How to Fix Your Slow Computer With Hardware Upgrades

As you install and run more software on your computer, over time, the computer will start to run more slowly. This happens because the additional software is making greater demands from your hardware. You can address the problem by either reducing the software or increasing your hardware resources.

If you decide to upgrade your hardware, there are 3 parts of your computer that can be upgraded to improve your PC speed: the RAM memory, your disk drive and the CPU+motherboard combo.

Upgrading your RAM or a disk drive is easy and you can do it yourself, in a few simple steps. Upgrading your CPU is difficult and involves replacing the whole motherboard. I would not recommend upgrading your CPU, yourself, unless you know what you are doing.

Upgrading your RAM

Dollar for dollar, increasing your PC's RAM is the best value for money upgrade you can perform. Right now I would recommend having 1 Gig of RAM for low end machines, 2Gig for middle of the road machines and 3 Gig for high end computers. You are unlikely to benefit from having more than 3 Gig.

You can tell how much RAM you currently have installed, in Windows XP and Vista, by opening the control panel and going into the system section.

There are a number of different types of RAM and they operate at different speeds. RAM speed is measured in MHz. The type of RAM and the speed that is allowed is determined by your motherboard. You can look up the type and speed of RAM you can use in your motherboard manual. I recommend getting the highest speed RAM allowed.

Open the computer tower and locate the RAM slots there could be 2-4 slots, if you don't see them check your motherboard manual. After locating the nearest available Slot simply insert the new module into the slot, taking careful note of the groves on the DIMM and the Locking clip to position the Module properly. If the DIMM does not fit you probably have it positioned incorrectly so flip it around and try reinserting it. Once the RAM module is in place apply pressure to the locking clips to secure it, you should hear a click as they close on the DIMM. Then just re-start your PC, go to the control panel and open the system section to ensure your computer has detected the new DIMM and it is working correctly.

Upgrading your hard drive

Hard drive speed is measured in RPM, that is the number of times the hard drive rotates in one minute. I recommend buying a 7,200 RPM hard drive. Before purchasing a new hard drive consult your motherboard guide to find out what type of hard drives are supported. If your motherboard supports SATA drives, buy one of those.

Once you have purchased your new hard drive it is time to prepare for the install. First install any software that came with your drive. Then power down the computer and open the case.

Setting jumpers (This is only for IDE hard drives):

The different jumper settings will be shown on a diagram on top of the hard drive. If you have one drive that drive should be set to the single drive mode. If you have multiple drives, the one drive needs to be set to master and the rest of them to the slave mode.

Insert your new drive in an open drive bay. These bays are generally located in the front of the tower. Fix the drive in place with screws.

Look at both your mother board and drive manual and connect the drive using the relevant IDE or SATA cables.

Now that the hard work is done the only thing left to do is close back up your system, plug it in, and turn it on to verify that the new hard drive is working properly.

By Sid Gaunt

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Reducing Costs - WAN Acceleration

WAN Acceleration

According to Gartner, WAN optimization is about improving the performance of business applications over WAN connections. Most networks carry a variety of types of traffic, of differing characteristics and importance. Many organizations are striving to manage this traffic to optimize the response times of critical applications and reduce costs, given that bandwidth continues to represent a significant proportion of operating expenditure for wide-area data networks.

The primary function of a Web Optimization Controller (WOC) is to improve the response times of business-critical applications over WAN links, but they can also help to maximize return on the investment in WAN bandwidth, and sometimes avoid the need for costly bandwidth upgrades. To achieve these objectives, WOCs use a combination of techniques, including:

- Ensuring fair access for mission-critical applications during periods of congestion by prioritizing business critical traffic, through QoS policing and traffic shaping, for example

- Minimizing the effects of network latency using methods like protocol- and application-specific optimization

- Reducing the bandwidth required to transfer WAN traffic by compressing it, for example.

Click here to read more from Gartner about the WAN optimization market.

The WOC market is maturing rapidly, but it is still dynamic with a high level of vendor innovation.This has led to different vendors offering different combinations of features. In order to ensure that the most effective solution is put in place, providing the best overall return on investment, a detailed analysis should first be undertaken. This will establish:

- The real bandwidth you are achieving

- The real usage of that bandwidth

- Applications and services running on your network and the protocols they use

Also conduct a detailed analysis of your network traffic to identify specific problems, for example, excessive latency, bandwidth over subscription or lack of prioritization for certain types of traffic.

By Annabelle Ross

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How to Update Drivers on Your Computer

Drivers, as the name implies, is the driving force of the apparatus we are using. Basically, it is a piece of software, or a small program that controls a device. Every piece of device we use or connect to our computer must have its own driver for it to work. Examples of these devices are printers, cameras, disk drives, and even keyboards. However most of the time, for the keyboard and mouse, the driver is automatically loaded and installed on the computer's operating system.

For the video card and sound card though, we may have to pull out that disk installer that came with our computer (the motherboard disk) when we first purchased it (that is if your video and sound card is a part of your motherboard). If in case we purchased the cards separately from your motherboard, we may have to use the disk provided along with those cards as they have the drivers saved in those disks.

Now, if it was that easy then why do we need to update our drivers? Well, there are times that unfortunate accidents happen to our computers that may cause them to work silly or be dysfunctional. When that happens, a usual quick fix for this is to disable and then re-enable the driver. If that doesn't work, uninstall and then reinstall the device. Not working yet? Check the version that you have and then check the latest version on the internet. Do they match? If yes, call a resident technician to have them verify it. If the answer is no, then update the driver. Usually that fixes the issue.

First, we must check if our drivers need a boost. And we can do that by pulling up our Device Manager Window. Now, there are three ways for that. One is to pull up My Computer, and then at the left part of that new screen, under System Tasks, we must click on View System Information. Clicking on that will pull up our System Properties Window. Once we are already on that screen, select the Hardware Tab and then click on the Device Manager window. Viola, the Device Manager Window is up.

Another way for us to pull it up is by right-clicking on My Computer, select Properties, and then in the System Properties Window, select Hardware, and then Device Manager. Still frustrated with the multiple steps? Okay, here's the run command shortcut, devmgmt.msc. We can use that by clicking on Start, selecting Run, and then typing that in the Run box before clicking on OK.

Okay, now that we have Device Manager up, what is next? Next step is to check if we have any drivers that are in need of updating. Basically, we are checking for splats on our Device Manager screen. Look for any question marks, exclamation points, or red X marks. For the question marks (?), the driver is not yet installed. If you have a disk for it, I advise you to plug that in your disk drive and install it. If there is a red X mark, this means the device is disabled.

To fix this, right-click on it and select Properties, in that window, click on Enable Device. Lastly, we get to exclamation points, here, we right-click on the name or icon of the said device and then we select on Update Driver. There, the splats should already be gone from your list. Once that is done, check if you are still experiencing issues. I'm pretty sure that just fixed it.

By Patrick Haddellin

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Guide to Upgrading Your Laptop Graphics Card

1. Check Your Laptop's Compatibility
The first thing you need to check - before you even go out to buy a new dedicated graphics card for your laptop - is to see if your existing laptop can support that new card. The best place for checking this information is your laptop manual. If you have trouble, you can also check with your laptop manufacturer.

Important note: In my experience, I have found that usually only Dell laptops can be easily upgraded. My of my readers or friends upgrading laptops from other manufacturers run into problems one way or another. So investing in a Dell gaming laptop might be a good idea to support future graphics cards upgrades.

2. Precise Steps For Upgrading Your Laptop Graphics Card
Now we will delve into the precise steps for upgrading your laptop graphics card. It's really quite a simple procedure.

* Step 1: Remove the hinge. The first thing you need to do is to remove the hinge on the laptop. On newer laptops, you might not need to do this - you can just open a panel at the bottom side of the laptop.
* Step 2: Detach the keyboard. The next step is to remove the keyboard - take out the screws beneath your laptop's hinge cover to do this. Sometimes, with newer laptops, you can just remove the keyboard using convenient latches on the chassis.
* Step 3: Remove the display assembly. This can be a bit tricky. What you need to do is to remove the display assembly (i.e. the entire laptop screen) by removing screws on the back and bottom of your laptop. Carefully remove any video and Wi-Fi cables as well.
* Step 4: Remove the laptop shell. Next thing to do is to remove the upper shell of your laptop. You should now see the graphics card you want to replace.
* Step 5: Replace your graphics card. Now you should slowly and carefully insert your new laptop graphics card into the laptop's interior.
* Step 6: Re-assemble everything back together. Once the new graphics card is in place, you just do the reverse steps as spelt out above and re-assemble the whole laptop together again.

3. Test The Newly Installed Graphics Card
The last thing to do is to fire up your laptop and check out the new graphics card! Make sure you download the latest graphics drivers and test it out on your favorite 3D game. If all went well, you should be enjoying crisp and smooth 3D graphics with your new laptop graphics card.

And that's all there is to it! I do hope this article has shown you the steps for installing a new graphics card into your laptop. It's quite a simple procedure, really. Just make sure you follow the instructions above and I'm sure you'll be enjoying your new graphics card before long. So until next time, good luck to you and happy computing!

By Gary Hendricks

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The Best Computer Speakers Today

The best computer speakers are those that provide the sound quality and amplification you need at a price you can afford. The most common types of computer speakers are 2.1 and 5.1. Speakers with 2.1 sound have two audio channels through a left and right speaker on both sides of the monitor as well as a subwoofer. Those with 5.1 sound come with five audio channels and a subwoofer. For standard computer use 2.1 speakers are adequate with prices ranging from $20 to $90. However, if you intend to use your speakers to watch movies or play games, 5.1 speakers are recommended with prices ranging from $40 to $200.

2.1 speakers are more than adequate for most people. If you are on a budget, Altec Lansing's VS2321 is one of the best computer speakers at an average price of $40. For those that want the best quality sound a 2.1 can offer, the Logitech Z-2300 is recommended by CNET. It sells for around $90 and its sound has been described as loud, clear and crisp.

Logitech has a range of computer speakers which are ideal for serious gamers. For example, the Logitech X-540 is affordable and has great sound. It is a versatile 5.1 surround speaker system which you can connect to your computer, gaming consoles, television, ipods, or mp3 players. It is popular with gamers and also with people who listen to music on their P.C. It comes with five speakers and a subwoofer and prices commonly range from $67 to $116.

The Logitech G51 5.1 surround sound speakers also have five speakers and a subwoofer but they pack a bit more punch when it comes to sound. It has received good reviews for gaming and movies but some users find the sound quality insufficient for music. Prices range from $132 to $210.

In PC World, Labriola reviews the Logitech Z-5500 and describes it as the "ultimate 5.1-channel speaker system," giving it four out of five stars. His only criticism is of its default bass settings. These speakers sell for around $220 which some reviewers criticize as being too high. However, Labriola is not alone in considering the Z-5500 one of the best computer speakers on the market, so the price may be well worth it.

Bose Companion III has two speakers and a sub-woofer. For gaming and to watch movies the price is on the high side, however if you also want to play music on your computer, the sound quality of this product is superior. The average price is $250.

For decent 5.1 sound on a budget the Altec Lansing VS3251 at $40 on average, is one of the best computer speakers available.

Before choosing your computer speakers, take the time to think through the ways in which you intend to use them. Are you going to need a good all round speaker with which to enjoy listening to music? Do you intend to watch DVDs on your computer or watch online videos? What about gaming? Or do you want to just have good audio for conversations over the internet? Your budget and the ways in which you want to use your speakers should govern your purchasing decision. Otherwise, you will quickly need to upgrade to get the best computer speakers for your needs.

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What's a DVD About

DVD stands for "Digital Video Disc" or Digital Versatile Disc", it is by far the most popular optical disc storage media format today. It's immediate predecessor was the VCD (or the "Video CD"). The VCD was a decent format for video data until video/movie producers created more technology into their film. The usual size of VCDs were 600-700 mega bytes, video quality was compared to the VCD's predecessor... the VHS tapes. VCD was a a great technology before as analog tapes deteriorate in due time. This equates to video and audio being technically lousy. VCDs offered more protection from the usual environment hazards of fluctuating temperature and humidity.

While VCDs were OK for the time-being, content producers (audio and video) became a little too impatient with how VCDs treated their masterpiece. Picture pixelation and unacceptable sound artifacts abound. Because 600-700 mega bytes limited the number of pixels and decibels a movie can burn in, people wanted better. And so, the DVD.

DVDs can store from 1.36 giga bytes to 15.9 giga bytes. That's a lot of data property to occupy. The basic types of DVD are referred to by a rough approximation of their capacity in gigabytes. A small DVD is called a "cookie" (well, because it is the same size as a cookie).

Here are more technical data about why DVDs store more than VCDs and CDs.

"DVD uses 650nm wavelength laser diode light as opposed to 780 nm for CD or 405 nm for HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc. This permits a smaller pit to be etched on the media surface (1.32 µm for DVD versus 1.6 µm for CD) compared to CDs."

Imagine a glass jar... fill it up with pebbles and you'd probably have a jar of 100 pebbles, fill it up with sand and you'd probably have 5 billion sand grains in there. DVDs are like that, they allow laser to write data so tiny that it can accommodate more data in.

Of course, content producers loved it! Aside from picture and sound quality being perfect, they were able to squeeze into the DVD other content associated data (CAD). Those being director cuts, bloopers, cut scenes, directors commentaries, subtitling, audio language versions... some even put in games and more!

Dual layer recording: Another great feature of the DVD.

A Dual Layer disc differs from its usual DVD counterpart by employing a second physical layer within the disc itself. The drive with Dual Layer capability accesses the second layer by shining the laser through the first semitransparent layer.

Again, this equates to more data property for content producers. All these in the end do justice to the work of film and audio production AND brings consumers the best entertainment possible.

The DVD is a milestone product. I am very sure that from it will springboard more groundbreaking discoveries. For the meantime content producers are well satisfied with what the DVD offers. What is there left for the extra great space available is for ones imagination to conquer.

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