There was a time when we had to worry about manually updating desktop applications. Adobe Flash and Reader were full of security holes and didn’t update themselves, for example — but those days are largely behind us.
The web is littered with traps for novice users when downloading software, from fake “Download” buttons that are actually advertisements to installers full of bundled toolbars and other junk software. Learning how to avoid the junk is an important skill.
The Windows desktop is the sole platform without an app store-style software installation process. Smartphones, tablets, Macs, and Linux PCs all allow you to quickly install multiple programs — but this is more complicated on Windows.
When you leave the country, you don’t just have to worry about different currencies and languages — you also have to worry about different plug shapes and electricity voltages. There’s no one standard socket shape or voltage.
For many people, Windows seems to slow down over time. Quite a few people fix this by regularly reinstalling Windows. But do you really need to regularly reinstall Windows? And, if so, how regularly do you need to reinstall it?
Your wireless router has a variety of useful options you can configure. These are practically hidden — you wouldn’t know these features exist unless you were digging through your router’s configuration pages.
You don’t really need a full Internet security suite. However, many people like having them — and they pay dearly with subscription fees. But you can assemble your own security suite for free.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.