Time-tested tips for PC building that will help you avoid common pitfalls and enjoy a more fulfilling DIY experience
PC builders don’t drop out of their mommies with a Phillips head screwdriver in one hand, a Leatherman in the other, and start winning PC-building contests. No, most experienced PC builders accumulate their knowledge through horrible mistakes, case scars and flesh wounds, and the sorrow of having to completely take apart a machine they just assembled because a single, crucial step was neglected at some point in the process.
Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of the magazine.
Forget the CD and install Windows 8 with your flash drive
A guide? To install Windows? Slapping a new operating system on your desktop or laptop PC should be old hat by now, right? This is Windows 8, after all: Odds are pretty good that you, an astute and well-travelled Maximum PC reader, have been around the ol’ Windows installation block a few times before.
So, er, what does that leave us to talk about?
Plenty. Ditch your discs; we’re going all-USB for your first big Windows 8 installation.
Nothing holds more promise than a brand-new PC. The hardware is fresh and full of potential, the OS is clean and clutter-free, and you have nothing but pure, unadulterated storage space awaiting your precious data. It’s an exciting time, indeed. But before you start dumping old files onto your new rig willy-nilly, and downloading every shiny bauble of an app that catches your eye, take some time to consider a more measured approach to moving in. After all, you only have this opportunity once.
The way you set up your new PC now will have a lasting impact on your experience over time. Do it haphazardly, and your experience will be plagued by disorder and regret. Do it thoughtfully, though, by following the course of action we prescribe on the following pages, and you will have a machine that’s primed and ready to meet your every need from the start.
Nothing will put a crimp in your computing style quite like a Windows error. Although Microsoft's OS has gotten exponentially more stable over the years, it's still very possible for Windows system files to become corrupt. When you encounter a Windows error, your first instinct may be to back up your data, grab the ol' installation disk, and weep silently as you press the Reformat button. We're here to tell you there's another way.
As a Windows user, you’re probably used to software that comes in a user-friendly package. If you want to install a new program, it’s usually a matter of running setup.exe, or occasionally a .msi installer. Because of this, a lot of Windows users panic when faced with the prospect of installing a file from source code. Well fear not, because it’s not that difficult. We’ll walk you through a source code install, step by step.
In the wake of the quasi-departure of Xmarks (seriously; is it alive? Gone? Going somewhere? Dead? Fading out? What?), it’s nice to see that other enterprising developers have taken the idea of cross-computer Firefox synchronization and really ran with it. I’m speaking, of course, of a particular add-on called Siphon. It’s currently beta-testing, but it unlocks a whole pie full of usefulness for anyone who’s as add-on addicted as those of us over at Maximum PC.
It’s hard to maintain any kind of neutrality when writing about Valve’s Steam service. Indeed, it’s hard to write anything about Steam without adopting a grin the size of a cartoon character and lavishing compliments on the service faster than needles firing out of a medic’s syringe gun.
The recent partnership between AMD and Valve that put an easy-to-access, “download new video drivers here please” tool within the game-drenched packet manager has been an unexpected-yet-delightful addition to the service. And I’ve said it before: It’s about time.
However, it's also time for hardware manufacturers to step up to the challenge of releasing clean, comprehensive drivers for their full product lines--legacy hardware included. More importantly, Valve needs to take its little "AMD experiment" as more than just fun dabbling. As gamers and enthusiasts, we're way overdue to see someone rise to the occasion to deliver a one-stop shop for zero-hour driver updates that gamers of all backgrounds deserve to have.
And yes, if you say, "What about Windows Update," I'm going to throw up.
We believe that everyone who considers themselves a computer enthusiast should have at least some experience with a Linux environment, but it can be daunting to just jump into the deep end of a completely unfamiliar operating system. One way to get your feet wet is with Cygwin, a free program that provides you with a Unix-like command line, without having to leave Windows. Cygwin is not a Unix emulator (it cannot run native Unix programs, although it does contain the tools needed to compile and run a program from source code), but it does have a wide array of optional packages that let you use most of the tools and utilities that you would commonly use in Unix, in Windows. In this guide, we’ll show you how to get Cygwin set up, the basics of how to navigate a Unix file system, and how to find more information as you need it.
Since its release, the Android platform has grown in leaps and bounds, finding its way onto laptops, netbooks, tablets and smartphones. Helped by the momentum of search giant Google, much of Android's popularity is due to its open source nature. Because Android is an open platform, manufacturers have been able to adopt Android with ease and spend more time on developing features - instead of a proprietary operating system. This led to a wide variety of features unique to specific Android models: some had HTC's gorgeous SenseUI, some had Android 2.1's slick Eclair home screen, and lucky Evo 4G users got WiMax.
This division of features drove independent developers to take action, and Android's developer-friendly, open nature made customization possible. Almost as early as Android's first release, developers have been creating custom ROMs to bring additional functionality, improve performance, and increase battery life.
I'm often surprised by what people find popular in the world of freeware and open-source applications, let alone Web apps. It's tough to use the comments on Maximum PC's website as an official barometer, as they don't take page views, click-throughs, or raw downloads of whatever apps I/we recommend into account. Nevertheless, judging by the wrath, boundless joy, and heavy presence of spam-filter-nose-thumbing-signatures attached to the various weekly software articles, I can sometimes get a general vibe for what's appreciated... and what's not.
But I'm not about to dedicate the next 700 words or toward tooting my own horn--not unless there's an app for that. I do find it interesting, and a little bit funny, that a relatively innocuous application like last week's "Instant Elevator Music" received such an exuberant amount of interest via the blog comments. Of course, that's after weeks can go by with nothing but tumbleweeds greeting other applications that, honestly, I find much more useful.