Custom Search
Click to find updates on our Facebook page

PC Information and Repair Guide: How Best to Fix PC/Computer Problems, Buy, Upgrade, Build, Recover, Restore, Repair and Protect Desktop and Laptop PCs


PC Buyer Beware! is being updated and converted into a WordPress site

Note that this website is being updated and coverted into a WordPress site. If you want to read any of the pages that have been updated so far here they are:

Hard Disk and SSD Drives -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/hardware/disk-and-ssd-drives/

Desktop PC Motherboards -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/hardware/motherboards-cases-psus/

PC Security - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/pc-security/

Software Information - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/software-info/

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

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/backup-methods/

The standard BIOS and UEFI/EFI BIOS -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/the-pccomputer-bios/

Microsoft Product Activation -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/software/ms-product-activation/

Windows Device Manager -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/software/windows-device-manager/

PC Warranties - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/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 pcbuyerbeware.co.uk feature provided at the top of each page. A list of pages containing those or your own keywords will be presented.

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

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


LATEST COMPUTER-RELATED NEWS, TIPS, SOLVED PROBLEMS & STORIES

PC Buyer Beware! Facebook page

Visit our Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/pcbuyerbeware.co.uk - to read informative items going back in time that no longer appear on this page.


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 Outlook.com 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 -

http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx

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 -

http://windowssecrets.com/top-story/how-to-safely-test-file-and-image-backups/

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

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/TestSite/backup-methods/

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 -

http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/upgrade

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 Outlook.com 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) -

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_%28operating_system%29

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.

https://wordpress.org/support/topic/what-is-the-difference-between-a-pluggin-and-a-widget

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 -

https://blog.malwarebytes.org/exploits-2/2015/04/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] -

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/...

HTTP cookie - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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] -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3019821/...

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_%28operating_system%29

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] -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/tablets/1401631/tesco-hudl-2-review-the-best-budget-tablet

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.

Microsoft to allow owners of pirated copies of Windows 7 SP1 and 8.1 to upgrade to windows 10 free of charge

March 19, 2015. - Microsoft has updated the expected release date of Windows 10 from the autumn to some time in the northern hemisphere's summer.

It has already been stated that Windows 10 will be a free download to upgrade computers running Windows 7 SP1 (updated to Win7 Service Pack 1) and 8.1. (Users of Windows 8.0 will have to update to 8.1. There is plenty of information on the web on how to do that.) Microsoft has now taken this policy further by including illegally pirated (non-genuine) copies of those qualifying versions of Windows.

The reason for this policy must be so as to have as many Windows users using a legitimate copy so that they can buy other Microsoft software, services and apps, because Windows 10 can run on all devices - desktop and laptop PCs, tablets and smartphones. Microsoft's income from China was unexpectedly weak in the last quarter of 2014, which must have been responsible for the decision to make pirated copies of Windows eligible for a Win10 upgrade.

Apparently, 75% of all software, including Windows, used in China is pirated. Net Applications, a web-analytics business, has conducted research the results of which says that in China 38% of PCs still run Windows XP or Vista, 52% run Windows 7, with only 8% running Windows 8.0/8.1. That means if all of the computers entitled to the upgrade, included pirated copies, upgrade to Win10, 60% (52% plus 8%) of them will be using Windows 10.

I would take this policy further by including any computer that is capable of running Windows 10, which would include many running Windows XP and Vista. I have two computers - a desktop and a laptop - that can run Windows 8.1 having been designed to run Windows XP, so most of those computers will also probably be able to run Windows 10. That way those two earlier versions of Windows will fall out of use much more quickly than if left to the natural death of those PCs running them.

In my opinion, Microsoft made a big mistake by forcing computers running Windows XP to stick with version 8.0 of its web browser, Internet Explorer, instead of allowing upgrades to versions 9, 10 and 11, because that forced their owners to use Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome browsers and resulted in Internet Explorer's user base falling dramatically. To the extent that Microsoft is expected to include a new browser with Windows 10 developed by its Project Spartan. The name of the new browser has not been released but it looks as if it might be called Spartan.

Microsoft WILL kill Internet Explorer: Company confirms browser will be replaced by Project Spartan -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2999021/...

It is not yet possible to find out if the NSA spyware is on a computer's hard disk drive

March 4, 2015. - Kaspersky Lab discovered the spyware that infects hard disk, SSD or flash drives by reprogramming the drive firmware, which is the permanent software installed on a drive that makes it function.

The source of the spyware infection was named as the Equation group by Kaspersky Lab, but most sources are naming it as the US National Security Agency (NSA). For example, one of Computerworld's headlines is: "There is no way of knowing if the NSA's spyware is on your hard drive."

That is true. Anti-virus/anti-malware scanners cannot detect an infection because it rewrites an infected computer's hard drive's firmware, which kicks into action as soon as the computer starts up. There is no way in which that firmware can be scanned and formatting or low-level formatting cannot put things right because the firmware is not changed in any way during any kind of formatting of a drive.

Kaspersky Lab has stated that the spyware has been discovered on hard disk and SSD drives made by all of the major drive manufacturers. For that to have been achieved, the spyware writers would have had to have the firmware source code from each of those manufacturers. Therefore, the question now is, how was that secret source code acquired?

Could it be that the major drive manufacturers are installing the spying firmware on to their drives in the factory. If so, even if the user downloads and installs the latest firmware for a particular drive to get rid of the spyware, it will be reinstalled along with it.

Western Digital (WD), second only to Seagate as a major hard-drive manufacturer, has denied any complicity, stating that the integrity of its products are of paramount importance.

The reprogrammed firmware is able to reserve disk space and download and install several types of spyware. Kaspersky Lab has stated that it has discovered computers infected with one or more types of spyware in 30 countries, mainly in the East, Middle East and North Africa, including Russia and China.

The firmware reprogramming had only been detected on the computers of a relatively few targets, very probably the ones that would supply the most valuable information.

None of the stories on this security vulnerability states whether the infection can be removed or not by downloading and installing the latest firmware from the drive manufacturers' websites. Firmware is specific to the make and model of drive it has been written for. This might be because the downloads are infected. I'll post if this aspect is ever clarified.

CCleaner installs system monotoring and Google Chrome as your default browser and uses "Intelligent Cookie Management"

Most free software and tools install unwanted settings or other software by default unless you read and watch what is taking place during its installation. The very commonly-used CCleaner system-cleaning tool is no exception. The images provided below show what it now does that I, for one, don't want to take place.

CCleaner installs Google Chrome as your default browser - the one that the system uses automatically - unless you disable the option before the installation takes place.

CCleaner installs the Google Chrome web browser by default unless that setting is disabled during installation

There is a setting called "Intelligent Cookie Scan" that only removes cookies that it considers are not wanted, but probably leaves the tracking cookies that its sponsors, such as Google, want left in place. I choose to disable that setting because it can't be disabled after the installation (I am suspicious of an optional setting that disappears from the settings). It can only be disabled by reinstalling CCleaner.

CCleaner enables Intelligent Cookie Scan during installation - setting only available during installation

During the installation CCleaner presents its active monitoring options. Since Google sponsors the tool, I disable system monitoring because the results are probably returned to Google.

CCleaner monitoring options - installs Active Monitoring by default unless disabled

If you choose to disable Active Monitoring during the installation, a warning is produced saying that this is not recommended because CCleaner will not update itself automatically and won't be able to provide active protection - from what? The tool only removes rubbish, it is not an anti-malware scanner. I ignore the warning. The tool wants to be updated every few weeks, which is ridiculous. I update it two or three times a year manually.

CCleaner warning about disabling Active Monitoring

Kaspersky Lab releases information on the ultimate malware infections that took several years to uncover

February 21, 2015. - Kaspersky Lab is the developer of the highly-rated Kaspersky security software.

The company has spent several years uncovering what it calls the most sophisticated malware ever created by using expensive tools that has been active for almost two decades, naming the perpetrators as The Equation Group.

The exploit rewrites the firmware of the hard-disk, solid-state and USB flash drives, used by computers or attached to them, in order to gain control at startup and loads its malware on to sectors of the drives that cannot be formatted or erased in any way, which makes the infection permanent and invisible.

The following article on the Kaspersky Lab site doesn't link The Equation Group to the US National Security Agency (NSA), but the articles linked to under it do.

Equation Group: The Crown Creator of Cyber-Espionage -

http://www.kaspersky.com/about/news/virus/2015/...

Kaspersky Lab Researchers Reveal Hidden NSA Spyware On Hard Drives -

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/33423/20150217/kaspersky-lab-nsa.htm

Russian researchers expose 'NSA's secret weapon': Outrage at program that enables America to spy on EVERY home computer in the world is uncovered -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2956058/...

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.


COMPUTER SECURITY

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.


DISCLAIMER

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.

Click to go to the top of the page