Handy computer tips and advice
First, decide what you want to backup. Do you want to back up everything, or just certain files? Your focus should be on files that would not be recoverable if your computer was damaged or stolen, such as email, customer records, inventory, accounting system, word-processing documents and spreadsheets. Virtually all files that you have purchased, created or modified should be backed up. If you have any custom software, you should back that up as well. If losing the data will disrupt business operations, then it should be included in your backup. Having important files backed up may be crucial to the survival of an organisation.
Windows users should open My Computer to determine how much space is currently being used on the computer. Right click on each disk drive to get the drop down menu. At the very bottom of the menu, click on Properties. In the pie graph, you can see how much space you have used. Some of this space is taken up by Windows and other programs. If you have the installation disks for these programs, you can choose not to back them up. However, in the event of the need for recovery, you will have to reinstall the software and any updates.
To ascertain the space needed for select files, open each disk, choose the files you wish to backup, and look at file size in the properties of each file. You can also use Windows Explorer to see how much data you have stored in the libraries on your computer. In Windows 7, these libraries are Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos.
On a Mac, open your user's Macintosh HD. At the bottom of the window will be displayed the remaining disk space. If you subtract this number from the total capacity of your computer, the result will be the amount of space you are using. You can also right click on a file or folder, select "Get info" to see the space used.
Write down the size of each library or file that you want to backup. Add up all the bytes of data that you want to backup, remembering that 1024 KB is equal to 1 MB and 1024 MB is equal to 1 GB. One GB can hold 200 to 250 mp3 music files, 500 2MB images, or 11,000 Word or Excel Documents. To your grand total you need to add a cushion for the new data you will be adding with each backup. We recommend that you choose a plan that offers at least 30% more than you need for your current files.
If you would like some guidance in determining your storage requirements, we can access your computer remotely and recommend the ideal plan for your needs.
Here are the five quickest ways to speed up your computer (without installing more memory) when it starts chugging, lagging and freezing:
When your computer's disk space is full, it will take longer to process information, causing programs to open slower and files to take longer to save. Take a look at the programs installed on your hard drive – do you use them all? Use the Add/Remove Programs function to delete applications you don't need.
To free up more disk space in one quick swoop, use the Disk Cleanup. You can find this program in Systems Tools within Accessories. This tool gives you the option to delete temporary files, Java applets, optional Windows programs and applications you haven't used for some time all at once.
Defrag Your Hard Disk
Fragmented files scatter themselves all over your hard disk and your computer will slow down trying to piece them back together. "Defragging" your hard disks will speed up your computer's access to data and its general functions will run smoother.
To run a defragmenter on your hard disks, launch the Disk Defragmenter under System Tools. Analyze your drives, then defrag them if necessary. This can take some time and you shouldn't use your computer while this is happening. Vista doesn't display a graphic representation of the defragging process, but XP and older versions of Windows do.
Aim to defrag your hard disks every month to keep your computer running quickly.
Detect and Protect Against Spy Ware
Spy ware is designed to infiltrate your computer and send information back to its creators about your activity without alerting you to its presence, let alone asking for permission to send the information. As well as potentially endangering your safety by collecting passwords, spy ware takes up a lot of memory as it is constantly sending information back to its creators. Run a virus scanner that includes spy ware detection regularly, and install a firewall or use Microsoft Windows Defender.
Repair Any Disk Errors
Windows has a tool called The Error Checker that scans your drives and detects and corrects bad sectors and file system errors. Bad sectors can slow down your computer's performance and make it difficult or impossible to save files.
You can find this tool by right-clicking on the hard disk you'd like to repair and selecting Properties. Then navigate to the Tools tab and click the Check Now box. Check "Scan for and attempt recover of bad sectors," and press Start.
Do not select "Automatically Repair" unless you know you have bad sectors on that disk.
Keep It Clean
Keeping your hard drive as empty as possible goes a long way in keeping your computer running smoothly. Refrain from installing programs you don't need, regularly empty your Recycle Bin and perform routine maintenance like monthly disk defragging. Your computer will boot faster if you have fewer programs in your System Tray, so keep them to a minimum.
Wireless, or cordless, mouses and keyboards are a great way to reduce the clutter in your workspace. Aesthetically, wired peripherals look bulkier and cumbersome compared to their cable-free companions. Wireless pieces are easy to pack away and don't restrict you from moving around your work space.
Cordless keyboards and mouses can even provide health advantages. Using a wireless keyboard makes it easy to set up your desk with ergonomics in mind - you can sit as far back from your computer screen as possible and adjust the height of your keyboard and mouse independently.
The main downside to using wireless peripherals is the cost. The initial price is often twice, or three times that of a conventional keyboard or mouse, and as they run on batteries rather than your computer's power supply, they can be an on-going costly investment.
Response times for wireless peripherals are getting better but still aren't as fast as conventional keyboards and mouses. If you're a serious gamer, a cordless keyboard will do nothing but slow you down and give you a great disadvantage, especially if you are playing multiplayer games online. Wireless mouses still have terrible accuracy that does not lend itself to playing first-person shooters, or doing any visual art or graphic design work. If you are committed to being cable-free but want the fastest response time and decent accuracy, expect to find a hefty price tag on any wireless peripherals you look at.
There are two types of keyboards available: Split Key and regular. Split Key keyboards are ergonomic and are designed to allow the user to rest their arms in their optimum position to reduce risk of RSI. Regular keyboards are the types found with most computers – a simple rectangle with no curve to the key structure.
Wireless mouses also come in two types – wheel and optical. Optical mouses are more accurate and can be used on a variety of surfaces, while wheel mouses require a mouse-pad and need the contacts around the mouseball to be cleaned regularly.
If you choose to go wireless, you will find decent savings if you buy your keyboard and mouse in a bundle. A great way to compare these type of products online is a shopping comparison site like GetPrice, compare prices from hundreds of retailers at http://www.getprice.com.au/buy-best-wirless-keyboard-mouse.htm
Know The Risks
Using the Internet doesn't just put your computer at risk from viruses. There are many other dangers associated with Internet use and it pays to be aware of these before you log on. The five main concerns are:
- Viruses and Spy ware
- Stalkers and predators
- Scams and fraud
- Internet addiction
The sooner you can establish protection against the Internet nasties, the safer your computer will be. Ideally, a firewall and a quality anti-virus scanner should be installed before your computer logs onto the Internet for the first time. Norton Internet Security Suite and McAfee products are reputable and available for purchase from most computer stores.
Do some research on common viruses and how to recognise a dangerous link or email.
Give yourself and your family a set of guidelines for Internet use – what kinds of websites should be avoided, what types of programs can and can't be downloaded, what information should never be given out online, and put a cap on Internet hours to protect your family against addiction.
Protect your personal information
While it's important to secure the files and programs on your computer, it's just as important to stop yourself from divulging too much personal information on the Internet. Personal fraud and stalking is a real danger. Never use your full name or tell personal details to strangers, and never give your financial details to anyone over the Internet, no matter how well you know them.
When signing up to social networking sites, use a handle or nickname rather than your given name, and take advantage of the security features these websites provide. Set your security to "friends only" so that only people you know can see the photos and information you've posted.
Put Up The Walls
Installing a good quality, easy-to-use firewall will make it easy to protect your computer from viruses, spy ware, and hackers. Firewalls detect attempts at unauthorized entry into your computer and can be customized to automatically refuse entry, or prompt you to give or deny permission on a case-by-case basis. However, firewalls aren't perfect!
To protect yourself further, stay away from the shady parts of the Internet. Sleazy chat rooms and illegal websites are crawling with viruses and hackers looking to infect your computer.
Be Cautious Against Scams and Cons
Most email scams are easy to spot – a message from an unknown email address containing a sob story (or a grand prize) and a request for cash or your bank details. These are simple to get rid of, with a quick click of the DELETE key.
The types of frauds that are harder to avoid are the con artists who stake out chat rooms, forums and singles sites looking for chumps to rip off. Don't be overly guarded when making internet pals, but set yourself a strict set of guidelines before you start chatting to others online; know the limits of what information you will give out, no matter how well you "click" with someone. Be cautious when asked for your full name, address or phone number and never, ever, divulge your financial details, even if you have met your "friend" in real life.
Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows Vista, has received a bad rap on Internet forums and software review sites since its launch. So should you buy it?
Microsoft has done its upmost to strip XP back to its best features, pack them into Vista and add some extra fandangle bits to deliver an operating system that will inspire Windows users to upgrade. Unfortunately, there have been a few hiccups along the way. Lots of applications simply do not work and many users report the operating system to be rife with error messages.
The main argument against using Vista is its hefty price-tag for an operating system that doesn't really do anything you cannot do with XP. If you already own a PC, upgrading to Vista might cost you big-time as you may need to upgrade your actual hardware just to run the OS. Be sure to check your specs against what Vista requires before you buy, and be prepared to come across problems when it comes to finding Vista-friendly drivers for your hardware.
On the other side of the argument, Vista has a bunch of great functions and features. There is a sidebar on the desktop for quick access to important programs and files, backing up data is painless and restoring files is a breeze. Once you have become accustomed to the foreign interface, Vista can be easier to use than XP and enables the user to access programs, documents and help files quickly.
