How To Get Windows Experience Index (WEI) Score In Windows 8.1 & Windows 10

Windows Experience Index (WEI), one of the hundreds of features introduced with Windows Vista, is designed to help you better understand your computer’s capabilities. It scans your computer hardware and assigns it a score after running a number of tests. These ratings help users in purchasing software and games.
Windows Experience Index in Windows 8.1
For instance, a base score of 5.2 means that the PC will run an application or a game if the WEI score of the game or application is less than, or equal to 5.2.

Windows Experience Index in Windows 8.1

In Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, Windows Experience Index could be accessed by right-clicking on Computer icon and then clicking Properties. However, in Windows 8.1 Microsoft has partially dropped this feature and it doesn’t appear in Computer Properties.

Even though most users don’t refer to the base score of WEI before installing software and hence will not miss this feature in Windows 8.1, some users who refer to WEI score might want know how to get back the feature or at least how to check Windows Experience Index ratings in Windows 8.1.
As we mentioned already, there is no perfect workaround to add WEI to Computer Properties. However, since Microsoft hasn’t completely removed this feature from Windows 8.1, there is a way to check WEI score.

UPDATE: We recommend you check out our 3 free tools to get Windows Experience Index in Windows 8.1 guide to know all three free tools out there to get the missing feature in Windows 8.1.

Update: If you’re on Windows 10, please check our how to get Windows Experience Index in Windows 10 guide.

Method 1:
Step 1: Head over to this page and download ChrisPC Win Experience Index software. It’s free!
Step 2: Install the program and run the same to view Windows Experience Index score for your PC.
Windows Experience Index for Windows 8.1

The download link for this is here:

Method 2:

Follow the given below instructions to check WEI score in Windows 8.1 without the help of third-party tools:
Step 1: Sign-in to your account and navigate to the following folder:
(Where “C” is your Windows 8.1 installed drive)
Step 2: Locate the file titled Formal.Assessment (Initial).WinSAT and double-click on the file (if you have multiple files, please open the latest one) to open up the XML file in your default web browser.

Windows Experience Index In Windows 8.1 Picture2
Step 3: Once the file is opened in the web browser, you can view the date on which the file was generated, and also the score for your hardware, such as system score (base score), memory score (RAM score), CPU score, graphics score, disk score, and gaming score (gaming graphics).
Windows Experience Index In Windows 8.1 Picture3
And if Formal.Assessment file isn’t present in DataStore folder, you need to follow the below mentioned instructions to generate the file and view it:

Step 1: Open Power Shell or Command Prompt as administrator. To do this, you can either type CMD on the Start screen followed by Ctrl + Shift + Enter keys, or you can right-click on the Start button and then click Power Shell (admin). If you want to get Command Prompt (admin) to Start button right-click menu, follow our how to add Command Prompt option to Win+X Menu in Windows 8.1 guide.

Windows Experience Index In Windows 8.1 Picture4
Step 2: In the elevated prompt, type the following command and press enter key:

Winsat formal

Windows Experience Index In Windows 8.1 Picture1

Your system might take a few minutes to complete generating the report.
Or you can use the following command to update the score (useful for users who would like to update the score after changing a hardware or updating drivers):
Winsat format -restart
Your system may take a couple of minutes to re-run all assessments.
Step 3: Next, navigate to the following folder:
(“C” is your Windows installed drive)
Step 4: Double-click on the file titled date.time.Formal.Assessment.XML to open it with the default web browser.

Windows Experience Index In Windows 8.1 Picture2

Step 5: Once the file is opened in the web browser, you can view the system score (base score), memory score (RAM score), CPU score, graphics score, disk score and gaming score (gaming graphics). That’s it!
Windows Experience Index In Windows 8.1 Picture3
Let us know if you are having any difficulties in following the above guide by leaving a comment.

Thanks to Faikee for the tip.



Stop automatic updates in Windows 10 RTM (build 10240)

Update I posted a new article about the topic:
Disable Windows 10 Update in the Registry and with PowerShell
I am certainly a friend of an aggressive update and upgrade strategy. But forcing users to update is not the right way. I also have doubts that this practice is legal in every country.

Windows Update only offers the “Automatic updates” and “Notify to schedule restart” options
Windows Update only offers the “Automatic updates” and “Notify to schedule restart” options.

Perhaps this is why Redmond has partly backtracked by offering the “Show-or-hide updates” tool (wushowhide.diagcab), which I will discuss below.

Registry hacks no longer work ^

Please notice that this problem only exists on standalone machines. I outlined in a previous article that businesses have other options to stop Windows updates in addition to the ones I describe below.
In the Preview version, you could bring back the Windows Update applet in the Control Panel by changing the Registry keys. You will receive an error message (Cannot edit IsConvergedUpdateStackEnabled. Error writing the value’s new contents). The reason is that local administrators don’t have the right to change this value.
However, even if you take ownership of the key and then change the value, the Update applet will not appear in the Control Panel. I guess it is now finally gone. (Please let me know if you know of a way to bring it back.)
The only thing that you can still do in the Control Panel is uninstall updates. It appears to me that Microsoft is still fighting with the two different user interfaces in one operating system.
The registry key to change the behavior of Windows Update (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update\AUOptions) also no longer seems to have an effect.
Anyway, let’s see what we can do to stop automatic updates in Windows 10.
Be in full control of Windows Update. Choose Windows updates and decide when to update computers. Compatible with all Windows versions.

The show-or-hide update tool ^

Microsoft published a support article (How to temporarily prevent a Windows or driver update from reinstalling in Windows 10, KB3073930) after NVIDIA drivers caused problems.
Of course, it was only a matter of time (hours, perhaps) until a forced update would break systems. Even though the title of the KB article seems to indicate that the tool can only be used to prevent drivers and updates from reinstalling, you can use it to hide any update.
Hide updates
Hide updates.

I tried the show-or-hide update tool with a driver, a normal update, and a security update and it always worked. However, right after I added an update to the list of hidden updates, it still appeared in Windows Update even after a Windows restart. Windows claimed it would install the updates automatically when I wasn’t using the computer. However, this never happened, and after a while Windows Update no longer showed these updates.

Hidden updates still appear in Windows Update
Hidden updates still appear in Windows Update.

The show-or-hide update tool is certainly useful if you are aware of a problematic update that you want to block. However, this method won’t make you happy if you want to completely stop Windows 10 from downloading and installing updates.

Stop automatic updates in Group Policy editor ^

As in the Windows 10 Preview version, you can also use the Group Policy editor to get additional options for Windows Update in Windows 10 RTM. Open the Group Policy editor by typing “gpedit.msc” in the search box of the Start screen. Then, navigate to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Update.

Stop automatic updates in Group Policy editor
Stop automatic updates in Group Policy editor.

Option 1, Never check for updates (not recommended), from previous Windows versions is missing. It seems that not enough people took the “not recommended” part seriously.
Update: If you set the policy to Disabled, the old option 1 is enabled which means that Windows Update won’t check for new updates. I will write a new post where I say more about this option and about the corresponding registry keys.
The Group Policy Notify for download and notify for install is another way to prevent updates from being downloaded. The only downside of this method is that Windows will constantly bother you to install missing updates. The advantage is that you will be reminded that you are working with a risky configuration.
You need some updates
You need some updates.
Note that the Windows Update app won’t show the changed settings immediately. Even a Windows restart doesn’t change the setting. Only after I clicked Check for updates did the new configuration show up in the Advanced Options.

Windows Update is set to Notify to download
Windows Update is set to notify to download.

You will then no longer be able to change the setting in the Windows Update app.
Also note that the setting Allow local admins to choose setting appears to not work on standalone machines. In the Preview version, you could then change the setting in the Control Panel. But since the Control Panel applet for Windows Update no longer exists, this setting won’t really help you.

Completely disable Windows Update ^

Systems exist where you don’t want Windows Update to mess with your installation at all. I usually completely disable Windows Update on virtual machines that I use for testing purposes. I am working with linked clones, which I destroy after the test is finished. Thus, installing updates on these systems is pointless because they usually only live for a couple of hours.
The last thing I want is for Windows Update to reboot a system during a test. Even worse is when Windows Update sometimes goes wild on idle systems and uses up all the CPU resources on the VM. If you have several VMs running on a host, and Windows Update suddenly gets bored simultaneously on a couple of VMs, your host might become more or less unresponsive and you will have a hard time getting control back on your host. Windows Update shows this odd behavior even if no updates are available!
The only thing that helps is to simply disable the Windows Update service. To do so, click Start, type “service,” and then start the Services tool. Navigate to Windows Update. After double-clicking the service, you can stop it and disable it so it won’t be bothersome again.

Disable the Windows Update service
Disable the Windows Update service.

You can also use PowerShell to disable the service on a console with administrator rights:
If you later want to restore the default setting quickly, you can use these commands:

Conclusion ^

To avoid possible misunderstandings, I don’t encourage you to stop automatic updates in Windows 10. Keeping Windows up to date is extremely important for a variety reasons. Security is only one of them. If you disable Windows Update, you should take other actions to keep the system secure.
You should also have good reasons to turn off automatic updates. If you are just worried that Windows Update eats up the allowance of your mobile data plan, you just have to set the corresponding network connection to metered.
If a particular update causes problems, you can use Microsoft’s show-or-hide update tool. If you just don’t want to be patronized from Redmond, use the Group Policy editor. You can then decide for yourself if and when to install updates.



How to Enable or Disable Graphical Boot Menu In Windows 10

The graphical boot options menu or bootloader was first introduced with Windows 8 and is the default bootloader in Windows 10 as well. The new graphical, modern or metro boot menu allows you quickly access troubleshooting tools, startup options and more importantly, can be navigated via mouse or touch input.
Although the new boot menu offers more options, there are users who still prefer using the classic black and white boot menu.
The new graphical boot menu can be enabled or disabled with ease in Windows 10. You just need to execute a simple command in elevated Command Prompt in order to disable or enable the new bootloader. The EasyBCD 2.3 for Windows 10 (free for non-commercial use) also supports enabling or disabling the new boot menu.
In this guide, we will see how to enable or disable the new graphical boot menu in Windows 10 using Command Prompt as well as EasyBCD. Disabling the graphical boot menu will automatically enable the classic Windows 7-style boot menu. Likewise, enabling the graphical boot menu will automatically disable the classic boot menu. The classic boot menu is helpful to quickly boot into the safe mode in Windows 10.
Method 1- enable or disable graphical boot options menu via Command Prompt
Method 2 – enable or disable graphical boot menu via EasyBCD
Method 1

Turn on or off graphical boot menu via Command Prompt

Step 1: Open Command Prompt with administrator rights. To do so, type Command Prompt or CMD in Start menu or taskbar search box, right-click on Command Prompt entry and then click Run as administrator option.

Enable or disable graphical boot options menu in Windows 10 pic1

Click Yes button when you see the User Account Control prompt.
Step 2: In the elevated prompt type following commands to enable or disable the graphical boot loader.
To enable the graphical boot menu:
bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard
To disable the graphical boot menu:
bcdedit /set “{current}” bootmenupolicy legacy

Enable or disable graphical boot options menu in Windows 10 pic01
Step 3: You may now close the Command Prompt. Reboot your PC to see the change.
Method 2

Enable or disable graphical boot menu using EasyBCD

Step 1: Visit this page and download EasyBCD 2.3 or newer version. Older versions of EasyBCD doesn’t support enabling or disabling the graphical boot menu in Windows 10.
Step 2: Run the setup file and install EasyBCD.
Step 3: Launch EasyBCD, click Edit Boot Menu (see picture below).
Step 4: Check the option labelled Metro bootloader to enable the graphical boot menu and uncheck the same to disable graphical boot loader. Click Save settings to turn on/off the graphical boot menu.

Enable or disable graphical boot options menu in Windows 10

Close EasyBCD and reboot your PC.


Windows 8 Switch Boot: Enable Or Disable The New Boot Options Menu In Windows 8

The graphical boot menu or boot options menu is one of the new features introduced with Windows 8. Unlike the old black and white style boot menu, the boot options menu looks elegant and is compatible with keyboard, mouse, and also touch.
The boot options menu lets you quickly access various advanced options such as Command Prompt, startup settings, system restore, Refresh PC & Reset PC, and automatic repair.
Boot Options Menu
Users who have installed Windows 8 in dual boot with previous Windows version see the new boot menu every time they turn on the machine. If have installed Windows 8 in dual boot with Windows 7 and you have set Windows 7 as default OS, you’ll see the old style boot menu. Users who are running only Windows 8, can go to PC settings, general, and then click or tap Restart now button (under Advanced startup) to see the new boot options menu.
We have previously shown you how to enable or disable the graphical boot menu with the help of a command. Since not every user is comfortable with the command line, a Windows enthusiast has developed a small tool that enables you turn on or off the new boot options menu.
Windows 8 Switch Boot is a portable utility to quickly enable or disable the graphical boot options menu. The tool simply execute a command to enable or disable the new boot options menu. In other words, it doesn’t edit or replace original system files. So, you can use it safely.
Switch Boot for Windows 8
Windows 8 Switch Boot is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 8. Visit the developer’s page to download the program.
The users who are interested to what happens behind this tool and to do this manually check out the following steps:

1. First Goto %windir%\system32\ . (%windir% = C:\Windows if you have installed Windows in C drive)

2. Find cmd.exe. Once you find it Right click on cmd.exe and select Run as administrator.

3. Select any one of the following two commands and type it in the Command line window.

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy            -To get old Boot screen
bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard       -To get Metro style Boot screen


10 Awesome Tools To Tweak & Customize Windows 10

Long time PC users who upgraded to Windows 7 soon after its release probably remember that there were no less than fifty third-party utilities available to tweak and customize the operating system at the time of its release. There were tools to customize every nook and corner of the operating system from the boot screen to copy/paste animations.
These days, we hardly see developers coming up with new applications to tweak and customize Windows operating system. It could be because of smartphones, but most users prefer keeping Windows operating system as it is without any customizations.
That said, there is no dearth of tweaking and customization tools for Windows 10. It’s been just two months since release of Windows 10, there are already a bunch of quality tools to tweak and customize the newest version of Windows.

Customize & tweak Windows 10 with these free tools

In no particular order, following are some of the best free tools out there to tweak and customize Windows 10.

Aero Glass for Windows 8.1+
Like in Windows 8/8.1, Aero glass transparency feature is not available in Windows 10 as well. If you love Aero glass transparency and want to get the same in Windows 10, download and install Aero Glass for Windows 8.1+. The free tool helps you bring back Aero glass to window borders with blur effect. The program also allows you change the transparency level and skin window borders without actually installing a new visual style.

Aero glass for Windows Windows 10
Download Aero Glass for Windows 8.1+

WinAero Tweaker
WinAero Tweaker is probably one of the best free tweaking tools out there for Windows 10. With this free tool, you can change various default settings and also personalize Windows 10 to your liking. The Tweaker is updated regularly to include new tweaks and customizations.
Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 pic2
Download WinAero Tweaker

Windows 10 supports pinning your favorite apps, links and programs to the Start menu. But if you want to create a new tile on the Start menu to quickly access a file or executable by including custom icon and tile background color, then TileCreator is the ideal software for job.
Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 Tile Creator

Unlike similar apps available in the Store, this program is completely free.
Download TileCreator

Ultimate Windows Tweaker
Probably the complete tweaking tool available for Windows 10. The Ultimate Windows Tweaker for Windows 10 includes over 200 settings to tweak almost every major area of Windows 10. The program is easy-to-navigate and more importantly, it’s portable. Just download and run the program to start using it.

Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 pic3
Download Ultimate Windows Tweaker

Windows 10 Login Screen Background Changer
By default, Windows 10 uses the default desktop wallpaper as login screen background. But if you would like to set a custom picture as login screen background, you can use the free Windows 10 Login Screen Background Changer application.

Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 login screen changer

Login Screen Background Changer also enables you replace the default login screen background picture with a solid color, like in Windows 8/8.1.
Download Login Screen Background Changer

Classic Shell
The Start menu in Windows 10 although is not perfect, it’s better than the Start screen in many ways. If you upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer and now missing the classic Windows 7’s Start menu, go ahead and install Classic Shell to get Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 10.
And even if you’re not interested in Windows 7’s Start menu, there are plenty of settings to tweak and customize Windows 10. For instance, there is a setting to make the taskbar fully transparent.
Download Classic Shell

7+ Taskbar Tweaker
If you want to change the default settings of the taskbar in Windows 10, look no further than 7+ Taskbar Tweaker. The program has been recently updated to support Windows 10 and offers close to 30 settings to change the default behavior of the taskbar.

Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 Taskbar tweaker

For instance, you can use it to hide the Start button on the taskbar. And if you looking to customize the taskbar, refer to our 13 ways to customize windows 10 taskbar guide.
7+ Taskbar Tweaker

Windows 10 Color Control
Windows Color Control is a little program from the developer of 7+ Taskbar Tweaker. The program allows you set different colors for the taskbar as well as window borders, which is not possible by default.
Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 Color Control
Download Windows Color Control

Folder Marker
Folder Marker is a free software designed to change the default color of folders in Windows. The free version of Folder Marker offers plenty of options to customize the default look of folders. With the free version, you can assign an icon to a folder from EXE, BMP, DLL, or ICO files as well as change the icon of one folder at a time or apply the same icon to all the folders in Windows 10 at a time.
Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 pic7.1
Download Folder Marker

While NTLite will not help you customize Windows 10 directly, the tool can be used to customize and tweak the Windows 10 installation. With the help of NTLite, you can create unattended Windows 10 ISO and integrate drivers and other important software.

Free tools to tweak and customize Windows 10 NTlite
The software can also be used to integrate new themes, wallpapers, and screensavers in your Windows 10 ISO or DVD.
Download NTLite



Attempting to answer whether MS is snooping

By Susan Bradley
Microsoft has recently released updates to Windows 7 that allow it to gather more information about our PCs.
But is the company really tracking what we do on our systems? And can this data gathering be turned off?
Sending system stats back to ground control
During the development of a new OS, it's common for the beta software to include code that records system activity. That information is then use to find bugs, compatibility issues, and performance problems so they can be fixed before the OS is officially released. In fact, many forms of shipped software — productivity suites, browsers, utilities, and so forth — on PCs, Macs, and Android devices continue to send back crash reports for bug fixes.
For many years, Windows has included a feedback system — once called Dr. Watson — for automated troubleshooting. The system is a two-way connection; when appropriate, fixes can be automatically sent back to PCs.
But in 2013, security vendor Websense took Microsoft's reporting system to task. It noted in a blog post that the recorded data was sent in the clear — and that hackers could steal personal information by snooping the transmissions between PCs and Microsoft. That leaked information could be used to attack systems.
Websense strongly recommended that system tracking be turned off.
That recommendation might have been a bit excessive. Stealing telemetry data would require a "man in the middle" attack, which would mean that the hackers already had a foothold on the target networks or Internet connections.
Fast forward to Windows 10: Microsoft has increased the amount of information it collects for diagnosing problems with Windows and applications. But whether this is good or bad is not easily answered. If it results in better patch quality and faster responses from Microsoft, I'm all for it. On the other hand, I'm deeply concerned about the lack of transparency — what specifically is collected and how, exactly, is it used?
In this Big Data, post-Snowden era, we need to take the methodical erosion of our privacy very seriously. The information we willingly hand over, along with the data that's collected behind the scenes, both benefits us and targets us — and the balance is rapidly tipping toward the latter.
Given the heated discussions about Windows telemetry, I sent myself on a quest: Could I determine what information Microsoft gleans from a typical Windows 7 system with the new telemetry updates installed? (I was more interested in the changes in Win7 than what's built into Win10.)
In a classic case of good news/bad news, the answer was no. Presumably stung by the criticisms of Dr. Watson, Microsoft now transmits all diagnostic traffic from PCs to company servers via encrypted, Secure Socket Layer connections.
On a test PC, I tried viewing telemetry connections with the popular networking analysis tool, Wireshark (site). But Microsoft's security measures kept me from making any sense of what was traveling from my machine to Microsoft servers. So I'm still in the dark about what the company is collecting — but then so are potential hackers, I assume.
Backporting Win10 telemetry tools to Win7/8.1
What Microsoft built into Windows 10 from the start, it recently added to our Win7 and Win8.1 systems via a series of updates. (That's caused quite a tizzy in the blogosphere, with most of the "discussions" based on conjecture and hearsay.) For example, optional KBs 3075249, 3080149 and 3068708 give Win7 and Win8.1 data-gathering capabilities similar to Win10's.
If you have automatic updating turned off (as I have frequently recommended) you can ignore or hide those updates. But Microsoft has a habit of changing the status of some optional updates, moving them to the Important section in Windows Update and setting them as prechecked.
An alternative to constantly checking these "optional" telemetry updates is to turn off the telemetry services altogether. Windows Secret's sister publication — Windows IT Pro — provides advanced-user instructions for disabling the Windows Tracking Service; see the Sept. 9 article, "How to: Turn off telemetry in Windows 7, 8, and Windows 10." This technique will ensure you don't have to hide future telemetry updates.
But, again, there's a potential price to pay: Turning off telemetry in Windows could slow the pace of operating-system fixes. Moreover, this trick doesn't necessarily turn off all system tracking.
Other attempts to track telemetry transmissions
Another way to block Internet connections is the HOST-file technique (more info), which works for Win7 and Win8.1. However, on Windows 10, some users tried that trick to block telemetry communications, but, as noted on several websites — including an Aug. 31 Ars Technica story — Microsoft's telemetry system simply ignores the HOST-file method. In a big change from Win7, you must take ownership of the HOST file in order to make changes in the new OS.
My attempts at Windows 7 telemetry analysis were based on steps posted by software developer Rob Seder, who was investigating his Win10 machine. Following his instructions, I used Wireshark to log transmissions from Win7 to the following websites:
Although most of the urls in that list appear to be subdomains of Microsoft, a few, such as, are related to the Bing search engine, as noted on the VirusTotal website.
An even longer list of MS telemetry-related urls, posted on the MajorGeeks site, includes domain names such as, which is attached to the Akamai content delivery network service. Large companies such as Microsoft often offload some Web duties to services that specialize in secure content delivery over the Internet.
I left Wireshark running overnight. In the morning, it was clear that the Windows telemetry system hadn't "phoned home" often. And, again, the information sent to Microsoft was mostly unreadable by the network-analysis software (see Figure 1).
Wireshark results
Figure 1. The results of my Wireshark analysis of Windows telemetry data
The 'Everyone does it, so it's okay' argument
Read the privacy policies of nearly every major Web service, and you might want to return to paper cups and string for your daily transmissions. Microsoft's privacy policy raises numerous concerns, but in truth it's not any worse than Google's or Apple's policies. They all say that they give you control over your privacy, but none say what they collect in any detail or in a way that the average human can interpret.
That's not really acceptable. Most of us are willing to provide personal information to Web services — for mapping, searching, sharing, and so forth — for a better computing experience. But what happens to that information, now that it resides on Internet servers? Many users assume it's deleted when we no longer need it; but, in fact, we simply don't know. And that's what we should be most concerned about — the lack of transparency.
The difficult decisions for personal privacy
I started this investigation to see whether I could determine exactly what information Microsoft is gathering from my systems. I was pleased that this telemetry data is now protected — but I was also disappointed that I couldn't answer my primary question: Is Microsoft snooping on us?
Based on Microsoft's privacy policy and a recent Blogging Windows post by Windows honcho Terry Meyerson, I'm fairly comfortable that the telemetry information won't be used for truly malicious intent; hackers can't access and use the information to wage attacks on our systems.
But there's also the "Big Data" aspect. Will that data make its way to other massive services and get combined with other sources of information about us? I recently attended a technology conference that discussed Big Data services, and I came away both impressed and worried.
Still, as noted in a recent ZDNet article, if you've gone through Win10's numerous privacy settings and you're still uncomfortable about what the company does with your data, the alternative is to not upgrade to the new OS — or use "Chrome OS, iOS, Android, or any other system that's tied closely into the cloud."
I'm not ready to chuck those platforms, and I assume you aren't either. But that doesn't mean we should blindly accept vendors' data-gathering practices.
On Windows 7 and 8.1 systems, you have fewer privacy options. Here, I recommend disabling the Windows telemetry service. Neither OS will see significant enhancements, so we're mostly concerned with all-important security updates.
Open the start menu and click Administrative Tools/Services (or Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Services). Scroll down the list of services until you find Diagnostic Tracking Service. Click it and stop the service, then click OK. Now right-click the service and open Properties. Change Startup type from Automatic to Disabled (see Figure 2) and then click OK. (Note: If you don't see the service, it's probably because you're behind a domain and didn't get optional updates KB 3075249, KB 3080149, and KB 3068708 installed, install that service.)
Disable diagnostic tracking
Figure 2. You can reduce the data your Win7 or Win8.1 system sends back to Microsoft by disabling Windows' Diagnostic Tracking Service.
I'm keeping the service disabled on my Win7 (and probably my Win10 systems, too), until I find out exactly what is being sent to Microsoft — or I feel more comfortable with the telemetry process. And I'm keeping a closer eye on all other Web-attached services and software. No matter what you think about Edward Snowden, he made all of us far more aware of how our personal data might be used.


How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10

Windows 10's Cortana provides a great way to quickly launch a web search, but you may not appreciate that Microsoft’s digital assistant defaults to Bing—and there’s no built-in way to get Cortana to switch to Google instead.
The lack of multi-search engine integration makes a certain amount of sense since Cortana's cloud-based brains are powered by Bing. That works out fine for tracking flights, solving math problems, and telling you the weather. But when it comes to simply displaying search results, many people prefer Google to Microsoft’s search engine.
Fortunately, there are a few solutions that can redirect your Cortana web searches from Bing to Google.
The downside is these solutions only work with Chrome or Firefox. That means if Microsoft Edge, Opera, or Internet Explorer is your browser of choice you’ll have to make due with Bing or switch your default browser.
If you’re not big on Google, these solutions also work with other search engines, such as DuckDuckGo and Yahoo.
Further reading: Meet Cortana: The ultimate guide to Windows 10's helpful digital assistant


Firefox is the simplest of the two to get working as it has the ability to switch your Cortana search engine automatically and without any third-party add-ons.
All you have to do is set the most recent version of Firefox as your default web browser. If you don’t know how to do that, check out PCWorld's tutorial on changing your default browser in Windows 10.
Once Firefox is your default, try searching with Cortana. You’ll notice that Firefox displays your search results using the browser’s default search engine. If you’ve never used Firefox before that means your Cortana searches will show results from Yahoo. Switching to Google, however, is really easy.
Search options in Firefox for Windows.
Open Firefox and click on the magnifying glass icon in the search bar. Next, a drop down menu appears where you can select Change Search Settings. In the tab that opens, click the drop down menu under Default Search Engine and select Google.
Now whenever you launch a search using Cortana you’ll get results in Google instead of Bing.


Chrome won't natively redirect your Cortana searches in Firefox-like fashion, but there is a third-party extension that offers the same effect: Chrometana.
Chrometana’s search engine options.
After you’ve installed Chrometana from the Chrome Web Store, type chrome://extensions into the address bar. Scroll down until you see Chrometana and click Options. A new page will open, allowing you to choose Google, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo as your preferred search engine for Cortana.
Click the search engine of your choice, close the tab, and then do a search via Cortana. Just as before, the results will open up in Google instead of Bing. Success!



Windows 10 tips, tricks, secrets, and shortcuts: File Explorer-ZDNet

Even certified Windows masters can learn a trick or two from Ed Bott's series of how-to articles. This edition covers tips, tricks, secrets, and shortcuts for using File Explorer.

For the past few months, I've been working with my two longtime partners, Carl Siechert and Craig Stinson, on a new book, Windows 10 Inside Out. It's off to the printer this week and should be available in about a month.
Putting a book of this size together is always a learning experience, and that's especially true with Windows 10, which mixes classic elements that have been part of Windows for many editions with all-new stuff.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share some of that learning here, in a series of how-to posts. Today's edition covers tips, tricks, secrets, and shortcuts for using File Explorer. Even if you're a certified Windows master, I bet I can show you a trick or two you didn't know before.
1. Open a File Explorer windows fast
Get to know the classic shortcut combination for File Explorer, Windows key+E. For opening a single window, it's only a few microseconds faster than clicking the taskbar icon, but it's a huge time-saver when you're trying to open a second window.
Knowing that shortcut is especially handy when you plan to move or copy files between two folders. To open a second window using the mouse, you have to Shift+click. Instead, press Windows key+E twice to open two windows, which you can then snap left and right for easy dragging and dropping.
2. Customize the Quick Access list
The signature feature of Windows 10's revamped File Explorer is the new Quick Access list. You can pin your favorite folders to the top of the list for quick, one-click access. Folders you've used recently show up below the pinned items, which is handy when you're working with a group of files as part of a short-term project.
Anything in the Quick Access list is a drop target, which means you can move files to that location by dragging them from the main window (or even from another File Explorer window) and dropping them on the pinned folder.
To pin the current folder, click the big Pin to Quick Access button on the ribbon's Home tab. Click to enlarge.
To pin the current folder, click the big Pin to Quick Access button on the ribbon's Home tab.
To pin the current folder, click the big Pin to Quick Access button on the ribbon's Home tab.
3. Change File Explorer's opening folder
In Windows 10, File Explorer opens with Quick Access selected. Old-school Windows users might prefer to start in This PC (previously known as My Computer), which includes the six standard data folders in your user profile as well as any local drives and removable media such as USB drives.
No problem. On the ribbon, open the View tab, click Options, Change folder and search options, and then choose one of these two options.
Choose one of two folder options.
4. Use the expanded Send To menu
Yes, you can right-click a file or folder (or multiple items, for that matter) and use the Send To menu to do a few interesting things, like move or copy the selection to your Documents folder, create a compressed file (in .zip format), or send the selection as an email attachment. But the selection is pretty weak and, frankly, weird. Fax recipient? Really?
The selection is pretty weak and, frankly, weird. Fax recipient? Really?
But the Send To menu gets much more interesting if you hold down the Shift key before you right-click. The menu you get after doing that is just filled with interesting stuff, including every folder in your user profile. Here, see for yourself.
Hold down the Shift key before you right-click.
5. Customize the Send To menu
Speaking of the Send To menu, you can make it much more useful by adding and removing the options on the default (short) menu. They're just shortcuts, but good luck finding them, because they're buried in a folder hidden deep within your user profile.
To get to that folder, open the Run box (Windows key+R), type shell:sendto, and then press Enter.
First order of business: delete the Fax Recipient shortcut. After that, you can add shortcuts to favorite folders (local and network). You can also add shortcuts to programs. Adding a shortcut to Notepad or another text editor makes it much easier to quickly edit any file, for example. Ditto for pictures and your favorite image editor.
6. Customize the Quick Access toolbar
If you've jumped straight from Windows 7 to Windows 10, the addition of an Office-style ribbon is probably the biggest change in File Explorer.
Its companion, the Quick Access Toolbar, is equally noteworthy and arguably more useful. It appears in the title bar, above the ribbon. Customize that toolbar with the commands you use most often and you can bypass the ribbon completely for many tasks.
Some obvious customization options are available on the menu that appears when you click the arrow to the right of the toolbar. Not so obvious and much more useful is the option to add any individual command from any tab on the ribbon. Just right-click the command and then click Add to Quick Access Toolbar.
Right-click the name under the group to see this option.
But even most Windows experts don't know you can right-click an entire group of commands and add the group as a menu on the Quick Access Toolbar. Right-click the name under the group to see the option. I use this trick to add the Panes group from the View tab, so I can easily show or hide the Preview pane or Details pane on the right.
7. Master advanced search
See that search box in the upper right corner of the File Explorer window? Type a word or two in there and you can find any file in the current folder that contains your search term, either in the file name or (for file types that are fully indexed) in the body of the file.
But there's an entire advanced search syntax, complete with Boolean operators, parameters, and operators. My favorite is the datemodified: operator, which accepts actual dates but also understands relative dates, like today, this week, last week, this month, and last month.
If you want to see all the Excel spreadsheets you've worked on so far this month, for example, just enter this in the search box:
type:excel datemodified:this month
The search syntax assumes you want to find files that match both criteria, treating the query as if you had added the AND operator between the two terms.
The search syntax assumes you want to find files that match both criteria.
8. Pin saved searches to Start
So maybe you didn't like that last tip, because the idea of typing commands in a box seems too retro. Fair enough.
But what if you could save those searches, so you could just click a shortcut to show only files that you worked with in the past week or two? You can, and the search results will always be relative to the current date.
Start in the folder or library you want to use as the search scope - that could be your synced OneDrive or Dropbox files, your local Documents folder, or a network store, for example.
Enter datemodified:(this week OR last week) in the search box. Be sure to include the parentheses and capitalize the Boolean OR.
Because you've just run a search, File Explorer politely switches the ribbon to the Search tab, where you can click Save Search and give those parameters a name. The search gets saved, logically enough, in the Searches folder in your user profile. Right-click that saved search to pin it to the Start menu, or drag it onto the File Explorer icon on the taskbar to add it to the jump list.
Right-click that saved search to pin it to the Start menu.
9. Use filters to find files faster
Typing in the search box is one way to narrow a large group of files to a more manageable one, but it's not the only way. Filters are an even easier way to point and click your way to search success.
Start in the folder or library you want to search, and then use the button in the lower right corner of a File Explorer window to switch to Details view, which arranges your files into columns. Now look to the right of each heading, where you'll find a small arrow. Click that arrow to show a filter list for the data in that column. By clicking a check box or two (or three), you can cut a very large list of files down to size.
The date navigator is much more powerful than it looks at first glance. Use the calendar to zoom in or out and narrow or expand your view of the contents of a folder or a search. Initially, the calendar shows the current month, with today's date highlighted. Click the month heading to zoom out to a display showing the current year as a heading with the current month highlighted. You can then drag or hold down Ctrl and click to select multiple months.
Drag or hold down Ctrl and click to select multiple months.
10. Group files
Everyone knows how to sort files--just click a column heading to sort by that value, and click again to reverse the sort order.
But you can also group files by date, size, or type, making it much easier to see similar files in a folder or a set of search results. The Group command is on the View tab of the ribbon. It's also available when you right-click in the File Explorer window.
Each group gets its own heading in File Explorer, with a count of how many items are in that group. You can right-click a heading to expand or collapse it. You can also collapse all groups to produce a neat breakdown of groups, with the number shown beside each one.
You can also collapse all groups.