There are a surprising number of excellent office software suites available, and some of the best don’t cost a dime.
MS Office remains the king of office suites, but if you can’t or don’t want to use it, numerous free and commercial substitutes stand ready to serve.
With proper care and feeding, the expensive lithium-ion batteries in your notebook PCs and other portable gear can run well for many, many years.
On the other hand, common battery-care mistakes will reduce your batteries’ run times and lead to needless and costly early replacement.
Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 blog documents a little-known Win7 upgrade path from the Release Candidate.
If you’re using the Windows 7 RC, you can upgrade directly to the final, retail release of Win7 Ultimate, though following this unsupported upgrade path isn’t for everyone.
It’s a little-known fact that all solid-state disks — all of them — suffer inevitable performance declines over time.
It’s also little known that Windows 7 and Server 2008 are currently the world’s only operating systems to fully implement the new trim command that helps forestall this speed decline.
Version 7 of Microsoft’s Virtual PC virtualization software is OK, but the program is much-more limited than competing third-party apps are.
Alternative virtualization programs offer more power and flexibility than Microsoft’s — and they’re just as free as Virtual PC!
Windows’ System Configuration Utility startup-management tool — AKA Msconfig — depends on Registry data that may be wrong.
One way to clear the clutter from Msconfig is by running a Registry cleaner.
When the bits hit the fan, nothing gets your PC back in shape like having a complete known-good image of your hard drive to use for recovery.
Disk imaging — the gold standard of backups — is built into all versions of Windows 7 and some versions of Vista, but it’s also available for XP.
When system files go bad, Windows’ System File Checker can set things right.
Whether due to malware, botched updates, or some other glitch, mangled system files are rooted out and replaced with good copies.
Wiping the data off old drives is a smart thing to do, but secure erasing also must be easy to do.
Powerful software is worthless if it’s too hard to use, but I’ve found a free drive-wiping tool that’s powerful enough for pros yet simple enough for newbies.
When you do a clean install of Windows — whether the new version 7 or one of its predecessors — make sure you reload your software in the correct order.
Here’s my tried-and-true method for building a stable, secure installation of any version of Windows.