News, tips, advice, support for Windows, Office, PCs & more. Tech help. No bull. We're community supported by donations from our Plus Members, and proud of it
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • Many ways to track down a PC’s energy problems

    ISSUE 16.28.0 • 2019-07-29

    Logo
    The AskWoody Plus Newsletter

    In this issue

    LANGALIST: Many ways to track down a PC’s energy problems

    BEST OF THE LOUNGE: BlueKeep exploitation expected soon?

    PATCH WATCH: Wrapping up July Windows and Office updates

    WINDOWS 10: Windows 10 gets better at taking screenshots

    BEST UTILITIES: Freeware Spotlight — Quick Access Popup


    FROM THE EDITOR

    AskWoody Plus Newsletter on summer break

    The newsletter is taking two weeks off to enjoy a bit of summer. The next full issue will appear on August 19.

    Thanks for your support!

    The AskWoody Plus Newsletter crew


    LANGALIST

    Many ways to track down a PC’s energy problems

    Fred Langa

    By Fred Langa

    Overheating, poor battery life, fan noise, and shortened component life are just some of the problems a PC can face when its energy-control systems run amok.

    But Win7, 8.1, and 10 all offer tools to help you see exactly where your device’s energy is going — and to pinpoint what, if anything, is using too much power.

    Plus: The world’s most private search engine?

    What’s sucking up her laptop’s battery power?

    Reader C.H. asked for help after she noticed excessive energy use in her portable PC. But too-high energy use isn’t just a problem for portable devices: it can detrimentally affect the performance and lifespan of any PC — desktop, laptop, or tablet — running any Windows edition or version.

    So, C.H.’s question can be a jumping-off point to look at Windows energy diagnostics in general. She asked:

    • “Why is my Win10 laptop’s battery suddenly depleting so quickly?”

    It shouldn’t be too hard to find out. Windows 10, 8.1, and 7 all offer built-in energy self-diagnostics that can help you identify where your PC’s or laptop’s power is going.

    But first, I’ll assume that you’ve taken all the usual steps to maximize battery life. A Google search will turn up many examples.

    You noted that the problem happened “suddenly.” Sometimes, an update or other change can introduce an incompatibility or detrimentally tweak a previously working setting. If you updated/upgraded anything on your PC just before the problem appeared, a good stopgap might be to temporarily roll back/uninstall/undo/etc. that change. It might restore normal battery life while you investigate what’s wrong.

    Now on to the troubleshooting!

    Win10 Version 1809 or newer: Let Task Manager monitor your software’s energy use in real time. Open Task Manager (start typing task manager in the search box and then click the app when it’s offered) and then click More details if needed. Widen the new window until you see the two columns on the far right labeled Power usage and Power usage trend.

    The Power usage column shows you how much energy the listed processes are consuming right now, relative to other software on the system. Power usage trend shows the running-average power use over the past two minutes, which smoothes out momentary highs and lows and better reveals longer-term energy-use patterns (see Figure 1).

    Task Manager power tracking
    Figure 1. The Win10 Task Manager’s Power usage column shows the energy demands of listed software at that moment; Power usage trend shows a running two-minute average.

    You can click the header on each column to sort the listed items (ascending or descending — your choice). You also can re-order the Task Manager columns — just grab any column by its header and drag it left or right to where you want it.

    Leave the Task Manager window open and at least partially visible on your desktop. As you run through your typical computing routine, keep an eye on the Power usage trend column. Whatever apps show steady or frequent High — and especially Very high — power usage trends are the likely energy overusers.

    Win10 – all current versions: Run the built-in (and somewhat hidden) battery report command. On a portable Win10 device, open an admin-level command window (examples/info), and then enter the following text:

    powercfg /batteryreport

    When you hit Enter, the command will run and create an HTML-formatted file (typically, C:\Windows\system32\battery-report.html) containing detailed information about your machine’s measured and extrapolated battery life, its original and present capacity, your usage patterns, and more. You can navigate to, and open, the file with any browser. Figure 2 shows an example.

    Battery report sample
    Figure 2. Win10’s command-based Battery report provides information on your PC’s battery and its performance.

    The Battery report can point you to potential trouble with the battery and/or the charging system. If, for example, the report shows a wide divergence between the battery’s design capacity and its actual, real-life capacity as measured by your PC, you know it’s time for a new battery — or a warranty claim!

    Win7, Win8.1, and Win10: Use the powercfg command to generate a whole-system Energy report. Open an admin-level command window (see above for info), and enter the following:

    powercfg /energy

    When you hit Enter, your PC will monitor its energy use for 60 seconds and then show a top-level summary in the command window (see Figure 3). It will also create an HTML-formatted file (by default, C:\Windows\system32\energy-report.html) detailing any problems with your PC’s energy-management operations. Again, you can navigate to, and read, the file with any browser.

    Powercfg report
    Figure 3. In Win7, Win8.1, and Win10, the powercfg /energy command will examine your PC and generate a custom, detailed energy report at the location shown.

    Once you identify what’s eating up your PC’s power, you can take steps to control or eliminate it.

    For example, if Task Manager shows some app is consuming a disproportionate amount of power, you can try uninstalling/reinstalling that app — or upgrading to a newer version that’s known to be fully compatible with your PC and OS.

    Likewise, if the energy-drain problem is caused by a hardware device or device-specific software (e.g., a driver or other control software), visit the vendor’s support pages to download and install the latest or most-compatible drivers (and related software) for your exact OS and device.

    Getting back to C.H.’s specific question: If you can’t find the source of the energy drain, I suggest you try a full Win10 Reset or Reinstall (MS Support info), which should help to flush any/all old settings and drivers, letting Win10 set itself up afresh with the best-available drivers.

    If your laptop is relatively new and still well supported, the “best available” drivers should be fully compatible with your hardware and with Windows, and your battery life should return to normal.

    But if your laptop is aging, some of its components may have passed out of vendor support, and the “best available” drivers might simply not be fully Win10-compatible. If that’s the case, you’re looking at a hardware upgrade or a new PC.

    But with luck, one of the simple software diagnoses will let you identify — and correct! — whatever’s consuming your laptop’s battery.

    Subscriber recommends “World’s most private search engine”

    After reading “Trouble finding disk-cache software? Blame it on Bing!” (AskWoody Plus 2019-07-15), long-time subscriber Gene Jacobson writes:

    • “I haven’t used Google search for years — I don’t like being tracked. I don’t like DuckDuckGo because of its one-line iteration. I’ve been using what was called Ixquick and is now Startpage as my default search engine for Firefox, Vivaldi, and Chrome. Startpage doesn’t track you, and its search results are every bit as good as Google’s. If you’re interested, take a look at it!”

    Thanks, Gene. Startpage (site) is interesting, billing itself as “The world’s most private search engine.” But as clearly stated on the developer’s support page, it’s not a search engine! Rather, it’s a kind of free proxy or middleman service that accepts your searches and re-submits them anonymously to … Google! Startpage then shows you the results from the Google search — which explains why its search results are so good.

    In concept, Google never sees your IP address or any other personally identifying data — it only sees anonymized queries coming en masse from Startpage. With nothing to go on, Google can’t track you.

    Startpage says it doesn’t harvest user data in any way, but funds itself simply through general display ads.

    I’m somewhat ambivalent about this setup: Startpage makes money off Google’s search infrastructure. Meanwhile, Google bears the expense but gets nothing in return. It’s hard to feel sorry for Google — but still ….

    Thanks again, Gene! It’s always good to learn of another privacy-enhancing option!

    Send your questions and topic suggestions to Fred at fred@askwoody.com. Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

    Fred Langa has been writing about tech — and, specifically, about personal computing — for as long as there have been PCs. And he is one of the founding members of the original Windows Secrets newsletter. Check out Langa.com for all Fred’s current projects.


    Best of the Lounge

    BlueKeep exploitation expected soon?

    The BlueKeep threat is on the minds of those that know we live in the mad, mad world of computers.

    Now that the fervor of Spectra and Meltdown has ebbed, Da Boss Kirsty and others update us on the latest “invasion of the computer snatchers.”


    Rants

    Frequent poster and MVP Ascaris poses this interesting question for the computing masses in AskWoody’s Rants forum. There’s no telling what you’ll read in Rants — it’s not the usual help section.


    Windows 7

    No good deed goes unpunished. While attempting to solve a friend’s computer problem, AskWoody Plus member Jonesy47 ran into another issue: the all-important chkdsk wouldn’t run. Fellow readers provided suggestions, ultimately solving the problem. Do you have a different solution?


    Outside The Box

    AskWoody MVP Rick Corbette enlightens us with a report from The Register on devious ISPs selling one Internet speed while providing something significantly less. The question for all of us: Are you up to speed?


    Windows 10 version 1903

    We turn to MVP Rick Corbette, again, for a warning about hardware-driver updates in Win10 Version 1903. He can find no way to prevent Windows Update from downloading and installing new drivers. Hardware vendors are typically the best sources for these updates.


    PC Hardware

    Knocking together a new and improved computer from scratch? See what Plus member Wavy selected and the comments on his choices. In the budget-constrained world of finding and buying the perfect components for a new power workstation, did he choose wisely?


    Productivity software by function

    Do you use keyboard commands in Excel?
    Join RonM43 and others as they dive into creating keyboard shortcuts for fast-track spreadsheet building.


    If you’re not already a Lounge member, use the quick registration form to sign up for free.


    Wrapping up July Windows and Office updates

    Susan BradleyBy Susan Bradley

    For those of us who live in the slightly toasty northern part of the world (and by toasty, I mean cooking!), it’s almost too hot to sit at a keyboard and deal with July’s patches. Almost.

    We humans might suffer in the hot weather, but it can be just as challenging to our digital devices, as noted in a related article. According to the report, Apple recommends keeping Macs and iPhones at operating temperatures under 95° F — but our Windows machines hate excessive heat, too.

    Nevertheless, with cool drinks at hand, I sat down last week and deployed the July updates at both home and office — and my systems have not suffered any ill effects (from heat or patching).

    The original KB 4506161 was a bit undercooked — this Visual Studio 2010 SP1 fix was plagued by patch-detection issues, causing failed updates. Microsoft cleared up the problem with a reissued KB 456161, released July 19.

    If you received any of the Visual Studio updates listed below (see also CVE-2019-1079), but they wouldn’t install, you’ll need to scan for updates again — the patches were probably removed from your update listing.

    • KB 4506161 for Visual Studio 2010 SP1
    • KB 4506162 for Visual Studio 2012 Update 5
    • KB 4506163 for Visual Studio 2013 Update 5
    • KB 4506164 for Visual Studio 2015 Update 3
    End of the road for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2

    This news caught me off guard. As noted in a Microsoft blog post, July 9, 2019, marks the last day of security updates for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2. There will be no more product updates and no more security patches for either platform — unless you do the following:

    1) Check the SQL Server version: If you’re using line-of-business software that’s still using SQL Server, you should contact the app’s vendor or your IT consultant and ask them what SQL version it’s on.

    Or, if you know your way around SQL server management studio, check the version number at the top of the database. Versions 10 or below (more info) need to be upgraded. Many line-of-business software vendors will provide instructions (example) for upgrading.

    2) Jump to a more recent version of SQL: If your application currently runs on SQL Server 2008 R2, chances are good it’ll also work fine on SQL Server 2012.

    3) Use Azure: Move to an Azure virtual machine running SQL 2008 R2, and Microsoft will provide three years of extended support and security updates at no extra cost. You will need to pay for the Azure VM instance, so this isn’t a completely free solution.

    4) Purchase an extended security-updates subscription: If you’re an MS Software Assurance customer (more info), you can buy a subscription for 25 percent off the standard Software Assurance cost.

    My recommendation: Poke around your computer or your servers and see whether you have SQL Server Configuration Manager installed. If you do, use it to check the associated SQL Server version (more info). If you have an older version, contact your vendor and ask about options for upgrading. If you see Express, you can upgrade to SQL Server 2012 or later. If you have Standard or Enterprise, you’ll need to purchase a new SQL Server version.

    July’s update summary

    All versions of Windows received a servicing-stack update to fix the lingering BitLocker/secure-boot issues. (Afflicted systems would not boot until you entered the BitLocker password.)

    July’s patches aren’t perfect, but there are no major issues, and they resolve many of the problems from previous months.

    - What to do: Turn off any Windows update deferrals and apply July’s fixes. But also keep an eye on AskWoody.com for any patching issues that might still show up.

    Windows 10 updates

    Here’s a reminder of July’s cumulative Windows 10 updates:

    • 4507453 for Version 1903
    • 4507469 for Version 1809 and Server 2019
    • 4507435 for Version 1803
    • 4507455 for Version 1709 (Enterprise and Education editions only)
    • 4507450 for Version 1703 (Enterprise and Education editions only)
    • 4507460 for Version 1607 (Long-Term Servicing Channels; LTSC) and Server 2016

    Note: An AskWoody.com post reports on a big Version 1903 cumulative update — KB 4505903 — that was released on July 25, almost immediately pulled back, and then issued again the next day. Keep in mind that this is a preview update, which we don’t recommend installing unless it’s on a test system or you really need one or more of the included fixes.

    Servicing-stack updates include:

    Note: If you use Windows Update to download and install patches, these servicing-stack updates will be added automatically, along with the main updates. On July 22, Windows 10 Version 1809 received a special servicing-stack patch, KB 4512937, that you’ll need to deploy before the August updates. It fixes a conflict between update installs that could result in installation failures or the need to scan for updates a second time.

    July .NET Framework updates included a special release — KB 4506998 — for Win10 Version 1809. The other updates listed below are mostly for Win10 systems with .NET 4.8 installed.

    • 4506991 for Version 1903 (Versions 3.5 and 4.8)
    • 4506998 for Version 1809 and Server 2019 (Versions 3.5 and 4.7.2)
    • 4506990 for Win10 1809 and Server 2019 (if Version 3.5 or 4.8 is installed)
    • 4506989 for Win10 1803 (if Version 4.8 is installed)
    • 4506988 for Win10 1709 (if Version 4.8 is installed)
    • 4506987 for Win10 1703 (if Version 4.8 is installed)
    Windows 8.1/Server 2012 R2

    As with Windows 10, Win8.1 received a servicing-stack update for the BitLocker/secure-boot issues.

    • 4504418 – Servicing stack
    • 4507448 – Monthly rollup
    • 4507457 – Security-only
    • 4507434 – Internet Explorer 11 (install with the security-only update)
    • 4507422 – .NET rollup
    • 4507413 – .NET security-only
    Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 SP1

    According to a McAfee post, the company released a patch in June for its corporate-centric security products, targeting the system slow-down issues that cropped up in April. Win7’s July updates include:

    • 4507449 – Monthly rollup
    • 4507456 – Security-only
    • 4507434 – Internet Explorer 11 (install with the security-only patch)
    • 4507420 – .NET quality and security rollup
    • 4507411 – .NET security-only
    Windows Server 2012

    April’s updates include:

    • 4504418 – Servicing stack
    • 4507462 – Monthly rollup
    • 4507464 – Security-only
    • 4507434 – Internet Explorer 10 (install with security-only update)
    • 4507421 – .NET quality and security rollup
    • 4507412 – .NET security-only
    Windows Server 2008 SP2

    Updates for Server 2008 SP2 include:

    • 4507452 – Monthly rollup
    • 4507461 – Security-only
    • 4507434 – Internet Explorer 9 (install with security-only update)
    • 4507423 – .NET quality and security rollup for Versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.5.2, and 4.6
    • 4507414 – .NET security-only for Versions 3.0 SP2, 4.5.2, and 4.6
    Office security updates

    July’s Office security updates tackle the usual round of newly revealed remote code-execution vulnerabilities that could be used in phishing attacks.

