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   preview   How to avoid potentially unwanted programs -- March 19, 2016

If you’ve ever downloaded software onto your computer, chances are you’ve unknowingly cluttered your machine with PUPs. Here’s what you need to know about these sneaky programs.

What are PUPs?

If you're thinking baskets of doe-eyed baby dogs, then you're sadly mistaken. PUPs is the acronym that stands for Potentially Unwanted Programs. Also called bundleware, junkware, or PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications), PUPs are software programs that you likely didn't want installed on your computer. Why not? Here are a few things that PUPs can do:
  1. slow your computer down
  2. display numerous annoying ads
  3. add toolbars that steal space on the browser
  4. some collect private information
PUPs often come bundled with software that you did, in fact, want to download. By swiftly clicking through an installation, it’s easy to miss the fine print and “agree” to these extra applications.

So why aren’t PUPs simply called malware? The makers of PUPs felt that since they included the information necessary for consent in the download agreement, they shouldn’t be lumped in with other malicious programs. (‘Cause everyone reads download agreements, right?) So cybersecurity company McAfee came up with the softer, less mal-sounding term “Potentially Unwanted Programs.”

What makes a program a PUP?

In order to determine whether an application is a PUP, security engineers examine a list of bad behaviors. Some apps are classified as PUPs because of multiple small transgressions. Others because they had one serious violation. PUP criteria includes advertising no-nos such as obtrusive pop-ups, web infractions, such as altered search results or bookmark insertions, or download offenses, such as pre-populated check boxes or the liberal use of “recommended” next to an option. So how do you go about avoiding PUPs? Here are a few tips to keep your computer PUP-free.

Recognize dark patterns

Dark patterns are user interfaces that are deliberately designed to trick people. For example, a newsletter that makes it difficult to find the unsubscribe button or a website whose customer service contact information is obfuscated—that’s a dark pattern. Here are some other dark patterns to look out for:

Pre-populated check boxes (Software programs such as Unchecky scan third-party software agreements and uncheck options that result in PUPs, but they may not catch everything.)
Adding an unofficial "seal" as a credibility indicator
Emphasis of a desired path (gray out the "skip" button, use bright color for "next" button)
Misdirection: companies may try to hide free or cheaper options.
Read through install wizard instructions carefully

When you download a piece of software, you’ll be directed through the install process by an installation wizard. The install wizard, or setup assistant depending on which operating system you use, is a series of dialog boxes that helps you through the installation process step-by-step. PUPs can openly hide in the install wizard, as their makers understand that most users tend to fly through the steps in order to launch their intended program. In order to catch PUPs in the act, you should:

Read the information in the top navigation bar of the install wizard to catch names of unwanted programs.
Do not accept standard, express, default, or other installation settings that are recommended. Always choose custom. Install wizards may call this out as "advanced" in parentheses but that's actually a dark pattern. Custom settings are not advanced.
Read through EULAs carefully

EULAs are the End User License Agreements that come standard with any download. They are legal contracts between you and the makers of the software programs you’re downloading. EULAs go on forever and are full of legalese, which is why most people skip right past them to the “I accept” button. However, EULAs are where the makers of PUPs can legally slip their programs onto your computer. In order to avoid that:

Don't accept terms of use that are for bundled programs. Read the top title above the fine print to be sure the EULA you are accepting is only for the program you originally downloaded. If it isn't, you can decline and still move forward in the install process.
Level up on security

While vigilant scrutiny of software downloads is your best protection against PUPs, cybersecurity programs can give you some valuable assistance. Installing some additional layers of defense can help stave off RAM-hungry PUPs. You might want to purchase or download the following:

ad blocker/pop-up blocker

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to keep PUPs out of your system is the same advice we offer to anyone who wants to stay on top of cybersecurity: stay vigilant. If you use your newfound knowledge to critically review your software downloads, you’ll be a true PUPs master.

   preview   How to: Reset Windows 10 Password -- December 18, 2015

There are two ways you can reset your Windows 10 email password; one involves resetting your email password by phone (if enabled), or by computer. The other involves converting your resetting the password using a password reset trick using a USB or DVD drive.

