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7 Computer ‘Hacks’ to Go from Basic to Nerd-Level

Use these tips for more efficient computing

Do you envy nerdy friends who can do wonders with their computers? Computer hacks, tricks and shortcuts streamline computing time and can also increase security. Strong computing skills are not only impressive to your friends, it is a desired asset for work and makes you a better candidate in a job search. But you don’t have to be a computer genius to learn some valuable methods.

Included are some of the best tips for both Mac and PC users. While some hacks work with older operating systems, most assume your system is up to date, meaning Windows 10 or Mac Mojave. Having an up-to-date operating system is the first step toward nerdiness.

Man Using Computer Keyboard

1. Prevent cyber attacks
With just a few clicks, you could better arm yourself against hackers and block advertisers from tracking you online by changing the Domain Name System (DNS) that your computer uses.

Most computers connect to the DNS that’s automatically set by their internet service providers. There are safer and free alternatives through Google, Cloudflare or Quad9.

Here’s how to set up a new DNS with just a few clicks.

Mac: Go to System Preferences, click Network Settings, click Advanced and Select DNS. Then change your server location to the desired DNS address. For Google,; for Cloudflare; and for Quad9, Save settings, and you’re done.

Windows users can take similar steps through the Control Panel.

PC: Open Control Panel, select Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center, Change Adapter Settings. Right click on the network interface connected to the internet (such as Ethernet). Select Properties, select Internet protocol version 4, then click Properties. Use the following DNS server addresses for the desired provider: For Google,; for Cloudflare; and for Quad9, Click Ok to save settings

Videos produced by Quad9 will walk you through making these changes for either Mac or PC.

Shortcut to Control Panel: The quickest way to Control Panel in Windows 10 is to start typing Control Panel in the search bar next to the Windows icon on your task bar. Once you see the icon come up in search results, right click it and select Pin to start. From now on, you just need to click the Windows icon in the task bar or on your keyboard and you will find the Control Panel icon on the start menu.

2. Organize Your Desktop
Shake is a little-known PC feature that debuted in Windows 7, and is really fun to use. If you tend to end up with a display full of open windows while you are working, this is a cool way to clear the clutter. Grab the top of a tab you want to keep visible (hover cursor over it and hold down left mouse key) then literally shake it to minimize all the other windows. Shake again and the windows will come back.

The keyboard shortcut to hide all other inactive windows and apps on the Mac is Command + Option + H. Must stand for Ho Hum boring. Shake is way more fun.

3. Control Notifications
Formerly known as Quiet Hours, Focus Assist was redesigned in April 2018, giving you greater control over the notifications that pop up on your PC. Head to Settings, System, Focus Assist and then read this how-to guide from PC Magazine for customizing notifications for everything from contacts and apps to task-specific alarms.

Notification Center for Mac, accessed by clicking the menu in the upper-right corner of your screen, is where you can quickly adjust Do Not Disturb and Night Shift. Swipe down, then click the on and off buttons. This is also where you will see saved results from Siri.

While you are in the Mac Notification Center, explore two useful Siri hacks. If you have asked Siri to find an image on the web, you can drag that image from the results into a document. Also try editing requests you have made to Siri rather than starting over with a new request. For example, a saved request in the Notification Center might be “Turn up the system volume.” Double-click your words in the Siri window, then enter your changes from the keyboard, such as “Turn down the system volume.”

4. Learn revamped Screen Capture Tools
Screen capture is another feature where Microsoft is finally catching up with MacOS. In the October 2018 update, a new Snip and Sketch utility was added replacing the clunky Snipping Tool. Open the utility with a simple Shift-Windows key-S command to take a full-screen or custom size screen capture by clicking and dragging for any size capture box. If you don’t see advanced features, make sure your operating system is up to date. You can also download the free Snip and Sketch app from the Microsoft store.

Mac Mojave OS has new screen capture tool, (command-shift-s), also with the capability to add text and doodles.

5. Save Time with Scanning Hacks
One of the best features of MacOS Mojave, especially for people who are always scanning in photos and documents, is Continuity Camera. It allows you to use your iPhone to photograph or scan objects and documents which then instantly appear on your Mac.

Right-click in Finder, Mail, Messages, Notes, Pages, Keynote or Numbers and you’ll see a new option in the menu saying “Take a Photo” or “Scan Document.” Select that and then use your iPhone to take the shot. The feature is a huge time saver.

PC users can easily create a scanning shortcut instead of going into your printer icon each time you want to scan a new document or image. This simple process creates a desktop icon that opens a new scan window. Here’s how:

+ Right click on an open area on the desktop and select New > Shortcut.
+ The location of the item would be C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c wiaacmgr
+ Click on Next, then title your shortcut New Scan.

You’ll see a cool new icon on the desktop. The icon script will open the command prompt, then launch the Windows Scan tool. It will also close the command prompt, so you won’t be left with an extra open window.

6.Use the Keyboard More
A true computer geek knows numerous keyboard shortcuts for Word, Gmail, Photoshop and other programs used on a daily basis.

Start by learning a few of these shortcuts for Windows, or these for Mac. Make a list of the 20 shortcuts you think you will use most often (you can add more once these are memorized). Print the list and keep it next to your computer. With practice, your computing speed will increase dramatically.

7. Go to the Dark Side: Learn a New Operating System
If you have exclusively been a Mac or PC user, you may want to invest in learning the operating system of the opposing team. Buy (or borrow) an affordable entry level machine and go through a few YouTube videos on how to use the operating system. You never know when you might be in a new work environment where having cross-platform skills will come in handy. It also looks good on your resume.

Final Note
Reviewing the features of your operating system directly from the company is always a good place to start. For Mac Mojave, visit the Apple site here. For PC users, explore Windows 10 here.

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