Linux is an open-source operating system. it opens up room for anyone with a desire to create their own OS to actually do so without a lot of programming knowledge
Whenever someone creates their own version of Linux with the use of an existing linux distro an their base, the complete package is called a Linux distribution
In this tutorial we’ll list out Linux distributions that we found are really good and have gained more traction in the past few days of year 2020.
If you’re new to Linux and are wondering what are the best Linux distros in 2020, you’re reading the right article. In a moment, we’ll list out Linux distributions that we found are really good and have gained more traction in the past few days of the year 2020.
Best Linux Distros 2020 – A Quick Summarized List
MX Linux – Best Debian-based Linux distro, lightweight, and really easy to use.
Linux Mint – Ubuntu and Debian-based, user-friendly Linux distro, similar to Windows, and lightweight.
Ubuntu – Debian-based, all-time-favorite Linux distro, extremely easy to use for first-time users. One of the best Linux distros in 2020 for beginners.
Elementary OS – Debian-based, best Mac OSX look-a-like Linux distro, and a very pretty looking Linux distro.
Manjaro Linux – Best Arch Linux-based Linux distro, built to be lightweight and has only essential packages added.
Zorin OS – Debian-based best Windows look-a-like Linux distro, made with the first time Linux user in mind.
Fedora – Best community-built Linux distro with no other OS base, designed to be cutting-edge in terms of software technology.
Debian – Built from scratch, best Linux distro designed to be very stable.
CentOS – Fedora, and Red-Hat based, built for users who want enterprise-level OS stability without the costs.
Kali Linux – Debian-based, best cybersecurity and pentester focused Linux distro
What Is A Linux Distro?
Windows and Mac OS X are built in-house by the companies that sell them. Linux is different in this case. Being an open-source operating system, it opens up room for anyone with a desire to create their own OS to actually do so without a lot of programming knowledge.
Whenever someone creates their own version of Linux with the use of an existing Linux distro as their base (or create one without a base by using the Linux kernel code), the complete package is called a Linux distribution.
How to Choose The Best Linux Distros in 2020?
Now, to say the least, there really is no best Linux distro because when you work with the Linux operating system for long enough, you learn to customize everything as per your liking. So on the UI side of things, any Linux distro can look and behave like any other Linux distro when configured to do so.
So to answer the question, choose any Linux distro that you feel comfortable with at the moment. After a while of using it, you’ll anyway figure out how to configure it to your likings.
The Best Linux Distros 2020
Let’s get down to the list of the best Linux distros and what makes them better than the others. Now as we previously mentioned, all of the configurations that were achieved by any of the distributions in the list below can be achieved on any other distribution. So we’re working with their out-of-the-box experiences.
#1 MX Linux
We loved MX Linux because it’s fully set up out of the box. But unlike Ubuntu, MX Linux is set up with all that a beginner user would need while keeping the UI very simple, clean, and lightweight.
MX Linux is based on Debian’s Stable branch and uses XFCE as it’s default desktop environment (UI).
#2 Linux Mint
Linux Mint is a behemoth! The Goliath in the world of Linux distributions. Similar to Ubuntu, Linux Mint took off very quickly when it was first launched.
Linux Mint focused not just on ease of use but also focused on adding many convenient tools for their users. Along with that, they offered a lightweight desktop environment.
So, people who wanted their Linux to be fast on lower-end systems, Linux Mint became the choice of distro.
This distro is based on Ubuntu-Debian, so it is compatible with the repositories of both the distros.
You’ll hear about Ubuntu even before you’ve thought of trying Linux. And obviously so because Ubuntu was the first distribution that worked really hard to make itself stand out in the Linux distribution crowd when it all started.
Ubuntu made Linux accessible to the entire world by making it so easy to use, that a person who had never seen Linux would be able to use it pretty much right away.
As they progressed, they added more and more features to their OS, also tried to launch a Ubuntu TV, but it all ended up making Ubuntu desktop really heavy on the resources and slowing things. Other distributions capitalized on this opportunity and picked up where Ubuntu left things off.
Ubuntu is a Debian-based distribution.
#4 Elementary OS
This is by far the most beautiful Linux distribution that we came across. Inspired by the Mac OS, it has a dock at the bottom and the menus at the top of the screen.
The entire UI is very slick. If all you want is a beautiful OS, Elementary OS is the way to go.
Obviously, since it’s Debian based, you’re not going to lack functionality or packages. The only issue you’d face from time to time is that there are packages that just don’t adjust to the distribution’s theme. So you will always have some packages that look odd when opened.
#5 Manjaro Linux
Manjaro Linux is an Arch Linux-based distribution. Arch was also built to be more up-to-date than Debian with a repository that makes cutting edge software to be available.
Compared to Debian, the one major difference between Arch-based operating systems is their leanness. Debian, in an effort to make things easy for the user, installs a bunch of “recommended” packages when you try to install any package from their repositories.
With Arch Linux, when you’re installing a package, you get exactly that and a few of the dependencies which are resolved by its package manager, Pacman.
So if you’re into lean systems, and want to build yourself a computer with a really lean and fast operating system, Arch Linux-based Manjaro is the way to go.
#6 Zorin OS
If you’re coming from Windows, and have never used Linux before, Zorin takes away a huge load of the learning curve for you. See the screenshot above. What do you notice?
It’s exactly like Windows. Well, a much more beautiful version of Windows. Based on Ubuntu, it is as accessible as Linux can be. So if you’re looking for a Linux distro that can help you minimize the learning curve of coming from Windows, this is what you should start with.
Fedora is not based on any other Linux distribution and has been built by its community entirely from scratch. In fact, if you’re a developer, you can contribute to the distribution too.
What makes Fedora so special is its community support. The community is very responsive and you can get answers to your question pretty quickly on there.
Since it’s built by developers, their focus was on creating an OS that will have a really cutting edge software repository. A package which is still unavailable in other distributions will be compiled and ready for Fedora irrespective of the fact if it’s stable or not.
If you love the latest and the greatest and are okay with a few bugs in downloaded packages from time to time, Fedora is your abode.
Debian, CentOS, and Red Hat powers the internet around the world. As per statistics, more than 96% of the web servers, cloud hosts, and websites, are powered by Linux.
But Debian wasn’t built to be user friendly or to offer a quick and easy out of the box experience. When you download and run live Debian, all you get is a black terminal screen with a prompt at the top left of your screen.
Unlike the pre-built distributions that we saw before, Debian allows you a more do-it-yourself experience. You choose the packages that you want to install, the desktop environment that you want, and any additions that you want to the OS.
You can think of Debian as stock Android. MIUI, eUI, and Samsung UI are built on stock Android. These UIs created by companies for their phones can be compared with the Linux distributions which are built on Debian.
If you want an extremely stable operating system that you wish to build from scratch, Debian is your answer.
Based on Fedora and Red-Hat, CentOS creates a stable server system that can be used by organizations that want a strong server distribution without the high costs involved.
CentOS is built by the community, just like Fedora and offers highly tested packages for download. Similar to Debian, it’s very unlikely for someone to break this OS just because they downloaded something from the package manager.
CentOS is the right fit if you want to build a server but don’t want to use the apt package manager.
#10 Kali Linux
This distribution is not a daily driver. Instead, Kali focuses on working in a live persistent environment with just about every tool that a cybersecurity enthusiast would want.
Based on Debian, this distribution is stable as well as very easy to use.
If you’re interested in cybersecurity or penetration testing, this distribution will provide you with a complete environment for that purpose. You can focus on learning how to use the tools without worrying about installing them or setting them up.
So as we mentioned before, there is no best distribution. We say this because if you know how to install packages using the package manager in a distribution, you can change any distribution and make it look like any other.
But as a beginner, a fully finished environment is an easier start. Based on what you want a Linux OS for, you can choose from one of the above and start your learning from thereon.
In the world of search, Google towers above the rest.
It’s the “industry standard” search engine that is relied on in most any instance (at least in the United States), and, let’s be honest: it’s for good reason.
Google search is an amazing tool.
But competitors are always going to be vying for search market share. And from time to time, there are going to be some great search engines that are actually worth using.
DuckDuckGo may just be one of those competitors, especially if you’re looking for privacy that you may not get elsewhere. But DuckDuckGo has plenty more to offer searchers.
What follows is an in-depth comparison of the features of two great search engines we love – DuckDuckGo and Google. As we try to answer the question: which search engine should you use?
Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo claims to not store personal information of its users, ever.
DuckDuckGo doesn’t follow its users around with ads since it won’t store their search history, won’t track their IP address, and essentially has no personal data to sell, regardless of whether the user is in private browsing mode.
DuckDuckGo separated itself from the competition early and often in terms of the privacy it offers its users – that same privacy other search engines have refused to offer until DuckDuckGo.
Just take a look at its Twitter feed if you want to find out how pro-privacy this search engine is.
But beyond privacy, what else does DuckDuckGo bring to the table?
For starters, it has a similar layout to Google, including:
Search engine landing pages (SERPs) of 10 organic search results (both search engines served 10 organic search results on their respective Page 1s in March 2019).
