Aug 25

Get Windows 10

Some of us are quite happy to stick with Windows 7. After all, it’s supported by Microsoft until 2020. So the ‘Get Windows 10’ icon in your system tray can be a bit of an annoyance. On the other hand, you may not want to update to Windows 10 just yet until some of the early bugs have been ironed out.

A number of posts have appeared over the past few months with instructions on how to remove the ‘Get Windows 10’ system tray icon but not many tell you how to remove it permanently. The problem is, Microsoft considers it an important update, and once you’ve uninstalled it, it reappears back in your system tray as early as the next system reboot. Here’s how to permanently remove it. It’s a two-step process.

Uninstall the update

To uninstall the ‘Get Windows 10’ update in Windows 7, go to Start, Control Panel, Programs and Features, and select View installed updates. Then hit Ctrl-F and search for the update ‘KB3035583’. Once you have found it, right click on it and select Uninstall.

After this, you will be prompted to reboot or postpone that till later. I suggest postpone for 4 hours to give the system time to realise it’s missing this so called important update. You’ll know when Windows wants to reinstall it because when you click Start, the Shut down button will have an exclamation mark indicating that important updates will be installed on reboot. Now is the time to stop that particular update.

Hide the ‘Get Windows 10 update’

So don’t reboot. Instead go back to Start, Control Panel, Windows Update and you will see that important updates are available, in my case just the one. We are now going to hide that update so it is ignored for update in future. By the way, you can also see that if you change your mind you can restore hidden updates in the left panel.

Get Windows 10 - Update available

So click on ‘1 important update is available’. This will show that KB3035583 is available to install. There may be others as well.

Get Windows 10 - Hide Update

Right click on update KB3035583 and chose Hide update, then close the window.

Now when you reboot, this update will not be reinstalled and you will no longer have to suffer that ‘Get Windows 10’ nag screen.


Dec 31

If you’re a Windows user, you’ll have noticed that there are usually only three buttons at the top right corner of the window – Close, Maximize and Minimize – with lots of free space to the left of those. Well, I’ve discovered a utility that will add some useful extra functions to the left of these buttons – it’s called eXtra Buttons.

After downloading and installing it, you can add as many of the functions as you think you’ll need. You can also access these options by clicking the eXtra Buttons icon in the system tray.

eXtraButtons

Here’s an outline of the Parameters options:

Buttons set — to add or remove buttons from window. As you can see in the image above, you also get a preview of how the buttons look on the bar, so you can rearrange them and add separators if required.
Common options — make the eXtra Buttons program launch at Windows startup.
Window menu — set the eXtra Button parameters which show in the right-click menu when you click the top bar of the window.
Exclude applications — exclude any applications where you don’t want the buttons to show.

Now here’s a quick outline of what each button does:

Always on top — places window on top of the other windows, so that it will always be visible whether or not it has the focus.
Send to back — places window under others, so it will not bother you.
Copy window — starts a copy of the application in the new window.
Roll-up/Unroll — minimizes the window to its caption, so you see only the caption line with the title of the window. You can roll-up a number of windows to separate caption lines.
Minimize to Box — minimizes window to a small box and places its icon on the desktop at the top right of the screen. Double click box to maximize.
Transparency — makes the window transparent according to the adjusted level. You may adjust any default transparency level.
Percentage transparency — makes the window transparent according to percentage from pop-up Transparency Menu.
Minimize to Tray — minimizes window and places its icon in the System Tray.
Minimize to Tray Menu — minimizes window and places its icon in the System Tray Menu.
Move to Another Monitor — moves the window to another monitor.
Click through — Makes the window transparent according to the adjusted level and also transparent to mouse activity so you can click the window below it.
Full Screen — Opens the window so it covers the whole screen.
Bookmarks — Adds the application to the adjustable Bookmarks list and provides quick access to the most frequently used applications and folders.

