Articles about Know Your PC

FreeSmartSoft products still hiding an uninstallable 'back door'

It’s three weeks since we exposed freeware developer FreeSmartSoft for including an uninstallable adware-serving back door in some of its products.

The company had released some updated versions since then, so we checked out a copy of the popular FSS Google Book Downloader to see if any lessons had been learned.

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How to find which versions of the .NET Framework are installed on a PC

Check the system requirements for a Windows application and you’ll often find it needs some minimum version of Microsoft’s .NET Framework.

.NET doesn’t provide any obvious way to discover which versions you have installed, unfortunately, but there are several workarounds you can try.

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How to enable the Dark Mode in Windows 10's Films & TV app

Windows 10 is still very much a work in progress, as are the apps that come as part of it. The November Update (aka Theshold 2) introduced some cosmetic changes throughout, and there have been other changes made in the many other updates.

The Films & TV app recently gained a new Dark Mode which improves things greatly, but it’s disabled by default. Here’s how to turn it on.

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How to extract the contents of a setup file without installing it first

Application installers are supposed to save you time, automatically configuring your PC to properly run their host application.

Unfortunately, many setup programs only exist as a way to get adware onto your system, sometimes without you even noticing.

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Speed up Windows 10 boot up with this simple tweak

Because I have a super-fast PC with a large SSD as the system drive, Windows 10 boots up really quickly for me. The days of waiting 5 minutes or so for Windows to get to a usable state -- as was sometimes the case in the past -- are long gone, thankfully.

But if you find Windows 10 is taking too long to boot up for you, there’s a setting you can apply which can speed things up significantly. Even if you have no complaints with how quickly Windows 10 loads, it’s still worth applying this (if it isn't on already) because it will make a difference.

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How to monitor Registry changes

Configuring and optimizing a PC takes some thought, a lot of experience and, usually, a great deal of time. So it’s all the more annoying if your carefully tuned settings are altered by something else, without your permission.

Sometimes you’ll have an idea when this happens. You might install something, carry out a particular action, and the setting changes. If you can’t see when or why a change happens, that could be even worse, especially if it’s something security-related -- perhaps malware was involved. Whatever your situation, you need to investigate further, and a good first step is to monitor the Registry, find out more about what’s being changed, and when. The best way of doing this depends on your precise needs, but here are five possible options.

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How to use File Explorer as a run box in Windows 10

Running commands and launching built-in Windows tools is very straightforward in Microsoft’s new operating system. Just click on the Start button and type whatever you’re looking for, then select the item to launch it.

There is another way to do this though, and that’s through File Explorer. This can actually prove really useful. If, as an example, you’re browsing your hard drive and suddenly decide to defragment it, you can take action without having to switch your focus.

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How to enable Windows Spotlight in Windows 10

Microsoft’s search engine Bing comes baked into Windows 10 in several ways. It’s the default search choice in Edge and Cortana, and you can even use its image of the day as the wallpaper for your lock screen via the Windows Spotlight feature.

As well as displaying a new image on a regular basis, Windows Spotlight lets you "like" photos which appeal to you. The more pictures you like, the better idea Windows will have of the sort of imagery you want to see, and it will customize the content accordingly.

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How to fix Windows 10's worst problems -- Part 2

Let’s be honest here, Windows 10 was released a little prematurely. There are inconsistencies throughout, Microsoft Edge is an unfinished mess, and then there are the bugs…

Microsoft has been issuing updates on a fairly regular basis to try and fix various problems with the operating system, but we know from the enduring popularity of troubleshooting articles we’ve published previously, that there are plenty of Windows 10 users who are still having problems with the new OS. With that in mind, here are some more solutions to common problems.

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How to fix Windows 10's worst problems

Microsoft is rolling out cumulative updates for Windows 10 on what appears to be a weekly basis at the moment. These updates fix some problems, but not all. In some cases, they even cause more trouble, and because updates are mandatory, they get installed whether you like it or not.

The sheer number of system configurations out there mean that there are a lot of potential problems for Microsoft to deal with, but the good news is there are plenty of workarounds available to try in the meantime. So if you’re having problems with the new OS, try these solutions.

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How to kill a Windows process

If you’ve finished with some Windows application then you’ll probably get rid of it by pressing Alt+F+X, clicking the top-right Close button, or following some other documented route.

This is generally the safest approach, too, as it gives the program an opportunity to close down properly, save important data, delete temporary files and generally clean up. But if the application won’t close, or you’re looking to do something more advanced -- close several processes in one operation, maybe -- then there are other options you might want to try.

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How to fix Windows 10's blurry font problem

If you change the DPI scaling to make text, apps and other items easier to read on your Windows device, you may have encountered the problem of blurry fonts in Windows 10.

The issue is caused by Microsoft using a different scaling method to the one it used in previous versions of Windows (stretching back to Vista), and mostly affects the Windows font and dialog boxes.

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How to stop Windows 10 messing up your drivers

The update process in Windows 10 has proved controversial. There was upset at the fact that updates are not optional, and this in turn led to driver updates breaking people's computers.

We have already looked at the steps you can take to stop Windows 10 installing automatic updates, but what about if you want to keep Windows 10 up to date while retaining manual control of when drivers are updated? Read on to find out how to stop Windows 10 messing up your drivers.

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Seven sneaky adware installer tricks

Install the latest freeware and there’s a good chance you’ll find some bundled adware, too, but most people know how to avoid it. Chose the "Advanced Installation" option, click "Decline", clear a few checkboxes and you’ll probably be safe.

Unfortunately some of the adware companies are realizing that the old techniques just don’t cut it any more, and they’re now using even more tricks to try and force that payload onto your PC. Just take a look at what happened when we tried to install a single freeware package on our test PC.

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How to stop Windows 10 downloading automatically

Once again, Microsoft has managed to rile people with Windows 10. People have discovered that the Windows 10 installation files are being downloaded to their computers without their permission. If this has happened to you already, we've already shown you how to remove Windows 10, claiming back space and regaining control.

But if you have been lucky enough to avoid the unwanted arrival of Windows 10 installation files so far, you'll be more interested in prevention than a cure. Here's what you need to do to make sure Microsoft doesn’t force feed you Windows 10.

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