How to remove encryption from a PDF file

R Venkat occasionally receives encrypted PDF files. Once the files are safely in his PC, they don’t need that protection. How does he remove it so he can more easily open the file?

There are times when a PDF truly needs encryption—for instance, if it contains sensitive information and someone just emailed it to you (let’s hope they used another communications method to send you the password). Once on your internal drive, this file should still be encrypted. But if you keep your sensitive files in an encrypted container, or if you’ve encrypted your entire drive, the file’s own built-in encryption is just an inconvenience.

So here’s how to remove it.

Read more »


Enter Windows 8 Safe Mode when you can't boot Windows 8

Glennr4466 found a flaw in my advice about booting into Windows 8 Safe Mode. Because it requires a reboot, it doesn’t work if Windows refuses to boot at all.

If Windows 8 won’t boot normally, it probably won’t boot into Safe Mode, either. You can try the trick of repeatedly pressing and releasing F8 (described in my previous article), but it seldom works with Windows 8.

So what can you do? You have to fix the problem that’s keeping your PC from booting at all. Then, once Windows 8 can boot, you can reboot it into Safe Mode (if you still need to).

Read more »


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 »