Tips & Tricks

Office 365 keeps disappearing

We attended a customer’s home who told us that she had to keep reinstalling her Office 365 because it would disappear from her computer when she booted up in the morning.
Upon arrival she showed me that she downloads the Office 365 installation file using her Husband’s computer and put it on a USB stick and then installs from there.
The problem is that the 365 installation file is custom created for the computer that is downloading it. You can’t transfer the file to another computer.
I then proceeded to log into their Microsoft account on her computer and downloaded the Office 365 to her computer directly.
Problem solved!

Why is the favourite star in Edge a solid colour?

You may have noticed that when you visit websites using Microsoft Edge, there is an option to add that website to your favourites.
This option is via an icon at the right hand side of the Internet address bar or URL bar.
You may also have noticed that some stars for websites are a solid colour.
The reason for the two types is that if the star is filled in then it means you have already added that webpage to your favourites.
Clicking the filled in star lets you edit your favourite.

Google Drive storage size warning when uploading files to shared folder

We had a customer that was given access to a shared folder of another friend’s Google Drive in which to deposit files.
Her friend had a Google Drive storage size of many Gigabytes available while our customer only had a free Google account, that only had a couple of Gigabytes left.

The free Google account gives you 15GB of storage space which is shared between all of your Google services.

She had tried to upload some large files from her computer to the shared folder only to be told she has run out of storage space.

She called me to ask when was this the case.

The reason is that even though you have uploaded the files to another person’s shared folder, the files are still linked to your account since you must be logged into your Google account in order to upload the files in the first place.

The other person had only provided the folder to be shared with, but the files contained within, do not count towards her storage size, it still is counted against yours.

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Make a favourite File or Folder always appear first on the list

Do you have a file of folder on your computer that you need to keep sending people, but don’t want to waste time scrolling through File Explorer to find it?
Just add an exclamation mark ! at the beginning of the name and the file or folder will always appear at the top of your list. So if the folder name is Comp-U-Train then change it to !Comp-U-Train.

Acronis Clone problems

I have used the Acronis USB “rescue media tool”, many times to clone a customer’s old Hard Disk Drive to a new Solid State Drive (SSD).
Even if the old drive size was larger than the size on the new SSD, Acronis would take care of this mismatch automatically. So long as the used space on the old hard drive was less than the size of the SSD, it would happen seamlessly.
I have had no problems doing this up to now.
This time, with the customer’s old 1TB hard drive and new 240GB SSD, the clone process would hang at the screen where I was asked what type of clone process that I would like to do. I always choose to make the cloned drive bootable. I have learnt that one needs to put the new drive in the computer and then the old drive in a USB caddy. I have discovered that trying to clone from the old drive in the laptop to the new drive in the USB caddy, would cause the new drive not to be able to boot for some reason.
I tried multiple times but it still stalled. After leaving it overnight thinking that the process was going very slowly due to the old hard drive having a problem, I awoke to the same screen.
Eventually the only way to get the clone process proceeding was to shrink the size of the Windows partition on the old hard drive from 1TB to 120GB.
Once I did that Acronis started the clone process like I am used to.
I used the Windows “Shrink Volume” tool in the Disk Management module to accomplish this.

Beware of the “Refund Scam”!

There are many ways that scammers try to steal your hard earned money. A modern method, is to tell you either by scam email or phone call, that you have a refund coming to you; or that they have received a large sum of money from you and to contact them, if it is in error.

Online scams are bane of the 21st century. No longer do crooks need to physically enter your home to steal from you. Sadly now they can do it from the comfort of their own home and will reach out to you through the many means available such as via your computer; your landline phone; your cell phone either via calling or sending you a SMS.

You are directed to call a phone number to launch a refund request.

The scammer then takes control of your computer and makes it look like they have refunded more money into your account than what was owing to you.
They edit the script of your online banking page to change the balance amount of your account. So even though it seems that your account is suddenly showing a large balance it does not really exist!

They can also set up a third party as a payee and transfer money from your online banking account to this nefarious person.

They then ask you to settle the overpaid deposit back to them by way of gift cards such as iTunes cards, Apple Store, Google or Amazon gift cards.

These excellent videos by Jim Browning explains the process: click me
Here is another video: click me
Here is another video: click me
And another video: click me
And another: click me
And another: click me

Be aware and don’t be a victim!

Protect your cryptocurrency wallet

When you set up an account to receive your cryptocurrency, you are given a “wallet” to receive your Bitcoin. This wallet has its own unique ID code which you give out to anyone that wants to send you cryptocurrency.
Before you can receive or send cryptocurrency to or from your wallet, you will be asked to set up “two factor authentication”(2FA) which helps you protect access to your valuable cryptocurrency.
Before you can conduct a cryptocurrency transaction you will need to enter a unique code as part of the transaction. This will involve you installing an “Authenticator” app on your mobile device. This app will generate the dynamic code that you need to access your wallet. This code changes every 60 seconds and is automatically provided by the authenticator app on your device.
When you open the authenticator app to add your cryptocurrency account to your device, you will be asked to scan a QR (Quick Response) code.
This is a once-off QR code generated by the sending Bitcoin mining company, or digital currency exchange facility. The QR code will appear on screen and you will need to scan it with the device that you are using as part of the Authenticator app installation process.
After you scan the QR code into your device, take a screen shot of this unique QR code.
If you lose the app on your phone for any reason, you can scan the QR code to once again add the cryptocurrency account so that you are not locked out of your ability access your Bitcoin. If you have a spare phone use this to also add the Bitcoin company.
Finally, if your Bitcoin company offers it, use the manual back up method to back up your Bitcoin access account. This involves you being given 12 words which you should write down and keep safe, should you lose access to your Bitcoin account in the future for any reason. These 12 arbitrary words are case sensitive and also position sensitive.

