Articles about Know Your PC

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

Windows 8.1 Update

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

Windows update grave

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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Run Windows 8 or 8.1 directly from a USB drive on any computer -- for free

Windows 2 go

The Enterprise edition of Windows 8.x has a feature called Windows To Go that lets you create a working version of Microsoft's tiled operating system on a USB memory stick. You can boot into this and be instantly up and running in the new OS from any computer. Which is great -- provided you have the Enterprise edition of the OS and a "certified" USB drive. If you only have the standard version of Windows 8.x then the option isn't available to you.

But there is a very easy way you can build a personalized and bootable copy of Windows 8 or 8.1 on a USB drive, for use anywhere. All you need is a USB 3.0 device with at least 13GB capacity (it will run on a USB 2.0 memory stick, but slowly), a copy of Windows 8.x (either an installation disc or an ISO -- you can get the Windows 8.1 ISO by following these instructions but you will need a Windows 8.1 key), and a free partitioning program. Here's what you need to do.

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Why I hope curved screens don't become the norm

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One of the most memorable presentations given at CES this year saw Samsung showing off its latest curved screen TV. Sadly for the tech giant it was Michael Bay's on-stage brain fart that most people took away from the talk (if I can just leave you with the delightful image of taking away someone's fart with you...), but Samsung would much rather we concentrated on the display technology it was showcasing. It excited a great many people, and for some it is seen as the way ahead and something we could see a lot more off. I sincerely hope we don't, particularly on the desktop.

Why? There are lots of reasons that I am opposed to the idea of curved screens, particularly when used for TVs and monitors -- smartphones are slightly different, but I'm not too keen on that either. Curved screens are not really a brand spanking new technology; there have been curved cinema screens for a number of years now, and I can see the benefit of the curve in this setting. Used in a theater the curve eliminates the problem of trying to find a seat right in the center because it matters far less where you are in relation to the screen. Everyone gets an equally good view of the action. It is a democratizing technology. So why am I down on it?

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week -- December 22 - 28

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This hass been a much quieter week than usual with Christmas meaning that many companies have been on a virtual shutdown. But there has still been a bit of activity over the past seven days. We've reached the end of the year and the BetaNews team finds itself in a reflective mood. Mihaita was the first to pick his favourite tech products of the years, and Wayne wasn't far behind. Brian also got in on the action and Ian shared his thoughts as well. Bing also took a look back at the year, putting together a list of the top ten homepage images of 2013.

A delay at UPS meant that the delivery of many Christmas presents was held up, but if the delivery man did manage to make his way to your door in time to bring you a Surface 2, Brian has a guide to getting started. Alan was also on hand to help anyone who was the lucky recipient of a Kindle Fire HDX or a Google TV. Many people will have received, or bought themselves, a Windows 8.1 PC: Wayne had the info you need to get started.

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Santa brought you Windows 8.1? Here's what to do first

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Windows 8.1 is a great operating system. So if you received it for Christmas, either as a boxed copy, or installed on a new PC or tablet, the first thing to do is not -- as some people will say -- swap it for Windows 7.

If you are going to be running the new OS on a tablet, or on a system with a touch screen, then it’s fine to use pretty much as is. If you’re using it on a desktop, or non-touch laptop however, there are some customizations worth performing to make it more suited to your needs.

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