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How to Prevent Programs From Stealing Focus in Windows

September 18, 2017 by softkeyhome  

Ever been annoyed by a program that pops up in front of what you're doing, without you clicking or tapping on anything? In other words... without your permission?

It's called stealing focus, and it's a lot like being photobombed, right on your computer screen!

Sometimes focus stealing is due to malicious programming by the software [developer] that's doing it. Most of the time, however, it's just buggy software or operating system behavior that you'll need to pin down and try to fix or avoid.

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Tip: In early versions of Windows, most notably in Windows XP, there was actually a setting that either allowed or prevented programs from stealing focus. See More on Stealing Focus in Windows XP below the troubleshooting steps.

Note: Focus stealing was certainly more of a problem in older versions of Windows like Windows XP but it can and does happen in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista as well.

If you're not comfortable making manual changes to the Windows Registry yourself, a program from Microsoft called Tweak UI can do it for you. You can download it for free here. Once installed, head to Focus under the General area and check the box to Prevent applications from stealing focus.

Honestly, though, if you're careful, the registry-based process explained above is perfectly safe and effective. You can always use the backup you made to restore the registry if things don't work out.

How to See Your Windows Desktop on a TV with Chromecast

September 13, 2017 by softkeyhome  

Why Cast?

Hooking a PC up to a television used to be a pain. It required using cables, and an understanding of how to adjust your computer's output for the right resolution to match your TV. You can still go down that route with an HDMI cable if you need to, and these days most of the resolution work will be done for you. But there's a far easier way to see a lot of content from your PC on a TV using a Chromecast.

Google's $35 HDMI dongle is an affordable alternative to set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku. Primarily, the Chromecast allows you to view all kinds of content a TV including YouTube, Netflix, games, and Facebook videos all controlled from a mobile device.

But the Chromecast also helps you put two basic items from any PC running Chrome onto your TV: a browser tab or the full desktop. This feature works with the Chrome browser on any PC platform that supports it including Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux, and Google's Chrome OS.

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What is Casting?

Casting is a method of sending content wirelessly to your television, but it works in two different ways. You can Cast content from a service that supports it like YouTube, which is actually telling Chromecast to go to the online source (YouTube) and fetch a particular video to play it on the TV. The device that told Chromecast to do that (your phone, for example) then becomes a remote control to play, pause, fast forward, or choose another video.

When you cast from your PC, however, you are mostly streaming content from your desktop to your TV over a local network with no help from an online service. That is very different since streaming from a desktop relies on the computing power of your home PC, while streaming YouTube or Netflix relies on the cloud.

The difference between the two approaches and why they're important will become obvious when we discuss streaming video later on.

First Steps

Before you do anything, it's important to make sure both the Chromecast and your computer are on the same Wi-Fi network. Each PC has its various quirks for discovering which Wi-Fi network you're on. In general, however, look for the Wi-Fi icon on your desktop (in Windows it's on the lower right, and in Mac the upper right). Click that icon and look for the name of the Wi-Fi network.

To check the Chromecast, open the Google Home app on your phone, which is required to manage the device. Tap on the "hamburger" menu icon in the upper left corner, and from the pop out menu select Devices.

On the next page, look for the nickname of the Chromecast (mine is Living Room, for example), and tap the three horizontal dots and select Settings. Next, you'll see the "Device settings" screen, make sure the name under "Wi-Fi" matches the network your PC is connected to.

Casting a Tab

Now let's cast a tab. Open Chrome on your computer, and navigate to the website you want to display on your TV. Next, select the menu icon (three horizontal dots) in the upper right corner. From the drop down menu that appears select Cast...

A small window will appear in the center of the tab you've got open with the names of any Cast-friendly devices you have on your network such as a Chromecast or Google Home smart speaker.

Before you pick your device, however, click on the downward facing arrow at the top. Now the small window says Select source. Choose Cast tab, and then select the nickname of the Chromecast. When it's connected, the window will say "Chrome Mirroring" along with a volume slider and the name of the tab you've got open.

