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10 new cool Windows 7 tips, tweaks and secrets

6. Watch more videos
Windows Media Player 12 is a powerful program, but it still won't play all the audio and video files you'll find online. Fortunately the first freeware Windows 7 codecs package has just been released, and installing it could get your troublesome multimedia files playing again.

7. Problem Steps Recorder
As the local PC guru you're probably very used to friends and family asking for help with their computer problems, yet having no idea how to clearly describe what's going on. It's frustrating, but Microsoft feel your pain, and Windows 7 will include an excellent new solution in the Problem Steps Recorder.

When any app starts misbehaving under Windows 7 then all your friends need do is click Start, type PSR and press [Enter] to launch the Problem Steps Recorder, then click Start Record. As they work through whatever they're doing the program will record every click and keypress, take screen grabs, and package everything up into a single zipped MHTML file when they're finished, ready for emailing to you. It's quick, easy and effective, and will save you hours of troubleshooting time.

8. Schedule Media Center downloads
You can now tell Windows Media Center to download data at a specific time, perhaps overnight, a useful way to prevent it sapping your bandwidth for the rest of the day. Launch Media Center, go to Tasks > Settings > General > Automatic Download Options, and set the download start and stop times that you'd like it to use.

9. Open folder in new process
By default Windows 7 opens folders in the same process. This saves system resources, but means one folder crash can bring down the entire shell. If your system seems unstable, or you're doing something in Explorer that regularly seems to cause crashes, then open Computer, hold down shift, right-click on your drive and select Open in New Process. The folder will now be launched in a separate process, and so a crash is less likely to affect anything else.

10. Startup repair
Windows 7 is more reliable than we'd expect from a beta, but you still might run into problems, and the worst might stop it from booting. Even into Safe Mode. And that's very bad news if you downloaded Windows 7, as you've no CD or DVD to use for reinstallation. Which is why you need to click Start, type recdisc.exe and press [Enter] right now, and let Windows 7 build a bootable emergency disc. If the worst does happen then it could be the only way to get your PC running again.