Support site for do it your selfers and users looking for solutions to problems

  • Windows 9 Code Name Threshold

    Windows 9 Release Code Name Threshold

    Working on an electrical circuit board

    Rumors are flying about Windows 9 and the anticipated release date. At this time, it’s looking like Q2 or Q3 of 2015. Here are a few fairly reliable forecasts from information seeping out of Microsoft development labs plus a few of my wish list items.

    Start Menu Returns

    Microsoft is trying to recover from the public’s aversion to the Windows 8 tiled user (Metro) interface. Some leaked images of what may be to come indicates Windows 9 is likely to return the highly missed “Start menu” as shown below.

    Hidden Elements Charm Bar Loses to Tradition

    Another Window 8 issue predicted to be rectified by the Windows 9 Threshold release is the hidden elements (Charms Bar). This feature works fine on touch screen laptops and other devices, but is extremely irritating if you use a mouse, keyboard, and a regular monitor. Since most businesses’ staff are still mouse-and-keyboard users, this make a whole lot of sense. After all, especially for small businesses it takes a few years for them to upgrade hardware plus few want to take the hit of productivity that learning new methods requires. As an aside, not one of my current clients allows me to HINT at them using Windows 8 on any business machines so far. Maybe Windows 9 will win them back.


    My Windows 9 Wish List

    Directly Open and Close Metro Apps

    It is my hope that they will also improve the ability to open Metro Apps inside traditional desktop windows, instead of taking up the entire screen as they do now. And, of course, a way to close and open metro apps other than using the “Alt-F4” command that still works from the Windows 3.1 days.


    Bring Back Backup Capabilities of Windows 7

    Another wish, while we’re making lists, is the ability to do backups as done in Windows 7 . In Windows 7 Pro, you could specify what folders you wanted to backup and it retained a system image. This gave you the ability to restore your image to different computer if you had a major hardware failure. The system image facility is still in Windows 8, but it is buried so far down it is almost impossible to use. It creates huge image files so you must have plenty of disk space available. The file backup ability in Windows 8 doesn’t really give you any control over what’s backed up or how often. Fingers crossed Windows 9 brings back the usability backups. Though most users will never set this up, primarily because they don’t know it exists, its return in Windows 9 might get some attention in the press giving Windows users information about a handy feature. But, this is just on my wish list at the moment with no hints about the possibilities coming out of Microsoft.


    Support High Resolution Monitors Better

    Hopefully we’ll get better support for high DPI monitors also as my wife’s Win8 laptop at 1920×1080 resolution is microscopic. I certainly can’t use it at that resolution and when you go away from the native resolution of your monitor, the graphics start looking awful.


    Reduce Size of Operating System

    Maybe Microsoft will address the current size of their operating system this time, also. 30gb is pretty large for some older laptops to even think of installing it. True, much of the bloat is for backwards compatibility, but I have a Windows 7 machine currently with almost 30gb in the sxs (side by side) folder.


    So it looks like when you go to buy a new business computer next year, you will face the usual Microsoft predicament…stick with the old, reliable Win7 platform or bite the bullet and go with whatever is out there be it Win8 or the new Win9. I rarely advise buying new hardware, then installing a 5- or 6-year-old operating system or any older, perhaps obsolete software. Of course, subscription-based software is a different matter and sometimes, using old software just cannot be avoided. Case in point, older versions of Adobe’s Creative Suite (CS) are still available and should be for quite some time. I can still buy the antique CS3 if I look hard enough.


    I personally am looking forward to Microsoft’s new Threshold release as long as they don’t go to a Windows 365 type model which resides in the Cloud. Seems like a good idea on the surface to be able to access your system from any compatible device, but think about it long and hard before handing over all your digital assets into Microsoft’s world. Here’s some recent news about the development of Windows 365 . If Microsoft moves toward the cloud rather than device-based operating systems, it could be the end of Windows as we know it. Hello, Ubuntu and Open Office!






  • Reset TCP/IP stack on Windows any version


    Resetting the TCP/IP stack in Windows, Any Version

    If you are having networking issues in Windows that you just can’t find a resolution to, just about any version, resetting the TCP/IP stack will generally resolve the issue. If you are seeing “Unidentified Network” In the “Network and Sharing Center” in Windows Vista and up, this will fix your issue. If you can’t browse the Internet and just can’t figure out why, this will generally fix that also.

