Tech – for Everyone

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

A couple of software reco’s

It’s kind of odd.. but since I went into semi-Retirement, I’ve been busier than ever.

I have been reminded recently that a couple of free software utilities I use, well, I cannot recall if I’ve ever mentioned them to you guys… as they are rather Geeky (aka not “for everyone”).

* First up is a file copy/transfer utility. TeraCopy isn’t anything fancy, it just makes Windows work like it should, when working with big copy/transfer jobs. It’s free for personal use.

One of the most common complaints about newer versions of Windows is the slow copying speed, especially when transferring lots of files over the network. If you want to speed up your copying or if you regularly transfer large amounts of data and have to stop the process to perform some other disk-intensive task, this program may be just what you need.” Check it out here.

* Next up is a “boot disc”. Now, most of you will not ever have call for a boot disc, or need to know how to use one, but if you know what they are, and don’t know about UBCD4Win, well I suggest you take a look.

UBCD4Win is a bootable recovery CD that contains software used for repairing, restoring, or diagnosing almost any computer problem. Our goal is to be the most complete and easy to use free computer diagnostic tool.” Check it out here.

One of the things I use the UBCD4Win most often is to make “images” (backups/”clones”) of a hard drive using DriveImageXML, but you do not need to use a boot disc to take advantage of this free disk imaging/archiving tool. (It is a ‘standalone’ app that’s been bundled onto UBCD.)

DriveImage XML is an easy to use and reliable program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives. Image creation uses Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Services (VSS), allowing you to create safe “hot images” even from drives currently in use. Images are stored in XML files, allowing you to process them with 3rd party tools. Never again be stuck with a useless backup! Restore images to drives without having to reboot. DriveImage XML is now faster than ever, offering two different compression levels. ” Check it out here.

Today’s quote:Everybody ought to do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice.” ~ William James

Copyright 2007-2013 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, free software, Microsoft, networking, PC, performance, software, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thinking About Hard Drives

Inside of a typical hard drive

Today, I have disks on my mind. (How Geeky is that??)

Now, you know that when you see “disk” – with a “k” – we’re talking about “hard drives”; which, technically, is a type of device used for “data storage” — you might know it as your “C: drive“.
(“Disc” with a “c” is a CD/DVD/Blu Ray “optical” frisbee-thingy.)

Now, you also know (if you read this site) that the nation of Thailand was not so long ago removed from planet Earth by a Great Flood and also know that Thailand was the only place that grew hard disks. This led me, and others, to warn all you PC lovers out there to buy now, while there still were computers being built (from the existing stockpiles of disks, which had been shipped before the flood happened).
Um.. Er.. or something like that.

Us Geeky types have seen many articles, such as this one, published today: Hardware makers slog through hard disk drive shortages

Here’s a tour of how the Thailand flooding and a hard drive shortage affected three tech giants: Sony, Western Digital and Seagate.Read more..

Today I have hard drives on my mind for two reasons:
1) if there really was a Great Flood, followed by a crisis due to no hard drives.. why am I still seeing multi-terabyte drives in the stores for under $100?
(I’m beginning to suspect that Thailand is still there.. still growing disks..)
and..
2) if I’m ready to finally get off my duff and get one of these new-fangled solid-state hard drives.

See, I have been told by owners of these new devices, for some time now, that they are the bee’s knees of the cat’s pajamas. From what I’ve heard – and read – they are faster than Wile E. Coyote on rollerskates with his rocket backpack on.

I mean.. I’m hearing things like a 20 second boot-to-Desktop. 20 seconds may not be “instant on”, but..

Maybe today’s the day I find out for myself..

Well, enough of my musings. I’ll be a bit more helpful to you before I go. Do you have a hard drive? (um.. yes, you do) Did you know they slow down over time? (um.. I am guessing, yes, you did) Here are some ABC’s hard drive owners should know..

Fortunately there are things you can do and steps you can take to improve your computer’s performance. (We Über Geeks call this “maintenance”.) Some are easy, some are free, and some are free and easy — keep reading!

Step 1 is to open your Control Panel, go to Programs and Features, and uninstall every program you recognize and realize you never use anymore (if you do not recognize it, leave it be .. or research it).

That’s the most important thing to do, but there’s more – much more you can do.

Free: Windows comes with the tools (we Über Geeks call these “utilities”) you need (Windows 7 users have many of these enabled already [by default]). Please see, Revitalize Your PC With Windows’ Utilities

Free And Easier: I have found that a few people prefer to download some “optimizer” and do all their “maintenance” with a single click. Fortunately for these folks, there’s a gazillion of these out there. But of these, I recommend the (free) Glary Utilities, or the (free) Advanced SystemCare.

Today’s quote:Every survival kit should include a sense of humor.” ~ Unknown

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


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February 4, 2012 Posted by | computers | , , , , , | 6 Comments

How To Free Up Space On Your Computer (and Make It Run ‘Better’)*

And Some Saturday Fun, Too.

