Tech – for Everyone

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

Four (Software) Freebies

Folks, I recently became aware of some software titles you may want to check out, as they are (currently) free, and they seem useful.

I do not know anything about these companies or these titles. I have not tried them out, nor even bothered researching reviews (I don’t review software any more), except to see if the websites are safe (they seem to be) and if there’s major scam complaints (I didn’t see any).

So here you go:

* Protect System & Data in Windows PC and Server with FREE Backup Software
AOMEI Backupper 1.6

  • One-click backup your system drive to ensure system security
  • Backup disk & partition, create disk images and clone hard drive
  • Support Windows 8/7/Vista/XP and Server 2003/2008/2012 (32/64-bit)

Also from AOMEI, Partition Assistant Standard (formerly Home Edition)

Completely FREE for Private and Commercial Use

Hunting for an easy-to-use software to fix hard disk partition problems for Windows OS? AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard is the right one for your PC, guaranteeing you get the full features for creating, resizing, deleting, merging, splitting partition and more… “

Next up are two PDF tools from, that are being given away in a “social media” promotion (aka the “buying Facebook ‘Likes'” game). They are available for Windows, Mac and Linux

Users who enter can get not one, but TWO PDF software programs for free: Able2Doc PDF to Word Converter 7.0 and Sonic PDF Creator 3.0.

Able2Doc accurately converts PDF images and text to Word and Open Source formats, while Sonic PDF Creator offers advanced PDF creation and editing options. Put together, they form a full featured package of PDF conversion and creation software.

Each PDF tool is valued at $49.95 retail price, but to get both for free users will only need a Facebook and Twitter account. Here’s how it works:

· By Liking our Facebook page, users will get an Able2Doc download code to unlock a full version of the software.

· When they Like the page, users will also get a timed pop-up dialog with directions for getting Sonic PDF Creator via Twitter” You can check out the details here.

So .. there you go.

And, I’m curious..

Today’s quote:For a gallant spirit there can never be defeat.” ~ Wallis Simpson

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.

September 30, 2013 Posted by | computers, file system, free software, PC, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 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.

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

Video Tutorial — How To Dual Boot Win7

Want To Try Windows 7 RC? Don’t Delete Your Current OS — Dual Boot

Ever since I posted A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 RC, I have been asked questions about deleting the existing operating system to install Windows 7. So I want to be very, very clear — you do NOT want to delete your current, functioning Windows XP or Windows Vista installation, and then put Windows 7 on your machine.

Windows 7 is a beta. And it will “expire”. Those two facts preclude it from being your main operating system.

What you do want to do, is create a new partition and install Windows 7 there, and create a “dual boot” setup. This allows you to keep your old AND try the new. This brief tutorial from C/Net shows you just how to do this.. and how easy it is.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If after watching this video, you want to do this, Click here to download Windows 7

more about “Video Tutorial — How To Dual Boot Win7“, posted with vodpod

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

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will System Recovery Delete My Programs?

Most computers today come with manufacturer software and a partition on the hard-drive to provide the ability to do a “System Recovery”, oftentimes accessed through a program called “Recovery Center”.

hard-drives progs

I have received several inquiries recently as to whether or not running a “recovery” will remove (“delete”) installed programs and files.

A: Well.. Yes and no. It will “delete” your installed programs, and no, it probably won’t “delete” your files.


What the recovery software — when launched — will do is offer to copy the files on your machine to a backup location,{usually, it depends on the manufacturer, but most do} and them restore them again after it wipes out your C:\ drive and re-Installs Windows.
(Actually, a factory “image” of your machine taken right before it left for market.)

[note: you already have a copy of your files.. right? You do make backups.. right?!? If you answered, “uh.. no, not yet..” please read this.]

Your computer will basically be “restored” to factory defaults, and you’ll have to reinstall all your programs, and visit Windows Update, and tweak your Desktop.. deja vu all over again. But, the contents of your Documents folder will be copied back.

Because of this, you should consider this type of recovery a method of last resort, not to be tried until other methods — such as the built-in Windows’ System Restore — have been tried first.
Maybe.. call a Pro first?

Today’s free download: Digsby helps you manage all your IM, e-mail, and social network accounts from one easy-to-use application.

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

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October 6, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, software, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How to use Apple’s disk imaging tool

iPeople have long claimed that “their” operating system has been ahead of Windows. They say that Windows is always playing ‘catch-up’ with the Mac… and “borrows” (OK. Some say “steal”) the best ideas and features from the Mac OS.
This is an old, and often lively geek debate.

I won’t waste your time rehashing it, or taking sides, but I will say that one area in which the Mac was “ahead” of Windows was it has, for some time now (since OS 9), included a disk imaging utility. Windows users have to purchase such a tool (or find a download) unless you own Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise editions and… who does?
OS 9 came out in 1999.

