Advanced Tips and Tricks for Better Online Privacy and Security

With social networks and tons of places to spend time online it is important to be aware of security measures you can take and what pitfalls to avoid. With the default stock configuration of your systems and browsers, you should be safe but whether you are safe enough depends on how seriously you take your safety and privacy online.

The need of the hour is to move beyond simple security measures and opt for advance techniques like data encryption and two-factor authentication etc. to have a safe, secure and private online experience. Here are some of safety measures you should know of and take heed, to make yourself safer online.

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Check for telltale signs

There are a few telltale signs that indicate a problem or something fishy with a site.

Always Check for Telltale Signs
  1. Padlock icons: Green padlock is good but any other color (orange, yellow or red) indicates a issue.
  2. HTTPS in the address bar: HTTPS means the site is on a secure connection (and safe from prying eyes). By January 2017, Chrome will label HTTP connections as not secure.
  3. Phishing and malware alerts: Such alerts given by the browser means the site is insecure to visit and must not be viewed, in any case.
  4. Suspicious attachments in email: Emails with suspicious attachments are likely spam and may lead to phishing attacks
Always Check for Telltale Signs

These are the indicators that the website or page you’re viewing is not safe/secure, known of having malware or exploited for malicious use like cheating people, hacking into their data, etc. There is also danger in the handling of payment details leading to potential thefts or other attacks.

Avoid sharing info with strangers (or new friends)

With the increasing use of social networks, we run the risk of oversharing what we shouldn’t. If we are not careful this could lead to identity theft issues or stalking cases.

If you are not familiar with privacy or security settings, here are a few tools and posts with tips you can use to configure privacy settings in popular social networks.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Always have alternative email addresses

The selling of email addresses and personal data is rampant online, not to mention very easy to look up. Apart from that hacking cases also lead to the exposure of user data pertaining to online accounts. Here is where having alternate emails can be of use.

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Using just one email everywhere may allow malicious people to get hold of and target the email for spam or identity theft. It’s a good idea to have an alternative email, for sending mail to strangers, signing up for newsletters or to filling up forms at unknown or untrusted websites.

This second email gets all the inevitable spam or unwanted emails while the official email remains clean and unexposed. Additionally, you can always forward important emails from the second address to your primary email and set a filter to keep those mail in a separate folder.

Simply add the second email to the first email’s account (using SMTP) and send mail as the second email directly from your official email only. This way your primary email account is nicely organized, free from spam, and even you don’t need to login to another account to do less secure tasks.

For creating a side or temporary email account, you can always use one of the popular email providers or go for a temporary/anonymous email provider:

Always have One or Two Alternative Email Addresses
  1. Zoho Mail – One of the leading email providers wherein you can create a separate account for third-party emailing.
  2. Trashmail – A super-easy temporary email provider that doesn’t ask you to register an address – you just need to use it.
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Also included are tips and tutorials for managing your mailbox with multiple email ids in a single inbox for popular email providers:

  1. How to forward emails in Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail
  2. How to use/configure filters in Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail
  3. How to send mails from different or secondary email address or using an alias in Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail

Avoid logging into personal accounts at the workplace

Keeping business and leisure separate is always a good idea, especially when it is to do with personal accounts at the workplace. Avoid using your personal email address at work and never access private accounts like your bank account while at work.

If you’re really required to access your personal accounts for any reason, then do remember to do a security check using an anti-malware app. (Check out Malwarebytes).

Moreover, if you’re the owner or admin of your system and look for any suspicious program (though it’s hard to easily find a tracking software as it’s mostly hidden).

Avoid Logging into Personal Accounts at Workplace

As an alternative solution, you can always use your smartphone coupled with data pack to send personal emails without getting tracked anyhow by your employer.

If you’re using the same on your employer’s WiFi, then do consider using Tor or a VPN (discussed below) or encrypting the mail contents for safety (discussed below too).

Enable two-factor authentication

Do Enable Two-factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a security mechanism that asks for a second key or passphrase in addition to the password. The same has been long used by high security systems (in the form of RSA hard tokens), but it is now generated and sent through text or email or generated using a smart app.

Two-factor authentication keeps away snoopers from accessing your online accounts – even if they get their hands on your passwords somehow. Here are some notable 2FA apps you should be using:

  1. Google Authenticator
  2. Authy
  3. Microsoft Authenticator

Use Tor or a VPN service

Do Use Tor or a VPN Service

Tor is an online traffic router and encryptor, letting everyone believe you’re using the web from a different location and encrypting your traffic to safeguard against prying eyes.

A VPN is a traffic encryptor for disguising and securing your web data to avoid tracking and censorship from hackers, employers, ISPs and governments.

Using Tor or a VPN prevents third parties from monitoring your activities and keeps you safe from various types of hacks and attacks. Both technologies route your web sessions inside encrypted tunnels to safeguard your privacy.

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One can think of this tunnel as a private, self-owned phone wire between you and Tor network or the VPN provider. This guarantees that no other person can check or track your online activities or look into your data.

Check below for how to download and setup Tor or the popular VPNs easily:

  1. Tor – Peer-to-peer, free traffic router for and by privacy enthusiasts (Download | How to install)
  2. CyberGhost – Popular and free VPN service known and trusted for its quality (Download | How to install)
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Encrypt everything

Encrypt Everything

Encryption packages the private data including passwords, financials, images and videos inside password-protected containers that works like ‘a box with a lock‘. That locked box can be opened only by you and other authorized parties (having password). This will help you keep your communications private and hence avoid various types of attacks or thefts.

Check below some of the tools that help encrypt your emails, IMs, online documents, data on cloud storages, etc.:

  1. Tutanota – Inspired by the FOSS principle, it offers a completely free, encrypted email service out of the box.
  2. Hushmail – Provides enhanced security features to keep your emails safe and protected (including attachments).
  3. ChatCrypt – Encrypts your messages, making them readable only by the participants having the same secret password.
  4. Cyph – A free in-browser messenger app with built-in end-to-end encryption for having private, encrypted conversations.
  5. DocSecrets – An add-on for Google Docs that encrypts sensitive information (like passwords) and highlights the secret texts.
  6. Cryptomator – A free client-side encryption tool to encrypt your files before sending or storing them at any online cloud storage.
  7. SecureGmail – A free tool from Streak to send encrypted mails using your favorite Gmail (receiver is asked for password to read).
  8. Mailvelope – An open source mail encryption tool that works for Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail and few others.
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More apps:
  1. Ghostery – Protects you from the unknown trackers and gives you the power to manage your personal data.
  2. Disconnect – Supports private browsing and searching, and prevents malware and adware from websites to track your activities.
  3. Adblock Plus – Blocks various trackers, annoying ads, compromised domains, pop-ups as well as video ads while surfing the web.
  4. Privacy Badger – Blocks the spying ads and invisible trackers from monitoring your online actions (and comes from EFF).

Use Ad-blocker plugins

Do Use Tracking-Blocker Plugins

Tracking-blocker plugins are browser extensions that help you get rid of online trackers, ad agencies and other organizations that tracks and feeds on your data. Such trackers keep record of everything you do online (which websites you visit, what searches you make, which ads you click, etc.).

Using tracking-blocker or ad-blocker plugins in your browser lets you browse the web privately with no one monitoring your online activities for monetary profits. It also minimizes page-loading time and saves your Internet bandwidth (by small ratio, though).

Find below the links to download and set up such cross-browser, cross-platform plugins:

Understand browser cookies

Most of the sites install cookies in your browser, which are used for tracking your session data and user’s login information as long as you’re browsing the same website.

Some cookies are also used for cross-site tracking, to serve adware and show irritating pop-ups. Hackers can, unfortunately, hijack these to gain access to your logged-in accounts.

Install cookie management tools

To prevent cookies from tracking your data or revealing important information, you need to manage cookies using cookie management tools.

Such tools give you total control over cookies in the browser – view, manage or clear/delete them. By storing the right cookies and deleting all suspicious or sensitive cookies (that holds login or account info), you can be sure they won’t compromise security of your data or logged-in accounts.

  1. Cookie Manager – A Google Chrome add-on that lets you add, edit and delete cookies through the toolbar.
  2. Firebug – A Firefox add-on that manages cookies in your browser and helps filter and delete them easily.
  3. IECookiesView – A third-party tool that details all cookies in the Internet Explorer and assists you in managing them.
Understand Browser Cookies

Did you find it helpful to secure your online experience? Do you know any more tips? Please share your knowledge and experience with us through comments section below.

The post Advanced Tips and Tricks for Better Online Privacy and Security appeared first on Hongkiat.

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5 Tips and Tricks to Optimize Mobile Device Storage Space

Smartphones are often bulging with data and running out of storage for most of us. When it happens, you need to clean data or get a new device with a larger storage space. With high-resolution photos and videos and video-streaming services taking a lot more storage than a few years ago, it is common for your smartphone to run out of storage.

Have You Ever Run Out of Storage on a Phone? — a poll done by Droid Life in 2016 reported that 50 percent of the respondents had run out of storage space on their smartphones and 21 percent of them came close to running out of space. That means 71 percent of the respondents needed more storage space.

What is the solution then? Almost a decade ago, it was easy to gain more storage space by using a microSD card as most smartphones supported microSD cards at that time. However, manufacturers have mostly stopped providing this option with a few exception brands like Samsung Galaxy. So, the question arises: what to do when you run out of space on your mobile device? Let’s find out below.

1. Opt for a cloud storage service

The easiest way to get more free space on your mobile device is to opt for a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, etc. Whether you opt for a free or paid cloud storage service, you can configure settings to offload photos and videos to the cloud, freeing up space on your smartphone.

Of course, the storage service’s app must support automatic backing up or offloading photos and videos to the cloud storage. For instance, Google Photos allows you to back up and sync your photos and videos. Moreover, you can delete them after they are uploaded to the cloud to gain more storage space.

Here’s how to enable the free cloud backup using Google Photos:

  1. Go to Settings > Back up & sync and enable it.
  2. After the photos and videos get backed up, you can delete them from your device through Settings > Free up device storage.

If you upload up to 16 MP photos, it is free for now. But after June 1, 2021, Google Photos will count them according to your Google account’s storage capacity, sadly.

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Opt for a cloud storage like Google Photos

2. Clean the device’s storage

Every digital device gets cluttered over time — especially our smartphones. That is why you must do a periodic spring-cleaning — at least every quarter if not every month. Though you can do it manually, there are apps to help you clean your device, which categorizes the used space by apps, documents, media, etc.

Most importantly, these apps list cache, junk files, and temporary data, allowing you to gain some space with just some clicks. For example, you can use Files by Google to browse files and clean up your phone. You should browse photos and videos and delete any bad, duplicate, pixelated, or unwanted media files to free up space.

Moreover, you must check the downloads folder on your device as we tend to download files, which converts to clutter over time, so delete them all.

Clean the device's storage via Files by Google

3. Delete unused applications

According to a latest report, an average smartphone user has usually 80+ apps installed on his mobile device. However, the average person uses only 9 apps on daily basis and 30 apps on a monthly basis. That means you can remove unused apps from your device to free up storage space.

On Android, you can use Google Play Store to check all the installed apps and remove the ones you do not use. Follow the given steps:

  1. Open the Play Store and click Options (the hamburger icon).
  2. Choose My apps & games and switch to the Installed tab.
  3. Click an app and press the Uninstall button to remove the app.
Delete unused apps using the Play Store on Android

On iOS, you can follow these steps to delete an application:

  1. You can touch and hold an app and tap Remove App.
  2. Tap Delete App and finally tap Delete to delete it.

4. Clear apps’ cache and temp

Every app downloads and/or stores data locally on your device. For example, Facebook may store login information and some cached or temporary media files. Similarly, Amazon Prime, Castbox.fm, Netflix, and most other media apps allow you to download media offline, which also utilizes the device’s storage.

Some of this data is stored under special storage categorized as “cache” while others are stored on the device directly. You can delete cache and these extra or temporary data to get more free space on your smartphone.

On Android, you can follow these steps to clear an app’s cache:

  1. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > See all apps,
  2. Click an app and click the Storage & cache button.
  3. Click Clear cache to delete the app’s cache.
Clear an app's cache inside Android

On iOS, you can clear Safari’s cache by following these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Safari and scroll down to Privacy & Security.
  2. Tap Clear History and Website Data under Privacy & Security.

As for third-party apps in iOS, this option is not available for all apps. For example, Slack provides an option Reset cache on next launch under Settings > Slack. So, you need to look inside Settings for other apps.

5. Check DeX and delete files

If you are using one of the flagship Samsung Galaxy smartphones, you may know about Samsung DeX. It is a mobile-powered desktop computing platform that lets you utilize a desktop-like experience on an external display. Though it gets you a PC-like experience using your smartphone, it helps you create more data.

If you do not use Samsung DeX, you can skip to the next section. If you use it, you must check your data inside DeX by following these steps:

  1. Boot up DeX and check apps, files, and folders.
  2. Delete anything you mostly do not use or want on a regular basis. It will help you regain precious storage space.
Clean up your data inside Samsung DeX

Bonus: Limit the size of media files

With the growing usage of smartphones for shooting photos and videos, it is no wonder that the storage space is mostly utilized by media files. Nowadays, flagship smartphones are coming with cameras of hefty megapixels — going to more than 100MP. Though it gets you crisp photos, it increases their sizes too.

Similarly, advanced features like 4K resolution, HDR mode, and 60 fps options gain attraction among enthusiasts, however, these all add to the media size.

That said, you should configure your camera app to lower down these settings. You can gain decent photos and videos at 1080p resolution, 30 fps mode, and high compression ratio, and you can always change settings for special occasions.

On Android, if you are using Google Camera, you can configure this way:

  1. Open Google Camera and click More > Settings.
  2. Configure the resolution options namely Back camera photo resolution, Front camera photo resolution, Back camera video resolution, and Front camera video resolution. Maybe your camera has more such options.
Configure Camera settings inside Android

On iOS, if you are using the default camera app, do the following:

  1. Open Settings > Camera.
  2. Tap Record Video or Record Slo-mo, then choose a resolution. As I told before, pick one of the options showing 1080p HD at 30 fps.

How much storage space do you really need?

It only depends on your requirements. If you hardly shoot photos and videos using your smartphone (maybe you got a DSLR camera?), you can probably do with 64 GB storage.

On the other hand, if you are a camera enthusiast, opt for a minimum 128 GB storage option. But if you are a heavy user shooting multiple photos and videos every day, you should look for a minimum 256 GB of storage space. Or you can also buy a smartphone with expandable storage using a microSD card.

That is all about the common yet handy tips and tricks to get rid of unwanted data and gain more space on your smartphone. Did you find them helpful? Let me know by writing a comment below or tweeting to me at @iamashks.

The post 5 Tips and Tricks to Optimize Mobile Device Storage Space appeared first on Hongkiat.

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18 Cortana Tips and Tricks You Should Know

Microsoft’s own virtual assistant, Cortana, is one of the best feature introduced in Windows 10. The artificial intelligent tool offers lots of features to enjoy using your computer, get information on your finger tips and improve your productivity at work.

Most of us, however, aren’t aware about Cortana’s features, tips and tricks that can make our lives easier. That’s why, in this post, I’m compiling the ultimate list of tips and tricks to help you get most out of Cortana in Windows 10 — on desktops and mobiles.

Note: Cortana commands, when spoken out, should start with “Hey Cortana, …

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1. Make Specific Searches

Cortana is smart enough to show you the best matches at the top of the result list, but that can’t be satisfactory for every situation. That’s why, it provides options for you to take control of your searches.

To get the customized and most relevant results, narrow down your search query by using specifics such as:

Operators

Search using file names, wildcards (? and *) and extensions (for example: .doc, .exe, etc.) and standard arithmetic operators

Location

Search in a specific location including OneDrive, the Internet, Windows Store or local storage drives (like C:)

Categories

Search in a specific category by writing a category followed by a colon (:) and your query to get category-based results. Here’s the list of categories (as examples) to take hints from:

  • Apps: Edge (shows various apps in the Windows Store)
  • Documents: Report (shows all similar-named documents)
  • Folders: Blog (shows all ‘blog’ named folders)
  • Music: Bob Dylan (shows all related songs and albums)
  • Photos: Birds (shows images with the similar names)
  • Settings: Region and Language (shows the asked settings)
  • Videos: Vacation in Venezuela (shows all similar named videos)
  • Web: Windows 10 (shows info related to this query from the web)
Make Specific Searches

2. Track Couriers and Flights

As a smart assistant, Cortana also tracks flight numbers and courier packages via their tracking numbers.

It auto-tracks the flights and couriers with the details found in your configured email. You can also track the information manually if it’s not found in your email.

The tool allows tracking couriers from services like DHL, UPS, FedEx, etc. and retailers like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc., and supports various known flight operators.

Follow these steps to track flight or courier information manually:

  1. Type the flight or courier tracking number in the Cortana’s search box
  2. After Cortana validates the information, click on Track your package (this step is only for courier packages)
  3. You can see the search result under Best match
Track Couriers and Flights

3. Set 3 Types of Reminders

You can set up time-based, location-based or person-based reminders using Cortana on your PC, and get the reminders on your mobile device.

Time-based reminders are of course based on time, whereas location-based reminders are based on the tracked location on your mobile device. If it is a perso-based reminder, the reminder will pop up when you receive a call or message from that person.

Follow these steps to set the reminders:

  1. Click in the Cortana’s search box, then type or say the reminder query
  2. Click on Set a reminder, then Cortana asks for person, place and time
  3. After setting the required information, then click on Remind button

Here are few example queries to set the reminders:

  • Remind me to pick up the dry cleaning at 8PM day after tomorrow
  • Remind me to buy the watch for John on 25 December this year
  • “Remind me to congratulate when Sandhya calls or messages me
Set 3 Types of Reminders

4. Question for Technical Support

Cortana helps you get technical support for specific queries and provides the asked information within its app window. Your queries may also be redirected to the Windows Help & Support tool, Microsoft Bing (search engine) or Microsoft’s support pages on the Microsoft Edge.

Here are few example queries to get technical support:

  • How do I connect to Wi-Fi?
  • How do I create a backup?
  • How do I change my background?
Question for Technical Support

5. Translate Words and Phrases

Cortana can translate phrases and sentences in 50 different languages. You’re required to type or speak the phrase (as a query) in the Cortana’s search box and the artificial intelligent tool would give the response back.

Follow these steps to translate using Cortana:

  1. Click in Cortana’s search box
  2. Type “Translate“, then enter the phrase and “to French” (in case you want to translate the phrase to French)

Here are few example phrases or queries for making translations:

  • How do I say good morning in French?
  • Translate hello there to Spanish
Translate Words and Phrases

6. Send Text Messages from PC

Cortana comes to rescue if you want to send a message when you’re away from your phone or too busy to pick up. You can still use this tool to send a text message from your PC (which is actually sent from your phone).

Follow these steps to send a message:

  1. Open Cortana and in its search box, type “Send text to
  2. Type name of the person from your contact list and press Enter
  3. Then type your message in the message box and click Send button

In case it’s a new number (not listed in your contacts), then you need to add the number in your contact list first. To do this, you can install People app in Windows 10 and save the number there (it synchronizes with your phone).

Send Text Messages from PC

7. Search using Natural Language

Cortana is interactive and user-friendly, and allows making queries in natural language — same as Apple’s Siri and Google Now. This means you can speak with Cortana same as you do with a human and it’ll give back responses.

You can follow these steps to search in natural language:

  1. Type or speak your query inside the Cortana’s search box
  2. Cortana will auto-understand the context and answer your query

Few examples for searching using natural language:

  • Find documents for yesterday
  • What’s the weather today?
Search using Natural Language

8. Identify Music and Songs

Cortana has got various tricks up its sleeve and identifying music or songs is one such awesome feature. It not only can listen to and identify music, it also can search the web for additional details and description for the playing music or song.

You can achieve the same using the following steps:

  1. Click inside Cortana’s search box
  2. Click on the musical note icon in the top-right corner (look under More, if it isn’t visible or available directly there)

Or you can simply ask such queries to do the same:

  • What song is playing?
  • What’s the name of this song?

Cortana will show the song or track title, album name and more details. You can click on the song to purchase the song or its album from the Windows Store.

Do note that there exists few regional restrictions for this feature and Cortana may not identify music in non-supported regions and instead reply “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize this song, Try again.

Identify Music and Songs

9. Calculate and Convert Numbers

Cortana, apart from its other features, can help you do basic arithmetic operations and simple conversions.

The tool can convert between various numeric units such as currencies, temperature, length, weight and liquid quantities, etc.

You can perform the following steps to calculate or convert:

  1. Click in the Cortana’s search box
  2. Speak or type “Calculate” or “Convert followed by your query

Here are some example queries to do the same:

  • Calculate 8 + 2 – 10 / 10
  • Tell 30000 * 60 * 60 * 30
  • Convert 10 USD to EUR
  • What’s 90 meters in inches?
Calculate and Convert Numbers

10. Find Facts and Get Answers

Cortana can even become your tutor and help you find information quickly than ever. The assistant can give you basic information on several topics and niches including but not limited to important public figures, definitions, public holidays, movie information, travel destinations, currencies, time zones, etc.

Here’s some example queries Cortana can reply:

  • “Who is Bill Gates?”
  • When is Labor Day?
  • Define superfluous
Find Facts and Get Answers

11. Find Places and Get Directions

Cortana can help you locate an address with turn-by-turn directions using its companion app, Maps. Do note that this feature requires you to have Maps pre-installed in Windows 10 and if not, you can get it from the Windows Store.

Here’s what you can do to get directions using Cortana:

  1. Type or say “Directions to” followed by location in the Cortana’s search box

Here are few example queries for getting directions:

  • Directions to Bloomington
  • Directions to Central Park, New York City
Find Places and Get Directions

12. Send Emails Straightaway

Cortana lets you send emails directly without opening an email client or a browser. Using this feature, you can simply speak your mail requirements and your personal assistant would send that mail. Do note that for this feature to work, your email account must be configured with Cortana.

Here are the steps to send an email using Cortana:

  1. Click inside the Cortana’s search box
  2. Type or say aloud “Send an email to” followed by the recipients
  3. And, type or speak “saying” followed by the email’s body/content
  4. After composing the email, you can edit by saying “make changes
  5. At last if all information is good, simply say “send” to send the email
Send Emails Straightaway

13. Create Calendar Events

Cortana can help manage your calendar, allowing you to create meetings and events without opening the Calendar. It will create an event with the information provided by you (and even ask for more if it thinks the info is incomplete).

It will also remind you of the set meeting or event as scheduled.

Here is how you can do the same:

  1. Click in the Cortana’s search box
  2. Type or say “Add a meeting followed by date and time “to calendar

Few example queries to create calendar events:

  • Add a meeting for Monday at 4PM to calendar
  • Add an event for tomorrow at noon
Create Calendar Events

14. Use Cortana inside Edge

Cortana integrates with Microsoft Edge, the default browser on Windows 10, to ease and personalize your browsing experience.

While using the browser, you will see Cortana’s icon popping in the address bar, clicking which you can interact with your virtual assistant. Cortana may appear when you search or browse for dining out, shopping online, listening to music, watching videos, etc.

To run this feature, you need to activate the same in the Edge browser:

  1. Click on Options (three dots) button and click on Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the right sidebar and click on the View advanced settings button.
  3. Scroll down again there until you see Privacy and Services section.
  4. Toggle on the option Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge.
Use Cortana inside Edge

15. Set Alarms & Reminders

Cortana can even set alarms and reminders to keep you organized. Using this feature, you can simply speak out to Cortana for setting, editing or cancelling alarms and reminders without opening any such application manually.

Follow these steps to set an alarm or a reminder:

  1. Click in the Cortana search box
  2. Speak out or type “Set alarm for” or “Set reminder for” followed by the date and time to set alarm or reminder respectively

To edit/change the configured alarm or reminder, say or type “Edit alarm for followed by date and time, and to turn off the set alarm or reminder, say or type “Turn off alarm for” followed by date and time to the virtual assistant.

Set Alarms & Reminders

16. Displays Song Lyrics

Cortana can help whenever you’re watching some music videos or just remembered some song from the past, for which you’d like to check out the lyrics. This task is as easy as asking or querying any other thing from Cortana.

This is how you can see the lyrics of a song:

  1. Click in the Cortana’s search box
  2. Type or speak “Lyrics of” followed by song’s title and “by” the artist’s name

Here are few examples of queries for getting lyrics:

  • Lyrics of Numb by Linkin Park
  • Show me lyrics of Same Old Love by Selena Gomez
Displays Song Lyrics

17. Control your Computer

Cortana can also help control your computer and change basic configurations just by reaching out to the assistant. You can give simple commands to control your computer including things like launching apps, controlling hardware, etc.

This is how easily you can do the same by typing or speaking:

  1. Click in the Cortana’s search box
  2. Type or speak out the magic words (aka command)

Following are some examples to do the same:

  • Turn off Wi-Fi
  • Open Control Panel
  • Change the wallpaper
Control your Computer

18. Check News and Updates

Cortana also provides you with the latest news and updates and random updates based on its analysis. You can set your interests so that it shows news and updates that are relevan to you.

Do these steps to get news and updates:

  1. Click inside the Cortana’s search box, then type “News
  2. Open Cortana and click on the Notebook icon on the left
  3. Among the shown cards, choose News option
  4. Toggle on or off the settings per your interests
Check News and Updates

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11 Tips and Tricks for Creating Stunning Business Cards

Since a business card is your first point of contact with your potential client it has to be impressive. A simple and easy-to-understand card usually does the trick for you, in this case. So here are some easy steps that will help you create a professional and distinctive business card that will be a treat […]

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25 Tips & Tricks to Speed up Windows 10

Do you find your computer slow or unresponsive at times? Windows, with every new release, provides new features and updates that demand more system resources. This may result in increased resource consumption, resulting in system slowness or unresponsiveness.

8 Tools to Customize Your Windows 10

8 Tools to Customize Your Windows 10

Windows 10 offers many customization options, but they are either difficult to access or require tinkering with Windows…Read more

Fortunately, there are numerous tips and tricks that can help minimize unnecessary resource usage giving a speed boost to your PC. In this post, we’re sharing various tips, techniques and tools to customize Windows 10, with step-by-step instructions, so you can experience a fast, smooth and super-responsive system.

1. Disable Startup Apps

Your PC may be running slow because of a huge list of startup programs (apps that start along with the system). These apps slowdown the bootup process and degrade the device’s performance, hence disabling such apps speeds up the performance of the system and improves the overall responsiveness.

Although there is detailed information on how to manage the startup programs on Windows, however, for a short-cut to locate and disable the startup programs , do the following:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager
  2. Click the Startup tab to check the list of startup programs
  3. Right-click and select Disable on programs you only occasionally or ever rarely use

    Disable Startup Apps

2. Disable Effects & Animations

Another reason for your PC to be running slow can be visual effects and animations that increase the burden on the system resources. In the latest PCs, visual effects and animations may not cause a huge impact on power and speed. However, in older PCs, these do play a role so turning them off is your best option.

Here are the steps to disable visual effects and animations:

  1. Right-Click Start > System
  2. Select the last option on the left, Advanced system settings
  3. Switch to Advanced tab and click Settings under Performance
  4. Under Visual Effects, choose the option Adjust for best performance (or you may also select Custom and uncheck all the checkboxes)

    Disable Effects & Animations

3. Uninstall Bloatware

One of the biggest factors that slow down any Windows-based system is unwanted software, aka bloatware. They book disk and memory space unnecessarily hindering other applications to perform at their full potential.

That’s why removing such apps boosts the system’s performance, especially if you download lots of programs but don’t or rarely use them. For rarely used apps, avoid installing the software, rather go for portable apps for using a tool once in a while.

To remove bloatware or unused apps, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click Start > Control Panel
  2. Select Programs > Programs and Features
  3. Select Uninstall/Change to remove unwanted programs, one at a time
  4. Follow the instructions in the uninstall dialog boxes to uninstall the software

    Uninstall Bloatware

4. Use Performance Monitor

Windows 10 has a useful real-time performance monitoring tool called Performance Monitor. It details system and hardware resources, performance issues and services, and also suggests solutions for the listed problems.

Follow these steps to make use of the real-time monitoring tool:

  1. Type Performance Monitor in the Start menu‘s search box and click the first result to launch the Performance Monitor tool
  2. Select the last option Reports on the left > System > System Diagnostics option

The tool will work on your request and gather all the information about your system and produce a detailed performance report.

Do look under the Warnings section to find the issues present on your PC. Check their descriptions, use Windows 10’s Troubleshooter (given below) or search the web for their solution.

Use Performance Monitor

5. Enable Hibernate Mode

In the hibernate mode, the computer’s state (opened programs and their data) is written on the hard drive when you turn off your PC. When you switch on the system, Windows 10 takes seconds to open and lets you return to where you left off (as your programs remain open along with their sessions).

Perform the following steps to enable hibernate option:

  1. Press WinKey + I and then select System
  2. Select Power & sleep > Additional power settings, which will open Power Options
  3. On the left panel, select Choose what the power buttons do
  4. In the new window, click Change settings that are currently unavailable
  5. Enable the checkbox Hibernate and click Save changes button at the bottom

You can now select the Hibernate option from the Start menu whenever you wish to hibernate for getting back to work quickly.

Enable Hibernate Mode

6. Disable Search Indexing

Search indexing improves the search tool’s responses and speeds up searching in Windows 10. It weakens the performance, however, as it runs in the background and utilizes a lot of system resources. Owing to this reason, if you do searches occasionally, then it’s best to disable it.

Follow the steps mentioned below to disable search indexing:

  1. Right-Click Start > Computer Management
  2. Double-click on Services and Applications > Services
  3. In the services list, look for Windows Search and double-click it
  4. In the new window, for Startup type, select Manual or Disabled and then click the OK button to save your changes

    Disable Search Indexing

7. Minimize Browsers’ Load

Browser extensions and add-ons work for every opened tab or window and hence, utilizes a substantial amount of system resources. So, installing a lot of add-ons and browser extensions degrades your PC’s performance. So, to speed up your Windows 10, you must disable or remove all unused add-ons and extensions.

If you use Chrome as your web browser, follow these steps to remove extensions:

  1. Click the icon at top-right corner of the browser window
  2. Select More tools > Extensions
  3. Uncheck Enabled for every extension you want to disable temporarily or click the trash can icon to uninstall it completely

    Minimize Browsers’ Load

If you use Mozilla Firefox as your browser, follow these steps to remove add-ons:

  1. Click the icon at top-right corner of the browser window
  2. Choose Add-ons to open the Add-ons Manager tool
  3. Select Extensions from the left sidebar to view the list
  4. Click on the Disable button for the add-ons you wish to disable temporarily or click Remove button to uninstall the add-ons completely

    Minimize Browsers’ Load

8. Clean Up the Disk(s)

Over the time, your computer gets filled with lots of useless data that occupies space which could be utilized by programs, and slows down overall read/write operations. That’s why, it’s essential to get rid of unnecessary files using the Disk Cleanup tool.

To run Disk Cleanup to free up space on your system, perform these steps:

  1. Click Start > File Explorer > This PC
  2. On the right side, under Devices and Drives, select the Local Disk (C:) and then right-click and choose the last option Properties from context menu
  3. Switch to the General tab and under Capacity, click on Disk Cleanup button
  4. After the tool completes scanning your system for removable files, select the category of files you wish to delete and click OK to remove them

    Clean Up the Disk(s)

9. Defragment the Drive(s)

Your disks get fragmented over time, and increasing fragmentation also increases the time for Windows 10 to fetch data as their parts/chunks are spread all over the disk. This leads to slower performance and added disk failure risk.

Defragmentation cleans the hard disk of fragmentation, and combines fragments to create sequential data on the disk to speed up operations. Also, defragmenting the drives on regular basis improves performance and increases the life of your system.

To defragment and keep the hard drive healthy and efficient, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start > File Explorer
  2. Select the Local Disk (C:) and then right-click and choose Properties
  3. Click the Tools tab, look under Optimize and defragment drive and click the Optimize button to open the Optimize Drives tool
  4. Select the drives, one by one, and click on Optimize button for defragmenting each of the hard disk drives

    Defragment the Drive(s)

10. Turn on Fast Startup

Fast Startup option helps in starting your PC faster after a shutdown by cutting down on boot-up time, using caching for some necessary resources into a single file on the hard disk.

At the time of startup, this master file is loaded back into the RAM that speeds up the process manifolds. Do note that this option does not affect the restart process.

Follow these steps to enable Fast Startup option in Windows 10:

  1. Right-Click Start > to bring up context menu and select Control Panel
  2. Click Hardware and Sound and look under Power Options in new window
  3. Click on the link Change what the power buttons do
  4. Now click on Change settings that are currently unavailable
  5. Tick the box next to Turn on fast startup (recommended)
  6. Click the Save changes button to enable the same

    Turn on Fast Startup

11. Uninstall Fonts and Drivers

Hardware drivers as well as fonts load and use resources causing a delay in system startup. Therefore, if you don’t need them, do remove them to improve your Windows 10 PC’s performance.

For uninstalling drivers, check the Uninstall Bloatware section above. In the Programs and Features tool, just select the drivers you wish to remove. If the drivers are not visible in Programs and Features, you can follow these steps:

  1. Right-Click Start >, select Device Manager to launch the window
  2. Locate the hardware for which you wish to uninstall the driver, then right-click on the same and select Uninstall option
  3. Check the option Delete the driver software for this device and click OK

    Uninstall Fonts and Drivers

For removing fonts, follow the below steps:

  1. Right-Click Start > and choose Control Panel
  2. Select Category in View by and then choose Fonts
  3. Select the fonts you don’t use and then click on the Delete button

    Uninstall Fonts and Drivers

12. Disable Background Apps

Apps running in the background take system resources, heat up your PC and reduce its overall performance. That’s why, it’s better to disable them to speed up your Windows 10 and start them manually whenever you required. This reduces resource usage and helps speed up your system.

Follow these steps to turn off background-running apps:

  1. Select the Start button, go to Settings
  2. Click Privacy, go to the last option in the left panel – Background apps
  3. Switch off the toggles to turn off background apps you don’t need or use

    Disable Background Apps

13. Optimize Virtual Memory

With a low RAM, it’s difficult to multitask smoothly on Windows 10. The recommended solution is to upgrade the RAM. However, if you’re not willing to spend money on it, then the other option is to allocate more virtual memory.

Virtual memory is a software-level optimization for improving responsiveness of any system. The operating system uses virtual memory whenever it’s short of actual memory (RAM). Though Windows 10 manages this setting, yet configuring it manually gives much better results.

Perform these steps to optimize the virtual memory:

  1. Right-Click Start, select Control Panel and then choose the option System and Security
  2. Click System in the window that appears, then choose Advanced system settings option from the left pane
  3. In the new window, click the Advanced tab and then click the Settings button under Performance
  4. Select the Advanced tab in the new window and click on the Change button under Virtual Memory
  5. In the new window that appears, uncheck Automatically manage paging file size for all drives
  6. Select the C: drive and then click the radio button for Custom size
  7. Now set the Initial size (MB) to the size of your RAM and Maximum size (MB) to double the size of your RAM (for ex., if the size of the RAM is 4GB, set the initial size to 4000 MB and maximum size to 8000 MB)
  8. Click the Set button and then OK (and restart when asked for)

    Optimize Virtual Memory

14. Turn off Windows Tips

Windows 10’s tips feature proves helpful for newbies to understand the system and especially, to avoid changing unnecessary or dangerous configuration. However, the experienced ones can disable the tips feature and maximize system performance.

Do the following steps to turn off tips feature of Windows 10:

  1. Select the Start button, go to Settings
  2. Select System and from the left pane, select Notifications & actions
  3. Toggle off the option Show me tips about Windows

    Turn off Windows Tips

15. Turn off Dynamic Color Adaptation

Windows 10’s dynamic color adaptation feature automatically picks the color from your desktop’s wallpaper and adjusts the color scheme of the user interface accordingly.

This feature increases the resource usage and reduces performance of your Windows PC. That’s why, disabling this feature frees up resources and improves responsiveness.

Follow these steps to disable dynamic color adaptation:

  1. Click on the Start button and from the menu, select Settings
  2. Select Personalization from left sidebar, then select Colors
  3. Toggle off Automatically pick an accent color from my background

    Turn off Dynamic Color Adaptation

16. Disable Background Services

In Windows 10, there are several services running in the background that are used infrequently or never, and so it’s best to disable them or make them start manually. Disabling such unneeded background services unclog the system resources, and the system speeds up.

Disable the background services through the following steps:

  1. Type services.msc in the Start menu’s search field and click the first search result to open the Services tool
  2. Double-click each of the services you wish to disable and for their Startup type, select Disabled or Manual per your usage

    Disable Background Services

17. Turn off Windows Features

Windows brings many optional features such as .NET, PowerShell, Telnet and many more, which may or may not be useful to you, nevertheless, occupy memory and disk space. Owing to the same, if there are Windows features that you don’t use, then turn them off to make Windows 10 speedier.

Follow the steps below to turn off unnecessary features:

  1. Press WinKey + X and choose Programs and Features
  2. Click Turn Windows features on or off from right-side pane
  3. In the new window, uncheck the features you don’t use and click OK

    Turn off Windows Features

18. Use CCleaner Regularly

Over the time, every Windows system gets filled with temporary and junk data that increases file fragments and slows down the system. It’s best to get rid of such data on regular basis. However, the Disk Cleanup tool (discussed above) doesn’t clean all such data, and this is where CCleaner come in.

CCleaner is a disk cleanup tool that deletes temporary files, cookies, cache and other junk data that requires regular cleaning to keep the system running smoothly. To find and delete temporary and unneeded files using CCleaner, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install the CCleaner tool from its download page
  2. Launch CCleaner tool and then choose the Cleaner icon
  3. Select the things to clean and click Run Cleaner button

    Use CCleaner Regularly

19. Fix Registry Errors

Windows Registry is a central repository of configurations of the complete system. With time, this database grows up significantly with unneeded or missing entries that results in slowdown of the registry, degrading overall performance of the system.

To avoid it, the registry should be cleaned regularly with a registry cleaner tool. CCleaner is one such tool that helps clean various types of problematic entries in the registry and even offers a backup for the registry before executing a clean up.

To fix registry errors using CCleaner, perform the following steps:

  1. Download and install CCleaner from its download page
  2. Open CCleaner and click on Registry icon on the right
  3. Select the issues to fix and click on Scan for Issues button
  4. After the scan is complete, click on Fix selected issues button

    Fix Registry Errors

20. Use the Troubleshooter

Windows 10 has a built-in tool to find problems and solve them automatically without the user’s help. If there are issues affecting your PC but you can’t find them yourself, then it’s easy to find and fix those using the troubleshooting tool.

Moreover, if your system is under-performing, then there can be various reasons behind it, and finding these issues is a challenge in itself.

You can troubleshoot your system by following these steps:

  1. Right-click on the Start button and select Control Panel
  2. Click System and Security and under the Security and Maintenance, choose Troubleshoot computer problems option
  3. In the new window, look beneath the option System and Security, click on all three of them, one-by-one, and follow the onscreen instructions

    Use the Troubleshooter

21. Opt High Performance Mode

Your PC might be working slow because you have diminished its capability to utilize the resources by opting for the power saving mode. To overcome this issue, use the power saving mode when it’s running on battery and go for high performance mode when it’s connected to a power socket.

To change power options to high performance mode, perform this:

  1. Right-click on the Start button, select the Control Panel, then click on System and Security
  2. Select Power Options and choose High performance (in case you don’t see this option, expand and look under Hide additional plans)

    Opt High Performance Mode

22. Customize File Explorer Options

Windows 10’s File Explorer has a number of options to improve the overall user experience that also affect the performance of the PC. Disabling the unrequired options improves the overall performance of your Windows and gives you a smooth experience, especially while using the explorer.

To configure file explorer options in Windows 10, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, select File Explorer to open, and click the View tab
  2. Click on Options button and click on Change folder and search options
  3. A Folder Options dialog box opens, select the View tab and uncheck the following options under Advanced settings:
    • Always show icons, never thumbnails
    • Display file icon on thumbnails
    • Display file size information in folder tips
    • Show encrypted or compressed NTFS files in color
    • Show pop-up description for folder and desktop items
    • Show preview handlers in preview pane
  4. Under the same Advanced settings, check the following options:
    • Hide empty drives
    • Hide extensions for known file types
    • Hide folder merge conflicts
    • Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)
  5. Click OK to save the configuration changes

    Customize File Explorer Options

23. Error-check the Drive(s)

After tonnes of read/write operations, power failures and various other reasons, your computer’s disks may get corrupted or damaged at some of the places. This results in a slower system and can even cause hangups and freezes.

That’s why, it’s good to error-check the drives on regular basis with a disk checker. Follow these steps to run the error-checking on your disks:

  1. Open File Explorer, go to This PC and choose a drive
  2. Right-click the drive and select Properties from the context menu
  3. Switch to the Tools tab, then click on the Check button under Error checking
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions given on the new window to check the drive

    Error Check the Drive(s)

24. Disable Sync Feature

Windows 10 syncs many things like passwords, browser settings, system and language preferences etc. with your Microsoft account. Consequently, this feature consumes system resources and bandwidth of your web connection. So, consider disabling the sync feature, if you don’t need it, as it helps improve the performance.

To disable the Sync feature on a Windows 10 PC, perform these steps:

  1. Click on the Start > Settings > Accounts option
  2. In the left pane, select the last option Sync your settings
  3. Toggle off the Sync settings

    Disable Sync Feature

25. Reset your PC

If all of the above tips fail to help you fix your Windows 10, then the last solution is to reset your system. This option gets you a freshly installed configuration on your system. Note that although, this will cause no harm to your saved files, still, you won’t find your old software and configurations anymore.

Perform these steps to reset your PC:

  1. Open the Start menu > Setting > Update & Security
  2. In the window that appears, select Recovery in the left pane
  3. Under Reset this PC, click the Get started button to begin the process

    At last, Reset your PC

Conclusion

Well, that was quite a detailed look at almost all the possible tips and tricks to speed up a Windows 10 system. Do share with us which among these helped you the most using the comments section. Also, if you know any more such tips, we’d love to hear from you as well.

18 Tips & Tricks to Get the Most Out of Cortana

18 Tips & Tricks to Get the Most Out of Cortana

Microsoft’s own virtual assistant, Cortana, is one of the best feature introduced in Windows 10. The artificial intelligent…Read more

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