     You will have to run this command from an elevated command prompt. To reach an elevated command prompt, click on Start>Accessories>, then right click on the command prompt and click “Run as administrator”. On Windows 8, find it yourself. Sorry, I don’t do Windows 8 as it will never be in the enterprise. Windows 8.1, right click on the Start button and right click on “Command Prompt” and click on run as administrator.

    Here are the commands:

    netsh int ip reset c:\resetlog.txt

    netsh winsock reset

    Run both of these then reboot your computer. Upon reboot, you will be asked what kind of network you would like. Work, Public, or Home. I always answer Work here just for general purposes. It enables network discovery and file and printer sharing. As long as you are behind a firewall and have your anti-virus and Malwarebytes Pro you should be ok. If not, please turn off the machine and throw it away.

  • The Cloud and Your Data Beware

    What are the disadvantages of the cloud?

                                  internet cloud

    The saying that you get what you pay for rings true here.  Let’s say, as an example, you’re using a cloud server to run a website selling widgets for ABC company.  One day ABC company’s cloud server gets hacked, the website defaced, and the original content destroyed.  Because the majority (if not all) of cloud providers have minimal if any accountability or audit trail, it may prove impossible to review logs and determine where the hack came from, what may have been stolen or if the security issue was a fault of the provider or the server administrator.  There is, in essence, a lack of transparency.

     This is compounded by a lack of security because when one is running their services in a shared hosting environment (which the cloud is, hence the lower prices) there is absolutely no guarantee of security in terms of your data being hidden from prying eyes, being manipulated or even erased.  Indeed, ABC company’s widget website could have been compromised by an insecurity in the virtualization software, rather than a fault of the server admin.  But ABC company will never know because their cloud host didn’t keep such records (a common practice to reduce storage costs and computing overhead).

     But the disadvantages unfortunately do not stop there.  Another large problem for cloud-based services is reliability.  Not only have there been numerous reports of crippling outages, but there have also been widely publicized reports about data getting lost and the providers either not willing or able to find it.  These issues have occurred within major cloud providers and have proved to undermine trust of those affected.

    Is there any recourse when your cloud service is hacked or data is lost?

     In a word, no.  There generally is not.  Most of the service level agreements stipulate limited liability when it comes to uptime (reliability), security and data continuity.  This means that even though you are a paying customer, you may not have any guarantees about the service you have subscribed to.  To analyze a hack a good forensic information security expert needs access to logs, direct access to the server and the ability to have granular control of the server’s functionality, e.g., single user boot, kernel debugging, hardware interface access, BIOS/firmware access.  Most of the time this functionality is not enabled for cloud servers, limiting both proactive and responsive measures regarding information security.

     Imagine if you are an attorney, accountant, doctor or another profession that needs to keep your client’s data private.  How can your firm claim to do that while hosting the data in an environment where there is absolutely no guarantee of privacy, security or accessibility?  What happens if one day your cloud service is down and you cannot access client records?  Worse yet, what happens if it is hacked and all your accounting records are made available to extortionist hackers?  None of these are farfetched situations.  In fact, they occur on a routine basis.

     Finally, another significant disadvantage is bottlenecks.  There’s a reason we have local area networks, and that is for efficiency, security and speed transferring data back and forth.  Once we move a local office to using the cloud to share files back and forth, all of a sudden what used to be a local, quick operation turns in to a journey.  The data that once traveled within the confines of the same office now has to go out to the (untrusted) Internet, potentially exposing the contents of whatever is being shared, and then get routed to your cloud provider, back through the Internet to your office.  This problem produces a number of potential bandwidth bottlenecks that can hinder performance and also expose sensitive data.

  • IE 10 or IE 11 Displays Blank White Page After Clicking on Link

    Is Internet Explorer Displaying a Blank Page When You Click on a Link?

    After much research, I think I have a solution for this issue. I had the same problem everyone is having. When browsing with IE 10 or IE 11, I sometimes get a blank page when clicking a link. If I enter the URL, then the page may come up, but many pages still come up blank even if entered directly in browser. Hit F12 and the entire debug page is blank.

    Fix your IE Settings

    The first thing to do to attempt to address this issue is go to Tools>Internet Options>Advanced. Then click on “Reset Internet Explorer Settings” and restart IE. This will fix a great deal of these problems.

    If that doesn’t work, try checking the box at the top of the same page, Tools>Internet Options>Advanced, “Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering”. If that has no effect, you may have an old anti-virus program that you have un-installed that is affecting IE.

    Is Anti-Virus Software Interfering?

    AVG, Norton, McAfee, and other anti-virus protection software all have special removal tools that strip all traces of their crummy software from your machine. Run these utilities first before extensive troubleshooting. It will save many users much time. Even if you have uninstalled old anti-virus software, you can go to your that vendor’s website and get their removal tool and get the remnants of the old software off your computer. That fixed my issue immediately. 

    If you aren’t aware of any removed anti-virus programs, you may have to download all of the anti-virus vendors removal tools and run each one until you find which one is mucking up IE.

    This isn’t a Microsoft issue. It’s an anti-virus vendor issue. As Internet Explorer is deeply embedded in the operating system, anti-virus has a much larger effect on it than Firefox, Chrome, and other browsers which aren’t part of the operating system.

    Note: Be very careful where you download these removal tools from. Make sure you are at the original vendor’s website. Many malicious websites use sub-domains such as “” to get you to download fake removal tools. Beware! Oh, and if this helped, please go to my Google Plus page and give me a “Like” as it helps me get more “Google Juice”! Cheers!

  • Cryptolocker – Can I Recover My Files?

    Can Cryptolocker Victims Recover Their Files?

    So you’re happily working on your Windows computer, getting stuff done. Little do you know, your personal files are rapidly being encrypted so that you can’t access them.

    Suddenly, an alert appears on the screen—you have 96 hours (or four days) to pay $300 or lose all your encrypted personal files forever. A countdown is already ticking on your screen.


    This is CryptoLocker, the latest and most damaging Windows virus in a series of recent ransomware Trojans. The relatively large amount of money it demands, combined with the tight deadline, make it far more aggressive than other similar viruses.

    And unfortunately for us, it’s spreading more rapidly than any of its contemporaries.

    You’d think it would be simple to track down the perpetrators given that they’re taking a ransom, but it’s not that simple. Since CryptoLocker demands payment through MoneyPak or Bitcoin, both of which harness private, decentralized fund-exchange networks, it’s much more difficult to follow the money.

    Until the good guys are able to track down the bad, the best thing you can do is stay informed. Says Corey Nachreiner, director of security strategy at Watchguard Security, about what you need to know.

    Preventing An Infection

    Nachreiner said that CryptoLocker is especially dangerous because of its infection rate. “I can tell you anecdotally, we’ve seen many client and customer queries for it,” he said. “I haven’t seen this amount of customer based questions in quite a long time.”

    According to the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team, it spreads through an email that appears to be a tracking notification from UPS or FedEx, though some victims said they got infected on the tail end of wiping out a previous botnet infection. And in case it wasn’t clear, you don’t need to be in the US to become infected.

    Nachreiner said that it’s more than opening the email that spreads the virus. You need to open the email and actually download the zip file inside it. Hiding inside that zip file is a double-extension file such as *.pdf.exe. The .exe file lets CryptoLocker run on your computer, while the innocuous .pdf extension hides the file’s true function.

    While it’s hard to imagine savvy computer users falling for such a ploy, Nachreiner said this time of year makes us all more fallible. There’s a reason CryptoLocker first surfaced in September 2013, and not earlier in the year.

    “This lure is far more common for the holiday shopping season,” he said. “As people are doing more shopping online, they’ll be more likely not to suspect emails about packages. My guess is we’ll also see CryptoLocker mimicking emails from Amazon and other shopping sites, too.”

    So far the virus has been infecting PCs running Windows 7, Vista, or XP, but Nachreiner said that doesn’t mean it won’t eventually infect PCs running Windows 8, or even Macs.

    So what should you do? Run your antivirus software, though Nachreiner warns that it’s “not a silver bullet.” Make sure you keep regular and recent backups of all your files. This goes double if you’re a business that shares a drive or folder across multiple computers, since CryptoLocker is known to target shared files for encryption first.

    Some good Samaritans have also developed free tools that shut down CryptoLocker before it starts. One is called Crypto Prevent, and it stops your computer from downloading double-extension files.

    Eradicating An Infection

    It’s all well and good to prepare, but what if you already are infected? Despite the virus’s warning not to “disconnect from the Internet or turn off the computer,” this is exactly the first order of damage control.

    “You’ve got to realize these guys are criminals and they lie,” said Nachreiner. “The only thing turning off your computer does is keep the virus from continuing to infect.”

