Most of these tips are for Windows98, but many will work with Win95 and WinME. Click on the tip for detailed info.
More General Tips - Page 2 |
Listing of All Tips
1. Fixing your problem - First thing to try -- Reboot.
.. a. Maintain your computer - ScanDisk.
.. b. Maintain your computer - Defrag.
.. c. Help yourself - Use the Help files.
.. d. Update your files and programs at Windows Update.
.. e. Next step - Don't be afraid to call your tech support.
2. Right-clicking may be the answer.
3. Making your taskbar reappear if you lose it.
4. Open in New Window when browsing.
5. Which program to 'Open With'.
.. a. Changing the default program that opens a file type.
.. b. Change the default program easily using the 'Open With' option.
.. c. Editing file types.
6. Display all file extensions.
7. Improve Visual Settings such as smoother screen fonts.
8. Using Windows Explorer.
.. a. Add programs to the 'Send To' menu.
.. b. Organize the Start > Programs menu.
9. Show Speaker icon in the system tray.
10. Microphone setting.
.. a. Test your microphone using Sound Recorder.
11. Reduce programs in 'StartUp' folder for better performance.
.. a. Use MSCONFIG to reduce programs on Startup, and improve System Resources.
.. b. Checking and keeping tabs on your System Resources.
12. Changing your background wallpaper.
.. a. Adding more background wallpapers.
13. How to take a screenshot.
14. Always try to save image files as JPGs and GIFs.
15. View image files as thumbnails in any folder.
16. Use Winamp to convert MP3s to WAVs.
Click here for Advanced Tips.
1.) Reboot. This will solve most temporary problems. Just go to the Start button > Shut Down > and choose 'Restart'. You can also press Ctrl+Alt+Del keys, and press them again after you see the the 'Close Program' box. Rebooting will give your computer a fresh start and you'll be surprised how often this will fix your problem. It also will be one of the first suggestions tech support will recommend if you call them (see Tip #1c).
1a.) ScanDisk (error checking utility) is one of the regular maintenance functions you can perform on your computer to keep it in top working order. To access it, double-click My Computer, then right-click on (C:) and choose Properties, and go to the 'Tools' tab. Another way to access it, is to go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Click the 'Check Now' button (if you are on the 'Tools' tab), then choose 'Standard' as the 'Type of test'. Don't put a check beside 'Automatically fix errors'. Instead let it notify you of each individual error, and you can decide which action to take. A Thorough test will take a lot longer, and you can do this occasionally to see if the surface of your Hard Drive is okay.
You may have to disable some programs from running in the background (such as an Anti-Virus program) in order to perform ScanDisk. You can do this by pressing the CTRL+ALT+DEL keys at the same time (once only). This will open the 'Close Program' box. Highlight a program you wish to close, and click 'End Task'. If you have problems with ScanDisk stopping and a dialog box says that something is writing to your Hard Drive, 'End Task' everything except Explorer and Systray. You should also disable your Screen Saver. To do this, right-click on a blank spot on your Desktop and choose Properties, (or go to Control Panel) to open Display Properties. Go to the 'Screen Saver' tab, and select '(None)' from the drop-down menu, and click OK. Also, don't use your computer while it is doing a ScanDisk.
1b.) When you've completed a ScanDisk you can do a Defrag. Defrag defragments your hard drive, hence the name. Basically it organizes all the files on your Hard Drive that end up being scattered the more you use your computer (installing and uninstalling programs, and saving and deleting files). A Defrag may take 2-3 hours or longer, depending on a number of factors: the size of your hard drive, how long since your last defrag, speed of your computer, etc. Close any programs running in the background and also disable your Screen Saver first as explained in the ScanDisk tip. I also recommend defragging when you don't need the computer, such as overnight. Don't use your computer when doing a Defrag. If you perform ScanDisk and Defrag every week (if possible), your computer should run smoother and faster.
1c.) Use the Help files on your computer. Often, you can help yourself, if you don't mind searching and reading a bit. For Windows Help, go to the Start button, and you will see Help in there. There are different tabs you can use to find what you are looking for: Contents, Index, and Search. If you can't find the answer using one tab, try another. Also, each program on your system should also have Help. It's usually the last word located on the top toolbar of most programs.