This Monday, I wrote about how having two backup copies of your files/photos/music really is a Must Have, and how that had saved me much aggravation (I also provided a link to my article on setting the Windows Backup utility to automatically provide back-up protection.) when one of my XP machines refused to boot. Today I will demonstrate how to make a system-state backup copy of your hard-drive on a Mac.

Tip of the day: Create a “ghost image” back-up of your entire hard-drive for easier disaster recovery. The advantages to disk images are: they are compressible, you can encrypt  them, and they are fully searchable.. so you can go into them and retrieve single files or folders. They also “mount” easily, making for rapid “deployment”.
The primary disadvantage lies in the fact that since you are bit-for-bit duplicating an entire drive (or partition), they can be quite large. Also, they’re typically “fixed in time”, and can become stale if not properly amended.

The large size of a partition (drive) image is (usually) not an issue if you apply the second principle of a good back-up strategy: store the copy some place other than on that hard-drive— such as an external hard-drive or optical disc(s).

To make the image, you will use the utility called “Disk Utility”, which is found in the “Utilities” folder under “Applications”, (kinda where you’d expect to find it), which Mac describes as “/Applications/Utilities”.
Open Finder, and click on the black triangle next to Applications. Scroll down to the bottom, and click on the black triangle next to Utilities. Then click on the Disk Utility to open it.

* Under the File menu choose “New”, then “Disk Image”.

* Make sure the volume (drive) you want to copy is selected, then click “Image”.

* Chose Desktop from the “Where” pop-up menu.

Here, you can choose to encrypt, and/or compress. [Generally speaking, you should not encrypt your own (home) back-ups. A forgotten or misplaced password renders them useless!]

* Click “Save”. (You may need to enter an Administrator’s name/password.)

That’s it. Congratulations, you’re done. You will now have an icon on your desktop that is for all intents and purposes another hard-drive (exactly like your original). Double-clicking it “mounts” it and lets you run from it like any other volume (like a thumb drive).
You can (and should!) now move this image to another (attached) hard-drive, or burn it to CD/DVD(s) using Finder, or a disc burning utility.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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April 3, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back in the saddle

Whew! What a day yesterday was. It certainly proved to be one of those days.
You know the ones: they start off with something going wrong.. (like, the alarm doesn’t go off) and then they go downhill from there.
Yup. Those days.

Let’s count how many ways my day smelled up the joint:
1)An older system of mine decided that it would not boot into Windows (XP), and then — with a determination that would make a Missouri mule proud — resisted all resuscitation efforts. No problem (I said to myself.. it was still early in the day). I’ll just re-mount a “ghost image” backup from the DVD’s I made last week.

2)One of the 4 DVD’s was “corrupted”. As in “unreadable”.
As in.. that backup is totally useless to me. Four wasted discs. Caught me a little off guard, too… I pay extra to buy the best blanks, and the company to which I am alluding has never given me a “bad burn” before.

3)By reinstalling XP (which only takes an hour or so) I was able to to pull a full, system state Windows Backup Utility backup off of my external hard-drive. Yay!
3a) only to discover that I had been lazy and and forgetful on this secondary backup (method) of this secondary machine, and the “system state” it was restored to was (as it was in) mid-January. Two and-a-half months in Computer Years is like.. over a year to you and me; way out of date.
At least I didn’t have to reinstall all my programs, and drivers, and updates, and files.. and stuff. Only some of them.

About the same time #2 was happening…
4) I jammed/stubbed my middle toe on an ajar door. Wait! I mean I really did a good job of it.
I thought I was going to have to go to the ER there for a minute.
(Come on, guys. Feel sorry for me a little. Can’t ya? Pretty Please?)

About the same time I was half-way through getting my restored machine back into it’s modern config:
5) A client called to tell me they were having trouble publishing to the Website I had built for them (several months ago). This revealed a string of adventures we’ll just call 6) through 10). I won’t bore you with that, but I will tell you that it was nobody’s fault, and painstaking reconstruction resolved/eliminated all issues.. and, there was no “downtime”.

It was just a day where things that were supposed to “work” simply.. didn’t.

Some of all this is clearly my fault (I left the door ajar, and Iwalked into it), and some of of it is clearly Bill Gates’s fault.. and some of it it is the fault of mischievous invisible gremlins and/or the alignment of the planets.
Part of my problem was I had failed to fully follow my own advice.

So what lessons can we learn from my less-than-stellar day yesterday?
A: ‘Things’ can go wrong. Things can break, get lost or stolen, or be destroyed by fire, flood, lightning, or rust. If those ‘things’ are important, you need a “spare”. Such as, a spare house key.

In computing, these spares are called “backup” copies.
I was saved a slew of work and a ton of wasted time that problem #1 would have caused me had I not had a functional backup. That is why Industry Best Practice tells us to make two backups, and to store them on two different types of media.. in two different places.
The step I neglected was on my image-to-optical disc backup, I didn’t “verify” the integrity of all four discs as the final step of the backup process.

Both my Tip of the day and Today’s free link are combined today. If you have photographs, and/or a music collection, and/or important documents on your computer, you simply must make backup copies or risk losing them forever.

* Windows users should take advantage of the built-in Windows Backup utility. I have published a detailed How To for using it to automatically make backups and keep them up-to-date here (This is what saved my bacon.)
Apple Mac users can make an image backup using the Disk Management applet, which I describe here.

*Make another backup using another backup tool.. of which there are many different types. You might wish to use an “imaging” tool like Norton Ghost, Acronis TrueImage Home, or the free DriveImage XML (Bill Mullins talks about this program in a recent post, to read it, and see the appropriate download links, click here.)

* Verify your backups by testing them. Find out if they’ll work before you need them (Doh!)

The fact is, sooner or later, you will need a spare key to get into your house or car.. and sooner or later Windows or your hard-drive will die and you will need a backup if you want to see those photos or hear that music or work on those important document again.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

April 1, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, security, System Restore, tech, Windows | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Goodbye Bob Barker+recovery partitions+iPhone

Every now and then there comes a watershed moment and the world is changed forever and is never the same again. For instance; one day there was Pong, and suddenly we could ‘interact’ with our TV and a new word was born, “video game.” On another day the meaning of “apple” changed from ‘apple= a fruit’ to ‘apple= a personal computer that real people can use’…and it was in color so people actually wanted to (not to mention, it had a GUI), to name a few.

Pong screenshot             mac.jpg

Yesterday marked a watershed in my life — though certainly not on the level of import as the events mentioned above — and that is the retirement of Bob Barker from television and The Price is Right. Life will never be the same. Now I do not want you to think I’m a big fan of commercial/public television: I’m not. I particularly detest “daytime” television. There are however a couple of programs I watch fairly regularly, and whenever my schedule allowed, The Price is Right was one of them — in my younger days I would sometimes record it on a device called a “VCR”. The show made me feel…good. I become glad for the people who win (and saddened by a “double overbid”).

Some of my earliest memories are of watching Bob Barker on The Price is Right. He and the show have been a consistent part of my life…almost as consistent as “family”. Time marches on, and I am not angry at Bob for retiring. I just sort of feel like a part of my youth has gone missing. Goodbye, and thank you, Bob. (for an update on this click here.)

Some folks are saying the ‘invention’ of the Apple iPhone represents such a watershed moment in our history, much like Pong and the Mac were such moments. I want to state right here that I haven’t as yet touched an iPhone so I cannot say what it really does and does not do. I can say that it’s supposed to “revolutionize” our life experience by combining Websurfing (email), portable music, and mobile phone into one visually stunning and easy to use package (it runs a full OS, not some watered-down, “portable” OS), and I can say that from what I have seen, it is “cool.” If it can stand up to the physical abuse a cellphone takes, it could be a real winner. I invite anyone who has one of these items to submit their impression, as a comment, and let us know just how “revolutionary” it really is.

Tip of the day: Another recent ‘revolution’ in computing has snuck up upon us, more in the form of ‘evolution’, in that at some point and time PC manufacturers stopped shipping Windows Install disks and shipped instead a “recovery disk.” This disk was really an image of the machine taken after Windows, device drivers, and all the free-trial crud are installed. In the event of a serious malfunction, we could use this disk to restore our machine to as it was “out-of-the-box”. That is, by definition, without any of your files. Today, more and more manufacturers are skipping the disk altogether, and are storing the image on a “recovery partition.”

But what if the ‘serious malfunction’ was a hard drive failure (it happens)? Or, the machine simply will not boot properly? Your recovery solutions are limited. Windows Install disks have two very important features: they are “boot disks” , and they allow you to install the Recovery Console so that you can issue commands, and copy important system files back into the OS. I think this move to recovery partitions is just…wrong.

Fortunately, there are substitute boot disks, and the better ones also include utilities that allow you to scan for viruses, copy and delete system files, browse the Web, and other things that aid in making repairs. I recommend that you (if you haven’t already) download and burn one. I also recommend that you do this before disaster strikes. An excellent resource for boot disks can be found at, and my top pick is listed below.

Today’s free link: The Ultimate Boot CD. “UBCD4Win is a bootable CD which contains software that allows you to repair, restore, or diagnose almost any computer problem. Our goal is to be the ultimate free hardware and software diagnostic tool. All software included in UBCD4Win are freeware utilities for Windows®. ”

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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June 16, 2007 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, hardware, how to, iPhone, PC, tech, Uncategorized, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment