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+.

If you find your Windows computer waking from sleep for no apparent reason, your computer is either being woken up by a hardware device – such as your mouse — or scheduled task set to wake your computer.

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A whitelist should be a foolproof way to secure a relative’s PC. Select a handful of approved applications and only allow them to run. If someone using the PC downloads another .exe file, Windows will refuse to run it.

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Once, people seemed to love netbooks and were buying them in droves. Today, people love to hate netbooks. Netbooks sit unused and gathering dust in drawers and closets. But the core ideas behind netbooks lives on today.

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Hybrid hard drives promise some of the performance of a solid-state drive with the capacity of a mechanical drive. They’re bigger than an SSD and faster than a plain-old mechanical drive.

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There was a time when Macs and PCs were very different, but they’re now basically the same. Open a MacBook up and you’ll find the same hardware you’d find in a PC Ultrabook.

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Tab completion is an extremely helpful feature in nearly any command-line environment, whether you’re using the Bash shell on Linux, Command Prompt or PowerShell on Windows, or a terminal window on Mac OS X.

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Windows is designed for desktop use, not gaming. The Windows key, Alt+Tab, and other keyboard options like Sticky Keys will rip you out of full-screen games and back to your desktop — but you can disable them.

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Windows, Linux, and other operating systems all have built-in support for IPv6, and it’s enabled by default. According to a myth going around, this IPv6 support is slowing down your connection and disabling it will speed things up.

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You can hide files on any operating system, but hidden files can be accessed by anyone with access to your PC or its storage. Encryption actually protects your files, preventing people from accessing them without your encryption key.

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In 2005, Linus Torvalds said, “I don’t use GNOME, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn’t do what I need it to do.” GNOME’s developers have continued removing options.

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The update formerly known as Windows 8.1 Update 2 — now known as the August Update — was released on August 12. You probably didn’t even notice. It’s a small update that barely adds anything.

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For most people, Caps Lock is only an obstacle to avoid while typing. Having Caps Lock do nothing at all would be an improvement. You don’t have to pry Caps Lock off your keyboard — you can disable it.

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It’s time to upgrade to an SSD if you’re still using a mechanical hard drive in your computer. An SSD is the single biggest upgrade you can give your computer, and prices have come down dramatically.

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The central processing unit (CPU) in your computer does the computational work — running programs, basically. But one single-core CPU can only perform one task at a time, which is where multiple CPUs, hyper-threading, and multi-core CPUs come into play.

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Microsoft’s Windows Store is a mess. It’s full of apps that exist only to scam people and take their money. Why doesn’t Microsoft care that their flagship app store is such a cesspool?

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A hidden file or folder is just a normal file or folder with a “hidden” option set. Operating systems hide these files by default, so you can use this trick to hide some files if you share a computer with someone else.

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Linux, Mac, and other Unix-like systems display “load average” numbers. These numbers tell you how busy your system’s CPU, disk, and other resources are. They’re not self-explanatory at first, but it’s easy to become familiar with them.

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If a program isn’t working right, just reinstalling it won’t necessarily fix it. You may need to reset the program to its default settings, and some programs don’t offer an easy way to do this.

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Computers don’t come with operating system installation CDs anymore. If your operating system won’t boot, you’ll need a bootable recovery drive to fix it. All operating systems allow you to create these.

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If you’ve had your laptop for a year or two, it may be full of dust. Dust clogs fans, vents, and heat sinks, preventing your PC from cooling down properly. You can remove a good amount of this dust, even if you can’t open your laptop.

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Airplane mode disables a device’s cellular radio, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth — the wireless transmission functions. But many airplanes now offer in-flight Wi-Fi, and cellular access may be coming to planes soon — so where does that leave airplane mode?

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The big cloud storage services — Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and others — all have the same problem. They can only synchronize folders inside your cloud storage folder. But there’s a way around this limitation: symbolic links.

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Use the drivers Windows provides and you won’t have to worry about bloatware. If you do have to install the drivers provided by your manufacturer, here’s how to avoid all the heavy control panels and startup applications they include.

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Linux applications store their settings in hidden folders inside each user account’s home folder. This makes application settings much easier to back up and restore than they are on Windows, where settings are scattered across the registry and system folders.

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Connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to your computer, open iTunes, and you’ll see a large amount of space used by “Other” storage. iTunes won’t let you delete any of this “Other” data to free up space.

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