Windows 7 to be retired
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Only Windows 10 from the middle of next year

Windows 7 to be retiredThis will not please a lot of my customers, but it had to happen sooner or later.

Microsoft have given notice to its OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) partners that they must no longer sell PC’s or Laptops with an Operating System older than Windows 10 from the middle of next year.

According to Microsoft’s Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet, Windows 8 sales must also end as of 1st July next year, and Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 will no longer be allowed to be pre-installed on new PC’s and Laptops from 1st November 2016, .

The Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 were retired by Microsoft on 1st November last year. 

Windows 7 launched in October 2009, and Microsoft has permitted it to continue to be sold substantially longer than Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 which both arrived in 2013.

So I guess the salient point here is that if you want a new PC or Laptop with Windows 7, you will need to purchase it within the next 7 or 8 months.

Windows 8.1 installation media
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Windows 8.1 Installation Media Creation Tool

Windows 8.1 installation mediaOK, so similar to our last Blog Post about a Microsoft Website that allows you to create a Windows 7 Install Disk, this Post is about another “Handy To Know About Web Page” from Microsoft.

This time however, instead of it being about the ability to create a Windows 7 Installation Disk, this website allows you to create a Windows 8.1 Disk.

So once again, if you have lost your original Installation Disk for Windows 8.1, or you never had one to begin with, or you need to make a bootable USB Drive, then you need to use the Windows Installation Media Creation Tool.

How to create your Windows 8.1 Media

When you click on the “Create Media” button, you will be prompted to download an executable file (which when “run”), will prompt you for your chosen Language, which Edition (ie. 8.1, 8.1 Pro etc), and what Architecture (ie. 32 bit or 64 bit). From here you will be asked whether you want to save to a USB Drive, or save as an ISO file. The file is quite large, so again be careful that you don’t exceed your plan data usage if you are on a Limited or Mobile Data Plan.

It is all very easy to follow, and the only issue I can see would be the End User’s ability to create a DVD from the ISO file.

So once again, as in our previous Blog Post, if you do not have the appropriate  software to burn a DVD from an ISO file, you can download the burning software from the Microsoft suggested website. Don’t forget that just as we mentioned in the last article, you will still need to download the Drivers from the manufacturers website for your specific hardware. If you have trouble doing this, or you are not sure how to go about it, Spotty Dog Computer Services can of course do this for you.

You may also be interested in how to Create a Windows 7 Installation Disk.

 

Windows 7 Recovery Medi
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Create a Windows 7 installation disk using the Microsoft Software Recovery website

Windows 7 Recovery MediWell here is a handy website to know about.

I don’t know how many times a customer has come to us, either wanting their Windows 7 PC or Laptop wiped and reinstalled, or it has needed repairing using Recovery Media, but they do not have their Recovery Media or a Windows 7 Disk.

Now this isn’t a particularly big problem for us because we have access to Windows OEM Disks, but for the End User, not having the Recovery Media is a huge problem that means they have no other choice but to pay someone to do it for them.

What to do if you don’t have Windows 7 Recovery Media

Help is at hand. By visiting the Microsoft Software Recovery website, the End User can download the ISO file required to burn their own Recovery Media disk. The size of the disk will be somewhere between 2GB and 3.5GB, so if you are on a limited Internet Plan or a Mobile Internet Plan, just be careful you do not exceed your download limit.

Microsoft even provide a link for software to burn a DVD from an ISO file if you don’t have suitable software installed to do that yourself. Once you have the software and a valid Product Key, you’re off and running.

The website also allows you to create a bootable USB drive with a copy of Windows 7 on it.

All-in-all, a very handy thing to know if you never had a disk, or you have damaged your disk. As we all know, it is impossible to reinstall or even undertake some really easy repairs without a Recovery Disk or Windows 7 Media.

Of course there will be some End Users that will still have difficulties installing Windows 7 even if they do have the disk. For example, you will still need to download the Windows Drivers from the appropriate hardware manufacturers websites. But if that is the case, Spotty Dog Computer Services can certainly do that for you 😉

Microsoft Office Comparison Table
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Microsoft Office Comparisons

Usually when we build a new computer, or supply a new Laptop, the question is asked, would you like Microsoft Office with that?

Invariably the customer will say yes, to which we would reply, which version would you like?

To which the customer will reply, I didn’t know there were different versions.

And we would then respond with, yes there are several versions. You have Office 365 Personal & Home Premium, and Office Home & Student and Office Home & Business and Office Pro.

