Top how-to tech videos that won't cost you a dime

Tips ranging from enabling wireless security to building a PHP calculator -- and how to find more

What can you use for kindling, a door stop, shooting practice or boosting a toddler up to the table?

That's right: those thick documentation manuals we used to collect.

But these days, most companies refer you to a Web site or include online help. Still, you may need a little extra help with complex subjects.

That's where these instructional videos come in. They can guide you visually -- sometimes with a little comic flair thrown in. Here are some of the best how-to videos on the Web and tips on how to find more.

Enable wireless security

The typical Belkin or D-Link router does provide good documentation on enabling security. Still, most people are thoroughly confused about the subject, which explains why companies such as Network Magic make software to guide you through the steps.

Another option is just watching a video from the "Lab Rats" (Sean and Andy) who do a pretty good job of explaining the basics of WEP and WPA. Another one, from the Get Connected TV Show, is also helpful -- but not nearly as nerdy.

Record video game footage

Sites such as G4's The Feed show you game-play footage for Xbox and other consoles, but did you know you can record your own? A YouTube video from a person called "ramsy66" shows you the hardware you need and how to get it all connected and working. (This particular video is from the UK, but the same principles and hardware apply to the US audience.) Of course, you won't find how-to videos like this at Xbox.com because Microsoft doesn't encourage customers to make these homespun videos.

Use a phone as a modem

Popular Mechanics has some of the best how-to videos on the Web, and this video guide by Glenn Derene -- the technology editor at the magazine -- is quick and useful. He explains the fundamental concept: Your smart phone can act as a modem for your PC, which means you can connect to the Internet from anywhere. The phone and PC have to support Bluetooth, and the settings in Windows can be a chore to configure, but once it is all working, you don't have to rely soley on Wi-Fi hot spots.

Use Windows Remote Access

This video from the "Ask the Techies" series on Veoh.com explains how to connect to a remote computer using built-in services in Windows -- a bonus because you can skip the third-party options. It's like talking to a couple of IT guys in a back room somewhere. Like all good how-to videos, there are cutaways to the actual configuration screens in Windows -- interspersed as the guys are talking and without getting overly technical and dull.

Use an old PC as a server

Instead of tossing out an old PC, you can turn it into a server -- and this video from VitaminCM.com explains the steps. It's a little dated -- which is fine, because most of us with old PCs lying around are not running Vista on them anyway. There's also no extra banter or even a talking head explaining the steps -- just the audio and screen actions to guide you through the process quickly.

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John Brandon

Computerworld

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