It's always a bonus to uncover a shortcut or program enhancement, and here we bring you 100 tips and tricks that we hope will make your computing experience quicker, simpler or more rewarding. From Windows to security, ergonomics to photo-imaging, PC Authority gives you inside information on how to make the most of your IT assets.
Are you being served?
1 Use server disk-mirroring and RAID capabilities. Hard disks are very cheap these days, and you can put vast amounts of data onto a single drive. Unfortunately, reliability is often not much better than before. If you don't want to spend the money on a full-blown hardware RAID-5 solution, use the free built-in mirroring and RAID solution in the server operating system.
2 Separate internal Active Directory DNS from external DNS. Active Directory DNS is full of information that you don't want the outside world to see. So split your DNS into internal Active Directory operations and external resolution. Let the outside world see a simple DNS configuration, and hide the Active Directory information away internally.
You need to keep the information in sync, but this is a small price to pay.
3 Use more than one global catalogue server. By default, you get one GC (global catalogue) server on a Windows 2000 Active Directory network. This isn't enough – you need at least two, and preferably one per site. If you don't, all your login authentication from all the desktops will have to come back to the one GC server, which will play havoc with your network design.
4 Use the XP client firewall. XP's built-in firewall isn't very clever and it has limitations, but it works well and is better than nothing. It's easy to set up and use, and will do the job for most people, most of the time. The downside is that it doesn't filter packets on conversations that originate internally. So you have no protection against a Trojan on your machine chatting to the outside world. Still, it's free.
5 Convert to NTFS. If you're running Windows 2000 or XP, you should be on NTFS file system. It's faster, more robust and much more grown-up than the 'bloated floppy disc' format of FAT32. You can convert from FAT32 to NTFS leaving the data intact – use 'convert c: /fs:NTFS' as the basic syntax. Use 'convert /?' to get the full Help file.
6 Learn the recovery console. If your machine won't boot, all is not lost. If you set up the recovery console facility, you can boot into a very stripped-down version of the operating system and then get into the system via a specially designed Command Prompt. In this mode, you can kill drivers and services, which are the most common reason why the system won't boot.
7 Use system checkpoints to help manage your system state. When a big configuration change happens on your machine, the system takes a 'checkpoint', which is a snapshot of the settings. Using this facility, you can 'roll back' your machine's configuration to a previous state on a predetermined date and time. It takes some disk space to store the information, but it can be a godsend if you make lots of changes.
8 Clear out old debris. Internet Explorer caches lots of files and these can gum up your system after a while. Go to the IE tools menu and clear out the temporary files every so often. It's also a good idea to get rid of dead files from the temp file space too.
9 Check your backup. Make sure you can recover files from your backup system. And also be certain that your full disaster recovery procedures will work. Put all your master CDs in a safe place, and don't forget where that is. Ensure you're absolutely satisfied that if your machine is stolen it won't cause you a disaster.
10 Encrypt where appropriate. If you're paranoid about security, encrypt the parts of your NTFS file system containing sensitive or secret information. Encrypted NTFS works very well, but ensure you understand how to do key recovery in case of disaster.