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Thursday, 8 May 2008

Ophcrack v3.0

The Ophcrack Windows password cracker is by far the best among the free Windows password recovery tools available. It's fast and easy enough for a first time password cracker with a basic knowledge of Windows.
Save yourself time and energy by skipping past all of the other tools out there (even the "professional" password recovery software packages costing hundreds of dollars) and download, burn and use the LiveCD version of Ophcrack.
After just a few minutes of running the software, Ophcrack will find all of your passwords and display them on screen! Yes, it's that easy!
Publisher's Site
Pros
Software is freely available for download online
Passwords are recovered automatically using the LiveCD method
No software installation is necessary to recover passwords
No knowledge of any existing passwords is necessary
Ophcrack works with Windows XP and Windows Vista
Cons
400MB+ (XP) / 500MB+ (Vista) LiveCD ISO image must be downloaded
LiveCD ISO image must be burned to a CD before being used
Some antivirus software may mistakingly flag Ophcrack as malware
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Description
Ophcrack can recover 99.9% of passwords from nearly any Windows installation in seconds.
The Ophcrack LiveCD option allows for completely automatic password recovery.
LiveCD method requires no installation in Windows, making it a safe alternative to many other password recovery tools.
No Windows passwords need to be known to use the Ophcrack LiveCD to crack your Windows passwords.
Guide Review - Ophcrack v3.0
Ophcrack v3.0, in its LiveCD form (currently at v2.0), is the all-around best password recovery tool available today. Its nearly fool-proof setup, automatic password recovery, and overall speed puts Ophcrack in a league of its own. This comparison isn't made only against other free Windows password recovery tools. Ophcrack is number one among all of these programs, free or not, that I've ever used.
To get started, visit the Ophcrack site and click on the Download ophcrack LiveCD button. On the next page, click on either the XP or Vista link to download the correct ISO image file for your operating system. This file is large so it may take some time to download.
An ISO file contains everything that should go on a CD or DVD in a single file. The Ophcrack LiveCD ISO file contains a copy of the Linux operating system, the Ophcrack software, and other files needed to recover your passwords. Don't worry about the details - the Ophcrack LiveCD is fully automatic - no Linux experience required.
After downloading, burn the ISO image to a CD. Burning an ISO file is a little different than burning a normal file. If you need help, check out How to Burn an ISO Image File to a CD or DVD.
After burning, boot to the CD by rebooting your PC with the disc still in the drive. Linux will load, Ophcrack will start, and the password recovery process will begin.
Ophcrack will immediately locate the users on your Windows system and begin cracking their passwords. The process is automatic - you don't have to run any programs or even type or click anything! When the passwords are displayed on screen, write them down. Remove the CD, reset your computer and log on to Windows with your newly recovered password when complete.
The Ophcrack LiveCD requires some preparation but this password recovery tool is by far the best!
Publisher's Site
Related Guide Picks
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Top 4 Free Windows Password Recovery Tools

Password recovery tools are used to recover lost user and administrator passwords used to log on to Windows.
Password recovery tools are often called "password cracking" tools because they are sometimes used to "crack" passwords by hackers. Legally cracking your own password is certainly a legitimate and often necessary practice!
Many password recovery tools cost hundreds of dollars. Here are some free password recovery tools that will help recover forgotten Windows passwords fast!
1. Ophcrack

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The Ophcrack Windows password cracker is by far the best free Windows password recovery tool available. It's fast and easy enough for a first time password cracker with a basic knowledge of Windows.
With Ophcrack, you don't need any access to Windows to be able to recover your lost passwords. Simply visit the site, download the free ISO image, burn it to a CD and boot to the CD. The Ophrack program starts, locates the Windows user accounts, and proceeds to recover (crack) the passwords - all automatically.
In a test on my PC, Ophcrack recovered the 7-digit password to my administrator account in two minutes.
Ophcrack v3.0 Review
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2. Cain & Abel

