Category: Windows 8

Windows 8 Recovery

Windows 8 Recovery

If you have a Windows 8 system, it is imperative that you have a way to recover Windows 8 in the event of a hard drive failure. With previous versions of Windows, it was pretty easy for us to recover from a standard Windows DVD, but with Windows 8 that doesn’t work very well. Why? Because Microsoft has stepped up their anti-piracy efforts. That’s why it’s so important that you have a way to recover Windows 8.

If you don’t have recovery media for your system and it suffers a catastrophic hard drive failure, it will delay repairing your computer because we will have to order the recovery media from the manufacturer and wait for them to arrive. In addition it will increase the cost because we will have to purchase the recovery media from the manufacturer.

Computers used to come with recovery discs, but not anymore. To save money, manufacturers now give you the ability to create recovery media yourself. But most people don’t bother to do this.

To create recovery media you need either blank DVD-R discs or a flash drive. The size flash drive you need varies. 32GB. Be aware that some manufacturers no longer support using DVD’s for recovery. You’re better off using a flash drive anyway because it is easier and faster. You’ll need a 32GB flash drive which you can get at any store that sells any kind of computer stuff. At the time I am writing this, you can get one for around $15. If you use DVD’s it will take at least 3 DVD’s perhaps more. So have plenty on hand.

To create your recovery media, place your media in the computer. If anything pops up, just close it. Now you need to run the command provided by the computer manufacturer to create the recovery media. The command you run varies depending on what brand of computer you have. But in general, you can click on start and type the word “recovery” to search for and find it. The name of the utility usually includes the manufacture’s name and the word recovery somewhere.

On Dell computers the program is called Dell Backup and Recovery. Here’s a link to a website with instructions on how to create recovery media:
http://en.community.dell.com/dell-blogs/dellsolves/b/weblog/archive/2013/07/24/how-to-create-recovery-media-with-dell-backup-and-recovery.aspx

For HP, it’s called HP Recovery Manager. Here’s a link to a video that shows how to create recovery media on HP system with Windows 8.
http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c03481733&cc=us&dlc=en&lc=en

Once you have created your recovery media, be sure to label it. Labeling flash drives can be a challenge, but be sure to label it. If you have a marker with a fine point, you can write on the flash drive. If you have a tag with a string, you can tie it to the flash drive. You can fold a piece of masking tape over leaving a little bit if sticky on the end. Write the label on the folder over part and stick the sticky part to the flash drive. You can also put it in a zipper bag and label the bag.

Once you have created and labeled your recovery media, be sure to put it in a safe place where you can find it if you ever need it. Hopefully you won’t ever need it.

How to Update and Configure Start8

How to Update and Configure Start8

Start8 is a program that makes Windows 8 more like Windows 7 thus making it easier to use for those of us who are used to versions of Windows prior to Windows 8. It not only brings back the start button, but it changes the start menu back to a Windows 7 like Start Menu. It also can be configured to disable some of the annoying features of Windows 8.

Start8 will automatically check for updates once a week. If Start8 tells you that there is an update, we recommend that you go ahead and install it. However, you will have to reboot after the update, so if you are in the middle of something, you may wish to wait and not perform the update at that time. If that’s the case, you can either wait a week until it asks you again, or follow the instructions below on how to update it.

Also below are instructions on how we recommend that you configure Start8. If Cyber Tek Computer Pros installed Start8 for you, we have already configured it for you.

To See What Version You Have and to Update Start8:

  1. Right-click on the start button and choose “Configure Start8”
  2. When Start8 comes up, click on “About” in the left column.
  3. In the main part of the window, it will tell you what version you have.
  4. To update, click on the button that says, “Check for Update” and follow the instructions.
  5. You will have to reboot once the update is complete, so make sure you save your work.

To configure Start8:

  1. Right-click on the start button and choose “Configure Start8”
  2. When Start8 comes up, click on “Desktop” in the left column.
  3. On the right side in the section entitled “How should the new Windows 8 features work”, click to put a check-mark next to the following options:
    1. Disable all Windows 8 corners when at the desktop
    2. Hide Modern UI applications from the Windows 7 style menu
  4. Now click the Advanced button in the lower right-hand corner.
  5. Click to put a check-mark next to “Switch to desktop after closing modern UI application”

There are other options in Start8 for customizing how it looks and how it acts. You can experiment with them if you wish.

 

 

Making Windows 8 Easier to Use

Making Windows 8 Easier to Use

If you have Windows 8 on your computer, you may be a little frustrated with the big differences.

Some of the differences include:

  • No start button.
  • When you first boot up the computer, it goes into the start menu instead of the desktop.
  • Start menu is a bunch of colored tiles instead of the more traditional pop-up start menu.
  • If your mouse pointer gets near a corner or edge of the screen, menus slide out from the edge of the screen getting in your way.
  • And more!

Thankfully, StarDock Corporation has an answer for you. It’s called Start8. It’s a small program that you can download and install that transforms your Windows 8 computer into a computer that is very much like Windows 7. It does this by doing the following:

  • It puts a start button back on the task bar. The start button looks like the Windows logo flag.
  • When your computer boots up, it goes into the desktop instead of the start menu.
  • The start menu is now much more like Windows 7. You can still access the Windows 8 start menu if you want to.
  • It has options to turn off all of those annoying slide-out menus and hot corners.

Start8 is only $5. The only way it could be better would be if it were free. You can download and install a free 30 day trial to see how you like it before you buy it. If you have Windows 8, we strongly recommend that you give Start8 a try. To get it, go to stardock.com.

You may be aware that Microsoft is releasing an update to Windows 8 on October 16th, 2013 called Windows 8.1 that brings the start button back. It’s true. Windows 8.1 does put the start button back. And what do you know, it looks just like the start button that Start8 uses. But in terms of usability, that’s about the only improvement Windows 8.1 provides. When you click the new start button, you still get the Windows 8 start menu with all of the colored tiles. And you still have all of the slide-out menus and hot corners to deal with.

We recommend that computers with Windows 8.1 have Start8 installed.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1

For those of you who have Windows 8 or are thinking about getting a new computer, you may be interested to hear that there is an update coming to Windows 8. It’s called Windows 8.1, codenamed Windows Blue. We don’t know exactly when this update will be released, but it should be within a few months. We do know, however, that it will be a free update.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about this update.

  • The start button is back!
    If you have a start button on your Windows 8 computer, it’s probably because we installed a little utility called Start8. Funny. The start button in Windows 8.1 looks just like the Start8 start button. The drawback is that when you click the start button, you get the Windows 8 start menu unlike Start8 where you get a Windows 7 like start menu. One nice thing Microsoft did is that you can right-click on the start button and get a little pop-up menu that gives you a lot of nice options like control pane and task manager.
  • Boot to Desktop
    When Windows 8 boots (unless Start8 is installed) it starts in the start menu instead of going directly to the desktop. With Windows 8.1 you now have the option to tell it to go directly to the desktop when your computer boots.
  • You can customize the start screen
    You can now change the color and background. You can personalize it with a photo. The lock screen can now display a slideshow of your photos. You can change the size of tiles in the Windows 8 start screen as well.
  • New version of Internet Explorer
    Internet Explorer version 10 came out with Windows 8 and it has been problematic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to downgrade a customer’s computer from IE10 to IE9. With Windows 8.1, Internet Explorer 11 is arriving. It boasts the same things that every new version of IE has boasted – Faster performance and better security. We’ll see.
  • The app store has been redesigned and now has more apps with more coming every day.
  • Better keyboard and mouse support
    When Microsoft designed Windows 8 the target was tablets and phones and touchscreens. However, most people running Windows 8 are on a computer and don’t have a touch screen. They have finally realized this and have made some improvements in the way Windows 8 handles mouse and keyboard controls.

If you have Start8, you may be wondering with the changed included with Windows 8.1, do you still need Start8. The answer is that if you still want the Windows 7 style start menu, you should keep Start8. I personally prefer the Windows 7 style start menu. However, I admit that with the changes included in Windows 8.1, Windows 8 is much more usable on a computer and makes Start8 less critical.

