OTT Guide to Backups, System Images and Recovery in Windows 10

Just about all new versions of Windows have many components that are taken from previous versions of the OS. Most of the time, it’s a better version of the old software. Sometimes, like in Windows 8, multiple versions of the same feature are included and it can make things worse.

Lastly, some features from older versions of Windows are good enough to keep as-is in newer version. One example of this is the backup options. In this article, I’m going to talk about the built-in backup features in Windows 10 and how it’s a blend of new Windows 10 features and old Windows 7 backup options.

In a way, it’s a good thing that you still have all the options you had before, but it’s also more confusing, just like having IE 11 and Edge installed at the same time.

Windows 7 Backup Options in Windows 10

In Windows 10, you can still do everything you were able to do in Windows 7 in terms of backups and recovery. If you go to the Control Panel, you’ll see an option called Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

The dialog that pops up is pretty much the same one you see in Windows 7. You can Create a system image, Create a system repair disc, Set up backup or restore a backup if there is one available.

If you click on Create a system image, you’ll have a  choice of where you want to save the image. Only on Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise can you save the system image to a network location.

Note that you cannot save the system image to any drive that is included in the system image. Creating a system image this way is a manual process. If you want to have it done automatically, you need to choose the Set up backup option.

This is the same as Backup and Restore in Windows 7. Basically, you choose where you want to save the backup to and then pick a schedule. The only thing you have to note is that you cannot create a system image if you backup to DVD. You have to backup to a hard disk or network location in order to have that option otherwise it’s greyed out.

By default, the system images are saved in the following format, where X is the drive you choose.

X:\WindowsImageBackup\PC_Name\Backup YYYY-MM-DD HHMMSS

For example, if I chose to save the system image to an external hard drive (E:), then I the location of the backup would be:

E:\WindowsImageBackup\AseemPC\Backup 2018-10-04 083421

Backup Restore Options in Windows 10

There are two ways to recover data from your backups in Windows 10. If you created a system image, then you have to boot to System Recovery Options in Windows 10 to restore the image. If you backed up using the schedule feature and picked files and folders, you can restore the files/folders from within the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) dialog.

Click on the Restore my files button and then you can go ahead and selectively choose which files you want to restore from the backup.

For restoring the system image, it’s a different procedure. Note that restoring a system image is a full restore, meaning that you can’t pick and choose what you want to restore; everything will be wiped out and replaced with the image. Restoring from a normal Windows backup allows you to restore individual files and folders.

To restore a system image, you need to boot to System Recovery Options in Windows 10. Once there, you need to click on Troubleshoot.

troubleshoot

Then click on Advanced Options.

advanced options

Then go ahead and click on System Image Recovery.

system image recovery

Next, you’ll have to choose an account and type in the password for that user account. You’ll then have the option to restore from the latest system image or choose a specific image, which you would do if you had the system image saved to an external USB hard drive, a network location or a DVD, for example.

system iamge backup

Once you have selected the image, you’ll have several options on how to restore the image to your computer. Note that you can only restore to a disk that is the same size or larger than the disks included in the backup image.

Reset this PC in Windows 10

In addition to the options above, you can also use a new feature in Windows 10 called Reset this PC. This is basically like performing a repair install in Windows XP or Windows 7. All system files are replaced and you essentially lose all your programs and settings, but you data stays intact.

This is exactly what Reset this PC does, but it’s a lot easier and really just takes a couple of clicks. It also gives you the option to completely erase everything and start from scratch. This is click performing a full clean install of Windows 10.

File History

In addition to all the Windows 7 backup and restore options, the Reset this PC option, you also have another new feature in Windows 10 called File History.

File History is turned off by default. Also note that if you are using a Windows 7 file backup with a schedule, File History cannot be enabled! You’ll see this message:

You have to turn off the schedule in order to use File History. This is kind of annoying since that means you’ll have to manually create system images if you like to have system images for your backups. Once you disable scheduled Windows 7 backups, you’ll see you now can turn File History on.

enable file history

It’s suggested that you use an external drive or secondary hard drive for saving the file history instead of a local hard drive or partition. You can also use a network location if you like. Actually, you can’t even choose a location on the same physical disk for File History. This is one advantage File History has over Shadow Copies, which was a similar technology in older version of Windows. If the drive dies, you can reinstall Windows 10, give it the same name as the dead system and then choose the same location for File History as the dead machine.

Once you have chosen a location, the Turn on button will be enabled so you can click on it. That’s about it, FIle History is now on! So what does that mean and what does it do?

Well, it basically saves versions of the files stored in your libraries, favorites, contacts, and a few other locations like Music, Videos, Pictures and Desktop. If you go back to File History after it’s made some copies, you can click on the Restore personal files option.

restore personal files

You can now browse through to a specific file or folder and navigate back and forth in time using the green blue keys at the bottom of the screen. Here’s an example of a text document I created and edited with some text.

windows 8 file history.png

If I click the left arrow key, I’ll see version 2 of 3, which has a little bit less text than version 3 of 3.

recover files windows 8

Pressing the green circular arrow button will allow you to restore that version of the file:

restore file

You can replace the file, skip it or see some comparison info on the files. Unfortunately, it won’t actually compare the content of the files, just the date and other info like the size, etc. File History sounds pretty good, but it has some serious issues in my opinion and with a lot of other people too, apparently.

1. If you rename a file, the history for that file is lost. It basically starts from scratch again. So renaming a file is pretty much the same thing as deleting a file and starting over. The old history still exists, just with the old name.

2. Following from point one, if you create another file with the name of the original file, the histories will be joined! So if you delete a file that had a history and then you create a new file with that same name, you’ll get the history of the previously deleted file too.

3. Copies are made of the entire file each time a backup is done. So if you have a 500 MB file that gets changed three times in a minor way, you’ll have three 500MB copies of that file.

4. You can’t backup anything other than files and folders. You’ll still have to rely on Backup and Restore (Windows 7) for actually backing up your Windows 10 system.

5. You can’t include additional folders other than the ones pre-defined by Microsoft. This means if you want to use File History, you’ll have to move the data to one of the designated folders.

Overall, it’s all complicated system of backup options in Windows 10 that will most likely confuse new users. Hopefully, this article sheds some light on the different options, their advantages and disadvantages and how you can use them in combination to create a robust backup plan for your Windows 10 PC.

Lastly, you can skip out on all the built-in options if they aren’t good enough and simply use a third-party tool for cloning and imaging your system. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Enjoy!

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10 Awesome Windows 10 Registry Hacks You Might Not Know

As Windows 10 gains a bigger market share over the next few years, you can be sure there are going to be a lot of ways to customize or tweak the registry! A lot of visual and under-the-hood changes can only be done via the registry.

In this article, I’ll show you 10 cool registry hacks you can use to customize your Windows 10 install. I’m sure there will be a lot more customizations in the future, so feel free to post a comment and let us know any good ones that you find.

Obviously, before you start, make sure you perform a backup of Windows and your registry.

Customize Desktop Context Menu

One nice registry hack is adding your own shortcuts to the desktop right-click context menu. By default, it doesn’t have much there, but if you happen to be on the desktop a lot, you can add some links to your favorite programs.

First, go to the following registry key:

Computer\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\

Now you have to add two keys under the shell key. The first one should be the name that you want to use for the shortcut and the second will be called command. Above, I created one called Notepad and then created command underneath Notepad. Finally, double-click on the Default key in the right-hand pane and change the value to notepad.exe, for example.

Now when you right-click on the desktop, you’ll see Notepad and clicking on that will open Notepad! Nice!

Desktop Icon Spacing

icon spacing

Thanks Microsoft for getting rid of the options to customize our desktop! What used to be so easy is now a registry hack! In order to change the desktop icon spacing (horizontal and vertical), you have to edit two values in the registry. Check out our previous post below.

Change Desktop Icon Spacing in Windows 10

Click to Last Active Window

This is probably one of my favorite little hacks for Windows 10. Have you ever had several windows of the same application open, like Word or Excel, and then had to click over to a different application like Chrome?

However, when you click on the icon in the taskbar to get back to Word or Excel, instead of taking you straight to the window you were on previously, it just shows you a small thumbnail image of all the windows. With this hack, when you click on the icon for a program with multiple instances open, it will take you straight to the last active window.

Of course, you could just press the ALT + TAB key combo, but this is useful if you always end up using the mouse rather than the keyboard. Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Go ahead and create a new 32-bit Dword called LastActiveClick and give it a value of 1.

Disable User Account Control

uac

User Account Control is a different beast in Windows 10 and you can’t even fully disable it via the traditional GUI interface you see above. To actually turn it off, you have to go to the registry or edit the local security policy. However, there are a few unexpected consequences to disabling UAC in Windows 10, which you can read in full below.

OTT Explains – UAC (User Account Control) in Windows 10

Confirm File Delete Dialog

Another missing feature in Windows 10 is the confirm file delete dialog we were all so familiar with. I never noticed it too much, but when I first deleted a file in Windows 10, I was shocked to see that the file just went straight to the recycle bin. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, but if you really want it back, here’s how to get it back. Navigate to the following registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\

Go ahead and create a new key under Policies called Explorer. Then create a new DWORD value and give it a name of ConfirmFileDelete. Change the value to 1 if you want the delete file dialog and 0 if you don’t want it. Sweet!

Registered Owner

Even though it’s so old and useless, I still like having the ability to change the registered owner in Windows to whatever I like. Don’t ask me why, it’s just some weird geek thing from the early days of Windows. Luckily, Microsoft still has the value stored in a registry key which you can change to whatever you like.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion

Under CurrentVersion, just find RegisteredOwner and change it. Also, note there is a RegisteredOrganization, you could could actually put two custom lines in the about Windows dialog. How do you even get to that dialog in Windows 10? Click on Start and type winver.

Paint Desktop Version

If you’re running several copies of Windows 10 on multiple computers and in virtual machines like I am, it’s nice to have the Windows version painted onto the desktop automatically. Windows 10 has a registry key that enables you to add this to your desktop automatically. Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop

Find PaintDesktopVersion under the Desktop key and change the value from 0 to 1. Next time you login, you’ll see the Windows 10 version number and build number as shown above.

Border Width

border width

If you don’t like the border size around all your windows while on the desktop, then you can change it by going to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics

Find the key called BorderWidth and change it to any value between 0 and 50. It’s defaulted to -15, which is some odd numbering scheme employed by Microsoft which I don’t really get. Luckily, you can just use 0 to 50 for this registry setting instead of the crazy negative numbers.

Get Windows 7 Volume Control

If you’re not a big fan of the new horizontal volume control in Windows 10, then you’ll be happy to know that you can get the vertical one again, just like in Windows 7. Navigate to the following key:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion

Create a new key under current version called MTCUVC and then create a new DWORD value inside of MTCUVC called EnableMtcUvc. Leave it with a value of 0.

Remove OneDrive from Explorer

Lastly, if you don’t use OneDrive for your cloud storage, then what’s the point of having it show up in Explorer all the time? Luckily, there’s a simple registry hack that will remove it from Explorer easily.

Navigate to the following key:

Computer\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{018D5C66-4533-4307-9B53-224DE2ED1FE6}

Change the value of System.IsPinnedToNameSpaceTree to 0 and restart your computer. That’s it!

If you’re using Windows 10 and feel comfortable modifying the registry, feel free to play around with the options above and customize Windows 10 to your delight. Enjoy!

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Fastest Way to Scan Large Number of Photos at Home

My father recently decided to start scanning all of our baby and childhood photos using his HP flatbed scanner at home and quickly realized that it would take years to scan all the photos into the computer if he did it one by one. He then looked into buying some more expensive equipment that could scan more photos at a time and faster.

There are quite a few options out there for projects like this that won’t break the bank. However, you’ll still need to be ready to spend anywhere from $200 to $1000 if you really want to scan a large number of photos or documents at home.

You can use an online photo scanning service, which usually requires you to ship your photos to a company, either within the US or outside. The WireCutter already has an in-depth article on which photo scanning service is the best to use, so check that out if you want to go that route. These online services are also useful if you need to do any kind of photo restoration.

Best High-Speed Photo Scanners

The list below is not in any particular order, so look through each before you decide. Again, the emphasis here is on speed and decent quality. You can always get something like a Doxie Q for less than $200, but it’s way slower compared to any of the scanners below.

You only need this kind of power below if you need to scan thousands of photos or thousands of documents. It doesn’t make much sense for a small batch. After I finished scanning all of my photos, I continued using my expensive scanner to scan in all the papers my kids bring back from school.

Fujitsu FI-7160 Color Duplex Scanner

The Fujitsu FI-7160 is a top-of-the-line duplex color scanner that will blast through your photo collection in no time. It’s currently around $880, which is a pretty hefty price tag for a scanner.

It’s got a 4,000 page daily duty cycle and a 80 sheet automatic document feeder. It can scan up to 600 dpi, which is nowhere near the resolution of the photo-oriented scanners mentioned below, but still good enough for most people. The best part of this scanner in my experience is the fact that you can feed it photos of different sizes at one time.

You don’t have to worry about sorting everything out first or anything like that. Just dump the documents into the scanner and scan away. It also does a great job with documents and photos that aren’t perfectly smooth and straight. It can handle bends and crumbled papers exceptionally well, which really comes in handy.

Epson FastFoto FF-640

Another great scanner is the Epson FastFoto FF-640. This scanner claims to be the fastest photo scanner in the world (1 photo per second). Whether that’s true or not really doesn’t matter. It’s super fast and can scan at a high resolution (600 dpi).

The other big pull for this scanner is the fact that it is only $650, which is quite a bit cheaper than the Fujitsu. As long as you are scanning at least 1,500 photos, the Epson is worth the money as it’ll cost about the same sending the photos to an online service.

The software that comes with it is also intuitive to use and easy to set up. The Epson can only handle about 30 5×7 prints in the ADF, but it can handle different sizes at the same time. If you want to scan 8×10’s, you’ll have to do those one at a time, though. The Fujitsu can handle 8×11 and smaller prints all at the same time.

The color accuracy is not as good as you would get from a photo-oriented scanner, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff if you need to scan a lot of photos fast. Also, the software is simple, but advanced users will find it too limiting. You’ll have to use another app if you want to fine-tune the photos.

Plustek Photo Scanner

If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, a cheaper option is the Plustek Photo Scanner, which comes in at $200. It can scan 4×6 photos in about 2 seconds and 8×10 photos in 5 seconds.

You do have to insert photos one at a time, but it keeps scanning without having to stop after each photo. The resolution is capped at 600 dpi, which is similar to the other scanners. The overall quality and color accuracy aren’t as good as the scanners listed below, but for the price and convenience, it’s not a terrible option.

Best Photo Oriented Scanners

The scanners listed below are geared more towards photo enthusiasts who need absolute color accuracy when scanning photos, slides or film strips. Quality is more important than speed for these scanners.

Epson Perfection V800/V85o Pro Photo Scanner

For those looking for absolute color accuracy and incredible quality and resolution, you best choices are the Epson V800 and Epson V850 Pro, which are $733 and $999, respectively. In addition, these are for those who need to scan slides and film strips.

These go up to a ridiculous 6400 dpi and have a lot of other advanced features to make sure there is minimal distortion when scanning the image. These scanners will also automatically touch up your photos to remove dust and scratches.

Even though they won’t be as fast as the ADF scanners above, these are still fairly quick because there is zero warm up time due to LED lights.

A cheaper option is also the Epson v600, which costs about $210.

Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII

The Canon CanoScan 9000F only costs $170, but packs a lot of features. For film, it maxes out at a super-high 9600 dpi. For everything else, it can go up to 4800 dpi. This scanner also uses LED lights, which means there is no warm up time. You can keep scanning back to back without stopping.

For under $200, it’s the cheapest, yet highest quality scanner out there. It has a Fare Level 3 feature which can remove scratches and dust, along with other enhancements, such as color restoration.

Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of the range and quality that you can get from different scanners on the market. If you want better photo quality, you’ll have to sacrifice speed. However, if you care more about speed, you have a couple of cheap options that will give you good quality results too. Enjoy!

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How to Store All Your Photos and Videos in the Cloud

Recently, I had some friends over and they were telling me about how they store all of their photos and videos on their computer or phone and don’t even make regular local backups to USB disks or external hard drives. This is definitely risky, which is why I consider it essential to keep a set of all your pictures and videos online in the cloud.

Uploading photos to the cloud has a couple of advantages over storing them all locally:

1. You can easily share the albums with others

2. You can access the photos and videos at any time and usually on other devices as long as you have an Internet connection

3. You have a backup of all your photos in case something happens to your local copy

I always have a local copy of my pictures and then have several copies stored in the cloud. Depending on what services you currently use, the best solution may be different for different people. In this article, I’ll try to cover some of the main ways to store your photos and videos in the cloud.

store photos in cloud

Before we get into details, I wanted to talk about the source for all these photos and videos. In my case, there are basically three ways I take photos:

1. From my smartphone

2. From my digital SLR camera

3. From my digital point-and-shoot camera

Photos and Videos from Smartphones

Storing photos and videos you take from a smartphone in the cloud is pretty straight-forward and there are a lot of options. For Android or iOS devices, you can use a variety of apps or built-in features to upload your photos and videos to the cloud, usually automatically.

Apple has iCloud Photo Library and it works fairly well most of the time. I’ve been using it for several years now and haven’t run into any major issues. All you have to do is purchase some extra iCloud storage and your media will be uploaded automatically once the feature is enabled.

For non-Apple users, there are quite a few options. The most popular choices here are Google Photos, Dropbox, OneDrive or Flickr. The Google Photos app is my favorite and I use it in addition to purchasing iCloud storage.

If you don’t use Google Photos or Picasa , etc., you can also use Dropbox. Dropbox is a service that basically lets you easily “drop” files into a bucket that is then available on any device or computer you have Dropbox installed on. And Dropbox has an app for every platform out there, including Linux, Blackberry, Kindle Fire, etc.

Dropbox also has an automatic upload feature called Camera Upload, which does the exact same thing as the Google Photos app. Any picture you take will be automatically uploaded to your Dropbox account when you open the app. OneDrive also works in the same way.

So these apps can basically take care of all your photos from any smartphone you own. They work on tablets, smartphones, desktops and on many other devices too.

If you install the desktop program on your Mac or PC, it will then automatically sync all those photos and videos to the computer too, so you have an extra backup on your hard drive just in case.

There are other apps like Facebook, but it doesn’t support automatic uploading of photos and videos. Still, I do upload photos to Facebook all the time, but I use Google Photos and Dropbox to store all my photos whereas I upload only a few good ones to Facebook. Facebook is not setup to be used as a backup of all your photos and videos.

Photos and Videos from Digital Cameras

Getting photos from your digital camera to the cloud is a little different, but not very complicated either. You pretty much have all the same options as mentioned above. The only issue with SLRs is that the files can be huge, especially for things like 4K video.

