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Category Archives for Microsoft

Optimizing Windows Vista Process and Resource Handling

Windows Vista by default installs services and configures several applications which may not suite your needs. If you are a home user rather than in a business environment there are many things you can change to give your computer that little extra oomph for applications and process you use.

 I have put together a few items which when set correctly can help you control how resources are used on your system. Some of these items listed will simply uninstall certain features or change a program configuration. Others listed can be used to actually designate what resources are dedicate to individual programs. If used properly this can make specific programs operate faster and more efficiently.

You may or may not wish to implement some or all of these changes as it will be a matter of preference. Please remember you should document any changes made to your system. This well help you reverse any changes made if for any reason you experience adverse effects.

Uninstalling remote differential compression

The remote differential compression feature is designed to streamline file transfers to and from remote directories by keeping track of file changes and only transferring the changed information. 

To disable this feature: 

Go to "start/control panel/programs/uninstall a program".

On the sidebar select “turn windows features on and off”.

Uncheck “remote differential compression” and select "ok."

Designating which CPU (if using multiple processors) runs a specific process 

Windows Vista allows you the ability to assign an application to run only on a specific CPU. This is called processor affinity. This is a good way of balancing the load on a multi-core CPU.

Assigning processor affinity to an application:

Launch the desired application.

Press CTRL+ALT+DEL and choose the “task manager”.

In the “applications” tab locate the desired program and right click it. Choose "go to process".

This will bring you to the "processes" tab with the process used by the application application highlighted. Right click the process and select "set affinity".

The processor affinity window will open. Using the check box select which processor(s) you want to run that application. 

Note: All settings will reset to default when a restart of the computer is performed.

Assigning priority to an application

All recent Microsoft operating systems have contained the concept of priority, meaning in this case, which process gets the most attention from the CPU. In Vista, you can customize these priority settings so that your hardware is concentrating most on what you want it to.

Vista has a range of available settings ranging from "low" to "real time". 

Note: Any full screen application automatically is assigned high priority by Windows Vista.The best way to optimize such applications is to tweak the commonly used windowed applications.

Assigning a custom priority to an application:

Launch the desired application.

Press CTRL+ALT+DEL and choose the "task manager".

In the "applications" tab locate the desired program and right click it. Choose "go to process".

This will open the "processes" tab with the process highlighted. 

Right click the process and choose "set priority". The priority list will openand you may designate your desired level.

Note: that choosing "realtime" is not wise as this will designate all processing being alloted to this one specific process. All settings will be reset to default when you restart the computer.

Configuring Windows Defender

Windows Defender by default runs a scan daily. Even though this scan runs in the background it can impact system performance. You may wish to disable the automatic scanning and perform only occasional manual system scans.

Disable Windows Defender automated scans:

Open the "start" menu and in the search field type "defender."

select the "tools" icon at the top of the window and then "options".

Uncheck "automatically scan my computer" and select "save".

This will be the first in a line of articles dedicated to improving performance on Windows Vista. If you have a suggestion of your own that you have implemented and you feel may be beneficial to others please comment on this article. We would be happy to include any viable tips in our next article.

PC VS Mac

According to some recent benchmarks the Mac hardware out performs PC based systems when running Windows. Consider they use almost identical hardware it makes you wonder why this is.

Well for starters the Mac does not have the x86 memory limitations. In a Mac when you have 2gigs of memory that is exactly what it sees; whereas a PC has the 640k limit in which it must break up the 2gigs worth of memory. Thats not to say Mac’s dont have their issues with memory.

The main benefit I believe comes from a standard hardware set. If you have a set type of hardware then you can test that hardware for a more efficient design of the overall computer. Unfortunately with the typical PC based OEM system hardware is not picked by best performance, but rather the lowest bidder. This is where you can run into trouble. I know I have experienced issues with PC based systems having compatibility issues between hardware devices.

PC based systems might reap the benefits of atleast somewhat standardizing the equipment (atleast between models), and before you say it; yes I understand the impact it would have on the hardware industry, but maybe performance is atleast one cause for the increase in market share that Apple is enjoying.

Windows xp sp3

Although xp has been proven to be one of the better operating systems written by Microsoft there of course are updates and changes which still need to be addressed.

Some of the changes included in xp sp3 have been implemented in there own individual update packages previously, but are now included in the encompassing sp3 pack. This will provide a one time update solution for those who are like me on many of Microsofts’ patches.. a little weary.

