Dec 132019

Here’s an update to a topic discussed in my January 31, 2019, post “Best PC anti-virus — free or not” and whether Microsoft Windows 10’s built-in Windows Defender is adequate for many PC users.

PC World > “Windows Security review: There are better options, but not for the ‘price’” – Windows Security (nee Windows Defender) has come a long way by Ian Paul (Dec 12, 2019).

For years, the attitude towards Windows 10’s built-in security was that it’s a nice idea, but you really shouldn’t rely on it. That stared changing in 2019, with the major testing houses giving Windows Security top marks.

Could it be true? Can you really ditch your $100 annual antivirus subscription and rely on Microsoft’s native solution instead? Here’s our opinion.

The current version allows you to run four different kinds of scans, all of which are pretty standard for antivirus.

For anyone who uses free, third-party antivirus, the new Windows Security offers pretty much all you need. Windows Security also has the added benefit of not harrassing you with notifications to upgrade to a paid product every few days.

In addition, there’s an option for controlled folder access to keep malicious programs away from sensitive folders. If Windows Security misidentifies an app as unfriendly you can also whitelist it. This section is also where you can set up OneDrive for ransomware data recovery.

Going back to the settings for Virus & threat protection, you can set up specific folders so they won’t be scanned, and adjust your notification settings.

Then the App & browser control is where you manage Windows SmartScreen for apps and file downloads, browsing on Microsoft Edge, and the Microsoft Store.

This section exposes one downside of Windows Security: It doesn’t really do as much as other third-party suites can do for third-party browsers.

See the full article for commentary on how Windows Defender did in evaluations by testing labs: AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, SE Labs.

From these results we can gather that Windows Security is highly cloud dependent for malware detection, and probably isn’t up to the job if your PC spends a good amount of time disconnected from the internet. It also means there are still far better choices for protection despite Windows Defender’s top ranking.

Windows Security offers good protection, but if you look at the testing comparisons to other suites, there are still better options. Nevertheless, Windows Security has come a long way and should continue to improve its basic protection and detection capabilities.

Best antivirus protection for Windows 10

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Aug 042019

UPDATE OCTOBER 19, 2019: “The best antivirus protection of 2019 for Windows 10 – Your PC needs protection against malware, and free antivirus software may be enough. Here’s the best antivirus protection to get for Windows 10, and what’s worth paying extra for” by Clifford Colby (October 19, 2019). CNET’s “best” recommendations stand from last August (below).

I’ve previously noted PC World’s annual recommendations for PC anti-virus protection. Yesterday (August 3, 2019), Cnet posted their recommendations for Windows 10 PCs: “The best antivirus protection of 2019 for Windows 10 — Your PC needs protection against malware, and free antivirus software may be enough. Here’s the best antivirus protection to get for Windows 10, and what’s worth paying extra for.”

Quick summary:

  • Best free antivirus: Microsoft Defender.
  • Best subscription antivirus: Norton 360 Deluxe.
  • Best on-demand malware removal: Malwarebytes (free version) – paid version permits automatic scheduled scans as well as other features.

The Cnet article includes other tips for protecting your privacy and keeping your PC secure, as well as a summary of other PC anti-virus products (and discusses the situation regarding Kaspersky Lab’s product).

Oct 172017

We’ll explain why Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update is worth your time in our review. Here’s what’s different this time around: There’s new hardware, too.

PC World today shared the news that Microsoft is rolling out the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: “Windows 10 Fall Creators Update review: This could be Microsoft’s biggest Windows yet.” As in past Updates (which install like entire new editions of Windows 10, as large downloads with extended install times), there’s a way for early adopters to grab the Update now, while most of us will get it over time like other monthly Windows updates.

Update: The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is now available, and can be manually downloaded/upgraded via the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant. Otherwise, Microsoft will automatically push the FCU to all PCs in a series of waves that should last for a few weeks. 

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is what every sequel shoots for: bigger, better, more ambitious than the original. As it rolls out in phases starting Tuesday (see Microsoft’s blog post for details), our review focuses on Windows’ big, risky bet on mixed reality, plus smarter investments in the pen, creative 3D apps, Edge, and even speech. A ton of practical, everyday additions won us over, including OneDrive placeholders and much longer battery life while watching movies.

See the full article for what’s new and what’s changed.

