Keep your PC running optimally

Because of the high demands of a growing number of applications and utilities on computers it is always a good idea to keep your computer running at its full speed to avoid slowdowns, sluggish responses and even a crash.There are many ways that you can keep your computer running its best. Just follow these simple steps:

* Regularly update your operating system. This ensures that your OS has the latest security patches that makes it harder to penetrate your system by Trojans and other malicious code.

* Make sure that you have an anti virus program installed in your PC and always update it the engine as well as the database files regularly – even daily if it is possible. These updates have the latest information and cures for the viruses that crop up on the internet on an almost daily basis. You should also actively use your spyware detection applications by periodically scanning your PC for any malicious software

* Familiarize yourself with the applications and processes that are running on your PC so that you can more easily identify what is wrong with your PC if something happes. You can use the Windows Task Manager – opened through ctrl+alt+del – in order for you to more easily recognize what items are currently running on your system. You ca also use the MSConfig tool in order to find out what programs are loading during startup. You can remove the items that you think are not that important to free up ram space and also hasten the boot time.

* Remove unnecessary programs on the tool bar so that you won’t have to run any unimportant applications that can slow down your PC and also slow down the startup time

* Regularly defragment your Hard Drives so that they will run and access files more efficiently.

Improve your LCD monitor’s picture quality

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One of the easiest ways to vastly improve the quality of the images that come out of an LCD monitor is by using the monitor’s DVI connector and connecting that to a video card that is DVI enabled. The reason for this is very simple. LCD monitors actually use digital connections, but it suffers a performance hit when it is connected using the VGA connector, which is an analog connection. What happens here is that the VGA signal still has to be converted from analog to digital that results in a loss in overall image quality.To ensure that you get the most out of your LCD monitor make sure that your video card and LCD monitor both have DVI connectors. The DVI connector is usually white and rectangular with holes for the pins. If you have confirmed that you have these connections then you should buy a DVI male to male connector and connect one end to the DVI connector of the video card and another end to the LCD monitor’s DVI connector.

When you have made the connections turn on both the LCD monitor and the PC. The next step is to set the LCD monitor to read the signal from the DVI input. You should consult your LCD monitor’s manual for this as each model or brand has its own set of instructions. When you have done this, you simply need to right click on the desktop to open the Display window. Go to Settings and slide the slider of the Screen Resolution to set your resolution to the optimal setting for the LCD.

It’s an OC’ed world

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I admit it, my math skills are not the greatest. I’m a great fan of computers and everything involved with it but one thing that really whizzes through my head whenever it is discussed is the subject of overclocking. There is just too many numbers involved and need to be considered for me to really understand it. That is the reason why I have never really attempted to overclock my processor, my video card or my RAM.But fortunately, I saw this great forum that discussed overclocking in a manner that is quite easy to understand and follow. The forum at devhardware.com essentially deals with now to overclock your video card so you can squeeze more juice from the card itself thereby making the video card run at higher clock speeds. This then allows you to put the settings on the games that you are playing on higher parameters making the graphics look better.

Overclocking can be a nightmare when it comes to the actual implementation phase. But the forum threads started in devhardware.com are really quite helpful for PC users of all skill levels. There is even a sticky thread on a beginner’s guide on how to overclock a video card. That in itself is worth the price of registration, so to speak (registration is of course free!). Another advantage is that there are threads started on the different video cards that are available in the market. This means that you will likely find a fellow PC user who may also be using the same 9600 pro card that you have.

Wired for information

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One of the few things that I do not do when I go modding my PC is to make changes to anything electrical. I have no confidence in my electrical skills – in fact, I’d frequently get grounded in my electronics class when I was in high school. That was how big of a klutz I was. Because of this I have never attempted anything remotely involving electricity on my PC. Not only is the feeling of being electrocuted still fresh on my mind, I am also afraid that doing something wrong might fry my motherboard and / or my processor – and we all know how expensive that mistake will be.Currently, as a way of removing my fear of making electrical mods and also as a way of enriching my knowledge about the subject. Unfortunately, I have yet to encounter a good enough resource online that would really be able to teach a person the ins and outs of electricals for PCs in a manner that is comprehensive yet easy to understand.

