When your computer reboots itself over and over again

Joanne Corrigan Doyle’s six-month-old laptop reboots every few minutes. “Is there anything I can change…to fix this?”

Yes and maybe. There’s a setting you can change that will give you at least a hint of the problem. But the hard part starts after you get that hint.

So let’s get you to a point where your crashes contain some useful information.

  1. Go to the Search tool in your version of Windows, type sysdm.cpl, and select the program of the same name.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click the Settings button under Startup and Recovery (as opposed to the dialog box’s other two Settings buttons).
  4. Uncheck Automatically restart.
  5. You might also want to check Write an event to the system log if it’s not already checked.
windows10systemproperties IDG

System Properties windows in Windows 10.

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Your PC boots, gets to the Windows desktop, then freezes. Now what?

Cara Carlson can boot her computer just fine…until she gets to the Windows desktop. Then it freezes and won’t respond to keyboard or mouse.

A lot of programs and drivers load into Windows when you boot. One of them apparently doesn’t play well with others. The trick is to discover and then eliminate the problem program.

But how can you do that if Windows freezes before you can do anything with it?

The trick is to boot Windows into Safe Mode, which avoids potential problems by skipping the autoloading programs and all but the most basic drivers. Once there, you should be able to disable all of your enabled autoloading programs. How this is done depends on your version of Windows.

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Convert text to image, and image to text

Arcticsid asked about turning text into a .jpg. I’ll also explain converting an image back into text.

Double-click any word in this paragraph. Your browser will select the word, and then you’ll be able to copy and paste it into your word processor or email program. But try double-clicking a word in the picture above (or in any of the other pictures in this article). It doesn’t work. In the digital world, there’s a big difference between real text and an image that looks like text—even if it’s not always obvious to the user. Fortunately, there are ways to turn either one into the other.

Let’s start with turning text into a bitmapped image like a .jpg or .png.

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What’s in the hidden Windows AppData Folder, and how to find it if you need it

Frank Hammond asked PCWorld how to access the AppData folder and copy files from it.

The Application Data—or AppData—folder contains data created by programs. Almost every program you install creates its own folder in AppData and stores information there. At least in theory, users don’t have to worry about these files.

But in reality, you probably do. For instance, Firefox and Thunderbird profiles reside inside AppData and can be transferred from there between PCs. If you’re using an older version of Outlook, that program’s data is probably in AppData as well.

Finding this folder is easy if you know the tricks. The AppData folder resides in your user folder—the same location that contains Documents, Music, and other library folders (unless you’ve moved them elsewhere). Normally this is something such as C:Users[username]AppData, but unlike those other folders, AppData is hidden, which means you can’t normally see it.

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If you forgot your Windows admin password, try this

Okay, so you forgot your password for logging in to Windows. All is not lost. You can still log in to Windows—even if there is no other administrative account on the PC.

From a security point of view, this is actually scary news. But there are legitimate reasons to use the tricks below, and none of them will let a criminal log in without your knowledge (the password is changed, not revealed) or gain access to encrypted data. (You do encrypt your sensitive files, right?)

I’ve provided instructions here for Windows 7 and 10. Windows 8 users should have no trouble following the Windows 10 instructions. 

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How to get out of Windows Safe Mode

You boot into Safe Mode to fix things. So it’s not right when Safe Mode ends up being the thing that needs fixing. If your Windows computer insists on booting into Safe Mode, you’ll have to figure out what’s causing the problem.

What made you go into Safe Mode in the first place? I assume you did it intentionally, but how? If you did it through the System Configuration tool, that’s your problem.

Press Win + R, type msconfig, and press Enter.

This opens System Configuration. Select the Boot tab. If the Safe boot option is checked, uncheck it. Then reboot.

0714 system configuration

For future reference, don’t use System Configuration to enter Safe Mode, unless you have reason to reboot multiple times into that environment. (See our instructions for how to properly enter Safe Mode.)

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What to do when your laptop’s touchpad stops working

When your laptop’s touchpad stops responding to your fingers, you’ve got a problem. Have you ever tried to use a Windows PC without a mouse, touchpad, or other pointing device? It’s all but impossible. 

If the problem just started, reboot your computer and see if that fixes it. (Yes, I know that’s painfully obvious, but we all sometimes overlook the obvious.) If that doesn’t work, try these solutions.

First, make sure you haven’t accidentally disabled the touchpad. In all likelihood, there’s a key combination that will toggle the touchpad on and off. It usually involves holding down the Fn key (which is probably near the lower-left corner of the keyboard) while pressing another key.

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How to change your email address without losing your friends

Think of all the places where your old email address resides, outside of your immediate control, waiting to give people plenty of false information. There are other people’s address books, old messages in people’s inboxes, websites that use your address as your logon name, and your business cards.

Changing your email address can be quite a chore.

1. Keep the old address for a little while

The first thing you need to do is check with your old mail provider and find out how long you can keep the old address and at what price. It’s probably worth the money to keep it for at least a few months.

2. Tell your contacts, but bcc: please

Then you need to tell everyone about the change. Using your new address, send an email to everyone in your address book—friends, relatives, and business associates. Address the message to yourself (again, with the new address), and BCC everyone else.

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How to boot into Windows 10’s Safe Mode

When you’re having issues with a Windows computer, one of the first steps to troubleshooting is to boot into Windows’ Safe Mode. Safe Mode is a simple, stripped-down version of the operating system, loading only the most essential files and drivers. It’s a way of eliminating as many variables as possible, and to ensure that the issue doesn’t originate at this most basic level. This is a great place to scan for malware, for instance.

But the old-fashioned way to get into Safe Mode—booting the PC and pressing F8 at the exact right moment—seldom works on PCs running Windows 10. These techniques will:

If you can successfully boot into Windows, booting into Safe Mode is relatively easy—if you know the trick.

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When Windows 10 takes up too much disk space, try this

Roelof Die Hoenderboer was having issues running Windows 10 on his 16GB SSD. 

Windows 10 works best with more disk space. While it’s not optimal to run Windows 10 from a 16GB or even 32GB SSD, the OS has some tricks up its sleeve that allow it to run on devices with skimpy storage space, such as tablets. It’s not that painful once you take the proper steps. 

Live small and prosper

Microsoft designed Windows 10 so that its own files could be reduced in size without using disk compression. The overhead of unpacking stuff reduces performance somewhat, but it can mean the difference between being able to work with the device you’ve got, and having to buy a new one.

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