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PC insurance policy

PC [system software] insurance policy:

  1. Basic PC documentation
  2. System backup on USB (using acronis True Image: http://www.acronis.com/en-au/personal/computer-backup/)
  3. Backup software boot (start-up) disk
  4. Attached to PC so you have it when you need it

PC Insurance Policy

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Microsoft Surface Tablet user guide

For anyone who has taken the plunge and purchased the [outstanding] Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Windows based replacement for your tablet and laptop (and desktop if you plug it into a docking station) here is a link to the free 100+ page user guide produced by Microsoft.

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-us/support/userguides?category=user-guides

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A Microsoft account?

[Updated 15/01/15] If you have Windows 8 (or a Windows phone) and you want to use Windows to its full capacity including getting apps from the Windows Store you’re going to need a free “Microsoft account”, basically this just equates to a hotmail.com or outlook.com email address, note that you don’t need to use this as your primary email (or use it at all beyond just getting access to the store and logging on to your PC).

Logging on to Windows in versions 8 and later now utilizes a "cloud" based logon name for example This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to tie all the accounts and services to you as the user and also gives you the ability to log on to multiple computers or devices. You can, if you chose, still use a traditional "local account" and in fact I always recommend another local administrator account so that your always covered if you can't logon via your normal account. However if for some reason you chose to set yourself up to use a "local" account initially it will pretty soon convert to a Microsoft account anyway (or at least try) as soon as you connect to various services. That can be pretty confusing so its best to start out the right way from the beginning, so setup your Microsoft account first before you even turn-on your new PC, tablet or phone.

Just a note if you logon in a business setting either via a domain or even peer to peer things are little different. In a domain you logon as the domain user and can then optionally "connect" the Microsoft account to the domain logon, peer to peer needs a bit more planning.

A Microsoft account is basically an email address and password. The good news is you probably already have one. If you use Microsoft services like hotmail.com outlook.com, Xbox, or SkyDrive/OneDrive, the email address and password you already use is your Microsoft account. You don't have to do anything else to get one. Just use that Microsoft account to sign in to your Windows 8 PC, tablet or phone, and you'll get free online storage, apps in the Windows Store, access to Xbox music* (on windows 8). You can also use your Microsoft account to synchronize your photos, documents and files to and from One drive to whatever devices you sign in from, on your phone, laptop, and tablet.

Here is the link to signup if you don't have one already:

https://signup.live.com/signup.aspx

Tips

  • Setting you the account is free however once you have the account setup and if you want to purchase apps for your shiny new PC or tablet then you will also need to add your credit card details (only required if you want apps that cost money).
  • If you do logon with a domain account you can "connect" your Microsoft account to the domain account as well.
  • I suggest you do NOT chose to save all your files to one drive by default, firstly its a bad idea and secondly Microsoft has realized its a bad idea and that concept has been depreciated in windows 10 which is in public beta as of the date this was written. See a screen shot here about where you get asked that question.

 

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Make sure you chose US keyboard layout

US UK keyboardIf you are setting up a new Windows 8 PC, make sure you chose the US keyboard.

Even though we use UK spelling we us the US keyboard layout, the US keyboard has $ and the UK layout has pounds and Euros plus there are some other changes as well, its quite a pain to change this back so get it right from the onset.

 

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TV [and media centre] retune

If you live on the Central Coast, NSW. Yesterday was the day that you needed to retune your digital TV's set-top boxes and Windows media centre PC's here's is the information site: http://retune.digitalready.gov.au/ and if you have never heard of Windows media centre your missing out! This has been my main TV for 10 years now; record 4 channels at once, skip all the adds and no monthly fee....

MediaCentre2

MediaCentre1

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Add shortcuts on desktop in Windows 8

In Windows 8, why can't I find the way to create application shortcuts on desktop? I only see the two options "Pin to Start" and "Pin to Taskbar", and although these two methods are convenient, sometimes I wish to create application shortcuts on desktop, too. How can I achieve this feature?

Solution

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Don't be an admin on your own PC

Running Windows as a standard user rather than with 'admin' rights removes over 90 percent of the risk" according to a recent study. (yes I know I have been going on about this for years):

Check to see if you are an administrator on your PC by right clicking on "My Computer" or "Computer" or "This PC" (depending on your Windows version) and chose manage.

  • If you are able to access the Windows computer management console (with or without a warning popup) then you ARE an administrator and you might want to consider changing that.
  • If you are prompted for a username and password then you aren't an administrator and are a lot safer from malicious software.

This is especially important for home users or less computer savvy users.

Current versions of windows have made running as a non-admin for everyday access a lot easier. When you are installing software or a new printer most of the time you can just enter the administrator credentials when prompted to do so and it doesn't hugely get in the way of getting things done.

If you are running as just a lowly "user" on your own PC and you open an email or browse the web and see the administrator popup then you know there is something wrong because these things should require admin access.

At that point you can pause to consider if entering administrator credentials would be a good thing or not.

 

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How to remotely control another PC - Windows 8

Remote desktop connection iconHow to "remote desktop" or remotely control another computer using Windows 8

Follow this link for a guide on how to use the build in [free] remote desktop feature to remotely control another PC. Note that that the “remote” PC needs to be setup to accept connections.

 

 

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Screen cleaner product

MagiKleenI often get asked what product to use for cleaning computer screens, phones tablets etc. Here is the product I recommend along with the information from their web site. This stuff is great I last purchased from Harvey Norman.

(Note: use common sense when spraying liquid onto electrical goods)

http://www.magikleen.com.au/magikleenlcdplasma.html

MagiKLEEN Optical, LCD & Plasma Flat Screen Cleaner

The Best Screen Cleaner on the Market

This product is the Rolls Royce of screen cleaners; we can now claim to be the NO 1, LCD/ Plasma & Flat Screen cleaner in Australia. We sell to most major Retail, Commercial, Government & selected computer stores including Air Services Australia which control the majority of Air Traffic control Towers throughout Australia, they now use our LCD Cleaner to clean their screens after passing stringent quality control guidelines.


Our product is environmentally friendly, completely harmless, non toxic & non-flammable.
It is completely safe on all screens including modern coated screens.
Leaves a streak free finish.
The shelf life of the product is 5 plus years.
Cleans CD & DVD discs & optical surfaces without damaging the surface (cameras, videos, GPS units, glasses etc).
Australian made ingredients.
We have taken out an Australian Patent on the product.
    
MagiKLEEN Optical, LCD & Plasma Cleaner emits with each pump a 125 micron spray (0.125 ml) our unique formula requires only the smallest amount to clean even the most dirtiest screen, unlike cheaper products or imitations that are just soapy water. We sell this product in a kit form. The kit comprises of our patented formula & specially matched cloth. We can then guarantee our product will not scratch the surface it is cleaning.

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Use Snipping Tool to capture screen shots

Sometimes the easiest way to make a copy of something is to take a snapshot of your screen - this is what the free Microsoft snipping tool does. If you have windows 7 or 8 then you should have the snipping tool already.
Use it to save and share news stories, movie reviews, or images.

You can capture part or all of your PC screen, add notes, save the snip, or email it right from the Snipping Tool window anything that displays on your screen can be snipped.

Bring up or view the "source" for example a PDF, webpage or other content that you wish to "snip" on your screen and start the windows snipping tool. Within the tool click "new" then select the area that you want to snip and finally save as a jpg or png file so that you can add to your word document, email or wherever else you need it.

snipme


Sometimes the simple solution is the best! Want more details? Click here....

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Outlook 2013 "pop-out" replys

Outlook2013

When you reply to a message in Outlook 2010 or earlier, Outlook creates a new message in a free-floating window. When you hit Reply (or Reply to All) in Outlook 2013, your reply appears "inline," above the original message in the viewing pane on the right this works well on a touch screen tablet but on a normal desktop PC not so much.

Many of the message options available in Outlook 2010 aren't available in Outlook 2013, and it's easy to lose track of your reply when switching to other apps, unless you click Pop Out at the top. Pop Out makes Outlook revert to the 2010 behavior.

Solution: In Outlook 2013 Click File, Options, Mail. In the Replies and Forwards section, check the box marked "Open replies and forwards in a new window."

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Idle state antivirus scan (NOD32)

NOD32-Antivirus-Box-Shot

NOD32 antivirus version 7 can be set to do a virus scan when the PC is idle (and not on battery power), the previous versions were typically set to scan at a specific time such as 2am on Sunday night (or "on next start-up").

Inevitably "on next start-up" is when you need to use the PC, that's why your starting it up right? So this is why you may get the impression that its frustratingly slow "every time you come to use it" this is because its starting up, doing an antivirus update, windows update, app updates and also an antivirus scan all at the same time. No matter how powerful your PC that's a lot of hard drive activity all at once.

 

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Word 2013 reading view

Word 2013 reading view (or in most cases "prevent you from reading" view) isn't my favorite 2013 feature, turn it off using these steps:

In Word with a document open: click File, Options, and on the left make sure General is showing. Near the bottom, uncheck the box that says "Open e-mail attachments and other uneditable files in Reading View." Restart Word.

Word2013

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"Server based mail"

Why do you recommend "server mail" what's the benefit?:

Microsoft Exchange (also included in the Office 365 subscription product) is a "Server based mail product" all the mail is maintained and stored on the server.

When using server based mail you start up Outlook, it makes connection to the servers and then synchronizes mail, calendar events, contacts and tasks both ways up and down (from and to your PC):

  1. Changes (new email, moved mail, created folders mark as read etc.) that you may have made in Outlook when you were offline (such as on a laptop or if the server was down) will be sent back up to the server
  2. Changes (new email, moved mail, created folders mark as read etc.) that we made on another computer or via web mail or a smartphone will be synchronized from the server down to your Outlook.

Additionally, Exchange server provides the same premium experience on mobile devices and tables such as Windows Phone and tablets, Android, and IOS.

The huge advantage to this is that all your computers/devices are kept in sync and changes made in one place (such as read and delete actions) will be mirrored to all your devices/access methods.

Isn't this the same as the free IMAP service I can get from my ISP?

If you have experienced IMAP you will have some understanding of how this works but IMAP is extremely limited by comparison. There are a number of other features such as shared folders calendar collaboration, remote wipe for your phone (for lost phones) available in exchange but that's enough information for now.

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MS Office (Outlook) 2013 issues

MS Office (Outlook) 2013 issues:

OK I have spent more than 10 hours of my evenings over the past few weeks trying to resolve issues with MS Office Outlook 2013 running under Windows 8 this was for the home and business version but I believe it's the same for all the new "click-to-run" versions. (Volume licence MSI install versions for business don't have this issue at all and I have been using Office 2013 since it was released without seeing this issue)

Basically the issue relates to accessing and modifying Outlook profiles (accessible via the "mail..." icon in the control panel). This is required in an instance where you have 2 x different mail accounts that you want to handle separately. Technically this issue manifests its self as rundll32.exe error.

I have replicated this issue 100% of the time under multiple (at least 5) different windows 8.1 PC's in different environments including clean installs. I have tested this using multiple different install disks (3) from multiple different suppliers. I have applied all the available patches and fixes suggested by both Microsoft and the IT community have failed 100% of the time.

I have gone round and round and round and round in forums and Microsoft support and I believe that this is a bug in the product that is unfixable by IT support such as myself. Now, this presents a bit of a problem as there is no Office (Outlook) 2010 available any longer.

What to do?

  • Firstly be aware of the issue understand that this will be a pain point and as such will require extra support time to address and is not fully resolvable at all for now, proper planning is required.
  • Secondly there is one and one only work around that I have established and that involves an Office 2013 MSI install disk (serial number not required).

What have I not tested:

  • OEM, Office 365 version or key-card based click to run downloadable versions, the products that I have tested are only H&B retail, however my understanding is that this applies to all click to run versions.
  • Office 2013 on windows 7 not specifically tested but I have observed this working, not sure what delivery methods these were installed by.
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Windows 8 KB shortcuts I

Windows8KBShortcuts1

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New desktop PC specs

I get asked about a recommendation for a new PC a lot (obviously). These days its a lot easier than it used to be so here you go in one sentence, for a standard business PC:

Intel i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, Windows 8.1 (normally) (always pro), Office 2013 home and business (always retail version), NOD32 antivirus (never security suite), Acronis drive image home 2014 (this is your insurance), Small UPS (APC brand), 22" - 24" screen. Seriously consider a warranty upgrade to onsite.

Brand/suppler... well you will have to call me for that and it is significant.

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Running Windows with ‘std' rather than ‘admin' rights removes over 90 percent of the risk

administratorRunning Windows with ‘standard' rather than ‘admin' rights removes over 90 percent of the risk" according to a recent study. See here for the full detail or below is an excerpt (yes I know I have been going on about this for years):

Running Windows users with ‘standard' rather than ‘administrator' rights would have removed over 90 percent of the risk posed by critical vulnerabilities reported in Microsoft products last year, an analysis by privilege management firm Avecto has found.

The firm first looked at 333 vulnerabilities reported by Microsoft in 2013 across all products in its monthly Security bulletins, finding that 60 percent would have been mitigated by removing admin rights. Studying only the 147 rated as the most serious, the mitigation level reached an astonishing 92 percent.

Check to see if you are an administrator on your PC by right clicking on "My Computer" or "Computer" or "This PC" (depending on your Windows version) and chose manage. If you are able to access the Windows computer management console (with or without a warning popup) then you ARE an administrator and you might want to consider changing that (will require thoughtful setup). If you are prompted for a username and password then you aren't an administrator and are a lot safer from malicious software.

However even as a standard user all the usual safe practices apply.

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Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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