Tech Tips for Windows
This page provides basic tips on using your Windows computer or device effectively, or links to reputable pages to provide the necessary advice.
What is Windows?
Microsoft Windows is the name of the operating system sold by Microsoft. If you have a PC or laptop that is not an Apple, you will likely have Windows.
It has many versions. Microsoft itself currently only supports Windows 8 and 10.
Which version of Windows am I running?
There’s quite a lot of difference between the versions. This page will help identify which one you have.
Update your Windows version
Wherever possible, we recommend keeping your Windows version up-to-date. Very old versions of operating systems can cause devices not to work or connect properly.
However, if your computer is itself quite old, it may not be able to upgrade to the most recent operating system, and that may itself be causing slowness or problems.
To find if there’s an available upgrade, look for “Windows update”: go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Click “Check for Updates.”
Note that Windows upgrades may cost money. Check before making a decision.
Also note that operating systems can be very large, and upgrades can take quite a long time. Ensure you have the time and data available to do the upgrade.
Sometimes, software – such as internet browsers – can get “stuck”. They can use up all your available memory while they try to process whatever has caused the problem. The only way to stop them causing the issue is to force-close them.
How to Force-Quit a Program in Windows – all versions.
Shut down and restart (including “safe mode”)
As with all technical equipment, “turn it off and on again” is the first step when you have an issue. You can do an ordinary shutdown and restart for that.
Sometimes, however, you’ll need to restart your computer in “safe mode”. Safe mode starts Windows in a basic state, using a limited set of files and drivers. If a problem doesn’t happen in safe mode, this means that default settings and basic device drivers aren’t causing the issue. Observing Windows in safe mode enables you to narrow down the source of a problem, and can help you troubleshoot problems on your PC.
There are two versions of safe mode: Safe Mode and Safe Mode with Networking. Safe Mode with Networking adds the network drivers and services you’ll need to access the internet and other computers on your network.
- How to Properly Reboot (Restart) a Windows Computer (all versions)
- How to refresh, reset, or restore your PC – Windows 8
- Recovery options in Windows 10
- Start your PC in safe mode (Windows 10)
Uninstall and reinstall software
If you think a particular piece of software is causing problems with your computer or internet connection, you can uninstall and reinstall it.
We strongly recommend going to the software website first, or looking in the software folder on your computer, for any instructions or suggestions on saving data and correctly uninstalling the specific package. Simply deleting the file, or its folder, will not correctly uninstall software, and may in fact cause more problems than you’re trying to fix.
Ensure you have a way of re-installing the software after it’s removed. For example, from a CD, USB stick, or internet download.
If the software needs a licence key to operate, check that you have the key stored in a safe location before you delete it, or you may lose your access to it.
Check network settings
Ensure that you’re connecting through the correct internet connection. Over time, you can accumulate old sets of connections.
It’s worth checking those older settings and, if they’re definitely out-of-date, deleting them entirely so you don’t inadvertently use them to connect.
Manage background processes – Windows Task Manager
Closing, exiting or cancelling any unused background process gives more space back to the computer itself.
However, use this very carefully.
If you do not know what a process does, search its name. Do not disable processes if you are unsure, as some processes are necessary for your computer to function normally. You can stop applications like Skype, your printer applications, camera updates etc from being automatically loaded at start-up. Applications like your antivirus software need to be loaded at start-up.
Windows has built-in software that will automatically look for and clean up temporary or “junk” files. This can restore quite a lot of disk space, over time.
Click “Start”. Type “Disk Cleanup” and press “Enter” key. Select your primary partition (Windows installed drive, in most cases C:/ drive) and scan it for junk files. After a few minutes, it will show a list of unnecessary files and simply select all these check boxes and start cleaning your drive.
You can also look for third-party software that can help clean and maintain your hard drive.
- PC Mag Australia: The Best Tune-Up Utilities for 2021
- Techradar: The best free PC optimizer 2021: speed up your PC with a few clicks
Wipe and restore
As a final option, if the issue does seem to be your computer, you can wipe it back to its factory defaults, and then add in your necessary software and data bit-by-bit.
This is quite a major undertaking. We recommend discussing it with your trusted technical advisor before starting off the process.
At the very least, you’ll need to back up all your existing data and software, so you don’t lose everything.