Articles about Know Your PC

Microsoft wants you to do more to stay safe online

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Microsoft is no stranger to finding itself on the receiving end of complaints about security issues that are found in Windows and its other software. But now the Redmond company is turning the tables on consumers, saying that they need to do more to secure their own computers. Microsoft's research shows that Internet users are taking fewer precautions when they're online.

This is based on declining Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) scores over the last couple of years. The MCSI system was developed in 2011 as a way to measure the security savviness of web users. The system takes into account whether users do common things such as installing anti-malware software, enabling a firewall and keeping software up to date. It also factors in whether users are aware of the importance of using secure websites, using unique passwords and taking care of the personal information they share online.

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iolo System Mechanic 12 promises deeper repair tools, better system stability

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Los Angeles software developer iolo Technologies has released System Mechanic 12.0 and System Mechanic Professional 12.0, major updates to its flagship PC stability and optimization tool.

Also available in cut-down freeware form, version 12.0 boasts major new stability tools, improved cleaning and expanded malware engine, plus full certification with the forthcoming Windows 8.1.

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Restore lost files from your Windows shadow copies with Z-VSSCopy

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In principle, the Windows Volume Shadow Copy service (VSS) was a great idea: a fully automatic system which would transparently back up your files at regular intervals, maintain multiple file versions as required, and allow you to restore them with the minimum of hassle.

VSS wasn’t exactly easy to configure, though. Restoration options used to be hidden away in the File > Properties > Previous Versions dialog, and in Windows 8 even that’s disappeared. So if you want to take control of your shadow copies, then you’ll need some third-party assistance from the free-for-personal-use Z-VSSCopy.

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Review: TuneUp Utilities 2014

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Has your PC slowed down recently, become more unstable? You might be able to solve these problems manually, but it’s not always easy, and there are so many possible causes that it could take you quite some time.

TuneUp Utilities 2014 claims to offer a far simpler solution. Install the program, and not only will it detect and fix any existing issues, but it’ll also automatically monitor and maintain your system from that point onwards, keeping it running more smoothly in future.

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Get an in-depth troubleshooting report on any PC with RegRun Reanimator

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If you regularly help to troubleshoot PC problems for friends and family then you’ll know that understanding their system setup is a good place to start. This can be a challenge, though, particularly if they’re far away and you can’t get to visit the computer in question.

You could try to get around this by asking the system owner to run particular applets -- Device Manager, say -- and report on what they see. But that will also take a while, so it might be easier for them to install a single tool which can assemble a detailed report on their entire PC setup. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with RegRun Reanimator.

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Soluto for Servers lets you manage Windows servers remotely

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I use Soluto to manage my PCs and iOS devices, as well as hardware belonging to a select group of less technically literate friends and family. It’s a handy service that makes it easy to view hardware details of the devices you’re monitoring, as well as cut boot times, manage and update apps, remove unwanted browser extensions, and more.

The firm has just introduced a new feature called Soluto for Servers which adds Windows servers to the list of devices available to manage. You just need to download an installer and run it on each of your servers.

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Take shareable snapshots of a folder tree with Snap2HTML

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If a friend asks you to help troubleshoot his or her PC problems then it’s often useful to check their hard drive to see exactly what’s installed and where. But if they don't live nearby, and there’s no convenient screen sharing or remote access technology to hand, then don’t worry: there’s always Snap2HTML.

Point this tiny program (a 185KB download) at any location on the hard drive, click "Create Snapshot", and it’ll quickly scan the system, recording any files or folders it contains in a ready-to-email (after zipping, at least), self-contained HTML report.

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Open Hardware Monitor lets you track PC temperature, fan speeds, voltages and more

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Whether you’ve been overclocking your PC, are worried about a specific device, or just wondering why your system has been so unstable recently, getting a better understanding of your computer’s inner workings can be very useful. And grabbing a copy of the Open Hardware Monitor is a great place to start.

The program is free, open source, and surprisingly easy to use. Unzip and launch it, and a simple tree view immediately displays temperatures, fan speeds, voltages, CPU load and more.

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The Ask Toolbar is another reason to avoid Java

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I love free software but I’m not a huge fan of all the junk that often gets bundled with programs -- toolbars and the like -- or the changes that the software sometimes wants or tries to make to my search provider. The order, as far as I’m concerned, should always go like this -- Google first, Bing second, Ask never. But so long as the extras are clearly labeled, can be deselected without problem, and easily uninstalled afterwards if I accidentally miss one, I don’t have a real issue with this bundling. It provides a way to get the software for free and funds future development.

However, I’m a savvy computer user and as part of my job I install and uninstall a lot of free software, so I know what to look out for. For the less technically astute, it’s easy to get caught out and end up installing a lot of crap you don’t want. Which takes me to the point of this article -- Oracle and the Ask Toolbar.

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BlueScreenView adds Google search for easier troubleshooting

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NirSoft has updated BlueScreenView, its "blue screen of death" troubleshooting tool, to version 1.52.

The program now includes three Google Search options, accessible both from the File and right-click context menus, to help you find out more about the currently selected crash.

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TCHunt can uncover hidden TrueCrypt volumes on your drives

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TrueCrypt is an excellent encryption tool, a very good choice for anyone who wants to protect their most confidential files. If you use its ability to save your documents in hidden containers, though, it’s worth keeping in mind that these aren’t quite as secret as you might think: TCHunt, a free Windows tool, can identify (though not decrypt) them in just a few seconds.

The program comes in the form of a compact (244KB) executable, with no extras and no installation required; you can just download and run it.

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clink brings Bash’s powerful command line editing to Windows

Command Line

From experts to novices, most PC users benefit from launching a command line session occasionally. This is one area of Windows which hasn’t changed significantly in years, of course, but if you’re tired of its various annoyances there are steps you can take to improve the situation. And clink could be a great place to start.

This open source program installs quickly and easily. The only setup option to consider is whether you want the program to launch when you run a command line session; we’d recommend you allow this, as it keeps the process very straightforward. Open a command window immediately afterwards and you should see new copyright messages for clink its other components (see the grab), a useful indicator that everything is working.

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Auslogics BoostSpeed 6 introduces new interface, hard drive tools

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Auslogics Software has updated its flagship PC maintenance and optimization suite with the release of Auslogics BoostSpeed 6.0.

Launch the program for the first time and it now runs an immediate system scan, before displaying the results of this -- disk space which can be freed, computer speed and stability interface -- as "System Health" indicators in the main BoostSpeed window.

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Boot to desktop and get the Apps view in Windows 8.1 Preview

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Microsoft still wants everyone to use and love the Modern UI, but it accepts, finally, that a large portion of users aren’t interested in apps and the tiled interface. So it’s given desktop users the option to skip the Start screen on boot up, but then tucked it away, along with a bunch of other useful customization options.

If you want to have your own wallpaper displayed on the Start screen, or have Windows 8.1 show the Apps view when you hit the Windows key (or click the new Start button), that’s easily arranged at the same time.

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CCleaner improves cleaning performance with Office 2013 and major browsers

CCleaner

Piriform has updated its free Windows cleaning tool with the release of CCleaner 4.03. The new build, also available in portable form, concentrates its improvements on the four major browsers: Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Opera.

Version 4.03 also improves cleaning for Office 2013 users, extends support to five new programs (including three Windows 8 apps) and also promises new and improved features for paid-for Pro users too.

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