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Create, extract and edit archive files with 7-Zip

For decades now, we have been compressing files and folders to make them smaller to attach to an e-mail or archive. I have used many archiving programs over the years, but the best one I have found is 7-Zip.

The 7-Zip File Manager

7-Zip is one of the most straightforward archiving programs I have ever used. It can work with a ton of different file types and has a high compression rate.

7-Zip can create several different archive files, including ZIP, TAR, and of course, 7z. And it can also open over thirty (30) other archive formats, including CAB, DMG, ISO, and RAR.

The 7-Zip File Manager is straightforward to use and has a ton of features. Besides being able to create and open archive files, it can also edit them, including splitting and combining archive files.

But the best feature is the right-click context menu. You can right-click on some files or folders and quickly create an archive file from them (7z or ZIP).

The 7-Zip right-click context menu

Or you can right-click on an archive file and quickly open, extract or test it. And the cool thing is you can edit the functions that the right-click menu can perform.

7-Zip is an open-source program that began over twenty years (20) ago and is still going strong. It has been translated into over ten (10) different languages, including French, Spanish, and German.

7-Zip is available in either 32 or 64-bit versions and can run on all Windows versions from Windows XP and up. And it is free to use for either personal or commercial use.

For more information on 7-Zip, follow the link below.

7-Zip

Easily create, edit, and burn CD, DVD, and BD disks with AnyBurn

Are you looking for a program that can create, edit and burn Compact Disk (CD), Digital Video Disc (DVD), and Blu-ray (BD) disks? One that has a simple to use interface but has a ton of features? If so, then look no further than AnyBurn by Power Software.

The main screen inside of AnyBurn

Now I have been working with different disk formats for over twenty (20) years and have never found a more straightforward program than AnyBurn. Its simple user interface so easy to navigate that it is hard to go back to some of the disk programs I have used in the past.

With AnyBurn, you can create, edit, and burn various types of disk formats, including data and audio. It can even erase rewritable disks too. If it has to do with CDs, DVDs, or BDs, AnyBurn can handle it. AnyBurn can work with over 25 image file formats. Some of the formats include DMG, ISO, IMG, and VCD formats.

The settings screen inside of AnyBurn

There are a couple of cool features that make AnyBurn stand out. The first one is to create a bootable USB drive from image files. With more computers not having optical drives, making a bootable USB drive from an image file, like an ISO, is essential.

The second outstanding feature is being able to rip music from audio CDs and burn audio CDs from your existing music library. If your car stereo has a CD drive, this can be a fantastic feature.

AnyBurn runs on several different Windows versions, from Windows XP to Windows 10, and is available in both 32 and 64-bit versions. There is even a portable version that requires no installation. Just extract the files to a folder, and you are ready to go. It is great for having on a flash drive.

Now the best thing about AnyBurn is that it is free to use for personal or business use. For more information on AnyBurn, follow the link below.

AnyBurn

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

Are you looking for an easy way to synchronize your files to another computer on your network? Or maybe you want to sync to an external drive or the cloud. If so, then take a look at Allway Sync by Botkind.

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

For years now, I have been using synchronization programs to make an exact copy of my files on network drives and external devices. Over ten years ago, Microsoft released a straightforward file synchronization program called SyncToy.

But Microsoft dropped support for SyncToy a few years ago, and eventually, it stopped working correctly. That is when I started looking for another synchronization application and found Allway Sync.

Windows 10 does have a built-in file sync program called File History, but it is pretty basic. With File History, you can sync to a network folder or external drive, but not to the cloud.

On the other hand, Allway Sync can sync to a local or network folder, FTP / SFTP server, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and several different cloud storage types. You can even sync to a single archive file.

The user interface inside of Allway Sync
The user interface inside of Allway Sync

The user interface is simple to use and easy to understand. The sync options are quite extensive and include data compression and encryption. You can set up multiple sync jobs and customize each job to meet your needs.

The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync
The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync

The options for sync jobs include synchronization rules, automatic synchronization, inclusion and exclusion filters, file versioning, error handling, and custom actions.

I have several clients that use synchronization software for backing up files. The primary reason is that files can be recovered quickly, as they do not have to be decrypted. Just copy the file you want to be recovered back to the original folder.

Allway Sync is free for personal use, with a limit of 40,000 files per 30 day period. But for unlimited file synchronization, purchasing a Pro license is recommended. FYI - A pro license is not that expensive (under $30).

There are a couple of different editions of Allway Sync, a desktop edition for installing on desktops, laptops, and servers. There is also an edition, Allway Sync 'n' Go, a portable version for installing on external drives.

Allway Sync comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions compatible with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. They even have versions that will run on Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

For more information on Allway Sync by Botkind, click on the link below.

Allway Sync by Botkind

Create and edit text-based files with Notepad++

When it comes to editing text-based files, everyone has used Windows built-in text editor Notepad. But it is pretty basic and has very few features. If you are looking for a program that can do more than edit text files, take a look at Notepad++.

Create and edit text-based files with Notepad++

Notepad++ (Notepad plus plus) is a text/code editor based on the open-source editing component Scintilla and can be customized to a user's needs. It has an impressive list of built-in features like syntax highlighting, code folding, and extensive find and replace functions.

It includes support for over seventy (70) programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, and Visual Basic. Notepad++ can also record macros so that it can speed those repetitive commands.

Now one of the great features of Notepad++ is its customizability. You can completely change the way it looks and feels, from the font used to the background color; you can make it just the way you like it.

Screenshot of Notepad++ with the black board theme
Notepad++ with the black board theme

You can edit the shortcuts for the pull-down menus, macros, run commands, plugin commands, and Scintilla commands with the shortcut mapper. You can even edit the right-click context menu.

Screenshot of the shortcut mapper inside of Notepad++
Notepad++ shortcut mapper

But the best feature is the extension capacity using third-party plugins. Over 90 (ninety) plugins are available for Notepad++, including all sorts of coding tools and a spell checker.

Notepad++ comes in both 32 and 64-bit versions, and there are two ways to install it; the automatic installer or the portable stand-alone version. You can even modify the registry and use Notepad++ instead of Notepad, but you will have to go through the user manual to find the code.

And the best thing about Notepad++ is that it is free, but you can donate to the author to help support future releases. For more information on Notepad++, follow the link below.

Notepad++

How to clone the drive in your Windows computer

Are you running out of free space on the drive in your computer? Or are you thinking about getting a faster drive for it? If so, cloning the drive in your computer might be just the answer, and here is how to do it.

How to clone the drive in your computer

Note: Drive cloning is a procedure that computer technicians perform regularly. If you do not feel comfortable doing any of the following procedures, please contact a local computer service company like Geeks in Phoenix.

When installing a new drive in your computer, you have two (2) options; you can perform a fresh installation of the operating system and all the programs. Or you can clone the current drive to the new one and preserve the installed operating system and programs.

Since many people do not remember how they installed their programs or where the installation media/software keys may be, cloning their existing drive is the best option. The complexity of cloning a drive depends on the type of drive, the form factor, and the current and new drive interface.

There are several types of drives; the most popular are SSD (Solid State Drive), HDD (Hard Disk Drive), and SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive). There are also several different drive interfaces; the most popular are SATA (7 pin connection cable) and M.2 (keyed socket). HDDs and SSHDs use a SATA interface; SSDs can use either SATA or M.2.

Different types of computer drives

There are several different form factors (physical size) of drives; HDDs and SSHDs come in 3.5" and 2.5" (width), SSDs come in 2.5" (width) when using a SATA interface, and 30 to 110 MM (length) when using an M.2 interface. Drives that come in 2.5" form factor can also have different heights (thicker); 9.5 MM is standard, and 7 MM is used in ultra-thin laptops.

 
Drive types
 
SSD
HDD
SSHD
Form Factor
3.5"
X
X
2.5"
X
X
X
M.2
X
Interface
SATA
X
X
X
M.2
X

If you are upgrading a laptop drive (2.5"), check with the manufacturer on what size is recommended. If you are upgrading an M.2 drive, check with the manufacturer (system/motherboard) on what interface (SATA 3, AHCI, or NVMe), key notch (B, M, or B & M) and length is supported.

Now the first thing you need to do is find out the model number of your current drive. Once you have the model number, you can search on Google and get all of its specifications. You can find the model number in Computer Management.

How to open Computer Management

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu
  2. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Administrative Tools
  3. Left-click on Computer Management

or

  1. Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu to bring up the Power Users menu
  2. Left-click on Computer Management

Once you have the Computer Management console open, left-click on Disk Management and locate the disk that has the partition with the drive letter C:. Right-click the disk number (usually Disk 0) select Properties from the context menu. On the General tab, you will find the drive model number.

Once you have your existing drive specifications, it is time to decide on a replacement drive. Are you going to replace it with one that has the same form factor and interface or not. Your decision will determine how you clone your drive, and there are two (2) ways to do it.

Now it is just a matter of getting another drive with the same data capacity as your existing drive. You can get one with a smaller capacity, but you would have to shrink the partition(s) on the drive before cloning it. You can get one with a larger capacity (recommended), but you may or may not have to manually expand the partition(s) after you are done. Some drive manufacturers (WD, Seagate, and Samsung) cloning software will automatically do that.

There are two (2) different scenarios, upgrading your existing drive to the same form factor and interface or upgrading your existing drive from SATA to M.2. Doing an upgrade that involves just SATA drives is relatively simple; M.2 drives are a bit more complicated.

If you decide to upgrade to an M.2 drive, you will need to find out what type of M.2 drive your motherboard can support before purchasing it. You need to find out the local interface (SATA3, AHCI, or NVMe), width/length, and keying. You will also need the hardware (standoff and screw) to mount it to the motherboard.

SATA drives can be connected to your computer using internal SATA and power cables (desktop) or external USB docking stations / external drive enclosures (desktop or laptop). Since M.2 drives use sockets with PCI-e buses for power and transferring data, they have to be directly connected to the motherboard.

There are M.2 to USB adapters, but they can be expensive and only support specific key notches. For cloning SATA to M.2 or M.2 to M.2, I recommend using the drive-to-image method (see below).

  • Drive-to-drive. This is the method you would want to use if you are cloning your existing drive to another drive with the same interface (SATA to SATA).
  • Drive-to-image. This is the method you would want to use if you are cloning your existing drive to a different interface (SATA to M.2)

Drive cloning software

A few drive manufacturers have the software you can download to clone your drive, but at least one of the drives (source or destination) has to be one of theirs. And a few of the programs you can use to create bootable media. Here are a few of the drive cloning programs available.

Western Digital - Acronis True Image

Seagate - DiskWizard

Samsung - Data Migration

Ultimate Boot CD (bootable media)

R-Drive Image

Hardware required for drive cloning

  • Docking station
  • External hard drive
  • Flash drive for creating bootable media

Different hardware you might use when cloning a computer drive

Drive-to-drive cloning

This is probably the easiest way to clone a drive. The first thing you have to do is install the cloning software on the computer with the source drive you want to clone. If you decide to use the UBCD, you will need to create the bootable media.

Then connect the destination drive by either attaching using a docking station / external case (laptop or desktop) or shutting down the computer and installing it (desktop).

Once you have both drives attached to the computer, you can boot the system normally or use bootable media and start the drive cloning program. Follow the software instructions and be ready to shut down your computer as soon as the software completes cloning the drive.

You will need to remove or detach the source drive from the computer, as both of the drives will have the same boot signature. If you cloned a SATA drive to another SATA drive, connect the destination drive to the connection that the source drive was on. You should be ready to boot your computer on the new drive.

Drive-to-image cloning

This procedure does require a few more steps to complete, but it does also have more options. One of the advantages of this type of drive cloning is changing your computer's primary drive interface. The disadvantage is you may have to expand/recreate partitions manually.

The first thing you need to do is install the cloning software on your computer and then create bootable media using it. You will need the bootable media to restore the disk image or disk backup to the new drive.

The next thing you will need to do is use that same cloning program to create a drive image / drive backup of your primary (boot) drive to an external hard drive. Once that is complete, safely remove the external hard drive from your computer and shut it down.

Now that your computer is turned off, uninstall the existing drive and install the new drive. Once the new drive is in place, boot your computer using the bootable media you created and proceed to restore the disk image / disk backup to the new drive.

If the new drive is larger than the old one, the cloning software may prompt you to expand the primary partition. If it does, let the software do it. If not, you may have to expand it manually using Disk Management inside of Windows.

Windows creates a hidden recovery partition right behind the primary partition. If the cloning software does not put that hidden partition at the end of the new drive and expand the primary partition, you will have to do it manually.

I use R-Drive Image for drive cloning, and it allows me to restore a complete drive image or individual partitions. When I run into the hidden recovery partition, I usually will restore all of the partitions except for the last one, the hidden recovery partition.

Since the system does not require the hidden recovery partition to operate, I boot it up on the new drive and expand the primary partition using Disk Management to fill up almost all of the remaining free space.

I leave a little more than enough free space to restore the hidden recovery partition. I then boot the computer back up on the R-Drive bootable media and restore the hidden recovery partition into the remaining free space.

For more information on upgrading computer drives. click on the following links.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

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