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My five favorite Windows tips for maintaining your computer

In this article, I am going to share my five favorite tips for maintaining Microsoft Windows.

  1. Checkdisk. This is the first thing I do when I get a system here in the shop. Errors do occur and files do get damaged. Best to take care of this first thing. And yes, this can take a while, so I always recommend leaving your system on and let Checkdisk run over night. That way your computer is ready to go first thing in the morning.

    For more information on how to perform a Checkdisk, just select your operating system below:
    Windows 7 Checkdisk
    Windows Vista Checkdisk
    Windows XP Checkdisk

  2. Delete Temporary files. This is the first place to look when you need to free up some hard disk space. These files served their propose at one time, but for some unknown reason, the program that used them did not delete them. When deleting temporary files, some may be still in use. I recommend deleting all files / folders that are over a week old. See below for the location of temporary files folder on your version of Windows:

    Windows 7 / Vista - C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Temp
    Windows XP - C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temp

  3. Delete the Internet Explorer cache. This is the second place to look when you need to free up some hard disk space. I have seen systems with over 9 Gb of temporary files. Open Internet Explorer and go to Tools > Internet Options and change the following settings:

    Internet Explorer Temporary Files
    Internet Explorer Temporary Files

  4. Pagefile optimization. This one often gets over looked. There is a formula for calculating the correct pagefile size. Minimum pagefile size is one and a half (1.5) x amount of memory. Maximum pagefile size is three (3) x minimum pagefile size. Say you have 4 Gb (4,096 Mb) of memory. 1.5 x 4,096 = 6,144 Mb would be the min. pagefile size and 3 x 6,144 = 18,432 Mb would be the max. pagefile size.

    Windows Pagefile Settings

    To change the pagefile size, you need to access the System Properties dialog box. Press Windows logo key + Pause (Windows 7 / Vista users select 'Advanced' system settings). Then select the 'Advanced' tab and under 'Performance' click on Settings. Then select the 'Advanced' tab and under 'Virtual memory' click on Change.

    For more information on how to change the pagefile size, just select your operating system below:
    Windows 7 Pagefile Settings
    Windows Vista Pagefile Settings
    Windows XP Pagefile Settings

  5. Disk Defragmenter. Probably the best single thing you can do to speed up your computer. Imagine a filing cabinet where all of the folders were out of order and files were misplaced through out the cabinet. How could you find anything? Same thing with your hard drive. Disk Defragmenter takes care of that for you. And you can run it as a scheduled task too.

    For more information on how to use Disk Defragmenter, just select your operating system below:
    Windows 7 Disk Defragmenter
    Windows Vista Disk Defragmenter
    Windows XP Disk Defragmenter

Give these five tips a try and see how much more performance you can get from your computer,
Scott

Simple security with Microsoft Security Essentials

In this article, I am going to spotlight Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). This is not Microsoft's first venture into the ant-virus market, but it is probably the best. Having used the some of the more well know anti-virus software (Norton / Symantec, McAfee, etc.) for over a decade, I decided to give MSE a try.

Microsoft Security Essentials

All of articles I had read on Microsoft Security Essentials were quite positive, so I installed its on my netbook running Windows 7 in June. Since then, I have taken the netbook on several on-site service calls and on vacation. I am happy to report that the netbook remains virus free. What I really like is the small footprint the software has. It does not take five minutes to start up Windows, as can happen on systems with limited resources (such as a netbooks).

MSE works quite well with Windows 7 built-in firewall. The interface is clean and easy to use, unlike some of the anti-virus software out there. It's easy enough for a novice user to navigate. It also integrates into Windows Update as well. Here's a quote from Microsoft's website:

Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

I encourage you to take a look at Microsoft Security Essentials. It's simple and free.
Scott

Windows 7 User Account Control (UAC) and Failed Installations

I recently got an e-mail asking if I knew why the installation of software that was downloaded would fail on Windows 7. This issue is actually part of Windows 7's User Account Control. Let's say I was surfing the web with Internet Explorer (IE) and clicked to download a file. When the IE download prompt comes up, I can 'Run' or 'Save As' the file. If I select 'Run', I am running the application as a standard user, even if I have administrator privileges. Let me explain.

By default, standard users and administrators access resources and run applications in the security context of standard users. When a user logs on to a computer, the system creates an access token for that user. The access token contains information about the level of access that the user is granted, including specific security identifiers (SIDs) and Windows privileges.

When an administrator logs on, two separate access tokens are created for the user: a standard user access token and an administrator access token. The standard user access token contains the same user-specific information as the administrator access token, but the administrative Windows privileges and SIDs are removed. The standard user access token is used to start applications that do not perform administrative tasks (standard user applications), such as Internet Explorer. The standard user access token is then used to display the desktop (Explorer.exe). As a result, all applications run as a standard user unless a user provides consent or credentials to approve an application to use a full administrative access token.

The best way to be sure you are running a downloaded application with the administrator token is to open Windows Explorer, navigate to the directory you downloaded the file to, right-click on the file and select 'Run as Administrator'.

Enjoy,
Scott

Stitching panoramic images with Microsoft's Image Composite Editor and Photosynth

I recently had the opportunity to go out and shoot some landscape photos in Vermont. I had wanted to try out Microsoft's Image Composite Editor. ICE (that's the acronym) is an advanced panoramic image stitcher that uses Photosynth technology. Here's a quote from the Photosynth site.

Using techniques from the field of computer vision, Photosynth examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

One of the key features of Microsoft's ICE is the ability to drag and drop hundreds of photos taken in a rectangular grid of rows and columns. With that in mind, I set out to take some photos. I attached a wide angle lens on to my Nikon D40 and I was on my way.


Over two hundred images were used to create this composite

I decided to go all the way and also installed Microsoft Photosynth. I created an account on their site, so I could upload the the composite images from Microsoft ICE. This is one of two options for saving the final composite image. The other being an image format (.JPG, .PSD, etc.). Click here to see more of my photosynths.

Here's a list of features from the Microsoft ICE home page:

  • Accelerated stitching on multiple CPU cores
  • Ability to publish, view, and share panoramas on the Photosynth web site
  • Support for "structured panoramas" - panoramas consisting of hundreds of photos taken in a rectangular grid of rows and columns (usually by a robotic device like the GigaPan tripod heads)
  • No image size limitation - stitch gigapixel panoramas
  • Support for input images with 8 or 16 bits per component
  • Ability to read raw images using WIC codecs
  • Photoshop layer and large document support
  • State-of-the-art stitching engine
  • Automatic exposure blending
  • Choice of planar, cylindrical, or spherical projection
  • Orientation tool for adjusting panorama rotation
  • Automatic cropping to maximum image area
  • Native support for 64-bit operating systems
  • Wide range of output formats, including JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PNG, HD Photo, and Silverlight Deep Zoom

I am really satisfied with the output from Microsoft's ICE and Photosynth and encourage you to give it a try for yourself.

Enjoy,
Scott

My top five favorite Windows 7 features

In this article, I thought I would share my top five favorite Windows 7 features I find most useful.

Calculator

Calculator

You can use Calculator to perform simple calculations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Calculator also offers the advanced capabilities of a programming, scientific, and statistical calculator. You can perform calculations by clicking the calculator buttons, or you can type calculations by using your keyboard. You can also use the numeric keypad to type numbers and operators by pressing Num Lock.

Command Prompt Here

Command Prompt is a feature of Windows that provides an entry point for typing MS DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) commands and other computer commands. In Windows 7, Microsoft has integrated the ability to open a Command Prompt from within Windows Explorer. If you have ever had to navigate to a folder and/or file in DOS, you will love this feature. To do this, hold down the Shift key while right clicking on a folder in Windows Explorer and select Open command windows here from the context menu.

Aero Shake

Using Aero Shake, you can quickly minimize all open windows on the desktop except the one you want to focus on. Just click the title bar of the window you want to keep open and drag (or shake) the window back and forth quickly, and the other open windows are minimized. To restore the minimized windows, shake the open window again.

Note:

  • Some windows, such as open dialog boxes, cannot be minimized using Shake.

To minimize windows using Shake

  • For the window you want to keep open, drag (or shake) the title bar back and forth quickly.
    To restore the minimized windows, shake the open window again.

Geek Tip:

  • Press Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Home to minimize all windows except for the currently active window. Press Windows logo key Windows logo key +Home again to restore all windows.

Aero Snap

You can use Aero Snap to arrange and resize windows on the desktop with a simple mouse movement. Using Aero Snap, you can quickly align windows at the side of the desktop, expand them vertically to the entire height of the screen, or maximize them to completely fill the desktop. Snap can be especially helpful when comparing two documents, copying or moving files between two windows, maximizing the window you’re currently working on, or expanding long documents so they’re easier to read and require less scrolling.

Aero Flip and Aero Peek

Aero Flip

With Aero Flip 3D, you can quickly preview all of your open windows (for example, open files, folders, and documents) without clicking the taskbar. Flip 3D displays your open windows in a stack. At the top of the stack, you'll see one open window. To see other windows, you can flip through the stack.

You can use Aero Peek to take a quick look at other open windows without clicking away from the window you're currently working on. Peek makes it easy for you to preview the contents of open windows and switch to the one you want just by pointing to a program or thumbnail on the Taskbar

Let me know what your favorite Windows 7 feature is.
Scott

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

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4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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