Camera Failed Error in Samsung S5

One of our Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones started giving us an error whenever we tried to open the built in camera application.
Other than this, the phone has worked flawlessly for many years!
We tried all of the online suggestions such as making sure that the phone’s firmware was up to date; clearing the camera app cache; doing a soft reboot of the phone; doing a hard reboot of the phone (which meant installing the phone from scratch) but still nothing worked.
I was about to put the phone back in the drawer, when I realised that the one thing that I hadn’t tried, was to remove the back of the phone and take out the battery for a few seconds. Then put the battery back in and try the camera app again.
So I proceeded to take off the back cover of the phone and removed the battery for a few seconds and then reinstalled it.
I booted up the phone and guess what…the camera now worked!!!!
I realise that many of the newer phones have non-removable batteries so if this the case with yours, try to let your phone battery drain down to zero and try again. If your camera app still gives you this error then you’ll need to take it to a professional to open the back of the phone and do the battery reboot.

Simultaneously share your screen and your webcam during a facebook live video webinar

An irritation with facebook live video broadcasting, is that you cannot share your screen and use your webcamera simultaneously, without using a third party plugin or application. As soon as you press the “Stop Sharing” button, your webinar transmission ends and you will have to start things all over again from scratch!
This is a huge inconvenience to your viewers during a webinar, when keeping them engaged is so important. This is because you want to greet your viewers first off and then share your screen and finally finish with your camera view to say goodbye. Having to start stop start your webinar is unacceptable and unprofessional.
Everyone on the Internet says that this cannot be done without using third party streaming software which we don’t have and don’t want to use.
Luckily if you have the Windows 10 Operating System running on you computer, then I have found a work around using a built in tool! Windows 10 comes with a feature called “Camera” which you can use to test your camera without worrying about trusting a third party browser plug in or application.
What you need to do is after you launch a facebook live broadcast and press the “Share Screen” button, click the Windows start button on the bottom left corner and launch the “Camera” app. Don’t launch your camera until after you press the sharing button as you will get a conflict error between the Windows 10 camera app and the facebook live
Your camera view will then appear and you can say hello to your groupies.
What you are doing is cleverly sharing the Windows 10 camera app test screen!
After your preamble, simply press the “minimise” button on the top right of the camera view so that you can come back at the end of your broadcast to say “goodbye” and press the “Stop Sharing” button. You will see the camera icon in your taskbar at the bottom of your screen. Simply click the icon to maximise your camera test app to finish off your broadcast of brilliance!

Windows 10 Camera testing app

Intel i3 vs i5 vs i7 CPU

I get asked a lot by our customers about what type of CPU (Central Processing Unit) that I recommend for their new computers.
The CPU is the “brain” of the computer and conducts all of the processing activities.

An i3 CPU is for the entry level CPU for the basic user. It is an economic choice and is the lowest of the i3 processor family that I recommend. Below the i3 is the “Celeron” processor but I advise my customers to steer well away from these as they don’t have the horsepower to handle the modern requirements of many applications or websites.
The i3 processor is a good choice for entry level requirements such as for browsing the Internet; using Microsoft Office; Video calling and social networking.

Next up the food chain is the i5 CPU
This processor is for those that want a good balance between price and performance.
It is suitable for the light gamers out there and if you are running your own business where you need to do a lot with Microsoft Office.

Next up is the i7
This CPU is for the power users out there. The i7 processor is capable of easily handling several windows and applications running at the same time.
It is suited for applications that require a lot of horsepower such as Adobe Photoshop

There is also an i9 CPU but this is for extreme requirements such as for heaving gaming or in servers and not normally needed by consumers.

Lastly I also recommend that the customer buy a computer with a modern SSD installed. The prices of SSDs have dropped considerably over the last few years so a 480GB SSD is a good middle-of-the-road amount of storage capacity.
Finally, the minimum amount of RAM (Random Access Memory) onboard should be 8GB (GigaBytes) but if you can afford 16GB that that is ever better!

USB shared printer not visible on another networked Windows 10 computer

We attended a trouble call where the customer had two computers running Windows10.
One had an old printer connected to it using a USB cable. She could print with no problem to this older printer.
However, she wanted to share this printer to a new computer over her Wi-Fi network and was not able to accomplish it.
When we arrived at her SOHO, we checked to make sure that she had shared the printer correctly on the old computer and that “file and printer sharing” was activated in the Network and Sharing centre” options.
The only way to get the new computer to connect to the shared printer on the other computer, was to manually add it using the older computer’s name and printer name.
One has to enter the path of the shared printer perfectly otherwise it doesn’t work.
The reason why the older computer couldn’t add the shared printer to the network so that the new computer could see it as a networked printer, was because it was using the USB connection method.
You can see in the photo below how we entered the network path name. After we highlighted the printer, we clicked the “Next” box at the bottom right and the drivers were installed, resulting in the printer appearing in the printer list on the new computer.

How to upgrade Windows 10 with only small available hard disk drive space available

We received a Notebook from a customer, that was stuck on Windows 10 version 1909. The customer wanted to update it to the latest version of Windows 10 which is 20H2.
Unfortunately this Notebook only came with 32GB of hard disk capacity. Just putting Windows 10 and Microsoft Office on the Notebook will quickly use this up.
Consequently, the Notebook only had about 3GB of empty space available.
The customer didn’t understand the messages from Microsoft about having to free up hard disk space on her C: drive, when she tried to upgrade the Notebook.
Windows 10 lets you use a plug in USB drive with at least 10GB of space available.
Even if you have a USB stick, you also need about 5GB of space on the C: drive.
After plugging in a USB drive, we were told that we needed to free up a further 1.49GB of space.
After uninstalling some old applications and temporarily moving some documents and photos to the aforementioned USB drive, I was able to upgrade the Notebook successfully. Needless to say, the customer was very happy!
After the Notebook was upgraded to 20H2, I could copy her files back to the Notebook. However she was still left with only about 3GB of available space.

Windows 10 installation keeps restarting to language & keyboard choice

We had a customer that was trying to install Windows 10 on their HP laptop.
After the installation had copied the files to the hard disk drive from the USB key, the laptop restarted; only to return to the same point of the installation where you choose the language and keyboard choices.
The installation would not advance past this point.
Normally the Windows 10 installation will restart and carry on with the installation even if installation USB key is plugged in.
The laptop was set to boot from the USB stick in the BIOS and would keep booting from the stick after the restart.
What I did was tell the customer to remove the USB stick when the computer says that it is restarting.
When they did this the installation carried on as normal!

Samsung Phone System Sounds

You may have noticed the four volume sliders in your Samsung/Android phone settings.
The first volume control is the “Ringing” volume control. This controls the sound of the phone when someone calls you.
The second volume control is the “Media” volume control. This controls the volume when you play media on your phone such as music or watching an online video.
The third volume control is the “System” volume control. This controls the volume of any sounds made by the system itself. This can be the sound it makes when you plug the charger in; or when you take a photo or notifications from the apps that you have installed on your phone.
Lastly there is the “Notifications” volume slider. This slider controls the volume of the messages that the apps (applications) on your phone send to you. These notifications could be from say Facebook telling you that someone has liked your post, to a new article from a newspaper that you are subscribed to.

Keep your devices software updated!

We recently received a trouble call that a customer’s Samsung Galaxy note was not working properly. She couldn’t download emails and the Tablet was making unusual sounds when the customer wasn’t doing anything. It was also exhibiting abnormal behaviour.
I brought the device back to our office and looked to see if the Tablet needed any Android software updates to be performed.
Sure enough the Tablet needed to do a 286MB update.
After finishing that I checked for updates again. There was another update and this time it was a whopping 980MB in size!
Even on my fast Internet connection it took a while.
After it was completed I once again checked and there was a third update that needed doing. This one was 200MB in size. After completing this I checked once more and and was relieved to see that the Tablet was now up to date.
The Tablet was also now behaving normally and emails started to download.
I can’t stress how important it is to let your devices do the updates. They will normally warn you that that there are impending updates. Before you do any updates please make sure that your device is plugged into the wall power because of the internal battery dies during the updates, it could render your expensive device another doorstop!
Granted many people are on data limiting Internet plans and if this applies to you, then please take your equipment to your local computer shop to let them do it.
These software or firmware updates are not the updates for the apps that you run on your device, but the Operating System software that runs the equipment itself. Depending on the device this could be an Android or IOS or MACOS or Windows update.
Firmware and software updates are released by the manufacturer and help keep your device safe by plugging exploit security holes and also adding new features. The same goes for your computers.

IRS Scam

Here is another Scam purportedly from the IRS. Companies will never contact you like this. Scammers want to get a hold of your banking information. Never ever respond to these people. Unless you have initiated the contact personally, then must not trust this type of Phishing scam.

RESTART not REBOOT your computer

If something is amiss on your computer, make sure that you RESTART it and not do a SHUTDOWN and start up.
The reason is when you restart, it shuts down your computer first. If you shutdown it puts your recent opened programmes in memory so that it boots up faster.
You will notice that if you Restart you computer, you clock log in Task Manager shows that it has been reset to 0.
This is due to a Windows 10 feature being enabled by default called “Fast Startup” mode. You can disable this if you want, but if things are not running normally you should do a restart rather than disabling this feature as things don’t go wrong in Windows 10 that often and have a quick start up after being shut down is a nice feature.

Scam Alert!

Don’t fall for scams like these!
Either do the three finger salute (ctrl+alt+del) to get to the shut down icon, or hold in power button for up to 10 seconds to shut down your computer.
The scammers disable the back and close buttons in your browser and will you tell that they have locked your computer.

USB storage drive currently in use error

If you want to copy something to a USB flash drive and then delete said file/folder from your computer, first safely eject the USB drive from your computer BEFORE deleting the file on your computer.
Otherwise, Windows Explorer will show a “still in use” error when you try to eject the USB drive.
You will then have to wait for hell to freeze over; refresh Windows Explorer; or shut down or restart the computer in order to safely unplug the USB drive.

Dell laptop not seeing Huawei LTE router

We recently attended a customer call whose Dell W10 laptop can’t see their Huawei Wi-Fi router listed under the Wi-Fi networks

Other devices can see and join the router.

Tried disabling and re-enabling the Wi-Fi adapter but there was no change

Looked at the Wi-Fi network app on my Smartphone and I could see the router but noticed it’s transmitting on Ch 13 on the 2.4GHz band
Ch13 is used in Europe but not in the US or SA normall.

Logged into the router as this problem can be caused by the country not being set up correctly but it showed SA correctly

I saw that the Wi-Fi channel was set to Auto in the router.
Changed the channel to 11 and the router appeared in the Dell’s list!
Put it back on Ch 13 and the router disappeared

No Internet using tethering and Wi-Fi dongle

This morning we lost the Internet connection on our Windows 10 v1909 computers using a LAN cable connection.

So I bust out my handy dandy USB Wi-Fi dongles in order to connect to my phone’s tethering.

Previously once I had joined the tethering’s Wi-Fi signal, I got Internet service straight away.

However despite it showing that I was connected to the Wi-Fi, I couldn’t get any Internet connection.
I tried rebooting my confuser and also the dongle but still no Internet.
I whipped out my tablet and used It to test the tethering and it got Internet with no problem.

The only way to get the Internet working using the dongle, was to disable the LAN network adapter!

This is a new situation and maybe a Windows 10 bug.

Contacts not syncing to my Android Tablet

I recently added some contacts on my Android phone and was surprised to see that they didn’t automatically appear in the contacts on my Android Tablet.

I went into the “Accounts” settings on my phone under the “User and backup” option and sure enough under the Google option, the box to sync the contacts was unticked.
After ticking the box, my phone starting syncing my contacts with my Google account in the Cloud and the new contacts quickly appeared in my Tablet’s contacts.


Groove Music shows each song of compilation as separate song

I recently downloaded a music compilation CD containing 100 lovely songs.
When imported into my Windows 10 Groove Music application, instead of a single album with all of the songs contained, I was presented with one hundred songs separately!
A quick look at one of the song’s Metadata information, showed that each song had the singer listed as the Album Artist, instead of Various Artists.
By going into the CD’s folder and selecting all of 100 songs at once, I could change the Album Artist information simultaneously to “Various Artists.”
After doing this, my computer re-indexed the CD’s folder and I was presented with a single Album with all of the 100 songs contained.


SSL (Accept all certificates)

We recently attended a trouble call where a customer could not send or receive her Google Gmail on her Tablet.
She stated that this situation had existed for over a year!
Her laptop needed to go in for repair and desperately needed to be able to use her Tablet to work with her email.

First step was to confirm the Google email configuration settings on her Tablet. It had been set for IMAP email service and all of the settings looked correct. However when I pressed the send/receive circular icon on her Tablet, I immediately saw an error message appearing, saying that the email was not secure.
As part of my troubleshooting, I changed the security setting to SSL (Accept All Certificates) which worked! This setting is not acceptable because it can introduce and insecure situation because the use could be downloading or sending their emails to a non-secure server which could be run by someone with nefarious intentions.
Because SSL uses a security certificate which relies on a correct date to authenticate it, I suspected that the Tablet’s certificate had a timing problem. One cause is that the timing of the Tablet is not correct so that when the Tablet tries to authenticate the certificate in order to synchronize with Google’s email servers, it fails.
A quick look at the Tablet’s date & time settings showed that it had been set to the year 2004 despite it being 2020!
After correcting the time, the Tablet was able to correct to Google and she was able to send and receive her emails with the secure SSL settings.

Acronis USB RMB apps crashing

I recently attempted to clone a customer’s HDD to a new SSD. For many years, I have used the excellent Acronis set of apps to do the cloning. I also use the Back up and Recovery tools. These tools are on the RMB “Rescue Media Builder” that you must manually create using your Acronis True Image programme which I highly recommend purchasing.
I have created a USB key with the apps installed as it is much easier to clone a drive when Windows is not booted up. I am using Acronis True Image 2018.

For some reason my faithful USB Acronis key, would stop responding after using it for a minute or so; no matter what app that I was using. This was despite me creating a new USB key in case my original key had gotten corrupted over the years.

However despite my best efforts I could not get the Acronis RMB to work properly. I have used it on many computers with no problem however I could not get it to work on my customer’s ASUS Celeron laptop with 2GB of RAM running Windows 10 64bit version 1909.

The one thing that I noticed was that my version of the RMB was created using the Linux operating system. When I went into the RMB creation tool, I noticed that there was also a Windows version using the Windows PE (
Pre-install Environment) repair system. I thought that I had nothing to lose and set about creating a RMB Windows version by simple clicking the WinPE box in the RMB creation process. The RMB Linux version had given me no problems over the past years but I thought that there is a first time for everything.
Sure enough, after inserting my RMB Windows version, the cloning succeeded with out a hitch! I had even used my original USB key that had the Linux version installed.

I now have a very happy customer with a much faster laptop.

Microsoft Office 365 SMTP incompatibilty

I recently installed Office 365 and could not get the email account setup properly in the Outlook app.

I kept getting a SMTP error.

I verified that the email password was correct by successfully logging into the webmail portal.

I discovered that I could get the account set up successfully by typing “Control Panel” in the search box at the bottom left of your screen and then click on the Mail icon.
Select User accounts in Control panel and you’ll see the mail icon.

Now add your email account using this method, making sure not to use encryption for the SMTP port 25 setting.


Easy way to replace Wi-Fi router

We recently attended a tech call to replace the customer’s Wi-Fi router as the existing one had gotten damaged by a power surge.

The customer was not happy about the prospect that lay ahead with rejoining her dozen or so devices to the new router. This new router had a new password and Wi-Fi network name also known as the SSID.

I was able to gather some information about her existing router which would help me install the new router with the minimum convenience.

This information was the three parameters used by the existing router.
Firstly I was able to gather the Wi-Fi network name. Second I was able to gather the password for the old router and lastly I was able to gather the type of security encryption used by the old router which was WPA-PSK.
I then simply logged into the new router and changed the parameters to match the old router. After rebooting each device, they all easily joined the new router.

Transferring SMS messages between Android smartphones

We recently attended a service call, where a customer had bought a new Android phone and after inserting the old SIM card, discovered that the SMS messages had not transferred over from her old phone.

SMS messages are not retained on the SIM card for security reasons.

If you use the excellent Samsung “Smart Switch” app (application or programme) to transfer your information from your old to your new phone, then the SMS messages are transferred across.

However what happens if your old phone has been lost or stolen or broken. To prevent this situation, we use and recommend the excellent app called “SMS Backup & Restore” which you can download for free from the Google Play Store. This amazing app saves your SMS messages to the Cloud. You can choose which Cloud service that you want to use. In this case, we used the customer’s Google account.


Luckily the customer had her old phone at hand; but rather than use the aforementioned Smart Switch app, we installed the SMS Backup & Restore app on both her old and new phone. This way, her SMS will be backed up to the Cloud going forward automatically.

With this app, we were able to easily back up her SMS to the Cloud on her old phone and then restore them to her new phone!

