Surf the web faster, get more life from your battery, boost your processor, start Windows quicker and prolong your PC's life with our useful technical tips
Try our 20 technical tricks you can play on your home PC that will help you learn more about the way your computer and Windows works. They'll also speed up your machine and improve security.
1. Faster web surfing
Web addresses such as www.computeractive.co.uk don’t really mean much to computers. In fact, when you type a web address into a browser, behind the scenes, the PC or router must look up the corresponding IP address needed to download the page. It does this using a Domain Name System (DNS) server.
Perhaps surprisingly, using a DNS server different to the one provided by your internet service provider (ISP) can make surfing less restrictive and quicker. This is because some ISPs block particular websites or content types via their DNS, while the alternative DNS servers we suggest here may simply work faster.
In Windows 7 and Vista, click the Start button, type network and click Network and Sharing Center. Click on the connection you use – typically Local Area Connection or Wireless. In the box that appears, click the Properties buttons and then, in the next dialogue, double-click Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4). Select ‘Use the following DNS server addresses’.
To use Google’s DNS type 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 into the Preferred and Alternate DNS server boxes; or to use OpenDNS, type 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. Click on OK in all the windows to save the changes.
In XP, click the Start button followed by Control Panel, then click Network and Internet Connections followed by Network Connections. Now right-click on the network connection and click Properties.
Double-click on Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and follow the instructions above to change the DNS servers. Click on OK to save the changes.
2. Quicker Windows startup
Software that starts with Windows can slow everything down, so we recommend having only essential programs launch automatically.
It is best to do this through the programs’ settings but if there’s no obvious way to stop them launching with Windows then check for an entry in the Startup folder in the Start menu.
In Windows 7 and Vista, click on the Start button, right-click on All Programs and choose Open All Users. XP users should right-click on Start and choose Open All Users. Now double-click Programs followed by Startup. Move or delete shortcuts from this folder to stop the associated applications from starting with Windows.
If this doesn’t work, hold down the Windows key and press R then type msconfig and press Enter. Now select the Startup tab and remove ticks from programs you don’t want to start automatically. Only disable things you recognise.
3. Create a super-secure wireless network
Setting up WPA encryption on your home wireless network will prevent unauthorised access but it is possible to make things even more secure by restricting access to specific computers.
Every Wifi-capable device has a code known as a Media Access Control address, or MAC address (not to be confused with the migration authorisation code, or Mac, required when switching ISPs).
This MAC address is usually printed on a label somewhere on the device, or may otherwise be found in software. For a Windows PC, for example, first press the Windows key and R. Then type cmd and press Enter and, in the CMD window, type ipconfig /all and press Enter.
The MAC address of an adapter will be listed as the Physical Address.
Most routers are able to filter connected devices by MAC address. Some routers have an option not to allow any new devices onto the network. Others have a page called MAC Address Control in the Wireless section.
Click on this and add the MAC addresses you want to allow. Click on Allow and then Apply Changes. Refer to your router’s manual for specific instructions.
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