Look up at your TV and you'll see the tab taking up the entire screen--though usually in letterbox mode to keep the viewing ratio correct.

Once a tab is casting you can navigate to a different website and it will keep displaying whatever is on that tab. To stop casting, just close the tab or click on the Chromecast icon in your browser to the right of the address bar--it's blue. That will bring back the "Chrome Mirroring" window we saw earlier. Now click Stop in the lower right corner.

What Tab Casting Works Well For

Casting a Chrome tab is ideal for anything that's mostly static such as vacation photos stashed in Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. It's also good for viewing a website at a larger scale, or even for displaying a presentation PowerPoint online or Google Drive's Presentation web app.

What it doesn't work as well for is video. Well, kind of. If you are using something that already supports casting like YouTube it will work just fine. But that's because the Chromecast can grab YouTube directly from the Internet, and your tab becomes a remote control for YouTube on the TV. In other words, it is no longer broadcasting its tab to the Chromecast.

Non-Chromecast supporting content like Vimeo and Amazon Prime Video is a little more problematic. In this case, you are streaming content directly from your browser tab to your television. To be honest, this doesn't work well. It's barely watchable, because you have to expect short stutters and skips as part of the bargain.

It's easy for Vimeo fans to fix this. Instead of casting from a PC tab, use the service's mobile apps for Android and iOS, which do support Chromecast. Amazon Prime Video does not currently support Chromecast; however, you can get Prime Video on your TV via a similar device to the Chromecast, Amazon's $40 Fire TV Stick.

Casting Your Desktop

Displaying your entire computer desktop on your TV via Chromecast is very similar to what we did with the tab. Once again, click on the three vertical dots menu icon in the upper right corner and select Cast. The window will pop-up in the middle of your display again. Click the downward facing arrow and then select Cast desktop and then choose your Chromecast's nickname from the device list.

After a few seconds, your desktop will be casting. If you have a multi-monitor display set-up, Chromecast will ask you to choose the screen you want to display on the Chromecast. Choose the correct screen, click Share and then after a few seconds the correct display will appear on your TV.

One issue particular to desktop casting is that when you cast your entire desktop, your computer's audio comes along with it. If you don't want that to happen, either turn off whatever audio is playing on your desktop—iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.—or turn down the volume using the slider in the Chrome Mirroring window.

To stop casting the desktop, click the blue Chromecast icon in your browser, and when the "Chrome Mirroring" window appears click Stop.

What It's Good For

Casting your desktop is very similar to casting a tab. It works well for static items like a slideshow of photos saved to your hard drive or a PowerPoint presentation. Just as with the tab, however, casting video isn't great. If you want to play a video on your television using something saved on your TV, I'd suggest either hooking up your PC directly via HDMI or using a service built for streaming video over your home Wi-Fi network such as Plex.

Casting Services Like Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook Video

Not a ton of services support native casting from the PC version of the web to the Chromecast. This is because a lot of services have already built it into their mobile apps on Android and iOS and haven't bothered with laptops and desktops.

Regardless, some services do support casting from the PC notably Google's own YouTube, videos on Facebook, and Netflix. To cast from these services, start playing a video and with the player controls you'll see the casting icon--the outline of a display with a Wi-Fi symbol in the corner. Click that, and the small window appears once again in your browser tab, select the nickname for your Chromecast device, and the casting begins.

That's all there is to casting from your PC. It's a quick-and-easy way to get content from your PC to your television.

How to use Bluetooth peripherals with Windows 8

September 11, 2017 by softkeyhome  

Many Windows 8 users have reported problems with keyboards and mouses that connect via Bluetooth. Our Helproom Expert advises one reader.

QUESTION My Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 worked fine with a Belkin Bluetooth dongle until I decided to dual-boot the Microsoft Windows 8 Developer Preview. The Bluetooth drivers don't load in the new OS until after Windows has itself loaded, so I'm unable to press Enter to boot into Windows 8 directly, F2 to enter the Bios or F8 for Safe mode. Wireless keyboards that come with a dedicated Bluetooth dongle don't have this problem - how can I get around it on mine? Alok Modi

HELPROOM ANSWER Many other users have reported the same issue with this keyboard. The short answer is that you probably won't be able to make it work in the way you would like.

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Your PC's Bios doesn't have built-in support for Bluetooth devices. Until the operating system has started up and the Windows drivers have loaded, there can be no communication between your Bluetooth keyboard and the PC.

When a Bluetooth keyboard is bundled with a USB adaptor, the two items are designed to work together to get around this problem. This often involves the Bluetooth adaptor itself managing a wireless connection with the keyboard, and then tricking the PC into thinking it's a standard USB keyboard. Once the OS has loaded the adaptor can switch to full Bluetooth mode, often enabling additional functions.

It may be possible to get your keyboard to work in Bios mode by purchasing a new dongle that's able to spoof the USB protocols to the PC and set up its own Bluetooth pairing with the keyboard. However, we don't know of a device that's capable of functioning in this way with the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000.

The cheapest solution would appear to be to buy a budget USB keyboard (possibly a compact mini model for convenience), which you can use for those rare occasions when you need to access the Bios or Safe mode.

Small cumulative update heads out to Windows 10 Anniversary Update PCs

September 7, 2017 by softkeyhome  

Microsoft has another batch of fixes on the way for Windows 10 users still on the Anniversary Update.

Another cumulative update is on its way out to Windows 10 PCs, but only for those who haven't made the jump from the Anniversary Update just yet. In fact, this is the second cumulative update to be released outside of the typical Patch Tuesday schedule for Anniversary Update PCs in August. Unlike last time, however, the changes in this latest update are much fewer in number (via Neowin).

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Here's a look at the full release notes for cumulative update KB4039396 (build 14393.1670):

Addressed issue where Update History and hidden updates are lost and a full scan for updates happens after installing OS Updates 14393.1532 through 14393.1613, including KB4034658. Installing this update will not restore past update history or hidden updates for users who have already installed the listed updates. However, this current update will address this issue for users who have not yet installed them.

Addressed issue with WSUS update metadata processing that can cause some clients to time out with a 0x8024401c error.

There are no known issues to be aware of with this update. If you happen to have a PC that hasn't made the jump to the Creators Update just yet, you should be able to grab these changes via Windows Update now. The update can also be grabbed manually via Microsoft's Update Catalog.

How to remove Windows password login in Windows 10

September 5, 2017 by softkeyhome  

Part of the reason tablets became so popular is the fact they are always-on - no waiting for Windows to load, and no needing to enter your password every single time you wanted to use them.

Well, tablets are great, but depending on the situation at hand sometimes you just need a PC or laptop. And you still want it to load quickly. That shouldn't be too much to ask.

You can increase the speed at which Windows loads firstly by removing unnecessary startup programs. A second step - and one to take only if you're pretty sure your computer won't fall into the wrong hands - is to remove the additional step of needing to enter a password for Windows.

Removing the Windows password login is a simple case of unchecking a box in the User Account settings. Here's how to access that option in Windows 10, though the process is similar in other versions.

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Removing the Windows password login in User Accounts

• Type netplwiz in the Start menu search bar, then click the top result to run the command

• Untick the box next to 'Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer' and hit 'Apply'

• Enter your username and password, then re-enter your password. Click 'OK'

• Click 'OK' again to save the changes

To reactivate Windows password login just return to this settings menu and tick the box next to 'Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer'.

 

Your feedback is helping shape Windows privacy

August 14, 2017 by softkeyhome  

In April, we outlined significant enhancements made to the Windows 10 Creators Update that put you in more control to make informed decisions about your privacy.

Those enhancements included improving in-product information, updates to the Microsoft privacy statement, and publishing more information about the diagnostic data we collect.

Since then, feedback we've received about the Creators Update has been positive. This is great news to us because what we hear from you directly impacts the improvements we make.

For example, 71 percent of customers are selecting Full diagnostics data to help us fix things and improve Microsoft products. While your direct feedback like, "The privacy settings added to clean installs are a boon for the privacy minded," and "Very well done," is great to hear, we know there is still work to do to meet and anticipate the expectations across our diverse customer base and provide you with the best privacy experience possible.

We've also seen a positive reception to the web-based privacy dashboard which allows you to see and control your activity data across multiple Microsoft services. Announced back in January, the privacy dashboard has been visited by more than 23 million people on accounts.microsoft.com.

With more than 500 million devices running Windows 10, the opportunity to refine our approach to privacy and implement your feedback is exciting. We are also ensuring Windows 10 is compliant with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that goes into effect in 2018. Fundamentally, the GDPR is about protecting and respecting an individual's privacy rights and Microsoft's enduring commitment to trust is well aligned through the privacy principles that shape the way we build our products and services.

For those of you who participate in the Windows Insiders Program, you can expect to see some of the privacy changes showing up in Insider builds in the coming weeks, and we welcome your feedback in helping us make create the best Windows ever.

I look forward to a continued dialogue and thank you for your feedback - please keep it coming!

Computer Speakers Not Working – Windows 7 key

August 11, 2017 by softkeyhome  

If your computer speakers, sound card (or headphones) are not working in Windows, it can only be one of three things:

Corrupt, missing or outdated audio or USB device drivers.

Bad mini-jacks, USB motherboard port or third-party connector.

Broken hardware – speakers, headphones or sound card.

When troubleshooting PC audio problems, it's best to use a "process or elimination" starting with the simple stuff first. Let's go through the list in order so we can find out what the source of your sound problem is.

 

Fixing Windows Speaker Problems:

Ok, first things first. Let's check to see if it's your actual speakers or headphones that are the problem:

This might sound stupid, but make sure your volume is actually turned up on your device and that you don't have your Windows audio settings muted. You can check the bottom right corner of your computer screen next to your date/time settings and click on the speaker icon. Make sure the volume is turned up :)

 

Don't worry if you don't see a speaker icon. This is an optional setting to display, and not every Windows computer will have it in the system tray. You can still check it under your Windows control panel.

 

Unplug your speakers or headphones.

Check and make sure the connectors are in good shape (not frayed or loose).

Plug them into another PC and check if you can hear sound.

If your speakers or headphones work on another computer, then we know that it is not a problem with your actual hardware (speakers/headphones). Let's move on to the next step.

Windows 10 Black Screen With Cursor : How to Fix

August 9, 2017 by softkeyhome  

Windows 10 Black Screen With Cursor

Windows 10 has proved to be a very reliable operating system since its launch. But since nothing can be perfect, there are some unexpected things that might occur with Windows 10 as well.

And one of such unexpected issue that you might encounter with your Windows 10 is windows 10 black screen with cursor.

This can be one of the worse problems because you won't get an idea on where you should start troubleshooting the problem as you don't get any error code or message to help you to start with.

There can be many reasons for the occurrence of black screen on Windows 10 with cursor. It can be graphic driver problem, a problem of connection with display, error in installing the operating system, updates or it may occur randomly as well.

In this article we will help you in recovering from windows 10 black screen with cursor error.

Black screen while installation is in progress:

You may see a black screen while installation is in process. This may be because the device operating system might still be processing in the background. The best option in this case is to wait for some time.

If the time exceeds 6 hours then it is possible that installation is stuck somewhere.

In such a case you should try to shut down your system completely. You can force the shutdown process by long pressing the power button of CPU or laptop for around 10 seconds and then unplugging the wire.

If you are working with the laptop, then after the shutdown it is advised that you remove all the unnecessary peripherals such as external storage devices, phone, printer, game controller, network cable etc. Only keep the essentials like keyboard, mouse and display connected.

Now wait for around a minute before restarting the system. If it was just a hiccup then your installation process will resume and get completed successfully.

But if the problem persists, then you should try manually installing the Windows 10 updates. In case if you were already installing in that way then you should now try it using a bootable USB flash drive.

Black screen after the installation:

If you get a black screen after the installation process gets completed but before you sign in to your Windows 10 account, then this might be due to some connectivity problem between your device and the display.

In this case you should check whether the display power outlet is properly connected to the display.

If you have a discrete graphics card installed in your computer, but your computer also has an integrated video processor already, then you can try switching the video connection to the integrated graphics as the problem might be with the discrete card.

To confirm that it's not a problem with your primary display, you can also connect a different monitor to your desktop PC or laptop.

If the computer is still not detecting the display, then you can try pressing the Windows key and the key P of the keyboard simultaneously. Press the key P again and then press Enter key. You will be required to repeat these steps a few number of times to go through all the screen options.

Trying to Wake up the Display

It is also possible that Windows 10 might not be able to detect the display. You can use your keyboard to do it. You should press the Windows key, the Ctrl key, the Shift key and the B key of the keyboard simultaneously to wake up the display.

If in case you are using a tablet, then you can wake up the display by pressing the volume up and volume down buttons simultaneously three times.

Booting in Safe Mode

In case the above solutions don't solve the problem and your external devices are all working well then you can opt to the option of rebooting the computer in Safe Mode. This is how you can do it:

Switch on the PC. During the appearance on the sign-in screen, press the Shift key and click the Power button present on the bottom-right side of the screen. Now, select the option to Restart your PC. After getting to the advanced startup menu, click Troubleshoot option. Now choose Advanced options. Click on the option of Startup Settings. Click on the Restart button Once you are in the Startup settings, press the key 5 or F5 to enter the Safe mode with Networking. Now after you have entered the Safe Mode, you should try performing the following troubleshooting steps:

Reinstalling the video driver:

Your video driver might get corrupted while upgrading causing it to malfunction and display a Windows 10 upgrade black screen. You can uninstall the existing video driver in the Safe mode and get it reinstalled by the operating system automatically upon restart.

Press the Window key and the key X of the keyboard simultaneously to open the power user menu. Now select the option of Device Adapters. Expand the option Display Adapters. Right click the adapter you want to uninstall and select Uninstall. Click OK to confirm. Now, restart the computer and check if the problem is solved and the new video adapter is installed automatically. Disabling the Fast Startup:

Sometimes the black screen problem might persist because the fast startup might be enabled on your computer. You can follow the given steps to disable fast startup in Safe Mode:

Open Control Panel while in the Safe Mode. Choose the System and Security options. Choose the Power options. Select the option that asks what the power button does from the left pane. Click on the Change settings that are currently unavailable option. Uncheck the Turn on fast startup (recommended) option. Click Save to save the changes. Now, restart your computer to complete the task and check if the problem is sorted. Terminating Run Once processes on your system:

Run Once process can also be one of the reasons of appearance of black screen after signing into Windows 10.

To terminate the Run Once processes on Windows 10, you can perform the following steps:

Open the Task Manager using the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut. Look out for any instances of RunOnce.exe and RunOnce32.exe from the Processes tab and the Services tab. If you find the instance in the Processes tab, then select that item and choose End task. However, if you find the instance in the Services tab, then right-click and select that item and click Stop. Now, click on File option. Select the option of Run new task. In the box that appears type the given command to restart your computer: shutdown -t00 -r Now, click OK to execute the above restart command. Now, finally restart your computer to complete the task and check if the problem is sorted. Creating a new user account for Windows 10:

There might be some problem with your user account which can result in occurrence of a black screen.

You can create a new account while in Safe Mode and check whether your user account is causing the black screen.

To create a new user account in Safe Mode, perform the following steps:

Click the Start menu. Open the Command Prompt. Now, right-click the result and select Run as Administrator option. In the screen that appears, type the given command to create a new account: net user youruser /add Keep in mind to change “youruser” in the command to the name that you want to create the account with. Now, press Enter key. Next, type the given command to change the account type to Administrator and press Enter: net localgroup administrators admins /add Remember to change “admins” in the command to the name of your account. Now, restart your computer to complete the task and check if problem persists.