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How do I start my computer in SAFE mode

When the computer is just starting up tap the "F5" key to start up directly in SAFE mode.  Alternatively, you tap the "F8" key and select SAFE MODE when the menu appears.

Use SAFE MODE to start you computer with minimal drivers so that files can be repaired, startup choices can be configured and registry entries can be modified when the computer is unresponsive or fails to boot normally.

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How do I start my computer with the Last Known Good mode?

When the computer is just starting up tap the "F8" key and select LAST KNOWN GOOD when the menu appears.

Use Last Known Good when the computer was running ok, but now won't boot.  Last Known Good is defined as the environment of the last login.  If the problem experienced is after login, then this method is unlikely to be helpful.  Try Safemode.

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Where do I find my IP address?

There are many ways to find your IP address.  These answers apply to Windows XP, but may work for other operating systems.  Here are a few:

  • If you have a computer icon in the systray, right click and then left click on the status option.  Then select the support tab.  If more address details are required, select the details button.
  • Select the "Start" button, then the Run menu option.  In the field that appears, type "CMD" and press the Enter key.  In the resulting command box, type "IPCONFIG" and press enter.  If you require more detail, type "IPCONFIG /ALL".
  • Select the "Start" button, then "Control Panel", then "Network Connections".  Then select the network adapter you want information about.  Then select the support tab.  If more address details are required, select the details button.

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Where do I find which support pack is installed?

The easiest way is to either right click on the "My Computer" icon found on your desktop or the START menu. Select Properties.  The Service Pack is identified on the GENERAL Tab.

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Why does my computer take 10 minutes to start?

  • There are many factors that can affect the speed that your computer starts up.  You may have a failing disk, or the disk may be badly fragmented.
  • Your computer may have a virus, worm or some form of mal-ware.
  • Your computer may have too many applications loading on startup.  This is a very common problem that occurs over time from installing applications.
  • You may not have sufficient memory to load all the programs that are loading on startup.

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Why does my disk makes ticking noises all the time?

  • You may not have enough memory for your computer, so your applications are being swapped between random access memory and the paging file on the hard disk.
  • Your hard disk may be badly fragmented.
  • Depending on the ticking noise, your hard drive may be failing.  Backup before it is too late!

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Why doesn't my computer start?

  • Make sure it is plugged in.
  • Make sure the outlet is functional. (Check the circuit breaker)
  • Make sure the keyboard is plugged in.
  • The power supply may be bad.
  • The processor may have creped out of its socket.
  • There may be no memory installed or the memory may be bad.
  • Some of the above issues can be identified by entering the BIOS.

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Why doesn't my anti-virus catch all viruses?

  • Virus engines must be kept up to date.  If your subscription isn't current, neither is your protection.
  • Virus definitions must be kept up to date.  Depending on the software publisher, frequency of updates may play a role.
  • No matter who the anti-virus software provider is, someone is going to get a virus before the security companies know it exists.
  • Some viruses are written to specifically disable some versions of anti-virus software before delivering their payload.

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What is a registry?

  • A registry (not just in Windows) is a hierarchical database that contains information about the computer hardware, software and users.

Editing the registry should not be taken lightly.  The wrong change here can render you computer unusable.

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What is an IP address?

  • This is a number that is represented by 4 octets, separated by a decimal.  Such as:

192.168.1.1  The computer reads this address as:  11000000.10101000.00000001.00000001

An address is used to locate a computer on a network, much like the street number of your house on the street.  The address is used in conjunction with a sub-net mask, also expressed in 4 octets like:  255.255.255.0  In this example the 255 repeated 3 times means the network (Your street) is 192.168.1.0.  This allows any entry between 1 and 255 in the last octet to define the actual address (your home.)

An IP address can be assigned to a computer either statically/manually or dynamically.  There can never be 2 identical addresses on the same sub-net at the same time.  (Imagine the problem the post office would have if that happened!)

There are other addressing options, but IP is the most common.  For all intents and purposes, if there is no IP, then there is no network access.

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What is a firewall?

  • A firewall is a utility that can be either hardware or software based and permits or denies specific traffic to flow from one side of a network to another. 
  • Windows comes with a software firewall, and many defensive products include an improved firewall over the standard.  The problem here is that if the firewall is functioning on the device you are trying to protect, any perpetrators that are successful in violating the firewall have reached their destination upon a successful breach.  For that reason, I suggest every network have a hardware firewall when connecting to another network.
  • Hardware firewalls are usually solid state devices that contain a hardened set of instructions that can be customized for each environment.  These devices are usually more difficult to compromise because they are very limited in their instruction set.  Even if compromised, a perpetrator would have to continue on the network to find anything they might be looking for.   

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What is a router?

  • A router has only one function.  Move traffic from one network to a different network.  To achieve that, a router must have a list (table) of networks that it can send traffic to.  When the router doesn't know where to send traffic, it will send it's unknown traffic to a default gateway.

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What is DNS?

  • Dynamic Name Service is a naming service used to associate an IP Address with a given name.  Humans have difficulty remembering long numbers like 75.69.62.27 as the place to go in order to reach a site.  But, they can remember www.gstr.net.  When a user types a name into an address bar or search engine, the name is sent to a specialized server that either knows how to locate the IP address with the typed name, or sends the request to another server that can locate the association.  Without DNS, users would have a very difficult time using the Internet.

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What is DHCP?

  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, is a set of communication rules that permit a device to ask and receive a "dynamically" assigned IP address from a DHCP server.  Having a DHCP server on a network simplifies the issuance of addresses and IP configuration information to the device.  It also reduces the risk of IP conflicts due to duplicate addresses on the same network.

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What is a Directory?

  • A Directory is a centralized database often used to manage network resources such as Users and Computers and all of their associated properties.  Additional network  features can "extend" the Directory to allow centralized management of a feature. A feature that might extend a Directory might be an E-mail system.  Microsoft's Active Directory (AD) and Novell's eDirectory (eDIR) are both widely installed and used.

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What is a gateway?

  • A gateway is an IP address, usually assigned to a router.  The gateway will transfer traffic received at it's IP address to a known network or it's default gateway.

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What is SSID?

  • Service Set ID is used to identify a wireless network.  A wireless device wishing to connect to a wireless network must join the network using the SSID.

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What is a MAC address?

  • Media Access Control is a unique manufacturer specific identifier, hard coded into each network card produced.  The number is a 12 hexadecimal character and it uniquely identifies the device that it is assigned to.  There are no 2 MAC addresses alike in the world.  (A MAC address cannot be changed in the hardware, but some software utilities allow modification of the understood MAC address.  Modifying this address can be convenient for some purposes, but duplicate MAC addresses on the same network are sure to cause headaches).

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