Tech – for Everyone

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

No Tricks (and at least one Treat!)

First up, let me wish you a Happy Halloween!

• Are you interested in making your computer run as fast as it did when it was new?

Okay.. I admit, that was kind of a ‘trick question’. It seems every single human on the planet is looking for some magic answer to the at fact that their computer has gotten slower and slower. (Maybe.. taking all morning just to start up.)

I have said here many times that the reason your computer was as “fast” as it was when it was new is because there was basically nothing on it. (It was “lean and mean”) Now you have installed anywhere from 27 to 270 programs; 1,214 “updates”; amassed 500 songs and movies.. have Skype running.. online backup..
Of course it’s slower: it has more to do and keep track of.

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! (yes.. there’s a treat coming..)

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.

Easiest: The easiest method for keeping your computer “running like new” is a paid, “always running” tune up program — and again, there’s a gazillion of these out there. These programs run in the background, and do all your maintenance work for you. Surprise! I have a reco on this type as well!

Some time ago now, I reviewed (and had a very popular license giveaway) TuneUp Utilities 2010, an award winning tune up program (see my review, here). I have had this running on one of my machines ever since.

Now there’s the brand-new TuneUp Utilities™ 2012! Which includes two new features.

The Most Powerful TuneUp Utilities of All Time!

  • Boosts PC speed by up to 50%, all thanks to Program Deactivator 2012
  • Extends battery life with an all-new TuneUp Economy Mode
  • Saves power by up to 30% and upgrades PCs with an enhanced power management
  • over 30 tools in 1: more speed, better stability, less problems

I received a copy and have been running TU2012 for about a week now, and I have to say I agree with this reviewer’s article, which includes screenshots (and referring you is easier than typing!). And again, my original review is here. TU2012 retails for $50, and a license can be used on 3 machines.

Finally! A Treat! I happen to have an extra license (thank you, TuneUp Utilities!) which I am going to give away to a lucky reader, this week, by means of a random drawing. Residents of the US and Canada only may enter the contest drawing by simply by leaving a comment – click on “comment” (below), and enter a name and a valid e-mail (so I can send you the license key) in the form. Actually commenting is optional. And, I shouldn’t have to say this, but multiple entries will result in disqualification.
Again, the license can be used on up to three PC’s.

Also again, I thank the folks at TuneUp Utilities for making this giveaway possible. A 15-day free trial of TuneUp Utilities can be downloaded here. Try it out yourself. (And then leave a comment. You may just win an activation key..)

*** More Treats ***

BDLot is having a Halloween Sale on their DVD Clone Ultimate and DVD Ripper titles. Act now and save, details here.

• Remember my review of Genie Timeline? You can take advantage of a special 50% off savings here (and, if you like, my review is here).

Today’s quote: “When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~ Unknown

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. <<


October 31, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, performance | , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Software Giveaway: Handy Backup

Folks, I am pleased to announce my latest software license giveaway drawing.

The folks at have asked me to run another giveaway of their highly regarded backup software, and this time have generously donated 7 licenses for Handy Backup Standard to me, to award to my readers. I sincerely thank them for that. (The first giveaway proved very popular!) So I am going to do a random drawing¹ contest from folks who “enter” by posting a comment (below). The drawing will close Thursday, October 6th, and the winners announced Friday. So act now!

Handy Backup ($39 retail) is a program for creating “backup copies” of the files on your computer – which regular readers know, is something I repeatedly urge people to do! With a backup program like Handy Backup, you can set-it-and-forget-it

I personally do not use “online backup” as my ‘solution’, nor will I ever. I use external drives (and/or discs) and software like Handy Backup. I do not trust “the cloud” to either be secure or always available. And with my method, I’m not renting, I’m owning. Below, I will give you my impressions of HB and some screenshots, but first…

CNet Editors say,
“Handy Backup Standard offers users an easy, streamlined approach to backing up important files and folders. Novice users will especially appreciate the program’s easy navigation.”

Publisher’s description:

Handy Backup™ Standard is an easy-to-use backup software designed to perform automated backup of your computer. User-friendly interface and a rich set of backup features make it one of the best PC backup software for home and small office use.

