Archive for January, 2007

Safely Remove Hardware Icon

Here’s a quick guide on what to do if your “Safely remove hardware” icon has disappeared from your system tray.

This is a troublesome issue as it means that you cannot stop your USB devices therefore meaning you could cause corruption on your USB device.

How to always bring up the dialog (without the icon)

  1. Go to Start -> Run,
  2. Enter: %windir%\system32\RUNDLL32 shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll
  3. The “Safely remove hardware” dialog windows should appear.

How to control the “Safley remove hardware” icon behavior

  1. Right-Click on the Task Bar
  2. Select Properties
  3. Under the taskbar tab, click the Customize button
  4. Select the program you wish to hide
  5. Under the drop down box, select Always Hide, Always Show, or Hide when inactive.
  6. Click OK

How to restore the icon to your system tray

  1. Open “My Computer”
  2. Right click on a drive and click Properties
  3. Click on the Hardware tab
  4. Select the removable drive from the list
  5. Click the “Properties” button
  6. Click on the Policies tab
  7. Change it from “Optimize for quick removal” to “Optimize for performance”

Note: If you don’t plan on hot-swapping your USB device very often, and you will ALWAYS make sure you use the “Safely remove hardware” dialog to remove your hardware, then use “Optimize for performance”, otherwise in most cases it is best to use “Optimize for quick removal”, this will allow you to unplug your USB device without worrying about corruption.

Further details are mentioned here:

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My computer has problems, what can I do?

You’d be surprised the amount of times I get people asking me this question, therefore this is a guide on what to do to try and work out what the problem might be or completly solve the problem all together.

Check for resource intensive applications

Go to Start -> Run -> type: taskmgr -> Press OK

Windows Task Manager will appear, from here you will have tabs at the top, you are looking specifically at the “Processes” tab, click that.

From there, you need to first sort the list by “Mem Usage”, you can do this by clicking on the writing twice, which will sort this list with the most at the top, you will then notice to the left “CPU” which is how much of the CPU it is using, and then further left “Image Name” which is the raw name of the application.

If there is a particular application that appears to be using a lot of memory and using a lot of CPU you need to select it and click “End Process” at the bottom. It is particularly noted that if you have no idea what this application relates to you inspect it further by searching for the Image Name on google, this should bring up a site that will tell you want the application is, what it does and most importantly if it is a threat or not.

If you restart your computer and the application still runs anyway you will need to look at your System Configuration.

Go to Start -> Run -> type: msconfig

From there you can select exactly which applications you wish to run (or not run) at start up.

If you suspect an application may be a threat to your computer I recommend you take steps to remove malware.

Recently installed software

Have you recently installed some new software?

Try uninstalling it by going into safe mode.

You can get into safe mode by hitting F8 BEFORE the windows logo appears at boot up, and select SAFE MODE from the menu.

Once in safe mode, simply go to the Control Panel, open Add/Remove Programs, from there uninstall the recently installed software.

Restart your system.

Contact the author of the software for a fix.

Check your hard drive(s) for errors

Go to Start -> Run -> type: cmd -> Press OK

Command prompt will appear, type: chkdsk /f

It will most likely tell you that it will run next time you boot up, at this point you will need to restart your computer.

If bad sectors appear on your hard disk you need to purchase a new hard disk as soon as possible.

Always contact your manufacturer and check warranties.

Defragment your hard drive(s)

What it does: If you imagine the hard drive in a physical sense there are usually between 2 and 4 circular discs inside, at the top of the hard disk there is a motor and reader head. What happens is as you store data onto the hard disk it gets distributed across the hard drive as it is used. The idea of defragmentation is to move your most used files (such as programs) to the edge of the discs, so as the head physically moves across them, it does not have as far to travel.

How to run: Go to Start -> Run -> type: dfrg.msc -> Press OK

Remove Spyware or other Malware

  • Make sure have a firewall and it is running.
  • Update your anti-virus software and run a full system scan.
  • Make sure your copy of windows is up-to-date.
  • Ensure you are running anti spyware software and it is up-to-date.

Faulty memory

If the RAM in the computer is faulty any data read or written from the memory is potentially going to error.

There are a number of applications that can test if your RAM is faulty or not.

If the RAM turns out to be faulty you need to work out what kind of RAM you have in your computer, there are three methods of discovery:

  • CPU-Z is a freeware that gathers information on some of the main devices of your system.
  • Use SiSoftware Sandra, hardware testing and reporting software.
  • Physically open your computer’s case (when its turned off) take out the memory sticks and make a note of any significant information that is labelled on the sticks.

Once you know which memory you have, you will need to purchase a replacement. With any luck you can purchase older ram from eBay or cex, alternativly newer ram can be purchased from eBuyer or your favorite retailer.

Bad Capacitors

Although it’s not very common, it is possible that your motherboard can have bad capacitors. To identify bad capacitors, exists to help you.

If in fact you do discover that you have bad capacitors you need to either manually replace the capacitors (which takes much skill), or get a replacement motherboard (under warranty or purchase from a retailer or website).

Other Hardware

Have you tried swapping the hardware out with an alternative?

Unplug all non-vital devices externally and internally. Try that, otherwise…

Locate an alternative graphics card, PSU or other suspicious hardware. You could try asking a friend to borrow theirs, ask your local computer store, an IT expert or a supplier.

Last Resort – Format
I don’t like to recommend it, as it can get very complicated, and data can be lost. However it may be worth doing a clean install of your operating system using the original disc.

Make sure you backup all your important data, then insert your operating system disc, reboot and make sure the CD-ROM driver has priority in the boot sequence in BIOS.

From there simply follow the on-screen instructions, making sure you do a new install (not repair), and do format the hard drive.

None of the above

If none of the above works, contact your local IT expert or supplier.


No more Nero

After many years of using Nero, I’m finally fed up with it.

I have been using Nero 6 for some time now, and refuse to upgrade to Nero 7 because when I did use it, I did not like it and I felt it used up far too much hard disk space for such a simple task.

Over 200mb of space is used by a standard installation of Nero 7, there must be another option.

I looked back, and remembered changing from Easy CD Creator to Nero because of this very issue, Easy CD Creator was simply excessive for what I required, Nero was very simple and straight forward.

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Legally listen to music online for free

One of the things I enjoy doing while I work is listening to music.

After a while of listening to the music stored on my computer and my good old CD collection I find myself getting bored of it and in search for something new.

The sure way of getting hold of new music is to go online and look for it.

My first port of call for free music is BBC Radio1, where you can “listen live” or even “listen again” meaning you can listen to any previous shows, this is good if you like a particular show or type of music. One of the main problems is that you are required to use RealPlayer (if you’re in the UK, you can use Windows Media Player as well) to listen to the radio streams.

Of course as you probably know, there are some limits with this, including the fact that the music is rather general, and sometimes the presenter can get annoying.

Another radio streaming option is WinAmp’s Shoutcast based radio stations. The situation is that nullsoft (the company that makes winamp) released a streaming server application that can be used for free. People all over the world use this to run their own online radio station, ultimately meaning that there is a lot of choice. Best of all you can listen using Winamp or your choice of media player.

If like me you are a fan of dance music (in particular trance), you’ll probably find that Digitally Imported is probably one of the best online radio stations out there. They offer everything from Trance right through to Euro Dance to Gabber.

If streaming audio using third party media players isn’t your thing then don’t worry, there’s still more options out there.

As part of a new generation of websites Pandora offers the ability to listen to your choice of music via an embedded flash player. The question I am sure you’ll be asking is “how does it work?” well basically Pandora has a huge collection of music, and a huge database of recommendations from users. Simply, you put in a song that you like and you are provided with a radio station that seamlessly plays music that other users who liked that song recommended. It works very well most of the time. One of the best features of this site is that if you don’t like the current track, you can skip onto the next track.
A similar concept is which is probably a bit better as it appears to have more users, and allows for integration with your media player meaning it has better recommendations and feedback to utilise.

Yahoo! have recently jumped on this band wagon and released Yahoo! Music, which appears to offers a similar service to Pandora and, you can expect this to be quite good.

Another site that I am forced to mention is of course MySpace, as you are probably aware MySpace was originally created so that bands could get better known, and bands have chosen to take advantage of this by offering their music via MySpace’s music player. This is a good option if you want to listen to a few tracks at a time by particular artists. has existed for many years now, far longer than MySpace, I remember downloading PPK – resurrection from this site years ago. is fairly new offering music search and internet radio network, I have yet to try this out to its full extent.
There are plenty more sites out there, this is just a short list of reliable sites that really work.

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Exporting emails with the dates from Microsoft Outlook

The Problem:

By default when you try and export emails from Outlook, there are NO dates.

I wanted to export emails in a certain folder from outlook so I could then import the data into a database such as MySQL for further manipulation.

When I tried to export the emails, outlook would NOT export any of the header details or even something as simple as the date/time.

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