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.

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

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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

Why You Should Upgrade Your Business PCs to Windows 10

jared-stemeye

Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

As of April 2017, Windows 10 holds around 25% of the computer operating system market share for all computers in the world and it continues to grow. Windows 7, on the other hand, is still the overall leader, retaining a staggering 49% of the entire OS market share. The remaining difference is held by Windows 8, Linux, and Mac OS users.

These numbers show many stick with 7 — the Windows they know and love — but as each day passes, this is less and less of a feasible solution for the long term.

End Of Windows 7 Extended Support Is Coming

Windows 7 was initially released in July of 2009 and quickly became the most popular Windows ever created. Almost ten years later, many still feel the same.

However, this popularity is not saving Windows 7 from the end of its security and support updates. Official support of the Windows 7 OS actually ended back in January 2015, then went into extended support. Now, the end of the extended support has been labeled with a January 2020 termination date.

This may seem distant, but these next three years will pass faster than most think and, once this support ends, users will be forced to use Windows 10 if they want to remain secure.

This is especially true for business that are required to meet certain security compliances. Now, pair this with the learning curve for some that would be involved with adjusting to Windows 10. You don’t want your employees spending time figuring out the changes when they could have already been acclimated.

Windows 10 Then vs. Now

Many refused to leave Windows 7 as Windows 8 was so different… and not in a good way. Many believed Windows 10 would be the same as Windows 8 and, in many ways during the initial release, it was. This is no longer the case. It truly is an understatement to say that Windows 10 is better now than when it was first released. The updates, including the newly released Creators Update, have taken Windows 10 to new heights of accessibility, ease of use, and features.

Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 has the start menu you know and love. Along with this, 10 provides additional file accessibility with Cortana voice control and customizable tiles for your favorite applications. There is also the universal notification and security center. The notification center has links to other useful features like the Windows 10 Settings app, VPN settings, and quick toggles for things like location and Quiet Mode. If you have a Windows machine connected to a touchscreen, there’s also a button to quickly switch between desktop and tablet modes. Finally, Microsoft has already stated that 10 will receive at least two massive updates a year and will continue to evolve over a foreseeably long lifespan.

What You Should Do

The sooner businesses upgrade to Windows 10, the better off employees and administration will be. Sadly, Windows 7 does not have much time left and investing any more time into learning the quirks and shortcuts of 7 will be wasted time after January 2020. Though the free upgrade for Windows 10 Home and Pro users have expired, any Windows Enterprise users can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free. You can access all Windows support lifecycle information here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/13853/windows-lifecycle-fact-sheet. If you’re looking toward upgrading or need help to ensure that the upgrading process goes smoothly, you can reach us at (734) 457-5000; we would be happy to help.

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…]

Faster Updates On The Horizon For Windows Users

Last month, Microsoft announced that the latest release of Windows will deliver more rapid and smaller OS updates straight to user’s mobile devices or PCs.

The group’s Unified Update Platform (UUP) encompasses a novel set of technologies that will offer “differential downloads;” that is, OS updates that deliver specifically what the user needs and nothing more. Microsoft is using the analogy of a gaming app to explain how the concept works. If a user downloads an update to an existing gaming app as opposed to downloading the entire game again, the user simply receives the data required to update the game. In the same way, the differential download package will only contain the data related to the changes that have been made since the last update, thereby significantly reducing the download speed and size.

In addition to making updates faster and more efficient, Microsoft will also enhance the logic that underpins the OS update checks. Instead of sending data back and forth, it will place the processing burden on the server, making checks much faster.

Mobile users can also expect to see some positive changes. While new mobile devices have traditionally been delivered at the base build and have required “two hops” to reach the latest release, mobile devices will now behave more like PCs, offering single-hop updates.

Severe Security Vulnerabilities Patched By Microsoft

Early last month, Microsoft released 13 security patches as part of Patch Tuesday.

While such security measures are usual, this one was particularly important because six of those patches were categorized as critical and require user attention to be put into place.

These six patches addressed programming flaws that had the potential to give cyber-attackers the means to gain full user rights in a wide array of Microsoft’s software programs. The remaining seven patches address the elevation of privileges, denial of service, and ways to bypass security features.

The programs that were at risk from these flaws included all supported versions of Microsoft Windows, the new Edge browser, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office (including Services and Web Apps), Microsoft Server Software, Adobe Flash Player, and Microsoft .NET Framework.

According to Microsoft, these flaws were detected before any actual security breaches stemming from these issues actually occurred.

If they had not been discovered, cybercriminals may have been able to gain user rights to Microsoft programs via specially crafted websites from remote locations.

Microsoft strongly urges Windows Vista and later operating system users to ensure the latest updates have been installed, especially if they do not have their systems set for Automatic Updates.

Should Your Company Install The Windows 10 Preview?

In short, no. While the Windows 10 Technical Preview is free of charge, there are too many dangers in downloading what is essentially the Beta release of Microsoft’s newest operating system.

There’s a reason why the preview is available, and it’s not to generate excitement about its coming release this fall. The preview exists for Microsoft to discover bugs and glitches that are present in this version, so they can fix them before Windows 10 officially hits the market. Unless you just enjoy being part of that process, it’s best to leave the testing to others.

It is especially important to wait for the official Windows 10 release if you only have one PC or mobile device.

Since all the kinks have not yet been worked out, you could find yourself unable to use accessories like printers or scanners if you make the premature jump into the new operating system. You also can’t be assured that the Windows 10 preview is safe for your devices, and it’s simply not worth the risk of incurring problems that can not only be costly moneywise but in the ill use of your time trying to correct any damage.

Furthermore, the technical preview isn’t complete. The features you’re looking forward to may not be included. The Spartan web browser and Holograph feature are missing from the Windows 10 preview.

So, even if the test version of the operating system functions seamlessly, you’re apt to be disappointed. Although you may be chomping at the bit to get rid of your old operating system, the wise thing to do is wait until Microsoft perfects Windows 10 and then fully explore it when it’s finally released, making sure it is compatible with your business applications.

The Reality Of Microsoft EOL Software

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

As in life, all good things come to an end. This fact is also true in the software world. When a software company decides to move on from outdated versions of its software they schedule an EOL or End of Life date.

This is set to allow businesses and home users time to plan and ready themselves to upgrade to the most recent versions.

With 90% of the world’s computers running some form of Microsoft software, no other company in the world has more of an impact when setting EOL dates than Microsoft.

From Office software suites to operating systems for desktops and servers (and even cross platforms such as Office for Apple-based computers), Microsoft software is everywhere.

This alone is the number one reason for preparing and upgrading before an EOL date is upon you. There is no greater example of this as when the EOL date for Windows XP arrived.

Companies that made the migration to Windows 7 well in advance were able to test their company software and hardware, as well as communicate with their vendors to secure working upgrades to both. Those that didn’t suffered productivity and business loss due to unneeded and unplanned downtime to make the necessary upgrades and changes.

But for the basic home user, this was a time of doubt. Many users didn’t want to (or have the means to) replace all of the outdated hardware or software.

Spending several hundred dollars on new software and hardware just to be able to receive security updates and patches seemed a little excessive to most home users.

However, keeping security and your data safe is another reason to make sure you make migration plans.

In most cases when an EOL date has come and gone, so has any and all support for your software and hardware. Other software and hardware vendors will soon follow suit and discontinue support for their products that are installed on systems running non-supported software, including operating systems.

Anti-virus software companies are usually the first to discontinue their support. After all, if the operating system is no longer receiving updated security patches, it becomes difficult to continue to support their software.

Computer systems running EOL software will become major targets for hackers and malicious malware. Your personal data will be at risk.

The truth is it’s not the intent of companies like Microsoft to be malicious when ending support for their products.

No matter how popular they may be throughout the world, it’s a business decision. For any company to grow, they must keep developing and growing their products.

This development and growth is expensive and requires a large percentage of their resources. Continuing to support outdated software and hardware would limit these resources.

This would cause development overhead to rise and, in turn, make that $39 inkjet printer cost $89 or raise the price of that $119 operating system to $199.

By ending support and moving forward, companies such as Microsoft are able to develop new and exciting hardware and software for both the largest of companies and the smallest home user while keeping prices affordable to all.

Some important future EOL dates to keep in mind:

July 15, 2015
The end for support for Microsoft Server 2003 and 2003 R2

April 10, 2017
The end of support for Windows Vista (all versions)

October 10, 2017
The end of support for Microsoft Office 2007 (all versions)

January 14, 2020
The end of support for Server 2008

October 13, 2020
The end of support for Microsoft Office 2010 (all versions)