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Category Archives for Startup Issues

Backing Up the registry and using Sytem Restore

The registry contains extended information, settings and various other values for the Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows XP Operating System. Within the registry you can control a majority of the operating system as well as fix issues with Windows. However we only recommend users extensively experienced with the Windows registry edit it manually.

Before going into the Registry and changing or deleting anything I always recommend that you backup the registry.
To back up the registry Go to Start/run and type in the command field “regedit” without the quotes. Once the interface is open select file and then export. You should select the save in location as the root of c:. You will need to provide a name for the file. Once completed select save.

The computer registry consists of two files hidden in the Windows directory, system.dat and user.dat. User-specific system information is contained in the user.dat file and computer and hardware specific information in the system.dat file.

Microsoft Windows now includes a new feature known as system restore. This great new feature enables a user to backup and restore their important registry and system files from an earlier date. By default this feature automatically creates a backup of the system each day When working properly. If you wish to create a restore point using system restore follow the steps below.

Creating a restore point

1.Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore

2.Select the option to Create a restore point

3.Click next and follow the remainder steps.

Reversing to a previously created restore point

1.Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore

2.Select the Restore my computer to an earlier time option and click next

3.Select the day and the restore point you wish to restore and click next.

Using regedit to incorrectly change data can render you system non-functional and it can cease to boot up. Please do not attempt to manually edit registry information if you are not experienced in doing so.

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.

Troubleshooting Driver issues in Vista

People are still scrambling some what with software design and implementation for Windows Vista. Even software such as device drivers for hardware can be problematic.

After experiencing some issues with device drivers on my own computer I figured I would try and locate any pertinent information which might help not only me but you as well. My issue started with an Intel driver update in which there was a more recent update than the one I had installed.

I tried installing the latest version and the system did not recognize the new driver after multiple installation attempts. After a few hours of frustration I located an article published by Microsoft which outlines basic driver troubleshooting for Windows Vista.

The article was outlined by Microsoft as follows:

 I just installed a new hardware device, and it is not working correctly.
 There are several things you can try:

• Make sure that the hardware device is compatible with your computer and version of Windows. If the device is not compatible, you will need to find the correct driver. Check the information that came with your device. You can also search for the device on the Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) website. This website contains a comprehensive list of computers and devices that have been tested to work with Windows Vista.
• Many devices require special drivers to work properly. Be sure that you have installed any software discs that came with the device.
• Restart the computer. Restarting the computer might be necessary if the driver requires it or if the driver did not install correctly.
• If the device is a universal serial bus (USB) device, disconnect it and then plug it in to a different USB port. Windows should detect the device and install the drivers. Windows will notify you if the device drivers did not install properly.
• Updated drivers might be available through Windows Update. When you check Windows Update, click View available updates to determine if an updated driver is available for your device. For more information, see Install Windows updates.
 My device used to work, but now it doesn’t.
 There are several things you can try:

• Updated drivers might be available through Windows Update. When you check Windows Update, click View available updates to see if an updated driver is available for your device. For more information, see Install Windows updates.
• If you can’t find a new driver through Windows Update or the manufacturer’s website, find the disc that came with the device and place it in the computer’s CD drive. With the disc in the CD drive, update the driver for the device. See Repair or update a driver.
 I can’t connect to the Internet to update my drivers.
 You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.

If you do not have a connection to the Internet, you might need to update your network adapter driver manually. If you have the disc that came with the device, place it in the CD drive and follow the steps to manually update the driver.

If you can’t find the disc, try to connect to the Internet from another computer and download the device driver from the device manufacturer’s website. Once you have the device driver files, copy them to the computer with a problem. Follow these steps to manually update the driver.
 1.  Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager.?  If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
2.  In Device Manager, locate the device under Network adapters, and then double-click the device name.
3.  Click the Driver tab, and then click Update Driver.
4.  In the Update Driver Software wizard, click Browse my computer for driver software.
5.  Click the Browse button and go to the location on your computer where you saved the new driver files.
6.  Click OK, and then click Next to install the driver.
 I get an error message about Internet protocol (IP) bindings.
 IP binding problems are typically caused by an out-of-date network adapter driver. To fix this problem, update the network adapter driver by following these steps:
 1.  Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager.?  If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
2.  Double-click Network adapters.
3.  Right-click the network adapter name, and then click Update Driver Software.
Hopefully this information will aid you in a resolution without having to spend hours researching and troubleshooting.

