• Posted on January 31, 2017 11:22 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    The Advanced Startup Options menu, available in Windows 10 and Windows 8, is the central fix-it location for the entire operating system. From here you can access Windows diagnostic and repair tools like Reset This PC, System Restore, Command Prompt, Startup Repair, and much more. Advanced Startup Options is also where you access Startup Settings, the menu that includes Safe Mode, among other startup methods that could help you access Windows 10 or Windows 8 if it is having problems starting. The Advanced Startup Options menu should appear automatically after two consecutive startup errors. However, if you need to open it manually, there are six different ways to do so. The best way to decide which method to use to open Advanced Startup Options is to base your decision on what level of access you have to Windows right now: If Windows 10/8 starts normally: Use any method, but 1, 2, or 3 will be easiest. If Windows 10/8 does not start: Use method 4, 5, or 6. Method 1 will also work if you can at least get to the Windows 10 or Windows 8 logon screen. Time Required: Accessing Advanced Startup Options is easy and can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on which method you use. Applies To: All of these means of getting to the Advanced Startup Options menu work equally well in any edition of Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 unless I note otherwise. Method 1: SHIFT + Restart Hold down either SHIFT key while tapping or clicking on Restart, available from any Power icon.​ Tip: Power icons are available throughout Windows 10 and Windows 8 as well as from the sign-in/lock screen. Note: This method does not seem to work with the on-screen keyboard. You'll need to have a physical keyboard connected to your computer or device to open the Advanced Startup Options menu this way. Wait while the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 2: Settings Menu Tap or click on the Start button.Note: In Windows 8, Swipe from the right to open the charms bar. Tap or click Change PC settings. Choose Update and recovery from the list on the left (or General prior to Windows 8.1), then choose Recovery. Skip down to Step 5. Tap or click on Settings. Tap or click on the Update & security icon, near the bottom of the window. Choose Recovery from the list of options on the left of the UPDATE & SECURITY window. Locate Advanced startup, at the bottom of the list of options on your right. Tap or click on Restart now. Wait through the Please wait message until Advanced Startup Options opens. Method 3: Shutdown Command Open Command Prompt in Windows 10 or Windows 8.Tip: Another option is to open Run if you can't get Command Prompt started for some reason, probably related to the issue you're having that has you here in the first place! Execute the shutdown command in the following way: shutdown /r /o Note: Save any open files before executing this command or you'll lose any changes you've made since your last save. To the You're about to be signed off message that appears a few seconds later, tap or click on the Close button. After several seconds, during which nothing seems to be happening, Windows 10/8 will then close and you'll see a Please wait message. Wait just a few seconds more until the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 4: Boot From Your Windows 10/8 Installation Media Insert a Windows 10 or Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows installation files on it into your computer.Tip: You can borrow someone else's Windows 10 or Windows 8 disc (or other media) if you need to. You're not installing or reinstalling Windows, you're just accessing Advanced Startup Options - no product key or license breaking required. Boot from the disc or boot from the USB device, whatever your situation calls for. From the Windows Setup screen, tap or click Next. Tap or click on the Repair your computer link at the bottom of the window. Advanced Startup Options will start, almost immediately. Method 5: Boot From a Windows 10/8 Recovery Drive Insert your Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive into a free USB port.Tip: Don't worry if you weren't proactive and never got around to creating a Recovery Drive. If you have another computer with the same version of Windows or a friend's computer with Windows 10/8, see How To Create a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive for instructions. Boot your computer from the flash drive. On the Choose your keyboard layout screen, tap or click on U.S. or whatever keyboard layout you'd like to use. Advanced Startup Options will begin instantly. Method 6: Boot Directly to Advanced Startup Options Start or restart your computer or device. Choose the boot option for System Recovery, Advanced Startup, Recovery, etc.On some Windows 10 and Windows 8 computers, for example, pressing F11 starts System Recovery. Note: What this boot option is called is configurable by your hardware maker so the options I mentioned are just some that I've seen or heard. Whatever the name, it should be clear that what you're about to do is a boot to Windows's advanced recovery features. Important: The ability to boot directly to Advanced Startup Options isn't one that's available with a traditional BIOS. Your computer will need to support UEFI and then also be configured properly to boot directly to the ASO menu. Wait for Advanced Startup Options to begin. What About F8 and SHIFT+F8? Neither F8 nor SHIFT+F8 is a reliable option for booting to the Advanced Startup Options menu. If you need to access Advanced Startup Options, you can do so with any of the several methods listed above. How To Exit Advanced Startup Options Whenever you're finished using the Advanced Startup Options menu, you can choose Continue to restart your computer. Assuming it's working properly now, this will boot you back into Windows 10/8. Your other option is to choose Turn off your PC, which will do just that.

