When it’s trying to be helpful, but…

By | September 5, 2016
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Computers try to be helpful. Well, the people who program them try to make them helpful.

And sometimes, they succeed. But sometimes they add features that might be helpful to some people but are just, well, a pain in the neck to others.

One example of that is all the programs that starts up on most PCs when you first turn them on. This seems to have got a bit worse with Windows 10, though it could be bad enough before.

In particular I’ve noticed a lot of computers trying to log in to One Drive every time you start them up. Handy if you use One Drive (it’s a way to share files or store them online) but irritating if you just have to close the window down every time.

On some PCs there’s a similar issue with DropBox – you get a window about it every time you turn the computer on. Chances are at some point you’ve installed it. And if you still use it a lot, that’s fine. But if you hardly ever use it, you don’t need it starting every time you turn it on.

And there are various other programs that might start up when you turn the PC on… and may or may not be thing you actually want.

There are a few ways to stop your PC doing this sort of thing. In Windows 10, the easiest is to hold down ctrl and shift at the same time, then tap the Esc key. That brings up Task manager. (If you find the key combination too tricky you can right click on the task bar at the bottom of the screen and choose “Task manager” from there.

If when it opens, there are no tabs across the top of the window and it says “More options” at the bottom, click on “more details”. If it has tabs and doesn’t say “more details”, you can skip this step.

Now click on the start up tab at the top. This lists the programs that start up when you first turn on your PC. Some will have obvious names that tell you what program they’re starting. Some will have obscure names like HP274389B. Don’t worry about those – just look for the one you don’t want starting up. In my case it was One Drive, which I never use.

Click on that program and click on “disable” near the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

You should see it now says disabled next to that one. That’s it – that program now shouldn’t start up when you turn on your PC.

If you ever want to change it back, just do the same thing but this time when you click on the program in that list, the button will say enable – click that and you’ll be back to the way you were.

I wouldn’t recommend disabling anything you don’t recognise but you don’t need to worry too much about accidentally disabling something important because you can easily come back in an enable it again.

Oh, and don’t worry that this means you can’t use that program again. It just means it won’t automatically start up when you turn the PC on – you can still use it but you’ll have to start the program from the start menu (or wherever your shortcut is).

I find it much less frustrating now my PC doesn’t ask me to log in to One Drive every time I turn it on!

A flash drive for iPads
A lot of people use a flash drive (also called a pen drive, USB stick, USB drive…) to back up their files from a laptop. It’s a handy way to do it, but the problem is if you have an iPad you can’t easily plug a USB drive into it – there’s no socket for it.

One company has come up with a solution. Now, I haven’t tried one out, so I don’t know how well it works, but if you wanted a flash drive you can plug into an iPad, have a look here, it might be what you’re after.

If you have an Android tablet, you might have a slot to plug in a small micro SD card – they’re usually labelled micro-SD. You can use that in much the same way you’d use a USB drive on a PC. But if you don’t have one of these slots, the same company also make adaptors that let you use a USB stick with most Android devices.

As I say, I haven’t tried them out, but if you really want to be able to use a USB stick with your tablet, it might be worth a look (and if you have used one, why not make a comment on the blog version of this newsletter about how it went, so everyone else can hear about it).

10 thoughts on “When it’s trying to be helpful, but…

  1. colin price

    Dear Tim,
    Many thanks for your book one step at a time, it has proved most useful and I am sure meets the needs of many ,well worth buying.
    However I have come to the conclusion that computers have become a massive waste of time for normal people and the people who make them continue to make things worse day by day ,they have failed to recognise that they have embarked on a direction of development which completely ignores the need to make the technology more automated and user friendly ,they seem to live in a world where nothing is of any interest to them other than the machines they create and its high time that the rest of us who have a life to live and just want to use the information on the internet in a reasonable amount of time can do so without the need to become full time students of the technology .
    Well !,thats the proposal but what can we do about it before our lives and environment are run by something that works {some of the time } dictates even more how we should live ! .and thats after spending a ridiculous amount of our time finding out what choices we still have.

    1. Tim Post author

      I do sympathise – and I have to admit I quite often wonder what on earth the designers were thinking. I think part of the problem is they’re surrounded by people who (like them) are real techies, so they find it hard to think of how ordinary people will react to the systems they’re designing.
      But I’m not sure how to try and change that, so I’ve taken the approach of trying to explain the devices and make it easier for people to understand and use them… along with making the occasional pot-shot at Microsoft, Apple and the rest when they do something that strikes me as particularly daft!

  2. John Francis

    Hi Tim
    My Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 had neither a micro sim or usb port.
    I purchased an adaptor from Techgear via Amazon.
    For a couple of pounds it has extended the usefulness of my tablet.

  3. Barry McCallum

    Hi Tim
    Thanks for all your useful advice including the piece above about programmes you don’t want appearing on startup.
    In my case, soon after start up, my file explorer page appears. And often of course it is hidden behind whatever page I am looking at, and I don’t discover it’s there until I close the page(s) I have been working on!

    What I really need is somewhere on my PC that also lists programmes etc. that can just pop up when they want to, so I can delete them!


    1. Tim Post author

      I’ve never come across File Explorer doing that – not sure that helps to say it’s unusual! If you haven’t, it might be worth checking the startup program list to see if File Explorer is in there, in case it’s supposed to be opening when you start up the PC, but is just taking a while about it – sometimes they do take a while.
      If so, you can follow the process int eh article and that should stop it.

  4. Anne Seaton

    Thank you so much for your advice on programs that start up without request. I have been muttering for weeks about Microsoft One Drive appearing every time I started the computer – I did not want it and did not know what it did but I could not get rid of it. Now, thanks to your explanation, it no longer appears uninvited.

  5. Mary Foster

    I purchased a pair of adapters from my local Apple Store which enable me to connect a USB and a SD card to my iPad. £25.

  6. Geoffrey Turner

    Hi Tim
    Really useful advice about “Start Up”.
    When I went into the Task Manager Start Up list I was able to disable several programmes that I only use infrequently.
    I noticed, however, against the Google Chrome entry (I use this instead of Edge and wasn’t trying to disable it) there was a number (25) – when I expanded the 25, it showed 25 Google Chrome entries with a mixture of “High”, “Low” and “Medium” impact. I wonder whether this has any significance or is it simply the number of times I’ve started up Chrome.

    1. Tim Post author

      Well spotted! Technically a lot of programs (like Chrome) actually have several separate “streams” running. It’s almost like they’re made up of several different programs that work together.
      For example (and I’m going from memory about how Chrome works, so I don’t promise the details of this are right) Chrome probably has a separate stream for each tab you have open,plus for any fancy plug ins that are running. Then if one webpage is playing a particular kind of video, there might be a separate stream handling that. If you have toolbars that you’ve downloaded running in Chrome, they might be a separate stream and so on.
      But to make it easier, Task Manager groups them together as all part of Chrome.
      Not something to worry about – but I find it interesting the way what looks like one program can actually be effectively several running and working together!


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