    Office 2016

    Office 2013 SP1

    Office 2010 SP2

    The following Office non-security feature enhancements and fixes were released on July 2.

    Office 2016

    • 4032236 – Office; broken emojis
    • 4462237 – Access; crashes in non-design mode
    • 4464582 – Office; hangs when referencing nonexistent templates
    • 4464595 – Office; data linked to SharePoint list displayed as “#Deleted”
    • 4475515 – Office, changes to Outlook holiday file
    • 4475518 – Project; resource-allocation issues and TaskDependencies.add failures
    • 4475521 – Word; crashes and other fixes

    Office 2013

    • 4475525 – Word 2013; Outlook crashes

    Office 2010

    • 3114397 – Office; Japanese-language support
    • 3114879 – Filter Pack; improved security and stability
    AskWoody’s Master Patch List

    For those who want a comprehensive list of past Windows, Office, Exchange, and SQL updates, keep an eye out for updates to our Master Patch table on Askwoody.com. (The next update will recommend installing July patches.)

    As a reminder, here are our recommended rules for patching. Note that they may change as Microsoft tweaks Windows Update.

    • Monthly security patches ship on the second Tuesday of each month (Patch Tuesday). For all versions of Windows, defer them for at least 15 days — June 26, for this month’s updates. (On Windows 10, it’ll still wait for 15 days if you click Check for updates.)
    • Microsoft sends out preview updates, typically on the third Tuesday of each month. They are completely optional and should be skipped on any system not used exclusively for testing. I list the previews in our Master Patch List spreadsheets, so you can look up their KB numbers and see whether they’re available. Again, we strongly recommend you don’t install them on production systems.
    • Remember: Updates can be deferred on Windows 10 Pro and above. If you’re running Win10 Home Version 1903, you can pause patching for up to seven days; for earlier versions, we recommend upgrading to Win10 Pro.
    • Ensure that Windows 7 is set to download or check for updates, but don’t automatically install them. It’s your best defense against problematic patches.
    Questions or comments? Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

    In real life, Susan Bradley is a Microsoft Security MVP and IT wrangler at a California accounting firm, where she manages a fleet of servers, virtual machines, workstations, iPhones, and other digital devices. She also does forensic investigations of computer systems for the firm.


    Windows 10

    Windows 10 gets better at taking screenshots

    Lance Whitney

    By Lance Whitney

    Starting with Windows 10 1809, the legacy screen-capture Snipping Tool became Snip & Sketch — with great new capabilities.

    Ages ago, most of us downloaded third-party screen-capture apps because they were far superior to anything built into Windows. And it’s still true that products such as the paid Snagit and the free/paid PicPick offer extensive screen-capture and manipulation tools you won’t find in Windows.

    But the new, built-in Snip & Sketch is an excellent — and free — option. The app lets you capture an entire screen, any rectangular area, or an area that you draw freeform. And with Win10 Version 1903, you can also capture a specific window.

    Snip & Sketch lets you capture a screenshot immediately or set a timer to snap it. And after you’ve taken the shot, you can crop, highlight, and mark up any area of the captured image. When you’re done making changes, you can save the image or share it directly with someone else.

    You can kick off Snip & Sketch a number of ways:

    • Open the notification area and select it;
    • Click Start, scroll down the apps list, and select it;
    • Say “Hey, Cortana: Snip & Sketch.

    You can also take the long way around: Right-click the taskbar, select “Show Windows Ink Workspace button,” click the Windows Ink Workspace button on the taskbar, and then select Snip & Sketch.

    Better yet, you can also trigger Snip & Sketch via the print-screen button on your keyboard. To do so, go to Settings/Ease of Access/Keyboard. Next, flip the Use the PrtScn button to open screen snipping switch to “On.”

    The first three methods open Snip & Sketch in a desktop window (see Figure 1), with all the available annotation features and commands shown. You’ll need to start in this window if you plan to use the timer for screen captures.

