We will add to this section as we are able. If you’d like to email us for support, please use this form.
If you would like to pick a language other than “English (United States)” as your main language, follow these instructions:
- make sure your computer is connected to the Internet via hard wire or wi-fi.
- make sure you are logged in as an Admin (see FAQ “(Very) Basic Getting-Started Guide (incl Admin password)” for default password info
- Please note that the support for languages varies. That is why you specify a Main language as well as one or more backup languages: if an item is not available in the main language then the backup or secondary language will be used instead.
- If you are running into an error installing a new language, try updating your machine first.
Click the Xubuntu main menu icon on the top left of your screen.
Type “language” and then click the “Language Support” app when it appears.
In the Language Support app, click the Install/Remove Languages… button
Click the checkbox/es for the language/s you wish to add.
Then click the Apply button to confirm.
In order to make your newly added language the main language, you have to drag it to the top of the active listed languages. Sometimes this is hard to do unless you resize the window.
To resize the window, click the triangle at the top left of the window. Choose the Resize command and then resize your window (make it taller).
Drag the language you wish to use to the very top of the list. Hindi in the example above.
After you drag your main language to the top of the list, click the “Apply System-Wide” button.
Close the window and restart your machine.
To restart, press the power button on your computer or gop to the main menu and click the power button. Choose restart from the menu.
Please note that different applications will offer different levels of support for other languages. For instance, Chrome is fully translated to Hindi but Firefox is not.
The Refurbishing Process:
- PCF maintains master computers that are cloned (replicated) using USB sticks/Flash Drives
- These master computers are configured with for different types of users. They include accounts for:
- Students with added protections
- Admins / Adults
- PCF account (in case Admins forget their password)
- After the master is set up the way we want it, we make an “image” of it. An image is a compressed file of the entire machine that can then be used to make duplicates. When the image is restored to another computer, that computer will be identical to the master.
- This image is then copied onto a PCF Installer Flash drive. Besides the image, the USB installer includes a system we will use to boot target machines.
- Each master carries a revision # so we can keep track in case support issues arise in the future. The version # is typically written on the PCF asset tag on the outside of the computer as well as on the PCF USB installation Flash drives. When a computer is re-imaged, the latest version number is written on the asset tag.
- Computers are cloned by booting (starting up) the target computer from a PCF USB installer stick and then applying the master image to the target machine.
- Make sure your laptop or desktop has an internal drive in it. Often hard drives are removed from computers before they are donated.
- Make sure you are able to boot the computer from an external USB stick. In some cases, this involves changing BIOS settings. Details below.
Cloning Step 1: Booting from the PCF USB Installer
- With the computer turned off, insert the PCF USB stick into the machine you wish to erase and refurbish.
- Next, you must tell the computer to boot from the PCF USB stick (not the internal drive). To do so, you must interrupt the startup process using the “Boot Screen” (aka “Startup Screen”). This screen lets you choose the system/device you wish to use.
- To get to the boot screen, you must hit a function key repeatedly immediately after powering on your computer (until it beeps). Typically it is F12 on Dells and Lenovos, F9 on HPs, ESC for ASUS, etc. Additional details can be found under another FAQ: “Access Keys for Boot Order & BIOS”.
- Once you see the Boot Screen, select the PCF Installer USB drive and continue.
- If your USB Flash drive is not listed as a boot option in the Boot Screen, it is typically one of two things: a BIOS configuration issue (see below) or insert the USB into another port and try again (restart).
- When you get to the login screen, instructions should appear on the desktop picture of the installer. The login password, if any, is typically “pcf” (lower case)
Cloning Step 2: Imaging
- While booted from the PCF USB Installer drive, start up the Terminal application by double-clicking the icon on the Desktop or by pressing the CNTRL-ALT-T keys simultaneously.
- To image the computer, follow the instructions on the Desktop of the USB Flash Drive
- The process typically takes between 2 and 15 minutes.
In case your computer does not list the PCF USB installer as a boot option (Cloning Step 1) or it won’t boot from the Flash drive after you picked it then you may have to edit the BIOS to get it to work.
- Upon powering on your computer, press the function key for your system to enter the BIOS setup screen.
- Once there, look for the Startup menu and make sure that “Legacy Boot” is enabled.
- Sometimes you have to go to the Security menu first and turn off secure boot in order to enable Legacy boot.
- Finally, check to ensure the USB ports on your computer are not disabled. Go to the Devices menus and make sure the USB ports are all enabled.
- If no luck booting still then try using another USB port for the PCF USB Installer.
To specify the drive you wish to boot from or to access the BIOS screen, repeatedly press the appropriate Function key immediately after turning on the computer.
The Function Key to use/press depends on your computer brand/model.
ASUS (most models)
- ESC to enter boot menu (choose pmap for USB).
- Delete or F2 to enter BIOS.
Dell (most models)
- (see Lenovo above)
HP (most models)
- F9 for boot.
- ESC or F10 for BIOS
Lenovo (most models)
- F12 for Boot menu.
- F2 or F10 for BIOS.
Step 1 – Placing the equipment
Decide where you want your computer to go
- Make sure you have a working Internet connection nearby (in wall or router)
- Make sure power is nearby
- Set up a table/s for the computer/s
Decide how to make do with the room you have
- Do not connect any wires until you are sure where your equipment will go
- Start by putting the keyboard/s and mice on the table where you want them to go
- Place the monitor/s on the table where you want them to go
Find room for the computer CPU’s/Desktops
- underneath the display (facing forward or sideways)?
- standing on its side next to (or behind the computer)?
- stacked on top of other computers?
- on the floor ? (only if you have to)
Step 2 – Connecting the monitor
- Push power plug ALL THE WAY into the display. Push hard !
- Connect VGA cable (usually blue) to the display. Fasten screws.
- Connect VGA to BLUE port on back of the computer. Fasten screws.
Step 3 – Connecting power, keyboard, mouse
- Push power plug ALL THE WAY into the computer. Push hard !
- Plug in USB mouse and keyboard/s
- Push power cables ALL THE WAY into the power strip. Push hard !
Step 4 – Audio
- Plug your headphones into the GREEN port on the front or back of your computer
(green is for headphones, blue and pink are for microphones)
- If you have external speakers or monitor with built in sound, connect the audio plug into a GREEN port in your computer. Speakers and some sound bars will need separate power too.
Step 5 – Internet/Ethernet
If your room has more computers than you have (working) internet ethernet plugs in your wall plate (or router) then you will need a “switch”. Switches are like power strips: connect one port to the internet and then everything else you plug into the switch has access too.
- Connect Ethernet switch power into outlet (usually one LED light comes on)
- Find a long enough ethernet cable to connect to the wall and switch (any port). Check and make sure an LED light comes on (on the switch) next to the cable you just plugged in. If not, then your internet (wall) may not be working!
- Plug in Ethernet cables from computers into the switch.
Step 6 – Test
Once everything is connected, plugged in and powered on, you need to test:
- Power on the display first
- Power on the computer second
- Log into your account (student or admin)
- Start the web browser
- Test to make sure internet is working
- Go to a website with sound and make sure sound is working
(links coming soon)
- Machine is not turning on
- Internet is not working
- Sound is not working
- No room for the desktop computer
For the last two years, we have been using Xubuntu for our laptops and desktop computers. It is fast and easy to use.
For the basics (including Admin password), please refer to our setup guide:
Since early 2016, PCF has been using Xubuntu for all of our computers. Xubuntu is a Debian/Ubuntu based operating system that is bosh fast and user friendly. We are using version 16.0.4 which is supported until April of 2019.
If you are interested, the full user documentation for version 16.0.4 is located here:
On the top right of your desktop screen, you will find the time and some smaller icons for networking, bluetooth, volume, etc.
To connect to a Wi-Fi network, simple choose the network from the list of available networks in the networking dropdown (top right).
- If no networks appear, first make sure the “Enable Networking” is checked/on in that menu.
- Then also make sure the “Enable Wi-Fi” is enabled as well.
If Wi-Fi is not shown (or no networks appear) in the menu then the most common issues are:
- some laptops have an external switch to enable/disable wi-fi (which may be turned off)
- the driver for your Wi-Fi card needs to be manually installed
- the Wi-Fi card is missing or broken
Physical/External Wi-Fi Switches:
If you have such a switch, please switch it to ON and then reboot your machine.
If your wi-fi then still doesn’t work, it is possible the switch prevented the proper driver from installing.
To prevent this from happening in the future, you can disable the switch altogether by modifying the BIOS on your machine:
- Upon startup, press the F2 key (sometimes F10) to enter your computer’s setup mode.
- Look for the wi-fi settings and disable the switch. See two screen shots below:
If your wi-fi networks still doesn’t show up, please use the instructions below to add a driver.
Adding a Driver for your Wi-Fi Card:
- Make sure your Laptop is connected to the Internet using an Ethernet cable. Test the web browser to make sure it works.
- Go to the Xubuntu menu (top left)
- Type “Additional” in the App search menu and choose the “Additional Drivers” App
- Wait a few moments for it to check the machine and then choose the custom driver for the wi-fi card (even if it says it’s not recommended).
- Check the networking dropdown menu again and choose the Wi-Fi networks you want to connect to.
Check if You Have a Wi-Fi Card
To check and see if your computer has wi-fi functionality built in, you can open terminal application and type the following command:
lspci -vnn | grep Network
And look for the network device (check for 802.11, networking, Broadcom, etc.)
If the above process does not work to add a driver for your wi-fi card, especially on a Dell 630 with a Broadcom card, you can try this link.
If your computer’s battery does not hold a charge (for long) then likely your battery or charger are damaged. This can happen due to age and/or physical damage.
If the battery LED on your laptop intermittently flashes amber or red, then there may not be much you can do. Remove the battery and re-install it to make sure this isn’t the problem. If that didn’t work, you can contact us to see if we are able to replace it with another used one.
DO NOT FOLLOW the various self-help battery reconditioning guides on the web. Most of the Dell D630’s use Li-ion batteries which are very different from Ni-cad and others. They do not have “memory” nor can they be rejuvenated by deep charging cycles. You’ll only damage them more.
The good news is that often the batteries are inexpensive to replace. Remove the battery and search the web for the battery model. We have seen them for as little as $9 on ebay, $15 on Amazon, etc. Just make sure you do not buy a used one.
If your computer beeps (1 beep-3-4-3) but doesn’t boot then this is often a memory related issue.
Please try the following:
- Unplug the power cord
- Remove the memory chips from the machine
- Make sure they are the same size and speed and inserted into the right slots (blue before green and typically inside before outside ordering).
- Start with one stick.
- Repeat these steps to add another
Often times just removing the memory and reinserting them makes this problem go away.
The actual beep codes differ by brand and model. Search specifics such as “lenovo beeps 1 3 4 3 on startup”)
If your computer’s fan sounds like it is going on full blast but your computer is not starting up, please try the following:
- Unplug your computer
- Press and hold the power button for 30 seconds (to drain the battery completely)
- plug everything back in and try again
- Leave the system on for up to an hour. Sometimes it is going through a series of diagnostic tests and may come up normal upon completion.