From The Tips Box: Calculators, Clean Computers, Windows Migration

Readers offer their best tips for using calculators during the day, keeping your computer towers clean and shiny, and migrating to a new Windows installation pain-free.

Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons — maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in — the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Email it to tips at

Use a Physical Calculator Instead of Slow Digital Ones

Photo by Ken FUNAKOSHI.

Jryan727 discovers that sometimes, old tech is just plain faster than new tech:

This might seem sort of silly and/or ridiculous, but it has actually greatly improved my work day: Ditch the software calculator you're using in your OS of choice, and go with a real-life calculator.

I'm a web developer, and was using a software calculator fairly frequently (for work, and also personally for bills and whatnot). My friend/business partner turned me on to the idea of using a physical calculator. I dug out my old TI-86 and have never looked back! Somehow, this is actually quicker than using a soft calculator, and you get the added benefit of having some history if you're using a graphing calculator.

Use Armour All on Other, Non-Automobile Plastics (Like Computer Towers)

Photo by Meg.

Lensflare digs the armour All out of the garage and does some experimenting:

I had some leftover armour All protectant from cleaning my car, so I decided to clean up some things around my desk. It gives a great shine and slick (but not greasy) feel to plastics, especially black objects. It seems to be doing a nice job of keeping my old white Macbook clean, and my computer tower and monitor look better than they did when they were new.

Note that some computer towers are made out of aluminium or steel, so this probably only really works on the parts of your tower that are actually plastic.

Mount Your User Folder as a Virtual Drive for Easy Migrations

Theborg3of5 shares a tweak that made migrating to a new Windows machine dead simple:

General idea that has come in immensely handy for me: Set your home directory (In windows) as a virtual drive, such as G:\. Then, whenever you need to refer to one of your files (whether that's in a program or a configuration file), use the G:\ path instead of the full C:\ path. When you move to a new computer, even if the structure is different on the base level (my university supplies my computer, and the way they set it up was rather odd), you can just set up your G:\ virtual drive again and all of the references you moved over still work happily!

Find Small, Metal Objects with a Speaker Magnet and a String

Photo by Koonisutra.

Wjglenn shares another use for found magnets:

Saw the other article on magnet and string and it made me think of this one. We had some folks do some wood siding work for us and they didn't do a great job cleaning up after themselves.

Instead of renting one of those rolling magnets to pick up nails, I took the magnet out of an old speaker I had sitting around (fairly big, came from the bass driver), tied a string to it, and walked around the yard with it. It did a stellar job at picking up nails.


    If you're the kind of person to frequently reinstall your OS, it's always a good idea to keep user data in a separate partition or mount point. I've been running /home on a separate partition for a few years now, and it makes changing linux distributions a breeze.

      Very important tip!

      It definitely makes it easier to manage my family's computers when I'm forced to reinstall Windows every few weeks after they bugger it to hell.

      Having a separate /home partition is one of the best things to do if you're running Linux as well.

    I agree with using a REAL calculator.

    After all, there's a reason that the old HP ones are so expensive on eBay!

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