If you have a high-speed Internet connection that isn’t metered, then you can just drop all the files into one of your cloud synced folders and everything will be uploaded. If you are in the Apple ecosystem, you will need to use the Photos app in OS X to import the media into your iCloud Photo Library. However, large video files will quickly eat up your storage space.

The best option for large RAW images and super high definition video is external or network storage that is attached locally. I previously wrote about setting up your own cloud storage using a NAS device. With this setup, you don’t have to upload anything, but you can access your media from anywhere.

Personally, I have found that using some of these services in combination works out best. On my phone, I use Google Photos and iCloud Photo Library to upload my photos and videos.

For RAW images and 4K footage from my digital cameras, I normally backup to a large external hard drive and backup to my Synology NAS device. However, both of these copies are local and I would lose everything if the house burned down. To counter that, I setup an Amazon AWS account and backed up the really huge files to Amazon Glacier, which is really cheap. I have over 2 TB of data stored there and only pay like $10 a month. It’s worth it for me.

The other useful feature of a service like Amazon Glacier is that you can save several terabytes of data onto an external hard drive and ship it to Amazon. They will copy the data to their server locally, which prevents you from having to upload all that data over your home Internet connection.

Overall, it’s a good idea to store your photos and videos in the cloud along with having a local backup copy. If you still are confused about something or need any other help, feel free to post a comment and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!

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54 Best Alexa Skills and Commands

Amazon’s Echo speakers that come with the power of Alexa, have really changed the way people interact with devices at home. Personally, Alexa is the only device that my kids interact with on a regular basis. Siri was exciting for a few days for them, but just didn’t work well often enough.

While Siri has stagnated, Google and Amazon have really built devices and services that you can talk too to get information, play games, etc. and use to perform tasks like control your smart devices or order a pizza.

Not only that, but Alexa is incorporated into a bunch of different devices beyond those created by just Amazon. You can use Alexa on your TV, thermostat, in your car and even in some headphones. And since the service runs in the cloud, it constantly gets smarter and there is no need to upgrade your hardware.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most useful commands and skills that you can use with your Echo device and Alexa. Note that you can enable any Alexa skill by simply saying “Alexa, enable the NameOfSkill skill”.

54. Ask Alexa About Her Skills

If you’re not sure what you can ask Alexa, just say “Alexa, what things can I try?” and she’ll start telling you different commands you can speak. If you want to know what kinds of skills Alexa has that you can enable without having to look them up online, just ask “Alexa, what are your most popular skills?“.

If you want specific skills, you can ask about those too. For example, you can ask “Alexa, what are you games skills?” or “Alexa, what are your smart home skills?“, etc.

53. Brew A Cup Of Coffee

Like a good assistant, Alexa is on top of your java requests. The Behmor Connected Brewer is controlled by using your voice, a compatible smart switch and a very basic drip coffee brewer. It also integrates with Amazon’s Dash buttons. As a result, this feature automatically reorders coffee when it starts to get low.

52. Learn A Bit Of History

This Day in History is a skill that’s sponsored by The History Channel. It shares historical facts from the day with the user. Just say, “Ask this day in history what happened on March 10.” They also have a This Day in History Top Story, which is also a popular skill.

51. Can You Say That Again?

Reconfirm what was said by saying, “Alexa, can you repeat that?” or, “Alexa, can you say that again?” This high-tech personal assistant repeats what she said as many times as a user needs. Interested in looking up recent responses? Then check out the Home tab of the Alexa app. The user can also listen to the recordings of all the things that have been said to Alexa to-date.

50. Change The Wake Word

Changing the wake word from Alexa to another name is an option. However, it must be a name that’s included among the choices. Choose from amongst Alexa, Amazon, Computer or Echo.

First, pick a name from among the choices given. Then open the Alexa app or go to alexa.amazon.com. Next, open Settings, choose an Echo device, tap on Wake Word, select a name from the drop-down menu, and tap Save.

49. ChatBot Skill

Consumers that are active at work when they’re on-the-go will find the Chat Bot Skill pivotal to increasing productivity. By enabling the ChatBot skill, workers can audibly request Alexa to post on their behalf.

Linking an Amazon account to your Slack account makes this feature possible. The user can then post to a specific channel by asking “Alexa, tell ChatBot to post ‘The Future is Now’ to Random.

48. Check Capital One Bank Balance

If the user has a Capital One card, then checking their balance is hands-free. Just by saying “Alexa, open Capital One,” a consumer is able to check their account details: from checking your current balance to viewing available credit and cash on hand to seeing credit card due dates and recent transactions.

47. Check Stocks

Just by saying, “Alexa, ask Opening Bell,” a consumer is able to check the stock market. Furthermore, ask Alexa for the price of a stock using the company’s name instead of its symbol. By and large, the data from this service is provided by Market On Demand. Additionally, TD Ameritrade offers a similar skill.

46. Clean The Apartment or House

Enable the cleaning function along with the Neato Botvac Connected, the iRobot Roomba 690, 890, and 960, or the Samsung PowerBot VR7000 series. In this way, cleaning becomes handsfree. By saying “Alexa, start cleaning,” the high-tech assistant communicates with the wireless vacuum. As a result, the vacuum immediately goes to work cleaning the apartment or house.

45. Connect With Your FitBit

The Fitbit skill lets a consumer ask, “Alexa how many steps have I taken?” or “How well did I sleep?“. Users can also check how they did on other metrics recorded by their Fitbit activity tracker. Alexa is a savvy trainer too that is ready to talk the consumer through their workout.

44. Control The Thermostat

Smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat, Honeywell Lyric, and Ecobee are connectable to Alexa. Thanks to which, changing temperatures is simpler than ever. Specifically, Ecobee4 has Alexa built into it.

43. Create Distinctive Voice Profiles

Setting up voice profiles enables Alexa to distinguish who is issuing the command. As a result, it provides personalized results. By listening to a particular voice and asking, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?” Alexa replies with upcoming events from the voice profile’s calendar. Then if another voice asks “Alexa play music“, it will then select music based on their voice profile’s personal preferences. Read about how to create a voice profile here.

42. Create Reminders

Alexa, like a personal assistant, helps in reminding the user of their aforementioned personal tasks and errands. Therefore, tell Alexa exactly what you need to remember and it will remind you of that said task and time. To create a reminder, just say the task and its time such as, “Alexa, remind me to workout at 10 a.m. every Monday

41. Create Routines For Multiple Commands

There are strings of commands which encompass particular times of the day. For instance, the user can create a routine for the phrase Good Morning. A string of commands could be linked together into a routine. Therein, when the user wakes up and says “Good morning,” the routine turns on the lights, start the coffee maker, speaks the morning weather, and starts the car to warm it up. Currently, they only work for smart home devices, news, traffic and weather updates.

To create a routine, open the Alexa app, go to Settings, then tap on Routines.

40. Delete The Collected Amazon Voice Data

Overall, everything that is said to Alexa is recorded and uploaded to Amazon’s servers. Delete specific recordings, by going to the Amazon Echo app > Settings > History.

A list of everything recorded appears. To delete a recording from that list, tap it, then tap Delete voice recordings.

39. Exclusive Deals

By asking, “Alexa, what are your deals?” a consumer can review a series of Amazon Prime member-exclusive deals. You’ll need an Alexa-enabled device to order. Additionally, visiting Amazon’s Voice Shopping page briefs the consumer of the appropriate sentences to say to trigger purchases or add items to your cart.

38. Explore Space

The Red Planet poses plenty of questions while igniting a curiosity and the NASA Mars skill keeps users abreast with the goings-on of the Curiosity rover. It also delivers answers to commonly asked questions about the Red Planet.

There are also a couple of other great skills too like NASA Breaking News, NASA News and Daily Dose of Space and Space Facts.

37. Test Your Music Skills

Love listening to music? Well, why not test out how good you are at identifying songs and artists by playing the Song Quiz skill. It plays music from every decade starting from the 60’s. You can also play against someone else for true competition.

36. Get First Aid

Providing basic first aid answers, The Mayo Clinic released a skill checklist for first-aid from minor scratches to CPR. For instructional purposes only, this function briefs the user on vital life-saving techniques. It’s not to be used in a life-threatening or emergency situation though. In that case, it’s best to call 911.

35. Get Help

Tell your loved ones and significant others that you need help. While this is no substitute for 911, it is a service that quickly connects to your support system. When you can’t reach your phone, the Ask My Buddy skill sends an emergency notification by text, SMS or phone call to a preselected person. Another good one is SafeTrek.

34. Get Rules For Board Games

The Board Game Answers skill lets Alexa remind the user of the directions for popular games. If further clarification is needed during a game, then call out, “Alexa, ask Board Games who goes first in Monopoly.” Enabling the Board Game Answers command, Alexa becomes an on-hand digital referee that’s all ears.

33. Get Recipes

The Campbell’s Kitchen skill and command is by far the most popular function to find recipes, along with the AllRecipes skill. Five recipes are featured daily on the Campbell’s Kitchen skill. Most importantly, after selecting a recipe, the ingredients and directions are sent to the user’s Alexa app.

32. Get A Weather Report

The Big Sky skill offers local forecasts based on the user’s street address. Using information from Dark Sky, data such as wind speed and humidity is provided. Overall, Alexa also has built-in support for weather forecasts. Just say “Alexa, tell me the weather.”

31. Get The News

A 5-minute briefing of the day’s headlines, which is updated every hour, is available on The NPR News Now skill. Likewise, CNN, the Associated Press, and the BBC offer similar skill functions as well.

