Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Kinda blows my mind..

I saw a bargain deal today that reminded me of Moore’s Law, and how much things have changed since I first started working with “personal computers” (and hard drives were 4 Gigabytes..)

A quality 32 Gigabyte ‘smart’ thumb drive (aka “memory stick”, aka “flash drive”) for $12. (And I’m not talking 1990’s dollars, either, but today’s, basically valueless dollar.)

Of course, it’s not just the cost-per-Gigabyte I’m impressed by.. but some may remember buying devices called “Zip drives” so we could have a whopping 100 Megabytes of ‘portable storage..

image: iomega zip drive

Blast from the past…

Oh. If you’re interested in the thumb drive deal, click here[Note: Offer expired. Now it’s $16.]

Today’s quote:Humans beings always do the most intelligent thing…after they’ve tried every stupid alternative and none of them have worked” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

Copyright 2007-2014 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<

All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.
And please, never forget – one person can make a difference.
Find a way to make someone’s day today.
(Best advice I ever heard? Don’t sweat the small stuff.)

July 2, 2014 Posted by | consumer electronics, hardware, mobile, storage, tech, thumb drives | | 5 Comments

I Made $100 Billion – In My Spare Time!*

I know that those of you who are familiar with my writings here at Tech – for Everyone have read that title, and are (probably) expecting me to post some scam emails.. Online Lottery Winner!!!, etc.. thinking that I ‘made’ my billions that way. (scroll down)

Or maybe I’ll post samples of the ever popular 419 “Nigerian” scams “Dear Beloved One”, “Private and Confidential”, etc.. As I have – in the past – with my Once Again It’s Time To Play Let’s Count The Typos! game.

But no. Not today. I was not being facetious. I really did win over $102 billion dollars.


100billThree five-spots put me over the top. (The trick is: don’t click on “bet it all” until you have $1,000,000 in the bank. Ha!)

What happened was, I got tired of chess and spider solitaire, and decided to dust off an old fave of mine — video poker. It had been a long time.. and I had forgotten how addicting this timewaster can be. (This game is ancient.. dating back to 2003, or so. But it does work on Vista, and most likely. Win 7.)(Yes folks. 2003 is “ancient” in tech.)

From CNet Editors’ Review:

This video-poker simulation game earns points on several fronts. First off, Draw Poker Gold Edition is tiny and completely free, two big pluses we always appreciate. The game is not graphically intense, but it gets the point across just fine and looks almost identical to the video-poker machines you find in casinos.

If you enjoy playing video-poker machines but don’t like feeding them all those quarters, this game is for you. You can download it from CNet, here.

Today’s quote: ““The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.“ ~ Unknown

* Orig post: 11/28/10

For those who wanted the scam emails..:

"circa 2012?" .. what are they trying to say here?

Please folks, remember. If it has an “!” or a paperclip, and you don’t personally know the Sender? Delete. Unopened.

Q: How did the Post Office get my email?

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<

April 12, 2012 Posted by | computers, free software, Gaming, storage | , , , | Leave a comment

About the Recovery (D:) Drive

A Reader Asks a Very Good Question About the “Recovery Partition”..

Q: Paul,
When I open up the My Computer icon on my desktop to check my hard drive, the recovery disk is usually close to 2/3’s full and it is in GB. Is this a drive I want to do anything with? I have plenty of drive space on my C drive but this takes 3-4GB of space.
What is the recovery drive for and should I try to recover the the disk space it uses?

A: When you click on “Computer” (or, “My Computer” in XP) an explorer window will open showing the storage devices (aka “drives”) attached to your computer (storage “memory”). These storage areas will be assigned a “drive letter”, and usually start with the area which contains the Windows operating system and is responsible for “booting” your computer — labeled drive “C:
drivesWhy doesn’t it start with “A:“? Well, back in the day, it did. Long ago, computers came with A and B drives – which were 5.25” ‘floppy’ drives (which contained the operating system. Windows didn’t exist yet). When the first “hard” drive came along, it had to go next in line.. thus C:\ (c: equated to “hard disk” [with a “k”]). Eventually, operating systems were designed to run from “hard” disks, and – eventually – “floppies” went the way of the T-rex. (But “hard disk” still equates with “c””)

