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How to fix Dropbox Updater runtime error

Are you getting an annoying runtime error for Dropbox Updater when you fire up or shut down your computer? Read on, as we may have a fix for you!

Lately we’ve been getting a Microsoft Visual C++ runtime error message R6030 - CRT not initialized relating to DropboxUpdate.exe.

microsoft visual c++ runtime library runtime error! program c:\program files (x86)\Dropbox\Update\DropboxUpdate.exe R6030 CRT not initialized

This is related to the C runtime (CRT) library and indicates a problem with how a program, in this case, DropboxUpdate.exe, is being launched or executed.

Five ways to fix Dropbox Updater runtime error

This error can occur for a variety of reasons, including corrupted system files, issues with the application itself, or problems with the runtime libraries. Here are several steps you can take to try and resolve the issue.

1. Restart Your Computer

If you haven’t already, restart your computer. This can sometimes resolve temporary issues that might be causing the error.

2. Update Dropbox Manually

Since the error involves the Dropbox updater, manually updating Dropbox to the latest version might resolve the issue. You can download the latest version of Dropbox directly from the official website.

3. Repair Visual C++ Redistributable Packages

The error might be related to corrupted Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable packages, which are used by Dropbox.

  • Open the Control Panel and go to Programs and Features.
  • Find Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable packages installed on your system.
  • For each entry, click Modify then select Repair. Follow the prompts to repair the installations. Note that not all C++ packages have the option to repair the installation. In that case, the modify option will be greyed out.
  • If repairs don’t help, consider uninstalling and reinstalling the redistributable packages from the Microsoft official site.

4. Run the System File Checker

Corrupted system files can also cause runtime errors. Running the System File Checker (SFC) scan can help repair damaged system files.

  • Open Command Prompt as administrator by searching for it in the Start menu, right-clicking on it, and selecting Run as administrator.
  • Type sfc /scannow and press Enter.
  • Wait for the process to complete and follow any instructions if file corruptions are found and repaired.

5. Reinstall Dropbox

If the above steps do not work, consider uninstalling and then reinstalling Dropbox. This can resolve any issues caused by corrupted installation files.

  • Uninstall Dropbox via the Control Panel or Settings app.
  • Download the latest version of Dropbox from the official website and install it.

6. Contact Support

If you continue to experience issues, consider reaching out to Dropbox support for further assistance. They may have specific guidance or updates to address this issue.

Follow these steps in order, checking to see if the problem is resolved after each step. This systematic approach should help you identify and fix the issue with the DropboxUpdate.exe runtime error.

Hey GoodGeeky, make me a travel itinerary! Using AI!

Introducing the (highly experimental) GoodGeeky AI-powered travel assistant!

Greetings, wanderlusting tech enthusiasts! We know what’s coming up for you soon – vacation time! Because, when is it ever NOT time for vacation?

But before you pack your bags, you need something else important too, like a solid itinerary. But, planning a holiday itinerary can be super stressful! Especially when you’re off to a new place.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll be juggling browser tabs, flipping through travel magazines, and getting lots of well-meaning advice from friends, parents, old aunty Edna and u/NottaNomadicNarwhal on Reddit. All to make sure every single step of your vaycay is perfecto!

How we feel after trying to plan a perfect travel itinerary without assistance from the GoodGeeky AI Travel Bot

Well, buckle up, because we at GoodGeeky have something that’ll turn this uphill battle into a leisurely walk in the park.

We’re all about making technology work for you, and not the other way around. With this in mind, we put on our GoodGeeky coding caps and built an AI-powered travel itinerary generator!

Yep, you read that right. We’ve created an AI assistant that does all the head-scratching and planning for you, so you can sit back and dream sweet dreamz about your vacation.

Proceed with cauton

Our AI assistant is still in the experimental phase. So while it may potentially turn the holiday planning into a walk in the park, just make sure that the park it suggested for walking in actually exists. And that it’s not overrun by zombies.

The GeekyBot is a pretty decent whiz when it comes to big, well-known cities. Paris, London, Tokyo, New York – you name it, our bot will most likely plan some really decent activities for you.

The smaller and less known the place, the more our AI assistant might get a bit, well, imaginative. Some of the suggestions might exist only in its AI dreams.

Either way, make sure to double-check the recommendations. After all, you don’t want your holiday itinerary to turn into an AI hallucination.

Oh, and if you do rely on the suggestions offered up by our AI-whiz, you promise to not blame us or sue us or come after us or try to make us responsible or liable in any way, shape or form whatsoever if something goes wrong. Just so that’s been said.

Oh, and because the GeekyTravelBot is still in training, we are recording and reviewing the answers our bot provides you. Just so that’s been said too.

If the GoodGeekyBot suggests sticking your head in a crocodile’s mouth while visiting Australia, make sure the crocodile is stuffed or, even better, just a statue. Either way, watch those teeth!

Enjoy!

Keeping this in mind, we hope you have a blast using the AI travel assistant. It might not be perfect, but it should give you a head start on your holiday planning.

All we ask is that you do your own research too, to confirm that the suggestions are tailor-made for you and actually exist.

And most importantly, have an amazing holiday! So, without further ado, we’re stoked to introduce the GoodGeeky AI Travel Bot!

Give it a try and let us know what you think. Send us a picture from your holiday even! We can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

Meet the GoodGeeky AI-powered travel assistant!

Find the perfect Christmas present with this FREE AI-powered gift guide!

Ho ho ho, and soon-to-be Merry Christmas to you all!

Or, at least it would be a merry Christmas if we could only figure out what to buy for that aunty of ours who loves cats and cognac but has everything.

That particular family member had us stumped, so we decided to build an AI-powered gift guide to help us out. It worked wonders, and while we couldn’t find the cat-shaped, cognac-filled chocolates that our AI-bot dreamt up, it provided some great inspiration and we found some awesome cat-themed wall calendars that we’re sure she’ll love.

But, why keep the AI gift generator to ourselves? In the spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, we’re sharing it with you, so that you can also find the perfect gift for that bird-watching great uncle of yours who just can’t stop talking about the seemingly dwindling population of blue tits (yes, that’s a bird) in the local forests.

Anyways… Without further ado, presenting:

The AI-powered GoodGeeky Gift Guide

To get started, just fill in the form below. But remember, AI can sometimes hallucinate, so please don’t yell at us if you get suggestions for gifts that don’t exist. To help with testing, we are recording queries and responses for the time being. Please don’t share any personal or personally identifiable information.

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Stuck for Elf on the Shelf ideas? Try our FREE AI-powered Elf Prank Generator

It’s that most dreaded time of the year for parents who unwittingly allowed the Elf on the Shelf into their home once upon a Christmas Past! The holiday season is almost upon us again, meaning it’s time to come up with almost a month’s worth of elf pranks.

