- McAfee. I don't use them anymore but there's nothing wrong
wrong with them. They've solved a lot of my problems in the past.
- Symantec's SAM (Symantec
Anti-Virus used to be the anti-virus software on all of my computers.
I like the way it is integrated with Norton Utilities and all the other Norton software.
I got annoyed when I had to buy a copy for all of my computers and they started charging almost the
cost of a new box to renew the AntiVirus subscriptions every year. I remember when they charged $4.95
a year to renew the subscription. The 2004 version is the last one that worked on Windows 98; 2006 was
the last one that worked on Windows 2000. The latest Norton 360 can be installed on three computers so
that's good as a family pack (but not quite the deal if you have only one computer).
- These days I use Trend Micro's internet security suite.
In August, 2007, it was rated the best buy of 10 different packages in Consumer Reports and not only
could it be installed on three computers and come with a firewall, it cost cheaper than Norton.
- For "malware", I use Malwarebytes. I swear by
this; it's solved a lot of problems that the standard antivirus programs can't.
- Avast - Free anti-virus software.
- AVG - Free antivirus software.
- No-Script for Firefox. Don't let any scripts run in your browswer without your approval.
Buy or Build
I prefer to build my own computers. The price of all the
pieces will be around the price of an assembled unit, but you gain some
knowledge from building it. I also think you can get better parts than the equivalent assembled computer.
Comparing prices between any two computers is pointless because
you're most likely comparing apples to oranges.
At one point, I got some weird noise from my computer and then it finally wouldn't boot because
of a problem with the CPU fan. I just opened up the case, took out the CPU, removed the fan/heatsink
and found a replacement at the MicroCenter. I liked the
old heatsink better so I just removed the new fan from its heatsink and attached it to the old
heatsink. Total cost? $10. At this point, I don't bother putting the screws back on the computers'
cases because I know I'll eventually be opening them up again.
Learning how to install Windows® on the computers makes it more likely that
I will be able to trouble-shoot any problems that arise with the operating system.
And many times I managed to rebuild Windows or fix serious Windows problems without
wiping the hard drive.
I prefer full ATX motherboards because they come with full set of peripheral sockets. I also prefer at least
Mid-tower cases so I have the capacity to add multiple devices (e.g., CD burner, DVD player, ZIP drive, 3.5" and 5.25"
Maintenance on laptops are pain since they suffer from the same problems as desktops but
in a much more compact form. It's like the difference between fixing a Chevy and fixing an Audi.
The Chevy uses old technology for which there is a long record of proven parts and therefore is cheaper and
easier to fix. On an Audi, they use new technology and pack everything in to make a smaller car; of course,
you have to take everything apart to get to the broken pieces. I had to take an Inspiron 1521 apart to take out
the thickest hairball I've ever seen in a computer fan. Since the air intake for a lot of laptop fans are on
the bottom of the computer, it's not a good idea to use them on a bed or on a carpeted floor.
Broadband and Networking
My favorite website for broadband information has got to be
This has everything you need to know about Broadband Service around the US, which vendors
are preferred and what equipment you might want.
has a variety of useful information for networking your computers at home.
One important difference between Microsoft Windows' "Home" and "Professional" editions of their operating systems: The Professional
version is geared for businesses so it'll be supported much longer than the home version. If you build a Windows 98
machine now, you can't get any patches for it off the Microsoft website (it's 2008 right now).
Sales for the various Windows home operating systems is suppose to end two years after the next version comes out.
A lot of my favorite games of all time will work only on
Windows 98 so I'll need one of those machines around. Since I can't get new antivirus software for Windows 98, I won't
bother putting Internet access on it.
Supported for Windows XP Professional ends in July, 2014. I expect to go to Windows 7 by then deprived Microsoft
of the joy of separating me and my money for at least one, possibly two, generations of Windows.
- Red Hat Linux
Back in the old days (like version 5.1), you could put Linux on just about any PC and it'd
work better/faster than the equivalent Windows OS on it. That's getting harder to do these
days since they're adding more and more features so they require more resources just to
install. I had a stand-alone machine with Fedora Core 5
and I had to add additional memory to install with the graphic interface. Fedora Core 5 takes up 5 CD's
I try to use at least two hard drives on my computers, with a smaller one for the
I will install the operating system on the C: drive and not put anything else
on it. This isolates the operating system from the data and the applications.
If I need to reinstall Windows®, I can just reformat the C: drive without
affecting my data (though you'll probably have to reinstall all your applications).
I then try to put the swap file on another hard drive.
If you have only one (larger) hard drive, you can still benefit from this by
creating several partitions for your OS, data, and applications, respectively.
I will put my data files on the D: drive. If the C: drive goes bad, then the
data on the D: drive will be safe (unless you had only one hard drive with several
partitions instead). With all the data in one place, it's easier to find all
your information in one place when it comes time to back up your information.
If you have to defrag your partitions/hard drives, you can just defrag the
partition that is fragmented and not have to do the others.
If at all possible, I put all the applications on a E: drive, separate from the
operating system. The applications rarely "move" around on the hard drive, especially
if you don't store your data on that drive. This means that you'll rarely have
to defrag your E: drive.
Some hard drive vendors:
- Western Digital
I bought three Fujitsu drives because of their No Excuse
return policy. I had one drive that started giving me
errors and I eventually started losing data. I had the drive for
less than a year and I got a new drive from them. They sent me the
new one and I sent back the old one. The new one was even bigger
(more Megs) than the old one!
- Quantum's disk drive business
was taken over by Maxtor.
I've had a bunch of Maxtors and never had a problem with them.
- Seagate Technologies
These days, unless you're a serious gamer, it doesn't matter which video card
you buy because they're now better than most of the older top-of-the-line cards
that came out a few years ago. Back in those days, you needed a special add-on
3D card on top of your legacy card to handle some of the cool game graphics.
Most cards today or even the on-board graphic chips offer more graphic memory
than the add-on cards I bought.
For those with a brand-name computer where the video is built into the
motherboard, a better video card with more memory might be a low-cost
alternative to buying a new (faster) computer to handle certain games that
don't display correctly.
An add-on card can easily be installed and used in computers with the
built-in video; just plug the monitor into the new card. Check to see if you have
to shut off the on-board video in the BIOS.
The current battle is between NVidia and
ATI Technologies, Inc. for the fastest GPU.
Most other vendors use the chips provided by these two companies.
Some graphics vendors:
- ATI Technologies, Inc.
- Diamond Multimedia
For a long time I had bought only Diamond Multimedia video cards but then they got out of
the business of graphic video cards. Last I heard, they're getting back into it.
Makers of the Voodoo graphics cards; at one time, they owned the market.
3dfx is out of business now but you can still
find their cards on E-Bay.
- Creative Technology
If you're a gamer playing first-person shooters, you might to consider getting
a 4-speaker setup. It's amazing when you can hear a monster sneaking up *behind* you.
When everyone else says "Soundblaster-compatible",
that just tells me I should be buying *only* Soundblaster, right?
I scavenge old sound cards from discarded computers so occasionally I need drivers
for Ensoniq sound cards (used in some OEM computers. Drivers available from
- US Robotics
Trivia: Do you know where they came up with the name for this
creators of the ZIP drive. The Parallel Port version is
is nice because you can use it on different computers, but the
ATAPI/IDE version is so much faster. I *strongly suggest* formatting
each disk and then doing a SCANDISK on each ZIP floppy.
If it weren't bulky, I'd use these all the time because they seem to
last longer than my flash drives.
I've used several different brands of motherboards, but Asus has been the
most reliable and most often bought. A friend of mine buys *only* Asus for
use in computers for his customers so that's a good sign.
- Windows Magazine
This is a must for anyone with a Windows machine.
- PC Gamer
I like this magazine for its reviews of games and helpful hints.
Last updated September 29, 2006.
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