If you're not using an email address to login to Windows 10 (and you're using a local account instead), you can also reset your password using the password reset trick. I'll describe both methods below.

Option #1: Reset Your Windows 10 Password (via Microsoft's website)

If you created a Microsoft account and are using an email address to login to Windows 10, then you can reset your password using another machine (or smart phone) via Microsoft's Windows Live password reset page. This is the easiest way to reset your Windows 10 password. If this method does not work for you, proceed to Option #2.

Option #2: Reset Windows 10 Password: Using the Password Reset Trick

Alternatively you can reset your Windows 10 password using the 'password reset trick'. This involves the following:

Use either a Windows DVD or Hiren's Boot CD to gain access to Windows
Enable the Administrator account
Use the Administrator Account to convert your Microsoft Account to a local account, so you can change the password locally.
This password reset trick works with Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10 and allows you to reset any user account password (and not just the one you forgot). I've spent much of this morning amending the article to work with Windows 10 as well as additional instructions using Hiren's Boot CD if you don't have a Windows DVD available.

   preview   Windows 10... Information, Problems, Solutions, Options, etc.? -- March 13, 2016

We have noticed a great many people are having problems with the FREE update to Windows 10. This is especially true if you have an older (a computer that came with Windows 7 or earlier). It might be incompatible software, hardware, or any number of things that you don't like or does not work correctly. Also no amount of researching or setting change seems to solve the problem. Reverting back to your OLD OS may be the best (or only) solution until Windows 10 gets more mature and all the bugs worked out.

Many people do not know that you can UNDO the Windows 10 "upgrade". If you want to go back to your old Operating System the item below: How to revert to the previously installed OS (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7). should be of GREAT help.

NOTE: Reverting from an "upgraded" OS (back to your previous one) can only be CLEANLY done within the first 30 days after the upgrade. Once those 30 days are up then you will be forced to reinstall your OLD Operating System using the tools that came with your older Operating System or computer, or YOU MUST reinstall Windows 10 from scratch.

We have provided this page to help you with this. It contains much more additional information about Windows 10 including Tips, Installation instructions, What to do if you have problems, Other options do you have, etc. (scroll down for more). We at hope you will find it helpful

 Must I upgrade to Windows 10?

You DO NOT have to "upgrade" to Windows 10.

Though many laud Windows 10 as revolutnary and when it installs well on a newer computer it will boots faster and runs better than ever, many reviewers rate Windows 10 as "UNFINISHED" or a Beta software release. Many advise people to wait for a few months before you Upgrade. OR... Use the OS you have

For instance Windows 7 is supported until 2020 and Windows 8 until 2023. To get a good idea of when various versions of Windows will be at their end of their support life, check out the Microsoft page: Windows Lifecycle fact sheet.

 Things to keep in mind BEFORE you upgrade!

Does my computer's manufacturer support upgrading it to Windows 10? You MUST check if this upgrade is able to be installed. As a "rule of thumb" any computer that came with Windows Vista or earlier is UNLIKELY to be able to run Windows 10. This is one of the MAIN reasons it is a FREE upgrade for ONLY Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Computers built before Windows 7 was released may have hardware that is incompatible with many Windows 10's features. This is not well documented by Microsoft. Even though it is marketed as able to be run on many older computers, it runs best on Windows 7or Windows 8.1 computers. Even some of these will not upgrade well. At the very least you should check the Compatibility report for Windows 10. It may just open your eyes on whether or not you should even attempt the upgrade.

Do I have a way back to where I was with all of my data and software intact? Downgrade. This is covered under "Clean Install" on this page.

Do I realize I have a choice and Windows 7 is fine. It may be better than Windows 8.1 for me; so how to I stop or block this nonsense because by 2020 I may be dead. See the Tip on how to stop Windows have it covered.

Do I want to invest the time and energy resources in figuring out and troubleshooting problems that have no precedent or documentation?

How will I continue to work on a production machine [printing included]... Is it 100% possible that my printer and speakers and graphics card, etc. are not Windows 10 ready or if Windows 10 fails on my older hardware?

