Monthly Archives: December 2011

Speed Up Your Computer

Computer Frustration - stock.xchng/channa

Image Credit: stock.xchng / channa

You have a million things to do, so when you find five minutes of free time in your day you decide to hop on the computer to complete one quick task. But what is supposed to be quick ends up taking 30 minutes or more, and results in finger tapping, a few curse words, and some desperate bargaining with your computer (as if it could hear you).

Sound familiar? A slow computer is a common source of frustration for many computer users, but there are easy ways to fix this problem using the built in Windows utilities.

Check Your Score

First, it is important to determine if your computer is slow because of the hardware. If the components in the computer can’t handle the software, then you’ll need to upgrade to speed things up.

Luckily, Windows 7 has a feature that rates your computer, telling you how it stacks up by giving you a score. Scores are on a scale from 1.0 to 7.9. The lower the number, the slower your computer is. Note, your base score is equal to your lowest sub-score, and is not an average of all the scores listed.

To check your score, go to: Start > Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools. If hardware has changed within your computer, click on “re-run the assessment” to get your most up-to-date score. If your score is in the ones and twos, you may want to consider upgrading your hardware.

Clean Up Startup

When you install a program, sometimes it installs in Startup too. The theory is that the software pre-loads when the computer starts, allowing you faster access when you need to use the program. The problem is you probably don’t access all of these programs immediately, and the time it saves you is minimal compared to the delay you experience waiting for your computer to boot.

Instead, clean up Startup from any programs that don’t need to run when the computer boots. To do this, click on Start, type in “System Configuration”, and click on the program when it appears. Once open, click on the Startup tab. Uncheck programs that are not vital.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some items should stay checked in startup, like anything that says Microsoft or anything having to do with your virus scan. A better bet is to uncheck things that are actual programs, like Dell Webcam Manager or Google Music Manager, for example.

Delete Unused Programs

Cleaning up your disk space can help with performance speed. One way to do this is to delete any unused programs, including trial programs. To delete unused programs, click on Start, go to Control Panel, and click on Programs and Features. A list of programs will appear. Click on the one you want to uninstall, and then click the Uninstall button. Be VERY CAREFUL in here, and make sure you only uninstall the programs you don’t use.

Clean Your Hard Drive

Check Disk

When programs crash and things go awry, your computer may create errors. Over time, these errors can cause your computer to slow down. Keep things running smoothly by identifying the errors and fixing them using Check Disk.

To run, go to Start and click on Computer. Right click on the hard drive you would like to check, and go to Properties. Click on the Tools tab, and under Error-Checking, click on “Check Now.” If you want errors fixed automatically, select “automatically fix file system errors.” (Otherwise it will only report the problems, not fix them.) Select “scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” if you are concerned about physical errors on the hard drive (this option takes much longer to run).

Disk Defragment

Once everything else is done, optimize how your computer accesses your data by running the Disk Defragmenter. As you use your computer, it stores files in the largest area available, which means your files don’t always get stored together. Then, the computer has to spend time searching, and putting everything together so you can use it. Speed up this process by defragmenting your hard drive, re-indexing everything so that the computer can access the files more quickly. The Disk Defragmentation is located underneath Check Disk (Start > Computer > Properties of the Hard Drive > Tools.)

Disc Cleanup

When you use your computer, it writes temporary files to the hard drive to help programs quickly access the current information. Over time, these temporary files can overrun your computer and slow things down. But cleanup is a breeze, with Disk Cleanup.

To access, click on Start, type in Disk Cleanup, and click on the program. It will take a few minutes to analyze your

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system, and then it will tell you how much space you can clear, and from what areas. Click the boxes to select the items you want to clear, and then click the “clean up system files” button.

These are just a few of the many features Microsoft included in Windows 7 to help you maintain your computer and keep it running right. Regular maintenance helps keep your computer running right, and keeps your frustration level to a minimum.


Julie Strier is a freelance writer who loves arming people with knowledge that can help them make informed decisions about their technology. Email: julie@mybusinesswriter.com. Website: www.mybusinesswriter.com.

Outlook Productivity Tips: Quick Steps

Outlook-Quick-Steps-MenuYou don’t have to waste hours per week managing your email inbox anymore. Instead, take a few minutes to follow these

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simple Outlook productivity tips, and soon you’ll have Quick Steps setup for all your commonly performed actions.

The act of managing your inbox can become monotonous quickly, especially if you have a large volume of email to deal with. Luckily, Outlook 2010 came up with a wonderful solution to help you make the most of your time – Quick Steps.

Quick Steps allow you to program one or more steps into a one-click button. (During setup you can also create a keyboard shortcut, if that’s more your style.) Then, all you have to do is highlight the emails that fall under the particular task, and click the corresponding Quick Step button, and they are processed automatically.

For example, let’s say that 1/3 of the email you receive are messages that you want processed to the Research folder, marked as unread, and categorized as either “tech” or “sales”. You could create two Quick Steps, one called @res-tech and the other called @res-sales (or whatever naming convention you choose). When cleaning up your inbox, highlight the research emails you want categorized as tech and moved to the Research folder, then click then @res-tech Quick Step, and they will all be moved, categorized, and marked as unread, all at once.

Quick Steps can be particularly useful when used in combination with setting up Rules for commonly received emails. The main purpose of Quick Steps is to help you manage your inbox once it’s already a mess, unlike Rules which are meant to manage the delivery of incoming email. Quick Steps also have more flexibility, doing things that Rules don’t, like creating tasks from email or attachments. Put them together and you have effectively created a one-two combo punch against your opponent – your inbox.

Think of all the time you would get back if you took a few minutes now to setup some Quick Steps for the actions you do the most inside your inbox.

How to Setup Quick Steps in Outlook

It’s important to note that Quick Steps became available starting with Outlook 2010, so if you have an older version of Outlook, this won’t work.

In Outlook, locate the Quick Steps area. It should be in the middle of the Home tab, following your Reply, Reply All, and Forward buttons. Click the Create New button in the Quick Steps area. Give your Quick Tab a name, choose the action(s) you would like performed, select a shortcut key if you would like to use one, and then click finish. A new button should now appear in the Quick Step area. It’s that easy.

Quick Steps is a wonderful solution for managing your ever growing inbox, a solution that can save you hours each week, freeing you up to focus on more important things. And, since Quick Steps are so easy to setup, there really is no reason not to use them. Which begs the question, what are you going to do with all that free time?


Julie Strier is a freelance writer who is interested in making technology easy to understand. Email: julie@mybusinesswriter.com. Website: www.mybusinesswriter.com.

Facebook: Mixing Business with Pleasure

Lots of Facebook Friends

Image Credit: Flickr / Adriano Gasparri

Once your Facebook account is open for long enough, you’ll find that your friends list is a mix of family, friends, acquaintances, and business / professional associates. With such a diverse mix of individuals, you may find yourself watching what you say for fear of alienating the wrong crowd.  But fear not, there is an easy way to manage who sees the things you say online.

Short of spending all your free time managing multiple Facebook accounts, here are a few tips to make your Facebook-life a little more manageable.

Categorize Your Friends List

Take advantage of Facebook’s categorization features. It may be time consuming initially, depending on the size of your friends list, but setting up lists now will save you time and hassle later.

To set up your lists, go to Account at the top right of your Facebook home page, then Edit Friends, and then select All Connections on the left. Your friends list will appear. Select, and create, lists under the Add to List dropdown.

Lists are crucial to managing your Facebook account. This one step will give you more flexibility when it comes to your online persona. Once your lists are setup, categorize each new friend as you accept the request to avoid having to repeat this process.

Use Privacy Settings for Status Messages

Lists also allow you to manage what you say, and to which group of individuals. Have a fantastic business opportunity, but don’t want to bore your family with the details? Want to talk about your weekend without giving away details of your personal life to your professional associates? By setting the Privacy Settings on your Status Messages, you can accomplish both, and more.

When typing a Status Message, set the Privacy Setting by clicking on the padlock symbol located to the left of the share button. Here you’ll find the option to share your message with Everyone, Friends of Friends, Only Friends, or you can customize who you share your message with. The default is your Facebook default.

To share your Status Message with a particular group of people, select Customize, then select Specific People, and type the name of the list you wish to use. You may also use this feature to share your message with one particular person, instead of all of your friends.

Want to prevent only one group of people from seeing your Status Message? Under this same section, type in the name of the list, or individual person, to exclude from seeing your post under the Hide This From section.

Setup a Fan Page for Your Business

While you could use a list for customers, you’re better off setting a Fan Page for your Business. This allows your customers to connect with you, and gives them access to share information about you to their friends.

To add a page, click on Ads and Pages from the main navigation bar on your Facebook homepage, and then click on the Add a Page button.

Don’t see the Add a Page button? You’re most likely in the Ads Campaign area. Select Pages from the navigation menu, and then click on the Add a Page button.

Now What?

Now that everything is setup and organized, set your Privacy Settings often. Practicing now will ensure you know how to set them when the need arises. If you setup a Fan Page for your business, return often to comment on your industry, your products, and anything else exciting that applies to your business.


Julie Strier is a freelance writer who enjoys bringing people closer to their technology.  Email: julie@mybusinesswriter.com. Website: www.mybusinesswriter.com.