help | how-to | troubleshooting Thu, 21 Nov 2019 08:47:51 +0100 en-GB hourly 1 32 32 140865022 Introducing the Windows Terminal Thu, 21 Nov 2019 09:16:59 +0000 Read the postIntroducing the Windows Terminal]]> If you do a lot of scripting in Windows, either through the Command Prompt, Powershell, or are using Azure Cloud Shell, or Windows Subsystem for Linux, then you might be interested in Windows Terminal.  This is a Microsoft Store app available for Windows 10 that can be installed on your PC to provide a tabbed development environment in which you can write and run scripts for all these command types side-by-side.

For real scripting geeks, the Settings for the app are contained within a text file that needs to be amended manually.  The Windows Terminal can be downloaded from this LINK.

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Create a Safe Test Environment with Windows Sandbox Wed, 20 Nov 2019 09:02:00 +0000 Read the postCreate a Safe Test Environment with Windows Sandbox]]> Sometimes you need to download and test or evaluate a piece of software that’re sure about.  Alternatively you might need to access websites you think may be unsafe, or insecure.  You don’t want to expose your PC and Windows to online threats, and so Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise includes a feature that enables you to create a single-use test environment called Windows Sandbox.

To activate this feature, from the Control Panel, open Programs and Features and from the left panel click the Turn Windows features on and off link.  When the Windows features panel appears, find Windows Sandbox and enable it.  You will then be able to find Sandbox in the Start Menu.

Sandbox, opens in a window on the desktop as a complete, clean Windows 10 installation, complete with Internet access.  While this sandbox is open you can download and install software, visit websites online and more, all safe in the knowledge that everything you do is completely isolated from your main Windows installation.

When you are finished with the sandbox session, simply close the window.  Everything you were doing in the sandbox will be permanently deleted, and nothing you did within the sandbox will be saved or can affect your PC.

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Using the Desktop Magnifier in Windows Tue, 19 Nov 2019 09:05:48 +0000 Read the postUsing the Desktop Magnifier in Windows]]> If you difficulty reading what’s on your PC’s screen, you can enlarge everything by activating the Magnifier.  You can find this in Settings or by pressing Windows key + Ctrl + M.  Here you can control the standard magnification level from 200% all the way up to 1600%.  You can also set the Magnifier to automatically start when you sign into Windows, to invert the colours on your screen to make things easier to see, and how you want the magnifier to operate.

You can then turn the Magnifier on by pressing Windows key + Plus (+) and turn it off again with Windows key + Esc.

There are three different modes for the magnifier, Full screen where it appears as a floating widget on your screen and the whole screen is magnified, Lens where a floating lens appears underneath your mouse cursor, and Docked which places a magnified dock at the top of your screen.  The widget also contains Zoom out and Zoom in controls.  You can zoom from the desktop by using the keys Windows key + Plus (+) and Windows key + Minus (-).

If you find anything on your PC difficult to see or read, the Magnifier could help.  Alternatively you can scale all the text on your screen to make everything larger.  You can read how to use this feature HERE.

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Choosing and Buying a New PC or Laptop Mon, 18 Nov 2019 07:54:14 +0000 Read the postChoosing and Buying a New PC or Laptop]]> With the end of all support coming for Windows 7 on January 14th, if your existing computer won’t run Windows 10, you will have to buy a new PC in order to be able to keep your web browsing, files, documents, and financial and personal information safe.  There’s the choice of purchasing a Google Chromebook, but if you’re set on a PC then what do you purchase?

The Black Friday, Christmas and New Year sales are all coming up, with big savings to be made.  Not every desktop PC or laptop though presents good value for money.  So here’s my top tips for getting a great value machine.


The processor (also called the CPU) does all the hard work to make the PC operate.  There are different choices of processor these days, and you should be aware of the major differences between them.  With processors from Intel you can get a Celeron, Pentium, Atom, Core 2, Core 2 Duo, Core M, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9, with the power increasing as you work through the list.

The Core i7 and Core i9 are overkill for general usage, with the Core i5 being the sweet spot of power and performance.  The Core i5 includes integrated graphics, so can be used for light gaming.  The Core i3 is otherwise identical to the i5, but it lacks the integrated graphics.  As for the other processors, you will get reasonable performance from a Core M, but you should expect the other processors to be slow.

You can also buy processors from AMD.  They have the FX, A-Series, Athlon and Ryzen ranges.  Of these it’s only the Ryzen processors that offer good performance, and you’ll notice slowdowns with the other chips.  AMD chips are cheaper than their Intel counterparts however, so a Ryzen-powered machine could present excellent value.


There are huge variations in laptop display types.  First there’s the panel type, this is the technology that forms the display itself.  Of these LCD panels are the worst.  Colours can be washed out, screens can look grainy, and contrast can be poor.  OLED panels are the best with deep blacks, and good contrast.  OLED screens can be expensive however and so LED screens present a good sweet spot between the two.

Then there’s the resolution.  The lowest resolution you’ll find will be 1280 by 720.  This can be great for older people, whose eyesight isn’t as sharp as it once was, as everything will be larger on the screen.  It won’t be as sharp as a full HD, 1920 by 1080 panel however, and this is certainly the sweet spot and is recommended for general usage.  Any resolution higher than this is only really useful on more powerful PCs, and will also impact battery life.


There are several different types of storage available.  Traditional spinning hard disks can still be found, and come in two varieties.  5400rpm and 7200rpm with the former being very slow, you’d want to make a cup of tea when starting your PC or loading games.  When it comes to solid-state storage, eMMC should be avoided at all costs.  This is effectively having the type of memory card you put in your phone or digital camera as the storage on your PC, and the performance is woeful.

When it comes to the better types of storage SSD (Solid State Disks) is the sweet spot for price and performance, with NVMe and M.2 drives offering much faster perormance.  These last two types can push up the price of a PC substantially however.  Also, if the interface type is mentioned, PCI drives are generally faster than SATA.

As for the amount of storage to get, don’t buy anything smaller then 128GB as you will very quickly run out of space.  128GB is fine if you just live in a web browser, but 256GB will give you more headroom.  If you have a lot of files and photos, try and go for 512GB or larger.


The memory is different from storage as it’s what Windows and your software is loaded into when the computer starts.  All types of memory will likely be fast enough for general use, but lower cost machines will have smaller amounts.  Avoid anything with less than 4GB at all costs, the performance will be woeful.  4GB is the absolute minimum, but even with this amount you’ll get a slow PC.  If you can get a PC with 6GB of memory then you’ll get a good deal, but 8GB is really the happiest amount to have on a PC.  Anything higher than 8GB can help, with 16GB being great, but prices can rise sharply.


Batteries in laptops are all Lithium-ion so you need to look at the mAH power rating, with higher being better, and the specified usage time.  However many hours the manufacturer says the battery will last, it’s always wise to halve the number they state.  Their tests are always done with the screen at 50% brightness, and Wi-Fi turned off.  This is likely not going to match your own daily usage.


The quality of laptop keyboards can vary considerably, with the price of a laptop not necessarily determining how good the keyboard really is.  If you’re purchasing a laptop or desktop (where the keyboard, mouse and screen will likely be bundled) in a shop then have a play with the keyboard.  Look for the solidity of the typing experience, and also for any bounce in the centre of the keyboard when you press down.  If you’re purchasing online it’s always a good idea to search for the computer model online, and find some reviews.

Graphics Card

It’s worth mentioning discrete graphics cards.  These are only required if you want to perform tasks such as PC gaming or photo and video editing.  There’s never any need to purchase the most recent generation of card as they can come with substantial costs.  The previous generation of cards can usually be found discounted and sometimes at a fraction of the cost of the latest cards, and the generation before will normally be perfectly fine for anything except demanding games.

The choice between Nvidia and AMD cards is usually a personal one.  There’s very little in it as a general rule, though for gaming it can be worth searching online to see if other gamers recommend one brand over another for the games you play.


All computers will come with USB ports.  If you want to future-proof your PC however look for USB type-C “Thunderbolt” sockets.  Standard USB-C run at a much slower speed than their Thunderbolt cousins.  For lower-end computers, look for USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 as they are significantly faster than older USB 2 sockets.


The laptops and desktops you will find on sale will always be last year’s models, where manufacturers and retailers want to offload their stock to make way for the latest models that are usually released in the autumn of each year.  These computers are always reviewed online, so a quick search can help you determine if you’re getting a great machine, or a crock.

All of this makes my recommendations for a great PC that will last a good few years…


Core M, Core i3 or Ryzen 3 processor, 6GB RAM, and 128GB SSD storage, with an LED full HD screen.


Core-i5 or Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD storage, with an LED full HD screen.


Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB or 1TB SSD or NVMe storage, and an LED or OLED full HD or 2560 by 1440 resolution screen.

Post expires at 11:59pm on Monday January 13th, 2020

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Getting Started with Hyper-V in Windows Fri, 15 Nov 2019 11:43:50 +0000 Read the postGetting Started with Hyper-V in Windows]]> If you use Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you can create Virtual Machines (VM) that will run on your desktop.  These can run test or evaluation environments for a variety of operating systems, including Windows and Linux.  These VMs run in Hyper-V which you can activate by opening Control Panel and then Programs and Features before clicking the Turn Windows features on or off link in the right panel.  Find Hyper-V in the list of features, check it, and click OK.  You will be prompted to restart the PC.

Hyper-V then appears in the Start Menu and when you run it you’ll see that it has three main panels.  The panel on the left contains details of your installed virtualisation server (i.e. your installed copy of Windows), the one in the centre has details of any installed VMs and below that and stored Checkpoints for those VMs, and the panel on the right contains context-sensitive options for Hyper-V in the top section, and context-sensitive options for your selected VM in the bottom section.

You can create network connections for your VMs by clicking Virtual Switch Manager in the top right of the Hyper-V console.  There are three types of switches you can create.  External network, allows VMs to access your local network and the Internet, Internal network allows VMs to only access your local network, and Private network only allows VMs to see other VMs running in Hyper-V on that PC.

To create a new Virtual Machine, click the New > Virtual Machine option in the top right of the Hyper-V panel.  You will need an ISO installation image for the operating system you wish to install, and can figure various options such as how much of your PCs’s physical memory is allocated to the VM.

If you need to have a clean and safe operating system environment for testing, demonstration, or development purposes then using Hyper-V is a great way to achieve this.  It also allows you to run additional operating systems on your desktop which is useful if, for example, you are developing in Linux while using Windows.  This means you don’t have to create a dual-boot system on your PC.

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Block Internet Access in Windows 7 Thu, 14 Nov 2019 12:42:30 +0000 Read the postBlock Internet Access in Windows 7]]> Some people need will really to continue using Windows 7 after support ends on January 14th 2020.  This will be for mission-critical purposes, such as operating machinery or static equipment.  If this is the case you should ensure that the PC is completely isolated from the Internet, with both inbound and outbound connections blocked.

To achieve this, search in the Windows 7 Start Menu for Firewall and run Windows Firewall with Advanced Security when it appears in the search results.  From the main Advanced Firewall screen, click the Windows Firewall Properties link, and you can set the state of both inbound and outbound connections to Block, making sure inbound connections is set to Block all connections.  You should make this change for all three network types, Domain, Private, and Public.

You can then allow connections to devices and PCs on your local network, though please remember to only grant access to devices that Windows 7 machine really needs access to, as a malware infected computer or device could then transfer that malware to the unprotected and unpatched Windows 7 PC.

To allow access to your local network, click Outbound rules and then in the right-side panel click New Rule.  Choose the Custom rule type and under the Scope link on the right side of the wizard, add the local IP address, or addresses, or the IP address range you wish to grant access to.

At the next screen, Allow the connection optionally choosing to allow it only if the connection is encrypted between the computers at both ends.  Set the rule to only apply to Private networks, and save the rule.  You will now be able to access resources on your local network using Windows 7, but any inbound and outbound traffic to and from the Internet will be automatically blocked.

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View the Reliability History of your PC Wed, 13 Nov 2019 09:32:36 +0000 Read the postView the Reliability History of your PC]]> If you experience problems on your PC, you can get useful and easy to understand information about crashes and errors from the Reliability Monitor.  To open this, search for reliability in the Start Menu.  This displays a graph showing different days, and events on your PC over a period of time.  You can scroll left and right by clicking the arrows on each end of the graph.

Critical errors (Red circle), Warnings (Yellow triangle), and Events (Blue circle) are shown as graphics on the graph and when you click on a day, details of all the events on that day appear in the bottom half of the window.

If you click the View technical details link to the right of an error or event, detailed information about that event will be displayed.  This will include a Windows error code if there is on (always in the format 0x00…) that you can search for online to find a solution.

In all, the Windows Reliability Monitor is a great way to easily see what has happened to cause a problem on your PC, and to begin to get details on how you can fix it.

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Boost your Productivity with Windows key shortcuts Tue, 12 Nov 2019 08:17:26 +0000 Read the postBoost your Productivity with Windows key shortcuts]]> You’ll probably already be aware of keyboard shortcuts you can use with your PC to speed up common tasks, such as Ctrl + X, C and V for Cut, Copy and Paste, and Alt + Tab to switch between running apps.  But did you know there are a lot of shortcut keys you can use with the Windows key to speed up your work, and increase your productivity?  Here are some keyboard shortcuts you might find useful.

Key combination Action
Win + A Open Action Centre
Win + D Display the desktop
Win + M Minimize all windows
Win + Shift + M Restore minimized windows to the desktop
Win + E Open File Manager
Win + L Lock your computer or switch users
Win + T Cycle through programs on the Taskbar
Win + number Start or switch to the program pinned to the Taskbar in the position indicated
Win + Shift + number Start a new instance of the program pinned to the taskbar in the position indicated
Win + Ctrl + number Switch to the last active window of the program pinned to the Taskbar in the position indicated
Win + Alt + number Open the Jump list for the program pinned to the Taskbar in the position indicated
Win + Tab Open Windows Timeline
Win + V Open the Clipboard app
Win + Up Arrow Maximize the current window
Win + Left Arrow Snap the window to the left side of the screen
Win + Right Arrow Snap the window to the right side of the screen
Win + Down Arrow Minimize the window
Win + Home Minimize all but the active window
Win + Shift + Up Arrow Stretch the window to the top and bottom of the screen
Win + Shift + Left or Right Arrow Move a window from one monitor or virtual desktop to another
Win + P Choose a presentation display mode
Win + U Open Accessibility Settings
Win + X Open the context menu for the Start button
Win + . or + ; Open the Emoji panel
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Access Special Characters Easily in Windows Mon, 11 Nov 2019 09:11:51 +0000 Read the postAccess Special Characters Easily in Windows]]> It can be quite often on a PC when you need access to special characters such as foreign currency symbols, specialist mathematical characters, or common foreign language characters.  Traditionally in Windows you’ve had to open the Character Map app, find the right character, and in the correct font, and then copy and paste it into your document.

Windows 10 makes it much simpler to add special characters to your documents though, and this is done through the unlikely method of using the Emoji panel.  From anywhere in Windows, and from within any program or app, press the Windows key + . (full stop) and the emoji panel will open.

If you click on the special character (Omega) symbol at the top of the Emoji panel special characters will be displayed, and you can scroll down the list to find the character you need.  Additionally, at the bottom of the panel are a series of categories with the current category underlined.

These categories include mathematics symbols, latin symbols, currency symbols and more.  Click one of these category icons to reveal more characters from which you can choose.  When you have found the symbol you want, all you need to do is click it, and it will instantly be inserted into your document.

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How to Pause Updates in Windows 10, and Why You Might Want To Fri, 08 Nov 2019 09:29:53 +0000 Read the postHow to Pause Updates in Windows 10, and Why You Might Want To]]> Sometimes you’re working on a project that’s so important, you can’t afford to be interrupted by anything, let alone Windows installing updates and, worse, asking for you to restart the PC.  It’s easy to pause updates in Windows for up to 30 days.

From Settings, open Update & Security and you will see a Pause for 7 days button.  This is a quick and easy way to pause all updates on your PC for one week.  If you click the Advanced options button though, you will see additional options.

Scroll down the Advanced options page and you will see an option to Pause until.  Here you can pause Windows Updates for a full month, giving you time to concentrate on what you need to do, uninterrupted.

Additionally, there are options for pausing Feature updates for up to one year, and pausing Quality updates for up to one month.  Quality updates include security and stability patches, so they are important and you should install them when you can.  Feature updates though are released twice a year, in the spring and autumn, and contain new features for the operating system.

If you don’t want or need these they can be deferred up to one year.  This can be useful, as occasionally these feature updates can have bugs that can cause problems on PCs.  Deferring their installation for a while gives Microsoft time to make sure these updates are stable and reliable.

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