Take for example, this section on electronics and wiring on xoxideforums.com. The section should be commended for actually having a dedicated area for all things that would require electronics and wiring a PC. What I just do not like is that the subjects are a bit lacking. There should be a subsection for newbies and new enthusiasts. Although the sticky thread on lights, fans and switches is a nice touch, more sticky threads along these lines would be appreciated. It would also be a great idea if there is a worklog for members’ electonics and wiring projects as a way of teaching others.

I am hopeful though that xoxideforums.com will be able to further develop this section because they have started something potentially good and useful.

Know your laptop

laptop1.jpgOne of my gripes whenever I go to various online forums is that most people really do not take the time to get to know their machines or, worse, read up on what they plan to buy. How many times have we encountered people who whip out those high tech electronic gadgets that we could only dream of owning if not for the fact that we have to eat. But then when asked about those same gadgets the owners would shrug their shoulders and not even know how to properly use it? We’re talking about PDAs, cell phones, blackberries, and yes, even PCs and laptops.A couple of days ago, I was looking around online for a good but affordable laptop cooler for my trusty Acer when I stumbled onto this thread on Overclockers.net. The threadstarter was asking help in how he can upgrade the “video card” of his laptop. The guy, god bless him, obviously did not read about laptops first before he bought one. His contention for changing his video card was because he has a relative who has the “same” laptop but with an ATI GPU.

Yes, any person has a right to ask a question in any forum. But these are the kind of questions that could have been readily answered if they had taken the time to actually research the laptop that they purchase. The bad thing about just blindly buying something like a laptop is that you may actually be looking for a particular feature but then find out after you have bought it that it does not have it. Bummer, right?

Awesome monstermod at Dingka.com

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The PC case modding community is one of the most robust and active on the internet. These online communities are so active and the members so helpful to one another – they practically define community. The reason for this is that their hobby – which is case modding – can be a relatively hard and technical endeavor. There are so many things to consider – mechanical, mathematical, electrical, and creative – that these factors can actually overwhelm a person much more someone who is just starting out with his hobby.The most exciting part of these communities though is that you get to see the various worklogs that case modders post so that you can see the progress of their new projects.

One project that has really caught my attention is the so called Monstermod of Willettfx. This may probably be one of the most ambitious mods I have seen. Basially, the modder is planning to put an animatronic face on his case. Animatronic puppets are used in movies, imagine the puppet in Child’s Play or even the face of the Alien in the Alien movies and you get the idea.

Willettfx has actually made his first monstermod back in 2003. But he said that he thinks that his idea is due for an upgrade so he is building a monster with animatronic features – this baby is going to be rolling his eyes and actually snarling!

Willettfx’s project is just halfway through but it is already creating a lot of buzz in the community. I look forward to seeing the finished mod in the next few weeks.

A few tips on cleaning and maintenance

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In my previous post I talked about how to clean a PC properly as well as mentioned why it is important to clean your PC because of its overall benefits to the PC’s performance as well as protection for the components.You have now assembled your PC and it is sparklingly clean. But there are also some other areas that can be cleaned a different way. There are also some things that you can do to make maintenance of computer so much more easier for you.

Here are some of them:

* You can use a folded paper towel that is dampened with rubbing or isopropyl alcohol to wipe the plastic parts of the case with. This is a great way of making old and dingy looking plastic look shiny and new. You should always refold the towel and exposing a fresh, clear part of the tower and then rewetting that clean, exposed part with alcohol to keep it moist. This is a very simple solution and

* Before you make any kind of changes to your case, try to list it down first and / or sketch it. This way, you minimize the errors or mistakes that you might commit

* A window on the side of the case is a great idea because it becomes easier to monitor what is happening inside your case. You’ll immediately know if your case is already in need of cleaning. Adding some LED lights makes peering into the case easier too.

* Shutdown your computer for three hours before attempting to open it, this way the charges in each of the components are neutralized.

THE CPU: Cleaning it

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One integral part of maintaining your computer is cleaning it periodically. And I do not mean wiping the monitors and the case with a rag to remove lint and dirt. I am referring to actually cleaning the inside of your CPU unit.Because of the fans that are used in order to keep your CPU unit cool, it is a certainty that dirt would get into the insides of the PC. The dust that accumulates on your PC can have a detrimental effect on the components inside so you should clean it periodically.

Here is how you should do it.

1. shut down the computer and unplug it from the electrical outlet.

2. Open the case

3. Remove all of the components. Take out the various cards attached to the mobo, like the video card, soundcard, LAN card, and modem (if you are still using one).

4. You should then disassemble the case if it is possible. Remove the components attached to the case like the fans

5. Take out the PSU and open it up. Do the same thing for the CD-ROM drives and the floppy disk drives (if you are still using them).

6. Vacuum all of the components and make sure that you remove all of the dirt

7. Wash all of the pieces of plastic or metal that can be submerged in water. If you want, after you have cleaned and dried these components, you can elect to paint them to make them look like new and also make a glossier finish to which dust can be removed more easily.

8. Sleeve all of the wires on the inside (from the wires of the PSU, the various cables connecting components to the motherboard) and make sure that these do not block airflow.

9. Reassemble your CPU.

Troubleshooting the Video Card

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One of the components of a computer that can bring the most amount of irritation is the video card. This is simply because if you can’t see anything properly then you would not even have the chance to repair it on your own and this frustration can result in some serious hair pulling or damage to other computer components like the mouse (many a mice have I damaged because I’d throw it in frustration over a faulty monitor or video card).Some of the more common problems with video cards come from unwieldy IRQs and bad drivers. One of the words problems though is a badly tweaked video card that inadvertently overdrives the monitor because this can irreparably damage the monitor.

Other common problems that can be traced back to the video card are faulty refresh rates, resolutions and color depth settings that are just out of whack. But these are problems that can be remedied quite easily. All one needs to do is to go the control panel in Windows to tweak the settings and it usually solves the problem. Another option would be to buy a monitor that would support the native settings of the video card.

How can one tell if the video card is giving a lot of problems to the system? Here are some of the symptoms:

* The image on the monitor appear scrambled or distorted

* Images look shrunken or there is a double or even triple image

* You hear a high pitched whine from the monitor, one of the most obvious symptoms of a bad problem

* The screen turns blank

If you manage to rectify the problem at an early stage then there is a good chance that no permanent damage has been done to your system.

Hacking your BIOS password

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A key component of you computer is the BIOS. It contains specific instructions as to how your whole computer will behave thus it is quite crucial that this is protected at all times.One very common way of protecting your BIOS is by using the Password utility that is incorporated with the BIOS itself. By using the password, any unauthorized entries are eliminated thus no one can change the BIOS settings by mistake or maliciously.

The problem that is quite common with this solution though is the simplest but also the most irritating – forgetting the password itself. When you forget your BIOS password you cannot enter it anymore so if something goes wrong with your computer you cannot effect any changes on the BIOS itself. This is potentially a very catastrophic problem.

Fortunately, there are certain steps that you can do to solve this problem.

For motherboards that have been manufactured before Dec. 19, 1996, there are default passwords that you can actually use. The default password is usually the initials of the manufacturer’s name or such passwords as AWARD?SW, AWARD?PW, LKWPETER, 589589, aLLy, condo, djonet, lkwpeter, among others. But if these passwords do not work or if your motherboard is manufactured after 1996 (which it most likely is), then another option would be to discharge the CMOS. Waiting for the CMOS to drain is, of course, not recommended because it may take five to ten years for it to drain (and by that time you’ll probably have upgraded anyway). The most common way of draining it is to remove the CMOS chip or the battery and then wait for twenty minutes before installing it again.

Another option is to flood the keyboard buffer in order to crash the password routine. When you reach the password prompt just continuously press the ESC key.