Monitor your PC

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Once you’ve cleaned up your PC, reboot and take a closer look at what’s using your RAM right now.

Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to launch Task Manager, select the Processes tab, click View > Select Columns and make sure ‘Memory (Private Working Set)’ is checked). Click OK, select the ‘Show processes from all users’ button, then click the ‘Memory (Private Working Set)’ column header.

You’ll now see every process on your system, in the order in which they’re using memory. Browse down the list – are you running any background programs that you really don’t need? Turn them off if so. If you discover some memory hogs you don’t recognise, then enter their process names at Google to find out more.

If you really want to drill down into your PC’s activities, then there are two free Sysinternals tools that will prove invaluable. Autoruns will show you everything that loads when your Windows starts up, while Process Explorerdisplays running programs in great detail and shows you the resources they’re using. Go download them, they’re some of the best PC troubleshooting tools around.

Basic Troubleshooting For Computers

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Troubleshooting is a basic input to the information technology field. At one point or another you’ll be asked to resolve a computer problem that does not have a clear-cut source/cause/resolution. They key to successful and quick troubleshooting is following the following process:

1. Dont’t assume you understand the Microsoft windows upgrade problem based on the users description. However document and attempt to understand what they are saying:
1. Document the symptom(s)
2. Document when did it first occur, has it occured before, who does it affect, what is all affected, what have you already tried to resolve it, can you make it occur again?
2. Watch the user make the problem happen (this will help you reproduce the problem to test your resolution, it also provides the opportunity to observe operator error)
3. From a reboot state, you try to reproduce the problem
4. Collect auxillary data from the system:
1. Application error messages, error logs, window event viewer, etc.
2. Check for application/vendor logs, as well as hidden logs
3. Evaluate other external sources which may be interfeering
5. Attempt to determine the cause of the problem.
6. Document newly discovered, relevant information, including source and symptoms
7. Consult resources – technet, web, other staff, vendor resources
8. Plan to isolate problem using the half-way method
9. Make one change at a time. Be sure to reboot systems as necessary. Many appliciations do not appear to need this step, but many times in troubleshooting this will help.
10. Determine a reasonable amount of time an issue should be resolved in, and then escalate as necessary

The last step is perhaps the most critical step, and while all are very important, failure to realize when you’re in over your head is essential. And while the inner “geek” in most IT people push them to figure it out on their own, many times the right choice is to escalate the issue. This may be escalating to a higher skilled technician, contacting the vendors fee-based technical support, or contacting a third party IT firm. Of course, it would be in your best interet to try and glean as much information from the next person in line and advance your own skills.

Related Search
How to Install Windows 7 Beta on an Acer Aspire

Free Photo Editors for Windows

Friday, August 21, 2009
1. PhotoScape
On first glimpse, I thought Photoscape was going to be a dud, but I dug in deeper and realized why so many readers of this site have recommended it as a favorite free photo editor. It is jam-packed with features, while remaining very easy to use. Photoscape provides several modules including a viewer, editor, batch processor, Raw converter, file renamer, print layout tool, screen capture tool, color picker, and more. I'm very impressed overall at what has been packed into this free photo editor without sacrificing ease of use.

GIMP for Windows
GIMP is a popular open-source image editor originally developed for Unix/Linux. It does have an interface and features parallel to Photoshop, but with a steep learning curve to match. Because it's volunteer-developed beta software, stability and frequency of updates could be an issue; however, many happy users report using GIMP for Windows without significant troubles.

Paint.NET is a free image and photo manipulation software for Windows 2000, XP, Vista, or Server 2003. Paint.NET started development at Washington State University with additional help from Microsoft, and continues to be updated and maintained by some of the alumni that originally worked on it. Paint.NET features layers, painting and drawing tools, special effects, unlimited undo history, and levels adjustments. Paint.NET is completely free, and the source code is also available for free.

Windows Aero

Friday, August 14, 2009
One of the features of Windows Vista is Windows Aero, a new user interface and visual style.

Microsoft product screen shot reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation

Windows Aero is the new interface and visual style used in Windows Vista when the computer meets certain hardware requirements

Windows Aero is the new user interface and visual style used in Windows Vista. With Aero, Windows is intended to be both easier to use and more pleasant to look at.

Some of the interesting visual uneffects of Windows Arrow are semi-transparent windows, Flip Three D, and live thumbnails. The semi-transparent windows allow you to see what’s behind the active window. Flip Three D is similar to tabbing through open windows, but it displays images of the open programs in a Three D-like view. Live thumbnails let you see the contents of a file without opening it.

Windows Aero is available in all but the most expensive of the Windows Vista support editions, Home Basic. However, Windows Vista delivers a user interface and style appropriate to the computer’s hardware, as the advanced effects in Windows Aero would overwhelm some computers. As a result, not all computers in use today can support Windows Aero. Only Vista Premium Ready PCs, not Capable PCs, can display Windows Aero.

See Also
Disable useless Vista Features
How To locate files and folders In Windows Vista
How to Install Windows 7 Beta on an Acer Aspire

Test Your Computer and See if you are Infected with Conficker

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
You can safely click on the link below, to test and see if you have the conficker worm on your computer. A working group has been assembled in to collaborate efforts with technology industry leaders and academia to implement a coordinated, global approach to combating the Conficker worm.

How does this work?

This works by trying to load several pictures from Security Websites. If the top pictures do not load, you may have the virus. That is one of the traits of the conficker, is that it will block you from going to these type of sites. The bottom 3 pictures are from non-security sites, so they should always load.

If you only see some of the pictures, check below the chart for an explantion. Also try hitting F5 to refresh your broswer to see if they load, as you know the browser sometimes does not get all the pictures when you go to a site the first time.

See Also
Spyware Master Sentenced
Bad Information For Hackers
Detect and Prevent Spyware Infection

Optimize Your Computer for Faster Start-Up Times

Friday, August 7, 2009
Check for viruses, spyware, and adware:
Hidden malicious or annoying programs often load at system start-up, slowing down the process. Get rid of them by scanning for viruses and pests regularly.
Don't have antivirus and spyware utilities? You're living dangerously! At Trend Micro, you can find a free online virus check. Ad-aware can help you remove spyware and adware from your system, or you can try at PestScan's free online detector.

Eliminate unneeded start-up programs:
In Windows 98, Me, and XP, you can see what programs load at start-up by going to Start, Run, typing msconfig, and clicking OK. (Msconfig isn't in Windows 2000, but programs like Startup Control Panel can fill in for it.)

Click the Startup tab to see a list of programs that launch at start-up. You'll need to experiment to see what you can do without. Just uncheck the boxes on the left-hand side of the Msconfig window to keep them from loading. The name and location of each file can help you figure out what it does.

In Windows XP, Msconfig has a Services tab that shows other application and OS components. Some can be unchecked so they won't load at start-up; others are essential to Windows. For more on services in XP and 2000, see "Supercharge Windows by Paring Unneeded Services."

Tune up the Registry:
Programs like RegClean can sweep out defunct hardware and software settings that can clog up your Registry. RegClean works for older versions of Windows. For XP, commercial programs, such as Symantec's Norton SystemWorks (pictured below) and V Communications' SystemSuite, and shareware like Registry First Aid can do the job.

Defragment your hard drive:
Your hard drive doesn't always save a file in one place. Instead, it tucks parts of the file wherever there's free space. Use Disk Defragmenter on each of your drives to make those files contiguous, improving both start-up and overall Windows performance. Select Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter, select a drive, and click Start.