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How Do I Access/Enter the Motherboard BIOS?

The information ... can be used to access the BIOS from all the major suppliers of BIOS chips and the Computer Manufacturers that use them.* 10/30/2006

How Do I Adjust the Settings on My Monitor? 10/16/2005

Nokia Test is a freeware utility by Nokia that will guide you through testing and adjusting any monitor for an optimum display. There are test patterns for Geometry, Convergence, Resolution, Moiré, Brightness, Contrast, Focus, Readability, Color and Screen Regulation. You put up the test pattern and then make the adjustments to your monitor.

There is also an excellent help file that explains all the technical terms and procedures necessary to understand how to correctly set up and adjust your monitor. You might also want to check out DisplayMate Technologies. This company writes the software that all the computer magazines use to test and compare monitors. They also write video diagnostic software for professionals. There is a wealth of information on these pages with everything from what to look for when you buy a new monitor, how to care for it, and how you should adjust it.

Nokia Test runs under all versions of Windows and can be used on any computer display. There is nothing to install. Simply extract the zip file into a directory of your choice and a Nokia Test directory will be created. You can run the program directly from the directory or make a shortcut to Ntest.exe and run it from where ever you wish.

How do I Automatically login Windows XP? 01/21/2006

Keep in mind automatically logging a user in without a password is a potential security risk. Even when you are the only person who uses your computer, there is potential for your computer to be stolen and with it any personal information contained within. Realizing it's fairly unlikely anyone will steal your computer from your house, there's a great deal of convenience in having your computer automatically log you in during the boot process. The update for Windows XP for .NET 1.1, which is required for many applications to function properly, switches off automatic login on your computer because it adds a special user account to your system. You need to keep this special user account on your system, but you can restore the automatic login by changing a few settings.*

How Do I Backup My Drivers, Files, Folders and/or Hard Drive? Updated: 09/09/2009

Articles & Web Sites
Files & Folders
Hard Drive

Backup Articles & Web Sites

Fast, Easy Backups For Windows 98, ME, NT, 2K, and XP by Fred Langa.

Free-backup.info - Free-backup.info is privately owned by a small partnership of developers and support technicians. We provide local support and training for small and home-based office networks.

Free-backup.info began as a support site for two of our popular freeware packages and now supports our popular S3-based Online Backup Tool Back2zip!

Althought all software on Free-backup.info is and will remain completely free, the Online Backup Service has paid component for storage (charged by Amazon, our storage partner).

While you're there check out their "Other Great Free Backup Software" page for links to more free backup programs. Updated: 09/09/2009

Windows Backup - Why Should I Backup My Windows Computer and How Often? Doing a Windows backup is one of the smartest things you can do to protect the important information, photos, music and critical data on your computer.* 09/09/2009

Backup Your Drivers

Backup Your Drivers - dtc100 says, "Maybe it just stopped working.
Maybe you 'fixed it till it broke'.
Maybe you reinstalled the OS or got a new system and have lost the hard to find driver for that printer or scanner.

No problem if you have a CD copy of all the drivers on your system.

Download and install wdrvbck1.exe from http://ftp.surfnet.nl/simtel/winxp/fileback/
Run it and click About|'Check for updates'
" to make sure you have version 1.0.9...
"You then have the last free version before Driver Guides got hold of it from Jermar."

Backup Your Files & Folders

AKGBackup™ - is a backup program written entirely in Java. As a result, it has the advantage that it should run on any platform as Java is a language having cross platform portability as one of its strong points. It is an utility for backing up your files on a different hard disk drive, floppies, different partition of the same disk drive or any media your operating system can write to. You can download this backup utility for free (link at the bottom of this page).*

Comodo BackUp - Win 2k and XP - Comodo BackUp is suitable for both beginners and experienced users alike and is completely free of charge. Features include complete file and folder duplication to local / network drives, FTP servers and CD/DVD re-writers; intelligent incremental backups; e-mail reporting; extensive report logs; real time back ups with 'synchronization' mode; advanced rule-based filtering; flexible scheduling of backups; space-saving archiving capabilities and more.*

Handy Backup - Handy Backup™ is an easy-to-use program designed for an automatic backup of your critical data virtually to any type of storage media including CD-RW devices and remote FTP servers. You can use Handy Backup to make a reserve copy of any valuable data on your system. Special addons are provided to facilitate the backup of MS Outlook, system registry and ICQ files. Restoring is as easy as clicking a button, but you can also use a number of advanced options. The program can be also used to synchronize files between two computers on a network.

