Tech – for Everyone

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

TGIF Revisited + Brands Techs Love/Hate

Folks, I may not get today’s article finished and posted today.. so I am quickly re-posting an article from March 2008 (with a new reco) so that you’ll have something to read, and a pretty picture to look at. Just in case.

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.

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

I like the Spring. Springtime alleviates a sad mental condition I have. Psychologists and Psychiatrists with nothing better to do have decided to name/label a rather common human condition, and they’ve called it “SAD”– that’s short for “Seasonal Affective Disorder“. And I guess I have it. “SAD” basically says that bitter cold, long periods without sunshine (as in shorter days/lots of clouds), extended indoor confinement (as in lots of rain/snow), brings us down (“Depresses” us).

I much prefer sunshine, air the doesn’t bite you, and green leaves and flowers everywhere to gray skys, mud, and bare, skeletal branches. Those (former) things cheer me up considerably.

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 power cord 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,

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

Brands Technicians Love & Hate: Folks, Bryce over at Technibble conducted an informal survey of repair technicians of which brand names they prefer (and which they shun) – broken down by category. I was not terribly surprised to see the results turn out to be nearly identical with my own ‘drothers’. To see the winners and losers, click here.

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

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March 11, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, tech | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speed Up Your PC – Free!

When my computer was fresh-out-of-the-box, and all shiny and new, it was speedier than it is now. It had a spring in its step that seems to be lacking now. Can you relate?

There are reasons for this ’slowing down’, of course. Some of them are just ‘facts’, and there’s not much we can do about them, and others we can (should) remedy. Today I’ll list and review the basic PC steps, which will optimize your computer’s performance, and provide you with the links to my more detailed How-To’s, as well as some great free tools.


image courtesy of

Tip of the day: Rejuvenate your PC.
A primary cause for PCs ’slowing down’ is simply that there is more stuff (files) on your hard-drive now, and the more you put on there, the more there is for your computer to keep track of (index). You have added applications (programs), Updates, and all your files, and the volume on your hard-drive has grown– probably quite a bit!
[note: to function properly, you should always have at least 10% keep some “free space” on your drive. Say, about 4 GB’s.]

Clean off the junk. As you use your machine, and browse the Internet, you will pick up scraps of files (temps), and you will put things into the Recycle Bin, etc., and I recommend that once a week you use the Disk Cleanup Tool to “take out the trash”. My article on this tool is here.

Get organized. As you machine writes data to the hard-drive, which it is doing a lot, it places things in the first available block of space to save time. The first available space is not necessarily the best or most logical place, though, and we need to come along after and put things in better order. The tool for this is a “defragmenter”, and it should be run at least once a month. I wrote an article on how to set this tool to run automatically, here.

Make space. You may also want to make more space on your hard-drive, and do some “serious cleaning”, by going into the Add/Remove Programs area of your Control Panel and uninstalling any programs you never use anymore.

Today’s free downloads: Believe it or not, some people just prefer not to use the tools built into Windows, and insist on using specialized “3rd-party” tools to do the job (imagine that).
* A top-rated (free) cleanup tool is CCleaner.
* A top-rated (free) disk defragmentation tool is the Auslogics Disk Defrag.
* A top-rated (free) program Uninstaller is Revo.

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

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February 20, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Repair your directories with checkdisk

The file system on a computer is a complicated thing, and a good analogy for describing it is to compare it to a library– your files and digital music and photos are the “books”, and your hard drive is the “shelves.” Libraries use a numbering system to keep track of which shelf Dr. Suess’ The Cat in the Hat resides on, so that you can find it amongst hundreds of other books.
Libraries list books and their shelving numbers in a catalogue for quick reference.

Your computer’s operating system uses a similar system, called a “file allocation table” or “directory” (the “catalogue”), to find the sectors on the hard drive (the “shelf”) where it has placed your file (the “book”). Because everything about computers is more complicated than it has to be (wink), this is an overly simple analogy.

Computers don’t necessarily store your file in one place on one shelf, but often divide up your file and store part of it here, another part there, and yet another part over there, in a deliberate form of file fragmentation. Nor do they “reserve” space for fiction and non-fiction, but place things in any open space. This is irrelevant to us mere mortals however, as the machine uses the catalogue to gather and assemble all the “chapters”, from all the different “shelves”, so quickly (microseconds) that we don’t notice that our “librarian” went to any trouble at all to fetch us the “book” we requested.
Most of the time.

Tip of the day: Resolve file system errors with the CheckDisk tool. The file locating “catalogue” on your machine is a living, dynamic thing. It is modified each time you install/uninstall, Save, move something into the Recycle Bin, and Delete. Like any “living” (dynamic) thing, your table needs to be healthy and properly cared for, and occasionally needs a doctor’s visit when it’s feeling out of sorts… the “therapy” for the file system on your machine is the CheckDisk tool (with the repair options enabled).

CheckDisk can be found in the Properties window of your drive(s), accessed by clicking My Computer (or, Start >My Computer.. or Start >Computer, in Vista).
The default hard drive in Windows systems is called “C:”. Right-click on the “Local Disk (C:)” icon and select Properties from the menu that opens. [a brief aside: this can, and should, be done to any file storage device from time to time.. including thumb drives.] Now click on the Tools tab.
Click the top button to start the “error checking” process, and launch CheckDisk.
Place (or make sure) checks in both checkboxes; “Automatically fix”, and “Attempt recovery”, as shown above. This will cause Windows to repair any corruptions and errors it finds during the CheckDisk scan of your file allocation table. The process updates and audits your directory and makes sure that all the “books” are where the “librarian” thinks they are.
Do not be alarmed when you see the “I can’t do this now” dialogue window open. To really do its job, CheckDisk needs to run before Windows loads and the directory gets put to use. Click on “Yes” to schedule CheckDisk to run at the next reboot, and it will do its job the next time you turn on your machine.
You may be surprised at the variety of errors this handy tool repairs, and is a very good “first step” in any troubleshooting situation.

Today’s free link: A Really Small App 2.0. This handy little tool shows you in simple graphs the things going on on your computer (CPU usage, running Tasks, startup programs, etc.) in one window, AND it shows you what other computers are connected to yours — a good way to find out if your machine has been hacked and is under the control of a bot herder.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 29, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , | 1 Comment