About Aardvark

The aim of this blog is to bring you hints and tips on upgrading and maintaining your PC or laptop. From just keeping your computer running smoothly to adding new components, we will be featuring short articles written in a simple way that anyone can follow!

General Computer Maintenance Tips

Keeping a computer running efficiently for a long period of time is not difficult. If you take the time to work through some simple maintenance tips, you’ll enjoy longevity for your PC. The following PC maintenance tips are not only going to help you keep your computer running well, it will help you keep from getting viruses, losing files, and more.

Always Back Up Your Files

The first thing that you should do is back your files up. You should have a separate hard drive, or thumb drive, and you should save your files daily. You should do this daily, so that you do not lose work or school files, as they are going to be very important.

Scan Regularly For Viruses

You should be scanning for viruses, malware, and adware on a weekly basis. You should do a full scan, even if you feel that you don’t need it. With a good anti-virus program and weekly scans, you can stay on top of these things and quarantine or delete files that are trying to latch onto your system.

You should scan for viruses, malware, adware, and all nefarious files at least once a week. If you aren’t sure that your main antivirus is working, get a secondary source and run another scan. Two scans per week will keep you safe in most internet environments.

Defrag The Hard Drive

No matter how meticulous you are about naming, organizing, and putting away your files, they fragment. Bytes fragment in your computer and cause things to run a bit slow. Defragmenting your hard drive helps organize, delete files, and consolidate bytes that are floating across your hard drive. This will help things run efficiently over time. Windows machines have a simple icon for this, or you can type it into the main search field. Defragging every month can help you keep your hard drive free of errors.

Scan Your Hard Drive For Errors

Scanning the hard drive is not a matter of looking for viruses or things like that. Instead, you’re looking for errors. You’ll find that you can get a program to help you with this, or if you have a Windows machine, you can do it with the software. You’ll need to consider the “properties” tab when you go to C: drive. Once you look for errors, you may be able to repair things easily. Do this every few months just in case.

Back Up Your Entire Hard drive

You can either purchase a separate hard drive and back things up completely, or you can invest in an online solution. Either way, you want to back up your entire drive as an image. You can do this with relative ease, either buying a software program to help, or moving files outright.

Update Your Operating System Regularly 

Do not delay in updating your operating system. This is critical. Whether you have Microsoft or OS or even a form of Linux, make sure you’re updating your operating system on a regular basis. When there is an update released, do not hesitate, as the patches and upgrades could patch known security problems, and more.

Turn Off Your Computer When Not In Use (energy saving)

For those that use a laptop, make sure that you turn off the computer before moving. One of the easiest PC maintenance tips you’ll find is to simply turn your computer off when not in use for a long time. At the very least, use hibernation and sleep modes to ensure that your hard drive isn’t running at all times. Doing so will help the longevity of your computer’s battery, and vital systems.

How to Upgrade Your PC’s RAM

To speed up a computer, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars. Something as simple as updating the RAM memory could very well give you the maximum speeds your processor can deliver. If your computer can handle more RAM (random access memory), you can increase the overall processing speed with ease.

Before getting to the steps needed to add memory on a computer, double check your system’s current memory. If you still have the owner’s manual, consult that to see if you can upgrade the RAM. Most modern computer systems have an upgrade option that you can do after purchase. You can check whether your system can handle more memory by going to the “System Properties” section of Windows.

Step 1 – Check The Type of Memory Your Computer Needs

Before you can move forward with adding memory, you need to know what type your computer has. Memory chips look like small combs, and are not always universal. You can either consult your owner’s manual to see what type of RAM chips your computer has, or you could visit a RAM ecommerce site and check to see what type of chips you have, and how much you can upgrade. In most cases, users can consolidate their RAM into 1 or 2 chips.

Step 2- Purchase Compatible RAM Chips

After you have checked to see what type of RAM chips your computer can take, you will need to buy them. There are two major types of chips, they are known as DDR and DDR2 chip sets. Once you know which your computer can have, order the size and speed you want. Options can range from 2GB to 16GB and in some rare cases larger. The average upgrade will be to double the RAM, so adding a second chip or consolidating the speed is what you’re looking for. The cost can range from $20 to $100 depending on the size, and style of chip you need.

Step 3 – Open Your Computer

First, unplug your computer, or take out the battery. It should be powered off. You will need to open the computer case. Laptops will be more labor intensive. Once you have taken the case off, you will need to locate the RAM chips. For desktops, they will be plugged into place on the side of the motherboard. For laptops, they may be embedded on the motherboard at an angled hinge, or locked in place. Take your time here.

Step 4 – Remove Old RAM and Insert New Ram Chips

Moving forward, you will want to remove the old RAM chips, and set them aside. Take the new chips that you have purchased and simply place them into the motherboard. Don’t shove them in, put rather gently put them in place. If you have purchased the right size, this will take with ease.

Step 5 – Close Your Case

Once you have the chips in place securely, close your computer’s shell or case.

Step 6 – Turn Your Computer On

The last step is simple, turn your computer on. If you did the steps as mentioned above, you will see the speed differential immediately. Startup will be faster, and you can go to your control panel and check to see if the computer recognizes the change. It’s rare to see errors if you have the right chip set and size in place, but if it happens, follow the steps again, and if it still doesn’t work, return the new RAM chips and get them replaced. It’s worth watching the following video from Kingston Technology before starting:

How to Partition Your Hard Drive

Hard drives today may have enough capacity to run several programs, and even different operating systems. A large hard drive, for instance, could run Windows on one side and OSX on the other. That’s right, you could have two computers in one, and all on the same drive, if you have enough space. To do this, you’ll need to partition a drive.

What Exactly Are Partitions?

To understand how to split your drive, you need to first understand what a partition is. To simplify this, you are going to be putting a wall inside your storage. Imagine a real-world example. You have a room and you want to split it. You simply build a literal wall separating the two, and now you have two rooms. The same thing can be done in the digital world, and each side of the drive is called a partition. You’re literally splitting the space into separate data fields.

Breaking Down Disk Management (Before Creating A Partition)

Before instructing you on how to partition a drive, an assumption of the operating system is going to be made. Since most computer users are working with Windows 7 and later, this speaks to that audience. If you have a MAC or Linux computer, then you may need to modify the steps according to those systems.

Windows computers can partition drives using something called, “diskmgmt.msc”.

To open and configure this, isolate the Windows key and the letter “r” key. Once you find those, press them at the same time (windows + r).

This will bring up a small window in the left-hand corner of your desktop. Once you see that, type “diskmgmt.msc” and hit the enter key. This will open the Disk Management area (also known as diskmgmt.msc)

Take a moment to look at the management area, it will show you several tabs and elements associated with your existing hard drive.

3 Major Partition Types

Before setting up a partition, you should know about the 3 major types that you will encounter in Windows.

EFI System Partition – Do not delete, shrink, or touch this partition. It’s an essential area for Microsoft’s operating system. Delete this and your computer may not boot up again.

Primary Partition – All your files are going to be stored here. It’s labeled “primary or page file” because it’s the main resource for your computer’s files, including personal stuff, etc.

Recovery Partition – If you delete your files, contract viruses, or simply want to go back to the factory settings of your computer, this is going to help you do that. Recovery is as it says, a drive that will recover your system.

Now that you know what these are, you’re ready to start partitioning your hard drive, the easy way. The following steps are made simple to work with Windows 7 through Windows 10.

The Easiest Ways To Partition A Hard Drive (Windows 7 and Up)

Step 1 – Resizing Partitions

As you look at the partition types above, and you are in the management area of Windows, you will need to resize one of them to allow for a new partition to be in place. It’s recommended that you use the “primary partition” for this. Right click on that, and then shrink it down a bit to allow for a new partition. Start with a small resize, for instance 100 GIGS if you have a large hard drive. You can add to it later, mind you, by simply right clicking on it and then making it larger.

Step 2 – Delete Partitions (Optional)

Even though this is step 2, it’s meant as an optional solution. You can delete a partition if you’d like, and then use the free space to add a new one. If you do this, make sure that you have a backup of all the files that are on that partition. Or if you don’t care, delete the recovery partition, don’t mess with the primary or EFI system option.

Step 3 – Create A New Partition

If you have worked with the first two steps, or at least one of them, it’s time to create a partition outright. If you have space available, you’ll find an empty area or one that is shaded out. That is the free section of your hard drive.

Isolate the free section. Right-click on that area, and pick the option “New Volume” or “New Simple Volume”, depending on your Windows version. Once you do that, you’ll be guided through a selection process for formatting, and processing the partition. Simply answer the questions, and wait for the Wizard to process.

That’s it. If you follow the questions in the partition wizard, you will have a new drive partition. You can make it as small or as large as you want, depending on the hard drive you have installed. Windows makes it very easy to do this, if you follow the simple steps outlined above.

How to Install a Second Hard Drive

One thing about computers that can be annoying is the fact that you are limited in space. Your hard drive can only handle so many files, and eventually you’ll reach capacity. If you have reached that limit or are nearly there, it’s only a matter of time before you run out of space.

Step 1 – Figure Out If You Can Add A Hard Drive

Before you can do anything, you need to figure out if you can have a second drive in the motherboard. To find this out, turn off and unplug your computer. Open the case, and look to see if your motherboard has extra supports for this. The back of your computer may show this too, but once you open things up, you can see the motherboard, where the existing drives are, and if there is space to house another card.

In the case that your computer does not have the space, you may need to purchase a new encasement or motherboard. Most modern computers, however, have at least one extra space that is meant for video, sound, wireless internet cards, or a drive.

Step 2 – Buy Your Hard Drive

Assuming you have room your computer’s case, you will need to buy a hard drive. A standard hard drive is 3.5” and may come with wires. Your computer may already have wires to connect, and slots to hold it. If that is the case, then you do not need to purchase a kit. If those wires and connections are missing, then purchase a hard drive installation kit.

Step 2 – Back Up Files

Back everything up. Do not try to add another drive without this. If you ignore this step and something goes wrong, you will lose your files. Back your files up on an external drive, and create a boot disk if need be. At the very least take your files and put them on another hard drive or thumb drive. Do not skip this step at all.

Step 3 – Opening the Case

This step assumes you have your computer closed. Turn off and unplug your computer before doing anything. Open your case by removing the screws that hold it in place. If you already have the case open, then simply ground yourself before touching anything. You do not want to have static electricity build up, it can sting.

Step 4 – Installing the Drive

Installing the drive is easy, if you have followed the steps thus far. If you purchased a kit, you will have all the pieces to connect the drive. If you did not buy a kit, and you have the wires in the case, simply push the drive through the correct slot, and connect the wires. If you have room, the drive will fit in place, and will be screwed in place on the back of your computer’s case. Secure everything, gently push the wires in place, and double check the connections.

Step 5 – Reboot Your Computer

Once you have double checked the connections, start your computer. If you did the installation correctly, your computer will recognize the new drive and assign a letter to it. In the rare case, it doesn’t’ recognize it, check the manufacturer’s website of your hard drive. You may need to download a file, or manually connect the drive to your operating system. However, modern systems recognize changes fast, so you may not have issues.

The following video shows the whole process step by step:

Cloud Storage – Using OneDrive

Many of the features in Office are developed toward saving and sharing files online. OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) is Microsoft’s online storage space that you can use to save, edit and share your documents and other files. You can access One Drive from your computer, smartphone or any of the devices you use. To start with One Drive, all you need to do is set up a free Microsoft account, if you don’t already have one. Once you have a Microsoft account, you will be able to sign in to Office. Just click “Sign in” in the upper-right corner of the word window.

Benefits of using One Drive

Once you are signed in to your Microsoft account, here are few of the things you can do with One Drive:

Access your files anywhere

When you save your files to One Drive, you will be able to access them from any computer, tablet or smartphone that has an internet connection. You can also create new documents from One Drive.

Backup your files

When you save files in one drive, you give them an extra layer of protection. When something happens to your computer, One Drive will keep your files safe and accessible.

Share files

It’s easy to share your One Drive files with friends and co-workers. You can choose whether they can edit or simply read files. This option is great for collaboration because multiple people can edit a document at the same time (also known as co-authoring).

Saving and opening files

When you are signed in to your Microsoft Account, One Drive will appear as an option whenever you save or open a file. You still have the option of saving file to your computer. However, saving files to your One Drive allows you to access them from any other computer, and it allows you to share files with friends and coworkers. So, when you click “save as”, you can select either One Drive or This PC as the save location.

OneDrive and SharePoint

OneDrive was significantly updated in 2017 and now shares the same file synching app. as SharePoint. Whilst OneDrive itself is a fairly straight forward file storage system, SharePoint is a full featured document sharing and collaboration platform. SharePoint forms the core of the Office 365 subscription service and offers secure file storage and sharing for both small and large organisations. Office 365 subscription plans start at just £5.99 / month and give you access to the Microsoft Office suite of apps as well as generous document storage.

Microsoft Office 365 Training

There are plenty of training providers around if you want to learn and get the best from OneDrive and Office 365. Lynda.com offer a good range of online tutorials if you want to teach yourself. If you live in the UK there are many providers who run classroom based courses. Paul Brown Training deliver Office 365 training in London and most of the major Cities across the UK. Such training doesn’t come cheap though and expect to pay in the order of £300 for a 1 day course. Microsoft Office skills are highly valued by employers though and it might be worth asking if yours is willing to pay for the course!