Friday, 28 November 2008

Computer Tools, Tips and Tricks

Over the next few weeks I plan on writing a series of articles about computers. These will be written from the perspective of an IT Professional who constantly receives requests for help from friends and family. What I hope to do is outline and provide ideas for some tools, tricks and tips that will help users keep their machines clean and healthy and functioning better. Some of these tools I have been using for years and some are new to me through working in the field or through friends and colleagues. In this piece I will take a quick look at a number of tools, then over the next couple of weeks write a more in-depth step- by- step piece on each of these.

RegCure

AdAware
A-Squared
MalwareBytes
AVG
NoteTabPro
iGoogle

Part of how I see my role in IT is to help educate end-users so that they can do as much as they can for themselves. To that end, when I am working on someone's machine I explain what I am doing and why. This series will aim to help computer users learn from these experiences. Most of these software programs have a free trial version or scaled-down version for home/personal use but also have a more advanced version you can use buy if you want the extra features.

AVG

First and foremost it is important to have good virus software and to keep it up to date. Most software on the market will automatically update and let you know if it has not. AVG is great software and I have been using it for years. Once I was a huge Norton fan but it became more expensive to upgrade/renew each year than to buy a new version but for older machines the new version often took too many resources. AVG has always had a free home-use version; it is good software that runs efficiently without eating your system resources. The free version is good, the full version is great. AVG also has the ability to scan from a menu - you can right click an item or file you downloaded and scan it before opening it.

RegCure

This utility you can run for free but will have to buy eventually. It is fantastic. It will clean up stuff you are not even aware of. The system registry on a Windows-based machine is what allows the hardware and software to work together. This is a document that almost every program you install writes to. What Regcure does is remove the stuff not needed such as lost paths, empty registry fields, uninstalled program stuff and more. I know IT guys who run this every day to keep their machine running faster. Now on a side note, you will almost never get zero entries in this software. Because the registry is dynamic and always being written to, it will almost always find a few items to remove.

AdAware & A-Squared

AdAware and A-Squared are both very similar but do their jobs in a different way. They check for tracking coo
kies, malware and spyware. Both have free versions and are easy to install, update and use. I usually load both updates and set both to run, then walk away from the computer, go have supper and when I get back both scans are done and my machine is healthier. I always run a deep scan - it takes longer but checks everything on your computer not just the common items. AdAware has a paid version but it uses more system resources and runs all the time in the background. A-Squared has a nice function of being able to scan from the menu, so you can right click an item and scan with A-Squared to check it before opening or installing.

MalwareBytes

This program has come to be invaluable. It will remove almost any virus we have encountered either a
t work or on systems for friends or family. It is free to download and try and you can pay to upgrade to a pro version. Tip for this one is to update it twice after you install it. The first time it updates the software, the second the definitions it uses to scan. Malwarebytes has removed the UPS Virus, the XP Antivirus 2008/09, Antivirus Vundoo and many others. This is an excellent product. If by chance you exposed your system or know it is infected, this is the tool for you.

NoteTabPro

This little application is a fantastic utility. I use it daily at work and at home. I use it most to edit posts for m
y blog. I compose in MSWord, to be able to use spell check and grammar check, but if you cut and paste from Word you end up with all kinds of extraneous MS code in the paste. It can also be used for checking HTML, XML and CSS files. It is small, quick and extremely efficient. It's like Notepad on steroids, yet uses hardly any resources or space on the hard drive. I have barely tapped into the features of this utility in the 2 years I have been using it, but have recommended it to a few people who all rave about it.

iGoogle

Over the last year as I have become more mobile, I have come to find this to be an awesome tool. One reason is that Gmail now supports checking other email accounts and even sending from them. I have GMail configured to send from 8 accounts and it receives the messages from them also. iGoogle is a customizable webpage with gadgets galore to add to it. You can have your Gmail, news feeds, even Google calendar and many, many more. You can currently choose between the classic tabbed view or a sidebar navigation. I have moved to using this almost exclusively for mail and scheduling. Plus I have all my news and sports feeds on one tab and then a separate tab for using the Google reader to stay up on all the blogs I read. If they ever start charging for this service like Hotmail once did, I will be toast but currently, in my opinion, it is the best free service on the web.

Articles in this series:

Computer Tools, Tips and Tricks
RegCure
AdAware
A-Squared
MalwareBytes
AVG
NoteTabPro
iGoogle

(Note a variation of this article first published in Imprint 2008-11-28.)

Peace and Strength! Yours, learning to be Steven R. McEvoy

http://mcevoysmusings.ca My Homepage
http://bookreviewsandmore.ca My Blog

CompTIA IT PRO, A+ ITT, A+ DT, A+ RST, Network+
Microsoft MCP, MCTS Business Desktop Deployment, MCTS Vista Configuration, MCITP Enterprise Support, MCITP Consumer Support, MOS,

"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
- Leo Rosten

3 Comments:

Anonymous said...

well thanks for sharing these computer tricks. They rock.

null said...

Followed you here from TechRepublic - what is the "erdmans" that you speak of?

SRMcEvoy said...

Hiren's Boot CD But I have a bootable disk that has that, SLAX linux, Acronis All in 1 Rescue and Vista Active recovery.
Erdman's is a recovery disk I got from one of my prof's in college. much like the Hirem's but a little more customized.