Tag: Computers

How to Enable Parental Controls on Your Windows 11 PC

Parental controls help parents keep track of and control what their child does on their Windows PC. This allows parents to prevent their child from spending too much time gaming or visiting unsafe websites. These controls can be adjusted in the Family app on Windows 11.

How to Set Up a Child Account

To set limits on a child’s device, you have to add their Microsoft account to your Microsoft Family group in the Settings app. If the child doesn’t have a Microsoft account yet, you can make one for them.

  1. Press Win + i to open Settings.
  2. Go to Accounts > Family.
  3. Click “Add Someone” in the Your Family section.
  4. Follow the instructions to create a new Microsoft account for your child. You’ll make an Outlook email and password for them during this process.

How to Link a Child’s Account to a Windows Device

To show the child’s device in the Family app, connect their Microsoft account to their Windows user profile. They shouldn’t use a local account.

If they were using a local account before, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to the child’s Windows profile.
  2. Press Win + i to open Settings.
  3. Go to Account > Your Info.
  4. Click the “Sign in With a Microsoft Account Instead” link.
  5. Enter the child’s Microsoft account details to sign in and link it with their Windows device.

If the child uses another PC with a local account:

  1. Sign in with their Microsoft account on that PC.
  2. If they don’t have an account on that PC, create one first.
  3. Then, link the Microsoft account to it.
  4. Go to Settings > Account > Other Users.
  5. Click “Add Account” to add their Microsoft account.

Next, follow the steps to sign in to the child’s Microsoft account.

To finish linking, open the Family app when you’re using your child’s Windows account. Here’s how:

  1. Press Win + S to open Windows Search.
  2. Type “Family” in the search box.
  3. Click on the Family app in the search results to open it.

Now you can begin setting limits on the child’s account.

Using the Microsoft Family App on Windows

Open the Family app in your Windows account, and choose the child’s account. Then, you can manage their screen time, app usage, and the websites they can visit.

Limiting Screen Time

First, go to the “Devices” section and click the “Turn Limits On” button for the child’s Windows device, the one you linked the Microsoft account to.

After turning on the limits, you’ll see a schedule where you can set how much time the child can use the computer on any day of the week.

In the “Time Limit” column, you can set the number of hours the child can use the computer once they log in. For example, if you set it to five hours, the computer will lock once the child uses up that time.

The “Available Hours” column shows when the child can log in. For instance, if the “Time Limit” is set from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM, your child won’t be able to log in from 10:01 PM to 06:59 AM.

To change the time limits, click on a day like “Sunday” or “Friday” in the Days column. This will open a window where you can adjust the times.

You can adjust days individually using the dropdown in this window. Or you can set it to “Every Day” to change the screen times for all days at once. Once you’re done, click “Done” to apply the limits to the child’s Windows device.

Limiting Apps and Games

To control your child’s apps and games, go to the “Apps and Games” tab and turn on the “Apps and Game Limits” toggle.

Next, click the three-dot icon next to the app or game. You can either “Set a Limit” or “Block App.”

If you block the app, your child won’t be able to use it. But if you set limits, you can choose when it’s available to use.

Once you’re done, click “Done” to save the changes and restrict the app.

Blocking Websites

When you block websites in the Family app, it only affects Microsoft Edge. But that’s okay because enabling the limits stops other browsers from working.

To block websites, go to the “Edge” tab and turn on “Activity Reporting” to see what your child is searching for and which sites they visit. This info helps you decide which sites to block.

Then, turn on “Filter Inappropriate Websites and Searches.”

To block a site, go to the “Block Sites” section, enter the URL, and click the plus sign.

Now, your child can’t access that site. You can repeat these steps to block more sites if needed.

Managing Account Settings

You can add more restrictions to your child’s device by managing their account settings. To do this, click “Settings” in the top right corner.

Here, you can set things like the minimum age limits for apps and whether your child needs your approval to make purchases. This is important, especially if your child plays games with microtransactions and gacha mechanics. You can also choose whether to receive weekly activity reports or get them instantly.

