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Preview: PC World How-To's and Tips

PCWorld How-To





Published: Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:01:20 -0700

Last Build Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:01:20 -0700

 



Three privacy tools that block your Internet provider from tracking you

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 09:03:00 -0700

It’s on. Recently, the United States Senate saw fit to allow Internet Service Providers to sell your web browsing history and other data to third parties. The action has yet to pass the House, but if it does, it means anyone concerned about privacy will have to protect themselves against over zealous data collection from their ISP.

Some privacy-conscious folks are already doing that—but many aren’t. If you want to keep your ISP from looking over your shoulder for data to sell to advertisers, here are three relatively simple actions you can take to get started.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to transform your smartphone into a real-world Star Trek tricorder

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 03:00:00 -0700

When the first flip-top phones appeared in the ‘90s, prompting amazed gasps of, “Hey, this is just like the communicator in Star Trek!” it felt like we were on the cusp of an amazing sci-fi future. These days, however, James T. Kirk’s handy interstellar mobile device looks a bit clunky—and it’s shamefully low on functionality. With no text or web capability, the communicator’s only uses are voice calls and the occasional deployment as a medium-yield timed explosive.

To compete with today’s phones we’ll have to turn to another bit of Star Trek equipment: the tricorder. Fans will know the tricorder as the palm-sized (at least by The Next Generation) device filled with enough sensors and computers to scan the surrounding area, allowing its wielder to deliver whatever exposition the Star Trek writers needed the audience to know.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to create an icon-only bookmarks bar in your browser

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 05:00:00 -0700

Sometimes you just want to slap yourself for accepting things the way they are instead of considering there might be a method that works much better you.

I recently had one of those days.

I love using my browser’s bookmarks bar, but I've always hated how little space there was for all these quick-access portals. Even on a large screen many of my go-to sites were hidden under a “more” button of some sort depending on the browser.

That’s when I came across this small reminder from Hackerspace: You can remove the text, dummy.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to use Process Explorer, Microsoft's free, supercharged Task Manager alternative

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 03:30:00 -0700

If you’ve been using Windows for a while, there’s a good chance you’ve had to use the built-in Task Manager at some point or another. Whether it’s to kill a frozen process, track down some nasty malware, or figure out what’s eating up all that memory, the Task Manager is an invaluable tool for any intermediate or advanced user. But for enthusiasts that want extra control, more information, and a host of extra features, there’s a more powerful alternative available: Microsoft’s free Process Explorer tool.

Process Explorer isn’t just a supercharged version of Task Manager with more insight and control over your system’s processes. It also includes the ability to sniff out viruses and identify when programs are clinging to software you want to delete. 

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to add an external HDD to your Sony PS4

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 11:35:00 -0700

Sony's latest PS4 System Software now supports external hard drive support for the game console, letting you expand the storage from its original 500GB. Network World editor Keith Shaw shows you how to add the storage without needing a screwdriver (before this update, you could expand storage capacity by installing an internal drive).


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8 handy things to do with your new Google Assistant

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 03:30:00 -0700

So your Marshmallow-or-better Android phone just got Google Assistant, and when you long-press the Home button for the first time after the update, your new digital helper asks, “Hi, how can I help?” Talk about an open-ended question.

Read on for eight easy ways to get started with Google’s chatty servant, from telling it what to call you, to making a shopping list, to turning on Bluetooth and even playing Solitaire.

Give Assistant some familiar voice commands

”Open the Kindle app,” “make an appointment for noon today,” “remind me to buy milk,” and “play some jazz”—all familiar Android voice commands from way back when, and most of them will work just fine with Google Assistant.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to use the Skype Chrome extension to quickly add Skype call links to calendar entries

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 05:00:00 -0700

I don’t share Skype call links much, but I know many other people do. Today’s tip makes sharing a Skype link much easier thanks to a recent update to the official Skype extension for Chrome.

Prior to this update, the Skype extension would only help you share website links on Skype or launch Skype for the Web. Now, it helps you add Skype calling links to calendar entries on Google and Outlook.com personal calendars, as well as email messages in Gmail and Outlook.com.

Email is a nice feature, but the calendar integration is particularly interesting. Anyone you invite who accepts a calendar event will have quick access to join the Skype call when they get a calendar reminder. That’s much better than fishing around in the inbox at the last minute.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to use a Chromebook: 10 must-know tips, tricks, and tools for beginners

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 03:30:00 -0700

When Google first introduced Chromebooks in 2011, it seemed like a ridiculous idea. A laptop that can only run a browser? Who wants that? But over time, web apps slowly became more powerful and capable, while Google steadily improved the Chrome OS experience. Soon, many newer Chromebooks will also run Android apps.

All of this means the Chromebooks of 2017 are nothing like that original experience. Today, Chrome OS feels like a modern operating system that offers a near desktop-like experience. It can satisfy the needs of almost every user, with the notable exception of those who need video or advanced image editing.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to attach your PC or laptop to any TV

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 06:31:00 -0700

Andrew Amanda asked how to connect his PC to a TV.

If there’s anything in the computer world that’s become significantly easier over the years, it’s connecting your PC or laptop to a TV. Even vintage TVs—as long as they have an auxiliary input of some sort, whether it be HDMI, DVI, component, or even composite. There may be a digital to RF converter out there somewhere, I just haven’t seen it.

[Have a tech question? Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

The qualifier here is that unless your computer has an exact match for the older video connection technology on the TV in question, such as a VGA port, it will probably require HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB-C output. These signals, being digital, can be translated to analog or other types of digital signals through a converter or adapter.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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8 Android app shortcuts that are actually useful

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 03:50:00 -0700

Sometimes, just saving a tap or two can make you feel so efficient, if not actually more productive. This is the aim of Android’s new app shortcuts—small, pop-up shortcut buttons that appear when you long-press on a home-screen app icon.

Some of the available Android app shortcuts, which you’ll find on handsets running Android version 7.1.1 or better, are more useful than others. For example, I could do without the “I’m feeling lucky” shortcut in the Google Photos app, which simply opens a random snapshot. But a shortcut that lets you take one-tap scans of receipts? That’s interesting.

Read on for eight of the more useful Android app shortcuts, from a quick way to free up storage space on your Android device to a shortcut that lets you record a quick audio note.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to jazz up your Firefox new-tab page with the upcoming Activity Stream feature

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 05:00:00 -0700

Later in 2017, Mozilla plans to revamp the new-tab page (again) with something called the Activity Stream. For a while now, Mozilla has thought about turning the new-tab page into a kind of home base for your browsing activity. The browser maker thinks it’s finally hit on something that users will find useful.

But you don’t have to wait until later this year to try it out. If you want to jazz up your new-tab page in Firefox right now, install the Test Pilot version of Activity Stream for Firefox 45 and up.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Back up all your data—and we mean all of it—to your NAS box without installing any software

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 03:00:00 -0700

If you know anything about NAS (Network Attached Storage), you know that it’s a great centralized backup receptacle for your PCs. If you didn’t know, we just told you. Actually, the name is bit of a giveaway: NAS is storage that you attach via ethernet or Wi-Fi and access across the network. What that doesn’t tell you is that most NAS boxes have the smarts of a PC, with a full-blown app environment that includes extensive backup abilities.

But there are two things that even NAS-aware users might not realize: First, many NAS boxes are perfectly capable of backing up data from PCs running any type of operating system (e.g., Windows, OS X, or Linux) from anywhere, using nothing more than their integrated utilities. All you need to do is configure the PC to give up its data, and then use the NAS box to grab it.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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When cell phone disaster strikes, you have some options

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 05:46:00 -0700

One of the most common and saddest inquiries we get at Answer Line is how to retrieve photos and videos from a phone that’s been stolen, or that’s been dropped in water and no longer works. You may be able to save the phone or its data if you try these steps. 

In case of a dead phone, you can most likely get the data back using a recovery service—at a very steep price. DriveSavers, a longtime player in the data recovery field, charges $700 to $1900 for a 128GB iPhone, depending on the amount of data involved. They’ll check whether it can be recovered for free, but birth and wedding images aside, that’s probably more than most users are willing to pay.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Setting up DLP features for email security

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Network World contributing editor David Strom provides a roundup of how to enable data leak prevention features on three email security platforms.


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Excel logical formulas: 8 simple IF statements to get started

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 09:59:00 -0800

Excel functions, or formulas, lie at the heart of the application’s deep well of capabilities. Today we’ll tackle IF statements, a string of commands that determine whether a condition is met or not. Just like a yes-no question, if the specified condition is true, Excel returns one user-determined value and, if false, it returns another.

The IF statement is also known as a logical formula: IF, then, else. If something is true, then do this, else/otherwise do that. For example, if it’s raining, then close the windows, else/otherwise leave the windows open.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Skype like a boss with these hidden chat commands

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 06:58:00 -0800

Skype started life as an easy way for regular PC users to chat with their friends via text and voice chat. But underneath that user-friendly veneer, Skype has a few power moves ready and waiting for people who know about them.

I’m talking about Skype’s slash commands. If you don’t know what those are, slash commands begin with a “/“ and tell a program to carry out a specific action. Longtime chat users will recognize slash commands from the days of Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, one of the earliest ways to do live text chat online—and still widely used among technophiles.

(image) Skype

A list of Skype’s slash commands after typing /help.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to create a mobile hotspot with your Android smartphone

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 21:00:00 -0800

On the road and need to connect for work? No worries, because CIO.com senior writer Sarah White, has you covered. In this video she demonstrates what it takes to turn your 4G enabled Android device into a a mobile wireless hotspot.


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How to create a mobile hotpsot with your iPhone or iPad

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 21:00:00 -0800

CIO.com senior writer Sarah White demonstrates what it takes to get your mobile hotspot access working so you can hit the open road.


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How Babelsoft Media Preview reveals less-common file types in Explorer

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 10:07:00 -0800

Windows Explorer is great for finding and organizing files, but it’s sadly lacking in preview and thumbnail support for anything other than garden-variety JPEG and AVI files. FLV , OGG, APE, FLAC, PCI and other less-common formats appear as generic application icons without a preview—not exactly optimal when trying organize a varied multimedia collection.

[Have a tech question? Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

But where Microsoft has been remiss, Babelsoft has not. The company’s aptly named Media Preview integrates seamlessly into the Windows open preview architecture to provide thumbnails and previews of all those files I mentioned and more. Even better, Babelsoft charges the grand sum of... Nothing. Nada, zip, zilch, zero.  That’s right, the spirit of Linux right here in Microsoft-land.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to update your PC's BIOS

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 12:18:00 -0800

A tiny BIOS chip lurks inside every computer, sitting on your motherboard to breathe life into your system when you press the power button. BIOS stands for basic input and output system, and the BIOS chip initializes all the other devices in your PC, like the CPU, GPU, and motherboard chipset.

A few years ago, motherboard manufacturers—in partnership with Microsoft and Intel—introduced a replacement for traditional BIOS chips dubbed UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). Almost every motherboard shipping today has a UEFI chip rather than a BIOS chip, but they both share the same core purpose: preparing the system to boot into the operating system. That said, most people still call the UEFI the “BIOS” because of the familiarity of the term.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to use Mentions in Windows 10's Mail app

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 05:00:00 -0800

The latest version of the Windows 10 Mail app now has one of Microsoft’s more unique mail features in recent years: Mentions. The feature is kind of like Twitter or Facebook mentions. You tag someone in an email with an “@” symbol, and it flags the message in their inbox if they’re using Office 365, Outlook.com, or the Windows 10 Mail app.

(image) Ian Paul/PCWorld

Windows 10 Mail’s Mentions in action.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to format an SD card in Linux

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 06:48:00 -0800

As I was working on a tutorial about installing Raspbian on Raspberry Pi 3, I realized that I had to format the Micro SD card with fat32 partition. Another tutorial was in order!

Since different desktop environments use different tools to perform the same task, I resorted to one method that can be consistent across desktop environments: command line.

So here is how you format an SD card, USB drive or Micro SD card with fat32 file system from the command line in Linux.

1. Plug in your removable flash drive and run the ‘lsblk’ command to identify the device.

Here is the output of the 'lsblk' command on my system where ‘sdb’ is the removable flash storage:

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to identify and resolve double-NAT problems

Wed, 01 Mar 2017 03:00:00 -0800

The digital world is all about IP (internet protocol) addresses. Every device needs an IP in order to communicate on the internet or within a private network. Given there’s not enough public IP addresses out there for every internet-connected device (at least with IPv4), this little thing called NAT becomes extremely important. It stands for network address translation (NAT) and is a function provided by routers to enable multiple devices to access the internet via a single public IP address.

Behind each public IP, there can be hundreds of devices with their own private IP addresses, thanks to NAT. And almost all equipment that provides the NAT function includes a firewall to protect the private IPs and devices from public IPs and devices on the internet. Other network services are also typically offered, like DHCP (dynamic host control protocol) to give out the private IP addresses to devices that connect to the local network.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to force Cortana to use your default browser

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

One of the great horrors of Windows 10 is that Microsoft forces you to use Bing and Microsoft Edge with Cortana. When you search with Cortana, any web searches are automatically sent to Bing and displayed in the Edge browser, no matter what your default browser is.

It wasn’t always this way. Before April 2016 you could use any browser you wanted, although Cortana still insisted on Bing for search. But then Microsoft put a stop to browser choice, and Cortana-loving Edge haters have been recoiling ever since, until now.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Three steps to make managing passwords easier

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Passwords are a necessary inconvenience. Yes, they’re a pain to create and manage, but vital for keeping your accounts and devices secure. It might seem we’re approaching the death of the password with the rise of biometric authentication and other such tech; but no single security method is foolproof. For the foreseeable future, expect to rely on a combination of techniques, including passwords.

And, really, passwords don’t have to be a pain. In fact, managing your passwords can be downright easy, or at least easier than you think.

Create strong passwords

There are a number of suggestions for how to create passwords, but the basic idea is that it be hard to guess. To be clear, we’re not trying to keep your neighbor from guessing it, but a computer running through dictionaries of common passwords.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to easily keep your cloud files private with Rclone

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

When cloud storage services first came on the scene, personal data security wasn’t a common feature. Even now, as concern over data privacy has grown, many cloud storage services don’t encrypt the user’s data by default. It’s largely up to the user to take the initiative and enable settings that ensure files are encrypted and private, which can be tedious. Believe it or not, a little command-line program called Rclone simplifies things. It’s available for Linux and other open-source OSes, as well as Windows and OS X.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to make Word custom bullet points to enhance your documents

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:49:00 -0800

Word’s bullet point function is essential for breaking up vast piles of text, especially if you can’t use graphics or photos in your documents. Word’s standard list of bullets will cover many situations, but making custom bullet points can add polish or humor to your content. 

Create your document first and use placeholders for your bullets, such as asterisks or hyphens. (Tip: Use bullets for your lists when the items in the series are of equal importance. Use numbers if the items in the list are prioritized.)

Once the document is complete, experiment with different bullet designs. We’ll start with Word’s default bullets to introduce the process. 

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Quickly scan your Gmail inbox with website favicons

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

There’s a neat little Chrome extension for Gmail that technology blogger Amit Agarwal recently released called Gmail Sender Icons. It adds a slight visual tweak to Gmail that makes it easier to see which company or website has sent you a message. The extension places a small tile before an email’s subject line with the favicon and name of the originating website.

Agarwal’s basic idea for the extension is to help differentiate between seeing an email from Bob Johnson from Microsoft and Bob Johnson from Acme Widgets. But there are other uses for it as well. If a scam email claiming to be from Twitter happens to get through Google’s filters, you should be able to see that it was actually from Scamwebsite.net and not Twitter.com.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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6 gotta-know Spotify tips for Android and iOS

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

There’s more to the Spotify app for Android and iOS than simply streaming your favorite artists or Spotify’s premixed radio stations. Indeed, the Spotify mobile app is capable of some pretty clever tricks once you know what you’re doing.

For starters, it’s easy to download a Spotify radio mix to your phone for on-the-go playback without putting a dent in your monthly mobile data allowance—and indeed, you can set Spotify to stay offline completely, if the need arises. You can also tweak the quality of your audio streaming and music downloads, keep playing tunes even when your playlist is over, “crossfade” from one song to another, and more.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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4 ways to block political posts on Facebook

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 07:20:00 -0800

The deluge of political rants, memes, and arguments in your Facebook feed is hardly ending—if anything, it’s getting louder. Whether you participate in these posts, just seeing them is proven to be wearing and stressful, and can ultimately be a drain on your productivity.

You don’t necessarily have to swear off social media completely to get relief, nor do you have to start a campaign of “unfriending” folks with offending opinions. There are several free browser add-ons that will help you purge your feed of politics—or at least keep it out of sight long enough to get your work done. Here are a few of the best.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Three ways to restrict OneDrive uploads in Windows 10

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Sometimes you just don’t want OneDrive to do its job and start uploading and syncing files at will. This can be for any number of reasons, but the top two are usually because you’re doing a resource-intensive operation like gaming or your internet connection isn’t the fastest.

During those moments you have three relatively easy options for dealing with OneDrive in Windows 10: Shut it down until later, pause file syncing for a preset period, or slow down the sync speed to free up bandwidth resources.

For all of these tips we’re going to access the OneDrive app for Windows 10 from the notifications area. Click the upward-facing arrow on the far right of the taskbar and look for the OneDrive icon (a pair of white clouds).

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Windows 10: Maps and Mail

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 21:00:00 -0800

Windows 10's Maps and Mail apps were once deemed inadequate by many, but have recently grown into highly useful tools.


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Chromebook power tips: How to work smarter online and offline

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 05:51:00 -0800

Chromebooks may have cornered a niche market as lightweight laptops and desirable computers for education, but Google’s ambitions are far bigger. The release of two new flagship Chromebooks from Samsung and the arrival of Android apps illustrate that Google envisions its operating system as a full-blown competitor to Windows and MacOS.

They do involve a learning curve, though. Chrome OS somewhat resembles Windows in appearance and functionality, but some small differences can trip up a newcomer, and some of the most productivity-oriented features are buried. Whether you’re new to Chrome or an old dog looking for some Googley new tricks, this guide will help you sidestep the OS’s most glaring flaws and squeeze as much productivity as possible out of your Chromebook.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to set up your new Chromebook the right way

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 04:49:00 -0800

Setting up a new Chromebook is much easier than setting up a PC. Chromebooks don’t require major updates or antivirus software. You start simply by signing in with your Google Account (or creating that account, if you don’t already have one). 

That said, Chromebooks have some unique quirks—such as limited offline capabilities, and a wonky method for connecting a printer. Here’s everything you need to know to set up your new Chromebook up the right way—starting with the tools that let you replace the Windows software that just won’t work on a Googley laptop.

Gather your apps

The app ecosystem for Chromebooks is evolving. Yes, Chromebooks are primarily conduits to the web. But aside from very specific computing demands, such as high-end gaming or video and image editing, the gap between what a Chromebook can or can’t do is quickly closing. There are a slew of superb, powerful web apps available that can already replace most people’s basic desktop software. 

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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How to show the taskbar on only one display in Windows 10

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Windows 10 has some nice features for multimonitor setups. One of which is the ability to display the taskbar on only one monitor. Changing this setting really comes down to preference. 

Sure, there are some good reasons to keep the taskbar on both monitors. Since the Anniversary Update, for example, the taskbar clock is displayed on both monitors. For gamers or people watching a movie that creates an easy way to keep an eye on the time.

Nevertheless, some people prefer the cleaner look of having the taskbar on a single display. In Windows 10, this is really easy to set up, but first let’s make sure we’ve got the right display chosen as your main monitor. Once you’ve switched, the taskbar will only show up on your primary display.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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