Sunday, 1 June 2008

Support Page - Troublefree Net Visits


My aim with this article is to provide my website guests with a simple, jargon-free guide. So everyone can enjoy a better online experience here at WBT and elsewhere. There's alot of clever, complex advice out there on the Net. My objective is to demystify it all.

I've included free programs, hypertext links and updates to assist website visitors. All are tested before publication at WBT.

1. The Basics - Your Dream Machine

Whatever computer manufacturers claim, your PC is a data storage and retrieval device. It's really good at doing this and you can help that happen. Most crashes, freezes and slowdowns are caused by the files on your PC being disordered, corrupt or missing. Here are the programs I recommend to stop the rot:

Microsoft Scandisk ®

Running this program once a week will keep your file directories in good order.

Microsoft Defrag ®

Run this after scandisk once a month, so your hard-disk "head" can find data efficiently. (Defragmentation takes awhile on modern hard-disks so patience is needed, its worth it.)

Writer's Note: Symantec's "System Works" (Which includes the impressive Norton Utilities) has a defrag program called "Speed Disk". This is even better than Microsoft Defrag due to an additional "optimize swapfile" feature.

2. Your System Disk

Your system disk is the best resource to replace missing or corrupt system files. It's the CD-ROM you should have received with your PC (If purchased second-hand its a good idea to ask if the seller will include their original system disk in the sale). (It's also known as an "o/s disk", "windows disk" or "oem disk").

Registry Cleaning & Optimisation (Update)

Registry files are used by your operating system to organise data and programs. This file is enormous on modern PCs, so clearing it of invalid (and sometimes illegitmate) entries will mean less computer freeze, faster startup and fewer error messages. Optimisation, after running a registry cleaner, removes " data holes" and compacts the registry file which can then be "read" faster by your PC during startup. (Microsoft Registry Checker is recommended for optimisation. Backing up your registry file before optimising is advisable).

How To Back Up Your Registry File:

1. Click the Windows "Start" Button
2. Select "Run" (A dialogue box will open where one can enter program names)
3. Enter "Regedit" (A simple program supplied with Microsoft operating systems)
4. Press "OK" (Registry Editor will load in a new window)
5. Click "Registry" at the top of the screen (pulldown menu)
6. Select "Export Registry File" from this pulldown menu
7. A new dialogue box will open, asking you to save a .reg file to your hard disk.
8. Writer recommends giving the reg file a name including date & year, so you can tell easily when you last backed it up (Eg: May21-2008).

Update 2008: Writer's recommendation. The "Eusing Free Registry Cleaner" was found to be fast and causes no registry file corruption under test.

3. Fast Downloading & Surfing.

Because you followed my simple steps above, you are already half-way towards faster, more efficient downloading and browsing. Do yourself a further favour by installing Mozilla Firefox ® as your default browser. It loads jpegs faster into memory, manages annoying popups and has many other useful features.

With the advent of low-cost DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) broadband modems, unreliable connection, annoying dialup procedures and pernicous "dialers" are fast disappearing. However, you can still optimise your DSL connection to get the best performance from your broadband modem.

To do this, I recommend a simple, free program called TCPOptimizer. I have included it in my "helpful downloads section" for you.

One simply runs it, selects the "Adapter" (name of your installed broadband modem), selects "Optimal Settings", saves changes and reboots. It finds and uses system settings to give your PC a faster, more stable connection.

4. Remove Junk Computer Files.

There's a vast array of "junk cleaners" (free and commercial) available on the Net. I recommend "Ccleaner" (free download) or the superb Webroot®­ Windows Washer (commercial- free trial).

Without running such a program, one's temporary directories are soon clogged with unnecessary files. Cleaning temporary files from one's browser and java caches also reduces opportunities for viruses to plant themselves on your system.

5. Your Anti-Virus/Spyware Arsenal.

If you can afford a licenced Anti-Virus (AV) Scanner, I believe this is the best option. Modern ones provide regular updates to ensure the latest spyware and viruses are destroyed. First rate commercial AV companies include:

Grisoft & Symantec

For those of us on tight budgets, these and other firms provide an array of useful safeguards well worth exploring.

Here's my top free AV Scanners & Spyware Destroyers (All tested):

Spybot Search & Destroy (or Spybot S&D)

Version 1.5 is now available - Superb Spyware Scanner with free updates one can download at anytime. The development team go out of their way to ensure new updates are added including detection and deletion of the new root-kit and winsock hijacker nasties.

SUPERAntispyware Free Version

The free version impressed me. Searches memory, registry and hard-disk for nasties, then destroys them. Fast updateable database. Runs fast, even on my old machine. Not a RAM hogger and offers useful features when loaded in one's system tray.

Hijack This

Often used on Help Forums, this unfortunately named little gem, is in fact, a fabulously quick way to identify and remove suspicious programs and registry entries (sometimes missed by AV Scanners). Patience is needed to interpret Hijack This log results, but these can be easily searched for online.

Update 2008: Writer's recommendation. Yoggie Gatekeeper Pico™ (Commerical) is an impressive all-in-one security solution. A "mini-computer" that simply slots into any free USB Port. This frees up one's entire PC processing power, hides IP address from external misuse and provides a formidable firewall.

6. Free Fast Online AV Scans:

McAfee Online Scan

Helpful Download Section:

1. TCPOptimizer Version 1.01 (freeware)
2. Ccleaner Version 1.40 (freeware)