How to Open and Create tar Files on Windows

Although .zip is the primary archive format you’ll find on Windows, you may occasionally run into a .tar, .tar.gz, or other similar file that you need to open. These tar files (frequently referred to as “tarballs”) are much more common on Linux operating systems, but you can open and create them on Windows as well.

Tar files are just files that hold more files, akin to the .zip files you’ve probably seen and used before. Tar files with the .tar extension aren’t compressed, but files with a .tar.gz extension are using gzip compression and will results in a smaller file size. Some other tar formats you may see are .tar.bz2 and .tar.xz. All are using a different type of compression method, but they can all be opened on Windows if you follow our guide.

Related: How to Open and Create tar Files on Linux (with Commands and GUI)

Recommended software: 7-Zip

Windows doesn’t (yet) have a native way to open or create tar files, so you’ll need an extra program to do that. 7-Zip is a handy program that can pack and unpack tar files and a slew of other formats. It’s lightweight, free, and open-source. You can head over to their download page to start installing it.

Installation is quick and simple. This is the only prompt you’ll interact with when you open the installer:

How to open tar files on Windows with 7-Zip

Once it’s done installing, you’ll be able to right-click on tar files and see the ‘7-Zip’ options in the right-click context menu. There are a few options in this menu, including opening the archive to browse the files inside, or extract the files to a specific location. If you’d just like to extract the files, you can extract them to a single folder in your current directory (the one where the tar file resides) by clicking ‘Extract to name-of-tar-file.’ Here’s what it looks like when we extract the contents of a file named MyFiles.tar:

If you are opening a compressed tar file (one with a .gz or .bz2 or other extension), you’ll need to do one extra step. You have to decompress the tar file before being able to open it. So, in our MyFiles.tar.gz archive, you can see that 7-Zip first gives us the option to extract it into a base tar file: MyFiles.tar.

Once the base tar file has been decompressed, you can extract its contents as shown above.

How to create tar files on Windows with 7-Zip

To create a tar file, you can highlight the files you’d like to archive, right-click, and go to 7-Zip > Add to archive.

In the ‘Add to Archive’ menu, just select ‘tar’ as your archive format and click OK.

You’ll notice that the compression level is automatically set to ‘store’ and can’t be changed. This means that it will archive your selected files as a .tar but will not compress them. If you’d like compression (appending a .gz, .bz2, or .xz file extension), you can right-click your tar file and click ‘Add to archive.’

Now, you’ll notice some new options under the ‘archive format’ selection, which weren’t there when creating your base .tar file.

You’ll probably want to select gzip, which will create a .tar.gz file. It seems to be the most common type of tar archive, although bzip2 and xz compression are also popular choices for tar files. Even the 7z option, which will create a .tar.7z file, is becoming more widespread. If in doubt, just select gzip.

How to Keep a Folder in Sync on Two Devices with Resilio Sync (BitTorrent Sync)

Resilio Sync (formerly known as BitTorrent Sync) is a great way to keep files synchronized across multiple computers and/or other devices while avoiding the cloud and forking over money.

It works on just about any device you could possibly have, with apps available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BSD, Amazon Kindle Fire, and lots of NAS manufacturers. Best of all: it’s free. There are some premium versions available that have access to a few more features you probably won’t need, and there’s a business subscription if you plan to use it at work, but we’ll be looking at the free model which is plenty sufficient for basic file sharing.

How does Resilio Sync differ from cloud services?

Resilio won’t store your data in the cloud. It’s peer-to-peer, so all of your data remains on your devices (and the devices of those with access to the folder you’re sharing). Resilio Sync uses the BitTorrent protocol to transfer file changes across the devices connected to the shared folder.

Resilio Sync features

We’ll do a quick run-through of what we like most about Resilio Sync, in case you’re contemplating whether or not this is the correct solution for your needs.

  • It’s free! It also won’t push upgrades on you or be annoying.
  • Compatibility with every major computer and mobile OS.
  • No limit of how much data can be stored or transferred.
  • Share and sync your folder with as many users and devices as you want.
  • Protection against accidental/regretful file deletions.
  • Grant either read access or read & write access to users.
  • No speed cap (many cloud providers will sync your data slowly at times).
  • Encrypted folder option is available.

Those features are what drew me to Resilio Sync. I’ve been using it for a long time in order to keep a folder on my PC shared and synced with a few family members, and it’s really worked well for this purpose.

How to setup a shared folder (on Windows 10)

If you’re ready to give it a try, head over to Resilio Sync’s site and download the installer. You can install with the default settings and complete the installation by choosing a name.

To create a folder that you can share out with other people (or connect to other devices of yours), click the plus sign and standard folder.