1d.) Make sure you have all the latest updates for your computer by going to Windows Update.
1e.) Don't be afraid to use your tech support if you have it. With most brand-name computers (and peripherals, and Internet Service Providers) part of the purchase price includes tech support, so take advantage of it. Call that phone number (hopefully it's toll-free). You might be surprised how quickly and easily they can help you. If you aren't helped to your satisfaction, call back and get another technical support representative to assist you.
2.) Do you ever get stuck using a program and you don't know what to do next? Try right-clicking. That is, click the button on the right side of your mouse. Sometimes the option you need is just a right-click away.
3.) Have you ever lost your Taskbar from the bottom of your screen, and you have no idea how to get it back? A couple of things may have happened. You may have shrunk it down accidentally. You may see it as just a thin line at the bottom of your screen. To get it back, place your mouse pointer at the bottom of your screen until you see a two-headed arrow. Hold the left mouse button down, and drag the mouse pointer up until your Taskbar is restored. If that doesn't work, you may have the Taskbar set to 'Auto hide'. To change this you have to open the Start menu with your keyboard. If you have a Windows key on your keyboard, press it (it's the one with the Windows logo, and located on the bottom row between the Ctrl and Alt keys). If not, press the Esc and Ctrl key at the same time. When the Start menu opens your taskbar should also be visible again, at least temporarily. To make sure 'Auto hide isn't selected, go to Start > Settings > Taskbar & Start Menu > Taskbar Options tab. Make sure you have a check beside 'Always on top', but don't put a check beside 'Auto hide'. Click OK.
4.) Next time you are surfing or browsing the net, try the following. Instead of left-clicking a link, right-click and choose 'Open in New Window' (or 'Open Link in a New Window' if you right-clicked on an image link like a button or a thumbnail -- which is a small picture that usually links to the larger full-size image). Doing this keeps the original page open, and opens a new page which you can close when you are done viewing. You won't have to hit the 'Back' button and wait for the original page to load because it never left your screen. You can actually right-click several links, opening all of them in new windows. This is a good tip when you have several thumbnail images that you wish to view as full-size images. Try opening in a new window by right-clicking here.
5.) Sometimes when you double-click on a certain file type, the file doesn't open, or it doesn't open in the program of your choice. This tip as well as 5a, 5b, and 5c will provide some information on how to deal with this.
Have you ever tried to open a file and an 'Open With' box appeared asking you which program you want to use? If you don't know which one to use try choosing Notepad first. You could also try your image viewer (i.e. IrfanView on Cool Programs page), Internet Explorer (iexplore), or Media Player. DON'T put a checkmark in the box beside 'Always Use This Program' just yet. That would make it the default program. This means that everytime you double-click that type of file, this will be the program that is assigned to open it. It might not be the best option.
For example, Paint might be the default program on your computer for BMP files. If you double-click a BMP file, it automatically opens in Paint. Paint is a good option to be the default program for BMP files. However, you don't want to make a program the default unless you know that it is the best program on your system to open a specific file type. First, try and see if it works. If it does, you can try to open the file again and this time put the check in the box beside 'Always Use This Program'. Now it will be the default program that opens this type of file.
5a.) Most programs provide you with an option to set them as the default program that opens certain file types. Usually, the best way to do this is to open the program that you want to be the default, and look for either Options, Preferences, or Configuration. Look for some of the following: 'associate this program with these file types', 'make this program the default for these file types', 'file formats', or 'extensions'. Pick which file types you want to associate with this program, usually by checking them, and click OK. You may have to reboot before these settings take effect. If that doesn't work, you can reinstall the program you would like to be the default, and during installation you should be asked which file types you wish to associate this program with.
5b.) There is another way you can change associations manually, but I would recommend trying Tip #5a first. Left-click once on a file to highlight it, and then while holding the 'Shift' key down on your keyboard, right-click. In the right-click context menu, you should now see 'Open with...'. Clicking that will bring up the 'Open With' box mentioned in Tip #5. Select the program you wish to use in the list, and click OK. If you don't see the program you want, click 'Other' and browse your system to locate it. Once you've selected the program, put a check in the box beside 'Always use this program to open this file type'. Leave the box empty if you are unsure. You can always add a check later after you've tried it first. Make sure you click OK.
5c.) You can also edit file types by going to Start > Settings > Folder Options (or in My Computer, go to View > Folder Options). On the 'File Types' tab you will see all the extensions (file types) and the programs that are associated with them. You can scroll through the list to either locate the extension or the program that you wish to change.
Suppose you are looking for an .nfo file. It should show you that it opens with MSINFO32. Let's say we want to edit or change some details, and make Notepad the default for .nfo files. Highlight 'NFO File' in the list, and click on the 'Edit' button. Now you will see the 'Edit File Type' box. You may see one or more actions listed under 'Actions'. The one in bold will be the default action. Highlight the action you wish to change (most likely 'open'), and click the 'Edit' button. You now have another box that shows you the path to the program that opens this file (i.e. C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\MSINFO\msinfo32.exe). You need to know where the program is located that you want to make the default because you are going to click the 'Browse' button and find it (or just type in the path if you know it). In this case you want to look in the Windows folder and highlight Notepad.exe, and click 'Open'. The path should now read C:\Windows\Notepad.exe. Click OK to close all boxes.
6.) You can have Windows display file extensions so that you can easily view file types on your system. For instance, if you have a file called 'sample', you can have it displayed as 'sample.exe' or 'sample.jpg' instead (depending on which file type it is). Sometimes it's very helpful to know the file type. To do this, open 'Folder Options'. You can either go to Start > Settings > Folder Options...or open My Computer (or My Documents) and go to View > Folder Options. Once Folder Options is open click on the View tab. Under 'Advanced Settings' about 8 lines down you will see 'Hide file extensions for known file types'. Make sure there is NO check in the box beside that. Click OK. Now you will be able to see all the extensions for the files on your system.
7.) Here's a couple of Visual Settings you might prefer to have on your system. Go to Start> Settings > Folder Options. Click on the View tab. Under 'Advanced Settings' scroll down to the bottom where it shows 'Visual Settings'. Make sure there is a check beside these two options; 'Show window contents while dragging' and 'Smooth edges of screen fonts'. Click OK.
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8.) Get comfortable using Windows Explorer. This program is basically a file manager, showing you every file and folder on your system. It is an invaluable tool. You can launch Windows Explorer a number of ways. One of the simplest is to press the Windows key (it's the one on the bottom of row of your keyboard with the Windows logo) and the 'E' key at the same time. You can also go to the Start button, click Run, type in Explorer, and click OK. The program is actually located in the C:\Windows folder, but you probably also have a shortcut in Start > Programs > Accessories. You might even want to put a shortcut on your desktop. I'll explain a couple of the things you can do with Explorer below. First let's make sure you have Explorer displaying files and folders correctly. Open Explorer and go to View, Explorer Bar, and make sure you put a check beside Folders. You should now see two panes with the one on the left displaying a tree of the directories (which is just another way of saying folders) on your system, and the one on the right displaying the folders and/or files in whichever directory you have selected in the left pane. Now you are ready to use Explorer.
8a.) You can add programs to the 'Send To' menu using Windows Explorer. When you right-click on a file it gives you the option to send the file to a specific program or location using the 'Send To' option. If you don't see a particular program or folder listed, you can add it. To do this, open Windows Explorer. In the left pane, find the 'Windows' folder. Click the plus (+) sign to the left of it. You will now see the folders within the 'Windows' directory. Scroll down until you can see the 'SendTo' folder. You will need to know where this is later.
Now, locate the program you wish to add to the 'Send To' menu. It most likely will be somewhere in the C:\Program Files folder. You have to find the exact file that launches the program (it should be an EXE file, refer to Tip #6 if you don't see any EXE extensions). Once you've located it and have it displayed in the right-side pane, drag it to the 'Send To' folder in the left pane.
If you click on the 'SendTo' folder, you will see the programs that are listed on the 'Send To' menu. You can delete any that you don't use. You can also rename any of them. For instance, the one you just dragged there may need to be renamed. It may be called 'Shortcut to blank.exe' for example. You can right-click on this file and choose 'Rename'. You can remove the 'Shortcut to' and '.exe' parts from the name if you want. Now when you right-click on a file and choose 'Send To' you should see the new program that you've added.