Handy Backup will automatically backup your data with the options of file mask filtering, backup compression, backup encryption, “native”, and other options. The application supports backing up to DVD/CD, Blu-ray, HD DVD discs, LAN/FTP and Online.

I found it easy enough for beginners, as it uses a “wizard” to walk you through the process of creating a “task” (a backup, or a restore) the first time it runs (but after that first time, you need to click on “New task”, which is not made obvious). I particularly like Handy Backup’s ability to automatically “span” a backup set across multiple CD/DVD discs (you must place a check in a checkbox, though), prompting you to insert a fresh disc when it fills up the current one. (One other note.. you need to place a check in “Verify the backup after burning” to help ensure a successful write. This should be the default, IMHO.) Handy Backup successfully handled every backup and every restore operation I tested it with. It is a full-featured backup solution.
One critique: it does not support “selective file restoring”.

To see the full Handy Backup slideshow, click here. (the article will open in a new window.)

How to enter? Residents of the US and Canada only may enter the contest drawing by simply clicking on “comment” (below), and entering a name and a valid e-mail (so I can send you a license key) in the form. Actually commenting is optional. And, I shouldn’t have to say this, but multiple entries will result in disqualification. (In this contest. Entry in prior contests doesn’t count against you.)

Again, I thank the folks at for making this giveaway possible. A 30-day free trial can be downloaded here, Download Handy Backup. Try it out yourself. (And then leave a comment. You may just win an activation key..)

¹ All entrants will be placed into Random.org’s “randomizer”, and the top 7 results will be the winners.

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. <<


October 3, 2011 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, free software | , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Tip of the day (really a “reminder”) for your Friday

There’s just something about Fridays that you gotta love.  :-)

We humans simply must have some light at the end of the tunnel, or we will flag, sag, and eventually quit trying. Friday (for most of us) is that light — the end of the work week is not only in sight, it’s mere hours away!

And Friday for a lot of us (me too… when I was younger) means that we will “go out”; we will “celebrate”; we will eat, drink, and (maybe) dance with friends, co-workers, and complete strangers. We will make merry. A joyous break in the routine.

Friday means the weekend is here. Isn’t that a magical word? “Weekend”. (I smile just thinking it.)
Sure, the weekend isn’t all fun-and-games.. there’s lawns to mow, and cars to wash-and-vacuum, and a “Honey-Do list” a mile long, and grocery shopping.. there’s church, weddings to attend, children’s birthday parties, friends-who-need-help-moving-to-a-new-apartment and,.. have you cleaned out your gutters yet?
Weekends are never long enough.

So today is Friday and it feels like Spring is here.
19_10_11-spring_web.jpg

Here where I live, we’ve had several warm sunny days in a row. So.. the other day I gave my car a bath. Washed all the grime away. Guess what? It rained hours later.
Is that cliche, or what?

OK, this is a “tech” site..
Tip of the day: Springtime means Spring Cleaning (and pruning.. and planting.. and gutter-cleaning..) and so I am going to remind you that your computer needs an occasional cleaning too. (Nice transition, eh?)

1) Get rid of the dust and lint: Dust and lint can reduce your computer’s performance, cooling efficiency, and even cause fatal short-circuits.
* For desktop PCs, unplug your computer’s powercord from the wall and open your computer’s case so you can see all the neato circuitry inside. How, exactly your case opens will vary with make/model, but it is usually a side panel, and the side panel is held in place with two thumb-screws (the manufacturer’s website will have instructions, also).
Once the case is open, use the techniques I described in my recent printer maintenance article to remove the built-up dust bunnies. Pay special attention to air venting areas (and screens), such as by the power supply. (And, be careful and be gentle.)

* For notebooks, your cleaning is going to be a little different: you will want to get all the debris from out from under your keyboard keys, as I describe in this article. And you’ll want to wipe down your screen with an anti-static cloth (which may may require the slightest [just a drop or two.. in one corner..] moistening with plain water.

