January 13, 2011

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup

Your printer's manufacturer doesn't want you to use your printer to just print and scan. They want to install bloated apps, eat memory, and to constantly nag you for more ink. Trim your printer setup to the minimum with this five-step guide.

Image via Kevin Cortopassi.

Mac owners and brave Linux adherents don't really need this guide. Oversized, heavily branded printer software does exist for Mac platforms, but you can use most any printer by simply plugging it in and hitting Command-P in an app. Linux, for the most part, works the same way, with the essential driver bits baked into the core of the system.

That leaves Windows. A hardware driver is supposed to be a simple, mostly hidden interface, but the majority of printer installation packages—whether installed off the CD in the box or from the printer maker's web site—want to do far more than just explain a printer's inner workings to your system.

When you're cleaning up a slow-going system, look in the system tray, or hit Ctrl+Shift+Esc. You'll likely find one or more apps running that do nothing more than wait for a printer or scanner to be connected, then somehow pop up and do, well, something. Some printer makers step a bit further, installing toolbars in your browser for supposed "smart printing," and installing a whole mess of software for image editing, photo retouching, project printing, and scanning that's far less useful than a lot of free software.

If you're the victim of a printer maker's overly ambitious plans, here's a sequential guide to getting rid of the bloat and reclaiming working memory, hard drive space, and some semblance of sanity in your printer setup.

Step One: Uninstall What You've Got

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup
If it's a printer you're using at home, go ahead and wipe out whatever software you've got on your system associated with it. You don't want remnants of other drivers and software hanging around when you start over—trust me on that. Hit your Start menu, select the Control Panel, then click "Uninstall a program." Search for your printer maker in the upper-right corner ("HP," "Canon," "Lexmark," etc.). You might be surprised at all the stuff that's there.

Click each item, starting with the most primary-sounding item, and hit "Uninstall/Change." If you're lucky, you'll get a prompt from that main item to uninstall everything; otherwise you might have to doggedly detach each piece individually. You may also have to restart your system once or twice, too, and maybe immediately. When I was cleaning up my system's printer setup, HP's software didn't really give me a choice.

Note: If you're using Windows XP or a similarly older version, I recommend using Revo Uninstaller, especially its portable (a.k.a. no installation needed) version to do your wiping. It's not quite as necessary with Windows Vista/7, but it's still a pretty good app, despite how buried the free version is on Revo's web site these days.

Step Two: Try Windows Update First

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner SetupPower up your printer and plug its USB cord into your computer while Windows is running. Microsoft has a pretty extensive library of printer drivers, especially for popular printers that aren't brand-new, and if your system is connected to the web, Windows might be able to automatically download and install a driver—possibly a smaller driver package than the manufacturer offers, too. It could just be the same kind of plus-sized installation, too, but installing through Windows gives you access to regular, automatic updates. If you luck out with Windows' automatic installation, skip ahead to the Cleaning Out Auto-Starters section.

Step Three: Grab the Latest from the Web

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner SetupIf Windows can't fix up your printer automatically, head to your manufacturer's web page, then look at the top of the page for the "Support," "Support & Drivers," or "Support & Downloads" section. You'll be asked to enter in your model number, then likely pick which version of Windows you're running (Unsure? Click the second question here).

More than anything, be on the lookout for a more stripped-down version of your printer driver—one without all the extra software and "utilities." You'll know this by the smaller download size, which is usually listed. You may be out of luck, like me, and be stuck with a 200 MB download. Hold your nose, click to save it, and grab yourself a coffee while it downloads.

Step Four: Cut Down the Cruft

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup
That coffee wasn't a cheap transition—well, that's not all it was. You'll want to be paying attention when you install your software. I've installed my own HP printer drivers at least a dozen times, and I just noticed for the first time that I could limit the software it installs. It's a blue link that looks like part of a license agreement (see in the image above). Those "Click here to customize" links are often pretty subtle and tucked away—printer makers want everything to be easy, and they also like the profits from "Buy supplies" links. Look for them and use them if you can, keeping only the most basic software. Hopefully they're labeled as such—driver software, printing functionality, and so on.

Check that your printer actually works: print a test page, if offered, or simply print out a simple document or web page. Now that we know it's installed and operational, let's scale things back.

