By Ron Doyle, Administrator | September 17, 2013 - 5:31 am - Posted in Columns

imageI talked to a young lady recently about how she used her Recycle Bin.  As if you did not know, the Recycle Bin is the trashcan icon on your Windows desktop.  It is usually located on the lower right or upper left corner of the screen.  It displays as empty or full.  When full, whether it has one file in it or one million it will look the same.  

She told me that she uses her recycle bin for storage of files that she may need one day…WHAT? WAIT!  The recycle bin is designed for discarding files, not as a place to keep them.

There are many ways your recycle bin could be emptied. Then you would have no files left.  Consider if your hard drive were to self-destruct and you took it to be repaired. They would not be trying to save your recycle bin but your My Documents folder where all of your files you may one day need should be stored.  I would even unenthusiastically recommend that if you think you may use a file again you should create a folder on your desktop and store those files there.  But your Documents folder is the preferred and safest method for the majority of users.

I also recommend backing up your important documents somewhere.  That way when the inevitable hard drive crash comes you will have the important documents safe somewhere else.  I always recommend Dropbox (bit.ly/use-DropBox — caps count in that URL and if you use this link you get some extra storage).  That is where I keep all of my backups.  With it being free for up to 2 GB of storage most users will be covered.

Another question I get about deleting items from the Recycle Bin revolve around people needing a file they accidentally deleted.  Oops.

Several things dictate what you should try.  The easiest is if your deleted file is still in your Recycle Bin.  Just open your bin by double clicking on it, search for the file, right click on it and choose, "Restore."  It will reappear in the exact location, i.e. folder it was in when you deleted it.  Done.

However, if you have deleted it by using the, "Empty Recycle Bin" command on your bin, you could have problems getting the file back.  You may be in luck if your Recycle Bin has not been emptied for a long period of time.  There is no specific time and it really depends on how often you use your computer.  Basically when you delete a file it really is not deleted from your computer.  The file is marked so that the computer sees it and it is still on the hard drive.  The mark tells the operating system that if it needs that space on the drive to store something else it is available and can be used.  If the file you need has been used, or rewritten, you may be out of luck.

There is a tool I have used to save my life in these situations many times.  You will not know whether or not you can get it back until you try.  The app is called, "Recuva" and it is found online at piriform.com/recuva.  This application is free for the basic model which is probably all you need.

Once you run Recuva your find your file is fully useable.  There are other apps out there like this one, but Recuva has always worked well for me.

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | July 16, 2013 - 4:35 am - Posted in Columns

You just bought a new notebook computer (or desktop for that matter) but you want to clean up before you give it away.  That is a nice thing to do for someone who may need a computer but is not able to afford a new one.  Also, you are concerned about your personal information on that old computer. 

Not that the new owner would actually look for your bank account numbers, but…  Then you think about other information on your hard drive like social security numbers, usernames, passwords, etc.  You still want to be smart about protecting your private information.

There are a couple of options.  You could just give the computer away and tell the new owner to stay away from your personal "stuff."  If they could find it to begin with.

Or, you could select all of your personal information and delete the files.  Hopefully you have placed all of your documents in your "My Documents" folder so you don’t miss any of them.  You may also use Dropbox to back those files up (use this link and get more storage, http://bit.ly/aszzao).  Oh wait, what about your usernames and passwords recorded in your browser?  Yes, you could also clear your browser’s cache to resolve that but have you missed anything?  Not the best idea.

Some of you more "techie" readers may think, "Well, I will just reformat the hard drive to wipe everything or maybe fdisk it."  Yes, fdisk is a real geek word; check it online if you wish.  Nope, both of those will leave most of your data in a recoverable condition, so for someone a little "techier" than you it would not present a problem.

I have another suggestion that is easy and will kill it all.   That is the program, "Active at Kill Disk" found at killdisk.com.  KillDisk is free, powerful, easy to use software that allows you to completely destroy all data on your hard drive.  The free version is good and will take care of most of your worries.  That is unless you are going up against an IT pro, in which case you could get the paid version. 

imageThat sounds good; however, if the information wasn’t destroyed and written over by other data it could be "undeleted" by professionals.  There is a pro version of KillDisk which offers many other options.  It will allow the data to be deleted multiple times, i.e. rearrange the 1s and 0s many times and writing "junk" data over it.  If a deleted file has other files written over it numerous times it makes it much harder if not impossible to recover.  You can even tell it to rewrite over the old drive up to 99 times to secure the deletions.  The US government says seven overwrites is sufficient and the world authorities say that 35 times makes it impossible to retrieve, so 99 should be sufficient.

