Speed Up Your Laptop

You may remember that we recently picked up a new laptop for the office. We posted the specs on our Facebook page, check us out there if you haven’t already.

The new laptop is pretty good but we found it a bit slow, mainly because it uses Windows 10 as an O/S. With 6 Gigs of Ram, we felt it should have been faster. Here’s what we did to speed it up, step by step:

  1. First job was to make sure we created the Recovery disks. Since our laptop has an optical drive for reading and writing DVDs and CDs, that was a snap. Once you have the Recovery Disks, it’s easy to switch to another hard drive.

2. Next, we ditched our 500 Gig standard hard drive and replaced it with a 250 Gig SSD (solid state drive)

SSD Drive
An SSD has no moving parts. Less prone to damage and much faster than the standard HD.

An SSD has no moving parts, in case you didn’t know. What does that mean? It means that access, both read and write, is much faster than on a normal magnetic drive. Cost is going down by the minute on these so if you can manage it, adding an SSD is pretty cheap, well worth the money when compared to the speed increase it will give you.

This is what RAM looks like before it goes into your laptop.

3. Then we decided to add more RAM. RAM, random access memory, is what lets your computer think when it’s turned on. The more RAM, the more it can think about at one time. If you like to have a dozen browser tabs open at one time, RAM is what you need…lots of it. We upped ours to 16 Gigs, the most our new laptop could handle, for less than $100.00. Adding RAM yourself is much less expensive than buying it with the computer.

Most laptops come with very small and cheap batteries, usually 4 cell. Adding a 6 or 8 cell battery afterward is a cheap way to increase your usage time.

4. Now that we had a faster laptop, and the speed difference was incredible, we used it for longer periods of time. That meant that our little 4 cell laptop battery wasn’t quite up to snuff for hours of use. For less than $50.00, we doubled our usage time. Now we can surf and write for about six hours. Again, adding an 8 cell battery from the manufacturer is very expensive. The computer itself might seem like a good deal but when you get hit with the extras, you’d be shocked at how high the price can climb.

TIP: Look for your laptop’s model number (it’s on the bottom), then type that into the search window on the site where you buy your parts.

Adding RAM and the SSD might be too tough for you but we’re sure you’ve got a techie friend who could help. Upgrading the battery is a snap. Make sure your laptop is off not in hibernation, take out the old battery and insert the new one. Plug your laptop in and wait until the the new battery is fully charged. That’s it!

Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook .Thanks for reading!


Google Chromecast – What’s new in version 2?

We gave you some of our first impressions of the new Chromecast in our last post. If you already own the older version of Google’s streaming device, you might be wondering what changes there are in version 2. Here are some:

Photo of Chromecast
Chromecast Versions 1 and 2


WiFi Protocols: Without getting too technical, the new Chromecast uses significantly faster WiFi protocols than the original. The new device has three antennas inside which automatically switch to your router’s output signal. What does this mean for you? Faster streaming which translates into higher resolution and a lot less buffering. For techie-types, here are the specs directly from Google: “dual band 2.4 and 5GHz support, and support for 802.11ac”.

Less Storage: Less buffering requires smaller storage space, right? The original Chromecast came with 2 gigabytes of flash storage, a fairly substantial amount for a device of this size. Chromecast 2 gives you only 256 megabytes, simply because of the faster WiFi protocols. Less buffering = less storage required.

Tip: What is buffering? : Your buffer is like a gas tank on a car. Chromecast loads as much of the content that you are currently watching as it can then feeds that content out to your HDTV. Both the buffer and your car’s gas tank have a higher capacity than what is currently being used. With the new WiFi bits and pieces, there should be no delay evident, even though the buffer is smaller than in version 1.

Improved Chromecast App: Google has made changes to the Chromecast app  that is already installed in the device. Besides offering more sources for content, the new version pre-loads whatever app you are using on your remote (see previous post for details on what constitutes a remote) , preparing itself to play whatever you choose. Google calls this ‘Fast Play’.

Another feature in the new app that we haven’t tried yet suggests that, quote: “You can mirror any tab from your Chrome browser to your TV, giving you access to even more content from the web”. This should be a lot of fun, if it works. We think it means that Chromecast will play any video content that can be played in any Google Chrome tab without requiring a specific app for the source. Let’s say you’re watching a sports replay or a video on Facebook. If we’re reading Google correctly, you should be able to cast that content up to your HDTV. That alone is worth getting the new version of Chromecast, in our opinion.


Games: Finally, Google is promising some gaming apps, think Angry Birds, that will mirror whatever is on the device you’re using as a remote. We’re not sure how this will work because you’ll be using your fingers to control the game but you’ll be watching it on the big screen. Is this ‘touch gaming’, controlling the slingshot while not looking at what your hand is doing? We’ll see what this is like before we comment further.

There are other differences that are listed here: What’s new with Chromecast and the Chromecast app? (Link to Google Support).

If you’ve had experiences with either version of Chromecast that you’d like to share, comment here. Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook .Thanks for reading!



Google Chromecast – First Impressions

If you’re one of the millions of us who have ‘cut the cable’, you’ve probably already heard of Google’s Chromecast. Chromecast is available in about 120 countries around the world so unless you’ve been living under a rock, the name should be familiar to you.

Photo of Chromecast
Here it is, the latest version of Chromecast. Different colors are available.

We received a demo Chromecast last week. Here are our first impressions of this simple device plus an explanation of what it does.

All you need to get started with Chromecast is a HD TV and a relatively fast Internet connection. You’ll also need a remote. This is the part that we found a bit unsettling about Chromecast because the device itself does not come with a remote. The solution to all of lives probably lives in your pocket or purse. Any Android or Apple smartphone will work as a remote control unit. Additionally, you can use a tablet, laptop or desktop computer running Google Chrome. A simple solution, as it turns out.

You’ll have to think of Chromecast as an enabler rather than a standalone piece of technology. For less than $50.00, any HDTV can be made smart. When we think of a smart TV, we usually think of something that allows you to use Netflix. Many people stop there but there is so much more than Netflix out there.

Photo of Chromecast setup
Connect Chromecast to any open HDMI port, plug it into an electrical connection and you’re off!

The photo above shows how your Chromecast should be connected to your HDTV.  Once you’ve done that, the rest of the setup is done on your remote; your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Setup is easy, don’t worry. On a smartphone, you download the Chromecast app then enter your WiFi password and you’re off and running.

Once your phone and Chromecast are linked, it’s simply a matter of downloading and installing the apps that enable you to watch shows on your HDTV. Yes, Netflix is one of those apps but there are many, many more. Here’s a small list:

Photo of Chromecast apps
In order to watch material from any of these apps, you’ll need to install that app on your remote.

Once you’re installed some apps on your remote, find something you want to watch and then cast it over to your HDTV via your remote and Chromecast. Tap the icon you see below and your show will pop up on your HDTV.  Anything that you’re watching on your remote that can be cast to your HDTV will have this icon up on the top right corner:

Chromecast icon
If you can see this icon on your remote screen, you can cast whatever you are watching up to your Chromecast and watch it on your HDTV.

Play will pause on your remote and continue on your HDTV. If you want to watch something else, press pause or stop on your remote and choose something else. Cast it up to your Chromecast and your HDTV will show your current selection.

TIP: Once you start any video on your HDTV, the quality will be poor for a few seconds. Don’t dismay, it will get better. If you have a relatively fast Internet connection, you won’t notice a difference between your Chromecast broadcast and a DVD. Chromecast uses the latest and greatest WiFi protocols. A wired Ethernet connection is available, more on that later.

That’s it for today. We’ll run through some of the available apps in our next post. Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook .Thanks for reading!

Connecting a Nexus 5 to a Windows PC – Update

We’ve been having a problem lately, mainly since we switched to Windows 10, whenever we try to hook up our Nexus 5 to a PC. Windows sees the Nexus as an Acer ADB device for some reason. Here’s how we fix this:

  1. This procedure is done on your Nexus 5, not on your PC. Start by connecting your phone to your PC using a USB cable.
  2. Go to your Settings, that would be the gear icon on your app screen. After a recent Android system update, we’re on version 6 now, the menu that controls your USB settings has disappeared. This means that you have to do a search for them. Look for the icon of a magnifying glass at the top of your screen.
  3. Type the letters usb in the search space.

    settings for usb
    This is what you see when you search for ‘usb’ on the settings screen. You want to choose Select USB Configuration
  4. Several choices will pop up. The one you want is ‘Select USB Configuration’.  Press that choice.
  5. More than likely the choice you want on the next screen is already chosen. You should see ‘MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) selected. No matter, select it again by simply touching those words.

    MTP Things
    Even if MTP is pre-selected, touch those words again to confirm the choice.
  6. If you’ve followed the steps correctly, a file explorer window should pop up on your screen. It should show your Nexus 5 as a storage device that you can double click on to reveal the contents.

This process should work for you. We’re not sure why Windows 10 defaults to the ADB device choice but doing this fairly simple set of steps should get you up and running quickly. It’s as if you have to remind Windows that the Nexus 5 is an MTP device.

If by chance this doesn’t work for you, try our previous routine. Here is the link:  Nexus 5 to PC


Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook .Thanks for reading!

Disable Browser Window Resize

It’s hard to know what to call this post but if you have a modern laptop, you know the problem. Seemingly for no reason, your browser window resizes itself, making the text so small that can’t read it or so large it looks like a first grade reader. Here’s how to stop that, once and for all.

1. You may not know it but there is a bit of software that controls your trackpad. In our case that software is put out by Synaptic. On the lower right corner of your taskbar there should be an icon that looks something like this:

Photo of Touchpad Icon
The icon may not look exactly like this but we’re quite sure you have one on your laptop.

2. If you can’t find it, you’ll have to look in your Control Panel. Once CP is open, look for Hardware and Sound then either Touchpad/Mouse or Device Manager. Find your pad there, right click it and choose Properties.

3. In the Properties window, look for Pinch Zoom. Depending on who made your laptop, the actual wording may vary. Here’s what you might be looking at:

Photo of Disable Pinch Zoom
Disable Pinch Zoom. That’s what you’re looking for, depending on which company made your laptop.

4. Basically, you want to disable zoom, no matter what it’s called on your laptop. Once you do that, click OK and/or Apply and the window will close. No more of that annoying resizing!

Let us know if you have a problem with this or anything else to do with computers, tech, software, Facebook, WeChat…you get the idea.

Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook . Thanks for reading!

a little bit of hi-tech, a little bit of common sense and a lot of fun