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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 -

Desktop PC Motherboards -

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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Enabling/activating the hidden master Administrator account in Windows in order to use it to fix problems

May 22, 2015. - If you have to fix a problem with a computer running a version of Windows from Vista to Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 you can often run into a permission problem that bars access to what you need to run in order to deal with it. You don't have the elevated privileges that are required. The best way around that is to activate the hidden master Administrator account that is disabled by default in those versions of Windows, mainly because it is a very powerful account that provides almost unhindered access to the operating system and, as such, if improperly used, can hose the system.

For that reason, before activating and using the Administrator account, the user is advised to create a restorable backup or system image.

You can also sign in with a standard Administrator account that brings up the User Access Control's (UAC) window that requires permission to be granted to run software. It provides most permissions. You can also make use of the Run as Administrator feature, usually by right-clicking on the software's icon or listing in the Start menu, which also provides most permissions.

Unfortunately, both of those options sometimes are not sufficient to gain the permissions required to deal with a really deep-seated problem. The master Administrator account provides the user with the ability to launch deep system repairs and maintenance tasks by providing almost unlimited permissions.

The user is not bugged by access permission to run software required by UAC after the master Administrator account has been set up, but, unless disabled itself, it appears before you can enable the account.

Once enabled, the master Administrator account is added to the login screen. It doesn't have a password by default, which it should be given immediately because it is dangerous to allow open access because viruses and malware can make high-level use of its almost unlimited permissions. In fact, it is advisable to deactivate the account after it has been used. Instructions to activate and deactivate the account are provided below. In any case, the user should give the account a strong password via Control Panel => User Accounts => User Accounts.

A standard user account should be used for ordinary computing due to the fact that its permissions are set at a low level that makes it much less vulnerable to viruses and malware.

The master Administrator account has its own private Desktop and user files that can be customised in the same ways as a standard user account.

The following information provided by Microsoft applies to Windows 7. If necessary, use the search query Enable and Disable the Built-in Administrator Account, adding your version of Windows, to find the available information for it.

Enable and Disable the Built-in Administrator Account [Windows 7] -

Change the properties of the Administrator account by using the Local Users and Groups Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which is opened by entering lusrmgr.msc in the Search or Run box.

1. - Open the MMC console and select Local Users and Groups.

2. - Right-click the Administrator account and select Properties.

3. - The Administrator Properties window appears.

4. - On the General tab, clear the Account is Disabled check box.

Close the MMC console.

Administrator access is now enabled.

You can also use the Command Prompt with the following commands:

Use the net user command from the Command Prompt to make the Administrator account active or to disable it.

Run the following command to make the Administrator account active.

net user administrator /active:yes

Run the following command to disable the Administrator account.

net user administrator /active:no

Command Prompt: frequently asked questions Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1 -

Command Prompt: frequently asked questions Windows 7 -

Microsoft's new web browser is called Edge

May 4, 2015. - Project Spartan has come up with a name for the web browser that will come with Windows 10, due out in the summer, and eventually replace Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser, which has lost most of its once-dominant market share. The name is Edge. Not in any way a unique name. I would have preferred Spartan, myself. Since it begins with the same letter, the well-known IE icon is to remain.

Microsoft's vice president of operating systems, Joe Belfiore, described Edge as "blazingly fast" and "significantly faster than its predecessor". The new browser provides a notation tool that allows the user to take notes and is further integrated with the voice-activated assistant, Cortana. When a new tab is opened, useful information is displayed - news, weather, etc.

Microsoft is creating extensions for the browser and universal apps that function in the same ways on a desktop or laptop PC, tablet or smartphone. Windows 10 will be released officially in a few months from now free to users of Windows 7 and 8.1 so it won't be long before we can test-run Edge. Almost everything from Google is spyware, so, hopefully, many users of Google Chrome will prefer using it.

Introducing Microsoft Edge. The brand new browser for doing -

How to clear a new computer of crapware, unneeded software, apps, startup programs and disable unnecessary Windows services

April 30, 2015. - Most new desktop, laptop and tablet PCs come preloaded with crapware or unnecessary software put on it by the manufacturer, some of which can compromise the machine's security. Lenovo is a major Chinese-owned desktop, laptop and tablet PC manufacturer. It was recently responsible for placing adware on them, called Superfish by the computer-security companies, that is able to unencrypt secure transmissions and display adverts while the user browsers the web. An infection serious enough for Microsoft to add it to its Malicious Software Removal Tool that is installed once a month on Windows computers along with other updates. The tool runs automatically to remove known malware, spyware, adware and viruses.

This proves that even computers from a major manufacturer can be loaded with undesirable software. Much of the computer hardware and devices such as routers are manufactured in countries that have a very keen interest in obtaining data from the West and so could be building back doors into their products that can be used to give them access to your private data from your own computers or from the computers of the organisations that hold your data. It's now a world in which it is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to keep one's life private. Tablets and smartphones that run a non-Windows operating system, such as Google's Android or another similar development of Linux, such as Ubuntu, are the most difficult to clean and keep private, so I don't ever use them for banking or for making online purchases.

When you first receive a new computer that runs Windows, the first thing to do after you switch it on is to open the Control Panel and then open Programs and Features (Add or Remove Programs in Windows XP). Look through the installed software, most of which will have names that you can then find and run to find out what it is. If you need to, look it name up on the web. Uninstall anything that you don't need. For example, you may find Maxthon Cloud, which is valid but little-known web browser. I would uninstall it just because it is not being developed by a major software developer. All of the software listed there, including Windows updates can be uninstalled, but it's advisable to create a standard backup and/or a system image, preferably on an external hard disk drive, which now have very large amounts of very affordable storage space, just in case you need to get back into the state your system was in before you started your clean up.

There are websites and tools that identify unnecessary software. The website lists junk software by how many users have removed it using the removal tool that it also provides as a free download that does not install any other unwanted software. The PC Decrapifier is another free removal tool.

Most free software these days installs other software by default unless the option to do so is disabled during the installation setup, so it's always advisable to read what appears on the installation screens.

The Windows Task Manager identifies the Applications and Processes in use, but it is not nearly as good as the Windows Process Explorer, provided by Microsoft in its Sysinternals Suite. Autoruns is a tool in that suite of tools that provides information on the startup programs being used. Startup programs slow the system boot process down, so unnecessary ones should be disabled if not uninstalled.

Windows runs many of its own services that are essential and many that are not. You can identify the ones that are not necessary and disable them. To see them, open the Control Panel => Administrative Tools => Services. The right-click options provided for each service are: Stopped, Manual, Automatic or Automatic (Delayed Start).

The Black Viper website provides a list of standard services run by all of the versions of Windows. Comparing the standard list for your version of Windows to the list on your computer provides you with the information about the services that have been added, most of which you should be able to disable without any adverse consequences. I would disable them one at a time to find out if the computer operates normally after doing so. A web search should provide information about a particular service.

After you have cleaned the system, it's advisable to create a standard system backup and/or system image. There is a link provided below on how to verify backups and system images. Note well that if you use the PC manufacturer's method of restoring the PC to its factory state, you will be reinstalling everything that you cleaned out, so always restore a backup you have created yourself instead.

If you are only using your new desktop PC or laptop for office work and going online, I would just download Ubuntu Linux from its website, create the boot installation disc from the ISO file, test that it works - Ubuntu can run the computer from its installation disc if you have your CD/DVD drive set as the first boot device in the UEFI BIOS that most new Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 come with - format the C: drive and install Ubuntu from its disc. Problem solved! Ubuntu comes with the Firefox web browser and the free open-source LibreOffice suite and you can find a free program or app to do most computing. Here is how to install Ubuntu on a computer that has a UEFI BIOS -

Here is a list of the websites mentioned in this article or related to them:

Windows Process Explorer -

PC Decrapifier -

A tour through Windows Process Explorer: Part 1 -

A tour through the powerful Autoruns utility -

"Among the advanced tools offered on Microsoft’s Windows Sysinternals site is Autoruns, an app that reveals extensive information about programs that start automatically."

Black Viper [Windows services] -

How can I make sure that my backups and system images work when I need to restore them? -

Why file and system-image backups need to be verified or tested to make sure that they can be restored

April 19, 2015. - There is no point in having file backups and system images created by the backup software provided by Windows or third-party solutions unless you can be sure that they can be restored - file-by-file from a standard file backup or as a whole from a system image, which is a snapshot containing the entire system that restores everything as it was when the image was created. Note that if you restore an old image, Windows will have to add the updates that have been released since its date of creation and you will have to reinstall any software that was installed after the image was created.

It has happened to me a few times and probably has to most PC users who have created a backup or system image - that when we need to restore it completely or partially in the case of a file backup (system images have to be restored completely, individual files or folders cannot be chosen to be restored), we find that no restoration is possible for some reason, which could be due to being saved to a corrupted CD or DVD disc or or because the backup wasn't completed properly for some known or unknown reason.

Software that just creates standard file backups is available but most paid-for backup software can create standard file backups and system images.

You should remember that if you restore a system image created on a particular desktop or laptop PC and you restore it on a different computer, the components and their software device drivers will probably be markedly different having been created by different hardware manufacturers and the restoration is therefore most likely to fail. However, a standard file backup can be restored to any computer because selected files and folders can be restored apart from the operating system's files, as is not the case with restoring a system image. That why it is a good idea to do both types, which, for instance, the backup program supplied by Windows 7 and 8.1 can do.

Most backup/imaging software - free and paid-for - allows the software-driven verification of the system images created with it, including the backup programs provided free with Windows. You can also test standard file backups by restoring selected files and folders to, say, a test folder.

I use the free version of Macrium Reflect, which can only create system images or clone the drives created on hard disk drives. I use EaseUS Todo Backup Free to create file backups. Those two programs are all that a home PC user requires.

Note that it is also possible now to back up your files to online backup service providers. For example, Microsoft's OneDrive is now built into Windows with Windows 10, due for release in the northern hemisphere's summer of 2015. It gives users of Hotmail and email services and some of Microsoft's applications 15GB of free storage space. "Keep all your files and photos in OneDrive. Access and share them from your phone, tablet and computer."

Here is the page on Macrium Reflect's website that provides information on what its free and paid-for versions provide:

Macrium Reflect Free -

And here is a good article on how to make sure that your backups are good to be restored when you need them:

How to safely test file and image backups -

And here is the information provided on creating and restoring backups on PC Buyer Beware! website:

Why Windows users should try using a free disto of Linux such as Ubuntu

Linux is is open-source operating created by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish American software engineer, first released in 1991. The Linux kernel is the core of the operating system that is updated and, being open-source, it can be developed by any software developer, including Google, whose Android operating system for tablets and smartphones is a development of Linux. Anyone who has an Android tablet or smartphone is using such a development.

Developments of Linux run NAS storage devices, broadband routers and web servers that deliver most of the connections and most websites. Using Linux packages provided by website hosts is cheaper but more customisable than using Windows packages. When operating systems are used in most cars, Linux will be the dominant operating system, just as it is on tablets and smartphones now.

The main problem with Android is that Google drops support for a version relatively quickly and many devices can't be upgraded to the latest version. An unsupported operating system that is being used by millions of devices is a good target for cyber criminals and hackers. The Jelly Bean version was the latest one not so long ago (reigning up to July 2013) and Google has already ended support for some of it. Lollipop is the current version of Android and support for it will probably end in a few years. However, anyone who has a laptop or desktop PC running a distribution of Linux, such as Ubuntu, also known as a distro, will always be able to update it to the latest version. Updates are also free. Ubuntu Linux can also be used on tablets and smartphones.

Upgrade from a previous version of Ubuntu -

Most Linux distros allow the latest version to be downloaded free of charge and installed on an unlimited number of computers. The developers make their money from donations and from providing support and other related services.

Many Linux distros, including Ubuntu, can run a computer from their installation disc, making it possible to test run them before deciding whether to install or not. These boot discs make excellent troubleshooters because if the disc runs a Linux distro successfully on a problematic computer that might not be booting a version of Windows, for instance, its hardware is sound and the software is the source of the problem(s).

There are still many millions of computers running Windows XP Home and Professional versions, which Microsoft no longer supports in any way, including no longer providing security updates.

The latest versions of most Linux distros work very well on most old hardware and would be far more secure than XP and they are updated to close any security vulnerabilities that are discovered, which is no longer the case with XP.

A default installation of Ubuntu Linux comes with the Mozilla Firefox web browser and plenty of other software including the LibreOffice office suite that was developed from OpenOffice and the Mozilla Thunderbird email program. Thunderbird can set up an email account automatically just by entering the email address into its setup routine. It can also be used to deal with Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail and webmail systems instead of logging into the online accounts.

Read the following Wikipedia article to find out what other software can be obtained and where to find it. A free program or app can be obtained for most purposes.

Ubuntu (operating system) -

WordPress sites hacked via outdated plugins launch drive-by attacks on visitors

WordPress is the world's most popular Content Management System (CMS) website-building software and for that reason it is also the most popular platform that hackers target, usually via outdated plugins that have security vulnerabilities that have been patched in the latest versions. Features are added to websites by installing them as plugins and widgets. Using a CMS makes it possible to make changes to the entire website just by changing the information provided by plugins or widgets, which saves a lot of time. For example, ads can be changed just by changing the ad code, usually JavaScript, provided by a plugin or widget.

Unfortunately, if hackers hack a CMS website via cracking its login information (user name and password) or via a vulnerable plugin, they can influence the content of the entire site in the same ways as the webmaster or site owner can. Read the following page to find out the difference between plugins and widgets.

The following article by the Malwarebytes security company deals with how hackers infect WordPress sites so that they infect the computers of visitors to the infected sites just by visiting them, known as drive-by malware attacks.

Compromised WordPress sites launch drive-by attacks off Pirate Bay clone -

Belgian researchers expose Facebook's illegal use of tracking cookies

April 2, 2015. - A report by Belgian researchers, base at the University of Leuven and a university in Brussels, has accused Facebook of breaching EU privacy laws by using tracking cookies placed on desktop and laptop PCs, tablets and smartphones without obtaining the online users' permission to track their use of the web.

Facebook has only responded to the accusations in the report by stating that it contains "factual inaccuracies".

Furthermore, the report accuses Facebook of using tracking cookies in Europe for up to two years even if users have opted out of giving Facebook permission to use them and of placing them on the computers of visitors to the Facebook website who do not have accounts with Facebook.

There are a few exceptions to the EU privacy laws, which stipulate that websites have to be given permission by web users before they can place tracking cookies on their computers and smartphones. If the first time a particular computer or smartphone accesses a website its user refuses to give permission for the use of cookies, the website has to ask for permission to use cookies every subsequent time that device accesses that website. If permission is granted by the user, the cookie(s) placed on the device by the website can be read by it and so permission will not be required for their use, but will be required again if the cookie(s) are deleted.

Facebook, Google and Twitter, which all earn most of their income from advertising, feel the need to get as many clicks or views of their ads as possible and therefore prefer to use their knowledge of the personal information of users to provide personalised ads than to rely on just placing ads that correspond to the content of the webpages visited by users. Those social sites are therefore placing their incomes way ahead of the web users' right to privacy, a state of affairs that is worsened by the fact that they channel their revenues through tax havens in order to avoid paying the taxes required of them in the countries in which they operate.

Fortunately, all of the major web browsers - Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari - have settings that allow the user to delete cookies and visited-website histories and search engine histories manually or automatically.

Here are some relevant webpages related to this topic:

Delete cookies to remove the information websites have stored on your computer [in the Firefox web browser] -

HTTP cookie -

Facebook tracks all visitors to its site even if they do not have accounts, are logged off or have opted out [of being tracked] -

Google is not patching its Android mobile operating system for versions earlier than version 4.4 (KitKat)

March 28, 2015. - Google is no longer providing security patches for versions of its mobile operating system, Android, a development of Linux used on smartphones and tablets, which are older than version 4.4 (aka KitKat). This state of affairs very worringly leaves around sixty percent of Adroid-powered devices vulnerable to cyber and malware attacks.

The following Wikipedia article provides information on the versions that are all named after confectionery.

Here is the information about Android required to understand this post:

The latest major release to date is Android 5.0 (aka Lollipop)

Android KitKat - 4.4.0 - 4.4.4 up to October 31, 2013

Android Jelly Bean - 4.1.x - 4.3.x July 9, 2012 to July 24, 2013

Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) uses a key component called WebView in its standard default web browser that Google is no longer patching, therefore, if cyber criminals find vulnerabilities that can be exploited, they are not going to be fixed. The only remedies would be to upgrade to a later version of Android, which won't be possible if the device won't run that version, or buy a device that runs the KitKat or Lollipop versions, which themselves won't be patched at some future date by Google. This is a serious weakness with the Android operating system, especially since security is becoming more vitally important on mobile devices with every day that passes.

KitKat uses Google's Chrome web browser, which can be updated like an app, instead of WebView.

When Apple provides a new version for its iOS mobile operating system, it instructs the users of its phones and tablets to upgrade to the latest version because it supports several generations of phones and tablets. This is not the case with Android. The users have to upgrade their devices to a new version themselves if doing so is possible in the first place, which might not be the case. Even if it is possible to upgrade to a new version, many users of Android's massive billion user base are not going to do so, as has been proven by Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) web browser. There are still millions of Windows users still using IE8, released in 2009, when IE11, released in October 2013, is the latest version that only runs on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Supporting old versions of software is costly so Microsoft has decided to ditch IE altogether and make Windows 10, expected to be released in the northern hemisphere's summer, free to Windows 7 and 8.1 users, including pirated versions, and introduce a new web browser code-named Spartan. Microsoft clearly wants to get as many Windows users using the same version of Windows and its web browser as possible.

Google has complicated matters by not declaring that it has stopped supporting Jelly Bean completely. Indeed, there are still components of that version that Google is updating and the manufacturers of the devices running it are allowed to create updates for it.

I have the first model of the Tesco Hudl 7-inch tablet, which runs Jelly Bean 4.2.2, that I bought just to gain experience with Android, which is a very user-friendly mobile operating system. The cheap original Hudl runs it beautifully. Its apps are updated, but Android Jelly Bean has not been upgraded. I telephoned Tesco support and was told that I have to stick to Jelly Bean but that I might be able to take the Hudl into a Tesco store and get it upgraded, which, experience tells me, is unlikely to be the case. The higher-spec Hudl2 uses KitKat.

Tesco Hudl 2 review - the best budget tablet [£129.00] -

It might soon be possible to install Windows 10 on Android phones and tablets. It that is the case, I will do so because Win10 will be updated with security patches for many years to come. Windows 7, released in 2009 will be getting security patches up to 2020, but since a new version of Android is released every six months or so, it would obviously be best for Google make it possible to use the latest version of Android on several generations of phones and tablets.

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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