A couple of ads at the top and the bottom of each SERP, give or take one or two and depending on the search volume and competition around certain keywords and topics.
DuckDuckGo uses its web crawler, DuckDuckBot, and up to 400 other sources to compile its search results, including other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex, and crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia.
It also offers a Knowledge panel-like breakout box on the right rail with quick-access information for important details like name, address, phone number, website, etc., drawn from those above-mentioned sources, including Wikipedia (much like Google).
DuckDuckGo pulls information from user-review site Yelp, including reviews, addresses, phone numbers, and business hours.
Business-location directions are pulled from Bing Maps (by default), but this can be changed to Google Maps, HERE Maps, or OneStreetMap as the source (screenshot below).
DuckDuckGo offers a number of other simple usability and/or preference tweaks that help simplify the overall process for the user, many of which Google implemented first – but not all of them.
For instance, once a user has reached the bottom of a SERP, they can select to see more results, which opens up the next SERP directly below the current one (without opening a new page). It’s a simple difference but it does make the user experience a bit cleaner.
Category Pages are one of my personal favorite features of the DuckDuckGo platform, offering category lineups with brief descriptions and images that are presented in a clean, enticing way.
And, like Google (although not as extensive), DuckDuckGo offers Instant Answers (comparable to Google’s Featured Snippets), which are pulled from more than 100 sources around the web, according to DuckDuckGo.
There are also search-vertical options, including:
And, depending on which vertical you search with, DuckDuckGo will dynamically generate applicable search verticals.
For instance, when you search a food or favorite dish, DuckDuckGo will trigger the “Recipes” vertical for you (screenshot below).
DuckDuckGo also has a simple site-search command it calls “!bang syntax” that makes searching one website a lot easier (not that it’s never been done before).
There are some other usability features that DuckDuckGo offers its users, but its biggest messaging points come from:
The brand’s high standards for privacy.
Being an efficient and respectable search engine despite its small piece of search market share (only .22 percent of total market share, well below Ask, Yandex, Baidu, and all three “major players” in the United States, Google, Bing, and Yahoo).
DuckDuckGo annual traffic did grow by 55 percent in 2017 and by 56 percent in 2018 – with just under 6 billion searches in 2017 and more than 9.2 billion in 2018.
That number is obviously expected to grow, too – but to what extent, we don’t yet know.
If it keeps growing at this rate, though, more people will continue to take notice and more people will join in.
Pros of Using DuckDuckGo
A staple of its foundation, DuckDuckGo preaches its desire to not track any information of its users or their searches, and prides itself on offering the most private search engine on the market.
Easy to Use
Its clean interface and simple user experience make using the platform a somewhat-unique search experience.
Usability seems to be a primary focus, and it shows. It’s also aesthetically pleasing while still following the basic concept and layout of other search engines.
Growing in Popularity
The more users, the more profit, the more resources = better search engine.
Cons of Using DuckDuckGo
Not as Good as Google ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It’s the mom-and-pop version of a search engine, while Google is the premium gold standard.
DuckDuckGo simply doesn’t have the resources of big, long-standing search engines. But it’s getting more every year, including a $10 million investment at the end of 2018.
Tiny Search Market Share
DuckDuckGo only owned .22 percent of total search market share in 2017, which is less than Ask, Yandex, Baidu, and all three “major players” in the United States (Google, Bing, and Yahoo).
This means there is room for a lot of growth, but it needs to sustain its increasing popularity for years to come to gain significant market share.
Going to Always be Playing Catch-up
Features, ideas, and practices of DuckDuckGo are going to (for the most part) shadow Google (including doing the opposite of what Google is doing in terms privacy).
This isn’t out of the norm for other search engines; they’re all chasing the big dog, Google.
Google is the O.G.
But why, exactly?
To start, it’s the most robust, vast search engine out there in more ways than one, with a family of tools and databases to accompany it and support its mission of delivering the most relevant, credible answers quickly and easily.
For instance, owning a tool as powerful as Google Maps, which boasts a plethora of significant information for businesses across the world – from names, addresses, phone numbers, and websites, but also business-related photos that include interiors, exteriors, and everyday interactions – puts Google in a good position for success at its core.
We know Google tried to establish a human network with similar, useful information in Google+, which is Google’s latest victim of the chopping block.
While this was a futile effort in the end, it illustrates Google’s dedication to, not just improving search, but owning and building high-quality vessels to improve it through its platform.
Like DuckDuckGo, Google offers specific search verticals to help simply searches, but with more options.
In addition to traditional web results, and the above-mentioned Maps results, there are verticals for:
There are additional search settings and tools that can be used to further refine searches (shown below).
“The Google Search index contains hundreds of billions of webpages and is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes in size,” Google says.
This is, by far, the vastest of search engine indexes. And it’s one of the main reasons Google is the dominate player in search.
It isn’t just the largest search index; it’s also the smartest.
Google is constantly making updates to its algorithms and ranking signals, including the addition of artificial intelligence via RankBrain. This machine-learning mechanism is another reason Google dominates and delivers, with no competitor close in sight.
It has the best crawlers, the best index, and the best algorithms, which is why I always believe something I often say: “If it’s not on Google, it’s not real.”
This is a playful statement based on Google’s incredible ability to identify search queries – and their answers – from unique long-tail searches without some of the most important piece of information.
For instance, finding a film about a particular person or place without knowing the name of the movie, year of origin, or other seemingly critical information.
When I look for a 1980s skateboarding movie with a name I don’t know but remember the main character has blonde hair, Google delivers me the answer I am looking for right in Position 1.
The movie I was looking for is, of course, “Gleaming the Cube” with Christian Slater from 1989.
There are other popular entities that Google owns that contribute to making it the powerhouse it is, like YouTube, Gmail, Play, and AdSense, and so on.
It also boasts one of the best (and free) tool suites for productivity that includes Sheets, Docs, Slides, Calendar, and more.
That’s not to forget Google’s free tools for webmasters and marketers, including Google Analytics and Search Console.
What makes Google the true Goliath of the industry? It’s the combination of:
Its vast network of Alphabet-owned tools and properties.
Its unmatched ability to understand real-world entities and their relationship to one another (things, not strings).
Its constant commitment to improving the Google Search experience for the short- and long-term.
Its unparalleled leadership in the world of search and all things websites, we know what makes Google the true Goliath of the industry.
And while it is the biggest and best search engine out there, it doesn’t change the fact that Google is, in fact, always extracting information from its users and applying it where it can for the gain of the company and/or the people paying the company for the extracted user data and/or advertising.
It’s no secret that Google is doing this, so it’s not “ethically” wrong; it’s just not known by the majority of users exactly what data is being used, what it’s being used for, and why it’s being used at all.
This has allowed Google to become one of the richest companies in the world, and it’s much ado to its targeted advertising sold on its own platform and through its many partners.
That still doesn’t change the fact that it is the best search engine out there.
That’s actually exactly why it has become one of the most successful companies: the quality of its search platform.
Pros of Using Google
It’s the Best
Google has and will continue to accomplish feats other companies – including search engines – simply aren’t able to yet, if ever.
It’s a superstar brand that has been, not just in the thick of search since its inception, but pushing it to new heights anytime it can, and before all of its competitors.
Google has the largest search index, the smartest search engine algorithm, and the largest portfolio of free tools that all fit right inside its search engine.
It’s the Dominant Power of Search
Yeah, it’s basically the same as the two points above. But it’s what truly matters.
Google is the best and has been for quite some time. And it has changed every American’s life since its launch in 1998.
It will continue to be ingrained in our lives for many years to come.
Cons of Using Google
It’s Hard Not to Feel Violated
Google also has the largest ad network, too. That’s thanks to data its compiled from its users and their behavior.
On the organic side, Google treats personalization as a benefit to the user, but that’s all achieved through data collection as well.
Overthink User Experience & Other Ideas
Google is always testing features and changes, big and small, to try and get an idea of what works best.
Sometimes, Google will change things and, afterwards, it doesn’t seem like it was a change for the better.
But, that’s Google, and sometimes the changes (or lack of commonsense features) leave webmasters, marketers, and searchers scratching their heads.
It Isn’t Always Right (Still)
While it’s impressive in most everything it does, Google’s full-blown launch of its Featured Snippet attribute led to a lot more “noticeable” wrong or misleading answers.
In trying to provide its best (and often auto-generated) quick answer for simple questions, Google sometimes has pulled incorrect information (on a wide range of severity) that still shows the computer can’t always outsmart (or out-do!) humans.
Which Search Engine Should You Use?
As someone who somehow used Yahoo mail for two solid decades, I can admit I am an iconoclast that prefers the less-common options and going against the current. However, this is not why I was still using Yahoo email.
I used Yahoo mail for that long because I liked how it operated (until I had my account hacked, then said hacking was covered up) and I was comfortable with it.
As a news-junkie and newspaper reader, Yahoo’s front page always enticed me to stick around, scroll, and read. And the stories are tailored to the user, so I was being served content I should and would eat right up.
