How to Fix a Slow External Hard Drive in Windows 10 | MakeUseOf

Plugged your external hard disk drive into your computer and noticed it's slower than it used to be? If you use the drive regularly, this could be easily explained: perhaps it's slowing down because it's old or needs defragging.

But if the drive is only occasionally used, and you've just spotted the speed issue, there's a chance it might be related to something else. Could your PC have a virus? Is there a setting in Windows 10 that is slowing things down? Or could the problem be something as simple as changing cables?

Let's find out.

If your external hard disk drive's performance has decreased, several steps can be performed to either diagnose the problem or repair it.

  1. Defragment your disk drive
  2. Run a check disk scan
  3. Look for damage to the case or the drive itself
  4. Check the cables, replace if necessary
  5. Too much disk activity
  6. Check your drive and PC for viruses and malware
  7. Disable Windows indexing for faster performance

The rest of this article will show you exactly how to do each of those steps. However, should none of these fixes work, then it's probably a good time to consider a new external HDD.

The sooner you do this and are able to copy the data from your old device, the better. Leave it too late and data on the old HDD may be completely irretrievable.

1. Defrag Your Slow External Hard Drive

Whenever you experience hard disk issues, one of the first things you should do is defragment your drive. Windows 10 features the Defragment and Optimize Drives tool. To use this:

  1. Click Start
  2. Type "defragment" or "optimize"
  3. Click Defragment and Optimize Drives
  4. Select the troublesome drive
  5. Select Analyze
  6. Wait while it completes
  7. If action is required, click Optimize

Remember, these instructions are mainly intended for traditional hard disk drives rather than solid state drives (SSDs).

On older versions of Windows, SSDs should not be used with standard defragmentation tools. As SSDs are flash-based, older defrag tools are likely to damage your data, if not the disk itself.

Fortunately, Windows 10 does not have this problem. The Defragment and Optimize Drives tool manages the optimization of SSDs as well as HDDs.

2. Run a Check Disk Scan

If the defrag completes successfully but there is no improvement from your HDD, try the Check Disk tool. This is a tool that dates to early versions of Windows. It's capable of detecting (and sometimes repairing) problems with a hard disk drive. This often includes damaged sectors, which can lead to corrupt data.

You have two options to run Check Disk:

  1. Right-click the drive letter in Windows Explorer and select Properties > Tools then look for "Error checking". Here, click Check and follow the instructions.Windows disk indexing can slow HDDs
  2. Check Disk can also be run in the Windows PowerShell (Admin). Access this by right-clicking the Start button.

Once running, input:

chkdsk.exe /f [DRIVE_LETTER]

Make sure you input the drive letter of the disk drive (or partition) that is causing you problems.

Check Disk often requires you to reboot Windows, so ensure you have closed all your applications beforehand.

3. Check Your Slow Hard Drive for Physical Damage

If you've made it this far with no improvement, there's a possibility that your HDD is damaged. You should take the time to check the disk carefully, paying special attention to the following:

  • Does the LED light flash or not?
  • Does the computer hang when you attempt to browse the disk?
  • Does Check Disk fail?
  • Is the disk rattling when you hear it spin?

Although protected by the drive enclosure, hard disks are delicate, regardless of the bulky appearance. Not only can the disks themselves be damaged by a slight knock, so too can the read heads.

Meanwhile, the small slivers of circuit board are delicate and sensitive to contact. Even screwing a hard disk drive into an enclosure, PC, or laptop too tightly can result in problems.

If slower performance is traced to a damaged HDD, you should arrange a replacement ASAP. If you're likely to have this problem again in the future, it might be worth buying a tougher, durable portable HDD.

4. Check the Disk Drive Cables for Wear and Tear

Another problem that can cause the disk to respond poorly is worn cables. With the external HDD disconnected from your computer and the wall, examine the USB cable and power lead.

Any cracks in the rubber insulation can often indicate a damaged cable inside. Cables with broken or damaged connectors (splitting, or hanging off) meanwhile should be discarded immediately.

If these problems occur with a power cable, you're dicing with death. Meanwhile, if the USB cable is evidently damaged, this could be why your disk is not responding.

Replacement USB cables are inexpensive. Just make sure you buy the right type for your external HDD; modern devices are almost all USB 3.0, while older ones will be USB 2.0.

