Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Windows Desktop–How to Change the Background?

I am always amazed at how many simple questions I get asked – so be sure to keep asking!  And as always, if you have a suggestion for post, let me know!  Changing the Windows Desktop background is essentially the same in all versions of Windows with a slight change in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Windows 7 – Changing the Desktop Background

First right click an empty spot on the desktop and from the right click drop down select Personalize – it is the last item on the menu.

right-click-to-access-windows-7-desktop-personalization

From the Window that appears, you can select a background image or slideshow – which is new to Windows 7.

windows-7-personalization

Windows XP – Changing the Desktop Background

Similar to Windows 7, first right click an empty spot on the desktop and select Properties form the menu.

windows-xp-accessing-desktop-properties

In the Dialog box that opens go to the Desktop tab.  From this tab, you can select/change the desktop background.  If you do not see an image you want, you can click Browse and browse for an image.

windows-xp-desktop-properties-tab

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Windows Desktop

The Windows Desktop is probably one of the most important features of the Windows operating system.  The Windows Desktop is the main screen that will appear once the computer is finished booting and if necessary once you have logged on.  On the desktop one will find shortcuts to various programs, folders, and files.  One can add or remove shortcuts and files as desired.  It is important to note that most items on the desktop are shortcuts to programs and folders and the desktop actually does not contain the programs.

The appearance of the Windows desktop has changed over the years; but, the basic functionality and location of most items has remained the same.  One of the main features of the desktop is the taskbar, which is usually at the bottom of the screen, although it can be moved to wherever you desire (top, left, right, and bottom).  On the left most side of the taskbar is the start menu, which contains access to programs, computer settings, as well as power options (shutdown, reboot, ect.).  At the far end of the taskbar (right side), you will find the clock and notifications area.  In the middle of the taskbar (depending on which version of Windows you have) you will find the running programs.  In older versions of Windows programs only appeared on the taskbar if they where running; with Windows 7, this is not necessarily the case since the Quick Launch area has been combined with the running programs.  Thus even though a program may not be running it will still appear on the taskbar.  In Windows 7, programs that are running will be highlighted, in the screenshot below, Internet Explorer, Blogging Application, MS Messenger, and Photoshop are running.  For older versions of Windows the Quick Launch area was generally right next to the Start button and contained little icons to some commonly used programs such as email, web browser, ect.  The Quick Launch could be configured with any shortcuts to programs that you desire and the same is true of the new Windows 7 taskbar.

Windows 7 Desktop

windows-desktop

Windows XP Desktop

windows-xp-desktop

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Anti-Virus Software–When is the Last Time You Preformed a Full System Scan?

Your anti-virus software most likely already performs a regular scan, but these scans are usually quick scans and while they should detect most infections, there is a possibility that a few files or registry settings that can sneak through.  For that reason, I recommend that you manually preform a full system scan at least once a month, of course if you anti-virus software already does then I would still recommend performing a scan every few months.  In my experience Norton Anti-Virus is probably one of the best for doing this, regularly performing quick and full system scans.  Microsoft Security Essentials on the other hand only performs a quick scan unless you change the settings, which I do not necessarily recommend doing.  Also of course if you have a suspicion that there might be something on your system then I definitely recommend you perform an immediate full system scan.  The key here is full system, which basically means the anti-virus software is going to go through all your files checking for viruses.  Quick scan generally just check the running programs, common settings, and common virus locations.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Anti-Virus Software–Second Layer of Defense

You will probably notice I have not posted in a while!  Summer time is here!  Plus for the last two weeks I have been having trouble with my desktop with weird errors and crashing.  I finally found (after the power supply exploded!) that my liquid cooling system was leaking back down behind the CPU.  Proves even the computer guy has trouble with his computers!

Now on to what this post is really about, another layer of defense – the Anti-Virus software.  I would guess that most if not all of you have heard of anti-virus software, in fact if you bought a computer recently, it probably came with anti-virus software pre-installed.  If your computer did come with anti-virus software make sure that it is active!  Most of the time the anti-virus software is just a 90 day trial (give or take) which expires and needs to be renewed.

It is important note, that some people claim that they do not need anti-virus software.  They claim they know what they are doing and are safe enough online to not need anti-virus software.  There is some truth to this as long as you browse the web safely you should not have to worry about viruses.  However, the key here is browsing the web safely, and lets face it, the web is not safe to browse!  Especially if an perfectly legitimate website is infected with a virus.  So forget playing with “fire,” just use an anti-virus program; and they do not necessarily have to cost you anything either!

So, what does anti-virus software do?  Two things mainly, actively monitors your system for intrusion attempts and scans your system for viruses.  These threats could come from downloaded files, web pages, email, or running programs.  As for the scanning part, the anti-virus program with scan every file attempting to find any viruses that match based on the virus definitions that are installed.

With anti-virus programs, it is important that you keep them updated!  This is possibly the most critical and yet often overlooked part of anti-virus software.  Anti-virus software scans your system based on definitions and with viruses constantly being created it is important that theses definitions be up-to-date!  Most anti-virus programs automatically install viruses definitions, if your current anti-virus program does not; then I would suggest upgrading!

What do I recommend for anti-virus software?  That depends on what you are looking for, but the two programs I usually recommend are Norton Anti-Virus (Paid – www.symantec.com) and Microsoft Security Essentials (Free - http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/mse.aspx).  I personally use Microsoft Security Essentials ( the price is right!) and while it does not do anything fancy, it does get the job done, just a plain ole anti-virus program.

As an additional note, some of you have probably heard of anti-spyware or anti-malware programs as well.  These programs work very similar to the way an anti-virus program works; however, they focus specifically on spyware/malware infections.  Most anti-virus programs include anti-spyware and anti-malware built into them.  Both of the programs I suggested above include anti-spyware/anti-malware.