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What Happens If a Laptop Battery Is Overcharged?

It isn't possible to overcharge a laptop battery. Leaving your computer plugged in after it is fully charged doesn't overcharge or damage the battery. However, it is possible to take steps to optimize the battery life of your laptop.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Most modern laptops use Lithium-ion batteries. These batteries can be charged hundreds of times without affecting the battery life. They have an internal circuit that stops the charging process when the battery is fully charged.

The circuit is necessary because without it the Li-ion battery could overheat and possibly burn as it charges. A Lithium-ion battery shouldn't get warm while it is in the charger. If it does, remove it. The battery may be defective.

Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries

Older laptops use Nickel-cadmium and Nickel metal hydride batteries. These batteries require more maintenance than Lithium-ion batteries. NiCad and NiMH batteries must be fully discharged and then fully recharged once a month for optimal battery life. Leaving them plugged in after they are fully charged doesn't affect the battery life appreciably.

Mac Notebook Batteries

Apple's MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro come with non-replaceable lithium polymer batteries to provide maximum battery life in a compact space. To check the health of the battery, hold down the Option key while you click the battery icon in the menu bar.

You'll see one of the following status messages:

  • Normal
  • Replace Soon – The battery is functioning normally but holds less charge than it did when it was new.
  • Replace Now – The battery is functioning normally but holds significantly less charge than it did when it was new. You can still use your computer, but if its performance is affected, take it to an Apple authorized service technician to replace the battery.
  • Service Battery: The battery isn’t functioning normally. You can use the Mac when it's connected to a power adapter, but you should take it to an Apple Store or Apple-authorized service provider as soon as possible.

Saving Battery Life in Windows 10

  • The new Windows 10 Battery Saver kicks in automatically when the battery reaches 20 percent of battery life. Depending on your settings, the computer will lower the screen brightness at this time to preserve battery life. To find it, select System from the Settings and then Battery Saver.
  • You can make changes to the Power Plan screen to preserve battery life. This is the screen where you set the number of minutes of inactivity that elapse before the laptop dims or powers down. Lower numbers reduce battery use. The Power Plan screen is located at Settings > System > Power & Sleep.
  • If you don't need the internet for a while, you can turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections to save battery power. The easiest way to do this is to activate the Airplane Mode, located at Settings > Network & internet > Airplane Mode (or Flight mode).

Tips for Maximizing Battery Life

  • Charge a new laptop computer for at least 24 hours before using it.
  • Lithium-ion batteries last the longest if they stay between 20 and 80 percent charged.
  • Remove the battery if you use the laptop plugged into the wall most of the time.
  • If you won't be using the laptop for a month or more, remove the battery. If you don't have a removable battery, run the charge down to 50 percent before storage.
  • The battery will drain in storage. If it sits uncharged for long, it can be damaged. Occasionally charge the battery during lengthy storage times.
  • Avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures. Don't leave your laptop in the car on a summer day or during a winter blizzard.
  • Adjust the keyboard lighting, sleep settings, and screen brightness downward for better battery life.

What Data Does Android Back Up Automatically?

Much of the data on your Android phone or tablet is backed up by Google (or the individual apps you use) automatically, but what is being saved for you, and what do you need to save for yourself?

We’ll explain exactly what data is backed up automatically and what isn’t, so you can rest easy knowing your data is safe—or take steps to back up some application data on your own.

What Google Backs Up Automatically

Google has a service built into Android, aptly called Android Backup Service. By default, this service backs up most types of data you care about and associates it with the appropriate Google service, where you can also access it on the web. You can see your Sync settings by heading into Settings > Accounts > Google, then selecting your Gmail address.

  • Contacts,Email, Docs, and Calendars: Your Android contacts are synced with your Google contacts online (you can access these contacts from Gmail or on the dedicated Google Contacts page), your email is safely stored in your Gmail account, and calendar events are synced with Google Calendar.
  • Some System Settings: Android also synchronizes some system settings—for example, Android stores saved passphrases for Wi-Fi networks and retrieves them on each Android device you use. It also backs up display settings, like brightness and timeout length.
  • Chrome Browser Data: If you use the Chrome browser, your bookmarks synchronize with your Chrome sync account.
  • Hangouts Chat Logs: Hangouts chat logs are stored in your Gmail account, assuming you haven’t disabled chat logging in Gmail.
  • Apps and Other Purchased Content: Any apps you have purchased (or installed) are linked with your Google account. When you set up a new Android device (or enter your account after resetting your Android device to factory default settings), Android will offer to automatically download and install the apps you previously had installed. You can also view apps you have previously installed in the Play Store, so you won’t forget which apps you have used (or purchased). Other content you purchase from Google Play is also tied to your Google account.
  • Some Third-Party App Data: Third-party apps often, but not always, sync their data with web services. If you have an app containing data important to you, be sure to check whether it syncs data online before wiping or getting rid of your phone.
  • Smart Lock Password Data: If you use Chrome on your computers and have Smart Lock for Passwords enabled, then your saved passwords will not only sync across Chrome on mobile, but also to some apps. For example, if you have your Netflix password saved in Smart Lock for Passwords, it will automatically be available in the app on your Android devices.
  • Photos: If you use Google Photos, then you could also back your photos up to Google’s servers. Unlike most of the others on this list, this feature has to be enabled before it just happens—fortunately, we’ve got you covered on setting that up, too. There’s also a “Photos Backup” entry in the Backup & reset menu on Android Nougat.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should give you some idea of what’s backed up automatically. Google includes the most important things, so you don’t need to worry about losing your email, contacts, apps, saved Wi-Fi passphrases, or even most passwords.

What Google Doesn’t Back Up

Now that we’re covered what Google does automatically back up, let’s take a look at what they don’t:

  • SMS Messages: Android doesn’t back up your text messages by default. If having a copy of you text messages is important to you, follow our guide on backing up text messages to your Gmail account.
  • Google Authenticator Data: For security reasons, Google doesn’t synchronize your Google Authenticator codes online. If you wipe your Android device, you’ll lose your ability to perform two-factor authentication. You can still authenticate via SMS or a printed authentication code and then set up a new device with new Google Authenticator codes.
  • Custom Settings, Bluetooth Pairings, and Security Data: When you set up a new phone or factory reset yours, you’ll have to repair all of your Bluetooth accessories, set up specific settings (like which notifications to block, for example), and re-enter all of your security data, like lock screen passwords and fingerprints.

Make sure, before you reset or sell your phone, that you have any of these items backed up manually if you want them.

The Gray Area of Backups

Like with most things, there is a gray area here: things that can be backed up, but are also contingent on other variables—like developer integration in third-party apps, for example.

  • Game Progress: The Android Backup Service allows developers to back up their data and have it automatically restored in the future. However, you’ll find that some games may not take advantage of this feature. This feature is independent for each game, so do your research before you lose everything upon switching devices or performing a factory reset.
  • App Settings: Many other app settings aren’t backed up by default. Whether it’s preferences in an app you use or alarms you’ve created in the Clock app, they probably aren’t backed up online. Some third-party apps contain backup features that export the app’s data to a local file, which you must then keep track of manually (perhaps by uploading it to Google Drive). Again, this is going to be individual for each app.

Again, if there’s anything important you want to keep in one your apps, consult the app’s settings or documentation to figure out whether it backs up automatically or not. In some cases, you may have options to back up your data manually and bring it to your new device in the form of a file.

Full Phone Backups

Most people shouldn’t have to back up their Android phone or tablet manually—Android’s default backup features should be more than good enough. However, some people may want to back up data that Android doesn’t back up by default: game saves, app settings, or whatever else.

If you want to back up and restore your Android data manually, you have a couple options:

  • Titanium Backup: Titanium Backup is the granddaddy of backup apps. You can use the free version of Titanium Backup, but for everything the app has to offer (and features you’ll likely want), you’ll have to shell out $6.00 for the Pro version of the app. It’s also not for everyone, as it does require root access. For a closer look at what Titanium Backup can do (and how to use it), head here—note that this post is a little dated looking, but all the functionality is still the same.
  • Android’s Hidden Local Backup Feature: Android has a built-in backup and restore feature that doesn’t require root, but this feature is hidden. You have to perform a backup or restore by connecting your device to your computer and running a command.

In short, Android already backs up the most important things by default, but be sure to enable Photo Uploads so you have a backup copy of your pictures! Advanced users may want to use a local backup tool, but most people shouldn’t need to, as it’s not that difficult to start from scratch after performing a factory reset.

What Can You Do With Samsung’s Bixby?

It seems like every technology company under the sun is working on a voice-controlled assistant to go up against the likes of Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri. Samsung’s branded version gets a boost from the company’s massive smartphone market share and a somewhat less-than-graceful inclusion of an extra hardware button on its latest models. But what all can Bixby do, and how is it different from its erstwhile competitors?

It Can Be Started With a Button (or Your Voice)

Like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, Bixby can work with a voice command—in its case, the rather uninspired “Hi Bixby.” Unlike the others, though, the service also gets a dedicated hardware button on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones, putting its functionality front and center. You can expect the feature to trickle down into Samsung’s less expensive models in the coming months, as well as ancillary gadgets like an Echo-style speaker and compatibility with third-party gadgets.

Bixby Integrates With Phone Apps and Hardware

Samsung’s voice control app is designed primarily to access the functions of the phone without having to touch it. In this area, it’s more or less the same as Assistant and Siri, with a couple of notable differences. Voice commands following “Hi Bixby” can activate Samsung apps and third-party apps, and even some of the functions within those apps. For example, “open clock and set alarm for eight AM” is something fairly basic that it can handle easily.

Samsung claims that Bixby’s Voice can perform 15,000 individual voice commands, and its list is growing all the time. It’s integrated will all of the basic apps on Samsung phones, like the dialer, weather, clock, email, and so on, along with more popular third-party apps like the Facebook Android app, Gmail, Instagram, and Twitter. In addition to baked-in commands like “what’s the weather,” Samsung has built a basic “learning” function into Bixby. This lets users train the service to recognize new and generic phrases, like “open Pandora and play my favorite station,” to activate specific functions tailored to their applications. Bixby has deep integration with Samsung’s own apps, too: for example, one of the actions it can perform out of the box is “open camera and turn on ‘Save RAW and JPEG files’ for the rear camera.” Complex stuff.

At the moment, Bixby Voice’s advantages over its competitors are debatable: it seems to be more tightly-integrated to phone hardware than Siri or Assistant, but its ability to control other apps is limited, as is its applications for more general web searches. To put it simply, Bixby lives on your phone, while Google Assistant and Siri live in the cloud.

Bixby Home Is More Annoying Than Useful

The second pillar of the Bixby interface is Bixby Home, a dedicated page on Samsung’s default launcher program. It’s accessible by swiping all the way to the left on the home screen, more or less exactly like Google’s Now Launcher. It can also be launched from any app with a quick tap of the dedicated Bixby hardware button (which can be disabled if you’re prone to accidental touches).

A left swipe isn’t the only thing Bixby Home has in common with Google’s implementation. The service appears to want to be something of an omnibus for the smartphone experience, bringing together functional apps like weather and alarms, integration with Samsung services, breaking news and sports alerts, and quick links to frequently-used apps and shortcuts.

