Category Archives: Windows

Dell Inspiron Laptop

In my last post, I explained that my work had bought me a new Dell Intel I7 laptop with 16GB of RAM.  It came with Windows 8.1 Pro on it, and as an experiment for work, I upgraded it immediately to Windows 10 Pro.  (I have 10 Windows 7 Pro desktop computers that I manage for work right now, and knew at some point they will have to be upgraded to Windows 10 or later). I do have 3 newer desktop Dell’s running Windows 10 Pro running that I have made to look like Windows 7 Pro. Since I have to support the users within the company, it’s easier to keep everybody on the same “look and feel”.  Every computer that I manage has 16GB of RAM, and as they need hard drive replacement, I’m installed SSD’s in them.

Unfortunately, the new Dell laptop came with a slow 5400rpm hard drive, and it went from booting in about 5 minutes before the upgrade, to almost 10 minutes after the upgrade.  It was so bad, that I stopped using it, and kept using my Macbook Pro instead.  Since the new notebook is mine to do with as I please, I decided to install an SSD and load a different OS on it.

When I had more time years ago, I used to cruise Distrowatch trying different flavors of Linux & BSD.  For this project, I decided to download Ubuntu Desktop LTS 16.04, put it on a bootable USB stick, and installed it on the new SSD.  Boot times went from 8 to 10 minutes running Windows 10 Pro, to less than 15 seconds!

Granted, I have a bunch of stuff, (Dropbox, Adobe Creative Suite, MS-Office Pro, etc), that loads into Windows 10 Pro when it boots.  But a new Dell I7 laptop SHOULD boot faster.  And yes, I could have installed the SSD and loaded Windows 10 on it, but to be honest, I am not very impressed with Windows 10.  The final straw was how long it took to do “updates” to Windows 10.  Again, I know part of it was my fault for not using it all the time, so that it wouldn’t have to “pile on the updates”.  I took the Dell laptop with me on a business trip as a backup, and it took over 24 hours to update the damn thing!  Good thing I didn’t have to use it during that time.

The Dell laptop is now a pleasure to work on, (yes the touchscreen works), and I plan to start using it more and more.  If you have an older or even a newer laptop, I would encourage you to get a spare drive and install a Linux distro on it and have fun!


Surviving Windows 8

Over the last few months, I’ve had to “customize” friends’ new computers that have Windows 8 installed on them.  Now none of them have had touch screens, (the real reason to have Windows 8).  I usually got a panicked call saying, “how the hell do I work this thing”, or “where the hell is the start button”, or something of that nature.  So for all of you that are supporting folks getting new computers, here’s what you need to do.

Try Classic Shell.  You can change the way the desktop looks.  You can change the way Windows Explorer looks.  Just about everything is customizable.  Best of all, it’s FREE.  This little “desktop enhancement”  will save you hours of phone support for those “friends” that just had to have a new computer!

(From their website):

Classic Shell is a collection of usability enhancements for Windows. The main features are:

  • Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins
  • Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8
  • Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer
  • Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer

Give Classic Shell a try if you want Windows 8 to look like the old familiar Windows of the past.

Test Driving Windows 8

I finally have had some time in the last few weeks to try the newest version of Windows, (Windows 8 Consumer Preview).  I do not own a tablet, and I believe that would be the optimal test platform, (more about this later).

The test machine is a Dell Inspiron Model 1501:

  • AMD X2 64 bit processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 15″ LCD Screen
  • 250 GB SATA Hard Drive, (my old Macbook HD)

This machine is at the bottom end of the “official” hardware requirements from Microsoft.  I felt that it would be an honest test of the new OS’s capabilities, since it runs Windows 7 Pro quite well.

When I went to download the CP from Microsoft, I was shocked to find a 32 bit version of Windows 8.  My understanding of the move to 64 bit everything, was that Windows 7 was going to be the last version available in 32 bit.  Since even the least powerful current Intel Atom processor is both dual core and 64 bit, this surprised me. (Note:  Since I started writing this article a few weeks ago, I have now downloaded and installed the Release Candidate version of Windows 8.)

The biggest difference, (and complaint), from end users is the “new” Metro desktop.  While I’m sure that this would be something “really neat” on a tablet, it is absolutely a royal pain in the ass on a desktop or laptop computer that doesn’t have a touch screen.  On the bright side, there are several 3rd party add-ons, that give you the traditional “Start” button back on your desktop.  The upshot is that you CAN make this version look and feel like Windows 7.  As a person who has to support large numbers of desktop and laptop computers, making existing users comfortable with change is never an easy task.

With the official release of Windows 8 in the fall of 2012, end users in the home market will probably not have a choice to “downgrade” to Windows 7 like they did when Windows Vista was introduced.  The fact is that home market end users are always the ones that get stuck with the least amount of choices.  Since most businesses are just now migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I don’t see a huge rush to adopt Windows 8 into the business market.


  • While I understand that Microsoft had to build an OS for the tablet and smartphone market, the desktop and laptop market is already being well served by Windows 7.
  • Most end users are going to wonder where their programs and start button are.
  • Businesses will NOT be upgrading to Windows 8 anytime in the next few years.
  • Only time will tell if Windows 8 is a move forward, or just another piece of crap from Microsoft like Windows Millenium and Windows Vista.
  • Just like Windows 7, users may find that some of their existing software does not work with Windows 8.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2012

As most of you know, I’ve been a big fan of Vipre Antivirus from Sunbelt Software for about 4 years now.  However, they were bought out by a big corporation about a year and a half ago.  Since then, the quality of their product has taken a nose dive, so this year when it came time to renew my subscription, I decided to move to Kaspersky’s Internet Security 2012 package.  I have been using this at work, and we use Kaspersky’s AV on all our managed workstations and their Security Center software on all our Windows servers.

I can’t tell you how many computers that I fix every year that have Norton, McAfee, AVG, Avast, Vipre, or some other brand of either paid or “free” AV software.  I have yet to repair a computer with up-to-date Kaspersky software loaded and activated on it.

If you follow the link listed in this article, you will be able to purchase a 3 user license version of Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 for only $19.99.  That’s $60 off the regular retail price, and actually cheaper than just the AV product.  I don’t know how long this price will be available, but even if you still have some time left on your AV product, buy this to replace it with when the time comes.

Like most AV and IS products, there is a large download to do AFTER you install it to get the product up-to-date.  But once it is installed, you can just “set it and forget it”, because it works like a champ!

Do yourself a favor and take advantage of this special pricing right now!

Kaspersky Internet Security 2012



One of my clients called me a few nights ago, and was having problems getting and staying on the Internet.  After talking to him for a few minutes, I was able to determine that the computer system had been hijacked by a new variant of the program called PC Guardian.  I loaded up fresh USB stick with Simply Super Software’s Trojan Remover, and off I went to his house to “fix” the computer.  Unfortunately, this was the same computer I fixed a few months ago using Trojan Remover when another rogueware program hijacked it.  This computer has a current copy of GFI’s Vipre on it, but the virus definitions hadn’t been updated in over a month.  (This gentleman is rarely home, and does not leave his computer on all the time).

When I realized that SSS’s Trojan Remover was not going to work, (it wanted me to buy the software), I unplugged the desktop unit, and took it back to my house.  Once there, I removed his SATA hard drive, loaded it into a SATA external HD case that I have, fired up my desktop, and did a full scan of his drive using Vipre.  It quarantined the Trojan-Downloader.Win32,Fraudload virus, but did not get rid of all the underlying files.

I have been wanting to do a “wipe and reload” on this computer for over a year now, but the owner hasn’t agreed to it, yet.  By this time it was getting late, and I decided to get a fresh start on the problem in the morning.  The next day, after bouncing a few ideas off my buddy Ernie Hatfield, (who owns Heart of the Rockies Internet Solutions in Salida, Colorado), I decided to give the ComboFix tool a try.  (NOTE: only use this link to download ComboFix, as this is a trusted source.  There are some bogus versions of ComboFix out there on the Internet).  ComboFix is a great tool, but should only be used by a someone who understands the consequences of Murphy’s Law.  (There have been problems when using this tool on Windows Vista OS based computers.  This particular computer is still running Windows XP).

After reading the instructions, I loaded the ComboFix tool onto the infected desktop computer, and ran the program.  It took quite a long time, (being very thorough), to inspect all the files and remove the infected ones.  Once the computer rebooted, (which it did sucessfully), everything was fine, the PC Guardian icon was gone from the tray, and the computer had no problems getting, (and staying), on the Internet.

I returned the desktop computer to the gentleman, with a stern warning about updating Virus protection first, before doing anything else.

Beware of

Well, here we go again.  CyberDefender, (a known malware and rogueware company), has brought up a new website called  This new website wants you to call them and let them take control of your computer.  Then they hope to sell you a “protection package” to help keep your computer “clean” and fast.  It’s funny how this new website has the same photographs of “actual users”, that the other CyberDefender television ads and websites use.  Here’s my other posts, Antivirus Scams & More Malware Scams, about the different websites and scams this company perpetrates on unsuspecting computer users.

WARNING: Avoid these scam artists at all costs.  If your computer is infected with viruses, spyware, and rogueware, the last thing you should do is be on the Internet!  Unplug your computer and use a “clean” computer to download tools that will help you get clean.  Here’s a list of some of the best FREE tools out there on the Internet:

There are a host of other tools that you can find on the Internet, but these two, (IMHO) are the best.

We these two tools, you should be able to get most Windows based system clean.  It has been my experience, (over 20 years of repairing computers), that some Windows based viruses become so embeded in the operating system, that your computer may need to be “wiped and reloaded”.  Wiped & Reloaded means to back up your data and settings, (not programs), reinstall the operating system, (and all the patches that it needs), reinstall a reliable Antivirus program, and restore your data and settings.  I have seen shops that charge upwards of $250 to do all this, but when I had a repair shop in Colorado, I would charge $90 to do this even though sometimes it took 5 or 6 hours to complete the job.  (I still have a friend in Colorado that does this for $75 even today).

Here is a just a short list of articles about CyberDefender:

Keep your system “clean” by doing operating system updates on a weekly timetable, update your antivirus software every day, and scanning everything that comes into your computer, such as downloaded programs, emails, USB drives, CD’s, etc.  Being vigilant will keep your computer clean and safe, easier to get clean if and when your computer does get infected.

Dell Hell, again!

Many times in the course of trying to fix someone else’s Dell computer, I have found myself in what can only be described as “Dell Hell”.   DH is the situation you find yourself in when you cannot find the support files or instructions that you need to fix the problem(s) correctly.  On the Internet you can find many references to DH, most having to do with dealing with Dell’s telephone sales or India based customer support.  In my case, this is how the most recent episode unfolded:

I was experiencing some “issues” with my Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop, circa 2007.  It came with 2GB of RAM, an AMD Dual Core CPU,  an 80GB Hard Drive and Windows XP Home.  In mid 2010, I installed a 250GB Hard Drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium, (the 64bit version).  Even though Dell does not have any support, (driver), files for this model running Windows 7, everything worked, (except for the scroll function on the trackpad).  Carolyn had been using this laptop without any problems for over 6 months.  Without warning, Internet Explorer 8 started crashing on a regular basis, along with trouble getting the computer to “wake up” from sleep mode.  Thinking that perhaps Microsoft had downloaded a patch that was causing the problem, I restored the computer back 1 week, but the problems still persisted.  I then went back another week, but to no avail.

