are rated at.

Secondly, get a good third-party CPU cooler if you don’t have one. Stock Intel and AMD heat sinks are good for stock clocks. Anything more than the rated clock speed is only going to increase the temperature. Increasing the v-core worsens the situation. To ensure you get good overclock and your CPU lasts longer, buy a good CPU cooler. Thermalright and Noctua make some of the best coolers. Couple it with a high CFM 120mm fan and you have a winner at hand.

last but not least, the thermal interface you use also plays an important role in overclocking. Each and every degree of heat counts while overclocking. I use Arctic Cooling MX-2 which I recommend.

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