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Provide remote assistance in Windows 10 with Quick Assist

Do you have a family member or friend who is always calling for help with their Windows 10 computer? Do you wish that you could easily connect to their system and take care of their problems fast? You can do just that with the Quick Assist program inside of Windows 10.

Provide remote assistance in Windows 10 with Quick Assist

Now there is nothing new about being able to establish a remote connection from one Windows computer to another. The Remote Assistance program has been in Windows since Windows Vista, but it does require some detailed setup before you can use it.

On the other hand, Quick Assist is installed in Windows 10 and is pretty much ready to go when you need it. The requirements for it are quite minimal: both computers have to be running Windows 10, and the person assisting needs to have a Microsoft account.

Quick Assist does have a few great features. The first one has to be how easy and straightforward it is to use. It comes already installed, and all you have to do is start it up and follow the prompts.

The second feature that stands out is the ability to restart the remote computer you are giving assistance to and having the connection restart automatically. This feature is handy when you install and uninstall software on the remote computer.

A couple of the other great features are the ability to view a single monitor or all of the monitors on the remote computer. You can annotate (draw) on the remote computer screen (great for illustrating how to do something). And there is even a button to start the Task Manager.

There are two (2) features that are not included that most remote connection software you pay for include. The first one is being able to transfer files between the two computers directly.

You can get around this by using cloud-based file storage like Dropbox or Google Drive. All you have to do is use a browser on the remote computer to log into your cloud storage and download files you uploaded from your computer.

The second feature that is missing is a shared clipboard. Quick Assist does include a chat window (instruction channel) that you can transfer links and text between the computers.

The downside is that the chat window gets cleared with every message that is sent. You can get around this problem by enabling the Clipboard history on the remote computer.

Then in the chat window on the remote computer, you can click on the Copy button, and have all of the pieces of text you send to the remote computer saved to the Clipboard. For more on Windows 10 Clipboard features, follow the link below.

How to use all of the Clipboard features in Windows 10

How to start a Quick Assist session

1. Open Quick Assist program by either:

  • Left-click on the Start Windows logo button and scroll down to Windows Accessories. Left-click on it to expand the contents and left-click on Quick Assist.
    or
  • Using the search box on the right side of the Start Windows logo button, type in Quick Assist, and left-click on it in the search results.

Once Quick Assist is up on your screen,
The Quick Assist setup screen
there are two choices: Get assistance and Give assistance.

If you are getting assistance

  1. Enter the 6-digit security code from the person assisting you and left-click on the Share screen button.
  2. You will be prompted to allow access to your computer.
    The Quick Assist share your screen dialog box
    Left-click on the Allow button to share your screen.

If you are giving assistance

  1. Left-click on the Assist another person button. You will be prompted for the email address and password associated with your Microsoft account.
  2. Once you are logged in, a security code will appear.
    The Quick Assist share security code dialog box
    There are some options on how to deliver the security code at the bottom of this dialog box. But the majority of the time, you will have the person you are assisting on the phone. Give them the 6-digit security code.
  3. The next screen will ask you what sharing option you want.
    The Quick Assist sharing option dialog box
    You can choose between Take full control or View screen. Make your selection and left-click on Continue.

How to use all of the Clipboard features in Windows 10

The Clipboard is probably one of the most widely used features inside of Windows. It used to be just for copying a small amount of text, but not anymore. Let's take a look at all of the Clipboard features inside of Windows 10.

How to use all of the Clipboard features in Windows 10

In the early days of computing, users were able to store small amounts of data in the computer's RAM (Random Access Memory), and it was called the Paste Buffer. You could only save one piece of data at a time, and every time you copied a new piece of data, the last piece was erased.

But over the decades, the Paste Buffer, now known as the Clipboard, has evolved into a useful and essential tool for productivity. The Clipboard in Windows 10 can hold multiple pieces of text and images. And how you access the Clipboard has changed over the years.

Before you can take advantage of the full capability of the Windows 10 Clipboard, you have to do a couple of things. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that the Clipboard history feature is turned on.

With Clipboard history turn on, you can view and paste all of the different items you have copied to the Clipboard. You will need to go to the Windows Settings to make sure that this feature is activated.

There are three (3) ways to bring up the Windows Settings in Windows 10:

  • Left-click on the Start button, which will bring up the Start menu. On the Start menu left-click on the gear icon (Settings)
  • Right-click on the Start button, which will bring up the Power User menu. On the Power User menu left-click on Settings
  • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + I

Once you have the Windows Settings on-screen, left-click on System, then scroll down the left-hand column and left-click on Clipboard.
The Clipboard history switch inside of Windows 10 Settings
Make sure that the Clipboard history is turned on. You can clear all of the items on the Clipboard from here too.

Now copying text to the Clipboard has always been pretty straightforward, but there may be times you want to copy images to it. The second thing to do is to make sure you have all the programs you can use to capture images.

Now the Snipping Tool has been in Windows since Windows 7, and it works well for capturing anything on-screen (if you can see it, you can capture it).
The Snipping Tool inside of Windows 10
And it automatically copies whatever you snip to the Clipboard. But it does prompt you to save your snip to a file when you close it.

But Microsoft is going to depreciate it eventually and has a new program to replace it called Snip & Sketch.
The Snip & Sketch inside of Windows 10
Snip & Sketch is not installed by default, but you can easily install it from the Microsoft Store.

Just open the Microsoft Store, do a search for Snip & Sketch and then click Install. It also automatically copies its snips to the Clipboard. The beautiful thing about Snip & Sketch is that it does not prompt you to save your snips when you close it.

And then there is a third way of capturing screen snips, the Snipping Bar.
The Snipping Bar inside of Windows 10
Microsoft included it in Windows 10 Version 1809, and not too many people know about it. That's because you have to use a combination of three (3) keys on the keyboard to bring it up (Windows logo key Windows logo key + Shift + S).

The downside of the Snipping Bar is that it only captures one snip at a time. Every time you want to capture a screen snip, you have to press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Shift + S. The Snipping Tool and Snip & Sketch will capture as many snips as you like until you close them.

We are now all set to start copying items to the Clipboard. Remember that you can paste text from the Clipboard into almost any program, but you can only paste images into programs that can display images.

For example, you can paste text from the Clipboard into Notepad but not images. But can paste both text and images from the Clipboard into Paint or Wordpad.

There are several different ways to copy and paste from the Clipboard. Here are a few of the most common ways to do it.

Ways to copy to text to the Clipboard

Highlight the text you want to copy and then:

  • Press Ctrl + C on the keyboard
    Copying text to the Clipboard using the context menu inside of Windows 10
  • Right-click on the highlighted text and select Copy from the context menu

Ways to copy to graphics to the Clipboard

Highlight the image you want to copy and then:

  • Press Ctrl + C on the keyboard

If you can not highlight the image then:

    Copying an image to the Clipboard using the context menu inside of Windows 10
  • Right-click on it and select Copy
  • Use the Snipping Tool, Snip & Sketch or the Snipping Bar to capture a snip of it

Ways to paste from the Clipboard

Select where you want to place the graphic or text in the program of your choice then:

  • To paste the last item copied to the Clipboard press Ctrl + V on the keyboard.
  • To select an item on the Clipboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + V to display the Clipboard history.
    Pasting an item from the Clipboard using Clipboard history in Windows 10
    Then use your mouse or keyboard arrows to scroll through the clips. When you find the one you want to use, left-click on it (mouse) or press enter (keyboard).

For more information on the keyboard shortcuts discussed in this article, just follow the links below.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10
General keyboard shortcuts

Check out the following video for examples of copying to and pasting from the Clipboard inside of Windows 10.

Five things to look at to protect your computer when working from home

With more and more people working from home, keeping your personal computer safe and secure is essential. There is always somebody out there that will want to get your information and data. So here are five (5) things to look at to protect your computer when working from home.

Five things to look at to protect your computer when working from home

It is hard not to be paranoid when it comes to the security of your computer at home. You hear about all the ways that the bad guys can get access to your data. But with a few simple changes, you can harden the security of your personal computer.

E-mail

Protect your computer from malicious email when working from home

E-mail is the most popular way for the bad guys to get access to you. They will try and infect your computer with a malicious attachment or get you to go to a compromised website to get your information. Sometimes they just want you to respond to their e-mail with your personal information.

Either way, e-mail is currently the largest source of attacks and scams. But there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself. The first thing you want to look at is how you view your e-mail.

Now e-mail can be written using two (2) different formats: plain text (like in a .TXT file) or HTML (like the code used for websites). Plain text e-mail cannot have any special formatting, but HTML e-mail can.

Just like malicious websites can have hidden code that can download and install malware, adware, and viruses, so can malicious HTML formatted e-mail. There is no difference between the two.

So, just like if you went to a malicious website and viewed an infected web page that had a malware payload inside of it, displaying a malicious HTML formatted e-mail has the same effect.

The best way to avoid downloading the contains of an HTML formatted e-mail is by not using the preview feature in your mail program. Most of them, like Outlook and Thunderbird, can turn off the preview pane. If the HTML formatted e-mail can not be rendered, it cannot execute the code inside.

One thing to remember is that if you do not know or recognize the person or company that sent you a questionable e-mail, just delete it. It is not worth the trouble a malicious e-mail can cause just to see what is in the e-mail.

While on the subject of malicious e-mail, knowing how to spot a piece of junk mail is essential. I go into more detail on how to do it in the following article I wrote a little while back.

How to spot a piece of spam e-mail

There is another option when it comes to e-mail security, and that is using an anti-spam program. Since I get hundreds of e-mail a day, I started using the anti-spam program MailWasher almost two decades ago. It is perfect for getting rid of junk mail.

For more information on MailWasher, check out this article I wrote a couple of years ago. They have a paid version and a free version.

Eliminate spam from your inbox with MailWasher 7.5

Tech scams

Protect your computer from a tech scam when working from home

Tech scams have seemed to lose there popularly with bad guys. I guess is it because consumers are getting smarter and not falling for them anymore. But you still get them from time to time, so here is a link to an article I wrote about avoiding them.

How to handle a tech scam

The bottom line is, don't give them any information and, whatever you do, do not provide them with access to your computer!

Software updates

Protect your computer with software updates when working from home

Allot of people don't apply updates to Windows and other programs because they are afraid that the upgrades will break the software. Yes, it does happen occasionally, but not regularly.

Sure, I have had my fair share of repairing computers that have experienced a failed update. But more often than not, updates install flawlessly. With all of the testing that software manufacturers do to updates, a failed upgrade is kind of rare.

But recovering from a virus or malware infection that could have been prevented by applying software updates can be expensive. And kind of embarrassing too.

Then there is using an operating system, like Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 that has reached its end-of-life and no longer gets security updates. I get the "I just like the way it works" or "My software won't run on the latest version of Windows" arguments.

I have found solutions to those arguments, and many like them. When there is a will, there is a way. But running unpatched software is just way too dangerous. Bite the bullet and apply updates or upgrade your software.

Anti-virus software

Protect your computer with anti-virus software when working from home

This is another piece of software you have to keep an eye on. The biggest problem I encounter is expired anti-virus licenses. A customer will get a new computer with anti-virus software preloaded that has a 30 or 60-day trial license.

When the trial license expires, they just ignore the pop-ups telling them about the expired license. Luckily, Windows 10 has a highly rated anti-virus program (Windows Security) built-in. It will usually take over when a trial anti-virus license expires.

Typically when I set up a new computer for a customer, I ask them what they want to do about anti-virus software. The majority of them tell me to remove the pre-loaded trial version of anti-virus software.

If they don't have a preference for a particular anti-virus program, I have them go to an independent, third-party website like AV Test and check the ratings for the different anti-virus software.

A lot of people are surprised that Microsoft's Windows Defender / Windows Security is rated so high. Microsoft has worked hard over the years to improve its anti-virus software.

Now the cool thing is even if you have installed another companies anti-virus software on Windows 10, Windows Security will see it and set it as the default. But you can still have Windows Security do periodic scans.

Routers

Protect your computer with your router when working from home

This security tip may or may not affect you. If you lease your router from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), then this topic is not relevant to you. If you own your router, then this will be of interest to you.

Home Internet routers have always been a target for the bad guys. There are two reasons for that: First is the fact that home users don't usually change the default administrative passwords. Luckily, a few years ago, router manufacturers started to install complicated default passwords.

The second reason is that once people set up their routers, they have a tendency not to think about them anymore until something goes wrong. Its as I like to call it, the set it and forget it syndrome.

Just like I discussed updating software earlier in this article, your router also has software that gets updated. It is called firmware, and it is the operating system for your router. Think of it as what Windows is to your computer; the firmware is to your router.

Now the problem is that the firmware in your router does not get automatically updated. You have to do this manually. And sometimes it can be kind of hard to determine what version of firmware your router is running, if there is an updated version of firmware for your router and how to go about upgrading the firmware of your router.

The first place to start is to log into your router and find out what version of firmware it is running. It is usually listed right on the first screen. From there, you go to the manufacturer's website and find the product page for your router. What you are going to need is the manual for your router.

An effortless way to find it is by just searching on Google. Just search for manufacturer model manual, and the product page for your router should be in the top three (3) results. Once you have the manual, you can search it for Firmware Update, and it should explain where to go inside of your router to look for and upload a new version of the firmware.