Wi-Fi Printing Problem

We recently attended a trouble call where a customer was having intermittent problems printing to her Canon Wifi network printer.
She had been using it successfully to print from her Windows 10 laptop; her Apple iPhone and Apple iPad.
Suddenly one day, the printer stopped printing from any device.
Upon arrival at the customer, I rebooted the printer and rejoined the printer to her Wi-fi network, which was delivered by a Nokia ONT (Optical Network Terminal) provided by her fibre company.
Suddenly the printer sprang into life and started printing some spooled documents.
She then copied a private document on the printer itself and shortly thereafter, found that the Wi-fi printing at once again stopped.
I again checked the Wi-fi settings on the printer which showed no problem.
As part of my troubleshooting, I temporarily used my Smartphone as a Wi-fi “Hotspot” and joined all devices to it. The printing worked happily for 30 minutes via my Smartphone’s Hotspot. This showed me that the cause of the problem was her ONT.
I then rejoined the devices to the printer and the same problem ensued.
Seeing that the printer also had an Ethernet port, I plugged the printer directly into the ONT’s LAN port and the printing started again. After further testing, I concluded that there must be some incompatibility with the firewall and ports inside the ONT that was causing problems for the printer network data traffic. I could not conduct further testing of the ONT since her fibre company had removed administrator access.
It is always better to use a cable connection wherever possible.

Always use different passwords

If you use the same password for more than one website, please change it immediately. Add an additional symbol such as [email protected]#$ etc.
In this day and age where websites get hacked and people’s usernames and passwords getting stolen, you are giving the hackers the key to your city, if you share a username and password across multiple platforms. I notice that new websites ask you if your want to create a new account using your Google or Facebook details to make it easier. Just answer NO and please create a new password. You can use the same username if you like but the password MUST be different to protect you.
Lastly, please write down your new password and make sure that all of your recovery information is up to date such as your phone number and email address.
We suggest to our customers to put all of their account details in a small book stored safely away rather than on sheets of paper which are easily lost.

Your email mailbox is full scam

We recently attended a customer whose domain is hosted by company X.

They had received an email purporting to be from company X saying that their email box was full and that they needed to pay some money to increase the size of their mailbox.

I logged onto her webhosting company dashboard to see that her mailbox was hardly used, so immediately contacted company X to find out that in did the email was a scam!

If she hadn’t have called me, she would have paid the money oblivious to anything wrong and in a few months probably received another bogus demand.

This just shows the extent that crooks will go to try to steal money from you!

Cloning vs. imaging a hard drive

I often get asked what is the difference between cloning a hard drive versus imaging a hard drive.

Cloning is the process of creating another drive which is an exact identical copy of your original drive. You would clone a drive if you wanted to convert your old mechanical hard drive to a modern solid state drive. It is a one for one copy. Think of cloning as making an identical twin.

You would want to make an exact copy of the old drive, so that you can simply swap it for your new drive without having to reinstall your operating system and applications. This is cloning. You cannot choose what files you want to recover from a clone.

Imaging a hard drive, is when you want to back up your hard drive in case something catastrophic happens to your original hard drive. You can put multiple images, over time on a storage device. You can backup individual files or folders. It is a one for many copy. This is imaging. You would want to do this if you have accidentally deleted files. You can choose the individual files that you want to recover. Imaging involves a third drive to store the images. You then recover the image either back to the original drive, or to a new replacement drive.

I hope that my explanation clears it up for you.

ADATA SSD migration woes

I recently bought three ADATA 2.5″ SSD drives to install into customers laptops. The reason for this, is that these modern SSD (Solid State Drive) drives are much faster than the older HDD (Hard Disk Drive) mechanical drives. The three laptops were different brands.

Each SSD was placed in turn, in a “USB caddy” which allows me to easily transfer the data from the HDD to the SSD. The process is called “cloning” and involves making an exact copy of the HDD information on to the SSD.
Two of the drives were 240GB capacity and the third was 480GB.

I always use EaseUS ToDo backup software to perform the “cloning” process of transferring the data from the legacy HDD to the new SSD. I have never had any problem. The EaseUS software works inside of Windows. Happily, the first migration to one of the 240GB drives went without a hitch.

Now the fun starts: when I performed the second migration to the other 240GB SSD, the software kept giving a “sector” write error after the cloning procedure. The cloning process had failed! Not to be defeated, I repeated the cloning process a few times but the error continued.

Out of desperation, I decided to give the free ADATA migration tool called Acronis Trueimage that came with the SSD a go. This software works differently in that it performs the cloning process outside of Windows. After setting up the cloning job task, you are asked to reboot the computer. However, in my case, because the SSD already had been partitioned the first time around, the laptop kept trying to boot from it. Rather than mess with the laptop’s BIOS to change the boot order, I temporarily turned off the drive caddy. When I did that, the laptop started to boot into the Acronis software as expected, giving me time to power up the caddy.

After the cloning process was completed, I swapped out the SSD for the HDD and I was very relieved to see that the laptop now booted up and showed the expected speed increase.

Now onto the 480GB SSD. When I put this into the caddy, the drive could not be seen by the EaseUS software or on the Windows File Explorer! This was strange to me as the two 240GB drives had no problem being visible to Windows 10 operating systems on each laptop, right out of the box.
This problem happens because the drive has not been formatted at the factory and needed to be initialised. A quick trip to the Windows 10 disk management tool allowed me to make this drive visible by creating a “simple volume partition”.

I was then able to successfully clone the third HDD and needless to say, we now have three very happy customers!


UBTV not working

We had a call from a customer to say that the UBTV app (application) on their Android media box wasn’t working.

They told us that when they clicked the app’s menu icon, the screen went black for a second or two and then returned to the menu.

I was able to fix the problem by going into the “Settings” menu on the Android box and selecting the UBTV app itself. On the menu that appeared, I clicked the button marked “Delete Data”.

After doing this action, the app started normally and needless to say the client was very happy!

360 panorama photo not showing properly on facebook

On our recent trip abroad, I took several 360 panorama photos with my smartphone camera.

When I uploaded them to my facebook timeline, the photos were just a thin horizontal strip; rather than an interactive immersive 360 experience.

I discovered that my smartphone camera was not embedding the Exif information correctly in the photo; so that facebook didn’t recognise it as a 360 photo. Exif is hidden Metadata information placed in the photo that contains information about the photo such as the date that the photo was taken; type of camera used; aperture; the resolution of the photo etc. You can view your photo’s Exif Metadata by right clicking it then choose “Properties” and then the “Details” tab.

To this end, I found a brilliant application called Exif fixer. The tool is free to use, but please consider donating to the author of the software to help him fund the further development of this amazing repair tool.

After I downloaded and installed the tool, all I had to do was open it and point to the panorama photo. I then clicked the button on the bottom right called “Add Metadata”. The correct Exif data was applied and I then uploaded the photo to facebook. I could immediately tell that facebook now recognised my 360 photo as a circle icon showed on the photo during the upload process, that was missing before.

I have posted screen shots below for your reference.

How the 360 photo looks when uploaded to facebook before repairing
My 360 photo after repairing the Metadata with Exif fixer

Exif fixer screen shot
Exif Metadata information

Cannot connect to Hotel Wifi landing page

We recently stayed in a Hotel and needed to access the Internet using the complimentary Wifi access.

Unfortunately, whenever we opened the web browser on our phone, it would not be automatically directed to the Hotel’s “landing page” which is where you enter your guest credentials, in order to be granted access to the Hotel’s Wifi Internet service.

The funny thing was that this was only a problem with our mobile phone. Out tablet’s browser connected to the landing page (also called interstitial login page) with no problem whatsoever.

I tried various fixes suggested on the Internet, such as clearing the browser cache as well as opening a secure “incognito tab” but these suggestions didn’t help.

Eventually, the way that I was able to connect to the landing page, was to open the browser and manually type the IP address of the Hotel’s router which was 192.168.1.2 into the browser’s address bar and press the enter key. If this IP address doesn’t work, then you can also try 192.168.1.1 or 10.0.0.1 or 192.168.1.254

A caveat is when you open the browser again, you may still see the landing page, despite still being connected to the Wifi network. If this is the case, don’t be fooled. Simply go directly to your required webpage rather than entering your credentials again. Only enter your credentials if you see a question mark on the Wifi icon at the top of the equipment’s screen.

Please see the screengrabs of the Hotel’s landing page below:


Computer not booting up with Western Digital “My Book” USB HDD plugged in

Today we received a call from a customer complaining that when they had their new Western Digital “My Book” USB back-up drive plugged into their Windows 10 computer, it failed to boot up.

Straight away, I thought that the boot-up setting in the computer’s BIOS had been set to boot from a USB HDD (Hard Disk Drive) rather than the internal HDD. Normally though, you would receive an error message on the screen that an Operating System could not be found, or other wording such as:

BOOTMGR is missing. Press Ctrl Alt Del to restart
Hal.dll is missing or corrupt. Please re-install a copy of the above file
NTLDR is missing. Press any key to restart

However there was no error message. The computer just halted at the starting “splash screen” which showed the computer’s BIOS version and make.

As a sanity check, I changed the BIOS to boot first from the internal HDD. Sure enough this made no difference.

After getting nowhere, I decided to check how the drive had been formatted by the Western Digital factory. I saw that the drive was formatted as “exFAT” which is a Microsoft format, friendly to both PC and MAC computers. In the old days, the drives were formatted as either one operating system or the other and you would choose the correct version at the shop. Now however, WD in their infinite wisdom used a format friendly to both systems, not realising the ramifications.

In order to give the customer the most superior file system, I decided to format the drive as NTFS which allows larger file sizes to be backed-up to the drive; is more robust and allows security features to be deployed on the drive. After I did that, I rebooted the computer and guess what…it now booted normally!

Therefore, if you buy a new external drive, always check the file system that has been laid down on the disk. I recommend formatting the drive as NTFS rather than FAT32.

Needless to say we now had a very happy customer!

Wireless mouse erratic behaviour

We recently received a call from a customer that the brand new wireless mouse that they had received for Christmas, was acting erratically.

It seemed to have a mind of its own. The cursor would either lag behind or jump in front of their hand movements and was driving the customer batty.

Upon arrival at the customer’s home, I saw that the wireless mouse transmitting device, was plugged into the USB port on the front of her desktop computer.

I have discovered in my years of working in the ICT field, that having a transmitter so close to the desktop box can cause problems, because the electrical signals being emitted by the computer itself can swamp the mouse signals.

Luckily I had a short 12″ USB extension cable in my toolbox. Plugging the mouse transmitter into this extension cable immediately cured the problem.

Needless to say, the customer was very happy as this was a present from her daughter and she didn’t want to have to try to tell her daughter that her very thoughtful gift didn’t work.

Happy New Year everyone!

Transferring Contacts between Android phones

We recently attended a trouble call, where the customer had bought a new Android phone and had correctly joined it to her Google account.

She complained that many of her old phone contacts had not populated the contact list on her new phone. Understandably, she was very worried that she had lost many of her valuable phone contacts that she had accumulated over the years and which numbered in the hundreds!

To start with, she had transferred the SIM card from the old to the new phone, which resulted in some contacts appearing in the new phone’s contact list. Indeed, when we set the new phone to show the SIM card contacts, many contacts were showing there; but many were missing.

Luckily she still had access to her old phone. On close inspection, I observed that the vast majority of contacts were indeed stored on the old “Device” (ie the phone itself). I then proceeded to copy these “Device” contacts to her Google account. A Google account is stored in the “Cloud” and acts as a very handy and secure repository for all of your personal information; be it phone contacts, Gmail emails or calendar events.

However, the SIM card can only store a minimal amount of contacts (around 100 to 250 depending on the SIM card memory) and so many contacts were still missing on her new phone. To start the recovery process, I proceeded to copy these SIM contacts to her Google account.

