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Posts Tagged #Windows

Posted on by Arnon Erba in News

If you’re still running Windows XP, you have just two weeks before you will no longer receive updates or support. Microsoft’s ageing, 12-year-old operating system will finally reach its end-of-support date on April 8th.

What this means for you if you still have XP: after April 8th, Microsoft will not be providing support or releasing any more updates for your operating system. April 8th is the last day that updates will be released or that you will be able to get support through Microsoft. Since security holes are found and patched monthly, any Windows XP users will be at high risk for malware after support ends. Technically, since Microsoft releases updates on the second Tuesday of each month, XP will not be truly unprotected until May 13th. However, no patches will be released after the 8th of next month, no matter what security flaws are discovered.

Once support ends, it also means that drivers and common Windows programs will no longer be written to support Windows XP. If you continue using XP, you will not only stop receiving updates for your operating system but also for the programs you use.

What you should do: once support ends, you have a number of options. If you still want Windows, check if your computer is capable of running Windows 7 or 8.1. You can find the system requirements for Windows 7 here and the requirements for Windows 8.1 here. An upgrade to either of these newer operating systems will be about $100, so if you are not interested investing that much money into older hardware consider buying a new computer or switching to Linux. Whatever you do, don’t continue using XP if you plan on staying connected to the Internet.

Check out Microsoft’s official end-of-support help page here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/end-support-help

Posted on by Arnon Erba in News

Microsoft released a new update for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8 on Tuesday that adds an option to clean up Windows Update files to the Disk Cleanup tool. The update, KB 2852386, allows you to delete unneeded backups of old Windows updates. Here’s how it works:

Type Disk Cleanup into the Start menu and press Enter. The program will prompt you which disk you want to perform a cleanup on. Choose the one Windows is installed on (most likely the C: drive) and click OK.

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The program will scan for files to clean up. Once it opens, click “Clean up system files”

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Wait for Disk Cleanup to scan for system files to clean up. At one point it will say “Scanning: Windows Update Cleanup”.

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Select Windows Update Cleanup and click OK. You should be able to recover at least a gigabyte of disk space by doing this, and most likely a lot more if you’ve installed a lot of updates since installing Windows. In my screenshot, it shows 2.04 MB because I had already run Disk Cleanup.

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Posted on by Arnon Erba in General

If you’re a Windows user, you’ll most likely know that the taskbar can be moved to any edge of the screen by right-clicking it, unchecking “Lock the taskbar”, and then dragging the taskbar to the screen edge of your choice. By default, the taskbar appears at the bottom edge of the screen, and this is what most people envision when they think of the traditional Windows desktop.

Though the taskbar is placed at the bottom of the screen by default, that doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Moving the taskbar to the left or right hand sides of the screen could put it in a more useful location for you, and here’s why.

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With the traditional size of today’s computer screens set at a 16:9 aspect ratio as opposed to 4:3, many applications leave a lot of wasted space on the left and right sides of the screen. Most webpages are oriented toward the center of the screen, and in those cases nearly half the screen space on a large monitor goes to waste. Word processing programs generally default to an 8.5×11″ display which once again wastes space on the left and right sides of the screen.

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If you move the taskbar to the left or right side of the screen, you can take advantage of that wasted space while freeing up space on the bottom of your screen. Ubuntu does something similar to this by default by putting the launcher on the left side of the screen. Though Ubuntu has an OSX-like toolbar at the top of the screen, this does not take up extra space because it doubles as the title bar for any open windows.

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Posted on by Arnon Erba in How-To Guides

Windows 7 bases its default theme offerings off of which location you select during setup. Though there are multiple regional themes, only one of them is installed by default when you choose your location during setup. If you would like to install the other themes, here’s how.

First, copy and paste this into the Start menu search box and press Enter:

C:\Windows\Globalization\MCT

A folder called MCT should open. In it, you will see five folders with country codes for Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the United States, and South Africa.

MCT Folder

In each folder, there are a number of subfolders. The subfolder with the country name contains the images for that region’s theme, and the subfolder called “Theme” contains the installable themepack for that region’s theme. Double-click on the themepack to install it.

Any themes you choose to install will appear under the My Themes section of the Personalization window.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in General

(Editor’s note: Enjoy reading about how I upgraded to Windows 7 in a shockingly roundabout way a few years ago.)

After four years of running an HP-installed version of Windows Vista on my family desktop, I decided it was time to upgrade to Windows 7. Booting up was taking an incredible amount of time, and the system was using between 3 and 5 GB out of 8 GB of RAM during daily use. My original plan was a quick weekend project, but I hesitated for a while because of the fairly high purchase price of Windows, and my quick project stretched out to a few months of searching for Windows on sale. I eventually took the risk of buying a Windows 7 disc set on Craigslist for below retail price. The product key turned out to be valid, but the catch was that my Craigslist purchase was an upgrade version of Windows 7. I didn’t want to do an in-place upgrade, because the entire idea of upgrading to Windows 7 was to remove all of the junk that was slowing the system down. I could still perform a clean install with my upgrade disc, I just needed to have a fully licensed version of Windows on the same hard drive I wanted to install Windows 7 on. I already had a fully licensed version of Windows Vista, but I didn’t want to write over that installation as I wanted to keep a backup in case of disaster.

Faced with this, my project transformed. Instead of partitioning the 750 GB hard drive and installing Windows 7 alongside Windows Vista, I would buy another hard drive, burn the HP factory recovery DVDs, restore Vista to the new hard drive, and then install Windows 7 over the fresh installation of Vista. All while preserving the original Vista installation on the original hard drive. Sounds simple, right?

That, again, didn’t go as planned, and in the most unexpected way possible. The desktop refused to burn the HP recovery discs, giving me an error code which proved to be a hardware error. Was the DVD drive failing after never being used to burn a disc? Was the lens dirty? Did the HP Recovery Manager not like my TDK DVD-Rs? Or was the HP Recovery Manager simply broken? I didn’t have the time or ability to test all these possibilities, so I had to come up with a new plan. The desktop still had the HP recovery partition on the hard drive, but I didn’t want to do a factory restore and erase all the data on the original drive. I wanted Vista on the new hard drive.

I figured if I could copy the recovery partition to the new hard drive, I could factory restore Windows Vista on the new hard drive and not touch the original one. However, Google searches about successfully copying of moving the recovery partition did not look promising. I finally decided to just go ahead, try to copy the partition, and to see what happened.

Enter the Linux Live Ubuntu 12.04 bootable USB thumb drive. Having one of these around has been extremely useful for many reasons, partitioning discs with GParted included. I copied the HP recovery partition directly over to the new drive, and tried booting from the copy.

Predictably, it didn’t work. I got some sort of an “Insert Bootable Media” error, indicating the computer was trying to boot off of the empty partition on the hard drive and not the freshly copied recovery partition. Back in GParted, it turned out the empty partition was marked as the boot partition. I set the boot flag on the recovery partition, restarted the computer, and found myself looking at the HP Recovery prompt. Ecstatic yells ensued.

I waited for the recovery program to finish and then booted into the new installation of Vista. I was then reminded of something I had not thought of: the computer has an upgraded graphics card. Since the recovery program restored the graphics drivers for the original card, the system defaulted to 800 x 600 with 16 bit color. I wasted no time in starting the Windows 7 installation.

There was still more to do when the Windows 7 installation finished. It turned out that even when you choose “Custom install” with an upgrade disc, the install program still saves a large amount of data into a folder called Windows.old. This includes data such as user files, program files, and AppData folders. Since I didn’t want any of the HP-installed programs and I didn’t have any data in the installation of Vista that I had written over, the folder quickly got deleted. Also, my Craigslist Windows 7 disc set was so old it didn’t have Service Pack 1. I ended up downloading probably over a gigabyte of updates.

