Archive for the ‘ Tips & Tricks ’ Category

The Hackintosh Process


We show you how to install and run OS X Lion on your ordinary PC

Mac Hack 

There are a lot of things that Apple gets right, but pricing is not one of them. This is a company that’s made a fortune by defying conventional wisdom, so it’s hard not to admire it and its products despite their occasional quirks and shortcomings. Apple’s appeal has grown from a long history of understanding what users are really doing with their computers and devices, and knowing how to create things that people will desire. It’s all about the experience—their goal is to make you feel delight and wonderment from the time you walk into a shop till you take your new device out of its box and switch it on for the first time. Everything that Apple does, from the iron-clad secrecy it maintains around upcoming products to the theatricality of its unveilings, is designed to further that experience. Once the association with joy has been made in buyers’ minds, they’re hooked.

Mac OS X has a lot of appeal: the graphics are rich, security is higher than Windows, it’s generally easier for beginners to get used to, and there’s some excellent software available for creative professionals. For most people though, just the “coolness” factor and thrill of getting it working without spending money on Apple hardware are reason enough to try.

This is the “reality distortion field” effect that dozens of other companies have tried to emulate over the years, to varying degrees of success. Just like everyone else, Apple has had to adapt to a changing world, one in which everything is mass produced in China, there are only two or three manufacturers of each kind of high-end component, and it costs too much to try and do things on your own. Today, it’s possible to take a small chunk of that Apple experience and use it on your own, outside the confines of the expensive ecosystem built specifically for it. The enjoyment won’t be the same, but the whole point is to expand users’ options and give them the choice.

We’re referring, of course, to running Mac OS X on any ordinary PC, something that the Cupertino giant does not like, endorse or acknowledge in any way. Apple’s desktop OS is finely tuned to work with its own hardware, software and online services: an entire ecosystem. This has the disadvantage of limiting your choices (and budget range) when it comes to buying a new computer, but it has the advantage of eliminating the thousands of variables that tend to make Windows machines slow or unstable. Apple has never expressly allowed other brands to sell machines with OS X preinstalled, so you’ll never find a Mac bogged down with “bloatware” added on by third-party manufacturers, and you won’t have to go hunting for a printer driver when you need one, because it’s already built in.

Be warned, running OS X is a tricky proposition and it’s not endorsed by Apple in any way. You’ll be contravening their end-user license agreement and will not have access to any help or support from them. You also won’t have a Mac-specific keyboard, mouse or trackpad, which will make several shortcuts and gestures impossible to use. This process is not recommended for casual users, or anyone who isn’t familiar with the internal workings of a PC. You run the risk of erasing your hard drive and losing whatever’s on it, so make sure you have backups. Moreover, obtaining a legal copy of Lion, the latest version of OS X, is entirely your responsibility.

The Hackintosh Process

Mack Hack

Installing an operating system on hardware not originally designed for it is a tricky process. Apple is famous for building experiences around tightly integrated hardware and software, so problems are bound to crop up when trying to run OS X on unfamiliar components. It’s not impossible to run OS X on commodity PC hardware, but this isn’t a project to undertake if you’re not 100 percent comfortable with your computer’s inner workings.

As of now, OS X Lion is a bit more difficult to get running than previous versions, Leopard and Snow Leopard. Methods of running these older versions have existed for years now, and a vibrant developer community online is constantly making new drivers available to extend compatibility with all kinds of hardware. With Lion only recently released, the driver database is understandably small, and it’s quite likely that you’ll run into compatibility issu4es and other odd problems. The most frustrating issue we faced was with an incompatible USB keyboard, which caused all sorts of input errors!

Before beginning any experiment, we must emphasize the importance of backing up everything on your computer. Make a list of all hardware and drivers and search online for known problems. Then, if you’re sure you understand all the risks and liabilities, you’re ready to proceed.


Once you have downloaded Lion and have all the files ready, you can start the process.


Copy the Lion installation file (InstallESD.dmg) and Kakewalk to the desktop of the Macintosh. Run the Kakewalk utility, and on the main screen, click on ‘Install to a USB stick’.


On the next screen, select the location of the Lion DMG file and choose the USB stick as the destination. Make sure you choose the correct destination (the USB stick), or you’ll end up installing it to the Mac you’re working on. When you’re sure, click the ‘Create’ button.


The Kakewalk utility will do the necessary work in the background. It involves formatting the USB stick, mounting the Lion DMG image, copying the installer files and packages to the USB stick and a lot more. All this is done in the background and may take a while depending on the speed of the pen drive. Your USB stick will also be renamed to ‘Kakewalk’.


After the process is complete, the utility will ask you to start the Kakewalk installation. Click OK to continue and the next screen will ask you to choose your motherboard model number. The exact version is preferable, but a close variant will also do. Make sure you have an Internet connection as Kakewalk will need to download the necessary drivers from its repository. If your motherboard is not listed, you’ll have to choose the closest match. Then carefully select your destination as the USB drive (now renamed as Kakewalk). Click on ‘Start Installation’. After completion, you can safely eject the USB stick and return the Macintosh to its owner, unscathed.


Now plug the USB stick into your PC and turn it on. Go to the BIOS where a few changes need to be made. Change the boot priority to USB HDD. Next, make sure you make the following changes if you have the options in your BIOS: HPET: Enable (64-bit), ACPI Suspend type: S3 (STR) and Hard drive: AHCI enabled. Save and close the BIOS settings. Restart the PC and boot from the USB stick.


When you boot from the USB stick, you will be greeted by Kakewalk’s EFI bootloader. Select the USB stick (Kakewalk) on your screen and press [Enter].

WARNING: The target hard drive will be reformatted and all data on it will be lost. If possible, install Lion on a new, blank hard drive.


After a long process during which you’ll see lines of text characters scrolling continuously, you will land at the Lion installation screen. If you have not reached here, it’s possible that a compatibility issue has been discovered. Note the error lines displayed on screen and search the Internet for a specific solution. You should find specific help on the various forums dedicated to OS X fans. For example, the error ‘DSMOS has arrived’ means that the video card is not compatible.


Follow the steps shown on screen till you arrive at the screen which asks you to choose the destination disk to install the OS to. At this screen, click on ‘Utilities’ and then ‘Disk Utility’. This will start the partition manager for Mac OS X


Using Disk Utility, click on your target hard drive in the left pane and then click on ‘Partition’ on the right pane. From the Volume Scheme, select ‘1 Partition’ and in the ‘Options’ below, select ‘GUID Partition Table’. Then in the Volume Information, type a name for the partition, select the format type as ‘Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and leave the rest untouched. Finally, click on ‘Apply’ and proceed to format the drive. Once done, exit Disk Utility and proceed with the installation of the OS. The installation will take around 30 minutes, at the end of which your computer will reboot. Leave the USB stick plugged in, as there is no bootloader yet.


This time, when the system boots again, choose to boot from the hard drive instead of the USB stick. Once booted, you should be welcomed  to the next steps of the installation. Continue with all the necessary details that are asked on the screen.


Once done, you should arrive at the default Lion desktop. Congratulations, your installation has been successful! But you have still got to install the bootloader to your hard drive so that it can boot up on its own.


Locate your USB stick in the OS X Finder and open it. You will find the application ‘Kakewalk’—double-click and run the utility. Click on the icon that reads ‘Install to Computer’.


This screen will highlight the motherboard model you chose while making the USB stick on the Macintosh. You cannot change anything here, so simply click on ‘Start Installation’. After a few minutes, you will be asked to reboot the machine. Now your bootloader is installed on your system and you can safely boot your PC from the hard drive. Mac OS X Lion is ready to go!


Installing drivers is the biggest headache, but you can do it in a few steps. First, using MultiBeast, you can install basic drivers for audio, network, graphics, and system components. Copy the Multibeast utility to your new desktop and run it. Follow the steps till you reach the ‘Installation Type’ screen. From the drop down list, carefully choose the drivers of your motherboard and graphics card by referring to their respective user manuals. If you are not sure of any of the drivers, simply don’t select it, or else you will cause errors known as Kernel panic, and might need to reinstall Lion all over again. When the process is complete, you’ll need to reboot the PC.


Additional drivers that are not available through Multibeast can be downloaded and installed separately using the KextBeast utility. The drivers are usually in the form of .KEXT files and need to be inserted into certain folders and their permissions set to a particular level. KextBeast does it for you automatically. All you need to do is copy the KEXT files and the KextBeast utility to the desktop and run the utility. It will automatically search for the drivers on the desktop and install them.

The Switcher’s Guide to Lion

1. The dock

Somewhat like your Windows taskbar and Start menu rolled into one, the Dock is where shortcuts to all your favorite applications live. Just like in Windows 7, icons in the Dock might represent programs that are running (indicated by a glowing dock, though this can be turned off) or simply ones that are there for quick access. The right hand side of the dock shows individual program windows that are currently minimized. You’ll also find pinned folders here: Trash, the recycle bin equivalent; Documents, where the files you create are saved by default; and Downloads, a central place for downloaded files, as the name suggests.

2. Program behavior

Here’s where things get very different from Windows. Programs can run even when no windows are open. What that means is that a browser or image viewer, for example, doesn’t stop running when you close all open web pages or images, but you won’t see an “empty” program window either. You can manually quit each program that isn’t required anymore, or let Lion decide when it needs to free up resources. Take a look at the menu bar that’s always on the top of your screen—the name of the running program will be visible, even if no windows are open. New in Lion, most programs will open exactly the way you left them when they were last closed, including any open documents, web pages or other work in progress. For privacy or convenience, you can disable this behavior in ‘System Preferences’.

For reasons unknown, OS X has never allowed windows to be maximized to fill your screen. Instead, the “traffic light” controls in the top left corner let you “zoom” a window till its content fits on screen. New to Lion, a Full Screen mode acts somewhat like maximizing a program, but this doesn’t just affect a window’s size, it can change its look completely.

3. The keyboard

Say goodbye to [Ctrl] and [Alt], you now have to learn to deal with [Control], [Cmd] and [Option]. ([Cmd] maps to the [Win] key on most PC keyboards). Use [Cmd]+[C] or [Z] to copy or undo, but you’ll have to hold down [Option] to select multiple items in a list. If it takes too long to get used to the new keyboard positions, you can remap keys via the ‘Keyboard’ panel in ‘System Preferences’.

4. The Finder

Where Windows has Explorer, OS X has the Finder, the only difference being that a lot more is hidden from the user. You can’t usually browse through protected parts of the hard drive, and as of Lion, top-level folders and hard drives themselves aren’t visible by default. This makes things simpler for beginners, who can simply save documents to ‘Documents’ and find downloads in ‘Downloads’, but it takes time for advanced users to accustomed. Views are also different: iTunes users will recognize Cover Flow, and the multi-column view is handy when digging through deeply nested folders.

5. Spaces and Mission Control

OS X Lion takes virtual desktops mainstream—you can organize your windows across multiple “Spaces”, just like multiple invisible monitors arranged side to side for visual reference. Switch between Spaces with a two-fingered trackpad swipe, or [Control]+[]/[]. Mission Control ([F3] or two-fingered double-tap) lets you see a zoomed-out view of all your Spaces and the programs currently running in each. You can force programs to run only within their own Space, and any app in fullscreen mode is counted as its own Space. Bonus: each Space can have its own background wallpaper.

6. iOS carryovers

All the new features that headlined Lion’s release were in some way inspired by the iPhone and iPad user experience. The first one you’ll notice is “natural scrolling”, exactly the opposite of what we’re used to. Instead of dragging a scrollbar down, you pull a page’s contents up. Text autocorrects itself just like on an iPhone, so beware of the sometimes overenthusiastic substitutions. The entire OS can shut down and resume exactly as you left it, with apps open and documents running. Documents are automatically saved as you work, rendering the ‘Save as…’ command redundant.

7. Time Machine and Versions

Since most people only realize the importance of backups when it’s too late, Apple has tried to make the process as easy as possible. Time Machine is a one-click solution; set it up and you can pull out backups at any time. With Lion, you can also track revisions to individual files and documents. Click the document name a program’s title bar to browse through previous Versions of a document and rescue elements in them that you’ve since deleted, even if you didn’t save different copies as you went along. Lion will save a copy as often as every minute. After two weeks, files are “locked”, and you’ll be prompted when edits will change the current version of a file.

8. Built-in programs

Apart from the well-known iTunes jukebox and Safari web browser, Mac OS X comes with a cool email client and built-in apps for contacts and calendaring. These now look a lot like their iPad counterparts, and are just as capable. If you need to find some additional software, you can now browse through the Mac App Store and buy or download anything that’s available. Every new Mac also comes with iLife, a suite of programs including iPhoto for photo management and basic edits, iMovie, a fun video editing tool, and Garage Band, which pretty much anyone can use to learn and create music.

9. Other cool things

OS X has some of the best accessibility features for disabled users. Check them out via the ‘System Preferences’. There are also built-in parental controls, voice commands and encryption options. There are loads of commands to tweak the interface, known as “defaults write” commands that you can type into the Terminal. Search online for dozens of options, such as changing the look of your dock, or enabling new animations. The Automator is a powerful, but little-known utility for creating scripts to automate repetitive tasks. And Airdrop, in the Finder, is a brilliantly easy way to share files between two Macs via Wi-Fi. Hit [Cmd]+[Space] at any point to bring up Spotlight, the system-wide search tool that finds files, programs, settings, help, and now even dictionary definitions. OS X even has built in spelling, grammar and Wikipedia functions—almost any selectable text can be looked up.

10. Things that behave badly

Lion can’t run programs written for older, non-Intel CPUs. You shouldn’t encounter any such programs today, except in very specialized cases. Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 runs fine, but 2004 won’t work at all. Initial users have also reported trouble with several Adobe apps including Flash Player and most of the Creative Suite products. Users with Time Machine backups on external drives might be out of luck due to new requirements that older drives don’t yet support. Most of these problems will be fixed by updates from the respective vendors, but it’s a good idea to search online for potential pitfalls before installing Lion.


Top 4 Free Vocal Removers: Eliminate Vocals From Your Favorite Songs

Have you ever listened to a song and wished that you could remove the vocals? The art of eliminating the human voice from music tracks is notoriously difficult to do – but it can be done. It isn’t always possible to totally remove voice from a song because of varying factors, such as compression, stereo image separation, frequency spectrum, etc. However, with some experimentation, good quality audio, and a little bit of luck, you can achieve satisfactory results.

1. Winamp Plugin: AnalogX Vocal Remover

If you use the Winamp software media player for playing your music collection, then AnalogX Vocal Remover can be installed in your plugins folder to remove vocals. Once installed, simply go to OptionsPreferencesDSP/effect to choose the plugin. The interface is very easy to use as there’s just a slider bar to control the amount of audio processing.

2. Wavosaur

As well as being a good audio editor, Wavosaur can also be used to remove vocals from songs. Once you have imported your audio file into Wavosaur, you can use the Voice Remover tool to automatically process the file. As with all voice removal software, the results you get will depend on various factors such as the type of music, how compressed it is, and the quality of the audio source.

3. Audacity VST Plugin: Center Pan Remover

Center Pan Remover is a Nyquist plugin for the very popular Audacity audio editor. This plugin works best on audio files where the vocals are near to the center of the stereo field. Center Pan Remover automates the process of splitting the stereo image and track inversion. Simply copy the plugin into the Audacity plugins folder to see the option in Audacity’s effects menu.

4. Karaoke Anything

Karaoke Anything is an audio player that does a decent job of removing vocals from music tracks. It can be used for MP3 files or entire audio CDs. The interface is user-friendly and you can use a slider bar to control the amount of audio processing. Unfortunately Karaoke Anything isn’t capable of saving what you hear. However, if you want a basic audio player for MP3 files and audio CDs that can remove vocals, then Karaoke Anything is a good tool to keep in your digital audio toolbox.



What do you do when loads of data on your computer needs to be cleverly hidden away from inquisitive family members or office colleagues? Software such as folder lockers, encryption utilities and others do a decent job, but is a costly method and leaves traces. We will show you a simple trick with which you can hide your data easily from others. This trick is very simple works against casual snoopers, but will not prevent a skilled spy from finding it! To do it, all you need is a separate partition to store all the data you want to hide.

Step 1: Create an additional partition and format it. Windows Vista and 7 users can use the Shrink Space option from the Disk Management Utility to create a new volume without repartitioning the hard drive. Windows XP or older users can use third party partition manager utilities to create a new partition. If you already have an additional partition or drive, then you can skip this part. Once you have created the partition, format it and transfer all your data to this new drive.

Step 2: Now let’s assume that you have your sensitive data on drive ‘D’ and want to prevent it from showing up in the Windows Explorer. To do this you need to start the Group Policy Editor utility. Click ‘Start | Run’ and type ‘Gpedit.msc’ and press [Enter]. Here scroll down to ‘User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Windows Explorer’ on the left pane. Double-click on the ‘Hide these specified drives in My Computer’ on the right pane. In the following window, select ‘Enabled’ and choose the ‘D’ drive from the drop down list under ‘Options’. Apply the settings and exit.

Step 3: The drive letter ‘D’ is now hidden from Windows Explorer. In order to access this drive in future, all you need is to enter ‘D:’ in the ‘Start | Run…’ dialog box nor in the address bar of Windows Explorer. Your drive will be accessible for your work since only you know it exists. Note: This is not a fool-proof method and the hidden drive can even be targeted by viruses. Also, remember that this is not an encrypted partition. The lists of recently opened files in each program can also expose the hidden drive’s existence. Use a utility such as Ccleaner or Window Washer to wipe out these tracks.

Google Chrome: Tips & Tricks

Google Chrome is another milestone in Google’s grand plans of world domination — and they are finding very few people who complain. Chrome is an extremely fast and lightweight browser. It packs in a ton of features in a minimal interface, and introduces some novel ideas to the whole idea of browsing. The top bar and the menu bar have been omitted completely, leaving a rather large space for browsing.

Inspect Memory Usage

Chrome has some advanced options for inspecting memory usage. Right-click on the browser tab in the start bar select ‘Task Manager’. You will get a window showing how much memory is being used by each tab in the browser. Now click on ‘Stats for Nerds’ and a new tab will open in the browser, with a process ID, name of the site, memory and virtual memory usage. The great thing about this feature is that if you are using other browsers at the same time, then the tab shows the memory usage by that browser as well.


To bookmark a page, click on the star icon next to the address bar. To access the list of bookmarks at any point of time during browsing, key in [Ctrl] + [B]. To make it disappear, use the same shortcut again.

Incognito Mode

Chrome has a secret mode that allows you to surf the Web anonymously. On the top right corner of the browser, to the right of the address bar is the page control button. Click on it and select ‘New incognito window’ or [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [N]. The sites surfed using this mode will not appear in the history, and the cookies they store on the system will be deleted as soon as the tab is closed.

Make Google Chrome Your Default Browser

Click on the ‘Customize and Control Google Chrome’ button to the right of the address bar, click on ‘Options’ and under ‘Default browser’ click on the ‘Make Google Chrome my default browser’ button.

Navigation Tips

Right-click on the back and next buttons to go through a recent history of visited Web sites. Drag and drop any tab from the browser into the desktop to start a browser with just that tab open. To open a tab you have just closed by mistake, use the keys [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [T]. Use [Ctrl] + [1] to [9] to cycle through tabs from the keyboard.

