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Tim Fisher

Tim's PC Support Blog


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Save a Command's Results to a File

Tuesday May 13, 2014

One of the coolest Command Prompt tricks is the use of something called a redirection operator.

Very simply, a redirection operator can be used to redirect the output of a command (what the command displays on the screen) to a file. In other words, whatever the command was going to spit out on screen, it instead saves to a file.

If it hasn't dawned on you already, using a redirection operator can be extremely useful when running certain kinds of commands like ping, dir, systeminfo, and others that display tons of information that would be great to save and reference later.

Here's a really simple example:

ping > c:\pingresults.txt

Using the > redirection operator saves the results of pinging (which happens to be my router) to the pingresults.txt file, located in the root directory of my hard drive.

With the results of the ping command now saved to a file, I can email or post that file anywhere I want, providing really detailed information to someone helping me with my home networking problem. This works the same in Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

If you need some more help or want to see some more examples, check out How To Redirect Command Output to a File.

Getting Rid of an Old Hard Drive or PC? Remember to Wipe the Drive!

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Did you know that when you delete a file from your hard drive, it doesn't really go away? Did you know that even formatting a hard drive (in most cases, anyway) won't do the trick? It's true.

When files are erased (and I use that term loosely) from a hard drive, they're not really gone, only the location information for the file is removed. In other words, the file(s) are invisible to the operating system (like Windows or Linux) but not impossible to recover.

So what do you do if you're selling or giving away your computer or computer's hard drive? Do more than just format it, that's for sure. What you need to do is completely erase the data in a way that makes it impossible, with current and probably any technology, to recover.

You can do that with special software called data destruction software. I keep a long list of free ones in my Free Data Destruction Software list. Basically, you boot from a disc you burn and then follow the directions given by the software. DBAN is my favorite of these tools.

Here's a general walk-through of the process: How to Wipe a Hard Drive.

Did you properly wipe the last hard drive you passed on or disposed of?

Related Content:

How to Wipe Your iPad

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Sometimes Your Memory is the Real Problem

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Memory problems are strange animals indeed - unlike other hardware, your computer can often work perfectly fine much of the time with bad memory installed. Small areas of the memory "sticks" in your computer can go bad, areas that Windows and other programs may only occasionally use. When these bad areas are accessed, you may get lock-ups, strange error messages, or even loss of data.

If you're having a problem that you just can't seem to figure out, I suggest you test your memory with a free memory testing program. They're easy to use and will find even the smallest problem.

If you've just purchased new memory, I would even more strongly advise that you test it out. If you find errors, you may be able to replace it for free within your warranty period.

Reseating is Often a Magic Fix

Tuesday May 13, 2014

A simple hardware troubleshooting step when your computer is locking up or spontaneously restarting, especially during the boot process, is to reseat the expansion cards in your computer.

Reseating, which is just another way of saying "remove-and-reinsert," assures that the card is making a good, clean connection with motherboard.

Expansion cards can work loose and get dirty over time so the simple act of removing and reinserting them in their slots on the motherboard will often clear up what might have looked like a major issue.

Reseating the expansion cards in your PC is pretty easy, even if you've never been inside your computer before. It's certainly worth a try before buying new hardware or hauling your computer in for service.

Did You Just Get a New Computer? Do These Things First!

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Were you lucky enough to pick up a new computer recently? If so, Congratulations!

No matter if it's a snazzy new Microsoft Surface 2, a Windows 8 laptop, or a traditional desktop computer, here are the first four things you need to do:

Update Your Antimalware Program

The last thing you want to do is get your brand new computer infected with malware. Who wants that?

I thought about calling this "install an antimalware program" but almost all computers come with one preinstalled. Windows 8 comes with Microsoft's own tool built-in so most PCs are ready to go.

Here's the thing, though: it won't be updated. Probably not, anyway. So, after setting it up, head to the scanner's settings and update the "definitions" - the instructions that teach the program how to identify and remove new viruses, Trojans, worms, etc.

Install Available Windows Updates

Yes, I know, you'd think your brand new computer would be fully updated but chances are it won't be.

Microsoft releases security and non-security updates to Windows on at least a monthly basis. Windows 8 especially has been getting a lot of updates recently.

See Windows Update: What It Is and How To Use It if you need help.

Install a File Recovery Program

This one might surprise you. Why install a program to help recover accidentally deleted files if you haven't even used your computer yet, let alone lost something?

Here's why: The big catch-22 about file recovery programs is that you often have to install one before you can use it, a process which could permanently overwrite the area on the hard drive where your deleted file is sitting. That's not a risk you want to take.

See my Free File Recovery Software Programs list for a number of excellent and completely free undelete tools. Just install one and forget it. If you need it in the future, it'll be there.

Sign Up for an Online Backup Service

Yep, another proactive step here, one you'll be thanking me for someday.

Online backup services are combination software tools and subscription services that automatically keep what data you want protected on secure servers away from your home or business. In my opinion, an online backup service is the best and most cost effective long term solution to keeping your data safe.

See my Online Backup Services Reviewed for a list of my favorite services.

Patch Tuesday May 2014: 8 Security Updates

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Windows Update IconToday is Patch Tuesday. May's patches consist of 8 updates that correct several unique security issues across Microsoft Windows operating systems and some other Microsoft software.

The next Patch Tuesday will be on June 10, 2014.

What Do These Security Updates Do?

These patches from Microsoft update several individual files involved in making Windows and other Microsoft software work.

Do I Need These Security Updates?

You need these updates if you're running any supported edition of Microsoft's operating systems, 32-bit or 64-bit. This includes Windows 8 (as well as Windows 8.1), Windows 7, and Windows Vista.

All supported versions of Microsoft Office are also getting security updates this month.

Popular business and enterprise software is also being updated, including supported Windows Server operating systems, SharePoint Server and Designer programs, as well as Office Web Apps.

Some of these updates correct issues so serious that, in certain situations, remote access to your computer may be possible without your permission. These issues are classified as critical, while some others this month are less serious and classified as important.

See Microsoft Security Bulletin Severity Rating System for more on these classifications.

Note: Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft and so no longer receives security patches. See Support for Windows XP Ends April 8, 2014: Here's What You need to Know for more on this.

Are There Any Non-Security Updates This Month?

Yes, non-security updates are being made available for Windows 8.1, Windows 8 (pre-8.1), Windows 7, and Windows Vista. .NET Native is also being updated in Windows 8.1.

Also, as usual, Microsoft is pushing this month's update to the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.

Some Microsoft Surface tablets may also be getting driver and firmware updates, among other fixes. You can get all the details on the Surface RT, Surface 2, Surface Pro, and Surface Pro 2 update history pages.

There may also be non-security updates included this month for Microsoft software other than Windows. See the non-security update information in the section below for details.

Download Patch Tuesday Updates

In most situations, the best way to download patches on Patch Tuesday is via Windows Update. Only the updates you need will be listed and, unless you've configured Windows Update otherwise, will be downloaded and installed automatically.

You also have the option of manually installing updates via the individual Bulletin IDs listed in the Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for May 2014.

Any non-security updates for Windows are listed on Microsoft's New Non-Security Content for 2014 page. You can find links to any non-security Microsoft Office updates on the Microsoft Office Updates blog.

Note: Most of these downloads come in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. See Do I Have 32-bit or 64-bit Windows? if you're not sure which downloads to choose.

Patch Tuesday Problems

While updates from Microsoft rarely result in widespread problems with Windows itself, they do frequently cause specific issues with software or drivers provided by other companies.

If you haven't yet installed these patches, please see How To Prevent Windows Updates From Crashing Your PC for a number of preventative measures you should take before applying these updates, including disabling fully automatic updates.

If you're having problems after Patch Tuesday, or during or after installing any Windows update:

See Windows Updates & Patch Tuesday FAQ for answers to other common questions, including "Does Microsoft test these updates before they push them out?" and "Why hasn't Microsoft fixed the problem that their update caused on my computer?!"

More Help with Patch Tuesday May 2014

Run in to some trouble during or after May's Patch Tuesday? Head over to Google+ and leave a new comment on my post:

Patch Tuesday Problems: May 2014 [Google+]

Be sure to let me know exactly what's happening, what version of Windows you're using, and what if any errors you're seeing, and I'd be happy to help you out.

If you need help with a computer problem but it's not about an issue you're having surrounding Microsoft's Patch Tuesday, see my Get More Help page for information about contacting me for personal assistance.

World Password Day

Tuesday May 6, 2014

World Password Day 2014 LogoWednesday, May 7th, is World Password Day, a day to remind you about the facts regarding passwords, and that making them long, as well as changing them frequently, is of the utmost important.

World Password Day even has its own website, with games, statistics, and a whole lot more:

Password Day 2014

Here are a few stats that might interest you:

I've written a lot about passwords before: including how to crack easy ones, even how to reset them when y0u forget them. While those are certainly legitimate ways of getting "past" a password, you don't want others to be able to do the same.

So, keep your passwords long (which is better than short and complicated), change them often, and use a free password manager so you never forget them!

Image Intel Corporation

Support for Windows XP Ends April 8: Here's What You Need to Know

Monday April 7, 2014

Windows XP LogoAs of April 8th, 2014, Windows XP is no longer supported.

No longer supported means what you probably think it means - that Windows XP will no longer receive security patches, like those your computer normally automatically installs on Patch Tuesday, nor will it receive non-security updates, like bug fixes.

I considered writing a lot about the end of Windows XP support, but other projects got in my way and, surprisingly, Microsoft did a pretty good job communicating what this means. So, instead of rehashing everything out there, I've gone out and found some of the best explanations about what it means, what to do (or not to do), and more.

Microsoft is sharing their Support is Ending Soon piece widely, which is good, but it's not full of the type of information that most of you XP-hold-outs are probably looking for. Check it out if you're confused about the basics of what end-of-support means for XP, but skip it otherwise.

The real jewel on Microsoft's site about the end of Windows XP support is their Support for Windows XP is Ending piece for business and enterprise customers. I know most of you don't run hundreds of Windows XP computers in a corporate setting, but that's OK - the information here applies to you too and is very detailed and worth reading for a full understanding of what this all means.

You'll find a list of potential risks of staying with Windows XP, instructions for migrating from XP to Windows 8 (or 7, etc.), and lots more. Most valuable, I think, is the extensive FAQ. Here is some of you'll find answered there:

  • Can Windows XP still be activated after April 8, 2014?
  • Can Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 still be used in Windows XP?
  • Will Microsoft Security Essentials be supported after April 8, 2014?
  • Will Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool be supported after April 8, 2014?
  • Will existing updates still be available via Windows Update after April 8, 2014?
  • Will Internet Explorer 8 still be supported on Windows XP?
  • Which machines will receive the Windows XP End of Support notification?

A few things I didn't see, but I'll answer:

Is Windows XP included in the April 2014 updates on Patch Tuesday?

Yes. So for all intents and purposes, I'd consider the day before the next Patch Tuesday as the real end-of-life for Windows XP. That would be May 12, 2014, by my count.

Will Windows XP stop working?

Absolutely not. You just increase the chance, over time, that your computer will be vulnerable to newly discovered security threats.

For more on this, see PC World's Windows XP holdouts: Meet the diehard faithful who refuse to move on. You're not alone! Also good at PC World: How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support and from TechCrunch: As Microsoft Support for XP Expires, Antivirus Vendors Pick Up The Slack.

If you're curious about the end of support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 (yes, they already have this figured out), see Microsoft's Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet. Don't worry Windows 8 folks, we have until January 10, 2023!

Are you still using Windows XP? Will you be buying a new computer or upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8? Head over to Google+ and let me know your thoughts!

Windows Logo Microsoft

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World Backup Day 2014

Friday March 28, 2014

World Backup Day 2014 LogoMonday, March 31st, is World Backup Day, the day we technology folks remind you of how important it is to back up your data. Considering my particular expertise, I tend to do this much more often than once per year, but I'll take this annual excuse to do it yet again!

Here's the message to remember:

Your Data is More Valuable Than Your Device!

Hardware is cheap and getting cheaper. You know what's expensive or even priceless? That term paper you spent three weeks writing, the $3,000 USD in music and movies you have on your hard drive, and the digital video of your little boy or girl's first step.

You can get a new computer or phone, but try replacing those important files: You can't!

So what do you do? How do you make sure you never lose the bits and bytes important to you?

You back them up!

I'm a very huge of fan of online backup services. I think using a cloud backup service (what they're sometimes called) is the most easy, economical, and effective way of keeping your important data safe.

See my 39 Online Backup Services Reviewed for a ranked, updated list, complete with prices. Some plans allow an unlimited amount of storage, some limit you to so many GBs or TBs, some support backup from multiple simultaneous computers, some are even free for a just a little storage.

No matter what your needs, I've done all the research to help you make the right decision. Aside from the list of reviews I linked you to above, my Online Backup Comparison Chart is really helpful if you're curious about which of my favorite cloud backup services offer a particular feature.

Have questions about online backup or not completely sure what it is? I answer most every question I've ever gotten about online backup in my Online Backup FAQ.

Here are some more online backup resources you might find helpful:

The newest edition to my collection of online backup pieces is my Online Backup Q&A. Here you'll find interviews I've done with online backup services where I ask questions you probably won't find elsewhere, like Why Should I Pick Your Service?, How Do You Handle NSA Data Requests?, and a more.

From Other About.com Experts:

Image World Backup Day

Piriform Releases CCleaner v4.12.4657

Wednesday March 26, 2014

CCleaner LogoPiriform has released CCleaner v4.12.4657, the latest version of their registry and system cleaner tool. For a full overview, see my review of CCleaner v4.12.4657.

This update to CCleaner improves cleaning support for Opera, improves registry cleaning, and adds or improves junk file cleaning for a number of programs. You can read about all changes in Piriform's Change Log, which you find here.

You can download CCleaner v4.12.4657 for free here.

Related Content:

Free Registry Cleaner Programs
Registry Cleaner FAQ

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