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Lesson 1 of 21
Let's get started with today's lesson. Every day, people like you are injured or lose important systems and data when trying to repair their computers. In your first lesson, you'll discover what precautions you need to take to prevent disaster. To get started, you'll need to know how to protect your computer systems and data. This step can't be overlooked! Wash your hands to prevent spreading grease or dirt to your computer components. When handling components be sure to only touch the edges, especially the chips on the motherboards themselves. Understand that even your skin oils can damage the inside of a computer. Static electricity can also be your enemy, especially if you are not aware of it. Simply put, it can damage components beyond repair. The equivalent of about 6,000 volts of electricity can be transmitted easily just by walking on carpet, and that is enough static electricity to completely fry your computer and all its components. Even smaller amounts of electricity can damage components. So, a surge protector must be used when you plug your system in. Computers and equipment are sensitive to changes in voltage, so a surge protector will protect them against large spikes in voltage but not an outage. A battery backup system is the best way to protect against a power outage, as it provides the system with constant voltage. To keep you safe when working on computers follow these guidelines: Remove rings, watches & necklaces These personal effects are often made of conductive metals which, aside from possibly damaging components by striking them, could also short circuit pieces of your computer or transmit damaging amounts of static electricity. Working on computers that are plugged in is an easy recipe for damaging the hardware. If the machine powers up in the middle of you plugging in a component, chances are the component and perhaps the motherboard itself may sustain critical damage. Modern processors will overheat in as little as 7 seconds without their heat sink attached. There are many more ways that carelessness on this subject could damage hardware. Computers that have been plugged in have a residual charge residing in their electrical components. If the computer is not properly grounded for any number of reasons the residual charge has a possibility of damaging the machine or interfering with its ability to correctly function. Similar to the previous section, the residual charge is usually enough to actually power up the machine for a moment, resulting in massive damage to components if they are in the middle of an install or un-installation procedure. Power supplies and older CRT style monitors both contain capacitors that hold enough charge to stop the human heart. They can and have killed people in the past. Even if you know what you are doing and take the proper precautions, neither component is worth the danger at this point when the prices of new LCD monitors and replacement power supplies is so low.

Unplug all power sources & cables from computer

Hold the off button for 10 seconds before working on any computer

Never open your computer's power supply or monitor

Use an antistatic wrist strap We spoke earlier about how even the slightest static discharge can damage components. Not all damage is immediately apparent either, you may not have damaged a component in such a way to make it fail but instead of its usual 10 year operating life it will now last a total of 3 years before it fails due to the stress of the shock it received. An anti-static wrist strap is an easy and safe way to make sure you are grounded and not in danger of transferring energy into your PC components. Sure, you could maintain a ground by hanging onto the case the entire time, but it is much easier and safer to have both hands available for work and a ground that does not require you to think about maintaining it. This is especially true for the computer repair beginner, where an accident could easily hinder your plans to proceed further in this field. Also remember, how you treat your own PC components is your business, but when you are working on someone elses hardware it is important to maintain good standards in safety and professionalism. The anti-static wrist strap helps serve that goal.

sson 2 of 21
Welcome, to everyone who is taking advantage of our free computer training program! This lesson is going to focus on learning the basics - a little about each part of your computer. We realize that each member of our training program is at a different skill level, but we feel there is always something to be learned. We will go through the major parts of a computer, and try to add some value beyond the basics specs. You might know a little about this already, so we just wanted to share some thoughts on each component.

Now, before you go fixing any computers, there are a couple things you need to know. First, make sure that you are not voiding the warranty by working on a computer yourself. Second, if you're going to purchase new components or replacement parts, be sure to take the bad parts with you when you go to the computer store. There are two types of screws used in computers and you must know about both. Coarse thread screws are used to attach case sides, mount power supplies, mount hard drives into the drive bays, and similar. Fine thread screws are used for mounting CD/DVD and Floppy drives, and occasionally other components. Each component in your PC has its own function and purpose. The main circuit board in the back with everything plugged into it is called the motherboard. Everything connects to that, and the type of motherboard you have will determine what type of components like CPUs, Drives, and RAM you can use. Review the image of the inside of a computer case, and then read the descriptions of the different components below.

Inside of a Computer Case The Processor (CPU, Central Processing Unit) is located underneath a generally square shaped metal box and a fan. The fan and metal box are called the heatsink and it goes on top of the CPU, which is all clipped to the motherboard. The processor (CPU) is the "brains" so to speak of the computer, it does most of the heavy lifting. Often times, people confuse a slow computer with a slow processor, when in many cases it is because you are low on RAM or your hard drive is under performing. Increases seen in your overall speed are more likely to be attributed to upgrading your computer's memory, as opposed to increasing the processor speed. If you do choose to upgrade your processor, new technologies are the best time to upgrade - but keep in mind your motherboard has limitations in regards to processor upgrades.

Expansion Slots & Cards - There are various cards that you may see in slots on your motherboard. These are either video cards, network cards, sound cards, or other types of cards.

Power Supply - The large metal box at the of the computer is the power supply. will have a cooling fan of its own will vent out of the back of the case. will also have cables coming off of it plug into each component, and these called power leads.

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(RAM) - The long thin sticks are the memory sticks, or RAM. Often times the most overlooked part of any computer. Most people do not make sure they have enough when they buy them, nor do they upgrade it when their computer is running slow. RAM is what the computer uses to help run programs. The more windows you have open, the more RAM that is required. The operating system also requires a significant amount of RAM to run, so keep in mind when you upgrade your operating system, chances are you will need to also do a memory upgrade. The great news is, for most recent computers RAM is amazingly affordable, and in our experience is the single best thing you can upgrade to increase your computers performance in day-to-day life.

Drives - Towards the front of the case, there are slots that hold various items like hard drives, floppy drives and CD/DVD drives this is called the drive bay. The front of your case where the power button is likely to be may have ports like USB ports or Firewire ports. All of the buttons and ports here will have cabling that lead back to the motherboard.

Hard Drive (HDD) - Typically something (at least in current times) that is a non issue. With hard drives being so huge, people have completely forgotten about some of the other important issues. One being RPM - the speed that hard drive rotates - which directly affects performance. If you want programs to load faster, files to move around quicker, and overall better performance, make sure you take a look at your hard drive's performance. 7200RPM is generally still better than what comes with most computers, so if you like performance and don't need piles of space, make sure you go with a fast hard drive, as opposed to a bigger one. In our experience, as you increase in RPM's, you will decrease in space for your dollar. There is a happy medium for most people,but we like the speed.

Fans - The case itself is also likely to have a fan, called a case fan, which draws hot air out of the case.

Day 3: CPU Specs

I realize that's a lot to take in, but if you can get in front of your computer and look inside, this will start to make more sense for you.

Lesson 3 of 21

Computer Processor Specs There are a lot of different features to keep in mind when it comes to buying a CPU these days. Back in the good old days, you only had to worry about BUS speed and MHz, though might sometimes have asked about cache. Now, there are all sorts of cores (dual, quad, and so much more) to keep straight that it's almost impossible to know what processor is the best anymore. This lesson will be about breaking down the different aspects of a processor, and knowing which is the best (and what they mean). Mhz - This is the overall speed of the processor. It used to be that it meant nearly everything! Nowadays, things are vastly different. I just bought a brand new computer that is 2.4Ghz, replacing one that was 3.0GHz. It was really tough to do - for me, it was counterintuitive. The way I explain it is this; think of a highway. The MHz is the speed at which the cars travel, and the Bus Speed is the number of lanes there are. Basically, MHz is how fast the data can be processed, and BUS Speed is how much data can be processed at once.

Bus Speed This refers to how much data can move across a "bus" at one time. In simple terms, it refers to the amount of data that can be processed at one time. This is the primary reason a processor with a lower Mhz can still out perform one with higher MHz, if it has a higher bus speed. In most cases Bus speed is just as important (if not more so) than the overall speed of the processor. You will also see this term used on motherboards, as well as RAM, so whenever you are replacing a CPU, it is important to make sure your motherboard can support the new CPU's bus speed. Cache - This is what the computer uses to reduce the amount of time needed to access memory. In simple terms, the more cache your processor has, the quicker things can happen. There are also several different levels of cache - when you are looking at a CPU, it will look something like L1 L2 or L3 cache. These are used for different things, and most computers now have different cache for instruction, data, and translation. It isn't as important that you understand specifically what each of them do; rather, it is more important that you understand they are there, and that different levels of each will affect your processor's performance. Cores - This is something to come about pretty recently, and can be very confusing. The most basic way to look at it is that a multi-core processor means having identical processors, dual core being two and quad core being 4. This raises issue with some people, since the argument is that a dual core 2Ghz processor should perform as good as a single core 4GHz processor. This isn't always true, especially if the software you are using cannot properly make

use of the multiple core environments. That said, in general terms dual core is better than core 2, and quad core is better than all of them. For most people, it doesn't really matter but if you use your computer a lot and for processor intense things, it does. These are most of the major aspects when it comes to processors. Remember, as you move up cores or speed, you also make drastic jumps in price. Often times, it is better to go for the performance than save the cash - I have always found it better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. That said, budgetary restraints dont always make that possible.

esson 4 of 21
Spyware Prevention & Understanding the Cause This lesson won't be as hard to understand as others, but it does answers the often asked questions "Where does spyware come from?" and "What is its purpose?". We have all heard of spyware before, and most of us know it as those annoying pop up ads, computer lock ups, and general slowness. The truth is, some time ago spyware far surpassed virus infections on the computer repair shop's work bench. The reason being the one difference between spyware and viruses - cold, hard cash. Delivering unwanted files or programs to peoples' computers keep the roots of spyware and viruses the same, but from there things get different. Spyware comes in a variety of forms, some more obvious than others. Many free software programs include some sort of spyware - that's how they can keep it free. Other delivery methods are slightly more sneaky - if you click on the wrong pop up ad, browse the wrong website, or open the wrong email, you can get infected and not even know it. The worst part is that many spyware infections have the capability to go out to the Internet and download even more! It's rare to see a computer with just one or two different types of spyware. In most cases, spyware is technically harmless. The trouble begins when you start to get more and more infections, more and more pop ups, and/or malicious programs running in the background - all of which will slow down a computer, cause lock ups, cause security issues. The good news is that, in most cases, the problem is very easily fixed. All you need to do is follow these simple rules, and you will remove 99% of spyware infections - we're not kidding! The Ultimate Spyware Removal Guide So you've gone and gotten yourself some pesky spyware, and now you need it gone. What, you don't like all the pop ups? We've got you covered with our "Ultimate Spyware Removal Guide". There is no one way that works every time when it comes to something like spyware, so we will try to provide a many-pronged attack to kick that spyware out of your system. Step 1: Get the Right Software If you don't already have one, get a spyware removal tool - in fact, get two or three. What I will do here is give you the steps I take - like them or not, it's what I do, and it seems to work out pretty well. I should mention as I said above, there really is no "silver bullet" for spyware, but these steps should help most people. If you still have, Internet do the following: Go out to a trusted site like and get at least two of the following spyware removal tools:

Adaware Spybot Search & Destroy AVG Free Now, in most cases, it's ok to simply install and remove at this point... but I want to be very careful, and show you the overall best way to do it, so just wait for step two. If you are unable to connect to the Internet do the following: With the vast majority of computers having cd-burners, and the amazing cheapness of USB memory sticks, you may just need to shoot over to a friend's house and download the files, then transfer them to your computer. If you don't have any friends nearby, you'll most likely have to purchase some software from a place like best buy - here are two that I recommend: Webroot Spysweeper Spyware Doctor Step 2: Get Into Safe Mode Before you install anything, you should boot your computer into what is known as "safe mode". By booting into safe mode, you minimize the chance of spyware messing with your operating system, as well as lower the chance of reinfection - it's just the best way to do it. Read below on how to boot in safe mode: Windows 98/Me Restart the computer. Just after the POST diagnostics and memory count, start pressing the F8 key On the Startup Menu, choose Safe Mode Or you may use the System Configuration Utility Method. While in Normal mode, close all programs. Click Start, Run, and type MSCONFIG in the box, then click OK In the System Configuration Utility, on the General Tab, click the Advanced Button In the Advanced Troubleshooting Settings dialog box, check Enable Startup Menu. Click OK. Click OK again when the System Configuration Utility reappears. You will be prompted to restart the computer. Click Yes. The computer will restart in Safe mode. When you are finished with troubleshooting in Safe mode, open MSCONFIG again and

uncheck "Enable Start-up Menu." under the Advanced Menu, then click OK and restart your computer Windows 2000 If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on. When you see the black-and-white Starting Windows bar at the bottom of the screen, start tapping the F8 key. The Windows 2000 Advanced Options Menu appears. Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected. In most cases, it is the first item in the list and is selected by default. Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode. When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would. Windows XP If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on. Start tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Options Menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a "keyboard error" message. To resolve this, restart the computer and try again. Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected. Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode. When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would. ..or use the System Configuration Utility method Close all open programs. Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG in the box and click OK The System Configuration Utility appears, On the BOOT.INI tab, Check the "/SAFEBOOT" option, and then click OK and Restart your computer when prompted. The computer restarts in Safe mode. Perform the troubleshooting steps for which you are using Safe Mode. When you are finished with troubleshooting in Safe mode, open MSCONFIG again, on the BOOT.INI tab, uncheck "/SAFEBOOT" and click OK to restart your computer Windows Vista Turn the computer on or Restart the computer Start tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Boot Options Menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a "keyboard error" message. To resolve this, restart the computer and try again. Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected (the top option) Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode. When you are finished with troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would. Step 3: Install & Update Software:

Now that you've got your computer in safe mode, it's time to install the spyware removal software. It doesn't matter which one you install first - the reason I have you do two different softwares is because, in my experience, one program finds something(s) the other one misses. Now does this mean to install 20 spyware removal tools? No, but 2-3 isn't bad. During the install, the software will usually try to update unsuccessfully, since you wont typically have Internet access in safe mode. As long as you're using something current, it will have most of the definitions already preinstalled. Step 4: Scan & Eradicate: Once you have installed and updated the software, it's time to get busy cleaning out that stinky spyware. Make sure whenever possible that you always do a "complete" scan, not just a quick one, if you really want to fix the issue. If you just do the quick scan, you'll most likely miss many infected files, and it's not likely to cure your problem. Whichever program you are using, starting the scan is usually pretty self-explanatory. Be prepared for this to take a while - odds are, the program will range from just one infected file to many thousands. Delete everything it finds. Here is where a lot of people with weaker stomachs get a little nervous, but to me I go with the scorched earth approach. With spyware, you have to be a lot less careful than with a virus. Delete them all, permanently. After you have completed these steps with one program, repeat the steps with the second scanning program. The second program is just for good measure, to ensure you've gotten every last instance of spyware. For me, nothing was worse than missing a file or two, charging a customer for a repair, only for the spyware to come right back that night. Sometimes, if you miss even one file, the spyware will come right back. Step 5: Learn From Your Mistakes: Now that you have successfully removed the spyware infections, make sure to take some time to learn from your mistakes. Be a little more careful with your browsing, and remember that more often than not, free software isn't so free. If you have any questions at all about this process, make sure to email us at support@beyourownit.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - and spread the word!

Motherboard Basics
Lesson 5 of 21
Inside your computer, nothing works without the motherboard. It's what connects each and every piece of hardware. Some things plug into it via cable; others plug directly in or use some sort of slot to connect. Either way you cut it, the motherboard runs the show. Every motherboard consists of loads and loads of different components and parts, but each one has a few important areas of concern when it comes to computer repair. 1. 2. 3. CPU slot - Where the processor plugs in RAM Slot - Where the memory plugs in Video/Peripherals Slots - Video cards, sounds cards, etc

4. 5.

Power Supply Connector - Where all the power comes from Inputs Like SATA (and IDE, in some older computers)

Building a computer is really quite easy, thanks to the design of most motherboards. Almost everything is easy to plug in, color coded, and uniquely shaped. It's not like you could put the RAM in the CPU slot, or the CPU in the SATA connections. This is the very reason why once most people build their first computer, they realize its a lot easier than they thought. As data flows around your computer, from the hard drive to the CPU, to the memory and so on, it travels over cables most of the time... until it gets to the motherboard, where everything is connected. In a lot of ways, the motherboard acts a lot like a highway for the information to travel over. The data needs to get to and from the brain of your computer (the processor), and that is what the motherboard is for. Every piece of hardware has different interfaces, and a motherboard brings them all together and gets them all working in harmony. Below is a picture of a motherboard, with a brief explanation of most major components:

Even as I post this image, it's most likely out of date. I began to scour the web for pictures of each piece of the motherboard, but when I came across this image, I felt it does a really good job laying everything out. As the years go by and technology changes, the overall layout may change a bit... but for the most part, this is how we have seen them laid out for the past ten years (with the exception of a few additions). You will notice this hardware has a lot of onboard

components, like a sound card, network card, and more than likely a video card. Remember, even though something is onboard, you can still improve on your overall performance by using an aftermarket sound card or video card. For years, we would tell people to avoid onboard or built in hardware, in order to avoid having to replace the entire motherboard when one of the components failed. Now, since motherboards allow for aftermarket components to be installed and override the onboard version, having onboard components is a bonus. Take some time looking around the web, getting familiar with the looks and layout of various motherboards. It's important to remember that not all motherboards are created equal - if you skimp on your motherboard and get a crummy one, it will limit your entire system. In our next lesson, we will teach you the basics of cleaning the inside of your computer. Keeping the inside of your computer clean is important as it helps to keep it running smoothly.

Cleaning Your Computer

Lesson 6 of 21
Malware, Spyware, and buggy software aren't the only way your computer can be dirty. Just like how having a "dirty" computer can be bad for your privacy and your computing experience, a filthy computer can be detrimental to the lifespan of your hardware. "My computer couldn't be that dirty could it?"

To be fair this PC belonged to a heavy smoker; but the concept is the same. PC's are like air filters, they cycle air to keep themselves cool and in doing so just about everything in their environment ends up inside them. What you see in that picture is a combination of household dust and the tar from the cigarette smoke. It's actually damp as the tar traps moisture: it stinks, sometimes so much that you can smell it before you open the case. It smears yellow and stains, and you have to clean it off with a rag becuase of how heavy it is. It also degrades parts, encourages corrosion, and interferes with cooling. This is the worst case scenario for a "dirty" PC. This is the main reason for not smoking near your PC.

Luckily most dirty PC's are just infested with dust, animal hair, and the occasional dead bug. It can be a good idea to keep some dust masks on and make sure you clean them outside to keep from blowing the allergens all over your work area. Keeping the inside of your computer clean is very important for several reasons. For one, it helps to keep it from overheating, which is caused by a build-up of dirt and dust over time. It is recommended to clean your computer annually or even more often if it is kept in a dusty environment, around household pets, or on carpet. Regularly cleaning the interior of a computer can help increase its lifespan.

Use a can of compressed air to clean out the interior, making sure to keep the can upright as you use it so fluid doesnt drip out of it. If it does, simply let it evaporate before turning the computer back on.

First, start by blowing out the case vents and power supply vents using quick, short puffs of air. There are case vents located at the front, side, and rear of the case. Pay special attention to the vents of the power supply, and especially the vents found in the sides of the power supply unit (PSU). Also make sure to clean out the PSU fans, making sure to keep the fan blades from rotating as you clean by holding them in place or placing something in-between the blades. You dont want the fans to spin under the air blast, as it could cause damage to some fans or cause back voltage. Make sure to also clean out the CPU fan and heatsink, as this is the most important part of the cooling system. Again, hold the fan blades in place or place something in-between them so they dont rotate as you clean. Blow the compressed air through the entire system, making sure to clean the RAM sticks, expansion slots, I/O ports, and video card fan. You may have to remove the video card to access the video card fan. Our next lesson will help you decide whether you should upgrade, repair, or replace your computer.

Upgrade, Repair, or Replace?

Lesson 7 of 21
A lot of times we get asked about how you are supposed to know when it's time to buy a new computer. We thought it would be best look at when to upgrade, repair, or replace since each outcome is dependent upon several factors. Upgrade Upgrading a computer can help extend the life of the unit as a whole and keep you from having to replace the machine and find a way to transfer all of your files. Upgrading really comes into play when your needs change. That bargain low end PC may have been a great deal but you find yourself multitasking more and the machine is slowing to a crawl trying to keep up with your demands. Maybe you are using interactive software such as games or you just got a new TV and want to hook up your PC to your giant TV screen to watch movies. On that topic, maybe you think your computer should be able to play blu ray movies instead of buying a player, or you think that your computer should have DVR functionality. You can do all of these with upgrades. Sure you could buy a new PC with many of these capabilities but your machine in only 2 years old. Upgrades can give your PC the life you need it to have. Repair Repairing a computer when it is damaged is mostly an economical decision. Is it cheaper to replace it? Is it worth repairing and can you get a few more years out of it? These are some questions you should ask yourself. Maybe your repair coincides with an upgrade you wanted to do or were thinking about anyhow. Let's say your 160GB hard drive dies and you had been thinking about wanting to get more space anyhow. Its technically an upgrade, but you are doing it to repair the computer. Many people's first "built my own PC" experience comes from what used to be a Dell or HP box that now has a new video card, upgraded processor, and more RAM. These were installed after a failure in hardware or a failure to perform adequately on newer software. Laptops are even more subject to repairs. If you cracked your screen out of warranty, the new screens are not really worth buying as they are extremely expensive. Buying a used screen from somewhere like eBay, or buying a donor laptop of the same model as yours with a bad motherboard can be a cheap way to get your laptop up and running again. Replace

Buying a new computer can be a very tough decision; it used to be both a financial decision as well as data loss. Now with computers costing under $500 for most people (including a monitor), one of the little addressed issues is data loss. You cannot underestimate what people will put up with to protect their iTunes collection, or downloaded videos. There are several reasons to buy a new computer, the first and easiest decision comes when you currently do not have a computer (Nothing to upgrade right?). Alright now that we knocked out the easiest situation, the second most obvious situation if you want to replace is if you experienced some sort of damage to your computer rendering it unusable. If you take your computer in somewhere and they tell you it is beyond repair or simply too expensive. Nowadays very few repairs are worth making from a cost perspective, at least from a home user's standpoint. Often times a simple hardware repair is going to at least cost you $135+ and with new computers costing little more than double that, it can be a tough decision to make. Normally it does depend on how old the computer is; you might not have that much to gain if it is only 6 months old. Now that we have taken a look at some situations that we cannot control lets look at ones we can: If Your Needs Change: For example, if you get a new job and your old computer cannot run the needed software, or if perhaps when you bought your computer you didn't play games and now for some reason you got into hardcore gaming. Peoples needs change very often and when most people buy computers a good salesperson will match you with something that fits your needs. If you don't play games it is unlikely you will have a top flight gaming machine sitting on your desk, people change, needs change, and so could your computing needs. Its Just Time: For example, its been a few years, old faithful just isn't as faithful anymore, you are lacking features you really want and quite honestly you are in a position to afford a new computer. Spending the money on a new computer is a lot easier when you can write a check or pay cash. Every couple of years most people will need to replace their computers, we think the term for that is built-in obsolescence. Eventually, new operating systems come out - for example when the 64bit operating systems were released you couldn't just upgrade one thing, you needed a whole new computer if you wanted to utilize it. Technology changes over time and every now and again you are going to need a new computer, for most people thats just a fact of life. Reality Check: One thing this lesson doesn't take into account is the reality of your check book; obviously if financial constraints mean you should repair your computer, or if you really cannot afford it, then use your better judgment. Sometimes it is better to wait, and even if sometimes you can convince yourself it is better to buy new always take a look at things logically, don't put yourself out if you honestly cannot afford it at that time. Buying a new computer can be a very exciting and very scary thing. It is important to do your research and really assess your needs. Be honest with yourself, and try to really determine what your needs are and what they might be in a year or so. Try, if you can, to buy a little ahead, there is usually a sweet spot with computers where you can get the most value, it usually is on hardware one step below the top of the line. Don't buy the bargain basement model, and try to avoid buying top of the line for the sake of it (of course if you need it that's a different story).

In our next lesson, we will teach you how to make sure a new video card you want to install is compatible with your system.

Video Card Compatibility

Lesson 8 of 21
When it comes time to install a new video card, you should first check to make sure the one you want to install is compatible with your system. There are a couple things to check to make sure a video card is compatible with your motherboard: Is there an expansion slot on your motherboard for the type of video card you want to install? You need to make sure that the card you want to install can fit into the available slot. The slot needs to match the type of video card you want to install, whether it is PCI Express, AGP, or PCI.


PCI Express

Slots in Size against each other.

Can your power supply provide sufficient power to the card youre considering installing? You can check the video cards packaging for the list of the power supply requirements. Or, you can go to the video card manufacturers website to look up the specs for the model the minimum power supply wattage and the minimum amperage the power supply must supply. Also be sure the power supply has adaptors for the connectors on the video card.

As you can see, this unit comes with a 6pin to 4 pin cable this is an adapter that goes from the 6 pin to 2 molex connections. This negates the need for a dedicated 6 pin cable if the power supply is powerful enough to support the card from the rails themselves. Does the video card you want fit in your case? Some of the newer video cards are extremely long and may not fit in some of the smaller cases.

At over 12 inches long the 5970(on top) is a massive card. While this is an extreme example it illustrates the problem. Make sure there is enough room for the card in the case and make sure there is enough air flow for cooling. In smaller cases such a low profile slimlines and some HTPC cases you may need to use a low profile card. Many cards are "low profile ready" but do not come with a low profile bracket by default.

In order to use the low profile card in low profile you will need to replace the bracket. It will either go to a double bracket like this card shown or the VGA cable may be completely removed when you install the new bracket. Will this video card do what you need it to? Many times I have seen people "upgrade" their video card to the cheapest boxed one they could find only to be utterly disappointed in their purchase. There was no research done on the product and the results show it. This isn't to say its all their fault, as many people just think video cards just "do everything you ask" and have no clue of the performance ranges and abilities of cards.

Benchmarks let you examine how well a particular piece of hardware should handle the workloads you want to use on them. Not just video cards but almost every component of a PC is reviewed by someone online now. Be careful of biased websites and try to get multiple sources confirming the benchmarks. This is how you will make sure you purchase the right product to meet your needs. Is it worth upgrading to this card? This is mostly in the case of gaming but sometimes applies to other programs as well. Will the video card upgrade solve your woes? Video cards can be "Starved" or they cannot be kept fed because the processor is too old to and isn't fast enough to keep feeding the card information. In this case even though your video card may be perfectly capable of playing a game or running a piece of software, the computer itself cannot due to a bottleneck. Ram can also be a bottleneck if you do not have enough. If you were to put it into a sentence, the system is only as good as its worst part. In the next lesson, you will learn how to make sure a new drive is compatible with your system before you install it.

Before we go, let's talk about Sound Cards real quick

Sound cards are something we almost never think about, until the sound stops working. Basically, a sound card is responsible for translating the information passed to it by your computer, and converting it to an audio signal to send to your speakers. On the back of your sound card is an interface - almost all of them look the same. It has several inputs, and one output. You can use this to plug in a microphone, as well as the standard speaker line out. There are a couple of different configurations with a sound card. Just like a video or networking card, you can have it be either onboard, or standalone. Just like the other hardware pieces, this is a performance issue as well. People who want additional features from their sound card typically go with a stand alone card. Below, we will break down several features of each setup. Onboard Sound Cards:

It used to be, not so many years ago, that a lot of people avoided the onboard sound cards. Many people were more interested in getting surround sound and other fancy features for their computers' sound. Nowadays things have changed. Ninety-five percent of people we see are just fine with onboard audio, and even we use it. Unless you need something extra flashy (specific features like external audio controls, or surround sound), on board sound works great. The vast majority of people we see run the AC 97 onboard sound card, and while there are many choices on the market, we see this one the most often. It's important to note that you dont often have a choice about your onboard audio. It comes with the motherboard, and isnt something you can customize unless you're building from scratch. That said, if you dont like how it is performing, you can always add a stand alone sound card, as aftermarket sound cards are very affodably these days. This is what a sound card looks like:

Stand Alone Sound Card: Stand alone sound cards offer a wide variety of features, and still remain pretty popular with gamers and those who use their computers as entertainment systems. To elaborate, in most cases a stand alone sound card is going to have better features and better quality than an onboard sound card. If you like to watch movies on your computer, use it for music, and use anything more than the standard 2 speakers, you will likely want to consider a stand alone option. You will typically notice the difference when playing your sound at a high volume, or on multiple speakers. Installation is quite easy with stand alone sound cards. It's basically just like installing a printer first, install the software. Second, shut down the computer, and install the card. Lastly, reboot your computer, then enjoy. It shouldnt take more than 5 minutes from start to finish.

Drive Compatibility
Lesson 9 of 21
When you want to install a new drive, you must first check its compatibility with your system. First, start by locating the interface on the drive you are looking to purchase. It should be on the case but if it isn't here is what they look like:



Given that the interfaces are so different the cables are also different, here's a side by side view:

And here is what the power connections for each drive look like: This is an adapter so it is the Male side of the Molex cable that goes into the IDE drive, where as this is the female side pictured.

Now there are a few ways to check the motherboard for compatibility. The simplest one is to open the case and take a look.

6 Sata Ports on the Left, 1 IDE Port on the right

You could also go to the manufacturer's website and look at a picture of your motherboard model or the motherboard manual is the motherboard is an OEM board: Most manuals will have diagrams that look something like this inside.

Now make sure the drive didn't mess up your boot order. Installing a new hard drive either as a replacement or as an addition can result in it being assigned a lower priority than the CD-Rom or an existing drive, or assign a lower priority to the existing drive and cause the machine to not boot properly.

Not all Bios screens look like this and some of the options don't show up in some Bios. Other Bios screens may look different but the underlying concept is the same.

The Hard Drive Boot Priority Screen allows you to select which drive gets booted from if you have multiple drives.

If you have the drives set wrong you could get an error screen that looks similar to this:

Now format the drives and set them up how you want them. You may have to Initialize the drive first, do so by right clicking its name and selecting Initialize. Once initialized it will look as it does here, you can then right click and format it how you want if you installed another drive alongside an existing one. If you installed a single new drive the OS disk will walk you through formatting or the Factory Restore disk will do it for you.

Your new hard drive should be setup and working properly. Our next lesson will teach you about power supplies and how to avoid incompatibility problems with yours when installing new hardware.

Power Supply Compatibility

Lesson 10 of 21
Before you install a new power supply, you must make sure the one you want to install is compatible with your system. Make sure the power supply physically fits in your case. Slim-line PCs use smaller power supplies often and smaller cases sometimes have clearance issues with full size power supplies. Retailers often use proprietary power supplies that are quite expensive. If a customer is ok with a little cosmetic alteration to the case sometimes you can put regular power supplies in retail cases, just make sure they are wired the same.

Standard ATX "Micro"

Mini Ps "Slim" or


Power supplies are the part of the PC that convert AC power from your home outlets to DC power so that your computer can use it effectively. Like any power converter it is best not to run it right up against the maximum power amount as it shortens the life of the unit. Power supplies have an "efficiency rating" The important part of the rating to look for is the 80Plus seal. What this means is the unit maintains an 80% efficiency rating across the board. The % rating is coming from how well the unit converts AC to DC power. If you had for instance an 800watt power supply it would draw 1000watts from the wall at 80% efficiency. 80Plus gold is a higher certification where the unit runs between above 87% and 90% across its entire range. Remember also that when you run multiple hard drives and ROM drives and a big video card and so on, the headroom lowers for each device installed. If your power supply cant supply everything under full load (when it pulls the most), your PC will shut down or blue screen due to hardware not functioning correctly.

Once the power needs of a system are met you need to take a look at features and hookups of the unit. Most modern power supplies are going to use many SATA power connectors; this can be a problem if you have a large amount of IDE drives that you are still running. You can get adapters so plan accordingly. In the next lesson, you're going to learn about memory (RAM) which handles all of information stored on your computer. I'll show you how to determine if the RAM you want to install is compatible with your system, and how to install extra RAM on your computer. Its going to be a great lesson, so be sure not to miss it! RAM Compatibility and Installing Extra Memory Lesson 11 of 21 Today's lesson will educate you on memory, otherwise known as RAM. RAM handles all of the information your computer is running at one time. The more RAM you have, the better off you are. To upgrade or replace your RAM, the first thing to do is determine what type of RAM your system uses to make sure you get RAM that is compatible with your system. RAM comes in a few different types.

Here is how to determine if the RAM you want to install is compatible with your system:

Many people would tell you that opening up your rig and looking would be one of the easiest ways to tell what kind of RAM you have, but that only works if you really know what each type of RAM looks like. I propose an easier solution. If you visit and download CPU-Z you can check the memory tab and easily tell what memory is running in your PC. Not only that but you can use this utility to check your CPU, check the motherboard, RAM timings, and much more. It really is quite handy.

Locate your RAM slots. Each slot will have little plastic arms that lock the RAM sticks into place. Snap them loose and carefully remove the stick of RAM from your system. Most RAM sticks should have a label on them. The label will tell you what kind of RAM it is. You can either take the whole stick to the computer store with you, or look it up online in order to find more of the same type of RAM. To install the RAM, simply put it back in the slot, and gently push until it clicks.

Make sure the notches on the stick of RAM line up with the notches in the slot. When it clicks, the arms will either snap back themselves or you can close the arms manually. To add more RAM, repeat that process with the other slots. That covers the actual physical installation of RAM. Once it is installed, boot the computer up and make sure that the system is recognizing the new or additional RAM. It's that simple! If you feel the need to have video assistance, I have the perfect program for you. My Computer Repair Mastery Video Training Course offers step by step videos, a text book and more. Click the link below for the details. Be Your Own IT Computer Repair Course If you don't know how much RAM you need or where to get it we recommend using Crucial, they have a lifetime warranty and we have been using their products for years. How much RAM will help your system? Consult the Crucial Memory Calculator . In our next lesson, you'll discover how easy it is to install CD and DVD drives into your computer. Don't worry; it's not as hard as it sounds. Installing ROM Drives Lesson 12 of 21 I hope you are enjoying each lesson of my computer basics report so far. Remember, that I have a Computer Repair Mastery Video Training Course that comes with step by step videos showing you all the details. It's not nearly as expensive as you might think. Go to: At the end of today's lesson, you'll be able to install CD and DVD drives even if they have burners. To install a new drive, you must first:

1.) Follow all safety precautions 2.) Be sure to have physical room in your case for a drive Locate an open bay inside your computer case. You will need a Sata or IDE cable to connect a drive. Some IDE cables have two spots that will allow you to plug two different drives in with just one cable. Choose a plug on your ribbon cable to attach your drive to. Then go over to your drive itself and look at the back. Make sure the small white plastic jumper is set to cable select. If the computer won't see the drive it may need to be set to master or slave depending on how the drives are layed out. Sata cables do have jumpers sometimes as well but they are not for setting drive priority but for setting transfer speeds. The Sata drive controller itself handles the drive negotiation.

Jumpers may be different depending on model but the basic ideas are the same. To install, first use a screw driver (make sure you and the screwdriver are grounded before proceeding) and knock the slot cover out of the front of the case if necessary. Slide the drive gently into the slot and make sure the screw holes line up. Using fine thread screws screw the drive into the case and tighten them. You will typically only need a screw in the front and one in the back to make sure it is secure.

Next, cable the drive by connecting it to the IDE cable. Make sure the IDE cable is also connected to the motherboard. Locate a power cable (any one will do) and pop that into the drive as well. Some drives use another type of cabling called SATA. This drive's cable is not a flat ribbon drive like an IDE cable is. For a SATA drive, you must also determine if you have a slot and cable available for the drive. SATA cables can only be plugged in one way, so line it up correctly and plug it into the motherboard. If your power supply does not have a SATA power lead, you will need to get an adapter. Connect the power lead to the adapter and SATA power lead, and then connect it to the drive. That's all it takes to install CD and DVD drives. Remember that my Computer Repair Mastery Video Training Course shows these steps to you in detailed video format.

If you would like to purchase the courses and video walk-through as well as any tools you might need for PC repair just visit: Our Store

Day 13: Replacing Power Supplies

Power Supply Replacement Lesson 13 of 21 I'd love to hear from you if you have any comments on the first twelve lessons. In today's lesson, you'll see how easy it to replace your power supply. Please understand that before you even consider this, you'd have to know that you have a bad power supply. Before starting, be sure to: 1.) Follow all safety precautions 2.) Never open the power supply itself Open the computer case and locate the power supply. Disconnect all of the power leads coming from the power supply to the different components of your system, like your motherboard, CD or DVD drives, hard drive and more. Make sure they are all disconnected - to double check, follow all of the leads from the power supply to the end of each. Once it is completely disconnected, you can test it. Use a power supply testing device (found in our tool kits on our website). Connect the device to the motherboard connection on the power supply. This is used to determine if the entire power supply is bad. You can also use the device to see if you just have a bad power lead by using the other connections. Plug the device in and plug the system in. If the power supply is good, then

the device will light up green. If the supply is bad, then nothing will happen. If the power supply is bad, then it will need to be replaced.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that when a power supply goes, it can take other components with it. If you replace the bad power supply and things still do not work, your system may require other repairs. Before getting started on the replacement, make sure to follow all safety precautions as regards static, and make sure that no power cords are plugged in. Once that is done, make sure that, again, none of the supply's power leads are plugged into any of the computer's components. Then go around to the back of the computer case and remove the screws that hold the power supply to the case. Keep hold of it so it doesn't fall as you remove the last screw. Gently take the bad power supply out of the system. Take the bad one with you to the store to make sure you get a new one that is the same size and has at least the same wattage. Bring it back to the case and just reverse the process - slide it back in, hold it in place, replace the screws, and reattach the power leads.

I hope I didn't overwhelm you with this lesson. To be honest, it's sort of hard to explain things without showing you. My Computer Repair Mastery Video Training Course has step by step videos that show you the details and allow you to fast forward, rewind or pause. For more information, go to:

Day 14: Cooling Systems

Cooling System Management Lesson 14 of 21 A piece of the computer generally overlooked, the cooling system, provides necessary support to the hardware that runs your businesses and stores your pictures. A component running at higher temperatures then it is designed to run inevitably shortens its lifespan. If you run silicon too hot, it actually undergoes a process called electro migration and the pathways that were carved into it actually start to melt greatly accelerating the death of the product. With the revival of "turbo" technology: Intel's TurboBoost and Amd's TurboCore; cooling has once again brought the availability of higher performance based on how well your product is cooled. Intel's turbo boost will over clock to higher speed grades as long as its temperature needs are being met. A typical computer case is designed to draw air in the lower front of the case and pull it over the hard drivers; the air is then pulled up from the low pressure created by the exhaust fan on the back. The air travels up across the Southbridge heatsink and is pulled in partially by the video card fan and the rest travels up toward the Northbridge and the CPU heatsink. The combination

of the power supply and exhaust fan pull the air up and through the CPU heatsink and send it outside the case.

Power supply on the bottom arrangements generally are setup to aggressively pull in more air so that the airstream can be divided, and generally are more efficient and cool more effectively.

Heavy gaming rigs require immense cooling and sometimes require intake fans to be mounted beside them to give adequate airflow.

Large passive heat sinks can be used, and even sometimes outperform fan based solutions if there is enough airflow. They also give a bonus of being completely silent.

Larger fans can move more air while running slower than smaller fans. The slower a fan runs the less noise it is going to make. A good set of 120s can effectively cool a standard PC while being nearly silent in the process.

You can check the temperatures of the various components in your PC with a piece of software from called HWMonitor. It might not show all of the temps for everything (for instance NVidia cards you need to have NTUNE software installed to allow temperature reporting) , but it should give you most of the information you need to make sure your computer is running at a safe temperature. In our next lesson we will go over what benchmarks are, where to get them, and how to read them.

Day 15: Benchmarks

Benchmarks: What they are, Where to get them, How to Read them Lesson 15 of 21 Benchmarks are a measurement of performance of a particular part. Benchmarks are usually ran with identical hardware in other spots to minimize the effect of other hardware on the tests being ran. Benchmarks allow you to differentiate one product from another, so if a $160 hard drive is faster than another, benchmarks help you decide which one you should buy if you want a particular quality. Where these are most prevalent are with processors and video cards, but most everything else gets benchmarked as well.

As you can see, these 3 cards were benchmarked on the same system and their results in multiple programs are shown against each other. Review websites like,,,, and many others have a veritable wealth of benchmarking information and testing they have run for companies as "neutral third parties. That isn't to say there isn't bias, there always is, but by checking up on enough sites and reviewing your hardware, you can make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing time.

Benchmarks aren't just about hardware, you can see benchmarks for software and drivers as well. These can help you determine what software solution to run to meet your needs. Join us for our next lesson, in which we will cover backing up files

Day 16: File Backup

File Backup Lesson 16 of 21 Backing up your files is important. How important, however, is up to each individual and how easily the data is replaced when it is lost. The real way to make inevitable hardware failure the easiest on the user is to have up-to-date and proper backups. The inevitable does happen, it may not happen to you, but can you handle losing all that you've worked on in your pc?

A fire destroyed this server. Even if you had backed it up to another hard drive it would have been destroyed. An Off Site backup is the only thing that would have saved this data. For most users, a simple backup or a burned disk is fine. Make sure you have scanned your system for malware before you begin the backups and organize the data on your system the best you can. Better organization will allow you to backup more effectively and lessen the likelihood that you will miss something important. It also makes restoring from backups easier if you lose your data. There are a few options to back up your files, but before we get to them let's discuss what you should be backing up onto. Extra hard drives in the machine are good but they are subject to most of the stress that the main drive is subject to. Flash drives are good as they are cheap and you can make multiple copies in case you lose some or they fail. DVDs and CDs are decent as long as you store them properly. This means in jewel cases away from sunlight in a dry area. Properly stored disks will last 10-20 years (maybe more), but f you store them in a cloth case like a CD music collection in a car you can expect half of your disks to be dead and unreadable in 8 years.

Using external hard drives has been pretty popular for backing up and it isn't a bad plan. Some of them like WD's Mybook even come with software for doing regular backups. Other software that helps you to keep your backups current would be things like DirSyncPro or the Windows backup utility. Some people like to keep clones of their computers available in case they have a hardware failure. This is an idea solution except for the fact that it takes up a lot of room to keep images around. If you are willing to spend the money on storage for your images, having a thorough set of them is an excellent way to keep your data backed up as long as you keep them up to date. It has also become pretty popular to backup your files online now. Services like Mozy allow you to upload your files to their secure servers. The nice thing is you don't have to worry about losing data on an old computer when you upgrade to a new one, losing a backup DVD, or even having a backup hard drive go bad. Your files are securely stored online and you can access them from anywhere at anytime. It can also be a great place to just store files you know you need to access from multiple locations, but you don't want to carry around a flash drive. If you think you might be interested in Mozy, we have a promo code that will get you 10% off your subscription. Just go to and use the promo code "BEYOUROWNIT" at checkout. They have Free and Paid plans.

Day: 17 Factory Restore

Factory Restore Lesson 17 of 21 When you buy a retail PC it comes with a way to restore it to the way it was when it was delivered or brought home. This can either be an actual disk or a partition on your hard drive. Usually when you have a restore partition there is a piece of software installed on the PC that will let you create disks to restore the restore partition if you need to swap in a new hard disk. If your PC came with a recovery partition and no restore disks, you can almost always make your own recovery disks to be used in the event of a hard drive crash.

In your programs menu there should be a recovery option or a backup and recovery option under system tools. If your manufacturer has included the program it should be there. This is the HP program but it should be similar to most other manufacturers.

After the image is split it will burn it onto either DVD's or CD's. In some cases blu-ray may be used also. The number of disks needed depends on what media you decided to use.

Once these disks are complete you may store them for use. For best results store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and use jewel cases. If your hard drive ever needs to be replaced you can run these disks to reinstall the recovery partition on your hard drive so that you can use it in the manner you used the old drive's recovery partition. Restores will be used when the operating system is damaged beyond easy repair by a virus or when a new drive needs to be swapped in so you can use the computer again. It is the equivalent of a fresh install of Windows, but it is done for you in such a way that is easier and makes sure the software the company installed remains on the PC.

Restores can be accessed by booting off of the disk or by hitting a key during the boot process. You will usually see it listed on the bios splash screen or before the Windows screen. There are usually 2 types of restores with a factory restore, a destructive restore and a nondestructive restore. Destructive restores delete the contents of the drive and re-installs the OS from scratch. This is for recovering from viruses that you couldn't remove by hand. Non-Destructive restore installs Windows on top of itself and leaves the user data intact. This would be used if you removed the virus yourself but the system has been damaged to the point that it is unusable Running the restores results in a system loaded with new software either just pertaining to the core operating system files (Nondestructive) or new files as a whole(destructive).

In our next lesson we will cover three different scenarios of reloading Windows on your computer.

Day 18: Reloading Windows

Reloading Windows (Fresh Windows Install)

Lesson 18 of 21

In this lesson, we will be taking a good long look at the steps involved for installing a fresh copy of Windows. There are several fundamental things we need to keep in mind, and every situation is different, so we will try to speak on the broadest terms possible. There are typically 2-3 different scenarios where we would need to load a fresh copy of Windows, and each situation is slightly different, so sharing separate thoughts on each is likely the best way to lay out what you need to be thinking about. We will start with the easiest of scenarios - loading Windows on a brand new computer - and move towards more complicated installs. Loading Windows on a New Computer: This is always the easiest situation - no file backups to worry about, all your hardware should be in good working order, and things should go smoothly. There are just a few things you should keep in mind the first time you load Windows. Always keep your driver CDs close to you in case Windows does not have something preloaded. In most cases, just make sure you have your network card or modem driver handy, because you will want to download all the latest drivers anyway. This brings us to the next point; installing Windows is easy, but after you are up and running, you will want to go and download all the necessary Windows Updates. Be sure to get the latest service packs and any hardware updates they offer. In most cases, Microsoft will take care of all the driver updates you need, unless you have an aftermarket video card. In that case, if it is an ATI or Nvidia (two of the most common), you will want to go to their website and download the latest drivers to make sure you are getting the maximum performance out of your hardware. It is important to remember new drivers come out all the time, and keeping them updated is an important step to keeping your computer running right. As a general rule, stay away from Beta edition drivers unless you are someone who likes to tweak your system often, as they can cause issues. Really, after you get all the drivers installed, there's not much left to do. Simply install whatever programs you need, make sure you have a good virus protection software and anti-spyware, and you're off and running. We wish all Windows installations were this easy! Reinstalling Windows on a Crashed System: Here, the situation is a little trickier; you may be dealing with a virus, spyware, or all sorts of other errors. If you follow the same process every time, things should go smoothly. The first thing to do is, if possible take the hard drive out of the computer and plug it into another one to back up the files. Make sure the other computer's system is running an updated version of antivirus, but other than that, you should be good. If you dont have the luxury of having another computer laying around with enough free space to back up your hard drive, may have to get a bit more creative, such as burning several CD's, or buying an external hard drive. To start the reinstall, you will want to put the Windows CD into the computer and make sure it boots from CD. If you turn your computer on and nothing happens, you will need to go into the BIOS (typically by tapping Del or some function key right when you turn the computer on). You will want to make sure that the boot order starts off with CD. Since every BIOS is different, its tough to give straightforward directions on where to find this option, but look around - it should be fairly easy to find. Once you launch the install, there are two ways to reinstall Windows. One involves deleting the current folder Windows is installed in, and the other is formatting and reinstalling. I find that in

most cases deleting the current Windows installation works well - all of your files will remain, but it will delete the registry. What that means is that you will have to reinstall all of your programs, as well. If you dont have to save your files, you might was well do a fresh installation by formatting - but for those who cannot backup their data, deleting the Windows folder is typically the best option. Loading a Fresh Copy of Windows on a Crashed System: This is usually a worst case scenario, unless of course you have no files that you needed to save. You run it the same way you would as the install on a new computer, except by choosing to format the drive. I always stay away from a quick format, and opt for the traditional one when asked. After you load the fresh copy of Windows, load up the drivers, updates and software. Sometimes systems are at a total loss (and this situation stinks, we know!), but it is what it is, and often times troubleshooting an issue is far more trouble than it is worth. Sometimes you just have to cut bait and wipe it clean. At least your computer will be back at its top performing levels. Reloading Windows in any situation is a stressful situation; make sure you make regular backups of important files as a user to avoid disaster. That way, if you ever need to wipe your computer clean, you at least have nearly everything safe and sound on a DVD, CD, or flash drive. Making sure you have the latest drivers (and software updates are always something to remember, as well) to make sure you are at the optimal setup. Take your time, go slow, and things will be just fine. Install Process Make sure the computer is set to boot from cd. Insert the Windows disk and restart the PC, after it starts a screen should appear saying "press any key to boot from cd". Windows will load some drivers and start the Setup Program.

After the drivers finish loading and Setup starts you will be greeted with this screen

Setup is to install Windows, the Recovery Console is where you go to run commands like checkdsk and fixboot. After hitting setup you will be presented with a EULA Agreement screen.

You definitely do not need to read it each time but I would recommend that you read it through one time. Upon agreeing to the EULA by hitting F8 you will be shown this screen which contains the detected installs of Windows currently on the system. If it sees no installs due to file damage or from there simply being no OS software on the disk, it will show the drive itself.

Hitting R at this screen while an install is selected is how you perform an in place install or a "repair" installation. It removes the Windows system files and re-installs them. Leaves the user documents and programs intact, although they may need to be reinstalled anyhow. Hitting escape indicates that you want to install a fresh copy of Windows If you have any questions at all, shoot on over to our forum and ask away. In our next lesson, we will cover user customization.

Day 19: User Customization

User Customization Lesson 19 of 21 Some people are not happy with the stock Windows installation. They either don't like the way it looks or don't like the way it functions.

Maybe they just want their productivity environment to reflect something of their personality instead. For these people you can customize Windows to fit your tastes; changing the desktop, using different themes, even different shells.

Sounds and software can be setup. Batch files can be used to group files or even open multiple WebPages at the same time if you browse the same 5 every morning for updates or your daily news. User customization goes beyond the Operating System. Web browsers, office software, even the lowly text editor can receive a touch of you through customization.

There are more ways to customize than just adding colors and changing the way something looks. If you think about an Operating System and the software you install as an add on then it isnt too hard to see what add-ons do for a web browser. Pieces of software you install to either add or correct functionality of a web browser.

In our next lesson we will cover how to setup adequate security. It will cover how to setup the basic settings that will help ensure long periods of safety and stability for the new user.

Day 20: Using MSCONFIG

Lesson 20 of 21
Let's take a look at one of the most powerful little tools Windows has to offer. The msconfig tool has loads of features, and the power to speed up your computer like new or create more headaches than you have ever seen. Bottom line is, if you know about this tool, you can be very effective at repairing your computer and helping out other people fix computer lock up issues, boot up failures, long boot up times, and general computer slowness. There are several sections in the msconfig tool, and in this lesson we will go through each and talk a little about each one. First of all, to launch the tool, the steps are very easy - simply click the Start button, and select the run option. Then all you need to do is type msconfig, and hit the enter button on your keyboard. What pops up will look a lot like what you see below. We should let you know, this

tool is available in most versions of Microsoft Windows right out of the box. If you want to use it for Windows 2000, you'll need to do a little work to install it.

The tabs across the top read General, system.ini, boot.ini, services, and startup. The two most important tabs we deal with are the services and startup tab. The three tabs for ini files simply display some information that your computer uses. In some cases, we have had to make edits to the boot.ini when windows is showing there are two versions installed, but other than that you almost never need those. Below we will break down the services and startup tab. The Startup Tab: Once you click on this tab, you will see a long list of all the programs that are starting up along with your computer. These are programs that constantly run in the background. A long list of programs here can be what leads to very slow boot up time, and general computer slowness due to lack of resources. To the far left you will see the startup item; this is basically the formal name of whatever might be loading. Sometimes you will be able to tell what it is, other times you may need to type the name into Google to see exactly what it is. The next section is Command. This shows you where the executable file is located (the file that launches the program). The third column is location; this tells you where in the computer's registry the command to start the program is located. Now that we have defined what the columns mean, it's time to actually talk about how to use the program. This tab's power is basically derived from the check boxes you will see to the far left of the startup item. Checking or unchecking an item gives you the power to disable software that may be slowing down your computer, malfunctioning, or conflicting with another piece of software. As a general rule, when people bring their slow computers in to us, this is one of the first areas we look. Often times, there is very little your computer actually needs running - though things like printer drivers, anti virus programs, etc. should be running. That said, there is no need for

programs like Microsoft Office, chat programs, quick time, and others to be constantly loaded in your task bar. It just slows your computer down. One quick pass through the msconfig can make your PC boot twice as fast, and typically be more responsive in general - not to mention the power it has to fix software that isnt working. A Word Of Caution: Before you start disabling all sorts of stuff in your Startup tab, make sure you do your research, find out what it is, and always do 1 at a time. Your computer will need to reboot after each removal, but by only doing 1 at a time, if something goes wrong, you will easily be able to reenable whatever you disabled, as opposed to trying to figure out which one of the 20 you disabled did it. Services Tab: The services tab is pretty similar. Instead of showing software that is running with your computer at startup, it shows services that run - things like windows audio and task scheduler. This piece should only be used for troubleshooting purposes. There isnt much value to going in there and blindly disabling things your computer may need, but it does pay to be aware of items in there at any given time. If something looks suspect, take some time and research what it actually is, and if you need it or not. The system does actually tell you if the service is essential or not, but it's important that you know for sure. Wow, this lesson got a little long; its just that there is so much to know about msconfig. Hopefully, down the road, we will have time to release a special, more advanced look at the tool. The bottom line is, it can be a very helpful troubleshooting and optimization tool that you should be familiar with. Installing Software Lesson 21 of 21 A computer only has the functions of the software it can run. An operating system does nothing by itself but provide an environment to run programs inside of. The software is what makes the computer useful. Some of the software that needs to be installed to give your user full functionality includes things like Office suites or text editors, photo editors, media players and other programs that some people need to fulfill their needs. Most of us know how to download and install or buy and install software. What about software that is required for media that might not come with a good explanation? What about Codecs? A codec is a word that stands for encoder/decoder. It is the required files to play compressed media. Ever stick a DVD in a fresh install of Vista or XP and watch Windows Media Player tell you that you dont have the necessary software to play this video. Try to open a .PDF without Adobes Reader software or something similar like Foxit Pro and you will get the same errors. .Rar files will do the same. I will show you some software that you can install for free to give a user the most usability out of the gate. They can replace the software with their paid software of choice if they desire. More and more people these days have heard of Firefox. Fast, Secure, and Free. It is also highly customizable with it's add-on system and plugin support.

Get it here.

Media Player Classic is a media player that plays just about every file format under the sun. When it doesn't, there's usually someone on the forums who can tell you how to make it work.

Get it here.

Foxit Pro is a free and quick alternative to Adobe Reader for viewing PDF Files.

Get it here.

7Zip is a program that can open and create Zip, Rar, 7z, and many more types of compressed files.

Get it here.

Paint.Net is a free photo editor that will help you manipulate and edit your pictures.

Get it here.

OpenOffice is a free office suite with compatability and feature parity with Office 2007/2010

Get it here.

MSE is a free antivirus for those who have legitamate copies of the Windows operating system.

Get it here. These are just a few examples of the free software that can help enhance yours and many other people's computer using experience. Well, this is the last day of the 21 Day Computer Repair Email Course, but that doesn't mean you have to stop learning!