Prevent a Mouse or USB Device from Waking Windows from Sleep Mode

One of the best power management features in Windows is sleep mode, a convenient way to save power and reduce the wear and tear on your PC hardware while it isn’t being used. Normally, your mouse and keyboard are set by default to wake up Windows from sleep mode.

This isn’t a problem for most people, but can be troublesome for certain people with a very sensitive mouse. Even slight vibrations can cause Windows to wake up from sleep. Luckily, you can easily disable the mouse or any other USB device from waking Windows up.

In this article, I’ll show you how to change the power settings for your mouse or USB device so that it won’t interfere with Windows sleeping. For me, I just use my keyboard to wake up the computer, so I don’t have to worry about pressing the power button.

Stop Mouse from Waking PC

To start, go to Control Panel and click on Mouse. If you are in category view, click on Hardware and Sound and then click on Mouse under Devices and Printers.
mouse settings

In the Mouse Properties window, click on the Hardware tab and select your mouse from the list of devices. Normally, there will only be one mouse listed here, but that will depend on the hardware you have connected to your computer. When you have selected your mouse from the list, click the Properties button.

mouse properties

In the second Properties window for your mouse, click on the Change Settings button on the General tab.

second mouse properties

Finally, click the Power Management tab and uncheck the Allow This Device to Wake the Computer box. Click the OK button and click OK on all the other open windows too. From now on, you cannot wake up Windows from sleep mode by clicking a mouse button or moving the mouse around.

allow device to wake computer

Some high-end mice, like gaming mice, have high polling rates and high DPI, which means even the tiniest of movements will be detected and cause your computer to wake up. Fixing this setting will prevent that from happening. Note that you can also get to this setting by clicking on Start and then typing in Device Manager.

device manager

Expand Mice and other pointing device and then right-click on the mouse and choose Properties.

hid compliant mouse

This will get you to the same dialog with the Power Management tab as shown above. To prevent other USB devices from waking your computer, just right-click on them, choose Properties and go to the power tab. For example, you can also prevent the keyboard from waking your computer or the network card too.

keyboard power management

If you’re having other sleep issues, make sure to check out my post on troubleshooting Windows not going to sleep. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Enjoy!

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How to Stop an LCD Monitor from Flickering

Compared to older displays, LCD monitors are an excellent low-cost, low-power solution to our need for a computer display. Unfortunately, some monitor settings can make an LCD screen appear to flicker.

A flickering LCD monitor is more than just an annoyance. It can cause eye strain, headaches, and a host of other ailments, especially if you spend a great deal of time in front of your computer. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to stop the flickering and avoid these problems. In this article, I’ll show you how to stop your LCD monitor from flickering.

What Causes an LCD Monitor to Flicker

Although your computer monitor may appear to be a still image when no one is using it, it is actually being updated constantly. Much like a film strip is just a bunch of static images displayed quickly, your monitor updates at a fast rate to make it look like things are moving smoothly on the screen.

The rate at which your monitor updates is measured in Hertz. One Hertz is equal to one cycle per second. If your monitor is set to update at a rate of 100 Hertz, then it is refreshing 100 times per second. The Hertz used to measure monitor refresh rates is similar to the Gigahertz used to measure the speed of your CPU, except that Gigahertz is a measure expressed in billions of cycles per second.

monitors

If the refresh rate on your LCD monitor is set too low, it can appear to be flickering since there aren’t enough updates per second. While some people are comfortable with around 30 Hertz, others can see the flickering and require a higher refresh rate. The most common refresh rate is 60 Hertz.

There are other factors that can cause screen flickering and I have mentioned those at the bottom of this post.

Setting the Refresh Rate for an LCD Monitor

The refresh rates that you can set for your LCD monitor are largely determined by the capabilities of your monitor. While some LCD monitors can take advantage of several different refresh rates, others are confined to just one or two.

To choose a new refresh rate for your LCD monitor in Windows, begin by clicking on Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Display. If you are on Windows 8 or 10, just right-click on the Start button and choose Control Panel. If you’re in icon view, you can click directly on Display.

display

On the left hand side of the window, click on Change Display Settings.

change display settings

Finally, click on Advanced Settings at the bottom right of the window.

advanced display settings

Click on the Monitor tab and you will notice a few things. First, notice the setting labeled Screen Refresh Rate. This is the current refresh rate for your LCD monitor. Click the drop down menu and Windows will display all of the refresh rates possible for your monitor.

It is likely that your monitor can only use one or two refresh rates, so this list may not be long. Some manufacturers build monitors that can display anywhere from 30 Hertz to 200 Hertz. Normally, monitors with higher refresh rates will be more expensive. A common refresh rate for gaming monitors is 144 Hertz. If the price of a monitor seems too cheap to you, it’s probably because it has a low refresh rate. For example, some new 4K monitors are cheap, but are only 30 Hertz, which can make everything look choppy on the screen.

Also, a lot of monitors will show 59Hz and 60Hz and you can pick between the two. So what’s the difference? It’s basically something to do with rounding and it really doesn’t matter. You can read the exact details on 59Hz vs 60Hz here.

monitor refresh rate

From here, you can try a higher refresh rate and see if the flickering stops. Usually this does the trick. If it doesn’t work or there is only one refresh rate listed, there are two things you can try.

First, make sure you are using the latest driver for your LCD monitor. If the driver is outdated or Windows is using a generic driver, the number of refresh rates available may be limited. Visit the manufacturer website and download the latest driver for your version of Windows.

If that doesn’t work, you can force Windows to use a refresh rate that is not technically supported by the monitor. Be careful, though, because it is possible to damage your monitor hardware if you do this.

On the Monitor tab shown above, there is an option that is checked by default called Hide Modes That This Monitor Cannot Display. By unchecking this option, you can force Windows to use any refresh rate for your monitor that you want.

Notice that right underneath this option, Windows warns you about an unusable or damaged display. Uncheck this option and set your monitor to an unsupported refresh rate at your own risk. Depending on your version of Windows, this option may be grayed out, meaning you can only pick from the refresh rates listed in the box.

For Mac users running OS X, you can go to System Preferences and click on Display. Here you can change the refresh rate for an external display connected to your Mac.

refresh rate mac

Other Screen Flickering Causes

If changing the refresh rate doesn’t fix the flicker on the screen, it could be related to other factors. Here is a list of other items you should check:

Cable – If you can, change the cable connecting your monitor to your computer. In some cases, a defective cable can cause the signal to break while being transmitted across the wire.

Input Port – Another solution is to use a different port on the monitor, if possible. For example, if you are connecting using HDMI, try DVI or DisplayPort or VGA instead and see if that fixes the problem.

Surroundings – In addition to hardware issues, electromagnetic fields can also cause screen flickering problems. If you have something else plugged into the same power strip like a heater, fan, etc., try removing it.

Video card – If there is an issue with your video card, it will obviously effect the output on the screen. Update the drivers and open your computer to ensure that the video card is properly seated in the slot.

Monitor – Lastly, the monitor itself could be damaged or defective. Try connecting the monitor to another computer to see if the problem goes away or remains.

Hopefully, this will help you figure out what’s causing the flickering issues with your monitor. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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How to Turn on Private Browsing in Firefox

All web browsers now have a privacy feature called private browsing that lets you browse websites without your history being tracked locally on your computer. I’ve already written about how to enable private browsing on IE 11 and Microsoft Edge and in this article we’ll talk about Firefox.

Note that in Firefox, private browsing works a bit differently than other browsers. In addition to not recording your web browsing history, Firefox also enables tracking protection. This will block parts of sites that try to track your browsing history across multiple sites.

Ever visit a travel website to do some research on a vacation and then suddenly see ads for that same place while browsing other websites? That’s you being tracked as you browse. Firefox will prevent this when you are in private mode.

