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Computing Basics

Table of Contents

Hardware

  • Having monitor issues? Change cable, use monitor on different computer. (Actually many hardware components should be tested first on other computers before reporting)

  • If you bought a new device and it’s not working properly, RMA the defective product.

  • Max supported RAM for a 32 bit windows installation is 4gb

  • Using a normal vacuum to clean your computer free of dust can cause damage

  • Everyday computing (email, browsing and office apps) rarely uses more than 6GB RAM

  • Hardware does not slow down over time. A format and reload will always make your computer fast again.

  • For typical home users, if you already have more than 8GB then adding RAM will rarely make your computer faster.

  • Workstations should be retired every 3-5 years.

  • If you have a computer that won’t boot sometimes turning it off, turning off and unplugging the PSU, and then holding the power button for over 10 seconds will fix it.

  • A computer needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, and many shops will do this as part of a “tune-up” service if you’re unwilling or able to do it yourself.

  • Get a UPS for your Wireless Router and cable-modem.

  • Get a UPS for your desktop computer. Your Laptop is a UPS.

  • Replace your 20 year old power strip. Now.

  • Laptops should be picked up by the base, and not by the screen.

  • Laptops suck cold air in through the bottom. If you’re using the computer in bed, keep it on a tray or similar, as a duvet or pillow will “choke” it.

  • Once in a while restart/shut down your computer, especially if you have windows update enabled. It will allow your computer to install the updates and remove unnecessary files.

  • When power cycling hardware (unplugging from wall and then plugging back in) always wait at least 10 seconds before plugging back in.

Networking

  • Having internet issues? Check the same issues on other devices in the network.

  • 2.4GHz is slower but has better range. 5GHz is faster but less range.

  • When encountering connectivity problems right click on the “Network Internet access” icon in the notification area and select “Troubleshoot problems”.

Internet & Internet security

  • Don’t open attachments that are unexpected.

  • Don’t allow remote connection to your computer to anyone you don’t know or trust.

  • Always use an adblocker like UBlock Origin, it may save you from accidentally installing malicious software.

  • Alt-F4 is the shortcut to close a window on Windows – useful for unwanted pop-ups.

  • Clicking unknown links during a google search is a very common way of being infected with malware.

  • Never reuse passwords – consider using a password manager.

  • There are 8 bits in a byte. Therefore, 100 Megabit per second (Mb) equals to 12.5 Megabyte (MB).

  • Don’t log into accounts on computers you don’t trust as they may be infected and steal your account details. Think about PCs in internet cafes and other public locations.

  • Don’t save your passwords on unknown computers either.

  • Enable 2-factor authentication on your accounts (where possible) to improve security.

  • Don’t include personal information in your passwords (date of birth, your name, etc).

  • Using something like “Chinese_llama_fridge_transporter” as password is easier to remember, longer, harder to randomly guess and harder to brute-force than “W@chtw00rd” or other random character combinations.

  • You can close browser tabs and it may help make your computer faster.

  • Browser extensions frequently make the browser slower.

  • You do need an antivirus, even if you think you’re “good with computers”. Windows has one built-in, however, so an extra one is unnecessary.

  • Prefer HTTPS over HTTP when browsing the web.

  • Don’t submit credit card details over unsecure connections, i.e. HTTP. If a site asking for your CC info is unsecure, you’re better off not using it in the first place.

  • Never tell anyone your passwords, not even people claiming to be employees of Google, Microsoft, Apple, or any other major company.

  • Microsoft will never call you on the phone for any reason.

Software, maintenance & malware prevention

  • Using auto driver updaters can cause damage to your operating system and is not recommended. We talk about our stance and instructions on drivers here

  • Office and Windows versions do not have to match.

  • Format and reload is always more thorough and often faster than manually trying to clean up a messy infection.

  • The built-in reset tools are not a full reinstall of Windows. See our disambiguation page for a guide on doing a proper clean install.

  • Defragging your drive is an outdated and unnecessary ritual. Modern operating systems will avoid disk fragmentation automatically.

  • Bundled software is typically inferior to the built in Windows features (Photos, Wifi management, anti-virus, etc). You do not need it and can uninstall it.

  • Keep all of your software up to date.

  • A full reboot/restart fixes more issues than you’d imagine.

  • If you don’t know what a setting does, you likely shouldn’t be touching it.

  • Treesize Free is a good way to see which files are filling up your hard drive.

  • You shouldn’t touch anything in the C:\Windows folder unless you know what you’re doing.

  • You should never touch anything in the registry, including using registry cleaners.

  • System cleaners and optimizers can do more harm then good, and often don’t increase performance at all.

  • If you see a file and you didn’t make it, don’t delete it unless you’re 100% sure its not important.

  • Software security becomes practically useless once an attacker gains physical access to a device.

  • You don’t need to update your BIOS unless you’re 100% certain that the current version is the cause of your problems. If possible, let a professional do it because quite a lot could go wrong.

  • If your computer crashes, trying undoing the last thing you did to it via system restore.

  • If you don’t have a clear, absolute understanding of what any program does and how it will be useful to you, don’t run it.

  • Same applies to other files which could alter your system configuration, common formats of which include: .bat, .ps1, .vbs, , .js, .reg and .cmd.

  • Enable showing extensions in File Explorer. This will allow you to identify malware using the double extension trick (e.g. “filename.jpg.exe”).

  • Always uncheck any “additional offers” that programs may offer during installation. They’re usually garbage that will bog your system down.

  • If a computer is constantly restarting, go into the Control Panel/System/Advanced System Settings/Startup and Recovery/System Failure and uncheck “Automatically restart” so you can see the error that’s causing it.

Data security

  • You should backup your data. Checkout our backup guide.

  • A backup stored on the same drive doesn’t count as a backup! Upload them to a cloud service or on an external HDD/network drive.

  • Not backing up your data is planning to loose your data. Data loss is rarely predictable.

Purchase Advice

  • The less you spend on a new computer, the more likely it is to be slow/break.

  • Power supplies are important, don’t cheap out on them. Here is a buying guide for power supplies. Buying a cheap power supply can damage the rest of your hardware.

  • There is zero additional risk in buying refurbished products that are under warranty, and they cost a lot less. It’s a good idea.

  • Please research specs before buying a PC/laptop, just because it was released this year does not mean it’s blazing fast, there is such thing called “entry level”. If it’s cheap, understand it may be slow.

Misc

  • The key between CTRL and ALT on most keyboards is the Windows Key.

  • Many keys have more functions. The “Shift”, “Ctrl”, “Alt” and “FN” keys can each make a key do a different thing.