Yes, It’s Okay to Shut Down Your Computer With the Power Button

Many computer users were trained never to turn their PCs off by pressing the power button on their desktop PC’s case. This used to cause problems in the previous millennium, but it’s now perfectly safe to shut down with the power button.
This is especially useful on Windows 8, where there’s no obvious power button unless you know to look in the charms bar or the hidden Windows Key + X menu. But there is a power button — and it’s on your PC’s case.



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Why Old Computers Couldn’t Handle This

If you ever used Windows 95 on an old computer, you’ll probably remember how you had to turn off the PC. You opened the Start menu, clicked Shut Down, and waited patiently for the computer to finish up whatever it was doing. When it was ready for you to shut down, you’d see the message “It’s now safe to turn off your computer” on your screen and you’d press the power button to shut it off.
The power button wasn’t very smart in those days. When you pressed it, it immediately cut power to the computer’s hardware. Just as you wouldn’t yank a desktop computer’s power cord out of the outlet while it was running today, you wouldn’t press the power button to shut off then. A sudden power cut means the computer won’t be able to shut down cleanly. You may lose work and the file system might be corrupted. If you did this on Windows 95, your computer would have to run ScanDisk when you booted it back up, attempting to repair all the damage caused by the shut down.
When you clicked Shut Down in Windows first, Windows wrapped up everything it was doing, closing all open programs and saving all data to the disk. Your computer wasn’t doing anything at all when that message appeared on your screen, so it was safe to cut power to it.

Why New Computers Can Safely Shut Down

Old computers used a pretty low-tech solution. Instead of suddenly cutting power to the computer, why couldn’t the power button send a signal to the computer’s operating system saying “Hey, it’s time to shut down, finish up what you’re doing” and let the computer shut down intelligently? And, when you did shut down from the operating system, why did you have to sit at the computer and wait to press the power button once everything was done? Why couldn’t the operating system say to the computer “it’s now safe to shut down, power off”?
These questions were answered by the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) standard, which new computers have used for more than a decade. When you press the power button on your computer’s case, it doesn’t suddenly cut power — it sends a signal to the operating system and tells it to shut down. The operating system can also understand multiple types of ACPI signals, which is how some laptops are able to have separate power and sleep buttons. And, when you click Shut Down in Windows, it uses ACPI to send a signal to your computer’s hardware, telling it to cut the power so you don’t have to press the power button by hand.
RELATED ARTICLEWhat’s the Difference Between Sleep and Hibernate in Windows?
In other words, your computer’s power button is smart enough to do the right thing. You can just press the power button on your case to shut it down. Bear in mind that this power button can be configured to do different things, so you can have your computer shut down, sleep, or hibernate when you press the power button.
Windows 98 introduced support for ACPI, but it requires appropriate hardware. If you install a modern version of Windows on older hardware, you’ll still see the “It is now safe to turn off your computer” message and have to press the power button manually.

Holding Down the Power Button Still Cuts Power to the Computer

RELATED ARTICLEHow to Power Cycle Your Gadgets To Fix Freezes and Other Problems
Your computer’s power button is smart, but this might be a problem in some situations. For example, if Windows is frozen and you press the power button, the computer would send the appropriate ACPI signal to Windows, but Windows wouldn’t be able to respond. Your computer would stay frozen and not shut down.
For this reason, there’s a way to forcibly cut power to your computer in case you ever run into a problem. Just press the power button and hold it down. After a few seconds, the power will be cut to your computer and it will suddenly shut down. This is normally a bad idea, as it can lead to lost data, file system corruption, and other issues. However, if your computer is frozen and the power button isn’t working, it’s a failsafe you have available. This allows you to power cycle laptops when you can’t remove the battery.

How to Choose What Happens When You Press the Power Button

Windows and other operating systems allow you to customize what happens when you press the power button on your computer. If you always want to shut down your computer, you can do that — or you could always have your computer enter hibernate mode when you press the power button. The choice is up to you.
To customize this in Windows, open the Control Panel, click Hardware and Sound, and click Change what the power buttons do under Power Options.

Choose options from the lists here. You can choose separate options when your computer is plugged in or running on battery. If you like, you can also set the computer to do nothing when you press the power button, effectively disabling the power button. If you have a laptop, you’ll also be able to control what happens when you close the lid — closing the lid also sends an ACPI signal, so the computer can automatically go to sleep when you close the lid.


Bear in mind that this won’t work on any ancient hardware you come across. If you turn off an extremely ancient business computer by pressing its power button, someone will probably be unhappy with you.
Image Credit: Arria Belli on Flickr, Jérôme Coppée on Flickr

Yes, Every Freeware Download Site is Serving Crapware (Here’s the Proof)

When we wrote about what happens when you install the top ten apps from CNET Downloads, about half of the comments were from people saying, “Well you should download from a trusted source.” The only problem is that there isn’t a freeware download site that is free of crapware or adware. And here’s the result of our investigation to prove it.
RELATED ARTICLEHere’s What Happens When You Install the Top 10 Download.com Apps
We were unable to find a single freeware download site that isn’t listing bundleware awfulness, and while a few of them attempt to do the right thing and alert you when something is bundled, it’s just not good enough. Nobody reads the fine print, just like nobody reads the installers when they are clicking through.
And some of these installers are extremely tricky. They move the buttons around. They change the text or, in some cases, they make it look exactly like a terms and conditions screen. They hijack browsers, insert ads, and they even use hidden services with deep dark API functions. The latest trend is pushing lookalike copies of Google Chrome with adware bundled directly into them.
We’re just going to go through the list of all the top sites and illustrate all of the crappy adware awfulness that is being bundled. Because the fact is that everybody is doing it to some extent by providing downloads that include this nonsense — the worst offenders are adding their own install wrapper to make sure that you get punished. Note that we aren’t talking about Ninite (which we do recommend) in this article because that isn’t so much a download site as it is a service to install software while skipping the crapware.
Freeware isn’t actually free software, and we’re all paying for it now.



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Download.com / CNET Downloads

It’s not unlike Idiocracy. Ow! My balls!
We don’t really need to include this since we already covered what happens when you download from them, but hey, it was a fun trip through the mire of awfulness. They still remain the kings of bundled nonsense. We hear they might challenge John Edward and Justin Bieber next year for the biggest douche in the universe award.

Tucows

If we click that button, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.
This site is an abomination and should be removed from the Internet. It’s actually probably worse than Download.com – almost everything in their top downloads list is a scammy fake scareware application that screams about your PC being broken even though it’s a fresh install.
And then they are wrapping their awful crapware wrapper on top of it, which hijacks your browser, injects ads everywhere, and installs even more crapware. Somebody should be ashamed. Maybe Download.com will have some competition for that award after all.

FileHippo

Ask.com us no more questions, because you are full of lies. I forget how that rhyme goes.
Sure enough, the first thing we downloaded off FileHippo included bundled nonsense and the awful Ask toolbar, and then the next screen tried to install some Search App, and the next one a weather checker, and the next one tried to install the same scammy fake registry cleaner that Download.com tried to stick us with. That’s four pieces of crapware for the price of one! Why couldn’t they just stick us with the horrible Trovi adware and get it over with?
The really annoying thing with this particular one is that on every screen, they changed the order of the buttons and what they said, so you not only had to really read carefully and uncheck things, but you had to do something different on each page.

Softpedia

Remember that Chuck Norris movie, Delta Force? We should watch that again.
We had a bunch of people tell us that Softpedia is a good place to download stuff from. So we clicked on a link for Unlocker from their homepage, and immediately we were told that the Delta Toolbar is popular and it makes browsing and searching faster and easier! Boy are we missing out on something.
To be fair, wayyyy down at the bottom of the page they do tell you that it’s ad supported and that you should be careful. Because we all like to read every single word on a page before clicking to download that app that we really wanted. Oh, so this page is copyrighted for 2015? Good to know. All rights reserved? Now we can safely close the tab.
Users are advised to just use Linux and get it over with.
Weirdly that Delta toolbar failed to install, even though we tried to. Which is a pity, because I wanted to see how terrible it is.

SnapFiles

To be fair, anybody that downloads Orbit Downloader kinda deserves it.
We were pleasantly surprised that SnapFiles puts a notice higher up on the page — once you click to download the application — but just like the rest, there are loads of crapware bundling apps to be had.
This one installed all sorts of stuff, but the kicker was a Chrome lookalike called “Safer Browser” that is literally a version of Chrome that isn’t actually Chrome and forces your homepage and search to Yahoo. Anybody that forces you to use the lousy Yahoo search is basically peddling malware.
We feel so Safer and Securer. We’ve got this warm feeling… from our computer melting.
We’ve noticed that the latest trend is creating fake versions of Chrome with adware being bundled with them.

FreewareFiles

We tried to install it but it just kept buffering.
This site is weird because they don’t really provide downloads, they just link to the direct download links on other sites. So they have no way of ensuring quality at all, because that site could just replace the files with crapware installers.
The other problem is that half the downloads don’t have any installer… it’s just a .JAR file or a .XPI file or something. So while they aren’t providing crapware on every single thing, they also aren’t really very user friendly either.

NoNags

There was another really awful crapware offer after this one.
NoNags is a software download site that goes to great lengths to provide spyware and adware-free downloads… for their paying members. For everybody else, you have to click a link to download from the original website, which will often be replaced with crapware bundling nonsense.
We’ll have to commend these guys, because as we were browsing around we noticed that they actually took down a lot of the download links for stuff that has gone to the dark side. But it didn’t take very long to find something that is bundling crapware.
Google Chrome blocked the adware download. In unrelated news, this malware redirects your browser to Bing.
So if you want to pay for a membership, you can get some freeware that has been checked for spyware. Or you could just spend money on quality paid software and help a programmer pay his bills.

SourceForge

Their download buttons say “Trusted for open source”. I don’t think it means what they think it means.
Like everybody else, SourceForge has now joined the dark side, and they are providing downloads with bundled nonsense under a program they call DevShare. Thankfully it is opt-in so the project owners must agree to do it, and we can be even more thankful that not everybody has done so, but based on what we’ve seen elsewhere, it’s only a matter of time. The people behind FileZilla don’t have the open source spirit, apparently, because they decided to opt in to crapware ads.
They also claim to filter through the offers and only offer non-malware, but based on what we’ve seen, the definition of malware is a gray area.
The bundle installer also weirdly accesses all of your browser cookies from all of your installed browsers. We’re not sure what’s up with that.
Maybe somebody with some hacker skills can figure out what is going on here.
So if you see “Installer Enabled” on a SourceForge download, it means you are about to be punished for something.
Don’t click it.
Note that the screenshot in the first picture was taken a while ago and the at the time of writing of this article, the installer didn’t have any current offers to show, although we’re wondering if that’s because we are running in a virtual machine. We’ll keep testing.

MajorGeeks

Extended Warranty? How could I lose?
We had more geeks write in defending MajorGeeks as a trusted source than any other site, so we were really hoping that they would be the one site that doesn’t allow any bundled crapware. Sadly, that’s not the case. The first thing we downloaded — some stupid screensaver — included four pieces of really terrible crapware, including two that had adware like ShopperPro and BoBrowser that just take over your system.
It’s worth noting that if you know where to look, MajorGeeks does actually tell you which items contain bundled crapware, as they put the license as Bundleware for those terrible items. They also have a notice in red text in the description of the item that it contains adware, although just like Softpedia, it’s too far down on the page.
Now if they would just make that warning in 40 point red font we’d be happier.
We actually talked to the owner of MajorGeeks about this, and he said that if he only listed freeware downloads that don’t contain bundled crapware, he’d have almost no downloads to list and would just have to close up shop. So he makes sure to mark things as containing bundled crapware, and there’s a notice at the bottom. We wish the notice was bigger, and more prominent, but we’ll have to give him credit for at least trying to do the right thing. And for testing every single thing that they put on the site before they put it up there.

You Should Download from the Official Site!

One of the most common responses to our article was that people should just download from the official site. And as everybody knows, you use Google to find anything.
Ohhh… that’s unfortunate.
The ironic thing is that most of these downloads are hijacking your browser… away from Google.
Sadly, even on Google all the top results for most open source and freeware are just ads for really terrible sites that are bundling crapware, adware, and malware on top of the installer.
Most geeks will know that they shouldn’t click on the ads, but obviously enough people are clicking those ads for them to be able to afford to pay the high per-click prices for Google AdWords.


So if you absolutely must download some stupid freeware from somewhere, you may as well punch yourself in the face. And then either find the real site (ignoring the ads) or use Ninite or test it out in a virtual machine first. Or consider just buying software from a programmer that deserves the money. Or maybe switch to OS X or Linux.
Because like we told you last time, when the product is free the real product is YOU.

Yes, That Extra Storage is Overpriced, But You Should Pay For it Anyway

It’s a lesson many of us have learned the hard way. Yes, $100 is overpriced for a storage upgrade, but it’s still worth it. The most inexpensive models of smartphones, tablets, and laptops often have too little storage.
Manufacturers want to make their products appear as inexpensive as possible, hence these low-storage models to get customers in the door. Better to buy more storage now than deal with the frustration and micromanagement over the life of your device.



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Almost Every Manufacturer Does This

Practically every company does this to some degree. Thanks to the shift to faster-and-smaller solid-state drives, this is even a concern on laptops.
Apple’s 16 GB iPhones and iPads are big offenders here. These devices actually have only about 12 GB to play with, and large apps — especially large games — could be 1 GB or more each. Add in downloaded content, music, high-resolution photos, videos, and more — that space can fill up fast.  Apple’s iOS 8 update required 5 GB of free storage space, which means you could only play with 8 GB of that space on your own or you’d have to update via iTunes or micromanage that storage space. Apple’s 8 GB iPhone 5c is even more constrained
Microsoft offers a 64 GB Surface Pro, and that only offers 37 GB of available space. That may sound like quite a bit but between all your personal data files, applications, cache files, and more, it’s not very much. The space means you may not be able to use some software. There are PC games over 37 GB in size, after all!
The same goes for other devices. Laptops with 16 GB of eMMC storage may be tempting because of how inexpensive they are, but that limited storage means you just can’t install some applications at all — you’re constantly being squeezed for space. Inexpensive Android phones with just a few gigabytes of storage may make fine feature-phone replacements, but you’ll quickly run up against the limitations if you want to use anything more.
The same goes for other devices where the more inexpensive model has a paltry amount of storage — take Nintendo’s 8 GB Wii U, for example. The 32 GB Wii U Deluxe is a better idea. Even if you don’t download any digital games at all, the extra space will give you room to grow for downloading game patches and storing save games.

The Micromanagement Is the Worst Part

The most frustrating thing is the micromanagement. Yes, you usually can live with the base model’s storage limitations. And maybe the lightest users who never install any software or download any files will be fine with that. But you’ll regularly be called upon to micromanage the space.
On an iPhone or iPad with 16 GB of storage, this means regularly having to remove games and other apps to free up space and transferring the photos of your device so they don’t take up too much space. You may not being able to store all the music you want or download videos to watch them on airplanes. When the next version of iOS hits, you may have to connect your device to your computer and update via iTunes.
The same is true for Android phone and tablets — you have to regularly watch what you install and copy to your device. You’ll need to keep a minimal set of apps and files on it and worry about freeing up space on your Android device.
Freeing up disk space on a Windows PC is even more complex. Not only does it mean watching the files you download and applications you install, you’ll probably want to regularly run software like CCleaner to obliterate all those cache files wasting precious space. You’ll want to run the Disk Cleanup wizard to reduce the space wasted by Windows Update files. You’ll need to keep an eye on the other directories on your computer, ensuring no bad programs left big, unnecessary files lying around. If you want to play the occasional PC game, you can really only have one large game installed at once. Everything will work similarly on a Mac with limited space, too.

RELATED ARTICLESHow to Free Up Space on an iPhone or iPad7 Ways To Free Up Hard Disk Space On Windows

And You Can’t Upgrade Later

The worst thing is just that you can’t upgrade later. That $100 for more storage space may seem like a pricy jump — and it is — but it’s worth it. Paying another $100 to upgrade an iPhone or iPad’s storage from 16 GB to 64 GB means you’ll have space for practically everything you want to do, and you won’t have to micromanage it.
Getting a laptop with 128 GB of storage instead of 64 GB will give you a lot of room to grow, too. Heck, even 128 GB may be too little for some people.. perhaps you should seriously consider 256 GB or more. Give it some time, and you’ll be wishing you could spend $100 to upgrade your device’s storage. That’ll result in more flexibility and less hassle.
RELATED ARTICLEHow to Quickly and Cheaply Upgrade a Laptop or Tablet’s Storage
On some devices, you can expand the built-in storage by purchasing an SD card and popping it in. This is absolutely helpful — although it’s limited, as Apple’s iPhones and iPads don’t offer SD card expansion. Many Android devices don’t either, including Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 line of phones. You can’t always rely on this.
Even if you can get an SD card expansion for your device, this is most helpful for storing files. SD cards aren’t generally as fast as the built-in storage, so you ideally wouldn’t want to install applications to an SD card and run them from there. You’ll also have to micromanage which applications, files, and data goes where.


