Cybernaut 

Tinkering with toys

I spend hours everyday trying to get my computers to run faster. Whether it be hardware upgrades or tweaking settings to get that little oomph out of my beige box you can bet that I have tried it. Something as simple as defragmenting your hard drive can have a major effect on the overall performance of your computer.

Here are my favourite sites for getting that little bit extra out of your computer:

www.dslreports.com

If you have a high-speed ADSL or CABLE modem and want to ensure that you’re getting the download and upload speeds that the brochure says you’re supposed to, surf on over to my favourite site for tweaking your modem. DSL Reports offers broadband tests to check and see how well your connection is working – I checked my line when I first got ADSL and realized that I was only getting 800kbps. After trying a simple tweak that they recommended on their site, I increased my speed to an optimal 1273kbps. That’s a 50 per cent increase, and it only took me about three minutes to get it.

www.coolerguys.com

One of the main reasons that computers crash is that they tend to get a little too hot under the hood. In the old days, when the processors, hard drives, disk drives, and even the CD ROMs were slow, one fan was enough to keep your computer cool. These days, the hardware is faster, the software applications are bigger and chunkier, and everybody’s system is top heavy with sound cards and video cards – one fan is no longer enough.

Most new computers have at least two fans in them, one for the power supply, and one for the processor. Myself, I prefer to have at least four fans, one to pull fresh air into the tower and one to blow it out of the back. The cooler you keep your computer the better it will run.

If you’re really serious about gaming, or just want to have the coolest rig in town, another site that you might want to check out is www.cool-computers.com .. They design and manufacture high-end water-cooling systems for computers. Yes, you heard that right – liquid-cooled computers.

www.norton.com

Do you have Norton Utilities? If not, get it. It is the single biggest tool that I use every day for common problems. It will scan your computer and let you know if you have problems with system files, hard drives, modems, etc. It costs about $50 for PC, about $60 for Mac and it’s definitely worth every penny.

If you are running one of the versions of Windows (95, 98, ME, 2000) Microsoft has a bunch of utilities they don’t really tell too many people about, but which are really very good.

http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/downloads/powertoys/networking/nttweakui.asp

Tweak UI (User Interface) is a handy program that was built for Windows NT. It is a little program that can be found in your Control Panel once Tweak UI has been installed. Basically, it gives you more options for changing your Windows interface – you can stop CDs from auto running, change the items that show up on your desktop, and change various other settings. But be careful about what you do. I set my computer to show only six drive letters, and then installed another drive several days later – it took me two hours to figure out why I couldn’t see the new drive on my computer!

The other feature that I use on PC frequently is MSCONFIG.EXE. You can get to it by going to START then RUN then typing in "msconfig". MSCONFIG is now your system configuration utility, but be wary because it isn’t for the faint of heart. There are some features that can screw up your computer if you don’t use them properly. If you are having a problem with the computer crashing during start up, however, this is the first place I would look. I would set it to "Diagnostic Startup" and slowly work my way back to a normal start, piece by piece. This is done by choosing what files and programs the computer loads when it is starting.

If you get in trouble, check the box that your version of Windows came in – there should be a 1-800 number you can call for product support.

www.tomshardware.com

Thinking about buying some new hardware? Perhaps a hard drive, motherboard or processor? Check out Tom’s Hardware for the latest reviews on all the newest hardware components. I read the reviews when I was buying my most recent computer and I ended up saving $30 and several headaches by changing my mind on the video card that I had already picked out. It is usually a good idea to check out several review sites just to make sure that they are all on the same page – I got burned by one biased review on the last motherboard I bought. Also noteworthy is www.sharkyextreme.com .

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