8 Tips to Deep-Clean Your Android Phone

Does your Android phone feel sluggish? Is the camera refusing to take pictures because there’s no more space to save them? Or maybe you’ve had to resort to a one-in-one-out policy when it comes to downloading new apps.

A deep-clean could be the solution. Whether your phone sports 16GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage, it can be all too easy to fill it up, especially if you’ve migrated app data and settings from an older phone. Restoring a full backup of your device (to see if you’re backing up, check Settings > Backup & reset > Back up my data) minimizes the setup required when upgrading to a shiny new phone — but it can mean that you end up dragging along apps and data you no longer need.

Even if you’ve started afresh, photos can be another common storage hog. Not only are smartphones the de facto recorder of life’s moments, they also collect all the images and videos you receive from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and image files created in scanner apps, for example. All these images are saved to your device — but with Google’s generous photo upload policy (unlimited lower-resolution uploads for all Google users; unlimited full-res uploads for Pixel and Nexus users), it’s hardly necessary. Anytime you have an internet connection, you can view every photo you’ve ever uploaded via the Google Photos app.

Downloaded files from emails and web browsing can make sneaky demands on those GBs too, and if you’ve been using your phone for a while, it may be overstuffed with fragments of app data — cached files that apps create while they run to help keep operation smooth and slick.

Expunging unneeded apps, photos and other files from your phone is a must when you’re running low on storage, and can even provide a sizeable boost in performance. Here’s how to get started with your Android deep-clean:

The basics

1. Identify the biggest storage-hungry culprits.

Like laptops, smartphones use a solid-state drive for storage, and maxing out this drive can slow down performance (here’s a technical explanation of why). Tests have suggested that using no more than 75% of total storage of computer solid-state drives helps with performance. If sluggishness has been an issue, aim to delete enough files so you’re under that benchmark.

Head into Settings > Storage where you can see what percentage of your total storage you’ve used, and what types of apps are eating it up.

Photos often take up the most space, so if you haven’t already, here you can enable Smart Storage, which backs up photos and videos that are over 30, 60 or 90 days old to the Google Photos cloud service. This option means you can delete photos from your device, but still view them via the Google Photos app, whenever you have an internet connection. For Pixel and Nexus phones, doing this is a particular no-brainer as you get unlimited full-resolution photo uploads in Google Drive; for users of other Android phones who have enabled unlimited lower-resolution backups, it’s worth noting that this option will delete your full-resolution originals (from your device) unless you back them up somewhere else first (like an external hard drive or a photo sharing service such as Flickr, which offers 1TB of free storage).

Note: Deleting photos directly from the Photos app removes them from everywhere even if you’ve selected auto-backup — see below for how to delete backed up images and videos from your device only.

2. Free up space (easily).

An easy place to start is by deleting downloads, infrequently used apps and backed up photos and videos. For those running Android 8.0 Oreo, it’s as easy as going to Settings > Storage and tapping on “Free up space.” If your phone is running Android 7.0 Nougat (or earlier — which you shouldn’t be, because you should always install software updates) you’ll need to address each separately.

Since your photos and videos are backed up to Google Drive, deleting them doesn’t affect your ability to view them on your phone, as long as you have an internet connection. Go ahead and check these for deletion — I last reclaimed a pretty hefty 5GB of space. For Android 7, open the Photos app (not the Samsung Gallery if you have a Samsung phone) select Menu > Free up space.

Downloaded files can accumulate through email attachments or PDFs you open while web browsing. Here you can view a list of downloads in order of size, then delete what you don’t need. You may not claw back more than a hundred MB from download files, but go ahead and delete them anyway — every byte counts. For Android 7, go to the Downloads app, sort the files by size and then touch and hold to bring up the option to delete the file.

Infrequently used apps can easily build up on your Android phone too — whether you’ve migrated some outdated apps from a previous phone or you download apps on a tablet or web browser that remotely turn up on your phone too. Happily, here in “Free up space,” you’ll be shown which apps haven’t been used in at least 90 days — which may not mean you don’t want them, so run through the list before hitting delete. For Android 7, go to Settings > Applications > Application Manager and you’ll see a list of apps. If any don’t look familiar, tap and then select “Uninstall.”

Note: You can check “Free up space” regularly to see if there are photos or downloads you can quickly and easily delete with little impact.

3. Check to see what other types of apps and files are taking up a lot of space.

The storage manager also shows how much space various categories of apps take up compared with others. Do you have a ton of games, music apps or movie/TV apps? If so, tap on the category and run your eye down the list. Are many apps performing similar functions? If so, you could delete some of them. If you know which apps you want to delete, head into Settings > Apps and notifications > Show all apps for Android 8 (or Settings > Applications > Application Manager for Android 7), then tap the apps in question and hit uninstall.

If you need a little more inspiration for deletion, you can see which apps are getting the least playtime — and are therefore the ripest candidates for deletion — by heading to Play Store > top-left menu > My apps & games. Sort by “Alphabetical” in the top-right to filter by “Last used,” and head to the bottom of the list to check for underused apps, especially if they eat up more MBs than their neighbors. To delete an app, tap to open, then hit uninstall.

4. Manage music and podcasts.

If you use Google’s Play Music app for streaming music and podcasts, you may have inadvertently selected to download purchased or uploaded music to your device, or allowed the app to automatically download the three most recent episodes of subscribed podcasts.

That might mean you have a ton of media on your device that doesn’t really need to be there — after all, if you’re in a Wi-Fi or 4G zone you’ll have access to the tunes. Or, you may have doubles of particular songs if they appear in various collections. (Of course, if you’re embarking on a 12-hour plane journey, go ahead and keep these on your device.)

You can see how much storage space music and podcasts are taking up in Play Music > Settings > Downloading > Manage downloads, where you’ll also see how this compares to the storage usage of other apps. To clear out these downloads, tap on Music Library > Songs and manually delete song by song (or podcast episode).

To prevent future auto-downloads, in the Play Music app, head to Settings > Downloading and disable the setting.


You’ll most likely still have various bits of digital flotsam that have escaped the wide net cast above — this next stage is about streamlining the files that are saved to storage.

5. Sort out your photos.

In Photos, hit the top left menu and select “Device Folders,” where you’ll see categories such as Screenshots, WhatsApp images, videos and gifs, Instagram pictures and other image files created in your various apps. You can delete folders here — for example, you probably don’t need to save all your WhatsApp gifs or items scanned on Office Lens — by tapping on the folder, then the top-right menu (or selecting All in Android 7 and tapping the trash icon). Here you can also turn off syncing to Google Photos; though they won’t count against your storage if they are less than 20MP image (which they should be), for the sake of a tidy cloud folder, screenshots probably don’t need to be backed up, for example. A cloud with a line through it indicates a folder is not being synced (and therefore if you delete it here, it’s gone forever). So make sure you sync your photos and videos before you purge them off of your phone.

6. Delete old offline maps.

Google Maps’ offline feature can be a godsend for navigating abroad without incurring roaming charges. However, those saved maps of Paris or Casablanca could be contributing to your phone’s dwindling storage. Open Google Maps and tap the top-left menu button to view — and delete — offline maps of places you’re no longer in.

7. Empty app cache or app data.

In the course of operation, apps create cache files — bits of data created as you use an app in order to make the app run faster. Depending on how much you use an app, cached files can build up to quite a size — but, thankfully, they can safely be deleted.

Head to Settings > Storage > Other apps to see a list of your downloaded apps (excluding music, games, and movie/TV apps) sorted by the amount of storage they take up. Click on the ones using the most storage to see how much of that is taken up by cached files. You can then click on “Clear cache,” which can help with storage issues as well as improve sluggish performance — for example, my Instagram cache took up nearly 1.4GB while the app itself took up under 100MB. If you’re using Android 7, you can clear all app cache data at once in Settings > Storage > Cached data.

If the phone is having performance issues — or if an app is glitching — you might even hit “Clear Data” on especially bloated apps, which essentially resets the app as if you had just downloaded it. You would then need to sign in again and any saved progress in the app (such as with a game) might be lost unless the app is saving data to the cloud (such as with Instagram — you could clear app data in Instagram without losing photos).

The nuclear option

The ultimate deep-clean, of course, cleans all of it out: your photos, apps, data and settings.

8. Do a factory reset.

With so many apps, including the photos and contacts book, capable of syncing to the cloud, this isn’t as explosive a nuclear option as it might be in a computer deep-clean — and it can be the best way to clear the junk from your Android trunk in one fell swoop, while potentially bringing your phone back to its early-days speed.

Resetting your phone means you can then cherry-pick the apps you want to reinstall. Check in Settings > System > Backup > App data that you’ve enabled Automatic restore so that when reinstalling these apps, their data and settings are preserved. (Alternately, you might disable this setting if some apps were glitching — a fresh install might sort out in-app performance issues.)

Finally, head to Settings > System > Reset options > Factory reset — and enjoy your spiffy like-new phone.

Stokes, Natasha. “8 Tips to Deep-Clean Your Android Phone” Techlicious, Phones & Mobile, Tips & How-To’s, March 7, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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5 Easy Ways to Keep you Cybersecure at Work

Here are some no-excuses tips that will protect your business devices from malware and data breaches.

For every business, it’s not a matter of “if” you will experience an attempted cyber attack or breach, but “when,” security experts warn. And despite an increasingly sophisticated cyberthreat landscape, organizations are failing to proactively update their security defenses: 46% of IT professionals and business leaders said that their organization’s security strategy rarely changes substantially, even after suffering a cyberattack, according to a recent report.

Even if your company doesn’t have the strongest cybersecurity measures in place, there are still things that employees can do to keep their individuals’ devices as secure as possible and protect both their data and that of any clients.

Here are five easy tips for keeping yourself cybersecure at work.

1. Be extremely wary of links and downloads received via email

“Lot of attacks happen today over email, and the attackers often use social engineering as the first step of a compromise attempt,” said Engin Kirda, professor of computer science at Northeastern University.

If you can, avoid clicking on any link that you receive via email, Kirda said. “If you need to check a link, if you use an anonymous proxy site to open that link, the risk of an infection would be reduced,” he added.

Attachments are also how infections get into your system, Kirda said. Loading attachments like PDFs or Word documents into Google Drive first and opening them there reducing your chance of getting infected, he added.

2. Take caution when installing apps

Be very careful installing anything new on your work or home machine, Kirda said. “Some ‘open source’ applications that are free might be bundled with Spyware,” he added.

3. Update everything regularly

Updating all of your systems regularly is key for staying cyber secure, Kirda said. Failing to update systems and software has led to a number of major breaches and attacks—including the Equifax breach—and excuses for failing to update must become a thing of the past.

4. Protect your home devices

If your home device is compromised, it puts your professional life at risk, according to Forrester principal analyst Jeff Pollard.

If your company offers home security products as a part of your employee benefits package, sign up for them, Pollard recommended. “The big security software players will often offer companies the option to offer employees anti-malware software for their home laptops and desktops,” he said. “Since so many of us log in, check email, and open attachments from work on non-work devices this makes lots of sense.”

5. Avoid reusing passwords

Making sure you don’t use the same passwords for different work and personal accounts is one way to limit your exposure to cyberthreats, Pollard said.

However, choosing complex passwords that you can actually remember and not reuse is difficult, he added. “A password manager—either an app on the endpoint or a browser plugin—is a great way to avoid the habit of repeatedly using easy to guess passwords,” Pollard said.

DeNisco Rayome, Alison. “5 Easy Ways to Keep Yourself Cybersecure at Work,” TechRepublic March 7, 2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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11 First Sentences That Guarantee the Rest of Your Email Won’t Get Read

Even if your intentions are professional and sincere.

Imagine you get this email. You don’t know the sender, but you open it anyway. How long would you keep reading?

Dear Jeff,

I hope you’re having a great President’s Day! I definitely am. Even though I’m spending a little time at work right now, I plan to spend at least part of the day having fun with friends. We’re going snowboarding. I can’t wait!”

​”I am writing to ask if you would be interested in…

Would you keep reading? Generally speaking, would you even have made it to the second paragraph? I know: The sender was trying to establish rapport. But still — do you care about the President’s Day plans of someone you don’t know?

Nope. Instead you were thinking, “Clearly you want something. Can you please get to it?”

Now imagine you get this email:

We would love to have you on our show to talk about your book. Our podcast regularly appears in the top 10 of ‘What’s Hot’ in the Business category of Apple Podcasts…

Would you keep reading? I know I did.

Here’s the thing. We all get cold emails, and we’re all incredibly good at sniffing out boilerplate openings and forced friendliness. Even if we do keep reading, canned openings negatively impact our impression of what is to come — and make it much less likely we’ll respond positively to the actual message of the email.

Think I’m wrong? Tell me how many times you’ve seen the following opening lines in an email and still kept reading.

“I thought I would circle back …”

Yes, because I didn’t respond the first time you emailed. But why will I respond this time… especially when the rest of your email is just copied and pasted from your original email?

In the same vein, this won’t work either:

“In case you missed this …”

Maybe I did miss this.

Or maybe I wasn’t interested.

Occasionally the recipient may have missed your original email. But know the person you’re targeting. If it’s someone who gets dozens of unsolicited emails a day, like, say, Tim Ferriss, then his lack of response doesn’t mean he missed it. He didn’t respond because he gets too many emails to respond to each one individually. If he’s interested, he’ll respond.

And just in case he really did miss it, find a more creative way to send another email. “In case you missed this” only ensures that even if he does see your second email, he’s not going to read it.

And that’s also true for:

“I’m just following up …”

Occasionally a follow-up is warranted. If I said I would do something, and I haven’t, by all means, please follow up. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I sometimes do forget.

But if you’re just “following up,” or “circling back,” or finding out if the recipient “missed this,” find a more creative opening line.

Look at what you wrote in the first email. In all likelihood it was benefit-driven — foryou. Find a way to benefit the recipient. Always give, long before you hope to receive.

“I hope this finds you well.”

I get this one at least four times a day. While I appreciate the sentiment, I immediately think two things. I first wonder when Dickensian greetings came back into vogue. But more important, “I hope this finds you well” screams “We don’t know each other.”

And while every new friendship has to start somewhere, “I hope this finds you well” is unlikely to be the place.

That’s also true for:

“I hope you had a great weekend.”

Fine if it comes from a friend (even though none of my friends ever open an email that way). Otherwise it’s just forced friendliness. Asking “How was the Rolex 24?” shows you know me personally. Asking “How is your next book coming?” shows you know me professionally.

Granted, “I hope you had a great weekend” is an attempt to be friendly. But really: Do you expect people to respond? Do you really want to know about their weekend? Nah. What you really care about is how they respond to the meat of your email.

In time, some professional relationships do also become personal. But when the initial contact is through email, the relationships always starts as a professional one. Work to establish that first. Then a friendship might follow.

But not if you pretend that we’re already friends.

“You might be surprised to learn …”

No, I won’t be, because I won’t read the rest of your email. Like fake friendliness, interest-starters feel canned and forced. If I might be surprised, shoot, go ahead and surprise me with your opening line.

The same is true for:

“Did you know …?”

Granted, asking a question can be a way to engage readers. But not in the opening line of an email since what we all do know is that whatever you claim we don’t know is something you will then solve for us, probably for a fee.

“Did you know” and, “You might be surprised to learn” are clear signals that a sales pitch is coming. Maybe that’s not your intent — but we’ll assume it is.

And a couple quick ones:

“My name is …”

I already knew that. Your name appears in the sender field.

“I would like to introduce myself …”

Sometimes introducing yourself first is OK, but in most cases the best approach is to say what you can do for the recipient (or what you want) first.

Then, if we’re interested, we’ll be willing to check out whether you’re the right person to provide it (or are someone we want to help).

“I know you’re really busy …”

This is always followed by “but …” (which is a lot like saying, “I know this is going to hurt your feelings, but …”), Acknowledging a situation and then choosing to ignore that situation is an off-putting way to start.

Instead, respect the recipient’s time by getting to the point: The less fluff, the better.

“I want to ask a quick favor.”

At least in my experience, a “quick favor” never turns out to be quick. And neither does the ask itself.

Here’s a better way to do it. I recently received this one-line email:

Daniel Coyle’s new book is about high performance teams, I would love to have him on my podcast, and I’m hoping you can connect us.

He clearly knows I know Dan, and the name of the podcast was in the sender’s sig. Easy ask, and I always try to help out people I know, so I forwarded his email to Dan with one line: “Want me to connect you guys?” (I don’t share people’s email addresses without asking.)

Dan said yes. That’s the kind of favor I’m happy to do.

But if the email had led with something like, “I am hoping you will do a quick favor for me. My name is John Doe, and in addition to running Acme Industries I am also the host of …”

Nope. Probably not — because I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it long enough to get to the good stuff.

And that, ultimately, is the point. Your may have great intentions. You may mean extremely well. You may only be trying to be friendly, courteous, and professional.

But if you start your emails with opening lines like the ones above, most people will assume the worst — not the best.

Find a different way to be friendly, courteous, and professional — especially if you want your emails to actually be read.

Haden Jeff. “11 First Sentences That Guarantee the Rest of Your Email Won’t Get Read” March 2018

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14 Hacks to Improve Your Google Searches

In the 20 years since Google was founded, it’s grown into one of the biggest companies on earth—but its original purpose, search, is still as relevant as ever. How many times a day do you type a few words into that search bar and click on a result? For most of us, the answer is dozens, if not hundreds.

For a product that’s used so frequently, there’s a lot Google can do that you might not know about. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up tricks to help you get the most out of Search, from simple tricks for narrowing down your results to more advanced methods for finding hidden files and pages online.


You probably alread know some or all of thes, but it’s worth going over the basics in case you don’t.  If you’re searching for a specific series of words, like a quote, just put those words in quotation marks (e.g. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”) Alternatively, if you want ot rule out any search results that include a certain word, just add a minus sign beofe that word (e.g. “Martin Luther King -quotes.”) You can also search for results from a specific website with the format “” – or whatever you are looking for.


Google’s image search is a great tool for finding photos online, but you can also use it to learn more about a picture you’ve already found. Just right click on the image and select “Search Google for Image.” Google will offer up a definition of whatever you’re looking at, along with other web pages that use that image and a few relevant links.


If you’re searching for a specific quote but you can’t remember one of the words, just put an asterisk in its place. That tells Google there’s a word missing so you get the best results. This also works for song lyrics or article headlines that you can’t quite remember.


Adding a capitalized AND or OR to your search can help narrow down your results as well, thanks to a method called Boolean Search. Putting an AND in your search between two words makes it clear that you want to see results with both of those terms included. Meanwhile, using OR will tell Google you only want to see links that include one of those two words.


If you’re looking at a specific website or article and want to find more information on the same subject, just add “related:” right before the URL. This works for general sites (e.g.


If you’re searching for numeric results inside a specific range, there’s an easy way to do that in Google. Just put two period marks in between the two numbers. It works with basic numbers (1..10), dates (1960..1970), financial figures ($500..$1000), and other units of measurement (40..50 miles per gallon).


You can narrow your search results to a specific part of a web page with a few different commands. To focus exclusively on headlines, just add “allintitle:” before your search. You can also do the same for body text (“allintext:”) or the web address (“allinurl:”).


If the website or article you’re looking for no longer exists online, you can still use Google to track it down. Just click on the small downward facing arrow next to the URL in your search results and select “Cached.” That will pull up an archived version of the site.


If you’re looking for an older article that was never posted online, Google has a whole separate site set up for just that. Head to to look through scanned copies of old newspapers and search for specific topics.


If you run a website or published an article online and you’re curious to see who’s sharing it, there’s an easy way to find out. Just copy the URL in question and paste it into Google’s search bar with quotations marks on either side. The results will reveal any other sites that are sharing your content.


To narrow your search to a specific part of the world, just add “location:texas” (or wherever you’re looking) to the end of your search. Google will also automatically factor in your current location if you’re looking for something like nearby restaurants, but this is a useful trick if you need to plan for an upcoming trip.


You can also use Google to search for certain types of files, like PDFs, audio files, and Powerpoint presentations. Just add “filetype:pdf” (or the extension for whatever type of file you’re looking for) to your search and Google will narrow down the results automatically.


Beyond helping you find the information you’re looking for, Google is also packed full of hidden surprises. Over the years, developers have added various Easter eggs into Search, and most of them are still there. Try searching “do a barrel roll” to make the screen spin around in an homage to Nintendo’s Starfoxgames. You can also search “zerg rush” to launch a minigame, and search “bubble level” on your phone to create a virtual level tool that actually works.


Google’s also added dozens of useful tools to show you information right from the results page. You can search “weather new york” (or wherever you are) to get a forecast. You can also ask Google for stock quotes, sports scores, sunset and sunrise times, word translations, definition, movie showtimes, currency or unit conversions, and your public IP address. Google even has a widget to help you search for plane tickets, a built-in calculator, stopwatch, and countdown timer.

Kleinman, Jacob, “14 Hacks to Improve Your Google Searches” March 5, 2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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iOS 11 Tips & Tricks You Need to Know Right Now

iOS 11 is officially out, which means you can install it on your iPhone and iPad right now to experience some of the things Apple has been working on. If you’ve already tried the beta, then you’ve probably discovered all the secrets of iOS 11. If you’re experiencing it for the first time, however, you should know that many things are changed, while others are just hidden.

Control Center
Swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and there’s a new Control Center. It has a new design and comes with 3D Touch support. But the best part about it is that you can customize it to fit your needs. Customize Control Center from the Settings app.

Clearing Notification

Clear all notifications with a tap. Yes, you can, just hold onto that X until the Clear All Notifications menu appears.

Drag and Drop

iOS 11 does drag and drop. The feature shines on iPad, but you can also use it on iPhone in select apps including the Notes and Camera apps.


Annotate screenshots

You can now instantly annotate screenshots before sharing them. No longer will you have to open them in a different app to do it. Just click on the screenshot thumbnail in the lower right corner after you take one, and annotate it. Share it, and you can then delete it immediately from the same interface.

Indoor Maps

When your walking, Apple Maps will help you not get lost while walking in certain locations like airports.

Screen Recording

It’s finally here. Screen Recording is a great new addiiton to iOS 11, and it all “just works” directly from the Control Center.

I hope you find these tips useful!

Smith, Chris. The iOS 11 hidden tricks you absolutely need to learn right now” BGR

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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7 Ways to Bypass Android’s Secured Lock Screen

If you somehow forgot the pattern, PIN, or password that locks your Android device, you might think you’re out of luck and are destined to be locked out forever. These security methods are hard to crack by design, but in many cases, it’s not entirely impossible to break into a locked device.

There are several different ways to hack a locked Android smartphone or tablet, but unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all method. So below, I’ll go over 7 of the most effective methods, and hopefully one will help you get back into your device.

Use Google’s ‘Find My Device’ Website

For most Android phones and tablets, a built-in service called “Find My Device” is your best bet. As long as you’re logged into your Google account, you can use any device or computer to access the service, which is available at this link.

From our testing, we’ve noticed that this method does not work on Android 8.0 or higher. But as long as your phone is running Android 7.1.1 Nougat or lower, it should do the trick.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, start by clicking the “Lock” button once Find My Device gets a fix on your phone. If the service is having trouble finding your device, click the refresh button next to your phone’s name a few times, and it should make the connection within 5 attempts if your phone is compatible.

After clicking the “Lock” button, you’ll be prompted to enter a new password, which will replace the pattern, PIN, or password that you forgot. Type the new password twice to confirm your choice, then click the “Lock” button.

From here, it can take up to 5 minutes for the password to change over, but when it does, you should be able to enter the new password to unlock your device.

Use Samsung’s ‘Find My Mobile’ Service

If you have a Samsung device, a similar service called Find My Mobile should be the first thing you try. Start by heading to this link from any web browser, then log into your Samsung account. If you never set up a Samsung account, this method will not work, unfortunately. Also, some carriers, like Sprint, lock out this service, which is something to keep in find.

Once you’ve logged into your Samsung account, click the “Lock my screen” button in the left-hand pane. From here, enter a new PIN in the first field, then click the “Lock” button near the bottom of the screen. Within a minute or two, your lock screen password should be changed to the PIN you just entered, which you can use to unlock your device.

Use the ‘Forgot Pattern’ Feature

If your device is running Android 4.4 or lower, try using the “Forgot Pattern” feature. After 5 failed unlock attempts, you’ll see a message that says “Try again in 30 seconds.” While this message is showing, tap the button at the bottom of the screen that says “Forgot Pattern.”

From here, choose “Enter Google account details” (depending on your device, you may go directly to this option), then enter your primary Gmail account and password. Google will either send you an email with your unlock pattern, or you can change it right then and there.

Perform a Factory Reset

If you’re more concerned with getting into your phone than you are with preserving any data stored on it, a factory reset should work in many scenarios. But due to a new anti-theft feature called Factory Reset Protection, you’ll need to know your Google account password to use this method if the phone was released in 2016 or later.

The process will vary depending on your device type, but for most phones, start by powering the device completely off. When the screen goes black, press and hold the volume down and power buttons simultaneously, which will bring up Android’s bootloader menu. From here, press the volume down button twice to highlight the “Recovery mode” option, then press the power button to select it.













Next, hold the power button down and tap the volume up button once, then your phone should enter recovery mode. From here, use the volume buttons to highlight the “Wipe data/factory reset” option, then press the power button to select it. When the process is finished, select the “Reboot system now” option and you should no longer be locked out of your phone.

If it’s a newer phone, you’ll be prompted to log in with the Google account and password that were previously used on the device before it was reset. As long as you know this information (and you should), it’s just a matter of logging back into your Google account to regain access to your phone at this point.

Use ADB to Delete the Password File

This next option will only work if you’ve previously enabled USB debugging on your phone, and even then, it will only work if you’ve allowed the computer you’re using to connect via ADB. But if you meet those requirements, it’s a perfect way to unlock your device. However, note that models with encryption enabled by default may not be compatible with this workaround.

Start by connecting your phone to your computer with a USB data cable, then open a command prompt window in your ADB installation directory. From here, type the following command, then hit Enter.

Next, reboot your phone and the secure lock screen should be gone, allowing you to access your phone. But this is only temporary, so make sure to set a new pattern, PIN, or password before you reboot again.

Boot into Safe Mode to Bypass Third-Party Lock Screen

If the lock screen you’re trying to bypass is a third-party app rather than the stock lock screen, booting into safe mode is the easiest way to get around it.

For most phones, you can boot into safe mode by bringing up the power menu from the lock screen, then long-pressing the “Power off” option. From here, choose “OK” when asked if you’d like to boot into safe mode, and when the process finishes, your third-party lock screen app will be temporarily disabled. From here, simply clear data on the third-party lock screen app or uninstall it, then reboot your phone to get back out of safe mode. When you get back up, the troublesome lock screen app should be gone.

Crash the Lock Screen UI

Finally, if your device is encrypted and running Android 5.0-5.1.1, there’s a way to get around the password lock screen. This method won’t work on any other type of secure lock screen, but it’s a lifesaver if you forgot your password.

First, tap the “Emergency Call” option on your lock screen, then use the dialer interface to enter 10 asterisks. From here, double-tap the field to highlight the entered text and choose “Copy,” then paste it into the same field to essentially double the amount of entered characters. Repeat this same process of copying and pasting to add more characters until double-tapping the field no longer highlights the characters.










Next, head back to the lock screen and open the camera shortcut. From here, pull down the notification shade and tap the Settings icon, then you’ll be prompted to enter a password. Long-press the input field and choose “Paste,” then repeat this process several more times. Eventually, after you’ve pasted enough characters into the field, your lock screen will crash, which will allow you to access the rest of your phone’s interface.










