August 12, 2014
Windows 9 Kills off Awful Charms Bar, adds Virtual Desktops to Win Back Disaffected Desktop Defectors

According to the latest leaks out of Microsoft, the next major version of Windows — Windows 9, Windows Threshold — will kill off the Charms bar. And, if that wasn’t enough to win back the droves of Desktop users who were scared off by the disgusting blight of Windows 8 Metro ficiation, Windows 9 will also have virtual desktops! Yes, it would seem Microsoft is serious about making Windows a first-class operating system for mouse-and-keyboard users yet again.

If you’ve never used Windows 8, the Charms bar is one of the many abominable Metro-style additions that unfortunately also made it to the Desktop. The Charms bar is accessed by pushing your mouse into a corner of the screen, and then delicately moving your pointer up the edge of the screen to the necessary button (Share, Search, Devices, or Settings). This is probably one of the most uncomfortable UI interactions in computing history. The Charms bar is actually pretty slick on a touchscreen, where it’s comfortably accessed with your thumb, but we’ll probably never know why Microsoft also made mouse-and-keyboard users interact with it.

According to various sources, current internal alpha builds of Windows Threshold do not have the Charms bar. It isn’t clear if the Charms bar is only being removed from the Desktop, or from the Metro interface as well. Metro apps, which currently rely on the Charms bar for sharing and settings, will be changed so that these functions are exposed elsewhere. Don’t forget that Windows 9 will also allow for Metro apps to be run on the Desktop in a window — in which case, the working theory is that these Metro-on-Desktop apps will gain a Settings button in the top corner of the title bar, along with minimize and close. Desktop users will go back to using the resurrected Start menu and system tray — if they ever stopped using them in the first place, anyway.

The other interesting tidbit of news is that Windows 9 will apparently support virtual desktops. This is a fairly old interface paradigm that’s been available on various operating systems almost since the advent of the desktop. OS X and Ubuntu have had native virtual desktop support for years, but Windows has historically required a third-party app to enable such functionality. Now, if internal builds of Windows 9 are to be believed, the Windows 9 Desktop will have baked-in support for virtual desktops. Virtual desktops aren’t exactly a killer feature (even for power users like me, I prefer multiple monitors), but it shows that Microsoft is serious about winning back the support of disaffected Desktop users after the Windows 8 snafu.

So far, then, so good — Microsoft has (finally) realized that Windows 8 offers very little for mouse-and-keyboard users, which still make up the vast majority of its user base. These changes are clearly targeted at creating significant distance between Windows 8 and Windows 9, and thus hopefully regaining the trust and affection of the lucrative enterprise market which has signaled that it’s more than happy to hold onto Windows XP and Windows 7 rather than attempt a painful upgrade to Windows 8.
As a full-time Windows Desktop user, I’m rather excited about Windows 9. Bear in mind that these are just a few of the changes that are coming in Windows 9. Microsoft isn’t expected to release a preview build of Windows 9 until this fall — ahead of a final RTM release in April 2015 — and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot of cool features targeted at mouse-and-keyboard users by the time it rolls around. It might be too much to hope that the Metro-style PC Settings pane gets integrated into the Desktop Control Panel, but you never know.

April 7, 2014
The Windows XP upgrade question: Windows 7 or Windows 8?

w7or8 primary

Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP on April 8. While you’re technically free to keep using the 12-year-old operating system, doing so may put you at greater security risk for attack as future vulnerabilities go unpatched.

In Microsoft’s perfect world, most users will take the opportunity to switch to Windows 8, even if it is a drastic change from Windows XP. But you don’t have to go that route. Although Windows 8 has plenty of redeeming qualities, there’s nothing stopping you fromadopting Windows 7 instead.

We won’t make the decision between Windows 7 and Windows 8 for you, but if you do decide to heed Microsoft’s nagging post-expiration pop-ups, we can help you pick the right operating system for your needs.
The case for Windows 7

The biggest benefit to Windows 7 is familiarity. The pop-up Start menu is still intact, and the basic functionality is similar enough that you don’t have to relearn much. You can even make Windows 7 look like Windows XP with just a few tweaks.

windows 7 default desktop 

By comparison, Windows 8 (and the sweeping Windows 8.1 update) has a steeper learning curve. Microsoft got rid of the pop-up Start menu and replaced it with an app launcher that takes up the entire screen. This Start screen is filled with new kinds of apps that are optimized for touch interaction. While the desktop is still available, you may find yourself getting bounced back and forth between the two interfaces.

Crucial system commands are hidden in invisible “Charms” and “Hot Corners” that only appear when you move your mouse to certain points on the edge of the screen. Summoning the hidden menus becomes second nature once you’re using to it, though there’s certainly a learning curve to the unfamiliar system.

Likewise, you can bring back some familiarity to Windows 8 with settings tweaks and third-party software, but it’s a much more laborious process. Windows 7 is the safer bet if you want things to stay pretty much the way they are in XP, or if you’re buying a new PC for an XP-using relative.

Windows 7 also has the benefit of being a highly refined, complete operating system. From the start, it was a vast improvement over Windows Vista, rather than a complete reinvention that introduced new problems. And since its launch in 2009, it has received a major Service Pack upgrade and countless bug fixes. Windows 7 isn’t perfect by any means, but unlike Windows 8, it doesn’t feel like a work in progress.

The case for Windows 8

To say that some users dislike Windows 8 would be putting it lightly. The drastic interface changes have polarized critics and alienated mouse-and-keyboard users, who feel Microsoft put too much emphasis on touchscreens.

windows 8 start screen 

The traditional Windows desktop is available the new look of Windows 8. Despite the lack of the Windows Start menu iconic ’ (for now) and you have to travel through the full-screen applications to the house to get (again, for now), those concerns vanish day , as Microsoft is trying to deal with the biggest complaints PC users of Windows 8 through software updates.

And if you can keep an open mind, Windows 8 brings a lot of advantages, even without a tablet PC or touch screen.

Some of these benefits are thin or under the hood. Start and stop times are much faster on Windows 8, and the overall performance has improved a bit ‘. Virus Protection is now integrated into the operating system, so you do not have to download Microsoft Security Essentials or pay for an antivirus suite, and a new secure boot option is enabled by default.

Windows 8 also adds a few more tools for desktop users, such as a new file transfer dialog that combines all in one window and provides a pause button. The task manager has received a complete overhaul as well, with a cleaner look, disk stats and data consumption, history of applications, and a better way to manage the programs that run at startup.

If you use multiple monitors, Windows 8 has features built-in multi-monitor, so you do not have to buy third-party software. Tools Backup files have greatly improved in Windows 8, with a way to save a complete history of your documents, music, photos and video folders.

windows 8 task manager

If you’re not afraid of the new Windows 8 interface, you can also find some uses for their applications in a modern style. A text editor full screen, for example, can be a great way to tune out distractions and the ability to “snap ” more applications side-by - side is useful in all types of situations, such as setting an application following calculator to the spreadsheet in Excel.

Reflecting hardware support and reality
There is also the hardware to consider. It’s a challenge to find the PC with Windows 7 online, and you can still buy copies of Windows 7 in stores if you are building your own PC. But in general, the choice of Windows 8 hardware is much wider, super cheap laptop for Ultrabooks - thin and light. Just to sweeten the deal, until June 15, Microsoft will give you $ 100 to upgrade to a Windows 8 machine.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of the latest hardware, for example, the fourth generation of the Intel Core battery efficient (Has well). The downgrade to Windows 7 on a new computer is an option, but not by the standard Windows 8. To do this, you must be running Windows 8 Pro, which adds to the total cost of your new computer.

Also, if you are just now migrating from Windows XP, you may not the type who likes to update often. Note, then, that enhanced servicing of Windows 7 ends in January 2020. Windows 8 provides extended support until 2023, so it has an extra few years before we have to repeat the whole year.

Finally, some older Windows XP machines cannot even be capable of running a modern operating system. If you have a PC that does not meet the Windows 7 or Windows 8 Requirements - be careful with those little system! - Our guide, light easy Linux operating systems designed to entice refugees from Windows XP.

March 18, 2014
How to print to PDF in Windows 7 & 8

You’ve undoubtedly heard of PDF files or Portable Document Format, and probably used or seen a PDF at some point. A document saved as a PDF file is an exact visual reproduction of another file through one of these devices.

Even if you print a document to a PDF instead of printing directly on paper may be desirable, Windows users have not had the benefit of a print function built into the native operating system in PDF format. Microsoft has remained firmly in place behind their racing XPS to PDF, despite the popularity of the PDF.

Some of you already have Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader (free) in the team, while others may not have an Adobe at all or are reluctant to Adobe products. We will cover how to print to PDF in Windows 7 and 8 for each of these groups.

For other types of PDF content, take a look at our written comments on how to edit a PDF and how to combine multiple PDF files.

How to Print to PDF with Adobe Acrobat or Reader

Printing a PDF file with Adobe Acrobat or Reader installed only requires a few simple steps.
First, open the file you want to convert. Now, click File, then Print, and Print Options window opens.

You get the option to choose the printer you want to use, and the physical printer is very likely to default. Click the Print dialog box, destination printer, or Print Options dialog box and select Adobe PDF Save as PDF or destination.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of PDF files or Portable Document Format, and probably used or seen a PDF at some point. A document saved as a PDF file is an exact visual reproduction of another file through one of these devices.

Even if you print a document to a PDF instead of printing directly on paper may be desirable, Windows users have not had the benefit of a print function built into the native operating system in PDF format. Microsoft has remained firmly in place behind their racing XPS to PDF, despite the popularity of the PDF.

Some of you already have Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader (free) in the team, while others may not have an Adobe at all or are reluctant to Adobe products. We will cover how to print to PDF in Windows 7 and 8 for each of these groups.

For other types of PDF content, take a look at our written comments on how to edit a PDF and how to combine multiple PDF files.

How to Print to PDF with Adobe Acrobat or Reader
Print a PDF file with Adobe Acrobat Reader already installed or requires only a few simple steps.

First, open the file you want to convert. Now, click File, then Print, and you open the Print Options window.

You get the chance to choose which printer to use, and the physical printer is very likely to default. Click the Print dialog box , the destination printer , or a box of printing options and select Adobe PDF or save it as a PDF as a destination.

The Adobe PDF Print

Now click Print or Save, and the document name and choose a location to save the file and go.

How to Print to PDF without Adobe Acrobat or ReaderNow, for those of you without Adobe Acrobat or Reader, you can download Reader, Acrobat pay for or to go through a little ’ harder to use PDF converter process. It will guide you through the steps of downloading a free PDF converter and how to use it to print to PDF.We recommend the free doPDF converter, which can be downloaded from its official website. We prefer this question because, unlike similar programs that do not force you to download add-on randomly and works with both Windows 7 and 8.

Once you reach the home page, click Download now, and the installer will download to your computer. Go to the download folder and run the installer doPDF . While running the installation program, you will be asked if you want to be the default printer doPDF . Select this option if you plan to convert to PDF often.

Open the application and you’ll immediately see an option to Convert a file to PDF. Click on the “…” icon and choose which file you want to convert to PDF.

Once you choose a file, click Create, choose a destination for your new PDF, and click OK and you’re all set.

Until Microsoft perfects its XPS format, converting your files to PDF is among the best options available for cross platform document compatibility. We hope this rundown has assisted you in printing files to PDF in either Windows 7 or 8.

February 20, 2014
Five Tips for Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8

Time is running out for users of Windows XP. Soon we will see the end of all official support - including security updates - Microsoft. To protect yourself and take advantage of the many improvements in productivity latest Microsoft operating systems have to offer, it’s time to accelerate. Here are five tips to make the upgrade from XP to go smoothly.

Windows 7 Professional and Pro 8 are much more powerful operating systems other than Windows XP, and like most pieces of software work better on modern hardware. You will experience the best results if you upgrade your computer while the operating system. The HP EliteBook is a compact notebook computer that incorporates a lot of power for the computing needs of today’s lightweight family.

If the new hardware is not in the budget and want to upgrade a device, download and run the existing Upgrade Advisor Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant for an inventory of the components of the computer and look at what is solid and that isn’t supported. Be sure to get the drivers for components that are connected to the PC - mice, keyboards, hard drives, printers, and everything else.

If you run legacy applications, there is a chance that does not work on Windows 7 Professional or Pro 8. You will have to make a decision on what to do after the upgrade: either upgrade to a more recent version of the software that is compatible with Windows 7 Professional / 8 Pro, or using a emulator to keep running the old application. Windows 7 Professional includes Windows XP Mode as a free download. This program lets you run older XP software that otherwise would not be compatible with Windows 7 Professional. But, while the XP mode it is compatible with Windows 7 Professional, is not officially available with Windows 8 Pro (although you can make it work with a bit of “know -how). Whatever operating system you are upgrading, you may be better to consider that a last resort to use while you get up to speed.

The cloud-based services are a great option to consider for replacing obsolete programs. For example, if the previous version of Office will not work on Windows 7 Professional or 8 Pro, try the online Office 365 or Google Docs instead. Take a virtual tour through the Microsoft software store to get an idea of some of the great new products that are available.

Of course, you want to back up and copy all user data, especially anything that XP “C: \ Documents and Settings” folder. However, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8 Pro slightly different folders by default in Windows XP, so if you are migrating your information manually, you need to be aware that these files should go. The main folders - or “Libraries” as Windows 7 Professional and Pro 8 call them - are music, images and video. Put the appropriate files of all types in these libraries, then delete everything in the My Documents folder. To make things even easier, use Windows Easy Transfer.

Copying data from one place to another USB external drive can be tedious and error prone, so try to use the cloud instead. Services like the new Windows OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) allow you to hide mountains of data on the web, then access it later from any other PC. Backup user files of one of these systems makes migration as painless as possible, and adds an additional layer of protection for your data.
As with any software migration, upgrading from XP to Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro involves some risk, and some users may not be comfortable enough with the process to manage mission-critical equipment that contain essential data.

If you do not have (or cannot afford) in place IT staff to offer assistance, foreign aid is readily available. XP HP Migration Services Group is composed of experts who can ensure their applications are compatible with the new operating system and guides you through the upgrade process to determine the willingness to stretch the updated system. Outsourcing the update not only offers peace of mind but also saves you time and running again as soon as possible.

January 24, 2014
Where can you still find a PC running Windows 7?

The kerfuffle produced by HP’s decision to promote some PCs with Windows 7 on your online Home & Home Office Store is an attempt to cause a fuss over something that every smart business buyers already know. Windows 7 does not have to make a return, because it has never been.

In fact, it is easy to find computers that are running Windows 7. All you have to do is buy the proper channels.

This morning I conducted a thorough audit of the business channels focusing on the PC. As I expected, I found a great variety of PCs with Windows 7 available for purchase there.

As I noted yesterday, the PCs with Windows 7 are a drop in the ocean in the consumer-oriented HP ‘s online store , which currently has a total of three desktop Windows 7 on offer, with 33 8.1 Windows 8 desktop machines offered different.

But a very different story get if you visit the HP Small and Medium Enterprises. Or, if you register with the U.S. rival Dell, which also has a separate online shop for work and business PC.
On these sites, Windows 7 is still well represented. This is not a change from last year or a reaction to Windows 8. And ’ business as usual.

When I checked last May, the business side of HP had 120 Windows 7 desktops and laptops offered, almost three times the number of PCs in the company store of Windows 8. At present, the total number of models has been slightly reduced, but the percentage is to the same extent.

Dell is not as unbalanced, but you can still choose from more than 60 discrete options in Windows 7 Desktops and Notebooks and Ultrabooks sections All-in-one. You can even find high-end Windows 7 machines under the brand Alienware, traditionally aimed at the players, but definitely fit for business use.
Here are the raw data.

The options are even more interesting if you visit some of the great sites online that specialize in serving the commercial channel, companies and educational institutions. HP and its other store, Lenovo of China, are widely sold through commercial sites.

CDW Take, for example, one of the largest distributors of business centered on. I went to CDW Computers section this morning and tried to downgrade desktops. Which produced 378 results, all with Windows 8 Pro licenses downgraded to Windows 7 Pro?
First on the list is the CDW HP Pro 3500, if a solid desktop PC a bit serious “with a Core i5 3.2 GHz processor (Ivy Bridge), 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

If you want something more robust, you can get the G1 EliteDesk 800 with a Core i7 4770 ( Haswell ) , downgrade to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.
In fact, CDW 9 top 10 teams in the list of desktop PCs with Windows 7 pre- installed as a downgrade are HP. Outside the top 20, 14 are HP, Lenovo and Acer get 5 models get a single mention .

These machines are not crap, either. In total, CDW has 69 configurations available with Core i7 CPU and Windows 7 sales, including a nice small footprint PCs Lenovo , the ThinkCentre M93p 10AB , that has 8 GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD , Bluetooth 4.0, Windows 7 and downgrade one.

Even the consumer - friendly Newegg, a favorite of PC enthusiasts and system builders do it yourself, it has a lot of options available: Search for Windows 7 downgrade and a list of the 27 desktops and laptops that you get with Windows 7 pre - installed, ranging in price from $ 398.00 to more than $ 3,900 for the ’ HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation with Haswell core i7, 32 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD twins and AMD FirePro graphics .
It ’ true that the PC retailers for consumers tend to push the latest Windows 8 touch devices. But do not assume that means it is not possible to identify a window of Windows 7. In consumery the detail of all, the best buy, you can still find a PC with Windows 7. When I looked at desktop address book and tool of all - in -one said filter having 369 machines to choose Windows 8 and Windows 7227 options , including options to third-party sites sold through Best Buy.

Personally, if I were to buy a PC with Windows 7 now I am looking for one that includes a license of Windows 8 Pro and has been downgraded to Windows 7 Pro OEM. This configuration offers the flexibility to upgrade to Windows 8.1 (or, presumably, 8.2 or 8.3, if the versions are available in the next year or two) for free. If you buy a PC with a Windows 7 license and later decide to upgrade, you will pay dearly for the privilege.

The bottom line: Windows 7 has never left. Still widely available today, as it was before Microsoft launched Windows 8. According to the normal life cycle of sales Microsoft, the OEM has banned the construction and sale of new PCs when the second anniversary of Windows 8 rolls around in October 2014. We’ll see what happens then, though. I would not be surprised if Microsoft extends that date.

January 17, 2014
Top Ten: Making Windows 8.1 Work Like Windows 7

Now the die is cast, and there is no doubt that Windows 8 and its successor, Windows 8.1, have failed to win the majority of users in the enterprise and consumer markets. The Frankenstein-like maceration new Metro touch interface and the traditional Windows desktop is particularly worrying for typical desktop users using a keyboard and mouse. Windows 8.1 was the hasty attempt by Microsoft to solve the problems of the original version of Windows 8, even if the update helped, unfortunately, just do not go far enough. Fortunately, there are several ways to optimize your system Windows 8.1 on Windows to provide better and more 7-like experience.

1. Configure Boot to Desktop

One of the things that desktop users have little use for is the new Metro start screen, it just gets in the way of access to the Windows desktop. Fortunately, Windows 8.1 allows you to boot directly to the desktop. To set this option, click the taskbar and select Properties to display the properties of the taskbar and navigation dialog. From the Properties box taskbar and navigation, select Go to desktop instead of Start when you sign in.

2. Use the New Start Button

Remove the home button and the menu of Windows 8 was definitely the worst design decision that Microsoft could have done. Windows 8.1 does not solve the problem, but that only brings back the start button, but no Start menu. However, the new home button is not entirely useless. If you re-click the Start button, you get a useful context menu that allows you to work with programs and features, Power Options, Event Viewer, Device Manager, network connections, disk management, PowerShell, Explorer, Control Panel, control file, shutdown, and more. Not a boot menu, but it is better than Windows 8.

3. Use the Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the best ways to navigate the new interface of Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 is the use of keyboard shortcuts. Fortunately, most of Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts still work earlier. Some of the 8 keyboard shortcuts hand Windows 8.1 and Windows are Alt + Tab to switch between applications, Alt + F4 to close the current application, the Windows (Win) key to switch between the desktop and the home screen, Win + D to display the Windows desktop + L to lock the desktop Win + R to open the Run dialog box, Ctrl + A to select all, Ctrl + C to copy, Ctrl + V to paste, Ctrl + X to cut and Ctrl + Z to undo.

4. Replace the Start Screen with the Apps View

If you are using Windows 8.1 applications (and honestly, there are very few who have any real use), then you probably would be better to replace the screen with a view of Applications. Applications view displays a list of all installed applications, and does not show the tabs on the home screen. To enable applications to view, open the Properties dialog box of the taskbar and select Display and navigation view when apps go to Start.

5. Show Desktop Background on the Start Screen

If you have not done a zillion shortcuts on the desktop for all applications, we probably end up using the boot screen occasionally. Doing so is good if it does not seem completely oblivious to, and separate from, the desktop. You can place the desktop background in Windows 8.1 display the Home screen, open the Properties of the Taskbar and navigation dialog and selecting Show my desktop background Start.

6. Use the Desktop and Taskbar

Make good use of the desktop and the taskbar are two keys to be productive with Windows 8.1 in an environment (eg, keyboard and mouse) on the desktop. Using the taskbar is quite simple. On the Home screen or in the Applications view, you can select an item and select Pin to Taskbar pop-up menu. Create desktop shortcuts is a bit more difficult. On the Home screen, click the arrow that appears when you move the cursor (help desk must love all these options invisible) to display the Applications view. In the Applications view, select the items you want to create shortcuts and selecting the file paths in the pop-up menu. Click the items you want, and select Send To, and then Desktop from the context menu.

7. Restore Libraries to File Explorer

Another useful feature of Windows 7 that Microsoft removed unceremoniously in Windows 8 has been Libraries display option in the File Explorer. Libraries are a convenient way to group and access to common files. To add display libraries, Open File Explorer from the desktop and then click the View tab of the Ribbon. Then click on the navigation pane and select Show Libraries.

8. Hide the File Explorer Ribbon

Personally, I like the new ribbon File Explorer. This makes tasks such as displaying file extensions and show hidden items easily using the new Vista ribbon tab. However, the tape is different and not take window real estate. Unfortunately, you can not delete natively, but you can hide it by clicking on the up arrow in the upper right corner of the tape.

9. Restore the Ability to Play DVDs
The removal of the ability to play DVDs was another unexplained change and universally liked less that Microsoft has made to Windows 8 and the Windows update 8.1 does nothing to solve the problem. If you are using Windows 8.1 Pro, you can download the Windows 8.1 Pro Pack for $ 99.99, if you are using Windows 8.1 Pro, you can buy the Windows Media Center 8.1 Pack for $ 9.99. If you prefer to pay, then you can free download VLC media player.

10. Install a Start Menu Replacement

I can not stress enough, but one of the small things that can really help your experience of Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 is to install a third-party Start menu. Why Microsoft did not just put this back to Windows 8.1 is beyond me. Regardless, Classic Shell can give you back your Windows 7 Start menu-like and it’s free. If you are willing to pay $ 4.99, Start8 Stardock is another great option, with lots of customizable features. Both of these third-party boot menu make Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 desktop experience better.

December 17, 2013
Closing the door on Windows: A guide to changing operating systems

Is it time for you to dump Windows XP, or maybe to abandon Windows altogether? Windows 8 has improved significantly with the 8.1 upgrade. Nevertheless, for many users, Windows 8’s modern-style interface—incorporating major changes like Live Tiles and the removal of the Start menu—remains an object of scorn. And security has always been a bigger headache for Windows than for other platforms.

If you’re still running Windows XP, making the switch to Windows 8.1—or to Windows 7, if you can find it—will probably involve replacing more than just the operating system. Your current hardware may not be able to handle a newer Windows OS; and even if it can, you’ll likely need to replace software and peripheral devices, as well.

If you’re going to invest money and time in making the transition to a new OS, you might as well consider all your options. Microsoft’s stranglehold on the desktop market has loosened over the past few years. Mac OS X, Linux, and even Chrome OS are sophisticated operating systems and are enjoying growing mainstream adoption. Here’s what to expect if you embrace one of these alternatives.
Mac OS X

There’s a reason people (and not just Apple marketers) say “once you go Mac, you’ll never go back.” Apple defined the GUI we know today and set the bar for user-friendly computing. Macs have a reputation for being expensive, but that’s not entirely accurate these days. You can certainly find cheaper Windows-based desktop and laptop options, but in bang-for-the-buck terms, Macs are on a par with—and sometimes cheaper than—similarly equipped Windows machines. charges $120 for the full version of Windows 8.1, while Apple offers the latest version of OS X gratis.


OS X’s most obvious advantage is that it raises far fewer security concerns than Windows. One disadvantage of being the dominant OS is that you have the biggest target on your back. Macs aren’t immune to malware attacks, but using one significantly reduces your security risk.

OS X also has the edge in cost. The full version of Windows 8.1 will set you back $120. For the past several years, OS X upgrades have run just $20 to $30, and the latest version, Mavericks, is free. OS X also comes with its own productivity suite (iWorks), and boasts proficient email, note-taking, calendaring, media-playing, image-editing, and instant messaging applications.

With a Mac OS X system, you can continue to run Windows—either in a dual-boot configuration, or as a virtual machine using a program like Parallels. You would still need a legally licensed copy of Windows, however, and you would still need patch and update whatever version of Windows you ran. The system would also be susceptible to the same security vulnerabilities as a stand-alone Windows PC, but you could continue using legacy Windows software for applications that you can’t discard. don’t have to abandon Windows if you switch to OS X: You can run it as a virtual machine using Parallels.


Unless you decide to run a virtual version of Windows, switching to OS X will require you to replace all your software. Popular products like Microsoft Office (if you choose not to use iWorks) and Adobe Creative Suite have Mac versions, but for other applications you’ll have to find suitable alternatives. Either scenario will increase the cost of switching and slow the learning curve for getting used to the new applications. Of course, you may face similar challenges if you upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8.1.


If you want to install a new OS on your existing hardware, Linux is the obvious alternative. The open-source operating system has many variants, one of the most widely used of which is Ubuntu Linux. Generally speaking, Linux has less-demanding hardware requirements and is much more forgiving of older PCs. Laptops are available from Acer, Asus, and Dell that run some version of Linux.


The biggest benefit of choosing Linux is cost. Most Linux distributions are free, as are the applications available to run on it.

Linux tends to be less of a resource hog than other platforms, and it can perform admirably on older processors and with less RAM or hard-drive storage than Windows or OS X. You can choose from various user interface desktop environments, such as KDE and GNOME, and if you like you can install or create a desktop environment that is virtually identical to Windows XP. has made great progress from its hobbyist roots and now comes preloaded on some machines from Acer, Asus, and Dell.

Like Mac OS X, Linux can run Windows in dual-boot or virtual-machine form. Tools like WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) can run Windows software natively within Linux. (Note: WINE is a compatibility layer that converts Windows “calls” rather than emulating them; hence its name.)


You’ll have to replace all the applications you use, and you’ll have to hunt down software and drivers for your printer, wireless network adapter, and other peripheral devices—or replace them with Linux-compatible equivalents.

The fact that Linux is open-source can be a double-edged sword with regard to support and troubleshooting. In most cases, you simply download software from an open-source project, and there’s no “parent company” to turn to for support. Some Linux variants do offer support options that you can buy. The upside is that everything you need to know is available online—and plenty of forums exist, populated by Linux experts who are willing to lend a hand.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS, developed by Google, is the new kid on the block. It’s a Web-centric platform that basically makes the browser itself the operating system.


With a Chrome OS machine, you have far fewer security concerns than with a Windows PC—in part because of the relative obscurity of Chrome OS, and in part because in most cases the operating system isn’t designed to run locally installed software or store data on the PC itself, so there’s far less to exploit or attack.
Chrome OS’s Web-based platform takes advantage of computing’s move to the cloud.

If you’re already invested in the Google ecosystem, the Chrome OS may be a perfect match. It revolves around Google services, and it integrates nicely with Android smartphones and tablets to give you access to the same email, stored data, and other information.

On the flip-side, if you don’t use Google services, Chrome OS probably won’t work for you. You can use Office 365 and SkyDrive, and other cloud-based services from a Chrome OS machine, but it’s a bit like paddling upstream, or trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Because most of Chrome OS’s capabilities are tied to cloud-based services and resources, the functionality of Chrome OS is severely limited if you lack an Internet connection. Google recently rolled out Chrome Apps that can run offline, but they’re not the full-featured software you’d find on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.

As the saying goes when the bar is closing, “You ain’t gotta go home, but you gotta get the hell outta here.” In this case, you don’t have to upgrade to Windows 8.1, or even to Windows 7, but you do need to dump Windows XP and move on to something else. Change can be painful—but if you’re going through it anyway, it makes sense to consider all your options.

November 27, 2013
Windows 7 vs Windows 8: what’s the best upgrade from XP?

After nearly 13 years, Microsoft provides support for Windows XP ended in April, 2014, and this means a lot of people have a big decision to make. Even if you are still not satisfied with XP, that support will not be there if things go wrong - it’s a thing that has remained safe XP all this time. Without the support no more security updates, which means that your computer will be vulnerable to malware and viruses use exploits will not be updated by Microsoft.

You could remove the network cable or disable Wi-Fi, but the most sensible option is to eventually move from XP. That can be a daunting prospect.
Should you buy a copy of Windows 8, revised and install it on your existing hardware? Want to Windows 7 will be less of a shock, and can even still buy it? Or maybe you should dive in head and just buy a new PC? We are here to help you decide.

Windows 7 vs Windows 8: Buying a new PC

Buying a new PC today means to switch to Windows 8 , right? Not necessarily. Even if the big manufacturers such as Dell and HP have been pressured by Microsoft to move their action to Windows 8 , some companies continue to use the ” downgrade rights ” that allow them to offer Windows 7 preinstalled. Many systems are customizable on the website of Lenovo to ship with Windows 7 Professional , while Samsung and HP business notebooks offer even pre - installed with it. You will not find this option anywhere, but Windows 7 laptops are still there , if you look around - you just have to be a little ’ more open about what brand and model you are happy to buy .

