Category: Windows (Page 1 of 2)

Using Open Shell with Windows 11

All these years later, and there are still many people who prefer the Start Menu from the Windows 7 era. Open Shell does the trick nicely, and is still a free download for all.

But with Windows 11, you may not think so, at first. Open Shell users who upgrade to Windows 11 will not see the classic-looking Start menu they’re used to. Or if you freshly install Open Shell on your Win11 PC, you may see nothing happen. You’ll just have the new-fangled Windows 11 Start button. Which is strangely towards the middle of the taskbar…

But don’t worry. Open Shell Start Menu is there and will work. You just have to coax it out:

  • Click the new Start button and then click All Apps.
  • Scroll down and click Open-Shell, then click Open-Shell Menu Settings.
  • Check the box labeled “Replace Start button” and click OK.

Now you’ll have both Start buttons, the classic one to the left and the modern one to the middle. Use either one, depending on your preferences!

Windows 11 Is Here

If you’re eager to try out the new Windows 11, here are some useful links:

Check Your Computer’s Eligibility

Not all computers can get Windows 11. Use this Microsoft tool to check if your computer is eligible to receive Windows 11.

Download Your Upgrade

To put Windows 11 onto your computer, you could check the Windows Update panel under Settings. But that might not immediately offer the upgrade. Microsoft may stagger this rollout over weeks and months, so to get Windows 11 immediately, visit this page. Click the first Download Now button on that page to get started.

If you want to create a Windows 11 Installation Flash Drive, plug in your flash drive (8GB or larger) to your computer and use the second Download Now button on that page. Having such a flash drive is really useful if you plan to carry the installer to another computer, to put Windows 11 on it. And I like having these flash drives handy for advanced Windows repairs…

One recommendation: Don’t use a flash drive to install Windows 11 on a computer that is not eligible for Windows 11, per the above software tool. You probably could succeed at it, but we don’t yet know all of the side effects or problems that might result.

Not interested in Windows 11?

Please don’t feel like you need to perform this upgrade. Windows 11 is optional. Windows 10 will still work and be supported through 2025. You may remain with the Windows that you have. But please know that new computers are going to start coming with Windows 11 installed, and Windows 10 computers are going to become scarce in the coming months.

Simple Keyboard Shortcuts for your Browser, A-Z

There are too many handy shortcuts within Windows, but I’m going to try to list out the easier ones for you to review. This is not to say that you should memorize all of them! Rather, check them out and see if a few would be especially useful to the way you use your computer. Practice one or two and you may discover they change your computer-life!

  • Control + A: Highlights & Selects all text in a given area.
  • Control + B: Shows the Bookmarks (Firefox only).
  • Control + C: Copies selected text to clipboard.
  • Control + D: Creates a bookmark in your browser.
  • Control + E: Starts a web search in your browser.
  • Control + F: Opens a Find field (to search the current site for a word/phrase).
  • Control + G: Moves to the next result after using the Find field.
  • Control + H: Opens your web history in your browser.
  • Control + I: Opens the Page Info window (Firefox only).
  • Control + J: Opens your Downloads list in your browser.
  • Control + K: Starts a web search in your browser.
  • Control + L: Takes you to the address bar in your browser.
  • Control + M: Mutes the current Tab (Firefox and Edge only).
  • Control + N: Opens a new browser window.
  • Control + O: Opens the Open File window.
  • Control + P: Opens the Print options window.
  • Control + Q: Does nothing!
  • Control + R: Refreshes/reloads the current website.
  • Control + S: Opens the Save window (Firefox & Chrome only).
  • Control + T: Opens a new tab in your browser.
  • Control + U: Reveals the source code of the current website.
  • Control + V: Pastes text from clipboard into a text field.
  • Control + W: Closes the current tab.
  • Control + X: Cuts selected text from a text field, saving it to the clipboard.
  • Control + Y: Redo the action that was just Undone (see next shortcut).
  • Control + Z: Undo the last action taken in a text field.

Many of these shortcuts should carry over to Chromebooks and Linux computers. On Apple computers, most of these shortcuts will also work, if you use the Command key instead of Control.

Windows 10 Gaming Performance Fix

Since March 2021, some gamers have had some real problems on their Windows 10 computers. The problem was not with your casual games, like Solitaire and Mahjongg, but with more demanding games, like CS: GO and GTAV. Many players could not resolve issues with stuttering and low frame rates, and it all traced back to Microsoft as the culprit.

Microsoft has finally developed a fix. And while the fix is included in a larger update next month, Microsoft has gone the extra mile and released the gaming fix now, as an optional update. If you’ve been suffering under this problem, go get the download now:

Click Start, go to Settings, then Update & Security. You should see the update in question (KB5004296 ), under the heading “Optional quality update available”:

Click “Download and install”, wait out the update process, and reboot when it appears finished. I hope this improves your future games!

Windows 11 Is Coming

Microsoft is starting to talk about their next version of Windows, and we may see it released in late 2021 or early 2022. Windows 11 will be a free upgrade for any computer running a legitimate copy of Windows 10.

But not all computers will be able to handle Windows 11. If you care to check your computer’s compatibility, Microsoft made this quick software tool for all to use. Download, run and open that program, and then click the big blue Check Now button.

If your computer is found to be Not Compatible with the upcoming Windows, no need to worry. Windows 10 will be supported through October 2025. And you’ll be welcome to use Windows 10 past that time, just as there are still some folks using Windows 7 in 2021.

For more general info on Windows 11, check out the intro page over at Microsoft.com.

Windows 10 in S Mode

Windows 10 comes in a few editions: Home, Pro and S Mode. And that last one gives many people pause. Just what is S Mode? What does the S stand for? Simple, Secure, Strict, Stunted? Microsoft is mum on that question.

S Mode Defined

S Mode is a locked down version of Windows. S Mode means that you may not install any software on the computer, unless it comes from the Microsoft Store. So on a Windows S Mode computer, you are protected from most types of malware and other nasties, but also cannot load Google Chrome, Adobe Reader, Quickbooks or any other software from a download or disc.

This may be acceptable, if you can live with only ever using Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Office. This may be an instant No for many computer users.

But Should You Avoid S Mode Computers?

In short, No! Many computers at Costco, Best Buy, Microcenter and other retailers boast Windows S Mode, but don’t be deterred! S Mode can be removed right after you boot the computer. Microsoft allows you to remove S Mode and convert your license to Windows 10 Home, for free.

But it is a one-way trip. Once you switch from S Mode to Home, there’s no going back. So be sure you want to make the change, and then:

Switch Out of S Mode

Once your new S Mode computer is booted and connected to the internet, go to:

Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Activation.

Here you should find a wodge of text about Switching to Windows 10 Home. Under it, click the link that says “Go to the Store”. The Microsoft Store will appear and you’ll want to use the “Get” button to remove S Mode.

Microsoft may demand that you sign in to your Microsoft account a couple of times, but if you jump through their hoops, Windows will tell you that you have removed S Mode for good! You are then free to install any programs you desire.

One Last Thing…

Sometimes, people complain: “Hey, I removed S Mode and Microsoft still won’t let me install XYZ Program!” If this happens to you, go to:

Start -> Settings -> Apps.

Under the heading “Choose Where to Get Apps”, change the drop-down menu to “Anywhere”. Close this window and then go try your installation again!

News and Interests Widget on Windows 10 Taskbar

As Windows 10 computers receive the latest big update, people everywhere are noticing something new on the taskbar. Next to the small notifications icon now appears a weather symbol and temperature. This “News & Interests Widget” pops up all kinds of info, as you hover over it with your cursor.

If you don’t care for this new feature (and plenty of you are speaking up to me about it!), you can easily turn it off. Right-click on the temperature number on the taskbar, then hover over “News and interests”, then click Turn Off.

If you still want to try this widget, but want to quiet it down a little, you can go into the above “News and interests” menu, and turn off Open on Hover or “Reduce taskbar updates”.

PS: While you’re at it, you may right-click on your Taskbar and hide many of the other buttons on your Taskbar. Many of them you will never use, and they are just taking up screen real estate! Feel free to uncheck Show Cortana Button, Show Task View Button, Show People, Show Ink Workspace Button, Show Touch Keyboard Button and Show Touchpad Button, if you’ve never used them.

File History – The Windows 10 Data Backup Tool

If you want to backup your data on your PC, I recommend File History. It’s included in Windows 10, it’s free, and you can use it with any external hard drive or flash drive. And once you set it up, it runs automatically whenever your backup drive is connected. You can even leave the drive connected all the time for continuous data backup!

Finding File History

You can get to File History via two routes under Windows 10:

  1. Click Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Backup -> Backup using File History.
  2. Press Windows + R on your keyboard, type control and press Enter, change the View to Icons if necessary, and then double-click File History.
Making Shortcuts to File History

On your desktop, right-click on a blank area, go to New -> Shortcut. Where it asks for the location of the item, type/paste in:

ms-settings:backup

On the next screen, type Microsoft Backup or File History or anything else that makes sense to you. After you click Finish, you’ll have a shortcut that takes you directly to the Microsoft Backup settings, as per 1) above.

If you enter the Control Panel, per 2) above, you can right-click the File History icon and choose Create Shortcut. The shortcut is automatically placed on your desktop. The right-click menu also allows you to Pin File History to the taskbar or Start Menu.

Setting up File History

Connect your storage device to your computer. Open File History and then click Add a Drive. Select your storage drive and then just make sure that the switch for File History is set to On.

If you’re going through the Control panel to File History, just select your drive and click Turn On and then Run Now.

Once File History is turned on properly, you can count on it to run whenever you connect the drive. It will back up your Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos folders, as well as some other miscellaneous app folders. By default, it will run and update your backup every hour. And it is perfectly fine to leave your drive connected all the time, for continuous backups.

Recovering Data using File History

You can start recovering files via two routes under Windows 10:

  1. Click Start and search for “Restore your files with File History”.
  2. Open File History in the Control Panel, and then click Restore Personal Files on the left.

The window that appears will show you your files and you can drill down into the folders to find what you want. Also, use the controls at the bottom to pick the time and date to restore from. Because File History backs up multiple copies of your files, you can resurrect your data from a variety of different dates.

When you’ve selected what you want to recover, click the big green button at the bottom middle. File History will bring those files back from the past and place them where they were originally on your computer. If you want to restore your files to somewhere other than their original location, use the cogwheel button in the upper-right corner. Click that cogwheel and then use the Restore To option, to choose where the restored data goes.

Using File History to Bring All of your Files Back

If you bought a new computer, or if you had to wipe your old computer and start over, File History can restore an entire backup of files for you. But the process is a little clunky, so I’ll write out the exact steps:

  1. Connect your backup drive to the computer you want to put your backed up files on.
  2. Press Windows + R on your keyboard, type control and press Enter, change the View to Icons if necessary, and then double-click File History.
  3. Check the box next to “I want to use a previous backup on this File History drive.”
  4. In the box below, click to highlight the appropriate, named backup.
  5. Click the Turn On button.
  6. File History will begin backing up your files. Don’t Panic, this is OK, just wait for it to complete.
  7. Click the Restore Personal Files link on the left.
  8. Click the Previous Version button at the bottom, and you should be looking at the latest backup from the previous computer. Select any or all files/folders, and use the big green Restore button to bring them onto the computer.
Making Sure File History Doesn’t Run Out of Room

File History will back up your files until the end of time, or until you run out of room on your drive. If this is a concern, you can have File History guard against that.

  1. Click Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Backup
  2. Under Backup using File History, click More Options.
  3. Find the drop-down menu called Keep My Backups, and change it to “Until space is needed.”

Now File History will automagically delete your oldest backup files, when necessary, to make room for the newest backup data.

File Manager on Windows 10

These days, we use File Explorer to navigate the files and folders on a PC, but back in 1990, Windows 3.0 offered the first tool for organizing your data: File Manager.

If you want to relive a small part of Windows 3.0, you can get File Manager for your modern computer, for free, from the Microsoft Store. It runs separately from File Explorer, so you can use both without any conflict.

Goodbye, CCleaner

For years, CCleaner was many people’s go-to program for cleaning up a Windows computer. It quickly finds and deletes temp files and other junk from a system. But these days, there are more reasons to get rid of it than keep it around.

First, it’s main function is replicated by a built-in Windows tool called Storage Sense. You can find this under Windows 10 by going to Start -> Settings -> System -> Storage. Turn it On, if it isn’t already. This allows Microsoft to clean your temp files for you, silently in the background, on a recurring basis.

But beyond being replaced, CCleaner may trigger your antivirus warnings. Microsoft and other companies sometimes mark CCleaner as a bad guy or a “Potentially Unwanted Program.” This may be because Microsoft takes a dim view of anything offering to “clean your registry” (please do not use this part of CCleaner!), or because CCleaner has a history of unsavory data collection.

I’ve also taken issue with CCleaner in past years, because it has led users to accidentally download Avast Antivirus onto their systems. This has caused conflicts for people with pre-existing antivirus on their systems, as two antivirus will usually fight each other and cause system problems.

TL;DR: CCleaner should be removed, and you can usually easily uninstall it by going to Start -> Settings -> Apps. You find it in the list of apps, click it, and then use the Uninstall button.

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