Upgrade Your Life: Solutions to annoying tech problems

Jared Spurbeck
Upgrade Your Life

Has your phone ran out of juice? Does your computer's password logon seem pointless? Do you keep hitting Wi-Fi dead spots in your house? Or maybe you've cracked your smartphone's screen! Tech gadgets are only fun until they annoy the heck out of you. In this week's Upgrade Your Life, Yahoo! News' Becky Worley offers solutions to make your annoying gadgets behave. Here are more detailed instructions for each of her suggestions!

Log in to your computer without using a password

if you are the only person who uses your computer, and you have no reason to worry about security, then why bother using a password to log in? Here's how you get rid of it.

If you're using Windows 7 or Vista, click on the Control Panel under the start menu. Click on "User Accounts and Family Safety," then click on "User Accounts," then click on your account and select "Remove your password."

On Windows XP, click on the Control Panel, then "User Accounts," then "Change an Account," then select yours and click "Remove my Password."

On Mac OS X, click on System Preferences under the Apple menu, then click on "Accounts." Select your account, click "Login Options," then select "Enabled" from the pull-down menu next to "Automatic login".

Move your Wi-Fi router to get better coverage

Sometimes, you just need to make your Wi-Fi reach an extra couple of meters. Fortunately, there's an easy way of doing that. The higher you put your Wi-Fi router, the wider its reach will extend. Try putting it on top of a shelf if you can.

You can try the second floor of your house, but it's often shielded by structural components. Plus, there aren't always ethernet jacks on the 2nd floor, but if it's easy to try then give it a shot! You'll also want to keep it away from walls and metal objects, and machines that use radiation (like microwaves and cordless phones).

Microsoft's website has a few more suggestions for improving your wi-fi coverage, like instructions for changing the channel your router broadcasts on. This can help if your neighbor's Wi-Fi router is broadcasting on the same channel as yours.

Extend your smartphone's battery life

If you're having trouble getting a full day's worth of battery life from your smartphone, a few tweaks in the settings menu can give you hours more use.

If you're using an Android smartphone, open Settings. Under "Display," you'll find options for changing your screen's brightness: the dimmer the better, for battery life. Also, set the "Screen timeout" to 1 or 2 minutes, so that it will dim automatically if you leave it untouched for that long. Under "Wireless & networks" you can turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and under "Accounts & sync" you can turn off "Background data," which lets your apps access the Internet to check for new emails and things.

Keep in mind, if you turn off background data, this will disable your widgets like weather and stocks, and will keep you from being told when you've got a new email. If you want, though, you can change some of those widgets' and apps' settings manually, and tell them to update less often. This also saves precious megabytes on your data plan.

On an iPhone, launch Settings, then tap on "Wi-Fi" or "Brightness" to change the settings for each. Bluetooth can be found under "General," and you can tell your iPhone to check for email less frequently under "Mail, Contacts, Calendars". Apple has some other suggestions for you on their website, plus fixes for the iPad and iPod Touch's battery life.

Extend your laptop's battery life

Dirty connectors can degrade your laptop's battery life. To clean them, first turn your laptop off and unplug it. Make sure to turn it all the way off, not just close the lid or put it in sleep mode. On Windows, this is accomplished by choosing "Shut down" from the Start menu.

After that, turn it over and check to see how it says to remove your battery. There is usually a switch that you have to click to the "off" position, then another one that you have to pull back and hold while you're taking the battery out. If you aren't sure what to do, consult your laptop's instruction manual (and if you lost it, you can usually find one for your model of laptop online).

You can wash the gold contacts on your laptop and its battery by using a cotton swab or other gentle cloth, that's slightly damp with rubbing alcohol. Just make sure to let it dry completely before plugging it back in.

Note: Some Apple computers don't have a removable battery. For these, you'll have to take them to the Apple Store, or mail them to Apple.

Restore deleted photos from a memory card

If you have a Mac, you can use ecamm's CardRaider app to get back any deleted photos. It will scan your memory card for pictures that it can recover, then you can select the ones that you want to get back and click Save. You can also permanently delete photos that you don't ever want to see again. The app itself costs $20, but there is a free demo available.

On Windows, try Data Doctor's Digital Camera and Memory Card recovery apps, each available for $45.

Cheaply repair your iPhone

If your iPhone is out of warranty, getting it fixed at the Genius Bar in an Apple Store can cost $100-$200. And you can buy kits online for as little as $12 to fix it yourself, but Worley warns that you might further damage your iPhone, as joining the tiny connection in the capacitive screen to the phone's innards is very challenging.

Your best bet is to try a professional online iPhone repair service, like iFix Direct or Repair Labs. Their services tend to be cheaper, and they offer free or cheap ($0.99) diagnostics, to let you know what's wrong with your iPhone and how much it will cost to fix. If you change your mind or don't want their services, they'll send your iPhone right back. The standard cost for iPhone and Android phone screen repairs is $60.

Original article by Jared Spurbeck, published on May 03, 2011.