Ten Things every Computer user needs to know

I have been working in IT for a while now and I have worked with people of every level of ability when it comes to computers. I rarely encounter an issue I cannot fix, but I know that not everyone works in IT and knows computers like I do. So I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of the top ten things you should know to help you get along with your computer. These tidbits won’t get you out of every jam, but you will be much happier computer user. If you are using a Mac I cannot not help you, you have enough problems as it is.

1: Have you tried turning it off and on again?

img_001If you have ever watched the British comedy called the IT crowd you will most likely know the catch phrase “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Well the honest truth is that it works quite a lot and most people never think of trying it. There are many issues that a computer can run into that will be fixed by restarting the computer.
Sometimes a computer as an issue and it has no way of fixing the error while the computer is running so it needs to start over again. Also, some of the processes that Windows runs on startup fixes many common Windows Errors as well. This restart method can also apply to many different devices so when your device is acting up try restarting.

2: Know and use key shortcuts

img_002Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but you should know a few basic shortcuts because they save so much time! A shortcut is a basic function that can be run by pressing a combination of keys. Most windows based shortcuts all starts by holding down the Ctrl key. This key is normally located at the corner of the bottom row of keys. If your keyboard has arrow keys and a number pad to the right Ctrl key will be right next to the left arrow key. In most windows bases programs it you look in the menus it will tell you what additional shortcuts the program has. This will be marked by either Ctrl+key or it will underline a letter in the name of the feature, both mean the same thing.

Here are some universal shortcuts that are the same on almost every program.

Ctrl + C = Copy

Ctrl + V = Paste

Ctrl + X  = Cut

Ctrl + A = Select All

Ctrl + P = Print

Ctrl + Z = Undo or go back

Ctrl + S = Save

Ctrl + N = New

Ctrl + O = Open

There are many more and every program has their own and even more if you add CTRL+Shift+key or Alt+key. These basic keys will save you a lot of time and will keep me from twitching if I have to watch you do something on your computer.

3: Never fill up your hard drive

img_003You may not realize this by that free space on your hard drive is doing you a huge favor. There are two big reasons why a full hard drive will slow down your computer. The first reason is your computer uses that free space for temporary processing. Many programs generate files while running processes and stores them on your hard drive and if there is no room they can’t operate very well. The second reason only applies to disk based hard drives or HD and not solid state drives or SSD for short. An HD is a spinning metal plate that has information saved on it. This information is saved from the innermost ring outward by using a magnetic head on a moving arm and spinning the metal plate.

Think of your hard drive like a supermarket and you started with ten shelves of items. You would not need to do very much walking to find those ten items because they are so close together. If you have only a few files on your drive the read head on the HD does not need to go far from the center of the drive to find the files. The more data you put on the drive the further the read head needs to go to find the files.

A good rule of thumb is to keep 20% of your hard drive empty, so that your computer will have room for temporary files. As for the second half of hard drive speed there are only two ways to overcome the read head needing to go so far to find your data. The first is to get a SSD that has no moving read head at all. A solid state drive is a big flash stick that has no moving parts and can access data much faster than a hard drive can. The second option is the next item on the list, funny how that happened.

4: Defragment your hard drive

img_004I bet many of you have at least heard of this or have even done it and don’t know why. Well, remember how your computer will slow down when you need to access data stored on the outer rings of your hard drive? Well, what Defragmenter does is plays a huge game of Tetris with your and tries to make it all fit together and closer to the center of the disk as it can. You won’t get any more space, but it will make all the free space on the outer rings of your computer than on the inner ring near the center. If you have a Solid State drive you must never defragment your drive because it might actually harm it.

I recommend doing this once a month, but only if the drive is more than 15% fragmented. The reason I say only run this process at 15% is because beyond that you won’t notice any change in performance if you defragment when it’s below 15% fragmentation.

5: Don’t blindly hit next when installing programs

img_005It is a common thing now always for installers to hind little additional software inside and you would be none the wiser until you see an unwanted menu bar in your browser or have some program pop up. Whenever installing anything always opt for the “Custom Install” instead of the “Express Install”. You always want to know where the program is installing too, and what exactly it’s installing. By law you must agree to these installs and by choosing the “Express Install” you are saying yes to all.

6: Always write down error codes

img_006If you ever get the blue screen of death or have a program crash on you it is very important that you write down any error codes that it spits out. Google is a fantastic place for answers and that error code is your best bet on finding an answer. It is very rare for you to be the first person to have this problem and many others have most likely had that issue and asked for help on some forum somewhere.

7: Do not use Internet explorer

img_007There are few people who would disagree with me that Internet Explorer is the worst browser. You cannot uninstall it, but you are not forced to use it either.  Depending on who you talk to IE is only being used by between 10% and 20% of the world. There are many fine options, but the two I recommend are Firefox and Chrome, both are free and both are infinitely better than Internet Explorer.

The only thing I use Internet Explorer for is download Chrome then I never use it again. There are companies that are stuck using IE for their legacy web based apps, but that is slowing going away and thank God!

8: Be careful of programs that “clean” your PC

img_008Watch out when a program says it “cleans” your computer or that it speeds up your computer. Almost all of these programs do more harm than good. Some free programs will do a “Scan” but won’t remove anything until you buy the full version, but on most of these scans are fake and are not finding real issues.

If you want a good program that does really clean up issues google CCleaner. It will help clean up registry issues as many more things that can gum up your PC.

9: Get a good anti-virus and anti-spyware

img_009We live in a digital age of virus and spyware and you need to be protected! Most people don’t know the difference between a virus and spyware and only get protection for one and are left open to the other. A virus will adversely affect your computer and in some cases totally obliterate it. Spyware sits in the background watching everything you do and records information about you and sends it off somewhere for evil purposes. There is also aware that will create pop ups or redirect your browser randomly to sites it wants. Viruses, spyware and adware are all classified as malware which is short for malicious software.

You want to have a good anti-virus on your computer, but you also want an ant-malware program too. I recommend Avast for ant-virus and Malwarebytes for anti-malware. Both of these programs are free and can be found online, if someone tries to charge you then find another source.

I use both of these programs and I never get a virus or malware.

10: Your computer has a god mode folder 

img_010This final trick is a really cool one and not many people know about it. You can create a folder that will allow you to access every single window’s options menu from one place. It’s a one stop shop that will allow users to tweak everything from the desktop background to setting up a VPN.

Start by creating a new folder and name it the following:

God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

You can replace the “God Mode” with whatever you want the folder to be called. The icon should change to a system folder icon and inside you will have access to every system menu window has to offer.

Well, I hope these tips help you to be productive and safe as you use your computer. There is always more to learn and all it takes is an eager mind and a search engine.If you had any questions about anything I talked about in this post, please feel free to comment below and I will answer all questions.Thanks for reading!

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