help | how-to | troubleshooting Fri, 25 Sep 2020 12:58:33 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 32 32 140865022 How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Emails Thu, 07 May 2020 06:55:30 +0000 There are a great many criminals out in the world who want to gain access to your bank, credit card, and personal information.  The latter is very important as it will give them crucial information such as your full name, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, and often a password of security question answer, like a pet’s name, that can be used to bypass security on websites where you will also store bank and credit card data.

Fortunately it’s very easy to protect yourself from what are called Phishing emails.  A large number of these will already be caught by the spam filters from Microsoft and Google, but some will always get through and will say they’re from a reputable company such as PayPal, Google, Dropbox or even your own government’s tax authorities, when in fact they’re really from criminals who want your money.  Here is how you can easily identify what is genuine and what is not to keep yourself safe online.

As a response to phishing email, all the major email providers, including Microsoft and Google, will display the sender’s email address in plain text.  The image below shows a phishing email in both from Microsoft, and Google’s Gmail.  The sender’s email address is highlighted in the images by a red box.

If we look closer we can see that the emails aren’t from TV Licensing or Google Drive at all, but instead from “” and from “”.  This immediately tells you not to trust the email, and it’s definitely not from the people it claims to have been sent from.

You can further check if the email is genuine by hovering your mouse cursor over anything they give you to click.  This will always display the website that links to as a small pop-up in the bottom left corner of your browser window.  In the example below we can see that the link definitely does not go to a Google website, but instead goes to “” which apart from clearly being a criminal’s domain name, isn’t even the same address the email was sent from, and it is certainly not a Google website.

One more important point is that No bank will ever send you an email asking for you to sign in and confirm security information.  If you receive one of these emails and click through to the website they give, you will be giving those criminals direct access to your bank and savings accounts.

Mostly these phishing emails and criminal websites are caught by Microsoft and Google, who block them immediately.  Some always do get through however so it is wise to know what to look for, so that you can keep yourself, and your financial and personal information safe.

You can protect yourself further by setting a security feature called Two-Factor Authentication on your online accounts, and I show you how to do this on this link.

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Repair a Non-Booting PC with a USB Recovery Drive Sun, 19 Apr 2020 07:17:38 +0000 If you find that your PC isn’t booting to the desktop this doesn’t mean that it’s unrecoverable.  It’s possible that something such as a hardware driver or Windows Update has caused the system to become unstable.  It is possible though to roll back changes made to the PC and get it working again.  To do this you will need to create a USB Recovery Drive, which you can do on another Windows 10 PC if you haven’t created one before.  I have instructions on how to do this on this link.

You’ll need to make sure your PC is set to boot from a USB Drive, and this is a little complex as you need to enter the motherboard’s BIOS and check or change a setting, and these vary from one PC to another.  When you first start the PC you’ll see some white writing on the screen, this is the BIOS (or motherboard startup) sequence.  To enter the BIOS you need to press a key at this point.  You’ll be told which one on screen, but it is normally F2 or Del.

When in the BIOS you need to look for the Boot options, and check the Boot sequence.  It should read so that a USB device sits above the hard disk in the list.  When you have checked, or made this change, you can insert the USB drive into a port on the PC, save your BIOS settings, and restart the PC.

Next is to start the PC into the recovery options and run a System Restore to roll back any changes that were made recently to your installation of Windows.  The Recovery Drive will probably first try and repair the startup issue.  When it can’t it will offer you an Advanced options button, click this.

This will take you into the full Recovery Console.  Here you should click Troubleshoot and then click Advanced options.  You will now see an option to run System Restore.  Click this and you will be able to roll back any unwanted changes that have made your PC unstable, such a an update install or a configuration change somewhere.

When System Restore completes your PC will hopefully boot happily to the desktop, and you will be able to get working again.  If this doesn’t work, you will unfortunately need to Reset your PC.  This will uninstall any software and apps, but it will keep your files, documents, and user accounts intact so that you can get working again quickly.  I have instructions on how to Reset your PC on this link.

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Quickly Repair a Non-Booting PC Thu, 02 Apr 2020 11:20:27 +0000 Sometimes there’s some error that occurs during an update or shutdown operation that corrupts something on the PC such as your user account.  The upshot is that the next time you start the PC, you get an error and it won’t let you get to the desktop.  There are a couple of common, and very easy fixes you can employ though that often get your PC running again.

You run these from the Recovery Console.  To access this, start your PC and when the Windows loading logo appears (this might be the logo for your PC manufacturer), press and hold the power button until the PC shuts off.  You’ll need to do this two or three times for the Recovery Console to appear.

An automatic repair system will now begin, this is the first step, and it can repair some common problems by resetting Windows components to their default state.  Startup Repair might fix the problem you face and your PC will restart.  If it can’t fix the problem though it will tell you, and you should then press the Advanced options button.

This will take you into the full Recovery Console.  Here you should click Troubleshoot and then click Advanced options.  You will now see an option to run System Restore.  Click this and you will be able to roll back any unwanted changes that have made your PC unstable, such a an update install or a configuration change somewhere.

When System Restore completes your PC will hopefully boot happily to the desktop, and you will be able to get working again.  Should this not work however I have other troubleshooting articles which might be able to help.

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Choosing and Buying a New PC or Laptop Fri, 20 Mar 2020 09:12:39 +0000 Last updated: September 2020

If you are purchasing a new PC the choices available to you can seem daunting.  There are so many different types of desktop and laptop, with so many choices of processor, memory, storage and graphics.  Not every desktop PC or laptop though presents good value for money.  So here’s my top tips for getting a great value machine.

When to Buy

The Black Friday, Christmas and New Year sales are all good times to buy a new PC, with big savings to be made.  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, or that launch shortly after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January.

Computers are always reviewed online, so a quick search can help you determine if you’re getting a great machine, or a crock.  If you want to find a discount on the very latest models then making a purchase from the early summer can often bring good offers, both because it’s the slowest sales period of the year, and also because of clearing out stock ahead of new hardware launches in the autumn.

Where to Buy

You can find some tremendous deals in retail stores such as PC World and Best Buy, but often buying direct from the manufacturers own website can prove equally effective.  If you sign up for the newsletter from your preferred manufacturer, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be notified when they have a sale or other offers coming up.  If you call the manufacturer to order, you can sometimes haggle and get the price down by 5% or more.


There are many different form-factors for PCs, and each has its benefits.  A full size desktop tower will give you room to expand and upgrade the machine, often extending its life.  A two-in-one convertible laptop can also be used as a tablet, or for watching movies on a plane or train.  If you don’t think you’ll ever want to use a touch screen, a standard laptop will be best, though it may still come with a touch screen as most of them do.

If you do a lot of typing, then a detachable keyboard such as the one you use with Microsoft’s Surface Pro may not suit you, but for other people having a tablet you can use with pen input, and optionally a keyboard can be very appealing.  Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs sacrifice expandability and upgradeability for convenience and a small desktop footprint, and they can often be good choices for offices and workplaces..  All-in-one PCs can also benefit from a small desktop footprint and be great in offices and workplaces, though they also sacrifice upgradeability and expandability.

For children of school age, dedicated laptops are available from the major manufacturers that feature toughened screens, and rubber surrounds that can protect them from drops.  Speaking of which, a laptop or two-in-one with a metal casing will withstand knocks and bashes much more effectively than a plastic case, though they tend to cost more money.  The extra cost though will come with the benefit of peace of mind and potentially longer life.


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.


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.

Professional Workstation

Core i7 or Ryzen 7 processor, 16GB or 32GB RAM, 1TB or more NVMe or M.2 storage, and an LED or OLED Full HD or higher resolution screen.

Gaming PC

Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processor, 16GB or 32GB RAM, and 512GB or 1TB NVMe or M.2 storage, an Nvidia 20xx or 30xx, or an AMD RX series graphics card, and an LED or OLED full HD or 2560 by 1440 resolution screen.

Photo and Video Editing

Core i7, Core i9 or Ryzen 7 or 9 processor, 16GB or 32GB RAM, and 1TB or more NVMe or M.2 storage, USB-C or USB-C Thunderbolt port, an Nvidia 20xx, 30xx or Quadro, or an AMD RX or Pro series graphics card, and an OLED 4K resolution screen.

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Why a Quiet PC is Good for the Planet Fri, 28 Feb 2020 08:37:11 +0000 Did you know that having a noisy PC is bad for the environment, and bad for climate change.  This might come as a surprise for many but it’s a truism that means you might be making a negative impact on your personal or business carbon-footprint, rather than reducing it.  If you have a noisy PC of laptop though, and this applies if it makes almost any noise at all, there are still things you can do to mitigate the issue.

The reason why a noisy PC is an environmentally unfriendly one is that noise is always caused either by fans spinning, cooling components on the motherboard, or by faulty components.  Either are bad because if a component needs cooling it’s giving off heat.  Heat is expelled by a computer that’s not using the power it receives efficiently.  Any excess power is turned to heat and expelled, thus a truly power-efficient computer is one that would stay relatively cool, even under a heavy load.

Of course, components will always get hot, but you can help by cleaning dust from them.  There are several different things you can do to achieve this.

Unused paint brushes can be used to gently wipe dust away from fans and components in side a desktop PC case, or from air vents on a laptop or tablet.

Vacuum cleaner on low power can be used with a soft brush attachment to gently remove dust from air vents, or from heatsinks for the processor or graphics card.  You should always be careful though not to push the vacuum into components, as they could become damaged through excessive pressure.

Specialist air blower, these are hand-held air blowers designed for computers that can gently blow dust out of air vents and away from computer components.  Sometimes they work via a rubber ball you squeeze, others can be battery powered or powered by USB.

A clean PC will not only be a quiet PC, but it will also help prolong its life which reduces e-waste.  All in all, keeping your PC clean and healthy can only be great for our planet and helping tackle climate change.

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How to Set-up Windows Hello on Your PC Thu, 27 Feb 2020 08:41:48 +0000 While you will always be able to sign into your Windows PC with a password, or a PIN code, the operating system also supports a range of advanced biometric security sign-ins if the hardware on your PC or laptop support them.  This Windows Hello feature includes being able to use facial recognition, so you only have to sit in front of your PC, or by touching a fingerprint reader which are sometimes even built into the power button on laptops.

You can access Windows Hello by opening Settings and then navigating to Accounts and Sign-in options.  If any biometric sign-in options are available to you these will be listed and in the example below you can see that fingerprint recognition is showing as “unavailable” on this PC.

Clicking the option you want to use will display an easy to follow wizard.  It will either ask you to sit in front of your webcam so that it can scan your face, or it will ask you to repeatedly touch the fingerprint reader with one or more fingers, so that it can get a good scan.

Important note about privacy: As with all modern biometric features including those from Apple and Google, Windows Hello only ever stores your biometric data on a secure chip on your computer’s motherboard.  This information is never transmitted over the Internet, or stored in your Microsoft Account, and is never shared with Microsoft or any third-party.

You need to set up Windows Hello separately on each PC or device you have that supports it, as for security reasons the biometric data is only stored on that local device.  Windows Hello though can be a very fast and efficient way to sign in to your devices, and also allows you to use much longer and more secure passwords, helping prevent access to your files and data if the PC is lost or stolen.

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Manage Hung and Misbehaving Web Apps in Edge Wed, 26 Feb 2020 09:17:23 +0000 If you have a lot of tabs open in your web browser, you might find that you have one website or web app which misbehaves, consumes too much memory or processor time, or that crashes completely.  You can view what’s going on with your browser tabs in Microsoft Edge by clicking the Menu icon () in the top right corner of the browser window, and from the menu that opens, clicking More tools, followed by Browser task manager.

This opens a window that displays all the different tabs, apps, and processes running in your browser, including web apps you might have pinned to the Start Menu.  If you need to close a hung or misbehaving process, click it to highlight it and then click the End process button in the bottom right corner of the window.

Microsoft Edge makes it really easy to manage browser processes, web apps, and websites.  You can download Microsoft’s Edge browser from HERE.

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Add and Manage Languages and Spell-Checking in Edge Tue, 25 Feb 2020 08:57:08 +0000 Microsoft’s Edge browser gives you full control over the languages used and installed in the browser, and that are also used for automatic spell-checking when you type into web forms.  To access the language settings, open the main menu in Edge by clicking the menu icon () in the top right of the window, and then from the menu that appears, click Settings.

When the Settings tab opens, click the Languages link on the left side and various options will appear to you.  Perhaps most useful of these is the spell-checking options.  Many people don’t like spell checking in their browsers, especially if they’re checking in an incorrect language, such as US English if you’re in the UK.  You can turn spell-checking off for any language by simply changing its switch to the right side of the language name.

If you click the Add languages button near the top right of the window then a pop-up list will appear of all the languages available to you in the browser.  All you need to do it check the language(s) you want to add and click the Add button.

Additionally, in the main language settings there is a menu icon () to the right of each installed language.  You can click this to get an option to remove a language from your browser.  Bear in mind though that you must have at least one language installed, so you might need to add a new language before removing an unwanted one.

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Take Screenshots Easily in Windows Mon, 24 Feb 2020 08:20:46 +0000 You can take screenshots really easily in Windows, both of your whole desktop, and also of individual open apps or select parts of the desktop or apps.  From the desktop or from within an app at any time press Windows key + Shift + S to initiate the screenshot feature.  This opens a small panel at the top of the screen with five buttons.

These buttons allow you to select a Rectangular snip, Freeform snip, Window snip, and Full-Screen snip with a close button to their right.  Select the option you want and then click, hold and drag your mose to select an area, or to draw around an area.  Alternatively if you have selected a window snip, just click on the window you want to take a screenshot of.

You will see a pop-up appear in the bottom right of your screen telling you that your screenshot has been saved to the clipboard.  This means you can then open whatever app or document you want to paste the screenshot in, and press Ctrl + V to paste the image.

Alternatively if you click the pop-up, it will open your screenshot in the Snip & Sketch tool, and form here you can click the Save icon near the top right of the screen to save your screenshot as a file to your PC.  You can find out more about how you can use Snip & Sketch on this link.

Additionally, you can trigger a screenshot by opening the Action Centre and clicking the Screen snip button.  This can be useful for those times you might have forgotten the keyboard shortcut keys.

Windows makes it really easy to capture, share, and save screenshots, and they can be very useful when you want to save something that appears on your screen, or to share something with another person or a group.

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Add a Gmail Account to Fri, 21 Feb 2020 08:30:47 +0000 If you use, or like the look and feel of Microsoft’s webmail service, did you know that you can now add your Gmail account to it.  Doing this will enable you to use your Google email through the Microsoft portal just as you would if you went to, this allows you to manage multiple email accounts in a single browser session. also offers several advantages over Google’s webmail portal.  As an example, allows you to pin critical emails to the top of the inbox, and you can do this by right-clicking on an email and from the menu that appears select Pin.  The email Conversation View in also works more effectively than it does in Gmail by always highlighting the most recent message.

The Sweep option, available from the toolbar across the top of the window, allows you to quickly set rules for senders, that will then apply automatically to all emails already received in your email.  Perhaps the biggest advantage though is the tight integration with Microsoft Office, allowing you to not just view, but also to edit documents right in the browser.

It’s easy to add a Gmail account to too, and other email services will be supported soon.  In the top left corner of the window, just underneath the icon for your email, is an Add email account button.  Hovering over this will reveal an Add Gmail account popup, and you can click this icon to add Gmail to your settings.


That really is all there is to it, as allows you to manage multiple email accounts.  All you need to do is click the icon in the top right of the window to switch between them.

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