    Full window
    Figure 1. The full Snip & Sketch opening window with its simple toolbar

    When you press the New button, the Snip & Sketch window disappears, and a miniature toolbar pops up at the top of your screen (Figure 2). From there, pick the type of clipping you need: bounding-box, freeform, window snip (Win10 1903), or full-screen capture. If you choose, say, a delay of 10 seconds, the mini-toolbar appears 10 seconds after you press New. Use the handy timer to set up the screen before making the capture.

    Mini-toolbar
    Figure 2. Snip & Sketch’s mini-toolbar is where you pick the type of capture you want to use.

    The PrtScn method goes directly to the mini-toolbar. Use this method if you just want to take a quick screen shot.

    After you capture your shot, the snip is saved to the clipboard and a large thumbnail appears in the lower-right section of your desktop. Clicking the thumbnail opens the full Snip & Sketch program, with the captured image (see Figure 3).

    Screen capture shown
    Figure 3. In this example, I captured a Skype window from my desktop.

    You can now annotate and edit the image using the full set of Snip & Sketch tools: draw or write on it, highlight sections, erase parts, display the ruler, or crop it. To choose your input method, click the Touch Writing toolbar icon (left end). When it’s enabled (blue underline) you can use a touch screen; when it’s disabled, you can input via a mouse or touchpad.

    Next, choose your instrument from the next three icons: ballpoint pen, pencil, or highlighter. Clicking the down arrow under any of the three opens a color palette and line-size slider (see Figure 4). You’re now ready to draw on the captured image using your mouse, finger, or stylus.


    Figure 4. The drop-down pen color palette and line-size slider

    Made a mistake? Simply select the eraser tool and trace over the line or lines you wish to remove. Clicking the down arrow lets you quickly remove all your annotations.

    To draw a straight line or series of lines on the image, click on the Ruler icon. Place the ruler so that its top or bottom edge is where you want the line, then draw with your pen (see Figure 5). You can rotate the ruler with your mouse’s scroll button or with two fingers on the touchpad/touch screen.

    Drawing a straight line
    Figure 5. Here, I’ve drawn a straight yellow line above the on-screen ruler.

    You can also draw an exact arc or circle. To do so, click on the down arrow under the Ruler icon and change it to Protractor; then draw along the protractor (see Figure 6). You can resize it via mouse-scroll or two-finger slide. To turn the protractor or ruler off, click the down arrow again and click the label for the currently active tool (Protractor for the protractor; Ruler for the ruler — no, it’s not exactly obvious, at first).

    Protractor tool
    Figure 6. Creating circles and arcs with the Protractor tool

    To crop images, click on the Crop icon and move the fill handles on the four corners as needed. Click the checkmark in the upper right to apply your changes.

    Once you’re done with edits, click the diskette icon (left side of the toolbar) to save the image as a JPG, PNG, or GIF file in the folder of your choice. Click the copy icon (next to the save icon) if you want to paste the image into another program for more extensive editing.

    You can also share the image by clicking the share button (box with an arrow pointing to the right), which opens Win10’s Share pane. There, you have a variety of sharing options, including email, cloud-storage sites, nearby devices, or your social-media page (see Figure 7).


    Figure 7. The Win10 Share function provides various ways to share captured images.

    Finally, you’ll find a few more handy options under the ellipsis icon in the upper-right corner of the screen (see Figure 8). From here, you can open your current image in a different application, print it, and tweak a few settings — such as automatically copying annotations to the clipboard, adding borders to the images, and save-snip reminders.


    Figure 8. More Snip & Sketch tools

    Not bad for a free app that’s built into the most recent versions of Windows 10. And if it’s missing something you need, there are still those third-party capture tools.

    Questions or comments? Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

    Lance Whitney is a freelance technology reporter and former IT professional. He’s written for CNET, TechRepublic, PC Magazine, and other publications. He’s authored a book on Windows and another about LinkedIn.


    Best Utilities

    Freeware Spotlight — Quick Access Popup

    Deanna McElveenBy Deanna McElveen

    What is freeware really all about? “Sticking it to the man,” you say? “Why pay for something I can get for free?” “Try before you buy?”