Expand Text Boxes

This is a very useful feature for use in any kind of site that requires you to fill in text in a text area. When you come across a text area in a forum or a form in a Web site, just click on the bottom right corner of the text area, click and drag it as per your requirements.

Inspect Memory Usage By A Site

Right-click on any empty space in the Web page, click on inspect element. This is, by the way, how you view the source code of a site on Chrome. Once here, click on the first line of the HTML code, which will effectively select the entire site. Then click on resources. This shows up the usage of memory by each element in the Web page. You can sort the elements by time or by size. If you reload the page, every image and script on the page shows up in the graph and gets plotted in real time.

iPhone Blogging:Create a Great Blog On Go blogs first rose to popularity it took days hunched in front of a computer to set them up, get to grips with their software, and even longer to wrap your head around their confusing jargon. No longer. Using your iPhone 3GS and a selection of free apps, you can easily create a great blog with nothing but your iPhone. Read on for our easy how-to guide.

What counts as a blog?
The word blog is just “web” and “log” smashed together. Originally it simply meant a place where an individual or organisation posted regular updates on what they’d been up to. But blogs can be about pretty much anything, and needn’t necessarily feature lots of text. Using the iPhone, it’s easy to create a photo blog or video blog with snaps and clips posted straight from your phone to the web.

Even using Twitter to post 140 character updates, or pinging an update to Facebook’s status and notes functions counts as blogging. Ultimately, a blog is what you make it, and with Vodafone’s generous iPhone tariffs it’s easy to post frequently without battering your bank balance.

Why should you be blogging?

To keep in touch
If you’ve got friends and family scattered all over the country, or even the world, sending emails to keep them up-to-date can become a pain. Creating a blog is a great way to open a window into your world without irritating people with lengthy round robin emails.

Set up a family blog and you can easily send photos and videos of what your clan has been up to, as well as text posts sharing news straight from your iPhone 3GS. It takes a lot less time than sitting down to sum everything up in an email, and means your friends and family can check in to see what you’re up to without worrying about time zones or phone bills.

To find people who share your interests
Whether you’re interested in the latest trendy trainers, the Teardrop Explodes or toy cars, blogging is a great way to share your enthusiasm for a subject and get in contact with other like minded folk. Thinking of starting a street style photo blog like The Sartorialist? Use your iPhone 3GS to get snaps of people in great outfits. Want to create a music blog about gigs going on in your area? The iPhone 3GS will help you grab and share photos and video, as well as getting your review online quicker than you can say “why do I always get stuck behind unusually tall people at concerts?”.

To get yourself noticed or promoted
Blogs are a great way of promoting your work. Whether you’re an artist or musician looking for a big break, or an executive with some smart ideas to revolutionise your business, creating a blog to showcase your ideas is a great way to get yourself noticed or promoted.

The great thing about blogging from an iPhone 3GS is that it doesn’t have to take too much time. Found yourself on a train, waiting at an airport or in a gap between meetings? Fire up your favourite iPhone blogging app and use your time creatively. With simple ways to connect your blog to Twitter and Facebook, you can also make sure that your posts are easily shared with your contacts, pushing your ideas out to more people, and teeing yourself up nicely for that annual review.

What to use: 3 great iPhone blogging apps

Tumblr: keeping it simple
Tumblr is one of the simplest blogging sites on the web with easy-to-use menus which automatically format your posts correctly, depending on what’s in them. You can choose to create text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio or video posts. Photos, audio clips and videos can be created in the app using the iPhone 3GS’s built-in voice recorder and camera, or grabbed straight from your iPhone’s picture library.

You can sign up for a Tumblr account through the iPhone app itself, and also post to your blog via email. The big benefit of Tumblr is its simplicity, you don’t need any special skills to start posting. There are several Tumblr blogging apps on the iTunes App Store but the one you want is simply called Tumblr and is free. It’s the official app and has all the features you need to get started.

WordPress: the web workhorse
Wordpress is the powerhouse behind tonnes of your favourite sites, including Electricpig. It’s a good option for creating a blog, since it’s constantly adding features to give you flexibility and power. It’s more adaptable than Tumblr, letting you fine-tune the design of your blog, or add advanced features for your readers. But while it’s perfect for creating a more professional looking blog, it’s not difficult to use either, it just means that as you learn more, you’ll be able to do more.

The latest version of the WordPress for iPhone app, WordPress 2, lets you post pictures and video directly from the app and also gives you lots of options to tweak the look and feel of your updates, including what size you want the photos to be displayed at (make them smaller for faster uploading).

WordPress 2 on the iPhone 3GS also lets you tinker with advanced features like securing communication between your blog and the iPhone app using SSL. You don’t need to know how to use those features to start with, but the depth of functionality in the WordPress iPhone app means you won’t end up growing out of it. Plus just like the Tumblr app, WordPress 2 is free.

ShoZu: one app to rule them all
If you’re looking to post your blog posts, videos and photos to multiple websites, or are using a blogging platform that doesn’t have a dedicated iPhone app, ShoZu is a great addition to the iPhone 3GS. Rather than being associated with one platform, it gives you the ability to post to over 50 sites including photo sites such as Flickr and Photobucket, and video sites like YouYube and DailyMotion.

ShoZu is also a great way of trying out lots of different blogging platforms. It supports WordPress, Typepad, Blogger and Vox as well as Facebook and Twitter. If you want to be able to store your photos on Flickr or your videos on YouTube and then post them to a blog too, ShoZu makes that really easy to do.

To start using ShoZu, you can simply download the app via 3G or Wi-Fi on your iPhone 3GS or through iTunes on your computer and sign up for a ShoZu account. You can grab a Shozu account online or directly through the app. Once you’ve done that you simply add the services you want to send posts to.

Install Windows from a USB drive might need to reinstall an operating system from time to time, but the netbooks and ultra-portable laptops gaining popularity today have no optical drives.

What do you do when there is no optical drive in your PC and you want to install a new operating system on it? Before you invest in an external drive, we will tell you about a more cost-effective solution. Why not install Windows XP or Windows Vista from a USB flash drive instead? All you need are the following items:

A desktop or laptop with Windows XP/Vista (according to the OS required to be dumped onto the USB flash drive).

An optical drive in the PC.

The original Windows XP or Vista installation disk.

A 1 GB or 4 GB USB flash drive for Windows XP/Vista respectively.

A software called ‘Komku-SP-usb.exe’ (for the Windows XP part) which can be downloaded from

This step-by-step workshop will be in two phases—Windows Vista and Windows XP.

