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How to speed up a slow PC

May 24, 2013 // Posted in Computer Tips (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

Slow PC?

Slow PC?

We have all had the problem that as your PC gets older and you install more and more programs your PC gets slower and slower. So what can you do to speed it up again? Here are five things that you can do:

De-fragment
This goes without saying, it is an essential regular maintenance job, however, I am surprised at how few people regularly do this if you ask them. Do You do this regularly? — Once a month is a good interval. It doesn’t matter which Windows OS you use, make sure you either manually de-fragment or set the machine up to automatically de-fragment at least once a month. When your PC’s files get very fragmented, they suffer serious performance issues. The built-in Windows de-fragmenter works just fine, but if you are looking for something a little better, there are many Free and Commercial products available

Clean up the hard drive
Have you ever filled up a hard drive? If this hard drive contains both your OS and your data files, your machine is going to die! This is often a major cause of slow running PC’s. You need at least 10-15% free on your hard drive for your PC to work, creating temporary working files. If  you haven’t got at least 20% free space, I would recommend you to start a clean up. The built in Windows Disk Clean Up utility quickly clears out all temp files for you, in various categories such as Internet Temporary Files, temporary download files, windows temp directory and more. Access it by right clicking the drive in MyComputer and click Tools > Disk Clean Up. Once you’ve done that, check your pictures, music and videos, as these are usually quite large files. Delete the ones you no longer need or copy them to an external drive or CD/DVD’s. Then check all your document files, delete those no longer needed and back up those you want to archive to another drive or DVD/CD. Once you have sorted those out, you can remove old Restore Points and Shadow copies (from the System Restore Utility) .Then check your installed programs, Do you need them all? There is probably some that you haven’t used for years, get rid of them using the Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. After you have done all this Empty the re-cycle bin, and check your Drive Space again. Right click the drive in MyComputer and click properties.

Now it’s time to clean up the registry
Errors in the registry cause major slowing down of the PC, and can cause it to stop altogether. Modifying the registry is not something the novice or inexperienced user should attempt on their own, as incorrect changes to the registry can prevent your computer from even starting up. Before you make any modifications to the registry, either manually or using a professional tool, ALWAYS backup the registry first, then you can always restore it if something goes wrong. There are many software tools available, some free and some commercial. Most of them will find many errors in your registry, it’s not always something you’ve done, over time removing programs, upgrades and driver changes will leave remnants in the registry that should not be there. Run a registry fix tool and let it fix the errors it finds. Reboot to confirm your PC still works, (Most registry fixes will make a backup of anything they change, so that you can restore them in safe mode if something goes wrong, but that doesn’t happen very often if you pick a good tool.) After the re-boot run the registry fix again, as some more errors will be found, that do not become apparent until some of the first ones removed have taken effect. Re-boot again and Run the tool again, repeat the process until no errors are found.

Remove spyware/malware
If you are using Windows you MUST have an anti-malware program installed or your machine is guaranteed to get infected with spyware, which will gradually make your PC slower and slower, not to mention the potential privacy and security issues. Malwarebytes is good for this, although most anti-virus packages have anti-malware included, they do not always find all of it. Malwarebytes, is good and there are free and commercial versions available. I have found, that this usually finds anything that my anti-virus package misses (I’ve tried various anti-virus packages and Mawarebytes always finds something that each one of them didn’t). Get free program updates regularly and run it at least once a week. You can even trigger it to start at a specific time and day each week using the Windows Scheduled Tasks facility.

Check the hard drive for errors
After long periods of use the hard drive develops ‘Bad Sectors’, fragments of files get left behind in the indexes and other information in the file descriptors etc. can become corrupt. To fix it, you’ll need to check the drive for errors. Right click the drive in MyComputer and click Properties > Tools > Check Now >  Check the options to Automatically fix file system errors and also to scan and attempt recovery of bad sectors, then click start. If this is your Windows drive, or contains files that windows needs to operate (e.g.Swap file, system files and some drivers), you will be told that Windows needs exclusive access to this drive, so cannot perform the check now, and then asks you if you want to schedule the check when Windows next starts. Click Yes and reboot. The Disk check will start before windows does when you restart. This may take some time as it will check every piece of the drive surface, every file,folder, descriptor table etc. You can also get third party disk checkers, but the built in windows one seems to work just fine.

Short URLs good or bad

May 24, 2013 // Posted in Computer Tips (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  1 Comment

First of all for those of you that do not know what a shortened URL is, here’s a quick explanation.

A shortened URL allows users to shorten, share, and often track links (web addresses). Reducing the URL length makes sharing easier. For example the shortened link http://bit.ly/steverblog would actually take you to my blog on MyOpera at http://my.opera.com/SteveRiches/blog/, and http://bit.ly/b3hHHs would actually take you to one of my web sites http://www.richosoft.co.uk/.

Shortened URL’s can be obtained for FREE from places like http://bit.ly, and others. Some like bit.ly, will also offer tracking statistics on your shortened URL’s. This allows you to see what site the visitor was referred by, how many people have clicked this URL, where they came from, what browser they were using and much more.

