Computer Tips By Don
My little web page here consistes of notes I have been saving over time that I thought I would share with everyone. I have many many notes and bits of info I have saved but these are some of the most important.
Backing up your files: What Files should I back up.pdf
To much JUNK e-mail coming in? You shouldn't have given out your address......That being said, what can you do?
First thing, to help prevent this in the future, be very carefull when giving your address on the internet. Get a free e-mail address from Yahoo, Google or anyone else and use this to sign-up for a contest when you have to give an address so you can see a web page. Unless you know the site, like your bank, use your new address. It's just as good as your real one, you just don't get all the junk there AND, you can go to your Yahoo (or what ever) mail account page and delete all those measages with just a click you two.
Now how do you STOP whats already coming in?
It's not easy. You can try to get a new address and then hope you tell all your friends what it is or try a program that will filter out the junk. One program I have used is MailWasher (www.mailwasher.net). You mark the junk mail and the program sends a reply back to the sender that your address is no good. It will take a little time for this to work but the program is free unless you want the more powerfull one. Another program is BullGuard Spamfilter (www.bullguard.com). Your excisting e-mail program may have filtering built in if you can figure out how to use it.
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Manage start-up programs
When you turn on your computer a lot happens, much of it behind the scenes.
MSConfig is a handy tool built into Windows. It lets you see what programs are starting automatically with Windows. Not all of those programs are necessary. It's meant to help you with troubleshooting. You can use it to disable programs selectively to find troublemakers. Fortunately, there is an easier way. And a free program makes the magic happen.
Startup Control Panel lives up to its name. It helps you manage all your start-up programs. Make programs like Word or Internet Explorer start automatically when you log on. Startup Control Panel lets you do this trick in one simple step. Just add the program to the list.
Startup Control Panel also has a "run once" feature. It adds an automatic start-up program, but only for the next reboot. And you can isolate start-up programs to your Windows profile. That's a plus on the family computer.
This program is extremely small. It takes almost no room on your hard drive. It also conserves screen space. It looks odd at first, because it has no menu bar. All the menus and actions are accessed with a right-click.
Cost: Free Link: www.mlin.net
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Bring an old PC back to new computer shape
Check for malware
If you need security software, visit my site for free programs. Remove anything that is found.
Clean your hard drive
Use Disk Cleanup to remove them. Access Disk Cleanup by clicking Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>Disk Cleanup.
Remove unwanted programs
Remove unwanted programs via the Control Panel. Click Start>>Control Panel. In Vista, double-click Programs and Features. In XP, double-click Add or Remove Programs.
Clean restore points
Clearing old restore points can speed up your PC.
Click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>System Restore. In XP, click System Restore Settings. Select “Turn off System Restore.” Click Apply and then Yes to confirm. Restart System Restore. When prompted, click Yes to re-enable System Restore.
In Vista, click “open System Protection.” Deselect your Drive and confirm your choice. Click OK. Close and reopen System Restore. Click “open System Protection.” Click OK. Close System Restore. Reboot your machine to create a new restore point.
Defragment your drive
Click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>Disk Defragmenter. Select your C: drive and click Analyze. Then, click Defragment. Don’t use your computer or leave programs running while using Disk Defragmenter. It will cause errors.
Check for errors
Open (My) Computer and right-click the C: drive. Select Properties. Click Check Now in the Error-checking section of the Tools tab. Select “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.” Click Start. Fix any bad sectors that are found.
The DIY guide to PC troubleshooting and repair
By Scott Dunn
The next time your computer acts up, drop the mouse, put down the phone, and use this troubleshooting checklist to find and fix the problem.
Whether it's a slowdown, some strange behavior, or a total crash, a few basic troubleshooting tricks and tools may be all you need to get your PC back to peak performance
Do this before you call the repair shop
If it hasn't happened recently, it will soon: something goes wrong with your computer. If you ring up the repair shop or call tech support, the person you talk to probably has less PC experience than you do.
Save your time, trouble, and money by using these dozen tips and tools to ferret out system failures, application crashes, and bizarre Windows behaviors on your own.
Check the obvious. Whether your computer won't start, your browser won't browse, or your word processor won't process, take a deep breath and check the usual suspects — power outages, unplugged or loose cords and cables, or an always-on monitor that somehow got turned off. If everything's properly powered, reboot your PC or restart your modem. This simple step resolves a great number of random glitches.
Ask yourself what has changed about your system. If you recently installed new hardware or software, shut it down. Make sure a program isn't running in the background by checking for its icon in the system tray. If it's there, right-click the icon and choose Exit or Close.
Look for a listing for the program under the Processes tab in Task Manager; press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to open the utility. Or you could simply uninstall the application. If you just updated one of your device drivers, revert to the old one by using Windows' device driver rollback feature. The steps can be found in Microsoft Knowledge Base 283657.
Divide and conquer, part one. To determine whether an auto-start application is the culprit, open the System Configuration utility (a.k.a. "Msconfig") to turn off all startup programs. Press the Windows key and R, type msconfig, and press Enter. Under the General tab, click Selective Startup and uncheck Load Startup Items. Then restart your PC.
If the problem goes away, return to Msconfig, click Normal Startup under the General tab, choose the Startup tab, and enable your autostart programs one at a time until the problem recurs, at which time you've found the source of the trouble.
Vista has its own tool for managing startup programs — Software Explorer, which is part of Windows Defender. Software Explorer is clumsy and not nearly as easy to use as Microsoft's free AutoRuns utility, which works in XP, too.
Strategies and techniques for troubling times
Give System Restore a chance. If your problem appeared recently and the cause is not apparent, System Restore may be able to bring your PC back to a functional state. Choose Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore. Select Restore my computer to an earlier time, click Next, and follow the prompts. For more info on System Restore, see Woody Leonhard's tips in the paid version of the Feb. 16, 2006, issue.
Try a different profile. Log out of your current account and log into a different one. If you don't have any other accounts, create one. An alternative account can come in handy if your current account becomes corrupted. To create one, open Windows' User Accounts Control Panel applet, click Create a new account, and follow the steps. (In Vista, you have to click either Add or remove user accounts or Manage another account before you click Create a new account.)
If the problem doesn't occur in the other account, something is wrong with your profile in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER section of the Registry. You can always use the second profile as your new main account, although you'll have to reinstall some software and redo your custom settings. Still, this is better than having to reinstall Windows.
Choose the Last Known Good. If you're unable to log into Windows at all, press F8 after booting your computer but before Windows starts. On the Windows Advanced Options Menu screen, use the arrow keys to select Last Known Good Configuration and press Enter.
This option reverses the last configuration change made to your computer. If this setting allows Windows to load, your problem may be solved. Last Known Good Configuration can't correct every problem, but like many of these strategies, it's worth a try.
Crack open Safe Mode. Should Last Known Good Configuration fail to put you back in the Windows driver's seat, press F8 on startup again to return to the Windows Advanced Options Menu, but this time select Safe Mode (or Safe Mode with Networking if you need to access the Internet or a network resource).
Unlike Last Known Good Configuration, Safe Mode doesn't fix anything; it simply attempts to start Windows by using a very basic set of drivers. If you can successfully start Windows in Safe Mode, there's a good chance your problem is due to a device driver. You can also use Safe Mode to correct the problem — once you figure out what it is (see the next tip for more).
Enable boot logging. Check Windows' boot logs for information if you suspect the problem is related to a particular device or driver. To enable boot logging, press F8 on startup to open the Windows Advanced Options Menu. Arrow down to Enable Boot Logging and press Enter to start Windows with this feature turned on.
To open the log file, press Win+R, type c:\windows\ntbklog.txt, and press Enter. The boot log adds new information to the bottom of the file, so scroll down to get the latest scoop. Look for lines that indicate one or more drivers didn't load properly.
Boot logging occurs automatically when you use Safe Mode to log into windows, but the resulting log isn't very useful — it shows all the drivers Safe Mode doesn't use, but it doesn't tell you which ones may be causing the problems.
Divide and conquer, part two. If you suspect a driver or other system file is the culprit but haven't yet found the guilty party, isolate the problem by using Msconfig to create custom configurations. But first, a warning: Using Msconfig to temporarily disable Windows services will delete restore points created by System Restore. Try this technique only if System Restore didn't fix the problem and you're sure you won't need any of your existing restore points.
Press Win+R, type msconfig, and press Enter. On the General tab, select Diagnostic startup and click OK. Follow the prompts to restart your system. If the problem is resolved, you can add other system files back in by using the Selective Startup option on the General tab to isolate whether the problem is in System.ini, wini.ini, services, and so on. Once you've narrowed your search down to a specific area, get more granular by using the check boxes under the other Msconfig tabs to turn on specific items (such as individual services).
Get more info from Windows. Some crashes cause your system to reboot automatically. This Windows feature keeps you from seeing helpful information about what might be causing the problem. To prevent automatic restarts after crashes, reboot and press F8 before Windows loads to view the Windows Advanced Options Menu. Use the arrow keys to select Disable automatic restart on system failure.
To turn the feature back on in XP, or to turn it off without restarting your computer, right-click My Computer and choose Properties, Advanced. Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings. Use the checkbox under Automatic Restart to turn the feature on or off.
In Vista, press Start, type SystemPropertiesAdvanced, and press Enter. Click Continue when prompted by User Account Control. Click the Advanced tab and under Startup and Recovery click Settings. Use the checkbox under Automatic Restart to turn the feature on or off.
The next time you have an unscheduled reboot, some text should appear on your screen with information about the error and possibly the name of the file that caused the problem. If necessary, you can do a Web search on that file name to get more information.
For example, Windows might list a component of your system's video drivers as the cause. If so, it may be time to check for a driver update on the Web site of your video card's manufacturer.
Run system file checker. If you believe a Windows file has been overwritten by another program, run the System File Checker to examine your files and replace any problem ones with Microsoft originals. Open a Command Prompt window with Administrator privileges, type sfc /scannow, and press Enter. You may be prompted to insert your Windows install CD to allow System File Checker to retrieve the original file.
Microsoft has published two articles on using this tool, one that refers to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, and another describing how to use it in Vista.
Try a troubleshooter. The adage says: When all else fails, read the directions. Windows Help may miss the mark much of the time, but some of its troubleshooting guides are actually helpful in certain cases. Open the guides by choosing Start, Help and Support. Search for troubleshoot, troubleshooting, and troubleshooter. Do a separate search for each term because you'll get slightly different results each time.
Be persistent, but have an exit strategy
An old friend and talented troubleshooter used to tell me, "When all else fails, poke at it." Sheer determination has helped me solve many computer problems. Try one possible solution after another, but remember to make sure you can undo every "fix" you try so you don't inadvertently make things worse.
For example, when editing the Registry, be sure to use the File, Export command to create a backup of the Registry branch you're about to tweak. Any keys (or branches) you add to the Registry subsequently will not be included in the backup, of course.
Computer hoax and viruses.
Please, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, delete a file from your computer on the advice of an e-mail received from anyone, without first checking to see if the message is a hoax. There are a lot of hoax's and the messages look and sound real. There is one tip though that should make you raise an eyebrow, it is all in caps, it tells you to send the message to everyone in your address book and/or it says "this is not a hoax, it is for real". Of course, there are variations to the message but they all look and feel the same.
So what do you do?
First thing, go to any one of the sites that have information on hoax's and viruses. One way is to enter the word "hoax" into a search engine such as http://www.google.com/, http://www.altavista.com/or http://www.yahoo.com/ . Another place is the companies that sell anti-virus software such as http://www.trend.com/ or http://www.norton.com/ After you have read up on the hoax or virus message and feel there is no need to erase important files from your computer, reply to the message from which all this started and tell the sender to go read up on this stuff before alarming you again. Although they had very good intentions and want to protect their friends computer systems, they are doing exactly what the originator of the message wanted them to do, make the owner of a computer do the damage to his own machine. This way, the creep doesn't have to know how to write the code or what ever it would take for them to do the damage. It's like yelling FIRE in a crowd. For more on this subject check out this website:
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Protecting Your Identity From Theft
What's the fastest growing problem in the United States? It's identity theft, a crime that has caused immense misery for innumerable people over the last 10 years. Criminals in this area steal a Social Security or credit card number, and use it to build an identity. The victim discovers the problem when the bills arrive. By that time, the criminal has probably discarded the identity and moved to a new one. Victims are left with hours of dealing with bill collectors, creditors and credit reporting agencies, trying to clear their names. Most identity theft probably takes place off the Internet. Thieves can get your private information from your trash. Or they can steal your mail.
Go here for one-click access to the free version. Norton, McAfee and many other companies also make firewalls. The bottom-line: get one. Microsoft's Internet Explorer will save passwords and automatically insert them for you on Web sites. This is part of the program's AutoComplete. It's handy, but it could be dangerous if someone else has access to your computer. If you think there could be a problem, turn it off. Go to Tools>>Internet Options>>Content. Click AutoComplete. Clear "User names and passwords on forms." Finally, check your credit reports at least once a year. If someone is using your identity and not paying the bills, it should show up there. Three companies--Experian, TransUnion and Equifax--produce reports. You can find lots of companies on the Internet that will round up all three for you. Don't get just one. Expect to pay about $35. There's no need to get If someone steals your identity, there are many resources online. Start at the Federal Trade Commission.
Hardware and Software Questions
There are several places on the web where you can send in a question on a hardware or software question and get a reply in a day or so from volunteers who are not necessarily experts but do have a good working knowledge. I have tried them several times and usually they answered my question. If they didn't, it was probably because I didn't explain it clearly. If you don't receive a reply with in a reasonable amount of time, send a second request to the person and try again. Hey, the price is right, it's FREE! But, you may get what you pay for. Anyway, give them a try. One is at http://www.protonic.com/
The Internet has countless shareware programs, many of which are great additions to your computer. Some, however, are likely to give you more trouble than they're worth. Kim's advice is to skip the following downloads:
Gator, Comet Cursor, Bonzi Buddy or Go Hip
If you've already downloaded and installed one or more of these programs, you've probably discovered that getting them off your system is a much more challenging task than getting them on. Here's where to go for step-by-step instructions on removing each program:
Most info for these aticles come from the following sources: Visit them for more great information on taking care of your computer and internet experience. They are all free and you can sign up for the weekly newsletters.
Questions? Email Don Smith (click on icon)
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