Encrypt Your Data with BitLocker

bitlockerData security is more important than ever in modern times, so to help keep your files safe, Windows Vista (Enterprise and Ultimate editions), Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 include an encryption program called BitLocker.

BitLocker is essentially a software encryption program that encrypts a drive in such a way that if credentials are not verified, it renders the drive completely useless to thieves.  In Windows 7 and Server 2008, BitLocker extends support to removable drives by storing a copy of itself locally on the encrypted drive and and installing itself as needed on any additional computer.

How to Use BitLocker

To enable BitLocker, open My Computer, right click the drive you would like to encrypt, and select “Turn on BitLocker”.

bitlocker_rightclickIn the next screen, you will be asked if you want to use a password or a smart card to unlock the drive.  Since the average user doesn’t have a smart card, we’ll be sticking with a password for this guide.

bitlocker_setpass2_usethisAfter clicking the Next button, you’ll be asked how you want to store your recovery key.  It is a good idea to store this somewhere safe; you’ll need it if you ever lock yourself out of the drive.  This key can be printed or stored in a file.

bitlocker_storekeyTo actually start the encryption process, you need to click “Start Encrypting” in the next window.  Encryption speed will vary on the size, speed, and connection of the drive you are securing.

bitlocker_readyencryptbitlocker_encryptingOnce the encryption process is finished, you’ll see an “Encryption is complete” message.  You can then check out your drive by going to My Computer – you’ll now see that the drive icon is different, indicating it is now secured with BitLocker.

bitlocker_securedriveIf you ever need to change the password on your drive you can simply right click the drive and select “Manage BitLocker”.  You will then be presented with a screen giving you several options including the ability to change or remove the password.

bitlocker_changepassFor more information about BitLocker, check out Microsoft’s BitLocker Feature Guide.

How to Rebroadcast a Weak Wifi Signal

routerThere may be a time when you have access to a wireless network in one part of your house, but just can’t get it anywhere else.  This isn’t a big deal if you own the network (you can buy another access point or wireless repeater), but if you don’t own the network, this guide will show you how to extend your free coverage.

What’s the purpose of this, you might ask?  In my case, I can connect to several wireless networks in my bedroom where my PC is located.  Unfortunately, I can’t access those networks in my living room where my Xbox 360 is located.  The technique presented in this guide allowed me to use my PC to pick up a wireless signal, share it with my PC’s Ethernet connection, and then rebroadcast it with a router.

What You’ll Need:

  • A working wireless connection
  • A computer running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 with an unused Ethernet port
  • A configured wireless router set to DHCP mode (I’ll be using a WRT54GL with Tomato firmware, but anything will work).  Every router is different, so make sure you configure your router’s settings (SSID, security, etc) before you begin this guide.
  • An Ethernet cable

Windows XP

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network Connections.
    rebroadcast_wifi_networkconnXP
  4. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  5. Click the Advanced tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingXP

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  6. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  7. Select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click the Properties button.
    rebroadcast_wifi_tcpipXP
  8. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettings
  9. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows Vista

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_sharingcenterVista
  4. Click Manage network connections on the left side of the window.
    network_rebroadcast_managenetworksVista
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_allowsharingVista

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows 7

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_opennetworkswin7
  4. Click Change adapter settings on the left side of the screen.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_changesettingswin7
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingwin7

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

While rebroadcasting a weak signal does give you better access to a wireless network, it does have some inherent disadvantages.  Port forwarding will now be twice as complex, and there will most likely be a high amount of network latency induced.  That being said, I didn’t personally notice much of a difference browsing the internet on my laptop or using Xbox Live.

Have any other ideas for accessing wifi on the cheap?  Let us know in the comments.

Hulu Desktop Lets You Watch TV Online Without The Browser

huludesktopthumbHulu – the mega-popular TV and movie streaming site backed by NBC, Fox, and others – has just launched a desktop application for both Windows and Mac that allows you to stream all Hulu content on your PC.

Hulu Desktop adds support for Windows Media Center and Apple remotes, which will allow you to treat your PC as an entertainment center.  Like the Hulu website, Hulu Desktop requires Adobe Flash to be installed – however, the application is written natively for Windows and Apple so no other software is required.

One of the biggest benefits Hulu Desktop provides is the ability to turn your TV-connected computer into a replacement for cable TV.  Hulu broadcasts many mainstream TV shows about a day after they air, and by hooking your computer to a TV you’ll be able to watch them just like you would if you were paying for cable.

Hulu Desktop is currently in beta and is a part of Hulu’s newly-launched Labs site.  Even if you don’t have your computer connected to a TV, Hulu Desktop still provides an improved viewing experience without having to rely on your web browser.  For an overview of the software, check out the video below:

Hulu Desktop is a free download for Windows and Mac. [Download: Windows or Mac]

System Requirements:

PC

  • Intel Pentium Core Duo 1.8GHz (or equivalent)
  • At least 2.0 GB RAM
  • 2 Mbps Internet connection or greater
  • Flash 9.0.124

Mac

  • Intel Pentium Core Duo 2.4GHz (or equivalent)
  • At least 2.0 GB RAM
  • Mac OS v10.4 (Tiger) or later
  • 2 Mbps Internet connection or greater
  • Flash 9.0.124

How To: Figure Out What svchost.exe Is Actually Doing

svchostthumWindows XP/Vista:  If you’ve ever dug around in your Windows Task Manager (available by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + ESC and clicking the Processes tab), you no doubt have noticed multiple instances of a process called svchost.exe.  Not only is the title of this process ambiguous, it typically exists as System, Network Service, and Local Service resources.

So what exactly are these processes doing, and are they safe to kill?  Svchost Process Analyzer is a free (and portable – no installation required) application that will analyze and identify all of the services that are currently running under the guise of svchost.exe.

How is this useful, then?  Although it isn’t typically safe to kill any svchost processes, many viruses and trojans (such as the Conficker worm) embed themselves into this process to avoid detection.  Even if you don’t find any malware in your svchost process, it still is interesting seeing what exactly your system is doing behind the scenes.

svchost4details

Svchost Process Analyzer is a tiny (400 kb), free download for all flavors of Windows.  [Download]

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.

Windows Won’t Boot? Try The Recovery Console

bsodIt is all too easy for the Windows operating system to become damaged and render your computer unusable, stranding you from your critical applications and documents.  Events such as power outages, electrical surges, or even an improper shutdown can damage or corrupt important system files which may cause the operating system to fail when loading.

This guide will show you how to use the Recovery Console feature provided on the Windows installation CD to repair your system files and get your computer working again. Continue reading “Windows Won’t Boot? Try The Recovery Console”

Windows Tip: How To Create a System Standby Shortcut

System Standby Shortcut

This guide will show you how to create a System Standby shortcut for your Windows computer, which will allow you to manually activate Standby mode by simply double-clicking an icon.

What is standby mode, you say?

“Your machine recovers quickly as your data is stored in RAM. The slower part is waking up the peripherals. Although your machine is in “standby” the power has been cut to items such as your hard drive and monitor. You’re running your machine in a very low power mode, but it is still on. This mode can be useful if you’re on a notebook and need to conserve your battery while you step away.” (via Understanding Differences Between Hibernate and Stand By)

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a new shortcut (right click, select New -> Shortcut).
  2. For the item location, input C:\WINDOWS\system32\rundll32.exe powrprof.dll,SetSuspendState 0,1,0
  3. Click next and name the shortcut. I chose System Standby.
  4. Click Finish.
  5. (optional) Add an icon to the shortcut.
    1. Right click the Standby shortcut.
    2. In the Shortcut tab, select Change Icon.
    3. A red Power On/Off icon is available in the bottom row.
    4. If you don’t see any icons, make sure “Look for icons in this file:” is set to %SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll

Have any other power management tips?  Share them in the comments.