Category Archives: Windows

About Microsoft Windows OS’s

How to Install Windows

Installing an operating system is a complex endeavor, and requires a fair amount of computer expertise in order to accomplish. This guide is written with the goal of making this process as easy as possible, but it is important to understand that it is still a generalized guide. Installing an operating system can have drastically different results depending on the exact hardware installed in your computer. This guide should work for the majority of computer setups, but may require some troubleshooting and tweaking in certain circumstances.

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Virtual Machines: Running Another Operating System On Your Computer the Easy Way

Virtual machines are programs that allow you to run programs (or an entire operating system) on your computer that weren’t originally designed for it. Most commonly this is done by Mac users who want to run Windows programs which don’t have versions for Mac OSX, but can be done with almost any operating system (like Linux). If you want to run Mac OSX you have to be on a Mac computer (unless you have some tech skill), but otherwise you’re free to experiment. All you have to do is download the operating system .iso or .dmg file or buy an installation DVD and you can use that to start up your virtual copy of that Operating System (OS).

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Whats New in Windows 8.1

Did you get a PC for the holidays, or recently upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1? Well then you’re in luck because today we will be summarizing of all the significant differences between Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.

Before we begin, if you are a UMass Amherst community member and that would like to upgrade and haven’t already switched to Windows 8.1 – you can obtain the software for FREE via the Microsoft Dreamspark web store.

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Keychain Access and Keepass

Have you ever had that awkward moment when you forgot the password to your bank account and missed your rent payment? Maybe not, but I’m sure you’ve forgotten a password at least once in your life, which is easy to do considering the average person uses about 10 passwords a day. So how can one avoid the inconvenience of forgetting important passwords in today’s fast-paced world? Simple, Keychain Access and Keepass.

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Note Taking on a Touch Screen Device

It seems more and more that paper is on its last legs of usefulness. Most readings are posted online and books can be read on anything from your computer to your phone. One of the few things remaining is taking notes in class. Most touch screen devices don’t have the sensitivity or the speed to take down notes as fast as you can put ink to paper, at least until now. Touch screen devices now have the capability to nearly match paper, with the obvious benefits of having a digital copy of your notes and even helping the environment. Many professors post lecture slides online before class and having a touch device makes it easy to write on them without wasting tons of money on prints (and if you’re taking Organic Chemistry it is incredibly helpful). With that said, there are a couple options to choose from.

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Office 365: Office for University Students

EDIT: The pricing information in this article is out of date. Please see the article here for up to date information on how UMass students can obtain Office 365 for free.

What is Office 365?

Everyone knows about Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft’s latest version of their popular productivity suite, yet few people have heard of Office 2013’s cousin in the cloud: Office 365.

Office 365 is the latest addition to Microsoft’s Office product line. It offers the same Office software packages as Office 2013 Professional, but with two primary differences. The first being that Office 365 includes complementary cloud storage space as well as a number of additional features, and the second difference is that Office 365 is sold as a yearly subscription rather than as a flat rate, one-time purchase.

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Password Security

Daylight Savings Time has just occurred and as we change our clocks we should also change our passwords. Having a strong password is important and it is good practice to change your passwords regularly. By changing your password you can make sure that your accounts are safe and secure.

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Turkeybytes: UNetbootin

With the release of Windows 8.1 I finally decided that it was worth replacing the trusted Windows 7 with Microsoft’s latest and greatest. Windows 8 is awesome; it provides many behind the scenes system improvements that will make your PC run more fluidly, and with Windows 8.1 Microsoft has fixed many of the user interface flaws that users and critics have been complaining about. I highly recommend upgrading to Windows 8.1 if you are a UMass student, faculty or staff because it is FREE through Microsoft Dreamspark!
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Turkeybytes: Classic Shell

The program that I am most thankful for is Classic Shell. Classic shell replaces the start button on Windows 8 so that instead of taking the user to the metro (blocks) interface of Windows 8, it brings up the traditional start menu of Windows Vista or 7. You may ask why not just use Windows 7 instead of 8? Well, Windows 8 is a much lighter operating system than 7 meaning that it uses less storage space on the hard drive and uses less RAM, or memory. Overall Windows 8 is much faster than Windows 7, but some people have found the metro interface unpleasant to use. Classic shell helps to bridge the gap between the two by giving the faster, lighter Windows 8 with the familiar interface of Windows 7 that many people have become accustomed to.

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Diskpart

Diskpart is a very useful tool, not only for diagnosing problems, but also fixing them. Diskpart is an application that can be started via command prompt or by starting the app separately. If starting diskpart via Command Prompt, open a command prompt window and type “diskpart” and then hit enter. Diskpart grants access to a different set of commands which can be used to manipulate the hard disks in a windows-based computer. The capabilities of diskpart are very extensive and will require not a small amount of personal investigation in order to fully understand and utilize the program. Continue reading

Spring Cleaning

Is your computer running slow? Well, at least that makes it easier to catch. Often a computer can be overloaded with unnecessary system files that can make your computer run slowly. This can cause hours of unnecessary frustration. Users can benefit from running various programs and applications that are designed to get your computer back running like new.

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I Hate Change or: the Dangers of Getting Attached to Applications and Operating Systems

Change can be difficult. When you’ve invested time and energy in learning something new, especially something as complicated as an operating system (e.g. Windows 98, Windows XP, Mac OS 9), it can be quite frustrating to be told that you should upgrade to something new. Waiting a little while to perform upgrades is actually a good idea. As any early adopter of Windows Vista can tell you, making the switch from Windows XP was extremely painful because there were many kinks to work out of Vista. However, with a few years under its belt, Vista is, arguably, a more secure operating system.

Of course, many users still prefer Windows XP, which is okay, but users need to stay extra vigilant. Hanging on to an older application or operating is fine until the developer stops supporting it and providing updates. This is the case with operating systems such as Windows 98 and Mac OS 9. When, this happens it is important to upgrade! This means switching to any new version of an application or operating system. For example, an upgrade from Windows 2000 could be any version of Windows XP or any version of Windows Vista. An upgrade for Adobe Acrobat Reader would be from Version 8 to Version 9. Upgrades often add new features to software

Updates are different from upgrades in that they work to fix existing problems in software. They are important because they help keep your application or operating system secure. When you apply updates to Windows or Mac OS X, you are improving the security and stability of your computer. Here are some advantages of performing updates:

  1. Bug Fixes: No one is perfect. When a programmer develops an application and distributes it to users, there are often “bugs” waiting to be found. Bugs are simply unexpected situations that cause programs to crash or malfunction. Programs are not smart. They do what they are programmed to do and handle situations that they are programmed to handle. Programmers try to think about all the sorts of things that could go wrong when an application is running in the real world by giving users error messages or warnings. (e.g. If a program asks a user for a date in the format MM/DD/YYYY and the user types in YYYY/MM/DD, the program will ask the user to type the information in correctly.) However, sometimes there are problems which programmers don’t consider. When an application runs into these situations, it could crash, malfunction (i.e. appear to be working correctly, but really processing information incorrectly. This is especially dangerous because users don’t know that something has gone wrong!) Updates often fix these “bugs.”
  2. Security: Bugs can leave your operating system or application open to attack. A bug can be exploited by a virus or an attacker to do bad things to your files or even turn your computer into a zombie computer! Zombie computers can be used to attack other computers, send out spam messages, and even delete or ransom your files.
  3. Improvements: Many developers like getting user input. When they come out with a new version or update for a program, they often add new features which will make the program more useful or usable.

The main reasons to perform upgrades are:

  1. To take advantage of new features. Upgrades often change how existing features work or offer new features altogether.
  2. Your current application / operating system is no longer supported. When your program or operating system is no longer supported by the developer, they will no longer patch the program to ensure that it remains secure. When this happens, it’s important to take the step to upgrade to a supported version of the application or operating system.

The moral of the story is: keep yourself up-to-date to keep yourself sane and your computer secure. OIT Software Support suggests that you use a program called Secunia PSI if you run Windows. Secunia PSI will scan all the programs on your computer and will tell you which ones are out-of-date. It will then show you what to do to update them.

As always, if you have any questions, please call OIT Help Services at 413.545.9400.

The Blue Screen of Death ( BSOD ) in Windows

A Blue Screen of Death - From the Wikimedia Commons

A Blue Screen of Death - From the Wikimedia Commons

You will see a distinct look of fear in the eyes of anyone who has used Microsoft Windows when you mention a ‘BSOD’ or ‘Blue Screen of Death’. Sometimes they occur a single time and then go away, but other times they will recur every time that you restart the computer.

When this happens to you, there are a few things to try:

  • If your computer restarts in an endless loop and you can’t tell why, hit the F8 key repeatedly, about once a second, just as the computer starts to reboot.
  • You will get a menu that looks something like this:
The Safe Mode selection screen for Windows Vista

The Safe Mode selection screen for Windows Vista

  • Select the option entitled, “Disable automatic restart on system failure.”
  • Next time that you get the BSOD, it won’t restart automatically and you can then acquire useful information for troubleshooting the problem.
  • When you get the BSOD, copy down the complete STOP CODE which is formatted like so:
    • STOP: 0x00000000 (0x00000000, 0x00000000, 0x00000000, 0x00000000)
  • The first set of numbers (in blue) can be entered into Google or the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

You can then sometimes get useful information for fixing the problem. If nothing else, copy down the error numbers to bring to OIT Software Support. Other useful information includes the hardware (e.g. mouse, monitor, printers, scanners, USB devices) attached to the computer and the programs you remember running. The more contextual information we have, the easier it will be to solve a problem!

How to delete the Windows Antivirus virus

If you have seen this screen then you know what virus I am referring to.

Here in Software Support, we use a program called ComboFix that you can download yourself by clicking here. This software will clean up most instances of this known type of virus called “Smitfraud,” and will generally leave your system much more operable than before. Recently, the number of outbreaks of this virus and ones like it have become staggering.

This software changes daily and must be downloaded every time it is run! The best way to do this is to download it on a computer that is clean and copy it over onto a USB pen drive.

Usually at Software Support there is a lull in the middle of the semester, but last fall the amount of traffic into SWS was something that I have never seen in my four years of working here.

If you feel that your computer is not running correctly, or if you think that the error messages that are popping up are not from your normally installed anti-virus or anti-spyware software, this should be your first step in alleviating the problem.

Of course, if you are having issues running the software or are not comfortable doing this, you can bring the computer in and we will run it for you.