Note that this website is being updated and coverted into a WordPress site. If you want to read any of the pages that have been updated so far here they are:
Hard Disk and SSD Drives -
PC Security - 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 -
The standard BIOS and UEFI/EFI BIOS -
Microsoft Product Activation -
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.
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.
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 -
Kaspersky Lab Researchers Reveal Hidden NSA Spyware On Hard Drives -
Russian researchers expose 'NSA's secret weapon': Outrage at program that enables America to spy on EVERY home computer in the world is uncovered -
Samsung sells half of the smart TVs in the UK. They use voice recognition as well as a remote control to switch on and off, go into standby and to execute more complex commands such as adjusting the settings. This feature makes it possible to transmit conversations to a third party along with voice commands.
Which, the consumer magazine, tested several makes of smart TV and discovered that all of the brands tested track viewing habits to some extent.
Therefore, if you find that the TV you have purchased has terms and conditions that have to be agreed with, you know why that is the case. If that happened to me, I would return the set to the vendor. If enough people did that the manufacturers would get the message not to send any captured data away from their TVs. However, most people are so used to agreeing with the terms and conditions required to use most software that they just agree with them without reading through them, mostly because they are very long and the language is impenetrable legalese.
Listening is turned on by default on Samsung's smart TVs, but voice recognition can be turned off. However, even then, Samsung will still be collecting data in order to evaluate how well the TV's features are working.
When voice recognition is active, complicated voice commands can only be acted upon if they are sent to a third party company in the USA called Nuance. The commands are translated and the response is sent back to the TV that carries them out, probably because it's cheaper than having the voice recognition software installed on the TV itself and user data can be collected. At the price, of course, of invading the privacy of the householders.
To give a voice command the user has to press a button on the TV's remote control while speaking the command, but all of the sounds in the room and within range of the TV's microphone are collected and sent to Nuance.
The default setting of having voice recognition turned on instead of allowing the user to turn it on is suspicious because it makes it look as if Samsung wants it turned on. As we should all know by now, the USA's National Security Agency (NAS) is collecting all of the electronic communications worldwide, so using a US company to collect the data adds even more suspicion. Moreover, how do we know that when monitoring features are turned off they aren't still active?
The following story deals with "Samsung Smart TVs forcing ads into video streaming apps" -
In my opinion, the invasion of privacy is getting ridiculously way beyond what should be acceptable in a democratic country.
It's not just smart TVs. Your home is full of gadgets that spy on you: How internet giants are collecting your personal data through their high-tech devices -
February 6, 2015. - Apparently, Windows 10 is going to be to the unpopular Windows 8 what Windows 7 was for Windows Vista – a much better user experience. Release date is expected to be towards the end of this year.
Microsoft can’t afford to get this one wrong and it looks as if the new version lives up to expectations.
Only the Technical Preview has been released; the Consumer Preview is expected to be made available in the next few months. I never install release candidates or previews because I use all of my computers and installing a test operating system, even as a dual-boot system, can screw a desktop or laptop PC up. I’ll be waiting for the official release before I attempt an installation. There is no hurry. I am still using Windows XP and Windows 7, as usual without any problems.
The really lovely aspect of the coming release is that it will be a free upgrade for all users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.0/8.1.
Windows 10 is designed to be used on Microsoft’s Xbox One, laptop and desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets. During its installation it adapts itself to the device that it is being installed on. There are signs that Win10 will continue to be developed indefinitely, which means that it will be the last version of Windows. Business versions look as if they will be paid for by subscription bundled with the software that they run, such as Office.
There is a proper Start button when Win10 is installed on a desktop or laptop PC – the live tiles that used to be on the Start screen in Windows 8.0/8.1 appear on the right side of the Start menu with a standard list of apps and programs on the left side.
The Charms menu bar that appears in Windows 8.0/8.1 when swiping in from the right on a touchscreen or using the mouse pointer to do so has been dropped from Windows 10. An improved Action Center still exists that now shows notifications from apps, Skype calls, social media updates (Facebook, Twitter, G+), etc.
There is a single settings app instead of having the settings split between the Control Panel and the separate Start screen, as is the case in Win8/8.1.
Tablet Mode makes it possible to switch from Desktop Mode to Tablet Mode on tablets that function as laptops with the addition of a keyboard, as is the case when using Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 tablets, when the tablet is detached from its keyboard or docking station. A popup asks for permission to switch to Tablet Mode, which is touchscreen mode. The process works in reverse when the keyboard is attached or the tablet is docked to a docking station.
Cortana is Microsoft’s speaking personal assistant. It can be asked questions by typing them or asking them and the web can be searched vocally by using Microsoft’s Bing Search engine.
Microsoft Cortana – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Cortana
Microsoft is also working on a new web browser, code-named Spartan, for Win10 to replace Internet Explorer 11. The use of IE has fallen steadily after Microsoft refused to allow any version above IE8 to be used on Windows XP when it was still running half of all PCs. A name for the new browser has not been made available. Apparently, Win10 will provide the new browser and Internet Explorer 11.
Most software designed for Windows requires a version of Microsoft's .NET framework software to run.
.NET Framework - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.NET_Framework
"Programmers produce software by combining their own source code with .NET Framework and other libraries."
Windows 8.1 supports only .NET version 3.5 and higher versions, therefore any software that requires a lower version won't be able to run. The soon-to-be-released Windows 10 (there is no version 9) also won't support versions lower than 3.5. Software that requires a version of the .NET framework usually installs the one that it requires during its installation. Several versions can be installed. Installing one version does not overwrite any existing versions. Previous versions are not removed when the latest version is installed. All of the installed versions can be uninstalled.
Note that some software, Quicken and QuickBooks, for example won't install unless they recognise the version of Windows being used. Quicken 2000, for example, will only install on a Windows 2000 or Windows XP system. In that case you won't ever be able to get such software to install and run in a later version of Windows (Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8.1).
Windows 8.1 has an application-compatibility tool that could allow installed software to run that doesn't have to recognise the version of Windows. To use the tool, right-click on the application's icon or its executable .exe file, click Properties in the menu that presents itself. Open the Compatibility tab in the window that appears. There is a box beside which "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" appears. The drop-down menu provides versions of Windows that the software can be made compatible with by choosing its option from Windows 7 to XP or even as far back as Windows 95. The "Run this program as an administrator" option should also be enabled. If the software works properly, the problem is solved, but if it requires an earlier version of the .NET framework than the lowest version that Windows 8.1 supports, it won't run.
The Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 provide a Windows XP mode that software designed for Windows XP can be installed in and run as if it were running in XP itself. Unfortunately, Windows 8.1 does not provide a mode that runs earlier versions of Windows. However, it is possible to run a virtual machine in Windows 8.1 within which an earlier version of Windows can be installed and run. Microsoft's free Hyper V virtual-machine technology can be used.
Run virtual machines on Windows 8.1 with Client Hyper-V -
Alternatively, a third party virtual machine, such as VirtualBox can be used, which Oracle provides free of charge.
VirtualBox.org - https://www.virtualbox.org/
Note that OEM versions of Windows cannot be run from within a virtual machine because they can only be installed on a single system. A version with a full retail licence is required, an Upgrade retail version can't be used because its use requires the detection of an earlier qualifying version of Windows.
An OEM version of Windows is installed in a computer by a system builder, which could be a brand-name company or an individual who has purchased an OEM version, usually for a self-built PC. An OEM version can only be installed on the computer it came installed on or was installed on by the system builder. A retail version can be installed on unlimited PCs as long as only one of them is in use at any particular time. The letters OEM appear in the Product Key that is used to activate the copy.
As a last resort, you could just keep a computer with the earlier version of Windows installed on it just to run particular old software that won't run on later versions of Windows. If you want to build such a computer, suitable motherboards, processors and RAM memory, often as bundles with that come with their driver discs are available on eBay inexpensively.
January 20, 2015. - A vulnerability in a WordPress plugin called Slider Revolution or RevSlider that is bundled with many themes has led to 100,000+ websites being compromised. Therefore, if you have one or more WordPress sites make sure that they are updated.
RevShare develops the plugin and has fixed the problem with an update, but the WordPress community is mostly not aware of its existence.
The vulnerability makes the wp-config.php file accessible, which gives access to the compromised site's full database.
A list of themes that have been affected is available at the following site:
Google can detect if a site has the vulnerability and, in order to limit the damage that can be caused, has blocked them by providing visitors with an alert that says that an affected site is infected with malware.
Click the link provided below if you want to use the "Free Website Malware and Security Scanner" provided by the security site, Sucuri.
Version 4.2.0 of the RevSlide plugin is required to be safe. ShowBiz Pro is another affected plugin. It requires version 1.5.3 or later.
It is always advisable to be using the latest version of WordPress itself and update any plugins as soon as possible in order not to fall foul of vulnerabilities that have been identified. There is nothing that can be done about vulnerabilities that have been identified by hackers but which have not been identified by the developers of plugins that are called zero-day exploits, because they cannot be fixed unless the developers are aware of them.
Make sure that your plugins are 100% compatible with the latest version of WordPress before you update them and create a restorable backup of a WordPress site before you update it to the latest version of WordPress in case the update screws up the site.
January 9, 2015. - Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) is built into almost all hard drives in use today. It is able to predict if a hard drive or SSD drive is about to fail. If the PC's BIOS monitoring the hard disk or SSD drive is able to read what SMART is reporting, it will produce a warning message during the Power-On-Self-Tests (POST tests) at startup, such as "Hard Disk: SMART Status BAD. Backup and Replace."
That means that the PC's hard drive is close to having an irrecoverable failure and should be backed up and replaced as soon as possible. The warnings produced by SMART, which can also come via free and paid-for software designed to monitor it, should be taken very seriously because hard and SSD drives are very sophisticated devices that can correct errors due to wear effectively. SMART monitors what error-correction is taking place and when it becomes serious produces a warning such as the example provided. When SMART produces a warning, the PC's owner should backup and replace the affected drive as soon as possible.