PC World has separate articles for various aspects of the Update. For example, “Hands on with Windows 10’s Story Remix, the new tool to make your photos pop” covers the new Remix app.

Microsoft’s Story Remix was expected to be one of the highlights of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it lives up to that promise, combining the existing, excellent Photos app with a video and slideshow editor that adds transitions, music, and even fantastic 3D animations.

It’s worth noting, though, that Story Remix and Photos exist (for now) within a sort of odd, yin-yang duality where both apps co-exist. If you choose to open or edit a file within Photos via File Explorer, Windows will open the “traditional” Photos interface. But if you simply launch the Photos app, the Story Remix interface will open. Interestingly, there also seems to be no way to transition between the two interfaces within the app itself.

There’a also a separate slideshow: “The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.

Feature update version

W10 Fall Creators Update

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update — privacy tweaks

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Sep 132017

In this PC World article “Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will add helpful privacy setting tweaks,” senior editor Brad Chacos notes that:

Privacy concerns have plagued Windows 10 since its launch. It’s no surprise: The operating system is designed to ensnare you in Microsoft’s services, and you can’t stop it from sending Microsoft basic telemetry data about your device. But Microsoft has been working hard to assuage the concerns, and on Wednesday it announced enhanced privacy settings coming in October’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

While such disclosure by Microsoft may well be a step forward, any new privacy agreement is hardly something that “mere mortals” will likely parse and ponder. But any settings that can limit data collection or the degree of such collection might be worth the effort and time investigating.

How companies collect, store, and share personal information via the purchase and use of their products and services is concerning. Even when such items are “free.”

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update — notable features

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Jun 092017

Have you installed the Windows 10 Creators Update on your PC yet? In my lab, I’ve installed the Creators Update on a variety of Windows 10 PCs, from cheap or midrange to powerful quad core models and from 7 year old to 2016 models.

This PC World article “The 11 most intriguing Fall Creators Update features in Windows 10 Build 16215” covers Microsoft’s ongoing rollout of new features this year for Windows 10.

… Microsoft just revealed a service pack’s worth of additions as part of Windows 10 Build 16215: dictation, predictive typing, a “Find My Pen” mode, full-screen Microsoft Edge, and tons more.

Essentially, Microsoft appears to be bringing some of what’s best about Windows 10 Mobile (which received a few bug fixes) to the Windows 10 desktop, improving the way in which Windows uses pens and camera input, and adding literally dozens of small refinements across the board, including elements of Microsoft’s new Acrylic UI.

Why this matters: Build 16215 points toward a Fall Creators Update that will bring a lot of welcome improvements and flesh out features that have remained minimal so far. Microsoft’s blog post lists dozens of changes, so we’ve picked 11 especially cool features you definitely need to know about.

Read the full article for the highlights of the latest release.

Update June 29, 2017: PC World posted this slideshow of “The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.”

The feature-packed Windows 10 Creators Update hasn’t even hit every PC yet but Microsoft’s already taken the wraps off of its successor.

Microsoft unveiled the uninspiringly named Windows 10 Fall Creators Update during Build 2017, and it will most likely hit Windows 10 PCs (including Windows 10 S devices) this September. Here’s a look at the most noteworthy new goodies you’ll find in the next massive Windows 10 iteration, including a potentially wonderful new feature just revealed by Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16232.

Windows 10 data collection — privacy matters

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Apr 062017

Checking and tuning your Windows 10 settings is highly recommended. I typically do this when helping clients upgrade to Windows 10 or set up a new PC. Windows 10 moved many settings from control panels to the Settings app. There’re lots of privacy settings, as I’ve mentioned previously.

I follow news about how companies collect data from PCs and other devices. This includes Internet Service Providers as well. And the growing list of intelligent personal (digital) assistants (Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Google Home) — so-called intelligent assistance has a price, eh.1  Typical Privacy Policies offer few options for controlling what data is collected and how that is shared. Few opportunities to opt-out. You need to agree or you can’t use the product or service. But sometimes you can limit how data is shared; so, reviewing those options usually is recommended.2

As a result, PC World’s recent article “Microsoft finally reveals what data Windows 10 collects from your PC” is noteworthy.

There are all kinds of new features in the Windows 10 Creators Update rolling out on April 11, but one change really sticks out. Greater transparency about the data that Microsoft collects from your PC.

