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.
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With Windows 10, Microsoft has joined the likes of Google and Facebook in doing everything it possibly can to obtain your personal information. As usual, the Win10 privacy policies and service agreement (End User License Agreement - EULA) consists of plenty of pages - 45 - of mind-numbing legalese that no one can be bothered to read. That is how these companies succeed in degrading standards by playing the money card that makes governments disregard their activities. Why? - To be able to customise ads and to personalise Windows itself and other Microsoft software applications and apps. And, of course, so that governments can monitor your private information, activities and whereabouts by gaining access to that data.
When you upgrade to Win10 from Win7 and Win8.1, free of charge, you are prompted to create a Microsoft account using any email address that you have. As Microsoft says: "An email address with a Microsoft domain such as @live.com, @outlook.com or @msn.com" or "Any valid email address that you use and monitor regularly."
Read the following page for more information.
Choose an email address to use with your Microsoft account -
During the upgrade installation of Win10, if you haven't already got one, Microsoft allows you to create an outlook.com email address that can be used as the basis of your online Microsoft account. You are not forced to create one, because, if you don't, Win10 uses a local account, which is created on the computer, instead of being online, that is being upgraded to Win10, hence the term local account. If you have created an online Microsoft account, you can go back to using a local account to log on at any time. More about that later.
The OneDrive online data-storage service, the online Office applications, the Store that provides free and paid-for apps from within Win10 Start menu and other services cannot be used without a Microsoft account. Note that you don't have to use the outlook.com email address.
Therefore, the user has to weigh up the pros and cons of privacy versus allowing Microsoft access to your online activities. It looks as if the new Edge web browser that Microsoft provides with Win10 does exactly what Google's Chrome browsers does - harvests as much of your private information as possible.
If you want to see the the privacy settings in Win10, click on the Start button, click on Settings and then on Privacy. See the image below showing the full range of settings from "General" to "Background apps" and include Location, which is monitored by default unless switched off there, Camera and Microphone, Speech, Inking and typing, Account info, Contacts, which can all be used or monitored unless turned off.
The default settings allow Microsoft to make use of your computer almost as it pleases. I don't use anything that a Microsoft account provides, so I turn them all off except the system calendar and clock. You can disable these settings, but how do we know that they have been disabled? I don't trust any of these companies that earn their income from supplying ads, because they all want to target personalised ads at you online.
The Win10 start-up screen where you enter the password for your local account (your Microsoft account if you are using one) has a space for a photo of yourself. Why do Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter want to know what you look like? As with Google, the image you supply will crop up all over the place. I just supplied an image of Garfield the cat grinning, because you can supply any image. This whole invasion of privacy by these companies has grown way out of control, in my opinion.
By closing your Microsoft account, you are supposed to prevent your private data from being used by Microsoft and the third parties it employs, because doing so removes the data that Microsoft holds about you from its database. But, as I said, I don't trust any of the settings that Google, Facebook or Microsoft say can prevent them from invading our privacy.
You can get around providing Google and Facebook, etc., with your private information by not using them, but you have to use Windows 10 if you have it installed and Microsoft is trying its best to get people to upgrade to it - free of charge - for a good reason - obviously because its privacy policies and service agreement give it permission to access as much of your private data as possible, which Windows XP/7/8.1 do not. In short, getting Win10 free is offset by the private data Microsoft will be able to use to earn it income that makes up for the loss.
To remove the Microsoft account from your Win10 computer, you have to remove your account on your computer (locally) and then close it on the Microsoft site.
The account can take up to 60 days to close on Microsoft's site, during which any use of it requires re-closing it, so don't do so.
To remove the account on your computer, follow this click path: Start => Settings => Accounts => Your account.
You cannot delete your Microsoft account if you are signed in to it, so you have to sign in with a local account, done from "Your account" by clicking on the option called "Sign in with a local account instead".
Now you have to return to Settings and open Accounts => Your account. Locate your Microsoft account (@outlook.com). Two options are presented: Manage and Remove. Remove gets rid of your MS account locally. Now you have to close it on Microsoft's website. Microsoft provides the required information.
You should be logged in to your Microsoft account before clicking the following link, because it provides the link that starts the closure process:
How to close your Microsoft account -
If you have not verified the account by obtaining the code that is sent to the alternative email address that you provided when setting up the account, that code has to be entered at the start of the closure process, because you are not allowed access to sensitive security information unless the account has been verified.
