Monthly Archives: September 2015

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All About Backups and Keeping Your Data Safe

There has been an increasing amount of emphasis in recent times on the subject of keeping the information on your computer safe. The terms Back-Up, Archive, Data Storage and Security being mentioned frequently, but what is all about?

In simple terms, people are increasingly holding more and more information on their computers, be it photos, personal data and finance, business data, accounts, contacts, addresses and much more.

What everyone needs to understand is that the information held on your computer is a very vulnerable entity and can be very easily and completely lost, either by component failure, malicious acts or theft. If loss of the information you keep on your computer would cause you distress, then you need to take steps to ensure it is kept safe and that you would be able to continue even if your computer was stolen.

The only definite way of safeguarding against the many different kinds of threats is to have a copy of the valuable information and keep it away from the computer, this is commonly referred to as back-up. In case of loss, the information can then be restored to a computer from the safe back-up copy. A back up consists of an exact copy of this important data, kept on a separate storage medium such as a CD / DVD or an external tape or hard disk drive.

Naturally, a back-up is only as good as the last time that you actually made a back-up copy, so it is common practice to create a new back-up frequently and overwrite the old copy. How frequently you do this depends on how often your valuable information changes, the more changes, the more frequent the back-up. A back-up can be performed manually by simply copying the data you wish to back-up to your chosen media, or the process can be automated by using specialist back-up software programmes. Back-up software allows you to select the data that needs to be backed-up, when to make the back-up and where to copy the backed-up data to, this set up can then be memorised by the back-up software. Backing-up your data then becomes a relatively quick and simple process.

Many confuse back-up with “archiving”. Archiving is where you transfer data, which is important enough to keep, but no longer required (e.g. old photos, old accounts) to an external, safe storage medium for future reference. The archived data is then removed from the computers main hard drive to free-up space.

Whether backing-up or archiving, there is a choice of media you can record your copy on to:

Recordable CD or DVD
If you have a CD or DVD recordable drive, this is a better longer-term solution with more space. The downside is that the recording process can be a pain as you cannot just drag and drop and that you need CD’s or DVD’s to record on.

This type of backup can be cumbersome, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, depending on the software and the quality of disks used.

When using this method of backup, remember to check the disk you have transferred your data to, to make sure your computer can read the disc ok in future.

USB Pen Drives
Also known by various other names USB Pen Drives are an excellent low cost solution for smaller back-up purposes being easy to use and they are also great for transferring data from one computer to another.

External USB Hard Drives
For most users the best storage solution for back-up and archiving purposes is the USB external hard drive, being reliable, easy to install (just plug in to your USB port) and easy to use (just drag and drop your files to be backed-up). USB External Hard Drives are available in pocket or desktop sizes and storage capacities from a few Gb to 250Gb + offering a huge amount of recording space. Being a plug in device they can be easily disconnected and kept separate from your computer and out of harm’s way. Some external USB Hard Drives like Iomega come packaged with back-up software too.


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Computer Slow? Fix It Yourself!

Why does it seem like every time you get a new computer it operates at lightning fast speeds for only a few months before becoming slow and laborious over its tasks? Is this just something that we have to live with or can we do something to keep our computers running at optimum speeds?

The truth is that computers do not get slower as they age. A slow computer is a sign that something is literally holding your PC back and affecting its performance. And the good news is that you can do something about it.

There are many things that can affect your computer’s performance, from low memory to a fragmented hard drive and everything in between. The small errors or resource-heavy programs that can affect your computer’s performance are usually of your own doing. Each time we download a program or delete a program, we affect the way our computer operates. This change in operation can leave holes in our PCs operating procedures or may even leave behind programs that can affect our computer’s performance.

Here are just a few things that could be making your computer slow:

· Running Background Programs – These programs are software applications that are running behind the scenes even when they are not in use. You may not even know that they are running, but they can zap precious memory and slow down your other tasks considerably. To see if you have programs running in the background, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete at the same time. The box that pops up will show you all applications that are running.

· Full Hard Drive – If your hard drive is too full of data, it will not have enough space to perform chores. Your hard drive should have at lease 2GB to 3GB in free space.

· Fragmented Hard Drive – When you download and delete programs, you create holes in your hard drive. These holes mean that your PC has to search for the files it needs over greater distance and not necessarily in the order that it needs them.

· Left Over Parts – When you install and uninstall Windows programs, they leave behind parts or applications that can slow down your computer. You may even unknowingly delete a file needed for other software applications. (Note: Spyware and viruses can also slow down your PC’s performance, but for the purpose of this article we are assuming that the problem lies in application errors.)

Make Your PC Run Like New

While it’s not rocket science, making your computer lightning fast once again will take a little work from you. Sometimes, this is as easy as running your Windows System Tools program. You can find these programs by clicking “start,” “all programs,” “accessories,” and “system tools.” Here you will find several system optimizers to help you free up your disk space, defragment your PC, and detect and repair disk errors.

In addition to tools already installed on your PC, you can opt to download additional programs to optimize your computer’s performance. These optimizers can be either  purchased as a set or downloaded for free individually off the web. These optimizers, along with other software programs can help you get the best out of your computer. Here are just a few of the extra optimization programs that you may want for your PC:

· Memory Optimizer – When you are using your computer, it takes several programs and application to handle everything that you are doing. Each of these programs uses memory. When memory is short, computer response time is slow. Memory Optimizer helps to make the allotment of memory to each program more efficient. This can help you eliminate slow PC execution time, Windows hang up or crashing, loss of data and unwanted shutdowns.

· Registry Deffrager and Optimizer – As mentioned before, a registry with holes results in slow response times as your PC searches for the data it needs. This program improves the system response time and saves memory by creating a smaller registry.

· Windows Optimizer – We all use our computers differently. Some use their computer as a media and entertainment centerpiece while others use their PC for data storage and business purposes. Windows Optimizer allows you to tweak program settings so that they will perform in line with your needs.

Granted, a slow computer is a nuisance and it may leave you wanting to go out and purchase a new model. But before you give up on your current model, make sure that you have optimized it first. You may be surprised by how much life is still in your PC.


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Choosing the Right Motherboard

The motherboard is the heart of every computer. It is that big flat board inside the computer that everything is connected to. It performs the role of directing information and connecting components. A motherboard is often the central part of the computer design process. Therefore, choosing a motherboard that’s right for you is essential to your computer build.

Choosing the right motherboard does not have to be a problem, even though there is a lot to consider. We will start off with the larger parts and move onto the things that are less essential.

Firstly is the socket type. The socket is where the processor (CPU) connects to the motherboard. There is no compatibility between sockets, so you have to get a processor and motherboard with the exact same socket size. The socket connection needs to match the connection of the processor you have or the one you intend to buy for the computer.
Most older Intel Pentium 4s utilize socket 478. Newer computers use socket 775 and 1151. AMD chips utilized socket A for a long time, but now the AMD Athlon 64 series and Semprons use socket 939. Be sure to double check the socket size before ordering your products! It saves a lot of time and frustration later if you do your research before you order the parts.

Your choice of CPU will have a lot to do with your needs, but choosing one with an up to date socket type will ensure slightly longer motherboard life as you can upgrade the chip for a while.

DDR3 is the RAM of choice for most systems, but some newer systems, like the ones with the new core I7-6700K use DDR4. These two kinds are not interchangable and have a different number of pins. DDR2,  DDR3 and DDR4 RAM chips come in different speed ratings measured in MHz. Make sure your motherboard supports the speed in MHz that yuo want to buy your memory in. This can be found in touring a prospective motherboard’s manual online.

Finally, we must look at the expansion slots. If you want to add a graphics card to your system, make sure you have a PCI-E x16 slot on the motherboard. That is the long slot with a clip on the end of it. This will allow you to expand your system in the future.

Choosing a motherboard should be proactive; you should think about how you want to upgrade your system in the future when you purchase a motherboard. Motherboards aren;t extremely cheap and if you can reuse the same motherboard in a future build or upgrade it currently, you can save a lot of money in the long run.

A motherboard must be chosen carefully, to both match all the other components and fit in the case you choose. A little bit of research before you buy will save a lot of hassle later on.