Articles about Know Your PC

How to customize your Windows 8.1 Desktop

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So you've decided to take the plunge with Windows 8.1 (following the changes with the latest update, maybe), and you want to know how to jazz up the old desktop? You know, the mouse-and-keyboard (non-Metro/new-style) bit of the OS where most of us still live. Or indeed, maybe you've had Windows 8 for ages, and just haven't been bothered to do anything when it comes to tinkering in Desktop mode. Well, read on, because in this article we're going to show you the basics of customizing the desktop.

Okay, so if you've done nothing with the place, the first thing you want to do is ditch that yellow wallpaper (it's almost as passé as an avocado bathroom suite). Right click on the desktop, select Personalize, and click on Desktop Background at the bottom of the window which pops up. You can then select an image from the set pics on offer, or click Browse to select a folder where one of your own preferred images resides. Note that you can hold the Ctrl key down and select multiple images for a desktop slideshow -- at the bottom, under "Change picture every", you can use the drop-down menu to specify a time interval in which a new image will be brought to the fore. Click the Save Changes button when you're done.

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How to continue getting free security updates for Windows XP -- until 2019

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Microsoft has stopped providing XP users with security updates, forcing them to either upgrade to another, newer operating system, or gamble with their safety. While the latest usage figures show that a large portion of users are moving away from XP, there’s still a sizable number of users who aren’t -- or can’t.

If you’re an XP user, or know some XP users, there’s a trick which makes it possible to receive security updates for the aging OS for another five years -- right up until April 2019.

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Tips and tricks for looking after your PC

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A PC is a major expense -- even a cheaper one is a few hundred dollars, and if you want, it's possible to spend thousands on a machine. The good news is that these days, PCs are lasting longer than ever. Whereas in the past, your machine might have been feeling outdated within a few years, these days a good PC can last for ages before the hardware inside starts to be underpowered. That said, the longevity of your machine does of course depend on how well you look after it. A poorly cared for machine can easily end up coming to a premature end. So with that in mind, we're going to look at how to care for your PC and ensure that it lasts for all those years of computing it should do.

To begin with, we're going to discuss issues you should consider from a longevity perspective before you buy a PC -- in case you're mulling a purchase in the near future, there are some important points to bear in mind.

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Zotac Zbox Sphere OI520 PC looks a lot like the Nexus Q (and that's a good thing)

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Despite what some people think, the PC is not dead. However, for many, the concept of buying a desktop PC with a monstrous tower is. After all, thanks to companies like Apple, electronics have become art. And so, if someone does need a PC, they may opt for a laptop or all-in-one instead.

Truth be told, I have never been a huge fan of all-in-ones. If the display breaks, you could end up with a giant paperweight. I still remember when people bought TV/VCR combos. Almost always, the VCR failed and you would see a second VCR connected -- insanity. I have been of the opinion that it is best to keep your monitor and computer separate. With that said, I do like having a small footprint on a desk. Today, Zotac announces a spherical PC that is not only small, but beautiful too.

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How to list the contents of a folder in Windows

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If you’re troubleshooting a PC problem, maybe trying to help someone else, then it can sometimes be useful to list the files in a folder. Explorer still can’t do this. But, no problem -- you’ve plenty of other options.

File Lister is perhaps as basic a solution as you’ll see. Specify a folder, check "Preserve file structure", click "List Files", and the program displays your folders and files in an indented list.

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How to slipstream Windows 8.1 Update into a custom installation ISO

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Microsoft’s tiled operating system is best viewed as a work in progress. The tech giant made major changes from Windows 8 to 8.1, and has just released the mandatory Update, which adds tweaks and new features aimed primarily at keyboard and mouse users.

The downside of these changes is that if you ever have to reinstall Windows you’ll need to update your computer with the Update and other security patches and so on afterwards. Fortunately, you can create a new, more up to date installer by slipstreaming (integrating) the Update with the original disc files.

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How to download and install the Windows 8.1 ISO -- using a Windows 8 or 8.1 key

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I’ve been asked by a couple of people in the past week how to download the Windows 8.1 ISO file from Microsoft. Downloading the ISO file necessary to install the OS at a later date, or on another system, is very straightforward, although it’s far from obvious. I covered this six months ago, but things have changed and less trickery is involved now.

At the moment the provided ISO file doesn’t contain the recently released Update, so you’ll need to update Windows straight after installation has finished to guarantee you have the latest version.

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Automate login and bypass the lock screen in Windows 8.1

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I hate waiting for my computer to boot up. My impatience stems from when I owned an XP system that took upwards of five minutes to get to a usable state no matter what I did to try and speed things along. Scarred by that experience I used to leave my system on permanently (just flipping the monitors off when I stepped away), but obviously that wastes electricity. Switching to an SSD, and configuring Windows to boot as quickly as possible, offered a decent solution.

The problem is Windows 8.1 seems to be designed to slow you down. Once your computer has booted up there is a lock screen to clear, then you have to enter your password and log to in your Microsoft account. Obviously Microsoft has done this for security purposes, and that's great. But if you don't share your computer with other people, and are confident no one will have access to your PC, you can configure the OS to bypass both delaying stages and boot straight in.

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Switching to Garamond could slash US government printing costs by almost a quarter

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A Pittsburgh teenager has worked out that the US government could slash millions from its costs by making a simple change to IT policy. Suvir Mirchandani's suggestion is laughably simple, but it is one that should hold water -- although I'll admit to not fully following through with the math to determine the precise levels of savings that could be achieved. Suvir proposes that a move away from the most commonly used fonts, such as Times New Roman, in favour of a lighter typeface such as Garamond could reduce the US government's printing costs by a colossal 24 percent.

There can be few printer owners who have not cursed the price of ink -- it is one of the costs of ownership that can creep up on the unsuspecting printer user. You might think that the paperless office was, if not here, well on its way to arriving. It's something that has been talked about for years now, and there has been a general move toward eliminating some paper versions of documents in favour of electronic copies. But there are still an unbelievable number of printed documents out there.

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5 features of Windows that need defenestrating -- including IE

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Defenestrating? Pretentious? Moi?! How could you?!

Don't get me wrong, I love Windows. A fanboy I am not -- I'll quite happily pick holes in Microsoft's operating system -- but for the most part I do love it. While I have a great deal of time for Windows, it doesn’t mean there isn't room for improvement. By this I don’t mean that Microsoft needs to bring back the Start menu or start copying features from OS X or Linux, rather that it's time to have spring cleaning. In just over a week, Windows XP will be consigned to the OS graveyard, but what about Windows 8.1? The latest version of Windows doesn't need to be killed, but there are lots of features that need to be put out of their misery.

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Windows 8.1 Update is the final nail in the coffin

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Windows 8.1 Update. Windows 8.1 Update 1. Windows Feature Pack. Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1. Call it what you will, the big update to Windows 8.1 is just around the corner and it promises much. Or at least it did. It was revealed yesterday that it was possible to get hold of the update ahead of schedule with a quick and simple registry edit -- or by downloading the necessary files from the numerous mirrors that quickly sprang up -- and it appears that this is final code; the RTM version that will hit Windows Update for the masses very soon. Was it worth the wait?

This update was Microsoft's chance to put things right, to win back people who hated Windows 8 and have failed to be won over by 8.1. I make no secret about having a love-hate relationship with Windows 8.x. There have been parts of Windows 8 -- particularly the Metro/modern side of things -- which I disliked from day one, but for the most part I have been able to just avoid using them. Microsoft has even acknowledged that people want to avoid the Start screen whenever possible, and has provided tips on how to do so.

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Windows XP home users should upgrade to Linux -- not Windows 8.1

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The Windows XP death clock is ticking away. While Microsoft has extended support for malware protection, do not be fooled -- XP will be officially unsupported on April 8. If Microsoft has its druthers, these XP users will upgrade to Windows 8 and maybe even buy a new computer.

However, there is a problem with this -- the Windows 8 UI is radically different from XP and people do not like change (especially people clinging to an operating system from 2001). Also, they may not need to buy a new computer, because their existing is probably fast enough... for Linux!

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Stop and restart apps properly in Windows 8.1

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To close an app in Windows 8 all you need to do is drag it to the bottom of the screen. In Windows 8.1, Microsoft made a small change. While you can still close the app in this way, removing it from view, this method doesn’t stop all of the processes associated with the app (Windows will, however, close the app properly, eventually, if you don’t use it after a while).

So in other words, if an app is misbehaving, dragging it down to the bottom of the screen and then relaunching it probably won’t fix the problems you’re experiencing. You could reboot, or use Task Manager to close it that way, but there’s an easier method.

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Dr Dre launches Beats Music to deliver the right tune at the right time

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What's that? Another music streaming service? Another one?! You could be forgiven for having this reaction to the news that Dr Dre's Beats Music is now available for iOS and Android; this is a market that is already rather saturated, and music lovers are not exactly short of options when it comes to picking a service to satiate their audio needs. So any new service vying for attention has to have something rather unique to offer if it is going to stand out from the competition.

Beats Music does have a unique selling point. It is a service that is about more than just streaming music, it aims to deliver the right music according to the time of day, what you are doing and where you are. Is this sort of stream tailoring enough to win over music fans? Only time will tell, but Beats Music certainly has a fight on its hands if it is to wrestle users away from the existing services that have been established for some time.

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Thilmera7 is a very configurable PC monitor

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Thilmera7 is a PC monitor which can help you track CPU and RAM usage, processes, threads, network traffic, hard drive activity, hardware temperatures and more, all in a free and portable desktop tool.

Launch the program and a tiny window appears with basic system details: free RAM, CPU usage, the number of processes/ threads/ handles, disk and network activity. This is presented in a horribly basic way, mostly text with a few feeble graphical touches, but it does at least give you some useful feedback on what your PC is doing.

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