Speed Up Your Computer (7 Easy Ways)

Speed Up Your Computer

 

7 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer

I have heard this time and time again… “My computer used to run so fast when I bought it but now it runs so slow. It is only X years old?”……… If you live in the Haldimand / Hamilton Area, I can help you with this, contact me.

If you are online a lot, your computer may slow down for a few reasons. In my 15 plus years’ experience of working on computers and servers, I found that there are 7 things that contribute to the performance of a computer. “Undoing” these things from time to time can help your computer run optimally for years. Follow these 7 ways to speed up your computer and you can’t go wrong! The only thing you really have to worry about is hardware failure (That is why you perform backups  :))

Viruses

I am finding this to become less and less of a problem but it still needs to be considered. Viruses need to be downloaded and run for them to be effective and people are getting better and not doing this. However, those who try to distribute viruses find crafty ways to get you to click. For example you receive an official looking email that may be from your bank asking you to verify some account info. How about the UPS email that wants you to download an attachment of an invoice you are apparently waiting for? Maybe Revenue Canada needs you to download an attachment to verify some income tax info? The problem is we are inundated with email and we also do business we all of these parties from time to time. That makes for a deadly combination, especially when you really need your computer to work. Computer performance issues aside, it is also not good for your identity info since that what they are trying to get anyway (I will talk more about this in a future post). So if you are not sure if your computer is affected, doing a periodic virus scan is a good idea.

I myself use what comes with Windows but for the less technical you should get a subscription from an antivirus company you trust. There are several companies to choose from. I have listed a few here (Look under “About your Antivirus”). Most offer scheduled scanning and allow you to choose between quarantining and removing the offending program. Keeping the virus definition up to date is very important.

Malware

Malware something that accumulates over time through extensive web surfing. You really don’t where it’s coming from but every time you look up information on the web about something a pop up might bother you to click it and not let you go back to your web browser until you click it. There>….. you just got some malware. A neat little trick I tell people to do is to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and bring up Windows task manager. Under the process tab you will see several “iexplore.exe” or “firefox32.exe” or “Chrome.exe”, depending on what browser you use etc…. End task them all or at least the offending pop up window. When you restart your browser and it complains that it was not shut down properly DO NOT restore the last browsing session. At least some of the Malware has been averted.

Like virus scanning, periodic Malware scanning helps remove any offending programs that could be slowing your computer down.  The best program hands down is Malwarebytes . It comes in a free version or a premium version. If you have multiple users on a single computer (and they happen to be kids) I would recommend purchasing the premium version. You can schedule scans and it also does real-time scans. In a pinch, the free version is good but you need to run the scan manually.

Taking periodic care of Viruses and Malware will definitely speed up your computer.

Web Browser Toolbars

So you need Flash and Java to have full functionality on some web pages, great! The problem is if all you do is click Next, Next, Next, Finish to get the program to install you may have installed some toolbars that you didn’t know about. This is just a couple of examples here. There are a lot of programs that do this so I don’t want you to think I am picking on Flash and Java. They are just very popular programs. Each toolbar that loads when you start your web browser increases the time in which it takes for your browser to properly start. I have had an instance where a client complained that it took three minutes for Internet Explorer to become functional, the culprit? A printer toolbar that once was uninstalled, the browser went back to less than a second to load! The message here is to watch what you are installing and if it is a web tool bar you are not really going to use, uncheck the box or decline the install before hitting “Next”.  Your frustration level with your computer will thank you! This is also an excellent way to speed up your computer.

Accumulated Programs

Over time you will probably install a lot of programs on your computer. Those programs may load bits of software that loads when your computer starts. In Windows XP you would know this because the task tray beside the system clock would show a lot of icons. Sometimes they would go right across the lower part of the screen! With Windows Vista and above those icons are now hidden and only show when the notification area is expanded. If you don’t need to use a program anymore, uninstall it. Just go to your control panel under “Programs and Features” and click uninstall. The less that loads at start up, the faster your computer will be ready to go! Nothing will speed up your computer faster then not having to load a bunch of unwanted programs at start up!

Disk Clean Up

Keeping the drive clean of any unwanted files is a great idea. If you have had system crashes they build up system error memory dumps that you don’t actually see but take up space on your hard drive. Performing a disk cleanup will help.  Go into the C Drive’s properties and click on “Disk Cleanup”:

Check what files you want removed (I recommend at least error reporting files and temporary internet files) Click “OK” and it will do its thing!