We here at Cyber Tek Computer Pros already have Windows 8.1 and we are testing it. We’ll let you know the results of our testing and we’ll also let you know when Windows 8.1 comes out.

Windows 8 Has Built-in Security. Sort of.

Windows 8 Has Built-in Security. Sort of.

You may have heard of something called Windows Defender. It came out in 2006 and is built-in to both Windows Vista and Windows 7. Its purpose is to protect against and remove spyware. However, like most Microsoft security products, it did a terrible job.

You may have heard about another free product called Microsoft Security Essentials. This free security software is supposed to protect you from and also remove both viruses and spyware. Unlike Windows defender, this product isn’t bad. It provides good (not great) protect and it’s free.

Microsoft has is rolling the functionality of Security Essentials into Windows Defender. The result is that Windows 8 comes with security software built-in.

I installed Windows 8 and was playing around with it. Ten minutes later, the computer was infected. I wasn’t trying to infect it and I didn’t do anything risky either.

The bottom line is if you purchase a Windows 8 computer, don’t believe the line from Microsoft that you don’t need security software. This new version of Windows Defender just doesn’t do the job.

Should You Upgrade Windows?

Should You Upgrade Windows?

Just because a new version of Windows comes out doesn’t mean you have to upgrade. If the new version has features you need or want, then that is certainly a compelling reason to upgrade. But most of us don’t have a compelling reason. And some of us have a compelling reason not to upgrade.

When Windows 95 came out, it was such a vast improvement over Windows 3.1 that it was very compelling to upgrade to Windows 95. Windows 98 wasn’t very compelling, but Windows 98 Second Edition had a feature that was very compelling. Plug and Play. Very helpful. Windows 2000 wasn’t all that compelling. Like Windows 95, Windows XP was a vast improvement over previous versions of Windows, so it was pretty compelling to upgrade to XP.

When Vista came out, there was a compelling reason not to upgrade. The reason was Vista was slow had a lot of problems. Microsoft eventually fixed most of the problems with Vista, but the damage was done and Windows 7 was released. However, if you had Windows XP, there wasn’t really a lot of compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 7. If you had Vista and were having trouble with it, that was a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 7, but if your Vista system was working OK, there wasn’t much reason to upgrade.

One compelling reason to upgrade your version of Windows is when Microsoft stops releasing security updates for it. When that happens, it’s important to move to a newer version of Windows. Sometimes that means upgrading your current computer. Sometimes that means getting a new computer. Right now if you are using any version of Windows prior to Windows XP, you should get a new computer as soon as possible.

If you are using Windows XP, it’s a little more complicated. You should move to a newer version of Windows before April 2014 because that’s when Microsoft will stop releasing security updates for Windows XP. However, how you get to a newer version of Windows depends on how old your computer is.  If your computer is less than five years old, it might be able to run Windows 7. You might need  to upgrade the RAM, but it can probably run it. However, you can’t just upgrade. You have to backup your computer, wipe it clean, install Windows 7, and then restore your data and reinstall all of your programs. You can upgrade from XP to Vista without having to wipe out your data, but you may still have to upgrade your RAM. In addition, you can’t find the Vista Upgrade in local stores so you’ll have to buy it online. If you do upgrade your computer to Vista, be sure and install all of the Windows Updates.

Now we are on the cusp of the release of Windows 8. Is there a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 8? In a word, no. There are some cool things in Windows 8, but there are some huge annoyances too. And the learning curve for your average computer user is going to be big. So big, it might be frustrating for some people. So for many people there might be a compelling reason not to upgrade to Windows 8. And you already know that we don’t recommend anyone upgrade to Windows 8 when it first comes out.

By the way, if you are planning on getting a new computer in the next year, I would recommend getting a new computer this year, once Windows 8 is out, it will get harder and harder to find new computers in local stores with Windows 7. It won’t happen overnight. But by March it might starting getting hard to find new computers with Windows 7 on them. That is, unless Windows 8 turns out to be another Vista. But I don’t think that will be the case.

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