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March 17, 2004

Computer Basics


Plug the computer and monitor into a power source and press the "ON" button. Turn on the monitor also. If you use a power strip you can turn them both on by turning on the power strip but see the cautions below.


Click on START and then click on TURN OFF COMPUTER and then click on TURN OFF. Most new systems allow you to shut down by pressing the power switch on the computer. Check your documentation. Once it’s off you can shut off the power strip. Many systems will turn on if power is applied, thus turning on the power strip with activate your system. See your documentation about powering on with the application of power, usually a BIOS selection under POWER FAILURE. Your monitor switch can be left on and the monitor turned on by turning on the power strip.


Standby is a condition where the system powers down into a low power state from which certain actions can wake it up. Mouse or keyboard action is the usual mode but modem and other inputs can be used.


In the hibernate state the computer is totally shut down but before it shuts down, it saves what it was doing to the hard drive. You need to have unused space on your hard drive equal to the amount of RAM that you have (see below). When it’s wakes up, it restores that previous condition.

Hard drive and Memory:

The hard drive, measured in Gigabytes (GB) is where the computer stores the Operating System (Windows), Programs, Drivers, and Data. When the system is powered off, the stored information is not erased.

Memory, usually measured in Megabytes (MB) is where the Operation System, Programs, Drivers, and Data have to be loaded in order to function. When the system is powered down, everything in memory is erased, hence the requirement to "Save to Disk? before shutdown. Memory can be read in any order so it’s called "Random Access Memory? or RAM. More is better and 256MB is usually adequate.


Program files usually go into the PROGRAM FILES folder. In older versions of Windows it makes sense to create a folder called DATA and create sub-folder in that to store all of the data you create. Back up the DATA file and you've backed up everything you need. Windows XP creates a folder called MY DOCUMENTS located under C:/DOCUMENTS AND SETTINGS/USER NAME/MY DOCUMENTS. A seperate account can be created for each user thus keeping data files separated by user. See more under backing up data later.


Many new printers don’t have to be turned on; they come on when you print to them. Other printers have to be turned on and off. You can plug your printer into a power strip only if it’s shut off BEFORE you turn off the power switch. The printer OFF button must be pressed in order to park the print heads so that they won’t dry out. Only turn off the power strip switch if the printer is off. Therefore, there’s no advantage to plugging a printer into a power strip except for major problem servicing. If your printheads become dry and repeated cleaning won’t free them you can unpark them by turning the printer on until the heads move and then turn the power strip off. Squirt some Windex onto the pads the heads rest on and turn the power switch on and then turn the printer off to park the heads on the Windex. Let it sit a while and try the clean procedure again.


When the computer starts Windows will present a screen with Icons on it. Each represents a program that you can activate and use. To activate a program you have to rapidly press the left mouse button twice. (Left handers can set up to reverse the left and right buttons. Go to CONTROL PANEL and click on MOUSE). The 2 click operation comes from allowing one click to select the Icon for further action. But this is customizable and you can use POINT to select and one click to activate (Go to CONTROL PANEL and click on FOLDER OPTIONS). Once selected, it can be dragged to a new location, or the right mouse button can be clicked to obtain more information. A rule to remember is that the left button causes an action; the right button in for INFORMATION only. . Usually a menu pops up where you can then select an action using the left button.

Functions of the mouse include select, activate, request information, and drag and drop

among others.

You can point to an Icon and press the left mouse button and then move the mouse to drag the Icon where you want it and release the left button. You can do this with Icons, files, images, etc. and can move them from one folder to another.

Start Menu:

Point to the START box in the lower left. Click it once (or press the Windows Logo key). A panel pops up that includes your most recent Applications, Run, Find (Search in Xp), Help and Support, Settings (Control Panel in Xp), and a list of useful folders. It also has Programs (All Programs in XP) that lets you see all of the programs loaded on your computer. Note that Microsoft sometimes calls them Programs; other times they’re called Applications. They are what you start to perform a task; a wordprocessor such as Word or Works, a genealogy program, Internet Explorer or Outlook Express for examples. Point to Programs and it will open without clicking. Slide the mouse to the right and up until it points to Accessories. Those listed with arrows pointing to the right have sub-menus. Point to each one and see what the sub-menus are. We can’t detail them all here but we’ll demonstrate some. Try them yourself to see what they do.

Computer Maintenance.


Backup generally means backing up data that you’ve acquired or created to a safe medium. But we’ll also consider backing up critical system data in case of a system failure.

Windows Backup: Background.

Before you can backup your data you need to know where it is and what you want to backup. It’s a good idea to keep all of your data files in one folder with sub-folders. Windows XP does this by defaulting to the My Documents folder which then has My Pictures, My Videos, My Received Files, My ebooks, etc. Find where your data is and if it’s in several places you can tell Backup to back them all up. This is a great time to delete any files that you don’t need anymore.

There are three kinds of data backup. To start, you need to do a full normal backup. That tells backup that this file has been backed up. Once that has been done, you need only backup files that have changed. There are two methods of doing this; incremental backups and differential backups. Incremental backup backs up only changed files that have not been backup since they changed. Differential backup backs up every changed file every time you run it. Thus, for a full restore, you need a normal backup and every incremental backup or a normal backup and the last differential backup.

Some tips to consider: Don’t backup pictures, videos, downloads, ebooks or anything that you can re-download from the Internet. For pictures, create a folder outside of My Documents to store photos and copy all of your pictures from it to a CD. Make two disks if they’re really important. Add new ones as necessary. The same with videos and music. Create a video disk and a music disk.

In general, these Windows backup programs do not backup to a CD but will backup to a floppy, a tape drive, a Zip Drive or a hard drive. To create a backup CD you need to backup to your hard drive and then copy that file to a CD. That means that the file can’t exceed about 650 MegaBytes.

Plan your approach: You can do a normal backup on Monday and an incremental backup every day the rest of the week. Or you can do a normal backup on Monday and an incremental or differential backup next Monday. Or a normal backup on Jan 1 and an incremental or differential backup on the first of every month. Consider a manual intervention to create a backup when you have created something special. The choice depends on how much data can you afford to lose.

Windows Backup: Procedure.

Go to START, PROGRAMS (ALL PROGRAMS in XP), ACCESSORIES, SYSTEM TOOLS and click on BACKUP. In Windows Home Edition you won’t find it and will have to install it from the Windows XP disk. (Insert the disk in your CD drive, click on the arrow for Perform additional tasks, select Browse this CD, double click on VALUEADD, then MSFT, then the NTBACKUP folder and double click on the NTBACKUP icon to install it.)

You will be asked if you want to backup or restore, what do you want to backup, where do you want it to go and what to name it. Each version of Windows may be somewhat different but review each option and make a choice. You will be able to choose between scheduling the backup or doing it now. Don’t be afraid to experiment with file structure and backup procedure until you get what satisfies your needs.

System backup:

You may want to backup some system parameters in case the system crashes. There are a couple of things you can do. Not all are considered backup but all are useful.

Startup Disk: Create a startup boot disk so you can start in case of hard drive failure. In XP you can only create an MSDOS startup disk but earlier versions allowed a Windows startup disk. In XP put a floppy in the floppy drive, click on MY COMPUTER and right click on the A DRIVE. Select FORMAT and then choose MAKE MSDOS STARTUP DISK.

In Windows 98 you go to START, SETTINGS, CONTROL PANEL, and click on ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS and then click the STARTUP DISK tab and then CREATE DISK.

If something happens where you can’t get your computer started, insert the startup disk and then see if you can access the C: drive.

Total system:

Some programs that come with CD burners offer to do a full system backup. Windows XP will also do it but in XP Home there’s no provision to restore from the disks you create. Depending on system size in could take several disks. Mine would take 33 disks. Still, that could be pretty cheap insurance.

Documents and settings transfer wizard:

You can use the wizard to transfer files and settings from one computer to another. If your computer goes belly up, having the transfer wizard transfer files back to where they came from might be useful. You can create the disk (disks) to save that data and hope you never have to use it. The wizard in located in Documents and Settings/ All Users/ Start Menu/ Programs / Accessories/ SystemTools. Follow instructions and choose any additional files you want to transfer beyond those listed.

Restore Points:

Windows ME and XP allow you to create Restore Points where you can return your system to a previous known good condition. Points are automatically created but you can create one any time you want. A restore point should be automatically created when you add or modify something.

If you do add something that causes your system to act strange, try restoring from a restore point when the system operated normally. The easiest way is to go to HELP in XP and click on Undo changes to your system with System Restore. You can also get there from START, ACCESSORIES, SYSTEM TOOLS, SYSTEM RESTORE. You can pick a restore point to return to or create a new one. If that returns your system to normal, then something was wrong with the change that you made. Now you’ve isolated the problem. If that doesn’t help you can return to where you were.

You can control how much disk space that System Restore uses by going to the CONTROL PANEL and clicking the SYSTEM RESTORE Icon.