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Tools and Tips for the Most Frustrating PC Problems

Monitor Your Fan Speed

If you suspect that either a system fan or your hard drive is having problems, the free Speedfan utility is for you. In addition to tracking the PC's fan speed (which should, in most systems, range from 1000 to 4000 rpm), it can analyze the hard drive's SMART data, so you can head off a data disaster.

Stop the BSOD Reboots

Boot into Safe Mode (press F8 right after the BIOS self-test, and then choose Safe Mode from the menu). Right-click My Computer, choose Properties, click the Advanced tab, and then click the Settings button under 'Startup and Recovery'. Clear the check box next to Automatically restart, and then click OK.

Decoding Event IDs Online

Event IDs tell you what caused a problem noted in Windows' Event Log, but the codes are almost always abstruse. EventID.Net tells you what's really going on. Enter the Event ID (a number) in the site's form. That leads to a page where you can see what other users have posted about that problem, along with suggested solutions.

Clean and Speed Up Context Menus

Scan your Windows Registry with ShellExView. When it is finished, sort the list by Type. One by one, select a context-menu item in the list, and press the F7 key to disable it. Minimize the program and right-click the desktop to see if the context menu opens faster. If not, try the next one down the list.

Troubleshoot Wi-Fi With NetStumbler

NetStumbler can tell you if radio interference is affecting your Wi-Fi gateway. Note the signal-to-noise (SNR) readings. A high level of noise, indicated by a low number in the SNR column, could be caused by another nearby wireless gateway using the same Wi-Fi channel.

Jeff Bertolucci is a freelance writer based in Southern California. Tom Spring is a senior reporter for PC World.
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