Handy Backup is designed for MS Windows 9x/NT/2000/ME/XP. Strong file encryption and multi-choice zip compression on the fly, as well as many other useful features, will protect your valuable data. All backup activities are recorded in a log file. Detailed online help is available.

I also just received a recommendation a few days ago from mejayroberts on the TMF HWTSC Board about Handy Backup, "For years, the systems in my employer's offices have used cartridge tape for backup. I hated the things, not only were the cartridges expensive to replace, but the backup procedure was slow.

Recently, we upgraded several offices to networked WINXP boxes. I was tasked with finding suitable backup software to write the important data and files to CD-RW. Googling reviews, I came across Handy Backup mentioned in several of the more popular review sites and downloaded a free trial.

For a paltry $30 I am completely satisfied. The software will write full or incremental backups, wipe the CD or do multiple time-stamped streams, backup to LAN, FTP, or CD, and includes a time-scheduler.

In January of 2003, Lori Lockwood of LockerGnome toured Novosoft Inc. in Novosibirsk, Russia and Discussed Handy Backup with one of it's creators, Sergey Petrov; "I was told (I'm sure with no bias) that all of Novosoft's products are their "best." *grin* I did, however make Sergey select one product to focus on... his favorite product is Handy Backup. This is Sergey's "baby" - I'm sure you can understand that it is very easy to become attached to your computer/software projects! Handy Backup is not only Sergey's favorite, but also a Lockergnome favorite, having been mentioned twice in our newsletters."* 05/03/2004

Replicator - Automatically backup files, directories, even entire drives! Karen's Replicator copies selected files from one drive/folder to another. Source and Destination folders can reside anywhere on your network.

Options include repeated copies at intervals as short as a few minutes, or as long as several months, copy only files that have changed, and the replication of file deletions.

New features allow you to specify which files should not be copied, and also which days a file should be skipped!

SyncBack Freeware - SyncBack is a powerful freeware program that helps you backup and synchronise your files to: the same drive; a different drive or medium (CDRW, CompactFlash, etc); an FTP server; a Network; or a Zip archive.

Backup Your Hard Drive

If you want to Backup the Whole HDD, then check out my Cloning a HDD page.

I've recently discovered that there are a LOT of differences between the Win XP Home and Win XP Pro versions and should be considered when choosing between one version or the other. Personally, I wouldn't consider the Home version in a business scenario because I want/need the options available in the Pro version, but I am running XP Home on three of my computers (bought before I knew about the differences) without any problems, so I don't mind recommending it for a Home PC User. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND the XP Home version for ANY Business, small or otherwise, because of the missing options. I'm devoting a whole page to a comparison of the Differences Between XP Home and XP Pro.

How Do I Backup My Outlook Express, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Mozilla and/or Netscape Files? 03/06/2004

       Outlook Express: Tom Koch says, "Fellow MVPs "Majik" and Steve Cochran have released a new free utility called simply OE Backup. This will backup everything in OE, including multiple Identities, mail folders, newsgroups, address book and customized Identity settings. In fact, it does just what my Clone Backup does, but much more easily. Or you can back up only selected items, such as rules, much like my Partial Backup procedure, but without having to edit the registry. I've added OE Backup to my Essential OE Tools list. Add it to yours and say goodbye to manual backups.

But if you are the do-it-yourself type, or if you just want to understand a bit more about OE complexities, here are three basic approaches to backing up your Outlook Express files and settings. The Simple Backup is only for your email folders and mail and news accounts settings, and it is indeed pretty simple. The Complete, or Clone, Backup is for everything in your OE Identity, including email folders, news folders, message rules, blocked senders, even your current view settings. It is very complex to describe, but takes about 2-5 minutes to complete in practice. The Partial Backup is for groups of messages, message rules only, blocked senders, etc. I suggest you read through all three sections and then decide which best suits your needs. For those who choose the Complete (Clone) Backup, it is strongly recommended that you read about the basic structure of OE files and registry settings and the OE Address Book.

