System Tray

27 July 2009

The system tray is the area found in the bottom right hand corner where you'll normally find your clock.

Displayed in the system tray are icons of the applications/processes that are currently running in the background. All of these act differently, but most you can right click on and click exit to remove them. Or alternatively, try right clicking and viewing “Preferences”, “Options”, “Tools” or something similar where you can select for the program not to run on Windows start up.

A lot of these you can uninstall from the “Add and remove program” from the “Control panel” as well so that the un-needed applications won't run next time you start Windows.

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Visual Effects - Windows Vista

26 July 2009

Windows Vista has many visual effects that may slow down your computer. It won't be very noticeable, but all of them put together will make a difference. Also the time it takes to start-up may also be faster once we've removed some un-needed visual effects.

I will list all the ways of speeding up performance, however a lot of these are down to user preference and so you may chose not to follow all of them.

To start with go to your desktop. Now right click and from the menu click “Personalize”

  1. Click the link saying “Window colour and appearance”

    • Click the button saying “Effects”
    • Un-tick “Show shadows under menus”
    • Un-tick “Show window contents while dragging”

  2. Click the link saying “Desktop background”

    • From the “Location” drop down, select “Solid colours”
    • Select a solid colour
    • Click “Ok”

  3. Click the link saying “Screen saver”

    • From the “Wait” dialogue box, select at least 6 minutes

  4. Click the link saying “Mouse pointers”

    • Click the button saying “Use default”
    • Un-tick “Enable pointer shadow”
    • Go to the “Pointer options” tab
    • Un-tick “Display pointer trails”

  5. Click the link saying “Taskbar and start menu properties” (found in the bottom left)

    • Un-tick “Auto-hide taskbar”
    • Un-tick “Show quick launch”
    • Click the “Notification area” tab
    • Un-tick every setting
    • Click the “Toolbars” tab
    • Un-tick every setting

From the address bar at the top go up one level to “Control PanelAppearance and Personalisation”

  1. Click the link saying “Windows sidebar properties”

    • Un-tick every setting

  2. Click the link saying “Folder options”

    • Click the “View” tab
    • Tick “Always show icons, never thumbnails”
    • Un-tick “Always show menus”
    • Un-tick “Launch folder windows in a separate process”
    • Un-tick “Remember each folder's view settings”

  3. Click the link saying “Network and Internet”

    • Click the link saying “Delete browsing history and cookies”
    • Under the heading “Browsing history” click the button “Delete...”
    • Read the options and if you no longer need your history and saved passwords then click the button “Delete all...”

  4. Click the link saying “Programs”

    • Click the link saying “Uninstall a program”
    • Select programs from the list that you no longer use (make sure you know what they are in case they're Windows updates or alike) then uninstall them

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Visual Effects - Windows XP

25 July 2009

Removing un-needed visual effects with Windows XP will increase the overall performance and speed of you computer, not dramatically, but it gives Window’s less to worry about if it doesn’t have to add all the special visual effects that aren’t needed.

This is down to personal preference and so if there’s any visual effects that I mention that you want to leave on then just skip it and move on to the next.

  1. Go to your desktop

    • Right click and then click “Properties” from the menu
    • Select the “Desktop” tab
    • From the list select “None”
    • Click “Apply” and then “Ok”

  2. Click “Start” and then click “Control panel”

    • Click the link “Appearance and themes”
    • Click the “View” tab
    • Un-tick “Launch folder windows in a separate process”

  3. Click “Start” and then click “Control panel”

    • Click the link “Add or remove programs”
    • Go down the list and remove any programs that you no longer use, if you’re unsure what a program is then check first in case it’s a system file or Windows update

  4. Click “Start” and then click “Control panel”

    • Click the link “Printers and Other Hardware”
    • Click the link “Mouse”
    • Click the “Pointers” tab
    • From the “Scheme” drop down select “Windows default (system scheme)”
    • Un-tick “Enable pointer shadow”
    • Click “Apply”
    • Click the “Pointer options” tab
    • Un-tick “Automatically move pointer to the default button in a dialog box”
    • Un-tick “Display pointer trails”
    • Click “Apply” and then “Ok”

  5. Click “Start” and then click “Control panel”

    • Click the link “Performance and maintenance”
    • Click the link “Adjust visual effects”
    • Select the “Adjust for best performance” radio button
    • Click “Apply” and then click “Ok”

  6. Right click the “Start” button

    • Click “Properties” from the menu
    • Click the “Taskbar” tab
    • Un-tick “Auto-hide the taskbar”
    • Un-tick “Show quick launch”Un-tick “Show the clock”
    • Un-tick “Hide inactive icons”

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Free Tools - Windows Defender

24 July 2009

Windows Defender is included within Windows Vista and can be found by clicking “Start” on your taskbar and then clicking “All programs” and it's somewhere near the top.

Windows Defender by default runs in the background, however this can be turned off.

Windows Defender, again, is an anti spyware application.

If you're not running Windows Vista then you can also download Windows Defender for “Windows XP Service Pack 2” from

If Windows Defender is not running in the background then it is worth running once a month as this will minimise any risks to your computer.

Upon opening the application search for updates and then run a full scan.

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Free Tools - Windows Firewall

23 July 2009

Since the launch of “Windows XP Service Pack 2” Windows has had a built in firewall, Windows Firewall.

To get to your firewall's settings click “Start”, then “Control Panel” and click “Windows firewall”.

Open the firewall's settings and make sure that it is turned on.

If applications you're trying to run don't work as you are expecting (such as Internet Explorer, or other programmes that need to connect to the Internet) then you can make sure that the application has permission to run or the Internet port is open for Internet activity.

To grant permission for a program - go to the “Exceptions” tab and click “Add program”.

Select the program from the list and then click “Ok”.

If the program is not found in the list then click the “Browse” button to locate the program your self.

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Free Tools - AML Registry Cleaner

22 July 2009

AML Registry Cleaner is another exceptional application to keep your computer in excellent condition.

Although the website doesn't look legitimate, I have used this application extensively on 4 different computers and it's now been several months and I have found no problems with any of them.

You can download AML Registry Cleaner from

Once downloaded please install and then run the application.

The application offers a registry back-up so that if anything does happen to go wrong for you - then you can restore your old settings with ease.

The registry cleaner will remove any registry entries that no longer exist, that contain errors or that are harmful to your computer.

You will be faced with a list of the registry entries that can be cleaned up.

If you know what you're doing then you should pick and chose from the list and remove the registry entries that you no longer need.

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Free Tools - SpyBot Search and Destroy

21 July 2009

SpyBot is another application used to remove adware and spyware. The real advantage of this is that it also helps to remove malware, back up the registry, remove key loggers, remove trojans (and related problems) and remove usage tracks.

SpyBot also enables a function to immunise your computer.

The immunisation permanently blocks threatening ActiveX controls, tracking cookies and unwanted downloads.

You can download SpyBot Search and Destroy from

SpyBot should also be run on a “once a month cycle” to minimise the risk to your computer.

When you open the application you should download any updates, do a full computer scan and then immunise your computer from any web browser problems that could occur.

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Free Tools - AdAware

20 July 2009

AdAware is an application that will remove any adware and spyware from your computer.

The type of sypware that is common would be things like key-tracking software, which can be used to find usernames, passwords, email addresses and credit card numbers.

Spyware is installed without the permission or consent of the computer owner.

Adware is unrequested adverts that will be downloaded direct to your computer.

Adware is often found in freeware or shareware applications that you download, and the adware is their source of revenue.

Often adware can be detected when a lot of pop-ups or advertising banner ads start appearing on your computer.

Going to “add and remove programs” will never completely remove adware or spyware.

To remove them you will need a specialist “adware and spyware” removal tool, like AdAware.

You can download AdAware from

I recommend running AdAware about once a month.

Having adware and spyware on your computer is not always noticeable straight away; however, you will often find your computer is not running to its full potential.

Adware and spyware can often be downloaded/installed without the user’s knowledge and so running AdAware once a month will eliminate any ongoing problems.

Once a month simply start the AdAware application, check for updates, and then run a full scan on your computer.

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Free Tools - AVG Anti-Virus

19 July 2009

AVG Anti-Virus I've found to be the best anti virus software out there, plus it's free.

You can download AVG from

When you first download AVG Anti-Virus you need to install it and then set it up.

AVG runs in the background of Windows meaning as soon as a virus is detected, it will flag it up straight away.

Everyday when you start up your computer, AVG will run a quick script to check if there are any updates available, and then will download them straight away, this wont effect your day to day working.

You can run complete scans with AVG, but this isn't usually necessary, as it will alert you instantly when a virus is detected.

As well as protecting your computer from viruses, AVG is also used to scan all of your inbound emails.

Also available from the same manufacturer is AVG Internet Security which offers antispyware, anti-rootkit, anti-spam, firewall, safe downloads, safe instant messaging, safe search, safe surf and free support. But this is a paid version, up to you, but I've never had a need for it.

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How do I know if I have spyware or adware?

18 July 2009

A few common symptoms of having spyware are:

  • Web browser home page has been hijacked (changed without your permission)
  • New toolbars on your web browser(s)

The most common symptom of being infected with adware would be:

  • A lot of pop-ups appearing for no reason
  • Your computer's desktop image being changed without permission

As spyware and adware is evolving it's becoming even harder to detect – you may not even notice the symptoms, but that doesn't mean that you're not infected.

It's still worth downloading a spyware and adware removal application to be sure and also to minimise risk in the future.

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