Geeks in Phoenix

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My Digital Toolbox 6

Every computer technician has at least one digital toolbox (I personally have over a dozen). Years ago, they used to be a stack of CDs/DVDs, but now they are USB flash and external drives. And the contents are constantly changing. So here is the latest version of My Digital Toolbox.

My Digital Toolbox 6


Main screen inside of Rufus 

Many companies that develop operating systems will create ISO (International Organization for Standardization) image files of their OS for users to download and install. This worked out excellent a few years ago when most computers came with CD/DVD drives. But now, finding a computer with a CD/DVD drive is challenging. So how do you use an ISO image to install software? One way is to create a bootable USB drive. When creating bootable USB drives, nothing is easier than using Rufus. I have used many bootable drive creators over the years, and Rufus is the easiest way of doing it. Rufus can create bootable USB drives from the installation ISO files for most Windows and Linux versions.

Rufus: Create bootable USB drives the easy way


Main screen inside of Paint dot NET

Paint.NET was initially meant to be a replacement for the Paint program inside Windows. But it has developed into a full-blown graphics program with features similar to Adobe Photoshop. Features include layers, history, plugins, special effects, and multiple file formats. The latest version of Paint.NET includes a graphics section for fine-tuning the hardware acceleration settings. Paint.NET is available from their website for free or from the Microsoft Store for a fee.

Paint.NET - Free Software for Digital Photo Editing


Main screen inside of CrystalDiskInfo

Would you like to know if the drive in your computer was healthy? You sure would, but most software for diagnosing drives will only tell you when they start to fail. With CrystalDiskInfo, you can find out the exact state of your drive(s). CrystalDiskInfo uses the same information as those other analyzers but with more precise results. This way CrystalDiskInfo can predict an imminent drive failure before it happens. It runs on the current versions of Windows and Windows Server.

CrystalDiskInfo - Crystal Dew World

How to perform a repair upgrade of Windows 11

Are you having some problems with your computer and wish you could reinstall Windows 11 without losing your files and apps? Maybe you want to upgrade to the latest version of Windows 11, and Windows Update is not offering it. Here is how to perform a repair upgrade installation of Windows 11.

How to perform a repair upgrade of Windows 11

There is one thing every Windows user fears, and that is reinstalling Windows. The fear of losing your files and installed programs will deter most people until the problem becomes too bad to ignore.

But with Windows 11, you can do a repair upgrade reasonably easily. So what is a repair upgrade? It is reinstalling Windows 11 using the same version (repair) or a newer version (repair/upgrade). It is often called an in-place repair or upgrade.

Now I have repaired several Windows computers using this method, which works most of the time. I remember one laptop with issues with being unable to right-click using the touchpad or mouse, and an in-place repair installation fixed the problem.

We first need to download the latest version of Windows 11 from Microsoft (see the link below). We will be downloading an ISO file that we will use to reinstall Windows 11. An ISO file is the format for optical disks (CD, DVD, BD).

Download Windows 11

When you reach the Windows 11 download page, scroll down until you find Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO). You can also create an ISO file using the Create Windows 11 Installation Media, which involves a few more steps.

Once you have the ISO file downloaded, you will need to make it a virtual DVD drive. Locate the ISO file in File Explorer and right-click on it.
Mounting an ISO file as a virtual drive in Windows 11
From the context menu that appears, select Mount. If you receive a security warning, left-click on Open. It will now appear as a DVD drive inside File Explorer.

Click on the DVD drive to display the contents. In the list of files and folders, you will find a program named Setup.
Running Windows 11 Setup with administrator privileges
To ensure we are running the install with the correct privileges, right-click on Setup and select Run as administrator from the context menu that appears. This will start the repair upgrade installation.

The first window that appears is the Windows 11 Setup screen. Usually, you would click on the Next button and proceed with the installation.
The Windows 11 Setup main screen
But if you are performing a repair installation, you may want to change whether or not to download updates, drivers, and features at this time by clicking on the Change how Setup downloads updates link.
Select whether or not to download updates and drivers before installing Windows 11
I have found that delaying downloads until after the installation is complete works best for repairing Windows.

Next, you will get the EULA (End User License Agreement), click on Accept and continue. On the next screen, you can change if you keep your files and apps or remove them.
Select whether or not to save your personal files and apps
By default, both files and apps are saved. When you are ready to start the installation, click on Install.

Once the repair upgrade starts, it can take some time to finish.
The different stages of the repair upgrade of Windows 11
Grab something to drink and find something to do. Your computer will restart several times during the installation.

My digital toolbox 5

When you repair computers for a living as I do, you often get asked what software I would recommend. I do not mind recommending software I use regularly, so in this installment of My Digitial Toolbox, I want to showcase three (3) utilities that I recommend to my customers.

My Digital Toolbox 5

Allway Sync

The user interface inside of Allway Sync

I have used Allway Sync for a few years to sync files and folders between my local drive and a NAS. I have set up a few of my customers with Allway Sync with a couple syncing to cloud storage. It has a simple-to-use interface and plenty of folder/file synchronization options.

Allway Sync


Screenshot of Notepad++ with the black board theme

When it comes to creating and editing text-based files, Notepad++ is hands down the best utility you can find. From being able to customize the look and feel to adding more functionality with plugins, I like using Notepad++ for its syntax highlighting. For me, Notepad++ is one of the best text-based file editors you can find.



The 7-Zip File Manager

Windows has built-in compressed folder capability, but only for a couple of file types. I use 7-Zip because it can work with over 30 different archiving formats. The best feature of 7-Zip is the context menu that appears when you right-click on a file/folder.


How to check and repair system files in Windows 11

When it comes to repairing Windows-based computers, I always do one thing: check for corrupt system files. Corrupt system files can cause all sorts of problems, so here is how to check and repair system files in Windows 11.

How to check and repair system files in Windows 11

Repairing system files is not complex, but it can be time-consuming. Going through all of the steps outlined in this article can take several hours. Once you start a scan, you will have to allow it to complete, so be prepared to watch your computer work. And all of the links included in this article will open in a new window.

We first need to check the drive's file structure that the operating system is installed on. It is usually drive C:. For this, we will use the disk error checking program built into Windows 11.

There are a couple of different ways to run it (standard and advanced), but the most thorough way is by using the advanced method (see link below). It may take some time to run, but it is the most thorough error checking you can perform.

How to check your drive for errors in Windows 11

Now that we have checked the drive for errors, we must check for corrupted system files. For this, we will use the built-in System File Checker (SFC). Like most of the programs in this article, this program has to be run from an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 11

SFC has multiple syntaxes and parameters you can use with it. Here are all of the syntaxes and parameters with examples of their use.

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

  • /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.
  • /OFFLOGFILE - For offline repair, optionally enable logging by specifying a log file path.


  • SFC /VERIFYFILE=c:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll
  • SFC /SCANFILE=d:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll /OFFBOOTDIR=d:\ /OFFWINDIR=d:\windows
  • SFC /SCANFILE=d:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll /OFFBOOTDIR=d:\ /OFFWINDIR=d:\windows /OFFLOGFILE=c:\log.txt

System File Checker running in an Administrative Command Prompt inside of Windows 11
We want to check all of the Windows 11 protected system files, so type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.


System File Checker results in an Administrative Command Prompt inside of Windows 11
Now four (4) possible results can appear when SFC is done scanning. They are:

Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.
All system files are acceptable, and you are 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. Just restart your computer to finalize the repairs. If you want to view the repair details, type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

It will create a text file on your desktop named sfcdetails.txt that has all of the details of the repaired files.

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
If you received this message, you will need to repair the hidden Windows image. To do this, we will need to run the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) program.
Deployment Image Servicing and Management running in an Administrative Command Prompt inside of Windows 11
To restore the health of the Windows image, type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

DISM /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

Once DISM finishes, run SFC /SCANNOW again. This time no integrity violations should be found. If, after several attemps at automatically repairing the corrupt system file(s) fails, you may have to fix them manually. To view the details of the files that could not be automatically repaired, type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

It will create a text file on your desktop named sfcdetails.txt. You will need to search through it and find what file(s) could not be repaired

How to manually repair corrupt system files

Note: To replace a corrupt system file, you must have a known good copy of the file(s) in question. A good file source is another computer or virtual machine running Windows 11. Since I do computer repair for a living, I have all of the versions of Windows that are still supported by Microsoft running inside virtual machines.

The first thing to do is note 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 to 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 and press Enter.

takeown /f path\filename

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

Next, you will have to grant administrators full access to the 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 and press Enter.

icacls path\filename /grant administrators:F

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

The third thing to do is copy 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 and press Enter.

copy path\filename path\filename

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

My digital toolbox 4

Being a computer technician, I used all sorts of different software during my day. One day I might be removing viruses and malware, the next day, I might be replacing a failed hard drive. So the software I use is always changing, so here is another installment of my digital toolbox.

My digital toolbox 4

Windows 10 media (USB and DVD versions)

Screenshot of Windows 10 media boot menu

One of the best things Microsoft did when it comes to Windows 10 is to make the installation media readily available. With the installation media, you can do all sorts of repairs and maintenance to Windows 10.

You can, of course, install or reinstall Windows 10. You can also perform an in-place upgrade from Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or even Windows 10 itself. And since the drives are bootable, you can even use the Windows 10 installation media to repair Windows 10.

Now I have in my digital toolbox several USB and DVD versions of the Windows 10 media. The Windows 10 USB drives have both 32-bit and 64-bit versions on them. I have separate DVDs for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10.

Believe it or not, but I have the ISO file of every version of Windows 10 that has been released (32-bit and 64-bit). You never know when they might come in handy.

Since the installation media is bootable, I mainly use it for repairing Windows 10. You can access the same recovery tools on the install media as you have when Windows 10 fails to boot correctly.

Here are a few links to articles that illustrate how you can use the Windows 10 media. I have included a link to the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool too.

How to repair Windows 10 by doing an in-place upgrade

How to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

The Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

Space Sniffer

Screenshot of Space Sniffer

There are times when I need to see how the space on a drive is allocated. It is one thing to know the size of a folder or file in numbers, but seeing them graphically represented as blocks is quite different. This is where Space Sniffer comes in handy.

Space Sniffer displays the contents of a drive as blocks in a treemap. The larger the block, the larger folder or file. You can quickly find data that is taking up large amounts of space on a drive.

Now the cool thing about Space Sniffer is that it requires no installation. You can run directly from a USB drive. Just insert the USB drive and start it up.

Case in point; I once had a business that all of the workstations were getting low disk space messages. I ran Space Sniffer from a USB drive on a couple of the workstations and quickly found the problem. It turned out that the network anti-virus client was not deleting previous versions of virus definitions as it was supposed to be doing.

I also like to use Space Sniffer to quickly find Outlook databases, as it has a couple of different locations it stores its files. Microsoft Outlook is notorious for creating large files.

See what your drive contains with Space Sniffer

Synchronized browser data

Screenshot of Firefox sync settings

One of handy features of browsers nowadays is the ability to synchronize data (passwords, favorites, extensions, etc.). All of the major browsers have this feature, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Each browser has a different way of setting up synchronization; Chrome uses a Gmail account, Firefox uses a Firefox account, and Edge uses a Microsoft account.

But no matter what browser you use, you get the same content (passwords, favorites, options, etc.) across all platforms. Be it either Windows Mac, Linux, Android, or iOS. If it is on one device, it is on all devices.

Since I do a lot of research for service calls at my office, I like to save bookmarks in my desktop version of Firefox. Then when I get on-site, I can open those bookmarks in my smartphone version of Firefox.

One of my favorite things is opening a tab on my desktop Firefox from the Firefox in my workshop. That way, I can locate parts for customer's computers in the workshop and then order them in my office.

Any way you look at it, having browser data synchronized between devices is a real asset that should not be overlooked. If you are not syncing your browser data, I recommend you give it a try.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

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