Tagged: Windows

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

How to securely wipe sensitive files–or your entire hard drive


When you delete a file, it doesn’t actually go away–even after you’ve emptied the Recycle Bin. The actual bits remain written on the drive until some other disk activity writes over them. Even when you format a drive, the files are still there for those who want and know how to read them.

If you want to truly and securely delete a file, or the contents of an entire drive, you need software that will overwrite the space where the file(s) once sat. Fortunately, several free programs can do this.

First, we recommend Eraser, which integrates with Windows Explorer. Once it’s installed, you can just right-click a file or folder and select Eraser. There’s even an option to erase the file the next time you boot–handy if Windows won’t let you erase it now.

Another option: Delete the files the conventional way, empty the recycle bin, then use CCleaner to overwrite your drive’s free space. This extremely useful tool can do all sorts of Windows scrubbing chores. You’ll find CCleaner’s Drive Wiper tool in the Tools tab.

Both of these programs offer various wiping techniques that overwrite the drive space multiple times. The implication, of course, is that overwriting a file 35 times is more secure than overwriting it only once.

Something else to think about: If you have sensitive files that you’ll eventually want to securely delete, you should encrypt them now.

When malware strikes: How to clean an infected PC

Wordpress- Stop

You work hard to protect your PC from the malicious thugs of our digital world. You keep your antivirus program up to date. You avoid questionable Web sites. You don’t open suspicious email attachments. You keep Java, Flash, and Adobe Reader up-to-date—or better yet, you learn to live without them.

But against all odds, a clever new Trojan horse slipped through the cracks, and now you’re the unhappy owner of an infected PC. Or perhaps a less-vigilant friend has begged you to clean up a plague-ridden mess.

Obviously, you need to scan the computer and remove the malware. Here’s a methodical approach that you can use to determine what the problem is, how to scan, and what to do afterward to protect the PC from future invasions.

  • Verify the infection: Is the PC in question really infected? I’ve seen people blame “another damn virus” for everything from a bad sound card to their own stupidity. The first step in restoring the system’s health is to determine whether what you’re dealing with is a virus rather than a problem with hardware, software, or user error.

If your PC is unusually slow, or if it seems to do a lot of things on its own that you haven’t asked it to do, you have reason to be suspicious. But before you decide that a virus must be responsible, take a moment to launch the Windows Task Manager (right-click the Windows taskbar, and select Task Manager from the pop-up menu). Open the Processes tab, and check for any strange or unknown applications running in the background—especially those with nonsensical names and no recognizable authority listed in the description. The odd-looking “wuauclt” process is fine, for example, because it belongs to Microsoft (it’s actually part of the Windows Update service, as you can tell from the description.)

Of course, this is only general guidance; there’s nothing to stop a piece of malware from masquerading as a legitimate process by sporting an inoffensive description. That said, you’d be surprised how often a piece of malware gives itself away with a line of strange characters or symbols where the process description should be.

  •  Check for sure signs of malware: Truly insidious malware will preemptively block you from trying to remove it. If your PC suddenly won’t load utilities that might help you manually remove malware—such as msconfig or regedit—be suspicious. If your antivirus program suddenly stops loading, that’s a huge red flag.

Sometimes the attack is more obvious. If a program you don’t recognize suddenly pops up and starts displaying dire warnings and asks you to run an executable file or asks for your credit card number, your PC is definitely infected with some nasty malware. Never fork over your credit card information or other personal data to a program or website that tries to warn you that your PC is about to die. More often than not it’s a rogue program, fear-mongering malware that tries to scare you into giving up your private info by issuing doomsday warnings of imminent hard drive failure, catastrophic viral infection, or worse.

  • Check online for possible fixes: The one benefit of those scary pop-ups is that they could point you toward a cure. Use your favorite search engine to look for phrases that appear in the pop-up—you’ll probably find other people fighting the same infection. Their experiences could help you identify your enemy or even find step-by-step instructions for removing the malware. Be prudent: Take advice only from sites that seem reputable, and remember to perform a full scan of your PC after you’ve followed any instructions, even ours.

Barring any clues that lead you to a magic solution, scanning becomes your next and most important step.

  •  Assume that your old virus scanner is compromised: Don’t waste time scanning your hard drive(s) with your regular antivirus program. After all, that program probably failed to catch the malware in the first place.

But don’t be too hard on it. Nothing’s perfect, and even the best antivirus program can occasionally miss a new or particularly cleverly designed virus. And once that virus slips through, your antivirus program is compromised. You have to assume that the malware, not the security software, is in control.

You need a fresh malware scanner—one that’s not already installed on your computer. It must be capable of detecting and removing malware from your PC, and you need to run it in an environment where the malware can’t load first. Linux is your best bet, but before you jump to that option, try booting into Windows Safe Mode to see if you can outflank your virus infestation there.

  •  Use a lightweight scanner inside Safe Mode: Windows has a Safe Mode that boots a minimal version of the operating system, with generic drivers and nothing else. It doesn’t load most startup applications and—most likely—it won’t load the malware that’s infesting your PC.

To enter Safe Mode, boot your computer and press the F8 function key before Windows starts loading. The timing is tricky, so it’s best to mash F8 repeatedly from the moment the motherboard manufacturer’s logo appears onscreen until you get the boot menu.

When you reach that menu, select Safe Mode with Networking from the list of boot options. The with Networking part is important—you’re going to need Internet access to solve your virus problem.

Once in Safe Mode, open Internet Explorer (using other browsers in Safe Mode is often problematic) and run a reputable online virus scanner. Use a web-based virus detection app that is always up-to-date and runs off a remote server. You’ll have to accept a browser add-in, but the scanner should remove it when it’s done. Before you start the scan, click Advanced settings and enable as many extra levels of scrutiny as you can, including scanning file archives and browser data.

You might also try Trend Micro’s HouseCall. Though it isn’t a Web app, it is portable, so you can download HouseCall on another computer and copy it to a flash drive, thereby creating a portable PC virus scanner. Then, when you run into trouble you can plug the flash drive into the infected PC and run the program from there (you’ll still need an Internet connection for a definition update, however.) When using HouseCall, don’t run it on default settings: Before you click the big blue Scan Now button, click Settings and select Full system scan.

Whichever scanner you use, don’t rush to get through this part of the process. Check the options and select the slowest, most thorough scan. Then, once the scan has started, step away from the PC. Read a book. Do the dishes. Spend time with someone you love. The scan will—and should—take hours.

  • Remember- The second scan’s the charm: When that first scan is done—just to be sure—run another one with a different scanner.

It’s easy, and you’ll sleep better after multiple scanners have assured you that your drive is clean.

  • Look to Linux as your last line of defense: Booting into Safe Mode may not short-circuit particularly malicious malware. If you still have trouble with an infection after running multiple scans in Safe Mode, you’ll have to bypass Windows altogether and avoid booting from the hard drive. To manage that trick, use a bootable CD or flash drive running a Linux-based antivirus utility.

You don’t have to know Linux to take this step. But you will want an Internet connection, since these scanners must go online to update their malware databases.

The first step is to download a bootable virus scanner as an .iso file. From it, you can easily create a bootable CD. In Windows 7, double-click the file and follow the prompts. In Windows 8, right-click the file and select Burn disc image. For earlier versions of Windows, you’ll need a third-party program such as the free ISO Recorder.

  • Protect your newly disinfected PC: When you’re satisfied that your drive is clean, try rebooting into good old Windows. Then uninstall your old antivirus program—it has been compromised.

Of course, you don’t want to stay unprotected. Reinstall the program and update to the latest version, or (if you’ve lost all faith in it) install a competitor. For more information on how to choose the best antivirus program for your needs, check out our full rundown—with empirical testing—of the best security software available today.

Because when it comes to malware, a byte of prevention is worth a terabyte of cure.

Source: Associated Press

How to Boot Your Windows PC Fast

Looking to slash your Windows PC‘s boot time? You can boot your Windows PC 30 percent faster–without any hardware upgrades. Really!!

After several hours of tweaking and testing, we have managed to reduce the boot time of a PC from 69 seconds to 47 seconds. Here’s how we did it.

When you fire up your PC, the processor performs some initial startup steps and then looks for a specific memory address in the boot loader ROM. Next, the processor starts to run code that it finds at this location, which is the system boot loader. The boot ROM enumerates all of the hardware in the system and performs a number of diagnostic tests. Then it looks for a specific location on the first storage device–probably your hard drive, assuming that the system isn’t set up to boot from a network–and runs code found in that location. That’s the start of the operating system load process.

For Windows, the code that your processor loads is the Windows Boot Manager. The boot manager then begins the process of loading Windows. At some point during this process, the core of the Windows operating system–the kernel–loads into memory along with some key drivers and the hardware abstraction layerThe HAL functions as the interface between the operating system and the underlying hardware. After this, the Windows Executive, a collection of essential services such as the virtual memory manager and the I/O manager, fires up and loads the Windows Registry.

The Registry contains information about what services, drivers, and applications load during boot. The Registry is actually a database that stores configuration settings, options, and key locations for both high-level applications and low-level OS services. Over time, as users install and uninstall apps, the size of the Registry can balloon, thereby increasing load times. Boot times are also affected by the loading of key services and startup applications.

In view of the PC boot process, we can explore several areas to reduce boot times:

Let’s consider each of these Windows functions individually.

Before proceeding further, we need to measure system’s weak boot time. One way to do this is to create a text file containing the text “Stop the Stopwatch.” Drop this into the Windows startup applications folder in C:\Users\your username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup. This allows you to time the boot process with a stopwatch and know when to stop the watch. The boot process isn’t completely finished at this point, but the system will be in a usable state.

Measured by this method, our system took 69 seconds to boot–far too long.

First, we looked at the startup services that opened when our system booted. You can check the list for your PC by running msconfig, a built-in Windows utility. Click the Start menu, type Run, press Enter, and then type msconfig in the Run box. Click the Services tab. In the accompanying screenshot you can see that, for simplicity’s sake, we ticked the checkbox next to ‘Hide all Microsoft services’; nevertheless, we did plan all along to disable a few Windows services.

In addition to disabling all of the services shown in the above list, we disabled six Microsoft Windows services from starting on boot:

  • Windows Media Center receiver
  • Windows Media Center Scheduler service
  • Microsoft Office Groove Audit Service
  • Microsoft Office Diagnostic Service
  • Smart Card Removal Policy
  • Smart Card

Since we don’t use Windows Media Center on this system, disabling the first item on the list was an easy decision. And these changes only scratch the surface. Another item that you might disable on startup is Remote Login (if you never use it). The right choices depend on your needs.

After disabling the extraneous application services and a handful of Microsoft services, we found that the system now took 68 seconds to boot–not much of an improvement. The next step was to disable a few startup applications.

Msconfig’s Startup tab lists applications that start on bootup. Here is the list on our test system.

  1. Adobe Update
  2. QuickTime
  3. Adobe CS5..
  4. Adobe Acrobat
  5. Adobe Reader
  6. Stopwatch

Most of the listed startup applets are at least occasionally useful, but none are essential from the get-go. we can manually check for Adobe updates, let QuickTime and Acrobat start a tiny bit slower when we need them, and so on. So we just unchecked all of the applets on the Startup list.

System boot time: 57 seconds.

Disabling startup applications and a few services trimmed 11 seconds off a 69-second boot time–an improvement of nearly 16 percent.

Now motherboard on our test system has two ethernet connectors, but we need only one of them. The motherboard is also set up to check the optical drive to see whether it contains a bootable CD or DVD–and only after that, to try to boot off the hard drive. And finally, since we don’t use an external and secondary SATA controller, we don’t need a BIOS check for the Marvell discrete SATA controller. Armed with this knowledge, we entered  PC’s BIOS during startup, and performed three quick operations:

  1. Disabling the second ethernet port
  2. Setting up the system to boot from the hard drive first
  3. Disabling the discrete SATA controller.

Boot time: 52 seconds

So on our system, disabling a few unused BIOS items netted a savings of additional 5 seconds at bootup.

A number of articles suggest that cleaning the Registry of unused or orphan database entries lead to faster boot times, but many of them base that conclusion on rather extreme testing loading up a system with a lot of junk, and then using a Registry cleaner to remove the new additions. We used Piriform’s Ccleaner 3.12, a popular Registry and system cleaner to autoscan my system and identify items that it thought were useless.

first having Ccleaner remove extraneous files, cookies, index files, log files, and other clutter, and then accepting Ccleaner’s recommendations regarding unneeded Registry entries and cleaning those out. The first sweep with Ccleaner improved my test system’s boot time by 1 second (to 51 seconds,) and the second sweep yielded another 1-second advance (to 50 seconds).

now  we have one more corrective measure to try: setting the boot timeout delay.

You might expect changing the boot timeout not to have much impact, since all it does is specify how long Windows may display an automatic menu, such as the Startup Repair menu. But it turns out that changing the boot timeout does affect boot performance.

The default boot timeout setting on our test PC was 30 seconds; but 10 seconds should give users sufficient time to respond to any menus that Windows may present. So the boot time after we made this change: 47 seconds. It’s unclear why this alteration has such a relatively large impact, but 3 seconds is 3 seconds.

You can dig deeper into each step of the process we’ve outlined here to reduce boot times further. But with a modest amount of effort, the boot time on our fairly typical system dropped from 69 seconds to 47 seconds, a reduction of more than 30 percent.

The key is to optimize each step of the boot process, one at a time. but sometimes your computer is taking longer to boot because your hard drive is about to crash to always run a hard drive health check first and When in doubt contact Stellar Phoenix Solutions.

  • Call us at 1 855 BY STELLAR (297 8355) or click here to complete a service request form.
  • You may also visit their website directly to learn more about our capabilities