30. Find Your Phone

With Alexa, a consumer has immediate assistance in finding their phone using their voice. According to the reviews, the phone will ring even if it is on silent. It may not work, though, if your phone is in Do Not Disturb mode. You can also add multiple people by name to call different phones instead of just one.

29. Hear Your Horoscope

Daily Zodiac readings are available in several different apps. The Elle magazine’s Astro Twins skill provides one of the most popular horoscope readings. Once the skill is enabled, the user is able to receive personalized horoscopes from the Astro Twins. These identical twin sisters provide daily readings. Other good skills for horoscopes are  Daily Taro Reading and Astral Nina Daily Horoscope.

28. Hear a Motivational Quote

Receive insight and motivation from the Inspire Me skill. Serving inspirational quotes from famous people, from Maya Angelou to Christopher Walken, users are never at a loss for wise words. Uniquely, the quotes are spoken by the individuals themselves rather than via Alexa, which enriches the experience.

27. Listen To A Podcast

Stream thousands of podcasts with the Anypod skill. It’s possible to search by name, subscribe to podcasts, skip ahead or back, and pause an episode. When a user pauses an episode, it’ll pick up right where they left off. The Anypod skill offers a magnificent 3000-plus library of podcasts. With such podcasts like Serial, RadioLab, This American Life, S-Town, The Moth, The Daily, TED Radio Hour, and This Week In Tech.

26. Call Another Alexa Device

It’s possible to make voice or video calls to and from other Alexa-enabled devices. Compatible devices, for example, include the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, as well as the Alexa app on the user’s smartphone.

In detail, Alexa pilfers your address book to find compatible devices, and then it offers the option of calling or texting them. Just say “Alexa, make a call” or “Alexa, send a message“.

25. Make Individual Profiles

To check which profile is being used, ask, “Alexa, which profile is this?” To switch between profiles, say, “Alexa, switch profiles.” Multiple people and their respective Amazon accounts can be added to an Alexa household profile.

It’s important to realize that additional members doesn’t mean there are separate shopping or to-do lists. However, it does allow the ability to share content libraries. It’s also worth noting that this command allows those additional members permission to use the primary Prime account to order items.

24. Meditate

Get aligned with your breath and clear your mind with Stop, Breathe & Think, Meditation Timer. This function starts off by asking how long you want to meditate for. It also plays the sounds of forest, rain, or surf to relax.

23. Mix A Drink

Drink connoisseurs will enjoy the Bartender skill. This command gives the user access to more than 12,000 different cocktail recipes. Plus, by asking “Alexa surprise me with a randomly selected drink“, the user will receive a sporadic drink suggestion.

22. Order Anything From Amazon Prime

Just by asking, a consumer can order millions of products from Amazon prime through Alexa. Order anything that is Prime-eligible. What is not included in this function is the ability to buy apparel, jewelry, shoes, watches, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Prime Pantry, Amazon Prime Now or add-on items.

21. Request A Ride

Once a consumer has set up an account with Uber or Lyft and the payment options are fulfilled, they can request a driver from Alexa. By saying, “Alexa, ask Lyft to request a ride” a consumer is nearly ready-to-go. While your wish is Alexa’s command, the ride fare is debited automatically from your account.

20. Order Pizza

By setting up an Easy Order and enabling the Domino’s Pizza skill, the consumer can order pizza effortlessly. By saying “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order,” the pizza is ordered. Furthermore, the consumer can check the status of their order on the Domino’s Tracker updates. Pizza Hut also has an Alexa skill if you want to order from there.

19. Order Flowers

Simply saying, “Alexa, tell 1-800-Flowers to send flowers to Mom,” the user is able to expeditiously send a Mother’s Day gift. First off, a 1-800-Flowers account is required to enable this skill. Once the consumer is connected, they can easily order a bouquet. To be noted, the user needs to tell the company the addresses for the contacts, the arrangement style, and the preferred size. On the whole, payment info needs to be entered ahead of an order.

18. Pair Alcoholic Beverages With Food

Beverage recommendations based on what you are eating are suggested by MySomm. In sum, hundreds of recommendations in regards to ‘what goes with what’ are available. To activate the function, say “Alexa, ask Wine Gal to recommend a wine for a Pesto Fettuccine.

17. Personal Trainer

Training gets a whole lot easier when the user asks, “Alexa, start the 7-minute workout.” This function suggests reportedly tested exercises that’ll increase metabolism, improve energy and reduce fat. For the consumer who needs to make the most of their time, Alexa’s Personal Trainer function is a great tool.

16. Plan A Get-Away

Just like an assistant, Alexa is capable of helping consumers book travel on Kayak.com. By specifically telling Alexa the budget you’re working with, a more concise search is made. To utilize this travel-savvy feature, a consumer need only inquire “Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for $400.

