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+.

The exFAT file system is ideal for flash drives and SD cards. It’s like FAT32, but without the 4 GB file size limit. You can use exFAT drives on Linux with full read-write support, but you’ll need to install a few packages first.

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Whether you’re formatting an internal drive, external drive, or removable drive, Windows gives you the choice of using three different file systems: NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. The Format dialog in Windows doesn’t explain the difference, so we will.

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Windows 10 automatically installs updates in the background. The only way to prevent them from being installed is to set your connection as metered so they don’t download automatically. But updates — especially major new builds of Windows 10 like the November update — could potentially cause problems.

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Modern laptop and desktop keyboards have a multi-purpose set of keys in the “function” row. These keys can perform special actions related to the audio volume, playback, and hardware features. They can also function as the classic F1-F12 keys — but not at the same time.

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Some manufacturers ship PCs with their internal drives divided into multiple partitions — one for the Windows operating system, and an empty “data” partition for your personal files. You can combine these partitions into a single one, if you prefer.

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It’s easy to fill up a 16 GB phone by taking photos, recording videos, syncing music, and downloading large apps — especially large games. Here’s how to maximize that space if you’re not paying extra for more storage.

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Whether you’re letting go of a computer or disposing of a USB drive, it’s a good idea to wipe that drive if there was ever sensitive, unencrypted data on it. This will prevent someone from using deleted-file-recovery tools to recover sensitive data from that drive.

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All modern computers, smartphones, and tablets can now easily print web pages and other documents to PDF files without any extra software. Microsoft added this to Windows 10, and Apple added it to iOS 9.

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Windows 10’s first big update in November 2015 added a device-tracking feature. You can now enable GPS tracking and remotely locate a lost Windows 10 tablet or laptop just like you’d track a smartphone, tablet, or MacBook.

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Windows 10’s big November update added the ability to install apps from the Store onto an SD card, a USB drive, or another type of external or internal drive. This will be extremely useful on tablets and other devices with a small amount of storage. Just plug in an SD card and you can install apps to it.

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Most new PCs come with Windows 10 Home, but you can pay for an upgrade from within Windows 10 to upgrade from Home to Pro. If you upgraded from the Professional editions of Windows 7 or 8.1, you already have Windows 10 Professional.

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By default, the Files app on Chrome OS provides access to your Google Drive storage online and the Downloads folder, which is your Chromebook’s local storage. But Google’s made it possible to extend the Files app with more cloud storage services and remote file servers, including Windows file shares.

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Whether you have a laptop with an integrated camera or a webcam that plug in via USB, you can use the applications included modern operating systems to easily take photos and record videos. With Windows 10, this is now built into Windows and no longer requires third-party applications.

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Some utilities have a “secure delete” option that promises to securely erase a file from your hard drive, removing all traces of it. Older versions of Mac OS X have a “Secure Empty Trash” option that tries to do something similar. Apple removed this feature recently because it just doesn’t work reliably on modern drives.

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Wi-Fi calling allows your smartphone to place and receive phone calls, as well as send and receive SMS messages over Wi-Fi instead of the cellular network. Your phone will seamlessly hand off to the cellular network when you move out of Wi-FI range.

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Google doesn’t provide an easy way to see the storage, RAM, CPU, and other specifications of your Chromebook. But it’s possible to dig all this information up, just as you could on a traditional computer operating system.

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The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are the first iPhones to feature “3D touch“. 3D Touch allows the iPhone to detect how hard you’re pressing, and you can press harder on the screen in some places to do different things.

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Smartphones still don’t have Internet connections everywhere — and, even if they did, there are times you’ll want to save a copy of a web page. Modern iPhones and Android phones allow you to save copies of web pages so you can refer to them later.

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If you’ve been on the Internet for a while, you’ve no doubt heard the terms “modem” and “router” thrown around, but might not have taken the time to understand what they are. We’re here to help.

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Apple’s iMovie application comes free with new iPhones and iPads. It allows you to make home videos, combining multiple clips, inserting photos, adding transitions, applying a soundtrack, and using other effects.

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iPhones and iPads offer a built-in way to cut clips out of videos and trim them without installing any third-party apps. This is useful when you want to upload or share a video — but not the entire video.

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If you’ve ever needed to access your router’s setup page to make some configuration changes, you know you need your router’s IP address gain access. If you’ve forgotten what that IP address is, here’s how to find it on just about every platform.

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Steam Machines with Valve’s Steam OS automatically boot to Steam’s Big Picture Mode, allowing you to use a controller to launch games and do everything else. If you have a Windows gaming PC plugged into your TV, you can also make it boot directly to Big Picture Mode.

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Google’s Chromecast works well for streaming videos from YouTube, Netflix, and other online services. But there isn’t an obvious way to stream local video files from your computer to your TV via the Chromecast.

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Many cellular carriers offer “microcell” devices — T-Mobile is calling them “CellSpot” devices, but they’re the same thing. These function as small cellular towers, but they use your home Internet connection and anyone can connect to them.

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