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How to use System Restore in Safe Mode

Windows 10 RestoreAs explained in our last email System Restore can take Windows 10 back to a point before any problems start to cause your PC to misbehave and will still leave all your precious documents intact.

However, sometimes, things like a faulty driver or a buggy program can prevent System Restore from working properly. In cases like these, it’s best to try Windows Safe Mode, which runs just a barebones version of the Windows operating system to strip out anything that might cause a problem.

To enter Safe Mode Click Start, then type Change advanced startup options and click the top result. From the settings window that appears, click “Restart now” under the Advanced startup heading.

When your PC restarts, click Troubleshoot, then Advanced options, then System Restore. You should then be able to run System Restore as normal.

The Windows 10 Restore Point – Creation and Use

Windows 10 RestoreWhether it’s a failed Windows Update or a problem with the Windows Registry, or a bad software installation, System Restore can take Windows 10 back to a point before the problems started and will leave all your precious documents intact.

For many people, System Restore protection is already turned on by default, for just the main system drive (C:). For others, System Restore may not enabled by default for any of your drives.

If you want to be protected by System Restore, you should certainly turn it on for at least your system drive (C:). In most cases, that’s all you need, since all the things System Restore protects tend to be located on the system drive anyway. If you want to turn on System Restore protection for any other drives you can do that too.

To make sure System Restore is turned on and to enable it for specific drives hit Start, type ‘restore’, and then click ‘Create a restore point.’ This action doesn’t actually create a restore point; it just opens the dialog where you can get to all the System Restore options.

Click your system drive (usually C), then click Configure. In the window that appears, click “Turn on system protection.” Click Apply, then OK, then click OK on the System Properties window. This will enable System Restore and let it begin protecting your Windows PC.

Once System Restore is working you can create your own restore point at any time. A good idea is to create a restore point just before you install any new programs.

To create a restore point click Start then type ‘restore’ and click ‘Create a restore point’. Under the System Protection tab, click Create. You are then prompted to name the restore point. Make it something descriptive that will help you if you need to restore your PC back to this point in time. Once you’ve done that, click Create.

Restore your PC to an earlier point

There are a number of ways to use System Restore to get your PC back to an earlier state. The easiest is to open the System Properties window then click System Restore. Click Next, then choose a restore point from the on-screen list.

Before you click Next to move on, it’s a good idea to click ‘Scan for affected programs’ to see what (if any) programs will not be installed if you use this restore point. Once you have done that, click Close, then Next, then Finish to confirm you want to restore this particular point.

You can see how useful System Restore would be especially if something goes wrong with your Windows PC . You can now run System Restore and click on a recent restore point. This will reinstate system settings, files, and drivers, returning your underlying Windows system to that earlier point in time.

The Windws 10 Command Prompt

The Windws 10 Command PromptCommand Prompt is one of the most basic of all the advanced features of Windows 10.

Hidden away due to the technical know-how needed to operate the program which intimidates a lot of users, the command prompt program allows users to perform some interesting actions on a PC, such as creating bespoke shortcuts that can be pinned to the taskbar. One such action could be shutting down the computer with just one click.

Windows 10 command prompt can even carry out more advanced actions that aren’t necessarily available using the graphical user interface (GUI) of Windows 10.

What is the Command Prompt?

The Command Prompt will never win any awards for its looks, the white text on a black background is not that enticing. But it will be instantly recognisable to many Windows users. The Command Prompt can be used to type out commands and execute them, which can be particularly useful for automating tasks via scripts and batch files, as well as carrying out advanced administrative functions and fixing many problems in Windows.

There are many different ways to open the program, the simplest of which involves simply typing ‘command prompt’ or ‘cmd’ into the Windows 10 search bar and it will be the top result. If you want to make serious changes to your system using command prompt, you will most likely have to ‘Run as administrator’. This can be done by right-clicking the command prompt icon in search.

The Command Prompt works at a more basic level than Windows, this is not to say it isn’t powerful, far from it. It means you gain more control over the PC and communicate with it in a more direct way. Aside from common commands (dir, cd, copy, del), it can be used to access parts of the operating system that are not available to the graphical user interface.

In addition to the commands mentioned above (which show file directory listings, changes file directories, copies files, and delete them.) There are a number of other useful commands such as ipconfig (which shows what IP address a computer has), Tracert (which shows information on each step between the computer and a target host elsewhere on the internet – such as a website), and the system file checker (sfc), which finds any corrupt or missing files, and automatically replaces them using cached copies kept by Windows.

