Category Archives: Computer

Top 5 Tips to Improve Computer Case Noise

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I’ve asked for your “Top 5” tips and tricks. We’ve all had problems with loud computer noises at times, so when I got this email I had to share it. Here it is in its entirety:

Hi Chris!
I’ve read that you are always looking for top 5 top tips for various issues, so here are mine.

Like many people, I have my computer located in my bedroom, and like many people, I also have it on 24/7. Now, as you probably know, as the components in a PC get older, they tend to get progressively noisier. This becomes a problem when you’re trying to sleep.

Now, if you don’t have a screwless atx case,a relatively “old” PC like I do, and you have a noisy computer which doesn’t let you fall asleep, here are some tips I’ve gathered along the years to help you diagnose and reduce computer case noise:

  • Make sure all the screws that hold the drives, motherboard and cards are tight You don’t want them too tight, as you might damage the screws. Also, when you install a drive check all screw holes, it may seem that two screws are enough to hold it in place but most of that “metal rattling” noise comes either from loosely mounted drives, cards or the case’s side lids. If the lids in your case are the “sliding lock” type, make sure they are aligned perfectly and put the screws on the back! I know it’s easier to leave them out if you’re constantly opening your case, but as you do this the lids get looser and eventually there’s that metal rattle again. So keep it tight.
  • Get a quality power supply. This is usually one of the components where manufacturers cut costs, so stock PSU’s tend to be cheap and noisy. It’s also one of the most critical components in your system, so not only are you’re reducing the noise your computer generates, you’re also reducing the risk of frying it because of a low quality PSU. Believe me, it’s not that uncommon. There’s some great brands out there so just pick a good PSU that suits you, and your wallet. They are a bit more expensive than a generic PSU, but in the long run it’s worth it.
  • Replace the stock fans on your case. Again, stock case fans on a “regular” PC are as cheap and noisy as they make them. A good low db fan is inexpensive (8-10$ range) and less prone to getting noisier as they age. Also, a neat trick is to put some rubber rings between the fan and the case, as that absorbs some of the vibration that is transmitted.
  • Check the connectors from your peripherals. This was more common when COM and Serial ports were popular because most of the connectors were plastic cases with screws instead of molded plastic. Some ports in modern computers as VGA and DVI are still “COM like” ports and can buzz when they are loose, so make sure they are firmly inserted and the screws are tight. It’s not that common with USB or Firewire because of the nature of the pin connectors, but some USB ports have a thin metal foil between the connector and the port, and when it’s loose it can sometimes produce some buzz.
  • Don’t install a giant CPU cooler just because it looks cool. If you aren’t into do serious overclocking with your computer you don’t really need it, and if you do want to overclock and are inexperienced in handling hardware, ask for help from someone who is. When wrongly installed, these “monster” heatsinks can produce some serious buzz and rattle.

That’s it. I know that cases where you have to “screw” everything are becoming a thing of the past, but many people still have them so I hope you find this helpful.

Helder from Portugal

SC_Thor also joined me for this discussion. Who knew he had a PH D in computer case noise reduction? Just kidding, Allan. Here are a few more tips from him:

  • Use a bigger fan. It will turn slower, but push the same amount of air. This will cause the fan to be quieter.
  • When buying a new computer, check the dB (Decibles) and the CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) .
  • Purchase a fan with a temperature sensor. This sensor will automatically slow down or speed up the fan, depending on the temperature of the computer.
  • Look into getting Heat Pipes. Heat pipes are self-contained, phase-change cooling devices that take advantage of changes in heat to convert a liquid – called the “working liquid” – into vapor and then back again. When a liquid changes phase to a vapor, the vapor absorbs heat, is transported away from the heat source, and then releases heat when it condenses back into liquid. The heat released is dissipated and the cycle repeats.

There you have it. Not the top 5 tips… more like the top nine or so! Keep sending me your top 5 lists of computer tips and tricks. You never know when yours will end up in a video!

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Change Your Desktop Theme in Windows XP

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Have your meeting online, with GoToMeeting. You can get a free 45-day trial at

Several people joined me on a GoToMeeting. Using that, we can share and see each others’ desktops, as well as talk to each other. During this video, one of the chatters shared with us the site he uses to customize his desktop.

GoToMeeting is a great way to conference in several people at once. I’ve been using it for about a week now, and we’ve had a great time getting a bunch of our community members together. The interaction has sparked some excellent conversation.

One of the chatters has a really cool desktop, and was asked where he got it from. There are two different places he goes: and At both sites, you can obtain free images to use for your desktop wallpaper.

Changing your wallpaper on your XP desktop is simple. Once you’ve saved the picture you want to use, do the following:

  • Right click anywhere on your desktop and choose “properties”.
  • Click on the “desktop” tab
  • Click “browse”, and navigate to where your picture is saved, then select it.
  • Click “Apply”, and you’re all set! You can also choose whether to display the picture centered, stretched, or tiled.

Also, you can simply navigate to your picture on your hard drive, right click on it, and choose to “save as desktop background”… you just don’t get the options to center it, etc.

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Save on Printer Toner and Ink

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – My round table gang and I came up with a few tips to help you save on expensive ink for your printers.

Three of my friends joined me for this discussion: Kat, SC_Thor, and Wirelesspacket.

Wirelesspacket works in the commercial printing industry. He definitely is against using off brand cartridges, or refill kits. The ink just isn’t as good, and honestly doesn’t last as long. I’ve noticed that as well, and always recommend using the manufacturer’s brand for your particular printer.

Another thing you can do is to change your print layout. Print using Economy mode, instead of the default basic mode. This will save you a lot of ink in the long run, and you won’t really notice any difference in the quality.

When it comes to “practice” printing for color brochures and documents, always print your tests out in black and white. Of course you’re going to want at least one test run in full color. But when you’re just checking the layout and things, use black and white. Colored ink is not cheap!

Lastly, make sure to buy a printer with separate cartridges for color and black ink. This will save you a lot of money, as well.

What other tips and tricks do you have for saving ink cartridges and toners? How do you save money?

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How Many Computers do you Have in your House?

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – Which is preferable? One machine that runs a lot of virtual machines for separate tasks? Or would you rather have more than one machine, each maybe dedicated to specific purposes?

SC_Thor feels that it is better to run one good system, and use Virtual Machines to run separate tasks. Datalore, however, feels it is better to use multiple machines for resource-intensive work, and dedicate each machine to a specific task.

Personally, I can see both sides of it. My Mac mini is only used for the live stream. Running CamTwist for the stream is very intensive on resources, so the mini is never used for anything else. No way I’d ever try to run the stream through my regular work machine.

What do you think? Is it better to run one machine… or several? Let me hear from you!

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Computer Giveaway!

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – Tonight was the big computer giveaway!! The chat room and live stream were flooded with over 400 of you!

THANK YOU to all of you who entered, and joined us tonight! It was crazy and full of mayhem… but it was an awesome experience. We’ll definitely do this again, don’t worry!

Congratulations to our computer winner… WIRELESSPACKET!!! He is subscribed, he did comment on the video, and he was present in the chat room!

Wait… a DOUBLE giveaway?! Apparently, wirelesspacket told Kat a week ago that if he somehow won, he would give her his Mac Mini. When we got him and Kat on a Skype conference after the giveaway, he told everyone he meant it! So congratulations to our video converter Kat, as well!!

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How to Find a Good Computer Repair Person

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – According to research conducted by CBC News, only 3 out of 10 technicians who may come to your home actually know what they are doing. This is not just sad, it’s downright scary.

Four of my friends joined me for this discussion: Kat, SC_Thor, Wirelesspacket, and last but certainly not least… Datalore.

For the research, they modified a computer to simulate a common hardware failure. Then they called in the geeks. The result? Only three of the ten technicians who saw the machine managed to correctly diagnose the problem.

What can you do to keep yourself from being taken? Do your research. Ask for recommendations. Check credentials. Ask questions… and get a second opinion when necessary.

Not all home repair technicians are bad. Some of the smaller operations (or ONE man operations) are the best you’ll find in the business. However, just be careful. Know who you’re talking to and letting into your home… and giving access to your sensitive information on your pc.

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Spam Fighting Tools: Desktop or ISP Hosted?

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – The last topic the round table discussed is whether or not Spam fighting tools should be run server side, or via your desktop.

Four of my friends joined me for this discussion: Kat, SC_Thor, Wirelesspacket, and last but certainly not least… Datalore.

SC_Thor hosts many clients with his company, and uses SpamAssassin to block the Spam from getting through to his clients. SpamAssassin is open-source, and can be run server-side… or via desktop using one of the modified versions people have created. SpamAssassin uses a wide variety of local and network tests to identify spam signatures. This makes it harder for spammers to identify one aspect which they can craft their messages to work around. Anti-spam tests and configuration are stored in plain text, making it easy to configure and add new rules. SpamAssassin requires very little configuration; you do not need to continually update it with details of your mail accounts, mailing list memberships, etc. Once classified, site and user-specific policies can then be applied against spam. Policies can be applied on both mail servers and later using the user’s own mail user-agent application.

Whether you use something server-side, or locally installed on your desktop, make sure you choose a program that allows YOU to set your own customization. You shouldn’t tell the program to automatically delete the emails before you see them. Mark them, yes. Delete them? No… there can be false positives in any program. You don’t want to lose something important, simply because someone chose to use an odd subject line that got marked as Spam.

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Dealing with Hard Drives NAS, eSATA, and ZFS

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – The round table got into a pretty deep discussion about SATA drives, and different ways of getting more storage on your computer.

Four of my friends joined me for this discussion: Kat, SC_Thor, Wirelesspacket, and last but certainly not least… Datalore.

An eSATA port is built into most newer motherboards. This is a port built right into the back of your computer that allows you to plug in an external hard drive directly, allowing it to run at much faster speeds.

Drobo is the world’s first storage robot. It keeps your data safe by automatically monitoring and repairing problems that could put your data at risk.

ZFS is a new kind of file system that provides simple administration, transactional semantics, end-to-end data integrity, and immense scalability. ZFS is not an incremental improvement to existing technology; it is a fundamentally new approach to data management.

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System File Checker and Utilities

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – It’s awesome when you guys send me your computer tips and tricks. One I just received recently talks about using your Windows System File Checker to make sure all of your critical system files are intact.

System File Checker is built into Windows to scan your critical system files for errors. If it finds a problem, it will attempt to replace the problematic files from the DLL Cache. If the file is not in the DLL Cache or the DLL Cache is corrupted, the user will be prompted to insert the Windows installation media or provide the network installation path.

You can access this tool by going to Start>Run on your computer, and then type in sfc /scannow.

Another application the email brought up is Advance Window Care. This is purportedly a free program that helps keep your Windows computer “clean”.

I don’t really advocate using programs like this. They usually tend to do more harm than good. I know a case where a woman had to reformat her work computer, losing a TON of critical files, after using a registry cleaning program. The person who told her to use it gave her incomplete instructions, and the system was damaged beyond repair. This happens more often than you realize. Average users think they should just click a button on a powerful program like this, and let it do the work for them. Unfortunately, disater can and does happen.

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Amazing MIDI Music Visualization

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – I have always loved MIDI files, absolutely LOVE them. There is a way cool new application that will allow you to play MIDI files, and instrumentize them. This free program just blows me away. It’s fun, and keeps me occupied for hours.

A MIDI file (or Musical Instrument Digital Interface file is an industry-standard protocol that enables electronic musical instruments, computers and other equipment to communicate, control and synchronize with each other. MIDI does not transmit an audio signal or media — it simply transmits digital data “event messages” such as the pitch and intensity of musical notes to play, control signals for parameters such as volume, vibrato and panning, cues and clock signals to set the tempo.

With the new free Midi Jam program, you can drag and drop your Midi files… and watch the fun begin. The program automatically detects what instruments are being played, and you can watch the instruments play themselves… in complete synchronization with the music! How cool is that?

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