PC Cleaning Apps are a Scam: Here’s Why and How to Speed Up Your PC

PC Cleaning Apps are a Scam: Here’s Why and How to Speed Up Your PC.

I get this question a lot, and I clean up a lot of computers after users use a cleanup tool.

Anyhow, this article has it explained simple and quick, and even shows what to do if you want to really speed up your PC.

Defragmentation is automatically scheduled in Windows Versions newer than Vista.

I want to remind you, that the best way to keep your PC running fast, is not to have unnecessary programs, making sure it is up to date, and running antivirus and antimalware often.

Computers will get a little slow over time, just because the Operative System (Windows/OSX/Linux) has updates and gets heavier, but also because our perception of what a fast computer is.

10 years ago web pages were 10 time smaller than they are now. So even web browsers are getting heavier.

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Windows 8 Versus Windows 7: Game Performance, Benchmarked

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/windows-8-gaming-performance,3331.html

This is a good article for those not sure whether to switch to Windows 8. I have been using it for a while, and it does feel lighter at boot. I moved the desktop tile to the top, so I can get to the desktop with just a quick tap to the enter key.

In the summary it says “Aside from those couple of idiosyncrasies, performance under Windows 8 is indistinguishable from Windows 7. Any speed-up or slow-down would be almost impossible to identify during game play, and we expect compatibility issues to get patched quickly by game developers.”

So, it looks like there isn’t much of a problem switching to Windows 8. Currently the biggest problem is that we as humans don’t take change very well. However that does not affect gaming.

As a personal or business PC, I would still recommend to do the switch, however I would also recommend to invest time into learning the new “Windows Start Screen”, and the whole desktop in general. Even if you don’t have touch screen, the new start screen can be a big addition.

For example, I play video games, and I also use a ton of different programs for work. This makes usually my start menu quite long, and I have to scroll a lot to find the program that I want. With Windows 7 I started pinning to the start menu, and typing the name. Sometimes typing 4 letters of a program name is a lot faster than searching for it with the mouse (most of the time). With Windows 8, I was worried that my home screen was going to be super long. Well, it kind of was, but not for long. See, you can pin programs to the start screen, and you can also unpin them. That does not remove the shortcut from the Apps list, it just removes it from the Start Screen. So I removed everything that I don’t use often, I removed all Uninstall as well (I can still access them the “All Apps”), and I arranged my Start Screen putting the tiles I use the most in the first screen.

The end result is that my computer boots, it goes to the start screen and right from there I can click on the program that I need, be it MS Word, or a racing game.

I have some desktop icons, but honestly I am using them less and less, trying to leave my desktop uncluttered. Also, I have a pseudo Start Menu with all my Programs, but I haven’t used it in months, which means that the Start Screen is easier to use.

How long did it take me to organize my computer? Maybe 1 hour top.

Now, there is 1 thing I don’t like, which is the lack of a easy shutdown button, but there are some good articles online on how to do this

http://blog.laptopmag.com/how-to-shutdown-windows-8-in-just-one-click

http://www.howtogeek.com/77061/how-to-add-shutdown-restart-sleep-to-the-windows-8-metro-start-screen/

The value of Backup and Data

I have been bad….Very BAD!!!

When I started the blog, my second article was about home backups. I started writing in and before I knew it was too long. My problem was that I was covering too much ground, and too much information was fresh in my mind.

Well, after my article in NMS I decided to write this article, which will initiate a series of backup articles. Why a series? Because there is too much information that I need to give you, and I don’t want to bore you too much, but backup is so important and people give it so little importance that I MUST convey the information.

What is the Value of Data?

This is more than anything a question you need to ask yourself. The data that is important for me, might not be important for you. And Value is even harder to assign. However there is a some easy points to quantify it.

  • Can you reproduce the data?
  • Is it easy to host someplace else?
  • How vital is to have it available?
  • What is the damage if the data is loss (economical and emotional damage)
  • How often you need it?

None of these questions by themselves can put value on data, but all together can. For example, the perfect picture of the first birthday of your first child. You might not look at the picture all the time, but if lost forever, you will remember that picture and be sad about it (emotional value). However because it is a picture, it also probably is hosted in Picasa, Flicker, Facebook or another social media. Maybe not with the same quality, but at least you could save it from there if lost from your computer. In the other hand, lets say your QuickBooks database for your small/home business. Maybe it won’t slow you down a lot if lost, but could have several repercussions when tax season arrives.

Now that we have an idea how to assign value to data we should…

Assigning Value to Backup

The Value of the backup is proportional to the value of the data. It sounds like a lot of mathematical terms, but simply, if the data is very valuable (or invaluable) to you, then the backup is as well. VERY SIMPLE, No?

Although this is simple, I am still amazed to find out most people don’t backup regularly. I know I don’t backup most things at home almost never, however, most of the data I don’t care for (even though I have TB of data), and the data I care about I have it in my desktop, my laptop, my work PC, my old PC. It is a mess, but if needed I can recover most of it.

