Windows PC Optimization Guide — Part Two

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By: Charles P. Jefferies

NotebookReview’s Computer Optimization Guide is designed to help you and your computer work faster together to be more productive. In part one we focused on improving your computer’s performance, and now we will focus on improving the way you use a computer.

This guide is aimed at Windows XP/Vista/7 users with a basic understanding of computer operation and usage.

Learn Windows Shortcuts

A computer typically has two input devices — a keyboard and a mouse. While it is straightforward to click on things on-screen, there is a faster way to navigate through programs and give commands — the keyboard. Just about every Windows user knows Ctrl + Alt + Delete, but do you know any more? You will.

Windows XP/Vista/7 Generic Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Alt + F4: Closes the current window/program
  • Alt + Tab: Holding down Alt and pressing Tab once switches to the previous window you were using; press tab again to switch to the next window
  • Windows Key + F1: Launches Windows help from any program; pressing F1 will launch help for the current program
  • Windows Key + M: Minimize all windows; press Windows Key + Shift + M to undo minimize
  • Windows Key + D: Show desktop
  • Windows Key + E: Open Windows explorer
  • Highlight any icon/file in Windows Explorer: Press F2 to rename

Windows 7 Specific Shortcuts

There are some shortcuts specific to Windows 7 that really come in handy:

  • Windows Key + Up Arrow: Maximizes current window
  • Windows Key + Down Arrow: Minimizes current window
  • Windows Key + Left/Right Arrow: Docks current window on left or right side of screen
  • Windows Key + Home: Makes all windows transparent except the current window
  • Windows Key + Space: Hold to make all windows transparent

Edit Text Faster with Keyboard Shortcuts

Anyone who types on a regular basis is going to find the following shortcuts extremely useful. They are generic and should work in almost any text input area — Microsoft Word and so on.

  • Ctrl + A: Selects everything
  • Ctrl + C: Copies selected area
  • Ctrl + V: Pastes copied text
  • Ctrl + X: Cuts selected text
  • Ctrl + Z: Undo
  • Ctrl + Y: Redo
  • Shift + Arrow Key: Highlights text in that direction from wherever the cursor is (try it!)
  • Ctrl + Arrow Keys: Left/right arrow keys go to end/beginning of words, up/down go to beginning of previous/next paragraph
  • Ctrl + Shift + Arrow Keys: Left/right arrow keys highlight previous/next word, up/down highlight previous/next paragraph

Create and Keep a File Backup Schedule

Corrupted and failed hard drives are the biggest productivity killers of all time — nothing is worse than losing all your data. For this guide I am going to demonstrate how to do file backups with a free tool from Microsoft called SyncToy — it can be downloaded here. You will also need a storage device such as an external hard drive or flash drive.

1.       Install SyncToy and launch it.

2.       Let’s assume we want to back up My Documents; on your external storage device, create a folder called My Documents Backup.

3.       Now we will use SyncToy to sync the folders in your My Documents folder to the My Documents Backup folder on the external drive.

4.       Windows PC Optimization Guide -- Part Two new Sync Toy pairClick Create New Folder Pair at the bottom of SyncToy; it will bring up the window shown to the right 

5.       The way this works is that the left folder will be synced with the right folder; assuming we want to back up My Documents, click Browse on the Left, select My Documents, and click OK. On the right, select the My Documents Backup folder you created on your storage device and click OK.

6.       Click Next; there are three options here. Synchronize is what most will want to do — it will sync the folder on the left (My Documents) with the folder on the right (My Documents Backup).

7.       Click Next; give the action a name and click Finish.

8.       Repeat steps 1 — 7 for however many folders you want to backup.

Windows PC Optimization Guide -- Part Two all Sync Toy pairsNow that you have created all folder pairs it is time to run them, therefore syncing all of the folders on your computer to the external storage device. Assuming you want to run them all at once, click the All Folder Pairs item at the bottom:

Click Run All and the syncing will commence. The first sync will take the longest since all of the files need to be copied, but sequential runs will go faster since only new/updated files will be synced.

Ideally, back up your files once per week — it will take mere minutes and for that you will have the invaluable security of having your data backed up. Just connect your external hard drive, open SyncToy and click Run All – that’s it.



In part one of this guide we showed you how to improve your computer’s performance, and today we showed you valuable shortcuts and a data backup plan to keep you as productive as possible. Stop back for part three, where we go over additional performance and productivity tips.



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