How to handle a Facebook bully or stalker

An anonymous reader has been getting a lot of unwanted, and potentially frightening, attention on Facebook. I offer some advice.

If someone on Facebook continually insults you, upsets you, threatens you, or makes unwanted sexual advances, ask them to stop. If they do, fine. If not, you've got a stalker.

First, ask yourself if you feel physically threatened. If the bully is threatening you with violence, or stalking you in the physical world, or coming to your home, the problem is beyond cyberbullying. You need to call the police.

Read more »


Is your backup drive full? Here's how to make space

Codymack backs up to an external hard drive. Although it’s quite a large drive, it’s full. Now what?

Over time, a backup can require a huge amount of drive space. Part of the problem is deleted files. You can open up space on your internal drive by deleting files, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get deleted from the backup. And any good backup program does versioning, saving old copies of altered files. Therefore, your computer may have only the latest version of a frequently-edited file, while your backup may contain many versions.

Fortunately, good backup programs know how to purge old backups—removing files that don’t need to be backed up anymore. I’ll tell you how to purge in the file backup programs that come with Windows 7 and 8, as well as with EASEus Todo Backup Free—a program I frequently recommend.

Read more »


How to set Windows desktop items as public or private

Tom Shea administers a PC with several users. Some of the shortcuts on his desktop also show up on other people’s desktops. He wants to control when that happens.

Desktop sharing and privacy is actually pretty simple, but it’s not well known. Unless you know the trick, you can’t control which items will appear only on your desktop, and which will appear on everyone’s desktop.

The shortcuts and other files that show up on the desktop do so because they’re in a Desktop folder. (And yes, shortcuts are files—small files that point to other files.) But your PC has more than one Desktop folder, and therein lies the trick of creating public and private desktop shortcuts.

Read more »


You can encrypt your hard drive, but the protection may not be worth the hassle

Phil has "a client who needs to encrypt her hard drive," and asked me for some advice.

A single encrypted folder is good enough for most people, but a completely encrypted drive provides the strongest protection. Windows can leave bits of encrypted files in places like the swap file. A thief or fence wouldn't take the time to find them, but a sufficiently skilled, motivated, and well-funded hacker might. 

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

Read more »


GPT vs. MBR: How the humble drive partition led to the larger hard drives we all love

While installing Windows 8, Ragav RG converted his hard drive to the new GPT partitioning format. He asked about its advantages.

Before it can load an operating system, your PC needs a way of know where all of the partitions are located. Traditionally, it got that information from the drive’s Master Boot Record (MBR). But new computers are eschewing MBR for a newer and more versatile technology: GPT.

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

Read more »


Why you might still want an optical drive

Don Semler asked “Why are so many new laptops being offered without optical drives?”

Optical drives, that can read and write CDs, DVDs, and sometimes Blu-ray discs, have been an important part of the PC universe for a long time. But there’s less and less need for them. I haven’t received software on discs in years—and in my job, I have to look a lot of software. I download it all from the Internet. Most users download and stream music and movies these days rather than buy them on a shiny five-inch disc.

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

Read more »


You don't need to back up Windows to the cloud

Carbonite user Bruce Greenan was disappointed to discover that the online service's Mirror Image backup option saves to an external drive rather than the cloud. He imagines a scenario where "my external image drive is in the burning house with my laptop," and he loses both.

I love cloud-based data backup. It's easy, automatic, and it stores your data far from your home or office. A single fire or flood can't destroy both the PC and the backup.

But to my mind, backing up Windows itself to the cloud doesn't make sense. The advantages of online backup disappear when you have to restore Windows as well as your library data.

Read more »