Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to keep Windows Update from rebooting your computer (Vista)

Have you ever gotten up in the morning and sat down at your computer, only to discover that it had rebooted itself during the night because of Windows Update - and all those documents and web sites you had spread across the desktop and were working on are now gone? Grrr. Well, there is a way to prevent this from happening, at least with some versions of Vista (we've heard that it doesn't work with Home, but haven't had a chance to test that). It does work with Ultimate and Business editions. The fix involves editing the registry, so be careful and back it up first. Here are the steps:

  1. In your registry editor, navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Policies \ Microsoft \ Windows \ WindowsUpdate \ AU
  2. Right click an empty space in the right pane and click New, then select DWORD value.
    Name the new value NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers
  3. Set the value data field to 1.
  4. Close the registry editor.

Now you don't have to worry about the OS shutting down when you least expect (and least want) it to.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How to Repair the Vista Bootloader

If the bootloader in Vista is damaged, you can repair it by using the installation DVD. But what if your hardware vendor didn't include a Windows DVD with your computer? One of our readers sent a solution. You can find the link to an ISO image (which you can burn to CD or DVD), along with explicit instructions for using it to repair the bootloader, here:

Troubleshooting Windows Vista Aero

The new Aero interface in Vista is very cool, but sometimes things go wrong. If you're not getting the "eye candy" you deserve, check out this article from the Microsoft Help site to help you diagnose and fix what's wrong:

Monday, December 10, 2007

How to copy data from a corrupted user profile to a new profile

If your old profile is corrupted you can move the files and settings from the corrupt profile to a new profile. Find out how to get your old desktop environment back by reading KB article 811151 at:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Keyboard Shortcut Key Combinations for RDP & ICA Sessions

If you are working in an RDP or ICA Session, the following are keyboard shortcut key combinations that map to the native Windows shortcut keystrokes:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Vista wi-fi security tool

Xirrus, a wireless hardware maker, is providing a free wi-fi monitoring gadget that will keep you aware of wireless networks around you and whether/to what your Vista computer is connecting. Read more about it here:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Changing Bootup Sound in Vista

If you want to change Vista's Bootup Sound you should do only at your own risk (and after creating a system restore point, just in case). You can find the instructions here:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Disable autotuning to improve wireless connectivity

If you're having problems with wireless networking, it may be because the router or WAP is an older one that is not compatible with the tuning feature in Vista. That happens a lot with public hotspots. If you disable the autotuning feature, you may get better connectivity. Luckily, it's an easy fix:

  1. Open the command prompt with administrative privileges by right clicking its icon in the Accessories menu and selecting Run As Administrator, or by typing cmd in the Search box and hitting Ctrl+Shift+Enter and responding to the User Account Control dialog box.
  2. Type: netsh int tcp set global autotuninglevel=disable
  3. Press ENTER
You should get a message saying "OK"
You have to restart Windows to apply the change.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Perform a clean boot procedure to prevent background programs from interfering

Sometimes you just want the computer to start clean. You just want to start the computer and not have a bunch of programs start up automatically. This gives you a lot more system resources to use to play processor intensive games and other applications. Well, here are some great instructions on how to get Windows to come clean

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How to replace the motherboard on your XP (or Server 2003) computer without having to reinstall Windows

Want to upgrade your computer's motherboard, perhaps so you'll be able to add more RAM to your system than you currently can? Or maybe you have no choice - sometimes the momboard on a computer fails altogether, and you have to replace it. For Microsoft's tips on installing a new motherboard in a computer running Windows so that you won't have to completely reinstall the operating system and lose your settings:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tweak Tool for Win9x through Windows XP

Those of you who are real Windows XP tweakers and tuners are always looking for something to help you take total control over your computer. If you've tried programs like TweakUI then you're ready to move up to the next level. Try out TweakAll if you want to control hundreds of settings that would otherwise require you to enter the Registry and suffer the risk of making a typo! I've been playing with it on my Windows XP Pro computer and it's the good stuff. Download it free at:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Configuring IMAP over SSL with SBS 2003 Standard

In this author’s opinion, providing access to e-mail via IMAP is better than POP3. The approach of IMAP more closely emulates how Exchange provides e-mail services in that messages are maintained on the server, and the IMAP client only pulls down what is needed. There are still security issues with IMAP, however, in that the default protocol still transmits the username and password information across the internet in clear text, and even though fewer sniffers are trained on IMAP ports to try and discover account credentials, the risk is still there.

To help protect account credentials, as well as e-mail contents, IMAP can be set up over SSL, which encrypts the entire transaction process, not just username and password. The iPhone and other devices can be easily set up to use IMAP over SSL, but you have to first set up the Exchange server on SBS to provide the secure mail transport. This document covers this implementation with SBS 2003 Standard and no ISA. You will need to configure your firewall to forward the appropriate ports to the SBS server, which is beyond the scope of this document.

Configuring IMAP over SSL with SBS 2003 Standard

Configuring IMAP over SSL with SBS 2003 Premium and ISA 2004:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Windows Vista Computer losing time

Your Windows Vista computer is able to synchronize its clock with a time server on the Internet. But if you find that your computer time isn't right, maybe you need to change your time server. Here's how you do it:

  • Click Start and then click Control Panel
  • In the Control Panel, click the Classic View link on the left side of the Window
  • In the Classic View Control Panel Window, double click the Date and Time icon.
  • In the Date and Time dialog box, click the Internet Time tab.
  • On the Internet Time tab, click the Change Settings button.
  • Click Continue in the User Account Control dialog box.
  • In the Internet Time Settings dialog box, click the Server down arrow and select another time server. The default is Try using first and see how that works for you.
  • Click OK in the Internet Time Settings dialog box.
  • Click OK in the Data and Time dialog box.

How to use the Cipher command to wipe data from your disk

As you probably know, when you delete files off your Windows XP or Windows Vista computer, those files aren't actually gone. The only thing that happens is that the "pointer" to the deleted files is removed and the space on the hard disk is marked as available to put new data. But until new data is put in the same location as the deleted data, the deleted data remains on the hard disk and can be recovered by hackers and other malicious users.

What you need to do is "wipe" the data off the hard disk. You can do this by using the cipher command that comes free with Windows XP and Windows Vista. Here are the instructions, compliments of Tom Shinder:

  • Close all programs.
  • Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then press ENTER.
  • Type cipher /w:driveletter:\foldername, and then press ENTER. Specify the drive and the folder that identifies the volume that contains the deleted data that you want to overwrite. Data that is not allocated to files or folders will be overwritten. This permanently removes the data. This can take a long time if you are overwriting a large space. For example, if you have a deleted files in folder c:\SECRET, you would enter cipher /W:C:\SECRET

The wiping process can take a long time, so be patient. Once the files are wiped by the cipher utility, no one will be able to recover your deleted information from your hard disk.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

OnLine Storage Links

Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive is one example of such a service. You can store up to 500 MB free and the folders you create and in which you store data are password protected with your Windows Live ID. You can also share your folders with others if you choose. File transfers are made using SSL encryption for better security. You can sign up here:

Google provides free file storage (almost 3 GB) with your Gmail account and last week they rolled out a new expanded online storage service with annual fees ranging from $20 (for 6 GB) to $500 (for 250 GB). For more information about upgrading your storage, see

Mozy has a service for $4.95/month but they also have a 2GB free plan:

Xdrive gives you 5 GB of free storage space. You need an AOL or AIM screen name/email address, but you don't have to be an AOL subscriber. You can find out more here:

And if you really have a huge amount of data to store online, MediaMax offers 25 GB free or up to 1 TB (1000 GB) for $360/year. Sign up here:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How to Change Image Viewer File Associations in Windows Vista

To edit the registry, first back it up, then do the following:

  1. Open your favorite registry editor and navigate to this key: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT \ SystemFileAssociations \ image \ shell \ edit \ command
  2. Doubleclick the entry in the right pane.
  3. In the data value field, type the path to the program you want to use (for example: "c:\Program Files\IrfanView\i_view32.exe" "%1"

You can change the editor for a particular file type this way:

  1. Click Start Run
  3. Click the File Types tab.
  4. Select the file type from the list and click the Advanced button.
  5. Click New.
  6. In the Action box, type Edit
  7. In the Application Used To Perform Action box, type the full path to the application you want to use to edit pictures.
  8. Click OK twice to close the dialog boxes. This sets the default image editor for the selected file type.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

How to restore XP activation status information after a reformat

  • Double-click My Computer, then double-click on the "C" drive.
  • Navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder.
  • Locate the files named "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" and copy them to a safe location such as a USB key or CD.
  • Reformat your disk and reinstall Windows XP on your reformatted hard drive, click "No" when asked if you want to activate Windows.
  • Reboot your computer into SafeMode (press F8 as Windows is booting up to see the Windows Advanced Options menu and select SAFEBOOT_OPTION=Minimal)
  • Double-click My Computer, then double-click on the "C" drive again.
    Navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder again.
  • Locate the files named "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" (if it exists) and rename them to "" and ""
  • Copy your original "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" files from your USB key, CD or DVD or other location into the C:\Windows\System32 folder
  • Restart your system.

Monday, June 11, 2007

How to make the status bar display all the time in XP and Vista

Showing the status bat will allow you to see how many items are in a folder and the amount of disk space that's free on the drive. Here's how to turn it on and make it stick for all folders:

Click Start Explore to open Windows Explorer.
Click a folder in the left pane.
Click the View menu and select Status Bar. This turns the status bar on, but only for that folder.
Click the Tools menu and select Folder Options.
Click the View tab.
Under Folder Views, click the Apply To Folders button. This makes the view you just selected apply to all folders of the same type.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Windows XP stops responding when you download Windows updates

If you try to download an update from the Windows Update site to your computer and get an error message labeled "Initialization Error 0x8007007e," or the computer stops responding when you accept the end-user license agreement, it may be because of corrupted or unregistered system files. Find out what to do to solve the problem by reading KB article 831429 at:

How to assign a program to a processor in XP or Vista

In Windows XP Pro or Vista, if you have a computer running multiple processors or one with a dual core processor, you can assign specific programs to use a specific processor or core. First you need to open the program or run the process. Then do the following:

  1. Right click an empty space on the taskbar or press CTRL+ATL+DEL and select to start Task Manager.
  2. Click the Processes tab.
  3. In the left column, find the process you want to assign (for example, Winword.exe for the Word program) and right click it.
  4. Click Set Affinity in the context menu. By default, both CPUs will be checked. Check only the CPU you want the process to run on (CPU0 or CPU1).
  5. Click OK.

This can be useful if you need to keep one processor free for use by a particular program, or if you're running older applications that don't work as well with two processors.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Software - Stellar - Data Recovery

Have you ever had a drive you could not get your data recovered from? We have probably all been there once or twice. A co-worker (thanks Jeff T!) passed this tool on to me. This is NOT freeware. If you have looked at any of my other posts you know how frugal (some call me cheap :) ) I usually am but this one could very well be worth it's weight in gold! The registration on this product does do a phone home and will only be able to be installed on 1 system but surely you have a workbench system you can throw it on. Here is the skinny on it:

Stellar Phoenix FAT & NTFS - Data Recovery Utility examines your inaccessible hard drive for damages and corruptions and recovers the data back.

  • Hard drive recovery from Windows 9x / ME / NT / 2000 XP / 2003 disk recovery
  • Supports FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, NTFS5 file system
  • Provides data recovery from Formatted logical drives
  • Recovers data from Re-partitioned & Missing/ Lost Logical drives
  • Lost folder and deleted file recovery

Software - WinMerge - File Comparison & Merge

Do you need a good freeware file compare/merge tool? There are a million of them out there but not that many that are freeware. This is one I just stumbled on. Here are some features & screenshots:


  • Visual differencing and merging of text files
  • Flexible editor with syntax highlighting, line numbers and word-wrap
  • Handles DOS, UNIX and MAC text file formats
  • Unicode support
  • Difference pane shows current difference in two vertical panes
  • Location pane shows map of files compared
  • Highlights differences inside lines in file compare
  • Regular Expression based file filters in directory compare allow excluding and including items
  • Moved lines detection in file compare
  • Creates patch files
  • Shell Integration (supports 64-bit Windows versions)
  • Rudimentary Visual SourceSafe and Rational ClearCase integration
  • Archive file support using 7-Zip
  • Plugin support
  • Localizable interface via resource DLL


Monday, May 14, 2007

How to restore the Administrator account in Vista

You can enable the built-in Administrator account if you really want to, by running the Command Prompt as administrator (right click its icon and select Run as Administrator; click Continue at the UAC prompt) and typing the following:

net user administrator /active:yes

This causes the Administrator account to appear on the Welcome screen. Note that it does not have a password set by default; the first thing you should do is set a strong password for it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How can I get Vista to stop being an overprotective mother?

Vista's "overprotective" behavior is one of the biggest complaints. Just like with an overprotective mom, User Account Control (UAC) really is for your own good - but if you want to take the risks, you can disable the prompts.

This is done through the Local Security Policy settings in Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions. At the command prompt or in the Search/Run box on the Start menu, type secpol.msc to open the LSP console. Vista will, of course, ask for your permission to continue (but this could be the last time). In the left pane, expand Local Policies, then click Security Options.

In the right pane, scroll down to User Account Control: Behavior of the Elevation Prompt for Administrators in Admin Approval Mode. Double click it, and on the Local Security Setting tab, click the down arrow in the drop-down box and select Elevate Without Prompting. Now, when you're logged on with an administrative account, you won't get that annoying "are you sure?" dialog box (and you also won't know when programs are elevating privileges). Click OK, and you're done.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Windows Vista no longer starts after you install an earlier version of the Windows operating system in a dual-boot configuration

Have you bought a new computer with Vista preinstalled, but want to install XP don't want to wipe out Vista; you want to be able to dual boot between the two? Unfortunately, installing XP after Vista can cause Vista to be unbootable. KB article 919529 explains why and provides the solution.

Can not access a Windows XP-based network computer

Are you having trouble accessing an XP computer on your home or office network? Turns out this is a registry configuration issue that can be easily fixed by a simple registry edit. Thanks to Jeff for the tip. For instructions, see KB article 913628 at:

How to delay loading of specific services in XP

Sometimes, especially with older computers, you might need to delay loading of some Windows services in order for the computer to boot properly. You can control how services are loaded by editing the Registry. For instructions on how to do it, see KB article 193888 at:

Vista Reliability Monitor

Another new feature in Vista is the Reliability Monitor, which has been added to the Performance tool that you may be familiar with from Windows XP. When you try to open the Reliability and Performance Monitor from the Administrative Tools menu, you'll be prompted for elevation of privileges. Then in the console, click Reliability Monitor in the left pane and you'll see the System Stability Chart and System Stability Report in the right pane. Here you can see a history of hardware and application failures, software installations and uninstalls and other reliability-related information. This makes it easy to see if, for example, the installation of a program or driver corresponds with the time you started to experience application failures. You can see a screenshot of the reliability monitor here:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cracking passwords: 8 tips in 8 minutes

Have you always wanted some tips on how to crack passwords? Here is a handy document (with links) to help you out.

How to Bypass BIOS Passwords - BIOS passwords can be a liability if a user forgets his password.
Cracking network passwords - Like it or not, passwords are a big part of your security and weak passwords can be a gapping security hole. Weed out these weaknesses by cracking your own network passwords.
How to crack a password - Brien Posey describes two techniques used to crack your Windows passwords and offers several defenses against attack.
Building better password policies - Learn ways to tweak your Windows password policy to make passwords more user-friendly and more secure.
Windows password management myths - Common misconceptions about creating and enforcing strong passwords
Checklist: Key control settings to harden password authentication - In part two of her password hardening series, Roberta Bragg details configuration changes to make in Windows Server 2003, 2000 and legacy systems to harden password authentication.
Create secure passwords you don't have to remember - Most strong passwords are impossible to remember. A new online application generates secure passwords that do not have to be committed to memory.
Password hardening journal - One oft-forgotten element of a secure organization is password security. Check out our Windows security journal to find out how to secure your organization at this level.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Setting up a wireless home network

I posted this link out here because of the numerous requests I get all the time for basic instructions on how to set up wireless in the home. The Getting Started and software on the routers is getting better all the time. Hopefully this does not put me out of business :)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Set Up Multiple-Device (Multilink) Dialing in Windows XP

Ever wondered how you poor dial up folks can have more bandwidth? Here is the answer: Install a 2nd modem and aggregate the bandwidth together for almost double the speed (provided your ISP will support it);EN-US;q307849

Monday, April 02, 2007

Discount Hardware/Software Sites

Here are some of my favorite discount Hardware/Software sites. I will try to update this entry from time to time:


Monday, March 26, 2007

How to "Clean Install" an upgraded version of Vista

Ever wondered how you are going to do a clean install with an upgraded version of Vista? Well here is a decent workaround. Could save your bacon if you have to reinstall Vista from an upgraded copy (without reinstalling an older OS first):

Memory Checking Program

Ever wanted a program to test your computers RAM (memory) to see if it may be the issue of unexpected reboots and/or lockups? Here is one compliments of Uncle Bill:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

Resizing Vista Desktop Icons

One of the complaints I hear about the Vista GUI is that "the icons are too big." Well, fixing that is a simple matter. Here's how:

Right click an empty space on the desktop. Select View. Click Classic Icons.

Another way is to use the scroll wheel on your mouse or trackball. With the cursor on the desktop, press and hold the CTRL key and scroll the wheel to make icons larger or smaller.

Troubleshooting startup problems in Windows XP

Can't get XP to start up properly? Unfortunately, there are a number of different possible causes, from corrupted files to hardware problems. You can find a quick guide to help you diagnose and fix the most common startup problems in KB article 308041 at:

Windows XP File & Folder Special Permissions

Special permissions are customizable sets of permissions that you can apply to files and folders stored on an NTFS-formatted partition. If your computer doesn't belong to a domain, you'll need to disable simple file sharing in order to set these permissions. KB article 308419 explains what all the available special permissions are and how to view, set and remove them:

Using the Bootrec.exe tool to troubleshoot and repair Vista startup issues

If you have problems with the master boot record (MBR), boot sector or boot configuration data store (BCD store) that cause startup problems in Windows Vista, you can use the Bootrec.exe tool in the Windows Recovery Environment to figure out what the problem is and repair it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Loading Duel Boot XP with Vista

Here is a process to load Windows XP to duel boot with Windows Vista if Vista is already installed. This is not a perfect solution but will work if you don't want to wipe the drive and start all over.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Making your computer power off when it is shut down

Do you have problems with your computer not shutting down when you power it off? You may need to make an edit to the registry to get the computer to power off when you select Shutdown. Try this:

Open your favorite registry editor.
Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
In the right pane, double click the item named PowerOffActive.
In the value data box, give it a value of 1. Note that this should cause the power to go off at shutdown, but it only applies to the user account that's logged on when you make the change. If you want to make it apply to all users, substitute the following key in step 2: HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop.

Disable display of status messages

If you don't want your XP computer to display the logon, logoff, startup and shutdown status messages, you can turn them off by editing the registry. First be sure to back it up, then perform these steps:

Open your favorite registry editor.
Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ policies \ system
Right click in an empty space in the right pane, select New and select DWORD value.
Name the new value DisableStatusMessages.
Double click the value and give it a value of 1.

Hide your XP computer from Network Neighborhood

Have you ever wanted to create shared folders on your XP computer so that some folks on the network can access your data, but you don't want the shares to show up in the Network Neighborhood because there are others on the network you don't want to see them?

It's easy to accomplish that.
Click Start Run.
In the Run box, type cmd to open a command prompt window.
At the command prompt, type net config server /hidden:yes

Friday, January 12, 2007

Networking - Public Time Servers

Here is a link to some Public Time Servers:

Here is a great suggestion offered by Kurt K. (Thanks)

Use NTP Pools. Each one of those automatically directs to a random time server (in the US) registered with that pool. That way, you don’t have to worry about a particular server going offline. Just use the pool address and you’ll never have to worry about unavailable time servers again. You could drop the .us part (,, but that would redirect to a random time server *anywhere*. I use the US pools to reduce latency.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Security - Security Alerts

This is a good site for proactive Security Alerting:
Thanks Kurt K.