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]

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Why you might still want an optical drive

Don Semler asked “Why are so many new laptops being offered without optical drives?”

Optical drives, that can read and write CDs, DVDs, and sometimes Blu-ray discs, have been an important part of the PC universe for a long time. But there’s less and less need for them. I haven’t received software on discs in years—and in my job, I have to look a lot of software. I download it all from the Internet. Most users download and stream music and movies these days rather than buy them on a shiny five-inch disc.

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

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You don't need to back up Windows to the cloud

Carbonite user Bruce Greenan was disappointed to discover that the online service's Mirror Image backup option saves to an external drive rather than the cloud. He imagines a scenario where "my external image drive is in the burning house with my laptop," and he loses both.

I love cloud-based data backup. It's easy, automatic, and it stores your data far from your home or office. A single fire or flood can't destroy both the PC and the backup.

But to my mind, backing up Windows itself to the cloud doesn't make sense. The advantages of online backup disappear when you have to restore Windows as well as your library data.

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How to stop autoplay videos

Norm Arlt asked "How do I stop the How-To video from automatically starting in my browser when I click on an article?"

I sympathize. We all deal with this annoyance. In fact, I'm willing to bet that everyone reading this article who hasn't already solved this problem knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Most of these videos run on Shockwave Flash, so I'm going to concentrate on that technology. The trick isn't to block Flash entirely, but to make it work only with your permission.

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Take precautions when using public Wi-Fi networks

Tctws Tan wanted to know about the dangers of using a public Wi-Fi network, such as the ones you find in cafes and libraries. "Is there any other method to increase my privacy?"

If Windows knows it's accessing a public network, it will hide your laptop from other computers and devices. That provides significant, but not perfect, protection. So you have to make sure Windows knows you're on a public network, and you need to take additional precautions.

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

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How to save a webpage as a PDF or MHT file

Tom Stallard asked for a way to save webpages, with all of the formatting and images intact, to local storage.

I know of two ways to save webpages as single, contained files. They won’t reproduce the exact layout of the page, but they’ll come very close. One will give you a standard .pdf file. The other technique produces a less ubiquitous .mht or .mhtml file. You’ll have fewer options for reading .mht files, but they usually get closer to the look of the original pages.

Both techniques work, with some variation, in Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox.

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Use third-party ink at your own risk

Norm Denard is using non-HP, third-party ink in his HP printer. “My  printing is interrupted by warnings and urging to buy their ink.” Should he switch to the safer but more expensive HP option?

Few items in this world are as pricey as printer ink. You can easily spend $20 or more for a small cartridge of colored liquid, whose chemical content and actual cost are closely guarded secrets.

There are other options, but they can be scary, as we found when we tried several options in our real-world “Portrait of a Serial Refiller” series a few years back. 

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