Archive for October, 2008


Top 10 Windows Optimization Tips

Windows is not the only software that comes bloated out of the box, so many of our popular applications, antivirus programs, and proprietary systems are slowing our computers down. We’ve been complaining and they seem to be listening. Thankfully, the tide is changing for bloated programs and operating systems. The new Windows 7 OS is trimming down starting with the MinWin microkernel, and this thinking is being echoed across the board by the major AV vendors and others. Recent technologies such as multiple cores and 800/1066MHz memory have the potential to make our computers blistering fast and responsive, if only we can get the monkey of its back.

So, while the future looks brighter performance-wise, there’s plenty we can do right now to optimize computers whose performance is lagging. These simple tips are often overlooked in the search for trendy tweaks and removing useful features for the sake of what is sometimes a negligible performance boost.

Top 10 Optimization Tips for Windows XP:

  1. RAM – 1gb is the new minimum. 3gb is the upper 32bit limit. Overdoing it can cause stability issues. The old adage that you can never have enough ram is outdated..
  2. Ensure your new RAM modules match as pairs for type, speed etc. Check the motherboard specs for optimal placement of RAM. Check your BIOS is enabled for dual memory configuration. Check your page file is set for matching initial and maximum size (RAM X 1.5)
  3. Adjust the default system setting in Vista for system performance to background services instead of programs.
  4. Visit the Windows update site and choose custom updates; in the left hand pane look for updates in the 3 options shown; visit Office update separately. Updates (patches) can act as tune-ups.
  5. Run CHKDSK from disk tools with find and repair boxes checked, and defrag XP.
  6. Remove bloated antivirus and replace with from ESET.
  7. Use the disk tools (drive letter: properties >tools) to clear out all the temp and redundant files being careful not to remove Office installation files
  8. Check you have adequate drive space for maintenance operations; reclaim disk space; remembering that defrag does not free up disk space, removing or deleting data does. You need significant free space on the volume if you run database type programs, but typically around 15-25% on standard systems.
  9. Run spyware/malware scans; reset IE7 (tools>options>advanced>reset).
  10. On older XP machines running slowly can also be the result of dust build up. Additional symptoms are excess fan noises, spontaneous restarts.

Next: optimization for Vista.


learning to love Vista

I’ve been around for a few new Windows releases starting with Windows 98 and it’s nothing out of the ordinary to see new OS’s greeted with walls of resistance from technology reviewers, enterprise adoptors, and small business. It’s always been fashionable to knock Microsoft and for some reviewers it can border on hysterical, like this guy at The Observer in 2001.

“…Windows XP is a montrous, bloated brute that requires state of the art PC and 2gb of hard disk space before it will even say ‘hello'”

Personally, I love Vista. The features that have made my life easier simply aren’t there in XP. Besides, I prefer progress over being able to use my 6 y.o HP printer. Vista service pack 1 has fixed most of the issues and gripes including slow performance over the network, Explorer hangs, and security improvements. The problems I see in the field now are mostly related to application compatibility and lack of knowledge to install backwards compatibilty.

Firstly, Vista offers the choice of two account types: standard or administrator. The latter is a standard account with administrative rights, but is still a standard account. In XP an admin account had full user rights locally. This is a security feature in Vista which launches those UAC prompts. If you want to run a legacy program (such as my accounting program I bought in 2005 which runs fine on Vista) you will need to know the options and procedures to elevate privileges and install legacy programs. The options generally run in this order:

  • contact the vendor to see their articles on Vista installation, program or driver updates
  • Run As Administrator (To launch a program with elevated privileges right click the exe or setup file and choose “Run as Administrator”)
  • Use the Vista Compatibility Assistant (right click setup file, properties, compataibility tab)
  • Use Vista Compatibility Wizard (follow this path >start >control panel >click programs >then choose “Use an older program with this version of Windows”)

I’ll be posting more on learning to use Vista.



Managing website passwords with your fingerprint

My favourites links keeps growing with every new must-have-in-my-favourites websites folder in Internet Explorer. Password rules vary from one site to another. There’s no standardising and some webmasters love dreaming up new ways to complicate my life and ensure I can never have a standard across the board all purpose catch-all password.

So then I found Roboform and have been pretty content with this program and never have to reach for that index notebook with passwords anymore. Eikon have gone one better to take the password manager out of the browser in the form of a USB stick with a fingerprint reader.

fingerprint reader

EIKON-To-Go Portable Digital Privacy Manager is made for notebook users. It uses your fingerprint to authenticate Windows logon, launch your favourite software applications by swiping a particular finger, password bank feature to remember all your online usernames and passwords on the web, simplify Vista UAC tasks, and switch user accounts easily and securely. Includes fingerprint reader and Protector Suite QL software.

Cost $66 RRP.






Backing up EFS Files (Encrypted) in Vista

capture-bkp.JPGIn Vista business (and Ultimate) you cannot backup files that have been encrypted using the Encrypted File System (EFS). In Vista Business you have the Backup Computer option in addition to Backup files option. The Backup Computer option takes an image of the hard disk partitions you select including the system drive, and allows you to back up all files, settings and programs, including EFS files.

The only people who can decrypt an EFS file is the person who owns the file (user account name), a nominated (recovery agent) user name, or users given NTFS level permissions. If you want to decrypt your EFS files before migrating the data from XP to a new Vista computer:

1. Use Windows Explorer to locate the encrypted file that you want to decrypt.
2. Right-click the encrypted file, and then click Properties.
3. On the General tab, click Advanced.
4. Click to clear the Encrypt contents to secure data check box, click OK, and then click OK again.

To remove EFS from a folder you must be the original user who enabled EFS (or the Recovery Agent) the process is similar. Navigate to the folder, right click and choose properties, advanced and follow the steps above.



New HP Elitebook – all day battery power

elitebook6930p.jpgAmong the biggest gripes for notebook users is time limitations on a single battery charge, and how easy it is to destroy a notebook with one careless slip of the wine glass or coffee mug on the keyboard.

The new HP Elitebook 6930p series will be the answer to these gripes and much more.

It’s built to military standards of toughness, has a spill resistant keyboard, and with the optional long life battery offers up to 24hrs battery time on a single charge. The specs are also impressive in this model from under $2000.

Visit HP for more info.


Hard Drive Sudden Death Syndrome

Antec External Hard Drive Backup SolutionYou can save a lot of money on computer repairs and replacement of hard drives, data recovery costs or data loss by being prepared and managing backup.

One of the key issues affecting hard disk failure and sudden death is heat. This can be especially true of hard drives inside external casings with little or no heat controls.

The new Antec MX-1 external SATA drive has a patented, very quiet cooling fan (under 22dBA) so the drive can run continuosly, ready for the next scheduled backup. On the rear is a power on/off switch, USB, and E-SATA port.

Our price of $349 (inc gst) includes  SATA 640GB Hard disk capacity, delivery, and installation of e-sata port on your desktop PC so you can transfer data at blazing speeds.

The MX-1 works great with Vista business editions to create image backups so you can restore your computer in minutes in the event of system failure.