What do we do at a Q&A session?
One of the strengths of computer user groups is the technical assistance provided to members – by members. The Ottawa PC Users’ Group is no exception to this general rule. Our motto “Users helping users” says it all.
We publish a wealth of useful information in Ottawa PC News, our monthly newsletter, and answer questions on the members-only forum on our web site. Following each monthly meeting, we hold a question and answer session where anyone can raise any computer-related queries and, hopefully, have them answered through the combined knowledge and experience of the members present.
The Q&A session is held at 9:00 pm, normally on the second Wednesday of the month, immediately following the club’s monthly meeting.
Articles posted on OPCUG’s web site and published in the newsletter provide tips, tricks, and (solutions to) traps related to Windows (and other operating systems) and its associated software products. Additional information is often developed as a result of our Q&A sessions. Some of these contributions are reproduced below.
Over the years, OPCUG has had a number of Special Interest Groups (SIG’s). Most recently, the Beginners’ SIG, Windows SIG, and the Linux, Free Software and Open-Source SIG have all morphed into the current Q&A session. People attending our monthly meetings are invited to join the session and ask questions about Windows, Linux, or any computer hardware or software problems. We may not have all the answers, but we will try our best to help.
Do you have questions? — We have answers!
We have seen previously how to reclaim disk space by tweaking access to the Recycle Bin using the Disk Cleanup utility, and how to use a utility such as TreeSize Free to check what is hogging the available disk space.
The latter came in useful recently, when Windows was issuing a disk-full error. Running TreeSize Free, and selecting Drive C: to be scanned, allowed the identification of a number of large folders that were redundant. These included a 4.7 GB folder, plus a number of associated smaller folders, that were left over after uninstalling Android Studio.
Another oddball entry in the list of folders was found in the Users/toaster/AppData/Local/ directory (where “toaster” is my user name on the computer). Here, a folder named VirtualStore contained a sub-folder named XnView that was using almost a quarter of a gigabyte of disk space. This was yet another redundant folder left after uninstalling the XnView image manager.
Once identified, such redundant folders were easily removed by right-clicking on the folder name and selecting the Delete option in the context menu. It should be noted, however, that when running TreeSize Free as a regular user, the resulting disk space is not reclaimed until the computer is rebooted. To have files deleted immediately, use Shift-Delete.
Another utility that can be used to recover disk space is CCleaner. It can remove a lot of useless files. But be careful! It can also remove some really useful stuff such as saved passwords, browser history, and taskbar jump lists.
The safest way to use CCleaner is to click on Custom Clean in the left panel.
On the Windows tab, select only:
- Microsoft Edge: Internet cache
- Internet Explorer: Temporary Internet Files, and Index.dat files
- System: Memory Dumps, and Chkdsk File Fragments
On the Applications tab, select only:
- Internet Cache and Compact Databases for every browser listed
Review the list of all that CCleaner can remove and if you are sure you don’t need some category listed, select it.
Then click the Analyze button. Once the analysis completes, review what CCleaner says it will remove and, if you are happy with the list, click the Run Cleaner button.
Finally, we recommend that nobody use the CCleaner option for Registry Cleaner. If you don’t believe us, read: https://decentsecurity.com/registry-cleaners/
What do you do if a dialogue box requiring you to click on a response button “pops up” but isn’t visible on the display screen or the control button just isn’t accessible? Using the “Alt-space” key combination will display a context menu from which you can select “Move”. You can now use the mouse to drag the dialogue box window and its control button onto the visible area of the screen.
However, the move-arrow key combination will only work if the dialogue box has common controls and this is not always the case. So, another idea is to change the resolution of the monitor, at least temporarily. Even if it is beyond the capabilities of the monitor being used, it is safe to try because Windows will revert the resolution to what you had after a few seconds (unless you click the OK button after the resolution changes).
A final idea was to check with the vendor (or a user forum for the software) to find out how many hits on the Tab key will get the focus to the non-visible control button and then press Enter.
One of the features in using drive letters in Windows is that the OS will assign the next-available drive letter to a storage device that is plugged into a computer. The potential problem with this is that if two such devices, e.g. USB flash drives, are plugged in together, the resulting drive letter assignments may not be what the user expects.
For example, the flash drive that I routinely use for file synchronization normally shows up as Drive E:. The reason for this is simple – Drive C: is the hard disk partition for Windows and the installed applications, Drive D: is a dedicated data partition, so the next available drive letter is E:. However, suppose that I boot the machine, plug in my 4TB external USB drive and then insert my backup flash drive. Windows, in its infinite wisdom will now assign E: to the external USB drive so that my backup flash drive becomes Drive F:.
This isn’t a huge issue. In FreeFileSync, I can simply browse to Drive F: as the target drive and my backup file synchronization will work as advertised. But, suppose, I really want my backup drive to always display with the same drive letter, how can I achieve this?
In Windows 10, the answer is to right-click on the Start button and select Disk Management. When the list of available drives is displayed, right-click on the drive of interest and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths…” In the subsequent dialogue box, select “Change”. Now, the drop-down menu for “Assign the following drive letter” will allow any available drive letter to be selected. Choose “X” for example since it is unlikely that any drive on the system will ever have this drive letter by default. Click “OK” and – bingo – Windows will now always refer to your flash drive as Drive X:
The United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre has worked with Troy Hunt, from the “Have I Been Pwned” web site, to come up with a list of the top 100,000 most-used passwords. Everyone should review this list (copy available below) and make sure that you are not going to be an easy target! See Lawrence’s list of the top-100 passwords in the following file: Top100kUsedPasswords
The EXIF information embedded in image files can contain a wealth of information including things like the make/model of the camera, and camera settings such as the aperture of the lens and shutter speed. It can also contain more sensitive information like the GPS coordinates where the photo was taken. It is always a good idea to consider if you want such information shared when you post the photos online or otherwise share the files.
Windows 10 has a built-in feature to “Remove Properties and Personal Information” from files. In the case of JPG files, this is the EXIF data in the file. In File Explorer, right-click on an image file, select “Properties” and. on the “Details” tab, click on “Remove Properties and Personal Information”. The default is to “Create a copy with all possible properties removed”. Oddly, Windows cannot remove all properties. If you select the radio button “Remove the following properties from this file”, you can scroll through the list and put a check in the box beside any property you want removed. Note that not all properties have check boxes.
If you want to remove all EXIF information, there are a number of free programs that you can use including: IrfanView (http://www.irfanview.com) and BatchPurifier LITE (http://www.digitalconfidence.com/downloads.html).
A future article in the newsletter will go into more detail.
At the October Q&A Session, we discussed using the Windows built-in utility Disk Cleanup (Windows 7 through 10) or the Windows 10 Settings app (Settings | System | Storage | Free up space now) to free up space – sometimes up to 35 GB or more – on your computer.
If using Disk Cleanup, be sure to click the Clean up system files button to get the largest number of options for cleaning up.
Carefully read the descriptions to choose the options that are right for you. Two of the options that may be there that can free up the largest amount of space are Previous Windows installation(s) and Windows Update Cleanup
More details are available in the following newsletter article: Freeing Up (lots of) Disk Space! Ottawa PC News; p.1; April 2019 (1.5 MB PDF)
Such redirection likely occurs due the web site identifying (from your IP address) that you are located in Canada – and deciding, therefore, that you must want Canadian content! A possible solution is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and to select a server located in another country, thus making it appear that you are based in that country.
The Internet Service Provider (ISP) “owns” the IP address assigned to each of their users, and all IP addresses owned by the ISP are presumed by any remote web server as being in the same country as that of the ISP. So, if a web site interrogates a user’s browser request, it will identify the user’s IP address as being based in Canada.
If the user implements a VPN, the VPN software encrypts the data for each browser request and routes the traffic through the VPN’s server, before sending it on to the target web site. The encryption process is the primary reason for using VPN’s; however, there is a second feature that can be useful. Since the target web site is receiving data from the VPN’s server, the IP address associated with the request is attached to that server. Most VPN’s offer servers in various parts of the world. Consequently, subscribers to a VPN service can select any one such server and so have it appear that their computer – based on the VPN server’s location – is located in another country. For example, if the VPN’s server is located in Dallas, Texas, then the user’s IP address will appear to be an IP in the United States.
