Laptops For Dummies, 6th Edition book cover

Laptops For Dummies, 6th Edition

By: Dan Gookin Published: 10-30-2015

Are you new to the world of laptops? You've come to the right place! Laptops For Dummies covers the many topics and issues unique to laptops, including synchronizing with the desktop, coordinating email pick-up between two machines, remotely accessing the desktop, networking, power management, storage, security, and more.

Articles From Laptops For Dummies, 6th Edition

page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5
41 results
41 results
Laptops For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-24-2022

Nothing is more liberating than having a computer you can take with you. A laptop offers you full computer power, a decently sized keyboard, a nice-looking display, and the ability to go wireless — not to mention how cool you look checking email and Facebook at Starbucks.

View Cheat Sheet
How to Set Low Battery Warnings on Your Windows 10 Laptop

Article / Updated 10-07-2021

Windows peppers you with warnings as the battery power gets low. The battery notification icon on the taskbar changes, and eventually pop-up messages appear. The idea is to alarm you: Either charge the battery, save your work, and shut down — or pray. The good news is that you have control over the warnings. You can set when they appear and which actions are taken. The two warning levels are titled Low Battery and Critical Battery. Follow these steps to set each level and determine which actions are taken: Open the Control Panel. Press the Win+X keyboard shortcut and choose the Control Panel item from the super secret menu. Choose Hardware and Sound. Choose Power Options. You see the laptop’s power plans. The battery warning levels are set for a specific plan. Next to the active power plan, click the link Change Plan Settings. Power management plans. In the Edit Plan Settings window, click the Change Advanced Power Settings link. Finally, the Power Options dialog box shows up. It’s the happening place for all things having to do with power management in Windows. Scroll the list, and locate the item labeled Battery. As you would expect, it’s the last item in the list. Click the plus sign (+) by Battery to display various battery notification and action options. Each item has two subitems — one for settings when the laptop is on battery power and a second for when the laptop is plugged in. Set the battery-level warnings. In chronological order, here are the items you can set: Low-battery notification: Sets a warning for a low battery level, before the situation becomes critical. Values are set to On to set the low warning and Off to ignore it. Low battery level: Determines the battery percentage for the low-battery-level warning. This value should be generous, well above the critical level. Low battery action: Directs the laptop in what to do when the battery charge reaches the low-battery level. Other options are Sleep, Hibernate, and Shut Down. Critical battery level: Sets the battery power level (percentage) for the crucial battery-level action. Critical battery action: Directs the laptop to sleep, hibernate, or shut down when the critical battery level is reached. Click OK to confirm the settings. You can close any remaining dialog boxes and windows. Setting the warnings is only one part of good power management. Hopefully, you never see the low-battery notification and, most definitely, you never have the laptop automatically hibernate on you (for the critical-level action). The low-battery warnings are independent of the Battery Saver setting. When the low-battery notice sounds or appears and you’re blessed with a second battery for your laptop, pop it in and keep working! That critical-battery notice is serious. Laptop time is over! You see no warning; the laptop simply hibernates or turns itself off — whichever option is set. The best thing to do when power gets low: Plug in! This is why you might consider taking your power cord with you wherever you go.

