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 pcbuyerbeware.co.uk 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.
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February 1, 2016. - Distributions of Linux, most of them free to download and use, have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years in their user-friendliness. They can be used on the most up-to-date PC hardware and work very well indeed on old computers that are labouring under a version of Windows, such as Windows XP and Windows Vista.
How many people know that Google’s mobile operating system, Android, is a development of Linux, as is Google’s Chrome operating system used on web-based Chromebooks?
Most people have used a tablet or smartphone that uses Android and know how easy it is to use. Fully-featured versions on Linux, such as Ubuntu, come with all the free software, such as the LibreOffice suite, that most users need and work from a modern desktop similar to a version of Windows and Apple’s OS X.
Ubuntu and many other distributions of Linux can work from its boot disc, created from an ISO-file download, or a flash drive without being installed (very useful to use it as a troubleshooting tool if you can’t get Windows to boot) or it can be installed on its own partition to run alongside Windows.
There are some small distributions that function wonderfully well from a USB flash drive, providing an office suite, various tools and apps. Some of them are self-contained and don’t use a PC’s hard drive or SSD storage space and others use the PC’s storage space temporarily without installing anything. If the Linux distribution is self contained on a flash drive it is fully portable, that is, can be used on any computer with a USB port.
Such Linux distributions use generic device drivers wherever possible instead of brand-name drivers, thereby getting around the problems that would be created by incompatible drivers.
Here are some Linux distributions or information sites that you can try or explore:
1. – Ubuntu for desktops – provides all of the software that a home, school or other organisation would require, including built-in firewall and malware protection. It can boot and be run from its installation disc. –
2. – PuppyLinux – a complete operating system with a file size of only 300MB – very easy to install on a flash drive and use. Works very on computers designed to run Windows XP. –
3. – “Pendrivelinux provides simplified information to make it easy for anyone to install, boot, and run their favorite Linux Distro from a portable flash drive!” – http://www.pendrivelinux.com/
4. – Distrowatch keeps track of all of the available distributions of Linux. Use its customisable Seach box to find what you want. –
5. – Neverware Cloudready is a customised distribution of Google’s Chrome operating system used on Chromebooks, which are specifically designed to be used online. Most old laptops will run it. Chrome is a distribution of Linux, so it is open-source and can be developed by any other developers, as in this case.
Online storage is used extensively and the software it uses the provide wordprocessing, spreadsheet and presentation are Google’s online apps. It has a free and a paid-for version that provides more features. Cloudready can work on most computers dating back to 2007. Tutorials are available online on how to install and use it. –
January 21, 2016. - The vast majority of desktop and laptop PCs run on processors made by Intel and AMD.
Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 have extended security support from Microsoft to January 14, 2020 and October 1, 2023, respectively, but, according to Microsoft, only if they are not running on the upcoming Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Bristol Ridge processors (CPUs). Moreover, PCs using Intel's current processors, code-named Skylake, have been given 18 months notice to upgrade to Windows 10 Home, Pro or Enterprise editions. The previous generation of Intel processors, code-named Broadwell, and earlier generations of Intel processors will continue to be able to run Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1.
For your information, the Windows Device Manager identifies the processor a PC is using under its Processors heading. If that information is not sufficient to identify it, there are several free tools that identify PC hardware, such as the Belarc Advisor. After the CPU has been identified, use the name as a web-search query to find out what its code-name is.
Most home users buy a desktop or laptop PC and then continue using the version of Windows that it came with, which will be Windows 10 on new PCs, so this apparent state of affairs, which goes against the support policies that Microsoft has been using for decades, won't affect most people, but it will definitely affect businesses, most of which take their time to upgrade to a new version of Windows, because staff are trained to use the version being employed and it works well.
Microsoft is very keen on getting as many Home, Pro and Enterprise users to migrate to Windows 10. To the extent that Windows 10 is free until July 2017 and some Windows 7 and 8.1 users that have hardware that Windows 10 supports have been upgraded to Windows 10, by Windows Update online, automatically, that is, without their consent. I have a laptop that is 8 years old that I upgraded successfully to Win10, so Microsoft has gone out of its way to make Win10 work on as many elderly PCs as possible.
As usual, there is more to this announcement from Microsoft than meets the eye. It is very difficult to avoid being misled by governments and big business these days. Spin and deception is the name of their game. People in the know say that upcoming processors won't require windows 10, that is not wholly true, Windows 10 is required to use all of features of the new upcoming processors from Intel and AMD. In short, you will be able to downgrade a new desktop or laptop PC from Windows 10 to Windows 7 and 8.1, but the new CPU features won't work.
It is the computer-motherboard manufacturers that provide the UEFI BIOS and the device drivers that support different versions of Windows. For example, you won't be able to buy a new motherboard that supports Windows XP because the motherboard manufacturers no longer provide the device drivers that run the motherboard's chipsets. Therefore, it is unusual for Microsoft to announce that only Windows 10 will be able to run on upcoming processors and that Intel Skylake processors will only be able to do so until July 2017. We will have to wait to find out what those manufacturers and Intel and AMD have to say about this.
Remember that you can only transfer a retail-licensed copy of Win7 and Win 8.1 on to a new PC, not an OEM-licensed version that brand-name PC manufacturers supply, because an OEM version can only ever be installed on one computer. Even if the motherboard is changed to a different make or model on that one PC, it requires a new licence. A retail copy of Windows can be installed on as many PCs as the user likes as long as it is only being used online on a single computer at any one time. If it is installed on more than one, it falls foul of Microsoft's Product Activation.
Skylake users given 18 months to upgrade to Windows 10 -
The following forum thread discusses the implications of this new state of affairs.
Microsoft: New CPUs will require Windows 10 -
January 16, 2016. - Windows' Encrypting File System (EFS) is not active by default, the user has to choose to enable it. It encrypts files on a computer so that no one who has physical access to that computer can gain access to their contents. If the computer is stolen, no one would be able to read or view the contents of any of the files or images. It can be implemented on a file, directory or whole-drive basis. It is possible to enable certain EFS settings via Group Policy in Windows domain network setups. Users are provided with the recovery certificates and private keys that are used to encrypt and gain access to the files.
Encrypting File System -
The Encrypting File System -
Windows domain -
Group Policy -
Encrypting files is simple, you just have to right-click on the file or folder or drive (in My Computer or Computer) that you want to encrypt, open Properties and enable the relevant check box.
EFS support is not available on all of the Home editions of very version of Windows from XP to Windows 10. There are no workarounds or hacks to enable it. If any Windows Home users want to make use of EFS, they have to upgrade to a Pro or higher edition of Windows. However, it is possible to set up file sharing or remote-desktop access on a local network to share access to unencrypted files.
Share files in File Explorer [Win10] -
How to use Remote Desktop - Applies to Windows 10 -
If you want to share encrypted data between different editions of Windows, say, between Windows 10 Home edition and Windows 10 Pro, you can use a third-party encryption tool, which would be just as secure as EFS and would work on all current versions and editions of Windows.
For example, you could use the free 7-Zip to encrypt all of the files and folders that you want to protect on your computer or stored online on, say, by using Microsoft's OneDrive storage facility that is provided with a Microsoft account, such as one created at Outlook.com. If you have files that contain sensitive information, you should always encrypt them before storing them online.
7-Zip - http://www.7-zip.org/
7-Zip uses AES-256 encryption that cannot be cracked as long as a strong password is used. The files can be accessed and decrypted while using any edition or version of Windows from Windows XP to Windows 10.
How to encrypt ZIP files securely using 7Zip -
Please sign the petition if you agree.
The image below shows how dogs for slaughter are treated in China. They are tortured before being killed to enhance the taste of their meat.
“Some amount of surveillance for law enforcement and intelligence, properly designed, is valuable to keep us safe. But when it’s too broad, it violates the privacy rights of millions of innocent people, and can even undermine our security.” — Chris Riley, Head of Public Policy, Mozilla
Government surveillance explained - Get smart on the web -
January 3, 2016. - Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as the British companies BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Plusnet, etc., provide broadband customers with a modem router that can be used as a networking device for cabled and Wi-Fi connections and connect to the web via its modem. However, these modem routers are usually inexpensive devices that are not up to the Wi-Fi demands that many users require of them.
Fortunately that problem is easy to solve by buying a dedicated router that does not have a modem, is connected to a broadband modem router and can handle the Wi-Fi demands of many devices - desktop and laptop PCs, tablets, smartphones, printers, Blu-ray disc players, wireless Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, etc. - and video-streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime in the UK.
Both modem routers and dedicated routers can be purchased, both can be connected to cabled and wireless devices, but only a modem router can go online using its cable or ADSL modem. The UK telephone landlines require the use of an ADSL modem for a broadband connection. Cable and superfast fibre broadband connections are also available that require their own types of modem router in order to connect multiple devices to the web and a wired/wireless network.
The latest wireless network standard is 802.11ac. Earlier standards are 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n that became available in that order. Here is the information that Wikipedia provides on the 802.11ac standard:
Wikipedia: "IEEE 802.11ac is a wireless networking standard in the 802.11 family (which is marketed under the brand name Wi-Fi), developed in the IEEE Standards Association process, providing high-throughput wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band. The standard was developed from 2011 through 2013 and approved in January 2014."
IEEE 802.11ac -
Currently, the best dedicated multiple-user router is the Linksys WRT1900ACS multiple-user model - currently priced at L180.00 - that supports all of the Wi-Fi standards - 802.11b/g/n/ac - which means that no wireless device needs to be discarded or all devices can be upgraded to the fastest 802.11ac standard. This router also provides many features that ISP-supplied router modems do not, such as the ability to connect to multiple devices simultaneously (older routers can only serve one device at a time) and be set to priorities them. It comes with an Ethernet cable that connects it to a modem router. An image of it is shown below.
There are apps that make customisation of devices that use Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems easy.
Among this router's other useful features is an eSATA port that can be used to connect an external SATA hard disk drive that can be used as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device that can be used as a file server or video-streaming device instead of using a Wi-Fi NAS.
Visit the following page on the Linksys site to find out the features that it provides.
Here is a good YouTube video review:
An alternative, cheaper (L150.00) dedicated router is the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router.
Here is a good YouTube video review:
December 23, 2015. - WiFi Sense is a new feature only made available by Windows 10 that is not available in all areas of a specific country or all countries. It enables network sharing by friends or contacts using Facebook, Outlook.com and Skype. Only people running a phone or computer or tablet using Windows 10 can make use of it. Moreover anyone using it has to be signed into a Microsoft account - Hotmail, Outlook.com, Xbox Live, etc.
Your Windows 10 device uses the password of the Microsoft account that you have chosen to use with Windows 10 as its own login password. In short, every time you boot into Windows 10 you have to enter your Microsoft account's password if you have chosen to supply it with a Microsoft account. You can still use Windows 10 without providing it with a Microsoft account, but then you won't be able to use the Store to download free or paid-for apps, the doing of which requires an account.
WiFi Sense needs to use your location to find and log in to hotspots and shared networks. Location is set under Settings => Privacy => Location. Location can be disabled there, but then it cannot determine your current location and won't be able to find hotspots or share networks.
"When you first connect to a network that you decide to share, you'll need to enter the password, and then select the "Share network with my contacts" tick box to share that network."
"The initial settings for WiFi Sense are determined by the options you chose when you first set up your PC with Windows 10 or your phone with Windows 10 Mobile. You can change your WiFi Sense settings any time by selecting Settings => Network & Internet => WiFi => Manage WiFi settings on your PC or Settings => Network & wireless => WiFi => WiFi Sense on your phone, and then changing one or both of these settings under WiFi Sense: Connect to suggested open hotspots - Connect to networks shared by my contacts."
Question: "Do all my Facebook friends, Skype contacts and Outlook.com contacts have access to the networks I share?"
