Month: January 2016

pfSense 2.2.6 Compatibility/Installation of ASRock Q1900-ITX Motherboard

I was expecting this to be a walk in the park but alas it wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped.

I originally intended to install pfSense to a mPCIe-based SSD as the motherboard has got a slot, but sadly this motherboard only supports wifi/cellular cards in this port so presumably the motherboard only has the USB pins on the slot connected and not the PCIe/mSATA pins. Save yourself the effort here and go for a SATA hard drive or SSD instead, it wasn’t worth troubleshooting or fighting with it for me.

My specs:

  • ASRock Q1900-ITX (for what it’s worth, I believe the Q1900DC-ITX is identical apart from having a built in DC PSU instead of the usual ATX).
  • Integral Value 2x 2GB DDR3-1600 RAM
  • Broadcom 10/100/1000 NIC (unknown model, I’ll try and add details later).
  • OCZ Agility 3 60GB SSD
  • 80W DC-DC PicoPSU with 12V 5A power brick

I tried to install pfSense 2.2.6 to this motherboard originally using default settings, with BIOS version 1.6.0 from ASRock. This failed with AHCI Timeout errors when trying to format my SSD.

After finding this post for a very similar motherboard made by Gigabyte, I started playing around more in BIOS.

I then went through the BIOS and disabled any devices that won’t be required for this installation, such as serial/parallel ports, HDMI audio, PXE boot, onboard audio, WAN radio (wifi/cellular card if you’re not using them). I also made some other minor changes such as setting the default graphics card to onboard instead of the default PCIe. SATA controllers are set to AHCI mode, Secure Boot and Fast Boot is disabled, S.M.A.R.T is enabled. Everything under ACPI Configuration is disabled apart from HPET, disabled everything under CSM (Compatibility Support Module).

After making these changes, it installed fine. Interestingly, I did try reverting back to the default BIOS values to try and work out which setting was causing the problem, I believe it is related to Intel C-States but I cannot be sure without getting another clean hard drive to test it on. It seems, that once the BSD boot loader has already been written to the drive, subsequent reinstallations go through fine without any errors at all.

If you’re using an SSD, it’s worthwhile enabling TRIM to prolong the life of it, I used this guide which worked perfectly.

After all of this, I’ve successfully got pfSense 2.2.6 full install up and running on the ASRock Q1900-ITX motherboard.

 

Fix for Windows 10 Start Menu and Settings/Wifi/Volume Screens Not Working

Recently I encountered an issue where the Start menu, along with the wifi, volume and control panel screens would not open on Windows 10.

After a lot of searching I discovered the following four fixes which may resolve the problem.

1. Microsoft troubleshooter

Microsoft is aware of an issue relating to the start menu and settings screens, they have created a troubleshooter and fix for this issue, however in my case it did not detect the problem but it’s worth a try anyway, you can download it here.

2. Reset/re-register some control panel files

This will attempt to repair some settings and files related to the control panel.

Press Win + X on your keyboard to bring up the menu, click “Command Prompt (Admin)” and copy/paste the following:

powershell -ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register $Env:SystemRoot\ImmersiveControlPanel\AppxManifest.xml "

Press Enter and wait, it doesn’t seem to specifically tell you how far it has progressed or when it has finished but I would suggest waiting 20 minutes.

3. Reinstall default windows apps

This will attempt to reinstall all the standard Windows apps like the Store, Windows update, Control panel etc.

Press Win + X on your keyboard to bring up the menu, click “Command Prompt (Admin)” and copy/paste the following:

powershell Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

Press Enter and wait. Like the above fix it does not tell you how far it has progressed or when it has completed but as it needs to do a lot of work I would suggest leaving it running for about an hour.

4. System File Checker

Out of all the fixes this one takes the longest so I have listed it last so you can try some of the quicker ones above first. This will check each and every Windows system file to make sure it is present and not corrupted. It will repair/replace any files which are causing problems.

Press Win + X on your keyboard to bring up the menu, click “Command Prompt (Admin)” and copy/paste the following:

sfc /scannow

Press Enter and let it do it’s thing. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour in some cases but it will show the progress and tell you when it has finished.

 

After you have tried each fix above, restart your computer (press Win + X to bring up the menu which shows the shutdown/restart buttons if your start menu is not working) and hopefully one of these will have resolved your problem. Let me know in the comments if it worked for you and if you still have problems afterwards I’ll do my best to help.