This mess of data also brings another value for the backup. The backup will organize your data. It is more is a consequence of backing up, but when you start to plan and put in effect a backup plan, you also end up organizing your data, which later will save you time when you are searching for it.

Extra benefits of backup

When setting a backup you will have plenty of benefits, some are more visible than others, however these are the ones I can think of right now:

  • Data can be recovered
  • Data will be replicated
  • Data will be organized
  • Data will be centralized
  • Multiple versions of the same data (*1)
  • When replacing computer, moving data is easier
  • Backup can be backup again (maybe to cloud, offline, remote)

(*1) It depends on the backup, but at least you have 1 older version of a file. Some backups support more than one version. If a file becomes corrupted, or you save a change that you want to undo later, an older version is the solution.

Thinking about value

Unless you do all your work online, and you don’t care about data, there is always something you won’t want to lose in your computer. Backing up is important, and have extra benefits beyond being able to recover data, and the value of the backup is the same as the data, or even greater in most cases.

So, do you value your data? And are you backing up your data?

10 tips to help improve your wireless network

From Microsoft at Home

If the Windows operating system ever notifies you about a weak Wi-Fi signal, it probably means that your connection isn’t as fast or as reliable as it could be. Worse, you might lose your connection entirely in some parts of your home. If you want to boost the signal for your wireless network (WLAN), try some of these tips for extending your wireless range and improving your wireless network speed and performance.

Couple at a laptop reviewing wireless channels

1. Position your wireless router, modem router, or access point in a central location

When possible, place your wireless router, wireless modem router (a DSL or cable modem with a built-in wireless router), or wireless access point (WAP) in a central location in your home. If your wireless router, modem router, or access point is against an outside wall of your home, the signal will be weak on the other side of your home. If your router is on the first floor and your PC or laptop is on the second floor, place the router high on a shelf in the room where it is located. Don’t worry if you can’t move your wireless router, because there are many other ways to improve your connection.

Bad router and good router placement comparison


2. Move the router off the floor and away from walls and metal objects (such as metal file cabinets)

Metal objects, walls, and floors will interfere with your router’s wireless signals. The closer your router is to these obstructions, the more severe the interference, and the weaker your connection will be.


3. Replace your router’s antenna

The antennas supplied with your router are designed to be omnidirectional, meaning that they broadcast in all directions around the router. If your router is near an outside wall, half of the wireless signals will be sent outside your home, and much of your router’s power will be wasted. Most routers don’t allow you to increase the power output, but you can make better use of the power. If your router’s antenna is removable, you can upgrade to a high-gain antenna that focuses the wireless signals in only one direction. You can even aim the signal in the direction you need it most. Consider a Linksys high-gain antenna—they’re powerful and easy to install. Or shop for other high-gain antennas.

Standard antenna and high-gain antenna examples


4. Replace your laptop’s wireless PC card-based network adapter

Laptops with built-in wireless networking capability typically have excellent antennas and don’t need to have their network adapters upgraded. These tips are for laptops that do not have built-in wireless networking.

Wireless network signals must be sent both to and from your computer. Sometimes your router can broadcast strongly enough to reach your computer, but your computer can’t send signals back to your router. To improve this, replace your laptop’s PC card-based wireless network adapter with a USB wireless network adapter that uses an external antenna. In particular, consider a Linksys Wireless-N or Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless-N USB network adapter. These add an external, high-gain antenna to your computer and can significantly extend your wireless range.


Wireless router and wireless repeater

5. Add a wireless repeater

Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range without requiring you to add any wiring. Just place the wireless repeater halfway between your wireless router, modem router, or access point and your computer, and you can get an instant boost to your wireless signal strength. Check out the wireless-N repeaters from Linksys, Hawking Hi-Gain, ViewSonic, D-Link, and Buffalo Technology, or shop for a wireless-N repeater.


Wireless channels

6. Change your wireless channel

Wireless routers can broadcast on several different channels, similar to the way radio stations use different channels. In the United States and Canada, these channels are 1, 6, and 11. Just as you’ll sometimes hear interference on one radio station while another is perfectly clear, sometimes one wireless channel is clearer than others. Try changing your wireless router’s channel through your router’s configuration page to see if your signal strength improves. You don’t need to change your computer’s configuration, because it can automatically detect the new channel.

To find your router configuration page, consult this quick reference table, which shows the default addresses for common router manufacturers. If the address is not listed here, read the documentation that came with your router, or visit the manufacturer’s webpage.

Router

Address

3Com

http://192.168.1.1

D-Link

http://192.168.0.1

Linksys

http://192.168.1.1

Microsoft Broadband

http://192.168.2.1

Netgear

http://192.168.0.1

Actiontec

http://192.168.0.1


7. Reduce wireless interference

The most common wireless technology, 802.11g (wireless-G), operates at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz (GHz). Many cordless phones, microwave ovens, baby monitors, garage door openers, and other wireless electronics also use this frequency. If you use these wireless devices in your home, your computer might not be able to "hear" your router over the noise coming from them.

