Taking Control of Your iPhone’s Privacy Settings

As technology continues to take over our lives, the struggle to maintain privacy becomes ever harder. But while we may take special steps to update our privacy settings on Facebook and other social media services it turns out that just having your phone on you at all times has some disturbing consequences.

Did you know that every place you’ve ever visited such as the the local supermarket, the office where you work, the movie theater, your own home is all being stored on your iPhone? This information even includes the exact address and the number of times you’ve been to that location.

Are your feeling a bit freaked out right about now?

How is This Happening?

The reason is a feature hidden deep in your privacy settings called ‘Frequent Locations’, and while it’s in no way new, it often goes unnoticed. For years, the system has been pinpointing the places you visit on a map and logging your arrival and departure times from each location, so your iPhone can help improve the Maps app and serve you best.

Clear your location history settings right here if you are feeling spied on by Apple.

Stopping This – If You Want

So if you want to stop this here’s what you do:

  1. Open your ‘Settings’ menu
  2. Select ‘Privacy’
  3. Select ‘Location Services’
  4. Scroll really far down and select ‘System Services’
  5. Scroll more and select ‘Frequent Locations’
  6. Select ‘Clear History’
  7. Swipe left on the ‘Frequent Locations’ tab to turn it off

There you go – you can now rest easy.  Be warned however – that your Maps app probably will not work as well.

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iPhone Battery Saving Tips

How is the battery on your iPhone? Do you find that it’s running out of power long before your day is done? This is one of the most common problems I hear. The first thing that most complainers of a “bad battery” state to me is that “I hope my battery isn’t going bad”. The good news is that very often it is not the battery that is bad – but a problem with one of the apps or settings on your phone.

The challenge here is that you need to be a detective to figure out what is draining your battery. I have some things you can try if you are a victim of a “bad battery” on your iPhone.

Lets take a look at some things you can do to improve the battery life of your iPhone before you drop hard earned cash on a new one.

First head over to Settings > Battery and take a look at the Battery Usage list. Tap anywhere on the list to change it from showing percentages to also show you a breakdown of how much screen time and background time the running apps are taking.

What to do if your iPhone has a battery drain issue
Battery Usage screen in iOS

Remember that while some apps — the Music app for example — are designed to work in the background, most apps are not and could be the cause of the problem.

While you’re here also look to see if you have No Cell Coverage on the list. If this is responsible for high battery usage then you’ve found your problem — being out of cell coverage or in an area with poor coverage. If this figure is high, try putting the iPhone into Airplane Mode when cell coverage is poor (you can still turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth independently) and see if that helps.

If you notice an app with unexplained high background usage then you may have solved your problem. Go into Settings > General > Background App Refresh and turn off background refresh for that specific app.

After you’ve done this it is a good idea to check to see if the battery drain issue is any better by repeating the tests you carried out here. If things are now good, then you’re done. If things are better then look for another app that may be working in the background where it shouldn’t and switch that off too. And if things are no better, undo the change you made previously.

Push Email

Another feature that could be draining your battery is push email, which can actually prevent your iPhone from going to sleep properly.

Head over to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data and temporarily disable push and see if that helps. If you have multiple email accounts coming to your handset then you can click on them separately and disable push separately and see if that works.

I find that push works well for iCloud accounts but routinely causes problems with other third-party email providers.

Get your apps under control

Apps can have an indirect effect on battery life in a couple of ways.

  • Working in the background.
  • Popping up notifications

This is why you need to get your apps under control. Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Delete apps you are not using
  • For apps that you don’t use much, disable features such as notifications (Settings > Notifications), background refresh (Settings > General > Background App Refresh), and also location services (Settings > Privacy > Locations Services).

If all else fails…

If none of the above helped you narrow down the battery drain problem you are facing then you’re down to a few final options:

  • Wipe your iPhone and either reinstall everything from a backup (which risks bringing the problem back) or setting it up from scratch (which is time consuming).
  • Take your iPhone to an Apple Store and let the Geniuses attempt to fix it by laying their healing hands on it.
  • Carry a portable battery pack with you to recharge during the day. This can be a great cost saving solution that at least will allow you to save some time before going out any buying a new phone.

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Keyboard Tricks for Windows

Another quiet week in the tech world gives us some more time for actual technology tips. Lets look at some keyboard shortcuts you can use to make your life easier with Microsoft’s Windows.

High Contrast: SHIFT + ALT + PRINT

In its default setting, this shortcut opens a warning window before applying any changes. Click Yes or simply hit Return to switch to the high contrast setting.

This will enlarge the font on all open windows and change colors to high contrast. For example, the desktop will turn black, what was black text on white background before will be reversed. Clicking the same key combination again reverts the changes.

Switch Between Open Windows: ALT + TAB

This keyboard shortcut launches a layover window that shows all open programs. Hold onto the ALT key and click the TAB key to move to the next application. Release both keys to open the selected window.

You can reverse the direction by holding ALT + SHIFT while pressing the TAB key.

Delete Without Confirmation: SHIFT + DEL

Do you hate these nagging windows asking you whether you really want to do this or that. If you want to quickly delete something, without being harrassed for a confirmation, use this shortcut.

Do you want to make the instant delete route your default setting? Right click the Recycle Bin on your desktop, select Properties, and remove the checkmark next to Display delete confirmation dialog.

Show Desktop / Restore Open Windows: Windows key + D

Rather than moving your mouse into the bottom right corner of your screen to see your desktop, press this keyboard shortcut. Press it again to restore your windows exactly as they were before.

Lock System: Windows key + L

You should never leave your desktop unattended. Before you head out to the loo or to grab another coffee, press this keyboard shortcut to lock your system. When you return and log back in, all programs and windows will appear the way you left them.

Run Command Prompt as Administrator: Windows key + R, type cmd, hold CTRL + SHIFT, hit ENTER

This is one complex chain of commands. But if you manage to do it right, you’ll have instant Administrator access to the command prompt.

Unfortunately, this shortcut doesn’t seem to work anymore as of the Windows 10 Creators Update. Alternatively, press Windows key + X to open the Quick Access Menu, then use the UP/DOWN arrow keys to move the Command Prompt (Admin) entry, and hit ENTER.

Shut Down: Windows key + X, U, I / U / R / H / S

You can shut Windows down with a few button clicks. It all starts with Windows key + X to open the Quick Access Menu, followed by the U key to expand the Shut down or sign out options. Finally, press I to sign out, U to shut down, R to restart, H to hibernate, and S to sleep.

Create Your Own Desktop Keyboard Trick

Are there folders or applications you need a lot? Why not create your own keyboard shortcut to quickly access these tools.

Note: This will only work for shortcuts located on your desktop!

First you need to create an actual desktop shortcut. In Windows 10, this has become a little more tricks. Right-click on the application in its program folder or send it from the Start Menu to the Taskbar and SHIFT + right-click its Taskbar icon, then select Create Shortcut from the context menu.

Make sure the shortcut sits on your desktop. Now right-click the shortcut and select Properties. You should see a line that says Shortcut Key: None. Click that line and then click a letter on your keyboard, for example P. This will create a shortcut, here CTRL + ALT + P.

desktop shortcut

And there you go, now you have your own personal shortcut key.

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10 Cool Hidden iPhone Tips

Happy Memorial Day Weekend Dedicated Readers. Here are some cool tips if you have an iPhone!

Apple’s iOS platform has a very simple and intuitive user interface which in many ways explains its popularity.  However the platform continues to grow more and more complex with each passing year. The iPhone is the kind of device that just about anyone can pick up and figure out how to use quickly, and yet it also hides all sorts of cool features and functions that even the most savvy users probably don’t know about.

Image result for iphone tips

Learning about cool secret features that are hiding in your iPhone is always fun because it makes your phone feel fresh and new. There are countless hidden tricks with more being discovered all the time. Here are some of my favorite ones that in most cases will be helpful to iPhone users.

Delete text faster: When you tap and hold the backspace key on the iPhone’s keyboard, the delete rate speeds up after a while. But here’s a trick we bet you didn’t know — if you press harder on the backspace key on any iPhone with 3D Touch, it’ll speed up instantly. Deleting will also slow back down if you release some of the pressure.

Quickly and easily turn off the flashlight: Being able to turn on the iPhone’s flashlight from Control Center while the phone is locked is super convenient. But having to swipe back in and tap the button again to turn it off can be annoying, especially when your hands are full. Instead, simply start to swipe our lock screen to the left like you’re opening the camera, but only swipe a tiny bit and then let go. Your phone will think you’re opening the camera app and the flash will turn off.

As someone who walks a dog late at night every day, I can confirm that this trick definitely comes in handy when you’ve got an iPhone 7 Plus in one hand and a bag full of 🐶💩 in the other.

See all open Safari tabs: Isn’t that cascading list of Safari tabs annoying? Instead of scrolling around looking for something, turn your phone to landscape while on any tab. Then pinch the screen like you’re zooming out on a photo, and you’ll see all of your open tabs like this:

Open Spotlight in any app: Sometimes you want to search your phone without opening the Notification Center. You can — with any app open, just pull down from the top of the screen like you’re opening Notification Center, but stop when just the search field is visible and you feel a little haptic vibration.

Easy package tracking: Did someone send you a package and then text you the tracking number? Tap and hold on the tracking number in the Messages app and an option will pop up right there to track it.

Prioritize app downloads: Via Reddit, did you know you could prioritize your app downloads? If you’re in the middle of downloading and/or updating a whole bunch of apps but there’s one in particular you need, just 3D Touch the icon and you’ll get this menu:

Infinite zoom on any photo: It’s kind of annoying that you can only zoom in to a certain point on photos you capture on your iPhone. Check this out — tap the edit button, crop the photo just a tiny little bit, and save it. Now you can zoom in infinitely! Things start to get a little weird after you zoom in too far, so try not to get lost.

Search for words on a webpage: Okay, this one is HUGE. Most people have no idea that you can actually search for words on a webpage in mobile Safari just like you can in a desktop browser. One any webpage, type the word you’re looking for in the URL bar but don’t tap “Go.” Instead, scroll down and you’ll see an option to search for the word, and you can then tap through each instance. Here, you can see that I searched for the word “echo”:

Close all Safari tabs at once: This is a big one for people who leave tons of tabs open and decide they need to start fresh. Just tap and hold on the tab switcher button in the bottom-right corner in Safari, no 3D Touch needed. A little menu will then pop up and give you the option to close all tabs.

Drag share sheet options to rearrange them: Here’s another trick that comes courtesy of Reddit. If you want to quickly reorder your options on the iOS share sheet, simply tap on one and drag it around. Here’s a screenshot that shows how it works:

There you go – 10 cool hidden iPhone tips. These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hidden features in Apple’s iOS.

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Saving Your Work – Made Easy

Have you ever thought you saved a file and didn’t? It happens to everyone from time to time – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Losing your work is incredibly frustrating. All’s well and good if you remember to constantly save, but that’s an unnecessary hassle. We’re going to show you how you can auto-save your work across a variety of popular Windows applications.

Auto-save functions can be really useful if your software or system crashes, if you forget to save when closing an application, or if you simply don’t want to have to remember to save.

Internet Browser

Have you ever spent ages filling out a form only for your browser to crash and all of that time gone down the drain? Don’t let this happen to you! Install an add-on that will automatically save any data you write into a form, allowing you to recover when disaster hits. Check out Form History Control for Firefox and Text Input Recover Extension for Chrome. There are alternatives available, but these work decently.

session buddy chrome

Another pain can be when the browser crashes when you have loads of tabs open. Alternatively, perhaps you just want to automatically save a particular session for use later on. Session Manager for Firefox and Session Buddy for Chrome will sort you out here.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office doesn’t have an in-built function to auto-save your work. Of course, you can press Ctrl + S at any time to save, but that’s not the same thing. However, if you’re using the online version of Office then any changes you make will automatically be saved, so consider switching to that if you want a proper auto-save feature.

word autorecover feature

Instead, the Office programs have a feature called AutoRecover, available across Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. This will attempt to save your file if the program unexpectedly closes. When you open the program, it’ll then offer to try and recover the file. This feature has saved me more then once.

To enable AutoRecover or adjust your settings, open an Office program and navigate to File > Options > Save. Tick Save AutoRecover information every X minutes and then click Browse… to choose your AutoRecover file location.

Microsoft Outlook

The exception here is in Outlook, which does have an auto-save feature. When composing an email, you can set after how many minutes a copy of your message will be saved. This is perfect for when you’re in the middle of writing an email and get distracted. You can be safe in the knowledge that your message is safe.

outlook save messages

To enable this feature, in Outlook go to File > Options > Mail and tick Automatically save items that have not been sent after this many minutes:. From there you can adjust the counter and also which folder it’ll save to. Drafts is a good choice.

Notepad

The Notepad program included with Windows hasn’t changed a great deal since it was first introduced way back in 1985. It still serves its purpose as a simple and lightweight note taking application really well. As such, if you’re looking for the fancier ability of being able to auto-save, you need to look elsewhere.

notepad notes

Happily, there are loads of free alternatives that still offer the fast and simple nature that Notepad offers, but also with the extra auto-save function. The best option here is Notes. This is a faithful recreation of the application Mac users know and it does the job perfectly.

An alternative that works much in the same way is Simplenote. You can search all your notes, sync them across all your devices automatically, and use a slider to go back to a previous version.

Screenshots

Pressing the Print Screen button on your keyboard will take a screenshot of your entire screen. This then saves the shot to your clipboard, ready for you to paste it into a photo editing tool, a chat, or wherever.

However, as this screenshot is only held in the clipboard, it’s just temporary storage.

screenshots folder

To automatically save the screenshot to your computer, press Windows key + Print Screen instead. This will create a folder in your Pictures folder called Screenshots. With this command every screenshot you take will save in this folder, named in numerical sequence.

You can also set your screenshots to automatically save to OneDrive. Right click the OneDrive icon in your Taskbar (or do a system search for it), click Settings, go to the Auto save tab and tick Automatically save screenshots I capture to OneDrive.

Third-Party Solution

Just because a program doesn’t have the ability to auto-save your work doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. Check out AutoSaver, a tiny application that will automatically save anywhere.

It’s very simple and basically just automatically presses Ctrl + S at an interval of your choosing.

autosaver windows

Once downloaded, open the program and click the icon on your Taskbar. From here you can set the Auto Save Interval, right down to one minute. You can also choose which programs to run the utility in or which to exempt it from. I would recommend specifically choosing programs to use it in because many won’t need you to be saving.

Saved a Headache

Hopefully you’ve learned some useful tips on how to auto-save your work across a variety of Windows applications. You’ll definitely save yourself a lot of headaches and frustration, safe in the knowledge that everything you do is automatically being saved.

Remember, it’s all well and good to automatically save things, but that’s still useless if you don’t have a solid data backup plan in place.

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Our Adware Battle Continues

Over the past couple years, we have focused much attention on Ransomware, and that’s for good reason. However old threats are still here to make our digital lives miserable as well. One of the oldest surviving threats we continue to deal with is adware.

Image result for adware

Adware Today

There’s no denying that adware is a big problem. In fact 2016 saw a huge spike in Mac OS malware, mostly due to bundled adware. Google has tried tackling this problem by kicking known adware distributors out of the Play Store.

Google is perhaps the most aggressive trying to battle adware today because Android especially has seen a great deal of adware in recent years.

Earlier this year, a number of Android phones were discovered to have been infected with powerful adware. The “infection” took place somewhere between the factory, and the business that ordered them. That means some Android phones were purchased with adware pre-installed!

Avoid Download Portals

Desktops also continue to be targeted. One of the popular ways of infecting desktop PCs are through download portals. Many people continue to unwittingly use download portals that bundle adware and other unwanted programs with legitimate apps that people are looking for.

Unfortunately, these download portals show up at the top of search results and trick searchers into thinking they’re getting the best version of the app. When you are looking for a specific app take the time to go directly to the software provider’s website. If you do not – and you simply click on the first link in the search results you may be using a download portal which usually will give you a boatload of unwanted apps, in addition to the one you actually wanted.

* Yes – I know I used the words “download portals” five times in this section. That’s because I want you to remember what they are – so you can avoid them.

Keeping Alert for Adware

As with any other type of malware, the best way to deal with adware is to be aware if them – and what they are. Here are four things to watch out for.

If Ads Abound on Your PC – Don’t Panic But You Do Need to Act

If you’ve been infected with adware, you’re going to be seeing a lot of ads. Pop-ups, in-app ads, browser takeovers, and all sorts of other annoying behaviors might happen.

Different types of adware behave differently.

phishing ad
Image Credit: Fireofheart via Shutterstock

However one thing that they all have in common is that they will show you a huge number of ads. You’ll notice more ads, more insistent and pervasive ads, and ads outside of the locations where you usually see them. If you’ve been seeing any of this stuff, download anti-adware software right away.

Just don’t get it from…

Third-Party App Stores

If you stick to Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store, the Chrome Store, and other first-party, controlled app stores, you will be much safer than if you use third-party options.

The same rule for desktop and laptop software applies. Unless the app isn’t available from the Windows or Mac app stores — and you can’t find it on the developer’s website — avoid third party software download sites.

Watch for the Warnings

Believe it or not, you will often be warned right before you download adware. It’s those small print terms and conditions that often go ignored. Take the time to read them if you really – really want that free app. There’s a good chance that they contain something useful. They’ll often tell you that you’ll be getting something else in addition to the software you’re looking for.

No matter where you’re getting an app, make sure to at least browse the terms and conditions first. You just might save yourself the hassle of trying to deal with the problem later.

Avoid Free Versions of Software

If you found a place to download Microsoft Office for free, run the other way. You’re not going to get high-end, fully featured apps without paying. Someone might be offering it, but they’re probably offering a few other things that they aren’t telling you about, very likely adware – or worse.

Even apps that are normally free often carry some sort of adware. Ironically a number of illegitimate anti-virus apps have been discovered to come bundled with malware.

Always be very careful about where you get your software.

What to Do If You’ve Been Infected

Here are some warning signs to watch out for.

Have you noticed a lot more pop-ups than usual lately? Or advertisements that you can’t close? If you see a new toolbar (these are very popular), a new default search engine (also a common symptom), new programs that you don’t remember installing, or new bookmarks in your browser, you are then more likely infected with adware.

Do your best not to interact with any of these ads, as that may make the problem worse. Close — force close, if you need to — those apps and download an anti-adware application as soon as possible. Here are three choices that will help you rid your computer of adware for free.

Malwarebytes AdwCleaner (Windows)

With one of the best reputations in the game, Malwarebytes is a company you can trust to clean up your computer. Its AdwCleaner software specifically targets adware and browser hijackers, as well as “potentially unwanted programs,” which could include toolbars and other questionable downloads.

AdwCleaner is free, and all you have to do is download it and run it. It doesn’t get much easier.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition (Windows)

Another company with a great reputation, BitDefender is at the forefront of anti-malware tech. This lightweight antivirus app protects you from all sorts of mayhem, including adware and spyware. It also packs anti-phishing and anti-fraud features for additional protection.

While you get more features out of the paid version of this app, the free option is still a great way to go.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (Mac)

While some of anti-adware software out there only works on Windows computer, Malwarebytes’ anti-malware software will protect your Mac from attacks. This extremely lightweight client is great even if your Mac is starting to get old and slow down.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Macs don’t get adware. They do. So download this now.

And if you’re looking for mobile anti-adware apps, check out Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. It’s free on the Play Store.

Be Proactive Against Adware

As with any type of malware, the best way to deal with adware is to not get infected in the first place. Make sure you have an up-do-date antivirus solution running on your computer, watch out for suspicious-looking sites, and remember that the best things in life aren’t free. Especially when it comes to software.

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Outlook Rules to Improve Your Workflow

Image result for outlook 2016 pngMicrosoft Outlook is one of those tools many of us not only use every workday – but countless times – throughout each day. The more skills you master in Outlook – the more time you will have to get things done. Here are some of my favorite Outlook tips.

Setup Rules

Rules can help you automate management of your messages, whether it is blocking Junk Mail or moving specific messages to a folder. For instance, you could have all messages from your boss moved to a particular folder, so you never miss them. With the full version of Outlook, you can create some pretty complex rules.

Here’s a simple rule where I’m moving messages from the recipient folder. Select a message from the recipient then click the Home tab then click Rules > Create Rule.

Check the box From recipient then check Move the item to folder.” Choose an existing folder or create a new one. Select it and click OK. You can run the rule right away or at a later time. There are rules you can setup to receive an alert when you get an email from a particular recipient or messages with certain words. Check out how to move new messages to a specific folder.

create rule 2

Also, advanced rules were added to Outlook.com a couple of years ago.

Use Color Categories and Flags

Use the Color and Categories feature to help prioritize and focus on what’s in important. Select a message and click the Categorize menu then choose an appropriate color. You can customize these colors to a particular meaning. Click Categories > All Categories > select a color and then Rename. Keyboard commands can also be assigned so you can quickly mark a message.

Categorize

The Follow Up Flag can also help you remember messages you need to look at when you have the time. When you flag an email message, it will appear on your To Do List and Tasks lists so you can remember to attend to it.

Follow up

Schedule Using Delayed Delivery

Outlook lets you delay the delivery of an email to a particular time of the day. This feature is handy if you know a recipient won’t get to your message until a given time. If you’re aware that a user checks email around 3 AM in the morning, create a new message then click the Delay Delivery button under Options. Make the appropriate modifications to Delivery options such as Do not deliver before date and time.

Delay delivery

Create a Search Folder

A Search Folder is a powerful way to triage your messages and bring some sanity to your inbox. For instance, you can create a search folder for mail you want to follow up, or flag messages from specific people, groups or list.

Outlook-2013-search-folders.png

Click the Folder tab then click New Search Folder then choose the type of Search Folder you want to create from within one of the groups. Select the mail folder and click OK. A search folder is created in the Navigation Pane. Any messages I choose to follow up will be available there when I need them.

Set Junk Email Filter Level

Junk Mail can slow down how much productive emails you can get to throughout the day. Using Outlooks Junk Mail Filter, you can minimize its impact. Click the Home tab then click the Junk menu in the Delete group then click Junk Email Options.

I recommend starting with the Low setting first and see how it works for you. If Junk messages are too aggressive, then you can move to a higher option. In case the filter mistakenly flags an important message, I would keep the Permanently delete option unchecked.

Junk Mail

These tips were just the tip of the Microsoft Outlook iceberg. You can check out some of our previous Outlook articles here.

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Tech Tips in Bad Weather

A massive winter storm is slated to slam the eastern portion of the United States tonight. The area where I live could see as much as 2 feet of snow.

These are some tech tips to help you prepare for the storm:

Keep Your Mobile Devices Charged

Make sure you keep your mobile devices, smartphones and laptops charged so if your home loses power you have a way to communicate and stay informed.

Stay on social media

Posting on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is an easy way to let friends and family know you’re safe. Social media will also alert you to breaking news and updates on the storm.

Watch your local news

This should be a no-brainer, but you should be tuning into your local news for updates on the storm. In the case of a power outage, you could pull that old radio out of the closet. Don’t own a radio? Check your old iPods or smartphones. The iPod Nano and some Android smartphones, such as the HTC One M9, also include FM tuners.

Internet down? Use text instead of voice

Cell phone networks can quickly become overloaded during storms and natural disasters. It’s best to send a text message, rather than continuing to attempt a phone call. Standard text messages have dedicated bandwidth on cell carriers’ networks. If Web connectivity (or even worse electricity) is spotty or down, and the phone circuits are overloaded, your text messages have the best chance of getting through.

Charge all your batteries

It’s always smart to be prepared for the power to go out. Make sure all of your devices (not just your smartphone) are fully charged. When power and Internet are down, CNET editor Dan Ackerman recommends using a laptop’s USB port to charge your smartphone.

Apps could be a lifesaver

If you still have power and Internet, you should be keeping an eye on weather apps. Some of my favorites are NOAA Weather Radar, The Weather Channel, Weather Underground (Android, iOS) and 6abc (Philadelphia). Make sure to check out local apps because they will be there to help you stay up to date with where you live.

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Cleaning Your PC for Free!

One of my favorite PC cleaners is CCleaner. This nifty free piece of software can really put some life back into your computer. There is a paid version but for the majority of home PC users the free version will add some life your PC. Here are some highlights if you take time time to install CCleaner.

Cleaning Out Some Old Programs

When you analyze and run a cleaning scan, CCleaner picks some default types of information to delete. But some of these aren’t worth cleaning regularly. For instance, browser cache can build up over time and use lots of space on systems with smaller hard drives. However, the cache lets you access commonly visited sites quickly, so clearing it all the time is detrimental.

On the Cleaner tab, have a look at the various categories CCleaner lets you tweak. The Windows header contains entries for Edge and Internet Explorer, File Explorer, and other system elements like log files. The Applications header lets you clear browser information, as well as various utilities you might have installed like Foxit Reader, Office, 7-Zip, and more.

Browse though these items and uncheck everything you don’t want CCleaner to remove. If you often navigate via the Recent Documents page in File Explorer, it’s not worth the minuscule storage you save by removing it.

Say Goodbye to Some of those Unnecessary Startup Programs

Whenever you install software, it often sets itself to run at startup and adds an entry to your right-click menu. In theory these are useful, but having too many startup items can slow down your system and a messy context menu is more frustrating than helpful.

CCleaner lets you easily edit both of these lists. Open the Tools tab and select the Startup option. Here, you can see startup programs under Windows, as well as Context Menu items and even Scheduled Tasks. Click an entry you don’t want, then click the Disable button on the right side. You shouldn’t Delete something unless you’re certain that you don’t need it.

To keep a copy of everything you have in these lists, press Ctrl + A to select all items and click the Save to text file button. If you’re not sure what an entry is, right-click it and choose Open containing folder to find the source.

If you’re not sure which items to remove, check out the top items you don’t need at startup. And once you’ve removed useless entries, you should boost your context menu by adding great shortcuts.

So Long Duplicate Files – and Hello More Free Space

Duplicate files are a pain. Not only do they waste space, they might confuse you if you edit one file, then open the other one and wonder where the changes went. To combat this, use CCleaner’s tool to find extra copies and remove them.

Head to Tools > Duplicate Finder to start. Here you can specify criteria, such as limiting file sizes, skipping over hidden and system files (which is a safe idea), and only searching certain drives. By default, the tool considers duplicate files as those with an identical name, file size, and modified date. You can also check the Content box to further restrict matches.

Once you click Search, the list will populate. Be careful with deleting these files; stick to removing your own documents and videos and avoid removing DLLs or other data used by programs.

Don’t Be Scared – Wipe That Drive!

When you click Delete on a file in Windows, it disappears from your view. But that file is still on your hard drive for a while after deletion. Windows marks the spot where that data was stored as free space ready for new information, so until that happens you can recover the old file with the right software.

CCleaner provides a tool to securely erase data from your hard drive so that others can’t access it. Visit Tools > Drive Wiper to access it. Under Wipe, select Free Space Only. A Simple Overwrite will do in most cases, but you can do an Advanced Overwrite with three passes if you’d prefer. Select the drives you want to perform this on, and click Wipe. Note that this will take some time, so you shouldn’t use your computer while it’s running.

Wiping the free space won’t affect the contents of your drive at all, but will prevent previously deleted files from being recovered. If you want to completely obliterate a drive, select Entire Drive next to Wipe. This will irrevocably destroy all information on the drive, so use it with caution! For safety you can’t run this process on your Windows disk, but it’s great for wiping external drives.

Getting Under the Hood with Your Disk Space

While CCleaner can free up a good amount of space for you, chances are that the bulk of storage on your computer is taken up by your files and installed programs. There are several disk usage visualization tools, but CCleaner has its own built right in.

