Category Archives: Computer

How To Tweaking Windows 10 Privacy Settings

Several controversial privacy issues have kept many users from upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system, even with the free upgrade offer (still) on the table. While some of the initial uproar may have been overblown, there are some settings worth visiting in this post-Snowden era of heightened concern regarding personal privacy. Today, we’ll examine a handful of the more questionable features and settings and show you how to go about regaining some of your privacy.
The first order of business is to head to the Windows 10 Privacy settings. So yes, there’s actually a centralized place where you can tweak this stuff, with more updates to come in the upcoming ‘Creators update’. To get there, click on Start, then go to Settings > Privacy and click the General tab on the left sidebar. Here, you’ll find four options that can all safely be disabled.

Cool illustration above by Jim Cooke via LifeHacker
Everything here is pretty self-explanatory and although I’d personally disable everything, at the bare minimum I would strongly suggest turning off the feature that sends Microsoft information about how you write which supposedly helps them “improve typing and writing in the future.” No, thanks.
The screenshot below shows Windows 10’s privacy settings at default on the Anniversary Update.

While you’re here, it’s not a bad idea to scan through some of the other categories where you can adjust location settings, camera settings (a piece of tape over your webcam isn’t a bad idea, either), microphone settings, contact settings, and more. It’s easy to go overboard and mass-disable everything; the best approach is to evaluate each setting on a personal level and only turn off what you feel comfortable doing such that it won’t impede functionality that you actually use.

A perfect example of this is Cortana, the personal digital assistant built into Windows 10.
Much like Alexa and Google Now, Cortana can be incredibly helpful but it’s not something everyone is going to use. Before the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, turning off Cortana entirely was trivial but now, you’ll need to perform a simple registry edit to do so.

In Windows 10 Home, this can be done my finding the key HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search (you might need to create this key if it doesn’t exist). From there, create the DWORD value AllowCortana and set it to 0.

On Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise edition, you can use the local Group Policy Editor (Run > gpedit.msc), to open the policy Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search > Allow Cortana then set it to “disabled.”

Another controversial feature in Windows 10 is Wi-Fi Sense. Microsoft pitched this feature as an easy way to share your network with friends or use a friend’s Wi-Fi network without having to exchange passwords. Although convenient, the feature generated a ton of criticism around the idea of sharing access and prompted Microsoft to strip out much of its functionality with the Anniversary Update.

The feature still exists in Windows 10 although the whole sharing credentials bit has been removed. Now Wi-Fi Sense is used exclusively to connect you to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

For all of the flack that Microsoft received regarding privacy when it launched Windows 10, the company seems to be taking the feedback in stride. With the upcoming Creators Update, Microsoft is making its privacy settings more transparent and easier for the average user to understand. There will be a new setup experience, so you’ll be able to get started on the right foot in terms of privacy settings right out of the gate. Though if you ask us, not asking in the first place and defaulting to the most private settings would be the ideal step forward.

How To Screenshot in Windows 10

few of you clicking on this article are probably thinking: “isn’t it easy to screenshot in Windows 10? You just press the print screen button and a screenshot is saved to the clipboard!” And you’d be correct; simply hitting the print screen button on your keyboard is the easiest way to capture a screenshot.
But Windows provides several other ways to screenshot, many of which are better options than simply mashing the print screen button, depending on your requirements. So below we’ve listed seven alternate methods of screenshotting that may come in handy in day to day life.

Alt + Print Screen
This simple keyboard combination is one that we use every day. By simultaneously hitting Alt and Print Screen, instead of capturing your entire screen, Windows 10 will only capture the active window. For those with large displays or multiple monitors with loads of windows open, this is the perfect way to capture only the most important stuff on the screen.
Like when you press just the Print Screen key by itself, Alt + Print Screen saves the image to your clipboard. To access the image, you’ll need to paste it into an app like Paint.

Win + Print Screen

This is another extremely handy keyboard combination you should put in your daily workflow. Hitting Win + Print Screen captures a screenshot of the entire screen and saves it directly to your drive. The photos are saved in the Pictures library, in the Screenshots folder, as PNG files.
This is the best tool to use if you want an immediate image file created from your screenshot. It’s quicker and easier than hitting Print Screen and then pasting the image into an image processing app like Paint. Unfortunately, you can’t hit Alt + Win + Print Screen to save an image of the active window.
Win + H
If you use Universal Windows apps often, you may find the Win + H keyboard shortcut useful. Hitting these keys simultaneously will take a screenshot of your active app and bring up a sharing panel, allowing you to easily insert and share this screenshot in other apps.
For desktop users, it’s not as handy as the two shortcuts above, but it is another way to screenshot in Windows 10.

Windows + Volume Down
The final set of shortcuts here is one for tablet users. It’s simple: hit the Windows button (or capacitive touch logo) in conjunction with the volume down button, and it will take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it to the Screenshot folder. Think of it as a hardware button version of Win + Print Screen.
The Snipping Tool is one of several software solutions provided in Windows. The app gives you greater control over what exactly is captured in your screenshot, by allowing you to draw rectangles or free-form shapes around anything on your screen. It also has a delay function so you can capture the perfect moment. After the Snipping Tool captures the selected area of your screen, you can annotate and highlight whatever you like using the built-in tools. It’s then easy to save the screenshot as an image to your drive.
If you take screenshots often, creating a hotkey (keyboard shortcut) to open the Snipping Tool comes super handy. To do that, open the Windows Explorer and browse to the Windows / System32 folder. Look for SnippingTool.exe, right-click on it and select Create Shortcut. You can place this shortcut somewhere hidden, in your Documents or Downloads folder. Then right-click on this shortcut and select Properties. In the field Shortcut Key, you can set your shortcut. I personally like setting my screenshot tool to “Win Key + Shift + S” but you could certainly go with something as easy as F7.

There are also third-party tools that provide more functionality, but for the most part the Snipping Tool does everything you’d want. And it’s already included with Windows 10.

Windows Inking Tools
If you have a device that supports stylus input through Windows Ink, there are some additional ways to capture a screenshot in Windows 10. One way involves opening the Ink Workspace, which is available by tapping the pen icon in the taskbar, and then clicking on ‘screen sketch’. From here, a full screenshot is captured and opened in a window that allows annotating.
Another way to achieve the same outcome is to double tap the eraser button on your stylus, provided your stylus supports this feature. The Surface Pen included with some Microsoft Surface products is one such stylus that has this functionality.
There is an additional screenshot utility provided as part of Windows 10’s Game Bar and Game DVR. When the Game DVR is activated and enabled, you’ll be able to screenshot in games by hitting Win + Alt + Print Screen (or a shortcut of your choice). You’ll get a notification on screen to let you know it was successful, and images are saved in the Captures folder of your Videos library.
To turn on the Game DVR’s screenshot feature, open the Xbox app, head to the Game DVR tab of the settings menu, and check the box that says “record game clips and screenshots using Game DVR”. This screenshot feature will only work in games, and the Xbox app does a reasonable job of detecting what is and isn’t a game. In the event a game is not detected, open the Game Bar using Win + G then check the “yes, this is a game” box.

Some Free Apps To Install On New Windows PC

You just bought a new Windows laptop, built a new desktop, or are simply clean installing on a new SSD. Gotta love the smell of a fresh new machine, but now you have to get back to productivity zen by recovering your files and installing programs.
Not sure which ones? Well, let us help. We’ve compiled a list of essential programs to get you started. From browsers to productivity tools and lots of suggestions for the areas in between, and as usual with a special emphasis in great free options you can download right away.
Browsers
Windows 10 offers Edge which is a serviceable browser, nothing wrong with it but you’ll rarely find power users favoring it over Chrome or Firefox. The default choice for most is indeed Chrome, a great browser that is very extensible. Although it’s been suffering from some performance hiccups as of late, Google is hard at work correcting those. Chrome is great for Android users, too for natively syncing across devices.
Then there’s Firefox which is long time contender that has never stopped evolving and arguably every bit as good browser as Chrome.
If you’re up for a little experimentation, Opera remains a slick and feature rich browser that is based on Chrome’s engine. Same goes for Vivaldi (from the original makers of Opera), the new kid on the block, it’s not as polished as Opera on the UI front, but is very customizable and offers many power user friendly features.

Cloud Storage
Cloud storage and services are a must-have in your toolbox. There is nothing more convenient than accessing data from any place or device, and having that data sync across devices.
Backing up and restoring information has never been smoother either, and even though there’s a huge array of options we’ve long been spoiled by Dropbox’s ease of use. Major alternatives include Google Drive and Microsoft’s own OneDrive, which is integrated into Windows 10. Odds are you already rely in one (or more than one) of these three, but if not, I’d start by picking one and making the most of the free storage you get to sync and backup important documents.
Messaging
Information is power but having the right information at the right time is even more important. For video calls there’s Skype. The most ubiquitous messaging platforms are Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, though only the former offers a native desktop application which comes super handy when you’re working on your PC.
It’s always fun to stay in touch with family and friends, but if you need to collaborate in a workgroup then Slack, Spark or Hipchat are the most likely platforms you’ll be using. And if you’re interested in having all your different communication services in one place you could try Franz.

Security
If you know what you’re doing, Windows 10 comes out of the box with more than decent security. Common sense and Microsoft’s built-in tools should be enough for most users, but if you want to go the extra mile and add another layer of protection that won’t turn into a burden for your system, you should install Malwarebytes. A veteran specializing in preventing malware and rootkits attacks, it’s good and free for personal use. There’s also Virustotal.com which you can use to scan downloaded files for threats before you open them.

Gaming
For gaming we have to recommend Steam. Valve’s platform does an awesome job at being a one-stop shop for all PC gaming. It’s a great hub and gaming communication platform, also known for its killer sales. Do note however that certain franchises are absent from Steam, namely games from the likes of EA, Ubi and Blizzard. So here are download shortcuts for Origin, Uplay and GOG Galaxy.

Multimedia
For watching your favorite movies and series there’s VLC Player. It just works, but if that’s not enough it has great support, a wicked equalizer, and simple controls. To be fair, Windows 10’s built in player works well and supports a variety of formats, too. Last time we checked it saves you battery when playing movies on a laptop, so we certainly wouldn’t discard it.
It’s not uncommon for PCs to act as hubs to stream movies or serve as HTPCs. If you are looking for more than a player, something that offers streaming and can organize your library there is Plex, which is very popular, and Kodi, less known but just as capable alternative.
Productivity
Personally I’m a big LibreOffice fan. It’s the first thing I install for productivity. It offers all the basics (and then some) you’ll need from Microsoft Office but at no cost. Not everyone agrees on my choice — there are other free alternatives as well as Google Docs if you can’t justify paying for the Office suite.
For note-taking there’s OneNote, which Microsoft now offers as a free cross-platform, cloud connected app. If you’re more of a visual person you can use Monosnap for taking screenshots with annotations.
We all need an image editing tool. Windows 10 users can rely on Adobe’s Photoshop Express for basic editing, free of charge.
Finally, for coders and developers we have to give a shout out to Sublime Text, possibly the best text editor you’ll find.

Bonus Killer Apps
Feel the list is missing something? Since publishing this article, the community has provided invaluable feedback in the form of your own app suggestion and recommendations. Check that out further down below!
If we were to list one more useful application, we have F.lux as a bonus. This nifty little app shifts the color of your computer’s display to adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. If you like to work at night, F.lux is a godsend.

Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts

I’m a sucker for motivational quote and proverbs, especially those which encourage or add value to my growth as a person. A couple of my favorites, “if you aren’t keeping up, you’re falling behind” and “time is money,” go hand in hand with today’s Gmail tip.
Keyboard shortcuts can be found in virtually every modern operating system, app and service. They may only shave off a second or two at a time but trust me, the savings can quickly add up when used on a regular basis. Such is the case with Gmail, one of the world’s most popular e-mail clients.

Core Navigation Shortcuts
First things first – make sure you have keyboard shortcuts enabled. To check, simply click the gear icon in the top-right corner of Gmail and select Settings. Scroll down and tick the box to enable shortcuts (if they aren’t already active) then click Save Changes.

With your account primed, the first order of business is learning how to navigate Gmail’s various boxes without the mouse. These are some of the easiest shortcuts to memorize as they all use “G” plus one other letter. For example, G + I takes you to the inbox, G + D brings you to the drafts box and G + S drops you into your starred conversations.

Odds are, the majority of your time will be spent in the inbox, either composing new messages or replying to incoming e-mails.
Using the mouse or even the up / down arrow keys may seem like the quickest way to skip ahead or jump back to the previous message in your list but you can get the same results without removing your hand from the home row keys: type J to skip to the next message or K to move up the list.

To compose a quick message in window view, simply type C (or if for some reason you want to do so in a separate tab, just type the letter D). Finished reading a message and need to send it to the trash bin? Shift + 3 (the # sign) will do the trick. Can’t find what you’re looking for or need to move a message? Run a quick mail search by typing / or type the letter V to bring up the “move to” menu.

Dive in Deeper

We’ve only scratched the surface here but for those new to Gmail shortcuts, it’s a great start. Commit just a few of these time-saving shortcuts to memory and you’ll be wondering how you ever got by without them. Once you are ready to dive in deeper, simply type Shift + / (the ? symbol) to bring up Gmail’s keyboard shortcut cheat sheet.

Gmail Filters

One of the most powerful tools Gmail provides is its filtering system. Strangely, it seems that few users of Google’s extremely popular mail service take advantage of filters to improve their email experience and that’s such a shame. Filters can help automate many of the tasks you may perform daily, and can streamline your inbox to show just the emails you want, while removing those you don’t.
It’s true that Google does provide some email filtering already through features like inbox categories and tabs, automatic highlighting of ‘important’ emails, and, of course, spam filtering. But creating your own filters can take inbox organization to the next level, and help you spend less time in your inbox each day.
The Basics of Filtering
Filtering is accessed in Gmail under the ‘Filters and Blocked Addresses’ tab of the settings screen. You will need to open the Gmail web client on a desktop to access this setting, as there is currently no way to set up filters from the mobile Gmail app.
In this section of the settings screen you will find two sections, one for filtering emails, and another for blocking emails. In this article we’ll be focusing on filtering emails, although it’s easy to add email addresses to the blocked address list through the option under each email in a thread.
The first step to setting up a filter is to create a set of search parameters. Any incoming emails that match these search terms will be acted upon before they reach your inbox, so it’s important to make your terms as specific as necessary. Google provides several self-explanatory boxes to create the search terms you require, and you can combine as many of these fields into the one search as you’d like.

For example, let’s say you want to filter all emails from your boss relating to your important business project that have large attachments. You can set up a search with the following terms:
Your boss’ email address in the ‘from’ field
Important business project in the ‘has the words’ field
The ‘has attachment’ box is ticked
A size greater than 5MB in the last field
The next step is to set what you want the filter to do. There are a lot of very handy options available here, from automatically labelling emails, to outright deleting them when they arrive. As with the previous step, you can combine multiple actions into the one filter.

Using the previous example, let’s say you want to label these emails as ‘PDF’ and make sure they are as prominent in your inbox as possible. Setting up the following filter actions would be wise:
Star the email
Apply the label ‘PDF’
Never send to spam
Always mark as important
Click to create the filter (you can also apply the filter to existing emails) and it’ll quietly work in the background to optimize your email experience.

Handy Uses for Filtering
Now that you are aware of the filtering system and how it works, here are some handy things you can use the system for. Several of these have helped us automate our inboxes by cutting down on unwanted emails and categorizing incoming mail so it can be easily tackled.
Label work and personal emails. If you have a personal and work account coming in to the same inbox, you can apply labels to these respective emails automatically through the filtering system. Then, your work emails will stand out in your inbox.

Highlight emails relating to projects or events. Using the labelling, starring and categorizing features of the filtering system, you can automatically highlight emails that may be of the highest importance.
Delete spam that just won’t go away. Sometimes you might get a ton of emails from the same group of email addresses, and no matter how many times you report them as spam, they just keep coming back. The filtering system can target email addresses and banish these emails to spam or the trash with ease.

Forward only some emails. It’s easy to forward every email you receive to another address, but sometimes you need a more fine-grained approach to automatic forwarding. The filtering system gives you this ability.
Archive emails immediately. Does your mum send you outdated and not particularly funny memes via email? You can mark these emails as read and archive them when they arrive through the filtering system.

Of course, there are a bunch of other things you can do with Gmail’s email filtering system, so if you want to streamline your inbox and automate some basic tasks, it’s well worth exploring its full capabilities.

Gmail Offline

Even in today’s connected world, there will be times when you find yourself stuck offline. But there’s no need to panic in these situations; you can still read, search, and reply to your Gmail messages without an internet connection, thanks to the official Gmail Offline Chrome app.
Installing is simply a matter of heading on over to the Gmail Offline page in the Chrome web store and adding this extension to the Chrome browser.

To use the program, open a new Chrome tab and select ‘Apps’ from the top left corner. Gmail Offline should appear alongside other Chrome applications.
This first time you load up Gmail Offline, you’ll be asked whether you want to allow your mail to be saved on the current computer. Remember, don’t enable it on public or shared machines.
Once you agree, Gmail will open (notice how the interface looks different from the regular web version) and messages from the last seven days – along with those in the starred and drafts folders – will start syncing. You can increase the synchronization timeframe to include messages up to one month old by adjusting the settings.

Being offline means that you’re not going to be able to reply to messages, obviously; instead, anything you’ve written will sit in your outbox and be delivered as soon as you’re back online. Additionally, offline actions such as deleting and moving messages will also take place once you’re reconnected.
Scheduling & Snoozing Messages
Another excellent Gmail add-on that comes in the form of a Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera extension is Boomerang for Gmail. Extremely helpful for power users, the add-on can perform several functions — the most notable being the ability to send messages at scheduled times and postpone incoming emails.

Additionally, Boomerang lets you throw messages out of your inbox and have them return at a later date (hence the app’s name). The feature is useful as a reminder for bills or event invitation emails that you don’t want to forget about. Yes, you are able “star” anything important, but you’re liable to forget them when the due date is far off.
Boomerang can even identify dates in an email and suggest a time when it should be brought back to the top of the inbox. You can also boomerang sent messages, allowing you to follow them up at a later date.
Along with its response tracking, recurring messages, and read receipts, Boomerang is an excellent extra that improves the Gmail experience. While the app is free, you will need to subscribe if you want to remove the 10 messages per month limit.

Know More About Gmail Search

When Gmail debuted 12 years ago it made a shift in how we thought about email. At a time when the norm was Hotmail’s 2MB free storage, or using an ISP email address you were likely to lose at some point, the days of having to tightly manage your email storage are long gone.

Instead of deleting, the idea of archiving messages indefinitely became plausible. This has been helped by a clean interface to keep a tidy inbox and powerful search capabilities, so you can find and retrieve old emails at will. Gmail search is also speedy which makes it practical, even if you don’t keep your inbox at all organized.
For sake of brevity, I’ll cover a few of my favorite and most useful Gmail search operators and then give you the full list below with some examples.

First Things First
If you don’t want to remember any operators, clicking on the search box down arrow will bring up a dialog with useful ways to search, covering typical queries using labels, date, recipients, and so on.
On the opposite of the spectrum, those who love keyboard shortcuts will certainly want to enter operators by hand. So make sure you have Gmail keyboard shortcuts turned on (Shift + ‘ / ‘ shows the full list) and simply hitting ‘ / ‘ (forward slash) will bring focus on the search box.

Most Useful
Using quotes “search goes here” and the minus sign “-”
Similar to searching on Google, if you wrap your query around with quotes, it will make a literal search. So you can look up an exact string like “a new hope”. Conversely, adding a minus sign before a certain term or email address, will remove those from your results. For example, “star wars” -battlefront.

from: to: subject:
Run a standard search while adding who you sent or received an email from. This will narrow search results considerably, effectively filtering results in a breeze. If it’s someone in your address book, Gmail will help matters further by autocompleting names which is handy.
Similarly, with subject: you can ignore emails’ content and search text in the subject line only.
has:attachment and filename:
If you’re looking for a specific email about your “pineapple” project that had an attachment added to it, you can add “has:attachment” and you’ll only get results with emails that have your query term and attachments.
Or if you are looking for a particular file you can search by filename. The filename: operator also works to look up file types/extensions, so you can use “pineapple filename:pdf” and it will narrow things down for you.
size: and larger:
If you’re running out of space (Gmail offers ~15GB of free storage these days), looking up old emails that are larger than say, 10mb larger:10m will help you finding those pesky emails with huge attachments you may no longer need, saving precious free inbox space in the process.
More Options
is: starred/unread/read/chat
If you use Gmail’s star system to mark important messages, this will help narrowing things down considerably. Or if you use Google Chat, searching only within chats, can be a lifesaver, For example: “is:chat Melissa”.

before: and after:
Although a tad cumbersome to use versus picking a date from the search drop down menu. For very specific queries you can use the yyyy/mm/dd format, to search within a certain time frame.
For example, “after:2017/01/01 invoice” or “after:2012/01/01 before:2016/01/01”
For relative time queries, you can also use older_than: and newer_than: (also available from the drop down search dialog).

in:anywhere
Gmail search ignores Trash and Spam folders by default, this operator overrides it and searches everywhere.
Using brackets () and OR
Although I rarely use these, they surely come handy for advanced queries.
Brackets () let you group terms. For example, “subject:(star wars)” will look for the complete term in the subject line only, while trying to do the same without brackets “subject:star wars” would only look for the word ‘star’ in the subject and ‘wars’ everywhere else.
The OR operator (must be uppercase) works a little bit like programming. So you can match multiple terms. For example, a search for two different senders: “from:paul OR from:chris”
There are a few more search operators that we haven’t covered here on purpose, since the above will cover 98% of your needs.

Remote Sign Out Of Gmail At Multiple Device

There are many situations in which your Gmail account could be inadvertently exposed to prying eyes, especially if you access your inbox from different devices throughout the day. Whether it’s a lost phone, laptop or tablet; or you had to borrow a laptop in a rush and forgot to log out; or when you need to allow someone to use your main PC — where you keep your session active — while you are away.
Gmail has a remote log out feature that’s quite handy in these situations, allowing you to end all active sessions from any computer or mobile phone. Some of you might not be familiar with it but it sits right there at the bottom of your inbox and is just a single click away.

1. Log into Gmail from any web browser
2. Scroll to the bottom of your inbox and just below the last of your received email, to the right, is a section detailing your “Last account activity” alongside a link for more “Details”.

3. Click on details and a new window will popup up with all recent sessions and a button to end them all.

If you just need to make sure you’re logged out everywhere, a single click will do the trick. However, you could also take some time to examine those sessions and identify whether there’s any activity you should worry about or long forgotten apps that you no longer want to grant access.

Particularly in the first column titled “Access Type” you’ll be able to see the browser, device, application or mail server (like POP or IMAP) that you accessed Gmail from. If you don’t recognize the activity on the page, like a location or access type, someone might have access to your account as a result of a phishing scam or malware, and you should change your password immediately.

For entries that read Authorized Applications you can click on Show details and then on Manage Account Access. From here you’ll get a full list of every application that you have granted access to your Gmail, and clicking on an entry will reveal the date this access was granted, along with details of what the app has access to and a Remove button to revoke its authorization.

Still Upgrade Windows 10 Even After Expired

Microsoft officially ended their Windows 10 free upgrade program on July 29th, approximately a year after the operating system was released and just days before the Windows 10 Anniversary Update arrived. Windows 10 is now running on 400 million active devices as of September, thanks in no small measure to that free upgrade offer.
There are still a lot of Windows 7 and 8 PCs out there, however. For those that did want to upgrade but didn’t get around to it, there are still a couple of known ‘loopholes’ to get a free Windows 10 upgrade which Microsoft hasn’t bothered to close, even months after the offer formally ended.
Assistive Technologies Offer
Microsoft is continuing to offer free Windows 10 upgrades to those who use assistive technologies, such as a screen narrator or magnifier. Anyone running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 qualifies for the offer, as Microsoft isn’t really checking to see whether you are actually using these assistive tools.
The upgrade process couldn’t be simpler. Just head to Microsoft’s accessibility website, download the program that’s listed on their upgrade page, and then install your free Windows 10 update.

There is no end date to the free Windows 10 upgrade program for assistive tool users as of writing, but Microsoft will make “a public announcement prior to ending the offer.” The Windows 10 Anniversary Update brought new accessibility features and Microsoft wants to ensure that users who require them get the best experience, so they’re quietly keeping this upgrade path alive for those that need it.
Assistive technologies are designed to provide additional accessibility to individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities. Back when this ‘loophole’ was first reported on, Microsoft noted that they are not restricting the free upgrade offer to specific assistive technologies, however it is not intended to be a workaround for people who don’t use assistive technology and who missed the deadline for the free offer. In other words let your conscience be your guide.

Use an Old Windows 7 or 8.1 Key
Another known and still available loophole to score a free Windows 10 upgrade is to enter valid Windows 7 or Windows 8 product keys into the Windows 10 installer — or later in the operating system.
We’d expected Microsoft to close this activation workaround soon after it was uncovered back in August, but as it turns out, it’s still wide open. I created a virtual machine and installed Windows 10 using an ISO image obtained from the official Windows 10 media creation tool. I didn’t have an old Windows key readily available but you can get them for as little as $30-$40 on sites like Amazon, G2A or Reddit.

Armed with a Windows 7 Ultra key, I entered it during installation and voila: free Windows 10 upgrade.
Microsoft hasn’t commented what’s going on here, or whether it will block this method in the future. They seem more concerned about getting as many people onto Windows 10 as possible, maybe they figure most users will indirectly end up paying for a license when buying an off-the-shelf system.

The Windows Test Bed
For those that just need access to a fresh Windows 10 install temporarily there’s always the option to install Windows 10 into a virtual machine without actually activating it. The operating system will nag you about activating it, but if all you need is to run some tests this is one way to go about it.
You can also download a 90-day evaluation version of Windows 10 Enterprise from Microsoft’s website.

Keep Clean Without Antivirus

Most people sleep better at night knowing their PC is well equipped to thwart oncoming malware attacks. Out of paranoia some actually install multiple antivirus programs — even though that’s overly counterproductive.
Indeed, with everything that you do on your computer and the information that resides on it, the safety of your sensitive data should be top priority. That said, with a little experience you can traverse the World Wide Web in peace with minimal security on active patrol.
Many readers will probably say “no thanks” and slip out the back door, which is totally understandable. I will tell you flat out that most people are better off with some form of antivirus watching over their shoulder. But regardless of whether or not you keep one on guard, having safe browsing habits is essential to keeping your computer malware-free.
To elaborate on that briefly, “safe browsing habits” means that those who spend their days on shady porn and warez sites need not apply. Recognizing the nefarious from innocuous is your greatest line of defense. Typically, malware gets onto a computer by being bundled with seemingly legitimate software, media, email attachments, and so on; so if something infects your system it’s likely you’ve unknowingly let it mosey through the front door.

So why go antivirus-free then?
Call me reckless and lazy, but I’ve found that dealing with antivirus software can be quite a nuisance. You have to come out of pocket for most decent products like NOD32 or Kaspersky, while free alternatives are often less equipped and bombard you with ads or other nags. Many are resource hogs, some will result in incompatibility crashes, and others can be annoying to keep up to date — even more so when it comes to scheduling scans.

All of this is emphasized by Apple’s TV adverts, which place a lot of weight on their alleged no-frills antivirus and malware-free computing experience. Now, I know I’m painting with a broad brush here and that many security products offer good enough protection and few to no quirks. But even when I had an antivirus on duty, it only popped up to warn me twice over the span of years, so worrying about active protection has become an unnecessary burden to me.
Obviously you can’t catch it all, though, and that’s ok. The portal you use to access the Web has changed significantly over the years. Most modern browsers will warn you of a suspicious site, web-based email services scan email attachments, and there are plenty of online utilities that can help you keep safe. In other words, you’re probably more safe online now than ever before, if you just adhere to some common sense guidelines.
How to kick your desktop antivirus software to the curb
As mentioned, visiting trustworthy websites and relying on your instinct is essential, but there are a few tools to help you along the way.

Software updates: Keeping your operating system and applications up to date is vital. This is true regardless of how much protection you have, so be sure to watch for the latest security patches.
Periodical online scans: ESET offers a pretty decent online scanner you can use free of charge (it temporarily installs a small piece of software which you can remove after the scan). Additionally, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware is a very straightforward and hassle-free utility that is worth keeping installed.
I would suggest setting both up before bed every few weeks or as you deem necessary. Running a fine-toothed comb through your system now and again will ensure that nothing has flown under the radar.
Network traffic control: Using the standard Windows firewall in combination with a router that features NAT is generally more than enough to keep your network activity on lockdown.
General maintenance: In between scans, if you feel uneasy about a particular file simply upload it to Virus Total for analysis. Virus Total is a free service that will scan a file with around three dozen mainstream antivirus engines and then show you detailed results for each of them.

Additional protection and final tips: If you happen to use Firefox and want to keep your browser as secure as possible, NoScript allows you to control which sites have permission to run JavaScript, Java and other executable web content. This helps prevent things like XSS and Clickjacking attacks. I find NoScript to be more bothersome than it is worth, but to each his own.
Finally, it’s no secret that avid users of file sharing technology are at a greater risk of being infected. However, there are reputable faces in the torrent and other communities — find them, and stick with ’em. Also, be sure to read comments, as many downloaders will report back with their antivirus’ findings so you don’t have to scan anything yourself.
By taking these precautions, I have kept clean since day one. If you’ve also abandoned the use of real-time protection, tell us how you stay malware-free in the comments.

Did you know?
Having the most commonly targeted operating system, Microsoft recently stepped up its efforts to make the Windows ecosystem a safer place by introducing the free Security Essentials. This anti-malware scanner replaces the now defunct “OneCare” security suite. Looking at early reactions around the web, it actually seems to work pretty well. If you are intent on using desktop antivirus protection you might want to give it a try, or check a few other recommendations here.