Now that we have looked at the firmware of the router, let's take a look at the security of your router. The bad guys regularly scan an ISP's range of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses looking for open ports to attack. An IP address is a unique string of numbers that identifies each device on the Internet.

We now want to check and see if your router has any open ports that can be used by the bad guys to gain access to your router or any of the devices inside your network. For this, we want to do an unintrusive scan of all of the service ports on your router.

Gibson Research Corporation has a fantastic tool for doing this called ShieldsUp!. Just go over to the website, and under the Services pull-down, you will find ShieldsUp.

Once you get to the ShieldsUp! page click on the Proceed button. From there, you can select from several different types of scans. I recommend the All Service Ports scan.

Once the scan is complete, the webpage will display the scan results. If you score a perfect rating, you are good to go. If any ports that require attention, the webpage will tell what you need to do.

How to remotely access your personal computers with TeamViewer

Do you have two personal computers and would like to remotely access one from the other? Looking for an effortless way to do it? You can do just that for free with the personal version of TeamViewer.

How to remotely access your personal computers with TeamViewer

Remotely accessing a computer is pretty commonplace nowadays. It used to be pretty technically involved to set up remote connections between two computers. But with software like TeamViewer, setting up remote access between computers is pretty straightforward.

So what would be the main reason for using remote access software? First, it would be to access the software installed on another computer. Second, it would be to use that software to access files on that computer or the network it is on. It comes down to being able to work on your computer without having to be sitting in front of it.

We here at Geeks in Phoenix have been using commercial, pay-per-seat remote access software for years now. In researching this article, I wanted to find remote access software that could be used for personal use for free.

I have worked with TeamViewer over the years, as some of our customers use it regularly. For personal use, the free version works quite well. Sure, it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of the paid version, like remote printing or tech support, but for remote access and file sharing, it works well.

Setting up TeamViewer on two computers for personal use is pretty simple. The installation process consists of installing the software on both systems and creating a TeamViewer account that links the computers together.

The first thing you do is download and install the TeamViewer software on one of the two computers you want to link together. During the installation, you will come to a screen that asks you how you would like to set up TeamViewer.

TeamViewer setup options screen with Personal Non-commercial use highlighted

When prompted for the type of installation, I recommend using the default setup. When you get prompted for how you want to use TeamViewer, select Personal / Non-commercial use since you are just using it to connect two of your personal computers.

Once the installation is done on the first computer, the TeamViewer program will appear. In the left-hand column, you will see a menu with several categories: Remote Control, Remote Management, Meeting, Computer & Contacts, Chat, and Augmented Reality.

The Remote Control category should be highlighted, and in the center column, you will find a section labeled Unattended Access.
TeamViewer Remote Control category with the Unattended Access options highlighted
Select Start TeamViewer with Windows and Grant easy access.

When you select Grant easy access, the Assign to account form will pop-up asking you for an e-mail address and password.
TeamViewer Assign to account screen with Create account highlighted
This is where you are going to create a TeamViewer account.

Click on Create Account, and then the Create TeamViewer account form will appear.
Create TeamViewer account screen
Just fill in the required information and go through the steps to verify your e-mail address.

You now have a TeamViewer account. Go back to the TeamViewer screen and make sure that Grant easy access is selected under Remote Control. If it is not, then select it and put in your TeamViewer account details.

Now download and install TeamViewer on your second computer. Use the same options you used for the installation on your first computer. When the installation is complete, the TeamViewer's main screen will appear.

Just like with the first computer you installed TeamViewer on, the Remote Control category should be highlighted. Under Unattended access, select Start TeamViewer with Windows and Grant easy access. When the Assign to account form appears, just type in your e-mail address and password associated with your TeamViewer account.

Once you have both of your computers linked to your TeamViewer account, you should see both of them listed under the Computers & Contacts category on both computers.
TeamViewer Computer and Contacts category with the computers associated with your account listed
You can double-click on the name of the computer you want to access remotely, and a separate screen for that computer will appear. For more options, you can also right-click on the computer name
Connection options context menu for TeamViewer computers
and a context menu will appear with all of the options available. For more information on TeamViewer, just click on the link to their website below.

TeamViewer

Free Microsoft PowerToys for Windows 10

Updated May 19, 2020

Microsoft developers have always like to create handy system utilities that add more functionally to the Windows operating system. They call them PowerToys and are released as a stand-alone program with File Explorer add-ons. And as always, these programs are entirely free.