Some time ago, I wrote a post on useful free utilities for a dual monitor set-up. At the time, I recommended Dual Swap as a free utility to move windows between monitors, but I now find the ‘Move to Another Monitor’ button in eXtra Buttons is better integrated with the window bar so I use it now. However, I have also noticed that the buttons don’t show up in some applications, for example, Adobe Reader, but that’s the only downside so far.


Jun 24

Windows backup system image

This post is part of a series tracking my progress in buying a used laptop and setting it up to dual boot Windows 7 and Linux Mint. I hope eventually to switch to Linux. At this stage, I’ve reinstalled Windows 7 and my essential Windows software. Now that everything is set up the way I want it, before I dual boot, I have to make a backup Windows system image. This will be handy to have should I run into difficulties later and want to get back to a base Windows setup with my essential Windows programs. In this post, I just want to pass on some tips on creating the image.

Before you make a system image, run a program like CCleaner to delete temporary files, etc. The image is going to contain all the Windows files and programs so it’s best to remove all the temporary files first. Also, if in the past you’ve performed a repair install, upgrade install, or a custom install rather than a clean install, then you may have a C:\Windows.old folder left over in your new Windows installation. You can delete this too if you’re happy with your new Windows 7 setup. See this post on how to delete the Windows.old folder.  I plugged my new 1TB WD Elements USB3.0 external hard drive into my Lenovo ThinkPad laptop and then followed this guide to prepare a system image on my external hard drive using Windows System Backup and Restore. There’s not much point in repeating these instructions which can be found on a number of sites with a simple search.  I’ll just add some comments on what I noticed creating the image.

Windows System Backup and Restore mightn’t be the fastest imaging utility or the one with the highest compression, but I found it simple to use. It will create an image of all files on any partition, or drive, on the hard drive and will include the system partition. The destination drive cannot be the same as the original drive. Both the original and destination drive must be formatted to use the NTFS file system. When you use Windows System Backup and Restore  to create a system image, you’ll find there’s no option to save the image file to a custom folder on the external hard drive. It automatically goes to a subfolder (with your computer name) of a newly created folder in the root directory called WindowsImageBackup. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m guessing that if I made a system image from another computer to the same external hard drive, it would be sent to a new subfolder (with that computer name) again in the WindowsImageBackup directory, so you could end up with a number of different images for different computers in the WindowsImageBackup folder.

In my case, my Windows 7 Professional OS and essential programs created a system image of 24GB on the external drive. I wanted to be sure I had a duplicate copy so I plugged in my original 1TB external drive and copied the WindowsImageBackup folder to it.  Now that I have a Windows system image of my laptop backed up on both my external hard drives, I plan to keep one external drive offsite at all times and rotate them onsite every week or so. That way I always have a safe backup of everything in case of theft or fire.

So the next step is to shrink the Windows partition and dual boot Windows 7 and Linux Mint. I’ve never done this before and I know dual booting can lead to problems especially for the inexperienced, so that’s another good reason for creating a backup Windows system image before I go any further.

If you’ve any comments or tips on creating a system image or on creating a new partition or dual booting I’d love to hear them before I go ahead.


Jun 17

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve bought a used laptop partly as a backup system for my Windows desktop PC (I work from home and a backup machine is essential) but mainly to check out Linux Mint and other possible Linux distros which I’d like to switch to from Windows in the future.

I’m at the stage where I’ve re-installed Windows 7 on the Lenovo ThinkPad, I’ve run all the Windows 7 updates and I’ve installed all my essential programs should I have to switch to the laptop if my desktop PC fails to boot one day. The next stage is to partition the hard disk and install Linux Mint.

But first, this is a great time to create a backup Windows system image should I ever need to reinstall Windows 7 in the future. It’s set up just as I want it now with my essential Windows programs. I thought it would be useful to make a list of the Windows programs that are essential to me for work and personal use. You’ll probably be familiar with most but if not, you might find the list useful. I’m not going to provide links to all the programs as they can be easily found online, but I’ll try to link back to any posts I’ve made on particular programs in the past. I compiled the list by browsing through all the programs installed on my desktop PC and paring them down to the ones I couldn’t do without.

