Answer Line: Schedule Your System to Start Automatically

I'm aware of a lot of programs that can automatically turn a PC off at a preset time. Are there any that will turn one on automatically?

William Lee, Clinton, Utah

Your PC's setup program may let you schedule a boot. To find out, start your computer and watch the screen. Before Windows loads, a message will tell you the key to press to enter Setup. Once the program has loaded, search its menus for an autostart option.

Windows' Scheduled Tasks tool can set a wake-up call for your system, but only if you hibernate your PC or put it in standby mode rather than closing Windows and shutting off the machine. (Placing your system in hibernation saves about as much energy as turning it off.) For more on hibernation, read "Enable Hibernation" from my November 2002 column.

Scheduled Tasks requires that you use a log-on password in XP; see "Schedule Tasks in XP" from my January 2003 column.

To wake your system from standby or hibernation at a set time, click Start,Programs (All Programs in XP) Accessories,System Tools,Scheduled Tasks. Double-click the Add Scheduled Task icon to launch the Scheduled Task Wizard, and click Next. Select a program you'd like to run when your system wakes up, and schedule the task. On the wizard's last page, check Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish before clicking Finish. In the resulting Properties dialog box, click the Settings tab, check Wake the computer to run this task, and click OK.

Now you simply have to make sure you hibernate your PC, rather than shutting it off, when you're ready to call it a day.

To schedule a task that will wake your PC from hibernation and then reboot it, download the reboot batch file for Windows XP or 98/Me and save it on your desktop or in another convenient location. (The Firefox browser doesn't accommodate batch-file downloads, so you will have to use Internet Explorer to get your copy.) Note that Windows 2000 lacks the ability to reboot from a batch file.

Follow the instructions above for creating a wake-up scheduled task. When the wizard asks you to select a program, click Browse and choose the downloaded batch file. Make sure that you close all programs before hibernating your PC if you plan to restart it using this batch file.

If you are working at the scheduled restart time, you have 30 seconds to abort the reboot. Go to the white-text-on-black Command Prompt window and press N (in Windows 98 or Me) or any key (in XP).

Good Gauges

I formerly used Symantec's Norton SystemWorks and enjoyed the System Doctor's gauges that kept me apprised of system memory and hard-drive space. Is there a cheaper and simpler way of seeing this information?

Name withheld by request

The metering program that I like best is PE Soft's free TinyResMeter, which is extremely simple to operate--just right-click the tool's icon in the taskbar to select the statistics you want to show. The basic bar graphs aren't as pretty as System Doctor's gauge-and-graph approach, but they tell you what you need to know. Choose from a range of statistics that includes CPU speed, processes, RAM, and local drives (see FIGURE 1

FIGURE 1: See what your PC's resources are up to with the free TinyResMeter utility.
. You can make the display transparent so you can see what's underneath, and set it to disappear when you move the mouse pointer over it.

Easy Product Key Display

Last November, I told you to keep your Windows Product Key handy. Ty Davis of Edgewood, Rhode Island, notes an easy way to unearth it using the free Keyfinder program from Magical Jelly Bean Software. (Click here for more on Keyfinder, from last October's issue.) Run the program, and it returns your product key. Because this utility can be used for unwholesome purposes, your antivirus or antispyware program may prevent it from running. Disable your protection, run the program, note your product key, and then reactivate your security tools.

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