Category: Windows

What is a Microsoft Account

What is a Microsoft Account

If you have an iPhone or any other Apple device, you have an Apple account. Your Apple ID is your email address. You must sign in with your Apple ID to setup and use your iPhone or iPad and to use iCloud. You have the option to create a free email account on if you wish, but this is optional.

If you have an Android phone, then you must have a Google account. It works much the same as an Apple account. While it is possible to create a Google account using your existing email account, Google hides that option and so most people end up creating a Gmail account to use for their Google account.

Years ago, Microsoft started doing a similar thing and calls them Microsoft Accounts. Your Microsoft account can be created using your existing email account, or you can create an email account on one of Microsoft’s free email services like or

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft gave you the option to login to Windows using a Microsoft account instead of a simple local (offline) account. There are pros and cons to using a Microsoft Account to login to Windows. One good thing is that if you forget your password or can’t login to Windows, you can reset your password online either on your computer or using another computer or device (cell phone, tablet, etc.). With a local account, you would probably have to call us.

Another good thing about logging into Windows with a Microsoft Account is that you can synchronize settings and apps across multiple Windows devices if you login to all of them using the same Microsoft Account. This sync is not the same as iCloud. It will sync a lot of your Windows settings so that the settings are the same on all of your Windows devices. If you use Microsoft Edge for browsing the web (not recommended), it will sync saved passwords too. In case you are wondering, you can sync your Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox data across devices too using either a Google account or Firefox account.

You’ll have to have a Microsoft Account if you want to use OneDrive. By the way, a Microsoft Account has been required (in most cases) to install Microsoft Office for some time now. If you have a recent copy of Microsoft Office, you probably have a Microsoft account.

There are also cons to using a Microsoft Account to login to Windows. The first concern is privacy. Microsoft can track everything you do, much like Google and Apple do. I’m not convinced Microsoft doesn’t track everything you do even if you don’t use a Microsoft Account to login to Windows. But that’s another article.

Another con is that you MUST enter a password to login to Windows. Local accounts don’t have to have passwords, but Microsoft Accounts do. It is possible to set it up so that when Windows boots up, it will automatically enter your password for you. But the drawback to this is that most people forget they have a password and then don’t remember what it is. Then something happens and it asks for the password and they don’t know what it is.

I bring all of this up because Microsoft is now requiring Microsoft Accounts when setting up a new computer. Thankfully, there are ways around it. One way is to keep your computer disconnected from the Internet the first time you turn on the computer and go through initial setup. Don’t connect it to the internet until you are completely done with first time setup and get to the desktop. Then you can connect it.

Another way is to create a new Microsoft Account, or login to an existing one while setting up a new computer. Then once you have gone through the initial setup, you can go into settings, set up a new local account with administrative privileges, log out, login as new local account, and delete the Microsoft Account from Windows. A bit of a pain.

Something else you should be aware of concerning Microsoft Accounts. When you try to get an app from the Microsoft store and you are using a local account, it’s going to encourage you to login with your Microsoft account. You don’t have to, but if you do, it will show a window similar to what you see on the left. If you simply click next, Microsoft will convert your local account into a Microsoft account without asking you. Sneaky, huh? Do yourself a favor and click “Microsoft apps only”. We have had many calls where Microsoft tricked them into converting their local account into a Microsoft Account without them realizing it. Then, the next time they turn their computer on or reboot, it asks for a password and they are baffled because they didn’t have a password before and they don’t know what the password is. However, it’s asking for the Microsoft Account password. But because Microsoft didn’t say, “we are going to convert your account into a Microsoft account and from now on you’ll have to login using your Microsoft Account password”, most people don’t realize what password it’s asking for.

If this happens to you, you’ll have to login to your computer using your Microsoft Account password once in order to switch it back to a local account. If you don’t know the password, it’s easy to reset online. Then you can go into settings and convert your account back to a local account.

Windows 7 End of Support in 6 Months

Windows 7 End of Support in 6 Months

Windows 7 was released on October 22, 2009, nearly ten years ago.
Windows 7 was probably the most beloved version of Windows.
Now, approximately 6 months from now on January 14, 2020, Microsoft will end support of Windows 7.

As of June, 2019, Windows 7 is still installed and running on about 38% of computers compared to Windows 10 which is on 41%. So even though Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 in about 6 months, it’s still very popular. The same thing happened with Windows XP.

In case you are wondering, Windows 8 is on about 6% of computers.
Windows XP is still on about 3% of computers even though Microsoft ended support for it 5 years ago.
And, in case you are intrested, Mac OS is on about 8% of computers and Linux is on 1.5%.

What does it mean that Microsoft will end support for Windows 7? It means Microsoft will no longer release security updates for Windows 7. So, going forward from January 14th, 2020, it will become more and more dangerous to use Windows 7 on the Internet.

If you still have a computer with Windows 7 on it, you have 3 options.
First, you can ignore all of this and keep using your computer and hope your security software will save your computer.
Second, you may be able to upgrade your computer to Windows 10. Upgrading to Windows 10 is free, but not all computers can handle Windows 10.
The third option is to get new computer.

If you are a very light user of your Windows 7 computer, then the option of continuing to use your computer after January 14th, 2020 might be OK. Just make sure you have good security software and a good backup of your computer.

Otherwise, we recommend most people either upgrade to Windows 10 (if possible) or replace their computer with a new one. If you want to know if your computer can be upgraded to Windows 10, you can ask us and we can check your computer and let you know. However, if your computer is more than 5 years old and you are more than a light user, we generally recommend replacing it.

Recent Windows Updates Cause Big Problems

Recent Windows Updates Cause Big Problems

Recently there were two Windows Updates that caused major problems.

One of them caused the mouse and/or keyboard to stop working making the computer unusable. This bad update was easy to address if we already had our remote support software on the computer. All we had to do was remote in and remove the bad update. If we didn’t have our remote support software on the computer, it was much more complicated, but fixable.

The other bad update was much worse. It rendered the computer unbootable. There’s no easy fix for this at this time. If this happened, we had to back up your data, wipe it, re-install Windows, and basically rebuild the computer from scratch.

Despite these recent update issues, it’s still important to apply all security updates to Windows. We recommend holding off at least a week, before installing an update, just to be safe. Of course, this makes maintaining your Windows computer more complicated. When your computer wants to install updates, you have to look at the list and then Google each one to see how long it’s been since it was released and to make sure nobody is having trouble with it. Or you can just roll the dice.

This is one of the nice things about our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan. Our software controls when Windows updates are installed. We review all updates to make sure they are safe. We don’t allow an update to be installed to a computer on our SAM plan until it’s been out at least a week and there are no problems reported. Consequently, not one computer on our SAM plan got either of these bad updates.

If you are interested in putting one or more computers on our SAM plan, you can read more information about it on our website by clicking here.

Obituary for Windows XP

Obituary for Windows XP

Obituary – Windows XP

Windows XP was born (released) in October of 2001. It was the first version of Windows for consumers that did not run on top of DOS. Windows XP wasn’t perfect, but it was very popular. So popular, in fact, that Microsoft didn’t follow its usual plan of releasing a new version of Windows every 3 years. Windows XP was THE operating system for workstations for 10 years until Windows 7 finally surpassed Windows XP as the most popular operating system for workstations in late 2011. Windows XP is survived by its siblings Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Another sibling, Windows 9, is expected to be born next year (2015).

At its death at just under 13 years old, Windows XP has had the longest life of any other Windows version. At the time of its death, Windows XP is still running on 27% of the computers in the world. That has never happened before in the history of Windows. Actually, it’s pretty scary. With that many computers still running XP, the hackers are going to have a field day. Why? Because hackers can find new security holes in XP and take advantage of them and those security holes will NEVER be plugged by Microsoft. And security software can only do so much. That is why we have been recommending for quite some time that anyone with a computer running XP replace it with a newer computer.

In case you are wondering about how many computers each version of Windows is installed on, Vista has about 3%, Windows 7 about 49%, and Windows 8 about 11% as of March 2014. If you noticed that only adds up to 90%, that’s because I’m just talking about Windows. The other 10% is made up of Apple/Mac (4%), Linux (1.5%), and a bunch of other miscellaneous operating systems make up the last 4.5%.

Microsoft has also put another nail in XP’s coffin by no longer supporting Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows XP.

For those of you who have at least one computer with Windows XP on it, here are the options for going forward.

If your XP computers are used for business purposes, you should replace them as soon as possible unless they only run internal software and are not used for email or accessing websites.

For residential customers, you have two options.

  1. Replace your computer now.
  2. Wait until your computer becomes infected, then get a new computer.

If you haven’t shopped around for computers in the last few years, you may be surprised to find that you can get a good computer for around $500 these days. You can get computers cheaper, but we don’t recommend those bottom-of-the-line computers. We recommend middle-of-the-road computers. You get better performance and, in the long run, you get more for your money. And if you are worried about Windows 8 being hard to use, don’t. We can make your new Windows 8 computer work a lot like Windows 7 so you don’t have to learn an all new interface.

But if you want or need to keep using Windows XP, here is a list of things you should do to help minimize the risk.

  1. If you are using Microsoft Security Essentials for your security software, you should uninstall it and, instead, install either AVG Free Edition or Avast Free.
  2. Run Microsoft Update and perform all of the critical updates until there are no more. Once you have all of the updates for XP, you can turn Windows Update off.
  3. Back up your computer regularly.
    For residential customers, we recommend Carbonite for online backups.
    For commercial customers, we recommend either Dr. Backup or CrashPlan.
  4. Don’t use Internet Explorer. Download and install Firefox (or Chrome) and use that instead. Going forward, be sure to keep Firefox up to date. Install the following two add-ons:
    1. Web of Trust (WOT)
    2. Adblock Plus (be sure to enable the malware blocking feature)
    3. Be vigilant about keeping all of your apps up to date. In addition to Firefox (or Chrome), this includes things like Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Java, etc.
    4. Be very careful when you use your computer!


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.

Print List of Files in Folder

Print List of Files in Folder

When you are looking at the files on your computer, have you ever wanted to print a listing of the files in a specific folder? Perhaps you want a listing of all of your documents? Or maybe you want a list of all of your photos so you can organize them.

Although this feature is not enabled in Windows by default, there is a feature that does this. To add this feature, all you have to do is go to the link below and click on the Microsoft Fix it button to add this feature. Once you have done this, you can then right-click on a folder and choose “Print Directory Listing”

And that’s all there is to it. This feature is somewhat limited. You don’t get to choose what format it prints in. It will print to your default printer and does not give  you the option to print to a different printer.

On a related note, what if instead of printing a directory listing, you wanted that listing to be in a file that you could edit? This is a little more complicated to do. First you would need to open a command window by clicking on start (If you are running XP, click run), then type cmd and hit enter.

Once you have a command prompt, you will need to use the CD (change directory) command to change to the folder you want to do a listing of. By default, the command prompt will be in your user directory. Let’s say you wanted to save a list of what is in your documents folder. To do that you would use the following command to change to your documents folder:

If you are using Vista or Windows 7:        CD documents

If you are using XP:         CD My Documents

Now that you are in your documents folder, there is a command you can use to save a directory listing to a text file. But first you need to decide on the name of the text file. In this example I will use filelist.txt for the file name. So the command I do is:   dir > filelist.txt

This command will do a directory listing on the current folder and send the output to a file called filelist.txt. You can then edit this file using notepad, wordpad, Word, Excel, or whatever. You can even print this file.

Your documents folder may have sub-folders. The above command will only list what is in the current folder and will not list all of the files in the sub-folders. You can do that, however by adding /S to the dir command. The resulting command looks like this:               dir /s > filelist.txt

Be careful with /s though. If you have lots of files in lots of sub-folders, the list could be quite long. By the way, there are other options for the dir command you may want to check out. To see them in the command prompt, type:       help dir


What is the Clipboard?

What is the Clipboard?

The Clipboard is a name for a storage location in Windows. When you do a copy or cut command, the information you copy or cut goes into the clipboard. Then when you do a paste command, the information in the clipboard is used to fill the area you are pasting too. So, in a nutshell, the clipboard is just a temporary storage area that is used for copying, cutting, and pasting.

Older versions of Windows had a program called Clipboard Viewer in the start menu so you could go and see what was in the clipboard. But eventually Microsoft realized nobody used that program. They didn’t get rid of it, but if you want it you have to go and install it. But why would you want to? If you want to see what’s in the clipboard, you can open a program like Word and do a paste. But really, a copy/cut and then paste are usually done right after each other so you pretty much always know what’s in the clipboard. If you aren’t sure, re-copy before you paste.

The Windows Clipboard can only hold one set of information at a time. If you copy something into the clipboard and then copy something else, the newer one replaces the old one.

While we are on the subject, do you know the commands for cut, copy, and paste?

First, use the mouse to highlight text and/or pictures. Then you will use either the copy or cut commands to put what you highlighted in the clipboard. The only difference between cut and copy is that copy simply makes a copy whereas cut removes the highlighted information. When you use cut, the information is only in the clipboard and not where you highlighted it.

To do a copy, there are generally 4 ways. Most programs have an edit menu and you can choose Edit and then copy. Or you can right-click on what you highlighted with the mouse and choose copy from the pop-up menu. Or there are two keyboard shortcuts that can be used. Control-C or Control-Insert. Cut is similar. You can use Edit/Cut from the menu, right-click and choose cut with the mouse, or use Control-X or Shift-Delete.

Once you have something in the clipboard, you can now paste it somewhere. Click the mouse in the location where you want to paste. To paste, you can do Edit/Paste from the menu, right-click with the mouse and choose paste from the pop-up menu, or you can use Control-V or Shift-Insert.

I personally like using Control-C, Control-X, and Control-V.

If you make a mistake, don’t worry. Just hit Control-Z to undo.

The Problem With Our SAM Plan

The Problem With Our SAM Plan

The most popular service plan we offer is called the SAM plan. SAM stands for Security And Maintenance. Before I tell you about the problem with this plan, here is a quick rundown of what the plan includes for those of you who aren’t familiar with it.

  1. MONITORED security software
    We provide, monitor, and maintain security software. So you don’t have to purchase security software and you don’t have to worry about it expiring or having to renew it. Because it’s monitored, the security software notifies us of any potential problems.

  2. System Health Monitoring
    Our software monitors the health of your computer and notifies us of any problems or potential problems.

  3. Discounted remote support
    Remote support is billed at a discounted rate.

  4. Full Maintenance
    In addition to maintaining your security software, we also keep Windows up to date along with other key security sensitive programs like Adobe Flash, Java, and Adobe Reader, to name a few. We maintain all of these so you don’t have to worry about it.

  5. Remote Access
    You can remote control your computer from any internet computer just like we do. So if you are away from home, you can still access your computer as if you were there.

  6. Infection Free Guarantee
    If your computer becomes infected, we will clean off any infections at no additional charge.

Now that you know the features of the SAM plan, here’s the problem with it. The problem is that all of this security, maintenance, and updates happen in the background without the user realizing it. All of this work is pretty much invisible to the user. The user may not realize how much work we are doing in the background, so they may not realize how much they are getting for their money. Their computer just works.

At $20 a month, the SAM plan is an excellent value and provides you with a worry free computer. You don’t have to worry about security. You don’t have to worry about Windows updates. You don’t have to worry about infections. And you don’t have to worry about updating Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, and all of those other pesky programs. We take care of all of that for you in the background. But if you do subscribe to the SAM plan, don’t forget about all the stuff we are doing in the background to make your computing experience as smooth and worry-free as possible.

Shutting Down or Restarting Windows

Shutting Down or Restarting Windows

When you shut down your computer it closes all of your programs gracefully, exit Windows and turns off your computer. If you want to turn on your computer again, you have to press the power button to turn it on.

A restart or reboot does all of the same things as a shutdown, except that it doesn’t turn off your computer, instead, it starts Windows back up.

When you shut down or restart Windows XP, it would pop up a little window for each program that wasn’t closing as fast as Windows thought it should. The little window would give you the option to “End Now” or “Wait”.

With Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you will instead see a black screen that tells you it’s waiting for programs to close down before it shuts down. It’s supposed to have a list of programs that it’s waiting on, but sometimes that list is blank. This screen has two buttons. One labeled “Force shut down” and the other labeled “Cancel”.

What is happening is that Windows has told all of the programs running that Windows is going to shut down. All of these programs should then exit normally and Windows waits for them to do so. However, sometimes a program can’t shut down because it is waiting for input from the user. For example, let’s say you had a Microsoft Word document open and you had made changes but hadn’t saved those changes. If you try to exit the program, it will ask you about saving the document. When you shut down and windows tells Microsoft Word to exit, Microsoft word will ask you about saving the file. But you can’t see it because of the screen I described above. In that case, you would click the “Cancel” button. Save the file, or exit without saving, and then shut down again.

Actually, the best thing to do is close all programs yourself before you shut down or restart. That way you won’t run into these problems.

The “Force shut down” button should only be used if your computer hangs on this screen for more than a minute or so. In general, it’s best to wait for Windows to close down on its own.



Do you keep seeing a file on your computer called thumbs.db? Ever wonder what that is? Thumbs.db is a special file used by Windows XP. It’s a collection of thumbnail images of pictures in the current folder. Thumbnail images, in case you don’t know, are small versions of bigger pictures. Thumbs.db is not used in Windows Vista or Windows 7.

thumbs.db is a hidden file so if you are seeing this file, that means your computer is set to show hidden files, which is not recommended.

To turn off the display of hidden files in Windows XP, follow this procedure.

  1. Click on Start and then click on Control Panel.

  2. On the left side of the control panel, if it says “Switch to Classic View”, click on that. If it says “Switch to Category View”, proceed to the next step.

  3. Double-click on “Folder Options”

  4. At the top of the Folder Options window, click on the “View” tab.

  5. Under “Advanced Settings”, you should see an option called “Hidden files and folders”. Underneath that, click on the circle to the left of “Do not show hidden files and folders”

  6. While you are here, you might want to make sure that there is a checkmark next to “Hide extensions for known file types” and “Hide protected operating system files”.

  7. Click OK and then close the Control Panel and you are done.

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