Biggest tips guide ever! (Part 7)

3/30/2012 6:00:23 PM
Biggest tips guide ever! (Part 7)

Windows; Hardware

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Act your age

DVDs have age ratings on the box; as do computer and console games. Prevent your children ignoring them by implementing Parental Controls in Windows. You'll find it in the User Account settings.

Remote access tools rule

If you can't fix your PC, someone else surely can. Use the Remote Assistance tools in Windows to get context-based help or allow a technical support staffer to peer at what's happening and apply a few tweaks.

Manage exclusions to Windows Firewall

Windows 7's firewall constantly asks you to allow or deny an application's access to your network. To unblock or block a program, you'll have to manually change some settings in the Windows Firewall control panel. Click on your Start button, type Allowed Applications into the search field, and press Enter. In the resulting window, all the programs installed on the system that were flagged by Windows Firewall will be listed, If there is an application communicating through the Firewall that you now want to block, click the Change Settings button at the top of the screen, then scroll through the list of programs until you find the offending software, and disable it from accessing the internet over Home/Work or Public networks. Conversely, If you'd like to allow a program that was previously blocked, find it on the list, and select the appropriate boxes next to the entry.

Revive a non-functioning PC

We can't perform miracles, but we can suggest some common fixes. A non-starting PC may have power supply issues, but a poorly seated processor, RAM module or graphics card could also be at fault.

Crashing soon after startup

Uninstall anything you recently downloaded, then check your startup apps and background processes to see if something is going wrong. View the processes in the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl, Shift, Esc and clicking the Processes tab. Use as a reference to identify the obscure ones.

For startup items, enter msconfig in the Start menu Search bar, then launch the application and click on the Startup tab to see what's going on. If something you recently installed shows up in there, it might be the culprit.

Unexplained PC crashes

If your crashes aren't easy to reproduce, get your security software to scan for viruses and malware. If you've recently installed a new security suite and have started seeing problems, try uninstalling it and then use a different one. Security applications typically get deeper Into the guts of your system than other apps, meaning they're more prone to incompatibilities.

Windows won't load

This is best addressed by booting into Safe mode - you'll probably be offered this option if Windows fails to start. Uninstall whatever you installed most recently, update any drivers such as the Bios software, then head to the System Restore menu and select a recent date. Restart the PC.

Hard-drive errors

A falling hard drive won't be fixed using the Safe mode and System Restore tools, but going through the process may help alert you to It. Get your recovery disc, boot up from It, and save whatever data you haven't backed up. Run your disk diagnostic app or Check Disk, which is built into Windows. Right-click your hard-drive icon, select Properties, Tools, then select Check now... under the Error Checking tab. There's no cure for bad sectors - you'll have to replace the drive.

Imminent motherboard failure

The motherboard issues a series of bleeps to alert you to its plight. Back up the drive and save what you can before calling on tech help or looking for a replacement component.


Avoid using site such as eBay to buy software

Change the operating system

We've already noted how Linux can bring security benefits. Using Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot' (the latest consumer version of Ubuntu) rather than Windows will also let you get more oomph from an elderly laptop. Another Linux choice: Puppy Linux ( is lightweight and secure, as well as free, and can be run off a USB drive if you prefer.

A new Windows for old

Windows is getting less bloated and laggy, Hooray! You could dump Vista or XP for Windows 7 Home Premium and enjoy a slicker Windows experience. Alternatively, you could try out the unfinished Developer Preview version of Windows 8.

You can download it from the PC Advisor website at (32bit) or (64bit). The worry-free way to test drive Windows 8 - or if you simply don't have a spare PC on which to run it - is to use virtualization software. We like VirtualBox (

Enjoy easier Windows upgrades

You need to back up everything on your PC before doing so, but once you've completed the preparation, there's still lots of hard graft ahead. You'll need to reinstall your applications and transfer your programs files, email and browser bookmarks. Microsoft helps ease this task by offering its Windows Easy Transfer utility, which is available as a free download ( it scans the software, saves everything to an external hard drive and assembles all the items you'll need when you load up your new version of Windows. It also transfers your files to the correct locations on your new PC.

Wireless keyboard keeps playing up

It's not uncommon for wireless peripherals such as keyboards and mice to present problems. They need to maintain a connection with their RF receiver base station - the small module that plugs into the PC via USB - in order to communicate to Windows what you're typing. Unfortunately, other electronic items in the vicinity often interfere, if you work with your mobile phone by your side, it's likely to be the culprit.

Is my software kosher?

When you install Windows for the first time, you'll be prompted to activate it You can run the operating system for the first 28 days without needing to do so but, after that, Microsoft will start reminding you that "this copy of Windows is not genuine", hoping you will activate (or register) your copy. The license key will be written on the embellished sticker on the disc's paper jacket, or on the box. If you don't have a license key, you'll need to buy one or face sudden shutdowns and screen blackouts.

I think I've bought pirate software

Software piracy is rife. Buying software through an auction site such as eBay is ill-advised; you transfer money into a stranger's PayPal account, they cash it and provide a string of numbers to unlock the software you downloaded. Expect a nasty malware infection as well as there's a high likelihood that the software is 'cracked' and therefore unusable (or not legally). Our advice is don't bother, if you can't afford to buy expensive software, there are many free alternatives for almost every computing and creative task imaginable.

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