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I'm one of today's best-selling computer book writers, with more than 15 million books in print.

This website keeps you up-to-date on my books, and your computers. Each week, I answer a reader's question on-line.

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Windows 8.1 For Dummies

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Creating a Recovery Drive in Windows 8

Blue Screen of DeathQ: My Windows 8 computer crashed with a blue screen, saying it had a problem and need a repair.

Since I couldn’t start my computer, I couldn’t do a Refresh or a Repair, so I had to take the computer to a shop.

How can I avoid this in the future?

A: When Windows is about to die, it doesn’t ask for a last meal. No, for the past 30 years, Windows has used its last breath to toss an error message across a blue screen.

When you see what’s often called the Blue Screen of Death, there’s no going back. Windows has died, taking all your unsaved work along with it.

Sometimes simply restarting your computer fixes the problem. Other times, restarting Windows only brings a repeat of the blue screen. And in Windows 8, that means trouble: You can’t access Windows 8’s built in Refresh and Repair tools.

Your best hope is that you’ve created a Recovery Drive — either a flash drive or CD/DVD — that contains built-in fix-it tools to bring Windows 8 back to life. (I’ve covered Windows 7’s recovery discs and repair discs in another post.)

If you haven’t yet created a Recovery Drive for Windows 8, take the time to follow these steps: Click to read more »

Can I safely delete Adobe programs like Acrobat, Air, Reader, Shockwave Player, and Flash Player?

Which Adobe programs are safe to uninstall?Q: Recently a relative gave me a computer that runs Windows XP.

I’m trying to clean it up, and I discovered several Adobe programs: Acrobat, Air, Shockwave Player, and Flash Player.

Do I need them all, or can they be safely deleted?

A: Since its founding in 1982, Adobe Systems has released many programs, and you’ll find one or two Adobe programs on nearly every PC. But which ones do you need, and which can you safely delete?

The short answer is that you can delete many of them found on older PCs. That’s because the latest versions of Adobe’s most popular and commonly found programs can be downloaded and re-installed for free from Adobe’s download page.

Here are longer answers for the specific programs you found on your particular Windows XP computer: Click to read more »

Taking screenshots on the Surface RT

To take a screenshot in Windows RT, hold down the Windows key while simultaneously pressing the Volume Down rocker along the Surface RT's left side.Q: How do I take a screenshot in my Surface RT tablet?

A: Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet comes with a built-in shortcut for taking screenshots — files containing an image of what you currently see on the screen.

The trick is in how you press the Windows key — the silver Windows logo centered beneath your tablet’s screen.

Each time you press and release the Windows key, three things should happen:

  • You should feel a slight vibration
  • You should hear a little buzz
  • Your Surface RT’s screen should switch to either your Start screen or your last-used application.

If all three things aren’t happening, you won’t be able to take a successful screenshot. Keep tapping the Windows key until it starts making the vibrating buzz as it toggles between the Start screen and your last-used application.

If the Windows key still isn’t working, try removing the snap on keyboard and restarting your tablet. Once the Windows key begins to work, you can snap the keyboard back on.

Once the Windows key begins working the way it should, follow these steps to take a screenshot on your Surface RT: Click to read more »

How do I add recurring birthdays into the Calendar app?

Choose Every Year from the Calendar app's How Often drop-down menu to enter recurring events like birthdays and anniversaries.Q: If I put all of my birthday and anniversary dates into Windows 8’s Calendar app, will they automatically reappear a year later?

Or will have to have to remember to enter them all again every year?

A: Windows 8’s Calendar app works well for keeping track of birthdays, anniversaries, and other events.

But there’s a trick: When you enter a birthday or anniversary, you must tell the Calendar app that they’re recurring events. Otherwise the calendar promptly forgets the event next year.

To make sure your birthdays and anniversary entries automatically repeat every year, follow these steps when entering the dates into Windows 8’s Calendar app: Click to read more »

Where are Windows 8’s photo editing tools?

Choose Create from Windows Live Photo Gallery's top menu.Q: Windows 8 doesn’t seem to offer a way to edit images, as you could in Windows 7.

In particular, I’d like to edit my photos for their exposure, color balance and fix otherwise wonky pictures.

Do I have to buy another program, or am I missing something?

A: Neither Windows 7 nor Windows 8 include photo-editing tools with those particular features.

The program you’re missing was probably Windows Live Photo Essentials, which is now called simply Photo Gallery. It’s a free Microsoft program for editing photos. It comes in especially handy for resizing larger photos, making them easier to e-mail.

You probably downloaded Windows Live Photo Essentials onto your old Windows 7 computer, or the program may have been bundled with that PC when sold.

Either way, that program still works on Windows 8 computers, and you can still download it for free:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/photo-gallery-get-started

I covered that program in Windows 7 For Dummies, so it might be the one you’re familiar with.