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The best video chat apps to turn social distancing into distant socializing

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The best video chat apps to turn social distancing into distant socializing

The vicissitudes of social distancing have taken many people by surprise, making video calls a new necessity for distant socializing. But which of the two-dozen apps out there should you and your (perhaps not as tech-savvy) friends and family use? Here are our recommendations, whether it’s for a coffee meeting, a family get-together or a late-night gaming hangout.

This list is for individuals looking for a free solution to easily connect with others, not for small businesses or enterprises. The focus here is on ease of use and features that make it attractive to ordinary people. Every app is free and cross-platform, meaning iOS and Android at least, with many supporting Macs and Windows machines as well.

For big groups

Skype (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)

Pros: Many simultaneous callers

Cons: Tries too hard to do other things

Skype has been around for a long time, and while its desktop app is pretty weak, the mobile version is solid and it supports big groups with no real time limit (four hours per call, 100 hours per month), for free. As long as you focus on just the video calls, it’s great, but Skype’s emoji reactions, status updates and other cruft are best avoided.


Zoom (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)

Zoom is one of the most popular business video conference apps out there due to its reliability, solid web integration and other features. Originally it was listed here as a good general-purpose option due to those pluses, but reports have multiplied that the software uses poor security standards and other shady practices which the company has deliberately misrepresented. We recommend against using Zoom for any call in which sensitive information may be discussed. In fact, with so many other perfectly good options available, it’s hard to recommend using it at all.

For friends and family

FB Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)

Pros: Easy to use, many people already on it, some handy group features

Cons: Facebook account required

Messenger is a popular app for good reason — it works well for pretty much every kind of digital communication you might want to do with your friends. It supports up to eight people in free video calls with no duration limit, and when you are doing a two-person call it switches to a peer-to-peer structure, skipping servers and potentially avoiding congestion. Of course, it’s also a Facebook product, meaning you’ll need an account there — not something everyone is into. But Messenger use is considerably better protected from Facebook snooping than posts and images on the main site.


WhatsApp Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, web)

Pros: Secure, popular

Cons: Only four people per video call

Think of WhatsApp as FB Messenger’s nerdier, less-good-looking sibling. With a focus on privacy, WhatsApp is popular around the world despite being super ugly, and while video calls aren’t its main feature, they are possible if you don’t mind a four-person limit. To activate it, start a group chat and then hit the call button at the top right and select the participants, then hit the camera.


Google Duo or Hangouts (iOS, Android, web)

Pros: Simple interface, uses existing Google account

Cons: Confusing platform issues, Duo may not be long for this world

Duo is one of Google’s later messaging products, started as a complement to Allo and meant to be sort of the consumer version of Hangouts, which is being split into Chat and Meet, but still exists on its own. Confused? So is Google. But the apps work pretty well for now, plugging into your existing Google contacts and accounts and letting you do straightforward, unlimited video calls. If your friends don’t want to sign up for a new account anywhere, this is a good option — just don’t get attached, as unpopular Google products don’t tend to live for long.


Marco Polo (iOS, Android)

Pros: Video messaging is a fun alternative to live chats

Cons: No live chat option

This isn’t a video chat app per se, but the fact is not everyone really wants to do a full-on live face-to-face video all the time. Marco Polo is like a streamlined Snapchat, sending short videos to friends or groups with the option to add doodles, filters and so on. If you and your friends are finding it hard to set aside half an hour to talk live, this can be a good alternative.


Honorable mentions: FaceTime, Instagram

FaceTime is great, but it’s not cross-platform, considerably limiting its usefulness. But if your friends do happen to have Apple products, it’s a great, simple, and secure option. Instagram has video calling built into direct messages, which is nice for quick calls with people you aren’t sure you want to bring into a smaller circle of connectivity.

For having fun together

Houseparty (iOS, Android, web)

Pros: Simple drop-in, drop-out group chat, built-in games

Cons: Basically a trojan horse for Heads Up, sudden popularity has affected video quality

Houseparty established its brand as the app teens were using to chat with groups of friends without leaving the house. Pundits disapproved, but as usual, the kids get the last laugh. Houseparty is nice for a group of close friends, alerting you when someone’s available and letting people easily join in the chat with minimal fuss. The built in games are also fun, but you’ll have to pony up for Heads Up decks. The Pictionary clone is fun, but desperately needs better words.