The conversation would then turn to all the differences of one version over the other.

As you can imagine, that is time consuming, and potentially confusing for the customer.

So in an effort to decrease both the time and confusion, here is a brief description of the differences, supported with an image that graphically displays those differences.

Office 365

Office 365 is a subscription based offering from Microsoft.

That is to say, you pay a yearly subscription fee.

The advantage of this is that you will always have the most up to date version of the Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc).

There are two versions of Office 365. They are 365 Personal and 365 Home Premium.

The only difference between Office 365 Personal and Home Premium is that the Personal version can only be installed on 1 PC/Mac and the Home Premium version can be installed on 5.

Both versions include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, and both have a 1 Yr subscription term.

Office Home & Student vs Office Home & Business vs Pro

All of these versions of Microsoft Office are Disk Based, with no subscription.

All can only be installed on 1 PC/Mac.

All include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

In addition to these Applications, Office Home & Business includes Outlook.

And Office Pro includes Outlook, Publisher & Access.

Microsoft Office Comparison Table

Microsoft Office Comparison TableIf you would like to purchase Microsoft Office, it is available in our Online Shop.

 

Rootkit Virus
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How to remove a Rootkit Virus

Rootkit VirusI recently had a Laptop in the workshop that had a particularly difficult to remove Rootkit Virus installed on it.

I couldn’t use the removal tool that I normally use because it isn’t compatible with Windows 8, so I did some research and found a different tool called GMER.

What is a Rootkit Virus?

But before I go on and explain how useful the tool was, I’ll just quickly explain what a Rootkit Virus is.

The name comes from a term used in Unix and Linux Operating Systems, with “Root” referring to a “Privileged” account or in other words an account with Administrative rights, whilst the “kit” part of the name refers to software components that implement it. A Rootkit virus assumes admin control of the Operating System, making it very difficult to remove.

So having found that my usual bag of tricks was not going to work, it was time to find something else.

During my research, I came across a removal tool that I hadn’t heard of before (as previously mentioned, GMER), and I gave it a shot.

To my surprise it was very simple and effective.

I downloaded the Removal Tool, and unlike many other tools, I didn’t have to rename the executable file to something that a potential virus wouldn’t recognise and therefore prevent running, because it is already named with a random file name at download. It was also a very small file size of 372kb.

GMER scans for the following:

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  • hidden processes
  • hidden threads
  • hidden modules
  • hidden services
  • hidden files
  • hidden disk sectors (MBR)
  • hidden Alternate Data Streams
  • hidden registry keys
  • drivers hooking SSDT
  • drivers hooking IDT
  • drivers hooking IRP calls
  • inline hooks

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If a Rootkit Virus is present, you will be notified with a screen that looks like the following:

How to remove a Rootkit Virus with the GMER Removal Tool

Removing the identified viruses involves right clicking on the identified virus and choosing “Delete the Service”.

Removing the Rootkit

 

Windows 8 Reset and Refresh options
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How to Refresh, Reset, or Restore your Windows 8 PC

Windows 8 Reset and Refresh options
Windows 8 has Enhanced System Restore capabilities.

Not only can you do the normal System Restore we’ve all come to know, love and use on many occasions, but you can also Reset and Refresh the PC.

 

Here is a brief explanation of each:

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  • Restore – Restore your PC (Windows System Restore) as in previous versions of Windows, undoing recent system changes you’ve made.
  • Refresh – Refresh your PC to reinstall Windows and keep your personal files, settings, and the Apps that came with your PC, along with Apps that you have installed from Windows Store.
  • Reset – Reset your PC will reinstall Windows, but will delete your files, settings, and Apps (except for the apps that came with your PC).

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The new Refresh feature in Windows 8 is intended as an improvement on the previous Window System Restore. On the other hand, the Reset feature is intended to reset your Windows 8 system back to a pristine out-of-the-box setup.

Microsoft have extensive information regarding each of these features and how to use them, so rather than me typing it all out again here, this is the link to the Microsoft Website.

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Is Windows 8 really that bad?

Windows 8Well the short answer to that question is No.

Those of you who have talked to me prior to the Windows 8 release would know that I used a pre-release version of Windows 8 and that I said that I absolutely hated it.

Well now I have had a change of heart, and I really think that it’s not a bad OS at all.

I will qualify this by saying that my opinion only changed after discovering two things.

The first was that I found an Open Source program called Classic Shell, which adds a familiar “Start Button” to the Desktop of Windows 8 and also allows Windows 8 to boot directly to the Desktop instead of to the new Metro Tile start screen.

