When to image a hard drive, and when to clone it

Robert Spann asked how best to copy everything on his internal drive. Should he image the drive, or clone it?

Cloning copies the complete contents of one drive—the files, the partition tables and the master boot record—to another: a simple, direct duplicate. Imaging copies all of that to a single, very large file on another drive. You can then restore the image back onto the existing drive or onto a new one.

Typically, people use these techniques to back up the drive, or when upgrading to a larger or faster drive. Both techniques will work for each of these chores. But imaging usually makes more sense for a backup, while cloning is the easiest choice for drive upgrades.

Read more »

9

Personalize the Windows Explorer Navigation Bar

Windows Explorer (AKA File Explorer) offers a Navigation Bar on the left to help you select folders. Mary Hall asked how to customize it.

The Explorer Navigation Bar provides a map to the drives and folders on or accessible to your computer. Two of the sections, Favorites and Libraries, are easily configurable. The other sections are not configurable for a good reason. If you want to add a drive to the Navigation Bar, you need to add that drive from your PC (which adds it to the Navigation Bar automatically).

A quick note on the name: Microsoft has called its file manager Windows Explorer since Windows 95. With Windows 8, they renamed it File Explorer—a good change in my opinion. For this article, I’ll just call it Explorer.

Read more »

3

If Windows virtual memory is too low, you can increase it, but there are trade-offs

Dspenc40229’s PC occasionally complains that it’s running low on virtual memory. “How do I get more?”

Virtual memory, also known as the swap file, uses part of your hard drive to effectively expand your RAM, allowing you to run more programs than it could otherwise handle. But a hard drive is much slower than RAM, so it can really hurt performance. (I discuss SSDs below.)

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

Read more »

8

Here's what to do when your touchscreen won't work

Miguel owns a Windows 8 laptop, upgraded to 8.1. But "the touch screen…began to fail sometimes, until it failed completely."

First things first: If you haven't done so already, reboot. Yes, it's obvious, but so many people don't think about it, and it fixes so much.

But it doesn't fix everything. So if the problem remains, follow the suggestions below. I'm assuming your PC is running Windows 8 or 8.1.

Read more »

6

BadUSB: What you can do about undetectable malware on a flash drive

After reading about BadUSB, Barbara asked if it was safe to share files through a flash drive. “Would we be safer using a cloud service?”

A cloud service might be safer than a flash drive, although that has its own dangers—especially with privacy. BadUSB shows us that malware can infect and reside in a flash drive’s firmware, which your antivirus program can’t scan the way it can scan the drive’s main storage. It’s like having the malware in your motherboard’s BIOS—except that this motherboard will likely get plugged into multiple computers.

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

Read more »

1

How to encrypt sensitive data? Put it in an encrypted container

Abrham Sorecha asked how to password-protect a folder.

You can't effectively password-protect a folder without encrypting it. And strictly speaking, you can’t truly encrypt a folder, because a folder is not actually a container. It just looks like one to the user. The data comprising the files inside any given folder may be strewn all over the drive’s media.

But there are alternatives. You can encrypt every file in the folder. You can put the folder into an encrypted .zip archive, or into an encrypted vault.

Read more »

1

When your ethernet won't connect

Laura E. McDonald wants to know why her PC "does not recognize the hardwire connection."

If you've got working Wi-Fi and apparently dead ethernet, the first thing to do is turn off the Wi-Fi. Believe it or not, this might tell you that the ethernet is working. If Windows has access to both, it will give top priority to ethernet, but display the Wi-Fi icon in the notification area. There's likely a hardware switch on your PC for turning off Wi-Fi.

And even if that doesn't solve your problem, it will make the tests below easier to run. You'll see immediately if ethernet is working, which is exactly what you need to know.

Read more »

8