The pros and cons (mostly cons) of saving files to the desktop

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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For years, Jocelyn Warfield saved her document files to the desktop. She asked me about continuing the process.

As far back as I can remember, no version of Windows has ever, by default, saved data files (documents, spreadsheets, photos, and so on) to the desktop. And at least since XP, it has not been a particularly safe place to save them.

But, because the desktop is always visible, some people just can’t resist temptation.

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Replace Windows 8 with Windows 7 or a look-alike

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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Cheryle Fields’ husband hates his new Windows 8 PC. Cheryle asked me if she can replace the operating system with Windows 7.

You may or may not be able to install Windows 7 on your particular Windows 8 PC. A lot of that depends on the hardware. And, of course, you’ll have to buy a new copy of Windows 7.

But if you or a close family member hates Windows 8 that much (and I’m in complete sympathy), there are better options than paying for two versions of Windows and only using one of them.

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The Windows 8 activation-key problem

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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Brian Freeman found a flaw in my article Reinstall Windows when you've lost your reinstall disc or partition. I told readers that “when it comes time to activate Windows, use the activation number on your PC.” But Microsoft no longer requires vendors to make this number readily available.

Every legal copy of Windows has its own activation key, also called a product key or a product identification (PID). It’s made up of five groups of five characters each, and it’s unique to your copy of Windows. Basically, it’s a proof of purchase. You can download and install Windows for free, but without a unique activation key issued by Microsoft and not in use on another computer, it won’t work for long.

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Gather similar files from multiple folders and copy them in one simple step

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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Ka3ebe asked the Utilities forum for a way to copy all of the .txt or .jpg files on a computer to a particular folder.

I’ve got two ways to do this. One uses familiar, Windows-based drag and drop methods. The other harkens back to the dark days of DOS, but it still works in all versions of Windows.

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Watch out for photos containing malware

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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Jerseygirlinfl asked the Answer Line forum if photos floating around the Internet could contain mailware.

Cybercriminals use images in a number of ways to infect your computer. In most cases, the photo itself is harmless; it's just a trick to get you to do something stupid. But sometimes, a .jpg file itself will contain malicious code.

Let's look at a few ways in which an image can contain some real bad news.

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Here's how your to-do list can text reminders to your phone

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor

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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Arnold is looking for a to-do list program he can manage from his PC. But he wants one that will remind him of upcoming tasks by texting his phone.

So let's see: I've got to check out that URL my daughter sent me, put flea stuff on my cat, start research for another article, and…um…oh, yeah, write something about to-do lists. So much to do! How can I remember it all?

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Recover files from a dead PC

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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Freeflowing89 has "a ton of music and documents on an HP laptop" that's not "even close to starting up." Fixing or replacing the computer is one thing, but in the meantime, Freeflowing needs to get those files back.

The easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to recover files from a dead PC doesn't require any access to the computer. You simply restore the files from your most recent backup.

Unless, of course, you don't have a recent backup. And I'm guessing you don't. People with up-to-date backups don't ask me this sort of question.

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