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Posted on Apr 23, 2015 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 23 – PC spring clean with Easy Duplicate Finder and Microsoft turns 40

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 23

Welcome to the April 2015 TWT Newsletter

Please note – Since publishing this newsletter we have withdrawn our recommendation of Easy Duplicate Finder due to questionable business practises by the software’s publisher/promoter

Spring is officially here! We hope for those of you that celebrate it that you all had a good Easter. In this issue we’ll be looking at ways to spring clean your PC and gain back some valuable disk space and other computing resources.

Easy Duplicate Finder Is sponsoring our newsletter in accordance with our standard editorial policy. If we wouldn’t use the software ourselves, we won’t recommend it, no matter what the incentive!

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at
Spring cleaning your PC – Top tips to reclaim resources
Tip of the Month – Get extra storage for your laptop
Free Utility of the Month – Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
Windows Store App of the Month – MetroPass
Windows 10 update
Microsoft is 40 this month – Here are four of their products that didn’t live that long

What’s new at

In March we updated four of our tutorials for the very popular Skype internet messenger program. Skype lets you chat to friends and family around the world using both voice and video. We also brought you 5 new tutorials for Macrium Reflect. This powerful program can clone your computers entire hard drive, great for backup and disaster recovery. Best of all, it’s totally free.

picture Skype – 4 Updated tutorials.

Want to get started with Skype? Our tutorials are now updated for the very latest desktop version of this popular instant messaging and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) software. We cover installing the program, configuring your microphone and camera, making a call and managing contacts. View the first tutorial here.

picture Macrium Reflect – 5 Tutorials.

Did you know that computer hard drives (including solid state drives) have a 100% failure rate? That’s right, hard drives are mechanical devices and just like every other mechanical device they will eventually fail.

As you can see, having a backup plan is very important, and one program that can help you with this, for free, is Macrium Reflect. In our tutorials we show you how this powerful software can create a backup of your computers entire hard drive. Click here to view the first tutorial.

Spring cleaning your PC – Top tips to reclaim resources

It’s crazy to think that an average, budget computer has all the computing power to dwarf a room full of top-end mainframes from twenty years ago. Furthermore, the hard drive capacities that we now take for granted would have seemed absurd a couple of decades ago, when just one gigabyte would have cost you thousands of dollars. Even so, many of you will no doubt be wishing the diminutive little laptop or desktop you run Windows on was a little bit faster, or perhaps had a little more storage space. Since spring has well and truly sprung, we’ll have a look at a few ways you can do a little spring cleaning on your PC and get back some valuable resources.

Before we start, it has to be said that modern versions of Windows really don’t require a great deal of maintenance to stay in tip-top condition. You will find a lot of advertisements for things like registry cleaners or system tune up utilities. In our experience these tools have almost no impact on system performance and can in some cases actually cause more problems than they fix. Instead, we’ll focus on some proven ways you can clean up your computer and regain some resources.

Remove duplicate data – If there’s one thing computers do well it’s copy information. At the click of a button, you can copy hundreds of your files, folders and programs to another location. Because of this, our computers can end up getting a little cluttered over time, with lots of duplicated files. Files that we daren’t delete because we’re not organised enough to know for sure if we properly backed them up (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).

The solution to this problem is to use a program to find the duplicates for us. Easy Duplicate Finder is an ideal solution to this problem. The program can scan any locations on your PC or even on your home network and find duplicate files and folders. The program is smart enough to tell if two files are duplicates even if their filenames do not match, or if two files are different even if they have the same filename. Once duplicates are found, they can be moved, deleted and even replaced with a special kind of shortcut called a “hard link”. We’ve tested Easy Duplicate Finder extensively here at TWT HQ and found it works great, though a little caution is advised when scanning locations like your documents folder, for instance. The program is easy enough for beginners yet has enough power and flexibility to satisfy IT pros.

You can try the program for free, just use the link here. For help getting started, check out our video tutorials by clicking here.

Prune startup applications – For those applications that you use the most often, it can be very convenient to have them launch when your PC launches. Perhaps you like to have your favourite instant messaging program or e-mail client open as soon as you power on your PC. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but remember that the more programs you run at startup, the more computing resources you consume and the slower your PC becomes at starting up.

There are a number of applications that can help with managing startup applications. Some are built into Windows, but the one program we come back to most often is Microsoft Technet’s Autoruns. Autoruns scans deep in your system and shows you everything that starts when your PC starts, even showing hidden ways programs can start that you might not be expecting, such as in the task scheduler. When used carefully (don’t disable anything you’re unsure of) this powerful tool is an essential part of any savvy PC users tool kit. Find our more by checking out our Autoruns tutorial here.

Uninstall old programs – If you’re anything like me you love to try out lots of different games, applications and other programs. If you’ve had your PC for a while, chances are you have lots of things installed that simply take up valuable hard drive space. Why not uninstall a few old programs you no longer use? That game you no longer play, that amazing free utility that you used once then forgot about, it’s all valuable space you could be using for something else.

Uninstalling programs is easy. One way is to simply browse or search the Start menu or Start screen for programs you have installed, then run the uninstall program associated with any app you no longer use. You can also search for “uninstall a program” from the Start menu or Start screen then click on the icon that appears under “Control Panel”. This will open the “Programs and Features” section of the Control Panel. Here, Windows will list all the programs installed on your computer that it knows about.

If you can’t remember the last time you used a program, Windows keeps records of that too, while in the “Programs and Features” section, right click on any column heading and choose “More…”. This will open a list of criteria that you can sort the programs by. Choose “Last Used On” for instance, to make it easy to find programs you have barely used.

If you’re hungry for more tips on how to clean up your PC, check out our How to Make Windows Faster pages, we’ll explain what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting the most out of your Windows machine.

Tip of the Month – Get extra storage for your laptop

When desktop PC users run out of space, they can just buy a new hard drive and install it in the tower. It’s not so easy for laptop users of course. Some laptops do have dual hard drive bays, but most of the smaller models do not. Sure, you could buy a regular external hard drive, but having a bunch of extra cables and boxes attached to your machine is not terribly convenient if you like to carry your laptop around with you.

If you urgently need more space and don’t want to sacrifice portability, there are a number of super slim USB drives on the market that are ideal. The Sandisk Cruzer Fit, for instance, is so small it can fit in a laptops USB port without sacrificing portability or convenience. These drives are available in capacities of up to 64GB, ideal for installing a couple of extra games, movie files or some tunes to help pass the time while you’re on the road.

Free Utility of the Month – Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free

It’s great to tidy up your PC, but if there’s malware, spyware or other nasties lurking on it, then removing those malicious programs should be your first priority. Malwarebytes is a super popular free scanner that can detect and remove all kinds of malicious software. The free version of the program is great as a “second opinion” when used in conjunction with your regular antivirus program. Because it doesn’t include a real time scanner, you can use it to scan your PC without worrying about it conflicting with whatever other antivirus solution you may have. If you need the extra protection of real-time scanning you can upgrade to the full version at any time too.

Give your computer a free scan check-up today by downloading Malwarebytes here.

Windows app store app of the month – MetroPass

Now that we all use smartphones and/or tablets as well as our traditional PCs, have our security habits become worse? Some IT experts seem to think so, after all, typing a long password on a touch screen isn’t very much fun. Then again, it’s not like we were all following best practices back in the old days either. If you’re determined to improve your online security habits, switching to a password manager is an important first step. We’ve mentioned password manager KeePass before, but it’s not exactly optimal for using on a touch screen. MetroPass helps solve that problem, creating a bridge between KeePass on the desktop and the modern UI, touch optimised apps.

Thanks to Windows excellent multitasking, you can use MetroPass to manage all your passwords in Windows 8 easily, without needing to switch back to the desktop and poke clumsily at a desktop app with your finger. Being based around KeePass means your passwords are stored and encrypted on your device and don’t touch the cloud.

MetroPass is available in both a free, ad supported edition and an ad-free version. For security we’d recommend the ad-free professional version. To find out more, visit this link.

Windows 10 update

We don’t have a long list of announcements to make regarding Windows 10 this month. According to Microsoft’s own timeline, the technical preview of the OS ends this month, on the 15th April. After that time we expect to be able to get our hands on a build that’s much closer to the finished version. We gave the very latest build of Windows 10 a test drive last month and found it to be quite buggy, with clearly a long way left to go. We hope Microsoft isn’t going to rush this one out.

There’s still no release date set, but many sources are claiming “Summer”. Looks like we’re going to be busy.

Microsoft is 40 this month – Here are four of their products that didn’t live that long

On April the 4th, Microsoft corporation officially turned 40 years old. Forty years in an industry that’s constantly changing and evolving, often in unpredictable ways, that’s certainly an achievement. The company has gone from a small startup of a handful of people to a company that employs more than 125,000. To celebrate the event, former CEO Bill Gates sent out an inspirational e-mail encouraging Microsoft employees to “Make the power of technology accessible to everyone”. Thanks Bill, that’s what we’ve always tried to do here!

Microsoft’s 40 years in the business has not always been a smooth ride. Many decisions the giant corporation makes have often seemed baffling. The company has often been accused of anti-competitive behaviour and, particularly at the height of Windows popularity, of abusing its position as a Monopoly. Rumours of the Redmond giant using its muscle to do such devious things as persuade stores not to give shelf space to rival products are common on the internet. Furthermore, thanks to the companies questionable tactics, it’s often quite difficult to buy a pre-built computer that doesn’t have Windows pre-installed, unless you’re looking for an OSX machine anyway.

