A few weeks back I unloaded some random tips that I had lying around. It's that time again: I've collected a few unrelated tips that have made my computing life easier, and I hope they'll help you too.
Speed Up a 'Slowly Deteriorating' PC
Reader Daniel is looking for ways to speed up his aging laptop, which he says is "slowly deteriorating" but needs to last another year or two.
I get this question all the time, Daniel, and in fact I'm facing the same situation myself: My three-year-old desktop has gradually gone from speed demon to slug. Windows takes several minutes to finish its boot machinations, file searches take longer than they should, and Mozilla Firefox suffers from general "slowishness."
Why does this happen? Simple: Over time, Windows accumulates various OS detritus that's not unlike the plaque that builds up in your arteries. Alas, the computer equivalent of a bypass or stent won't do the trick. You need to take more drastic measures, meaning wiping the hard drive and reinstalling Windows. I know: ugh. It's a complex, time-consuming task, one that can easily consume an afternoon--if not an entire weekend. Nonetheless, it's cheaper than buying a new computer, and nearly as effective.
Just a few weeks ago, PCWorld's Lincoln Spector wrote an extensive, invaluable guide to the process: Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data. I'll be referring to it myself when I do my reinstall over the holiday break. I anticipate hours of hair-pulling work. But when it's over, I know my quad-core HP with 6GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive will run like the rocket it is, not the turtle it's become.
Rotate a Photo Before Uploading It to Facebook
I just snapped a super-cute photo of my wife wearing a Santa cap that she wanted to use as her new Facebook profile picture. However, after she uploaded it, she discovered that Facebook wouldn't let her rotate it--so she was a sideways Mrs. Claus.
After fiddling around for a bit, I discovered that Facebook lets you rotate some photos, but not others. Why? No idea. Fortunately, it's very easy to rotate pictures before you upload them. Here's how:
- If you haven't already, save the picture to your hard drive (preferably in an easy-to-find folder like, say, Pictures).
- Open Explorer (Windows-E), navigate to the folder containing your picture, then find the one that needs rotating.
- Right-click the picture, then choose Rotate clockwise or Rotate counterclockwise. Windows will immediately make the change.
- You can do this with multiple photos if necessary. Just hold down Ctrl while clicking each one, then right-click any of the selected files and click as described in Step 3.
Find Missing Manuals for PCs, Printers, and More
Can't find the manual for your printer? Need instructions for the Dell laptop you picked up off Craigslist? Forget combing manufacturers' labyrinthine support pages--just head to Retrevo.
The site offers downloadable manuals for all kinds of electronics, from calculators and cell phones to TVs and remote controls. The only trick? Finding them.
When you first get to the site, you'll see it's positioned as an "electronics marketplace," offering a wealth of product prices and reviews. Scroll down to the bottom, however, and you'll see a small section called Manual by Brands. Click the brand you're after, or, better yet, click All. You can also search for a particular product (say, an iPhone). And once you get anywhere past that home page, you'll see a big Manuals button in the toolbar near the top. Better yet, just bookmark the Search by Category page.
When you find the manual you want, you can download it as a PDF. According to a Retrevo PR rep, the site is home to over 100,000 manuals. I have no way of verifying that sky-high claim, but I will say this: If you're looking for a manual, Retrevo is a great place to start.
If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.