How to remove Windows widgets and find apps that manage device batteries

Q: A week ago, without warning or permission, Microsoft installed a news sidebar that takes up 25% of my screen. How can I eliminate it?

R A Virant, Bothell

A: I’m assuming you’re referring to Windows Widgets, a customizable apps page that offers a variety of apps on topics like weather, sports, news, stocks, photos, traffic, and more. The Widgets panel is installed by default in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Unlike other taskbar apps, however, Widgets launches when your mouse cursor hovers over the icon. I find that very entertaining. It keeps popping up when I try to access another app.

If you want to remove the taskbar widgets, right-click on an empty part of the taskbar, then click “Taskbar settings”. When the settings window appears, toggle the slider next to Widgets to “off”.

Related Technical Questions and Answers

Learn more about Patrick Marshall here >>

Q: I was surprised that my Samsung Galaxy phone has a battery setting that says, “Protect the battery: To prolong your battery life, limit the maximum charge to 85%”.

I wonder if this recommendation would apply to the batteries in my Windows laptops, Samsung tablet, Kindle, or any other device with a rechargeable battery? If so, I understand that the charge level would have to be checked manually. Or is there an app that can be used to manage the battery charge. Irrespective of any related settings, is it advisable to let a battery discharge to some specific level (e.g. down to 25%) periodically?

Richard Wilkinson

A: Many manufacturers advise against fully charging or discharging lithium-ion batteries if you want to extend their life. Typically this means cutting off the load at 80-85% and discharging the battery until it drops to around 20%.

And yes, it’s not just for cell phone batteries. A number of laptop manufacturers also include utilities that allow you to set a battery charge threshold. You will find a practical guide here. If you can’t find your laptop in the list, don’t despair. Check with your laptop manufacturer. Although my Microsoft Surface Book doesn’t have an app to set the charging threshold, Microsoft has instructions for doing so by accessing the BIOS of the device.

Q: I take a lot of photos, both personal and professional. Work photos should be kept for a year or two but have no long term value to me. How can I stop Google from downloading every photo I take and also every photo that is sent to me as an attachment in an email?

Maggi Johnson

A: I assume you are using an Android phone. Since Android is a Google operating system, some Google apps are installed automatically. One of them is Google Photos. Open the Google folder and launch Photos. Next, tap on your avatar in the upper right corner. Then select “Settings” and finally “Backup and synchronization”. You can then disable these downloads. Either that, or if you’re sure you don’t want to use Google Photos, you can simply uninstall it. Just keep your finger on the app until you see a dialog offering several choices, including “uninstall”.