Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Yes, You Can Still Buy/Order Windows 7 Computers

I have been asked if Santa can avoid Windows 8 at least a dozen times this week.. and the answer is, yes. You can still purchase a new computer that has Windows 7. (But be aware, this may not be the case for long.)

See: Tip: You can still buy a Windows 7 PC

“Choices will be more limited, but Windows 7 machines remain available.

Question: Do I have to get a new Windows computer with Windows 8? Can’t I just order up one with Windows 7 instead?Read more..

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Today’s quote:People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” ~ Mother Teresa

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

December 16, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, consumer electronics, Microsoft, PC, shopping for, tech, Windows 7, Windows 8 | Leave a comment

Customize Your Shortcuts “Sidebar”

Whenever you Open, or Save, a file in Windows, a standard ‘dialog box’ appears, which shows ‘shortcut’ locations on the left “sidebar”. You can easily customize these locations to add or remove folders to best suit your personal usage habits.

For example, I never use the “Public” folder, nor do I do music on my PC (other than listen to Spotify), and I cannot recall ever, in decades of using a computer, wanting to Save As something to my recent searches list — why have those in my sidebar?
I do however, have certain ‘go to’ locations I would like see listed..

Here is the how-to tutorial for customizing the shortcuts:

1. Open a dialog box (either a Save As or Open dialog will work).
2. Right click on some white space in the locations on the left pane and select Open Favorite Links Folder. (or navigate to: “C:\Users\your User name\Links”.)

You will now see the “default” shortcuts listed (these are ‘shortcuts to’ and not the actual locations, and so it is safe to delete them).

3. Add or remove shortcuts as desired. (A quick way to access your folders, so you can ‘drag and drop’ them, is to ‘expand’ the folders list.)

To continue my example, I will delete (or, drag to the Recycle bin) the shortcuts in the main pane: Music, Public, and Searches (as I don’t use ’em ever).

For some reason.. (a “Windows Quirk”) the ‘Public’ folder tried to re-appear, so I ‘deleted’ it a second time.. to make it ‘stick’..
I then located the two folders I most use (Desktop and Downloads)

4. Right-click on the folder you wish to add, and drag it into the main ‘pane’, let go (release the click) and choose Add shortcut here.


Your changes should take effect immediately, as you can see by the new icons in my sidebar.

(Yes, Desktop is there twice now.. but my change is the icon on top, which means it will always show, even if my dialog box is scrunched down to tiny size)

If you make mistakes, or just want to go back to the standard (aka ‘default’) list, repeat Step 1, but choose Restore Default Favorite Links.

Today’s quote:People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” ~ G.B. Shaw

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

November 8, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8 | 2 Comments

For Emergency Repairs, You Need This Disc

Should the worst happen, and your computer decides to give you some white text on a black screen (saying essentially gibberish words, like, “Stop Error 0x0000005a” or “IRQ not less than or equal to”) instead of “booting” into your Windows Desktop like normal, you’re probably going to start panicking.

Well, yes. A certain amount of panic is probably justified. You quite probably have a rather serious “glitch”. Take a breath, and take comfort in the fact that there are Pros who can help you, (shameless plug: such as myself) and if you have the right tools you might be able to repair Windows yourself.. and get a working computer again.
And by “right tools”, that typically means a “boot disc”. And – typically – that means the “Windows Install” disc.

Before you do anything else today, please do this: find the discs that came with your computer.

Do you see a “Windows″ or “System Recovery” disc? No? Not surprising. Most PC makers are using a recovery partition these days (see, About the Recovery (D:) Drive). 
[note:
The “recovery partition” option wipes your hard drive, (aka “Drive C:”) and reverts the machine to the factory-condition state –> total data loss. All your updates and installed programs — gone. Thanks, manufacturers! *]

If you have a Windows 7 PC, you’re in luck: you can make a “boot disc” which includes an automated startup (“boot up”) repair tool, some repair/diagnostic tools, and the ability to access a System Restore point and revert your system to an earlier (working) time. (see, My favorite Life Saver flavor? System Restore).

If your PC is older: I have to opine, you really should upgrade to Windows 7 for security reasons if nothing else (see: It is time to face facts and finally dump Windows XP.) and also say that there is no reason (I can see) to wait for Windows 8 (unless you are planning on getting a touchscreen/tablet..). And I can tell you that to get a “boot disc” appropriate for your machine, you should click here: How To Get Windows Re-Install Discs.

The disc you’re about to make will give you important “recovery” options, that can get your computer working again.

So if you have a partition and not a disc. Remedy that now. All you need is a blank CD or DVD.

Step 1) Click the Start button and type repair into the Search box. The top result is what you want to click – “Create a System Repair Disc”.

repair

2) Your optical drive should be detected (if not, use the ‘drop-down arrow’ to select your CD/DVD drive). Click “Create disc”.

repair2

The drive tray should open, so put in your blank disc…

repair3

After a few moments, the tray should open (“eject”) and you will now have a “bootable” System Recovery disc…

repair4

.. and a powerful tool for repairing your computer in the event of serious errors. You need to make this disc BEFORE you need it.. though I hope you never will.

In case I wasn’t clear: do it now.

[note: To use this disc, and make repairs, you will need to “boot” to it. If you don’t know how to do that, see How to boot from a CD ]

Kudos to Microsoft for making this tool a part of Windows.

* Utter, snide, facetiousness. A terrible move; and whoever decided that should be ashamed. And fired. IMHO.

