windows

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Windows 7 – Why you should wait

windows_7_logoWindows 7 is Microsoft’s newest addition to its stable of operating systems. Along with Windows XP and Vista, it will soon be one of the most installed (and used) operating systems in the world.

But – we at Jaytag are of the strong opinion that it is a good idea to wait for Microsoft to iron out the slew of bugs and problems that inevitably go along with a new operating system. We aren’t the only one’s either – Computerworld have an article discussing why you should wait before upgrading.

Our top three reasons:

The reboot bug. Some users have reported that following an upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, their computers go into a loop of starting up, then immediately rebooting. There is currently no solution from Microsoft for this issue.

The cost. To purchase Windows 7, you are looking at at least £90. Although this isn’t a lot, you may find it hard to justify in this economic climate – especially if your PC is working fine with Windows XP or Vista.

The hardware requirements. Windows 7 requires:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Compare these to Windows XP (home edition):

  • Pentium 233-megahertz (MHz) processor or faster (300 MHz is recommended)
  • At least 64 megabytes (MB) of RAM (128 MB is recommended)
  • At least 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available space on the hard disk
  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive

A significantly lower requirement. A huge saving on hard drive space is the key if you keep Windows XP. Overall, this means your 2-3 year old PC with Windows XP will be more than adequate (scratch that, a 2-3 year old PC will easily meet and exceed these specifications – you’ll be flying with a 1.6GHz or better processor with 1Gb of RAM)

With Windows Vista (home premium) the requirements are a little higher:

  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of system memory
  • 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
    • WDDM Driver
    • 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)
    • Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
    • 32 bits per pixel
  • DVD-ROM drive

But still easily achieveable with a 2-3 year old PC. We’ve noted Vista only really works well on machines with more than 2Gb of RAM, and a new dual-core processor.

Our strong recommendation (unless you are planning on buying a new PC or laptop with Windows 7 preinstalled) is to wait until the first service pack is released. Normally, Microsoft releases SP1 of a new OS between nine months and a year after the system first ships.

Of course, Windows 7 offers some great new features – we just don’t think its worth the leap just yet for most users.

If you just can’t wait – or want to find out more, check out the Official Windows 7 page from Microsoft.

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DamianWindows 7 – Why you should wait

Reading Mac OS X Drives from Microsoft Windows

hero_bootcamp

If you use Boot camp to run Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX on your Mac, you may have discovered that you cannot easily share files between the two systems.

There is a technical reason for that – Mac OS X can read and write drives formatted using FAT and FAT32 (like USB thumb drives) and it can read (but not write) drives formatted using NTFS (most Windows hard drives)

However, Microsoft Windows cannot read Apple’s HFS+ disk format. Fortunately, there is a free Open Source utility that can help out with that problem: HFS Explorer

It was designed for use for Mac owners who use Boot Camp to dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows.

Here is how to set it up:

1. Download the installer from the HFS Explorer site.

2. Install the program by double clicking on the file you have downloaded.

3. The default installer options are fine, and will register the .dmg file extension, so Apple Disk Images can be opened automatically.

4. Start the program. When I first started HFS Explorer, it complained that MSVCR71.dll was missing. If you get this error, download this zip file and extract the DLL file to your Windows system32 directory (click Start > Run and type %systemroot%system32 if you are unsure where this is)

5. You will see the main HFS Explorer window:

MWSnap062

6. Click File and then Load file system from device. The following window will appear:

MWSnap064

7. Click Autodetect. After a short delay, your HFS partition should be detected. Click Load.

8. Your mac files will be displayed in the main HFS Explorer window. You can copy files from HFS Explorer to your Windows hard drive by dragging and dropping them from the HFS Explorer window.

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DamianReading Mac OS X Drives from Microsoft Windows

Conficker Virus – Think you have it?

biohazard

The Conficker virus has to be one of the most difficult to get rid of. But how can you quickly diagnose if you have it?

There are some well known signs:

  • Windows Update and Automatic Updates are blocked
  • System Restore has been turned off
  • You cannot access anti-virus websites (such as Symantec, McAfee, AVG etc.)

There is now also an even quicker way: Click Here

Think you might be infected?

Symantec’s got a pretty simple (and free) tool specifically for Conficker: Download this file on an uninfected computer, follow the steps, and you should be okay.

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DamianConficker Virus – Think you have it?

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

This handy utility removes a variety of different viruses and malware, and is available free!

Here is a list of some of the viruses it can remove.

Some key features:

  • Support for Windows 2000, XP, and Vista.
  • Light speed quick scanning.
  • Ability to perform full scans for all drives.
  • Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware Protection Module.
  • Database updates released daily.
  • Quarantine to hold threats and restore them at your convenience.
  • Ignore list for both the scanner and Protection Module.
  • Settings to enhance your Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware performance.
  • A small list of extra utilities to help remove malware manually.
  • Multi-lingual support.
  • Works together with other anti-malware utilities.
  • Command line support for quick scanning.
  • Context menu integration to scan files on demand.

The program is available now from Malwarebytes

Of course, not all viruses are that easy to eliminate. Give us a call if you just can’t get rid on 0800 7879 258 for some free advice, or to arrange an appointment.

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DamianMalwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

Free alternative to Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image

Norton Ghost is an extremely useful utility that allows you to duplicate one hard drive to another. In How to install/replace a PATA (IDE) hard drive we shared a video showing how to physically replace an ATA or IDE hard drive.

But what about your old data? Well, you can copy this from your old hard drive with a number of utilites, Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image being some of the more popular commerical programs.

You can use a nifty utility called Clonezilla to do this for free.

Some of the key features of Clonezilla:

  • Free (GPL) Software.
  • Filesystem supported: ext2, ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs of GNU/Linux, FAT, NTFS of MS Windows, and HFS+ of Mac OS (testing feature provided by partclone). Therefore you can clone GNU/Linux, MS windows and Intel-based Mac OS. For these file systems, only used blocks in partition are saved and restored. For unsupported file system, sector-to-sector copy is done by dd in Clonezilla.
  • LVM2 (LVM version 1 is not) under GNU/Linux is supported.
  • Multicast is supported in Clonezilla SE, which is suitable for massively clone. You can also remotely use it to save or restore a bunch of computers if PXE and Wake-on-LAN are supported in your clients.
  • Based on Partimage, ntfsclone, partclone, and dd to clone partition. However, clonezilla, containing some other programs, can save and restore not only partitions, but also a whole disk.
  • By using another free software drbl-winroll, which is also developed by the same people, the hostname, group, and SID of cloned MS windows machine can be automatically changed.

For most home and small business users, the live CD Clonezilla live is probably your best bet. By recording the ISO (CD image file) to CD with a free utility like ISORecorder you can boot from the CD and duplicate your hard drive.

Links:

Petri.co.il – A walkthough of CD burning with ISORecorder
Clonezilla – A walkthough of using Clonezilla live (technical)

Of course, Jaytag are on hand to assist in dulicating your data – give us a call on 0845 310 2750 for free advice, or to arrange an appointment.

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DamianFree alternative to Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image

Free alternatives to Norton Internet Security and McAfee Internet Security

Both Norton Internet Security and the McAfee Internet Security suite are excellent products for ensuring your PC is protected while online. Both offer anti-virus tools, spyware blockers, trojan detection etc. However, the fees associated with keeping them up to date (often £20-30 annually) can be prohibitive.

There is an alternative in the world of anti-virus however, and this comes in the form of AVG.

The AVG free edition is just that – free. It does have a few limitations:

  • Less protection – AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 provides only base level protection against viruses, spyware and safe searching. It does not provide safe surfing (drive-by download protection) nor protection from crackers, keyloggers, spam, phishing attacks and malicious file downloads that can come through instant messaging and attachments from seemingly friendly sources. This protection is only available in the commercial versions of AVG products.
  • Slower updates – AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 receives updates via a lower priority service. Priority updating via high-speed servers is only available for the commercial versions of AVG products.
  • No telephone or e-mail technical support – There is no telephone or e-mail technical support provided by AVG for users of AVG Free Edition products anywhere in the world. AVG Free Edition users have access to support via the self-help AVG Free Forum.
  • No customization – Scheduling options in AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 are very limited (only one scheduled update per day, one scheduled scan per day etc.). The AVG Resident Shield configuration is limited with no exclusion settings. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition does not offer advanced testing options, password-protected archives reporting, adjustment of scan process priority and many other features.
  • No server support – AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 cannot be installed on server operating systems (such as Windows Server 2003), nor can it be used for the scanning of network drives.

However – most of the above are not a serious consideration for home users. Jaytag reccomend the installation of AVG instead of the products from Norton or McAfee for two reasons:

  • Cost
  • Performance

One of the biggest benefits of AVG is its small resource requirements – the AVG Free Edition requires just 16 MB of RAM and 20 MB of space on the hard drive.

You can download the free version of AVG here.

It should be noted that the free version of AVG does not feature a firewall or email anti-spam. However, the following free tools are excellent alternatives:

Comodo Firewall Pro – a free software firewall
SpamBayes – a free bayesian spam filter

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DamianFree alternatives to Norton Internet Security and McAfee Internet Security

How to Remove Msevents / Trojan.vundo / WinFixer / Virtumonde

Vindo and Virtumonde seem to be everywhere at the moment, but there is an easy way to remove them – with a tool called VundoFix. You can download this from the author’s website.

Here is a step-by-step walkthrough from geeks to go:

  • Download VundoFix.exe to your desktop
  • Double-click VundoFix.exe to run it
  • Click the Scan for Vundo button
  • Once it’s done scanning, click the Remove Vundo button.
  • You will receive a prompt asking if you want to remove the files, click YES
  • Once you click yes, your desktop will go blank as it starts removing Vundo
  • When completed, it will prompt that it will reboot your computer, click OK

Note: It is possible that VundoFix encountered a file it could not remove. In this case, VundoFix will run on reboot, simply follow the above instructions starting from “Click the Scan for Vundo button” when VundoFix appears upon rebooting.

If VundoFix doesn’t do it, give us a call for some free advice on virus removal, or to arrange an appointment on 0845 310 2750.

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DamianHow to Remove Msevents / Trojan.vundo / WinFixer / Virtumonde

Repairing a corrupt PST personal folders file

I wrote previously about corrupt PST files. The first you may know about it may be an error message like this:

Unable to expand the folder. The set of folders could not be opened. Errors could have been detected in the file drive:Documents and SettingsuserLocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlookOutlook.pst. Quit all mail-enabled applications, and then use the Inbox Repair Tool.

Thankfully, Microsoft provide a PST repair tool for just this occurance:

  • On the Start menu, click Run.
  • In the Open box, type:
  • C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMapiLocaleIDscanpst.exe

Where LocaleID is the locale identifier (LCID) for your installation of Microsoft Office. For example, the LCID for English (United States) is 1033. For a list of LCIDs, see Microsoft Office Help.

  • Click OK.
  • In the Enter the name of the file you want to scan box, type the path and file name given in the error message above.
  • Note that you may not be able to use the Browse button to locate this file because it is located in a hidden folder.
  • To change the options for logging errors during the scan, click Options. If you choose Replace log or Append to log, the log file is saved to the same directory as the .pst file.
  • Click Start
  • When the file scan is completed, select the Make a backup of scanned file before repairing check box.
  • Click Repair

If the file is successfully repaired, you will see a Repair complete message. If the Inbox Repair Tool was unable to repair the file, you will need to use a backup of your file.

There are third party programs available which could also help:
http://i4you.wordpress.com/2008/09/06/about-microsoft-outlook-errors-and-outlook-pst-repair-tool/

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DamianRepairing a corrupt PST personal folders file

Microsoft Office has not been installed for the current user…

This is quite a common problem it seems – after installing an update to Microsoft office, some of the applications will not open.

Here is one solution:

  1. Create a temporary Windows login account with administrative rights, then log into that new account.
  2. While logged in as the temporary user, open every Office product you have, then close one at a time (Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Project etc…)
  3. After opening every Office application, start regedit. (Start > Run > then type in Regedit)
  4. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Office, and highlight Office
  5. Right click on Office, and select ‘Export’
  6. Save the .reg file somewhere on your computer – note down the location
  7. Log off the temporary account, and login under your normal Windows account (the one giving you the error)
  8. Open regedit again, and then go to File > Import and pick the file that was exported.
  9. After the import completes, the applications should open correctly.
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DamianMicrosoft Office has not been installed for the current user…

Backing up Microsoft Outlook PST files

Sometimes, you may find that you wish to move or backup the PST archive files you have created in Microsoft Outlook. In this walkthrough, we show you how to find these files so they may be copied, moved or backed up.

In this walkthrough, I’ve used Outlook 2003, however the process is similar for all versions of Outlook.

  • Open Microsoft Outlook
  • Right-Click on your ‘Personal Folders’ file (note, this may be called Archive or similar) and select Properties

1

  • Click the ‘Advanced’ button
  • The red highlighted area in the below image shows where the file is located on your computer.

3

Note this location down.

  • Close Microsoft Outlook.
  • Open Windows Explorer or ‘My Computer’ and browse to the location of the file that we noted above.
  • You should see a window similar to the below image:

4

  • Copy the ‘PST’ files (such as outlook.pst in the above image) to your preferred location. This may take some time if the file(s) are large.
  • Repeat the above for any additional PST files.

If you no longer wish to use the PST file in Outlook, right click the folder (in the Outlook folder list) and select ‘close’

WARNING! There are a couple of points to note. Firstly, that PST files are susceptable to corruption. In our experience, the larger the PST file, the more likely the corruption. It’s important therefore to make regular backups.

Secondly, PST files have size limits:

Outlook 97 to Outlook 2003
Starting with Microsoft Outlook 97 the Personal Storage file is encoded in a format with a maximum file size of 2 GB. If the file exceeds this size it will become corrupted. This format is supported by Microsoft Outlook 97, Outlook 98, Outlook 2000, Outlook 2002, and Outlook 2003.

Outlook 2003 onward
From Outlook 2003 onward, the Personal Storage file is encoded in a new format. It allows a user-definable maximum file size up to 33TB that exceeds the previous limit of 2GB. This format is supported by Microsoft Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007. A file that is created in the personal folders format in Outlook 2003 or Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 is not compatible with earlier versions of Microsoft Outlook and cannot be opened by using those older versions.

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DamianBacking up Microsoft Outlook PST files