Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category


Change the mouse cursor size and colour for ease of finding it

January 27, 2022

It’s not that I found a cursor hard to see on the screen… or so I thought.

I’m presenting some online training for a company tomorrow and as I’ll be pointing at stuff on the screen, I figured I should set my mouse pointer to be larger and a different colour so they can see it easily. I changed it a few hours ago — and haven’t changed it back! It certainly makes finding and clicking things quicker, though the very large I-beam cursor is a bit of a nuisance when I need to type/edit.

If you want to try this, here’s where I changed it on Windows 10: Mouse Settings > Adjust Mouse and Cursor Size — I set mine to size 4, though 2 or 3 would’ve be fine too, and to a lime green colour.

(I was going to get a screenshot of it, but SnagIt reverted the cursor to the default size, though it did keep the colour change – I’ve logged a support ticket with the SnagIt people, as I suspect this is a bug)


Windows: When shutdown doesn’t mean shutdown

January 21, 2022

Yesterday I learned that Windows’ ‘shutdown’ doesn’t actually shut down your PC or laptop under the default Windows 10 (and later?) settings. Instead, it puts the PC/laptop into a partial/deep hibernation state, ready for fast startup when you next press the power button. Over time, your computer can become sluggish or exhibit odd behaviour, so your best option then is to do a restart, as this shuts down all Windows services and restarts them from scratch. It seems this is why most IT helpdesk people often suggest restarting the computer before they try other possible solutions.

There are various ways to make your computer shut down fully:

  • Single instance: Press Shift as you click Shutdown. This forces a full shutdown, but you have to do it every time.
  • Permanent setting change: Change the setting for fast startup, which is turned on by default (Note: you may not be able to change this setting in a managed corporate environment):
    • Go to the Start button and type power then choose Power & Sleep Settings.
    • Under Related Settings, click Additional power settings.
    • On the Power Options window, click Choose what the power buttons do (on the left).
    • Clear the Turn on fast startup checkbox, then click Save Changes.

How do you know if your computer has fast startup activated? Well, you can check the setting (see the 2nd bullet above), or you can check Task Manager.

To check via Task Manager:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and then click Task Manager.
  2. Click the Performance tab (click More Details if you don’t see tabs across the top of the Task Manager window).
  3. On the Performance tab, check the Up Time value below the graph—that will tell you how long your computer has actually been ‘on’ even when you thought it might have been shutdown fully (in dd:hh:mm:ss format). If it’s many days, then it may be time for a restart, or something more permanent, such as changing the fast startup setting.

Performance tab under Task Manager, with an arrow pointing to the Up Time value


See also:

[Links last check January 2022]


Windows: Customize file/folder view in Explorer by customizing the template used

July 25, 2021

A recent major Windows update on my PC totally screwed with the settings I had for folder/file views in Windows Explorer (which I’ll call Explorer in this post). This post is not about changing the file attributes displayed for one or two files/folders—there are plenty of other sites that will tell you how to that. No, this post is on how to change the displayed attributes for a file type template and thus ALL files/folders that use that template. Microsoft rarely calls these templates, but that’s what they behave like, so I’ll call them templates here.

What am I talking about? Well, when you create a new folder in Explorer and add files to it, by default the attributes shown for that folder and its files in the Details view use the General Items template (you can see the template used by right-clicking on a folder, selecting Properties, and checking what is set on the Customize tab under Optimize this folder for). If Windows detects that all the files are image files or music files or document files, it might default to the attributes of those templates instead. The template used dictates what attribute columns you see in Details view in Explorer (View > Details).

Below is a folder with Documents set as the template—in Details view you can see that the file name, date modified, file type, and file size attributes are shown.

Explorer properties for Document include Name, Date Modified, file Type, and file Size

This one has Videos set as the template—its Details view has similar attribute columns, with the addition of the length of the videos in hours, minutes, and seconds.

