Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Ten Computer Problems Out There in the Jungle -- Part 2

Take Out The Tears!
But 5 problems are not enough! We need more! Well, we actually have more -- more that I see a lot of anyway, and to round out the Top 10 Computer Problems, or another way of putting it, the Most Common Situations people face, here are my next 5 in the Top Ten Computer Problems Users Face Out There In The Jungle.

6) Status: How Do I Know If My Computer Is OK? There are lots of things going on in your computer, including hardware, software, and maintenance issues. How do you know if there is anything wrong? Assuming you have a fairly late model computer running Windows XP, Vista, or 7, and you have kept your Internet Security Software up to date, your computer will tell you if there is a problem, and, you can help it do so by adding some monitoring devices in software to your computer's Desktop to display hardware parameters, such as Temperature of the CPU and its Cores, various subsystem temps, how hard the CPU is working, how much memory you have left unused, which programs and processes are running and taking up the most CPU time and so on. It's easy in Vista; you just add them as Sidebar Gadgets, and in Windows 7 you add them as plain old Gadgets. In XP it's a little harder -- you have to use Google Gadgets. You may not know what temperature your computer should be, but if you have the stats up there on the screen to see all the time, you WILL NOTICE when they move way up or down. Check out Is My Computer OK, a later post.

7) Upgrade to a New Computer (or OS): How do I get all of my Files, Photos, Documents, Programs and Settings (Logins, Passwords, etc.) to my new Machine?
Microsoft supplies a very nice program called Windows Easy Transfer, or ... WET, that comes with Vista and Windows 7 and is downloadable for XP that allows you to move all of you files, and settings for programs, BUT NOT THE PROGRAMS THEMSELVES, to a new machine, over your local network, or over a special USB cable, and it does a very good job of that indeed. You then have to install your programs, e.g., Microsoft Office, Turbo Tax, or whatever, BUT, when you do, all of you settings and presets are already there and initialized from WET. Wonderful. Still, you do have to reinstall the programs. With Laplink's various PC Mover products, however, you do not. It WILL move the programs as well as the files. You can even upgrade from the boot drive of a DEAD computer!   !!!

8) When should I Upgrade to a New Computer: How do I know when my old computer should be replaced? In many cases your older computer will simply die or fail in some way, but otherwise, most computers beyond the age of 4 or 5 years become very sluggish and fail to respond to keyboard input and "surfing the web" becomes a long wait for web pages to load and screens to display. This is partly due to the lack of horsepower in older, single core CPUs, and also lack of enough memory to run large modern programs like web browsers and office suites. The average modern computer ships with a dual core processor, many ship with quad core CPUs, and 4 GB of RAM, whereas 4 year old and older computers may have 1 GB or less. That simply is not enough to get a speedy response from you machine. You can extend the life of computers with 1 GB or less memory, that is, systems in the 4 to 7 year old range, by adding readily available memory to the computer, up to the usual maximum for such machines of about 4 GB. That may give you another year or 2 before even that won't be enough. Do make sure your computer's sluggishness isn't due to INFECTION!

9) What new computer should I buy? That depends on whether you are buying a toy, for games and surfing, or a tool for work and document storage. In the first case, buy whatever strikes your fancy limited only by the constraints of money and equipment lust. In the second, well, I always recommend that people buy a machine that will be easy to repair by authorized factory technicians within 1 to 2 days of a problem. That means a PC from a major make such as Dell or HP or another top tier brand with a nationwide service program, 24 hour response, and extended warranties. All of your important stuff is on that computer and you need it, right? That said, very well equipped and powerful systems with 4 or 6 CPU cores, 8 GB of memory, a 1000 GB hard disk, and 3 or 4 year onsite warranties are available for well under $1000. Check out the Dell Studio XPS 7100, just such a 6 core AMD based system, and also the HP Pavilion Elite HPE-360z series.

10) I've deleted stuff from my Computer and I want it back! Whether you get it back or not depends on how you deleted it, and, to some degree, on how much you REALLY WANT IT BACK. Simple deletion on modern systems just requires that you double left-click on the Wastebasket Icon (Recycle Bin), which will show you a Windows Explorer directory of deleted files, and which you can then easily restore just by right-clicking on the file or files you want to restore -- you will be given a menu option to do just that. Now if you do not have the deleted file option to save them in the Recycle Bin enabled, or if you have deleted huge numbers of files, larger the the space available to the Recycle Bin, you will need special pro help with special software to recover the files. If your drive has failed, and you have no backup (How did that happen???) you will need special software and hardware and pro help and be prepared to pay the big bucks to a file recovery service that can charge into the several thousands of dollars for that recovery. Yikes! If that doesn't scare you, check out Ontrack Data Recovery. Last time one of our customers needed data from a dead drive, it took $3400 and a week to get their drive image. Still, they got it.

OK, that's my Top Ten List of stuff I get asked about and have to deal with on a daily basis from users out there in the Computer Jungle. Many of these things are fairly easy to deal with, prevent, or plan for. Some are very painful, especially if you had a chance to CYA, but Did Not Take It!


Let That Be A Warning To You!

Oh, and ... do as I say, and not as I do. :)


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