Free Microsoft PowerToys for Windows 10

It is kind of like Déjà vu for me with the PowerToys for Windows 10. I hate to admit it, and I'm going to show my age here, but I have used the two (2) previous versions of PowerToys. The first version was PowerToys for Windows 95. The second version was PowerToys for Windows XP. TweakUI (Windows 95 / Windows XP) and Command Prompt Here (Windows 95) / Open Command Windows Here (Windows XP) were two (2) of my favorites.

PowerToys have always been a cool collection of handy utilities that you wonder why they were not part of Windows, to begin with. If fact, some of the functionality of the PowerToys do get built into later releases of Windows.

The third version, PowerToys for Windows 10, currently has six (6) utilities (as of 3/31/20) included, and there are plans to add even more. As more features are added, I will update this article.

And since the Windows 10 PowerToys are all inside of one program, updates and new features will be easy to get installed. There is even an update button that takes you to the website so you can check for new releases.

Screen capture of the PowerToys General Settings for Windows 10

The PowerToys General Settings includes all of the options for all of the actual PowerToys. This means that there is only one place to enable/disable and configure the settings for the various programs.

Now you have to keep in mind that the PowerToys is an open-source project, and the code is freely available. That is why the installer is over on the developer website GitHub, which, by the way, Microsoft owns.

The following is a list of the PowerToys for Windows 10 versions, the date released, and the utilities included. They are:

v0.12 - Released on 10/29/19

FancyZones - This is a utility that allows you to create zones (predefined areas for program windows) on your desktop for the various programs you run.
Screen capture of the FancyZones PowerToy for Windows 10
For example, you can create a layout that has a separate zone for your e-mail program, word processor, and spreadsheet, all neatly arranged on your desktop. This program is beneficial if you have multiple monitors and want to keep all of your running programs organized.

PowerRename - This utility does just what its name implies; it renames files. But it has so many options that it can be used in so many different ways.
Screen capture of the PowerRename PowerToy for Windows 10
You change just the file names or only the file extensions. You can exclude files, folders, and sub-folders. It is the swiss army knife of file renaming.

Shortcut Guide - This cool little utility shows you what Windows logo key Windows logo key shortcuts you can use at any given time.
Screen capture of the Shortcut Guide PowerToy for Windows 10
You just hold down the Windows logo key Windows logo key for a preset amount of time, and the screen appears with the available shortcuts you can use. If you find these shortcuts handy, we have a complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10.

v0.16 - Released 3/31/20

File Explorer Preview Pane add-ons - This utility adds two (2) more file types that can be previewed using the Preview Pane inside of the File Explorer.
Screen capture of the File Explorer Preview Pane PowerToy for Windows 10
The two (2) file types are Markdown (.md) files - a lightweight markup language with plain-text-formatting syntax, similar to HTML and Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG) files - an XML based vector image format.

Image Resizer - This utility is similar to the one for Windows XP, but this version has way more features. Right-click on one or more images, and you will get a context menu. Left-click on Resize pictures, and you get the Image Resizer screen.
Screen capture of the Image Resizer PowerToy for Windows 10
There are several picture sizes to choose from, or you can create a custom size. Left-click on the Settings link, and you get even more options for resizing your images. A must-have for anybody that does photo editing.

v0.18 - Released 5/19/20

Keyboard Manager - This utility allows you to remap a single key on your keyboard to another. You can also map current keyboard shortcuts to different key combinations.
Screen capture of the Keyboard Manager PowerToy for Windows 10
Keep in mind that when remapping keyboard shortcuts, you are limited to a combination of two keys.

PowerToys Run - This utility can perform all sorts of different functions. Type a couple of letters, and PowerToys Run will display a list of programs, folders, and files with the letter(s) in their name(s).
Screen capture of the PowerToys Run for Windows 10
It can also search for running processes, run shell commands, and do simple math calculations.

If you would like to give the PowerToys a try, I include two (2) links at the bottom of this article. The Windows 10 PowerToys are only available for the 64-bit versions of Windows 10. As I told you before, the PowerToys download is on GitHub, and for an average Windows 10 user may be kind of hard to find.

The first link is to the PowerToys project description page. It has an overview of all of the programs included in the PowerToys.
Windows 10 PowerToys download link on GitHub
There is a download link on that page, but it is labeled Supported. That is why I have also included a link to the download page.

Windows 10 PowerToys on GitHub - Description page
Windows 10 PowerToys on GitHub - Download page

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