When you have reached the page that closes the account, you have to agree that you have read and are aware of six points of information regarding what closure involves and then you have to select a reason for closing the account before you click on "Mark account for closure".
Unlike other Windows Upgrade versions, which can only be used to upgrade qualifying previous versions of Windows, the Windows 10 upgrade version, free for all owners of computers running Windows 7.0 SP1 and Windows 8.1, can be clean-installed after the upgrade has taken place and has been activated with Microsoft. Windows 10, Home or Pro version, is free for a year, so it doesn't matter from a cost point of view if the upgrade version can be clean-installed. A clean install can be done just because the user wants a clean installation that contains no elements of the version that was upgraded or because Windows 10 fails irretrievably and has to be reinstalled and the user doesn't have any kind of restorable backups.
An upgrade of Windows, called an in-place installation, builds itself over the existing version, leaving in place much of that previous version. A clean install is 100% fresh because it removes all of the previous installation before it installs itself. It is the best kind of installation. Of course, Windows Update will have to install all of the updates that have come out since Windows 10 was released officially on July 29, 2015. Therefore, it highly advisable to create regular backups and/or system images after a clean install so that if you have to reinstall Windows it saves plenty lot of time if the backup or system image is as up-to-date as possible, requiring Windows Update to do as little as possible.
Before you can upgrade a qualifying versions of Window to Win10, it has to be fully updated. Your qualifying version places a flag with a white cross in the Notification Area. Right-click on it to see the options to install Win10 or read information about it.
After you have given your permission for the upgrade to take place and it installs, taking as long as a few hours, depending on the speed of the computer, it should activate with Microsoft's web servers immediately, providing a Product Key that is required to clean install Win10. To find out if activation has taken place, (using its option View by: Small icons) open the Control Panel => System . The bottom heading called "Windows Activation" should say, "Windows is activated."
Note that the Product ID (e.g., 00127-10000-00000-AA626), provided in Control Panel => System is not the Product Key, which is five blocks each containing five letters and numbers, such as XTMG3 - M1DKKC - DDE76 - 9M9GF - 9HVZ1. If an upgrade of Win10 was arrived at from an OEM licence that brand-name PCs have, those letters are shown in the Product Key. An OEM version of Windows can only be installed on the computer it was originally installed on, it is not transferable, but a retail licence can be used on an unlimited number of PCs as long as only one computer is using it an any one time. Windows Product Activation can detect how many times a licence is being used and will only allow one computer to use a single-PC licence.
The Product Key is not easy to find in Win10. The easiest way to find it is to use a free tool such as the Belarc Advisor from http://www.belarc.com/ under Free Download on its website. When it is running on your computer, look on the left-hand side of the page for a link called "Software Licenses" and open it. The Win10 Product Key should be there, otherwise it has not been activated. If it has not been activated, this might be because Microsoft's activation servers are busy, so wait a while after the upgrade. If after a few days Win10 has still not activated, read the following Microsoft Community webpage:
There are two ways to perform a clean install, but whichever way you choose in case something goes wrong be sure to create a system backup or system image, using either the Windows Backup and Restore tool, retained from Win7, or a free third-party tool, such as Macrium Reflect (my preference).
The first option is to reset Windows 10 in the same way as Win7 and Win8.1 can be reset. To do that follow the following click path: Start => Update and Security => Recovery. Click on the "Get started" button of the "Reset the PC" option and choose to "Remove everything". Doing that is not a 100% clean install just a cleaned-up install.
Here is how to get a 100% clean installation: Download the Windows 10 ISO file from this page (never download Microsoft software from anywhere other than Microsoft's site or the Microsoft Store because it is likely to carry spyware or malware).
Download Windows 10 Disc Image (ISO File) -
It must be the version of Win10 that matches the version of Windows that you are upgrading: Home and Pro and 32-bit or 64-bit. For example, the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home requires Windows 10 Home 64-bit. To find out the bittedness (32- or 64-bits), open the Control Panel with "View by: Small icons" selected and open System where that information is provided. Any upgrade-qualifying version of Windows higher than the Home version requires the Pro version of Win10.
Note well that you'll need the Product Key, discussed earlier, in order to be able to use the bootable installation disc or USB flash drive that is created. Also, remember to create a full backup or system image before you upgrade to Win10 so that you can restore the system should anything go wrong.
You can use the Windows Media Creation Tool (WMCT) to burn the Win10 ISO file to a DVD disc or flash drive.
Installing Windows 10 using the media creation tool -
You can also use a third-party tool to burn the ISO to a DVD disc. I use CDBurnerXP, which has never failed me. I have never used it to transfer the ISO image to a flash drive, so can't say if it works or not. Using it, open the tool and select its "Burn ISO Image" option and then browse to the downloaded file with a recordable DVD disc inserted in the DVD drive. If the file is burned successfully, you have a bootable Win10 installation disc that, when used, installs a completely fresh copy of Win10 wherever you want to put it - replace the existing installation of Windows or on a different partition or even on to a different hard disk or SSD drive. The installation procedure will be more or less the same as the upgrade to Win10 was.
I would use the WMCT to put the image on a flash drive.
To boot the system with a bootable disc or flash drive in a system that has a standard BIOS requires having the boot device set as the first boot device in the boot order of devices. Windows 8.1 and Win10 use the new UEFI BIOS that can prevent unrecognised boot discs or devices from booting the system. Here is a good article on how to overcome boot-disc problems caused by the UEFI BIOS:
How to solve UEFI boot and startup problems -
During the clean install, when you get to "Get going fast", if you want to set the privacy-related settings to your preferences, you should choose the Customize Settings option instead of the Express Settings option, which installs Microsoft's default settings that give Microsoft as much information about you as possible.
September 15, 2015. - It has happened to me and it probably has happened to most computer users who have been wise enough to make regular file backups or system images that create a restorable image of the entire computer system.
Windows fails to boot or goes wrong in some way that needs to be put right and so you boot up using your Windows system repair disc, but it can’t find any of your backups or system images on your external hard disk drive or flash drive, which now have big enough capacities to store them.
It is similar to the bad feeling of using System Restore that shows many restore points, which all refuse to restore for no apparent reason. If System Restore fails to recover Windows and you don’t have any backup or system image to restore, you might have to reinstall Windows, or use a PC-manufacturer’s recovery disc that sets the computer back to the state in which it was when it left the factory – of course, minus any software you installed and probably Windows Service Packs and hundreds of subsequent Windows updates. The same applies if your backups or system images won’t restore. I have spent as long as a few days on each of them restoring computers to their former state after an irrecoverable software failure, the owners of which had not created backups.
Most Windows computers are currently running Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, the latest versions of Windows – Home and Pro – which were released on July 29, 2015. Windows 8.0/8.1 and Windows 10 use the new UEFI BIOS that employs a feature called Secure Boot, which won’t allow the system to boot from an unrecognised CD/DVD disc or flash drive, which is the major cause of being unable to restore a backup by making use of a boot disc.
Read the following page on how to deal with a UEFI boot-disc problem.
How to recover a Windows 8.1/10 PC from the Secure Boot problems introduced by the replacement for the standard BIOS called the UEFI BIOS –
Boot discs are used by Windows to restore backups and system images from startup and run recovery tools, are provided by brand-name PC manufacturers to restore the system to its factory state, can be created by anti-malware scanners for use as rescue discs and are used by operating systems (Windows, Linux, OSX, etc.) as installation discs.
Windows 7.0 SP1, 8.1 and 10 provide good backup and restore software, but I find that in any version of Windows that it is more problematic than good third-party tools. I use the free version of Macrium Reflect that creates a recovery boot disc that is used to boot the system in order to restore backups and system images. It can also install a cut-down version of Windows and add it to and run it from the Windows boot menu, which avoids any boot-disc problems.
Macrium Reflect –
When it is running, Macrium Reflect gets around any boot problem by installing Windows PE, a cut-down version of Windows, which it adds to the Windows boot menu that is presented at startup. After the user uses its Restore option to choose which system image to restore, Macrium Reflect reboots and the user just has to allow the option called Macrium Reflect System Recovery, automatically selected on the boot menu, to go ahead. The Windows file system is restored before the system is rebooted again to run the restored system.
Here is the illustrated information on this in the Macrium Reflect Knowledgebase. This is a far more secure backup system offered by any version of Windows and therefore it is advisable to use it instead of or as well as using the Windows backup tool.
Restoring a System image from Windows –
September 9, 2015. - If your new computer running Windows 8.0/8.1 or Windows 10 won't boot from a backup-rescue disc or some other boot disc, the Secure Boot used by the new UEFI BIOS is usually the cause of the problem.
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.
