Thursday, July 7, 2011

Random PC tips

Computer Care: Random tips to keep your computer humming

By Arthur Glazer

POSTED: June 25, 2011 1:00 a.m.

If you lose your Internet connection, do you know how to reset your modem? How about stopping the main cause for system overheating? Can you add memory to your computer or stop programs from starting each time Windows boots? If you can't answer "yes" to the above questions, keep reading.

Most requests I get are for tips on making computers run better and faster. Here are a few.

Whenever we have bad weather, you may lose your Internet connection. After the storm, instead of calling your ISP, do this: Unplug the modem for half a minute. If you have a router, unplug it, too. First, reconnect the modem. After the lights have stopped flashing, reconnect the router. Refresh your browser in your computer and try to get online.

Unless your neighborhood has an outage, this should do the trick.

If your computer overheats constantly or in the worst-case scenario, spontaneously shuts down, try cleaning the dust from both in and outside of the fan areas. On a laptop, there is a fan on the bottom and a corresponding vent on the side near the fan.

On a desktop there are two fans. The top one is for the power supply; the bottom one cools the processor. They all suck in, making your computer like a HEPA filter for whatever room it's in. If there is particulate matter in the air, it will settle inside your computer. If the dust accumulation is considerable, take the computer outside before continuing.

Get a can of compressed air and blow the fans clean. First unplug the computer, and then attack the fans from all angles inside and out, taking apart the covers, if necessary. Be careful to keep the can held upright. The cans use liquid propellant and you may short out the computer, if you're not cautious.

Adding RAM or system memory to a computer is not difficult. First go to to determine what type and how much RAM your system can use.

On a laptop, unplug it first and find which one of the small covers on the back houses the memory. Take the cover off. There are spring clips on either side of the RAM stick. Spread them apart and the old RAM will pop up at a 45-degree angle. Grab it without touching the contacts, paying attention to the orientation of the module, and pull it out.

Replace the new sticks the same way the old ones came out, watching the offset slot on the bottom. Slide in on an angle and push down until it clicks.

On a desktop, unplug it, take the cover off and look for a pair of long, flat boards mounted upright. They're about a half-inch high, 5 inches long and thick as cardboard. A clip at either end holds them. Push down on these to release and pull the sticks up gently.

Pay attention to their orientation as the new ones need to go back in the same way the old ones came out. Line up the notch and push firmly. The clips will lock them automatically if you push hard enough.

To stop most programs from loading and starting with Windows, type "msconfig" in the Run field if you have XP. With Vista and Win 7, just type it in the search box. From the window that opens, choose the startup tab. Uncheck the programs you don't want to automatically start when you turn on your computer.

Click "Apply" and then "OK." Should you decide to re-enable those items, just go back and recheck them.

There are a few important things you should do to your computer regularly, to keep it in shape.

Back it up. I can't be more emphatic about this point. I have worked on too many computers that were not backed up and important data was lost. Everybody has good intentions, but everybody procrastinates. I'll say it again. Back up your stuff.

Keep your anti-virus program current and make sure the virus definitions are kept up to date. Use only one anti-virus utility. Doubling up not only doesn't double your protection, it can cause trouble. Make sure you have a schedule set to scan at regular intervals.

Also install and use an anti-malware program.

Keep Windows updated. Initial Service Packs are already expired; Vista SP1 expires this month. With XP, use SP3.

Last but not least for keeping updated are your device drivers.

The drivers are free, but you'll need a program to find and install them. It's part of the cost of having a computer. An outdated driver can slow down or cause other problems within your system. Manufacturers constantly provide updates for their hardware. You only need to find them.

If you discover your computer has issues, first try using System Restore. If that fails, try Safe Mode. It loads only what's necessary for the system to run and is there so you can have a clean environment to work in to effect repairs.

By pressing F8 at boot, you can access Safe Mode and other choices. "Last Known Good Configuration" is one. Give it a try; it will either work, or not.

Should you get a blue screen, hope that you did a back-up and call a tech once you've composed yourself.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on

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