Answer: "You control whether you want to share your password-protected network with your contacts using WiFi Sense. You can share a network with just your Facebook friends, mutual Skype contacts or mutual Outlook.com contacts, or with all three groups if you want. It’s up to you."
It is not possible to pick and choose individual contacts with which to share your Wi-Fi connection.
"WiFi Sense is designed to not show your WiFi network password to your contacts. For networks you choose to share access to, the password is sent over an encrypted connection and is stored in an encrypted file on a Microsoft server, and is then sent over an HTTPS connection [which is made secure by encryption] to your contacts' PC or phone if they use WiFi Sense."
"WiFi Sense gives your contacts Internet access and is designed to prevent them from accessing other computers, devices or files on your home network or other network that you choose to share. If you have a small business and share that network, WiFi Sense is designed to prevent your contacts from accessing intranet sites on that network.
"You share with your contacts, but not their contacts. The networks you share aren’t shared with your contacts’ contacts. If your contacts want to share one of your networks with their contacts, they’d need to know your actual password and type it in to share the network." You would have to supply that password because it is not shared with contacts.
"If you don't want to use WiFi Sense, you can go to Settings => Network & Internet => WiFi => Manage WiFi settings on your PC or Settings => Network & wireless => WiFi => WiFi Sense on your phone, and then turn off Connect to suggested open hotspots and Connect to networks shared by my contacts."
Here is the page on Microsoft's site from which the quotes above have been taken. It contains all of the information on WiFi Sense anyone is likely to need:
WiFi Sense FAQ -
December 19, 2015. - When you use Windows Backup and Restore to create a system-image backup on an external hard disk drive, it creates a folder on the drive called WindowsImageBackup. However, when you create a new image on the same drive, Windows 7/8.1/10 overwrites the previous backup. It is a good idea to keep one or two previous system images. For example, you would be left with no system images if your computer failed while creating the new image or the latest image might fail to restore, leaving you with no image to restore.
Here is how to save more than one system image. After you have created the first one, it is saved in a folder called WindowsImageBackup in the root (say, G:/WindowsImageBackup) of the external hard drive. Create an empty folder named after the computer you just backed up and then move the image file in the WindowsImageBackup folder into the new folder. Rename the image file in the new folder with the computer's name an the date. When you create a new system image, Windows will place its file in the WindowsImageBackup folder, which you can also move in its own folder. Alternatively, just rename the system image file stored in the WindowsImageBackup folder with a name that describes which computer it was taken from and the date. Windows will not overwrite it, because it won't recognise the file's name.
To create a new folder on a drive, locate it using Computer, click on the entry for the external or flash drive drive to open it, right-click on an empty space in the drive's window, place the mouse pointer over New and click on the option that appears called Folder. Give the folder a name, for example, Office PC, Home Laptop, etc.
When you want to restore a particular system image moved into another folder, move its file back into the WindowsImageBackup folder and then restore it by booting the system with a Windows Repair Disc created with that computer. Note that Windows 10 only creates a USB Recovery [Flash] Drive. A Windows Repair Disc or Recovery Drive provides the ability to restore system images.
Windows 10 no longer creates a Repair Disc, it creates a USB Recovery Drive -
Note that the Repair Disc or Recovery Drive must be created with the same computer that the system image belongs to because it uses the same file system (NTFS, GPT) and bittedness (32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 7/8.1/10).
That method allows you to store separate, multiple system images from different computers.
Remember that in order to boot the system with a third-party recovery disc or flash drive or Windows Repair Disc (Windows 7/8.1) or Recovery Drive (Windows 10), the type of drive must be set as the first boot device in the PC's BIOS or UEFI BIOS. Windows PCs started coming with the new UEFI BIOS from Windows 7 onwards, which can prevent boot discs or drives from booting the system. The following post provides information on how to turn off the UEFI protection.
PROBLEM: My Windows 7 Professional Repair Disc won’t boot the system -
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.
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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.
Click here! to go to the page on this site that deals with Windows 7, Microsoft's replacement for Windows Vista.
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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.
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