View Article
How to Use a Stylus on Your Tablet PC

Article / Updated 03-31-2021

Tablet PCs feature a touchscreen. You can use your finger as an input device, but your finger is short and stubby and, please, you need a manicure. A better option is to use a digitizer pen, or stylus. Introducing the digital pen The stylus is a pointing device, like the mouse. For the most part, it works just like a mouse: Tap the screen to click, double-tap, right-tap, and so on. Okay: There’s no such thing as a right-tap. Before using it, however, take a look at the pen. Check out the important parts. A typical tablet PC stylus The stylus pen works by touching the tablet’s screen, which is a digitizer. In Windows, the stylus’ touch is interpreted similarly to mouse movement. You can point the pen at the screen, touch the screen, and manipulate items in interesting ways, as covered elsewhere in this chapter. The function of the pen’s buttons varies. Generally speaking, one of the input buttons is the right-click button. On a two-button stylus, the second button is the Erase button. Some tablet PCs come with a stylus. If not, the stylus must be purchased as an add-on. As long as the stylus is Windows-compatible, you can use it on your tablet PC. But remember: Just because your laptop features a touchscreen doesn’t imply that a digital pen works as an input device. To confirm that your tablet PC can use a digital pen, obey these steps: Tap the Start button. Choose the Settings icon. Tap Devices. From the categories on the left side of the window, choose Pen & Windows Ink. If you see a Pen heading on the right side of the screen, your tablet PC can use a digital pen. The Pen item in the Settings app can also be used to adjust aspects of the pen. The number of options available depend on the pen’s hardware capabilities. Some digital pens use batteries. If so, rush out to the Battery Store right now to buy a spare battery or two. If the digital pen features one button, it’s the right-click button. Some tablet PCs feature a pen tether, a place where you can attach the stylus to the tablet by using a nylon cord. The tether comes in handy for all of us pen-droppers, who loathe the awkwardness of searching underneath an airline seat for anything. The Microsoft Surface Pen is a Bluetooth wireless peripheral. It connects automatically to the Surface tablet. Other styluses may require additional setup, such as Bluetooth pairing or another type of interface. Some simpler styluses may work by simply interacting with the laptop’s touchscreen. How to use the pen as a mouse Most of the time, you use a digital pen with your tablet PC just as you’d use a mouse on a desktop computer. It makes an excellent pointing device, but it does have its quirks. The following table lists pen and mouse equivalents. Pen and Mouse Actions Mouse Activity Pen Equivalent Description Point Hover Hover the stylus above the touchscreen. (Don’t touch!) Click Tap Tap the stylus on the screen. Double-click Double-tap Tap the stylus twice on the same spot. Right-click Long-tap Tap and hold the stylus on the same spot. Drag Drag Touch the stylus to the screen and move the stylus a little. Right-drag Right-drag Press and hold the stylus button while keeping the stylus on the screen. As you hover or point the mouse on the screen — without touching the screen — you see a pen pointer appear. This tiny target is called the pen cursor. It’s easier to navigate menus when you hover the pen, as opposed to dragging the pen. You can simulate a right-click by pressing the pen’s button and then tapping the screen. If the pen features two buttons, the right-click button is the top one. You can always use your finger to tap or drag items on the screen. I find it easier to use my finger to swipe through a document or move a window.

View Article
10 Laptop Battery Tips

Article / Updated 03-31-2021

Without a battery, your laptop would be merely a tiny, overpriced PC. You need the battery to give the laptop its power of portability. There also comes a battery of battery issues, most of which involve squeezing the largest amount of life out of a limited supply of battery juice. Don't drop the battery, get it wet, short it, play keep-away with it, open it, burn it, or throw it away Enough said. Reduce the screen’s brightness To save a bit on battery life on the road, lower the brightness level on your laptop’s screen just a hair — or perhaps as low as you can stand. This reduction definitely saves the juice. The quick way to set screen brightness is to summon the Action Center: Press Win+A to summon the Action Center. Use the Brightness slider to adjust screen brightness. This control might also be available on the laptop’s keyboard. Notebook laptops may sport brightness-setting buttons near the screen. Use these buttons to control the brightness. Sometimes, the brightness is controlled by using special Fn-key combinations. Your laptop's power manager might automatically dim the screen when the laptop is on battery power. Power down the hard drive The motors in your laptop consume the most power. That’s bad news. The good news is that many newer laptops have no motors. The only motor left is the hard drive, and this hardware is being replaced quickly by the solid-state drive (SSD). If your laptop does have a hard drive, know that disk intensive programs will keep the device active and that such activity helps drain the battery faster. Such intensive programs include databases or any program that frequently accesses storage. Larger programs also impinge upon the hard drive’s motors; see the next section. For laptops that sport optical drives — yikes! Those things draw a lot of power. I didn’t use the optical drive while my laptop ran on battery power. Add RAM to prevent virtual memory disk swapping One way that the laptop’s mass storage conspires with the operating system to drain the battery quickly is when the virtual memory manager pulls a disk swap. The way to prevent it is to add memory (RAM) to your laptop. Virtual memory has nothing to do with virtue. Instead, it's a chunk of storage space that Windows uses to help supplement real memory, or RAM. Mass chunks of information are swapped between RAM and your laptop's storage, which is why you never see any Out of Memory errors in Windows. But all that memory swapping drains the battery. Windows does a great job of managing virtual memory. Though you can fine-tune the virtual memory manager, I don't recommend it. Instead, if your laptop features a hard drive lamp, you can use it to test the virtual memory manager this way: Run three or four of your most-often-used programs or apps. Start up each program and get its window up and ready on the screen, just as though you’re about to work on something. In fact, you can even load a document or whatever, to ensure that the program is occupied. Wait. Wait until for hard drive access to stop and the computer is waiting. About five seconds should be long enough. Press Alt+Esc. The Alt+Esc key combination switches from one program (or window) to another. Observe any delays as you switch between programs. The delays may indicate that information is being swapped between hard drive storage and memory. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you cycle through all programs and windows at least once. What you're looking for is hard drive access. If you detect a noticeable pause or (if one is available) the hard drive light blinks as you switch between programs, it can be a sign that virtual memory is being used, by swapping from RAM to disk. Yes, your system is working harder than it should, and it affects battery life. The solution to virtual memory disk swapping isn't to adjust virtual memory as much as it is to add RAM to your laptop and prevent virtual memory from ever taking over in the first place. If your laptop lacks a hard drive access light, pay attention to how Windows behaves. Do you see a pause as you switch programs? Is the keyboard acting sluggish? If so, you’re witnessing memory being written to and read from the laptop’s storage. That action drains the battery. Though not every laptop is capable of a RAM expansion, if yours is, consider adding more memory as a worthy undertaking. Keep memory empty Even when you cannot add more memory to your laptop, battery life can be extended by economically using the memory you have. To optimize performance, I recommend running only a few programs at a time on your laptop when you're using the battery. For example, you might be reading email in your email program, browsing the web, editing a document in your word processor, and keeping a game of Spider Solitaire going in another window. All this activity is unnecessary, and shutting down the programs you're not using helps save battery life — not a lot, but some. It may seem trivial, but when you don’t set a background image or wallpaper, and especially avoid the slide show wallpaper, Windows spends less time updating the screen. And, time is battery life! Consider setting a solid-color background image on your laptop. Guard the battery's terminals Like a big-city airport or Frankenstein's neck, your laptop's battery has terminals. People don’t traverse a battery's terminals; but, like Frankenstein's neck, electricity does. The terminals are usually flat pieces of metal, either out in the open or recessed into a slot. If your laptop lacks a removable battery, you have nothing to worry about. If the battery can pop out, treat it with gentle, loving care. Keep the battery in the laptop. Outside the laptop, keep the battery away from metal. Keep the terminals clean; use a Q-Tip and some rubbing alcohol. Do this whenever you succumb to the temptation to touch the terminals, even though you shouldn't be doing that. Do not attach anything to the battery. Do not attempt to short the battery or try to rapidly drain it. Avoid extreme temperatures Batteries enjoy the same type of temperatures you do. They don’t like to be very cold, and they don’t like hot temperatures, either. Like Goldilocks, the battery enjoys temperatures that are just right. Store the battery if you don't plan to use it Don’t let a battery sit. If you keep the laptop deskbound (and nothing could be sadder), occasionally unplug the thing and let the battery cycle, just to keep it healthy. That's the best thing to do. When you would rather run your laptop without the battery inside, or when preparing a spare battery for storage, run down the battery's charge to about 40 percent or so and then put the battery in a nonmetallic container. Stick the container in a nice, cool, clean, dry place. Like people, batteries need exercise! Try to use your laptop battery every two months or so whether you're using the laptop remotely or not. The recommended storage temperature for lithium-ion batteries is 59 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Celsius. A lithium-ion battery has an expiration date! After several years, the battery dies. This is true whether you use the battery or store it. Understand that batteries drain over time! No battery keeps its charge forever. Eventually, the battery's charge fades. For some reason, this surprises people. “That battery was fully charged when I put it into storage six years ago!” Batteries drain over time. Yet, just because a battery has drained doesn't mean that it's useless. If you stored the battery properly, all it needs is a full charge to get it back up and running again. So, if you store a battery (see the previous section), anticipate that you'll need to recharge it when you want to use it again. This process works just like getting the battery on the first day you set up your laptop; follow those same instructions for getting the stored battery up and running again. Deal with the low-battery warning Thanks to smart-battery technology, your laptop can be programmed to tell you when the juice is about to go dry. In fact, you can set up two warnings on most laptops. The idea is to act fast on those warnings when they appear — and to take them seriously! Linger at your own risk. It's your data that you could lose! The real trick, of course, is to ration the battery power you have. Here’s a summary of tips, some of which are found elsewhere in this book: Be mindful of power-saving time-outs. Setting a 15-minute Stand By time-out may work well in the office, but on the road you may want to adjust those times downward. Mute the speakers! This strategy not only saves a modicum of power but also prevents the ears of those next to you from hearing the silly noises your laptop makes. Save some stuff to do when you get back home or reconnect to a power source. Face it: Some things can wait. If that 2GB project file upload isn't needed immediately, save it for when you're connected to the fast Internet line back at your home or office. Hibernate! When time is short and your laptop has the Hibernation smarts, just hibernate.

View Article
10 Handy Laptop Accessories

Article / Updated 03-31-2021

The spending doesn’t stop after you buy the laptop. Nope—there are many, many laptop toys you can buy. Beyond software are gizmos and gadgets galore. Some are standard computer peripherals, like media cards, but most are wonderful and useful items you can get to enhance your laptopping experience. Laptop bag or travel case A handsome laptop traveling tote is a must. Spare battery Nothing cries “Freedom!” to the laptop road warrior more than an extra battery. Having a bonus battery doubles the time you can compute without that AC wall-socket umbilical cord. Some laptops even let you hot-swap from one battery to another while the laptop is still running, which means that the total length of time you can use your battery greatly exceeds your capacity to do work. Sadly, the current trend is for laptops not to feature a removable battery. Curse those manufacturers! Ensure that the spare battery is approved for your laptop, coming either directly from the manufacturer or from a source that is reliable and guarantees compatibility. Using the wrong battery in your laptop can be disastrous. External storage for laptop Obtain a USB-powered hard drive or SSD for your laptop. This portable storage device’s purpose is to serve as a backup drive. Even if you use cloud storage, even if you have local network storage, an external hard drive or SSD comes in handy. Laptop cooling pad The ideal accessory for any well-loved laptop, especially the larger models, is a cooling pad. It’s a device, similar to the one shown, on which your laptop sits. The cooling pad contains one or more fans and is powered by either the laptop's USB port or standard AA batteries. Your laptop sits on the pad, and the fans help draw away the heat that the battery and microprocessor generate. The result is a cooler-running laptop, which keeps the laptop happy. Heed whether the cooling pad runs from the power supplied by the USB port or from its own batteries. If you’re getting a USB-powered cooling pad, buy a model that has a pass-through USB port so that you don’t lose a USB port when you add a cooling pad. Some cooling pads also double as USB hubs. Minivac Useful for cleaning your laptop, especially the keyboard, is the minivac. This item is found in most office supply stores, and many are portable (battery powered). You’ll be surprised (and disgusted) by the gunk that the minivac can suck from your laptop. USB lamp Your laptop’s screen is illuminated and even shows up in the dark. Sadly, however, most laptop keyboards don’t light up. To help you see the keyboard as well as other important areas around your laptop, you can light things up with a USB-powered lamp. The lamp plugs into a standard USB port on your laptop. It has either a stiff, bendable neck or a clamp so that you can position it. Flip the switch and let there be light! Some laptops might already have built-in keyboard lights. Check for an LED lamp on the screen, or perhaps the keys themselves are illuminated. A special Fn key combination may be used to activate the keyboard lights. If this feature isn’t available, get a USB lamp for your laptop. Even when the keyboard is illuminated, a USB lamp helps you see things near your laptop, such as a notepad or reference. Full-size keyboard and external mouse Although you might not want to tote one around with you, there’s a certain pleasure to be had when you’re using a laptop with a comfy, full-size keyboard and a mouse. The mouse doesn’t even need to be full-size; plenty of laptop-sized mice are available. If you really want to be free of those pesky wires, get a wireless or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Wires belong back in the office, not on the road. Maybe you don’t want a full-size PC keyboard. Perhaps you just need a numeric keypad? If so, buy a USB keypad for your laptop. When you use your tablet PC as a tablet, consider getting a digital stylus or pen. It works a lot like a mouse; plus, it’s a better input device for creating text on a touchscreen—much better than your stubby fingers. Screen privacy filter Being in public with your laptop means, well, that you’re in public—out amongst the masses. To keep the snooping eyes at bay, get a privacy screen filter for your laptop. These devices are composed of a thin mesh that hugs the laptop’s screen. From straight-on, you see the information on the screen. Move away from the screen at even the shallowest angle and you don’t see anything. That’s why it’s called a privacy screen filter. The good news: Privacy screen filters are available all over. Find one that fits your laptop’s screen. The bad news: These devices don’t work too well with tablet PCs. The screen interferes with your touch-input. That might be okay for a while, and most tablets let you attach a keyboard, but it’s a frustrating trade-off. ID card or return service sticker Way back when, your mom would probably write your name on your laptop, just like she wrote your name on your underwear. And, seriously, Mom: Who was going to steal my underwear? Did they do that in the old country? My point is that your laptop is yours only because you keep it with you. What it needs is your name on it somewhere. For example, businesspeople commonly tape their business cards somewhere on the inside of their laptops, such as slightly to one side of the touch pad. The idea here is not only to claim ownership of the laptop but also to pray that if the laptop is ever lost or stolen, it will be recognizable as your own. A good citizen will contact you and offer to return the laptop that he or she found with your name emblazoned on an ID card. While you’re at it, attach a business card to other portable devices you might leave behind, like portable printers, power supplies, and video projectors. A better solution is to use a return service and take advantage of its tamper-resistant asset tags. Theft-prevention system The perfect gift for your dear laptop: some type of cable to keep it from walking off, one of those annoyingly loud my-laptop-has-been-moved alarms, or that special software that tries to “phone home” when the laptop is purloined. Ease your fears!