What is my backup plan?.. How will I continue to produce and consume if Windows 10 fails?

If after thinking this through, you still decide to upgrade BE SURE you have a FULL BACKUP of your present system should you be "underwhelmed" and want your old system back. You can use the Windows 7 Backup program (part of Windows 7 and 8 / 8.1). Any other backup program you may have or one of the free backup programs from the Internet. Personally many of us like the FREE program "EaseUS Todo Backup Free".

 How to revert to the previously installed Windows OS (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7).

1. From the Windows 10 Menu Icon go to "Settings / UPDATE & SECURITY / Recovery".

2. Look for the "Go back to Windows 8.1 (or 7)" entry.

3. Click on "Get started" and follow the prompts to go through the restore process.

Once it is complete you will find yourself in the familiar old OS and everything should be copasetic.

NOTE - If you previously cleaned up after your Windows 10 install by using the "Disk Cleanup tool" and removed the "Windows.old" folder this option will not be available. You must instead do a "CLEAN INSTALL" install instead.

This process is the same for Windows 7 except the entry will say: "Go back to Windows 7".

NOTE also: Remember... To Revert to your former Operating System you MUST do it within the first 30 days of the "upgrade". If you do not you MUST do a "CLEAN INSTALL".

 30 days have passed and I want to go back... WHAT NOW?

Microsoft has you covered (sort of) but it is NOT easy. Their page at This Link, though completely correct and helpful leaves you with "less-than-optimum" solutions:

  1. Restore from a system restore point.Reset your PC.

  2. Go back to your previous version of Windows

  3. Use a recovery drive to reinstall Windows.

  4. Use installation media to reinstall Windows.

Unfortunately option 1. requires you to have made a "Restore Point" PRIOR to the upgrade. This is very unlikely to work since a "Restore Point" does not restore the previous OS but just its settings. Option 2. Requires you to have updated installation media. This is not too likely if you have a Windows 8.1 computer since it did not come on a disk.Option 3. Also requires you to have Installation Media or a Restore partition on your computer. This is the same with option 4. and option 5. So, after 30 days, you really do not get back your old system with all programs intact.

 Doing a CLEAN Install of Windows 10

Doing a clean install is quite simple, as long as you make sure you have a valid license. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Back up all your data first! Doing a clean install erases everything on your hard drive: applications, documents, everything. So, we do not recommend continuing until you have backed up any and all of your data.
    1. A Good FREE program you can get to do this "EaseUS Todo Backup Free". (through cNET) (or directly from "This Link").

  2. If you bought a copy of Windows 10, you will have a license key in the box or in your email. Grab this license key and have it on hand. If you were previously a Windows 7 or 8 user, you are eligible for a free upgrade. However, according to Microsoft, you have to upgrade an existing computer to do so. So, even if you want to do a clean install, wait for the Windows 10 update to hit your computer, then install the upgrade first. It feels like a waste of time, but it is the only way to ensure you get your free license. Once you have done so, you will not need a key... Windows will just "know" your computer from then on, even if you erase the drive. Just skip any prompts for license keys, and after installing Windows 10 it should activate itself automatically.
    1. When Windows 10 is installed it creates a NEW license key. You can use a tool like "Belarc Advisor" (FREE version) to find the NEW key. Once found WRITE IT DOWN... You may (probably will) need it in the future.

    2. Another VERY GOOD FREE Key finder is "ProduKey". It has the capability to recover keys for "1000+ major programs" (according to their web site).

  3. Once you have either got your license key or installed the free Windows 10 upgrade, head to this page and download Microsoft's "Media Creation Tool". Once it downloads Launch it.

  4. Select the "Create installation media for another PC" option and click "Next" (even if you are using the computer on which you are installing Windows 10).

  5. Choose your language and edition of Windows. If you bought Windows 10, it will say which edition you have on the box or in your email. If you upgraded from Windows 7 or 8, you can check which version you have under "Control Panel > System and Security > System".

  6. Choose what kind of media you want to create. We recommend using a USB flash drive.

  7. The "Media Creation Tool" will download and burn the installation files for you. When it is done, restart your computer, keeping your flash drive plugged in.

  8. Boot from your flash drive. You can usually do this by pressing "F12" (or a similar key) at startup, then choosing your flash drive from the list that appears. If that does not work, read this article for more options.

  9. You should be greeted with the Windows 10 installer. Follow the initial prompts and, when given the option, choose "Custom: Install Windows Only".

  10. Select the hard drive you want to install Windows 10 on. If you are not sure which drive or partition it is, look for the largest one, or the one that says "Primary" in the right column... That is probably it (but make extra sure before continuing, because you will erase that hard drive!)

  11. Click the "Format" button. (If the Format button is grayed out, click "Delete", then click "New".) Press "Next" to install Windows 10 on that drive.

  12. Allow the installation wizard to guide you through the rest of the process.

Once you have installed Windows 10, just grab all your favorite apps from our "Download center" (you will have to login to your FREE account to do so or register for a free account) and enjoy setting up your fresh machine!

Remember... Windows 10 is Microsoft's foray into subscription ware. Their plan is that Windows 10 will be THE LAST version of Windows. However it will be constantly upgraded and improved with new features added on an on-going basis. As such there will be NO MORE "Patch Tuesdays" for Windows 10. Patches, updates, features, and upgrades will be issued on a constant basis. If you own Windows 10 Home Version you WILL NOT be able to choose when these are installed. Windows 10 Pro (and above) WILL BE ABLE to defer these updates BUT it is STRONGLY suggested that you install them as they are issued.

(As it sits now and is open for modification... People who get the free upgrade WILL NOT have to subscribe but will have lifetime upgrades gratis. People who purchase Windows 10 after the one year free upgrade window WILL have to subscribe on a yearly basis.)

 Worst Case scenario -- Your C: drive (Boot drive) becomes corrupted.

Two very good tutorials on how to fix this relatively common problem when performing a CLEAN install of Windows 10 are:

  1. The article: How To Fix A Corrupted Windows NTFS File system With Ubuntu. This is NOT for the "faint heart" and you WILL have to make a bootable CD / DVD or Thumb drive. If you carefully follow the instructions however, you will be rewarded with a functioning C: drive. Be careful to NOT USE THE EASILY FOUND LINKS on the top of the page, but rather use the links under the heading: "Download, Install & Boot Ubuntu" THIS DIRECT LINK" where it describes how to use UNetbootin to make a CD or USB thumb drive to make a Ubuntu rescue disk. (Again be sure to use the CORRECT LINK on that page.)

  2. Perhaps your upgrade or Clean Install went to the wrong drive, Repartitioned your C: drive, Installed onto the recovery partition (rather than C:), or a plethora of other problems occurred during the install. The article: To make one big fresh partition (deletes all data on your filesystem) explains how to completely refresh your C: drive removing ALL partitions (optionally including the recovery partition - you decide) and any other partitions on your Physical C: drive. This is a "LAST RESORT" but I (the author) have had to do it on one of my systems. It too is NOT for the "faint of heart" but if done carefully will work very well.

 Official Microsoft support

Recognizing that there is a GREAT deal of work to do on and many problems with Windows 10 and offers a great deal of help on their Need help with Windows 10? pages. There you will find mainly help with how to use Windows 10 and is light on solving Windows 10 problems.Microsoft also offers an Answer Desk where you may find some additional help in the form of Phone support, Online Chat, or Phone Back support.

   preview   Clean your Windows PC (short form) -- October 16, 2015

Surfing the Internet can leave all kinds of unnecessary files on your computer that take up space and slow down performance. Windows includes a system tool that you can use to delete unneeded files and keep your computer running optimally. You can access the Disk Cleanup tool in your computer's Accessories folder.


1 Click the "Start" button.

2 Click "All Programs," "Accessories" and then "System Tools." Click "Disk Cleanup."

3 Click to select My Files Only or Files From All Users on This Computer. The program will determine how many files it can clean. This process may take a few minutes.

4 Click to check the boxes for the files you want to delete from your system. Click "OK."

5 Click "Delete files" when asked to confirm. The program will remove the files you selected.