OK, so I have have a shortened URL for my page. What use is it to me or my friends, colleagues or business contacts?

  •     When Tweeting on Twitter, I can save characters in my tweet by reducing the length of a link to my website that I wish to include, but the viewer can still reach the long link address in one click.
  •     When sending an email and including my web address, I can shorten any link to my website, making the email less cluttered, and if it is a very long web address, avoid the viewer having to cut and paste the address because it wouldn’t fit on one line in the email.
  •     I can get extensive tracking statistics. (see above)
  •     I don’t have to type long web addresses into emails, tweets and facebook posts, reducing the possibility of typing errors.
  •     Links look tidier.

So much for the benefits what are the possible problems?

When you click the link http://bit.ly/b3hHHs you do not know where it is going to take you, whereas when you see the link http://www.richosoft.co.uk/, you can be pretty certain you are going to the RichoSoft site.
http://bit.ly/b3hHHs could be taking you to a porn site, phishing site, malware distribution site or some other un-desirable site.

ADVICE
My advice to you is to only click shortened links if you are confident that the source is genuine and the link valid. Some big companies use shortened links including companies like The BBC, Opera and big retail organisations, and the links they may send you, or post on twitter can usually be trusted.

Also whatever link you see in an email or internet page, be aware that you might not actually be going to the site shown, eg: Click this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk

Where did it take you?    Did you see the BBC home page?   You now see what I mean?

In most browsers today, you can preview where the link is really taking you by first hovering over the link and checking out the status bar,  some email clients do the same or similar. So before clicking a link check it out first.

How to remember many Strong Passwords

May 24, 2013 // Posted in Computer Tips (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

We all use the Internet more and more, and now regularly visit many sites that require a password.

Strong Passwords are Good

Strong Passwords are Good

 

But how do you remember so many different passwords as it is best to set a different password for each site?
You can do this effectively by:

 

 

  1. Write just part of your password down, or store in a file, or on your mobile phone. But what if someone steals my phone or computer or finds my paper? That is OK, because you are only writing down part of your password, and they will not know what site it refers to, as we will see in a moment.
  2. Create STRONG passwords with letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters, and keep them as long as possible. Mix upper and lower case characters. This way they cannot be guessed. Never use your date of birth, or house number/post code or name in your password, as people can get these off the Internet in places like Facebook etc.
  3. Now you need to create your passwords:
  • Think of a PIN that you will always remember, 3 ,4 or 5 characters long, something like  3478# or 8#7 or 23&4.
  • For each web site you need a password for create a code that helps you remember what site it is for e.g.,  FBk for facebook, RSoF for RichoSoft, TWit for Twitter etc.Next add some random characters  e.g., 4556, or zc98@.  Use different random characters for each password.

    These you write down, save in a file or store in your phone. Anyone finding these would not know what they refer to, and the password is not complete anyway, so would not work.

You now have passwords that look like this:

FBk298745+C
RSoFhgTf89%F
TWitBV65W_u

 

  • Next we use your PIN. Decide whether your PIN will be at the beginning or end of your password, and when using the passwords add  your PIN, to this position. So if we had a pin 3478#  our passwords above  would become:
FBk298745+C3478#
RSoFhgTf89%F3478#
TWitBV65W_u3478#
OR
3478#FBk298745+C
3478#RSoFhgTf89%F
3478#TWitBV65W_u
  • These full passwords are the ones to use on the sites, and now we have STRONG passwords that cannot possibly be guessed, and you only need to remember the PIN Part and whether it is at the front or back. The rest is written down or saved  so you do not forget it. By having a different password for each site, if someone does actually find out one of your passwords the others are totally safe.

Keeping your Computer Secure

May 24, 2013 // Posted in Computer Tips (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

Nowadays more and more people are using their computers for all kinds of communication, Internet, Social Networks, Banking, Shopping, Chatting and live video and phone calls.  But the more we do, the more risk becomes from hackers, and attackers.

Whilst some of these are simply trying to inconvenience you by maliciously infecting your PC, others are trying to get your personal information and to access your bank accounts. These are doing what is called ‘phishing’.

Computer Security

Computer Security

So what can you do to minimise the risk?

Install a complete Internet  Online Security Package, one that contains a firewall, anti-virus, anti-fishing, anti-spam and ID protection, such as McAfee Internet Security Suite. It’s a good idea to get one that also checks web pages as you go them for suspicious activity. Make sure you have automatic updates switched on to keep the virus patterns etc. Up to date.

Always make backups of your important files, pictures and documents on DVD or external hard drive, and store it safely away from your PC.

Make sure you are running genuine Windows Software (If this is your OS), and switch on automatic updates to keep your PC up to date with the latest security patches.

Check your Browser’s settings, and select the maximum level of security.

Do NOT open email attachments without checking them for viruses, and if they are not from someone you trust, delete them!

Do NOT follow any links in emails asking you to reset, reconfirm or update you bank account details. Banks do not send this kind of email, so it is surely phishing, delete them!

Create a Boot and recovery disk for your PC, in case it becomes infected viruses and will no longer start up, some Security Software will create this for you automatically.

Turn off your computer and/or disconnect from your network, when it is not in use.

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