Today Microsoft presented a glimpse of their next version of Windows to about 50 trade press writers. (Watch 39 minute video) Microsoft is distancing itself from Windows 8; apparently “9” wasn’t distant enough, so the new version will be named Windows 10. It will ship next Spring.
Just as Windows 7 was actually a service pack for Windows Vista (which should have been offered gratis), it appears that Windows 10 fixes many objections to Windows 8’s user interface(s).
Microsoft’s update from Windows 8 to 8.1 was released in April, but I still encounter PCs that are stuck on Windows 8. And I do mean stuck. Windows 8 is a dead-end: Microsoft will not provide security patches for Windows 8. Users must update to Windows 8.1 to receive security patches. If you haven’t updated from Windows 8 to 8.1, I recommend that you do so now.
Unfortunately, at least 50% of the time, the update from Windows 8 to 8.1 is a royal pain. Problems range from existing anti-virus programs blocking the update to stalled downloads. It’s a huge download of about three gigabytes, so aborted updates can consume hours each time you must restart the update. I like the detailed step-by-step instructions in About Technology‘s How to Update to Windows 8.1. If the update’s download stalls for hours, I recommend the steps in this article: Fix: Your Windows 8.1 install couldn’t be completed error. (If the net stop bits command refuses to execute, you can run services.msc in the Run box, and stop the Background Intelligent Transfer Service from within the Services window.)
If your update fails, you may need to remove the ‘USB Bluetooth’ device from within Windows’ Device Manager and re-try the update.
This painful update procedure (roughly equivalent in magnitude to going from the original Windows XP to Service Pack 1, but far more trouble-prone) is just more proof that Windows 8 is a disaster.
Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP after April 8. If you insist upon continuing to use Windows XP after that date (a strategy that I don’t recommend), you should remove administrator privileges from most users. Read this December 10 report on the beneficial results of removing administrator rights.
The report highlights the following key findings:
Of the 147 vulnerabilities published by Microsoft in 2013 with a Critical rating, 92% were concluded to be mitigated by removing administrator rights.
96% of Critical vulnerabilities affecting Windows operating systems could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
100% of all vulnerabilities affecting Internet Explorer could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
91% of vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft Office could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
100% of Critical Remote Code Execution vulnerabilities and 80% of Critical Information Disclosure vulnerabilities could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
60% of all Microsoft vulnerabilities published in 2013 could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
An easy way to strenghten Windows XP’s security is to first create a new user account with Administrator rights. Make sure that you can log into this account. Then edit the remaining users’ accounts so that they have Limited rights (not Administrator rights). Use the new Administrator account only when you must.
April 17: Disable Java in web browsers.
Go to Start / Control Panel / Java. Click the Security tab. On the Security properties sheet, uncheck the box labelled “Enable Java content in the browser”.
Within the last few months, Microsoft updated its Windows Update service so that to update Windows XP, the user must have Windows XP service pack 3 installed. Service packs 2 and 1 will not update via Windows Update. (I know — update of service packs 1 and 2 worked until recently, but Microsoft broke Windows Update. Maybe this is one way of encouraging XP users to update to Windows 7 or 8.)
Windows Update doesn’t report the cause of its refusal to work.
Last week I ran into an ingenious Windows XP infection.
The victim’s hard drive rapidly runs out of free disk space. I never did identify the exact culprit. The virus continually appends to a hidden file named “avenger.txt” in the root of drive C:. When I found it, c:\avenger.txt was over 500 gigabytes in size!
My cure was to reformat the disk and install a fresh copy of Windows XP.
A client recently complained that his Windows XP computer had run slowly for weeks and now Windows wouldn’t start. Following power on, the Windows XP splash screen appeared for a few seconds, followed by a system reset. This sequence would repeat in an endless loop.
A low-level check of the disk revealed no bad sectors and Memtest86 revealed no bad cells. I used an Ubuntu (a Linux distro) boot CD-ROM; Ubuntu couldn’t see any partitions on the hard drive(!). This is not good news. I booted from a BartPE1 CD-ROM. It couldn’t see any partitions on the hard drive either. I booted from a Windows XP setup CD with a view to doing a repair install, but it could not see a Windows partition or system on the hard drive. Uh-oh.
The cure for this sick pup? Boot from a BartPE CD-ROM, go to the command prompt, and enter the command CHKDSK C: /F. On this disk, chkdsk needed nine hours(!) to repair the NTFS partition and its table. At the 19% point during phase 1, the screen didn’t update for more than an hour. Several times, the PC seemed to have frozen. I was tempted to shutdown BartPE, but the PC’s drive activity light indicated that something was accessing the hard drive, so I allowed it to continue.
After nine hours, chkdsk reported that it had finished repairing the disk and exited to the DOS prompt. I rebooted the PC. Sure enough, Windows started and ran. A quick look revealed tbat the 160 GB disk had 0 (zero!) bytes free. This sick puppy needed more attention, but at least its data could now be salvaged.
I don’t need BartPE often, but when I need to access an NTFS partition and run a Windows or DOS command on a machine that can’t boot Windows, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
BartPE (Bart’s Preinstalled Environment) is a lightweight variant of the 32-bit version of Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, similar to Windows Preinstallation Environment, which can be run from a Live CD or Live USB drive. – from Wikipedia
I was asked to repair a Windows Vista computer that would consistently fail with a “blue screen of death” within minutes of starting. This is usually a symptom of a memory problem, but memtest86 (run from a DOS boot CD-ROM) failed to find a problem. Sometimes an overheated CPU will cause this problem, but the CPU seemed to be in firm thermal contact with its heatsink and both the CPU and power supply cooling fans were spinning. Sometimes a bad disk sector in the middle of the system kernel will cause this symptom, but testing the disk revealed no bad sectors. I suspected a weak power supply, but the computer ran fine with Windows in Safe Mode. I finally concluded that one or more 32-bit Windows drivers (which don’t load in Safe Mode) or anything else in Windows that doesn’t load in Safe Mode must be the culprit.
While in Safe Mode, I noticed that someone had installed a half-dozen unusual anti-malware and driver management utilities, plus a large assortment of toolbars. I tried to uninstall them, but most refused to uninstall in Safe Mode. Still in Safe Mode, I ran services.msc and disabled services that were associated with these dubious programs.
When restarted, the computer ran fine. Those utilities must have been fighting over the same interrupt. So now it was just a matter of removing the superfluous junk that had been installed, updating Windows, and installing Microsoft Security Essentials.
What caused the problem?
When prompted to install a supposed piece of security software, novices often reason “If some is good, more must be better”. With security software, this is not true.
Caveat:Disabling the wrong service in services.msc can cause serious problems. Proceed with caution. Be prepared to reinstall Windows or at least to restore to an earlier restore point if something breaks.
Within the last year or so, Microsoft Windows has become pretty secure. (I didn’t think that I’d ever use the words “Windows” and “secure” in the same sentence.) Microsoft has been relentless in fixing Windows’ vulnerabilities and distributing those fixes through Windows Update. Now the malware creators have turned to Adobe Reader, Flash, and Java to spread their infections, so it’s doubly important that you keep these three programs up to date so that they block the latest exploits. Rust, and the malware scourge, never sleeps.
Microsoft plans to discontinue support for Windows XP in April, 2014. What does that mean for most Windows XP users?
In general, I don’t recommend upgrading a Windows XP computer to Windows 7 or 8. (One reason: Windows 7 requires twice as much memory as XP and its Aero interface requires more CPU horsepower.) Wait until your Windows XP PC fails, and then replace it with a new PC with Windows 7 or 8 already pre-installed on it. (If your new Windows 8 PC lacks a touch screen, you’ll prolly want to install Classic Shell or Start8, so that it works like Windows 7.)
A client recently asked me to uninstall Corel WordPerfect Suite release 8 from a Windows XP PC. That sounds easy: Start / Control Panel / Add/Remove Programs, right? Wrong. The normal uninstall procedure resulted in a request that I insert the Corel WordPerfect Suite release 8 installation CD, which of course was unavailable.
Here’s how I uninstalled it:
Backup the registry:
Start / All Programs / Accessories / System Tools / System Restore
Within System Restore, choose Create a Restore Point
Delete contents of directory C:\Corel:
(Enter only the boldface commands)
Start / Run
C:\Corel>ATTRIB -R -S -A -H *.* /D /S
C:\Corel>DEL *.* /S
Enter ctrl-F to find each instance of COREL
Delete each instance of COREL
Choose Scan For Issues
Choose Fix Selected Issues
Warning: If you stumble, any one of these steps could destroy your Windows operating system and render the computer unusable. DOS commands and Windows Regedit are like dynamite — powerful, but dangerous. Don’t follow these steps if you’re not fluent in DOS commands and Regedit.
Based on file datestamps, this copy of Corel WordPerfect Suite seemed to be from 1998 — back when Windows 95 was still viable!
Reports have leaked from Microsoft that its upcoming Windows 8.1 release will revert to a classic Windows Start button (a Start button only, not a Start menu) — at least on PCs. I don’t know how it will behave on tablets with touch screens.
Microsoft has claimed that they ship twenty million copies of Windows 8 each month, yet PC sales fell 14 percent last quarter. Some observers claim that the unpopularity of Windows 8 is at least partially responsible for the downturn. The growth in mobile device sales and a weak global economy have eaten into PC sales, as well.
According to leaks, Windows 8.1, expected to be revealed at the end of June, will no longer boot to the “modern” (né “Metro”) interface and its “Start screen”, but instead it will boot to the familiar Windows desktop interface. In the meantime, if you’d like to make your Windows 8 computer work like Windows 7, give Classic Shell a try. (It’s open source and available for free.)
Step right up! Lance Whitney on Cnet points out that Microsoft’s limited-time offer for a discounted Windows 8 upgrade expires soon. In an article titled Get your cheap Windows 8 upgrade now he details
Users of Windows 7, Vista, and XP can purchase the upgrade to the new operating system for just $39.99 per PC. Those of you who bought Windows 7 after June 2 last year can score Windows 8 for just $14.99. And that’s for the Pro version.
After January 31, the upgrade price skyrockets to $119.99 for the regular edition and $199.99 for the Pro version.
What’s wrong with this picture? Windows 8 just isn’t selling, regardless of its pricing, and despite Microsoft’s reporting hocus-pocus that’s enabled by OEM bundling and filling up the channel pipeline with unopened copies of Windows 8. So if they can’t sell them now at discounted prices, why do they think that people will buy them at much higher prices?
Windows 8 may just turn out to be a replay of the Windows Vista flop.
The good thing about these cheap upgrades is that you don’t need to activate them now. They remain valid until October 26, 2015.