How to play DVDs in Windows 10 for free

Updated 06/29/2017 to include a warning about how the Windows DVD Player works or stops working in Windows 10, which only reinforces our advice to use VLC instead.

You can play a DVD in Windows 10 for free, with a little help that’s probably not from Microsoft. I’ll tell you how Microsoft’s solution sort-of works for some people. Then I’ll tell you about the much better alternative that anyone can use—and best of all, it’s free.

RIP Windows Media Center

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How to share your DRM-free ebooks with Calibre

Calibre is a popular tool for managing any DRM-free ebooks you’ve got kicking around your hard drive. It makes it easy to access them and even downloads the necessary metadata to make your collection look nice. Calibre version 3.0 recently rolled out, and to mark the occasion we’re going to look at Calibre’s built-in feature that lets you turn the software into an ebook server.

With the server feature enabled, and the software running, any device with a web browser on your home network can access your ebooks. If you’re reading books on your phone and want to change to a different device, your files are a few taps away.

We’re going to assume that you’ve already downloaded and installed Calibre on your PC, and have your ebook library set up. If not, Calibre can walk you through the simple process.

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How to launch Chrome faster with Native Lazy Tabs

If you set Chrome to launch with the tabs you last had open, the browser's startup time can take forever. That's especially true if you last had 10 or more tabs going. The problem is that Chrome starts loading all your tabs at once, which can be a drain on resources. A new extension called Native Lazy Tabs helps fix that problem.

Native Lazy Tabs stops all tabs but the one currently in focus from loading. The other tabs will load when you switch to them. This is similar to the behavior Opera introduced in version 41 of its browser last October.

There isn't that much to Native Lazy Tabs. Just install it from the Chrome Web Store, and it will start doing its thing. There are no options to tweak or anything like that.

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How to install Windows 10 on a USB drive with Microsoft's Media Creation Tool

Creating a USB thumb drive loaded with Windows 10 installation media is very easy thanks to Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool. With a prepared USB drive you can install the latest version of Windows on a new PC or have an install drive at the ready should your current rig start to malfunction.

If you’ve never used the Media Creation Tool, however, even this simple process might be a little overwhelming. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a Windows 10 USB drive with the Media Creation Tool.

mediacreation 1 Ian Paul/IDG
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How to save Windows Spotlight images to your PC in a few clicks

A favorite pastime among Windows 10 users is to figure out ways to save Windows Spotlight images to their PC. Usually this is done through a little bit of trickery that involves finding where the images are stored on your hard drive.

Since early 2016, however, the Windows Store (rather unbelievably) has an app for that. In fact, there are many apps for that, but the one we’re going to talk about today is called SpotBright. What’s great about this app is that it downloads all available Spotlight images for you in a few clicks. In my test, I downloaded more than 600 images costing me less than 500MB of storage space.

Here’s how it works.

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How 'Start - A New Tab Page' turns Chrome into an iGoogle replacement

Sure, it’s 2017, but if you miss the old days of iGoogle personalized homepages, there are a few Chrome extensions that can provide something similar on your new tab page. One of them is called “Start - A Better New Tab” from 64 Pixels.

This extension includes all kinds of information on your new tab page in the form of widgets. They include the current weather, top visited sites (as you see in the regular new tab page), top news stories from CNN or Google, Gmail, Facebook, popular videos on YouTube, your installed Chrome Apps, a notepad, Google Calendar, bookmarks, stocks, a to-do list, and the current time. Most widgets are activated by default.

startnewtabpage Ian Paul/IDG

Start - A New Tab Page in action.

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How to get past Windows Defender SmartScreen in Windows 10

We've all been there. You read about a great little traditional desktop application or utility that you think will be a great help. Once it's downloaded, boom!, Windows 10 blocks it thanks to Windows Defender SmartScreen, a feature that prevents unrecognized apps from running. It's a helpful security feature that can sometimes be annoying. Here's how to get past it.

Are you sure you want to do this?

Before we go any further, keep in mind that the SmartScreen is there for your protection. It is designed to restrict any programs that are known to be malicious or aren't commonly downloaded. For that reason, anything experimental or outside the norm is not trusted by Windows.

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