The situation is much more flexible when it comes to desktop PC. As expected , you can still go to independent retailers such as Scan and Chillblast and buy custom built PC with Windows 7 - at least until stocks . Amazon also lists a lot of Windows 7, but mainly through market vendors so you have to use your judgment .

Regarding the purchase of Windows 7 itself, which is a bit ’ more complicated. Microsoft understandably does not sell through their own website, so if you do not have a disk and the activation key is not being used by another PC, you will need to buy an OEM drive - essentially Windows 7 without the support technical support - one of the many dealers offered. It’s easy to do, but you’ll end up paying almost as much as you would for Windows 8 : find the original disks of Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 for £ 70 Ebuyer and CCL Computers, both of which have had several hundred in stock . Just make sure you buy the correct version for your PC - 32 -bit or 64 - bit - as each license is only valid for one or the other.

Of course , there’s always eBay, and you’ll find no shortage of PCs , laptops and installation disks hitting around . We do not trust second hand windows 7 Keys - at least not while it is still possible to buy official one that is guaranteed to work - but there is nothing wrong at all in perusing the hardware on offer to see what opportunities might be out there . If it’s worth paying for an old PC when you already have one that is something only you can decide.

Windows 7 vs Windows 8: The upgrade process

Upgrading from XP to Windows 7 will wipe all the applications and personal files, so make sure you follow the instructions to use the Windows Easy Transfer to transfer files from an external hard drive , if necessary. Once up and running in Windows 7 , you can simply double-click “Windows Easy Transfer - Items from old computer ” file to restore data with ease.

It may be time to buy new applications, but if one of your old programs do not work , the versions of Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate come with Windows XP Mode . This is a fully functional version of XP that runs on Windows 7, so you can run the software otherwise be incompatible. Click here to download the XP mode. However, you have the original installation media and XP activation code , however.

If you prefer to upgrade to Windows 8, which is certainly the easiest option . It can be installed in position on top of XP SP3, and even if you lose your applications, personal files are kept in the upgrade process. I do not even have to get your hands on an installation disk in advance. Run the Upgrade Wizard in Windows 8 to see if the current system can be updated, and if you can be given the option to pay to download the Windows 8 right there. It ’ currently costs £ 100 for the consumer version .

Windows 7 vs Windows 8: The support issue

Of course, with support for Windows XP until April, which should act as a reminder that all these operating systems have a lifespan. It should be noted that the official consumer support for Windows 7 - including warranty and free technical support - will end as soon as January 2015, but Microsoft extended support - which includes the flow of important insurance updates Free, along with other business benefits - will continue at least until 2020. Probably not enough to influence your decision whether to go with Windows 7, but worth knowing.

Windows 7 vs Windows 8: which should you choose

On the last page , we focus on the practical aspects of restructuring, but what about the differences in how the two operating systems work? So much has been written and said about Windows 8 is easy to fall directly into the mindset that this is something of a misstep by Microsoft .

In fact, to see and use the tiled interface for the first time can be an unnerving experience , but that does not mean you should automatically reject its charm ( no pun intended) . The recent update to Windows 8.1 has solved some of the most problematic pastimes , and now there’s a lot to like about this modern operating system.

The way in which job applications has been improved, so now you can set up to four of them together, each occupies a quarter of the screen , making it much more useful with large monitors applications . The store has been redesigned to make it easier to find, and research applications at the system level is now very powerful, and now look online and by e-mail , as well as on their hard drives . It feels like a solid improvement on what was an initial launch of the crude product.

We will not suggest that Windows 8 has the dialing application that would make Apple nervous , but it is growing slowly , and today top 25000 . The applications included are mostly very good, especially the Mail app recently updated , while Facebook , Netflix , Skype and more are available in stunning full-screen applications . There is also a small but decent selection of Xbox Live, known as the Asphalt Jungle Run 7 and Rayman . In the right device - with which we intend to one that is relatively portable and has a touch screen - these applications can be very fun to play, and got only Windows 8.

Above all , the use of the new interface of Windows 8 is not necessary: ​​the old style desktop Windows XP is still there. If you upgrade , you can not deny that an integrated touch screen interface is a bit out of place in an aging PC .

Fortunately, it’s easy to get Windows 8.1 to stick to your desk less flamboyant character and make the transition from previous versions less painful. If you right click the taskbar, desktop and select Properties , then go to the navigation tab , you will see the option to boot your PC directly to the desktop without seeing the modern tile UI at all. The only big difference is that the Start menu is replaced by the new Start screen , but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.

If you are impressed, there are many free utilities companies as excellent Pokki to bring a ‘proper’ Windows Start Menu 8.SEE also: Installing Pokki

This popular replacement Start Menu will show all the features you’re used to, and adding more, you can search your computer, set your favorite applications and go directly to the section of the control panel, but you probably want to disable the suggested games and annoying applications. It also allows you to turn off your PC as normal, but Windows 8.1 now includes options to stop when you click the Start button.

Change the Start menu to include alternative START8 and Classic Shell, and all have the same basic goal: to restore some of the fine control that Microsoft has decided in its wisdom to remove.

Unless you change the default settings for video playback programs , opening the PDF and display of web pages, files you are still new in modern user interface from time to time, but with a few tweaks and programs do not you can live entirely in the ‘old’ world and try Windows like Windows 8 Windows 7.

But if this is the case , does not even matter which version you choose ? Yes and no. If you are buying a new PC and has a touch screen , it would be wise to stick with the Windows 7 touch very rude - but for virtually any situation is simply a matter of personal preference. Indeed, it is unlikely to be a major desktop applications launched in the next few years still do not work with Windows 7, and in fact many players claim that their preferences work better in the previous operating system. There was also some reaction between experienced developers games against the more restrictive approach of Windows 8 for software sales .

In truth, though , Windows 8 is faster, less likely to have accidents and safer than Windows 7: Three of many other good reasons to go with the new operating system.

If you choose Windows 7 over Windows 8 is certainly not be back, as it is still a great operating system . You do not have to mess with start menu substitutions , and no danger of being thrown back on a different interface when you press the “evil” .

Finally , it’s up to you: there is no right or wrong choice . As mentioned, the decision should be based in part on the hardware and partly on personal preference .

October 8, 2013
The 10 most useful Windows 7 and Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts

This download contains almost all the keyboard shortcuts that you can imagine. These shortcuts are still valid, of course, but if like me you only remember a few shortcuts at a time, so they want to remember those who will be most useful.

So while I recommend you take advantage of the list of free download PDF 100 keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8, I suggest you also commit the next 10 keyboard shortcuts to memory, as they will need to access these functions often, and for efficiency reasons, it is better to have them in hand.

10 Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows 8 you need to remember

keyboard_shortcuts_Windows_8.png I know - it’s not Metro anymore. It’s and older graphic.

The shortcuts for Windows 7

If you have not made the leap to Windows 8, this little cheat sheet will help you work more efficiently with Windows 7.


September 10, 2013
10 power tips for molding Windows 7 to your will

Everybody likes a good Windows 7 tip — something that eliminates an annoyance, streamlines a task, or offers useful customization of a particular feature. This latest roundup of favorite tips from our Microsoft Windows blog ranges from speeding up menus to killing rogue processes to scanning system files and repairing errors.

1)Change Stacked Window behavior in the Windows 7 Taskbar

The default Microsoft Windows 7 behavior when dealing with a set of single-app stacked windows in the Taskbar is to display the set as thumbnails when you hover or click the icon, similar to Figure A. But I find myself almost always wanting to return to the last active window, which means I have to find the right one via the thumbnails (Figure B).

Figure A

These are thumbnails of a set of single-app stacked windows in the Taskbar.

Figure B

Hover over each thumbnail to find the right one.

By tweaking the Windows Registry, you can change the stacked window behavior in the Taskbar to automatically open the last active window of that particular application.

 This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic’s Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

Registry Edit

Warning: The Windows Registry is an integral part of the Windows 7 operating system. Editing and changing the registry file could render the system inoperable. Please make a backup of the registry file before you make any edits or tweaks. Click the Start button and enter regedit in the search box and then click the regedit.exe menu item. Answer the UAC prompt to get to the edit screen (Figure C). Navigate to this key:


Figure C

Find the right key.

Right-click in a blank area in the right pane, click New, and then click the DWORD (32-bit) Value menu item, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Create a new DWORD.

Change the name to LastActiveClick, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Change the name to LastActiveClick.

Double-click on LastActiveClick to open the Value dialog box and change the Value Data field to 1 and click OK, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Change the Value Data field to 1.

Exit out of regedit and restart Windows. Now, when you click the icon representing stacked windows of a single application, you will automatically be sent to the last active window. If you click the stacked windows icon again, the next to last active window will be brought to the forefront and so on. No more thumbnails to choose from.

Disable the Sticky and Filter Keys in Windows

While accessibility features are terrific for those who need them, they can be annoyance for those who don’t.

Microsoft Windows includes several very beneficial accessibility options that are critically important to those users who need them. However, some of those accessibility features can be a minor annoyance to users who do not need them

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download. It was originally published in March 2011.

For example, in Windows 7, press the left-Shift key five times in quick succession. You should see a dialog blog like the one shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Open the Sticky Keys dialog box.

For some, the ability to enable Sticky Keys is vital for proper interaction with the computer and the operating system, but for nervous editors like me, who often click the Shift key five or more times trying to think of the proper word or turn of phrase, it can be plain annoying.

The good news is that you can turn it off with a one-time journey into the depths of the Control Panel and a few clicks of the mouse in the right spots.

Turn it off

If the Sticky Keys dialog box is still on the screen, click the link in the box; otherwise navigate to the Control Panel (Figure B) and click the Ease of Access entry.

Figure B

Click Ease of Access.
On the next screen (Figure C), you should click on the Change how Your Keyboard Works link to reach the screen shown in Figure D.

Figure C

Change how your keyboard works.

Figure D

Make the keyboard easier to use.

By default, under the Make It Easier to Type section, most of the items should be unchecked. However, that does not prevent Windows from asking if you want to turn on the features if you happen to press the correct keyboard sequence. To turn off the dialog box and thus relieve the annoyance, you will have to dig a bit deeper.

Click on the Set Up Sticky Keys link to reach the configuration screen shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Set up Sticky Keys.

On this screen, you want to uncheck the Turn on Sticky Keys when SHIFT Is Pressed Five Times box. That will prevent Windows from asking if you want to turn the feature on.

Turn this off too

A related feature is called Filter Keys, which is triggered when you hold the right-Shift key down for eight seconds. You can turn this feature off by clicking the Set Up Filter Keys link found on the screenshot shown in Figure D.

Uncheck the Turn on Filter Keys when Right SHIFT Is Pressed for 8 Seconds box, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Turn on Filter Keys when right-Shift is pressed for eight seconds.

Bottom line — relief

By unchecking those two boxes, assuming you do not need these accessibility features, you should eliminate two minor Windows annoyances from ever popping up unwanted again.

Reclaim used hard drive memory with Disk Cleanup

Microsoft Windows 7 has a built-in utility that will free used hard drive memory increasing available storage space with a click or two of the mouse.

While disk drive storage is relatively cheap these days, users and administrators are always looking for ways to increase the amount of available memory space on their hard drives. A well-established Law of Computer Programming states: “Any program will expand to fill available memory.”

There are plenty of third-party applications that claim to free up hard drive memory and, therefore, increase the efficiency of a Windows 7 PC, but there is a built-in tool that does much the same thing and it’s available for free.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

In Windows 7, click on the Start Menu and click the Computer link to reveal the connected drives on the PC. Right-click on the drive you want to work on and click the Properties menu item, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Navigate to disk drive properties.
On the storage drive Properties screen, you want to navigate to the General Tab (Figure B). In the middle of this screen, near the graphical representation of the drive’s memory allocation is the Disk Cleanup button. Click that to start the process.

Figure B

Click the Disk Cleanup button.
After a bit of analysis, on the Disk Cleanup screen (Figure C), Windows 7 will list the files that you can potentially delete to increase the amount of available memory on the drive. The first time you run the process, Windows will not take the system files into account. If you want to free even more drive memory, you should click the Clean Up System Files button.

Figure C

Here is the potential additional storage space.
As you can see in Figure D, running the additional cleanup process generated a few more megabytes of potential storage.

Figure D

Cleaning the system files creates more potential storage.

At this point, you should work your way through the list to check off which files you actually want to delete from your system. On my test system, I choose to delete all the suggested files, but there may be files on your system that you’d want to keep.

Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic’s Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

Note: During the course of writing this blog post and taking screenshots, I ran the Disk Cleanup process twice and each time I freed more disk storage space. I would suggest running the process more than once just to see if you can free more space yourself. Note 2: Yes, the Disk Cleanup application is available for Windows XP and Vista.

Speed up menus in Windows 7

If you are still trying to squeeze more speed and performance out of Windows 7, here is a tip that will accelerate the display of menu items.
For some users, Microsoft Windows 7 can never go fast enough. There is always a tweak or Registry edit that can squeeze more speed and performance out of the operating system. This Quick Tip shows you how to speed up the display of menu items in Windows 7 with a simple Registry edit.
Note: Editing the Windows Registry file, if not done correctly, could make a PC unusable. Please, back up the Registry file before you attempt this tip.
This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

    Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic’s Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

Start the Registry editor.

Under the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive, navigate to this key:

Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop

In the right-hand pane, look for the MenuShowDelay item (Figure B).
Figure B
Locate the MenuShowDelay item.
Right-click on the MenuShowDelay item and select the Modify option in the context menu (Figure C).

Figure C

Click Modify.
You can now change the value in the Edit String dialog box to a number lower than the default 400 (Figure D).

Warning, don’t go crazy and set the value at zero or otherwise extraordinarily low because it could make navigating Windows impossible. A better value would be around 100.

Figure D

Manage the autorun process in Windows 7 with SysInternals AutoRuns

Sysinternals AutoRuns allows you to manage every autorun process and application on your Windows 7 system from a single, user-friendly window.

Typically speaking a user or administrator can manage autorun process and services in Microsoft Windows 7 with a combination of the Task Manager and the Services Manager. But why bother with two tools when you can do all the process management you need from a single tool? The tool I am speaking of was created by Microsoft SysInternals and is called AutoRuns.

AutoRuns allows you to manage every autorun process and application on your system. This includes all processes associated with the following:

  • Logon
  • Explorer shell extensions
  • Internet Explorer
  • Schedule tasks
  • Services
  • Drivers
  • Winlogon notifications
  • KnownDLLs
  • AppInit
  • Image Hijacks
  • Boot Execute
  • Codecs
  • Sidebar Gadgets
  • Network Providers
  • LSA Providers
  • Print Monitors
  • Winsock Providers

All the above can be managed from a single, easily managed window. But that’s not all you get from this remarkable little tool. With AutoRuns you can also open specific entries in their respective, integrated Windows management tasks windows as well as get online information about each task with a simple right-click.

