Archive for the ‘Desktops & Laptops’ Category

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How to upgrade memory on an Acer Aspire One

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

My Acer Aspire One came with 1GB of memory, and after installing Windows 7 on it, that 1GB has become inadequate. I bought 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory on Newegg for just over $20. This is great value for the money, and improved the overall performance of the netbook significantly. This quick guide will show you how to upgrade the RAM on an Acer Aspire One AO751h, but it might apply to many other laptops as well.

NOTE: Follow this guide at your own risk. I am not responsible for any damages or injuries caused by following these instructions. Your laptop may differ from mine.

1. Buy the correct RAM for your laptop. For my Acer, I bought one 2GB stick of Corsair 800MHz DDR2. Make sure you’re buying laptop memory, not desktop memory. The laptop RAM is obviously a lot smaller.

2. Shut down the laptop. Disconnect your power supply and remove the battery. Ground yourself by touching something metal. I touched my steel computer case. This should dissipate any static electricity that is on you.

3. Get a small phillips screwdriver and unscrew the two screws holding the memory bay on. Then gently pry it off – it is still held in by plastic clips.

4. Remove your RAM by pulling the two tabs on the sides apart, and pulling the RAM up and out. Be gentle.

5. Install the new RAM by pulling the two tabs on the sides apart, and gently inserting the RAM into the slot. Once it starts going in, release the tabs, and when fully inserted the memory module should snap into place.

6. Screw the cover back on and push down on it a bit to get it to clip in. Reinstall your battery and power on the laptop. Right click on “Computer” on your desktop or in your start menu, and click “Properties”. If you see 2GB of memory indicated, the install was a success!


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Performance, Tutorials | No Comments »

Why you should defragment your hard drive

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

For those of you still using Windows XP or any earlier version of Windows, you need to manually defragment your hard drive. Windows Vista and later versions do it automatically, unless you disable the option to auto-defragment on a set schedule.

Defragmenting your hard drive will make a noticeable difference in your computer’s speed. Programs will open faster and the whole system will run quicker, as disk cache access will speed up after a defragment. What defragmenting does is reorganize fragments of files that spread out through the disk over time. Each time your computer accesses the hard drive, files get fragmented. Defragmenting your hard drive will also increase free space.

A program I highly recommend is Defraggler, made by the same company that makes CCleaner (another great program for speeding up your computer). To give you an example of what Defraggler or a similar defragmenting program can accomplish: my 320GB drive had 10GB of free space left before the defragment, and it was 23% fragmented. After running Defraggler and getting that figure down to 10% fragmented, I now have 55GB free space. So defragmenting my hard drive by only 13% gave me 45GB of free space, plus of course it made my computer faster.

All modern versions of Windows include a defragmenting program standard, and this includes Windows XP. To access the stock program, at least in Vista, open up Computer, right click on the hard drive, click properties. Click the Tools tab up top, and click Defragment Now. But again, I recommend Defraggler. It has more options and seems to get the job done better, and it’s also free.

So there you have it. Defrag your drives. Some people such as myself disable the auto-defrag option in Windows because it can start defragging when you don’t want it to. You should defragment your hard drive about once a month, depending on how you use your computer.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Performance, Software | No Comments »

Windows 7 Ultimate on the Acer Aspire One Netbook

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Windows 7, the operating system from Microsoft that people actually seem to like. Although Vista was actually a great operating system, many people trashed it for no apparent reason, other than just wanting to jump on the Vista-Hate bandwagon.

And even though Vista was and still is a great operating system, Windows 7 is a lot better. I would never even think about installing Vista on my Acer Aspire One netbook, with its tiny 1.3GHz Atom processor and 1GB of memory. But I did think about installing Windows 7. Sorry, XP lovers, but XP sucks. It is a very buggy operating system. It wasn’t designed to handle today’s hardware. The amount of small errors XP has annoys the crap out of me. It happened on my old Pentium 4 system, and is happening on my netbook.

I like tinkering with computers anyways, so I decided to install Windows 7 on my Acer. I had no data on the laptop, just a few things installed. I decided to do a dual boot for now. I downloaded Easeus Partition Master and formatted a second primary (NOT logical) partition. Then I plugged in my USB DVD drive, popped in the Windows 7 disc, and restarted the computer.

