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Navigating Windows 10

Seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds true for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here's my favorite tips for navigating Windows 10.

Navigating Windows 10

Since I do computer repair for a living, I've had to find ways to navigate around the different versions of Windows. With Windows 10, Microsoft keep some of the cooler features while adding some new ones. And they even brought back one feature from previous versions. Let's take a look at my favorite ways to get around inside of Windows 10.

Power User menu

This little pop-up menu is the fast way to find some of the core features inside of Windows 10. It first appeared in Windows 8 to supplement the loss of the Start Menu. It never got the publicity it deserved and only real geeks knew it existed. My customers are still amazed the first time I use it in front of them.

Lucky for us Microsoft decided to keep the Power Users menu in Windows 10. It is still the fastest way to get to features like the Control Panel, Programs and Features and Computer Management. Here's how to display the Power User menu in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Power User menu

There are two (2) ways of displaying the Power User menu in Windows 10: Mouse or Keyboard.

Using your mouse to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu

Using your keyboard to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X

If you use the keyboard to bring up the Power User menu, you'll find that the programs / features listed have a single letter in their name underlined. These are also keyboard shortcuts to that particular program / feature. Here's a link to the complete list of the Power User menu keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10.

Power User menu keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Here's is another really useful feature that nobody really knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me all the time "What does that key with the Windows logo do?". Well, its primary use is to bring up the Start Menu, but it does more. Allot more.

The Windows logo key was introduced over twenty (20) years alongside of Windows 95 and the new Start Menu. There were only a handful of Windows logo key shortcuts at that time and you had to purchase a Windows 95 compatible keyboard to use them. Now you can't find a Windows compatible keyboard without it.

There are now close to forty (40) Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 10. Once you try them out you'll wonder how you lived without for so long. Here's a link to the complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Shortcut keys in Windows 10

This is one of those 'old school' features that I love to use. Did you know that you can open almost any shortcut with just your keyboard? By simply editing a shortcut, you open it with a combination of three (3) keys.

Now if you have used Windows for a while, you know what a shortcut is. And if not, no biggie. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

Allot of people don't know that they can edit a shortcut and change the way it works, including adding a keyboard shortcut to it. The keyboard shortcut for your shortcut needs to be a combination of three (3) keys and the first two (2) keys have to be CTRL and ALT. The third key is your choice, but I try to use either the first letter of the program / file or a letter close to CTRL and ALT keys.

The shortcut key field inside of the properties a shortcut
The shortcut key field inside of the properties of a shortcut

How to add a keyboard shortcut to an existing shortcut

  1. Right-click on the shortcut you want to modify and from the context menu that appears select Properties.
  2. When the properties dialog box appears, make sure the Shortcut tab is selected.
  3. Go down to the Shortcut key field and left-click inside of the field (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want assigned to the shortcut at the same time (Windows will automatically add the ALT).
  5. Left-click on Apply and you are done.

Start Menu

And last but not least is the Start Menu. After a brief disappearance in Windows 8, Microsoft decided to bring it back. It's now got a slightly different look and feel, but it still does what it is supposed to do: Navigate.

How to clean up an old joystick or game controller

Do you have an old PC joystick or game controller you haven't used in a long time? Did the buttons or the gamepad start to stick? Here's how to clean up old PC joysticks and game controllers.

If you're like me, you hate to get rid of anything that still works. So when I wrote the DosBox and Internet Archive articles, I started to think about the old game controllers I have. There is really nothing wrong with them, just a little dirt and grime.

And how much fun would it be to actually play the original DOS version of Doom with an original Gravis Gamepad Pro from the mid '90's. Gravis made couple variations of the gamepad with a couple of different connectors (USB and joystick port). I had both types, but only have the USB version now.

After a little research I found I could actually use a Gravis Gamepad Pro, as long as it had a USB connection. In fact, Microsoft still includes support for the Gravis Gamepad Pro inside of Windows 10.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers
The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers

And to top it off, DosBox does support USB game controllers, so I am almost ready to start playing games with my gamepad. But first I need clean it up, as some of the buttons have gotten kind of sticky.

Now when you start talking about disassembling and reassembling any piece of electronics, always remember to never work on anything that is plugged in (energized). Always disconnect the device from any connection and de-energize it before working on it. Never work on a device that is live (energized)!

The follow procedures are the same for almost any computer device, except for Hard Disk Drives (HDD). HDD's have to be disassembled / reassembled in an environment that is free of contaminates, like a clean room.

Now before I start tearing down my gamepad, I will need some basic tools. First and foremost is a digital camera or smartphone w/ camera and a notepad. Remember the old saying 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? Same holds true here. With no service manual or online instructions, I'll be tearing down the gamepad blind. The photos and notes will be my guide for reassembly.

This is a simple tear down and I'll only need a Philips head screw driver (Ph.1), couple of brushes, some cleaning solution, paper towels and some compressed air. Tweezers or needle-nose pliers may also come in handy but are not required.

