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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+.

With iOS 8, Apple added a way to see which apps are draining your battery the most. This includes apps that drain your battery in the background — something that’s possible on iOS thanks to iOS 7’s “background refresh” feature.

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Your smartphone — and other devices that use Wi-Fi — broadcast a unique number when they search for nearby Wi-Fi networks. A device’s unique MAC address is sent along with “probe requests” that search for nearby Wi-Fi networks.

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Windows doesn’t offer a built-in way for users to make a window always-on-top. There are many third-party tools for this, but they’re often bloated and clunky. Some just don’t work well on the modern 64-bit version of Windows.

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Linux’s GRUB2 boot loader can boot Linux ISO files directly from your hard drive. Boot Linux live CDs or even install Linux on another hard drive partition without burning it to disc or booting from a USB drive.

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You probably shouldn’t update your BIOS, but sometimes you need to. Here’s how to check what BIOS version your computer is using and flash that new BIOS version onto your motherboard as quickly and safely as possible.

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Microsoft’s Windows To Go feature installs Windows as a live system on a bootable USB drive. It’s officially only for Enterprise editions of Windows, but we’ve found a way to do it with any edition of Windows 8 or 8.1.

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Ubuntu doesn’t offer the Safe Mode and Automatic Repair tools you’ll find in Windows, but it does offer a recovery menu and a reinstall option that keeps your files and programs.

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When Windows blue-screens, it creates memory dump files — also known as crash dumps. This is what Windows 8’s BSOD is talking about when it says its “just collecting some error info.”

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Ubuntu and most other Linux distributions now use the GRUB2 boot loader. You can change its settings to select a default operating system, set a background image, and choose how long GRUB counts down before automatically booting the default OS.

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Google introduced Google Drive on April 24, 2012 and promised Linux support “coming soon.” That was nearly two and a half years ago. There’s now a somewhat “official” Google Drive client for Linux, but it’s probably not what you want.

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When you buy a new laptop or tablet, you’ll often be able to “customize” it by paying extra for a faster CPU. But this may not be a good idea — the higher-end CPU might be a worse fit for the device!

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Not all solid-state storage is as fast as an SSD. “eMMC” is the kind of flash storage you’ll find in cheap tablets and laptops. It’s slower and cheaper than a traditional SSD you’d find in more expensive computers.

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Ubuntu and practically every other Linux distribution use the GRUB2 boot loader. Unless you have multiple operating systems installed, this bootloader is normally hidden — but it provides options you may sometimes need.

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Until recently, you needed to spend hundreds of dollars — often $649 or “$199 with a two year contract” — to get a smartphone with good performance that could run the latest apps. Solid smartphones are now much cheaper.

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Cloud storage isn’t just for your own personal files. You can use it to easily share files without any hassle. Share files back-and-forth with your friends and colleagues, or make them available to the entire Internet.

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Microsoft once claimed the original 64 GB Surface Pro would have only 23 GB of usable free space — that’s more than half used for system files! But Windows now fits on 16 GB drives.

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Keyboard shortcuts are a crucial way to do almost anything on your computer faster, whether it’s browsing the web, working with text, or just getting around your desktop. Among its other useful features, VLC is packed with keyboard shortcuts.

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The cloud storage wars are heating up. Microsoft now offers 1 TB of cloud storage along with Office 365, and both Dropbox and Google are offering 1 TB at just $10 per month. Flickr even offers 1 TB for free.

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Every Windows user is fighting a constant war against junkware that legitimate application installers try to sneak onto our systems. Here’s everything you can do to protect yourself from obnoxious browser toolbars and all that other junk.

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According to an old rule of thumb, your page file or swap should be “double your RAM” or “1.5x your RAM.” But do you really need a 32 GB page file or swap if you have 16 GB of RAM?

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Free, public Wi-Fi access points are popping up in more and more places around the world. They’re extra useful when travelling, as you won’t have your home Wi-Fi network and may not want to pay for international mobile data.

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Hyper-V is a virtual machine feature built into Windows. It was originally part of Windows Server 2008, but made the leap the to desktop with Windows 8. Hyper-V allows you to create virtual machines without any additional software.

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Your smartphone or tablet’s home screen isn’t just for apps. Whatever platfgorm you’re using, you can pin your favorite websites to your home screen so you can quickly access them.

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Virtual machines allow you to run an operating system in a window on your desktop. Use them to run software made for other operating systems, experiment with different operating systems, and sandbox software.

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The permissions here are really file and directory permissions, but they’re generally called “disk permissions.” Your Mac won’t automatically repair permissions except while installing or upgrading Mac OS X itself.

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