I most curious to test the latest service pack to see how performance compares with Vista sp1; which at least with xpsp2 the xp operating system has proven to out perform Vista.

The service pack has been released on TechNet and made available in an admin pack, but has yet to be released on the Windows Update site.

Of course many of you know my feelings on jumping out there and immediately grabbing the latest updates. This isn’t to say I will not grab it for testing. I’m just always the cautious one when implementing in a production environment. This does include you individual users……at least those who consider their data valuable.

Considering this I have as well fallen into a comfort zone when it comes to the xp operating system and my confidence in it, even still I will muster the strength to be patient.

Of course right now the big buzz is being generated by all the sites guessing when the service pack will be made available to the update service. I will not even venture to even guess. Besides I am more interested in the buzz it will create after the release. Yes that was me chuckling in the background!

Botnets

Spammers and hackers today are very sophisticated when it comes to covering their tracks. Instead of sending spam or using their own computers to attack an orginization or individual they now employee Botnets.

 A Botnet is a collection of computers (that have been hacked and taken over) which a remote user can use to execute operations such as spam, DOS attacks and other types of mailicious activities.

To quote another article I recently read: “Joe St. Sauver, manager of security programs at the Internet2 networking consortium and the University of Oregon, said there are 5 million to 5.5 million botnets in active rotation at any time.”

Article: Botnets Running Rampant Neal Weinberg, Network World care of PC World

The best way to help prevent this from occuring for an end user is to keep your operating system up to date; Always have an updated virus software running (with a scheduled scan enabled weekly); Employee a good firewall.

I understand many of the computers that are part of Botnets are generally not an end user machines, but rather machines hosted in a public environment such as libraries, campuses and other public domains. Is there no IT staff available to monitor these networks?

Generally speaking the case is that the IT department is so understaffed, overworked, and under budgeted they simply don’t have the time or the money to implement the proper equipment which can detect and prevent this from occuring. That is if they have an IT department at all.

Look…We all know how to prevent most of this from occuring. I am by no means saying it will ever stop, because anything that can be secured can be hacked (it’s all a matter of time), but lets atleast try to secure our own computers.

If you would like more information on how you can secure your computer please follow this link to a previous article over best security practices I previously wrote. I hope it helps.

Is Microsoft Giving up on Vista?

 The buzz here lately around the tech shop deals with whether in fact Microsoft is giving up on Windows Vista and all it’s problems.

No definite answer has been given, but as Reuters reports Bill Gates was touting Windows 7 which he stated is slated for release in the next year or so.

As with my earlier blogs we already know according to reports that Windows xp sp1 and sp2 out perform Windows Vista in a side by side comparison. Not to mention how users feel about all of the headaches…I mean changes such as the User Account Control.

The only thing I would like to know is how Microsoft is going to compensate the million or so users that have sunk two to four hundred dollars into an operating system that may end of life before it ever got going?

No wait! That isn’t the only question I have. What about all us admins and technicians that have sunk thousands of dollars into Microsoft’s training and MSITPRO certification for Vista? This will undoubtedly be very frustrating if we receive the typical Microsoft response.

No wonder Microsoft is losing market share to Linux and Apple…I know I’m not going to stand for being treated like that. Not only as a customer but as an admin and technician.

Hmmm! Maybe I will just get my Mac certification rather then spending thousands of my hard earned money on Microsoft products and training just to have them decide they made a mistake.

Despite all my ranting you can bet my ear will be to the ground on this one. Lets see how it plays out.

Microsoft Vista Update Causes Continual Reboot

Microsoft recently (At the end of February) released a patch to fix issues with one of the Windows Vista installation software features.

When installed the patch (ID number 937287 which is still available for download) causes some systems to continually reboot themselves in an un-ending loop.

Of course who would have ever thought that Microsoft wouldn’t get it right? Microsoft stated the problem seems to only affect “a small number” of the more than 100 million Vista users. In my opinion thats still to many (especially if you are one of the affected users).

Do not threat though! Microsoft is offering assistance with this issue. Of course the contact information isn’t posted on the front page of the main web site so I figured I would offer it here for anyone who may need it.

Please if you know anyone affected by this issue pass the following information to them. Microsoft is offering assistance at the following toll free number 866/727-2338.

Just another reason to wait on installing those wonderful Microsoft updates.

Windows Vista Sp1 Released

You may or may not have read my previous article over Vista sp1, but as a quick refresher I will outline a few entries.

The below portion is pulled from my previous post on the Sp1 subject. I just wanted to keep this information fresh in your mind if you are thinking of downloading Sp1 before other people have had a chance to feel the pinch (Beta testing). 

The word on the street (and in other articles) is the fact that Windows xp is faster at more operations than Vista sp1. According to Principled Technologies Inc. (Whom performed the testing at the request of Microsoft) Windows xp is faster than Vista sp1 at 61% of the operations grouped in a consumer test suite and in 46% of the operations in the business-oriented in a head-to-head competition on duplicate computers.

Aside from the performance factors another issue to consider is Microsofts’ service pack track record. Once again any admins will understand where I am coming from. It is not often Microsoft puts an extensive service pack out that doesn’t cuase issues with compatability.

Let it ride for a while! What I mean is you should allow others to install it first: then watch the forums for issues that have been discovered by other people after implementing Sp1. I can gurantee you feel a whole lot better knowing you weren’t effected. I’m not saying that you should never install Sp1, I am just saying you should wait a while. As with many service packs and patches provided by Microsoft they are there to plug holes that intruders may use to gain access to your computer.

If I could I would wait, unfortunately I have to endure the pain to find out if there are any compatability issues that need to be reported to clients. Thank goodness for my test bed of computers.

Windows Vista Update SP1

According to the buzz Windows Vista sp1 is soon to be released. This may be a blessing or a curse only time will tell.

I am a little apprehensive to say the least. I know what your thinking “Oh come on can it really be that bad?”. Well that really depends on Microsoft does it not? I’m sure we have all had our experiences whether good or bad with service packs. If you are an IT admin you know exactly where I am coming from.

Maybe just maybe Microsft has learned from past experience with the release of service packs how simple mistakes can effect users and they wont leave anything to chance.

The word on the street (and in other articles) is the fact that Windows xp is faster at more operations than Vista sp1. According to Principled Technologies Inc. (Whom performed the testing at the request of Microsoft) Windows xp is faster than Vista sp1 at 61% of the operations grouped in a consumer test suite and in 46% of the operations in the business-oriented in a head-to-head competition on duplicate computers.

These facts do not deliver much hope for improved performance for Vista when it comes to the sp1 update. The best bet will be to let everyone else test it first. Once most of the issues have been resolved….Well then it will be my turn.

You can learn to use Windows Vista by watching some very cool Vista training videos at MyVistaTutor.com

Microsoft Security Hole In Windows Vista and XP

  Microsoft is currently addressing newly discovered holes in the security of their Vista and xp operating systems. Most importantly a security vulnerability in Windows Vista and XP that could expose a computer to an early-season bite while you are connected to the Internet.

How it works is a hacker can broadcast rogue TCP/IP packets to any range of IP addresses. The rogue packets have the ability to circumvent Windows’ security and hijack a computer turning that computer into part of a Bot net. Bot nets are designed for spamming as well as launching self replicating worms and even worse ICMP attacks which can shut down servers.

Currently there have been no attacks using this vulnerability. Microsoft scrambled to make available a patch to secure this hole and it is currently available using the link below. The patch may already be applied to your system if automatic updates are turned on.

Click Here for The Microsoft Security Patch

Help is not available in Office 2007

I have had many questions dealing with the same issue in office 2007 as of late. The question voiced the most has been “why can I not access the help section of Office 2007?”.

This is typically due to the UNC path of the help file not being defined in the registry. Whether the entry was removed or the registry was damaged there is a simple way to fix the issue.

Note: If your registry is damaged you may need to perform maintenance on it. If the registry is damaged to the point that the entire section is missing you will not be able to follow these directions as described below.

Remember: Editing the registry incorrectly can prevent Windows from operating. Always create a restore point or make a manual back up the registry before performing registry edits.

To repair this issue complete the following instructions:

1. Start Notepad.

2. Copy and then paste the following text into a new file. REGEDIT4
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftHTMLHelp] [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftHTMLHelp1.xHHRestrictions] “UrlAllowList”=”UNC_path

Note:The UNC path is the universal naming convention path. This is the full path to the help files.

3. Name the file 926707.reg, and then save the file to a location of your choice.

4. Use the Office Customization Tool to run the 926707.reg file before the 2007 Office program is installed.

One issue down, many to go.

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