Opinions, suggestions, recommendations or ideas found on our site are applied at your own risk.
Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
PLEASE - Do not give control of your computer to ANYONE unless you are absolutely certain who they are! For more information see our Self Help > Scams!
New to computers?
Our updated index may be useful.
New to computers? Our updated index may be useful.
In this newsletter
Icons are simply the images assigned to shortcuts, file types and applications. A few icons you'll probably recognize:
They are typically small and dependent on your resolution settings and usage. For example, the icons above are 30x30 pixels, icons in our system tray are 15x15 pixels, icons on our Desktop are 69x69. You can change the size of icons by varying your screen resolution and other settings as discussed in our Desktop (101) article.
Changing icon assignments...
You can change the icon of a shortcut by right clicking, selecting Properties then Change Icon (button). If you do not see a Change Icon button, just cancel as you are not viewing the properties of a shortcut (discussed later).
In the properties window you will likely see an "Open with" Change button. That is not a button you want to play with!
You can change the icon for specific applications and for file types, but that can be more involved than we'll discuss here. If you do decide to venture down that experimental road, it's a really, really good idea to create a System restore point first! See System restore. Take that from our experience. It took only one misclick to break our computer.
If you do change the icon for a specific file type, you will change the icon for all files of that type, whereas shortcuts can each have their own different icon.
If there are multiple images, you are presented with those or you can click Browse for a variety of generic images.
Two Windows files that you can browse to containing many generic icons are: shell32.dll and imageres.dll, both found in the C:\Windows\System32 folder.
There are hundreds of files on the computer containing icons. Many .exe and some .dll files have icons you can tap into and use, but change icons only for shortcuts and always heed any warnings that may appear doing so.
As mentioned, shortcuts can each have their own icon,
e.g., below are two different Word document shortcuts each with their own
Create your own icon...
Want to make your own? It's not overly complicated but you'll need an imaging application like Irfanview that can save pictures and images as a Windows icon file.
Open/create whatever image you want to make an icon from then "Save as" a Windows Icon.
Save that .ico file in a location you know how to get at, perhaps a special Icon folder, then follow the above procedure to assign your new icon to a shortcut.
Shortcuts are similar to Internet links but instead of a website, they go (point) to devices, files or folders.
Example: Here is our Computer Cleanup document which resides on our network storage unit in a folder named bcs\data (see Folder Sharing). But rather than opening the Windows File Explorer and navigating to that document, we have placed a shortcut on our Desktop for quick access. Just right click (hold) and drag to the Desktop or right click and Send to Desktop...
Shortcuts can point to many things. The more popular are:
- A device such as a camera or printer.
- An application such as Excel, Internet Explorer, Power Point.
- A storage folder.
- A Windows Control Panel or Administrative item.
- Internet sites.
You can have as many shortcuts to a particular device, file or folder as desired, e.g., one on the desktop, one in your Documents folder, one on the Taskbar.
In Windows 10, generally you can right click the shortcut and Pin to the Start menu or Taskbar, but those two choices are not always available.
If not available, select Open file location then follow the steps below...
From the file's location
Once you have located the file, right click and select Send to then select Desktop as shown here. Or select another option such as Pin to Start or Taskbar.
Yes, you can have a shortcut of a shortcut as this ended up to be...
Used to be you could drag and drop a website on the
creating a shortcut (still works with Google Chrome and browsers
other than Edge)...
But Microsoft in their infinite wisdom took that ability away in Windows 10 Edge*.
If you want an Internet site shortcut on your Desktop, you now need to make one manually.
Manually create one by right clicking a blank area on the Desktop > New > Shortcut.
Type the location of the desired item (examples below) or use the Browse button to find the desired file, click Next then give it a name.
Drag and drop under Windows 10 still works if you are using Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11 or others.
*In Windows 10 Edge, you may be able to open IE11 from whatever website Edge is currently on. Open Edge's menu (Ellipse...) and look for Open with Internet Explorer. If available, IE will open and you can then drag and drop as discussed above.
Is the computer truly locked up? Perhaps you just have a hung application.
If you can move the mouse and/or press the Windows key on the keyboard and open the Start menu, the operating system (OS) is not locked up. But wait! There's more...
If you have a wireless mouse/keyboard, maybe it's just a battery issue. Try changing batteries.
Look for lights: Power light and more importantly the drive activity light (most but not all computers have one). If the drive light is on (nearly) solid, the computer is working on something, but that also could also indicate a hardware problem. See our performance article for more information.
Mouse and/or keyboard will respond
If the mouse/keyboard will react, the OS is not locked up and you will have to do a process of elimination to determine what is causing the problem.
Open the Task Manager and see what, if anything, is consuming a lot of the processor cycles and end the task/process. More on that here.
Mouse and/or keyboard will not respond
If you cannot move the mouse or open the Start menu, the computer (OS) may* actually locked up and you will have no alternative other than holding the power button until it shuts off. Doing that will of course discard any unsaved items and it is also very hard on the computer's drive. Hard power off is always the last thing you want to do! See drive failures.
If on restarting the computer quickly locks up again, there are many reasons but two common problems:
From there, take it to a repair shop! It could be many possibilities such as a virus, drive failure, mother (system) board, CPU, thermal grease (CPU cooling) issue, RAM failure or power supply.
*may We say may because it it still could be alive and working on updates. Especially problematic under Windows 10. See our Sept '17 newsletter.
First, take that warning seriously! A document can easily contain destructive code. Make darn sure ANY attachment received is legitimate, even if that means calling the sender to verify they sent it... See scams.
Documents opened from an email message are in a temporary folder on your computer and any editing of them may be lost unless you specifically do a Save As then choose a (local folder) location. Example:
Documents opened directly from an external or flash drive may be also flagged as unsafe since the location is not on the computer's drive. While you can enable editing then save back to that device*, it is not recommended. Those should be used only for backing up to, not live editing.
Word, Excel and most apps create a temporary file at the same location as the original. If the device is nearly full, you will have problems saving.
If the device is used for backups, your saved file may be overwritten during the backup process.
*Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are a little different than a simple external drive. NAS devices act as a "server" on your network and are the ideal way to store and share data in an office situation. But Word, Excel, etc., may complain about the location until you add that device (location) to the "Trust Center."
Outlook (application) hung?
Referring to the installed Office version. Depending on the size of your data file (number of messages stored), Outlook may become very busy archiving and will appear to be hung. Check the statusbar before jumping to conclusions. If it is archiving or performing some other operation, be patient.
Titlebar (top) Statusbar (bottom)
ALWAYS question EVERYTHING!
Here's an email sent to us from one of our customers. Everything looked (kind of) ok at least until we hovered over the Click Here button to see the true destination of that link. It is not OneDrive.
If you use a web based email, the destination may or may not appear when hovering. If not, you could right click the link, Copy (not open) the link, then paste it to a Notepad session to see the true destination.
Yes, one more step but better safe...
Have an Android? Did you download/install "colourblock"? If so, you have a problem! See this ZDNet article.
If you need to reinstall Windows 10, you can download the ISO (installer) from Microsoft.
If you are using, or going to use, Windows bitlocker to encrypt your hard drive and files, heed the sound advice from ZDNet: make multiple backups of the key!
Why paper password storage is (still) better than online: OneLogin password storage hit by hackers.
Using the 10-digit phone number (no spaces, dashes or other characters), you can send text messages via email assuming you know the recipient's carrier...
- T-Mobile: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Virgin Mobile: email@example.com
- Cingular: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sprint: email@example.com
- Verizon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject lines are ignored and you are (still) limited to the 160 characters so be sure to remove any "signature" lines, images, etc...
Another politician saying something just to look favorable. ‘Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment,’ Portland mayor says. He’s wrong. The article.
Perhaps the stupidest thing the government has done yet: US visa applicants will have to provide Twitter handles, Facebook username and any other online identity used over the past five years.
Well, maybe not the stupidest, remember these? In no particular order...
- Operation Fast and Furious
- Chemist's war of Prohibition
- The Trail of Tears
- Dred Scott decision
- Internment camps
- Cash for Clunkers
- Common Core
- No Child Left Behind
- DREAM Act
- This list of course, goes on and on...
- $283,500 on Department of Defense bird-watching
- $48,500 to write about Russian smokers
- $406,419 to look at a “chicken and egg” problem
- $3.1 billion on vacation for federal employees placed on administrative leave
- $5,000 for a documentary film about Madison County, North Carolina’s best fiddler
- $150,000 to understand why politics stress us out
- $65,473 to figure out what bugs do near a light bulb
- $35,000 for solar-powered beer
- $15,000 spent on collecting human urine
- $5 million spent on crystal stemware for the U.S. State Department
- $2 billion to federal employees due to the 16-day partial government shutdown
- This list also goes on and on...
Any wonder why we're $20 TRILLION in debt?
According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. But here's a weird coincidence (or is it?)
Sources and other things we find interesting:
Leaving you with
Thanks for all the help over these years, Jeff...