And the second thing that changed my mind was, gaining some critical knowledge about Windows 8, which was how to bring up the Charms Bar by moving your Mouse Cursor to the Top Right Hand Corner of the screen, along with the knowledge of how to close and switch between Apps and the Desktop.

To close an App, you move your Mouse Cursor to the top of the App Screen until the cursor changes to a “Hand”, then Left Click, Hold, and Drag to the bottom of the screen.

To switch between Apps and the Desktop, you move your cursor to the Top Left Hand Corner of the screen, where you will see a Thumbnail or Thumbnails for currently open Apps.  Choose the one you wish to change to.

This YouTube Video demonstrates how to do this.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/Ns2IpbYpqvM]

 

In addition, Windows 8 is pretty fast and seems to require fewer system resources than Windows 7.

So all in all, I think Windows 8 is quite useable, particularly with the addition of Classic Shell.

Once the first revision of Windows 8 arrives (Windows 8.1) there will be little or no need for Classic Shell as Microsoft has bowed to public pressure and will be reintroducing the Start Button.

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One year before XP’s forced retirement

windows-xp-deadDid you know that in less than a years time, Microsoft will cease to support Windows XP with Security Updates and patches?

Yep that’s right, on the 8th April 2014, if you are still using Windows XP, your PC will be at grave risk of malicious attacks and viral infections.

Mind you, that’s pretty much the case now as XP is not as secure as Windows 7 and 8 anyway.

In an effort to convince PC Users to migrate to Windows 8, Microsoft has today begun offering 15% off a Windows 8, Office 2013 combo package.

Microsoft has stated on a promotional website, that Small and Medium sized businesses that still operate with Windows XP and Office 2003 (Office 2003 will be also retired in 12 months), can purchase licences for Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 Standard at a 15% discount.

However Caveats apply:

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  • Customers must be running XP Professional
  • the Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 Standard licences must be purchased as a package via Microsoft’s Open Licence program
  • and the deal is capped at 100 licences for each

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The discount is valid through to 30th June.

Microsoft has pointed customers to a list of partners (in US) who will offer the Open Licence discounts.

Microsoft (US) has quoted $188 for each Windows 8 Pro licence, and $373 for each Office 2013 Standard licence, for a total of $561. The 15% discount would lower each Windows-Office combo by $84 to $477.

So you have been warned, after the 8th April 2014, Microsoft will not supply security patches for Windows XP, placing all PCs still running it at risk from attack.

The only exception: Enterprises which have purchased custom support plans.

However, Microsoft has boosted prices of those plans, and some businesses have been quoted $1 million for the first year of after-retirement support for the estimated 5,000 XP systems still out there, $2 million for the second year and $5 million for the third!!!

Nice little earner Microsoft!!

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Safer Internet Browsing

Safer Internet BrowsingWell I’ve come to the conclusion that if people want a safer Internet browsing experience, then everyone needs to critically look at what they are doing online, how they are doing it, and what they should be doing but aren’t.

It has become painfully evident that the main reason PC’s are getting infected and compromised with viruses and malware is because of the User’s activities online, in conjunction with the User’s reluctance to do updates when they are presented.  The reason why updates are important to safe browsing is because if you don’t do them, simply visiting a compromised or deliberately malicious website can infect your PC.  This is regardless of what Security software you use.  There are something like 50,000 new viruses being released every single day, so it is near on impossible to protect yourself against that.

The other subject I will cover is what Browser I recommend and why, but I’ll address the updates issue first.

I am consistently told by User’s that they do not do updates for several reasons.  Those being:

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  1. I never know if they are legitimate.
  2. They take too long.
  3. I have done updates in the past and they caused problems.
  4. I couldn’t be bothered.

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Let’s look at these excuses one by one.

I never know if they are legitimate.  This is just a ridiculous thing to say.  If you get a pop-up or a message that tells you there is an update available, and you don’t know whether it is legitimate, then you must also believe that you are infected with something malicious, so why aren’t you doing something about it?  You must do all updates including Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and all Windows Updates.  These updates generally address security holes that can be exploited by Hackers and bad people in general.  It is a no brainer and is not an option.

They take too long.  Seriously?  You can sit on Facebook for two hours but you don’t have time to do updates?  Try this. Switch on the computer, let it boot-up, get your updates underway and go for a walk in the fresh air.  Both yourself and your computer will be better for it.

