Monitor your PCs open internet connections with TCPView
November 18, 2009 – 11:24 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Monitor your PCs open internet connections with TCPView

tcpviewAt any one time a typical PC will have a host of applications trying to get online. There might be a browser, perhaps; an email client checking your Inbox; an antivirus program downloading the latest signatures, or one of your other programs calling home to see if there’s an updated version available.

Of course if your PC has been infected by something nasty then the list may also detail more dubious activities, like spyware trying to transmit your personal information to its owner, or bots downloading new ways to compromise your system. That’s why it pays to check your open connections, just occasionally, to make sure you know exactly how your internet connection is being used.

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Automatically set your wallpaper to the daily Bing image
November 17, 2009 – 21:57 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Automatically set your wallpaper to the daily Bing image

bingpaperMicrosoft have finally launched Bing in the UK, clearly hoping that goodies like visual search,web page previews and Ciao-powered price comparisons will win your search business. But the most immediately obvious feature remains the spectacular background images, well worth a daily look.

Of course if Google is still your research favourite then you probably won’t be heading Bingwards that often, but there’s no need to miss the images. Run BingPaper and it’ll download and display today’s picture: if you like the shot, click Go and it’ll automatically be set as your wallpaper.

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Instantly locate and launch your favourite apps with MouseExtender
November 16, 2009 – 14:38 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Instantly locate and launch your favourite apps with MouseExtender

meWindows provides many ways to launch your favourite applications, but they all have their problems. The Start menu is a little slow, and cluttered; searching for the program name forces you to start typing, and doesn’t always work; adding too many icons to your desktop leaves it messy; and pinning icons to the Windows 7 taskbar reduces the screen real estate available to other running apps.

MouseExtender is a simple application launcher that manages to avoid all these hassles. The attractive dark grey toolbar comes with some built-in system shortcuts (Control Panel, restart, shut down), and you can extend this with shortcuts to whichever files or folders you need. Then, just click the right mouse button, MouseExtender will reappear under the mouse cursor, and one more click will launch your chosen document or program. Easy.

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Speed up your home server in seconds
November 13, 2009 – 16:00 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Speed up your home server in seconds

schedulingThe standard (client, not server) versions of Windows are designed to deliver fast, responsive user interfaces, and generally they do a very good job. But this very much depends on what you’re doing with the PC. If you take something a system with something like the Home Premium version of Windows Vista or 7 and try to run it as a home network server, for instance, then it won’t work as efficiently – unless you know which change to make.

And what is that? The necessary tweak is really simple, but to understand why it works we’ll need to cover a little Windows theory, first.

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Panda Cloud Antivirus finally out of beta
November 12, 2009 – 11:51 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Panda Cloud Antivirus finally out of beta

cloudAfter seven months of upgrades, tests and tweaks, Panda Cloud Antivirus can now at last drop the beta tag: it’s finally made it to version 1.0.  The program is still free, though, and that’s just one of the reasons you might want to give it a try.

There are no regular updates here, for instance.  No large signature files to be downloaded every hour or so.  Instead Panda maintains its database on a network of servers, which the program will query whenever it finds something suspicious.  The end result is a very lightweight tool that consumes just 5 or 6 MB RAM when it’s running in the background, and a little under 50MB when scanning.

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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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