How to Pair a Bluetooth Device to Your Computer, Tablet, or Phone

Wireless devices with Bluetooth radios must be “paired” with each other before they can communicate. This involves making them discoverable and potentially entering a PIN.
The pairing process works with “Bluetooth profiles,” and each device has to be compatible. For example, you can only pair a mouse or keyboard with a device that’s been designed to work with that type of accessory.



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Put an Accessory or Device Into Discovery Mode

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To save battery power, a device with Bluetooth isn’t constantly broadcasting that it’s available. Even if you have a Bluetooth-enabled accessory near a Bluetooth-enabled device, they won’t be able to see each other until you put them into discovery mode. The device will then be “discoverable” by other devices — for a few minutes.
First, put the accessory you want to use into discovery mode. The exact way you do this depends on the accessory. If you have a headset, you may need to hold a button down on the headset for several seconds until a light starts flashing. A keyboard or mouse may have a similar button you may need to press or hold down. A speaker may have a Bluetooth button on its remote that puts it into Bluetooth discovery mode. Others may go into discovery mode by default after you turn them on. A light may flash to indicate that the device is in discovery mode. It’ll only stay discoverable for a few minutes.
Not sure how to put your accessory into discovery mode? Consult its manual, check the manufacturer’s website, or perform a web search for instructions.

If you’re using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can make it discoverable, too. On an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, just open the Bluetooth settings screen — your device will be discoverable as long as you have that screen open. On a Mac, just open the Bluetooth settings screen. On Windows, you’ll need to search the Control Panel for Bluetooth click “Change Bluetooth settings,” and enable the “Allow Bluetooth devices to find this PC” option.
Note that you don’t need to make a device discoverable if you’ll be connecting from it. You only need to make a device discoverable if you’re connecting to it. For example, let’s say you wanted to connect a headset to your Android phone — you’d just need to make the headset discoverable, and not the Android phone.
But, let’s say you wanted to connect an Android phone to your computer — you’d need to make the Android phone discoverable.

View a List of Discoverable Devices Nearby

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Now, go to the smartphone, tablet, computer, music player, or whatever other device you want to connect the Bluetooth accessory to. Look for the Bluetooth settings or devices screen. This screen will display a list of nearby Bluetooth devices that are in discovery mode as well as devices paired to the device.
Be sure the Bluetooth hardware on your device is actually enabled. You’ll often see a toggle in the Bluetooth settings area.
For example, here’s how to do this on popular operating systems:

  • iPhone and iPad: Open the Settings app and tap Bluetooth near the top. of the list
  • Android: Open the Settings screen and tap the Bluetooth option under Wireless & networks.
  • Windows: Open the Control Panel and click “Add a device” under Devices and Printers. You’ll see discoverable Bluetooth devices near you. You’ll need Bluetooth hardware in your computer to do this, but you can always add Bluetooth to your computer.
  • Mac OS X: Click the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click the Bluetooth icon in the System Preferences window.
  • Chrome OS: Click the status area at the bottom-right corner of the screen. Click the Bluetooth status in the pop-up that appears.
  • Linux: This varies depending on your Linux distribution and desktop. On Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, click the gear menu at the top-right corner of your screen, select System Settings, and click the Bluetooth icon in the System Settings window.
  • Other Devices: Whether you’re using a music player or a video game console, you should generally just be able to enter the device’s settings screen and look for a “Bluetooth” option.

Pair the Device and Enter a PIN

Select the discoverable device in the list to connect. Depending on the device and its security settings, you may have to enter a PIN code to pair the device. If you need a PIN code, it should be displayed on the device’s screen. For example, if you’re pairing your phone with your computer, you’ll see a PIN on your phone’s screen and you’ll have to type it into your computer.
You may sometimes not have to type the PIN. Instead, you may simply see the PIN displayed on both devices. Just ensure each device shows the same PIN code before continuing.
In some cases, you may be asked to enter a PIN even if your device can’t display it. For example, you may be asked for a PIN when pairing with a Bluetooth headset or speaker. Entering the code “0000” will often work. If not, you may need to check the device’s documentation (or perform a web search) to find the PIN it needs.


By default, after the devices are paired, they’ll automatically see each other and communicate when they’re both powered on and have Bluetooth enabled.
You shouldn’t have to re-pair the accessory and the device when you want to use them together again. You’ll only need to do this if you tell your devices to forget each other — or pair a headset with another device, for example.
Image Credit: William Hook on Flickr

How to Connect a Headset to a Laptop, Tablet, or Smartphone With a Single Audio Jack

Many laptops now include a combined headphone and microphone jack instead of two separate audio jacks. This trend started with smartphones and tablets, but has spread to MacBooks, ultrabooks, and convertibles like Microsoft’s Surface Pro.
If you have a headset with two separate 3.55mm audio connectors for the headphone and microphone, you don’t have to buy a new one. You can pick up a fairly cheap adapter if you know what to look for.