Vista is very pleasant on the eye, especially when compared to XP. The classic Windows green-hills-blue-sky default background has been replaced by inoffensive swirling colors, and the windows look very swish with a translucent effect.
The main argument for Vista is that you will "have to" upgrade eventually anyway, so why not bite the bullet and get a grip on the operating system now? Our suggestion is to wait for the next version which is Windows 7 and should be released by the end of 2009.
Since the evolution of the web into Web 2.0, blogging has taken the place of personal websites. As well as being easy to update, well-organized and search-engine friendly, blogs are simple to set up and attract an interactive audience right away.
The first step is to decide what you want to share with the world wide web. Make sure your subject matter is something you are passionate about. It doesn't matter if you're not an expert in the field – users prefer to read blogs by inspired writers that learn as they write, rather than know-it-alls with no flair or passion for their topic.
The next step is to decide where to host your blog. Most writers begin with free hosting – there are a number of blogging websites dedicated to providing free hosting for aspiring web writers. Shop around for the best blog site for you – WordPress is the most popular with Blogger coming in a close second.
Once your site is attracting a lot of attention and has a heavy readership, you can purchase your own domain name and additional hosting.
Choose a name for your blog that is unique, descriptive of the content and easy to remember. You will attract more readers if you use some humor in your title, but make sure to keep it short. Search engines will rank you higher in their results if your username contains keywords that people use in their searches. Avoid using hyphens and numbers.
Customize the look of your blog page. Work with complimentary colours and use images that reflect the content. Make sure not to sacrifice function and navigation for looks – users care much more about finding your archives than how swish your page appears.
Start writing! Write an entry as soon as you set up your blog and keep writing. Blogs with more articles attract more readers and more interaction. Aim to upload at least two posts per week. Having a regular posting schedule can help you stay motivated – post every Sunday and Wednesday, for example.
If your site proves to be popular, consider generating some extra income by installing advertising space that pays per click – you'll be making a passive income everytime someone visits your blog!
Wireless Internet is becoming commonplace, with some cities even providing free Wi-Fi for their citizens in public places. Home users with wireless Internet connections are free from cables and the costs involved in ADSL, but there are risks involved in surfing the net on a wireless network.
Hacking, identify theft and neighbours using up your bandwidth are three of the main concerns for wireless users. It can be even more serious than that– if a hacker using your connection engages in illegal activity on the Internet, you could be in a world of legal trouble.
Here are the five steps for protecting your PC, your privacy and your pocket:
Secure Your Hardware
The router or access point that connects you to the Internet will require you to input an administrator username and password to get into its settings. By default, the password is likely to be something predictable like "password" – it's important you change this as soon as possible, to something unique. This hardware is the main gate between your PC and the Internet, so make it as secure as possible.
Turn off your SSID broadcast
Most routers and access points broadcast your SSID (Service Set Identifier) continuously to make it easy for you to add other wireless devices to your connection. Once you have added all the additional devices you want to, set your router to keep your SSID a secret – otherwise all the wireless devices in the area will see your connection.
Forget WEP encryption - go for WPA.
The weaknesses of WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy) encryption are well-known and are easy for even amateur hackers to get around and gain access to your wireless network. Use WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) as it allows more password characters than WEP. If you have a new router, you may find it has the latest and strongest version, WPA2.
Tune Down Your Range
Some wireless routers and access points allow you to reduce the range of your WLAN transmitter's signal. With some careful trial and error, you can lessen the spread of your signal and reduce the risk of neighboring offices or homes using your connection.
Check Your Usage
First, make a list of the MAC IDs and IP addresses of all the devices that should be connecting to the router. To find a MAC ID/IP address of your PC, type "cmd" into the Run protocol, and click OK. Into the screen that pops up, type ipconfig/all and press Enter. The address that pops up is your MAC address. Now check these against the MAC addresses listed in your router's logs. If one or more unknown MAC addresses appear, you will need to increase your security.
The Laptop Hunch is the latest posture problem among computer users. While desktop computers have been perfected to provide spine-friendly ergonomics, it is up to the laptop user to set up their portable PC in a way that doesn't cause short-term pain and long-term damage.
The three main problems caused by excessive use of a badly set up computer are RSI (repetitive stain injury, usually in the wrists), Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD), and Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Sadly, laptops are not designed with your body's needs in mind. Their design is focused on portability, compact size and weighing as little as possible. This means that laptop keyboards can be cramped and their small screens can restrict to how far away you can place them. If you have a choice, use a desktop computer for most of your work and save the laptop for when you're on the move.
If your main computer is a laptop, there are ways to prevent injury and strain to your body. First, understand that despite its misleading name, placing your laptop in your lap is the worst way to use it. Here are directions for optimizing the position of your laptop for extensive use:
- Set your laptop on a flat surface so that the screen can be viewed without bending your neck. You may need to use a laptop pedestal to achieve this, or a couple of books can work as a haphazard substitute.
- Ideally, if you are using your laptop for long periods at your desk, attach an additional keyboard and mouse to the USB ports so you can raise the laptop high and keep your keyboard low, thus saving your wrists and elbows from RSI.
- When typing, your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and arms by your sides. If this isn't the case, adjust your chair height, position of your laptop or treat yourself to a spiffy new desk.
- As with using a desktop computer, it's important that your chair provides proper lumbar support for your back. Invest in a decent office chair that is ergonomic and fully adjustable.
To avoid RSI in the wrist, place the keyboard directly in front of you and not so far away that you need to extend your arms to reach it. If you are using an external mouse instead of the track pad, it should be placed adjacent to the keyboard and on the same level. Aim to keep your wrists "flat", and invest in "wrist supports" for your desk that give a negative tilt to your hands when typing.
When you turn your new PC on, you will (hopefully) find that the computer company you bought it from has installed an operating system for you; the downside is that they probably added some pre-installed programs too.
In the computer business, software companies ply their wares into pristine, new computers by buying "ad space" from computer companies. This essentially means that all the trial software littering your new computer has bought its place to be there in an effort to get you to try it, love it and buy the full versions. This is an effective tactic and you may find yourself doing just that for many pieces of software – but what do you do about the pre-installed programs that you don't want to use?
The first step is identifying the infiltrators. Click the Start Bar and browse through the Programs List. There may be some software you recognise and some you don't. Do not automatically assume that everything you don't recognise should be deleted – open the program, see what it does, then add it to the list of "Keep" or "Delete".
Depending on the time and energy you want to give to clearing your computer of pre-installed programs, you can give it a thorough once-over, or simply download a program that will do it for you. The programs that do this are not as thorough as deleting things manually and you may find many useless programs still installed.
To remove these programs manually, click on My Computer, then Add/Remove Programs. A list of "legitimately" installed programs will be displayed and the option to remove them. Do this to as many as you can, but keep in mind that many programs will be hidden.
Hidden programs lurk in the shadows, taking up valuable hard-drive space and utilizing memory. If you've written down a list of pre-installed programs you want deleted, search for these Archives on your hard-drive and delete them manually. The delete key, or a click-and-drag to the recycle bin should do it. This method is time-consuming but is the most effective way to clean out your computer.
Once you have gone through the arduous process of eliminating unwanted programs from your computer, the key is to keep them out so you never have to do it again.
Install a good virus scanner and of course backup your files with ouronline backup software.
When installing new software, carefully read what you are agreeing to – many programs come with "extras", and "free trials" made by the same software company and will install these by default.
Check for unwanted programs at least once a month and delete them as soon as you see them to stop them from banking up.
Getting rid of the clutter in your life can be uplifting, inspirational, and provide for a better working environment. A tidy desk is a good start, but why not take it a step further and organize the insides of your PC too?
The desktop is a classic dumping ground for files and programs because it is easily accessible. However, any items there that are not "short-cuts" are going to cause your computer to slow down. De-clutter your desktop by organizing any files or programs into their proper places on your hard drive, and create one folder into which you can dump your files to be organized later.
When organizing your personal data, it's a good idea to steer clear of the places programs automatically write files to. My Documents automatically becomes mangled with mess, so create a separate folder directly under C:/ in which to store your own files. If you put an "@" symbol at the start of this folder's name, it will always appear at the top of the list, making it easy to remember when saving new documents. Within this folder, create "Pictures", "Work Files", and so on, to keep it organized.
The "popular programs" section of the start menu can become messy due to default settings. Right click and select Properties, then click the Customize button and set the number of programs on the start menu to zero. From there, create your own "most used" programs list by clicking and dragging them to the start menu. You can also add folders that you regularly access.
While in the menu bar settings, you can edit the programs on the Quick Launch list – keep these to as few as possible, as this feature chews up lots of memory.
Another hot spot for mess is email – if your email program gives you the option to create subfolders under your In Box, then do so! At the bare minimum, you should have the folders "Work" and "Personal". Your In Box can then be used for emails that require attention and, once you have acted on them, can be stored in their appropriate folders. A clean In Box is a great way to de-clutter your life and add organization to your workspace!