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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+.

Many new laptops come with NVIDIA’s Optimus technology – the laptop includes both a discrete NVIDIA GPU for gaming power and an onboard Intel GPU for power savings. The notebook switches between the two when necessary.

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When you create a virtual hard disk in VirtualBox or VMware, you specify a maximum disk size. If you want more space on your virtual machine’s hard disk later, you’ll have to enlarge the virtual hard disk and partition.

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VirtualBox’s experimental 3D acceleration allows you to use Windows 7’s Aero interface in a virtual machine. You can also run older 3D games in a virtual machine – newer ones probably won’t run very well.

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Do you want to save time when installing Windows 7? You can create a customized installation disc and have it perform an installation without asking you questions, integrate updates and drivers, tweak Windows, and remove Windows components.

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Have you ever wanted to monitor who’s logging into your computer and when? On Professional editions of Windows, you can enable logon auditing to have Windows track which user accounts log in and when.

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Some of the most powerful Windows features are only available in Professional or Enterprise editions of Windows. However, you don’t have to upgrade to Windows Professional to use these powerful features – use these free alternatives instead.

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The Windows Task Manager is often used for troubleshooting – perhaps closing an application that isn’t working properly or monitoring system resource usage. However, there’s a lot more you can do with Windows 7’s Task Manager.

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Do you still launch programs on Windows by hunting down a desktop shortcut and double-clicking it? There are better ways – Windows has several built-in tricks for quickly launching applications.

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Want to allow a standard user account to run an application as administrator without a UAC or password prompt? You can easily create a shortcut that uses the runas command with the /savecred switch, which saves the password.

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Windows 8 includes a SmartScreen filter that prevents unknown and malicious programs from running. SmartScreen is part of Internet Explorer 8 and 9 – with Windows 8, it’s now integrated into the operating system.

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Connect a USB stick to a Windows computer – even on Windows 8 – and Windows will ask if you want to speed up your system using ReadyBoost. But what exactly is ReadyBoost, and will it actually speed up your computer?

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Windows 8 contains a completely revamped backup system. Windows 8’s File History replaces Windows 7’s Windows Backup – if you use Windows Backup and update to Windows 8, you’ll find quite a few differences.

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The Windows Event Viewer shows a log of application and system messages – errors, information messages, and warnings. Scammers have used the Event Viewer to deceive people – event a properly functioning system will have error messages here.

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Do you have a computer that you don’t want other people accessing – perhaps a server? You can have Windows email you whenever someone logs into your computer (assuming it’s connected to the Internet), giving you peace of mind.

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While you can use the Windows Task Scheduler to schedule your own automatic tasks, Windows also uses it behind the scenes to perform many system tasks – defragmenting your hard disks when you’re not using your computer, for example.

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Do you want your computer to automatically run a program, remind you about something, or even automatically send emails? Use the Task Scheduler included with Windows – its interface can be a bit intimidating, but it’s easy to use.

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If you’ve ever purchased a computer with a hard disk capacity of 500 GB and opened Windows Explorer only to find that its capacity looked more like 440 GB, you may be wondering where all those gigabytes went.

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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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Did you know you could be connected to facebook.com – and see facebook.com in your web browser’s address bar – while not actually being connected to Facebook’s real website? To understand why, you’ll need to know a bit about DNS.

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Do you use a webmail service you’re unhappy with because it’s where all your email is? There’s good news – you can easily switch, without losing your old email and contacts and without missing email sent to your old address.

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Microsoft’s new Outlook.com allows you to see email from all your email accounts in one inbox and send messages from other email addresses in one familiar interface. if you’re tired of checking multiple inboxes, try combining them.

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VirtualBox and VMware both create virtual machines with the NAT network type by default. If you want to run server software inside a virtual machine, you’ll need to change its network type or forward ports through the virtual NAT.

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Microsoft’s new Outlook.com is the successor to Hotmail – all Hotmail users will eventually be migrated to Outlook.com. Outlook.com is a modern webmail system that offers some useful features, including some not found in Gmail.

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UPnP comes enabled by default on many new routers. At one point, the FBI and other security experts recommended disabling UPnP for security reasons. But how secure is UPnP today? Are we trading security for convenience when using UPnP?

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Windows 8 takes a new approach to the hosts file by default – it won’t allow you to block Facebook and other websites by modifying your hosts file. Luckily, there’s a way to bypass this restriction.

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