Friday, April 29, 2005

Install the Backup Utility in Windows XP Home Edition

By default, if you install Windows XP Home Edition from CD the backup utility doesn't get installed automatically. You will also not find it as an optional component within the 'Add or Remove Programs' control. Sometimes, computer manufactures will install the backup utility on your computer for your convince.

To install the backup utility:
  • Insert the Windows XP Home installation CD.
  • Launch the Windows Explorer, find the CD drive (generally D:\), and open the 'Valueadd\MSFT \NTBackup' folder.
  • Double-click the file called 'NTBACKUP.MSI' (if you are not showing file extensions, it will appear as 'NTBACKUP').
This will launch the installation program to install the backup application. Follow the instructions in the wizard to complete the install. Once you have finished the install, to access the program go to Start menu | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Backup.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Create A Compressed Folder (aka: ZIP File)

Windows XP now has a built-in file and folder compression feature, that allows you to shrink a file's original size. The feature is called 'Compressed Folder', it uses the industrial standard ZIP compression to compress a file. This feature eliminates the need to use a third party ZIP file utility to perform the same function (such as WinZip).

The amount of compression you get will vary from file to file. For example, most video files already use some type of compression, so for the most part they're generally not worth the effort to compress them. On the other hand, I have had large log file that where shrunk to 90% or more of their original size.
  • To compress a file or folder, right-click it and select 'Send To' > 'Compressed (zipped) Folder'.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Receive Faxes for Free by Email

If you still need to receive faxes, and you don't want to buy a fax machine, modem, or phone line. eFax has a free service that allows you to receive faxes in your email.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Disable Windows Error Reporting

If an application error happens, a dialog box will display asking you if you want to send an error report to Microsoft. This can be really annoying, if you have the same problem over and over again.

If you don't want to use the error reporting utility, you can disable it altogether.

- Open the Control Panel.
- Open the System control panel.
- Select the Advanced tab.
- Press the 'Error Reporting' button.
- Select the 'Disable error reporting' radio button.
- Press the OK button (x2).

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cascading/Tiling Windows

If you have several open windows from the same or different applications cluttering up your display, you might want to consider using the cascading windows feature. This feature will automatically reorganize the open windows on your desktop so the are more accessable.

To tile all windows:
- Right-click an empty space on the Windows taskbar and select 'Tile Windows Horizontally' or 'Tile Windows Vertically'.

To tile select windows:
- Hold the CTRL key, and click on application buttons in the taskbar that you want to cascade the windows.
- Right-click one of the application taskbar buttons you selected, and choose 'Cascade', 'Tile Windows Horizontally' or 'Tile Windows Vertically'.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Testing Your Wireless Connection's Performance

Want to find out how well your wireless connection is performing, you can test it with a free utility called Qcheck. This utility analyzes the speed of your wireless connection and reports the performance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New Utility: Transparent Windows

AlphaXP is a free utility that allows you to control transparency effects in Windows XP. With this utility, you can modify the opaqueness levels for: windows, menus, tooltips and the taskbar.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Deleting System Restore Points

The Windows System Restore feature is designed to help you recover after a software installation failure or configuration changed that prevents your computer from booting. By default, new restore points are created after a system change, or every 24 hours. Also by default, the system restore points can consume up to 12% of the space on your hard drive.

To temporarily recover the used disk space, you can delete the system restore points from the Disk Cleanup utility.
  • Open the Disk Cleanup utility (from the Start menu | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Disk Cleanup).
  • When the Disk Cleanup dialog box, select the 'More Options' tab.
  • Press the 'Clean Up...' button.
  • Press the Yes button to confirm the restore point deletion.
  • Press the OK button.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Microsoft Office Alternative

Are you looking for an inexpensive Microsoft Office alternative. As far as office application suites go, Microsoft Office is still the best. Although it is pretty expensive. If you don't have several hundred dollars to contribute to Microsoft by buying their products, then I would highly recommend checking out OpenOffice.

OpenOffice includes a full-featured, Microsoft Office compatible application such as a word processors, spreadsheet, presentation program, and more. OpenOffice is the open source offshoot of the commercial Star Office application suite for Windows and Linux. OpenOffice is completely free and is constantly being updated by its development community.

The interface may be considerably different from Microsft Office, but the functionality is very similar.

Note: OpenOffice v.2.0 will be available soon.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Add a Folder to the 'Send To' menu

If you store files in a specific folder a lot, you can add this location to your 'Send To' menu in the Windows Explorer. This would enable you to send your files to that location quickly and easily. These folders can be anywhere on your hard drive or network as long as your computer has connectivity and permissions to store the file there.

