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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

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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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Privacy and security issues with Android security apps

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.

How I upgraded a seven-year-old laptop's hard disk drive

July 23, 2014. - I have an MSI M662 laptop that is 7 years old and still going strong running a dual-boot Windows XP/Windows 7 system. It came with a 100GB hard drive that was split evenly between XP and Win 7. Both versions of Windows were becoming a bit cramped and the hard drive was getting old, so I decided that I would upgrade it to an SSD or another hard drive.

I used the SSD upgrade adviser on to find out if the laptop could take an SSD, but it said no, which probably means that the BIOS wasn't up to the upgrade and there isn't an update for the BIOS that would make it SSD-compatible. That meant that I had to ugrade to another SATA hard drive.

Fortunately, the laptop didn't have an old-technology PATA IDE hard drive, which would have required an IDE upgrade, which are still available very cheaply new but under a capacity of 100GB.

I chose a 2.5-inch SATA Hitachi 500GB drive that cost only L32 that had plenty of good purchaser reviews on

Taking the old drive out was just a matter of opening a panel on the bottom of the laptop, removing a long piece of padding at the back of the drive that made the space available to slip the drive away from its connection and out. Installing the new drive was that process in reverse. This process differs from laptop to laptop and can be more involved, but you should be able to discover how to do it by looking at the machine's user or service manual that its manufacturer makes available from its website. Always remember never to force anything. There are many YouTube videos on upgrading laptop drives, so try looking for one that applies to your make and model of laptop.

Next, I booted the laptop with a boot disc created with the free version of Macrium Reflect, a very good backup and system imaging tool. This allowed the restoration of a full system image that I had saved to an external hard drive. Note that the laptop's BIOS has to have the CD/DVD drive set as the first boot device in order to be able to boot from a disc, otherwise it just boots from the first boot device, which is usually the hard drive or SSD.

When a system image is restored, it recreates the partition sizes that were on the old drive, so you need to use a partition manager to resize the partitions. Disk Management in Windows Vista and Win7 and Win8.1 cannot do this properly. I expanded the WinXP C: drive to 200GB and the Win7 F: drive to 200GB and left the rest unallocated space that could be reallocated at any time. I used the excellent free EaseUS Partition Master, which allows the user to reallocate space to any partition, including the C: drive just by using mouse-driven sliders. The process took a minute or so and then about 15 minutes to apply. A reboot wasn't even required. You have to click the Apply button to start the disk-space reallocations.

The following YouTube video shows you how to use the free EaseUS Partition Master to expand the restored system image on to the new drive:

When I had everything running to my satisfaction, I created a new complete system image using the free version of Macrium Reflect, saving it to my external hard disk drive.

I always keep my external drive disconnected from my home network's computers so that nothing that would destroy them, such as a lightening strike or electricity spike, would do likewise to it.

Android smarphones and tablets require the use of third-party security apps

July 13, 2014. - Google's mobile operating system, Android, runs approximately 70% of mobile devices - smartphones and tablets. Because of this it has become a target of cyber criminals and hackers and malware and because Androids own built-in security is weak they require the use of third-party security apps to give them adequate protection.

The Google Play store is where the users of Android devices can obtain plenty of free and paid-for security apps for their devices, but the quality is very variable from amateurish rubbish to good, reputable software to free apps that seem to function well but would require costly maintenance, which suggests that the app developer is obtaining and selling the data of users to finance itself.

Here is a list of good, reputable security software - free and paid-for - for Android that you can explore:

Kaspersky Internet Security - free and paid-for versions -

The Google Play page for the app -

Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus - free and paid-for versions -

The Google Play page for the app -

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

The Google Play page for the app -

RoboForm Android password manager - free and paid-for versions -

The Google Play page for the app -

Note that several of the best Android security apps come with tools that can help locate and recover a lost or stolen phone, usually by providing a map of its location, allowing the owner to wipe or lock the phone or can even capture an image of the thief. When selling or disposing of a smartphone, it should be reset to its factory defaults, which all Android devices have the ability to do, but not everything is wiped that way so it should be wiped - sanitised - so that any remaining information it contains can't be accessed by data thieves. A good app that does this is SaniDroid. Here is its Google Play link:

The "Windows Secrets" security baseline

July 10, 2014. - The Windows Secrets newsletter has dealt with what it considers to be the security baseline that all PC users should be aware of and practice in order to stay safe online and protect their identities. Here are the 8 steps that are dealt with in the article linked to below them:

If you want to give those with short attention spans the basics of PC security, send them this list.

Step 1. - Have a backup solution.

Step 2. - Use unique passwords for each site or account.

Step 3. - Have a hardware-based firewall in addition to the Windows firewall.

Step 4. - Run — and keep updated — good anti-malware software, both real-time and on-demand scanning.

Step 5. - Have alternative browsers and keep them all updated. Consider using alternative search engines.

Step 6. - Applications: Either patch 'em or remove 'em.

Step 7. - Don't run in administrator mode; set up a standard-user account.

Step 8. - Consider using a tablet-style device for recreational websurfing.

Revisiting the WS Security Baseline: Part 1 -

The best way to control several PCs using a single keyboard, mouse and monitor

June 24, 2014. - There is no need to use a KVM switch to control several PCs with a single keyboard, mouse and monitor, because Windows from XP to 8.1 provides everything you need to achieve that goal - its Remote Desktop feature, which uses Windows wired or wireless networking to connect to them. Using a KVM switch involves plenty of wiring that using a network avoids.

KVM switch -

Remote Desktop works differently in each of the major releases of Windows. The following search using the query remote desktop on Microsoft's Support site provides information on all versions from XP to Windows 8.1:

There is also plenty of information on it provided by third-party websites. Here is the information provided by Wikipedia:

There are third-party alternatives such as TeamViewer -

- which is free for personal use.

I have a new Windows 8.1 laptop PC. Is the Microsoft Windows defender anti-malware scanner that it uses by default sifficient or is there a better free scanner?

June 17, 2014. - Microsoft has diminished the effectiveness of Windows Defender, which comes on new computers running Windows 8.1 so as not to compete with the third-party anti-malware companies. It used to be called Security Essentials, which is very good but it is only available for versions of Windows from XP to Windows 7. Windows 8.1 uses Windows Defender that you have access from the Control Panel if you haven't right-clicked its icon on the taskbar when it's up and chosen to pin it to the Desktop's taskbar. Windows XP support for Security Essentials ends in July 2015 for XP users already using it. It cannot be freshly-installed on XP systems. Microsoft has probably diminished the effectiveness of it as well.

I am still using an MSI laptop bought new in 2007 that can run Windows XP and Windows 7. It has worked flawlessly with daily use for 7 years and is still going strong. I recently replaced its keyboard that cost L12 from Hong Kong because a few keys weren't working properly. The keys wear out after prolonged use. But although it is 7 years old I got an identical new keyboard which was easy to install. You can replace most of the components of a laptop - the fan, the hard drive, the DVD drive, screen, add more memory, etc.

I still use Windows XP Pro most of the time. I changed from Microsoft's scanner to using the free version of AVG that also scans emails, which Microsoft's scanner doesn't do. AVG can scan for rootkits that infect under Windows so they should be scanned for periodically. I have just installed the free AVG, which is all you need, on my Windows 8.1 desktop PC that I assembled from its components in 2005, so it's a 9-year-old PC that runs Windows 8.1 beautifully.

In Windows 8.1, AVG installs its multi-coloured box icon in the bottom right corner Notification Area. Right-click on the icon and click on Scan to see the options, one of which is to scan for rootkits. This free version is much better than Windows Defender. When you install it, because only one real-time scanner should be used, it disables Windows Defender, so you'll get a brief message coming up saying that you have no antivirus protection. It then updates itself automatically. You should run a full scan immediately after it has updated itself.

You should read the screens to see what is being installed with free software because Google pays to make some of these companies install its spyware Chrome browser and toolbar by default. This can happen with the Adobe Flash Player - updates and initial installs - and with the CCleaner system-cleaning utility. You have to disable those from being installed if that is the case, which I always do. I use nothing by Google. It is all spyware. When I installed AVG just now there was no extra stuff installed, but that was not the case a few months ago when Google stuff was enabled by default. The CCleaner asks you if you want to enable "intelligent cookie management", which is code for Do you want CCleaner not to delete Google's tracking cookies? So I choose not to enable it. McAfee, the computer-security company, also gets its software on to computers in this way.

Download the free version of AVG from

Click on the first download button that says "Download Now". The Free Download buttons are ads for other software. You can run or save a file that has the words avg and free in it. If that is not the case you have got the wrong download. When it installs there will be two options - basic protection and a free trial of the paid-for version that also installs AVG's firewall. Enable the basic option. Windows 8.1 has its own firewall, which is good enough, in my opinion.

If you haven't already got Trusteer Rapport app installed that protects any website from phishing attacks, keylogging, etc., download it from here:

It installs its icon to the right side of the web browser's address bar - a white arrow and a green background. Click on the icon to see if, say, a banking site is being protected. It will say that the site is protected. If not click the "Protect this website" button. It can protect any site that you access with login information, such as PayPal, which is necessary because all you need is a password and email address to access an account. I have a 15-character complex password for my PayPal account that I change periodically. Most banks make you supply numbers obtained from a machine in your possession that you have to use a PIN to access or send you the numbers over a mobile phone, which makes it impossible for hackers to get in with just a password and user name.

