Articles about Know Your PC

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

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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

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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

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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]

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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

justice

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?

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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

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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

ashampoo

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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O&O Defrag 17 now available; securely wipes free drive space

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O&O Software has announced the release of O&O Defrag 17, the latest edition of the company’s powerful defrag tool.

Top of the new features list this time is the ability to securely wipe your hard drive’s free space while defragging, ensuring snoopers won’t be able to recover confidential files.

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Microsoft wants you to do more to stay safe online

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Microsoft is no stranger to finding itself on the receiving end of complaints about security issues that are found in Windows and its other software. But now the Redmond company is turning the tables on consumers, saying that they need to do more to secure their own computers. Microsoft's research shows that Internet users are taking fewer precautions when they're online.

This is based on declining Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) scores over the last couple of years. The MCSI system was developed in 2011 as a way to measure the security savviness of web users. The system takes into account whether users do common things such as installing anti-malware software, enabling a firewall and keeping software up to date. It also factors in whether users are aware of the importance of using secure websites, using unique passwords and taking care of the personal information they share online.

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iolo System Mechanic 12 promises deeper repair tools, better system stability

SystemMechanic11

Los Angeles software developer iolo Technologies has released System Mechanic 12.0 and System Mechanic Professional 12.0, major updates to its flagship PC stability and optimization tool.

Also available in cut-down freeware form, version 12.0 boasts major new stability tools, improved cleaning and expanded malware engine, plus full certification with the forthcoming Windows 8.1.

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Restore lost files from your Windows shadow copies with Z-VSSCopy

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In principle, the Windows Volume Shadow Copy service (VSS) was a great idea: a fully automatic system which would transparently back up your files at regular intervals, maintain multiple file versions as required, and allow you to restore them with the minimum of hassle.

VSS wasn’t exactly easy to configure, though. Restoration options used to be hidden away in the File > Properties > Previous Versions dialog, and in Windows 8 even that’s disappeared. So if you want to take control of your shadow copies, then you’ll need some third-party assistance from the free-for-personal-use Z-VSSCopy.

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Review: TuneUp Utilities 2014

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Has your PC slowed down recently, become more unstable? You might be able to solve these problems manually, but it’s not always easy, and there are so many possible causes that it could take you quite some time.

TuneUp Utilities 2014 claims to offer a far simpler solution. Install the program, and not only will it detect and fix any existing issues, but it’ll also automatically monitor and maintain your system from that point onwards, keeping it running more smoothly in future.

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Get an in-depth troubleshooting report on any PC with RegRun Reanimator

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If you regularly help to troubleshoot PC problems for friends and family then you’ll know that understanding their system setup is a good place to start. This can be a challenge, though, particularly if they’re far away and you can’t get to visit the computer in question.

You could try to get around this by asking the system owner to run particular applets -- Device Manager, say -- and report on what they see. But that will also take a while, so it might be easier for them to install a single tool which can assemble a detailed report on their entire PC setup. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with RegRun Reanimator.

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