Thomas, Dallas. “Seven Ways to Bypass Android’s Secured Lock Screen” Gadget Hacks, Android, February 6, 2018

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You Need to Clean Up Your Chrome Extensions

Google’s adding some more security features to its Chrome browser, with the first changes rolling out to Windows users today. The update improves both Chrome and Google’s Chrome Cleanup Tool, which monitors extensions attempting to modify user settings like default search engines, along with malware designed to insert additional ads in your browser window. Perfect timing, considering the recent spate of Chrome extensions found collecting user data, impersonating more popular Chrome extensions, and even mining cryptocurrency without user consent.

The extensions in question took advantage of Chrome’s automated extension vetting process to sneak malicious code past the company and onto users’ computers. Extensions like the pop-up blocker SafeBrowse mined cryptocurrency using the processing power of Chrome users, while the Steam Inventory Helper extension (unaffiliated with Steam) used by gamers began monitoring user browsing habits after an update.

Google’s newest security update will now notify the user of changes made without their consent. If, for example, an extension changes your browser’s default search engine, Chrome will show you a pop-up asking if you’d like to restore your original engine of choice. The Chrome Cleanup Tool will monitor your downloads in Chrome and scan for malware or other unwanted software, removing it for you.

Get Rid of Useless Extensions

You’ve probably got more extensions installed than you realize. If you want to take a look at the ones you’ve accumulated over the years, head to your Chrome search bar and type “chrome://extensions” to bring up your list of installed extensions. You can also right click on any extension in your toolbar and select “Manage extensions” to bring up your list. There you’ll see both enabled and disabled extensions. To see what types of data they can access, click the Details link under each one. Not every extension can be modified, but some extensions will let you adjust a few settings through the Options link next to Details link.

Hide Rarely-Used Extensions

Some extensions run in the background, requiring little to no user interaction to do their job well. After installing the Reddit Enhancement Suite, for example, I took a few minutes to adjust my preferences and refreshed my Reddit page to see the much-needed interface adjustments take effect. I use it on a daily basis, but I don’t need to keep that icon in my toolbar, just sitting there, taking up space. Right-clicking an extension and selecting “Hide in Chrome menu” will remove the extension from your toolbar without installing it.

Vet the Ones You’re Keeping

No one is advocating that you get rid of every Chrome extension on your toolbar, especially those essential to your day-to-day browsing. Verifying an extension’s legitimacy takes time, but it isn’t impossible. Of course, extensions from popular companies (think Pocket, 1Password, or Evernote) should be considered pretty low risk, but most extensions are from smaller companies, or even individual developers trying to fix a problem like auto-playing videos or annoying pop-ups.

If you’re unsure of a certain extension’s trustworthiness, it helps to check the extension’s store page. Gauging the opinion of the web is also a viable option. When you visit a particular extension’s page, be sure to scroll through its description and note what types of data it needs to collect, as well as the quality and quantity of reviews. Search for the extension and see what people are saying or writing about it elsewhere, too. If the general consensus is positive, and the reviews seem legitimate, install away. If not, either avoid it entirely or look for alternatives.

Austin, Patrick Lucas. “You need to Clean up Your Chrome Extensions“, LifeHacker, Chrome October 2017

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Speed up Windows 10 for free: Tips for a faster PC​

It’s a common complaint: My Windows PC is running slow. Annoyingly slow. You can add RAM, or buy a faster SSD, but that costs money. No, your first order of business should be an attempt to wring free performance from Windows. In the following nine steps we show you how to speed up your Windows 10 PC without spending a dime.

Be warned: There could be trade-offs. More speed could mean less battery life in the case of a laptop, or you may have to give up a beloved program that’s bogging things down. You’ll have to decide what sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to make your Windows PC faster.

1. Give it the reboot

If your PC is behaving horribly slow, try rebooting. Yes, it’s an obvious solution, but people tend to forget the obvious.

The sleep or hibernate setting will save power, but only a full reboot clears out the cobwebs in Windows’ brain and gives it a fresh start. Do it every day if the PC is really slow.

2. Turn on High Performance

Windows assumes that you want an energy-efficient computer. But you can trade electricity for speed. Use this tip only if you’re willing to increase your electric bill and decrease your battery performance.

Right-click the Start button and in the resulting menu, select Power Options.

In the resulting Control Panel window, pull down the Show additional plans option. Select High performance.

You can speed up Windows with a simple selection in Control Panel.

Some low-end PCs, including my Lenovo Miix 310, don’t have those options.

3. Undo some appearance options

ugly 2

         You can speed up Windows by turning off some of its special effects.

Windows works hard to make the screen easy on the eyes.  If your PC is underpowered, you may want to sacrifice aesthetics and gain some speed.

Right-click Start, and select System. In the resulting Control Panel window’s left pane, select Advanced system settings.

This brings up the System Properties dialog box, already on the Advanced tab. Click the Settings button in the Performance box (the first of three “Settings” buttons on this tab).

This brings up another dialog box. You can uncheck some of the options, or simply select Adjust for best performance.

4. Remove unneeded autoloaders

A whole lot of programs want to load automatically every time you boot. Each one slows down the boot process, and some continue to slow down Windows afterwards.

These are not all bad. Your antivirus program should load when you boot and keep running as long as your PC is on. Other programs that need to run in the background to work, such as OneDrive, should also autoload.

But some programs—even good ones that you use frequently—don’t really need to run all the time. You don’t want to uninstall those, but you may want to stop them from autoloading.

The Task Manager can show you all the programs that load automatically at boot, and help you choose which ones to keep.

To see how bad the situation is, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the Startup tab. (If you don’t see any tabs at the top of the window, click More details in the lower-left corner.)

The Startup tab will show you all the autoloading programs. As you examine the list, think about what programs don’t really need to keep running at all times. To stop one from loading automatically, right-click its entry on the Startup tab and select Disable.

If you don’t recognize the name of an autoloader, right-click it and select Search online to help you find more information.

5. Stop hog processes

Your computer may be running a poorly written process that’s hogging a lot of resources. To find out, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. (Once again, if you don’t see any tabs at the top of the window, click More Details.)

hog processes

The Task Manager can also tell you what programs and processes are hogging your resources.

On the Processes tab, click the CPU column header to sort by processor usage. The top items will be the ones hogging the CPU. (If the top processes are all using 0%, the processes are sorted in the wrong direction. Click the column header again.)

Don’t assume that the top process is necessarily a hog. Some big applications are worth the CPU cycles. One way to manage these programs is to close them when you’re done with them. Another is to switch to a smaller program.

You can close a process from inside Task Manager. Select the process and click the End task button and confirm your decision. But this should be avoided.

When you’re done, click the Memory column header and repeat.

6. Turn off search indexing

When you search for a word across all the files in your Documents library, the results come up almost immediately. That’s wonderful, but it comes at a price. When you’re not searching, the indexing needed to create those fast searches slows you down.

To turn off all indexing:

1.   Open Windows Explorer, right-click your C: drive, and select Properties.

2.   On the General tab, uncheck Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties.

3.   In the resulting warning box, select Apply changes to drive C:\, subfolders and files.

indexing 1
You can easily turn off all indexing to speed up everything except searches.

Windows may take some time turning off the indexing. Get up and take a walk; it’s good for you.

There’s another option that will let you turn off some indexing but not all of it:

Type indexing in the Cortana field. Select Indexing Options. Click the Modify button near the lower-left side of the resulting dialog box.

This brings up another dialog box, with two sections. And yes, it’s confusing. Start in the bottom section of the dialog box, Summary of selected locations. Click any of these options, and it changes the contents of the top section, Change selected locations.

indexing 2
You can also select what to and not to index, although this can be confusing.

Unchecking items in that top section will stop indexing in those specific locations.

7. Turn off Windows tips

Windows 10 occasionally gives you tips about how you can better use the operating system. The problem is that, in order to see what tips you need, it keeps an eye on how you’re using your PC.

Yes, that sounds worrying from a privacy issue, but it also slows down your PC.

To turn it off, click Start > Settings. Select System, then select Notifications & actions in the left pane.

At the bottom of the Notifications section, turn off Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows.

windows tips
Windows Tips can help you learn to better use your PC, but they can also slow you down.

You might also want to explore the other notification options, and turn some of them off, as well. I don’t think any of the others slow down the PC, but they can get annoying.

8. Clean your internal drive

If your internal storage is almost full—whether it’s a hard drive or an SSD—that could be slowing you down. But if your drive has plenty of free room, skip this section.

disk cleanup
Windows’ Disk Cleanup tool and free up space on your drive, and thus maybe speed up your PC.

Start with Windows’ own Disk Cleanup tool. In the Cortana field, type disk and select Disk Cleanup.

Wait while Disk Cleanup examines your drive. Click the Clean up system files button (this time you’ll need an administrator password). Then wait again for another examination.

Examine the options. If you find one called Previous Windows installation(s), you’re in luck. By checking it and clicking OK, you’ll free up a lot of space. You can check other items to get rid of them, as well.

Something else you might want to consider: Uninstall programs you no longer use.

9. Check for Malware

I doubt an infection is intentionally slowing down your PC. There’s no illegal profits from that. Plus it’s a sure-fire way to trigger a victim’s suspicions.

But some malicious code could be slowing down your PC, even if that wasn’t the criminal’s intention. So if you’re suspicious, read Eric Geier and Josh Norem’s guide on how to remove malware from your Windows PC.

If after performing these tips, your PC still feels sluggish, it might be time to upgrade your hardware.

Spector, Lincoln. “Speed up windows 10 for free: Tips for a faster PC” PCWorld, Windows, January 23, 1018

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How to Format Your Tables in Microsoft Word

Your Word Tables can look better if you know how to properly format them.

You probably already know how to create tables in Microsoft Word. But formatting them is another matter. Formatting a table not only gives it the right look but can also make it easier to use. Maybe you’ve struggled with table formatting in the past, or perhaps you’d just like to learn all the different ways you can format a table. Your options abound in Word. You can create a table with a certain layout. You can apply border styles either to the whole table or to individual rows or columns. And you can give your table a snazzy new look by selecting an entire table style. Let’s go over the process for formatting tables in Microsoft Word.

As always, I’m using Word 2016 through my Office 365 subscription. But the process for formatting tables is similar across the past few versions of Word. Let’s start by launching Word with a blank new document. Click on the Insert ribbon and then click on the Table button. Word offers three ways to create a table. You can insert a table by moving your mouse cursor over a specific number of rows and columns in the field of squares. You can click on the Insert Table command and then enter the number of rows and columns you want. Or you can click on the Draw Table command and then draw your table with the right number of rows and columns. We’ll go with the first option to insert a table by hovering over a certain number of rows and columns and create a table with five rows and five columns.

After you’ve inserted your table, Word displays the Design ribbon where you can format your table. But we’ll add text to the cells first. We’re going to create a table showing certain recurring expenses. We’ll use the first row as a header row, meaning it will contain the header information for each column. Type the following five items, one in each cell of the header row: Groceries, Gas, Cell Phone, Utility, Internet. Then type dollar amounts in the other cells. Save the file.

The first thing we’ll do is autofit the cells so they’re only as wide as the content inside. You can do this a few ways. Double-click on one of the borders between two columns to autosize the column to the left. Select the table (to select the table, click on the table move handle in the upper left corner above the table) and then double-click one of the borders to resize all the cells in the table. Or right-click on the table move handle, move your mouse to the AutoFit command in the menu, and then click on the command to AutoFit to Contents. Let’s try the third option.

The width of each row shrinks to fit to the longest piece of content in any of its cells. Next, we want to play around with the borders of the table. Select the table by clicking the move handle. Click on the Border Styles button on the Design ribbon and choose a border style that you like. Click on the dropdown arrow for Line Style and choose a style for the border lines. Then click on the dropdown arrow for Line Weight and choose a line width. Click on the Borders button and move your mouse cursor to each border type to see how your table looks. You can choose top border, bottom border, all borders, outside borders, inside borders, and more. Let’s choose All Borders.

Okay, so the borders are the same across the entire table. Hmm, instead maybe you want the borders to be different throughout the table. Let’s create a different border for the outside of the table. Select the table. Click on the Border Styles button to choose a style. Click on the dropdown arrow for Line Style and choose a style for the border. Then click on the dropdown arrow for Line Weight and choose a line width. Click on the Borders button and select the option for Outside Borders.

Your outside borders adopt the new style while the inside borders stay the same. Now maybe you want to change borders just for the header row but not the top border, just the bottom and inside borders. To get that precise, you can paint the actual border you want. Again, click on the Border Styles button, the Line Style drowdown arrow, and then the Line Weight arrow to choose those attributes. No need to select the table ahead of time. Click on the Border Painter button on the Design ribbon. Your mouse cursor turns into paintbrush. Now just hold down your mouse button and drag over the borders that you want to take on the style you chose. We’ll paint the bottom border of the header row as well as that row’s inside borders.

When you’re done, click on the Border Painter button to turn off the paintbrush. Next, let’s apply a little shading to the table. Select the table and then click on the Shading button. Hover your mouse over the different colors in the palette. You can also click on the entry for More Colors to opt for a custom color. Click on the color you want to apply. The entire table takes on that shading. Next, maybe you want to apply shading but just to a specific row or column. Let’s take the header row. To select just the header row, move your mouse to the left of that row until the cursor turns into an arrow. Then click your mouse button to select that row. Now click on the Shading button again and hover over a specific color. Only your header row takes on that color. Click on the color to apply it.

Okay, you’ve gone through these steps to format your table a certain way. Maybe you like the formatting; maybe you don’t. One way to change all the formatting in one fell swoop is through a table style. The first thing you want to do at the Design toolbar is turn off the checkmark for First Column. You would leave that item turned on only if your first column is a header column, meaning it defines the other columns. The table we created doesn’t have a header column, so you should turn off the entry for First Column. Now hover over the different styles in the Table Style section on the Design ribbon. Click on the down arrow to see more styles and then the arrow with the horizontal line to see all the styles in one shot. Click on a style you like to apply it to your table.

From border styles to line styles to shading to table styles, Word offers a few ways to format your table. And you can always change the formatting as your table evolves so it looks just right.

Whitney, Lance. “How to Format Your Tables in Microsoft Word” Windows Secrets, Office January 30, 2018

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Disable those annoying browser notifications once & for all

You hate it as much as I do: that little box that appears whenever you visit a news site or blog, asking for permission to bug you with notification boxes for stuff you don’t care about. Instead of throwing up your hands in defeat and learning to live with the annoyance, you can stop sites from bothering you altogether. Here’s how.


Hit the Menu icon in Chrome (the three vertical dots) and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of your Settings page and open the Advanced section, where you can further modify how Chrome behaves. Scroll down and select the Content Settings tab in the Privacy and Security section.

Select Notifications to see which sites are allowed or barred from intruding into your life. Disabling the feature altogether will stop sites from poking their nose into your browser, asking to show you notifications about whatever it is they want. Unfortunately, that means notifications you do want will be a no-show unless you decide to individually toggle the notification settings for each site you find yourself visiting. To turn the feature off entirely, toggle the “Ask before sending” setting to “off,” and rejoice.


If you’ve already given sites permission to send you notifications, you can revoke that permission in your security settings. Hit the menu icon and select Options, then select Privacy & Security. Scroll down to the Permissions section and select Notifications Settings icon. There you can revoke notification permissions from sites either individually or all at once.

Disabling notifications entirely requires a small modification to Firefox’s configuration page. In your address bar, enter “about:config” and search for “dom.webnotifications.enabled”. Right-click the entry and select Toggle to set its value to “false” and prevent notifications from showing up ever again.


Disabling notifications in Safari is pretty easy. Select Safari in your Mac’s menu bar, then select Preferences. Hit the Notifications tab and deselect the “Allow websites to ask for permission to send push notifications” box.

Microsoft Edge

You can’t disable notifications from the browser itself, but you can remove sites that already have access to your notification service in Microsoft Edge. Hit the menu icon in the top right and select Settings. Scroll down to Advanced Settings, then select Website permissions. There you can toggle on or off permissions for sites, including notifications.

Disabling notifications entirely in Microsoft Edge means you’ll need to edit your system settings, specifically what permissions Microsoft Edge has in terms of popping up unannounced. Hit the Start menu and select the Settings icon. Select System, then “Notifications & actions” where you can edit which apps will show up in your action center. Just scroll down to Microsoft Edge and toggle it off.

Austin, Patrick Austin. “Disable Those Annoying Browser Notifications Once and for All”, Web Browsing

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