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PC Information and Repair Guide: How Best to Fix PC/Computer Problems, Buy, Upgrade, Build, Recover, Restore, Repair and Protect Desktop and Laptop PCs

PC Buyer Beware! is being updated and converted into a WordPress site

Note that this website is being updated and coverted into a WordPress site. If you want to read any of the pages that have been updated so far here they are:

Hard Disk and SSD Drives -

Desktop PC Motherboards -

PC Security -

Software Information -

Backup Methods: How to Make Restorable Backups and System Images -

The standard BIOS and UEFI/EFI BIOS -

Microsoft Product Activation -

Windows Device Manager -

PC Warranties -

PC Buyer Beware! is a comprehensive PC guide covering desktop and laptop/notebook PCs that provides the knowledge required to make sensible buying, building, upgrading, networking, broadband, recovering, repairing and computer-security decisions, helping users to solve hardware and software problems - PC Problems & Solutions - via articles and questions and answers (Q&As) grouped in categories. The quickest way to find the solutions to a particular computer problem is to enter a short and accurate description of it, such as pc freezes or program freezes, both of them very common problems, in the Search feature provided at the top of each page. A list of pages containing those or your own keywords will be presented.

You can access the main sections of this website by making use of the navigation bar provided on the left side of each page, or specific information by entering a suitable search query in the site-search box.

All of the major internal PC components, such as hard disk drives, graphics cards, processors, motherboards, etc., and the external peripheral components, such as monitors, networking equipment, mice, keyboard and printers, have their own section devoted to them. There are separate sections devoted to computer security, software and all of the versions of Windows currently in use – XP, Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8.


PC Buyer Beware! Facebook page

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Microsoft to allow owners of pirated copies of Windows 7 SP1 and 8.1 to upgrade to windows 10 free of charge

March 19, 2015. - Microsoft has updated the expected release date of Windows 10 from the autumn to some time in the northern hemisphere's summer.

It has already been stated that Windows 10 will be a free download to upgrade computers running Windows 7 SP1 (updated to Win7 Service Pack 1) and 8.1. (Users of Windows 8.0 will have to update to 8.1. There is plenty of information on the web on how to do that.) Microsoft has now taken this policy further by including illegally pirated (non-genuine) copies of those qualifying versions of Windows.

The reason for this policy must be so as to have as many Windows users using a legitimate copy so that they can buy other Microsoft software, services and apps, because Windows 10 can run on all devices - desktop and laptop PCs, tablets and smartphones. Microsoft's income from China was unexpectedly weak in the last quarter of 2014, which must have been responsible for the decision to make pirated copies of Windows eligible for a Win10 upgrade.

Apparently, 75% of all software, including Windows, used in China is pirated. Net Applications, a web-analytics business, has conducted research the results of which says that in China 38% of PCs still run Windows XP or Vista, 52% run Windows 7, with only 8% running Windows 8.0/8.1. That means if all of the computers entitled to the upgrade, included pirated copies, upgrade to Win10, 60% (52% plus 8%) of them will be using Windows 10.

I would take this policy further by including any computer that is capable of running Windows 10, which would include many running Windows XP and Vista. I have two computers - a desktop and a laptop - that can run Windows 8.1 having been designed to run Windows XP, so most of those computers will also probably be able to run Windows 10. That way those two earlier versions of Windows will fall out of use much more quickly than if left to the natural death of those PCs running them.

In my opinion, Microsoft made a big mistake by forcing computers running Windows XP to stick with version 8.0 of its web browser, Internet Explorer, instead of allowing upgrades to versions 9, 10 and 11, because that forced their owners to use Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome browsers and resulted in Internet Explorer's user base falling dramatically. To the extent that Microsoft is expected to include a new browser with Windows 10 developed by its Project Spartan. The name of the new browser has not been released but it looks as if it might be called Spartan.

Microsoft WILL kill Internet Explorer: Company confirms browser will be replaced by Project Spartan -

It is not yet possible to find out if the NSA spyware is on a computer's hard disk drive

March 4, 2015. - Kaspersky Lab discovered the spyware that infects hard disk, SSD or flash drives by reprogramming the drive firmware, which is the permanent software installed on a drive that makes it function.

The source of the spyware infection was named as the Equation group by Kaspersky Lab, but most sources are naming it as the US National Security Agency (NSA). For example, one of Computerworld's headlines is: "There is no way of knowing if the NSA's spyware is on your hard drive."

That is true. Anti-virus/anti-malware scanners cannot detect an infection because it rewrites an infected computer's hard drive's firmware, which kicks into action as soon as the computer starts up. There is no way in which that firmware can be scanned and formatting or low-level formatting cannot put things right because the firmware is not changed in any way during any kind of formatting of a drive.

Kaspersky Lab has stated that the spyware has been discovered on hard disk and SSD drives made by all of the major drive manufacturers. For that to have been achieved, the spyware writers would have had to have the firmware source code from each of those manufacturers. Therefore, the question now is, how was that secret source code acquired?

Could it be that the major drive manufacturers are installing the spying firmware on to their drives in the factory. If so, even if the user downloads and installs the latest firmware for a particular drive to get rid of the spyware, it will be reinstalled along with it.

Western Digital (WD), second only to Seagate as a major hard-drive manufacturer, has denied any complicity, stating that the integrity of its products are of paramount importance.

The reprogrammed firmware is able to reserve disk space and download and install several types of spyware. Kaspersky Lab has stated that it has discovered computers infected with one or more types of spyware in 30 countries, mainly in the East, Middle East and North Africa, including Russia and China.

The firmware reprogramming had only been detected on the computers of a relatively few targets, very probably the ones that would supply the most valuable information.

None of the stories on this security vulnerability states whether the infection can be removed or not by downloading and installing the latest firmware from the drive manufacturers' websites. Firmware is specific to the make and model of drive it has been written for. This might be because the downloads are infected. I'll post if this aspect is ever clarified.

CCleaner installs system monotoring and Google Chrome as your default browser and uses "Intelligent Cookie Management"

Most free software and tools install unwanted settings or other software by default unless you read and watch what is taking place during its installation. The very commonly-used CCleaner system-cleaning tool is no exception. The images provided below show what it now does that I, for one, don't want to take place.

CCleaner installs Google Chrome as your default browser - the one that the system uses automatically - unless you disable the option before the installation takes place.

CCleaner installs the Google Chrome web browser by default unless that setting is disabled during installation

There is a setting called "Intelligent Cookie Scan" that only removes cookies that it considers are not wanted, but probably leaves the tracking cookies that its sponsors, such as Google, want left in place. I choose to disable that setting because it can't be disabled after the installation (I am suspicious of an optional setting that disappears from the settings). It can only be disabled by reinstalling CCleaner.

CCleaner enables Intelligent Cookie Scan during installation - setting only available during installation

During the installation CCleaner presents its active monitoring options. Since Google sponsors the tool, I disable system monitoring because the results are probably returned to Google.

CCleaner monitoring options - installs Active Monitoring by default unless disabled

If you choose to disable Active Monitoring during the installation, a warning is produced saying that this is not recommended because CCleaner will not update itself automatically and won't be able to provide active protection - from what? The tool only removes rubbish, it is not an anti-malware scanner. I ignore the warning. The tool wants to be updated every few weeks, which is ridiculous. I update it two or three times a year manually.

CCleaner warning about disabling Active Monitoring

Kaspersky Lab releases information on the ultimate malware infections that took several years to uncover

February 21, 2015. - Kaspersky Lab is the developer of the highly-rated Kaspersky security software.

The company has spent several years uncovering what it calls the most sophisticated malware ever created by using expensive tools that has been active for almost two decades, naming the perpetrators as The Equation Group.

The exploit rewrites the firmware of the hard-disk, solid-state and USB flash drives, used by computers or attached to them, in order to gain control at startup and loads its malware on to sectors of the drives that cannot be formatted or erased in any way, which makes the infection permanent and invisible.

The following article on the Kaspersky Lab site doesn't link The Equation Group to the US National Security Agency (NSA), but the articles linked to under it do.

Equation Group: The Crown Creator of Cyber-Espionage -

Kaspersky Lab Researchers Reveal Hidden NSA Spyware On Hard Drives -

Russian researchers expose 'NSA's secret weapon': Outrage at program that enables America to spy on EVERY home computer in the world is uncovered -

Smart TVs made by Samsung and Toshiba and other manufacturers are using remote voice recognition to invade privacy

February 12, 2015. - If you have to agree to a privacy policy before you can use a smart TV, it is capable of sending your conversations and your viewing history to a remote third party.

Samsung sells half of the smart TVs in the UK. They use voice recognition as well as a remote control to switch on and off, go into standby and to execute more complex commands such as adjusting the settings. This feature makes it possible to transmit conversations to a third party along with voice commands.

Samsung's privacy policy, which has to be agreed with before the TV can be used, says: "If your words include sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party." Toshiba's smart TVs also require its terms and conditions to be agreed with before they can be used.

Which, the consumer magazine, tested several makes of smart TV and discovered that all of the brands tested track viewing habits to some extent.

Therefore, if you find that the TV you have purchased has terms and conditions that have to be agreed with, you know why that is the case. If that happened to me, I would return the set to the vendor. If enough people did that the manufacturers would get the message not to send any captured data away from their TVs. However, most people are so used to agreeing with the terms and conditions required to use most software that they just agree with them without reading through them, mostly because they are very long and the language is impenetrable legalese.

Listening is turned on by default on Samsung's smart TVs, but voice recognition can be turned off. However, even then, Samsung will still be collecting data in order to evaluate how well the TV's features are working.

When voice recognition is active, complicated voice commands can only be acted upon if they are sent to a third party company in the USA called Nuance. The commands are translated and the response is sent back to the TV that carries them out, probably because it's cheaper than having the voice recognition software installed on the TV itself and user data can be collected. At the price, of course, of invading the privacy of the householders.

To give a voice command the user has to press a button on the TV's remote control while speaking the command, but all of the sounds in the room and within range of the TV's microphone are collected and sent to Nuance.

The default setting of having voice recognition turned on instead of allowing the user to turn it on is suspicious because it makes it look as if Samsung wants it turned on. As we should all know by now, the USA's National Security Agency (NAS) is collecting all of the electronic communications worldwide, so using a US company to collect the data adds even more suspicion. Moreover, how do we know that when monitoring features are turned off they aren't still active?

The following story deals with "Samsung Smart TVs forcing ads into video streaming apps" -

In my opinion, the invasion of privacy is getting ridiculously way beyond what should be acceptable in a democratic country.

It's not just smart TVs. Your home is full of gadgets that spy on you: How internet giants are collecting your personal data through their high-tech devices -

Windows 10 is going to be a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.0/8.1

February 6, 2015. - Apparently, Windows 10 is going to be to the unpopular Windows 8 what Windows 7 was for Windows Vista – a much better user experience. Release date is expected to be towards the end of this year.

Microsoft can’t afford to get this one wrong and it looks as if the new version lives up to expectations.

Only the Technical Preview has been released; the Consumer Preview is expected to be made available in the next few months. I never install release candidates or previews because I use all of my computers and installing a test operating system, even as a dual-boot system, can screw a desktop or laptop PC up. I’ll be waiting for the official release before I attempt an installation. There is no hurry. I am still using Windows XP and Windows 7, as usual without any problems.

The really lovely aspect of the coming release is that it will be a free upgrade for all users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.0/8.1.

Windows 10 is designed to be used on Microsoft’s Xbox One, laptop and desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets. During its installation it adapts itself to the device that it is being installed on. There are signs that Win10 will continue to be developed indefinitely, which means that it will be the last version of Windows. Business versions look as if they will be paid for by subscription bundled with the software that they run, such as Office.

There is a proper Start button when Win10 is installed on a desktop or laptop PC – the live tiles that used to be on the Start screen in Windows 8.0/8.1 appear on the right side of the Start menu with a standard list of apps and programs on the left side.

The Charms menu bar that appears in Windows 8.0/8.1 when swiping in from the right on a touchscreen or using the mouse pointer to do so has been dropped from Windows 10. An improved Action Center still exists that now shows notifications from apps, Skype calls, social media updates (Facebook, Twitter, G+), etc.

There is a single settings app instead of having the settings split between the Control Panel and the separate Start screen, as is the case in Win8/8.1.

Tablet Mode makes it possible to switch from Desktop Mode to Tablet Mode on tablets that function as laptops with the addition of a keyboard, as is the case when using Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 tablets, when the tablet is detached from its keyboard or docking station. A popup asks for permission to switch to Tablet Mode, which is touchscreen mode. The process works in reverse when the keyboard is attached or the tablet is docked to a docking station.

Cortana is Microsoft’s speaking personal assistant. It can be asked questions by typing them or asking them and the web can be searched vocally by using Microsoft’s Bing Search engine.

Microsoft Cortana –

Microsoft is also working on a new web browser, code-named Spartan, for Win10 to replace Internet Explorer 11. The use of IE has fallen steadily after Microsoft refused to allow any version above IE8 to be used on Windows XP when it was still running half of all PCs. A name for the new browser has not been made available. Apparently, Win10 will provide the new browser and Internet Explorer 11.

Ways to make old software install and run in Windows 8.1

Most software designed for Windows requires a version of Microsoft's .NET framework software to run.

.NET Framework -

"Programmers produce software by combining their own source code with .NET Framework and other libraries."

Windows 8.1 supports only .NET version 3.5 and higher versions, therefore any software that requires a lower version won't be able to run. The soon-to-be-released Windows 10 (there is no version 9) also won't support versions lower than 3.5. Software that requires a version of the .NET framework usually installs the one that it requires during its installation. Several versions can be installed. Installing one version does not overwrite any existing versions. Previous versions are not removed when the latest version is installed. All of the installed versions can be uninstalled.

Note that some software, Quicken and QuickBooks, for example won't install unless they recognise the version of Windows being used. Quicken 2000, for example, will only install on a Windows 2000 or Windows XP system. In that case you won't ever be able to get such software to install and run in a later version of Windows (Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8.1).

Windows 8.1 has an application-compatibility tool that could allow installed software to run that doesn't have to recognise the version of Windows. To use the tool, right-click on the application's icon or its executable .exe file, click Properties in the menu that presents itself. Open the Compatibility tab in the window that appears. There is a box beside which "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" appears. The drop-down menu provides versions of Windows that the software can be made compatible with by choosing its option from Windows 7 to XP or even as far back as Windows 95. The "Run this program as an administrator" option should also be enabled. If the software works properly, the problem is solved, but if it requires an earlier version of the .NET framework than the lowest version that Windows 8.1 supports, it won't run.

The Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 provide a Windows XP mode that software designed for Windows XP can be installed in and run as if it were running in XP itself. Unfortunately, Windows 8.1 does not provide a mode that runs earlier versions of Windows. However, it is possible to run a virtual machine in Windows 8.1 within which an earlier version of Windows can be installed and run. Microsoft's free Hyper V virtual-machine technology can be used.

Run virtual machines on Windows 8.1 with Client Hyper-V -

Alternatively, a third party virtual machine, such as VirtualBox can be used, which Oracle provides free of charge. -

Note that OEM versions of Windows cannot be run from within a virtual machine because they can only be installed on a single system. A version with a full retail licence is required, an Upgrade retail version can't be used because its use requires the detection of an earlier qualifying version of Windows.

An OEM version of Windows is installed in a computer by a system builder, which could be a brand-name company or an individual who has purchased an OEM version, usually for a self-built PC. An OEM version can only be installed on the computer it came installed on or was installed on by the system builder. A retail version can be installed on unlimited PCs as long as only one of them is in use at any particular time. The letters OEM appear in the Product Key that is used to activate the copy.

As a last resort, you could just keep a computer with the earlier version of Windows installed on it just to run particular old software that won't run on later versions of Windows. If you want to build such a computer, suitable motherboards, processors and RAM memory, often as bundles with that come with their driver discs are available on eBay inexpensively.

Computer diagnostics: Solutions to desktop and laptop PC hardware and software problems

The hardware and software problems dealt with on this website are in the order of their popularity. When applicable, the order will change to match the popularity recorded by this website's web logs in the previous month.

Click a relevant link below to visit the information it describes

1. - Motherboard and power supply problems: How to fix common problems with faulty motherboards (mainboards) and power supplies (PSUs)

2. - Software problems: How to fix problems with Windows, programs, and utilities

3. - Hard disk drive problems: How to fix computer hard disk drive (HDD) problems

4. - RAM memory problems: How to fix problems with the Random Access Memory

5. - Video/graphics card problems: How fix common computer video and graphics problems

6. - Network problems: How to fix common wired and wireless networking and internet problems

7. - Windows 8 problems: How to diagnose and fix problems with Windows 8

8. - Windows 7 problems: How to diagnose and fix problems with Windows 7

9. - Recover, restore and repair Windows 7 (Win7) when a computer crashes or fails to boot

10. - Windows Vista problems: How to fix common problems with Windows Vista

11. - Recovering and repairing Windows Vista when a computer crashes or fails to boot

12. - Windows XP: How to troubleshoot and fix shutdown, restart (reboot), and startup problems

13. - Recovering and repairing Windows XP when a computer crashes or fails to boot

14. - Laptop/notebook problems: How to address or fix the most common laptop/netbook problems

15. - Processor problems: How fix common processor (CPU) problems

16. - CD/DVD drive problems: How to fix problems with CD and DVD drives and discs

17. - USB and FireWire problems: - How to fix common USB and FireWire problems

18. - Typical DLL (Dynamic Link Library) device driver problems

Build and Repair Your Own PC

Visit the Build Your Own PC pages of this website for information on how to build a desktop PC and solve self-build problems and visit the other sections, such as the Processors pages - which provides information on the brand-leading Intel Core family of processors - and the Video/Graphics, Sound, Motherboards and Monitors pages for more problem-solving information, all of which can be accessed via the menu items and jump menu on the orange navigation bar, or via the site search engine at the top of each of the main pages. When you know how to build a PC, you'll also know how to go about diagnosing problems and fixing one.

Solving problems with and how to use Windows 7 and Windows Vista

Click here! to go to the page on this site that deals with Windows 7, Microsoft's replacement for Windows Vista.

Click here! to go to the page on this site that deals with Windows Vista, Microsoft's replacement for Windows XP.


For PC security information visit the main Security section of this website, or make use of the site search engine at the top of each of the main pages to search for references to specific information on topics such as how best to keep secure on the web, security software, hardware and software firewalls, identity theft, privacy issues, how to hide form Google, phishing scams, viruses, malware, spyware, how to implement spyware removal and the different types of backups, etc.


While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained on this website, the author assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

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