Today’s quote:He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  ~Epictetus

Bonus: As a reward for reading down this far, I will explain a bit of Geekspeak you may have seen but not recognized (maybe you have) “disc” – with a “c” – is an optical disc, which you probably think of as a “CD” or “DVD”. When it’s spelled with a “k” (“disk”), they’re talking about hard drives.. usually the storage inside your machine.

Bonus bonus: Amazon has a list of hundreds of up to 50% off gifts for dad (aka “a sale”).

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, troubleshooting, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Work With Two Documents, Side-by-Side

Windows 7′s Snap feature lets you arrange your open windows side-by-side simply by dragging them to the edge of your screen. This greatly enhances the ease of working with multiple documents, and “increases your productivity”.

Today’s Tip shows the shortcut method for those who are using XP or Vista. This window arranging (or “stacking”) is called “tiling”.

First, hold down the Ctrl key. Then click on the tabs in your Taskbar for the windows you want to arrange and work with. (In this screenshot, I have ‘select’-ed Firefox and Word.)

Now right-click on a blank area of the Taskbar, and a context menu window will open.

XP: choose “Tile Vertically“.
Vista: choose “Show Windows Side by Side“.

That’s it. When you are done, and want to return to normal, right-click a blank part of the Taskbar and choose Undo. (Or, drag and resize manually with your cursor.)

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Bonus Quick Tip: Press the Windows logo key and the “D” key, together, to quickly show your Desktop.

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Today’s quote:Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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April 3, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, tech, Vista, Windows 7, XP | , , , , | 3 Comments

Windows 7 Control Panel – Regain the “Classic View” | Tips for better Searching

One of the first “personalizations” I make to a new PC is switch the Control Panel from categorized tasks to the more detailed (and familiar to XP users) “Classic View”.

In Windows Vista, Microsoft provided an easy method for doing that – a click-able option there in the upper left.

Windows 7 there is no click-able option to use. In Windows 7, you have to use a different approach to revert, and switch back to Classic View.

1) Open the Control Panel (Start button > Control Panel)
2) Look to the upper right, and click on the drop-down arrow by View by: and change it to “Small icons”.

Win7_CP

That’s it! You’re done. Your Control Panel will now be much more familiar looking if you’ve been using Windows for a while (more “XP like”) as well as providing a more comprehensive list of the Control Panel’s options.

Orig posting: 3/31/10

(Kinda hard to fathom that Win 7 has been with us 2 years already, eh?)

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Bonus: Tips for Searching the Web learn the secrets of “power” searchers.

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Enjoy your weekend everybody! It sure feels like Spring here.

Today’s quote:Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” ~ Ralph Marston

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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March 3, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, tweaks, Windows 7 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reader Asks How To Make Icons Bigger

A reader wrote in with a good question..

Q: Paul I hope you can provide a solution I have been unable to find elsewhere. I purchased a new Windows 7 computer from Dell. I find the notification area and the date/time display too small. I already have “Use Small Icons” unchecked, and I do not want to reduce my screen resolution, but would like the icons to be larger. Any suggestions? Thanks!

A: I am going to read between the lines a bit here, and assume from what you have written that you have already explored changing the various Display settings, and further, that you are referring specifically to the icons.

(But, if you haven’t, you can try scaling the DPI.
Right-click on your Desktop, choose Personalize (or, go to Start button > Control Panel > Display, and in left column select Custom DPI setting.) In the left column, click Adjust Font size – (DPI). Click on Large scale (120 DPI), and click Apply. Or, Click ‘Set custom text size (DPI)’ in the left pane to customize the text size with the slider.)

Other than that, to make the Date/Time text bigger, you might try a 3rd-party ‘tweak’ tool (I’m fairly sure there’s some out there..) but to make the icons themselves bigger, well, I am afraid my answer is you are (most likely going to be) out of luck.

(Most of) The Notification Area icons are created and installed during the installation of your various programs (usually “3rd-party”), and it has been long a standard that these “activity” icons be quite small. To the best of my current knowledge, that isn’t a Windows “setting”. And I know of no way to change them.

If this is really a problem for you, you might try placing a “stick on” (plastic sheet/”film”) magnifying “lens” down in that corner.. sorry I don’t have a better answer. Perhaps someone out there can provide a different (happier) answer?

Here is what Microsoft has on this subject: Change how icons appear in the notification area.

Today’s quote:Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” ~ Ronald Reagan

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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February 23, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, tweaks, Windows 7 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Make Your Music Play In iTunes (or other media player)

By default, when you click on a folder containing music, you will be prompted to use Windows Media Player — which perhaps you do not use, preferring iTunes, or Winamp, or some other. You can easily change this ‘default behavior’ to use your preferred media player by following these simple steps.

Click Start button > Control Panel, then Programs

Under Default Programs, click  Set Default Programs (or “Set your default programs”).


On the left-hand pane, scroll until you find the desired program (in my example “Media Player Classic”, but yours could/will be different.. say, iTunes.) Click on it to turn it blue (aka “select” it.)


Then click the big Set this program as default button. Then OK.

That’s it. iTunes (or, in my case Media Player Classic) will now be the player your computer thinks of when it sees music (media) files. Should you change your mind, or decide on another media player at some future date, you can simply repeat this process and choose Windows Media Player (or.. whatever one) again.

Note: This method is how you change other “Opens with” defaults as well — such as changing back to Internet Explorer as your default web browser after you’ve tried some other “alternative” browser.

Today’s quote:Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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February 20, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, digital music, how to, tech, Vista, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment