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Posted on Mar 10, 2009 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter, Issue #022 –, – Reduce your stress by stress testing

Hello,

It’s the 10th of the month and time for another TWT Newsletter. This month we take a look at some of the utilities the professionals use for troubleshooting PC problems. Armed with these tools, we hope that you can save time and money troubleshooting your PC problems, even if you don’t feel up to the task of a little DIY computer repair.

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In this months issue:-

1) What’s New at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
2) We Need You! Please Complete our Short Survey
3) Reduce Your Stress by Stress Testing!
4) Tip of the Month – Vista Users – STOP Using Administrator Accounts
5) Free Utility of the Month – Stardock Fences
6) Internet Explorer 6 Must Die!

What’s New at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

In February we took an in-depth look at the excellent password manager, Roboform. We brought you three tutorials on how to use this powerful security tool. You can view them by clicking here.

Just as we finished our Skype tutorials last month, a new version of Skype was released. We’ve updated our tutorials for Skype 4 and you can view them by clicking here.

Speaking of new versions, the venerable spyware removal program, Ad-Aware has seen a recent update too. Ad-Aware Anniversary Edition is now available, and you can view our updated Ad-Aware tutorials by clicking here.

We’ll continue to bring you new content this month too, so keep checking our RSS feed!

We Need You! Please Complete our Short Survey

Top-Windows-Tutorials continues to go from strength to strength. Did you know that our global “reach”, that is the percentage of total internet users that visit our site, is up 180% in the last three months alone? That’s according to the web traffic analysis company, Alexa anyway! As our most loyal readers, we’d like to invite you to take a simple, two question survey. The survey is regarding our planned site forum. Now, back to your regular newsletter!

Reduce Your Stress by Stress Testing!

There’s nothing quite as annoying as a random crash when you’re working with your PC or playing a game. Last time it happened to you, you probably blamed Windows, Microsoft or whichever piece of software you were running at the time. Don’t worry, we usually do too. However, when random crashes become more frequent, maybe it’s time to check your PC’s hardware. We’ll show you a few techniques for pinpointing problems on your PC and what to do about them.

Note that some of these techniques involve opening your computers case. Always disconnect from the mains and be sure to take anti-static precautions before delving inside your PC. Even if you’re not confident enough to open your PC to perform the actual fix, you can use these programs to make sure that your chosen PC repair workshop is doing its job correctly, or to assess if the cause of a problem is due to software or hardware.

Testing Memory

This is a good place to start when troubleshooting a PC. The best tool for the job is Memtest 86. This utility boots from a CD or USB device and runs outside of Windows. Once loaded, this utility thoroughly tests the memory modules in your computer. It’s a good idea to let it run at least two passes, preferably three or more.

What to do if a problem is found

If your computer has two or more memory modules, remove one and run the test again. If there is still a problem, swap the modules over and run the test again, until you pin point which module(s) are causing the problem. Replace any faulty memory modules as they can cause loss of data and system instability. If you’re not sure how to replace or remove memory modules, consult a PC technician.

Testing Storage

If you know what brand of hard drive you have in your PC, you can visit the manufacturers pages and download the appropriate hard disk diagnostic utility. If you do not, then Seagates SeaTools works with most brands of drive.

What to do if a problem is found

First and foremost, back up all your data. Then, try replacing the cables which go from your computer to your motherboard. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the hard drive. Again, if you are in doubt, consult a trained technician.

Testing the CPU

CPU (central processing unit) problems are rare and when they do occur, usually your computer will not boot. You can test your CPU thoroughly by using OCCT. There are two CPU tests to run, your processor should pass both of them.

What to do if a problem is found

A failure on these tests usually indicates inadequate cooling. Try cleaning dust from your PC’s fans, locating your PC in a better ventilated location or fitting an uprated CPU cooler.

Testing Graphics

There are two handy utilities you can use to test your graphics card. They are 3DMark 2006 and 3DMark Vantage. Both of these utilities can be downloaded here. 3DMark Vantage is for Vista users only. If these utilities run without a problem then your graphics card drivers are installed correctly.

