Tech – for Everyone

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

This Reader Question Is A Doozie

Average Joe Asks, “What are the basics we should employ?”

After reading my article, My Number One Piece Of Tech Advice* (For the non-techy), a reader posted this very good question:

Q: Taking this one step further – what would you say is the optimum computer set up for a beginner? ¹I am thinking of Internet Security and keeping the system optimized. I have Kaspersky and I think it is good.

I have Win7 and the other day, despite having Tune Up utilities, I found I had 20 svchost processes running. I’ve cut it down to 10.

What are the basics we should employ?

What can the average joe install to give him/herself peace of mind in terms of security and performance? What browser should they use (I use Firefox 3.6 but it takes 30 sec sometimes to open hence my interest in optimization – Chrome about 15 sec but I love my Fox). Peace of mind is all I want so I can get on with running several small businesses. — John.

A: John, first of all let me say that while your question is very practical and logical, there is no single answer..  there is no, “if you have x, and you do y, you will be bulletproof.”

There are – however – “Best Practices”.. and certain “Do’s & Don’ts”.
For the “do’s“, I have provided readers the basic “best practices” in what I call my “Top 10 Things You Should Do” list.
As for the “don’ts“, well, most of those are simple common sense (which is why so many people do them???) and some of them are “paranoid common sense”. For example, “don’t open attachments in an e-mail from a stranger promising riches” and “don’t pour a large soda onto your laptop”. (Both will produce very unhappy results!)

… some of your “more specifics”…

* I like Kaspersky, though I don’t have it on any of my machines and haven’t in years. I think it’s effective but I found it slow (I do use their online scanner frequently). Each of my machines has a different, top performing AV installed – currently:
Norton: NIS 2009, NIS 2010, 360 v3; Eset NOD32; Microsoft Security Essentials; PC Tools: Personal AV, Threatfire+AV, Spyware Doctor+AV; Avast! v5.0; and Avira Personal Edition. (Click here for my list and links of the for-free versions.)

My use of Anti-Spyware’s is equally varied — all highly rated. (Click here for my list and links of the for-free versions.)

I don’t really care, or have a preference, which one you use. I only care that you use common sense and best practices — namely, don’t let it “expire”, and do set them to automatically update themselves and run regular scans.

Many people suffer from PC slowdown. They wonder why their computer isn’t as fast as it used to be. So they download an “optimizer” or “Registry repair” (aka “cleaner”) program.
Please read, Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone.

The answer for slowdown – again – is: use common sense and best practices.
For the “do’s“, I have provided readers the basic “best practices” here, “Optimize” your hard drive. (Sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as “file system maintenance”; basically it means to clean off your old files and ‘build up’, and “defrag” your disk for faster performance.) There’s a difference between the files you have Save-ed, and accumulated, and the Windows Registry!

Applying common sense tells us the more stuff we have on our computer, the slower it will go. When our computer was brand-new, it had basically nothing on it (some trial software, and maybe a CD burning utility..). It was fast. Since then, we’ve added three media players, an accounting program or two, maybe a few games, Turbo Tax 2007, Turbo Tax 2008, Turbo Tax 2009, Flash player, Adobe Reader, Shockwave Player, Photoshop LE.. inhale.. 128 Windows Updates, maybe a “Service Pack”, various other Updates, a 500 song music collection, Blackberry Sync, iTunes,.. inhale.. Miro, “temp” Internet files, Live Messenger, Google toolbar, Yahoo toolbar.. aw, heck, you get the idea.

The first place to go – for a lean, mean, like-new machine is “Add/Remove Programs” in your Control Panel (named “Programs and Features” in Vista/7). Remove every program you recognize and know that you haven’t used in ages. If the uninstall asks about “shared DLL’s” answer “No to all”.. don’t take chances that something important may need them.
(If you have a little bit of savvy, I recommend the use of a “Uninstaller program” like Revo instead of the Control Panel.)

Removing unused programs not only cleans up your Start menu program list, and frees up room on your hard drive, but it can/does remove Startup items and associated Services. For my article on this, see My Startup Folder Is A Clown Car* and/or How To Manage Startup programs in Vista.

Which brings me to your mention of svchost…

* Svchost.exe is a generic host process name for services that run from dynamic-link libraries (DLLs). Having multiple instances of it running is quite normal. your computer is doing a lot of work we typically aren’t conscious of, as it’s “housekeeping” and happens in the “background”. My general advice for beginners is: don’t fiddle. My general advice for folks who think they’re “Power Users” is: don’t fiddle. I have seen IT Types royally mess up machines because they thought they knew how to “tweak” Services, and their names were not always “Paul”! Ha!
If you have followed the best practices, as described in this article and the referred to lists/articles, you should be at, or very nearly at, an optimal machine. You don’t need to fiddle…

But if you feel compelled, or simply must know what those svchosts are.. the tool for that is Mark Russinovich’s Process Explorer, and I really do advise anyone considering using it to read Using Process Explorer to tame svchost.exe – Advanced topics. (Really! Note the “advanced”? Not for beginners.) There is no “right number” of instances.. nor is 10 necessarily better than 20.. it all depends on what you’re asking your computer to do.

…as for browsers.. Firefox with NoScript is hard to beat. Here are 10 ways to beef-up Firefox.
30 seconds sure seems long to me.. even if you’re re-opening multiple tabs: check your “add-ons” [or toolbars] to see if any may be incompatible with 3.6.. maybe uninstall/re-install them one at a time. And try changing your homepage to a non-cluttered, non-ad/Flash loaded site, like “Fox fans” may want to look at the latest Opera, too.)

My general advice for beginners is: If you don’t know, don’t touch.
… or, I should say, “don’t touch until you’ve researched it thoroughly.” Remember, too, there’s no shame in seeking the council of a professional.

¹ emphasis: mine.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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March 8, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, software, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How To Connect a Router Without the Setup CD*

Reader asks how to connect to the Internet without the original CD

Q: “How can I connect to the Internet with my laptop via D-link router from desktop? We have no CD ROM for d link.”

A: You do not need the setup CD to make a router work (frankly, the following is my preferred method, as the CD’s usually install unnecessary “bonus features”.) Here is how you establish Internet connections on a (aka “configure a”) router… and I will use a D-Link as my example, but they all work basically the same.

1) Assign your PC an IP address in the same range as the router’s default address– for most routers, assign the IP of, but since this is a D-Link router, use (Look to to the router manufacturer’s website’s support page/FAQ’s if you don’t know this.)
[See “Assign Address” here for Illustrated instructions.]

2) Connect the PC directly to the router with an Ethernet cable.

3) open a web browser (IE, Firefox, Safari) and enter http:// and then the IP address number of the router into the address bar. (If you don’t know this, look to the router manufacturer’s Website for “default settings”). Typically, this is, or — but D-Link uses

4) Enter the default Name and Password (again, look to to the router manufacturer’s website’s support page/FAQ’s if you don’t know these). But typically these are “admin”+”admin”, or “admin”+”password”.
D-Link’s default is admin/admin.

Your are now in your router’s “web interface” Control Panel, and you can enter the PPPoE setting provided by your ISP. Typically all you need is an identifier.. which is an e-mail address + password.
If you can’t find or remember these, contact your ISP’s support. D-Link’s Wizard will help.

[note: Once your ISP has connected, and while you’re in the Control Panel, set your router’s security configuration, and set a new password (and write them down). Illustrated instructions can be found here,]

5) Return to your PC’s Network Connections (from Step 1) and reset your PC to “Get address automatically–DHCP”. Reboot your PC if necessary.

Today’s free download: Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. (Full Install.) Wolfenstein Enemy Territory is a stand-alone multiplayer game in which players wage war as Axis or Allies in team-based combat. In Wolfenstein Enemy Territory Axis and Allied teams do battle in traditional single scenarios, or wage war through a series of linked scenarios in a totally new campaign mode. During combat players gain experience and skill, and through battlefield promotions are awarded additional abilities that remain persistent across an entire campaign.

Today’s free link(s):
* Ginipic – Taking image searching to a whole new level…
* Inventive FaceBook Scammers Trick You Out of Money with Trojans

* Orig post: 10/13/2008. For some reason, this has been getting a lot of ‘hits’ this week…

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

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November 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, routers, routers and WAPs, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting The Best From Your HDTV

Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning

A very smart man once told me, “Paul, don’t re-invent the wheel”. He wasn’t being derisive or mean, he was simply reminding me of a basic tenet that I sometimes forget. I was reminded of it today when considering how to write today’s HDTV article, and in my research came across a series written by Becky Waring for PC World magazine. It says it all, and does so far better than I could, so I am simply going to point you to it! She covers all the bases, and if you own (or are about to own) a HDTV, I’m sure you’ll find it well worth your time.

“Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning of your home theater adventure. But don’t settle, as many HDTV buyers do, for just plugging your new set into your existing setup. The next steps you need to take after bringing your HDTV home are crucial to both your enjoyment of the set and getting the most out of your investment…”
Please see How to Install Your HDTV

Other titles in the series are:
How to Get the Best Video Signal for Your HDTV

How to Improve the Picture and Sound on Your HDTV

How to Connect Your New HDTV Properly

Stream HD Video From Your PC and Other Devices

[a brief aside: I seem to be coming across articles by Ms Waring more frequently of late, and I’m glad of it. She is top-drawer.]

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

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September 29, 2009 Posted by | advice, dtv, hardware, HDTV, how to, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments