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.
Essential information on using Windows 8 and upgrading to Win8 from Windows 7, Vista and XP -
Windows 8 problems: How to diagnose and fix problems with Win8 -
Windows 8 was made available worldwide on 26 October 2012. The run up to its release was several years long and the difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8, which can be used on a tablet or on a PC equipped with a touchscreen, is very marked, so there is no shortage of free and paid-for, in-depth, written guides and videos available on how to use it. For that reason, I will only be putting information on this website that provides the news, essential how-to-use and upgrading information and which deals with the methods of repair/recovery and problems with Windows 8/8.1.
The first major update was called Windows 8.1, which was made available from the Windows Store on October 17, 2013, free of charge to the users who already have Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro - the only two versions for the home user. The Store can be accessed from the Start screen in Windows 8. The upgrades could be purchased over the counter as packaged products that install the full new version from October 18, 2013. Windows 8.1 provides new features and changes that Microsoft has been asked by users to implement, such as a Start button, which, unfortunately, is still not the classic Start button that provides access to the installed apps and programs that previous versions of Windows provide.
I adapted to it and was able to find the information I needed fairly easily. It seems to me that if you can use previous versions of Windows reasonably well you should be able to find your way around Win8/8.1 fairly easily and if you can't find something, the web has the information that covers every possible aspect. Unfortunately, people don't like marked changes in the way that anything works and, in my opinion, a negative attitude to Win8 proves this.
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March 6, 2014. - A security company called Marble Security tests the code used by apps built for the Google Android and Apple iOS mobile operating systems used on tablets and smartphones.
The network traffic of the apps is observed to find out if they are communicating with the web servers of known cyber criminals or with those that have no connection with their business.
The company's attention was recently drawn to a particular app on a mobile device being used by one of its customers. It was supposed to be the Netflix app but was found to be sending passwords and credit-card information to web servers in Russia.
The really worrying aspect of this was that the customer informed Marble Security that the phony app was preinstalled on the mobile device that it was being used on. The company then went on to find at least four variants of the phony app on phones and tablets made by Samsung, Asus, Motorola and LG Electronics.
You can run a free app scan on the company's website:
A particular app has what is known as a hash - a calculation of the precise size of the app - that can be used to determine if it is the real thing or a fake, so there is not an excuse for rogue apps getting on to phones at the factory unless the hash can somehow be applied to them by the cyber criminals.
Obtaining Android apps from third-party sources is a risky business because they may not have had their hash checked or been tested for rogue activity.
Google says that it monitors the apps provided by its Play store, but apps known to be malicious have got into it. Apple has a much more thorough review of apps created for its mobile devices (iPhones and iPads), so is much less affected by this problem than Google's Android mobile operating system.
Moral of the story: don't use a smartphone or tablet for banking purposes of for buying with a credit card from online stores that require be be logged into with a user name and password.
March 3, 2015. - Before I list the main symptoms of having had your computer or an online account hacked or in some way compromised, I must remind you that you always should to be able to restore your computer to a state that was uninfected or uncompromised, which means restoring a clean backup or system image, usually from a high-capacity, inexpensive external hard disk drive that is kept disconnected from the computer when not being used so that it also doesn't get infected with malware.
By now, you should know never to open attachments to unidentified phishing emails.
1. - Most major online stores and credit cards inform their customers if behaviour uncharacteristic of their customers takes place and most major stores and sites, such as PayPal, send emails to their customers when orders are place or when changes are made to the account such as a change of address, password, etc. If you did not engage with a site and get these messages it is almost certain that your account has been hacked and you have to investigate immediately.
2. - When you check your bank accounts and you discover unknown withdrawals, you have to report this immediately to the bank. In most cases, you will get a refund of stolen money if cyber criminals are known to be responsible and the bank is aware that you couldn't possibly have been responsible, but that is usually not the case with cash-point withdrawals that you didn't make because the bank won't refund those unless it knows that, say, a cloning device was attached to the machine that cloned the card's onboard data that enabled illegal withdrawals, which means that other people have to make a report that involves a particular cash machine before the bank will believe you.
3. - If your computer's malware scanner(s) - you should have one monitoring the system in real time and at least one that can be run manually - or any feature of Windows (firewall, Task Manager, Registry Editor, etc.), don't work all of a sudden, that is often a sign of a malware infection of some sort, which requires that you update your scanner(s) and conduct a full system scan, preferably in Safe Mode, where scans are more effective because malware cannot operate in it. Alternatively, you can restore a recent backup or system image, but if you restore an old one you will have to make good what you added or changed and reinstall the updates that were added after it was created. Use safe mode plus your version of Windows as the search query for information on how to start up in that mode.
4. - If cyber criminals or anyone else has gained access to your computer from a remote location by exploiting a vulnerability in Windows itself or a malware infection - usually from a far eastern country - you will notice that the mouse pointer moves by itself as if someone is using it and programs and web browsers open seemingly by themselves. For that reason, it is never advisable to leave a computer in a usable state at night when remote access is most likely to be used. You must always ensure that any computer used online is fully updated with security and other updates. Secunia PSI is a good tool to use to keep software updated.
5. - If some software unknown to you is installed or web searches get redirected to strange sites that is almost always a sign of some kind of infection that you could have inadvertently authorised by installing free software that installed it. Usually running System Restore and restoring a restore point that predates such an occurrence gets rid of the unwanted software. Such software is usually named so if Windows can't get rid of it, search the web for its name and you will probably find free tools that can get rid of it. For instance, there are free tools that can get rid of unwanted toolbars that are installed by some 'free' software.
6. - If you suddenly get a window opening from the centre of the screen, not the safe bottom right Notification Area in Windows, that appears to run a security scan that finds plenty of infections, you have probably clicked on an ad that offered a free security scan. That is not a real security scan, it is a scam attempting to get you to buy phony software that promises to get rid of the infection for a price. If you buy it, the cyber criminals will probably remove the problem but they will have who knows how much of your money and credit card number. To get rid of any infection, run your updated malware scanners, preferably in Safe Mode. If doing that is not successful perform a System Restore or restore a recent backup or system image.
March 1, 2014. - IT-industry insiders are reporting that Microsoft is considering releasing a free version of Windows 8.1, which is to be called Windows with Bing. Bing is the company's search engine, which is rather good, in my opinion.
It is also rumoured that the Windows Phone software is to have its price greatly reduced or that it is to be made free. Probably due to the fact that Google's Android operating system that is used on most non-Apple smartphones is free.
Apparently, the free version of Windows 8.1 is to be bundled with Microsoft's most popular apps and services, which probably means including OneDrive online storage service that used to be called SkyDrive.
The free release is expected to be announced in April at a developers' conference.
As things stand, the latest versions - the standard home and Pro versions - of Windows 8.1 that are now in the hands of software developers skip the tiled Start screen and open on the familiar Windows Desktop screen instead, therefore the likelihood of that change becoming a permanent feature is much more than a rumour.
The Start button that was missing from the original release of Windows 8.0 and much lamented, returned with version 8.1, but still is not the complete Start button that provides access to programs and tools, therefore it is highly likely that the classic Start button is to make a comeback.
Microsoft's programmers probably couldn't understand why people wanted the Start button back when all a user has to do is type the name of a program or tool or feature to bring up link to it.
I bought Windows 8.0 pro for L24 when it was first released, so I got it almost free. I don't understand what all the fuss is about with regard to a steep learning curve involved in coming to terms with Windows 8.0 or 8.1. Having used Windows from version 3.1, I found that it was very easy to adapt to the changes and new features.
February 26, 2014. - The new name for Microsoft's online storage facility that can be accessed via a Microsoft account, such as Hotmail or Outlook.com, is now active. SkyDrive was the old name and OneDrive is the new name. Microsoft had to change the name after British Sky Broadcasting (BSB) successfully contested its use of the word Sky in its service's name.
Existing users don't have to do anything. The old name has been replaced by the new name. Users are given the opportunity to sign up for mobile storage space. Microsoft's aim is to create one place on the web that can be accessed by all of the devices people use every day, at home, at work and while travelling.
The free 7GB of storage space that was provided by SkyDrive remains. Another option for free 3GB of storage space is provided for trying out the new photo back-up feature and up to 5GB for referring friends and family to the service.
The first 100,000 customers to access their OneDrive account receive an extra 100GB of free space for a year.
By comparison, Google provides 15GB of free storage space with its Google Drive account while Apple provides only 5GB free for its iCloud service. Dropbox only provides 2GB free of charge.
Microsoft charges $4.49 per month for an additional 50GB ($53.88) or $25 if paid annually, a saving of $28.88.
February 18, 2014. - Researchers from the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center have identified malware - a worm they have called TheMoon - that can exploit a vulnerability in the firmware of certain models of Linksys routers.
The exploit itself contains a list of Linksys routers that can be targeted, which includes the Linksys E-Series and the company's Wireless-N routers.
Here is the list of models: E4200, E3200, E3000, E2500, E2100L, E2000, E1550, E1500, E1200, E1000, E900, E300, WAG320N, WAP300N, WAP610N, WES610N, WET610N, WRT610N, WRT600N, WRT400N, WRT320N, WRT160N and WRT150N. This list can't be relied upon as a complete list; other models might be vulnerable. Belkin owns Linksys and has confirmed that some Linksys Wireless-N routers have the vulnerability but no models were named.
Karen Sohl, who is the director of global communications at Belkin, said: "Linksys is aware of the malware called 'The Moon' that has affected select older Linksys E-Series routers and select older Wireless-N access points and routers. The exploit to bypass the admin authentication used by the worm only works when the Remote Management Access feature is enabled. Linksys ships these products with the Remote Management Access feature turned off by default."
Linksys has published an article on its website that provides instructions on how to install the latest firmware version and disable remote management on affected devices, which is an impractical solution for affected routers being used in remote locations. Linksys intends to post a firmware fix on its website within the next few weeks.
Cyber criminals are now trying to use home routers to obtain online banking information that can be used to raid bank accounts. Therefore, you should make regular checks at your home router's manufacturer's website for firmware updates that fix vulnerabilities that have been discovered. Bear in mind that cyber criminals are able to exploit 'zero-day' vulnerabilities that they have discovered but that the manufacturers and anti-malware companies have not.
Most bank accounts can be protected by a logon device that requires a PIN number to use, which then provides a logon number and they can be protected by software such as Trusteer Rapport, which I would definitely use with a site such as PayPal that only requires a password and email address to log on to an account that can be linked to a bank account or credit card. I have my PayPal account linked only to my credit card, which is set to email me about any unusual transactions. In fact, I would only use a boot disc to access an account like PayPal, such as the one created from an ISO-file download for an installation of Ubuntu Linux. It can install Ubuntu or be used as a boot disc that can access the web using its on-board Firefox browser. Remember that to boot from a CD or DVD disc, the boot order in the system BIOS has to be set so that the CD/DVD drive is the first boot device.
The BIOS - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/BIOS.htm
February 14, 2014. - Some time in March, Microsoft is expected to release what the company calls "Windows 8.1 Update 1". It isn't an upgrade as 8.1 is, just a major update that adds functions that make using 8.1 easier with a keyboard, mouse or laptop touchpad.
The official release of "Update 1" is probably a month or more away, so the changes are not final. The following illustrated article shows how the changes stand at the moment:
Leaked features in Windows 8.1 Update 1 -
February 10, 2014. - Cisco, the networking hardware company, expects mobile data to grow by 11 times compared to what it was in 2013 by 2018.
If that happens, there will be nearly 5 billion mobile users (5,000,000,000) by 2018 compared to 4.1 billion in 2013, using in excess of 10 billion (10,000,000,000) mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops, etc.)
Mobile video accounted for 53% of all mobile data in 2013, which is expected to increase to 69% by 2018, probably because most people prefer viewing video on a TV screen or at least a large laptop screen or monitor.
About 94% of mobile traffic will involve laptops, smartphones and tablets, with mobile-to-mobile (M2M) traffic from wearable devices and other sources, such as cars, in-home thermostats, etc., accounting for 5% by 2018.
If that happens, it will be essential for all commercial websites to be mobile-friendly well before 2018.
I doubt very much if mobile data will increase eleven-fold, simply because the wireless and wired networks themselves that carry that data won't be increasing by that amount.
Who is going to be spending much more for their Internet than they are now? The cost is bound to increase in line with use, although probably not nearly by eleven-fold or very few users will be able to afford it, and mobile traffic not tethered to a router is always going to be more expensive than online traffic, so most people are going to have to make some hard choices about which devices to use to go online. That, in turn, means that the network providers are not going to have the funds required to multiply their data capacity by anything like eleven-fold.
I have read your article on RAM memory. However, I would still like some more info, if you do not mind? If you take a look at my attached photo, can you please tell which part of the two long numbers I should be taking into consideration when looking to add RAM – not replace RAM? I understand that for everything to run smoothly it is vital that the two modules match. I would like to buy one to match my existing one, rather than buy a pair, replacing the one already installed.
Click here! to go to the answer on the RAM Problems and Solutions page on this website.
February 1, 2014. - I have recently come across three examples of popular software that installs the Google Chrome web browser as the default browser (the one that is used automatically) unless the default option to do so is disabled. They are the Abobe Flash Player and the CCleaner system cleaner that are both constantly updated and the Foxit PDF Reader, which is a popular alternative to the free Adobe PDF Reader. The CCleaner is now also coming with the option of what it calls intelligent cookie management, which has clearly been added so that Google's tracking cookies are not deleted by the cleaner.
The Adobe Flash Player is installed in the Control Panel. I set it to block everything and to ask for permission for updates to be installed so that I can see what is being installed. Google created its own web browser for a reason, which is obviously to obtain the browsing information of a computer's users, which is used to compile personal profiles that are then used to deliver customised ads as those identified users access the web.
Google was caught using software trickery to collect the browsing information of the users of Apple's Safari web browser that is used on Apple iPhones. Several users are currently in the process of suing Google for illegally invading their privacy. It is continuing to use free software installations to get its browser installed on as many computer systems as possible. The image below shows what the default installation option looks like when the Adobe Flash Player is updated when the Flash Player setting in Windows Control Panel is set to ask for permission to be installed. In this case, the Google Toolbar for Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser was also installed by default unless the option was deselected.
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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