Windows 7 tips to stay secure and save time

For many years, I didn’t bother protecting my home network.Call me crazy, but I didn’t see the need.

All my neighbors have their own networks–all of thempassword-protected, of course. So why would I deal with the hassles ofWPA2 passkeys and all that? Not long ago, my router died, and when Iset up the replacement, I figured it was time for me to get smart and set up someencryption–just in case some cheapskate neighbor decided to startfreeloading off my pricey cable Internet service. And you know what?Hassle city. I’m tired of entering a lengthy password every time I adda new device to the network (which is often). Plus, I have a couplewireless printers causing me major grief with the new WPA2 setup.

So I’m about ready to ditch it and go back to my unprotected ways. And when I do,I’m going to follow the clever advice I gleaned over at DigitalInspiration: I’m going to give my network a scary name.

Specifically, by choosing an unappealing or intimidating SSID(network name), I may well discourage non-tech-savvy neighbors (which,no offense, folks, is most of them) to steer clear. The author’sexample: c:\virus.exe. I like that, but what about something vaguelythreatening like FBI-Watchdog? Or thievesbeware? Actually, think I’llgo with this: iwillhackyou. That should be enough to keep the pilferersat bay.

Okay, maybe this is a bit silly. The smarter move is simply to notbroadcast the SSID at all, meaning your network will stay invisible tooutsiders while remaining available to you–as Nick suggested in hisarticle. That’s the route I’m planning to take–but I still like theidea of a scary name for my network.

A Better Way to Switch Between OpenWindows
There are several ways to switch between open windows. Many users reachfor the mouse, point to the Taskbar, and then click the button for thewindow they want to bring to the foreground. That’s about the slowest,least convenient method.

If you’re a fan of keyboard shortcuts, like I am, you probably useAlt-Tab to cycle between open windows. That’s a better method, butWindows uses such tiny thumbnails, I often find myself squinting to seeif the selected window is the one I’m after–and sometimes I actuallyend up with the wrong one.

Windows Vista and 7 users can alsopress Win-Tab to engage Flip View, a kind of Rolodex-style windowselector. This should be the best option, as it uses much larger,easier-to-view thumbnails (a term that really doesn’t apply here). Butfor whatever reason, I don’t like it.

No, for my money, the fastest and most effective way to cycle betweenopen windows is by tapping Alt-Esc. Doing so instantly switches you tothe next open window, then the next after that, and so on. There’s nointerim step, no thumbnail view to squint at or cycle through. Tap onceand bam: the next window appears. Not the one you want? Tap again andbam: next window.

(If you’re a total newbie when it comes to keyboard shortcuts, makesure you hold down the Alt key, then tap Esc again and again until youland on the window you want. Then you can release Alt.)

This works especially well if you have just two windows open; Alt-Escfunctions like a toggle switch, instantly hopping back and forthbetween them.

Create a Keyboard Shortcut for Your Favorite Folder
Reader Jim has a documents folder that he uses regularly, and wants toknow if there’s a way to pin it to the Taskbar for fast and easyaccess. (He also notes that he loves Hassle-Free PC, indicating he’s anespecially smart individual.)

Alas, while Windows 7 lets you pin programs and individual files to theTaskbar, it doesn’t let you pin folders. However, there’s anotherlightning-fast way to access a favorite folder, and that’s by settingup a keyboard shortcut. Here’s how:

Open Windows Explorer and navigate tothe folder in question. Let’s say it’s called “Client Files” (which isexactly the name of the folder Jim’s after). Right-click the folder andchoose Send to, Desktop (create shortcut). Now minimize all openwindows and find the newly created shortcut icon on your desktop. It’llbe labeled Client Files – Shortcut. Right-click that shortcut andchoose Properties. Within the Shortcut tab, click inside the Shortcutkey field.

Now you have to decide what keyboard shortcut you want. Itcould be something like Ctrl-Shift-F or Ctrl-Alt-Q. I recommend usingsome combination of Ctrl-Shift, Ctrl-Alt, or Shift-Alt, just to avoidconflicts with other programs (which are more likely to use just one ofthose keys). For sake of argument, let’s go with Ctrl-Shift-F. Pressthat combination, and you’ll see it appear in the Shortcut key field.Click OK to complete the process.

Now, whenever you press Ctrl-Shift-F, even when you’re using anotherprogram, your Client Files folder will magically appear. By the way,you can use this method to quick-launch favorite apps as well; justright-click a desktop shortcut and repeat the process.

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