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+.

USB drives should automatically appear in Windows Explorer when you connect them to your computer. Follow these troubleshooting steps if Windows doesn’t show a connected drive.

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Chromebooks aren’t “just a browser”—they’re Linux laptops. You can easily install a full Linux desktop alongside alongside Chrome OS and instantly switch between the two with a hotkey, no rebooting necessary.

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Android is very customizable–many of its features are just defaults, and can be swapped out for third-party alternatives without any rooting required. When it comes to iOS, well…not so much.

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Windows 8 asked you to “Trust This PC” after you signed in with a Microsoft account. This message is gone in Windows 10, replaced with a new “Trusted Devices” system that works differently.

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Starting with the Windows 10 Creators Update, which comes out this spring, anyone who installs the Bash environment will get Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial). But, if you’ve previously installed Bash in the Anniversary Update, you’ll be stuck with Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty) until you manually upgrade.

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Apple claims their live streams are only available in Safari on macOS and iOS. But you don’t have to miss the new iPhone launch if you’re using a Windows PC or Android device. Apple doesn’t make it obvious how to do this, but you can watch its live events on any operating system.

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Need to extract an archive or compress some files? Avoid big-name programs like WinZip and WinRAR, which are packed with nags and advertisements. Modern versions of Windows have integrated support for ZIP files, and anything else is best managed with the free, open source 7-Zip.

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Desktop gadgets and the Windows Sidebar were a big hallmark feature in Windows Vista and Windows 7. But Microsoft removed desktop gadgets, and you won’t find them in Windows 8 or 10.

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Not all apps run in the foreground. Some sit quietly in the background, doing work for you with an icon in the Notification Area–also commonly (but apparently incorrectly) known as the System Tray. Windows helps you manage this clutter, controlling which icons appear on your taskbar and whether certain system icons appear at all.

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Assigned Access allows you to easily lock a Windows PC to a single application of your choice. This feature makes it easy for anyone to configure Windows 10 (or Windows 8.1) PCs as point-of-sale or other kiosk systems.

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Let’s be honest: Modern web browsers are all pretty solid. Even Microsoft Edge is much better than older versions of Internet Explorer. But we believe Google Chrome is still the best web browser for most people.

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The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets sit over your eyes, and glasses can get in the way. You can use some pairs of glasses with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but you may want to measure your glasses before you buy a headset.

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Modern smartphones and cloud photo services want to automatically upload every single photo you take to the cloud. This ensures all those photos you take are safely backed up somewhere, but it isn’t ideal for every single photo. Unfortunately, companies like Apple and Google haven’t gotten that message. Here’s how to control which photos get uploaded, and to where.

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There are two webs. There’s the normal web most people use every day, which is easily accessible and indexed by search engines. And then there’s the “dark web”–hidden websites that won’t show up when you search Google, and can’t be accessed without special software.

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Some laptops come with “Wi-Fi” function keys or switches that can quickly enable or disable your Wi-Fi. If your PC doesn’t have one of these, though, you can make one with the tools built into Windows.

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Laptops, tablets, and phones never seem to know exactly how many hours of power they have left. The estimate may jump from two hours to five hours before dropping back down to one hour. Even worse, the battery may suddenly die without warning.

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The Microsoft Outlook desktop application supports Outlook.com addresses ending in @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com, and @msn.com. However, it’s not necessarily obvious how to add them–especially if you’re using two-step verification.

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Unlimited cellular data is tough to come by. Keep an eye on how much data you’re using to avoid paying overage fees or having your data speed throttled down to a trickle for the rest of your billing cycle.

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Transmission was long considered one of the best BitTorrent clients for Mac, but it’s recently seen back-to-back compromises of its servers. If you’re worried about Transmission’s security, here are some other great options.

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Data is data…except when it’s not. T-Mobile makes things a little confusing by giving you a certain amount of data, then offering unlimited music and video streaming that doesn’t count against the allowance–but only for certain services.

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Remember when uTorrent was great? The upstart BitTorrent client was super lightweight and trounced other popular BitTorrent clients. But that was long ago, before BitTorrent, Inc. bought uTorrent and crammed it full of crapware and scammy advertisements.

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Website addresses that end in “.onion” aren’t like normal domain names, and you can’t access them with a normal web browser. Addresses that end with “.onion” point to Tor hidden services on the “deep web”.

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If you ever wanted to make your web traffic seem like it was coming from a different browser–say, to trick a site that claims it’s incompatible with yours–you can. All popular browsers offer built-in user agent switchers, so you can change your user agent without installing any extensions.

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Microsoft’s Xbox One can now play a limited number of Xbox 360 games. But it’s not as simple as inserting any old disc and starting it up. Only some games will work, and the Xbox One runs them in an emulator.

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If you need to access an FTP server, you can install dedicated FTP clients with lots of features –but you don’t necessarily have to. Windows itself offers several ways for connecting to an FTP server, allowing you to download and upload files in a pinch.

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