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Clean up Google Chrome, Reset Search Engine and More

If you use Google Chrome as your web browser of choice, you may wonder what you can do when it starts acting up. Here’s how to repair, reset or clean up some of the most common issues with the Chrome web browser including increasing the performance of slow loading tabs, resetting a hijacked search engine, blocking excess pop up notifications and more.

Clean Your Cache

Google Chrome stores your temporary internet data in a cache to make regularly visited sites load faster. Over time, the cache can become overloaded. This can slow down the opening of browser tabs and affect your overall browsing performance.

Cleaning the cache is a quick and easy process that only takes a few seconds to accomplish.

First, click the three dots menu button in the top-right corner of Google Chrome, then click Settings. On the left-hand side of the page, click Privacy and security, then choose Clear Browsing Data.

You can now select whether you’d like to clear your browser history, cookies or cached images and files. Check the box for “Cached images and files” and click Clear Data at the bottom right.

Note: Now that you have cleared the cache, sites will load slowly the first time you visit while they build new cached files. But overall browsing performance should be improved.

You can also clear your browser history and cookies by following the same steps. Keep in mind that clearing your cookies means you will have to log back in to any website that was ‘remembering” you, so have your usernames and passwords handy before you take this step!

Stop Notifications and Pop Ups

Some sites won’t work properly with pop ups disabled, but the pop up feature has been abused by advertisers. The most common way to end up with pop ups is to accidentally alow a site to send you updates.

I visit a large number of tech sites, and I often get pop ups asking me to allow them to notify me of new stories or features on their sites.

Clicking Allow means you’re going to get pop ups whenever they have something new they want you to see. To remove these annoying notifications, click the three dots menu button in the top-right corner of Google Chrome, then click Settings. On the left-hand side of the page, click Privacy and security, then choose Site Settings.

Scroll down to the Notifications option.

Here we can see which sites we have Allowed or Blocked for notifications, Scroll down to Allow and find the site or sites you’d like to block notifications from. In my case you can see I have allowed several Google sites like Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google calendar as well as Netflix to send me notifications. Underneath that are two sites I would like to remove- greenmangaming.coim and ibtimes.com.

Removing those pesky notifications is as as easy as clicking the three dots and choosing “Block”.

Reset Search Engine to Google Search

If your searches are suddenly redirecting you to a strange place, you can easily go in and change your default search engine back to Google.

Click the three dots menu button in the top-right corner of Google Chrome, then click Settings. On the left hand side click Search Engine.

Here, the search engine has been changed to eBay. I want to change it back to Google.

Click Manage search engines, find Google in your list, click on the three dots menu to the right and choose Make default. Your search engine should be reset to Google.

Disable Chrome Extensions

Extensions can add new features to Google Chrome but can sometimes dramatically slow down your browsing, especially if you’re running a bunch of them at once. You can disable extensions without uninstalling them to see if performance improves.

Click the three dots menu button in the top-right corner of Google Chrome, then click Settings. Near the bottom, click on Extensions.

You can toggle extensions on or off here. Disabling or removing extensions you don’t need or use anymore will free up memory and improve browser performance.

Reset and Cleanup

When all else fails, you can reset the browser to default settings. This will reset your startup home page and search engine,disable all extensions and clear temporary data like cookies. Your bookmarks, history and saved passwords will not be cleared.

To perform the reset, click the three dots menu button in the top-right corner of Google Chrome, then click Settings. Near the bottom on the left, click on Reset and clean up. then click Reset Settings.

From the same menu, you can also choose Clean up Computer.

Free Unlimited Photo and Video Cloud Storage From Google Photos

If you are like me, you take a lot of photos and videos and don’t have any idea where or how to back them up. In my house, we have two smartphones, two tablets, a Canon DSLR digital camera, a Sony digital video camera, and a GoPro, all creating thousands of digital photos and videos every year. Not to mention the years of old family photos and negatives we had scanned into digital format- gigabytes of photos and videos- that were scattered on different desktops, laptops and external hard drives. There was no easy way for us to backup and access all the photos to one place where we could access them from all our various devices. And the thought of possibly losing them someday due to a broken hard drive or a natural disaster is terrifying.

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Google has a complete photo management system that solved the problem for us. It’s easy to use and 100% free. Google Photos offers an unlimited amount of storage, although the file size and is slightly reduced (about 40% or so). The reduction in size does reduce the quality of the photos, but if this is only a backup and not your only copy of the photos it won’t matter much. Most people aren’t printing the vast majority of our digital photos anyway, and you’d have to blow them up larger than 8 x 10 to even notice a difference.

For smartphone users, the does reduce the quality of the photos app is very easy to install, and works equally well for both Android and iPhone. Install the app, and associate it with a Gmail account (or open a new one for free).  If you’re an iPhone user, Google will automatically back up all the photos in your Camera Roll, and all the new photos you take whenever you are in WiFi range. Android users will also be able to select any number or all of their other folders containing photos.

 

Google’s desktop app is now called Google Backup & Sync. Your Desktop, My Documents and My Pictures folders  (and subfolders) are selected by default. You can add as many additional folders as you’d like. The program will calculate how many files you have to back up and how much space they will take up on the server (but don’t worry, there is no size limit).

In my case, I have added two folders from an external drive that has all my photos on it. If you have a large number of photos on your computer and drives, the desktop loader may take days or even weeks to get them all uploaded the first time. 

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The Backup & Sync Desktop App will continue to run in the background until it catches up, and then it will automatically add new photos as you save them. Feel free to turn your computer off or restart it whenever you need- the app will continue where it left off whenever you turn the computer back on. 

In my case, I selected some very large folders and have over 46,000 pending uploads, so it’s bound to take a while.

By logging in to the same gmail account on the app on all your devices- Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, Mac computers, Windows computers- the photos and videos from all those devices end up in one Google Photos account. You can access all the photos using the app on any device, anywhere in the world. Easily share individual photos or an entire album with a few clicks.

When sharing a photo or album in the mobile Google Photos App, these are my options. Yours may vary depending on which apps you have installed but clearly Google makes it easy to share your photos.

In my case, I created a new google account just for my family, installed the app on both my wife’s phone and mine and then installed the desktop app. She can now log in from work and see photos I have taken while I am home with the kids during the day. I can also see any photos she takes. And we can both access all those years of old photos that we took with our various digital cameras, as well as all the photos and documents I’ve scanned over the years. Everything backed up in one place, for free, accessible from any device, anywhere, anytime I have signal.

There is a built in photo editor that features a basic set of tools for enhancing your photos. For quick editing, there’s a one button do it all auto-fix setting for photos. Perfect for a quick correction before you post something online.

Using the auto-fix feature, I did a quick edit of this underexposed picture of my son.

In addition to the one click auto-fix, there are manual editing tools that give you more control over your editing.

Instagram style filters are included as well.

Changes you make when editing are applied to the version of the image that’s stored on Google Photos in the cloud, while the original on your device remains untouched. You can also choose to “save a copy” of photo.

Sharing the files is simple and easy.

Just select the file or files you want to share, click on the share icon, and choose how you want to share it. If you want to select a bunch in a row, you don’t have to do them one at a time. Choose the first one, then drag your finger to the last one and Google Photos selects them all.

Share your photos in dozens of ways. Copy the file link for pasting into a message, or share directly into email, app or upload to social media.

The Assistant feature in Google Photos is truly amazing. The app automatically chooses certain photos and works magic with them. The assistant gives you the option to save or delete them.

If photos are similar, the assistant may group them together into a collage.

Most phones have a panorama mode, but it can be tricky to do well and people rarely seem to use it. Google photos will automatically create Panoramas by stitching together individual shots if they line up correctly.

Google Photos created this panorama of Gillette Stadium from the individual shots I took above.

And if you have pictures taken close enough together in time, the Assistant will throw them all together into an animated GIF file. You can save any of these creations right to your account, or delete them with a swipe of your finger.

If the photos are taken a few seconds apart, the GIF may look like this-

 

If you took a series of photos in burst mode, the results are more like a mini movie.

Google Photos also gives you the option of searching by category. Here you can see it has displayed faces of some people it found in my photos. Clicking on a face shows all the other matching faces, and you can easily assign a name to any face you choose.

 

If your photos have names, or are in folders with names, those names are searchable.  But Google Photos goes further by using an algorithm to identify things in your pictures even if they aren’t named. A search for “cat” brought up hundreds of photos of both our current cat and our two previous cats.The search feature gives you several options to find your photos and videos.

The places category is based on location data in the photos themselves. If you don’t have location data turned on, Google will still try to figure out where a photo is taken and put it in your places file. Somewhere like Cinderella’s Castle at DisneyWorld or Times Square in New York would be easy for the system to identify, for example.

The “things” category is a sort of hodgepodge, and isn’t totally accurate, but can be helpful if you only want photos with the Christmas ornaments, for example, and don’t want to sort through every picture you’ve ever taken at Christmas to find them.

At the bottom you can search your videos, as well as recently added photos, your Google Drive, and any of the creations you have saved with the Assistant feature.

Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for “things” found in photos.

Deleted photos can be recovered for 30 days, then they are gone forever. You can also go into your trash and permanently delete them whenever you’d like.

You also have the option to hide files by archiving them, which keeps them from being seen when you scroll through the app without removing them from being backed up. You can view these files by searching ‘archive” .

Google Photos does all of that and more, and will probably continue to add more features over time.  If you only need to back up photos and videos, this may be the solution for you.

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