My essential Windows programs

Microsoft Office (I need this because unfortunately MS Word is still the standard for document creation and editing in the publishing industry)

Microsoft OneDrive (not really essential, but I use it to backup encrypted work files online)

Microsoft NET Framework (needed to run other programs, e.g. doPDF)

Microsoft Security Essentials (many would argue there are better free anti-virus options but I’ve had no problems with it)

Google Chrome

Mozilla Thunderbird

Malwarebytes AntiMalware

xplorer2 Lite (my Windows Explorer replacement)

Irfanview and plugins (image editing)

7-Zip (file compression and file archive creation)

CCleaner

Speccy (hardware info)

Recuva (file recovery)

NotePad++ (text file creation and editing)

Adobe Reader (again unfortunately the standard for annotating PDF proofs in the publishing industry)

doPDF (create a PDF from your Print menu)

PicPick (screen capture utility)

Skype

Cloudfogger (automated cloud file encryption utility)

Evernote

When I dual boot Windows with Linux Mint, I’ll need to find Linux alternatives for some of these programs. Some I won’t need (MSE, Malwarebytes) and others I’ll try to get working under WINE (Word, Evernote), but more about that later. In my next post, I’ll create my backup Windows system image.


Feb 27

Windows 7 has quite a few built-in diagnostic utilities. Trouble is, some are quite hard to track down and there’s no place you can get a list to launch individual utilities. For example, go to the Start button and click Administrative Tools and you’ll find a selection, but not them all. Some are so well hidden you mightn’t know about them at all. Microsoft doesn’t provide a decent manual with Windows software anymore, so I thought it would be useful to try to document what diagnostic tools are available in Windows 7 and some quick ways to access them. There are different ways to get to most of them. This is as much for my benefit as for yours as I forget too! I won’t go into what each tool does in any great detail but I’ll try and point you to good posts about them where I can. Unfortunately, it’s not the most readable of posts, but hopefully it’s informative and a good reference to what’s where.

Windows Task Manager

Access: Ctrl-Shift-Esc

Most of you will be familiar with this one as you can use it to see what applications and processes are running and what’s hogging memory. The listing under the Processes tab can be a bit daunting but you can get a great overview of what’s using up resources by going to the Performance tab and clicking Resource Monitor.

Resource Monitor

Resource Monitor

Access: As above or Start button and type resource in the Search box; then click Resource Monitor.

Resource Monitor gives you an overview of the use of hardware (CPU, memory, disk, and network) and software resources in real time so it’s one of my favourite diagnostic utilities. Have a look under the Memory tab and you’ll get a nice overview of what’s using up physical memory, what’s on standby and what’s free. If you happen to have two monitors, you can watch this utility in action by dragging Resource Monitor to your second monitor, then try opening new Chrome tabs or opening say MS Word and watch the effect on memory. As you can see from the above image, I probably need a bit more RAM in my system.

Performance Monitor

Access: Start button and type performance in the Search box; then click Performance Monitor. Or just type perfmon into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Performance Monitor.

A reasonable overview of this utility can be found in this post.

Performance and Information Tools

Access: Start button and type performance in the Search box; then click Performance and Information Tools.

One of the useful things you can do with this utility is generate a system health report. First click on Advanced tools in the left column, then click Generate a system health report.

Event Viewer

Access: Start button and type event in the Search box; then click Event Viewer. Or just type eventvwr into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Event Viewer.

There’s a good overview here.

Device Manager

Access: Start button and type device in the Search box; then click Device Manager.

Here’s how to identify an unknown device with Device Manager.

Problem Steps Recorder

Access: Start button and type record steps in the Search box; then click Record steps to reproduce a problem. Or just type psr into the search box and press enter. This will open Problem Steps Recorder.

Use this to record the problem you’re having with your PC for a friend or repair tech to resolve. You could also use this application to create a step-by-step guide for your friends to show them how to do certain tasks on their PC.

Windows Memory Diagnostic

Access: Start button and type memory in the Search box; then click Windows Memory Diagnostic. Or just type mdsched into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Windows Memory Diagnostic.

You can use Windows Memory Diagnostic to test your computer’s RAM for errors.

Windows Network Diagnostics or Network Troubleshooter

Access: Start button and type troubleshooter in the Search box; then click Identify and repair network problems. This will open Windows Network Diagnostics.

Here’s an article on using the Network Troubleshooter.

Reliability Monitor

Reliability Monitor1

Access: Start button and type reliability in the Search box; then click View reliability history. This will open the Reliability Monitor Tool.

Here’s an article on getting the most out of it. And here’s how I used Reliability Monitor and Event Viewer to troubleshoot a Windows crash.

Program Compatibility or Compatibility Troubleshooter

Access: Start button and type compatibility in the Search box; then click Run programs made for previous versions of Windows. The Compatibility Troubleshooter helps you determine if older software will run under Windows 7.

Here’s an article on Compatibility Troubleshooter.

Computer Management Console

Access: Start button and type computer in the Search box; then click Computer Management. Or just type compmgmt.msc into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Computer Management.

You can get access to a number of the diagnostic tools from this console, for example, Event Viewer, Device Manager, Performance Monitor, and Task Scheduler but unfortunately not them all. Here’s an article on the Computer Management Console.

System Information

Access: Start button and type system in the Search box; then click System Information. Or just type msinfo32 into the search box and press enter.

Here’s an article on the System Information Tool.

Task Scheduler

Access: Start button and type schedule in the Search box; then click Task Scheduler. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Task Scheduler.

Schedule various tasks, for example, check if disk defragmentation is already scheduled and when.

So there’s a quick run through of Windows 7 built-in diagnostic utilities and how to access them. Please bookmark this post if you like for future reference on how to quickly access these utilities. And if you know any quicker ways to access these tools, or any tools I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll update the post.


Nov 27

Windows 8

This is the second part in an ongoing series where I try to decide on my future direction for my desktop OS – Windows or Linux? In the first part, I concluded that, for the short term, I’d stick with Windows on my desktop PC. But what about Windows 8? Is it worth upgrading from Windows 7?

Three years ago, as Microsoft tested then released Windows 7, there was a lot of positive attention given to it. I well remember listening to tech podcasts and reading tech blogs back then. Everyone thought the upgrade from Windows Vista was a no brainer. And they were right. I’ve been really pleased with Windows 7 on my desktop PC. But there certainly hasn’t been the same positive glow about Windows 8. I get the feeling that many are quite happy to stick with Windows 7. In fact I read a recent thread on Reddit about upgrading Windows XP as Microsoft support for XP ends in 2014. The majority opinion was to recommend Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.

So what’s wrong with Windows 8? Well I can’t say first hand – I haven’t tried it out. I have heard that it boots up faster than Windows 7, is more secure, and has a few other tweaks. But it’s  the new touch interface that I just don’t need on a desktop PC, not Windows or Linux. Okay for a phone, tablet or laptop, but ergonomically, to stretch out in front of me to touch a screen doesn’t seem the smartest of ideas. And I just don’t like looking at tiles – I find them counterproductive. Then some would say, ‘But the desktop is dead’. Well I very much doubt that. The desktop is the mainstay of the office environment and will be for surely the next decade, until the next big UI development, whatever that is.

So I’ll stick with Windows 7 on my desktop PC and see what develops in the Window’s world in the next few years. Mainstream support for Windows 7 runs until 2015 with extended support until 2020. I will have one probable upgrade in the meantime. My desktop hard drive is about 3 years old and is giving some low risk events according to Acronis Drive Monitor. If this gets any worse and I need to reinstall Windows 7 on a new drive, I’ll go for an SSD for the OS and essential programs and get a replacement hard drive for data. I’m still on 32-bit Windows 7 so I’ll change over to 64 bit at the same time.

