How to Do Everything Faster
Move Your Media Files to an External Drive
Hard drive filling up? Nothing frees space faster than moving your music library to an external or second internal drive. First, close any music-playing software. In XP, open My Documents and drag the My Music folder to the external drive. Windows will figure out that you're moving a special folder and will change its own settings accordingly. (If you don't use the My Music folder, just drag the folder you use to the drive. Windows doesn't have to treat it as a special folder because, well, it isn't.)
In Vista, click Start, right-click Music, and then select Properties. Click the Location tab. Change the path to a folder on your new hard drive and click OK. If Windows asks whether you want to create a new folder, click Yes. When Windows inquires whether you want to move all of the files, click Yes again.
If you use Windows Media Player, open it after the move and press F3. Select the new Music folder and let the application search for files.
Back Up Your Data
Back in the March issue, I recommended using MozyHome as the easiest way to back up your PC's data. Easy, yes. But also horribly slow.
For fast backups, invest in an external hard drive whose capacity is slightly larger than your internal hard drive's. If your PC has an eSATA port, buy an eSATA drive to take advantage of its fast data-transfer speeds. Otherwise, USB or FireWire will do.
For a quick, one-time data backup, plug in the external drive. When it's up and Windows recognizes it, press Windows-R, type %userprofile%, and press Enter. Drag the Documents (or My Documents) folder to the external drive. If you have Vista, you should also drag the Music, Pictures, Saved Games, and Videos folders (XP users don't have to worry about those because they're inside Documents). If you don't store your data within the Microsoft-sanctioned folders, you'll need to drag any other folders you use to the external drive as well.
Want automation? Select an external drive that comes with a backup program (most do), and use that.
So your PC is acting wonky and you need to reinstall Windows. Starting from scratch can take hours. The faster solution is to back up your data (as described in the item above) and then use the recovery tool that accompanied your PC. The tool usually comes either as a bundled CD or DVD or as a hidden partition that you can access at boot time. Consult your computer's documentation to see which setup applies.
Here's a handy video on How to Install Windows Vista:
And here's one on How to Reinstall Windows XP:
Recovery tools usually work by overwriting the data on your hard drive with a fresh image of the factory-default software. Windows will be back up and running quickly, but it won't have the programs you installed on it, or your settings. Restore your personal files from the backup you made before starting this process, and then reinstall any applications you need.
Open a Favorite Folder
If you go to a certain folder all the time, put it in your Favorites folder, so you can always reach it from the Start menu. This setup is especially convenient if you normally don't use Internet Explorer, because you won't see your favorite folders mixed up with your favorite Web sites.
To place it in Favorites, drag the beloved folder from Windows Explorer to the Start button, and from there to the Favorites menu. In Windows XP, you also have the option of opening the folder and then clicking Favorites, Add to Favorites from inside the Explorer window.