The screen-keyboard is a useful Windows feature on some occasions, e.g if you want to find out if it's the new keyboard's drivers that suddenly make your machine crash, or when you just need to unplug your keyboard for other reasons.
However it can happen that, if you turn on the screen-keyboard a few times on the login screen, it will stick to the desktop and open up every time you log in (be it a bug or adapted behavior). This is annoying if you just unplugged your keyboard to test stuff.
But fortunately we can turn that behavior off easily in the Control Panel:
Open it up and go to the Ease of Access section. Under Explore all settings, click on Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard:
Now uncheck the Use On-Screen Keyboard check-box under Type using a pointing device:
Click OK to save the settings and you're done!
BitLocker is a handy tool that comes with the Enterprise and Ultimate Editions of Windows Vista and 7 and is also available in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (to say in what editions of Windows 8 it will be present is not yet possible since the number and form of editions have not been revealed yet).
As the name suggests its functionality is to lock things, drives, to be more specific. You can assign BitLocker to encrypt a whole device with a password by just right-clicking it and selecting Turn on BitLocker.... A wizard opens that let's you choose a password or insert a SmartCard whose PIN will be used for encryption. After the wizard finishes and the drive is removed, it will have to be unlock by the given means to be used again.
Be careful if you use BitLocker on removable drives! BitLocker encrypted drives can only be used on Windows system. Plugging it into a Linux box will give you nothing but a bunch of executables and other cryptic files.
If you happen to forget your password, BitLocker gives you the option to export a recovery key before the encryption of your drive. This is a text file containing a code similar to a serial code and can be used to retrieve data behind a forgotten password.
To decrypt a drive, just enter the password, right-click the drive and choose the appropriate option.
In the time you used your current Windows 7 system you undoubtly have plugged in a lot of different USB devices into your computer, most of them never to be used on it again. You will have notices that for every different device, Windows comes up with a message telling you that it automatically installs all drivers needed to use it.
That is perfectly alright, but what if you won't use the device ever again? The drivers will remain on your hard disk in case you still need it. This is not optimal for two reasons - first: in no time, you will have a massive amount of drivers for different USB devices installed; second: drivers may be out of date the time you use your device again, even if you use it frequently.
Therefore, there is an option to uninstall or update your USB device drivers manually. Open a command prompt by searching for cmd and enter:
This will set an environmental variable which can also be seen in Control Panel > System and Security > System > Advanced system settings > Environment Variables.... Afterwards, enter
to open the device manager. This can also be done by right clicking Computer and choosing Manage, the device manager will be in the left column.
In the device manager menu, click View and enable Show hidden devices. If you now expand Universal Serial Bus controllers (USB) you will most likely have a bunch of transparent entries, which are all non present and/or hidden devices.
By right-clicking them, you can remove or upgrade their drivers if you need to. This can also be done will any other driver on the device manager and is rather useful for corrupted drivers, is to be handled with care however. If you don't precisely know if you just selected a system component for uninstallment, better don't do it.
ReadyBoost is a Windows feature that uses USB sticks or other flash drives such as SD cards to "speed up your computer". However the concrete use is not to add the device's memory to your RAM but to use fast accessible devices as cache storage.
Because of this fact, there are certain conditions that have to be met. The first of course is that you use a flash drive with high reading-rates and access times. If these are lower than those of your hard drive, it will give you nothing. The second is, that you do not turn off your computer every time you complete your work - if you do so every evening, the cache on your flash drive will not even get the chance to properly build up to be used before you shut the computer down. The better choice is to hibernate your computer.
Hibernation is disabled by default on many computers and is not available in the shutdown menu. You can circumvent this however by entering the following into an elevated command prompt (search for cmd, right-click it and Run as administrator):
powercfg -H on
Afterwards right-click on your desktop and create a new shortcut pointing to shutdown.exe /h. Using this shortcut will cause your machine to go into hibernated state (your computer does not use any power here - it just saves the state the current programs are in and cleans the RAM cache, they are restored to that state after turning on the machine again. This happens using a large file where the states are stored in).
Upon hibernating, the flash cache will not be deleted and hence unfolds its use over time.
Another important issue is writing on drives and the defragmentation of drives. The more you write on the drive, the more the flash cache has to be changed - this can result in lower efficiency. If you also defragment the drive, you damage your cache even more - at some point it will become ineffective. Do that only before you choose to completely restart or shutdown your computer (turn off auto defragmentation if you have such things enabled by some kind of software!). Of course, trying to defragment the flash cache will make it unusable.
If you have everything prepared, insert your flash device into the machine. On the what-to-do-with-it prompt, choose Speed up my system using Windows ReadyBoost. Remember not to defragment, restart or shutdown the machine to be able to fully use the device.
Now if you have a decent amount of cache on your flash drive and requests are send to open something, the RAM cache is the first location to look at - if there is nothing there but on your ReadyBoosted drive, the computer will calculate whether it is faster to get the files from your cache or from your hard drive - this is the way ReadyBoost actually can make your machine faster and it has nothing to do with increasing RAM or similar issues.
The Windows 7 Aero desktop theme can cost you quite a lot of performance, which is why you might consider disabling it. To do so, open the Control Panel and select Appearance and Personalization:
Next go to Change the theme and scroll down to Windows Classic:
Facebook has become a popular way for communication, but is still quite unhandy because it requires a full browser window to be properly visible. To circumvent this problem you can install Facebook Explorer into your Windows 7 Sidebar and let the new messages be indicated right on your desktop:
You can download Facebook Explorer here: http://buildagadget.com/wsg-fb-explorer/
Facebook Explorer grants you access to all major and frequently used functions of facebook like messaging,notifications, liking and commenting.
Since there are many people out there who frequently use twitter to stay up to date on news or in touch with people, a lot of gadgets have come up to speed up the use of twitter by sticking it to the desktop. One of those is Sidechirp, which adopts many functions of the actual twitter homepage, like viewing tweets and your personal messages, posting new tweets and following trends:
Download Sidechirp here: http://buildagadget.com/wsg-sidechirp/
System Control is the right gadget if you are looking for functionality on low space use - it combines buttons for the regular system commands such as shutdown and restart, but also task manager, command-prompt, control panel, screen saver, run and additionally lets you set a timer to execute the available commands at a certain time:
Furthermore, System Control appeals with its high level of customisation. Download on http://buildagadget.com/wsg-system-control/.
To install Windows Powershell 2.0 on an XP machine, you must have Windows XP Service Pack 3 installed. Powershell is included in the Windows Management Framework which you can download at support.microsoft.com/kb/968929:
Now scroll down until you find some links listed in the More Information section:
Pick the appropriate one for your Windows system and install it after downloading. To use powershell you need to open a new command line prompt and enter powershell.
If you have gotten yourself a Windows 7 trial of any edition and it is about to expire, but you need more time to use it for whatever reason, there is a cmd command that allows you to extend the trial by resetting the remaining number of days to the one it was in the beginning. This can only be done three times and will be disabled afterwards. To see how many days of your trial are left, right-click Computer and select Properties:
To extend the time to use the trial open a command prompt by running cmd via Run... and enter following:
The command is only working if the value of SkipRearm in the Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SoftwareProtectionPlatform Windows Registry key is set to 0.