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Nov 12, 2010

How Internet Browsers Work

Ever find yourself asking how our favorite browser works? How it can display to you the website you wanted? Here's an interesting comic showing the simplest explanation :)

Oct 10, 2010

Networking with Windows 7's XP Mode

Windows 7's XP Mode, part of the Windows Virtual PC, allows you to run a separate version of XP inside the newer OS. The Virtual PC comes as a free but very large download that works in the Professional and Ultimate editions of Windows 7.

Oct 7, 2010

What is a Hard Disk Drive Crash?

HDD Crash
When a hard drive spins, the head that reads and writes the magnetic data floats just above the surface of the platter. Originally, the term hard drive crash referred to the head literally crashing into the platter, causing serious damage to your hardware and data.

Oct 4, 2010

Ditch Internet Explorer 6 (IE6)

IE6 Funeral
Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) is an outdated, unsupported, potentially dangerous browser that deserves to be put down like a lame plow horse.

Indeed, there's only one legitimate reason for sticking with it: work. If you're using, say, a company laptop, you may have no choice but to use the IT department-approved browser, which in many cases is still IE6.

Otherwise, it's time to make a change. I highly recommend upgrading to Internet Explorer 8, which will very likely solve your problem and open the door to all kinds of worthwhile features: tabs, Accelerators, Web Slices, and a wealth of malware and phishing protections.

Oct 1, 2010

Why Computers Become Slooooow

Why Computers Become Slow
You can't always determine what's slowing down a PC--at least not easily. But taking the following steps in the order I list them will likely locate and solve the problem.

1) Scan for malware. A program that means you no good just might be the culprit. If your PC is mass-mailing spam or taking part in some other evil activity without your knowledge, that could slow it down. I assume you already have a good anti-virus program, but just to be safe, install, update, and scan your PC with either SUPERAntiSpyware or Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware.

Sep 28, 2010

How To Restore Outlook Express Backup Folder

Restore Outlook Express Backup
A friend of mine backed up his Outlook Express folder to a flash drive. He then consulted me how to recover the messages inside it.

What appears as a folder in Outlook Express isn't really a folder. As far as Windows is concerned, it's a single file with a .dbx extension. The email program has to know it's there to look for it and open it.

Sep 25, 2010

Keep Your Keyboard Clean

When was the last time you did anything with your keyboard besides drop cookie crumbs on it?

Over time, all keyboards accumulate dust, crumbs, and other everyday dirt. And all it takes for, say, your 'S' key to stop working is for something to get lodged under it.

Sep 22, 2010

Blue Screen of Death During Startup

blue screen during startup
If you're trying to boot from an existing Windows installation on a hard drive transferred from an older system, then a BSOD on startup can occur. This often means that the system can't find the right storage controller; the actual error code is 0x0000007. Maybe your old system had its SATA ports set to IDE mode and your new one is set up for AHCI. Or perhaps your new board has a different chipset.

Sep 19, 2010

Troubleshoot POST Problems

Every PC goes through POST--power-on self test--when it first powers up. One mistake many new system builders make is to assemble the entire system, then try the first boot. The problem with this approach is that it's difficult to narrow down the actual culprit behind a boot problem. Instead, install the CPU with CPU cooling solution, memory, and the graphics card. Don't connect hard drives, external storage, or optical drives. Don't install additional expansion cards yet, either. Try a bare-bones boot first, with only the monitor and keyboard attached to the system.

Sep 16, 2010

Troubleshooting Your PC

PC Troubleshooting
Here are a few tips to avoid getting stuck in a troubleshooting rut.

State the problem clearly, even if it's only to yourself. If you need to, write it down. "The system won't boot" isn't good enough. Instead: "The system won't boot; when it tries to boot, it generates an error saying that no operating system is installed. When I try to reboot, I can see that my hard drive isn't visible to the BIOS."

Sep 13, 2010

How to Backup Firefox Preferences

Firefox Preferences
Firefox saves your preferences and settings in a single place. Some of those settings you can alter in the Options dialog box, but not all of them. The others require going into an obtuse, difficult-to-understand work environment called about:config.

And if you play around in about:config, changing settings that you think you understand, you can really mess things up. That's why, when you enter this environment--which you do by clicking the address bar (pressing CTRL-L will not work in this situation), typing about:config, and pressing ENTER--you have to click a button that reads "I'll be careful, I promise!"

