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Archive for Microsoft

Why I Still Teach Malware Removal

When Microsoft introduced Windows 10, it used the tagline “The most secure Windows ever – and built to stay that way”. In a perfect world, everyone would now be running on Windows 10 and enjoying the enhanced security features that are included. This is real life, however, and that’s not how it works. There are still millions of PCs running Windows XP, four years after Microsoft ended support for the product, and millions more than that running Windows 7. Aryeh Goretsky, a researcher for ESET, states in a white paper that the number of computers “…running Windows XP has stayed about the same over the last few quarters at around 5.5 percent.  While that may not sound like much, it means there may be somewhat over 80 million computers out there still using Windows XP.” ComputerWorld estimates that at the end of 2019, just a year from Windows 7’s retirement, an estimated 47% of Windows computers will still use that OS.

The point of this post is not to analyze these trends, as there are plenty of articles and blog posts already out there. I simply want to explain why I still teach malware removal in GeekU, over 10 years after I became involved with the malware removal community. The number of computers running obsolete operating systems are a large part of the reason. The need for security on these systems has not gone away, and neither has the need for malware removal. There have been no security updates for Windows XP in 4 years, and after January 2020, Windows 7 will no longer receive them either. That means a lot of PCs remain vulnerable even as malware becomes more sophisticated. The best advice I could give to someone running Windows XP is to stay off the Internet, but that’s not realistic, so I continue to teach trainees the specifics of the XP operating system and how it differs from that of Windows 7 and above. I teach that Windows XP should have a 3rd party firewall installed, as the embedded version doesn’t block outbound traffic. That’s why I teach how to use an elevated command prompt in Windows XP. That’s why I teach using Chkdsk from a command prompt on Windows 7. We have a lot of GeekU students who are younger and more conversant with Windows 8.1 and 10, but many are in college and may enter a workplace in which Windows 7 is still prevalent, so maybe I’m even teaching skills that will benefit them as a professional.

Realistically, Windows 10 is not completely safe either, so what I’m doing will remain relevant for some time. As long as there are users, as long as there are people who choose to exploit the vulnerabilities of both software and users, there will be those who fall prey to malware and exploits.

XP End of Support Popup Notifications Start March 8th (tomorrow)

Windows XP End of Support is on April 8th, 2014. Click Here to learn more.

Don’t show this message again


Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP, and it’s about to let every XP user know. On Saturday March 8th, and then the 8th of every month after, XP users will see the popup window shown above (unless they tick don’t show again). Many users may mistake this warning for a fake security alert, often used to trick people into installing malware. But this one is legitimate. Any computer connecting to Windows Update will display it. Most enterprise computers won’t, as they don’t get updates directly from Windows Update.

There are two more patch Tuesday’s left for XP, and then Windows Update will no longer offer updates for what may be the most successful operating system of all time. Many experts are predicting a spike in XP related malware as vulnerabilities go unpatched. Amazingly, XP still has a 29% market share. Not sure if you have XP? There’s a website for that:

There is no direct upgrade from XP to Windows 7 or 8. However, Laplink has a free migration tool called PCmover Express that will help transfer files, settings, and profiles. If you want to also transfer programs, there’s a special offer on the professional version ($23.95).

Are you still running Windows XP? Will you be upgrading? What are you going to upgrade to?

Don’t Be Scammed by Fake Tech Support Calls

It’s happened to me a number of times. The phone rings, and often the caller id display reads “Private.” Upon answering, I’m greeted by someone with a heavy Indian accent who informs me that he/she is calling from the Windows Support Center, and that for several weeks my PC has been sending out many error messages. This caller wants me to allow remote access to my computer so the errors can be analyzed, then fixed remotely, for a fee.


If you get one of these phone calls, hang up. First off, there are no “Windows Support Centers” that monitor error messages from your PC. They just don’t exist. Secondly, neither Microsoft, nor any of its partners, will place unsolicited calls and offer to fix your PC. The real purpose of these calls is to gain access to your PC. From that point, the caller could install malware to capture personal data, or alter settings to make your PC less secure. They’ll also show you fake alerts and problems in event viewer, in order to dupe you into paying for repairs. Once they have your credit card information, not only are you charged for unnecessary services, but you’ve just provided your credit card information to a scammer.

What if you’ve already succumbed to one of these calls? First off, change your password for your computer, bank accounts, email, etc., but don’t do this from the infected computer. Make the change from another PC. If your credit card has been charged, call your credit card company and work with them to reverse the charges. They can also work with you to monitor your card for fraudulent activity. Scan your computer with whatever antivirus program you use (you do use one, right?), and if you’re concerned, you can ask for help here at Geeks to Go! to help ensure that your computer is clean.

If you want more information about these types of scams, then visit Microsoft. For more information about telemarketing scams in the US, visit the FTC.

Leaked: Nokia’s Android Smartphone


Guess who’s joining into the Android Club? Yes, Nokia has finally realized that Windows alone cannot save the face of Nokias fortune. This has been rumored around for quite a while now, but recent image leaks show that this just might be true. Nokia might just bring out their first Android Smartphone. The body of the device similar to any of the current line of Lumia devices, which just means it looks nice, feels sturdy and is colorful. I’m definitely a fan of Nokia’s hardware design, and a huge fan of Android, I think this could be the start of real magic!


Leaks of Nokias Android phone, codenamed Normandy, were originally published in November, but a number of recent images have provided a closer look at the hardware and software. Vizileaks has published what appears to be a near-final hardware unit, and some of the apps it can run. Thanks to Evleaks, we’re getting a closer look at the UI on the Normandy.

Nothing is confirmed on the hardware yet, but it is rumored to have a Snapdragon processor, with 512MB of RAM, a 5MP camera. The images found also show two SIM Card icons, this clearly shows that this phone is not for the US or Europe. Asia might be the target market of the Nokia Normandy. If Nokia can just upgrade the hardware a bit and get the pricing right, it might be a mighty contender to the newly launched Moto G. Let’s wait & watch.

The Number 1 Most Powerful Windows 8 Shortcut for Power Users

Much has been written about the lack of a Start button in Windows 8, but if you’re a power user you may find the lack of start menu items like My Computer and Control Panel just as troubling.

Type Windows key Windows logo key + X (or mouse to lower left hot corner and right click) for the following menu:


Here is the list of options:

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Microsoft’s Surface Tablet is a Game Changer

Yesterday Microsoft announced the Surface tablet. Is Microsoft really entering the computer hardware business? Yes. Success on the tablet is crucial to the success of Windows 8. Microsoft has to ensure a well executed, competitively priced platform, and isn’t going to trust OEMs to execute it alone. If you’ve yet to see the Surface, watch the introductory video below:

The original Google Nexus phone was born of a similar need. It was introduced to compete against the iPhone. Android was crucial to Google’s success in the mobile market. Unimpressed by what OEMs had done, Google introduced the Nexus as their flagship Android phone. In a very short time, other manufactures began introducing phones with similar, or better specs than the Nexus. While the Nexus was never a dominant player like the iPhone, it’s mission was successful. Resulting Android phones and their adoption rates were much improved. Google continues to release new phones, and while they aren’t typically best sellers, they continue to help shape the Android landscape.

Like the Nexus phone, the Microsoft Surface has some compelling features that leverage perceived weaknesses in the Apple product. A 16:9 HD screen ratio is more suited to watch HD video than the iPad’s 4:3 SD ratio. Surface’s addition of a full-size USB port is huge, allowing easy, cheap addition of memory, and peripheral connectivity (printers, cameras, etc). The keyboard built-in to the cover is pure genius, combined with a trackpad and stylus it indicates this is a device suitable for serious content creation, not just consumption.

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Lesser Known Windows Features

The release candidate of Windows 8 is due in a couple of days. While this may have you thinking of features you hope will be included, we thought it a good time to review some of our favorite lesser known features that already exist in Windows 7, and earlier.

1. Screen captures. Ever need to capture part of the screen? The Print Screen button will copy the entire contents of your monitor (or monitors) to the clipboard. From there you can paste into Paint, or other picture editing program and save. If you need to only capture the contents of a window, you press Alt + PrtScrn. What if you need to capture only part of a Window? If you have Windows Vista or 7, just click start and search for “snip”. The snipping tool allows you to drag your cursor around any area of the screen, capture it, annotate it (draw / highlight), and save as png, gif or jpg!


2. Steps Recorder. Ever had someone watch over your shoulder as you walked them through the steps needed to complete a task? They don’t need to take notes if you use Steps Recorder. PSR is a new feature in Windows 7 that automatically captures and documents these steps for you. Click start, search for psr.

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Was it smart to remove the start button in Windows 8 Consumer Preview?

windows-8-logoIt’s painfully obvious Windows 8 new Metro apps are not designed for multi-monitors, or large monitors. However, it’s a necessary evil for a unified operating system designed to work on 10-11” touch enabled tablets, as well as desktops.

What’s not so obvious, is the reason for killing the start button on the desktop. Building Windows 8 blog attempts to explain the reasoning. After some tweaking, the new Metro styled start screen can be attractive and functional. It just shouldn’t be so hard to find. Even after you’ve found it in the bottom left corner, try finding any corner on the center screen of a triple monitor setup. While they may make you more efficient, you shouldn’t be forced to learn a bunch of keyboard shortcuts to do basic Windows tasks.

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Windows to Go–Consumer Preview Edition

windows-to-goWindows 8 has a new feature called Windows to Go that allows an installation of Windows 8 to boot from a USB drive, or external hard drive. Potential uses are many. Corporate networks might require you to boot from a Windows to Go USB key before connecting to their network. Universities could hand out USB keys with installations tailored to specific majors. Perhaps someday you may just unplug your USB key and take it home, rather than taking an entire notebook. It could also prove useful for malware removal. However, maybe the most attractive use today, is to boot Windows 8 Consumer Preview on your current hardware, without the need to dual-boot, or upgrade an existing installation of Windows.

Windows to Go has safety and security features to prevent data theft, and exposure of the hosts OS. The system will shut down in 60 seconds if the USB drive is removed. Any drives on the host system must be mounted before they are accessible to Windows to Go.

The first time Windows to Go boots on a system it installs the drivers unique to that hardware. Subsequent boots are faster, and go straight to Windows 8. System performance on USB 2.0 or 3.0 is quite good. A great way to test Windows 8 using a ‘Live USB’, and leave your current system untouched.

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No Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 8

Officially, Microsoft Security Essentials “is not compatible with Windows 8”. Unofficially, it’s been renamed Windows Defender. If you’ve used Microsoft Security Essentials, the new Windows Defender bundled with Windows 8 will have a very familiar look and feel.


Microsoft Security Essentials has gained a lot of momentum in recent years as a terrific, and free antivirus solution. Some would argue one of the best antivirus solutions at any price. It’s reputation is deserved. It is light on system resources, runs silent, and has good detection and removal. Windows Defender on the other hand was primarily an antispyware application. A remnant of the pop-up ad era, and what remained of the Giant antispyware acquisition. Installing Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) even disables Windows Defender.

So why would Microsoft chose to confuse customers by dropping the Microsoft Security Essentials name in Windows 8? It’s a business decision. Bundling full antivirus protection with Windows 8 is a bold move on Microsoft’s part. One that obviously caught the eye of in-house legal hawks, and angered the antivirus industry. Microsoft recently ended its anti-trust oversight, and while it may be bolder, it’s not stupid. Windows Defender has been bundled since Windows Vista. While Microsoft Security Essentials would technically be a new bundled application, Microsoft can claim Windows Defender has been bundled for years. Windows Defender may not have the reputation of MSE, but that will be changing.

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