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Exploring Windows’ Administrative Tools: Part 3

When the need arises to check system RAM, try the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool that comes with Vista and Windows 7 — and is a free download for XP. This app thoroughly exercises your system’s random-access memory, uncovering problems that can cause crashes, hangs, and other errors.

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Test-driving ‘free scan’ tune-up suites

Even on well-maintained systems, free system scanners might find hundreds of “problems,” as I discovered from a test of three products from well-known companies. These suites typically offer to fix system problems — for a fee — but are these problems real or just scare tactics to drum up sales?

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What to expect from the Windows 8 rollout

By the time you read this, chances are good that Microsoft will have its final, final version of Windows 8 ready. Basing my take on a few announcements and drawing on a little bit of history, here’s what’s likely to happen as Windows 8 makes it way to store shelves.

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Software that updates your other software

The release of Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) 3.0 prompts a test drive of the new version, plus six alternative general-purpose auto-update tools. One surprise: Some of these automatic-update programs can worsen your PC’s condition.

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Kill those Vista and Win7 gadgets now!

In the unlikely chance that you’re using Windows gadgets, you need to get rid of them — right now! Those seemingly innocuous accessory apps that you stick onto your desktop, included with Vista and Windows 7, could be used to subvert your system.

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House Call 2012: One family, four PCs

Lexington, Mass., was in glorious, late-spring bloom when I visited Windows Secrets reader Helene Mayer. Helene had a houseful of PCs (running XP, Vista, and Win7) exhibiting a variety of problems. I was there to help.

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Some ugliness installing an after-market SSD

Ever look inside a solid-state drive? Neither had I — until I bought one and had to disassemble it to make it fit into my notebook. This story ultimately has a happy ending, but unexpected trouble along the way made the process far more difficult than it needed to be.

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Where we stand — and are going — with Windows 8

Work on Windows 8 is in the home stretch, but predicting its success is still pure speculation — probably more so than with any previous Window release. Microsoft’s announcement that it will build and sell its own Windows 8 computers just adds more drama to an already opaque roll-out schedule.

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Little-known browser commands and functions

No matter what browser you use, chances are good that you’ve never even heard of some its powerful and useful commands, features, and functions. Here’s a guided tour to some of the most interesting — and unfamiliar — functions in Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox.

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Exploring Windows’ Administrative Tools: Part 2

Windows’ Performance Monitor is the key to understanding the details of your PC’s operation. This tool (built into XP, Vista, and Win7) lets you see, in real time and in collected data logs, how your PC reacts as different programs run — or fail to run!

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