Articles about Know Your PC

How to find (and copy) your Windows product key

Confused

There are all sorts of reasons why you might need to locate your Windows product key. Perhaps you’re thinking of upgrading from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10 (doing so is still free, despite what Microsoft has said), or you might want to perform a clean install.

In the past, tracking down the key usually involved finding your installation media, but the more modern approach is to simply pull it directly from your Windows installation.

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How to install Windows 10 Creators Update Build 14986 on Oracle VirtualBox

Virtualbox Win10CU

Microsoft has released ISO image files for Windows 10 Build 14986, giving anyone a chance to try out the forthcoming Creators Update.

While you can install it on a PC, it’s not wise to have it as your daily driver. One of the best ways of trying it out risk free, is to run it in a virtualized environment, using VirtualBox.

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Fool Windows 10 into disabling automatic updates

Laughing at PC

Microsoft made Windows 10 updates mandatory in order to make sure all users are always on the latest version of the new OS, but if you’d rather choose if and when updates are installed -- perhaps to avoid falling foul of problem ones -- there are several options available to you.

We’ve previously looked at ways you can disable the update mechanism in Windows 10, including using the Windows 10 Updater Disabler, but Windows 10 Update Switch uses an interesting method to stop updates for as long as you’d like.

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The most popular How To guides of 2016

How to

In addition to news and reviews, we also regularly publish 'How to' guides here on BetaNews.

These are often very popular and cover a range of topics, software, and services. Taking a look back, as is the tradition at this time of year, I thought it would be good to revisit the most popular guides published in the past 12 months.

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How to change Windows 10's taskbar color, but leave the Start menu and Action Center untouched

Colorful hands

Windows 10 offers a lot of personalization options. Go to Settings > Personalization and you can change the background, alter the color scheme, pick a different Lock screen background, and apply themes.

If you want Windows 10 to show a splash of color, go to the Colors section and toggle the 'Show color on Start, taskbar and Action Center' setting to On. There’s not an option to only change the taskbar’s color unfortunately, but it is possible to do this.

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Plagued by Apple Calendar spam? Here's how to stop it

calendar spam thumb

Recently a lot of people have been complaining about spam calendar invitations in iOS, and it’s something I’ve experienced too -- particularly on Black Friday. "$19.99 Ray-ban&Oakley Black Friday In-Store & Online" said one unwelcome invitation.

While you can easily decline these invites, that’s not the greatest idea because -- just like responding to a spam email -- it has the side effect of telling a spammer that your account is active. Thankfully, there is an easy way to stop them.

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How to save Spotlight lock screen images to use as wallpaper in Windows 10

Windows spotlight image

Windows 10 has a lock screen mode called Windows Spotlight that pulls attractive images from the web on a daily basis. In most instances, you’ll only see these when you log on, or lock your PC.

If you see an image that you’d like to use as Windows wallpaper, you can’t simply right-click and save it, but there is a way to easily export Windows Spotlight images to a folder so you can use them as desktop backgrounds.

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How to restart your graphics driver instantly with a key combination

Restart button keyboard key

Your PC suddenly locks up. Nothing responds. The screen turns black. It looks like disaster…

But no. There’s a beep from the speaker, your screen comes back to life, and a message explains that your display driver stopped responding, but had now recovered.

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How to rename Cortana in Windows 10 (you can call her 'Siri' if you like!)

Cortana head

One of Windows 10’s biggest new features is the inclusion of Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana. She can do all sorts of things for you, from searching the web, to setting reminders, and even looking up songs as they play.

You can summon Cortana at any time simply by saying "Hey, Cortana", but if you’d rather call her something different -- "Siri", perhaps, or "Darling", or "Ava" -- it’s possible to give her a name change. This is how.

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How to significantly improve Windows 10's wallpaper quality

windows wallpaper

You may be more than happy with your choice of Windows wallpaper, but what you may not know is it’s not as good as it could be.

I’m not saying the image itself isn’t great, but the problem is Windows 10 automatically compresses the picture to help system performance, and that reduces the overall wallpaper quality, quite considerably.

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How to fix a broken Windows 10 Start menu

Windows 10 fixed

If you’re having problems getting the Windows 10 Start menu to open, or it’s just not working as it should, you’re not alone. Quite a few people have encountered issues following upgrading to the new OS, or updating to a new build.

Rebooting might fix temporary problems, but if it doesn’t we have some more advanced solutions for you to try.

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How to install Windows Media Center on Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Windows Media Center

Microsoft dropped Windows Media Center from Windows 10, citing "decreased usage" as the reason it would no longer be available. In its place the software giant released a DVD Player, but this was expensive and incredibly basic.

If you miss Windows Media Center, and alternatives such as Kodi aren’t filling the gap for you, the good news is you can, with a little trickery, install Windows Media Center on Windows 10.

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How to enable the dark theme in Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Windows 10 Anniversary Update Dark Theme Settings

Windows 10 Anniversary Update is officially available now, and it is chock full of new features and improvements to get excited about. One of the most-awaited additions to the operating system is a rather comprehensive and attractive dark theme.

The dark theme that Microsoft has introduced in Windows 10 Anniversary Update transforms the look of the user interface. It impacts many visual elements, including the appearance of the Start menu, app bar and colors, and even apps. And here is how you can enable it.

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Fix Windows 10 Start menu problems with Microsoft's new troubleshooter tool

Windows 10 fixed

Windows 10 is a good operating system, but it can be a little buggy at times. Hopefully the forthcoming Anniversary Update will fix a lot of these issues, although it’s equally possible it may introduce more bugs along with the raft of new features.

If you’ve been having problems with the Start menu in Windows 10 the good news is Microsoft has released a new troubleshooting tool which can identify and fix many issues automatically.

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Microsoft's leaked Windows Refresh tool lets you start anew in Windows 10

Windows relief

Yesterday, something went horribly wrong with my PC leaving me with no option but to use the Windows 10 Reset option to wipe all my programs and start over. It was the first time I’d had to use it, and things went smoothly enough, even if it took forever to get everything setup again afterwards.

The ability to Reset Windows 10 -- re-installing the OS while keeping, or removing your personal files -- is a great idea (although admittedly not as good as being able to install Windows over the top of itself as you could with XP), and now Microsoft is spinning it off into a standalone tool.

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