Articles about Know Your PC

WinLock password-protects and hides applications

Keyboard Lock

If you’re working on some confidential document and need to leave your PC for a while, then locking the system is one way to maintain your privacy. Hold down the Windows key, press L, and only someone who knows your user account password will be able to restore access to the computer.

When you’re working on a shared computer which that need to regularly use, though, this may not seem like such a good idea. What you really need is a tool like WinLock, which can password-protect and hide any application window, yet leaves the rest of the computer freely available for everybody who needs it.

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Windows 8 Start Screen Customizer review

windows-8-start-screen-customizer

The Windows 8 Start screen is without doubt one of the prominent new features of the operating system. It is the first screen of the operating system that new users see when logging in and also the screen that the majority see every time they do so. While there are ways to bypass the Start screen to go straight to the desktop, it is unlikely that the majority of people will make use of those.

It may feel like an oversight to some users that Microsoft decided to lock down the available Start screen customization options. Instead of giving users the option to select any background image they want, the company limits the Start screen backgrounds to 20. While Windows 8 users are still free to select custom pictures as desktop backgrounds, they do not have the same option when it comes to this important part of the operating system.

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Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit beta is a smooth operator

cop policeman security guard

Malwarebytes Corporation has made available the first public beta of a new Anti-Rootkit tool, which aims to provide a quick and easy way to detect and remove the stealthy malware from your PC. And as you’d expect from Malwarebytes, the program seems very straightforward and simple to use.

The beta is portable, of course, so there’s no installation required. Unzip the download, run MBAR.EXE and it’s ready to go immediately.

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PC boots too slow? Try Startup Master

snail

Every time Windows launches on the typical PC it also fires off a host of other programs, extending boot time, gobbling up system resources and generally slowing you down.

If you’re looking to optimize your computer’s performance, paying close attention to those startup programs is a very good place to begin. And Startup Master is one of many tools that can help.

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Best Windows 8 apps this week

bing-my-lockscreen

Second in a series. Welcome to this week's installment of the new "best Windows 8 apps" series here on BetaNews. The first post went live on Sunday but we decided to move the series to Friday instead, which means that there are only five days between posts this time. All posts of this series will be posted on Friday from now on.

The links point to Microsoft's Windows Store, which offers detailed information about each app. To get an application, open the Windows Store on your computer and type the name as listed on the store front to find the program and install it on the system.

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If Windows 8 Modern UI isn't your thing, try StartOnDesktop

Windows 8 logo

Launch Windows 8 and the first change you’ll notice is that it boots to the new Start screen, rather than the desktop. And, perhaps more annoyingly if you prefer the more traditional environment, there’s no standard option to change this.

A single click on the Desktop tile is all it takes to switch manually, of course, so this isn’t the biggest of hassles. But if you’d rather set up your system precisely as you like, and boot directly to the desktop, then StartOnDesktop is perhaps the quickest and easiest solution around.

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Folder2Iso turns folder trees into ISOs

keyboard

ISO images are a popular way to distribute software, and Windows has become much better at handling them in recent years. Windows 7 added the ability to burn ISO images to disc, for instance, while Windows 8 is able to mount them as virtual drives.

Creating ISO images in the first place remains a little more challenging, of course, but if that’s something you need to do (even only occasionally) then there are some very simple solutions around. And few are quite as straightforward as Folder2Iso.

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Customize the Windows 8 Start screen with Stardock's Decor8

stardock-decor-8-change-start-screen-background

The Start screen is without doubt one of the major new features of Windows 8. It may come as a surprise that the Start screen's customization options are not as extensive as those made available on the desktop. There are, for instance, only 20 designs that you can select for the Start screen's background, opposed to an unlimited amount of custom wallpapers or desktop backgrounds that you can add to the Windows desktop. The color scheme too is limited to 25 different pre-configured schemes, while you are not limited to fixed color schemes on the desktop.

Stardock, the creators of Start8, a popular Windows 8 Start menu program, have created Decor8 to tackle the issue. Decor8 introduces options to change the appearance of the operating system's Start screen in a way that goes beyond what Microsoft has envisioned for it.

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Toolbar Cleaner reclaims your browser from unwanted add-ons

triumph victory man pc

From full commercial applications to simple freeware tools, it’s surprising just how many setup programs will now try to install unwanted browser addons on your PC. And too many of these can slow your system down, make it less stable, maybe even compromise your privacy.

The deceptive techniques used by some software means these “extras” can be difficult to avoid, too. But fortunately help is at hand in the shape of the free Toolbar Cleaner, which can assist you in reviewing and taking control of your IE, Firefox and Chrome addons.

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SiSoft Sandra 2013 supports Windows 8

Sandra

The respected system benchmarking and analysis tool SiSoft Sandra has been updated to the 2013 version bringing not only support for Windows 8 but a raft of other enhancements. Of course, support for the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system is only to be expected, so it’s interesting to look elsewhere to see where updates have been made. Users of one of the commercial version of the program can take advantage of a new update notification system that provides details of available updates for drivers and BIOSes.

SiSoft Sandra is a valued benchmarking utility and the 2013 release includes changes to the way benchmarking is carried out. It is always possible that a particularly low or high benchmark result comes about as a result of a problem with a piece of hardware. A new Device Performance Certification compares the benchmark results for different devices with other Sandra users to determine average results, making it possible to weed out results which are unusual one-offs.

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Add Internet Explorer 10 Flash support for any domain on Windows 8

IE10 Windows 8 Start screen

Windows 8 ships with two versions of Internet Explorer 10. First, the regular version that runs on the desktop and packs all the features one would expect from a browser, and then the Start screen version of IE10, which is a plug-in free version that is limited in what you can do with it on the Internet and locally.

Microsoft has integrated Adobe's Flash Player natively into Internet Explorer 10, but there are again differences in the implementation between the desktop and start screen version of the browser.

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Toolbox for Windows 8 puts you in control of Modern UI

Toolbox for Windows 8

The Windows 8 Modern UI looks great at first, but start using it and you’ll soon notice a problem. No matter how large your display, there’s no longer any way to view and access more than two apps at any one time. The old ability to organize windows more or less as you like simply no longer applies in the app world.

If this feels like a step backwards to you, though, help is at hand in the shape of Toolbox for Windows 8, an interesting free app that provides 9 tools of its own, and allows you to arrange and use up to 6 of them on the screen at any one time.

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Launch ISO images from the desktop, no disc burning required

keyboard usd hard drive disk DVD

ISO images are a very convenient way to distribute software, but testing them is more of a hassle, especially if they’re bootable, as normally you’ll have to burn them to disc, first.

But it may not always have to be this way, particularly if you grab a copy of Qemu Simple Boot. As with just a little work the program can boot the image (ISO, IMA or IMG formats are supported) in a window on your own desktop, no disc required.

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Auslogics Disk Defrag Pro 4.2 supports Windows 8

SSD

Auslogics has announced the availability of Disk Defrag Pro 4.2, the latest release of its comprehensive defrag tool, and top of the new features list has to be the build’s full compatibility with all editions of the newly released Windows 8.

Elsewhere, the program provides more details on any SSD drives you might have installed, now including a single verdict (“SSD is in satisfactory condition”) to give you an immediate idea of their state. Small practical enhancements to Disk Defrag Pro include the ability to maximize the Profile Settings window, for a better overview of your options.

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FileMind is the brain Windows Explorer lacks

Magnifying Glass PC

If you find that Windows Explorer does not meet your requirements for browsing and managing your files, you have no doubt taken a look at some of the many replacement utilities that exist. Many such tools improve on the idea of Explorer but few offer anything particularly new. The sane accusation cannot be leveled at FileMind which provides a traditional means of accessing files and folders as well as something a little more interesting.

A cursory glance reveals nothing especially out of the ordinary, but spend a few minutes investigating and you’ll find that there’s plenty o get excited about. FileMind is not dissimilar to a web browser, and tags the idea of hyperlinks and tag clouds in a new direction. To make it easier to access the files you access most frequently, an enlarging of label and color coding make such files easier to identify.

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