I have done updates in the past and they caused problems.  This one I can understand.  I’ve done plenty of updates myself and afterwards the computer has crashed or something else just isn’t right.  However, this just isn’t an excuse for not doing updates.  There will be some underlying problem that has caused the issue.  You might already be infected with a virus that is screwing up the update for example.  Whatever the issue, you should address it and resolve it.

I couldn’t be bothered.  Well what can I say to this?  If this is your attitude then expect that it will be a case of when you get infected rather than if.  Not much more to say about this one!!!

Also, when you are thinking updates,  DON’T FORGET  to make sure you always have the latest version of your Security Software and Browser.

For example, quite often I see people with AVG 2011 or 2012 installed, but the current version is 2013.

The same applies to your Browser.

I see Internet Explorer 8 installed, when IE9 (latest version compatible with XP) or IE10 is available.

What Browser should you use?

I think the Browser of choice is Mozilla Firefox.

My reasons for thinking this are:

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  • It’s more secure than the default Internet Explorer.
  • You can install add-on’s and extensions that give it greater functionality, but more importantly extra security.

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Which Add-on’s or Extensions should you use in Firefox?

Well there are literally thousands of Add-on’s and Extensions available, but there are 3 that I consider essential.

They are:

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  • NoScript – For safer Intenet browsing, this Firefox extension provides extra protection for Firefox, Seamonkey and other Mozilla-based browsers.  It’s a free, open source Add-on that prevents JavaScript, Java, Flash and other plugins being executed unless it’s a trusted web site of your choice (eg. your online bank).  NoScript also provides powerful anti-XSS (Cross Site Scripting) and anti-Clickjacking protection.  NoScript uses a unique whitelist based pre-emptive script blocking approach which prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known and even not known yet!) with no loss of functionality.  You can enable JavaScript, Java and plugin execution for sites you trust with a simple left-click on the NoScript status bar icon, or using the contextual menu.
  • BetterPrivacy – This Firefox extension protects against special longterm cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which has spread through the Internet. This new generation of cookie offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. If you are concerned about privacy, then Flash-cookies (Local Shared Objects, LSO) are most critical.  This add-on was made to make users aware of these hidden, never expiring objects and to offer an easier way to view and to manage them – since browsers are unable to do that for you.
  • Adblock Plus – This Add-on isn’t specifically a security Add-on, but by blocking Ad’s, you won’t be tempted to click on things you possibly shouldn’t.  Besides, who needs all those Ad’s anyway?  Adblock Plus blocks all annoying ads on the web by default: video ads on YouTube, Facebook ads, flashy banners, pop-ups, pop-unders and much more.

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What about Security Software?

My advice to people on this changes periodically.

13 years ago I would have recommended VET Antivirus, but then it changed to CA Antivirus and that’s when the problems started.  Since then the recommendations have ranged from a choice of free to paid for products.

Currently I am recommending Norton Internet Security.

I am finding that this product is offering very good protection, functions and features including Social Media protection, and at a price of $29 for 12 months cover, it’s great value as well.

So what does it all mean?

The main points are:

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  • Do all the updates including Windows, Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader.
  • Use Firefox with the recommended Extensions and Add-on’s.
  • Use good security software.

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But above all else, use your brain before clicking on or downloading anything.

Be absolutely sure that you know it is legitimate first.

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Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7

Internet-explorer-10-for-windows-7Microsoft has just officially released Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7.

Previously you needed Windows 8 to experience the new Browser.

The new version brings enormous changes to the Browser, and mostly for the better.

Internet Explorer 10 is not only faster and more stable than the current IE for Windows 7 (version 9), it’s also far more standards-compliant.

Internet Explorer 10 is 20 percent faster on Windows 7 than IE 9, and it supports HTML5 and CSS3.

Microsoft say it is 60 percent more standards-compliant than IE 9. For example, it now supports CSS Text Shadow,CSS 3D Transforms, CSS3 Transitions and Animations, CSS3 Gradient, SVG Filter Effects, HTML5 Forms, HTML5 Sandboxing, and there are many other improvements.

In short, modern HTML5 sites that run smoothly in IE 10 on Windows 8, or the latest browsers from Chrome and Firefox, will now work properly in Internet Explorer 10 on a Windows 7 PC.

Will it work on XP?

Unfortunately, older OS versions are not supported and it will only work on Windows Vista or above.  So if you still have Windows XP, you are out of luck.

Download Internet Explorer 10 by clicking the link.