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The State of Windows 10 – April 2016

To upgrade now, or to upgrade now? That is the question

No – you didn’t read that wrong. This, of course, refers to that famous quote which deals with a fundamental question about the human ‘operating system’. As far as your computer’s operating system, Microsoft is trying to take away the question and make it a given.

In late 2015, I was still advising our customers to refrain from upgrading to Windows 10 until at least early 2016. I still stick to this advice and extend that timeframe out.

Windows 10 started off its life as Windows reborn… it came out with a start menu. As you probably know, with the Windows 8 launch, there was much talk – and anger – at the removal of the start menu.

Personally, I thought dumping the start window was the right move, and the new system actually worked better. The problem, though, which has always been an issue for Microsoft, was the way they went about informing customers on how to use the new Windows without a start menu. By that, I mean they virtually didn’t advise anyone at all. This left Windows 8 in a very confused state. Was Windows 8 a tablet operating system? A desktop operating system? Or something else?

Windows 8.1 fixed this. If you can remember Windows 98, you might remember some of the issues it had from its release. So a year later, Microsoft put out Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) to fix things. Well, they did the same thing for Windows 8 with Windows 8.1 to fix the main issues with Windows 8 and including the old trusty start menu. Fast forward to 2015 and we have Windows 10, which is essentially a mix of Windows 8 and 8.1, supposedly perfected. However, that’s not quite the case.

Now, Microsoft has recently changed the way Windows 10 is being pushed out to Windows 7 and 8 computers

Before the end of 2015, Windows 10 was originally just marked as an optional update within Windows Update, and so was not automatically installed by the current operating system. Microsoft has changed this, though, and Windows 10 is now marked as a recommended update. This means that most computers will install this update without telling you as part of its automatic updates.

This poses a problem for business customers. By default, administrators and IT support companies like Layer3 can block this update. Indeed, we can still do this. However, Microsoft re-releases the patch which upgrades computers to Windows 10 every month, which overwrites our rules and inhibits the administrator’s ability to manage the update process.

Why is this an issue?

Besides the fundamental problem of having Microsoft forcing you to do what it thinks is best for you, this is a practical issue because Windows 10 still has many flaws. From sleep and hibernation issues on laptops and tablets to dual monitors not working, application incompatibility, and of course, driver issues, Windows 10 clearly has some leaks to plug. On top of that, some of the recent Windows Updates have even been recalled, almost on a monthly basis.

To be fair, some major issues were fixed early February 2016, but many remain. So when you add all that up, it doesn’t equate for network administrators to blindly take every Windows update that comes down the pipe.

What you should do (or not do)

The free Windows upgrade expires on the 28th of July, 2016. While this puts a bit of urgency into the upgrade discussion, in my opinion, Microsoft will extend that deadline.

The majority of Layer3’s desktop support tickets raised are related to upgrades to Windows 10 and issues that have come about from doing this. So as of now, we still advise customers not to upgrade to Windows 10 unless you really, really have to. We will review this again next month, but for now, sit tight.

If you have any questions surrounding the upgrade to Windows 10, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Basic Computer Troubleshooting Tips

When your computer suddenly stops working it is frustrating, to say the least! Would you know what to do if your screen goes blank? Or cannot hear any sound from your speakers? Whenever you have a problem with your computer, do not panic!

There are many basic troubleshooting techniques you can use to fix issues like this and get you back up in running quickly.  You may think I’am stating the obvious, but the below checks can often be overlooked.

Always check the cables

Simple I know, but often we forget to check all cables are plugged in securely. If you are having trouble with a specific piece of computer hardware, such as your monitor or keyboard, an easy first step is to check all related cables to make sure they are properly connected. Too often a monitor cable or USB device has come loose.

Restarting the computer

When all else fails, one of the best things to try is to restart the computer. Restarting can resolve a lot of basic issues you may experience with your device, especially with unresponsive software.  For example, the Windows blue screen of death is usually caused by a low-level error and can be fixed when you restart because the problem code can start over again.

Essentially, when you restart your device, you are clearing off the current state of your software and starting over again.

My famous line is: it is amazing what a restart it can do!

My Wi-Fi keeps disconnecting

Spotty wireless connections can be a challenge. Is it your computer? Your router? Your ISP? Try a few things before calling your Internet service provider.

  1. Firstly, check to see that your computer is within the range of your wireless router. Weak signals mean weak connections.
  2. Make sure your PC’s wireless card has the latest drivers. Try letting Windows troubleshoot for you by right-clicking the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and selecting Troubleshoot problems.

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Downloads are taking forever

Speedtest.net is very handy when you are having connectivity problems. Run a speed test to see what your download and upload speeds are, ideally they should be at least 50 percent of your Internet service provider’s advertised speeds, with a ping under 100 milliseconds. A download speed of over 30 Mbps and upload speed for at least 10 Mbps is recommended.

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My machine keeps restarting

Hardware problems are hard to diagnose and solve. First, confirm that you are not just getting the latest wave of Windows updates, which can automatically restart your computer during installation. Then work on updating all of your critical system drivers. Your graphics card, motherboard, and network card drivers are crucial.

It can be hard to pinpoint as sometimes it can be viruses; sometimes it can be adware. Sometimes it can be overheating. And sometimes it can be something as simple as making sure your video card is updated.

Is your computer making weird noises? If you are lucky, all you’ll need to do is give the machine a thorough cleaning. Modern computers have safeguards that shut down the system if a component is overheating, which can be the cause of frequent restarts when you are running resource-intensive programs or video games.

Pop-up ads are appearing on my desktop

If you are not running your Web browser and are still getting pop-up ads on your desktop, you’ve most likely installed adware, a program that displays unwanted ads. The majority of time adware is up to no good. Getting rid of adware is not easy.

Avoid downloading programs that offer to speed up your PC or clean up your registry. Instead, use a trustworthy adware scanner like the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware tool.

Running a full scan with credible antivirus software such as Malwarebytes is your first step. Just make sure to disable your standard antivirus software before running it.

Depending on the situation, if all else fails, there is always the nuclear option: a complete system reinstall. It might take a long time, but it is the only guaranteed way to remove adware or spyware. Remember to back up all important business file, cannot stress this enough. If any nasty virus gets installed on your machine and hold you to random, which in this day and age happens far too often to many businesses, having a backup in place, ideally online backup you can get back up quickly.

My printer won’t print

Let us assume that your printer’s drivers are up-to-date and that it has enough paper and ink or toner to print. Try turning the printer off and on. Unplug the printer and plug it back in. Check your printer’s print queue by looking for the printer icon in the system tray and double-clicking it. The print queue shows you the status of each job as well as the general status of your printer.

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Ensure that ‘Use Printer Offline is not checked. Sometimes, printing while your printer is turned off can cause Windows to set your printer to work offline, and that can stall jobs sent later.

 I can’t open email attachments

If you have ever encountered an attachment that you could not open, it was probably because you did not have the software necessary to view the file.

The usual suspect is the .pdf file, for which you can download a free PDF reader. If your problem involves a different file format, a quick search on the attachment’s file extension (the three letters after the period in the filename) should tell you what type of program you need. If the attachment lacks a file extension (which might happen if it was renamed), adding it back should set things right.

My program isn’t working on my new PC

Make sure that the software you are trying to run is compatible with your operating system. Older software might not function on new operating systems such as Windows 8 and 10, and an app created for Mac OS X definitely won’t run on your Windows PC. A 32-bit program might run on your 64-bit operating system, but it does not work the other way around.

 

Of course, we are here to help and are only a phone or email away. For support phone 0508 LAYER3 [529373] or support@layer3.nz

Windows8 Preview

Microsoft is planning to release their next generation operating system, Windows 8 by year end. I don’t think many will argue that Windows7 was a fantastic operating system. It’s going to be a hard task for Microsoft to out do themselves this time around.

Lets start with the Consumer Preview video.

As you can see from the video, Microsoft is taking a new approach to the user interface. Touch has come and gone, and now it seems, it’s back (just like 3d movies eh?).

Windows8 has been designed to run on slates (tablets), laptops, desktops and low powered devices such as the ARM processor. Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 have been a great success at helping Microsoft back in the mobile phone market. Microsoft ditched Windows Mobile and started fresh. Their new phone operating systems has influenced the design on Windows8. If you have used a Windows Phone before, then you will feel right at home with Windows8.

We’ve had a quick play with Windows8 over the last few months, and currently have a Toshiba Slate on order to fully test Windows8 with touch functionality. Once we have this, I will post an update. But for now, we have been running Windows8 on our desktops, without touch support.

What we like so far…

Metro – It’s a great step forward for User Interface Design. The UI is very smooth and live tiles display a lot of relevant data.

User Sync – Windows8 now syncs all your data across many devices (Documents with Skydrive). What this means is that you can log in to other computers, either at home, in the office or a public computer and have all your user profile settings downloaded and applied to that computer. This includes Internet Explorer settings and bookmarks, browser history, desktop preferences, desktop backgrounds, application settings and much more. After using Google Chrome for some time and loving the sync features, it’s very exciting to see this sort of functionality come to Windows.

Setup – Is a breeze. If you don’t already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will create one for you. If you do already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will automatically link you to it. One thing I personally loved was that Windows8 Mail application supports Microsoft Exchange. Upon clicking the mail icon, Windows8 configured my connection to Exchange just by entering my email address. This was very surprising and very refreshing. I’m sure many IT admins will be jumping in joy.

I am waiting for Microsoft to release a beta version of Microsoft Office v15. This version of Office integrates with the Metro interface and looks very slick.

If you want to have a play with Windows8 Consumer Preview, download it here.