We’ve had so many parents share their dread at suffering prankers’ block leading up to Christmas. So, we thought we’d help you out.

This year, we’re introducing our brand new AI Elf Prank Generator. Get ready to automate your Elf-on-the-Shelf pranks and spread some much-needed laughter and mischief!

Get Ready for Hilarious Holiday Shenanigans!

The holiday season is all about spending time with loved ones and making memories. But let’s be honest, sometimes those memories can get a little dull. That’s where our AI-powered Elf Prank Generator comes in. This unique tool is designed to help you pull off the most hilarious and memorable pranks this holiday season. And the best part? Our AI Elf has an unlimited supply of free ideas, so you’ll never run out of shenanigans to pull.

With our AI Elf Prank Generator, you can crank up the humor and spread joy to everyone around you. Spice up your family gatherings by getting your relatives in on the fun. Or prank your coworkers and turn your office into a merry prankster’s paradise. With a simple click, our AI Elf will generate a prank tailored to your specific situation. From silly pranks to elaborate schemes, our AI Elf has got you covered.

Spread Laughter and Mischief with Our AI Elf Pranks!

Our AI Elf Prank Generator is not your average prank generator. It’s equipped with the latest technology to ensure that your pranks are top-notch and full of laughter. Our AI Elf has been programmed to understand human behavior and come up with pranks that are sure to have everyone in stitches. So say goodbye to boring holiday gatherings, and hello to hilarious shenanigans.

This holiday season, spread laughter and mischief with our AI Elf Prank Generator. Whether you want to play a harmless prank on your friends or pull off an epic prank on your family, our AI Elf has got you covered. And the best part? Our pranks are customizable, so you can add your own personal touch. So what are you waiting for? Elf-inate your holiday fun with our AI Elf Prank Generator and make this a holiday season to remember.

The holidays are all about having a good time, and our AI Elf Prank Generator is here to help you do just that. With its unlimited supply of hilarious pranks, you can spread joy and laughter wherever you go. So don’t wait any longer, visit our website and start planning your holiday shenanigans with our AI Elf today! Remember, the more pranks, the merrier! Happy holiday and happy pranking!

The AI-powered GoodGeeky Elf-on-the-Shelf Prankinator

To start generating ideas for this season’s elf pranks, just let us know a little bit about your childr… ahem… discerning target audience! Just keep in mind that AI does eat the occasional magic Christmas mushroom now and then, so hallucinations and errors may occur. Please don’t yell at us if some of the suggestions our prankinator comes up with are not physically possible or potentially a bit inappropriate.

Also, we’re recording queries and responses for the time being in order to help with testing. Please don’t share personally identifiable details with us.

Google Maps updates color scheme for desktop users: What you need to know

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Google Maps feels a bit different for some users of the desktop browser version: The map colour scheme has changed!

Back in August, 9to5Google reported Google was trialling out a new colour scheme in its smartphone app, which looked a lot like Apple Maps.

Now, it looks like the same colour scheme is making its way to the desktop version, with at least some Windows 11 users on Google’s Chrome browser seeing the new colour scheme.

In terms of the terrain, most colours are a bit lighter both on land and at sea. But, the bigger change is road colours, which used to be white for smaller roads and yellow for larger roads and motorways.

Useability-wise, this was a problem because the yellow roads blended in with live traffic conditions, making it harder to see where the holdups were on the network.

In the new colour scheme, all roads seem to be varying shades of grey (or possibly bluish grey), making live traffic conditions all that much more glanceable.

Produce more with this fantastic keyboard and mouse combination – Logitech MK850

The Logitech MK850 Keyboard and Mouse combo has been around for a while, and it still represents a significant step up for most of us when it comes to computer periferals. We’ve used this keyboard and mouse combo here at GoodGeeky for years now, and we love it!

Combining the fantastic K850 Keyboard with the super-comfortable M720 Triathlon mouse, this set offers advanced features for smoother, more efficient computer work.

Heads up! We may earn a commission for any products or services purchased via links in this post. The money we make through these links helps keep the lights on and the wheels turning. Thanks for supporting us!

Although this combo carries a higher price point, the return on investment in terms of productivity, comfort, and ease of use is substantial. And the best part? You can switch between controlling three different computers (and even your iPhone or iPad)!

The K850 Keyboard is designed with user comfort and convenience in mind. Its ergonomic and cushioned construction aims to reduce fatigue during extended typing sessions. The keys respond swiftly to touch and operate quietly, ensuring a smooth typing experience.

The M720 Triathlon mouse takes traditional mouse functionality to new heights. It is designed to pair with three devices, similar to its keyboard counterpart. Users can scroll on a laptop one minute, and edit a presentation on a desktop the next, all at the click of a button.

The scroll wheel of the M720 mouse provides precision when needed and speed when desired. With a hyper-fast mode for quick navigation and a click-to-click mode for precision tasks, it suits various needs and boosts productivity across tasks.

The Logitech MK850 combo also comes with an impressive battery life. The K850 keyboard operates up to 24 months on a single set of batteries, and the M720 mouse lasts up to 12 months. This means less interruption and more focus on what matters – the work at hand.

Setting up the Logitech MK850 combo is straightforward. It involves connecting the devices to the preferred systems using Bluetooth or the included Unifying receiver. Once connected, you can further customize your experience using the Logi Options+ app.

The Logi Options+ app unlocks a host of functionalities, allowing users to tailor the keyboard and mouse settings to their individual needs. The app enables custom button and gesture mapping, meaning you can set specific functions or shortcuts to individual keyboard and mouse buttons. Done right, this can really enhance your workflows with – for example – editing videos in Davinci Resolve or Adobe Premiere Pro.

The Logitech MK850 Keyboard and Mouse combo is a comprehensive solution for anyone seeking to enhance their productivity when on the computer. Despite its higher price point, the value provided by this combo in terms of multi-device compatibility, long battery life, ergonomic design, and customizable settings positions it as an outstanding choice in its category.

These 2 simple commands will speed up Windows 11

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Windows users often face the challenge of system slowdowns and sluggishness over time. This can be caused by a myriad of issues, but quite frequently it can be traced back to corrupted files or inconsistencies in the operating system.

sfc /scannow and dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth are two simple, yet powerful commands for maintaining system health and enhancing performance. By following this guide, while taking appropriate precautions, you can take full advantage of these utilities to help keep your Windows 11 computers running smoothly.

What do sfc /scannow and dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth actually do?

  1. SFC /scannow

System File Checker (SFC) is a utility in Windows that allows users to scan for corruptions in Windows system files and restore them. When you run sfc /scannow, the command scans all protected system files, and replaces corrupted files with a cached copy located in a compressed folder at %WinDir%\System32\dllcache (usually c:\Windows\System32\dllcache).

This process helps in restoring the health of your system files, subsequently boosting the performance of your computer.

  1. DISM /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) is another tool built into Windows, primarily used for preparing, modifying, and repairing system images, including Windows Recovery Environment, Windows Setup, and Windows PE. But it also has the ability to fix the system image of your installed operating system.

When you run dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth, the DISM tool will connect to Windows Update to download and replace corrupt files. If the Windows Update client is broken, you should try to use a repair source like a Windows side-by-side folder from a network share or from a removable media, such as the Windows DVD or a USB flash drive.

How to Use These Tools?

Please note that these commands must be run in the Command Prompt as an administrator. Running the Command Prompt as an administrator gives the process elevated permissions, which could potentially be harmful if misused. Therefore, always double-check the commands you’re entering to ensure they won’t inadvertently cause harm to your system.

Step-by-step Guide to speed up Windows using SFC and DISM in Command Prompt

  1. Open Command Prompt as an administrator

Press the Windows key or click on the Start button and type cmd. Right-click on the Command Prompt application and select “Run as administrator”. If a User Account Control (UAC) prompt appears, click “Yes” to proceed.

  1. Running the SFC Scan

In the Command Prompt window, type sfc /scannow and press Enter. This process might take some time, so please be patient. Avoid interrupting the scan as it might lead to unintended consequences.

  1. Running the DISM Command

Once the SFC scan has completed, you can proceed to the DISM command. In the same Command Prompt window, type dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth and press Enter. This process can also take a while, so patience is key.

After the process is complete, it’s recommended to restart your computer to finalize the changes made to your system.

Still running slow?
More ways to speed up Windows

Is your computer still laggy? Check out our comprehensive guide to speed up Windows.

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Potential Issues and Warnings

While these commands can be instrumental in speeding up your Windows computer, they come with a couple of warnings:

  • Always use caution when running CMD as an administrator: Running Command Prompt as an administrator grants the process high-level access to the system. Always ensure the commands you’re entering are correct to prevent potential damage to your system.
  • Avoid Interruptions: Once the process begins, avoid interrupting it. An interruption can lead to file inconsistencies, causing more harm than good.
  • Backup your Data: It’s always a good idea to back up your data before making significant changes to your system. While these tools are generally safe and reliable, there’s always a small risk of data loss when dealing with system files.

This simple back-up strategy will keep your data safe from disaster

The importance of regularly backing up data cannot be understated. From family photos and personal documents to important work files, our lives are increasingly stored in digital form.

But, despite its importance, data backup often remains a misunderstood and neglected practice for many.

That being said, a good routine for backing up your data doesn’t have to be hard!

With the 3-2-1 rule, you can protect your data against a wide variety of threats, from hardware failure to natural disasters.

MacBook Pro

Understanding the 3-2-1 rule

The 3-2-1 backup rule is a best practice for data backup.

It’s simple yet effective: keep at least three copies of your data, store two backup copies on different storage media, and keep one of them located offsite.

Three copies of data

Keeping three copies of your data ensures that even if one copy is lost or corrupted, you still have two more to fall back on.

The first copy is the original data stored on your computer or smartphone.

The second is a backup stored on an external device like an external hard drive or network attached storage (NAS).

The third is another backup stored offsite, usually in the cloud.

Two different media types

Different types of storage media have different vulnerabilities.

By keeping your backups on different types of media, you can protect your data from a wider variety of threats.

An external hard drive or a NAS device is an excellent choice for local backup, as it allows for quick recovery.

For the second type of media, cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Apple iCloud, or a dedicated backup service are ideal.

One offsite backup

Storing one backup offsite protects your data from local threats like theft, fire, or flooding.

The easiest way to keep an offsite backup is to use a cloud storage service.

These services store your data in remote servers, which are typically distributed across multiple locations for additional security.

Implementing the 3-2-1 rule

Now that you understand the 3-2-1 rule, let’s look at how you can implement it in your digital life.

Local backup

Start by purchasing an external hard drive or setting up a NAS device.

The device you choose should have enough storage capacity to hold all the data you wish to back up.

Many external hard drives and NAS drives come with backup software, which you can install on your computer to automate the process.

Alternatively, there are tons of free and paid solutions out there, which you can download and install.

Cloud backup

Cloud backup services are an easy and efficient way to store an offsite copy of your data.

Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud all offer a certain amount of free storage and have options to increase this for a monthly or yearly fee.

These services are easy to set up and can automatically back up specific data types, such as photos from your smartphone.

Remember to secure your cloud storage accounts with a strong, unique password and enable two-factor authentication.

Stay consistent, and test!

Once you’ve set up your backup system, consistency is key.

Regular backups ensure that you always have the most recent version of your data safe.

Automating this process can make it more efficient, and most backup software and cloud services offer the option to schedule regular backups.

Every so often, it’s also worth testing your backups by restoring a file and making sure it opens correctly.

This can catch potential issues before they become critical.

Furthermore, if your backup includes sensitive information, consider using encryption to add an extra layer of security.

Many backup services offer this as an option.

Wrapping it up

Implementing the 3-2-1 rule might seem like a big chore, but once set up it provides a reliable and robust safety net for your digital life.

Remember, in our digital age, data loss is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

The 3-2-1 rule is a straightforward and effective way to ensure that when data loss happens, it’s nothing more than a minor inconvenience rather than a significant crisis.

Simply keep your data backed up, automatically, and get on with your life.

Simple cybersecurity guide for non-geeks in 2024

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be complicated! A few straightforward practices will go a long way to keep your digital life secure. Here’s a condensed, jargon-free guide to help minimise the chances of running afoul of cyber criminals and other online nasties!

Heads up! We may earn a commission for any products or services purchased via links in this post. The money we make through these links helps keep the lights on and the wheels turning. Thanks for supporting us!

Keep software current to stay ahead on cybersecurity

Software updates may seem tedious, arriving at the most inconvenient times and potentially causing disruptions to your device’s performance. But, these updates are not merely for introducing new features or improving user interface. A substantial part of these updates involves enhancing the security of your devices and fixing vulnerabilities that might have been identified since the last update.

Understanding software updates

Software updates, sometimes referred to as ‘patches’, are released by software developers to address issues or enhance functionality within their programs. Among these improvements are often fixes for ‘bugs’ or vulnerabilities in the system, which if left unaddressed, could potentially be exploited by hackers. These security loopholes can range from minor issues, having little impact on the user, to major vulnerabilities, which if leveraged, can lead to massive data breaches.

Why are updates essential?

Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their methods, looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit in widely used software. When these vulnerabilities are identified by the software companies, they develop a fix or patch to eliminate the weak spot and release it as a part of a software update.

If users do not apply these updates, they are effectively leaving the door open for cybercriminals. Running outdated software is akin to leaving your front door unlocked – it makes it easier for an intruder to enter.

Risks of not updating

Outdated software not only makes your devices an easier target but also increases the potential damage if a breach occurs. Cyber attacks can result in loss of personal data, financial damage, and in the case of smart home devices, potential physical security risks. It’s important to consider the updates as your first line of defense against these threats.

Update all your devices

The importance of software updates extends across all devices you use. This includes not just your computer, but also smartphones, tablets, smart home devices, and even seemingly ‘non-smart’ devices that connect to the internet. Remember, cybercriminals can potentially exploit any device connected to the internet.

Keep up with updates

One simple strategy to keep your software up to date is to enable automatic updates. Most devices and software offer this feature in the settings menu, allowing updates to be installed as soon as they’re released, often overnight when the device is not in use.

If automatic updates aren’t an option, consider setting a regular schedule to manually check for and install updates. This habit can greatly enhance the security of your devices.

Strong passwords are essential for good cybersecurity

Use strong, unique passwords

Passwords are your first line of defense against cyber threats. Just as you wouldn’t use a flimsy lock for your front door, you shouldn’t compromise when it comes to your digital passwords. They may seem like just a string of characters, but they form the primary barrier between your personal information and potential cybercriminals. This article highlights the importance of using strong, unique passwords and introduces password managers as a key tool in managing these digital keys.

The strength of your password matters

Consider passwords as the digital equivalent of your home’s lock. The stronger and more complex it is, the harder it will be for a burglar to break in. The same principle applies to your digital security. A strong password, comprising a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, is not easy to guess and much harder for hacking tools to crack.

Simple and commonly used passwords are incredibly easy for hackers to guess. Passwords like ‘123456’, ‘password’, or ‘admin’ are equivalent to leaving your digital front door wide open. Hence, it’s vital to use complex and unpredictable passwords for every online account.

The risk of password duplication

Using the same password across multiple platforms is another common mistake. While it might be easier to remember, if a cybercriminal cracks that one password, they have the keys to all your online accounts. This is known as a ‘domino effect’ and can lead to a disastrous breach of your digital privacy and security.

The role of password managers

Remembering multiple complex passwords for different accounts can seem like an impossible task. This is where password managers come into play. These are secure applications that store all your passwords in an encrypted format. You only need to remember one master password to access your password vault, and the password manager does the rest.

Password managers can also generate strong, random passwords for you, eliminating the risk of creating predictable or weak passwords. They are designed with strong encryption algorithms to ensure your passwords are stored safely.

We use this!
Bitwarden - a trustworthy password manager

Bitwarden is a slightly less well-known password manager. That doesn't mean it's any less good. With no known major security breaches (at the time of writing this), an excellent free plan (with features that most other password managers charge you for) and great paid updates, we highly recommend checking out Bitwarden if you need a password manager to take care of your passwords.

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Double down on cybersecurity: The role of two-factor authentication

While strong and unique passwords provide a solid first line of defense, they aren’t impenetrable. Here is where two-factor authentication (2FA) steps in. This article delves into the importance of enabling 2FA and how it provides an additional layer of security for your digital life.

Understanding two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, is a cybersecurity protocol that requires two forms of verification before allowing access to an account. It’s akin to a second lock on your door, providing an extra layer of protection even if the first one is broken.

Typically, the first factor in 2FA is something you know (your password), and the second factor is either something you have (like a unique code sent to your mobile device) or something you are (such as a fingerprint or face scan).

Why is two-factor authentication important?

The main purpose of 2FA is to make it harder for potential intruders to gain unauthorized access to your accounts, even if they have managed to crack your password. Without the second factor, they would still be locked out.

Imagine a hacker manages to guess or steal your password. If you’ve enabled 2FA, they’ll be prompted for a second verification step. Unless they have access to your phone to receive a unique code, or to your fingerprint or face scan, they’re still locked out.

Enabling two-factor authentication

Most online platforms today offer 2FA as an option. It’s usually found in the settings under security or privacy. While it may take an extra moment to log in to your accounts, the additional security is worth the time.

The second factor in 2FA varies depending on the platform. Some send a unique code to your email or mobile device. Others might use biometric data, such as a fingerprint scan or face recognition, especially on smartphones. There are also dedicated 2FA apps like Google Authenticator or Authy that generate timed codes.

Two-factor authentication: A small step, a big leap in security

Even with 2FA enabled, it’s crucial to continue practicing other security measures, such as regularly updating your software and using strong, unique passwords. No single security measure is foolproof, and each one adds another layer of protection against potential threats.

Stay safe on public Wi-Fi

From coffee shops to airports and libraries, public Wi-Fi networks have become ubiquitous. They offer a convenient way to stay connected on the go. But while these networks provide a great service, they also come with significant security risks. This article will delve into why public Wi-Fi can be risky and how you can protect your data when using these networks.

Understanding the risks of public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi networks are usually unencrypted, which means that the data you send and receive over the network isn’t secure. Hackers can easily intercept this data, gaining access to sensitive information like passwords, emails, and credit card numbers. This is often done through a method known as “Man-in-the-Middle” attacks, where the attacker positions themselves between the user and the connection point.

Furthermore, cybercriminals often set up rogue Wi-Fi hotspots that mimic legitimate networks. Unsuspecting users might connect to these networks, giving the attacker direct access to their device and data.

How to safeguard your data

Despite these risks, there are steps you can take to protect your data when using public Wi-Fi:

  1. Limit your activity: Avoid accessing sensitive information, such as your bank accounts or any other financial or personal data, while connected to a public network.
  2. Use HTTPS: When browsing, check for ‘https’ at the beginning of the web address. This indicates that the site uses encryption to secure the data transferred between your device and the site.
  3. Turn off sharing: On a public network, disable file sharing options and make sure your firewall is active.

The role of a VPN

One of the most effective ways to ensure your online activities remain private is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts the data leaving your device until it reaches its destination. Even if someone intercepts your data, all they would see is encrypted information.

VPNs work by creating a secure, encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server. They also mask your IP address, adding an extra layer of privacy. Today, there are many VPN services available, with options to fit different needs and budgets.

Smart homes, secure homes: Protect internet-connected devices

Smart home devices, from thermostats to security cameras, bring convenience and efficiency to our lives. But, as with any technology that connects to the internet, they also carry security risks.

Hackers can potentially exploit vulnerabilities in these devices, gaining unauthorized access to your home network and data. This article will guide you through crucial steps to secure your smart home devices.

Risks of smart home devices

Every smart device in your home represents a potential entry point for cybercriminals. By hacking into a weakly protected device, they can infiltrate your home network and compromise your privacy and security. For example, a hacked security camera could provide a live feed of your home to an intruder, while a compromised smart speaker could listen in on your conversations.

Manufacturers often release software updates that patch security vulnerabilities and improve functionality. Regularly updating your devices ensures they have the latest protections against potential threats. Where possible, enable automatic updates to maintain the most up-to-date security.

Beware of phishing

Phishing scams deceive users into voluntarily providing sensitive information, often by masquerading as a trustworthy entity. This article aims to educate readers about phishing scams, their implications, and how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Unpacking phishing scams

Phishing scams typically come in the form of an email, text message, or phone call that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank, social media platform, or reputable company. The scammer tricks the user into divulging sensitive information like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers, under various pretexts.

For example, a phishing email might alert you to a security breach in your bank account, urging you to confirm your credentials, or warn you about a parcel delivery failure, asking for personal data to resolve the issue.

The dangers of phishing

The consequences of falling victim to a phishing scam can be severe. If scammers gain access to your sensitive data, they could potentially drain your bank account, make fraudulent purchases, steal your identity, or even compromise your entire digital life.

How to protect yourself from phishing scams

There are several ways to arm yourself against phishing attempts:

  1. Scrutinize unsolicited communication: Be wary of unexpected emails, text messages, or calls that ask for personal information. Legitimate organizations usually do not request sensitive data via these channels.
  2. Check for email red flags: Phishing emails often have misspellings, poor grammar, or unofficial email addresses. The tone may be urgent, pressuring you to act quickly.
  3. Hover over links: Without clicking, hover over any hyperlinks in emails. This action will reveal the actual URL. If it doesn’t match the text or seems unrelated to the supposed sender, it’s likely a scam.
  4. Be cautious with attachments: Be wary of unsolicited emails with attachments, as they can contain malware. Only open attachments from trusted sources.
  5. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Using 2FA on your accounts provides an extra layer of security, making it more challenging for phishers even if they obtain your username and password.
  6. Report suspicious activity: If you come across a potential phishing scam, report it to your email provider and the supposed sender. This action helps protect others from the same scam.

A safety net for your digital life: Keep regular backups

Data is one of the most valuable assets. From precious photos and personal documents to work files and financial information, losing such data can be devastating. One of the most effective ways to safeguard your digital life is to regularly back up your data. This article will walk you through why data backup is so crucial and how you can do it effectively.

Understanding the value of backups

A backup is essentially a copy of your data stored in a secondary location. In the event of a cyber attack, device loss, or even just accidental deletion, having a backup means you won’t lose everything. It’s the digital equivalent of an insurance policy for your valuable data.

Without regular backups, you risk losing everything stored on your device in an instant. This loss can stem from various incidents such as hardware failure, theft, natural disaster, or a ransomware attack, where cybercriminals encrypt your data and demand payment to unlock it.

How to back up your data

External drives: External hard drives or USB drives can be used to store copies of your files. The benefit of this method is that your data remains physically close to you. However, these drives can also be lost, damaged, or stolen, so they shouldn’t be your only backup.

Cloud services: Cloud backup services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Apple’s iCloud offer a more robust solution. They automatically sync your files to the cloud, allowing you to access them from any device with an internet connection. They also have high levels of redundancy, meaning your data is stored in multiple locations for added security.

While backing up your data is a crucial step, it’s equally important to ensure your backups are secure. If you’re using a cloud service, this means protecting your account with strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA).

Remember, the goal is to keep your data out of the wrong hands, even when it’s backed up.

Check this guide!
How to back up your digital life

The importance of regularly backing up data cannot be understated. From family photos and personal documents to important work files, our lives are increasingly stored in digital form.

But, despite its importance, data backup often remains a misunderstood and neglected practice for many.

With the 3-2-1 rule, you can protect your data against a wide variety of threats, from hardware failure to natural disasters.

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Your digital bodyguard: Use antivirus software

woman in black shirt using laptop computer

Cyber threats come in various forms, each with its unique way of compromising your digital safety.

Viruses and worms can corrupt your data or degrade your device’s performance. Spyware can monitor your activities, stealing sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers. Ransomware can lock you out of your system, holding your data hostage until a ransom is paid.

Given these threats, it’s clear that some form of protection is necessary. That’s where antivirus software comes in.

The role of antivirus software

Antivirus software acts as a digital bodyguard for your device. It monitors for any malicious activity, scrutinizes suspicious files, and blocks or removes threats before they can cause harm. It’s your first line of defense against many of the threats that lurk in the digital landscape.

Modern antivirus software doesn’t just protect against viruses. It also guards against a range of malware, including spyware, ransomware, and phishing attacks. Some even come with features such as firewalls or parental controls, offering a more comprehensive security solution.

Keeping your antivirus software up to date

However, it’s not enough just to install antivirus software and forget about it. Cyber threats are continually evolving, with new strains of malware appearing regularly. To combat these emerging threats, antivirus software must be kept up to date.

Manufacturers regularly release updates that equip the antivirus software with the tools it needs to tackle the latest threats. These updates can include new virus definitions, improved detection techniques, or fixes for any software vulnerabilities. By ensuring your antivirus software is updated, you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Guard your digital gates: Understand and manage app permissions

Apps often request access to various data and features on our devices – a concept known as app permissions. While some of these permissions are necessary for the app to function correctly, others might be superfluous, encroaching on your privacy. This article will explore the importance of reviewing and managing app permissions.

The scope of app permissions

From accessing your camera or microphone to reading your contacts or location, apps can request a wide range of permissions. Sometimes these permissions are essential; for instance, a navigation app needs your location to provide directions. However, not all apps require broad access to function, and some might ask for more permissions than necessary.

Unchecked app permissions can lead to privacy risks. For instance, an app with access to your contacts could potentially share this information with advertisers. Similarly, an app that can access your microphone could theoretically listen in on your conversations.

Reviewing and managing app permissions

Here’s how you can maintain control over your app permissions:

  1. Understand before you install: Before downloading an app, understand what permissions it requests and why. If an app asks for access that doesn’t align with its purpose, consider it a red flag.
  2. Regular reviews: Regularly review the permissions for each app on your device. Both Android and iOS offer ways to view and manage app permissions through their settings.
  3. Restrict unnecessary permissions: If you find an app with permissions it doesn’t need, restrict them. You can usually do this through the settings on your device.
  4. Update your apps: App updates often include security patches and might also reduce the permissions the app requires.

The digital vault: Encrypt your data for enhanced security

Encryption provides an added layer of protection for your sensitive data, turning it into an unreadable code that can only be deciphered with the correct key.

What is encryption and why is it important?

Encryption, at its core, is a method of disguising data so that only authorized parties can understand it. It transforms readable data, known as plaintext, into an encoded version, called ciphertext. This process requires a key, and only with this key can the ciphertext be converted back to its original form.

This mechanism is vital for protecting sensitive information from being accessed by cybercriminals or prying eyes. Even if an unauthorized party manages to intercept the data, without the correct key, they will see nothing but gibberish.

Implementing encryption in your digital life

While the concept of encryption may seem complex, applying it to your everyday technology use is surprisingly straightforward:

  1. Device encryption: Most modern smartphones, computers, and tablets have built-in encryption capabilities. For example, iPhones automatically encrypt data when you set a passcode, while Android devices usually have an encryption option in the security settings. For computers, both Windows and Mac provide built-in encryption tools, namely BitLocker and FileVault, respectively.
  2. Encrypted communication: For sensitive conversations, consider using communication apps that offer end-to-end encryption, like Signal or WhatsApp. This encryption ensures that only you and the person you’re communicating with can read the messages.
  3. VPNs: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts the connection between your device and the internet, protecting your data from potential eavesdroppers, especially on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.
  4. Encrypted cloud storage: When using cloud storage services, opt for providers that offer encryption, like Google Drive or Dropbox. However, always remember to use strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication for an added layer of security.

Wrap-up!

Navigating the digital world can often feel like walking a tightrope. But, with the right precautions it’s not only manageable… It’s empowering!

Think about it: by staying on top of updates and creating strong, unique passwords, you’re taking active steps to keep your personal information safe. It’s not rocket science, it’s just smart web-surfing.

Enabling two-factor authentication adds another layer of security, while being careful on public Wi-Fi networks is a simple way to protect your data.

Similarly, securing your smart home devices and staying sharp against phishing scams can significantly reduce your vulnerability. Regularly backing up your data is like having a safety net—yes, things can go wrong, but you’ve got a plan.

With updated antivirus software and smart management of your app permissions, you’re staying one step ahead. And through data encryption, you’re putting your information in a virtual safe.

Cybersecurity and keeping your digital information is not about fear, It’s about feeling confident and secure in your digital life! Remember, you’re not just a bystander. Putting in place a few simple cybersecurity habit places you in control.

The complete guide to Microsoft PowerToys (2023)

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Microsoft continues to play with the Windows experience in its updated suite of PowerToys utilities. The latest iteration, Microsoft PowerToys 0.7x, introduces several upgrades and a couple of new tools to help improve Windows’s functionality and user experience.

Keep reading for the low-down on each of the 21 (and counting) tools available in Microsoft PowerToys, including the new utilities called Mouse Without Borders and Peek.

How to install Microsoft PowerToys

Don’t you wish there was an easy way of keeping apps on top of the screen or stopping your computer going to sleep in the middle of uploading a video to YouTube?

And how awesome would it be if you could mute yourself or switch off your camera during a video conference call using the same two keyboard shortcuts, no matter which service you’re using?

Microsoft’s released some new toys to make Windows that little bit nicer to work with! And we’re going to go through them all.

If you don’t have PowerToys installed, just launch the MICROSOFT STORE, search POWERTOYS in the search bar, and hit the INSTALL button.

Once PowerToys has installed itself, it’ll be in the START MENU, right at the top, as a recently installed app. If it’s not there, you can always just search for it.

Let’s have a look inside!

General settings

Opening up PowerToys, we start in the GENERAL settings menu. There’s nothing much to do here, except to make sure RUN AT STARTUP is switched ON.

Down the left-hand column, you’ll see each of the different toys. This is where you go to activate and configure each toy.

Always On Top

Microsoft PowerToys - Always On Top

The first one is Always On Top. This one is great for keeping one window on top of all the other ones. Like if you’re using the calculator to crunch numbers from a different window.

You’ll see that it’s already enabled for us right here. To activate Always On Top, the default key combination is WINDOWS or START, CONTROL and T together.

If you don’t like that key combo, just click the PENCIL to change it.

Let’s open CALCULATOR and have a look at how Always On Top works.

Press the shortcut keys – WINDOWS, CONTROL and T – while Calculator is active and you’ll see a thick coloured border around it. Now, you can open other apps and work in those, but Calculator will stay on top.

To switch Always On Top off again, just hit the same key combo while you’re in Calculator. You’ll see the border disappear again.

Aside from the key combo, you can tweak a few other settings for Always On Top as well. You can change the colour and thickness of the border – I set mine to green. You can switch off the sound that plays when you activate Always On Top, and you can exclude apps that you don’t want to ever pin on top.

Awake

Microsoft PowerToys - Awake

The next toy we’ll look at is called AWAKE.

This one is simply a quick and easy way to stop your computer from going to sleep without having to mess around with power plans.

When ENABLE AWAKE is toggled ON, the selection you make in MODE will decide if your computer will actually go to sleep.

Right now, the mode is set to KEEP USING THE SELECTED POWER PLAN, meaning that if the power plan says my computer will go to sleep after five minutes of not being used, then that’s what will happen.

If I change the mode to KEEP AWAKE INDEFINITELY, PowerToys will keep the computer awake until you switch ENABLE AWAKE OFF.

So, if you set the computer to do something that takes a while, like rendering a video or uploading a large file to the internet, your computer will not go to sleep in the middle of the job.

The third mode is KEEP AWAKE TEMPORARILY. Selecting that, you get another setting where you tell PowerToys how long you want to override the power plan and keep the computer awake. If you set it to two hours, then after that period of time has passed, PowerToys will stop overriding the power plan.

The last setting here is whether you want to keep the screen on. If you toggle KEEP SCREEN ON to… ON… Then the screen will stay on when you’re not using the computer.

Color Picker

Microsoft PowerToys - Color Picker

This next toy is one of my favourites! Let’s check out COLOR PICKER.

It’s active right out of the gate, and the key combo to use for this one is WINDOWS, SHIFT and C together. If you don’t like that key combo you can change it from the PENCIL button here.

The Color Picker is great for getting the colour code for any colour anywhere on your screen. This is super useful if you’re a designer, photographer or just anyone who works with colours and design on your computer.

By default, Color Picker will give you the HEX colour code, which is what web designers normally use for designing websites. You can also grab a bunch of different colour formats, all of which will result in the same colour.

By default, RGB (that’s red, green, blue) and HSL (which is hue, saturation, lightness) are also switched on. But you can get other color formats as well, like CMYK, which is great to have if you do a lot of printing.

Let’s take Color Picker for a spin!

I really like the colour scheme of my desktop background, so I want to grab the color codes for the main colours, so that I can use those to draw a picture for myself in Photoshop.

Let’s hit WINDOWS, SHIFT and C. That activates the colour picker. You’ll see the mouse cursor changes into a pipette. That means we’re ready to select colours.

As I hover over different colours, you’ll see the HEX colour code change, and it’ll also tell you what that colour is called.

Once I click on a colour, the colour editor launches. This is where you can grab all those other colour formats I mentioned earlier.

You can also click on the slightly lighter or darker colours on either side here to get the colour codes for those instead.

And you’ll see the editor will remember the last few colours you picked down the side here.

FancyZones

Microsoft PowerToys - FancyZones

With FancyZones you can create window layouts to help organise “multiple windows on your screen. It works by letting you divide the desktop into zones for where your app windows will go. Windows 11 has some elements of FancyZones built into it, so this tool might not be too useful if you’re on Win 11. But Windows 10 users may find this quite useful!

When FancyZones is on, the activation shortcut WINDOWS, SHIFT and BACKTICK will launch the layout editor. Backtick is the symbol that looks like a slanting quotation mark, next to the number one on English keyboards.

You use the layout editor to select or make your own screen layout.

By default, you can snap windows to a FancyZone by holding the SHIFT key down while dragging a window, but you can change that behaviour and a bunch of other settings in PowerToys.

File Locksmith

Microsoft PowerToys - File Locksmith

The File Locksmith utility lets you see which computer processes are using any file or folder on your computer. This is particularly useful if an app or a process is locking a file and refusing you access to – for example – rename or delete a file.

Once you’ve switched on File Locksmith, you can right-click any file in File Explorer, click on SHOW MORE OPTIONS (if you’re using Windows 11) and then select WHAT’S USING THIS FILE in the contex menu.

This opens a new window showing which – if any – processes are accessing the file.

Aside from showing you this information, File Locksmith also lets you end any processes that are accessing the file, so that you can make whatever changes you require. To do this, just click the END TASK button next to each process showing in the File Locksmith window.

But, beware, ending tasks and processes abruptly can sometimes cause unexpected behaviour by your computer.

File Explorer add-ons

Microsoft PowerToys - File Explorer add-ons

In the File Explorer section, you can set up previews of various file types either in place of the file icon itself or in a special preview pane.

Some of the file formats available here – like markdown and Python files – might not be for everyone, but I do find especially the PDF preview to be useful.

Once you’ve flicked the toggles on for either the preview pane or icon preview – or both – you can preview the files in Explorer without launching the apps.

Hosts File Editor

Microsoft PowerToys - Hosts File Editor

The Hosts File Editor allows you to edit your .hosts file, which is a file that helps your computer match domain names to IP addresses. By editing this file, you can make up your very own domain names to access devices on your local network.

As an example, instead of typing 192.168.0.1 or 10.1.1.1 in your browser to access your wifi router admin interface, you can use your .hosts file to give your router a domain name, like https://wifi.router.

Once you’ve enabled Hosts File Editor in PowerToys, you can click LAUNCH HOST FILE EDITOR to bring up a new view of your .hosts file that contains all current entries in that file. You can toggle each individual entry on and off, delete existing entries and add new ones.

The Hosts File Editor is very useful for anyone that regularly needs to edit the .hosts file on their computer as it does away with the need to open the .hosts file as an administrator. PowerToys takes care of this for you. But, as always when you’re tinkering with important system files, be careful!

Image Resizer

Microsoft PowerToys - Image Resizer

For anyone working with images and graphics, the Image Resizer is an excellent little toy.

Long story short, it lets you resize images with just a couple of mouse clicks. No Photoshop or any other image editing app required.

In PowerToys, you set up some pre-determined image sizes and then Image Resizer will resize any image you want to fit within these dimensions.

The small, medium, large and phone presets should be the default sizes when you install PowerToys. So for example, if I want to resize a photo to medium size, it will be no more than 1366 pixels wide and 768 pixels high.

Keep in mind, that those are the maximum width and height. So if you have a vertical photo, it will be resized to 768 pixels high while the width will be less than that.

To resize an image, just right click and select RESIZE PICTURES. That will bring up a dialogue box where you can select the size you want, and also a few other options like removing metadata or whether you want to increase the image size if it’s smaller than the size you wanted.

Keyboard Manager

Microsoft PowerToys - Keyboard Manager

With Keyboard Manager you can change what your keyboard keys do.

This can sometimes be useful if you use keyboard shortcuts. Or, if you want to mess with someone’s head.

I couldn’t possibly think why you’d want to do this, but to change a key to something else, just click REMAP A KEY. Then you enter the key you want to change – like D – and what you want to change it to – like an F.

And there you go – hours of fun to be had.

I’M GOING TO *UCK OFF NOW

Mouse Utilities

Microsoft PowerToys - Mouse Utilities

The next PowerToy is an absolute godsend for screen sharing and tutorials such as this one. Notice how my mouse pointer lights up when I click a mouse button? That’s thanks to Mouse Highlighter!

Mouse Highlighter gives you a way to easily find your mouse pointer – or in the case of screen recordings, a great way to highlight something on the screen.

By default, you just click the left CTRL or CONTROL button twice and that will dim the screen except for a circle around the pointer.

Mouse highlighter will highlight mouse clicks. The default shortcut to turn that on is WINDOWS, SHIFT and H. With that on, your cursor will light up whenever you click a mouse button, which is heaps useful when you record tech tutorials like this one.

The last little tool in this section is mouse pointer cross hairs. CTRL, ALT and P will turn that on, and it puts your cursor in the centre of crosshairs that will follow the cursor around the screen.

You can tweak the look and behaviour all these mouse tools by clicking APPEARANCE & BEHAVIOR, so for example you can change the colour of your mouse button clicks.

Mouse Without Borders

Microsoft PowerToys - Mouse Without Borders

This utility is new in PowerToys but it has been around for ages! Years ago, in a previous job, I used Mouse Without Borders to control two computers running a giant display wall using the mouse and keyboard of a third computer. At that time, it was a standalone app. Now it’s finally part of MS PowerToys!

Long story short, Mouse Without Borders lets you move your mouse cursor between multiple computers on the same network just like you would between multiple screens hooked up to the same computer.

Simply enable Mouse Without Borders on both (or all) machines that you want to control with a single mouse and keyboard. From there, you can choose the order in which the computers appear. For example, moving the mouse off the left side of the screen on computer 1 can get you onto the screen on computer 2.

To avoid accidentally moving onto another computer, you can set an option where you have to hold down SHIFT or CTRL to move across to the next computer.

