2014


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b u l l s h i t
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d o n a t i o n s
My hope is that everyone who reads this site saves some money and gets a more reliable computer from the advice on it.

If you feel this site is worthwhile a donation will help cover some of the expenses.

Email and Paypal information is available in the 'contact me' link above.
s o u r c e
I don't normally keep copies of programs on this site - instead there are links to the download pages of the copyright owners. This means you always download an up-to-date version of the program. While I don't have any use for continual updating (change = trouble) it seems reasonable to start a new install with an up-to-date version.

The exception to this rule is if I can't find the original author's site.
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P R O C E D U R E S


g r i p e s,    w h i n e s    &     c a v e a t s
After Service Pack Two, WindowsXP became usable and reliable. As screens increased in resolution XP even became good-looking, if you stretch a point. It worked the way it should have done when it was first released and for about a year we had a good operating system from Microsoft.

Then they released Vista.

Microsoft realised they had a disaster on their hands and worked to correct the faults in Vista. After three years and two Vista service packs they felt they had something worth rebranding and selling as a new product. Windows7 was released for sale with claims that the speed problems had been fixed. And it is true that basic user operations such as opening programs and saving files and even the boot time of the operating system are much improved. However the underlying speed problems caused by things like the unwanted Digital Rights Management (DRM) are still there. In practice on a 2600+ Athlon, a computer on which WindowsXP will fly, Windows7 is only adequate.

update 2014: As ever in two years personal computers have changed radically. A single-core 2.6GHz computer which I regarded as reasonable in 2012 has morphed into a six-core 3GHz in 2014 and is about to become an eight-core 5GHz. So now no delays due to Windows7, or anything else for that matter.

Do I like Windows7?

Er, yes actually. The pretty semi-transparent design uses desktop space like a demon and MS insists on hiding important functions. But overall its not bad. Its certainly not as bad as WindowsXP when it was first released.

If you're stuck with it, you can do quite a lot to make it more reliable (like three years without a crash) usable and faster. So here are some paragraphs which explain how to make it work well.

    R e q u i r e m e n t s
A reasonable amount of skill with an MS Windows operating system is required. Failing that, a willingness to re-install Windows may be handy. If you are a complete novice I recommend reading 'Windows for Dummies' or an equivalent book and then practising, before tackling anything on this website.

In the procedures set out below a left mouse click/drag is required unless otherwise specified.
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7    s e t u p
This is how to setup Windows 7 to look good, be easy to use and respond quickly.

More is better but my test rig is useable and looks like this:
   o   Processor: 2600+ Athlon
   o   Memory: 1GB
   o   Hard Drive 1: 100GB (boot)
   o   Hard Drive 2: 500GB (data)
   o   Graphics: x1650 Pro 512MB (with 2 output sockets)
   o   Monitor 1: 1920x1080 24" (main)

This gives enough grunt to run Windows7 and a couple of programs at the same time. It does a cold boot in 45s and a warm boot in 6s.

Here's a picture of my test screen layout, click on it to see a larger version.

Unsuprisingly the layout is a lot like my WindowsXP one. Microsoft don't seem to understand that I want to use their operating system to do something else. I don't want to have to think about where everything is.

The customised Windows7 interface includes:
   o   Dark Aero color option
   o   Home-brewed desktop picture
   o   Stretched taskbar includes:
         ¤   Quick Access toolbar
         ¤   Media folders toolbar
         ¤   Frequent Access Files toolbar
   o   Reduced caption bar
   o   Increased Icon Separation
   o   Only four icons on the desktop
   o   File suffices turned on
   o   Custom 'All Programs' menu

You can do the following procedures a bit at a time but personally I like to grab Windows by the scruff of the kneck and show it who's boss.

    S e t    's l a t e'    a e r o    c o l o u r    o p t i o n
Or any other frame/taskbar colour which may take your fancy:
        right-click on desktop ->
        personalize ->
        window color ->
        colour scheme down arrow ->
        slate ->
        save changes

    H o m e - b r e w e d    d e s k t o p    p i c t u r e    t o    m a t c h
If you'd like the picture shown above (rendered at 1920x1080 and saved as a .jpg), its available for download here.