Even with all these limits, there are more steps you can take to keep your child safe on their Windows device. For example, you can use the Family app to limit their other devices, such as their Xbox and mobile devices. Additionally, make sure your child’s PC has good antivirus software and that you’ve adjusted the necessary Windows privacy settings.

About the Author: simonc

Snapdragon X Elite: Qualcomm Assures Compatibility with PC Games

Windows on Arm PCs using Qualcomm Snapdragon chips have faced criticism for their performance with applications. While apps specifically designed for Arm processors work smoothly, those built for traditional X86 processors, which are most common, have struggled.

This difficulty arises because these apps need to run through emulation, a process that translates X86 code into instructions compatible with Arm processors. Qualcomm states that the performance issue won’t persist with their upcoming Snapdragon X Elite processors and the PCs they power. However, there’s an important limitation to this claim.

At a Game Developer Conference, Qualcomm executives expressed their belief that most of the popular games listed on Steam should run almost as fast as normal on Snapdragon X Elite.

Engineer Issam Khalil suggested that game developers have a few options: they can either adapt their games for Arm processors, create a hybrid app using Arm64EC where Qualcomm’s drivers run directly but the rest is emulated, or rely on Windows on Arm’s emulation. Khalil mentioned that he thinks most games depend more on the GPU, so the emulator’s performance shouldn’t be a major issue.

However, there are some issues to consider. Games with kernel-level anti-cheat drivers won’t function properly through emulation, according to Khalil. Additionally, games that use AVX instructions may also encounter problems. This has sparked discussions on Steam, with some mentioning issues with emulators and Ubisoft games, while others claim that AVX requirements have been quietly removed.

Games with kernel-level anti-cheat drivers could include popular titles like Fortnite, Valorant, and Apex Legends. There’s a list of over 300 games that use this technology available online. To resolve this, these games might need to be specifically coded for Arm processors. But the question remains: will developers put in the effort to do so?

When Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon X Elite platform last year, they made some big promises. Tests done by Qualcomm suggested that these processors could compete well against Intel’s 13th-gen Core H. However, emulation has always been a concern. We’ll have to wait and see if Snapdragon X Elite PCs can really keep up, or if you’ll have to be selective about which apps you use on them.

About the Author: simonc

SSD Prices Surge, Significant Double-Digit Increase Expected

Buyers of solid-state drives (SSDs) might face higher prices soon. Prices for consumer SSDs already went up a lot in the first quarter of this year. Now, experts predict they’ll go up even more in the next few months. This means people building PCs will have to spend more money.

A report from TrendForce, which analyzes the IT market, says consumer SSD prices rose by 23-28 percent in the first quarter. They expect prices to go up another 10-15 percent in the second quarter, even though not many people are buying SSDs right now.

The report also says prices for NAND Flash memory, which is used in SSDs and other devices, could go up by 13-18 percent in the second quarter of 2024. It looks at price trends for different types of NAND Flash products, like mobile memory, consumer and business SSDs, and the materials used to make them.

It’s important to mention that prices for business SSDs went up a lot last year. In the last three months of the year, prices increased by 15 percent. This trend of higher prices continued into the first quarter of 2024, with prices going up by another 23-28 percent, just like for consumer SSDs. Experts predict that prices for business SSDs will go up even more this quarter, by 20-25 percent. This is because there’s a lot of demand from companies that provide online services in North America and China.

In contrast to the business SSD market, it’s reported that people are being more careful when buying client SSDs. Some companies making PCs are cutting down on the number of SSDs they’re ordering for the second quarter of 2024. The big price increases will probably make these companies even less likely to order SSDs in the second half of the year. Even though people are being cautious, prices for NAND Flash wafers are expected to keep going up because manufacturers want to make more profit.

In the market for mobile NAND, there’s a lot of demand for eMMC from Chinese smartphone brands. Also, the UFS market is growing because there’s more demand in places like India and Southeast Asia. This is likely to make prices for both eMMC and UFS go up by 10-15 percent in the second quarter of 2024.

About the Author: simonc

Geekbench Tests Show Snapdragon X Elite Surpassing Intel and AMD Flagship CPUs in Speed

In simple terms: Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon X Elite processor for laptops last year, and these laptops will start being sold in mid-2024. As we get closer to their release, some details about their performance are appearing on benchmarking websites.

A Lenovo laptop with the Snapdragon X Elite chip appeared on Geekbench recently. It got a high score of 14,254 in tests that measure how well it handles many tasks at once, and 2,427 in tests that measure performance with one task. These scores are as good as or better than similar Intel and AMD chips.

For comparison, a typical Intel Core i9-13900H chip gets around 2,400 points for one task and 11,000 for many tasks. An AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS chip gets about 2,632 points for one task and 13,155 for many tasks. This suggests that the Snapdragon X Elite chip could perform similarly for one task and even better for many tasks compared to these flagship Intel and AMD chips.

Qualcomm recently said their Snapdragon X Elite processor is faster than Intel’s latest Meteor Lake mobile processors, like the Core Ultra 9 185H and Core Ultra 7 155H. These Intel chips have 16 cores each, with different max speeds.

Qualcomm claims that the Snapdragon X Elite is much faster than the Core Ultra 9 185H in tasks that use one core, and it uses less battery power for similar performance. In tasks that use many cores, the Snapdragon X Elite is also faster and uses less power than the Core Ultra 9 185H.

The Snapdragon X Elite is Qualcomm’s newest processor for laptops. It has 12 special CPU cores and can go up to 3.8 GHz. Devices with this chip will be available soon, and many big laptop brands will use it.

About the Author: simonc

Why We Should Get the PS5 Pro

The PS5 Pro is a rumored upgrade for the PlayStation 5, although it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet. Some gamers who already have a PS5 wonder if this upgrade is really needed. Despite the lack of official confirmation, leaks suggest that the PS5 Pro is likely. Whether these rumors are accurate or not, there are reasons why a PS5 Pro could be useful.

4K Remains Elusive on Consoles

When the PS4 Pro came out, it was made for the increasing number of people buying 4K TVs. The regular PlayStation 4 was designed for 1080p TVs. But actually making games run in 4K was often difficult. That’s why the PS4 Pro had a special feature called “checkerboard” rendering to help with this.

When the PlayStation 5 came out, it could easily handle older PS4 games in 4K. That’s because the PS5 is much more powerful than the PS4. But with new games made just for the PS5, developers are choosing more fancy graphics over high resolution. Sometimes, they even have to lower the frame rate to 30 frames per second (fps).

A PS5 Pro could make games made for the regular PS5 look better. It could make the picture clearer and the movement smoother. If we’re really lucky, it could do both. Having two versions of the console is helpful. If the PS5 Pro became the regular model, developers might focus too much on fancy graphics and make games run at lower resolutions and frame rates again.

Frame Rates Are Dropping

The PS5 was supposed to handle games at 120 frames per second (fps), which is great for people with TVs and monitors that support 120Hz. But not many games actually run at 120fps. One benefit of having a 120Hz TV is that games like Horizon Forbidden West can run at 40fps smoothly. This works well because 40fps divides evenly into 120, but it would stutter on a TV with a 60Hz display.

Even getting games to run at 60fps is becoming rare. And when they do, the picture quality is often not good. If a PS5 game can’t go above 60fps because of its processor, then a PS5 Pro probably won’t have better frame rates, since the processor isn’t expected to be much faster according to the leaked specs. But if a game runs at 60fps on the regular PS5 with bad picture quality, a PS5 Pro might make 60fps modes look better.

Ray Tracing Was DOA on the Base PS5

Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles were planned years before they were released, which makes sense. But just before the PS5 came out, NVIDIA introduced its RTX series of GPUs. These GPUs can do real-time ray tracing, which is a big jump in graphics technology. Games like Cyberpunk 2077 look much better on PC with ray tracing than on consoles. While current consoles can do some ray tracing, it’s not very good.