Back To Work

Does anyone else find it hard to pick up work after vacationing? Having completed a weeks worth of vacation I am back to the grind….well….sort of.

I am using this day to read up on new stories and technologies for new content on the site. Please bare with me while I compose myself and get my head out of the vacation cloud. Of course this is not easily done…

As you can see from the last post we are now taking posted questions to better serve our users. As well I would like to add if there is a new technology or concern you would like for me to address please post a comment to this blog. I would be happy to research and address topics for our users.

After all….It is you the end user for which we create the content.

Vista Reliability and Performance Monitor

Having problems with Windows Vista?

Windows Vista has a unique feature embedded in the operating system. This feature is the Reliability and Performance monitor. If for any reason you are experiencing difficulties with Vista or a third party program that is installed this utility can be used to help identify the source of the issue.

The Reliability and Performance Monitor is a Microsoft Management Console snap-in that includes tools for analyzing system performance. You can monitor hardware and application performance in real time. Also available is the ability to customize what data you want to collect. You can define custom triggers for alerts, automatic actions, generate reports, and view past performance data.

The Reliability and Performance Monitor combines many functions of previous stand-alone tools such as Performance Logs and Alerts, Server Performance Adviser, and System Monitor. It provides a graphical user interface for the customization of Data Collector Sets and Event Trace Sessions.

Reliability and Performance Monitor contains three monitoring tools to aid you in determining a root cause of performance issues such as Resource View, Performance Monitor, and Reliability Monitor. Data collection and logging is performed using Data Collector Sets which must be defined to capture any required information.

Reliability and Performance monitor will be a useful utility for identify issues that may slow performance or cause instability.

Having acquired years of experience with windows and how well it performs (or not) I can assure you it will be in my arsenal of diagnostic utilities for Vista.

Windows Vista Recovery Environment

Microsoft has added a new feature to the Windows arsenal. The new utility is the Recovery environment utility. This new utility has been added to aid a user in repair of the Windows Vista OS.

This new utility is actually booted from the Vista DVD and has a few new utilities. Included in this new utility are the functions below.

Repairs the MBR, partition table, or boot sector.

Runs ChkDsk in repair mode.

File Repair
Replaces the corrupt system file with a backup copy.

Reconstructs the BCD.

System Restore
Rolls back the system state by using System Restore.

ACLs fix
Sets the ACLs of the specified file to a default value.

Registry rollback
Replaces the corrupt registry hives with a backup copy.

Change Crash on Audit Failure setting
Disables Windows auditing. Only an administrator can log on to Windows.

Memory Diagnostics
Runs the Windows Memory Diagnostics tool.

You might notice the new Memory diagnostics utility. This utility not only tests RAM but cache memory as well. This can be very handy when experiencing memory errors. Its a great diagnostics utility.

The easily accessible registry rollback utility….. I am sure will be used by many users knowing how the registry can become corrupted.

If you ever have experienced an issue that could not be resolved through normal or safe mode you may want to look into the Recovery Environment utilities as it isn’t necessary to boot to Windows to use this utility. I hope it proves to be as helpful in troubleshooting and repair as I think it will be.

Best security practices for PC users

When you purchase a new computer and install it out of the box you hunger to get operational and active.

What you don’t know about security can be your downfall.

In today’s computing environment including but not limited to Internet browsing you must consider security measures to protect your data and your computer.

Vulnerabilities can include email, communication ports, wireless networking, spy ware, viruses, and securing the computer from local access.

We will review each in detail in this series. This article is designed to help protect you and your computer in hopes your computing experience will be a more pleasurable and safer one.

1. Email

As a rule when dealing with incoming email regardless of what email client you use you should generally never open an email if you do not know the party the email was generated from.

Your email client should be set to prevent attachments from being displayed or opened unless confirmed by you. Attachments can be set as executable and malicious software can be installed on your local machine.

A good way to prevent some of these entities is to have in place a good Spam blocking utility. Spam blockers can detect most types of spam that are used to either gain entry or used in phishing scams. You may ask yourself: What is phishing? Phishing is a practice used to gain information you may not consider valuable. In many cases this information can be used by the entity to obtain more valuable information about you for the purposes applying for loans, credit cards and other financial gains in your name.

Another practice to keep is anytime you use your email client you should not send valuable information such as drivers license numbers, user names or passwords for accounts(of any type). One practice that is widely used by scammers is to send an email that looks as though it is from a financial institution requesting that you update your account information. Once the information is sent you have now granted them access to the proposed account.

Setting rules to your email client can help prevent these as well. Rules are a way for your email client to detect certain words, domains or email addresses in the email and a subsequent action being taken by the email client such as deleting it automatically. Rules must be configured manually by the user for each email account. The configuration must be monitored and adjusted accordingly as tactics constantly change.

2. Internet communication ports

There is no basic way for you as a computer user to know which ports are open and dangerous on your computer. In order for you to protect yourself from these types of entry you will need to implement a firewall whether it be a hardware or software firewall. When using a firewall: remember they require constant monitoring and configuration.

Firewalls are only configured for basic prevention out of the box. Unless you purchase a monitored firewall software that receives frequent updates and rules. You must constantly stay updated on what ports are being used by hackers, viruses and other malicious code.

One of the easiest ways to keep your computer safe from entry is to use the Windows automatic update feature. Microsoft is constantly patching and reconfiguring the Windows operating system to block vulnerabilities. You must insure your Windows version is set either to automatically retrieve these updates or you need to check the Microsoft update site at least once every two weeks to insure your version is up to date. Remember if you reinstall Windows for any reason all past updates received will need to be reapplied.

You can check your version of Windows to insure you are receiving automatic updates by opening the control panel. Select the system icon and double click the icon. Select the automatic updates tab and review your current settings. If you have scheduled your system for automatic updates and installation make sure you set this action for an appropriate date and time your computer will be in use.

3. Wireless networking

Wireless networks are considerably vulnerable to entry. If not configured properly your wireless network can be used to obtain information and gain access to your local computer.

When configuring your wireless router or access point the easiest thing to do is to disable SSID broadcast. This prevents other wireless network cards from detecting its presents.

You should always change the default user name, password and SSID set by the manufacturer on your wireless unit. The default information is shared by other hardware produced by the manufacturer. This is an easy way to gain access if the information is not altered.

Use encryption on your wireless unit. This may look a little scary and prevent you from configuring your encryption as manufacturers use many acronyms to describe each security encryption type. There are several encryption types available for use. No one encryption type is 100% secure, but in conjunction with other security measures they can be used to maintain a formidable security policy. Just remember when configuring your wireless device that manufacturers publish extensive how to articles on their website for your review. As well when you purchase new hardware the user typically receives an allotted time of free support. Whether this is done through the internet or phone support the manufacturer will be willing to provide their customers the appropriate support for configuration.

Note: This should be considered and verified when selecting wireless hardware and before purchasing new hardware.

Mac filtering is a very secure way of preventing access to your wireless network. Mac address filtering pertains to the MAC address of your wireless card. Every network card has a physical address and every address is unique. Designating which MAC addresses can connect to your device prevents all others from obtaining access. The MAC address of your network card is printed on the device and may be named as “Physical address”. If you cannot find the address you may as well open the control panel and choose network connections. Right click the wireless device and select the status button. On the opened status window select the support tab and the MAC or physical address is listed.

Another security technique used is to disable the DHCP functionality or your wireless device and assign static IP addresses to each computer that will connect through wireless. This will prevent your wireless device from assigning an IP address to unknown devices.

Note: Your wireless access point may not have DHCP capabilities.

When configuring your wireless network there is an option to add a computer to the “DMZ”. The DMZ is known as the de militarized zone and leaves the specified computer unprotected (This true for all router devices). You should never use this option. If you need a particular port open to run web based software or gaming software you should contact the manufacturer of the software for the specified port and then open only that specified port if your software is not functioning properly.

Anytime your computers are not being used they have no need for Wireless capabilities. You should disconnect the wireless units power. Access cannot be obtained when the device is powered off.

4. Spyware or adware

Spyware software was originally used to track habits of Internet browsing for the purpose of aiding companies in delivering more attractive ways of driving traffic to their websites.

In more recent times this software is used for delivering pop up advertisements, tracking your movements and can be used to deliver other more harmful types of software such as viruses. These types of software are common and typically delivered as tracking cookies.

There are many sites that use more harmful types. Typically these sites offer free entry and use of their software for on line gaming or other purposes. A good practice is to avoid these types of sites and advertisements.

You should add a good spyware scan utility to your arsenal which will help maintain your security. When selecting a spy ware scan utility insure your purchase includes automatic updates of the program and definition files as well as a scheduling feature. Having the ability to schedule scans and updates will help keep user maintenance to a minimum.

The best practice would be to have a couple of lines of defense here. In my experience no one single utility has been able to identify every type of spy ware or ad ware infection. I would recommend using a free spy ware utility in conjunction with your purchased software. You should scan your system for spy ware at least once every week (dependent upon your Internet activity habits you may require more or less frequent scans).

5. Viruses

Most don’t realize how vulnerable they are to viruses. If you own a PC you should own good virus protection software. Not only own a good software title but as well the software must be maintained through updates. Most manufacturers publish updates to their virus detection database weekly. If you own virus protection software it is a must to configure automatic updates on a weekly basis. The manufacturer of your software can provide you with the date of published updates in order for to configure the date and time of your automatic update.

Setting a full system scan is very important. You should scan your PC every time an update is made available. If you decide to configure scheduled scans it should coincide with the date the published update is made available and after the update is applied. As well you should designate exactly what to scan and what not to scan. Make sure when designating what to scan if you use external drives or partitioned drives that they are included in the scan.

When purchasing your virus protection a few things need to be considered before deciding which title to buy.

1. Does it have email protection?

2. Does it protect your instant messaging software from allowing infection?

3. Does it have spyware detection capabilities?

4. Does it block against internet worm viruses?

If the virus software you are considering does not protect against of these types of infection move to another title for consideration.

Remember: Virus software licenses are typically good for one year from the date of purchase. You must renew your license in order to receive further updates and maintain protection.

6. Securing the local Computer from being accessed

The first thing to consider is implementing an account password. Most people use passwords that can be easily remembered such as a birth date. If it’s easy for you to remember it may be easily guessed by another user. Passwords should be at least eight characters and should include upper, lowercase letters as well as numbers. Implementing this strategy will prevent most software titles that can be run to obtain your passwords from completing this action easily. You should frequently change passwords as well. Not just your user account password on the local machine but as well you should alternate passwords to secure websites or passwords for internet accounts.

Your computer can be accessed easily if you walk away for even a moment. If your PC is accessible by other users you should configure a screensaver password with the same guide lines as the password for your user account. This can be easily done by opening the control panel and choosing the display icon. On the screen saver tab select the item that states “on resume, display log on screen” or “require password”. Set the wait time for one minute and select apply. This will activate your screen saver after your computer is idle for one minute. The screen saver will only activate if the computer is idle or has no activity for one minute.

The same guidelines that apply for powering down your wireless unit when not in use apply to the local machine as well.

If you decide to document your passwords for accounts (of any type) this documentation should be kept in a secure location.

When considering these guidelines you must remember: Computers, security techniques and practices evolve constantly just as the strategies of intrusion do. It is a priority that you maintain your knowledge of prevention to keep your data and computer operating system safe.

Internal utilities to maintain Windows performace

There are a few things that can be done regularly to maintain Windows functionality. These utilities are included in the Windows operating system. A few of these are disk defragmentor, disk cleanup, scandisk and check disk.

Most of these utilities can be accessed by choosing startprograms or all programsaccessoriessystem tools. The check disk utility which is part of the NT operating system which includes 2000 and XP versions is accessible by right clicking the hard drive in my computer and selecting properties. Choose the tools tab and select error checking. This will require a restart of your computer as this utility must have exclusive access to the file system. Be patient when running this utility. This operation can take a considerable amount of time dependent on the amount of information on your hard drive.

Another well known utility which will scan for invalid versions of the Windows operating system files is the system file checker utility. This utility will require your Windows disk be placed in the cd or dvd drive. To use this utility choose startrun and type sfc /scannow. Once input select the ok button to run SFC. The utility will scan all os files and report any inconsistencies. This can be very useful if your problem stems from a failed update of the Windows operating system.

It is wise to use the Windows update feature to apply all current patches and security fixes to your version of Windows. Issues are reported to Microsoft and regular updates are made available. The updates mainly patch security issues internal to Windows, but as well some are provided to improve functionality.

Some other well known utilities which can improve performance are Disk defragmentor and disk cleanup. Disk defragmentor works by organizing files and removing small blocks of empty space therefore organizing the empty space into one large block. This improves caching performance if your drive is severely fragmented. The disk cleanup utility is an easy to use interface to rid your system of unused or temporary files. Both of these utilities can be accessed by choosing the start button/all programs/accessories/system tools.

It is recommended to use these utilities at least once a month to maintain your Windows operating system. These utilities will maintain performance and Microsoft updates can improve security and performance.

Driver Update Importance

With everything you have to stay on top of to maintain computer performance and security here is one more. Anytime you update system software or third party software it can impact how your hardware performs.To maintain peak performance you as well needto update your hardware drivers. This is necessary due to changes made in either system or third party software.

Microsoft and other software vendors design their software to work in specific conditions. These conditions are set by the latest hardware available and how it relates to software functionality.When you update these types of software your hardware may not work optimally or you may experience a failure of the device or software.

Just as you update Windows or any other software you should maintain the latest version of your device drivers. Here is the easiest way to keep drivers updated. If you own an OEM computer such as a Dell, Gateway, HP, Compaq or Toshiba you should visit their support pages to obtain the latest version of software and drivers for the devices installed on your computer. These updates will be listed by published date. Be sure to follow any specific installation
instructions provided by the manufacturer.

If you do not own an OEM machine or if it was built by your local computer store then review your hardware documentation. Your receipt should list the installed components. Once you have the list of devices you can search each manufacturers website for the drivers and software individually. Be sure to follow any recommendations or directions
provided by any hardware or software manufacturer when updating device drivers.

Updates to device drivers are not published as frequently as other software updates so you should check periodically for updates. Manufacturers usually publish driver updates every few months as a general schedule.

Should you perform regular maintenance on the Windows registry?

Over time the “registry” in which Windows and other applications store information can begin to hold data that is no longer valid. Such information links to a location where there was a file or program, but the file has been moved or the program uninstalled.

Often such invalid links occur because uninstalled programs do not completely remove their registry entries. Whether the uninstall process fails or the uninstaller does not correctly remove all the entries. This can occur due to programs not being correctly uninstalled by the user or a user views a file attached to an email without saving them to disk first, or applications have been relocated without uninstalling and reinstalling them. A registry cleaner utility can come in handy to make this easy.

This invalid data eventually begins to clutter the system registry, slowing Windows down and causing other possible problems.

The Windows registry is simply a database which contains information on the Windows operating system and third party applications. This information is read at start up and includes system variables which tell Windows exactly how to operate. If this information is corrupted you will notice performance issues and can experience system error messages such as but not limited to runtime, script and start up errors.

It is recommended to perform routine maintenance to the Windows registry to maintain optimal performance. There are many products which can aid in the maintenance of the Windows registry. These utilities will aid in grooming the registry. This can be particularly helpful if you are not a certified technician. Even Microsoft states when editing the registry that making an error while editing it can disable your Windows operating system. Running such programs at least twice a month is recommended. If you routinely make changes to your system a more frequent schedule is recommended.

There are several registry cleaners on the market but only one that guarantees their software will fix your computer problems or their tech support will as long as your membership is valid.

I do recommended reviewing any Microsoft documentation on the Windows registry for your particular operating system version if you plan to manually edit any entries. These articles can be informative and give a better understanding of how the registry works. For information on your particular version of Windows please visit the Microsoft knowledge base at www.microsoft.com