But what is most impressive with this tool is the ability to quickly view third-party tasks not signed by Microsoft. This can enable you to find rogue Windows 7 processes and services that could turn out to be viruses or other malicious software. How is this done? Let’s take a look.

Installing and running

Obviously the installation is not something to spend much time on. However, this tool is a portable tool, so there really is no installation necessary. You simple download the tool from the SysInternals site, unpack the file, and then copy the autoruns executable to wherever you want it (this can include a flash drive so that you can use it on any system you administer.)

You might also want to run this as the administrative user. SysInternals realized this might cause a bit of confusion and added an entry in the File menu labeled Run as Administrator. If you click this, you will be prompted for the administrative user credentials. By doing this, you will gain much more access than you would have as a standard user.


When you start AutoRuns you will see the one and only window contained within the tool (Figure A). You will also see numerous tabs within the window. Each of these tabs holds specific services, applications, etc.

Figure A

The Everything tab shows you exactly that — everything. This is a good way to get a quick overview of what is going on simultaneously on your machine.

Let’s take a look at the steps for disabling a non-Windows or non-Microsoft process.

Step 1: Click Options | Hide Microsoft and Windows Entries. After you do that, click File | Refresh (or hit F5) to refresh the view so you are seeing only those entries that are not official Microsoft or Windows processes. Step 2: Find the process you are looking for. You can do this by either scrolling around the Everything tab, clicking on the Tab associated with the process you are looking for, or clicking File | Find. Step 3:Disable the process. To do this, you need only uncheck the check box associated with the process you want to disable. Once you have done this, the entry will automatically be disabled — no need to Save.

Verify code signatures

This is one of the more helpful ways you can check for malicious processes with AutoRuns. If you find a process that could be suspect, you can do the following:

  1. Select the suspected process.
  2. Make sure you are running AutoRuns as the administrative user.
  3. Click Options | Verify Code Signatures.
  4. Refresh the view with F5.
  5. Confirm that all processes are displayed as Verified under the Publisher tab (Figure B).

If a process is not listed as Verified, it should be considered suspect.

Figure B

The Verified option applies to all tabs in the window, not just the tab you are currently on.

Depending on how many services you have running, the verification process could take a while. Keep that in mind when you use AutoRuns. If you keep the Verified option on, the startup of the tool could take longer too.

Final thoughts

There are a number of reasons why you might want to take advantage of the SysInternals Autoruns tool. Not only is it a good way to manage all your autorun applications and services, it is also a means to keep rogue processes from running on your machine. All this in a simple-to-use, portable application created by a reputable developer.

Kill rogue processes with taskkill in Microsoft Windows

Use taskkill to stop a rogue system process in Microsoft Windows 7 when the Task Manager is just not powerful enough.

There are times, regardless of your operating system, when you will need to manually kill a rogue process. Most of the time, this can easily be done with the help of the Microsoft Windows 7 Task Manager. There are times, however, when that tool doesn’t seem to have the ability to kill a rogue process. I have seen this plenty of times when trying to kill an Acronis process that has gone astray. When this happens, I have to employ a more powerful tool, taskkill, which is used from the command line.

  Note: In order to run the taskkill command, you will have to open the command window. To do this, click Start | Run and type cmd in the text field or just enter cmd in the Run dialog box (access Run dialog box by clicking Win+R) (Figure A).

Figure A

Open the command window.

Using taskkill

The general syntax of the command looks like this:

taskkill [OPTIONS] [PID]

As you might expect, there are plenty of options available for this command. Some of the more helpful options are:

  • /s COMPUTER — (Where COMPUTER is the IP or address of a remote computer). The default is the local computer, so if you’re working with a command on the local machine, you do not have to use this option.
  • /u DOMAIN\USER — (Where DOMAIN is the domain and USER is the username you authenticate to). This option allows you run taskkill with the account permissions of the specified USERNAME or DOMAIN\USERNAME.
  • /p — If you use the /u option, you will also need to include the /p option, which allows you to specify the user password.
  • /fi — Allows you to run the taskkill command with filters.
  • /f — Forces the command to be terminated.
  • /IM — Allows you to use an application name instead of the PID (Process ID number) of the application.
One of the most useful options is the help switch (Figure B):

taskkill /?

Figure B

Use the help switch for the taskkill command.

Killing with application name

The simplest way to kill a rogue application with taskkill is using the /IM option. This is done like so:


Where APPLICATION_NAME is the name of the application you want to kill. Say, for example, Outlook is refusing to close. To close this with taskkill, you would execute the command:

taskkill /IM outlook.exe

Killing with PID

Let’s say you do not know the name of the application, but instead you know the PID of the application. To kill a process with a PID of, say, 572, you would issue the command:

taskkill /PID 572

Killing all processes owned by a particular user

What if you want to kill all processes owned by a single user? This can come in handy if something has gone awry with a user account or if the user has logged out, but some of the processes owned by that user will not go away. To manage this you would issue the taskkill command like so:

taskkill /F /FI “USERNAME eq username”

In this case, the username is the actual username that owns the processes. Note:The USERNAME option must be used in order to tell the taskkill command a username will be specified.

Killing processes on a remote machine

This one is very handy. Say something has locked up your desktop and you know exactly what application is the culprit. Let’s stick with our Outlook example from earlier. You can hop onto another machine and remotely kill that application like so:

taskkill /s IP_ADDRESS /u DOMAIN\USERNAME /IM Outlook.exe

Where IP_ADDRESS is the address of the remote machine (Note:The hostname can be substituted if the machines are able to see one another by hostname), DOMAIN is the domain (if applicable), and USERNAME is the username used to authenticate to the remote machine.

Final thoughts

The ability and power that comes with the taskkill command can be a very valuable tool that might save you from having to forcibly reboot a machine. Having a solid grasp of this tool, in conjunction with using the Windows Task Manager, will help to keep your Windows machines enjoying longer uptime and, should the occasion strike, the ability to manage a task when a virus, rootkit, or trojan has taken over your machine.

Ensure services restart upon failure in Windows 7

There are times that you need to make sure a service restarts when it fails in Windows 7. Jack Wallen shows you how to configure a service to accomplish this task.

There are times that you need to make sure a service restarts when it fails in Microsoft Windows 7. One very clear instance of this is the Quickbooks database manager (either for Point of Sale or Financials). Should the DB server for either of those applications quit (for whatever reason), all client machines will be unable to connect to the data file. This can mean disaster in a busy retail situation. To avoid this, you need to make sure that service is configured so that it will restart should it stop.

Believe it or not, this Window 7 task is not difficult. The only challenge is knowing that you do, in fact, need to make sure a particular service does need to remain running at all times and you have to know where the tool is to set this up.

Step 1: Assesing the job

Before you tackle this task, you must make sure that the service in question must be running 24/7. Such is the case of the Quickbooks Point Of Sale database manager. If that service is off, business is not being transacted. To make matters worse, should a register machine be in the middle of a transaction, that transaction could cause serious problems with the system if it loses contact with the data file.

There are also services that you might not want to set up to restart upon failure. Why? If a daemon is damaged or corrupt, attempting to auto-restart that service could cause problems with the system or even the entire network. With that information in mind, you want to make sure the service is a good fit for setting up to auto-restart.

Step 2: Starting the tool

The tool you will work from is the Services manager (Figure A). To start up this tool, do the following:

1.  Click the Start button.

2.  In the search box, type services.msc and hit Enter.

Figure A

You can quickly see if the service is running or not by looking in the Status column

Step 3: Configuring the service in question

Now, we have set up the service to restart upon failure. To do this, right-click the service you want to configure and select Properties. This will open the Service Properties windows. From within this window click on the Recovery tab (Figure B).

Figure B

There are a number of ways you can handle these types of errors: You can restart the service, run a program, and even restart the computer.

In order to direct the service to restart upon failure, you have to configure it to do so for First, Second, and/or Subsequent failures. How often you will attempt to restart the service could depend on how flaky the service is. If the service is fairly reliable and would only stop for critical reasons (and subsequent restarts could do more harm than good), you might want to consider only restarting the service on the First failure.

To set the service to restart, just select Restart the Service from the drop-down menu associated with First Failure. Should you feel comfortable setting this service to restart upon second failure, go ahead and do that. In the case of Quickbooks, I always set all three to restart.

You can, however, opt to have the machine simply restart upon either second or subsequent failures. This is a judgment call that must be made by the administrator. If this machine is a server, it’s probably not a good idea to restart it upon the failure of a nonmission critical service.

Should you want to have the machine restart on a specific service failure, all you need to do is select Restart the Computer from the drop-down menu associated with First, Second, or Subsequent failure. When you do, you can then configure the restart to begin after a set number of minutes as well as set it up to broadcast a message to users.

To do this, click on the Restart Computer Options button and configure the number of minutes you want to give the restart after the failure occurs as well as the message you want to send. Click OK after you have set these options.

After you have configured this service to react to failure, click OK to set the changes and dismiss the window. Congratulations, your service should now automatically restart should it fail.

Final thoughts

Always use caution when dealing with the automatic restart of services. Although this tool can really aid you in your quest to keep your system and services running smoothly, it can also rear up and bite you in the butt. A good bit of planning and caution will go a very long way to help you nail this setup.

Scan Windows 7 system files to repair errors

Despite our best efforts, every once in a while, Microsoft Windows 7 system files will become corrupted. A simple scan can fix these system errors.

Knock on wood, this has not happened to me in a very, very long time, but every once in a while the Microsoft Windows system files will become corrupted and report errors. The solution to this annoying, but fixable, problem is to repair the files. A reboot of the PC will often do the trick, but there is a way to repair files while Windows 7 is running and, presumably, you are working productively.

First you will need to start a permission-elevated command-line prompt. Type command into the Desktop Search box and then right-click on the Command Prompt menu entry and select the Run as Administrator item (Figure A).

Figure A

Run the command prompt as administrator.

After accepting the elevated permissions, at the prompt type this command:

sfc /scannow

Now the system will verify the system files and repair any corrupted files (Figure B).

Figure B

Scan for errors.
My test system had no errors (Figure C); however if it did, this scan would have repaired any corrupted files, but without forcing a system reboot.

Figure C

No errors were found.

Shrink a hard drive volume in Windows 7

Use the Disk Management Tool in Microsoft Windows 7 to shrink a hard drive volume to create room so that you can add a new partition.

Microsoft Windows 7 provides several tools for managing the configuration of your computer and the various parts of your operating system. There are times where you will want to shrink the amount of allocated space on your hard drive, referred to as a volume, to make room for another partition. In the not-so-distant past you would have used a third-party tool for this task, but with the Windows 7 Disk Management Tool, the utility you require is part of the operating system.

Shrink a volume

The first step is to start the Disk Management tool with elevated administrative rights. Click the Start menu button, type diskmgmt.msc into the search box, and then right-click the diskmgmt.msc entry to get to the Run as Administrator item in the context menu, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Clicking Run as Administrator will load the Disk Management Tool, which will look something like Figure B.

Figure B

The Disk Management Tool will load.

As you can see, I have a recover disk on my test machine in addition to an Operating System partition and a Data partition. In general, you want to shrink a nonoperating system volume, so we will shrink the Data partition (D:).

Right-click the drive you want to shrink (D: in our example) and navigate to the Shrink Volume menu item, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Navigate to the Shrink Volume menu item.
The Disk Management Tool will take a few seconds to analyze the drive in question and then present you with a summary screen similar to the one shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The Summary shrink screen shows the results of the analysis.
The number you can change on this screen is Enter the Amount of Space to Shrink in MB box. I am shrinking drive D by 5000MB (5GB), as you can see in Figure E. Click the Shrink button when you are ready.

Figure E

Shrink the drive by 5000MB.
When the process is complete, you will have a new unallocated partition. The actual size will be less than what you asked for as there will be some space taken up by the Windows file system, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

A new unallocated partition will appear.

Allocate the unallocated

The next step will be to allocate the newly created space into something the operating system can use. That procedure is not complicated, but it does involve several steps, so we’ll run through that process in a follow-up post.

Create a new partition with Windows 7 tool

Use the Disk Management Tool in Microsoft Windows 7 to add a partition to a hard disk volume so you can create a new logical drive.

In a previous blog post, I described how to use the Microsoft Windows 7 Disk Management tool to shrink an existing hard drive volume: “Quick Tip: Shrink a Hard Drive Volume in Windows 7.” Once you have shrunk a volume, you can then establish a new partition on the newly empty space and create a new logical hard drive for your Windows operating system. Here are the steps to make that happen.

Disk Management

As in the previous post, the first step is to start the Windows 7 Disk Management tool with elevated administrative rights. Click the Start menu button and type diskmgmt.msc into the search box and then right-click the diskmgmt.msc entry to get to the Run as Administrator item in the context menu, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Open the Disk Management Tool with administrative rights.
Clicking Run as Administrator will load the Disk Management Tool, which will look something like Figure B. As you can see, we have some empty space to work with after shrinking the volume previously.

Figure B

There is empty space to fill.
Right-click on the empty area to get the context menu and then navigate to the New Simple Volume menu item, which will start the appropriate wizard (Figure C).

Figure C

Start the New Simple Volume Wizard.
Click Next on the Welcome screen (Figure D) to start the process.

Figure D

The Welcome screen starts the process.

You can take the empty space and divide it into several drives, but in our example, I am going to use the remaining space for the new simple volume (Figure E).

Figure E

Specify the volume size.
On the next screen in the wizard you are asked to assign a drive letter or path to the new volume (Figure F). You have three choices:
  • Assign the following drive letter: Windows has suggested the next available drive letter. This is the default and will most often be the preferable choice.
  • Mount in the following empty NTFS folder: Instead of using a drive letter you can mount the drive to a folder. This essentially makes the drive look like and operate like a folder in Windows.
  • Do not assign a drive letter or drive path: You will have to assign a letter or path later in order to make the drive usable for storage.

We’ll just stick with the default and make a new drive E.

Figure F

Assign a drive letter or drive path.
The screen in the wizard deals with formatting our new drive (Figure G). In general, you should choose to format this drive under the NTFS file system; however, you can also choose to use FAT32. The other default setting should not be used unless you know have a specific reason to change the allocation size.

You should give your new drive a label to help you distinguish the new drive from other drives on your system. A quick format will take less time, but it will not find and mark bad sectors on your drive that could cause problems later.

NTFS drives have built-in compression systems that are essentially seamless to users and can be a good choice if storage space is a premium.

Figure G

Set the formatting options.
The last screen in the wizard (Figure H) gives you a summary of your choices and the opportunity to step back and make changes. When you are satisfied with your choices, click the Finished button.

Figure H

Click Finish to create your drive.

When the formatting is complete, you will have a new drive visible to Windows 7 and ready to store your files (Figure I).

Figure I

A new drive is available.

You can quickly see if the service is running or not by looking in the Status column.