While we're discussing USB ports, it's also worth checking if your external HDD works when connected to a different port. Sometimes one port will work better than another. Alternatively, you might be using a USB 3.0 device in a USB 2.0 port, which often doesn't work well. USB 3.0 devices are limited to the speed of a USB 2.0 port, so connect USB 3.0 devices to corresponding ports.

5. Is Too Much Activity Slowing Your Hard Disk?

If you're copying large quantities of data to or from your computer, this can result in a slow external drive.

For instance, you might be copying huge video files from your PC to the drive. Or you might be using it as a destination drive for torrent files. Either way, if large amounts of data are involved, an external HDD (or an internal one) can slow down considerably.

To find out if this is the case, use the Task Manager.

  1. Launch Task manager using Ctrl + Shift + Esc or right-click the Taskbar and select Task Manager.
  2. Click the Disk column header to sort applications by disk utilization.

Check Task Manager for slow disk performance

If the answer is Windows Explorer, then the problem is due to copying data. But you could be using a torrent app, or image or video editing tool. You might even be running a video game from a USB 3.0 drive. Whatever the app is, select it and click End task to stop it. This will hopefully return the drive to its usual working speed.

Noticed a lot of disk activity, perhaps as much as 100 percent? This is a known Windows 10 bug, which has its own set of solutions.

6. Are Viruses and Malware Slowing Your External Hard Drive?

It can never be said regularly enough: you should be running an active antivirus tool on your computer. Even if you're not, you should have a tool that you can use to run malware scans.

Check out our list of the top online security suites for help.

Whatever the case, a rogue script could be accessing your hard disk drive and slowing it down. Worse still, the script (what we would usually term malware) might be already on your external hard drive. The slowdown isn't from the disk itself, but your PC or laptop. Literally, the external hard drive is slowing down your Windows 10 computer.

To scan a drive:

  1. Open Windows Explorer.
  2. Right-click the drive.
  3. Find the antivirus or malware scanning software in the context menu.
  4. Select the option to scan the disk.

If this option isn't available, open the security software and manually scan the disk. The method for this differs depending on your chosen security software

Note that this may not be possible with Windows running normally; you may have to reboot into Safe Mode.

7. Is Windows 10 Indexing Slowing Your External Hard Drive?

Finally, you could kick your slow external HDD back into life by disabling Windows 10's indexing service. Often when you connect your HDD to your PC, Windows takes forever to display its contents in Explorer. The reason is that Windows 10 is busy indexing the drive.

Disabling indexing stops this and speeds things up. The drawback is that Windows search will be limited to filenames, rather than metadata. This will reduce the speed of finding files on your drive if you don't know the filename.

To disable indexing:

  1. Press Windows + R.
  2. Enter "services.msc".
  3. Click
  4. In the Services window scroll down to Windows Search.
  5. Right-click and select
  6. Click Stop.
  7. Wait for this to complete.
  8. Click Startup type > Disabled.

Disconnect and reconnect your external hard disk drive and open it in Windows Explorer. It should now load quickly as if it was an internal drive.

Following these steps from beginning to end should help to resolve your external hard disk drive issues. For newer drives, disabling Windows 10's indexing feature is often the most effective solution.

A slow external hard drive is one problem. What if your external hard drive is not even recognized? There are fixes for that too.


The Best Google Online Courses You Should Be Taking | MakeUseOf

Did you know that Google offers a vast array of online courses? They cover everything from digital marketing to Android app development. Some even come with certification.

But which are the best Google online courses? We're going to take a closer look, keep reading to learn more.

Cost: FreeLevel: BeginnerTimeline: Self-paced

The Digital Marketing syllabus is one of the best free Google courses. It teaches students the concepts of clickthrough rates, landing page experience, campaign optimization, and return on investment.

You'll also learn about the benefits of targeted advertising and understand the technical and cultural challenges that can impact the success of an online advertising campaign.

At the end of the course, students will need to need to pass two AdWords certification exams to become an AdWords certified professional. The exam is optional but encouraged.

Cost: $339 per monthLevel: BeginnerTimeline: Three months (10 hours/week)

The Android operating system controls around 85 percent of the global smartphone market share. Given its popularity, and given we're increasingly moving towards an app-driven economy, knowing how to be a developer for the Android platform is a fantastic skill to learn.

The Android Basics course is only available on Udacity. It's a self-study course aimed at people with no prior experience of coding. If you have a personal blog or small online store that you'd like to make an app for, this is the course for you.

It consists of four modules: User Interface, User Input, Multi-Screen Apps, and Networking. Over the course of the four modules, you will build a complete and functioning Android app.

Cost: FreeLevel: IntermediateTimeline: Approximately one month

Having a business idea, creating a company, and marketing your product is only half the battle. You also need to monetize your concept in a sustainable way.

In the digital world, that's easier said than done. Traditional sources of income---such as online ad revenues---are falling for many organizations. And the lack of a successful monetization strategy continues to hamper several tech giants, with Twitter perhaps the most notable.

This course, which is free on Udacity, mixes theory with real-world examples. It aims to help to develop, implement, and measure your monetization strategy.

The four modules in the course are Introducing Monetization, Monetization Strategies, Implement a Monetization Plan, and Optimize Your Model.

Cost: Free ($149 with exam)Level: BeginnerTimeline: Self-paced

The days when everyone used to access the web using a desktop monitor are long gone. Today, you can access websites using everything from your smartwatch to your television.

The vast array of devices we use to go online cause headaches for web developers. Sites and web apps need to be flexible and responsive.

If you take the Mobile Web Specialist course, you'll learn about basic web layout and styling, front end networking, progressive web apps, performance optimization, testing and debugging, and ES2015 concepts.

At the end of the course, you will receive an official Google certification. The exam for the final certificate consists of coding challenges and an interview. The course and exam combined cost $149 to undertake.

Cost: $399 per monthLevel: ExpertTimeline: Six months (10 hours/week)

Google offers two nanodegree programs for Android. We've already looked at the first---Android Basics---this is the second. It's one of the closest things you'll get to an online Google university course.

Before you sign up, make sure you meet Google's suggested prerequisites. They include knowledge of Java, Python, C++, Git, and GitHub. Google also suggests that you should have two years of industry experience.

The nanodegree itself covers home screen widgets, integrating rich media, user testing, creating and integrating libraries, and more.

Cost: FreeLevel: Beginner/IntermediateTimeline: Self-paced

It's quite easy to learn the basics of Google Analytics, but it's an enormously powerful tool when in the hands of a more knowledgeable user.

The Google Analytics Individual Qualification exam covers all aspects of the Google Analytics app, including planning, implementation and data collection, configuration and administration, conversion and attribution, and reports, metrics, and dimensions.

To undertake the exam, you first need to complete Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics. Both only take an hour.

The exam is free to take. When you complete it, you will get a certification that's valid for 18 months from the date that you pass. The Google Analytics certification assessments are available in 19 languages.

Four other Google Analytics courses are available: Google Analytics for Power Users, Getting Started With Google Analytics 360, Introduction to Data Studio, and Google Tag Manager Fundamentals.

Cost: FreeLevel: BeginnerTimeline: Approximately 2 weeks

It's easy to forget that there's a whole world of web content out there that's not in your native language. English is responsible for about 40 percent of all web pages, but only 25 percent of web users speak English as their first language.

If you've successfully created an app or product, you might want to try and break into the non-English markets. And for that, you need localization skills.

Localization is about more than translating an app into another language (though that is part of it). It's also about adapting your product to be a cultural fit for another geographic market.

Localization Essentials will teach you about the importance of intangible things such as language tone, but also about technical issues such as date and time formats, alphabetization, and the direction of reading. The course is free.

Cost: FreeLevel: BeginnerTimeline: Approximately 2 weeks

Despite growing in popularity, virtual reality remains a niche topic among the wider population. If you want to get ahead of the curve, you could consider taking the Introduction to Virtual Reality course.

This free Google course has three modules: What is VR?, Platforms and Paradigms, and Unity Platform. Across the three modules, you will learn about optics and orientation tracking, game engines, tracking in VR, how to install and open a project in the Unity platform, and much more.

Introduction to Virtual Reality does not offer an exam or Google certification upon completion.

Cost: FreeLevel: BeginnerTimeline: Three hours

For some business owners, the thought of developing an online digital presence is a daunting prospect. As such, this Google online course for beginners is perfect for SMEs that want to branch out from a Facebook-only digital strategy.

It consists of seven short modules. You will be able to complete the lot in less than 10 hours. There's also an end-of-course assessment, so you can track your progress and see how you've developed.

The seven modules are The Online Opportunity, Steps to Online Success, Online Business Strategy, Building an Online Shop, Sell More Online, Build Your Web Presence, and Get Noticed Locally.

Cost: FreeLevel: BeginnerTimeline: One hour

For many people, the rationale of studying one of the best Google courses is to get a better job at the end of it all. But all the technical skills in the world won't be any use if you don't also know how to sell yourself to potential employers.

Our final Google course recommendation, therefore, is a slight departure from the content we've looked at so far. The Land Your Next Job course is a quick one-hour blast about how to create a stellar CV, draft a cover letter, develop an online presence, and even how to prepare for interviews.

We've introduced you to some of the best Google online course. But there are hundreds more out there. Some only take a few hours to complete. Check out the lists on Udacity and Class Central to get a flavor of what else is available.


How to Delete Horizontal Lines in Microsoft Word That Won’t Go Away

If you want to split up a Microsoft Word document with simple dividers for readability, all you have to do is type three hyphens and press Enter for a long horizontal line to appear.

However, once it's there, getting rid of it can prove challenging. You'd think using the Delete or Backspace keys would work, but they don't---you seem to be stuck with that line. Don't worry, though. Here's how to remove a line in Microsoft Word.

While you can't use the Backspace or Delete keys to get rid of it, you can still nix that line:

  1. Click directly above the line.
  2. Go to the Home tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Within the Paragraph section, click the dropdown arrow next to the Borders icon and select No Border.

How to Stop Word Automatically Creating a Horizontal Line

You might not want Word to automatically create a horizontal line when you type three dashes. If that's the case, here's how to disable that feature:

  1. Go to File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat As You Type.
  2. Beneath Apply as you type, remove the tick from Border lines.
  3. Click OK.

How to Insert a Horizontal Line in Microsoft Word

If you want an alternative method to insert a horizontal line in Word, and one that is more obvious to delete, here's how:

  1. Click where you want to place the line.
  2. Go to the Home tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Within the Paragraph section, click the dropdown arrow next to the Borders icon and select Horizontal Line.
  4. Double click the newly inserted line to format it, like adjusting width, height, and color.

If you ever need to remove the line, all you need to do is click on it and press the Delete or Backspace key.

There are lots of ways to insert lines into Microsoft Word, so be sure to check them all out.

Now you know how easy it is to remove a line, why not expand your knowledge further with these great hidden features of Microsoft Word.


8 Common Microsoft Store Errors and How to Fix Them | MakeUseOf

The Microsoft Store, previously known as the Windows Store, is the official marketplace for downloading games, apps, movies, and more. It's common for it to throw out errors, many of which are hard to resolve. We're here to help with any Microsoft Store error you have.

Whether your Store is apparently missing, has a damaged cache, stuck downloading, or something else entirely, we've got all sorts of solutions that should hopefully get everything fixed.

Before we begin looking at specific error messages, it's worthwhile to run Microsoft's Store troubleshooter. This will detect any problems and try to automatically fix them. Even if they can't be fixed, it'll still be useful to know what the problem is if the Store isn't giving you a specific error when launching.

Download the Windows 10 troubleshooter from Microsoft directly. Open the file with the Diagnostics Troubleshooting Wizard, which should be selected by default.

When it opens, click Advanced and ensure that Apply repairs automatically is ticked. Click Next to progress through the wizard. At the end, note any error messages which couldn't be resolved.

If the Store doesn't open at all, let alone give you an error message, the first thing you should do is restart your computer. The age-old fix, but it often works for this problem.

If not, don't worry. Do a system search for powershell, right-click the relevant result and select Run as administrator. Input the following and press Enter:

Close PowerShell and you should now be able to successfully open the Store.

The first thing to try is clearing the cache. Press Windows key + R to open Run, input wsreset.exe and click OK. A blank Command Prompt window will open for about ten seconds. After this, the Store will open itself.

If that didn't work, press Windows key + R again. Input this:

If there's a Cache folder already, rename it Cache.old. Then, whether it existed already or not, create a new folder called Cache. Finally, run the Troubleshooter as outlined above and it should detect and resolve the problem.

If you can't find the Store anywhere on your system then you'll need to reinstall it. Do a system search for powershell, right-click the relevant result, and select Run as administrator. Input the following and press Enter:

Close PowerShell, restart your computer, and the Store should now be back.

If your applications don't download or update properly, first check that you're not trying to install them to an external hard drive. This can cause problems, so it's better to keep them on the internal drive. Press Windows key + I to open Settings, go to System > Storage. On your external drive, click Apps & features.

Click the problematic app and click Move. Select your internal drive from the dropdown and click Move.

Alternatively, ensure that the drive you are installing to isn't full up. If it is, uninstall some apps or delete other data to free up space.

If that didn't work, or your app is already on the internal drive, try running the Windows Update troubleshooter. To do this, do a system search for Find and fix problems with Windows Update and select it.

Press Next to progress through the troubleshooter. Once done, open the Store and see if your downloads are working. If this still doesn't work, check out our tips for resolving Windows Update problems.

This error will appear when the Store is having network issues. A few simple things to try are running Windows Update, disabling your anti-virus, and ensuring the time and date are correct on your system. If this doesn't work, it's time to delve into the registry.

Press Windows key + R to open Run. Input regedit and hit Enter. If you don't see the address bar at the top of the window, go to View > Address Bar. Input the following and press Enter:

On the left-hand pane, right-click the Profiles folder and click Permissions. Click Advanced. Tick Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object, click OK, then restart your computer and load the Store.

This particular error code claims that the server has stumbled. It's a network issue and can occur even if your internet is working perfectly. For this, try resetting your proxy settings. To do this, press Windows key + R, input cmd and press Enter. Input this and press Enter:

Restart your computer and open the Store, which should now be working.

This error will appear in the Store and say that the page can't be loaded. Do a system search for Find and fix network problems, select the result, then run the troubleshooter. This will attempt to detect and automatically repair any issues. Once done, try opening the Store again.

If you still don't have any luck, you could try using Google's public DNS settings. Open Control Panel through a system search. In the top-right search box, input View network connections and click it in the results. Right-click your active connection and click Properties.

Once here, click internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and then Properties. Select Use the following DNS server addresses. For Preferred DNS server input For Alternative DNS server input Click OK, restart your PC and then load the Store.

We have a full guide on troubleshooting error 0x8000ffff if you need more help.

This is a very curious one. It's the first error code and will appear when you try to launch the Store. The solution is to change your computer's region to the United States. Yes, really.

To do this, press Windows key + I to open Settings and go to Time & Language > Region. Use the Country or region dropdown to select United States. Restart your computer and the Store should now work.

If you're still having problems, check out our top tips to fix general Microsoft Store issues. There's not always one solution to the same problem, so it's worth trying everything out on that list to see if it helps.

Now that you've hopefully got the Store back up and running, find out whether you should install desktop or Microsoft Store apps.


How to Change the Default Music Player for Google Assistant

You hopefully know that Google Assistant makes it easier to get all sorts of tasks done on your phone. And while it does a lot out of the box, Google Assistant gets even better when you connect it with various services.

One of the most important default services to set up is your music streaming provider. Let's look at how to connect and set the default music app for Google Assistant and why this is important.

Without connecting your music streaming service to Google Assistant, you can't take advantage of all its features.

For example, if you subscribe to Spotify Premium but don't connect it, you can't enjoy ad-free music and access to your playlists when you ask Assistant to play music. You'll be stuck using a free YouTube Music account, which isn't great when you have other options.

Aside from connecting the services you use, setting a default is important too. After you've set a default player, you don't have to tell Google Assistant what service to use every time. For instance, if you say "Play the album Pink Elephant by Stand Atlantic," the Assistant will say that it can't find that album in your library.

You'll need to add "on Spotify" to the end to specify that, which gets old. Setting your default service keeps you from doing this every time.

To find the music settings for Google Assistant and change your defaults, open the Google app on your phone and tap the More tab at the bottom. There, select Settings.

On the resulting screen, tap Google Assistant to open its settings, then scroll down and tap the Music entry.

Here you'll see the available services that Google Assistant can use for music. Under Your music services, you'll see the apps currently on your phone. If any aren't linked, tap them and follow the steps to let Google Assistant use your account.

Repeat these steps to link all the services you use, even if you don't want to use them as the default. You'll find more choices under More music servicesat the bottom; tap those to link your accounts as well. Each ones lets you know whether there's a free service available or if you need a premium subscription to use it.

When you're satisfied, select the app you want to use as your default provider. Google Assistant will use that when you make a music request. Can't decide? Check out our comparison of Spotify and YouTube Music.

If you want to play using something other than your default, add that at the end of the command. For example, even with Spotify as your default player, you can say "Play The Starting Line on YouTube Music."

While this is a small convenience, you'll appreciate not having to specify your preferred music provider every time. As a bonus, this option also sets your default music player in Android Auto when using Google Assistant. This is especially important for reducing distractions on the road.

Music is only one small aspect of Google Assistant; it's capable of a lot more than you probably think.