To further test your graphics card, it’s back to OCCT. This utility can test the memory on your graphics card too.

What to do if a problem is found

If a problem occurs when running OCCT you may have a fault on your graphics card or your PC may be overheating. Before returning or replacing the card, Try borrowing a card from someone else and running the tests again to be sure.

Testing the Power Supply

Many users forget that the humble power supply can be the cause of crashes and seemingly random computer failures, especially when playing games or using multimedia software. OCCT also includes a power supply tester utility, this will put quite a strain on your power supply but can pinpoint problems that are hard to detect otherwise.

Since the OCCT power supply test is actually a combination of the CPU and Graphics card tests, make sure you run those tests first before testing your power supply.

What to do if a problem is found

The OCCT power supply test stresses the power supply more than normal computing does. If you are a gamer or use computationally intensive software such as 3D modelling, you should probably replace your power supply if it fails the OCCT power supply test. If you don’t play the latest 3D games and you’re not experiencing any other problems with your PC, you’re likely to be able to carry on with your existing power supply.

We hope this article has inspired the more adventurous amongst you to try your hand at some DIY computer repair! Would you like to see more articles like this on our site? Contact us and let us know.

Tip of the Month – Vista Users – STOP Using Administrator Accounts!

One of the biggest problems with security in Windows operating systems is their over-reliance on administrator accounts. User accounts with total control over the computer are very convenient for users but also highly prone to attacks from viruses and spyware.

Windows Vista offered a solution to this problem. User Account Controls can temporarily grant permission to carry out administrative tasks, without the need to log into a different account. Although those prompts can be annoying, it’s nothing compared with the way XP made you do things, constantly switching between accounts as you tried to correctly configure software.

So, Vista users, now you have all your programs installed there’s no excuse. Stop using those administrator accounts. You can find out how to configure user accounts in Windows Vista by clicking here.

Free Utility of the Month – Stardock Fences

Messy desktops beware! Stardock Fences is here to clean up and organize those icon littered desktops. It does this by creating fences on your desktop, which can be any size and positioned anywhere. These fences then hold your icons, meaning you can organize your desktop however you want. Split icons into categories, create a short cut bar along the side of your desktop, or simply partition your icons off from your other desktop widgets. Even if you’ve long since abandoned the practice of putting icons on your desktop, you may change your mind about the practice when you see how neatly they stack up when using Stardock Fences!

Stardock Fences
Stardock Fences is a fantastic way to tidy up your desktop

Stardock fences is available now, through Impluse.

Internet Explorer 6 Must Die!

It’s amazing that some Windows users are still using Internet Explorer 6. IE6 is a whole seven years old now and browsing with it leaves you open to several very serious security vulnerabilities. IE6 also displays many web pages incorrectly or poorly, is not compliant with the latest web standards and lacks many features found in modern web browsers. Sites like the Stop IE6 campaign have been trying for several years to break the habit of using this outdated browser. Now however, even whole countries are getting in on the action. In Norway, two of the countries three largest newspapers, as well as search engines, directories and ISP’s have all joined forces to encourage users to upgrade. If you visit one of the sites taking part in the initiative and you are still using IE6, you’ll be politely informed that you are running an out-of-date version and encouraged to upgrade. Microsoft themselves are also backing the initiative. You can read the full story, courtesy of the register, here.

If you are still using Internet Explorer 6 or earlier, there really isn’t a single good reason to be doing so. Windows update should automatically update you to Internet Explorer 7. If you are running Windows 2000 or earlier, or don’t want to use IE7 for some reason, there’s also Firefox or Opera or even the new web browser from Google, Google Chrome. Any one of these browsers will provide better features, more security and faster browsing than the antiquated IE6. We really cannot stress this enough, keep your web browser up to date! If you use the web regularly, this is absolutely vital if you want to stay safe and virus free when surfing the internet.

That’s all for another month. We hope that you enjoyed our newsletter, if you didn’t then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy! Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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