Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Useful, Free Tricks & Tips to Speeding Up an Old or Slow Computer

By: Shaun Reiland

Many times, whenever our computers break down, software is considered the culprit. Have you ever stopped to think that your neglect of your computer's hardware and internal file organization could also be the cause of the headaches, though? It is true. Most of the time, our computers work perfectly. You zip through checking your email or slap together that spreadsheet your boss has been hounding you about, but you do not give the computer a second thought.

There are times, though, when your computer is moving at a snail's pace and you want to bang your keyboard on the desk or throw your monitor out the window... anything to make the thing work faster! Many of these issues with your computer slowing down can be eased or solved with simple "house cleaning" that should be performed every couple of months or so. Give the below tips a try and let us know if you have any luck! If these do not help, your computer might be infected with spyware, malware or even a computer virus. See the bottom of this article for a few tips to try against these more serious issues.

Protecting your computer against dust

Dust is a major culprit in bogging down your computer. From a technician's standpoint, I cannot recall how many times I have opened a customer's computer and BAM! Dust bunny Central! Try to imagine a computer as you would your lungs. If your lungs are clogged, you cannot breathe. The same can be said for a PC. The inside of a computer is designed specifically to channel air through the case; to replace the hot air generated by all the components with cool air from outside. Try running a marathon with dust and cobwebs stuffed deep within your throat or lungs. You would rapidly expire from fatigue, head exhaustion, or a heart attack. Without fresh air to compensate for the heat generated by the computer's components, the computer will slow down, more and more, as time goes on. Eventually, things will go very wrong and operation will grind to a halt.

I suggest doing the following, once a month.

* Remove all cables from the computer
* Take a synthetic fiber brush and gently brush away the dust from the outside ports of the computer; the USB ports, back vent ports, power supply vents, etc. Anywhere that you see fleeing dust bunnies, brush these vermin elsewhere.
* Remove the side panel from the PC by unscrewing any screws and sliding it off.
* Use a vacuum hose to GENTLY vacuum up all the dust inside of the computer. As a note of caution, jamming the vacuum hose into all the tight and hard to reach corners of the case might get more dust out, but you might also damage the internal components. Be careful when doing so.
* If you like, you can use compressed air to clean out the corners and internal components of the case a bit more.
* After vacuuming all the loose, rampant dust bunnies up, replace the computer's cover and plug all your cables back in.

Disk Defragmenter

With the of the age of Windows 95 came a new and extremely useful tool - the Disk Defragmenter. What this tool does is take all of the files and pieces of files, that Windows has haphazardly strewn all over your hard drive, and organizes them. Just as you would tell your son or daughter to clean their room, you are telling Windows to clean its file system. This can free up space and bring back some of the old speedy days you saw before your computer became sluggish.

In Windows XP, you can access the disk defragmenter by clicking on Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter

Disk Cleanup

Windows 95 also brought us another useful tool - Disk Cleanup. This is a simple utility that scans your computer's hard drive for redundant and duplicate files, useless files, items in your recycling bin, etc. Once these files are located, Disk Cleanup gives you the option to delete or remove said files. It can also compress old or unused files, saving even more space. Disk Cleanup is another tool you should use once every month or so that can help speed up your computer and get rid of useless garbage.

In Windows XP, you can access the disk defragmenter by clicking on Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Cleanup

Free Resources for spyware, malware, and virus infections.

If you are experiencing weird popups, spam, or other malicious activities, I suggest trying the following three utilities along with the above procedures.

- AVG - Free Anti-Virus Software (http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage)

AVG is a free virus scanner & protection program that can help detect and prevent a lot of the malicious software out there. It does have a better, paid version, too... and I would not count on it as a be all and end all solution to your problems. It is definitely worth grabbing and checking out, though.

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

This piece of software is very powerful and is used quite a bit to detect and eliminate Spyware and other malicious software. There is an option to scan your registry before Windows load, which catches any software that may block other scanners, etc. Highly recommended.

- Ad-Aware (http://www.lavasoft.com/)

Free and paid versions are available, with the free version claiming "comprehensive malware protection." This is another highly recommended piece of freeware that is used across the tech world to battle malware and malicious software.

These are only general suggestions and should be taken as such. We do not guarantee that these actions or programs will fix your computer, nor do we directly endorse any of the programs mentioned in this article. We have, however, found every suggestion here useful in the past, and want to pass them on to you as just that, suggestions. Best of luck, everyone!

How I Sped up my Personal Computer in Three Smooth Steps

By: Mark Berns

To accelerate your Windows, you don't have to buy and set up some other computer hardware. Really - if you had your computer for some time, you can do a lot by merely installing software and using it on your computer. In this article I tell you, how I speeded up my computer this way. After I used my own advice, my computer speed enhanced by 43.2%.

I don’t know about you people, but one day I observed, that my computer is becoming slower and slower with each day. At first I reinstalled Windows and erased my hard drive every time I felt it was too sluggish. But with time I did a research to pick up, that there are more effective ways. There indeed are a couple of effortless things that I could perform to sped up my computer.

Here they are:

-Clean up Windows Registry. Making clean Windows registry can take your computer up to 50% faster!

-Get ridded of what computer software you don’t want. Your computer arrives to you with flocks of pre-installed trial run computer software, most of which you don’t need. Make it go away.

-Get rid of fancy visual effects.

Cleaning up Windows registry

When I was screening registry cleaners, I marked a problem – some of them just broke my Windows, or made it function improperly. Afterwards – when I was making my web site, devoted to raising Windows speed, I formulated great test, to which I submitted 41 different registry cleaners. I utilized the registry cleaners at their upper limit, and than observed the resulting impact on my computer. After the testing i realized, that solely 7 of those registry cleaners are of any use, and by that, I mean, that they do not harm your operating system, and that they give you sizeable (surpassing several %) performance hike.

Supported by my tests, I gave voice to few recommendations for you to deliberate, when seeking a respectable registry cleaners:

-Use exclusively best-selling registry cleaners. As I've seen, there are rational reasons, why nearly all registry cleaners aren’t popular

-Always back up your operating system before trying a novel registry cleaner. It turns out, that for each PC, Windows registry is unique. What works on one PC, may not work decent on some other. This means – what worked for your friend, may not work for you! You have to always test registry cleaner on different mashines to discover , if it is any good.

Uninstalling computer software

Sometimes computer software package simply refuses to get uninstalled, or there are uninstallation computer errors etc. This problem can be actually fixed. There are several software packages, which can help you completely deinstalle software from your Windows.

Visual effects

So far, each Windows operating system – taking out, may be, Windows 7, came with fancier and fancier visual effects, which induce your Windows to get slower. You should know, that those effects can be disabled. And – if you choose to do so, your PC may start operating significantly quicker. Of course, it depends on your preferences. I understand, that working on a fine looking PC experiences better than working on a Windows with every visual effect stripped down. Some of my co-workers opt to work with Windows 2000-like user interface, in Windows XP though, but by and large that’s too radical. Great news is, that you can gain a lot of speed advantage by disabling some very fancy but barely visible visual effects in Windows.

Modern Motherboard Technology Explained

By: Sandra Prior

Of course, it's one thing to know the theory behind how new technologies can be connected together on a motherboard, but it's another to know where you're going to physically pop your processor, memory and expansion cards. That's handled by the ATX specification, now up to version 2.2. Despite being incredibly dull, it's vitally important and specifies crucial things such as: what size the motherboard can be, where mounting holes are located, power connections, power levels, physical positioning of components, color of connections and so on. Boring maybe, but if vendors decided they'd put these things wherever they liked, it'd be chaos.

Despite being around since 1996, ATX has staved off multiple attempted coups, including BTX, introduced by Intel in 2003 mostly as a result of the soaring power output of the old P4. It offered optimized airflow, a larger heatsink and motherboard area with dedicated low-profile designs. But as the P4 faded, any justification for the increased costs of BTX became extinct as well.

We're seeing ever-increasing drives to lower power consumption and increase efficiency: laptop motherboards use technology that can reduce idle Northbridge power to below 1W, though an entire running desktop system board will suck at least 40W idle, compared to the 10-20W for an entire laptop. The VIA mini-desktop ITX motherboards strike a balance on this front, usually consuming 10-15W in idle and usually less than 20W under full load, but that's hardly ever going to be a realistic choice for the gamer or anyone else that wants to perform other intensive tasks.

Part of the problem is just power regulation, that's pulling the 12v line down to around 1.5v for the processor. Much like PSU efficiency, motherboards have the same problem. Much noise is made about multi-phase voltage regulators: while we're sure they do smooth the voltage in technical terms, they seem to have little real effect. Similarly, new energy regulation modules such as the Gigabyte DES or Asus EPU claim to regulate voltages and perhaps clock speeds more efficiently. These do affect power consumption, perhaps as much as 10w or more at full load.

Despite some shrinkage in the market over the last few years - VIA being sidelined, ULi being bought by NVIDIA and names like ALi and SiS slipping into the background - there's still a lot of choice if you're after a new motherboard. Higher levels of integration mean you get more for your money; budget boards come packed with features while today's high-end boards come bristling with exotic extras, to the point of confusion and pointlessness.

Intel remains the leading chipset supplier: about half the world's motherboards have ‘Intel Inside’. It's also a technology leader, bringing new developments such as PCIe v2, SATA 2 first to boards in new chipsets. It has used the Memory Controller Hub (MCH) as the Northbridge and the I/O Controller Hub (ICH) for the Southbridge ideology since the debut of the P4. ICH9 is the current mainstream Intel Southbridge and supports up to 12 USB 2.0, six SATA, two eSATA and twin Gigabit network ports, plus high-definition audio and six single PCIe lanes. Extra options can supply hardware RAID and Turbo Memory. ICH10 is just becoming available but adds little to the party: you should note there are no PATA channels at all.

Robson technology, now branded Turbo Memory, was supposed to increase drive performance, but real-world results are disappointing. ICHl0 introduced User Pinning so it's possible to permanently store an application in the flash memory. This could have been an interesting development, but it has been somewhat overshadowed by the likes of Asus Express Gate that enable you to boot into a ‘Virtual Appliance Environment’ (VAE) featuring a basic GUI, a browser based on Firefox 2.0 and a Skype VolP client in less than six seconds, courtesy of a compact Linux distribution. This 'instant-on' OS offers many advantages: it's able to run on PCs where the hard disk is absent or malfunctioning, and is less vulnerable to malware as the system is mostly read-only. Already a feature of the Eee Box and nine others, Asus will be extending Express Gate to its whole range in 2009. Intel's high-end option remains the X range; the X48 is the only motherboard to officially support the 1600FSB for both DDR3 and Core 2 Extreme Edition. In reality though, most available X38 motherboards can actually offer this support anyway, as well as the XMP for enhanced memory performance profiles. It also offers two l6-lane PCIe v2 slots for CrossFire support.

A similar situation can be applied to the new P45 that replaces the P35. At least it does introduce PCIe v2 and optionally supports three graphics slots, but as it's positioned as a mainstream chipset, it's hardly required at this point. If your modules support it, Intel XMP memory technology will mean you get the best performance out of them.

NVIDIA has always made a point of offering both Intel and AMD options. Currently, its 790i Ultra SLI with its top-end Intel chipset, boasts: PCIe v2, support on two full 16-lane graphics slots and a third PCIe vl 16-lane slot, DDR3 up to 2000MHz and 1600FSB support. The accompanying MCP Southbridge offers an additional 12 lanes of PCIe, twin Gigabit ports, ten USB ports, high-definition audio, six SATA and two PATA ports and even a PCI bus.

Unlike the Intel chipsets, NVIDIA has opted for DDR3 only, firmly encamping at the high-end. It of course offers the NVIDIA ‘SLI-Ready Memory’ technology for EPP memory support. For people requiring DDR2 support, the 780i still offers triple SLi in a largely similar configuration to the 790i and the 750i with its ‘Vanilla’ PCIe v2 SLi support.

With its AMD range of chipsets NVIDIA's entire range sports integrated graphics - DirectX 10, HDMI and HDCP-compatibility. We guess the lack of a memory controller on the Northbridge helps when things get busy, almost like having a spare room in the house. The 780a is its high-end option and supports three-way SLi - again, via two PCIe v2 and a single v1 16-lane slots. Oddly, the SLi support hangs off the Southbridge, that being its sole job. The usual Southbridge connections are on the Northbridge, offering 12 USB 2, six SATA, two PATA and Gigabit port, plus high-definition audio and three more PCIe v1 lanes.

For mid- and entry-level buyers, the NVIDIA 8300/8200 chipsets are the perfect choice. Identical in everything but graphics speed, these are single chipset solutions, offering the same abilities as the 780a but with only a single 16-lane PCIe v2 slot. This is somewhat balanced via the Hybrid SLi feature that uses the onboard graphics to accelerate graphics or save power. The Hybrid mode only works with the 8400GS and 8500GT cards, which makes sense for low-end options.

Finally, what about AMD? It's still pushing its high-end 700 chipset, and has rebranded the ageing Xpress 3200 and Xpress 1600 ranges to the 580X and 480X to eliminate any confusion from their Intel-compatible counterparts. The high-end 790FX (launched at the end of 2007) is still something of a power-house. It supports two physical CPU sockets -rare in real-life - along with 42 PCIe v2 lanes enabling four-way CrossFire fun via two full 16-lane and two 8-lane slots. Oh, and twin Gigabit ports - yes, it's a fairly feature-heavy Northbridge, alright. Odd, then, that it was typically paired with the comparatively weak SB600 Southbridge, offering only four SATA ports, an extra four PCIe v1 lanes, RAID, two PATA channels and 10 USB 2.0 ports. Happily, this is being superseded by the SB700/750, with six SATA ports, eSATA support, 14 USB ports and support for hybrid flash drives.

For more mid-range systems, AMD's 790X supports two physical CrossFire slots and the new 780G. This last chipset is of interest as it comes with integrated graphics and offers similar features to the NVIDIA 8300/8200 chipsets. The Hybrid CrossFire works alongside a HD2400 or HD3450 graphics card for about 50 per cent increases in 3D speed. Those will remain on the market for a good while. New high-end options such as the Intel X58 and the AMD 800 series are on the way with new sockets and better memory support, but not until the beginning of 2009.

3 Tips to Choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP)

By: William Brooks

When you are considering changing or upgrading your broadband internet service, everyone seems to have an opinion. If you ask out loud for some helpful advice you are likely to get an avalanche of experiences and opinions - both good and bad. Here are 3 tips to help you sort it all out and decide which way to go.

1. Family and Friends

The great thing about listening to family and friends is that you know their personalities and you can put their opinions in perspective. Some people will always defend the product or service they chose to buy. You need to be wary of this type of recommendation unless you can get a balanced point of view from them.

Some people are negative by nature. If they tell you a particular broadband, cable, or Naked DSL provider is terrible then ask for some examples. Try and interpret if their evaluation of events is fair or if they are over-reacting.

Friends and family are a great source of recommendations - just make sure you take into account what you know about their personalities!

2. Online Forums and Chats

Going online for opinions is a great way to get a feel for the broadband market in your area. You'll be able to get a wider range of opinions on providers and plans than what you can find out from your family.

Just keep in mind that those who have negative experiences usually make the most noise. If there are some consistent complaints from a number of people it is a warning sign. If it is one loud, complaining customer, that it might not be worth worrying about. See the nature of the issue and make a judgment. Even the best companies can't avoid things sometimes going wrong.

Forums and chats give you a chance to ask questions to a large number of people - most of whom will have no vested interest in any particular internet provider except to give you their honest opinion.

3. Comparison or Review Websites

Websites that let you search, compare and evaluate broadband plans can be really useful. These sites can save you a lot of time and effort. But just keep in mind that their reviews may be influenced by payment from the providers. Many review sites hold their opinions independent - if it seems like you are being sold to then be suspicious. If the reviews seem balanced, then they are a useful source of information.

Regardless of the reviews, use any internet plan search and comparison tools to help you decide which plans and provider will suit your budget and your needs.


When looking for a new broadband or internet plan do some research on your own. Get an idea of the types of plans and providers that you think will work well for you. Then speak to your friends and family and check out some reviews online.

Evaluate all the information you have, trust your own instincts and make a decision. If you are really nervous about committing to a broadband provider you are unsure about, then choose a shorter contract. Many ADSL2+ and Naked DSL providers offer no contract options.