Do I really need Windows Vista 64-bit

If you don’t know already, Windows Vista comes in about 6 different versions ranging from Starter up until one called Ultimate. What most users may not know is that all but the Starter edition of Windows Vista supports a 32-bit or 64-bit version of the OS. Since I really did not have any idea of how a 64-bit Operating System was different than the 32-bit version, I decided to look into it. Here is what I found:

The difference between a 32-bit and 64-bit OS actually depends on if the computer’s CPU is 32 or 64-bit. The CPU (or Central Processing Unit) handles the information given to it. Its job is to perform most of the calculations of the computer. In order for you to use a 64-bit OS, your computer must also use or support a 64-bit CPU.

But in saying the above, why would you want to use a 64-bit version of Vista? The main benefit is the increased memory support beyond the 4GB limit that is currently available in a 32-bit OS. A 64-bit version of Windows Vista can access from 1 GB of RAM to more than 128 GB of RAM. Currently, I do not see any need for this much RAM but the way some applications are so memory intensive, it will definitely come in handy down the road. Another benefit is that all 64-bit versions of device drivers must be certified and digitally signed by the developer. This is a change from the original 32-bit version of Vista which allows unsigned device drivers to be used if need be.

So, do you think that you could benefit by using a 64-bit OS? Let me know

How Not to Get a Virus on Your PC

The following is a list of tips on how NOT to get a virus on your PC. These are just tips that I have learned over the past few years from helping family and friends with computer troubleshooting.

1)Do not go to adult sites: This is, in my opinion, one of the easiest and quickest ways to get a virus or spyware.

2) Do not use P2P sites (like Kazaa or Limewire): For 2 reasons, its illegal and it’s the easiest way for some idiot to post a file called music.wma which may actually be a virus after you download it. Don’t take any chances, stay away from P2P sites.

3) Install a browser toolbar with a pop-up blocker: Although some web browsers have built-in pop blockers, its an added benefit to install a 2nd one because somehow, some pop-ups still get through.

4) Install anti-virus software: This is obvious, but so many people ignore it. If money is an issue, then just use
AVG which is free. I use it on one of my PCs and it works great. It is not memory intensive and it scans daily in the background. If you were going to purchase one, stick with Norton. I’ve used them for over 5 yrs (3 different PCs) and rarely did I have any issues.

5) Keep antivirus software up to date: Another obvious one…..what good is anti-virus software if its outdated? If you purchased your AV software, make sure to renew it each time it expires.

6) Use a hardware firewall like a
Linksys router: Never connect your PC or laptop directly to the DSL or cable modem! This is like leaving the front door to your house unlocked. Hackers attempt all day long to break into computers….don’t make it easy for them. Purchase a router. It will hide your PC from the Internet and then at least the hackers will have to attempt to hack through the router first (yes, this does happen to but unless the hacker is a pro, it will not happen).

7) Use built-in Windows XP/Vista firewall if you can not purchase a router yet: Next best option….still blocks most things by default.

8) Use Windows defender or
Ad-Aware from Lavasoft to keep spyware/malware away: Ad-Aware is the best spyware remover that I have used. I use it at work and at home. There are multiple versions but the free version has always worked fine.

Following the above general tips should help you continue to stay virus and spyware free. Good luck!

DOWNLOAD: "Switcher 2.0" for Windows Vista

If you've got Windows Vista & you have Aero turned on, you really ought to get this utility. It's free and it's a helluva little app for Vista that frankly does a better job of the the MacOS's Expose function.

read more

Do you still use Microsoft Office?

There are many versions of Microsoft Office that date back to the old times. I just posted a new poll to see which version people are currently using. And although I love Microsoft products...I don't like how much they cost. There are some Office suites out there that are in fact free....yes, I said free!!! is probably the most widely known in the world of office suites. It is compatible with most other suites and is free to use and distribute.

Another free program is one by IBM called Lotus Symphony. I have not used this yet....but I am going to try it out since it is free.

So why pay $300 for an office suite? Whether we like it or not...people will still help Bill Gates be the 2ND richest man in the world because most of us fear change. Word, Excel, PowerPoint....these applications are so familiar to us, why change? Well, now that there are options to choose from......think about it before you purchase your next computer.

TBD Consulting Launches Virtual Classroom

I just finished reading an article from eMediawire about a virtual classroom. This is an awesome concept that looks like it will become a more widely used way for employers to purchase training. Save money on the travel and just learn from your desk!

Read the rest of the article here: Virtual Classroom

Vista SP1 installed

I installed SP1 for Windows Vista last night and I did not have any issues after the installation. The entire process took about an hour....just like the instructions from Microsoft advised. I did have to upgrade my sound card driver because Windows Update did not show SP1 available.

Steps I took to upgrade to SP1:

1) Downloaded stand-alone Vista SP1.
2) Upgraded sound card driver from Dell Support.
3) Installed Vista SP1

This is a great forum for Windows Vista, click here:

Windows Vista SP1 Released to Windows Update

As of March 18th, Windows Vista SP1 was released to Windows Update. I have been waiting for this so my PC will maybe be faster after the update. I've installed the Beta SP1 at work a few weeks ago and it actually does seem dramatically faster. Here are a few things to know before upgrading to Windows Vista SP1:

1) You have not yet installed all the prerequisite packages you need for Windows Vista SP1.

To install them, visit the Windows Update control panel and click on "check for updates." Just so you know....this may take up to 1 hour to complete so do it at time when you are not busy.

2) You have a pre-release (or beta) version of SP1 and need to uninstall it before installing SP1.

If for some reason Windows Update does not show SP1, check out this list from Microsoft about Windows Vista SP1

Main reasons for Windows XP system crashes

If you are seeing random system crashes or periodical restarts, it may help you to know what the most common reasons for Windows XP to become unstable and usually lead to what we affectionately call the BSOD (blue screen of death). They are listed in random order off the top of my head:

Bad Memory Module: Having a bad memory (RAM) chip will cause these issues. To troubleshoot this, you will need to either swap out a module for a known good module one at a time until you find the bad module. Or, remove one module at a time and reboot your system. Repeat this process as necessary until you find the bad module. I can not begin to tell you how many times I've fixed an issue just by removing the bad RAM chip.

Sound Card Driver: It is fairly common for a driver to cause this type of issue. Sometimes they become corrupt for no reason or even become out-dated. The sound card driver is not the only driver that can cause these issues, but it is the most common and should be the first card to focus on. Just simply visit the manufactures web site and reinstall the correct driver for your sound card.

Overheating: Once your systems processor reaches a certain temperature, the system will shut itself down. The most common reason for overheating is a dirty fan not being able to spin fast enough to cool the processor. Or, a fan has just gone bad. Once you've gained access to the inside of your case, look and listen for a faulty fan. If they all appear to be working, it may not be a bad idea to go ahead and clean them while you are in there.

Failing Power Supply: A power supply that isn't providing enough power to create a stable environment will cause this type of issue. It would seem if your computer turns on and boots up that the power supply is working, but in fact, it could be failing. This can be a tricky one to troubleshoot if you do not have the proper equipment. Without the proper test equipment, you are forced to either replace the power supply with a known good one or replace it with a new one. On the other hand.....if the PC does not boot at all...this maybe your first sign that the power supply is dead making your decision easier.

And lastly....a bad USB Hub: This one is pretty simple to troubleshoot. Just simply remove the hub from your system to see if the problem is resolved. This is not nearly as common as the scenarios listed above, but I have seen it happen a few times.

Testing different blog templates

Hey everybody...

I am still trying to find the best template that will work for me. So over the next few days...this blog maybe redesigned multiple times. Please excuse the mess!!!

Upgrading VS Purchasing a new PC

Often I get asked the question, "Should I upgrade my computer or just buy a new one?" The answer, in my opinion, depends on a few different factors. Here are some of the questions I ask customers who are looking to upgrade/purchase:

1) How old is your current PC?
2) Is it a laptop or desktop?
3) Why do you think you need to upgrade?
4) How much are you willing to spend?

Now, I'll start with the last question because everything comes down to the money anyway. If someone has a PC older than 5 yrs....its definitely time to purchase a new one. The technology has changed so much in 5 yrs that it would just make sense to buy instead of attempting to upgrade the current PC. Actually, a 5 yr old PC make cost more to upgrade due to the fact that some of the parts needed (IE...more RAM, video card upgrade, bigger hard drive) are being sold less and less for older PCs so the cost goes up.

If a laptop is needed, its usually because someone is going to school/college and would like the portability factor. Also, its safe to say that most new laptops have built-in Wi-Fi (wireless) connections so they can basically get online anywhere they go. Most places like Starbucks and McDonald's now have Wi-Fi Hotspots inside their locations. A laptop is beneficial if you will be traveling for a job or business.

As for a new desktop PC, there are plenty of options. The top PC brands all have great deals so its just a matter of who can give you the most for the best price. If price is an issue, stay with Dell, HP or Gateway. If not, there is Sony and Toshiba. As for who is the best...well, I can't really say....(but I have 2 Dells that have never had an issue and 1 is 5 yrs old now)

So there you have it, a brief answer to the upgrade/purchase question. Any comments?

If you can fix it yourself, why not?

Today I had the lovely experience of replacing a system board for a Toshiba M200 Portege tablet was not pretty.....but I got it done. First time I've ever replaced one on a Toshiba. Replacing parts on a laptop/tablet can be very difficult if you are not careful. The system board part cost was $285 which was paid for by the client.

Funny thing.....that was not even the problem........

After replacing the system board, which by the way took 3 hours, the original issue was still present: No power LEDs were working.

Luckily, we had a couple of other M200s available so I removed the keyboard from one of the others and guess what.....there is a little cable that runs from one side of the system board straight to the LED module. Of course, this cable was MISSING on the one I was attempting to repair. So I "borrowed" the cable from the spare Toshiba for now.

My very long day is over now.....another issue solved.

Benefits of adding more RAM to your PC

RAM or Random Access Memory is a critical component for a computer to run properly. Having not enough RAM can render a computer useless over time due to too many programs or applications being used at the same time. The more applications a person opens, the more RAM is needed to run those applications. Today, most computer manufacturers sell new computers with at least 512MB of RAM. Compared to a few years ago, the minimum amount was 256MB. And before that, the minimum amount was 128MB or even 64MB. The increase is due to the complexity of the software and Operating systems that are being installed on the computer. For example, Windows XP has a bare minimum RAM requirement of 64MB to operate. But according to Microsoft, it is recommended to have 128MB to "increase performance". As for myself currently working in the PC support industry, you really need at least 256-512MB of RAM to get any type of performance out of Windows XP. If not, as soon as you start installing any type of games or database intensive software, the computer will slow down dramatically. Of the people that I support either at work or my personal clients, one of the main issues is not having enough RAM installed.

As another example, if an application uses 128MB of RAM, and the PC only has 128MB installed, that application will do one of two things:

1) Not even launch

2) Will launch, but then the PC will become unstable and eventually lock up.

When a PC runs of out RAM (or its all being used) then the PC will have to find RAM from somewhere else. Usually this means it converts some hard drive space into a term called Virtual RAM. This slows the computer down even more since its using "fake" RAM to try to help the computer run. Then the issue of available hard drive space becomes a factor. If you are low on hard drive space and the PC is attempting to convert some of the space into Virtual RAM, the PC will become even more unstable. You do not want to get to this point because again, the PC will eventually crash or lock up.

Bottom line, you can never have too much RAM installed in your PC. If you can afford it, I recommend purchasing the most amount of RAM that will fit on your PC. Usually these days, most newer PCs will hold 4GB of RAM. And of course, most PCs now come with Windows Vista pre-installed. Windows Vista will not even run with less than 1GB of RAM! So if you plan on upgrading your PC, spend some extra money to increase RAM as far as it will go.

Daylight savings may still affect some PCs.

Its time to spring forward again. Daylight savings time begins this evening (or morning depending on how you see it)

Read all of the information from here at Microsoft's Daylight Savings page.

Windows Vista delayed media player files fixed

For those of you that have Windows Vista....I just fixed something that has been bugging me since I bought my new Dell PC a few months ago....

When you play an audio file (MP3, WMA, WAV) through a link on the web or maybe an email....there is a 5-10 second delay in the file playing.

To fix this do the following:

Go to the Control Panel and open the Sound properties:

Click the box that says: "Disable all Enhancements"
Press OK twice and.....there you more delay in Media player.

(this should work for Vista...not sure if there is an issue in XP)

UPS guy conclusion

The UPS guy brought his PC to me today and I was able to reinstall Windows XP & Office 2000....yeah, I know, Office 2000 is like 7 years old. But so is his least I got it back up and running. He is happy now and I am pretty sure he will be purchasing a new PC soon anyway just to keep up with this century. Windows XP is basically at its end for free support so its time to get to know Windows Vista. My next article will be one about the basics of Windows Vista and some of its new features.

Update on UPS guy

Our local UPS guy decided to go ahead and have me upgrade his PC. I am going to see what kind of custom-built PC he has already and then determine if its worth upgrading before I even attempt to do so. At least now he has legal copies of Windows XP & Office.

More to come soon.....

IE 8 beta is here

Internet Explorer 8 has been released by Microsoft.

Of course its "beta" software so that means Microsoft will not help you if your PC crashes.....

My suggestion, do not even bother downloading it, ever......well maybe 3 yrs from now when they announce the next version. By then they will have fixed IE8 for the most part.

"IT gotta love it"

Studying again for Cisco CCNA

A few years ago...I took some semesters (actually 6 semesters) of the Cisco Network Academy at Seminole Community College. The first 4 semesters are for the CCNA (or Cisco Certified Network Associate) course. I finished all 4 and did very well so I decided to take the CCNA certification test right away before I forgot everything. I missed the passing mark by only 2 questions.....oh well.

Now....roughly 5 years later, I am thinking about re-taking the test. Yeah, I know, the test format has changed and it will probably be must harder too. But you know what? I love technology and I love challenges so bring it on!

To study, I will probably use the Cisco routing lab tool called Packet Tracer that is available to all Cisco Academy students & Alumni. This tool is a full blown lab simulator and I'd said just by using it for the past few days, you can do about 98 % of the router/switch commands that are available on real devices. Of course I will have to "attempt" to memorize lots of test topics as well. One in particular is ACLs or Access-lists. They do exactly what you think they do....let access in or out.

Stay tuned for more Cisco talk...

UPS guy needs my help

Yup.....the possibilities are endless. Everyone needs PC help, including UPS. Today, our usual UPS guy was asking around our IT office for some help with his computer. I answered most of his questions, which were the usual questions one may ask a computer guy/girl. "I can't get to this website....I get an error". "How can I get rid of the spyware that got installed?" And my favorite..."My computer is running extremely slow, what can I do?" are basically his only options:

1)I can probably get rid of the spyware, make sure he has an up-to-date anti-virus program that includes spyware protection, and run a complete scan on the PC to rule out any possible viruses that may be deep down inside the hard drive or registry.

2)Or, I could just back up his important files to a CD (which would then be scanned on another PC to make sure none of them are infected), re-format the hard drive, and then reinstall the OS, (which by the way seems to be an illegal copy of Windows XP). Last step, restore all data.

3)He could just purchase a new PC and be more careful with this one.

I believe he is going to choose #2. And before I do anything, I reminded him that he would need to purchase a legal copy of either Windows Vista (recommended) or Windows XP. Part of the issue he was experiencing was due to the fact that he could not get any Windows upates. I know there are ways around this...but there really is no reason to take a chance on some illegal software. Just spend the $$$ to buy a legit copy.

I will post a follow-up when the UPS guy makes a decision.
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