Articles about Know Your PC

Shhh! The noise your computer makes could be used to decrypt your files

hard disk listening

It's probably not something you need worry about in relation to your personal files just yet, but according to a newly published paper (the snappily titled "RSA Key Extraction via Low-Bandwidth Acoustic Cryptanalysis") it appears that it is possible to extract 4096-bit RSA decryption keys by listening to the sounds made by a computer.

This might sound like the talk of someone paranoid, but it is actually more feasible than you might first think. And the paper has been penned by no less than Adi Shamir, the co-inventor of the RSA algorithm.

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Take control of your privacy in Windows 8.1


Privacy has been a hot topic throughout 2013 and it’s always worth taking a little time to make sure you’re not accidentally sharing more information with the world than you might want to. Microsoft’s tiled operating system comes with some handy privacy controls baked in that you should definitely take a look at if you haven’t already.

This feature won’t stop the NSA spying on you, but it can prevent apps from accessing personal details like your name, photo, location and account info, and prevent them from using your PC or tablet's camera and microphone without your knowledge.

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Time is running out: How to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview

Windows 8 logo

The finished version of Windows 8.1 has been out for a couple of months now, but if you’re still using the free preview build, time is running out. Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview are both set to expire on January 15.

Upgrading from the preview to the final GA release is very easy, and there are a couple of ways of doing it.

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Should companies stick to their guns or give in to customer demands?


The customer is always right, right? As a customer it is understandable that this old adage seems like something set in stone, but looked at from a company's point of view things are rather different. A large proportion of customers are in fact idiots. While it is reasonable to expect a company to listen to what its customers have to say, does this risk stifling innovation as customers demand that things be done a certain way?

Here on BetaNews we've had a little debate about whether Microsoft should reintroduce the Start menu. Despite the number of people calling for its return, Brian does not think it is a good idea saying that "the company should ignore these customers, even if they are the majority". I am of the opinion that it would be good to at least make it optional, particularly for enterprise customers.

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Troubleshoot tricky PC problems with SpyStudio

broken PC

In an ideal world, diagnosing software problems would be easy. If a program couldn’t find a vital DLL or Registry key then it would display a detailed error message, describing both the problem and solution, so you could get everything working again with the minimum of hassle.

The real world, of course, is very different: failing programs will generally crash, lock up, or display an error message which means almost nothing at all. Checking with the developer, or searching for your symptoms online may offer some clues. But if you’re getting nowhere, then SpyStudio 32-bit and 64-bit might be able to help you understand what’s going on.

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Get ready to upgrade -- DDR4 memory is on its way


I recently upgraded my already fast PC, adding a large Kingston SSD, Intel Core i7 Processor, and new motherboard, and additionally boosted the amount of DDR3 RAM to 16GB. Unfortunately, my new super-speedy system could be out of date as soon as next month -- well the memory and motherboard elements of it at least.

Memory specialist Crucial has DDR4 listed on its website, along with a nifty infographic (embedded below) to tell you more about the next generation memory. According the information on the site, the faster RAM is coming out late in 2013, which means -- as we're running out of months -- it should be available some time in December.

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Activate the hidden 'Slide to shut down' option in Windows 8.1

win 8 slide

One of the (many) complaints people had about Windows 8, was how unnecessarily awkward it was to shut it down. Windows 8.1 makes that aspect of things much easier. You can still go through the Charms bar, but you can also now right-click the new Start button and shut down, or sign out there.

There is another method though, and that’s to use the "Slide to shut down your PC" option. This isn’t activated by default, but it’s easy to summon, and you can create shortcuts for it.

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Tidy up the Windows 8.1 Apps screen by removing unwanted shortcuts

apps screen

When you install an app or desktop program in Windows 8.1 it gets added to the Apps screen. From here you can add it to the Start screen by right-clicking to summon the Customize menu, and then selecting "Pin to Start". You can also "Pin to Taskbar" if you want regular quick access to it while working in the desktop.

The Apps screen, which you can set as your default view, can be ordered by Name, Date Installed, Most Used, or Category -- to make it easier to find the apps and desktop programs you want. You can also have desktop programs show up first when the Apps screen is sorted by Category. To do this, right-click the taskbar and select Properties. Click the Navigation tab and tick “List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category”.

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How to easily migrate to SkyDrive from Google Drive, including your Google Docs

cloud storage

Google Docs and Google Drive were all I knew when it came to personal cloud document storage until this summer. I never got on the Dropbox bandwagon, and was so entrenched in the Google ecosystem that SkyDrive didn't interest me at first when it came out. While I have nothing personally against Google Drive, as it has served my company and myself quite well, I had to take a deep dive into SkyDrive territory to prepare for an Office 2013 class I taught this past summer. I was pleasantly surprised with the service, so much so that I began using it side by side next to Google Drive for my personal needs.

Fast forward to when Windows 8.1 went RTM, and I subsequently moved my primary Thinkpad X230 Tablet over to the new OS. One of the least publicized aspects of 8.1 has to be hands-down the tight integration between the OS and SkyDrive, meaning you didn't need a standalone app anymore to save/open files on the service. Some have called it Microsoft going too far, but I completely disagree. The service is 100 percent optional (you can still save locally as you would expect) and if you are using a local account instead of a MS account for your computer login on 8.1, the service is a moot point at best.

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Automate login and bypass the lock and Start screens in Windows 8.1

Windows 8 start

Windows 8.1 is a huge improvement over Windows 8. Once you've spent any time in the preview (or one of the leaked builds) you'll find it impossible to go back to the obviously half-baked original.

But the default setup still has some annoyances that get in the way and prevent you from just booting up your PC and using Windows. For starters there's the lock screen to get through -- a delaying stage which serves little purpose in a home environment. Then you have to enter your password and log to in your Microsoft account, and finally, once you've cleared those steps, there's the Modern UI to go through on your way to the desktop. Fortunately you can configure Windows 8.1 to skip all of that nonsense.

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System Mechanic 12 [Review]

system mechanic logo

If your PC seems slow or unstable, then you might first try to diagnose and resolve the problem yourself. But this often requires considerable time and expertise. And, even if that’s not a problem, you’ll have to start all over again whenever a new issue pops up.

System Mechanic 12 offers another approach. If you’re not a PC maintenance expert -- or just don’t have the time -- then you can have the program clean up and optimize your system entirely automatically, while you get on with more important tasks.

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Microsoft uses DMCA to force BetaNews and others to remove old software listings


Microsoft is using an interesting technique to ensure that websites such as BetaNews (or FileForum in particular) list only the latest versions of its software. Rather than just contacting websites who link to software that is no longer available, Microsoft is invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to force websites to remove the links. BetaNews has been contacted by Google after one such complaint from Microsoft.

In the complaint -- which can be read on the Chilling Effects website -- Microsoft refers to our listing for Microsoft Project (although the page is no longer live). Microsoft contacted Google who in turn contacted us to say that "Google has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that some of your materials allegedly infringe upon the copyrights of others".

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At what age should children be allowed to use the internet?


The internet is an amazing tool, especially for children looking to learn. It is essentially the world's biggest library available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the web also has a darker side, and parents have to ask themselves the question "when is the right time to let my child go online?" Or, as Director of Online Safety at Microsoft, Kim Sanchez puts it "How old is too young to go online?".

This is a far more complicated problem than it used to be. It is not all that long ago that the average household had no more than one computer, which may not have been connected to the internet. Now, however, we live in a time when households could have multiple computers. There might still be one shared "family" computer, but it is also very common for children to have their own computer or laptop. There are also phones and tablets to think of. Pester power is an incredible thing, and it’s a strong parent who is able to resist giving into demands for a tablets when "all my friends have one".

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Find out more about local wireless networks with NirSoft’s WifiInfoView


Most Wi-Fi-enabled devices will give you some basic information about the networks in your vicinity: name, signal strength, security and so on. But if you need to know more, then NirSoft’s WifiInfoView is a quick and easy way to get started.

The program is large by NirSoft standards (247KB) and doesn’t run on Windows XP, but otherwise it’s all very straightforward: download and run WifiInfoView, the program then scans for wireless networks, and in a few seconds you’ll be presented with a detailed report on its findings.

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Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 now available


German software developer Ashampoo has released Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 ($39.99), a full-featured antivirus tool which combines the Bitdefender and Emsisoft engines to help keep you safe online.

The package offers all the core functionality you’d expect from a modern antivirus package: real-time protection, on-demand scanning, behavioral monitoring, browsing protection and more.

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