The program will run from a thumb drive or a CD.  Since you will be deleting everything on your hard drive it cannot run from your computer.  There is a "wipe" portion of the program which will totally destroy all of the deleted files on your computer and leave the rest of the data alone.  You can run that portion from your hard drive.

The pro version of KillDisk costs about $40.  If you don’t want any secret government organizations to retrieve your personal information it may well be worth the price.  Of course, the government could probably still get some of the data.

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | February 19, 2013 - 5:20 am - Posted in Columns

This column was brought about by a group of us geeks discussing the current Windows operating systems.  Of course, this included the Windows Registry and the way applications are now installed on a Windows based computer.  Basically there was a consensus that we would like to do away with the registry and the way applications are set up.

Windows RegistryFirst, we need a very simple definition of the registry.  The registry is a component of Windows which sets up all hardware, software, and any attached devices in a large database with information about each of those items.  Basically, the registry contains settings for everything on and in your computer.  When you open an application the registry is pinged and all the data pertaining to that app is loaded into the program to help it run quicker and be more stable than in the past. 

Now let’s talk about installations of today’s applications.  Back in the day, a program installed all of its related elements into one folder.  For instance, if you installed a program named, "Double Click anagrams" it would be installed in a folder named something like, "DCAna."  Then when you wanted to delete the program from your computer all you had to do was delete that specific folder and you were done.

Today when you install a program, most often it will install many files for that application in one folder. (C:\Program Files\Program Name) makes some additions to the registry, then adds configuration files, DLL files and other library files all over your hard drive.  When you uninstall these applications using the Windows 7, "Programs and Features" module it attempts to uninstall all of them, but unfortunately sometimes misses some of them.  This creates a problem I had not heard of before but was informed about, "cruft." Crufts are the junk files left behind when an install is not totally successful.   

I think it could be nice to go back to the old days and take the easy way out to delete applications…completely and cleanly. 

In steps, "Portable Applications." I wrote about them over three years ago coming from a different angle.   

Sometimes today when you install a new program, usually one you download, you may have the option of installing it normally or in a portable version.  If you choose to install it as a portable version or get a program specifically designed to be a portable application, you can defeat the "cruft-monster."

Portable apps are entirely autonomous. When you install them, you pick one folder where you want it installed.  Once installed in that location you will find that program and all of its related files in that one, and ONLY ONE folder.  It puts absolutely no files anywhere else on your system and it runs as well as the original file which installed everywhere on your system.  They are completely self-contained which means that 1: you can move the folder to any other location on your computer or copy it to another computer and it works and 2: if you do not like the program, you can delete the folder it is in and it is gone…totally.

We will talk more about portable applications next week.

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By Ron Doyle | December 18, 2012 - 5:27 am - Posted in Columns

I have mentioned the importance of backing up your important electronic files before.  It really is important if you intend to use those files in the future.  Whether it is your previous tax returns, (done on your computer or the scanned version of your paper copies) emails or documents of any type you need to keep an extra copy.  Today two of the most talked about file types are music and of course all those digital Christmas photos.

The reason to keep copies may be obvious to many of us, but not to others.  The biggest reason you may need a backup is to guarantee that one day, sooner or later, your hard drive will fail.  Hopefully it will survive long enough to grab your files but many times they are totally trashed; nada.  Occasionally you may be able to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars and send your hard drive to professionals to restore some or all of your files.  However, for individuals like you and me it will be very cost prohibitive. 

Recently I received an email from Alicia.  She asked, "I have a new 1 TB external drive.  Do I use the backup software that comes with the drive, or the Windows back up application?"  That is a great question and highlights one great alternative for backing up files.

What can a 1 TB drive hold?  Toshiba, one of my favorite companies, says approximately 17,000 hours of music which is just less than two years of music, non-stop 24 hours a day, 320,000 HD digital photos or about 457 holiday’s worth of photos, 1,000 hours/41 days of home videos (again without sleep) or 250 DVDs of about two hours each.

The price of external drives, like all other electronics is always coming down.  I found an external 1 TB drive for $80 and then a 2 TB drive for less than $120 so the cost is not horrible if you are serious about backups.

Now, let’s go back to Alicia’s question.  I would always use the software that comes with the drive.  It has been tested and proven with the drive you have.  It is most likely made to do just that one thing and do it well, so I say stick with it.  If you prefer the Windows application or any other you are used to, feel free to use that one.  However, it could invalidate your warranty on the drive so you need to check that out first. 

Keep in mind that there are also some great "cloud" storage applications out there.  I heartily recommend Dropbox (bit.ly/use-DropBox), Google Drive (drive.google.com), SkyDrive (skydrive.live.com), Carbonite (carbonite.com) and many others.  I feel that DropBox and Carbonite are the best to use for automatic backups; however, DropBox has a free version. 

Make sure you backup no matter where you choose to do it. Just do it!

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | October 23, 2012 - 4:32 am - Posted in Columns

My wife and I have a friend, Brittany and one day she and my wife were talking.  Brittany said that she had a broken computer.  Well, then my wife proceeded to tell Brittany what I do for a living, hobby, etc.  Now at this point I have to say Brittany does not read the Daily News Record weekly, listen to WSVA monthly, check out DoubleClicks.info or she would know that I “mess” with computers…as my wife puts it.

Brittany asked if I would take a look at her notebook, Octavius.  I have heard of people naming their computers but this was my first, firsthand experience.  I do not do  repair work any longer since I am too busy with other things in life, but for friends I am always happy to see what I can do to help them out.

I asked a few questions and found the reason it stopped was that her cat walked across her keyboard.  Now, unless her cat understands computers very well I do not know how he/she could have done that.  Basically she got a black screen with text when she turned her computer on.  The largest worry about any computer doing that is that the hard drive is kaput. Not a biggie to replace, but it can be costly.

She also said her notebook was in bad shape.  Once I got it, I really got it.  She had dropped it…down the steps…several times.  The screen was hanging by a piece of plastic along with a few wires. Some of the casing was gone, duct tape functionally decorated it, and a key or two may have been missing; however, she liked it and wanted to see if I could make it work again.

Then Brittany uttered some magical words that made me jump for joy – “It wdwas a Linux computer.”  Also, she kept all of her music, videos, documents, etc. on an external drive.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Ninety-nine percent of the time when a non-geek mentions Linux, they mean that in the past someone has removed Microsoft Windows from a computer and installed Ubuntu (ubuntu.com).  Since all of her data files were on her external drive she had no worries, as long as her hard drive would boot and run.

10-21-2012 8-29-19 PMI wrote several columns last year about Ubuntu, so if you want to find out more visit my site and check them out.  But for now here is a much abbreviated description of Ubuntu.  It is a great operating system. You can perform 99% of everything you can with Windows.  Some of the best news is it is free, although they do ask for donations.

I checked her system and found that her previous Ubuntu operating system was destroyed but the hard drive was in great shape.  In less than two hours I had it up and running; the Internet, word processing, email and all the other operations working to perfection.  I returned it to her the next day. She and Octavius are now happy, I am sure the cat is ready to try again and life is good!

I would caution Brittany about two things.  The screen is going to go one day…be prepared.  Next, just in case it really was the cat, use the key combination of “Ctrl + Alt + L” and lock it down when you walk away, before your cat saunters across it again.

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | December 13, 2011 - 5:36 am - Posted in Columns

I recently received an email from a reader asking about SSD compared to HDD.  What the heck are those initials…new government agencies?  Not quite.   They stand for "Solid State Disk" (or Solid State Drive or Solid State Disk drive) and "Hard Disc Drive" respectively.

Opened HDD for viewingThe HDD is the hard drive you are most likely using on your computer.  It is generally made up of platters of metal disks stacked on top of each other.  Information is stored on both sides of the platters magnetically.  There is aHDD stacked Platters slight space between each disk with room for a "head" or magnetic reader on an arm which moves back and forth on both sides of each platter to read and write the magnetic info.  If you are old enough, just picture an old record player and a spindle stacked with records with tone arms between each record.  The major differences are size and the fact that an HDD spins at 7,200 rpm instead of 72 rpm. 

Example SSDBut what about the SSDs?  They are more advanced yet much simpler to explain.  SSD is basically another form of device used to store and retrieve data. Instead of metal platters it uses a solid state memory to hold the information.  A big plus is that there are no moving parts, meaning less battery drain and absolutely no noise.

The reader asked if they should switch to SSD and trash their old HDD.  I say not yet, for several reasons. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of SSDs.

Advantages of SSD:  Applications run through SSD will run much faster.  SSD devices require less power and no heat is produced.  SSD runs silently because it only uses computer chips, not moving parts. Access speed for reading is faster because it doesn’t have a moving part to run around disks looking for places to read or write data.  Mechanical reliability inside the SSD will be higher – mechanical failure wouldn’t happen as often, if ever.  SSD is shock resistant with no moving parts to break when dropped.  It can operate up to a temperature of about 160°F. HDDs are good up to about 110°F.  SDDs are much lighter in weight and smaller in size than HDDs.

Disadvantages of SSD:  Storage space is tiny compared to HDDs.  There is has been research to design and make a 1 Terabyte SSD, but it is not available yet.  1TB HDDs are readily available.  The write/erase cycle for SSD will not last as long. SSDs can supposedly go for a maximum of 100,000 cycles; whereas a regular HD can go for maybe 1-5 million write cycles.  This means performance of the SSD will decrease over time.  The big issue for me is that the price of SSDs is much higher.  The 1TB drive mentioned above is about $150.  However, a 128GB (about 1/8 the storage size of 1TB) SSD costs a little over $200.

I believe in the future all computers will be using SSDs to replace conventional hard drives.  But first prices and storage sizes have to get closer to the current HDD stats in order to be viable.  If you want to see what the future of SSDs will look like, search online for "Ultrabook."

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | August 2, 2011 - 4:41 am - Posted in Columns

Many people do not care for the almost-new Menu navigation system for Windows 7.  I personally see where Microsoft could have made some additional changes; however, I still like it very well.  My favorite feature (which was also available in Vista, though not nearly as robust or accurate as in W7) is being able to click the Start button and type what you want to open or find.

imageSuppose you want to open a blank Microsoft Excel workbook.  All you need to do is click the Start button and type, "Excel".  Excel will be highlighted at the top of the list. You press Enter; it opens and is ready to go.  You could also press the Windows Key on your keyboard and begin typing.    It is the one on the left side of the spacebar that resembles the Windows logo.  You know the key; it is the one you never use.

Let me take you one step farther.  Let’s pretend that you have document which you created years ago.  You know that it is on your computer; however, you have no idea what it was called or where you saved it.  You do remember that it had the words, "Emerald City" somewhere in the text.  You need to find that email to write some more about Dorothy. 

Use the Start button again and type, "Emerald City".  Then relax as your computer searches your entire hard drive for any document including email that has, "Emerald City" in the text.  In just a few seconds it will appear in the list along with all the others (if there is more than one.)  Just as before, clicking on the correct file will open the document and you can read away. 

Of course, there is the standard procedure where you click Start, "All Programs" and scroll to the program you wish to start.  Then just click and go.  Of course this doesn’t find a particular document very quickly.

imageThere are fancier solutions if you do not like the Windows’ Menus.  One I have used for years is called, "Desktop Sidebar" (desktopsidebar.com).  It is very customizable but will also take you a while to learn how to use.  It is easy for the geekier of you out there, but complicated if you are not used to "adjusting" things on your computer.

imageAnother more simple to use menu launcher is named, "Rocket Dock" (rocketdock.com).   RocketDock is an attractive and fun program launcher.  It is neatly animated and pops at you when you hover the icons.  It supplies a pleasant modern interface which easily arranges your most used applications for quick access.  The downside  with both of these is you need to download, install and then learn how to use them.  For both of these free programs there are instructions on their respective sites.  Check them out if you want something new for your computer. 

Next week we will look at where one of my old favorites went and how to bring it back to life in Windows 7 the "Quick Launch Toolbar".

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | May 10, 2011 - 4:13 am - Posted in Columns

So you have just gotten your brand new Windows computer and want to clean up your old one and give it away.  That is a nice thing to do for someone who may need a computer but isn’t able to afford a new one.  But you are concerned about your personal information on that old computer.

Not that the new owner would actually look for your bank account numbers, but…  Then you think about other information on your hard drive like social security numbers, usernames, passwords, etc.  You still want to be smart in protecting your private information.

There are a couple of options.  You could just give the computer away and tell the new owner to stay away from your personal "stuff."  Not smart.

Next, you could select all of your personal information and delete the files.  Hopefully you have placed all of your documents in your "My Documents" folder so you don’t miss any of them.  Oh wait, what about your usernames and passwords recorded in your browser?  Yes, you could also clear your browser’s cache to resolve that but have you missed anything?  Also, not smart.

Some of you more "techie" readers may think, "Well, I will just reformat the hard drive to wipe everything or maybe fdisk it."  Yes, fdisk is a real geek word; check it online if you wish.  Nope, both of those will leave most of your data in a recoverable condition so for someone a little "techier" than you it would not present a problem.

What are you to do?

imageI suggest people use a program like "Active @ Kill Disk".  KillDisk is free, powerful, easy to use software that allows you to completely destroy all data on your hard drive.  The free version is good and will take care of most of your worries.  That is unless you are going up against an IT person.  The free version thoroughly deletes all of the data on the drive.

That sounds good; however, if the information wasn’t destroyed and written over by other data it could be "undeleted" by professionals.  There is a pro version of KillDisk which offers many other options.  It will allow the data to be deleted multiple times, i.e. rearrange the ones and zeros many times and writing "junk" data over it.  If a deleted file has other files written over it numerous times it makes it much harder if not impossible to recover.  You can even tell it to rewrite over the old drive up to 99 times to secure the deletions.  The US government suggests seven overwrites is sufficient and the world authorities say that 35 times makes it impossible to retrieve, so 99 should be sufficient.

The program will run from a thumb drive or a CD.  Since you will be deleting everything on your hard drive it cannot run from your computer.  There is a "wipe" portion of the program which will totally destroy all of the deleted files on your computer and leave the rest of the data alone.  You can run that portion from your hard drive.

The pro version of KillDisk costs about $50.  If you don’t want any secret government organizations to retrieve your personal information it may well be worth the price.

This eliminates any possibility of future retrieval of deleted files by anyone else.

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | February 15, 2011 - 6:59 am - Posted in Columns

I

did not think we would be talking about Ubuntu for yet another week but here we are. I suppose this will be the last one but you folks are the drivers, I am just the tour guide. Keep those emails coming!

Several readers have been reading about Ubuntu and doing some studying. Great job! They have read about being able to install Ubuntu on a USB Thumb Drive and run the system from that drive. Roger wanted to know how it worked and asked if it would be worth getting a thumb drive to try.

imageFirst off, I could not survive in the IT/Tech world without a good portable drive so yes, get one. I have seen them online for about $20 for a 16 GB drive. To give you an idea, the first one I bought years ago was $40 for 512 MB so you currently get much more storage for half the price.

Next, there is a program available for Pen Drives, (same thing- different wording) that says it will enable you to install any Linux operating system on a pen/thumb drive. You are supposed to be able to fully run the “portable” operating system off of the drive, even without a hard drive.

Not to be a party-pooper but I tried installing two different Linux systems on my thumb drive twice and they both failed to function as advertised. I also tried them on different computers and neither would work. Both had different errors. Could it have been my install, possibly? That could be the case, but twice in a row? Tom from Harrisonburg tried, too, and he was only successful when he installed the 64-bit version, which my computer can’t use. Hmm, this apparently needs more research and development.

Now how about booting Ubuntu from a CD? I have done this many times without any problems. So for a CD driven Operating System I say, “Success!” Keep in mind that you cannot write any data to the CD. This means that you will have to save any files you create to your hard drive or a thumb drive. Also, be forewarned, if you make any changes to the OS, like setting your homepage on the Ubuntu Firefox browser it will disappear the next time you start it up.

OK, I believe I am now finished with writing about Ubuntu for a while; however, I will continue using it on my notebook.

SNAGHTML5fafb0One final thought. I have had many readers over the years ask me to create some training videos. I have always put it off with, “Good idea, I will do that one day.” Well that day arrived. I have added a couple of simple, “How to” videos on YouTube. Go to “youtube.com/user/dblclx” and let me know what you think. These are just experimental at this point as I am still learning how it is done.

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | August 30, 2010 - 1:47 pm - Posted in WSVA Show Notes

Items discussed on today’s show:

From LifeHacker

What’s Wrong with this Children’s Book?

Disk Erasers for when you sell or donate your PC

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