A number of VPN’s offer free versions of their software that can be useful, at least to explore the features that a VPN might provide. Most free VPN’s have limitations over the features that their paid-for cousins provide. Generally, this comes in the form of a data cap (of perhaps 500 MB of Internet traffic in any given month), a reduced number of servers and locations to choose from, and/or limited transmission speed.
Some suggestions for free VPN’s are as follows:
In addition, it was noted that the Opera web browser has a built-in VPN feature:
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Do you press a key on the keyboard or move the mouse only to find that your computer won’t wake up from sleep mode? Check the power management settings for the two devices. Navigate to Control Panel – Hardware and Sound – Display Manager. Scroll down to Keyboard. Left-click on the chevron on the left side of the list of devices to display a list of the available keyboards. Double-click on the name of your keyboard. Navigate to Change settings – Power Management. Select the check box for: Allow this device to wake the computer. Follow the same procedure in Display Manager for Mice and other pointing devices.
When you obtain search results from Google, are many of the listings seriously out of date? You can easily refine the list of hits to only include results for the last year, or the last month, or even a custom period of time. Click on “Tools” and use the drop-down arrow on “Any Time” to select a time period of your choice.
A really simple way to access Google’s search options, and to use multiple criteria for the same search, is to use the advanced search feature: https://www.google.ca/advanced_search
When you scroll down when reading certain web pages, do your speakers suddenly boom out a voice advertising some product (for which you have zero interest)? The problem is likely that a video has automatically started up in part of the page that you have just scrolled by!
Every time a member booted up his computer, all the icons on the desktop would briefly disappear and then get rebuilt. A suggestion to remedy this situation was to delete the icon cache file.
In Windows 7 through 10, this can be done as follows:
(1) In File Explorer, navigate to Folder Options, and turn on the options to View and Show Hidden and System Files
(2) In C:Users%username%AppDataLocal folder delete the hidden IconCache.db file
In Windows 10 you also have to:
(4) Go to C:Users%username%AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsExplorer
(There are a bunch of files like iconcache_32.db, iconcache_48.db, iconcache_96.db, iconcache_256.db, iconcache_1024.db, iconcache_1280.db, iconcache_1600.db, iconcache_1920.db, iconcache_2560.db, iconcache_exif.db, iconcache_idx.db, iconcache_sr.db, iconcache_wide.dd, iconcache_wide_alternate.db, etc.
(5) Delete these files
So you bought a shiny new computer running a 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel Core-i processor or the latest Ryzen processor from AMD. And you really don’t like Windows 10. So you are thinking of installing Windows 7 or Windows 8 on the machine instead.
Don’t do it.
For quite a while Microsoft has been saying they will only support Windows 10 on the latest processors from Intel and AMD. I thought that meant that, although older versions of Windows would likely work, if there were any “issues”, Microsoft would do nothing to fix them.
But it appears to go beyond that. Reports coming in from the web are that Microsoft is actually blocking Windows updates on computers running Windows 7 and Windows 8 that have Intel Kaby Lake or AMD Ryzen processors.
Like it or not, if you want to run Windows, and you have a computer with the latest silicon, your only choice is to run Windows 10. This may only affect a very few consumers, as they (you) are likely to buy the computer with Windows 10 preinstalled and leave that version installed.
This may be a big problem with corporations. Typically, they want to standardize on a single Windows platform. Many are still standardized on Windows 7 and may be years away from a migration to Windows 10. They will have to be careful not to buy new computers with Intel Kaby Lake or AMD Ryzen processors until they are ready to use only Windows 10 on them. Can you imagine being in the position of buying new computers and, rather than future-proofing by buying the latest & greatest, having to choose to buy computers with older processors?
Of course you do have other options if you have a computer with the latest silicon and don’t want to run Windows. I have not heard any reports of other operating system manufacturers refusing to permit older, supported versions on the latest processors.
After updating Windows 10 to the Creators Update, the first set of regular updates under Windows Update stalled. In particular, KB4015583 stopped downloading when only 15% complete. Leaving the machine on overnight had no effect. After rebooting the machine, a second attempt to have Windows Update download the update stalled at 2%. This was not going well!
The fix was to manually download and install this update from the Microsoft Update Catalog web site (http://www.catalog.update.microsoft.com). Choose the 32- or 64-bit version of the update that is appropriate for your machine and choose “Open With (Windows Update Standalone Installer)” to download and install the package directly.
The start menu disappeared on a friend’s Windows 10 machine. In addition, it wasn’t possible to enter anything in the search box. This made it somewhat difficult to do very much!
Some of the fixes suggested on the Internet, including booting into safe mode and then back to regular mode, or setting up a second administrator’s account, failed miserably. Running the Windows 10 Start Menu Troubleshooter also had no effect.
The solution proved to be an “in-place upgrade”. This effectively overwrites the installed version of Windows 10, but the trick is to do so while selecting “Keep personal files and apps”.
There is an excellent tutorial on the Windows Ten Forums web site – Windows 10: Repair Install Windows 10 with an In-place Upgrade – with detailed instructions on how to proceed.
My choice was to download the Media Creation Tool and create a bootable installation disk. I then ran setup.exe from this drive, making sure to select to download and install updates, and opting to retain the personal files and installed applications.
Graham Cluley, writing in “The State of Security Newsletter” points out five common Internet scams that you should avoid:
- That email from your friend wasn’t sent by your friend
- Is that link going where you think it’s going?
- Is that an L or an I in that URL?
- Is that an attachment or a link?
- Bogus virus warnings
As Graham says: “April Fool’s day is almost upon us. Take care on the big day, but more than that – keep your guard up every day of the year.”
A member reported that all of the icons on the desktop had disappeared. A couple of possible solutions were suggested.
Firstly, the laptop may have inadvertently been switched into tablet mode. This setting can be changed by navigating to Settings – System – Tablet mode. Another way to access this setting is to left-click on the task bar icon for the notification bar (in the bottom-right corner of the screen), expand the list of options if necessary, and select the “Tablet mode” option.
The second possibility was that desktop icons were hidden. To toggle this setting, right-click anywhere on the open desktop, select “View” and “Show desktop icons”.
For users who have keyboard setups for multiple languages, Alt-Shift can be used to toggle from one language to the next. For example, with English and French keyboards, Alt-Shift will toggle from English to French. A second application of Alt-Shift toggles back from French to English. With more than two languages, Alt-Shift cycles from one language to the next.
At a recent Q&A session, Jeff Dubois discussed ISO files – what they are, how to download them from the Internet, and how to burn them to create bootable media. Jeff pointed out that an ISO file is a single file that is “a perfect representation of the entire contents of a CD, DVD or Blu-ray disk”. Most operating systems (e.g. Linux distributions) and large applications (e.g. Microsoft Office) can be obtained by downloading an ISO file.
To create a live-CD/DVD of a Linux distro, the trick is not to simply copy the ISO file to a physical CD or DVD since this would not create a bootable disk. Rather, one has to use burning software to burn a disk image to the optical disk. In Windows 10, this is achieved very simply by right-clicking on the ISO file and selecting “Burn disc image”. The resulting disk can then be used to boot the computer and either run Linux as a live session or install the operating system from the CD or DVD to the computer’s hard drive.
Note that double-clicking on an ISO file (or using right-click – Mount) results in the contents of the ISO file being displayed in File Explorer. Here you can see the individual components of the operating system or application that are contained within the single ISO file.
Download Jeff’s PowerPoint presentation on ISO files (947 KB PDF) using the following link: ISO_Files
In Windows 10, the default setting for File Explorer is “Quick View” which provides an ever-changing list of recently-used files and folders. An alternative is to set the viewing mode to “My PC” (View – Options – Change folder and search options – Open File Explorer to – This PC) which displays a list of standard folders (e.g. Documents, Pictures, etc.) and all of the available drives. If neither of these views suits your particular needs, you can customize File Explorer to open a specific drive and/or folder.
Navigate to C:\Windows\explorer.exe. Right-click on the file name and select “Send to Desktop” to create a desktop icon. Now, right-click on this icon, select “Properties”, and change “Set Target to:” to something like “C:\Windows\EXPLORER.EXE /n, /e, E:\alan” (Replace “E:\alan” with the drive and/or folder name that you wish to use on your computer. For example, I simply use “E:” to display the contents of my data drive (partition).)
Now, right-click on the File Explorer icon (the small yellow folder) on the task bar and select “Unpin from taskbar”. To replace this item with the customized version of File Explorer, simply right-click on the desktop icon you just produced and select “Pin to taskbar”. You can now delete the desktop icon since your customized version of File Explorer is readily available by means of a single click on the task bar icon.
A secondary advantage to the customized icon is that, when it is used to launch File Explorer, a second icon is displayed on the task bar. The original icon can now be used to launch a second instance of File Explorer so providing two windows that can be used as a source of files and a target folder respectively for drag-and-drop operations to copy or move files between folders.
Note that, when tweaking File Explorer was described at a recent Q&A session, there were two further suggestions:
Phil Dawes suggested a method for creating a shortcut to any specific folder. Run File Explorer, right-click on any desired folder, select “Create shortcut”, then drag the shortcut onto the desktop. Double-clicking on this icon launches File Explorer and displays the contents of the specified folder.
Norm Dafoe provided another tip to launch a second File Explorer window. Once, File Explorer is running, simply press Ctrl-N. This launches a second instance of the customized version of File Explorer.
I have a machine running Windows 7 and recently, when attempting to install an update though Windows Update, I received the message, “Error 80240016, Windows update is currently installing other updates. Please try again later”. I had gotten this error message before and solved it by restarting Windows. But not this time.
A quick search at Google identified a solution that worked. It turns out that if Microsoft Security Essentials is running a scan, this can prevent updates from being installed! And, I guess, this produces a completely inaccurate error message in Windows Update!
I checked and, although Microsoft Security Essentials was not running a scan, it was warning me that a scan had not been run in a while and my computer might be at risk. I let it run a quick scan, then tried Windows Update again and, this time, it happily installed the pending update.
When Windows 10 was first released, Cortana (the digital assistant akin to Google Now or Apple Siri) was not able to work if your settings were set to Canada. When the November Update came out, it was reported that Cortana would work for Canadian English, so I decided to give it a whirl.
I clicked in the search box on the Taskbar, then the gear icon, and then turned on Cortana. It started the configuration process and got to a screen where it said “Before I can help, you’ll need to go to Settings and change your speech language to one I speak.” I clicked the “Settings” button at the bottom and it took me to Settings | Time & Language | Speech. There, “Speech language” was set to “English (United States)”. When I clicked the drop-down, there was no other option (I was hoping for “English (Canada)”.)
I knew from reading, that the speech language and region had to match. Under Settings | Time & Language | Region & language, “Country or region” was set to “Canada”. So I had a mismatch where the country was set to “Canada”, but the speech language was set to “English (United States)”. I didn’t see any way to add a speech language of “English (Canada)”.
A bit of searching found where this elusive, obvious-once-known (right, Chris, you keep telling yourself that…), option is; Settings | Time & Language |Region & Language | Languages, click once on “English (Canada) which opens a panel underneath. Click the “Options” button. The resulting dialog box will have an option to download the speech pack.
Once that is done, Cortana will work. Note that the configuration wizard for Cortana will also insist you turn on location services and log into a Microsoft Account (if you are using a local account to log into Windows.
Now I just have to figure out if I actually want to use Cortana!
If you like the ability to use multiple tabs in programs like Firefox and Notepad++, you may appreciate having the same functionality in File Explorer. This is easily achieved by downloading a free utility named Clover 3 from: http://ejie.me/.
This software acts as an automatic extension to File Explorer. Once you install the software, a new “half-tab” will appear any time that you run File Explorer. Simply click on the new tab to launch a second view of your file system. If you wish, you can drag the new tab to an open spot on the desktop and create a second instance of File Explorer in a separate window. (See also: tips_tricks_traps_05)
An alternative to using Clover, that allows running a second instance of File Explorer in a separate window, is to hold the Shift key down when clicking on the File Explorer icon in the task bar a second time. (See: http://superuser.com/questions/721342/how-do-i-run-more-than-one-windows-explorer)
A recent question at a Q&A session involved a backup drive that was full, with the backup software telling the user to delete all the backup files and start over. The problem was that the software had made a baseline backup followed by a series of incremental backups. Once the disk was full, everything had to be deleted in order to make space for a new set of backups.
Now, while this would indeed allow a new backup to be made, it would also eliminate the ability of the user to recover specific files from past backups. Our solution was simply to switch to a more flexible backup program.
Read the full text article as published in the following issue of our newsletter: Managing Backups; Ottawa PC News; p.4; June, 2016
While the Internet is a rich source of information, if you are looking for specific help in tweaking Windows 10, you are likely to find a huge number of sites featuring only a limited set of tips.
However, Laptop Mag has put together a very large collection of tips and tricks for Windows 10 titled “How to Use Windows 10” and grouped into sections;
- Windows 10 Basics
- Customize Windows 10
- Fix Annoyances and Problems
- Cortana Tips
- Edge Browser Tips
- Performance and Productivity
- Security and Networking
- Storage and Backup
Visit the site at: http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/how-to-use-windows-10
Windows 10 jump lists are great. These lists pop up when you right-click on an icon for a program or the button of a program on the taskbar. They allow you to easily access recently used documents used by the application in question. And if you frequently need to access certain items, you can pin them to the jump list where they will always be available
Unfortunately, Windows 10 limits the number of such items to 11. However, with some light registry hacking, you can increase this number.
Click the Search box on Windows taskbar, type in regedit, and when it shows in the results pane hit Enter.
Click on Advanced to see the values associated with the key in the right pane. Look for a value name called JumpListItems_Maximum. If it doesn’t exist, create it by clicking Edit | New | DWORD and name it JumpListItems_Maximum.
Edit the value by double-clicking on it. Change the Base to Decimal and in the Value Data box, enter the new number you want for the maximum number of items on jump lists. Click on OK and close regedit. You may have to log off and back on again but, otherwise, that’s it!
Rather than just yanking out a USB-based storage device (flash drive or external hard drive) it is always advisable to use the tray icon with the tooltip Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media. This ensures all files are closed and you won’t lose data.
However, sometimes Windows 10 will report Windows is unable to stop the device… and will admonish you not to remove the device while it is still in use. This can happen when some unknown process has files open and, sometimes, even when you swear you have no files open on the drive! The following procedure will still allow you remove the device.
Open File Explorer and find your USB device. One way is to click on This PC in the left panel, and then find the device in the Devices and drives section on the right. Right-click on the device and choose Eject from the pop-up menu. If there are actually no open files (i.e. the tray icon was lying to you), you will get the standard Safe To Remove Hardware message.
If there are, in fact, open files, Windows will tell you that and give you the options to Cancel, Try Again and Continue. If you click the Continue button, Windows will unceremoniously close the files (which could cause data loss depending on the current state of things) – and then give you the Safe To Remove Hardware message.
By default, Windows 10 will download and install updates automatically. Sometimes this might prove inconvenient, especially if Windows Update cause the the computer to reboot. There are a few things that the user can do to take more control over the update process, but there are also some downsides to doing so. This issue is outlined in a presentation given at a recent Q&A session. See: tips_tricks_traps_04 (1.4 MB PDF file)
|Update (August, 2016):|
With installation of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Redstone), the options to control a reboot have been almost eliminated, the only
remaining choice is to select “active hours” (1 to 12 hours max.)
A recently-purchased external 2 TB USB drive was found to have only 300 GB of free space when Macrium Reflect Free Edition aborted a backup process. Two suggestions were made for checking the space available on the disk. Firstly, in Windows Explorer, select the USB drive, right-click, and select Properties. A pie chart will show both the amount of disk space used and the amount of free space. A utility like WinDirStat or TreeSize Free can then be used to identify what is actually using all the space on the disk. For example, see: Sizing up the hard drive
Update (June, 2019):
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against computer failure is to maintain a current backup of your operating system, applications (programs), and – especially – your data files. While you can always reload Windows and reinstall your programs (using the original CD’s or DVD’s), material that you have created such as word processing files and digital photographs isn’t available from any other source – unless you have all such files stored on a backup! But, don’t worry, we have you covered. Chris Taylor, OPCUG’s President, has summarized his views on four disk imaging programs that will help keep your computer system safe. Read his article, Finding a Backup Program on pp. 6-7 in the February, 2016 issue of Ottawa PC News (397 KB PDF).
|Update (August, 2016): With installation of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Redstone), Windows Feedback has been replaced by the “Feedback Hub” app.|