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What You’re Supposed To Use

If you’re shopping for a new headset and you have a laptop, tablet, or smartphone with a combined audio jack, you’re supposed to buy one of the following:

  • A headset with a combined audio plug. For example, Apple’s iPhone headsets have this type of plug. Headsets for Android devices and other types of mobile phones should work, too. This connector is generally only found on headsets intended for mobile use; you likely won’t find them on larger pairs of headphones.
  • A USB headset. If your headset has a USB connector, you can plug it into any device with a USB port. With a USB headset, you can bypass the device’s audio jack completely, so the type of audio jack your device has won’t matter. This is a good option, but it means you won’t be able to connect your headset to a smartphone, tablet, or anything else without a USB port.
  • A Bluetooth headset. You could pair a Bluetooth headset wirelessly with any Bluetooth-enabled device, from laptops to smartphones. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is fairly power-hungry. These headsets are generally designed for cell phone use, not laptop use.

If you’re buying a headset for a laptop, you’ll probably want a USB headset. If you’re buying a headset for a smartphone or tablet, you’ll want either a wired headset with a single plug or a Bluetooth headset — it depends on whether you want a wireless connection or not.

Connecting a Headset With Separate Audio Jacks to a Combined Audio Jack

Luckily, there’s a fourth option. Some manufacturers sell adapters that can convert a headset with separate headphone and microphone connectors into a single, combined connector, allowing you to connect it to modern laptops that only have a single audio jack. This would also allow you to connect speakers and a microphone to the same 3.5mm audio jack — it doesn’t have to be a headset.
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This adapter can be hard to find. You’ll find a lot of headphone splitter adapters when searching for it — you don’t want a headphone splitter adapter; that won’t work. We purchased the StarTech MUYHSMFF adapter from Amazon and successfully tested it on several devices, from Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 to Apple’s latest MacBook Pro.
Using the adapter is simple — just plug your microphone and headphone connectors into the appropriate jacks on the adapter, and then plug the the adapter into the combined audio port. Note that you’ll need to plug your headset into the adapter before connecting the adapter to the device. If you don’t, you’ll have to unplug the adapter and plug it back in so the microphone and headphone connections are properly detected by your device.

We tested this adapter with several popular devices and it worked well, but there’s no guarantee that it will work with every single ultrabook out there. But, for a few bucks, it’s worth a shot if you have a nice headset or microphone you want to use with your new laptop.


Of course, all of this only matters if you want to connect a microphone for audio input. If all you need is audio output, you can plug the headphone connector on your headset into the audio port normally. Your mic won’t function, but your headphones will work normally.
Image Credit: Jeff Keyzer on Flickr

Type Faster on a Smartphone, Tablet, or Laptop with Text Expansion Shortcuts

A “text expander” autocorrects short combination of characters you type to longer phrases. They can be used anywhere in any operating system. For example, you could type “bbl” and have this always automatically expand to “I’ll be back later.”
This is especially useful on smartphones and tablets with touch keyboards, but it can also be used to save time on a laptop or desktop with a traditional keyboard. Similar features are now being built into more operating systems.



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Why You Want a Text Expander

A “text expander” is a fancy name for a piece of software that automatically “expands” short combinations of characters you write to longer combinations of characters. It works a bit like autocorrect. For example, an obvious use of a text expander would be to automatically insert “Be back later!” when you type “bbl,” or “On my way!” when you type “omw.” This is especially useful on a smartphone or tablet where you’re working with a slower touch keyboard.
However, it could also be useful if you’re dealing with a physical keyboard. If you send a lot of similar emails, you could have it automatically insert entire paragraphs or multiple sets of paragraphs when you type a few characters — “para1,” for example.
It could also be used for many other purposes. For example, you could set up a shortcut “@@” that automatically expands to your full email address, allowing you to easily type it in any app on your smartphone. You could set up a shortcut “##” that would automatically expand to your phone number, one named “adr” that would automatically expand to your full mailing address, and more.

iPhone and iPad

This feature is built into iOS as “Shortcuts.” To access it, open the Settings app and navigate to General > Keyboards > Shortcuts.
Add as many shortcuts as you like here. A shortcut is a set of characters that expands to a longer phrase when you like. You can do a lot with this. After typing a shortcut, you have the ability to tap an X button to prevent it from being expanded. If you press Space or Enter, it will be automatically expanded.

Android

Some Android keyboards may have built-in text expansion features, but everything you need is built into Android and will work with the “stock” Google Keyboard application. This makes use of the “Personal dictionary” feature included in Android.
To enable this, open Android’s Settings screen and then navigate to Language & input > Personal dictionary. Tap the + button and then enter a longer phrase as well as a shortcut. Whenever you type the shortcut characters anywhere in Android, it will expand to your longer phrase.

Windows

You’ll need a third-party text-expansion application to do this on a Windows PC. PhraseExpress is free for personal use and has been very well reviewed, so that’s a good one to start with. However, many other solutions are available.
With PhraseExpress, you’ll need to create a new phrase, name it, and enter your longer phrase in the “Phrase content” box. Enter a shortcut into the “Autotext” box and then save your phrase. By default, PhraseExpress will replace the phrase after you press Space or Enter, but you can also have it do so immediately after you type the autotext characters.

Mac OS X

This is helpfully integrated into Mac OS X, just as it is on iOS. In fact, any shortcuts you set up on iOS will even automatically synchronize to your Mac if you’re signed in with the same iCloud account on both devices.
To set this up, click the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Navigate to Keyboard > Text. Add any shortcuts you like here and they’ll automatically expand to the full phrase you choose whenever you type them in an application on your Mac.

Linux

This isn’t built-in on typical Linux desktop environments. Instead, we recommend the free AutoKey application. It will hopefully be included in your Linux distribution’s software repositories for easy installation. For example, AutoKey is available from Ubuntu’s software repositories and can be installed from the Ubuntu Software Center.
The key to using AutoKey for this is to create “phrases” (New > Phrase) and give them “abbreviations.” The abbreviation is the shortcut that expands to your full phrase. For example, by default AutoKey comes with a “Home Address” phrase set up that automatically expands the letters adr to a full address. You could enter your own address here and then type adr whenever you wanted to type your full address.

Chrome OS

Chromebooks can use a text expander implemented as a Chrome browser extension. It will automatically expand text you type on web page form fields to the longer phrases you choose. Auto Text Expander is available in the Chrome Web Store, and works in exactly this way.
Install the expension and use its options to configure your desired shortcuts. Remember, these shortcuts will only be used on web pages you view in Chrome, not in other areas of the interface like the location bar.


This is just a snapshot of what’s currently available for various operating systems and devices you might be using. But text expansion shortcuts are here to stay, and you’ll probably be able to set them up in whatever operating system you’re using a decade from now. The key is knowing that they exist and what you can use them for.

How to Stream Games With NVIDIA GameStream to Any Computer, Tablet, or Smartphone

NVIDIA’s GameStream technology lets you stream games from a GeForce-powered Windows PC to another device. It only officially supports NVIDIA’s own Android-based SHIELD devices, but with a third-party open-source GameStream client known as Moonlight, you can stream games to Windows PCs, Macs, Linux PCs, iPhones, iPads, and non-SHIELD Android devices.

NVIDIA GameStream vs. Steam In-Home Streaming

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Before we show you how this works, it’s worth noting that Steam’s In-Home Streaming might be a better solution for some. Steam lets you stream from a Windows PC to another Windows PC, a Mac, a Steam Machine, a Steam Link device, or a Linux PC. So if you’re using one of those platforms, it’s a very good option.
However, there’s no way to stream from Steam to an iOS or Android-based device, which Moonlight/GameStream can do. It’s also possible that GameStream might perform better than Steam In-Home Streaming on some systems. GameStream is NVIDIA’s own optimized solution, and it’s integrated directly into the GeForce Experience application that comes with NVIDIA’s graphics drivers. It may be worth trying both to see which gets you the best performance.
Lastly, GameStream also features “Remote Streaming,” officially allowing you to stream games from your home PC over the Internet if you have a fast enough Internet connection. Steam’s In-Home Streaming doesn’t allow this–it’s only in-home on your local network, as the name implies.

Step One: Set Up NVIDIA GameStream on Your PC

First, you’ll need to set up NVIDIA GameStream on your Windows PC. Remember, you’ll need to be using an NVIDIA video card for this to work.
If you don’t have the GeForce Experience software installed, you’ll need to download it from NVIDIA and install it. Then, launch the “GeForce Experience” app from your Start menu.
Click the “Preferences” tab at the top of the GeForce Experience window and select the “SHIELD” category. Ensure the “Allow this PC to stream games to SHIELD devices” box is checked.
If your graphics hardware is too old or not powerful enough for this, you won’t be able to activate this option.

After you connect via Moonlight, you’ll be able to launch games from a list. Any games GeForce Experience automatically detects on your PC are shown on the “Games” tab in the GeForce Experience, and will be available to play. If you want to add custom games GeForce Experience didn’t automatically find, you can add them to the Games list under Preferences > Shield. You can actually add any program here–even desktop programs.
If you’d like to stream your entire desktop, click the + button at the right side of the list and add the following program:
C:\windows\system32\mstsc.exe

You can click the “Edit” button and rename the entry “Windows Desktop” afterwards.

Step Two: Install Moonlight and Start Streaming

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Now, visit the Moonlight Game Streaming website and download the client for your device of choice. You’ll find clients for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, Amazon Fire, iPhone, iPad, Raspberry Pi, and Samsung VR devices. We’ve previously demonstrated how to use Moonlight along with a Raspberry Pi to make your own Steam Machine.
After installing Moonlight, open the app and it should automatically detect your GameStream-enabled PC if both the device and your PC are on the same local network. In Moonlight, select your PC in the list and click or tap “Pair” to pair Moonlight with your gaming PC.
If the PC running Moonlight doesn’t appear automatically, you’ll need to manually add its local IP address. Find the IP address of the Windows PC and enter it in your Moonlight client application.

The Moonlight app will give you a PIN. Enter it in the “SHIELD is requesting to  connect” pop-up that appears on your PC and your devices will be paired.

Don’t see the PIN request dialog? We had that problem, too. To fix this, open the NVIDIA Control Panel application on the Windows PC, click the “Desktop” menu, and select “Show Notification Tray Icon.” The next time you attempt to pair your devices, the PIN pop-up will appear.

For whatever reason, the PIN pop-up is tied to this system tray icon, and it just won’t appear if you haven’t enabled it.
You can now play games with whatever control method you have at hand. Most game controllers–from Xbox controllers to PlayStation controllers and even less common ones–should work. On a computer, a mouse and keyboard will also work. However, using a mouse properly with Moonlight on Android will require a rooted device.
On an Android or iOS device, you can use touch screen controls along with an on-screen keyboard.
Check the official Moonlight setup guide for more information about touch controls, streaming games over the Internet, and general troubleshooting tips.


If your performance isn’t great, a lot of things could be involved. The speed of your wireless router and network matter, as do the system specifications of the PC streaming the game. Even the device receiving the game may need reasonably high specs, as Moonlight doesn’t necessarily have the most optimized decoding. Try it on a few devices to see what works, and if you’re using a computer, be sure to try Steam in-home streaming as well.
Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce on Flickr

How to Remotely Track Any Lost Smartphone, Tablet, or PC

Whether your device was stolen or simply lost, you can remotely track, lock, and wipe it. Don’t wait until you’ve lost your hardware to think about this — these features need to be enabled ahead of time.
This requires that the device is powered on and has a connection to the Internet. This is easy if you’re tracking a phone with a data connection, but harder if you’re tracking a laptop that may be offline or powered off.



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iPhones, iPads, and Macs

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Apple’s “Find My” services are integrated into iPhones, iPads, and even their Mac computers. Enable it in your device’s iCloud options and you can track down your device from the iCloud website. You can also mark it as lost, lock it, and wipe it remotely.
Whatever you think of Apple, their solution is the best. When you put an iPhone or iPad into “lost mode,” iCloud will start tracking its movements over time so you can see a complete history. This also survives a factory reset, so you can track and remotely manage an iPhone or iPad even if the thief resets it. Apple won’t activate iPhones and iPads if they’re marked as lost.
You can also remotely lock a Mac — the Mac will immediately shut down and the thief will have to enter a firmware password to boot it. They won’t be able to boot any operating system without the password you set remotely. You can also remotely wipe any iOS device or Mac if you have especially sensitive data stored on them.

Android Phones and Tablets

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Android’s built-in Android Device Manager allows you to track, lock, and wipe lost Android phones and tablets. You must enable this feature on each Android device you own by launching the Google Settings app, tapping Android Device Manager, and activating it.
After it’s enabled, you can visit the Google Play website, click the gear icon, and select Android Device Manager. You’ll see the location of the device on a map. Unlike Apple’s solution, Android Device Manager will be wiped after a factory reset — a thief can reset your device and you won’t be able to track it down. Android Device Manager also won’t monitor a complete history of a lost device’s movements — it only fetches the location of the device when you sign in. It discards any location data when you sign out.



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Android also allows for third-party tracking solutions, some of which are more powerful. For example, Avast!’s Anti-Theft app can be installed onto the system partition if you have root access, so it will survive a factory reset. However, writing a new ROM to the device — or re-flashing the original ROM — will erase the tracking software.
Android Lost allows you to start tracking a device remotely, even if you never set up tracking software ahead of time. Other tracking solutions offer more powerful features like the ability to take photos with the phone’s camera or listen in on the phone’s surroundings with its microphone.

Windows Phones

Microsoft’s Windows Phone includes a tracking solution named Find My Phone. Tap Settings > Find My Phone on your Windows Phone to configure it. You can then visit the Windows Phone website and click Find My Phone in the menu at the top-right corner of the screen to remotely track, lock, and erase it.
Like Google’s Android Device Manager, the Find My Phone feature can be disabled if someone with the phone performs a factory reset.

Windows PCs and Tablets

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Microsoft doesn’t offer an integrated way to track lost Windows PCs and tablets. You’ll need a third-party computer tracking solution — such as Prey — for this. Prey offers a free plan, so you won’t have to pay anything if you just want basic tracking. This software must be installed and configured ahead of time. If your device is lost, you can sign into the service’s website to remotely track and lock it.
Such services just aren’t as powerful as what Apple offers — there’s no way to remotely lock the device with a BIOS or UEFI firmware password that will prevent it from turning on again, for example. Simply reinstalling Windows or booting another operating system on the PC or tablet will be enough to eliminate the tracking software.
You can’t use this trick to track a Windows RT device like the Surface RT or Surface 2, as Windows RT doesn’t allow you to install third-party desktop software. You may be able to install a device-tracking app like Windows Location Tracker from the Windows Store. We didn’t test how well this particular application works, but it won’t be able to remotely lock or wipe your device due to the limitations placed on Windows Store apps. These apps are toys that can offer GPS tracking at most.

Linux PCs

As with Windows PCs, you’ll have to use a third-party software program to track a lost PC running Linux. Prey also runs on Linux, so you can use the same software. The same limitations apply — it’s just a software program running on your computer, so you can’t remotely set a BIOS password to lock the entire PC down. If an attacker boots or installs another operating system, you won’t be able to track the Linux PC down.

Chromebooks

Chrome OS doesn’t provide an integrated lost-device-tracking solution, either. Some software packages promise to track and locate lost Chromebooks, but they’re generally commercial products marketed to large organizations. For example, GoGuardian promises to aid you in tracking and recovering stolen Chromebooks, but it’s targeted at schools rolling out large numbers of Chromebooks.


Google and Microsoft have promised they’ll be adding iPhone-like “kill switches” in future versions of Android and Windows Phone to deter phone theft. Microsoft is also working on bringing Windows Phone and Windows 8 together, so perhaps the next version of Windows will include a built-in tracking feature.

How to Use OpenDNS on Your Router, PC, Tablet, or Smartphone

Most home networks rarely have one single type of client connecting to it. Usually, there’s a blend of Windows, Android, iOS, and maybe even Macs. How do you keep all these clients connected while keeping younger users out of trouble?
We’ve talked about OpenDNS in past articles and just recently, we discussed the possibilities of using your router for basic parental controls. In that article, we mentioned that our example router actually defers to OpenDNS as its designated “parental controls”.
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Using the router doesn’t always turn out to be an effective solution if the problem is with Internet access. While you can block keywords and domains, you will quickly find out that controlling that is akin to the time-worn analogy of the finger the dike. You may be able to block a couple problem websites at first, you’re going to need something much more robust and enveloping to really get the job done.
The nice thing with OpenDNS is, you can do web filtering at the router, or you can assign it to individual clients. This means, as a grownup, that you don’t have to deal with a neutered Internet experience.
Today, we’re going to show you exactly how to do that and then configure your Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS clients to take advantage of the change.



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A Brief Reintroduction to OpenDNS

You may be wondering how this works, and it’s really very simple. First go to OpenDNS.com and create an account for their parental controls. We choose OpenDNS Home, which takes only a few minutes to set up and is completely free.

All they really need is some basic information, however, they may prompt you for more. When you’re done creating an account, you will need to confirm via the email address you provided.
The next screen you encounter will explain to you how to change your DNS for various clients and access points on your network.

Instructions for changing your DNS on your router, PC, server, and even mobile devices are available. We’ll go ahead and quickly show you how to do all that in the coming sections.

Changing Your DNS

You have two configuration options on your home network. You can change the DNS on your router, which is the main connection point to and from the Internet.
This has the advantage of covering everything in an umbrella of protection. This is also its disadvantage because every computer behind the router must then use the same router settings unless you specifically assign a client to use another DNS server.
Another disadvantage is that there’s no way to tell, at least with the free version of OpenDNS, where the traffic is coming from, so if you see a bunch of blocked websites, it could be you, it could be your spouse, it could be your children, or anyone else who comes over and connects to your network.

Preferred Method: Configuring Your Router

Nevertheless, the preferred method to using OpenDNS is to configure your router to direct all DNS request through their servers.
We’re going to explain the basic method for changing your router’s DNS. You should most definitely check out the guide corresponding guide for your router when it’s time to set yours up, especially if it’s not immediately apparent how to do so.
In general though, this is what you should expect when configuring your router. First access your router’s configuration panel by opening it in your preferred web browser. We covered this in Lesson 2, so if you’re unsure how to do this, we recommend reading it.

Once you’ve got your router open, you want to locate where you can input different DNS servers. OpenDNS’s primary DNS server is 208.67.222.222 and their secondary server is 208.67.220.220. In the screenshot below, we see where we enter that on our router.

Once inputted, you will need to save your changes. Depending on your router, it may be an actual “Save” button or it may say “Apply.” Regardless, if you don’t commit your changes, they won’t take effect.
That is all you need to do to your router, all DNS requests will now be routed through OpenDNS, however, you still need to flush your DNS resolver cache and web browser cache.

Clearing Your DNS Resolver Cache on Windows Clients

Open a command prompt on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 by opening the Start menu or Start screen, respectively, and entering “cmd” in the search box. Instead of simply hitting “Enter” though, use “Ctrl + Shift + Enter” to open an administrator command prompt. You will know you have administrator privileges because it will say so in the title bar.

With the command prompt open, type “ipconfig /flushdns” (the command is the same for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1). You should do this on all your Windows clients, so if your kids each have a computer, you want to flush their DNS caches.

Clearing the DNS Resolver Cache on OS X Clients

To clear the DNS resolver cache on your Mac, you will need open the Terminal.

With the Terminal open, type the appropriate command:

sudo dscacheutil –flushcache (OS X Yosemite)
dscacheutil -flushcache;sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder (OS X Mavericks)
sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder (OS X Mountain Lion or Lion)

If you’re using another version of OS X, you should check out this link, which has information for flushing the DNS cache all the way back to OS X 10.3.

Clearing Your Browser History

It will be necessary to also clear any and all caches on whatever browsers you use.
On Windows, you’re most likely using one or more of the three most popular browsers: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome. On a Mac, it is often Safari.

Clearing Internet Explorer’s Cache

For Internet Explorer, the most consistent way to do this is to use the Internet Options found in the Control Panel. The first tab is the General settings. Click on “Delete” under Browsing History.

You can wipe everything out in one fail swoop if you like, but the cache data is known here as “Temporary Internet files and website files.” Click “Delete” when you’re ready to clear Internet Explorer’s cache.

Clearing Mozilla Firefox’s Cache

On Mozilla Firefox (as of writing, we’re using version 31), you want to click on the Menu icon and select “History.”

Then choose “Clear Recent History…” from the options near the top of the History Sidebar.

First, select “Everything” in “Time range to clear:” and then you also want to open the “Details” so you can see what is to be deleted. Note in the screenshot, the option you definitely want to select is “cache.”

Click “Clear Now” when you’re ready and Firefox’s cache (and whatever other options you choose) will be deleted.

Clearing Google Chrome’s Cache

When clearing Chrome’s cache, open the menu and select “History” from the list. Alternately, you can use “Ctrl + H”.

On the resulting History screen, click “Clear browsing data…” to delete the cache.

We want to “obliterate” browsing data from “the beginning of time.” Make sure you’ve have selected “Cache images and files” from the list. The rest is up to you.

Once you’re ready to commit, click “Clear browsing data” and everything in the cache will be wiped clean.

Clearing Safari’s Cache

Simply open the Safari’s preferences (the fastest way to do this is to use “Command + ,”) and then click on the “Privacy” tab.

Click “Remove All Website Data…” and then “Remove Now” on the subsequent screen.

Alternative Method: Configuring Individual Clients

The other option for an OpenDNS configuration is to change each client in your network, or you can change the DNS on your router, and Mom and Dad can configure their own computer with their ISP’s DNS server settings, or they can use Google’s public DNS servers (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4), to access the Internet unfettered.

Changing DNS Servers on Windows Computers

That said, we’re going to show you how to configure Windows clients with OpenDNS’s settings. On Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, the routes and ends are the same. We’ll show you the screenshots from Windows 8.1.
Both Windows systems should have an icon of the network to which you are connected in the lower-right corner of the taskbar. Right-click on that network icon, in this screenshot, it’s a wired connection but on your computer it may be a Wi-Fi bars.

Regardless of your network connection adapter, you want to choose “Open Network and Sharing Center” and then choose “Change adapter settings” on the left-hand side.

When the adapter screen opens, you want to right-click on your network adapter (you will probably only have one, and it will probably be a Wi-Fi connection) and then choose “Properties.” In the following screenshot, our wired connection “Eth0” has a great many items attributed to it but the one we want to affect should be at or near the bottom.
Select “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) from the list and then choose “Properties” underneath it.

You now find yourself on your adapters IPv4 properties screen where you can input your custom DNS settings. Select “Use the following DNS server addresses” and you can then input OpenDNS’s servers, or you can input your ISP’s DNS servers for an adult-friendly alternative configuration.
In the following screenshot, you see how this looks with an OpenDNS configuration.

When you’re finished, click “OK” and while you’re at it, go about the processes we discussed previously for flushing the DNS cache and browser cache(s). At this point, any computers using the OpenDNS’s servers can thus be filtered and logged.
Alternatively, click the “Advanced…” button, then the “DNS” tab.

On the DNS tab, you can then “Add” DNS servers and order them in order of use using the green arrows on the right side of the tab.

Changing DNS Servers on a Mac

Like Windows clients, OS X will assume you want to use your router’s DNS servers unless otherwise specified. To change the DNS servers on OS X, open Spotlight (“Command + Space”) and then choose the Network system preferences.

On the resulting windows, choose your Wi-Fi (or LAN) connection and then click “Advanced” in the bottom-right corner.

Once the advance settings are open, you want to click the “DNS” tab, and just like on Windows clients add OpenDNS servers using the + button.

Click “OK” to save your new settings and return to the Network system preferences.

Changing DNS Servers on an Android Device

To change the DNS servers on an Android device, open your Wi-Fi settings and long-press on your connection.

Choose “modify network” from the two choices.

On the next screen, tap “show advanced options.”

In the advanced options, scroll down to the DNS servers and change them to OpenDNS’s (or Google’s) servers.

Click “Save” and you’re finished.

Changing DNS Servers on an iOS Device

If you use an iPhone or iPad, you too can change your DNS servers. Open your device’s WiFi settings and tap the blue “i” next to your connection.

In your connection’s settings screen, simply change your DNS servers. Since most DNS has two servers, you’d want to separate them with a comma, in order of preference (DNS 1, DNS 2).

Finally, tap the “Wi-Fi” back button and you’re finished. Your iPhone or iPad will now use the assigned DNS when it connects to your connection via Wi-Fi.

A Quick Overview of Free OpenDNS

When you first access OpenDNS, you’ll need to add your home network. If you’re connecting from a computer from within your network, your IP address will be shown at the top. Go to the Settings tab to add your network.

You also want to take a moment to set your web content filtering level. Filtering is spread across three levels in 26 categories. Click “View” to view the categories and “Customize” to add or remove categories to create custom filtering levels.

If you are happy with the level of filtering but there’s a site or two that you don’t want your kids to access, you can add them specifically to the filter.

Once you select a filter, it should take about three minutes for the changes to take effect. Thereafter, when your kids visit something blocked by OpenDNS, they’ll see a screen similar to this.

In addition to the OpenDNS’s filters, there’s a great many other options you can investigate, but before we conclude today, we want to touch upon the “Stats” features found in OpenDNS. You might be happy with the way OpenDNS filters web content and if so, that’s great. But if you want to know what kind of traffic is going in and out of your network, you’ll want to take a glance at network stats.

Stats can be shown for a range of dates, whether it’s the most recent week, or a whole month, you can look at requests and see what websites your clients are visiting. You can even download a copy of the log or output to a printer.

OpenDNS gives you a relatively barebones approach to parental controls – filtering and logging – but that may be enough for many families. When combined with other methods, other parental controls methods for example, it can really wrap your network in a tight protective cocoon.
Even if you use your system’s baked-in parental controls, OpenDNS is nice to have as a backup filtering and monitoring layer, especially if you have devices on your home network that use your Internet connection such as tablets and phones.
With all that aside, let’s hear from you. Is OpenDNS something you would use or are you an OpenDNS expert? Talk to us in the discussion forum and let us know what you think.

How to Opt Out of Personalized Ads on Any Smartphone, Tablet, or PC

Modern mobile operating systems — Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and Microsoft’s Windows 10 — all provide a unique advertising identifier to apps you use. Apps use this identifier to track your interests and provide personalized ads.
If you’d rather not see personalized ads in apps, all operating systems provide a way to disable — or just reset — your identifier. You’ll still see ads, they just won’t be personalized. These settings are just for apps, not websites in your browser.



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What This Does (and What This Doesn’t Do)

This doesn’t disable in-app ads, or reduce the number of ads you’ll see. Instead, it disables access to a tracking feature that normally allows ad networks to track your usage across apps. This is used to build up a personalized ad profile about you and serve targeted ads.
With this feature disabled, you won’t see ads specifically targeted to you based on other apps you were using. For example, if you’re shopping for a product in App A, you won’t see ads for that type of product in App B. You will see ads for that type of product in App A, however — this just prevents cross-app ad-tracking.

iPhone & iPad

Apple introduced this option in iOS 6. Previously, ads relied on a unique device identifier to track your device — always. Now, they rely on an ad-tracking identifier you can disable or reset. This affects the in-app ads provided by Apple’s iAd network.
To change this setting, open the Settings app, select the Privacy category, and tap the Advertising option at the bottom of the screen. Activate the “Limit Ad Tracking” option to disable interest-based ads or tap “Reset Advertising Identifier” if you’d like to continue seeing interest-based ads in the future but wipe your existing profile.
You can also disable location-based ads, if you like. Open the Settings screen, select the Privacy category, and tap Location Services. Tap the “System Services” option at the bottom of the list and disable “Location-based iAds.”

Android

There’s a setting that does the same thing on Android phones and tablets, too. It works similarly to the feature on iOS. Rather than using a unique, unchangeable identifier to identify your device, it uses an “anonymous” ID that can be reset or disabled.
This option is found in the Google Settings app Google quietly added to devices via Google Play Services back in 2013, so you should have it on your device.
Open your app drawer and launch the Google Setting app. Tap “Ads” under Services and enable the “Opt out of interest-based ads” option. You can also reset your advertising ID from here by tapping “Reset advertising ID”.

Windows 10

RELATED ARTICLE30 Ways Your Windows 10 Computer Phones Home to Microsoft
Windows 10 has a similar setting for its apps and their ads. You’ll find this particular setting in the Settings app. Open the Start menu, click Settings, and select the Privacy category. At the top of the General pane, you’ll see a “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps (turning this off will reset your ID)” option. Disable this setting to disable those personalized ads. To reset your ID, just disable the setting and reenable it.
This setting only affects those new “universal apps” you get from the Windows Store. It won’t affect any traditional Windows desktop apps that use advertising — Microsoft’s own Skype desktop program, for example. This setting should be in the same place on Windows 10 phones.

The Web

There’s no similar setting for traditional Windows desktop programs, Mac software, or Linux applications. Instead, you’ll generally get those interest-based ads from within your web browser.
Advertising networks track you in a variety of ways, including by asking your web browser to store cookies and tying your activity to an account you stay logged in with on different services.
A variety of websites and ad networks do provide some control over whether you see those interest-based ads on the web. For example, Google offers pages where you can control interest-based ads when signed into Google, and when not signed into Google. There are other opt-out tools, like the Digital Advertising Alliance Consumer Choice page and the Ad Choices page for European users. Other ad networks and services may have their own options for controlling this.
This is a scattershot approach necessitated because the “Do Not Track” option integrated into modern browsers is largely ignored. You could also just clear your cookies every time you close your web browser. You’d have to log into websites you use over and over, but no data would be built up over time — unless it’s account-based data and you always log back into the same websites.


Of course, whether personalized, interest-based ads are actually a problem is a matter of some disagreement. This does ensure you’ll see ads that are targeted to you, at least theoretically — you won’t see ads for diapers if you’re not a parent, for example. In practice, some people do find them “creepy” — whether you want to see them is up to you.

How to Prepare a Computer, Tablet, or Phone Before Selling It

So it’s the end of the road for your PC, tablet, or smartphone. Before letting go, be sure to follow this quick check list to prepare your device for its new owner.
If you don’t follow these steps, you may lose important personal data, run into issues authorizing DRM’d purchases in the future, or have your personal data at risk of being recovered by the device’s new owner.

Wipe Your PC the Easy Way with SafeErase

If you want to securely erase your computer before selling it or giving it away, it doesn’t get easier than using the SafeErase utility by Laplink:

  1. Install SafeErase.
  2. Click “SafeErase entire computer”.
  3. Done!

SafeErase will reboot your computer and completely wipe all of the attached drives completely in no time at all. There’s no need to burn a CD or create a USB drive to wipe your computer. It’s also a handy way to securely erase files, folders, partitions, and more.
Download SafeErase and Wipe Your PC the Easy Way

Back Up Your Personal Data

This part’s obvious, but it’s important anyway. If you’re moving to a new computer, you’ll want to back up your important personal data and take it with you. If you’re already backing up your important personal data — and you should be — you should know where the data you care about is on your computer and should already have backup copies.
RELATED ARTICLEWhat Files Should You Backup On Your Windows PC?
Thanks to cloud services, much of your important personal data may already come with you. Files stored in services like Dropbox will obviously come with you and be accessible on your new computer. But there’s still a good chance you have important local files sitting around. Consult our look at what files you should back up on your Windows PC if you need some help.

RELATED ARTICLEWhat Data Does Android Back Up Automatically?
If you’re using a tablet or smartphone, you probably don’t have to worry as much about backing up its data. Most of the data on your mobile device is likely synchronized with online services, so it will be available after you wipe the device. If you’re using Android, read about what Android data is backed up automatically. Make sure you have copies of any important photos — Android can automatically back up your photos online, but this isn’t on by default. If you’re using an iPhone, photos are automatically backed up with iCloud if you have Photo Stream enabled.

Deauthorize Any DRM Purchases

Worrying about content you purchased shouldn’t be necessary, but sadly, it still is in many situations. Some content that comes with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology locks itself to your computer.
For example, many purchases from the iTunes Store require your computer is “authorized” with your Apple ID before they can be played. You can have up to five authorized computers at any one time, so if you install iTunes on a computer and later get rid of that computer, you’ve used up one of the authorizations. Even just reinstalling Windows can use up an authorization several times on the same computer.
To prevent this from happening, you’ll want to deauthorize your computer in the DRM application. For example, to deauthorize your computer in iTunes, click the Store menu in iTunes and select Deauthorize This Computer.

Luckily, iTunes will allow you to deauthorize all your computers later if you forget to deauthorize a computer before getting rid of it. However, some other services do not.
For example, some PC games use SecuROM product activation. These games generally have activation limits and can only be activated on a certain number of computers. You’d want to revoke the game’s authorization using the included tool before getting rid of a computer you have the game installed on.
If you don’t do this, you may find it impossible to revoke the activation after you get rid of the computer. If you use all your activation limits, you may have to call in and request more — hopefully the game company accommodates you and doesn’t force you to buy a new copy of the game.
DRM activations and revocations are fairly customer hostile and aren’t found in every service. For example, downloaded Kindle eBooks never require deauthorization. Steam doesn’t require you to revoke games you buy through it, although some games you buy through Steam may do so.

DRM activations and revocations aren’t as common on mobile devices. We aren’t aware of any popular services that would require you to revoke authorization before getting rid of a smartphone or tablet.

Wipe the Drive

Note that this section only applies to PCs with mechanical hard drives running Windows 7 or earlier versions of Windows. If you’re getting rid of  a Windows 7 PC with an SSD, any Windows 8 PC, a tablet, or a smartphone, you can continue to the next section.
If your laptop or desktop computer has a traditional magnetic hard drive, it’s possible for people to recover the data from the hard drive even after you reformat it and reinstall the operating system. This is because reinstalling the operating system won’t erase every sector of the disk.
If you’d like to erase every sector of the disk, you’d want to use a tool like DBAN before reinstalling Windows on your computer. Bear in mind that this tool wipes your entire drive and will erase any manufacturer recovery partition found on it.
RELATED ARTICLESWhy Deleted Files Can Be Recovered, and How You Can Prevent ItWipe, Delete, and Securely Destroy Your Hard Drive’s Data the Easy Way

This only applies to PCs with magnetic hard drives. If you have a computer with a solid-state drive — or a smartphone or tablet with an SSD — files deleted from the SSD are immediately deleted if TRIM is enabled, which it should be by default.
You don’t have to go out of your way to do this on Windows 8. While Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows don’t have a built-in way to wipe a drive in their installer, Windows 8 offers a feature that will wipe your drive when you reset your PC. Windows 8 calls this “fully cleaning your drive.”

Reinstall the Operating System or Factory Reset

Once you’ve properly prepared the device and recovered your personal files and DRM activations, you’ll want to set it back to its factory default state before passing it on to its new owner.
RELATED ARTICLEBeginner Geek: How to Reinstall Windows on Your Computer
On computers running Windows 7 or earlier, follow our guide to reinstalling Windows — either from a Windows installation disc or your computer’s integrated recovery partition. If you have sensitive data that was once stored on the drive, be sure to wipe the drive using a tool above before reinstalling the operating system.

RELATED ARTICLEEverything You Need to Know About “Reset This PC” in Windows 8 and 10
On computers running Windows 8, you can use the Reset Your PC feature to set Windows back to its factory default state. This will wipe your entire device, erasing all your personal files. If you have a computer with a traditional magnetic hard drive instead of an SSD, be sure to select the “Fully clean the drive” option when resetting Windows to ensure your personal data is completely wiped from the drive and can’t be recovered.

On a smartphone or tablet, use the Factory Reset option. On Android, open the Settings screen, tap Backup & reset, and tap Factory data reset.

On iOS, open the Settings screen, tap General, tap Reset, and tap Erase All Content and Settings. Your mobile device uses solid-state storage, so you shouldn’t have to worry about wiping it.


Your device should now be like-new — when it comes to the software, at least — without any risk that your personal files could be recovered. You can now sell it or pass it on to its new owner with confidence.
Image Credit: miniyo73 on Flickr