Thinking about new hardware, update about the Useful Windows Blog

Hello people of the internet.  I wanted to give and update and let you know what is going on with me and how it will affect Useful Windows.

I accepted a new job recently.  I am now working full-time in the tech field once again.  This is a great thing as it helps me come up with great how to articles that I hope to have done soon.  It also keeps me on the pulse of technology in general.

That being said I am making a little more than I was before so I believe it is time to consider upgrading my desktop that I built five years ago.

To understand why I built this computer the way I did you have to understand where I was at.  Five years ago I was working part-time doing remote tech support from home on my laptop which I had connected to my TV in my bedroom.  I was engaged and getting ready to be married later that year. I was not making a lot of money and was putting as much as I could toward my wedding but I knew I needed a better machine to work efficiently.

I gave myself a budget of $400 to $500 to build the best machine I could.  I knew I could build a machine better than I could just buy one preconfigured.  I reused some parts from a desktop I had built about six years earlier including the hard drive, power supply, case fans and case.  I also knew that the newer Intel Core i series processors had integrated graphic controllers and some of them operated at faster speeds than others.  With this in mind I decided against buying a separate graphic card to cut down costs as this computer was for work and not games.

What resulted was a desktop computer with an Intel DH55HC motherboard, an Intel Core i5 661 3.33 GHz processor and 4GB of Patriot ram.  I also bought an aftermarket CPU cooler and an internal DVD writer and memory card reader.  I later bought an 16″ Asus monitor to add to the little Dell monitor I had connected to the machine.  I was running Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows 7 Ultimate in a dual-boot configuration and continued to do so for some time.

After I got married I moved back out of my parents house (I had moved back in to help with bills after my mom lost her job) and left my dad the small Dell monitor as his had died on him.  I once again used my TV in my bedroom as my second screen as I kept the desktop in our bedroom.  Over time it became clear that my wife did a lot of photo editing on the computer and upgrades would be necessary.  Before that though my power supply died resulting in the first upgrade to an Antec 650 Watt power supply.  A few months later I would buy a graphic card running and AMD ATI Radeon HD 6750.

A year or so later my grandmother would get a new computer and I got the one I built for her back. From this I added a 500GB hard drive, and additional DVD burner and a second monitor (Dell 20″).  While clearing out some old computer junk from a local college I found some very old Altec Lansing Multimedia speakers and sub woofer.

The truth is, this is still a very good computer and would meet most people’s needs but it no longer meets my needs.  I am out of space as the original hard drive is only 160GB and is currently my data drive.  The 500 GB hard drive is used as the operating system drive with Windows XP Pro X64, Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro in a quad boot configuration.  It also contains a lot of data and some virtual machines I use for testing to write articles for this site.  My wife uses this computer for work most days of the week and has gotten used to the multiple monitors but does not like how they are different resolutions.  She also downloads pictures from an SD and XD card to the computer and comments on how slow that process takes.  Unfortunately my motherboard does not have USB 3.0 and while I could add a card that does, why not just look at upgrading the whole computer.

So once again I start by looking at processors and am highly considering an Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz processor.  This should be more than enough speed to handle anything I can throw at this machine.  I will once again use an Intel motherboard as they are the best boards I have ever used.  I will go no less than 8 GB of ram but really want to start at 16 GB of ram.  Either a USB 3.0 or Sata memory card reader which will make downloading those pictures a snap.  I figure I will use a traditional hard drive for my testing operating system which will have Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Pro.  Then I will also have an SSD with Windows 10 on it, multibooting between five versions of Windows.  I am also considering getting two identical hard dives to have in a mirrored RAID to keep my data safe.  I will put this all in a new case with a new power supply.  I am lost on what kind of graphic card to get but there will be something in there.  I will probably have at least two monitors, maybe three. This time they will all be the same resolution if not size as well.

So I am curious if anyone has any suggestions on hardware, what has been good for them, what has been bad, etc..  I know this may sound like over kill for a lot of people but I really use this computer and when you are trying to run more than one virtual machine this computer reaches its limit.  When my wife is working and has a million things open it also slows down.  Granted this is due to the low ram size but to fix some of the other limitations and annoyances I might as well just upgrade the whole thing.  I do not have the money to buy everything at once but I figure I will buy a part or two a month till I have enough to start the build.

Thanks for reading and please leave any input in the comments.

Save Disk Space by using Disk Cleanup Part 2

Many newer computers and devices have only a little bit of hard drive space.  While the cloud helps with this you can also save disk space by using Disk Cleanup.  This is part 2 I highly suggest Compressing your Hard Drive first then using Disk Cleanup.

Just a reminder to back up your data if you have not already or not done it in a long time.  No one wants to lose anything.

Before you begin you will want to update Windows as Disk Cleanup deletes backed up system files from Windows updates and from performing a Windows upgrade (like from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1).

While Disk Cleanup has been part of Windows forever it will be most effective in updated versions of Windows 7 and later including Windows RT.  This will free up space in Windows XP and Windows Vista but is not able to remove the backed up Windows update files.

If you completed the steps in part 1 then bring up the Hard Drive Properties window again and click on Disk Cleanup.  If not then just click on Start and in the search box type in Cleanmgr.exe (Start and then Run in Windows XP or in Windows 8 and 8.1 Start and then just start typing as it will search automatically).  You can also try looking in Start, All Programs, Accessories, and then System Tools in the Start Menu.

If you have multiple hard drives you will want to select the one that Windows is installed on usually C: and then click OK, this will not come up if you open Disk Cleanup from the hard drive properties window.  Once you open Disk Cleanup it will take some time looking for temporary files to delete, just wait a bit till the main window pops up from there we will configure some settings.  Once the Disk Cleanup window has opened click on Clean Up System Files.  It will again scan for temporary files to delete but this time it will also look for other system temporary files and Windows update backups.

Disk Cleanup System Files

Disk Cleanup System Files

Once the Disk Cleanup window comes back up again you will want to click on a new tab called More Options.

Disk Cleanup More Options

Disk Cleanup More Options

Now from here click on Clean Up… under System Restore and Shadow Copies.  This will delete all but the most recent System Restore point.  Wait a second or two and then click on the Disk Cleanup tab again.  If nothing happens the system is still deleting old System Restore information wait a while longer and then try again.

Disk Cleanup System Restore and Shadow Copies Clean Up

Disk Cleanup System Restore and Shadow Copies Clean Up

Once you are back on the Disk Cleanup tab make sure all the check boxes are checked and then click on OK.  A dialogue box will come up and then click Delete Files.  It will take some time but these files will be deleted.  In part 3 we will tame System Restore permanently.

Save Disk Space by Compressing Your Hard Drive Part 1

Many newer computers and tablets that came out this holiday season have limited storage, sometimes as low as 16 GB hard drives.  Thankfully there are some tricks in Windows that will maximize your disk space and over the next few posts I will help show you how to put that disk on a diet.  First lets look at how to save disk space by compressing your hard drive.  This should work for just about all versions of Windows going way back (Windows 95 or 98 I believe) it is an old trick but it works. This also works in Windows RT.

Before you do any of these tricks I suggest you back up your data, I have had great success with these tricks but I would hate to see someone lose something that is important for any reason.

First start by opening up File Explorer (Windows Explorer) and click on This PC (My Computer) and then right-click on your hard drive (you may have more than one, Do this on the one that Windows is installed on).  Then click on Properties.

 

Hard Drive Properties

Hard Drive Properties

Once the Hard Drive Properties window opens you will want to check the box next to Compress This Drive To Save Disk Space and then click Apply. A Dialogue box will open asking you to confirm, make sure Apply Changes to drive Subfolders and Files is selected and then click OK.  You may have an error pop up just click on Ignore All.  Then sit back and wait as this will take some time to complete.  If your device runs on a battery plug it in as this can drain a battery fast.  It will take a while but it will free up a lot of space.

Compress Drive to Save Disk Space

Compress Drive to Save Disk Space

Once done I always suggest restarting your computer or device.  After that if you bring up the Hard Drive Properties window again you can click on Disk Cleanup for Part 2.

Fix the Lumia Windows Phone Blue Screen of Sadness

I have never come across this till recently but I now know how to fix the Lumia Windows Phone Blue Screen of Sadness (Blue Screen Of Death).  Maybe you have seen this, you try to start-up your Lumia Windows Phone and receive a screen with a sad face on it.  Either the screen is black with a blue sad face or the screen is blue with a white sad face like below.

Lumia Windows Phone Blue Screen of Sadness

Lumia Windows Phone Blue Screen of Sadness

I only have fixed this on a Nokia Lumia 521 however the process should be the same for all Nokia Windows Phones.  This will not work for Windows Phones made by other manufacturers.  To fix the issue you will need to download the Windows Device Recovery Tool. Once you have downloaded that install it and run it. If the app asks to update you will want to do it as it will support more devices and have bug fixes.  Once it has started you will want to click on My Phone Does Not  Start Up Or Respond.

Nokia Software Updater

Nokia Software Updater

Then a screen will show up prompting you to plug-in your phone into the computer.  You will want to do so and if the software does not automatically start your phone you can hold down the Power and Volume Down buttons (at the same time) till the phone vibrates and then release them.  This will reinstall Windows Phone on your device and it will delete any and all data on your phone.  It will take a while to download the firmware but getting your phone working again is worth it.

This resets my Nokia Lumia 521 back to Windows Phone 8.0 and I am now using the Preview for Developers to update it back to Windows Phone 8.1 for testing purposes.  I was able to fix the Lumia Windows Phone blue screen of sadness (Sad Face, Blue Screen of Death) but as always your results may differ.  I also want to state that I am not responsible if you brick your phone trying this.  This is not supported officially.  Good Luck.

Enable 24 Bit Color in Windows XP Mode With Integration Features Enabled

If you have ever used Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 you may have noticed that it only displays in 16 bit color mode.  This makes some things appear a little off on the screen and may also limit compatibility with programs that need 24 bit or 32 bit color.  Thankfully it is easy to enable 24 bit color in Windows XP Mode with integration features enabled.

To do this all you need is a simple registry setting added in side Windows XP.  First click on Start and then Run.  Type in Regedit and then press enter.  You will want to drill  down on the left side of the Registry Editor to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows NT\Terminal Services  Once you are there click on Edit and then New and then DWORD Value.  Name the Value Name ColorDepth set the Value Data to 4 and leave the Base on Hexadecimal, then click Ok.  Finally close the Registry Editor by clicking on the red X button in the upper right corner.

Registry Setting to Enable 24 bit Color in Windows XP Mode

Registry Setting to Enable 24 bit Color in Windows XP Mode

Now you need to restart Windows XP Mode, to do this simply click on the Ctrl+Alt+Del button at the top and center of your screen, then click on Shut Down.  Once Windows XP Mode has turned off open it back up again and if you like you can check to see if it worked.  Right Click on the desktop and click on Properties and then click on Settings.  You should see under Color Quality High (24 bit).  If you do not see this you may need to make sure you did the steps correctly.

Check To See if 24 bit Color is Enabled

Check To See if 24 bit Color is Enabled

Now if you were successful, awesome and good for you.  You may notice that the text on the screen really has not changed much though.  Well we can fix that too.  Right Click on the desktop again and click on Properties and then Appearance and then Effects… then  where is says Standard click on that drop down menu and select ClearType, then click on Ok and Ok again.  This will enable ClearType Fonts and make Windows XP Mode even better to look at.

Enable ClearType in Windows XP

Enable ClearType in Windows XP

So there you go you can enable 24 bit color in Windows XP Mode with integration features enabled and enable ClearType fonts to make Windows XP Mode more readable and just better to look at.

SCAM Alert! Do Not Answer 235-683-4810 Infected Computer Windows Update Scam

I have another scam to warn you about. just a few minuets ago I received a call from 235-683-4810 telling me the same thing as the last unknown number (see my post about 1-111-111-111 Scam) My computer was not responding to the updates from Microsoft, so this time since I was home I decided to humor the guy and have a little fun, and gather as much information as I could to tell you about the scam.

First the guy on the phone sounds Indian or at the very least Middle Eastern, I say this to warn you not to talk bad about these people I have known many great Middle Eastern people over the years that would never do this kind of thing.

I asked the guy how he knew my computer was not getting these updates and he tells me he has an ID from my computer, so I ask him which computer it is since at any given time I have multiple.  He told me it was my home computer, again I ask which one since I have about 18 here currently (all in various states of operation) He then tells me to just start-up one of them so I chose my laptop.

As I am starting my laptop I decide to have some fun and boot into Windows 8.  After I tell him I am logged in he asks if I can see icons, I tell him yes as I am staring at the Start Screen and then he asks me to click on the Start Button.  “I don’t have one,” I replied.  He paused for a while and then tells me to hit the Windows Key and the R Key at the same time on the keyboard.  This of course brings up the Run Box, to which I replied “you could have just said go to the Run Box,” he then had me type in CMD to bring up the Command Prompt and then type in a command Assoc and hit Enter.  This brings a list of File Associations and he tells me to look at the one for ZFSendToTarget=CLSID\{888DCA60-FC0A-11CF-8F0F-00C04FD7D062} and this guy tells me that this CLSID is a unique ID for my computer.  I explained to him that it is not unique and that ID would come up on any computer that you did this on.  This is where they try to trick you with smoke and mirrors.  Do not fall for this.

CLSID in CMD

CLSID in CMD

This guy then had me open another Command Prompt and type in EVENTVWR and hit Enter.  This brings up the Event Viewer I again told him he could have just told me to go to the Event Viewer.  In the Event Viewer he has me double-click on Windows Logs and then Application and asks me to scroll through and see if there are any Errors I tell him there are no Errors there then he ha me double-click on System and see if there are any Errors there I say yes there are many.  He then tells me this is proof that my computer is infected and that they can clean it up and make it run fast.

Event Viewer in Windows 8 showing Errors

Event Viewer in Windows 8 showing Errors

Now  I want to pause here, if your computer was infected it could have Error entries in the Event Viewer because of that however they are specific Errors. Also there will always be Errors in here and they are not something to worry about.  I also asked this guy how he would fix Disk 11 Errors as these were usually signs of a bad hard drive and not an infection, he insisted that my machine was infected.

I finally told him and I knew they were running a scam.  He tried to argue with me that they were not a scam, but I know better.  I finally told him I was going to report everything to the proper authorities.

I hope this helps warn you and I hope the links I provided gives you more information on how they try to use things incorrectly in your computer to trick you.  I think the bottom line is if you do answer and you hear a Middle Eastern accent from a number you do not know, just hang up.

Do Not Answer Calls from 1-111-111-111, SCAM or Let Anyone Tell You Your Computer Is Not Getting Windows Updates

Today I got a call from a weird number it was 1-111-111-111, first this is not a real number second is what the guy on the phone said, he clearly was from India and told me that “My computer was not receiving the Windows Updates and was rejecting them”  I laughed and said “yeah right” and hung up.

This is a two part lesson, first if the number is all the same number or not in the correct format, do not answer it.

Second never let anyone convince you over the phone that your computer is not getting Windows Updates because they have no real way of knowing and if they do, that is unlawful spying.  Microsoft does not know and will never contact you about it. Same with the company that does your Antivirus software, just hang up the phone and save your self from a scam.

I have heard of people getting scammed from people like this, paying for someone to remote connect and do “work” just ignore these jerks, they are just out too hurt you.

So please just don’t answer the phone!

Fix for The Processor Is Not Supported by Windows 8

A friend of mine recently gave me a Ctl. 2Go PC tablet to install and test Windows 8 on.  This machine came with Windows 7 installed on it and Microsoft has said that if a machine can run Windows 7 then it should run Windows 8 and for the most part that is true.  So I grabbed my external DVD drive and went to work.  I ran into two problems however and the first was trying to run setup off of the DVD, try as I may I could not get that machine to boot off of the DVD.  It would attempt to do so but would get hung loading the Windows setup and then go to sleep.  So I rebooted back into Windows 7 and started setup from there and got this message.  The processor is not supported by Windows 8.  Wait, what??  It is a 1.83 GHz Intel Atom, this should be supported by Windows 8 and everything I read online said it was.

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Fix for The Screen Resolution is Too Low for This App to Run

Update:  The best fix I have found so far is to upgrade to Windows 10.  So far Windows 10 is working well on an old Netbook I have that has a 1024 X 600 resolution. It seems to handle the smaller screen size better.  I have not seen the need for this fix in Windows 10.

In Windows 8 when you try to run one of the Windows Store (Metro) apps you get a message saying “This app cannot open” followed by “The screen resolution is too low for this app to run.”  Then is gives you a shortcut to “Change your screen resolution”.  If this has happened to you chances are you are trying to run Windows 8 on a Netbook, Tablet, or older Laptop.  I have found a way around, however.  Pictured below is the error I am talking about.  The lowest screen resolution supported by the Windows Store apps is 1024 X 768 but the computers highest resolution is 1024 X 600.

The Screen Resolution Is Too Small for Windows 8 Apps

The Screen Resolution Is Too Small for Windows 8 Apps

You first want to download the current Intel driver (or whatever driver from your Graphics Card Manufacture) for your device.  For this article, I will be using a tablet that runs the Intel GMA 3150.  You can download this driver from HerePlease note if your computer uses the Intel GMA 945 you do not need to download the driver just skip this step.  You have to install the driver first or your machine may just boot up to a black screen (directions are below to reverse this if you have changed the registry before installing the driver) The install will ask you if you want to install the older driver and you want to select Yes.  When the install finishes it will prompt you to restart, do this and continue on.

Now you are going to want to open Regedit.  The quickest way to get to Regedit is to swipe in on the right side of the screen to the Charms Bar comes into view and then select Search.  In the search box type Regedit and then select the result.  Once you have the Registry Editor (Regedit) open go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE then SYSTEM, then ControlSet001, then Control, Then Class, then {4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318} (this value could vary on different computers) and then 0001 (If your computer has the Intel GMA 945 click on 0000) then double-click on Display1_DownScalingSupported (you can also click on Edit and then Find and type in Display1_DownScalingSupported)  Change the Value Data from 0 to 1 then hit OK.  Close the Registry Editor and restart the computer.

Registry setting you have to change for Windows 8 apps to work

Registry setting you have to change for Windows 8 apps to work

Now it should have changed the resolution to 1024 X 768 and if it has you will notice things seem stretched on the screen a little.  To check this go to the Desktop and right-click on it and select Screen Resolution.

Now it supports Windows 8 Apps

Now it supports Windows 8 Apps

If you have done this with the driver that comes with Windows 8 your device may just boot up to a black screen, this can be fixed.  restart your computer and hit the F8 key repeatedly until you see Please Wait on the Windows 8 boot screen (If you have a tablet you will want to connect a keyboard to do this).  You will then see a screen that has two options.  See Advanced Repair Options and Restart My PC, you want the first one.  You then want to select Troubleshoot, and then select Advanced Options.  From here select Startup Settings and then click on Restart.  You then get a list and on that list you want to hit number 5 Safe Mode with Networking (you can just hit the 5 key on the keyboard).  Now just open Regedit and change that setting back to 0 then restart your computer, everything should boot back to normal.

I hope this gets people able to enjoy the Windows Store (Metro) apps in Windows 8 on some older machines.

Install Windows 8 on Ctl. 2Go PC Model SL10 Tablet

A friend of mine lent me a Ctl. 2Go PC SL10 Tablet to test Windows 8 on.  I have had this machine for so long that I decided to install the Windows 8 RTM on it and give it back to him this way to say thank you.  Now this can and can not be a straight forward install so let me explain and walk you through how to get the most out of Windows 8 on this device.  For this install I am doing a clean install of Windows 8 Professional 32-bit, keeping nothing, but you could do an upgrade from Windows 7 keeping your settings, files, and installed programs.  I installed Windows 8 from a DVD in an external DVD drive connected to the tablet through USB.

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