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Ask How-To Geek: Allocation Sizes, Tweaking the Right-Click Context Menu, Changing the Taskbar Color

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You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. This week we take a look at understanding allocation sizes, tweaking your right-click context menu, and changing the taskbar color.

Understanding Allocation Sizes

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Dear How-To Geek,

While formatting some USB flash drives, I was prompted to select an allocation size. What is this? What should I set it to and should I change it from the default in the first place?

Sincerely,

Staring at the Format Window

Dear Staring,

The allocation size refers to the size of the data clusters you’re instructing your operating system to use. Think of data clusters like a baskets on a shelf. When you need to put data away, you pull off a basket and put it in. The smaller the baskets the smaller the little bundles of data you can store in each one. The larger the basket the larger the bundles of data. The size of the shelf itself is what determines how much total data you store, but the size of the baskets on it (the cluster size) determines how efficiently that data is stored. If, for example, you have one tiny little left over piece of something you need to store, that item is going to get a whole big basket all by itself. Having smaller baskets decreases that wasted space and packs in the data chunks (big and small) into the space you have more effectively.

Now how does this apply to your flash drive? The benefit of having larger clusters is reduced seek time. This really only helps with traditional hard drives as you want to minimize the times the head needs to move across the drive. Flash drives (and Solid State Drives) have nearly instant seek time. Increasing the cluster size to decrease the seek time doesn’t benefit you, it just makes your storage more inefficient. Because the flash drive affords you nearly instant seeking, you want to select the smallest allocation size possible in order to maximize your storage efficiency.

Tweaking the Right-Click Context Menu

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Dear How-To Geek,

Is there any way to customize the right-click context menu in Windows so that I can select a folder I want to copy the highlighted files to?  The default options are pretty useless to me. I just want to be able to selectively copy files!

Sincerely,

Right-Click Rage

Dear Right-Click Rage,

We understand your frustration. You can add in the functionality you seek can be added with a simple registry hack. Check out our guide to adding a customizable copy/move menu to the Windows 7/Vista right-click context menu here. Now you can stop waiting around for Microsoft to finally include this simple function.

Changing the Windows Taskbar Color

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Dear How-To Geek,

I have a really simple request. I want to change the color of the Windows taskbar but I don’t want to install bloated add-ons or special programs for doing any sort of interface tweaking. I just want to change the taskbar and leave everything else about the Windows Aero interface the same. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Task Bar Tweaker

Dear Task Bar,

What you’re asking for is actually super simple to accomplish, assuming you’re willing to get your hands dirty in an image editing application and approach the problem in a unique way. Rather than try to change the color of the taskbar from within the Areo settings, we’re just going to create a wallpaper with a colored band at the bottom that shines through the color you want. Check out our round-about but clever solution here.


Have a question you want to put before the How-To Geek staff? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and then keep an eye out for a solution in the Ask How-To Geek column.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/18/11

Comments (21)

  1. Odin

    how is changing the taskbar colour that way either clever or unique?

  2. vistual

    STFU!
    who ever it is might’ve done it because it appeals to him / her, aesthetically, smart ass.
    its their pc – their way. it doesnt have to make sense to you OR necessarily comply with what YOU think is “clever” or “unique”.
    and yeah thats right – i really bothered to leave a stupid reply to your stupid comment.

  3. Odin

    whoa, that really hurt me.
    but serious, im here for real tech and geeky articles. What was covered her was just quite dissapointing.
    I mean come on, changing it by altering the wallpaper… jesus, why am I even arguing about this?

    thanks for bothering anyways

  4. Alvin

    Guys, what would be the most suitable and optimal allocation size for a mechanical hard disk? Thanks for the advice given.

  5. FrancisForward

    Hey,
    Thanks for the nice tips. For those, who want to customize the right-click context-menu, here are two different ways to add programs and windows-system features:

    1. http://browse.deviantart.com/customization/skins/windows7/misc/#/d3e6mxw

    2. http://www.askvg.com/deskintegrator-portable-utility-to-add-program-shortcuts-in-windows-vista-and-7-desktop-context-menu/

    Both are quite handy and worth a short review here in howtogeek (if it’s not already done).

  6. Seasider2

    Odin, Obviously you have no idea what a geek is, you can’t even use spell check in your posts.
    P.S. Also, you are not a god so please use a more appropriate name. I’m sure if you ask many suggestions will be forthcoming.

  7. anndtman

    @Odin

    I have always assumed that this site was for all levels of of computer competence. Some things I know and some I do not. Some make me giggle and some boggle my mind. Please dismount and unsaddle your horse.

  8. Rajneesh Gadge

    I was also having the first question(Understanding Allocation Sizes) in my. xD

    Thanks for the info!

  9. littlered

    In response to Vistual and Odin’s posts…please calm down. Some of us are learning while others are at the expertise level. It tends to make those of us less experienced hesitant to ask questions that may seem silly or “stupid” to the experts. You were once a beginner, or less knowledgeable at one point as well. This is the type of behavior that deters people from asking in order to learn. I say this most kindly. Humility needs to be displayed among those that are experts in order to help the rest of us. Pride definitely goes before the fall.

  10. CoffeeBill

    I love the geek…

  11. blackcat

    Well said littered!

  12. thomhoss

    People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?

  13. 7SeVeN7

    could some link me to the article for how to tweak the right click menu in the registery, i cant seem to find it
    any where! thanx in advance :)

  14. Grant

    Guys! Calm down and EAT A SLICE! (lol, OlanRogers)

  15. Grant

    PS: I prefer this one for changing the taskbar color: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/25290

  16. Rick

    You can change the taskbar color as long as you accept changing the windows borders color to:

    Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Personalization\Window Color and Appearance

  17. Lucky

    Trolls are rare here; but, they do come out once in a while. Maybe it’s because of tax day that Odin was attacked so unfairly. It’s a different God that drained your pockets guy. Everyone should remember that opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one.

  18. sVen

    @Rick,
    Using your advice, I was able to change the window borders, but not the taskbar. What am I missing?
    Thanx.

  19. Jonny

    Now Now people the whole point of the site is for us that are not geeks to get help where we are stuck something which may seem trivial to one person is like double dutch to some of us, i have been getting this newsletter for about 6 months and ive learned in that 6 mths more than in the 2 years I’ve had my computer, so yes there are geeks who can re-program windows out there but there are also people who need the “geeks” Advice and information
    go easy Eh

  20. Jonny

    Above Aimed to EVERYONE not singleing anyone out as that would not be fair, i think we all know who the geek is in the above posts anyway!!

  21. Drambuie

    @ Odin, My opinion is that you want this to be all about you and if they are not helping you then you don’t want it. Ever thought that there are people that are less experienced than you. Get off your pedestal, your gonna be kicked off of there one day.

    @ vistual, your comment was very rude especially those first four letters. Do you really kiss your relatives with that dirty mouth of yours. Cause if you type it you certainly say it.

    @ Monitoring Admin You should be severely repremanded for approving ‘vistual’s post. He/she should be banned for making such comments or at least you no approving those types of post. Profanity should not be allowed on any public forum of this sort. This does not make vistual very intelligent, nor does it speak well for How-To Geek.

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