Four simple ways to stop Windows Update restarting your PC
November 11, 2009 – 12:02 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Four simple ways to stop Windows Update restarting your PC

wuaIt’s one of the most frustrating Windows problems. You set up your PC to do something really important overnight, maybe download a huge file: but wake up in the morning and you find Windows has rebooted the system before you’d finished, so you need to start again. You’ll naturally want to throw things and shout at Microsoft, but once you’ve calmed down it’s worth thinking about some of the ways you can avoid this happening in future.

One option is to change the time when Windows installs updates (in Windows Vista, click Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Windows Update > Change Settings). By default this is normally set early in the morning, 2 or 3AM. If you change it to some time when you’re more likely to be around then there’s a chance that you’ll spot the reboot prompts and be able to postpone them.

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Save valuable hard drive space with this quick System Restore tweak
November 10, 2009 – 13:37 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Save valuable hard drive space with this quick System Restore tweak

restoreWindows can be, well, a little fragile at times (you may have noticed). Just one Registry error, or a single corrupt system file could be enough to stop your system booting. So it’s good to know that System Restore is working in the background, keeping snapshots of your system state, and enabling you to fix most of these problems in a couple of minutes via Windows Startup Repair.

But there’s a price to pay for this feature. Keeping all these backups requires plenty of disk space, and by default System Restore will consume 15% of whatever’s available (12% on XP), or for instance more than 112GB of a 750GB drive. If you’ve plenty of hard drive space free then you can safely ignore this, as it does have some advantages (you’ll be able to store and recover many more restore points). But when drive space is running short then cutting System Restore’s share can make a real difference, and it only takes a moment.

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Unreal Development Kit available for free
November 9, 2009 – 22:49 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Unreal Development Kit available for free

udkThe Unreal Engine has been the power behind hundreds of classic games: Unreal Tournament, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6, Gears of War, BioShock, the list goes on.

It used to be available only to big corporations with pockets deep enough to pay the high licensing fee, but last week that all changed when Epic made the technology available for the much more reasonable price of nothing at all.

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Speed up the Windows boot process with this quick and easy idea
November 7, 2009 – 10:55 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Speed up the Windows boot process with this quick and easy idea

delayIf your PC takes forever to boot then one common way to improve the situation is to disable unnecessary Windows services. That means less activity when your system starts, and so it should come to life a little more quickly. 

Most people stop their service optimisations right there, but if you’re running Windows Vista or 7 then there’s another useful step you can take.  By choosing to delay the startup of various non-critical services, other components – like Explorer, and your desktop – will be able to load earlier.  There’s less risk because you’re not disabling anything, but delaying a number of services should ensure your PC becomes usable a little faster than it did before.

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Navigate REGEDIT at high speed with these essential keyboard shortcuts
November 6, 2009 – 12:59 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Navigate REGEDIT at high speed with these essential keyboard shortcuts

regeditSpend a while editing the Windows Registry and it’s all too easy to find yourself with a mess of open hives and expanded keys, making it tricky to find the section you need.  You could manually collapse each section until everything’s clear again, but that might take a while – a little keyboard trickery is much more effective.

Clicking in the left hand pane and you can use the Home key to jump straight to Computer, for instance.  Press End and you’ll see the lowest expanded key, and you can then use the Page Up or Page Down keys to rapidly work your way through the list.

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AppRemover will completely remove unwanted antivirus tools
November 6, 2009 – 12:18 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on AppRemover will completely remove unwanted antivirus tools

AppRemoverAfter weeks spent researching antivirus software you’ve chosen the best, downloaded it, started the setup process, and… Come up against an error message that it can’t install because it’s detected some other antivirus tool, one that you thought you’d removed long ago.

This is an annoying but common problem (we see it regularly) that comes about because some antivirus tools do a very bad job of uninstalling themselves, leaving remnants behind that other programs detect. So if they won’t clean up properly, then you should turn to a tool that will: AppRemover.

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Decide which browser will open a new link with Browser Chooser
November 5, 2009 – 10:10 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Decide which browser will open a new link with Browser Chooser

chooserThere are plenty of great browsers around right now, but if you’ve installed a few then you’ll know they’re all good at different things. You may run Firefox for general use, perhaps, but have to launch IE to get the best results on your company website, or Chrome when you need the best performance on JavaScript-heavy sites.

Unfortunately you can only have one default browser, though, and if you click a link in an email or PDF file, say, then that’s the browser that will be launched. And so you’ll have to copy the URL, close that browser, open another, paste in the previous address and start again, a real hassle. Unless, that is, you install this clever alternative.

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Will Vista's power plans really save you money?
November 4, 2009 – 10:53 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Will Vista's power plans really save you money?

powerExplore the power options in Windows Vista and you’ll find three power plans, collections of settings that govern how your PC uses energy: “Power saver”, “Balanced” and “High performance”. If you want to save electricity then you’re supposed to opt for the first; selecting “High performance” will use more energy, but maximise your system speed; and if you can’t make your mind up then there’s always “Balanced”.

What Microsoft don’t tell you, though, is how much of a difference these settings really make. Is the “Power saver” plan really so eco-friendly, for instance? And how much might it help to cut the monthly electricity bill for a desktop? We decided to construct a quick and simple test that would help to find out.

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Can your PC run Windows 7's XP Mode?
November 3, 2009 – 10:15 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Can your PC run Windows 7's XP Mode?

securableUpgrade to Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate and you’ll also get Microsoft’s new software compatibility tool, XP Mode. This is a complete XP installation that you can run in a window on your desktop, and in theory will let you use old software that doesn’t work under Windows 7. But in practice it’s not quite as simple as that.

The first problem here is that XP Mode requires your CPU to support hardware virtualisation. Most do, but some don’t, so it’s worth checking your system and there are plenty of tools that can help.

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Refresh your Windows 7 PC instantly with these gorgeous theme packs
October 31, 2009 – 09:28 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Refresh your Windows 7 PC instantly with these gorgeous theme packs

brazil1If you tried one of the Windows 7 betas then you might remember the “hidden” international themes, where you could try out the spectacular wallpaper images of Windows 7 editions around the world (Japan, South Africa, America and more).

These had disappeared in the Windows 7 RTM release, however, leaving you with just the standard themes provided with your particular edtion. Which seems a shame, but don’t worry, the international themes are still available to everyone if you know where to look.

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Essential command prompt tools: defrag
October 30, 2009 – 14:06 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Essential command prompt tools: defrag

commandSome people think the Windows command prompt is just for geeks and programmers, and everyone else can get on much better by pointing and clicking their way through the regular Windows interface. But this isn’t entirely true. There are many useful Windows functions that can’t be carried out at all unless you use the command prompt, and once you learn the basics then they’re not at all difficult to use – anyone can do it.

Take disk defragging, for instance, rearranging your hard drive’s files so they’re able to be accessed more quickly. In Windows Vista you can defrag a drive from Explorer by right-clicking, then selecting Properties > Tools > Defragment Now, but you won’t get the option just to analyse the drive to see how defragmented it is. Windows gives you no control over the defrag process, either, and may refuse to run defrag at all if you’re short on hard drive space. These issues could be a real inconvenience, but you can resolve them all just by turning to the command prompt.

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