Without at least scanning through and, I’m sure, storing some – if not most – of my user data, that Yahoo homepage would have never had been as successful as it was in terms of grabbing my attention and piquing my unique interests to read a bunch of content there daily. And I knew that after the first 12 years or so.
More importantly, I didn’t mind because it worked for me.
So, what does Yahoo have to do with whether you should use DuckDuckGo or Google?
What works best for you is the right answer here. It’s all about preference.
Both search engines can likely get you the answer your looking for, and in a time-efficient manner.
Anyone who is passionate about privacy would likely lean toward – and prefer – DuckDuckGo solely for its strong privacy policies but also since it is a better-than-average search engine trying to do right for the people. And it does a strong job in achieving that.
That doesn’t change the fact that, if you can’t find an answer on DuckDuckGo, you’re going to go to Google to find it. And you will find it there.
Why Is It Bad for Your Data to Get There & What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from Dark Web Ripples
You may have heard these concepts being thrown around, but you don’t really know what they are, except that they sound ominous. You may suspect that it’s a place (or places) where malicious hackers roam. You may have also heard of the so-called ‘intellectual dark web’, but that just makes matters even more confusing.
So, what is the deal with these dark web and deep web concepts?
What can you do on them?
How can they be accessed?
Is it dangerous?
Deep Web vs. Dark Web
Let me clear the air with this brief introduction to the dark web for laymen. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the main concepts
What Is the Deep Web?
First of all, the deep web and the dark web are not one and the same thing, though they can overlap significantly.
The deep web refers to all the pages which are not indexed, which means that most search engines won’t return them to you after a search. Their crawlers don’t ‘see’ these pages, making them de facto invisible to these search engines.
This means that in order to access one of these pages, you need to either know their exact address (link) or to click on another link once you get in the deep side of the web.
Also, the deep web can include significant parts of the legitimate, mainstream web (like Netflix or Amazon pages), simply because they are personalized for users and not all URLs are meant to be indexed.
What Is the Dark Web?
The dark web is a layer even deeper: technically also part of the deep web (which makes it inaccessible unless you know exactly where to go), but focused on illegal activities and services. It can be pretty gruesome. Some people call it the place where humanity’s darkest side surfaces.
So what exactly is on the dark web?
On the dark web, you can expect to find any and all of the following (sensitivity trigger, better scroll down if you don’t want to be appalled):
Marketplace for various drugs, from mild recreational and borderline legal ones (like weed) to the hard stuff.
Marketplace for various fire weapons and ammunitions, obviously unregistered.
Software needed for deeper browsing (like Onion Browser) and listing directories (lists of other deep web / dark web websites and their links, so you can access them).
A few rare books, scanned (yay for scholars everywhere, right?).
Lots of blueprints for 3D printing stuff, from legal things to illegal things.
Some building plans boasting to offer undetected access (via secret tunnels) to important buildings.
A so-called Hidden wiki portal, claiming to be ‘The Original Wikipedia’ plus its mirrors.
Files claiming to contain nude photos of various celebrities (all behind a Bitcoin wall and probably fake, of course).
Websites with videos depicting abuse towards children, animals, war prisoners etc.
Racist content and content promoting violence against various minorities (like Ku Klux Klan propaganda or videos of actual hate crime being perpetrated).
Marketplace for hiring hitmen (though for the most part these services are reported to be yet more Bitcoin scams – still, some of them are for real).
Rumors of so-called ‘red rooms’, live video footage of torture and murder – they require a Bitcoin fee to enter but they are also scams,
As you can notice if you read the list, many of the things for sale on the dark web are shams, designed to get your bitcoins without making good on the promise. Of course, if someone is actually looking to buy access to such things, they don’t earn a lot of sympathy as victims of the scam. However, the fact that in many cases the services advertised are just scams doesn’t make the dark web less dangerous or disgusting.
The main marketplace for all these things is the so-called Silk Road hub. Authorities have managed to take it down and arrest its owner, then the marketplace was rebuilt by one of his lieutenants, who was recently arrested as well. It remains to be seen for how long this main black market can be kept down, but there are other minor hubs on the dark net for buying and selling illegal stuff.
What’s the Difference between Deep Web and Dark Web?
Many times the two terms are used interchangeably as if they are more or less the same thing. This is very inaccurate, as the deep web just refers to non-indexed pages, while the dark web refers to pages which are both non-indexed and involved in illegal niches.
This image using an iceberg metaphor should clear it up in an easier to comprehend way. As you can notice, ironically, the dark web is actually deeper than the deep web.
The bottom line is this: the deep web might be made of up of non-indexed pages simply because search engines fail to see them or because they’re not deemed relevant enough to be indexed. In contrast, the dark web wants to be hidden, since it’s a hub for shady business on purpose.
The deep web is ethically neutral, it can be used for good or for bad. The dark web is where the parts of moral-lacking economy and society come together.
As far as the relationship between them goes, not all deep web is dark web, but all dark web is deep web.
More Webs: Surface Web and Shadow Web
Another concept you should be familiar with from now on is the surface web: it refers to all the websites normally accessible from search engines, the so-called vanilla parts of the internet. You can also see it pictured in the graph above.
Finally, the last concept you should know about is the shadow web. This is allegedly a layer of internet even deeper than the dark web, the well-known hub for criminal activity. Rumors say that this shadow web is a place where even darker, more serious criminal activity takes place.
Still, according to investigations by the world’s best cybersecurity researchers and hackers, this shadow web is just a rumor.
If you go browsing the deep or dark web, you may find plenty of advertisements which claim to offer up the gateway to this hidden corner of the web, in exchange for bitcoins. It’s a well-known scam, so be careful what you click if you go looking for it.
Sadly, this only contributes to the defamation of cryptocurrencies, which in themselves are not a bad thing for the economy and society.
However, since the shadow web concept is online and ardently discussed on some Reddit groups and other forums (which sound more like conspiracy theories authored by people who don’t understand much about how the internet actually works), this doesn’t mean it can’t become real at some point in the future. Still, even if it were real or will be real, paying for access is not the way to go.
Also, if it would indeed be a hub for illicit activity even more gruesome than the dark web, I don’t know why would you want to go there, anyway, unless you’re part of a special team aiming to take them down.
Is It Illegal to Access the Deep Web or the Dark Web?
In short, no, it is not illegal to go browsing on a non-indexed page. Or to use a high-privacy like Tor, traditionally associated with browsing the deep web and dark web.
In fact, part of the deep web might include your old blog from 10 years ago which search engines fail to index because it’s very old and devoid of content. Seems pretty harmless, right?
What is illegal is not just to access and browse the overlay networks called the deep web or dark web, but to look into illegal services sold on these networks. Or to attempt to hack things without permission. That’s what can get someone in trouble, not just simply the browsing.
Still, you should note that accessing the dark web without plenty of cybersecurity precautions can be dangerous for a layman. It can expose you to various dangers, which I’ll elaborate on below. If you absolutely must satisfy your curiosity on this, I will follow up with a guide on how to access the deep/dark web soon.
What Is the Intellectual Dark Web?
How about the intellectual dark web?
You’ve seen the concept floating around, maybe, so what’s the deal with this one?
Well, the funny fact about this is that the so-called intellectual dark web doesn’t have anything in common with cybersecurity issues or non-indexed pages. Nothing in common with the actual dark web, or deep web.
It consists of a bunch of conservative intellectuals, who traditionally were the only ones allowed to speak in public, aka they were the most visible on traditional information dissemination hubs. Mostly they are the WASP elite middle-aged or older, which weighed in as experts on television shows, published editorials in the biggest newspapers or taught at the biggest universities.
Since the alternative orientations have started getting their voices heard more, about a decade ago, these ‘classic’ intellectuals (many with alt-right orientations) are complaining that they are censored. They claim the media is now oriented towards leftist, progressive voices which are all about minorities, political correctness, and decolonization. Hence, they claim to have been relocated to an intellectual dark web, because no one hears their opinions anymore.
Funnily enough, they still own those traditional big channels of communication and there are still plenty of people following the same orientation as them. They just don’t like the fact that other opinions can also be heard nowadays.
What Are the Main Dangers of the Dark Web?
Returning to cybersecurity issues, I need to stress that the dark web is a dangerous place, especially if you’re a non-technical person just looking to satisfy a curiosity. Don’t go snooping around there, or at least not without preparing.
I will put together a guide on how to access the dark web if you must, sometime next week.
In the meantime, you should know that the dark web can pose dangers to your safety even if you don’t meddle in it.
You know why?
Because one of the most often transactioned goods on the dark web marketplaces is your data. There are tons and tons of gigabytes of leaked credentials and personal information for sale for hackers. That’s where hackers get their data for credential stuffing attacks, identity theft, and other shady business.
In an experiment I wouldn’t care to replicate, Cnet journalists wanted to find out exactly what the dark web knew about them. The answer: too much.
How to Stay Safe from the Dark Web
First of all, don’t go there.
Second of all, guard your data well. Be careful what data permissions you give (don’t just mindlessly click ‘yes’ on every pop-up just to get to a website). Follow the steps in our password security guide. Don’t use funny passwords which are easy to crack.