To add a specific folder to the 'Send To' menu, follow these steps:
  • Launch the Windows Explorer, and navigate to the folder you want to add to the 'Send To' menu.
  • Right-click the folder, select 'Send To > Desktop (create shortcut)'.
  • From the start menu, select Run... then type "%userprofile%\SendTo".
  • Minimize all your windows to expose your desktop (press WinKey+D).
  • Open Explorer windows that show the content of the SentTo folder that was minimized then drag-and-drop the shortcut you create on the desktop into this window.
  • Close the window.
Now you can right-click any folder or file, and move that item to the folder by selecting it from the 'Send To' menu.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How to Turn on ClearType for Better Font Display

LCD flat panel screens are great devices, they're far more precise then the older CRT displays. Windows XP supports Microsoft's ClearType technology, which makes text more readable on LCD flat panel monitors and notebook screens. It works by using a font smoothing technology that Microsoft developed, by utilitizing a implementing taking advantage of how LCD screens are designed to work to make the text more readable.

To enable this feature:
  • Right-click an empty spot on the desktop and choose Properties.
  • In the Display Properties dialog box, click the Appearance tab.
  • Press the Effects button.
  • Check the 'Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts' checkbox.
  • In the drop-down box, choose ClearType.
  • Press OK buttons twice to exit the dialog boxes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Microsoft Office: 106 Tips & Tricks

If you're a Microsoft Office suite user, you should check out this site. It offers 106 tips and tricks for the Microsoft Office applications, such as: Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. This article will help you uncover hidden options, features, and shortcuts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Add the Volume Control to the Taskbar

In every version of Windows I have used since Windows 95, I have always used the 'Volume Control' applet in the notification area (formerly known as the 'Task Tray') to control the volume of my speakers. In Microsoft's infinite wisdom they have remove this item from this area in Windows XP, but I am going to show you how to add it back.
  • Open the Control Panels folder (from the Start menu, select 'Control Panels')
  • Double-click on the 'Sounds and Audio Devices'.
  • In the Volume tab, check the 'Place volume icon in the taskbar' checkbox.
  • Press the OK button.
You should now see a speaker icon in the notification area. All you have to do is click on the icon once, and you will be able to adjust the system volume.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Quick Internet Explorer Tips

Here are some Internet Explorer shortcuts that can make your browsing easier:

  • Make the text larger and easier to read, hold down the CTRL key and move your mouse's scroll wheel up. To make the text smaller, hold down the CTRL key and move your mouse's scroll wheel down.
  • Hold down the Shift key and click on the link to open it in a new window.
  • Press CTRL-N to open a new I.E. window.
  • Press CTRL-B to organize your bookmarks.
  • Press CTRL-E to see the search sidebar.
  • Press CTRL-H to see the history sidebar.
  • Press CTRL-I to see the favorites sidebar.
  • Press F5 to refresh the current page.
  • Press F11 to activate full screen mode.
  • Press ALT-Left to arrow to go back a page.
  • Press ALT-Right arrow to go forward a page (if it is available in the cache).

Friday, April 08, 2005

Free Antivirus Software for One Year

Computer Associates (CA) is offering a free one year trial subscription of their eTrust EZ antivirus software for Microsoft users. This free software offer expires 8/1/05. Check out the web page for more information.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Fixing Poor Print Quality From Your Ink Jet Printer

When printing are you seeing a faded print out such as mysterious white lines that have appeared, this problem could be caused by clogged ink jet nozzles. This doesn't mean that you have to throw away that expensive print cartridge, there are few things that you can do to help correct the problem.

Some printers come with a nozzle-check utility to make sure that there are prevent and remove clogs. These utilities are far from perfect but worth checking out. This option is generally available as an application that cames with your printer, or is part of the printer driver. See your printer's manual for more information.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Free Online Anti-Virus Scanners

TrendMicro offers a free online anti-virus scanner, that can find and remove viruses. I like to use this site, when I am helping someone troubleshoot their computer and I think it might be infected by viruses.

This site is not a replacement for realtime anti-virus protection, it is meant as a way to augment your current protection.

Note: This scanner is an ActiveX control, so it requires the use of Internet Explorer to use it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

PC Pitstop, Online System Diagnostics

PC Pitstop is a very cool online system diagnostics web site. From this site you can perform several different types of diagnostic tests on your computer through your web browser. These tests are designed to help you troubleshoot problems with your system, and hopefully help it run better (individual results will vary).

Note: This site uses ActiveX controls, so it requires the use of Internet Explorer to use it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Karen's Power Tools

If you like free useful Windows utilities, then check out Karen's Power Tools web site. She offers several free utilities, that perform different tasks. They're also updated on a semi-regular basis.

For example, in her last newsletter she updated the following utilities:
She also offers a great newsletter, which I have read personally for years. In her newsletter she provides background on the tools and the technology behind them. Its worthwhile checking out, if you have not already visited her web site.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Microsoft Knowledge Base

When you're having problems with your Windows OS or other Microsoft applications, one of the best places to start diagnosing your problems is the Microsoft Knowledge Base (MSKB). Microsoft does a great job of publishing their known problems and their solutions in their knowledge base.

When you go to the site, all you need to do is enter in a few keywords related to your problem such as an error message or a description of your problems. Then the site will return all the matching results. To refine your search even more you can use the advanced search page, use the drop-down menus to help limit your search.