One of the biggest tech events of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), takes place in the beginning of January. As an attendee, I’ve always thought there was a certain pleasing symbolism to the scheduling: It happens on the cusp of the western new year, right as casinos are gearing up to celebrate the lunar new year at the end of the month. And as with new year celebrations, CES is all about embracing the possibilities of the very near future.
It’s easy to make fun of the more ridiculous tech offerings at CES — I’m still marveling at the hairbrush that makes product recommendations — but a deeper point remains: We tend to turn to technology to make our very near future — and our present — better. As I was looking at gadgets that turn your Windows 8.1 laptop into a touchscreen device and admiring small handheld scanners, I was also thinking about this newsletter and how it embodies the idea of helping readers improve their lives by improving the experience they have using the tools in their lives.
As we move into 2017, Richard Hay and I will be sticking to Windows Secrets’ core mission: to give you the tools to make your technology use better, both now and in the future. It’s only appropriate that this first newsletter for 2017 begin with Fred Langa’s feature “Start 2017 right with a clean Windows PC.” It’s an auspicious beginning to the year.
(Now, if I can figure out how to get an editor’s headshot up there, it’ll be an even better year …)
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A little time spent now on preventive maintenance can save hours of system troubleshooting later. It’ll also provide better computing all year long.
This article is something of a Windows Secrets tradition: We update, refresh, and then publish a new version of this story in the first issue of each new year. In this iteration, you’ll find more references to top-notch, detailed PC-maintenance how-tos and related information than ever before!
Undo a year’s worth of wear and tear
This past year was tumultuous for Windows — and most likely for your PCs, too. To start, Windows Update released hundreds of new patches (see list), some in a new cumulative/ roll-up format. And along the way, you’ve probably installed some new third-party software, uninstalled other programs, and upgraded or patched apps and utilities. You may have also altered, tuned, and tweaked various aspects of your system’s user interface, and software and hardware settings. And you’ve undoubtedly created and deleted myriad emails, documents, photos, MP3s, videos, spreadsheets, and so forth.
You might even have upgraded your Windows 8, 7, or Vista system to Windows 10. And if you were already using Win10 at the start of last year, you hopefully survived the major upgrade to Version 1607 — aka, the “Anniversary Update.”
All that activity takes its toll. Over the year, software errors, large and small, undoubtedly crept in. Your hard drive spun hundreds of millions of revolutions, and the system fans rotated for hundreds of hours. Heat, dust, and chemical degradation did their inevitable (often invisible) damage, shortening the remaining physical life of your system’s components.
In other words, just as we’re all a year older, our PCs are not the same machines they were a year ago.
To ensure your system runs smoothly for another year, now’s a good time to perform some extra maintenance. It’ll help prevent new errors from piling on old ones and keep your system fundamentally sound and ready for the changes 2017 will bring.
Preserve and protect system data — Take 1
As with all significant changes to a PC, start any serious system maintenance with a full system backup. That way, if anything goes awry, you can recover relatively quickly.
Making regular backups is always a good practice. It’s strong insurance against all manner of ills that might bring down a PC: power spikes, hard-drive crashes, malware infestations, cockpit error, and many other calamities.
All current versions of Windows provide the means to make reliable backups, though each new generation of the OS has added enhancements to its archiving capabilities. Here’s a quick list of resources:
Vista: This aged version of Windows is in its last few months of service life (see the Windows lifecycle fact sheet). But for now, Microsoft still supports it; so I’ve included it one final time.
For Vista backups, check out TechNet’s article, ”
Windows 7: The “Build a complete Windows 7 safety net” story walks you through the entire process of setting up and using Win7’s built-in backup tools, providing near-total data safety. (See Figure 1.)
A dual-boot PC has 32GB of RAM, but the 32-bit Win10 partition sees only a paltry 1.6GB — far below the expected 4GB. Here’s why and a fix.
Plus: Win10 steals an apps’ F1 key function, and how to stop Windows Groove — or any other default Win10 app — from automatically launching.
Win10 PC has a ‘Hardware Reserved RAM” problem
Reader Alvin Davis’ wonders why his 32-bit version of Win10 sees only 1.6GB of memory — on a system with 16GB of installed RAM.
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Trademarks: Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. The Windows Secrets series of books is published by Wiley Publishing Inc. The Windows Secrets Newsletter, WindowsSecrets.com, WinFind, Windows Gizmos, Security Baseline, Patch Watch, Perimeter Scan, Wacky Web Week, the Logo Design (W, S or road, and Star), and the slogan Everything Microsoft Forgot to Mention all are trademarks and service marks of iNET Interactive. All other marks are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.
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