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Computer Tips and Tricks

Dkeh

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Hey guys, this is meant to be an area that the computer savvy can share tips, tricks, and other such things with anyone who needs help, has problems, or is just interested in speeding up their PC.

I do have an IT background, but for me, computers are a passion and hobby. Over the years, I have picked up a few programs that I have found are essential for computer maintenance. When I say a program such as an anti-virus is "the best", it is because I have purposefully introduced hundreds of viruses onto a computer I keep solely for testing anti-viruses on. The "best" one is the one that caught the most stuff. Nothing is 100% perfect, but the ones I mention below preformed the best. 

Good maintenance programs for your computer: (Note, these are all 100% FREE, or have free trials that you can infinitely renew)

- ASC5 (Advanced System Care 5)
http://download.cnet.com/Advanced-SystemCare/3000-2086_4-10407614.html

This is by far the BEST program to have on your computer. Its is very easy to use, lightweight, and comes with an entire suite of tools, from computer maintenance, to advanced tools, such as a file shredder, deleted file recovery manager, a PROPER uninstaller (none of that built in windows garbage), etc. I would highly recommend at least trying it out- I doubt you will be disappointed.

- Smart Defrag V2
http://www.iobit.com/iobitsmartdefrag.html

From the same makers as ASC5, this is the best disk defragmentation utility I have come across (and I have tried many!). Simple, powerful, and easy to use, this defragmentor is leaps and bounds above the built in Windows defragmentation utility. For those of you who do not know what Disk Defrag is, download this immediately and run it! Your computer will thank you!

- CCleaner
http://www.piriform.com/CCLEANER

This is a good program to get rid of "junk" files on your computer. Over time, your computer builds up temporary files, cookies, and other such nastiness. These junk files cause slowness, take up hard-drive space, and overall decrease your PC's performance. This program can be slightly more complicated to use, so if you would like me to give you a hand with it, let me know. Pleas keep in mind- You can damage your PC with this program if you do not know what you are doing! Occam offers the following advice if you are not comfortable using CCleaner:

Occam said:
- I don't recommend CCleaner unless you're an experienced user, and have your PC backed up (which you should be doing anyways - doesn't everyone?).  I've seen too many people create havoc with that program.  Plain old "Disk Cleanup" which is a standard Accessory built into Windows works just fine for the novice.

- Malwarebytes Anti Malware
http://www.malwarebytes.org/

This is the be-all end-all of Malware protection. Malware IS NOT the same as a virus- do not think that because you have an anti-virus program (such as Norton, McAfee, AVG, etc) that you are protected from malware. To see the difference, look up the definitions of "computer virus" and "malware". This program has a 30 day free trial that you can keep using after it expires. I would highly recommend this program- run it approximately once per week, and you will keep your computer protected.

- Spybot Search and Destroy
http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html

Spyware is not the same as malware or computer viruses. This is the best anti spyware program I have used, and like everything else, it is free! I would recommend running this once per week.

A note from Occam on using Malwarebytes and Spybot: - as far as anti-spyware/anti-malware go, your best bet is to use Spybot S&D, Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Malwarebytes.  None of them will pick up everything, but between the three of them you'll catch pretty darned near everything.  Just don't run scans on all of them simultaneously...

-MSI Afterburner
http://downloads.guru3d.com/Afterburner-2.0.0-Final-download-2562.html

This is a basic overclocking utility. This can help you squeeze a little extra performance out of your hardware, rather than upgrading it. Whether you are gaming or surfing, if you have less than ideal performance, this can help you. You can nuke your computer with this program if you are not careful. I am an experienced user, and have STILL blown up components by pushing them too far past their limit.

- AVG Antivirus
http://free.avg.com/ca-en/homepage

This is the best FREE antivirus program that I have come across. Now, every computer geek will tell you a different anti-virus program is the best, but this is MY personal experience. (I think we can all agree that Norton and McAfee are...sup-par). As an added sidenote, if you have an Android phone, AVG offers a free passive antivirus for your phone (Yes, Android phones CAN get viruses)!

- ESET NOD 32 (A not free antivirus)
http://www.eset.com/us/

These guys have the best paid anti-virus. While they also offer a free version, the free version of AVG is better than the free version of this, but the paid version of NOD 32 is better than the paid version of AVG. Make sense? Is it worth the extra buck? Well, that's for you to decide.

How to maintain your computer and get a longer life out of your investment

First and foremost, your computer DOES need to be physically cleaned. This means opening up the case once per month, getting out the swifter cloth, and getting all that dirt and grime out of there. This does actually make a huge differance- I had a computer in for repair that would just not turn on. After a few futile hours, I opened up the case- lo and behold, it was packed with enough hair to make a small cat. Once I cleaned it all out, it ran perfectly. You can use air duster (which is just air in a can), a vacuum, and a regular dusting cloth to get 99 percent of all dirt, dust and hair out. If you have never done this before, go do it! You WILL see a differance in preformance. Laptops also need to be cleaned, but are much trickier. I am not going into detail on it, but sufice to say, if you are not 100% confidant, do not open your laptop up, because you will most likely break something. As Occam mentions below, do not stick the vacuum cleaner in your computer! Static electricity can wreak havok on your system, and Vacuum cleaners / Compressors will generate static electricity very easily. I should have elaborated that I use the vacuum cleaner on my desk, after I have blown the dust / hair out using air duster.

Occam said:
- Most importantly - never, ever, ever use a vacuum cleaner (either on vacuum or "blower" mode) within the case of your PC.  Same goes for an air nozzle on a compressor.  They are notoriously good at generating static electricity.  Contrary to your statement, an "air duster" is not just air in a can.  Air dusters usually contain difluoroethane or tetrafluoroethane with an anti-static additive, and are much safer to use than a vacuum.

As far as maintanance that can be preformed with a mouse, there a few easy steps to take to ensure that your PC operates smothly. Do a weekly Defragmentation (if you are a heavy user, such as 6+ hours per day, run defrag every night), a weekly virus / malware / spyware scan, and some other things that do not need to be done as frequently. If you are having poor preformance on an old computer, remove icons off your desktop. Having tons of icons on your desktop will really hamper your preformance, and removing them can help. I personally would never have more than 15 icons on my desktop at any given time (I currently have 0 icons on the desktop on all 4 of my computers). Delete your temp folders every couple of weeks (once per month will suffice). To find them, click "Start", click "run", and type TEMP. Then select all of the files in the folder that pops up, and delete them. The second temp file can be accessed by clicking "run", typing %TEMP% and pressing enter. Select all of these files, and delete them as well.
 

Dkeh

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List of Freeware programs that are fantastic

Winrar
http://www.rarlab.com/

This is by far the best zipping and unzipping program available. Handles .zip, .rar, .7zip, .iso, .bin, .que, and everything else inbetween. Fantastic program.

Winamp
http://www.winamp.com/

One of the best multimedia players around. Fantastic for playing audio files, as it handles pretty much every filetype. Plus, it is fully customizable!

VLC
http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html

BY FAR the best video player in existence. Plays Dixv, blu-ray, .wma, .wmv, .m4a, and everythign else inbetween. It even has a moduel that lets it repair damaged videos!

Google Chrome
https://www.google.com/chrome

The best internet browser ever. If you are using Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, or FireFox, give this a look. It is lightweight, customizable, fast as hell, etc. Plus, it has an entire suite of addons that are fantastic. If you take nothing else away from this thread, GET GOOGLE CHROME.

AD-Block
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/gighmmpiobklfepjocnamgkkbiglidom

A worthy mention, ad-block is an addon for Chrome and FireFox that eliminates popups and ads. Get it! Plus, it gets rid of those irritating ads on Youtube!

Thunderbird
http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/

This is an email client (similar to Outlook) that allows you to take any e-mail address (such as hotmail, gmail, etc) and link it to the client. You can even sync multiple addresses, so if you have a few accounts, you can get all of your emails in one place.

