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Chris Hoffman

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

Whether you’re switching to a new PC, reinstalling Windows, or just ensuring you don’t lose hours of gameplay if your hard drive dies, you’ll want to make sure your save games are properly backed up.

about 9 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

Like other smartphones, Android phones use an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust your phone’s display brightness. This often doesn’t work too well.

about 9 months ago - by  |  6 Replies

We previously reported that the system image backup feature was removed in Windows 8.1. This isn’t entirely true — while the graphical interface for creating system images was removed, you can still create system images with a PowerShell cmdlet.

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Windows has had support for themes, also known as visual styles, since Windows XP. By default, Windows will only load Microsoft-signed themes — but you can get around this fairly easily.

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By default, Windows 8′s Refresh or Reset your PC feature restores Windows to its initial state. However, you can also create custom recovery images containing your favorite programs and system settings.

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Once upon a time, Linux desktops were full of wobbly windows, desktop cubes, and other over-the-top graphical effects. Ubuntu still includes the Compiz software that makes this possible, but it’s been toned down by default.

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Google is now selling stock Android editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One in addition to the Nexus 4, featuring Google’s software without the usual manufacturer customizations. You can get a more stock Android-like experience on your existing phone, too.

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Parental controls can filter the web, blocking inadvertent access to inappropriate websites. There are a variety of ways to do this, from configuring network-wide parental controls on your router to using the parental controls built into Windows or third-party software.

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We recently looked at the many reasons you might want to use a third-party DNS server. You can change the DNS server for your entire network on your router or set it individually on a PC or other device.

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Windows 8.1 brings some great new features, from a Start button and boot-to-desktop option to SkyDrive integration and a much more robust Modern interface. However, Microsoft is removing some features that were present in Windows 8.

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Transferring photos and other files between nearby smartphones should be simple, but it’s not. There are a variety of different ways you can do this, and which is best depends on which types of smartphones you’re transferring files between.

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Microsoft is restoring the Start button and adding a boot-to-desktop option in Windows 8.1, but they aren’t giving up on the Modern interface. The Modern interface has been dramatically updated, and it no longer feels quite as half-baked.

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Apple offers a “Find My Mac” service to track a lost or stolen stolen Mac computer. However, Microsoft doesn’t provide an equivalent service for Windows PCs — not even for tablets running Windows 8.

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More and more Internet connections are being filtered, from public Wi-Fi and workplace connection filtering to ISP and country-level censorship. However, there are still ways to get around this filtering and view blocked websites.

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Your Internet service provider runs DNS servers for you, but you don’t have to use them. You can use third-party DNS servers instead, which offer a variety of features that your ISP probably doesn’t.

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If you’ve heard one thing about Windows 8.1, you’ve probably heard Microsoft is bringing back the Start button. Windows 8.1 includes many features that should have been included with Windows 8, and it can feel much less awkward on a desktop PC.

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One of the biggest changes in Windows 8.1 is SkyDrive integration. In Windows 8, SkyDrive was available as a Modern app and a desktop app that you could install. In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is integrated at the system level.

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The Windows Device Manager is an important troubleshooting tool. It displays all your installed hardware devices and allows you to view which ones have problems, manage their drivers, and even disable specific pieces of hardware.

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Brute-force attacks are fairly simple to understand, but difficult to protect against. Encryption is math, and as computers become faster at math, they become faster at trying all the solutions and seeing which one fits.

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Do you have your PC, television, or other expensive electronics plugged directly into a power outlet? You shouldn’t. You should plug your gadgets into a surge protector, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as a power strip.

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Stores like Best Buy will charge you $49.99 to “optimize” and “tune up” your PC — either in-store or online. These services are generally a complete waste of money — you can easily do this all yourself for free.

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Scanning documents and OCRing them once meant slowly feeding them through a desktop scanner before running slow, clunky OCR software. With the advent of powerful smartphones, you can now quickly scan and OCR documents with your phone’s camera.

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Recent revelations about government surveillance have raised the question: why don’t cloud services encrypt your data? Well, they generally do encrypt your data, but they have the key so they can decrypt it any time they like.

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So you have multiple computers and you want to keep your files in sync, but you don’t want to store them on someone else’s servers. You’ll want a service that synchronizes files directly between your computers.

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One of the big new features in Apple’s iOS 7 is Control Center, which allows you to quickly access and toggle common setting from anywhere. However, Android phones have had quick toggles for a long time.

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