Yes, it’s easy to balk at the $100 cost for a bit more storage, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that that big jump in storage is a huge quality of life improvement, and you can’t simply spend $100 for more storage later when you want it. It’s better to bite the bullet and save yourself the trouble later.
This jump is mostly extra profit margin for the manufacturer — they like keeping the base model price low so they can compete and lure people in.
Image Credit: LWYang on Flickr, K.G.23 on Flickr

Yes, You Can Use Electronics During Takeoff and Landing: What You Need to Know

Regulatory agencies in the US, Canada, and Europe now allow you to use electronics during takeoff and landing. This is called “gate-to-gate” device use — you could be using a device the entire time you’re on an airplane.
If you’ve ever been forced to put away your Kindle or tablet and found yourself looking longingly at the person next to you reading a paper book or newspaper, you’ll be relieved to know those days are behind us.



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Each Airline Can Set Its Own Rules

Each airline can set its own rules. The US FAA and other countries’ regulatory agencies don’t set rules that apply to all airlines. Instead, they allow airlines to choose to implement this change, if they like. Airlines want to keep their customers happy, so they’re quickly hopping on board and allowing gate-to-gate device use.
Don’t be surprised if each airline’s rules are a bit different, or if you end up on a smaller or foreign airline that still won’t allow you to use devices during take-off and landing. You’ll be told if you have to put your devices away.

Portable Electronic Devices vs. Larger Devices

There are different rules for smaller “portable electronic devices” and larger electronic devices. “Portable electronic devices” include smartphones, Kindles, handheld game consoles, and even iPad-size tablets. Basically any handheld device the size of an iPad or smaller is included here.
These smaller devices can be used during takeoff and landing as long as you hold them. If you don’t want to hold them, you can place them in the seat-back pocket — you don’t have to stow them securely in your bag. The device does have to be secure, but holding it on your hand is good enough. This means no propping up a tablet to watch videos, as it could fly off and hit someone in the head.
Laptops, DVD players, and other larger devices aren’t included in this change. These devices have to be safely stowed during take-off and landing — you can’t continue typing away on your laptop while the plane is taking off or landing. You can still take out and use your laptop during the main part of the flight.

Yes, It Still Has to Be In Airplane Mode

Your devices still have to be in airplane mode. This means disabling the cellular signal on smartphones and mobile-data-enabled tablets. It also means disabling WI-Fi and Bluetooth, unless the airline offers in-flight Wi-Fi and allows you to turn the Wi-Fi on. While you can play mobile games on your smartphone during takeoff, you can’t send text messages, or have a phone conversation.
The US FCC is considering allowing cellular connectivity above 10,000 feet in the future, but no changes have yet been made. Even if this change goes through, you’d still need to use airplane mode during take-off and landing.

Differences Between Countries

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The US FAA’s decision to allow electronics during take-off and landing is having ripple effects, with more and more countries following suit. You can also use devices during takeoff and landing in Canada and the European Union, for example.
If you’re flying to another country that doesn’t allow this, you may be asked to put away your devices when landing in their airspace. If you’re taking off from that country, you won’t be able to use devices during take-off — even if you’re on an airline that allows this in their home country.
If you’re on board a foreign airline whose home country doesn’t allow this, you likely won’t be allowed to use devices during take-off and landing — even if you’re taking off or landing in a country that allows you to use these devices. Yes, it’s all a bit complicated, but you’ll be told whether you need to put your devices away or not.


You may still be asked to stow portable electronic devices sometimes. For example, you may still be asked to put away all your devices if there’s serious turbulence ahead — just as well, as you don’t want someone else’s iPad to hit you in the head.
Image Credit: Bradley Gordon on Flickr, Bernal Saborio on Flickr, NASA