View Article
How to Use and Control AutoPlay on Your Windows 10 Laptop

Article / Updated 04-12-2017

When new storage media is added to the laptop, Windows alerts you with an AutoPlay notification. The notification slides in from the right side of the screen. An AutoPlay notification and options. Using the AutoPlay notification Tap the AutoPlay notification to view the AutoPlay menu. Even if you don’t tap the notification, you can still use the storage; the notification simply presents the menu, which makes it easier to deal with the removable storage. For example, to access files stored on removable media, tap the notification and choose the item Open Folder to View Files. You see a folder window appear, which lists the files and folders stored on the media. To import photos from the media, choose the item Import Pictures and Videos. When you don’t see the exact command you want on the AutoPlay menu, choose Open Folder to View Files and browse for available media, documents, or whatever is stored on the media. The variety of options presented on the AutoPlay menu depends on which programs or apps are installed on your laptop as well as on the content of the removable media. If the AutoPlay message doesn’t appear, open the This PC window: Press Win+E and choose This PC from the list of locations on the left side of the window. Right-click on the storage device’s icon and choose the Open AutoPlay command. Controlling AutoPlay settings Sometimes AutoPlay appears. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the laptop gets a mind of its own and overrides your AutoPlay desires. To keep things in line, visit the AutoPlay screen in the Settings app. Obey these directions: Press Win+I to summon the Settings app. Click the Devices button. On the left side of the screen, choose AutoPlay. Items shown on the right side of the screen affect the AutoPlay settings, which are triggered when you add media or other storage to the laptop. Ensure that the AutoPlay toggle is in the On position. Turning off this setting disables AutoPlay messages. Select the AutoPlay defaults. Two menus are available, one for removable drives and another for memory cards. Choose a setting from the list. Close the Settings app window. If you want to view the AutoPlay menu whenever new media is inserted, choose the option Ask Me Every Time in Step 5.

View Article
Tips and Suggestions for Your Laptop

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Nothing beats tips and suggestions, especially when you’re starting out with something new and different, like a laptop computer. Here are some things that are highly recommended: Restart Windows. This fixes many common problems. If it was working “yesterday,” try the Windows 10 feature Reset This PC. Changes cause problems. Upgrading software or hardware or changing the settings in Windows usually causes whatever new problems your laptop encounters. Activate and use antivirus software. Put a personal label or asset-tracking sticker on your laptop. Hunt down those AC power outlets when you’re out on the road!

View Article
Dialup Internet Access for Your Laptop

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Need dialup internet for your laptop? Dialup modems were once the only way to get on the Internet. It was rare in the 1990s to find any computer — desktop or laptop — without a dialup modem as standard equipment. Eventually, desktops eschewed the dialup modem for Ethernet Internet access. Laptops have been slower to make the transition. Rare today is the laptop that features a built-in dialup modem. If your laptop sports one, you can use it to dial into the Internet or dial into any computer with a dedicated phone line. And, yes, such things are rare today, but not unheard of. Also rare these days is the landline. Your laptop may have a dialup modem and you might even have a phone cord. Great! What can you plug that cord into? If everything falls into place, and the laptop has a dialup modem and you have a place to plug it in and you have another computer you can phone, then great! Windows still accommodates dialup modems. To configure a dialup connection on your laptop, follow these steps: Open the Settings app. Press Win+I. Choose Network & Internet. On the left side of the screen, choose Dial-Up. On the right side of the screen, choose Set Up a New Connection. The Network Connection Wizard appears. Choose Connect to the Internet and click the Next button. If your laptop is already connected to the Internet, choose Set Up a New Connection Anyway. Choose Dialup. This option doesn’t appear if your laptop lacks a dialup modem. Fill in information about the connection. You need to type the phone number, your user name, password, and a name for the connection. Click the Create button. The new connection is created. The connections all appear in the Settings app. That’s where you go when you need to access a dialup service: Open the Settings app, choose Network & Internet, then choose Dial-Up. The connections appear at the top right part of the screen. Click a connection to dial. After the connection has been made, a tiny “modem connected” icon appears in the notification area. It’s your clue that the laptop is connected to the Internet. You can then use any Internet software. To disconnect the modem from the Internet, right-click the little modem icon in the notification area. Choose the Disconnect command from the pop-up menu. Dialup access is slow. Don’t expect blazing speed on anything. Connect the laptop’s modem to a phone jack before you dial the Internet

View Article
Important Laptop Info

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You need to know some important information about your laptop in the event of a technological emergency. Print this page, fill in the blanks, and keep this information near your computer for those dire moments when things go wrong. My laptop computer dealer: ____________ Dealer’s number: ____________ Dealer’s email: ____________ Tech support phone line: ____________ Tech support e-mail: ____________ ISP name: ____________ ISP tech support line: ____________ ISP’s web page: ____________ ISP email: ____________ ISP’s domain name: ____________ ISP’s email POP3 server name: ____________ ISP’s email SMTP name: ____________ My Internet login name: ____________ (Save Internet password elsewhere.) My email address: ____________ (Save email password elsewhere.)

View Article
10 Handy Windows 10 Keyboard Shortcuts

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Most of the useful Windows keyboard shortcuts on your laptop involve the Windows key. It’s labeled with the Windows logo, and it’s referred to as the Win key. Several Win key shortcuts are good to know, especially on a laptop where using the keyboard can often be faster than using the touchpad or finding an external mouse. Here are ten handy Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts: Win+A: Display the Action Center. If you have a Tablet PC, then swiping the touchscreen from the left edge of the screen inward is faster, but Win+A is handy if your hands are already over the keyboard. Win+D: Display the Desktop. This keyboard shortcut doesn’t work when the laptop is in Tablet Mode. Win+E: Open a Windows Explorer window, specifically to the Quick Access window. Win+I: Open the Settings app. Win+L: Lock the laptop. Any time you get up to leave the laptop, even for a short spell, lock it. This command is a vital part of laptop security. Win+O: Turn the Auto Rotate feature off or on. When Auto Rotate is on, the Tablet PC’s screen changes orientation depending on how you’re holding the device. When Auto Rotate is locked, the screen stays in its current orientation. Win+P: Choose how to handle an eternal monitor or projector. Four options are shown on a slide-in panel. Win+S: Bring up a web search window, where you can view trending events or use Bing to search the Internet. Win+U: Show the Ease of Access center, where settings can be made for more easily using the laptop. Win+X: Summon the super-secret menu, on which you find shortcuts to common places in Windows, such as the Control Panel.

View Article
page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5