To enable private browsing in Firefox, click on the hamburger icon at the top right and then select New Private Window. You can also just use the CTRL + SHIFT + P keyboard shortcut.

new private window

You will be able to tell you are in private mode because of the mask located in the top right of the window.

private browsing enabled

You’ll also get a new window showing you what is saved and what is not saved while browsing in this mode. As with all private browsing, your activity is not tracked locally in your browser, but your ISP, employer or even software installed on your system can possibly track everything you are doing.

tracking protection enabled

As mentioned earlier, tracking protection is enabled also, but can be turned off. By default, it uses the list provided by Disconnect, which is an online security and privacy product. Firefox uses the standard list, which blocks common advertising trackers, social sharing trackers and analytics trackers.

If you want even more protection, you can enable the strict protection list, which will block all trackers. The only issue with this is that it might break some sites since it blocks a lot of stuff. You can enable the stricter list by clicking on the hamburger icon, then clicking on Options and then going to Privacy.

change block list

Next to Use Tracking Protection in Private Windows, click on the Change Block List button.

disconnect strict list

Now go ahead and click on the Disconnect.me strict protection list and then click Save Changes. So what exactly does this do? Well, here’s an example of my own website below.

resources blocked

If you open up the web console, you’ll see exactly what resources get blocked. In my case, all the ads from Google are blocked, Kontera, the Google Analytics script, and Google+. Your browsing will definitely be faster and more private using this mode. Obviously, it hurts sites that make their money off ads like mine, but that’s your choice.

If you need to allow trackers on specific sites, you can click on the little shield icon in the address bar and then click on Disable protection for this session.

disable tracking protection

Finally, if you want to enable private browsing mode all the time in Firefox, you can do that by going to the same Privacy tab under Options and then choosing Never remember history next to Firefox will: under the History heading.

never remember history

Choosing this option is the same as private browsing mode. The only difference is that you will not see that purple mask icon in the browser window. Firefox will have to restart in order for the changes to take effect. You can also click on Use custom settings for history and then check the Always use private browsing mode box.

always use private mode

This is exactly the same as choosing Never remember history, so I’m not sure why they have the option here also. I’m guessing it’s more clear to users and therefore they feel safer. Private Browsing mode will also delete all cookies when Firefox is closed. Other data that is not stored include form and search bar entries, passwords, list of downloads, and cached web content (temporary Internet files).

Overall, Firefox’s implementation of private browsing is really good from a privacy and security perspective and definitely worth using when you need to keep your browsing history private. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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External Hard Drive Not Showing Up in Windows or OS X?

Mac or Windows computer not recognizing your external hard drive or flash drive? This is a common problem, especially when connecting hard drives between Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. It can also happen on a single system where it was working just fine for a long time and then suddenly stops being recognized by the operating system.

Sometimes the fix is easy and sometimes it is a bit more complicated. In this article, I’ll try to go through the different solutions on Mac and Windows for fixing this issue. How the drive is formatted and what file system is being used is the most common reason why drive is not recognized.

hard drive

Assign Drive Letter

The other main reason is that the drive simply is not being recognized by Windows or Mac and therefore won’t even show up on your system at all. This is usually a problem with drivers or hardware. In order to figure out whether your problem is related to formatting or to not being recognized, go to Disk Management in Windows or Disk Utility on OS X and see if the drive shows up there.

disk management

If the drive shows up here, but not in Windows Explorer, you might have to assign a drive letter to the disk. Normally, Windows does this automatically, but sometimes because of other connected devices, your external hard drive will be recognized, but not have any drive letter assigned to it. In Disk Management, just right-click on the disk and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths.

change drive letter

Pick a letter for your drive and you should be good to go. If the drive is showing, but you’re getting messages about the drive needing to be formatted, etc., then read the next section below.

On Macs, the drive should automatically appear on the desktop. If not, go to Disk Utility and check to see if it appears under the heading External.

disk utility os x

If the drive is showing here, but not on the OS X desktop, then click First Aid to try and repair the drive. If the drive has a file system not recognized by OS X, you’ll need to erase it and the format it using FAT or HFS+.

If the drive is not showing up in Disk Management or Disk Utility at all, you have some other type of problem. Scroll down to the Not Showing Up section below.

Format Drive

When it comes to file formats, there are a couple of major formats that are used about 99% of the time: FAT32 and NTFS for Windows and HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) for Macs. Now OS X can read and write to FAT32 formatted drives, but can only read NTFS volumes.

Windows is worse in the sense that it cannot even read or write to HFS+ formatted volumes by default. You can get Windows to do it, but you have to purchase third-party software. The only other option is to format the hard drive and use the FAT32 format for the best compatibility.

When you connect a HFS+ formatted drive to Windows, you’ll get a message stating that the drive needs to be formatted in order to be used.

format fisk

If you see this message, it just means that Windows does not recognize the file system on the drive. Make sure you connect the drive to the appropriate operating system and backup any data that you might need before performing a format.

So what’s the best format to use so that you can see your hard drive on multiple operating systems? The legacy format that is most compatible is FAT32, but it limits you to only 4 GB for max file size. You can read my previous post on how to format an external hard drive using FAT32.

If you need support for bigger files, then you should use the exFAT format. It’s newer and supports much larger files, but only works with newer versions of OS X and Windows. You’ll have to be running OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) or higher or Windows XP or higher.

exfat

In Windows, you can choose exFAT as the file system format in addition to NTFS and FAT32. When you format a drive in OS X using Disk Utility, you can also choose the exFAT format if you like.

exfat mac os x

Drive Not Showing Up

If you connect the drive to the computer and nothing happens, one of several things could be going on: your hard drive might have a problem, the correct software or drivers are not installed on your system, or there is something not working properly with the operating system. Let’s start with some common problems and their solutions.

Windows – Device Manager

Sometimes old drivers can cause a device to malfunction when connected to Windows. You can try fixing this by first going to the command prompt (Start and type in CMD) and running the following command:

set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1

run command

Once you do that, open Device Manager (Start and type in device manager) and then click on ViewShow Hidden Devices.

uninstall devices

Expand out Portable Devices, right-click on any items that are grayed out and choose Uninstall. Restart your computer and try to connect the hard drive again.

In addition to Portable Devices, you can expand out Disk Drives and try to uninstall the device from there if it is not showing up properly in Windows Explorer.

uninstall disk drive

Windows – USB Device

If you connect your USB drive to Windows and get a USB Device Not Recognized error, make sure to check out the link on how to fix that particular problem. Windows tries to blame the device for malfunctioning, but it’s normally a problem with Windows.

USB Ports/Secondary PC

You can also try plugging the drive into another USB port on the computer to make sure it’s not a problem with that particular port. If you are connecting to a USB hub, disconnect that and try to connect the drive directly to the computer.

The only way you can really tell if the problem is with the computer or the hard drive at this point is to connect the drive to another computer. If the drive doesn’t work on another computer, it’s highly likely something is wrong with the drive itself.

Drive Tools

If it appears that there is a problem with the drive itself, you can try to download the diagnostic tools from the drive manufacturer. Just about all the major brands like Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, etc., have these diagnostic tools.

http://www.seagate.com/support/downloads/seatools/
Western Digital DataLifeguard Diagnostic
Fujitsu (Toshiba) Diagnostic Utility

You can also read my previous post on checking your hard drive for errors for more information and more tools to test hard drives. If the drive has become corrupt or has bad sectors, these tools can fix it.

USB 3.0 Drives

If you have a USB 3.0 external hard drive, there are a couple of extra considerations you have to take into account. Firstly, make sure you are using an appropriate cable. I’ve run into several clients that had this problem and fixed it by simply using a different USB cable. So try out several cables before you give up.

Secondly, you might need to update the driver in Windows. Again, go to Device Manager, expand Universal Serial Bus controllers, right click on the one that has USB 3.0 in the text and choose Update Driver.

usb 3 drive

Power Issues

The only other possibilities with this type of problem are lack of power or complete hard drive failure. Make sure the hard drive has the correct external power adapter and that the light on the front of the drive is turning on and is not orange or red. Also, try using different cables as some are able to carry more power than others.

Hopefully, this article will help you get your external hard drive recognized by Windows or Mac. If not, post a comment and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!

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How to Color Splash Photos on iOS, Android and PC

The color splash effect is a cool photo effect where a picture is first converted to black and white, then color is added back to certain parts of the image. This works really well in images with a lot of bright color because it looks much more dramatic when the rest of the image is converted to black and white and one items remains in color.

In this article, I’m going to show you how you can color splash your photos on the desktop and on your smartphone (iOS and Android). Note that I’m only going to mention the tools that I have used myself, but there are many alternatives on all platforms, so feel free to choose another tool if you like. The procedure for adding the color splash effect is pretty much the same regardless of which tool or platform you use.

Here’s a quick before and after example of the color splash effect added to one of my family photos:

before color splash

after color splash

When choosing a photo to color splash, here are my guidelines for getting the best results: choose a photo that has a lot of bright colors across the entire photo and make sure the part of the photo you color splash takes up a large percentage of the photo. If you have a photo with one object that is very bright and the rest is darker or neutral colors, color splashing the bright part won’t make much of a difference.

If the part you choose is too small, the effect won’t look good either. As you can see from above, the boy in the above picture doesn’t take up a lot of the photo and therefore the effect is not as dramatic. He is wearing bright colors, so that helps a bit.

Desktop Tool

On the desktop, the best way to color splash a photo is to use an online tool. They are free, easy to use and don’t require you to install anything on your hard drive. The first online tool I recommend is Fotor. Click Get Started and wait for the editing interface to load.

open file

Now click on the Open button and choose the location where you want to import your picture from. Once the picture is loaded, click on Color Splash in the left-hand side of effects.

fotor color splash

You can choose from a couple of free effects, which don’t have the small diamond icon at the top right. I chose the top one with the flower and it worked just fine for me. Now you adjust the brush size and start coloring in the part or parts of the photo you want to add color back to.

fotor add effect

Once you have added the effect to your image, click on the Save icon at the top next to the Open button. You can now save the file to your computer for free and it doesn’t add any kind of watermark or anything like that.

save file fotor

iOS App

My favorite app on the iPhone for the color splash effect is Color Splash by Pocket Pixels. It costs $0.99, but is totally worth it. I find the app on the phone or iPad to be a lot better to use than the online tool I mentioned above.

Using your finger is actually the perfect way to add color back to the photo and pinching and zooming with your hands makes it super easy to edit only the parts you want.

color splash ios

As you can see, it’s really easy using the app to color in complex objects with lots of curves using just your fingers. Once you load an image, it will be grayed out and you can start coloring in by tapping on Color at the bottom and then moving your finger across the image. When you want to move the image, tap Pan + Zoom or just use the pinch motion with your fingers.

Tap on Gray if you added too much color and want to black and white parts of the image again. At the top right, you can undo your actions easily. When you are done, just tap the icon at the top left to save the image to the camera roll, share the image or load a new image.

Android App

On Android, I used Color Splash Effect by a company called City Photo Editor. There are a lot of other free options, so you have quite a bit of choice. Some of the other programs are full photo editors and one small feature is the color splash effect.

android color splash

This program is pretty much the same as all other color splash apps. Tap the magnifying glass in order to zoom and move the picture around. Then tap on Free Color or Smart Color to start coloring in the image. Use the Eraser to make parts black and white again.

Overall, color splashing is really easy to do on all platforms and mostly takes time and patience. Now you can post cool photos to Facebook or Instagram and impress your friends or followers! If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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