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Cain & Abel is a free, fast and effective Windows password recovery tool.
Unlike Ophcrack, Cain & Abel is a more traditional software application and does require access to Windows under a particular user account. Due to this fact, Cain & Abel is often a valuable resource to recover passwords to accounts other than the one you're using, including the administrator account.
Cain & Abel should only be used by more experienced users because of its more complicated setup and other advanced features.
In the best of my tests, Cain & Abel recovered the 7-digit password to my administrator account in eight minutes.
More Info
3. LCP

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LCP is yet another free and very effective password recovery software tool for Windows.
Like Cain & Abel, LCP is a standard Windows program you download from LCPSoft's website and install inside of Windows.
LCP can be a little intimidating to those new to password recovery tools so some prior knowledge is very helpful to avoid even bigger problems with your PC.
In my test with LCP, my 7-digit administrator password was discovered in just under ten minutes.
More Info
4. John The Ripper
John the Ripper is a very popular free password recovery tool that can be used to find Windows account passwords.
While the password recovery application itself is free, the wordlists used by John the Ripper to discover passwords do cost and are required for the software to work. There may be free wordlist alternatives that work with John the Ripper but I have not tested them.
John the Ripper is operated at the command line making it a password cracking tool reserved for the very advanced user.
If you have experience with John the Ripper that you would like to share, please let me know.
More Info
Password Recovery Tools Aren't Necessary if You're Proactive!
These password recovery tools are great if you need them, but there's a much easier way to access your account if you forget your password - create a password reset disk!
A password reset disk is a special disk you can insert in your PC during the logon process that will allow you to reset your password. You will need to create this disk before you lose access to your account!
Create a Windows Vista Password Reset Disk
Create a Windows XP Password Reset Disk
Windows XP Password Resources
Change Your Windows XP Logon PasswordCreate a Windows XP Logon PasswordDelete Your Windows XP Logon Password
Windows Vista Password Resources
Change Your Windows Vista Logon PasswordCreate a Windows Vista Logon PasswordDelete Your Windows Vista Logon Password
Password Reset Disks
Create a Windows XP Password Reset DiskCreate a Windows Vista Password Reset Disk
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Top 4 Free Memory Testing Software Tools

Memory testing tools are software programs that perform detailed tests of your computer's memory system.
The memory installed in your computer is very sensitive. It's always a good idea to test newly purchased memory for errors and a memory test is always in order if you suspect that you may have a hardware problem.
1. Memtest86

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Memtest86 is a completely free, stand-alone, and extremely easy to use memory testing program. If you only have time to try one memory testing tool on this page, try Memtest86.
Simply download the ISO image from Memtest86's site and burn it to a CD. After that, just restart to boot from the CD and you're off.
While this program is free, BradyTech Inc. can ship you a CD-ROM with Memtest86 preinstalled plus detailed documentation, all for around $10 USD.
Unless you're a true novice and really need some assistance, the free download and free basic support available on the site should be enough. Just click on the "Free Download" link on the left hand side of the page, available at the Memtest86 site linked below.
Download Memtest86 Version 3.3
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2. Memtest86+

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Memtest86+ is a modified and presumably more up-to-date version of the original Memtest86 memory testing program, profiled above. Memtest86+ is also completely free.
I would recommend trying Memtest86+ if you have any problems running the Memtest86 memory test or if Memtest86 reports errors with your memory and you would like a really good second opinion.
Download Memtest86+ Version 1.70
3. Windows Memory Diagnostic

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Windows Memory Diagnostic is a free memory testing tool provided by Microsoft. Very similar to other memory testing programs, Windows Memory Diagnostic performs a series of extensive tests to determine what, if anything, is wrong with your computer memory.
Simply download the installer program and then follow the instructions to create a bootable floppy disk or ISO image for burning to a CD.
After booting to the CD or floppy disk, Windows Memory Diagnostic will automatically begin testing the memory and will repeat the tests until you stop them. If the first set of tests finds no errors, chances are your memory is good - it's unlikely that Windows Memory Diagnostic will find problems with repeated attempts.
Download Windows Memory Diagnostic
4. M2K MemScope

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M2K MemScope is a free memory testing software program from the makers of Micro-Scope - a large suite of professional, time tested (and expensive) computer diagnostic tools.
MemScope performs a wide variety of tests in an attempt to locate even the smallest issue with your memory. Many advanced testing options are available but the "Run All" test is equivalent to tests in other programs and is a safe bet if you're not a memory expert.
MemScope is freely downloadable from M2K's site, linked below. You will have to fill out a short form but you're quickly brought to the download link. I couldn't get the provided ISO file to work but I did use the "MemScope installer" option to create a bootable floppy disk without problem.
Download M2K MemScope Version 1.10
More About Memory
What is Computer Memory (RAM)?Where is the Memory in a Computer?How do I Boot to a CD?

Q. "How Do I Test My Hard Drive for Problems?"

There are a lot of reasons you might want to test your hard drive for problems. One of the major reasons to perform a test would be if your hard drive is making strange noises. This can often be a sign of a failing drive, something a test can point out.
Some other reasons to test your hard drive would be if a defragmentation program directed you to do so or if normal troubleshooting steps for certain problems (like error messages in Windows) are of no help. Often times the last step is to diagnose a possible hard drive issue.
So what kinds of tests do you run? How do you do that?
A.
Test Your Hard Drive Using Free Diagnostic Tools
Some of the best hard drive testing software programs are free! There are actually four that I recommend though there are many more.
If you're a user of Windows XP or Windows Vista, Microsoft includes a program called Error Checking which can perform some very basic tests and can even attempt to correct errors as it finds them. Most other free hard drive testing programs are supported by the hard drive manufacturers themselves and are much more powerful. Seagate, Hitachi, and Western Digital all make very popular testing programs.
Purchase a Retail Hard Drive Testing Software Program
If the free programs aren't feature rich enough for you, there are a number of companies that create even more powerful testing and correcting tools.
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How To Create a Paperclip Drive Opener

Have you ever needed to open your CD or DVD optical drive when the power was off? Perhaps the drive quit working but your favorite game was inside. This easy trick will get the drive bay open fast.
If you would prefer a video demonstration, check out Don Schechter's visual walk through on how to open a stuck drive on your PC.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Creating a paperclip drive opener to open your stuck CD or DVD drive takes less than 5 minutes
Here's How:
Unfold the paperclip until there is at least 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) that is perfectly straight.
Look closely at your CD or DVD drive. Directly under or above the drive bay door (the part that "ejects" the CD or DVD) there should be a very small pinhole.
Insert the paperclip into the pinhole. Directly behind the pinhole is small gear that when rotated will manually open the drive.
Retract and reinsert the paperclip as often as needed to eject the drive bay enough to grab a hold of it.
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Slowly pull on the drive bay until it's fully retracted. Take care not to continue to pull when you feel resistance.
Remove the CD or DVD from the drive.
Slowly push the drive bay back into the drive until closed or press the open/close button if the drive is still working.
What You Need:
A single heavy-duty paperclip
More How To's from your Guide To Focus on PC

How to Guess Your Own Passwords

Tips to Help You Remember Forgotten Passwords
Unless your password was randomly generated, it's probably locked away in your mind somewhere. Brute force memory retrieval (i.e. "thinking really hard") isn't usually very effective so what can you do to try to remember what your password was?
Easy! You need clues! Most people create passwords, even complicated ones, based on the people, places and things in their personal and professional lives. Knowing this, check out the clues below. They might give you enough edge to finally remember that password!
Try Your Other Passwords
The most obvious advise is to try some of your other passwords! Very few computer users actually create unique passwords for each account that requires one.
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Your Name
Try variations of your own name. While this isn't a very secure way to create a password, it's very common and you may have created your password in a similar way. For example, if your name was Michael P Archer, common passwords might include:
Mike1234
MikePA
leahcim
archerMP You get the idea. Try different combinations of your name and maybe even your nickname.
Names of Friends and Family
Many people use names or combinations of names of family members and friends to create passwords. If something rings a bell here or you have ever created passwords like this before, give this one a try.
Pet Information
We love our pets! Which is why many passwords include pet names and pet birthdays. If you treat your cat like a kid, chances are you've used his or her name as a password. Maybe you used it this time!
Birthdays
Birthdays are also very popular passwords, especially when combined with names. If Michael P Archer's birthday was 05-June-1975, some passwords he might have come up with include:
m060575
1975MPA
archerjune
mp75 There are a lot more possibilities here. If think you've ever set a password like this, try some combinations with your information.
Home & Office Addresses
Using complete or parts of addresses important in your life could have been inspiration for a password you created.
Ideas from Childhood
Something important to you as a child may be a theme throughout your passwords. Examples here are endless but maybe you had a favorite pet growing up, a name for an imaginary friend, etc. These types of ideas are popular ways to create easy to remember passwords... well, usually.
Important Numbers
Some numbers that often play a part in passwords include phone numbers (especially previous ones), social security numbers, notable sports scores, important historical dates, drivers license numbers, etc.
Another interesting way people use numbers as passwords is by how they are arranged on the computer keypad. For example, a popular combination includes 1793 because these numbers are at all four corners of the keypad. Does this sound familiar? If so, try some things here.
Try some of these number ideas in combination with some other ideas in this article like family and pet names.
Some Other Ideas
Other popular password inspirations include favorite foods, favorite places, vacation spots, celebrity names and sports teams.
If you're pretty good at creating secure passwords, chances are you used a combination of of any of the above ideas in creating your now forgotten password.
Still Can't Remember the Password?
If after all this mental work you still can't remember your password, you may have to try something a little more high-tech like a password recovery program. These programs make random guesses at your password until they figure it out. It might seem a little inefficient but they guess very quickly!
If you're needing your Windows logon password, try using a free windows password recovery program.
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How To Find the BIOS Version in the Windows Registry

Determining the current version of BIOS on your motherboard usually involves restarting your PC and paying really close attention. An easier way is to find the BIOS version from inside the Windows registry - without a reboot!
Note: No changes are made to the registry in these steps. However, if you're afraid that you might accidentally modify something, you can always backup specific registry keys or even backup the entire registry for safe keeping.
Follow the steps below to find the current BIOS version that's running on your motherboard:
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Finding the BIOS version in the Windows Registry usually takes less than 10 minutes
Here's How:
Click on Start and then Run.
In the text box in the Run window, type regedit and click OK. This will open the Registry Editor program.
Note: Do not make any changes to any entry anywhere in Registry Editor to avoid causing serious system issues. These steps only direct you to view a registry entry, not to make changes.
Locate the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder under My Computer and click on the (+) sign next the folder name to expand the folder.
In the resulting folders, locate and click on the (+) sign next to HARDWARE to expand this folder.
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In the resulting folders, locate and click on the (+) sign next to DESCRIPTION to expand this folder.
In the resulting folders, locate and click on the System folder.
In the results that appear in the window on the right, locate the SystemBiosVersion and SystemBiosDate entries.
The data in the SystemBiosVersion field contains the BIOS version for your motherboard. This field may also contain additional information such as the chipset manufacturer and BIOS manufacturer.
The data in the SystemBiosDate field contains the calendar date associated with the current BIOS version on your motherboard. The BIOS date can be useful in determining the current BIOS version from a motherboard manufacturer's website if the version is not clear in the SystemBiosVersion field.
Close Registry Editor without making any changes.
Tips:
If you're not comfortable working in the registry there is another option. You can also find the current BIOS version from the Microsoft System Information program. If the registry makes you nervous, this is a great alternative solution to finding the BIOS version running on your motherboard.
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How To Find the BIOS Version from the Microsoft System Information Program

Finding your current BIOS version usually involves a system reboot. Another much easier way to get your motherboard BIOS version is from a program called Microsoft System Information. It's already on your PC and it won't require a reboot!
Follow the steps below to find the current BIOS version that's running on your motherboard:
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Less than 10 minutes
Here's How:
Click on Start and then Run.
In the text box in the Run window, type msinfo32 and click OK. This will open the System Information program.
When System Information first opens, it defaults to the System Summary, a short list with some of the most important information about your computer system listed.
On the right side of the program, locate the BIOS Version/Date entry.
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This field contains the BIOS version that is currently running on your motherboard. This field may also contain additional information such as the BIOS date, BIOS manufacturer, motherboard manufacturer and the motherboard model number.
Note: If the BIOS date is shown, it can be useful in determining the current BIOS version from a motherboard manufacturer's website if the version is not clear here.
Close System Information.
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How To Boot your Computer from a Bootable CD or DVD

Booting from a CD is sometimes necessary to run advanced tools like memory testing programs and password recovery tools.
You'll also need to boot to a CD or DVD if you're planning to install an operating system like Windows XP or run diagnostic tools like the Windows XP Recovery Console.
When you boot from a CD, what you're actually doing is running your computer with a small operating system that's installed on the CD. When you start your computer normally, you're running with the operating system installed on your hard drive - Windows, Linux, etc.
Follow these easy steps to boot from a CD or DVD.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Booting from a CD or DVD usually takes less than 10 to 20 minutes.
Here's How:
Change the BIOS boot order so the CD or DVD drive is listed first. Some computers are already configured this way but many are not.
If the CD or DVD drive is not first in the boot order, your PC will start "normally" (i.e. boot from your hard drive) without even looking at what might be in your disc drive.
Note: After setting your optical drive as the first boot device in BIOS, your computer will check that drive for a bootable CD or DVD each time your computer starts. Leaving your PC configured this way shouldn't cause problems unless you plan on leaving a disc in the drive all the time.
Insert your bootable CD or bootable DVD in your disc drive.
How do you know if a CD or DVD is bootable? The easiest way to find out if a disc is bootable is to insert it in your drive and follow the remainder of these instructions. Most operating system setup CDs and DVDs are bootable, as are many advanced diagnostic tools like the ones I discussed above.
Note: Programs downloadable from the Internet that are intended to be bootable discs are usually made available in ISO format. See How to Burn an ISO Image File to a CD or DVD for more information.
Restart your computer.
Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD... message.
When booting to a Windows setup CD/DVD and many other bootable discs, you may be prompted with a message to press a key to boot to the disc. To boot to the CD or DVD, you'll need to press any key on your keyboard (like the space bar) within the few seconds that the message is on the screen.
If you do nothing, your computer will check for boot information on the next boot device in the list in BIOS (see Step 1) which will probably be your hard drive.
Some bootable CDs and DVDs do not prompt for a key press and will start immediately.
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Your computer should now boot from the CD or DVD disc..
Note: What happens now depends on what the bootable disc was for. If you're booting to a Windows Vista DVD, the Windows Vista setup program will begin. If you're booting to a Slackware Live CD, the version of the Slackware Linux operating system you've included on the CD will run. You get the idea.
If you tried the above steps but your computer did not boot from the CD or DVD properly, check out some of the tips below.
Tips:
Recheck the boot order in BIOS (Step 1). I've found that the number one reason a bootable disc won't boot is because BIOS is not configured to check the CD/DVD drive first.
Do you have more than one CD or DVD drive? Your computer probably only allows for one of your disc drives to be booted from. Insert the bootable CD or DVD in the other drive and restart your computer.
Clean the CD or DVD. If the disc is old, as are many Windows Setup CDs and DVDs by the time they're needed, clean it. A clean disc could make all the difference.
Burn a new CD/DVD. If the DVD or CD is one you created yourself, like from an ISO file, then burn it again. The disc may have errors on it that reburning could correct. I've had this happen to me more than once.
More How To's from your Guide To Focus on PC Support
Tips & Tricks
Find the BIOS Version from the Microsoft System Informa...Find the BIOS Version in the Windows RegistryGuess Your Own PasswordPaperclip Drive Opener

Close the Computer Case

Close the Computer Case
At this point all of the installation and wiring should be completed with the power supply. Replace the computer cover or panel to the case. Fasten the cover or panel with the screws that were previously removed to open the case.
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Fasten the Computer Cover
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System
<<> Next >>
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Connect Power to Devices

