Top Ten tips for your Personal Computer

In This Chapter

► Remember that you’re in charge
► Mind who “helps” you
► Give yourself time to learn Create separate accounts
► Use a UPS
Consider some hardware upgrades
► Avoid crying “Wolf” in e-mail
► Don’t reinstall Windows Shun the hype
► Don’t take this computer stuff too seriously
If don’t consider myself a computer expert or genius or guru, though many have called me those nasty names. I’m just a guy who understands how computers work. Or, better than that, I understand how computer people think and I can translate it into English for you. Given that, here are some tips and suggestions so that you and your PC can go on your merry way.

Remember That You’re in Charge

You bought the computer. You clean up after its messes. You feed it optical discs when it asks for them. You press the Any key (which is the Enter key). You control the computer — simple as that.
Think of the computer as an infant. You must treat it the same way, with respect and caring attention. Don’t feel that the computer is bossing you around any more than you feel that a baby is bossing you around during its 3 a.m. feedings. They’re both helpless creatures, subject to your every whim. Be gentle, but be in charge.

Mind Who “Helps” You

Nothing beats getting computer help when you need it. Most computer nerds love to help beginners. Sometimes, they help you at no cost, though you shouldn’t abuse a good relationship by becoming a pest.
When you can’t find help, use the support you paid for: from your manufacturer, computer dealer, software developers, and Internet service provider.
Above all, keep in mind that not everyone who tries to help you truly knows what they’re doing. My advice is to avoid friends or (especially) relatives who offer to “fix” your PC when you haven’t asked them to. That leads to big trouble.
Treat your PC like your wallet. You wouldn’t hand it over to anyone, right?
You may like your smart nephew Victor, but don’t let him near your computer. Don’t let the grandkids or out-of-town relatives “play” on the Internet while they come to visit. You’ll thank me later.

Give Yourself Time to Learn

Things take time. No one sits down at a computer and instantly knows everything, especially with new software. True, the boss may have given you only a day to learn how to work some new program. Such a task is unrealistic and unfair (and you can literally point to this sentence for support).
It takes about a week to become comfortable with an application. It takes longer to really figure out how it works, even if you get a good topic on the topic. Honestly, I don’t think that anyone out there knows everything about a major software product. So, don’t set the bar so high that you can’t leap over it.

Create Separate Accounts

When there are two of you, make two accounts on the computer. That way, you can keep your stuff separate. The issue isn’t secrecy; it’s just organization. It’s better to have one account for each person who uses the computer than to have two or more people share — and mess up — the only account.
The same thought applies to e-mail: Get yourself separate e-mail accounts, one for you and one for your partner or one for everyone who uses the computer. That way, you receive only your mail and you don’t miss anything because someone else has read or deleted it.
You can use the information from Chapter 29 to set up multiple accounts in Windows.

Use a UPS

The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a boon to computing anywhere in the world where the power is less than reliable. Plug your console into the UPS. Plug your monitor into the UPS. If the UPS has extra battery-backed-up sockets, plug your external hard drive into one.
Chapter 4 has information on using a UPS as well as using a power strip.

Consider Some Hardware Upgrades

Now that the computer is a consumer commodity, people don’t take the time to research their purchases beforehand. The result is often that you buy less computer than you truly need. To remedy the situation, a hardware upgrade is in order.
The first thing to consider upgrading is computer memory. Unless your PC is already packed with RAM (and my guess is that it isn’t), you can add more memory at a relatively low cost and see a massive increase in performance.
The second thing to consider is getting a second hard drive, such as an external hard drive for making backups. You can add a second internal hard drive to most PCs, which gives you more storage. Or, you can replace your PC’s main hard drive with a higher-capacity, faster model.
A third issue to look into is getting a headset for online communications as well as for computer games. A headset resembles a pair of headphones but with the addition of a microphone. I recommend that you avoid the cheaper headsets; the more expensive versions are much nicer to wear and better reproduce sound.
Your computer dealer can upgrade PC memory, or you can do it yourself. I recommend Crucial for online memory purchases: www.crucial. com. The Web site even scans your computer to determine which memory upgrades you need. But:
Upgrading PC memory can be a scary thing! You might consider having someone else do it for you.
See Chapter 7 for information on adding external storage to your PC.
Replacing the PC’s main hard drive adds years to your computer’s life, but the process of copying over the original hard drive’s contents —referred to as cloning — can be very, very technical. My advice: Have someone else do it.
Try to get a headset with a volume adjuster and mute button built in.

Avoid Crying “Wolf” in E-Mail

People new to PCs and fresh on e-mail somehow feel emboldened that they’re personally responsible for the health, safety, and entertainment of everyone else they know on the Internet. Let me be honest: If you’re just starting out, be aware that those of us already on the Internet have read that joke. We have seen the funny pictures. We know the stories. And, everyone has already sent us that e-mail saying that if you send it to seven people you know, somehow Bill Gates will write you a check for $4,000.
Please don’t be part of the problem. Telling others about viruses and real threats is one thing, but spreading Internet hoaxes is something else. Before you send out a blanket e-mail to everyone you know, confirm that you’re sending the truth. Visit a few Web sites, such as or If the message you’re spreading is true, please include a few Web page links to verify it.
Thanks for being part of the solution and not part of the problem!

Don’t Reinstall Windows

A myth floating around tech-support sites says that the solution to all your ills is to reinstall Windows. Some suspect that tech-support people even claim that it’s common for most Windows users to reinstall at least once a year. That’s rubbish.
You never need to reinstall Windows. All problems are fixable. It’s just that the tech-support people are urged by their bottom-line-watching overlords to get you off the line quickly. Therefore, they resort to a drastic solution rather than try to discover what the true problem is. If you press them, they will tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it.
In all my years of using a computer, I have never reinstalled Windows or had to reformat my hard drive. It’s not even a good idea just to refresh the bits on the hard drive or whatever other nonsense they dish up. There just isn’t a need to reinstall Windows, ever. Period.
Refer to my topics Troubleshooting Your PC For topic as well as Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-In-One For topic (both from ) for all the various solutions you can try instead of reformatting your hard drive or reinstalling Windows.

Shun the Hype

The computer industry is rife with hype. Magazines and Web sites tout this or that solution, crow about new trends, and preannounce standards that supposedly will make everything you have obsolete. Ignore all of it!
My gauge for hype is whether the thing that’s hyped is shipping as a standard part of a PC. I check the ads. If they’re shipping the item, I write about it. Otherwise, it’s a myth and may not happen. Avoid being lured by the hype.

Remember Not to Take This Computer Stuff Too Seriously

Hey, simmer down. Computers aren’t part of life. They’re nothing more than mineral deposits and petroleum products. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Imagine that you’re lying on a soft, sandy beach in the South Pacific. Having just dined on an exotic salad, you close your eyes as the surf lulls you into a well-deserved afternoon nap.
Next, you’re getting your feet rubbed as you sip champagne and feel the bubbles explode atop your tongue. Soothing music plays as everyone who’s ever said a bad thing about you in your life tosses $100 bills at you.
Now, slowly open your eyes. It’s just a dumb computer. Really. Don’t take it too seriously.

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