All too often manufacturers and service providers intone that collecting diagnostic (or quality-of-service) data helps improve their products and services. Some of this appears reasonable. Some remains mysterious. And occasionally there are stories about excessive or inappropriate data collection (e.g., regarding some children’s Internet-connected toys). Or how such data may be stored essentially forever. And security of that data.

Microsoft published two Technet pages describing the data Microsoft collects from users on the Creators Update. There are two levels of diagnostic data: basic3 and full4. The information is quite detailed and we won’t get into it here, but if you’re interested, you can find all the nitty-gritty details in those links. Note that while the Basic listing reveals all, the Full listing is a summary of the kinds of data that setting collects.

Even the basic level can gather quite a bit of info from your PC, though in a blog post, Windows chief Terry Myerson pledges that “we only collect data at the Basic level that is necessary to keep your Windows 10 device secure and up to date.” Microsoft still offers no native way to turn off Windows 10’s diagnostic collection completely.

At least in the latest Windows 10 Update Microsoft consolidated privacy settings better.

Instead of a string of screens when you first install the new version of Windows 10, Microsoft is putting all the key privacy settings on one screen. The dashboard you’ll see depends on whether you’re already running Windows 10 on your machine or setting up a new PC for the first time.



  1. I am more concerned about data collection by major corporations and the many app/service providers than by the government.
  2. As well as being aware of how you voluntarily provide data when using any Internet-connected device, or even your landline or cell phone. The recent repeal of the FCC’s Internet privacy rule is concerning: “The Obama-backed rules — which would have taken effect later this year — would have banned Internet providers from collecting, storing, sharing and selling certain types of customer information without those customers’ consent. Data such as a person’s Web browsing history, app usage history and location details would have required a customer’s explicit permission before companies such as Verizon and Comcast could mine the information for advertising purposes.”
  3. “The Basic level gathers a limited set of information that is critical for understanding the device and its configuration including: basic device information, quality-related information, app compatibility, and Windows Store. When the level is set to Basic, it also includes the Security level information.” [Detailed list follows on that page.]
  4. Full telemetry level (inclusive of data collected at Basic):
    • Common Data (diagnostic header information)
    • Device, Connectivity, and Configuration data
    • Product and Service Usage data
    • Product and Service Performance data
    • Software Setup and Inventory data
    • Content Consumption data
    • Browsing, Search and Query data
    • Inking, Typing, and Speech Utterance data
    • Licensing and Purchase data
Mar 302017

So, congrats if your PC is running Windows 10. Whether you are interested or not in Windows 10 releases, ready or not, here comes the next edition: Windows 10 Creators Update, which will start rolling out (over a period of weeks or months) to the general public on April 11. Most of us will see this release as part of the normal Windows Update process, just like the monthly updates. Is it a good idea to stay up-to-date? Yes. Will you benefit from new features? Maybe not. Will there be fixes to glitches and bugs and security updates? Probably, but the main news out this week’s about what’s changed. Here’re some links to PC World articles and videos.

Windows 10 Creators Update FAQ: Everything you need to know

More than five months after its grand unveiling last October, the Windows 10 Creators Update is finally here—and the wait was worth it.

Following in the footsteps of last August’s sweeping Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Creators Update tweaks and tunes the core Windows 10 experience while heaping on a pile of handy all-new features. While PCWorld’s comprehensive Windows 10 Creators Update review contains detailed impressions of Microsoft’s refreshed operating system, here’s a higher-level look at what you need to know about the Creators Update.

The Windows 10 Creators Update’s best new features: Privacy tweaks, Paint 3D, and more

  • Privacy dashboard
  • Gaming boosts
  • Paint 3D
  • Windows VR
  • Much-needed Windows Update improvements
  • Dynamic Lock
  • Cortana monthly reminders
  • E-books!
  • Edge tab preview bar (and other Edge improvements)
  • Windows Defender overhaul

Missing pieces: What Microsoft failed to deliver in the Windows 10 Creators Update

If the Windows 10 Creators Update had worked out as Microsoft had promised, we all would be taking 3D selfies, importing them to Windows, and then sharing them among our closest friends and coworkers via Office presentations and mixed-reality headsets.

Windows 10 Creators Update: The 5 biggest changes

Microsoft just announced that the Windows 10 Creators Update will start rolling out on April 11, building upon the foundation laid by vanilla Windows 10 and its subsequent “November” and “Anniversary” updates. While not every feature that Microsoft promised at the Creators Update’s reveal last fall actually made the final cut, it’s still overflowing with helpful new extras that polish rough edges and just plain make things more fun.