Fragmentation

Disk Fragmentation occurs over time when the computer’s hard disk reads and writes data. As you delete data from the disk “Free blocks” for writing new data become available. The problem is, if the file the computer wants to write will not fit on a free block of data on the hard disk it has to store it on two or more blocks of free space. This can be on very different spots of the disk. You see the data as one file but the computer may see it has several spots on the hard disk to retrieve that data for you (I won’t go into the technical details). The good news is if you have Window Vista or higher disk defragmentation occurs automatically (unless somehow you turned its schedule off). It doesn’t hurt to do it manually every once and awhile. You can at least analyze the disk to see if it needs it too.

You can access the disk defragmenter by going to the properties of your Boot Drive (C Drive):

 

Clicking “Analyze” will tell if you disk needs to be defragmented or not. If your hard disk can run faster, you will speed up your computer!

Disk Corruption

If your computer has crashed from time to time, the disk will probably have some corruption on it. By performing a scan disk, the corruption can be repaired for you:

 

When you click “Check”, Windows will tell you if a scan disk needs to be performed. If it does, it may ask you to reboot your computer to complete it. Not having any disk corruption will definitely speed up your computer.

 

By taking care of these seven items regularly, your computer will run faster (practically as fast as the day you bought it). If you have any questions contact me!

Living Inside Your Head

Living Inside Your Head

Living Inside Your Head

Here is some more inspiration (and yes it is on a Friday again)! This is part 3 in my series about the inspiring stories and how I got them published. Part one is called Friday Inspiration and part two is called Wednesday Inspiration and I encourage you read them! I want to share them with you because I know that what I have gone through is nothing new. Everyone one is battling something and little inspiration will make them feel that they are not alone. This article was published last month in Cracking the Happiness Code and is about how to stop living inside your head. I have found that a lot of people talk themselves out of doing something even before they get started. This article show your that as soon as you stop living inside your head, you will start accomplishing more of your dreams and goals! Living inside your head is like a prison and by just starting to accomplish some of the things you think about breaks you free! Please read the article here . I hope you enjoy it and thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday Inspiration Message

Wednesday Inspiration!

 

Wednesday Inspiration

In part 2 of my 3 part series. I would to share with you a post that was on havingtime.com . It talks about what lessons I learned from surviving a brain tumor. Yes it was scaring but I knew I was going to OK if I kept a positive attitude and looked at it (or framed it as such). The main lesson I learned is that no matter what you face in life, if you looked at it in a more positive light, you will react differently to it and you outcome will be better. By keeping this attitude, things will snowball and in a good way!! Before you know it, you will be stronger and doinf things you never thought you could. All you had to do was look at things a different way!

Here is the link . I hope you enjoy it! Have a great Wednesday.

Friday Inspiration

Friday Inspiration

 

Friday Inspiration

I don’t know about you but it has been a busy week! I have been doing a lot of work on a really cool website and a few computer systems that their hasn’t been a lot of time to post on my blog. So instead of giving you a technical post, I have decided to show you what has been going on in some of my inspiration writings.  If you have had the chance to check out the about me section on my website, you will see what was the inspiration that led me to become what I am today. As you can see by the article, it doesn’t have to be glamorous but it should make you feel certain about yourself and where you are going. I have been posted in three different inspirational blogs the last few months. The Change Blog, Having Time and Cracking the Happiness Code. These blogs are chock full of information which can help you with whatever you might be feeling at the time. A job loss, illness or maybe you are stuck at a particular point in your life and need some inspiration. These blogs give a great reference point for you to begin making the necessary changes (or at least start thinking about them). Each week, I am going to feature one of my posts to these blogs on my site. I encourage you to go to these sites and sign up for their email newsletters.

The Change Blog

Here is my article from the Change Blog. It is about how being calm in dire situations will not only help you weather the storm but come out all the better on the other side!

How a Brain Tumour Calmed My Fears

I hope you enjoy it. Happy Friday!

AdSense..apparently I have no sense (or cents) :)

Adsense

AdSense: What I have learned so far…

I found out something the other day. My blog isn’t very appealing. I will tell you how I found out…..I have been tracking the visitors to my site for several months and it has been going up steadily and that is great. I also added my social feeds from my business (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) and submitted a site map to Google and Bing for Indexing. I figured the blog would be a great value added content to my IT business. So you would think things were going smoothly? Well I decided to start using adSense (I really thought I was at that point). Well after a few weeks I checked on my progress and well it was not promising, so I dug a little deeper.

While the visits are steadily going up, there are little comments on my blog posts except for spam (Which I trashed). All the wonderful posts on my social networks that lead back to my website show that there have been little views so I did some research and I found this great article on AdSense and SEO by Lisa Irby . It was eye opening….

Long story short, it’s about content, the stats are there. I guess my subject matter is not appealing enough? This is the point she was driving home: Content, Content, Content. The straw that broke the camels back: I wrote an article asking my readers to share some computer horror stories and no one replied (can you hear the crickets now?).

It has been definitely a learning experience. So now, I am going to use some SEO options and see if that drives some real traffic to my site.

What I blog about comes from a lot of experiences I have with clients and I would hope it help a lot of people with what troubles them about technology. Maybe people are too busy being frustrated by it (technology) that they don’t have time to read the material. Who knows?

I am going to take my own advice and read one of my earlier posts. I will still blog since it is help to my clients and it shows my credibility. It is a tough nut to crack but I’ll get it :)

Cheers

Dan

 

 

Computer Horror Stories!!

Computer Horror Stories!

You know you have had them……Your computer dies right in the middle of a creating a huge PowerPoint presentation or maybe you lost all of your photos you took from a recent vacation or worse from the last decade! A huge system failure at work that wiped out all important account records for a few weeks. This is your chance to share! What happened? Were you able to recover and if so, how did you manage?

I will start with my own story…..It was 2003 and I just moved to a new house. I had my office set up just the way I liked it. eBay was big for me at the time so I managed to build a really nice computer system from there. I purchased the hard drive new though. If anything went wrong with it at least I had the warranty and some form of recourse and I was glad I did!

Within three weeks of having the system the hard drive crashed. I was able to recover since I had set up a backup system to save all my important documents and it was running well. It took me a day but I got up and running and I lost very little. Don’t laugh, but at the time I was using a 2GB JAZ drive!! That is a far cry from drives of today :)

Please comment on my post sharing your computer horror stories. I promise I will comment back! As always if you need any pointers let me know.

 

Netflix and your Bandwidth……

Netflix Logo

I get this question a lot from people who use Netflix or some other streaming service: “Why do I get usage charges at the end of the month for going over my cap???”. The problem is that people know that they are going over their monthly internet usage capacity but they don’t know why. Well it can be for a few reasons and I will explain why.

1. You are streaming all your content in High Definition

You may not know this but when you start using Netflix it has the default streaming quality set at the highest quality. Now if you have lower speed internet (you have chosen a lower speed plan, have satellite internet, etc), you will notice right away. You will see the program you stream pausing to buffer a lot. However, if you have very fast internet (In city centres they have fibre internet available), you will watch away blissfully until you look at your monthly bill and see an overage charge for usage. You monitor your usage so this won’t be a problem, right?

Just to give you and idea, say you have a 50 GB cap. HD streaming on Netflix uses about 1GB / hour. So if all you did was stream you would get 50 hours of watching under your belt for the month.  But you have multiple computers on the network and kids who download other items like music, movies, play online games, etc. so that cap will get eaten up pretty fast. So if you don’t have to watch that show in HD you can just go into the settings of your Netflix account and bump the streaming down to mid or low quality. Low quality will give you a streaming rate of about 30o MB an hour so you have already reduced your streaming consumption to 1/3 of what it used to be.

2. You Have Multiple Devices on your Network

Long gone are the days where the internet was housed in one room tethered to a single computer. I don’t know about you but I have at least a dozen devices running from my network that use the internet at home and it’s growing (I am an IT professional so I am not the norm). However, you are probably pretty close to that. If you and your family have smart phones set up to use your home network while at home to save on those data plans you may be stealing from Peter to give to Paul (my Dad says that all the time :p). Then there’s tablets, game consoles, DS’s…….. the list goes on…..

3. Check Your Usage More Often

Pretty much all ISP’s have online usage trackers for their customers. Take a minute to go online and see what your usage is for the month. This is especially useful if you have been consistently hit with overage charges . ISP’s love it when you incur those since the “a’la cart” fee for bandwidth is much higher than bumping your plan to the next level. However, you take heed of those emails you get saying you are getting close to your cap, right? A quick phone call can save you hundreds of dollars over the next few months. I had a client finally resolve this problem by taking the time to do just that. She got tired of watching the usage like a hawk and then when it got close to the cap she would turn the internet off and tell everyone, “no more surfing!”

I think if you follow these suggestions, you will find your streaming experience just as enjoyable and your frustration level lower!! As always, if you need any pointers, reach out to me.

