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November 1, 2016

Why Revo?

So, after the series of articles on applications I think are good additions to Windows, I received several questions.  A couple of which I will answer today.

The first, and my favorite, was regarding my choice of Revo Uninstaller (RevoUninstaller.com).  John wrote and wanted to know why I do not like Microsoft’s “Programs and Features.”  He wondered why he should not use that built in Windows application which is found in the Control Panel?

I have a really good reason, at least in my opinion.  First, they are both made to remove or uninstall applications that have been placed on your computer.  You know the drill.  You have heard from a friend or someone like me that you should try the XYZ program.  You install it and find that it is worthless and you no longer want it on your computer taking up space.  So, you need to uninstall it as soon as you can.

Revo Uninstaller Logo

I have found that when you use the built-in Programs and Features the program is indeed uninstalled; however, nowhere near completely.  When you use that program to do an uninstall it can, and most times does, leave behind many unneeded folders and files.  It may also leave many worthless pieces of information in your Windows Registry.  The last part may never give you any issues and you may be unaware of it altogether but it could cause problems over time.

With Revo Uninstaller you direct it as to how deeply to probe for leftover unnecessary files.  I always get it to run in the Advanced mode.  That way it will first run the regular uninstall process that Windows does normally.  However, it will then do a deep scan for any files left over from that procedure and offer to remove them too.  I always take Revo’s suggestions and delete everything.

This makes for a much more thorough and professional cleaning which gives you back free disk space once it is completed.  I have found some uninstalls where there are thousands of left over files to delete.  I have found very few where it does not delete any files but it has happened to me on rare occasions.

I feel that Microsoft should be ashamed of the sloppy junk they leave behind on your system after a regular uninstall.  And before you ask, Revo is free with a “Pro” version that does a few more things.  I have used the free version for years without any issues and some fine cleaning.

Do you love or hate MS?The last question from another reader was, “Why did I slam Windows built in programs in those last articles?”  I really did not slam them but I do believe you can sometimes get better apps to do the same thing from elsewhere.  The MS programs are actually fine; however, if I can increase my gas mileage a little by using a different gas brand why not do it?

February 23, 2016

Can I Delay the Inevitable?

I have had several people email recently who had issues after a Windows 10 update.  I have had a couple of small issues too; however, they went away after an extra reboot.  So the old tech query remains when you have problems, "Did you restart your system?" 

In previous versions of Windows OS you could tell Windows to let you decide when to download and install updates; however, not so with 10.  If you are a home user you are at the mercy of Microsoft when you get system updates. 

It could be when you are in the middle of writing a column (like I am now) and everything slows down…to a crawl which just happened to me.  I type and letters appear a few beats after I press the keys.  I open my browser to check something on the internet and the browser takes forever to open, well at least 30 seconds or more.  You know what I mean, you have experienced it also.

This slowdown is sometimes caused by the download of the files for the update.  They will be downloaded to your computer when MS says they are ready.  MS and the geeks that are "Windows Insiders" test the new updates and say all is well and you get them, ready or not.  So the sometimes massive updates start and your computer slows downs. Once they are downloaded they are installed. 

Some people like to wait for a while to make sure the updates are not causing complications for others before they install them. Some advanced users only want to install specific updates.  But users other than Enterprise users (corporately licensed with Microsoft) have no option…or do you?

There are actually several geeky ways to get around this.  But MS has provided a way which is not advertised too much.  Keep in mind before we start, I do not suggest you stop Windows Updates.  If you do you will have major problems.  WARNING:  This is manual meaning that you have to do things for yourself – it is not automated too much. 

wushowhide iconIt is a standalone "trouble shooting" package from MS appropriately named, "Show or hide updates."  The shortened link is rd.dblclx.com/1XpVqHN.  The download will be named, "wushowhide.diagcab" or "wushowhide" depending on your system.  Double click it and it will start with nothing being installed.  That is the standalone part.  It just runs and nothing is added to your system. 

Follow along with the instructions and it will search for current updates, then list the ones it finds.  Click the ones you do not want to install even if it is all of them.  You then click next and they are hidden and not installed.

Start Search       Searching       Choose to hide or unhide specific updates

When you are ready to install them, run the app again and unhide the ones you hid before.  Finish it, run Windows update and all is well.

Several words of warning here.  You should be aware that if you go too long between updates you could be opening your system up to problems.  So unhide them and run them at least a month or so after you hide them. 

January 12, 2016

2015 Sites in Review, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:21 am

If you have been keeping up you know that last week we looked at all the sites I wrote about for the first half of 2015.  Today we continue by starting with July. 

Thanks for the many emails I received about the article and please keep them coming.  Enjoy!

  • VLC Player, rd.dblclx.com/1LTJDOH – in my opinion this is one of the best video and audio players available. It plays any version of video and audio with no issues.
  • 8GadgetPack, 8gadgetpack.net – if you miss the old Windows gadgets like time, stock prices, etc. on your desktop this brings back these features and more. 
  • Dropbox, rd.dblclx.com/use-Dropbox and Copy.com, rd.dblclx.com/freeCopy – again, in my opinion some of the best free "cloud" storage available (use the links above and get some extra space).
  • CCleaner & Defraggler, piriform.com – two of my must have utilities for a windows PC one cleans old files and junk files the other is a better "defragger" application that the one that comes with Windows.
  • Malwarebytes, malwarebytes.org – great app that fights to protect your computer.
  • FileHippo App Manager, filehippo.com – this app updates many of your applications to make sure you have the latest secure versions.
  • 7-Zip, 7-zip.org – a good zipping application used to unzip downloaded files and also zip your files to save storage and password protect them if needed.  
  • Thunderbird, rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax – an email application where you can use multiple email accounts all in one organized place.
  • Microsoft.com – everything Microsoft.
  • Cortana, rd.dblclx.com/cortana-faq – many questions answered about the new Windows 10 search/voice interface.
  • Wi-Fi Sense, rd.dblclx.com/wifi-sense – Wi Fi Sense automatically connects you to Wi Fi, so you can get online quickly in more places.   However, it may have some drawbacks, check this FAQ for details.
  • Start Menu 8, rd.dblclx.com/1LShmDO – put the Windows 7 start menu back on Windows 8.1 and 10; however, for W10 I stick with its default menu and it works well. 
  • Google Products, rd.dblclx.com/1ReLX2G – a listing of all current and deceased Google products, some I really miss.
  • Calendar Sync +, rd.dblclx.com/22TOsim – an excellent replacement for Google Calendar Sync that many of the Double Click readers really miss.
  • Karenware Replicator, rd.dblclx.com/KWReplicator – an excellent manual backup application.  You simply choose the files you want to backup and where you want them placed and let it run.
  • Kmashi 15000mAh, rd.dblclx.com/1PG9nRf – an exceptional external battery power supply which when fully charged can then recharge your phones, tablets or any other device to full power.  I have had it charge over five devices on one charge. 

And there is the list of sites we visited in 2015. 

Please keep all of those emails coming.  I enjoy helping you with computer problems and also appreciate your suggestions for new columns.  Have a great 2016!

December 29, 2015

New Computer Suggestions

Now that Christmas is over and you have a new Windows 10 computer, what should you do?

I suggest the first thing you do out of the box is run a windows update.  It may be running a second after you boot up the computer; however, check to make sure.

Windows KeyIt is quite easy to run an update.  You can click the start menu button (or press the Windows key) and type, "windows update." Next, click the "Check for updates" link.  It has a gear icon to identify the correct link.  Yes, there are other ways to get to that point; however, this is the easiest way.

 

Now, if it is there, click the "Check for Updates" box.  If it is not showing, it means that the system is already running an update.  Then you can relax and go back to what you were doing.

Check for Updates screenshot

I do have one word of advice.  I just experienced the update titled, "Windows 10 Version 1511."  This was a very large update and you may get it with a new computer or your existing Windows 10 computer if you have not already.  This one will take possibly an hour or more to complete.  Once it completed on my system it told me that several applications had been removed by Microsoft as they are not needed. 

Now wait just a minute, MS!  This is my computer and you need to calm down a bit.  I hope they stop this foolishness…soon.  The main one it removed is one of the ones I use regularly, the CCleaner utility.  After researching a bit I found that many people have been bothered by this.  To correct it you must reinstall the applications removed.  Then it will be fine until possibly the next update.