For more help with Outlook Express, try these web sites;

       Outlook: Sue Mosher's Outlook & Exchange/Windows Messaging Backup and Dual-Boot Article explains, "Where is my Outlook data stored, people often ask? Your Outlook folders are either in a mailbox on an Exchange Server or in Personal Folders .pst files on your system. You may also have a Personal Address Book .pab file.

Backup and dual-booting between Windows versions all involve using the same files. There is no backup process built into Outlook. To back up, simply exit Outlook, then copy the files you want to back up. Below we provide a chart of Outlook 2000/2002 file locations, followed by notes on particular files and where they might be found in earlier versions.

These files are also the ones that you'd want to copy back and forth between machines if you need to use the same information at the office and at home, for example. If you have Outlook profiles, name them the same on both machines, so you can use the same .fav and .rwz files. Then use Tools | Services to point the Personal Folders and Personal Address Book services to the files that you've copied. (TIP: You can use the Briefcase to help automate the process of copying the files.)

If you dual-boot, use the same profiles in each operating system. Your profile can point to the same .pst, .ost and .pab files, but you would need to copy the .fav, .rwz and .rtf files and the Outlprnt file.

For more help with Outlook, try these sites;

       Internet Explorer: The easiest way to accomplish this in Internet Explorer...open File-Import and Export-and follow prompts to create an HTML file. You can then copy this file to a floppy (providing, of course, it's not too large), copy it to a USB Key, e-mail it to yourself, add it to your personal web space (Usually provided by most ISPs, but also available through some free e-mail accounts such as Yahoo!, MSN, Hotmail, etc.), or even upload it to your own web site, if you have one.

For more Internet Explorer help, try these sites;
       MozBackup: MozBackup is a utility for creating backups of Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird and Netscape profiles. It allows you to backup mail, favorites, contacts, etc. This program is freeware.* 04/21/2004

How Do I Backup the Windows Registry? 04/01/2006

How to backup the Windows XP Registry? - Registry Editor is an advanced tool for viewing and changing settings in your system registry, which contains information about how your computer runs. Windows stores its configuration information in a database (the registry) that is organized in a tree format. Almost all the settings are stored in the registry, for example, when you resize an application window, the x,y axis points [window pos] are stored in the registry so that the settings are retained next time you open the application. This is just an example, there are much more stored in the registry right from your user account names and passwords [if configured to store in the registry].

Although Registry Editor enables you to inspect and modify the registry, normally you do not need to do so, and making incorrect changes can break your system. Therefore, it's highly advisable to backup the registry before editing/deleting any key. Registry Editing is required only if there is a specific need (if the User interface does not provide an option, for a specific setting, or if you want to script the changes across different systems)
* 04/01/2006

How Do I Block Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File? 03/22/2006

Blocking Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File - The Hosts file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. This file is loaded into memory (cache) at startup, then Windows checks the Hosts file before it queries any DNS servers, which enables it to override addresses in the DNS. This prevents access to the listed sites by redirecting any connection attempts back to the local machine. Another feature of the HOSTS file is its ability to block other applications from connecting to the Internet, providing the entry exists.

You can use a HOSTS file to block ads, banners, 3rd party Cookies, 3rd party page counters, web bugs, and even most hijackers. This is accomplished by blocking the Server that supplies these little gems.

How Do I Boot into Safe Mode? Updated: 11/27/2006

Windows 95:

Windows 98:

MSKB 180902 - How to Start a Windows 98-Based Computer in Safe Mode - There are FOUR methods listed here for entering Safe Mode in Windows 98.

Windows ME:

1. Restart your computer, and when the Boot menu appears, press F8.

2. When the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, select an option, and then press ENTER.

3. When the Boot menu appears again, with the words "Safe Mode" displayed in red at the bottom, select the installation you want to start, and then press ENTER.

