5 New Year’s Resolutions For Your PC

With the start of a new year fast approaching, many people are making personal New Year’s resolutions such as to lose a few pounds or save some extra money.  Your PC is also looking for changes this New Year.  Here are 5 simple New Year’s Resolutions for your PC.

1) Upgrade your web browser

Upgrading your web browser is one of the best things you can do for your PC in the new year.  Believe it or not, many people are still using Internet Explorer 6 which is almost 10 years old.  An updated web browser is one of your first lines of defense against the malicious activities that occur on the internet.  Below are a couple of web browsers that you could upgrade to.


If you looking for a customizable, stable and secure web browser, then Firefox is for you.  Having an extensive collection of add-ons to customize your browser makes Firefox a great alternative to Internet Explorer.  Firefox is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users.


The newest competitor to the browser market, Google Chrome boasts superior Javascript performance over other browsers.  With the recent announcements of extensions for Chrome as well as beta versions of the browser for Mac and Linux users, Chrome has become a viable alternative to Internet Explorer.

2) Creating a testing environment

One way that your PC becomes slow and cluttered is from the parts of programs which remain on your hard drive after uninstalling the software.  Having a secondary PC for testing software and applications would be ideal, but not everyone has access to that luxury.

Setting up a virtual machine allows you to have a guest operating system running in a host operating system.  A virtual machine will allow you to install software without it affecting the operating system of your host computer.  Take a look here for some more information on what a virtual machine is and how to get started using one.  I also wrote an in-depth guide on installing Windows 7 on a virtual machine.

3) Change your anti-virus software

It is important to have updated anti-virus software installed on your PC to defend against viruses and other malicious software that thrives on the internet.  Many users are unaware whether their anti-virus software is updated and running properly.  This often occurs when 30-day trails or paid yearly subscriptions run out.  Switching to a free anti-virus solution will help to save money and keep your PC secure.  Listed below are some great free anti-virus alternatives.

4) Free-up space on your hard drive

With years of use, your PC’s hard drive can become cluttered with remnants of old software, duplicate files, and unnecessary software installers.  Removing these extra files can free-up space on your hard drive.  Below are a couple of programs that can assist with this.


Running WinDirStat on your PC will give you a visual representation of the files on your hard drive.  This will allow you to easily spot large files and remove the outdated and unnecessary ones.  Read my guide for more information on using WinDirStat.


CCleaner will allow you to clean Cookies, Temporary Internet Files, History and Search results from all popular web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari, along with temporary files from Windows and other third-party applications.  To find out more about CCleaner, read my guide.

5) Backup your files

Your computer has crashed, now what?  If you have backups, it’s no big deal.  Keeping a backup of your important files will make restoring your computer much easier.


Dropbox is a great way to keep a backup of your important files.  Offering 2 GB with the free version, Dropbox allows you to sync your files with other computers and devices such as the iPhone.  Read more about Dropbox here.


SyncToy is another way to keep backups of your important files by using a free application from Microsoft to copy, move, rename, and delete files between storage devices or computers quickly and easily.  Read our guide on SyncToy for more information.

These are just some of the things you can do for your PC in the New Year.  If you have any other suggestions, let us know in the comments below.


How to Setup Folder Sharing with VirutalBox Guests

virtualbox-thumbHaving a virtual machine installed on a personal computer offers many uses.  One use is the ability to try a new operating system before it is released, such as Windows 7.

Once you’ve installed a virtual operating system, you might want to access files that are stored on the host operating system.  VirtualBox offers a feature called ‘Shared Folders’ which will allow you to share files between the host and guest operating systems.

Linux Host with Windows Guest

Steps performed in host (Linux)

  1. Verify that the guest virtual machine has been shut down.
  2. Open the terminal from Applications > System Tools > Terminal
  3. Enter the following, substituting the virtual machine name, shared folder name, and the path to files on the host.
  4. VBoxManage sharedfolder add “virtual machine name here” -name “shared folder name” -hostpath “/path/to/files/here

  5. Start the guest operating system.

Steps performed in guest (Windows)

  1. Start the guest operating system from the host.
  2. Install Guest Additions from Devices > Install Guest AdditionsNote: You will need to restart.
  3. Open the command prompt from Start > Run… > cmd.
  4. Enter the following into the command prompt, substituting the shared folder name entered in step 3 above.
  5. net use p: \\vboxsvr\shared folder name /PERSISTENT:YES

  6. Adding the /PERSISTENT:YES to the command will mount the share at every boot.
  7. You can also change the drive letter from p: to any other you wish.

Windows Host with Linux Guest

Steps performed in guest (Linux)

  1. Start the guest operating system from the host.
  2. Before Guest Additions can be installed, some dependencies need to be installed using the command below.
  3. sudo yum install kernel-headers kernel-devel gcc

  4. After the dependencies have been installed, you can install Guest Additions from Devices > Install Guest Additions.
  5. Open the terminal and enter the following line
  6. sudo cd /media/VBOXADDITIONS_(VirtualBox Version Number)

    Once the guest additions have been installed, you will need to restart the guest OS.

  7. When the guest has restarted, open Shared Folders from Devices > Shared Folders… from the guest window.
  8. Click the Add New Shared Folder icon on the right of the window, or press the Insert button on your keyboard.
  9. At the Add Share window, select Other… from the Folder Path drop down and select the path of the folder on the host that you wish to share with the virtual guest.
  10. In the Folder Name enter a name of the shared folder, such as MyShare.
  11. Click the Make Permanent checkbox if you wish to keep the changes and click Ok to close the dialog.
  12. Open the terminal and enter the following command to mount the shared folder.
  13. sudo mount -t vboxsf sharename mountpoint
    Eg. sudo mount -t vboxsf MyShare /home/dustin/Desktop/Shared

  14. The above command will not keep the shared folder mounted after restarting the system.  To mount when starting the system, you will need to edit your fstab as shown below.
  15. sudo nano /etc/fstab
    sharedname mountpoint vboxsf defaults 0 0
    eg. MyShare /home/dustin/Desktop/Shared vboxsf defaults 0 0

  16. Your shared folder will now be mounted at boot.

Once the above steps are completed, you will now be able to access files on your host operating system from your VirtualBox guest operating system.

How to Install VirtualBox in Fedora 11

fedora-logoFedora 11, the most recent release of the Fedora Linux distribution, includes built-in virtualization capabilities.  Virtualization allows you to install an operating system from within another operating system, which can be a great way to test out a new version of Windows.

Since Fedora’s included virtualization is mainly geared towards developers, many users prefer a different virtualization platform such as VirtualBox which can be used in both Linux and Windows.

Installing VirtualBox in Fedora 11

  1. As root, install the necessary dependencies with yum.
  2. yum install -y qt qt-x11 xine-lib kernel-devel gcc

  3. When the above dependencies have been installed, download the VirtualBox RPM from http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Linux_Downloads (At the time of writing I downloaded Version 3.0.4)
  4. Install the VirtualBox RPM you downloaded, replacing the text in the < > with the name of the file you downloaded.
  5. rpm -ivh .rpm

  6. After the installation completes, add your account as a member of the vboxusers group.  To do this, navigate to System > Administration > Users and Groups, select your account and click Properties.  Click the Groups tab and check the box for vboxusers to add your account to the group.
  7. Consult /var/log/vbox-install.log if you receive any error messages or experience any problems during the installation.
  8. If there are any errors in the above log, correct them and run the setup script as root by entering

    /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup

  9. Start VirtualBox by typing “VirtualBox” in the terminal or navigating to Applications > System Tools > Sun VirtualBox in the Gnome desktop.
  10. Agree to the License.

Once the above steps are complete, you will have VirtualBox installed on Fedora 11.

Installing Windows 7 On A Virtual Machine

Previously, I suggested that if you wanted to test out the newly released Windows 7 RC, that it may be a good idea to test it on a Virtual Machine.  In this article I will go into the details of virtual machine installation process for Windows 7 on two common pieces of virtualization software, VMware Server and VirtualBox.

Important: Before installing virtual machine software or a virtual machine, make sure that you system has the appropriate resources to handle such tasks.  A virtual machine is a computer sharing the same resources that your current operating system and programs are using.  If you allow a virtual machine too much access to system resources, a very unstable system will result.

Before You Begin

You will begin by downloading the Windows 7 RC ISO.  After downloading the ISO, select the virtualization software that you would like to use, either VirtualBox or VMware Server.  For this guide, I will be using both VirtualBox 2.2.4 and VMware Server 1.0.9.

Install the virtualization software of your choice.  Once you have the virtualization software installed, you can proceed to the steps below that pertain to your choice:

Installing Windows 7 on Virtual Box

  1. Start VirtualBox.
  2. Click the New button click Next.
  3. Enter information as shown below:
  4. vb2

  5. Set the amount of physical RAM to dedicate to your virtual machine.  To prevent system instability, it is a good idea to not enter more than 50% of your total physical memory.  (Use caution with this setting.)
  6. Select Create New Hard Disk and click Next.
  7. vb4

  8. Click Next.
  9. Select Dynamically expanding storage and click Next.  (Dynamically expanding storage initially occupies a very small space on your physical hard drive.  It will then grow up to the size specified as your virtual machine claims disk space.)
  10. Enter the size of the virtual hard disk.  I chose 20 GB for my drive.
  11. Click Next and finish.
  12. Click the Settings button and the screen below will appear:
  13. vb8

  14. Click CD/DVD-ROM on the left side.
  15. Click the ISO Image File button and select the location of your recently downloaded Windows 7 ISO image.
  16. vb9

  17. Once the ISO image has been selected, click Ok.
  18. Click the Start button to boot the virtual machine.
  19. vb10

  20. Once the virtual machine has been started, it will boot from the ISO image that you mounted in the CD/DVD drive.
  21. Follow the remainder of the steps to install Windows 7 onto the virtual machine.  Installation time will vary based on the speed of your computer.
  22. When the installation has completed, you will be presented with the Windows 7 desktop as shown below.
  23. vb21

  24. Now that Windows 7 has been installed on to the virtual machine, it is important to install Guest Addons.  Guest Addons install the appropriate drivers and other software to make interaction with the virtual machine easier.
  25. From the VirtualBox menu, select Devices -> Install Guest Addons.
  26. Click Run and Yes at the next screens, respectively.
  27. Install the software into the virtual machine with the preselected default settings.
  28. When asked, install the software devices as shown below:
  29. vb28

  30. When finished, reboot the virtual machine and you can now begin using Windows 7.

Installing Windows 7 on VMware Server 1.0.9

  1. Start VMware Server 1.0.9.
  2. Select File -> New -> Virtual Machine.
  3. vm1

  4. Click Next.
  5. Select the Custom button and click Next.
  6. Select the Microsoft Windows button and Windows Vista (Experimental) from the drop down menu as shown:
  7. vm4

  8. On the next window, give your virtual machine a name, select the location to save the virtual machine, and click Next.
  9. Click Next on the next two windows as these settings are not necessary for most people.
  10. In the next screen, choose how many cores you want to dedicate to your virtual machine (one or two).  Only one is necessary although two may improve virtual machine performance.
  11. Set the amount of memory for the virtual machine.  To prevent system instability, it is a good idea to not enter more than 50% of your total physical memory.  (Use caution with this setting.)
  12. Click Next to select Bridged Networking.  (NAT will also work.)
  13. vm10

  14. Click Next to use the preselected LSI Logic SCSI adapter.
  15. Select the Create a New Virtual Disk button and click Next.
  16. Click Next to use the SCSI Adapter.
  17. Enter the size of the virtual hard disk and uncheck the Allocate All Disk Space Now check box.  If this is not done, VMware server will proceed to create a file of the size you specified.
  18. vm14

  19. In the next window, specify a name for your newly created virtual hard drive and click Next.
  20. You will now be brought back to the initial VMware Server window.
  21. Click Edit Virtual Machine Settings on the left side.  The window below will be shown:
  22. vm16

  23. Click the CD-ROM on the left side and select the Use ISO Image button on the right.
  24. Click Browse and navigate to the location of the Windows 7 ISO DVD image that you previously downloaded and click OK.
  25. Click ‘Start This Virtual Machine’ and proceed through the Windows installation.  Installation time will vary based on the speed of your computer.
  26. Select VM -> Install VMware Tools.
  27. vm17

  28. Click Install and proceed through the installation.
  29. Select the Typical Install button when prompted to choose installation method.
  30. Once the VMware Tools installation has completed, reboot the virtual machine to begin using Windows 7.

You should now be running Windows 7 in a virtual machine.  In this environment, you will be able to test Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system without permanently installing it on your current system.

Want To Try Windows 7? Install it on a Virtual Machine

windows7thumbWith the public release of Windows 7 RC, many software developers and tech enthusiasts are flocking to the download site to get their hands on the highly anticipated successor to Windows Vista.

Many individuals downloading the Windows 7 RC have extra systems that are dedicated for software development and application testing.  But what if you don’t have spare computers around and you want to test drive Windows 7?  There is a solution: Install a virtual machine.

Important note: Virtual machines will use large amounts of system resources, especially RAM and hard drive space.  It is important that you have enough memory to run your current operating system, along with the guest operating systems of your virtual machine.  If resources are low, your system will become unstable.

What is a virtual machine?

From Dictionary.com

In computer science, a virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation of a machine (computer) that executes programs like a real machine.

Simply put, a virtual machine allows you to have multiple operating systems installed as guests of the main operating system, which are separated and easily added or removed without making any changes to the host operating system.

Two popular pieces of virtualization software are VMWare Server and Virtual Box, both of which are free.  Each piece of software is pictured below.

VMware Server 1.0.9
VMware Server 1.0.9
VirtualBox 2.2.0
VirtualBox 2.2.0

Setting Up Your Virtual Machine

Once you have installed your virtualization software of choice, point the virtual CD/DVD drive of VMware or VirtualBox to the Windows 7 RC ISO you downloaded.  When you start the virtual machine, it will boot from the ISO file as if it was in a physical CD/DVD drive connected to a computer.

When you have completed the Windows install, you are then free to explore Windows 7 while continuing to run your current operating system.  Any changes that you make to the Windows 7 virtual machine are contained, and will not affect your host computer or current operating system in any way.

Which virtualization software do you prefer, VMWare Server or Virtual Box?  Besides Windows 7, what other guest operating systems do you have installed or have tested in a virtual environment?  What are your initial thoughs on the Windows 7 RC?  Let us know by commenting below.