If your network uses wireless-G, you can quiet the noise by avoiding wireless electronics that use the 2.4 GHz frequency. Instead, look for cordless phones and other devices that use the 5.8 GHz or 900 megahertz (MHz) frequencies. Because 802.11n (wireless-N) operates at both 2.4 GHz and the less frequently used 5.0 GHz frequency, you may experience less interference on your network if you use this technology.


8. Update your firmware or your network adapter driver

Router manufacturers regularly make free improvements to their routers. Sometimes, these improvements increase performance. To get the latest firmware updates for your router, visit your router manufacturer’s website.

Similarly, network adapter vendors occasionally update the software that Windows uses to communicate with your network adapter, known as the driver. These updates typically improve performance and reliability. To get the driver updates, follow the instructions for your operating system:

Windows XP

  • Visit Microsoft Update, click Custom, and then wait while Windows XP looks for the latest updates for your computer.

  • Install any updates relating to your wireless adapter.


9. Pick equipment from a single vendor

Although a Linksys router will work with a D-Link network adapter, you often get better performance if you pick a router and network adapter from the same vendor. Some vendors offer a performance boost of up to twice the performance when you choose their hardware (like their USB wireless network adapters). Linksys has the SpeedBooster technology for its wireless-G devices, and D-Link has the 108G enhancement for its wireless-G devices. These enhancements can be helpful if you have wireless-G devices and you need to transmit over a long distance or you live in an older house (old walls tend to block the signal more than newly built ones do).

If speeding up your connection is important to you, consider the next tip—upgrading your wireless technology.


10. Upgrade 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g devices to 802.11n

Although wireless-G (802.11g) may be the most common type of wireless network, wireless-N (802.11n) is at least twice as fast and it has better range and stability. Wireless-N is backward-compatible with 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g, so you can still use any existing wireless equipment that you have—though you won’t see much improvement in performance until you upgrade your computer or network adapter to wireless-G, too.

If you’re using wireless-B or wireless-G and you’re unhappy with your network’s speed and performance, consider replacing your router and network adapters with wireless-N equipment. If you’re buying new equipment, definitely choose wireless-N. Linksys Wireless-N routers, for example, are powerful, secure, and simple to set up. So are Linksys Wireless-N USB wireless network adapters.

Find out which wireless technology is installed on your computer:

Windows 7

  1. Click Start, and then click Device and Printers.

  2. Right-click the icon of your computer, and then click Properties.

  3. Click the Hardware tab. Scroll through the list until you see your wireless card or adapter. Under Name, you will see 802.11n or Wireless-N, 802.11g or Wireless-G, or 802.11b or Wireless-B.

Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, click Network and Internet, and then click Network and Sharing Center.

  2. On the left, under Tasks, click Manage Network Connections.

  3. Double-click Wireless Network Connection, and then click Details. Under the description, you will see 802.11n or Wireless-N, 802.11g or Wireless-G, or 802.11b or Wireless-B.

Wireless networks never reach the theoretical bandwidth limits. Wireless-B networks typically get 2–5 megabits per second (Mbps). Wireless-G networks are usually in the 13–23 Mbps range. The average everyday speed for wireless-N equipment is about 50 Mbps.

Don’t forget—the security of your wireless network is as important as its speed and performance. Learn about the different security methods.

Help make your network more secure:

New Year, New You – Managing and sharing your photos

I am trying to clean up my PC at home a little and organize pictures, so I did a little search and I found this.

While not exhausting it has great tips to accomplish things quickly and we like that Smile

From the Windows Experience blog

I have over a decade’s worth of digital photos on my PC. I love taking photos. I love capturing the moment where ever that might be – with friends and family over the holidays or out in the middle of no-where in eastern Washington State. Most people have tons of digital photos on their PC scattered around – and Windows Live Photo Gallery makes it super easy to manage those photos, edit them, and then share them out to anyone you want. In a post earlier today, Kristina shared 3 super easy tips for shaping up your technology habits in 2012. She included a tip on the batch people tag feature in Photo Gallery. I thought I would share a few more tips specific to Photo Gallery that will help you better manage your photos in 2012!

Tip #1: Organizing

By default, whenever you import photos into Photo Gallery from your camera, it puts the photos in your “My Pictures” folder under your user profile in Windows. I like to keep ALL my photos in this folder. And Photo Gallery makes managing this folder of your photos super easy – allowing you to create sub-folders and to drag and drop your photos into any folder you like. You can organize your photos exactly the way you want them to be organized on your PC. By default, when you import photos from a camera in Photo Gallery, it creates a folder with whatever you name the photos you are importing. For example: if you name the photos you are importing “Beach”, a folder called “Beach” is created with those photos inside. For a lot of folks, this might work out fine. But for me, it doesn’t. For me – I like to have everything organized by date.

