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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 -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/hardware/disk-and-ssd-drives/

PC Security - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/pc-security/

Software Information - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/software-info/

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

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/backup-methods/

The standard BIOS and UEFI/EFI BIOS -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/the-pccomputer-bios/

Microsoft Product Activation -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/software/ms-product-activation/

Windows Device Manager -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/software/windows-device-manager/

PC Warranties - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/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 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.


LATEST COMPUTER-RELATED NEWS, TIPS, SOLVED PROBLEMS & STORIES

PC Buyer Beware! Facebook page

Visit our Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/pcbuyerbeware.co.uk - to read informative items going back in time that no longer appear on this page.


How to recover a Windows PC from boot problems introduced by the replacement for the standard BIOS called the UEFI BIOS

December 13, 2014. - Windows PCs started using the UEFI BIOS, which is the replacement for the decades-old standard BIOS, with the release of Windows Vista in 2005, so most desktop and laptop PCs bought new since then use a UEFI BIOS.

The standard BIOS, stored in a flash-RAM chip, boots before Windows to run the Power On Self Test (POST) that checks that the hardware components are functioning and configures those components for Windows so that it can load their software device drivers. The standard BIOS of a PC can provide many configuration settings, depending on how many the desktop or laptop PC manufacturer is prepared to allow. The manufacturers of laptop and desktop PCs used for office work usually prefer to have the BIOS or UEFI as limited (or difficult to access, as in the case of the UEFI BIOS) as possible in order to prevent users from getting into the kind of trouble that requires costly customer support. However, PCs or motherboards or laptops bought by power users usually have a BIOS or UEFI that provides the customisation settings that such users are likely to want or need, such as those that allow the processor and RAM memory to be run at higher frequencies than their stock frequencies (to be overclocked), either by enabling settings manually or enabling automatic settings.

The early versions of the UEFI BIOS used in PCs running Windows Vista were more or less the same as the standard BIOS but with mouse operation instead of keyboard-only operation of a standard BIOS. All devices require a device driver to operate, so the keyboard and mouse drivers have to be loaded by the BIOS/UEFI itself in order to be used. The flash-RAM chips of the standard BIOS were of small capacity due to the cost of flash-RAM, so only keyboard navigation was used.

Windows 7 PCs came with a more developed UEFI BIOS that allowed access to the settings while running Windows.

Windows 8.0/8.1 makes as much use of its UEFI as the manufacture is prepared to provide, such as providing startup protection from rootkit infections. Rootkit infections operate under Windows, so require special software to detect and remove them that can be updated like anti-malware scanners.

Unfortunately, UEFI protection is intrinsically bound to the installation of Windows 8.0/8.1, thereby making it problematic to boot the system with another operating system's boot disc (for example, Ubuntu Linux can be run from its boot disc or be installed on the system) or to run system-boot recovery/repair discs created by third-party developers. The UEFI protection itself prevents that from happening unless special measures are adopted.

The following link goes to an excellent article that explains and illustrates how to overcome those UEFI boot problems.

How to solve UEFI boot and startup problems -

http://windowssecrets.com/top-story/how-to-solve-uefi-boot-and-startup-problems/

Protect yourself when using unsecured wireless networks in shops, restaurants, hotels, libraries, etc.

December 6, 2014. - If, say, while staying at a hotel, you are provided with a password to access the Internet over its wireless network and the staff tell you can use both a wireless and a wired connection that are both secure, any laptop or tablet that you use to make use of the wireless connection will tell you if the connection is secured or not. That is, if the connection is encrypted with WEP (cracked), WPA (cracked) or WPA2 (not cracked, so this is the one you should be using).

A wired connection which does not broadcast a signal is secure if there is no virus on the computer monitoring the connection, but for a wireless connection, you have to check that it is encrypted. To check the security in Windows 7 follow the following clickpath: Start => Control Panel => Network and Sharing Center => Manage wireless networks => The SSID of wireless network being used => Security: WPA2-Personal or WPA2-secured (this is the level of encryption being used for the connection).

Wi-Fi Protected Access -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi_Protected_Access

If there is none of the above-mentioned wireless security, use the wired connection because even though only the hotel's guests have been given the encryption login key, they could all access your computer if, say, file-sharing is enabled in Windows.

Note that WPA2 encryption ends at the router in the room. After what your computer sends on the web gets past the router on to the hotel's network, it is no longer encrypted and can therefore be read.

When using any public or semi-public network there are numerous security weaknesses that can be exploited by people with the know-how. Therefore, it's essential to use your own security methods.

The first measure to take is to make Windows assign the type of network location being used — Home, Work, or Public. To do that in Windows 7, follow this click path: Start => Control Panel => Network and Sharing Center. The one you must select is Public, which adjusts your Windows computer's firewall rules and the Windows file-and-printer-sharing settings. The computer and its contents are also prevented from being visible to other computers on the hotel's shared wireless network.

Choosing a network location -

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/choosing-network-location#1TC=windows-7

The next step to take is to use https instead of http (see the link above, which uses http) in the URL addresses of the websites you visit. The s added to http makes the site use a Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure connection that makes use of bidirectional encryption between the web browser being used and the website being visiting. Most banking sites and sites that require the user to enter login information use https by default.

HTTP Secure - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_Secure

For example, click http://www.paypal.com/ and watch it change to https://www.paypal.com/ in your browser's address bar. The https provides 2048-bit end-to-end encrypted connections. Also note the green closed-padlock icon in the address bar, which indicates that it's a site that is using https encryption.

HTTPS Everywhere from https://www.eff.org/HTTPS-EVERYWHERE "is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure".

Using a virtual private network (VPN) connection is the best way to maintain security on a public wireless network. A VPN adds an additional layer of encryption between the connecting computer and the VPN provider's server, which connects to the servers of the websites you access. Combined with HTTPS, a VPN provides a very secure wireless connection if the computer itself is free from viruses and has file and printer sharing disabled. A VPN doesn't take more than a few minutes to set up; thereafter connections only take seconds. VPN services are either free and supported by ads or paid-for costing a few US dollars.

Virtual private network -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network

If a wired Ethernet connection is available it's best to use it instead of a wireless connection because doing so creates a direct connection from the user's computer to the network, which is secure if your computer doesn't have any virus infections and has file and printer sharing disabled. There is plenty of information on how to disable it for all versions of Windows on the web, such as on microsoft.com. Shops don't usually provide Ethernet connections but many hotels do, so it's always a good idea to pack an Ethernet cable in your luggage when travelling.

Which is the best way to extend the range of a wired and wireless home network?

November 27, 2014. - There are two main ways to extend the range of a home network, which work well for most users but for a few reasons don't for a minority of users.

A range extender or repeater is a device that extends the range of a wireless network. It should be plugged into the mains about half way from the router to the area that needs the signal. It uses the IP address and login information of the router and broadcasts the router's signal into areas of the home or outside it not receiving a good enough signal. The latest range extenders are adapters that have a built-in mains plug and a mains pass-through socket so that other non-related devices can be plugged into the adapter and use the socket.

Powerline network adapters can now be used to extend both a wired and a wireless home network by using the mains cabling (circuitry) of the house. The adapters come in pairs. One of the adapters is connected by an Ethernet cable to the router and the other adapter, which can either only be connected to by using a wired Ethernet cable or also wirelessly, depending on the type of homeline setup you purchased. The adapters have to support a wireless connection to have one.

Some people have immediate success using both types - range extender and powerline adapters. Others don't have success using one or the other or sometimes even both. Powerline networks can be finicky. For instance, they can only be used on a single mains circuit. If the house has more than one electrical circuit, powerline can only be used on one of them because a wired network requires continuous cabling and a powerline-based network is using the mains cabling of a house.

Powerline adapters broadcast a strong signal to where it's needed, creating a cloned Wi-Fi hotspot, not just repeating the signal as range extenders do.

Here is how I installed the TP-LINK WiFi Powerline TL-WPA4220KIT adapters, which provide both wired Ethernet and wireless connections. The installation was simple. I plugged the smaller unit into a nearby mains socket and connected it to my router with one of the two Ethernet cables that came with the adapters. Next, I plugged the Wi-Fi adapter where I want to extend the router's wireless signal. The connection was made instantaneously. Next, I pushed the Wi-Fi clone button on the adapter followed by WPS button on my router. After a minute or so, the wireless connection was up and running. There is now a strong signal all around the house and garden and even in my shed.

Powerline adapters can be finicky. It is stipulated that they are to be kept on the same mains circuit and recommended that they are not used in extension sockets, especially ones that are surge-protected. That said, I have not encountered any problems using them in surge-protected extension sockets.

If you need a password because your router doesn't have a WPS button that connects new wireless devices to your home network automatically, the password that you get asked for is written on the actual powerline adapter. You then have to change the default user name and password to those used by your wireless network, which you may or may not have changed from the default ones. Pressing the WPS button, if available, just makes the equipment use the wireless network's login information automatically. Default login information should *not* be used because they are public information that hackers can use to access your router or wireless home network. The default SSID and encryption key that your wireless network uses is usually provided on the bottom of your router.

To change login information requires accessing the router's web-based configuration page by entering the router's IP address that opens it. To find out what that IP address is in Windows 7, enter cmd in the Start => Search box. A link called cmd.exe is supplied. Right-click on the link and choose "Run as administrator". Doing that brings up the black-windowed Command Prompt. Enter ipconfig at the prompt. The item called Default Gateway is the router's IP address, which is 192.168.1.254 for my router. To bring up the router's configuration page just enter that number, as is, into a web browser. You then have to enter your router's login user name and password in order to be able to access the settings and change them.

[Installation Guide] TP-LINK WiFi Powerline TL-WPA4220KIT and TL-WPA281KIT V3 -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCD_K1_rtsk

TP-LINK AV500 Powerline Edition (TL-WPA4220KIT) : UNBOXING -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTHqURaFl1k

How To Set Up A Powerline Network With (TP LINK 500Mb) -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC8WoQ4GuLg

Wi-Fi extenders (forum thread that deals with using both range extenders and powerline adapters) -

http://windowssecrets.com/forums/showthread.php/165318-Wi-Fi-extenders

Wireless Range Extender or PowerLine Adapter? -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny-Bv1fixTY

Why Google may be more 'evil' than the US National Security Agency (NSA)

November 19, 2014. - "For four decades, we have proudly championed citizen interests before Congress, the executive branch agencies and the courts." is what the Public Citizen website says about itself.

It has produced a report on the growing influence of Google in politics worldwide, made possible by the ad revenue it receives from web advertising that is powered by Google's knowing as much about us as possible - information gained from our use of its products and services - so that it can target customised ads at us across the web.

Google is now the top political lobbyist in the US, giving donations to all and sundry. In the following YouTube video, the RT TV channel's Abby Martin interviews a director of Public Citizen, Taylor Lincoln, about this state of affairs. The second link goes to the report mentioned in the video. Both are well worth watching/reading.

Why Google May Be More ‘Evil’ than the NSA | Think Tank -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1th0L3jXN0

Some facts Google doesn't pop up on your screen -

http://prorevnews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/some-facts-google-doesnt-pop-up-on-your.html

National Security Agency (US) -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Agency

What to do if files suddenly become corrupt and produce a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) when opened or just won't open

November 10, 2014. - If you were using a Windows computer and were working on a file, printing it, etc., and the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) appeared and a reboot offers starting up in Safe Mode or restarting as normal, the chances are that the file you were working on or with has somehow become corrupt and you won't be able to do anything with it. Every time you try an error message appears telling you that it has been edited by an "unknown client", providing no way to solve the problem.

The corrupt file has probably been saved to a bad sector of the hard disk drive or some of the computer's RAM memory has gone bad and is not functioning, with a bad part of the hard drive being the most likely cause, so running the Windows hard-drive diagnostic and repair tool called chkdsk might prevent other files from becoming corrupt. Chkdsk marks bad parts of the hard drive as bad and Windows then doesn't use them. However, if there are bad parts of a RAM memory module, it has to be replaced. Memory must function 100%; bad areas cannot be avoided. If it is not 100% functional, it causes all kinds of weird problems that often don't even look memory-related.

You'll have to set chkdsk to use a five-stage scan-and-repair operation. Of course, you must create a backup or a system image (I use the free version of Macrium Reflect; I've found Win7's Backup & Restore, which Win8 also uses, unreliable), preferably to an external hard disk drive or flash drive, which are now large and affordable enough to contain one. If the hard drive about to expire it might not be able to undergo the tests that chkdsk puts it through.

To do that in Windows 7 enter cmd in the Start... box, right-click on the cmd.exe link that is provided above it and click on "Run as administrator" in the menu. User Access Control (UAC) asks you for permission to bring up the black Command Prompt window, shown in the image below.

The black Command Prompt window in Windows 7 with Administrator privileges

If you want to see all of the switches that chkdsk uses enter chkdsk /? at the C:\ prompt, where C: is the drive on which Windows is installed.

Chkdsk only runs three tests if you just enter the command chkdsk at the Command Prompt. To run a five-stage operation type chkdsk /f /r (as is) and press Enter. There must be a single space between the command and both of its switches. The tool lets you know that it can't run as the volume (C:\) is in use and it asks if you want to schedule the volume to be checked during the next system startup. Press Y followed by Enter and then restart the computer.

Note that Chkdsk takes about 40 minutes to run that command on a sound computer, but, if it needs to do repairs or mark out bad sectors, it can take several hours to complete the job. There is no need to be concerned by anything that it deletes or repairs. I have never come across an occasion when the tool itself screws up a system by what it does. Microsoft has honed this tool to perfection.

Here are some useful webpages on how to use chkdsk in Windows 8/8.1 and the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool.

Chkdsk [Windows 8] - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc730714.aspx

Diagnosing memory problems on your computer [windows 7] -

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Diagnosing-memory-problems-on-your-computer

Windows 8: Memory Diagnostics [Video] -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6goeVrWPxDA

Google Inbox is a new interface for an existing Gmail account

November 4, 2014. - Google has refined its Gmail email service by adding what it calls an optional Inbox that categorises the email that is received, on the face of it to make the experience of reading email more user-friendly, but also no doubt to make it easier for Google to find out which email is the most important to the user so that it can deliver better-customised ads from scanning it for keywords.

Google scans all of the emails coming into a Gmail account and picks out and displays the useful information that the user is most likely to want to read.

This is the same with Inbox, meaning, of course, that it is programmed to find out what is important to you.

The new Gmail feature is only currently made available to users by invitation. The intention is no doubt designed to appeal to the narcissistic users who are made to feel special by being given an invitation. Gmail itself was initially only made available by invitation before it went mainstream. The same will happen to Inbox. If you want an invitation, I'll leave it up to you to find out how to get one, because I don't approve of making it easier for Google to make more tax-free income (it channels all of its income through tax havens) than it is already making and then investing in ways and means to invade our privacy even further than is already the case.

Existing Gmail addresses stay the same and if you obtain Inbox and don't like it, you can revert to the classic interface. In other words, Inbox is an optional feature.

Google has created Inbox apps for both iOS (Apple's mobile operating system) and Android (Google's mobile operating system). The iPhone app can be used on an iPad, but its upscaled adaptation to the iPad looks stretched. An iPad version will no doubt be made available some time soon.

Here is a useful comment I found on the web: "I stepped up my blocking measures years ago and keep upping them the more companies like this try to invade my space. Firefox + adblock + noscript = no advertisements, no tracking cookies or scripts alongside PeerBlock prevents Google Analytics from ever reaching my system [via websites that use it] or information leaving my system - same with anyone else I choose to block."

Users can also set up their own email server that keeps email as private as possible. Here is an article on how to do it:

http://www.redhat.com/magazine/025nov06/features/email/index.html

The latest free version of CCleaner monitors your computer unless you disable the two options

October 18, 2014. - I have just installed the latest free version of CCleaner, the system-cleaning tool. During the installation the usual options of what you want the cleaner to do appeared. I always disable the option called "Enable Intelligent Cookie Scan" because this leaves in place the cookies of Google, Yahoo! and other tracking sites and there is no option to disable the setting other than by re-installing CCleaner, which, to me, is very suspicious indeed.

It looks as if the tool expects you not to go through the settings during installation and allow this default setting while making sure that you don't see it again in the Settings after installation. This time there was no default option to install Google Chrome as my default web browser or to install McAfee software.

When the tool was installed, I noticed that a CCleaner icon was in the Notification Area. The tool was actively monitoring the system like a malware scanner. Since CCleaner is sponsored by Google, I don't want it to monitor my system in any way, I just want it to remove the usual web debris when I want it to, not even during system startup. I certainly don't want a system cleaner, which is not a malware scanner, to scan for stuff to clean.

I discovered the settings, applied by default, under Monitoring, under the Options heading. The top one is called "Enable system monitoring" and the bottom one is called "Enable Active Monitoring". Who knows what the difference between them is? I don't care, because I am never going to enable either if them. The middle option called "Enable browser monitoring" is only available in the paid-for Pro version of the tool.

It's up to you if you use the tool if you want it to monitor your system, but I would advise against it, because, yet again, this monitoring has been sneaked it, and is therefore very suspicious. Its options, shown in the image below, did not appear during the installation.

The monitoring settings in the CCleaner system-cleaning tool

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.


COMPUTER SECURITY

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.


DISCLAIMER

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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