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Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

Have you ever had a problem finding some of Windows built-in administrative tools? Don't you wish you could have them in one, easy to find location? You can do just that and more with the Microsoft Management Console.

Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

The Microsoft Management Console (MMC) is a program that is used to create, save, and open collections of administrative tools, called Consoles. Consoles contain items such as snap-ins, extension snap-ins, monitor controls, tasks, wizards, and documentation required to manage many of the hardware, software, and networking components of your Windows system.

The Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 10
The Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 10

Here is a list of some of the more useful MMC Snapins:

  • Computer Management
  • Device Manager
  • Disk Management
  • Event Viewer
  • Link to Web Address
  • Performance Diagnostics
  • Print Management
  • Services
  • Shared Folders
  • Task Scheduler
  • Windows Firewall

Using the Run dialog box to start the Microsoft Management Console

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, type mmc and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. When the Microsoft Management Console appears, it is time to add some content.

How to add / remove Microsoft Management Console snap-ins

  1. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and select Add/Remove Snap-in
  2. In the list of snap-ins that appears, left-click the snap-in you want to add to your console and then left-click on the Add button
  3. If prompted, select either Local computer or Another computer. If you select Another computer, you will have to browse your network for that computer. Be sure to select the check box for Allow the select computer to be changed when launching from the command line.
  4. Then left-click on Finish. This will bring you back to the Add/Remove Snapin screen. When you are done adding snapins, just left-click on the OK button in the lower right-hand corner of that screen.

How to add / edit / remove a Microsoft Management Console Taskpad View

  1. Right-click on the name of the console and left-click either New Taskpad View, Edit Taskpad View or Delete Taskpad View from the dialog menu that appears. If you do not have any Taskpad Views already inside of the console, the only option that will appear is New Taskpad View.
  2. If you are creating a new Taskpad View, the New Taskpad View Wizard will appear. Just follow the prompts and choose the Taskpad default settings. If you don't like the way it appears, you can always go back and edit the layout later. If you are editing a Taskpad View, the general settings and tasks associated with it will appear.
  3. When you finish creating a new Taskpad View, you have the option of creating a new task to go inside of it. If you are editing an existing Taskpad View, you can go the Tasks tab and edit the existing Tasks.
  4. When adding new tasks, the New Task Wizard will appear. Just follow the prompts and select the command type you want to use. You can run a command from a menu, run a script or program, open up a web page or open a tree item from your MMC favorite list.

When you are finished setting up your console, don't forget to save it some place where you an access it easily, like your Desktop.

Using special font characters in Windows with Character Map

Have you ever wanted to insert a letter or symbol into a Windows document that was not shown on your keyboard? Maybe a copyright, trademark or tolerance symbol? You can do just that and more with Windows built-in Character Map.

Believe it or not, but Windows fonts can have more characters than your keyboard has keys for. In fact, most Windows fonts do have more characters than your keyboard can create. And that doesn't even include the special fonts characters you can create with Private Character Editor. So how do you access and insert these characters? By using Character Map.

Character Map inside of Windows 10
Character Map inside of Windows 10

Character Map is one of those hidden gems inside of Windows that once you find it; you wonder how you lived without it. I personally remember first using Character Map inside of Windows 3.1 and was amazed at what font characters I could insert into a Microsoft Word document. And the cool thing is you can insert them into almost any Windows based program (HTML editors excluded).

Character Map inside of Windows 3.11
Character Map inside of Windows 3.11

How to start up Character Map

You can start Character Map two different ways: Windows built-in shortcut or from the Run dialog box.

Character Map in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Apps
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Windows Accessories to expand it
  4. Left-click on Character Map

Character map in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

  1. Swipe in from the right-side of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charm bar
  2. Left-click on Search button in Charm Bar.
  3. Left-click on Apps in Search.
  4. Type Character Map in the Search field on the Search pane
  5. In the results on the left hand side, left-click on Character Map.

Character Map in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Programs
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Accessories to expand it
  4. Left-click on System Tools to expand it
  5. Left-click on Character Map

Using the Run dialog box to start Character Map

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, type charmap and select OK.

How to insert a special character into a document

  1. Left-click the Font pull-down menu and left-click the name of the font you want to use
  2. Left-click on the special character you want to insert into the document
  3. Left-click Select and then left-click Copy
  4. Open / switch to your document and left-click the location in the document where you want the special character to appear
  5. Left-click the program's Edit menu or right-click the location where you want the character to appear and select Paste
  • Many programs allow you to drag and drop special characters into documents. To do this, click the character you want to copy. When the character appears enlarged, drag and drop it into the open document.
  • If you do not delete previously copied characters in the Characters to copy box, they are copied along with any new characters you select.
  • If a private character does not appear correctly in a document, select the character in the document and change its font so that it matches the font you selected in Character Map.

Create your own Windows font character with Private Character Editor

Do you have a company logo or a simple graphic that you would like to use often in a Windows program, like Microsoft Word or Excel? Maybe your line of work has special characters that you would like to use but cannot find them inside any of the installed Windows fonts? If so, you may want to create your own with Private Character Editor.

Using Private Character Editor (PCE), you can create up to 6,400 unique characters (such as special letters and logos) for use in your font library. PCE contains basic tools (pencil, brush, line, rectangle and circle) for creating and editing characters, along with more advanced options.

The Private Character Editor inside of Window 10
The Private Character Editor inside of Window 10

There are some pros and cons to creating your own characters. Pro: you can insert your special character into any line of text and change its size and color. Con: your special character can only be one color (font color) and is low-resolution. If you're looking for multiple colors and/or high resolution, you would need to use a graphic instead. But if you're looking for something that can be inserted into a line of text in Windows, this is just what you're looking for.

My custom Windows logo character inserted into a WordPad document
My custom Windows logo character inserted into a WordPad document

Now starting PCE can be kind of hard the first time, since there is no shortcut to the program. But once you know where it is and how to start it, you're ready to rock and roll. The program name for PCE is eudcedit.exe and it is located in the Windows\system32 directory. The easiest way to start it up is by using the Run dialog box.

How to open the Run dialog box

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, type eudcedit and select OK.

Once you have created your special character, you will need to use the Character Map application to copy it to the clipboard so you can paste it into your Windows program (see video below).
Use the Character Map program to insert your special character
Once your special character is inserted, you can change its format (color, size, bold, italic, etc.) any way you like.

Note:

  • You can choose to link your private characters to all the fonts in your font library (so that any font you've selected can display your private characters), or you can choose to link your private characters only to specific fonts (so that only the specified font can display your private characters).
  • Using the Select Code dialog box, you can view your entire set of private characters. The Select Code dialog box displays miniature views of all your private characters with their corresponding hexadecimal values.
  • If you want to create a new private character using an existing character as your model, you can copy the existing character to the Edit grid and then modify it to suit your needs, or you can display the existing character in a Reference window alongside your Edit grid for use as a visual reference. You can use any character from any font that is installed on your computer.
  • By default, PCE creates characters using the Unicode character set. In addition, if you have installed one of the Asian input languages (such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean), you can also use PCE with the Windows character set.

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

In repairing computers for a living, the one thing I find myself doing constantly is cleaning up and resetting web browsers. Removing adware, malware and viruses can really screw up the Internet Explorer. So here is how to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer.

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer (IE) has been included every version of Windows since Windows 98. Microsoft has made cleaning IE fairly easy, but there can be some tricky items. All of IE's settings are accessible from either inside of IE or from the Control Panel. The best way is to go through the Control Panel because that is when IE is not technically running. If you use Outlook or Windows Mail, you will need to close these programs too before attempting to clean up IE, as they actually use IE to rendered HTML formatted e-mails.

When it comes to resetting the IE, you have to first get into the Control Panel. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, the easiest way to do it is to type Control Panel into the search box above the Start button and select Control Panel from the search results. The easiest and fastest way in Windows 8 and Windows 10 is to use the Power Users menu (Windows logo key Windows logo key + X) and then select Control Panel. Once you have the Control Panel up, select Network and Internet then Internet Options (if viewing by category) or just Internet Options (if viewing by icons).

The Internet Properties General tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties General tab inside of Windows 10

The Internet Options haven't changed much over the years, so the tabs on the Internet Properties will look similar in Windows Vista as they do in Windows 10. When you first open Internet Properties, the General tab appears by default. From here you can go down to Browsing history and delete everything from temporary Internet files and cookies to form data and passwords. Remember that once you delete something like passwords you cannot get it back, so choose carefully.

The Internet Properties Programs tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties Programs tab inside of Windows 10

Once you're done with the General tab, go over to the Programs tab and select Manage add-ons. Here is where you enable, disable and sometimes delete add-ons that have been installed into the IE. There are times when all you can do is disable an add-on, so that is when you'll need a third-party program like CCleaner from Piriform. In fact, CCleaner can cleanup all of the major browsers, but the only one I've had issues with getting rid of third-party programs is IE.

The Internet Properties Advanced tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties Advanced tab inside of Windows 10

The last tab in Internet Properties is Advanced and it is the most powerful. It has only two buttons, Restore advanced settings and Reset. The first one you click is Restore advanced settings then click on Apply in the lower right-hand corner. Then to completely reset IE click on Reset. You will get a screen warning you that you are about to reset IE back to its original defaults settings. Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 users will also have the option of deleting personal settings. Remember that these cannot be undone, so choose carefully. If in doubt, leave the personal files check box empty. You can always come back and remove them if need be.