Once you've got your chosen picture:
        start button ->
        windows explorer ->
        find your picture's icon ->
        change view to 'thumbnails' ->
        right-click on the picture's icon ->
        set as desktop background

Try to make sure your picture has the same resolution as the screen. Failing that a picture with higher resolution than your screen will give better results.
    C o n f i g u r e    t h e    t a s k b a r
Stretch the taskbar
        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        if ticked, click on 'Lock Taskbar' to unlock it ->
        drag the top edge of the Taskbar upwards by one line ->

Set auto-hide:
        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        properties ->
        ensure 'auto-hide' is ticked ->
        ensure 'hide inactive icons' is not ticked ->
        ok

The taskbar is now a useful size and it will appear when you move the pointer to the bottom of the screen.

    A d d    l i n k s    t o    t h e    T a s k b a r
The object here is to get icons off the desktop and organised. To the Taskbar I add three folders of my own links,'quicklaunch', 'frequent shortcuts' and 'media shortcuts' to the taskbar.

First you need to create folders for your shortcuts. Use Windows Explorer for this. I create a folder called 'My Shortcuts' and in that create the other folders 'quickLaunch', 'frequentShortcuts' and 'mediaShortcuts'

   o   In the 'frequentShortcuts' folder I create shortcuts to often used files (a jotter, an accounts spreadsheet or a book I'm writing perhaps).
   o   In the 'mediaShortcuts' folder I put shortcuts to folders like; Art, Comics, Movies, Cartoons etc.
   o   The quickLaunch folder is used to hold shortcuts to programs. It used to be part of Windows but now you have to create it.

Don't create too many shortcuts. Just put in links to the things you use most often otherwise you lose the advantage (10 per folder max).

It puts the things you use a lot right in front of you, where they aren't hidden by open windows.

quickLaunch
Create the shortcuts in the quickLaunch folder:
        open an instance of Windows Explorer ->
        open the quickLaunch folder ->
        left click on the start button ->
        right-drag any program icon into the quickLaunch folder ->
        click on 'Create shortcut here' ->
        repeat as required

Add the quickLaunch folder to the Taskbar:
        unlock the taskbar ->
        right-click on an empty part of the taskbar ->
        Toolbars ->
        new toolbar ->
        find and select the quickLaunch folder
Arrange the Taskbar:
        left-drag the top of the hatched border of the active programs
                list to the bottom of the taskbar ->
        the quickLaunch toolbar will move to the top of the taskbar ->
        right-click on the title of the quickLaunch toolbar ->
        untick 'Show text' and 'Show title' ->
        left-drag the icons into the required order

The other two work in much the same way:

frequentShortcuts
Create the shortcuts in the frequentShortcuts folder:
        open two instances of Windows Explorer ->
        arrange the windows so you can see both without overlap ->
        open the frequentShortcuts folder in the top window ->
        use the bottom window to find the files you use most often ->
        right-drag any file icon into the quickLaunch folder ->
        click on 'Create shortcut here' ->
        repeat as required

Add the frequentShortcuts folder to the Taskbar:
        unlock the taskbar ->
        right-click on an empty part of the taskbar ->
        Toolbars ->
        new toolbar ->
        find and select the frequentShortcuts folder

Arrange the Taskbar:
        left-drag the hatched border of the frequentShortcuts folder
                onto the top line of the taskbar ->
        right-click on the title of the quickLaunch toolbar ->
        untick 'Show title' ->
        left-drag the icons into the required order

And similarly for the mediaShortcuts toolbar.

Drag the vertical lines to arrange the toolbars to best advantage then lock the taskbar.

    R e m o v e    i c o n s    f r o m    t h e    d e s k t o p
Icons on the Desktop quickly get into a horrible mess. In addition to that they are covered up by the windows of running progams and you can't get at them easily. I move everything I want to use onto Quicklaunch on the Taskbar and delete the rest.

This is one action that's actually easier in Windows7 than WindowsXP.

        right-click on the desktop ->
        Personalize ->
        Change desktop icons ->
        Untick all the icons ->
        OK


    S l i m    d o w n    t h e    c a p t i o n    b a r
Gives Windows7 a (very slightly) sleeker look.
        right-click on the desktop ->
        Personalize ->
        Window Color ->
        Advanced appearance settings ->
        active window caption bar ->
        set Font to Tahoma ->
        set Font Size to 8 ->
        turn Bold off ->
        set Active Title Bar size to 18 ->
        ok ->
        ok

    I n c r e a s e    i c o n    s e p e r a t i o n
Makes it much easier to use Control Panel and other icon-based areas.
        right-click on the desktop ->
        Personalize ->
        Window Color ->
        Advanced appearance settings ->
        Item down arrow ->
        Icon Spacing (Horizontal) ->
        set to 70 ->
        Item down arrow ->
        Icon Spacing (Vertical) ->
        set to 50 ->
        ok ->
        ok

    T h e    t h r e e    i c o n s
The only icons I have on my desktop are:
   o   Shared folder of the local computer
   o   Shared folder of remote computer 1
   o   Shared folder of remote computer 2
etc.