It was also extremely cool to see the programs installed list completely empty and to have under 10 user-initiated processes running on boot. From now on, I never want to deal with OEM bloatware again.

After all the updates were finished, I installed programs and created user accounts for everyone who uses the computer. Then, I moved over files from the original hard drive with the Vista installation to the fresh Windows 7 installation.

In all, the entire process took about five days, setbacks and all. That’s not counting the time it took me to find a Windows 7 disc set and to buy another hard drive. The step that took the most time was moving over emails from Windows Mail on Vista to Windows Live Mail on 7. A close second were the updates.

Despite the amount of time and effort it took me, it was way worth it doing the upgrade my way. I saved about $50 in parts costs alone. There are also the savings of doing all the file transfers myself versus having a computer shop do them for me. On top of that, I got to decide exactly how my computer would be set up and I know how it’s configured in case anything goes wrong. I had the entire Windows Vista system as a backup, and I got to have a clean install of Windows 7 instead of an upgrade.

Windows 8 next? Not until I get a touchscreen monitor and a trackpad.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in How-To Guides

The Windows XP Recovery Console is either an installable start-up option for a computer running Windows XP or a bootable media included with the Windows XP install disc. This tutorial details how to load the Recovery Console from the original Windows XP install disc.

The fixmbr command can be used in the Windows Recovery Console to re-install the default master boot record so that Windows can be successfully booted. For example, you will need to use this command to remove the Linux installation from a Windows/Linux dual-boot system. On a Windows/Linux dual boot, Linux overwrites the default Windows boot loader with Grub so that both operating systems can be booted from a start-up menu. However, if you remove Linux by simply deleting the Linux partitions, the files that contain Grub will be deleted and you will be greeted with a “Grub rescue” message when you try to boot your computer. Running the fixmbr command should solve this problem. Another reason to you would need to use fixmbr is if your master boot record has been corrupted for any reason and your system won’t boot.

Anyway, here’s an explanation – a detailed one – of how to boot into the Windows Recovery Console if you can’t boot Windows XP and how to then run fixmbr to repair the master boot record.

1. Find your original Windows XP install disc. Yes, you will need this if you can’t boot your system.

2. Set your computer’s BIOS to boot from the CD, insert the CD, and boot from it. If you don’t know how to do this, find your computer’s documentation and look up how to access and use the BIOS.

3. You should now see a “Press any key to boot from CD” message. Press any key.

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4. Now, a shockingly blue Windows Setup screen will open and start flashing text by on the bottom of it. Don’t worry, this is not installing anything or overwriting anything. It’s simply scanning your computer and loading the Windows XP setup program.

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5. Once Windows XP setup loads, press “R” to open the Recovery Console.

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6. You should now see a prompt asking you to select the Windows installation that you would like to log on to. If you don’t see any options here, your system is ruined and is undetectable by the Recovery Console. If you do see option(s) here, type the NUMBER of the option (not the drive letter or something).

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7. You will be prompted for the administrator password. If you don’t have one, just press Enter.

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8. Now you’re in the Recovery Console! You can type “Help” for a list of available commands or type “Help commandname” to see options for a specific command.

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9. If you want to fix the master boot record, type in “fixmbr” with no switches and press Enter. The command shouldn’t take long to run, and when it has finished type “EXIT” and press Enter. When the computer reboots, I would suggest you immediately enter the BIOS so that you can reset the boot menu and remove the CD. Otherwise, your computer will boot to a “Press any key to boot from CD…” message. Once you’ve finished with the boot menu, exit the BIOS and try to boot from the main hard drive.

10. Hopefully, your Windows XP installation is now bootable. If it isn’t, something beyond the scope of fixing the master boot record has gone wrong and you will need to take more drastic methods to recover your data. This could be removing the hard drive and hooking it up to another computer to see if the files are still accessible.

Sources:

http://pcsupport.about.com/od/fixtheproblem/ss/rconsole.htm

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314058