Disable Windows' logon password

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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Don doesn't need to keep other people off his PC. He asked me how he could skip the logon screen and boot directly into Windows without a password.

My first piece of advice would be to leave your computer as is. That password is important. Without it, your PC is vulnerable. Anyone who can get physical access to your PC can also get access to your files, email, and so on. They may even be able to send email as you.

On the other hand, it would be nice to turn on your PC, walk away, come back a few minutes later, and be ready to work. Besides, it's not the difficult for someone else to remove the Windows password. Of course, you could (and should) protect your most vital files with a third-party encryption tool.

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Extend your Wi-Fi network throughout the house

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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The wireless signal from Aidan's router doesn't reach throughout the house. Here are a few ways to fix the problem.

Extending a Wi-Fi network can be as easy as playing with cardboard and tape, or as difficult as rewiring your house. It all depends how big a boost you need, and how much time and money you're willing to devote to the task.

Here are three ways to increase your signal's range.

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What you need to know about privacy, email, and particularly Gmail

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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Pritesh Singh asked whether anyone other than the intended recipient can view files attached to a Gmail message.

Unless you take special precautions, nothing you send by email is secure. That's doubly true with Gmail, since Google uses the content of your messages to target advertising.

I very much doubt that Google employees are reading your mail; there are cheaper ways to get the job done. But the potential of abuse is always there. And let's not forget the NSA's enthusiasm for sticking its nose into everything we do online.

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The mysterious ~$ files--nothing to worry about

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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Lillian Lim noticed strange files appearing and disappearing. The file names always begin with ~$.

If you don't know what's going on, these files can be confusing--and even scary. A file appears in your Documents folder without you intentionally creating it. Aside from the strange punctuation, the file name looks familiar. The icon and, if visible, the extension tell you that you can open the file in a common application. But when you double-click the file, or try to delete it, you get an error message.

Then the file disappears as inexplicitly as it appears. Except for those occasions when it doesn't disappear at all.

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How to open a file with a strange extension

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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Red Eye Rose received a file with a strange extension. She doesn't know into what program she should load it. Neither does Windows.

I doubt that anyone knows all of the file extensions used since the pre-DOS days of CP/M. Some of them may not even describe a file type. Before Windows started using them to associate files with an application, people used extensions for all sorts of things.

But that was a long time ago. Chances are that the extension on your mystery file does indeed identify a program. But how do you find what program?

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Understand the limits of a virtual computer

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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Amin Inshassi asked the Desktops forum for details about what can and can't be done with a virtual machine.

In a virtual machine (VM), software pretends to be hardware. You can thus load a "computer" into a VM application the way you can load a document into a word processor. It was through a VM that I grabbed this Blue Screen of Death image.

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Actually, you do need to share your passwords

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

When he isn't bicycling, prowling used bookstores, or watching movies, PC World Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema.
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No one stays healthy forever. At some point, your loved ones will need access to all of your accounts. You can make that job easier for them.

No reader questions today. Instead, I'm answering a question that someone should ask: In our password-protected digital world, how do you prepare for that inevitable day when you die or otherwise become incapacitated?

This is no small problem. When you're gone, or have otherwise lost the ability to remember or communicate, loved ones will need access to your email, contacts, bank accounts, and more. Without your pre-planned help, this can be quite a challenge.

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