2) Get rid of disk clutter: Empty the trash that accumulates on your hard drive for a leaner, meaner file system. Fortunately there’s a one-button tool for that in Windows, https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-disk-cleanup-tool/

So let’s get busy and do some “Spring Cleaning”.. and don’t forget to notice the flowers.

Source post: 3/14/08

A little “preventative” care and maintenance goes a long way. I hope you will follow through (especially you folks whose PC sit on a carpeted floor) and make your machine happy. Happy machines run better!

Today’s free download: A great CD/DVD/Blu-ray authoring tool, Ashampoo Burning Studio 6, allows you to create easily installable backup archives (across multiple disks), handles most music formats, copies DVDs, and works with .iso files. Possibly the best free alternative to Nero.

Today’s quote:Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” ~ Samuel Ullman

Bonus (for reading this far): The 20 most useful Android smartphone apps of 2011

Jason Hiner provides his list of the top 20 tried-and-true Android smartphone apps that are worth your time to download. Read more..

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. <<


September 16, 2011 Posted by | advice, Android, computers, file system, free software, how to, mobile, PC, performance | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Restore A Missing CD Drive*

“Reader writes and asks for help with The Case of the Missing Device…”

Sometimes Windows “Loses” The CD Player..

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 (C) 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. Read through the list to find the appropriate one for you.

1) 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.

* Orig post: 5/4/09

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. <<


June 14, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Software License Giveaway: Auslogics BoostSpeed 5

I am pleased to announce my latest software license giveaway drawing.

Folks, I had decided to not run any more contests; but, I recently received an email from a company I trust, asking me for a review. The upside for you is: the folks at Auslogics have generously donated three licenses (a license can be used on up to three PC’s) to me, to award to my readers. I sincerely thank them for that. So, I am going to do a random drawing¹ contest from folks who “enter” by posting a comment (below). The drawing will close midnight (Pacific) Thursday, April 7 — the winners announce Friday — so act now.

BoostSpeed is a program (maybe more accurately, a suite of programs) for optimizing your computer and improving its performance. I have been testing it for a week now and, below, I will give you my impressions, but first…

This system optimization tool suite takes an everything-plus-the-kitchen-approach to cleaning, optimizing, and potentially speeding up your PC. ” ~ PC World (read full review)

CNet says:

“BoostSpeed is an effective all-encompassing utility suite, combining some of Auslogics’ popular freeware titles such as Disk Defrag and Registry Defrag with services that they don’t offer elsewhere… BS_cnet_stars

Here is CNet’s video review and description of BoostSpeed. (The full review is here.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Publisher’s description:

Your one-stop PC maintenance and optimization tool.
The program will clean up, speed up and repair your system
to make it running as fast and stable as new.

  • Cleans up the Windows registry
  • Defragments hard drives
  • Frees up disk space
  • Recovers accidentally deleted files
  • Speeds up Internet connection

click to see larger

I found BoostSpeed 5 safe, and it’s 1-Click feature quite easy enough for beginners. This is a comprehensive set of tools, and I was happy that it also had cool goodies (aka ‘tweaks’) for the Power User too (I was particularly impressed by the comprehensive TCP/IP ‘tweak’ options). For giggles,  I also installed and ran BoostSpeed 5 on a machine that had a competitor’s “live optimization” suite running, and BoostSpeed 5 found a couple hundred (minor) issues the other had been missing (see screenshot).

My one ‘critique’ is minor: the “scheduler” is not turned on by default, and you need to go into the advanced settings menu to enable it (and set a scheduled scan); which the ‘casual’/’novice’ type of user won’t (I suspect) know to do.. and there’s no prompts. Hopefully, a (future) update will cure that oversight.

But I won’t reinvent the wheel here –> for the “full skinny” on BoostSpeed, I refer you to (and encourage you to read) Bill Mullins comprehensive review, Auslogics BoostSpeed 5 – A Powerful “One Stop” Optimization And Maintenance Suite, which he posted just a few days ago.

Auslogics BoostSpeed 5 is $49.95/year, and supports the following Windows versions:

  • Windows XP with SP2 or later (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 2003 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 2008 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit)

How to enter? Residents of the US and Canada may enter the contest drawing by simply clicking on “comment” (below), and entering a name and a valid e-mail (so I can send you the license key) in the form. Actually commenting is optional. And, I shouldn’t have to say this, but multiple entries will result in disqualification.
Again, the license can be used on up to three PC’s.

Again, I thank the folks at Auslogics for making this giveaway possible. More reviews can be seen, and a 15-day free trial of BoostSpeed can be downloaded, here. Try it out yourself. (And then, maybe, leave a comment. You may just win an activation key..!)

¹ All entrants will be placed into Random.org’s “randomizer”, and the top (first) 3 results will be the winners.

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. <<


April 4, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, PC, performance, software | , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Get A Faster “Boot up” Time With Startup Delayer

Free utility manages program launch at startup. (More rain here. Yippee.)

Folks, one of my most frequently asked questions is some variation of “How can I make my machine faster?” and/or the (usually) directly related complaint of the machine taking forever to start up in the morning.

People don’t like it when I tell them it’s their fault. (Well, at least half their fault.)

I have written several articles about what to do about slow PC’s (enter “speed up”, or “optimize” in my Search widget). I won’t repeat myself. But if you have come here looking for specific tips for faster startup, PLEASE, first read My Startup folder is a clown car (it will open in a new window/tab) and then read Manage Startup programs in Vista. These articles will teach you the thinking behind, and How To methods for, disabling programs from “auto-launching”, and bogging down your machine.

But perhaps you don’t want to completely disable the program autolaunch. That’s when a program that can set a delayed time to auto-launch is key.

When Windows loads it’s Startup file, it attempts to load every program in there at the same time. Therefore if you have quite a lot of programs starting when Windows starts, each program will try and grab CPU time so that it can load. When each program tries to do this at the same time, (which is what happens at boot up) you soon notice the slow down that occurs, due to your CPU trying to help all the programs to load, and your hard disk accessing multiple files.

What is needed is a little “traffic control”.

Startup Delayer utility presents you with a list of all the programs that start when your system does. To set a delay for any of them, just drag it to the white bar at the bottom of the window. You’ll see a line representing the program; drag it left or right to decrease or increase the delay. Repeat this for other programs you want to postpone.

For example, if you have iTunes installed, you’ll see a startup program called iTunesHelper.exe. Unless you plan to connect your iPod or run iTunes the very moment your PC boots, why not delay this applet for two minutes? Same goes for things like Adobe Reader Quick Launch and Google Updater. Delay those for, say, 4 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. (Do not mess with programs you don’t recognize. They are probably essential Windows system files, and fiddling can cause crashes and/or weird ‘glitches’.).

Startup Delayer is free, and it is one of the best way I know of to speed up a slow-booting PC. It’s a must-have for anyone who installs a lot of software. (Though, I prefer the tactic of keeping my machines “lean and mean”. I uninstall any program I do not use frequently — Step 1 of computer “optimization”. Go to Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features > Uninstall a program, and let the list “populate”.)

Today’s reco’d reading: Where to Shop for Computers, Computer Parts, Accessories, Electronics and Other IT Products…

Facebook scam alert: Please know (and tell your Facebook friends) there is a scam “program” that steals your private data by claiming to tell you visitor statistics..

From Facebook: “Facebook does not provide applications or groups with the technical means to allow people to track profile views or see statistics on how often a particular piece of content has been viewed and by whom. If an application claims to provide this functionality, please report the application by going to the application’s About page and clicking “Report Application” at the bottom of the page, or by clicking “Report” at the bottom of any canvas page within the application.”

Psst. Hey, you. I got some cool sandals for you..


a world filled with geniuses…

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. <<


March 24, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, software, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How To Get Windows To See Optical Drives Again*

“Reader writes and asks for help with The Case of the Missing Device…”

Sometimes Windows “Loses” The CD Player..

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.Read through the list to find the appropriate one for you.

1) 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.

* Orig post: 5/4/09

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


>> 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 :

August 7, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments