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.
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.
November 17, 2015. - Google's mobile operating system, Android, powers more mobile tablets and smartphones than any other, including Apple's iOS operating system. There are many versions, code-named after candy and cakes, dating back to 2008. The current version, first released in 2015, is called Marshmallow. The following Wikipedia page provides information on all of the versions.
Android version history -
There are so many devices running the many of the versions of Android that Google does not enforce the delivery of security updates by the device manufacturers. There are so many makes and models of Android devices and most of the manufacturers do not provide upgrades to later versions or to the current Marshmallow version, mainly because it involves work that hits their profit margins and so they would prefer customers to buy the latest devices, which is a bit of a cheek, because even the cheapest devices are not that cheap, but they are not expensive enough for the trouble and cost it takes to provide upgrades.
In 2013, I bought an inexpensive Tesco Hudl tablet that runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean - 4.1 to 4.3.1 - 2012/2013) that came with a leather case for L129.00. It works very well but it still runs Jelly Bean. Tesco will not be updating it to any of the later versions and Google has stopped providing security and browser updates for Jelly Bean (4.3 and earlier versions). Consequently, I own a tablet that is full of unpatched security holes. Fortunately, I just use it for testing websites, but many people could be using their insecure devices for accessing websites that only require username/password entry, such as PayPal and Amazon, which is definitely not advisable. Banks require user input, usually a number generated by a personal device that can only be used once. Even so, I would not use an Android device to access them from a website or by using an app. Note well, that unless the bank is to blame, users are now being held responsible for fraud perpetrated on their accounts.
If a security hole is discovered in Apple's iOS mobile operating system for phones and tablets, Apple merely has to provide all supported devices with updates automatically in the same way as Windows Update provides updates for all of the versions of Windows that Microsoft is still supporting. Support for Windows XP ended in June 2014, so no updates are provided for it, but it is still being used by many millions of PCs.
During the time of version 4.1 of Android (Jelly Bean - 2012), Google started to develop Google Play Services through the Google Play store that updates certain features, avoiding having to provide an upgrade to versions of Android in use but not being upgraded by the device manufacturers. However, all Android devices running version 4.4.4 (KitKat) and older - that is, most Android devices - have a default web browser that is very vulnerable because Google can't update it. Users of those version should download and install another browser, such as the mobile version of Firefox, which will update itself.
You can find out which version of Android your devices are using by visiting http://whatismyandroidversion.com/. The site tells you that information immediately if it detects a version of Android.
Android now allows its users to see which permissions an app requires before installation, but provides no controls, just take it or leave it, whereas Apple's iOS allows users to choose what an app is allowed to access. The image below shows what the Android version of the Avast anti-virus scanner requires to access. Identity, contacts, location, phone number? Why does an anti-virus app need that information and are you prepared to allow it that access? Personally, I am not that willing, especially given how ineffective anti-virus apps are at protecting Android, compared to how effective they are at protecting a Windows PC. I have never fallen victim to a serious virus or phishing fraud on a Windows PC because I apply security advice religiously.
Anti-virus apps are not very effective in Android. Windows allows anti-virus software the low-level access to files and system files that makes effective scanning possible. Android can only restrict apps to running in protected sandboxes, which have restricted permissions; it cannot allow an anti-virus scanner the low-level access required to scan files for malware. In fact, if malware exploits a security vulnerability, it is running at a higher permission level than the scanner. An Android anti-virus app just reads a list of apps and checks their names against a list of known rogue apps. It can also monitor online activity and prevent the user from visiting known malware-infected websites or from downloading apps known to carry malware infections.
Fortunately, Google Play scans all of the apps it provides, constantly looking for malware. That is why most malware is downloaded outside Google Play. For example, Chinese apps can often contain malware. In any case, it is wise only to use Android devices that receive the latest security updates directly from Google, such as Google's own Nexus devices.
I would not use Android especially or Apple's iOS to access any account online that requires only a user-name/password login, or even a bank account that requires users to input a number generated by a machine provided to them by the bank.
As soon as you buy an Android device, it is highly advisable to access its Settings app, because otherwise you will be providing Google with all of your personal data stored on that device and every other device or PC that you access your Google account on, because they can all synchronize their information with each other. So, the information on your laptop is provided to your tablet and phone, etc. You can turn synchronization off, but you have to do it on all of your devices that access your Google account.
In my opinion, it is outrageous how much personal information Google lifts from smartphones, tablets and PCs in order to use it to entice you into clicking on ads placed across your path on the web. You can choose to have all of the settings turned on or off, but you will have to trust Google that they are off. Personally, I don't trust Google period due to the long history it has of acting very deviously or illegally in order to obtain information or promote or sell its own services and products ahead of others.
The following website provides good information on Android's Settings app.
13 Things You Can Do With the Google Settings App on Any Android Device -
November 7, 2015. - Solid-state drives (SSDs) are increasingly being used instead of hard disk drives, or in combination with them, on desktop and laptop PCs. Windows is usually installed on the much faster SSD that boots the system extremely quickly and a high-capacity, slower hard disk drive is used for storage.
SSDs have no moving parts, making them immune to mechanical problems or damage from being knocked, dropped, etc. Unfortunately, unlike the magnetic platters of a hard drive, the flash memory cells of an SSD can only be written to a limited number of times, making it necessary to configure the operating system (usually Windows 7/8.1/10) to make the most of them.
Due to the much higher price per gigabyte compared to a hard drive, it's best to use an SSD drive for booting Windows and running applications and a hard drive for storing data. It would be unwise to buy an SSD (or a PC with an SSD) that has a capacity of less than 64GB for that purpose. A drive with a capacity of 128GB and higher provides more future-proofing. If the SSD is the only drive, 128GB should be the minimum capacity.
The SSDs used in PCs are made up of multi-level-cell (MLC) memory chips. A cell is a storage area split into pages (usually of 4KB each) and grouped into blocks (usually 128 pages for a total of 512KB). Each page can be written to, but only when empty. If a page contains data - the remnants of deleted files, etc. - it must first be erased. However, data can only be erased in whole 512KB blocks. Thus, overwriting a file requires reading a block, wiping the storage space and writing the data back to the block, which can hit performance. The life a page is also reduced the more that it is wiped and written to. Just changing one character on a page requires that the entire edited page is saved, that the original page is deleted and that the changed page is saved.
MLC cells have a lifespan of approximately 10,000 writes. SLC cells last 10 times longer but are far more expensive.
Samsung: "SLC SSDs, which stock one bit per transistor, are supposed to last for 100,000 cycles of deleting/writing, compared to just 10,000 for MLC SSDs, which have the advantage of being much cheaper for the same capacity and give twice the capacity in the same space."
A cell can't be written to or erased when its life is over, but the last data can be read. When an SSD reaches the end of its life, it must be destroyed because the cells and blocks of cells can't be deleted or overwritten.
SSDs are rated to last at least three years when writing up to 20GB of data per day. A typical user writes about 2.4GB per day, which gives the drive an approximate lifespan of 25 years.
To make an SSD last as long as possible, Windows 7/8.1/10 use what is called a TRIM command that allows it to tell the drive which blocks are data-free, thus allowing the SSD's controller to minimise the deleting and rewriting process. That command clears data and file fragments, without which SSDs slow down over time. The first-generation SSDs suffered from this problem until research discovered what was happening and engineers rectified it.
To check that that TRIM is enabled, open a Command Prompt (with Administrator privileges) and enter the following command, as is, including using the US spelling of behaviour, at the boot-drive prompt (usually C:\>):
fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify
The DisableDeleteNotify = 0 response confirms that TRIM is enabled.
Here is how to run the Windows 7/8.1/10 Command Prompt with Administrator privileges:
Windows 8.1 and 10 - Right-click on the Start button, click on Command Prompt (Admin) option.
Windows 7 - Start => All programs => Accessories. Right-click Command prompt => Run as administrator.
If the User Account Control (UAC) window appears give it permission to continue.
Alternatively, perform a test by running Trimcheck twice, which can be downloaded free of change from https://github.com/CyberShadow/trimcheck. The 32-bit and 64-bit versions are for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. If you need to find out which bit version of Windows your PC uses, conduct a web search for: how to tell if you have 32 or 64 bit windows.
What is called wear levelling ensures that data is spread evenly over a drive's blocks of cells so that one cell doesn't wear out before any of the others.An earlier version of Windows than Windows 7 won't provide these features and the SSD will wear out far more quickly than if they were being employed.
Processes that write to the drive constantly, such as the virtual memory swap file and disk defragmenting tools, should be disabled. Windows 7.8.1/10 is supposed to disable its Disk Defragmenter tool automatically when installed on an SSD, but there are reports on the web that say that it has been left enabled. You can check yourself in Windows 7/10. Open Start => Computer. In Windows 10 just type computer in the Search box and click on "This PC (Desktop app)". In Computer, right click on the entry for the SSD, click Properties => Tools => Optimize and defragment drive and then click on the Optimize button.
The "Change settings" option allows you to turn automatic optimising on or off. It must be turned off for an SSD.
To do that in Win8.1, on the Start screen, type the word disk, which brings up a new screen, select Settings and then look down the list for "Defragment and optimise your drives".
Windows 7/8.1/10 currently provide the best inbuilt support for SSDs, so, if you are going to upgrade a laptop or desktop PC with a SSD, also upgrade to Win7 or Win 8.1 or Win10 if it is not already installed. It is not advisable to run an SSD on an earlier version of Windows (XP, Vista), because they do not provide native support for these drives.
The following article provides detailed information on what should be done in Windows 7 to improve the performance of an SSD, including how to turn off System Restore and Virtual Memory. It is relatively easy to apply it to Windows 8.1 and 10. If you can't apply any of the advice to Win8.1 and Win10, use a suitable web-search query. For example, virtual memory in windows 10.
12 Things You Must Do When Running a Solid State Drive in Windows 7 -
October 27, 2015. - We have all experienced clicking on a Print button or on a Print menu item in an application and having the job fail to print. We then click Print again until two or more print jobs are listed, none of which starts printing. We open Devices and Printers in the Control Panel and then mess around until we find the print jobs listed and cancel all but one of them. We choose the Refresh option accessed by right-clicking the Print icon in the Notification Area, but it is still no go. Then we try flushing the printer by turning it off, which fails. Then we restart the PC connected to the printer and, when Windows is running fully, curse as several copies of the document are printed.
Fortunately, there is a simple method that can be used to clear the print queue that works in Windows Vista/7/8.1/10. Here is how to use it in Windows 10.
Open the Start menu, type the word Services in the Search box, click the "View local services (Control Panel)" option that is presented at the top of the menu. A new Window comes up that lists all of the installed services. Scroll down the alphabetically-ordered list until you find Print Spooler, as shown in the image below.
The control buttons - arrows, black box, pause button, etc., are used to Resume Service, Start Service, Stop Service, Pause Service and Restart Service. Hold the mouse pointer over each button to see a pop-up that describes its function. You use the buttons when a service has been selected to control it, such as the Print Spooler service. You can also right-click on a selected service to find the same options. Stop the Print Spooler service.
Now you have to clear the print job(s) that are causing the blockage. Click Start => File Explorer in Windows 10. (Use Windows Explorer in Vista and Windows 7.) Enter the following command in the address bar. You will probably have to give the it permission to run.
I store useful commands of this kind in a notebook so that I can use them when necessary. They have to be entered exactly as is or they won't work.
The Printers folder contains the document(s) that won't print. Delete them, not their folder.
Next, you have to return to Services and restart the Print Spooler service. Now you should be able to run print jobs as normal.
Turning unnecessary services off increases a computer's performance. If you are interested in finding out what each the services that Windows uses does, that information is provided on the following website: http://www.blackviper.com/
October 17, 2015. - Note well that you must not allow the Firefox web browser's add-on, BetterPrivacy, to delete the LSO flash cookie that the Adobe Flash Player itself creates automatically, because it contains the settings that everyone should set to prevent the use by websites of the computer's camera, microphone, store 100KB of data, use peer-assisted networking (share your connection), etc. If the Flash Player's LSO cookie is deleted, the Flash Player sets itself to allow everything. The Flash Player's control panel is accessed via the Windows' Control Panel.
You can set Better Privacy to leave the Flash Player's LSO cookie alone by selecting it and clicking on "Prevent automatic LSO detection". Its location is provided in BetterPrivacy. Here is the location of mine:
C:\Documents and Settings\Eric Legge\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\macromedia.com\support\flashplayer\sys\settings.sol
Local shared object (LSO flash cookies) -
October 17, 2015. - Backups are broadly divided into standard backups of an entire drive or drives from which individual files or folders can be restored or system images that make a restorable copy or clone of the entire system or drive from which individual files or folders cannot be selected for restoration.
Standard backups allow full or incremental backups that only backup changes made after a full backup has been created. If a full backup was created on say the first day of a week (Monday) and incremental backups were created daily until the next full backup was created on the next Monday, a full backup restored six days after the first full backup (on the following Sunday) would require that the six incremental backups be restored after that first full Monday's backup was restored.
If your computer is rendered a write-off by an electrical spike, etc., if have files-and-folders backups that can be reinstalled on a different computer, you can recover pretty quickly. Just copy the files to a new computer which has Windows 10 installed on it. Restoring a system image - a snapshot of the old system - to a new computer would be more difficult because it contains the software device drivers for the old computer that won't work on the new computer because they can only work on the specific hardware they were created to work on. You need to use a third-party system imaging tool that has that capability, such as Paragon Backup & Recovery 15 Home, which allows the system images it creates to be restored to a different computer. Note that the Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition can only restore to the same computer that the system image was created on.
Paragon Backup & Recovery 15 Home -
Microsoft says: "Microsoft does not support restoring a system state backup from one computer to a second computer of a different make, model, or hardware configuration," which means that if you have created a system image using the Backup & Restore software that comes with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 you won't be able to restore it to a different computer unless its hardware matches the one that was put out of action as fully as possible - is running the same motherboard that supports the same processor (Intel/AMD CPU). In short, for Windows to be able to restore to a different computer it must be using as many of the same device drivers as the one that was put out of action as is possible.
October 11, 2015. - Most PC users know that Windows Vista/7/8.1 can create a Repair Disc (CD/DVD) that provides recovery tools and the ability to restore backups and system images.
Windows 10 no longer creates a rescue CD/DVD disc, it creates a Recovery Drive instead that uses a USB flash drive, which provides the recovery tools that most users of Windows 7 and 8.1 are familiar with - System Restore, Startup Repair, Refresh and Reset Windows.
The rescue drive is now able to store the Windows system files so that they can be restored if it has the required storage capacity.
Note that if you create regular backups and/or system images using Windows Backup and Restore, or a free third-party alternative, such as Macrium Reflect, and save them to an external hard disk drive (large capacity drives are now very affordable), it will be much less likely that you will need to make use of a Recovery Drive. That said, PC users have a tendency not to create backups at all or regularly, because they don't want to buy an external hard disk drive or because they are just too lazy to make the effort. It is possible to save system backups to recordable DVD discs, but more than one is required and if just one disc fails to function, the backup can't be restored.
To create a Recovery Drive in Win10, you need a USB flash drive with a capacity of at least 512MB (half a GB), but a drive of 8GB+ is required to have access to the full set of recovery tools. it is not possible to restore Win10 from a low-capacity 512MB flash drive; a drive with a capacity of 8GB+ is required for the Recovery Drive to be able to use its "Back up system files to recovery drive" option that makes possible the restoration of Win10 from the drive.
Here is how to create a Recovery Drive. Insert your flash drive into a USB port, type Recovery Drive into the Search box. Click on the top link called "Create a recovery drive" (sub-heading: Control Panel). Give the User Account Control (UAC) interruption permission to go ahead. This is what the next window (see an image of it below) that presents itself says: "Even if your PC can't start, you can use a recovery drive to reset it or troubleshoot problems. If you back up system files to this drive, you'll also be able to reinstall Windows."
There is a checkbox option called "Back up system files to the recovery drive", which is enabled by default, but, as previously mentioned, you need to have a flash drive with a capacity of 8GB+ to make use of that option and have all of the recovery tools at your disposal. Disable that option if that is not the case.
Depending on how fast your PC is, if you have let the system files be included, it takes a relatively long time for Windows to create the Recovery Drive.
It is advisable to wipe and recreate the drive periodically so that it includes Windows updates, especially after a Service Pack has been installed, otherwise, after you have used the drive to restore Win10, Windows Update will have to reinstall all of the updates and missing Service Packs.
You should put a label on the completed drive so that you don't use it or wipe it accidentally and be sure to put it somewhere you'll remember if the time comes to use it.
It is advisable to make sure that the Recovery Drive works by booting the system with it. You can start the process of restoring the system files but cancel the operation as soon as you know that it is working but before it starts the reinstallation. You can also test the recovery tools in the same way.
The New UEFI BIOS that new PCs bought with Windows 8.0/8.1 and Windows 10 installed use, has a feature called Secure Boot that prevents unrecognised boot media from working. To solve that problem if it strikes, you have to switch to using the legacy BIOS mode provided by the UEFI BIOS, if it provides one, or disable Secure Boot.
Moreover, the standard old-style BIOS or the UEFI BIOS has to have the CD/DVD drive or the USB device (flash drive) set as the first boot device in the order of boot devices in order to be able to boot from a DVD or USB flash drive. You can leave having either of those devices as the first boot device, because if Windows doesn't find the one set as the first boot device, it looks for the device set as the second boot device, which should be the hard disk or SSD drive on which Windows is installed. Visit the following page for information on the UEFI BIOS in the section of this website on the standard, old-style BIOS and UEFI BIOS.
The UEFI/EFI BIOS -
After you have successfully booted the computer with the drive, you have to choose the type of keyboard to use. I choose the standard UK keyboard layout.
After that, a windows comes up presenting three options - Continue (Exit and continue to Windows 10) - Troubleshoot (Reset your PC or see advanced options) - Turn off your PC. You need to choose Troubleshoot, which provides another three options - Reset this PC - Recover from a drive (this is the one you need to choose - Advanced options, which provides the recovery tools - System Restore - System Image Recovery - Startup Repair - Command Prompt - Go back to the previous build, which allows you to go back to your previous version of Windows within 30 days of installing Windows 10, if you haven't deleted the Windows.old folder that contains all of the required files to do so.
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
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.
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.