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Microsoft Office Services Windows

Microsoft is on a roll!

Microsoft refreshed their logo earlier this year. Probably to reflect the refresh the whole company now seems to undertake.

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Microsoft Tips and Tricks Windows

Windows 8 Reset function in pictures

With Windows 8 you no longer have to boot from your installation media (DVD or USB) to reinstall Windows. (Although you might be prompted to insert it, as I did.)

Click on pictures for larger version.

In Windows 8 you can either Refresh or Reset your PC. You find these options in PC Settings. You reach PC Settings by either swiping in from the right, move your mouse to either corner on the right or by pressing Win + C to open the Charms bar. Then choose Settings (at the bottom), then Change PC Settings (at the bottom) and at last General. Scroll down to reveal the options.

After pressing the Get started button under Remove everything and reinstall Windows you get the screen above.

You’ll be asked to insert your recovery or installation media (I used the DVD) (not shown).

Windows 8 will then start preparing and reboot automatically.

You’ll get to choose between these two options for resetting your PC. (I chose the first option.)

All ready to go!

The process starts and takes only minutes.

After another restart, you set up Windows 8 as doing a clean install. You have to accept the license agreement and choose a color theme (not shown).

You then chose a username and password. If you already have a Microsoft Account (formerly Windows Live ID), you can use this to log on to Windows 8. This is the recommended option, since you’ll get automatic syncing of settings, SkyDrive, apps and so on. Pressing the option at the bottom gets you to the screen below.

On this screen you get the option to make a local account (which I did this time). You then get to watch Microsofts very short introduction to how you use the active corners before the new (Metro) Start screen gets loaded.

Since you literally start over, you have to install all your apps (should be easy if you use a Microsoft Account), programs and updates (via Windows Update). Your settings should be synced if you use a Microsoft Account and if you’ve used SkyDrive to take care of your important files, they’ll be easily available.

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Microsoft Recommended Software Windows

Windows 8 coming October 26 – download now!

Windows 8 is finished and if you have access to MSDN or Technet you can already download it. It has of course already spread to the torrent networks and I have run Windows 8 Pro for a couple of weeks. You’ll need a key to get through setup, but they are easy to find. Or you can skip this step during setup by making your own ei.cfg file. You will of course not be able to activate Windows 8 which you’ll be constantly reminded of (every three hours to be exact). You will loose the ability to personalize Windows 8, but everything is still functional. If you follow the link to buy yourself a product key, you get a message that this is not possible at the moment. Come late October I guess this will be made available.. The question is if it will be the same upgrade price of 40USD that Microsoft announced earlier this year.

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Microsoft Tips and Tricks Windows

Windows 8: How to install without a product key and choose version

With Windows 7, you could skip entering a product key during setup. You would  then get a 30 days grace period before you had to activate, which could be pushed back a couple of times. You could also delete the ei.cfg file from the sources folder and during setup choose which version to install.

Windows 8 comes in just two flavors, Core and Pro. (And Enterprise and RT.) The version you get depends on the product key you enter during setup, which you can no longer skip. But clever heads have found out that if you ADD the ei.cfg to the sources folder you can not only choose which version to install, but skip entering the product key.

Just copy the few lines below into notepad and save it as ei.cfg.

[EditionID]
Pro
[Channel]
Retail
[VL]
0

This will of course give you the Pro version.

If you’ve been smart and used the Windows 7 USB DVD Tool to turn the ISO into a bootable USB, just copy the file to the sources folder and you’re all set.

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Microsoft Recommended Services Software Software Update Tips and Tricks Websites Windows

How to keep your system (Windows/software/drivers) up-to-date

I think it’s safe to say that almost all computers used in homes today are connected to the Internet and have a decent amount of programs installed. And that makes keeping your computer up-to-date an important task. Why? Because each day a new security hole, exploit or other errors are found and being fixed. Or a program can get new features or bugfixes.

Fortunately, Windows and other popular software can be set up to update itself. E.g. Windows 7 can be set up to run Windows Update and install important and critically updates automatically.

Also check out my post WSUS Offline Update – Update Windows without Internet.

Another example is Mozilla Firefox, a popular browser, that once in a while pops up a window asking you to update it. Google has taken it a step longer with their browser Chrome, just updating it in the background without user intervention. Talking about browsers, plugins are just as important to update. Flash and Java are two of the most used plugins and therefore prone to attacks. You don’t want these to be out-of-date, so do a plugin check at Mozilla. Google has actually integrated Flash directly in Chrome, so it gets updated automatically when the browser gets updated.

Some software doesn’t update automatically, but tells you when an update is available. And some software doesn’t notify you at all, making you doing the dirty work. Looking for updates, downloading and updating each of these can be difficult and tedious. That’s were software updaters come in handy!

My favorite is FileHippo Update Checker. This little utility can be installed as a regular program, notifying you when updates for your installed programs are available. I find it rather “noisy”, so I prefer the standalone (portable) version. Just run the program, it does a scan and presents you with a webpage with direct downloads.

If you want a more detailed summary, you might want to try out Secunia Personal Software Inspector. It does a more thorough scan, and is supposed to support automatic updating of installed programs.

More screenshots.

Both programs mentioned above are discussed together with others at Gizmo’s Freeware.

That covers Windows and software, but what about drivers? Drivers are an important part of a working computer. An easy explanation of a driver, is software that makes Windows “talk” to you hardware. In the Windows XP era, finding the right driver and updating it was hard. Since Windows Vista, Microsoft has done a great job with drivers, including them directly on the setup DVD and offering them through Windows Update. I you choose the recommended settings during Windows 7 setup, most (if not all) of your hardware will be recognized and drivers gets installed automatically. Either during setup or afterwards through Windows Update.

This solution requires a working Internet connection of course, which depends on your network card getting installed during setup. As a safety net, be sure to download its driver from your computer or motherboard manufacturer beforehand.

If you want a program to do all the work, I can recommend Driver Magician. I got mine for free via Giveaway of the Day. They have given this away the last three years.

A free alternative is DriverEasy. A combined web-service and software is the French site My-Config.com.

If you’re an enthusiast like me, you always want the latest software and drivers, even if they’re beta (unfinished, made available for testing). Computer manufacturers seem to forget about your hardware as soon as they release a newer system. That’s why I recommend you go straight to the source. E.g. if you have an Intel system, download your chipset and SATA drivers from Intel’s website. Likewise for AMD systems. If you have a graphics card from nVidia or ATI/AMD, you’ll usually get a better experience using their drivers. You will often lose customization done by your computer manufacturer, but personally I think that’s a small price to pay. Until recently, laptop users weren’t allowed to use the drivers released directly from AMD or nVidia. That’s why sites like Laptop Video 2 Go and Omega Drivers exists.

Windows Vista introduced a new driver model, which continues with Windows 7. In Windows XP, you have to manually specify the exact folder which contains the (updated) driver. In Vista/7, you can put all your drivers in one folder, and just point to it. The operating system will take care of the rest, choosing the best (most compatible) driver and install it for you. But what if you can’t find a suitable driver? What if you don’t know what that “unknown hardware” is in Device Manager?

Thats were Unknown Device Identifier steps in. It will help you identify the hardware, making it easier to find a driver.

As I mentioned, Windows XP doesn’t make it easy to update drivers. And being over ten years old, it seldom has drivers included for current hardware. As always, Internet has a solution. DriverPacks.net is a project trying to gather most used drivers in one place. Drivers are packed together in compressed files, sorted in categories like chipset, sound, graphics e.t.c. The project started out as a way to integrate drivers into the Windows XP setup. Newer SATA hard drives won’t be recognized by Windows XP setup and a driver needs to be loaded from a floppy. The floppy has been dead for years, hence integrating drivers. By downloading and running DriverPacks BASE, you can integrate all the driverpacks into Windows XP with the push of a few buttons! DP BASE can download/update driverpacks, integrate them into Windows XP setup or make a Standalone Disc which you can use to update drivers on an existing installation.

DriverPacks.net contains a list for Vista (can be used for Windows 7 also due to same driver model). What I usually do, is to download the packs, unzip them (7-zip is a good alternative) and then use Device Manager to update my components. You do this by right-clicking a device in the list and choose Update Driver Software…, next Browse my computer for driver software and lastly point it to the correct folder. Be sure to check the box that includes subfolders.