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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What to do if your PC shuts down and automatically reboots

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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Norman Barrett's PC is "stuck in a boot loop." When he tries to start it, it continually reboots and starts over.

Something in the boot process is crashing the PC. Then Windows reacts to the crash by rebooting.

You need to do three things: stop the rebooting, figure out what's causing the crash, and fix it.

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How to find out if your RAM is defective

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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Kleyou asked the Answer Line forum for advice about a misbehaving computer that likely has memory issues.

Defective RAM can cause all sorts of problems. If you're suffering from frequent crashes, freezes, reboots, or Blue Screens of Death, a bad RAM chip could be the cause of your travails. If these annoyances tend to happen when you're using a memory-intensive application or game, bad RAM is a very likely culprit.

But that doesn't mean it's a sure one. You still need to make sure that the problem is with your RAM, and if it is, you need to identify the bad module.

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Connect your PC to your HDTV, and control it from across the room

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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Peter asked me for the best way to connect a PC to an HDTV, and, once connected, how best to use it.

Even in these days of Internet-capable HDTVs and set-top boxes, you still occasionally need to connect a PC to your television. You may have an Internet-capapble smart TV, a connected Blu-ray player or game console, and a dedicated streaming machine like a Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV. But inevitably, at some point, you're going to want to watch streaming content from a Web site that none of your devices support. And you will want to watch it kicked back in an easy chair or with friends. That calls for a real television.

So eventually, you'l need a way to connect your PC to your HDTV--and a way to control the PC from across the room.

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Control how Windows locks down and saves power when you're not using it

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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What happens when you get up and walk away from your PC? I answer a reader's question about setting Windows to secure itself and save power when not in use.

For purposes of security and energy conservation, Windows can automatically shut down in several different ways when no one has touched the keyboard or mouse for a set period of time. Here are three particularly useful ways to suspend Windows. All of them, by default, require you to reenter your logon password to regain access.

 [Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Understanding tech language: The difference between malware and a virus

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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While cleaning up an infected PC, Flingwing asked the Antivirus & Security Software forum to explain the difference between malware and viruses.

Depending on how technically correct you want to be, viruses are a subset of malware, or the two words mean the same thing.

The word malware (malicious software) describes any piece of code designed to infect your computer (or mobile device) and make it do things that you don't want it to do, such as mass-mail spam or steal your banking passwords. Trojans, worms, and rootkits are all types of malware.

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