3

So I change the default behavior by clicking on “More options” on the “Import Photos and Videos” screen.

2

For “Folder name”, I change it to be “Date Taken + Name”. That means for any photos I import from my camera in Photo Gallery, Photo Gallery will detect the date taken from the camera and combine that date with whatever name I give the photos I am importing. For example: if you name the photos you are importing “Beach” and they were taken on 1/3/2012, a folder is created called “2011-01-03 Beach” with those photos inside. This allows me to automatically organize any photo I import from my cameras in Photo Gallery by date! In the left-hand navigation you’ll see something that looks like this:

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Tip #2: Panoramic Stitch

I love creating panoramic stitches in Photo Gallery. Everywhere I go with my camera, I am always thinking about what series of shots will make the best panoramic photo when stitched together. Creating a panoramic stitch is easy:

1. Where ever you’re at with your camera, just stand in one spot and pan from left to right taking a series of photos one by one.

2. Then, import your photos into Photo Gallery from your camera.

3. Select the series of photos you took at that spot go to the “Create” tab in the ribbon at the top of Photo Gallery.

4. Click the “Panorama” button.

And Photo Gallery will stitch together your photos and create a panoramic shot. Now, after your panoramic stitch is created, it might look like this (notice the black areas around the borders?):

DSC02020 Stitch

The black areas can be easily removed by simply using the “Crop” feature in Photo Gallery under the “Edit” tab in the ribbon. You can crop your panoramic stitch however you like.

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The end result should be something like this:

DSC02020 Stitch (2)

Creating panoramic stitches is something that can be done with almost any camera – from a little point-and-shoot to a DSLR. You can even use photos from your Windows Phone and stitch them together too!

Tip #3: Sharing

Organizing and editing your photos is just one element to Photo Gallery. It also makes it easy to share those photos with the people you want to share them with. You can share your photos to Facebook, Flickr, or of course SkyDrive simply by choosing any of these options under the “Share” section of the ribbon on the “Home” tab in Photo Gallery. Early this last summer, we introduced a major update to SkyDrive (and it wasupdated again this last fall) to make it the best place to access and share your content – including your photos.

5

SkyDrive displays your photos in a “mosaic” layout and displays the photos in their original aspect ratio. There also infinite scrolling – meaning for folders in SkyDrive with tons of photos, you won’t have to navigate from page to page!

6

When you click on a photo, it puts the photo front-and-center – displaying your caption (description of the photo), tags, comments and more!

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SkyDrive is an absolutely awesome way to share photos with friends and family!

I hope these tips help you organize and share your photos with Windows Live Photo Gallery, your PC and SkyDrive in 2012. Download Windows Live Photo Gallery today!

77 Windows 7 Tips (IT Pro Article)

NOTE: This article is from TechNet. But I though it would be a great resource to any one that uses Windows 7, specially those more technical or into IT.

AT A GLANCE:

  • Make Windows 7 faster
  • Get more done with Windows 7
  • The best Windows 7 shortcuts
  • Securing Windows 7

  Contents

Windows 7 may be Microsoft’s most anticipated product ever. It builds on Windows Vista’s positives, and eliminates many of that OS’s negatives. It adds new functionality, too—all in a package that is less resource-hungry than its predecessor.

And whether or not you’re upgrading from Vista or skipping it altogether and moving up from Windows XP, you’ll need to know how to make the most of it in your environment. Here are 77 tips and tricks to get you there.

1. Pick Your Edition. Most business users do not need the more expensive Ultimate Edition; stick with Professional unless you specifically need BitLocker.

2. Upgrading? Go 64-bit. As the second major Windows release to fully support 64-bit, the x64 architecture has definitely arrived on the desktop. Don’t buy new 32-bit hardware unless it’s a netbook.

3. Use Windows XP Mode. Yes, it’s only an embedded Virtual PC with a full copy of WinXP—but it’s an embedded Virtual PC with a full copy of Windows XP! This is the first profoundly intelligent use of desktop virtualization we’ve seen—and a great way to move to Windows 7 without giving up full Windows XP compatibility.

4. Use Windows PowerShell v2. More than just a shell, this is the administration tool you’ve always wanted: Parallel, distributed processing for administrative tasks! Manage 100 machines literally as easily as you manage one with the new Remoting feature. Windows PowerShell v2 ships for the first time in Windows 7, and within six months will be available for older versions of Windows.

5. Use AppLocker. We’ve been fans of Software Restriction Policies since Windows XP, and AppLocker finally makes application whitelisting possible. Use it to enhance or even replace your anti-virus software, ensuring that only the software you want to run will run.

