35 Things Every PC User Should Know

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More Tips

Make Sure Burned DVDs Play

Illustration: Peter and Maria Hoey
With a full seven types of standard-def writable DVDs out, ensuring that the home movies you just burned to disc will actually play on your set-top player can be difficult. Get a list of the media your player is compatible with by searching for your player's brand and model number on VideoHelp.com.

Format Your iPod for PCs

Out of the box, your new iPod may be configured to work not with a PC but with a Mac. Before you try to use it, you must format it to work with Windows' file system (a Mac will recognize a Windows-formatted iPod, but the reverse is not true). Download iTunes, install it, and then plug in your iPod. On the left side of the iTunes window you should see 'Devices' and your iPod below it. Click the iPod's name, then click Restore to the right and follow the prompts. This will reformat your device for use with Windows. If Windows can't see your iPod at all, try Apple's iPod troubleshooting steps.

Reorganize the Taskbar

Download the free Taskbar Shuffle. With this plug-in you can drag taskbar items from one place on the bar to another. Note that some antivirus software may incorrectly warn you that Taskbar Shuffle is malware.

Sort Your Start Menu

Click Start, All Programs, right-click one of the selections, and click Sort by Name. You'll have to do this again each time you install a new app.

Remove DRM From Your Tunes

Illustration: Peter and Maria Hoey
Apple's iTunes, MTV's Urge, and similar online stores take the pain out of buying music, but the embedded digital rights management technology in the songs adds a new headache, limiting where you can play them and how often. Some apps strip out DRM by cracking the encryption, but that tends to be illegal. Achieve the same ends with the following.

  1. Create a new playlist with all the songs you'd like to rip.
  2. Use your software's Burn Disc option to copy the music to audio-CD format.
  3. After you've burned the music to disc, rename the originally downloaded song to something like "My Sharona-iTunes DRM."
  4. Insert your newly burned CD-R and click Import CD to copy the songs back into iTunes or whichever player app you originally used. They will now be stripped of all DRM.

Save Money on Tech Purchases

In many cases, when you buy a desktop PC, you're best off getting the minimum amount of RAM you can, since upgrading it yourself later is cheaper and a simple process. Also, never buy the fastest CPU on the market, which will always carry a significant price premium. You'll save hundreds by purchasing a processor one or two rungs down, and you're unlikely to notice much performance difference.

Disable the Insert Key

Nothing good has ever come from the <Insert> key. Although you have many ways to disable it, here's a simple one: In Word, click Tools, Customize, Options, Keyboard. In the Categories box (look in the left pane), select All Commands. In the Commands box (right pane), select Overtype. In the 'Current keys' box, highlight Insert and click Remove.

Get Live Phone Help

Web Services:
Tech Support:

You can find other numbers (and instructions for bypassing automated menus) at the Gethuman 500 Database.

Christopher Null is a veteran journalist who covers technology topics daily through his blog.
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