In the past I’ve written about ways to keep your computer running smoothly, advised you of keyboard shortcuts and shared some little known utilities with you. The truth be known, most technicians won’t kiss and tell and have clandestinely withheld their best tricks from you.
After all, this is what we do; we’re not supposed to give away trade secrets. It would be like a magician showing how he saws his lovely companion in half.
So without giving away the tech’s secret handshake, I’ll disclose a bit of magic. Before doing any of these adjustments though, it’s always a good idea to create a System Restore Point first. Keep in mind these tweaks are for the more experienced user.
Did you ever want to block a nuisance website from showing on your browser? This tweak will work with Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
You will want to navigate to the “etc” folder by following this path: C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc from “Computer/My Computer.”
Open the “hosts” file in etc and choose Notepad or, depending on which version of Windows you have, the option to use a program already installed. Then choose Notepad.
After the line with 127.0.0.1, hit Enter and type 127.0.0.1 followed by the name of the site you want to block.
If the site is called blockthissite.com, then type 127.0.0.1, followed by the site’s name, then a space and #. Hit Enter to go down a line. It should read: 127.0.0.1 blockthissite.com #. Save it from the File menu and close the dialog box.
Next click Start, and then from Run (XP) or your Search/Command box (Vista and 7) type cmd to get a command prompt box. Then type ipconfig /flushdns and hit Enter. Close that dialog box and your browser and then try to get to your site. If you did everything correctly, you will be denied access.
If you use Chrome, it’s already quick. If you use Internet Explorer, well, give the others a shot. If your browser is Firefox, there are ways to make it faster.
In the address bar, type about:config in and hit Enter.
Scroll to network.http.pipelining and set it to true by right-clicking and choosing modify.
Do the same for proxy.pipelining. For pipelining.maxrequests, change its value to 30 and close the browser.
The next fix is not for the faint of heart. We will change a registry value. There is no undo in the windows Registry, so tread cautiously there.
Go to Start, Run or the Search/Command Box and type regedit. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop. Double-tap on “desktop” and look on the right side for “WaitToKillAppTimeout.” If it has a value of 5,000, right-click on it and choose modify. Change it to 1,000 and hit OK.
Do the same there for “HungAppTimeout.” Change its value to 1,000 as well and close the box.
That will shave a few seconds off of an unresponsive program when you try to close it.
Should your printer queue jam, clear it by opening the command prompt box again (cmd) and type: net stop spooler. Wait for a verification response, then type net start spooler and try to print your document again.
If you want to simply unplug your USB flash drive and bypass the “Safely Remove Hardware” process, right-click on the removable USB drive in the Computer/My Computer group and choose “Eject.” Wait for the icon to change and then pull your device from the computer.
Some basic, yet necessary tips follow:
• Allow your computer to fully load after it boots up prior to clicking on any icons. Doing so will further delay any response.
• Don’t clutter the desktop with icons. Everything Windows has to draw uses system resources. Consolidate all Word files for example, to a Word folder. Get rid of icons you don’t use.
• Try to keep your wallpaper image under 100k if it is your own photo. A megapixel image will waste resources.
• Regularly empty the Recycle Bin, as well as the Temporary Internet folder.
• Defragment your hard drive every couple of months to keep it fast.
• Create a System Restore Point when everything is running well. You may need to access it one day.
• If there is a website you access regularly, drag the URL icon from the browser to the desktop, creating a shortcut.
Without a doubt, the single most cost-effective enhancement you could do for your computer is to pull a rabbit from your hat by adding more RAM, system memory, to it. If you do anything more than Web-browse and check your email, you will need it.
Even if you don’t work with audio files or photo or video edit, you will still appreciate the bump in speed an extra pair of gigabyte sticks will yield. It is inexpensive and relatively easy to install.
The result is not smoke and mirrors.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.