Aside from letting you control multiple computers with the same mouse, Mouse Without Borders also lets you copy/past text and files (as long as they’re less than 100 megabytes) from one computer to the other.

Paste As Plain Text

Microsoft PowerToys - Paste As Plain Text

This one is really straightforward, and very useful. When you copy paste text from one app to another, Windows will normally also include any formatting. This doesn’t always work so great if the receiving app doesn’t like or can’t handle the formatting from the sending app.

When you enable Paste As Plain Text, you can use a keyboard shortcut to only paste the text you copied but none of the formatting. This is great, as it does away with the intermediate step of pasting text into a plain text editor like Notepad to remove formatting.

If you don’t like the default keyboard shortcut to paste as plain text, you can change it. I set mine to CTRL + SHIFT + V, which matches the plain text pasting shortcut in the Chrome web browser.

Peek

Microsoft PowerToys - Peek

The Peek utility let’s you sneak a peek – or preview – files in File Explorer. Once you’ve enabled Peek, simply select a file, then press CTRL + SPACE to get a preview of the file. And yes, you can change the shortcut if you like.

PowerRename

Microsoft PowerToys - PowerRename

If you rename files all the time, then PowerRename will quite possibly be your new best friend.

To put it simply, it’s a search and replace tool where you can rename a bunch of files by searching for and replacing words or characters in the file name.

It goes way beyond that… But here’s an example.

I’m going to rename these files, so I highlight them, then right click and select POWER RENAME.

In the window, I can put in the keyword I want to replace – for example IMG – and then what I want to replace it with – like IMAGE.

You can see on the right here what the resulting file name will be.

You can also use Regex to turbocharge your file renaming. If you want to try it out, tick the USE REGULAR EXPRESSIONS checkbox and then use Regex operators to control the renaming.

You can click the info bubble here to see all the Regex operators. But, here’s a quick one for you:

The CARET ^ character is Regex for “starting with”. So if I simply put a CARET in the SEARCH FOR field, then whatever I put in REPLACE WITH will be added to the start of the file name. And that, my friends, is super handy!

PowerToys Run

Microsoft PowerToys - PowerToys Run

PowerToys Run is a quick launcher that will let you run apps and a bunch of different commands from a simple text field.

When it’s enabled, the default keyboard shortcut to launch PowerToys Run is ALT and SPACE.

From here, type in the app you want to run, like CHROME.

Or you can do some math – three plus three equals six.

There’s a bunch of other functionality too, like the UNIT CONVERTER, which lets you convert for example feet to metres if you’re metrically challenged.

By default, you have to type in PERCENT PERCENT to use the unit converter, but you can tweak how that and the other plugins work by expanding the plugin like this.

So if I don’t want to have to type the percentage signs, I can just tick the INCLUDE IN GLOBAL RESULT box, and then next time I need to convert a unit, I can just type away and the result will show up below.

Quick Accent

Microsoft PowerToys - Quick Accent

Do you speak and write multiple languages? With Quick Accent you can quickly add accents to characters even if the keyboard you use doesn’t support that particular accent.

Of course, if you’re typing in a particular language, it’s always best to have your keyboard set to that language. But if you’re writing in – say, English – about the Swedish autonomous region of Åland, then typing that å just got a lot easier.

Once you’ve enabled Quick Accent, hold down the target letter – in this case a – and press either the LEFT ARROW, RIGHT ARROW or SPACE button. This brings up a context menu at the top of your screen, where – while still holding down the target letter key – you can select the relevant accent using the LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys. When you let go of the letter key, the currently selected accent is added.

To cut down on the number of accents you can choose from, it’s possible to select a single language only.

Registry Preview

Microsoft PowerToys - Registry Preview

The Registry Preview utility does a little bit more than the name suggests. Aside from previewing a registry file, it also lets you visualise and edit complex registry files, and write those changes to your computer’s registry.

To get started, just flick Enable Registry Preview to ON in PowerToys, then click LAUNCH REGISTRY PREVIEW.

Remember that any changes you make to your computer’s registry can break Windows. So, handle with care!

Screen Ruler

Microsoft PowerToys - Screen Ruler

With Screen Ruler you can measure pixels on your screen. This is handy for designers and others that often need to know how many pixels apart two objects are on the screen.

Once enabled, the keyboard shortcut WINDOWS + SHIFT + M brings up a few buttons that let you measure the horizontal and/or vertical distance between two objects (or even letters) on screen. You can also measure the area (square pixels!) of a particular region on the screen.

Screen Ruler uses edge detection to measure pixel distances, and you can adjust how this detection works in the Screen Ruler settings.

Shortcut Guide

Microsoft PowerToys - Shortcut Guide

Windows contains a lot of useful shortcuts that hardly anybody uses. But fear not. With the PowerToys Shortcut Guide, you can get a list of useful Windows keyboard shortcuts with the help of… Another keyboard shortcut.

The shortcut to rule them all is WINDOWS, SHIFT and FORWARD SLASH.

All of the shortcuts you see here work in combination with the WINDOWS or START key on your keyboard. So for example WINDOWS and P will let you extend your desktop to multiple displays if you have more than one hooked up to your computer.

While WINDOWS and L is a quick way to lock your computer so that nobody can send interesting emails from your work computer while you’re hanging out at the water cooler.

Text Extractor

Microsoft PowerToys - Text Extractor

This neat little utility uses optical character recognition (OCR) to copy text from anywhere on your screen, including in images.

It works with any language installed on your computer, as long as the OCR pack for that language exists and is installed.

Once enabled, the shortcut WINDOWS + SHIFT + T (can be changed) brings up a screen capture like inteface that lets you draw a box across the text you want to extract.

The text – as interpreted by OCR – is copied onto your computer’s clipboard. Use the normal CTRL + V shortcut to paste the text where you need it.

Video Conference Mute

Microsoft PowerToys - Video Conference Mute
This utility is moving into 'legacy mode', meaning it will only be maintained but not updated further. I guess we finally - after a decade - evolved to get better at muting and unmuting ourselves in online meetings when required. (NOT!)

Finally, a very useful tool now that we all use multiple online meeting apps all with different shortcuts for muting your camera or microphone.

Video Conference Mute gives you a system-wide keyboard combo for killing the microphone or camera quickly.

So, if we switch this on, then next time you’re on a Zoom call or Teams meeting, just hit WINDOWS, SHIFT and A to turn of your microphone. Because A for audio, I guess…

You can tweak the keyboard shortcuts via the pencil button here.

Before you go ahead and try this out, make sure to select your microphone and camera in the settings, so the PowerToys knows which device to mute.

Video

We made a video about MS PowerToys back when there were only 12 utilities. Watch it here!