Computer Security – keeping your Windows PC safe

The recent computer security scare with the Wannacry/Wannacrypt ransomware attack has brought the need to keep your Windows PC safe very much to the fore. Such attacks are set to continue with ever increasing complexity and aggression. Thankfully, the same guidelines that have always applied continue to do so.

Screenshot of message showing computer security has been compromised and files encrypted

Backup, backup, backup !

You should really have 3 copies of your data.

  1. The master working copy on your PC.
  2. A local copy on an external drive which CANNOT  remain connected to your computer all the time. If you are unlucky to be attacked by ransomware it will corrupt the files on your external backup as well. Ideally, you should use a backup program that waits for you to plug your disk in before completing the backup. It should then alert you that it has finished allowing you to remove the drive in a timely fashion.
  3. Most importantly an offsite copy to protect you in the event of fire or theft. This would involve the loss of your computer AND the external drive containing the local backup. If you only want one backup system to think about then this is the one. Because you will be storing your data using another company’s service, this will not be free.

Windows Updates

Make sure these are applied within days of them arriving, no longer. This should happen automatically across all versions of Windows for home and small business users. It is quite obvious it is happening, normally at the most inconvenient time ! With the most recent versions of the Professional edition of Windows 10 there is now more control available for this process.

Click here to read more information about how Windows Update keeps your PC up to date.

Antivirus

Choose a strong antivirus program and monitor it to ensure it is updating. It should alert you if it is encountering any problems in doing so, but this is not always the case. Windows 10 does include a built-in antivirus, Windows Defender. However, this is still considered by many to be insufficient to maintain robust computer security.

Encryption

The only way to fully protect the data on your machine from prying eyes in the event of theft is to implement full disk encryption. Even if the criminal removes the drive from your machine and tries to access the data by connecting it to theirs, this will just not work with an encrypted drive. Bear in mind that you will need the Professional edition of Windows 10 to implement this.

If you’re interested in more detailed information about encryption this is a useful in-depth article.

Not sure if you have sufficient computer security measures in place?

If you’re reading this and are unsure, worried or confused by any of the above, please give me a call on 07947 989395. Advice is always free at Poorly PC !

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Outlook – is your email program misbehaving ?

If you choose to use Outlook for your email program you may well see poor or unreliable behaviour. This is generally down to one of two things.

Microsoft Outlook Logo

Add-in conflict

Outlook add-ins are “enhancements” ( and I use the word loosely ) to the main program from various other applications that are installed on your PC. There may be scheduling tools, antispam tools, CRM tools … the list is endless.

As you can imagine it is nigh on impossible for all the potential combinations to be tested and add-ins can malfunction or misbehave with other add-ins causing operational difficulties.

Investigate with Safe Mode

Luckily, Outlook has a safe mode that enables it to start with all the add-ins temporarily disabled. Add-ins can then be turned on and off at will to allow some fault finding to take place.

Getting into this safe mode is simple. There is a choice – hold down the windows key and press r to pop open the Run box. Type outlook /safe then OK and you are all set. Alternatively, you can hold down the CTRL key while clicking or double clicking your Outlook icon, and a message will pop up informing you of the option of safe mode startup.

More information on add-ins is available at Microsoft.

Corrupted Outlook Data Files

A consistency check will be performed on each of the data files it has to load whenever it starts. If these files are corrupted the program may well freeze completely or appear to get stuck for an extended period. Luckily Microsoft has very thoughtfully supplied a tool called SCANPST which allows a manual check of the validity of these files and perform offline repairs.

The use of this tool is described here but this process is best undertaken with the guidance of your trusted IT professional who can also assist with add-in diagnostics and any other obstacles Outlook may be placing in the way of smooth email management.

 

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Windows 10 Creator’s Update Has Started Rolling Out

Devices-Windows-10-creators-update-banner

The roll-out for the Windows 10 so-called “Creators Update” ( otherwise known as Redstone 2 or 1703 ) is now well underway and early reports are generally positive. This process is expected to take place over a period of several months, starting with newer machines.

Do I need to do anything? No – the upgrade will be delivered by the automatic Windows Update process. It is possible to download the installation file to force the update but even Microsoft recommend against this.

What will I see? This is a large upgrade that will look like a re-install of Windows and may well take 1-2 hours to complete, depending on the speed of your machine. Apart from a new privacy screen where you have just five elements to consider, the process will look the same as previous upgrades.

What’s in it for me? Although called a “Feature Update” there is very little in the new feature list that is of interest to the average small business user. The ability to get slightly more control over the update/restart process and a hotkey combo for the snipping tool are useful but not really game changers.

If you would like more information on the changes this Reddit post has a very good ( lengthy but not too detailed ) unofficial change log.

 

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Importing contacts from Windows Live Mail into Office 365 Outlook online

I recently had a customer who wanted to get their contacts out of Windows Live Mail (WLM) and into their btconnect.com email account which was being accessed via Office 365 Outlook online.

There were instructions on extracting the contacts from WLM and importing them, but sadly they are not quite right giving broken contact records with missing data.

Exporting in CSV format from the WLM address book is the correct approach but the “column headers” in the CSV file do not match what the Outlook online import expects. Mine was a simple CSV with just first name, last name and email address included.

Save the CSV and then open it with Notepad. On the first line ( the “column headers” ) change the word Surname to read Last Name, and change Email Address to read Email. Be sure to leave the commas in place. Save this CSV and then import it normally into Outlook online.

Your contacts will now be fully populated. This process may also come in handy if you are importing contacts into Outlook.com from a Hotmail account that has only been used from WLM.

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