The simple and handy Disk Cleanup Tool has been a part of Windows since Windows 95. Today I am going to demonstrate how to use it, and explain why you should.

Tip of the day: Use the Disk Cleanup tool to — in a single step — free up disk space, empty your Recycle bin, “compress” old files, and remove the “temporary” Internet files that your machine picks up while browsing and downloading (improving your privacy/security); and, optionally, remove unused Windows “components” and installed programs.

If that sounds like lot a lot, it is. And it surprises me that Microsoft buries this useful tool under a series of menus — it would make sense to me to have a “one-button clean up” icon in Quick Launch, or on the desktop,.. or in the Start Menu.

As with most Windows items, there’s five or six different methods for getting to the same place, but the route I take is to open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista/Windows 7) which is usually found by clicking the Start button.

mypc.jpg

Locate, and right-click on your hard drive icon, which typically is labeled “Local Disk (C:)”, and then click on the “Properties” menu selection as shown above.

Now the hard drive’s Properties window will open to the “General” tab, which regular readers of this series will recognize, as shown below.

props.jpg

Click the “Disk Cleanup” button, and a window will open that shows the progress as the tool scans your drive for files that it can safely remove for you…

calc.jpg

When the scan is finished, Disk Cleanup will present you with a list of the results –by category – which will show you the amount of space you can recover. This list of categories is selectable via checkboxes, and some are selected for you by default.

dc_opts.jpg

Accepting the defaults and clicking “OK” is fine, but you can modify it for greater space savings. This list includes all the files Windows says it’s safe to remove, and so, conceivably, you could place a check in all the checkboxes without hurting your machine or deleting important “system” files. But, I recommend that you do not select “Hibernation files” (if it appears on the list) nor “Catalog files for the Content Indexer”, nor Office installer files (“setup log files”).

In the screenshot above, I have clicked on “Offline Webpages” and placed a check in its checkbox, because I don’t use offline Webpages. (Note the “View” button: this allows you to see what is going to be removed.. if you’re the curious sort.)
When you’re finished making your selections (or, going with the defaults), click “OK”.

rusure.jpg

Don’t let this scare you. Click “Yes”. .

prog.jpg

Disk Cleanup will briefly show you that it’s working, and then return you to the hard drive Properties window. In my case, I will have cleaned 117,472 thousand bytes of useless files from my machine. The general rule of thumb is that you run this tool once a week for good hard drive health.

You are now done removing and compressing. But the Disk Cleanup tool allows you to get rid of more stuff you don’t use. There is a second tab, called “More Options”.

moreopts.jpg

Here you can click links (buttons) that will allow you to remove Windows “components” (such as IE, and the fax service), installed programs, and System Restore Points.
My advice on the last — System Restore — is to not save disk space here. Let System Restore itself handle removing the oldest Restore Points, which it does automatically.

The middle button takes you to Add/Remove Programs. The most effective way to give yourself more hard drive space, speed up your PC’s performance, and reduce your machine’s overhead is to uninstall programs that you never use. Forget “optimizer” programs, use this instead.

The Components button takes you to a sub-menu of Add/Remove Programs. Again, you probably don’t need to fool around here… so my General Advice is to ignore the More Options tab; but, it won’t hurt you to look around, and I’ve fulfilled the promise of the title of this article.

* Orig post: 11/7/07

Saturday fun: A reader wrote in and reminded me that, yes, while Mike Meyers is, indeed, “silly”, one should not forget that perhaps there is a “silly”-ier man on the scene: Jim Carrey. Though he has a large body of work, when I think of him, I do so (first) not as a pet detective, but in a skit on SNL.. which started a series of skits.. maybe you remember ..

While someone else wrote in with a vote for Mr. Bean…

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

And I salute you if you were geeky enough to have noticed that the disk pictured was a 10GB model. Kinda hard to believe there were such things.. my phone has more storage than that! (Here at T4E Headquarters, we use “geek” as a compliment.)

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


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July 23, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, software, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Four Vital Tools You Already Have…

But Might Not Know About

Revitalize and Protect Your PC With Windows’ Utilities

Computers get slower with age. And as we add programs and updates, sometimes little ‘quirks’ develop. The older our machines get and the more we use them, the worse these things become.

Largely, this is simply due to how our machines read and write the 1’s and 0’s to our hard drives, and various “clutter” that builds up. (But some of it is our fault. We humans are curious creatures and we like to install new programs and try them out, and then we just leave them there, unused…)

Windows gives us four tools – called “utilities” – to help us keep our hard drives clean, happy, and running smoothly (sometimes called “optimized”) which you might be unaware of, (or use often enough) as you have to right-click to find them. (Out of sight, out of mind, right?)

These are:
● Disk Cleanup Tool
● Error Checker
● Tool Defragmenter
● Backup

To get started, click on Start >Computer (or, “My Computer” in XP/older).
Comptr
Now right-click on the drive you want to “optimize” (usually, that will be “Local Disk (C:)”, but each drive [“volume”] will have this. C: is your main one), and a context menu will open — click on “Properties”.

gen tab

A new window will open to display the drive properties, and by default it will open to the “General” tab.

On this tab, we’re interested in the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup is a safe way to “take out the trash” and remove clutter from your disk.

My super-ultra-deluxe article on the in’s-and-out’s of this tool is here, More than you wanted to know about the Disk Cleanup Tool, but the short version is: click the buttons, answer “yes” and let it do its job. I recommend doing this once a week.

Now we dig down one layer, and this is hard work, so you might want to put on your gardening gloves, click on the next tab over.. the “Tools” tab.

———————————————————————

disk propts

Here you find the other three utilities buttons.

The top button is the Error Checking tool. Running this tool is a good way to eliminate those odd ‘glitches’. What it does is, it examines the physical surface of your hard drive looking for “potholes” and marks those areas as “bad” so that the computer won’t try to put your files there.

It also examines your file allocation table (FAT) and makes sure that all your internal roadsigns are pointing at the right streets. Um.. maybe a card-catalog-at-the-library analogy might work better — it makes sure all the index cards are in the proper order and all the Dewey Decimals are correct.
This tool is for use as a repair, and not a maintenance, so use it as needed and not on a schedule.

Next up is the defragmenter. I remind my readers to run this once a month, and to set an automation schedule for it (Vista and Win 7 already have that) in articles like, When was the last time you “defragged”?
Keeping your disk “defragged” is the best way to keep it running like when it was new. (Be sure to run Disk Cleanup tool before the defrag.)

The last — Backup — isn’t an optimizer or age-fighter, but it is probably the most important feature in Windows. I have written probably 30 different articles on just how important making backup copies of your files, photos, records, etc., is, and why you really, really, really want to do it. See How To Use Windows Backup Tool.

I don’t really know why — for all these years — Microsoft has not put these utilities right under our noses and in plain sight as separate entries under Start >Programs… But now that you know where they are, you can use them and get that PC of yours into a more “like new” performance state. Aka, “optimized”!

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

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May 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My CD-ROM Is Gone. Help!

How To Get Windows To See Optical Drives Again

CDROM Q: Paul I need your help. Yesterday I put a CD in my computer nothing happened. It has been working fine, and usually it will just start playing the first song. I put in a different disk and again nothing. I opened My computer and there was no icon for the DVD. Just icons for the Floppy A:, Local disk and no CD player. It just vanished! I rebooted and that didn’t help. What happened? How do I get my CD player back?

A: The exact steps required will depend on the cause of the issue, so the following answers are ‘generic’, and may not apply to your particular situation.

1) In Windows XP and older have a reputation for “losing” optical drives (but I have seen it occur in Vista) after uninstalling disc burning software — such as Roxio or Nero. Sometimes.. after installing; but usually it is an uninstall failing to work properly, which leaves incorrect values in your Registry.
Sometimes, though less frequently, a Windows Update, or other software change can cause this as well.

Sometimes Microsoft gets it right:
If this is you — you have uninstalled Roxio, say — the solution is to visit Microsoft Help & Support and click the “Fix It” button. (I have written about using the built in troubleshooter before, see Microsoft “One-click” Fixes)

The appropriate Fix it page/button is found here. One click should do it!

———————————

2) If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you can next try restoring your system to a prior (working) state by using System Restore. Please read How To Use System Restore To Fix Windows for instructions.

3) If that doesn’t help, or isn’t appropriate..
Open your computer’s case and check to make sure the power wires, and the ribbon cable are firmly connected to the back of the drive and to the motherboard — they may have become loose or disconnected.

No? Then open your Device Manager. Right-click on “My Computer” and select “Properties”. In Vista, click on Device Manager in the left column; in XP, click on the “Hardware” tab, and then click the “Device Manager” button.

In Device Manager, find “Optical drives” on the list, and expand the category by clicking once on the “+” sign. You should now see the device and a yellow triangle – which is telling you there’s an error.

Right click on the device’s name, and click “Uninstall” from the menu which opens. Answer “Yes”, you want to do that. Then restart (aka “reboot”) your machine. Windows should “find” a “new” CD-ROM and install it for you, thus restoring functionality.

4) If these steps fail, there is something else going on (maybe malware) and I recommend you contact a knowledgeable repair tech.. such as myself (shameless plug).

Today’s free link: KidsEmail.org. Along with ZooBah, something to consider when your child wants their own e-mail address.

Today’s free download: GOM Player is a free multimedia player with popular video and audio codecs built-in. GOM Player supports file formats such as AVI, DAT, MPEG, DivX, XviD, WMV, ASF. Users don’t have to install codecs separately. GOM Player is capable of playing incomplete or damaged AVI files by skipping the damaged frames. It can also play locked or partially downloaded files.

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

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May 4, 2009 Posted by | computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments