Buying a ComputerThis is the first in a series of three blog posts on this subject. If you would like to receive all of the information now and in one go, just drop me an email and I will send you a pdf file. 

You may be thinking of changing your computer (laptop or desktop), but not be sure of what aspects of the specification are important at the moment. In fact, there have not been huge developments in hardware in the last few years, and you are unlikely to come across programs that definitely need a new computer (albeit they will run more slowly on your present computer than on a new, more powerful, one).

The main aspects of a computer’s specification are listed below. Instead of hyperlinks, I have sometimes included search terms that will probably show you relevant products in (at least, they did at the time of writing – January 2019). This is because hyperlinks can go out of date very quickly when linking to specific hardware. I have also listed some hyperlinks that may be useful at the end of the document.

I have listed the different aspects in approximate order of importance (with the most important aspects first). As with this guide as a whole, your own requirements and priorities may be different to what is only, after all, my own opinion.

Operating System

Operating SystemsThis should be the first decision to make as you have to get your hardware from Apple if you want to run their operating system (OSX).

If you want a Chromebook, then the specification of the hardware can be much lower than for a Windows computer as the programs being run will not put such high demands on the hardware. Consequently, Chromebooks are less expensive. Chromebooks run a version of the Android operating system to be found on many (non-Apple) mobile phones and tablets. The Chromebook runs “apps” but not full-blown “programs”. Chromebooks tend to be inexpensive, but make sure that they will do everything you need before committing to one. Most major manufacturers (as well as Google) now offer Chromebooks as well as Windows computers.

For most people, though, the logical decision will be for a Windows computer. This will come with Windows 10. Windows XP, Vista, 7,  and 8 are no longer generally available (but you might just find a Windows 7 computer if you look hard enough).



Most processors (which we can think of as doing the actual work) are from Intel and they come in three “families”. These are i3, i5, and i7. The higher the number, the more powerful and faster the processor. Other components are likely to be approximately matched with the processor so that, for instance, an i3 processor is likely to be found on a computer with a (slower) hard drive, whereas an i7 processor is more likely to be matched with a (faster) solid state drive. The price of the whole ensemble will also reflect the processor (and accompanying matched components) such that computers with i3 processors are the cheapest and i7 the most expensive (with i5 in the middle). There’s some overlap, but we could broadly classify computers (both laptops and desktop computers) as follows:

  • i3 – light use / “entry level”
  • i5 – average use and performance / “mid range”
  • i7 – gaming, or heavy use / “top end”

Other processors are made by AMD. It is more difficult to classify these along the above lines. We would need closely to analyse speeds of the processors, turbocharging, and other parameters that would send the average user running for the hills. If you are looking at an AMD based machine in a shop then it is worthwhile asking what the approximate equivalent type of Intel processor would be.


RAMAs always, the more memory the better Do not buy a computer with less than 4gb RAM. Personally, I would not recommend less than 8gb. 16gb is better – both for speed now and for ensuring that your machine will still be able to cope with the demands put on it in 3-5 years time. Again, i3 computers will have less memory than i5 or i7. The current “average” is probably 8gb but 16gb is definitely worth having if the budget will allow. A good “gaming machine” may currently have 32gb or more. Increasing the amount of memory can significantly increase the overall cost.

To be continued…

Isn’t it odd how we can become obsessed with small details when it comes to computers?

Mouse ClickI have been mildly amused many times over the years by my computer support clients asking me to help with seemingly small problems that amount to nothing more than being forced into making one or two more mouse clicks or screen taps than would seem to be necessary. The reason I am amused is that I am just like that myself, and it’s good to know that what I might think is my own obsessional behaviour is, actually, fairly normal.

Sometimes when these situations crop up, a part of me would like to point out that a way of improving the situation might be possible but that it would cost (say) half an hour of my time and that they might prefer to live with the status quo. That might be the professional approach, but I’ve got to eat, after all! Actually, that is just the advice I do give when appropriate. However, there are some occasions where there is a quicker way of achieving the same result, and I’m very happy to point it out when this is the case. There seem to be many situations, though, when all I can do is sympathise and agree.

New Shortcut

Figure 1

My own current favourite “bete noire” in this respect (if it’s possible to have a favourite bete noire) is my Barclays iPhone app. From the screen where I can see how little money I have in the bank, to the point of being logged out of the app, requires four screen taps. Why four? Logging off is the one thing you do every time you use an app (or, at least, it should be for important apps like internet banking). So why not streamline things by having a “log off” button on all screens and, if they must, a dialog box that requires a confirmatory tap before the app logs off?

How long do those extra taps take? Probably less than a second, but I still let myself get upset by this. If I used the app once a day for the next 5 years I might waste a total half an hour. For goodness sake, David, get a grip! And yet, it still seems annoying.

Shutdown Instruction

Figure 2

My theory is that what secretly annoys us is that we have no control over this stuff and we feel that it is not being designed with our best interests in mind and that – possibly worst of all – we don’t really have a viable alternative to just toeing the line and doing whatever it requires of us. We know that there’s no point in trying to complain, and trying to do without it would be (as my mother used to say) a case of cutting our nose off to spite our face. So we live with it, and get annoyed by it, and feel alienated and powerless.

Probably one of the more irritating procedures we have to go through with Windows computers is switching the things off. Would it really be so difficult to have one single button marked “Off”? And why does this procedure begin with clicking on the “Start” button? “Oh, obviously, I want to switch it off, so I have to click on Start. Perhaps I should look for a switch marked “Off” when I want to turn it on”.

Well, this is one thing we can do something about. To create a desktop icon in Windows 10 that switches everything off:

  • Right-click on an empty part of the desktop
  • Left-click on “new”. See Figure 1
  • Left-click on “shortcut”
  • In the box beneath “type the location of the item”, type in “C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe /s /t 0” (all on one line, without the quotes, but with spaces exactly where indicated). See Figure 2
  • Click on “Next”
  • Rename the shortcut if desired
  • Click on Finish
  • Try it

One small victory for mankind…….

Google can prevent you from accessing your own email if it thinks your email program is “less secure”

I have blogged before about email programs that can’t access your email and that try to insist that your password is wrong when you are quite sure that it isn’t. See “Oh dear – error“, for instance.

One of the situations that causes this completely misleading error message is if Google decides that you are using what it terms a “less secure” program to access your Gmail. It doesn’t say what your program is “less secure than” and it doesn’t tell you that this is why it won’t let you in. All it does is tell you that your password is incorrect.

Some circumstances that can definitely cause this are if you use:

  • The Mail program on an iPhone or iPad with an IOS version of earlier than 6
  • The Mail program on a Windows phone with a version earlier than 8.1
  • The Thunderbird or, believe it or not, Outlook email programs (including Outlook 2016 – the latest version)

Fig 1 - Accessing Google Account Info

Fig 1 – accessing “My Account” in Google

There is, however, a fairly simple way of rectifying the situation. Simple, that is, if you know how to navigate the seemingly Kafkaesque options in your Google account as accessed via a web browser.

So, until they mess around again with how your account information and options are presented, here are the steps you need to take to access your gmail by one of the aforementioned “less secure” methods:

  • Open a web browser
  • Log into your google account at
  • Click on the circle at top right and click on “My Account” (see Fig 1)
  • Click on “Sign-in & security” (see Fig 2)
  • Scroll down until you see the box that includes “Allow less secure apps”
  • Click the “switch” to the right-hand (“on”) position (see Fig 3)
  • Sign out of the account (if desired) by clicking on the circle at top right and then clicking on “sign out” (see Fig 1)

Fig 2 - Sign in and security

Fig 2 – Click here

You may think that this couldn’t possibly be the cause of an email access problem today (or tomorrow) as it worked perfectly well yesterday, so why shouldn’t it work today? Because Google are quite capable of moving the goalposts overnight and they are not going to tell you if they do that. You just have to find out for yourself.

In fact, exactly this same thing happened to a computer support client of mine about this time last year. One minute the email was arriving perfectly happily on her iPhone and the next it wasn’t. I should point out here that my own strong advice is to keep up to date with IOS versions. Apart from anything else, it can take a long time to update everything all at once and it’s far easier (and keeps your device safer) to keep it relatively up to date all the time.

Fig 3 - allow less secure apps

Fig 3 – click to the right of the round “knob” to “slide” the switch to the right (“on”) position. It’s no good trying to “drag” the knob to the right: it doesn’t work.

Anyway, in this specific instance the client chose to force Google to accept a connection to a “less secure app”, so we took that route and all was quickly resolved.

So, if your email program suddenly tells you that your password is wrong and it’s a Gmail account that’s involved, do remember to ask yourself whether Google may have moved the goalposts again when it comes to what it considers “less secure apps”.

“Good thing, too” you may say, “who wants it?”

Windows 10 - yet another logoMicrosoft’s offer of a free upgrade to Windows 10 for existing Windows 7 and 8 users is due to end on July 29th – just three months away.

So what will happen after that? Well, there appear to be only three possibilities:

The offer will be ended

In view of the aggression that Microsoft have shown in getting qualifying systems owners to upgrade, it might seem a bit odd if they were to just give up now – “that’s it, you’ve had your chance. You wanted to stay with Windows 7/8 so have it your way. Stick with your old, reliable version. See if we care”. That seems a bit unlikely.

The offer will be extended

This would seem to be the easiest thing for them to do. It would mean that their Windows 10 juggernaut could continue rolling across the globe without any special effort on their part. I can already imagine the rather lame PR language “… so many of you have praised Windows 10 as the best thing since sliced bread that we’ve decided to extend the opportunity to get it free of charge for another three months”.

A different offer will be made

They could turn the screws on people who haven’t yet upgraded by continuing their present aggressive tactics, coupled with the stark decision that people will have to pay for it (maybe £100?) if they don’t act upon a new offer. The only problem I can see with this approach is that they would, eventually, have to end any offer or risk losing all credibility.

So, should you upgrade now and get it over and done with, or wait and see what they come up with?

But for two important facts, I might suggest that you bite the bullet and go for the upgrade while you know it is free. Those two important facts are two big problems that some people have encountered in Windows 10. I’m not suggesting that these are the ONLY problems with Windows 10 and I’m not suggesting that everyone encounters them, but they are worrying because Microsoft doesn’t seem to know what is causing them and there is no foolproof fix that works in all cases. These problems are:

1) Start menu problems

Start Menu - Critical Error Message

Some users have been faced with variations of the following error message when clicking on the Start menu button – “ Critical Error – Your Start menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in”.

Suggestions for a fix to this problem include:

  • booting into safe mode and then re-booting into normal mode
  • creating a new administrator account
  • uninstalling and then reinstalling your antivirus program

All of this is very hit-and-miss and no-one (Microsoft included) seems to know what the problem is. If you would like to get some idea as to the scale of this problem, just take a look at this Microsoft discussion page on the Windows 10 Start Menu critical error problem.

2) Network connection issues

Some users can’t connect to the internet, and some can’t connect to other computers on the same local network. There are lots and lots of suggestions out there as to what to try. See this Microsoft page on connection issues, for example.

I spent hours recently on this problem on a client’s machine that we had just “upgraded” (huh!) to Windows 10. Eventually I managed to resolve the problem by repairing the Windows installation (using the inbuilt repair process). The problem with this process is that, although it keeps all the user data intact, all programs have to be reinstalled, reconfigured etc. As I say, in this instance the repair worked, but what if it hadn’t? Goodness knows. Once again, Microsoft do not appear to know what is causing the problem.

Man thinking

“Hmm, stick with Windows 7, upgrade to Windows 10, or go and live in a cave?”

Windows 10 has now been “on general release” for nine months. It’s very worrying that problems such as these are still present – without apparent cause and without failsafe repair methods. Because of such problems, my advice at the moment is NOT to upgrade to Windows 10 if you have a reasonably functional Windows 7 or Windows 8 system. Who knows? Maybe these unresolved problems will be resolved before the current offer of a free upgrade to Windows 10 expires on July 29th (the first anniversary of the release date).

My advice on what to do as we get nearer to the end of the free upgrade period will depend on what Microsoft say will happen after July 29th and on whether or not resolutions are found to problems in the existing version.

Not a very satisfactory situation, is it?

Help! My screen’s turned upside down!

Yoga and LaptopYou probably won’t find this blog of use today (unless you are an office wag – see below), but if ever you see that the contents of your screen have turned upside down (or sideways for that matter), then just remember that you read about it here. You can then just visit and use the search facility on any web or blog page to find “inverted screen”. That should find this blog post for you.

Probably once or twice a year I get a panic phone call from a computer support client saying that they can’t understand what’s happened, but their screen has turned upside down. When this happened just a few weeks ago I facetiously suggested to the client that he might like to stand on his head to use the computer. He replied that he had thought about it, but he would need his arms and hands for support so wouldn’t be able to use the keyboard or mouse. That makes sense, so here is the more appropriate solution.

It happens from time to time that a user types a combination of keys accidentally that have unintended consequences. Since, by definition, it happened by accident, there isn’t any way of relating the action to the consequences so the solution to the problem – typing the same or similar combination of keys – doesn’t occur to the perplexed (and even panicky) victim.

This can happen on both Macs and on Windows PCs. I’ll leave it to you to work out why it isn’t a problem with tablets and smartphones.

Cursor Direction Keys

The two sets of cursor direction keys on my Samsung laptop

Windows PCs

The orientation of the screen contents is changed by depressing the Ctrl (“control”) key and the Alt key at the same time and then, while these are depressed, hitting one of the “cursor direction” keys. Some keyboards have two sets of cursor direction keys. In such cases, there will probably be one set of keys dedicated to the direction function (ie there will be nothing else on the key tops) and one set will probably share the function with the numeric keypad (ie the number keys towards the righthand side of the keyboard (not the number keys near the top of the keyboard)). In such cases, trial and error will show which set of cursor direction keys you need. On the Samsung laptop I’m using at the moment, it’s the “dedicated” cursor direction keys that do the trick.


I don’t think anyone’s ever appealed to me for help with this problem on a Mac and maybe it’s not so easy to do it by accident. Nevertheless, it is possible to change the orientation of screen content on a Mac so let’s cover it here. To change the orientation:

  • Depress the Cmd and Option keys at the same time and keep both keys down
  • Go to System Preferences (by clicking on the apple at the top left and then left-clicking on the System Preferences option)
  • Click on “Displays”
  • You will now see the Displays options exactly as you would have done without the digital gymnastics of holding down keys at the same time, except that there will be a new option that you don’t normally see – “Rotation”. You can now let go of the other keys and simply click on the up/down arrows next to that option to reveal the four orientation options. The normal one is called “standard”
  • Close the Displays window in the usual way

Normal Mac Display Options Window

The normal window with Mac Display options does not show the option to change the screen’s orientation

Mac Display options with rotation

The Mac Display options window including options for rotating the screen’s contents

Even if it’s not possible (or, at least, it’s very, very difficult) to turn your screen over by accident on a Mac, it’s worth knowing about these techniques as the world is full of office wags who think that turning someone’s screen over when they’ve left their desk for a minute is rather a jolly jape.

And if you are such an office wag, don’t blame me if you get a biff on the nose for playing a trick that you just learned here!

Microsoft appear to be pushing their weight around, attempting to foist Windows 10 on users whether they want it or not

Microsoft BootA few weeks ago Microsoft were accused of heavy-handedness in downloading the installation files for Windows 10, irrespective of whether the user had actually asked for the upgrade. The upgrade didn’t install automatically, but the download (in preparation for the installation) could be anything up to 6gb.

Now they’ve gone one step further. The upgrade to Windows 10 (ie its installation – not just the downloading of the files in preparation) is “soon” going to become a “recommended update” alongside other “recommended updates” that you are probably set to receive automatically (because that’s how Microsoft have been encouraging us to receive updates).

So, if you are currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1, and you do NOT wish to upgrade to Windows 10, then you are going to have to turn off automatic updates and manually pick and choose the updates that you do wish to install. I can’t see a lot of “normal” users doing that.

To quote Microsoft themselves:

“We will soon be publishing Windows 10 as an “Optional Update” in Windows Update for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers. Windows Update is the trusted, logical location for our most important updates, and adding Windows 10 here is another way we will make it easy for you to find your upgrade.”

Or, to put that another way, “We’re going to slip Windows 10 past you without you noticing it happen, because we know that most of you will not learn – until it’s too late – that we’re re-categorising it as a recommended update to Windows 7 and Windows 8.”

Windows Glassy LogoIt is true – as Microsoft point out in the above-quoted article – that you can revert to your previous operating system any time within the first 31 days after installation of Windows 10. But they are not daft: they know that inertia will play its part. Once it’s a fait accompli that you’ve got Windows 10, they know that few people will either want to bother putting it back to Windows 7 or 8, or want to risk breaking something in the attempt.

I appreciate that we can’t blame Microsoft for wanting their new operating system to be as successful as possible, but do they really need to abuse their power by manipulating us in this way?

If you decide that you don’t want to be strong-armed into installing Windows 10 by default, then you need to check, and possibly change, your Windows Update settings. You can read more on this by clicking the appropriate link below:

Windows Update for Windows 7 Users


Windows Update for Windows 8 Users

Windows Vista with haloFor what it’s worth, though, Windows 10 does seem to be being accepted and liked in a way that Windows 8 never was. My own experience is that, apart from initial problems mentioned in earlier blogs, it is stable and seems like a smooth progression from Windows 7. If you happen to have bought a new computer recently and are experiencing Windows 8 for the first time, my advice would definitely be to upgrade to Windows 10 rather than get to grips with the peculiarities and annoyances of Windows 8.

If, on the other hand, you are happy with Windows 7 or 8, then you will need to make an effort to resist the juggernaut that is Microsoft’s bullying, or be run over by it.

Isn’t it ironic that users of the one operating system that was deemed a bit of a disaster (Windows Vista) are the only group of Windows users unaffected by all this? They can carry on using Vista, knowing that it’s still supported by Microsoft, but can’t be updated to Windows 10.

Have you ever downloaded a new program onto your Mac, only to be told by the operating system that it can’t be opened because it’s from an unidentified developer?

Gatekeeper LogoMac OSX computers are more protective than Windows computers when it comes to what’s allowed on your computer and that has obvious security benefits. Nevertheless, it looks rather over-protective when it won’t let you start a program that you want to run!

This situation comes about when you try to run a program (or “app” or “application”) that hasn’t been vetted by Apple and checked to be malware-free. I don’t understand why Apple choose to offer you the misleading information that the “app can’t be opened” because it can. All you need to do is to have the control key pressed as you click on the program to open it.

Here is an example of the “error” message:

Gatekeeper Message

Once you have opened a program this way, the operating system will add it to the list of approved programs on that computer, so it shouldn’t happen again for that program.

If you encounter this situation often, and/or can never remember how to over-ride the veto on opening a program, then you can change the settings so that the message is not displayed at all. This is probably not a particularly good idea as it would be much easier to install software that has malware in it if your system is not even asking you to think about whether the program is safe.

However, if you do want to go ahead and change the settings for ever:

  • Click on the Apple logo (top left of any screen)
  • Click on “System Preferences”
  • Click on “Security & Privacy”
  • If the padlock at the bottom left of the window is locked, click on it and enter the administrator’s password for the logged on user
  • Click on either the second or third “radio button” in the list headed “allow apps downloaded from:”
  • Click on the padlock again to lock it
  • Close all dialog boxes

This security feature in Mac OSX is called Gatekeeper. It has been around in Macs since the Mountain Lion version. You can learn more about it by clicking on the link to Gatekeeper.

By the way, there was a time when I was naive enough to think I may be able to offer any instructions like those above for all the different versions of operating systems. I can’t. There are far too many versions. So, whether we are talking about Macs or PCs, I will only offer details for the current version. At the moment, that is Windows 10 or Mac OSX El Capitan.

TeamViewer logoIt used to be that I tried to keep old laptops around that were loaded with different operating systems so that I could check on differences and offer telephone support to clients using older systems. Luckily, that requirement has almost completely disappeared since I started using Teamviewer to remotely support clients by actually seeing what they can see on their own computers. This is much, much less stressful than providing computer support and advice by a phone call alone and trying to keep track of what the client is looking at.

I’m often asked by my computer support clients whether it is a good idea to let browsers save the logon credentials for websites

Knocking on Google login panelFrom the point of view of security, there are two types of threat to consider:

  • Anyone who has access to your computer might be able to use and/or steal your passwords. Only you can assess whether household members (or office colleagues, for that matter) pose a threat to your privacy and security.
  • The browser software could be hacked to reveal your passwords. I don’t, personally, know of anyone who has had this happen to them, but I have read several times on the internet that there is malware out there that can do it.

So, I can’t actually answer the question for you. I think it comes down to something we do all the time without even thinking about it – balance risk against convenience. If we wish to cross the road and we are on a quiet country lane then we are unlikely to walk 100 yards to the nearest pedestrian crossing. We might be prepared to walk much further than that for a safe crossing if it’s the Euston Road we are trying to negotiate.

I’d like to suggest a few questions that you might ask yourself to give you an idea of whether it is a good idea for you to save passwords in your browser:

  • Do you think that online banking is too risky? If so, I think your caution will probably extend to never letting browsers store passwords. Personally, I trust online banking and would hate to do without it but if I was cautious enough not to trust online banking then I certainly wouldn’t trust my browser to keep my secrets safe.
  • Would the consequences of someone finding a particular username and password combination be catastrophic? If so, it probably wouldn’t be wise to commit that specific password to your browser.
  • Do you tend (despite advice to the contrary) to use and re-use the same password(s) over and over again? If so, you must bear in mind the risk that discovery of one of your passwords could give someone access to other accounts. Committing even one username/password combination to your browser could expose many other accounts to being hacked.
  • Do you have children in the household? In my experience, households with children suffer far more from malware attacks than households without. I’m not blaming the children. I think it’s probably because the nasty scrotes that write malware know that children have less mature judgement than adults, less fear, a greater propensity to be led by others into visitng specific (dangerous) websites, a greater propensity to share online content (including malware) with each other, and so on. If your risk of catching ANY malware is increased, then it probably follows that the risk of catching malware that can find your passwords is increased.
  • Do you think that usernames and passwords give you a huge amount of grief in your online life? I know some people who seem to be able to remember an enormous number of combinations of usernames and passwords, whereas others can’t even remember their own phone number. If passwords give you a huge amount of grief then it might well be worth reducing the burden somewhat by getting your browser to remember some of the less important username/password combinations.

Hooded Computer UserQuite often, when I have (annoyingly) answered the original question with “it depends….”, the client will then ask “what do YOU do about saving passwords online?”. The answer is that I use some software called LastPass to remember most of my online passwords, but I also record all my usernames/passwords somewhere else as well. I don’t use LastPass to remember the most important financial combinations. If you asked me to rationalise why I do what I do, I can’t. What I can say is that I think I balance risk against convenience in a way that seems to suit me. And when I see my clients struggling to find specific passwords, I often think that they would probably be better off by committing at least some of them to their browser for safe-keeping.

I advise disabling WiFi Sense in Windows 10 (it’s turned ON by default)

What does WiFi Sense do? It’s a new feature in Windows 10 that is supposed to make connecting to wireless networks easier. However, Microsoft seem to have completely failed to consider the security implications. Specifically, It does two things:

  • Connects you to available open hotspots without asking you or telling you. All it takes for this to happen is for at least one other Windows 10 user who has WiFi Sense enabled (anywhere in the world) to have connected to that open network before.
  • Connects you automatically (without a password) to any hotspot that any of your contacts has connected to before (where “contacts” covers anyone in your Skype database, your contacts, or your Facebook friends). And, of course, the corollary is true: those same people can connect to YOUR network without a password.

At first glance, this is horrendous. Do Microsoft think we only have family and bosom buddies in our contact lists? Do they really think that we would want to automatically trust everyone in our contacts lists to connect to our router?

WiFi Sense - signed on to a Local Account

Figure 1. If you see the blue link circled above when you enter WiFi Settings then you are signing on to a local account, so are not vulnerable to WiFi Sense

And it gets worse. Suppose that you give your password to a friend, either in the normal way or by having WiFi Sense enabled. If that friend has WiFi Sense enabled, then my understanding is that that friend will automatically share your password with all of their contacts who have Wi-Fi Sense enabled. This is just appalling and it’s hard to think that it can really be true that Microsoft have invited such a situation to come about.

There have been several blogs written in the last few weeks (no names, no pack drill) that have suggested that that is the exact situation. However, a deeper look at things indicates that you have to do more than just have WiFi Sense “enabled” in order to be put at risk.

WiFi Sense - signed on to an Online Account

Figure 2. This machine is signing on to an Online Account. Slide the slidey things to the left (as shown) to disable WiFi Sense

To be at risk you have to:

  • Turn on the options to enable WiFi Sense (these are the ones that are on by default – see Figure 2)
  • Tick the boxes to select which lists of contacts you wish to share with (these are all unticked by default – see Figure 3)
  • Specifically share the networks over which you have control (none are shared by default – see Figure 4)

So, I would completely agree that WiFi Sense appears to be badly conceived and should be switched off completely (see below), but we haven’t been left as helpless and vulnerable as many bloggers have suggested.

I am grateful to ZD Net for pointing out the real situation concerning Wi-Fi Sense (before I, too, could make a prat of myself……)

There is another way that Microsoft say you can prevent your wifi network from being laid open by WiFi Sense and that is to rename your network so that it includes the text “_optout” (without the quotes) – eg changing your router identification from SkyXYZ123 to SkyXYZ123_optout. Yes, I know, it’s a cheek for Microsoft to cause us to have to do this just because they introduced a security risk. Anyway, almost all of my own computer support clients would not know how to do this. And if you do do it, you’ll have to re-set the connection settings for every computer and device that connects to it. Don’t bother about it. Just make sure Wi-Fi Sense is disabled as follows:

WiFi Sense - Contacts Lists

Figure 3. Even with Wifi Sense enabled (as shown by slidey things), network passwords will not be shared as none of the contacts lists are enabled

If you do log onto your Microsoft Account when your computer starts, then disable WiFi Sense as follows:

  • Click on the Start Button
  • Click on Settings
  • Click on Network & Internet, WiFi, Flight Mode, VPN
  • Click on Wifi
  • Click on Manage Wifi Settings (you may need to scroll down to see this)
  • Slide the two slidey things to the left (so that it says “off” next to them – see Figure 2)
  • Close the Settings window by clicking on the “X” at top right

By the way, if you log onto your Windows 10 computer as a “local user” (ie you don’t connect to your Microsoft Account) then you are not put at risk anyway so you can completely forget the scare stories (see Figure 1).

WiFi Sense - Share Network

Figure 4. Even with WiFi Sense enabled, your own network will not be shared unless you explicitly share it by clicking in the circle

I would recommend holding off from upgrading to Windows 10 for now

A few weeks ago I blogged about the new Windows 10 icon that was appearing on our taskbars as an easy way to download Windows 10. At that time I recommended holding off from upgrading for the time being. Several of my computer support clients have asked me since then whether my advice has changed. No, it hasn’t.

Windows 10 New Taskbar Buttons

The return of the Start button, an improved Search function, and a new “Task View” function that display all open windows

Microsoft staggered the availability of Windows 10 so that it wasn’t trying to download it to gerzillions of computers all on the same day. The Law of Sod held true for me in that Microsoft told me I could have it the day before I went on holiday. Should I wait until I got back or install it while packing my bucket and spade? I must have been feeling a bit light-headed because I went ahead and installed it.

So, come last Saturday evening I’m back home and decide to see if my main computer still works (having decided that I’ll never learn Windows 10 properly if it’s not on my main machine).

At first it looked as if everything was OK. Things were more-or-less where they should have been, programs seemed to open, my data hasn’t just evaporated (but I DID back it up first) and Windows 10 seems reasonably intuitive (certainly in comparison with Windows 8).

Within a day, though, several things had come to light. In descending order of importance these are:

  • Outlook 2013 refused to send messages. Incoming messages were still OK. A bit of googling soon found a suggestion that worked for me. It consisted of running SFC at an elevated command prompt. See this Microsoft page on SFC for details.
  • My calendar (again, within Outlook) has gone. This is connected with iCloud as my diary is also on my iPhone. I haven’t yet had time to get to the bottom of this one but, once again, a bit of googling has shown that I’m not alone with this problem. I’m hoping that this page from Apple regarding iCloud will help me out of this problem.
  • Apart from the good old Control Panel, there is a new “settings” window for changing – well – settings. Parts of it are consistently freezing on my machine.
  • The wifi connection has been a bit recalcitrant. It has finally accepted that I really do mean it when I say that I want it to automatically connect to my own router every time I switch on or come out of sleep mode, but it’s still so slow in making the connection that my email has had a chance to wake up and try (and fail) to do a “send/receive” before the wifi connection has been established. This may be trivial but it is soooo annoying.

Windows10 iCloud Calendars Broken

Where’s my calendar/diary gone?

So, two potentially serious issues and two annoyances. It’s all grist to the mill for me, of course, as this is what I do for a living, but at least two of these problems could be serious and worrying if they happened to my average computer support client. What’s more, I’ve not really had much of a chance to play around with it at all. These problems have come to light without me going looking for them. I have no way of knowing whether I’m going to encounter a lot more and how serious they will be.

Windows 10 has been well received in principle. It seems to be the general feeling that Microsoft have learned from the mistakes of Windows 8, swallowed some pride, and turned their minds to developing something that users will want, rather than something that’s been forced upon them. I would agree with that and don’t feel too perturbed yet at the problems that I have encountered in the few short hours I’ve been using it.

Yes, the Start Menu is back, here shown with one of the Windows 8 tiles ("cribbage") embedded in it.

Yes, the Start Menu is back, here shown with one of the Windows 8 tiles (“cribbage”) embedded in it.

It does seem a bit worrying, though, that my two main problems have occurred when one flagship Microsoft product has been interacting with another flagship Microsoft product (I have a Microsoft 365 subscription, so my Outlook program should always be bang up to date).

In conclusion, I would suggest that if you are so keen to try Windows 10 that you want to install it now, then you will probably be prepared to accept some teething problems. If, however, you are a normal human being and just want your computer to do as it’s told and with a minimum of fuss, then I would say that Windows 10 is almost certainly going to be a good thing, but you might be able to reduce the hassle by waiting a few more weeks until some of the wrinkles have been ironed out.

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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