I’m also going to look at Linux Mint to see if that could be a possible eventual Windows 7 replacement on my desktop. That will probably be the next part of this series.


Nov 21

fork in road

I’m approaching a fork in computing and I guess I’m not alone on this one. The choice to stay with Windows OS or fork over to Linux is one which I’ve thought about for several years now. It’s a two-pronged fork as I just can’t afford to consider the Mac option. I’m currently using Windows 7 on my main desktop PC and I have XP and Ubuntu on old desktops and Ubuntu on my netbook. Believe me, it’s not a straightforward choice and I’m not a fanboy of either and would have no problem forking either way if all my conditions were met.

I thought I’d write a series of posts now and again over the next couple of years documenting approaching the fork and making this decision. I probably don’t have to make a firm decision for a couple of years as you’ll see in the upcoming posts.

I’ve used Microsoft operating systems since 1988, both MS-DOS and Windows and I’m familiar with Windows and all its intricacies. I’ve worked out a maintenance routine, a backup routine and I’ve built up a nice suite of free and low cost programs to do just about all I need to do in Windows thanks to blogs like MakeUseOf. A major factor in sticking with Windows is that my work as a freelancer needs Windows doc files returned to clients with tracked changes.

On the other hand, I’ve used Ubuntu for about 4 years now on my Acer Aspire netbook. It’s free and I like it and reinstalls and upgrades are much more straightforward than in Windows. Linux Mint 14 has just been released and I’d like to try that next. I also want to look at Wine and CrossOver on a LInux machine to see if they will help me access programs I need from the Window’s world. I’m not a gamer so Windows doesn’t have a hold on me from that point of view.

For those of you that would say go for it, just change to Linux, it’s not that simple. I’m quite happy with Windows 7 and will stick with it for another year or two. It’s what’s happening further down the line that has me examining my options. So please follow me over the coming months as I try to work out what’s after Windows 7 and which fork I’ll take. The next post, Part 2 of this series, will look at my decision to stick with Windows 7 in the short term rather than move to Windows 8.


Sep 1

With the recent talk about vulnerabilities in Java 7 Update 6, I decided to uninstall Java completely. Reading around posts and forums, it seems it may be possible to get by without Java so I thought I’d try that. If anything actually needed it I could reinstall it. Uninstalling Java 7 update 6 was no problem using Control Panel > Programs and Features, but I’ve long had a problem removing an old Java update (Java 6 Update 26) which was still sitting there in Programs and Features. After uninstalling Java 7 Update 6, I tried again to uninstall the old version but got the same error as before:

Error 1723: There is a  problem with this Windows Installer package. A DLL required for this install to complete could not be run.

So I tried googling this error and found that many others have had the same problem in relation to Java. But one comment here looked hopeful:

FixIt2

So I backed up my registry using Quick Restore Maker, just in case, then followed the link to FixIt: Program Install and Uninstall and ran the program

FixIt1

I picked Java 6 Update 26 from the list of programs it showed and followed the prompts to uninstall it, and sure enough, it’s now gone from my system. At the end, FixIt offers to place a link to the FixIt Solution Center on your desktop, which seems very useful and well worth a look. Under Windows problems alone, it’s currently offering 24 Run Now solutions.


Jul 31

Uninstall programs

So you’ve tried out a program and don’t think much of it. Or it’s a program you just don’t use any more. You go to uninstall it, either with its own uninstaller or in Windows 7 via Windows orb, Control Panel, Programs and Features and neither option works. Either it has no uninstaller or it doesn’t appear under Uninstall or change a program. What next?

Well, it may possibly be a portable app that didn’t install in the first place, but just runs by clicking an exe file or a shortcut to it. It won’t show up in the list of programs so in this case, just delete the program and its folder. But what about installed programs not appearing in the list of programs? I’ve come across this problem recently with SUMo, a software updater. I found that SUMo didn’t correctly read the version of some of my installed programs. In addition, SUMO was not recommended on Windows Secrets recently. So I wanted it off my system rather than taking up unwanted disk space… but it wasn’t anywhere to be found in the list of installed programs.

