Windows Fall Update 2018: How To Prepare & Avoid Downtime

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Here it comes again. Windows is coming back with another large feature update for Windows 10, named Redstone 5. As always, Microsoft is attempting to give people more of what they want and better the user experience.

The upgrades and changes slated to hit this fall vary greatly, from a dark theme for File Explorer to the new Windows 10 smartphone integration feature.

While there may be a little something for everyone, what can you expect your experience to be? We can start by examining the numerous changes coming our way this fall.

The first new feature is Clipboard history and sync. By pressing the Windows key and V, you can open up Clipboard history. Allowing all of those copy and pastes you’ve been doing to be easily recalled. This feature will be great for some users and some will never utilize the functionality.

For an IT professional like myself, I spend a lot of time copying and pasting different things in, not limited to passwords. This brings up many questions, including, “How secure will the sync between devices be?” and “Will any personal information be safe to copy and paste this way, when there is an obvious trail left?” This remains to be seen, but the potential for usefulness, if secure, is exciting.

Another new feature I mentioned earlier is the Dark Theme for File Explorer. This feature allows the color of File Explorer to be changed from white to black. Eyes rejoice! Many people find browsing files and even reading easier to do with a black background and white font. If the brightness is just too much for you to look at day in and day out, then this feature is for you! There is no downside or issue I can see with this feature, as it is purely cosmetic.

Everyone, welcome SwiftKey to Windows 10! Back in 2016, Microsoft purchased the SwiftKey keyboard. SwiftKey is a touch screen keyboard that allows for swipe styling typing. Not impressive on its own, the SwiftKeyboard boasts that it has more accurate autocorrect and predictions by learning your writing style. SwiftKey is intriguing, but a feature that, in reality, doesn’t change much for most people.

The final big feature, the Windows 10 smart phone integration, is equal parts exciting and scary. Any new sync system has the potential to be attacked, depending on the security in place.

The integration brings you the instant access to your photos from your phone to your PC. There are also plans to add sync notifications in the future. There is also the “Continue on PC” option that will allow you to access a link from your computer, picking up where you left off on your phone.

While there are no earth-shattering changes, the biggest concern is how these updates and changes to Windows 10 will affect you in the long run. As with updates in the past, there is a possibility that any of these new system changes will cause issues with different existing applications and processes. 2017’s Fall Creator’s update was the culprit behind numerous applications failing, even people having to do full system restores for no real reason.

While the update will be available in early fall, I would suggest avoiding installing the update until you have to. Especially in a business setting. You can try it at home first, but unless you are running the same applications, there is no way of telling how the changes will affect your system until others discover potential issues.

Windows Fall Creator’s Update: Breaking More Than It’s Fixing

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Microsoft dominates the world of operating systems. Windows has been a part of our lives for years and some of us can’t remember a world without it.

Each time Microsoft rolls out a new operating system, it is updated and patched for years for various reasons.

Over the lifespan of a Windows operating system, there are various security updates perhaps more than any other type of update.

There are fixes for issues, whether that’s problems with Windows itself or interaction with other hardware and software.

Then there are the outliers: Windows feature updates. These updates typically introduce new features or changes to the core function of the operating system. Feature updates can improve the user experience for many people.

Windows 10 launched in 2015 and, like all of its predecessors, did not launch with perfection. There have been numerous updates of all kinds since its launch. Those security patches, hotfixes, and even a handful of feature updates had rolled out by October of 2017.

That is when Microsoft released the Window’s Fall Creator update. This update was going to create a better user experience. Personal connections were going to be easier to make.

A new application allowing you to resume work or browsing started on a mobile device like a smartphone on your computer was introduced as well. There were a few security updates as well.

All in all, the Fall Creators Update was going to fix a few bugs and introduce some quality-of-life improvements.

In previous versions of Windows, the updates were able to be shut off and postponed.

Large scale feature updates are known to have some complications when rolled out.

That is why these updates are not “pushed” when initially launched, but available to download as an optional update at first.

Upon this introduction window, there were, as expected, reports of problems coming in. What was not expected was the range of issues and the severity of some.

The first issue arising from the release of Windows 1709, the Fall Creators Update, was the update failing to install.

Many people reported issues of an error when attempting to install the update. The initial portion would install, but the finalizing of the updates upon a restart would fail.

If that wasn’t frustrating enough, if the update did manage to install, it was reported that the applying updates portion could take two hours (and in some cases as many as ten hours).

Then, let’s assume you got that far. Maybe you want to use Microsoft Edge, the Microsoft browser of choice. With the 1709 update, many users found that Edge was essentially broken. It would crash repeatedly.

Then, bring in the numerous broken drivers. Imagine an update breaking your Ethernet adapter. It happened. Applications disappeared, began opening on their own, and in some cases just didn’t work. The problems continued to roll in.

Many of these issues were resolved in a timely fashion and some were not. In mid-January, Microsoft declared the Fall Creators Update ready for business. This means that the update would be pushed out to anyone that was not already using it.

After 3 months, many issues were still present and others would soon be discovered.

Many users of corporate software and other specialty software were surprised by software that no longer worked. In some cases, the suggested fix was to roll back the update, which will force itself to reinstall shortly after.

There have been some big patches to fix these issues since January and I’m hoping that in another three months Microsoft will have all of these issues resolved.

Meltdown and Spectre: Protect Yourself With Updates

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

As I am writing this, it has been about a month since news broke of Meltdown and Spectre, two separate vulnerabilities affecting nearly every smartphone and PC in use today. It affects all modern processors – which encompasses a whole lot of users.

Meltdown and Spectre are different fundamentally, but they use a similar vulnerability to do different things. So what are the differences?

Meltdown breaks the isolation between user applications and the operating system. This allows a program to access the memory and, therefore, the processes and data of the software, even when it is not authorized to do so. [Read more…]

Windows Updates: Allow Them, Don’t Block Them

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

One of the first things you should do when purchasing a new computer (or rehabilitating an older computer) is to make sure the operating system is up-to-date with the latest security patches. In some cases, people disable the automatic updates and this can cause a whole host of issues.

Microsoft regularly puts out security patches, as well as other patches for their software. These patches are applied through the automatic update process. When that process is disabled, this means your computer hasn’t received the latest updates from Microsoft. Because your updates are halted, the system vulnerabilities that Microsoft engineers have found have not been repaired on your system.

You may remember the WannaCry Ransomware attack or, by now, heard of the most recent news of the Intel CPU flaw with Meltdown and Spectre. These two vulnerabilities, if exploited, can wreak havoc on an affected computer.

An affected system could suffer circuit issues, data corruption, system instability, and even data theft. There are always going to be people doing nefarious things when it comes to computers and the Internet, but the engineers behind your operating system and your antivirus company will always be on top of a fix for the vulnerability as soon as it is discovered.

Did you know that Microsoft releases most Windows Update patches on “Patch Tuesday” – the second Tuesday of each month? This keeps automatic system reboots to a minimum and also assists managed service providers like Tech Experts in ensuring that all of their clients’ servers and workstations have the latest software and security patches installed.

At home, you can set your Windows Updates to the “Automatic” option. That way, your system will automatically check for Windows Updates every 24 hours or so if the computer is connected to the Internet.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “I just use my home computer for browsing DIY pages, listening to music, and sending emails. Why would anyone want to get into my computer?,” reconsider how much personal information is actually stored.

It may seem as though your computer wouldn’t hold much useful information, but a hacker only needs a few passwords, an email address, phone number, and address to potentially gain access to cell phone accounts, shopping site accounts, tax information, and even banking and credit card accounts.

Even if the hacker isn’t looking for personal information like that listed above, they could still use your computer to send spam emails to other computers all over the world, slowing down your computer and Internet and causing a whole slew of issues for other computer owners.

Keeping your operating system up-to-date with the latest updates and security patches, keeping your anti-malware and anti-virus software updated and running on a regular basis, and adding robust security settings to your router and firewall will help keep all of these vulnerabilities behind closed doors. At least, until the software engineers can create and deploy the patches and updates to block access to them.

Windows 10 Creator’s Fall Update to Bring Hardened Ransomware Protection

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Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

2017 has seen some of the most high-profile ransomware and cryptoware attacks to date. These incidents have demonstrated that these types of attacks can have catastrophic effects that reach far beyond the ransom demands paid to these attackers.

The cost of downtime and damage control multiplies quickly. Even more damaging is being impacted because critical infrastructure or health care services are unexpectedly unavailable for extended periods of time, consequently costing much more than any monetary value.

Microsoft has stated that they recognize the threat that these cybercrimes represent and have since invested significant yet simple strategies that are proving to be extremely effective as new attacks emerge. These new security features are now coming to all businesses and consumers using Windows 10 with the Creators Fall Update.

These advanced security features are focusing on three primary objectives:

  1. Protecting your Windows 10 system by strengthening both software and hardware jointly, improving hardware-based security and mitigating vulnerabilities to significantly raise the cost of an attack on Windows 10 systems. Meaning hackers will need to spend a lot of time and money to keep up with these security features.
  2. Recognizing that history has revealed vastly capable and well-funded attackers can find unexpected routes to their objectives. These latest security updates detect and help prevent against these threats with new advances in protection services like Windows Defender Antivirus and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.
  3. Enabling customers and security experts to respond to threats that may have impacted them with newly updated tools like Windows Defender ATP. This will provide security operations personnel the tools to act swiftly with completeness of information to remediate an attack that may have impacted them.

Microsoft states this is a proven strategy that has remained 100% successful on Windows 10 S, the new secure version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. Albeit, this version of the operating system does not allow any software from outside the Microsoft App Store to be installed.

Further, Microsoft states that even prior to the fall security updates rolling out, no Windows 10 customers were known to be compromised by the recent WannaCry global cyberattack. Despite this, Microsoft knows that there will always be unforeseeable exploits within their systems.

This is why the Windows 10 Creator’s Fall Update benefits from new security investments to stop malicious code via features like Kernel Control Flow Guard (kCFG) and Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG) for Microsoft Edge. These kinds of investments allow Windows 10 to mitigate potential attacks by targeting the techniques hackers use, instead of reacting to specific threats after they emerge.

Most importantly, Windows Defender security updates coming in this Fall will begin to leverage the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence built on top of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph (ISG) to promptly identify new threats, including ransomware, as they are first seen anywhere around the globe.

Though no exact date is set in stone, all of the amazing security updates detailed above will be available this Fall 2017 for free. For more information about the Creator’s Fall update beyond the security features, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/upcoming-features.

Built-In Windows 10 Tools You May Not Know About

jared-stemeye

Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

As we approach the second anniversary of Windows 10 this July, users have continued to steadily adopt Microsoft’s flagship OS and move away from the limited support of Windows 7 and clunky interface of Windows 8.

With this, many new users are currently unaware of the simple, yet powerful features that are now built right into Windows 10.

Some were present in previous iterations of Windows, but have been improved upon within 10.

Built-in Screenshot Utility
Those of us without fancy third-party screenshot software had to resort to the old tried-and-true Control + Print Screen function to copy and paste the screenshot into Paint to save. However, there’s now an easier way.

The Snipping Tool application built into Windows since Vista has a ton of intuitive features for taking screenshots.

You can easily find this handy tool by typing “snip” into your start menu search. Windows 10 has added time delayed screenshots as an additional feature to take screenshots that were not previously possible.

Sticky Notes
Built-in since Windows 7, Sticky Notes allows small text boxes to be attached to your desktop. They are great for reminders or quick notetaking. You can create multiple notes and change the background and text colors for better visual organization.

These notes are also smart, using “insights” to provide contextual information to your notes automatically. If you add an email, address, or phone number, your note will recognize it as such to make the note easier to interact with.

Action Center
Brand new to Windows 10, the Action Center can be accessed next to your clock at the bottom right of the screen. By clicking the text box icon, you can access alters from your operating system and applications.

This menu also allows quick access to tablet mode, Connect (Bluetooth device pairing), VPN settings, and other tools. My favorite Action Center tool is night light mode, which dims your screen and provides a warmer tone that’s easier on the eyes in low light.

Display Calibration
In my opinion, the Display Calibration tool is by far the best and most underused tool built into Windows 10. Out of the box, your PC monitor is usually too bright and the colors are typically oversaturated. That may not be an issue if all you do is spreadsheet work, but if you’re editing photos or video, you’ll want to fine-tune the colors for accuracy.

Sure, you could spend $60 or more for color-calibration software and hardware and that might be money well spent if you’re a graphics professional or a movie buff who’s finicky about faithful color reproduction. However, the color-calibration tool built into Windows can give you most of what you without additional software.

Type “calibrate” into the start menu search, and select Settings. You want to pick Calibrate Display Color, which is usually the top option.

The color calibrator’s welcome screen includes a link to a help-center tutorial. All you really need to do, however, is walk through the steps and read the explanatory text.

The first time you do this, don’t skip any of the steps. The steps are, in order: gamma settings, brightness adjustment, contrast adjustment, and color balance. Your monitor’s color will look better than ever once you complete the tuning.

For even more information on the new tools that are in the works for Windows 10, visit microsoft.com/windows/upcoming-features

New Features Coming To The Windows 10 ‘Creators’ Update

jared-stemeye

Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

Windows 10 doesn’t follow the footsteps of previous Windows iterations. Far and away from the uniform operating system that would be replaced by a successor every few years, it’s more of a living, breathing entity – one that consistently evolves with new “named” updates. The last update, the Anniversary update, was nothing compared to the new bells and whistles Microsoft has in store with the Creators Update.

The Privacy Dashboard
The Windows 10 initial launch was the subject of scrutiny for two main factors. The most well-known was the forced-upgrade push from Microsoft.

The second was the watered-down privacy settings when compared to Windows 7 and 8. Fortunately, Microsoft’s attempts at a forced upgrade ended when the free upgrade offer expired.

Now, the Windows 10 Creators Update addresses the privacy concerns with a new privacy dashboard. This makes privacy settings much easier to understand and manage.

Users will now be able to quickly enable and disable location tracking, ad tracking, and speech recognition, among other privacy settings right from the desktop.

Application Throttling
Application Throttling will allow users to dial back resources from background processes to allow more power for their main focus.

This will be especially favorable for business-oriented users who are plagued with hang-ups and freezing from resource-hungry applications. It will also come in handy for those running Windows 10 on older PCs.

Power-Mode Slider
This is for the mobile users who rely on battery power. By simply clicking on the battery icon in your system tray, you can adjust your power settings on the fly. Crank up the power settings if you need more computing firepower or dial it to reduce performance for a substantial increase your battery life.

Paint 3D
The new Paint 3D app dramatically boosts the power of the Paint we all know and love and adds 3D image manipulation.

Paint 3D is full of tools and filters that make 3D image manipulation simple and it can even help you convert 2D images into 3D objects.

Paint will now also work with Remix 3D, a website loaded with 3D images created by other Windows 10 users.

Windows 10 Update Improvements (Thank you, Microsoft!)
Since launch, one of the biggest gripes with Windows 10 has been its updating system. The current system can be an annoying, buggy mess and those forced updates tend to reset your PC at the most inopportune times. Two upcoming features aim to make these updates a bit more tolerable.

First, Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users will be able to defer new updates for up to 35 days. Unfortunately, this does not apply to Windows 10 Home Edition users.

Finally, Microsoft also increased the defined period when Windows cannot update from 12 to 18 hours in the Active Hours settings, helping those of us who are regularly using our PCs into the wee hours of the morning.

So, in conclusion…
The aforementioned updates only scratch the surface of what Microsoft will be implementing with the Creators Update.

In example, a free new built-in application, Groove Music, is set to be a direct competitor to Apple’s GarageBand, which until now was the only OS that directly catered to the niche market of amateur music producers.

As Windows 10 continues to evolve, we foresee further integration of mobile and desktop unity that will soon rival Apple’s dominance in the “one document, all devices” platform. Details about the Creators Update will be released regularly leading up to this massive update coming on April 11th, 2017.

Free Windows 10 Upgrade for SMBs: What You Need to Know

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

While Microsoft has recently accounted that free Windows 10 upgrades have been reinstated, there is a caveat: They are only available to SMBs that have previously declined the offer.

If you fall into that particular category, now is the time to reconsider.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the free Windows 10 upgrade and how it affects you.

Is it open to everyone?
No. It is open to SMB customers on Enterprise plans that are running personal computers on Windows 7 or 8.1.

[Read more…]

Windows 8 – WOW Does It Look Different!

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Microsoft’s venture into a truly mobile operating system, that can be spread spectrum across all of their platforms, was in theory a great idea.

What went wrong was underestimating the public’s attachment to the look and feel of their Windows XP and Windows 7 (we’ll just forget about Vista) operating system.

With many users still looking sideways at the new stylish Windows 8 interface, and even with the slight upgrades and changes in looks (ha, I laugh at the new start button) that Windows 8.1 has brought on since its release.

For many users out there, this still is not a big enough change to truly bring enjoyment to their personal computer experience.

If you are in “ever search mode” to locate and regain that look and feel of operating systems of yesteryear, there are two great programs that allow anyone of any level of computer experience to install and customize to regain that feeling of comfort.

Classic Shell, a freeware program, can enable a legacy-style Start menu and Windows Explorer interface. You can even have the Windows 7 menu back! But why stop there? Windows XP and Windows Classic menus are available as well. The Classic style will be a comfort to anyone upgrading from Windows 98.

The classic Explorer settings can also transport you into the way-back machine, and users can now have the simple Windows XP style back that they know and love.

A small low impact application that gives you a true look and feel of a Windows 7 interface, while still maintaining the complete functionally of the Windows 8 operating system.

Classic Shell, gives you a true start button and brings back Печатьthat all too familiar look and feel of your dearly departed Windows XP or 7 systems.

Check it out, it even offers a “Shut Down” button. Classic Shell also allows for customization of the new start menu.

Created by Stardock, a company that’s been making Windows user interface mod’s for years, Start8 comes as a free 30-day-trial. After that, you can “unlock” the third-party software for just $4.99.
Start8 does not re-enable the Windows Start menu. Instead, it creates a new menu that looks similar to it. Because of this, Stardock provides a great deal of customization.

Users can make the menu appear Metro-like by giving it square edges, or can stick with the Windows 7 look by giving it rounded edges. It’s also possible to change color, add or remove translucency, and give the Start menu button a custom icon.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s a plethora of options available in the app’s configuration and control menus for users to explore and customize.

Considering its low price and the large number of options, I think this software is a good deal. I even like the optional faux-Metro style.

However, Start8 doesn’t add any new functionality, so users are essentially paying $5 to have what was bundled with Windows 7.

So there you go. Two great choices, it just all comes down to “to pay or not pay, that is the question.”
Remember the technicians at Tech Experts are always ready to lend a hand.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Why Are Windows And Software Updates Important?

by Jeremy Miller, Technician
Everyone who owns a computer running Microsoft Windows has seen that pop-up alerting you that you have updates to install or that they have been installed. Updates are fixes for a known issue.

Microsoft uses an application called Windows Update Service to look for new updates, and then it categorizes the various updates by how critical they are.

There are security updates which patch vulnerabilities that can compromise your system.

Critical updates fix major issues found with Microsoft products that can cause errors or unusual behavior. Software updates are non-critical issues such as more features and minor bug fixes.

Service packs contain all updates and patches prior to the service pack. You can install a service pack to apply a large amount of updates at once. Also service packs can determine which software you can run.

It is important to update your computer to keep your computing environment stable. If you allow your computer to get too out of date such as not installing a service pack, you may not be able to run a lot of software.
Even worse if you do not install security updates you will have a larger “known” attack surface for exploits.

Windows is not the only software that updates. You have probably seen Adobe Reader, Flash Player, or Java letting you know that there are updates available for install in your system tray. They update for the same reason that Microsoft updates Windows.

Updates are important to keep your system secure and relatively issue free. Updates can also cause issues sometimes. It is better to install the update on a computer to see if there will be an issue before deploying it to the entire network.

A good example of this is if Internet Explorer 10 has just been installed on your computer and now all of a sudden you cannot print a report, the latest update may be the issue. You should first attempt to work with the new update.

Internet Explorer 10 has compatibility mode to work with older websites, if that does not work you may have to uninstall the update and use Internet Explorer 9. This happens because the company you are printing the report from is not compatible with the new Internet Explorer 10 browser.

You will have to wait until either the company updates their server to be compliant with Internet Explorer 10 or you will have to wait until Internet Explorer 10’s compatibility will work with the site.

Keeping your software up to date is an important part of secure computing. Threats and security holes are discovered every day; it is critical you apply any updates the manufacturer releases.

Not all updates apply to every environment, which means that not everyone will get the same updates; it is based on the software you have installed and when you installed it.

The only software that you should always update would be any anti-virus software. This software usually updates automatically several times a day. The moment your anti-virus gets out of date you are not protected with the latest anti-virus definitions.

If you are having trouble with updates and patching or if you have any questions give us a call. We can make sure your computers are up to date and keep you worry free.