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David's Computer FAQ

Buying a computer
Rechargable Battery Care
New Computer Todo List
Safe Computing Habits
Wireless Networking and Security
Internet Connectivity
Website Security
Remote Access to Computer


Things to think about when purchasing a computer


  • When choosing a manufacturer think about: What kind of phone support do they offer? What is the return time of equipment if you have to mail it in for repair?

  • Get at least 512MB RAM for XP / Linux / Mac - Vista (and Mac if you're doing lots of video editing) 1GB

  • 1 year parts warranty is standard. Do you want that extended to a 2 or 3 year warranty? Are you technical enough to replace computer parts if they are mailed to you, or do you need an onsite support contract where they will send someone out to fix it? If it's for a business, do you need the 4-hour onsite support contract?

  • CD/DVD Drives: CD/DVD ROM means read only. CD/DVD RW means you can write. Some drive are CD RW + DVD ROM, these can write CD's but not DVD's.

  • Do you need windows or need to run windows software? If not and the computer is just for Web Browsing / E-mail / Pictures / Music / Video a Mac is a great choice for home.

Buying Laptops

  • Tablet PC - Do you want it to be a note taking machine in meetings, able to handle hand-written notes?

  • Watching lots of DVD's on it? Do you want to 16:9 (widescreen) display?

  • Do you need / want media readers that are part of the case instead of having to carry around USB media card readers?

  • Desktop replacement vs Ultralites: Do you travel a lot, and want it to be as light as possible? Ultralites: small screen, no built-in CD/DVD drive. Desktop replacment: Big screen, usually less battery life, gaming machine with good graphics card

  • Docking stations: Do you want to have a monitor / keyboard / mouse at your main desktop setup so when you're in the office you have full-sized equipment? WIth a docking station you have a one plugin to the laptop, instead of pluggin each item individually. Look for ethernet jack, parallel port, USB ports, power plugin that charges laptop when choosing your docking station

  • Batteries: When you buy a laptop (especially online) you can usually decide to get either extended (bigger) batteries or an extra battery. If you want maximum portability without being connected to the wall this is a good idea. Buy these batteries / extra batteries when you buy the computer, you can save as much as half the price when buying retail. Buying an extra/new battery later is much more expensive. That said, with some searching you can find slightly used batteries - sometimes very inexpensively.

A note on battery care (not just laptop batteries): Batteries have a maximum number of discharge/recharge cycles built into them. To make a battery last as long as possible try to minimize the number of times you discharge/recharge your battery. Depending on how you use your laptop you can:

  • If you only use your laptop at a home/work desk leave the battery out of your computer at all times and only put it in when you are mobile.

  • If your computer is plugged in at home over the weekend pull the battery out

  • Drain 50-70% of the battery between recharges when appropriate (if you know you're going to have a portable time coming up charge the battery fully before hand)

  • etc.


  • Every 30-40 charge cycles drain the battery completely to reset the windows "Estimated runtime" on the computer

  • Recharge the battery every 4-6 months if you never use in that time frame - batteries naturally loose their charge


  • XP Home

    • Pro: Cheaper

    • Con: Can't view or modify File/Folder permissions natively. Can't join a domain. Restricted to 5 inbound network connections (for file/printer sharing)

  • XP Professional

    • Pro: Can join Domain. Can handle 10 inbound network connections. Can view/modify file permissions.

    • Con: More Expensive

You've Purchased a computer, now what?

For windows, the first thing you do is uninstall all the excess software. 3rd party companies pay and give kickbacks to computer manufacturers to pre-install lots of extra software on your computer. Remove the excess software to make that new computer to run as fast as it can.


Go: Start Menu | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs

The Worst (you can get 10-30% performance increases on your computer by uninstalling either of these software suites)

  • Anything Norton (this includes Liveupdate and Livereg after removing the main program)

  • Anything McAfee

The Extra's (Any icon in your systray - the small icons in the taskbar by your clock associated with a program)
Note: Don't remove it if you're going to use it :)

  • Musicmatch

  • Quicktime (this is tied to itunes, so if you're an itunes user you can't remove this)

  • itunes

  • Acrobat Reader (use the reader software from www.foxitsoftware.com - it's faster, and doesn't have stuff continually running on your computer)

  • "Connect to the Internet"

  • AOL and it's associated items: ACS (AOL Connectivity Services), AOL Security etc.

  • NetZero

  • Earthlink

Advanced: Use Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel and Hijackthis to cleanup other stuff.

After cleaning up the excess software do the basic protection stuff:

  • Install an antivirus software: AVG (Free edition for home and personal use only), NOD32, Norton or McAfee corporate Antivirus edition)

  • Before connecting to an internet connection make sure you have your firewall turned on: Start Menu | Control Panel | Window Firewall (if you don't see windows firewall click "Classic View" on the top/left side of the window)

Safe Computing Habits

Follow these rules and you are very unlikely to ever have a virus or spyware problem.

  1. Never open attachments in an E-mail, even if you know who they are from. Viruses pretend to be your friend when they send themselves to you. Jokes pictures and videos are prime candidates for viruses.

  2. Install Firefox and use that as your main Web browser. Only use IE (Internet Explorer) for microsoft.com websites and other poorly designed websites that you trust (banks etc) that force you to use IE. Note: You can use the firefox IE Tab extension to load individual tabs with the IE browser engine.

  3. Never click ads or other popups in your web browser window. Never click Yes or OK to a popup from a webpage. If you get a window that appears saying things like "Your computer is infected with the xxx virus", or "Your computer has spyware software installed. Click here to fix this now" these are ads.

  4. Make sure you regularly patch your windows system with Windows Update or Automatic Updates. Note: Microsoft has started making it a habit to push out items as "Critical updates" that aren't fixing specific problems. WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) and IE7 are two good examples of this.

  5. Never click links in an IM window or E-mail message. Just like this http://www.google.com link, a link can be made to take you anywhere the link maker wants.

  6. Read all E-mail in plain text only, just looking at a picture in the preview pane of your favorite E-mail client has been known to cause virus infections.

  7. Do not use P2P programs (Kazaa, Limewire, Morpheus, Shareaza, bittorrent etc.). These programs interconnect your computer and others computers together to transfer files. Many of the files available have viruses and spyware in them.

  8. If you have children using your computer Create a different windows profile for them and make it a Limited User profile. To setup: Start Menu | Control Panel | User accounts (if you don't see windows firewall click "Classic View" on the top/left side of the window) | Follow the prompts to either create a new account or modify an existing one and make it a "Limited User" account. Note: A limited user can browse the web and read their E-mail, but many poorly designed programs and games can't run under a limited user account.


Every hard drive in every computer in the world today is going to die. It's not a question of "If", it's a question of "when". My top 3 rules to backup are:

  1. Do them yesterday

    • Your computer might be dead / stolen when you come back from lunch. You never know when you're going to need that backup

  2. Make them automatic

    • Make sure your backup is scheduled. If you have to do something to make sure the backup runs you're going to get tired of doing it and it'll get missed/forgotten.

  3. Verify and test the backup every 6 months

    • A backup isn't any good if it's empty, or not backing everything up.

    • If this is for a business and custom software is involved be sure to have a IT Consultant test the software installation and recovery on another computer to make sure it works. It's a bad day, if you need to recover from a backup and find out you were backing up the .db file, but not the .log file and you needed both to recover the database.

What to use for backups?

A backup of data should reside on a different physical drive from the first. Backing up a drive to itself is useless.

Onsite Backup


  • USB or Firewire External HDD (Hard Drive)

  • Second HDD inside case

Less Preferred

  • CD or DVD (useful for single snapshots, not regular backups - harder to schedule)

  • Tape (old technology, slow, cost-per-MB very high)

Offsite Backup


Wireless Networking and Security

If you are setting up wireless at your home make sure you:

  • Change the SSID to something other than the default that is unique to you

  • Setup WPA encryption with a 10-digit password so others can't connect to your wireless

Doing these two things will make your wireless more secure, faster, and avoid some common connectivity problems.

If you are connecting wirelessly via wifi to other people's access points, or accessing the internet at hotels/airports or anywhere else make sure you are running a VPN BEFORE doing anything else on the internet. E-mail was designed before security on the internet was a concern so if you check you check your E-mail on a public network, anyone in the area can see your ID and password for your E-mail. To make sure noone can snoop on your connection use a VPN. http://www.hotspotvpn.com for $8.88/month is a great simple one.

Internet Connectivity and Security

Internet Connection

If you are connecting to the internet at your home or office you should always have a NAT device between your computer and the internet. It acts as a one-way valve, in the sense that hackers on the internet can't get into your network but you can get out to the internet. If you don't know if you have a NAT device on your network you can find out quickly with these steps:

  1. Start Menu | Run | type "cmd" <enter>

  2. In the black screen that appears type "ipconfig" <enter>

  3. You will see something like this:

  4. For the IP Address field for your Local Area Network Adapter, if it starts with "192." or "172." or "10." then you have NAT. If you have a different number then you are directly connected to the internet. This is DANGEROUS! Go to your local office supply or computer store and buy a $40-$60 router and install it

Website security

Whenever you look at a website and are about to enter private, or ID/Password information always make sure you:

  1. Check the address bar of your browser and make sure you are at the website you think you are. If you didn't follow Safe Computing Habit #5 above, this will save you because you'll see you aren't at the website you think you are

  2. Make sure the URL starts with https:// which will mean your web browser will have the lock at the bottom of the window AND make sure that when you went to this website you didn't have a security error popup when the web page first loaded.

Remote Access

If you're interested in being able to connect to your computer at the home or office from abroad be sure to look into some of these solutions:

  • http://www.gotomypc.com (paid version - but extremely easy to setup)

  • http://www.logmein.com (free and paid version, easy to install)

  • VNC or one of it's variants: TightVNC, UltraVNC (free but technical experience required)

  • PCAnywhere (paid)

  • http://www.crossloop.com (great for Tech Support people that want to setup connections)

  • RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol - built into windows XP Pro but requires you to be security-careful when setting up)

  • Terminal Server (Business Class)

  • Citrix (Business Class)

@ All feedback is appreciated. Just E-mail me or fill out the contact page.

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