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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+.

You’ll need a unique product key to reinstall Windows on your PC. This is more confusing than it sounds — you may not be able to re-use the key your computer’s manufacturer used.

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Microsoft operates over 100 retail stores across the USA and Canada. They’re not just places to shop — Microsoft Stores will perform basic Windows PC maintenance for you, for free. It doesn’t matter where you bought the PC, as long as it runs Windows.

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Old devices using 802.11b Wi-Fi are a problem. They slow down modern Wi-Fi networks just by operating on the same channel nearby. Even your neighbors’ Wireless B devices may be slowing down your Wi-Fi.

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Crouton — made by a Google employee — is the ideal solution for running Linux on your Chromebook. If you’re a Crouton user, there are some extra commands you’ll want to know.

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Lenovo’s been shipping Superfish on their PCs for months. This is a security disaster, and it shows how little PC manufacturers actually care about your PC’s security. There’s only one way to ensure your new PC is actually safe to use.

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Apple’s Photos app saw some changes in iOS 8, and more changes are coming when iCloud Photo Library launches soon. Did you know that your photos app keeps copies of photos you’ve deleted?

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Are you using Apple’s Mail app on your Mac? Then you’re losing gigabytes of space you could be putting to better use! The mail app wants to cache every single email and attachment you’ve ever received offline.

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Want to make your tablet or smartphone’s battery last longer? Prevent it from automatically checking for new emails and other data in the background. “Fetch” will drain your battery the fastest.

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It’s easier than ever to find a PC game’s FPS. Steam now offers a built-in FPS display, and so does NVIDIA via its GeForce Experience software. Fraps is still around to display this for other games — and many games have this built-in, too.

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It’s impossible to completely protect any device from an attacker with physical access. But, unless you set up your Mac properly, it just takes a reboot and a few seconds to bypass your password — or wipe your hard drive.

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Your iPhone’s keyboard offers some hidden tricks that can help you type faster. iPads offer some hidden tricks, too — did you know you can split your iPad’s keyboard and move it around the screen?

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Not all of us have switched to smartphone photography. Whether you use a DSLR or just a point-and-shoot camera, there are ways to automatically upload and sync photos like you would with a smartphone.

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For all the old jokes about one-button mice and simplicity, Macs have some power-user features Windows just doesn’t offer. Automator is one of them, offering a simple way to automate repetitive tasks without any third-party software.

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Smartphones and computers are notification-generaitng machines. Every app wants to constantly ping you, interrupting your life and pulling you out of that “flow state” while working.

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Wi-Fi networks interfere with each other. Older Wi-Fi standards are even worse about this, so your old Wi-Fi hardware isn’t just hurting your network — it’s interfering with your neighbors, too.

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Chrome’s new user account switcher allows you to create multiple “profiles,” which you can use to log into multiple accounts at once on websites, use different groups of add-ons, and more. You can do something similar with Firefox’s Profile Manager.

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Google wants to get rid of browser plug-ins, but they’re bundling quite a few with Chrome itself. On a clean install, you’ll see at least five different browser plug-ins, from the Widevine Content Decryption Module to Native Client.

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Wouldn’t it be great to have a smart TV? Well, not really. Smart TVs have a lot of problems. If you do have a smart TV, you’d be better off combining it with a cheap set-top box rather than actually using its smart features.

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Browser plug-ins are the biggest target on your computer. Java is a gaping security hole, but Flash has seen a stream of 0-day attacks recently. There’s even been an increase in attacks against Silverlight.

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Notifications are obnoxious. Few of us actually need a “ding!” from our pocket every time we get a new email. But some emails are more important, and you might want to hear about them immediately with a notification.

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Every operating system backs up previous versions of files and offers an easy way to go back in time. If you use a cloud storage service, it also keeps previous versions of your files.

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Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite brought a revamped Spotlight search interface. But it’s still limited. Flashlight smashes those limits, adding a plug-in system to Spotlight.

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The “Smart Lock” feature on Chrome OS allows you to pair your Chromebook with your Android phone, automatically unlocking it when the phone is nearby and unlocked.

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The web browser in Android 4.3 and earlier has many big security problems, and Google won’t be patching it anymore. If you use a device with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or earlier, you need to take action.

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Modern smartphones and cloud photo services want to automatically upload every single photo you take to the cloud. But you don’t always want to save every photo forever on those remote servers.

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