Currently there are five but it varies depending on the number of computers I have running.

Respectively these act as quick-access to my local shared folder and as drag-&-drop hotspots to the shared folders on other computers on my local network.

For the local computer:
        open Windows Explorer (or equivalent) ->
        contract 'My Documents' ->
        expand 'My Computer' ->
        make sure 'Shared folder' is shared on the local network ->
        right-drag 'Shared folder' onto the desktop ->
        create Shortcut ->
        rename to "LOCAL COMPUTER NAME - Shared"  ->
        drag to top left-hand corner of desktop

For the networked computers:
        expand 'My Network Places' ->
        expand 'Entire Network' ->
        expand 'Microsoft Windows Network' ->
        expand 'LOCAL NETWORK NAME' ->
        expand 'NETWORK COMPUTER' ->
        right-drag 'Documents' onto the Desktop ->
        create Shortcut ->
        rename to 'REMOTE COMPUTER NAME' ->
        repeat for all your remote computers

If you drag-&-drop a file on an icon for a remote computer the file will be copied to that computer. Double-click on the first icon to look at incoming files.

    T h e    t h r e e    l e t t e r    s u f f i x
Microsoft's idea of being helpful is to hide the three letter suffix appended to every file. These three letters define what type of file it is. If you can't see them how do you determine what program to use to open the file?

Duh!

Hiding these letters has been default since WindowsXP came among us. Here's how to see them:

        open Control Panel ->
        'Folder Option's ->
        'View' ->
        Scroll down to 'Hide extensions for known file types' ->
        Untick it ->
        OK ->

    C u s t o m    'A l l    P r o g r a m s'    m e n u
One of the main usability problems with Windows is the mess created in the All Programs menu as applications are installed.

This can be sorted out so its quick and easy to find things. I use the following menu structure:
   o   Customising
   o   Development
   o   Games
   o   Graphics
   o   Internet
   o   Mutimedia
   o   Navigation
   o   Office
   o   Peripherals
   o   Security
   o   Startup
   o   Telephone
   o   Utilities

I'm not going to cover this in detail, suffice to say that a few minutes of organisation is worth an accumulation of many hour's of "Where the
¤¤¤¤'s that gone."

    open control panel ->
    folder options ->
    show hidden files and folders ->
    click on the eponymous radio button ->
    OK ->
    open two instances of Windows Explorer ->
    navigate both to...
        C:\Program Data\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs ->
    create folders with names you choose in...
        C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs ->
    drag the shortcuts you want to keep into the new folders ->
    delete everything else ->
    in each finished folder right-click and then 'Sort by Name'

You need to check this and the desktop every time you install a new program as it quickly turns into a mess again.

    C o n c l u s i o n
I could witter on for hours about setting up but the essence of the matter is to get everything to where you can find it easily.

Once you've done that you need to make sure Windows7 is running properly - see the next section.
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7 s e t u p  -  u p d a t e  ( 2 0 1 2 - 0 6 )
The foregoing was mostly written in the middle of 2010. It's still correct but I've moved on and at the start of 2011 I built a new computer for home use. I commissioned it with WinXP-64 and the speed of the thing was remarkable.

Spec as follows:

   o   Proc - Athlon II x3 @3.2GHz
   o   Memory - 4GB
   o   Graphics - nVidea GeForce 9800GTX+
   o   Boot hard drive - 100GB SATA2
   o   Data hard drive - 1.5TB SATA2
   o   Backup hard drive - 2TB SATA2
   o   Monitor - 24" 1080p

Even when it was built this was not state-of-the-art, second-hand parts off eBay etc. When I finally installed Win7-64 it ran without delays using only a very small part of the available processor cycles and memory. The same is true of the office tools I use and my media players. The only game I play is Far Cry 2 and with everything turned right up that uses about 60% of the processor power and 90% of the graphics.