8b.) Would you like to reorganize your Start > Programs menu? If you download and install a lot of programs, you probably have a really long list in the Start > Programs menu. It may even go right off your screen which requires that you scroll up or down to find what you are looking for. This is a nuisance and time-consuming. You can organize this menu using Windows Explorer (see Tip #8).
In Windows Explorer, go to the C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs directory. To do this, find the 'Windows' folder in the left pane, click the plus (+) sign beside it. Now, scroll down to the 'Start Menu' folder. Click the plus sign beside it. Now, click on the 'Programs' folder. In the right pane you will see all the folders and programs that are displayed in your Start > Programs menu.
In this directory, you can create new categories (folders), and move files and folders into them. Right-click on a blank area in the right pane and choose New > Folder. You can name it whatever you want. The folders that I've created are named as follows: Audio & Multimedia, Graphics, Miscellaneous, Messengers, Games, Utilities, Web Browsers & Add-ons, Other, etc. You can name them whatever means something to you. The idea is to create folders that describe the programs you have in your Start > Programs menu.
Let's say you create a new folder called 'Utilities'. Drag any other folders or programs that you would consider a Utility into this folder. Leave the 'StartUp' folder alone (refer to Tip #11 for more info). Also leave the 'Accessories' folder alone. Keep creating folders, and dragging the appropriate files or folders into each one. You can even check your progress by clicking on the Start button and going to the Programs menu. When it's done you should have 8-12 folders, grouping all of your programs by type, making it much easier to locate them. This will really clean up your Start > Programs menu.
9.) Do you ever lose the speaker icon in your System Tray (that's the area beside your clock that shows the programs you have running), and don't know how to get it back? Here's how. Open 'Control Panel' either by going to Start > Settings > Control Panel, or go to My Computer > Control Panel. Find the Multimedia icon and double-click it. On the Audio tab at the bottom you should have a check beside 'Show volume control on the taskbar'. Click OK, and that's it.
10.) Now that you have the speaker icon in your system tray (see Tip #9), let's suppose you are having problems with your microphone. Let's make sure you don't have it muted. Double-click the speaker icon. This opens the Volume Control panel. (You may see a Microphone control here, but this isn't the one you want. This one just allows you to hear your own voice through your speakers as you speak. It's actually best to have this one muted, or not selected.) You need to open the Recording Control panel now. Go to Options, and click on Properties. In the Properties window, put a dot beside Recording. Under 'Show the following controls' make sure there is a check beside Microphone. Click OK. Now you see the Recording Control panel. You will see a control for Microphone. If on that control it says Select at the bottom, make sure there is a check in the box beside that. If it says Mute instead, make sure there is NO check. You can also adjust the Volume level if necessary. That's it. Close the Recording Control panel.
10a.) You can test your microphone using Sound Recorder. You can look for it in Start > Programs > Accessories > Entertainment (or go to Start > Run > type in sndrec32, and click OK). Once it's open you can record by clicking the RECORD button which is the one with the red circle. The button with the rectangle is the STOP button, and the one with the triangle is the PLAY button. Sound Recorder doesn't have a lot of options, and one problem can be setting the length of the recording. You can try going to File, and select New. This might make it longer, but you can't set the exact length. You can also try some of the features like Insert, and Effects.
11.) If you feel your system is sluggish and running slow maybe you have too many programs running in the background that launch at that startup of Windows. The more programs that are running, the more System Resources that are used (see Tip #11b). You can do something about this. First, go to Start > Programs > StartUp. All the programs in here start when Windows starts. You can remove any programs that you think are unnecessary. Just click on the one you want to remove, and drag it to the left so that it's out of the Startup folder, and into the Start > Programs menu now (or you can use Explorer to do this...see Tip #8b), or drag it into a folder called Disabled Startup Items (if you have one). You can always drag it back in later if you need to. You can also delete the program completely if you are sure you don't need it (it's just a shortcut that points to the actual program).
11a.) In Windows 98 you can remove programs that launch on Startup by going to Start > Run > type MSCONFIG, and click OK. Go to the Startup tab. Every item that is checked, launches when Windows starts up.
You can remove individual programs that launch when Windows starts by unchecking them. You can disable ALL of the programs from starting by going to the General tab, and unchecking 'Load startup group items'. You might do this if you are trying to diagnose some sort of problem.
If you uncheck programs from starting, it doesn't mean that you can't use most of these programs, but only that they won't be running in the background. Some programs such as your Anti-Virus or Firewall should not be unchecked as they need to be running in the background (unless you are disabling them for a reason).
If a program listed on the Startup tab has a strange name, and you don't recognize it, by doing a little work, you can still figure out which program it is. Go to Start > Find > Files or Folders, type the name in, and click the Find button. It will show you which folder the file is in, and this should give you an indication of which program it is. You could also find some information on the program name by using a search engine such as Google. If you have a brand name computer, one item you might see with a strange name could be your Easy Access Keyboard buttons. You'll need this item to be running if you want to use the special buttons on your keyboard. If you have tech support, you could also call them for more information on a specific entry.
Some of the entries you'll want to keep checked are ScanRegistry, SystemTray, TaskMonitor, LoadPowerProfile (you'll probably see 2 of these, and it's recommended you leave both of them checked), your Anti-Virus, and Firewall (if you have one). The other ones are up to you. Some of it is trial and error.
Click OK when you are done unchecking items. You can reboot when it asks you to, or you can wait until later. If you wait, it just means the settings won't take effect until you reboot. If you've removed some items, the next time you restart Windows you should see an improvement in System Resources free (see Tip #11b). If you feel that certain programs are necessary to be running in the background (launching when Windows starts), just go back into the MSCONFIG Startup tab, and check the items again.
Here's some info that I found on the Net about some of the items listed on the MSCONFIG Startup tab which I mentioned above.
Microsoft does not recommend disabling Registry Checker. This tool automatically guards against problems that may render your computer unusable. ScanReg scans the registry for damage and empty data structures (keys marked as deleted), and backs up configuration files at startup once each day. If registry damage is detected, the tool sets a damage file in the registry to invoke the real-mode tool, and you are prompted to restart the computer.
The Task Monitor tool that is included with Windows 98 and Windows ME records the disk-access patterns of programs when they are started. Task Monitor stores this information in log files in the Applog folder. Task Monitor also records the number of times you use a program. The Disk Defragmenter tool uses this information to optimize your hard disk so that programs that you use frequently are loaded faster.
Systray.exe is a tool for system taskbar notifications. The taskbar provides a location for programs and hardware devices to display icons. For example, if your computer supports advanced power management (APM), a Battery Meter icon can appear on the taskbar. Do not quit this program.
On the Startup tab of MSCONFIG, you may notice two entries for LoadPowerProfile, since it runs twice. This is by design. LoadPowerProfile is started twice to provide a power management profile before and after you log on to Windows. LoadPowerProfile starts as a machine service so that the default power management settings are available when Windows 98 starts. It is loaded again after you log on to Windows to process preferences for individual users of the computer.
Here are some good links with more information about Startup Items:
- Detailed Info
- Comprehensive Startup List
- Startup List
- Startup List
11b.) You can check your System Resources by right-clicking My Computer, choose Properties, Performance tab. After a fresh reboot, and before you open any programs you should have at least 80-85% free (ideally over 90%). The more programs that are open or running will decrease your resources. If yours are low after a reboot you may have too many programs running in the background that launch on Start-up (see Tip #11 and Tip #11a). If they are just low in general after your computer has been on awhile, try closing some programs. Close programs if you are below 30% System Resources free. Some programs unfortunately may steadily drain resources until you reach zero. If you can't restore your System Resources to an acceptable level you may have to reboot. Windows comes with a Resource Meter that you can have running in the System Tray (beside the clock) which you can mouse over to see your resources. You can run this by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools. It will actually use 2% resources just to monitor your resources. An alternative that I use is TClockEx which doesn't use any resources and can be configured to display your System Resources beside your clock. My clock display looks like this for example: 5:47 (75%). I can always see what my System Resources are. This can come in very handy.
12.) You can change the wallpaper on your desktop quite easily. Just right-click on a blank area of your desktop, and choose Properties. You should be viewing the Background tab of the Display Properties window. You'll see a section called Wallpaper, and you can scroll through this list and choose one. Highlight one in the list and you'll see it displayed in the preview window. You can also decide how to apply the wallpaper. At the bottom right you will see Display. Click on the drop-down arrow and choose either Center, Tile, or Stretch. You can click Apply, and OK when you are done.
12a.) If you want to add more of your own wallpapers to the list, it's quite simple. When you find a wallpaper on the Net that you want to save permanently to your hard-drive, follow these steps. Right-click on the image (wallaper), and one of the options you'll see is 'Save Picture As' (you will also see 'Set As Wallpaper' or 'Set as Background', but this is more of a temporary option to see what the wallpaper will look like on your Desktop... it's good to try this first to see if it's worth saving). If you are saving it, click on 'Save Picture As' and it will open the 'Save Picture' dialog box. At the top you should see 'Save In:', and a location specified. For wallpapers to be listed in the Display Properties window, they need to be saved in the C:\Windows folder. You will now browse your computer, and choose in which folder to save the wallpaper by clicking on the drop-down arrow. It will show a listing of directories on your computer. Double-click on the (C:) icon. Now you will see all the folders in the (C:) directory. The one we want is the Windows folder. Double-click it. Now it should read 'Save in: Windows'. You can rename the file if you want. Just type whatever you want beside 'File name:', (or leave it if the name is satisfactory). For wallpapers to work the file type is important. Where it says 'Save as type:', click on the drop-down arrow and choose Bitmap (*.bmp). Now all you have to do is click Save. Now if you right-click on your desktop, choose Properties, Background tab, you will see the saved wallpaper listed.
13.) Did you know you can take a screenshot of anything on your screen? Just press the 'Print Scrn' key on your keyboard (or 'Alt key + Print Scrn' if you just want a screenshot of the active window). Now open an image viewer/editor program like MS Paint, or IrfanView. Go to Edit, and then Paste. That's it. You can now save this image if you want.
14.) When sending a picture in an email, or adding an image to your website, always try to use a JPG (.jpg, .jpeg) or a GIF (.gif) file, instead of a BMP (.bmp) file. A JPG is a compressed image file, which is much smaller in file size than a BMP file. Because a JPG has a smaller file size it will load much quicker on a web page. It also takes a lot less time to send and receive JPGs through email. Even though a JPG is a compressed file it still retains most of the image quality of a BMP file. Usually you can't even tell the difference. An image viewer program like IrfanView will let you convert a BMP file by resaving it as a JPG or GIF file. Just choose JPG (JPEG) or GIF as the file type when you are saving it. JPG is generally better for photos, and GIF is better for computer generated images or cartoons. Try both and compare file size and image quality to see which format better suits your needs. (*Note - Right-click on any file's icon and choose Properties to see the file size).
15.) Here's a great tip for viewing image files in any folder as thumbnails (meaning a small picture of the original image). This is ideal if you have a folder with lots of photos, wallpapers, or cartoons. Sometimes it's difficult to locate an image file solely based on the name. It would be much easier if you could see thumbnails of all these files. Here's how to do it. Right-click on the folder you would like to view this way, and choose Properties from the menu. At the bottom of the Properties box, you should see 'Enable thumbnail view'. Put a check beside it, and click OK. Now open the folder and go to View. First make sure you don't have a check beside 'as Web Page'. Right below that you should now see an option Thumbnails. Put the dot beside that. Now you can see all the image files in that folder as thumbnails.
16.) You can use Winamp to convert MP3 files to WAVs so that you can burn them on a CD that will play in your stereo. First make sure you have a recent version of Winamp. Open Winamp and go to Preferences (there's a few ways to do this...one way is just press Ctrl+P, or click on the top dot out of five you see on the left side of the main player). Once in Preferences, highlight Output listed under Plug-ins. In the list on the right, highlight the Nullsoft Disk Writer plug-in. Click on the Configure button. Select a folder that will be your output folder for the WAV's you create. Click OK. Close Preferences. Load an MP3 into Winamp, and press Play. You won't hear any music playing while it's decoding. When it's done, you can check your output folder, and you should see the newly created WAV file in there. Don't forget when you are done, to go back into Preferences - Output, and change the plug-in back to Nullsoft waveOUT plug-in, so that it will play audio files again.
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