On inspection of her new phone, I saw that when she created a new phone contact, it was being saved to her “Device” or the “SIM card”.  Also her Contacts option, was set to only show the “Device” contacts stored on her phone. It is advisable to set only the Gmail contacts to show, in order to avoid cluttering the contact list with duplicate entries.

Once all of the contacts were sync’d (synchronised) to the Cloud, the user’s Contacts appeared in the new phone’s contact list. Needless to say, she was delighted!

We concluded our trouble call, by explaining to the customer that going forward, it is imperative that all contacts, are saved to her Google account, where they will be readily available and secure in the Cloud.

All of the actions were accomplished via the menus on the phones and depending on the version of Android that is running on the phone, requires a different method to achieve.

You can see how important a Google account can be for helping you save your precious information. Therefore please be sure to secure your account with a strong 8 digit password.

Below are some screenshots showing the various screen that you need to navigate through this process.
Use the dots on the top right corner of your screen to access these menus.

 

Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 and Office 365 clashing

We recently attended a trouble call, where the customer could not run a new installation of Microsoft Office 365 successfully.

She had recently uninstalled an older business version of Office, called “Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016”, that had been retired as the company had gone out of business. However, when she tried to run Microsoft Outlook 365, it would only open to the Microsoft Activation Wizard for the retired verson of Office, asking for the new valid registration key. She no longer had a valid key and now wanted to move to Office 365.

For failed uninstallations of Microsoft Office, there is a “fix me” tool which should remove all traces of previous versions. However this had failed to remove the old registration information and now the customer was caught in a vicious circle.

Luckily there is an “under the bonnet” fix for this situation which involves running a script in a special zone of Windows called the “Command Prompt”.

Running this prompt, allowed us to remove the expired registration information and allow Office 365 to run as normal. One must firstly run a script to identify the 5 digit key of the expired version of Office. Finally, a second script is run to unregister that old version of Office.

I have listed the scripts belowing depending on your verion of Office but I want to stress that this is not for the faint of heart. If you have any doubt about how to run these scripts, then please leave it to a professional.

Here are scripts:

Open a command prompt as Administrator

In the command prompt, type the following:

Office 2016 (32-bit) on a 32-bit version of Windows
cscript “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\OSPP.VBS” /dstatus

Office 2016 (32-bit) on a 64-bit version of Windows
cscript “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\OSPP.VBS” /dstatus

Office 2016 (64-bit) on a 64-bit version of Windows
cscript “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\OSPP.VBS” /dstatus

You should now get a screen with some license details such as the license name, type and the last 5 characters of the Product Key.
4. You can use the last 5 characters of the Product Key to remove it using command:

Office 2016 (32-bit) on a 32-bit version of Windows
cscript “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\OSPP.VBS” /unpkey:<LAST 5 CHARACTERS>

Office 2016 (32-bit) on a 64-bit version of Windows
cscript “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\OSPP.VBS” /unpkey:<LAST 5 CHARACTERS>

Office 2016 (64-bit) on a 64-bit version of Windows
cscript “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\OSPP.VBS” /unpkey:<LAST 5 CHARACTERS>

Synchronising S Planner calendars between Android phones

We were recently called to a customer’s home who operates an events organising business, to solve the problem about why a calendar event that she had created in the “S Planner” calendar on one of her Android phones, was not synchronising to her other phone; or showing up on her computer Google calendar, which is stored in the Cloud.

This lack of a backup per se, exposes the customer to a potential catastrophe, because if something happens to this one phone, she will lose visibility of ALL future calendar events that she had created, which would cause many problems professionally and financially to her events organising business.

Arriving at the customer’s home, the first troubleshooting step was logging into the customer’s Cloud calendar at Google, which showed no event entries, which proved that the calendar events were only being stored locally on the one phone, where they were created.

The Android phone has three calendars. One is “My Calendar”; one is “Samsung Calendar” and the third is the Google Calendar.

The fact that we could not see the event on the Cloud calendar, proved that the event was being entered into the incorrect calendar.

When a new event was being entered into the phone, it was being entered into the first choice which meant the event only stayed on the customer’s phone that created it, rather than being shared to the Cloud and other devices.

The fix was to create a new event. Then you will Calendars” on the top left corner of the screen, as shown in the picture below. This resulted in a drop-down menu being displayed. The customer chose the Google Calendar and proceeded to create a test event. When the Google Calendar is chosen, you will get a warning message that this calendar cannot be synced to the Kies software. Choose not to see this message again as your new events going forward will be recorded in the Cloud.

After creating a new event sure enough, the event appeared on her Cloud Calendar and subsequently on her other Android phone. Any events that have already been created will not upload to the Cloud. Only new events going forward will be sent to the Cloud.

One final note is to check that the S Planner Calendar is set to show ALL Calendars. You do this by clicking the three vertical dots on the top right corner and choosing Calendars from the drop-down menu. Make sure that the “All calendars” box is ticked.

 

Gmail creation date

When you create a new Gmail account, you will be sent a congratulatory email from Google confirming that your account has been successfully set up.

It is vital that you do not delete this email. Please record the exact date and time that this email was sent to you and if possible, forward this welcome email to a secondary email account as a backup.

If you ever get locked out of your Gmail account, this one bit of seemingly unimportant information, is vitally important in helping you to recover your account!

Ctrl z safety net

We have a customer that tells us that when she is writing a long email using the Windows 10 mail app, all of a sudden the text disappears. This has happened on a few occasions and upsets her unnecessarily since she is elderly and all of her hard work that has taken a great deal of her precious time has been wasted.

To try to retrieve her email, she closes the message using the “x” at the top right hand corner and looks in drafts.

In drafts the saved email shows no text!

We have discovered that during the course of writing the email, she accidentally presses Ctrl key and the letter a. This action highlights the whole text of the message. The next character that she types erases all of the text!

We instructed her that the next time this happens, she should press the Ctrl key and then the z (upper or lower case is not important). This action serves to “undo” her action and saves the deleted text.

There is a free app called “Keytweak” which allows you do disable the ctrl key if this situation causes you repeated problems. You can download it from here click me

Laptop bag causes laptop to overheat

We received a trouble call in late 2017, from a customer complaining that their laptop had suffered premature failure on numerous occasions over the year.

They had replaced the laptop HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and Motherboard a couple of times during 2017 and wanted to know if we had any advice or idea about why this was happening. This situation was very alarming as a laptop shouldn’t suffer multiple failures in such a short space of time.

After some investigation and probing questions, it came to light that the customer was simply closing the laptop lid and immediately sliding it into their laptop bag.

This action causes a couple of problems:
Firstly, the laptop hasn’t had time to cool down. Secondly, the laptop enters “Sleep” mode when the lid is shut. It is therefore still active and producing heat. You can understand that a few minutes in a sealed laptop bag subjects the laptop’s internal components to a very high heat.

The number one rule with electronics is that they must be allowed to breathe in order to cool the internal components. If heat is allowed to build up too frequently, it will cause premature failure resulting in a catastrophic break down.

To help mitigate this problem, we recommended to the customer to do one of two things:
Choose to “shut down” the laptop completely. When I said this, the customer immediately complained that it took too much time for the laptop to boot up. This prompted the second recommendation which was to set the laptop to “hibernate” when the laptop lid is closed. This action greatly shortens the boot up time but puts the laptop in a power state where the amount of power used is the same as if the laptop is shut down completely.

The Hibernate mode is not normally enabled on a laptop, so please consult the user manual on how to set this action.

After the laptop has been shut down or put into Hibernate, let it sit for a couple of minutes to let the internal heat dissipate.

Fast forward to 2018. We received a follow up call telling us that the customer was very happy with our advice and that it has helped keep his laptop from overheating.

 

 

 

 

Updating Windows 10 on a notebook with small storage drive

In a previous blog post, I detailed how to upgrade to Windows 10 from a previous OS (Operating System) on a notebook with a small storage drive. This procedure required the use of an external USB drive of at least 16GB.

In a new development, I was given another notebook that needed a Windows 10 update; rather than being upgraded to Windows 10.

I discovered that following my previous blog did not work, because the update still needed to utilise space on the storage drive of approximately 8GB.

The only option that I had, was to uninstall some applications from the notebook to free up some storage space. I was then able to update the notebook still utiling an external USB drive.

After the update was completed, I then reinstalled the applications.

Microsoft wrote a help article number 4013876 which detailed the procedure involved.

 

“Task Host id stopping background tasks (Microsoft \ Windows \ Plug and Play \ Device Install Reboot required)”

We received a call from a customer complaining that their laptop wouldn’t reboot/shut down properly. He got the message.

“Task Host id stopping background tasks (Microsoft \ Windows \ Plug and Play \ Device Install Reboot required)”

He also experienced the trackpad/mouse behaving intermittently. He would left click something and it wouldn’t open.

Rather than use a blanket repair such as running the System Restore repair, for this particular problem,  I did a quick google and found a link to this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILni3TO6ITc

The first comment provided the answer and fixed his problem

Go to path [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\WpnUserService].

4-Double click on Start from the right side.

5-Change the value data to 4 then OK.  

The issue is to do with the Windows Push Notification service (wpnservice). There seems to be a bug in a Windows update. This bug doesn’t affect all computers. In fact this is the first time I have seen this. Hopefully Microsoft will fix the problem in the next update. Setting the value to 4 disables the service which fixed his problem.

How to delete a single auto-complete entry in Microsoft Edge

I recently attended a trouble call where the customer was complaining that there were multiple auto-complete username entries in the various web forms using Microsoft Edge. She explained that she wanted to delete these obsolete entries. Previously, she had managed to delete ALL of the auto-complete entries but that was overkill.

If you need to delete a single entry, try left clicking the 3 dots on the top right hand corner of the Edge browser.

Next, select the “settings” option at the bottom of the list.

After this scroll down the list and click the “View advanced settings” button.

Lastly, click the “Manage passwords” button.

You will now see a list of your auto-complete entries. Left click the unwanted entry and then click the cross on the right hand side that appears to delete this entry.

How to create a URL desktop shortcut using Microsoft Edge

An Internet address is known as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and you will be familiar with the ubiquitous “http:\\www.computrain.co.za” format of a URL. The URL is what you type into the address bar at top of your Internet website browser. If you are dealing with a secure website such as your bank, you will notice that there will be the letter “s” at the end of the http. Incidentally, the “co.za or .com” of a URL is called the TLD “Top Level Domain”.

We’ve had a few customer ask us if it’s possible, to create a desktop shortcut, to a website’s URL using the Microsoft Edge Internet website browser. Being able to simply double click a shortcut on your desktop and be taken immediately to that respective website is a huge time saver! Otherwise, you’d need to firstly launch your Edge browser, then either type in the URL in the address bar, or click on a link in the Edge’s favourites shortcuts if you had previously saved that website.

The answer to this question is that unfortunately, this is not possible using Edge on its own; but there is a workaround:

Firstly, navigate to the website which you want to create a desktop shortcut for. Then, left click the three horizontal dots on the top right hand corner of the Edge browser and choose the “Open With Internet Explorer” option.

When Internet Explorer opens the website, simply right click anywhere in the webpage and choose “Create shortcut” from the menu that will appear. When you left click this option, you will be asked if you want to “put a shortcut to this website on your desktop?”. Click the “Yes” button and you will now see a shortcut on your desktop!

Lastly, when you double click the newly created desktop shortcut, Microsoft Edge (not Internet Explorer) will open and display the website in question.