I digress, but! I need to keep talking about computer history/evolution for just a bit longer. Long ago, computers used to come with CD’s. Either a Windows CD or a Windows CD relabeled by the manufacturer to something like “Dell Recovery Disc”. These were used in the sad case of really bad errors crashing the computer, and tech support told you you had to “reinstall Windows”.
(Sometimes called “disaster recovery”)

At some point in time, some brick-headed, idjit barnacle of a CEO made the absolutely dumbest decision ever made by Man — in the hopes that they could save 3¢ per computer sold. (Can you guess what I would say to this *person* if I met them?) They decided to do away with the Recovery CD and instead put those files on a special section (called a “partition“) of the hard disk — which came to be Drive D:\ (aka “the ‘recovery partition’)… the topic today. Ahem, sorry.

Back to the topic: When you first start up your computer (aka “boot up”) you will see a drab screen that says something to the effect of “Press F11 to recover your computer” (or some F key.. maybe F10, maybe F2..) This function is used in the sad case of really bad errors crashing the computer, and tech support tells you you have to “reinstall Windows”. (Sometimes called “disaster recovery”)

This “recovery process” will wipe (aka “erase”, aka “delete”) your C:\ drive, and copy the “image” stored on D:\ over to there — thus returning your PC to “factory condition”.. complete with crapware, such as Connect to AOL and Polar Penguins, and minus all your installed programs, updates, and … files.

You do have a backup copy of all those.. right?

This disaster of a disaster recovery method was not necessarily the case if you had/have a disc. Which is why the CEO mentioned above is a jackass. And why you want to read, Windows 7 Owners, You Want To Do This…

Answer the question, Paul: Okay okay okay
The drive D: aka “Recovery” is a special, protected area, which contains the files necessary to restore your computer to factory defaults. You cannot modify it. Short version: Pretend it isn’t there, and … hope you never need it.

(If you are eyeballing that ‘open space’ because you have filled up your C:\ drive.. well, no. What you need to do is install additional storage [ aka “upgrade” ] and/or go in and remove stuff from C:\)

* Okay.. maybe not the dumbest…

Today’s reco’d reading: Warning: Surprise spam trojan on Facebook

“Ever received messages from your Facebook friends containing a notice or invitation, such as an invitation to visit a particular site, added with an interesting message, like “Hey watch this, so cool!”? In most cases, the recipient of the message will be happy to follow it, especially if the message was sent by one of your best friends, which you trust. However, did you ever think that it could be sent by an intruder, spam, or even viruses?

Like yesterday, one of my friends received a “surprise” from Facebook, but then soon realized that his computer was now infected with the trojan, as well as making it a “spam machine.””

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<

Share this post :

January 20, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, storage, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Advice for using online backup

Folks, I have an onsite tech support job scheduled, and only have time to repost today. This article contains some important, helpful advice; and first appeared 4/48/08.

Dear Reader, if your hard drive died.. would you lose valuable tax records? Irreplaceable photographs? How about your address book? Or.. have you followed my advice, so oft repeated here, and made two separate backups and stored them in two different locations/media types? If you have, you just may have saved yourself some tears of sorrow and frustration. (And if you run a business, maybe your livelihood.)

A good backup will mean the difference between a couple hours’ of inconvenience –in case of a failure– and total loss. Just recently, I wrote an article on how having the second backup saved my bacon on an XP machine (see Back in the saddle) when its hard drive decided enough was enough.
I cannot say it often enough: computers are complex devices and their parts DO fail (and usually provide little or no warning before they do). Make some copies of your stuff.

Tip of the day: consider storing one of your system backups online. Online backups are convenient, (most are) secure, and most important, offsite. “Off-site” means, literally, “not here”, but “over there”. This is a key element in enterprise “Disaster Continuity” and you can implement it as well by taking advantage of an online storage service.
Think of it as being like your safety deposit box. If your house (God forbid) were to burn down, get hit by a meteor, or swallowed by an earthquake.. and everything inside destroyed, you still have copies of your vital documents in your safety deposit box (right?).

With an online storage service, you “upload” your files, via the Internet, to somebody’s server.. where they sit until you need them. When you need them, (and, I understand, hopefully you never will.. but.) you simply “download” them back onto your repaired machine.

A reader has written to ask me which of the many online storage services I recommend (thanks, Bryan W.) and inspired today’s article. Sorry to say, I don’t have a “favorite”. What I can do is tell you what to look for, and point you to a comparison list. Fair enough?

* Security: the storage service you want will have security in place so that some hacker can’t come rifling through the server, and read all your vital docs. (you wouldn’t want your bank to leave the vault wide open, and all the safety deposit boxes unlocked.. would you?) This is usually accomplished through encryption. Look to see if the data transfer occurs using SSL, that the account is fully password protected and your stored data is encrypted by some method.
* Price: some of these “storage solutions” are quite pricey, charging 10 times as much as others. Why? Shrug. Because they can? While price alone shouldn’t be a deciding factor, be aware that some places gouge.
* Size: These storage services charge you by how many Gigabytes you are going to take up on their server. There are MANY free online storage providers for very small allotments (typically 5GB’s, but some go all the way to 35GB’s), but these really won’t hold a full system state backup.. you need a “plan” that will allow you to store backup copies of each of your hard drives– with a little room to spare. But unless you’re a big corporation, you won’t need Terabytes.
To quickly see how much data is currently on your hard-drive, Open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista) and right-click on the icon representing your hard-drive(s), and choose “Properties” from the context menu. You will see a pie chart showing the total size of your files and folders.

Today’s free link(s): PC World magazine has two comparison charts of online storage providers: read this first, (reviews 17 providers) then click here, (for 6 more) which will give you their number one pick(s). Then take a look at Tom’s Hardware discussion/article (click here) and, may I suggest, skipping ahead to the Conclusion will give you their results.
* My friend Mike, over on My Tech Talk, has also written about his experiences with online storage.
* And Bill Mullins discusses Mozy here.

[update 5/1/08: PCMag has just published a new article with updated reviews. They say say a new service, SOS, has ursurped the throne from Mozy. To read this updated review, click here. (I still suggest reading the others, as well, though.)]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

Share this post :

April 8, 2009 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, Internet, storage | Leave a comment

How To Use Windows Backup Tool

Wizard Automatically Copies Your Daily Changes

You’ve all heard it; you can’t say you haven’t been told, can you? You want to back up your data. A back up copy of your music, pictures, records, and correspondence [your memories] can be a lifesaver (well…maybe not a life-saver, but how about a tears and sorrow-saver?).

In my previous article on defragmentation, I showed you how to use Windows’ built-in Task Scheduler to solve the problem of file fragmentation using a ”set it and forget it” method. Today I’m going to show you how to use basically the same tool to create a backup of your system, for use as a means of recovering from a “really bad” glitch.

Tip of the day: If you follow the steps I outline next, you will set up an initial system backup, and then, and this is the best part, Windows will each night make a backup of any changes and additions you’ve made during the day– automatically.

[note: One thing you should know before we begin is, it is pretty important that you store this back up copy some place other than your Windows drive (usually, your “c: drive”). This can be on another “partition” on your hard drive (not so good), or on a seperate hard drive — such as a “storage drive” attached to your machine with a USB cable, or a network drive (best). For this example, we will use an USB-attached drive identified by Windows as “e: drive”.

If you do not have another partition or attached storage available, you can use the first steps of this article to create a system backup, and then use a utility like WinZip or WinRAR to make CD (or, better, DVD)-sized subdivisions which you can burn to disc(s), after that, make a routine of monthly (or more often) backups of your My Documents folder to disk as well.]

Step#1: open the Windows Backup utility by clicking Start >Programs >Accessories >System tools >Backup. A window will open welcoming you to the Backup Wizard.
* Click “Next” and it asks if you want to make a backup (default) or restore from a back; we’re making a backup so click next.
* Now we’re asked what we want to back up, and here you want the bottom option, “Let me choose what to back up”. Click “Next” again.
* On the next screen, expand the My Computer on the left-hand panel, as shown below.

Look to the left-pane again and you will see that I have placed a check in the box next to Local Disk (C:) [my hard drive] and System State. That causes all the other checks to appear. That’s what we want, so now you do it — click on the plus sign next to My Computer, and then click inside the Local Disk and the System State boxes. Now click next.

* Now we’re asked which location you want to store the backup copy at. Click on the browse button and navigate to the (hypothetical) (E:) drive (your actual location will vary). The default file name is acceptable, so hit next.
* Follow the Wizard all the way through the next few “next” buttons until you get to Finish, and you’re done with Step 1.

You now have a copy of your whole computer that you can use to restore it to this moment in time, should disaster strike…or should you buy a larger hard drive as a replacement, load the new drive with your settings and data.
[note: It is a very good idea to also burn this to disc(s). Use a zip program, in conjuction with your burning software, to get the Backup.bkp onto your CD’s or DVD’s]

Step #2: Here’s where we use launch the Backup Wizard again and this time use the Advanced Mode to schedule an automatic daily “incremental” back up. An incremental backup will look at your files and folders and make a copy only of the new, or modified files you added since the last incremental backup. In this way, you’ll always have a complete copy of your present set up ready to come to your rescue should you ever need it.

To begin, once again open Windows Backup, Start >Programs >Accessories >System Tools >Backup, and this time click on the blue link that says “Advanced Mode” when the Welcome window appears.
* Then click Next, and then click on the top button of the new Backup Wizard Advanced Mode page, the one that says “Backup Wizard (Advanced)”. Then click Next.
* Now choose the middle radio button, on the What to back up page, that says, “back up selected files, drives, or network data” and click Next.
Here again you want to expand My Computer and check Local Disk and System State. Click Next, and again navigate to (hypothetical) drive “e:” and click next again.

Now you’re on the “Completing” page but do not click “Finished” just yet; instead click on the Advanced button. Now you’ll see the Type of backup (By default it will say “Normal”) page — use the drop-down arrow to set it to “Incremental” and hit next. Put a check in the checkbox marked “Verify data after back up” and hit Next. Leave the radio button on “Append this data to existing backups” and hit Next.

Now we set the schedule. Select the radio button labeled “Later” and the schedule windows will activate. Give the “job” a title, like ‘daily’, and click the Set a schedule button.


Set it to Daily, and set a time that won’t interfere with your using the computer…say during your lunch hour. Click on the OK button and a “run as” window will open. Make sure the user name is an account that runs as an Administrator, and give this job a password (and ‘confirm’). Hit next. Verify, and hit Finish.


I realize that this may seem like a daunting number of complicated steps, but really all you’re doing is following a wizard. Once you’ve done this process though, you can rest in the comfort of knowing that there is an up-to-date copy of all your important files and folders available to you in case of digital dire straights. If you’ve ever had to wipe a hard drive and reinstall Windows, you’d know just how valuable a backup like this can be!

Today’s free link: I have located a Startup Manager that passes muster, which I added as an update to my “answers” article, and will repeat here in case you missed it. Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

October 28, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, storage, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Encryption: say no to data theft*

If your laptop is stolen, will the thief be able to read your vital statistics and personal info? They will if you haven’t used encryption. They’ll have your passwords as well. Do you keep any confidential business files on your computer — like some doctors and Veteran’s Affairs employees do?

As I mentioned in my series on the NTFS file system (click here), Windows has the ability to encrypt your stored data as well as controlling access from networked computers. Enabling encryption is easy, and acts invisibly to the user (you) — and by that I mean your files will look like they always do, but to an “unauthorized user” they will look like a garbled alphabet soup of nonsensical gibberish.

Tip of the day: Encrypt your My Documents folder for top-notch security. To encrypt files and/or folders in Windows you must be using the NTFS file system, which most of you will already have on your machines (use the link above to read how to check, and convert to NTFS if neccessary). There are a few different ways to use encryption; you can encrypt individual files; you can encrypt entire folders and, by default, their subfolders; and, you can encrypt your hard drive (of import for laptop owners). The process for the first two are the same, while the third requires a different method.

[Vista Users: Microsoft says, “EFS is not fully supported on Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium.” Of course, what they mean by that is “NOT supported; and if you want it, spring for Ultimate Edition”. I recommend using the free TrueCrypt to encrypt your data.]