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner SetupHead first to your Startup folder in your Start menu (Programs/All Programs->Startup), which is the nicest way software can suggest you run something on your computer automatically. In my case, viagra joke my printer isn't always connected to my main laptop, and even if it was, I'm only scanning things occasionally. So I don't need a "Digital Imaging Monitor" running on my system at all times. Right-click on the entry in the Startup folder and hit Delete. You didn't delete the program, just the shortcut, so you can always add it back if it's useful.

Now we're going to check out what other goodies our printer people asked our system to automatically start each time. Open your Start menu and enter msconfig and press Enter (on Windows XP, enter msconfig into the "Run" item on the Start menu. Click on over to the Startup tab.

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup
Look through this list for your printer's manufacturer. It's never good to make bold pronouncements about computer issues, but I can say that I've never encountered a situation where a computer needed some kind of auto-starting, printer-related app to print. When it's time to print, your app contacts the driver, which feeds the printer, and your paper comes off the roller. When you're done, hit "Apply." If one of your apps really was needed, you can always head back into msconfig and re-check the app, so experiment with a clear conscience.

Unsure of which apps you actually need? Note the name of the application, usually ending with ".exe," and enter it into the search box at Sysinfo.org's Startup List. You'll likely find it there, along with a letter-coded recommendation on whether you need to keep it running or not: N, U, and X are safe to un-check in your msconfig window.

Step Five: Install Great, Lightweight Alternatives for Scanning and Photo Editing

If you've installed the basic printer and scanner driver for your system, that's all you really need to actually print and scan. Printer makers offer you scanning apps, maybe the kind that auto-load when you lift your scanner cover, and image/photo editing tools, but you've probably never heard any tech blog rave about such an app's greatness.

Scanning (and Faxing)


I asked on Twitter for recommendations on alternative apps for scanning, and got quite a few responses. I'm also a little embarassed to admit that I didn't realize that Windows Fax and Scan was available in all versions of Windows 7, and the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista. It's a pretty straightforward tool for simply grabbing a document from your scanner, saving it to your hard drive, and getting on with your life. It can also handle faxes, if your system is set up with a phone connection.

Twitter user hqraja suggested FreeKapture, as well. But the majority of respondents noted that their favorite image editing apps—Paint.net, Picasa, and more—offer their own scanner functionality, usually tucked into an "Import" function in the File menu.

Scan-to-Text OCR:
De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup
Need to convert text on paper to text on your screen? We like FreeOCR for its serious simplicity (Direct download link here). Readers also responded with suggestions for SimpleOCR.

Simple Image Editing Software

De-Crapify Your Windows Printer or Scanner Setup
You can read up on our readers' general favorite picks for image editing, but they tend to be a bit more in-depth than the average user needs for simple touch-ups, light fixes, and cropping/resizing—except Picasa. Picasa is a great tool for editing, red-eye-reducing, cropping, and emailing or backing up photos, as we suggested in a feature on setting up your folks. If you wanted a more straight-ahead editing tool, Paint.net is the next level up.


With just your drivers installed, your auto-starting items reduced, and better scan and edit software installed, your system, and hopefully your workflow, is a bit cleaner and more agile. If you've done your own printer purge and have further tips, we'll gladly hear them in the comments.

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January 11, 2011

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera

If you've got one of Canon's amazing video-capable DSLRs, you know you've got a powerful camera. What you may not know is that you can add some incredible features, for free, with an open-source firmware add-on called Magic Lantern. Here's how.

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera Photo remixed from originals by Miss Katrina Beers and Carole Smith

Note: if you've got a point and shoot camera, be sure to check out or guide on turning your point and shoot into a super camera. If you're simply new to DSLR video, you'll want to learn how to record great video with your DSLR.

What is Magic Lantern?


Magic Lantern probably best explained by its creators in the video above, but it is essentially an enhancement that works on top of Canon's firmware to provide great new features to your video-capable Canon DSLR that you'd expect to see on a professional video camera. For example, you have much finer control over audio, can overlay a zebra pattern to see overexposed areas of the frame, add custom crop marks for various aspect ratios (like 2.35:1), set up programmable focus, and more. It's incredibly easy to install (which we'll walk you through in a minute) and will let you do things with a DSLR that have generally only been possible with cameras that may cost more than your yearly wages. To get more information directly from the source, download the firmware; you can check compatibility with your particular Canon DSLR at the Magic Lantern Wiki. Now that you know what it's capable of and where to get it, let's dive into installing and using it.

How to Install Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern works on more than the Canon 5D Mark II, but since that was the first camera it was made for and it's the one that I've got, that's what we're going to use as a model. You should do the necessary research about your camera model and its compatibility before you begin this process. While nobody, to date, has broken their camera with Magic Lantern, it's not beyond the realm of possibility. Just be informed before you start playing with it.

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera

Magic Lantern isn't a firmware upgrade or replacement, but rather software that runs alongside the installed firmware. This means it needs to be compatible with your camera's firmware version. In the 5D Mark II, Magic Lantern is compatible with firmware versions 1.0.7, 1.1.0, 2.0.3, 2.0.4 and 2.0.8, but you need to match up your camera's firmware version with the version of Magic Lantern that supports it. For example, Magic Lantern 0.1.6 only supports 5D Mark II Firmware 1.1.0. Later versions won't work and your camera will freeze up.

If you make a mistake that causes your camera to freeze up, just remove the battery and put it back in. This should solve the problem.

The Magic Lantern download page only has version 0.1.6, 0.1.5, and 0.1.4 available, so if your Canon firmware version is later than 1.1.0 you get the pleasure of trying to figure out where to download the latest version of Magic Lantern. To make things easy on yourself, updated your 5D Mark II to version 2.0.8 (which is the latest as of the time of this writing) and download version 0.1.9 via the Google Groups posting. If you ever want to find other versions of Magic Lantern, the Magic Lantern Google Group is your best place to look.

Once you've download version 0.1.9 (or the version you needed), you'll unzip the download and see these files:

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera

Copy the magiclantern.fir file to the root of your CompactFlash (or, for some of you, SD) card and put it back into the camera. If you've upgraded your firmware on the 5D Mark II before (and chances are you have), this process should seem familiar. So should the next steps.

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera

All you need to do is go into your settings where you upgrade your firmware (if you're using a 5D Mark II, it's the last option under the third yellow wrench as pictured above). That option should just be the version of your firmware. Select it, tell the camera you want to upgrade, and once you confirm it'll seem to reboot. If it's been more than 10 seconds, take your battery out and put it back in because you did something wrong. If the camera is functional again within a few seconds, congratulations! You just loaded up Magic Lantern.

Important note: the Magic Lantern firmware works in conjunction with the installed Canon firmware. It does not change it. In order to use it, you need to load it through the process just described each time the camera boots. It can sometimes be hard to tell when this is, so just remember: reload Magic Lantern using the previously described process if you can't access it when your camera is running. This means you cannot delete the magiclantern.fir file from the root of your CompactFlash card.

How to Use Magic Lantern

The moment you go into Live View mode on your camera you should notice some changes (like audio signal meters along the top of the frame and zebra patterns on overexposed areas), but if you want to start messing around with the settings you need to press the Picture Style button to bring them up. Are you wondering which button that is? Me too. I just pushed a bunch of buttons until I found it, but here's a graphic to save you the trouble (unless you like pushing buttons):

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video Camera

On the 5D Mark II, it's the button below the MENU button. From there you'll have a whole bunch of settings to play with, and you can navigate through your options with your camera's joystick (and select by pressing in on the joystick). Let's take a look at them all from left to right.

Audio

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video CameraThe audio panel was one of the original reasons Magic Lantern was created in the first place: Canon didn't provide any control over audio levels. While better control came with firmware update 2.0.3, you still get much more control from Magic Lantern. You can set the output volume of the camera's audio, increase the gain to make the recorded sounds louder (which you can also do easily in post), and set the gain for the left and right channels viagra in uk of the audio input separately. You can also turn auto gain control (AGC) on or off. Turning it on will make the camera adjust the audio levels automatically based on the loudness of the audio coming into the camera. Finally, you can choose the source of the audio, which is essentially a toggle between the camera's internal microphone and the 1/8" external input source on the side of the camera. By default, Magic Lantern ignores the camera's internal microphone.

Video

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video CameraThe video section gives you control over the zebra patterns. You can turn them on or off and set the threshold. You can also specify crop marks for different aspect ratios, but you need to create a BMP file and load it onto your CompactFlash card with the firmware. An example is included along with the firmware you downloaded. You can also toggle the histogram and waveform displays on and off from this panel.

Brack(et)

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video CameraBracketing is what you use to take multiple exposures with one shutter press. This is commonly used in HDR photograhy. By default, your camera will takes three exposures: one normal, one under-exposed, and one over-exposed. You can also specify how over- and under-exposed each of those shots will be by selecting a range. Magic Lantern takes this a bit further by letting you specify a much wider range between photos and also take more than three. Currently you can go all the way up to 13. I'm not sure why you'd need that many, but the option is there if you're in the mood.

Focus

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video CameraWhat is probably my favorite part of Magic Lantern is the focusing features. What this feature does is rack focus mechanically. If you don't know, rack focusing is moving the lens' focus from one point of focus to another. Say if you're recording video of a person walking from one point in a room to another. Chances are they're not walking in a straight line and are coming closer to or moving farther away from the camera. You'll need to adjust focus as they walk and this can be difficult to track. The focus panel lets you set a start and end focus point and how long it should take to move from one point to the other. This way you can make the camera perform the rack focus operation for you. How you can do it is hard to explain but much easier to see, so take a look at the video below for detailed instructions:

Debug, Boot, and PTP

Transform Your DSLR into a Supercharged, Professional Video CameraThese last three sections are sections you can ignore. Unless you're participating in the development of Magic Lantern, stay out. Everything you want and need can be found to the left, although if you're curious about things like the temperature of your CMOS image sensor you can poke around in the debug menu for that and other neat information.

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January 10, 2011

Quick Tip: Improve your SATA disk performance by converting from IDE to AHCI

Most modern computers take advantage of the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) hard drive interface. There are plenty of reasons why this is so, and most administrators know that IDE is no longer considered a standard for hard drives. What many administrators do not know, however, is that for maximum compatibility, most PCs are set up to use the older IDE interface. Because of this, when you install Microsoft Windows on a machine it may recognize only the BIOS IDE setting and enable IDE-only at the registry level. This can, in some cases, decrease the performance of the PC.

Fortunately, there is a way around this that isn’t all that difficult, and it will not require you to reinstall Windows.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

First I want to make the usual disclaimer: You will be editing your registry and possibly changing your BIOS’s settings. As there is always a risk when making changes to either of these, please make sure you know what you are doing before you attempt this and make sure you have a solid backup of your system (just in case). With that said, let’s dig in.

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Edit the registry

Open up the Registry Editor by clicking Start | Run in Windows XP or by typing “regedit” in the Desktop search box in Windows Vista and 7, and then type or click regedit to open up the registry editor. When the registry editor is open, navigate to this key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\msahci

Once there (Figure A), you will see the Start key, which is the key you need to edit.

Figure A

Before you start modifying your registry, you might want to make a backup copy of that registry — just in case.

Right-click the Start key and select Modify. When you do this, another new window will open (Figure B). This new window contains all the data for the Start key. What you want to edit is the Value Data. Most likely your Value will be set to “3.” You want to change that to “0″ (no quotes).

Figure B

Make sure you change nothing but the Value Data.

Once you have made that change, click OK. You can now close the Registry Editor.

Reboot and BIOS

The next step is to reboot your machine and then enter into the BIOS. Since every BIOS is different, all I will say is that you need to enable the AHCI setting in your BIOS. When this is complete, allow your machine to reboot and hopefully you will enjoy a boost in performance. I say “hopefully” because not every machine will see a marked improvement.

What about RAID?

If your machine happens to use RAID, you need to repeat the same steps with only minor changes. During the Registry Editor phase, you want to look for either:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\iaStorV

viagra in the uk

or

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\iaStor

Once you have located either of the above, make the same change you did for the Start key and reboot your machine. You will still need to make the change in the BIOS as well, before the change will actually work.

Final thoughts

Hopefully you will find this gives your machine a performance boost. If the gains are minimal (or nonexistent), then no harm no foul. If you are unsure if any gains were made, put your machine through a test that pushes disk I/O to the limits and see if the performance has improved.

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10 PowerShell commands every Windows admin should know

Over the last few years, Microsoft has been trying to make PowerShell the management tool of choice. Almost all the newer Microsoft server products require PowerShell, and there are lots of management tasks that can’t be accomplished without delving into the command line. As a Windows administrator, you need to be familiar with the basics of using PowerShell. Here are 10 commands to get you started.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Get-Help

The first PowerShell cmdlet every administrator should learn is Get-Help. You can use this command to get help with any other command. For example, if you want to know how the Get-Process command works, you can type:

Get-Help -Name Get-Process

and Windows will display the full command syntax.

You can also use Get-Help with individual nouns and verbs. For example, to find out all the commands you can use with the Get verb, type:

Get-Help -Name Get-*

2: Set-ExecutionPolicy

Although you can create and execute PowerShell scripts, Microsoft has disabled scripting by default in an effort to prevent malicious code from executing in a PowerShell environment. You can use the Set-ExecutionPolicy command to control the level of security surrounding PowerShell scripts. Four levels of security are available to you:

  • Restricted — Restricted is the default execution policy and locks PowerShell down so that commands can be entered only interactively. PowerShell scripts are not allowed to run.
  • All Signed — If the execution policy is set to All Signed then scripts will be allowed to run, but only if they are signed by a trusted publisher.
  • Remote Signed — If the execution policy is set to Remote Signed, any PowerShell scripts that have been locally created will be allowed to run. Scripts created remotely are allowed to run only if they are signed by a trusted publisher.
  • Unrestricted — As the name implies, Unrestricted removes all restrictions from the execution policy.

You can set an execution policy by entering the Set-ExecutionPolicy command followed by the name of the policy. For example, if you wanted to allow scripts to run in an unrestricted manner you could type:

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted

3: Get-ExecutionPolicy

If you’re working on an unfamiliar server, you’ll need to know what execution policy is in use before you attempt to run a script. You can find out by using the Get-ExecutionPolicy command.

4: Get-Service

The Get-Service command provides a list of all of the services that are installed on the system. If you are interested in a specific service you can append the -Name switch and the name of the service (wildcards are permitted) When you do, Windows will show you the service’s state.

5: ConvertTo-HTML

PowerShell can provide a wealth of information about the system, but sometimes you need to do more than just view the information onscreen. Sometimes, it’s helpful to create a report you can send to someone. One way of accomplishing this is by using the ConvertTo-HTML command.

To use this command, simply pipe the output from another command into the ConvertTo-HTML command. You will have to use the -Property switch to control which output properties are included in the HTML file and you will have to provide a filename.

To see how this command might be used, think back to the previous section, where we typed Get-Service to create a list of every service that’s installed on the system. Now imagine that you want to create an HTML report that lists the name of each service along with its status (regardless of whether the service is running). To do so, you could use the following command:

Get-Service | ConvertTo-HTML -Property Name, Status > C:\services.htm

6: Export-CSV

Just as you can create an HTML report based on PowerShell data, you can also export data from PowerShell into a CSV file that you can open using Microsoft Excel. The syntax is similar to that of converting a command’s output to HTML. At a minimum, you must provide an output filename. For example, to export the list of system services to a CSV file, you could use the following command:

Get-Service | Export-CSV c:\service.csv

7: Select-Object

If you tried using the command above, you know that there were numerous properties included in the CSV file. It’s often helpful to narrow things down by including only the properties you are really interested in. This is where the Select-Object command comes into play. The Select-Object command allows you to specify specific properties for inclusion. For example, to create a CSV file containing the name of each system service and its status, you could use the following command:

Get-Service | Select-Object Name, Status | Export-CSV c:\service.csv

8: Get-EventLog

You can actually use PowerShell to parse your computer’s event logs. There are several parameters available, but you can try out the command by simply providing the -Log switch followed by the name of the log file. For example, to see the Application log, you could use the following command:

Get-EventLog -Log "Application"

Of course, you would rarely use this command in the real world. You’re more likely to use other commands to filter the output and dump it to a CSV or an HTML file.

9: Get-Process

Just as you can use the Get-Service command to display a list of all of the system services, you can use the Get-Process command to display a list of all of the processes that are currently running on the system.

10: Stop-Process

Sometimes, a process will freeze up. When this happens, you can use the Get-Process command to get the name or the process ID for the process that has stopped responding. You can then terminate the process by using the Stop-Process command. You can terminate a process based on its name or on its process ID. For example, you could terminate Notepad by using one of the following commands:

Stop-Process -Name notepad

Stop-Process -ID 2668

Keep in mind that the process ID may change from session to session.

Additional PowerShell resources

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10 ways to keep hard drives from failing

Hardware prices have dropped considerably over the last decade, but it’s irresponsible not to care for the hardware installed on machines. This is especially true for hard drives. Hard drives are precious commodities that hold the data employees use to do their jobs, so they should be given the best of care. Inevitably, those drives will die. But you can take steps to prevent a premature hard disk death. Let’s examine 10 such steps to care for the health of your drives.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Run chkdsk

Hard disks are eventually going to contain errors. These errors can come in the shape of physical problems, software issues, partition table issues, and more. The Windows chkdsk program will attempt to handle any problems, such as bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files, and/or directory errors. These errors can quickly lead to an unbootable drive, which will lead to downtime for the end user. The best way I have found to take advantage of chkdsk is to have it run at next boot with the command chkdsk X: /f where X is the drive you want to check. This command will inform you the disk is locked and will ask you if you want to run chkdsk the next time the system restarts. Select Y to allow this action.

2: Add a monitor

Plenty of applications out there will monitor the health of your drives. These monitors offer a host of features that run the gamut. In my opinion, one of the best choices is the Acronis Drive Monitor, a free tool that will monitor everything from hard drive temperature to percentage of free space (and everything in between). ADM can be set up to send out email alerts if something is amiss on the drive being monitored. Getting these alerts is a simple way to remain proactive in the fight against drive failure.

3: Separate OS install from user data

With the Linux operating system, I almost always separate the user’s home directories (~/) from the OS installation onto different drives. Doing this ensures the drive the OS is installed upon will enjoy less reading/writing because so much of the I/O will happen on the user’s home drive. Doing this will easily extend the life of the drive the OS is installed on, as well as allow you to transfer the user data easily should an OS drive fail.

4: Be careful about the surrounding environment

Although this seems like it should go without saying, it often doesn’t. On a daily basis, I see PCs stuck in tiny cabinets with zero circulation. Obviously, those machines always run hot, thus shortening the lifespan of the internal components. Instead of shoving those machines into tight, unventilated spaces, give them plenty of breathing room. If you must cram a machine into a tight space, at least give it ventilation and even add a fan to pull out that stale, warm air generated by the PC. There’s a reason why so much time and money have gone into PC cooling and why we have things like liquid cooling and powerful cooling systems for data centers.

5: Watch out for static

Here’s another issue that should go without saying. Static electricity is the enemy of computer components. When you handle them, make sure you ground yourself first. This is especially true in the winter months or in areas of drier air. If you seem to get shocked every time you touch something, that’s a good sign that you must use extra caution when handling those drives. This also goes for where you set those drives down. I have actually witnessed users placing drives on stereo speakers, TVs, and other appliances/devices that can give off an electromagnetic wave. Granted, most of these appliances have magnets that are not strong enough to erase a drive. But it’s a chance no one should take.

6: Defragment that drive

A fragmented drive is a drive being pushed to work harder than it should. All hard drives should be used in their most efficient states to avoid excess wear and tear. This includes defragmenting. To be on the safe side, set your PC(s) to automatically defrag on a weekly basis. This works to extend the life of your drive by keeping the file structure more compact, so the read heads are not moving as much or as often.

7: Go with a solid state drive

viagra hearing loss class=”entry” align=”justify”>Solid state drives are, for all intents and purposes, just large flash drives, so they have no moving parts. Without moving parts, the life of the drive (as a whole) is naturally going to be longer than it would if the drive included read heads, platters, and bearings. Although these drives will cost more up front, they will save you money in the long run by offering a longer lifespan. That means less likelihood of drive failure, which will cause downtime as data is recovered and transferred.

8: Take advantage of power save

On nearly every OS, you can configure your hard drive to spin down after a given time. In some older iterations of operating systems, drives would spin 24/7 — which would drastically reduce the lifespan of a drive. By default, Windows 7 uses the Balanced Power Savings plan, which will turn off the hard drive after 20 minutes of inactivity. Even if you change that by a few minutes, you are adding life to your hard drive. Just make sure you don’t shrink that number to the point where your drive is going to sleep frequently throughout the day. If you are prone to take five- to 10-minute breaks often, consider lowering that time to no less than 15 minutes. When the drive goes to sleep, the drive is not spinning. When the drive is not spinning, entropy is not working on that drive as quickly.

9: Tighten those screws

Loose mounting screws (which secure the hard drive to the PC chassis) can cause excessive vibrations. Those vibrations can damage to the platters of a standard hard disk. If you hear vibrations coming from within your PC, open it and make sure the screws securing the drive to the mounting platform are tight. If they aren’t, tighten them. Keeping your hardware nice and tight will help extend the life of that hardware.

10: Back up

Eventually, that drive will fail. No matter how careful you are, no matter how many steps you take to prevent failure, the drive will, in the end, die a painful death. If you have solid backups, at least the transition from one drive to another will be painless. And by using a backup solution such as Acronis Universal Restore, you can transfer a machine image from one piece of hardware to another piece of hardware with very little issue.

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