Giving back to the Community

Welcome back, I’m Benedict, and in this post I would like to share with you how I try to help contribute back to society using the abilities that have been given to me.

Some of you may be wondering, “What do you do with all the things you have found or repaired?” Well, I can assure you they aren’t sitting in a pile in my home collecting dust.

I give them away, freely, to the people who need it. People (mainly teenagers) from single parent families who struggle financially, and to those who can’t afford a laptop, tablet or whatever gadget they need for their studies. I get asked about why I don’t charge people for my effort.

My answer to that is because I went through the same thing as they did. As a teenager starting secondary school, I asked my father for a computer to do school work. He just told me that we simply couldn’t afford one, not even a second hand one. He knew I liked to find electronics in the trash, so he asked me to search there for something useful to begin with.

That’s just what I did. A few blackouts, small electrical fires and a couple of electrocutions later, I had a working computer. It was slow and clunky, but it was good enough for that time. Sadly, I don’t have a photo of that from that time. However, if you wish to see some other projects I worked on in my younger days, have a look at some of my older posts below.

Donating things aside, I also participate in a volunteer computing project through the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, contributing my computing resources to the World Community Grid in the hope of speeding up the search for the cures for various diseases. Let me explain how this works.

The researchers, doctors and scientists are trying to find the potential cure for various pressing diseases around the world, such as AIDS, Ebola, Zika, Cancer, Malaria, etc. This is normally done through the use of proteins and whatever other biological ingredients necessary (Sorry I don’t know much about medicine, so I won’t speculate here.).

The main problem about finding the cure is that the combination of possible proteins, any of which may hold a potential cure, number in the trillions and quadrillions. How many can you test in a lab in a day? These researchers and scientists have modeled the various diseases and their potential cures into computer model simulations because computers can work much faster than humans in searching the models and studying their interaction.

Here’s where our computers come into play. Since the amount of computing power required to do this task is way too much even for the largest data centers to handle, the workload is split into millions or billions of smaller tasks that are then sent to the computers of those who participate in this project all over the world. Together, we can help to speed up the search for a cure, from a matter of decades, to a matter of years.

You can find more information about these projects through the link below:

I’ll also put a screenshot here from the Rosetta@Home project, which I m also participating in. (Sorry about the poor resolution, but you get the idea.)


Despite having many older less powerful computers that people generally are not in favor for, their combined processing power would be sufficient to get the work done within the time limit. Strength in union, and United we stand, many would say.

You see, unlike other people who volunteer their time or donate their money, those are two things that are not on my side. Instead, I’d rather give from the abundance from the knowledge and skills of what I have learnt.

Thanks for reading once again, and I do hope this will inspire you to go and help other people in whatever way you can. When we support each other, we create a more caring community. Until next time, take care.

It’s worth a Try – Repairing and Making Stuff

Hi everyone, Benedict here once again. I apologize for the lack of posts recently. I was in the midst of completing my third year of study in Singapore Polytechnic (SP). I finished my exams at the end of February.

Alongside my studies, I have also continued to find more discarded electronics and computers and attempt to repair them. It is true that some thing are thrown out because they cannot work anymore, as was the case I faced about half the time.

As for the other half, they were either still working or could be repaired with minor fixes. You can read about how these fixes were carried out below.

photo-435 photo-1068

The first example in the pictures above is regarding portable chargers. Due to the nature of us inserting and removing the USB cable from the charging port all too often (sometimes with a strong push or pull), it can often result in the pins of the socket getting broken off the circuit board, preventing the charger from charging anything.

As you can see from the picture above on the right, the joints at the pins of the USB port were broken and just needed a touch of some precise soldering to join them back together again. (I have circled the repaired joint in red, please enlarge the image to see it. The problem was solved. I managed to save a couple more portable chargers this way.


The second example was a little more challenging for me. I salvaged a laptop which had its hard drive removed. No issue, I know it is important to properly destroy sensitive information and I do it too.

Normally when I run into a case like this, I would simply swap in a replacement hard drive and get it running again. But this time there was an exception. I believe that the previous owner did not know how to properly remove the hard drive, and just yanked it out, breaking away the leading edge of the laptop motherboard and connector. It just left a bunch of pins sticking out from the board.

Look carefully at those thin sliver lines in the center of the image. What I did to attempt to resolve the issue was to solder the broken pins directly to the socket pins on the replacement hard drive I installed. This way of fixing the issue isn’t quite what most repair technicians would do or advise. Just like in the first example, the soldering had to be extremely precise.

To my surprise, it works without issue. I was expecting there to be some trouble, but there wasn’t any. I was able to install a Linux operating system and it works just fine.

Repairing aside, I have also managed to extract and use components from discarded machines such as bridge rectifiers and stepper motors. Below is one example of such a use: A hand cranked flashlight.


I pulled the stepper motor from a printer and soldered a Light Emitting Diode (LED) onto each coil of the motor. You will first need to do some testing to determine which pair of pins on the motor belong to which coil. That’s it. It works right away. I also observed a few differences using a stepper motor compared to a traditional Direct Current (DC) Motor.

  • Although LEDs are a direct current components because the stepper motor produces alternating current, the LEDs function like a half wave rectifier and light up whichever way the shaft is turned. A DC motor only lights up the LED when it is turned in one direction and not the other.
  • You don’t need as much force to turn the shaft to get the LED to light up, unlike in a DC motor where you would have to get the shaft to spin very quickly.

That’s the gist of what I’ve been up to for now. I hope this will inspire you to get working and do some technical stuff with your hands. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I sincerely hope it helps you one way or another.

Until next time, take care and don’t forget to back up your data.

An Unlikely Resource Discovered

Hi everyone, I’m Benedict, and thank you for taking the time to come back and read my blog.

Over the many years of me tinkering with electronics and computer components, I have been asked quite a few times, “How could you possibly afford so many PCs/parts?”

My reply: I didn’t buy them, I found, repaired and then used them. (Otherwise I kept them for future use.) So where did I find all these parts? The answer might surprise some of you. So here it goes: The Trash. Yes, the place where people throw their garbage.

I liked to search for said electronic devices in dustbins and waste refuse areas. It’s a term known as ‘Dumpster Diving’. Although, these days it’s very rare to come across such devices in these places anymore, unlike back when I was in primary school, I would find something at least a few times a year. The best part was that it was free, since you can take trash and no one will bother. If it wasn’t in working condition, I would try to fix it anyway I could.

It’s actually a good thing that fewer electronics are being thrown in the trash. Electronic circuits and components generally have many chemicals in them that would be harmful to the environment if they were thrown into landfills or incinerated. This also means that it would become more difficult to search for free electronic waste (E-waste) to repair.

So recently, I changed my tactic and started searching inside E-waste bins. So far, the things I have found have been quite promising. Among the things I found were:

– A laptop charger to replace my damaged one.
– Computer parts like CPU, RAM and hard drives.
– Several portable chargers and lithium ion cells.
– A few broadband routers.
– A couple of working laptops.
– Many smaller electrical components, etc.

They were all mostly in working condition, and have allowed me to carry out many more experiments and invent more things. If I discover that something I picked up doesn’t work or can’t be fixed, I return it to that bin. In fact, here’s a picture of one of the laptops I successfully managed to repair. I installed a Linux operating system (OS), which is Ubuntu 16.04 on it, to get more experience using and configuring that type of OS.


When I was younger, I used to obtain my electrical components like resistors, capacitors and diodes by de-soldering them off their original boards and wiring them together with crocodile clips. Not exactly the best way to connect a circuit. Thankfully, after joining SP, I was able to get the necessary and proper tools and parts to do the job, such as a breadboard for prototyping circuits.

I’m guessing you might be wondering, what’s the purpose of me telling you this? Well, sometimes, you need to look in more than one place, even in the most unlikely places to find the solutions or inspiration that you seek. Think out of the box, look at the situation from another person’s viewpoint, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help shows that you are humble and have the will and motivation to learn.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my life’s experiences and lessons. I hope they will be able to help or motivate you in some way.

Dare to Explore and Try New Things

Hi everyone, Benedict here. I apologize for the irregularity of my posts. I was preparing with my team for a presentation for our final year project.Although this preparation occupied the bulk of my semester break, I was still able to squeeze in a little time to work on a few small projects and experiments. Allow me to share two of them with you below.


The first is bridging two computer power supplies together to effectively combine their powers to supply enough power to my PC. The second power supply is tucked in the bottom right corner of the chassis (case) as you can see in the picture above.

So how did I come to this idea? Well, prior to doing this, I observed that my PC was constantly freezing or crashing when it had been under load for anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour.

One observation I noticed when it appeared to freeze, was that it only froze when carrying out a disk read or write operation. (A task that needs to read or write data to the hard disk.) If I dragged an open window across the screen, it worked fine. If I tried to open an application, it froze.

After some trial and error, I realized that it occurred because at the time when the system was under load, there were moments where the hard drive could not receive enough power for the disks inside to continue spinning, causing them to spin down and be unable to start up again. The most likely cause I deduced was a power supply with an insufficient wattage rating to handle all the components in it.


The second is changing the cooling system for my graphics card, also known as a GPU. At the time of purchase, it was using a squirrel cage type fan. This fan was fine for normal use, but once the GPU was running under load, I observed the temperature of around 80+ degrees Celsius.

I used a few applications to monitor the temperature. They are CPUID’s HWMonitor, Speedfan and Piriform’s Speccy. This was to ensure that the temperature was being reported accurately. Hot temperatures increase the rate of wear and tear on the GPU circuits, hence I thought of a better cooling solution, and came up with this.

Yes, I just directly screwed down a powerful fan onto the heatsink, and made an adapter for the fan wires. (Sorry that it isn’t in the picture.) Why this method? Well, I was looking at how CPU processor heatsinks were designed, and thought, if these heatsink designs are able to sufficiently cool a CPU, they might just be effective enough in cooling the GPU.

I installed the GPU back and gave it some work to churn on. Using the same software as mentioned above, I observed the temperature drop to around 50+ degrees Celsius. It was a drop of almost 30 degrees Celsius. At first, I was a little suprised at the vast drop. I even touched the heatsink with my bare hand, and yes, it was much cooler.


The third is still a work in progress. The device you see in the picture above is a Global Positioning System (GPS) tool that I happened to find in the trash. Well, sort of. I had to remove the back cover to do some minor fixes and it broke in the process, so I had to case to mount it in.

So I played around with the user interface for a while, and managed to find a way to get into the operating system. It runs on Windows Embedded Compact Edition 6.0. In other words, it’s very much like an embedded PC, which has limited functionality, with only the tools needed to serve it’s purpose as a GPS.

I’m still poking around it for now, and I see some potential uses for it, such as a media player or document viewer. Although it cannot connect to the internet due to a lack of the necessary hardware, it does accept a micro SD card for data transfer. It’s quite interesting to see how many functions it can serve as for an embedded PC.

I hope this information is useful to you, especially if you have been experiencing some issues like these with your computer as well. If you need further help on this, please feel free to drop me a message through my contact in the “About Benedict” page at the top.

Last but not least, thanks for coming once again to have a look at my blog.

Start now, and Keep on Learning

Hi everyone, I’m Benedict, and today I want you to know that the best time to start learning is now. Your age or ability in your field of interest doesn’t matter. Whether you want to learn a new concept, work on a current or new skill, or just try something adventurous, don’t wait till tomorrow. At the same time, always remember that safety comes first, so do take all the necessary precautions.

The pictures below are some of the learning experiences and experiments I have done through the years. I know, they probably are not the most efficient way to fulfill my intended purpose, but hey, at least I can say I tried and learnt right? So here we go.


This first picture was my first attempt at creating my own interpretation of the ‘Internet TV’, which was a new concept back in that time. (Internet TV does not actually work this way.) It was just a simple connection from the RCA port on my PC to the TV. The quality was not very good, but at least now we could watch YouTube on our old TV. I did this back when I was in upper primary, and it felt like a great achievement that motivated me to carry on making.


This second picture was my first attempt at reusing some lithium ion battery cells from a discarded laptop battery into a portable charger. I used a 5V voltage regulator (The component with the heat sink in the picture.) to give an output of 5V to recharge the phone. While they were able to recharge the phone for a while, I had issues recharging the cells later, and I learnt firsthand about the dangers they posed.

I must emphasize that lithium ion battery cells can be extremely dangerous if mishandled, short circuited or overheated, so be careful when handling them, store them properly and make sure you know what you are working on.


This third picture was my most recent attempt to transfer heat energy from the surrounding air to water. I observed that the water coming into our homes through the pipes are generally several degrees cooler than the air around us on a warm day. The expected end result was that the heat could be transferred from the air to the water, the air would be cooled to provide relief from the heat, and the water would be warmed up for washing or bathing as it flowed. The setup in the picture was just for the proof of concept.

I felt that this might provide a substitute to using an air-conditioner and water heater, both of which consume a large amount of electricity. This setup would only require a small motor for the radiator fan, which consumes very little electricity. Since the temperature gradient was very shallow, I needed a very large surface area for the heat to passively transfer. An air-conditioner radiator, I felt, was the best tool for the job. (Although any significantly large enough radiator would be good enough too.)

As a side note, if you are reusing an old radiator, it’s best to flush it with water for a while to remove any contaminants inside it before you start using it.

Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires you to start pursuing your aspirations starting right now. Remember, it’s never too late to start.

P.S. I apologize for the irregularity of my posts. I have just finished my exams at this point, but project work and my other commitments can sometimes leave me with little time to spare.

Making the Most of what you have

Hi everyone, thanks for visiting my blog once again. In this post, I would like to share with you on how you could potentially improve your wireless speed and performance at home.

Over the last few years, I have heard of and been asked about problems along the line of “Why is my wireless connection so slow?” Now, I once faced that issue too, and with what I learned in my course of study at SP, it turns out that a second broadband router you may have is all you need.

First, let’s run through the basics. A broadband router is the device that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) would give you when you subscribe to their internet plan. They typically feature 4 Local Area Network (LAN) ports, and a Wide Area Network (WAN) port, as well as wireless connectivity and the option for a phone line. Newer broadband routers may also come with dual band wireless for faster access.

Your home wireless broadband router typically consists of:

A router – Routes and filters the traffic between your home’s internal network and the internet.
A network switch – To connect all the devices, both wired and wireless, to the LAN, and
An access point – The wireless transmitter and receiver module that allows your wireless devices to communicate with your broadband router.

In my home, I initially only had one broadband router with only a single wireless band (2.4Ghz), as it was quite old and simple. Since the wireless medium (the space around us) is shared by all our mobile devices and the broadband router, only one device could broadcast a wireless data transmission at any one time. If two devices transmitted together, their transmissions would collide as they are all on the same band, and the data would become corrupted.

Not long ago, a good friend of mine passed me his old broadband router. It was the same model as mine. So here’s what I did to help increase the wireless connectivity performance in my home. It starts with configuring your second broadband router. Although, if you are looking for a second one, you can easily find one online with a quick search.

I went into the configuration page of the second broadband router. Typically, its IP address should be along the line of “192.168.X.Y”. Since these broadband routers have DHCP (a protocol that assigns IP addresses to your PCs and devices), you can just plug a cable to your PC and it should get an IP address that you can start working from.

You can enter the phrase “ipconfig” in the command prompt “cmd”, and look out for the IP address of the default gateway for that wired connection. Then enter that IP address into the URL in your browser and you will reach the broadband router’s configuration page.

Now for setting up the wireless connection. I noticed that many of the broadband routers of the same type I was using, came with it’s 2.4Ghz band set to channel 6. Just to give you a brief overview, there are 11 channels in the 2.4Ghz wireless band. Each of these channels has a frequency that is slightly different from the one next to it in running sequence, but the frequencies for each channel also overlap slightly with each other. However, there are 3 non-overlapping channels, which are channels 1, 6 and 11.

With this information in hand and mind, I set my first broadband router to use channel 1, and my second broadband router to use channel 11. Being the furthest from each other, they are least likely to interfere with each other even if the two broadband routers are beside each other. Furthermore, as they do not overlap with channel 6, which many other broadband routers use, they are least likely to be interfered with by my neighbour’s wireless devices.

It is also important to note that since you are using two separate broadband routers, each router will have its own SSID (Wifi name) and password, so remember to set that too. (Remember to use a strong password and WPA/WPA2 where possible. See below.)

Among some of the other the changes I made, I disabled DHCP so that my two broadband routers would not be conflicting with each other in assigning IP addresses. I also set a static IP address on my second broadband router so that I could access it in future.

I did not post any pictures here because all the different broadband routers have different configuration layouts and interfaces, so you will have to play around with yours and get a feel of how it works.

Last but not least, I used an ethernet cable to bridge the LAN sides of both the broadband routers. I did not connect anything to the WAN port of the second one, as there is no need for me to use that function. From then, your mobile devices should be able to see both wireless networks. Once this is done, it’s important to spread the load of wireless communication between the two broadband routers. For example, parents can use the first one while the children or teens use the second one.

This arrangement and setup effectively gave my home something close to the performance increase that would typically only be possible with a dual band broadband router. It also helped to reduce the interference of wireless communication from the wireless signals from my neighbour’s homes. It was a win-win situation for me at literally no cost.

Performance aside, another important factor to consider if you haven’t already, is wireless security. Most broadband routers have their wireless security option set to WPA/WPA2, which is a stronger encryption that the older WEP standard. What I do advise you to do is change the wireless password for that broadband router. Use a strong password that is easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess. It will be very helpful in keeping out the bad guys.

I know that the concepts and methods that I have stated here may be a little difficult for some of you to understand. I hope this post will be helpful to you if you want to improve your wireless performance without leaving a hole in your wallet.

Thanks again for reading. Feel free to reach me at my contact in the “about” link in my blog.

Imagine, Innovate, Inspire.

Photo (1012)

The device in the photo above is an impromptu “external hard drive” storage device I put together several years ago. I remember that it was owing to the fact that my family’s data collection was growing and we needed more digital storage space for them. My parents were not willing to buy an actual portable hard drive for me due to the higher prices then.

The point that I want to bring across is that sometimes, the solution or answers to the challenges we face might already be around us or an idea lurking in our heads. Sure, when you want to solve a problem, you think up all kinds of ideas and solutions. Dream big and wild. Don’t consider them silly, because they are unique and may actually work out well. I learned through doing my own research, as well as trial and error, and you can too. Although since everyone has different learning styles, I’ll leave that portion to you.

To continue on with the photo above, I pulled together my impromptu “external hard drive” together using a power adapter, USB to PATA* and SATA* adapter, and a couple of old hard drives I had previously salvaged.  I linked it by USB to my home broadband router, effectively turning it into a Network Attached Storage (NAS), which turned out to be more convenient and accessible than using an external hard drive.
(*PATA and SATA are 2 types of hard drive interface connectors.)

I still hold on to the notion of, “If you don’t have it, make it, or at least try to.” Allow me to share one more story with you. My parents only allowed me to get, and stick to, a basic handphone when I entered into secondary school. As I started my journey in polytechnic, I soon realized that I would need a smartphone to be productive. Eventually I found myself in a situation where I needed to use Whatsapp to communicate, but I did not have a smartphone back then.

With help from my friends in Singapore Polytechnic, and lots of reading up, I managed to create a “virtual smartphone” using an android ISO container file and program Virtualbox. I installed Whatsapp in it and I used that to communicate with my lecturers for a while, to ask for some help with our homework back then.

It came as a big surprise to me that doing something like that was even possible. This achievement inspired me as to what could possibly be achieved through virtualization, alongside computer networking and security. I do regret not taking any photos of this virtual smartphone back then. I stopped using it a couple of years ago due to a growing number of  compatibility issues.

To carry on with the message behind this story, it’s all about exploring the possibilities that can be achieved around us. It’s about not giving up when an idea seems too difficult to pursue. I hope to continue inspiring people to pursue what is in their best interest for themselves and others.

Just spend a moment pondering about it, how many problems do you think you can solve for yourself and others by just observing the challenges in your surroundings and applying your knowledge and learning skills?

A Simple Electrical Noise Filter

Photo (963)

This device in the picture that I built is an electrical noise filter, whose purpose is simply to filter out electrical noise. Electrical noise refers to the voltage spikes or sags that may make the electrical supply unstable.

I was inspired to make this after facilitating the SP EEE club freshmen orientation camp at St John’s Island. The electricity there is supplied by generators on the island. During the camp, I made some observations about the events that occurred relating to the electrical supply on the island, and I suspected that it might have been due to an unstable electrical supply.

The first was the simultaneous flickering of all the lights in multiple buildings and street lamps for just a mere fraction of a second regularly through the night. The second was the frequent power trips whenever someone switched something (like the lights) on or off. The third was when some of my friend’s hand phone batteries got damaged after they left it to recharge. These occurrences led me to believe that there was a high amount of electrical noise in the electricity supply.

The electrical noise filter helps to regulate the electricity coming in so that any voltage spikes, surges or electrical noise does not damage any device or appliance connected to its output. This would be especially beneficial to sensitive devices like hand phones or computers that need a stable power supply.  I sourced for thicker wires so that it would be capable of handling higher currents.

The filter I am using is probably an industrial grade type I pulled out from a discarded air conditioning tower. It has enough channels for 2 separate electrical lines. I used a recycled acrylic case that I found to create the housing. This filter uses 2 inductors with 4 coils each, and 8 capacitors. Each electrical line (2 Live, 2 Neutral) would have to pass through 2 inductor coils and alongside 2 capacitors. The inductors help to suppress any voltage spikes or sags from passing to the connected devices, while the capacitors help to fill in the gaps caused by voltage spikes or sags to stabilize them.

Right now I am using it with my home server computer, as it can draw a significant amount of power and requires a stable electrical supply. I intend to use it in the future for places where the electrical supply may be noisy.

Thank you again for taking the time and effort to read through all this. I hope this gave you a better understanding of the concept, effect and solutions pertaining to reducing electrical noise.

The Importance of Backing Up Your Data

Hi again, Benedict here, and I would like to start off this post by asking you to think about something for a moment.

If your computer or smartphone broke down right now, and you could not get any data back from it, how much would you lose?
Family photos? School or work documents and Reports? Your media collection?

Well, your answer should be: Nothing. Simple as that, so let me help you get started. I’ll begin with the simple options, and move on to the more complicated but better prepared ones.

Backing up your digital data is more important than many people realize. If you have a good notebook or phone that serves you well, you would look after it wouldn’t you? I have heard of many cases where people badly damage or wipe their computer only to realize that the only copy of all their very important files and photos were still in it.

Sadly, in such cases, the data is gone forever. It happened to me too, twice. Thankfully, mine was mostly archived data. Imagine if you lost a report or presentation you worked so hard on the day before it was due? That would be a big inconvenience for everyone. For damaged hard drives or solid state drives, you can attempt to get the data off it by sending it for data recovery. Even then, there is no guarantee that they can retrieve all your data, and the cost would be through the roof. (Estimated about $1000 and above) (That is, unless your notebook or hard drive is still covered by warranty.)

You may be wondering, ‘How exactly do I back up my data?’, and no, you are not wrong for thinking that. You see, sometimes the reason why we don’t back up our digital collection and information is because we simply don’t know how to.

What’s the ‘easiest’ way to backup? Do you have a thumb drive or external hard drive? Just copy all your files into it, and remember to update them regularly. It may be easy in this sense, but think about it, when your data collection grows, you will still need to manually keep remembering which files to backup, which you have edited since your last backup, etc. Furthermore, imagine overwriting a file on your backup storage media with an updated one, only to realize that you still needed the original older file.

This could be an acceptable solution for data to be archived (meaning no more edits will be made to it) like family photos. It could also be acceptable if your data collection size is relatively small.

The second better solution is cloud backup. Services like Onedrive, Google Drive and Dropbox all provide the ability to effortlessly synchronize your files across all your computers running the application. Each service provides a small amount of cloud storage for free, but you can also pay a small monthly or yearly fee for a larger storage capacity.

I rely heavily on cloud storage. With it, I no longer have to do any remembering or manual copying or renaming. Any file that I create, move to a different folder, edit, rename, delete or otherwise alter is immediately synchronized across all my machines. Furthermore, the cloud storage provider also keeps a copy of your data backed up in their storage platform, allowing you to access them anywhere where you have an internet connection.

What about smartphones? As mentioned above, there are applications from those online cloud storage providers that will allow you to back up the data in your phone. One example is camera backup: As soon as I snap a picture, and get connected to the internet, that photo is automatically uploaded into the cloud storage and it appears on my computer when I switch it on. Simple and efficient.

Up to this point, I have only been elaborating about file backup. What about your computer, and the entire operating system? Well, yes, the whole operating system can be backed up as well. This is done by creating a ‘System Image’. Windows 7 and Windows 10 both have a Backup and Restore option in the control panel. Windows 8 onward has a File History option in the control panel. You can also use a third party program, like Macrium Reflect Free Edition to take system images for you, on a schedule even. Do note that you will probably need an external hard drive to perform these types of backups.

Windows 7 and Windows 10 both have a Backup and Restore option lets you take system images and even set a schedule for when they should occur. System image backups allow you to restore an operating system to it’s former working state in the event that something goes horribly wrong. (E.g. Computer keeps crashing, or computer virus infection.)

Windows 8 to Windows 10 has a File History option allowing you to back up your files to an external hard drive, while maintaining the revisions that a file has gone through, allowing you to retrieve the older version of a file if you need it.

That’s the gist of this topic for now. Feel free to give me your feedback.

Keeping Your PC Optimized

Hi everyone, Benedict here. Sorry for the inconsistent timings of my posts.

Continuing from where I left off regarding the survey, the next most common feedback I received was how our computers tend to slow down or lag behind after we have had them for a while. In this post, I would like to share with you some steps you can take to improve your computer’s performance. None of these will require 3rd party software programs, as the utilities are already inbuilt into the operating system.

These remedies are generic and while they would help improve your computer’s performance, don’t expect it’s performance to be soaring through the roof. In addition to these steps, I recommend running an Anti-Virus scan with your anti-virus program. There may be times when malicious software or adware installs itself on your computer along with other software you install, and they cause a drop in system performance.

The first is to remove any programs that you do not want or no longer need. To do this, head over to Control Panel > Programs and Features. Yes, you may see quite a number of things there that you may not be familiar with. Run through the list, keep a lookout for those programs that you are familiar with, but no longer use, and uninstall them if you wish to.

Exercise caution in uninstalling an unwanted program. If you are unsure of what that program is, do a quick lookup of it online. My rule of thumb is: If you don’t know what it is, don’t uninstall or change it.

The second step is to clear the “junk” files on your computer, and by that I mean things like temporary files. These files are often left behind by programs when they are run, and can be safely deleted in most instances. (Unless say, it is currently in use.) You can think of temporary files as the construction material, used or unused, that was left behind after constructing a building, instead of being cleared.

To do this, go to the disk cleanup utility from the start menu. If you would like to include the cleaning of unnecessary system related files, right click and run the application as an administrator. After it scans your PC, it will present a list of items that can be cleared, along with a description for each one and the amount of disk space you will free up. The rest is up to your decision.

The third step is to defragment the files on your hard drive. (Do Not perform this step if your computer is using a Solid State Drive.) Allow me to explain how it works.

When you create a new document and save it, it saves to your hard drive as a single contiguous file. As you continue editing it over time and adding or removing information, the document file is broken up into more pieces and saved to different locations on the physical hard disk. (This is usually because there is no room to add the additional data along side the original location of the file as another file could have planted itself there.)

When you want to open that particular document file, the computer has to search for and gather all the pieces, or fragments, of the file all over the hard disk, before consolidating them and opening it in the application. This would be more time consuming. Upon defragmentation, the pieces of that file would be rearrange once again, back into a single contiguous file. Thus when an application wants to open the file, the computer only has to gather the file from one part of the hard disk to retrieve it.

To perform defragmentation, go to the defragment and optimize drives utility from the start menu. To analyse the fragmentation level, select the drive and click the analyse button. To defragment, select the drive, and click the optimize button. (I recommend optimizing the C Drive first, as that will probably give you the greatest performance boost.

The computer boot time for some of you may be slow. This is primarily due to the number of programs that start running as soon as the computer boots up. The large number of programs causes the computer to become slow at startup. For example, sometimes you may encounter pop ups by some programs or utilities on your PC that are actually not necessary, and consume additional resources. Here is how to resolve it.

If you are running Windows 8, 8.1 or 10, open the task manager, go to the ‘Startup’ tab on the top header, then click on the programs that you feel are not necessary on startup, and disable them. If you are running Windows 7 or an operating system older than it, press “Windows Key + R” and type “msconfig” in the dialog box. Click on the startup tab and check the box stating ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’. (Reason being that you don’t want to disable any system startup processes.)

Do note that these steps only prevents the program from automatically starting when you login. You can still launch the program manually from it’s desktop icon or the start menu.

If your computer happens to be quite slow, the above mentioned remedies may also take a while to finish. Give it some time and be patient. If your hard drive is heavily fragmented, I recommend leaving the defragmentation and optimization to run overnight as it could take a long while.

Even after carrying out all these proposed remedies, your computer may still not be as fast as you want it to be. The reasons are numerous. If you are still facing trouble with such issues, feel free to reach out to me at my email:

Advanced method of above mentioned utilities:

If you are like me, curious to see what’s under the hood, or just to make things a little simpler, there are some additional steps you can take to boost your computer’s performance.

Disk Cleanup: Navigate to the paths of the following folders, and manually delete their contents. (Use Ctrl + A to select all files). If these paths do not exist, just ignore them.

<username> refers to the name of the user currently logged in.

For the last path, you will need to show hidden files and folders. Go to Control Panel > File Explorer Options (Folder Options for Windows 7 or older) >’ View’ Tab > ‘Show Hidden Files and Folders’ button.

You may notice that there are many files, and that their names are quite gibberish, but that’s not an issue. The computer may inform you that some of the files cannot be deleted, in that case, ignore those files.

Disk Defragmentation: Open the command prompt as an administrator. (Right click, run as administrator.) Type in the following command, within the quotes, :

defrag c:\ /a /u /v” (Analyse C drive only)
defrag c:\ /u /v” (Analyse and Defragment C drive)

Meanings: defrag – command to defragment, C:\ – Specifies the target drive as C drive, /u – show the details of the process as it occurs, /v – show the analysis or defragmentation output in greater detail.

Bonus: Disk Boot Optimization: There is an additional parameter that can be included with the defrag command:

defrag c:\ /b /u /v” (Optimizes the files required for your computer to boot)

The /b parameter tells the computer to optimize mainly the system files required for your computer to boot, so as to improve startup times and overall performance.

System File Checker (SFC): The SFC scans your computer for system files that may have been corrupted, and attempts to repair them. Open the command prompt as an administrator. The command is:

sfc /scannow

The scanning process will take some time. Corrupted files may be the result of the installation of third party software or programs altering system files. Upon completion. the results may state that some files could not be repaired. If your computer previously had no serious performance or working issues, I suggest that you ignore it, but keep a lookout for any unusual system behavior. Many a time these are relatively minor problems that should not have too much impact on your system.

The last (and fast) resort to resolving a really slow system is to refresh or reinstall the operating system from the settings menu in windows 8 onward, or reinstalling the operating system. These should only be used as a last resort and remember to back up all your data before you do it.