Tips and Tricks Tips and Tricks

If You Can Only a Afford a Tiny Ssd, Don't Get It by Kelly Lynn

  If you're in the market for a new solid-state drive to help speed up your system with, you will likely not be able to get as large a drive as you need for everything you keep on your computer: SSDs are expensive. If you're like most people, you'll try to calculate how much space you need for your operating system and all your programs, and get a unit with just enough room. Unfortunately, this isn't a good idea.  SSDs aren't meant to be filled to capacity (or even near-capacity). When you do that, you lose the very speed that you get them for. Why do SSDs slow down when they are filled up? Solid-state drives come with a design limitation not seen in conventional drives. SSDs are partitioned into … Continue reading

How Much Information Does Your Browser Give Away? by Kelly Lynn

  Browsers allow users to be tracked by the websites they visit. If the idea of being tracked by your browser intrigues you, here's a short introduction to the ways in which it happens. Your IP address The IP address of the Internet access point that you use to connect to the Internet is a unique number that can be used to locate you right down to your neighborhood. When you visit a website, it is able to use your browser to tap your IP address and learn about your location through it. Many spammy advertisers try to use this type of tracking to impress you and to get your attention. If you've ever seen a pop-up ad on your computer that mentions your neighborhood and tells you that you're … Continue reading

Why Exactly Do You Need to Restart Your Computer After Uninstalling a Program? by Kelly Lynn

  When you remove a program from your Windows computer by running the Windows uninstaller, often, Windows will ask you to restart your computer at the end of the process. While Windows XP nearly always needed users to restart their computers after program uninstallations, Windows 7 and Windows 8 only rarely need it. Restarts are usually reserved for programs like antivirus software that need to get their hooks deep into the OS they install in. When restart requests do show up, though, they tend to get computer users thinking. They wonder about what exactly happens during an uninstall that could require a restart. Here's a short explanation. It's the DLL Every program uses essential system files that come with.dll extensions. When the program installs, Windows registers all these files in … Continue reading

The Windows Backslash Backstory by Kelly Lynn

  In most kinds of computer applications, you have exactly one kind of slash to use: the regular "/"forward slash. Web addresses, Android, OS X and Linux use it exclusively. It doesn't fly with Windows, though.  In system commands and location paths in Windows, the backslash (") is often used. To many users, remembering which slash goes where can be a problem. If you've ever wondered why Windows chose to go against universal computing convention, it's a long story. How Windows came to use the backslash The forward slash was first used on the UNIX operating system; it was used to separate different locations in local directories when their paths were typed out. Officially, it's called a directory separator. MS-DOS 1.0 of 1981, first Microsoft operating system, had no directory … Continue reading

What Exactly Does a Firewall Do Again? by Kelly Lynn

  Most people who use computers have seen reminders at one point or another about making sure that they have a good firewall. While they may know that a firewall does something to keep them safe from viruses and hackers, though, often, they tend to be fuzzy about how exactly the protection comes about. They would be hard-pressed, for example, to explain how the protection offered by a firewall was different from that offered by antivirus software. If you find that your understanding of firewalls is a bit shaky too, here's a short, clear explanation. A firewall is a protective filter When the Internet first got its start in the mid-90s, anyone connecting was completely exposed to every other computer user online at the moment. Connections were direct, and every … Continue reading

Should You Consider a Hybrid Drive for Your Computer? by Kelly Lynn

  Solid-state drive technology offers performance that's at least twice as fast as what conventional hard disks have. In some types of operation, these drives are hundreds of times as fast. Until recently, though, SSD technology was too expensive for most users -- you had to spend $75 for a 64 GB unit. Fortunately, in 2014, the technology has matured. The same amount of money will now buy you a 120 GB SSD -- thus bringing it into the mainstream. Even with 120 GB at a reasonable price, SSDs still offer far less capacity for your dollar than what you could buy if you picked a conventional drive. It can be hard for anyone to turn the clock back 10 years in computer storage capacity. To many, buying two drives is a great compromise Most computer … Continue reading

Disabling the Windows Key Hotkey and Other Keyboard Shortcuts by Kelly Lynn

  As popular as PC gaming is, Windows was never designed with gaming in mind. This is why the standard Windows keyboard is full of key combinations that tend to be useful in general Windows programs, but that shut games down if they are accidentally used. To gamers, they tend to be a huge hassle. Windows gamers, then, often use special keyboards in which they've broken the Windows key off. Keyboard manufacturers even market special keyboards without such keys. Luckily, you don't need to go to the trouble. It's easy to disable them. Using key disablers A keyboard with no Windows key or one in which it is permanently disabled isn't a good idea -- the key does perform several useful functions when a computer is in non-gaming use. It's a better idea to simply disable it when you need to … Continue reading

The Reason the Latest Windows Update Didn’t Include the Start Menu by Kelly Lynn

  On August 12, Microsoft released August Update -- its second update for Windows 8.1. While Microsoft did hype the update in April 2014 at the  build conference with promises (and images) of the return of the Start Menu, the company stopped talking about it soon after. When August Update did arrive, no one noticed much. There was no Start Menu. Users need to now wait until Windows 9 for the Start Menu to arrive. Why the Start Menu failed to arrive The reason Microsoft decided to drop the Start Menu for Windows 8.1 was that they felt the OS was unpopular, anyway. They didn't believe that bringing the Start Menu back would make it likeable. Meanwhile, they would be taking something special away from their Windows 9 launch. That's a product … Continue reading

Here's How Windows 8 Offers Better Security Than Windows 7 by Kelly Lynn

  Windows 8 and 8.1 aren't just the same old Windows 7 with an experimental interface tacked on. Under the hood, they include real improvements, especially in the security department. Some of them are deep, low-level changes to the way Windows functions; others are visible ones. Here are 6 ways in which Windows 8 offers you a more secure user experience than Windows 7. Inbuilt antivirus Windows 7 doesn't include antivirus. It requires that you install either Microsoft Security Essentials or a third-party antivirus product. With Windows 8, though, Microsoft Security Essentials comes inbuilt -- only, Microsoft now calls it Windows Defender. Quick-launch anti-malware In Windows 7, antivirus software isn't allowed to start up until well into the Windows boot up process. This is a serious security problem because rootkits are able to start well before antivirus programs do. In … Continue reading

Should You Use a Driver Cleaner Before You Install a New Driver? by Kelly Lynn

  Should You Use a Driver Cleaner Before You Install a New Driver? Gamers usually like to keep on top of driver updates for their graphics cards. It's a good idea because with each improved driver version comes the possibility of improved gaming performance. Most gamers automate the update process. They set the software that comes with their graphics cards to automatically check for updates, download and install them. Some gamers, though, like to be extra thorough. Rather than take the automatic route, they like to first uninstall the old driver themselves, and then run a separate piece of software called a driver cleaner. Only then do they bring the new driver in. What does a driver cleaner do? Each time you install a driver, it doesn't simply get placed in one location. Rather, the installer … Continue reading