Explorer properties for Videos include Name, Date (created), file Type, file Size, and Length of the video in hours, minutes and seconds

You might ask why this is important. For most people, this is of no consequence and they can live with the default settings, or perhaps change them every so often if they want to see other attributes. Many others have no idea that these attributes shown can be changed, or have no need to change them. But for some people the attributes shown in Explorer are hugely important—for example, photographers or anyone who needs to curate their photos; musicians or those who have an extensive music collection on their computers; movie buffs with thousands of videos etc. These people work with their files every day and need to see at a glance the attributes that interest them. So when Microsoft stuffs up the attributes displayed, this can anger these users because they likely have many thousands of files in many hundreds or thousands of folders that get reset to the default values. Changing the attributes one folder at a time is NOT what you want to do!

But if you change the underlying template’s attributes, you can then apply that template to a high-level folder containing files with that type of content, and the changes you make cascade to all subfolders and to other folders that have the same template applied to them. Unfortunately, this is NOT an intuitive process and requires going into two places—one to set it up how you want, then another to save it to that ‘template’. It took some Google sleuthing and trial and error based on some of the clues I found before I could test and then document these steps. Hopefully they will help others who are equally frustrated by this.

Part 1: Pick the template suitable for the types of files

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to a folder that contains files of the type you want to amend. In this example, I’ll use a folder containing music subfolders and files.
  2. Right-click on the folder’s name in the left panel, and select Properties.
  3. Select the Customize tab.
  4. Select one of the drop-down options for Optimize folder for. In this example, I’ll select Music.
  5. Check the Also apply this template to all subfolders checkbox.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Go to the next set of steps.

On the Folder Properties window, select the type of files (Music is selected) and check the box for Also Apply this Template to all Subfolders, then click OK

Part 2: Set up the attributes you want to see in Detail view

  1. Change the Explorer view to Details—click the View tab, then click Details in the Layout group.
    View tab in Explorer showing Details in the Layout group selected
  2. At the top of the right panel are column headers, named with file attributes (e.g. Name, Size). Right-click anywhere in this column header area.
  3. The current attributes for the template are checked. You can click on any (except Name) to show or hide them (if already selected, clicking will deselect them; if not selected, clicking will select them). Yours will likely look different to this example, which is set for what I was testing with Music.
    Right-clicking on a column header shows the attributes selected to display in Details view
  4. Click More at the bottom of the list to see the full list of attributes you can choose from, arrange the order shown across the screen (Move Up moves the column closer to the left; Move Down moves it to the right), and adjust the column widths (all optional). Once you’ve made any changes here, click OK to close the Choose Details window.
  5. Adjust the column widths and positions, if required.
  6. Go to the next set of steps.

Part 3: Save those attributes to the template

  1. Once you have your folder set up with the attributes you want to display for the template you selected in Part 1, step 4, you need to ‘save’ it to the template. Go to the View tab in Explorer, if you aren’t already there.
  2. Click Options (far right on the View tab).
  3. On the Folder Options window, go to the View tab.
    Folder Options window where you click the Apply to Folders button
  4. Click Apply to Folders.
  5. You will be asked if ‘you want all folders of this type to match this folder’s view settings’. This message is a little confusing—what it’s really asking you is do you want to apply these settings to the TEMPLATE you selected for this folder. Click Yes if you do. Then click OK to close the Folder Options window.
  6. ALL folders on your PC that use the template you choose when you changed this one should now update their Details view to reflect the attributes you chose.

Details view for a folder using the Music template now shows Bit Rate, Size, Year, and Length (time)

NOTE: This isn’t an exact science! You may find that some folders/subfolders don’t change as you expect, and others you didn’t think would change, do. With luck there shouldn’t be too many of these and you can reapply the correct template to them (e.g. if the attributes for some General Items folders changed to reflect the Music attributes, then change those folders back to General Items.)