Now you’ll need to select where the folder is located. If you haven’t already made one, now would be a good time. Keep in mind that if you pick a folder with a lot of files already in it, those files will begin transferring to any device that you connect to this folder.

You’ll allow other users/devices to access this folder by either giving them a link, key, or QR code that Resilio Sync generates for you.

Before generating the link through the Email or Copy button, be sure to configure the permission and security settings you’d like. “Read Only” means that the user/device can access the files but not edit them or add their own. “Read & Write” grants that user/device full access to add, edit, or delete files.

Now that your folder is setup, other devices can access it with the link (or key or code) you generated.

They can just click the link or scan the QR code, or enter it manually under ‘Enter a key or link.’

You’ll be asked to select a sync folder on the new device as well. Resilio Sync will then make sure that those two folders are kept in sync.

You can now begin to share or collaborate in the synchronized folder. You’ll know that Resilio Sync is busying syncing changes if you see it animating in the taskbar.

Detailed stats are displayed at the bottom of Resilio Sync’s main screen:

Recovering deleted files

Another feature we’ve found useful is that if someone in your group deletes a file, you can still access it on your device in the hidden ‘.sync’ folder. The deleted files are kept in .sync\Archive in case you still need them or wish to restore them.

How to Install Linux on Windows with Windows Subsystem for Linux

Windows 10 allows you to run a Linux bash shell through the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) software. If you’d like to run Linux scripts and programs from within Windows, this may be a perfect option for you.

What is Windows Subsystem for Linux?

Microsoft has worked with Linux companies and devised a way to bring various distributions of Linux straight to Windows. It’s not quite the same as hosting your own instance of Linux in a virtual machine; however, it proves very convenient when all you need to do is run an occasional script or program.

WSL isn’t exactly the Linux you’re used to. It doesn’t actually have its own kernel (at least not yet), so there are some limitations. You can’t expect to use hard drive encryption with WSL, for example. But with that said, it’s impressive what you can do with WSL and we’ve found it to be very useful.

Before installing WSL

Before you can use WSL at all, you have to enable the component through the Windows Features window. You can open it by typing ‘windows features’ in the Start menu.

In the Windows Features menu, scroll down to find ‘Windows Subsystem for Linux’ and put a check mark in the box next to it, then click OK.

A prompt will appear, saying that Windows needs to restart in order to complete the changes. Click ‘restart now’ and rejoin us afterwards to start installing WSL.

How to install WSL

After your PC reboots, you can install WSL straight from the Microsoft Store. Open the store from the Start menu to begin.

In the Microsoft Store, click on search and type ‘linux.’ On the results page, click on ‘Get the apps’ to bring up the different Linux distributions available for download.

If you’re not sure which one to download, Ubuntu is always a safe bet. It’s the most used Linux distribution and has an excellent track record, but there are a few others available for download if you’d prefer them.

Click on the one you’d like and then hit ‘Get’ to start the download.

Once the download completes, you can access your Linux install from the start menu:

It may take a few minutes to add the finishing touches this first time around, but in the future you’ll have instant access to the terminal.

Once it’s done, the first thing it will ask you to do is create a default user and a password. It’s totally separate from your Windows login and doesn’t need to match.

And that’s it! You now have access to a Linux terminal right from Windows. We’ve also written an article on how to mount and access your hard drives in WSL in case you are wondering how to access some files you already have on your system.

How to Disable Automatic Updates in Windows 10

Microsoft has made it all but impossible to disable Windows updates in Windows 10. Fortunately, there are still a couple methods you can use to disable them, whether you are running Windows 10 Home, Pro, or another edition.

What edition of Windows am I running?

Determining which edition of Windows you have will decide what method works best for you to disable the automatic updates. You can figure this out by searching for ‘this pc’ in the Start menu, right-clicking on This PC, and opening the Properties menu.

You’ll see your edition of Windows near the top of this page:

If you have the Home edition, you should disable Windows updates by setting a metered connection. Pro, Education, and Enterprise editions can disable updates using Group Policy Editor. We’ll go over both methods below.

Setting a metered connection

Microsoft has taken into consideration that some people have data caps, especially for mobile connections. There’s a setting you can configure that will basically tell Windows not to download updates automatically because it may result in additional charges for you.

We can exploit this feature by setting your internet connection as a metered connection. Even if you have unlimited data, Windows won’t know the difference.

To configure your connection, open the Start menu and click on Settings.

In the Settings page, click on Network & Internet

The menu for your current network connection will appear, and from here you can click on ‘Change connection properties’

Scroll down until you find the metered connection setting, and flip it on.

That should be all you need to do, but keep in mind that this setting will only apply to your current connection. If you connect to a different network in the future (such as a different Wi-Fi network), then you will need to apply this setting again.

It’s also worth noting that Windows still seems to download high priority updates, such as Flash security patches (despite having a metered connection), but won’t download cumulative updates.

Group Policy Editor

Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions have an easier time disabling Windows updates because those editions have access to the Group Policy Editor.

To get started, open Group Policy Editor by typing ‘group policy’ into the Start menu.

In the Group Policy Editor, navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update, and then find ‘Configure Automatic Updates’ in the right pane.

Double-click on that setting to open it. In this window, you have a few options. You can click on ‘Enabled’ and then select a more granular setting just below that:

Or, to prevent Windows from notifying you about updates in any way ever, you can click on ‘Disabled’ and save your settings by clicking OK.

Use this setting at your own discretion, as it will effectively cause Windows to function under the belief that updates don’t even exist. The only time you will interact with Windows Update at all is if you purposely open it and click ‘check for updates’.

How to Disable the Touchpad/trackpad on a Laptop

The touchpad on your laptop tends to just get in the way once you have a mouse plugged in. If you keep hitting it accidentally while using your keyboard, there is a way to counter the annoyance by disabling the trackpad.

Every laptop is different, so we’ve compiled several ways that you can disable your touchpad – at least one of them should work for any laptop.

Physically switching trackpad on or off

There’s a good chance that a physical switch on your laptop allows you turn the touchpad on or off. Sometimes you can use an Fn key combination to do this. On the laptop in this example, pressing Fn + F9 can be used.

Disabling via touchpad software

Another option is to disable it via the touchpad software that the manufacturer put on the laptop. This option isn’t always available (but it usually is), and the icon may look different on your system, but usually you’ll see an icon like this in the taskbar:


If you don’t see that icon, check the others in the taskbar as your icon may be different.

Double-click that icon to open the software, and look for an option to disable the touchpad. Manufacturer software can vary widely, so we can’t give you precise instructions, but be sure to peruse around in the different tabs. You should see something like this:

Click on “Disable when external USB mouse is plugged in,” hit OK, and you’ll be good to go whenever Windows detects that a mouse has been plugged in.

Disabling via device manager

If you’ve tried all of the above to no avail, you can use Window’s Device Manager to disable the trackpad. Click on Start and type ‘device manager’ to open it.

With Device Manager open, expand the ‘Mice and other pointing devices’ section and right-click on the trackpad to disable it.

Labelled as ‘Smart-Pad’ here, but still obvious what it is.

How to Mount and Access Hard Drives in Windows Subsystem for Linux

When you finish installing WSL and open the terminal for the first time, you’ll probably be wondering how to access the files on your C: drive or other hard drives, flash drives, etc.

WSL will mount your hard drives for you automatically under the /mnt directory. The C: drive can always be accessed there, and usually other fixed NTFS drives that you have installed will be mounted there as well. But if you don’t see them, they are easy to mount.

Accessing the C: drive

Your main hard drive should always be accessible under /mnt/c

A simple change directory command should take you to the root of your C: drive…

cd /mnt/c

Accessing other drives and removable media

If you have a second hard drive or removable media such as a flash drive, you can try accessing them through the /mnt directory as well, obviously by appending the appropriate drive letter to /mnt/

If you can’t access your drives/media that way, you’ll just need to mount them first, which Windows has made very simple in WSL. In this example, we’ll mount and access drive D: in Ubuntu on Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Mounting:

sudo mkdir /mnt/d
sudo mount -t drvfs D: /mnt/d

Accessing:

cd /mnt/d && ls

You can mount your media anywhere you’d like; the thing to note here is that you must use Microsoft’s DrvFS when mounting accessible media within the subsystem.

In the case of removable media, you unmount them in the traditional way for safe removal:

sudo umount /mnt/d

How to Create a Custom Keyboard Layout in Windows

Windows comes with a lot of different keyboard layouts, most of which are used to accommodate foreign language keyboards. If none of the default layouts within Windows fit your needs, you can always create your own.

When I started learning Spanish, I needed to be able to type a few characters that we don’t have in English: á, é, í, ó, ú, ñ, ¿, and a couple others. To do this easily, I had to use a Spanish keyboard layout that was built into Windows.

The problem I ran into was that it made a lot of other (undesirable) changes to my keyboard, instead of just providing me with the new characters that I needed to use. And while writing these characters was now way easier than before, I knew I could make a much more intuitive keyboard myself. So that’s what I did.

The following guide will take you through my process of creating a custom Spanish keyboard layout for my American keyboard. If you have an idea for how you’d like your custom key mappings to be, you can follow along with me to create your own custom keyboard.

How I envisioned my keyboard

The Spanish keyboard that comes with Windows did some things I didn’t like. For example, it turned my semicolon (;) key into an ñ. Well, that’s fine, even though it’d take some getting used to. But… where did my semicolon key go? I don’t know, nor do I care to always remember where its new home is. And the same goes for all the other keys it displaced. In short, I just didn’t find this keyboard layout to be very intuitive.

I decided that I’d much rather just be able to hit my left bracket key (ya know, this thing: [ ) followed by the character I wanted to modify with an accent or tilde. So, if I wanted to write ú, I could just type [ and u. If I want to write ñ, I type [ and n. And instead of displacing my [ key, how about I access it by tapping it twice. Much simpler, right? Yeah, but we’ll need to create a custom keyboard layout for that to happen.

Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator

Microsoft made a handy little program just for this purpose, which can be downloaded right from their website. If that link stops working for some reason, we host it on DDT as well. Once you’ve downloaded it, run it and go through the install prompts (all very self-explanatory).

Once the installation is finished, you can open the program through the Start menu.

You’ll be presented with a blank keyboard layout initially, totally customizable from the ground up:

It’s a lot easier to just use our current keyboard layout and then customize it with our new specifications. You can load your current keyboard through File > Load Existing Keyboard…

Choose your current keyboard layout in this menu. If you’re using a regular American keyboard, select ‘US.’

The keyboard should look filled out now and we can begin to make our personalizations.

Setting a ‘dead key’

You can rearrange or reprogram these keys as you please, but if you’d like to add additional characters to the keyboard, you’ll have to use a ‘dead key.’ As I said earlier, I access Spanish characters by first pressing [ on my keyboard. In other words, the left bracket is my dead key.

Right-click on the key and hit ‘Set as dead key.’

A new window will open, where you can set your additional keys.

As you can see in the screenshot above, I’ve begun to enter a few Spanish characters. The dead key + base key forms the composite key. So the first row indicates that ‘[‘ followed by ‘n’ will create ‘ñ’. The ‘U+006e’ and similar information is created automatically – just type your characters as normal and that other information will populate automatically.

You can just google for custom characters that you need, and paste them into the composite column. But after we finish saving this keyboard, you’ll be able to make those characters yourself!

Our left bracket key can now be used to make a lot more characters, but we still may need to use the left bracket key itself from time to time. You can enter ‘[‘ in the base and composite columns so that double tapping the left bracket key will still output a left bracket.

Here’s how it looks now that I’ve finished filling out all the Spanish characters I need:

Save and enable your new keyboard

Click OK when finished with the dead key setup. Go to File > Save in order to save your new layout somewhere. More importantly, we need to build an executable version of the new keyboard, so it can be installed on your computer (and other computers if you share the file or plan to switch PCs).

First, click on Project > Properties to name your layout.

Type the relevant information here and click OK when finished.

Click on Project > Build DLL and Setup Package

If you get a warning, don’t worry, it’s safe to proceed. You should get a dialog at the end saying that your files were successfully saved:

Click Yes to see your newly created files. In order to install your newly created custom keyboard, just run setup.exe

With installation successfully completed, you can select your keyboard in the taskbar.

How to Disable the Windows Key

The windows key on your keyboard is easy to hit accidentally when playing a full screen game. If you are sick of unintentionally minimizing your game, there’s a simple fix you can apply to disable your windows key.

This little hack involves editing the registry. If you want the simplest and quickest solution possible, we’ve made a registry file that will make the change for you, so you don’t have to dig into the registry to make the edit manually.

Simply download Disable_Windows_key.reg and run it. You’ll have to restart your PC in order for the changes to take effect. Note that you may have to right-click that link and click ‘Save link as’. If you need to re-enable the Windows key later on, you can download and run Enable_Windows_key.reg

The Manual Process

If you’d like to make the change manually or are curious what that little file is doing, here are the step-by-step instructions for editing the registry yourself to disable the Windows key:

Open regedit by clicking start and typing ‘regedit’.

In the left pane, navigate to:

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout

You’ll do this by expanding the arrows of each folder (see image below) in the left pane, until you finally reach ‘Keyboard Layout’.

Once you have reached Keyboard Layout, click it once so it’s highlighted, and then right click on a blank area in the right pane and select New > Binary Value.

Name this new key Scancode Map and press Enter.

Now, double-click on the newly created Scancode Map key in order to edit it. You have to enter this monstrosity of a value in the Data Field, and it’s not able to be done via copy+paste.

00000000000000000300000000005BE000005CE000000000

When you are done typing that long value, it should look exactly like this screenshot below.

As long as your newly added registry key looks exactly like this, all that’s left to do is click OK and restart your PC. When you boot back up, hitting the Windows key should no longer have any effect and you can get back to some hassle-free gaming!

Re-enabling the Windows key

If you need to re-enable the Windows key, you’ll have to navigate to the same area of regedit, right-click on the Scancode Map key you created, and delete it.

Image credit: I G on flickr