Windows 7

How to Burn Photo and Video DVDs in Windows 7 (Without Extra Software)

Software like DVD Flick is great for burning video to DVDs, but Windows 7 actually includes built-in DVD burning software. Strangely, it’s the last time the company did so—while Windows 8 and Windows 10 can play back DVD movies, they can’t create them with a DVD burner without tools from third parties.

Perhaps Microsoft didn’t want to pay the software licensing fees necessary to keep the tool in later versions, or perhaps the rise of all-digital media simply removed the necessity. Either way, if you’re a Windows 7 holdout, you can burn your own movies or photo collections without downloading any extra software. Here’s how.

Note: this guide is for burning video and other media meant for a DVD player, not simply a data DVD. Check out this guide if that’s what you’re looking for.

Step One: Load Your Media

Open your DVD drive and insert a blank disc. Any type of burnable DVD (DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, etc.) should work, as long as your DVD burner supports it.

Click the Start button, then type “dvd.” “Windows DVD Maker” should be the first result—click it to launch the program.

From the introductory screen, you can add photo and video files to the DVD storage and menu system. Click the “Add items” button to open a Windows Explorer menu, wherein you can search for and add video, audio, and photo files. You can add as many as you like, up to the limit of the blank disc in your DVD drive (typically four to eight gigabytes).

Windows DVD Maker is not an especially robust tool, and is limited to the following file types:

  • Video files: ASF, AVI, DVR-MS, M1V, MP2, MP2V, MPE, MPEG, MPG, MPV2, WM, WMV
  • Photo files: BMP, DIB, EMF, GIF, JFIF, JPE, JPEG, JPG, PNG, TIF, TIFF, WMF
  • Sound files: AIF, AIFC, AIFF, ASF, AU, MP2, MP3, MPA, SND, WAV, WMA

If your media is in a different format, you’ll either need to convert it or use more powerful software like DVD Flick.

Add everything you’d like to the list, or everything you can fit into the “150 minutes” of somewhat arbitrary…

How (and Why) Microsoft Blocks Windows 7 Updates on New PCs

Microsoft doesn’t want you to keep installing Windows 7 (or 8) on new PCs. If you try, you’ll see an “Unsupported hardware” message and your PC won’t receive any security updates from Windows Update. Other hardware features may not work properly, either.

Microsoft Now Requires You Use Windows 10 With the Newest CPUs

This is somewhat confusing because Windows 7 is in its extended support period, and is officially supported by Microsoft with security updates until 2020. Windows 8.1 is still in its mainstream support period and is officially supported until 2023. In theory, these operating systems should work fine, even on newer hardware.

Historically, Microsoft hasn’t enforced any sort of hardware limitations for older versions of Windows. Even after Windows 7 was released, you could continue installing Windows XP on the new PC hardware being released, if you liked.

But Microsoft now has a new policy, which they announced at the beginning of 2016. New CPUs will require the latest version of Windows. “Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support,” explains a Microsoft blog post. This doesn’t even just mean Windows 10—it means the latest update to Windows 10, too.

This policy is now in place. If you have a PC with an Intel 7th-generation CPU (Kaby Lake) or AMD’s 7th-generation processor (Bristol Ridge or Ryzen), you’ll see an error message and Windows Update won’t offer your PC and security updates. New CPU architectures will have the same limitation going forward.

Microsoft initially announced that only some computer models running Intel’s 6th-generation CPUs (Skylake) would be supported with security updates, but most PCs with Skylake would be left out in the cold. This came as a shock, as it was announced after some people had already purchased Skylake PCs and installed Windows 7 on them. However, Microsoft eventually backed off on this threat. Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs with Skylake will continue receiving security updates normally until 2020. Instead, Microsoft is firmly drawing a line in the sand with the 7th-generation CPUs.

This policy also appllies to Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Server PCs will need the latest version of Windows Server to get security updates.

“Unsupported Hardware” Won’t Get Security Updates

Here’s what this actually means: Microsoft won’t provide you with security updates via Windows Update if you install Windows 7 or 8.1 on a PC with one of these modern CPUs. Instead, you’ll see an “Unsupported hardware” message that informs you your PC “uses a processor that is designed for the latest version of Windows”.

In other words, Microsoft is saying you should install Windows 10 on these PCs. Windows 7 and 8.1 don’t actually include code that prevent these operating systems from working on the new CPUs. Instead, Microsoft is just blocking…

What Is conhost.exe and Why Is It Running?

You are no doubt reading this article because you’ve stumbled across the Console Window Host (conhost.exe) process in Task Manager and are wondering what it is. We’ve got the answer for you.

This article is part of our ongoing series explaining various processes found in Task Manager, like svchost.exe, dwm.exe, ctfmon.exe, mDNSResponder.exe, rundll32.exe, Adobe_Updater.exe, and many others. Don’t know what those services are? Better start reading!

So What Is the Console Window Host Process?

Understanding the Console Window Host process requires a little bit of history. In the Windows XP days, the Command Prompt was handled by a process named the ClientServer Runtime System Service (CSRSS). As the name implies, CSRSS was a system level service. This created a couple of problems. First, a crash in CSRSS could bring down a whole system, which exposed not just reliability issues, but possible security vulnerabilities as well. The second problem was that CSRSS could not be themed, because the developers didn’t want to risk theme code to run in a system process. So, the Command Prompt always had the classic look rather than using new interface elements.

Notice in the screenshot of Windows XP below that the Command Prompt doesn’t get the same styling as an app like Notepad.

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Windows Vista introduced the Desktop Window Manager—a service that “draws” composite views of windows onto your desktop rather than letting each individual app handle that on its own. The Command Prompt gained some superficial theming from this (like the glassy frame present in other windows), but it came at the expense of being able to drag and drop files, text, and so on into the Command Prompt window.

Still, that theming only went so far. If you take a look at the console in Windows Vista, it looks like it uses the same theme as everything else, but you’ll notice that the scrollbars are still using the old style. This is because the Desktop Window Manager handles drawing the title bars and frame, but an old-fashioned CSRSS window still sits inside.

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Enter Windows 7 and the Console Window Host process. As the name implies, its a host process for the console window. The process sort of sits in the middle between CSRSS and the Command Prompt (cmd.exe), allowing Windows to fix both of the previous issues—interface elements like scrollbars draw correctly, and you can again drag and drop into the Command Prompt. And that’s the method still used in Windows 8 and 10, allowing all the new interface elements and styling that have come along since Windows 7.

Even…

How to Check for Windows Updates

Annoying as they might be, it’s important to keep Windows updated…just ask the victims of the latest ransomware attack. If you haven’t used your PC for a while or you just want to make sure you’re updated with the latest software, it’s easy to manually check and make sure in Windows.

Press the Windows button or Search button, and type “check for updates” in the box. Then, hit Enter or click on the first result. This will take you to the dedicated Windows Update page in the Windows 10 Settings application (or, if you’re using Windows 7, the Control Panel).

The display will show you the last time Windows connected to a Microsoft server to check for the latest updates. Click the “Check…

How to Make Windows Work Better on High-DPI Displays and Fix Blurry Fonts

High pixel density displays are now common on new Windows PCs, just as they are on smartphones, tablets, and Macs. But be careful what you wish for—many desktop apps still have problems on high-DPI displays.

Windows has offered DPI scaling support for long time, but many Windows desktop applications never took advantage of it. Microsoft is working on the problem, however, and so are many app developers. In the meantime here are some settings you can change to make applications look better.

Upgrade to Windows 10

Windows 7 is still perfectly fine for many things, but it’s not fine on high-DPI displays. Windows 7 was never built for these super high resolution displays, and using them with Windows 7 will be a struggle. Microsoft dramatically improved high-DPI support with Windows 8, and Windows 10 is even better. Microsoft hasn’t stood still since releasing Windows 10, either. Updates like Windows 10’s Creators Update continue to add improvements to high-DPI scaling.

If you’re trying to use a high-DPI display with Windows 7, we highly recommend you upgrade to Windows 10. There are still ways to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, if you’re eligible.

Adjust Your Display Scaling Settings

If your laptop, convertible, or tablet came with a high-density display, Windows 10 will automatically choose an appropriate display scaling setting for it. However, you may want to adjust this setting yourself to make items appear larger and more readable, or make elements appear smaller so you have more screen real estate.

To change this setting on Windows 10, head to Settings > System > Display. Change the option under “Scale and layout” to your preferred setting. If you have multiple displays connected to your PC, you can select them at the top of this page and configure separate scaling levels for each. The ideal setting will depend on your the display and your eyes, so feel free to experiment. You can also click “Custom scaling” and set a custom percentage value between 100% and 500% from here, but Microsoft recommends you choose one of the default options in the list for maximum compatibility with applications.

NOTE: if you have trouble adjusting these settings, you may…

How to Use Different Wallpapers on Multiple Monitors in Windows 7

So you’ve just unpacked that spiffy new monitor, and it sits fresh and new on your desk putting your other little displays to shame. Now you have to give it some sartorial splendor: a kick-ass wallpaper from the online repository of your choice. But now comes the conundrum—what if you want to use different images on different screens?

Unfortunately, Windows 7’s default wallpaper handler is pretty primitive for multiple displays. (Windows 8 and 10 are much better, so check out these instructions if you’re using a later version of Windows.) In Windows 7, you have two options for using different wallpapers: you can create your own combined image, using your favorite image editor, or you can use a third-party tool like DisplayFusion or UltraMon.

First, we’ll look at the manual way to make your own multi-monitor wallpaper. If you want something a bit more automated (that requires extra software), or you want to rotate through many wallpapers on your two monitors, skip to the end, where we’ll discuss third-party options.

The Manual Method: Grab an Image Editor

In order to show a different wallpaper on each monitor, you need to trick Windows and merge your two wallpapers into one big image file. To do this, you’ll need some kind of image editor. Paint, Microsoft’s pack-in tool for Windows, isn’t really complex enough to handle the task; you’ll want something like GIMP, Paint.NET, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Corel Paintshop Pro.

Step One: Arrange Your Monitors

Windows treats all the monitors on your desktop as one combined space, at least in terms of the wallpaper. You can adjust the position and spacing of the monitors’ virtual location on the Display Settings screen.

To do this, right-click an empty area on your desktop and click “Screen resolution.” You’ll be greeted with something like the following screen.

Here, you can see the relative position of the monitors in the virtual space of the desktop. My setup uses two monitors, with one being slightly higher resolution than the other. You can move the monitors around to make them match your desk’s setup. The wallpaper will “stop” at any edges that extend past the usable space. For example, here’s how it looks with the secondary monitor on the lower-right side:

And here’s the same setup with the secondary monitor on the upper-left side:

Note how the “empty” space appears wherever the larger monitor extends past the smaller one. This space isn’t accessible in Windows itself—you can’t move your mouse cursor or applications there—but it’s important to think about it for the purpose of managing the wallpaper.

Set up your monitors however you’d like on this screen, then click “Apply.” It’s possible to arrange them in vertical rows or horizontal columns, anchored at the corners or “floating” on the sides for more precision. For the purposes on this guide, just stick to the corners as above; it’ll be simpler.

Step Two: Find Some Images

You can choose…

How to Move the “Show Desktop” Icon to the Quick Launch Bar or the Taskbar in Windows

If you aren’t a fan of scrolling your pointer over to the lower right corner of your monitor to show the desktop, we have a cool tweak that will allow you to add the Show Desktop icon to the Quick Launch bar or anywhere on your Taskbar.

If you want to easily get access to the Desktop in Windows 7, 8, or 10, you’ve undoubtedly noticed they moved the Show Desktop to the lower right corner of the screen. This can be annoying if you have a dual monitors, or even a large monitor.

There are a couple of ways you can make the Show Desktop icon more accessible. We’ll take a look at each and you can choose which method works best for you. We show both methods in Windows 10, but they will also work in Windows 7 and 8.

How to Put the Show Desktop Icon Back to Where it Used to Be by Adding Back the Quick Launch Bar

The first method of moving the Show Desktop icon is to add back the Quick Launch bar to the Taskbar. The Quick Launch bar contains a Show Desktop option, so once you follow the steps in our article to bring back the Quick Launch bar, you should see the Show Desktop icon on the left side of the Taskbar. If you don’t, the article also describes how to move icons on the Quick Launch bar.

This method will “kill two birds with one stone” by getting the Quick Launch bar and the Show Desktop icon back where they used to be in Windows.

How to Pin the Show Desktop Icon to the Taskbar

If you don’t want the Quick Launch bar back, you could pin the icon to the Taskbar instead. Unfortunately, the process isn’t as easy as a simple drag and drop, but there is an easy workaround.

Right-click on any empty area of the desktop and go to New > Text Document.

Rename the shortcut to Show Desktop.exe.

NOTE: You will need to have file extensions showing in order for this to work.

The following warning…

How to Check if You Are Running a 32-bit or 64-bit Version of Firefox

Firefox is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Windows 7, 8, and 10. If you’re curious which version you’re running, we’ll show a couple of easy ways to find out.

Using the About Firefox Box

The simplest method for finding this information is opening the About Firefox box. However, before continuing, be aware that opening the About Firefox box causes Firefox to automatically update, if there’s an available update. So, if you’d rather not update Firefox right now, skip to the next section for another easy method.

To check if Firefox is 32-bit or 64-bit using the About Firefox box, click the Firefox menu in the upper-right corner of the window and then click the Help icon at the bottom of the menu.

On the Help pane that slides out, click the “About Firefox” option.

How to Pin an External Drive to the Windows Taskbar

Do you have an external drive connected to your Windows computer and would like to access it from the Taskbar? Here we show you a workaround that will allow you to pin it to Taskbar.

We’ll show you how to add an external drive icon to the Taskbar in Windows 10, but this trick will also work in Windows 7 and 8.

You would think the process would be as easy as dragging the external drive icon to the Taskbar. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. If you try to drag the external drive icon to the Taskbar, it just adds it to File Explorer.

Then, if you right-click on the File Explorer icon, you’ll be able to access it from there. This might be enough for some users, but we want to add it to the Taskbar as an icon.

With a quick workaround, we can add the drive as an icon to the Taskbar. However, before doing this, we need to assign a persistent drive letter to our external drive. We’re going to add a drive letter to the external drive’s icon on the Taskbar, so that drive letter needs to stay the same every time you connect the drive to your PC.

Once you’ve assigned the drive letter to your external drive, right-click on an empty area on your desktop and go to New > Text Document.

Then, name the text file whatever you want and change the .txt extension to .exe . In our example, we’re adding the external N:\ drive, so we named it Drive N.exe . Press Enter.

After pressing Enter, you will see a dialog box asking if you’re sure you…

How to Use All of Windows 10’s Backup and Recovery Tools

Windows 10 includes several different types of backup and recovery tools. And we’re going to take a look at all of them.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good computers. Fortunately, Windows includes a number of tools you can use to make sure your files are properly backed up and to recover your computer should you need to. On the backup side of things, File History is the primary backup tool in Windows 8 and 10. It offers not just full backups, but also a way to restore previous versions of files. Microsoft also includes the old Windows 7 Backup and Restore in both Windows 8 and 10 and it works the same way it always has, allowing you to perform selective or even full image-based backups. And while it’s not really a true backup solution, the inclusion of OneDrive does let you build a little redundancy into your file storage.

On the Recovery side of things, Windows offers a full recovery environment you can use for troubleshooting and recovery, as well as the ability to fully reset your PC to it’s default settings. Here’s how it all fits together.

Back Up and Protect Your Windows 10 PC the Easy Way

Windows 10 includes a number of backup and recovery tools for free, but the reality is that they aren’t anywhere near as good as commercial solutions. Carbonite automatically backs up all of your files, photos, and documents and stores them encrypted in the cloud.

Not only do you get cheap unlimited cloud backup, but you can also use Carbonite to backup your PC to a local hard drive. And you get versioning, deleted file protection, mobile apps so you can access your files from any device, and a whole lot more.

And for a limited time, How-To Geek readers get 2 free bonus months.

Built-In Backup Tools in Windows

You’ve heard the advice a million times, but it’s still surprising how many people don’t take the time to make sure their files are adequately backed up. We’ve covered all kinds of ways to make sure that your computer is backed up and we’ve even talked about what files you should be backing up. The good news is Windows itself provides some pretty solid tools to get the job done. Just remember, it’s not only about backing up to an external hard drive. You also should be creating offsite backups—or at the very least, storing a copy of your backups in a different location.

File History

File History was first introduced in Windows 8 and continues to be the primary built-in backup solution in Windows 10. File History doesn’t create a full backup of your entire PC. Rather, it focuses on making sure that your personal files are backed up. You set up File History to back up all your files to an external drive and then you really can just let it do its job. It not only regularly backs up files, it also retains previous versions of files that you can easily restore.

By default, File History backs up important folders in your user folder—stuff like Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, and parts of the AppData folder. You can exclude folders you don’t want backed up and add folders from elsewhere on your PC that you do want backed up.

When you need to recover files, you can browse through the whole collection of backed up files and folders.

Or you can restore previous versions of files from right within File Explorer.

File History gives you a pretty reliable way to make sure your personal files are regularly backed up. Make sure you check out our full guide to using File History for instructions on setting it up and using it.

Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

Microsoft also kept the old Backup and Restore feature from Windows 7 around. It was available in Windows 8, removed in Windows 8.1, and is back in Windows 10. The Backup and Restore (Windows 7) tool allows you to restore any of your old Windows 7 backups onto your Windows 10 computer—likely why the tool is still around—but you can also use it to back up your Windows 10 PC in the exact same way you’d back up a Windows 7 PC.

Unlike the newer File History backup solution, you can use Backup and Restore to more easily create a backup of practically everything on your hard drive. However, it also does not feature File History’s ability to maintain older versions of your files.

You can find the tool by hitting Start, typing “backup,” and then selecting “Backup and Restore (Windows 7).”

Setting up the backup is pretty straightforward. You’ll choose an external drive (or network location), pick the folders you want to backup, and set a schedule. After that, everything’s automatic. Do be sure to check…