Stardock
http://www.stardock.com/

This is one of the most usefull utilities I have on my computer. Lets you place fully customizable "docks" all around your screen. This is worth checking out if you don't know what a dock is!

rainmeter
http://rainmeter.net/cms/

This is my absolute favourite customization program. Make your computer look the way YOU want to to look! This is a fairly compex program, but if you are interested in skinning / modding, this is the place to be!

Fences
http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/

Another product from Stardock, this helps you organized! An excellent program if you have lots of stuff on your desktop.
 

Occam

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Some comments on your first post, from someone who's been in electronics technology (including formal IT training) for more than 25 years:

- I found AVG to miss quite a few viruses, and on occasion to be a resource hog.  On Windows 7 (and I haven't tried it on any other OS, nor am I even curious if it is even supported on XP or Vista), I have yet to see anything get past Microsoft Security Essentials (free!), despite my best efforts to throw stuff at it.

- as far as anti-spyware/anti-malware go, your best bet is to use Spybot S&D, Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Malwarebytes.  None of them will pick up everything, but between the three of them you'll catch pretty darned near everything.  Just don't run scans on all of them simultaneously...

- I don't recommend CCleaner unless you're an experienced user, and have your PC backed up (which you should be doing anyways - doesn't everyone?).  I've seen too many people create havoc with that program.  Plain old "Disk Cleanup" which is a standard Accessory built into Windows works just fine for the novice.

- Most importantly - never, ever, ever use a vacuum cleaner (either on vacuum or "blower" mode) within the case of your PC.  Same goes for an air nozzle on a compressor.  They are notoriously good at generating static electricity.  Contrary to your statement, an "air duster" is not just air in a can.  Air dusters usually contain difluoroethane or tetrafluoroethane with an anti-static additive, and are much safer to use than a vacuum.
 

Dkeh

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Thanks Occam, I will modify my Original Post to cover your points. What would you suggest beside AVG for the free user? Perhaps my testing method was flawed!

My intent was to convey that SB S&D and Malwarebytes should be used in conjunction with each other. I forgot all about Ad- Aware!

And you are definitely correct about the Air Duster. I should have elaborated more on exactly what it is. And I should have mentioned what you said about the Vacuum cleaner as well, that was my mistake. I personally use the vacuum cleaner on the DESK after I blow all of the dust out of it. This (using it on the desk beside the PC) have never caused an issue- have I been lucky, or could it?

 

Dkeh

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Can't comment on the Macs :) Never liked them personally, plus I find the cost...prohibitive ;)
 

dapaterson

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Ah, computer discussions always bring out cultists.  As I don't like wearing black turtlenecks, iThink iWill give the iMac a pass.


I used to like AVG, but after about v5 it became a massive resource hog.  For less hgh-powered computers with a reliable internet connection I've moved to the free Panda cloud AV; very small resource bite (MS Security Essentials can be a resource hog as well, and doesn't always multi-task nicely).

I'm also an OpenOffice fan; I know of at least one federal government department that's moving from MS Office to Open Office.  Hopefully the full federal government will do so; the millions paid every year in licensing are throwing away money to little effect.
 

Dkeh

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Agreed, OpenOffice is fantastic. I forgot to mention that!
 

Occam

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Microsoft Security Essentials is what I've been recommending to everyone for free anti-virus.  Like them or hate them, Microsoft knows better than anyone else how to write software on their own platform.

You're safe using a vacuum cleaner anywhere around the PC, just not within the case itself.

As for our friendly Mac user, Ogami Itto...

why-a-mac.png


;)
 

the 48th regulator

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I have had a Mac for four years now, never ran a virus protector; never have been hit by one.

Everything is automatic and user friendly.  I am completely into the cult, as I have eradicated any Microsoft product in my house.  Wife,a nd children use Mac laptops, and each have an itouch for fun.  I have iMac, Mac Laptop, Ipad 3, iPhone, and a black muck neck shirt (Not Issay Miyake though ;) )

No problems ever.  The investment is worth it, and we have already taken over the world, so life is good!
 

dapaterson

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Occam said:
Microsoft Security Essentials is what I've been recommending to everyone for free anti-virus.  Like them or hate them, Microsoft knows better than anyone else how to write software the security problems on their own platform.

FTFY  >:D
 

Robert0288

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Well I have the same tastes in software as you Dkeh.  The only one I would add to the list is Hijack This (http://download.cnet.com/Trend-Micro-HijackThis/3000-8022_4-10227353.html).  Great for hunting down persistent issues and finding malware, but extremely easy to kill your computer with if your not sure whats going on.
 
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Nice list, Dkeh! I also use most of the items you mentioned.

Personally, I have found Koroush Ghazi's  Tweak Guides  and  Tweaking Companion to be exceptionally useful.

http://www.tweakguides.com/
Great for optimizing games, browsers and video card drivers, as well as a handy list of current software updates.

http://www.tweakguides.com/TGTC.html
It is much more  detailed, but well worth the time spent reading.
I would comment more, but this  introduction from the site pretty much says it all:
The TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) is the complete system customization and optimization guide for all Windows users. Designed for novice and advanced users alike, it is written in plain English to help you genuinely understand all key aspects of Windows and your PC. The guide covers every major topic, from the correct installation of critical drivers and software, through to simple explanations and recommendations for every significant Windows setting and feature, all the major performance and convenience tweaks and customizations, as well as detailed troubleshooting advice. Also provided are links and instructions for a large number of reliable free applications which can enhance your system and give you viable alternatives to purchasing commercial software.

 

Occam

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Ignatius J. Reilly said:
http://www.tweakguides.com/TGTC.html
It is much more  detailed, but well worth the time spent reading.

I'll second that.  I'd completely forgotten about Tweakguides - but they're one of the most comprehensive guides out there for setting up just about every aspect of your computer.  They not only explain the "how", but also go into the "why", if you're so inclined to read it.  I'm glad to see that the author is now charging a nominal fee for the deluxe edition of the manual - probably the best $4.50 you'll ever spend.  No, I'm not getting a cut.  ;D
 

agc

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Ogami Itto said:
Dkeh,

Lemme simplify things for you

Get an iMac

Get Office 2011 for Mac

Download Firefox

And you are off to the races.  None of that mumbo jumbo you have given, will be needed going forward, and you will have peace of mind.

That is all.

I love my iMac.  I had a MacBook before for about a year, which I also loved, but my son combined it with my glass of beer.

I like Chrome a bit better than Firefox because it's fast and the UI is pretty minimal.  Although, I haven't used Firefox a lot in the last couple years, so I may be a bit out of date there.

FWIW I use Sophos Antivirus which is free, although I've never had a virus on this computer either.  I suspect it will eventually become an issue as Mac OS gains marketshare.

If TextEdit, Mail and Google Docs don't cut it for what you need, LibreOffice is a free, open source alternative to MS office.

Evernote is great no matter what platform you are on for your computer or smartphone.  It stores your notes online so you can get them from anywhere.  The web app also works from DWAN.  Encryption is only 64-bit though.

MacUpdate is a pretty big repository of software for the Mac.  You can download Onyx from this site, which is great for keeping maintenance up on your machine.
 

Dkeh

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Dropbox is another fantastic program! It allows you to very easily share any items you wish, across any platform (I.e PC, Mac, Smartphone). I love dropbox!
 

Maxadia

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Dkeh said:
Dropbox is another fantastic program! It allows you to very easily share any items you wish, across any platform (I.e PC, Mac, Smartphone). I love dropbox!

Haven't used it yet, but a teaching colleague states that Google Drive is much quicker than Dropbox, and has a 5g instead of a 2g capacity.  Just a thought.
 

GnyHwy

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I realize that this question doesn't measure up to geekiness of this thread, but I didn't want to start another thread, and this is the closest one that I could find to answer my question.

In reference to this site:  How do insert a photo in the middle of your text?  I understand you can add it as an attachment, but it gets attached at the end.  I also see the insert image function, but what do you put in between the brackets?

Thanks

 
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