First thing I'll do is take photos of the top, bottom and sides of the gamepad. That way I have a record of how the completely assembled gamepad should look. Next I'll start removing the screws on the bottom and checking to see if all of them are the same size. If any are different, I'll make note of it and place them separate from the rest.

Screw hole locations on bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro
Screw hole locations on bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro

Once I have all of the screws out of the bottom, I can carefully separate the top and bottom of the gamepad chassis. I can see there are two (2) screws that hold the main circuit board in place. After I remove the two (2) screws I carefully remove the main circuit board from the chassis. Remember to take photos of everything you do!

Main circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro
Main circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro

Now I can access all of the buttons and the rubber castle switch tops. I first inspect the tops of castle switches for any damage. They have no physical damage and appear to be pretty clean. Since they are almost twenty (20) years, I've decided they really don't need to be cleaned.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled
The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled

Now on to the buttons. As I remove them I can see some gunk that has built-up around the sides of the buttons and the adjacent holes in the chassis. A quick cleaning of the button and chassis will take care of this and should fix the sticky button problem.

A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro
A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro

When it comes to drying all of the parts off, I usually use paper towels to get the majority of moisture off and then use some compressed air to get any moisture out from the cracks and crevices.

Once all of the parts are clean and dry, refer to your photos and notes to reassemble. Remember not to over tighten any screw and/or nut, you can always make a second pass around and snug up any screws and/or nuts that need it.

Download old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive

Have you ever wanted to play an old video game from your past? Maybe play Pitfall on the Atari 2600 or Super Donkey Kong on a Colecovision? You can all that and more at the Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive logo

The Internet Archive (IA) is an online digital library with all sorts of free ebooks / text, videos, audio recordings, software and images. But they are best known for their history of websites from over 20 years.

Websites

The IA has a cool archive of websites going back over twenty (20) years. Do a search in the Way Back Machine for Microsoft.com or Facebook.com and you can find their very first website. I actually found one of the first versions of my own personal domain from 1998.

But since these pages are cached versions of the originals, some elements might be missing. Photos, videos and Flash / Java elements have a tendency not to get cached. But it's still fun to see what the Internet looked like a couple of decades ago.

eBooks and Text

With over ten million titles in their library, you would be hard pressed not to find something that interests you. Keep in mind that some these titles are old, but you can still find all sorts of cool publications. Hey, where else are you going to find a copy of Family Computing from December 1983?

The cover of Family Computing from December 1983
The cover of Family Computing from December 1983

The IA even has the ebooks / texts broken down into collections. I found a copy of The Principle of Relativity from 1920 in the MIT Library. There are all sorts of hidden gems here. All you have to do is search through them. And with over 10 million titles, that may take some time.

Videos

This is my second favorite collection and I have spent hours going through them. There are films, movies and videos ranging from old-time movies to classic cartoons. When was the last time you saw an old Popeye or Woody Woodpecker cartoon?

And if you're a computer geek like me, you'll just love the Computer & Technology collection. From old episodes of the Computer Chronicles and Net Cafe to made for TV movies like the Pirates of Silicon Valley from 1999. With over 2 million titles, you know I'll be spending more of my free time going through them.

Audio

The collections here range from old-time radio programs like Dragnet from the '50's to Grateful Dead concerts from the '70's. The quality of the audio will vary from file to file, but that is to be expected. Some of these recordings are quite old.

Also mixed into this collection you'll find audio books and poetry readings. I even found some recordings from the Spin Doctors and the Gin Blossoms. With around 3 million audio files, there should be something for everyone.

Software

Now I guess that I don't have to tell you that this is my favorite collection of all. The software here ranges from video game consoles from the '70's - '90's to old DOS and Windows games / programs. Most of the DOS games and video game consoles are emulated, so you can play these games right from inside your browser.

The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall
The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall

Anybody remember Tucows? Tucows was the place in the '90's to go for shareware / freeware software. Well they donated all of their software titles a decade or so ago to the IA and they are all here available for download.

The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong
The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong

Now you can download most of the Windows software, but be aware that some of them are 16-bit and will not run on 64-bit operating systems. If you really want to run some of the old Windows software, you will need to set up a virtual machine like VirtualBox running that particular operating system.

Images

This collection is kind of a mixed bag. You have images from the USGS (United States Geological Survey), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and album cover art all in one place.

But the best image collection I think is the one from NASA. Some of the images are quite incredible. If you get a chance, check out the Moon - False Color Mosaic image.

Now before you go checking the IA out, I want to let you know that they are a non-profit organization (501C) and all donations are tax deductible. So if you find it useful and fun as I do, please make a donation.

To get the most out of the IA, it is recommended that you register for a virtual library card. For more information on the Internet Archive, just follow the link below.

Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine

How to create ISO files from your software disks

So over the years you've been purchasing software on CD's / DVD's and now have quite the collection. So what do you do with all of the media you are no longer using? How about creating ISO files from them? Here's how to create ISO files from your software CD's / DVD's.

After working with computers for over twenty years, I've managed to amass quite the collection of software disks. One of my biggest problems is that I don't like to just throw away software disks. You never know when you might need them again.

