Ten terrific things you can do with your PC – Part 1

Set up a Wi-Fi Home Network
If you’ve always wanted to be able to lounge on your couch and lazily surf the Internet, a Wi-Fi network is precisely what you need.

Fast broadband connections bring the Internet to you at blazing speeds. Add a wireless network, and you can get that access on multiple computers throughout your house. We use the D-Link DIR-635 Draft-N router as the core of the network.

You’ll also need a wireless adapter for each system that’s connecting to the network. Laptops have this built in, and you can buy PCI adapters for desktops.

1. Prepare for Installation

You’ll need to know how your Internet connection is configured. If you have a DSL connection, you’ll need the username and password. For a cable modem, you need to know the IP address assigned to your PC. To find this out double-click the Network Connections icon within Control Panel and right-click the icon for your PC’s Ethernet adapter.

Then choose Properties > Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) > Properties. Make a note of the IP address, the subnet mask, and the default gateway. Change this to “Obtain an IP address automatically.” Click OK to apply your changes and OK again to close the dialog.

2. Install the Wireless Router

Before installing the router, switch off the PC and modem, then disconnect the Ethernet cable from your PC and connect it to your router’s WAN port so that the modem is connected to the router. Plug in another cable between the PC and one of the Ethernet ports on the router.

Switch on the PC, modem, and wireless router. Launch your browser, and enter the router-configuration IP address provided in the documentation — for the D-Link DIR-635. You’ll also need to enter the configuration — utility ID (usually admin) and the default password. This information will be available in the documentation for the router.

Next, enter the information you collected in step 1 as instructed in your router’s installation guide. If you jotted down an IP address in step 1, set the router to use a static IP address and enter the address and other information. If you’re a DSL user, you need to choose a PPPoE Internet-connection type, then enter the username and password you selected to log on to your ISP.

Leave other settings such as encryption and SSID at their defaults for now, exit your router’s configuration routine, and check your Internet connection. If you still can’t access any websites, check your router’s documentation for troubleshooting advice and call the manufacturer for technical support, if necessary.

3. Securing the Network

To secure your new Wi-Fi network, open the configuration page for the router. Find the option that lets you change the default password. Apply the change but leave the configuration routine open for the next step. The next step in securing your network is changing its name, which is usually referred to as the service set identifier (SSID).

Change the default SSID to anything you like but avoid easily guessable values, such as your name. Now enable encryption. Use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption with a pre-shared key. This provides more than adequate security for most home users. Don’t use Wired Equivalent Privacy, since this is not very secure.

Use this only if your hardware does not support WPA. Most routers let you create WEP or WPA keys by entering a passphrase. You’ll likely need to enter the passphrase twice for verification. Apply the changes. Restart everything, and get ready to surf from almost every corner of your house.

–Aditya Nag

Install Windows XP Over Vista
When not done in the right order, this popular ‘downgrade’ can be a horror – but with aid, any nightmare can be straightened out.

A number of desktops and laptops today come with Windows Vista pre-installed. While the new OS has its benefits, they do not all translate to positive improvements for the end user who is familiar and comfortable with Windows XP.

For those who would rather ‘downgrade’ (and have bought a licensed copy of XP) but not wipe out Vista, boot-related issues crop up. Why does this happen? The bootloader has changed with Vista; it is now a binary data store, instead of the text based configuration file that was used until WinXP. However, this problem can be fixed by following the steps below:

1. Let’s start, assuming you already have Vista (32-bit) installed on the hard-disk partition assigned the letter C:

2. Boot from XP setup disc, and finish installing to a partition different from Vista.

3. Now you have Windows XP booting fine, but there is no option to boot into Windows Vista.

4. Download and install .NET framework and EasyBCD (both found on this month’s DVD).

5. Run EasyBCD, click “Manage Bootloader” and select “Reinstall the Vista Bootloader”.

6. Now click on the button “Write MBR”, and you have recovered the Vista bootloader.

7. Next, click “Add/Remove Entries” (found on the left pane).

8. Select “Windows NT/2k/XP/2003” from the drop-down list, and type a name for the entry.

9. Click the “Add Entry” and “Save” buttons, and you are done!

Alternative methods

Besides the simple method outlined above, more advanced ways to achieve the same result exist too. If you have two hard disks, then you could install WinXP to the second HDD and edit the XP bootloader to add Vista.

If you have two primary partitions on your HDD, then install Vista to the first one and XP to the second one; make the respective partition active during install, so that both the boot loaders are independent from each other; and whenever you want to boot into the other OS, set it active using a tool like diskpart or Partition Magic.

Of course, in case your laptop came with a Vista install DVD, the easiest way to run both together might be to install XP first, and then Vista on another partition.

Solutions to potential issues

You do need to take some pre-cautions to ensure that your experience is smooth. If any partitions need to be created or re-sized, preferably do so using a tool like PartEd Magic (found on this month’s DVD), for maximum compatibility with all OSes.

If your XP setup cannot ‘see’ the hard-disk, then you need to integrate SATA controller drivers; refer to PC World (March 2008, page 89) for detailed instructions. Keep your Vista DVD handy, just in case something goes wrong.

To restore an existing Vista installation from HDD, back to normal loading and operation, boot from your Vista DVD, choose “Repair your computer” and click “Startup Repair”. This will re-create Vista’s boot information.

–Madana Prathap

Upgrade Your Laptop in 15 min
If your laptop is showing signs of aging, struggling to run newer operating systems like Windows Vista or simply running out of storage space, don’t throw it away just yet.

Adding more memory (RAM) and upgrading storage space (hard disk) can offer a considerable boost at a fraction of the cost. An upgrade from 512MB to 2GB of memory along with a hard drive upgrade from 40GB to 80GB would just cost you US$124 including taxes!

Before taking up the upgrade, you need to first buy the new components that will replace the old ones. To ensure that the new memory and drive that you buy are compatible with your laptop, you will have to research or go back to the laptop specifications sheet to find out the type of memory that your laptop uses (DDR or DDR2) and the supported speeds in MHz.

In case of hard drive upgrades, the drive interface for your laptop should be known before you buy a hard drive. Laptops sold in the past 18 months mostly offer the newer SATA (Serial ATA) interface. While older laptops offer IDE interface, do ascertain the drive interface of your laptop to ensure you buy the right drive for the laptop.

Do remember to ask for laptop memory and drives when you go shopping for them, and don’t confuse them with their desktop counterparts.

They are totally different and cannot be interchanged.

To upgrade memory or hard drive of your laptop, all you need to do is flip it, open the four screws with a screw driver and replace the memory chip and hard drive. And yes, it is actually as easy as we have made it sound here. The following step-by-step approach below will make you run to the local hardware store and buy those goodies for a zippy laptop upgrade!

1. Before you start with the upgrade do ensure that the laptop is powered off and the charger is unplugged from the laptop. It is even advisable to remove the battery pack if possible to ensure absolute safety.

Now flip the laptop on its back and locate the memory and hard drive panels. They are mostly marked by logos or signs that represent memory and hard drive (storage). You will need a screw driver to open the panel for accessing the drive and memory.

2. Once you are able to remove the panel, you will be able to access the memory slots (banks). Release the side latch to uninstall the existing memory module; once the latch is unlocked the memory modules should come out easily.

3. To install the new memory module, simply hold the module almost perpendicular to the laptop and slide it in, keeping the memory module notch in alignment to the memory slot.

Then press the module downwards, so that it locks securely in the slot with the two latches holding the memory module with a “click”, indicating a proper install. Once done, simply lock the panel back and your RAM upgrade is complete!

4. To upgrade your laptop hard drive, locate and open the hard drive panel of the laptop first. You will find a hard drive enclosed in a cage that is attached to the laptop. Slide the cage backwards to unlock the cage, releasing it from the laptop. Once the cage is separated, simply unscrew the drive from the cage to release the hard drive.

Slide in the new drive, attach the cage to it and slide the cage back into the same space shown in the image. Close the drive panel and put the screws back on to complete the upgrade.

–Soham Raninga

Read part 2 of this article.

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