Windows 10 Creators Update will take months to roll out, Microsoft confirms

Users waiting for Windows 10’s Creators Update, which is expected to release soon, may need to be patient. Data released Wednesday by AdDuplex suggests that Microsoft’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update took months to roll out to users after it was released last August, and the same pace could apply to the Creators Update.

May 15, 2017 update: Screenshots.

W10 Screenshot

When you’re ready for Creators Update

W10 Screenshot

Then wait for notification








May 17, 2017 update: Screenshot

Page screenshot

If you don’t want to wait, and use the Update Assistant to install the Creators Update

Windows Updates — release history

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Nov 262016

With Windows 10 for most people, Updates are delivered automatically. It’s easy to see your Update History in Settings — what was installed. For example, Cumulative Updates, Security Updates for Adobe Flash Player, Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool installs.

But how can you tell if somehow you missed some? Or, perhaps you’re interested in when major Updates were released and what issues were addressed? Well, you can view Microsoft’s “Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 update history” page. Note the different version numbers.

If you’re still using Windows 7, there’s a page for that: “Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 update history.”

For Windows 7, my experience has been that the Windows Update process can be inconsistent, and the reliability vary from PC to PC. Even manually invoking a check for updates sometimes does not work — the “checking for updates” process never completes.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update — gotcha

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Sep 242016

So, the other day I helped a client setup a new Windows 10 desktop PC. She’d replaced an old Windows Vista PC. I’m confident that she’ll enjoy the Windows 10 experience (despite the increased hype of services) and find the interface somewhat similar to Vista. But here’s the gotcha — her new PC came with Windows 10 version 1511, not the latest Windows 10 version 1607, aka Windows Anniversary Update. The Anniversay version is even closer to the interface for Vista and Windows 7.

Since the Windows Anniversary Update is delivered by Microsoft as a regular Windows Update, the typical way that someone will see the Anniversary Update (version 1607) is when they shutdown their PC and see the normal “do not turn your PC off … Windows is updating” alert. The other way is that you might be manually checking Update Status (in Settings) and find the “1607” update listed as ready for installation. The actual name of this Update, however, is “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1607.”

Be prepared to be patient and not able to use your PC for a few hours, either when you manually say to install the Update or when automatically doing so at shutdown. There’s an on-screen note that your PC will restart several times. On one of my PCs, after the first restart, the “Working on updates” (percentage) progress was agonizingly slow. And there’s still a “getting things ready” stage near the end of the Update.

Also note that with this Windows Anniversary Update, Microsoft changed the time during which you can rollback to the previous version — only 10 days (rather than 30 days).

The Windows Anniversary Update is better than the prior version. Just set aside a few hours, including time to check and retune some settings.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update — takes awhile

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Aug 112016

Well, Microsoft’s free Windows 10 Upgrade offer for Windows 7 and Windows 8 expired at the end of July. If you recently upgraded before that deadline, be prepared for another major Update, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Yes, it’s been over a year now since Windows 10 was released. Be prepared to set aside around 2 hours for the Update, whether you get the Update automatically like other Windows updates or decide to manually install the Update.

I waited a few days after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update became available, and then checked on several PCs to see whether the Update automatically appeared. Nope. Well, the rollout to millions of users will occur over a period of weeks. Then I read about how to manually download and install the Update.

I installed the Update on two PCs so far. I experienced no problems doing the Update or afterwards, although there have been some reports of issues after the massive Update. In each case, the Update took around 2 hours to download and install and complete setup. There was no circular progress diagram like for the Windows 10 Upgrade — just the typical update stages with percent complete indication and restarts. Don’t panic during the occasional black screen transitions in the process.

Many other articles cover the new features of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Here’re some things that I noticed. In the setup after the last restart, I chose to Customize settings and tuned them to values before the Update, especially Privacy-related settings.

The Start menu changed, mostly for the better. In the System Tray, the Notifications icon moved to the right corner and the date / time icon shifted left. The Notifications icon now shows a number count.

If not already removed, the Windows Store apps Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, and Travel were removed. These MSN apps were discontinued last year.

After the Update, Update History was blank. But this changed quickly, as “Patch Tuesday” (on August 9) installed several updates for the new “1607” Windows 10 version — similar to the updates for the “1511” version for those without the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

The Update also fixed some bugs. After getting the alert that Windows installed some updates, clicking on that alert opened the Update window. Previously this action usually did nothing. So, Notifications (Action Center) may be working better.

Cortana cannot be disabled, but on PCs without a camera or microphone, its presence is really not an issue. The Search box works essentially the same as before.

Microsoft’s Edge browser now supports Extensions. I installed a few, while the list of available Extensions is quite limited as yet. You might want to try AdBlock or AdBlock Plus. There was a really odd quirk when checking for Extensions in the Edge browser. The Windows Store Edge Extensions window was blank until manually resized slightly.

Microsoft continues to aggressively push its Windows Store, which started after Windows 7. An ecosystem thing.

Remember that while you can still use Windows 10 with a local account — versus Microsoft account, Microsoft really wants you in their ecosystem. Devices and services. Using a Microsoft account allows easy access to all their services (and services is their focus). For example, by using a Microsoft account, you’re automatically logged into the OneDrive cloud — no need to separately log into that service; and saving documents to their “cloud” works as just another storage location.

For more information, PC World summarized the “best new features.”

Ready or Not — free Windows 10 Upgrade ending soon

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Jul 202016

If you’re still getting nags on your PC to upgrade to Windows 10, then either I hope that’s an oversight you’ll address before the end of July, or you really do not want the Upgrade.

PC World’s article “10 reasons to reject Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade” summarizes why some people are not upgrading. However, as I’ve discussed in other posts, bypassing the Upgrade can be tricky.

Here’s that list of reasons not to upgrade:

No Windows Media Center or DVD support
No desktop gadgets or widgets
No OneDrive placeholders
No control over Windows Updates
Privacy concerns
Ads and more ads
Microsoft’s aggressive upgrade tactics
Software compatibility
Hardware compatibility
Ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Note: If you have a Windows 7 PC, Windows 7’s no longer getting any feature updates or Service Packs; Mainstream Support ended January 13, 2015; and Extended Support (bug / security patches) ends January 14, 2020.

Windows 10 Upgrade sneakiness — latest trick

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May 232016

Last week I received a panicky call from a client. The Windows 10 Upgrade was being installed without her permission! She’d not done anything different for the last months — in response to all the nagging to Upgrade, she just clicked on the “X” button in the pop-up. She didn’t want Windows 10 on her current Windows 7 PC.

Well, PC World’s May 22, 2016, article “How Microsoft’s tricky new Windows 10 pop-up deceives you into upgrading” explains what happened.

Last week, Microsoft altered the GWX prompt, as ZDNet covered. On the surface, it’s an improvement; the box clearly states when your PC will be upgraded, and even adds a (still small and easily skippable) line that allows you to reschedule or change the upgrade timing. So far so good! But here’s the icky part: The redesigned GWX pop-up now treats exiting the window as consent for the Windows 10 upgrade.

So after more than half a year of teaching people that the only way to say “no thanks” to Windows 10 is to exit the GWX [Get Windows Ten] application—and refusing to allow users to disable the pop-up in any obvious manner, so they had to press that X over and over again during those six months to the point that most people probably just click it without reading now—Microsoft just made it so that very behavior accepts the Windows 10 upgrade instead, rather than canceling it.

As I’ve been advising clients, misdirection (something used by magicians and aggressive marketers) is common these days on computers. More than just tiny pre-checked checkboxes, choices are confused by artful presentation. What the presenter wants you to do is shown in large text or with a dominant highlighted button, while other choices use small or obscure placement.

For example, this tactic is used immediately when setting up Windows 10. On the “Get going fast” screen, the “Use Express settings” button is dominant (and on the right side), while the “Customize settings” action is subdued (and on the left side).

So, my client is far from alone in being unexpectedly Upgraded. I assured her that, while some things would look different, the Start button will still be there, as well as previous items on the Desktop and in the Taskbar; and that she’d likely be able to do what she usually did on her PC. She had time to let the Upgrade proceed and complete successfully. We talked on the phone the next day about one setting and will schedule a session to customize further (and change those default Express settings mentioned above).

Windows 10 is fine (although not perfect and a work-in-progress). I recommend Windows 10. But some people have legitimate reasons for not wanting the Upgrade on their current PC. The typical PC user, however, really doesn’t know how to deal with recurring pop-ups for updates and other notifications. Scammers exploit this situation. What happens to trust when legitimate companies use such aggressive deceptive tactics as well?

UPDATE MAY 24: PC World’s article “How to escape that forced Windows 10 upgrade you mistakenly agreed to” provides more detail on the Upgrade process — how it should work, where it may be canceled.

Free Windows 10 Upgrade reminder — offer ends July 29

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May 062016

Microsoft announced this week that the free Windows 10 upgrade offer would end on July 29, 2016. What will the Upgrade cost after that date? Well, that’s not clear yet. The current price for a single Windows 10 PC license on Amazon — Microsoft Windows 10 Home USB Flash Drive — is $119.

PC World notes in their “Microsoft says it will stop pestering users to ‘Get Windows 10’ in July” article that:

“Details are still being finalized, but on July 29th the Get Windows 10 app…will be disabled and eventually removed from PCs worldwide,” Microsoft told WinBeta in a written statement.

Windows 10 Upgrade — can you still say no?

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Feb 022016

As indicated in my January 20 post, Microsoft is aggressively pushing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10. Well, yesterday the situation became more interesting. The Upgrade status was changed from “optional” to “recommended.” What does that mean for you? Here’re some articles which answer that question.

Microsoft starts pushing Windows 10 as a ‘recommended’ update

One more time, for the record: Windows 10 is not a required update for Windows 7 and 8.1 users. It is now recommended. Users who do not want it can just say no.

Microsoft makes Windows 10 a ‘recommended update’ for Windows 7 and 8.1 users

This is a change from the previous categorization of the upgrade as an ‘optional update’ and it means that there is renewed potential for unwanted installations.

And here’s the original Windows Blog post (October 2015) outlining Microsoft’s Upgrade policy.

Making it Easier to Upgrade to Windows 10

Early next year [2016], we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a “Recommended Update”. Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don’t love it.

Windows 10 Upgrade — a warning if you really don’t want it

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Jan 202016

UPDATE 2/2/2016: PC World yesterday noted in their article “It begins: Microsoft starts ‘recommended’ rollout of Windows 10” that:

Many users of Windows 7 and 8.1 will start seeing a more aggressive push to upgrade to Windows 10 in the coming days, as Microsoft starts to roll the new operating system out as a recommended update which will automatically download.

I’ve written about this issue before. I am more and more concerned about it for some of my clients. For those who really do not want to upgrade to Windows 10. Maybe they’ll get a new PC in a few years (which will come with Windows 10) but until then their current Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PC is just fine.

Microsoft is so aggressively promoting Windows 10 that their Upgrade nags may appear to not allow avoiding it or trick you into accidentally clicking on the wrong item. And it gets worse, as pointed out in this PC World article “You will upgrade to Windows 10: Inside Microsoft’s strong-arm upgrade tactics” published on January 20, 2016.

First, as noted in the article, there’s no clear “No thanks” button in the latest nag. And it may be foisted as well later:

Microsoft plans to push through the initial Windows 10 installation as a Recommended update sometime in 2016. That means Windows 10 will automatically download itself onto any computer that has Windows Update configured to install Recommended updates by default—in other words, the overwhelming majority of consumer PCs in the wild. That’s the default setting for new Windows installs, and the one that most tech experts (ourselves included) recommend that everyday people use.

Personally I don’t want the Upgrade forced onto an almost 10 year old Windows 7 PC that I’ve kept for legacy testing and will discard in a few years anyway. It’s got 2GB of RAM (4 GB’s recommended), a slow graphics processor, a low-res screen, and a slow 5400 rpm IDE drive. But what can I do if Windows 10 gets released as an automatic recommended update?

If you’re running Windows 8.1, you can use the “metered connection” trick. For Windows 7, however, all automatic downloads need to be disabled, not a viable situation for most people — manual installation’s too complicated.

The company says you’ll be able to opt out of the upgrade even after Windows 10’s installed to your PC, but smart money’s betting the prompt will use the same weasel words as the GWX pop-up. Hey geeks: Look forward to receiving frantic late-night phone calls from your friends and family after they accidentally kick off the install process.

(There supposedly are two technical ways to remove the nag and/or block the Upgrade. One involves a 3rd party utility and the other requires editing the Windows Registry. Ugh.)

Jan 192016

So, you upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10. Good move. But out of the blue something weird happens. Maybe the Desktop does not look normal, the Task Bar is missing, the Start button does not work properly, etc. What to do? Well, assuming that your system is free of malware, if a restart does not correct the glitch, there are three common procedures to try first that may help diagnose the problem:

1. Boot in Safe Mode (which may help isolate the problem to 3rd party add-ons).
2. Try logging into another user account (which may help isolate the problem to corruption of your account).
3. Try restoring to a recent Restore Point before the problem arose (which may revert the system to a healthy state).

These procedures require access to the Control Panel or System Configuration; so, if that’s not possible in the usual ways, then another method is required.

1. If you’ve not done so already, you may try booting into Safe Mode by following this PC World article, at this link:

The first method they describe won’t help if the Start button does not work. So, further along they note that, “If you can get to the login screen, you’ll find a power icon in the lower-right corner. The instructions above work there.”

The last method requires a Windows 10 Recovery Drive, which the article discusses how to create. If you can get to the Control Panel, you might try that.

Here’s another article on Safe Mode:

If you can get to the Run dialog box, then you can invoke “msconfig” and follow the instructions.

Enter Windows Key + R (the plus sign is NOT typed — it indicates that you need to hold down the Windows Key [Windows logo key] and then type another key) to get the Run dialog and then enter “msconfig” in the box after the “Open:” label.

2. Although some of the articles I found do not mention it, you can create another user account via the Control Panel, which allows you to get at the Settings windows to actually do so.

On the Control Panel > All Control Panel Items, click on User Accounts, then Manage Another Account, then on “Add a new user in PC settings.” Then follow the instructions (reference article below as well).

3. You can check if System Protection is enabled from the Control Panel > System and clicking on (in left side) “System protection.” Protection should be “On” for your “C” (boot) drive. So, if that’s enabled, you can check Restore Points by clicking on the “System Restore” button. If you have some restore points, you may try that procedure. (You know how to create your own Restore Points, correct?)

Finally, how can you get to the Control Panel if the Start button is not working or any of the usual ways? Enter Windows Key + R to get the Run dialog and then type “control panel” and click the “OK” button.


Microsoft’s official page on Safe Mode:

Microsoft’s official way to create another user:

Microsoft’s official page on system recovery:

New PC ? — what to do first

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Dec 282015

If you got a new PC for the holidays, congrats. What’s next? Windows 10, Cortana, customization, updates, privacy settings, another browser, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free, backup, … fun.

As for prior years, PC World posted several articles about what to do first with a new PC.

1. “Windows 10: The best tricks, tips, and tweaks

Here are some of the most useful Windows 10 tweaks, tricks, and tips we’ve found. Be warned: Some of these may break as the operating system evolves, given Microsoft’s new “Windows as a service” mentality, though we plan to update this article over time …

2. “7 critical things to do immediately with a new PC

3. “Your new PC needs these 15 free, excellent programs

Creepy aspects of Windows 10’s privacy settings — more from PC World

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Dec 212015

Windows 10 is a “winner” in most ways, especially for those moving from older Windows versions (and who invest the time to prep and complete a successful upgrade). However, as I’ve noted in prior posts, news about its “out-of-the-box” settings persists. And that’s a good thing. For many people, those settings may pose privacy issues. It’s best to check what’s going on, as Melissa Riofrio, Executive Editor, highlights in her December 14, 2015, PC World “Fixing Windows 10’s privacy problems” video.

Windows 10 has privacy issues: It asks for a lot of information in exchange for using its services. Here’s how to control that information flow.

Go to the settings section in Windows 10’s Control panel. You’ll find the privacy settings down near the bottom. You’ll definitely want to explore all the options here, but I’ll show you four [or three] really important ones. Remember, some settings affect important apps like email, so choose wisely.

The creepiest online ads are the ones that track where you’ve been and show you stuff you were just shopping for.

Aug 262015

Now that you’ve upgraded to Windows 10, you might want to review what computer security apps (programs, software) you’re using. If you’ve followed my blog, you already checked that your previous anti-virus / anti-malware apps are running okay. And you’re also using two apps: a top branded app and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (free or premium).

Just because a security app came pre-installed on your PC does not mean that it’s the best one for you. At the very least, check that it’s one of the top choices in independent reviews. And if your anti-virus subscription is expiring, it might be time to try something else. (And if you’ve got auto-renew enabled, check your credit card bill, eh.)

Each year I revisit this topic — what’s the best anti-virus app (PC security suite)? I’ve installed several of the top products on different PCs. I generally don’t use the free versions, although many of my clients do. All are annual subscriptions. Some subscriptions (licenses) allow you to install the product on more than one PC and on your mobile devices.

None of theses products are perfect. Each has its pros and cons. All generally have a crisp design using the “traffic light” red-yellow-green color scheme and large buttons. Some allow you to schedule automatic scans; others use “real-time protection” to continuously monitor activities on your PC without the need / ability to schedule scans. Some make it easy to check scan reports; others require several clicks to get to reports (which vary in value).

Computer security companies appear to have concluded that the typical consumer just wants to “set and forget” anti-virus apps, trusting the factory settings and trusting that malware will be detected and removed automatically. As a result, access to technical details has been increasingly reduced or hidden. As a design philosophy, this approach is much like you hiring one or more security guards for your home or business. You assume guards will keep their “bad guys” lists up-to-date, as well as attend ongoing training classes for their security skills. “Handy guard” version 1.0, 2.0, etc. And they only bother you when something exceptional occurs.

Well, even the most trusted guards and butlers may have a bad day or experience a lapse in judgment. A “set it and forget it” approach can be flawed. (Completely delegating or outsourcing responsibility has its limits, eh.) That’s why I recommend two security apps, the second being Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which is exceptional at detecting unwanted items that other branded apps do not.

Anyway, PC World’s recent “The quick and easy way to find the best antivirus software” article may help with your choice.

It’s enough to make your head spin, but there’s a really easy way to figure out which antivirus program is right for you. An independent testing organization called AV-Test spends its time figuring out the best antivirus programs for Windows, Mac, and Android users.

The company publishes its results a few times a year, and for Windows users it breaks down results by operating system version. AV-Test has yet to publish any results for Windows 10 since the latest report came out in June, but you can probably rely on the Windows 8.1 results for now.

Oh, another tip — if the app is available on, you might want to read the customer reviews as a reality check.

Getting Started with Windows 10 — Microsoft’s “Welcome to Windows 10” email

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Aug 262015

After upgrading to Windows 10, you should get an email message from with the subject “Getting started with Windows 10.” This might take a few days. Here’s a summary. Lots of smiles (see the linked pdf for photos in their message).

This is the first in a series of emails designed to help you get the most out of Windows 10. This email includes the info you need to get up and running quickly.

Windows 10 is so familiar and easy to use, you’ll feel like an expert. Because updates are automatically enabled, you’ll have the very latest features when they’re released, which means Windows will just keep getting better.

We’ve designed the Get Started app to help you get the most out of Windows 10. It can help you get on the web, navigate your device, move files, set up printers and hardware, and more. Any time we add new features to Windows 10, the app will automatically update to help you with those, too.

You now have your very own personal assistant. Cortana works across your day and your Windows 10 devices to help you get things done. By learning more about you over time, Cortana becomes more useful every day.
Just talk or type and Cortana will help you.

Search with the taskbar or Cortana. The easiest way to search the web, your device, and access and share the files on OneDrive is through the Windows search box on your taskbar or by simply asking Cortana.

Have a question or need some info? Help is already built in. Just use the Windows search box and Windows 10 will use Cortana to get a quick answer, a step‑by‑step tutorial, or a connection to a real person through our Contact Support app.

Discover everything your Microsoft account can do. With this one account, you can take your settings, preferences, and files you have backed up on OneDrive with you across all your devices – and not just Windows devices. Plus, you’ll only need to remember one user ID and password.

Microsoft also has an informative how-to “Get Started with Windows 10” webpage, as well as a general Windows 10 Support “We’re here to help!” webpage.

And for those who like keeping their hands on the keyboard and using shortcuts, PC World’s “Cheat sheet! Microsoft releases printable Windows 10 key shortcut list” article discusses how to learn what’s new on this topic.

By the way, I generally like the new web browser in Windows 10 — Edge. But it’s not perfect. You may find that some pages display differently in Edge and in Internet Explorer (yes, Internet Explorer 11’s still there). I like the new “Reading view” feature in Edge — like in some other web browsers. [See this PC World “The best web browser of 2015: Firefox, Chrome, Edge, IE, and Opera compared” article for assessment of the most popular browsers.]