Now in my book there are two kinds of disks; Keepers and Tossers. Software that you paid for is definitely a Keeper, software that comes in the mail / paper is usual a Tosser.

I'm old enough to remember the AOL disks that used to come in the newspaper (1 gazillion free hours!). The AOL disks were always quite colorful and made a great wall collage or mobile.

Now I realize that properly stored CD's / DVD's can last quite a long time. I personally have some CD's that are around 20 years old and I can still read them with my Windows 10 computer. So why would you want to change?

Well, first off disks can get damaged. If you scratch the bottom of a disk, you can use a special tool to buff it out. But if scratch the top of a disk you actually damage the layer that stores data. Geek Tip: To destroy the data on a CD / DVD before throwing it away, just scratch off all of the top layer of the disk with a sharp object, like a nail.

Second, not all devices have nowadays have CD / DVD drives (tablets, netbooks and ultra-thin laptops). This can make installing older software on a newer computer a bit of a problem. So what is the solution? ISO (International Organization for Standardization) files.

ISO (.iso) files are basically an archive file format for optical disks, like CD's and DVD's. They contain an exact sector-by-sector, non-compressed copy of a disk. All you need is a computer with a CD / DVD drive, your original disk(s), a program that creates ISO files and plenty of free space on your hard drive.

Here's a list of a few free programs that create ISO files.

Once you have created your ISO files, you can do some cool things with them. Archiving your ISO files is the first thing you probably want to think about. External drives (flash, portable or desktop) are a great for storing ISO files. I've actually taken several small ISO files and burned them on to DVD's for off-site storage.

Now what can you do with an ISO file? Sure, you can make a new CD / DVD using an ISO file. That feature is built into Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Or if you want to burn an ISO file to a USB drive you can use a program like Rufus. And if you're using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you can even mount (open as a virtual drive) an ISO file and install directly from it. Great for when you don't have a CD/ DVD drive.

How to burn an ISO file to disk inside of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to create a disk from.

    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Burn disc image.
  4. Insert a blank disk into the CD / DVD drive.
  5. Left-click on Burn.

How to mount an ISO file as a virtual drive inside of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to mount as a virtual drive.

    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Mount.
  4. Locate the new drive inside of File Explorer and use it like it was an actual CD / DVD drive.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

Sometimes it is fun to go back and play the DOS video games I grew up with. But it can be tough since Windows doesn't utilize DOS anymore. But you can still run your old DOS games using DOSBox.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

So the other day I was going through some old CD's and came across a Gravis Gamepad disk from 1996. It has a few DOS shareware games I used to love to play, including Doom.

My first thought was "Wouldn't be fun to go through a couple levels of Doom?". My next thought was "It's not going to be easy to set up.". Since the DOS games I wanted to play were 16-bit, the 64-bit version of Windows 10 I'm running wasn't going to do it.

There were only two (2) solutions that came to mind; a MS-DOS based Virtual Machine or a Personal Computer (PC) emulator like DOSBox. Since I just wanted to play a few games, DOSBox was the simplest way to go.

Now DOSBox is not a full blown version of DOS and lacks many of the features of MS-DOS. It was created for the purpose of running older DOS based games. It will run some DOS based programs too, but results will vary.

To get more features, you would need to look at a SVN build. SVN builds are versions that people have built from the latest version of the source code. Additional features you can get with a SVN build include copy / paste and printing support.

Now to get things going I went through the Gravis disk and found the games I wanted to play. The way DOSBox works is it creates a virtual DOS environment using an existing folder as the root DOS drive. So I created a new folder in File Explorer on my D: drive named DOSStuff to use as the DOS root drive. I then created a sub-folder called Temp and copied all of the DOS game folders I wanted from the Gravis disk to it.

Now just for the sake of argument, I decided to see what would happen if I tried to run one of the install programs / scripts from a 64-bit Windows 10 command prompt. Sure enough I got an error about running 16-bit programs. I was going to need to install DOSBox first.

16-bit error message inside of Windows 10
16-bit error message inside of Windows 10

So I downloaded and installed the basic version of DOSBox. The installation was quick and simple. I did a couple of minor changes to the DOSBox options so it would automatically mount the D:\DOSStuff folder as the virtual C: drive and change the command prompt drive letter to C:. All of the old DOS commands were coming back to me.

F.Y.I. - I use the term Folder for when I'm in Windows and Directory for when I'm in DOS. They are both the same thing. I'm just old school when it comes to DOS.

DOSBox running on a 64-bit version of Windows 10
DOSBox running on a 64-bit version of Windows 10

I quickly navigated to the Temp directory in the DOSBox command prompt. I then proceeded to go into each game directory via DOSBox command prompt and run each of the install programs / scripts. With a little tweaking of the game options, I'm off to relive some of my favorite DOS video games using DOSBox.

Doom running inside of DOSBox on Windows 10
Doom running inside of DOSBox on Windows 10

For more information on DOSBox, just follow the links below.

DOSBox, an x86 emulator with DOS
DOSBox SVN Builds

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