Sooner or later, some of your data will spill over to collections available for sale on the dark web. What you can do to protect yourself is to make sure that data is not accurate anymore, not detailed enough to cause harm, and that you have multi-factor authentication enabled everywhere you can use it. Having reliable anti-malware protection active is also very important.
If you really need to go to the dark side to check it out, take precautions. Use an encrypted privacy browser (like Tor), don’t share any real info about yourself there, don’t buy anything and don’t talk to anyone. Don’t install any software you come across while there. A guide on all this to follow soon.
Featuring the best distros for a wide range of users
Linux is traditionally associated as being an operating system for coders and programmers, but over the years there have been real attempts to make Linux more attractive to general consumers. This is not least due to general consumer dissatisfaction with Windows security issues or even Apple’s walled garden.
However, Linux comes in many different forms, known as ‘flavors’ or ‘distros’. This is simply because Linux is so incredibly configurable that different forms tend to be developed for different userbase needs or interests.
For example, as mentioned, some have moved toward trying to entice disgruntled Windows users into something more familiar. However, others remain focused on specific environments that may favor programming or scientific applications, or other concerns such as security, resource use, and similar.
Different Linux distros can all work with Linux software and applications, and of course, any cloud-based apps that run through a browser. However, Linux distros come with a variety of different ranges of bundled software. Some might come with a lot of basic applications already pre-installed, while others will have the barest minimum.
And, as mentioned, Linux is very customizable, far beyond what normal Windows or Mac users may be used to.
Altogether, this is why it helps to have a good idea of what different Linux distros can offer. Do you need a GUI more familiar to Windows? Are you more concerned about privacy? How comfortable are you with typing commands rather than clicking icons?
All these concerns may determine which Linux distro is best for you, and here we aim to help you with that decision.
The very best Linux distros are tailored to specific types of users. Ubuntu for instance is very easy to use, as it’s designed for newcomers. Arch Linux on the other hand appeals to experienced users who can take advantage of using the Terminal to type commands to perform tasks such as installing apps. This guide focuses on picking out the very best distros overall.
1. Elementary OS
Probably the best looking distro in the world
Smartly designed and looks great
Excellent desktop environment
Not many preinstalled apps
If you’re after a distro that gets you as far away as possible from the image of a nerdy hacker type bashing away at a terminal interface, Elementary OS is what you need. It’s probably the most attractive distro around, with a style similar to that of macOS. This operating system’s superb desktop environment is known as Pantheon, and is based on Gnome.
The latest version of Elementary OS is called Loki, which as well as being that bit prettier and neater than its predecessor Freya, has its own application installer UI called AppCenter. It’s a delightfully simple way to install apps outside the terminal, which is handy as there aren’t very many preinstalled.
Elementary OS does, however, come bundled with the Epiphany browser, the Geary email client and a few basic ‘tool’ apps. You may need to add more programs, but this is easy to do using the integrated AppCenter, which contains paid programs designed specifically for the OS such as Quilter for budding writers or Spice-Up for composing presentations. The inconvenience of buying and downloading additional apps is balanced by Elementary OS’ Elegance.
2. Linux Mint
A strong option for those new to Linux
Ideal for those switching from Windows/Mac
Good media support out of the box
Impressive amount of customisation options
Linux Mint is a great ‘default’ distro for new Linux users, as it comes with a lot of the software you’ll need when switching from Mac or Windows, such as LibreOffice, the favoured productivity suite of Linux users. It also has better support for proprietary media formats, allowing you to play videos, DVDs and MP3 music files out of the box.
You can download three main starter flavours of Mint 19, each of which uses a different desktop environment, the top-most layer of the interface allowing you to change elements such as the appearance of windows and menus. Cinnamon is currently the most popular, but you can also choose the more basic MATE, or Xfce.
Linux Mint 18.3 was the last release to have an official KDE version. Unfortunately, this is no longer available with Linux Mint 19, but it can still be installed on top of version 19 if you miss it.
While Timeshift was introduced in version 18.3 and to all Linux Mint releases, it is one of the main features of Linux Mint 19. Timeshift enables users to restore their computer from the last functional snapshot.
All these desktop environments offer a good deal of customisation options, so feel free to download a few and boot as Live CD prior to installing to see which works best.
3. Arch Linux
Arch Linux or Antergos are sterling Linux options
Massive potential for customisation
Antergos represents a more user-friendly spin
Arch Linux itself isn’t for the faint of heart
If you’re willing to try a slightly less user-friendly distro, Arch Linux is one of the most popular choices around. Arch allows you to customize your build using the terminal to download and install packages, and it’s particularly handy for developers and those with older machines who may not want unnecessary packages taking up space.
The main aim of Arch Linux is to keep things simple, not so much for users as much as ensure code is clean and correct, with a minimalist approach to everything. There’s not so much bundled with it as other distros, so users will be expected to download any additional software they need, as well as customize Arch Linux according to their needs.
While it may make the distro a little complicated, the lack of bloat can make it especially attractive to users who want a clean Linux experience with little or no clutter.
The result is a Linux experience that definitely favors more experienced users rather than beginners, so keep that in mind.
There was originally a version built to be more user-friendly, named Antergos, but that has now been discontinued.
Another feature of Arch Linux is that rather than major releases, it follows a rolling release model that it’s continually updated.
One of the most popular distros for good reasons
Very accessible for novices
Security and stability of LTS version
Lubuntu spin is great for underpowered PCs
Ubuntu is one of the most popular flavors of Linux and along with Mint is strongly recommended for Linux newbies, as it’s extremely accessible.
New versions of Ubuntu are released every six months, and every other year the developer Canonical releases an LTS (long term support) version of Ubuntu. These guarantee five years of security and general maintenance updates, so you can carry on using your machine without the hassle of running a full upgrade every few months. Standard releases are supported for one year only.
The current LTS version of Ubuntu uses the Gnome 3 desktop environment, which may be less familiar to Windows and macOS users.
There are variations of Ubuntu which employ different environments such as Lubuntu, which uses a minimal desktop environment based on LXDE and a selection of fast, lightweight applications. This places far less strain on system resources than the graphic-intensive Unity.
A distro for the privacy-conscious
Emphasis on security and privacy
Yet maintains a user-friendly UI
Something of a niche OS
Tails is a privacy-oriented Linux distro which has the aim of concealing your location and identity as much as possible. Even Edward Snowden used it.
The OS routes all its internet traffic through the anonymising Tor network, which is designed to prevent data from being intercepted and analysed. Underneath all the security measures, it’s based on Debian Linux and uses the Gnome desktop so the interface is still clear and user-friendly.
Tails isn’t for everyone, but this niche OS does give you some peace of mind if you’ve been fretting about all the worrying privacy-trampling legislation being passed these days.
Offshoot of Enterprise version of Red Hat Linux
Built for stability
Ideal for a server
Not so great for daily desktop usage
CentOS is a community offshoot of the Enterprise version of Red Hat Linux, and its focus is on stability rather than constant updates. Like Red Hat, security and maintenance updates for CentOS are pushed out up to 10 years from the initial release of each version.
CentOS is designed to be super-reliable, which is why it’s a great choice for a server. It’s not quite such a good bet for someone looking for a new OS for daily use on their desktop PC or laptop.
On the plus side, you can enjoy the pleasure of having something for nothing – packages compiled for the commercial version of Red Hat Linux are fully compatible with CentOS, so you can use them free of charge.
7. Ubuntu Studio
Spin on Ubuntu aimed at audio and video production
Great alternative to costly production software
Support for audio plug-ins and more
Still allows access to packages in main Ubuntu OS
If you want a home music recording studio or a video production workstation without spending the thousands of pounds involved with industry standard software, consider installing Ubuntu Studio.
This officially recognised flavour of Ubuntu Linux has been designed for audio and video production, as an alternative to paid software such as Pro Tools. Support for audio plug-ins and MIDI input is built in and a virtual patch bay comes preinstalled.
Ubuntu Studio’s repositories have access to the packages in the main Ubuntu OS as well as a few digital audio sequencers. Its main strength is in audio recording through tools like the JACK Audio Connection Kit.
Primarily targeted at devs and sysadmins
Very polished distro
Can create your own version of the OS
Previously known as SUSE Linux and subsequently SuSE Linux Professional, openSUSE is aimed at developers and system administrators. For that reason, it’s extremely stringent on security protocols.
The operating system is divided into two main distributions: openSUSE Leap and openSUSE Tumbleweed. Leap uses the source code from SUSE Linux Enterprise, which makes it much more stable. New versions are released roughly once a year and are supported for three years, making Leap perfect for business applications.
Tumbleweed (pictured above) is based on Factory, openSUSE’s main development codebase. It follows a rolling release model – in other words, packages are made available for download as soon as they’ve been tested in Factory. This means Tumbleweed contains the latest stable applications and is good for day-to-day use.
The OS makes uses of the shiny KDE Plasma desktop, which is perfect if your machine can handle the more advanced graphical features.
One of the more polished Linux distros around, openSUSE is consistently ranked in the top five distros on DistroWatch.com. What’s more, the SUSE Studio Express website allows you to create your own version of openSUSE, complete with tailored preinstalled software packages, desktop and system settings.
The majority of users are gradually upgrading to the latest version of Windows from their existing operating systems. That’s mainly due to the enhanced functionality, security, and convenience that the new version offers.
If you are still using Windows 7/8, it’s high time to upgrade your computer to Windows 10.
Upgrading your computer is not a complex exercise. You just need to be aware of the required tricks and tweaks.
But first of all, your computer must comply with the hardware requirements below:
Minimum 2 GB RAM
16 GB free hard disk space
Compatible graphics card (DirectX 9 and above)
If your system meets these specifications, you can continue with this guide. Go through this guide to find a valid activation key and get the valid version installed on your computer.
Here are the steps that you need to follow:
Go to the Control Panel.
Click on Windows Update.
You will find a link for “Upgrade this PC now.” Just click on that link.
A new window for license agreement will pop up. Accept the terms and conditions, and your Windows 10 installation process will begin.
Follow the instructions given by the installation wizard and it will start downloading the required files from the Microsoft server.
Remember that you will need high speed internet connectivity to complete the upgrade process. It involves downloading a huge amount of files from the Microsoft server system.
Windows 10 Product Activation Keys
The system will not prompt you to enter a key if you are upgrading from a genuine version of Windows 7/8.
Microsoft allows all valid users to freely upgrade to its latest version of operating system without spending a dime.
So users who have already purchased valid copies of Windows 7 or Windows 8 can easily upgrade to Windows 10 without entering an activation key.
However, the system will prompt you to enter a serial key if your copy of Windows 7/8 is pirated.
Even a fresh installation requires you to provide a valid serial key for activation.
Without a 100% working product key, you will be forced to use the latest OS with a great deal of limitations.
Why Do You Need a Windows 10 Product Key?
Without a genuine serial number, you are likely to face the following consequences:
Repeated reminders will pop up every now and then, urging you to provide a valid activation key.
Some important features won’t work.
Automatic Windows updates will not work on your computer.
You will face difficulties with installing new apps from the Windows Store.
Features, components, and programs developed by Microsoft will not run properly or will give error messages.
Windows 10 themes and the Virtual Desktop feature may not work for you.
You may not be able to use Microsoft Virtual Assistant.
You may still continue to use the latest version of Windows without a valid serial code. But your user experience won’t be ideal due to these limitations.
For unlimited access to all Windows features, you should activate your copy of Windows with the help of a genuine key.
Where Can I Find Working Windows 10 Product Keys?
If you are hunting for a genuine Windows 10 product key, then you are in the right place. This guide will present you with a list of all valid serial keys for all versions.
A valid code is a 25-character string that looks like this: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX.
You get a valid serial number when buying a digital version of the OS from the Microsoft Store. The key is usually sent to your email address registered on the Microsoft website.
If you bought your copy of Windows from an authorized dealer, you can find the serial key on the label of the retail box.
When you buy a new desktop/laptop with Windows pre-installed, the serial number is usually included within the packaging.
And when you upgrade from a genuine version of Windows 7/8, you don’t need a separate key for activation.
List of Valid & Genuine Windows 10 Product Keys
A simple Google search will fetch you a number of free Windows 10 product keys, but unfortunately most of those are either false or invalid. Feeling stranded? Don’t worry! As always, we are here to help you out.
We have put in a considerable amount of research and extensive tests to bring you this list of genuine Windows serial keys that are in 100% working condition. The activation keys listed below work for all versions of the new OS.
Here’s the all-inclusive list of 40 genuine (and 100% working) Windows Product Keys that you can use to activate your new operating system.
WINDOWS 10 VERSION
Windows 10 Enterprise N
Windows 10 Professional N
Windows 10 Enterprise 2018 LTSB
Windows 10 Enterprise 2018 LTSB N
Windows 10 Enterprise 2018 LTSB N
Windows 10 Home Single Language
Windows 10 Enterprise 2016 LTSB
Windows 10 Home Single Language
Windows 10 S
Windows 10 Education N
Windows 10 Home + Office 2016 Professional
Windows 10 Pro + Office 2016 Professional
Windows 10 Education
Windows 10 Enterprise
Windows 10 Pro
Windows 10 Home N
Windows 10 Pro for Workstations
Windows 10 Pro Education
Windows 10 Enterprise Key
Windows 10 Enterprise G N
Windows 10 Enterprise
Windows 10 Education
Windows 10 Home Key
Windows 10 Professional
Windows 10 Enterprise G
Windows 10 Pro
Windows Pro N for Workstations
Windows 10 Professional Workstation
Windows 10 Home Country Specific
Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation
Windows 10 Enterprise
Windows 10 Education N
Windows 10 Education
Windows 10 Pro N
Windows 10 Home
Windows 10 Enterprise 2015 LTSB N
Windows Pro N for Workstations
Windows 10 Enterprise N
Windows 10 Enterprise S
Windows 10 Pro Education N
How to Activate Windows With a Product Key?
Follow the steps below to activate your Windows 10 operating system with a valid key. Remember, you will need internet connectivity to perform this activity.
Method 1: Using SLUI Utility
Open the Run dialogue box by pressing both Windows + R keys simultaneously.
Type “SLUI” and press Enter.
In the new interface, you will find a designated space to enter your product key. Simply copy & paste one of the Windows 10 serial keys listed above and press the “OK” button.
The new version of Windows will be activated on your computer after the provided key is verified by Microsoft’s servers over the internet.
Method 2: From the Settings Interface
Alternatively, you can also activate Windows from the Settings interface.
Open the Settings interface by pressing the Windows + I keys together.
Go to “Update and Security.”
Use the left navigation menu and select “Activation.”
Click on the “Change Product Key” link.
Enter a valid activation key and click on the “Activate” button.
Your system will now connect to Microsoft’s servers to validate the authenticity of the supplied key. Once the serial key is verified, the operating system will be activated on your PC.
If you are unable to activate your copy of Windows with a particular key, try out a different one. Continue with this trial and error approach until it brings you the desired outcome.
Sometimes a key may not work for a particular version due to compatibility issues, but we are quite sure that one of these keys will be able to successfully unlock all the OS features for you.
The Product Keys Are Not Working for Me. What’s Next?
At times, a Windows 10 serial code may not work for some users due to various reasons, including but not limited to corrupt OS files, incompatible architecture (x86 vs x64), invalid registry entries,or a pirated version of the base OS.
If that’s your issue, don’t worry. Here are a few tricks and tweaks for you to go ahead with the activation without a valid serial number.
In order to activate Windows 10 without a serial key, you’ll need Microsoft Tool Kit. You can download this utility from here (www.microsoft-toolkit.com/).
Now go to your “Downloads” folder and run the executable file. A new interface will open up which will give you an option for “Activate Windows 10 without a product key.”
Click on that link. On the next screen, click on the “EZ Activator” button and wait for a few seconds. Now reboot your computer and that’s all you need to do.
Congratulations! You have successfully activated Windows on your computer without a serial key.
Windows 10 is the most advanced version of operating system offered by Microsoft. Once you upgrade to this version with a valid code, you will be able to access all the exclusive features without any limitations.
Windows 10 is a behemoth. Even after you’ve gone through the tedious process of preparing your system to install Windows 10 and sitting through the long installation procedure, you still have more work to do: setting up the operating system how you like it.
Here are some of the bare minimum things you’ll want to do after installing a clean slate of Windows 10. If you want to skip some steps, that’s your call, but we recommend all of the following for the best experience possible.
1. Update Windows 10
I know, there are so many reasons to hate Windows Update.
Updates always happen at the worst times. It never seems to respect what you’re doing. Buggy updates can render your computer unusable for days or weeks. Everything about it is messy. But these days, Windows Update is a necessary evil.
You may have heard horror stories about the Creators Update and Fall Creators Update, and you may think you’re better off disabling updates altogether, even in light of the nifty new features you could be enjoying.
But there’s one big reason why you should update: bug fixes and security patches. You do not want to leave your computer vulnerable to exploits and loopholes. Staying up-to-date with patches will minimize some of your risk of catching nasty malware.
To install Windows Updates:
In the Start Menu, search for windows update, then select Windows Update settings.
Click Check for updates to see if any updates are available. On a newly installed copy of Windows 10, you’ll likely find many pending updates.
Wait for the updates to download and prepare.
When prompted, click Restart now to apply the updates.
2. Install the Latest Drivers
A device driver is a piece of software that interfaces with and controls how a particular device works when connected to the system. In other words, drivers allow Windows to communicate with hardware without knowing how the hardware itself is programmed.
Drivers are provided by hardware manufacturers, and like most software in the world, drivers are never perfect. Sometimes they’re buggy. Other times they simply go out of date, such as when the operating system updates, and lose functionality or performance.
Keeping drivers updated is important for two reasons: one, to make sure all hardware features stay available, and two, to make sure your hardware runs at optimal performance.
3. Install Essential Software
Even though Windows 10 comes with a lot of bloatware, none of it is very practical. To get your system set up for day-to-day use, you’ll want to install some real software. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some of our best starting points.
Install Antivirus Software
Door locks may not be 100 percent effective at deterring burglars, but does that mean you’re going to stop locking your door at night? Of course not, and the same holds true for antivirus software: imperfect but still a good idea.
On the one hand, Windows Defender is better than nothing. On the other hand, you can do better.
We recommend one of these free internet security suites to keep your system protected. In addition, we recommend downloading the free version of Malwarebytes and running it once every week or so. Keep it installed because it’s crucial for malware detection and removal!
Install Web Software
I don’t think Microsoft Edge is that bad, but it still has some serious issues that need to be addressed. As of this writing, we can’t recommend it for use as an everyday web browser.
Instead, you should look into the new Firefox Quantum browser. Rebuilt from the ground up, Firefox Quantum boasts lightning-fast performance and smooth usability. If you don’t like Firefox, then Opera should be your next consideration. And if not Opera, then Chrome is always a strong fallback (but Chrome comes with its own set of issues).
Install Media Software
Music and video, the two most important forms of entertainment today. If you’re happy using Spotify and Netflix, then you don’t really need to install anything. But if you still prefer to download music and videos, here’s what you need.
Nothing beats VLC Media Player. It’s free, open source, time-tested, packed with features, and has great performance even on lowly machines. Want something a bit flashier or maybe even more lightweight? Check out these alternative free media players.
As for music, foobar2000 still remains king after all these years. It’s completely free, extensible with plugins, highly customizable, extremely lightweight, and supports almost every format. If you want more eye candy though, consider these alternative free music players.
Install Productivity Software
Only you can decide what software actually makes you more productive. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. That being said, here are some apps that generally lead to more productivity. Feel free to pick and choose among them.
Email clients (Thunderbird vs. Mailspring vs. Sylpheed)
Office suite (Microsoft vs. LibreOffice vs. WPS)
Notes and notebooks (OneNote vs. Evernote)
Cloud storage and sync (Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive)
PDF reader (Sumatra vs. SlimPDF vs. PDF-XChange)
Archive extraction (WinZip vs. WinRAR vs. 7-Zip)
System search (Everything vs. Lookeen vs. Listary)
4. Change Default Windows Settings
Windows 10’s out-of-the-box settings aren’t optimal for anybody. Sure, the system might be usable, but you probably won’t have a good experience. The best thing to do is get it personalized right away so you can settle in and not worry about it later on.
Change Default Applications
Windows 10 comes with default apps for handling day-to-day activities, but they aren’t very good. Once you’ve installed the apps you intend to use (did you heed our recommendations above?), you can set them as default with these easy steps:
In the Start Menu, search for default app, then select Default app settings.
Select your preferred apps for Email, Music, Photos, Video, and Web Browsing.
Below that, click on Choose default apps by file type to associate various programs with other file types, such as PDF, DOCX, TXT, etc.
Disable Unnecessary Startup Items
After installing Windows 10 and a bunch of third-party apps, some of them may have sneakily set themselves up to run at startup. Unfortunately, this can slow down your system and force you to wait several long minutes every time you reboot your machine.
To disable unnecessary startup items in Windows 10:
Open the Task Manager with Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
Click More details to switch to the advanced view.
Click the Startup tab.
Right-click on every app you don’t want to start automatically and select Disable to prevent it from launching on startup.
Optimize Appearance Settings
Surprisingly, Windows 10 doesn’t look half bad. The interface is modern and the animations are pleasing, which is great if you like eye candy. But these appearance features impact system performance — a lot more than you might realize — and disabling some of them can actually make your system feel smoother and more responsive.
To optimize Windows 10 appearance settings for your system:
In the Start Menu, type adjust appearance and select Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.
Under the Visual Effects tab, select either Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer (which will strike a healthy balance between eye candy and performance) or Adjust for best performance (which will disable all the performance-heavy features).
Optimize Power Plan Settings
Windows 10’s Power Plan settings allow you to tweak various aspects of the operating system that involve power usage. This is essential for laptop users, but can also prove important for desktop users (e.g. how long before the screen turns off when idle). We recommend the “High plan” for desktops and the “Balanced plan” for laptops.
You can then tweak your power plan using these steps:
In the Start Menu, search for power plan and select Choose a power plan.
Select the plan you want, then click Change plan settings at the right.
Click Change advanced power settings.
In particular, you should edit the settings under the Hard disk, Sleep, Power buttons and lid, Processor power management, and Display categories.
Tweak Privacy Settings
It’s true: Windows 10 does collect all kinds of information on how you use the operating system. Some are okay with this, but maybe you feel it’s a violation of privacy. The good news is, Microsoft lets you turn a lot of these features off. The bad news is, you can’t turn everything off. No matter what, some of your data will find its way to Microsoft.
General privacy settings
Telemetry privacy settings
Microsoft account privacy settings
Cortana privacy settings
Windows Store privacy settings
As you can see, you have a lot to tweak.
Other Windows Settings to Consider
In addition to the above, you may want to think about using a local account instead of a Microsoft account for general operating system use, customizing the Action Center and its notifications to be less intrusive, and personalizing almost every inch of Windows 10.
5. Set Up Backup Methods
Imagine going through all of this setup only to catch a virus that wipes all of your settings. Or what if you wake up one morning and your hard drive is dead? Maybe a family member deletes an important file and you don’t realize until it’s long gone.
All of these hypotheticals point to one truth: you need to back up your data!
Disasters happen. Unless you’re willing to lose all your data in the blink of an eye, you need a good backup routine. Agree but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Then you’ve come to the right place!
By the end of this guide, you’ll know everything you need to know to regularly back up your PC: what to back up, strategies for backing up, and which tools to use. Here’s an overview of what you’ll learn:
In this guide: What Are Backups and Why Do I Need One? | Types of Backups | The Master Backup Plan | Which Files Should I Back Up? | How Often Should I Make Backups? | Backup Strategies | Backup Tools | Where Should I Store My Backups? | How Do I Back Up and Restore My Operating System?
1. What Are Backups and Why Do I Need One?
A backup is a copy of electronic data that gets stored separately from the original files. If the original data gets corrupted, damaged, deleted, or lost, you can recover and/or restore the data using the backup.
In short, a backup minimizes the risk of permanently losing data.
Backups are necessary because data has value. Whether the data is sentimental, commercial, or legal, backups act as a way to secure sensitive details. In a world where most information is traded digitally, nearly all data carries financial value (e.g. purchased music or ebooks). And for files that don’t have monetary value, they likely have time value.
If you can afford to lose your files, then you don’t need to waste time or effort on preparing backups. In fact, there’s an entire industry that depends on people who don’t make backups: the data recovery industry. Should your hard drive break down, there’s a good chance that your files can be recovered. However, that expert service comes with a high price tag whereas self-made backups can be done entirely for free.
This manual will guide you through the process of setting up and maintaining regular backups in Windows 10. The concepts can be adopted for nearly any other operating system, though the exact steps may differ slightly.
2. Types of Backups
Before choosing a backup strategy, we must understand the different types of backups.
A full backup is a 100 percent copy of the original files. It is typically saved to a fresh folder that carries a timestamp. This is the traditional way to back up files. Since every single file is copied, the full backup is the slowest of all backup types but most reliable when restoring.
A differential backup tracks all files that have changed since the last full backup. This means it adds all new and updated files to an existing full backup. If other backups were made in the meantime (i.e. another differential backup), files that were backed up during these sessions will be backed up again, since differential backups are not full backups.
This is the most convenient way to back up files because differential backups are fast and allow you to revert to previous versions of a file when necessary.
Like a differential backup, an incremental backup backs up only changed files. The difference between the two is that the incremental backup simply backs up files that were changed since the previous backup, no matter whether this was a full, differential, or incremental backup. This is the fastest way to update an existing backup.
Technically, syncing is a form of backup. The difference is that it works in multiple directions. For example, if a file is synced between two computers and gets edited on one computer, the latest copy is synced to the second computer. That synced copy acts as a backup in case the first is lost.
As you may have guessed, this method is interesting and worthwhile if you regularly access and edit files from different locations (e.g. your home computer and your work computer).
3. The Master Backup Plan
Throughout this guide, you’ll learn how to organize your data and which tools to use for backups. But since this topic can be overwhelming at first, let’s start with a master plan before diving in.
This is a simplified overview of the steps you need to take to create a simple and automated backup routine:
Get an overview of your files and where everything is.
Move all personal files off the system partition.
Decide which files to back up, how often, and where to.
Decide which tools to use and set up scheduled backups.
If the tools you picked do not provide scheduling, create a scheduled task.
(Optional) Back up your operating system in case you need to reinstall.
Seems straightforward, right? Now let’s have a closer look at how to make this all happen.
4. Which Files Should I Back Up?
As a general rule of thumb, you should back up all personal files, media files, downloaded files, system customizations, office documents, records, and statements. Common locations for backing up include, but aren’t limited to:
Custom folders where you store files
Other hard drives or partitions with data
If you find that your files are all over the place, be sure to check out the “Backup Strategies” section for ways to better organize your files and folders in a smart way. For a deeper dive into all the different kinds of files you should back up (and should NOT back up),
Tip: Hidden files!
Some of the listed folders may be hidden. To view them, open their respective parent folders, go to Organize > Folder and search options. In the Folder Options window, switch to the View tab. Under Files and Folders, select Show hidden files, folders, and drives. Click OK to apply to the selected folder only, or click Apply to Folders to apply to all folders.
5. How Often Should I Make Backups?
In one word: OFTEN!
Well, the truth is there are files you don’t need to back up every day or even every week. For example, large data collections that barely change only need to be backed up every other week or month, depending on how often you add to them. Files you change daily or weekly (e.g. emails or work documents) should be backed up at least once a week or every other day.
Important files that you access and edit daily, even from different computers, can be stored in one folder and synced with online storage space. You can automate this process so you don’t even have to think about making backups.
Let me repeat that you need to run backups regularly. The frequency depends on how often the files change and on how important the changes are. Rule of thumb? The more frequently the file changes and the more important the file is, the more often you need to back it up.
6. Backup Strategies
You can either back up everything, or you can revert to smart backups using differential or incremental backups (revisit the “Types of Backups” section).
A smart backup saves time, hard drive space, and preserves energy. The smart backup strategy is to create different types of backups depending on what you are backing up, and creating automatic schedules that will help you not to forget or skip backups.
Personal vs. System Files
My first and most important advice is to organize your files so that your personal data is NOT stored on the same drive or partition as the operating system. This strategy has several advantages:
Your personal data will be safe if your system fails. Nothing to worry about!
Your personal files will live in one location. Simple to back up!
When reinstalling your system, you have to restore less data. Faster setup!
To move personal files from your system drive, you either have to install a second hard drive or create an additional partition on your primary hard drive. The latter option is completely free and can be done at any time without installing additional tools.
Re-partitioning a hard drive is generally safe but can go wrong. Don’t attempt it unless you’ve already made a backup of your data.
If you do decide to re-partition, make sure to allocate at least 20GB for the operating system (more if you install a lot of software or games). You should always have at least 5GB of free space for smooth system performance.
Online Backup and/or Sync
Backing up files online has the advantage of being able to access them from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection. Since the servers that store your data are generally backed up themselves, this is also the safest way to back up your files. Server space is expensive though, so you should only back up your most heavily-accessed files online.
What keeps many people from storing data online (or “on the cloud”) is the misconception that cloud-stored data is easier to hack, copy, and abuse. But for the most part, professional servers tend to be better secured than the average home computer.
For large media collections (i.e. music and movies), you only need to keep one full backup that you update regularly. For this, I would recommend setting up a weekly or monthly incremental backup that runs on a set schedule.
Remember that if you edit the original collection, any deleted files will still be present in your backup. Hence you should make a full backup after removing files or folders from the original copy.
We recommend seasonal backups for files and folders you don’t change often. For files you never change and rarely update, once a year might even be okay.
For example, when you return from vacation you probably upload photos from your digital camera to your computer and sort them into respective folders. This is when you should run an incremental backup to add these files to your backup. You can do the same for music or movie downloads and run those backups whenever you deem necessary.
7. Backup Tools
The good news is, there’s no lack of high-quality backup tools for Windows users. The operating system itself comes with a File History feature for backups, but you’ll find an abundance of third-party alternatives out there as well. Whatever your needs, one of them is sure to deliver.
Windows File History
Windows 7 had the Backup and Restore feature, but it was replaced by File History in Windows 8.1 and 10. This is the operating system’s built-in method for backing up data, and it uses an incremental backup technique that can save changes in real-time.
To launch the File History feature in Windows 10, open the Start Menu and search for backup. From the results, select Backup settings and hit Enter.
If File History isn’t set up, you’ll see this:
Click Add a drive and it’ll start scanning for connected drives. I’m using a USB flash drive in this example, and that’s fine if you want to as well, but for long-term backups you’ll be better off with a full-blown external drive:
Once a drive is selected, File History will turn on. If you don’t care about automatic backups and only want to do them manually, disable the Automatically back up my files toggle:
To customize File History settings, click More options. You’ll arrive on the Backup Options page. Here you can change the automatic backup frequency and how long backups should be kept, and you can click on Back up now to initiate a manual backup:
Scroll down a bit to see the Back up these folders section, where you can select and/or remove which folders to include in the backup. Click Add a folder to add one, or click on an existing folder then Remove to remove one:
Scroll further down to see the Exclude these folders section. If you’ve selected a certain folder for backups but want to skip over one of its subfolders, this is how you mark it to be ignored:
To change to another drive, click Stop using drive at the bottom. This lets you go back and choose another drive when clicking Add a drive.
Local and FTP Backups: Cobian Backup
Cobian Backup has been my personal tool of choice for many years. It offers advanced features while still being easy to use for day-to-day backup purposes.
When installing Cobian Backup, install it as a service rather than as an application. Go to Help > Tutorial for an explanation of why this is important. For this guide, we’ll walk through the steps for creating a monthly incremental backup.
Backup jobs in Cobian Backup are called Tasks. Click on the clock icon or navigate to Task > New task in the menu to create your first backup job.
The new task window launches with the General tab open. If you create separate backups with a timestamp, you can select how many copies to keep (bottom left). If you set up a differential or incremental backup, you can choose how often a full backup should be prepared (bottom right).
The Dummy option opens the respective task on schedule, but doesn’t run it. This is handy if you simply need a reminder (e.g. to run a backup once you no longer need the computer). If you don’t want a task to run for a while, you can uncheck the Enabled box:
In the Files tab, specify both the files and folders you want to back up (Source), as well as where you want to back them up to (Destination). Cobian Backup also supports FTP server backups (to and from).
Setting up multiple destinations is practical if network letters for your external hard drive sometimes change. Or you can make a backup to multiple locations. Cobian Backup lets you drag and drop files and folders, which I find very convenient:
The Schedule tab is straightforward with no surprising or complicated features. This tab also completes the basics that are required for a proper backup:
Under Archive, you can set up file compression and encryption and password protect your backups. I prefer to run my backups with neither:
Likewise, I don’t use Exclusions or Inclusions. However, it’s an interesting feature if you have an older backup made with another tool and would like to back up only newer files. You can also discriminate by size, file, or directory:
If you want to back up application profiles, you may want to look into the Events tab. Here you can let Cobian Backup run events before and after the backup (e.g. close and open programs or shut down the computer after the backup concludes).
If you run Cobian Backup as an application, you should always close programs if you intend to back up their profiles. However, you can also install Cobian Backup as a service and simply log off your user account before the backup starts.
Under Advanced you can run the task as another user and set other preferences:
Cobian Backup does not offer a restore feature. However, to copy files back to the source, you can use a reverse backup task or a command-line option like robocopy.
Online Sync: Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive
If you decide to back up data on a cloud storage service, your three main options are Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. They all work in pretty much the same way: a designated folder that syncs in real-time whenever you add remove, or change files.
All three options offer the same core features, including cross-platform support for mobile devices and the ability to access your files from anywhere using a web browser.
So why choose one over another? Two reasons. The first depends on whether or not one of these services has an advanced feature that you really want (e.g. File History in OneDrive). The second depends on how much space you need. For free users, Google Drive offers the most space (15GB), followed by OneDrive (5GB), then Dropbox (2GB).
Automatic Backups With Scheduled Tasks
If you end up using a backup solution that doesn’t provide a scheduling option, or you don’t want to keep apps running in the background all the time, then you can use Scheduled Tasks in Windows. Use these to automate the backup process, or if that isn’t possible, then at least remind yourself to do it manually.
Open the Start Menu, search for schedule, then launch the app called Task Scheduler:
Click Action > Create Basic Task:
Enter a Name and Description if you want, then click Next to move on to the Trigger tab. Pick your schedule preference (e.g. weekly) and enter the details (e.g. every Monday at 1am):
In the Action tab, select Start a program, then click Next. On the next page, click Browse and navigate to the application’s EXE file. In our example, we’re launching Cobian Backup:
Click Next, review the task details, and click Finish to complete. Now your backup tool will automatically run according to schedule!
8. Where Should I Back Up To?
You can back up your files in many different ways. The most common backup media include CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, hard drives, flash drives, and online server space. They all have advantages and disadvantages, which are reviewed below.
Tip: Hard drives vs. solid state drives!
When choosing either an internal or external data drive, your first decision will be what kind of data drive to get.
Which backup medium should you choose? First of all, it’s important to realize that different backup media are better (and worse) for different purposes.
The more important your files are, the more reliable the backup medium should be (e.g. CD, DVD, Blu-ray). Frequently-changed files should be backed up to a medium that allows frequent rewrites (e.g. hard drive). If you want to access files from more than one location, you should consider backing them up online or to portable media (e.g. USB flash drive).
Life or Business Documents
Since you’re going to save very important files on an ultra-portable backup medium like a DVD, Blu-ray disc, or a USB flash drive, you can easily store them away from your computer.
Keep them in a fire-proof safe, give them to someone you trust, put them into your drawer or locker at work or school, or hide them in your car.
If these documents contain sensitive information, be sure to encrypt the backup!
Photos, scanned documents (i.e. digital backups), emails, address books, and other personal files that you cannot retrieve once lost should be stored as safely as possible. Consider storing them online or back them up to an external drive that you store away from home.
Whether music, videos, or movies, it’s easy to hoard hundreds of GBs worth of data. You should store these files on a portable hard drive.
And if you have the chance, store that drive in a different room or somewhere else entirely. If your house burns down, you’ll wish you had been smart enough to keep the external drive away from your computer.
9. How Do I Back Up and Restore My Operating System?
At this point, your data should be safely backed up. However, you can go one step further and back up your entire operating system.
While installing an operating system can be simple, it still takes a lot of time. Below we propose two strategies that can save you the hassle of setting up your entire operating system from scratch if you ever need to reinstall.
System Restore Points
With system restore points, Windows provides an easy solution for undoing changes made to the operating system.
You should create restore points before every major Windows Update, driver update, or change to system settings. When things go wrong, you can easily return to a working version of Windows without wasting hours on troubleshooting or even reinstalling the system.
In Windows 10, you can also entirely roll back a Windows Update. Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and under Go back to the previous version of Windows 10, click Get started. However, this is not a backup and the rollback option is available for 10 days only.
Drive or System Images
Another option is to clone your hard drive, which creates an “image” of everything on it, including the operating system. This drive image (or system image) lets you immediately restore the state of the system on a different hard drive or computer. If you keep a fresh and clean image, you’ll never have to reinstall Windows from scratch again because you can just use the image to restore the entire system.
Drive images should contain a complete setup of the system, including oft-used apps and system settings, but no personal data. If you followed the advice from earlier in this guide, personal data will be kept on a separate drive.
Now You’re a Windows Data Backup Master
Bad things happen, and the best you can do is be prepared. Backups are an easy way to secure your work, but they can only help you if done regularly and stored safely.
This guide outlined all the essential steps required to keep your data safe from system failure and other events that threaten data loss. You should now have a good understanding of the options available to you. While some of the procedures may seem complicated and tedious, they don’t require a lot of maintenance once they’re set up.
Get out there and start backing up your files. Where are you going to store your backups? Let us know below!
More people are exploring ways they can earn money through various online platforms on a daily basis. At the same time, people are also looking for ways to earn through cryptocurrencies. The crypto sector is heading towards mass adoption and many people will soon be earning funds in digital currencies.
For individuals with interest in cryptocurrencies, we have various ways to earn. The interesting part is that earning cryptocurrencies does not require much work. Here are some of the ways you can earn cryptocurrencies in 2019.
Use Brave Browser
Brave browser became a solution for people that don’t want to see ads at all. But what they don’t know is that Brave recently launched their service where you could actually get paid for seeing ads. And the best about this? You can control the ads frequency and if you want to see it or not. Don’t expect now to get rich overnight from it, but its still a perfect option to either block ads or wish some extra BAT while watching ads. And who knows? Maybe BAT would reach $1 or more in the future – improving your earnings. Its a nice & simple way to get some extra cash while browsing – which you do anyway – but this time you can get paid for it.
Under this category, you earn through completing micro tasks. Some of the microtasks include article writing, social media management, and referrals. With micro tasks, your goal is to push for large scale participation. The compensation is based on factors like quality of work and the type of job. Looking for micro jobs is also known as bounty hunting and it can be traced back on the Bitcointalk platform.
Bounty hunting has been growing with time. Platforms like Bounty0x, are known to legitimize micro-tasks. The platform has a mutually incentivized ecosystem for companies to host bounty hunters to complete tasks. Bounty0x is set up on a blockchain with its own token, BNTY. The token incentivizes work and solves the trust issues with other bounty platforms. Bounty0x aims to be the leading base for crypto earning.
In terms of popularity, masternodes are still not very common in the cryptocurrency world. However, masternodes can be a real source of cryptocurrency income online. Masternodes draws some similarities from cryptocurrency mining. Masternodes are utilized in the Proof-of-Stake projects for block verification. Users only dedicate their computer’s processing power to the network. Every single masternodes requires a specific amount of its native token to be staked.
Earning from master nodes is based on a number of factors. Recently, masternodes have been attracting the attention of scammers. To invest in masternodes, you need a long term investment plan. For example, Dash masternodes earn about 6.8% yearly.
We have the existence of Proof-of-Stake coins that pay users rewards. Holders earn rewards by staking their coins. This model of earning resembles the placement of masternodes but requires less work. This model is simple, as a cryptocurrency holder, all you have to do is store your coins is a specific wallet and earn rewards by staking more coins.
This means of earning cryptocurrency shows signs of growing considering that big players like Cardano and Ethereum are planning to offer staking services. Some of the best paying platforms include Komodo which pays 5% commission on all staked coins.
Accepting Payments In Cryptocurrencies
Receiving cryptocurrency payments works well for e-commerce websites. If you own a company or business, accepting cryptos will be a viable way to earn. Some of the popular platforms that accept cryptos include Shopify and WordPress plugin like WooCommerce. With this platform, you can earn different cryptos where you can store them, sell or convert to fiat.
Crypto faucets pay for your time and attention. They range from websites with ads or games. With basic websites, users only need to complete a CAPTCHA while other platforms offer a survey that should be completed. In other cases, we have applications that pay satoshis for eliminating aliens. However, it is important to note that crypto faucets are the least lucrative form of earning cryptos online.
Mining is among the most lucrative form of earning cryptocurrencies. This mode of earning has produced millionaires in the crypto sector. It was more lucrative during the earlier years of cryptocurrency inception.
Normally, cryptocurrencies deploy Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm. In return, miners conduct mathematical algorithms in exchange for a block reward. Profit margins are controlled by the crypto’s market value, cost of electricity and cooling of mining rigs. Although mining profit has dropped, you can still earn through setting up your own mining rig or taking part in cloud service mining that handles the complex part.
Over the years, the number of casinos paying gamblers in cryptocurrencies has been on the rise. If you can handle the risks of gambling, then this should be your next venture. With online casinos, you enjoy some convenience since you don’t need to verify your personal details before gambling.
Typical casinos are usually tedious to sign up as they require a user to undergo a cumbersome verification process. However, before venturing in cryptocurrency gambling, you should do sufficient research about the authenticity of the platform you have selected. The industry is very unregulated and you can be exposed to risks. Visit platform like CoinClarity to learn more about cryptocurrency gambling.
If you have experience in trading, then your doors to earning in cryptocurrencies are open. Note that day trading requires patience and experience. If you have experience, use platforms like Bitmex and Coinbase to trade.
If you have the relevant skills, then freelancing is the best option for you to earn in cryptos. You can earn through skills like writing, photography, and editing. If you don’t harbor these skills, no need to worry as we have numerous online resources to help you get started. Unlike other platforms, freelancing is easy to start. We have countless companies that pay freelancers in cryptocurrencies. We also have freelance job service platforms that only pay through cryptocurrency. Visit platforms like Bitgigs.com, CryptocurrencyJobs.com, and Cryptogrind.com.
If you can manage the volatility within the cryptocurrency sector, then this is the best platform to earn in cryptos. All you have to do is buy cryptos in fiat and hold on to it. The next phase will require you to buy low, sell high, repeat on a long-term scale. If you are patient enough, you will earn big when the crypto market improves.
However, before getting into this business, conduct enough research. Always be on the lookout for cryptos that are near the bull run phase. Gain trading experience and sell some of your cryptocurrencies. The bottom line is to have enough experience and knowledge to enhance your chances of earning big.
With airdrops, you can conduct simple tasks like following a company or holding cryptos at the correct time and earn digital assets. Airdrops are mostly utilized when marketing ICOs. One of the recent companies to conduct airdrops is Stellar. The airdrop had a giveaway of $125 million in XLM tokens to Blockchain wallet users.
Crypto Blogging Platforms
We have online platforms where cryptocurrency writers can post articles and earn cryptocurrencies. Articles posted on these platforms get claps or upvotes. If it gets 50 claps, the writer begins building an audience. The claps are then converted into Satoshi. A platform like Steemit operates on such a model. With more claps, you earn more cryptocurrencies. Steemit operates under EOS and BitShares. It needs the use of STEEM. We also have Publish0x where writers sign up and earn tips from readers based on their cryptocurrency of choice.
Generally, affiliate marketing is one of the popular means of earning online. You can earn in cryptocurrencies if you have the right affiliate marketing strategy. Platforms like Coinbase and wallets like Ledger Nano S pay commissions in cryptocurrencies for individuals who wish to market their products.
Notably, before becoming a good affiliate marketer, you need some capital to learn how to build an audience and sales. Starting is always easy but it is difficult to sustain and earn from affiliate marketing. To earn more in cryptocurrencies, you need an audience that has more interest in cryptocurrencies.