    In fact, unplugging your computer may save some of your files, if the virus is still in the process of infecting them.

    Next, you need to figure out what damage has been done. Which files have you lost? Do you have backups of these files? If you don’t have backups, have you checked Windows’ System Restore files, which sometimes automatically back up the computer for you?

    If you can help it, Nachreiner highly recommends not giving in to extortion.

    “You should never pay these guys ransom,” he said. “It’s just going to encourage malware authors to create similar viruses.”

    If you do have a backup, it’s time to wipe your computer of the virus. Fortunately for you, said Nachreiner, just about every antivirus vendor has a CryptoLocker cleanup tool. Work with your regular antivirus software, or follow a tutorial.

    Restore your backup, and you should be set. Just don’t click on any more dodgy emails.


  • Outlook on SBS 2008 or Exchange 2007 Constantly Asks for Password

    Domain-Authenticated Outlook  Continually Asks for Password on SBS 2008 or Exchange 2007

    This one has been stumping me for years. I have several machines on my SBS domain that suddenly started asking me for my email password. That shouldn’t happen on a domain because when you log on to your computer on a domain, it caches your credentials. Even if your machine isn’t talking to the domain (laptop not on the LAN), it should log on using cached domain credentials. You can even look at your credentials in Control Panel>User Accounts to see if they are there and correct, which all of them displaying the problem were. And it wasn’t EVERY machine in my domain, just random ones. I had looked and researched the problem endlessly on TechNet and the worthless where they call they’re own posts answers…..just a stupid place to look for a cure for a problem. M/$ should abandon that.

    Outlook Authentication Problem Solved

    I have finally found the cure for this annoying problem and it’s easy-peasy. Look up KB970162 and download Update Rollup 9 for Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1. It can be found here . Run it on your Exchange Server 2007 and poof! No more password prompts where there shouldn’t be. I hope this helps someone from endless searches for this particular problem cause it took me years to find it.


  • Download Windows 8.1 ISO for Making Install Media

    Create Install Media with Windows 8.1 ISO

    Apparently there is a workaround to download the Windows 8.1 ISO  from the Microsoft servers using your Windows 8 product key. Yes, even the upgrade key works with this method.

    Why is this is a good news? Because Microsoft won’t deliver Windows 8.1 ISO file for “download to the public”. Microsoft has recently announced that the only way to update to Windows 8.1 is via the Windows Store and it won’t be making available an ISO file to the public, only for TechNet and MSDN subscribers. And let’s say you had a small business with 20 PCs, you’ll literally have to manually update each computer using the Store, downloading the installation files of about 3.5GB 20 times — now you’ll only have to do it once.


    Follow these steps to the image file:

    1 Head over to

    2 Scroll down and click “Install Windows” 8 (This will trigger the download for the setup assistant).

    3 Launch the installer and enter your Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Upgrade product key, confirm that you will be downloading the bits for the version you paid for.

    Note: Keep in mind that this workaround only works with retail versions of the OS and not with OEM copies.


    4 As soon as starts downloading, close the installer assistant from the (X) in the top-right corner.

    5 Go back to the Microsoft Windows upgrade page, click Install Windows 8.1, and download the Windows 8.1 Setup assistant.

    6 Now like if it was magic, you’ll see that Windows 8.1 starts downloading… (For those non-believers I tested by letting the first download go to 5%, then I switched to the 8.1 download and it started again from 0%.)


    7 When the download completes, you can choose to install the OS right-then, or you can choose the option: Install by creating media. (This option will allow you to create a bootable media.)


    8 Choose to create a USB flash drive or ISO file, and click Next to finish.


    Even better this will also solve the “Insert Media: Some files are missing…” issue while using Refresh your PC or Remove everything in Windows 8.1.


  • Office 2013 or Office 365 – Do I trust someone else with my data?

    Microsoft is trying to drag everyone into their cloud with Office 365.

    Microsoft’s latest Office suite offering, Office 365, comes pre-installed on most PCs you buy retail from now on. The question is, do you want to rent cloud-based software from Microsoft? Or do you want to buy a perpetual license for the Office suite software for your PC.

    The differences between Office 365 Home Premium and Office 2013 Full versions are minute, but the licensing is not. As of March of this year (2013), Microsoft changed the End User License Agreement (EULA) on the perpetual license of the Office 2013 Full Packaged Product Retail (FPP). Now the Office license is not tied to the machine it is first licensed and loaded on. Of course, this is the most expensive version of Office 2013 at over $400. But compare to the Office Home and Student version which excludes Outlook (unbelievably), Access, and Publisher. In my opinion, Outlook is without a doubt the best email client out there, so I recommend not buying Office 2013 Home and Student.