    Blog Entry, Security, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 12, 2017 12:00 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Have you ever needed to open your CD or DVD drive (generally referred to as your "optical drive") but couldn't? Just your luck, your favorite movie, video game, or music was probably stuck inside. Maybe the laptop's power died, maybe the drive in your desktop just quit responding, or maybe the door was just stuck or the disc came loose from a try just enough to jam things up. Regardless of what's happening, or what you think might be happening, there's no reason to rush out and replace the disc or drive just because the eject button doesn't do what you expected it to do. Fortunately, one of the following two methods almost always does the trick to get the drive open: How to Force Eject a Disc From Within the OS We'll start with the easiest way to get the drive open - skip the physical button on the outside and ask your operating system to force eject the disc. You can only try this if your computer has power and is working. Skip down to the next section if that's not the case. Time Required: Forcing your CD, DVD, or BD drive to eject via your operating system's commands is very easy and should only take a few seconds to try. Open File Explorer if you're using Windows 10 or Windows 8. Search for it or use the WIN+X menu to open it quickly.Open Windows Explorer in earlier versions of Windows. Once open, navigate to the optical drive from the menu on the left. This drive is often auto-named based on what disc is inside the drive but there's usually a small disc icon to help identify it.Tip: If you have trouble finding it, look for This PC on the left in Windows 10 or 8, or Computer in earlier versions. Click the icon to the left to expand this if it's collapsed. Right-click or tap-and-hold on the optical drive and choose Eject from the menu that pops up or down. The drive bay or disc should spin down and eject within seconds. Using a Mac? Similar to the method described above for Windows, find the disc icon, right-click on it, and then choose Eject. Here are some more ideas. If this doesn't work (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.), it's time to get physical with it! How To Open a CD/DVD/BD Drive... With a Paper Clip It sounds strange, yes, but most computer optical drives, including external ones and those you'll find in your game systems like Xbox and Playstation, have a tiny pinhole that's designed as a last resort method to get the drive bay open. Time & Tools Required: You'll need a single, heavy-duty paper Clip - not industrial sized, but not one of those flimsy plastic ones, either. The whole process will take less than a few minutes and is very easy. Unfold the paper clip until there is at least 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) that is as close to straight as you can get it. Look closely at your disc drive. Directly under or above the drive bay door (the part that "ejects" the disc) there should be a very small pinhole.Tip: If you have one of those desktop optical drives where a large door flips down before the drive bay ejects, pull that down with your finger and then look for the pinhole. Tip: Some older desktops require the opening of the front panel, sort of like a large "door" to the computer's housing, to get to this pinhole. Insert the paper clip into the pinhole. Inside the drive, directly behind the pinhole, is small gear that, when rotated, will begin to manually open the drive. Remove and reinsert the paper clip as often as needed to eject the drive bay enough to grab hold of it. Slowly pull on the drive bay until it's fully retracted. Take care not to pull too quickly or to continue to pull when you feel resistance. Remove the CD, DVD, or BD disc from the drive. Slowly push the drive bay back into the drive until closed or press the open/close button if the drive is still working. If these steps don't work, or you find yourself using the paper clip trick often, it may be time to look at some other options... No Luck? Here's What to Do Next At this point, there's likely something physically wrong with the drive or another part of the computer. Here are some things to consider doing: If your drive is external, unplug and plug back in both the data cable and the power cable. Check internally that the power and data cables are firmly connected. Restart your computer and try again. Replace the drive. Optical drives are relatively cheap - Amazon sells many for around $20 USD. Note: Those are not necessarily in a step-by-step troubleshooting order. What steps you take depends a lot on the type of computer and optical drive you have, as well as your specific situation.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 10, 2017 12:10 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    You might sometimes find yourself with just one internet connection point--a single wired connection for your laptop at the hotel, for example, or your smartphone tethered over USB to your computer. But what if you have other devices that need internet access, such as your Wi-Fi-only tablet or your friend's or family member's laptop? The good news is you can share your laptop's wired or mobile broadband internet connection wirelessly with other devices. The bad news is, with Windows 10, it takes a bit of trickery in the command prompt to turn your computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot. ~ August 18, 2015 To share your computer's internet connection, you'll need to open the command prompt in administrator mode and type in a few commands. The instructions below were adapted from the excellent guide on NirmalTV, which offers screenshots of the process. Open the command prompt in administrator mode by right-clicking on the Windows Start button and selecting "Command Prompt (Admin)". Alternatively, you can use this keyboard shortcut: Windows key + X (Win+X) then select the Command Prompt (Admin) option. When the "Administrator: Command Prompt" window opens, type the following command:  netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=[networkSSID] key=[password]. Replace the "networkSSID" and "password" fields with the name you want for your new Wi-Fi hotspot network and its password (you'll use these to connect other devices to your computer's Wi-Fi hotspot). Then hit Enter. Next, type in the following command to start the network: netsh wlan start hostednetwork and hit Enter. This enables and starts the ad-hoc wireless network connection. Next, head to your Windows' network connections page (type in "network connections" in the search field in the taskbar in Windows 10 and click on "View network connections" or navigate to the Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network Connections). Right-click on the network connection that is your computer's source of internet access (e.g., the ethernet connection or the 4G broadband connection). Choose "Properties" from the context menu. Go to the "Sharing" tab and check the box next to "Allow other network users to connect through this computer's internet connection" From the dropdown list, select the Wi-Fi connection you just created. Hit OK and close the properties window. You should then see your Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 10's network and sharing center. From your other devices, select the new Wi-Fi network in the wireless settings and enter the password you set to connect to it. These command prompt steps for setting up an ad-hoc network aren't as user-friendly as having a built-in method with a graphic user interface, but it's what we have so far in Windows 10 and will do in a pinch. If you're using an older version of Windows or are on a Mac, you can accomplish this "reverse tethering" in other ways: Use Internet Connection Sharing (e.g., when you have a laptop wired to a router or modem and want to share the connection via your Wi-Fi adapter or a second Ethernet port) Use Internet Sharing on Mac OS X Use Connectify, a free app that shares a single Wi-Fi connection wirelessly (so you don't need a second network adapter). It requires Windows 7 or above. Finally, to stop sharing your internet connection over the new Wi-Fi hotspot you created in Windows 10, enter this command in the command prompt:  netsh wlan stop hostednetwork

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet
  • Posted on January 8, 2017 12:07 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Make Sure Windows Updates Help, Not Harm, With These Preventative Measures Let me first preface all of the following with this: updates provided by Microsoft rarely cause problems. This includes those pushed out on Patch Tuesday and others made optionally available in Windows Update. I said rarely, not never. Ask anyone with a house full of nonworking computers the day after Patch Tuesday and you'll swear that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged the world's computers running Windows. Again, problems don't occur that often and are rarely widespread, but when they do they hurt. Luckily there are some really simple things you can do to minimize the chance that a patch from Microsoft will do more harm than good: Tip: If it's too late and the damage is done, see How To Fix Problems Caused by Windows Updates for help. One-Time Preventative Steps Most importantly, make sure your important data is being backed up! When your computer crashes, regardless of the reason, you probably have little emotional attachment to the physical hard drive itself but I bet you're pretty concerned about the stuff you have stored on it.There are lots of ways to backup data, from manually copying your saved documents, music, videos, etc. to a disc or a flash drive, all the way up to setting up instantaneous backup with an online backup service. Regardless of how you do it, do it. If your only way out of a post-Patch-Tuesday system crash is a full clean install of Windows, you'll be very, very happy that your valuable information is safe. Change Windows Update settings so new patches are no longer automatically installed. In most versions of Windows, this means changing this setting to Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.With Windows Update configured this way, important security and other updates are still downloaded, but they won't be installed unless you explicitly tell Windows to install them. This is a one time change so if you've done this before, great. If not, do it now. Important: Don't get me wrong: I still recommend that you install all available updates. However, this way you are in complete control, not Microsoft. Check the free space on your main hard drive and make sure it's at least 20% of the total size of the drive. This amount of space is plenty for Windows and other programs to grow as necessary, especially during installation and recovery processes.Specifically, System Restore, which is the primary recovery process if a Windows update causes a major problem, can not create restore points if there isn't enough free space on your hard drive. Just Before Installing Updates Now that your automatic update settings are changed and you're pretty sure System Restore should be in working order if you need it later, you can actually get these updates installed: Plug in your computer if it's not already. You desktop users are already covered but laptop, tablet, and other mobile devices should always be plugged in during the Windows update process!Along these same lines, avoid applying Windows updates during thunderstorms, hurricanes, and other situations that could lead to a sudden loss of power! Why does this matter? If your battery drains during the update process or your computer loses power, there's a significant chance that it will corrupt the files being updated. Important files that get corrupted often lead the very thing you're trying to prevent here - a complete system crash. Restart your computer. Be sure to do so properly, using the restart feature from within Windows, and then make sure your computer starts up again successfully.Why should you restart? On some computers, when Windows restarts after Patch Tuesday security updates are applied, it's the first time the computer has been restarted in a month or more. Many issues first appear after a restart, like problems caused by some types of malware, certain hardware problems, etc. If your computer does not start properly, see How To Troubleshoot a Computer That Won't Turn On for help. Had you not restarted and found this problem now, you would have been trying to solve the issue as a Windows Update/Patch Tuesday problem instead of the completely unrelated issue that it really is. Create a restore point manually before applying updates. A restore point is created automatically by Windows Update prior to installing any patches you select but if you'd like an extra layer of protection, you can certainly create one yourself.If you'd really like to be prepared, you could even try restoring to your manually created restore point. This would prove that the System Restore process is functioning properly in Windows. Unfortunately, some users find out that System Restore was somehow broken exactly when they need it most. Temporarily disable your antivirus program. Disabling your antivirus program while installing a program can often help prevent installation problems. Based on my own experiences, and those of many readers, doing the same prior to updating Windows is also wise.Tip: The part of your antivirus program that you want to disable is the part that's always on, constantly watching for malware activity on your computer. This is often referred to as the program's real-time protection, resident shield, auto-protect, etc. Install Updates One at a Time Now that you've properly configured your computer and prepared for the updates, it's time to get to the actual installation procedure. As the heading suggests, install each update by itself, restarting your computer after each one is applied. While I realize this might be time consuming, this method prevented almost every Patch Tuesday issue I've ever experimented with. Tip: If you're feeling particularly brave, or have never had problems with Windows updates before, try installing updates together as a group, something that I've also had a lot of success with. For example, install .NET updates of a particular version together, all of the operating system security updates together, etc. The order of installation has never seemed important but let me know if you discover otherwise. Warning: You may need to disable your antivirus program's real-time feature each time Windows boots again after your post-update-installation restart. Also, be sure to check that your antivirus program is fully enabled once you're done installing updates.

    Blog Entry, Patches, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 5, 2017 10:12 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    The problem begins with Microsoft's attempt to update things for Operating Systems (Like Windows 7), to be compatible with the newer Windows Update methods.   Since the release of Windows 8 & 10, including the 8.1, and 10 AU updates, Windows 7 has fallen behind in the care and love from Microsoft.  However sometime in July some patches were applied that broke the Windows Update process for Older Windows 7 systems.   This really affected people with clean/new installs of Windows 7, that haven't had all the updates applied since June/July 2016. I've had this problem with virtual machines I've recently setup that had clean installations of Windows 7, but Service Pack 1, is pretty far behind.  I haven't done my "due diligence" in slipstream Windows Updates into my Install ISO. After awhile, I found out that letting the Windows 7 machines just idle (tax at 100% CPU & RAM) for three days, until finally Windows Update shows a list of available updates to apply.  Then once more, having to apply those updates, and do it again to finish up with any updates that were not discovered beforehand. Step 1. Make sure you have KB 3078601, 3109094, 3138612, 3145739, and 3164033 installed You only have to do this once. To see if you're missing any of them, you can check the Windows Updates installed updates list (Start, Control Panel, under Windows Update click View installed updates). But it’s probably easier to download all of them and try to install them. If one is already installed, the installer will tell you -- no harm done. Step 1a. Make sure you know if you have a 32-bit (so-called “x86”) or 64-bit (“x64”) version of Windows 7. If you’re not sure, click Start, right-click Computer, choose Properties, and look under System type. Step 1b. Use any browser to go to each patch download site: KB 3078601  x64 x32 KB 3109094  x64  x32 KB 3138612  x64  x32 KB 3145739  x64  x32 KB 3164033  x64  x32 Step 1c. On each of those sites, Click Download. You’ll get an MSU file. In Chrome and IE, by default, you see an offer to either Open or Save the file. Save it. In Firefox, by default, the file downloads. These Microsoft servers are notorious for freezing -- sometimes the download won’t start, sometimes it won’t finish. If that happens to you, try reloading the page (click the circle-arrow near the address bar). You can also switch browsers. In any case, if you experience oddities while trying to download you aren’t the only one. Step 1d. Turn off Windows Update. The least confusing way to do that is to click Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools. Double-click on Services. Scroll down the list of Services and click once on Windows Update. Then, in the upper-left corner, click the link marked Stop. Step 1e. Double-click to run each of the five downloaded files. If the installer says you already have the patch, smile and go on to the next. Running those five updates will get you set up for the one significant update you need to run each month. Unless something weird changes (hey, this is Windows), you never need to go through Step 1 again. Step 2. Find this month’s favored patch and install it Unfortunately, the patch itself changes from month to month -- or at least, it has changed in every month since March. Here’s how to finish the job: Step 2a. Go to wu.krelay.de/en and find the latest magical patch. It’s listed at the top of the first table on the wu.krelay.de/en site. In July, the magic patch was KB 3168965. No doubt there will be a new one in August and another in September -- for however long we have to struggle with slow Win7 updates. Step 2b. Armed with the knowledge about whether your Windows 7 installation is 32- or 64-bit, use the links in that first table with any browser to download the correct patch. Step 2c. Save the patch but don’t install it. Step 2d. Make sure the Windows Update service is stopped. See Step 1d above. Step 2e. Double-click to run the downloaded patch. Step 2f. Reboot, as instructed after the patch is installed. (The Windows Update service will restart itself.) Then click on Start, Control Panel, and under Windows Update click Check for updates. If all went well, the check should take a few short minutes. My thanks -- and deep admiration -- to Dalai, ch100, and EP.

    Blog Entry, HAPPINESS, Patches
  • Posted on December 30, 2016 10:00 am
    Joseph Forbes
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      It's a really awful way to start a day: you press the power button on your computer and nothing happens. Few computer problems are more frustrating than when your computer won't boot. There are many reasons why a computer won't turn on and often very few clues about what might be the problem. The only symptom is usually the simple fact that "nothing works" which isn't much to go on. Add to this the fact that whatever is causing your computer not to start could be an expensive part of your PC to replace - like the motherboard or CPU. Do not fear because all may not be lost! Here's what you need to do: Read #1 below (it'll make you feel better). Pick the best troubleshooting guide (#2 - #9) based on how your computer is acting or #10 if your PC stops at any point because of an error message. Note: The "computer won't start" troubleshooting guides below apply to all PC devices. In other words, they'll help if your desktop or laptop won't turn on, or even if your tablet won't turn on. I'll call out any important differences along the way. Also, all are applicable no matter what Windows operating system you have installed on your hard drive, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Steps 1 through 5 even apply to other PC operating systems like Linux.   Don't Panic! Your Files are Probably OK When faced with a computer that won't start most people tend to panic, worried that all the data on their PC is gone forever. It's true that the most common reason a computer won't start is because a piece of hardware has failed or is causing a problem but that hardware isn't usually a hard drive, the part of your computer that stores all of your files. In other words, your music, documents, emails, and videos are probably safe - just not accessible at the moment. So take a deep breath and try to relax. There's a good chance you can figure out exactly why your computer won't start and then get it back up and running. 1.  Don't Want to Fix This Yourself? See How Do I Get My Computer Fixed? for a full list of your support options, plus help with everything along the way like figuring out repair costs, getting your files off, choosing a repair service, and a whole lot more. 2.  Computer Shows No Sign of Power Try these steps if your computer will not turn on and is showing no sign at all of receiving power - no fans running and no lights on the laptop or tablet, nor on the front of the computer's case if you're using a desktop. Important: You may or may not see a light on the back of your desktop PC depending on the kind of power supply you have and the exact cause of the problem. This goes for the power adapter you may be using for your tablet or laptop as well. How To Fix a Computer That Shows No Sign of Power Note: Don't worry about the monitor yet, assuming you're using a desktop or an external display. If the computer is not turning on because of a power issue then the monitor certainly can't display anything from the computer. Your monitor light will likely be amber/yellow if your computer has stopped sending information to it. 3.  Computer Powers On... and Then Off Follow these steps if, when you turn your computer on, it promptly powers back off. You'll probably hear the fans inside your computer turn on, see some or all of the lights on your computer turn on or flash, and then it will all stop. You won't see anything on the screen and you may or may not hear beeps coming from the computer before it shuts off by itself. How To Fix a Computer That Turns On and Then Off Note: As in the previous scenario, don't worry about the state your external monitor is in, if you have one. You may have a monitor issue as well but it's not possible to troubleshoot it quite yet. 4.  Computer Powers On But Nothing Happens If your computer seems to be receiving power after turning it on but you don't see anything on the screen, try these troubleshooting steps. In these situations, the power lights will stay on, you'll likely hear the fans inside your computer running (assuming it has any), and you may or may not hear one or more beeps coming from the computer. How To Fix a Computer That Turns On But Displays Nothing This situation is probably the most common in my experience working with computers that won't start. Unfortunately it's also one of the most difficult to troubleshoot. 5.  Computer Stops or Continuously Reboots During the POST Use this guide when your computer powers on, shows at least something on the screen, but then stops, freezes, or reboots over and over again during the Power On Self Test (POST). The POST on your computer may happen in the background, behind your computer maker's logo (as shown here with the Dell laptop), or you may actually see frozen test results or other messages on the screen. How To Fix Stopping, Freezing, and Reboot Issues During the POST Important: Don't use this troubleshooting guide if you encounter an issue during the loading of the operating system, which occurs after the Power On Self Test is complete. Troubleshooting Windows related reasons why your computer won't turn on begin with #6 below. 6.  Windows Begins to Load But Stops or Reboots on a BSOD If your computer begins to load Windows but then stops and displays a blue screen with information on it then try these steps. You may or may not see the Windows splash screen before the blue screen appears. This kind of error is called a STOP error but is more commonly referred to as a Blue Screen of Death or a BSOD. Receiving a BSOD error is a common reason why a computer won't turn on. How To Fix Blue Screen of Death Errors Important: Choose this troubleshooting guide even if the BSOD flashes on screen and your computer restarts automatically without giving you time to read what it says. 7.  Windows Begins to Load But Stops or Reboots Without an Error Try these steps when your computer powers on, starts to load Windows, but then freezes, stops, or reboots over and over again without generating any kind of error message. The stopping, freezing, or reboot loop may happen on the Windows splash screen (shown here) or even on a black screen, with or without a flashing cursor. How To Fix Stopping, Freezing, and Reboot Issues During Windows Startup Important: If you suspect that the Power On Self Test is still going on and that Windows has not yet started to boot, a better troubleshooting guide for why your computer won't turn on might be #5 above. It's a fine line and sometimes hard to tell. Note: If your computer won't start and you see a blue screen flash or remain on the screen, you're experiencing a Blue Screen of Death and should use troubleshooting guide #6 above. 8.  Windows Repeatedly Returns to Startup Settings or ABO Use this guide when nothing but the Startup Settings(Windows 8 - shown here) or Advanced Boot Options(Windows 7/Vista/XP) screen appears every time your restart your computer and none of the Windows startup options work. In this situation, no matter which Safe Mode option you choose, your computer eventually stops, freezes, or restarts on its own, after which you find yourself right back at the Startup Settings or Advanced Boot Options menu. How To Fix a Computer That Always Stops at Startup Settings or Advanced Boot Options This is a particularly annoying way in which your computer won't turn on because you're trying to use Windows' built-in ways to solve your problem but you're getting nowhere with them. 9.  Windows Stops or Reboots On or After the Login Screen Try this troubleshooting guide when your computer powers on, Windows shows the login screen, but then freezes, stops, or reboots here or anytime after. How To Fix Stopping, Freezing, and Reboot Issues During Windows Login The stopping, freezing, or reboot loop may happen on the Windows login screen, as Windows is logging you in (as shown here), or any time up to Windows fully loading. NTLDR is Missing. 10.  Computer Doesn't Fully Start Because of an Error Message If your computer turns on but then stops or freezes at any point, showing an error message of any kind, then use this troubleshooting guide. Error messages are possible at any stage during your computer's boot process, including during the POST, at any time during the loading of Windows, all the way up to the Windows desktop appearing. How To Fix Errors Seen During the Computer Startup Process Note: The only exception to using this troubleshooting guide for an error message is if the error is a Blue Screen of Death. See #6 above for a better troubleshooting guide for BSOD issues.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Data Recovery
  • Posted on December 27, 2016 12:05 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    It usually goes something like this: YOU: "So I'm having this problem with my..." TECH SUPPORT: "Did you restart it?" YOU: "..." Few things cause more eye rolls than being told to restart something, be it your computer, smartphone, television, or whatever other technology we're talking about. Most of us are used to hearing it by now. The majority of people who I help out have already restarted their computer (or whatnot) before they even talk to me, and the others tend to slap their foreheads with their hands, shocked that they've forgotten this technology panacea. Other people almost seem to take offense when they hear it, like they've been somehow insulted with this too-simple-to-be-helpful advice. But guess what? It actually works! I'd estimate that more than half of the technology problems I see from my clients and readers are fixable with a simple reboot. Why Restarting Something Works So Well Now that the this-actually-works part is out of the way, it begs the question: why does it work? Let's start by talking about what happens when you're computer is running: You open programs, you close programs, maybe you even install and uninstall software or apps. Sometimes programs like your Internet browser are open for hours, or even days, at a time. Lots of other things stop and start too - things you never see yourself. Are you picturing that time lapse montage of your computer usage in your head right now? It's a bit crazy, I know. We use our computers a lot, especially over the course of several days or more. What you might not realize is that a lot of what you, and your operating system does, is leave behind a kind of footprint, usually in the form of background processes you don't really need running anymore, or programs that didn't quite close all the way. These "leftovers" hog your system resources, usually your RAM. If too much of that goes on, you start to get problems, like a sluggish system, programs that won't open anymore, error messages... you name it. When you reboot your computer, every single program and process ends as the power leaves your computer during the restart process. Once your computer starts back up, you have a clean slate of sorts again and, more often than not, a faster, better working computer. Important: Restarting your computer is the same as rebooting it or powering it off and then on manually. Restarting is not the same as resetting, which is a much bigger process and usually means erasing everything and returning it to "factory defaults." See How Do I Restart My Computer? if you're not sure how to restart your Windows PC properly. If you actually are interested in resetting your computer, keep reading... I talk about that more in the last section. Restarting Works on Other Devices Too This same logic applies to other devices that you don't call a computer, but in reality actually are. Devices like your television, smartphone, modem, router, DVR, home security system, digital camera, (etc., etc.) all have tiny operating systems and software that run in to the same issues that your full blown PC sometimes does. Rebooting those devices is usually as easy as removing power for several seconds and then returning it. In other words: unplug it and then plug it back in. See How to Restart Anything if you need some device-specific help with this one. Frequent Restarting is Probably a Sign of a Bigger Problem Needing to restart your computer, on occasion, is perfectly normal, especially if you're doing the kind of work that requires a lot of interaction with the operating system, like updating drivers,installing updates, reinstalling software, etc. Beyond that, however, you might be experiencing issues that a restart is only temporarily fixing for you. A piece of hardware may be failing, important Windows files may be corrupt, or you may have a malware infection. In those cases, follow any troubleshooting that makes sense for the exact problem. System File Checker with the scannow switch is often a good thing to try and of course a full system malware scan is almost always in order. Like I mentioned above, resetting typically means a true reset, often returning the device back to the same state as the day you took whatever-it-is out of the box. This option is also available as a last resort for Windows - it's called "Reset This PC."

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Technical Support
  • Posted on July 2, 2016 9:40 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    A DLL error is any error with a DLL file - a kind of file ending in the .DLL file extension. DLL errors can appear in any of Microsoft's operating systems including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. DLL errors are especially troublesome because there are so many of these types of files in existence, all with the potential to cause trouble. Luckily, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take that have a great chance of fixing any DLL error you might have. Important: These are general DLL error troubleshooting steps. If you haven't already, search my site for the specific DLL file you're having issues with or browse my list of troubleshooting guides. I may not have information for the exact DLL but if I do, the steps there will be more likely to help. Difficulty: Average Time Required: Fixing a DLL error could take as long as an hour or more depending on the specific error Don't Want to Fix This Yourself? If you're interested in fixing whatever DLL problem you're having yourself, continue with the troubleshooting in the next section. Otherwise, see How Do I Get My Computer Fixed? for a full list of your support options, plus help with everything along the way like figuring out repair costs, getting your files off, choosing a repair service, and a whole lot more. How To Fix DLL "Not Found" & "Missing" Errors IMPORTANT: Do NOT download DLL files from DLL download sites in an attempt to replace your missing or corrupt DLL files. There are several reasons why downloading a DLL file to solve a DLL error is a very bad idea, least of which is that it may not solve your problem. Note: If you've already downloaded a DLL file from one of these DLL download sites, remove it from wherever you put it and continue troubleshooting below. Restart your computer. It's possible that the problem that's causing the DLL error is just temporary and a restart is all you need. Note: This is only an option if the DLL error isn't stopping your computer before Windows fully starts. If you have one of those more serious DLL issues, you'll need to forcefully restart your computer. Restore the deleted DLL file from the Recycle Bin. You may have simply accidentally deleted the DLL file. Most DLL errors come in the "DLL Not Found" and "Missing DLL" form. The easiest possible cause of a DLL error like this is that you've deleted the DLL file without realizing it. Note: Enter Safe Mode to do this or any of the following steps if you're unable to access Windows normally due to this DLL error. Recover the deleted DLL file with a free file recovery program. If you suspect that you've accidentally deleted the DLL file but you've since emptied the Recycle Bin, a file recovery program can help. Important: Recovering a DLL file with a file recovery program is a smart idea only if you're confident you've deleted the file yourself and that it was working properly before you did that. Run a virus/malware scan of your entire system. Some "DLL is Missing" and "DLL Not Found" DLL errors are related to hostile programs that masquerade as DLL files. Use System Restore to undo recent system changes. If you suspect that the DLL error was caused by a change you or someone else made to your registry or other system configuration then a System Restore could end the DLL error. Reinstall the program that uses the DLL file. If a DLL error occurs when you open or use a particular program, then reinstalling the program should properly install and register the DLL file again. Important: Don't skip this step if you can help it. Reinstalling the program that provides the DLL file is a very likely solution to any program specific DLL error. Update drivers for any hardware that might be related to the DLL error. For example, if you're receiving a "Missing DLL" error when you use your printer, try updating your printer drivers. Run the sfc /scannow command to replace any missing or incorrect operating system related DLL files. System File Checker (the proper name of the sfc command) will replace any damaged or missing Microsoft supplied DLL files. Apply any available Windows Updates. Many operating system service packs and other patches can replace or update some of the hundreds of Microsoft distributed DLL files on your computer. Perform a repair installation of Windows. If the individual DLL troubleshooting advice above is unsuccessful, a repair installation of the operating system should restore all Windows DLL files to their original working versions. Perform a clean installation of Windows. A clean install of Windows will erase everything from the hard drive and install a fresh copy of Windows. If a repair install doesn't correct the DLL error, this should be your next course of action. Important: All the information on your hard drive will be erased during a clean install. Make sure you've made the best attempt possible to fix the DLL error using a troubleshooting step prior to this one. Troubleshoot for a hardware problem if any DLL errors persist. After a clean install of Windows, your DLL problem can only be hardware related. Search for Your Specific DLL Error As I mentioned above, these steps are general troubleshooting steps and are not specific to any particular DLL error. Still Can't Find the Cause of your DLL Error? See Get More Help for information about contacting me on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more. Be sure to let me know the exact DLL file that you're having issues with and what steps, if any, you've already taken to fix the problem.

    Blog Entry, Patches, Software
  • Posted on July 1, 2016 9:33 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Websites that allow easy downloads of single DLL files seem like the answer you've been looking for when you get one of those annoying "DLL not found" or "DLL is missing" errors. Consider this your fair warning - DLL download sites should almost always be avoided, even though they sometimes provide a quick fix. There are perfectly safe and acceptable ways of fixing DLL problems without resorting to downloading individual DLL files from these sites. Skip to the How To Fix DLL Problems the Right Way at the bottom of this page or continue reading for several very important reasons to avoid downloading dll files: DLL Download Sites are Not Approved Sources for DLL Files DLL files are created and distributed by companies that develop software. Sometimes that software company is Microsoft, sometimes it is not. Many companies create DLL files as part of their software packages. A stable, clean, and updated copy of any DLL file can only be guaranteed by the developer. Websites that allow individual DLL downloads are in all but the rarest cases not approved places for downloading DLLs. Installing a Single DLL File is Often a Bandage for a Larger Problem DLL files are only small parts of entire software programs. Often times, an error message that singles out an individual DLL file is only telling you part of the story. The particular error is often being generated only because it's the first problem the software is encountering, not because it's the single cause of the problem. When you download and replace a DLL file from a DLL download site, you're often only solving one small part of a larger problem. Usually, the solution to the larger problem is to reinstall the entire software package that the DLL originated from. Even if replacing a single DLL file fixes your immediate issue, additional problems tend to show up later, often as error messages notifying you of yet another missing DLL file. Save yourself a lot of time and energy and fix the problem right the first time. DLLs from DLL Download Sites are Often Outdated DLL download sites exist solely so you'll find them on a search engine and hopefully click on their advertisements. They are not true software support sites and have little if any incentive to keep their DLL files updated. However, the software company that actually developed the DLL file will always have the most up to date and functional file available. Maybe possibly a repository of older installation files for archive. Software developers rarely have single DLL files available for download, so if a reinstall of their software program doesn't replace or repair the DLL file you're after, I recommend contacting the company and requesting a copy of the file. Sometimes you may receive a DLL error message when using a particular program but the DLL file may not be supported by the developer of that program. This is actually very common since DLL files are often shared between programs. A great example is the xinput1_3.dll is missing error that will sometimes show up before certain video games. The file is actually a DirectX file and is supported and supplied by Microsoft in their DirectX software package. DLL Files from DLL Download Sites May be Infected with Viruses Since DLL download sites are not approved sources for DLL files and often have little if any contact information available, there is no guarantee that the DLL file you just downloaded is free from a virus infection. Assuming you have a good antivirus program, an infected DLL file might be quarantined as you download it but there is certainly no guarantee of that. Take the safe route and simply avoid downloading DLL files from these DLL download sites. Tip: See my How to Scan for Viruses & Other Malware if you're concerned that a recent DLL you downloaded might have been something other than you thought it was. DLL Download Sites Could Host DLL Files That Could Compromise Your Computer's Security DLL files are like small, specialized programs that can be programmed to perform various actions automatically, even actions that open your computer up to hacking and other kinds of intrusions. DLL files like this do exist. While it's unlikely that you will search for one of these particular DLLs files to download and install, it is a risk you take when you install a DLL file in your system from a DLL download site. Don't risk it - follow the advice in the previous several tips and acquire the DLL from its source, not from a "back alley" DLL dealer! How To Fix DLL Problems the Right Way Question: So if downloading a DLL file from a DLL repository is such a bad idea, how in the world do you fix a missing DLL problem?! Answer: Determine the root cause of the problem by troubleshooting! As I mentioned above, a computer tends to report not the whole of a problem to you, but just the first issue it encounters. A computer doesn't continue to list problem after problem it finds, just the first one that makes it stop. In this case: a missing DLL file. So what you need to do is figure out what the actual problem is, which is probably not just a missing DLL file. To do that, you need to find a troubleshooting guide for the specific issue. If you don't find anything, see Get More Help for information about contacting me on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more.

    Blog Entry, Patches, Software
  • Posted on June 12, 2016 10:30 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Do you know what version of Windows you have? While you usually don't need to know the exact version number for whatever Windows version you have installed, general information about the operating system version you're running is very important. Everyone should know 3 things about the Windows version they have installed: the major version of Windows, like 10, 8, 7, etc.; the edition of that Windows version, like Pro, Ultimate, Home, etc.; and whether that Windows version is 64-bit or 32-bit. If you don't know what version of Windows you have, you won't know what software you can install, which device driver to choose to update... you may not even know which directions to follow for help with something! Windows 10 Start Menu. Windows 10 You have Windows 10 if you see a Start Menu like this when you click or tap the Start Button from the Desktop. The Windows 10 edition you have installed, as well as the system type (64-bit or 32-bit), can all be found listed in the System applet in Control Panel. Windows 10 is the name given to Windows version 10.0 and is the latest version of Windows. Windows 9 never did exist. See What Happened to Windows 9? for more on that. Windows 8.1 Start Button. Windows 8 or 8.1 You have Windows 8.1 if you see a Start Button on the bottom-left of the Desktop and tapping or clicking on it takes you to the Start Menu. You have Windows 8 if you don't see a Start Button at all on the Desktop. The edition of Windows 8 or 8.1 you're using, as well as information on whether or not that version of Windows 8 is 32-bit or 64-bit, is all found in Control Panel from the System applet. If you're not sure if you're running Windows 8.1 or Windows 8, you'll also see that information listed in the System applet. Windows 8.1 is the name given to Windows version 6.3 and Windows 8 is Windows version 6.2. Windows 7 Start Menu. Windows 7 You have Windows 7 if you see a Start Menu that looks like this when you click the Start Button. Tip: The Windows 7 & Windows Vista (below) start buttons and menus look very similar. The Windows 7 Start Button, however, fits completely inside the taskbar, unlike the Start Button in Windows Vista. Which Windows 7 edition, as well as whether your version of Windows 7 that's installed is 64-bit or 32-bit, is all available in the Control Panel in the System applet. Windows 7 is the name given to Windows version 6.1. Windows Vista Start Menu. Windows Vista You have Windows Vista if, after clicking the Start Button, you see a Start Menu that looks a lot like this. Tip: As I mentioned in the Windows 7 section (above), both versions of Windows have similar Start Buttons and Start Menus. One way to tell them apart is to look at the Start Button - the one in Windows Vista, unlike in Windows 7, extends above and below the taskbar. Information on the Windows Vista edition you're using, as well as whether your version of Windows Vista is 32-bit or 64-bit, is all available from the System applet, which you can find in Control Panel. Windows Vista is the name given to Windows version 6.0. Windows XP Start Menu. Windows XP You have Windows XP if the Start Button includes both a Windows logo as well as the word start. In newer versions of Windows, this button is just a button. Like other versions of Windows, you can find your Windows XP edition and architecture type from the System applet in Control Panel. Windows XP is the name given to Windows version 5.1. Unlike with newer versions of Windows, the 64-bit version of Windows XP was given it's own version number - Windows version 5.2.

