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Here’s an incomplete list to get you thinking about the productive things you can do online when you have a few minutes in your hands.

Learn Something New Every Day

The best way to start a new day is to learn something new. It’s also the easiest way to “blow” the minutes as there are umpteen websites for learning new things in bit-sized chunks. Subscribing to Wikipedia’s featured article for the day to using Wikipedia games for fun and exploration are two easy options. Alternatively, you can let services like Now I Know do the hard work with their daily newsletters.

Practice Speed Reading

All that reading could get a little easier with speed reading skills. The ability to rocket through text while understanding it all is an essential skill because there’s just too much to consume. A free online app like Spreeder can take you through the equivalent of 15 A4 sized pages in 15 minutes (@300 words per minute). Removing the vocalization of the words we read comes with practice and the 15 minutes of it every day should help to build up your speed.

Go Around the World on Google Street View

Your boss might disagree, but daydreaming could also be productive. Google Street View is the ideal virtual window for thinking of your next vacation and de-stressing your day . We have seen how you can expand your world view with geeky virtual tours or try out amazing Street View mashups. There are many more places you can visit in 15 minutes or less with Google Street View. And now, we have Photo Spheres as well.

Watch a TED Talk

Fill your time with ideas and inspiration on TED Talks. There are even TED Talks that are just under five minutes. If you are not sure what to watch in the time you have at hand, use the handy Not sure what to watch? guide on the homepage to search out talks that can fill the minutes you have. Academic Earth is also another good one you can visit. I previously had written about other free video lecture sites.

Learn a New Language (Or a Foreign Word)

Learning a single new word a day adds up over the course of a year. If you are learning a new language, it could mean 300+ words at the end of a year. Use a dedicated service like the excellent Duolingo (read our review) or just pick up a language while browsing.

Indulge Your Favorite Hobby

Mine is photography. What’s yours? Finding bite-sized chunks on photography is easy, but whatever yours might be, you are sure to find popular hashtags or tags and use it to find conversations and resources around it. Reddit is a favorite stomping ground for enthusiasts of all kinds.

Operate On Your Operating System

Learn more about your operating system bit by bit. After all, doing something on your own is always better than calling out for help., is itself a fantastic resource for tutorials on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can search YouTube for video tutorials and use the Advanced Search Filters to get videos by duration.

Build Your Book List

Write Your Thoughts in a Journal

Surely, we can engineer our Twitter habits to write our own life log. The psychological benefits of journaling are well-documented. My favorite service for keeping an online diary is OhLife. The best part is that it doesn’t even have to take 15 minutes.

Re-build Your Memory

Boost your brain power. Personally, I find it difficult to retain jokes. You never know when you might need a good one. For you, it could be a name or a new word you might have learnt if you followed the previous cue. Memory exercising services like Memorize Now create online flash cards and aid your retention process. Memorize Now is simple, but if you are looking to go beyond look at ones which use spaced repetition. There are mobile flash card apps as well. Justin covered six of the best flash card apps for Android.

Be a Martian

We have covered citizen science projects and free to join crowdsourcing projects. You can pick any from there, or take a bit of the Martian buzz by participating in this one – Be a Martian is the opening you were probably looking for to “join” NASA and go on your own great Mars adventure. Help NASA engineers manage the large volume of data from the Red Planet by taking part in this online project. This is just an example, as there are many more online projects you could contribute your time to.

Return to Humanity on LinkedIn

15 minutes a day can make you a master networker. One of the ways is to move beyond your immediate professional network on LinkedIn and connect to people whose profiles interest you. See if someone in your network can introduce you to an interesting profile. LinkedIn Groups is a good jumping off point for meeting new people. So are other digital town squares like Quora and Google+ communities.

Build Up Your Online Rep

You don’t have to be the product for social media. Give it 15 minutes of your time and turn it around to build a strong online reputation by sharing insights on your industry, art, or niche expertise. Sites like Quora, Stack Exchange, Yahoo Answers, and Twitter are great platforms for sharing knowledge. Be authentic, honest, and meaningful for 15 minutes a day and your name could swim to the top. We should know – a few of my colleagues who are working at MakeUseOf now, started by commenting and participating on the public forum of Answers.


The 7-minute workout went viral. It might not buff you up, but some exercise is better than no exercise. Yaara’s 8 exercises to help you stay fit at your desk show that office cubicles are also good enough for impromptu gym sessions.


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Meditation is not mystical. Watch the mind-altering TED Talk above. It doesn’t even take 15 minutes.

In the end, 15 minutes is just an arbitrary unit…it could be something as low as five minutes. Doing these fifteen activities, or any of your choice is a surefire way of adding value to the little bits of time that slips between the cracks. We tend to look at the “big picture”, but it is surprising how these minutes can compound over time and really add something substantial to our lives. One of the ways to get the 15-minute chunks of time off the ground is to have a prepared list in hand. That’s where your ideas and contributions come in.


IT Forum / How To Share A Windows CD Or DVD Drive On Your Network
« on: November 26, 2013, 10:05:32 AM »

“How do you share a CD or DVD drive across a network?” This was the question that dropped into my head recently as it became apparent that I would need to access data on some archive DVDs.

If I was using a standard PC this wouldn’t be a problem; as it is, I’ve been the owner of an Acer Iconia W700 for several months now and one of the key drawbacks of a tablet computer is that they don’t come with integrated DVD drives.

Getting Started: Share the Drive

The starting point of sharing a CD or DVD drive across a network requires you to first share the device, so on the computer with the drive you want to share, open Computer, right-click the appropriate drive and select Share with > Advanced sharing….

In the Properties box, click Advanced Sharing… and click check the Share this folder option in the following screen. You should then assign a meaningful name (“CD drive” or “DVD drive” both seem particularly apposite) and click the Permissions button.

The idea here is to ensure that the drive, once shared, can be accessed. Select the Everyone group and check the box to Read under Allow and click OK to confirm. On a home network, this should give you all of the security you need.

Setting Other Security Options

You can change this in the Properties box on the Sharing tab, under the Password Protection setting – here, click Network and Sharing Center and click Home or Work (current profile), expanding the options to find Turn off password protected sharing. Select the option you want (off speeds things up on home networks but you wouldn’t want to make that choice in any other scenario) and click Save changes.

Note that there are many other options here, such as changing the encryption type, but the default options are best left alone unless you understand the effect changing them will have.

Once you’re done here, the Properties box will summarise the current sharing details, such as the network path and whether password protection is in use. Note that you can disable sharing later by opening the Advanced Sharing… screen and clearing the check in the Share this folder box.

Find & Map The Share

With the optical drive shared, you can now map a connection to it from your own computer. The process for this is similar to mapping any network drive.

On your desktop or in the Start Menu, right-click Computer, select Map network drive… and browse for the share you created earlier.

It is possible to map a drive letter that will be assigned to this drive each time you start your computer. Select the letter you want and check the Reconnect at logon box to do this, clicking Finish when you’re done.

When you’re ready to access the drive, load the disc into it and then return to your computer, double-clicking the device to begin reading the disc contents.

Alternatives To Sharing A CD Or DVD Drive

As mentioned, there are other ways of connecting a CD or DVD drive to a device that doesn’t come equipped with one (such as a Windows tablet, a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro or even an OTG enabled Android device). Similarly, you might have removed your DVD drive – perhaps from an older Macbook – but still require the ability to read optical drives from time to time.

While external DVD drives are inexpensive, if you have an old laptop with a standard removable slimline DVD drive you will be able to house this in an inexpensive caddy and connect it to your computer via USB.


IT Forum / How To Run Old Games & Software In Windows 8
« on: November 26, 2013, 09:52:38 AM »

One of Microsoft’s big strengths — and weaknesses — is their focus on backwards compatibility. Most Windows applications will work just fine on Windows 8. This is especially true if they worked on Windows 7, as Windows 8 is very similar to Windows 7. Some old games and software, particularly ones designed for older operating systems like Windows XP, Windows 98, or DOS, may not work properly out of the box. Whatever type of software you’re dealing with, whether it’s a PC game or a piece of business software, performing a Google search for the name of the game along with “Windows 8″ or the exact error message you received will probably help. The below tips apply to all different types of software, but finding information specific to your buggy program is always a good idea.

Why Games & Software Might Not Be Compatible

There are a variety of reasons why programs and other software may not work properly on Windows 8.

  • Bad Programming Practices: Some software may depend on administrator access, which was taken for granted on Windows XP, and break when running as a standard user on newer versions of Windows. Some software may have depended on issues in older versions of Windows that have since been fixed, resulting in the application breaking on modern versions of Windows.
  • Dependencies on Old Versions of Software: Some software may depend on old libraries, like the .NET Framework version 3.5, which is not installed by default on Windows 8.
  • 16-bit Software: 64-bit versions of Windows no longer contain the compatibility layer for 16-bit Windows applications. If you have a 16-bit application written for Windows 3.1, you’ll need to use the 32-bit version of Windows 8 to run it.
  • DOS Software: Windows 8, like all versions of Windows back to Windows XP, no longer runs on top of DOS. While some DOS software still runs, advanced DOS software — like PC games written for DOS — doesn’t work in the Command Prompt environment.

Before Upgrading

Microsoft has some information you can consult before upgrading. You can download and run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, which will scan your computer and let you know if your software and hardware will work properly under Windows 8. This won’t detect all programs that won’t work properly, but it still provides some useful information.

Microsoft also provides a Windows Compatibility Center website that lists whether games, other software, and hardware will work properly on Windows 8. The website also provides a discussion feature so you can see what other users say about their experiences.

Update Your Software

If the software won’t run on Windows 8, you should update it to the latest versions with whatever patches are available. For example, an old game may not run properly on Windows 8 when installed from disc, but the game’s developer may have released a patch that allows the game to run on newer versions of Windows. You should also try updating related software. For example, many games using Microsoft’s own Games for Windows Live don’t run properly on Windows 8 until an update for GFWL is installed.

You may also need to install old libraries that your software depends on. For example, Windows 8 only includes version 4.5 of the .NET Framework. If you receive a .NET Framework-related error, you should visit the control panel and install the .NET Framework 3.5 package, which allows software that depends on .NET 3.5, 3.0, or 2.0 to run.

Run as Administrator

Fixing a problematic application could be as simple as running it in administrator mode. Windows normally detects when applications require administrator access and deals with this, but it may not always work. To run a program in administrator mode, just right-click its shortcut and select Run as administrator.

You could also fix this by disabling User Account Control entirely. We don’t recommend disabling UAC, as it’s an important security feature and it shouldn’t bug you too much — UAC has improved a lot from its sorry state in Windows Vista. Almost every Windows program will work fine with UAC enabled.

Enable Compatibility Mode

Windows 8 includes a Program Compatibility Troubleshooter along with compatibility options you can tweak. Just right-click the shortcut for the program you’re having problems with, select Properties, and click the Compatibility tab. From here, you can run the compatibility troubleshooter to have Windows walk you though choosing settings that my fix your problem. Alternatively, you can try to trick the program into thinking it’s running on a previous version of Windows, such as Windows XP or Windows 98. This may solve problems with programs that worked on previous programs but no longer work. The Compatibility tab also allows you to always start programs in administrator mode — useful if they must be run as administrator.

Use DOSBox

If you have an old DOS application that isn’t working properly in Windows — likely an old DOS game like the original DOOM games — you can run it in DOSBox. DOSBox is a free application that runs a full DOS environment in a window on your computer, allowing you to run DOS software. It’s much more compatible and full-featured than the Command Prompt included with Windows. DOSBox works so well that many game developers bundle DOSBox with their own games — if you buy a game like the original DOOM or Quake games on Steam, they’ll come bundled along with DOSBox.

Use a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines will allow you to run software that ran on previous versions of Windows. With a virtual machine, you can install a previous version of Windows — like Windows XP — and run it in a window on your computer. You can then run your old software in the virtual machine. Windows 8 no longer includes Windows 7′s Windows XP mode, but you can get basically the same feature by installing Windows XP in VirtualBox or VMware Player. Virtual machines aren’t ideal for games, as they’re a bit slow and 3D graphics don’t work amazingly well inside them. However, they do have some limited support for 3D graphics, so if you have an ancient PC game, it may play just fine in a virtual machine. You may also run into problems if your software needs direct access to certain hardware devices — you can connect USB devices to your virtual machine, but software that depends on direct access to certain pieces of hardware may not work.

Tips for Troubleshooting Specific Games

Windows 8 users will likely run into the most issues with games, as so many old games are still work playing, while old software is generally replaced and upgraded. If you’re running into issues with any specific game, try looking the game up on the PC Gaming Wiki. This website provides detailed information for fixing issues with many games — not only on Windows 8 but on other versions of Windows and other operating systems, too.



Not sure why your computer keeps crashing? Investigate – all while getting to know your Windows system better – using built-in tools that come with Windows. If you’ve been afraid to poke around your system and figure out how to maintain it, don’t fear: it’s simpler than you think.

There are plenty of articles on this very site pointing out third-party tools for maintaining your Windows system. What we occasionally overlook, however, are the tools Windows provides out of the box for doing the same things. Sure, they may be less feature-filled than some of the downloadable options – but they do the job, and are generally not hard to use. Whether you need to quickly check a friend’s machine for problems or look over your own, knowing where to find tools for scanning your hard drive and memory can’t hurt – and neither can some basic diagnostic tools.

Task Manager

Is your computer suddenly slow? There’s probably a new, or recently upgraded, app that’s using up way too many system resources. Find out which one it is and shut it down with Task Manager, an app every aspiring Windows expert should learn to use.

What It Does

-> Shows an overview of resource usage, broken down by process.

-> Allows you to force any application to quit, necessary when an application simply won’t close.
-> Shows overall system performance, from CPU to Memory to the network. Perfect if you want to know which bottleneck is slowing down your system – and what you should perhaps look into upgrading.

-> In Windows 8, allows you to control which apps do and do not load at system startup.
-> In Windows 8, shows you which users are using up the most resources

How To Find It

The easiest way to start up Task Manager, in every version of Windows, is a simple keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + Esc. Alternatively, you can use Alt + Ctrl + Delete, then select Task Manager.

You’ll also find Task Manager in the Start Menu, under Accessories, for Windows 7 and earlier. Windows 8 users can search for the program using the Search gem.

Resource & Performance Monitor

Know something is wrong with your system, but not sure where to start? The Resource and Performance Monitor could give you hints.

What It Does

-> A powerful diagnostic tool bundled with Windows 7 and 8. Scans your computer and points out potential issues.
-> Automatically scans your system’s major components, including CPU, hard drive and memory (RAM).
-> Shows potential problems with the operating system, including continually crashing services.
-> Points out health of major system components, showing what needs to be replaced or upgraded.

How To Find It

Press and hold Windows, then press R. Type perfmon /report then press OK.

Program will immediately start scanning your system for potential problems.

Windows Memory Diagnostic

Is your computer simply freezing up, constantly, seemingly without cause? The problem could well be your memory (RAM), but if you want to make sure you should check out the Windows Memory Diagnostic.

What It Does

-> Checks your RAM for errors, so you know when to replace a stick.
-> Lets you know which memory modules have problems so you know what to replace.

How To Find It

In Windows 7, you’ll find the Memory Diagnostic under Administrative Tools in the Start Menu.

Windows 8 users can find the application in the Control Panel, under Administrative Tools. Either way you’ll need to restart your computer in order to use the program – Windows cannot scan memory that’s currently in use.

Scan Hard Drive

Is your hard drive slower than it used to be, or louder than before? The storage in your computer is surprisingly mechanical, regularly spinning at speeds between 4,000 and 15,000 RPM. Hard Drives can, and ultimately will, break down – and you can find out what state your drive is in by scanning it with a tool called Check Disk.

What It Does

-> Checks your drive for bad sectors, possibly recovers files stored on them.
-> Automatically fixes file system errors that could be causing crashes.

How To Find It

Right-click your hard drive in Windows Explorer. Click the Tools tab, then click “Check Now” under Error-checking. From here you can automatically fix file system errors, scan for bad sectors, or both.

If the disk you’re scanning is in-user, you’ll be prompted to restart your computer and scan before startup.

Device Manager

Is one of the devices plugged into your computer not working? It might be lacking the drivers it needs. Happily, there’s a place in Windows to check.

What It Does

-> Lists every piece of hardware connected to your computer – built into the computer or plugged in via USB
-> Show which devices currently lack drivers – yellow question mark icon – or aren’t functioning properly – red X icon.
-> Allows you to manually install drivers, if you know where to find them.
-> Attempts to find online drivers for a variety of devices (though this usually doesn’t work)

Where To Find It

Check the Control Panel – you’ll find Hardware Manager there. You’ll also find a link by right-clicking My Computer and checking the left panel, at top:



Laptops are replaced every few years. We crave fancier hardware, novel features, and maybe our old device has become unresponsive and suffered some damage over time. Consequently, most laptops get thrown out prematurely.

Unless you are looking for a silly excuse to buy a new and shiny device, you will love to hear that there are many ways to make your laptop last longer. Apart from delaying the headache of setting up a new computer and moving all your files over, this will also save you money in the long run. So let’s see what you can do to turn your laptop into an electronic Methuselah.

Treat Your Laptop With Care

Laptops can be fragile. I should know; not long ago I broke my laptop screen (and fixed it). Besides this unfortunate accident, I have had my fair share of worn out keyboards, broken power supplies, and failed hard drives. Most components can be easily replaced, but something like a broken hard drive, with all your precious files on it, is a whole different story.

Some wear and tear can be avoided simply by handling your hardware with care. Next to the display, the hard drive is the most fragile part of your laptop. As Matt writes in his article on how to utterly destroy your laptop, move your laptop gently and try not to move it when the hard drive is performing intensive operations. Your hardware will thank you and last longer.

Regularly Clean Your Laptop Hardware

Computers are dirt magnets. Laptop fans seem to accumulate dust better than any vacuum cleaner and apparently keyboards are dirtier than toilet seats. So what do you do? You should give your laptop’s hardware a thorough cleaning every once in a while!

Cleaning your computer hardware is not just a matter of hygiene. Especially when it comes to internal fans and heat sinks, it also prevents your laptop from overheating. Keeping the hardware cool significantly increases its lifespan.

Keep The Operating System Snappy

The most common complaint about old computers is that they are slow. This is only mildly related to age and more likely due to bad maintenance or — as Apple fans will attest to — poor operating system and software design. Fortunately, you can speed up an old installation of Windows and with a few tricks, you can prevent a fresh installation from going stale too quickly. Conveniently, we have articles on how to speed up Windows 7 and make Windows 8 work faster.

A lean operating system that responds quickly and doesn’t get in the way of you trying to get work done can go a long way. You won’t worry about the age of your laptop at all.

Run Regular Software & Operating System Updates

No operating system or program is perfect. But with every upgrade, issues get patched and new features are added. That’s why you need to run Windows updates and also make sure your installed software is up to date. The latter is not so easy because few software updaters support every program available. Aaron recently reviewed OUTDATEfighter, which can handle both Windows and software updates for you.

If your operating system and your software are always up to date, you reduce the chances of security exploits. If you also run anti-virus and anti-malware scanners and checks, you should be able to keep your computer clean. Less junk and malware will ensure a smooth running system.

Upgrade Your Laptop Hardware

To most people, upgrading laptop hardware sounds impossible. But it’s not so difficult to install a bigger hard drive — or better yet a solid state drive (SSD) –, add more RAM, or even put in a new display. When you can pinpoint the exact component that’s slowing you down, chances are there is an easier and cheaper fix than buying a new laptop. Here is a little laptop troubleshooting guide to get you started.


One in all PC tips / 10 Common User Errors & How To Fix Them In Windows 8
« on: November 26, 2013, 01:33:38 AM »

If you’re using Windows 8′s desktop, you’ll still be facing many of the issues you faced on previous versions of Windows. It’s possible to delete files, fill your computer’s system tray with startup programs, and experience other Windows system issues.

We’ll cover some common problems users will face and how to fix them on Windows 8. Some of these tricks may work on previous versions of Windows, but Windows 8 adds many new tools to help with these sorts of problems.

Accidentally Deleted Files?

Windows 8′s File History feature automatically makes copies of your files if you enable it. After enabling this feature, you can restore a file you’ve deleted or restore a previous copy of a file — ideal if you’ve made some changes to a document and want to get the old version back.  File History runs frequently, making backup copies of your files every hour.

After enabling file history, just click the History button on the ribbon in the folder that once contained the file to start restoring it.

Forgot to Set Up File History?[/b][/size]

If you use a traditional magnetic hard drive instead of a modern solid-state drive, you may also be able to restore deleted files with a file recovery program like Piriform’s Recuva. Such programs scan your hard drive, looking for bits of deleted files and offering to restore them.

They won’t work on solid-state drives because files deleted from SSDs are typically erased immediately, unless TRIM was disabled. If you’re using an SSD, be sure to enable File History before you accidentally delete a file!

Got Too Many Startup Programs?

Windows 8′s Task Manager allows you to manage your startup programs. If you’ve installed too many programs that are automatically starting with your computer and they’re slowing down your startup process and cluttering your system tray, there’s finally an integrated way to manage these properly.

Just right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the More details link and use the options on the Startup tab to disable your startup programs. Windows 8 even tells you how much time each program adds to your startup process.

Have You Messed Up Any Settings?

You can restore the default options in many Windows programs if you’ve changed them and want to get back to how they were before you messed around with them. If you’ve…

    -> Deleted a library: Right-click the Libraries header in the File Explorer application and select Restore default libraries.
    -> Messed up your folder display settings: Click the View tab in File Explorer, click the Options icon, and select Change folder and search options. There’s a separate Restore Defaults button on each tab here — each one will restore the options specified on the tab to their default settings.
    -> Hid too many system tray icons: Right-click the taskbar, click Properties, click the Customize button next to Notification area, and select Restore default icon behaviors.

Experiencing Problems With Internet Explorer?

The desktop version of Internet Explorer can experience problems if you install too many browser add-ons, such as toolbars. You may also experience problems if you’ve tweaked too many of the advanced settings in Internet Explorer and disabled things you shouldn’t have.

Luckily, Internet Explorer gives you a way to reset it to its default state. To do so, open Internet Explorer, click the gear icon, select Internet Options, click the Advanced tab, and click Reset.

You’ll lose your toolbars, add-ons, browser settings, and most other browsing data. However, you won’t lose your Internet Explorer favorites.

Suffering From Frozen or Resource-Sucking Programs?

It’s not an error on your part, but occasionally a program will freeze and become unresponsive. Worse yet, sometimes a program may stay running in the background, sucking up CPU and memory resources to do nothing at all. In cases like this one, you can use the Task Manager to end the program.

Either Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and click Task Manager or right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager to open the Task Manger. From here, you can right-click a program and select End Task to forcibly stop it. The Windows 8 task manager color-codes programs by resource usage, so it’s easy to see if a program is malfunctioning and consuming too much resources in the background.

It’s possible that your computer may become frozen completely. If it’s not responding at all, you should press Ctrl+Alt+Delete at the same time. If you’re lucky, your computer is still responsive and you can use the Ctrl+Alt+Delete screen to open the Task Manager and kill programs or just click the Power button and reboot your computer.

If your computer isn’t responding at all, you can press and hold the physical power button on your computer. After a few seconds, it will stop completely. This method shouldn’t be used to turn off your PC regularly, as it’s a forcible, hard reset that doesn’t allow your computer to shut down cleanly. However, it’s necessary if your computer isn’t responding.

Facing General PC Issues?

Windows 8 allows you to “Refresh Your PC,” which is essentially an easy way to reinstall Windows. Windows will automatically refresh itself, restoring itself to its default state. Windows will preserve your personal files and Modern apps from the Windows Store, but you’ll have to reinstall any desktop apps you have installed after this.

This is a quick way to get Windows back to a fresh state without losing your files or going through the traditional Windows install process. You’ll find this option in the PC settings app under the General section.

Experiencing System Issues?

You can also use the System Restore feature to partially restore your system without performing a Refresh. System Restore won’t erase the desktop programs you have installed, so this can be a faster method. System Restore automatically creates “restore points,” which make a backup copy of important system files.

This can be useful after system files have become damaged somehow — perhaps you installed unstable drivers on your system or accidentally uninstalled a device driver. System Restore can fix such problems without needing to perform a Refresh and lose all your desktop programs.

Accidentally Deleted System Files?

Windows includes the System File Checker (SFC) command, which you can run manually. Run this command and Windows will scan the computer’s system files, ensuring they’re all present and in working order. If a file has become deleted or corrupted, the System File Checker will notice and automatically replace it. This all happens without needing to use the Refresh or System Restore features.

To use this command, press the Start button, type Command Prompt, right-click the Command Prompt shortcut, and select Run as administrator. In the Administrator Command Prompt window that appears, run the following command:

sfc /scannow



Windows 8.1 is here and brings many new and improved features. The update is free for current Windows 8 users, it’s available from the Windows Store, and the installation process, if not quick, at least is easy. If you would like to boot to the desktop, take advantage of the improved SkyDrive integration, or run multiple apps next to each other with the new dynamic Snap feature, you should consider upgrading.

Just in case you don’t like Windows 8.1 or run into issues, note that the only way to roll back to Windows 8 after upgrading to Windows 8.1, is to restore a previously made system image. Unfortunately, a Windows 8 system image can only be restored to Windows 8, meaning you will need Windows 8 installation media. Fear not, we outline the entire Windows 8.1 upgrade and downgrade process here.

Why Should You Upgrade To Windows 8.1?

Microsoft has made several changes to the user interface (UI). Not only does the Start screen no longer get cluttered with tiles when you install new apps, you can also share your desktop wallpaper with the Start screen, which makes the transition from one view to the other more natural. If you’re a multitasker, you will love that you can now snap more than two apps to display next to each other and dynamically change how much screen space each of them takes up.

The most significant novelty is the deep integration of SkyDrive, offering native and free cloud storage, accessible throughout the operating system and syncing files across devices.

In Windows 8.1 you can finally boot to the desktop. Many users were also anticipating the return of the Start button, but were hugely disappointed to find that it’s merely a shortcut to the Start screen. If you’re one of them, check out what you can do with the Win+X Menu & Editor instead (

In summary, you should upgrade to Windows 8.1 if you would like to enjoy the following key features:

    -> boot to desktop
    -> native SkyDrive integration
    -> dynamic Snap multitasking to run multiple apps side-by-side and resize them

And there are more new or improved features you might be interested in:

    -> improved Mail app, including drag-and-drop support and a toolbar to sort messages
    -> universal search of apps, settings, and files
    -> new modern style apps like Reading List or Food & Drink
    -> an improved version of modern Internet Explorer 11
    -> Tutorials; apparently Windows 8.1 is still not intuitive, at least there is help now.

Read This Before You Upgrade To Windows 8.1

If you are eager to take advantage of Windows 8.1′s new features, hold on for a moment. You can not roll back the upgrade and return to Windows 8 in case you do not like it! The only way you can “downgrade” from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8, is if you prepared a system image before you upgrade.

What To Prepare Prior To Upgrading

Run a Windows Update and install all important updates before you upgrade. You won’t be able to see the Windows 8.1 file until all key updates have been installed. Next, make sure you have sufficient storage space on your system drive; the upgrade file is between 2 and 4GB. After you cleaned up, create a backup of your files. Better yet, if you want to be able to downgrade or restore your system in case something goes wrong during the upgrade, create a system image.

You can restore, refresh, or reset Windows 8, but the option to create a backup of your data or a full system image is kind of hidden. In Windows 8, open the Charms bar and do a Search for recovery in Settings. The option you are looking for is called Windows 7 File Recovery.

This feature was added so you could restore backups made in Windows 7. Windows 7 File Recovery might seem familiar. Indeed, it looks the same as the Windows 7 Backup and Restore feature. Not only does it look the same way, it also works the same way, meaning it has retained the capability to create backups and system images. So go ahead and create that Windows 8 system image, which is your only chance to restore your personal Windows 8 setup, after an upgrade to Windows 8.1.

Since Windows 8.1 won’t allow you to restore a system image of Windows 8, you will have to re-install Windows 8 before restoring your system image.

If you do not have Windows 8 installation media, you should create them now. This is something Microsoft has actually made fairly easy. Have your product key ready, navigate to this Upgrading Windows page, click the Install Windows 8 button, run the .exe file, and after entering your product key select Install by creating media. See the entire process with screenshots on the Supersite for Windows.

Finally, to be able to upgrade to Windows 8.1, you must use a Microsoft account to log into Windows, not a local user account. Chris has explained how to set up a Microsoft account in his article on how to prepare Windows 8 for the upgrade.

Upgrade To Windows 8.1

This is the easiest part of this whole endeavor, although not necessarily the quickest; it can take more than 3 hours, so don’t plan on doing anything with that computer for a while.

Whenever you can spare the time, navigate to the Windows Store on the Windows 8 device you wish to upgrade.

If you don’t see this huge purple Update Windows tile shown above, then you probably have a few important updates to install. Just go to Windows Update (open Charms bar, search Settings for update, and launch Windows Update), check for updates, force pending updates to download and install immediately, then come back and try again.

If you do see the purple tile, click it, download the Windows 8.1 update…

…and initiate the installation process.

Your computer will automatically restart several times.

As part of the installation process, you need to accept new license terms, choose express or custom settings, sign into your Microsoft account, verify your account with a security code sent to the registered email address, and OK the SkyDrive setup.

Once setup has completed, you will land on the improved Windows 8.1 Start screen. If you upgraded from Windows 8, your files and previously installed applications will still be there. If you upgraded from Windows 8.1 Preview, however, you’ll have to re-install your desktop programs and apps, although the download links for modern apps will be waiting for you on the Start screen. Enjoy exploring the updated environment.

Downgrade to Windows 8

Are you disappointed in Windows 8.1? Don’t like how it works compared to Windows 8 or did something go wrong during the upgrade? This is the time to use your previously created system image to “downgrade” to Windows 8.

As mentioned previously, you can’t use your Windows 8 system image on Windows 8.1 because essentially, it’s a different operating system. So this is not a downgrade at all, but rather a very time intensive brute-force system restore. And here is how you do it…

First, you have to replace Windows 8.1 with a fresh installation of Windows 8 using your original installation media or the ones you created prior to upgrading. Once you’re back in Windows 8, use a Windows 8 recovery disk or restart to recovery options from the Power menu. Hold down the left [SHIFT] key and select Restart. A moment later you should find yourself in the recovery environment.

Within the recovery environment, go to Troubleshoot, Advanced Options, and finally System Image Recovery. You will need to choose the target operating system; select Windows 8.  Make sure the drive containing the system recovery image is connected, select the image you want to restore, proceed to the Next window, click Finish and confirm that you want to continue.

Windows should now re-image your computer and if all goes well, you will be back in your old Windows 8 setup in just under a day. Well, nobody claimed it was fast or easy, but with some tedious detrous, at least it’s possible.
Final Destination: Windows 8.1

No doubt, Windows 8.1 is an improvement. It’s more stylish and user friendly than its predecessor. The sad part about this whole story is that it is near impossible for the average user to “downgrade”.

Although Microsoft is trying hard to simplify and build a smooth user experience, they keep failing in the details. Users have become used to certain features and still expect Windows to be somewhat customizable and controllable. This collides with simplicity and flexibility, which in this case makes preparing for a “downgrade” — which really isn’t a downgrade, but a full system restore — such a tedious process.


One in all PC tips / 8 Ways To Improve Windows 8 With Win+X Menu Editor
« on: November 25, 2013, 12:07:01 PM »

On Windows 8, you can press Windows Key + X or right-click at the bottom-left corner of your screen to open a menu known as the “power user menu” or “quick access menu.” This menu contains quick access to system utilities like the Control Panel, Command Prompt, Task Manager, File Explorer, Device Manager, and more. Win+X Menu Editor allows you to edit the shortcuts that appear here, adding new shortcuts, removing existing ones, and even rearranging the list.

While Microsoft did remove the traditional desktop Start menu, they also added this very unappreciated feature. It’s useful without any customizations, but it can really shine after you add custom shortcuts.

Shut Down, Restart, Log Out, And More

Windows 8.1 will add Shut Down and Restart options to the Windows Key + X menu, giving you a faster way to shut down your computer with the mouse. Just move your mouse to the bottom-left corner of the screen, right-click, and select Shut Down or Restart.

Win+X Menu Editor users have had this ability for quite a while, as this utility can add Shut Down and Restart options to the Win+X menu on Windows 8.

Better yet, you can do something similar on Windows 8.1 — add a Log Out or Switch User option to this menu if you use such options frequently. You’ll be able to quickly get back to the login screen from anywhere without stopping at the Start screen..

Add Your Frequently Used System Tools

The power user menu gives you quick access to a number of system utilities Microsoft chose, but what if you frequently use other system utilities that aren’t listed here? For example, maybe you frequently use the Registry Editor.

Win+X Menu Editor can add these system tools — and any other ones you like — to the menu. Anything you can create a standard Windows shortcut to can appear in the list. To add the Registry Editor or Group Policy editor, you’d select Add a program and browse to the C:\Windows\System32\regdt32.exe file on your computer.

Gain Quick Access To Your Favorite Programs

You aren’t just limited to system utilities. You could use the Windows Key + X menu to quickly access your favorite programs. Add one or more shortcuts to frequently used programs to this list and you’ll be able to launch them from the Windows Key + X menu. This would give you quick access to programs you use — it’s not the intended use, but it works!

Include Any Control Panel Shortcut

This tool makes it easy to browse a list of Control Panel applets — including hidden ones — and quickly add them to the list. You can also add programs from the Administrative Tools folder, such as the Disk Cleanup tool. Just click the Add a program menu and select Add a Control Panel item or Add an Administrative Tools item.

Rearrange The List

Once you start adding your own favorite shortcuts, you may find that the list gets a bit long and messy. You could use Win+X Menu Editor to reorganize the list, moving existing shortcuts around to create different categorized sections.

Remove Options You’ll Never Use

Rather than just rearranging the clutter, you may want to simplify the list instead of shuffling options around. Use Win+X Menu Editor to remove any shortcuts you don’t want — this will simplify the list and free up space for options you will want to access. You can always use the Restore Defaults option to restore your power user menu to the default state in the future.

Create Spacers

You can’t create submenus using Win+X Menu Editor, but you can arrange your shortcuts into groups. Each group will appear separately in the list, with a spacer in between each. You can create as many groups as you want or use a flat list of a single group. The default shortcuts can be rearranged into different groups, too.

Quickly Access Websites

The Win+X Menu Editor can add any shortcut, including shortcuts to files and websites. After adding a website shortcut, you could right-click in the bottom-left corner of your screen, and click a website’s name to access it. Sure, this isn’t the ideal place for web bookmarks, but you may get some use out of putting one or two website shortcuts here.

To do this in Win+X Menu Editor, you’ll need to create a shortcut to the website. For example, you can do this by dragging and dropping the website’s favicon from Firefox’s address bar to a folder on your computer.

Just select Add a program in Win+X Menu Editor and browse to the website shortcut file on your computer. You’ll get a shortcut that takes you to the website in your default web browser.

Most Windows 8 users will never notice the power user menu, let alone customize it — but if you want to customize this menu and bend it to your own purposes, you can easily and quickly do it with this simple utility.


One in all PC tips / Windows Update: Everything You Need To Know
« on: November 25, 2013, 11:43:07 AM »

Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? If you don’t know the answer to that, you should — Windows Update keeps Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes, ensuring your computer is as secure as possible. However, Windows Update can also cause problems — particularly by nagging you to reboot when you’re trying to use your computer and automatically restarting your computer overnight.

While Windows Update can be obnoxious, it keeps your computer secure and is well worth using. It can also be made less obnoxious with a few quick settings changes.

Access Windows Update

To open the Windows Update Control Panel tool, press the Windows key on your computer, type “Update” without quotes, and click the Windows Update shortcut that appears. On Windows 8, you’ll have to click the Settings option before you see the Windows Update shortcut.

If you’ve set updates to not happen automatically, you can click the Check for updates link in the left pane to check for new updates and click the Install updates button to install any available updates.

Microsoft releases most Windows Update patches on “Patch Tuesday” — the second Tuesday of each month. This allows system administrators to schedule updates all at once. However, if a security flaw is being exploited in the wild, important security patches may be released immediately. Patches for Windows could show up at any point in the month.

Enable Automatic Updates

To enable automatic updates, click the Change settings link in the left pane of the Windows Update window. Select one of the following options:

-> Install updates automatically: Windows will automatically check for, download, and install updates at the time you choose. You’ll get your PC automatically update without requiring any of your attention, but Windows will start harassing you to reboot your computer after installing the updates. If you want to leave your computer running overnight, you may find that it was automatically rebooted while you were away.
-> Download updates but let me choose when to install them: Windows will check for new updates and download them in the background, displaying a notification in the system tray when new updates are found. When you’re ready to update, you can click the system tray icon, install the updates, and reboot your computer. Windows won’t install updates until you say so, so you can select this option and choose to only install the updates when you’re prepared to reboot.
-> Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them: Windows will only check for updates and display a notification in your system tray. This can be useful if you want to save bandwidth and only download updates when you’re on a specific connection — for example, this could prevent Windows from automatically downloading updates on a tethered Internet connection and consuming your mobile data.
-> Never check for updates: Windows won’t automatically check for updates, forcing you to manually check for updates or not update Windows at all. You shouldn’t use this option, as you’ll miss out on important security updates.

From here, you can also choose whether you want to receive recommended updates (updates that aren’t as critical for security), update other Microsoft products in addition to Windows itself, or see notifications about new Microsoft software, such as Bing Desktop.

Stop Windows Update From Nagging You and Rebooting Your Computer

On Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows, Windows will start to nag you after installing most updates. It will pop up and inform you that it’s restarting your computer in fifteen minutes unless you postpone the shutdown. Even more obnoxiously, you can only postpone the shutdown for up to four hours at a time. If you need to use your computer all day without rebooting, you’ll have to keep clicking the Postpone button. If you step away from your computer or leave it running overnight, Windows may automatically restart your computer, halting whatever it was doing.

To fix this, you can change the value of the NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers registry key, forcing Windows to not reboot if a user is logged in. We covered this when we looked at examples of useful registry hacks. You could also just set Windows to “Download updates but let me choose when to install them” and only install updates when you’re ready to reboot.

Windows 8 improves things by giving you a three-day grace period to restart your computer, although it no longer displays this information on the desktop. After installing updates, you’ll see a notification on your welcome screen asking you to reboot. If you want to see a Windows 7-style notification on your Windows 8 desktop, you could install the free Windows Update Notifier utility. If you don’t reboot in three days after installing updates, the nagging and automatic reboots will start.

You could also change the same registry key or set Windows 8 to only install updates when you choose to work around this, just on Windows 7.

Control What’s Updated

If you’re updating manually, you can click the “updates are available” text in the Windows Update window and see what updates will be applied. Click each update to view more information, if you like. Uncheck an update and it won’t be installed. To have Windows ignore an update in the future, just right-click that specific update and select Hide update.

Troubleshoot Windows Update

In most situations, Windows Update shouldn’t need any troubleshooting. If you’re having problems, ensure your computer is properly connected to the Internet and has some free disk space. If you do run into an odd issue and Windows refuses to install updates, you may want to reboot your computer and try again.

In some rare cases, Windows may install an update that causes an unusual, rare problem with your computer’s software or hardware. You may investigate the problem and find that a Windows update is to blame.

If you notice this, you can uninstall updates from the Windows Control Panel. Open  the standard Uninstall or change a program window that lists all your installed applications. In the sidebar, click View installed updates. Locate the update you need to remove and uninstall it like you would any other program.

You can then open Windows Update again, check for updates, and hide the update to prevent Windows from installing it in the future.

If you’re a Windows user, you should probably have Windows automatically install or at least automatically download updates. The “automatically download updates” option gives you a good combination of automation and manual control, automatically downloading updates and letting you choose when to go through the reboot process.

Whatever you do, don’t disable Windows Update completely — it’s important to have the latest updates to stay secure online.


One in all PC tips / 8 Super Windows 8.1 Tweaks For Power Users
« on: November 25, 2013, 11:17:27 AM »

Whether you’re using Windows 8.1 on a desktop, tablet, or something in between, there are a variety of useful tweaks you should know about. These options allow you to do everything from making Windows 8.1 work better on a desktop PC to tweaking the way it works on a tablet.

Many of these options are all-new in Windows 8.1 or have moved from where they were in Windows 8. Windows 8.1 is quite a large update compared to Microsoft’s old service packs for previous versions of Windows.

Tweak Desktop Integration

Windows 8.1 brings many useful options for desktop users. If Windows 8 was Microsoft’s declaration of war on desktop users, these options in Windows 8.1 are an attempted peace offering from Microsoft.

To access these options, right-click the desktop taskbar and select Properties. Click the Navigation tab and use the options here to configure Windows 8.1 to your liking. You can have Windows boot to the desktop, show your desktop background on the Start screen, show the Apps view automatically when you activate the Start button, and disable the app switcher and charms hot corners that appear when you move your mouse to the top-left and top-right corners of your screen.

Delete Old Windows Installation Files

When you upgrade from an old version of Windows, Windows keeps a C:\Windows.old folder with your old files in case there’s a problem. If your upgrade process went well and you have all your old files, you can delete this folder to free up gigabytes of disk space.

To do this, press Windows Key + S, search for Disk Cleanup, and click the Free up disk space shortcut. Click the Clean up system files button, enable the Previous Windows installation(s) option, and run a disk cleanup. If you don’t see this option, there’s nothing to clean up.

Remove Old Wireless Networks

Windows 8.1 no longer allows you to forget WiFi networks you’ve saved in the graphical interface. If you still want to do this, you can do so from the Command Prompt. Press Windows Key + X and click Command Prompt (Admin). Run the following command to view your saved wireless networks and their names:

netsh wlan show profiles

Next, run the following command to delete a saved WiFi network:

netsh wlan delete profile name=”PROFILE”

Restore Libraries

Microsoft hid libraries by default in Windows 8.1. You can re-enable them from the File Explorer window if you still want to use them.

To do this, open a File Explorer window, click the View tab on the ribbon, and click the Options button. Activate the Show libraries option at the bottom of the Folder Options window.

Disable SkyDrive Integration

Microsoft doesn’t provide an easy way to disable SkyDrive integration on Windows 8.1. On typical versions of Windows 8.1, you can only disable this via the registry editor, if you activated SkyDrive integration when you set up your Windows user account.

We don’t recommend disabling this as so many features in Windows 8.1 depend on SkyDrive, but you can disable it if you really want. The easiest way to do so is by downloading the Disable_SkyDrive_Integration.reg file from here and double-clicking it. This will save you from having to edit the registry by hand.

Disable Automatic Brightness

Windows now has integrated support for automatically adjusting your screen’s brightness level, which it will do on laptops and tablets with brightness sensors. Automatically adjusting your brightness can help your device save battery power.

If you’d rather control your screen’s brightness on your own, you can disable this from the Power Options window. Press Windows Key + S, type Power Options, and select the Power Options shortcut to open it.

Click Change plan settings next to the power plan you’re using and then select Change advanced power settings. Expand the Display section, expand Enable adaptive brightness, and set it to Off. You can disable it while plugged in and only use it on battery power, if you like.

Disable Bing Search

Windows 8.1 includes integrated Bing search, so you can search with Bing from the system-wide search charm. This also means that Windows sends your search terms to Bing, even if you’re just searching for apps, settings, and files on your local computer. You can disable this integration from the PC settings app if you’d rather not use it.

To do this, open the Change PC settings app — press Windows Key + C, click or tap the Settings icon, and select Change PC settings. Select Search and apps and disable the Use Bing to search online option.

Use Quiet Hours

Windows 8.1′s integrated notifications pop up and notify you about new emails, tweets, and other information. This can be a serious distraction if you’re using your computer for work and you’d rather focus on what you need to do.

If you never want to see notifications during work hours or another period of time, you can use the Quiet Hours feature. In the PC Settings app, navigate to Search and apps > Notifications and select the quiet hours you want to use.

Remember to use the power user menu, too — either press Windows Key + X or right-click on the taskbar’s Start button to open it. This menu allows you to quickly access important applications like the Control Panel and quickly shut down your computer. It helps make up for the lack of a pop-up Start menu on Windows 8.1′s desktop.



First thing’s first: download and install Windows Media Player 12. Every machine running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 should have WMP preloaded. Just search for the program and install it.

Next, get your movie file and your subtitles file. Many websites offer subtitles, but SubtitleHub, the search engine for subtitle websites, will help you quickly search through several of them. Just download the files and extract them if they come in a .zip format.

For this example, I have an episode of Friends and some subtitles that I’ve put in one folder called “Subtitled Friends”.

The Simple Way

Now, just put both of the files in the same folder and make sure they have the same name (aside from the extension). In this case, the video is “Friends” and the subtitle file is “”.

Right-click on the video and choose “Play with Windows Media Player”. Hopefully, your video now plays with subtitles. But if it still isn’t working, you have a few more options.

If You Run Into Trouble

The first step is to make sure WMP is set to display captions. From the default home screen you can right click on the bar near the top and select Play > Lyrics, captions, and subtitles > On if available. From the window in which the video is playing, this can be reached by right clicking at the top and selecting Lyrics, captions, and subtitles > On if available.

If they still aren’t displaying, you’ll need to download DirectVobSub ( The newest version is 2.41.7259 and it has x32 and x64 versions depending on if you have 64 bit or 32 bit Windows.

Simply run the installer, and DirectVobSub is ready to go. If you still can’t see any subtitles, however, there is one last thing you can try. Rename the subtitle file and change the “.srt” to a “.sub”. For me, the subtitles played regardless of whether it was called .srt or .sub, but some users report one working more often than the other.


Congratulations! You can now watch your TV shows and movies with subtitles on WMP. Be sure to use this power for good, and never for evil.


One in all PC tips / How To Make Windows 8 Boot Even Faster!
« on: November 23, 2013, 01:22:20 PM »
Windows 8 may have plenty of issues, but a slow boot time ain’t one. Windows 8 boots fast! Yet, there is room for improvement. We show you how to measure and optimize your Windows boot time.

The time it takes the system to start up is largely defined by internal processes. In Windows 8, a Faster Startup feature allows for record boot times. Over time, third-party applications can contribute to a significant decline. The occasional cleanup can restore initial boot times. Let’s see what your options are.

Find Your Boot Time

You can get a semi-accurate estimation of how long it takes to boot your computer by counting the seconds or using a stopwatch. I actually used the online stopwatch from to figure out which steps of the boot process took the longest and improved the most. If you just care for the overall boot time, however, you can draw exact numbers for your past couple of boots from the Windows Event Viewer.

Click [Windows] + [W] to jump directly to Search, type event, and select View event logs. In the Event Viewer, navigate to > Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Diagnostics Performance. You can now view the log file that contains all events in that category. The Event ID you are looking for is 100.

As shown above, my computer had a critical boot duration of almost three minutes, due mostly to boot processes that occurred post the actual booting up. I should note that this is not normal; I run Windows 8 on old hardware. Open the Details tab to find out what slows down the boot time of your computer.

To quickly go through different boot times over a longer period, you can filter events by Event ID. Click Create Custom View via the respective menu option on the left side. Check the Events levels you wish to see, select Event logs, and enter the desired Event IDs.

On many Windows 8 machines, there is a quick way to check your most recent boot time via the Task Manager. Open the Task Manager via Search, click on More details in the bottom left, switch to the Start-up tab and check the upper right corner for Last Bios time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t show up for me.

Make Sure Fast Startup Is Enabled

Windows 8 comes with a built-in Fast Startup feature, which uses a hybrid shutdown to accelerate the following boot process. At shutdown, Windows partially hibernates, meaning it stores the kernel session and device drivers in the hiberfil.sys file on the system drive. On startup, the information in the file is loaded to resume the system.

To make sure Fast Startup is turned on (it should be by default), open Power Options via the Search, click Choose what the power buttons do on the left side, open Change settings that are currently unavailable on top, and then check the option Turn on fast start-up (recommended) under Shutdown settings at the bottom. If you made any changes, click the respective button to save and restart your computer.

EightForums warns that Fast Startup can cause a variety of restart and shutdown issues. If you experience any such issues, try to turn Fast Startup off.

By turning on Fast Startup, I could cut my boot time by over a minute. The post login boot processes remained time intensive, but the MainPathBootTime came down to around 30 seconds from over 100. My overall self-measured boot time was around that same number; ca. 32 seconds in the example shown below. Of course that’s still extremely slow, but the improvement is still massive. On a high-end machine with UEFI, Fast Startup should yield a boot time in the single digit region.

Time Saved: 70 seconds

Now that you appreciate how much faster Windows 8 boots due its default Fast Startup feature, let’s see whether we can get even speedier boot times.

Disable Startup Programs

Windows 8 has a much improved Task Manager, which provides quick access to key system information, including programs loading on startup. On the Windows 8 desktop, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click More details in the bottom left and open the Start-up tab.

Disabling any processes that have a high or medium Start-up impact will improve your boot time. Select a process and click Disable in the lower right or right-click and select Disable.

I’m running an almost virgin Windows 8.1 installation, so there wasn’t much potential to save time here. I tried it nevertheless and disabled Dropbox.

Time Saved: 3 seconds; less than 1 second for MainPathBootTime.

Keep in mind that every boot is different. You’ll always have an error margin of up to a few seconds, meaning three seconds is probably not significant. Naturally, you will see more impressive results if you can disable more startup programs.

Let’s dig a little deeper and see what else we can do with a virgin Windows 8.1 installation.

Disable Startup Services

Windows automatically launches several services on startup, some of which you may not need.

Press the keyboard shortcut [Windows] + [R] to launch the Run dialog. Type msconfig and click OK.

In the System Configuration window switch to the Services tab. Here you can disable any services you don’t need. Be careful with Microsoft services and services related to your hardware; it’s better to leave them alone.

For this test, I turned off the services Computer Browser and Windows Media Player Network Sharing. I restarted a couple of times and the slowest boot still resulted in the following…

Time saved: 53 seconds; over 4 seconds for MainPathBootTime.

Now that is significant!

The lowest boot time I achieved over the course of this test was 51 seconds total, and 22 seconds spent on MainPathBootTime.



External drives — either USB flash drives or external hard drives — should be easy to use. In some cases, you may connect your drive to a Windows PC or another device with a USB port and find that it’s not recognized. This problem can be caused by partition issues on your external drive, using the wrong file system, dead USB ports, driver issues in Windows, or other problems. In a worst case scenario, the drive itself may simply be dead.

The steps below will be the same for both USB flash drives and larger external hard drives, which work similarly.

Does the Drive Show Up in Disk Management?

First, let’s check whether Windows detects the drive when you plug it in. Plug your removable drive into your computer. If it’s an external hard drive, you may have to flip a power switch on the hard drive to activate it. Some heavy-duty removable hard drives may even have to be plugged in with a separate power cable before they’ll work.

Next, open the Disk Management tool. To do so, press Windows Key + R, type diskmgmt.msc into the Run dialog, and press Enter.

You should see your external drive listed in the Disk Management window. Even if it doesn’t appear in your Computer window because it doesn’t contain any partitions, it should show up here.

If you do see the drive here, you can continue to the last section where we’ll format it properly so Windows or your other devices can access and recognize it.

If you don’t see the drive here, continue to the next section where we’ll try to determine why your drive isn’t recognized.

Making Windows Recognize the Drive

If Windows doesn’t see your drive at all, it’s possible there’s a hardware issue with your computer’s USB port, a driver problem with your Windwos computer, or you may just have a dead drive.

First, unplug the drive from your USB port and try plugging it into another USB port on your computer. If it works in one USB port but not another, you may have a dead USB port. If you’ve plugged the drive into a USB hub, try connecting it to the computer instead. Some USB hubs won’t provide enough power for your external drive to function.

If the drive doesn’t show up in Disk Management even after you skip the USB hub and connect it to another USB port on your computer, it’s tough to know for certain whether the drive itself is bad or the computer is having a problem. If you have another computer nearby, try plugging the drive in there to check whether it’s detected. If the drive doesn’t work on any computer you plug it into — be sure to check whether it appears in the computer’s Disk Management window — the drive itself is likely dead and will need to be replaced.

If the drive does work on other computers — or you don’t have another computer around to test this with — Windows may be having a driver problem with the drive. You can check for this using the Device Manager.

To open it, press Windows Key + R, type “devmgmt.msc” into the Run dialog, and press Enter.

Look under Disk drives and check for any devices with a yellow exclamation mark next to them. If you see a yellow exclamation mark, you have a driver problem. Right-click the device with a yellow exclamation mark, select Properties, and look at the error message. This error message can help you fix the problem — you may want to perform a Google search for the error message you find.

Such problems can be tricky to fix. If the problem started recently, you may want to run System Restore. You may want to use the Update Driver button to install an updated driver, use the Roll Back Driver button to revert any changes, or use the Uninstall button to uninstall the device from your system and hope that Windows will reinstall the driver and configure it correctly when you reconnect the drive.

Partitioning and Formatting the Drive

We can use the Windows Disk Management tool to fix partition and file system issues with the drive. If you see that the drive is unpartitioned and is full of “unallocated space,” you’ll want to create a new partition on it. This will allow Windows and other operating systems to use it.

To do so, right-click inside the unallocated space, select New Simple Volume, and go through the wizard to create a new partition.

If your drive is partitioned and you still can’t see it, ensure you’ve set a drive letter so you can access it in Windows. This should happen automatically, but if you’ve manually unset the drive letter, the drive may not show up and be accessible in Windows.

To do this, right-click the removable drive’s partition, select Change Drive Letter and Paths, and add a drive letter. For example, add the letter G: and the removable drive will be accessible at drive G:.

If the drive does appear to be partitioned, it may be partitioned with the wrong file system. For example, you may have formatted the drive with the ext4 file system from Linux or the HFS Plus file system from a Mac. Windows can’t read these file systems. Reformat the drive with the newer NTFS file system or older FAT32 file system so Windows will be able to recognize it.

To reformat a partition, right-click it, select Format, and select your desired file system.

Note that this will erase all the files on your drive, so you’ll want to copy any important files off of it first — for example, if you formatted the drive on a Linux or Mac computer, take it back to a computer running Linux or Mac and copy your important files off of it before continuing.

If you can’t access the drive from another device, such as a DVD player, smart TV, game console, or media center device, it may be formatted as NTFS. Many devices, even Microsoft’s own Xbox 360, can’t read the Windows NTFS file system. They can only access drives formatted with the older FAT32 file system. To fix this problem, simply reformat the NTFS partition as FAT32. The drive should then be recognized by other devices when you connect it to them.

Note that this process will erase the files on your external drive. Copy the files off the drive to back them up first, if necessary.

Following this process should solve most of the disk recognition issues you’ll encounter. If a drive isn’t recognized by any computer you connect it to and never shows up in the Disk Management window, it’s probably dead.



Windows 8.1 includes deep SkyDrive integration, far beyond the simple SkyDrive Modern app included with Windows 8. SkyDrive isn’t just an app in the tiled interface; it’s also available from the desktop. Macs have iCloud, Chromebooks have Google Drive, and Windows 8.1 PCs have SkyDrive. Microsoft wants you to consider SkyDrive your new hard drive where you store all your personal files.

Microsoft didn’t just include a Dropbox-style syncing solution. SkyDrive on Windows 8.1 is smart, offering a new way of syncing files that saves on disk space. It’s great for devices with small amounts of local storage.

What Is SkyDrive?

If you haven’t been keeping track, SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Like the well-known Dropbox service, SkyDrive allows you to store your files online. They’re linked to your Microsoft account and can be synced across your PCs, downloaded via a web browser, and accessed with mobile apps on smartphones and tablets — yes, Microsoft offers SkyDrive apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android, too. New Microsoft accounts get 7GB of SkyDrive space, but you can pay Microsoft a subscription fee for more space.

SkyDrive gives you a place to store all your files so you can access them from multiple devices. You won’t have to worry about moving files around with USB drives. When you get a new PC or move to a different device, all your files will be right there and available to you. You can also share files with other people, making them available from your SkyDrive account.

Using SkyDrive in Windows 8.1

When you sign into Windows with a Microsoft account for the first time, you’ll be prompted to enable SkyDrive integration. This only works if you sign in with a Microsoft account, not a local user account — SkyDrive is linked to the Microsoft account you log in with. If you have a local user account and want SkyDrive integration, you’ll have to convert it to a Microsoft account.

With SkyDrive integration enabled, you’ll see a SkyDrive option in the File Explorer app’s sidebar. To save files to SkyDrive and store them in the cloud, just move them to — or save them to — the SkyDrive folder.

SkyDrive attempts to sync files intelligently. Let’s say you already have 5GB of files in your SkyDrive account and you get a new Windows 8.1 PC. After signing into your new PC, SkyDrive won’t automatically download all your files. You’ll be able to browse all your files in the SkyDrive folder, but SkyDrive will download them when you try to open them. Microsoft calls these “smart files” — SkyDrive downloads information about the files, but not the contents of the files themselves.

Windows also monitors the files you use and automatically syncs files it thinks you will open.

Luckily, you don’t have to rely on Windows’ instincts. You can also just tell SkyDrive to sync certain files or folders. To do this, right-click a file or folder in the SkyDrive folder and select Make available offline. SkyDrive will download the selected files — or all files contained in the selected folder — and keep them synced. They’ll be available when you need them without any on-demand downloading.

Using SkyDrive on the desktop should be that simple. If you want to move the SkyDrive folder to another drive — for example, from a small solid-state drive to a larger mechanical hard drive — just right-click the SkyDrive folder in File Explorer, select Properties, and use the options on the Location tab to move it.

The Modern Interface

SkyDrive is now also fully integrated into the other side of Windows 8.1. While Windows 8′s settings sync features were separate from SkyDrive, all of Windows 8.1′s sync features are now powered by SkyDrive. You’ll even find all the old Sync options under the “SkyDrive” category in Windows 8.1′s PC Settings app.

The SkyDrive options in PC Settings allow you to view the space you’re using on SkyDrive, control whether photos from your “camera roll” folder are automatically uploaded to SkyDrive, and configure settings for metered connections such as tethered connections with a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Modern SkyDrive app also allows you to browse, manage, and search your SkyDrive files. It’s integrated with the desktop SkyDrive experience, so you can also long-press or right-click a file or folder from this app and select Make available offline. Files you make available offline will be available both on the desktop and in the Windows 8-style UI.

SkyDrive now allows you to browse your local files with a touch-optimized interface, too. Just tap or click the SkyDrive heading and select This PC to browse your local files. You no longer need to install third-party Modern File Explorer apps.

In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive also offers OCR capabilities. If you upload a picture containing recognizable words, Microsoft’s servers will convert it to searchable text. When you search for files using Windows 8.1′s new Bing-powered system-wide search feature, SkyDrive will return images that contain those words.

Fetching Files

If you previously used SkyDrive’s unique “Fetch” feature, which allowed you to fetch unsynced files from anywhere on another PC’s file system, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Fetch is no longer available on Windows 8.1. Even if you reinstall the standalone SkyDrive desktop sync program, Fetch does not function on Windows 8.1. It’s unfortunate that Microsoft is eliminating a unique feature that separated SkyDrive from Dropbox and the rest of the pack.

SkyDrive: A Well-Rounded Experience

SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 is a compelling experience, offering built-in, free cloud storage to Windows users. It’s well-integrated into every corner of the system — the desktop, Windows 8-style interface, and Bing-powered search experience. You don’t have to install anything extra to sync your files with the cloud on Windows 8.1.


One in all PC tips / Microsoft Launches Remote Desktop For iOS & Android
« on: November 23, 2013, 11:11:59 AM »

As you will all know, Microsoft recently released Windows 8.1, but they have also released an app which has managed to kind of fly under the radar a bit, due to all of the 8.1 coverage – a Remote Desktop app for iOS and Android This neat little app brings the world of Windows to your tablets and phones, regardless of platform.

If you are a reader of this site, you don’t need me to explain to you what a Remote Desktop app does. However, it is not only busy business people on the go who can benefit from this app. Personal users away from home can also log in and view their desktop from their phone or tablet – absolutely free of charge. Remote access is not something new by any stretch of the imagination, but this is the first time Microsoft has released such an app to run on operating systems which are not their own.

This is what Remote Desktop looks like on an Android tablet to give you some idea of how good it looks.

How do I set up a PC for Remote Desktop Connection?

On the PC you plan to connect to remotely, do the following:

  • Open System by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering System in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking System.
  • Tap or click Remote settings. You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.
  • In the System Properties dialog box, under Remote Desktop, select one of the two options. For more info about these options, see What types of Remote Desktop connections should I allow?
  • Tap or click Select Users, and in the Remote Desktop Users dialog box, tap or click Add.
  • Tap or click Remote settings. You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

  • To select the search location, tap or click Locations, and then select the location you want to search.
  • In Enter the object names to select, enter the name of the person that you want to add, and then tap or click OK. The name will be added to the list of people who can connect to this PC.

When you want to connect to a remote PC, you'll need to know the full name of that PC.
  • Open System by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering System in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking System.
  • The full PC name is listed under Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings.

For more information:

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