It seems to want to be something of an ethereal home screen alternative, organically bringing up information and applications that you’ll want based on usage context. But unfortunately, it’s less helpful than it would like to be: I’ve found that simply using my preferred launcher and home screen widgets is much more practical in almost every situation. Bixby Home has something of an identity crisis: while the full-page interface for Google Assistant is all about delivering information and Siri is all about accepting commands, Bixby Home wants to do both of those things and launch apps and recommend new activities, on top of more bizarre additions like Samsung shopping rewards and a gamified “experience” system. It is, frankly, a mess. I’ve disabled the button functionality on my phone.

Bixby Vision Has Real Potential

The third portion of Bixby is the most interesting, and holds the most potential. Bixby Vision is a supplement to the stock camera app, activated by pressing the “Bixby Vision” button while shooting. The program uses AI (or so it claims) to almost instantly identify contextual information in the image, bringing up relevant web results with either a general image search or a specific shopping program. It can also analyze photos in your gallery or in Samsung’s Internet browser.

This tool can be useful if you happen to see something that you can’t immediately identify from context—say, a painting in a gallery with no label or caption, or a car that you happened to spot as you’re passing on the bus for which you can’t quite remember the model name. At the moment it mostly relies on results from Pinterest and Amazon.

This stuff is, to put it bluntly, really cool. The problem is that it’s highly contextual: the times when you’d need it aren’t altogether obvious, and it’s not something that would sell phones all on its own, the way Apple’s highly-marketed Siri does. And it’s not alone, either: Google’s Assistant will soon get extra functionality called “Lens” that does basically the same thing.

No Need to Choose

Bixby is in its infancy as a service: right now it’s only supported on three phone models, with only two languages for voice actions (Korean and English), and its integration with third-party apps and services is far behind the likes of Alexa. But Samsung is a giant in its field—in dozens of fields, in fact—and has the money and the muscle to make Bixby a competitor by sheer force of will. We’ll have to wait and see if the company doubles down on Bixby integration in its flagships for years to come, or if it’s just a novelty left by the wayside of tech history.

Fortunately, there’s nothing forcing current users of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 to choose between Bixby and Google’s more general Assistant. Both of them are built into the Android phones, and though Google is saving some of the juiciest functionality for its Pixel devices, it’s still quite easy to use Assistant’s home button or voice activation functions.

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How To Make Your Cell Phone Battery Last Longer

Although battery life is improving greatly with the production of each new smartphone, the world-wide line of phones still has not been perfected. Some smartphones have amazing battery lives that last up to 24 hours, while others have performances that are less than stellar. Fortunately, a cell phone owner can find creative ways to extend battery life. Implementing these strategies will help give a user the extra minutes and hours that he or she needs:

General Battery Saving Tips

Shut Down Unnecessary Applications

Many people end up shortening the battery life on their smartphones by having multiple applications running in the background. A person can easily access the list of applications by going to the application menu and clicking on “running applications.” The user can then end the functionality of a running application by clocking the “force close” button. Force close will completely shut down an Android application so that the battery does not drain as much as it drained beforehand. The application shutdown is the quickest way to save battery life.

Other functions may also be shut down to spare battery life on your smartphone. Examples of extra functions that one could shut off to spare battery life are the GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functions. GPS is a strong application that will run a battery down quickly. Wi-Fi is the second strongest application. Bluetooth is not that bad of an application in terms of burning up battery life, but the phone owner could still shut it down.

Tweak the Display

The display screen often uses a great deal of battery life on a smartphone. One of the things that a person can do to slow down battery draining is changing the settings on the display screen. For example, the brightness can have a huge effect on the quickness of battery drainage. The best way to control it is to go to “Settings,” “Display,” “Brightness” and then “Brightness level” to change the display’s effect on the battery life.

Turn the Phone Off When Not in Use

Turning the phone off when it’s not in use is an excellent way to spare battery life, especially on a long trip. For example, a person can turn the smartphone off if he or she is going to go on a long trip that consists of several hundred miles of a straight line. Then, the individual can turn it back on and have full use of the GPS system for the duration of the trip.

Conduct One Task at a Time

Multitasking is something that many people do without realizing how much it eats up their batteries. The best way to save battery strength is to conduct one task at a time. That way, the processor is not working so hard that the battery drains in the blink of an eye. Users should close applications when they are finished with them instead of letting them run in the background. Simple unitasking can save hours of time on an Android device.

Saving Battery Life on an Android Device

A smartphone user can improve battery life on an Android device in several ways. The first way is the battery life saver mode with which many smartphones come equipped. Power saving mode is the name of this special battery saving mode on various Android devices. It keeps the usage down to a minimum so that the user can receive the maximum amount of time on calls, texts and Internet expeditions. The mode diminishes CPU performance and lowers the screen’s impact on the battery. Power saving mode is an excellent feature for people who have to go on lengthy driving expeditions.

An extended battery is available for most Android cell phones on the market. The extended battery is a fat battery that usually has double the capacity of the factory battery. An extended battery usually comes with an extra door, as well. The original cell phone door cannot accommodate the grand size of the replacement battery. Learn more about how to make your Android battery last longer.

Saving Battery Life on an Apple Device

Two tips exist for saving battery life on an Apple device. The first tip is to disable Siri. Siri is the most energy-consuming application on any Apple device. A second element that one can disconnect is the Ping element. Not every person knows who owns an iPhone realizes that he or she has the Ping service, but it can be found under “settings,” “general,” “restrictions” and then “Ping.” The person can then slide the control switch to the “off” position.

