It’s MY Computer

Data In, Data Out

It’s MY Computer
by Bill O’Kane

Today we are looking at the most important icon on your computer, appropriately named, “My Computer.” Double left click the “My Computer” icon.

Now, double left click the icon named “Control Panel.” A window appears containing more icons, these are applets that allow you to configure certain settings and maintain your system. These applets change depending on what version of the system you are using and what software is installed, but we will just deal with some of the basic default applets.

The first applet we will consider is “Accessibility Options.” Here users who are physically challenged can adjust computer settings to suit their need. Settings available are different in the various versions with improvements being made with every release.

The next applet for consideration is “Add/Remove Programs.” Modern software installation is not simply a matter of placing a single program file on the hard drive. As well as all the files needed for the program to operate, some files may be placed in other locations such as the system root directories or changes may be made to the system registry. For these reasons it is important that you use this or the uninstall utility included with the software, if it exists. Although these are not always 100% effective, they will clean out any files and settings that are left after the program’s removal that could cause problems in the future.

Another useful applet is “Date/Time.” This utility not only allows you to adjust your clock but set the time zone so your computer can adjust itself automatically to Daylight Savings Time.

Two other applets I will mention together are the “Keyboard” and “Mouse.” The keyboard allows you to set the repeat rate and interval of your keyboard; that is how fast the key repeats when you hold a key down. Also in here you can set the language of your keyboard. These settings are usually set properly by default and should not need adjustment unless you are having serious keyboard problems.

The mouse utility allows you to set such things as the look of your pointer, the speed at which it moves when you move the mouse, and whether it leaves a trail as it moves. One item that may be of interest to new users is setting the double click speed; this allows you to have the system accept slower speeds until you are more use to the mouse. There is also a way to test the double click until you have settings you are comfortable with. Also in this applet you will find settings to change the mouse to left hand if you find this more comfortable. Once again, these settings are usually adequate when left in the default set by the system.

Another applet of interest is “Power Options.” Here, depending on your system, you can set how your computer reacts when it is not in use. You can change settings to power down your monitor after a specific period of time. Your monitor does not shut down completely but sleeps, conserving power, until the system senses a keyboard input or mouse movement. Hard drives spin continuously when in use, this does not consume a large amount of power but it does produce heat. You can have your hard drive power down after a chosen period of inactivity. Modern systems are even able to hibernate. When the computer goes into hibernation it saves whatever it has in memory to the hard drive and when you power back on it returns the computer to the exact state it was when you left. This means any programs running and any work you were doing returns to where you left it.

The last applet of interest is “Scheduled Tasks.” Here you can set tasks to run at specific times and repeat on a set schedule. This is great for backups and for maintenance tasks that require time. You can set these tasks to run when the computer is not in use such as late at night. (Your computer must be turned on for this to work.) Setting up tasks is very easy. If you double click the applet a new window will appear. You will see an icon in the window named “Add Scheduled Task.” If you double left click this icon a “wizard” will begin taking you step by step through task creation. The computer must be running for the task to execute.

There are other applets in the control panel, which control the settings of other hardware in your computer. These are usually set correctly by the hardware installation software and should not need to be altered by the average user. You can take a look inside each to familiarise yourself with them, but unless you are having problems, do not change the settings and then only if you understand what you are doing. Changing settings in here willy-nilly can have a very detrimental effect on the computers operation. Do not think that because somebody you know sets it this way, or that way, that these are the proper settings for YOUR machine.

So now you know what the desktop is all about and have at least an understanding of the file system and how to access the configuration utilities for your hardware. Next time we will take a look at the start menu and all the programs on your machine. Then the fun begins!

If you have any questions, comments or just want to say HI, please feel free to contact me at the address below.

Contact Bill O’Kane at: Alternative Business Systems
36 Bradd Street
Miramichi, New Brunswick
E1N 2A9
Phone: 506-622-7469
Fax: 506-622-6705