Saturday, December 28, 2013

How to Set Up Your New PC

This is a very good article, but it is rather lengthy. It needs more that one quick read. Keep the link handy and refer to the article often. I don't necessarily agree with everything in it, but that will always be the case when dealing with such a long and detailed article. If you have questions, please contact me. See for contact information.

"Did you receive a pristine, mint Windows 8/8.1 computer this holiday season? Congratulations! I wish I could say you're ready to go.

However, right out of the box, no computer is perfect. Unlike most electronic devices, which you can plug in and use instantly, Windows PCs need some adjustment before they're ready for everyday use. You need to make your new system safe, and personalize it with your own preferences. There are programs on the hard drive you should get rid of, and other things you should add immediately. If you haven't yet been introduced to Windows 8/8.1, or it's been a while since you've set up a new machine, we'll walk you through it all in these 12 simple steps. If your new baby is a Mac, you've got a much shorter to-do list."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Backing up your data

Two blog posts ago, the one about Cryptolocker, I mentioned that we all need to be sure we make backups of our data. I am talking mostly about your Documents, Photos, Music, and Videos.

A customer called me and asked how they should do that.

There are as many answers to that question as there are customers, but let me lay out what I do and then what you might consider doing. It is very important to get your backed up data off site, i.e., out of the house.

Before you start, however, you should know how much data you have, and here I am talking about how many gigabytes your data uses on your hard drive. You can use Windows Explorer (N.B. NOT Internet Explorer) to help. Once in Windows Explorer right click on each of the 4 folders mentioned above and select PROPERTIES from the drop down menu.

I just did that for the Pictures library on my W8 laptop and got this:

You can see above that I have 24.5 GB worth of photos in my W8 Pictures Library. You can get a similar window in W7, Vista, or XP.

Find the size of each of your 4 libraries and add them up. Round up to the nearest 10 GB. This is the amount of data you need to back up, IMMEDIATELY if not sooner, unless you don't care if you lose it all.

In my case the answer is 100 GB. Most of you will probably come up with a smaller answer.

Now all you have to do is copy these 4 libraries (folders) to some external device and then get it (your data) out of the house.

Here are two approaches you might consider.

1) I use SOS ( Online Backup. There are many online backup service companies out there. Just search for online backup services and you will find many. The price you have to pay will depend on how much data you need to backup and it can get expensive. Two big advantages of this kind of service: your data is backed up off site, i.e., out of your house, and 2, these companies are in the business of doing incremental backups and are very good at it. Set up a schedule for your backups, check the remote site occasionally, and sit back and relax. Peace of mind is yours!

2) A very inexpensive and portable device called a flash drive can be purchased, easily used for backup, and can be stored off site (out of your house). I just did a quick search for "flash drives" at and found 162 different product offerings!  All you have to do is buy one big enough to hold all of your data. Better yet, if you can afford it, buy two. Copy your 4 libraries to your flash drive using Windows Explorer and check it out to make sure you have everything, and get the flash drive out of the house. Store it in a desk drawer in your office or in a friend or relative's home. Why buy 2? Because with this very simplistic approach to backup you will need to backup a week later to back up all of the additions you have made since the first backup. And so on. This is the easiest and probably least expensive way to get your data backed up.

As I said a while ago, there are probably as many ways to do your backup as there are PC Doc customers out there, but this should give you two ideas to think about. If you want to write with questions, please go here:  and use the contact form.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

LCD vs. LED PC Monitors

I have a rather old 22" flat screen PC Monitor used on my desktop PC. I love it. However, this past week it seemed to have died. I have been looking to replace it and to get a24" model while I am at it. In looking at monitors online I find there are two types: LCD and LED. I wanted to know the difference and which would be better. I found lots of answers online, but this one was best I thought. I am not sure this guy really knows, but it sounds to me like he has some knowledge about them.

"Q. I spend a lot of time at my computer, so I need a monitor that's easy on my eyes, but monitor shopping is confusing. What is the difference between an LED and an LCD monitor?

A. LED (light emitting diode) and LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors are based on the same basic technology, but differ in the kind of backlighting used. Technically, LEDs are a type of LCD monitor.

Unlike older CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors that generated their own light, LCD displays rely on an external source to manipulate light passing through polarized liquid crystals. Backlighting significantly affects picture quality, the result being that LEDs offer superior picture quality to LCDs.

LEDs also provide truer color quality, meaning blacker blacks and whiter whites, with just a hint of lemony freshness. Due to the configuration of the backlighting, LEDs are typically much slimmer than conventional LCDs.

LED monitors require less power -- up to 40 percent less than conventional LCD monitors. They are also more environmentally friendly because mercury is not used in their production.

LED monitors are definitely easier on the eyes than LCD monitors which make them popular choices for people who work long hours at the computer. Not surprising, I spend a lot of time at the computer and though I have a number of monitors, both LCDs and LEDs, for my primary system I use a Samsung LED. It is noticeably easier on my aging eyes."

I found one man's opinion at

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cryptolocker Ransomware Being Described As ‘The Perfect Crime’

Be very careful out there. "Just because you are not paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get you"!

By Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

"BOSTON (CBS) — It is being called the perfect crime and it has law enforcement around the globe baffled.

It all starts with a simple email.

“They are scared and they are angry. It is a real terrible experience for them.”

Joe Ruthaford is talking about computer users who mistakenly launched a potent internet phishing scheme.

He recently saw one of those ravaged computers in his Beacon Hill repair shop.

“It is extremely damaging. It is one of the worst ones.”

It’s called cryptolocker ransomware.

Kevin Swindon is with the FBI in Boston.

“I would think about this particular type of malware as what would happen if your computer was destroyed,” Swindon said.

In the past 90 days, thousands of people worldwide have opened a seemingly innocuous link to track a holiday package. Suddenly, all the files on their computer are encrypted.

Joan Goodchild is the editor of “CSO,” Chief Security Officer magazine based in Framingham.

“This is a criminal operation. They are holding your folders and files ransom. We call this ransomware because that is exactly what it is. You need to pay in order to have access to them once again.”
And that is exactly what happened last month at the Swansea Police Department.

Cryptolocker ransomware took over the department’s entire computer system and the police were forced to pay a $750 ransom to get back control.

As the ransomware takes over your computer, a countdown clock appears and shows victims how long they have to pay up. That means purchasing a key, or software, to reverse the process. And victims must do that using the online virtual currency known as bitcoins.

“Once you have purchased a bitcoin, then the transaction that you use that bitcoin in is encrypted, and therefore you cannot trace it,” explained Goodchild.

Swindon says it appears to be the perfect crime.

The FBI tells WBZ-TV they are very worried about this spreading in 2014.

The scheme could be the work of organized gangs overseas. So far, no one has been caught."

Saturday, December 14, 2013


The hit counter at the bottom of this page shows that today we had our 25,000th visitor. I am very grateful to those of you who have visited over these 6 years since I first started blogging here. Thank you. I hope you have found some useful tips or advice herein.


Microsoft likely to bring back Start menu in future Windows update

Well, this is really good news. I hope it's true. I am doing well with my new laptop running Windows 8 (I will upgrade to Windows 8.1 after a few more weeks of hands-on learning. I want to be able to support Windows 8 clients as well as Windows 8.1 clients.)

The traditional Start Menu is sorely missed by me, and I have yet to find a suitable replacement. So far I am using work-arounds to get the results I desire and can be happy with. More on that as I gain further knowledge of exactly how Windows 8 differs from earlier Windows products. That is an ongoing process.

I found this article on

"Computerworld - Microsoft will bring back the Start menu to Windows 8 and let users run "Metro" apps inside windows on the desktop, restoring traditional elements to its newest operating system, according to a report by a long-time Microsoft watcher.

Paul Thurrott, citing anonymous sources, claimed Monday that the next update for Windows, which other pundits have pegged for the spring of 2015, will offer options for both a Start menu and on-desktop execution of the touch-centric "Modern," nee "Metro," apps.

In October, Microsoft restored a pseudo-Start button in Windows 8.1, and gave users the option of circumventing the tile-style Start screen by booting directly to the conventional desktop. However, it declined to reinstate a Start menu.

But neither of the alleged future additions will be, well, new: Users have been able to restore the Start menu and run windowed Metro apps for months."

The Galaxy S4 has become the only Android phone that matters

I found this on the Boy Genius Report web site, While it is true that I do not own a Galaxy S4, (It's also true that I don't own any smart phone), I have decided that if I were to buy a smart phone today this would be my choice.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Sales Analysis

"While it’s not surprising that the iPhone 5s has dominated smartphone sales at major American carriers since its release this fall, it is somewhat surprising to see that the iPhone 5c has maintained a tight grip on the No. 3 spot at all major American carriers for the past three months as well. What this means is that, other than Samsung’s Galaxy S4, no other smartphone has been able to match sales of a device that many reports have indicated has been a disappointment.

Let’s recall that in the months between the time Samsung released the Galaxy S4 and the time Apple released its new iPhones, several other vendors released flagship smartphones aimed at taking on the mobile industry’s twin titans. But not one of them — not the HTC One, the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Moto X or the LG G2 — has been able to make anything close to a dent in the American smartphone market. 9to5Google shows us this chart from Canaccord Genuity featuring smartphone sales rankings across major carriers since August."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December HOSTS File Available for Download Now

And I get to do this on Windows 8 for the first time! Also W7 & XP. I wouldn't be without it.

MVPS HOSTS File Update December-06-2013

The MVPS HOSTS file was recently updated [December-06-2013]
Download: (136 kb)
How To: Download and Extract the HOSTS file
HOSTS File - Frequently Asked Questions
Note: the "text" version makes a great resource for determining possible unwanted connections ... (519 kb)
Get notified when the MVPS HOSTS file is updated

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I’m not sure Microsoft appreciates how much some users hate Windows 8

"I’m not sure Microsoft appreciates how much some users hate Windows 8" is the title of an online opinion piece that can be fond here:

When I came upon this paragraph, I laughed out loud: "Take two of my friends who recently made the upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7. Upon installing the software, one of them said that “the only way they could make it worse is if the right mouse click [would] be replaced by smashing your right thumb with a hammer.” Another one simply said that he “took my CPU back because of that crap” and switched back to Windows 7."

For the record, I am neither a lover nor a hater of Windows 8 after my first few days on my new PC which came with Windows 8 (not Windows 8.1).  Re-confirming my plan I am going to upgrade to Windows 8.1 after I get a little more experience.

What I have come to realize so far is that most of the new stuff in W8 has to do with the user interface. MOST of what we had gotten used to is still there, typically down a level or two. However, what irks the most is that the old "START/ALL PROGRAMS" method we all got so used to does not seem to have an acceptable replacement, and the old way is definitely gone and I have not figured out a way to get to the old familiar list. Instead, this, which I consider a major disppointment at best, is the replacement for START/ALL PROGRAMS:


This new ALL PROGRAMS list goes on and on to the right, and since I have a touch screen, I can easily scroll to the right with a simple swipe of my index finger.

So, bottom line, I like what I see but one must be prepared for some disappointments in the new user interface, especially after I/we have spent so many years getting used to and accepting of the old versions of Windows.

Stay tuned for more updates as I move forward with my W8 experience.