So, not an expensive machine but its performance is more than adequate. It is possible to unlock and overclock this setup however I've not yet seen the need.
As you can see the layout is much like previous atttempts. I like it. Additions are two sets of gadgets which seem to make negligable impact on the 'rest' cpu cycle usage.

On the left I have a set of news/weather gadgets, vis:

   o   Exchange rates
   o   News Ticker
   o   Weather
   o   Earthquake reports

On the right I have a set of machine status gadgets, vis:

   o   CPU usage
   o   GPU meter
   o   Drives meter
   o   Network meter
   o   Sound volume setting

With all that lot running plus graphics and email programs it was using 15% of the processor power clocked down to 770MHz.
    F i t    f o r    p u r p o s e
This is my 'home' machine'. I use it for media, browsing, games, accounts and when the muse strikes, coding.

It fills those purposes very well. In fact I've never had a machine/OS combo which was better.

You can rely on Microsoft to finally get an OS working just before they replace it. Likewise all the best shortcuts come to light in the same period. Like this one...

    G o d    m o d e
Create a new folder on the desktop and then rename the folder to the following:

                    GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

When the folder is opened every control function of Windows is exposed in a single (searchable!) list.

The is also said to work in Windows Vista, although there are some warnings that although it works fine in 32-bit versions of Vista, it can cause 64-bit versions to crash. It doesn't work in XP though my last working copy of XP is heading for the Final Shutdown in the near future.

The existence of this trick goes a long way to explaining the incompetance of Microsoft's GUI design engineers. They all use GodeMode rather than their GUI.

However if Windows 8 turns out to be anywhere near as good as the current Window Phone 7.5 I will happily eat my words.

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7 s e t u p  -  u p d a t e  ( 2 0 1 4 - 0 5 )
This is starting to sound as though I spend my life building computers. Its not true, I do have a life (I think).

The next hardware update was in December 2013, and to some extent, January 2014. The update was mainly; a new processor, memory, graphics card and an SSD boot drive. It all used the same motherboard so I plugged in the old Win7 boot drive and much to my surprise it worked!

Once all of it was nailed together the new spec was:

   o   Proc - Phenom II x6 @3.0GHz
   o   Memory - 16GB
   o   Graphics - Asus GTX660ti
   o   Boot hard drive - 120GB SSD SATA3
   o   Boot backup hard drive (1) - 500GB SATA2
   o   Data hard drive - 3TB SATA2
   o   Data backup hard drive (1) - 2TB SATA2
   o   Data backup hard drive (2) - 1.5TB SATA2
   o   Monitor - 24" 1080p

As I've gradually increased the specification the cost of the machine has increased because its no longer possible to buy second-hand parts. I don't overclock it 'cos the only thing which comes close to using all its power is the game Far Cry 3. It is totally reliable and hasn't crashed since it was built.
The screen layout is the same as the previous machine, once again with feeling, 'change=trouble'. With all that lot running plus graphics and email programs it was using 6% of the processor power clocked down to 820MHz.
    F i t    f o r    p u r p o s e
This is my 'home' machine'. I use it for media, browsing, games, accounts and when the muse strikes, coding and writing.

It fills those purposes very well. In fact I've never had a machine/OS combo which was better (yes even better than the 2011 machine).

You can rely on Microsoft to finally get an OS working well just before they replace it. And here comes Windows8

    A d m i n i s t r a t o r    M o d e
Lots of people use their computer in administrator mode all the time. But the fact is that this makes you vulnerable to incoming malware which can then install itself without opposition.

I create a seperate administrator account with its own password and then run my working account in user mode. This means that everytime a program makes changes to itself or other programs on your computer you have to give permission and the administrator password. Used at the same time as a program change checker (like the one built into PrivateFirewall7) it gives a good measure of protection against malware hidden in advertising and emails.

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s p e e d    t e s t i n g
Does your computer have a problem?

Does it seem slow?

If your computer runs Windows Vista it won't seem fast no matter the hardware. I've yet to see a Vista installation which gives an impression of speed.

If you have a well-specified computer running Windows7 which has no get up and go, here are a couple of quick checks.

    C a s e    t e m p e r a t u r e
If you have a desktop or floor standing computer place your hand on the computer's case.

If it feels warm you have a sticky fan.

    C P U    u s a g e    a t    i d l e
Check the amount of CPU cycles you are using with no applications running.

    Press [CTRL][ALT][DEL] ->
    StartTask Manager ->
    Performance

The figure under the CPU Usage window should bounce around between 0% and 4%. Significantly higher and you have a problem - the higher the number the bigger the problem.

If you have a high useage:

    Click the 'Processes' tab.

Look for the process which is using the extra cycles. If you can't identify that process you have a serious problem.

    I D E    b o o t    d r i v e    t e s t
If you have an IDE (PATA) boot drive look at the transfer mode Windows is using. Windows will try to use the fastest access mode it can. If it gets too many errors it will drop down a mode. There are six modes.

            Fastest mode - Ultra DMA Mode 5
            Slowest mode - PIO

How to check:

    Press [Windows][Break] to bring up System Properties ->
    Device Manager ->
    expand 'IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers' ->
    right-click on 'ATA Channel 0' ->
    Properties ->
    Advanced Settings ->
    Check 'Current Mode' for Device 0 ->

If Windows is using PIO to transfer data to and from your boot drive - its time to get a new boot drive.

    S A T A    b o o t    d r i v e    t e s t
If you have an SSD SATA3 boot drive, as do I now, the alternative is to look at the raw SMART data log on the drive.

I use 'CrystalDiskInfo' for this.

    run CrystalDiskInfo ->
    SMART

In the raw SMART data look at the these values:
   o   Raw Read Error Rate
   o   Seek Error Rate

If these numbers are non-zero you may have a problem. Its very difficult to interpret how bad the problem is though. The numbers are manufacturer's codes rather than the number of errors.

    B o o t    s p e e d    t e s t
On an PhenomII x6 1075 based system Windows 7 should boot from cold in about 19 seconds. A boot from Standby (Warm Boot) should take 3 seconds.

The same system should start MS Word 2007 in 1 second from cold and in less than a second subsequently. The same times apply to MS Excel 2007.
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m a i n t e n a n c e    &    s e c u r i t y
As I may have mentioned before; maintenance and security are inseparable. If a computer is well maintained, its less vulnerable and malware is a major cause of slow computers. Most of the computer's I have bought to me as complete failures are cured when I run the procedure I describe below.

Every one or two months I do these things on my own computers (I often skip the last step):
   o   Check internal physical cleanliness
   o   Make backups
then:
   o   Malware scan
   o   Virus scan
   o   Registry scan
   o   Check startup list
   o   Check Windows files integrity
   o   Check filesystem
   o   Remove unused drivers
   o   Check browser add-ons
   o   Defrag the boot drive

In all my years working on PCs I've found the there are three common failure modes for them. In order of descending frequency they are:
   1   Malware overload
   2   Dirty CPU cooler
   3   Dead or dying Hard Disc

1 and 2 can be prevented and represent about 80% of buggered computers.

    C l e a n i n g    a    c o m p u t e r
Only do this when a reasonable amount of dirt has built-up. There is a chance of generating static electricity which can blow the chips in computers. On the other hand too much dirt will cook a chip which runs hot (like the main processor).

I suggest once a year for cleaning unless the household has a smoker or a hairy pet, in which case clean every six months.

I use a 12mm paintbrush with artificial (pointed) fibres. I hold it by the metal fibre clamp and try not to press too hard. Use a Vacuum cleaner with a plastic hose and nozzle.

The computer should be disconnected from all peripherals but plugged into the mains power with the mechanical switch on the PSU 'Off'. There should be no lights on inside the computer. If you don't have a mechanical switch on the back take the computer to a professional to be cleaned.

While you're working inside the computer try to keep touching the metal part of the case.

Check the fans for crud and make sure they spin freely. If they're stiff or 'coggy' take the sticker off the back and put one drip of light machine oil on the spindle. Spin the fan by hand until it frees up. Use toilet tissue to soak up excess oil and put the sticker back. If the fan doesn't spin freely after oiling get a new one.

Check the fins of the heatsinks. Clean any build-up of dirt with the brush.

Loosen any other big build-ups of dirt with the brush.

Vacuum all the loose dirt out of insides of the computer. Try not to touch the computer's components with the vacuum cleaner.

Put the side panel back on and you're done!

    M a k e    b a c k u p s
Everyone should have backups.

How you do it is up to you but in my opinion the only way to back up a hard drive is with another hard drive.

This is my current system. Since I boot from a 120GB SSD (bad rep for reliability) I schedule MS 'Backup and Restore' to create system images on a dedicated boot backup 500GB HDD. I keep four 'images' and three 'repair' copies. The images tend to be about 50-70GB each as I like to keep plenty of clear space on my boot drive.

For data I backup manually using ViceVersa to copy my changed files from the boot and data drives to the designated data backup drives. At the moment I have a 3TB data drive which is split up and copied to a 2TB and a 1T5B backup drive. The backup drives are kept in two of the computer's external 5.25 bays and are switched off when not in use.

I do this at irregular intervals, but never more than one week. If I'm working on a paid project I backup daily.

The advantage of a program like Vice Versa is that it copies only changes, which makes it much faster than copying an entire 3TB drive.

    M a l w a r e    s c a n
So to the scans.

Malware first, because if you've got any its the most difficult to remove.

    Run Malwarebytes' Antimalware
    Update the database
    Run 'Quickscan'
    Delete any detected files.

Watch out for false positives with this program. If you've got Windows Firewall and/or Update turned off (as i do) it will detect this as the work of malware. However its a good program for getting rid of sticky malware that would otherwise require the re-installation of Windows.

    V i r u s    s c a n
Avast runs several live intercept services so daily scans are not required. However its a good idea to run a scan occasionally. Avast is the one program I allow to access the internet and run daily updates.

    Right-click the Avast icon in the system tray
    Start Avast antivirus
    Local disks
    Start
    Delete any detected files.

Not a lot to say here. Avast will do its job. I've only had one problem with it in six years of use and that was a result of my own bull-headedness.

    R e g i s t r y    s c a n
I am currently using 'Eusing Free Registry Cleaner' for this. It is a simple program but it seems very thorough. In a year of use I have yet to find a problem with it.

    Run Eusing
    Scan Registry Issue
    Repair Registry Issue

And that's it. Takes less than 10 minutes.

    C l e a n    s t a r t u p    l i s t
The objective here is to find and remove unwanted programs which have been inserted into the list of programs started with windows. I use Anvir Task Manager Free for this.

I've always felt that its a bare-faced cheek when a company installs programs which steal my processor cycles and internet bandwidth without my knowledge. Most so-called auto update programs are used as market information tools. Rant over...

Simple procedure:

    Run Anvir
    open Startup tab
    remove programs you don't want

Remember when removing these programs that if you need them you can start them manually or put them back in the list. So don't worry too much about them.

    P r e v e n t    a u t o - u p d a t e s
A major cause of Windows taking a long time to boot is the 'auto-updating' program problem.

What happens is that as soon as Windows has started all the programs with 'Check for updates' enabled try to get on the internet at the same time. This causes what I like to call a program 'squabble' as they all fight for internet bandwidth and processor cycles. The result is that Windows locks up just after it boots. I've watched one of these lock ups last for 20 minutes. Then Windows worked normally.

There's no specific cure for this, you have to run round all your programs turning auto-update off. If you can't turn it off, try to find a replacement program. If you can't find a replacement, block the program with your firewall. Normally they give up quickly if they can't access the net.

The only program to which I give auto-update access is my anti-virus program, Avast. Even that has a 30s delay feature so it doesn't try to jump on the net as soon as it starts.

    W i n d o w s    f i l e s    i n t e g r i t y
All files can become corrupt or 'updated'. The files which comprise the MS Windows operating system seem more prone than most to this. However there is a simple fix built right into Windows. Its called System File Checker (SFC).

    click on the START button on the Taskbar ->
    All programs ->
    Accessories ->
    right-click on 'Command prompt' ->
    Run as administrator ->
    type "sfc /scannow" ->
    press [Enter] ->
    OK

You'll see a progress percentage as Windows7 checks its installed files for changes. If any files have changed, Windows7 will attemt to repair or repace them. If it cannot you can look in a logfile 'cbs.log' to see whats causing the problem.

To open cbs.log:

    Open Windows Explorer and navigate to...
        C:\Windows\Logs\CBS ->
    right-drag CBS.log onto the desktop ->
    click copy ->
    double-click on the new copy of CBS.log to open it ->
    search for all the occurances of the phrase "cannot repair" ->
    make a list of all the files that could not be repaired ->
    email Microsoft and ask them what you're supposed to do now

This is useless - the WindowsXP version copies files off the install disc to replace bad files.

    C h e c k    f i l e s y s t e m
Here we look at the way files are stored on your hard drive. If you have suffered any system stops or crashes while writing to the hard drive damage may have been done to your filesystem's addressing. Similarly with physical bumps. It is possible to repair or mark as unusable these areas of the drive.

    start Windows Explorer or equvalent ->
    shrink 'My Documents ->
    expand 'My Computer' ->
    right-click on drive c: ->
    properties ->
    tools ->
    check now ->
    start ->
    OK

If you finish the scan without errors, well and good.

If you have errors, run the scan again with both these options ticked:
   o   Automatically fix file system errors
   o   Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors

You will need to reboot the computer.

If at the end of this you still get an error message you need to get a new hard drive and copy your data onto it while you still can. Don't prevaricate.

    R e m o v e    u n u s e d    h a r d w a r e    d r i v e r s
This only really applies to Windows installations which have been running for a while and have undergone a number of hardware additions, USB connection movements and generally problematic periods.

My old installation of WindowsXP was about 5 years old and had been through quite a lot with me, including a transfer from another drive. I didn't know, but it had an amazing baggage of hundreds of old drivers.

How do you sort it out with Windows7?

    Press [Windows][Break] to bring up System Properties ->
    Advanced System Properties ->
    Advanced ->
    Environment Variables ->
    'New' button below the System Variables panel ->
    'New' button ->
    In the 'Variable Name' box type "devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices" ->
    In the 'Variable Value' box type "1" ->
    OK ->
    OK ->
    Hardware ->
    Device Manager ->
    View ->
    Show Hidden Devices ->
    Expand branches in the device tree ->
    Look for the unused icons ->
    right-click on each unused driver and click on Uninstall

After a year of flawless running I did this with Win7 and found nothing.

    C o n c l u s i o n
If you run the above procedures on Win7 on a regular basis you should never get to the point where your computer grinds to a halt. Windows7 is not 'better' than WinXP but in a couple of years it may be.

update 2014: I guess I have to say here that Win7 is now a lot better than WinXP. The improvements in hardware allow the extra performance hit of Win7 to be ignored and the result is the best yet operating system from MS.
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    f i r e f o x    c o n f i g u r a t i o n
Firefox is currently the most popular internet browser in Europe - and with good reason. Its quick and elegant and it doesn't crash. Most of all - it doesn't crash the operating system. There are a number of things which can be done to improve on the basic configuration without adding so much that it becomes slow:

   o   I set up Firefox so that its controls (not counting tabs) occupy only one line.
   o   Then I put my Bookmarks Toolbar on the next line.
   o   I suppress Flash because I don't like things flickering in my peripheral vision.
   o   I suppress advertising because it carries malware and viruses.
   o   I install one theme - really just because I like it.

    A d d - o n s
Add-ons provide extra functionality to Firefox. However the more stuff you add the slower Firefox will go. I find the idea of removing advertising and Flash pictures irresistable. I really do hate pictures flickering away in my peripheral vision while I'm trying to read something.

Adblock Plus - gets rid of unwanted advertising - recommended:
    Click on: Tools - Add-ons ->
    The 'Add-ons' windows is displayed ->
    Click 'Browse all Add-ons' ->
    Firefox will display the Add-ons page in its main window ->
    Type "Adblock plus" into the search box and press [Enter]->
    The search results are displayed. ->
    Click 'Add to Firefox' in the Adblock Plus window. ->
    Install now ->
    Restart Firefox ->
    Restart ->
    Make sure 'Easylist(USA)' is selected ->
    Subscribe

Flashblock - replaces Flash vids with an icon, click the icon to see the vid - recommended:
    Click on: Tools - Add-ons ->
    The 'Add-ons' windows is displayed ->
    Click 'Browse all Add-ons' ->
    Firefox will display the Add-ons page in its main window ->
    Type "Flashblock" into the search box and press [Enter]->
    The search results are displayed. ->
    Click 'Add to Firefox' in the Flashblock window. ->
    Install now ->
    Install now ->
    Restart Firefox ->
    Restart

Silvermel Theme - replaces Firefox fonts, icons and background with something much more classy - recommended:
    Click on: Tools - Add-ons ->
    The 'Add-ons' windows is displayed ->
    Click 'Browse all Add-ons' ->
    Firefox will display the Add-ons page in its main window ->
    Type "Silvermel" into the search box and press [Enter]->
    The search results are displayed. ->
    Click 'Add to Firefox' in the Silvermel window. ->
    Install now ->
    Install now ->
    Restart Firefox ->
    Restart

    A r r a n g e    t h e    c o n t r o l s
The idea is to reduce the amount of vertical screen lost to Firefox's own controls while leaving it easy to use. This can be quite important with a small 'wide-screen' like a netbook.

