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Office 365: A guide to the updates


Office 365 subscribers always have the latest version of Microsoft Office — currently Office 2016. They also get more frequent software updates than those who have purchased Office 2016 without a subscription, which means subscribers have access to the latest features, security patches and bug fixes. But it can be hard to keep track of the changes in each update and know when they’re available. We’re doing this for you, so you don’t have to.

Following are key updates to Office 365 for Windows since Office 2016 was released in September 2015 — all the 2017 updates and the most important ones from 2016 and late 2015, with the latest releases shown first. We’ll add info about new updates as they’re rolled out.

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Windows 10: A guide to the updates


The launch of a major Windows 10 update isn’t the end of a process — it’s really just the beginning. As soon as one of Microsoft’s twice-yearly feature updates is released, the company quickly gets to work on improving it by fixing bugs, releasing security patches, and occasionally adding new features.

Here we’ve summarized what you need to know about every Windows 10 update being released to the public. First come updates to the currently shipping version of Windows 10 — version 1909, known as the November 2019 Update — with the most recent updates on top.

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Windows 10 Redstone: A guide to the Insider Preview builds


Microsoft never sleeps. Even before the Windows 10 November 2019 Update (version 1909) started to roll out, the company began working on upcoming feature updates to Windows 10. As it did with version 1909, Microsoft has been releasing a series of public preview builds to members of Microsoft's Windows Insider Program.

After years of using “Redstone” in its code names, Microsoft switched to a new format with version 1903, released in May 2019. The code names now use a YYH1/YYH2 format, with the YY standing for the last two numbers of the year and H1 or H2 referring to the first or second half of the year. So Windows 10 version 1909, which was released in November 2019, was code-named “19H2” (for second half of 2019). The next feature update, due in the spring of 2020, is code-named 20H1.

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Office 365 on Windows 7 gets free patches until 2023


Customers who continue to power PCs with Windows 7 after the operating system's expiration date will be given one more update to Office 365 ProPlus - the application soul of the subscription service - before shutting down the feature pipeline.

But Office 365 ProPlus - the application stack that's part of most business plans - will receive security updates long after Windows 7's retirement on Jan. 14. How long after? Three years after.

The arrangement - "no" to new features but "yes" to vulnerability patches - was unusual enough to upend the typical definition of "support."

"Office 365 ProPlus won't be supported on Windows 7 after January 14, 2020," Microsoft plainly stated in a support document last revised less than two weeks ago.

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Review: Two weeks with a 16-in. MacBook Pro



Android security checkup: 16 steps to a safer phone


Android security is always a hot topic on these here Nets of Inter — and almost always for the wrong reason.

As we've discussed ad nauseam over the years, most of the missives you read about this-or-that super-scary malware/virus/brain-eating-boogie-monster are overly sensationalized accounts tied to theoretical threats with practically zero chance of actually affecting you in the real world. If you look closely, in fact, you'll start to notice that the vast majority of those stories stem from companies that — gasp! — make their money selling malware protection programs for Android phones. (Pure coincidence, right?)

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Back in 1993, for those who weren’t around, Windows still ran on top of DOS. At the time, this pilot fish is a consultant, installing a new laser printer for a customer. But the Windows 3.1 computer won’t install all the drivers from the floppy. (Kids, you might want to check Wikipedia on that one, too.)

So fish gets on his CompuServ account (yeah, this Tank is a regular time machine), finds the driver is available, and downloads it. But the driver won’t load because it is finding remnants of the old driver in the Windows/drivers folder.

Fish then does a dir aa*.* (where “aa” is the prefix of the drivers) and gets a listing. He does a cursory scan to be sure there isn’t anything else in the list that would cause a problem if deleted — and promptly enters del *.* instead of del aa*.*.

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Microsoft to end updates to Windows 7's free AV software, Security Essentials


Microsoft will not provide new malware signatures for its home-grown Security Essentials software after it retires Windows 7 in five weeks.

"No, your Windows 7 computer is not protected by MSE ((Microsoft Security Essentials)) after January 14, 2020," the company said in a support document mainly concerned about the Extended Security Updates (ESU) being shilled to enterprises. "MSE is unique to Windows 7 and follows the same lifecycle dates for support."

Security Essentials, a free antivirus (AV) program that launched in 2008, was originally limited to consumers. However, in 2010, Microsoft expanded the licensing to small businesses, defined as those with 10 or fewer PCs. Two years after that, MSE was replaced by Windows Defender with the launch of Windows 8.

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Patch Tuesday alert! Protect your machine by pausing updates



How to use Google Drive on iPhone, iPad


Apple’s Files app is a fantastic solution for Apple users who need flexibility when it comes to the cloud storage services they use, as it supports iCloud, Dropbox, Box and Google Drive.

Why is Google Drive useful?

The promise of cloud storage systems is that it becomes easier to move between  different platforms efficiently. You might want to access files using your parent’s older Windows PC, even while using a MacBook Pro at home, a Chrome tablet when you travel and an iPhone the rest of the time.

Fortunately, it is becoming easier to access all of these systems – you might use iCloud with Windows, and can also turn to Google Drive with Windows, Mac and iOS systems, as well as Android devices such as that Chrome tablet.

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14 Microsoft Teams apps to help you work smarter


Microsoft Teams now has more active daily users than Slack and offers dozens of third-party tools to make it easier to collaborate without leaving the Teams interface. Here are 14 apps you need to consider.


For IT pros, adding blockchain skills can pad your paycheck – by a lot


Extra pay for tech professionals who’ve attained non-certified skills is nearing a 19-year high, adding an average of 9.4% to their salary. But if you really want to pad your paycheck, blockchain skills may be the way to go, according to a new report from from Foote Partners.

The market value for IT workers with blockchain skills increased by 6.3% in the six months through Oct. 1, 2019 and a whopping 13.3% for the full year – “well above average,” according to the Foote Partners research.

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Memory-Lane Monday: Sometimes these things just slip our minds


User stomps up to the cubicle of this pilot fish tech who’s responsible for backups and snaps, “You need to restore my spreadsheet!”

“Normally,” says fish, “people start a conversation with hello, but I let that go."

Fish asks user where she stores the spreadsheet. “On my laptop.”

I’m sorry, fish tells her, but we don’t back up laptops. Anything important should be kept on a server.

“No, you don't understand,” user says. “I need that spreadsheet!”

Fish is about to lose his cool, so he tells uers to speak with his manager, sitting in the cube across the aisle.

At the manager’s cube, user humbly knocks. “Hi, Fred,” she says. “I need to get my spreadsheet back.”

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What's in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 71 plays picture-in-picture catch-up


Mozilla this week released Firefox 71, touting a picture-in-picture video mode and new ways to preview a VPN (virtual private networking) service that will be offered to customers next year.

Security engineers included patches for 11 vulnerabilities, six marked "High," the second-most-serious threat rating. None were tagged "Critical." Some of these flaws might be exploitable by cyber criminals, Mozilla said. "This could have caused heap corruption and a potentially exploitable crash," the firm noted of one vulnerability, labeled CVE-2019-11745.

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Is that you or a virtual you? Are chatbots too real?


There's a fine line between AI that interacts for us and AI that interacts AS us. Or is there a line at all? Will anyone care? Questions abound.


IDG Contributor Network: Amazon and Microsoft moves indicate that hardware OEMs may become obsolete


[Disclosure: Qualcomm and Microsoft are clients of the author.]

I’m at the Qualcomm 5G Summit this week and according to both them and Cisco, next year we should reach critical mass on 5G. I didn’t really think about how big a change this would be until I listened to what Qualcomm said about Microsoft’s new Surface X (upon which I’m writing this very column) and the announcement from Amazon on their new AWS Outpost initiative.

Separately these announcements are certainly interesting. Together they may mean a massive change back to something far more like the old IBM mainframe model than most of us realize. In that model, the vendor owned the entire technology stack and the user experience. In this new case, the vendors in question are cloud vendors not OEMs.

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28 keyboard shortcuts Mac users need to know


I’m sure most Mac users know Command-C means copy and Command-V means paste, but there’s a host of other useful shortcuts that make a Mac user’s life much easier. I’ve assembled this short collection to illustrate this truth:


Never underestimate the power of the Esc key to get you out of trouble. Say you're taking a screen shot and managed to select part of your screen for that shot, only to discover it's the wrong part – tap Esc and you won't need to worry about it. That's basically the principle of Esc. Use it to cancel a previous command. Another example: Web page won't load and is sucking up your system resources?

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Tech event calendar 2019: Upcoming shows, conferences and IT expos


Tech Events

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All about the latest iPhone location privacy scare


That story going around that claims iPhone 11 devices are secretly harvesting your location information – even though you’ve told them not to do so? You don’t need to worry about it. Here’s why.

What’s the story?  

The tale begins when a security researcher noticed the devices seemed to be sending out location data, even when Location Services were switched off. He thought this was weird, but Apple reassured him that this was “expected behavior” – and while the company took a little time to figure out what to say about this, it’s answer is convincing, once you know what it means.

What Apple said

The issue relates to iPhone 11’s U1 chip, which brings in an exciting (yet veteran) technology called Ultra Wideband (UWB). Speaking to TechCrunch, Apple described UWB as an industry standard that is also subject to some regulatory usage limitations, meaning it can’t operate all the time.

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HSBC’s plan to move $20B in assets to blockchain could be a watershed moment


Investment bank HSBC Holdings is using a blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT) to digitize transaction records of private investments, enabling clients globally to access the details of their assets online in near real-time.

The London-based company, the seventh largest bank in the world, plans to move $20 billion in assets that include equity, debt and real estate onto its new Digital Vault blockchain, a shift away from its current use of paper records to respond to client search requests.

"The Digital Vault is live in Asia and will be rolled out in the U.S. and Europe in the first quarter of 2020," an HSBC spokesperson said via email.

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Shell game


Pilot fish is working for a client at the same time that a consulting firm is developing a new system for the support team. And fish is nearby when the job fails during one of the early production runs. The support staff looks it over, but is quickly lost, so fish is called on for help.

Fish finds that the system consists of nine programs that run in sequence within a single shell script. The final step had failed, resulting in a non-zero return code.

So fish reviews Program 9’s output, and finds that the file from Program 8 was missing. He and the support team lead then start looking through Program 8 and its log to determine why it didn’t produce the file — only to discover that the file from Program 7 was missing. They repeat through programs 6, 5, 4, 3, and finally back to Program 2, where they find the real cause of the failure: There was no error checking between the programs.

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Microsoft cheat sheets: Dive into Windows and Office apps


Need to get up to speed on the latest features in Excel 2016? Wrestling with an old version of Word? Looking to get more out of Windows 10? Computerworld’s cheat sheets are easy-to-use guides to help you navigate Microsoft's core productivity apps.

Here's a one-stop resource where you can find in-depth stories on several generations of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook for Windows, focusing on what's new in each major release. We've also got guides for SharePoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams and Windows itself.

Microsoft's subscription-based office suite, Office 365, is continually updated with new features, and the company recently released Office 2019, its latest non-subscription office suite. We'll be publishing new cheat sheets to cover those products, but we're willing to bet that many companies and individuals will stay on older versions of the standalone software for some time to come. We've got you covered here.

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6 smart things to think over with Google's leadership shuffle


Oh, hey — didja hear? Larry and Sergey are leaving! Google's founders are jumping ship! THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS BEING SHAKEN UP AND TURNED UPSIDE-DOWN.

Well, kind of. It's true that Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two fellas who started Google in what I can only assume was a somewhat dank and none-too-fresh-smelling garage some 20 years ago, are stepping back from their formal roles within the company. The pair announced as much in a public letter this week, saying it was "the natural time to simplify" the management structure and revealing that current Google CEO Sundar Pichai would take over the role of Alphabet CEO — a position held by Page up til now — in addition to retaining all of his existing duties.

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All’s clear to install Microsoft’s November patches


The November passel of patches didn’t include anything earth-shattering; there were no emergency security breaches storming the gates, but good patching hygiene dictates that you get your machine braced for the next round.

If you install patches manually one by one (“Group B,” which I don’t recommend for mere mortals), you need to make sure you have the proper Servicing Stack Updates in place. They’ve all changed in the past month.

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10+ tips for better iPhone battery life


What can you do when you’re racing to the next meeting, desperate to use Wallet to catch your plane, or otherwise stuck on a long and winding road with no access to power for your iPhone?

You can follow these tips (and avoid trouble).

Think about how you use your iPhone

Of course, I realize that when you are using your iPhone you want to be able to do everything you possibly can do with it. But when you’re attempting to eke out a little more active battery life, it makes sense to think about what you are using your device for – and how to do so in a more energy-efficient way.

That means that when battery life is important, you should ration how many times you check your device, avoid watching video or playing processor-intensive (or any) games and send text messages rather than make voice calls. It takes more battery power to make a voice call than send a text.

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Cord cutting: A beginner's guide


How to cut the cord: All the devices, services, and knowledge you need to ditch cable and save money.


How to use a Chromebook: 10 must-know tips, tricks, and tools for beginners


When Google first introduced Chromebooks in 2011, it seemed like a ridiculous idea. A laptop that can only run a browser? Who wants that? But over time, web apps slowly became more powerful and capable, while Google steadily improved the Chrome OS experience. Then, Google went even further and added the ability to run Android apps, and still further with Linux desktop apps.

All of this means the Chromebooks of 2019 and 2020 are nothing like that original experience. Today, Chrome OS feels like a modern operating system that offers a first-class web browser, the flexibility of mobile apps, and a desktop experience in one box. It can satisfy the needs of almost every user, with the notable exception of those who need video or advanced image editing.

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How to personalize your Windows 10 PC


What makes your house your home? Is it the furniture? The art? A few favorite collectibles arranged on the shelves? The same goes for your Windows PC. If you’re new to Windows 10, we’ll show you how to personalize your PC to make it feel, well, yours.

From the moment you first power on your new computer, you’ll be asked to choose how to manage your privacy and security. But once you complete that short process, the fun begins: You can select backgrounds, configure your Start menu, and choose apps and shortcuts. Think of this story as a complement to our tutorial on how to set up your new PC efficiently and effectively. This is the fun stuff.

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How to remove your login password from Windows 10


Eliminating your login password from your PC is a bad idea—unless you own a computer that no one but you will ever touch. In that case, why not remove your password and eliminate that initial step?

In the past, we’ve discussed getting rid of the Windows 10 password by tinkering with Windows’ power settings. There’s a better way to remove the password entirely, however, so that you’ll never need to enter it. We’ve tested this with Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Home, and it’s worked using the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, and the Windows 10 November 2019 Update, as well. (There’s no reason to believe it won’t work on subsequent updates, either.)

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8 tips to help you get started with


DotPDN's is a free photo-editing software program with a lot to offer, especially for the zero price tag. I know it’s not Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Corel Painter, or Affinity, which have so many hundreds of features, it takes years to learn them all. But it does have the basic skill set to edit your photographs, it’s intuitive, and it’s easy to use.

Note: be sure to click the link to provided here and above. Searching for online could lead you to sketchy downloads that might have bloatware or worse hitchhiking on the file. 

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GIMP basics: Best tips and tricks for beginners


GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), like so many other open source programs, started out as a student project at the University of California, Berkeley. It was developed by Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis in 1995, and the first version (0.54) was released in 1996.

As of the current version (2.10) GIMP has matured into a truly incredible photo-editing program. It’s not as complex as Photoshop, but it’s not as basic as PC Paint either. It rivals all the top dogs on the market today. Best of all, it’s free!

If you’re coming at GIMP by way of Photoshop, however, you may be frustrated by the some of the differences. Here are a few user tips to get you started, whether you're a rookie or a pro.

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If you're not seeing the new Google Assistant on your Pixel 4, here's how to fix it


The new Google Assistant is one of the marquee features of the new Pixel 4, with a less-intrusive interface, rapid-fire responses, and smarter integration with Android 10. But even if you have a Pixel 4, you might not be seeing it due to Google’s restrictions on how and when you can get it. So if you’re still seeing the old Assistant, here’s how to get the new one.

Change your language

new google assistant setup IDG

The new Google Assistant is U.S.-only at launch, so you'll need to pick English (United States) to get it to work.

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Amazon Echo vs. Google Nest: Which of the two big smart platforms is right for you?


The choice between Amazon Alexa-powered Echo devices or Nest gadgets with Google Assistant can be a tough one. We'll help you pick.


Where's the new Assistant on the Pixel 4?


The new Google Assistant might be missing from your Pixel 4. Here's how to get it.


How to use Windows' Your Phone app to connect your phone to your PC


Why does Microsoft think you need the Windows 10 Your Phone app? Because it preserves the most important functions of a phone: access to your photos, messages, notifications, calls, and even your phone’s home screen—without the need to remove your phone from your pocket.

That might sound ridiculous, but think again: Once you pull your phone from your pocket, you’re instantly lost in messages, email, Instagram—all of these distracting from your focus and flow while working on your PC. Theoretically, you could refuse to open Outlook on your PC and use your phone instead. But you don’t, right? Because the PC is much more convenient—and, in certain situations, playing with your phone is also quite rude.

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Photo editing basics: 6 tips for polishing and perfecting finished images


You have many choices among photo editing software programs, whether it’s Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, Paintshop Pro,, and more—all of which now have very similar feature sets. These basic photo editing tips will help you work in pretty much any application available.

Working with layers in photo editing

The “magic” of Photoshop and its clones is the Layers feature. It's analogous to color separations, where each of the four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) in the four-color process are printed on separate plates, then printed on top of each other to create a full-color image. Each “CMYK plate” is a layer in the four-color process.

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How to create a local account in Windows 10


By default, the account you create when you first install or upgrade to Windows 10 uses your Microsoft account. Microsoft wants you to do this so you can easily hook into all of Microsoft’s online services, such as the Windows Store and OneDrive. But if you’d rather keep your stuff on the desktop—at least as much as possible—or don’t want another member of your family interacting with Microsoft’s cloud then creating a local account would be the better choice.

To get started, open the Settings app and select Accounts. If you want to create a local account for yourself, click Your account > Sign in with a local account instead and follow the wizard. (If you're wondering how to log in with a local account while setting up a new PC, we have a separate how-to article on the subject.)

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Nest Mini unboxing


Nest is now the overarching brand for all Google smart home products, so the company's second-generation small smart speaker is called the Nest Mini. We're in the process of reviewing it, but here's a quick look and a guide to setting it up.


How to play music on all (or some) of your Amazon Alexa speakers at once


Want to hear tunes booming throughout your house? If you have Amazon Echo devices in multiple rooms, just ask Alexa, although you’ll need to tweak some settings first.


Excel: Top 10 tips for beginners


Microsoft Excel is an incredibly capable and complex spreadsheet program. If you're just getting your feet wet, these tips will help you get started on making a spreadsheet and writing a formula. Once you learn the vocabulary, the rest gets easier.

Open Excel and choose a blank workbook

01 open a new blank excel worksheet JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide

Open a new blank Excel workbook

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How to collaborate on Microsoft Office files in G Suite


One of the hallmarks of collaborating in G Suite is the ability to edit Docs, Sheets, and Slide files simultaneously with other collaborators and see the changes in real time. Now you can do the same with Microsoft Office files without having to convert them to the corresponding G Suite format. Here’s how to get started.

Sharing Office files

The first step to collaborating in G Suite is sharing a file with your collaborators. That starts with adding the file to Google Drive. Go to and log in if necessary. On the top left, click New > File upload. Select the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file you want to add and click Open to upload it.

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How to install a smart switch


Let us show you the easiest way to install a smart switch.


How to save money and scan your photos digitally using your phone and Google PhotoScan


Scanning photos into digital copies isn’t just for old photo albums. These days, you’ll often have to decide whether to buy an expensive digital version of school photos, not to mention weddings. But why spend extra money when you have a photo scanner in your pocket?

Google PhotoScan is an app both for Android and iOS, and works by using your phone’s camera to take several photos of a print photograph, using intelligence to stitch them together and mark the edges of the photograph. The photo stitching also works to eliminate glare from your phone’s flash, though a well-lit photo using natural light delivers the best results.

To be fair, a native digital image will present the clearest, sharpest results. And if you have a dedicated scanner, or a multifunction printer with a scanner attached to it, that option should definitely be explored. But scanners cost money, as do the rights to digital images—the local photography service charged me $17! Instead, explore what your phone’s own camera can do before ponying up for that Instagram post.

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Android 10: Getting started with the best new features


When you first start using Android 10, it won’t look all that different from version 9. In fact, the biggest change you’re going to encounter is that it doesn’t have a tasty dessert moniker attached to it. But even without any radical new features, Android “Don’t Call It Q” charts a whole new path for the OS, with new ways to navigate, customize, and secure your phone. So if you can’t find anything new, you’re just looking in the wrong places. Here are all the best new features in Android 10 and how to start using them.

Dark theme

Possibly the most highly anticipated new feature in Android 10 is a simple one: dark mode. Called Dark theme, it flips many of the elements in stock Google apps from blinding white to black or dark gray. However, it’s a little scattered, with some apps turning automatically, while others have their own internal switches. Here’s how it breaks down:

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Windows Sandbox: How to use Microsoft's simple virtual Windows PC to secure your digital life


Microsoft may be positioning its easy-peasy Windows Sandbox within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update as a safe zone for testing untrusted applications, but it’s much more than that. Windows Sandbox, and sandboxing PC apps in general, give you a solution for trying a “utility” that may be malware, or a website that you’re not sure about. You could leave those potentially dangerous elements alone, but with Sandbox, you can be a little more adventurous. 

Windows Sandbox creates a secure “Windows within Windows” virtual machine environment entirely from scratch, and walls it off from your “real” PC. You can open a browser and surf securely, download apps, even visit websites that you probably shouldn’t. Sandbox also includes a unique convenience: you can copy files in and out of the virtual PC, bringing them out of quarantine if you’re absolutely sure they’re safe.

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How to buy the perfect PC case


No matter whether you treat your computer as the centerpiece of your home office or just stuff it under your desk, buying the right PC case matters.

At a minimum, you want to pick a PC case that’s the right size for your needs and has room for all your hardware and USB devices. But some PC cases offer much, much more. Spacious innards, lower temperatures, muffled sound, extensive water-cooling support, and fancy-schmancy tempered glass panels or RGB lighting are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s a guide to buying a PC case that’s perfect for you. This is just the first step in your DIY journey; be sure to check out PCWorld’s guide to building a PC, too.

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How to keep Amazon, Apple, and Google from listening to your Alexa, Siri, and Assistant recordings


Amazon Echo and Google Home users can shut the door on “human review” of their voice recordings. Also: how to wipe your Siri history off of Apple's servers.


You just bought a new Amazon Echo device? Do these 6 things first


Get the scoop on how to train Alexa to recognize your voice, prevent unauthorized purchases from Amazon, tell it where you live and work, and more.


How to use Paint 3D's Magic Select tool to edit out photobombers from your photos


Yes, you can “magically” remove people and objects out of photos using Adobe’s expensive Photoshop application. But did you know that a simple version of the same tool is hidden within Windows 10, for free? Let’s introduce you to Paint 3D’s Magic Select tool, and teach you how to use it.

I’m a fan of simple, free tools that don’t require any installation or setup, and Magic Select is one of my favorites. You would think Magic Select would be found with Windows 10’s Photos app, or even Paint, but no—Microsoft hoped that one day we’d all be editing 3D objects, not 2D photos, and reserved Magic Select for the Paint 3D app within Windows 10. Fortunately, it’s as easy to edit a 2D photo within Paint 3D as Paint, though you’ll have to ignore the vast majority of the user interface to do so. 

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How to create a PowerPoint presentation for a kiosk or trade show booth


Can I format or compile my PowerPoint presentations to run automatically in a show booth or kiosk and, if so, how? Yes, you can and the how is much easier than you’d imagine.

First, create your slideshow as you would any other presentation. Add your graphics, text, animations, and transitions (between slides). If you have animations that play over multiple slides, then the timing must also be set before you compile the presentation for a kiosk.

Also consider the audio. Do you want music, verbal narration, or both? Most professional presentations use both (but necessarily simultaneously); however, some do play music softly in the background while the narrator speaks over the music. Either way, this is another area where timing is essential. Obviously, you want the narrator’s voice to follow the text on the slide. It is OK if the narrator’s speech is more detailed than the slide headers and bullet points, but it’s not OK if the narrator is talking about the Team while the Financials slide is viewed.

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