The simplest method to provide encryption to your personal data is to encrypt the My Documents folder, which I will use for purposes of demonstration — as I mentioned, doing so will encrypt all the files inside and also encrypt the contents of any subfolders. Start by right-clicking on the My Documents folder and selecting Properties…accessing the folder may be as simple as clicking the Start button or finding its icon on your desktop or you may have to click Start >My Computer >Local drive C:, depending on your settings and preferences.

When the My Documents folder’s Properties window opens, click on the “Advanced” button.
As you can see, my My Documents is set to “compressed”, but is not encrypted yet. Compression is another feature of NTFS that was very, very much sought-after in the days before giant hard drives (back then, we hadn’t heard of digital ID Theft) and is a method that uses an algorithm to shrink file sizes. You cannot, however, use encryption and compression at the same time, and today the value of the former far outweighs the latter. Fortunately, switching from one to the other requires no effort on your part, simply select “Encrypt contents to secure data” and the rest is automatic.
Now click “OK”, and then “Apply”. Whenever you encrypt a folder, you will be asked if you want to apply encryption to just that folder, or all the files and subfiles and folders; you want the latter, which is the default.
That’s it. You’re done. Your documents are now safe from “unauthorized” eyes.

That is true, unless the person trying to access your data has their hands on your machine and is able to ‘crack’ your User password (you have given your User Account a password, haven’t you?) which may be the case if your laptop is stolen. To prevent data loss in that type of a situation, you want to encrypt your whole startup process and password protect it…which in essence encrypts your whole hard drive. To do so, click Start >Run and then type in “syskey” (no quotes). Now click on the “Update” button.
Select the top radio button, “Password Startup” and enter a good, strong password. Then enter it again for confirmation. Be sure to write down your password and keep it in a safe place — should you ever forget it, it is not an easy task for even an experienced tech to get you back in to your machine.

A final thought: I think it only fair to tell you (what you may have already guessed/know) that a very knowledgable Evil Doer, if they have physical access to your machine, can often get around whatever security you have in place. The hacker expression is, “if I can touch it, I own it.” So please don’t be careless with your, or your company’s, vital data. Also, you may want to consider a more powerful, 3rd Party encryption tool like TrueCrypt.

Today’s free link: most of you already know that the World Wide Web is a wonderfully rich resource for researching information, but did you also know it is an excellent resource for digital images? Need a picture of the Golden Gate bridge to put into your child’s homework assignment? The place to start looking is Google Images.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

September 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, converting to NTFS, encrypting files, file system, how to, PC, security, software, storage, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Remove Service Pack 1’s uninstall files– save almost a Gig

Folks, today I’m passing along a quick tip that I picked up from Bill Detwiler over at TechRepublic. This is for folks who are running Vista and who have installed Service Pack 1.

As I wrote about in my article Running with Vista Service Pack 1, If you are running a Vista machine, you really want to install the package of Updates and bug fixes called “SP1”. (Microsoft installed SP1 via Windows Updates a few months ago, and so you may not even be aware that you were upgraded.)

If you are happy with SP1 and are sure you are not going to want uninstall it — and I cannot think of one good reason why you would uninstall it — you can delete SP1’s uninstall files, and recover at least 800 MB’s* of space on your hard drive in about a minute’s time (that’s about 250 MP3’s worth).

Tip of the day: remove the unnecessary pre-SP1 files from your Vista machine.
1) Open a command prompt with Administrator privileges. (Start> Programs> Accessories, right-click on “Command Prompt” and select “Run as Administrator”)
2) Type in “vsp1cln” (no quotes) and hit Enter.

The file cleaning tool will take a couple of minutes to run, depending on your machine, and when it’s done, you will have almost a Gigabyte more storage on your hard drive– it cleaned 925 MB’s from my hard-drive.
I know, on today’s giant drives that’s not a big deal.. but who wants useless files taking up space for no reason?

Today’s free link: SpywareBlaster from Javasoft. “SpywareBlaster doesn’t scan for and clean spyware–it prevents it from being installed in the first place. SpywareBlaster prevents the installation of ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, browser hijackers, and other potentially unwanted programs. It can also block spyware/tracking cookies in IE, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, and many other browsers, and restrict the actions of spyware/ad/tracking sites.[note: this very useful tool requires that you manually check for updates.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

July 30, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, storage, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , | 2 Comments