Sep 10, 2010

Use Hibernate for Laptops

A friend recently told me about a problem with her new laptop: Whenever she'd step away from it for more than a few minutes, she'd close the lid. Upon returning, she'd open the lid, only to be faced with a blank screen and no response from the mouse or keyboard.

Want to know why? The default lid-closing action for most laptops is to put the system in Sleep mode, and Windows is notoriously bad at waking up properly. I advise most laptop users to use Hibernate mode instead, as it's much more reliable when it comes to waking up.

Sep 7, 2010

Re-Use Your Old Laptop's Hard Drive

Hard Drive Enclosure
Inexpensive hard drive enclosures are ideal for recycling old laptop drives that have been replaced by higher-capacity models.

An enclosure is essentially an external case for that internal drive, one that lends it a USB interface. When all is said and done, you'll have a compact USB hard drive you can use for backups, extra storage, transporting files, and so on.

More immediately, an enclosure lets you easily restore your data onto the new drive--a simple drag-and-drop operation. With that done, you'll have to decide if you want to wipe the drive or keep it intact.

Sep 4, 2010

Upgrade Your Laptop's Memory

So my boss was griping that his Toshiba laptop takes forever to boot. I inspected it for spyware, excessive startup programs, and the other usual suspects, but everything checked out.

Then I remembered that the machine is about three years old and wasn't a powerhouse to begin with. So I checked the RAM. Bingo: it has only 1GB. Windows Vista needs at least 2GB to run smoothly.

Upgrading a laptop's RAM may sound like a big deal, but it's actually the single easiest upgrade there is. The only challenge lies in determining how many RAM modules your system currently has and what kind they are.

Sep 2, 2010

How to Fix a Rogue Process

Windows Task Manager
When Windows slows down to an unbearable crawl, there's a good possibility that one particular process is at fault--sometimes taking close to 100-percent of the CPU's capabilities. In such a case, it's best to kill the process.

A process is a program or an independent piece of a program. As I write this, I have six applications, but 57 processes, running on my computer.

And if the problem keeps occurring, it's best to find out what that process is about and stop it from loading altogether.

Aug 31, 2010

Fix Internet Explorer 8's Crashes

Browser crashes can be tough to troubleshoot--especially when you don't provide information about your PC, operating system, and so on. (ahem). That's something everyone should remember when asking for help with system problems: the more details you can provide, the better.

The smart short-term workaround for any browser problem: try another browser.

Anyway, you've got two likely culprits here: a corrupted add-on or a bad Flash plug-in. I suspect the latter, so let's start with that.

Aug 28, 2010

Never Open Your Power Supply

A friend of mine opened his PC's power supply to clean it. Now it doesn't work.

Power supply units (PSUs) aren't really meant to be opened and messed with on the inside. Most likely you accidentally broke something or put it together wrong.

Since you've already done the deed, you might as well try it again to make sure nothing is broken or out-of-place. Pay particular attention to dull-colored, cold solder connections, to see if they're damaged.

Aug 25, 2010

How To Save Your MP3s

A friend of mine asked for the safest possible way to protect his large mp3 collection. I have a huge database of mp3s as well so I decided to share with you some of the ways to be able to do this.

If you really don't want to rip all of your CDs again (or re-download them from the digital store), I'm going to recommend a multi-prong approach:

1) Keep them on your internal hard drive. Not only will they be convenient for listening, but they'll move to your next computer along with the rest of your data.

Aug 21, 2010

Fill Out Forms Faster with Tab Key

The other day I spotted something that made my eyes hurt. A woman was filling out a lengthy Web form. After she'd complete one field, she'd reach for her mouse, find the cursor, carefully click inside the next field, and type more data. Then she'd repeat the entire process.

As I mentioned a couple years back when I first mentioned this tip, I continue to be amazed by how many people don't know the faster, easier way to navigate Web forms: with the Tab key.

Aug 18, 2010

Is It Okay To Work During a Windows Update?

Windows Update explicitly says that you can go on working while updating. I do it, and have yet to run into problems I could connect to this habit. The simple truth is that the serious part of the update, where your system files are changed, happens later with the reboot.

Which isn't to say that there aren't some jobs you should probably avoid at that time. Defragging isn't a good idea while an update is going on. I'd also avoid installing or uninstalling an application.

The worst part of the update experience (assuming the update itself doesn't do more harm than good), is the message popping up asking for a reboot. Luckily, you can put off the actual reboot until it's convenient for you.

Aug 15, 2010

How To Sync Your Google Calendar with Outlook

Most of my calendar data lives in Outlook. Not by choice, mind you, but because that's just where it has accumulated over the years.

I'd rather use Google Calendar, which is more versatile and less, well, Outlooky. Just one problem: how do I move my data from the latter to the former? And, just as important, how can I keep the two entities in sync?

Aug 12, 2010

General Failure When Clicking A Link In Outlook

So out of the blue today, I click a link embedded in an e-mail, and Outlook gives me this error:

General failure. The URL was: "" The system cannot find the file specified.

Oh, Outlook. If I had a nickel for every weird, random error you've produced over the years, I'd be sitting on a wheelbarrow full of nickels.  The "someURL" part is an example.

This is a known bug, and has been for years. It occurs when Firefox is your default browser and some glitch (or program) changes that default. Thankfully, there's a fairly easy fix, though it does involve monkeying around in the Registry.

Aug 9, 2010

Why You Should Give Windows 7 A Try

Microsoft has sold 150 million copies of Windows 7 in nine months--that is, seven copies per second. It's the fastest-selling operating system in history. Vista, by contrast, was such a flop that users couldn't wait to get rid of it.

Many consumers just got stuck with Vista because new PCs, for a while, were preloaded with it, and there were no other options. Some vendors still offered new, coveted systems with XP, for a lot more money. Yet, in the beginning, retailers even told consumers there was no way to uninstall Vista and reinstall XP.

What does the new operating system mean for the business community, especially all the little guys and mid-sized companies that can’t afford to make another hefty investment in a rotten lemon?

Aug 6, 2010

How To Make A File Open With The Correct Program

File Association
Windows can associate multiple programs with various file extensions (.docx, .jpg, and so on), with only one program being the default application--the one that opens when you double-click the file. Somehow, on your PC, Windows has the wrong program associated with that particular file type.

And believe me, you don't want your files associating with the wrong type of application.

Aug 3, 2010

Kid-Friendly Videos on the Internet

Kid Friendly Videos on the Internet
Calling all parents: YouTube is a mighty popular destination for kids, but not all the content there is kid-appropriate.

Send your toddlers and tweens to Kideos instead . The site serves up thousands upon thousands of child-friendly videos, from Animaniacs to Pixar shorts to Sesame Street to Word Girl.

All you do is click an age group (0-2, 3-4, 5-6, etc.), then choose a "featured video" to watch or click into any of the dozens of available "channels." There's also a search option, natch.

Jul 31, 2010

How to Email a Web Page

So you just stumbled across a killer blog post, maybe something to do with, oh, I don't know, solving PC hassles. It's so good, you immediately want to share it with friends and family members.

There are plenty of ways to send a Web page. You can copy the URL and paste it into an e-mail. You can look for an embedded "e-mail this" icon and use the site's own mail form. Heck, I've seen some people take a screenshot of page and send that.

Why overcomplicate things? Both Internet Explorer and Firefox have built-in tools for e-mailing whatever page you're viewing.

Jul 28, 2010

Windows Freezes During Shut Down

Windows Freezes Shut Down
My desktop occasionally fails to shut down properly. It seems to complete Windows' shutdown process, but then just freezes--without actually turning off.

Pressing the power button accomplishes nothing. So what option do I have left? Pull the power cord right out of the wall? That would certainly turn the system off--unless it was a laptop, in which case I'd have to remove the battery as well. What a hassle.

Jul 25, 2010

How To Check If Lightning Damaged Your PC

When your PC doesn't boot and you suspect that a lightning caused it, here's how to check it up.

First, unplug the computer, open it up, and have a look. Have a sniff, too. An unusual smell may lead you to the damaged piece.

It's probably the power supply. That's where the electrical spike would come in, and it's thus the most likely component to be damaged. Luckily, power supplies are relatively cheap and easy to replace--some cost less than $40. Of course, if you have to replace your power supply, you should get one that will cover your needs.

Jul 22, 2010

What To Do When A Website Isn't Loading

Any number of problems could cause this. There might be a problem with your router. Or with your PC. Or your browser. Or it could be something with the site itself that's completely out of your control.

The first thing you should do is try another browser. If you generally use Firefox or Chrome, try Internet Explorer--it's already on your PC. If you only use Internet Explorer, maybe this is a good time to install and try something else.

Rebooting everything is another good idea. Shut down the PC, unplug the router from the AC power, then unplug the DSL or cable modem's power, as well. Wait a minute, then plug the modem back in. When the lights indicate it's working properly, plug in the router. Wait for the lights on that, too. Then boot your PC and try again.

Jul 17, 2010

How to Clean Up Your New PC

Unfortunately, no new, major-brand PCs that I know of come with a way to install a fresh, unencumbered version of Windows 7. If you want to get rid of all that useless and annoying bloatware that companies load onto their machines, you're going to have to either spend money or spend time--or both.

The most expensive solution is to buy a retail version of Windows 7 and install it from scratch. This gives you the cleaner new installation. But aside from the expense, the idea just doesn't sit well with me. You bought Windows when you bought the computer; you shouldn't have to buy it again.

Jul 14, 2010

How To Use IMAP for Gmail

Gmail IMAP
A key question that remains is whether to use the POP or IMAP setting to fetch your messages from your Gmail account.

I won't bore you with lengthy descriptions of each. In a nutshell, POP downloads a copy of each e-mail to your PC, leaving the original on Gmail's servers. It's a one-way transaction. IMAP, on the other hand, provides a live, two-way connection between your mail program and Gmail.

Jul 11, 2010

Is It Safe To Use Your Laptop In The Car?

Use Laptop in Car

The inertia of normal driving shouldn't cause any harm. People use their laptops on trains and buses all of the time--some of the buses in my area even offer WiFi.

I used to own an MP3 player with a hard drive, and I played it frequently--plugged into my car's sound system--while driving. That didn't seem to bother it.

Jul 9, 2010

How To Download YouTube Videos

Download YouTube Videos
Ever wish you could watch that piano-playing cat at 35,000 feet? Alas, YouTube requires a live Internet connection, and Wi-Fi is still pretty hard to find in the friendly skies. Fortunately, you can download YouTube videos to your PC for anytime, anywhere viewing, no Internet required.

There are countless ways to "rip" YouTube vids, but I'm partial to Keep Tube. It's available as both a Firefox extension and a browser bookmarklet, the latter compatible with Chrome, Internet Explorer, and so on.

Jul 6, 2010

Registry Cleaners: Do They Help?

Registry Cleaners
There's considerable controversy on this subject. These programs examine your Windows Registry, looking for pointers to non-existent files and other problems. Then, with your permission, they "fix" the problems, usually by deleting the keys.

Many experts are absolutely opposed to such programs, arguing that they do little or no good and can cause considerable harm. Others find them valuable, with some serious caveats.

Jul 2, 2010

How To Clean Up System Restore

Microsoft's built-in System Restore for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 have saved me a lot of trouble in fixing computer problems, provided the system can still successfully run in Safe Mode at least. But on times of malware or virus infection, System Restore is not a good idea. And it is a good practice to delete all previous restore points after removing the virus and malware so that you won't accidentally bring them back. Here's how...

Jun 28, 2010

Always Watch YouTube Videos in HD

My preferred method of viewing YouTube vids is full-screen. However, when I click the player's Full Screen button, I'm treated to rather grainy video. That's because YouTube doesn't automatically bump the resolution to its highest available setting. I have to click the resolution selector and choose it myself.

I'm a busy man. I don't have time for that!

Fortunately, there's a setting that will force YouTube to switch to HD playback whenever you switch to full-screen viewing. Here's how:

Jun 26, 2010

How To Solve Firefox Slowdown

FireFox Slowdown
For months now, I've been grappling with a weird problem: At seemingly random times, Firefox would turn to molasses. I'd click a link and it would take several seconds to register. Or I'd open a dialog box in, say, a blog tool, and again there'd be an unusual delay. Even the simple act of scrolling proved weirdly "sticky."

I was hoping that the recently released Firefox 3.6 update might shake loose whatever detritus was gumming up the works, but, alas, it didn't.

Finally, I discovered the culprit, and it's a head-scratcher: The slowdowns occur only when I've left open a tab containing an embedded video, like of the YouTube variety. When I close said tab, Firefox quickly returns to its quick-stepping self.

Jun 23, 2010

Update Your iPhone To iOS 4

iPhone iOS 4
Links after the break.

Jun 16, 2010

Fix Advertisements that Block Web Forms

I remember one time, a friend of mine walked into my office carrying her laptop looking exasperated. She's usually pretty good at troubleshooting problems, but this one was proving a head-scratcher.

She was using MapQuest to get driving directions. Because she didn't have the complete address of the destination, a fly-out window presented her with a couple possible choices.

The problem was, that window appeared under the advertising box alongside the form. Consequently, she couldn't click any of the choices, and therefore couldn't get her directions.

Jun 12, 2010

Download and Install Adobe's Newest Flash 10.1

Adobe has released their newest flash player and is now available for download. Flash 10.1 touts numerous features and enhancements but the most exciting part for me is H.264 video hardware decoding which offloads the rendering process to all available hardware like your shining new video card and not be limited to the available memory and CPU power. This feature would probably what most people will notice especially those who watch flash videos online or play flash intensive games like those found on Facebook.

Full release notes after the break.

Jun 9, 2010

iPhone 4 Features and Review

Apple iPhone 4
Latest iPhone from Apple: iPhone 4

Watch the video feature and review after the break.

Jun 6, 2010

Pinoy PC Tips New Domain

Get your own free domain too!
I really have been thinking a lot about getting my own domain for my blogs since, frankly speaking, the website's URL is too long. Since I'm hosted with the blogger service, my original URL was Wow. I can't even promote my site to my relatives because its hard to remember!

Read on to know how I got my own domain :)

Jun 4, 2010

How To Choose Between VGA, DVI, and HDMI

A friend recently bought a new 18.5-inch LCD monitor. Although the monitor includes VGA, DVI, and HDMI inputs, it included only a VGA cable--even though the setup instructions recommend a DVI or HDMI connection! He wants to know why, and whether he should bother buying a different cable.

I'm going to answer in reverse.

Jun 1, 2010

How To Move the Taskbar

To move the taskbar to another edge of the screen, or to return it to its original position at the bottom, first right-click an empty space on the taskbar and uncheck Lock the taskbar.

Once the taskbar is unlocked, click on an empty space there and drag. That's it.

If you want to avoid this happening again, right-click the taskbar and check Lock the taskbar.

May 28, 2010

Using An Email Client for Gmail

Just because Gmail is a Web-based mail service doesn't mean you have to use your Web browser to access it. Instead, you can do what I do and connect to Gmail using familiar desktop software: Outlook, Windows Live Mail (formerly Outlook Express), Thunderbird, or the like.

Programs like these let you not only group and view e-mail conversations using whatever method you like best, but also organize mail into folders--something Gmail still doesn't properly offer.

May 21, 2010

How To Take Control of Recycle Bin

When you "delete" a file, Windows doesn't actually delete it; the OS moves the file to the recycle bin. That way, if you change your mind, you can easily recover it.

You pay for this safety net in hard drive space. A file in the recycle bin takes up as much room as it did beforehand, albeit only temporarily.

You can control how large the Recycle Bin gets before it starts actually deleting the files inside it. You can also turn it off, so that Windows truly deletes files when you click Delete. That's kind of dangerous, however, for obvious reasons.

May 17, 2010

How To Rename a Saved File

Has this ever happened to you? In your haste to save, say, a Word document, you give it the wrong name or introduce a typo in the filename. Happens to me more often than I care to admit.

Obviously you can open up Windows Explorer, find your file, and rename it the old-fashioned way. But there are two quicker, easier options, both of which let you stay inside the program you're already using:

May 14, 2010

How To Save Email as a File

In previous versions of Outlook, when you opened an email and selected File, then Save As, the program saved the message as a single Outlook mail file. That was nice, compact, and easy to transport.

It also was unreadable to computers that didn't' have Outlook installed.

To get around that, Outlook 2007 defaults to saving messages as .html files. Every computer can read one of those. Unfortunately, since the .html format doesn't support everything found in an email--even an html-formatted email--Outlook has to provide a folder with a few extra files. For the message to display properly, that folder must remain in the same location as the .html file.

May 9, 2010

Fix Windows Time Sync Problems

Windows Time Sync

Windows 7 may be the best Windows yet, but it suffers from the same annoying problem that plagued Vista and even XP: Its clock doesn't keep good time.

That's because the default time server Windows uses to fetch the current time, well, bites. I don't know if this is because of server overload or what (obviously there are a lot of Windows systems out there, all looking for a clock fix), but I'm tired of getting the same cryptic error when I try to sync manually.

Ah, but there's a fix. If you're trying to get your system to keep better time, try this:

May 6, 2010

Immediately Switch to a New Tab in Firefox

Firefox New Tab

Normally, when you click a link that opens a new tab (or hold down the Ctrl key while clicking a link, which forces a new tab to open), Firefox doesn't actually switch to that tab. It keeps you where you were.

That doesn't make a ton of sense. After all, why would you open a new tab if you didn't want to view it right away? Fortunately, there's an easy way to change Firefox's behavior when it comes to new tabs, and you don't even have to meddle with the about:config settings.