After booting from the disc, I chose customized setup and selected the new partition I made for Windows 7. After about 30 minutes, the installation was finished. I then downloaded the Windows 7 specific drivers from the Acer website, and the install was ready.

This was the simplest, easiest operating system install I ever did. Everything on the laptop works perfectly after installing the drivers. I can run full Aero with transparency if I wanted to, but doing that makes the computer lag, very noticeably. So I switched it back to the Windows 7 Basic theme (which was the default – I only switched to Aero to see how it would run). I then installed Office 2007, Firefox, Pidgin, and some other programs, and tweaked some settings to my liking.

Surprisingly, when I ran msconfig and checked out the startup items through CCleaner, there was nothing extra running that I didn’t need. The only thing I disabled was drive indexing; I turned the service off completely through Control Panel. I never use Windows Search, so I don’t need it running all the time and wasting resources. The only program running in the background is AVG Antivirus.

With the software all set up and configured, I did some initial tests. It seems to run at the same speed as XP. Firefox takes a bit less time to open. For now I will say it’s the same in terms of speed, making this a successful upgrade. No loss of speed while gaining more features equals success. Battery life estimates seem less than XP. When XP estimated 10 hours remaining, Windows 7 estimates 8 hours. Maybe it’s just better at estimating, but I haven’t tested it completely yet.

Windows 7 is a million times better to use than Windows XP. Everything is easier to do, looks nicer, and it just feels better. It’s a better overall experience. It makes the laptop feel more modern, with its tiny hardware specs. And the best thing is, it should get even faster in the next week or so, thanks to SuperFetch. That is why I am holding off on doing tests between the two. Once Windows 7 has time to optimize itself, I’m sure it will be quicker than Windows XP. I might do a side-by-side video of the two doing certain tasks when that happens.

If you’re thinking about installing Windows 7 on your Acer Aspire One netbook, you should go right ahead. I have found no negatives in the two days I’ve been using it so far. It is a great operating system, and works great with this netbook. It’s much better than Vista at handling resources. My install of Windows 7 Ultimate x86 (32-bit) is here to stay, and I will get rid of the XP partition after I do the comparisons. You should upgrade too.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Operating Systems, Performance | 5 Comments »

Apple Releases the iPad, and it’s Just an Oversized iPod Touch

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Where can I even begin? Apple just announced their very own tablet PC. Called the iPad. Let’s start with the name – it’s absolutely terrible. And I’m not even complaining about the stupid “i” scheme. Even iTablet would have been better.

Moving on. This thing is just an oversized iPod Touch. Even the software is almost the same, just on a bigger screen. The screen is 9.7 inches, which is way too big to fit in your pocket, and way too small to type on with both hands. Of course there are no physical keys. And when you type, the giant on-screen keyboard blocks a huge amount of screen.

And then, how do you even type on it? It’s too heavy to hold with one hand and type with the other. You can’t put it on your lap because you won’t see the screen. You can’t put it on a table because you’ll have to look down over the iPad, which will hurt your neck, shoulders, back, etc. The only way you will comfortably be able to type on the iPad is through an external keyboard and a stand for the iPad to prop it up like a normal computer screen. And all of that costs a lot of money if you buy it from Apple.

The screen will get scratched. Where are you going to put the iPad? In your backpack or briefcase. It will get scratched unless you get a cover for it, or protect it very very well. And a cover costs a lot of money coming from Apple.

Speaking of money, the iPad starts at $499. With only 16GB of flash storage. And no real operating system, unless you consider a slightly adjusted cell phone OS an operating system suited for a netbook or laptop. And that also means there’s no flash support. Oh but there’s over 100,000 apps! Well, with a real netbook, there are literally millions of apps.

So what do you get for almost $500? 16GB of storage, a glossy (meaning unreadable with other light sources present) 9.7″ screen that’s only 1024×768 resolution, and a 1GHz Apple processor. There are no USB ports, and Apple doesn’t even state how much memory (RAM) the iPad has.

What did I get with my Acer Aspire One for $314? A 1366×768 screen that’s 11.6 inches, a full sized keyboard, a 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive. It also has USB ports, a camera, and it doesn’t need a case. Where does the iPad beat my Acer? It has a touch screen, an accelerometer, and a compass. Apple claims the iPad has 10 hours of battery life. My Acer claims 8, but can actually do 10. Oh, and I almost forgot, the iPad can’t multitask. You can only do one thing at a time. Amazing.

Now time to wait and watch the Apple fanboys camp out in front of Apple stores to buy this useless giant iPod.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Gadgets, News | 5 Comments »

You Don’t Need Much to Power a Media Center PC

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Have you every considered setting up a dedicated computer to act as a media center in your living room? Well, if you have some older hardware around, you can do this right now.

Surprisingly, you don’t need a lot of powerful hardware to have a good, functioning media center. Case in point: I recently set up my old Dell Dimension as a media PC for my 1080p TV. This computer is around 4-5 years old, and guess what, it works perfectly as a media center. It is a Pentium 4 at 3GHz, 512MB RAM, and a Radeon X300SE graphics card with 128MB of onboard memory. Sure this sounds very weak compared to modern hardware: 4-8 GB of memory is now the norm, as well as quad core processors. But for playing 720p video, my setup works flawlessly.

Yea, believe it or not, that little X300 and Pentium 4 can play 720p video without any lag whatsoever. It can’t handle 1080p, but I’m 100% satisfied with 720p on my 52″ screen. And how much did I spend to make it all work? $7 at Radio Shack for a headphone-to-headphone cable. I plugged the TV in as if it were a monitor, using the standard blue VGA cable. Then plugged in the audio cable just as if the TV was a speaker system, and there you have it: a budget home theater system, while saving a computer from being thrown out or put in storage.

So if you have an old computer, but not too old, laying around, give it a shot and see if it will play high-def videos. You might be surprised. And if it can’t, you can always buy a $50 video card from eBay or Newegg. If my X300 / Pentium 4 computer can run a 1080p resolution and play 720p video, you can see right there that you don’t need to spend hundreds on a home media center.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware | No Comments »

How to make text on your netbook or other small screen more visible and easier to read

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

If you are using Windows XP and are on a netbook or using a laptop with a small screen, text might seem difficult to read. The fix for this is to download ClearType Tuner from Microsoft’s XP PowerToys website. This is Microsoft’s own tool for using ClearType text on Windows XP. ClearType is a technology that makes text easier to read by using special antialiasing methods on text (just how video games use it to fix jagged edges.

Below are two screenshots of how ClearType works on the Acer Aspire One netbook.

Before:

After:

The difference this makes on an 11.6″ 1366×768 display is huge. And I also recommend to set the slider to the darkest option, otherwise the text looks a bit blue:


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Software, Tips & Tricks | 1 Comment »

How to Clean Your LCD Screen Without any Special Cleaning Products

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

You most likely have a dirty laptop screen. Lots of people like to touch their LCD screens for some reason. This makes them disgusting to look at after a while, and they can get really dirty. Yet people still don’t clean them until it’s so dirty that the dirt distorts the colors.

So you don’t want to buy any LCD cleaners because they cost over $10? Good, because there is no reason you should. All you need to clean your screen is your fingernail, a napkin, and your breath.

First off, a warning: if you are not extra careful, you will damage your screen. Try this at your own risk.

When following these steps, be extra gentle and use your brain. LCD screens are easy to damage, so don’t wipe it as if you were cleaning your windshield. Apply almost no pressure – it will take longer to clean, but you won’t crack your screen.

  1. Turn off the screen.
  2. Get a napkin (a better alternative is a microfiber cloth, like those for cleaning glasses) and make sure it is an extra soft napkin with absolutely no dirt on it. A tissue or toilet paper might work, but a lot of the time they leave behind tiny pieces.
  3. Put your mouth a few inches from the screen, and breathe warm air onto it so it fogs up, then gently wipe that area of the LCD. Repeat this until you cover the whole screen.
  4. Now look at the screen from an angle so you can see if there’s any spots left. If you can’t clean them off with the napkin, use your fingernail to gently scrape the debris off the screen. Then breathe on and wipe that area.
  5. Look at the LCD at an angle again and repeat until the screen is completely clean.

It’s that simple, and works 99.9% of the time. Save money on LCD cleaning solutions, or better yet, stop touching your screen.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Tutorials | 1 Comment »

Phoenix Instant Boot Starts Windows 7 in a Few Seconds

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Phoenix Instant Boot looks like an impressive new technology that lets computers start up in just a few seconds. But let’s take a closer look at what is really happening.

The video is demonstrating a new BIOS that starts in about one second. The BIOS is supposed to make Windows load instantly as well. But this cannot happen with current hardware and a normal install of Windows. This is the key point – the Windows install. A normal install will have background applications running, more icons on the desktop, a higher resolution, and more things which will make it take longer to start. The video demo shows Windows Aero disabled, a resolution that appears way too low than it’s supposed to be, and it’s obviously a brand new install, maybe with the exception of a program or two installed (but not starting up).

The Windows install shown in the video is customized in a way that a normal user would never have it. That is why it boots so fast. And the thing about it changing how people will use the device – most likely no. It won’t change how people use laptops. It will just let people turn them on quicker. But then, who ever turns off their laptop? Hibernation cuts Windows loading time to half or less, and that’s what laptops do when you close the lid.

Don’t get me wrong – faster is always better when it comes to boot times. But people should also be realistic in terms of how much to expect – you just can’t boot a normal operating system in a few seconds on today’s hardware.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Multimedia, News, Operating Systems, Performance | No Comments »

Should you get a 5400 RPM or a 7200 RPM laptop hard drive?

Monday, October 19th, 2009

With more and more laptops coming with an SSD option, is there a point in getting a 5400 RPM hard drive for a laptop? The simple answer is no.

SSD – solid state drives – are soon going to become mainstream in notebooks. Right now, most mid to high end laptops either have an option for an SSD drive or come with it standard. This means the 7200 rpm hard drive will soon be outdated. Yet some laptops still come with 5400 rpm hard drives. If you are looking to buy a laptop that comes with a 5400 rpm hard drive as standard, it is most likely a low end computer. So since 5400 rpm hard drives are getting outdated, should you still buy the laptop with this option? Yes, if you’re getting a good deal on the notebook, you can overlook the hard drive for two reasons – it’s very easy to upgrade in most laptops, and it’s not that big of a speed difference for the average person.

If you want to buy a new hard drive separately for your laptop, then do not get a 5400 rpm hard drive. You can get a 7200 rpm drive for the same price or even cheaper if you look around. In addition, most new 5400 rpm drives are for IDE connections, while 7200 rpm drives are for SATA connections. This means most newer laptops will accept the 7200 rpm drive, and if the price difference is no more than $10, it’s better to get a 7200 rpm drive.

In conclusion, if you find a deal on a laptop but it has a 5400 rpm hard drive, you should still get the laptop. If you’re buying a new hard drive for your laptop as an upgrade, get a 7200 rpm drive over a 5400 rpm drive if the price difference is $10 or less. The difference in speed between the two is not noticeable unless you are doing something like video editing all the time. And contrary to popular belief, a faster hard drive will not make your internet any faster whatsoever – a 5400 rpm hard drive can transfer data many times faster than your internet connection can.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Performance | 2 Comments »

Best Way to Recycle Old Laptop LCD’s is to Re-use Them

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

What’s this I have here? Why it’s a cracked LCD from a Windows 2000 era IBM Thinkpad. Makes a perfect platform for my netbook (to allow the fan to suck in air while it’s on my lap), makes a perfect writing pad, and I’m sure someone will be able to think of many more uses for this LCD. I didn’t do a thing to modify it – the back still has the circuit boards on it, but they’re behind a cover and the back of the LCD feels smooth and never catches on anything. If yours has something sticking out, you might be able to tape over it with duct tape or something if you can’t rip it out.

Seriously, this is just perfect for a laptop stand. It’s flat, it looks awesome, it’s free, does its function (cools your working laptop), it’s light, and you’re being friendly to the environment if green is your thing. And before someone says I’ll break it and have liquid crystals spilled all over, I doubt that will happen. (But just in case, do not try this at home).


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

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