When Wi-Fi doesn't work, try these things first

Tom’s laptop can’t access his Wi-Fi network.

Be patient. Diagnosing a network can be one of the most frustrating chores in the tech world. If the simple steps below don't work, we have a more detailed Wi-Fi troubleshooting guide, or you can check out some helpful Wi-Fi utilities

When your PC (or other device) can’t access your Wi-Fi network, you have to find out where the problem is—your laptop or your router. So the first thing you need to do is test the network without the laptop. Try another computer—or any device that uses Wi-Fi, such as a smartphone or tablet. If that other PC or device can access your Wi-Fi, the problem is with your laptop.

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Windows Sticky Notes isn't made for backup, but these alternatives are

I get questions all the time from readers who lost information stored in Windows’ Sticky Notes program. With Sticky Notes, when it’s lost, it’s lost.

At first glance, Sticky Notes seems like a handy little program. With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, you put virtual Post-It notes on your screen and write whatever you want in them.

0709 stickies stickie

Zhorn's Stickies improves upon Sticky Notes.

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Five ways to add SSD speed to your laptop without losing storage capacity

Anand Prabhu asked if there’s a way to put an SSD and a hard drive into the same laptop.

A flash RAM-based SSD gives your PC amazing speed, but it’s expensive by the gigabyte. An old-fashioned, spinning-platter hard drive gives you vast amounts of storage for very little money. But if you use both, and set them up intelligently, you can enjoy a hard drive’s mass storage without losing too much performance.

But that only works if you can install two drives into your PC. That’s usually an option only in larger laptops. Some laptops, even affordable ones, support the standard 2.5-inch hard drive/SSD and also have the options to support the flash-only mSATA  or M.2 drives. The PC makers then fill the bays depending on what you buy. This still leaves the option for you to populate the mSATA and run the hard drive, too. But let’s assume you probably have the typical laptop that only has a single drive bay supporting one hard drive. Here are five solutions:

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How to diagnose and fix a dead laptop keyboard

The keyboard on Tom Dimas’ laptop stopped working. He’s hoping for a fix.

With a laptop, you can’t simply buy a new keyboard and plug it in. Replacing it is difficult (or expensive), so it’s best to find another fix before you take the big plunge.

If you don’t already have an external keyboard, buy one. It’s not a viable replacement for the built-in keyboard, but it will let you log into Windows with your password. It will also help you use your computer while figuring out the best solution.

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What to do when your email address sends spam

Edward McCrea is “ getting returns of emails I didn’t send… How do I prevent this?”

What’s worse than getting spam? Unwittingly sending it. When bogus and probably malware-laden advertising goes out in your name, you look bad. And you get flooded with bounced messages from dead addresses that some crook attempted to spam in your name.

The good news: You’re not sending out spam. Neither is your computer or your IP address. But the bad news can still be pretty bad.

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Find duplicate photos: Two utilities that can help

Nick Bichsel wants a good way to find and sort out duplicate photos.

When it comes to photos, there’s no one definition of the word duplicate. Obviously, if two JPG files are pixel-by-pixel, bit-by-bit identical, they’re duplicates, and you can safely delete one of them. But what if one photo has been resized? Or cropped? Or color-corrected? Or what about very similar photos taken with your camera’s multi-shot mode?

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

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When Windows refuses to eject mass storage: 5 ways to safely remove a USB drive

Edy Wan asked how to safely remove a flash drive, or an external hard drive, when Windows says it isn't safe to do so.

If you unplug a USB external drive before making sure it's safe to do so, you're courting disaster. The sudden, unprepared removal of a storage device can corrupt files. I've even heard stories of it bricking flash drives.

Here's how to remove the drive safely, even when Windows tells you it's not safe. Try these five steps in order until one of them works.

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