Installing Windows XP from a USB flash drive

Step 1: Download the software ‘Komku-SP-usb.exe’ from the websites mentioned earlier and execute it. The executable file will extract the necessary utilities to a folder called ‘C:komku’.

Step 2: Once the package has been extracted, go to the folder ‘C:komkuPeToUSB’ using Windows Explorer. Execute the file ‘PeToUSB.exe’.  Plug in the USB flash drive and make sure you choose the following (see image below) before clicking the start button. Select ‘USB removable’, ‘Enable Disk Format’, ‘Quick format’, ‘Enable LBA (Fat 16x)’ and finally give the drive a name under ‘Drive Label’. Once it’s done, click start to let the utility format the drive.

Step 3: Next you will need to start the command prompt. Click ‘Start | Run’, type ‘cmd’ and press [Enter]. Then go to the ‘bootsect’ directory by typing the command ‘cd C:komkubootsect’ and pressing [Enter]. Now type the command ‘bootsect /nt52 F:’ and press [Enter]. (The ‘F:’ is the USB flash drive letter represented in ‘My Computer’. Check to verify the drive letter used by your USB flash drive). Let the utility do the needful. Do not exit the Command Prompt yet.

Step 4: Now you will need to change to the directory ‘Usb_Prep8’ by using the command ‘cd C:komkuusb_prep8’ and pressing [Enter]. Here execute the command ‘usb_prep8’ and press [Enter]. Press any key to continue and you will see a welcome screen with a menu appear in the Command Prompt.

Step 5: Now at this stage, you will have to insert the Windows XP installation disk into your optical drive. At the Command Prompt menu, type ‘1’ and press [Enter]. A new popup will appear asking you to choose the location (path) of the Windows installation disk. Select the optical drive and click ‘OK’. Next choose ‘2’ from the menu and change the drive letter to any drive letter which has not been taken. It is drive ‘T:’ by default and you can ignore this step unless you do have a ‘T:’ drive on your computer.

After this, choose ‘3’ from the menu and enter the drive letter of your USB flash drive (in this case it would be ‘F’). Finally choose ‘4’ from the menu and press [Enter]. Wait for a few seconds for the process to complete and you will see a prompt to allow the utility to format the USB flash drive. Type ‘Y’ and then press [Enter] at this stage to let the utility proceed and install the necessary files from the Windows XP installation disk to the USB flash drive. This process will take a few minutes and depends on the speed of the flash drive.

Step 6: After the files are copied, you will see a popup window asking you for permission to copy files from the temp drive to the USB flash drive. Select ‘Yes’.

Step 7: Next there will be another popup window asking you to allow the utility to change the boot drive letter of the USB flash drive from ‘F:’ to ‘U:’. Select ‘Yes’.

Step 8: Finally, after all the processes are complete, you will see yet another popup window asking if you want to unmount the virtual drive. Select ‘Yes’. Exit the Command Prompt now and you will see that your flash drive is ready to install Windows XP to another computer.

To install Windows XP to the computer, you will have to go to the BIOS and enable the option of booting from a USB removable device. This option is usually found under the boot sequence menu of the BIOS. Plug in the USB drive to the computer before you turn it on. Now your computer will boot from the USB flash drive and will be ready to install Windows XP. Follow the necessary steps to install Windows XP and your computer will be up, raring and ready to go and running Windows in no time.

Installing Windows Vista from a USB flash drive

Making a bootable Windows Vista installation USB drive is far simpler than doing so for Windows XP because the utility is built into the operating system and can be deployed from the Command Prompt itself. All you would need is a computer running the Windows Vista operating system, the original Windows Vista installation DVD and at least a 4 GB USB flash drive. Follow the simple steps ahead to make your own Windows Vista bootable USB drive.

Step 1: Start Windows Vista, insert the pen drive into the computer’s USB port. Start Command Prompt, type ‘diskpart’ and press [Enter].

Step 2: Type ‘list disk’ and press [Enter]. Carefully note down the USB flash drive’s disk number listed here. In this case it would be ‘Disk 1’

Step 3: Type ‘Select disk 1’ and press [Enter]. Here the Diskpart utility is instructed to choose the disk 1 as the drive to be worked on.

Step 4: Type ‘Clean’ and press [Enter]. This command clears out all the information of the volumes, partitions, boot sectors and the MBR from the USB flash drive.

Step 5: Type ‘Create partition primary’ and press [Enter]. This command will create a primary partition on the USB flash drive.

Step 6: Type ‘Select partition 1’ and press [Enter]. This command instructs the Diskpart utility to select the newly created partition.

Step 7: Type ‘Active’ and press [Enter]. This command will make the current partition (primary) active to enable the USB flash drive to boot from.

Step 8: Type ‘Format fs=fat32’ and press [Enter]. This command formats the selected drive partition using the FAT32 file system.

Step 9: Type ‘Assign’ and press [Enter]. This command assigns a drive letter to the newly formatted partition. As there is no drive letter specified in the command line, the next available drive letter is assigned to the drive.

Step 10: Exit from the Diskpart utility using the ‘exit’ command and pressing [Enter]. Now insert the Windows Vista DVD in the optical drive and type the command ‘xcopy e:*.* /s /e /f F:’ and press [Enter]. This command will dump all the contents of the Windows Vista DVD onto the USB flash drive. Your USB drive is now ready to install Windows Vista on any computer. Just set the boot sequence in the BIOS of the system to boot from the USB, insert
the USB flash drive into the computers USB port and turn on the computer. Follow the regular installation for Windows Vista.

Installing Windows XP or Windows Vista from a USB flash drive is much faster as compared to installing from a CD/DVD. A high-speed flash drive would make a difference.

Essential Windows Tricks

The verdict is in: Windows 7 is Microsoft’s best operating system ever. It’s stocked with genuinely handy interface upgrades (hello, Aero Snap), long-overdue networking improvements (we love you, homegroups), touchscreen support (long live tablet PCs), and the best Windows Media Center experience yet (ClearQAM support at last).

Like every operating system, though, Windows 7 can benefit from a few tweaks here, some add-ons there, and a smattering of OS-enhancing apps and utilities. We’ve rounded up 27 of them, each one designed to make Windows 7 faster, easier, safer, or more fun. And because we know that many people still run Windows XP or Vista, we’ve identified the tips that work with those versions as well.

Make It Faster

Is Windows 7 really speedier than Vista or XP? Different Windows 7 performance tests have yielded varying results, but ultimately it depends on your hardware and the apps you run. Of course, with a few simple tricks, you can wring better performance from any system.

Go 64-Bit

Works in: Vista, 7 The old saw still holds true: Windows loves RAM. The more memory that you supply, the less the OS has to rely on the comparatively poky hard drive. But if you want Windows to address more than 3GB of memory, you have to run the 64-bit version. If you’re buying Windows 7 as an upgrade, you should find a 64-bit installation disc in the box; ignore the 32-bit disc entirely. In addition to recognizing more RAM, 64-bit Windows makes better use of your PC’s processor, giving you the best Windows experience possible.

Boot More Quickly

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 Does Windows 7 really boot more rapidly than other versions of Windows? Yes, a little. But the more programs you install, the slower your system will start (something that’s true of all Windows editions). Many apps force Windows to run them at startup–a situation not unlike a dozen cars trying to merge into one lane.

Startup Delayer is a great tool that tells the startup programs you select to sit tight, be patient, and run a little later–after some of the traffic has cleared. The end result is that your PC boots much more quickly.

The utility presents you with a list of all the programs that start when your system does. To set a delay for any of them, just drag the item to the white bar at the bottom of the window. You’ll see a line representing the app; drag it left or right to decrease or increase the delay.

Startup Delayer is a freebie, and it’s one of the best ways we know of to speed up a slow-booting PC. Even one that runs Windows 7.

Switch to Chrome

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 Quick–what’s the single most-used app on your PC? The Web browser, of course. So it’s no surprise that one way to make your Windows experience faster is to switch to the swiftest browser, and that’s Google Chrome. As we reported in “Browser Speed Tests,” Chrome loads pages faster than Firefox 3.5 (which ran a close second), Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10, and Safari 4. Granted, the advantage may amount to only a second or two, but those seconds add up.

Tweak Your Power Settings

Works in: Vista, 7 Using Windows’ power-management features to save energy makes sense–but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of productivity. For example, if you’re working on a desktop PC (or using a plugged-in laptop as your desktop), you don’t need your hard drive to turn off after 5 minutes, your processor to throttle back when idle, or your video playback to be ‘optimized for power savings’. Since you’re not trying to preserve battery life on this machine, you should crank every performance setting to maximum.

By default, Windows Vista and 7 both come configured for ‘Balanced’ performance. To crank things up a bit, click Start, type power, and select Power Options. Choose the High performance plan. (If you don’t see it listed, click Show additional plans.) Now your machine will run with desktop-optimized power settings. If you want to tweak individual settings, such as how long the hard drive should sit idle before shutting down, click Change plan settings, Change advanced power settings.

Turn Off the Eye Candy

Works in: Vista, 7 Everybody loves bells and whistles, but Windows’ eye candy come at a price–especially on older PCs with single-core processors or minimal RAM. If you’re more concerned with zippy performance than you are with transparent windows and animated controls, consider turning off the visual effects.

Open the Control Panel, type visual in the Search field, and click Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows. Choose Adjust for best performance, and then click Apply. After a few seconds you’ll see a decidedly plainer Windows interface–and enjoy a much snappier response. If the look is too stark, you can choose the Custom option and then select any effects you want to restore. Just remember: The more you enable, the greater the performance hit.

Remove Shovelware

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 To this day many PC manufacturers insist on stuffing new systems with unnecessary, unwanted software that consumes drive space and slows startup. We’re talking security suites you may not require, games you might not want, and vendor-branded utilities that are more nuisance than necessity.

Kick that junk to the curb. You can venture into the Control Panel and click Uninstall a program, or use one of our favorite freebies, Revo Uninstaller, to make a clean sweep; the utility not only uninstalls software, but also removes leftover files and Registry entries. Just make sure not to firebomb anything important, like Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft .Net Framework.

Expert Tip: Eliminate the Aero Peek Delay

Works in: 7 Aero Peek, one of Windows 7’s most celebrated enhancements, temporarily turns all your windows transparent when you mouse over the Show Desktop button. However, if you accept the default settings, the effect takes nearly a full second to kick in. Why wait? A simple Registry hack will enable instantaneous transparency.

Press the Windows key to open the Start menu, type regedit in the search box, and press Enter. In the Registry, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\Advanced. Right-click an empty area in the right pane, and choose New, DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name it DesktopLivePreviewHoverTime. By default, Windows will assign a value of 0, which is exactly what you want. Now just restart your computer (or log off and back on). The next time you mouse over Show Desktop, you’ll be Peeking at light speed.

Expert Tip: Run Performance Monitor

Works in: 7 If you like charts, numbers, and data sets, Windows 7 has just the tool for you. Performance Monitor tracks your PC’s hardware and applications in real time, generating all kinds of data that you can review and compare. It’s aimed more at system administrators than at everyday users, but if you’re trying to confirm a sneaking suspicion that, say, iTunes is single-handedly tanking your system’s performance, it can help.

To access Performance Monitor, press the Windows key, type perfmon, and press Enter. You can start assessing your system by expanding the Monitoring Tools folder and clicking Performance Monitor. From there you’ll probably need to delve into the built-in help files, as the tool isn’t exactly user-friendly. For more, check out the Microsoft Developer Network blog post on using Performance Monitor.

Make It Safer

Still looking for a good reason to trade Windows XP in for Windows 7? One word: security. The new OS is inherently better at fighting infections, blocking hackers, and thwarting phishing attempts. And with the extra tools described here, you can lock it down like a digital Fort Knox.

Install Microsoft Security Essentials

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 Windows 7 comes equipped with some solid security tools, including a robust firewall and the spyware-blocking Windows Defender. On top of that, you need a good antivirus program, one that works quietly in the background and won’t bog down your system. Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection against viruses and other kinds of malware, and its performance impact is negligible; PCWorld security guru Erik Larkin says it “holds its own” against other free antivirus utilities. Sounds like a fine alternative to paying an annual fee for virus protection.

Install Web of Trust

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 The seemingly innocent act of clicking a link–even one that’s at the top of a Google search-results page–can result in “drive-by downloads” infecting your PC. Scary, right? But how do you know whether a link is safe to click? Try Web of Trust, a browser add-on that will warn you of unsafe sites.

Specifically, the plug-in adds color-coded icons to each link that your search engine produces: green for safe, yellow for risky, and red for dangerous. You can also right-click any link, such as one that appears in an online forum, and choose View WOT scorecard to perform a manual safety check.

WOT is free, and available for both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Although its rating icons add a little clutter to some Web pages, we recommend it very highly for anyone concerned about security.

Create a System-Repair Disc

Works in: 7 Stop–before you do one more thing with your PC, dig out the box it came in. Do you see a Windows 7 disc or a system-recovery disc? They’re less common these days, so chances are it falls to you to create your own. And it’s vital that you do, because if your system ever becomes unbootable, a recovery CD or DVD might be your only recourse.

Thankfully, Windows 7 makes the task exceedingly easy. Just pop in a blank, recordable CD or DVD (you’ll need a burner, natch), click Start, type repair, and choose Create a System Repair Disc. Follow the instructions from there, remembering to label the disc when you’re done.

If you ever run into trouble, boot your system with the repair disc. It includes a variety of recovery and diagnostic tools, and also lets you choose a System Restore point to help get your PC back to a previous, working state.

Make this disc now. If you wait until after you encounter a problem, it’s too late.

Expert Tip: Tweak the UAC

Works in: 7 You remember User Account Control, right? Incessant annoyance? Poster child for everything that was wrong with Vista? Yep, that UAC. It’s back in Windows 7, and its heart remains in the right place: It’s still meant to protect you from running dangerous software or making unauthorized changes to your system–you know, of the malware, identity-stealing variety.

Of course, it can still be annoying, too. Fortunately Microsoft now gives you control over when and why UAC issues warnings. To tweak the settings, click Start, type account, and select Change User Account Control settings. You’ll see a slider with four notification levels. By default, UAC is now a little less intrusive than it was in Vista, notifying you only when programs try to make changes and not when you make changes to Windows. Want UAC to take a hike altogether? Drop the slider down to Never notify.

Make It Easier

When is an operating system easy to use? When it works the way you want it to work. Here’s how to make your Windows life simpler and more productive.

Close All Your Apps in a Flash

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 Done working for the day? Don’t try to close all your open programs individually. Instead, close them all in one fell swoop with a click of the Close All Windows icon. Unlike the Show Desktop function, which merely minimizes all open windows, Close All Windows terminates each running program. Don’t worry about losing your work: If an open document needs saving, the program will prompt you–the same as if you had clicked the red Close button up in the corner.

To make the best use of Close All Windows, pin it to your taskbar. (Windows XP and Vista users can add it to the Quick Launch toolbar.)

Move the Taskbar

Works in: Vista, 7 Widescreen monitors are great for watching movies and organizing windows side by side, but much of the time all that screen real estate goes to waste. Why not move the Windows taskbar to the side of the screen? This may sound crazy at first (and you’ll need a few days to get used to the results). But since Web pages, Word documents, and the like run top-to-bottom, the more vertical space you can give them, the better.

By relocating the taskbar to the left side (or the right, if you prefer), you’re freeing up vertical space for the stuff you use every day while making smarter use of wasted horizontal space.

To give this a whirl, right-click an empty area of the taskbar and clear the check mark next to Lock the taskbar. Next, left-click and hold on an empty area of the taskbar, and then drag it to the left (or right) side of the screen. Once you get close, you’ll see it lock in, at which point you can release the mouse button.

Vista users may want to extend the width of the taskbar (by clicking and dragging the right edge) to better see the labels for currently running programs. But Windows 7 users can keep the taskbar narrow, as the new OS doesn’t use taskbar labels anyway.

Tweak the Taskbar

Works in: 7 Jump Lists, program pinning, rich thumbnail previews–the Windows 7 taskbar definitely offers some nice amenities. However, since it’s “your” Windows (at least according to Microsoft’s recent ads), you should be able to make the taskbar work exactly the way you want it to.

Enter 7 Taskbar Tweaker, a free program that…well, the name pretty much says it all. This little utility offers six taskbar adjustments, including one that replaces the Jump List with the old-fashioned window menu when you right-click a running program.

Other options include disabling thumbnail previews, turning off window grouping, opening (rather than pinning) a file that you’ve dragged to a taskbar program, and cycling through windows when you left-click a grouped button. Our favorite tweak reassigns the middle mouse button to close or focus a window instead of opening a new instance of the program.

Reload All Your Apps After a Reboot

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 Windows XP, Vista, and 7 have at least one thing in common: They always urge you to reboot after installing new updates and patches. Afterward, you’d think the OS would be courteous enough to restore your currently running programs, much as Firefox and Internet Explorer 8 restore tabs after a crash or restart–but, alas, no.

Thankfully, Cache My Work can reopen your apps after a reboot. It’s especially handy for those times when you step away from your PC for a while only to discover upon your return that Windows has restarted without even asking you.

The no-cost utility builds a checklist of “cacheable” programs that are currently running. Check off the ones you want to restore, click Save, and you’re done. (The tool also gives you the option of restoring Windows Explorer windows, a nice touch.)

Install Apps in a Flash

Works in: XP, Vista, 7 So you just made the move to a Windows 7 PC, and now you need to install all your software. Talk about a hassle, what with digging out the CDs, downloading programs from various sites, and then babysitting your system while you install one app after another. There has to be an easier way.

There is. Ninite, an awesome free service, automatically downloads and installs a variety of popular no-fee apps. All you do is scroll through Ninite’s list of 70-plus programs, checking off the ones you want. The service offers the most current versions of nearly every popular freebie, including Firefox, iTunes, Microsoft Security Essentials, OpenOffice, Picasa, Skype, and Steam.

Once you’ve made your picks, click Get Installer to download a small executable file. Run that file and sit back while Ninite goes to work. How long it takes depends on how many programs you’ve selected. We chose a baker’s dozen (including the trial version of Office 2007 Standard, which we already own–now we just have to type in the security key), and Ninite was done in all of 10 minutes. That makes the service a must-have for anyone setting up shop on a new PC.

Expert Tip: Turn Your PC Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Works in: 7 Say you have a broadband card in your laptop, but no way to share its whiz-bang wireless connection with your iPod Touch or another PC. Or maybe you’ve paid for a hotel’s Wi-Fi service but you don’t want to pay again just to connect other devices.

You need Connectify, a clever utility that turns your Internet-connected PC into the equivalent of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Though at press time it was an early-stage beta, it worked quite well on our test systems. After installing the program, just click the Connectify icon in the system tray, choose the connection you want to share, and then enter a name and password for your wireless network.

Now fire up your other devices and look for the new connection. Join it, enter the password, and you’re off to the Internet races. Just keep in mind that because Connectify is still in development, it may not work perfectly with every device. On the plus side, it’s free while in beta, and it may remain an ad-supported freebie once it’s finished.

Make It More Fun

Looking for entertainment? Windows 7 has a couple of tricks up its sleeve: media sharing and Windows Media Center. The latter is available in the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions of the OS; only Starter doesn’t have it. Here’s how to get more enjoyment out of your Windows entertainment apps.

