What’s the Difference Between a Sandbox and a Virtual Machine?

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Sandbox versus virtual machine: can you provide a brief overview on the differences, advantages, and disadvantages?

Sandboxes and virtual machines are two different technologies that share enough characteristics to make them easily confused.

One could confuse matters further by referring to a virtual machine as the ultimate sandbox. That would be an accurate statement, but it really only stirs up the mud in what is already muddy water.

Let’s look at the three scenarios: the default case without either, a sandbox, and a virtual machine.

Read moreWhat’s the Difference Between a Sandbox and a Virtual Machine?

Why is Windows 10 Using More and More RAM?

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I manage a small fleet of Dell Optiplex towers running Windows 10 (4 x 790 Core i5, 2 x 990 Core i7, 2 x 980 Core i5) and even with 8GB RAM it seems (particularly since 1809 onwards) Windows 10 is consuming more RAM just in running the base OS. We recently ‘replaced’ 1 x 980 with an Optiplex 9020 Core i7 and 16GB RAM (making the 980 a spare machine) and it copes quite well (for now) but most of these machines started out at 4GB RAM and were quite happy even 12 months ago.

It’s actually a topic I touch on briefly in my article Why Is My Machine Slowing Down?

As we get older, we tend to gain weight. The same seems to be true for most software, Windows included.

But more than Windows can make your system seem bloated and slow.

Read moreWhy is Windows 10 Using More and More RAM?

Where Can I Download Windows?

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I’ve lost my Windows 7 installation disk, but I possess the product key. What should I do if I want to reinstall Windows on my computer? Can I download Windows somewhere?

First: take a full system-image backup as soon as possible, and use that as a fallback. You can always restore to that image in lieu of a reinstall, and you’ll be back to where you were at the time the backup was taken.

You could also get in touch with the vendor who sold you the computer. They provided you with a copy once; perhaps they’ll be willing to get you a replacement copy.

You could, I suppose, go buy a new copy. Most people aren’t interested in doing that, because they don’t want to pay for something they feel they’ve already purchased.

That’s when most people resort to finding a place from which to download Windows. Depending on the version of Windows and where you find it, it might even be legal.

Or it might not.

Read moreWhere Can I Download Windows?

How Do I Fix Windows Update?

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I returned from vacation and found that Windows Update would not download any of 90 available updates (even though it sat for many hours saying “downloading” nothing was coming). I eventually used the Windows Readiness program and was able to get 15 or so downloaded and installed, but trying the next group again, it is not downloading anything. There is no error message, just no action at all.

While it works well most of the time, problems with Windows Update can be very, very frustrating. There’s often no specific fix for whatever specific situation you’re faced with, other than to “keep trying” or “let it run”…

… neither of which helps in many cases.

Fortunately, Microsoft has added a troubleshooter, and also outlined what I’ll call the nuclear option: resetting Windows Update completely. Regardless of the problem, if it involves Windows Update I suggest you give this a try.

Read moreHow Do I Fix Windows Update?

How Do I Find Out What Program Is Using All My CPU?

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My machine is slower than molasses in the winter time. I suspect that one or more programs are simply using up all of the available CPU time. How do I tell which ones they might be so that I can turn them off, or whatever?

Yep, that sounds slow.

It happens to me from time to time as well. A program decides it has something very, very important to do and uses all the computer’s processing power to do it.

The good news is, it’s pretty easy to find out which program that might be.

Read moreHow Do I Find Out What Program Is Using All My CPU?

Why Is My Machine Slowing Down?

Slow machines represent one of the largest sources of questions to Ask Leo!

Perhaps when you purchased it, your computer ran like a champ and quickly did everything you needed. Now … well, not so much. Perhaps it takes forever to boot. Or starting applications is slower than molasses. Or maybe the machine just acts sluggish when you try to use it for just about anything.

Regardless of the specifics, the underlying theme is simple: it’s slow.

There are many, many reasons that a machine could slow down.

I’ll list a few of the most common reasons here, along with some advice on what steps to take.

Read moreWhy Is My Machine Slowing Down?

Open-Shell: Regain Your Start Menu in Windows and Much More

The Start menu in Windows 8 was its most strikingly different feature. While it was tamed down a little in Windows 10, it’s still quite startling if you’re upgrading from, say, Windows 7.

Unfortunately, that tiled Start screen leaves many with a very negative first impression — a first impression that goes on to color their entire Windows experience.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Open-Shell (formerly Classic Shell) is free software that gives you your favorite Start menu back, as well as restoring and adding functionality to Windows Explorer.

