I'm blessed to have poor hearing. It has made my life easier. I have no trouble hearing honking horns or having a conversation. So I have it good compared with many. If you dread chores, this would be a good time to be hard of hearing yourself. Today, I'm going to hand out eight easy chores—each one can be done in minutes—that will make your computing experience better.
1. Crawl under your desk (Lord, I love giving orders) and untangle that mass of wires. Then label each one. Here's what I mean: The line that goes from your router to your main computer might be labelled Main 1, the line from the phone jack to your phone is Phone 1, the identical cable to your DSL modem is DSL. You get the idea. Once you're done, things will be neater. Trip over one of these lines and you'll probably break it, or pull some hunk of equipment off the desk. Even if you're not clumsy, you'll be able to find the right cable fast the next time something goes wrong.
2. Defrag your hard disk. XP users can just run the built-in defragmenting program. Vista also has a defrag program, but I think it's worse than XP's. I recommend a $30 (Rs1,206) program called Diskeeper located at ‘www.diskeeper.com’. XP's defragger is a dumbed-down version of this excellent program. Even XP users might want to consider it. Maybe you've been told that defragmenting the hard disk isn't important in Vista. That's not true. If you are unsure how to use defrag, type “defragment" into the Windows help menu.
3. If you have a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), then test it. Unplug it from the wall so it's forced to switch to battery power. First check to see if any critical device (monitor, computer, router or DSL modem) goes off. You'll quickly see if you've plugged in your devices incorrectly. Most UPS devices have outlets on one side for devices you want to keep running during a power failure and outlets on the other side for devices that simply get surge protection (but don't get juice in an outage). It's easy to mistakenly plug something into the wrong side. I've done it. Next, shut down your computer. If the UPS' backup power plays out before you can do that, it's time to either replace the UPS or its battery.
4. If you don't have a UPS, get one.
5. Check to see that your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are up to date. If you don't have one or both of these programs, then get them (you can check my technology blog at ‘www.ajc.com’ for free ones).
6. Optimize Windows so that it runs faster and more efficiently. As there are several steps to this, including some I've already mentioned, I'll give you a Web page that tells Vista users how to do everything from checking your hard disk to getting rid of unwanted files: ‘http://tinyurl.com/29t5am’. If you use XP, go to: ‘http://tinyurl.com/2mwlxw’.
7. If you don't have this program—Belarc Advisor—download it now at www.belarc.com. It will inventory your computer and hardware and provide the sort of answers a tech support guy might ask. It also will show activation codes for your installed programs, which can come in handy if you ever lose them.
8. Make sure you'll be able to use your computer if you forget the password. That involves making a password reset disk. For Windows XP, go to this website to learn how: ‘http://tinyurl.com/33b364’. For Windows Vista, go to ‘http://tinyurl.com/2e2nrp’. If just one of these tips saves your neck some day, you'll be glad you were able to hear me out.
©2008/The New York Times