Autorotate Your Wallpaper

Works in: 7 Wouldn’t it be nice if Windows greeted you with a new wallpaper every time you start your PC? Or at regular intervals throughout the day? Windows 7 makes this so simple that you really have to wonder what took Microsoft so long.

To set your wallpaper options, press the Windows key, type background, and then click Change desktop background. By default Windows will show you its stock background art (and some lovely selections they are), but you can peruse different images (such as those in your Pictures Library) by clicking the Picture location drop-down or choosing Browse to pull from a specific folder on your hard drive.

Next, click Select All if you want to add all the displayed photos to your wallpaper rotation, or click the checkbox next to each individual photo you want to include. Then, click the Change picture every drop-down and set the desired interval (how often Windows will swap the current wallpaper for the next one on the roster) to 30 minutes, 1 day, or whatever. Finally, click Save changes.

Download More Themes

Works in: 7 Microsoft stocked Windows 7 with some seriously stunning Aero themes–packages of wallpapers, sounds, and a pervasive color palette–that range from architecture to nature to the good ol’ USA. To see that array of choices, press the Windows key, type theme, and click Change the theme. You can browse what’s there or click Get more themes online to tap into Microsoft’s Personalization Gallery. It’s home to about a dozen branded themes (Bing, Ferrari, the game Gears of War, the movie Avatar, and so on), plus 20 international themes with gorgeous artwork from places such as Brazil, Japan, and Taiwan. You’ll also find instructions here on creating your own theme or customizing existing themes. This site is a great resource for anyone looking to spiff up Windows 7.

Ditch the Antenna, Keep Your Digital Channels

Works in: 7 In previous versions of Windows, the built-in Media Center software could tune in (and record, DVR-style) locally broadcast digital channels–but only if you used an ATSC tuner and connected a reasonably good set of rabbit ears. This over-the-air approach worked well enough, but Windows 7 offers a much better option: ClearQAM, which delivers unencrypted digital channels via your basic-cable feed (assuming that you’re still a cable subscriber, of course).

All you need is a tuner card that supports ClearQAM technology (which virtually all current models do). With that, you should be able to tune in your local channels in all their digital, high-def goodness, no antenna required.

If you already own a tuner, such as AverMedia’s AverTVHD Volar Max, just install the latest drivers, disconnect your antenna, and replace it with your cable-TV coaxial cable. You’ll need to restart Windows and then run through Media Center’s signal-setup process, which you can find under Tasks, Setup, TV, TV Signal, Set Up TV Signal. Don’t be surprised if you actually gain some additional channels compared with what you received from the antenna alone.

If you’re in the market for a tuner add-on, check out the SiliconDust HDHomeRun, which includes two ClearQAM-compatible tuners. Instead of plugging directly into one of your PC’s USB ports as most tuners do, the HDHomeRun connects to your router. Once attached, this “network tuner” lets you watch and record live TV on any Windows Media Center-equipped system in your house. It runs about $150.

Watch Tuner-Free TV in Media Center

Works in: 7 Although Windows Media Center does a pretty good TiVo impression with its DVR features, you typically need at least one TV tuner to watch and record live shows. If your PC doesn’t have a tuner, however, you can just stream shows on demand–the Windows 7 version of WMC makes that possible, though it doesn’t exactly have a Hulu-like selection of programs.

To get started, click TV, Guide; you’ll see an entire grid of Internet TV, headlined by CBS Primetime and CBS Classic. Within those two categories you’ll find everything from The Amazing Race to Twin Peaks, all ready for near-instant streaming (WMC will need to perform a couple of one-time updates before you can watch anything). Alas, while CBS offers full-length episodes of shows like NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife, you’ll have to settle for mere clips of The Big Bang Theory and others. The same goes for most of the non-CBS shows mixed into the News, Comedy, Drama, Movies, and Sports categories.

Despite the limited selection of shows, this is a well-executed approach to streaming TV, and it’s hard to beat the comfort and convenience of living-room-friendly, on-demand media.

Stream Your Media to Other PCs

Works in: 7 Much like the popular Orb service, Windows 7 allows you to stream your music, photos, and videos (including recorded TV) from your home PC to other PCs running Windows 7. That’s great if you’re on the road with your laptop or netbook and you want to watch the football game you recorded at home. What’s not so great is the number of hoops that Microsoft makes you jump through to set the feature up. Here’s how to do it.

Start Windows Media Player, and click Stream, Allow Internet access to home media. Click Link an online ID, and then select Add an online ID provider. On the Web page that appears, choose either Download for 32-bit or Download for 64-bit, depending on which version of Windows 7 you have. Save and then run the downloaded file, which installs the Windows Live ID Sign-in Assistant app.

When that’s done, return to the Link Online IDs window and, under Online ID Provider, click Link online ID. Enter your Windows Live ID username and password. (Don’t have a Live ID? Click the link in the box to sign up.) Finally, click OK. Return to Windows Media Player, and click Allow Internet access to home media.

That’s one computer done. On your second system (say, your laptop), you’ll need to repeat the entire procedure. Afterward you’ll be able to browse the Other Libraries section in Windows Media Player to find the music, videos, pictures, and/or recorded TV that you want to view from afar. Setup may be a hassle, but Windows 7 media streaming works beautifully.

Expert Tip: Watch Netflix From the Couch

Works in: Vista, 7 If you’re a Netflix subscriber, the Netflix Windows Media Center plug-in isn’t just optional, it’s practically essential. Just click Movies, Netflix in Media Center to install the plug-in and sign in to your account. Then get ready for a shock: The Netflix plug-in offers way more functionality than you get from, say, a stand-alone Roku box or an Xbox 360. While those devices also provide Netflix access, they limit you to viewing your queues and streaming movies from whatever is in your Instant Queue. The WMC plug-in, on the other hand, lets you browse and search the entire Netflix catalog, adding movies to your standard queue or Instant Queue as you go. Netflix memberships start at $9 per month.

Expert Tip: Enjoy Hulu in Comfort

Works in: Vista, 7 Hulu Desktop is an experimental, Hulu Labs-devised app that gives you a 10-foot, remote-controllable interface for the TV-streaming service. Just one problem: You have no way to reach that interface from within Windows Media Center.

The free but unimaginatively named Hulu Desktop Integration download adds a Hulu Desktop icon to WMC. One click closes the latter and opens the former in maximized, full-screen view. When you’re done streaming, click Close to exit Hulu Desktop and return to WMC. It doesn’t get much easier than that.