You can also download the free version of Malwarebytes that has to be run manually but is an excellent auxiliary scanner. No scanner picks up everything so running it once a month is advisable.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 must be installed in order to be able to install any later updates

June 10, 2014. - Windows 8.1 users have until June 10 - June's Patch Tuesday - to install the update called Update 1, because updates, including security updates, won't be installed unless Update 1 has been installed. Windows 8 users have to update to version 8.1 and then install Update 1 in order to be able to install any further updates - manually or automatically. Read the full story here:

How to sign in successfully to Wi-Fi hotspots

June 10, 2014. - It's usually when your laptop, smartphone or tablet has been connected to a particular wireless hotspot that connection problems arise - it uses the same settings to reconnect but without going through the redirect/sign-in page properly, connecting to the local hotspot's router but not to the Internet. To fix the problem make the device forget any hotspot it has been connected to.

If a "Remember this connection?" message appears, decline the offer and delete any public hotspot.

To do that in Windows 8/8.1, click the Wi-Fi–network icon in the bottom right corner's Notification Area. (If you can't find it, enable "Show hidden icons".)

A list of available connections should appear. Right-click on the hotspot's name - its SSID - and enable "Forget this network".

In Vista and Windows 7, right-click the Wi-Fi–network icon in the Notification Area and click on Open Network and Sharing Center. When the Network and

Sharing Center opens, click on "Manage wireless networks" in the top left corner. Right-clicking the hotspot's name and clicking on "Remove network" or Delete gets rid of it.

If connecting to a particular hotspot is still problematic, try turning off your wireless connection, then turn it back on. Restarting in this way often clears problems, just as restarting a computer itself often does. The following article shows the ways in which Wi-Fi can be turned of in Windows 7. Similar information is available on the web for any other version of Windows.

How to turn the Wireless on/off in Windows 7 -

Unfortunately, there is no way to bypass having to go through the sign-in pages and accepting the terms and conditions involved in logging into a wireless hotspot, but with no hotspots installed in the system access to a new hotspot should be a simple matter.

Powerful computer virus could start emptying bank accounts in a fortnight unless Britons protect against attack now, National Crime Agency warns

June 3, 2014. - This looks like a ruse to get users to abandon Windows XP to me, which Microsoft no longer supports with security patches. It also can only use Internet Explorer 8, which is a very old version. Most UK banks keep nagging you until you use Trusteer Rapport software that protects banks accounts - disables IE8, cookies and against keystroke logging - and to access my bank accounts I have to enter a user number, a number generated by a machine that I have to access with a PIN. Other accounts require that and a password. Other accounts make you choose an icon and ID phrase that identifies your account and then you have to enter parts of your password not the whole thing. There is no way any unauthorised access can be achieved because if one piece of info is missing the whole login fails. In my opinion, apart from logging into a fake bank account from an email link, which only an idiot would do, if this kind of tight security is breached it's an inside job by an employee or the individual who owns the account. -

The eBay breach of security is already hatching phishing scams

May 26, 2014. - Whenever there is a breach of security that is widely publicised in the media, the cyber criminals are quick to exploit it in every which way they can. The eBay hacking gave the perpetrators names, email addresses, telephone numbers, user names and passwords, which can all be used to launch very authentic-looking phishing emails or phone calls that use the correct personal information. Therefore, eBay users have to take particular care not to be taken in by any of them.

If someone saying that they are from Microsoft support, for instance, phones you and knows your name and informs you that your computer has been infected by a virus and tells you to launch a test by opening the Windows Event Viewer that would show plenty of errors on any computer, don't fall for it, because Microsoft Support never phones Windows users.

I have already received a phishing email pretending to come from eBay, which doesn't use my real name, just "Dear eBay Member", but if it had come from the eBay hackers it would and would be convincing enough to some eBay users that they would reset their eBay password via the email, which should never be done, because eBay doesn't send users emails urging them to change their passwords. If a user changes a password via a phishing email, the cyber criminals have his or her new password and can take control of their account. Perhaps they use the same password for PayPal. The criminals will try using it in PayPal. If it works, they have control of your account. Therefore, never use the same password on banking sites - or any other sites that contain your personal information.

It is a good idea to download the free Trusteer Rapport app that protects any website that you want protected. It protects well-known banking sites automatically, locating itself to the immediate right-hand side of your web browser's address bar, showing a white arrow with a green background. Click on it to protect a particular website from viruses and hackers. Note that the app disables the Internet Explore 8 web browser that is the highest version that can be used with Windows XP, so you have to use an alternative browser, such as Firefox.

Here is an image of the eBay phishing email that I received:

Image of a phishing email pretending to be from eBay

eBay advises its users to change their passwords because of a recent security breach by hackers

May 21, 2014 - eBay says that there was a breach of its security in March/April that allowed hackers to obtain information on its account holders, such as their user names, passwords, dates of birth. It is therefore urging users to change their passwords immediately. This is why you should never provide your real date of birth to sites such as eBay that have no business knowing what it is. Your date of birth is used by many banking and government websites as a means of identification.

Read the full story here:

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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