APC and its readers can be one giant helpdesk. If you have a technical problem, chances are one of us can solve it.
We fix readers’ computing problems
WINDOWS FILE EXPLORER SLUGGISH When I right-click inside a File Explorer window, it takes around 20-30 seconds to react. Sometimes File Explorer will even crash and then restart. What’s causing this slowdown? Dorothy Anders
The likely culprit is a third-party program that’s installed features to the File Explorer context menu. The simplest way to view and manage these is with Nirsoft’s ShellExView ( www. nirsoft.net/utils/shexview.html). Download, install and launch the program. Choose Options > Hide All Microsoft Extensions to filter out everything except third-party extensions. Start by pressing Ctrl-A to select them all, then press F7 to disable them. Right-click the Taskbar and choose Task Manager. Highlight File Explorer and click Restart.
If — as Dorothy discovered — things immediately improve, you’ll know one of these items is to blame. Re-enable them in batches — when the problem resurfaces, you’ll be able to focus your troubleshooting on the last set of extensions you re-enabled. In this case, we traced the problem to the Google Drive shell extension. This is a known issue which, hopefully, Google will soon issue a fix for. Mayank Sharma
SECURITY STUBBORN PUP JUST WON’T GO AWAY When I run a scan with AdwCleaner it always comes up with the following: ‘Chromium Extension Advance SystemCare Surfing Protection’. I don’t know where it is, and it keeps coming back. Should I just ignore it? Jim Duncan
You could safely ignore this — it’s linked to IObit software, which is safe enough — but Jim had no memory of having installed Advanced SystemCare, while Firefox was the only web browser installed on his PC. We kept digging and confirmed it was linked to the Chrome web browser, which Jim eventually remembered having briefly installed, suggesting there are some leftovers on his PC’s hard drive somewhere. We discovered where the leftovers are likely to be: press Windows-R to open the Run dialogue box, type %LocalAppData% and press Enter to access the hidden AppData\Local folder in your personal user folder. From here open a Google folder and see if there’s a Chrome folder inside — deleting this should clear the leftover files. Rob Mead-Green
APPLICATIONS BROWSE PLUGINS FOR PAINT.NET I’ve recently discovered that Paint.NET supports plugins. I’ve installed loads, but have lost track of what I’ve installed. Is there any way I can keep track of them? Frank Farrell
The best tool for the job is the Plugin Browser, which lists all plugins — including the 43 bundled with the program itself — that have been installed. It’s simple to install: visit
forums.getpaint.net and navigate to ‘Plugins – Publishing ONLY’ and you’ll find it pinned to the top of the list. Save the .zip file to your Downloads folder, then extract and run the .exe file inside — ignore the SmartScreen warning, it’s safe to install.
Once you’ve installed Plugin Browser, click Close, open Paint.NET and access it via Effects > Plugin Browser where you can browse by various criteria. You’ll also see a keyword search tool: this can be used to search the plugin index online to track down more plugins — just click a hyperlink to be taken to the relevant web page. Plugins are downloaded as .zip files, then if no installer is provided, you copy the .dll file inside the .zip archive to the relevant subfolder — typically Effects — inside C:\Program Files\Paint.NET. Nate Nate Drake
WINDOWS UPDATE WINDOWS 7 INSTALLATION DISC I’m unable to perform a repair install of Windows 7 because it says my installed version is newer than the version that’s on the disc. How do I go about getting an updated version? Deborah Yardley
You need install media that has both Windows 7 and Service Pack 1 slipstreamed into it. Here’s how you can get your copy, courtesy of Microsoft. Open File Explorer: rightclick Computer in the left-hand pane and choose Properties to open the System Control Panel. Make a note of your Windows system type (32-bit or 64-bit) in the System section. Open your web browser and go to www. microsoft.com/software-download/ windows7 and enter your product key to obtain the correct edition. When prompted, select 32-bit or 64-bit depending on your system type to download the file. Once downloaded, insert a blank DVD into your disc rewriter, then locate the ISO file and double-click it. Your burner should be detected, so tick ‘ Verify disc after burning’ and click Burn, then sit back and wait for the install disc to be created. Download and run Rufus Portable from rufus.akeo.ie. Click the FreeDOS drodown menu and choose ISO Image, then click the disc icon to select your ISO file. Select your USB drive from the Device drop-down menu and click Start. Rob Mead-Green
SECURITY STOPPING SPECTRE AND MELTDOWN IN THEIR TRACKS I’m a little rattled by the ongoing revelations about processor (in)securities. I have a four-year-old PC with an Intel Core i5-4450 (Haswell) chip. What steps can I take to protect myself against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities? Frank Eldon
We’ll assume that you know what these vulnerabilities are — flaws so fundamental that virtually every PC out there is affected by at least one vulnerability. Start by verifying that your chip is affected by one or both vulnerabilities with the help of Ashampoo’s free Spectre Meltdown CPU Checker ( bit.ly/ashamspectre). Once confirmed, make sure your web browsers are fully updated to close the door on one type of Spectre-based attack. Also check that Windows has also been patched against both threats — Windows 7, 8 and 10 should have received fixes in January. If you’ve not received any updates since the turn of the year, your anti-virus will need updating to let Windows know it’s compatible (and stop it blocking updates). Contact your anti-virus vendor if this doesn’t happen — if necessary, you’ll need to switch to another security program. Intel chips will also need a microcode patch. The older your processor, the longer you’ll have to wait and see if Intel will provide one. Intel has released a patch for the Haswell chip in Frank’s PC. Nevertheless, there’s one more hurdle to overcome: Intel isn’t deploying the patch. Instead, you’re relying on your system or motherboard manufacturer to provide this as part of a BIOS firmware update. Frank’s motherboard
“I’m unable to perform a repair install of Windows 7 because it says my installed version is newer than the version that’s on the disc. ”
“I switched on my Windows 10 laptop and was told it needed the latest security updates, but that Microsoft had to first install the latest version of Windows 10. ”
manufacturer – ASRock – hadn’t deployed any updates for older motherboards at time of writing, but keep checking back (and keep an eye on official user forums too) for updates. Rob Mead-Green
BACKUP WHAT BACKUP PLAN DO I NEED? I notice that you’re big fans of Macrium Reflect Free. Can you explain why is this a better backup tool than the drive imaging option offered by the Windows 7 Backup and Restore tool? Graham Ellesmere
There are numerous reasons why we love Macrium Reflect Free — which, as a reminder, is available for download at www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx.
Its main advantages over Windows’ built-in drive-imaging tool include being able to verify that your drive images aren’t corrupt, and you can also easily extract individual files from the image. Macrium Reflect Free also enables you to take advantage of differential backups, which take up significantly less size than a full backup, allowing you to store multiple snapshots of your system at different points in time without gobbling up too much storage space.
Our recommended approach when using the app is to create two separate backup jobs, with each pointing to a different backup device (say an external storage drive and a network drive). Each backup job should run at different times during the week, and you should set up a schedule that takes one full backup a month, supplemented by weekly differential backups. Matt Hanson
WINDOWS WINDOWS 10 SECURITY UPDATE I switched on my Windows 10 laptop and was told it needed the latest security updates, but that Microsoft had to first install the latest version of Windows 10. After 24 hours it’s stuck at 99%. What should I do? Andrew Winton
The warning about not switching off or closing your PC can be safely ignored by this point – although check the hard drive activity light isn’t flashing before you do exactly that. With his heart in his mouth, Andrew switched off his laptop, then powered it back on. It immediately began to update again, and by midnight his lengthy Windows 10 update had completed successfully. Rob Mead-Green
APPLICATIONS COMPATIBILITY ISSUE WITH HYPERMAKER I produce interactive web-based files for a local museum. Once prepared, I use HyperMaker to compile the files into a single .exe file that can be run on any PC, but the program no longer works in any version of Windows where Internet Explorer 11 has been installed. Can you help me overcome this incompatibility? Ed Cumming
Given that HyperMaker no longer works with IE11, it’s time to retire it. We’ve found a similar free alternative called WebSiteZip Packer ( www. spadixbd.com/wsz/), which installed and ran with no problems on our Windows 10 machine. Ed has managed to keep HyperMaker going on an old netbook, but we’ve recommended he experiment with WebSiteZip Packer going forward to see if it’s a suitable replacement — the .exe files it produces work flawlessly in Windows 10, making it a viable alternative to HyperMaker. Cat Ellis
GAMING PLAY OLD DOS GAMES IN WINDOWS I recently stumbled on a copy of the original Civilization game, which I used to play back in the day. Is there an easy way to play this in Windows 10? Graeme Lyle
The simplest thing to do is use a free app called DOSBox ( www.dosbox.com). It simulates the MS-DOS environment and works with classic PC games which were written in DOS. Download the Win32 installer (which works on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems), double-click it and follow the prompts, installing the program to its own folder on the root of drive C. This should install the program with no compatibility problems. Open File Explorer and browse to the root of drive C, then create a folder called ‘oldgames’. Copy the contents of the game CD to a folder inside it called ‘CIV1’ — alternatively, download and extract a zipped copy from www.abandonia.com. Type
dosbox into the Search bar and click DOSBox to launch it. Type MOUNT C C:\OLDGAMES into the window that appears and press Enter. When drive C is confirmed as mounted to the ‘oldgames’ directory, type C: and hit Enter. Type CD CIV1 , press Enter, type CIV and Enter to launch the game. Press 1 , 4 and 2 respectively to set graphics, sound and control modes. When the game starts, click inside the window to capture the mouse. Exit by pressing the Windows key. Mayank Sharma
EMAIL OUTLOOK WON’T SEND TO A SPECIFIC ADDRESS Our church organist has developed a problem: he can’t send emails to one of my email addresses from his laptop. He can send them to everyone else – including another of my email addresses and to my wife on the same domain name – but not this specific address. We’ve checked Outlook is set up correctly and there are no rules or blacklists. When I check his Sent folder, it shows the email address as being ‘0’ along with the subject, but no email appears to have been sent. Ian Henderson
We traced the problem to the organist’s Contacts folder which had Ian’s non-functioning email address. The solution is to open this contact information card, delete the name below the email address and press Tab, which will show the correct name and email address in parenthesis. Save and close the contact. Now create a new email. Start typing the name as shown in the contact information card — when it appears in the autofill field, highlight it and hit Delete. This removes the name from the autofill list but not the contact. Now click ‘To:’ and locate your contact — the correct name and email address should then appear. Alex Cox
See which plug-ins you’ve installed in Paint.NET with Plugin Browser.
Slow or non-responsive File Explorer behaviour can be traced to the context menu
Once you’ve downloded your Windows software, burn the ISO file onto a blank DVD.
Verify whether your CPU has been patched or not
Use a mix of full and differential drive images
WebSiteZip Pacler is compatible with WIndows 10
If you can’t find the game’s cursor, try clickin in the window to bring it up