Posts and discussions about Microsoft Windows 8

How to Run Two Operating Systems at the Same Time using VirtualBox

vboxI test a lot of software.

A LOT of software.

Literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of programs both for my professional work and because I really like playing with computers.

But installing  and then uninstalling hundreds of programs on a single computer can cause unintended consequences. I really don’t like having a cluttered PC, and doing all that software testing is a good way to cause a lot of clutter.

Fortunately there is a way to run two (or even more) completely different operating systems on your computer at the same time using a technology called “virtualization”.

Virtualization technology basically ‘tricks’ your computer into running a whole operating system as if it were just another a program on your computer. But instead of the operating system talking directly to your compute hardware, the operating system talks to the virtualization software, which then translates those commands into something that can be used by your computer without interrupting your currently running operating system.

This is really useful testing software programs, or for testing new operating systems without having to install a new hard drive on your computer or overwrite your current operating system.

There are many different virtualization programs, and some of them can be quite expensive. But as luck would have it, one of the best virtualization programs, VirtualBox, is completely free.

To use Virtualbox, download and install it from the VirtualBox website. It’ll ask permission to install several specialize device drivers, be sure to allow this.

You’ll also need a CD or ISO file of the operating system you want to install, and several gigabytes of free disk space to hold the new operating system.

In Virtualbox, press the New button to start the operating system install process. You’ll need to point Virtualbox to the installation CD or file and then let Virtualbox know what operating system you’re installing by selecting it from the list shown. For most operating systems you can leave the rest to the defaults Virtualbox provides.

Virtualbox will then run the operating system install process just like if you were installing on a new computer. From this point on, it’s just like using another computer, except its running on top of you current operating system.

Virtualbox has a lot of more advanced features like snapshots and shared folders, but that’s a tutorial for another time.

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How to Easily Take a Screenshot

2014-05-30 17_05_13-Greenshot image editorWindows has some built in methods of taking screenshots, but honestly they’re a lot more trouble than necessary to do something as simple as take a picture of what’s on your screen. So today I’m going to show you how to easily take a perfectly sized screenshot using a free program called Greenshot.

Greenshot is very easy to install, just run the installer program, follow the on screen instructions and you’re done. Greenshot doesn’t come with any spyware, adware, or unwanted programs which is really a nice change of pace compared to most of the other “free” software on the internet.

Once Greenshot is installed and running is sits in your system tray at the bottom right of your screen.

To use Greenshot to take a screenshot, just right click the icon and select one of the 5 capture modes from the top of the list.

I normally select either “Capture region” or “Capture window” depending on what type of screen shot I’m taking. Capture region will let you use your mouse to select exactly the area of the screen you want to take a screen capture of, and Capture window lets you select a window you have open on your computer and capture just the interface of that window.

2014-05-30 17_27_17-Screenshot from 2014-05-30 15_51_05 - Windows Photo Viewer

After Greenshot has taken your desired screenshot, it’ll show you another menu with options of what to do with the image you just capture. There’s the normal “Save file” options, but Greenshot also has the ability to directly upload image to various image hosting websites, the print your image automatically using your printer, or even to open the image up in Greenshot’s own builtin image editor if you need to make changes or annotations.

2014-05-30 17_29_19-Screenshot from 2014-05-30 17_28_39 - Windows Photo Viewer

Because I do a lot of software and websites reviews I end up using Greenshot on a daily basis. It’s made taking good-looking screenshots an quick and easy process and saved me probably hours of time by now that I would have otherwise spent mucking around in an image editor trying to edit the screenshots Windows takes. I’d recommend it to anybody.

Greenshot can be downloaded from the Greenshot website here:

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How to Add a Start Menu to Windows 8

I’ll be honest: I HATE Windows 8!

Well, hate is a strong word. I’m fond of the parts it shares in common with Windows 7. I like the updated task manager, and with Windows Defender being included by default I’m glad to see Microsoft is making strides to make Windows as secure as it can be out of the box.

But I can’t stand “Metro”! For those of you lucky enough not to know, Metro is the name for Microsoft’s new default user interface. If you haven’t seen Metro in action, I’ll give you the most succinct description of it I can think of: Imagine a user interface that combines the most annoying aspects of a touchscreen device with a color scheme that looks like it was picked out by a 5 year old child who’d had a few too many candy bars. Metro “apps” (how original) run in full screen mode exclusively. Awesome, I know. Who would want to use a multi-tasking operating system to actually do multiple things at the same time? Nobody at Microsoft’s design team, apparently. (I take that back, apparently you can run up to two Metro apps at the same time. Next to each other. Still taking up your full screen. So it can be twice as useless for getting actual work done.)

Actually, it’s not that bad. I’m sure it’s great on tablets. But, like more than 90% of Windows users, I’m not using a tablet. I’m using a grown-up computer with a keyboard and mouse. To do, you know, WORK. This brings me to my biggest problem with Windows 8: They killed the Start Menu.

I didn’t realize until Windows 8 just how important the Start Menu was to performing useful operations on a PC. It was the one place you could click to start just about any action on the computer. Whatever you wanted to do, the first step was usually to click on the Start Menu. And now it’s gone.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in my appreciation of the magical, wonderful, dependable Start Menu. The folks at IObit have managed to recreate our previously shunned friend in the form of “Start Menu 8”, their Start Menu replacement for Windows 8. In a number of ways it’s actually better than the Start Menu that was in previous versions of Windows. It keeps the look, feel, and usefulness of the Windows 7 Start Menu, but is completely customizable, so you can tune it to exactly your desired level of functionality. Using Start Menu 8 has made being productive on Windows 8 much easier for me, despite Microsoft’s best efforts to the contrary.

If you’re like me, and want to be able to use your PC to do useful things instead of spending your day staring at a cubist interpretation of a bag of skittles, give Start Menu 8 a try. It’s free.

It is bundled with some other “system cleaning” software, be sure to uncheck the box if you do not wish to install the bundled software.