Windows 2000:

1. Restart your computer, and when the Boot menu appears, press F8.

2. When the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, select an option, and then press ENTER.

3. When the Boot menu appears again, with the words "Safe Mode" displayed in red at the bottom, select the installation you want to start, and then press ENTER.

Windows XP:

1. Restart your computer and start pressing the F8 key on your keyboard. On a computer that is configured for booting to multiple operating systems, you can press the F8 key when you the Boot Menu appears.

2. Select an option when the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, and then press ENTER.

3. When the Boot menu appears again, and the words "Safe Mode" appear in blue at the bottom, select the installation that you want to start, and then press ENTER.

Unfortunately some Computer Manufacturers have decided to change the way a person can access Safe Mode for their particular computer, so you might have to try Escape, F1, F2, F5, Ctrl, or Delete in order to access Safe Mode on your computer. I know, I know...that's stupid, but I didn't do it.

Here are a coupla more links that may help y'all get into Safe Mode:

How to start Windows in Safe Mode - A tutorial w/pics by Bleeping Computer.

Cleanup Windows Device Manager in SAFE MODE - A tutorial of removing USB devices in Device Manager w/pics by USBMan.

A Fool Friend of mine, Sriram Narayanan, has provided an awesome explanation of how to have the option to Boot into Safe Mode Tip when your computer first Boots Up and graciously gave me permission to use his info on my web site. Thanks Sri!! 11/27/2006

And, if you'd prefer a simple and free program to make Booting into Safe Mode even easier, then check this out;

From The Blade by Ron Schenone, MVP...BootSafe - Makes rebooting in Safe Mode a Snap!…… an it's FREE!

This programs works great! You can boot directly into safe mode to perform system diagnostics.

What is SAFE MODE? Safe Mode is a special way for Windows to load when there is a system-critical problem that interferes with the normal operation of Windows. The purpose of Safe Mode is to allow you to troubleshoot Windows and try to determine what is causing it to not function correctly. Once you have corrected the problem, then you can reboot and Windows will load normally.

BootSafe takes the hassle out of rebooting in Safe Mode or back to Normal mode. BootSafe is 100% free and contains no adware, spyware or malware! No more fighting with the F8 key or MSCONFIG!

Supports booting into Safe Mode
(Minimal, Networking and Repair)
Easily boot back to Normal mode
Supports Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000 and XP
No installation required, no setup, just download and run - it's that simple!
Simple to use, fast to download and FREE!”
* 11/27/2006

I just downloaded and tested this myself and it's slicker'n snot! It even reverts back to Normal Restart after you use it so you don't have to worry about forgetting to change the Restart Option. Purty Cool!

How Do I Build a PC? 09/28/2004

Build Your Own PC - Build your own computer (PC) with the UK's most popular how-to guide - Our primary goal is to provide a free and easy-to-follow guide to help you build your own PC* 10/16/2004

Build Your Own PC by PC Mechanic - It is increasingly popular to build your own computer. In most cases, it saves money, and it guarantees you get what you want. It also assures you avoid proprietary designs many companies use to keep you coming to them for new parts. Best of all, having built the system yourself, you become very familiar with that system and with computers in general.*

Check out some of the articles under my Hardware Help & How-To page.

How Do I Burn an ISO File to CD? Updated: 02/07/2008

How can I write (burn) ISO files to CD? - ISO files are actually images of complete CDs compiles as one whole image, just like Ghost does for hard disks and partitions. ISO images can be loaded into several different CD recording software packages to create CDs.*

List of FREEWARE CD DVD ISO Burning Programs to burn or write an ISO-image to CD, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-Ray (Version 3.23)*

How Do I Change File Associations? 04/18/2006

Changing and Editing File Associations in Windows Millennium Edition - This article describes how to change or edit file associations in Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me).*

Change File Associations in Windows 2000 - This article describes how to change which program is used to open a file in Windows 2000. For example, you can specify that files with a certain extension open automatically in a specific program. You can also modify an existing file type to change its association with a program.*

File Associations - In this chapter, you will learn about file associations, which associate a file extension to a file type. You will learn how to register file types, work with class identifiers, and use Quick View.*

How to change file associations in Windows XP - You can specify that files with certain file name extensions are always opened in the same program. You can also modify an existing file type to change its association with a program. You can work with file associations in Microsoft Windows Explorer or My Computer. This article describes how to change file associations in Microsoft Windows XP.*

Manage File Associations from the Command Line - Two commands, ASSOC and FTYPE, allow you to manage file associations from a command prompt (or in a batch file).

Typing ASSOC, without parameters, displays the currently defined extensions. Type Assoc .wav to display the .wav file association. Typing assoc .wav= will delete the .wav association.

Typing FTYPE without options displays the file types that have defined open command strings. Ftype SoundRec will display the open command string for the file type SoundRec. Typing ftype SoundRec= will delete the open command string.

To define a new association for .log files which you want to open with notepad:

assoc .log=LogFile
ftype LogFile=%Systemroot%\System32\notepad.exe %1

For a complete explanation, type ftype /? at a command prompt.
* ASSOC works in Windows XP.

Understanding MS Windows File Associations in Win 98 - One of the greatest features in Microsoft® Windows® 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT® is the way that Windows handles file associations. Simply open Windows Explorer and double-click on just about any file, and Windows will probably know what to do with it. For example, if you double-click a Microsoft® Word document, Windows will open Word and load the document that you selected. Many people think that this ability is due to some elaborate programming scheme within Word, but the capability is actually native to Windows. In this article, I'll show you exactly how file associations work and how to create your own file associations.*

Windows XP File Association Fixes by Doug Knox - The files listed here are all ZIP files, which contain a REG (Registry) file. Download the ZIP and open it.  Extract the REG file to your hard disk and double click it. Answer yes to the import prompt. REG files can be viewed in Notepad. Each of the REG files contains the default settings for the file extension indicated. For the ZIP file fix, the download is a REG file, since ZIP's aren't working anyway!

NOTE: If your EXE file associations are corrupted, it can be difficult to open REGEDIT, or to even import REG files. To work around this, press CTRL-ALT-DEL and open Task Manager. Once there, click File, then hold down the CTRL key and click New Task (Run). This will open a Command Prompt window. Enter REGEDIT.EXE and press Enter. Thanks to Nigel Andrews for this tip.

How Do I Change a Windows Product Key? Updated: 02/07/2007

Get IT Done: Change the product key on Windows XP a TechRepublic Article by Brien M. Posey MCSE.

Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder - The Keyfinder only supports changing the keys in Windows 95, 98, ME, and XP. Windows 2000, NT, and Server 2003 aren't supported.*

MS KBA 326904 - You receive a "The product key used to install Windows is invalid" error message

MS KBA 328874 - How to change the Volume Licensing product key on a Windows XP SP1-based computer

How Do I Choose the Proper LCD Monitor? 11/14/2006

A Fool Friend of mine, KenAtPcs, says, "A few months back, I bought a Samsung 204B, 20" LCD monitor, sight unseen. It had mostly great reviews, especially from gamers (it has a fast refresh rate). A few reviews mentioned problems with the viewing angle, but I figured I don't move my head around when I stare at my computer screen, so why do I care?

Well, it turned out I did care. A lot. Long story short, I ended up selling that Samsung (at about a $100 loss) and buying an HP LP2065. It uses an S-IPS panel. I calibrated it using the Pantone eye-one display 2 monitor calibration system, and I love it. No dead or stuck pixels that I could see, and no backlight bleeding problem. HP had a great deal in Oct, when they were offering a discounted list price along with a mail-in rebate (which I actually received in less than 3 weeks -- a personal record for me getting a rebate check). My final price, delivered including sales tax, was about $400. I'm thrilled with it.

In the process, I learned a lot about LCD monitors.

First of all, one of the most critical differences among LCD monitors (that I had no clue of) is that they are made of different panel types. There are 4 basic panel types: TN, PVA, MVA, and IPS. The differences among these can be significant, even though the specs may look very similar. Which is "best" depends on what's important to you.

TN panels are usually the least expensive, and with the fastest refresh rates, generally the preferred type for gamers. But despite similar specs for viewing angles, TN panels are the worst with changing contrast as you move your head (especially vertically). My former Samsung was a TN panel.

MVA & PVA panels are better with viewing angles than TN panels, but IPS is generally considered the best. IPS panels are the preferred panels for those who edit photographs, do CAD or other design work, etc. I ruled out MVA & PVA fairly quickly once I determined I wanted an IPS panel, but I recall that MVA has the edge when it comes to playing video (less "twinkling").

Some of the best resources I used during my research include:

A review of 20” LCDs - this specific page has photos of different types of LCD panels that help illustrate the differences with viewing angle.

An LCD Buyer's Guide that's frequently updated - a TON of info!

LCD Search Tool - Enter an LCD name & model # and press the "Søg" button to learn the exact LCD panel used in a specific monitor. Warning: Some manufacturers use more than one panel type per model -- Dell is a popular example. Here's a link to an article discussing it.

Another Buyer's Guide / FAQ / Etc - Look at some of the links on the left side of the page.

An excellent site for Reviews and Technical Info.

A very active Display Forum.

I know many people don't enjoy putting in several hours (or in my case, several days) worth of research time just to make a purchase. I spent about an hour reading reviews before deciding to buy that Samsung, and that taught me a lesson. When buying something you don't know a lot about, it pays to learn enough to be confident you're buying the right model for you. Especially if (as in my case) you don't have any prior experience (I'd always bought CRTs before). Caveat emptor!

One of my main uses for a monitor is editing photos, and I found that the contrast changed too easily as I tilted my head just slightly. Also, many TN panels (including this Samsung) use only 6-bits for colors, meaning it natively has about 1/4 million colors and simulates the rest of the standard 16.7 million colors. Though in truth, I really wonder if I could tell a difference (I never had the Samsung & my new HP side-by-side).

After reading tons of posts on dpreview.com (a photography website), it was clear that S-IPS panel monitors were the desired type to get for photographic editing. Otherwise I'm pretty sure I would have considered one of (if not both -- I didn't do the research) PVA & MVA. But I'll never by another TN monitor if I can help it. That vertical viewing angle problem bugged me even while I was just surfing the net.

How Do I Clean Install Windows? Updated: 09/13/2004

Windows 98: WindowsReinstall.com Win 98 - Win 98 SE Clean Install Step-By-Step

Windows 2k: WindowsReinstall.com Win 2k - Win 2k Clean Install Step-By-Step, Win 2k Repair Step-By-Step, Win 2k ERD Repair Step-By-Step. Another Clean Install Win 2k link on this page.

Windows XP: MS MVP Michael Stevens says, "While a clean install is not always necessary, slightly better stability and performance can be expected when XP is installed to a clean hard drive or partition.

The XP upgrade is a vast improvement over previous Windows upgrades, and is usually the best choice when transitioning from a previous Windows version to XP. I recommend the clean install approach as a last resort, not the first option.

The Elder Geek on Windows XP says, "I’ve made no secret of my feelings about doing upgrade installations of Windows XP. My personal experience has shown that very seldom, if ever, do you realize the full potential of a new operating system when it’s installed as an upgrade. The most meticulous of users can’t guard against all the stray files, drivers, and registry entries that creep into a system through normal use. I see no sense in starting out at a disadvantage. All the little problems that existed before the upgrade are likely to make the transition right along with the new operating system. So, that said, what’s involved in doing a clean install of Windows XP?"*

Recovery/Restore Disk: Reinstall Windows with a PC Manufacturer's Recovery/Restore Disk Step-By-Step - Advent, Compaq, Dell, Fujistu, HP, Sony, Time.

How Do I Clean the Windows Registry? 10/10/2005

Oct. 9, 2005 - Langa Letter: Testing 10 Windows 'Registry Cleaning' Software Packs

Fred Langa tries to make sense of wildly disparate claims, and rates the best free and commercial products.

The Tools And How They Did

I'll provide more detail on the individual tools as we go along, but the list includes JV16 PowerTools version (the last free version of this venerable tool, considered by many to be the best free Registry cleaner ever offered); JV16 PowerTools 2005 (the current, commercial version of the classic tool); Registry Mechanic from PCtools.com; ToniArt's EasyCleaner; StompSoft's Registry Repair; Rose City's Registry First Aid; Iomatic's RegistryMedic; EasyDesk's Registry Drill; RegistryFix's eponymous RegistryFix; and Registry Cleaner from CleanMyPC. In each case, I downloaded the latest available version of each tool just prior to testing.

I think that EasyCleaner is the best free tool currently available; and JV16 PowerTools 2005 is the current best commercial tool available.

How Do I Create a Boot Disk? Updated: 03/08/2004

You could try a generic, preconfigured bootable CD: For example, there's the "Ultimate Boot CD" but it contains just five DOS-based diagnostic tools. Or there's the more complete "911 Rescue CD" or the similar "SuperRescue" CD for Linux. The tools on both CDs are good, but still are limited and are based on a generic, lowest-common-denominator approach to system recovery and repair.

   A last option, if you're from an older school, might be to try a "boot floppy;" a floppy disk that contains just the essential files for a bare-bones restart of your PC. This approach is conceptually sound--in a way, you can think of a boot floppy as a kind of skeleton key that allows you to "open up" your PC for low-level diagnostics or repair. But floppies hold only 1.44 Mbytes of files. That's simply not enough room to hold a full array of fix-it tools. Unless you've already collected a complete library of floppy-based low-level repair tools, having just a boot floppy alone won't get you very far. And even if you happen to have a drawer or carry-caddy full of floppy-based tools, it still won't be fast, easy, or pleasant to rummage through them, trying to find what you need.

    The Perfect Rescue Tool - Part One and Part Two - Fred Langa explains how to make a custom, bootable CD containing the right tools to fix just about any system trouble By Fred Langa,  InformationWeek June 23, 2003* This is by far the BEST Bootable CD that I have come across yet! Bart's Boot Disks, BootDisk.com, DOS NTFS Reader, StartDisk.com, ComputerHope.com, and Bob Cerelli's Windows Page also have great solutions for generic boot disks.

How Do I Create a Dual Boot System? 03/04/2004

Well, first you need to know what Operating Systems you plan on using; Win 98 and Win XP? Win 98 and Linux? Win 98, Win XP and Linux? Second, are you starting this as a fresh install (meaning nothing is on the HDD yet) or are you installing the second (and/or third) OS after you have already setup and used your HDD with an OS already? Here are several different solutions for several different projects. Some of these articles might be dated, but they'll work as described.

OSL2000 Boot Manager - OSL2000 is an advanced multi boot manager. Using OSL2000, you can easily install, boot and manage up to 100 independent OSs in your system. A boot manager is a program that lets you have multiple operating systems in your system. OSL2000 boot manager, in addition to being a normal boot manager, has advanced features that let you seamlessly install, boot and manage 100s of OSs like Windows (all versions), Linux, DOS, etc.* 04/06/2007

How Do I Create Good Passwords? Updated: 04/20/2010

Exceptional Password Article - All,

We've had great debates here on the necessity of passwords, how strong they should be, etc.

Just read an incredible blog of how / why this is so important, especially as we continue to become more and more connected every day.


* Thanks xSSMBB for allowing me to swipe your post from TMF's "Help with this STUPID computer!" board and add it to my web site.

Good and Bad Passwords How-To - An in Depth Analysis of Good, Bad, Strong and Weak Passwords, Password Cracking Techniques and How-To Reduce Password Vulnerabilities.*

How Do I Create or Convert PDF Files? Updated: 03/04/2007

CutePDF - PDF is the de facto standard for electronic documents and forms exchange.