Now if after you have reset IE you find you cannot get into some secure sites, like bank websites, go back into Internet Properties and select the Security tab and deselect Enable Protected Mode. When you click Apply you will get a prompt telling you that your current security setting might put you at risk. Then try the website you were having problems with. If you can now get into it, you are all set.

The Windows features menu inside of Windows 10
The Windows features menu inside of Windows 10

There is one option that is not available to IE and that is to uninstall and reinstall. As I stated earlier in this article, IE is integrated into the operating system as a feature and is used by other programs like Outlook and Windows Mail. The only thing you can do is turn off the IE feature in the Control panel, restart your computer and then turn it back on. To do this go to the Control Panel and select Programs and Features, then Uninstall or change a program. In the left-hand column left-click on Turn Windows features on or off.

How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Does it seem like your computer takes forever to boot up? Waiting for your Windows based computer to boot can be quite frustrating. But there are a few things you can do. Here is how to speed up the boot time of your computer.

How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Check the drive for errors

If your computer has a Hard Disk Drive (HDD), this is the first thing you want to do. HDD's are notorious for not writing data back to the exact place where the data was read from. Little known fact, but Microsoft didn't invent the Disk Operating System (DOS). It actually bought Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) in the early '80's and renamed it MS-DOS. If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), you can bypass this step, as SSD's don't have moving parts.

Check for hardware issues first with the software provided by the manufacturer of your HDD. The Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) has all of the major drive manufacturer's diagnostics software built-in, so this is always a good place to start.

Diagnose computer hardware issues with the Ultimate Boot CD

Then check for software issues with Windows built-in CHKDSK.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows Vista
Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7
Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Uninstall any unwanted programs

This one is kind of a no-brainer. Allot of adware / junkware will load itself up at boot, causing an increase in boot time. It also takes away resources that could be used by programs you really want to run. First thing to do is to go the Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. Then go through the list of programs to see which ones can be uninstalled. Remember that you can change the way the programs are listed just by clicking on the column name. I like to see when a program was installed, because you can find allot of unwanted clutter installations that way.

Remove unwanted items from start up

MSCONFIG inside of Windows 8
MSCONFIG inside of Windows 8

You can temporarily disable programs and services that start up with Windows using MSCONFIG. MSCONFIG is a diagnostic tool built into Windows that allows you to troubleshoot boot issues. You can enable and disable various boot settings, including programs and services that start up with Windows. Just open an Administrator Command Prompt and type MSCONFIG.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows Vista and Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

Once you have your system fine-tuned with MSCONFIG, you could just leave your system running in diagnostic mode by having MSCONFIG not displayed at start up. To be honest, that's one of the first things I check for on systems I work on. It just too easy to let it go. But if you really want to permanently remove the items you have disabled in MSCONFIG, here's how to do it.

The Everything tab inside of Autoruns
The Everything tab inside of Autoruns

  1. Download and extract the latest version of Autoruns from Microsoft.
  2. Open MSCONFIG and make note of each item you have disabled.
  3. On the General tab of MSCONFIG, select Normal startup, then left-click Apply and OK. When prompted, just close MSCONFIG and do not restart the computer. Yes, this will enable all of the items you have disabled, but we are going to delete them next.
  4. Open the folder where you saved Autoruns.exe, right-click on it and select Run as Administrator.
  5. Once it is done scanning, you just need to find the items you had disabled with MSCONFIG. Check the Services and the Logon tabs first. Remember that you can check the logon items for each user with the User pull-down menu. Once you find your items you can 1) disable it with the checkbox on the left or 2) you can right-click on it and select Delete.

Clean up the drive

It's time to clean up some of the clutter that just seems to pile up. Using Windows built-in Disk Cleanup tool (cleanmgr.exe) will quickly clean out all sorts of crap, like user temp files and temporary Internet files. If you want to go a little further with cleaning your drive, download a copy of CCleaner.

Free up more disk space with Windows 7 Disk Cleanup (same for Vista)
Clean up your hard drive in Windows 8 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up and optimize your computer for free with CCleaner

Defragment your HDD

This is another step that only pertains to HDD's, since SSD's don't get fragmented. If your HDD is fragmented, is takes it longer to find and load files. Optimizing the HDD structure will always you give a little more speed. You can use Windows built-in Optimize and Defragment drive tool or another disk utility like Defraggler from Piriform.

Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows Vista
Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows 7
Defragment and Optimize your hard drive in Windows 8
Perform advanced disk defragmentation with Defraggler from Piriform

If you really want to go the extra mile with optimizing your HDD, just remove the swap file before you defrag and restore it after you're done. And when you restore it, go ahead and use the following calculations.

Minimum pagefile size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of memory. Maximum pagefile size is three (3) x the minimum pagefile size. Let's say you have 2 Gb (2,048 Mb) of memory. The minimum pagefile size would be 1.5 x 2,048 = 3,072 Mb and the maximum pagefile size would be 3 x 3,072 = 9,216 Mb.

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