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Win7’s no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall

Microsoft won’t tell you this, but you can do a fast, nondestructive, in-place, total reinstall of Windows 7 without damaging your user accounts, data, installed programs, or system drivers.

That means you may never have to do a full, from-scratch reinstall again, even when your system is misbehaving so badly that a full reformat-and-reinstall seems the only answer!

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Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 3

In the first two installments of this series, I stepped you through a boatload of software that you don’t need if you have Windows 7.

Many of you wrote to me in disbelief — some of you disagreed in very strong terms. But from what I’ve seen, most of the add-on software that people buy for Windows is just a waste of money.

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It’s time to move up to Internet Explorer 9

With the exception of Internet Explorer, updating to your browser’s latest version is usually a given.

For Vista and Win7 users, upgrading to IE 9 requires a bit more consideration and planning than updating Firefox or Chrome — but the time has come.

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RPV: Win7’s least-known data-protection system

You deleted a file yesterday; now you really need it back. Your Windows recycle bin is empty — what now?

Your next-best option is the Restore Previous Versions tool — a truly great, automatic data-protection feature buried in Win7.

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What you need to know now about Windows 8

Few Microsoft publicity efforts have ever drawn as much attention as last week’s 20-minute Windows 8 sneak preview.

If you’ve heard that Windows 8 is for the dogs or that it will look like a phone, you haven’t heard the whole story.

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Re-examining Dropbox and its alternatives

Recent revelations about privacy concerns with Dropbox have led many people — including me — to think about changing my practices regarding online file-storage and -synchronization providers. If you use Dropbox or some other cloud storage and sync program, let me explain what you do — and don’t — need to be concerned about.

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Mobile privacy: lots of Big Brothers, little clarity

What do you call software that collects and sends information about you to its developers, advertisers, and others? On a desktop, we’re likely to name it spyware.

But on a cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device we call it an app — never realizing that it might be operating much like spyware.

As difficult as the issues surrounding privacy on a desktop computer can be, they’re virtually child’s play compared to the issues that arise with mobile devices — which, at the very least, must identify themselves to gain access to public Wi-Fi or cellular networks. Cellular devices do this through a unique identification number attached to every voice call or data request — an ID that networks store as long as your device is turned on, whether it’s in use or not.

The closest equivalents in the desktop space are tracking cookies, which we have the freedom to delete. “With mobile device identifiers, there’s no ability to delete or opt out,” says Ashkan Soltani, an online privacy consultant who recently testified (PDF file) about mobile privacy issues before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

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Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 2

After the first article of this three-part series appeared, many of you wrote to ask: do I really not need this software?

It’s true: if you’ve moved up to Windows 7, there are all sorts of software that you just don’t need. Stop following outdated advice and get with the system!

In my previous installment, I wrote that Windows 7 owners don’t need to pay for any of these important apps:

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Build a complete Windows 7 safety net

Every copy of Windows 7 includes a complete suite of backup tools. The suite contains everything you need to back up (and restore) your entire system.

What’s more, after you’ve set up your initial backup, future backups happen automatically.

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Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 1

If you’ve moved to Windows 7, there’s a raft of software — entire categories of software — that you simply don’t need.

Why pay for it?

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