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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+.

You turn on your computer one day and Windows refuses to boot — what do you do? “Windows won’t boot” is a common symptom with a variety of causes, so you’ll need to perform some troubleshooting.

about 1 year ago - by  |  8 Replies

There was a time when every geek seemed to build their own PC. While the masses bought eMachines and Compaqs, geeks built their own more powerful and reliable desktop machines for cheaper. But does this still make sense?

about 1 year ago - by  |  58 Replies

Ask a geek how to fix a problem you’ve having with your Windows computer and they’ll likely ask “Have you tried rebooting it?” This seems like a flippant response, but rebooting a computer can actually solve many problems.

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You should never have to hunt down a lost file on modern versions of Windows — just perform a quick search. You don’t even have to wait for a cartoon dog to find your files, like on Windows XP.

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We’ve previously covered the standard ways to free up space on Windows. But if you have a small solid-state drive and really want more hard space, there are geekier ways to reclaim hard drive space.

about 1 year ago - by  |  3 Replies

Windows is big, complicated, and misunderstood. You’ll still stumble across bad advice from time to time when browsing the web. These Windows tweaking, performance, and system maintenance tips are mostly just useless, but some are actively harmful.

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Windows 8.1 will automatically encrypt the storage on modern Windows PCs. This will help protect your files in case someone steals your laptop and tries to get at them, but it has important ramifications for data recovery.

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Windows 8.1′s Assigned Access feature allows you to easily lock a Windows PC to a single application, such as a web browser. This feature makes it easy for anyone to configure Windows 8.1 devices as point-of-sale or other kiosk systems.

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Antivirus programs aren’t perfect — especially Microsoft Security Essentials. If you’re relying on your antivirus alone to protect you, you’re putting yourself at risk. You should still follow basic, common-sense computer security practices.

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A bad sector on a hard drive is simply a tiny cluster of storage space — a  sector — of the hard drive that appears to be defective. The sector won’t respond to read or write requests.

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Now that Skype has been merged with Windows Live Messenger, it’s more popular than ever. There’s no way to use Skype with a third-party client, but Skype does offer hidden features that can make it more powerful.

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Browser extensions are useful, but they can increase your browser’s memory consumption, make it take longer to open, and slow it down in general. But how do you measure the impact a browser extension has on your system?

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Chromebooks don’t normally run Windows software — that’s the best and worst thing about them. You don’t need antivirus or other Windows desktop junk, but you can’t install Skype, full Microsoft Office, or other Windows desktop applications.

about 1 year ago - by  |  9 Replies

Programs that automatically start with Windows can slow down your computer’s boot time, making you wait to get a useful desktop while icon after icon loads into your system tray. Fortunately, it’s possible to prevent these programs from automatically starting.

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Two-factor authentication secures your accounts with an additional authentication method, often a time-limited code generated by a mobile app. But what happens if you lose or reset your phone and can’t generate the codes?

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Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows Defender on Windows 8) was once on top. Over the years, it’s slid in the test results, but Microsoft argued the tests weren’t meaningful. Now, Microsoft is advising Windows users to use a third-party antivirus instead.

about 1 year ago - by  |  101 Replies

There’s a good chance you already use the VLC media player. But VLC isn’t just a media player — it’s a complete Swiss Army Knife for digital videos and music, filled with useful and fun features you haven’t found yet.

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Android is open source, so developers can take its code, add features, and build their own operating system images for Android phones and tablets. Many Android geeks install such custom ROMs — but why?

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Uh-oh, your computer isn’t booting anymore. Maybe it’s a problem with Windows, or maybe the computer’s hardware is fried. If you have important files trapped inside your malfunctioning computer, this guide will help you recover them.

about 1 year ago - by  |  12 Replies

Most cell phones sold in North America  — especially on contract — are “locked” to a particular cellular carrier. They can only be used on that carrier’s network, so you can’t switch to another carrier without “unlocking” it first.

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Netbooks are terrible, as most people now agree. They seemed like a good idea at the time, offering a cheap laptop experience in a small package. But they were ultimately too slow, too small, and too poorly built.

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Windows 8 may be lighter than Windows Vista, but it’s nowhere near as lightweight as these free Linux distributions. If you have an old Windows XP PC or a netbook, you can revive it with a lightweight Linux system.

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Windows is complicated and needs many different system utilities and security tools to run well — or does it? We recently covered the many types of system tools you don’t need. Here are the few utilities you actually do need.

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Windows users see advertisements for all sorts of system tools and optimization utilities. It’s easy for companies to tell you that you absolutely have to run these tools, but you don’t need most of the junk on offer.

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These days, it seems like every Windows user has heard about CCleaner. It’s widely recommended, online and offline. But what exactly does CCleaner do, should you use it — and how often?

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