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What to Do After Buying a New Laptop

October 23, 2013 by . 9 comments

Buying a new laptop can be a difficult venture. You must decide which one is right for you. Depending on what your needs are, there are tons of things to consider like hard drive space, graphics cards, and general ease of use.

But once you find your dream computer, there are a few things that you must do. Here are some tips to follow after you purchase your laptop to make your computing experience a pleasurable one.

Register and Update Windows

win8

Image via Flickr by Microsoft Sweden

An important part of purchasing your computer is actually registering (and successfully activating) Windows. It activates all the perks of having Windows as an operating system, such as Windows Media Player, and it also enables desktop personalization.

Next you’ll want to download all system updates and service packs. You’ll want a really fast internet connection for this, because these can be huge files and take a while to download. However, they’re vital to making your computer safer and run much smoother. These updates patch up any bugs or glitches that were newly found, and they streamline the performance of the operating system as well as add new features.  To answer super user “Hennes” question, it doesn’t matter which variation of Windows 7 you have, Pro or Home, it will run, performance wise, the same, if you’re worried about performance issues think about either adding more RAM or upgrading to Windows 8, which for the for the most part is a more streamlined and smoother operating system.

Rid your Computer from Unwanted “Bloatware”

When you purchase a computer, you’d imagine that you’re starting with a clean slate. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most computers are loaded with unwanted games and software (referred to as bloatware, since it bulks up what should be a clean slate). The most efficient way to truly free up your computer is to install a brand-new, store-bought copy of Windows onto your hard drive.  This will wipe out everything that was on the hard drive (so make sure you save everything you wanted to keep on an external drive or disc) and leave a clean and smoothly operating system, free of unwanted, useless bloatware.

If you don’t feel like doing this, or don’t want to buy a new copy of Windows, you can try manually uninstalling the offending software, by going to Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features. From here you can go to each program you don’t want and click uninstall. For programs that are more deeply rooted, like anti-virus software, you can go to the developers website and search for the “complete uninstall” procedure and follow their steps to completely eradicate it from your system.

Anti-virus and Security Software

While many computers come with standard anti-virus software, it’s important to make sure you have the right program to deal with potential intruders. That being said, you may want to consider forking out a few dollars for an all-encompassing anti-virus program, such as Norton Antivirus software, or save some money and get basic protection, with something like AVG Anti-Virus software.

Going together with anti-virus software is security scanning software. What you’re looking for are programs such as malware that will make your computer run at a turtle’s pace. By running a security scan, you can remove all the unwanted unintentionally downloaded programs off your hard drive before you get into computing that would release sensitive information.

Schedule a security scan for about once a week (you can set it to automatically begin when you want, in whatever increment you choose) to keep your computer free from malicious programs. Keep this software running in the background, and it will detect and quarantine any questionable and infected files that you may have just unintentionally downloaded and it will also warn you and deter you away from possibly unsafe sites.

Back Up Software and Recovery

Any computer with Windows will have system recovery loaded to it. Recovery restores your computer to a pre-existing state if the worst should happen.

If you drop your computer or it suddenly fails due to a power surge or something else, recovery will make your computer work again if possible. Backing up, on the other hand, is basically insurance for your computer. You can take all the files that you never want to lose, and you can put them on an external hard drive. Or if you don’t want to buy one of those, you can copy the files on to a DVD or CD and keep them in a safe place. These measures ensure that you will never have to fret over lost work.

Physical back-ups aren’t your only option – there are plenty of ways to back up your info using an online cloud service, doing this will automatically back up your files as you make them, and no matter what happens to your computer, or backup drives, your files will be downloadable from their hard drives on their servers.

Power Saving

Make sure that, after registering Windows, you go into your personalization and check your power saving scheme. Here, you can configure your Windows 8 power plan settings and options. Choose how long until your computer turns off after it’s idle, as well as setting a screen saver. Both of these things will save you on your energy bill and keep your computer running longer.

No matter what laptop you choose to buy, following a few simple steps for your new laptop will go a long way. Although you shouldn’t expect problems on a brand new machine, it’s all about peace of mind. You can use the computer at your leisure and not be worried about the problems that can compound over time.

Filed under Computing, Hardware, Windows

Best of both worlds round 3: mSATA SSDs

August 19, 2013 by . 4 comments

As SSDs become increasingly affordable, making the switch is increasingly tempting. However, there are very few drives with over 512GB of capacity, and those that exist are still far from affordable. One solution that works well for desktops and workstation replacement laptops is putting an SSD in one drive bay and a mechanical HDD in another. This is a bit trickier with smaller laptops though. A couple years ago, I experimented with moving the primary HDD to the optical bay, and installing an SSD to get the best of both worlds: fast performance and extra storage for bulky but less-used files.

“Ultrabook” didn’t even enter our vernacular until mid-2011, and at the time most laptops still came with a DVD drive. Now in 2013, many of the latest laptops don’t even come with DVD drives. What’s a modern laptop user to do if they want SSD performance and HDD storage?

Enter the mSATA SSD: announced in 2009, mSATA SSDs started making their way into ultrabooks as manufacturers sought smaller sized components. In recent years some manufacturers have begun putting mSATA support into mid-sized laptops that still have a normal 2.5″ hard drive bay, too. Lenovo in particular has been leading this trend, with most recent ThinkPad and IdeaPad laptops supporting an mSATA drive in addition to the primary hard drive.

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Windows 8 on a VHD – Trying windows without the risk

June 13, 2013 by . 3 comments

I’m currently waiting on building a new system (which will run windows 8) but I wanted in on the windows contest . I didn’t really want to use one of my windows 8 licences on my old system, so I figured I’d run the enterprice evaluation version on a VHD, which I could discard to get back my current system to its previous state once the new system is built. I found a great guide by Harold Wong on technet, and while I was working finishing up the post this guide is based off , discovered you could install to a hard drive using the same method, found that r.tanner.f had used a similar method for an install on a actual drive. I used a windows 7 system to set this up and run it on, and you will probably find it easier if you use the WAIK from the same architecture as this system. This is pretty much like wubi – allowing me to run a seperate copy of windows without repartitioning my drive.

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Filed under Windows

What laptop should I buy for college? (2013 edition)

May 30, 2013 by . 76 comments

‘Tis the season: as family and friends head off to college, the requests for laptop recommendations start rolling in. It’s a semi-annual tradition for me to blog about my recommendations, so let’s get started! If you haven’t seen my 3 part series on “choosing a computer for college”, check those posts out for some good background info that’s mostly still relevant:

Since I wrote those articles in 2011, the computing landscape has shifted dramatically towards tablets, slates, and a plethora of weird hybrid devices. I’ll be splitting up my recommendations into several categories: primary laptops, for students who plan to have a single laptop for all their needs; primary tablets, for students who plan to have a laptop-grade tablet as their primary device; and companion devices, for students who plan to have a desktop or desktop replacement, but want a small, light, and cheaper device for carrying around campus.

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Filed under College, Reviews

Cable vs DSL: Which Was Better?

March 14, 2013 by . 19 comments

I recently moved to a bigger city, and of course the first thing that I setup was my internet connection.  I’ve had the same ISP for a couple of years now, and they’ve been alright.  I’ve noticed drops in service here and there but overall it was a tolerable experience.  However, as soon as I started watching my online shows in the new place, I noticed some dramatic changes in my viewing experience.  There were long periods of waiting for the shows to buffer, and I felt like I was relapsing to my younger days of dial-up.  I got so frustrated one night I even tweeted about it:

I finally decided to switch over and give DSL a shot, but I didn’t cancel my Cable.  I figured I’d do a little testing and really see who was the better service after all.  I put together a pretty extensive document of my results.  You can find that document and all the data I captured and used in a link below. This blog post is a summary of what I found to be the important parts.

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Super User Contest Winners!

November 14, 2012 by . 19 comments

Congratulations!

Great job everyone. We had a great go around with this contest and lot of participants. With over 2000 posts during the contest period there were plenty of questions and answers about Windows 8. For more stats, Bob put together a stats web app where you can compare contest stats and even personalize it! Go give it a check out for more details on the contest as a whole.

All winners will receive an email from the Stack Exchange team with instructions on how to get your prize. (Note: the T-Shirt emails have already been sent, so if you achieved Level 1 and didn’t get the email, check you spam folders and make sure you weren’t suspended for cheating.)

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Introducing the Windows 8 Challenge

October 22, 2012 by . 9 comments

Win8Challenge: Ask, Answer, Win

October 26th is coming fast. Are you ready for Windows 8? Super User is!

We’re having a party and you’re invited. Ask and answer questions to complete the challenge levels, and complete different tasks like editing, voting, and blogging to win the eight tile challenges. Each level you beat and each tile you finish enters you for sweet prizes, including the grand prize of a Microsoft Surface RT! more »

Filed under Super User, Windows

Increase your Ping-Fu!

October 15, 2012 by . 4 comments

User George Duckett came across a weird thing while performing a simple ping:

He performed a simple ping request but missed a ‘dot’.  I assume he meant to ping 192.168.0.72 but instead ended up typing 192.168.072.  What’s really amazing though (as pictured below) was that it worked!!! but not to 192.168.0.72 it sent the ping request to 192.168.0.58 :

enter image description here

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Is your browser telling on you?

October 1, 2012 by . 5 comments

Browsing on the web may seem harmless to most, but we SuperUsers are typically a secretive bunch.  We’ don’t like data being shared about us unless we tell them to.

So when user Pickledegg asked about how much info can websites can get, it became a pretty popular question.

I am trying to determine if the information shown on the website www.whatsmyip.org is the absolute maximum amount of information that a webserver can obtain from a web visitor. Does anyone know of any other sites that will be able to get more information from the user passively like this? I’m not talking about port-sniffing or any kind of interaction from the user, just the info that a server can get from a ‘dumb’ visit.

So what’s the verdict?

Here’s what we found.  From What’s my IP they can determine the following (I removed un-important info, if I missed something feel free to comment):

  • External IP
  • Homename
  • Proxy
  • Internal (LAN) IP
  • Operating System and version
  • Screen Resolution
  • Cookies Enabled
  • Browser Plugins
  • Location (kinda sorta)
  • And a WHOIS Lookup

Basically is looked like this (I put green checkmarks across things that were correct):

 

But there’s more!  A browser can also give away your installed fonts! GASP.  Wait… what?  Why is that important?

User Informaficker had this to say:

Installed fonts are probably the most identifying piece of information as soon as you start adding one or two. Just because of the amount of fonts out there, it is unlikely to have the same set of fonts on two different computers. (As long as they are used by different persons)

This means that if you have any custom installed fonts on your computer, you have a greater likelihood to have a different “Font Identity” than others since there are lots of fonts out there.

How do I stop this monstrosity?

First DON’T LET IT!!!

Browsers are typically good at telling you what’s going on.  I suggest that you NEVER select Always run on this site (or other browser equivalents), and only allow trusted websites to run Java or Flash.  Disabling Java or Flash is another option, however with a majority of websites using either Java or Flash this can be difficult and annoying.

However, the browser can still access your External IP address.  A way around that is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).  I tested this out and it worked, including getting the wrong internal IP, since it picked up the VPN’s Internal IP and not my actual home networks IP.

Overall, it goes without saying to just be careful when ever your browsing the interwebs.

Super User Review of Hyper-V for Windows 8

September 17, 2012 by . 10 comments

This weeks question of the week come from these two questions:

One of them asked by Graham Clark, and the other is a self post by myself.  This prompted me to do a more formal review of Microsoft’s Hyper-V for Windows 8.

What is Hyper-V for Windows 8?

Hyper-V for Windows 8 is really called Client Hyper-V.  It’s similar in many aspects to the Microsoft Server’s Hyper-V (2008 and the upcoming 2012).  What’s different about Client Hyper-V is that it was customized to fit the portable environments, such as laptops, that developer’s find themselves in.  What does Hyper-V do?

In brief, Hyper-V lets you run more than one 32-bit or 64-bit x86 operating system at the same time on the same computer. Instead of working directly with the computer’s hardware, the operating systems run inside of a virtual machine (VM).

(source)

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