Inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Coming on the heels of the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft recently released the Windows 10 Technical Preview. With this new version of Windows, Microsoft is combining elements from Windows 7 and Windows 8 / 8.1 to better enhance the keyboard / mouse user experience. Let's take a look at what's new in the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

With this version of Windows, we are seeing a shift in the focus from touch-based devices to keyboard / mouse systems. The biggest change by far is the return of the Start menu. And it is kind of a hybrid now, with elements from Windows 7 (Start menu (left-side)) and Windows 8 / 8.1 (Start screen Tiles (right-side)). But if you like using the Start screen, it's still there too. It's just a check box and restart away.

You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

But let's be honest, the Start screen concept might work on a tablet or phone, but it fails miserably on a laptop or desktop computer without a touch screen. I have even been told by customers that they have returned brand new Windows 8 systems because they could not stand the Start screen.

Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview
Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Along with the return of the Start menu, Microsoft has also built-in the ability to run multiple instances of the Desktop called Task view. With Task view, you can have different sets of programs running in separate desktops. This feature is kind of cool if you're using a single display.

The Windows RT / Metro apps from Windows 8 / 8.1 have also under gone some changes. Thier name has been changed to Universal apps and they now run in completely re-sizable windows. You still need to use the Store to install universal apps and can still sync them across multiple devices using a Microsoft account.

There is also small change here and there too. One change is with the way you copy and paste with the Command Prompt. You can now use the Windows keyboard short-cuts (Ctrl + C for copy, Ctrl + V for paste) for these tasks.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview is available for anyone who wants to give it a try. Remember; do not install the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a production system. Use only a system that can be reformatted after the preview expires (4/15/15). For this article, I used an Oracle VirtualBox virtual machine.

For more information on the Windows 10 Technical Preview, check out the links below.

Windows Technical Preview
Windows Technical Preview FAQ's

The correct ways to shut down your Windows based computer

Doing computer repair, I see allot of different issues. But there is one problem I am seeing over and over again, start up corruption. This most commonly occurs when the computer is not turned off properly. And it appears that laptops are more prone to this issue than desktops are. So here's how to properly shutdown your Windows based computer.

Which power button do you use to shut down your computer?

Logic dictates that if you use a button to turn on a device you should also use it to turn it off (button on / button off). You use a button to turn on and off your TV, audio / video components and smartphone. But this is not necessarily the case when it comes to your computer. It is always recommended that you allow the operating system close down all applications and turn the computer off itself.

Using the Start menu / Start screen to shut down Windows

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed how many people don't use this method. It's mainly laptop users who just instinctively reach for the power button. But if you don't watch how long you hold the power button down, you could perform a hardware shutdown. It's just simpler and recommended to use the shut down button on the Start menu / Start screen.

Windows Vista

Shut down button location in Windows Vista
Start button > Power button > Shut down

Windows 7

Shut down button location in Windows 7
Start button > Shut down

Windows 8

Sign out button location in Windows 8
1. Start screen > Sign out
Shut down button location in Windows 8
2. Sign in screen > Power button > Shut down

Windows 8.1

Shut down button location in Windows 8.1
Start screen > Power button > Shut down

Or

Power users shut down button location in Windows 8.1
Power users menu (Windows logo key + X) > Shutdown or sign out > Shut down

Using the power button on the computer to shut down Windows

This method is acceptable for turning off your computer, as it performs the same shutdown command as the shut down button on the Start menu / Start screen. But you have to check and make sure that the power options inside the operating system are configured to shut down the system when the power button is pressed.

Power button options inside of Windows 8.1
Power button options inside of Windows 8.1

The power button can be configured to put the system into sleep or hibernate. And if your system loses power while it's asleep, you will get an error when you restart it. This happens quite often with laptops when they are not using the ac adapter the battery runs out.

Using the power button on the computer to force it to shut down

So how do you turn off computer when it freezes up and you don't have a reset button? This is where the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) specification comes into play. This spec has been built into every computer for well over a decade now. It mandates that when the power button is held down for 10 seconds or more the system performs a hard shutdown, turning off power to all components. This will most likely cause an error upon restart.

Managing Virtual Memory / Pagefile in Windows 8

Your computer has two types of memory, Random Access Memory (RAM) and Virtual Memory. All programs use RAM, but when there isn't enough RAM for the program you're trying to run, Windows temporarily moves information that would normally be stored in RAM to a file on your hard disk called a Paging File. The amount of information temporarily stored in a paging file is also referred to as virtual memory. Using virtual memory, in other words, moving information to and from the paging file, frees up enough RAM for programs to run correctly.

The more RAM your computer has, the faster your programs will generally run. If a lack of RAM is slowing your computer, you might be tempted to increase virtual memory to compensate. However, your computer can read data from RAM much more quickly than from a hard disk, so adding RAM is a better solution.

If you receive error messages that warn of low virtual memory, you need to either add more RAM or increase the size of your paging file so that you can run the program on your computer. Windows usually manages this automatically, but you can manually change the size of virtual memory if the default size isn't large enough for your needs.

There is a formula for calculating the correct pagefile size. Minimum pagefile size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of memory. Maximum pagefile size is three (3) x the minimum pagefile size. Let's say you have 2 Gb (2,048 Mb) of memory. The minimum pagefile size would be 1.5 x 2,048 = 3,072 Mb and the maximum pagefile size would be 3 x 3,072 = 9,216 Mb.

How to change the pagefile size in Windows 8

  1. Open the System Properties, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause or use the Power User menu (Windows logo key Windows logo key + X) and select System.
    Managing Windows 8 virtual memory 1
  2. If you are going to use the formula above to configure your pagefile, make note of the amount of installed memory under the System category.
    Managing Windows 8 virtual memory 2
  3. In the left pane, click Advanced system settings. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  4. On the Advanced tab under Performance, click Settings.
    Managing Windows 8 virtual memory 3
  5. Click the Advanced tab and then under Virtual memory, click Change.
    Managing Windows 8 virtual memory 4
  6. Clear the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives check box.
    Managing Windows 8 virtual memory 5
  7. Under Drive [Volume Label], click the drive that contains the paging file you want to change.
  8. Click Custom size, type a new size in megabytes in the Initial size (MB) and Maximum size (MB) box, click Set, and then click OK.

Note: Increases in size usually don't require a restart for the changes to take effect, but if you decrease the size, you'll need to restart your computer. It is recommended that you don't disable or delete the paging file.

Modifying the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 8

Did you know that Windows 8 has some great ways of managing your user files? From adding additional folder locations in the Libraries to completely moving your user documents to another location. You can do all of these and more. Here's how to modify the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 8.

Moving your personal folders has become more common place when you have two (2) or more disk drives in a computer. By moving the user files to another drive, you're freeing up space on the drive with the operating system. This can be extremely beneficial if your operating system is installed on a Solid State Drive (SSD). When you move a folder to a new location, you change where the folder, as well as the files in the folder, are stored. However, you'll still be able to access the folder the same way you did before you moved it.

Also, instead of moving a folder, you might want to consider including another folder in one of your libraries. For example, if you have a large number of pictures, you can store those pictures in a location other than your primary hard drive and then include that location in your Pictures library. For more information, see below.

How to change the location of user files in Windows 8

There are six (6) user folders in Windows 8 which you can change their locations. They are Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos. You will need to create folders with the same name in the new location prior to moving any of these folders.


How to change the location of user files in Windows 8

How to move a user folder to a new location

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Navigate to This PC and expand it. If you don't see the Navigation pane go to the View tab, pull down the Navigation pane toolbar and place a check mark next to Navigation pane.
  3. Right-click the folder that you want to move, and then click Properties.
  4. Click the Location tab, and then click Move.
  5. Browse to the location where you want to move this folder. You can select another location on this computer, another drive attached to this computer, or another computer on the network. To find a network location, type two backslashes (\\) into the address bar followed by the name of the location where you want to redirect the folder (for example, \\mylaptop), and then press Enter.
  6. Click the folder where you want to store the files, click Select Folder, and then click OK.
  7. In the dialog that appears, click Yes to move all the files to the new location.

To restore a folder to its original location

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Navigate to This PC and expand it. If you don't see the Navigation pane go to the View tab, pull down the Navigation pane toolbar and place a check mark next to Navigation pane.
  3. Right-click the folder that you previously redirected and want to restore to its original location, and then click Properties.
  4. Click the Location tab, click Restore Default, and then click OK.
  5. Click Yes to recreate the original folder, and then click Yes again to move all the files back to the original folder.

Note:
If you don't see the Location tab in a folder's Properties dialog, then the folder can't be moved. If you see the Location tab but can't edit the folder path, then you don't have permission to move the folder.

How to modify library properties in Windows 8

We are all familiar with files and folders, but when Windows 7 came out; we got another way to manage them, Libraries. Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your items. They monitor folders that contain your items, and let you access and arrange the items in different ways. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and on an external drive you can access all of your music files at once using the Music library.

Windows 8 has four default libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. You can also create new libraries. If you don't see the Libraries in File Explorer, go to the View tab, pull down the Navigation pane toolbar and place a check mark next to Show Libraries.


How to enable the Library view in Windows 8 File Explorer

Here are some ways you can modify an existing library:

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders, or library locations. You can include up to 50 folders in one library.
  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the library.
  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a library for a certain file type changes the available options for arranging your files.

How to add a folder to a library

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Open the library you'd like to change.
  3. On the ribbon on top select Manage library.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, click on Add, navigate to the folder you want to add to the library and click on Include folder.
  5. Click OK.

How to change a library's default save location

A library's default save location determines where an item will be stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the library.

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the library you'd like to change and click Properties.
  3. Select the library location that you want as default and click on Set save location.
  4. Click OK.

To change the type of files a library is optimized for

Each library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a library for a certain file type changes the options that are available for arranging the files in that library.

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the library you'd like to change, and then click Properties.
  3. In the Optimize this library for list, select a file type, and then click OK.

Strengthen your computer security with EMET 5

It seems like every day a new software exploit or vulnerability is found. Software vendors' work hard at keeping their software secure, but it can take time to test and deploy patches. So what can you do to protect your computer? The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) from Microsoft does just that.

The main window inside of EMET 5
The main window inside of EMET 5

EMET is designed to prevent attackers from taking control of your system. It works as 'shim' in-between your programs and the operating system. EMET looks for the most common attack techniques and will block and/or terminate any program it is monitoring. EMET works alongside your favorite anti-virus and anti-malware programs for layered security.

I have been using EMET as part of my layered security for years and have written a few blogs on it. With each version, Microsoft keeps improving it. Some of the improvements in EMET 5 include Attack Surface Reduction (ASR), Export Address Table Filtering Plus (EAF+) and 64-bit ROP mitigations. Here's is the current list of mitigations EMET currently looks for.

  • Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP)
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • Heapspray allocation
  • Null page allocation
  • Mandatory Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering (EAF)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering Plus (EAF+)
  • Bottom-up randomization
  • Return Oriented Programming (ROP)
  • Attack Surface Reduction (ASR)

There are two (2) different ways to configure EMET, a Graphic User Interface (GUI) and a command line tool. It is best to configure EMET through the GUI, since the command line tool doesn't allow access to all of EMET's features. The built-in configuration wizard allows you use either the recommenced settings, keep previous settings (upgrade install) or to manually configure EMET (new install).

Easily configure programs to monitor in EMET 5
Easily configure programs to monitor in EMET 5

Once you have EMET installed, it's pretty easy to add programs to monitor. Just open the program you want EMET to monitor and then open EMET. On the lower part of the main window you will see Running Processes. Just find the program you want to monitor in the list, right-click on it and select Configure Process. You will have to restart any program you have just configured inside of EMET.

For more information on Microsoft EMET 5, just follow the links below.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit
Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 5.0 download

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