Monthly Archives: May 2012

ActiveWin: Windows 8 Frequently Asked Questions–Updated

Along with the recently posted Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I also updated our Frequently Asked Questions about the new operating system.

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To learn more about many of the improvements in Windows 8, click the link here

 

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ActiveWin: Windows 8 Consumer Preview

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For the past 3 months I have been running the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. This has given me a unique perspective on the OS, its pro’s and cons’. Windows 8 is turning out to be a dramatic release, while certain functionality might come across disconcerting, others are delightful and make the OS feel a lot more personal. Personally, I have come to a decision that Windows 8 is really a mobile operating system which will work best on Tablet based devices. Although I like using it on my desktop, I have become a bit jaded by the Start Screen since I am not using it to its fullest. Pretty much 99% of my time is spent still in the desktop app.

The new Charm bar menu which conveniently list menus for Start, Settings, Share, Devices and Search makes it easier to operate in key parts of the Windows 8 user interface. The Settings menu for instance provides quicker access to the Power Options along with general PC functions such as Control Panel, Personalization, PC Info (System Properties) and Help. The thing about the Charm bar on the desktop is how you have to access it, the quickest way I find is through a keyboard command (Windows + I). When using the mouse, it is not so obvious, since you have to hover the mouse pointer over the right top or bottom corner of the screen to bring up the Charm bar.

Not intuitive to be honest. Another thing if you want to access some power user features, you might be a bit lost at first if you are not told where to look. For instance, if you want to open Command Prompt with Admin privileges, you might search for it through the Start Screen, right it and click ‘Run as administrator’ from the App bar (which appears at the bottom of the screen). In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft has added a hidden contextual menu just for such Power User features, when you right click the left hand corner of the screen, a menu pops with common options for Command Prompt, Admin Tools, Control Panel, Run, Windows Explorer, Network Options many common tools you would normally have to dig through the Start UI to find. Very convenient, but not easily discoverable and I must say schizophrenic in a sense, since you will be moving all over the UI unless you have developed a good memory map of how the Windows 8 UI functions.

Read the entire preview HERE

 

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How to downgrade Windows 7 Editions

In this article we take a look at how to downgrade from one edition of Windows 7 to another. For instance, if you have Windows 7 Professional, but would like to downgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. You might ask, for what reason? Well, there are scenarios where this issue might come up. Maybe you want to reassign Windows 7 Professional to another computer, and install Windows 7 Home Premium on it instead. Maybe the edition is not being used effectively and could be more useful else where such as a laptop you carry to work since Windows 7 Professional includes a lot of business features.

The problem is the process of reassigning licenses, this would probably mean you will have to backup data, prepare to reinstall applications and drivers then restore data. All of this can cost some down time. Luckily I found a cool little third party utility that allows you do this with ease. Its called Windows 7 Downgrader.

Windows 7 Downgrader will let downgrade popular editions such as Windows 7 Ultimate, Enterprise, Professional quickly and easily. Once it downgrades, all you need to do is insert the Windows 7 installation and do a repair upgrade to a desired edition. Lets take a look at how to do it.

First you need to download Windows 7 Downgrader here

Save the file to your hard disk and extract it.

Downgrade

Double click the Windows 7 Downgrader executable (notice I currently have Windows 7 Professional installed)

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As you can see, the Windows 7 Downgrader utility is quite simple. You have three options which will allow you to downgrade to any of three editions: Ultimate, Professional or Home Premium. Downgrading to Ultimate is useful if you are running Windows 7 Enterprise and would like release that license, but don’t want to go through the chore of backing up and install from scratch.

Once you have identified the edition you would like downgrade to, click it. You might receive error message, click Continue. Do not restart your computer. Insert your Windows 7 installation DVD for the edition you want to downgrade to. In my case, I am downgrading to Windows 7 Home Premium, so I will insert the Windows 7 Home Premium installation DVD.

Step 1

Click Install Now

Step 3

Click Upgrade

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What you are doing now is a repair upgrade.

Upgraded

When the downgrade is complete, you should be successfully downgraded to the specific edition.

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How to fix iTunes Library Locked Permission Error in Windows

The other day I upgraded a friends computer to Windows 7. Prior doing the upgrade, I had deauthorized her iTunes library to preserve the amount of available authorizations he was allowed. Sometimes upgrading Windows on the same machine can count as another machine. After the upgrade was complete and I was ready to reauthorize the machine, when I launched iTunes, I received the following error message:

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The permission error got me curious as this would suggest something related to privilege. I decided to check out what’s going on with this Library.itl file. Here is how I came to resolve this issue.

Click Start > Music

Open the iTunes Library folder

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Right click iTunes Library.itl file then click Properties

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Go to the Security tab, there was my problem. It seems like during the upgrade, all user permissions were removed for this file. All we need to do is add back all the right groups and users with the correct permissions.

Click Edit

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Click Add

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Click Advanced

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Click Find Now

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Select your user account, SYSTEM and the Administrator (Ctrl + Click to select more than one account at time)

Click OK

Then click OK again

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For both users you just added, set the permissions to Full Control

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Click OK

Then click Apply and OK again

You should be able to launch iTunes.

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How to Organize and Archive Files

Running out of hard disk space? I am and I need to do something about it fast. Backing it up can resolve some of these problems, but I believe sometimes you have to manually do some stuff

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I am a sort of pack rat, I will admit and I have files on these system going back as far as five years ago. I think its time to delete and move some stuff I am no longer using to my external hard disk. Lets take at doing this using the organization tools built into Windows 7. The first place I will start by looking at is my Downloads folder since I do a lot of downloading.

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In order to properly analyze what we can discard, keep and move to an external hard disk, we will use the Change View menu. Click the Change View menu and click Details.

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You will now notice that your files are organized with more details. To further customize the view, click on the Date Modified column heading. This will allow us to view the files when they were last used or edited. Another column I recommend you display is the Date Created column.

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Right click the Column heading and click Date created.

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This will give us a better idea of the age of the file and if its worth keeping.

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Looking through my Downloads folder, I have files dating back as far as early 2007 and the last time I accessed them were in 2007. Definitely not worth keeping on the drive. So these files will be archived and moved to my external hard disk.

Archiving

Obviously, to do something like this, you are gonna need an external hard disk. You could choose DVD as a method of backup, but they can be unreliable and more of a chore, especially with disc swapping involved. Once you have identified the files you need to Archive, open your external hard disk and create a folder specifically for these files called Archive.

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Open it then Go back to the folder (window) where your old files are currently on your local hard disk. Select the files then click Organize > Copy

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Go back to the Archive folder (window) we created on the external hard disk, then click Organize > then click Paste

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Wait while the files are copied over. After this is completed, go back to the folder and click Organize > Delete or press the Delete key on your keyboard.

Simplify file selection and copying

If you want to select files within a date range, simply select first file then click any file within the range, see below:

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Repeat these steps for other person folders such as Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos. When you have done archiving, you can proceed to permanently delete these files from your Recycle Bin if any are stored there:

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I was able to get back good 10 GBs worth of disk space just from my Downloads folder alone.

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How to automatically log into Windows 7

If you would like to automatically log into Windows 7, you can have the operating system do so. There is a potential security risk, I strongly would not recommend you do this on a laptop, public or shared computer. If it’s a stationary computer that is in your home office or study, then the risk are much lower. Of course, if someone breaks into your home, its gonna be a piece of cake for that person to break into your computer too. Anyway, lets take a look at how to setup Windows to log in automatically:

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Click Start, type: remove netplwiz

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Hit Enter on your keyboard

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On the User Accounts window, select your account name then uncheck the box Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer. Then click Apply

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Enter your password and confirm it then click OK

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Click OK

You will now be able to log into your computer automatically.

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How to use Virtualization software–Windows Virtual PC

Over the past few years computers have gotten extremely powerful, processors (CPU or Central Processing Units) which is the brains of your computer have achieved major improvements such as more power through what are known as Cores which are basically multiple processors on one chip. As processors become smaller they have also become more power efficient. In addition to CPU’s the improvements in graphics and cheap availability of RAM have made things once possible only  on large server computers common on desktops and laptops while at the same time very affordable. Virtualization is one such utility which is now available on most systems.

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is the ability to run more than one operating system on top of another operating system using virtualization software. Virtualization takes advantage of the physical hardware with the ability to allocate memory and processor cores to it to speed up task. Virtualization makes running multiple operating systems convenient and less invasive than older methods such as setting up partitions and configuring boot options to load more than one operating system or variety of operating system. Virtualization is also a great solution for handling compatibility with older applications. In a previous article we took a look at using virtualization using Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode software for running older programs not designed for Windows 7.

In this article, we take a look at some of the other virtualization programs out there, how to install and set them up.

Windows Virtual PC

We took a look at installing and using Windows Virtual PC with Windows XP Mode a couple years ago, so I will not go into too much detail since you can refer to that article for detailed instructions. Windows Virtual PC is provided as a free download to customers running Windows 7. If you are running Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or ultimate editions, Windows Virtual PC is included along with Windows XP Mode which is a preconfigured Windows XP Professional SP3 .VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) file you can use to run your older programs that are not designed for Windows 7. If you are running Windows 7 Home Premium, you can download Windows Virtual PC and use it with your own Windows license if you wish. Lets take a look at setting up a Virtual Machine in Window Virtual PC.

First you need to download Windows Virtual PC:

You need to install Windows6.1-KB958559-x64 or x86 depending on the architecture of Windows 7 you are running, 32 or 64 bit.
Windows Virtual PC can be downloaded from http://www.windows.com/business/downloads.
For more information on system requirements, go to http://www.microsoft.com/virtual-pc

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Once Windows Virtual PC is installed, click Start > All Programs > Windows Virtual PC > Windows Virtual PC. If it is not listed, try the following:

Click Start, type: turn windows features on or off then hit Enter on your keyboard

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Make sure that Windows Virtual PC is checked. Click OK, restart your computer if prompted.

If all goes well, launch Windows Virtual PC from Start menu > All Programs:

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The Windows Virtual PC interface looks like a typical Windows Explorer. I already have a virtual machine setup, but if I would like to add another one, I can do so. Lets take a look at doing that. On the command bar, click the ‘Create virtual machine’ button.

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This will start the Create a virtual machine wizard. In the above wizard page, you can enter details about the Virtual Machine such as its name to help identify it if you have more than one Virtual Machine setup. You can also choose a location where you would like to store this virtual machine. In regards to virtual machine, just go with the defaults. Once you have filled in these details, click Next

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Depending on the version and edition of Windows you would like to run, you might need to allocate more memory than the default 512 MBs of RAM. Versions of Windows such as Windows Vista and Windows 7 will need more. This also means, the host system will need to have enough memory to run it and the virtual machine at the same time. When it comes to virtual machines, the more memory, the better. Since I am using Windows XP for this article, 512 MBs should be more than enough, but if you plan on running many older programs, consider increasing to at least 1 GB (1024 MBs).

Another option is Networking, if you plan on keeping the virtual machine maintained and updated, you will need to have an Internet connection for Windows Updates and obtain any available application updates. This is especially important for protection software such as Antivirus utilities in your Virtual Machine. Once you have made the appropriate adjustments, click Next

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The above screen provides several options for adding a virtual hard disk which will be used to store and access the operating system. I recommend you go with the default since it will be less complicated and easier to manage since you can run into limitations if you create a fixed virtual hard disk and later find out you didn’t create it with enough space. If you already have an existing .VHD file, you can add it and use it. In this particular case, we are creating a new one. After selecting the appropriate options, click Create

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Go back to the Virtual Machines window, there you will see the virtual machine we just created listed. Its status at the moment is powered down. To install Windows, insert your Windows disc in the disc drive. Select the virtual machine and click Open on the command bar.

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The virtual machine will boot from the Windows disc and setup will begin loading files, it functions just like you normally would expect on a physical machine. Follow the on screen instructions to install your desired version of Windows.

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Installing Windows XP in Windows Virtual PC on Windows 7

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Using a virtual machine is just like using a physical PC

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The above screenshot exemplifies virtualization software which is a computer within a computer.

After you have setup Windows in Windows Virtual PC you can do some additional task like install the integration components which will make the virtual machine perform better and easily switch between the virtual machine and host operating system along with using USB devices. Lets take a look at doing that.

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At the top of the Windows Virtual PC window, click the Tools menu and click Install Integration Components.

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Click Continue

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This will start the setup wizard in the virtual operating system. Follow the on screen instructions, if you don’t meet the minimum requirements, you will need to resolve those issues first before continuing. As you can see, Windows Virtual PC requires that Windows XP has SP3 installed before it can proceed.

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When you are finish using the virtual machine, you can shut it down by clicking the close button. You will be prompted for an action, whether you want to put it to sleep, shut it down or turn off the computer. Choose the desired action and click OK.

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