What version of Windows 10 do you have?

Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows. To the causal computer user, that is seen as a good thing. However, for tech lovers, this opens up a entirely new can of worms. Microsoft will be putting out major updates to Windows 10 approximately twice per year. The first major update was back in November of 2015. The second major update came out last month (August 2nd, to be exact).

Sometimes the updates will change things enough to make it clear that the updated version of Windows 10 is different. That was the case with last month's major update. 

For example, prior to the update, the Start Menu would only show you all of your apps/programs if you clicked "All apps". Also, the "Power", "Settings", and "File Explorer" icons were all clearly labeled as such as shown in the image below:

The new Start Menu in the August release of Windows 10 now shows all of your apps/programs by default and the "All apps" icon is gone. Furthermore, the icons for "Power", "Settings", and "File Explorer" are no longer labeled as seen in the image below:

Just like with the Windows 10  universal apps, the Start Menu has a Hamburger Menu. Regardless of where you see it, Windows 10, Android, etc, clicking it typically brings up app settings and / or options. The Hamburger Menu is circled in the image below:

Clicking the Hamburger Menu expands the Start Menu and labels the icons as seen in the image below:

Now for the point of this blog post. To see which version of Windows 10 your computer is running, click on the Start Button and then click on the "Settings" icon. The "Settings" icon is circled in red:

Clicking on the "Settings" icon brings up the "Windows Settings" window. Click on the "System" icon. The "System' icon is circled in red:

The "Settings" screen defaults to showing the "Display" section first. Go down to the bottom of the list and click "About". The "About" section has the information we are looking for. The image below has two red boxes. The top box has the Version number and the bottom box has the Build number. 

Microsoft has a support page that lists the Build and Version numbers. You can find that page here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12387/windows-10-update-history. Halfway down the page, you will find the Build and Version numbers. Simply match the Version number on your "About" page with the Version number on the website. Then match the Build numbers. 

If your version of Windows 10 is not current you have two options. Option A would be to wait until the latest version is available via Windows Updates. Option B would be to scroll up to the blue "Get the Anniversary Update now" box (on that same Microsoft support page) and click it. That will download a small updater program from Microsoft. Run the program and it will download & install the update. If you choose to go this route, you should disable your anti-virus program (unless you are using Windows Defender) until the upgrade it complete. When the upgrade has completed and your PC has rebooted, you will be greeted by this Window: 

All that is left to do is to re-enable your anti-virus program if you disabled it before the upgrade. I'd also recommend going to the Microsoft Store and checking for updates. Any questions? Leave a comment below.

Microsoft Store Updates

As detailed in my last blog post, the way you check for Windows Updates has radically changed in Windows 10. You can see that post here. In addition to checking for Windows Updates, Windows 10 brings something new to the table - Microsoft Store updates. That's right, there are now two different places to check for updates. This blog post will show you how to check for Microsoft Store Updates.

The easiest way, in my opinion, is to look at the taskbar on the Desktop. On the task bar, look for the icon that looks like a shopping bag with the Microsoft Logo on it. You can also click the start button and look for the Microsoft Store tile. In addition to that, you can click on the start button, go to "All apps" and scroll down to the "S" section where you will find that same shopping bag icon with the Microsoft Logo on it. Regardless of how you get there, click the icon or tile.

The Windows Store icon circled in red on the taskbar.

The Windows Store icon circled in red on the taskbar.

The Windows Store tile icon.

The Windows Store tile icon.

The Windows Store icon on the Start Menu

The Windows Store icon on the Start Menu

After clicking the icon or tile, the Windows Store will open up. Near the top and to the right of the screen you will see either your account icon or a generic icon depending on if you added a picture to your user account. This icon is located directly to the left of the Search Box. 

Click the user account picture or generic icon and you will see a list of options pertaining to your Microsoft Account. Click on "Downloads and updates" (circled below).

After clicking on "Downloads and updates", you'll see the blue button "Check for updates" (circled below).

Click the "Check for updates" button and if there are any updates available, they will show up on the screen in a list. The updates will automatically begin to download and install. Note that when you click the "Check for Updates" button, the button becomes grayed out and you should see a spinning progress wheel over the button. If there are any updates available, a number will appear next to your user account icon. That number corresponds to the number of updates available. See the screen shot below for an example.

Here's an example of an update that's queued up for updating:

When you are done, all of your Windows 10 apps will be up to date. Any questions? If so, leave a comment below.

Are you ready for Windows 10?

Ready or not, Windows 10 is coming. Next month, July 29th to be exact, Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 upon the world.  I've been using the Developer Preview on a 9-10 year old laptop with a used SSD I had laying around. From what I have seen so far, everything I have installed has worked fine.  If you've used Windows 8/8.1, the jump to Windows 10 is not that far of a stretch. The big highlight being the return of the Start Menu. Sure, some things are now different, but the overall Windows feel is still there. Windows 7 users are in for a steeper learning curve than Windows 8 / 8.1 users. 

Microsoft has been updating the Windows 10 preview through Windows Update. It should be safe to assume that with a release date of July 29th, Microsoft has switched into bug squashing mode. Still, there are some features in the Developer Preview that could be pulled (or even added) before Windows 10 is officially released.

Before proceeding, make sure you have 3 GB of available hard drive space - that's the amount of space needed by the install file(s) when they download. I expect the download to occur in late July, 2015.

Recently, a new icon started showing up on Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 PCs. The icon looks like a white Windows logo:

Clicking on the icon brings up this window:

Before clicking on "Reserve your free upgrade", I highly recommend you click on the Hamburger menu (circled below):

Clicking the Hamburger menu opens up this view:

Click on "Check your PC":

Clicking "Check your PC" brings you to a screen that points out any issues you might have when upgrading. In my case, using a Laptop from 2008 running Windows 7, my Bluetooth radio is potentially in trouble:

Microsoft is reportedly having issues with some drivers working with Windows 10. That's possibly the issue I'm seeing here. If your PC is showing issues, hold off a few weeks and go through the process again. Microsoft will be working to make sure as many device drivers as possible are working. You might find that a device that is having an issue today, might be fixed in a few weeks. In my case, I reserved the upgrade because I don't use Bluetooth with this laptop. If your machine doesn't show any issues, you can click the "Reserve" button. That will give you the option to enter your email address if you'd like an email confirmation. Otherwise, you are done.

Note that if you reserve your copy of Windows 10, Microsoft will download it to your PC without prompting you first. This download should happen in late July. As mentioned earlier, the download is 3 GB, so keep that in mind if you are low on disk space. Once downloaded, Microsoft will give you the option to install it when you want. I highly recommend backing up your data before updating. The update is FREE as long as it's done in the first year that it's available.

If there are any questions about the developer preview, ask them in the comments section.

How To: Clean your PC or Laptop keyboard

When is the last time you actually looked down at your computer's keyboard? Now, I'm not talking about looking for a particular key, but actually looking at your keys. The answer for most people is that they don't pay much attention to their keyboard unless it has stopped working. As a guy that works on other people's PCs for a living, the typical keyboard I come in contact with ranges from slightly used in appearance to down right disgusting!

It's widely known the people love to eat while using their computers. From co-workers that work through lunch, eating at their desks to late night gaming sessions featuring pizza, eating at the computer is just something people do these days. The keyboards definitely show it. Have you ever noticed, thanks to Social Media, how people love to tell us that they are sick? Coughing and sneezing into their hands and onto their keyboards, while at home with the flu...if you share your keyboard with other people, stop to think about that one for a moment.

The truth is that a dirty keyboard can make you sick. Literally and figuratively.

I've had customers tell me they didn't know they could clean their keyboards. Take it from me, you can...and should. Here's how to do it:

  1. Turn the PC off. Really. I've had customers accidentally change a password while cleaning a keyboard.
  2. Hold the keyboard upside down and gently shake it. If you have a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment,  you can use that on the keyboard while you've got it upside down. Simply move the brush attachment across the keys.
  3. Next, hold the keyboard on it's side and use a can of compressed air to spray even more junk free. For extra dirty keyboards, repeat step 2.
  4. Do you have built-up crud between your keys? You can use a small flat tip screwdriver, toothpick, or thumbtack to scrape the heavy crud away. Next take a plate and spray the cleaner of your choice on it. Fantastik, 409, Windex, or my personal favorite, Krud Kutter, all work fine. Take a Q-tip, dip it in the cleaner and run it between the keys. DO NOT spray it directly on the keyboard. Take a dry Q-tip and run it between the same keys to soak up any stray liquid.
  5. When you are done with that, take a disinfectant wipe and wipe the tops of the keys and the surrounding surface. Keyboards are generally sturdy, so you can normally wipe as hard as you need to.
  6. If you've gone this far, give your mouse some attention too. Wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe as well.

Cleaning a Laptop keyboard is quite similar:

  1. Turn off the Laptop.
  2. Laptop keys are prone to popping off the keyboard, so use caution here. Starting with the Laptop on it's side (see the image below), use a can of compressed air to blow the dirt out of the keyboard. The flip the Laptop so that the side that was on top is now on the bottom. Repeat with the can of compressed air. I'd recommend staying away from using a vacuum cleaner as that can cause the keys to come loose and / or fall off.
  3. Due to the fact that Laptop keyboards vary wildly by manufacturer and even by model,      only you can decide if it's worth it or even possible to clean between the keys. If you decide to clean between the keys, use caution and take your time.
  4. When you are done with that, take a disinfectant wipe and wipe the tops of the keys and the surrounding plastic. Again, Laptop keyboards can be fragile, so use care while wiping the keyboard.

That's all there is to it - you've now got a clean keyboard. Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.         

                                                                  Put the Laptop on it's side for easier cleaning.

                                                                  Put the Laptop on it's side for easier cleaning.

What to do if you can't upgrade your Windows XP computer

Windows XP has been officially dead for about a year. If you find yourself still using Windows XP, you can follow this guide to make your PC as safe as possible. I highly recommend upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7, but for some people...even a year later...that's not possible.

If you are stuck on Windows XP, read on.

  1. Stop using Internet Explorer! You can't uninstall Internet Explorer, but you certainly don't have to use it. The only excuse for using Internet Explorer at this point is to download Windows Updates. Since there are no more Windows Updates for Windows XP, you have no more excuses. If you have Apple's Safari browser installed, uninstall it. Internet Explorer and Safari have both been abandoned on Windows XP. Google Chrome will stop with security updates for Windows XP later this month. Uninstall Google Chrome as well. Firefox at this point is your only option. Import your browser favorites and  keep the browser add-ons to a minimum. Eliminate them all if you can.
  2. Uninstall Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Shockwave. All of these programs are notorious security holes. You can try other PDF readers. Any of them should be more secure than Adobe Reader.
  3. Uninstall any programs you don't use. The goal here is to keep your exposure to vulnerable programs to a minimum. If you don't know what a program is, Google it first before uninstalling. If you have never used it, and it's NOT a device driver or essential program, uninstall it. Keep the programs you leave installed up to date.
  4. When it first came out, Microsoft Security Essentials was and awesome, free, anti-virus program. It's still not bad, but with Windows XP you need something better. The free version of Avast is an excellent choice.
  5. This is the most important tip - start using a limited user account. Close to 100% of all of last years discovered vulnerabilities couldn't harm a PC if the user was using a limited user account. Here's the best way to go about changing from an Administrator account (the default used by Windows) to a limited user account:

Go to the Windows Control Panel and click on "User Accounts".

UserAccounts1

Click on "Create a new account"

UserAccounts2

Name the new account. Something like "Admin" would be a great idea. For this example, that's what I've used. Then click "Next".

UserAccounts4

Pick the account type. Select "Computer Administrator" then click "Create Account".

UserAccounts5

On the "User Accounts" screen, click the new Administrator account you just created.

UserAccounts6

On the "What do you want to change about Admin's account" screen, click create a password. WRITE IT DOWN!!

UserAccounts7

After you've created the password (seriously, write it down!), click on the "Home" button.

UserAccounts8

Back on the "User Accounts" screen select your user account. This is the account you use everyday.

UserAccounts9

On the "What do you want to change about your account?" screen, click "Change my account type".

UserAccounts10

On the "Pick a new account type" screen, pick "Limited" and then click "Change Account Type".

UserAccounts11

Reboot your PC and select your user account on the login screen.

You now have as secure a Windows XP PC as possible. Keep in mind that there are things you can only do with an administrator account, like install programs and change system settings. That's what keeps you safe. You did write down that new administrator account password like I told you to, right? If you try to do something in your limited user account, and you get an error message saying you don't have authorization, switch over to the newly created administrator account and do it there. Then switch back to your limited user account and continue working. Is it a pain? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely!

If you need help, let me know. I can make these changes for you remotely, no matter where you live.