Turn Off Windows Live Messenger For Good

One thing that really annoys me are programs that Windows thinks everyone should have running on their system - regardless of whether you want them or not.

Windows Live Messenger is one such program that automatically runs when Windows7 starts up. Messenger is a chat program from Microsoft that runs in the background and consumes precious system resources (memory) and slows down Window's start up routine. It's also an annoying popup when you first start Windows.

Here’s how to disable and turn off auto-start of Windows Live Messenger.

1. Click anywhere on the Messenger login or chat screen and press the "Alt" key to make the menu visible:

2. Click the "Tools" -- "Options" menu.

3. Select "Signin from the left side list of options, and uncheck the "Automatically run Windows Live Messenger when I log into Windows" option.

Save your changes and Windows Live Messenger won't start the next time you restart Windows.

Why is my hard drive still fragmented after running Windows defrag?

Question: I ran defrag on my Windows XP box to hopefully speed things up, but it still left quite a few files that are fragmented. What gives?

Answer: Defragging your hard drive should be like giving your car an oil change and dropping a can of octane booster into your gas tank. It should speed things up and make your system run smoother.

What gives is that the built-in Windows defrag program completely sucks. It's slow and doesn't do a very thorough job, as you've seen first hand.

The story gets worse with Vista, and the built-in defrag utility doesn't even show the graph anymore, so you can't even see how many files are still fragmented. I guess Microsoft decided it would be better to not even show people how ineffective the defragmentation program is!

You'll get much better results from a third party defrag program like Diskeeper, and better system performance too.

Diskeeper just released their 2009 version, and you can download a free 30-day trial to see what a fully defragmented hard drive really feels like. I ran it on my 160GB hard drive that's half full, and it took less than 30 minutes to defrag it - much faster than the hours it can take for Window's defrag utility to run.

I like that you can see a graph of the files on your system, so you can visualize the defragmentation of your hard drive. Here's a screen shot of my hard drive after running Diskeeper 2009, showing blue for files that have been defragmented and red for files that are still fragmented (you'll have to look hard for any red lines):

Wondering what file fragmentation means, and if it can affect your system's performance?

My computer keeps locking up and runs slow

Question: My computer keeps locking up and runs quite a bit slower than it used to. Programs like Internet Explorer and MS Office freeze when I try to open them. Is it time to buy a new computer?

Answer: Before you go out and buy a new system, consider this: your computer's hardware hasn't changed (the processor, the memory, the hard drive, etc), so it's not likely the cause of the performance problems you're experiencing - which is good news because I'm sure you'd rather not shell out several hundred dollars for a new computer.

Chances are good that you have a virus that has infected your system and is slowing down performance.

How to find out if your system has been infected with a virus:

If you're experiencing performance problems and in particular are seeing weird behavior such as programs freezing or the system locking up, then it's time to scan your system for viruses (even if you have Norton or McAfee already installed - those programs are notorious for not knowing about the latest viruses).

I recently found a program that will scan your system and remove viruses for free. It's called AVG Free, and here's the download link:

Here's what it found when it scanned my system:

How to open Windows Explorer in a specific folder

Ever notice how Windows Explorer opens up to your Documents folder on Windows Vista, or the My Documents folder on XP?

That's not usually where I want to start looking for files - I usually want Windows Explorer to open at the root of my C: drive.

If you have a specific folder that you'd like Windows Explorer to always open to by default, then here's an easy change to make that happen.

First, find the menu or shortcut that you typically use for opening Windows Explorer. For most people that's going to be on the Start -- All Programs -- Accessories -- Windows Explorer menu.

To make it easier to get to, you can copy that menu to your Windows taskbar by right-clicking the Windows explorer menu, selecting Copy, and then right-clicking on the taskbar next to the Start button and selecting Paste.

Once you find the Windows Explorer menu or shortcut, right-click it and select Properties

You'll be prompted with a Windows Explorer Properties dialog. In the Target field, enter the desired startup folder in double-quotes after explorer.exe. Be sure to leave a space between the folder location and explorer.exe, like this:

For Vista:

%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe "C:\"

For XP:

%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e,"C:\"

Click OK, and the next time you select that menu or shortcut, Windows will open Explorer in that folder by default.

Where are the cool games that come with Windows Vista?

Question: My work laptop doesn't have any games on it, but I thought there were some cool games like chess and mahjong that came with Vista. Is there a way to turn them on or install them?

Answer: I think a lot of companies would rather their employees use their laptops for work instead of play, but I find that I'm more productive if I can play a game every once in a while during work hours :-)

Windows Vista ships with several new games that are fun to play and help you recharge your mind for a few minutes, like Mahjong and Chess. There's even a new game called Purble Palace that kids will love.

These programs are part of the Vista operating system and just need to be enabled.

Click the Vista Start button and select Control Panel from the right side of the programs menu. Then select "Programs" and you'll see a link titled "Turn Windows features on or off".

Expand the option for Games and check off the ones you'd like to install/enable. Click OK and you'll now have access to games on your laptop.

To play a game, just click Start --> All Programs --> Games and select the game you'd like to play.

I love the new version of Mahjong that comes with several choices of tile layouts:

How to set up your own home network

If you own two or more computers, you can connect them together on the same network and gain some immediate benefits.

With two or more computers on the same network, you'll be able to print to the same printer, which is the set up I have at home. My wife's laptop is downstairs in the kitchen desk, and the printer is upstairs next to my workstation. We can both use the same printer, which means we don't have to keep a printer in the kitchen - a big plus for saving precious desk space.

You'll also be able to copy files from one computer to another if they're connected on the same network, and can even share an Internet connection.

To set up a home network on Windows XP, you'll need to run the Network Setup Wizard on each computer. Click the Start button and then select Control Panel --> Network and Internet Connections --> Network Setup Wizard.

Choose one computer to be the main server, through which the other machines will connect to the Internet. The other computers will then connect to the Internet through this main server.

Run the Network Setup Wizard on the other computer(s), but select the option to connect to the Internet through the first computer.

Give each computer a unique name and description, so they can be identified on the network.

Use the same WORKGROUP name on all your computers - this is how Windows figures out that they need to all be on the same network.