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+.

Windows PCs should shut down fairly quickly—unless there’s a problem causing a shutdown delay. Here’s how to make your computer shut down faster.

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Windows uses a paging file, also known as a page file, as additional virtual memory when your RAM fills up. Windows can clear your page file every time you shut down, ensuring no sensitive data is left in the page file on the drive.

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On every Windows drive—even external USB drives—you’ll find a “System Volume Information” folder. You’ll only see it if you have Windows set to show hidden files and folders, but it’s always there. So what is it for?

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When you shut down your computer, Windows doesn’t shut down immediately. Instead, it gives running applications and services some time to close first. You can control how long Windows waits—and whether it automatically closes running applications or not.

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Phone call scams are too common. But they’re easier to spot than you might think. If someone calls you and claims to be from the IRS, your bank, Microsoft, or any other company or government agency, it’s probably a scam. Companies and government agencies will almost never call you out of nowhere.

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Want to leave Twitter behind? You can permanently delete your account, erasing all your tweets, followers, favorites, and other data. It will vanish from Twitter almost immediately, and will be fully wiped from Twitter’s servers in 30 days.

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Modern robocalls aren’t just telemarketers trying to sell you something. They’re often scammers trying to trick you into parting with your money or identity information. So how do you stop them from coming in?

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Product keys are becoming less and less common these days, but if you have a piece of software on your computer—and can’t find its product key—this simple program can help you extract it.

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Mozilla Firefox uses a Firefox account to sync your passwords, bookmarks, and other browsing data between devices. If you’re leaving Firefox behind, you may want to delete your account to remove all your personal data from Firefox’s servers.

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Before you do anything, run a speed test to see how your internet is performing. Some connections are just too slow to play videos at high quality settings without buffering.

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With Yahoo suffering massive data breaches and selling itself to Verizon, you may want to delete that old Yahoo account. If you still have important data in your account, you can download much of it before you delete it, too.

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Companies are making it harder and harder to actually get a human being who can help you solve a problem. Call them, and you’ll often end up in a phone tree, asked to enter number after number or speak your issue for an automated system.

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Until recently, Windows 10 store games could only be played when connected to the internet. Microsoft has thankfully changed this, but as usual, they had to make things complicated: You can only have one “designated offline device” at a time.

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Feel like you forgot to log out of Gmail on your friend’s computer? Google makes it easy to see all the devices—laptop, phone, tablet, and otherwise—logged into your Google account. You can view both a list of IP addresses that have accessed it, and a list of devices that have actively used your account in the last 28 days.

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Much of the data on your Android phone or tablet is backed up by Google (or the individual apps you use) automatically, but what is being saved for you, and what do you need to save for yourself?

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If you’ve tampered with your Chromebook—to install Windows on your Chromebook, for example—you may have replaced its BIOS with a third-party option. Here’s how to roll all your changes back and turn that Windows or Linux PC back into a Chromebook.

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On modern versions of Windows, you’ll see a “ProgramData” folder on your system drive—usually the C:\ drive. This folder is hidden, so you’ll only see it if you show hidden files in File Explorer.

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Gamers are accusing NVIDIA’s new drivers of spying on you, collecting more data with new telemetry services. But NVIDIA isn’t spying on you—or, at least, NVIDIA isn’t gathering more data than it already was, and most of that data is required for it to work properly.

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Chromebooks don’t officially support Windows. You normally can’t even install Windows—Chromebooks ship with a special type of BIOS designed for Chrome OS. But there are ways to install Windows on many Chromebook models, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty.

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Microsoft is now more aggressively pushing taskbar and action center ads—some for Microsoft Edge, some for other Microsoft products. These are just one of the many types of advertising in Windows 10. Here’s how to make it stop nagging you.

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Windows 10, like Windows 8 before it, is integrated with Microsoft’s online services. Microsoft would prefer you sign into Windows with your Microsoft account, although you can still create a local account. Certain features are only available if you sign in with a Microsoft account, however.

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Apple Maps doesn’t automatically detect your Home address. If you move, Apple Maps and its widget will keep telling you how long it will take to drive to your previous home address—until you give it your new one.

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Whether you saw a message saying a virus was detected, or your computer just seems slow and unreliable, you’ll want to scan for malware on your PC and remove any you find.

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Modern PCs ship with a feature called “Secure Boot” enabled. This is a platform feature in UEFI, which replaces the traditional PC BIOS. If a PC manufacturer wants to place a “Windows 10” or “Windows 8” logo sticker to their PC, Microsoft requires they enable Secure Boot and follow some guidelines.

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Got a bunch of files you want to rename, but don’t want to go through them each one by one? Windows provides more ways to do this than you may realize.

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