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The correct ways to shut down your Windows based computer

Updated September 13, 2020

Doing computer repair, I see a lot of different issues. But there is one problem I see 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 to 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 at how many people don't use this method. It's mainly laptop users who instinctively reach for the power button. But if you don't watch how long you hold the power button down, you could perform a hard shut down. It's 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) > Shut down or sign out > Shut down

Windows 10

Shut down button location in Windows 10
Start button > Power button > Shut down

Or

Power users shut down button location in Windows 10
Power users menu (Windows logo key + X) > Shut down 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 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 / Windows 10

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

How do you turn off your computer when it freezes up and doesn'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 shut down, turning off power to all components. This will most likely cause an error upon restart.

How to safely optimize your solid state drive

Updated September 20, 2020

When it comes to getting the best performance out of your computer, nothing can beat a Solid State Drive (SSD). Right out-of-the-box, they are significantly faster reading / writing data than a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). But there are a few things that you have to do differently with an SSD. Here's how to safely optimize your solid state drive.

The definition of tweak

There are plenty of articles out there that will give you a ton of different tweaks you can use to speed up the SSD access time, from turning off disk indexing to disabling Prefetch and Superfetch. Some may work for you; some may not. Generally speaking, if you're running Windows 7 or higher, the operating system should recognize the SSD and modify its behavior accordingly. The following tweaks are entirely safe and will not harm your system in any way.

General SSD maintenance

SSDs operate differently from HDDs, and there are a couple of things you should never do to an SSD. Since SSDs have limited read/write cycles, any program that intensively accesses the SSD could shorten the drive's life span. Running a disk defragment program on an SSD is not recommended. And as far as Check Disk (CHKDSK) is concerned, you'll need to contact the manufacturer of your SSD to find out if they recommend it or not.

Microsoft started building in support for SSDs in Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2 and has expanded on it in Windows 8 / 8.1 & Windows Server 2012. Since the low-level operation of SSDs is different from HDDs, the Trim command was introduced to handle delete/format requests. To verify that Trim is on, you'll need to open an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

You can verify that Trim is enabled by typing the following into an Administrative Command Prompt:

fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify

If the command returns a 0, then Trim is enabled. If it returns a 1, then it is not. To enable Trim, type the following into the Admin Command Prompt:

fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0

SSD free space maintenance

SSDs do have one downside; their capacity can be smaller than HDDs. The capacity of SSDs is getting closer to HDDs every day, but the price for a 1 to 2TB SSD can be kind of expensive. If you have a smaller capacity SSD, maintaining an adequate amount of free space is necessary.

Now there are two scenarios for setting up computers with SSDs: Single-drive (SSD only) and Multiple drives (SSD + HDD). Laptops are usually single-drive, and desktops are almost always multiple-drive. Here are a few ways to maintain free space.

Single-drive (SSD only)

The options here are limited. You could store your files like documents, photos, and music to an external drive or the cloud to free up space. Here are a few more ideas.

Turn off Hibernation.
With the speed of an SSD, boot times will be relatively faster than with an HDD. You'll find that you can boot your computer just as fast as if you brought it out of hibernation. And since hibernation writes the system memory to disk, you'll free up the same amount of disk space equal to the total system memory. And if you have a lot of memory, this can free up a big chunk of space on your SSD.

Disable Windows hibernation and free up disk space

Turn off the virtual memory/pagefile.
Use this with caution! Technically, virtual memory is used when all of the system memory is full. If you have a large amount of system memory (16GB or more) and you don't run memory hog software like Photoshop, you should be alright disabling it. And you'll free up a few GB's of drive space in the process.

Managing Virtual Memory / Pagefile in Windows 7

Managing Virtual Memory / Pagefile in Windows 8

Managing Virtual Memory / Pagefile in Windows 10

Clean up the drive regularly.
Temporary files and browser caches are a few items you'll need to keep an eye on. Using a program like Piriform's CCleaner or Disk Cleanup that comes with Windows will take care of these files. Disk Cleanup can also be run as a scheduled task.

Free up more disk space with Windows 7 Disk Cleanup

Clean up your hard drive in Windows 8 with Disk Cleanup

Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Clean up and optimize your computer for free with CCleaner

Multiple-drive (SSD + HDD)

This is the optimal setup. Everything under a single-drive scenario applies here. Windows and program files need to be on the SSD. Almost anything else that Windows doesn't require for regular operation can go over to the HDD.

Move the virtual memory/pagefile.
Instead of turning it off, move it to the HDD (see link above).

Move personal files to HDD.
Your documents, photos, and music can take up a large amount of space on your drive. Get them off of the SSD and over to the HDD.

Modifying the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 7

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

Modifying the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 10

There are plenty of other tweaks you can do, like moving the location of your browser cache and temp folders to the HDD. You can find all of that information and more with a quick search on Google.

Create great graphics with Paint.NET 4.0

Updated September 22, 2020

One of the things I like to do besides repairing computers is creating graphics. Over the years, I have used many different image editing programs, including Photoshop and CorelDraw. But for free graphics programs, you just cannot beat Paint.NET.

Lately, I have been back through some of my older articles and updating the content. Even though I wrote this article a few years ago, Paint.NET is still one of my favorite graphics programs. And it just keeps getting better all of the time.

The user interface inside of Paint.NET 4
The user interface inside of Paint.NET 4

Paint.NET was initially created to replace the Paint program included in Windows but has evolved in to so much more since then. It includes such features as layers, effects, transparency, blending, and best of all, plugins.

With hundreds of plugins available, you can expand on the out-of-the-box graphic capabilities of Paint.NET. Since I have a digital camera that will take photos in RAW format, I found a plugin that opens that type of file. I also use Photoshop and have found a plugin to open those files too.

Paint.NET uses an asynchronous, fully multithreaded rendering engine and supports hardware acceleration via the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Selections are anti-aliased, and selected outlines rendered with 'dancing ants' animation, significantly improving the contrast between the sample and image. And the user interface is clean and straightforward to use.

The Settings dialog box inside of Paint.NET 4
The Settings dialog box inside of Paint.NET 4

There are now two (2) versions of the Paint.NET program. The original Windows desktop version and the UWP (Universal Windows Platform). The Windows desktop version is available for download for free from the dotPDN website. The UWP version is available for purchase from the Microsoft Store.

Paint.NET system requirements

  • Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Windows 7 SP1 with platform update
  • .NET Framework 4.7.2
  • 1 GHz processor (dual-core recommended)
  • 1 GB of RAM

For more information on Paint.NET, follow the links below:

Get Paint 4
What's new in Paint.NET

Harden / Mitigate the security of your Windows programs with Microsoft EMET

*** Revised 19, February 2016 ***
This article has been revised for EMET v5.5

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 5.5

Let's face it, some of the software we use on a daily basis has become subject to security vulnerabilities and exploits. Software manufacturers do their best to develop and test fixes / patches as fast as possible, but this can take time. A lot of users just cannot keep up with all of the updates and hotfixes. A few years ago Microsoft released the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) to deal with just this issue.

View of the main screen inside EMET 5.5
View of the main screen inside EMET 5.5

So what is EMET? EMET monitors selected programs (Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, etc.) for known attack actions and techniques. When one of the several pseudo mitigation technologies is triggered, EMET will either block the programs' access to the resouce it is trying to reach or just terminate it. EMET expands on the technologies that Microsoft implemented with Data Execution Prevention (DEP), which has been included in the Windows operating system since Windows XP SP2. It will also validate digitally signed SSL certificates inside of Internet Explorer.

View of the application configuration screen inside EMET 5.5
View of the application configuration screen inside EMET 5.5

So how does EMET work? EMET acts as a shim between the program being monitored and the operating system. The monitored program thinks it's talking directly to the operating system, but it's actually talking to it through EMET. EMET comes with predefined profiles for some of the more common programs like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat and Java. You can also add to the predefined profiles or create your own. I recommend that you monitor any program that can open files on or from the Internet.

What security exploits are currently covered

Here's is the current list of mitigations EMET 5.5 currently looks for.

  • Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) Mitigation
  • Export Address Table Filtering (EAF+) Security Mitigation
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP) Security Mitigation
  • Structured Execution Handling Overwrite Protection (SEHOP) Security Mitigation
  • NullPage Security Mitigation
  • Heapspray Allocation Security Mitigation
  • Export Address Table Filtering (EAF) Security Mitigation
  • Mandatory Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) Security Mitigation
  • Load Library Check - Return Oriented Programming (ROP) Security Mitigation
  • Memory Protection Check - Return Oriented Programming (ROP) Security Mitigation
  • Caller Checks - Return Oriented Programming (ROP) Security Mitigation
  • Simulate Execution Flow - Return Oriented Programming (ROP) Security Mitigation
  • Stack Pivot - Return Oriented Programming (ROP) Security Mitigation
  • Windows 10 untrusted fonts

What programs should you harden / mitigate

You only want to harden / mitigate certain programs that are targeted on a regular basis. Web browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, production / office programs like Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, e-mail clients like Outlook and Windows Live Mail are some of the few. I recommend that you harden any program that can open files on or from the Internet.

What programs should you not harden / mitigate

You should never configure EMET to monitor anti-virus, anti-malware, intrusion prevention / detection software, debuggers, software that handles Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies or software that uses anti-debugging, obfuscation, or hooking technologies.

Installation notes

New installation: Just download EMET and install

Upgrade install: Since the registry keys for EMET changed with this version, you can either export your existing EMET settings using the method in the 'What's new' section below, download the converter or reconfigure all of the program settings. With the drastic change with the EMET data format inside of the registry, I think that it would be just easier to reconfigure EMET then try the export / import method. Either way, remember to uninstall any older version of EMET and restart your computer before you install this version.

What's new in EMET 5.5?

  • Full-featured GPO management, compatible with reporting and compliance requirements
  • Command line: new syntax and options
  • Implementation of certificate pinning now based on root CA thumbprints. Exceptions logic removed.
  • Export and Import now memorize path
  • EMET registry has been refactored. To convert settings from previous versions of EMET (including EMET 5.5 Beta), registry values must be saved in a file then imported back with the use of the converter PowerShell script after EMET 5.5 is installed. Here are the steps to follow:
  1. Export settings. With elevated PowerShell, run the following command:
    .\Migrate-EmetSettings.ps1 -RegFile .\NewEmetSettings.reg -MissingCertCsv .\MissingCerts.csv PowerShell script Migrate-EmetSettings.ps1 is provided with EMET 5.5 RTM. It includes documentation about its usage.
  2. Uninstall former version of EMET.
  3. Install EMET 5.5 RTM. When asked to choose between Use recommended settings and Configure manually later, chose option Configure manually later.
  4. Import settings. With elevated PowerShell, run the following command:
    reg.exe import .\NewEmetSettings.reg

Supported Operating Systems

Windows 10 , Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Vista

  • EMET 5.5 requires .NET Framework 4.5.
  • For Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 you need to install KB2790907 - a mandatory Application Compatibility update that has been released on March 12th, 2013 or any other Application Compatibility updates for Windows 8 after that

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

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit
Download Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 5.5
Download Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 5.5 User Guide
Download Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 5.5 converter

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company that specializes in servicing all brands of desktop and laptop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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