 

Thanks,

 

Dan

 

 

iPhone 6…Some Interesting Changes

iPhone 6

 The anticipated iPhone 6 is on its way and it has some interesting changes. One of the most intriguing changes is that it now will come in two sizes. A 4.7 inch screen and a 5.5 inch screen. This might make some Apple users who are considering a jump to an Android model which comes with a is a larger screen stay put. It also has a camera with better resolution and the much anticipated iOS 8. The new OS allows for more seamless integration with the device and the desktop. iOS 8 also has some health related applications in it which allows the use of ear sensors or wristwatch style devices. I was thinking about changing smart phones to try something different but the fact that Apple has a larger model coming in 2015 might make me stay. What can I say…..we are all creatures of habit :)

Building Your own Home Security System

camera

Home security systems are becoming more and more prevalent this days. Whether you have a monitoring system through a company where you pay a monthly fee or you have your own system that you monitor yourself, there is a lot to choose from.

Now if you have a security system monitored by a security company, this article is not for you. If you have purchased a home security system by companies like Lorex and Flir this article is also not for you.

This article is intended for those individuals who like to tinker a little bit and happen to have an older but still useful PC around.

Building the DVR unit

In this example I have an AMD Athlon X2 Duo-Core Processor, 3GB RAM with a 500 GB HD. You may be able to get away with lower specs but keep in mind, the more cameras use with your system, the more processor speed, RAM and HD space you will need.

I found two very good pieces of software you can use for your DVR unit. Both are open source. One runs on Windows (i-spyconnect) and the other is for Linux (ZoneMinder). Both can hook into several different types of cameras (USB, CCTV, Ethernet Wired or Wireless). You can view the cameras inside and outside your network. They both have user forums where you can get advice if you run into problems during set up or just need a little support when tweaking things. I-spyconnect has a notification service you can subscribe to if you want (SMS and email) however that is where software stops being free.

It really boils down to whether or not you want to build the DVR unit as Windows machine or a Linux machine. I have built many a Linux box (in recent years my favorite flavor was Ubuntu) but for this article I will be using Windows, therefore i-spyconnect will be the security software I will use.

So now I have an older Windows 7 box built with i-spyconnect installed on it, time to get some cameras working.

The Cameras

Since the computer will be on my home network, I have decided to purchase some inexpensive wireless IP cameras (wanscam). I found them for about $40 USD online. They will be installed inside as I have good viewpoints from inside my house. If you need them outside you will have to probably spend a bit more for the cameras and have to possibly deal with cabling and power issues. This might drive up the cost a little bit. Right now I am into about $200 plus my time to install the cameras and configure the software. If you find yourself spending $300 – $400 for equipment (remember the computer and software are free) you might want to look into a prepackaged system you can get from companies like Lorex Technology. At that price, you can get the system and 4 cameras (some even come with wireless cameras). All you have to do is invest some of your time setting it all up. However, I like to tinker so I will continue with my home grown system….

Weather you purchase indoor or outdoor cameras, things you will need to consider:

-          Does the camera come with PTZ options (Pan Tilt Zoom)?

-          Does it have motion sensors?

-          Does it have infrared for Night Vision?

-          Do you want a fixed camera or a motion camera?

Also, before you start drilling holes in or outside your house, it is also a good idea to rough out where you want the cameras to be and then see what they look like through the monitoring software. I would put them anywhere a potential criminal could gain access to your house (front, side, back doors, garage doors, driveways, patios or verandas, etc.)

Once the cameras have been configured for your home network (been given IP’s, a username and password has been set for them) you can add them to i-spyconnect. I found a great tutorial on YouTube that helps you do just that (Tutorial here).

On a final note, one of the features I found in the i-spyconnect software was concerning storage and was in the settings of the software. I made note of where the camera recordings were being stored and set it to overwrite older recordings to save space. I will have to see how many days it can store before it starts overwriting. I only have a 500 GB HD but if you want to estimate how fast your set up will use hard disk space (i.e Number of cameras, quality of recording , HD size) you can go here

I hope this article gives you enough information about installing your own security camera system. As you can see, it requires a little bit of work but if you have the right combination of spare hardware lying around and the need to tinker, it might just be the cool little weekend project you have been looking for!

Dan

Artisteer Makes Web Designing Easier

Whether you are designing a static website, content management template or responsive design for rendering on several types of devices, Artisteer makes it easy for you to quickly build a design. All that is left to do is some style and colour tweaks and off you go!

I am not saying that it takes over the whole process but it gives you a running start and let’s your creative juices start faster :p

What I like is that I can start with a design, try out different headers, menus, vertical menus, add slide shows, try different colour schemes, etc. I don’t feel like I have to reinvent the design each time. I can also do a little content work inside the template knowing I can always change it after the fact with the web files the template produces afterwards.

I was first introduced to it about two years ago and it has gone through a great transformation in that time. It has a lot more templates to choose from and what it has done for responsive design is great!! I first tried it as a demo but then happily purchased the software when it came time to. The time it has saved me has been enormous.

I have been able to reduce the time it takes to design a website and make changes during the initial phase of the design, passing the savings on to my client!

If you are into web design and have not used this software before,  you should check it out. If you need help with a website contact me!

 

Dan

A Windows 8 Primer

I am fairly new to Windows 8 (It is now 8.1 as of April). I have basically been using it for about 6 months now and I am pretty sure that I haven’t tapped into all its abilities. From what I understand, it has been designed to be used over many devices (some of them being touch screens, like Windows tablets and touch screen enabled PC,s / Laptops / Netbooks etc..).

I do use the machine daily and I have to admit, coming from Windows 7, I do use the Desktop Tile a lot. It is more familiar. However, there are some functions that require you to use the new features of Windows 8 whether you like it or not. I actually do not have a problem with this. I have always looked at it as a new way doing things and treat it as such.

So here we go…Here is one way to get started with Windows 8….

Getting Started

When you first turn on your Windows 8 computer you will get your normal login screen:

NOTE: Any mention of swiping the screen with your finger only applies to those devices that are touch enabled. If your device does not support this, use instructions for the mouse.

When you logon you will either go to the Desktop or Start Screen. My installation puts me on the start screen and then if I need to go to the Desktop, I just click or tap the Desktop Tile. If you end up on the Desktop, all you have to do is click or tap the button on the bottom left of your screen. The Start screen in Windows 8 shows all the apps on your computer. The Start screen is a personalized list of what apps you access regularly. If they are too numerous to show on one screen, you just use the scroll bar with your mouse at the bottom of the screen or swipe your finger left at the bottom of the screen to show what other apps you have on the Start screen.

To show all of the apps you have on your computer, just click or tap the down arrow on the Start screen and you will see an alphabetical list of all the apps on your computer. You can either launch them from there or right click on them (press and hold if you are using touch) and chose “Pin to Start” to add it to your Start screen. If you want you also choose “Pin to Taskbar” and it will be at the bottom of your Desktop tile screen.

What I like to do (because I am a bit old school) is that I like to run most of my programs from the Desktop Tile. When I install a program, I check to see if an icon has been added to my Desktop tile, if it has, great. If not, I go to the Start screen find the app and I do this:

  1. Right Click or press or hold on the item on the Start Screen
  2. Choose “Open File Location”
  3. An Explorer window opens up in the Desktop tile.
  4. I copy the shortcut to the Desktop.
  5. Voila, I have an “old School” way of getting to the program!

Using the Sidebars

The Window 8 screen has two very cool side bars. The left one allows you to cycle through open tiles and even allows you to have more than one tile open on your screen.

The Left Sidebar

To access the left side bar, just click your mouse or swipe up to the left and it will show you all running Tiles on your system. From there you just click or tap the tile you would like to access and it comes to the front of your screen.

Example of Left Sidebar

The Right Sidebar

To access the Right Sidebar, just move your mouse or swipe up to the right and down and it will show you the most used functions of your system. From here your can search for programs, share screenshots of your system, access your Start screen, access devices like printers, and common settings like the control panel.

Example of Right Sidebar

Two tips to help you with Windows 8

Since Windows 8 is a bit of a departure in design from previous versions of Windows, you might yourself wondering “how to I find this program or Start menu item”???

  1. Using the Search in the right sidebar – Activate the right sidebar and click or tap on the search icon. Type in the name of the program you are looking for (i.e. Snipping Tool”). When it appears, click or tap on it and the program will run. You can also use this as a chance to pin the item to your Start screen or task bar.
  2. When in the Desktop Tile, Right Click or Tap and Hold on the Start Button – Doing this will bring up a contextual menu of item that similar to the old start menu (Like the Control Panel and Device Manager, etc.)

This information should give you a good start with Windows 8. When you get more acquainted with windows 8, I am sure you will want to delve into some of its more unique features.

If you would like any tips please Contact Me or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+

Dan