Vitally Important Computer Tips 

**  Get a good surge & spike protector, with a modem socket.
This simple device is not a 'waste of money' as I had thought.  Even turning on an appliance in your house while your computer is on can create havoc with your hard drive.  Avoid the cheapest protectors - invest in a good one. Electricity does fluctuate, and some nasty zappy thingies can come over the telephone line as well. 

**  Invest in a back-up system:  Tape, Zip Drive, extra HD.
If your computer has never crashed severely..."just wait !"  You will lose ALL of your information except for the small bits put on floppy discs - if you bother to do this.   All email, all saved data - including fax settings and your astrological program data !  Nearly everyone that I know has lost precious information.  Believe me, you will feel sick when your system crashes and you do not have a back-up system.  The cheapest way to go is with a basic tape drive.  Get the gigabyte zip drives if you can afford it. 

**  Install a 'system fixer', e.g.. 'First Aid by Cybermedia' 
First Aid (for Windows) is the best that I know of and it is updateable on the Net.  Avoid Norton Crash Guard - this is virtually worthless and it wiped my brother-in-law's hard drive ! Clean Sweep is also OK, but it does not have a background-running 'crash guard'.  Both software programs have many features and you will feel like an expert just by having them installed !  This will pay for itself my keeping your computer away from the workshop. 

** Defragment your Hard Drive regularly.
This is so easy, and should be done at least every month, even once a week is not too often.  Techies will get a decent defragger using Norton Utilities or Nuts and Bolts, but the one that comes free with Windows is sure better than nothing at all.  Go to Programs \ Accessories \ System Tools.  Email me if you still need advice, but it is easy to do.  Go on and do a complete Scan Disk as well.  BTW, these may take some time to do, so have a few cups of coffee, or just go to sleep for the night.  One important tip:  be sure to close off ALL programs - including crash guards, anti-viruses, etc.  - otherwise the defragger or scan disk will keep stopping and starting. 

And Prevent Freeze-ups and Crashes

Most people will find that their computer slows down after awhile,
maybe after a year or so, depending on how many programs you have added to your system. 
Don't fall into the trap of spending lots of extra money on that new 450 Mhz computer ! 
If you follow these tips, you will have a faster, cleaner system.

  Get rid of that background photo on your desktop.  Choose a plain background.  Doing this made an appreciable difference on my PC.  I miss seeing the beautiful New Zealand Alps, but it is worth it. 

  Turn off that screen-saver.  New screens will not "burn", and besides, you can set your screen to turn off automatically (or go into power-saver mode) via the Settings \ Control Panel. Screen savers are cute, but not necessary and they soak up valuable resources (especially if you have limited RAM). 

  Run a "system fixer", as noted above.  At the very least, it will enable your 'windows refresh' feature. 

  Turn off all unnecessary programs.  Do you really need that anti-virus running when you are off-line ?  It took me awhile to figure out just what was running 'in the background', but once I started to close things down, my system froze-up less often and ran faster. Often programs interfere with each other.  Clean Sweep really bogged my system down so now I only enable it when necessary. 

  Get the free download "FreeMem", which frees-up your RAM.  A 'must-have' utility !  Email me for details or just use a search engine to find it. If you have 32 Mb of RAM, typically there is only 8 Mb or so left for your applications; Win 98 soaks up a lot of RAM as well. 

  Defragment your hard drive regularly.  See the section above for details. 

  Get rid of those old programs and files that you do not use anymore.  Unfortunately, if you just hit 'Delete' or dump them in the Recycle Bin, there will still be remnants that remain all over your hard drive.  These bits and pieces and unnecessary programs can 'muck up' your system.  Use your 'Uninstall' feature or something like 'Clean Sweep' in order to get rid of all extra junk.  However, you may have to take the BIG STEP, which is... 

... Reformat your hard drive.  This means to deliberately wipe everything off and start over !  Yes, a big step, but after a year or two (especially if you are a heavy user of your PC) you just may be forced to do this. Techies tell me that reformatting creates new magnetic lines on your hard drive, which is healthy for your system.  You may also want to partition off your HD as well. Get some good advice on exactly how to do this, and of course back up everything first ! 

  Get more RAM.  32 Mb is a must these days, and 64 - 96 is not the over-kill that it used to be. 

  Reinstall the program that keeps giving you problems.  Even Windows can be reinstalled. Just set-up the program using the CD or floppies as you would normally do, and be sure to chose the option for saving your old data files when prompted.  Often a program will have a file that becomes corrupted, so you need to reinstall the software to make it work like it used to. 

And if you still have troubles ?  Well, most likely what you need is not a faster chip, as much as a new motherboard.  The cheaper motherboards (and other components besides the main chip) can cause lots of freezes and crashes and problems in general....  and these cheaper items can be found on such big names as Compaq.  It is not the so-called trusted name that make the difference, but exactly what is inside your computer - and it takes a techie to find this out. If you do decide to upgrade to a whole new computer, or to replace your main chip and motherboard, find a friendly techie (who is not also a salesperson of computers) who can give you some good 'inside information'. 

   Good luck !   Hope this helps ! 


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