    Blog Entry, EDUCATION, Hardware
  • Posted on June 11, 2016 10:00 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Depending on the version of Windows you're using, there are several different ways to automatically repair major Windows operating system problems without resorting to a destructive process, like a Reset Your PC or a Clean Windows Install. The newest versions of Windows have really easy, automated ways of repairing problems that you might have tried to fix manually but were unsuccessful at, like random error messages, overall slowness, even problems that prevent Windows from starting at all. It's a mixed bag with older versions of Windows, with some automatic repairs for certain types of issues or all-or-nothing repair processes that, while sometimes might seem like overkill, are certainly welcome when you need them. How Do I Automatically Repair Windows Problems? Most of the time, especially when a major problem is occurring, the best way to automatically repair Windows is to boot from recovery media, or the original Windows setup media, and choosing the correct diagnostic option. The specific steps involved in performing a Startup Repair, a Repair Install, or a Refresh Your PC can differ considerably depending on the operating system used. See first if you're not sure which of the versions of Windows listed below is installed on your computer. Important: Please don't use what you read below as the only troubleshooting for your problem. Sometimes the ideas below are the best bet, but other times there are much more simple and effective solutions. So, if you haven't already, search through this site for the specific error message or behavior that you're seeing - I might have much more specific advice to give. Automatically Repair Windows 10 or Windows 8 Windows 10 and Windows 8 have the greatest number of automatic repair options, which is no surprise considering they're the newest versions of the Microsoft Windows family. A Startup Repair (formerly called Automatic Repair) is your best bet if Windows 10 or Windows 8 isn't starting correctly. Startup Repair is available from the Advanced Startup Options menu. If an Startup Repair didn't do the trick, or the problem you're trying to fix isn't related to Windows starting properly, then Reset This PC is your next best bet. The Reset This PC process in Windows 10, called Reset Your PC or Refresh Your PC in Windows 8, is like a "copy over" of Windows. If you're familiar with Windows XP, it's very similar to the Repair Install process in that operating system. You have the option of saving your personal data with Reset This PC, or have it removed too. Automatically Repair Windows 7 or Windows Vista Windows 7 and Windows Vista have nearly identical processes for automatically repairing important files. This process is called Startup Repair and functions similarly to the Startup Repair in Windows 10 & Windows 8 in that it only fixes problems related to Windows starting properly. See How To Perform a Startup Repair in Windows 7 or How To Perform a Startup Repair in Windows Vista for tutorials specific to both of those versions of Windows. Unfortunately, there is nothing like Reset This PC (Windows 10 & 8) or a Repair Install (Windows XP) that works to overwrite all important files, processes that tend to be very helpful when you have particularly stubborn problems in Windows but don't want to lose your important data. Automatically Repair Windows XP Windows XP really only has one automatic repair process, called the Repair Install. The Repair Install process is very similar to the Reset This PC process in Windows 10 & 8 in that it overwrites all of the important files in Windows XP in an attempt to fix whatever might ail your computer. Important: While the Repair Install process in Windows XP is not designed to remove any files, I recommend that you play it safe by backing up your important files. You should also prepare to reinstall your programs just in case the Repair Install damages any of their installations. Having Trouble Repairing Windows? Having trouble with one of the repair processes above? See Get More Help for information about contacting me for more help on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more. Tip: If you're using a restore disc from your computer manufacturer instead of original Windows media or a system repair or recovery disc/drive, the automatic repair processes as described in the linked tutorials above may not be possible. In your case, please reference the documentation that came with your computer or contact your computer manufacturer directly for directions.

    Blog Entry, Software, Technical Support
  • Posted on May 18, 2016 12:30 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    One of the biggest misconceptions about computers is that it takes a rocket scientist to fix any problem that might show up on one. I'm here to tell you that fixing your computer is something you can do. Now, in no way am I calling down your local computer repair person (I am one, remember) - they're by and large a very smart bunch of people, usually with a lot of education and experience. However, the fact remains that a large portion of the problems that computer users encounter can be easily solved by following freely available advice on this and many other sites online. Even more difficult problems can be solved if you're willing to invest a little time to learn a few things about your computer along the way. Important: At very least, before you take your computer in for service, there are some really simple things that anyone can do that tend to fix most of the common problems I've seen. Fixing Your Own PC Will Save You Money! Saving money is probably an obvious advantage of fixing your own computer. Getting your computer serviced at a local shop will usually run you from $60 to $90/per hour or more. Some are less expensive but that's not the normal when it comes to repairs. Remote computer support options are typically cheaper but they can only help fix some software related problems and are useless in cases where hardware is to blame. Also I noticed that scammers are using Remote Support Tools more often to ADD more problems to your existing issues. So Remote Help might not be as reliable as it used to be.  (So hire someone you know, and trust, when it comes to Remote Help) If you fix your computer problem yourself, you can completely avoid what might end up being a several hundred dollar bill. No matter what your financial situation, free is a pretty good deal. That's a lot of money you can save by investing some time in trying to fix it yourself. The best part, is you learned how to solve a problem. A skill that can only improve as you get to know your computer more. You Don't Need Expensive Tools to Fix Your Own Computer Many people think that they have to buy lots of expensive diagnostic hardware and software to fix a computer. This is absolutely not the case. Expensive tools do exist but they're usually used to help computer repair services test or solve things quickly or in bulk.  Chances are you already have 95% of the physical tools you would ever need to fix any computer problem in your toolbox or garage. Computer repair services also use many software diagnostic tools to determine what might be wrong with a computer but most of the very best ones they use are available for free online! Here are a few of my favorite free, professional level diagnostic tools available for download by anyone: Free Memory Testing Tools Free Hard Drive Testing Tools Free Tools already included with your Operating System Also, while there are a number of reasons why owning a second computer, or at least having temporary access to one, could help a lot when you need to fix yours, it's not always necessary. Your "smaller" computer - aka your smartphone or tablet - is often a huge help, at very least as a research tool. You'll Probably Be Back Up and Running Faster You might be thinking to yourself at this point that surely it'll take days or weeks to learn enough to repair your own computer and that it won't be worth the trouble. You need your computer working right now, right? First of all, unless you're lucky, after you drop your computer off at the repair shop you'll likely be waiting at least an entire day, usually longer, before you'll be able to pick it back up. You are your only client when you've become the repair person yourself so my guess is that you can get on it a bit more quickly. Secondly, you might be surprised to know that most common problems are solved by relatively simple steps. The more time you spend looking for solutions to computer problems online the more you'll see that this is true. Finally, and I really want to stress this one, you don't need to learn to solve every computer problem to solve this computer problem. A knowledgeable computer repair person has a lot of experience and education and can solve a multitude of problems with ease. You don't need to reach this level of knowledge about repairing computers. You need to solve your single problem as quickly as possible. Well written, easy to follow troubleshooting information online will get you that. You Know More Than You Think If you're having trouble using the mouse, keyboard, or screw driver then you might have a problem repairing your computer. Otherwise, you're only a step-by-step troubleshooting guide away from solving pretty much any computer problem you might see. So much great information is available to help people solve computer problems online, from self-help troubleshooting guides and tutorials like you'll find on my site here, to personal help on social networks and forums, something you can read more about on my Get More Help page on this website. If you can think logically, follow instructions in order, and ask questions when you're not sure about something or don't understand, then you should feel confident enough to try to fix your own computer problems before you even think about paying someone else to. Not Going to Happen? If all the confidence building I've done to this point isn't doing the trick, and you're absolutely sure that you'd rather have a professional tackle this computer issue, at least read through some helpful pieces about getting your computer repaired. I know the professionals can be busy at times, but to keep an open mind on most common problems people encounter, can teach you how to prevent the issue from happening again.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Data Recovery