Personalize the Windows 7 Start menu

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Bob Black asked about altering the Windows 7 Start menu to make it fit his preferences and work habits.

You can do a lot with the Windows 7 Start menu. You can put your favorite programs front and center. You can replace big, easy-to-hit icons with smaller ones that take less real estate, and you can control the behavior of clicking on Documents or Music.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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A router and an extender: When your laptop doesn't know which to use.

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Lisa Marie Lalonde’s router isn’t powerful enough to cover her entire home, so she installed a range extender. But when she moves from one part of the house to another, her laptop fails to connect to the nearest signal and loses the network.

If you carry a laptop, tablet, or smartphone through a home with multiple access points (such as routers and range extenders), the device should latch onto the access point with the strongest signal—presumably the closest one. Therefore, it should appear to be continually connected as you move from room to room.

But technology doesn’t always behave the way it should.

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Save money by not buying a larger SSD than you need

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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George Ratzlaff plans to buy an SSD to speed up his PC. How big a drive does he need?

Before you buy an SSD, decide if it’s going to replace your current hard drive, or if you’ll keep both the old and new drives, letting the SSD supplement the spinning platters. If you’re supplementing, you can get away with a smaller SSD and therefore save money. (As I write this, $60 can buy you a 120GB SSD or a 2TB hard drive.)

But supplementing the drive may not be practical. If you have a spare drive bay in your PC—common in desktops but rare in laptops—you can easily supplement. But if your PC has space for only one hard drive, replacing the drive will likely make more sense.

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What to do when your laptop's touchpad stops working

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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The built-in touchpad in Raji Yusuff Oluwagbenga's laptop no longer works, making Windows nearly impossible to use. Here's how to (hopefully) fix the problem.

Have you ever tried to use a Windows PC without a mouse, touchpad, or other pointing device? It's all but impossible. So when your laptop's touchpad stops responding to your fingers, you've got a problem.

If the problem just started, reboot your computer and see if that fixes it. (Yes, I know that's painfully obvious, but we all sometimes overlook the obvious.) If that doesn't work, try these solutions.

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What happens when Microsoft ends Windows 7 mainstream support next year

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Ian Gale heard that Windows 7 will be "finished next year." The truth is far from that.

On January 13, 2015, Microsoft will stop mainstream support for Windows 7--which is still an extremely popular operating system. But you'll still be able to use it safely for another five years.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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One of the best password managers for your PC, devices, and the cloud

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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D. asked me to recommend a good password manager.

Everyone who uses the Internet absolutely must have a password manager. Without one, you'll forget some of your passwords. Or you'll use the same password for different sites, which allows a thief who's hacked one password to know them all. Or you'll use simple passwords that are easy to remember but also easy to hack.

A password manager program stores your passwords and other login information in an encrypted database. If you need to log into a website or a secure application, you open the password manager, type the password to your password manager (which is the only password you'll ever have to memorize), and get the information that you need.

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Have a company laptop? Here's how to keep your browsing private

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Sj often takes an office laptop home. He wants to know if "the System admin from my office" can see what websites he visits at home.

Virtually all browsers these days have private modes (Chrome calls it Incognito Mode). In this condition, the browser doesn't keep records of where you've been. In theory, and often in fact, you can use these modes and leave no trace of where you've been. (I've discussed these modes in more detail last April.)

But the chance that a private mode will protect you drops considerably on a company computer. It's quite possible that this computer contains software that tracks everything you do on it. (If you're a parent, you may be using similar software to track your kids' browsing habits.)

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