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Biggest ever PC tips guide

Tips and tricks for getting more from your PC, laptop, tablet, phone, printer, camera and more

BROADBAND; wireless security

Situating your router

Where you site your broadband router can have a significant effect on the Wi-Fi signal that’s carried around your home and the connection you experience. Thick walls, interference from other electrical items, and being placed low down rather than at waist height or higher all make a difference.

Don’t let it snow

The weather can affect your web connection. Extreme cold, wind and wet can all hinder the service. “If you hear noise on your phone line it’s a fair indication of damage to the wiring itself. If you hear any hissing, crackling or popping you should report it to your telephone provider. When the noise is gone your broadband should return to normal,” advises broadband provider Plusnet.

Clean those filters

A fresh ADSL filter costs less than £5 and can improve your broadband connection. The BT Shop and some hardware stores sell them. Ensure the broadband connection is plugged in directly. A BT I-Plate may further boost the contact point, although it is debatable.

Wi-Fi check

With so many of us using wireless networks to get online, there’s bound to be some jostling for priority. Android users can check for channel congestion and make an informed choice of which one to switch to using Wi-Fi Analyzer (tinyurl.com/7woLkvp).

Reset your IP address

If your system’s connection to a network is unreliable, or you’re getting IP address conflict error messages, try renewing your IP address. First, click on the Start button, navigate to the Command Prompt (Start Menu, Applications, Accessories, Command Prompt), right-click it, and select ‘Run as Administrator’ from the menu. Then type ipconfig /renew and press Enter.

Flush your DNS cache

When you type an address into a browser, your PC asks the DNS server to translate ?that URL into an IP address, and caches ?that information. That data cache can occasionally become outdated or corrupt, which can cause internet connection problems. To clear your DNS cache, run a Command Prompt as the administrator, type ipconfig /flushdns and press Enter.

Restarting a Windows 7 system will also flush its DNS cache, but if any applications (malware, for example) are altering the cache, flushing manually could also help.

Raise the antennae

One of the limiting factors for Wi-Fi routers is that they tend to come as compact boxes, with little or no antenna protrusion. However, the interplay between their multiple antennae magnifies their effectiveness. We recommend that you screw on a larger, more powerful antenna for a noticeable Wi-Fi boost.

Bluetooth lament

Bluetooth is a very useful, localised communication and file-transfer technology. Gadgets with this feature switched on announce themselves by broadcasting their presence and seeking devices with which to pair. When not using the Bluetooth keyboard, headphones or headset for your laptop or smartphone, disable Bluetooth. Rogue files can be transmitted by passers-by.

Avoid torrents

There’s been a lot of press coverage ?about the ‘three strikes’ rule relating to customers downloading pirated music. We don’t condone file sharing of copyrighted content, but nor do we think much of the strong-arm tactics used by ACS:Law seeking to intimidate customers suspected of doing so. More pertinently, using torrent and ?peer-to-peer sites leaves your computer vulnerable to infection. Steer clear of ?such online temptations. It may well be cheaper in the long run.

INTERNET

Defeat Facebook tagging

Do you hate it when your friends tag you in photos? Facebook has recently added an option to report or block whoever is tagging you. Click the Report/Remove Tag option below the offending image, decide whether to simply tell Facebook to remove the tag, or go further and state how it offends, harasses or infringes your rights, click Continue, then request its removal. Better yet, have a quiet word with your friend.

Report Facebook spam

Facebook messages posted in your name are bad news, and tagged images can be an unpleasant surprise. If your Facebook account – or a friend’s – is compromised, immediately report it and change your password. This ?may be inconvenient, but it’s better than ?your friends being phished. Facebook’s Report/Remove Tag beneath photos makes reporting it easy, too.

Remove unfortunate tweets

If you said something in haste on Twitter, you can easily fix it. Go to your own feed and press Delete to remove the offending missive. With luck, no-one else will have seen it; if ?you think it necessary, immediately tweet ?an apology (but don’t repeat what you said). If you tend to tweet ill-advisedly late of an evening, use a tweet checker or tweet delayer to save future red faces.

Can the Twitter spam

Twitter spam is easy to block – simply click on the follower, then press Block Sender. Be particularly wary of people sending you @messages. These are often spam and are designed mainly to appear in your feed to trip up unsuspecting followers.

Internet Explorer has its uses

Not all browsers are the same. Google Chrome and Firefox are often regarded ?as better than Internet Explorer, but there ?are plenty of tasks that are optimised ?for Internet Explorer, which may not ?work properly in other browsers – FTP ?sites being one.

Keep your browser options open

It’s worth keeping your options open and having several browsers installed, so you can fire up an alternative if your usual one freezes. If you use only one browser and then have to install a new one if it goes down, you’ll lose precious time installing it. You can use one browser for work, one for email, and so on.

Get a custom home page

Why give MSN or Google your clicks? Either go to the Tools menu in your browser and choose the site you visit most often, for convenience, or give a charity site such as Everyclick (everyclick.com) a boost by launching to its home page by default.

Give as you shop

Whether you like books (Flashlight Worthy), bees (BBCT), animals or many other charities, clicking the links from its site as you go to Amazon or other large e-tailers can be used to earn them micro-payments.

Lose the browser hangers-on

Browser extensions can cause issues. If your browser throws a wobbly, switching off all the extensions and then selectively reinstating them can quickly identify the culprit and banish them, while losing only a minimal number of convenience keys.

Share photo albums over Wi-Fi

Facebook and Flickr don’t have all the best tricks: you can show off a photo gallery stored anywhere you wish without the iniquity of sarcastic ‘friend’ comments using a SkyDrive and your smartphone or laptop.

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