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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 -

PC Security -

Software Information -

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

The standard BIOS and UEFI/EFI BIOS -

Microsoft Product Activation -

Windows Device Manager -

PC Warranties -

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

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

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


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Five million Gmail usernames and passwords hacked

September 11, 2014. - Google Gmail users are advised to change at least their passwords because five million user names and passwords have been hacked and revealed on a Russian website. Since Google has unified its services into a single account, a Gmail's account login information also gives hackers access to that user's YouTube account, Drive, Google's cloud-storage facility and the mobile payment system Google Wallet.

Google has said that it is aware of the problem and advises users to change their passwords and to enable a two-step verification, a security measure that requires users to provide a number code sent to their mobile devices before any changes can be made to their account. That last measure I would definitely not do because then Google has your phone number which it can add to the information it has about you. If you used false information in your Google account, which many people do to prevent Google from compiling a user profile on them that it uses to deliver customised ads, a phone number can provide Google with plenty of information about you, which is why I would also never use a phone that uses Google's Android operating system.

Read the full story here:

For an alternative take on this story read:

Seriously, churnalists? No, your Gmail login was not cracked -

Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit [EMET] 5.0 is available

September 2, 2014. - Installing Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit [EMET] 5.0 is very worthwhile from a security point of view because it forces all applications and programs to use the security measures built into every version of Windows from XP to Windows 8.1. When installed, it places an icon in the Notification Area in the bottom left corner of the Desktop screen depicting a lock that looks like a lower case letter a.

This page does the download and installation for you:

No configuration is necessary but there are configurations for the knowledgeable, best avoided unless you know what you are doing.

Here is the Microsoft Knowledge Base article on how to use EMET:

The image below shows the four security options. Windows Vista, 7 and 8.1 can use all of them but Windows XP can only use the first and fourth option, as is shown in the image as being Unavailable.

1. - Data Execution Prevention (DEP) - Essential protection

2. - Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHCP)

3. - Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR)

4. - Certificate Trust (Pinning)

Using Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit [EMET] 5.0 -

Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit [EMET] 5.0 control panel

Adding cheap extra USB flash-drive memory to a Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.1 computer

August 27, 2014. - If you have a desktop or laptop PC that could use some extra RAM memory but which can't take any more or it would not be worthwhile buying additional RAM, it is possible to use an inexpensive USB flash drive and make Windows XP, Vista and 7 and 8.1 use its memory as extra memory.

I have just bought a 32GB flash drive for just over L10 that qualified for free delivery from Amazon. Postage and packaging had to be paid for the 16GB model, so I chose the 32GB model - double the capacity for a few pounds more than the 16GB model. I now use an old 4GB flash drive with a feature called ReadyBoost on a Windows 7 laptop and use the much bigger 32GB drive to store files. I installed the 64-bit version of Windows 7, which requires twice as much memory as the 32-bit version. It works well on the 2GB of RAM, which is the maximum that can be installed, but works better using the flash drive and ReadyBoost.

Windows Vista, 7 and 8.1 all provide ReadyBoost. Windows XP doesn't have this feature, but setting the flash drive as the location of the virtual memory paging/swap file that, if run from the hard disk, increases performance when run from a much faster flash drive. Windows uses virtual memory to swap data in and out of RAM memory.

To use ReadyBoost in Vista and Windows 7, open Computer, locate the flash drive's drive (E:, G:, etc), right-click on it, click on Properties in the menu that comes up and open the ReadyBoost tab that has two options - to dedicate this drive to ReadyBoost or to use this drive. For the last option, Windows recommends how much space should be reserved for ReadyBoost. In Windows 8/8.1, you have to find the flash drive to make it run ReadyBoost. From the Start screen type the word computer and then click the Search box that contains the word. Click "This PC" that returns a screen showing the installed drives, of which the flash drive should be one. From the desktop screen, right-click the bottom left box and choose File Explorer.

In Windows XP, to use the flash drive to run the virtual memory, follow this click path: Start => Control Panel => System => Advanced => Performance => Settings button => Advanced => Virtual memory => Change.

If Windows XP is running by default from the C: drive, set it (or the alternative drive letter that Windows is using) to have no paging file and then set the flash drive's drive to have a system-managed size (recommended) or a custom size. For the latter option, research which sizes can be used for minimum and maximum paging-file sizes.

Note that a flash drive has a limited number of times that it can have data written to it and Windows XP is not optimised to use a flash drive as efficiently as possible, as is the case with Windows Vista, 7 and 8/8.1 using ReadyBoost. After that limit has been reached, the drive becomes unusable. A flash drive should last several years if it is used to run the virtual memory in Windows XP.

ReadyBoost -

Beware of malicious extensions for Google's Chrome Web Browser

August 21, 2014. - Researchers at Usenix - The Advanced Computing Systems Association - have identified rogue extensions for Google's Chrome web browser that can steal web-browsing data or interfere with ads on websites by replacing the ads on websites with the ads that pay the people responsible for the fraud with the income instead of the websites or collect the proceeds of ads by replacing the code that identifies the advertising accounts of websites in the Urls of websites with their own accounts. Ads can also be injected into websites by extensions - even into those that don't use ads, such as Wikipedia. I have myself experienced this, seeing ads in Wikipedia and coming to the conclusion that Wikipedia had changed from a non-ad site into one that uses them.

Usenix uses a system called Hulk to determine what browser extensions get up to. Of 48,000 Chrome extensions 130 were found that were definitely engaging in fraud or malicious behaviour with 4,712 of those extensions displaying suspicious behaviour.

I don't use the Chrome web browser or a device that uses Google's Android operating system because Google tracks everything that takes place on them and stores the information on its servers. If a user has a Google account, the browsing information that one device using Google's browser or mobile operating system collects is synchronised with all of the computers or devices that use the same account. This means that if you use a Google account on a laptop at home, the information that it collects will be synchronised with a mobile phone that uses the same account, putting both devices in the same updated state with regard to that particular Google account. If, say, you read emails in your gmail account, they will be shown as having been read on your Android mobile phone, etc.

Here is the page that provides information on the Hulk system:

For more detailed information on this topic, read the following article:

The OEM versions of Windows 7 are still available new until October 2014

August 12, 2014. - Windows 8.1, the latest versions of Windows available as standard and Pro versions, remain unpopular, whereas the opposite is the case with the versions of Windows 7 - Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate.

If you buy an OEM version of Windows, Microsoft considers you as the system builder - the Original Equipment Manufacturer - and as such you have to provide it with support, not Microsoft. It used to be a requirement that a purchaser had to buy a piece of hardware to qualify to buy an OEM version but that is no longer the case. The brand-name PC manufacturers use OEM versions of Windows, which have the letters OEM in the licence Product Key.

The retail versions of Windows 7 can, of course, be bought secondhand from sites such as eBay and Amazon. However, the OEM versions will be on sale until October 2014, so, if you want one, get it while you can.

An OEM version can only be used on the computer it is originally installed and activated on, unlike a retail version that can be installed and activated on an unlimited number of computers as long as it is only being used on one at a time. With an OEM version, if the original PC it is installed on is provided with a new motherboard, Microsoft considers it a new PC and a new licence has to be purchased. Lesser hardware upgrades, such as hard-drive, graphics card, etc., are permitted by the activation process.

The Home Premium OEM version is available from for L86. The available copies of the retail version is selling for about twice that. The SP1 (Service Pack 1) versions are the latest because Windows 7 has only had one Service Pack.

Full support for Windows 7 ends in January 2015 but extended security-patch support only ends in January 2020, so there is still plenty of supported life left in it.

I would prefer to buy a secondhand retail version from a valid source because it can be installed on unlimited computers as long as only one is being used at a time, whereas an OEM version is limited to the PC it is first activated on.

Here are Microsoft's lifecycle for the different versions of Windows:

Security hole in Android Phones that allows hackers to access or gain control of many features

August 8, 2014. - Security researchers at FireEye, an online security firm, have discovered a very serious security vulnerability in the ad libraries that Google's Android operating system for smartphones and tablets provides for apps to use to deliver ads.

The vulnerability in the ad libraries makes it possible for hackers to use compromised phones to take photos, record audio and video, send text messages, upload the contents of the clipboard, which can contain passwords, make calls, access any geo-location service that is running, which would provide the user's wherabouts and access user name and password information.

Here is an article on this particular Android vulnerability that is easier to understand than the more technical article linked to under it:

Got an Android phone? BEWARE: Security experts find flaw that lets hackers take over your phone - and find out where you live -

Here is the article on the FireEye site called "Sidewinder Targeted Attack Against Android in The Golden Age of Ad Libs":

The translation of Ad Libs is Ad libraries.

USB devices have a security vulnerability that is undetectable when put to use

August 2, 2014. - Recent research has shown that the firmware that many USB devices use to run themselves, such as flash drives and external hard disk drives, can hide malware that is undetectable.

This is a quote from the article linked to below it:

"Wiping a flash drive or scanning it with anti-virus software won’t detect the malware. Only reverse-engineering the firmware the way Nohl and Lell did can expose the foreign code lurking in it, and few consumers have the know-how to do that."

Privacy and security issues with Android security apps

July 31, 2014. - It's a fact that many security apps developed for Android, Google's smartphone and tablet operating system, require permission to access the device's camera and microphone, which could pose a serious security threat. The user has to weigh up the pros with the cons in order to come to a conclusion whether or not to use a particular app. If the cons outweigh the pros don't install the app.

Security apps can provide some essential features, such as providing protection from malware, blocking known bad websites, locating lost or stolen phones, etc. A security app might require access to the device's camera in order to take a photo of a thief - a thiefie - and send it back to the phone's owner. If an app that has access to your device's camera gets hacked, the hacker will be able to use the camera if the compromised security goes undetected. If you don't want that feature and camera access is a non-negotiable requirement demanded by the app, you'll have to give it a miss.

Apps that provide location-based services can invade your privacy and pose a serious security risk. A location-based app knows not only your location but also where you are going and even how fast. This kind of tracking can keep a record of everywhere you've been on its developer's computers, so it's best to enable a location service only when you need it and then turn it off when it is no longer needed. No one wants to be tracked constantly.

Some features that can have serious privacy issues are, for example, voice-actuated search. Google provides Voice Search, Apple provides Siri, Samsung provides S search, etc. If any of those is used, the phone's microphone is always on and sending what it hears back to its developer - Google, Apple and Samsung, respectively. If you need to use that feature, the best policy is to only enable it only when needed.

Keyboard and spell-checker apps will probably be sending user statistics and samples of what is typed or spoken back to the app developer's online presence.

Facial-recognition features of an app perform actions, such as stopping a video when the viewer looks away. When activated, features of that kind keep the phone's camera on and constantly searching for the user's face. It's best to turn off facial-recognition if you don't want your device's camera switched on all the time.

A malware infection can change or switch off privacy settings, therefore the user should use reputable malware protection. There is an earlier post provided on good security apps for Android on this page called ANDROID SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS REQUIRE THE USE OF THIRD-PARTY SECURITY APPS. Here is one of them:

Lookout Security & Antivirus - free and paid-for versions -

Using the Upgrade versions of Windows. Windows 8.1 has no Upgrade versions

July 28, 2014. - Remember that you can only use the Upgrade versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 if you already have a qualifying version of Windows installed on the computer to upgrade it. They won't install on a blank hard drive or SSD, so you should always have a restorable system image that can be put back on the hard drive or installed on a new one. Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Pro and 8.1 OEM only come in full versions, which means that they can be used to upgrade Windows 7 or perform a clean installation in the case of Windows XP and Windows Vista. If you're running Vista or XP, you can't perform an in-place upgrade, you have to perform a clean installation from Windows 8.1/Pro on a DVD. The Windows 8.1 Pro Pack upgrades Windows 8.1 to the Pro version.

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

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

Click a relevant link below to visit the information it describes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build and Repair Your Own PC

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

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

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

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


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


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

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