What about using Revo Uninstaller I hear you suggest? Well, I have the free version already installed but still SUMo didn’t appear in their list of programs to uninstall. But wait, you actually weren’t too wide of the mark. After searching around online for a while, I came across a suggestion to use Hunter Mode in Revo Uninstaller. Aha! I’d seen Run Hunter Mode in the Revo program folder and ignored it because I didn’t know what it did! So I tried it and yes, it worked.

Using Revo’s Hunter Mode

First download and install the free version of Revo Uninstaller if it’s not already on your system.

Create a system restore point just in case the uninstall causes problems and you have to roll things back. I like to use Quick Restore Maker.

Open the program you want to uninstall, then in Windows 7 click the Windows orb, All Programs, scroll to the Revo Uninstaller folder, and click Run Hunter Mode. A blue crosshair display will appear toward the top right of the screen.

Revo Uninstaller1

Drag and drop the crosshairs over the window of the program you want to uninstall, then select Uninstall from the options menu that appears. You can now select an uninstall mode from Built-in through to Advanced depending on how thorough you want the uninstall to be.

Revo Uninstaller2

I chose ‘Safe’ and the program seemed to uninstall without creating any issues that required a system roll-back. A week on and everything is still fine.

So if you want to uninstall any applications that don’t appear on the list of installed program, Revo’s Hunter Mode seems to be able to uninstall them without any issues.


Jun 28

Perhaps you don’t defrag your hard drive anyway, it’s kind of a geeky thing and is supposed to speed up file access by collecting fragments of files together in one place on your drive. Trouble is, many articles on the net I’ve read don’t make it clear that you don’t really have to defrag your drive if you’re running Windows 7 or Vista. Why? Well it’s not because these operating systems do anything differently in terms of writing data to you disk, it’s just that defragmentation is automatically scheduled to run in Vista and Windows 7 so you don’t have to bother about it. But, strangely, a lot of people seem unaware of this and are running third party defraggers to duplicate what Windows is already set up to do.

I talked about Windows Task Scheduler in my last post and mentioned some of the tasks scheduled to run in the background. To check if disk defragmentation is scheduled on your system, go to the Windows orb at the bottom left of your screen, and type schedule in the search box. Task Scheduler should appear in the list so click on that. Click the little triangle next to Task Scheduler Library to open the subfolders. Then click the triangle against Microsoft and then against Windows and you should see a folder called Defrag in there. Click on that and you should see something like this in the top half of the screen:

Defrag1

From this you can see that, by default, the task ScheduledDefrag is queued to run at 1am every Wednesday. Because I power my PC off at night, it rarely runs at that time, so you can see it actually completed at 12.56pm that day and is scheduled to run again next Wednesday. We can learn more under the tabs in the lower half of the screen. Under the first tab (General), we see that it will run whether the user is logged on or not and will run with the highest privileges. Under the Triggers tab, we see that the status of the task is Enabled. The Actions tab shows the location of the defrag program that will run at the scheduled time. The Conditions tab is interesting and mine shows:

Defrag2

So we can see that defrag will run only after the PC has been idle for 3 minutes and it will wait for this to happen for 7 days, that is until defrag is scheduled to run again the following week. Defragging will stop if the computer ceases to be idle. So looking back at the first screenshot above tells me that defrag ran and finished when I was taking lunch because it was idle for long enough then for the task to complete. The Settings tabs shows that the task will run as soon as possible after a scheduled start is missed.

Finally, when I launched Auslogics Disk Defrag program the day after the Windows defrag task had run, without running Defrag in this program, the graphical representation of allocated/fragmented files was:

Defrag3

Defragmented sectors would be shown in red, and there are none, so no defragging is necessary. So next time you go to run your PC maintenance routine on a Windows 7 or Vista PC or laptop, check if Windows Defrag is scheduled to run, if not enable it and forget having to do this task again.


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