A few years ago who would have thought that one day we would be running around with tiny computers in our pockets and bags and instead of hard disc drives, we would be trusting huge volumes of valuable data to titchy microchips?

Okay, so maybe it’s not such a big surprise; most of us have grow up with solid-state memory and saw it coming a fair way off, but in the dash to ditch hard drives there’s one thing we may have overlooked. Hard drives and now incredibly reliable and we usually change computers long before the drives give out.

Solid State Drives or SSDs, on the other hand do tend to have shorter lives, especially in the early days. There are a number of factors that determine an SSD’s life expectancy including how long has been powered up and the number of read-write operations. More »

I own a desktop hard drive, Seagate FreeAgent 500 GB and I also recently purchased a 1 TB Western Digital Elements portable hard drive, both of which I use to store movies, music, tv shows, and other stuff that I download from the internet or collect from friends.

The problem arises when you want to listen to music or watch a movie directly from the hard drive. Most such external hard drives have a built-in power saving feature, which causes them to spin down after a while of inactivity. What happens when you are watching a movie or listening to music is that the player reads a somewhat large chunk of data from the hard drive, stores it in the buffer, plays from it, and when that chunk of data is played, it queries the disk again for the next chunk. In between this period, the disk is marked as unused, and it therefore spins down to save power. More »

By following a few simple guidelines, you can maintain your computer and keep it running smoothly. This article discusses how to use the tools available in Windows 7, Vista, and XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) to more efficiently maintain your computer and safeguard your privacy when you’re online.

1. Free up disk space

The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk to improve the performance of your computer. The tool identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files.

Use Disk Cleanup to:

* Remove temporary Internet files.
* Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
* Empty the Recycle Bin.
* Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
* Remove optional Windows components that you don’t use.
* Remove installed programs that you no longer use.
* Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore. More »

If you do not already know it, backups are the most important steps you must take to ensure that your data will not be lost. Despite all the trouble you go through to make sure that your computer is always clean and running at its peak performance, there comes a time when even the best storage solution fails.

What will you do now? There is nothing you can do about it but try to save as much as you can using data recovery tools that, at best, will manage to recover only a fraction of what you had on your hard drive.

The conclusion is that you should perform backups of your system on a regular basis and make sure you keep multiple backups of irreplaceable and important files. If you are as paranoid as me, you should also keep at least one backup copy of all your important files in a different physical location (an “offsite” location as experts call it).

There are many ways you can back up your data but the most popular ones are using the integrated Time Machine and Disk Utility tools. More »

1. Problem Steps Recorder

As the local PC guru you’re probably very used to friends and family asking for help with their computer problems, yet having no idea how to clearly describe what’s going on. It’s frustrating, but Microsoft feels your pain, and Windows 7 will include an excellent new solution in the Problem Steps Recorder.

When any app starts misbehaving under Windows 7 then all your friends need do is click Start, type PSR and press Enter, then click Start Record. If they then work through whatever they’re doing then the Problem Steps Recorder will record every click and keypress, take screen grabs, and package everything up into a single zipped MHTML file when they’re finished, ready for emailing to you. It’s quick, easy and effective, and will save you hours of troubleshooting time. More »