Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 310 24/05/14


Resisting Windows Charms

Is there any way of disabling the Charms Bar in Windows 8? Its continual appearance is driving me mad.

Peter Lally, by email


You are not alone and a lot of W8 users find the pop-up Charms Bar intensely irritating and largely superfluous, unless you are using a touch screen. If you ever need it you can make appear using the keyboard shortcut Winkey + C. It is relatively easy for Windows 8.1 users to stop it showing when the mouse pointer strays into the top right hand corner of the screen. Just right-click on the Taskbar, select Properties then the Navigation tab and uncheck the first item ‘When I point to the upper right-hand corner…’. There is a Registry hack that removes it completely in both Windows 8 and 8.1, but this for advanced users only. The safe alternative is a small freeware utility called Winaero Charms Bar Killer, which you can download from



Repeat Performance

Picasa has on many occasions duplicated and triplicated my photos. I have thousands to go through. Is there a way I can easily delete them?

Bob Neilans, by email


Picasa might not be directly responsible; duplication is often due to photo editing software saving original unedited files with the same name in a different location, or a digital camera photo manager program repeatedly downloading images from a memory card. Picasa has an option to display and delete duplicates that can help to speed up the process. Go to Tools > Experimental and click Show Duplicate Files. Click to select the ones that you want to get rid of (hold down the Ctrl key whilst clicking if there are multiple copies), then right click and select Delete from Disk.



Camera To Card

Having recently purchased a Tesco Hudl and a 32GB Micro SD card. I cannot see a way in the Settings menu of saving pictures, by default, to the memory card. The store assistant said that he thought it might be possible but did not know how to do it.

David Shepherd, by email


Try an app called UPSafe Media Director. The free version, from Google Play, lets you change just one default directory. The Pro version, which costs just £1.17 has unlimited functionality, and no adverts.



Powerful Arguments

I live in a fairly large house with no near neighbours. I have supplemented my Netgear router with a few TP Link range extenders but I still find that wireless reception is spasmodic in some areas. Is there a more powerful router that would enable me to receive all over the house and perhaps outside as well?

Rex Gascoyne, by email


The power output of consumer wireless routers is limited, to avoid congestion and overcrowding, and whilst slightly more powerful models are available they rarely make much difference. Part of the problem is that wireless data flows in both directions, so whilst increasing the router’s output means that the PCs receives a stronger signal, there is no improvement in the strength of the return signal, from the PC to the router. Repeaters or extenders can definitely help, but only if they are installed strategically, and it also helps to use an external USB wireless adaptor on the PC or laptop, preferably one with an external antenna. Relocating the router -- higher is usually better -- and connecting it to a more efficient or directional antenna can also improve coverage but to determine the best position you need a Wi-Fi signal strength meter. If you have an Android smartphone there is an excellent free app from Google Play, called Wi-Fi Analyzer. This quickly shows how effective each change in location is, and helps to identify dead spots, where a repeater can do the most good. Other things to check include accessing the router’s setup menu to make sure that it is using the more efficient 802.11n standard, and while you are at it, try switching wireless channels, (the Wi-Fi Analyzer app will show you which channels are not being used). Finally, ensure that there are no other wireless devices or noisy appliances close to the router, causing interference or using the same frequencies. If so, move them as far away as possible. The main culprits are cordless phones, keyboards and mice, central heating thermostats or controllers, baby monitors, CFL and LED lights and microwave ovens.




Three years ago I bought an HP budget laptop, which presumably explains the absence of an HDMI port.  I would now like, if possible, to connect it to my smart TV and have found a gizmo that claims to convert a USB port to HDMI. The reviews are good but before committing to the expense I would be grateful for your views.

Ronnie Cleave, by email


USB to HDMI adaptors tend only to be capable of mirroring desktop displays on TV and they are generally incapable or not very good at streaming HD video, particularly if your laptop has the USB 1.0 or 2.0 ports. However, this is something Google’s Chromecast dongle does very well indeed, and it can stream media from your PC over your home Wi-Fi network to the TV.  


Second Life

I have been given a secondhand laptop, which has a lot of programs that I have no use for. Deleting them one by one is a tedious exercise. Is there a way of wiping the hard disc but retaining the operating system?

Alec Twitchett, by email


No, but a removal utility like Revo Uninstaller (free from makes it a little easier and does a more thorough job. However, the best way is to start over and reinstall Windows, which also gets rid of any lingering viruses, malware or problems with system files. It is not difficult to do if you have the original Windows installation discs, or the machine has a Recovery partition. Incidentally, if it is an XP machine, even though support has now ended, for the foreseeable future you will still be able to download SP3 and install existing hotfixes and patches using Windows Update.



© R. Maybury 2014 0505

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