Monday, July 29, 2013

Windows 8: Stupid PC Tricks - Windows Switcher

Note: "Stupid PC Tricks" are a series of user tips that I think are interesting, but unfortunately they're not all that useful.
You have always been able to press ALT-TAB to switch between applications.  Way back in Windows 95 and later, there was a shortcut in the Quick Launch bar that could activate the Windows Task Switcher.

Below are instructions on how to recreate the shortcut icon.
  • Create a new shortcut (right-click the desktop, select New > Shortcut)
  • In the Type the location of the item field, type: %windir%\explorer.exe shell:::{3080F90E-D7AD-11D9-BD98-0000947B0257}, and then press the Next button.
  • In the Type the name of the shortcut field, type: Windows Switcher, and then press the Finish button.
Note: The icons are still available on your system at: "%userprofile%\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Windows 8: Boot Configuration Utilities

Back in the days of Windows NT there was a BOOT.INI file that was used for controlling which OS Windows would load and what start-up options would be used.

In Windows Vista, Microsoft replaced the older BOOT.INI file with a new architecture called the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) store.

The only time you really want to modify the BCD store is if you want to change the Windows startup options for diagnostic reasons, or if there's a need to multi-boot the system with more then one OS (e.g. Windows, Linux, etc.)
Warning: Use extreme caution when using any of these tools as they can easily make the system unbootable by changing the wrong configuration setting.
Below is a list of built-in utilities for managing the BCD store:
  • MSCONFIG.EXE (A GUI tool for modifying the BCD store)
  • BCDEDIT.EXE (A command line tool for modifying the BCD store)
  • BCDBOOT.EXE (A command line tool for managing system partition files)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Windows 8: Reset vs. Refreshing Windows

In the past when the operating system was giving you problems (e.g. corrupted system files, malware, bad drivers, etc.) you had two choices. Find the original installation disk to try to repair the OS or format the hard drive and do a clean install.

Windows 8 now makes it easy for you to repair a broken operating system by returning it to its original state.  By going to the Setting menu, click the Change PC Settings link, then select General. Scroll to the bottom of the side window, and you'll see two options: Refresh your PC without affecting your files and Remove everything and re-install Windows.

Summary: Refresh vs. Reset:
  • Refresh: Keeps customizations, personal files (music, photos, and other documents), and Windows 8 installed apps, and doesn't format before re-installing the OS.  This option returns the operating system to its factory-default settings and removes third-party application that were installed
    • Note: all applications that were not installed via the Windows Store will be deleted.
    • Tip: It never hurts to make sure that you have a good backup of all your data before using this option.
  • Reset: Re-formats the hard drive and re-installs the OS to its factory-default settings   It doesn't keep any customizations , data, or applications.
    • Warning: Make sure to backup all your data before using this option.
Additional Notes:
The RECIMG.EXE is a command line tool that allows the creation of a custom recovery image for Windows when the Refresh your PC option is utilized. The recovery images do not contain the users personal documents, settings, user profile information, or apps from the Windows Store, because that information is preserved when the PC is refreshed.

This tool requires administrator privileges to execute.  For more information on how to use this type RECIMG.EXE /? at the command prompt and press the Enter key.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Windows 8: Creating an All Applications Folder

I will admit right off this feature is not pretty, but if you like to explore all the different aspects of your system you might find this one interesting.  This tip involves creating an applications folder on the desktop that gives you quick access to all the programs installed on your computer (both native Windows 8 and desktop applications)

  • Open the File Explorer, then navigate to the Desktop (or anywhere else you want) and create a new empty folder (press Ctrl+Shift+N).
  • Rename the new folder (click the folder and press F2): All Applications.{4234d49b-0245-4df3-b780-3893943456e1} (Note: the first part of the name before the period can be anything you want) 

When you open the folder it will list all applications installed on your computer in one window.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Windows 8: The Best and Quickest Way Shutdown (Restart or Hibernate) Windows

I have to admit when I first started using Windows 8 and tried to shut it down for the first time I was a little frustrated. Even after I learned how to properly shutdown the system, I wasn't really happy with any method I found, until I came up with the solution below.

Utilizing a built-in feature of the Windows application shortcut you can execute any of these operations with shortcut keys. This feature is mostly forgotten, and has literally been around for decades.
  • On an empty area of the Windows desktop, right-click and select New > Shortcut. When the 'Create Shortcut' dialog box appears, type shutdown /s /t 0 and press the Next button.
    • to restart the computer, use: shutdown /r /t 0 
    • to hibernate the computer, use: shutdown /h /t 0
    • to log-off of the current session, use: logout 
  • Give the shortcut a name, and then press the Finish button. 
  • Right-click the new shortcut icon, and select Properties.
  • In the Properties window, click in the box next to the Shortcut key.  Type in your desired shortcut. For example, press CTRL+ALT+S (or anything else you want, personally I use CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+S to help avoid accidentally shutting down the computer).
  • Press the OK button. 
Now all you have to do is press the shortcut key you created, and the computer will perform the operation you selected. To delete the keyboard shortcut, open its file properties dialog box click the box next to 'Shortcut key', and press the Delete key.

Note: This trick can be used on just about any application shortcut, and in most versions of Windows.

Bonus Tip: another quick way to shutdown Windows is to click an empty area of the desktop and press ALT+F4.