Our philosophy is to make PDF utilities easy, versatile and affordable for every user: from beginner to pro.
* 07/05/2006 F & $

The pdf995 suite of products - Pdf995, PdfEdit995, and Signature995 - is a complete solution for your document publishing needs. It provides ease of use, flexibility in format, and industry-standard security- and all at no cost to you.* 08/04/2003 F & $

PDFCreator - PDFCreator easily creates PDFs from any Windows program. Use it like a printer in Word, StarCalc or any other Windows application.* 09/08/2006 F

pdfforge.org - pdfforge.org is a site dedicated to our OpenSource projects that will help you in forging PDFs just as they are supposed to be. To get an overview have a look at our products.* 07/05/2006 F

PDF reDirect - PDF reDirect achieves best value by being the only free PDF Writer that allows you to:

  • Optimize PDF files for small size.
  • Merge PDF files in any order.
  • Encrypt PDF files for security.
  • Preview your PDF before saving.
  • Set the viewing option including full screen mode.
  • * 09/27/2006

    PrimoPDF - Convert to PDF from any application by simply 'printing' to the PrimoPDF® printer - it couldn't be easier! Within minutes, you can create high-quality PDFs by converting from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and virtually any other printable file type.* 07/05/2006 F

    How Do I Create My Own Multi-Media Center Computer? 12/29/2005

    MediaPortal is an Open Source application ideal for turning your PC in a very advanced Multi-Media Center / HTPC. MediaPortal allows you to listen to your favorite music & radio, watch your video's and DVD's, view, schedule and record live TV and much more. You get MediaPortal for free, as Open Source software. This means anyone can help develop MediaPortal or tweak-it for their own needs!

    Please read the requirements before installing MediaPortal!

    How Do I Defrag My HDD and/or Defrag My Swap File? 11/29/2006

    How Do I Disable or Enable Windows XP System Restore?

    How Do I Disable the Indexing Service? 04/10/2006

    (Fifth Paragraph Down) - Indexing is supposed to make it faster to find files on your system. Whether indexing is turned on or not, Windows is not a very capable search tool. Save the system resources consumed by Indexing for your multimedia processing and turn off indexing.*

    How do I Disable the Notification Area Balloon Tips in Windows XP? 01/08/2006

    This Microsoft TechNet article describes how to use the Registry Editor to disable those pesky balloon tips.

    You can also use MS's TweakUI for Win XP to do the same thing without having to edit the Registry yourself. Download and Install TweakUI, start the program and go to Taskbar and Start menu and disable Enable balloon tips.

    Check out all the other settings that can be changed, but BE CAREFUL! Y'all can make simple changes that "sound" like they'll "help" with something, but if you're not sure what it does it may screw you up when something don't work "right" later and you can't remember/figure out why. LOTS of prior experience talkin' here. <bg>

    If'n y'all wants to experiment with the different settings, do them one at a time and wait a day or two before trying another. That way it'll be easier keepin' track of the changes made.

    How Do I Disable Windows Messenger? 08/15/2006

    Kill the Messenger - The messenger referred to here is not to be confused with MSN messenger or other instant messaging services. Unfortunately, XP has two kinds of “Windows Messenger” which have almost the same name. One is an instant messaging application similar to other IM software such as AIM and ICQ. That messenger is the one that you use to chat back and forth with your buddies. The second one is what we will be discussing here and is the so-called “messenger service.”  This is a built-in service normally running in the background that is intended to allow systems administrators to send pop-up messages concerning maintenance and the like to the users on a local area network. Although this “messenger service” is of no particular use on a stand-alone computer or to most home users, it runs by default. Spammers have discovered that they can use this service to send pop-up messages to computers that are connected to the Internet. Judging from the number of complaints , the practice is pretty wide-spread. The spammers have computers that rapidly scan large numbers of Internet IP addresses and whenever they happen upon someone with an open XP system, a spam message is sent via the messenger service. The hapless PC user suddenly sees a pop-up window intruding on the screen with some sort of unwanted message, usually advertising. The pop-up windows can be identified by the name “Messenger Service” in the title bar. Since pornographic sites are among the active spammers, children may get inappropriate material.*

    Shoot The Messenger - Download and run our small (22 kbyte) "ShootTheMessenger.exe" utility. It will display the current status of your system's Messenger Service. The button near the bottom of its window will allow you to set the service to whichever state — running or disabled — that you desire.

    If, for any reason, you should ever choose to re-enable the Windows Messenger Service, simply re-run ShootTheMessenger to do so.

    *These sites have been quoted directly as I believe what they say about their sites or they already know what to say, better than I do.
    These names and logos belong to and are copyrighted or trademarked by the site owners.

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