Once Firefox is installed:

    Right-click on a blank part of the top toolbar ->
    Click on 'Customise'. ->
    A 'Customise Toolbar' (CT) window will appear. ->
    Drag the google search window into the CT Window. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a separator into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    Drag the icons from the navigation toolbar into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag 'History', into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag 'Downloads', into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag 'New Tab', into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a separator into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    Drag the Address Box onto the top toolbar. ->
    Click Done in the CT window. ->
    Right-click the now empty Navigation Toolbar. ->
    Untick 'Navigation Toolbar'.

You could also untick the Bookmarks Toolbar and hide the Status Bar but its probably easier to just to press [F11] on the keyboard and display Firefox in full-screen mode.

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    a v a s t    c o n f i g u r a t i o n
If left in standard settings any virus scanner will soak up CPU cycles just when you're waiting for something to happen. Ie. It will take a fast computer and turn it into a slow one.

The trick is to configure it to do an effective job without increasing file load times.

What I do, is allow Avast to scan only files which have an associated risk and then only when they are written to disk.

    S c a n n i n g
Optimise live scanning:

    Click on the orange avast icon in the system tray ->
    Standard Shield ->
    Customise ->
    Click 'Scanner (Basic)' ->
    Untick all boxes ->
    Click 'Scanner (Advanced)' ->
    Untick 'Scan files on open' ->
    Tick 'Scan created/modified files' ->
    Select 'Only files with selected extension' ->
    Tick 'Default extension set' ->
    OK ->
    OK.

    D e l a y    u p d a t e    1
Put in a longer auto update delay so that Avast updates once a day (more than enough). It'll update when its started anyway.

    Right-click on the orange avast icon in the system tray ->
    Click on the sprocket icon for program settings ->
    Update (Basic) ->
    Automatic ->
    Automatic ->
    Details ->
    Type "1440" into 'Auto update every' ->
    OK ->


    D e l a y    u p d a t e    2
Put in a 30 second delay on startup. This will help prevent Avast's startup web accesses delaying your computer's boot.

    Right-click on the orange avast icon in the system tray ->
    Click on the sprocket icon for program settings ->
    Troubleshooting ->
    Tick 'Load Avast only after other services' ->
    OK

    S i l e n t    m o d e
Unfortunately Avast has turned into nagware unless you put it in 'silent mode'. This stops its advertising popups from appearing.

    Right-click on the orange avast icon in the system tray ->
    Open user interface ->
    Click on the Sprocket icon for settings ->
    General ->
    tick 'silent/gaming mode' ->
    tick 'silent if a full-screen application is running' ->
    OK ->

Note that the Sounds option in the above window allows you to disable the inane little speech whenever Avast updates.

    S o u n d    o f f
Turn off the Avast spoken status messages.

    Right-click on the orange avast icon in the system tray ->
    Open user interface ->
    Click on the Sprocket icon for settings ->
    Appearance ->
    Untick 'Enable Avast Sounds' ->
    OK ->

Note that the Sounds option in the above window allows you to disable the inane little speech whenever Avast updates.

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Last update: 19th January 2015
Site & Contents Copyright © 2001-2015 Gerry Parnham BSc - All Rights Reserved



t h i s    p a g e
gripes, whines & caveats
7 setup
7 setup update (2012/06)
7 setup update (2014/05)
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maintenance & security
firefox config
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u p d a t e s
I update this site on a regular basis, so what's here reflects my current kit.

If you find a broken link or a piece of freeware that no longer performs as I describe, please let me know. I'll sort it out. Mail me by clicking on the 'contact me' link at top left of this page.
p r o c e d u r e s
Microsoft have never had the faintest idea of how to design and explain a user interface, you only have to look at an Apple computer to see that.

I've always complained about how badly WindowsXP is set up when first installed and Windows7 is no better. The icons are jammed together, the taskbar is locked in place and too small to use properly. Though with Windows7 you can at least change the colour. This is caused by the fact that Microsoft is populated by engineers who designed Windows to be an engineers toy, then tried to make it easy to use by giving it big letters.

The best way to make Windows7 easy to use is to run it on a large, high definition screen and then follow my setup instructions in the 'procedures' page of this website.
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