Next, as I have advised you in the past, be cautious of the "free" antivirus that came with your computer.  No, nothing is bad about the software at all but you need to be aware that "free" may not really be free.

Your antivirus software is probably excellent; however, you only get somewhere from a month to 90 days or so before it expires.  At that time you will get notices to renew your license. This means you have to pay to keep it active.  You would be surprised at the number of emails I get where people ignore those warnings and let their antivirus expire.  Then they email me with all sorts of problems, i.e., viruses running loose on their systems. 

I personally uninstall the "free" antivirus and get a free one that does not expire and leave me exposed.  However, you may want to keep your freebie until the point it notifies you of its expiration.  At that point either pay their fees or uninstall it and get a real free antivirus application.

Personally, I don’t advise paying because I hate giving money for things I can get free.  Currently I am using the Avast! Software but there are others out there that are also good.

September 8, 2015

Windows 10, Part 3

Cortana?  Is it a name to be loved or feared?

Cortana is the “Siri”-like and “OK, Google” personal voice search feature found now in Windows 10 for PC.  It was previously available the first part of 2015 for Windows 8.1 Phones.  If you read last week’s article on linked and/ local accounts this continues that train of thought.  So go check it out if you missed it.

If you set up W10 with a linked account Cortana (or “Hey Cortana” as it is also called) will work just fine.  If you choose to go the route of a local account, which I suggest to most, Cortana will not show up.

Cortana getting you to link your accountIf you choose a linked account you will need to run an easy setup.  After your upgrade to W10 click in the Search box located at the left side of the Taskbar on the bottom of your screen.  The Search window will come up and you will then click on the notebook icon, third from the top on the left.  Then Settings.  In the next screen you will see “Hey Cortana. Let Cortana respond to ‘Hey Cortana’.” Click the button to the “On” position if it is not already on. Then, if you have a microphone on your computer you can just say, “Hey Cortana” and give it a command.

There are many things Cortana can do so I will not list them all here, but you could try some.  Like, “Hey Cortana, search for Windows 10 help.”  You can also set alarms, search for directions, open programs, send email or try, “Hey Cortana, help” for a list of commands.

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August 25, 2015

Windows 10, Part 1

As I mentioned for the last few weeks – today we will start the journey into Windows 10.

Visit Microsoft

It has had plenty of time to be tested.  Microsoft officially announced “Windows 10” (W10) on September 2014.  Then they started public beta testing or “Technical Preview” in October 2014.  If you have been paying any attention you realize that it was released to the public through a free roll out about three weeks ago on July 29, 2015.  It now comes on all new retail Windows computers.  This is supposedly the last version of Windows to come out, no more XP, Vista, 8.1, 7, etc.  W10 will be updated when needed.

Well, have you taken the plunge yet?  I have asked readers who have installed it to send me questions over the past weeks.  I have received many, so thanks!  Keep them cards and letters rollin’ in!

From my own experience, I have applied W10 to all of my computers, except company owned work systems.  That would be four computers I have updated.  There were no real problems.  However, one of my very old “experimental” systems ran very slowly with 10. I need to note that it also ran very slowly with anything past XP.  I ended up removing 10 from that and putting back Ubuntu which I had previously.

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July 28, 2015

Emailed Questions, Part 2

Last week I mentioned Chromebooks and Antivirus software.  Today in continuing with sharing emails and answers we look at the following questions.

"How often do you run Windows Update, defrag, cleaning, and other computer maintenance?" Wow, huge question with a multitude of answers.  First I suggest for most users you should set windows updates to run automatically.  With Windows 10 your only choice may be to have it automatically update, there are varying reports.  If you now run the update manually they come out on "Patch Tuesday."  Or, the second Tuesday of each month.  So you are good to run your update any time after that.  I would recommend you do it each month for security reasons if no other.

Defragging and cleaning really depend on how often you use your computer.  I have also recommended here before that you use CCleaner (piriform.com) for cleaning/removing old files and refreshing your registry. It is an excellent program.  For defragging I recommend another Piriform product called "Defraggler," found on the same site under "Downloads." 

Piriform logo

The timing for these is really up to you since it depends on how much you use your computer.  For a heavy user like me who can spend eight hours a day at work and then an hour or two several times a week at home, I run them every week or so.  If you only go online once a day to check email and Facebook for an hour, once a month or so is fine.  Longer will not hurt you and the more often you run them the quicker they work.  Defragging takes the longest so if you have never defragged before it could take overnight or more depending on the size of your hard drive.

One word of warning about defragging.  If you have a SSD drive and not a regular "platter" drive you should not run defrag.  It will not kill it; however, I have read reports that they will not last as long if you do. 

Maintenance other than those mentioned above is as follows:  Make sure you run your antivirus software regularly.  If you have a free one, as I told you about last week, you may have to do it manually.  To do so you usually right click on the software’s icon in your notification area and click update.  Applications can vary so check yours and proceed. 

Malwarebytes logoThe other two applications I have talked about before but are quite important are, "Malwarebytes" (malwarebytes.org) Filehippo logoand "FileHippo App Manager" (filehippo.com/download_app_manager).  I have talked about them in detail before but I do not feel like mentioning them again is too much.  The new improved version of FileHippo is even better and easier to use.

See you next week.

June 30, 2015

Windows 10, Part 2

Last week we looked at Windows 10 requirements and a few other housekeeping tasks regarding getting it for free.  Today a few questions I have received about it for the last several weeks are answered.Windows 10 logo

First, why is it free for the first year?  The main reason seems to be that Microsoft wants everyone using it.  The money they once made on OS sales has continued to drop over recent years.  Apple stopped charging for upgrades to their OS several years ago.  And as always the Linux operating systems, (mainly Ubuntu) have been free since their inception; though used by few. 

They will even be rolling it out to users with pirated (read illegal) copies of those qualifying versions of Windows. However, these versions will still be unregistered. I do not believe there has been any clarification as to what that means for the users.  MS just wants everyone in the world on Windows.

I have been using W10 for a month or so now and have a few thoughts about it.  You will probably wonder if you should opt to get it for free or not.  I would suggest if you are a normal user, i.e., not a geek like me, you may want to wait for month or two after the original roll out.  The main reason being that some things will most likely have to be ironed out during the first few weeks of the OS.  This is standard.  So wait and get it after all the news stories are over.

Next, will you like it?  I think that for those who loved Windows 7, you will most likely appreciate 10 and for those who hated Windows 8.1, you will most probably like this version. 

The much hated Metro screen is gone.  And yes, the Start Menu from W7 is back as in the past, plus it has a few of the "Live Tiles" on the right side.  Those tiles can be rearranged, added, deleted, etc. so you can pretty much do with them as you would like.  In the test version, you could not totally remove them all but rumors abound for the final version in July.

MSIE 11 to MS Edge logosAnother big change is the default web browser.  Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) has been around for 20 years.  When W8 was released MSIE was, and is, at version 11.  However, this all changes with W10, it has been rebuilt from the bottom up and will been known then as "Microsoft Edge."

Edge has "Page Annotation" built-in meaning you can write notes on a web page with your mouse, or finger if you have a touchscreen device, then you can save the graphics and/or send them in emails, Facebook, Tumbler or any other social network. Also, "Reading Mode" is in Edge which allows you to read a web page more like a magazine.  It will remove ads, extraneous graphics and other junk from the page which does not pertain specifically to the article you are reading.  This is available in other browsers now, but Edge is catching the MS browser up with features offered by others in the past. 

Add info to a web page

More to come next week.

June 23, 2015

Windows 10

For a while now I have put off installing Windows 10 which also led to me not writing about it; however, this has now changed.

I installed the "Windows 10 Insider Preview" several months ago and have been putting it through some paces.

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 will be given away free to people who have a computer with specific Windows Operating Systems on them.  If your computer has Windows 7.1 SP1, 8.1 (Windows phones too) then you will get the free upgrade.  If you are running 8, upgrade for free to 8.1 and you will be covered. 

The version of the OS you have affects which version of W10 you will receive.  If you have Windows 7 "Starter," "Home Basic" or "Home Premium" versions you will get W10 "Home."  If Windows 7 "Professional" or "Ultimate" you get W10 "Pro."  For W8.1 you get W10 "Home" edition.  For 8.1 "Pro," "Pro Student" and "Pro WMC" you will get W10 "Pro."

Your computer must meet the following minimum criteria.  A 1GHz, for 32-bit computers 1GB of RAM or for 64-bit 2GB, 20GB of space on the hard drive, and at least a DirectX 9 graphics card and a 1024 x 600 pixel display.  Basically most any modern computer today will meet those requirements.  Even my nine year old Netbook could run W10. 

Next, why is it called W10 when W8.1 was the one before?  Well first off a short history of their naming conventions. They started with "Windows 1" through "Windows 3," then Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, W7, W8, W8.1 and now W10.  They are not very orderly in their naming.  I have heard reasons such as possible programming confusion between the "9" in W9 and the nines in Windows 95 and 98.  Although, that sounds unlikely to me; I guess it could be possible. 

I have also read that the Japanese consider nine to be unlucky because in Japanese the word for nine sounds similar to the word for "pain" or "anguish" and MS did not want them to feel uncomfortable about Windows.  The bottom line is, only a few at MS know the real reason and right now they are not sharing. 

Microsoft Windows 10 upgrade iconNow if you qualify and want Windows 10 for free you must download and install it within a year of its official release date.  At this moment the date for release is July 29, 2015.  If you have a qualifying computer you will see a small Windows icon on your taskbar near the time.  To get W10 click the icon (shown in the graphic on right). 

You will be asked to enter your email address if you want to receive notifications of its arrival and several advertisements about how great it will be.  You do not have to enter your email but you do have to click the, "Reserve your free upgrade" link.  It will then be downloaded sometime around Wednesday, July 29. 

June 16, 2015

Decrapify Your Computer

Last week I mentioned a friend whose computer was struggling through a major malware and viral infection.  I had several readers write to ask, what was done to resolve it and even more importantly how to stop a reoccurrence of the same problems. 

To resolve it I installed Avast! for antivirus protection and Malwarebytes to remove the malware.  I had to run each several times to get rid of all but a couple of nasty ones. 
For those last two or three I had to search the net to find solutions since I had never heard of them.  I found the solutions, ran them and those problems were gone, too.  This was not a quick process.  The first run of Avast! took several hours and Malwarebytes took a couple of overnight runs.  But finally all was well.

I will also say that a huge majority of their problems came from trial antivirus expiring and nothing replacing it, plus many coupon saving apps which were putting on all the malware to get usernames and passwords along with surfing habits.  Fortunately they did not do any banking online or they would have been broke, too.

Next, on a new computer the first thing you should do is to install the two applications mentioned above or pay for the free/trial antivirus provided by the manufacturer and add  Malwarebytes. 

Next, you need to remove the PUPs from your new computer.  (Potentially Unwanted Programs, and yes that is an actual term.)  These are the "junk" programs on new computers that you do not use and will likely never have a need for. 

For the past many years I have built my own computers so I only install what I need; however, in the olden days I used an application called, "PCDecrapifier."  I reinstalled it today to test it out and it still works well. It will remove the majority of your PUPs and bloatware / crapware; however, you may still have some left. For those remaining you should uninstall them upon discovery as you would any application. 

PC Decrapifier logo

PCDecrapifier is a standalone app, which means no installation other than running the downloaded executable.  When you are done all you do is remove the Decrapifier file you downloaded and ran earlier.  It will request if you would like to create a restore point.  I doubt you will need to worry about it but I suggest that you do this.  I recommend you create a restore point anytime you install any new application.

Last today I have several steps for installing new software from day one on.  Start by reviewing the program you are looking to install on your favorite search engine.  See if anyone mentions any "security" issues about it.  Throw out the top 10% of lovers and haters of the application and you will have realistic opinions.  Next, when you install it, if there is a "Custom" install choose that over the default which asks you no questions.  The reason is even some reputable programs have "add on" programs that go with them.  For instance some install Google Chrome along with the real app you mean to install.  In my opinion that is not bad since I am a big supporter of Chrome; however, some apps install PUPs.  A custom install will allow you to choose exactly what is installed so you can "uncheck" any PUPs you see. 

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