New symptom pattern

Came across a new pattern of symptoms the other day. I mean new to me, of course, I’m sure somebody, somewhere, has seen this before. But I didn’t find anything on it via Google.

The complaint was about a corrupted user profile, which is not particularly unusual, but when I went into a different user account to try to fix it, there was very little I could do. Attempts to open an elevated command prompt, to do a system restore and to scan the hard drive, among others, resulted in program file not found, though the files were exactly where they should be.

I hit F8 at startup (this was Windows 7) and tried system restore via computer repair. This failed repeatedly, in some cases reporting corrupted files. So I extracted the hard drive and connected it to another machine, then scanned it using chkdsk and a couple of anti-malware progs. Some apparently minor problems were found and fixed (both malware and file system).

After reinstalling the HD I found the user profile fixed, then was surprised again to be told that system restore had completed successfully. Had I missed something or is this a fault, whereby sys rest reports failure prematurely? I don’t know, sometimes you just have to draw a line, especially when you’ve found a fix! (The problematic programs were all happy to run now too.)

Deadlines: Windows 10 and Windows Live Mail/Outlook.com

A couple of Microsoft deadlines are approaching, one of which is almost upon us.

The imminent one affects people who use Windows Live Mail 2012 (though I’m guessing other versions will also be affected) with an @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com or @msn.com email address. MS are upgrading their systems and WLM will no longer be compatible with them, “starting at the end of June 2016”. This perhaps misleadingly titled article has more information including alternatives: Windows Live Mail 2012 will not connect to Outlook.com.

The other deadline is the end of free downloads of Windows 10. There’s one month to go on this one. From 29 July 2016 anyone who wants it will have to pay for it, £99 for the Home version and £130 for Pro (prices correct at the time of writing). If you haven’t yet bitten the bullet (and my recommendation for most people is: just do it) it’s make-up-your-mind time.

Internet Explorer fails to open

If you’re searching for a fix for this, you might want to look elsewhere. I do mention things that have apparently helped others with the same issue, but in the end I had to give up! (I’m categorizing this post as a “Fix”, I don’t have a “Failures” category!)

A client’s computer, running Windows 7 (64 bit) and IE 11 (64 bit) seemed generally ok, if a bit slow (like the vast majority of older PCs), except we couldn’t get IE to open. It would try to get going, the busy cursor would appear, then nothing. Looking at processes in Task Manager, it would appear in the list then disappear from it again a few seconds later.

This is quite a common problem. Microsoft themselves offer suggestions for this scenario to be tried in sequence: restart, install the latest updates, and switch IE off and back on (in Windows features). Of course I tried these, to no avail. Another obvious option was to restore all of IE’s default settings (think I tried that first in fact—yes, I should keep better notes).

I also (of course) did a thorough anti-malware scrub, utilizing Combofix, AdwCleaner, Junkware Removal Tool and Malwarebytes Antimalware. No joy. Well, quite a bit of ad/malware found, but the original problem remained.

What else did I try? Ah yes, the system file checker (command prompt: sfc /scannow). No issues found. And I ran Ccleaner on the registry.

As a supposedly last resort, that I admit assuming would fix it if at a cost, I downgraded IE, by switching it off (as above) then uninstalling the Windows Update that it came in with and restarting (most of the previous attempts also involved at least one restart), after which IE 10 reappeared. But it behaved exactly like IE 11! (If it had worked I’d have needed to hide that update so Windows wouldn’t automatically re-upgrade IE to 11.)

At that point I gave up. By which I mean, I rang the client to ask whether he particularly needed IE for anything, or could switch to a different browser. He was OK to switch, and Chrome was already installed, so I made that the default and Bob’s your uncle. In effect. Of course, not having actually fixed the issue I couldn’t in all conscience charge the normal rate but the client is quite happy and the machine is not only off my hands but much cleaner than it started so that’s alright. Ish. Some jobs are like that.

“AVG Free upgrade available”

Except it’s not really free. Or you could say it’s not really an upgrade. It’s actually an “opportunity” offered to current users to replace the (genuinely) free version of AVG with the trial version, which eventually you’d have to pay for if you wanted to keep it.

I’ve used AVG Free myself and recommended it to all of my clients for many years now but they do have a nasty habit of trying to maneuver you into getting the paid-for version. I’ve absolutely no objection to them offering it from time to time. If they couldn’t do that there would be no free version, which is just a “loss leader”, to pull you in, as far as they’re concerned. It’s the fact that you have to be on the ball to avoid being suckered into it that I object to.

Anyway, as long as you are on the ball, or at least remember to up your game and get on it whenever you’re being offered something by a corporation, it’s well worth having, so here’s a link. But at the time of writing the prominent download button on that page is for the trial version, which is the one you don’t want! (Unless of course you do.)

Start button stops working

I just fixed quite a difficult case. As it often is, the situation was made murkier by there being multiple issues. The main problem, though, was one I’d seen before: the Windows 10 start button stops working (except for right-clicks, which is useful), taking with it Cortana and other task bar located features.

On the previous occasion I was asked to fix this, it succumbed to the command line procedure described in this PC Advisor article. This time, though, that wasn’t enough. So I tried renaming the TileDataLayer folder as recommended in this video but though that basically did the trick, the start menu was left looking very sparse indeed, missing not only program buttons and tiles but even Settings. Luckily, the fix for this situation is in the video‘s comments: create two temporary users, login as one then copy that folder from the other to the “real” user account. (Then of course switch back to that and delete the two temp accounts.) Job done!

Websites

For many years I tried to avoid paid website work—I’ve always done my own sites—because I didn’t feel I had anything to offer regarding graphic design.

These days, though, using packages such as WordPress with themes, templates, etc., no such skills are required, and I’ve been doing more of this sort of thing.

The new site for Gordon Electrical is nearing completion. It’s very small and simple but quite nice if I say so myself.

Towards the other extreme, for me—not in niceness(!), but in size and complexity—is the personal website of my old friend, academic Clive Spash. This is not a new site, for quite a few years it was the only one I managed for anyone else, but what’s happened very recently is its move onto WordPress, as a result of which Clive can now do all the routine updates himself. As for the non-routine stuff, another new development is the option to manage a whole bunch of WordPress sites from one central location. Isn’t technology wonderful!

Strange one

(Decided to start blogging about my pc repair experiences and related matters—and why not?)

Had a strange one last week. A Windows 8 laptop belonging to a pre-teen girl in Dunblane seemed unable to run most programs. Chrome, Minecraft, The Sims all failed to start, with no error messages. Malware scans came up with very little, very unusual for that demographic in my experience, eliminating what was found made no difference to the behaviour, and I couldn’t get into drive properties to run chkdsk. Probably because I’d been using shift-restart so much to get into safe mode it occurred to me I could get a command prompt under the advanced options and run chkdsk from there, so that’s what I did. Lo and behold, loads of errors came up using /f so despite it being a relatively new machine I ran it again using /r. No bad sectors, so I’ve no idea what caused the problem, but chkdsk fixed it, so happy lassie, happy parents, happy me. 🙂