Connect Power to Devices
A number of items reside within a computer case that require power from the power supply. The most common device is the various hard drives and CD/DVD drives. Typically these use the 4-pin molex style connector. Locate the appropriate sized power leads and plug them into any devices that require power.
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Connect Power to Devices
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System
<<> Next >>
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Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard

Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
If the computer already has the motherboard installed into it, the power leads from the power supply need to be plugged in. Most modern motherboard use the large ATX power connector that gets plugged into the socket on the motherboard. Some motherboards require an additional amount of power through a 4-pin ATX12V connector. Plug this in if required.
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Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System
<<> Next >>
DIY Tutorials
Build Your Own Desktop PC Newsletter CourseDIY: Budget Gaming PC GuideDIY: Budget PC GuideDIY: Home Theater PC GuideDIY: Installing a CD/DVD Drive

Installing a Desktop Power Supply

Set the Voltage Switch
Make sure that the voltage switch on the back of the power supply is set to the proper voltage level for your country. North America and Japan use 110/115v, while Europe and many other countriesuse 220/230v. In most cases the switch will come preset to the voltage settings for your region.
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Set the Voltage Switch
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System
<<> Next >>
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Installing a Desktop Power Supply

Fasten the Power Supply
Now comes one of the most difficult portions of the power supply installation. The power supply needs to be held in place while it is fastened to the case with screws. If the case has a shelf ledge that the power supply sits on, it will be easier to balance.
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<<> Next >>
Fasten the Power Supply to the Case
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System
<<> Next >>
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Installing a Desktop Power Supply

Aligning the Power Supply
Align the new PSU into place in the case so that the 4 mounting holes align properly. Make sure that any air intake fan on the power supply that resides in the case is facing towards the center of the case and not towards the case cover.
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Custom Intel/Amd Pc'sTrade price for everyone beat eba'y for priceswww.systemstoyou.co.uk
<<> Next >>
Align the Power Supply in the Case
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System
<<> Next >>
Related Articles
Antec TruePower 2.0 550W EPS12V Power SupplyInstalling a CD/DVD Drive 6, Locate your Power and IDE ...1991 To 1994 Ford Explorer Ignition Coil Power Supply

Installing a Desktop Power Supply

Intro and Opening the Case
Difficulty: SimpleTime Required: 5-10 minutesTools Required: Screwdriver
This guide was developed to instruct readers on the proper procedures for installing a power supply unit (PSU) into a desktop computer case. It includes step-by-step instructions with photographs for the physical installation of the PSU into a computer case.
IMPORTANT: Many name brand manufacturer PCs use specially designed power supplies that have been built specifically for their systems. As a result, it is generally not possible to buy a replacement power supply and install it into these systems. If your power supply is having problems, you will likely need to contact the manufacturer for repairs.
CAUTION: All power supplies contain various capacitors inside of them that retain power even after the power supply had all power turned off.
zSB(3,3)
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Custom Intel/Amd Pc'sTrade price for everyone beat eba'y for priceswww.systemstoyou.co.ukNever open up or insert any metal objects into the vents of the power supply as you can risk electrical shock.
To start with installing a power supply, it is necessary to open up the case. The method for opening the case will vary depending upon its design. Most new cases use either a panel or door while older systems require the whole cover be removed. Be sure to remove any screws fastening the cover to the case and set them aside.
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Open Up the Computer Case
©Mark Kyrnin
Intro and Opening the Case
Aligning the Power Supply
Fasten the Power Supply
Set the Voltage Switch
Plug the Power Supply to the Motherboard
Connect Power to Devices
Close the Computer Case
Plug in the Power and Turn on the System

Before You Buy Desktop Speakers

There are a few important things to take stock of before shopping for a new set of speakers. Surprisingly, what they look like is often as important as what they sound like.
What Will You Use Speakers For?
It's important to honestly ask yourself what the speakers are going to do for you. Overbuying will do nothing but waste you some hard earned money while underbuying will leave you dissatisfied with your purchase.
If you need speakers to hear the "you've got mail" alert, then the cheapest set of speakers you can find will be more than enough.
If you need speakers that can reproduce 7.1 Dolby Digital surround sound produced by advanced games, then you'll need to buy at the high end.
What if You're an "Average" User?
For most of us, we need speakers so our computers can give us feedback and so we can listen to high quality music and to audio from movies and videos. Luckily, the average $20 to $50 computer speaker set does this job perfectly. Most in this price range come with two large speakers for the desktop and also a subwoofer.
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What Features are Supported by Your Sound Card?
Sound cards vary in the quality of the sound they can produce for the speakers as well as the number of surround sound speakers they support. These days, many that retail for under $10 support 5.1 3D surround sound - more than enough capability for even very advanced audio users.
Higher-end cards paired with higher-end speakers are usually only beneficial to professionals in the audio production and editing businesses.
How Much Space Do You Have?
A simple stereo speaker set that has two speakers will probably fit nicely on either side of your monitor even if your desktop real estate is slim. On the other hand, if you're planning on investing in a larger setup with a subwoofer or surround sound speakers, you will need to survey the area around your computer setup to make sure there is ample room to properly position them.
What Color Is Your Computer?
Take a close look at the color of your monitor and possibly your computer case if it's not hidden away. Most people don't realize until they're setting up their new speakers that they've purchased a set that clashes with the rest of the computer.
If no one ever sees your computer and the neon orange speaker deal of a lifetime comes along then I say go for it. If you love showing your computer off to friends then it's a good idea to keep some aesthetics in mind.
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Buying Desktop Speakers Related Topic: Sound Cards
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Test the New Keyboard & Mouse

Test the keyboard and mouse by opening some programs with your mouse and typing some text with your keyboard. It's a good idea to test every key to ensure there were no issues during the manufacture of your new keyboard.
If the keyboard and/or mouse do not function, check to make sure there is no interference and that the equipment is in range of the receiver. Also, check the troubleshooting information probably included with your manufacturer instructions.
Remove the old keyboard and mouse from the computer if they are still connected.
If you plan on disposing of your old equipment, check with IBM PC Recycling Service or Amandi Inc. for recycling information.
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Unpack the Equipment
Setup the Keyboard & Mouse
Position the Wireless Receiver
Install the Software
Connect the Receiver to the Computer
Test the New Keyboard & Mouse
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Installing a Wireless Keyboard: More Resources
Profile: Keyboard
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Connect the Receiver to the Computer



Finally, with your computer turned on, plug the USB connector at the end of the receiver into a free USB port on the back (or front if need be) of your computer case.
Note: If you have no free USB ports, you may need to purchase a USB Hub which will give your computer access to additional USB ports.
After plugging in the receiver, your computer will begin to configure the hardware for your computer to use. When the configuration is complete, you will probably see a message on the screen similar to "Your new hardware is now ready to use."
Unpack the Equipment
Setup the Keyboard & Mouse
Position the Wireless Receiver
Install the Software
Connect the Receiver to the Computer
Test the New Keyboard & Mouse
<<> Next >>
Installing a Wireless Keyboard: More Resources
Profile: Keyboard
Installing a Wireless Mouse: More Resources
Profile: Mouse
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Almost all new hardware has accompanying software that must be installed. This software contains drivers that tell the operating system on the computer how to work with the new hardware.
The software provided for wireless keyboards and mice differ greatly between manufacturers so check with the instructions included with your purchase for specifics. Generally, though, all installation software is fairly straightforward:
Insert the CD into the drive. The installation software should start automatically.
Read the on-screen instructions. If you're not sure how to answer some questions during the setup process, accepting the default suggestions are a safe bet.
Note: If you do not have an existing mouse or keyboard or they are not functioning, this step should be your last one. Software is nearly impossible to install without a working keyboard and mouse!
Unpack the Equipment
Setup the Keyboard & Mouse
Position the Wireless Receiver
Install the Software
Connect the Receiver to the Computer
Test the New Keyboard & Mouse
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