6. Shift to and from Explorer and Command Prompt. The classic Windows power toy Open Command Prompt Here is now an integral part of Windows 7 Explorer. Hold down the shift key then right-click a folder to add this option to the property menu. While you’re in a command prompt, if you want to open an Explorer window with the focus of the window on the current directory, enter start.

7. Record Problems. The Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) is a great new feature that helps in troubleshooting a system (see Figure 1). At times, Remote Assistance may not be possible. However, if a person types psr in their Instant Search, it will launch the recorder. Now they can perform the actions needed to recreate the problem and each click will record the screen and the step. They can even add comments. Once complete, the PSR compiles the whole thing into an MHTML file and zips it up so that it can be e-mailed for analysis to the network admin (or family problem solver, depending on how it’s being used).

Figure 1 The Problem Steps Recorder dramatically speeds up troubleshooting. (Click the image for a larger view)

8. Make Training Videos. Use a tool like Camtasia to record short, two to three minute video tutorials to help your users find relocated features, operate the new Taskbar and so forth. Get them excited about Windows 7—and prepared for it.

9. Start Thinking About Windows Server 2008 R2. Some of Windows 7’s more compelling features, like BranchCache, work in conjunction with the new server OS. The R2 upgrade path is pretty straightforward, so there’s little reason not to take advantage of the synergies if you can afford upgrade licenses.

10. Prepare Those XP Machines. There’s no in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, so start planning to migrate user data now, in advance of a Windows 7 upgrade deployment.

11. Consider Clean Installs. Even when upgrading Windows Vista machines, consider a clean install rather than an in-place upgrade. Yes, it’s more hassle, but it’ll produce a more trouble-free computer in the long run.

12. Consider Upgrade Assurance. Even if you’ve never bought it before, consider it for your new Windows 7 licenses. Access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which includes App-V, MED-V and other cool technologies, is worth the premium.

13. Find New Tools. Within Control Panel is a single Troubleshooting link that leads you to all of your diagnostic tools on the system. There are additional tools, however, not installed by default. Selecting the "View all" link in the top left-hand corner will help you to see which troubleshooting packs are local and which ones are online. If you find a tool that you don’t have, you can grab it from here.

14. Understand Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Windows 7 plays an important role in Microsoft’s VDI strategy, where virtualized Windows 7 machines are hosted on a central virtualization server using a special blanket "Enterprise Centralized Desktop" license. Read up and figure out if you can take advantage of this new strategy.

15. Prepare for DirectAccess. DirectAccess makes it easier for users to remotely access their office-based resources, without a VPN. DirectAccess also opens up remote computers more fully to Group Policy—but it requires Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2.

16. Employ Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM). If you quickly want to list or manage Windows packages, features or drivers, use the command-line utility DISM. The "image" in the name may fool you into thinking that this is solely a deployment tool. An online command-line switch lets you manage the features in the currently loaded OS. To get a list of the loaded Windows features, enter dism /online /get-features /format:table. To enable a feature, enter dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:<name>.

17. Embrace Troubleshooting Packs. Designed to help users troubleshoot and solve problems on their own, you need to update your support procedures to acknowledge these Packs. For example, don’t force users to repeat steps the Pack already walked them through, and consider developing your own Packs (in Windows PowerShell) to support in-house systems.

18. Check Reliability. The Reliability Monitor was introduced in Windows Vista as ‘The Reliability and Performance Monitor." In Windows 7 it has been separated from Performance Monitor and moved to a new location under the Action Center. You open the Action Center in Control Panel and then look under the Maintenance options for the "View reliability history" link. You can also just type in Reliability Monitor from the Instant Search (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 The Reliability Monitor has been broken out separately from Performance Monitor.(Click the image for a larger view)

19. Accept Diversity. Not every organization will be ready to move entirely to Windows 7 right away. That’s fine—but that shouldn’t mean the entire organization stays on Windows XP, either. The myths of the cost savings of having only one OS have been largely disproven or downplayed, so use Windows 7 where it makes sense to do so.

20. Get Snippy. The snipping tool has also been around in various incarnations but it’s even easier to use in Windows 7. Launch the tool, then drag and drop any part of your screen. The tool will snip the selection. You can save it as a graphic file or annotate with basic drawing tools. Teach your end users how to use this tool so they can grab the snapshots of their problems and send them to the help desk. Or create your own library of visual notes.

21. Presentation Nirvana. Press Windows+P to access the new Presentation mode, and easily turn on your projector and laptop screen at the same time. No more messing with vendor-specific utilities and arcane keystrokes. (Windows+X accesses the Mobility Center, with additional presentation options.)

22. Cut the Clutter. Press Windows+Home to minimize all but the current window, removing background clutter and letting you focus on that report your boss has been bugging you about.

23. Be a Mouse-Click Administrator. Windows 7 makes it easy to gain admin rights with a keyboard shortcut. Click on Ctrl+Shift on a taskbar-locked icon, and voila! You’ve launched it with appropriate admin rights.

24. Faster Installations. If your computer is capable of booting from USB, try this: XCopy the Windows 7 installation DVD to a sufficiently large USB drive, boot from that drive, and install Windows from there. It’s faster than a spinning platter.

25. Burn Discs with a Click. Or two; double-click an ISO file to burn it to your CD or DVD writer.

26. Restore Point Previews Many of us used to shut off System Restore because we were terrified to actually use it; under Windows 7, we can be much calmer. After selecting a Restore Point, Windows will now offer to show you which files and folders will be affected by restoring to that point.

27. Sync Time Zones. If you work with offices in different time zones and frequently find yourself missing meeting times because you are not in sync with their time zone, try the "Additional Clocks" feature that was first introduced in Vista. Within your Date and Time settings is a tab called Additional Clocks, where you can add two or more clocks to your taskbar time, and set them to provide different time zones from your current time zone.

28. Configure User Account Control (UAC). Even if you’re a UAC hater, give it another try. Go to the Control Panel to configure its behavior to something slightly less obnoxious than what Windows Vista had, and see if you can’t live with the extra protection it offers (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 User Account Control, the bane of administrators, has been revamped and improved. (Click the image for a larger view)

29. RoboCopy. The always-useful Robocopy.exe can now run multi-threaded; run Robocopy /? to review its new parameters (like /MT for multithreading) and make your copies go faster.

30. Remote Desktop Console. Windows 7 Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) does not include a console-based remote desktop utility. And even if it did, the standard remote desktop console has some nagging limitations: It can’t move connections around in the list; it can’t sort by folders and so forth. If you manage lots of servers from your Windows 7 workstation, try downloading a copy of mRemote from mremote.org. This donation-requested utility allows you to mix together a variety of remote control applications, including Citrix Independent Computing Architecture (ICA), Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Virtual Network Computing (VNC), Secure Shell (SSH) and rlogin. All host names are displayed in a standard tree control that can be divided into folders, sorted alphabetically, and allow you to assign different logon accounts and secure passwords to each connection.

31. Multiple Monitors. Windows 7 makes working with multiple monitors intuitive and flexible. There are a variety of shortcuts and mouse motions that flick windows from monitor to monitor. To make the most of this, you need lots and lots of screen real estate. Try one of the new QWXGA monitors from Samsung (tinyurl.com/qwxgasamsung) or Dell (tinyurl.com/qwxgadell). These 23-inch monitors have a 2048×1152 resolution, making it possible to put two full-sized pages on the same monitor. Pair them together and you’ll get enough space to have all your admin tools open along with Office, Visio, your intranet sites and a little note to your mom in Live Mail. Move your taskbar to the left or right side of the window instead of along the bottom to free up even more real estate.

32. Windows PowerShell Scripting. If you want to make the most of Windows PowerShell on Windows 7, you’ll need a quick way to build and debug scripts. Windows 7 comes with an interactive editor that allows you to try out cmdlets and test functions on the fly.

33. Drag-and-Drop Notification Icons. The redesigned notification area displays only a minimum number of icons; all other notification icons are moved to a side window. Rather than using the Customize option to select icons for the main display, you can drag-and-drop icons from the side window to the notification area.

34. Add Unindexed Shared Folders to Library. You can add UNC paths such as \\servername\sharename to a Library, but the server must index the folder. If you want to add a UNC path to an unindexed server, you can create a symbolic link to the UNC path, then add the link or links to the library. Use the mklink command. For example, mklink HomeFolder \\ServerName\Homefolder.

35. Simplify Cloned Machine Setups. You can’t run Sysinternals’ newsid utility to change the identity of a cloned Windows 7 machine (either a virtual machine or imaged PC). Instead, create a template installation then run sysprep /oobe /generalize /reboot /shutdown /unattend:scriptfile. Clone or copy this virtual machine file. When it launches, it will get a new SID and you can fill in the name. The reference for building unattended script files is at tinyurl.com/winunattend.

36. Snap That Aero. The Windows key is great for all your shortcuts. Now you can use it to work with the new AeroSnap feature in Windows 7. Select a window, hit the Windows key and a left or right arrow to snap the window to that half of the screen, or use the up arrow to snap it to the top of the screen.

37. Shortcut the Taskbar. The Windows key is great for shortcuts. You can select the Windows key and a number to correspond to items on your taskbar. So, if IE (for example) is the third icon on your taskbar (not counting the Start button), you can hit the Windows key and the number three to launch or open IE.

38. Manage Passwords. Control Panel includes a new application called Credential Manager. This may appear to be a completely new tool that allows you to save your credentials (usernames and passwords) for Web sites you log into and other resources you connect to (such as other systems). Those credentials are saved in the Windows Vault, which can be backed up and restored. However, you might see this as similar to a tool we have in XP and Vista. From the Instant Search, type in control /userpasswords2 and you will be brought to the Advanced User Accounts Control Panel, where you can also manage passwords for your account (see Figure 4).

Figure 4 The Credential Manager provides a handy, secure place to store passwords. (Click the image for a larger view)

39. Trigger Actions. Event Viewer is closely tied into Task Scheduler. You have the ability to take an event (select it in Event Viewer) and then from the Actions pane, select the option "Attach a Task" to have that event, when it appears, trigger an action. That action can be: launch a program; send an e-mail; or display a message. This feature may be very helpful in troubleshooting a problem.

40. Browse InPrivate. A new feature in IE8 is the ability to open the browser in an InPrivate Browsing session that allows you to perform banking and so forth from a public location without fear of leaving behind any residue. IE will not retain anything you do in an In­Private Browsing session. You can perform this action if you are already within IE by selecting the Safety button and then InPrivate Browsing. This will open another IE window altogether. However, you can save a few steps by using the shortcut. Right-click the desktop IE icon, click InPrivate and the windows will open in an InPrivate session already.

41. Go Live. Many applications installed on past versions of Windows have been removed. Starting with Windows 7, these applications (and a few others not typically installed with Windows) have been moved into the Live Essentials downloadable applications, at download.live.com. These applications include Messenger, Mail, Writer, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Family Safety and a few others.

42. Remove Apps. Although some applications have been moved off of Windows to become an optional download, other apps, such as IE8, Media Player, Media Center and DVD Maker are still included. In times past, especially when it came to IE, the applications were tied into the OS. However, in Windows 7 you can easily remove them if desired. Head to the Program and Features applet in Control Panel and select the "Turn Windows features on or off" link in the top left-hand corner. Then you can select the checkbox of the features you want to lose or add for your system (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 Windows 7 unbinds many applications from the OS, making it easy to add and remove them. (Click the image for a larger view)

43. Are You Windows 7 Experienced? System properties has a rating called the Windows Experience Index (WEI). This rating is a collection of five different ratings that are determined by the Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT). The highest rating score is 7.9 (compared to 5.9 in Vista), using the categories of Processor, RAM, Graphics, Gaming Graphics and Primary Hard Disk. The final rating is not an average of all the ratings, but the lowest of the subcomponent scores.

44. Analyze Processes. One of the coolest new features in the revamped Resource Monitor (resmon) is the ability to see the "wait chain traversal." An unresponsive process will be shown in red in the Resource Monitor; right-click the process and choose Analyze Process. This will show the threads in the process and see who holds the resources that are holding up the process itself. You can then kill that part of the process if you like.

45. Create Virtual Worlds. Virtualization capability has been added to the Disk Management tools. If you open Computer Management, go to the Disk Manager tool and then click the Action button at top, you will see the options Create VHD and/or Attach VHD. This allows you to create and mount a virtual hard drive directly from within the GUI. Note: With Windows 7 you even have the ability to boot a Windows 7 VHD (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 Windows 7 adds a great deal of virtualization support, including the ability to create and attach virtual hard drives from the GUI. (Click the image for a larger view)

46. Encrypt USB Sticks. Use BitLocker To Go. Maybe you’ve managed to never misplace or lose a USB key, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it’s a fact of life. Most of the time it’s no big deal, but what if it contains sensitive data? BitLocker To Go enables you to encrypt data on removable storage devices with a password or a digital certificate stored on a smart card.

The 14 Best Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

The Windows key now performs a wide variety of functions. Here are a handful of the most useful ones:

64. Win+h – Move current window to full screen

65. Win+i – Restore current full screen window to normal size or minimize current window if not full screen

66. Win+Shift+arrow – Move current window to alternate screen

67. Win+D – Minimize all windows and show the desktop

68. Win+E – Launch Explorer with Computer as the focus

69. Win+F – Launch a search window

70. Win+G – Cycle through gadgets

71. Win+L – Lock the desktop

72. Win+M – Minimize the current window

73. Win+R – Open the Run window

74. Win+T – Cycle through task bar opening Aero Peek for each running item

75. Win+U – Open the Ease of Use center

76. Win+Space – Aero Peek the desktop

77. Ctrl+Win+Tab – Open persistent task selection window, roll mouse over each icon to preview item and minimize others

47. Lock with Group Policy. Take control through AppLocker application control. AppLocker intercepts kernel calls that try to create new processes or load libraries and ensures the code is allowed to execute. Practically, that means you can eliminate unknown and unwanted software by implementing AppLocker through Group Policy.

48. Be Our Guest. Guest mode proves a convenient method to give a guest or child access to your computer with limits on making system changes, installing software, or writing to the disk outside the user profile. After the user is done and logs off, data saved inside of the user profile is deleted. You cannot use Guest mode in an AD environment.

49. Restore from Backed up Restore Points. You can choose to include restore points in your backups and restore from them when using System Restore. This is convenient if you want to create a baseline of a working configuration and be able to restore to it in the future without overwriting other data on the hard disk.

50. Benefit from BranchCache. BranchCache helps you save on round trips for requested files in remote branch scenarios. If one person requests a file over the WAN, it’s cached locally and either distributed across computers at the remote branch or stored on a central server at the remote branch.

51. Disable Search Suggestion Popups. As you type in the Search Box, Windows 7 makes suggestions based on past queries by pulling past queries from the Registry. You can disable this in the Local Group Policy by enabling User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Windows Explorer | Turn Off Display Of Recent Search Entries In the Windows Explorer.

52. Pin Control Panel to Taskbar. If you use the Control Panel frequently, you may have noticed that you cannot simply right-click the Control Panel and select Pin to Taskbar. Instead, you must first Open Control Panel so its icon appears in the taskbar. From there, you can right-click the icon in the taskbar and select Pin this program to taskbar.

53. Leverage Search Connectors. You can now search the Web using the search functionality. Windows 7 includes Federated Search to increase the search scope beyond the local and network resources. Several search connectors are available, such as for YouTube and Twitter, or you can create custom ones to fit your needs.

54. Use Stickier Notes. Even though this feature has existed in previous versions of Windows in one form or another, it’s much easier to use in Windows 7. You can stick a note on your desktop for quick reminders. It’s a snap to change the font or note color. If you have a note selected, use Ctrl-N to create a new one.

55. Try out Improved WordPad. You probably haven’t given much thought to WordPad lately, but the version shipping with Windows 7 has undergone a major renovation. Think of it as a lite version of Microsoft Word. WordPad sports a spiffy ribbon interface, making it a snap to create well-formatted documents. Plus, you are no longer relegated to saving them as .RTF files. WordPad now supports the Office Open XML document (.DOCX) format. This makes it even easier to open .DOCX files created in Word in WordPad.

56. Calculate. Another basic utility that received a major overhaul is the venerable calculator. In addition to standard and scientific views, there are now programmer and statistic modes. You will also love the conversion and calculation features. Want to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit but can never remember the formula? Use the conversion panel. You’ll also enjoy the data calculation extension. Quickly find the difference between two dates or calculate a new date by adding or subtracting years, months or days.

57. Manage Services from Task Manager. The Windows 7 Task Manager now includes a tab to manage services. You can quickly see at a glance the status of all services on your machine. Click a column heading to sort. You can even start and stop services with a simple right-click. If you need full-blown service management, use the Services button to launch the Services management console. You may often have the Task Manager running in the system tray; now, having service management access means one less window to have open.

58. Get Under the Hood. Windows 7 offers more ways to peek under the hood without adding third-party solutions. A terrific example is the Resource Monitor. The performance tab in Windows Task Manager is a good start, but sometimes you need more information. Click the Resource Monitor button to get more detailed information and performance graphs for key subsystems like CPU and Disk. You can also find the Resource Monitor under Accessories | System Tools.

59. Check Vital Signs. Another new system tool you’ll enjoy is the System Health report. In the Run dialog box, type perfmon /report, which generates a system health report. This report records details about your computer’s performance, resource usage and more. The report also includes diagnostic information about things that aren’t working as they should and suggested steps to resolve. The reports are saved and can be accessed with the Performance Monitor management console. You can also save as an HTML file or send via e-mail.

60. Get More Windows PowerShell. Windows PowerShell v2 promises to be a game-changer for many system administrators. Many will prefer to use the graphical Windows PowerShell console, also known as the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE). You’ll find this in the Windows Power­Shell folder under Accessories. Add a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+I to quickly launch it. Run any Windows PowerShell command in the lower panel and see the results in the middle. Create or edit scripts in the top pane. Open multiple Windows PowerShell sessions connected to remote computers. The ISE makes Windows PowerShell v2 easy to use and fun (see Figure 7).

Figure 7 Windows PowerShell has been much more tightly integrated with Windows 7, and adds the Integrated Scripting Environment. (Click the image for a larger view)

61. Put It on Old Stuff. One perhaps-not-so-obvious Windows 7 tip is that you should attempt to install it everywhere. One user has a 6-year-old laptop that originally shipped with Windows XP. He could never get Windows Vista to install on it. But Windows 7 installed without complaint and runs extremely smooth. Granted, there are some Windows 7 features he can’t take advantage of because the processor lacks certain features, but these are minor issues considering the laptop now has life again.

62. Improve Security. In Vista it was difficult to manage system protection via restore points. The System Protection tab in Windows 7 is a vast improvement. In one spot you can configure how much space to devote to restore points, delete and create restore points or even turn off system protection altogether. This is very useful on older systems where disk space may be at a premium.

63. Actually Use Help and Support. Much of Vista’s clutter has been reduced in Windows 7. For instance, the Help and Support page has three links, a search window and a link back to Microsoft’s Windows site. It’s much less intimidating for end users, so make sure they know about it. Search is much improved as well, making for a better, faster experience.