Part 4: Optional: Apply those attributes to other folders

If you have, say, music files stored in folders that use another template (e.g. the default General Items), then you can change the attributes shown just by changing the template for those folders. To do this, follow steps 1 to 6 in Part 1 above.

Tip: If you have LOTS of folders/subfolders containing a particular type of file, change a top-level folder and make sure you select the checkbox to apply to all subfolders.


Windows 10: Lost your taskbar or desktop icons?

July 8, 2021

Way back when, I discovered how to restore a missing taskbar/desktop when Windows Explorer had closed incorrectly and taken them out (see Those instructions still work, as I discovered when this happened on my DH’s computer earlier today, but they’re a little different for Windows 10. In his case, he’d lost his taskbar and his desktop had gone black with just the mouse cursor showing. He could move the mouse, so that was a good sign that the computer hadn’t completely frozen. Before doing a hard reboot, I suggested he try getting his desktop back by restarting the Explorer process. And it worked!

Here’s how to do this in Windows 10:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del.
    • If everything is still working behind the scenes, you should get a list of options—go to Step 2.
    • If you don’t see a list of options, don’t continue with these steps. You’ll likely have to turn off the computer, wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on—with luck all should be well on rebooting the computer.
  2. Click Task Manager.
  3. On the Processes tab, check that no Explorer.exe processes are still running. If they are, end them (select each one then click End Process in the bottom right corner of the Task Manager window).
  4. Go to File > Run new task.
  5. In the pop-up window, type Explorer.exe, then click OK.
  6. With luck everything should start to display again within a few seconds. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to reboot your computer:
    • Try the ‘soft’ way first, which is to press Ctrl+Alt+Del again, then click the power icon in the lower right of the window and choose either Restart or Shut down, if offered those options.
    • If you don’t see any of those options, then you’ll have to do a hard reboot, which means pressing the power button on your computer to turn it off, wait 30 seconds, then turn it on again.

[Link last check July 2021]



Searching photo metadata using Windows Explorer

June 30, 2021

You’ve meticulously added metadata to your photos, detailing when and where taken, and using keywords to tag the people in the photos (Tip: the free AnalogExif program is good for adding metadata quickly;

Now you try to search for specific photos in your collection using Explorer, but when you search for a word you know is in the keywords or is part of the title, you get nothing, and you wonder why you did all that work!

Well, you can search the metadata using Explorer but there’s a trick to it—you have to tell Explorer the metadata property to search.

So instead of typing John Smith as your search criteria in Explorer, you need to enter tag: John Smith or keyword: John Smith to find all photos tagged with his name as a keyword. If you want to find more than one person, you need to enter tag: John Smith; tag: Michelle Martin to only get photos with BOTH those people in them.

To find words in a title, enter title: Adelaide to find all photos with Adelaide in the title. Similarly, copyright: jones to find all photos with that copyright designation.

Not all photo metadata is searchable, however. I found that Camera maker: EPSON and maker weren’t searchable, but authors and subject were (Update Feb 2022: Jim in the comments below said that if you use Cameramaker: EPSON it will work—you have to remove the spaces from the metadata tag name; thanks Jim!). I didn’t test all possible metadata properties, but those mentioned above should be sufficient for most wanting a quick way to search their photos. For more in-depth searches, you may need to use specialised software, such as photo editing software.

Note: You must enter a colon after the metadata property’s word, and a semicolon to separate others you add to the same search string. You can use two different properties in one search; for example subject: adelaide; tag: michelle would find all photos matching both criteria.

[Links last checked June 2021]


Windows 10: If you don’t set a default printer, the last one used will be the default

August 10, 2019

Here’s a trap in Windows 10 (actually, it may be the same in earlier versions, I’ve just never come across it before). If you don’t set a printer as your default printer, then whatever printer/printer driver you last used will be used for the next print job. How did I find this out? Well, I ‘printed’ an invoice to PDF to send to a client, then wanted to print a hard copy for my records. I’m used to the default printer being listed for the hard copy print, but instead the printer was still set to ‘Adobe PDF’.

You can set your preferred printer as the default under Settings > Printers & scanners, select your printer, click Manage, then click Set as default.

If you prefer to use the old-style Control Panel: Control Panel > Devices and Printers, right-click on the printer you want to be the default, then click Set as default.


Windows 10: Can’t print a test page from Settings

August 10, 2019

After I set up my printer on my new Windows 10 computer, I tried to print a test page from Settings (Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners, select printer, then Manage) but I got a rundll32.exe permissions error.

So I tried from the old-style Control Panel (Control Panel > Devices and Printers, right-click on the printer, then select Printer Properties, then click Print Test Page). That worked fine, confirming that printing worked—it just wouldn’t print a test page from the new Settings options. Printing from Word and other programs also worked; it was just the Settings option where it didn’t work.



Windows 10: Reduce size of search box on taskbar

August 10, 2019

I have a lot of icons on my taskbar, so when I started using Windows 10, I got frustrated with the amount of space taken up by things I didn’t want, like the Cortana icon, the Task View button, and the big search box.

I wanted to reduce the size of the search box and found this very short YouTube video that shows you how:

In case that video ever goes missing, here’s what to do:

  1. Right-click in any blank space in the task bar (or in the search box itself).
  2. The active items have a check mark next to them—click the ones you don’t want. You may have to repeat these steps for each one you want to remove/add. I got rid of the Cortana and Task View buttons.
  3. Next was the Search box. Repeat Step 1, but this time go to Search > Show Search Icon to reduce the search box to a magnifying glass icon. You can hide it altogether if you want to.

You can restore the search box the same way, if you want it back. But if you’ve set the Taskbar settings to show small icons only, then you won’t see the option for the search box until you turn that setting off (right-click in the task bar, select Taskbar Settings, then turn Use small taskbar buttons off).



Windows 10: Change the color of the title bar from white to a contrasting color

August 10, 2019

Another Windows 10 annoyance is the paleness of everything. Case in point are title bars on open windows—they are white by default (unless you’ve set your color scheme to dark) and get lost among all the other windows you might have open. It’s hard to see where the title bar is, which you have to click to move a window. A bit of digging, and I found out how to set a colour for the title bars. Note: This is a system-wide setting, so you may find the title bars/tabs of your browser change too; also, some windows will revert back to white if they aren’t the active window.

  1. Go to Settings > Personalization > Colors.
  2. Make sure Custom is set (you may have to adjust the default Windows and app modes too to get it right)
  3. Go to the Choose your accent color section and pick a colour from the swatches. (If none of the colours suits, click Custom color and choose a colour from the colour picker)
  4. Scroll down further and check the Title bars and windows borders checkbox
  5. Optional: Check the Start, Taskbar, and action center checkbox.

For better contrast, I chose a dark colour (steel blue) for better contrast. Any title bars that were in black text will change to white text if you choose a dark colour, so you don’t need to worry about losing dark text on a dark background.



Video cables don’t seem to work

August 10, 2019

I’ve been having a big refresh of the computer hardware in my office—new server, new PCs, etc. Some of the previous hardware was more than 10 years old, and nothing was less than 6 years old, so it was time. All PCs now have Windows 10 and Office 365.

I spent quite a bit of time on my back underneath desks plugging everything in. But for some reason, the video cables weren’t working for the second monitor. I tried them all—VGA, DVI, and HDMI (yes, I have quite the collection!). Nothing. Darn—maybe the video card was faulty, but I doubted this was the case as it happened on each PC. I rebooted the PCs, but that didn’t help. I could see the first monitor, but not the second.

Then I tried turning the second monitor off and back on again—aha! That worked!

It wasn’t the video cables or the video card at all. The monitor had to restart to recognise the cable.

Simple, once I’d figured it out.