Some Cookies Are Good – Some Are Not So Good

When you clear browser information, cookies are one of the items CCleaner can remove. You probably don’t have any problem with tracking cookies going out the window, but removing the cookies for your email or social accounts means you have to log back into them. Head to Options > Cookies in CCleaner to remedy this.

The left panel shows you every cookie on your machine, while the right lists the cookies that CCleaner doesn’t delete. You can scroll through the (likely massive) list and double-click any website to add it to the Keep list. For some help, right-click on the left side and click Intelligent Scan — CCleaner will automatically find cookies for sites like Google and AOL and move them to the Keep side. You can remove them if it keeps one you don’t want.

As I said at the strat of this article, the free version in most cases is enough  however there are a few features, like cleaning automatically on a schedule which are only available in the $25 Professional version. However, you can easily set up CCleaner on a schedule manually for free. You don’t have to pay to get a ton of powerful features in one great utility. Start using CCleaner to its full potential today!

You can learn more and download the free version of CCleaner here.

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Ten Ways To Avoid Viruses

Recently many of my workmates and friends have asked about viruses and hoe to help them with their “slow moving computers. With this in mind I decided to take a little time to touch on 10 things you can do to reduce your chance of having your computer ifected by a nasty virus.

So here you go. Master these 10 things and you may just keep your PC clean and running like brand new.

1. Beware of Fake Download Buttons

These can turn up anywhere, but generally you’ll find them on download sites. Whether legitimate or otherwise, you can guarantee there will be a download button that isn’t the one you want to click. The result can be that you downloaded something you don’t want — possibly malware, although often simply bad software.

fake malware warning button

As you’ve no doubt spotted, this is a dirty trick. You can beat the scammers with this approach, however. Simply exercise caution when clicking links and buttons. Think twice and consider the following:

  • Is this a site you’ve used before?
  • Do you trust it?
  • Have you checked the browser status bar to confirm the link destination?
  • Does the button text and font match the rest of the site?

If you have doubts about any of these questions, then you should avoid the site, and certainly don’t download anything from it. Scammers can use all manner of coding tricks to entice you into making a dangerous mistake. Take your time and trust your instincts.

If you’re still not sure, check whether the site is considered trustworthy or not. Norton Safe Web, is a good option, although this is also a good reason to install an online security suite as many offer this functionality to your browser. Google also offers a Transparency Report for identifying bad websites.

2. Use a Secure Browser

An old copy of internet Explorer is just not good enough these days. Come to think of it, an old version of any browser cannot be considered secure. These apps are updated regularly by their developers for many reasons, mostly to maintain and improve security.

Online shopping, online banking, social networking — they all have their risks, and the last thing you want it a browser harboring some dangerous software that records your keystrokes or hijacks a secure link to your bank account.

Secure, modern browsers use HTTPS and check that certificates are legitimate. Old browsers will not. How secure you want to go depends on how concerned you are. We’d recommend you start with Google’s Chrome browser, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge, their secure replacement for internet Explorer. Want more help? Check this infographic about the most secure browsers.

You certainly should not be using Internet Explorer at all. This browser is broken and all-but-abandoned by Microsoft. Steer clear! Hackers still profit from targeting the browser, and you can do yourself a favor by choosing something else (something more secure, faster, and easier to use) to browse the web.

Even if you’re running Google Chrome on an old Windows XP PC (and you really shouldn’t be), you’re not secure because the underlying operating system is not secure enough to handle modern malicious software. Windows XP was launched in 2001.

3. Hang Up on Cold-Calling Tech Support Agents

These people are poison.

In the UK and North America, there has been an epidemic of scam telephone calls from people claiming to be from “Windows technical support” or some close variations. Before we continue, understand this:

Microsoft won’t call you out of the blue to fix your PC!

Variations on this are claims that the caller is from your ISP, or mobile phone provider. Their aim is to get you to find “proof” of an issue on your machine, then download a piece of software that affords the caller — who is a scam artist, pure and simple — control of your PC. From then on, they have the opportunity to install keyloggers, backdoors, and other tools that might be used to steal information from you.

Nice, eh? We’ve looked at the anatomy of a Windows tech support scam before, so check out that post if you want to be better prepared.

The defense here is to refuse to talk to anyone claiming to be from Microsoft. Just hang up. Certainly, don’t let them walk you through the “checks” and download the “fix”. And don’t keep them talking, as this doesn’t really seem to help (the idea is nice, keeping them away from other people, but in truth, there are so many of these scammers at work that it makes no difference). Also, they tend to become unreasonable, and make threats.

4. Ignore Security-Themed Pop-Up Adverts

This can be tricky to spot, as often pop-up adverts can appear from the bottom-right corner of your screen from any currently-running anti-virus software installed on your system. Frustratingly, this also happens with paid solutions, not just free ones.

If the pop-up seems to originate from your browser — you can check this by completely closing it — you should ignore this. In fact, any and all security messages that did not occur during a scan that you recently initiated should be ignored. For instance, your anti-virus software will have a “scan” button. Didn’t press it? Then ignore the message.

There’s a bad side to all of this, however. If you see anti-virus messages on your computer and haven’t installed any anti-virus software, then your system is infected. Time to take steps to remove the infection!

5. Avoid Public Torrent Sites

You may not realise this, but there are two types of torrent sites: public and private. While both can be accessed through a browser, the latter usually requires you to create an account and manage your ratio.

The idea here is that you upload as much (or more) than you download, or else be banned from the site. Private trackers can be difficult to join, as they don’t often accept new account registrations. It’s not too hard to find ones that are open, however.

And yes, it’s usually illegal, but there are many legitimate uses for Bittorrent.

With public torrent sites, you’re risking malware infections not just from the dodgy adverts, but also from the torrents being fake, or bundling worms, viruses, Trojans and other malicious software in with the file you think you’re downloading.

Yet another bittorent client

All torrent sites worth their salt offer a commenting system where other users can share their experiences of the downloaded file. Always check these before committing to a download.

6. Delete Media Files Requiring Fake Codecs

Media from torrent sites can often be fake, and you probably won’t know until it has downloaded. Usually a video file (but it might be audio or even a game), these fakes can be difficult to detect until they’re run.

At this point, your media player will display a message advising that the file cannot play or requires a specific player. So, did you download a genuine movie? The way to find out is to try and play it in the popular and feature-packed VLC Player. With every current video and audio codec built in, if the file won’t play with this, it’s not a genuine media file.

Delete it now. And stop downloading dodgy stuff!

7. Don’t Open Email Attachments Forwarded to You

Emails are a well-known attack vector for worms and viruses. Of my two virus infections, the first was a worm sent as an email attachment from my father. The executable file presented some pretty firework graphics on the monitor. This was the Happy99 worm, described as “the first modern worm” and “the first virus to spread rapidly by email”. One million people downloaded the subsequent fix, which removed the self-replicating malware.

While this worm is now virtually obsolete, other malware can spread via email. Then you’ve got the spoof emails, phishing attempts that try to either con you into entering your personal information on a fake website, or download a piece of malware (or both).

If you’re using a webmail solution such as Outlook.com or Gmail, you have an advantage over malicious attachments. For desktop email clients, make sure you take full advantage of the tools on offer. Don’t preview emails, and make sure you operate a white list of approved senders. Avoid opening emails sent to large groups of people, too.

While you might not want to install an antivirus tool, if you’re not using webmail, it’s a good ideal to use a paid email scanning tool.

8. Only Download Apps From Developers

As we’ve seen, download sites are a big pain. Tricky to navigate with fake “Download” links on them, it’s easy to be fooled into downloading something you don’t want.

That’s if you’re even on a reputable site. It gets trickier with the cynical sites serving malware-infested downloads. So if you’re downloading software that you want to use — perhaps free office software, audio editors, video editors, chat clients, or anything like that — head to the developer’s website.

This is almost certainly the only way you’ll get the most up-to-date version of the app in question, and the safest, too. If your operating system offers an app store (most do these days on desktop and mobile) then also check that for the app you want to use.

But forget about app download sites. They’ve had their day.

9. Don’t Use Your PC’s Admin Account

Whatever operating system you use, make sure you’re not logging in with the administrator account. Further, make sure your family members aren’t either. Sure, you’ll need an admin account for various tasks, but no one needs it to be their daily account.

Really, it’s asking for trouble, allowing software, malicious or otherwise, to make permanent changes to your computer.

Instead, create user accounts for yourself and family members. These accounts should feature limited privileges that protect the system from malicious software and over-enthusiastic clicking. With Windows 8 and later, admin accounts have been overhauled, so take a look at our guide. You should also look at our tips for managing Windows user accounts.

10. Scan All New Files and Disks

Finally, think about the devices you’re connecting to your PC. New data that you’ve downloaded, discs you’ve inserted, phones you’ve connected and flash storage devices you have inserted could all pose problems. If these devices are set to autorun when media is inserted, malware can quickly grab a foothold.

Kingston USB drive plugged into laptop

With anti-virus software installed, it’s possible to scan all files that you access via disk. You can also use online virus and malware scanners to check the files. Windows 8 and later will also allow you to prevent autorun, which can prove particularly useful.

As brave as it might be to run your PC without any antivirus software, in this day and age, with threats from keyloggers, backdoors and ransomware, it’s a good idea to use a full-blown security suite.

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