Sparing Battery Life on a Windows Device

Sparing battery life on a Windows device is easy because Windows phones have a “battery saving” mode of their own. The special battery saving mode is already built in to the Windows mobile phone, which means that the user does not have to change any settings. The battery saving mode will automatically kick in when the life of the battery reduces to 20 percent. Many things will occur when the battery saving mode comes on. First, all background apps will cut off to spare battery life. Next, email sync will switch to a manual process instead of battery guzzling automatic process.

If Nothing Else Works

If nothing else works, the last resort is to reset the phone. Resetting may work for a person who is losing battery life quickly. The software may have a glitch in it that will resolve itself with a factory reset. The way to reset an Android device is to touch the “settings” menu and then look for “backup and reset.” The person will be able to erase everything on the memory card and the phone if that is what he or she desires. If the master reset does not work, then it may be time for the user to take the phone back to the stores for an inspection and a possible warranty replacement.

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Top 9 Laptop Computer Safety Tips

Safely using your laptop will help ensure it works properly and you don't get hurt. Improper use or not being aware of safety issues can cause your laptop irreparable damage. These safety tips should be added to your weekly laptop maintenance routine and will help you stay productive and safe no matter where you are working.

01.Shut It Down

Unlike a desktop computer a laptop computer needs to be shut down when not in use. Shutting down when not in use prevents the laptop from overheating and it also needs the rest.

02.Adjusting Power Settings

Adjusting your power options will help your laptop from heating up when not in use even if for short periods of time. You can set your hard drive and display to turn off after a set time period. Another option is to set the laptop to go into standby or hibernate mode.

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03.Before You Pack It Up

Make sure that before you put your laptop into its carrying bag that it is shut down. A notebook that has been left on can melt. When enclosed in a notebook bag there is no air circulation and the results can be worse than melting. Don't find out the hard way and just be sure to turn off your laptop.

04.Vent Maintenance

Part of your weekly routine should be to inspect and clean the air vents in your laptop. Forced air dusters can be used to keep the air vents clean and free from debris. It's important to know that you should never push anything into the air vents.

05.Checking the Fan

Overheating problems can be caused by the laptop fan not working properly. Always check the laptop manufacturer's online support and your warranty information. It may be possible to download software to test your laptop fan.

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06.BIOS Updates

Some laptops control the fans through the BIOS. Check online with the laptop manufacturer for BIOS updates. If you aren't comfortable updating the BIOS yourself, have someone in your IT dept. or have an outside computer technician do it for you.

07.Avoid Lap Burn

Using a laptop desk or cooler will prevent you from being burned when using your laptop. A good laptop desk will have large enough vents for allowing air circulation between you and the laptop. Some laptop desks have additional fans which use power from the laptop itself to stay cool.

08.Soft Spots

It's a wise idea not to use any soft material as a buffer between you and your laptop. Always operate your laptop on a hard surface, preferably one that allows ventilation. Soft materials can block the airflow vents and cause it to overheat. If it is not possible to avoid using a soft surface, an optional heat sink base should be used to maintain cooling.

09.Unplug Accessories

Whenever your laptop will not be in use, even for short periods of time remember to unplug any accessories. Not only do they use power but they could cause the laptop to overheat. It's especially important to unplug any accessories before packing your laptop in its carrying case. While you may believe it will make it quicker to use, it could damage your laptop, the accessory and/or your laptop bag.

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Remove Your Laptop’s Battery When Plugged In

You might only use your laptop when it's plugged in, or only remove it from the wall in rare occasions. Or, maybe you're one to usually use it in portable mode, away from the wall. In either circumstance, is it better to remove the battery when it's plugged in?

It might make sense to remove the battery to increase its overall life. However, it seems a bit odd to remove the battery each time you plug your laptop in.

Should you still do it?

The short answer is yes… and no. For the best battery life, you might consider removing the battery from your laptop, but only in certain scenarios.

When to Remove the Laptop Battery

Deciding when to remove the laptop from your battery is mostly determined by convenience.

One easy way to consider whether or not to remove your battery laptop when it's being powered through the wall is to estimate how long you'll have it plugged in. If you plan to use your laptop for six hours on a desk, plugged in, and then quit using it again until tomorrow, you might remove the battery.

However, if you're mobile and are only planning to stay plugged in for an hour or so before you'll need the battery again, it would make more sense to keep your laptop charged through the wall even with the battery attached. This is because shutting down the whole laptop, removing the battery, and then booting back up only to power down again, and reattach the battery shortly after (and then turn on the laptop again), is a waste of time.

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Another reason to remove the battery from your laptop is if you won't be using it again for a while, whether attached to the wall or not. Sometimes, a laptop is only necessary for when you work away from home or want to play on your laptop when the weather is nice. If you won't be using it for the next couple weeks, go ahead and remove the battery.

Something else to think about is whether the power in your building is reliable. If the electricity often disconnects or there's a storm outside that could switch the power off at any moment, you should keep the laptop battery attached so that an interrupt won't disrupt your work. That, or invest in a UPS, which is handy even for always-powered-on desktops.

Why Removing the Laptop Battery Can Be Beneficial

Laptop overheating is one of the worst things for all of the laptop's hardware parts, including the battery, which can age much quicker when fully charged and hot for long periods of time.

Anyone with a laptop has surely experiencing a hot lap or near-burned skin from touching certain areas around the battery in times like these. While putting something like a pillow between you and laptop can help remove the heat from your skin, it's not going to protect the battery from overheating.

Also, while some high-powered tasks like gaming and multimedia editing can drive up the amount of heat your laptop produces, and therefore abstaining can help reduce that heat, it's still recommended to remove the battery if you won't be needing it for extended periods of time.

