Microsoft’s Windows 10 Feature Tour

windows10installissuesThe Windows 10 Start Menu and Features

The Start menu is very Windows 8 like in that it features Live Tiles for at-a-glance information in apps. These were largely redundant for many Windows 8 users because of the lack of decent apps. But that’s changed in Windows 10, as the available apps are much more useful and a good many have been completely redesigned.

The remainder of the Start menu is more like the Windows 7 version, with controls for turning your PC off and restarting, as well as most-used apps and the ability to scroll down through all your apps in alphabetical order through an All Apps menu. File Explorer and Settings are also present.

You can scroll down through the Live Tiles. The tiles also animate (as if the tile itself is rotating) if there’s new content for you to check out. You can group and rename the live tiles just as you could in Windows 8.

You can resize the start menu itself by dragging the sides, which is a handy new feature. However, you cannot switch the live tiles section off completely.

The taskbar itself is mostly unchanged, but open apps have a subtle coloured bar below them, while the new Search bar (which you can reduce to an icon or get rid of completely via the taskbar right-click menu) and Task View icons are there to stay, alongside the Start button.

Once again, you can minimise everything by clicking in the far right-hand corner of the taskbar.

Multiple Virtual Desktops

Unless you have a multi-monitor setup it can be easy to run out of screen space. For that reason, Windows 10 provides multiple desktops that you can work in and quickly switch between.

To use this feature, just click the new Task View button on the taskbar. This is located between Search and the new Edge Browser. This brings up the Task View interface, where you can see your open windows on the virtual desktops you’ve added.

When you open the Task View interface for the first time, and you only have one desktop, the new add a desktop button is available. Click the plus sign to add another virtual desktop.

You can create an unlimited number of multiple desktops, and switching between them is just a matter of clicking the Task View button again and moving your mouse over the thumbnail of the one you want. You can also switch between your desktops by pressing Ctrl+Win and tapping the left or right keys. When you have highlighted the desktop you want to switch to, press Enter.

Moving open apps and windows between desktops is very straightforward. Right-click the window to move (in the desktop switcher screen), select “Move to”, and then choose the desktop you want.
To close a virtual desktop, hover your mouse over its thumbnail and click on the X that appears.

The Action Center

The former Charms functions of Windows 8 are contained in a new Notifications panel, called Action Center.

This is launched from the notifications area of the taskbar. When you launch Action Center, a full-height bar appears on the right of the screen – it’s designed to match the Notifications setup in a Windows 8.1 Phone.

A raft of individual settings (called Quick Actions) resides at the bottom of the Action Center. This includes features such as toggling Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Location on and off or switching in and out of tablet mode. If you’re coming from Windows 7 and have no idea where to find some of the settings you are used to, there’s a good chance you’ll find them here, in the Action Center.

You can also get to Settings from here as an alternative to the Start menu, and there’s also now a Note feature for instantly launching OneNote ( OneNote is a powerful Evernote-style app which lets you create notes that are a mixture of text, lists, images, maps and more).

Maps have been improved too. Microsoft has added StreetSide – the equivalent of Google’s Street View – so you can take virtual tours of places, as well as getting directions and finding nearby places of interest. For directions, you can choose driving, walking or public transport.

You’ll also notice that other connectivity features are available from here, such as the ability to connect to devices such as Bluetooth speakers. You can also lock rotation if appropriate – this option is context sensitive, so on a non-touch device it’s just not there.

In the Settings app you can select which of these Quick Actions appear in the Action Center, as well as which apps can send you Notifications. When notifications appear, you can swipe them away on touch, flick them with the mouse or just click the X to close. Tap or click the down arrow to see more detail. There’s a Clear All option, too.

If you’re coming from Windows 7 and have no idea where to find some of the settings you’re used to, there’s a good chance you’ll find them in the Action Center.

Note: The free Windows 10 upgrade offer is only available until 29th July 2016.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 update choices

windows10-familyMicrosoft’s Windows 10 update choices

This is the first in a series of articles all about Windows 10.

Windows 10 was launched onto the market on 29th July 2015. The good news is that it’s free to upgrade to Windows 10 if your PC is running either Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.1. But is it a worthwhile upgrade for you?

Let’s have a closer look at Windows 10 so we can all make an informed choice.

The first thing to take on board is that the free upgrade offer is only available until 29th July 2016.

If you have Windows 8.1 (on a PC or a phone) there should be no issue in installing Windows 10. If you have Windows 7, you’ll need to make sure you meet Windows 10 minimum requirements:

Latest OS: Make sure that you are running the latest version of either Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update.

Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor

RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit

Hard Disk Space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS

Graphics Card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver

Minimum Display: 800×600

Even though the free upgrade version of Windows 10 is only available for 12 months, Microsoft has stressed that those updating during this promotional period will be able to use Windows 10 at no cost forever (i.e. for the “supported lifetime of the device”). And when you upgrade, you’ll be upgraded to the appropriate version. For example, if you’re running a Professional version of Windows 7 you’ll be upgraded to Windows 10 Professional.

If you’re on a version of Windows that can be upgraded you might well have seen an icon appear on your taskbar via Windows Update (providing your machine is up-to-date, of course). Clicking the icon launches a window that enables you to reserve your place in the queue to download the free upgrade.

After the free offer period you will presumably still be able to upgrade your PC, but you will have to purchase an upgrade version of Windows 10.

Next Month – More details about Windows 10 and its new desktop layout.

Its a wise move to keep checking your Hard Drive for errors

checkdiscChkdsk inspects the physical structure of a Hard Drive to make sure that it is healthy. It can then repair any drive problems that it finds, related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files and directory errors.

These types of problems can arise in a variety of ways. System restarts, crashes or freezes, power glitches and incorrectly turning off a computer, can cause all sorts of corruption in the drives file or folder structure.

Once an error occurs it can develop to create more errors, so regularly running Chkdsk should be made part of your routine PC maintenance.

Chkdsk can also serve as an early warning that a hard drive is deteriorating. Drives gradually wear out and sectors may become bad. If Chkdsk starts finding bad sectors, that’s a sign that your hard drive may need replacing.

Find out more about Chkdsk – http://www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/pchelparticles/chkdsk.html

Planning to Buy a new graphics card for your PC? – Part 3

radeonx1300-2The Power Requirements

Even if you have PCI Express x16 slot and plenty of room, you’ll need extra power for most modern graphics cards.

Your power supply will most likely have PCI-E power connectors, but they may be bundled up and tied out of the way if no graphics card is currently fitted. These connectors are usually black, marked as PCI-E and have six pins in a 3×2 arrangement. If your Power Supply Unit does not have these, you can buy adaptors which connect to the standard four-pin power or SATA connectors.

Be careful with graphics cards that require two PCI Express power connectors as each of these should be connected to a different 12v rail of the power supply. On most Power Supply Units this means connecting each of the two adaptors to a different ‘daisy chain’ of power connectors and not to the same chain.

Finally, make sure your power supply is powerful enough to work with the existing components in your PC. This can be tricky to work out, but a good rule of thumb is that high-end graphics cards will require at least a 600W PSU and may be even more.

It’s wrong to assume that a Power Supply Unit can output its maximum power rating continuously, so you could run into problems if your components are drawing more power than around 80% of the power supply’s top rating.

It’s fairly easy to check how much power a graphics card draws by searching online for the make and model you are planning to buy.

Planning to Buy a new graphics card for your PC? – Part 2

radeonx1300-2With Desktop PCs, there will be a few expansion slots located on its motherboard. Typically they will all be PCI Express slots, but for a graphics card you need a PCI Express x16 slot. There are three versions of this slot, but they are backwards compatible, so a modern PCI Express 3.0 graphics card will work in a motherboard with a PCI Express x16 2.0 slot.

If your PC’s motherboard has two PCI Express x16 slots it’s most common to use the top one for fitting your new graphics card, but if you’re fitting two cards in an NVidia SLI or AMD Crossfire setup, you’ll need to use both of them. Check which standard your motherboard supports before investing in a pair of cards, though.

How to know if a graphics card is compatible: length and height

Powerful graphics cards tend to have large fans to keep them cool and this makes them twice as thick as a ‘single-height’ card. The way most computers are built means that the fan assembly will often be underneath the card rather than on top of it, so you’ll need an unused slot – and back plate – directly underneath the PCI Express x16 slot.

You also need to measure the distance from the back plate to any components which would block a long graphics card at the front of your case. Don’t forget that some cards have their power sockets on their back edge rather than the side, so you’ll need to add about 30-40mm to the length of your chosen card to guarantee it will fit comfortably.

If you’re unsure how long a card is, ask the manufacturer, seller or try pc forums and blogs to find someone who owns that card already and can confirm how big it is.

Next Month: How to know if a graphics card is compatible: power requirements

Planning to Buy a new graphics card for your PC?

radeonx1300-2If you want more PC performance so you can play the latest games at high resolutions and maximum quality, you will need a decent graphics card. But how do you know if your new card will fit inside your PC’s case and how do you know if it will be compatible with your existing set up.

Many PCs rely on ‘integrated graphics’ which are either a chip on the motherboard or one built into the CPU itself. Other computers have a ‘dedicated graphics card’, which plugs into an expansion slot on your PC’s motherboard.

You can usually tell which type of ‘graphics’ your PC uses by the location of the graphics connector port you use to plug in your monitor. If it is located in among the other ports, such as USB and Ethernet, then it’s ‘integrated graphics’. If the port is separate to the others, and there’s more than one port, such as a pair of DVI outputs, HDMI or DisplayPort, it’s likely to be a ‘dedicated graphics card’.

To fit a new ‘dedicated graphics card’ you’ll need both a PCI Express expansion slot and a corresponding slot in the PC’s case, with a removable back plate where the connections will sit.

Next Month: Making sure your new Graphic Card fits your PC

Keep your Windows PC Working Well

windows8lockscreen140105To keep your computer in good shape you must keep it free of malicious software, viruses and dust.

You should also ensure that your PC’s hard drive is well maintained to reduce any problems that might arise in the future.

A lot of freely available software can keep your PC perfectly well tuned. It’s just a question of knowing what to download and how to make the best use of it.

Read more about this very important topic – www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/pchelparticles/pctuneup.html.

To find out how to deal with dust problems see – www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/pchelparticles/cleanpc.html.

Add More Memory to Speed Up Your PC

computer-memory-ramAdding more memory to your computer is often the most cost-effective upgrade you can make to speed up your PC, especially if it feels a bit sluggish after a few years of use.

Here is a brief overview of how to add more memory to your computer.

PC memory comes in many flavours, such as DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4. Newer technologies always offer faster performance, but most motherboards accept only one type of memory so you need to check your PC’s manual to find out what type of memory modules you need and how you should install them.

Companies such as Crucial and Kingston offer handy online tools that identify the appropriate memory for many different computers and a variety of motherboards.

To take advantage of more than 4GB of memory your PC needs to run a 64-bit operating system either using Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. 64-bit systems offer direct access to more virtual and physical memory than 32-bit systems and therefore process a lot more data per clock cycle. This makes your PC run faster and perform everyday tasks that much quicker. Bearing in mind this useful speed improvement, we thoroughly recommend that you use a 64-bit operating system.

To find out more about the steps you need to take to install more PC memory please see the complete article – How to Upgrade Your Computers Memory.

Two More Ways to Prolong the Life of Your PC

5. Use anti-virus

So far all of the tips to prolong the life of your PC were hardware related but don’t forget that you also need software protection too. There are literally hordes of people out there happy to take advantage of your unprotected system. And viruses and malware can slow your machine right down to a crawl and in some cases even encrypt your hard drive until you pay a hefty ransom.

Any kind of intrusion is going to be bad so do yourself a favour and get some decent anti-virus software. There are plenty of free ones so there’s really no excuse.

See also – The Best Free Antivirus Software.

6. Use anti-spyware

In addition to an anti-virus program you should also download a program that can tackle malware and spyware. A really good program for this is the highly rated CCleaner.

This free program scans your PC’s registry for unwanted, corrupt paths and gives you the option to make a backup before cleaning begins. Although there is not an option to restore the removed items if you change your mind, the backup is a simple .reg file – you just have to double click it to bring back your deleted registry keys.

CCleaner does a whole lot more than just clean out your registry it finds and clears all your Windows Temporary Files and removes your browser or start menu run histories, cookies and a whole lot more.

It runs in all flavours of Windows, including Microsoft’s latest operating systems Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Download – CCleaner now from the QBS PC Help website.

Two Extra Ways to Prolong the Life of Your PC

3. Power Surge Protection

Your PC is made of circuits and components which are sensitive to electricity so any electrical power surge could damage some of your PC’s components or even damage your entire PC so that it no longer starts up. If you’ve spent lots of money on building your PC set up or buying one pre-made, it’s well worth splashing out just a little more on a surge protection device.

Surge protectors are available with different ratings and are useful for PCs, laptops and other electronics. They are also a handy precaution when charging your smartphone or tablet.

4. Look After Your Hard Drive

Everything is stored on your PC’s hard drive(s) but they can become corrupt with file system errors and bad sectors due to things such as improper shutdowns and crashes. Damaged files, system instability, blue screens and boot failures are bad, so take care of your hard drive to avoid any disappointments.

Always shutdown your computer properly and avoid unnecessary stress by switching it off when it’s not being used. Any corruption can normally be found and a repaired by running the Check Disk tool which is built into Windows. This tool is more for users of Windows 7 and earlier as Windows 8 has improvements to error handling.

See also: A Hard Drive Developing Problems.