Archive for Windows 10

Windows 10 Edge and Internet Explorer – More Adverts on their Way

More Windows 10 adverts

With the amount of information passed back to Microsoft in Windows 10, such as the ‘Advertising ID’ feature, many people expected that they would use that data at some point – after all Windows 10 was given away free for a whole year. It now seems that the data has begun to be cashed in.

The latest Windows 10 ‘Creators Update’ will bring various changes as described in our previous Blog article here but it seems that the Update will also be pushing more adverts toward users, through the Edge browser, Internet Explorer and even File Explorer.

When opening Edge, “Where to next” is displayed and now there will be so-called “Sponsored” adverts too. When opening both Edge and IE you will also see a ‘Top Sites & News Feed’ tab with these ads – not just for Microsoft products but for third party products too.

File Explorer (previously known as Windows Explorer) has already displayed some adverts for Microsoft Office and similar products from Microsoft, but people are now also seeing third party adverts in this too – in an essential and basic Windows tool that everyone uses and where you wouldn’t normally expect it.

Of course, it’s no surprise that any company would want to make money from advertising, but this is essentially the start of Windows becoming a monetising product for its makers, when previously it was an Operating System only. It may also be Microsoft just testing the water.

You may not be bothered about the level of adverts or suggestions/nags, but if you are, what can you do if you don’t want ads popping up all over the place?

Stopping Ads in File Explorer

Open File Explorer > View > Options. Go to the View tab and look in Advanced Settings section – uncheck ‘Show sync provider notifications’, then click OK.

Stopping Advertisement App Suggestions

If you don’t want ‘suggested’ apps appearing in your Start Menu, go to Settings > Personalisation > Start and switch off ‘Occasionally show suggestions in Start’.

Stopping Ads on the Lock Screen

Yes, even before you log in! Go to Settings > Personalisation > Lock Screen and set the background as ‘Slideshow’ or ‘Picture’ instead of ‘Windows Spotlight’.

Also, go to the bottom of the window and disable ‘Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen’.

Stopping Cortana Nagging You

Cortana the personal assistant tries to help users – sometimes a little too much – with constant popups making suggestions that sometimes end up just getting more annoying than useful.

Click Cortana bar > Settings icon and go to ‘Let Cortana pipe up from time to time with thoughts, greetings, and notifications in the Search box’. Disable ‘Taskbar Tidbits’.

Stopping the ‘Get Office’ Nags

A ‘Get Office’ app is automatically installed and which regularly makes a suggestion that you try Office 365 free for a month – but you may not want it to keep on asking.

Go to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions, scroll down a bit and switch off notifications for the “Get Office” app. Alternatively, you could also right-click the app on your Start Menu and select ‘Uninstall’.

Solitaire Ads

Windows still has the built-in Solitaire game, but you also get a 30-second advert unless you pay Microsoft $10 a year. If you don’t want to pay, you will have to get an alternative via a search engine – but be careful where you download from.

These are just a few ways to reduce the advert clutter from your Windows 10 Creators Update computer. No doubt things will change in the future and there may even be more adverts as well as more premium content along the lines of the Solitaire game, but only time will tell.

If you would like help in de-cluttering your computer, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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New Windows 10S to Target Chromebook Education Market

Windows 10S for Education Sector

Microsoft are about to release a trimmed-down version of Windows 10 called 10S, aimed at the Education market which up to now has been taken over by Google’s Chromebook.

Traditionally, Windows had the Education market in its hand due to its lower Academic version pricing (which was much cheaper than retail) for Windows and Windows software such as Microsoft Office. Then the Chromebook came along with its cheap price tag together with its ‘locked down’ operating system making it harder for students to cause much damage. This was ideal for school administrators who wanted to get a working computer at the lowest price, which could also be set up quickly and securely.

Windows 10S will be released on Microsoft’s Surface Laptop as well as some computers from Samsung, Toshiba, Dell and Acer in the near future, and they will be pushing these offerings to the Education sector.

There are ‘pros and cons’ with the release (as you would expect) and what is good for administrators may be cause for complaint by others.

Locked Down and Faster booting

Windows 10S will be ‘locked down’ because only apps from Microsoft and the Windows Store will be allowed to be installed, so schools can relax in the knowledge that it will be less likely for students to be able to install malicious or other unwanted software.

It has also been designed to increase battery life and have a faster boot time, which you would expect with a thinned out version of Windows.

The downside is the reduction of choice – if it isn’t a Microsoft app or in the Windows Store, it will not be available for installation, which gives Microsoft effective control on what is and isn’t used on its machines, although the Chromebook did give Google a large amount of control too.

Another downside will be that schools will no longer be able to use free alternatives to expensive software such as Photoshop, unless Microsoft allow it.

An Upgrade route will be available

The release announcement stated that it will be possible to upgrade 10S to Windows 10 Pro, at a lower price. This may be useful but at the moment we are being told that it is a one-way upgrade – once upgraded you cannot go back and of course, it will not be classroom-proof any more. You will also lose the battery and boot time advantages too.

Cheaper computers in the future…?

Clearly the Chromebook is not just for classrooms and there is a big market for public consumption of a cheaper, trimmed down operating system that lets you do everyday tasks. This is why we expect that at some point Windows 10S (or a version of it) may be available to the general public at some point, for use in the less expensive part of the market. If or when this happens we will have to see.

With Google saying that they have half of the US education market and 20 million devices in education, there is everything to play for for Microsoft. Time will tell if it pays off for them but they are certainly going to give it their best shot.

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Microsoft Says Don’t Download Windows 10 Creators Update Yet

Windows 10 logo

Microsoft has advised users NOT to manually download the latest update to Windows 10 – called the Creators Update – but wait for it to be downloaded in the normal automatic update rollout instead.

Despite the massive publicity surrounding the latest Update release, they are finding issues with it particularly with older machines, such as some components no longer working after the Update has installed. This is why they are automatically updating newer machines first and hoping to identify and iron out bugs before the older systems get it during the normal course of events.

Even though Microsoft are deliberately rolling out the Update slowly, users can download the Creators Update themselves so Microsoft are worried that the issues that they have found will result in normal (e.g. non-geek) users having difficulties should they install the Creators Update before Microsoft want them to.

The Creators Update is the equivalent of an operating system upgrade (Windows 10.2 if you will) and it is a major undertaking even without the threat of parts of your machine not working afterwards. Certainly many of us in the I.T. world remember the problems caused by the last big Windows 10 update (the so-called ‘Anniversary Update’ last year) and even though we have learnt the hard way not to jump into the next ‘latest and greatest’ straight away (there are always bugs to be ironed out) it is surprising that they have asked users to stop manual updating so soon after release, so there must be further bugs that they are dealing with.

On the positive side at least Microsoft are warning people and not just releasing code that they know will cause problems to many people, although it is still a pity that testing didn’t show these issues before the Update was released to the public.

It also doesn’t help when you consider that Home and Small Business customers are effectively testing the Update before Enterprise customers get it, as it will not be released to the Enterprise sector for months – until the bugs have been ironed out.

If you have installed the Creators Update already, there is a way to uninstall it until it is more stable, although be aware that some apps/programs may be uninstalled in the process.Of course, as always, you should take a backup of your important files first just in case.

Go to Start > Settings and click ‘Update and Security’. Click on ‘Recovery’ > ‘Go back to an Earlier Build’ or depending on how long ago it was, click on ‘Go back to the previous version of Windows 10’.

If you are experiencing problems with Windows Update, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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Controlling Windows 10 Autoplay Settings

Autoplay settings in Windows 10

‘Autoplay’ in Windows was originally designed to automatically open removable media that you have plugged into your computer, such as CD/DVD or USB media – it was meant to speed things up for you, but it has had a checkered history.

In the old days, putting in a CD/DVD or USB media with Autoplay switched on was a good way of passing viruses from one computer to another, as viruses were automatically executed when the media was opened for you. This is why good security programs today either automatically scan removable media when inserted, or ask you to allow it to do so, but some programs are better than others and some may not stop a virus from executing itself in time.

Later versions of Windows switched Autoplay off by default and Windows 10 asks you what you want to do, when removable media is inserted. However we do see customers that switch it back on, for ease of use but this does pose a risk.

Even today, it is recommended that Autoplay is switched off. You can do this by going to Settings > Devices and select ‘Autoplay’ on the list on the left. Toggle the Autoplay switch to ‘Off’, Autoplay will be disabled and you will not see the pop-up window again. This allows you or your security software to scan the removable media before opening.

Alternatively, or you just find that annoying, the next safest thing is set Autoplay to ask you what to do every time media is inserted, rather than automatically opening it. In Windows 10 you can actually select different actions for different media, for example you can set memory cards to import photos from your camera (which is unlikely to be infected). The settings for this are in the same section as described above, and you go to the ‘Choose a default’ for each media showing in the list.

There is also even greater control of individual media by going to the ‘Autoplay’ setting in Control Panel, where you can choose a default for many more options such as Pictures, Video, Audio etc. that may be present on your removable media.

Rather than just automatically opening media, the final thing that you can do is to set Autoplay to open the media in File Explorer – but as some viruses reside in an area of removable media that is read when opening its file list, this is not that much better than automatic opening. We would recommend scanning all removable media before opening it in File Explorer.

Every day people are using the same USB drive in their home and office/business computers, or putting removable media into their computers that has been used in a friend or relative’s system. This means that the weakest point is the danger point for compromising the security of your computer – so the friend/relative that may not have a good security program, or a compromised office computer are routes to computer infection.

The last thing you want is to have your computer disinfected, so it pays to reduce the risk where possible.

If you would like help in securing your computer or believe that your computer may be infected, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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Windows 10 – Microsoft reveals the Data it collects

Windows 10 logo

With the forthcoming launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft has released more information about the amount of data it collects from your computer, and sends back to Redmond.

A lot has been much said about Privacy issues with Windows 10 since its launch, although it’s fair to say that Apple and Google similarly scoop up data from your devices too. This time, Microsoft are saying that they are cutting down on the amount of data that they collect with this latest update and the details of what they actually do collect makes interesting reading.

What data they collect now

Windows 10 Home and Professional versions currently have two levels of data collection – Basic and Full.

Basic Mode is supposed to collect data on your hardware, records of crashes, how good your internet connection is, driver software usage, what apps you have installed and how they are used, as well as other things that are diagnostic in nature.

Full Mode collects the data from Basic level as well as things like your “inking and typing data” (yes that’s right, typing data) and records of system events. In certain circumstances they can get copies of user documents that have caused software crashes and run diagnostic tools on your computer, although there is a set of rules that apply before they can do so.

What data is collected after Creators Update

In Basic Mode, a lot of diagnostic technical information is sent over (see this although it’s written in geek) which is supposed to help Microsoft identify potential malware infections and the causes of crashing, to help them make the operating system more reliable. Also collected will be details of your hardware including the serial number of the machine, data on what applications are given administrator access permissions, your battery life, what mobile phone network you are using, and some other things.

Full Mode has not been explained as fully as Basic Mode, but as well as everything in Basic it includes data relating to your browser choice, the apps that you use to edit videos and images, user settings and preferences, what apps you have installed, internet addresses (URLs) that have triggered errors, total time reading eBooks, visited webpages, the list of peripherals attached to your computer, text typed in searches, words you have spoken to Cortana and more.

There has been a third option, where telemetry data can be switched off but that has only applied to the Enterprise, Education and other specialist versions – if you are using the Home and Pro version, you’re stuck with either Basic data collection or the Full package.

Microsoft emphasises that data collected is intended to be primarily for diagnostic reasons and the Creators Update will make it more explicit what data is collected, so you will be able to make more informed decisions when setting things up after the update. Having said that they are also being more transparent on what data is collected for marketing and advertising purposes too.

The jury is out as to whether privacy continues to be a thorn in Windows 10’s side and certainly some governments are taking an active interest into what information is actually being collected from peoples’ computers and why. The unfortunate thing is that users will not have any choice – if you use Windows 10 you will have data collected, possibly on a substantial scale.

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Windows 10 Creators Update Coming Soon

Windows 10 logo

In April 2017 Microsoft will begin rolling out the next major Update to the Windows 10 operating system, which they are calling the ‘Creators Update’. Even though this may dismay many people who remember the issues that they had with the ‘Anniversary’ update in 2016, Windows 10 has been specifically designed to have these major updates in much the same way as Apple OSX and iOS does.

Privacy changes

Microsoft has been heavily criticised since releasing Windows 10 because of the amount of private data it collects about users by default – that is unless the data collection is switched off in settings that most people wouldn’t look for. In the Creators Update, users will see a Privacy Settings page when installing initially (or after a major Update) with toggle controls that go into much more detail about privacy settings such as Location and relevant ads. Unfortunately the telemetry and diagnostic data that Windows 10 collects cannot be switched off and the choice will be either minimal data sent or all data is sent to Microsoft – there will be no middle ground.

There is also a ‘Privacy Dashboard’ now available through your Microsoft account, which allows you to manage data collected, such as browsing data and the data that Cortana collects.

Gamer Friendly

The Creators Update includes a Gaming Options section as well as a Game Mode, which tries to tweak hardware resources in a gamer-friendly way. There will also more Xbox compatibility involving streaming and chat.

Paint Revamped

The venerable love-it-or-hate-it ‘Paint’ program will include 3D capability and is believed to include tools and filters that assist in image manipulation, 2D-3D conversion and more sophisticated functions.

Windows Update Improvements

Windows Update has been a necessary evil for many years but even more so with Windows 10, after all Windows Update was the main reason why so many people had their computers ‘upgraded’ to Windows 10 whether they wanted it or not!

If you have the ‘Professional’, ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Educational’ version of Windows 10, you will be able to defer Updates for longer – unfortunately ‘Home’ version users will still be the Windows Update ‘guinea pigs’.

Windows Update ‘Active Hours’ will now be available which many people will be pleased about as it will allow you greater control over when Updates are installed. You will be able to tell the computer what times you want Updates installed and more importantly, when you don’t want them installed – so there should be fewer reboots at the worst possible time in future!

Microsoft Edge Tweaks

Changes will include Microsoft Wallet support, a ‘Set Aside’ function to stash your browser tabs for later, and a Tab Previews bar which allows you to view thumbnails of open tabs.

It will be interesting to see how Edge matures, although many people are still a little sceptical at the moment.

Theme Improvements

There will be enhanced support for customising the look of your computer and you can buy more Themes from – you guessed it – the Windows Store. This will be a welcome addition for the many people we see who do not go for the dark look out of the box.

Windows Defender

The built-in antivirus app in Windows 10 will get more functions, including new scanning options and reports on computer performance and health (much like paid versions). Strangely, it will also include a ‘Refresh Windows’ option, which is a nuclear option that you need to be very careful of, as it removes apps and programs that did not come with the computer.

There are many more changes and tweaks coming with the Creators Update, including being able to drag Start Menu Apps on top of each other (effectively grouping them as if in a folder), Virtual Reality support, automatic locking of the computer when walking away from it, EBooks, Cortana Monthly Reminders and many others.

As this is the new way of getting the “latest and greatest” version of Windows, Windows users will have to get used to getting larger updates at regular intervals which are essentially the equivalent of Windows 10.1, 10.2, etc., although this fact may not be good news for those who still have low broadband speed.

Before doing any kind of upgrades (especially significant Updates like this one), do make sure that you have backups of all your important personal files first. Some updates do go wrong and you need that peace of mind beforehand.

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Windows 10 Privacy

Windows 10 privacy

Since Windows 10 was released, much has been said about the privacy concerns that come with it. Admittedly, some of the concerns have been exaggerated but there is no doubt that Windows 10 collects much more data about you than any other Windows version before it.

One of the concerns relates to ‘Cortana’ the “personal assistant”. Like Apple’s ‘Siri’, ‘Cortana’ collects personal information such as calendar, contacts, location, alarm settings, what websites you view, emails, and more. When you add it all up, there is quite a lot of information about you.

Why are they collecting this much information?

They say that it is to “better serve you”, such as being able to suggest a restaurant nearby, but ultimately it is also advertising data collection. Each account with an email is given an Advertising ID and a profile is created that is shared with Microsoft partner advert networks.

Similarly, OneDrive the online storage service, synchs every time you switch on and gets updates of your internet browsing and wifi details. Even your location is noted by the operating system and the information is passed to “trusted” third parties.

Everyone thinks differently about their privacy – one person may feel that ‘Cortana’ being able to suggest a local restaurant is good enough reason for so much data collection, but another person may feel it’s a little too much.

To be fair, it’s not just Windows 10 though – ‘Siri’ keeps voice recordings for much longer than you would think as back in 2013 Apple announced that they were keeping your ‘Siri’ voice recordings for two years. The digital age has its drawbacks.

What can you do about more control over your privacy?

Go to Start Menu > Settings and open the Privacy section, to look carefully at all the settings that can be switched on or off – there are quite a few of them and some settings may be useful to you, others not so much.

Also, you can still have a local account on your Windows 10 computer rather than one controlled by your email address, which controls the automatic synching of your information.

Microsoft have now taken the privacy concerns seriously and in the so-called ‘Creators Update’ for Windows 10 that is due in the first half of 2017, the privacy settings will be much clearer, simpler and transparent, including a new privacy dashboard which will be where you can have much more control over your information, all in one place.

In the meantime, there’s no need to be looking over your shoulder for big brother, but you do need to at least be aware that a lot of information is collected about you and what you do every day with your computer.

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Google Calendar in Windows 10

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 has a built-in Calendar app which you can use to schedule appointments and reminders, but if you are a Google Calendar user, you can still use that service with your Windows 10 computer.

To integrate your Google Calendar with Windows 10, open the Windows 10 Calendar app by clicking on the Start button and selecting Calendar from the list on the left or the tiles to the right. When open, on the left-hand side is a cog icon – click that icon to open the Calendar app settings menu.

When open, click on ‘Accounts’ on the right-hand side and then ‘Add account’. Select Google from the drop down list, just sign in with your Google details and the Google Calendar will synch with your Windows 10 built-in Calendar, allowing you to use both.

You may find that the synch times between the two may not be as quick as, say, your smartphone to Google, but you can still use your Windows 10 computer with your Google Calendar, rather than be stuck with the built-in Calendar.

You can also use other Calendars, for example iCloud too.

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