How to Remove a Laptop Battery

You should always follow these steps in this order when removing the battery from a laptop:

  • Shut down the laptop.
  • Remove the power cable from the wall.
  • Remove the battery.
  • Reattach the power cable to the wall.
  • Power on the laptop.

How to Store Your Laptop Battery

The most common recommendation for laptop battery storage is to have it charged to about 40% (or somewhere between 30% and 50%) and then keep it in a dry place.

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Some manufacturers recommend a storage temperature of 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius), which isn't too cold or too hot.

Some people actually keep batteries in the fridge, but you have to take care that the battery isn't exposed to humidity and that you warm it up to room temperature before using it, which could be more hassle than it's worth.

Top Ways to Boost WiFi Signals & Improve Performance

Equipped with a wireless router from your ISP, most WiFi networks are usually fairly efficient. For at-home setups, a quality router will usually be more than enough to run a decent network. After all, even your close neighbors can normally see your wireless network. Of course, there are some exceptions.

If you live in a very large house or your ISP installed your router in a strange location like your closet, your WiFi signal may not reach every part of the house adequately. When it comes to streaming media, a weak WiFi signal result in extreme lag and choppy videos.

Luckily, there are several things that you can do to help boost WiFi signal strength. Here are some of my top recommendations for improving weak WiFi. Note that this article focuses on WiFi specifically and not on your Internet connection.

Use Latest WiFi Protocol

Wireless AC has pretty much become the standard, but if you have not yet upgraded to a Wireless AC router and are still using Wireless G or N, you may want to consider upgrading. Wireless AC has proven to be a much more capable technology that not only produces greater WiFi range, but improved and more consistent signal strength as well.

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Of course, a Wireless AC router will be most efficient with Wireless AC devices.  If you are using a newer device with a built-in wireless card, such as a laptop, check to see what wireless protocol it supports.

It’s also worth noting that after AC, there will be AD, AH, AJ, AX and so on. You don’t always have to be using the latest protocol, but you also don’t want to be several protocols behind. Wireless N and AC also support MIMO, which allows for multiple antennas.

Get a Dual-Band Router

You may have noticed that some routers offer a feature called dual band. This means that it supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks. So what’s the difference? 5 GHz allows for much greater speeds than 2.4 GHz, but over a shorter distance.

A dual band router can be helpful because you’ll get faster speeds when you are closer to the router, but you can switch to the 2.4 GHz network when you are farther away since 2.4 GHz signals can travel farther and penetrate more walls. Unfortunately, you mostly have to manually switch between these two networks.

Call Your ISP

Since most people use the default router given to them by their ISP, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the best one they have to offer. Most ISPs will install a cheaper router with less speeds and less features and then try to get you to upgrade later.

If you are getting service connected, you can usually make them give you the best router before you sign up with them. If you are already a customer, you can always try to threaten to leave. Unfortunately, to get a better router, you normally will have to pay a monthly cost or buy it upfront.

However, if you buy the router upfront, never buy it from the ISP. Instead go to Amazon or eBay and buy it from there. You can always call out a technician to come and install the router, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.

Use a Cable Signal Booster

If you have cable internet, several factors can play into the actual cable signal strength coming from the cable company to your home. If you live in a busy neighborhood with many households, the actual cable power that your home receives may not be optimal. Aside from this, things like splitters that allow for a cable outlet in every room tend to weaken the signal, and the more splitters you have, the weaker the signal will become.

A cable signal booster can help give your home WiFi network the best possible signal by acting as an amplifier. Basically, these devices look and work just like normal coaxial splitters. However, they are engineered to distribute cable signals in the most efficient manner. Cable signal boosters will also improve the signal strength to your television.

Optimize Router & Update Firmware

This one is pretty much a given, but it’s always best to have the most up to date firmware for your wireless router. As technology changes, firmware updates are needed to keep the router running at peak performance.

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You should also tweak the settings on your router for maximum output. For example, if you are getting a lot of interference, you may want to switch channels. Most of the time it is set to Auto, but sometimes it’s worth manually configuring. It is best to consult a router’s user manual for firmware and settings tips.

Re-position the Router

For best WiFi coverage, a wireless router should be placed in a central location within a home. It should also be positioned not too close to the floor, but not too close to the ceiling either. WiFi signals travel in a lateral pattern, and most of the time, WiFi devices, such as laptops are used at midpoint within a home. For example, you usually sit on the couch when using a laptop; you don’t lay on the floor (most of the time), and you do not stand on a ladder.

Use a Multi Router Network Setup

All the methods mentioned above still won’t help you if you live in a very large home and the distances are simply too great, even for the latest wireless protocol with MIMO technology. In these types of cases, you probably need to setup a second router.

This can come in the form of a wireless extender/repeater, wireless bridge, or simply a second wireless router. I’ve already written about setting up a second separate network using a second wireless router, but you can also add a second router to the same network.

For example, if you have Verizon FIOS, you can purchase another identical router and configure it as a MoCA LAN bridge. You can configure the second router with the same wireless SSID and password, so devices will connect to whichever router is closer.

Purchase a WiFi System

These days, there are a lot of companies selling WiFi systems. These are basically wireless mesh networks. They include multiple identical routers that you connect in different locations in your home.

The main advantage these systems is that they configure themselves and talk to each other automatically. This makes them really easy to setup and you can add as many devices as you want to keep extending the range of your wireless network.

Eero is one example of a WiFi system. It comes with three access points for about $500. You can control and configure everything via an app and it takes half an hour to set it all up. Of course, you lose all the flexibility and control that you have when you purchase a traditional router.

Another company that I know is popular is Open-Mesh. Luckily, consumers can buy it too and it works just fine for residential purposes. Again, these are much more expensive solutions, but you’ll be one happy camper at the end of the day.

Add a WiFi Booster Antenna

Depending on the exact model of your WiFi router, it may be compatible with an add-on WiFi booster antenna. WiFi antennas seem to have a varying degree of mixed reviews from purchasers, but for approximately 50% of people, they are worth the purchase. WiFi booster antennas work with the same concept that retractable antennas on old boom boxes work. While the default antenna may be built-in or minimal, a standalone WiFi antenna may help improve WiFi network signals.

Use Powerline Adapter

For some people, you just can’t get a wireless signal into a certain area of the house. Maybe the wall is made of a material that blocks WiFi and therefore nothing but a direct cable connection would work. You can always try to drop a network or coax line to that location, but if that’s not feasible, then a Powerline adapter might be a good alternative.

Speeds are nothing to write home about, but it’s definitely better than nothing. You basically plug them into the wall, one where your router is and one where you need an Ethernet connection. Most have just one Ethernet port, but some like the Actiontec one above, have several ports to connect multiple devices.

Turn Off Other Devices

If you are a heavy gadget user and have tons of devices connected all around your home like cameras, phones, monitors, IOT devices, etc., it might be worth turning some things off to see if there is some kind of interference.

Other appliances like microwaves can also cause interference, so try to keep your router away from any other electronic gadget.

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International Power Adapters: What You Need to Know

If you're planning on traveling internationally, finding a power adapter should be as simple as looking up the plug standard for your destination, buying an adapter, and packing your suitcase.

However, if you need more than just a plug adapter, you could accidentally ruin your hair dryer.

First, let's explore why we have so many different plugs and standards across countries and then let's look at how to check your label and reduce the risk of accidentally buying the wrong adapter or forgetting a necessary converter.

There are a few key variations in standards between countries (or sometimes even within a country):

  • Current
  • Voltage
  • Frequency
  • Outlet and Plug shape

Current

The two main standards for current are AC and DC or Alternating Current and Direct Current. In the US, we developed a standard during the famous war between Tesla and Edison. Edison favored DC, and Tesla AC. The big advantage to AC is that it was capable of traveling greater distances between power stations, and in the end, it was the standard that won out in the USA.

However, not all countries adopted AC. Neither did all yoru devices. Batteries and the internal workings of many electronics also use DC power. In the case of laptops, the large external power brick is actually converting AC power to DC.

Voltage

Voltage is the force with which electricity travels. It's often described using a water pressure analogy. Although there are several standards, the most common voltage standards for travelers are 110/120V (USA) and 220/240V (most of Europe).

If your electronics are only meant to handle 110V of force, having 220V shooting through them could be catastrophic.

Frequency

Frequency for AC power is how often the current alternates each second. In most cases, the standards are 60Hz (America) and 50Hz everywhere that values the metric system. In most cases, this isn't going to make a difference in performance, but it can occasionally cause problems with devices that use timers.

Outlet and Plug Shapes: A, B, C, or D?

Although there are a lot of different plug shapes, most travel adapters settle for the four most common. The International Trade Administration breaks these down into alphabetical shapes (A, B, C, D and so on) so you can check to see if you need something beyond the usual four for your travels.

Can You Just Use a Power Plug Adapter?

Is that all you would need? You can buy USB adapters and use your USB C cord with a USB A plug. It seems like the same concept should apply.

For many devices, it is that simple. Look at the back of your device where you find the UL listing and other information about your device. In the case of laptops, you'll locate the information on your power adapter.

The UL listing will tell you the frequency, current, and voltage that your device can handle. If you're traveling to a country compatible with those standards, you just need to find the right shape of plug.

Devices generally come in three types: those that only comply with one standard, dual mode devices that comply with two standards (switching between 110V and 220V), and those compatible with a wide range of standards. You may need to flip a switch or move a slider in order to convert devices with dual modes.

Do You Need an Adapter or Converter?

Now, should you want to travel with a single voltage device to a country with different voltage, you'll need a voltage converter. If you travel someplace from a lower voltage (USA) to a higher voltage (Germany), it will be a step-up converter, and if you travel in the opposite direction, it will be a step-down converter. This is the only time you should use a converter, and remember that you don't need to use them with your laptop. In fact, you might damage your laptop if you do.

In rare cases, you may also need an AC converter to convert DC power to AC or vice versa, but again, your laptop uses DC power already, so do not use a third-party converter with it.

Check with the company that made your laptop to see what you need. If necessary, you may also be able to buy a compatible power adapter in your destination country.

Hotels

It should be noted that many international hotels have built-in wiring for their guests that don't require any special adapters or converters to use. Ask before your trip to see what your accommodations offer.

What About Tablets, Phones, and Other USB-Charging Devices?

The good news about USB-charging devices is that you don't need a plug adapter. In fact, using one would probably ruin your charger. You just need to buy a compatible charger. USB is standardized. Your charger is doing all the work to convert the voltage to the USB charging standard to power your phone.

In fact, USB may be our best hope for standardizing our power charging for the future, between that and wireless charging systems, we may be moving toward the next "electric plug" solution for our international travel.

Although the USB standard has changed over time 1.1 to 2.0 to 3.0 and 3.1, it has done so in a thoughtful way that offers legacy compatibility. You can still plug your USB 2.0 powered device into a USB 3.0 port and charge it. You just don't see the bandwidth and speed advantages when you do. It's also easier to replace and upgrade USB ports over time than it is to rewire homes for new electrical standards.

Why do Countries Have Different Shaped Power Outlets?