Read moreOpen-Shell: Regain Your Start Menu in Windows and Much More

Disabling Remote Access Doesn’t Disable All Remote Access

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Among the very first few things I did when our family first got our most recent computer was to disable remote access entirely. I no longer remember how I managed to do this, but that’s just as well because I wouldn’t even dream of re-enabling it!

That’s a comment I received from a reader relating to the pernicious “tech support scam” where scammers call you, say they’ve detected problems originating from your computer, and offer to fix it for you — perhaps even for free — if you just give them access to your computer.

Disabling remote access in Windows does not disable this kind of remote access.

I’ll review the setting in Windows and compare it to the types of remote access more commonly used by scammers.

And, of course, I’ll review what you need to do to stay safe. There’s a good chance it’s something you’re doing already.

Read moreDisabling Remote Access Doesn’t Disable All Remote Access

What’s the Difference Between Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance?

Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance both allow remote control of your computer, but they serve different purposes.

Remote Desktop is designed to allow you to “take over” a computer as if you were sitting in front of it. I might use Remote Desktop to use a computer in another room, or one that doesn’t even have a keyboard and monitor attached.

Remote Assistance, as its name implies, is designed to allow one person to help another by accessing their computer — either to view or to control it — while the person being helped watches.

Let’s dive deeper.

Read moreWhat’s the Difference Between Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance?

Where’s My Disk Space Going?

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Our disk drive is split into a C: and a D: drive. We only ever save on the D: drive, but the C: drive has only about 540MB left available! Apart from about 5GB of photos, I can’t understand what is taking up all the memory. The memory seems to continually go down and is now getting to a critical level. I have run malware checks and deleted all critical errors, but still not been able to free up any memory. I can’t even defrag as I need 20% free to run this option.

Disappearing disk space is a very common scenario.

Somehow, no matter how much we have, disk space never seems enough. As we collect pictures and programs (and the programs themselves collect data), more and more disk space is consumed. With so much happening on our computers these days, it’s difficult to understand what’s taking up space.

Fortunately, I can recommend a free tool that can give us some very helpful data.

Read moreWhere’s My Disk Space Going?

Do I Need OneDrive?

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Windows 10 keep asking me to set up OneDrive. Is OneDrive really useful and is it needed?

Is it needed? No. There are plenty of alternatives if you want cloud storage and features similar to OneDrive.

Or you may elect not to use cloud storage at all.

Is it useful? In my opinion, absolutely.

Read moreDo I Need OneDrive?

Should I Install the Latest Windows 10 Update?

As I write this, the most recent Windows 10 feature update has been released. It’s in that in-between state right now: you can get the update manually right now by downloading it from Microsoft, or you can wait a week or so for it to start rolling out automatically via the normal Windows Update mechanism.

Or, you might be one of those who don’t want the update at all — at least not yet.

The question of the hour is, of course, do you?

Read moreShould I Install the Latest Windows 10 Update?

Should I Upgrade to Windows 8.1 Instead of Windows 10?

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After reading the most recent article about Windows 7 support updates ending in 2020, what are your thoughts about moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 versus switching to Windows 10?

I have been very content with Windows 7, even more so than with Windows XP, but my adult-daughter told me several years ago that I might not be happy with Windows 10 and should remain where I am at.

My strong recommendation is that if you switch, you switch to Windows 10.

There are several reasons, not the least of which is often referred to as the informal “every other version” rule for Windows.

Read moreShould I Upgrade to Windows 8.1 Instead of Windows 10?

What Can I Disable in Task Manager’s Startup List?

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When I look at Task Manager’s Startup tab I get a really long list of things I don’t understand. What’s what? How can I find out which ones are safe to turn off? Here’s the list of what it shows right now. Maybe you can tell me?

The problem, of course, is that everyone’s Startup list is different.

Which programs start automatically depends on your computer, the hardware installed, the software installed, the programs you run, and the features you enable.

It can get really confusing really fast. It can also impact your computer’s performance.

Read moreWhat Can I Disable in Task Manager’s Startup List?

How Do I Reset Windows 10?

Sometimes, when faced with an assortment of Windows problems, starting over is the most pragmatic alternative.

Windows 10 includes the ability to reinstall (or “reset”) Windows to its just-installed condition.

There are definitely a few caveats to be aware of, however.

Read moreHow Do I Reset Windows 10?

Will Windows 7 Keep Working After Support Ends?

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Apparently there are people that believe when support for Windows 7 ends it’ll stop working. That’s just wrong, right? It’ll keep working? Can’t I just keep using it?

Yes, Windows 7 will keep working.

You can keep using it, but it’s important to understand the risks involved.

One thing we’ve learned, though, from being here before, is that the risks may not be as horrific as some make them out to be.

Read moreWill Windows 7 Keep Working After Support Ends?

CHKDSK: What Is It and How Do I Run It?

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I have disk problems and you said I should run CHKDSK. Great. What is that?

Fair enough. It’s easy for us computer geeks to take things for granted that we shouldn’t.

CHKDSK is a command line tool that checks disks.

I’ll talk about what I mean by command line, and what it means to check a disk.

I’ll also show you how to run CHKDSK step by step.

Read moreCHKDSK: What Is It and How Do I Run It?

Coping with Gray Text

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I am desperate and angry over the “trend” in graying fonts for the specious reason that it is more readable than black on white. It isn’t. Sometimes it is impossible to fill out a form because the font is so unreadable. Rather than take your time reiterating my lament, may I ask whether there is any recourse. If I thought there was any chance of getting a response, I’d ask Bill Gates himself.

Well, to start with, Bill wouldn’t be any help at all. He’s not been involved in the day-to-day workings of Windows for many years. Besides, this isn’t a Windows problem, it’s a website-design problem.

And it is a problem. It’s one I hear frequently.

Unfortunately, the remedies are either extreme or non-existent.

Read moreCoping with Gray Text

How Do I Clean Up After Windows Update Breaks Other Applications?

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Microsoft updates are getting to be a pain in the neck, but yesterday they really got to me. Many programs I use for business, and personal use were no longer functioning. The main concern I have is the loss of Corel products, especially WordPerfect, I was wondering why Corel was hit so bad. I suspected Corel had something to do with this crash since my Corel products are very old, 2004, and thought maybe they wanted me to buy newer software.

I am simply frustrated and will accept any guidance you will suggest.  I really don’t know what to do, I have uninstalled most of the Corel products and WordPerfect appears to be working, but I have lost most of the products that were included on the 2 CDs in the package.

While it’s not as common as the headlines might lead you to believe, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of the scenario you outline: Windows 10 updates itself, and you find that other software on your machine has stopped working. Often it’s older software you’ve been using for years without a problem.

I can’t guarantee a fix, of course, but I’ll outline what I would do in this situation to maximize the chances of everything working again.

Read moreHow Do I Clean Up After Windows Update Breaks Other Applications?

Why Do System Cleanup Utilities Report So Many Errors on a Supposedly Clean System?

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I have a couple of good cleaning programs to protect my computer (which are usually recommended by you!). But occasionally, I get suckered into running a ‘free trial’ of a program (like a registry cleaner). I may have just run my cleaner and have been given a clean bill of health, but when I run the ‘free trial’, I invariably get hundreds of errors. Why?

What you’re experiencing is what leads me and many others to avoid recommending entire classes of registry and system-cleaning utilities.

It’s not just a few bad apples that spoil the entire bunch; in this case, it’s often difficult to find an apple worth biting into at all.

Read moreWhy Do System Cleanup Utilities Report So Many Errors on a Supposedly Clean System?

Is There a Real Alternative to Windows?

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Is there a real, complete and reliable equivalent to Windows? Other than that Apple stuff.

That’s a question I received not long ago. Particularly given the publicity around some of the issues with Windows 10 and its updates, I think many frustrated users are wondering if there isn’t something else they could or should be using.

The answer is my most common: it depends.

Read moreIs There a Real Alternative to Windows?

How Can I Make the Text on My Screen Larger?

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I am “old” <grin> … so I need to use a magnifying glass to read a lot of the screen words. I suppose that they are in a six or eight-point font. Can I make the screen text larger? Say to a 10- or 12-point font?

I know how you feel. My eyes aren’t all they used to be either.

The good news is, it’s actually easy to make the fonts bigger, though the setting is often well hidden.

The bad news is, it’s also easy to do the wrong thing and end up with something that seems better, but isn’t.

Read moreHow Can I Make the Text on My Screen Larger?

How Do I Move the Taskbar Back to the Bottom?

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My taskbar’s on the right side of my screen. How do I move the taskbar back to the bottom where it belongs?

A lot of people don’t realize it, but the taskbar can be placed on any edge of your screen: left, right, top or bottom. In fact, if you have multiple monitors, it can be placed on any edge of any display.

Occasionally — usually through a mis-click or accidental mouse action — the taskbar can get moved to somewhere other than where we want it.

So, let’s move the taskbar back.

Read moreHow Do I Move the Taskbar Back to the Bottom?

How Do I Decompress All the Files that Windows Compressed for Me?

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A long time ago when I used the Windows Disk Cleanup tool, it compressed old files. Is there a program to decompress all files on my PC that have been compressed?

There is indeed a program that will do that.

It’s called Microsoft Windows. (Smile)

You don’t need to get any additional programs to decompress the files on your system; you can do it right from within Windows.

Read moreHow Do I Decompress All the Files that Windows Compressed for Me?

Can I Copy Windows 10 System Files to Another Drive?

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Can I copy Windows 10 system files to another drive and boot from it, assuming all other computer components are original to the first drive? I want to keep my Windows 10 license.

Taking your question literally, the answer is no. You cannot simply copy Windows (or pretty much any installed operating system) from one drive to another, or one machine to another, and have it work. Windows is too complex.

However, if what you’re really trying to do is, say, replace a hard disk, or move your Windows installation to a different machine, the answers get more complex — and in some cases, more promising.

Read moreCan I Copy Windows 10 System Files to Another Drive?

Coping with Windows 10

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote what was effectively an open letter to Microsoft entitled, “Microsoft, We Deserve Better“.

The pragmatic reality is that I don’t expect it, or any of dozens of similar missives posted across the internet, to have much effect. If Microsoft is listening (they probably are), they are unlikely to act on it, as their business priorities are clearly elsewhere. Even if they do act, they won’t act quickly — it’s no longer in their nature.

Which leaves us with a very vexing question: what the heck are we supposed to do?

Read moreCoping with Windows 10

Do All These Software Updates Take Up More and More Disk Space?

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There are many different softwares installed on my Windows. And I find that many of them keep updating themselves automatically from the internet. These are like Avast Antivirus (program updates apart from the virus def files updates), Adobe Flash, JREs etc.

My question is, all these downloads, do they keep adding to the older installation (and eating into my disk space) or do they replace the older installation? And what about Windows updates like the IE updates — where there are options to roll back to previous versions?

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

I don’t mean to be flippant, but the reality is exactly that: some updates are cumulative, some are replacements, and others … well, others, you get to decide.

Let’s look at some of those scenarios.

Read moreDo All These Software Updates Take Up More and More Disk Space?

How Do I Figure Out My Windows Edition?

The Windows “edition” determines what features and functionality are included in a specific installation of Windows.

The “Home” edition is the most common in consumer installations; the “Pro” edition has a few more features (and hence I generally recommend it over Home, even when used in the home); and then there are Enterprise and Educational editions that are tailored for those environments.

But which one do you have?

It’s easy to find out.

Read moreHow Do I Figure Out My Windows Edition?

How Do I Fix Jagged Fonts in Windows 10?

This is something that’s been bugging me for months. There are times when the fonts in Windows 10 just look … well, they look crummy, for lack of a better term. They’re jagged and ugly and not the smooth presentation we’ve come to expect on modern machines.

I did discover that it was useful to set my display to its recommended or native resolution. There were two problems with that: first, sometimes I need to run at a resolution other than the native one, and second, even when set properly, I’d still run into the issue.

And perhaps most frustrating of all: I knew it doesn’t have to be like this. I was missing something obvious.

Turns out that was exactly right, except maybe for the “obvious” part. There was a checkbox….

Read moreHow Do I Fix Jagged Fonts in Windows 10?

Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup

In previous articles, I looked at creating an image backup using Windows 10’s built-in imaging tool1, and setting up File History to back up files that change on a regular basis to an external drive.

This is all good — but we can do better.

Best practices for a robust backup strategy call for keeping a backup copy off-site. OneDrive, included as part of Windows 10, can do that automatically.

We’ll set up OneDrive, and then make a couple of changes to other applications to make our use of OneDrive for backing up nearly transparent.

Read moreUsing OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup

What’s a Screen Shot and How Do I Make One?

A screen shot, screenshot, or screen capture is a way to “take a picture” of your computer screen (or a portion thereof).

Why would you want to do that?

Well, let’s say you’re trying to explain a computer problem to a technical friend of yours, and you’re trying to describe what you see on the screen — the dialogs, buttons, messages, whatever. You’re not sure of the terms to use, and your friend is having a difficult time understanding your description.

And of course, your friend insists that the exact wording of everything you see is incredibly important (for the record, he’s right.)

You know what they say: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And it can go a long way to eliminating miscommunication.

Let’s take a picture of your screen you can email to your friend.

Read moreWhat’s a Screen Shot and How Do I Make One?

Is it Safe to Delete This File?

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My C: and D: drives have many gigabytes of .DAT files under “Documents and Settings”. I’m trying to free up space on the C: drive. Can I delete any of these files? I really don’t know what they are, how they got there, or why they occupy so much space on my computer!

I don’t know.

Honestly, I have no idea either what they are, how they got there, or why they occupy so much space. That’s the problem with “.dat” files — there’s no way to know what they are without more information.

But I do have some ideas on how to determine if deleting them is ok, and ways to do it safely — and those ideas apply to any file type, not just “.dat”.

Read moreIs it Safe to Delete This File?

How Do I Upgrade Windows from 32-bit to 64-bit?

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I’m using Windows 10, 32-bit on a computer with 64-bit hardware. How do I upgrade to 64-bit Windows? I have 10 GB of RAM on my computer.

This question continues to pop up, even after all this time.

The news is mixed.

The good news is that 10GB is plenty of RAM for 64-bit Windows. By running 32-bit, you’ve only been using, at most, four gigabytes of your memory.

Unfortunately, the path to get there from here isn’t as easy as we might want.

Read moreHow Do I Upgrade Windows from 32-bit to 64-bit?

Can I Tell If Something’s Been Pasted Instead of Typed?

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I want to know, if I have received a .rar file which contains many jpeg files and I have to type it in Notepad, but I am doing copy-paste from the image in the Microsoft notes and then copy from there and I paste it in the Notepad and I save the document as .txt, can that be detected?

I get this question, and variations on it, surprisingly often. I have theories about why, but nonetheless it’s a real question that apparently a lot of people have.

On one hand, the answer seems obvious. However, depending on the circumstances, there are possibilities we need to consider.

The devil, as they say, is in the copy/pasted details.

Read moreCan I Tell If Something’s Been Pasted Instead of Typed?

Do “Fix All Your Windows Problems” Utilities Work?

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I have a number of knotty problems with error messages at present and there are several programs on the net which “guarantee” to fix them. When the offered free scan is invited, they always come up with lots of faults which they will only fix if you subscribe. My usual reaction is that it’s all a con to get subscribers, but is this true in all cases or are there some programs which really are the cure-alls they claim to be?

To quote the old aphorism: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I’m sure there are good programs out there, but like you, I’m very skeptical. Beyond skeptical. Downright suspicious, even.

As a result, I’ve never purchased such a program. Instead, I’ve tackled my problems head-on, lived with them, or, if things are bad enough and unsolvable, reformatted and re-installed.

But there are some ways to at least stack the deck in your favor if you want to try one or more of these types of tools.

Read moreDo “Fix All Your Windows Problems” Utilities Work?

Where’s the Recycle Bin on My USB Drive?

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I had a file on a USB pen drive I accidentally deleted. I went to the Recycle Bin folder to recover it. But the file was not there. Luckily the file was not very important. I have experimented with deleting files on the USB pen drive and it appears the deleted files do not go to the Recycle Bin. Where do the files go? Is it possible to undo a delete from a USB pen drive?

As you’ve found out, there’s not always a Recycle Bin. I’ve also seen it be present but go unused.

It’s confusing and surprising, but the Recycle Bin seems to be used inconsistently across versions of Windows, at least
when it comes to what Windows considers to be a “removable” device.

Read moreWhere’s the Recycle Bin on My USB Drive?

How Do I Clean Up After Windows Update?

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I’d love to see a tutorial for removing the many gigabytes of useless trash left behind from Windows updates.

It seems that even when it works, people still aren’t happy with Windows Update.

This is one of those questions I get from time to time perpetuating myths about Windows Update that I’d like to clear up. Yes, there’s quite possibly disk space to be had, but not as much as you might think, and not for the reasons you think.

Read moreHow Do I Clean Up After Windows Update?

Do I Need These Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributables?

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I’m wondering if I need all of these Microsoft programs on here, like Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 redistributable or Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 redistributable. It’s taking up space on my hard drive and I’m wondering if those programs are really necessary.

Time for my most common, yet most annoying answer:

it depends.

I’ll describe what the Visual C++ redistributables are all about, and why the safest thing to do is probably to leave them alone.

Read moreDo I Need These Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributables?