CHR Consulting

Bay Area Computer Pros

Quick Tips

Golden Gate Bridge

Do-it-yourself

Computers are all about common sense. In their own, binary way, of course. It takes a little bit to get it but once you find your way around your PC, the rest is not so difficult but so fun! Let's start with just a few things that apply to most PCs:

Run cleanup and defrag your hard drive periodically

This will ensure maximum speed and productivity. Every once in a blue moon run the defragger and dump all temporary files that Windows gets full of.

Perform infection scans regularly
Run anti-virus and anti-spyware software on a regular basis. This is mandatory and exceptionally critical to your system's good health and life.
Restart your computer from time to time

This is brainwash for Windows that is simply not designed for continuous uptime. It goes haywire, if you don't. So, before we even call it a problem, let's just restart - it's stupid, but it works for most one-time glitches.

Apply security updates

Always accept Windows updates. First, learn what they look like, though, as these days there's more and more rogue malware that purposefully tends to look just like legitimate stuff - anti-viruses and updates, that is.

Windows Vista

OK, so here we go again. Yet another big joke from the industry monster. Windows XP started selling late 2001 and it wasn't untill three years down the road that one could reliably work on it (Service Pack 2 update). That's just how it goes with their software. So, you get the idea: Vista is still in the "don't-touch-it-till-it-works" state and it's hardly getting any better. And as of July 1, 2008 Microsoft stopped selling Windows XP, which makes getting a new computer with XP instead of Vista even harder. Hard is not impossible, though. And instead of being guinea pigs and financially supporting such a poor company, as Microsoft for such a unique opportunity, as to beta-test their software, we still recommend XP for new machines. After all, Vista upgrade disc is only $100 and the hardware will all be compatible. The sad truth is that it has been a very bad couple of years for a new computer since XP disappeared off the shelves. But we can still get one for you.

Do's & Dont's

Backup

Backup, backup, backup! Never go a day without it. Remember: if you have recorded your data to one media only, then you have not recorded it at all. Most of us have had to learn the hard way, why wouldn't you want to be an exception?

Use uninterruptible power supply

If you had a power meter, you'd know that we almost never get 110 volts AC around here. Most of the time we're way off, averaging anywhere between 80 and 150 volts. Some say it's because of earthquakes, others blame PG&E. Whatever the reason might be, a small investment into a very common device found in almost any hardware store like fry's, Best Buy, Office Depot, even Radioshack -can save you so much trouble.

Secure your network

We don't want to be responsible for other people's wrongdoings. Very few networks remain open these days and you don't want to be on one of them. So, if you are setting up your wi-fi by yourself, don't forget to encrypt it.

Never peer-to-peer

Never connect to a peer-to-peer network! Most of these are set up by hackers and attackers fishing for easy prey. It's quite simple to tell a computer-to-computer type network and you want to avoid those no matter what they are called.

Upgrade or replace?

First consider an upgrade. An average computer life is three to five years. That is an average. If yours is within that average and you've never had it maintained or upgraded, it probably still has a lot of potential left. The easiest computer upgrade that most people can even perform themselves and at the same time the most effective one in most cases is memory upgrade. RAM is the most common bottleneck of most systems. Depending on your computer configuration, you will either be adding or replacing memory modules on the mainboard. No software installation or configuration is required - just be sure to click it in all the way.

Printing

Printers are very cheap now. In fact, sometimes a band new printer with ink cartridges will cost almost as much as a new cartridge set. That is because printer manufacturers make their money selling ink, and hardware that helps you use it jsut goes together with it. Therefore, a printer priced below $200 is practically a giveaway, as the profit margin on those is close to 0. However, most inkjet printers have 3 to 5 print quality settings from the finest to the lowest. Simply put, it's the print density. But it's also speed. Now, we mostly print text, don't we? Setting print quality to low in printing preferences will radically speed up the printing process, while going much easier on ink. It literally makes some printers spit paper out at the speed of light. And the quality is sufficient for text and maps.