    The next step up is Office Home and Business, which does include Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This can be obtained for around $150.00 or less, and it comes in a download form. This should be all any home user would need. If you are an Access database developer that works from home, you probably aren’t going to be reading this article. This comes with the caveat that it is locked to the machine you initially install it to. If your hard drive fails and you have to re-install Windows, you are going to run into problems re-installing. Of course, you should always have a full backup including a Windows Image, which SHOULD preclude this problem.

    Office 365 Home Premium comes with the latest versions of the Office software bundled. However, is that once you commit to using Office 365, you must continue paying the subscription fee or lose access to the software. At this time, it runs $10 a month, or $100 a year. That being said, it allows for installation on 5 machines with the same logon. It also includes 20gb of drive space on Skydrive. Since most people don’t have 5 machines they logon to, it doesn’t appear to be cost-effective to rent.

    Many home users are still on Office 2003 and are perfectly happy with that. Now, if you have several devices that can run Office, and trust your data with someone else, maybe Office 365 Home Premium is for you. Microsoft has also promised you get any upgrades that come out for no charge. But then they said the same thing about Vista Ultimate and it really never happened. BTW, Office 365 runs only on Windows 7 and up. Vista or XP is a no-go.

    In summation, you have a decision to make when you set up your shiny new computer. Do I want to rent Office 365 Home Premium and be locked into renting software from Microsoft? Or will a download of Office 2013 Home and Business using a traditional perpetual license work for me?

  • Essential Tips for Setting Up Your New PC with Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

    Microsoft Windows 8.1 wants to drag you into the Microsoft “Cloud” whether you like it or not.

    You’ve just opened your new PC and pushed the power button. Windows 8 and 8.1 both ask for Region and Time Zone, then color settings and this is when the going gets tricky. The setup wizard differs in Windows 8 from Windows 8.1 in the regard that Windows 8 gives you a choice as appears here. We will now start to setup Windows 8.

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    At least in Windows 8 it gives you a choice. Unless you want to marry Microsoft, click local account on Windows 8, and you should be good to go as the rest of the wizard is much like Windows 7. It requests you to name your machine, and then generate a user ID and password. Fine and dandy.

    Windows 8.1 is a different story. It doesn’t come up with an obvious screen to choose whether you want to use a local account or use a Microsoft account. This is the screen you get after you have chosen a color scheme.

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    Most people should choose “Sign in without a Microsoft account” in my opinion as you will see in the next screen.

    computer repair houston
    windows 8.1 setup screen

    Personally, I choose not to share ANY information with anyone. Apparently, Microsoft has differing ideas on information sharing than I do. Read the text in the screen capture carefully. I especially don’t care for the “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps”. You can decide for yourself if you want to send your browsing history, location, and “some” account info to Bing, Microsoft, and anyone else who pays for your personal information, which has become a commodity in today’s world, and going forward. Remember, you’re going to be using this machine for several years hopefully.  So, to recap, be careful when you initially setup Windows. Don’t let yourself become a willing Microsoft partner. You should click on customize at this screen to continue. Then this screen appears.


    Set all settings to “OFF” and hit next. After this, the procedure is again much like Windows 7. It asks you to name your machine, and enter a user ID and password. Once you have gotten this far, you should be good to go, until it comes time to install Office. Now that’s an entirely different story, to be covered in the next post.

  • Featured ImageOutlook 2010 Won’t Authenticate or Save Password on Office365 on One Machine

    Have Outlook 2010 Authentication Problems on an Office 365 Machine?

    Is your computer’s Outlook 2010 refusing to authenticate or won’t save your password when trying to connect to Office365? There is a Microsoft patch for that. The patch is kb2553248 and links from here…

    This week, I had one computer that just wouldn’t authenticate after an autodiscovery setup Outlook 2010 that gave all green checkmarks. It said: “You must restart Outlook”. When I did, it wouldn’t accept the password. So I ran the patch above and it worked as designed. Problem solved.

    I believe this patch comes down in Office SP2. But for some reason, even though Windows Update said no updates available, this one fixed the issue instantly. I hope this saves someone else the 5 hours it took me to find the glitch in M/$ and Office 365. Tally-Ho!!