I rummaged through my linux CD’s, and found one that has a memory tester as a boot program.  After running the memtest, it found that one stick of the RAM had errors.  I removed that stick, and Carolyn continued to use the laptop.  All the problems went away, but it was noticeably slower.  Dell’s website says that 2GB of RAM is max for this model, but there are lots of folks on the Internet that say they have 4GB installed, with no problems.  So me being adventurous, I ordered 4GB of RAM from, and within a week, (with their FREE shipping), I had the RAM in my hands.  Putting both 2GB sticks it got me a blank screen with no beep codes, but no booting the OS either.  Removing the 2GB stick from slot B, and then the laptop would boot correctly.  No matter what combination I tried, I could only get the notebook to work with 2GB of RAM.

Switching gears, I then went to Dell’s website to look for BIOS updates.  The BIOS is the Basic Input Output System for any computer.  All computer devices have a BIOS.  Since “updating” the BIOS can solve certain problems, (like seeing more memory), it was worth a shot.  Sure enough, Dell had two updates to the BIOS on this particular model, one update marked as “critical”.   I downloaded both updates, planning to do them incrementally, and tried to install them.  Most BIOS updates have to be installed from boot/DOS level, but these particular Phoenix BIOS updates came only with a Windows installer.  Well, after messing with the Windows updater for several passes, and dealing with the various “error” messages that it generated, I was not having any luck.

Being the brilliant technician that I am, I decided to give the “DOS” version a try.  Following the instructions on Dell’s website, I prepared a 3.5″ floppy boot disk.  (Yes, I have a USB external floppy disk drive for just these occasions.)  Dell’s instructions say to copy the complete BIOS file to the floppy disk.  Now friends, if you can figure out how to copy a 3.4MB file onto a 1.44MB floppy disk, please enlighten me!  Frustrated, I decided to search the Internet for a solution.  After running into numerous postings of folks with the same BIOS problem that I was having, I decided that this laptop will have to live with only 2GB of RAM installed.

Emerge Desktop

If you are looking for a way to customize the “look and feel” of your Windows Desktop, try downloading and installing the Emerge Desktop.  It supports Windows versions from Windows 2000 to Windows 7, (in both 32 and 64bit versions).

Emerge Desktop is a replacement for the Windows explorer window manager.  It provides a system tray, a taskbar, and virtual desktops.  It replaces the start button with  a desktop right-click menu for accessing all your programs.  Emerge Desktop features can be enabled or disabled optionally for complete customization.

It certainly gives the traditional Windows desktop a look that is more consistent with a “linux-like” look and feel.  Give it a try and see what you think.

More Malware Scams

I saw a new TV ad today for a website called  This is yet another website giving away a “free” antivirus/antispyware scan sponsored by CyberDefender.  Don’t fall for these scams!  I absolutely hate these websites that try to trick unsuspecting customers into downloading their software and and then try to extort money from them to remove the imaginary viruses and malware.

If you are still unsure about CyberDefender, (the software that you have to download and install), then just Google “Cyberdefender scams” and see what happens.  Seems like CyberDefenders’ new tactic is to go after anyone that writes a bad review.

Stay away from these guys at all costs.  Make sure that your system is protected with valid antivirus/antispyware software.  We highly recommend using Vipre, (see the banner ad below), a lean and mean AV solution for your PC.

Antivirus Scams

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercials on TV for “”, “Double My Speed”, or a similar product, with glowing “testimonials” about how it restored their PC to better than original state.  Don’t believe any of the claims for one second.  Almost all these “free trial” products use a known malware program called “CyberDefender“.  These scam artists have all kinds of variations, a product named AntiVirus 2010, is just one of the newest.

If you get “infected” with any of these rouge programs, try downloading , VIPRE (a legit company).  I use Vipre on all my Windows PC’s and laptops, and have been virus and malware free for over 3 years now.  Vipre will even let you try the fully functioning version for 30 days, which is plenty of time for you to get your system clean.  Vipre is a “lean and mean” antivirus product, unlike Norton, Trend Micro, or McAfee products which really slow your computer down.  I also like the fact that I can purchase an unlimited Home site license for only $50 a year.  That’s perfect for my situation, as we have 4 computers running Windows 7.

VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware