FEATURED ARTICLES / THE BEST OF HOW-TO GEEK

Ask any PC tech person how to make your computer faster, and almost every one of them will tell you to defrag your PC. But do you really need to manually trigger a defrag these days?

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Compared to the complexity of purchasing a new graphics card or swapping out your motherboard purchasing a USB hub is definitely a simple purchase; but that doesn’t mean you should just grab the first one off the shelf at your local electronics store. There is an enormous discrepancy between build quality, features, and even safety between the different models. Read on as we show you what you need to get the best results and find the hub that fits your needs.

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Windows 8.x finally bundled an antivirus utility that used to be called Microsoft Security Essentials and rebranded it as Windows Defender. The only problem is that you can’t easily setup automatic scheduled scans anymore.

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Each Linux distribution comes with a single default desktop environment chosen from the many different desktop environments available for Linux. But you don’t have to stick with the default.

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Want to install a custom Android ROM — in other words, a third-party version of the Android operating system — like CyanogenMod? You’ll probably be instructed to install a custom recovery, too.

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Sometimes when you plug a USB drive into your machine you won’t see it in Computer or AutoPlay in Windows. Today we take a look at how to change the drive letter so you can can access it.

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BitLocker normally encrypts entire drives and partitions, but you can also create encrypted container files with tools built into Windows. Such encrypted VHD files can easily be moved between systems, backed up, and hidden when not in-use.

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Whether you want to use a new font in a Word or just change your operating system’s system font to give it a different look, you’ll first have to install the font on your operating system.

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Whether your device was stolen or simply lost, you can remotely track, lock, and wipe it. Don’t wait until you’ve lost your hardware to think about this — these features need to be enabled ahead of time.

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Linux distributions tend to use two different types of release cycles: standard releases and rolling releases. Some people swear by rolling releases to have the latest software, while others like standard releases for being more stable and tested.

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Windows can encrypt entire operating system drives and removable devices with its built-in BitLocker encryption. When TrueCrypt controversially closed up shop, they recommended their users transition away from TrueCrypt to BitLocker.

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Apple’s phone, tablet, and computer-tracking tools are the best in the business. You can remotely locate your device, disable it with a lock and message that persists through factory resets — the so-called “kill switch” — and wipe it.

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Passwords can be reset or bypassed on every operating system. On Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, you can gain access to a computer’s unencrypted files after resetting the password — the password doesn’t actually prevent access to your files.

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Windows 7, 8, and 10 create a special “System Reserved” partition when you install them on a clean disk. Windows doesn’t assign a drive letter to these partitions, so you’ll only see them when you use Disk Management or similar utility.

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Older Android devices support USB mass storage for transferring files back and forth with a computer. Modern Android devices use the MTP or PTP protocols — you can choose which one you prefer.

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Internet connection data caps are becoming more widespread in the US. Internet service providers may claim their data limits are good for “millions of emails,” but emails are small and HD videos on Netflix are much, much larger.

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If you use remote desktop, remote file access, or other server software, you may leave your computer on at home or work when you leave the house. This uses more power. Instead, you could simply remotely power on your PC whenever you need to use it.

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Coming from Windows, file extensions on Linux and Mac OS X can seem a bit strange. The operating system seems to know what files are without relying on the file extension — it does this using MIME types.

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CyanogenMod is the most popular custom ROM for Android devices. While it’s an unofficial build of Android, it probably provides an experience closer to Google’s original vision than the software on your current Android phone or tablet does!

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Regular backups are essential. Windows has integrated backup tools, Ubuntu has Déjà Dup, and Mac OS X has Time Machine. Time Machine backs up everything on your Mac, from system files to your personal files.

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Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry 10 aren’t the only smartphone operating systems vying for a place in your pocket. There are other smartphone operating systems in development — and they’re all Linux-based.

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Linux is easier to install and use than ever. If you tried installing and using it years ago, you may want to give a modern Linux distribution a second chance.

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All mainstream desktop operating systems include powerful search features. They all offer the ability to create a “saved search,” which functions as a virtual folder. The saved search folder appears to contain the files that match your search.

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Computers need cooling to remove the heat their components generate during use. If you’re building your own PC — especially if you’re overclocking it — you’ll need to think about how you’ll cool it.

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Each network interface on your computer or any other networked device has a unique MAC address. These MAC addresses are assigned in the factory, but you can change, or “spoof,” MAC addresses in software.

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