How To

One of the great features in Windows Phone 8.1 is the ability to restore from a backup when setting up a new device. Everything from your Start screen layout to the apps themselves and even some settings can all be 'restored' if you ever change devices, or wish to hard-reset and start anew.

However, a few people have noticed that under Settings > Backup, there is an error message noting that the last backup attempt has failed. Even more worrisome, you may not even know it. Yikes! The good news is there is a fast and simple way to get this fixed, and you may want to double check that your OS is backed up. Here's how.

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As Microsoft continually improves their new Cortana voice-assistant, users are discovering more novice features every day. Recently, we covered all the new songs Cortana can either sing (or semi-sing), and today we are learning that she can now tell you the time or convert currencies.

Just by asking Cortana "What time is it?" and the assistant fetches you the present time. Although she does not yet read it out loud, making this new find slightly less useful. Actually, asking Cortana the current time itself is redundant since it likely your phone already has an up-to-date clock (especially since with Update 1, the OS can synchronize over Wi-Fi for the current time).

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Cortana has new songs, but she can't sing them yet

It looks like Cortana is learning new songs. She has been able to sing for a while now, but asking her recently has resulted in new songs. There's a little problem, though. She doesn't actually sing them out. Instead, many of the songs are read aloud. Perhaps she's in the middle of rehearsing them? Go ahead and try asking her with your Windows Phone device. We've tried it ourselves on the Nokia Lumia 930. Watch the video!

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How to get an Uber car with Cortana

You have probably heard of Uber by now. It's a transportation network company that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire in over 70 cities. We were very excited when the official app returned to Windows Phone and we have been using it frequently. Windows Phone users also get treated to a very cool integration with Cortana. You can ask her to grab you an Uber car!

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How to force close an Xbox One game or app

One of our favorite features on the Xbox One is the ability to resume games even after turning off the system. It's really handy at finishing single player games after being interrupted by errands. But once in a blue moon, we notice games getting stuck at the splash screen when attempting to resume after startup. Want to know a quick fix? Force close the game! We'll show you how simple it is on the Xbox One.

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No one likes ads, even if they are what powers our web economy. The debate over ad blockers is always a tough one, even more so since it even affects our site too. Without the revenue, we do not get money, which means we cannot pay our writers, which means we do not have employees. Still, there are selective uses of ad blocking that is useful, and we will show you how to do that in IE11 for Windows 8.1.

Internet Explorer 11 cannot do traditional plugins like Chrome or Firefox, which is a big gripe for many who would like to use it as their main browser. As a tradeoff, though, IE11 has fewer security issues, and it is gentler on your battery, which is important for tablets, laptops, and the Surface. However, there is a way to block ads within IE11 even without plugins, and it does not involve any hacks or modifications. Yes, Microsoft has given you the tools directly.

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The HTC One M8 for Windows brings many 'firsts' to the table, including support for the 801 chipset, duo camera and more. One of those originals is the ability to hide the Nav bar aka where the Start, Search and Back key reside. On previous Windows Phones these keys were part of the device, so that when the display is off they were still visible. Now with Windows Phone 8.1, manufacturers get the ability to use on-screen keys instead, cutting down costs and letting companies like HTC port over their Android phones with no change in the hardware.

Although phones like the Nokia Lumia 630 have on-screen keys, the HTC One for Windows adds a few options to the mix, including an auto-hide option. Here's how it all works.

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Cases are always an optional accessory on phones, but the Dot View case for the HTC One M8 for Windows is much more than just protection. The case is interactive, showing owners useful information like the time, current temperature and the current conditions. The case is 'dot view' because of the mesh screen gives users a dot-matrix picture of that info.

On the new Windows Phone version, Microsoft and HTC added something unique to the equation: Cortana integration. Although all Windows Phone 8.1 devices in the US get Cortana, the HTC One (M8) for Windows goes a step further by adding a feature to the Dot View case. Users simply swipe down on the case when the phone is in standby, and Cortana comes to life.

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When the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK leaked back in February, double-tap to wake was seen in the documentation, suggesting that Nokia's tech was being opened to all OEMs. Fast-forward to August and HTC's new One for Windows is the first non-Lumia Windows Phone to feature this useful technology.

Double-tap to wake came to Nokia Lumias in mid-2013. The optional tool lets users tap their display twice when it is off, letting people turn on their phones without using the power-button. Double-tap has always been a useful feature, especially if you only have one-hand available and you would like to use your phone.

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How to stream videos from your Mac to Xbox One

Have a lot of movies or TV episodes stored in your computer and want to watch them on your big screen TV? Here are the steps on how to easily stream those videos from your Mac to the Xbox One using this handy app from the Mac App Store called SofaPlay ($4.99 - Download now). It's so easy and convenient, that I want to slap myself for not knowing about it earlier.

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The Lumia 1520 is in many ways the perfect Windows Phone assuming, of course, that you are okay with a 6-inch display. However, if there is one Achilles Heel that only occasionally rears its head it is the 'scroll/tap' issue. Although more a nuisance than anything, the bug randomly occurs when scrolling on the display using a swipe, but instead the device registers it as a 'tap.' This hardware "misreading" results in the phone opening links, tweets, photos, or hyperlinks when the user only intended to scroll up or down.

Ever since the Lumia 1520 started exhibited this problem, it was largely assumed to be a software (firmware) problem, or a screen-calibration tweak. The randomness of the bug and subsequent software releases though calls this explanation into question. Even more, some users have it and others do not.

Now, a new theory grounded in the hardware of the device appears to go a long way in explaining the problem and even how to solve it.

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How to redeem Xbox or Windows Store gift cards

Did someone just give you an Xbox gift card, Windows Store gift card, prepaid card, or promotional code? They usually come in the form of cards with a 25-character code. You can use these prepaid codes to make purchases without a credit card. We'll show you how you can redeem the codes on your Xbox One, Windows Phone device, or your computer.

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Apps Corner is one of the new features that Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1 brings. In a nutshell, it lets you set up a custom Start screen on your device, where you can share only the apps you choose with the people you let use your phone. This is great for showing off your phone, while hiding private information from emails, calendar, and photos. This is also handy in setting up phones for employees, students, or coworkers, by exporting your Apps Corner settings from your phone and importing it onto other phones.

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This morning, Microsoft published a partial changelog for Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. The listing is incomplete because it misses things like Cortana's Bluetooth integration or the new Store Live Tile. However, one area it did get right is the ability to select multiple entries on messaging, contacts and even phone calls.

Previously, in Windows Phone 8.1 and below, users could either delete everything in the call-history or delete one by one. This approach lacks the granularity that many users desire, so the ability to bring up the familiar multiple-select check boxes goes a long way to improving control over one's content.

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