    There are many reasons freeware appeals to PC users — but to my way of thinking, the essence of free software is sharing. Many of the best utilities started out as tools to solve a specific problem or, as the old saying goes, to build a better mousetrap — often an enhancement to some stock Windows feature. And once the developer has a solid, working app, they decide that others might also benefit. And, yes, they might make a few bucks for their time and effort.

    Every day, I rely on freeware for various tasks. I can’t, for example, image doing Web work on my giant dual monitors without Q-Dir (more info) taming screen space. And without FastCopy, copying batches of files would take time I don’t always have. I use so many of these gems that making a new computer Deanna-friendly is a major undertaking.

    This week’s freeware spotlight features Jean Lalonde’s Quick Access Popup (QAP), a utility that is making my work a little easier. How? By giving me faster access to folders, files, applications, and even drives that I use often. It’s already on my list of tools that will be installed on every upgraded machine. And it fits all the important freeware tests: it’s portable, there’s no cost (although you’re encouraged to donate via numerous links in the app), and it doesn’t contain junkware. Check, check, and check!

    Look for QAP’s download link at the end this article. There’s no need to do an install-and-follow-along; just sit back, and I’ll explain the app.

    QAP is compatible with all current versions of Windows (Win7 and newer) and their server counterparts. It downloads in a single ZIP file. Once it’s on your machine, create a new folder in a convenient location (call it something like Quick Access), move the QAP ZIP file to it, and extract the contents. Next, run either the 32-bit or the 64-bit executable (e.g., QuickAccessPopup-64-bit.exe).

    As with many portable apps, QAP won’t show up in the Start menu. Look for it down on the taskbar, in the notification area, as shown in Figure 1.

    QAP icon
    Figure 1. After launch, QAP appears as an icon in the taskbar/notification area — or in the (up-arrow) Show hidden icons box.

    There are a few ways you can launch QAP’s main menu; you can simply left-click on the icon (right-click for auto-start and some other settings), or use the Windows + W key combo. But the easiest method is to just click your mouse wheel (if it has one).

    QAP starts out with a great collection of shortcuts to get you going. In fact, you may not feel the need to add anything else — but of course we will! Figure 2 shows the basic, unexpanded, default menu.

    Default QAP menu
    Figure 2. QAP’s initial menu gets you off to a good start.

    Click the top menu item, In the Works (see Figure 3), and a submenu opens — it’s where you’ll find frequently and recently used folders and files.

    In the Works menu
    Figure 3. Selecting In the Works gives you quick access to your current tasks.

    Clicking other QAP main-menu options pops up more submenus. For example, choosing My Windows Apps displays a default list of common Windows applications. Don’t use Zune Video? (Who does?) You can easily customize the list in the QAP Settings windows. You can also add your favorite programs. The final entry under My Windows Apps — Immersive Control Panel — is simply a fancy name for Windows Settings

    My Windows Apps menus
    Figure 4. The My Windows Apps option is a sort of customizable Start menu.

    My QAP Essentials (Figure 5) has awesome potential! But you’ll have to experiment with it for a while to understand all its capabilities. You can reopen recently closed folders (e.g., if you accidentally closed the wrong window), repeat a task from a list of recent actions, open paths or URLs that may be hanging out in your clipboard, and instantly see all of your drives. And of course, you can add other QAP-enabled features to the list.

    My QAP Essentials
    Figure 5. Among other things, you can use My QAP Essentials to quickly access available drives.

    My Special Folders (Figure 6) starts you out with a list of commonly accessed folders. But as with the other QAP options, it works best when you customize it for your needs.

    My Special Folders
    Figure 6. Think of My Special Folders as an easier-to-manage Favorites.

    Customizing Quick Access Popup

    As mentioned above, QAP gives you a starting set of menu options. But the heart of the utility — its real power — is its extensive and flexible Settings window: it’s where you make the app truly your own!

    Start by popping up QAP and selecting Settings from the main menu. That opens the window shown in Figure 7. It has a tree view of QAP, surrounded by all the tools you need to fully customize the menus.

    Settings window
    Figure 7. The Settings window lets you completely modify the QAP menus to your work flow.

    Adding an app is especially easy if it’s already running. Note that each type of favorite is fully explained and has easy-to-follow instructions. For this review, I’ll add Filezilla to my QAP menus. As shown in Figure 8, I’ve clicked the Add button in the main Settings window and selected Application from the Favorite Type list.

    Add Favorite Type list
    Figure 8. Adding a new menu item requires selecting a Favorite Type.

    The next window — Add Favorite Application (Figure 9) — lets you add the details for the new app — or, more precisely, add details for the new shortcut to the app (in this case, Filezilla).

    Under the Basic Settings tab, you need to add a shortcut name and the path to the application’s executable. But again, QAP will also give you a list of running apps to choose from.

    Add program from list
    Figure 9. The easiest way to add a particular program is to select it from a list of running apps.

    Use the Menu Options tab to set the location of the new menu item (see Figure 10). Note that I set the parent menu (Main) and where the app will show up in the list of choices (above In the Works). I’ve also selected the default app icon but no keyboard shortcuts and no Hotstring triggers. Note that I’ve not made any changes in the Advanced Settings (Figure 11), but feel free to experiment with your setup.

    Menu Options tab
    Figure 10. The Menu Options tab lets you set where and how a new menu item is displayed.

    Advanced settings
    Figure 11. Understanding the advanced settings will take a bit of research. But the Elevate application with administration privileges is worth considering with certain apps.

    And I’m done!

    New menu item
    Figure 12. Filezilla is now a QAP menu item — ready for quick access.

    More QAP customizations

    QAP makes it easy to re-order menus and remove unwanted items. On the main Settings window (Figure 13), use the left side to move items up and down in a list, insert breaks and separators, and sort lists. Use the tools on the right side to change existing favorites and remove, move, or copy items.

    Managing QAP menus
    Figure 13. Tools on either side of the menu tree let you configure QAP to your heart’s desire.

    Click the Icons button (lower-right corner of Settings), and you can pick from an array of alternate icons for any menu item.

    Manage icons
    Figure 14. You can also go a bit wild with QAP’s icon manager.

    In the upper-right corner of Settings is the Options icon. The Options window and its six tabs (see Figure 15) give you extensive control over the core setting for QAP itself. Under the General tab (Figure 15), be sure to check the Run at Startup box, so the app will be ready when you need it.

    General tabS
    Figure 15. The General tab has basic settings for QAP such as Language, Run at Startup, and various display options.

    The figures below show other settings you can play with. Jean Lalonde outdid himself giving QAP users the tools to make the app their own.

    Menu tab
    Figure 16. The Menu tab lets you customize the utility’s menu format and actions.

    Hotkeys tab
    Figure 17. Hotkeys let you change key combinations for evoking QAP.

    File managers tab
    Figure 18. QAP even gives you control over your preferred file manager.

    So there you have it. QAP is a great example of well-designed freeware. It just might cause others peeking over your shoulder to wonder why their computer doesn’t do that!

    You can download Quick Access Popup from its OlderGeeks information page.

    Questions or comments? Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

    Deanna and Randy McElveen are celebrating 20 years in the computer business, seven years running OlderGeeks.com and 26 years of putting up with each other. Their computer store is in a small town in the Missouri Ozarks. Believing that happy customers are always the best advertisement, they hope to do it for another 20 years.


    Publisher: AskWoody LLC (woody@askwoody.com); editor: Tracey Capen (editor@askwoody.com).

    Trademarks: Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. AskWoody, Windows Secrets Newsletter, WindowsSecrets.com, WinFind, Windows Gizmos, Security Baseline, Perimeter Scan, Wacky Web Week, the Windows Secrets Logo Design (W, S or road, and Star), and the slogan Everything Microsoft Forgot to Mention all are trademarks and service marks of AskWoody LLC. All other marks are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.

    Your email subscription:


    Copyright © 2019 AskWoody LLC, All rights reserved.