TWT Newsletter, Issue #067 – Happy Holidays from the TWT Team!
Welcome to our December 2012 TWT Newsletter. For many of us around the world, December means preparing for Christmas and the new year celebrations. There’s still time to get some last minute shopping done though, especially with our guide to last minute gift ideas for the PC user in your life.
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In this months issue:-
1) Last minute gift ideas for the tech-savvy family
2) Tip of the Month – Don’t be duped into buying “Recovery media” for a new Windows 8 machine
3) Free Utility of the Month – Rainmeter
4) Top-Windows-Tutorials.com in 2013
Last minute gift ideas for the tech-savvy family
Remember the days when we all had to pound the pavements to find Christmas gifts? Thanks to the PC and the internet those days are over for most of us. However, if you’ve left your Christmas gift shopping literally until the last minute, here are a few ideas for saving the big day from big disappointments.
Now that many of us have internet connections, lots of software is sold online rather than in stores. Buy a new program and you could have it in minutes or even seconds via digital download. Several of these services have become very popular and for the computer user in your life a gift card or a download can be a great gift idea.
One of the most popular download services for the PC is Steam. This online store specialises in games, but has also added productivity software to its catalogue in recent months too. There are two ways you can treat a Steam using friend this festive season. Firstly, you can buy Steam top-up cards from stores such as Game (UK) or GameStop (US). Typically these cards are simply printed on a till receipt, so you might want to put them inside a Christmas card or consider some other means of presenting them more personally.
Secondly, if you have a Steam account yourself and you know your friends Steam account, you can gift them any game or program available to buy on Steam. Simply start Steam, then choose the program you want to buy and then click on “Purchase as a Gift”.
Steam is not the only way to buy new software for your PC. Windows 8 users should now be familiar with the Windows 8 store. Unfortunately there’s currently no way to gift a purchase made on the Windows 8 store and top-up cards designed for the Xbox 360 console are not compatible.
Perhaps you’d like to give a PC enthusiast in your life a little something to spruce his or her PC up. Stardock’s excellent Object Desktop suite is $49.95 and includes 15 different programs to brighten up your Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop. You can buy this suite of programs as a digital download gift here.
Of course, there are lots of other places you can buy download content from. For anyone lucky enough to be getting a new PC this Christmas, our Windows 8 Superguide is an excellent gift to get them. Our downloads are all free of DRM (copy protection), meaning you can easily download our products then save them to another computer for use. Spare a friend or family member the frustration of learning Windows 8’s new interface and grab a copy of our latest Superguide here. Our Windows 7 Superguide is still available, of course. For those users who have mastered the basics, there’s also the Windows 7 Superguide 2, which takes your Windows 7 knowledge to the next level.
Once you’ve chosen your download, in many cases you will want to come up with a way to present it. For download codes, you could copy and paste the receipt e-mail into a package like Word or Open Office. From here, you can add pictures and decorations before printing out. If you buy one of our Superguides, for instance, why not use a USB stick in order to deliver it. These are so common that most supermarkets now carry them. You could even decorate the USB stick in a festive style if you were feeling particularly adventurous. Even if you haven’t been so last minute with your gift gathering, a digital download can be a great way to add that extra personal touch to a USB flash drive, external hard drive or even a PC that was purchased for a friend or family member.
So as you can see, digital downloads can make for great stocking fillers for your computer loving friends and relatives. However you’re spending Christmas this year, we hope that your stocking has some exciting presents waiting inside!
Tip of the Month – Don’t be duped into buying “Recovery media” for a new Windows 8 machine
Like us here at TWT HQ, many of you may be purchasing new PC’s, laptops or even Windows tablets this festive season. The PC business is competitive and margins are tight. One of the ways that manufacturers claw back some profit is by pre-loading lots of free trials and sample software on a PC. This ‘complimentary’ software (often rather rudely dubbed ‘crapware’ by the rest of the industry) is still prevalent in Windows 8. One other worrying trend is the sale of “Recovery media”. After purchasing one laptop, we received a phonecall from the retailer offering us various enhancements and extras, one of these extras was a complete set of recovery media, for the sum of £15.
Just what is recovery media anyway? Recovery media is a CD/DVD or USB storage device which contains a copy of your computers operating system in a factory fresh state. In the past, Windows machines have all shipped with a copy of this information on a DVD disk. However, as manufacturers looked for more ways to cut costs, the recovery media was dropped and instead a recovery partition was placed on the computers hard drive.
Of course, this solution isn’t very practical because the most common point of failure on a PC is the hard drive. Fortunately, Microsoft have made it really easy to create your own recovery media in Windows 8. You will need a USB stick/thumb drive around 16gb in size to create a complete recovery drive. To start the process of creating the recovery media, search for “Create a recovery drive” under Settings on the Start screen, then click on the Control Panel icon that appears. Enter your password and/or click on “Yes” when the User Account Control prompt appears. The recovery drive creation program will then start.
This new Windows 8 program has a very useful new feature, the option to copy the systems recovery partition to the USB drive. What does this mean exactly? Many PC’s have a hidden area on their hard drives which can reset the PC back to factory fresh settings. This is great if the operating system fails completely and you cannot start your PC. However, this is no help at all if the hard drive itself fails and needs to be replaced. With this option you can back up this important area of your hard drive, so you should choose this option if it is available. If this option is not available, you should make sure you have some way of reinstalling your OS completely (if you bought your copy of Windows 8 in a retail store, for instance, you can use the DVD disk you purchased). We also cover recovery media and creating your own in more detail in our Windows 8 Superguide.
If you’re using an earlier version of Windows, you should still make sure you have some kind of recovery media. On earlier versions of Windows you can use certain full disk backup software to create a system image that can be used to recover your operating system in the event of a complete failure of your hard drive. You can find out more about system backup by visiting this page.
Free Utility of the Month – Rainmeter
Sidebars, desktop widgets and other similar utilities used to be very fashionable a few years ago. There were widget engines from Microsoft, Yahoo, Opera, Stardock and several others. Somehow, these handy little programs have gone out of fashion lately, meaning that it is getting harder to find powerful, cool looking widgets for your desktop.
One widget engine that is still widely supported is Rainmeter. Big on looks and functionality, Rainmeter has quickly become our favourite sidebar and widget engine. The program itself can be quite complex, but there are several default layouts that will suit most users that can be installed quickly and easily. To find out more about Rainmeter or to download the program, visit this link. There’s also a fantastic gallery of Windows desktops using Rainmeter here, which shows just how versatile and customizable the windows desktop is.
Top-Windows-Tutorials.com in 2013
Another year is about to end! At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we can hardly believe that 2013 will be the seventh year we’ve been online! We’ve certainly seen the site grow and evolve over that time, but there’s plenty more still to do. In 2013 we have several improvements planned and we hope to make the site accessible to even more users.
Our first priority is to improve video playback across the site. We have been struggling with technical issues with our current player for months now and we have actively been searching out alternatives. We hope to not only improve the situation for desktop/laptop users but add compatibility for users on mobile devices too.
Speaking of mobile devices, we’re looking at ways to improve access for those of you regularly accessing the site on the smaller screens of mobile phones and tablets. We understand that many of you use our site for reference and being able to access a tutorial on your tablet or mobile device while working on your PC can be very useful.
We’re also planning a bigger social media presence. We know that lots of our readers like to interact on Facebook or Twitter, so we intend to extend our presence there, giving you another way to connect with us and find out about new content on the site as well as tips and techniques.
Of course, we aim to keep adding fresh new content too, as well as updating the look and feel of the site to something more modern. Our aim is to roll out these changes gradually, with as little disruption as possible, so that you can rely on the site for reference.
All in all, our readers should have plenty to look forward to in 2013 as we strive to be the best tutorial and help site for Windows users everywhere!
That rounds off our newsletter for December and all our Newsletters for 2012! On behalf of everyone here at Top-Windows-Tutorials, I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support and we hope to see you all in 2013 too. Merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy new year to everyone! The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th January 2013 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8! We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page or by leaving us feedback in our forum. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com, and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing this most festive season!