Give yourself some protection against newly installed software breaking your computer

Turn the Clock BackA client phoned me this morning with problems with his internet connection and with the connections between the devices on his local network (computers, cameras, etc). He was fairly sure that the problems started after he installed a particular piece of software a couple of days ago. He needed help to get back to where he was before he installed it.

The first thing we wanted to do was connect using “Teamviewer” so that I could see and control his computer. Because of the nature of the problem we couldn’t get a connection, so we then disconnected his computer from his router and he connected to the internet using his iPhone as a “mobile hotspot”. That worked. As always in cases like this, the first thing I did was to go to “Programs and Features” in the Control Panel and sort the items by “installed date”. We could then easily identify the two items in question and so uninstalled them.

System Restore logoThat seemed to be the only thng that had changed, but we thought it prudent to see if we could use “restore points” to ensure that we had taken his computer back to how it looked before he installed the suspect programs.

As it happens, his computer was configured to create such “restore points” but, for some reason, there were none available. That’s a bit concerning, but for our purposes we just need to know that he could have ensured that such a restore point existed before installing the dodgy program by manually creating one. I know what you are thinking: if he’d known it was dodgy before installing it he wouldn’t have installed it. That is true, but he could have created a restore point just to be on the safe side. A lot of program installation procedures will automatically start with restore points being created just in case something goes wrong, and you can always create one manually just to be a bit more safe.

It is easy to turn this feature on and use it, as follows:

System Protection Settings

  • Click on the Windows Start button and type in “restore point” (without the quotes)
  • Click on “Create a restore point”
  • A window will open with several tabs across the top. Click on the one labelled “System protection” (see image above)
  • Look in the box beneath “Protection settings”. If protection is set to “off” for the drive marked with “C:”, click on the “Configure” button and click in the circle next to “Turn on system protection”. You may have more than one drive listed, but you only need to turn on protection for the C: drive in most circumstances
  • Click on “OK” and then check that system protection is marked as being “on”
  • While you are here, create a restore point by clicking on “create”
  • Type in a description that reminds you why you created this restore point (eg “before installing dodgy.exe” or “just to be sure 26/8/20”)
  • Click on the “Create” button and then just close all the open windows when you are told that the restore point has been created

If something goes wrong and you would like to “turn the clock back”, you can now go back into System Restore (the same way as you did to create the restore point), but this time click on “System restore” and choose which restore point to go back to. It is advisable to always go back to the most recent restore point as all changes to the system from the date and time of that restore point onwards will be removed by the system restore process. This proedure does not harm any of your data (eg emails, Word documents). They will still be present after executing a system restore.

And did we solve my clients problem? Yes – uninstalling the problematic programs did the trick, but it would have been nice to have the option to “do a system restore” as well.

Windows can now remember up to 25 items that you have copied into the clipboard

Clipboard And Windows LogoMost people are probably aware that if you “copy and paste” an item (such as a piece of text or an image), then the “copy” is placed in part of the computer’s memory called the “clipboard”. For many years, the clipboard would retain only the last item placed there. The clipboard would also be “emptied” of that item if the computer was re-booted.

In recent versions of Windows 10, the clipboard has become somewhat more sophisticated in that up to 25 items can be stored there. Moreover, if you “pin” an item in the clipboard then it survives a re-boot. So you could, for instance, permanently store different versions of your email signature in the clipboard for easy retrieval when needed.

This is how it works:-

First of all, you have to turn the feature on:

  • Click on the “Start” button
  • Either click on the gearwheel “settings” icon or type the word “settings” (without the quotes) and click on the “Settings” app when it is offered
  • Click on the “System” option
  • On the left hand sidebar, click on “Clipboard”
  • Slide the switch under “Clipboard history” to the right
  • Close Settings

The Windows KeyThat’s it. Each time you copy something into the clipboard it will now be remembered until either you re-boot the computer or until the total number of items in the clipboard exceeds 25. When this happens, the oldest unpinned item is deleted to make room for the newest item.

To view the items on the clipboard, tap the letter “v” while the Windows key is depressed. The Windows key is on the bottom row of the keyboard to the left of the spacebar. It usually has an icon of a Microsoft Windows flag.

Click on the three dots to reveal the menu and whether the item is pinned. When you are looking at the list of clipboard items, it is no longer possible to tell at a glance which items are pinned. Pinned items are retained after a re-boot and even when the total number of items in the clipboard reaches 25. To see whether an item is pinned, cick on the three dots to the top right of the item. If “unpin” is offered in the list of options that comes up, then the item must currently be pinned (and vice versa). Why Microsoft no longer display the map pin against each item as they do in other “pinning” contexts within Windows is beyond me. What makes this more frustrating is that they don’t even list the pinned items above the unpinned ones. This means that you have to go through every item individually to see if it is pinned.

Windows Clipboard

Click on the three dots to reveal the menu and whether the item is pinned

When you click on the three dots, you can see that the other options are to “Delete” (ie delete this one item) or “Clear all”. In fact, “Clear all” does not clear all items at all: it deletes all unpinned items. It never ceases to amaze me how sloppy these large tech companies are in their use of Engish. Why couldn’t the options read “Delete item” and “Delete all unpinned”? As mentioned in the previous paragraph, you would have to go through each item individually (clicking on the three dots) to see if it would survive if you clicked on “Clear all” or if you re-booted the machine.

Another odd thing about the clipboard history is that when you invoke it (with Windows Key and “v”) it seems to pop up in random locations on the screen. There may be some method to this, but I’ve not managed to work it out. There are no other options – not even an “X” to close the window. To close it, just “click away” (ie click the mouse somewhere else on the screen).

I’m sure this isn’t the first time I’ve said this, but you would think with all the resources at their command, that Microsoft could have offered a more polished product than this. Still, at least we do now have some kind of improvement on the single item clipboard, without having to resort to third party “add ons”.

By the way, I wrote this on a machine with Windows 10 build 19041. Earlier builds had slightly different characteristics (including the now-disappeared map pin!). You can check which build you have as follows:

  • Click on the “Start” button
  • Type “system” (without the quotes)
  • Click on the the “System information” app when it is offered
  • The build number is listed as the second item on the right hand side

I probably won’t live long enough to fathom out the complexities of Windows “version numbers”, “build numbers”, “code names”, etc, but if you’ve really got nothing better to do, you could look at this Wikipedia page on Windows 10 versions.

Microsoft Support for Windows 7 ends in January 2020

Windows7 - the end

If you have been receiving Windows 7 updates, you will probably have seen this announcement recently

It may seem like only five minutes since XP and then Vista were retired, but now it’s the turn of Windows 7. Let’s be clear that Windows 7 will not stop working in January, and start queueing up for its pension instead. What will happen is that Microsoft will no longer release new updates to Windows 7 after January 2020 – and that includes security updates.

When this situation arose with Windows XP, people such as me advised that you immediately stop using XP. To be more accurate, we said that it was no longer safe to connect XP machines to the internet. The perceived threat was that malware writers, and others who would now be called “bad actors”, would increase their efforts to find security holes in XP that they could exploit, knowing that Microsoft wouldn’t respond to try to counteract the threat. And what happened in practice? Nothing. For a long time it looked as if the perceived threat was exaggerated. The world didn’t come to a calamitous end. And then, on 12th May 2017, NHS computers (amongst others) started suffering an attack from the malware known as Wannacry.

So, is it safe or unsafe to continue to use Windows 7? Should you upgrade your existing hardware to Windows 10? Should you buy new hardware?

Carry on and hope for the best

Windows 7Support for Windows XP finished on 8th April 2014. It took three years for “Wannacry” to wreak havoc (although there were, of course, other viruses and threats in the meantime). One option now would be to continue to run your current Windows 7 system in order to get some more value from it. If you choose this route then the most important (if obvious) advice is to be very rigorous in taking backups and – essentially – ensure that your backups are not permanently connected to your system. Ransomware like Wannacry can access all connected local drives. I would also advise not sharing files with other users (such as via email attachments or shared Dropbox folders, for instance). Continuing to run Windows 7 is a risky strategy, and the risk will probably increase as time goes on. It is also absolutely essential to have continually-updated antivirus protection. By the way, never install a second antivirus program in the (intuitive) belief that what one will miss the other will catch. They could fall out with each other and either slow your system down or cause freezes.

Upgrade an existing system to Windows 10

You can almost certainly upgrade your existing hardware. Follow this link to see Microsoft’s official minimum hardware requirements for Wndows 10. If you want to go down that route, the official price of Windows 10 Home is £119.99. There are also plenty of online sites offering to sell it for much less. Some sites even say that it is still possible to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. I don’t know if these options are genuine, legal, or viable. Caveat emptor.

There is, in theory at least, an option to update your existing system to Windows 10 without needing to re-install your other programs or data. However, I would most definitely recommend backing up your data first (that’s your own stuff such as documents, pictures, pdf files etc). You might also find that some programs that worked under Windows 7 either need updating, re-installing, or won’t work at all under Windows 10.

Upgrade existing hardware and install Windows 10 at the same time

You might consider, for instance, changing an old hard drive for a (much faster) solid state drive, and then installing Windows 10 on this new SSD. You would then need to reinstall your programs and data. If you have a desktop computer with a spare drive bay, you could install your old drive (with data) into this bay. You probably don’t have this option with a laptop. Your programs would still need to be re-installed onto the solid state drive. While you’ve got the thing in bits, it would also be a good idea to see if the system could benefit from increased memory (RAM).

Replace the hardware

This might seem the obvious and easiest solution (if the most expensive). You would. of course, have to install your programs and data onto the new machine.

How much does it all cost?

You could currently buy a Samsung 1tb (1 terabyte) SSD from Amazon for £120. I recommend not getting a SSD of less than 500gb capacity (500gb is half a terabyte). The price of RAM depends on what type it is, how much you buy, and whether you need to discard your existing RAM to make way for the new. Think in terms of £30-£80 to increase from 4gb to 8gb (16gb is better!). Windows 10 Home, as noted above, costs £119.99.

Windows 10 logoIf you are doing it yourself there probably aren’t any other costs (although it’s just possible that a very old printer won’t play nicely with Windows 10). If you live in London and ask me to help out, then my rates are explained here. To be honest, it’s unlikely that it would be cost effective to ask me to help upgrade an existing machine. By the time you’ve added anything from 2-6 hours of my time to the outlay on any hardware plus the software, you would probably have been better off investing in a new machine with Windows 10 already installed. I would, of course, be happy to help you set up a new machine, including data transfer etc. That usually takes 2-4 hours.

So, there you have it. People complain about built-in obsolescence, being forced to upgrade, etc. The fact is that this is still a relatively fast moving technology. We must expect products (including software) to have a relatively short lifecycle in such an environment. And, to add a bit of perspective to this, Windows 7 was released on 22nd July 2009. It’s been going for 10 years. Is that really such a short product lifecycle? I think not.

Storage Sense may not be as sensible as it sounds

Windows10 - another logoStorage Sense is the Windows 10 method of automatically freeing up space by emptying the recycle bin, deleting temporary files, deleting local copies of files held in the cloud, and – crucially – removing items from your Downloads folder.

When I am delivering basic Windows training to my IT clients, I usually mention that it is thought “best practice” not to leave important files solely in your Downloads folder. Instead, move (or copy) them to somewhere more appropriate. This doesn’t usually matter for programs that you have downloaded as the downloaded files are just installation files. Deleting the installation file won’t delete the program itself once it has been installed. It is a different matter, though, if you are downloading data files that you don’t subsequently copy or move somewhere else.

This is not very sound organisational practice as the files could be of very different types – email attachments of all types, all sorts of website downloads (programs, images, pdf files). Another reason for not leaving the only copy of data files in the Downloads folder is that you could accidentally delete them if you run the Windows “Disk Cleanup” utility. But at least in Disk Cleanup, there is an option to deselect the Downloads folder – and it stays deselected between sessions of Disk Cleanup.

There is a more dangerous utility in Windows called “Storage Sense”. Depending on how it is set (and I can’t remember whether the default is to run every day, week, month, or just when disk space is low), this will run periodically to delete a load of the clag that Windows computers accrue. Crucially, it will also (by default) delete items in your Downloads folder.

Storage Sense 01

Yes – it does say Storage Sense is off, but it will still run if disk space is low

Now, the dangerous aspect is this. There is a slider switch that suggests that you can turn Storage Sense off. You may think that turning it off would mean that you don’t have to worry about any of the settings within Storage Sense because it is, well, turned off. Not so. Storage Sense might run even if it is turned off. Yes, that’s right. If your disk space runs low (I think it is triggered when disk space falls below 10%) then Storage Sense will run whether it is switched on or off. And it applies the settings you might have thought were irrelevant because it was turned off – including emptying the contents of your Downloads folder and deleting local copies of files that are also held in the cloud in OneDrive (or Skydrive as it chooses to call it here).

Storage Sense 02

If you don’t want Storage Sense to delete your Downloads, select “Never”

“Oh well, that doesn’t bother me because I’ve got a new computer and it must have loads of space”, you might say. But if you’ve got a solid state drive of modest proportions (say, 256gb or less) and if Windows has just stolen over 20gb of your space to store your old version of Windows (which it does for 10 days after installing a major update to Windows), then it is quite possible to trigger Storage Sense unexpectedly on a relatively new machine.

What can you do about it?

  • Click on the Start Button
  • Type in “Storage Settings” (without the quotes)
  • Click on “open” when offered Storage Settings in the Start Menu
  • Click on “Change how we free up space automatically”
  • Change your options about what it touches and when
  • Choose whether to let Storage Sense run in circumstances other than low disk space by sliding the switch under “Storage Sense” on or off

For more information on how Storage Sense turns itself on and how it deals with locally stored OneDrive files see this Microsoft page (or, to put it another way, if you don’t believe me, check it out with Microsoft).

Creating a Windows 10 Recovery Drive could save you grief later on

Windows 10 Recovery DriveIf Windows 10 fails to load properly, there are options in what is known as the “recovery environment” for getting Windows to sort itself out. One of these options is to boot (start) your computer from a USB drive (or DVD) that has been specially prepared for your version of Windows. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to discuss in detail how you would use the recovery drive, but having one is the biggest part of the battle!

I would not want to suggest that such a “recovery drive” will get you out of trouble on every occasion, but if you are faced with a computer that will not start, a bit of earlier planning for such an eventuality could save you a lot of grief.

So why don’t I routinely create such a recovery drive when I help my IT support clients to set up a new computer? The answer to that is that it’s just a matter of costs and benefits. As I write this I am 45 minutes into creating such a recovery drive for one of my own (not very fast) machines and there’s no sign yet of how long it will take to finish. It just wouldn’t be worth what I would need to charge my clients when weighed against the chances of ever needing the drive.

So, how do you create a Windows USB Recovery Drive?

  • Acquire a USB drive with at least 16gb capacity. Note that any previous content on the drive will be deleted when preparing the recovery drive
  • Insert the drive into an available USB slot and ignore any window that might pop up asking you what to do with the drive
  • Click on the Windows Start button and then on the Settings icon (the cogwheel)
  • In the search box at the top of the Settings screen, type “create” (without the quotes)
  • Click on the option “Create a recovery drive” that will now be offered
  • Click on “yes” when asked “Do you want to allow this app…”
  • Make sure that the box is ticked next to “Back up system files to the recovery drive” and then click “Next”
  • After what could be quite a wait, click on the correct drive for the installation and then click on “Next”
  • Click on “Create”

Choose Drive

If you have any other external drives connected, make sure you choose the right one

After encouraging you to create your own recovery drive, I’m now going to appear to completely undermine my own advice by saying that, according to everything I’ve read, you ought to be able to use a recovery drive created on a completely different computer as long as the versions of Windows are the same. So, you can’t mix Windows 10 Home with Windows 10 Pro, for instance, and you can’t mix the 32 bit version of Windows with the 64 bit version.

Windows 10 Recovery Drive

..and here’s one I prepared earlier

You would think, therefore, that it would be easy to do a quick google and find someone selling such recovery drives already prepared. For some reason, they don’t seem to be there – at least, not stated unequivocally that they are such devices, how they were prepared, and at a reasonable price. Whether this is a copyright issue or Google choosing not to list such items I do not know, but the upshot is the same in that I encourage you to create your own recovery drive using your own copy of Windows.

All it will cost is a 16gb USB drive (about a fiver from Amazon or a bit more from Ryman) and a bit of your time to prepare it.

Note that this blog post has been written assuming that the recovery media will be a USB drive. You could also use DVDs, but I suspect this would take longer.

Is your Windows 10 computer starting as quickly as it can?

TurbotortoiseThere is a feature in Windows 10 called “Fast Startup”. What this means is that parts of Windows itself and its connection to peripherals and their drivers are not all loaded again from scratch each time that you start your computer from a previous shutdown. Instead, when you issue the “shutdown” command your programs and data files are all closed in the normal way, but the state of Windows is saved in a “hibernation file”. When you subsequently start up your computer it is much quicker to reload the contents of the hibernation file than to re-open drivers, re-establish connections to peripherals etc.

RoadRunnerA complication to understanding this is that Windows 10 may also automatically re-open some programs that were still open at the time that the previous shutdown had been started. I’ve just shutdown and re-started my own computer and both Chrome and Outlook automatically re-opened (but not some other programs that had previously been open). This is not part of “fast startup”. Instead, it’s a different recent development in Windows (that I find irritating as it doesn’t re-open all programs. All or nothing would be much better).

Back to fast startup… re-opening a hibernation file is all very well but what if the reason you shut the machine down was because you wanted to reload a driver (say, because your printer was playing up). Choosing “shutdown” and subsequently re-starting the machine won’t solve the problem as the problem may be written into the hibernation file that is re-opened when you start again. In that case, instead of choosing to “shutdown” the computer and then switching it back on, choose to “restart” it. This will empty the contents of the memory and reload everything from scratch. Alternatively, depress the shift key while clicking on Shutdown. This will instruct Windows to ignore the hibernaton file when it reopens.

Fast startup is usually enabled by default, but there is a possibility that your computer is not taking advantage of it due to “hibernation” having been disabled.

To check if Fast Startup is available and enabled:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Type in “Power Options” (without the quotes)
  • Click on “Power Options” when it appears in the list to the left of the Start Menu window
  • Click on “Choose what the power buttons do”
  • Click on “Change settings that are currently unavailable”
  • Look at the section entitled “Shutdown settings”. If you do not see “Turn on fast startup (recommended)” then you need to enable hibernation (see below)
  • If you do see “Turn on fast startup (recommended)” then place or remove a tick in the box next to it to enable or disable it
  • Click on “Save Changes” and close the Power Options window

To enable Hibernation:

  • Right-click on the start button
  • Left-click on “Command Prompt (admin)”
  • Type in “powercfg /hibernate on” (without the quotes)
  • Hit the “enter” key
  • Type “exit” (without the quotes) and then the enter key
  • Go back to Power Options (see above) and place a tick in “Turn on fast startup (recommended)”
Turn on Fast Startup

If you don’t see “Turn on fast startup” in Shutdown Settings then you need to enable hibernation

This one’s a bit of a curate’s egg from Microsoft

Windows Restarting ScreenIn an update sometime during the last year, Microsoft introduced a “feature” whereby starting or restarting your computer causes some programs and apps that were open at the time of shutdown to automatically open again. This is new behaviour. We have always taken it for granted that Windows computers “start clean”.

I can see two major problems with this behaviour:

  • The very reason that the reboot was initiated might have been to clear everything out of memory, particularly when something has gone wrong and you want to start again with a clean sheet. A misbehaving program could misbehave again if automatically reopened
  • Since not all programs/apps are restarted upon re-boot, you have to engage brain and look to see if what you want next has, in fact, reopened. To my mind, it’s easier to just assume that you will have to re-open all required programs after a reboot.

Windows10 - close with Alt F4

Closing or restarting with Alt F4 will ensure all programs are closed first.

I can’t find a direct quote, but, apparently, Microsoft’s advice to obviate these problems is to make sure that you manually close each program in turn before restarting. So, this curate’s egg is also something of a tail wagging the dog. Being forced to perform extra tasks just because of the introduction of a dubious new “feature” is ridiculous. I often think that the people who design this stuff forget that most of the people who use it are doing so because it’s a useful tool. We don’t want to be dictated to by it and it should be as simple as possible to use.

If you find that this “feature” is annoying you, there is a slightly quicker way of having a clean start without having to manually go through each program, laboriously closing everything before a reboot.

  • Go to the desktop, clicking on a blank part to ensure that it has the focus. The quickest way to get to the desktop is to minimise all open windows by hitting the windows key plus the letter “m”
  • Press the Alt key plus the F4 key to bring up the “Shut Down Windows” box
  • Select your option from the dropdown menu

Shutting down by this method will ensure that all open programs are closed first.

Close button

Creating your own “close” button can ensure that all programs are closed before closing Windows

An alternative to this is to create your own “shutdown” button as detailed in my blog post “A small victory – two clicks saved“. Shutting down in this way will also give you a “clean start” on re-boot.

Note that nothing here affects the automatic starting of items listed in your “start menu”. They will still be opened on re-boot, irrespective of which method you use to close the machine. For detailed information on how to open specific programs on every startup (irrespective of whether they had been open at the time of the previous shutdown), see my blog post “Windows 10 – Start Programs at Startup

.. and how do you install it again?

Browser address barIf you can not view websites properly (eg items are missing or they overlap each other) then, with most browsers, it is fairly easy to uninstall  and then reinstall the browser. Just go to “Programs and Features” in the Control Panel, click on the relevant program and then on the “Uninstall” button above the list of programs. You can then download the browser again and reinstall it, just as you would with most programs.

This will work if it is Chrome, Firefox, or Opera that you are having problems with, but you can’t do this with Internet Explorer because it’s not a normal “standalone” program and does not appear in the list of programs in “Programs and Features”. Rather, it is an integral part of Windows. Nevertheless, you can uninstall and reinstall at least a part of it and this may solve problems you are having with it. You just need to follow a different procedure to carry this out.

Internet Explorer 11 logoBefore explaining how to do this, I would say, though, that any problems you are having in displaying websites using IE (as we techies call it), could be down to the specific website’s communication with IE, instead of with IE per se. Internet Explorer is now old technology and some website owners do not test their sites for compatibility with it. I have even come across some websites that prevent you from viewing the site if you are using Internet Explorer. So, I would definitely recommend trying to view the website with a different browser first, to see if this gets you where you want to be, rather than insisting on trying to get it working in IE. There is no reason why you can’t have several different browsers loaded on the same computer. They won’t get in each other’s way, they take up little space, and a second browser can often solve your problem when a website doesn’t display properly in your normal browser.

Windows 10 logoIf, however, you like IE and you are having problems with many websites (suggesting that it’s your installation of IE that is broken) and if you really do want to continue using it, then the following procedure might help. Note that, almost by definition, the procedures below will put IE back to its default state, so you will lose any add-ons and changes to the initial configuration (such as your home page and search engne).

To uninstall Internet Explorer under Windows 10:

  • Click on the “Start” button and then on the “Settings” cogwheel.
  • Click on “Apps”
  • Click on “Manage optional features”
  • Scroll down to “Internet Explorer 11”
  • Tap on it and then on “Uninstall”
  • Reboot the machine (or switch it off and back on again)

To reinstall Internet Explorer under Windows 10:

  • Click on the “Start” button and then on the “Settings” cogwheel.
  • Click on “Apps”
  • Click on “Manage optional features”
  • Click on “Add a Feature”
  • Scroll down to “Internet Explorer 11”
  • Tap on it and then on “Install”
  • Tap on the leftward arrow at the top of the screen and then wait until the progress bar indicates that the reinstallation has finished
  • Reboot the machine (or switch it off and back on again)

That’s it! You are now a techie!

PS – The World Wide Web is 30 years Old.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Click this link to read what Sir Tim Berners-Lee makes of its progress

Working on Updates

The last thing you need when working to a deadline

Yes, you CAN stop Windows 10 from updating – but don’t do it lightly

You may want to stop Windows 10 from updating at an awkward moment (such as while you are in the middle of a project that must be completed against the clock), but be aware of two important things:

  • All other Windows updates will also be stopped – such as new file definitions for Windows Defender and updates to Microsoft Office. Update processes to programs other than those from Microsoft are not affected.
  • Window Update may just (magically) turn itself back on again some time in the future, despite your having turned it off (as detailed below).

So, how do we turn Windows Update off?

This is a two-step process:

  • Turn the Update Service off
  • Stop it from turning itself back on (hopefully)

This is achieved as follows:

  • Right-click on the “Start” button and left-click on either Windows PowerShell (Admin) or Command Prompt (Admin)
  • Type the following command, followed by the “Enter” key:
  • sc.exe config wuauserv start= disabled
  • Be careful to include the spaces in the above command – particularly the one after “start=”
Turning off Windows 10 Update Service

How to turn off Windows 10 Update Service

The above command stops Windows from starting the Update Service, but it will probably already be running (for this session), so we now need to stop it by typing in the following command, followed by “Enter”:

  • sc.exe stop wuauserv
  • Type “exit” (without the quotes) and the Enter key to close PowerShell or the Command Prompt

You can check that the Update Service will not now interrupt you by checking for updates. If the Update Service is turned off, then you should get an error message:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Start typing “Windows Update Settings” (without the quotes) and click on “Windows Update”
  • Click on “Check for updates”
  • You should now see “Error encountered”

Windows 10 Updates Turned Off

If Update is disabled, this is what you will see if you check for updates

To turn the Windows Update Service back on:

  • Right-click on the “Start” button and left-click on either Windows PowerShell (Admin) or Command Prompt (Admin)
  • Type the following commands, following each by “Enter”:
  • sc.exe config wuauserv start= auto
  • sc.exe start wuauserv
  • Again, be careful about the spaces
  • Type “exit” (without the quotes) and the Enter key to close PowerShell or the Command Prompt

If you now open up “Windows Update Settings” and check for updates, you should see it perform the check in the normal way:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Start typing “Windows Update Settings” (without the quotes) and click on “Windows Update”
  • Click on “Check for updates”

I can think of a few of my IT Support clients who will seize on this and think that it is an answer to a prayer, but I recommend using it very sparingly. Remember that it will prevent ALL updates from Microsoft – and that includes bug fixes and security patches. Sooner or later, I think you would encounter more problems by having the Windows Update Service permanently disabled than having it permanently enabled. Neverthless, I think that being able to turn it off for specific purposes is legitimate and useful.

Although it’s not obvious how to do it, there is a way to pin documents to the Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10 - yet another logoIf you have documents that you need to access often – such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint files, or pdf files – you may want to access them directly from a “tile” on the Start Menu. Yes, I know that a shortcut can be added to the desktop, but the problem with desktop shortcuts is that Windows has an irritating habit of “re-organizing” them such that you can’t find anything quickly.

Well, there is a way to create Start Menu tiles of documents. It involves three steps:

  • Create a desktop shortcut to the document
  • Add that shortcut to the folder that contains the Start Menu items
  • Create a Start Menu tile from the new entry in the Start Menu list of “All Apps”

To create a desktop shortcut to the document:

  • Open File Explorer and find the document
  • Right-click on the document
  • Left-click on “Send to”
  • Left-click on “Desktop (create shortcut)”

File Explorer Address Bar

To add that shortcut to the folder that contains the Start Menu items:

  • Open a “File Explorer” window
  • Type the text on the next line into the address bar in the File Explorer window, and hit the Enter key:

    %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    If you want the shortcut to appear on the Start Menu of all other users on this computer as well as your own then, instead of the line above, type the line below into the File Explorer window, and hit the Enter key:

    %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

  • Drag the File Explorer window around the desktop until you can see the shortcut to the document that you created in the first step
  • Drag the shortcut from the desktop into the File Explorer window you opened above

Start Menu Display Options

To create a Start Menu tile from the new entry in the Start Menu list of “All Apps”

  • Open the Start Menu
  • Select the “All Apps” view on the Start Menu (see illustration)
  • Find the entry for the new item, right-click on it, and left-click on “Pin to Start”
  • Display the tiles by clicking on the “Pinned Tiles” icon (see illustration)

That’s it. You now have a “tile” of your document on the Start Menu. It’s very much faster to open a document this way than to open its associated program and then open the document from within the program.Unlike desktop icons, this tile will stay in the same place.

I haven’t found a way of changing the image of the tile to use, for instance, a jpg. The image that the live tile adopts is the icon of the desktop shortcut from which it was created. Normally, this will be the default icon associated with the file type, but you can change the icon of desktop shortcuts as follows:

  • Right-click on the shortcut
  • Left-click on the “Shortcut” tab
  • Left-click on “Change Icon”

Live Tiles of Documents

Live tiles of a pdf file, a spreadsheet file (with changed icon), and an Access database

Also, you can change the wording on the Start Menu tile by renaming the desktop shortcut before dragging it into the “Start Menu\Programs” folder. Rename the desktop shortcut by right-clicking on it and left-clicking on “Rename”. You can rename the shortcut to anything you like (removing the word “shortcut” and the “.pdf”, for instance).

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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