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Squeezing Battery Life from your Laptop – Maximize Laptop Run Time

If you are like most people nowadays, you are probably dependent upon your laptop.  Our notebooks are our virtual windows to the world, and our ability to get projects done and meet deadlines.

If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you desperately needed more battery life to finish a project, and your laptop was dying; this article is for you.  How to maximize your laptop run time:

 

Steps to do before you use your laptop:

Add RAM if you haven’t already.  Having more RAM than you need will reduce the hard drive activity; thus conserving battery life.

Lower your screen brightness for good when on battery power.  It may seem annoying; however you won’t notice the lower brightness after a few days.  Your battery will thank you for it by lasting longer.  Up to 30% longer if you dim just as much as 25%.  Brightness is a battery killer.

Switch to a boring wallpaper.  Moving or graphically intense wallpapers slightly reduce battery life.

Re-install Windows every 6 months.  After a few months, your laptop will be full of missing shortcuts, registry errors, programs you don’t use, spyware, and maybe even a virus or two.  Resetting your laptop will breathe new life into your laptop, and since it will be leaner and faster, it will also run longer on the same battery.  Also related: defragment your hard drive regularly.

 

Steps to do when your laptop is almost dead or dying:

Dim the screen.  Alot.  This will reduce the largest drain on your battery.  Turn on an overhead light if you can instead.

Launch the task manager (ctrl+alt+del) and check what programs are running.  Close all programs you are currently not using.  Everything.  Immediately.

Turn down the sound.  Every little bit helps.  I have personally done this while watching a movie, and the laptop lasted 15 minutes longer than it normally would have after the low battery warning came on.  It’s simple physics.  Make sure you turn down the volume on the laptop itself, not your speakers or headphones.

Remove all USB devices that are connected.  These use power from the laptops battery to run.

Turn off wireless if you can.  Bluetooth as well.  Again, reducing the connections will improve battery life.

Temporarily turn off the screen when you are thinking and not reading or typing.  You can quickly do this via some laptop shortcuts, locking the computer (Windows Key+L), or simply closing the lid.

Remove any CD or DVD in the CD drive.  Your laptop scans its optical drive regularly to see if a CD is still detected. This uses a small amount of power.

How to Erase your Hard Drive

April 26th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Easy Tips - (0 Comments)

How to Erase your Hard Drive

Did you know that when you delete a file from your hard drive it doesn’t actually remove that file?  Nope, it removes all shortcuts to it; however leaves the actual file.  The file will when eventually be overwritten by another file.  I bet you can see the problem here…

What if you are getting rid of your laptop, computer, or hard drive, and need to securely remove all data from it?  Well you are in luck.  There are a number of free programs that will wipe all free space for you, solving this problem.  My favorite is CCleaner.

CCleaner will wipe all free space to any standard you specify.  Security standards vary by the number overwrites performed on the disk.  Three overwrites are usually sufficient, and is the DOD (Department of Defense) standard for securing hard drives.

On the other hand, if you want to completely wipe all of your info off the hard drive without booting into an operating system, my personal favorite is DBaN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke).  This is an ISO you burn to a blank CD- Boot from this CD and it will prompt you with a couple choices for erasing your hard drive quickly and easily. You can download DBaN here-  http://www.dban.org/

Now you know how to properly secure all of your personal data quickly.

Interesting Uses for an Old Laptop

If you happen to have an older laptop lying around, there are plenty of productive uses for it.  Besides donating it, recycling it, or selling it; there are many productive uses for your old machine, assuming it still powers up.

Home Server or Home Theatre PC.  Depending on if the hard drive in your laptop is any good, you may still be able to use it for its hard drive.  Stream content from the internet to your TV, store movies and music, and check your email.  If you want to be able to stream HD content to your computer, you might want to consider purchasing a low-end graphics card for your old computer with HDMI output.  These cards can be surprisingly inexpensive, and are usually quite affordable.  Older computers can still usually play a HD movie, and virtually all of them can play music.  If the hard drive on your old laptop is too small, considering using a portable hard drive.  You can buy a 1TB external hard drive nowadays for under $100.

Print Server.  If you have an older printer that is not Wi-Fi ready, considering keeping an older laptop nearby.  Assuming the laptop has Wi-Fi, this will give you the capability to print from anywhere in your house.  As an added bonus you can set up a home server just for printing, scanning, emailing or faxing documents with the laptop right nearby to make changes.

Guest computer.  Most laptops, no matter how old can still browse the internet, check email, do word processing, and display pictures.  Consider setting up your old laptop in a common area in your house for anyone to use.

Music.  Nowadays with satellite radio and most radio stations on the web anyhow, consider setting up a music laptop in a common area.  This laptop can play content all day long when hooked up to a speaker.  Stream your favorite radio station, favorite playlists, or pull up YouTube to play a random song that you can’t get out of your head.

Torrent Server.  If you are into torrents, consider setting an always connected torrent server.  This server can stay continuously connected to seed and download torrents; just ensure you connect an external hard drive if you have a small one on your laptop.

Picture Frame.  Set up a slide loop of pictures for your laptop constantly display.  Any computer procured for any of the above reasons can also do double duty as an electronic picture frame; just set it up as a screen saver.

3 Cool Shortcuts You May Not Have Known About – Handy PC Shortcuts

Alt+Tab – Allows you to quickly cycle between all open programs.  Useful if you need to switch back and forth between programs, or if you just need to hide an open window very quickly.  Ctrl-Esc also minimizes the open window, however most people know that.

Windows Logo+L Key – Locks your computer.

Shift+Delete – Deletes the highlighted file without first placing it in the recycle bin.

What to do about Computer Viruses

April 24th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Easy Tips - (0 Comments)

What to do about Computer Viruses

Viruses can wreak havoc on your system.  They can slow down you system, corrupt it, and cause you to lose critical data.  Some of the more common types of viruses are; Trojans, Scareware, and Botnets.

Trojans burrow themselves deep into your hard drive and conceal themselves.  They will attempt to capture confidential information on your computer, and information about you.  This includes but it not limited to stealing credit card information, personal information, and information about your clients (if you are using a business computer).

Scareware attempts to conceal itself as a legitimate anti-virus or anti-spyware program; however it is anything but.  It will say anything to get you to download it, and once you do it will continually pop up on your computer prompting you to perform scans that always find countless viruses.  It will then prompt you for your credit card information to compete the removal of any “viruses”.  These programs will not go away, and are clearly not legitimate programs.  They usually have poor graphics similar to the Windows logo, and names like XP-Security-2012.  Scareware is also known as rouge security software as it is not supported by a legitimate company.  Always Google any software and determine its authenticity before you download and install it.

Botnets are an infected network of computers, linked together for a common malicious purpose.  Many programs contain hidden programs, spyware, and malware that may attempt to make your computer part of a Botnet.  The best defense against having your system hijacked and use without your knowledge is anti-virus software and anti-spyware software.  With any luck these programs will stop a Botnet download; if not maybe they will remove it later.

Needless to say; anti-virus software is essential for continued successful operation of your computer.  You will either need to download a free virus scanner, such as AVG, or a paid program like Norton.

Anti-spyware programs will probably catch most malicious programs; however viruses can be tricky and hide under the radar and from these programs, which is why some companies spend millions developing known virus databases and fixes.

AVG is an excellent free solution, and is the recommended anti-virus program if you are on a budget.  AVG can be downloaded from CNET for free, or from any other number of trusted websites.  A quick search for “AVG anti-virus free” should suffice.

Anti-virus software is not all that great however; the price you pay for protection is a small sacrifice in power.  Problem is antivirus software ties up valuable system resources, and scans every message, email, document, activity, download and can bog down your system.  If you have a more powerful computer this isn’t a problem, however if you are using a laptop or similar smaller power computer this could become an issue.  The drain on performance could prevent you from running some programs, performing some tasks, or playing some games.  This can be annoying.  The recommended solution is to disable your anti-virus protection during normal use if this is the case, and schedule it to perform a weekly or monthly scan at a time when you are not using it.  This might be during the night, or on the weekends.  Keeping your computer secure is a continuous process, but you will be rewarded in the long run with a reliable and fast computer.

What is msconfig?

April 24th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Easy Tips - (0 Comments)

What is msconfig?

Msconfig stands for Microsoft Configuration.  “Msconfig” is a tool to allow you to choose what programs run on startup, view system services, access System Restore, and perform a diagnostic startup to troubleshoot an issue.

To access msconfig, click on start, or the Windows logo, then on run, and type msconfig.  Hit enter and the System Configuration Utility will load up.  There will be a number of tabs, usually labeled as such:

General

System

Win

Boot

Services

Startup

Tools

And these might look like a foreign language to you.  No need to worry; we will explain what these tabs mean.

General – Gives you a choice from either a normal, diagnostic, or selective startup.  There is also a shortcut to System Restore here. Normalis normal startup on next boot, diagnostic loads all basic drivers and services only, and selective only loads those services you specify.  Handy if your computer keeps crashing and you need to isolate the problem.

System, Win, and Boot are reserved for boot settings for older operating systems.  You will not usually be changing the settings here.

Services – A list of all the services that will run on your computer when you boot up.  It is not usually required to disable any of the services, however occasionally you may need to deactivate a service that is giving you trouble.  For instance if you have a malware infection and need to isolate the culprit, this is a god place to start.

Startup – A list of all the programs that run on startup.  Programs are much more resource intensive than services, so disable everything here you do not want or need.  Please note some windows programs have not so obvious names, so if you are unsure about a program, Google it first.  Disabling the wrong program here could make your system unstable.

Tools – A neat little shortcut list with all of the most commonly used Windows tools.  Tools like command prompt, event viewer, registry editor, system information, and task manager can be accessed from here.

What is Ivy Bridge?

April 23rd, 2012 | Posted by admin in I've Always Wondered... - (0 Comments)

What is Ivy Bridge?

The Ivy Bridge line of processors will succeed the Sandy Bridge line, and is expected to be released on April 23rd 2012.  The first microprocessors to be released will be a line of 14 quad core processors.

What is better about Ivy Bridge?

Ivy Bridge will be Intel’s first 3-D microchip.  Promising to deliver increased performance where it counts both in reduced power consumption and increased processing power.  Ivy Bridge processors are expected to be backwards compatible with the previous Sandy Bridge platform as well.  A number of other features are also expected to come standard; such as native USB 3.0 Support, and decreased system standby power consumption.

By creating a “3-D” microchip, Intel claims that it has created a cooler, faster, and more efficient chip.  Intel’s main competitor, AMD, has also been working on similar chip developments.  While AMD hasn’t claimed to have developed a 3-D chip yet; they are continuously exploring the limits of processing power and efficiency, and are not likely to fade away anytime soon.

ARM

Ivy Bridge development has taken place rather quickly, as Intel is under intense fire from Britain’s ARM.  ARM has a large share of the mobile processor market; a share that Intel is gunning for.  Both Intel and AMD predict increased demand for more power efficient processors in the future, and are positioning themselves to capitalize on this growth.  The wave of the future, it seems, is mobile devices that can last all day, and several days in a continuously connected standby mode.  Providing users with the capability to stay connected all day without sacrificing battery life is where market share will be either won or lost.  Mobile users want more battery life, and an eighteen hour laptop it seems is just a few years around the corner.

Haswell

Intel has already publicly stated it has begun work on its new line of processors “Haswell” as a direct replacement for both the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge line of processors.  “Haswell” will be significantly more power efficient in both standby and regular modes.  Intel has even hinted that it will be toying with the idea of “Power Recycling”, reusing heat generated by the chip to power the chip itself.  This could offer significant power savings, and perhaps one day the capability to run your laptop for days at a time.

What is Windows Update, and what does it Do?

No operating system is perfect, and Windows® is no exception.  Under pressure of releasing a product on time, and pleasing all of the people all of the time- Microsoft© has to make compromises just like any other company.  The result? Windows is far from perfect.

Windows Update is the medium for enabling your computer connect to Microsoft’s secure server and download any additional updates.  These include service packs, security patches, piracy fighting tools, and fixes for any known vulnerabilities.

Since Windows is by far the most popular operating system; it is usually the first to be exploited for personal gain.  Do not fret however; as Microsoft has taken steps to fight digital crime, and reduce the exploitation of its operating system.  More publicly: Microsoft has taken to public campaigns against botnets, orchestrating takedowns of the biggest networks.

New vulnerabilities are discovered each and every day; and the best way to stay protected is to your computer up to date.  This means also utilizing Microsoft’s Security Essentials® for free.  Please note that you will need to run Windows Genuine Validation Tool® before downloading any free programs from Microsoft.  In other words; if your copy of windows will not validate, you will not be eligible for security Essentials, or any other Microsoft program.

Here is how you setup Windows Update on your computer:

Please note: unless you are an advanced user, we recommend that you enable automatic updates; it is a worry free, hands off way to keep your computer up to date.

1)  Click the Windows orb in the lower left corner or the Start button on Windows XP.

2)  Click on Windows Update (Vista and Windows 7- click on “All Programs” to reveal this option)

3)  If any updates are available you will be notified at this point.  Updates are divided into two categories: Important Updates and Optional Updates.  Install any updates that you wish, although you should always install any Important Updates unless there is a specific conflict with your system.

*To enable Automatic Updates, click on the change settings link on the left hand side.  Enable Automatic Updates, specify a weekly time for your computer to check for them.

Now your computer is up to date, and should remain that way.  If you are an advanced user and don’t want to enable automatic updating; then don’t enable automatic updates- check for them manually.  You can install them whenever you have the time.  Also keep in mind not every update is necessary or even desirable.  Optional updates are not required and usually involve extra fluff- things like extra languages, piracy detection tools, and sometimes new features.  Important updates may be needed for security or privacy.  Read what you are installing carefully- and what its purpose is.

How to Run Disk Cleanup

April 20th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Easy Tips - (0 Comments)

How to Run Disk Cleanup

Under My Computer, right click on your hard drive (usually c:) and select properties.

Under control panel, select Performance Information and Tools,  Select Open Disk Cleanup.  Select all of the features you want to remove, select everything you do not use.

Click ok, you will be prompted with a confirmation window.  Click Yes.

The actual process of cleaning up your disk of all unneeded files may take 10-20 minutes.  Now is a good time to walk away, and do something else for a while.  When you return, you will have a faster, leaner computer.

How to Check your Hard Drive for Errors and Fix Them

Under My Computer, Right click on your OS hard drive (usually c:).  Select properties, and then the tools tab.

Select Check Now next to “Check disk for errors”

Check the box for “fix disk errors”

And also “attempt recovery of bad sectors”

Click start or run.

The disk check is performed after the BIOS loads, and before the OS loads.  You will see a blue screen with a bunch of numbers.  This is the disk check phase.

The disk check can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.  If there is a problem, you will be prompted to take action to resolve it.  With the disk check, the idea is to make sure there are no issues.  If your hard drive is failing, a disk check may or may not help it, but it’s worth a shot, only takes a few minutes and is free.