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+.

When you install Windows 7 on a new system, you traditionally have to go through a long process of downloading years of updates and constantly rebooting. Not anymore: Microsoft now offers a “Windows 7 SP1 Convenience Rollup” that essentially functions as Windows 7 Service Pack 2. With a single download, you can install the hundreds of updates at once. But there’s a catch.

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The Xbox One has integrated TV features and support for streaming media apps like Netflix and Hulu, but that isn’t where it ends. You can play video and music files you’ve ripped or downloaded by plugging in a USB drive or streaming them over your local network.

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Parental controls allow you to restrict child accounts on an Xbox One. You can restrict access to games, media, and apps by age rating, filter the web, and control online privacy and chat features. This works similarly to the parental controls in Windows 10.

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While setting up your Xbox One, you’ll be asked whether you want to use “Instant On” mode or “Energy Saving” mode. You can also change this option at any time. We’ll show you how to calculate exactly how much Instant On mode costs in your area, so you can make an informed decision.

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Microsoft’s Xbox One allows you to easily capture a screenshot or record the last thirty seconds of gameplay as a video. You can also use the Game DVR app for more fine-grained recording options. All video clips are saved in 720p resolution at 30 frames per second.

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Before you sell your Xbox One or pass it on to someone else, you should perform a factory reset. This wipes all your personal data. Whoever gets the Xbox One will have to go through the first-time setup process once again, signing in with their own Microsoft account.

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It’s been more than a year since we drew attention to the crapware regularly foisted upon unsuspecting users by pretty much every big freeware site, including the venerable SourceForge. Since then, a few sites–including SourceForge themselves–have started cleaning up their act.

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Microsoft’s Xbox One allows you to remap the buttons on its controller. This feature was originally introduced with Microsoft’s high-end Xbox One Elite controller, but it now works with standard Xbox One controllers as well.

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Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10’s free upgrade offer will expire on July 29, 2016. After that, you’ll have to pay $119 to upgrade on any computer that hasn’t already made the leap. But with a few simple steps, you can “reserve” that free copy now, so you can upgrade after July 29 without paying.

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The Office Upload Center is part of Microsoft Office. Install Office on your computer, and this tool will appear in your system tray. Sure, you can hide this icon, but should you? What exactly does it do, anyway?

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Skype is more than just voice and video chat: it contains text chat, too. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly unreliable, and only getting worse. None of my friends use it anymore–everyone’s switched to Telegram, which always works properly. Microsoft has wasted its time by rewriting the Skype client over and over instead of fixing the core problem.

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Configuration profiles on an iPhone or iPad are sort of like Group Policy or the registry editor on Windows. They allow you to quickly distribute groups of settings and access powerful management features that aren’t normally available. Configuration profiles are really designed for organizations, but can be used by anyone.

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If you’ve been having trouble receiving text messages from iPhone users, Apple’s iMessage is probably at fault–especially if you recently switched from iPhone to Android, or something else.

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An iPad makes a great “kiosk” device–a tablet restricted to one specific app for your home or small business. You can create a makeshift kiosk using the Guided Access feature, or enable Single App Mode for a true kiosk environment.

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If you have notifications enabled, apps normally display your messages right on your lock screen. But you can hide the text of those messages without disabling the lock screen notifications entirely, allowing you to see you have a message while preventing people from reading those messages over your shoulder.

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Windows comes with a bunch of services running in the background. The Services.msc tool allows you to view these services and disable them, but you probably shouldn’t bother. Disabling the default services won’t speed up your PC or make it any more secure.

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Guided Access allows you to set a screen time limit on your iPhone or iPad. This is great if you have a child–they can only play games for as long as you choose. The iPhone or iPad will be automatically locked after the time limit expires.

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Microsoft Office lets you encrypt your Office documents and PDF files, allowing no one to even view the file unless they have the password. Modern versions of Office use secure encryption that you can rely on–assuming you set a strong password.

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Windows can’t normally read Mac-formatted drives, and will offer to erase them instead. But third-party tools fill the gap and provide access to drives formatted with Apple’s HFS+ file system on Windows. This also allows you to restore Time Machine backups on Windows.

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Supervised Mode is intended for organizations, but you can enable it on your own iPhone or iPad. Supervised Mode gets you a few extra features like hiding included apps, and always-on VPNs.

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Phones are private, full of personal data and messages. Guided Access allows you to share your iPhone with someone without being able to access that data–allowing them to look at photos, place a phone call, or play a game while your stuff stays hidden.

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Ubuntu 16.04 LTS introduced “Snap” packages, which are a great new way of installing apps. Snaps require different terminal commands–apt-get and dpkg will only allow you to install .deb packages the old way, not Snaps.

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Many iPhone and iPad games include banner ads that take up part of your screen. Accidentally tap the ad, and you’ll be ripped from the game and taken to another app, like the App Store or Safari. Enable iOS’ “Guided Access” and you won’t have this problem.

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Ubuntu 16.04 LTS includes a long-awaited feature: You can now move the Unity desktop’s launcher to the bottom of your screen. It isn’t locked to the left side of your screen anymore. However, this option requires a terminal command or tweaking tool, as it isn’t offered in Ubuntu’s normal System Settings window.

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Like Skyrim and other Bethesda games before it, modding is one of Fallout 4’s huge draws on the PC. But Fallout 4 and Steam don’t offer an easy, built-in way to install these mods. Thankfully, there’s a tool called Nexus Mod Manager that makes this easier, so you don’t have to do everything by hand.

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