That’s why ray tracing in console games is limited. Usually, it’s just for things like shadows or reflections, and they don’t look as good as the rest of the game. The PS5 Pro could change that, especially since AMD, who makes the PS5 and Xbox GPUs, has caught up to NVIDIA in ray tracing.

Ray tracing can make games look a lot better if it’s done right, and it could be a big selling point for the PS5 Pro.

Better Upscaling Tech Is Needed

NVIDIA surprised AMD not only with ray tracing but also with DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) when they launched their RTX cards. DLSS uses machine learning and algorithms trained on NVIDIA’s supercomputers to make games look better. It can take a game at a lower resolution and make it look like it’s at a higher resolution without losing any detail. DLSS had some problems at first, but now it’s so good that sometimes it looks as good as or even better than native resolution.

Consoles use AMD’s FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution) technology, which is software-based and not as good as DLSS. It has a lot of image quality issues and makes current-generation console games look worse.

The leaked specifications for the PS5 Pro suggest it will have a custom AI-powered upscaling technology. This could be a big deal. If it’s as good as DLSS, it could make games look much better on 4K TVs, even if the game’s internal resolution is lower for better performance.

Even if you’re satisfied with your PS5 and its performance, it’s evident that a PS5 Pro could bring some noticeable improvements for players. Whether these improvements actually happen is uncertain, but there’s certainly potential for something better.

About the Author: simonc

Improved Copilot, Photos App, Widgets, and Other Highlights in the Windows 11 Update

Microsoft has announced a big update for Windows 11. It includes lots of improvements that have been tested for a few months. Some of the changes include updates to Copilot, a new feature called Generative Erase in the Photos app, better Snap layouts, and more.

This new update for Windows 11 doesn’t have its own special name like the one from last year, called Windows 11 23H2. Not all the features will be available at once. Microsoft mentioned in a blog post that “Most of these new Windows 11 features will be turned on by default in the March 2024 optional non-security preview release for all editions of Windows 11, versions 23H2 and 22H2.”

The main highlight here is the additional improvements to the Windows Copilot assistant, which you can find by clicking the Copilot button on the far-right side of the taskbar. The plugins that were previously available only in the Copilot web app and other modes are now also accessible in Windows Copilot. These include plugins like OpenTable, Instacart, and Kayak. Additionally, Copilot now has new commands to control Windows system functions, such as “turn off battery saver,” “display IP address,” “launch live captions,” and “empty recycle bin.”

In Windows 11, the Photos app is getting a new feature called Generative Erase. This lets you choose and remove unwanted things or flaws from your pictures. Microsoft had tested a similar feature called “Spot Fix” back in May, but this new version is more like the Content-Aware Fill feature in Adobe Photoshop.

Windows 11 is also introducing voice shortcuts. These let you automate certain tasks by speaking a phrase, similar to Shortcuts on macOS and iPhone. Microsoft explained in a blog post, “You can now make custom commands to quickly do what you want with just one phrase. This includes tasks like pasting text and media, pressing keys or clicks, opening folders, files, apps, or websites. Voice Shortcuts are there to make things easier for you.”

The update brings “intelligent Snap suggestions,” which have been tested since June last year. This feature suggests how to arrange your application windows based on your usual use. For instance, if you often switch between a web browser and a chat app, you might see these apps suggested to be split 50-50 in the Windows snap panel (which you can see by hovering over the maximize button on a window).

There are also some needed changes coming to the Widgets board. You can now completely hide the news feed, which is great because the news was usually not helpful. Microsoft explained, “With the new Widgets board experience, you can create a focused board and organize your Widgets into different categories – whether for work or play. If you want to catch up on current events, you’ll still find the usual news feed available through your feed on the discovery dashboard.”

Another change to mention is the improved Windows Ink. Now, you can write words in more apps like Photos, Paint, WhatsApp, and Messenger, not just in fields made for written input.

Some of these updates will come with Windows system updates, while others will be updates from the Microsoft Store. The new Copilot commands will start rolling out “in late March.”

