How to Customize your Windows 8 Lock Screen

Windows 8, just like what was introduced in Windows Phone 7. You can press escape or drag the large image “upward” to unlock the screen. But did you know the icons at the bottom of your screen are customizable? It allows you to have much more information, at a glance, than you do with the default settings. Here’s how you can tweak your own:

From the Windows 8 Start Screen, you can simply type the phrase Lock Screen and, once you click settings on the right, one of your options will be to “Customize your Lock Screen and Notifications.” You can also find this by starting again from the Start Menu, but by placing the mouse in the lower right corner of the screen and waiting for the Charms Bar to come out from the right side of the screen, then clicking Settings at the bottom, then Personalize Settings. The first thing you should see is the Personalize menu. If not, it is the top option on the left, as pictured in the screen shot above.

At this time, only a few apps support Lock Screen notifications, but you can bet that more will come down the road. Right now the included Weather app, and the excellent eBay app allow you to add notifications. You can choose one app, if it supports the option, to provide additional details. You could have the subject lines of a few emails, upcoming calendar appointments, or even a weather forecast! It will be great to see what more apps, like an official Twitter or Facebook application, will end up doing.

Don’t forget to check out our ongoing informational series on Windows 8.

Outlook freezes / locks up / crashes after opening

Last week we talked about what to do when Outlook won’t open, but what if it opens, then almost immediately locks up? If your Outlook says “not responding” when you try to open a piece of mail, it likely means you have a corrupt PST file. Luckily, Microsoft anticipated this happening, and has armed you with the tools to fix it!

Some quick background – a PST is your archive of mail – whether it’s something you archived off by choice, or it’s where your computer stores mail after it’s been downloaded from a mail server, such as Gmail, Hotmail, or a local ISP like Time Warner or Verizon. Any time you use “POP” mail with Outlook, you have a PST.

To fix a corrupt PST, you just need to locate an application that is installed along-side Microsoft Office called “ScanPST.” On a 64-bit Windows 8 computer running Microsoft Office 2010, I found the ScanPST application to be here:
C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice14

Depending on your version of office, it might be under another Office “version number” but most versions of Office, even the older ones, will include ScanPST.

When you double click the file, it generally auto-detects the file you need to scan, but you may need to browse to your data file before you click on Start. By default, Windows 7 & 8 should store the PST’s in this location:
C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataLocalMicrosoftOutlookOutlook.pst

In Windows XP: C:Documents and SettingsUSERNAMELocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlookOutlook.pst

If you are in a corporate environment, the location may be different.

Once you have the proper file in place, click on “Start” in ScanPST. By default, you should allow it to make a backup, then let it run through it’s 8 phase repair process. As always, depending on the size of your PST (how much mail you have), and the speed of your computer, it can take a while. Even when it looks like it isn’t doing anything, it probably is, so just let it go for a little while. When it’s finished, you should be able to open up Outlook without any issues!

Outlook sits on "loading" screen forever!

Throughout the business world, you find Outlook to be almost ubiquitous as far as mail clients are concerned. The problem is, even though it has evolved, at it’s core, it’s the same chunk of 15 year old code that was included in Office ’97, and some might even argue the DOS versions of Outlook! You’d be hard pressed to find something different that is widely supported, but Outlook has had its growing pains. So what do you do when it’s won’t open? Here’s one tip.

SYMPTOM: Outlook sits and stays at the LOADING splash screen
(similar to what we show above, but rather than starting, it will probably say “Loading…”)

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING: It’s very likely that your “local copy” of your mailbox has become corrupt. If you use Exchange for your email, and you are in Cached Exchange Mode, it means that your computer keeps a local copy of your mail and only synchronizes the changes since it has last been opened – rather than re-downloading your entire mailbox every time you open Outlook. Somehow (we won’t go into details, suffice to say “it happens from time to time”), your local copy has become corrupted.

HOW YOU ARE GOING TO FIX IT: (this looks long, but it’s VERY simplified, I promise!)

  1. Click Start, then Control Panel (if you’re using Windows XP, click SETTINGS then Control Panel).
  2. Find or search for “Mail” and open that.
  3. Click “E-Mail Accounts” at the top.
  4. Highlight your email account and click Change, just below the row of tabs.
  5. Uncheck the box that says “Use Cached Exchange Mode.”
  6. Click Next, then Finish.
  7. Open Outlook.
  8. At this point it should open, and begin syncing mail.
  9. Close Outlook (you don’t have to wait for it to complete the sync process).
  10. Re-Enable Cached Exchange Mode by following steps 1-3 again.
  11. Click the “Data Files” tab at the top.
  12. Highlight your default mailbox (the one with the check mark to the left).
  13. Click “Open Location” below the tabs.
  14. Rename the highlighted file.
  15. Close the open folder.
  16. Click back to the Email Tab.
  17. Click the Change Button.
  18. Re-Enable Cached Exchange Mode.
  19. Click Next, then Finish.
  20. Open Outlook. Everything SHOULD be working!

This time, it should rebuild the OST from scratch – since it won’t be able to find the old OST file. Depending on how much mail you have, this process can take several hours – but it will download “Inbox” then work it’s way to other folders, and you’ll be able to send and receive new mail while it works.

Next week, we’ll talk about what to do when Outlook freezes up before you can open a single email!

Find Free Alternatives to Expensive Software!

I am a huge fan of the website AlternativeTo.net. I have been using it since they were in their infancy, I submitted several product reviews and filled in a few blanks in my time on the site. It’s a very useful site for tech geeks like myself, who might be looking for a program that is similar to something else, but might be more affordable, or have a different feature set. If you want something similar to Norton Ghost, it might suggest Clonezilla, or if you want DropBox, you might want to check out SugarSync or SkyDrive.

AlternativeTo covers all of the major platforms, from Windows, to Mac OSX, to Android, iOS, and even WebOS… you can find great suggestions if you’re looking for an app similar to another, because one doesn’t quite suit your needs. I can suggest the website enough, it’s all built up with user feedback, and I really hope it’s around for years to come.