Rather than look back over the great Microsoft products, we thought it would be more fun to look at some of their tech we’ve used but that isn’t around any more. Some of these products were doomed to failure, others perhaps had the plug pulled too soon. Here’s a selection of Microsoft tech from across the 40 years that’s either dead or dying.

Microsoft BOB – BOB is usually the Microsoft project that is pointed at and laughed at, typically with all the subtlety of Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons. Perhaps this is a little unfair though. BOB’s aim was to make computers easy to use and unintimidating. Empowering non-technical people to use their computers is a noble goal. Effectively teaching IT to absolute beginners can be difficult for those of us who are already comfortable with technology. For the enlightened, simple concepts like clicking and opening menus is intuitive, so it’s hard to see it from the viewpoint of someone for whom the whole thing just looks utterly confusing.

If you’re not familiar with Bob, you can see it in action here. Bob tried to be a friendly way to help people use their computers, but most found it to be clunky and patronising. Bobs legacy lived on with the Office Assistant, which most users remember as the annoying paper-clip. Microsoft eventually abandoned the idea entirely, though judging by the comments on our Youtube videos, many younger users actually found Bob to be quite entertaining.

MSN Messenger – At one time, MSN messenger was one of the most popular social networks on the internet. Using the service, millions of users sent free instant messages to one another. As time went on, many users migrated to using their mobile phones for some or all of their social networking. Facebook opened an instant messaging service too. After giving up on their chat rooms, due to spammers, MSN Messenger slowly started to fade into insignificance. Microsoft eventually announced the service was to end, though many users still access the network through third party chat clients like Pidgin or Trillian.

Microsoft would like us all to transition to Skype, but we personally miss the simplicity of messaging services like MSN and its long-time rival Yahoo. With dozens of new messaging services appearing all the time, the days of chatting to all your friends with a nice, unified messaging program like Pidgin or Trillian may truly be over.

Windows Media Center –Windows Media Center is one of several front-ends we’ve tried in our quest to find the perfect PC for media playback. Designed to bring the PC into the living room and give a comfortable, easy to navigate media experience, on the surface, Media Center sounds like a great idea. Being created by Microsoft and included with several versions of Windows, it was supported by a range of third party peripherals such as remote controls and TV tuners.

Unfortunately, like every other home theatre PC front end, Media Center ended up being clunky, expensive to deploy and a pain to maintain compared to the myriad of affordable media streaming boxes and other hardware that can now be purchased super cheaply. For reasons that could cover an entire article, a Windows PC just isn’t very good at being an all-round living room media player. Microsoft have been entirely mute on Media Center in Windows 10, suggesting that the little used program could finally be killed off in the latest OS upgrade.

Windows Mobile –We’re sure the fate of Windows Mobile keeps coming back to haunt Microsoft. Back before mobile computing was a thing, the idea that Apple could become a bigger technology company than Microsoft was absurd. Then, of course, the iPhone happened.

It’s not like Microsoft was ignoring mobile. Windows Mobile devices were around long before smartphones were ubiquitous. In fact, there was a class of device called a “PDA” that was basically an early smartphone, without the phone. Typically carried by geeks, such as your editor here, these devices usually ran Windows Mobile. Some ran other operating systems such as Palm and even Apple had an early stab at the concept with the now very collectable Apple Newton. Windows Mobile was clunky and somewhat ugly to look at. It frequently crashed and devices usually required a hard reset every couple of months. The software which synchronised the devices with your desktop PC was called Activesync and was notorious for being unreliable.

With perseverance and a bunch of third party software installed, Windows Mobile devices could become quite usable. While they were largely ignored by consumers, they did carve out a niche in enterprise, where they were and still are used for all kinds of applications where portable computers are required, such as inventory or stock control/checking. If you signed for a parcel recently you may still have used a Windows Mobile powered portable computer to do so.

By focusing on enterprise related features at the expense of usability and platform stability, Microsoft alienated most of the consumer market. Apple took the other approach, designing a phone that was derided by geeks for lacking even basic features in its first iteration, but instead focused on being stable and easy to use. Perhaps not surprisingly, consumers preferred this approach and Microsoft has been playing catchup ever since. It’s latest line of mobile phones feature an excellent, fast and stable OS, but the lions share of app software is on iOS and Android. Ironically, the lack of software support on competing platforms is what kept many of us using Windows through the XP days, despite other platforms having considerable security advantages at that point.

That concludes our newsletter for April. On behalf of the team here at TWT, I’d like to say thank you to all our readers, new and old for your continued support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th May 2015 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows 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. 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 and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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