Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

An Update is causing BSOD, what do I do?

Q: An recent Windows Update is causing my computer to blue screen, what do I do to fix this?

A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually.

In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.

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Click on the Update you want to remove, and then click on the “Remove” button. (You may need to reboot your PC afterwards.)

Today’s free link:(s) I do NOT recommend uninstalling security updates unless they cause your machine to become inoperable. I am a big fan of security updates and want all my vulnerabilities patched. If you’re like me in that aspect, Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector is for you.

* Microsoft Releases Internet Explorer 8 Today

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 19, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, performance, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Tech’s First Impression Of Windows 7

Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

I have now been using Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, for a week. I configured it to my taste (aka “preferences”), and installed my primary applications (and a few games) and done lots of things to try to break it.

Yes, you read that last part correctly – I said “try to break it”. You see, there simply is no better way (many people feel) to test a thing than to fill it up with High-Octane, put the petal to the metal, use the gears to keep the RPM’s well into the red, and go! go! go! until a piston sails up and through the hood. Of course.. for this to really mean anything.. you must do this several times in a row.bell_x-1

Not only is this method fun, but this is how “limits” are discovered. Ask Chuck Yeager. (Geeks call this “benchmarking”.)

Some findings: I have found that it is fairly easy to get a fail on IE 8, the newest release of the venerable Internet Explorer web browser (which is still a beta also). Open too many tabs (6+), or a Microsoft.com page using Silverlight, and you’ll get a “Not responding” fairly quick. But, I have also found that it is extremely difficult to get Windows 7 itself to fail. Win 7 is fast and it’s stable.

In fact, despite my best efforts and determination, I have yet to have a lockup, or BSOD¹. Improved multi-processor/multi-threading ability is noticeable. No Windows Update fails either, as still befalls Vista SP1 (you know the ones.. you have to reboot 3 times and/or use Startup Repair to get to your Desktop?)

After my admittedly amateur and unscientifical-style testing, I would be willing to quite prematurely guestimate that Windows 7 is one-hundred and thirty two point six times (132.6x ) more stable than Vista was, and at least .. oh, um, let me say, one magnitude more stable than Vista w/SP1.

All jocularity aside, only time will tell how accurate my estimates and impressions are. But I’m impressed. Quite impressed. This is a beta, after all. (I’m willing to wager that this is a historic first — “beta” and “stable” are never used in the same sentence. I’ll come back to some of the reasons for this.)

Plus number 6.

Other differences: While retaining most of what we’ve come to know in Windows, (such as, by default, the Taskbar is on the bottom, Start button on the left, everything “interesting” is found in Control Panel, etc.) there are some changes.. changes that affected me in my daily usage. First up on that list is the Taskbar has changed in appearance and behavior.

The Taskbar (aka “Superbar”) is similar to Vista’s in that it has a “hover” feature, as shown below…

Windows 7 "Superbar"

Windows 7 "Superbar"

though it has been enhanced to show thumbnails of the program’s open windows (or tabs, as in this case) for easier selection, and direct-action “maximize”.

But look closer. Quick Launch and tabs are combined into “pinned” icons, and the System Tray (the icons down by the clock) are now an “up arrow”. To make a program a “Quick Launch”, or visa-versa, you simply drag-and-drop (and select “pin to taskbar”, no more “lock”/”unlock”), and open programs – “tabs” – ‘stack’ to the right.

It’s weird how much I miss the by-the-clock icons.. though they’ve never really served any truly practical purpose (except maybe as a source for context menu shortcuts). I find myself clicking the arrow, to make the System Tray visible, and reassure myself – yes, they’re still there.
I’ve been running (and troubleshooting) Microsoft operating systems since Windows 3.11, and I just expect those things to be there…

Speaking of things that are missing: menus have been consolidated and “pruned”. They seem to me less cluttered, more intuitive, and easier to navigate. This is most noticeable when trying to access system tools and the elements that make up the Control Panel. Long-time Windows users and über geeks may feel that Microsoft has unnecessarily moved a few things (and occasionally get annoyed, at first), but newbies and flexible-types will find things “friendlier”… IMHO.

Plus number 7.

And Defender is nowhere to be found in Programs or the Start menu: it’s in Control Panel.
(Don’t ask. Haven’t even a guess.)

And, when you first get started, “Network” is missing from the Start menu.
But that’s a topic for Part 4..

Link for Part 1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 1 of a series
Link to Part 2, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

¹ Blue Screen Of Death (see Troubleshooting the Blue Screen Of Death)

Today’s free link: What’s really new in Windows 7?

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

January 17, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, PC, performance, software, System Tray, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How To Use System Restore To Fix Windows

Have you ever wished you could go back in time…and un-do something you did? Windows’ built-in recovery tool, System Restore allows your computer to do what you and I cannot do, jump back in history to a time when everything was working properly, and that’s a pretty neat trick!

Tip of the day: I should caution you that System Restore is not a panacea– there are some things it copies and restores and some things it doesn’t.
* It does not recover data once the Recycle bin has been emptied — you need to use Shadow Copy or an undelete utility for that.
* It doesn’t recover lost or corrupted User passwords.

It is, however, “user friendly” and simple to use. It does, automatically, take “snapshots” of the Registry and some dynamic system files, and is a good way to get an unstable and/or non-booting system back on its feet again without losing your files and user settings.

To get started, you need to make sure that System Restore is turned on, and that it has at least 200 megabytes of free hard-drive space to store snapshots on.

Turn on System Restore by clicking Start and right-click My Computer >Properties >System Restore tab and make sure there’s no check in the box next to “Turn off System Restore on all drives.”

While you’re there, select the drive, or partition, where you want to store the snapshots and click the Settings button. Now you can use the slider to denote the amount of memory you want to devote to System Restore. I set mine to about 500 MB’s, which gives me a good selection of Restore Points (snapshots) without losing too much storage. And now you are set: Windows will start taking snapshots whenever you make a ‘major’ change, like installing a program or device driver.

There are a couple of different ways to use System Restore to go back in time. In the first scenario, Windows still functions, and boots, but is unstable and crashes or freezes frequently.

1) Use System Restore by clicking Start >Programs >Accessories >Sytem Tools >System Restore. This will launch the System Restore Wizard. By default, the radio button “Restore my computer to an earlier time” is already selected so hit the Next button.

Now you will see a calendar, which has the available snapshots/times in bold.

2) Start with the most recent one first, and click “Next”, and then “OK”. Your system will reboot, take a while to load, and then a message saying “Your system has been successfully restored to date selected” will appear.

If this doesn’t happen, you will see an error message– retry using the next most recent Restore Point. You may have to try several.

The next scenario is when you’re in a bad situation where Windows just BSOD’s (“blue screens”), or won’t even boot. Boot your machine and hit, repeatedly, the F8 key as if you were trying to get into Safe Mode.

When the white-on-black Advanced Start Up screen appears do not hit any key(s) just yet. Before too long a dialogue will open asking whether you want to continue on into Safe Mode…Y/N? Type an “N” for “no”. This will launch the System Restore Wizard and you follow the steps as outlined above.

Should this dialogue not open after a suitable wait, use your up/down arrow keys to highlight (select) “Safe Mode” and hit Enter. You will now be in the funny-looking, petite version of Windows called, you guessed it, “Safe Mode”. It’s easy to know that you are, because it clearly says Safe Mode in all four corners of your desktop. Now you can access System Restore through the Start >Programs menu. Again, follow the steps as outlined above.

Occasionally System Restore cannot undo all the damage and it doesn’t work as we’d hoped. If the damage was done by malware such as a virus that also infected your snapshots, it may not work at all. But it is a powerful tool and has saved me many times over the years. It is quick, simple, and usually very effective– and it’s free!

[For more answers on System Restore, see my two follow-up posts; “A quick System Restore addenda“, and “questions answered”.]

Today’s free link: I mentioned undelete utilities, and there are many out there for you to try. Try to recover files by starting with a scan using Softperfect File Recovery. “…a free and useful tool to restore accidentally deleted files from hard and floppy disks, USB flash drives, CF and SD cards and other storage media. It supports the popular file systems such as FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS and NTFS5 with compression and encryption. If your important files disappeared and you can’t find them in the recycle bin, try this software product and get the files back to life. Easy to use, no installation is required.”

Copyright 2007-8 ©  Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 4, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, Safe Mode, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments