Tips for Laptop Users From Hassle-Free PC

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Turn Your Vista Notebook Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot

One thing you should know about me: I'm no fan of Windows Vista. Some things about it just annoy me to death, like the unnecessary overhaul of certain interface elements. That said, Vista has a few features I positively love, starting with connection sharing. In other words, you can turn your Internet-connected notebook into a Wi-Fi hotspot for others to share.

This can come in mighty handy if you're the only one in your group with, say, a wireless modem or wired Ethernet connection. Here's how to set it up:

  1. Click Start, Control Panel, Network and Sharing Center.
  2. Click "Set up a connection or network."
  3. Click "Set up a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network," and then click Next.
  4. Enter a name for your network, choose a security type (WEP is probably fine, given that you're sharing your network with people you know), and then enter a security key.
  5. Select the "Save this network box," then click Next.
  6. If you see a box marked "Turn on Internet Connection Sharing," go ahead and click it.

That's it! Now you should be able to share your connectivity with other users within about a 30-foot range.

One Way to Revive a Dead Notebook

I have an Acer notebook that sits alongside my desktop. Today, like every day, I hit the power button--and nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing: the power light came on and I heard the usual fan noise, but the screen stayed dark. And there was no hard-drive activity. In short, the notebook was dead.

I held down the power button to force a shutdown. Then I waited about 10 seconds and hit the button again. Same result: The notebook burbled but didn't boot.

I'm not one to take "won't boot" for answer, so I disconnected the power, removed the battery, flipped the notebook over, and unscrewed the plastic panels covering the hard drive and memory sockets. Notebooks get bumped around a lot, and if some plug-in component gets knocked even a little bit loose, the result can be, well, a dead notebook.

Everything looked okay, but I removed and reseated the memory modules anyway. Then I reconnected the power and presto: The Acer booted normally.

Obviously this won't work in all cases, but it's something to remember if your notebook ever wakes up dead.

Three Keyboard Shortcuts You Need to Know

You know that Windows key on your keyboard? Most people overlook it, but that's a mistake. One press is the same as clicking the Start button with your mouse. And pressing it in concert with other keys can save you from having to reach for the mouse at all. Here are three Windows-key shortcuts you should memorize immediately:

  • Windows-D: Minimizes all open windows so you can see the desktop. A second tap restores them.
  • Windows-E: Opens Windows Explorer (the file-management tool, not the browser). This is much quicker than right-clicking the Start button and then Explore, or trying to find Explorer in the Start menu.
  • Windows-F: Launches Windows' search tool (remember "F" for "find").

Password-Protect a Word or Excel Document

Most folks have a few documents--legal forms, business records, account spreadsheets, etc.--they'd like to protect from prying eyes. Here's a little-known fact: Word and Excel let you assign passwords to individual documents, and it's easier than you might think. Here's the procedure.

  1. With the desired document open, click File, Save As.
  2. Click the Tools button, then Security Options (or General Options if you're using Word 2007 or Excel).
  3. Enter a password, keeping in mind that it will be required every time you want to open the document. Thus, make sure it's something you can remember! If you're concerned about forgetting, write the password down somewhere.
  4. Click OK and you're done.

That's all there is to it. If you want to get fancy, you can click the Advanced button in Step 3 and choose from various kinds of password encryption--but that's probably overkill for most users.

Rick Broida writes PC World's Hassle-Free PC blog. Sign up to have Rick's newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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