7 Common Computer Mistakes You Can Avoid
Nobody is perfect. Despite all the advice available online, many of us make silly mistakes. Don’t want to be caught acting like a computer noob? Consult this list of usual slip-ups to avoid.

Using Pre-Installed Free StuffDon’t get me wrong. Not all pre-installed applications are bad. But for some you may have no use and others may even turn out to be sub-standard and slow down your computer.

Checking your PC for each item you didn’t ask for will probably take you a while. But, this is the only way to make sure you get rid of everything you don’t want. Thankfully, there are some tools to help you with this process. One of these is PC Decrapifier.

This free application helps you identify unwanted junk. Once you run the wizard it shows you a checklist with recommendations. Tick the programs, icons and start-up items that don’t want and then click the Next button as shown in the screenshot below.

For more information please read Tim’s article on how to remove unwanted crapware. I also recommend you check out our Best Windows Software page for a list of useful software.

Default InstallationsEveryone loves free stuff! Unfortunately, free software is often ad-supported and in many cases the installer comes bundled with additional products or ad-ware, which can slow down your computer. Thus, anytime you download a free Windows application, you must do a custom install. With a custom install, you can opt out of crapware, say a browser toolbar or another application.

Registry CleaningIt’s a myth; registry cleaning does not speed up your computer. Unfortunately, the tale that has been spun on the Internet tells a different story. Do not believe the hype. In fact, you may slow down your computer by running a registry cleaner.

Too Much Disk DefragmentationWindows defragments your drive in the background automatically so most people don’t need to defragment their hard disk manually. You should only defragment your hard drive if it is 5-10% fragmented. And, this is only if it is a magnetic hard drive (HDD).  Solid State Drives (SSD) do not benefit from defragmentation, you only end up shortening their life span.

Not Restarting The ComputerAnytime you notice your Windows machine behaving weird for no clear reason, firsttry to reboot and see if that solves the problem. Rebooting is considered a cure-all of sorts that fixes a ton of problems. A few examples of problems that can be fixed with a simple reboot include; slow running, programs using too much memory, Internet or WiFi connection problems and the Windows blue screen of death.

Failure To Back Up DataThere are many reasons for data loss, but some of the most common include: accidental deletion, hard disk damage or failure, viruses, power disruption and improper shutdown.

If you lost your data tomorrow, would you have backup copies of all your important documents? You need a rock solid backup strategy to mitigate the ever-present threat of data loss. There are several ways to backup your data. You can backup to an external hard drive, use a cloud storage service or a network drive. If using Windows 7, you can make use of the backup and restore feature whileWindows 8 has a built-in time machine backup.

For more detailed information, please read our PC Backup and Restore guide. Don’t be one of those people who ignore backups until they lose their files. Be proactive and start creating backups today.

Failure to Keep Your Windows OS & Other Essential Software Up-To-DateDevelopers roll out new updates for several reasons. The main ones include; rolling out new features, fixing bugs, patching security loopholes and making the system more secure. Failure to update your OS and essential software leaves you vulnerable to security breaches. The best way to ensure you do not forget to update Windows is to turn on automatic updating.

In Windows 7, go to Control Panel > System and Security >Action Center. Under Windows Update, click Change Settings and select the ‘Install updates automatically’ option. In Windows 8, click or tap Settings > PC Settings > Update and Recovery. Under Recommended Updates select the “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates” check box, and click Apply.

Also, schedule your antivirus to check for updates once a day. Virus databases are updated almost daily to immediately address new risks.

Are you guilty of any of these computing sins? Do you know of any other common computer mistakes? Please share your insights with us.

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Power users routinely punch into the BIOS in order to fine tune their system, but it can be an intimidating place to go exploring if you've never before burrowed beneath the surface. And just like in real life, poking around in unknown places can be a dangerous affair if you don't know what you're doing or where you're going. On the other hand, once you understand the inner workings of your PC's control center, a whole world of overclocking and troubleshooting suddenly opens up. But what exactly is the BIOS?
Every modern motherboard comes with an embedded Flash EEPROM module, otherwise known as the BIOS chip. Short for Basic Input Out System, this is the first bit of code executed when you boot your PC. The BIOS stores all kinds of essential information about your system, such as your CPU's clockspeed, the size and type of RAM you're running, the boot order of your media, what onboard devices are present, and much, much more. An improperly configured BIOS can prevent Windows (or Linux) from loading, while a finely tuned BIOS has the potential to significantly improve performance over that of a similarly spec'd machine.

Whatever your goal is, this is your go-to guide for everything you've ever wanted to know about the BIOS. We cover every setting -- even the obscure ones -- so you'll never feel lost or out of your element, no matter what motherboard you're rocking under the hood.

How do I Get In? Whether from a cold boot or rebooting, getting into your BIOS is as easy as hitting the DEL key as soon as your system starts to POST. You might even see a Splash screen instructing you to hit DEL, but this isn't always the case. If mashing the DEL key doesn't do the trick (some OEM setups, notebooks, and older PCs use a different key), try punching F1, F10, or the ESC key. For really old PCs, you might even need to hit a combination of keystrokes, in which case your best bet is to consult your user manual or the modern day oracle known as Google for the correct sequence.

Main BIOS Menu

The overall layout will vary depending on your specific motherboard model and BIOS type, but every modern BIOS shares the same basic settings. We're going to cover those now while using a Gigabyte X58 as our test platform.

Standard CMOS Features

Exactly as the name implies, this is where the standard settings are located, including the date, time, and drive configuration.

Date and Time: You shouldn't need to configure the date and time more than once, but if it keeps getting knocked out of whack, it may be time to replace the CMOS battery. You can try leaving your PC on for an extended period of time to recharge the battery, but it's cheap enough to replace outright and a new one should last for years. Check your motherboard manual for the type of battery it uses, which will probably be a CR2032.

IDE Channels: Here is where you'll find what IDE drives you have connected to your PC. These are the ones that use those old school fat ribbon cables of yesteryear and require multiple drives on the same channel be configured as 'Master' and 'Slave.' Your drives should show up automatically, but if not, highlight the appropriate entry and hit the Enter key, which brings up another submenu.

- IDE HDD Auto-Detection: Use this to auto-detect a newly connected hard drive.
- Access Mode: Also known as the Translation Method, this setting relays the physical characteristics of your IDE drive to your system and how to define the disk size.

If you're still not seeing your drive(s) show up, check that the jumper on the back has been properly configured and that you remembered to plug in a Molex power connector.

SATA Channels: These are your SATA drives, though your motherboard may still label them as IDE. Because each SATA drive operates on its own channel, they do not contain 'Master' and 'Slave' settings. On a related note, only connect ONE power source, even if it has inputs for both a 4-pin Molex and SATA power connectors. Plugging these both in can ruin your HDD.

Drive A and B: Refers to the type (if any) of floppy drive you have installed, or plan to install. The most common today is 1.44M, 3.5 in. You can also set this to Disabled if you're not planning to rock out with your floppy out.

Floppy 3 Mode Support: Designates a special type of floppy drive that supports three different types of floppies. These were mainly used in Japan and never gained any major footing in the U.S.

Video: Some motherboards don't even include this setting anymore, but this allows you to designate what type of videocard you have installed. Unless you have a specialized configuration, this should read EGA/VGA' Set this to your primary videocard type, and not the secondary (if one is installed).

Halt On: Configure this setting to tell your BIOS which errors to ignore during POST.