After a system of power transmission was established (AC vs DC), homes were wired for electricity, but there was no such thing as a power outlet. There wasn't a good way to patch something into the network temporarily. Devices were wired into the home's electrical network directly. We still do this with some appliances, like light fixtures and oven hoods, but at the time, it meant there was no such thing as a portable electronic device.

As countries built out electrical systems, there wasn't need to think about compatibility. It was a wonder that power even standardized between cities and states within a single country. (Actually, that didn't always happen within countries. Brazil still has incompatible systems within portions of the country according to the International Trade Administration.)

That also meant different countries settled around different voltages and frequencies as power plants were built. Tesla recommended 60 Hz in the US, while Europeans went with the more metrically-compatible 50 Hz. The US went to 120 volts, while Germany settled on 240/400, a standard later adopted by other Europeans.

Now that countries were establishing their standards for transmitting power and houses were getting wired to receive it, an American inventor named Harvey Hubbell II came up with the idea to let people plug their devices into light sockets. You can still buy power adapters you can plug into light sockets today. Hubbell eventually improved the concept to create what we now know of as the American outlet plug with two prongs.

A few years later, someone else upgraded the two prong plug to add a third, grounding prong, which makes the socket a little safer and less likely to shock you when you plug things into it. American outlets also grew two different sized prongs to keep people from accidentally plugging them in the wrong way.

Meanwhile, other countries began developing outlets and plugs without considering compatibility, although it was the outlet that made portable electronics possible. It was just a matter of which standard gained traction in each location. Most country systems also adapted a system that made it only possible to plug your devices in one way, whether it was by making the plugs different shapes, making three of them, or putting them at different angles.

10 easy ways to speed up Windows 10

If your formerly shiny, new Windows 10 PC has begun to lose some of its luster, there are ways to put a little pep back in its step. Here are some quick, easy ways to improve its performance without swapping out any hardware.

1. Go opaque

Windows 10's new Start menu is sexy and see-through, but that transparency will cost you some (slight) resources. To reclaim those resources, you can disable transparency in the Start menu, taskbar, and action center: Open the Settings menu and go to Personalization > Colors and toggle off Make Start, taskbar, and action center transparent.

2. No special effects

Making the Start menu, taskbar, and action center transparent is one thing, but Windows 10 still has a lot of other snazzy, built-in special effects. To really go bare-bones on the special effects, right-click the Start button and click System.

Click Advanced system settings to open the System Properties menu. On the Advanced tab under Performance, click Settings…

This will open the Performance Options menu. In the Visual Effects tab, either choose Adjust for best performance to turn off all unnecessary animations and special effects, or choose Custom: and deselect the visual effects you think can live without. When you're finished, click OK to apply your changes.

3. Disable Startup programs

If your PC is taking a long time to boot up — and you've enabled Fast Startup and everything — you may have too many programs starting up when you turn your computer on. To fix this, right-click on the Start button and click Task Manager. Click the Startup tab (click More details if you don't see the Startup tab) and peruse the list of programs that start up with your computer. If you see a program that doesn't need to be there, right-click it and click Disable. You can also arrange the list of programs by Startup impact, if you'd like to see the programs that are taking up the most resources (and time).

4. Find (and fix) the problem

Windows 10 has a built-in performance troubleshooter that can help you find and fix any problems that might be affecting your PC's speed. To open the troubleshooter, right-click on the Start button and click Control Panel. Under Security and Maintenance at the top, click Troubleshoot common computer problems. Next, under System and Security, click Run maintenance tasks.

5. Reduce the Boot Menu Time-out

When your computer starts up, the boot menu is displayed for a certain amount of time before the operating system loads. This gives you time to do things like start Windows in Safe Mode. You can shave a few seconds off your startup time by changing the boot menu time-out, which is set to 30 seconds by default.

To do this, right-click on the Start button and click Control Panel. Go to System > Advanced system settings, and, under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.

Next to Time to display list of operating systems:, change the value from 30 seconds to 10 seconds and click OK.

6. No tipping

In an effort to be helpful, Windows 10 will sometimes give you tips on how to get the most out of the OS. It scans your computer in order to do this, a process that can have a slight impact on performance. To turn off these tips, go to Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions and toggle off Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows.

7. Run Disk Cleanup

This one's a win-win. It'll improve performance and free up space on your hard drive. Disk Cleanup has been around forever, but this trusted Windows utility can still help clean out the temporary files, installers and other junk littering your hard drive. To run it, just search for Disk Cleanup, run it and click the button labeled Clean up system files.

8. Eradicate bloatware

If your PC came with preinstalled apps you don't want or need, get rid of them. Same goes for any apps you installed that you later found to be of little or no use. Right-click the Start menu, choose Control Panel and under the Programs header, click Uninstall a program. Peruse the list from time to time and select the programs you no longer need and click Uninstall at the top of the list.

9. Power plan

Make sure you aren't using a Power saver plan if you don't need to. Even desktops will sometimes feature a power-saver option, which doesn't do you any good unless you are trying to conserve battery life. Open the Control Panel and go to Hardware and Sound > Power Options to see which power plan you are currently using. For better performance, make sure you are using a High Performance or Balanced plan (or a plan from the PC manufacturer that says it's balanced).

10. Restart your PC

Is speeding up your computer as simple as…restarting it? Maybe. Restarting your PC clears out its memory and stops any processes that might be taking up resources. Also, shutting down your computer is not the same as restarting it — shutdown is affected by Windows 10's Fast Startup, which saves a snapshot of your PC and its processes in a hiberfile for faster boot-up. Restart is not affected by Fast Startup, so if you have Fast Startup enabled, restarting your PC is the only way to fully clear the memory and shutdown processes.

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The Phone Repairs You Probably Shouldn’t Try At Home

Having a broken phone is not a situation you want to be in for long but there’s always the question of whether to stump up the cash for a professional repair or have a go at fixing it yourself (assuming you’ve no insurance or warranty coverage). This should be your guide for deciding when to tackle some DIY repairs and when to leave it to the experts.

Software bugs

Software problems are the easiest to fix on a phone, though you shouldn’t automatically assume you can fix everything. Issues with one app in particular can often be sorted out by uninstalling and reinstalling the app, which should clear out any corrupted temporary data and reset everything back to normal.

If you’re noticing crashes and slowdowns more generally on your phone, we’ve written plenty of guides in the past on improving performance on Android and iOS—freeing up as much storage space as you possibly can is usually the way to go, as you can’t exactly upgrade the CPU and RAM. You should always install OS and app updates too, though these days it’s pretty hard to avoid doing that.

The most effective and comprehensive fix for software problems and slowdowns on your phone is always a hard factory reset, putting your phone back to the way it was when you first got it before all those nonsense apps and huge photo libraries took over. It’s not difficult to do, but you need to back up all your stuff first.

On stock Android devices, go to System then Reset in Settings (the version of Android you’re using may differ slightly); on iOS, you need to go to General and Reset inside Settings. After a few minutes, your phone will completely forget who you are, and you’ll have to start the setup process again.

Dropped phone

A dropped phone isn’t always cracked screens. Sometimes it causes smaller issues that can lead to frustrating hassles. It can mess with the contacts in the charging mechanism, so if your handset gives you the option to switch to wireless charging rather than a cable, see if that’s enough to bring your phone back to life.

A hard reset can sometimes bring a dropped phone back to life too, though the odds aren’t great. On an iPhone, you need to press and hold the Sleep/Wake button and the Volume Down button for at least ten seconds until you (hopefully) see the Apple logo; on Android, check the instructions from your manufacturer, but on the Pixel you just press and hold the power button for at least ten seconds.

Beyond those attempts there’s not a great deal you can fix it yourself unless you know your way around your phone as well as the folks at iFixit. It’s possible that some careful disassembling can fix whatever’s gone wrong ,but it’s something of a long shot.

Chances are that the drop has permanently damaged or dislodged something inside your phone, so a professional repair shop is really your best option—they’ll be able to take the phone apart for you, spot what’s gone wrong, and tell you whether the component can be fixed or replaced.

Smashed phone

A drop for your phone is usually associated with a screen smash. This could be anything from small and barely noticeable to large and stretching all across the display, and that’s also going to affect how you go about fixing it. If the damage is particularly bad then you’re going to need to replace the screen.

You can, if you want, tackle this yourself if you trust your hand-eye coordination and think you’ve got the skills for the job. iFixit has some excellent guides for Android and iOS so you can follow the instructions to get a new screen in place. Check the guide for your phone first and you’ll know how much effort is involved.

You’re going to need a screwdriver and a replacement screen, which shouldn’t be too difficult to source given the number of people prone to dropping their phones out of their pockets. You might want to compare the price of a new display against the price of getting everything fixed professionally to help decide what you want to do.

There’s no shame in admitting defeat and taking the phone in somewhere to be repaired by the experts. Apple will do it for you, as will some other manufacturers, and so will your local repair shop—these people do screen replacements all the time, so they’re likely to be much better and faster at it.

Dunked phone

Thankfully just about all modern-day handsets are now water resistant, though there are some outliers. If you’ve got a handset that’s not water resistant, and it’s taken a dunk, then you can try a few tricks to get it working yourself—it really depends on the extent of the damage and the make of phone.

Before you do anything else, turn the phone off, pop the SIM card out just in case, and wipe the handset down with a towel to see how much harm might have been done. Give it an hour or two to try out, and see if it comes back on. The key is to let the drying happen as naturally as possible, even if that requires a bit of extra patience. So don’t be afraid to wait 24 hours or longer before trying it out again.

If more drying is required, avoid using a hair dryer as the intensity of the heat can cause extra damage. According to the last local repair shop we visited in person, putting your phone in a bag of rice doesn’t make any difference to the moisture in the insides, but drying phones in a sealed container with silica gel is another common recommendation you might want to try.

Still the best bet is to just be patient and wait. If you turn the device on to soon it will get damaged. Once water damager has occurred there’s one solution left: Head to a professional phone repair service. The staff there won’t be able to work miracles, but they will be better able to safely disassemble and reassemble the phone components and allow them to try out components separately. If the phone still can’t be recovered, it’s time to think about an upgrade.

Dying Phone

In most cases water resistance in phones comes at the cost of a removable battery. That means when you’re battery starts to fail (usually about 3-4 years after purchase) it is time to either buy a new phone, or replace the battery in your current one. You’ll know it’s test when it doesn’t hold a charge for longer than a day, but you can double check by downloading a battery app like Battery Doctor (available for Android and iOS).

If you know your way around tiny tools and have steady hands than it’s not terribly difficult to replace the battery on a smartphone, it just takes a lot of patience and care. Batteries can usually be found for about $10-$15 online, and tutorials are available on Youtube or via iFixit.

If cracking your phone open and saving a few bucks doesn’t appeal than any repair shop can do replace it in about fifteen minutes. They charge anywhere from $50 to $100, so definitely shop around before walking into the closest repair shop.

If the shop doesn’t have the time (or the battery for your device) you’ll need to contact the manufacturer and hope it doesn’t charge too high a fee for a battery replacement. Apple, for example, charges a flat $80 for the repair. That’s a lot, but it is still less than the cost of a new phone.

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