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How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

In repairing computers for a living, the one thing I find myself doing constantly is cleaning up and resetting web browsers. Removing adware, malware and viruses can really screw up the Internet Explorer. So here is how to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer.

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer (IE) has been included every version of Windows since Windows 98. Microsoft has made cleaning IE fairly easy, but there can be some tricky items. All of IE's settings are accessible from either inside of IE or from the Control Panel. The best way is to go through the Control Panel because that is when IE is not technically running. If you use Outlook or Windows Mail, you will need to close these programs too before attempting to clean up IE, as they actually use IE to rendered HTML formatted e-mails.

When it comes to resetting the IE, you have to first get into the Control Panel. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, the easiest way to do it is to type Control Panel into the search box above the Start button and select Control Panel from the search results. The easiest and fastest way in Windows 8 and Windows 10 is to use the Power Users menu (Windows logo key Windows logo key + X) and then select Control Panel. Once you have the Control Panel up, select Network and Internet then Internet Options (if viewing by category) or just Internet Options (if viewing by icons).

The Internet Properties General tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties General tab inside of Windows 10

The Internet Options haven't changed much over the years, so the tabs on the Internet Properties will look similar in Windows Vista as they do in Windows 10. When you first open Internet Properties, the General tab appears by default. From here you can go down to Browsing history and delete everything from temporary Internet files and cookies to form data and passwords. Remember that once you delete something like passwords you cannot get it back, so choose carefully.

The Internet Properties Programs tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties Programs tab inside of Windows 10

Once you're done with the General tab, go over to the Programs tab and select Manage add-ons. Here is where you enable, disable and sometimes delete add-ons that have been installed into the IE. There are times when all you can do is disable an add-on, so that is when you'll need a third-party program like CCleaner from Piriform. In fact, CCleaner can cleanup all of the major browsers, but the only one I've had issues with getting rid of third-party programs is IE.

The Internet Properties Advanced tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties Advanced tab inside of Windows 10

The last tab in Internet Properties is Advanced and it is the most powerful. It has only two buttons, Restore advanced settings and Reset. The first one you click is Restore advanced settings then click on Apply in the lower right-hand corner. Then to completely reset IE click on Reset. You will get a screen warning you that you are about to reset IE back to its original defaults settings. Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 users will also have the option of deleting personal settings. Remember that these cannot be undone, so choose carefully. If in doubt, leave the personal files check box empty. You can always come back and remove them if need be.

Now if after you have reset IE you find you cannot get into some secure sites, like bank websites, go back into Internet Properties and select the Security tab and deselect Enable Protected Mode. When you click Apply you will get a prompt telling you that your current security setting might put you at risk. Then try the website you were having problems with. If you can now get into it, you are all set.

The Windows features menu inside of Windows 10
The Windows features menu inside of Windows 10

There is one option that is not available to IE and that is to uninstall and reinstall. As I stated earlier in this article, IE is integrated into the operating system as a feature and is used by other programs like Outlook and Windows Mail. The only thing you can do is turn off the IE feature in the Control panel, restart your computer and then turn it back on. To do this go to the Control Panel and select Programs and Features, then Uninstall or change a program. In the left-hand column left-click on Turn Windows features on or off.

How to change default programs in Windows 10

The default programs that Windows 10 uses to open different file types are pretty good right from the start. But maybe you'd like to change what program opens music or photos? Here's how to change the default applications in Windows 10.

How to change default programs in Windows 10

As with Windows 8, Windows 10 has two (2) applications for almost every file type, one Universal and one Windows. That way Windows 10 can run on both a tablet (Universal apps) and desktop (Windows apps). In fact, there are two (2) different programs to modify the default applications for Windows 10. The Universal application is quite easy to use, but the Windows application has more features.

How to change the default applications in Windows 10 using the Universal program

The Universal program for changing default applications in Windows 10
The Universal program for changing default applications in Windows 10

This is the easiest way to change a default program there is. Just left-click on the program listed under the file type (music player, photo viewer, web browser, etc.) and a list of programs will pop up. Just left-click on the program you want used to open that type of file and you are ready to go.

  1. Left-click on the Start button to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Left-click on Settings.
  3. Left-click on System.
  4. In the left hand column, left-click on Default apps.

The most common file types will appear in the right column. On the bottom of the right hand column, you will find three more advanced ways of modifying the default applications:

  • Choose default apps by type (Universal)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain file types, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the extension of the object you want to open. Be certain of the file extension before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Choose default apps by protocol (Universal)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain protocols, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the protocol of the object you want to open. Be certain of the protocol before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Set defaults by app (Windows)
    When you choose this option, you are presented with a list of installed programs and you can choose what each one does or does not do. You can set an application to open all of the types of files it can or select which types of files to open with that particular program.

How to change the default applications in Windows 10 using the Windows program

The Windows program for changing default applications in Windows 10
The Windows program for changing default applications in Windows 10

This way of changing default programs is the most familiar for anybody who has used Windows 7 or Windows Vista. You have to go to the Control Panel to access these options.

  1. Right-click on the Start button to bring up the Power Users menu.
  2. Left-click on Control Panel.

or

  1. In the search box to the right of the Start button type Control Panel.
  2. Left-click on the Control Panel (Desktop app).

or

  1. Left-click on the Start button and left-click on All apps.
  2. Scroll down to Windows System and left-click on it to expand it out.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.
  • If you are viewing the Control Panel by category, left-click on Programs, then left-click on Default Programs.
  • If you are viewing the Control Panel by icons, left-click on Default Programs.

You have four (4) different ways of modifying the default applications:

  • Set your default programs (Windows)
    When you choose this option, you are presented with a list of installed programs and you can choose what each one does or does not do. You can set on application to open all of the types of files it can or select which types of files to open with that particular program.
  • Associate a file type or protocol with a program (Windows)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain file / protocol types, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the extension / protocol of the object you want to open. Be certain of the file extension / protocol before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Change AutoPlay settings (Windows)
    This is where you change what happens when you insert removable media (CD/DVD, memory card, flash drive, etc.) into your computer. If you check Use AutoPlay for media and devices and don't choose a default, you will get prompted on what you would like to do every time you insert that type of media.
  • Set program access and computer defaults (Windows)
    This one has been around since Windows XP and has to be the most familiar way to change default applications. Just left-click on the Custom radio button and expand the choices by left-clicking the double arrows on the right hand side. Then just left-click on the radio button next to the program you want as default and you are ready to go.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

I was thinking the other day about what program I use the most in doing computer repair. The one program I use the most on Windows based computers would have to be System File Checker (SFC). SFC checks for system files that may have gotten corrupt or replaced with incorrect versions. Here's how to check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

SFC has been included in every version of Windows since Windows XP. In fact, you can also build it into the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). There is no shortcut or link to SFC in Windows 10, as it runs inside of an Administrative Command Prompt.

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

SFC running inside of Windows 10 Administrative Command Prompt

The following is the syntax and switches for SFC. The most commonly used syntax / switch is: sfc /scannow.

SFC [/SCANNOW] [/VERIFYONLY] [/SCANFILE=<file>] [/VERIFYFILE=<file>] [/OFFWINDIR=<offline windows directory> /OFFBOOTDIR=<offline boot directory>]

/SCANNOW (Scans integrity of all protected system files and repairs files with problems when possible.)
/VERIFYONLY (Scans integrity of all protected system files. No repair operation is performed.)
/SCANFILE (Scans integrity of the referenced file, repairs file if problems are identified. Specify full path <file>.)
/VERIFYFILE (Verifies the integrity of the file with full path <file>. No repair operation is performed.)
/OFFBOOTDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline boot directory.)
/OFFWINDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline windows directory.)

Examples

sfc /scannow sfc /verifyfile=c:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll sfc /scanfile=d:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows sfc /verifyonly

Once SFC is done scanning the system files, it will give one of four possible results:

  • Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.
    All system file are fine and you're good to go.
  • Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation.
    There may be another program preventing SFC from running. In this case boot the system up into safe mode and run SFC from there.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them.
    All system files are now correct and you're ready to go. If you want to view the repair details, see below.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
    If you get this message, SFC found a file or files that it wasn't able to repair. The next thing you will need to do is find out what the name of the file(s) are. Using the Find String utility, you can filter out the SFC results with only the components that were scanned and create a text file with that information on your Desktop called sfcdetails.txt. Just copy the following code into an Administrative Command Prompt:
findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

Manually replacing a corrupt system file in Windows 10

Note: To replace a corrupt system file, you will need to have a known good copy of the file(s) in question. A good source for files is another computer or virtual machine running Windows 10. Since I do computer repair for a living, I have all of the versions of Windows that are still supported by Microsoft running inside of Oracle VirtualBoxes.

First thing to do is make note of the location (path) and name of the file(s) that need to be replaced from the sfcdetails.txt file. Once you have another copy of the corrupt file(s), you will need take administrative ownership of the file(s). To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

takeown /f path\filename

Example: takeown /f C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

Next you will have to grant administrators full access to file(s) being replaced. To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

icacls path\filename /grant administrators:F

Example: icacls C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll /grant administrators:F

Third thing to do is copy over the new file(s) and replace the corrupt one(s).To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

copy path\filename path\filename

Example: copy C:\Temp\FileToBeReplaced.dll C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

How to use Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options

Since I do computer repair for a living, there are times when I need to boot a Windows 10 system up into Safe Mode. But with newer computers utilizing UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) and fast / safe boot features, this can be difficult to say the least. So here is how to use the Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options.

How to use Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options

In previous versions of Windows, getting to the advanced boot options was pretty easy. All you had to do was press the F8 key at start up. But with Windows 10, getting the advanced boot options is a little different. You can bring up the advanced boot options just one time or you can set it up permanently. Both require the system to be able to boot up into Windows 10 first.

Enable Window 10 Advanced Boot Options screen one-time

You can bring up the one-time Windows 10 boot options either logged on or off. Since I repair computers for a living, I prefer not logging under any users profile. That way I don't have to deal with any of the programs that may load when a user signs in. There are the two (2) ways (logged in and logged out) of getting to the Windows 10 one-time boot options.

When you are logged in to Windows 10:

  1. Left-click the Start menu and select Settings.
  2. Left-click on Update & security.
  3. In the left column, left-click on Recovery.

    Windows 10 advanced startup option when logged in
  4. Under Advanced startup, left-click on Restart now. The computer will log you off and bring up the Choose an option screen.

When you are logged out of Windows 10:

  1. At the logon screen, left-click on the Power button in the lower right hand corner to bring up the different options.

    Windows 10 advanced startup option when logged out
  2. Hold down the Shift key on the keyboard and left-click on Restart. This will bring up the Choose an option screen.

When you get to the Choose an option screen:

    Windows 10 choose an option screen
  1. Left-click on Troubleshoot.

    Windows 10 troubleshoot screen
  2. Left-click on Advanced options.

    Windows 10 advanced options screen
  3. Left-click on Startup Settings.

    Windows 10 startup settings screen
  4. Left-click on the Restart button.

    Windows 10 standard advanced boot options screen
  5. When the Startup Settings page appears, select the number that coincides with the function you would like to perform.

Enable Window 10 Advanced Boot Options screen permanently

This option should be used very carefully. Not only do you have to edit the boot configuration of your Windows 10 computer, but once permanently enabled, you will have to select a boot option you want to use every time your computer starts and/or restarts. There is no timer for this screen as there was in previous versions of Windows. To edit the boot configuration you will need to use an administrative command prompt.

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

The first thing we have to do is turn on the Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options. Type or cut and paste the following code into an administrative command prompt:

bcdedit /set {globalsettings} advancedoptions true

To turn off the Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options, type or cut and paste the following code into an administrative command prompt:

bcdedit /set {globalsettings} advancedoptions false

You can also change the default boot manager used with the advanced boot options. The default is the Windows 10 standard version, but if you like the old DOS look, you can change it to the legacy version.
Windows 10 legacy advanced boot options screen
To change to the legacy boot manager used in previous versions of Windows, like Windows 7, you can type or cut and paste the following code into an administrative command prompt:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

To restore the boot menu to the default, type or cut / paste the following code into an administrative command prompt.

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard

Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

There are a lot of programs out there that can clean up your Windows 10 computer. But did you know that one of the best ones actually comes with Windows 10? Here's how to clean up your Windows 10 computer with Disk Cleanup.

<Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup has been included with Windows since Windows XP and is part of my regular scheduled maintenance. Disk Cleanup can be run two (2) different ways and can have three (3) different sets of options. The first way to run it is from any of the embedded shortcuts in Windows (Start menu or disk properties). When using an embedded shortcut, you will have two (2) different sets of options, user and system.

Disk Cleanup user options in Windows 10
Disk Cleanup user options in Windows 10
Disk Cleanup system options in Windows 10
Disk Cleanup system options in Windows 10

When you run Disk Cleanup with user options, you can clean up user specific files such as downloaded program files, temporary Internet files and the recycle bin. With system options, you can also clean up Windows system files like Windows temporary files, device driver packages and previous installations of Windows, just to name a few.

Disk Cleanup command line options in Windows 10
Disk Cleanup command line options in Windows 10

Disk Cleanup can also be run using command line switches. When you do this, you get the maximum options available. But you will have to run it at an administrative command prompt to configure these options. These options include all of the user and system options plus a few more, like old chkdsk files, Windows Update Cleanup and Windows ESD installation files.

How to run Disk Cleanup from the Start menu

  1. Left-click on the Start button.
  2. Left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down to Windows Administrative Tools and left-click to expand.
  4. Left-click on Disk Cleanup. If you have more than one (1) drive, you will be prompted on which drive you want to clean up.

Disk Cleanup will scan your system for files that it can remove and will open with the user options available. You can now choose which user files you would like to delete. To activate the system options, you will need to select Clean up system files in the lower left hand corner. When you do this, Disk Cleanup will close and rescan your computer.

This time Disk Cleanup will now include system files that can be removed. It will also have a second tab on top called More Options. Under More Options you will find other options, Programs and Features and System Restore and Shadow Copies.

Programs and Features will take you to the Control Panel where you have the ability to uninstall programs or add / remove Windows features. Selecting System Restore and Shadow Copies will delete all but the most recent restore point. Use this carefully, as you cannot get back any restore points are they are deleted.

How to run Disk Cleanup from an administrative command prompt

You can run Disk Cleanup with or without command line switches. When you run Disk Cleanup without any switches, it opens with the system options selections. When you run it with switch /sageset:n, you will get even more options than the system settings.

First thing you will need to do is open an administrative command prompt.

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

The type the following into the command prompt to run Disk Cleanup.

cleanmgr

Disk Cleanup can also be used with command line switches, further expanding on its features. And when used with the /sageset:n and /sagerun:n switches you can save multiple configurations that can be used in a shortcut or as a scheduled task.

cleanmgr /sageset:n cleanmgr /sagerun:n

Here's an explanation of the /sageset:n and /sagerun:n switches.

  • /sageset:n - This switch displays the Disk Cleanup settings dialog box and creates a registry key to store the settings you select. The n value is stored in the registry and allows you to specify different tasks for Disk Cleanup to run. The n value can be any integer value from 0 to 65535. To get all the available options when you are using the /sageset switch, you may need to specify the drive letter that contains the Windows installation.
  • /sagerun:n - This switch runs the specified tasks that are assigned to the n value by using the /sageset switch. All drives in the computer will be enumerated, and the selected profile will be run against each drive.

How to run Disk Cleanup as a Scheduled Task

First you will need to have created a preset configuration using the /sageset:n switch. Then open Task Scheduler and create a new task.

  1. Left-click on the Start button.
  2. Left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down to Windows Administrative Tools and left-click to expand.
  4. Left-click on Task Scheduler.
  5. In the right column labeled Actions, select Create Basic Task. The Create a Basic Task Wizard will appear.
  6. Give the task a name and description and then select Next.
  7. Select when you want it to run (trigger).
  8. When prompted for what task you want to perform, select Start a program then select Next.
  9. When prompted for a program / script to start, select Browse and navigate to C:\Windows\System32\ and select cleanmgr.exe.
  10. In the Add arguments section, type /sagerun:n and then select Next.
  11. The then select Finish and you're all set.

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