Discord (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)

Pros: Great for voice chat while gaming or simple occasional video chat

Cons: Occasionally confusing interface, not video-focused

Discord is the de facto champion for gaming-related communications, taking the place of many in-game chat interfaces and even schooling industry heavyweights like Steam. While it’s mainly focused on audio and does that well, video is an option too. Less savvy users may also find its interface confusing, with multiple tabs, groups and channels.


Honorable mention: Bunch, Squad

A newer app, Bunch, is focused on group games while in video chat. This can be hit or miss and you can expect in-app purchases from some of the games, but the platform has understandably seen a lot of engagement since all this started, so there’s no better opportunity to give it a shot.

Squad is focused on sharing what you’re doing on your phone while chatting — so you can Tinder together, watch videos, etc. Like Bunch, it’s still new, so you’ll have to get your friends to sign up, but it’s a nice way to share what you’re scrolling (or swiping) through.

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4 Ways to Reset BIOS Password

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4 Ways to Reset BIOS Password

Getting into the BIOS settings is crucial if you want to modify the boot priority, overclock the  CPU or troubleshoot system-related issues. However, if a password is set and you are unaware of it, this can be quite a hassle when you want to boot into the BIOS or even the operating system. 

If you do know the administrator password, you can reset it by entering the BIOS settings. You can also clear out the BIOS password by clearing the CMOS battery. 

Before going into the password reset process, it is worth knowing the two different password types you can set on the BIOS.  

  • Administrator Password: If this password is set, users have to enter it every time they try to enter the BIOS. It restricts unauthorized access or modification of the BIOS settings. 
  • User Password: You will be asked for the user password before the operating system loads up. This password is also referred to as the System password on some devices. The operating system will not boot up unless you provide the correct user password. 

Table of Contents

Reset the Password From BIOS

If you remember the Administrator password for the BIOS, you can clear or reset it from the BIOS settings.

  1. Restart the computer and press the specific BIOS key for your device when you see the manufacturer logo. The key to enter the BIOS could vary with the manufacturer but it is usually F1, F2, F10, F12, or DEL.
  2. It will ask you for the administrative or user password to access the BIOS. Enter the password.
    Admin password in BIOS
  3. Now, find the section for configuring the BIOS password.
    BIOS settings for password
  4. Navigate to the section and hit enter, then enter the current password. 
    Enter current bios password
  5. When asked for a new password, leave the field empty and select Ok. Do the same for both the Admin and the User Password.
     clear BIOS password
  6. Save and Exit from the BIOS. 
  7. This will clear out the BIOS password. You will now have access to the BIOS without having to enter a password.  

Using Clear CMOS Button

Some new higher-end motherboards come with a CMOS reset button that can revert the BIOS configurations to their factory default. This button is usually located in the back I/O panel of the motherboard. The name of this button can vary with the manufacturer.  You may find it labeled as “ClearCMOS”, “Flash” or “Reset CMOS.” 

  1. Shut down the computer and disconnect all the cables attached to the computer’s case.
  2. Find the CMOS reset button on the back of the case. 
    clear cmos button
  3. Press and hold the button for 15-20 seconds. 
  4. Put the computer back in place and then turn it on.
  5. Using your device-specific BIOS key try to boot into BIOS. See if it asks you for the password. 

If you did not find a CMOS reset button on your computer, you can also use the BIOS jumper to reset the password. The jumper is a series of metal pins located in the motherboard. These jumpers are responsible for opening, restricting, or bypassing an electrical circuit. 

CMOS jumper is a three-pin conductor located in the motherboard near the CMOS battery.  To reset the BIOS password you need to shift the CMOS jumper from its default position. 

  1. Turn off the computer and disconnect all the cables and peripherals connected to it. Now press and hold the power button for about 20 seconds. This will drain the excess power stored in the motherboard. 
  2. Open the side panel of the CPU to gain access to the motherboard. 
  3. Locate the CMOS Jumper. It must be labeled CLRPWDRESETCLRTCCLEARCLEAR CMOS, or similar phrases. 
  4. You will see three pins in the Jumper with the default configuration 1-2.
    BIOS jumper original position 
  5. To reset the BIOS, shift the jumper to position 2-3.}
     shifting jumper to clear the bios password
  6. Wait for a while and move the jumper back to its default position. 
  7. Finally, reassemble the computer, turn on the computer and try to boot into the BIOS. You will not be asked for any passwords 

On the laptops, you will not find the jumpers or Clear CMOS button. Reseating the CMOS battery becomes the only option in that case. The CMOS battery is responsible for retaining the BIOS configurations including its password. When you remove the CMOS battery, there will be nothing to power up the BIOS firmware, and the configurations including the password revert to their factory default.  

For the Laptops, you need to open the back panel to get access to the motherboard and then the CMOS battery. 

Some Laptops come with a soldered CMOS battery which makes it difficult to reset or replace them. In that case, visit the service center for resolving the issue. 

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Does Your Desktop Have Wi-Fi? Here’s How to Find Out

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Does Your Desktop Have Wi-Fi? Here’s How to Find Out

The easiest way to tell if your desktop has Wi-Fi is by checking the back side of your chassis for Wi-Fi support. Your desktop might have a built-in Wi-Fi module, a PCIe Wi-Fi adapter, or a USB Wi-Fi receiver installed. Alternatively, you may find a port labeled “Wi-Fi” on the back of the computer.

But there are cases where the Wi-Fi adapter or its driver is disabled in your system. This will restrict the OS from accessing Wi-Fi, leading you to think that the desktop does not have Wi-Fi. So you need to perform several steps to determine if your desktop has Wi-Fi.

Table of Contents

Check Motherboard Manual

Your motherboard user manual contains every detail about the motherboard, its supported component, and how to connect each component. Using the manual, you can check if your motherboard supports Wi-Fi. 

Check System Tray Icon

Check Windows Settings

Network and internet settings in Windows allow you to access and change any network-related settings. This includes Wi-Fi as well. If you do not see Wi-Fi listed on the Network and Internet settings, your desktop does not support Wi-Fi.

  1. Press the Windows + I key to open Settings.
  2. On the left panel click Network & internet.
    netword and internet check wi-fi

Now, on the left panel, you will see a list of network settings. If the list contains Wi-Fi, your desktop has Wi-Fi. Enable it to connect to a network wirelessly.

You will not see Wi-Fi in Windows settings if it is disabled from the Control Panel. In that case, you need to check Network Connections as well.

Check Network Connections

Network connections contain the list of all your system’s built-in or connected network devices. Besides this, you can also disable/enable each device driver, manage its properties and diagnose the device. Using Network connections, you can determine whether your system has Wi-Fi.

  1. Press the Windows + R key to open Run.
  2. Type ncpa.cpl and press Enter to open the Network Connections window.
    open network connections does my pc have wifi
  3. Here, check if Wi-Fi is listed.
    check network connections

To ensure this is not the case, we recommend you check if the device is removed from the Device Manager or disabled from the BIOS.

Check Device Manager

When uninstalling a driver using Device Manager, the OS will not acknowledge the device. Even if the device is connected, you cannot access its functionalities. The same goes for the Wi-Fi driver. 

You cannot access Wi-Fi settings if the Wi-Fi driver is uninstalled or not installed at all.

  1. Press the Windows + X key and select Device Manager.
    open device manager desktop wifi
  2. Right-click on the top of the list where you see the Desktop name.
  3. Click on Scan for hardware changes. By doing this, the Device Manager will automatically check the system for drivers and install them. 
    scan for hardware changes does my pc have wi-fihttps://a791a130cd8485503c605a3739e4cc15.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
  4. Now, Check Network connections to see if you see Wi-Fi.

Check BIOS

BIOS, or the Basic Input Output System, allows users to access and change the settings related to hardware connected to the motherboard. You can also enable and disable Wireless LAN or WLAN using the BIOS. If disabled, your OS will not detect the Wi-Fi adapter.

You need to enable WLAN in the BIOS to ensure that the OS uses Wi-Fi.

  1. Repeatedly press the BIOS key during startup to enter the system BIOS. The BIOS key could be any of the function keys or the delete key.
  2. Navigate and find settings such as, WLANOnBoard WLan Controller or WLAN enable and Enable it.
    disable onboard wi-fi
  3. Save and exit the BIOS.
  4. Boot into the OS and check if the Network Connections displays Wi-Fi.
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How To Reset Ethernet Adapter

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How To Reset Ethernet Adapter

Resetting the Ethernet adapter usually involves disabling and re-enabling it. Disabling the adapter unloads the device driver and sets the interface state as Disconnected. It also leads to other device-specific procedures like clearing the ARP table entries.

This is why a basic adapter reset fixes so many networking errors in Windows. If simply restarting the adapter doesn’t help, you can also try a complete reset by resetting and reinstalling the networking components.

Performing a basic reset on your Ethernet adapter will solve various errors (e.g., network protocols missing). Let’s look at some other cases though.

Instead of resetting the Ethernet adapter, disabling the wireless adapter helps with the Err_Network_Change problem. Disabling the Virtual WiFi Miniport Adapter can fix DNS errors. Disabling all adapters except the Ethernet adapter can solve the Unidentified Network error.

The point here is that resetting the Ethernet adapter will fix some problems, but resetting or disabling the rest will be more effective for others. Please keep this in mind when troubleshooting your current problem.

Table of Contents

Restart Ethernet Adapter

Do note that your account must be a member of the Network Configuration Operators or Administrators group to reset the Ethernet adapter. 

  1. Press Win + R, type ncpa.cpl, and press Enter.
  2. Right-click your Ethernet adapter and select Disable.
    turn off-ethernet-adapter
  3. Then, right-click it and select Enable.
    enable-ethernet-adapter

Windows Settings

  1. Press Win + I and select Network & internet > Advanced network settings.
  2. Disable the Ethernet adapter here, then re-enable it.
    disable-ethernet-windows-settings
  1. Press Win + R, type devmgmt.msc, and press Enter.
  2. Expand the Network adapters section.
  3. Right-click your network adapter and select Disable device.
    disable-ethernet-controller
  4. Press Yes to accept the confirmation prompt.
  5. Then, right-click it and select Enable device.
    enable-ethernet-controller
  1. Press Win + R, type cmd, and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
  2. Enter netsh interface show interface and note the interface name of the Ethernet adapter.
  3. Enter netsh interface set interface <interfacename> disable. If the interface name contains spaces, use double quotes as shown in the picture.
    netsh-interface-set-interface-Ethernet-disable
  4. Re-enable the adapter with netsh interface set interface <interfacename> enable.
    netsh-interface-set-interface-Ethernet-enable
  1. Press Win + R, type powershell, and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
  2. Enter Get-NetAdapter and note the interface’s Name.
  3. Enter Disable-NetAdapter -Name <interfacename>. If the interface name has spaces, use double quotes.
    disable-netadapter-ethernet-powershell
  4. Enter Y to confirm the action.
  5. Execute the Enable-NetAdapter -Name <interfacename> command to re-enable the adapter.
    enable-net-adapter-ethernet

When a basic reset isn’t enough, you’ll need to resort to a thorough reset to fix any problems with your Ethernet adapter.

Step 1: Reset Network Components

To start, we’ll reset the Winsock catalog to a clean state. Then, we’ll reset the TCP/IP parameters, which does the same thing as removing and reinstalling TCP/IP would.

  1. Press Win + R, type cmd, and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
  2. Execute the following commands:
    Netsh winsock reset
    Netsh int ip reset
    netsh-winsock-reset-int-ip-reset
  3. Restart your PC and check if your problem is resolved. If not, check the next step.

Step 2: Fix Ethernet Driver

A corrupted Ethernet driver falls among the most common reasons for networking problems. Sometimes, simply updating to the latest driver will fix the problem. In other cases, the latest driver might be the problem and you’ll need to revert to an older stable version.

  1. Press Win + X and select Device Manager.https://836cef854dc2b940ae0605013c696649.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
  2. Expand the Network Adapters section.
  3. Right-click your Ethernet adapter and select Update Driver.
    update-ethernet-controller-driver
  4. Select Search automatically for drivers and follow the on-screen instructions.
    ethernet-controller-update-driver
  5. If auto-update doesn’t help, download the driver from your device manufacturer’s site. 
  6. If they provide a driver installer, use that. But if they provide .inf files, open Device Manager again.
  7. Follow Steps 2-3 and select Browse my computer for drivers.
  8. Select Browse and locate the folder containing the driver files.
    browse-ethernet-driverhttps://836cef854dc2b940ae0605013c696649.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
  9. Press Next > Ok and follow the on-screen instructions to update the network driver.

As stated, updating to the latest driver will generally fix networking problems. But sometimes, you may need to try out different driver versions until you find a compatible one.

What If Resetting Doesn’t Work?

In rare cases, the adapter keeps getting disabled automatically, or users are unable to turn it back on. If this is happening to you, here’s what we recommend:

  1. Press Win + X and select Device Manager.
  2. In the Network Adapters section, right-click your Ethernet adapter and select Properties.
    ethernet-controller-properties
  3. In the Power Management tab, ensure the Allow the computer to turn off the device to save power option is not enabled.
    ethernet-controller-power-management-properties
  4. If you made the change just now, press Ok to apply it.

Aside from this, we’ve mostly seen this problem occur after updating or upgrading Windows. As such, updating to a newer patched version, or reverting to an older stable one is the best course of action here. Installing a compatible driver directly from your device manufacturer, as detailed in the previous section, can also help.

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