If you are still using Windows 8.0, you should upgrade to version 8.1 in order to be able to get patches and security updates, because Microsoft only supports Win 8.1.
Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 make 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 -
September 2, 2015. - Flash cookies, also known as Local Shared Objects (LSOs), are placed in a computer's system by a web browser's Adobe Flash Player plugin that is used to view online videos, most commonly on YouTube.
Here are some interesting facts about LSOs:
1. - Flash cookies remain in computer's system for an unlimited period.
2. - They can track particular web users, access and store from their computers up to 100KB of data compared to the 4KB of a standard HTTP cookie. They can send the information they have collected away to the web server they came from or any other server without the user's permission.
3. - All web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, Opera, etc), use the same folder within Windows to store LSOs, which allows the sites visited in any web browser to access them. That property alone makes them well worth deleting.
4. - LSOs are used by many websites and tracking companies that are mainly businesses that make their income from adverts, such as Google and Facebook and the companies that serve them. Google and Facebook live from the personal information they obtain from the users of their 'free' services.
5. - If LSOs as well as standard HTTP cookies are used by a particular online company, the LSOs are capable of recreating their HTTP cookies if they get deleted by the system's cookie policies, which makes them as persistent as the Flash cookies themselves.
6. - Most web browsers are not capable of displaying or managing LSOs in the way in which they can display and set cookie policies for standard HTTP cookies, which makes getting rid of them more difficult, but they can be deleted.
The Adobe Flash Player's local onboard settings can be accessed and set via the Local Settings Manager - under Flash Player in the Windows Control Panel. The Global Settings Manager on Adobe's website accesses the settings on the local computer and sets the ones that the user chooses. Note well that Google's Chrome and other web browsers based on Chrome can only be set via the online Global Settings Manager on Adobe's website, not from Flash Player in the Control Panel. This is a very important point to remember because Google's Chrome browser will use its default settings that allows it to use tracking Flash cookies, take up to 100KB of information, gives itself permission to use the computer's camera and mic, share the broadband connection (the peer-to-peer networking setting) unless the user chooses to disable or block those default settings. I disable or block everything in the Local Setting Manager, apart from the settings on the Advanced tab, which I leave alone, and I can still use YouTube and other websites that use the Flash Player. I do not use the Chrome browser or anything else by Google because it is all spyware designed to provide Google with your private information.
There are browser-specific tools that are devoted to managing Flash cookies. BetterPrivacy downloads and installs only on the Firefox browser. When it is installed, look for it in the Tools menu under Options. A link to an article on it is provided below from which it can be downloaded. That was the only browser app I could find, but there might be others for the other major browsers.
Since LSOs are downloaded by every browser into the same Windows folder, you can use BetterPrivacy to get rid of them just by setting it to do so and then running Firefox. When Firefox closes, BetterPrivacy asks for permission to delete any LSOs it has detected.
Local shared object [Flash cookies] -
Standard HTTP cookie -
Using the Flash Player's Local Settings Manager -
Click on Storage, Camera and Mic, Playback and Advanced links for information on each of them.
Flash Player | Change Settings | Chrome, Opera, and other Chromium based browsers – PPAPI -
"If you are using Chrome or Chromium browser, to change the Flash Player settings, use the Flash Player Online Settings Manager." The following page accesses your computer's Flash Player settings online and allows the user to set them through it.
August 23, 2015. - Microsoft is providing the Windows 10 upgrade free of charge for a year starting on July 29 2015, its official release date.
If your computer runs a qualifying version - Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 - you can reserve your upgrade when the offer is presented automatically. You will be told when it is ready to be installed. The whole process can take a couple of hours or longer, depending on how fast the computer itself and its web connection are.
Each release of Windows comes in different versions (Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, etc.) and these versions can be a 32-bit or 64-bit version. A 32-bit version can only make use of a maximum of 3.2GB of RAM memory; a 64-bit version can use all the memory that the computer's motherboard supports and can even make use of a flash drive as extra memory (search for ReadyBoost).
Your qualifying version of Windows will upgrade to the equivalent version of Windows 10. For example, the 32-bit Windows 7 SP1 Home Premium will be upgraded to the 32-bit version of Windows 10 Home. Versions higher than the Home version are upgraded to the 32 or 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Pro.
Microsoft says: "If a customer has already taken the upgrade they will be able to clean install back to Windows 10 because their device will have been provisioned with the new store-based licence."
That means that you will be able to obtain Win10 from the Store that is accessed from the Start menu and perform a clean installation by burning the ISO file to a DVD or flash drive and using it to boot the system for the installation.
Brand-name computers have an OEM Windows licence that has OEM in the Product Key. There are also OEM versions of Windows that self-builders can purchase. An OEM version can only be installed on the first computer it is activated on, it cannot be transferred to another computer. Microsoft regards changing the motherboard as a new computer that requires a new OEM licence. If an OEM computer uses the free Win10 upgrade, the licence cannot be transferred to another computer and if the motherboard is changed a new licence is required.
A retail copy - Upgrade or full version - of Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 can be used to upgrade or install an unlimited number of times on an unlimited number of computers as long as it is only running on one of them at a particular time. This state of affairs remains with the free Win10 upgrade.
When the year over which the free upgrade is available, ending on July 29 2016, Windows 10 will have to be paid for in the usual way by buying a licence.
I have read on some IT websites that the free upgrade does not provide a Product Key but is linked to the user buy a Store ID when the user registers Windows by providing or creating an Outlook.com email account. The user can then download the version of Win10 that was used to perform the upgrade at any time from the Store, which is an item on the Start menu. Note that user are not required to use their Outlook.com email addresses However, the upgrade version is given a Product Key that can be found by using a tool such as the Belarc Advisor from http://www.belarc.com. Look for it under Free Download. When it is installed and opened, look under Software Licences (top, left-hand side) for the Product Key and make a note of it.
Apparently, the popular Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder tool now contains malware and should therefore not be used.
Note that the free upgrade does not itself expire after a year, only the ability to obtain it free of charge does. After you have used the free offer to upgrade Windows and obtained the Product key or you provided an Outlook.com account during the Win10 setup, Win10 will be registered with the Store from which it can be obtained at any time, making it yours forever in both cases.
As soon as possible after Win10 is up and running, since the upgrade is a long process, you should create a system image on an external hard disk drive so that it can be restored quickly compared to reinstalling the qualifying version of Windows and then upgrading it. There is a limited time - a month after the installation - that Win10 keeps its Windows.old folder that contains the files that makes it possible to revert to the previous version, so I would also create a system image of the system that is going to be upgraded just in case you want to return to it much later than a month after upgrading.
The following webpage shows how to clean-install Win10 after the upgrade. An upgrade builds on a qualifying version so is not a pure installation, which a clean-install is.
How to Clean Install Windows 10 -
Here are two useful pages. It is advisable to create a Win10 boot DVD disc or flash drive.
Frequently Asked Questions [Win10] -
Download Windows 10 Disc Image (ISO File) -
August 12, 2015. - Microsoft's terms and conditions for the use of Windows 10 have raised widespread concerns that it is invading the user's privacy as deeply as possible, in much the same way as Google does, in order to deliver customised ads. Moreover, don't forget that Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter have to provide legitimate governments with any information that they have gathered on particular users.
All of the settings are conveniently gathered together and can be found by going to Settings and clicking on Privacy. The following article deals with the privacy settings and the concerns about them.
Windows 10 privacy issues solved -
With regard to upgrading an old desktop or laptop PC to Win10, care should be taken.
My old desktop PC was successfully upgraded from Windows XP all the way up to Windows 8.1, but when I reserved the upgrade to Windows 10, I got a message saying that the device driver for the graphics chip that is integrated on the motherboard (not a separate graphics card) is not compatible with Win10 and therefore the PC cannot be upgraded.
Since the graphics chip is provided by the motherboard - an MSI 7093 model - I thought that I would just have to buy a cheap PCI Express graphics card that is listed as compatible by Microsoft's Compatibility Center and then Windows Update would allow the upgrade to go ahead.
Unfortunately, the motherboard provides PCI Express 1.0a and new, inexpensive PCI Express cards use PCI Express 2.1, which is not backward-compatible with version 1.0a. Some versions of PCI Express are backward-compatible with earlier versions, but that is not so in my case. I could find a PCI Express 1.0a graphics card second-hand, but the chances are not good that the device driver that supports Windows 10 is available, so I am not going to try to upgrade that PC. However, my old MSI M662 laptop, running Windows 7 SP1, passed Microsoft's compatibility tests after I placed a reservation for Win10 and I am now waiting for the upgrade to take place automatically.
Here is the information on Wikipedia about PCI Express 1.0a and 2.1. Information about the other versions of PCI Express is also provide on that page.
PCI Express -
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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.
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