15. Play & Stream Music

Using Amazon’s music library, the consumer is able to launch playlists. These playlists are based on specific activities, eras, artists, and even your mood. Stream music using Alexa from a variety of services like Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pandora, and SiriusXM.

The best-known command of Alexa is to play music which can be done by asking, “Alexa, play Classical Music.” Yet it’s also possible to stream the music. For this, Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited is needed.

If the user has Amazon Music Unlimited, then they’ll also need to go ahead and subscribe to the Family Plan. Then by going to Multi-Room Music section in the Settings menu on the Alexa app, users can follow the directions. After which, they will be able to easily stream the music of their selection throughout the home.

14. Play Games

By asking “Alexa, play Trivia games,” a user transforms into a player. Other games are available like Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, Chess, 20 questions, Bingo, Jeopardy, and Tic-Tac-Toe. To learn more about the game selection, check out the Games, Trivia & Accessories webpage from Amazon.

Another popular game that is an Alexa skill is Yes Sire, where you are the lord of a realm and have to make many decisions.

13. Pregnancy Advice

New moms will love the Everyday Health’s What to Expect skill for Alexa. In essence, it provides daily and weekly tips, guides, and advice for expectant parents. Moreover, it’s customized to the due date of the pregnancy. In the long run, it’s capable of providing advice for the first year of your newborn’s life, too.

12. Program A Song As An Alarm

Wake-up to the preselected soundtrack of your choice. This is accomplished by telling Alexa to play a song, radio station, or music genre at a particular time. For instance, “Alexa, wake me up to Classic Rock music at 6 am.

11. Send Voice Messages

Any contact of yours who also owns an Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show and has enabled calling is displayed in the Alexa contacts list. Send a message by saying, “Alexa, send [name] a message.” The message will send to the respective Echo device and Alexa app on the recipient’s phone.

10. Start Your Car

Start your car and warm it up before you get inside. Select Hyundai autos with the Blue Link feature can be started remotely. Moreover, one can lock and unlock the doors. The driver can change the interior temperature and turn on the horn and lights, by using the Blue Link Skill. Mercedes, BMW, and Ford vehicles offer similar skills too.

9. Get a Good Night’s Rest

The most used function on most Echo devices is playing some kind of music or sounds. If you have trouble sleeping, one of the most popular skills of all time on the Echo is Zen Sounds: Healing Sounds. The audio is of high quality and consists of 1 hour streams rather than short little audio clips.

Another one of my favorites is Ambient Sounds, which consists of thunderstorms, rain, ocean, bubbling brooks, and lots more.

8. Solves Quick Math Problems

Quick calculations or conversions, especially while cooking or dealing with foreign currencies can be problematic. Yet with Alexa, currencies or measurements are easily converted. Even mathematic equations are solved without the need for a calculator. Difficult tasks are solved by asking “Alexa, how many ounces are in a liter?” or “Alexa, convert 10 dollars to pound.

7. Tell A Bedtime Story

Just by saying “Alexa, tell a bedtime story to [child’s name]” parents have an instantaneous storyteller at beck and call. Alexa is capable of helping with story time. Moreover, the Bedtime Story skill is ultimately personalized to the child’s preference.

6. Tune A Guitar

Enable the Guitar Tuner skill to use Alexa like a pitch pipe and tune strings on a guitar. Ultimately, Alexa plays a tune and the user has to tune their strings until its sound matches the note played. This is a clever musical tool.

5. Turn The Lights Off

By saying, “Alexa turn off my connected lights,” the user is able to turn off the lights without moving. A key point to remember is that the consumer needs a connected device like a WeMo smart plug for this skill to work. Other companies like Lutron, Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue and Control4 offer similar skills for turning off the lights too.

4. Track An Amazon Purchase

Track an Amazon purchase by asking, “Alexa, where’s my package?” or stating, “Alexa, track my order.” Although details are not included, it will tell the consumer the expected arrival date of their delivery.

3. Use It As An Intercom

Utilize this intercom option to pipe into Echo speakers that are placed within a house. Providing a direct line of communication to the Echo devices around the house, messages are relayed quickly. Say, “Alexa, drop in on the living room,” then whatever is said will be played through the Echo speaker in the living room.

2. Watch TV

By connecting Alexa to a Logitech Harmony remote, voice-activated commands eliminate the need to push buttons. By saying, “Alexa, turn on my TV” or “Alexa, pause,” the command is automatically sent and received. Additionally, Dish customers are quite capable of controlling their satellite TV box using Alexa as well.

1. Word Of The Day

Learn something new every day with the Word Of The Day skill. On the whole, increasing vocabulary is more interesting with the Word Of The Day function. This smart command shares the definition of the word and it also uses the word in a sentence.

Whew! That’s a lot of commands and skills! I’m sure this list will be out of date within a year, so I’ll be sure to come back and update it with new features and skills that Alexa will gain. Enjoy!

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