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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+.

Private browsing mode doesn’t offer complete privacy, but it does prevent your browser from saving your history, searches, cookies, and other private data between browsing sessions. You can have your browser always start in private-browsing mode if you prefer it.

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Internet security suites are big business. Trial versions packed full of features come with most new Windows computers. They typically include powerful two-way firewalls, phishing filters, and cookie-scanning technology. But you don’t really need all these features.

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Linux’s file system has quite a few differences from the Windows file system. You won’t find any drive letters or backslashes, but you will find an alien-looking layout where files can have the same name, differing only in capitalization.

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Most people know that .exe files are potentially dangerous, but that isn’t the only file extension to beware of on Windows. There are a variety of other potentially dangerous file extensions – more than you might expect.

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Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials in Windows 8, but it does not include the ability to quickly right-click folders and scan them. However, you can add this option yourself with a quick registry hack.

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DOS isn’t widely used anymore, but you wouldn’t know if from reading instructions written by manufacturers for BIOS updates, firmware-updating utilities, and other low-level system tools. They will often require you to boot into DOS and run the utility.

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Windows 8 installs applications to your C:\ drive by default, but you may want to change where Windows 8 stores these apps. For example, you could install them to an SD card or secondary hard drive.

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Install many third-party .deb packages on Ubuntu – even mainstream, high-quality software like Google Chrome and Skype – and you will see an error saying the package is of bad quality. We will explain what this scary-looking error actually means.

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Modern Windows 8 Apps such as the Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Photos apps can only display content stored in your libraries. You may want to store media files on an SD card or USB drive, but Windows stops you.

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Updating your operating system and software is important. On the other hand, we have previously covered why you shouldn’t generally update your hardware drivers, although gamers will definitely want to update their graphics drivers. But what about BIOS updates?

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If Internet Explorer is crashing and burning, your problem likely lies with a buggy browser add-on. However, Internet Explorer crashes can have a variety of other causes, including incompatibilities with hardware rendering and possible malware.

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Install Microsoft Office 2013 and you may see a grayed out “SkyDrive Pro” option in your context menu. This option appears whenever you right-click a file or folder, but it’s useless if you don’t use SharePoint.

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Laptop manufacturers have a choice – they can include onboard graphics for better battery life or discrete graphics hardware for better gaming performance. But wouldn’t it be great if a laptop could have both and intelligently switch between them?

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Most of our browser data isn’t too important – cookies expire and histories are cleared. However, bookmarks are different, which is why browsers allow you to import and export your bookmarks – ideal for creating backups and migrating between browsers.

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Windows has the built-in ability to function as VPN server, although this option is hidden. This trick works on both Windows 7 and Windows 8. The server uses the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP.)

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Windows 8 shows desktop application shortcuts on its Start screen, but these shortcuts look out of place in the new, tile-based interface. However, there is a way to spruce up your Start screen with detailed tile icons for your desktop applications.

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A graphics driver is the software that allow your operating system and programs to use your computer’s graphics hardware. If you play PC games, you should keep your computer’s graphics drivers updated to get the best performance out of your hardware.

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Compared to a PC, phones and tablets are fairly locked-down devices. Jailbreaking, rooting, and unlocking are all ways of bypassing their limitations, and doing things that manufacturers and carriers don’t want you to do.

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Email viruses are real, but computers aren’t infected just by opening emails anymore. Just opening an email to view it is safe – although attachments can still be dangerous to open.

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Believe it or not, there are antivirus programs targeted at desktop Linux users. If you have just switched to Linux and started looking for an antivirus solution, don’t bother – you do not need an antivirus program on Linux.

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If you are regularly seeing the “Whoa! Google Chrome has crashed” message, there is likely a problem on your system. An occasional crash can happen, but regular crashes are probably caused by something you can fix.

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Firefox can crash for a variety of reasons, but you can quickly fix most crashes with Firefox’s Safe Mode and Reset features. However, even these tricks won’t fix every crash.

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Previously, we have covered what VPNs are and how you can easily connect to them in Windows. Android also supports VPNs – if you have an Android phone or tablet, you can easily connect it to a VPN.

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Windows 8’s lock screen is very at home on a tablet, but it can also be used on laptops and desktops.  The lock screen is not just a background image – it contains widgets that display quick notifications.

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Hard drives use S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) to gauge their own reliability and determine if they’re failing.  You can view your hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. data and see if it has started to develop problems.

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