About the Author: simonc

How to Keep Your Gaming Accounts Safe: Easy Steps to Follow

It’s really upsetting to find out that someone has accessed one of your gaming accounts. Sadly, this happens a lot. It’s happened to me a few times, and that’s why I decided to take steps to better protect my gaming accounts.

Never Share Your Account Details

One of the easiest ways for a hacker to steal your account is by tricking you into giving away your login details willingly. They might do this through something called a phishing attack. Phishing attacks come in different forms, like in-game or social media messages, or emails that look legitimate but aren’t.

If you’ve played World of Warcraft, you might have seen a tip on the loading screen that says, “A Blizzard employee will NEVER ask for your password.” This tip is important for all games and companies. People who work for game companies don’t need your password to help you, so they’ll never ask for it. If someone says they’re from the company and asks for your password, be careful—it could be a scam.

We suggest not sharing your account with anyone to avoid the risk of losing it. Many of us have shared our gaming accounts with friends and family before, but this could lead to a security problem if your login details aren’t kept safe. Even if the person you share your account with doesn’t mean any harm, there’s still a chance that someone else could hack into their account and gain access to yours.

Never Re-Use Passwords, Try To Use Unique Emails and Usernames

It really stinks when one account gets hacked, but it’s even worse if multiple accounts are stolen. This happens when you use the same username, password, and email for all your accounts. While it’s not realistic to have different emails for each gaming account, using unique usernames and passwords is pretty simple.

I have to confess, I used to use the same username and password for all my gaming accounts. Then, a website I used got hacked, and my login information got out there. Even big companies can have data breaches, and even though passwords are usually encrypted, it’s still smart to minimize the amount of your personal information that gets leaked (including usernames and email addresses).

You can find out if your email has been leaked by using haveibeenpwned.com. If you use a Google account to store your passwords, you can use the Password Checkup tool to get alerts about any leaked passwords. Apple’s password manager for iPhone, iPad, and Mac also alerts you about passwords that need to be changed, as do many other third-party password managers. I didn’t bother changing the reused passwords for the gaming accounts I no longer use, so here’s what my Password Checkup looks like:

The good news is you don’t need to remember lots of usernames and passwords for your gaming accounts like Steam, Epic Games, Battle.net, Ubisoft Connect, and EA. Instead, you can use a password manager. It’s safer to store your accounts with a trusted password manager than to use the same password for all of them. Plus, you won’t have to remember all those passwords yourself. You can access them easily with the password manager or use automatic login.

Watch Out When Downloading Suspicious Files

Gamers often download files from sketchy websites. These files could be fixes, save files, mods, or trainers for less-known games. While downloading them isn’t necessarily bad, you need to be careful because they might contain malware. For instance, there’s a malware called BloodyStealer that’s aimed at gamers. Hackers use it to steal gaming accounts, including all your games and in-game items, which they then sell for money on certain websites. Also, watch out for suspicious links and scams shared through Discord.

The easy fix might seem to avoid third-party websites altogether. But for those of us who enjoy modding games, that’s not always possible. If you’re into modding, it’s safer to use platforms like Steam Workshop, official websites, and trusted names in the industry like Nexus Mods. These places verify all game files for safety.

If you think your computer might already have a virus, check out our guide on how to check for viruses.

Set Up Two-Factor Authentication and Security Questions

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a great way to keep your online accounts safe. It adds an extra step before you can log in. Usually, this means getting a code from an app, text message, or email. You probably already use it for important accounts like Google, Apple, and your bank. Your gaming accounts should get the same level of protection.

2FA is common in games and digital stores now. Turning it on makes your accounts much safer. But not all 2FAs are equal. Typing in a code from an authenticator app is safer than using emails, texts, or just tapping “yes.” If a hacker gets into your email or phone, they could still get into your account.

Still, 2FA isn’t perfect. If a hacker can log in through your computer or phone, they can get past it. They might even trick your phone company into giving them access to your number. Whenever you can, use an authenticator app and change your password often.

Use a VPN for an Extra Layer of Security

VPN companies might make you think their programs keep you totally safe online, but that’s not exactly true. However, VPNs are really good at encrypting your internet traffic. This means your data is hidden from the websites you visit and your internet service provider (ISP). VPNs are especially useful when you’re using public Wi-Fi. They can keep hackers from seeing the information you send and receive on a risky network, like in a “man in the middle” attack.

Using a VPN for gaming could make your ping, or connection speed, slower. But you can reduce this by picking a server close to you. Another option is to only use the VPN on certain devices or when you’re not playing games. If the VPN makes your multiplayer games too slow, still use it on public Wi-Fi or when you’re on websites you don’t trust.

If All Else Fails, Contact Customer Support

If your gaming accounts get hacked, don’t panic. Usually, customer support can help you get them back.

I recently had my Riot account stolen. Even though I had two-factor authentication, the hacker turned it off easily because they had access to my laptop. Luckily, customer support helped me get my account back.

But here’s the important part: I had to prove the account was mine. Riot Games asked me a lot of questions, like when and where I made the account, if I bought in-game money, and my PayPal transaction IDs. I found the PayPal ID in my email, and it was really helpful. So, it’s a good idea to save receipts for your gaming purchases, just like you would for bank transactions.

About the Author: simonc

PC CPUs: The Next Generation Is Here

Why it’s important: Back in the day, there were only two companies making CPUs. Now, there are twelve. Most of the new players focused on the big and profitable data center market. But now, some are also targeting PCs. Nvidia and AMD are getting ready to make Arm-based CPUs for PCs. Microsoft is allowing Arm laptop CPUs, which is not great news for Qualcomm right now and could be a problem for Intel in the distant future.

Even though Intel has had a tough time in the data center for the past five years, they’ve managed to keep a hold on the PC market. While PCs don’t bring in as much money as data center CPUs, they sell in large quantities and help keep Intel’s manufacturing plants busy and financially healthy.

Intel’s PC market share has been maintained for the most part because of two key factors: the Intel brand and something known as “channel control.” Most consumers aren’t concerned with or well-informed about semiconductor manufacturing methods or instruction set architectures. What they do recognize is the Intel brand, which has been built through extensive advertising efforts over several decades.

For most consumers, selecting a PC CPU can be a confusing task filled with complex technical specifications. This means that even if AMD’s latest CPU appears superior on paper compared to Intel’s, Intel can still maintain an edge. Furthermore, consumers don’t directly buy from Intel; they buy from popular PC brands like HP, Dell, Asus, Lenovo, and others. These companies have strong ties with Intel, partly because they receive significant marketing incentives from Intel, which contribute significantly to their PC profits. These PC brands are hesitant to distance themselves from Intel because they fear losing these subsidies.

The only recent entrant into the PC CPU market has been Qualcomm. Qualcomm has dedicated nearly a decade to establishing a presence with its Arm-based CPUs, which required extensive efforts, especially in adapting Windows to Arm architecture. This endeavor strained Qualcomm’s relationship with Microsoft. Nevertheless, Qualcomm now appears to offer a reasonably competitive CPU.

We’ve discussed Qualcomm’s efforts before, and the main point is that it’s unlikely Qualcomm will gain a significant share in the PC market anytime soon unless people suddenly value on-device AI support. While that doesn’t seem very likely, it’s worth noting that Qualcomm currently has one of the best AI cores (NPU) for laptops.

Qualcomm has received criticism for its long-standing PC investment. However, one advantage it had was its exclusive partnership with Microsoft. For years, Qualcomm was the sole company working with Microsoft to adapt Windows for Arm-based devices. This exclusivity has now changed with the recent Reuters report about Nvidia and AMD entering the Arm CPU market. Microsoft is now open to supporting CPUs from other vendors for Windows. Importantly, these new entrants have a stronger background in Windows than Qualcomm. Qualcomm has faced challenges in building a software ecosystem for Arm-Windows, and the new entrants will likely have an easier time due to Qualcomm’s previous work. Qualcomm may need to reevaluate its efforts in the PC market, which is already small and has become more competitive. This is not an ideal market for Qualcomm to excel in.

Nvidia and AMD’s Entry into the CPU Market: What Does It Mean?

Now, what should we think about Nvidia and AMD’s initiatives? AMD’s move is a bit puzzling. They already have a decent share in the PC laptop market, but it’s a distant second to Intel, despite Intel facing its fair share of challenges over the years. We suspect this might be AMD’s way of showing goodwill to their long-standing partner, Microsoft (something Qualcomm could learn from).

The real question is whether AMD will invest significant marketing resources to gain a share in this space, even if it means potentially eating into their existing market share. How will the average consumer react when faced with the choice between an AMD x86 laptop and an AMD Arm laptop? Confusion might be the likely outcome, and they might opt for the familiar Intel brand instead.

On the other hand, Nvidia has a more compelling case. They already have a strong consumer brand, mainly in gaming, which carries significant weight. They can also earn brownie points with Microsoft, a substantial customer and partner, and they don’t have a competing product to worry about. In fact, an Nvidia CPU/GPU combo laptop could create a new product category. Many gamers we know would probably rush to get one.

Apple’s Impact on the PC CPU Market: A Blind Spot for Semiconductors

Now, let’s delve into the real focus of this discussion: Apple. It’s quite surprising that semiconductor vendors often avoid mentioning Apple in conversations about PC CPUs. It’s a significant blind spot. We’ve even heard Intel executives claim that “we do not compete with Apple.”

Over time, Apple has been steadily eroding PC market share, particularly when it comes to profitability. On average, a Windows PC sells for at least $500 less than the lowest-priced Mac. Apple dominates the lion’s share of profitability in personal computing, just as it does in the mobile phone industry. While we haven’t recently crunched the numbers, we’re fairly certain that the transition to Apple’s M1 CPU has widened this gap even further. This issue is so substantial for other laptop manufacturers that it’s almost easier to ignore.

Microsoft is well aware of this problem, and while its success isn’t solely dependent on the PC market, it remains a significant and strategically important segment for them, both in terms of profit and overall strategy. They recognize the need to address the lack of PC profitability, and they appear to see the CPU as a crucial element of their strategy. There’s some logic to this, as M-powered MacBooks are known for their power efficiency compared to Windows laptops. However, we’ve encountered many players in the Windows supply chain who seem to idealize Arm CPUs, believing that having Arm CPUs would help them compete better with Apple. We think this perspective misses the mark. Apple’s success lies in its ability to integrate its software with its silicon tightly, and the Arm component is not the sole differentiator.

Nevertheless, the new Windows CPUs could inject some vitality into the market. Arm-based chips thrived in mobile largely due to the intense competition among semiconductor vendors. Arm consistently emphasizes its mobile ecosystem, which, in part, resulted from numerous companies competing in the space. This competitive environment drove faster innovation and progress.

Potential for a New Era of Innovation in Windows Laptops

This scenario could potentially materialize in the laptop market, especially if Nvidia and AMD are just the initial players. A thriving ecosystem of Arm-based Windows CPUs has the potential to ignite a fresh wave of innovation in Windows laptops, leading to more specialized offerings. Nvidia might focus on the high-end segment with premium gaming laptops, while AMD and Qualcomm can carve out their unique niches. Some players may opt for a budget-friendly approach, posing a competitive challenge to Google Chromebooks.

It’s too early to determine if this scenario will become a reality, but the possibility now exists. Currently, we believe Intel is relatively shielded from immediate threats, particularly as it introduces enhanced products with improved manufacturing. However, looking further ahead, if robust competition emerges from Arm CPU manufacturers, Intel could indeed face significant challenges.

About the Author: simonc

Don’t Just Throw Away Your Old Gadgets! Here’s What to Do With Them

If you’ve recently upgraded to a new phone, laptop, tablet, or something similar, you probably want to put your old device to good use. Instead of simply disposing of it in the trash, consider giving it to a friend or family member, donating it, or recycling it. However, there are some important steps you should take before parting with it.

Your top priority is safeguarding your privacy. You need to ensure that all of your personal data is completely removed from the device before it’s passed on to another user. There are standard methods for accomplishing this, such as performing a full reset and more advanced steps if you have concerns about someone with potentially malicious intentions seeking out used devices.

Older devices, especially their batteries, may raise safety concerns, but recycling services typically handle this aspect. Assuming your gadget is in working condition, once you’ve safeguarded your data and removed any additional components, it’s ready to find a new home.

Backup and Delete Your Data

No matter what type of device you’re passing on – be it a phone, tablet, laptop, game console, or most modern electronics – it’s crucial to ensure that your personal data is removed first. This isn’t just about privacy; it’s also a security concern. Even seemingly innocuous information like your name and phone number can be exploited by identity thieves to launch targeted attacks.

Thankfully, nearly all these devices offer a reset option, which wipes out all your personal data, along with stored files and applications. It might take a few minutes, but it’s a dependable and straightforward process.

Start by backing up any essential data. For phones or tablets, this is straightforward, as most data is already synchronized with your Apple, Google, or Amazon account. Ensure that photos, videos, music, and text messages are backed up. Computers can be more intricate, as you might need to transfer a significant amount, or even all, of the data from the storage drive.

If you’re looking for a more secure method to erase files and personal information permanently, you should overwrite the storage on your device. This ensures that the data cannot be recovered using various advanced tools. Several methods can achieve this, but the primary platforms to focus on are Windows and macOS.

Harvest (Or Destroy) Parts

Before parting with your device, remove detachable components, such as SIM cards, MicroSD cards (for phones), CDs, DVDs, camera cards, and USB peripherals (for laptops and desktops). When dealing with game consoles, check for game discs, cartridges, and storage cards.

For computers, consider the more secure option of extracting the storage drive, though be aware this will render the device non-functional if you plan to sell or donate it. This action significantly reduces the risk of data recovery.

While taking out the storage drive from a desktop is generally straightforward, it may be more challenging for compact models like the Mac Mini or iMac. Extracting the industry from a laptop can be intricate, especially in newer ultra-thin models with soldered storage. Online research can help determine your capability for this task.

In some instances, you might be able to salvage other removable components, such as graphics cards from gaming desktops. However, if you’re getting ready to sell or recycle a computer, there might not be much worth salvaging for a new system. If you pass the computer to another user through donation or as a gift, ensure it remains functional. For those interested in specific parts or capable of repairs, you can consider parting with those components.

Cleaning Up

When passing on your device to a new user or donating it, it’s considerate to ensure it’s in optimal condition. You’ve addressed the software aspect, now let’s focus on the hardware.

A bit of dusting and potentially cleaning out any accumulated dirt in crevices with isopropyl alcohol can be beneficial. If your device is exceptionally dirty or sticky, using a toothbrush (being cautious not to introduce moisture into sensitive ports) might be necessary. Keyboards and mice, due to frequent handling, may require a more thorough cleaning and disinfection process.

Where to Donate and Recycle

Ready to declutter and part with some belongings? There are various avenues for donating items, and several electronics stores, such as Best Buy, offer free electronics recycling services. Additionally, your local municipal waste or recycling service might provide free electronics recycling and contribute the e-waste to industrial recycling companies.

If your gadget is in working order, consider donating it to organizations that distribute electronics to individuals in need. There are numerous such organizations, often found in your vicinity: schools, religious institutions, homeless and welfare programs, senior centers, and retirement homes, to name a few. Tablets and laptops are frequently in demand.

If you’re unsure whether a particular place accepts your item, a simple phone call can clarify. In case they can’t use it, they’ll likely guide you to an appropriate alternative. If all else fails, organizations like the Red Cross, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army often accept functional items produced within the last decade.

For those inclined to donate to non-religious organizations, options may be more limited. A search for charities seeking donations in your nearest major city can yield potential choices. Urgent donation needs are often advertised in local newspapers or shared on social platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor.

Remember that you can always ask your friends or family if they have any use for the items you’re looking to part with. Even if they don’t, they might know someone who does.

About the Author: simonc