8TECH MISTAKES YOU SHOULD’VE STOPPED MAKING IN 2017
Computeractive Editor Daniel Booth has made all these mistakes in the past. He’s learnt his lesson now, and wants to help you do likewise
1 Letting Windows 10 updates ruin your day
Forget TVS, dishwashers and sandwich toasters - the greatest invention of the 20th Century was the ‘snooze’ button on alarm clocks. Microsoft added the option (see screenshot below) to the Windows 10 Creators Update (released in April), letting you postpone updates for up to three days. You can also click ‘Pick a time’ to schedule when you want an update installed.
It’s probably the most helpful thing Microsoft did in 2017. No longer will huge updates force themselves on your PC unannounced. This option appears only for Microsoft’s twice-yearly major updates - in 2018 they are codenamed Redstone 4 (Version 1803, due March) and Redstone 5 (Version 1809, due in Autumn).
2 Using software to defrag your computer
Piriform makes four essential programs. Actually, make that three. While we recommend Speccy, Recuva and Ccleaner (when it’s not smuggling Avast on to your PC - see page 16), we’re less keen on Defraggler. Such defragging tools were once essential to keep your hard drive healthy, but most modern PCS can do the job themselves.
In Windows 10 it’s better to use the Optimise Drives tool. Windows runs it on a schedule, so you should never need to open it manually. It’s best to leave it get on with the job. The golden rule of defragging is that it’s unnecessary on SSDS. Worse, it can even damage the drive. Windows 10 knows this, so automatically turns off Optimise Drives when it detects you’ve installed an SSD.
3 Forgetting where you parked your car
None of the world’s 10 largest car parks are in the UK (they’re all in the US and Canada, since you ask), but it can still be infuriatingly tricky to locate your vehicle in airports, theme parks and shopping centres. It’s one of the problems Google solved in 2017 with an update to its Maps app in March.
Once you’ve parked, open Google Maps on your phone, tap the blue dot that indicates your location (and therefore where your car is), then tap ‘Save your parking’. When you’re ready to return to your car, tap the ‘You parked here’ pin (see screenshot below), then Directions. You can make notes about where you parked by tapping ‘Parking location’ at the bottom, and set a timer so you return in time and avoid incurring a fine.
Apple users may be forgiven for smiling smugly because the car-finding option was added to iphones six months earlier, when IOS 10 launched. Apple provides instructions at www.snipca.com/26452.
4 Using Office 2007
When making their plans for 2017, hackers would have ringed the date ‘10 October’ in their calendars. It’s when Microsoft ended ‘Extended’ support for Office 2007, meaning it’ll never receive another security update. You can still use it, but with every day that passes it becomes less safe. It’s time to move on.
You have three realistic options: upgrade to the latest version of Office; switch to a non-microsoft office suite like Libreoffice ( www.libreoffice.org); or swap downloadable desktop programs for online office tools.
Upgrading to the new version involves a choice between Office 365 (subscription only; £5.99 a month, or £60 a year) and Office 2016 (a one-off payment of £120). In contrast, switching to Libreoffice
means a choice between nothing and nada. Yes, it’s free, and is quickly becoming a favourite with Computeractive readers and writers alike (we’ll start including it soon in our Make Office Better page).
These downloadable programs are ideal for heavy office users. If your needs are less advanced, try Microsoft’s free Office Web Apps ( www.snipca.com/25198) and Google Drive ( https://drive.google.com). The latter is more versatile because it works offline. Microsoft is unlikely to provide this because it still wants people to cough up for the paid-for versions of Office.
5Using poor screen-recording apps on iphone and ipad
One of the best things about an update to Windows, IOS and Android is they come with new tools built into the system, meaning you no longer need to use shoddy apps made by other developers. One of the most useful in 2017 was the new screen-recording tool in IOS 11, released at the end of September.
You first need to add it to your Control Centre by tapping Settings, Control Centre, Customise Controls, then tapping the green button next to Screen Recording. Next, open the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of your screen. You should see the red Screen Recording button in the bottom-left corner (see screenshot below). When you tap this to start a recording, you’ll be prompted to turn the microphone on or off. Turn it on if you want to add a commentary to your recording. Your videos are saved on your Camera Roll, so open the Photos app to watch and edit them.
6Letting old files clog up your PC
With a new Paint 3D app, Microsoft wanted the Creators Update to inspire the inner artist in all of us. More useful though was the ‘Storage sense’ tool, which automatically deletes temporary files that your programs aren’t using. The Fall Creators Update, released in October, added the option to delete files in the Downloads folder that haven’t changed in 30 days. ‘Storage sense’ is turned off by default. Activate it by going to Settings, System, Storage, then clicking the ‘Storage sense’ slider (see screenshot above).
7Hoping that ransomware will go away
There are two strategies for dealing with ransomware. One is what we call the stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-andhope-it-goes-away method. It’s tempting, but deeply flawed. Another is to devise a clever backup procedure to keep your files safe. That’s the plan we prefer.
The key to surviving an attack is saving your files to a hard drive that’s not normally connected to your PC. Free program Veeam Agent ( www.snipca. com/26464) does the job. It can back up files on a schedule, but we recommend choosing the option to back up when the ‘target’ is connected. This means it will automatically back up files when you attach your hard drive. Also tick the ‘Eject removable storage once backup is completed’ option. You should save Veeam’s Recovery Media file to a USB stick so you can access your files from it if
attacked by ransomware. Your files should now be beyond the reach of hackers. Just make sure you don’t ditch your hard drive in a landfill site (see box above).
8 Emailing large files
One program that deserved greater plaudits in 2017 was the free Filedirect ( www.oo-software.com/en/filedirect) from German software company O&O. Released in May, it lets you send files of any size without having to attach them to an email. You need the program installed on your PC, but the recipient doesn’t. Instead you send them a downloadable link by email which they open in their browser (Chrome, Firefox and Opera; it doesn’t work on Edge and IOS devices).
Also new this year was Firefox Send (https://send.firefox.com), which sends files up to 16GB (though Firefox recommends no bigger than 1GB for “reliable operation”). The email link received by the recipient self-destructs after 24 hours.
Google Maps now shows you where you parked your car
Click ‘Snooze’ to postpone Windows updates for up to three days
Activate Windows’ ‘Storage sense’ to keep your PC free of unwanted files