S.M.A.R.T. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.M.A.R.T.
Free or paid-for tool are available to make sure that there is software monitoring the hard disk or SSD drive of a particular desktop or laptop PC that can bring SMART messages to a computer-user's notice.
Comparison of S.M.A.R.T. tools -
For example, here is what a paid-for utility says about itself on its website: "HD Tune Pro is a hard disk / SSD utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more."
SMART monitors the physical health of hard disk and SSD drives. The built-in tool provided by every version of Windows since Windows XP called chkdsk (Check Disk) runs checks on the logical health of the files on the drive and can mark bad unusable areas of he drive as bad so that Windows does not use them.
To run the basic version of chkdsk, open Windows Explorer (to find an option to do that in Windows 7 right-click on the Start button), right-click the drive you want checked and select the Properties option in the menu that comes up. Opening the Tools tab provides the Error-checking option. Just click on the "Check now" button to run its routine maintenance tests.
There is a much more powerful version called chkdsk.exe that is run from the Command Prompt.
The command-prompt switches (commands) that chkdsk provides vary significantly from one version of Windows to another due to the fact that it is continually being improved, but the chkdsk c: /f switch performs error correction of the C: drive that Windows is installed on by default for all versions of Windows since Windows XP. To run the checks on any other partition or drive just change c: to the drive letter of that drive partition or separate hard drive. Laptop PCs normally only have one hard disk or SSD drive but a desktop PC can have as many installed as there are sockets for them on the PC's motherboard itself or from special adapter cards installed in its card slots.
To find out what all of the switches that chkdsk provides your copy of Windows, for example, in Windows 7, enter cmd in the Start => Search box, right-click the cmd.exe link that is provided by that search and click "Run as administrator". Type chkdsk /? at the prompt and press Enter. You'll see a complete list of all of available chkdsk switches, such as chkdsk /f that fixes errors and chkdsk /r that checks for errors and locates bad sectors of the drive or partition and recovers readable information.
In Windows 8.1, just typing Command Prompt while on the Start or Desktop screen brings up the Search box with that search already entered in it.
1. – DirectX Diagnostic Tool – the free tool that is part of DirectX, which is itself installed with Windows, being used as a software driver for PC games, multimedia applications, playing video, etc. –
It is part of Windows and is updated by Windows Update along with security updates and hotfixes, but here is the information provided by Microsoft on how to download and install it:
How to download and install DirectX – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/179113
DXDiag reports any problems it detects. If "Check for WHQL digital signatures" is enabled on the first tab called System, the tool verifies that all of the device drivers being used by Windows have passed testing by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL). Some untested third-party drivers might be in use and causing one or more problems, so this is a valuable test to perform.
In Windows XP, DXDiag provides video and sound tests, but the tests have been removed in the versions used in Vista, Win7 and Win8. To access it in XP enter dxdiag in the Start => Run box. Use the Search box in Vista and Windows 7. In Windows 8.1, press the Windows key (the one with a flag on it) plus the R key to bring up the Run box and enter that command.
2. – The very useful HWMonitor PRO, PerfMonitor and CPU-Z monitoring tools are available from http://www.cpuid.com/.
GPU-Z – Graphics card information – http://www.techpowerup.com/gpuz/
3. – What’s My PC Doing – Informs you of what the hard disk drive and processor are doing –
4. – Speedfan – “If you need a tool that can change your computer’s fan speeds, read the temperatures of your motherboard and your hard disk, read voltages and fan speeds and check the status of your hard disk using S.M.A.R.T. or SCSI attributes, then you came to the right place.” –
5. - The Windows Diagnostics Tool performs tests on the RAM memory of the computer it is used on. Faulty memory causes all kinds of peculiar problems that are difficult to diagnose, such as files that become corrupted.
Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool (Windows 7) -
Start Memory Diagnostic Tool in Windows 8 -
Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 & 8.0/8.1 Administrative Tools
All of the versions of Windows from Windows XP to Windows 7 and 8.0/8.1 come with several very useful Administrative Tools that can be accessed under their section in Windows by that name.
December 19, 2014. - Tor Browser is free software - donations are welcome to help with development - that protects users from network surveillance, traffic analysis and from having your location revealed by routing the user's usage of the web around a distributed network of relays that are run by volunteers living around the world. In this way, any monitoring of your web connection is prevented from discovering which websites are being visited and prevented from finding out what your location is. Due to the process involved that is time-consuming, the Tor Browser is slower than the major browsers - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc.
Alternatively, you can make use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can be free or paid-for. Here are two well-reviewed VPNs of both types:
HideMyAss.com VPN - https://www.hidemyass.com/ ($4.99 a month for 12 months)
Hotspotshield - free VPN with ads - http://www.hotspotshield.com/free-proxy
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
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.
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.