Michael Crider

Michael Crider has been covering technology on the web since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order. He wrote a novel called Good Intentions: A Supervillain Story, and it's available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter if you want.

Software like DVD Flick is great for burning video to DVDs, but Windows 7 actually includes built-in DVD burning software. Strangely, it’s the last time the company did so—while Windows 8 and Windows 10 can play back DVD movies, they can’t create them with a DVD burner without tools from third parties.

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Computer monitors are fairly simple, in use if not in actual construction: plug ’em in, turn ’em on, look at your computer stuff on the brighter part. But misleadingly easy as they might seem, there’s a lot of stuff going on inside that blank plastic case…and a lot of stuff that can go wrong.

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Microsoft’s Surface Pen, included on most of its first-party Surface machines, is one of the nicer options as far as modern touch screen styluses go. The latter version of the Pen, introduced with the Surface Pro 3 and subsequent models, includes a few customization options that weren’t present before. Here’s how you access them.

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To the surprise of many, Windows has remained dominant as personal computers shift more and more to tablets and touch screen interfaces. And to the consternation of Microsoft, Google’s Chrome browser remains the dominant software on desktops (including laptops and Windows-powered tablets), despite some touch screen tools that are a bit lacking versus Chrome on Android phones and tablets.

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Steam Greenlight was a grand experiment in support for independent PC game developers: a cheap and easy way for creators to get access to the world’s biggest game distribution platform. Unfortunately, it was also a grand failure—for every successfully “greenlit” game that would go on to be a hit, like Stardew Valley or Broforce, it seemed like dozens and dozens of poorly-made and generally undesirable titles got through, many of which were incomplete or cobbled-together from pre-bought assets.

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Windows is designed to be almost universal in its support of PC accessories, particularly USB-based add-ons like external hard drives, flash drives, game controllers, webcams, microphones, and other peripherals. Most things work out-of-the-box thanks to pre-loaded drivers, but occasionally a gadget will still give you the dreaded “USB device not recognized” error.

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Cloud storage is the dream of the post-PC, mobile-focused tech world…but we’re not quite there yet. There’s a limit to what you can get for free, especially if you go with one of the major services. Here’s an exhaustive list of all the cloud storage and photo services we could find across the web that have at least some free storage options. Use them all at once to save a million Steam games, or just find the best one with the biggest bucket for your most important files.

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Mechanical keyboards are all the rage among gamers and writers. Most people who try them love the increased response and tactility of mechanical switches… and some people really, really like them. Communities like Reddit’s /r/MechanicalKeyboards board and the GeekHack forum are great places to really dig into the myriad options and technologies available to enthusiasts—but they’re not very easy to understand for beginners.

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Windows is the home of PC gaming, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use a little bit of remodeling. Here are some handy tools to make your gaming life a little easier.

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RAM is one of the most essential parts of your desktop computer, and it’s also one of the quickest and easiest parts to upgrade. Modern RAM modules are incredibly simple to use, so it’s rare that something goes wrong in installation…but then when something does go wrong, it gets frustrating quickly. If your computer or operating system doesn’t recognize the RAM you’re using, here’s what you need to do to find the problem.

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Despite the wise acquisition of ATI’s Radeon graphics card division and some interesting diversification on the APU market, AMD has been playing second fiddle to market leader Intel for over a decade. But things have been looking up for the underdog as of late: the company’s Ryzen series of CPUs is a bona fide hit with both critics and consumers. Is now the time to invest in an upgrade for your CPU, and possibly a compatible motherboard to go with it?

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Back in the days of the iPod, the future of digital music looked like a more convenient, a la carte version of the past: customers could buy single tracks for relatively little money, but the paradigm was still about owning music that you then managed yourself. With the advent of smartphones and always-on connections, the streaming service reigns supreme. Now you can pay a monthly fee (or listen to advertising) for an all-you-can-eat selection of millions of songs.

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Photoshop is a fantastically complicated raster image editor, and it’s possible to lose yourself in hours of work when you’re editing photos. But if you do a lot of little tasks and then later realize you’d rather go back, you can only hit Crtl+Alt+Z so many times before you hit the limit in Photoshop’s history panel. Fortunately, it’s really easy to add extra states for history, so you can go back and forth through your artistic progress to your heart’s content.

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When you’re assembling a new computer (or upgrading an old one), the motherboard and CPU have a few extra considerations that you need to keep in mind. First, they’re the most restrictive parts to pair: only a relative few processors will fit with your motherboard’s specific socket type. And second, the motherboard selection itself is going to determine a lot of the core capability and direction of your PC build.

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If those incredibly masculine pickup truck commercials seem tame to you, if you work at a job with more OSHA inspectors than actual employees, and if you’ve broken more smartphone screens than human bones at your local half pipe, you might be in the market for a rugged phone. These toughened-up models come with extra protection from impacts, water damage, and other otherwise lethal threats to more mortal smartphones.

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Annoying as they might be, it’s important to keep Windows updated…just ask the victims of the latest ransomware attack. If you haven’t used your PC for a while or you just want to make sure you’re updated with the latest software, it’s easy to manually check and make sure in Windows.

about 29 days ago - by  |  9 Replies

Part of the appeal of assembling your own desktop PC is saving a lot of money versus the same parts in a pre-built machine. That kind of thrifty attitude can extend to buying refurbished parts…which is where things tend to get a little iffy. Some parts can be had for less with relative safety, and others not so much.

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A few years ago, people were predicting the death of PC gaming as we know it. Those people are feasting on an abundance of humble pie, as PC games remain a cornerstone of the industry: digital delivery gives us more variety than ever before, and even the relatively niche market of performance gaming hardware has never been more healthy. But even the most humble of PC gamers needs a graphics card (well, sort of), and it’s one of the most frequent upgrades gamers make. But is now a good time to buy one?

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Solid state drives are the future! Actually, they’re the present. While SSDs were a luxury for computer buyers a few years ago, now they’re more or less standard unless you’re going super-cheap or storing multiple terabytes of data, where conventional hard drives still rule. But if you’re looking to update to a super-speedy flash storage drive, is right now a good time?

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The Nintendo 64 was the first home game console that featured a mini-joystick, or “thumbstick,” on the controller for 3D motion. But the console is now over two decades old, and while the cartridge-based hardware is practically indestructible compared to modern consoles, the same can’t be said for that thumbstick. Even with Nintendo’s generally high-quality materials, the N64 analog stick is prone to loosening and drifting.

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Whenever you plan a new purchase, you want to make sure you’re buying it at an ideal time—nobody wants to be the sucker who put a down payment on that brand new sports car a month before it was replaced with a new model. So it is with PC monitors…albeit on a slightly smaller scale. So, is now (summer 2017) a good time to purchase one or more for that perfect desktop setup?

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We’re currently experiencing a renaissance of laptops, with both incredible specifications and some really amazing design work adorning the latest models. As part of these next-generation designs, we’re also seeing a lot of new materials going into laptops as well. Aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber, even the super-tough tempered Gorilla Glass—it seems that if you want to make a new high-end laptop or tablet, old-fashioned plastic just isn’t an option anymore.

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It’s every little kid’s dream: getting someone to pay you to play the games you already enjoy. And like most dreams, the reality is somewhat underwhelming. A career as a game tester boils down to being an elaborate quality control worker. But there are other ways you can make extra money by gaming at home. Here are a few.

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Multiple monitors are awesome. They really are—ask anyone who’s used a two- or three-screen setup for their desktop, and they’ll tell you that they have a hard time going back to just one. Laptops have a built-in advantage here, since they have one screen: to boost productivity, just add a monitor.

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Google has carefully designed its account system so that it can be at the center of your digital life. But if you need to use multiple Google accounts (say, if you have a personal Gmail and a work Gmail), things get tricky quickly. Fortunately, Google’s login system has been updated with this in mind, so it can take multiple accounts into, well, account.

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