Category Archives: Technicians Advise

When Free Doesn’t Mean Free

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.

Remember the good old days when the “free” in freeware meant exactly that?


I started writing about freeware back in the days when Clif Sipe (aka Clif Notes) and Ian (Gizmo) Richards were pretty much the freeware gurus. Those were the halcyon days when innovation was rife and there was always some new and exciting freeware to write about and discuss. When good old Spybot Search & Destroy was pretty much the only antimalware – long before anyone had even heard of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – and the awful Adobe Acrobat was the ubiquitous PDF reader.

I still vividly recall when Ian Richards first wrote about a new program called “Sandboxie” back in 2004. Sandboxie intrigued me no end and I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread… still do. However, back in those days, the concept of an “isolated virtual environment” was pretty much unheard of and trying to explain it, even to experienced users, was no easy chore. Alas, Gizmo’s original Freeware Newsletter is no more and Clif Sipe has long retired to a well-deserved easier life.

Fast forward to today and the freeware scene has changed dramatically. Not only has just about every avenue for freeware innovation been well and truly covered, creating a scarcity of material for freeware writers, but the entire concept of “free” has also taken on a whole new meaning.


Today, it seems very little is actually free and there is usually some sort of trade off involved  –  limited features, upgrade nag screens, download wrappers, advertising modules, bundled PUPs, toolbars, etc. Writing a freeware review today is as much about the potential safety and bundling issues as the actual program. While I can’t blame developers for seizing the opportunity to monetize all the work involved with developing and maintaining their software, I do wish they would be totally transparent about it, plus perhaps consider a system of opt-in rather than opt-out.

The trend has become so prevalent that it has actually spawned a whole new category of freeware tools – such as Unchecky and  AdwCleaner –  which are specifically designed to help users deal with bundling and PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). A pretty scary indication of just how predominant this practice has become. Even the once pristine Open Source software has been sullied by SourceForge’s flirtation with DevShare, an adware supported download wrapper which was eventually discontinued after SourceForge changed hands in 2016.

There are still developers who remain true to the original spirit of freeware of course. Nir Sofer and his excellent collection of free portable NirSoft tools and utilities readily spring to mind. Unfortunately though, true unadulterated freeware is fast becoming as scarce as rocking horse manure and, sadly, today’s users need to approach all so-called freeware with a heightened sense of “let the downloader beware”.


Filed under downloads, Freeware, Software, Technicians Advise

Cloud Storage – Great Idea or Security Risk?

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.

“On no, we’ve lost all of little Johnny’s birthday snaps”, the woman cries as she holds her smashed smartphone aloft. With a knowing smile, her husband responds, “Don’t fret dear, they’re all in the cloud”. All is well, peace and harmony reign again.


Even less than a decade ago, any mention of “cloud storage” or “data in the cloud” would have almost certainly elicited a puzzled response. Today though, I’d imagine just about everyone would be familiar with the concept. “The cloud”, it’s a rather exotic term which simply means your data is uploaded to and stored on somebody else’s server, essentially on an internet connected hard disk owned and operated by the cloud service provider.

There is no doubt that the advantage of being able to access data from anywhere on any device creates a massive appeal factor, especially for multiple device users. Not to mention the automatic backup element which is clearly demonstrated in the opening paragraph.

It all sounds like a great idea, that is until you start considering what might and can go wrong. Of course, cloud storage providers take the utmost care with your data, at least according to them. They apply top notch security measures including encrypted data transfers. Trouble is, the encryption key is also stored on their machines, which means any of their staff can access those files as can any hacker who manages to break into the system.

I realize every method is susceptible to hackers, whether the data is stored locally or in the cloud. However, which do you think would represent the most desirable target – a local disk containing only your own personal data or a mega database containing data uploaded from thousands (if not millions) of users, all in one place?

Another concern involves the future viability of a chosen cloud storage provider – just ask those who entrusted their data to Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload. What happens to your data if the company is sold, goes bankrupt, or just closes down? Then there’s the scenario where cloud storage providers can simply change the terms of their plans, exactly as Microsoft did recently when the company drastically reduced the amount of data storage available under its free OneDrive plan.


I guess though, when it comes to data in the cloud, the greatest concern for most people is privacy. While Microsoft OneDrive openly scans all your files – for illegal content of course, most providers will collect data to share with “trusted third parties”. Naturally, many of these providers need to process sensitive information, such as your name, email address, phone number, credit card details and mailing address, in order to “improve their services”. And Santa Claus visits once a year around Christmas.

Despite the cynicism, I do believe that cloud storage can be decidedly useful and I’m certainly not dismissing the practice out of hand. However, as is the case with many situations… everything within reason.

I would not, for example, store any sensitive data in the cloud, whether encrypted locally beforehand or not. Family photos, life-memories, items which are valuable only to the user and serve no purpose for anyone else… sure, no problem.

Regardless, the important thing to remember is that any backup is preferable to no backup at all. If you don’t fancy storing your data in the cloud, dust off that external drive and use that instead. Works for me.



Filed under cloud storage, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, Privacy, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

Windows 10 Privacy Issues – Fact or Fiction?

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.

The release of Windows 10 together with news of its heightened telemetry certainly brought out the conspiracy theorists and paranoid. Publish an article about Windows 10 and, regardless of the actual subject matter, you’re pretty much guaranteed to receive a slew of comments slamming Microsoft and its new operating system for introducing these so-called privacy issues, so much so that it has gotten to the point of becoming tiresome.

The data collection in Windows 10 may be at a new level for a desktop operating system but it is pretty standard fare for mobile devices. Both Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) have been collecting this type of data for years with nary a whimper from the using public.

One has to bear in mind that Windows 10 is, after all, a hybrid operating system, designed to cater for both desktop and mobile users. Mobile by its very nature requires a lot more information than a stationary desktop in order to deliver full functionality. If you ask Cortana to find the nearest pizza shop, for example, how can the digital assistant provide that information if it has no idea where you are located?


With the increasing trend toward mobile device usage, Microsoft is merely following the age-old law of supply and demand. With Windows 10, Microsoft has produced an operating system which is suitable for both desktop and mobile users – depending on how it is configured.

That’s the whole point with Windows 10, a point which, apparently, many people have failed to grasp – the choice lies squarely in the hands of the end user. Windows 10 can quite easily be set up purely as a desktop operating system, in which case the level of data collection is substantially diminished. Sure, it may take a little time and effort to go through all the settings, but it is definitely not difficult.

Don’t want to use Cortana? Simple… just turn it off. And so on, and so on. It’s easy to disable unwanted apps/features, nobody is being forced to utilize them or the services they provide. They are simply available for those who do want to use them.


If you go through Windows 10’s Privacy settings and disable everything you don’t want or need, including setting Feedback to minimum, the level of telemetry is no more than one would expect for a desktop PC, no more than [say] in Windows 7 or 8.1.


I’m not suggesting for one minute that Microsoft hasn’t made bad decisions regarding Windows 10, just that, in my opinion, the telemetry isn’t numbered among them – more a matter of simply keeping up with the times. In fact, I’m far more concerned over the enforced updates in Windows 10 where there simply is no choice. Not to mention the constant upgrade nags and unsolicited upgrades – but that, as they say, is another story for another time.

Bottom Line:

To suggest that Windows 10 is ‘spying’ on consumers is a pretty far stretch. I, for one, don’t really care if Microsoft knows that some anonymous old geezer in Queensland, Australia regularly visits Bill Mullins Tech Thoughts blog.

Do I like Windows 10? Sure I do. Would I recommend upgrading to Windows 10 for free? In a heartbeat.

*BTW: Microsoft recently announced that the Windows 10 free upgrade offer will definitely end on 29th July as originally stated.



Filed under Microsoft, Myths, Operating Systems, Software, Technicians Advise, Windows 10, Windows Tips and Tools

Three Reasons Why You Won’t Regret Building Your Own Gaming Computer

In this guest author post, Brent Hale lays out a series of benefits associated with building your own gaming computer – some of which you may not have considered.

imageBuilding your own computer is a daunting task. There’s a lot of risk that you, the system-builder, must take on, because there’s a lot that can go wrong during the building process.

And, even though there is an infinite amount of information available on the internet on how to assemble a computer, any misstep you make during your build could potentially cost you a lot of money. Obviously, that’s not something that the majority of computer-users and PC gamers want to deal with.

However, if you are willing to accept the challenge of building your own gaming computer, then there are a lot of rewards that you will receive from the process as well. In this article I will go over three reasons why you won’t regret building your own gaming computer.

#1 – You’ll Save Yourself Some Money

Despite the fact that PC gaming has long been the most powerful gaming platform, some gamers have never made the switch over due to the high costs associated with getting a capable gaming computer. And, rightfully so.

Pre-built high-end gaming computers from the manufacturer often exceed $1,000. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for most gamers, especially when you consider how much the popular gaming consoles cost.

Fortunately, the good news is that a solid gaming computer can be had for much less than $1,000. You just have to build it yourself…

One of the biggest reasons why people end up building their own PC is to save some money. By building your own gaming computer you cut out the middleman and you avoid having to pay high markup prices.

The money saved from cutting out the middleman can help you in two ways:

1) you can keep that saved money, or

2) you can put that saved money back into your build.

Obviously, the first option will allow gamers who wouldn’t normally be able to get a quality gaming computer do so. And, the second option will allow gamers to stretch their budgets and get a more powerful rig.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a solid gaming computer and price is one of your big concerns, then cutting out the middleman and building your own system is a great option.

#2 – You’ll Be Able to Build Your System Exactly How You Want It

One of the ways that computer manufacturers are able to maximize their profits is by buying the components they use in their builds in bulk. This is great for them, because they get a discount on the parts.

However, the problem is that they build up an inventory of certain components and they are forced to use only those parts in their systems. As a result, computer manufacturers typically only offer a limited amount of builds and they don’t present a whole lot of customization options. This can be frustrating for gamers who want to build their computer a specific way, with specific parts.

By building your own computer, the doors are opened to whatever components you want to use. That means that you can customize your system to the specifications that you want.

Not only that, but by choosing to build your own system, you will also get to control the quality of the components that go into your computer.

Manufacturers have long been known to put cheap power supplies and motherboards in their builds in order to cut costs and increase their profits. And, while power supplies and motherboards won’t contribute directly to your in-game experience, they do play a significant role on the overall build quality of your system. Furthermore, a cheap motherboard and/or power supply can cause a lot of problems for you down the road.

So, an added benefit of building your own computer is that you can ensure that your computer is of a high quality – because you will be solely responsible for choosing the parts that comprise it. This will allow you to build a more durable and more efficient running computer that will last you a lot longer than an ordinary manufacturer-built machine.

#3 – You’ll Gain an Important and Extremely Relevant Skill

In today’s tech-driven world we rely so much on computers. In fact, we’ve become so dependent on computers in the past 20 years that if they were taken away it’s likely that the whole world would erupt in chaos. This probably isn’t a good thing… but it does show how important computers are in our society.

Due to how important computers are, perhaps one of the most rewarding benefits that comes with building a computer is the knowledge that you’ll gain and the value and the opportunities that that knowledge will present you.

First off, by knowing how to build your own computer, instead of having to buy a brand new computer every three or four years, you’ll be much more inclined to upgrade your system as it becomes necessary. This will save you even more money over the long run and it will make your initial investment last even longer.

In addition to saving money through upgrades, you’ll also be able to help your friends and family members save money by helping them build their own computer as well.

Or, you can turn your new skill into a side business. There are a lot of people who want high-end custom-built computers that are tailored to their own specific needs. Unfortunately for those people, there aren’t a whole lot of mainstream options for them to get those kinds of computers. So, if you enjoy your initial building experience, there are definitely opportunities for you to profit from it.

In any case, knowing how to build a computer definitely doesn’t limit you. Instead, it opens the doors up to new opportunities and gives you leverage in a world dominated by technology.

Build Your Next Computer… You Won’t Regret It

There are a lot of responsibilities that come with building your own computer. You have to choose your own components, assemble your system, and troubleshoot should anything go wrong. And, if you do run into any problems, it’s up to you to fix them.

However, for those of you who are brave enough to take on building your own computer, there are a lot of benefits that you’ll receive. You’ll save more money, get a higher quality machine, and you’ll gain a valuable skill.

So, even though there is risk involved, there are also a lot of reasons why you should consider building your next gaming computer.

Author Bio

Brent is an avid PC gamer and huge computer hardware enthusiast. He runs—a site dedicated to helping gamers build their own PCs. If you’re looking for a new gaming PC, stop by EGC for more information. There you’ll find a number of builds for cheap gaming PCs and high-end systems alike.


Filed under Games, Guest Writers, Technicians Advise

Can’t Load A Site? “Down For Everyone or Just Me?” Helps Solve The Puzzle

imageHere it is late on Thursday night, and it’s time for one last check on my email and sundry other Net tasks I need to get at – before it’s lights out time. On launching Firefox, I’ve got an immediate problem – (my home page), is nowhere to be seen. Instead, I get that dreaded tough luck message – can’t open the website unable to locate.

Earlier in the evening, I had performed some network maintenance – adding and removing network connections – and since I’m a “worse case scenario” thinker, my overly anxious first response was – you dummy, you screwed up your Internet connection (or, another network connection) somehow. I now had visions of having to do some heavy lifting before I pulled the blankets over my head.

It was just a fleeting thought, since there were any number of reasons (other than me screwing up), which could push out the “nowhere to be found” message. I then turned to the web site, Down for everyone or just me? – which would let me know in seconds if it was just me, or, if the site was really down.

I must admit to breathing a sigh of relief when it turned out that was down – first time I can remember that happening.

It’s unlikely you’ll need this tool very often, but it will definitely come in handy.  When this sort of thing happens, it’s good to know what’s really going on.

Down for everyone or just me? – couldn’t be any easier to use. Just enter the address of the website you can’t reach, click on the “just me?” button, and you’ll have the answer instantly.

The following screen shots illustrate the process.



Add Down for everyone or just me? to you Bookmarks, and you’ll be ready for the inevitable.

Additional services which you might find useful for site checking.



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Filed under Freeware, Interconnectivity, Recommended Web Sites, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools – A Tweakers Paradise?

imageComputing is more or less all about generics – a sort of, one size fits all approach. But, if you’re like me, the last thing you want is a machine that’s configured to run with settings which don’t take into account your specific requirements. Luckily, there are more than a few free tweaking apps available, which help average users apply the most common system tweaks.

But, if you’re considering customizations beyond the basics – tweaking your games, browsers, video card, or overclocking your CPU for example, you’re going to have to to dig a little deeper on your own. Unless you’re aware of, that is.

If you’re looking for a site that covers tweaking the way it should be covered – detailed, suitable for both novice and advanced users, and written in plain language, then is the place for you.

Just some of the goodies available at TweakGuides:

Firefox Tweak Guide

Google Customization Guide

The Gamer’s Graphics & Display Settings Guide

Game Tweak Guides

But, I’ve held onto the best for last – TweakGuides Tweaking Companion – a terrific compilation of Windows customization, optimization and troubleshooting advice for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

From the site:

The TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) is the complete system customization and optimization guide for all Windows users. Designed for novice and advanced users alike, it is written in plain English to help you genuinely understand all key aspects of Windows and your PC.

The guide covers every major topic, from the correct installation of critical drivers and software, through to simple explanations and recommendations for every significant Windows setting and feature, all the major performance and convenience tweaks and customizations, as well as detailed troubleshooting advice.

Also provided are links and instructions for a large number of reliable free applications which can enhance your system and give you viable alternatives to purchasing commercial software.


In all cases, the regular system specific edition of TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (PDF) is free.

Once downloaded, first extract the PDF file from the .ZIP archive using the built-in Windows compression utility, or the free 7-Zip utility. Then use the free Foxit Reader software to read the PDF file.

To round out the free offerings, the site provides a very active forum – the place to go for questions, answers, and advice, on operating systems, software, and hardware.

A big shout out to regular reader Michael F., for introducing me to this super site.  Thank you Michael.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Google, System Tweaks, Technicians Advise, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Malwarebytes – A Must Have for Every PC Tech

Guest writer Julie Myers, gives us her personal take (backed up by her 14 years in IT Support), on why she believes Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware should be a part of every PC Tech’s toolbox.

Once Upon a Time

imageOnce upon a time, computers were free to roam the Internet. Websites took up very little space and not much traffic was on the sparkling new information highway. It was a time of early development and little risk for business folks. It was a time of discovery and information sharing for everyone else.

Nothing tried to rob our computers of their speed, network connectivity, or corrupt a file, nor unknowingly get our computers to spread a virus. Roaming the Internet was fun, though sometimes boring – but, crime free.

Times Have Changed

Unfortunately, it is no longer “once upon a time”. Today, the greatest threat to a computer is malware and the best post-invasion force is you, the PC Tech. As a PC Tech, your job is to rid the computer of malware. To do this you need an arsenal of the best software tools, and Google.

Since the best anti-malware software changes from time to time, it is important to stay current with which ones are the best. As of June, 2011, one of the best free anti-malware software programs, that you must have, is Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware.

Why Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes just plain works. A team of ten PC Techs and I, have run Malwarebytes on at least two hundred infected computers, over the past year, with outstanding success (there were, of course, a few computers that were so badly infected all tools failed, thus the only solution was to reimage).

Malwarebytes downloads and installs quickly. And, the user interface is relatively easy to figure out and navigate. It takes around 25 minutes to an hour to run a full scan, depending on how much data is on the user’s hard drive, and how badly infected the computer is. And, the user interface is relatively easy to figure out and navigate.

The employees at Malwarebytes Corp. do such an outstanding job at keeping on top of the latest threats, and programming their software to delete it from a computer, all you need to do is make sure you have the latest engine update before running a scan. From what I have seen Malwarebytes removes a variety of malware, 9 out of 10 times, with just one scan and a reboot.

Here are some additional features to get you even more excited:

  • It’s free. There is a PRO version that is very reasonably priced at $24.95 per license and the added features seem well worth the cost.
  • Scans are relatively fast compared to other malware software. The PRO version is said to be even faster.
  • It does a full scan on all drives, both free and PRO version.
  • PRO version has a real-time active malware prevention engine. In other words, the free version has to be run manually to scan your hard drive. The PRO version can be configured to run automatically in the background.
  • Currently, Malwarebytes will run on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 (32bit and 64bit).

Danger Continues

In the foreseeable future, malware will continue to be a threat to computers. You, the PC Tech, will need to keep up to date with the best tools to rid computers of these annoyances. Today, Malwarebytes is one of the best free anti-malware tools out there.

Good luck, and don’t swear at the computer too much. Now, go visit and add their anti-malware software to your arsenal.

For more details and to download Malwarebytes, go to:

To compare the differences between the free and PRO versions, go to:


Guest writer Julie Myers has been in IT Support for 14 years, surfing the Internet since the mid 90s, and has been playing around with computers since the Apple II. Currently, Julie is tinkering with creating websites and she’s in the process of learning Java.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Guest Writers, Malware Removal, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

A Computer Technician’s Advice – Backup Your Files Now!

Dave Brooks a professional computer technician from New Hampshire, has written this article to emphasize, once again, and it can’t be repeated too often – the importance of data back up on a regular and consistent basis.

Let’s Talk About Backups

backup My Name is Dave Brooks, I’m an A+ certified technician currently employed in a small shop in New Hampshire. I’ve been in the computer industry for about 15 years, playing with computers even longer. Other than a brief introductory class many years ago, I am completely self taught.

Bill has generously donated space for wanna be novelists (I’m not a writer by any stretch) to share their thoughts, so I figured I’d take him up on the offer.

Much of the operation of a computer seems to amaze the average user; that they can do what they do even amazes me sometimes. You don’t need to know how a PC works to use it, just like your car, if you have problems you visit a mechanic, you don’t need to know how it does what it does.

One thing you DO need to know is that you MUST back up your computer if you have anything of even remote value to you on it. Hard drives (the device that actually stores your data) are amazing things, their capacity is growing by leaps and bounds and the price per Mega Byte is dropping about as fast.

Hard Drive Diag One of the biggest problems with them is, they can fail at pretty much any time with no notice at all, one minute your working away, the next the drive has developed a catastrophic problem and your years of work and photos have gone to that great recycle bin in the sky.

Depending on the problem the drive has developed it can be relatively inexpensive to recovery your data or it can cost thousands of dollars to send it off to a company specializing in data recovery.

Planning ahead, you can reduce this cost to a mere hundred or two dollars and a minimal amount of downtime. How you ask? An external hard drive and some imaging software. Acronis True Image is a great application and one I recommend to all my home clients.

It is really as simple as installing the software, connecting your external drive, and going through a wizard which will perform a full backup of your hard drive and help schedule recurring backups. When your hard drive fails, it’s a simple matter of installing a replacement, and restoring your recent backup back to the new drive, and you’re up and running with minimal downtime and aggravation.

I’ve had many a customer lose many a file because they had no backup, they usually implement a routine after they experience data loss, but the loss could have been prevented, it’s not a matter of if your hard drive will fail, but when.

In closing I’ll leave you with this thought; BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!!!

Driveimage XML

(Click pic for larger)

Checkout the review of DriveImage XML, a free, easy to use, and reliable data back up program, from Runtime Software, on this site.

Dave is a very popular guest writer here, and his articles are always a huge hit – but he’s far too modest. Earlier this year, Microsoft’s TechNet Security Blog, linked back Dave’s  guest article, here on Tech Thoughts, “Think You’re Immune from Online Fraud? Maybe Not!”. Now that’s recognition for a job well done!

Pay a visit to Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

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Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Freeware, Guest Writers, Hard Drive Imaging, Software, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

What You Need To Know About RAID

If you’ve ever wondered about RAID, and what it might mean for you, then guest writer Bryan Keller’s article will provide you with the answer – and then some.


What is RAID?

RAID is the acronym for either ‘redundant array of inexpensive disks’ or ‘redundant array of independent disks’.  When first conceived at UC Berkley the former was the actual term that was coined but the latter is more commonly used today intentionally to disassociate the technology from the word inexpensive and the perception that RAID somehow implies a low cost solution.

Why Use RAID?

RAID is a storage technology that provides increased data reliability through data redundancy.  This is achieved primarily by duplicating data across several storage drives in a configuration referred to as an array of disks.

How Many Different Types of RAID are There?

There are several different types of RAID array configurations each type being denoted by a single digit numeral, 0 through 6 (and various combinations thereof).  These types are commonly referred to as RAID ‘levels’.

What Distinguishes one RAID Level From Another?

The makeup of the different RAID levels is varying combinations of redundancy, spanning, mirroring and striping.

What is Redundancy?

Redundancy is the duplication of data onto more than one physical drive to increase fault tolerance.  If one physical drive in a redundant array fails no data is lost and there is an opportunity to replace the failed device.  As long an one drive is functional, data is secure.  However, in the case of a failure, the failed device must be replaced and the array rebuilt onto the new device.  In very large data structures this can sometimes take a great deal of time.  If there were to be a failure during the process of rebuilding the array all data would be lost.

What is Spanning?

Spanning is the configuration of two or more physical drives into one ‘logical’ drive.  The logical drive is treated exactly the same as a physical drive and will appear as just one device.  Spanning is used to increase the amount of storage capacity of an array.  As an example: if three 100 gigabyte hard drives are configured as one spanned array, the result would be one logical drive 300 gigabytes in size.

Spanning alone provides no redundancy or fault tolerance and it is commonly combined with mirroring.

What is Mirroring?

Mirroring is the duplication of data onto two or more drives simultaneously to create data redundancy and increase fault tolerance.  A mirrored array sacrifices half of its storage capacity to achieve a redundant status.  If two 100 gigabyte drives are mirrored the result is a single 100 gigabyte mirrored array.

What is Striping?

Striping is a bit more complex.  Striping is used to increase performance.  This increase in performance is achieved by splitting the read and write data down into ‘blocks’ and then writing or reading that data simultaneously onto two or more physical drives on the same sector of each respective drive.

In a simplified example imagine that you are writing 100 megabytes of data out to a striped array.  If you were to take that data and split it into two 50 megabyte chunks and then write both of those chunks simultaneously, one 50 megabyte chunk to drive (a) and the other 50 megabyte chunk to drive (b), you would theoretically half the time required to perform the process.  That, in essence, is the theory behind striping.

Striping provides a significant increase in performance but it is also the most dangerous of all the RAID levels when used alone.  Not only is there no redundancy but if either or any of the drives in a striped array fails, all of the data from the entire array is completely lost.

RAID Level 0

RAID Level 0 – (2 Drive Minimum – no Fault Tolerance) Block Level Striping without Parity or Mirroring:  Because this type of RAID offers no fault tolerance or redundancy it is technically not actually RAID.  Raid 0 offers the best performance of all the RAID levels.  Data is broken down into fragments called blocks and is then written to all drives in the ‘array’ simultaneously across what is called a ‘stripe’ (on the corresponding disks in the same sector).  When data is read it is broken down into smaller pieces which can be read in parallel thereby increasing bandwidth.  With RAID 0 if any drive fails all data is lost across the entire ‘array’.  Even at minimum the likelihood of a catastrophic loss is double that of a single drive without any RAID at all.  RAID 0 should never be used alone for critical data.

RAID Level 1

RAID Level 1 – (2 Drive Minimum – Data Redundancy) Mirroring:  In its simplest form RAID 1 simply duplicates data onto two different hard drives simultaneously, thereby providing data redundancy.  Data redundancy means that if either of the two hard drives fails for any reason no data will be lost as there is an exact duplicate or ‘mirrored set’ of the data on the other drive.  Data integrity is maintained as long as either of the two hard drives in the array is functioning.  In the event that one of the drives does fail it is simply swapped out for a new working drive.  The ‘array’ then ‘rebuilds’ itself by duplicating all of the data onto the new drive and recreating the ‘mirrored set’.  Data is, however, vulnerable while a rebuild is in progress.

RAID Level 5

RAID Level 5 – (3 Drive Minimum – Redundancy Through Parity) Block-Level Striping with Distributed Parity:  RAID 5 combines the increased speed of striping with redundancy through distributed parity.  In RAID 5 one drive out of the array will always be sacrificed to achieve redundancy.  In other words, when there are three 100 gigabyte drives present in a RAID five, the array will be 200 gigabytes in size.  However, by using distributed parity, the redundancy is spread across the entire array.  Therefore, if any one drive in a RAID 5 fails, data integrity is maintained and an opportunity exists to replace the failed device and rebuild the array.

RAID Level 6

RAID Level 6 – (4 Drive Minimum – Redundancy Through Parity) Block-Level Striping with Double Distributed Parity:  Very similar to RAID 5, RAID 6 builds on the security of RAID 5 by adding an additional level of redundancy.  In a RAID 6 up to two drives can fail and no data will be lost.  RAID 6 makes very large arrays possible, where the time it takes to rebuild the array after a drive failure can be quite lengthy.  In a RAID 5 scenario data would be vulnerable for far too long while the rebuild is in progress.  RAID 6 addresses this concern by adding an additional redundancy drive.  RAID 6 is the solution that should be used where data is extremely critical or high system availability is important.

RAID Level 1+0

RAID Level 1+0 – (2 Drive Minimum (though 4 are more commonly used) – Redundancy Through Mirroring) Mirrored Sets in a Striped Set:  Fault tolerance and increased performance.  This RAID level is a combination of RAID 1 (mirroring) and RAID 0 (striping).  RAID 1+0 can sustain multiple drive failures as long as no mirror loses all of its drives.

RAID Level 0+1

RAID Level 0+1 – (4 Disk Minimum; must be even number of drives – Redundancy Through Mirroring) Striped Sets Mirrored:  Here, a second striped set is created to mirror the first striped set.  In contrast to the 1+0, in RAID 0+1, all the drives in one mirror can fail without a data loss but if drives fail on both sides of the mirror everything on the entire array is lost.

There are also more combinations possible, but I will stop here.

Guest writer Bryan Keller:

I own a Computer Repair and Data Recovery business in San Antonio, TX, San Antonio Computer Repair. I spent 10 years in database development. I am now also providing Website Development, Hosting, and SEO services. We use the Joomla CMS.

Altogether, I have been involved in computer programming for over 30 years. I was a self-taught programmer back when the ‘Atari 800′ was all the rage! I had an Atari 800 with 16 kilobytes of ram and a 6502 8-bit processor that ran at 1.7 MHz, no hard drive and a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk that stored just 180 Kilobytes of data. Of course there was no internet but we had the dial in bulletin boards that we connected to at 300 baud.

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Filed under Hard Drive, Operating Systems, RAID, Technicians Advise

57 Free PC Repair Apps for Your Flash Drive

Comp tech

Are you a computer tech wannabe? Are you the goto guy for your neighbors, club, or social circle when computers are on the fritz?

If you answered “yes”, then the Australian website Technibble has a great free offer you should consider.

Technibble describes itself as “a resource for computer technicians who are looking to start their own computer business, or improve their existing one. Technibble also provides an amazing place for technicians to help other technicians via our forums”.

The site has compiled an impressive array of free geeky tools for diagnosing and repairing Windows computers in a second release of its Computer Repair Utility Kit. The kit contains 57 top-quality applications to help you analyze a problem computer and (hopefully), restore the machine to operating condition.

While it’s true that you can download each of these free tools individually, this all-in-one kit is a definite time saver.

From the Technibble site:

The first version of Technibbles Computer Repair Utility Kit was so popular, we’ve created a second version. For those of you who don’t know, the Computer Repair Utility Kit is a combination of computer repair tools in one easy to use pack.

The Computer Repair Utility Kit allows you to run all of the repair tools from your portable drive (USB Flash Drive, External Hard Drive, IPod etc.) and comes with an easy to use, right-click menu. A must in any computer technicians kit.


The Computer Repair Utility Kit runs off a menu system called PStart and contains the following applications:

File Management

  • CCleaner – Cleans up Windows systems. Clears temporary internet files, cookies, history etc..
  • JkDefragGUI – An advanced defragging tool far superior to the built in Windows one
  • DriveimageXML – Hard drive imaging tool. Allows you to get a single file out of a whole image too
  • Explore2fs – Allows you to explore hard drives with Linux file systems
  • Double Killer – Finds duplicate files and deletes them
  • Deep Burner – CD/DVD Burning software
  • 7-Zip Portable – Archive creating and extraction tool. Can handle most compression formats
  • PC-Decrapifier – Cleans out the crap that comes installed on new brand name computers (Norton trials, toolbars etc.)


  • Process Explorer – Allows you to view system processes
  • System Information – View lots of information about a system (specs, passwords, temperatures etc.)
  • ProduKey – View software cdkeys and serials
  • Autoruns – Autostart program viewer
  • HWMonitor – View hardware information
  • GPU-Z – Show video card information (chipset, bios version, shaders, memory size etc.)
  • Wireless Key View – Shows saved wireless network keys
  • TreeSize Free – Show how much space each folder on a system uses
  • Game Key Revealer – View CDKeys and Serials for popular games
  • USBDView – Allows you to list and manage USB devices (including devices that arent currently plugged in)
  • TrID – Identifies file types for extension-less files
  • Codec Installer – Finds and analyzes video codecs
  • Unknown Devices – Tells you what a “Unknown Device” in system properties actually is
  • GSpot – Video analyizer

Repair Tools

  • Norton Removal Tool – Removes Symantec products
  • McAfee Removal Tool – Removes McAfee products
  • LSPFix – Fixes broken Winsock entries
  • Dial-a-Fix – Repair Windows files and registries


  • Recuva – Recovers deleted files
  • Restoration – Recovers deleted files
  • Photorec – Recover deleted/damaged files from Flash memory (like digital cameras)
  • DBXTract – Recover emails from damaged DBX files (like Outlook Express)

Network Tools

  • Wireshark – View network packets
  • Network Scanner – Scans the network for devices
  • Putty – SSH/Telnet/RLogin client
  • Network Stumbler – Wireless Network Scanner

Virus and Malware Removal Tools

  • Clamwin Antivirus – Virus scanner/remover
  • Rootkit Revealer – Detects rootkits on a system
  • Combofix – Malware finder and remover
  • SmitFraudFix – Malware finder and remover
  • RogueFix – Malware finder and remover
  • Hijack This! – Malware remover
  • SUPERAntiSpyware – Malware scanner and remover
  • Malwarebytes – Malware scanner and remover


  • Mozilla Firefox – Web browser
  • JavaRa – Find and remove old Java versions
  • Monitor Tester – Test monitors from problems
  • Dead Pixel Tester – Finds and fixes dead pixels on LCDs
  • ChkFlsh – Check flash drives for errors or test their real size (as fake ones appear on eBay)
  • Double Driver – Driver backup tool
  • SumatraPDF – Lightweight PDF viewer
  • Revo Uninstaller – Advanced application uninstaller


  • TweakUI – Windows XP tweaking tool
  • VistaTweaker – Vista tweaking tool


  • Quickly Make a System Restore Point – Makes restore point
  • Reset Network – Releases/Renews IP and flushes DNS
  • Clear Printer Spooler – Clears stuck print jobs from spooler
  • Stop Automatic Updates – Stops “Windows has installed updates, restart now” dialog temporarily
  • Start Automatic Updates – Switches it back on

To start the toolkit: Extract the zip file to your portable media and run .Launcher.exe.. You can also add your own utilities to the menu by going to File > and make it so it autoruns when you insert your portable media into the system.

The download size is 88.4mb as a ZIP file and it extracts to 188mb.

Download from one of the following Mirrors:

Note: Like many mirrors, these mirrors can be annoying.

Deposit Files:




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Filed under Computer Maintenance, computer repair, downloads, flash drive, Freeware, Portable Applications, Recommended Web Sites, Software, Technicians Advise, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools