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Preview: PC World How-To's and Tips

PCWorld How-To

Published: Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:30:48 -0800

Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:30:48 -0800


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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Why extracting images from Word is so hard, with 3 decent workarounds

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

Extracting images from Microsoft Word has never been an easy task because Word compresses images (sometimes to as low as 72 dpi) to save memory and keep file sizes small. You can disable the Automatic Picture Compression feature, if you’re the document’s owner, but this step must be performed before the images are inserted. Also, it’s just one of the many steps required to fix this defect.

For example, you cannot just copy and paste from Word to other programs such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro and retain a quality image. Some workarounds result in blurry, pixelated images at lower resolutions. Most of the following workarounds provide acceptable results, and the last one offers close-to-the-original results.  

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How to switch from Mac to PC, Part 1: What's driving me to do it

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

After nearly 20 years as a Mac user, I’m switching to a Windows PC—and I’m bringing you along for the ride. 

In this series, my personal journey from Mac to PC will be your guide to the fundamentals of venturing forth from Apple’s walled garden to the vast, teeming, and sometimes confusing world of Windows 10 computers. The topics I’m covering will include:

  • How to choose a laptop from hundreds of possibilities
  • What software to use in place of MacOS-only favorites
  • How your iPhone, iPad, and the rest of Apple’s ecosystem can still fit in
  • Welcome to the vast world of PC gaming
  • What it’s like in PC-land, and whether I'd return to the Mac

Desperate times

Despair drove me to switch from a Mac to a PC. I’ve used Apple computers since college, starting with a boxy, wee Apple Mac Classic II in a computer lab. It had a low-resolution monochrome display. And a floppy drive. Soon I bought a used PowerBook 100. From then on, I was committed, steadily working my way through PowerBooks, iBooks, MacBooks, a MacBook Air and MacBook Pros. 

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5 alternative (and easier) ways to unlock your Android phone

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

There has to be an easier way for your Android phone to know it’s you besides a passcode, a PIN, or a pattern lock, right? A fingerprint reader is a good start, but they still have a way of failing even when you swipe your fingertip perfectly on the sensor, thus returning you to the need to enter a PIN or swipe pattern to unlock your own device.

The good news is that Android boasts a series of clever ways of unlocking your device without passcodes, patterns, or fingertip swipes. For example, the latest Android handsets can keep themselves unlocked while they’re riding in your pocket. You can also set Android to recognize your face, or your voice. Last but not least, your Android phone can unlock itself whenever you’re home, at work, or near a “trusted” device, like your Bluetooth car radio or an NFC sticker.

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How to use Microsoft’s Paint 3D app

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 02:59:00 -0800

Paint 3D is coming with the Windows 10 Creators Update. But we can show you how to create cool 3D scenes right now.

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How to join Microsoft's Office Insider program on any platform

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 08:31:00 -0800

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How to judge the time commitment of your next video game

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

One of the most crucial skills for success is proper time management. It’s vital that we use our time as effectively as possible. In that spirit, I offer a tip that will help you make some important decisions concerning the time you dedicate to the great pastime of playing video games.

Today’s AAA titles vary wildly in the time they take to complete. You could spend more than a hundred hours getting through The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt or less than a day on a game like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

The appeal of a game’s size depends on your own personal preferences, and your interest in a particular game or series. Nevertheless, it’s still valuable to know how much time a given game entails.

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How Windows Explorer can help you find duplicate files

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 10:30:00 -0800

One of the most frequent questions at Answer Line is how to easily remove duplicate images. The short answer is a utility. We’ve covered those in the past, and most of the best ones, such as Duplicate Sweeper from Wide Angle Software, will set you back $20. But unless you’re supremely confident in it—and we never are with valuable memories—you pretty much wind up comparing everything anyway.

The thing is, you already have a pretty powerful multimedia browser at your fingertips in Windows Explorer. Why, after all these years, it doesn’t have a 'find duplicates' function, we can’t say. But even without it, it’s perfectly adequate to the task, although it means a bit more work on your part.

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3 Ways to Speed Up Windows 10

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 15:53:00 -0800

Windows 10's settings offer a few surprising ways to make the OS run faster.

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How to browse Netflix's hidden categories

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

There’s nothing like a good Netflix-themed browser add-on to brighten up your experience on the PC. There’s a great new extension for Chrome that does just that called Netflix Categories.

In general, Netflix does a great job of suggesting what you should watch next. But there are times when you want to see what secret gems might be hiding in Netflix’s catalog—recommendations be damned. That’s where this new Chrome extension comes in: It uncovers numerous movie and TV show categories you wouldn’t otherwise see.

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6 essential settings to make your iPhone and iPad display easier on the eyes

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

Nope, you don’t have to settle for itty-bitty text on your iPhone screen, nor must you deal with buttons that don’t look anything like buttons. Once you know which settings to change, you can boost the size of on-screen text on your iPhone or iPad, make words a bit more bold, zoom in with a virtual magnifying glass, warm up—or cool off—Night Shift, and more.

Change text size

You don’t have to squint if the text on your iPhone or iPad is a little too small. There are a couple of ways to boost the size of text on an iOS device.

(image) Ben Patterson

iOS’s Display Zoom feature boosts the size of both icons and text on your iPhone or iPad display.

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How to protect your privacy with a VPN on Android

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

Using a VPN on Android can help you access content that’s blocked in your region and help maintain your anonymity around the web. There are plenty of apps that offer VPN services for free and as a paid service, but which of them are worth your time?

I tested six of the most popular VPN all-in-one apps (with Speedtest and the HTML5 test) on Android to see how they stack up. You can also go your own way and use Android’s built-in VPN tool. With a few tweaks, you can make it a little easier to use, too.

Why use a VPN?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is basically a way to funnel all your web traffic through a remote server. This makes it look like you’re in a different location and obscures your real IP address. VPNs encrypt the traffic passing through them, making it harder for anyone else to listen in on your connection, even if you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

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Why you should cover up your laptop's webcam

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

Valerie Olson wanted to know if she should cover up her laptop’s webcam to prevent people from spying on her.

As it happens a few high-profile folks have been spotted covering their webcams, including F.B.I. Director James Comey, who said in an interview, “I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera.” He was most likely referring to a photo Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg posted: In the background, his work laptop shows tape applied over the webcam above the display, and the dual mic on the left side.

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7 ways to save money when you build a PC

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

For many enthusiasts, part of the fun of building a PC lies in not spending a penny more than necessary. Whether you’re building a basic everyday computer or trying to eke out a $500 gaming rig, shopping smart lets you do more with your money or, well, just plain save some cash on a purchase that’s already pricey enough.

Good news: Costs savings abound, especially if you’re not in a rush. You just have to know where—and how—to look. These tips and tricks will help you save money on your next PC build. 

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Set up your webcam for access from the road

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 11:29:00 -0800

Ann Cherie Davies asked how she and her family can access their IP address while traveling to view their webcams.

If you use cameras that are part of a service such as Netgear’s Arlo, you’re all set—just browse to the website and log on. Otherwise, you’ll need to configure your router and camera for access. Many webcams have a utility that either does it for you, or guides you through the process. If not, you’ll need to do what’s called port forwarding.

[Have a tech question? Send your query to]

First, gather three pieces of information: your public IP, your webcam’s local IP, and the port the camera uses to communicate to the outside world. You can easily grab your public IP, also called a WAN IP, by surfing (while at home) to, or from the Internet connection info in your router. Your router will generally be located at,, or another commonly used address. Type that into the address bar of your browser and hit Enter. You public IP will look something like (IPv4), or 1fff:0:a88:85a3::ac1f (IPv6)

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Gmail is dumping Windows XP and Vista, now what?

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Life isn’t getting any easier for holdouts on Windows XP and Vista. Google recently announced that Gmail would stop supporting Chrome version 53 and lower by the end of 2017. The move specifically impacts XP and Vista since Google capped support for both of those systems at Chrome v49.

So what does this all mean for XP and Vista users? Is Gmail going to stop working in Chrome? Not exactly, but it could suck a whole lot more.

The first thing that will happen, Google says, is that starting on Wednesday, February 8, a banner will appear at the top of Gmail encouraging users to upgrade their version of Chrome. That’s obviously not going to happen if you can’t upgrade because you’re limited to Chrome 49. 

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How to customize icons with icon packs

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

One of the best ways to tweak the look of your Android homescreen is through custom icons.

Compared to some other methods to change the look of your phone, however, it does take a little more work on your end, particularly if you don’t have a device like the Galaxy S7 or HTC 10 that includes a custom theme store for easy makeovers. 

Here’s what you need to do to get this type of a custom look that’ll make everyone say, “wow, how did you do that?” when they see your phone.

Grab a launcher

In order to change your icons, you should first get a custom launcher. That’s because many of the icon packs, which are separate applications you’ll need to install, require a launcher to work with.

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The safest ways to lend someone your Android phone

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

“Hey, mind if I borrow your phone?” Well, sure, you say. But even as you’re handing your Android phone over to someone in need, you’re wondering what browser tabs you have open, which emails are in plain sight, and whether you remembered to close up Facebook.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to lend your Android phone to a friend, a loved one, or even a total stranger with complete confidence that they won’t see your stuff.

For a device that’s going to be shared regularly, the trick is to dip into Android’s Users feature, which lets you create profiles for other users on your Android phone or tablet. It  essentially creates their own partition on the device—complete with their own data, apps, settings, and even home screen.

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How to install the latest Android beta on your Nexus or Pixel phone

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 09:18:00 -0800

Google is constantly at work perfecting the latest version of Android, but you might not know that you can help test it out. Before any new version of Android is released, whether it’s a full new major “sweet treat” version or a simple maintenance release (such as the new 7.1.2 update), you can sign up to test it weeks or months before it’s available for public download. All you need is a Google account and the right phone.

And Google makes it easy to sign up, as long as you have one of the newer “pure Android” handsets. Currently, the list is pretty short, but if you own a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, or one of the Pixel phones, you’re all set. (Additionally, you can install the beta on the short-lived Nexus Player set-top box, and the Pixel C tablet.) Those phones should be good for the rest of this year, as Google has vowed that Nexus level devices will “receive major updates for at least two years.” For example, the 2014 Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 only recently dropped off the list, so last year’s Huawei and LG Nexus devices should be good at least through the remainder of 2017.

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3 great Read It Later apps for saving articles and other content

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

How often have you been working diligently when a shiny new article or video caught your eye? You likely either stopped what you were doing to check it out—thereby putting the skids on your productivity—or you ignored it and soldiered on, only to lose track of it later.

Content bookmarking tools—colloquially called “read it later” apps after one of the first and most popular of them—make it easy to capture and curate these articles and videos on the fly. When you’re done working, you can return to them and read, organize, and even share them with others. Here are three of the best.


The original read-it-later was actually called “Read It Later,” until it was rebranded as Pocket in 2012. This decade-old app remains one of the most loved bookmarking methods. Capturing content is as easy as clicking a browser bookmarklet whenever you happen on an article, image, or video you want to review later and tagging it.

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How to get iOS-style VIP alerts in Gmail for Android

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Not everyone wants their Android phone to ding every time an email arrives. Many of us don’t even need Android alerts for every message that Gmail thinks is important.

Instead, you might want notifications only for email messages from your most important friends and loved ones—your VIPs, as it were.

Sounds like a great time for something like iOS’s handy VIP feature, but unfortunately, nothing quite like it exists for the Gmail app for Android. That said, there’s a relatively easy way to emulate it, as long as you’re willing to tinker with your Gmail settings in a desktop browser.

Creating a VIP filter in Gmail

First, visit Gmail in your desktop browser of choice, click the settings button (the one that’s shaped like a gear), then click the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab.

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How to switch to Chrome's Material Design settings page for an easier experience

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 05:00:00 -0800

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How to add custom ringtones to your Android phone

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 11:00:00 -0800

When you decided to go with Android, customization was probably at the top of the list. Many longtime Android devotees swear by the ability to change up every element of how their phone works.

So perhaps you want to extend that capability to ringtones. Sure, there are those sounds that come on your phone (we’ll show you how to tweak those, too) but you can also opt for music from your own sources. Here’s what you need to do.

Give the right permissions

You’re going to need to dig into the permissions. Get there by going to Settings > App Permissions > Storage. Then toggle on the setting for contacts.

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The Evernote email trick everyone should use: How to forward emails automatically

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0800

One of the most attractive features of Evernote is the many ways you can create notes without ever touching your keyboard. Among these is the ability to email notes to Evernote if you have one of Evernote’s paid plans. While you can do this manually, if you have certain types of messages that you continually add to a notebook, you can save yourself even more time by setting up your email client to forward them automatically. Here, I’ll look at how to do this with Gmail.

Set up forwarding to Evernote

The first thing you need to do is add your Evernote email address to Gmail. If you don’t already know your address, there are a few ways to find it depending on which platform you’re using:

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How to stop Windows 10 from rebooting after updates

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Tonia Jordan wants her PC to stop rebooting all by itself after Windows updates itself, and I feel her pain. I’ve also had the unpleasant experience in Windows 10 of leaving my PC mid-task only to come back later to find it has rebooted without any warning. And even when Windows 10 gives you a warning that it needs to reboot there’s no way to postpone it anymore, so you have to save your work and let it do its thing. We get that Microsoft wants all its users to update their PCs immediately to keep their systems secure, but forcing a PC to reboot without any user input is not a good user experience. 

Though Microsoft now allows you to set active hours in order to prevent an update during your regular times of use, an update during your off hours will still be followed by an automatic reboot. That can be a problem if you’re one to leave important tasks and windows open overnight. I found what appears to be the solution on the Winaero blog. Note that I haven’t tested it yet, as my system hasn’t had a pending update as of press time, but the blog is legit and the proposed change is easily reversible. 

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How to remove malware

Sun, 29 Jan 2017 21:00:00 -0800

If you've found malware on your system, what should you do about it? This video walks you through the steps of getting the bad stuff off your PC.

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How to increase your right-click options with Right Click Tweaker

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 05:00:00 -0800

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How to share your Android phone's connection with Wi-Fi hotspot

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 11:00:00 -0800

Your Android phone is always connected to the Internet, but you might not know that your other devices can take advantage of it, too. If you’re traveling with a tablet or a laptop that only has a Wi-Fi chip, your Android phone can magically be transformed into a Wi-Fi hotspot that your cellular-challenged devices can use to get access to the Internet.

And it’s not hard to do. With just a few taps in the Settings app you’ll be able to securely broadcast your signal to any device that may need it, letting you work as if you were connected to your home Wi-Fi. There are a couple caveats, however. For one, you’ll be using your phone’s data, so you probably shouldn’t use it to stream movies or download large files. Furthermore, some carriers block the feature for certain plans, so if it you can’t get it to work you might need to call your wireless provider. And finally, it can be a major battery drain on your phone, so make sure you have a battery pack handy.

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