Category: Hardware

Computer Maintenance tips and tools

Computer Maintenance

Computer Maintenance is the practice of keeping computers in a good state of repair. I properly maintained computer can live well beyond its “life expectancy.” Computer Maintenance can come in two forms. The first is by physically cleaning the computer itself and the second is by cleaning the “virtual computer.” The Virtual computer is everything inside your computer, system files, documents, programs, etc. Here is a good list of tips and tools you can use to maintain your computer.

  1. Virus Protection: Install an antivirus program to protect yourself. There are many programs that are available to help protect you from the viruses that are created every day. As long as the program is updated on a regular basis you will find you are taking the right step in the right direction.
  2. Applications: Every application and utility is prone to security risks. The developers of these applications may find a security hole and patch it, if you don’t have the latest version you may find yourself open to an attack. Remove unused programs. If you haven’t used a program in a long time then it’s likely that you don’t need it. Many unused programs can account for free space that is not available to you because you have a program that you installed a year ago.
  3. Clear Temp files and other unnecessary files: When you use the Internet a copy of every web page you visit is stored. This is helpful as it allows for faster viewing later on down the road. Since this is space taken up at least once a month you should consider clearing the temporary internet files, internet history, and cookies off of your system. Here is how to delete this information on the three most used browsers.
  4. Maintain Data Integrity: At least once a month you should check your hard drive for errors by using two simple solutions. The first thing you are going to do is a defragment of the hard drive. By defragging the hard drive you are telling the program to go find all these pieces and put them back together.  By making them whole again and regaining that single file you may even notice that specific file is noticeably faster and other aspects of your computer may speed up as well. The next tool you want to use is a Check Disk. The check disk will look at the disk volumes and see if it finds any problems, if it does it’s going to try to fix them for you.
  5. Backup: How important is your data? The more important your data is to you the more you back it up. Generally a once a month backup solution works for most people. However, all critical files should be backed up as regularly as you change them. There are many programs that allow you to back up your data to either CD’s, jump drives, or online storage. You should review the different options and find what’s best for you.
  6. Windows Updates: Windows pushes out updates on a regular basis. Check your settings within windows to verify you are downloading and installing these updates as they are coming in. Critical windows updates can save you from any issues you may end up experiencing.
  7. Empty Recycle Bin: When you delete something it’s not gone forever it goes to a recycle bin and stays there for a while before it auto deletes or you tell it to remove it forever. Generally this is a really good safe fall. You never know when you may accidentally delete something that you really need and you find it there. Once a month though you should consider reviewing everything that is in there and deleting everything that you will never need again.
  8. Clean the surge protector: For starters if you are not using a surge protector go get one. A surge protector can save your investment in case of a power outage that causes a burst of electricity. If you already have a surge protector check it for any damage a damaged surge protector is just as bad as not having one. If the surge protector has exposed wiring it should be replaced immediately. If the surge protector is in working order then it still needs to be cleaned ensure the plugs that you use to connect your computer are free of dust and debris.

How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support

MS Windows

After a legendary dozen year run, Microsoft will stop providing security patches for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Without Microsoft’s protection, all those WinXP PCs will have targets painted on their hard drives.

Nearly 30 percent of Internet-connected PCs still run Windows XP, and no, they won’t die that day. They’ll continue running like normal, but they’ll be rotting inside, becoming increasingly full of security holes.

You should upgrade from Windows XP right now if at all possible—but not everyone can cut the XP cord so completely. If you can’t upgrade, there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Make no mistake: These tricks are like sticking your finger in a leaking dam. They’ll help a bit, but the dam is crumbling and it’s time to get out of the way.

How to Move from a hard drive to an SSD

harddrive2solidstateThe best way to move an existing Windows installation, along with all of the installed programs, is to clone the drive. But cloning normally copies everything on one drive to the other. That doesn’t work if you have 800GB of files and only 120GB of new storage.

What you need is cloning software smart enough to let you pick what files and folders you don’t want on the new drive.

Such software might come with your SSD. But in my experience, bundled SSD cloning software leaves a lot to be desired. I haven’t tried every such program by a long shot, so if your new SSD comes with cloning software, give it a try. Of course, you’ll have to connect the SSD to your PC.

When the cloning is done, set your PC to boot from the SSD. Keep the old hard drive around, either in the PC or externally in a SATA-USB enclosure, for storing the files you exempted from the cloning and others that won’t fit on the SSD.

Five surefire ways to maximize your laptop’s battery life

battery life cycle

You adore your laptop. It lets you get down to business wherever you happen to be—airport lounge, coffee shop, your home office. It’s the key to your competitive edge.

That is, until its battery croaks. Just as you’re putting the final details on your PowerPoint presentation. At the airport. Two hours before takeoff. And with no power outlet in sight. At that instant, you begin to wonder why you ever bought the ever-lovin’ boat anchor in the first place.

But love will bloom anew as soon as you recharge. Avoid the heartache, however temporary: Follow these five tips for maximizing your laptop’s run time.

1. Plug in whenever possible

One surefire way to ensure that your laptop is always ready for action is to plug it into an AC outlet whenever possible. Keeping the machine fully charged makes it far more likely that you will always have the juice you need to complete your work. Purchase at least one extra AC adapter, so you’ll always have one in your office and one in your laptop bag for travel. If you work at home frequently, consider buying a third adapter to leave there.

Terminate the offending process by right-clicking it and selecting ‘Kill Process

A common misconception about laptops is that leaving the system plugged into AC power continuously will overcharge or shorten the life of its battery. Given that the lithium cells used in modern laptops will either catch fire or explode if overcharged, this is obviously not true. Lithium ion batteries stop charging once they reach full capacity, and keeping the battery charged reduces wear and tear on the power source, lengthening its useful life span.

2. Adjust the screen brightness

Modern displays with LED backlights are a major improvement over the CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent tube) backlit displays of yesteryear, in terms of both picture quality and power efficiency. Still, a laptop’s display claims a significant percentage of the power that the system consumes. As such, keeping the screen backlight low can increase your laptop’s run time noticeably. You should also take care in choosing where you work: A low backlight setting will be far more comfortable in a café with soft lighting than in a brightly lit room.


Another way to reduce the power the display consumes is to tweak the automatic backlight controls in Windows. Open Control Panel, choose Hardware and Sound > Power Options, and click Change plan settings for the active power plan. Choosing an aggressive timeout of 1 to 3 minutes under the ‘Dim the display’ and ‘Turn off the display’ options while the machine is operating on battery power will eke out more battery life by dimming or switching off the screen after the specified amount of inactivity. You can also click the Change advanced power settings option to set the level of brightness when the laptop is in the dimmed state.

3. Track down errant apps

One culprit often responsible for draining the battery ahead of its time is the presence of errant software applications that suck up disproportionate processor cycles. Unnecessary utilities running in the background, or an app that is hanging, can also cause this effect. Web browsers are particularly prone to the latter problem, due to the multiple plug-ins, rendering engines, and scripting engines embedded within them.

Modern CPUs save power by dynamically scaling back their clock speed to the minimum possible, but they can do so only when apps aren’t active. If you fail to deal with rogue apps, they will not only drain battery power—they might also slow down your entire system. One clue to the existence of an errant app is if your laptop fan frequently kicks into high gear when the machine should be idle.

Resolving the problem is relatively straightforward: Press the Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination, launch Windows Task Manager, and use it to identify processes that are showing unexplained high utilization. If a program won’t exit normally, terminate the offending process by right-clicking it and selecting Kill Process. For Web browsers, shutting off all instances usually works. Should all else fail, perform a system restart.

4. Disable intensive background apps

Errant apps aside, applications that make intensive use of the processor or network should remain closed when your laptop isn’t plugged in. Peer-to-peer software such as BitTorrent clients and computationally intensive applications such as distributed-computing projects (Folding@Home, for example) are out. You can also confirm that Windows Update and other software updaters are not attempting to download large software patches.

Disabling automatic Windows Update functions outright is too draconian (particularly if you forget to reinstate the feature later), but periodically checking on your network usage for unexplained spikes will allow you to identify and stop large file transfers before they gobble up precious minutes of battery life.

5. Disable unneeded devices

You can disable unneeded hardware devices or ports to squeeze out a few more minutes of power, although this option isn’t possible with every laptop. Start by disabling unneeded wireless capabilities, such as built-in data modems and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios (many laptops have hardware switches for this purpose).

The optical-disc drive is another power guzzler that can drain batteries fast, so don’t leave a DVD or Blu-ray disc in the drive if you don’t need it. Finally, many laptops these days come with backlit keyboards; these are great when you’re in a dark environment, but you can save precious power by doing without the feature when your laptop is running on battery power.

Have we missed any great tips? How do you ensure that your laptop is up for the long haul? Please share in the comments section below.

Source: Associated Press