To see even more commands check out https://www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/pchelparticles/dos_commands.html

How to create a list of all the programs that are currently installed on your Windows PC

create list of programsHave you ever taken a look at all the programs that are actually installed on your PC? If you have, you were probably a bit surprised that there are so many of them.

To generate a list of all the programs that are installed on your PC, and to print it out, follow these simple steps.

1. Press the Windows + R key combination to open a ‘Run’ box.

2. Type cmd into the Run box, then press the Enter key. If you end up in C:\Users, type cd\ to get to the C prompt.

3. Type wmic and press the Enter key.

4.  Now type product get name,version and press the Enter key. After a short while, Windows will generate a list of all the programs that are currently installed on your Windows PC.

You can now print your list of installed programs.

a. Use your mouse to select all the text in the black box.

b. Now press the Ctrl+C key combination to copy the contents of the window to the clipboard.

c. Next open Notepad and paste the data that you copied to the clipboard in the previous step into a new document (press the Ctrl+V key combination).

d. Click File>Print.

e. (Optional) Since you already have the list of programs loaded into Notepad you can also save a digital copy of it as well simply by simply clicking File>Save as.

The Windows 10 Snipping Tool

The Windows’ built-in Snipping Tool lets you capture a custom section of the screen, then mark up, save, and share that image.

To get started, click the Start button, type snip into the search box, and then click Snipping Tool at the top of the list. Next, click the ‘New’ drop-down and then select the desired shape of your snip.

You know the program is ready to snip when your screen dims. If you’re not quite ready to snip yet, just click Cancel until you are.

Snipping involves clicking and dragging a box (outlined in red) around the area of the screen you want to save. The moment you release the mouse button, that captured area will appear in the Snipping Tool window.

From there you can save the snip (in your choice of GIF, JPEG, PNG, or HTML formats), copy it to the clipboard, email it, or add some basic notations using a pen and highlighter.

The Snipping Tool is a great little tool and easy to use.

Note – Microsoft are gradually replacing the Snipping Tool with Snip & Sketch, which is more or less the same, but with the added ability to crop, highlight, write on, or even draw on the image.

Changing the size of Notepad if it now fills the monitors screen

Notepad fullscreenNotepad is a simple text editor included in all versions of Windows. It is great for making notes and even preparing long documents.

Sometimes the way we use this simple program can cause us problems. If you open Notepad and adjust its size to fill the monitor screen, the next time you open it defaults to the same same size and position you last closed Notepad. So how can you reduce its size back to a more manageble view?

To fix this, re-size Notepad by left-clicking (and hold it without releasing the left click) on the horizontal or vertical corners (or sides) of the screen. When done, simply close the Notepad window and next time, it will automatically open Notepad into your newly setup default window size and place on the screen.

How to disable the blur effect on the Windows 10 login screen

transparency effectWith the general widespread deployment of the Microsoft Windows 10 May 2019 Update, you may have noticed one particular change in your PC’s behaviour more than the others – this update blurs the background image on the standard login screen.

This change may not appeal to all users, but there are three ways to disable this effect.

1. How to disable the blur effect using the Personalization Settings

The blur effect created by the Windows 10 May 2019 Update is, in reality, a transparency effect and can easily be turned off through the Personalization Settings. Click or tap the Start Menu button in the lower left-hand corner of the Windows 10 desktop and select the Settings icon. Choose Personalization from the list of settings and select the Colors item found in the left-hand navigation menu.

Scroll down the page until you see Transparency effects. If you turn off ‘transparency effects’ the next time you reboot your PC and log in, the blur effect will be gone. The downside with this option is that all the other transparency effects common to the Windows 10 Operating System will disappear as well. This may not be the result you were looking for. However, you do have two more alternatives.

2. How to disable the blur effect with an edit of the Registry File

If you need to amend the Windows Registry always make sure that you back up your Registry settings before proceeding and create a valid Restore Point before you proceed.

If you would like to disable the blur effect, but only for the Windows 10 login screen, you can do this by editing the Registry File. Type “regedit” into the desktop search box and select the registry editor from the results. In the editor, navigate to this key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System

As you will see there are no values in the System folder, so you will have to create one.

Right-click the System folder and select New | DWORD (32-bit) Value and give it the name DisableAcrylicBackgroundOnLogon. Double-click the new key and change its value to 1, and click OK.

This change will disable the blur effect from the Windows 10 login page but will maintain all the other transparency effects.

3. How to disable the blur effect with Group Policy settings

If you have Microsoft Windows 10 Professional, you can disable the blur effect with the Local Group Policy Editor and avoid the hassle and danger of editing the Registry File.

Type “group policy” into the Windows 10 desktop search box and select the editor from the list of results. In the editor, navigate to this folder:

Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Logon

In the right-hand list of settings, find the ‘Show clear logon background item‘.

Double-click the ‘Show clear logon background’ item to open the group policy settings screen. Change the setting to Enabled, click OK, and you will have successfully disabled the blur effect from the Windows 10 login page.

If you ever want to reenable the blur effect, navigate to the same group policy setting, and change it to Disabled.

How to know when your Solid State Drive could fail

Crucial 500GB SSDThe main difference between Hard Drives and Solid State Drives (SSD’s) is this: The area of a hard drive that can hold data can be rewritten as many times as is needed, and will always be usable as long as the drive is functioning (until bad sectors begin to cause problems). This is not the case with SSD’s: Each cell that holds data can only be written to, or programmed, a finite number of times before it is effectively dead. That’s because every time a write operation needs to be performed, any data in the cell has to be erased before it’s used. This process of writing/erasing/rewriting causes wear and tear on the cells and erosion of the insulator between cells. So eventually, individual cells can no longer hold a charge.

Different types of flash memory have different life cycles depending on how many bits there are per cell. Fewer bits equal fewer problems over time, and more bits seem to cause more issues.

The most common form of flash in SSD’s is called MLC, which stands for Multi-Level Cell. This means each cell can hold two bits of data, and this type of flash, generally speaking, can handle 3,000 or so cycles of erasing the cells and reprogramming them.

More recently, SSD manufacturers are using a type of flash called TLC, which stands for Triple-Level Cell. This adds one more bit to each cell, thus improving density – but at the cost of endurance. This type of flash can generally withstand 1,000 cycles, or about one-third the endurance of MLC.

All this means your SSD has a finite lifespan, usually measured in “terabytes written” (TBW). Manufacturers don’t often quote these numbers, and your SSD might die way before it hits this magic number, or long afterward, depending on a multitude of factors.

Typically, most SSD’s that are heavily used will last at least 5 years and possibly even longer.

Coveniently most SSD’s include software that will tell you how much data has already been written to your drive.

Different brands of SSD’s offer their own utilities. Here are links for Crucial, Sandisk, and Intel.

You can also use a third-party tool – Crystal Disk Info

If Windows 10 Update stops Working

Windows Update ProblemsA lot of people have reported issues with Windows Update in Windows 10 Home and Widows 10 Professional. Check first that you have upgraded to the ‘Windows 10 Fall update’. If you are still getting problems, download and run the ‘Windows Update Trouble Shooter’, then reboot and try Windows Update again.

If the update problems still persist, first check that System Restore is configured and create and name a restore point. With this done, use the Windows Search box and type ‘command prompt’ (without the quotes)’. When it appears at the top of the list right click it and select ‘Run as Administrator’.

When the Administrators Command Prompt opens type cd/ and then type ‘net stop wuauserv’ (without the quotes) and hit Enter, followed by ‘net stop bits’ and Enter. You should see confirmations that each service was either stopped or wasn’t running.

Next, open Windows Explorer, navigate to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution, and delete its contents including any sub-folders you find there.

Now reboot your PC, open Windows Update and click Check for updates. Hopefully, these steps should resolve any problems you have been experiencing with Windows Update.

If Windows 10 Lock Screen Gets in the Way

If you return to a locked Windows 10 device you will normally see a pretty picture. That’s all very nice, but it’s a needless obstacle in the way of logging into Windows 10.

If you want to disable this use the Start Menu to search for ‘regedit’ and run the Registry editor.

Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. If you don’t already see a key named ‘Personalization’, select the Windows key, right-click it, choose New>Key and rename this new key to Personalization. Right-click the Personalization key, choose New again then select DWORD (32-bit) Value. Select ‘New Value #1’ in the right-hand pane and right click it and select Rename. Now rename it as NoLockScreen. Now double-click NoLockScreen and change its Value data to 1 and click OK. After a reboot, the lock screen will be gone!