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Switching out of Windows S mode

Did you recently purchase a Windows computer only to discover that you could not install desktop programs? If so, it could be that your Windows computer came with S mode enabled. In this article, I will show you how to switch your Windows computer running in S mode to the Windows Home version.

Switching out of Windows S mode

Most people have never heard of Windows running in S mode. That is probably because S mode was meant to compete with Chromebooks in the education industry. Basically, it's a Home version of Windows that has been restricted to only installing apps from the Microsoft Store.

Now, if you're a parent of a young child, S mode is a perfect match. Using Microsoft accounts, you can utilize the Family Safety feature to configure what software can be installed, where they can and cannot go on the Internet, and when they can use their device.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows using Microsoft accounts

The nice thing is that Microsoft allows you to switch Windows out of S mode and into the Home version. And it is free. But it is a one-way conversion. Once your system switches out of S mode, it will never be able to go back into S mode. It's important to note that switching out of S mode does require an Internet connection. If you are using a laptop, make sure that your device is plugged in or has sufficient battery charge to complete the process.

How to switch out of S mode

Before switching out of S mode, it's important to note again that this process is irreversible. Once you switch out of S mode, you cannot go back. With that in mind, here's a step-by-step guide to switching out of S mode:

  1. Begin by opening the Microsoft Store on your Windows computer.
  2. In the Microsoft Store, search for Switch out of S mode in the search bar.
  3. Select the Switch out of S mode option from the search results.
  4. Click the Get button to initiate the process. You may be asked to sign in with your Microsoft account if you haven't already done so.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the switch out of S mode. This process may take a few minutes, and your computer will need to restart to apply the changes.

After switching out of S mode, your computer will be running the Home version of Windows. You will now be able to install and run desktop apps from sources other than the Microsoft Store, giving you greater flexibility and control over your computing experience.

Locating and installing missing storage drivers for a clean Windows install

Have you ever encountered a situation where you are trying to install Windows on your computer, but the installation process does not find any available drives to install the operating system? This can be a frustrating experience, but there are several steps you can take to find a driver and complete the installation process. In this article, we will show you how to locate and install missing storage drivers when performing a clean install of Windows.

Locating and installing missing storage drivers for clean Windows install

If you're installing Windows for the first time (clean), and there are no drives listed to install Windows on, don't worry. This issue is common and can be resolved with a few simple steps. The problem is that Windows does not have a generic driver in its installation media for your storage controller.

This was common in the '90s when you had to load the storage controller driver(s) from a floppy disk by pressing F6 when prompted for a drive to install. That is why they are called F6 drivers. In fact, some of the hardware manufacturers still use the F6 folder name in their storage driver packaging.

Now, when it comes to requiring third-party storage controller drivers to install Windows, it usually occurs with RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) storage controllers. But recently, I have also had to use manufacturer drivers for the SATA (Serial AT Attachment) storage controllers used with 11th-generation Intel processors.

Identify the missing storage drivers: This will require having the manufacturer name and model number of your motherboard or controller card. Please make a note of this information, as it will help you locate the missing drivers in the next step.

Download the missing storage drivers: Once you have identified the missing storage drivers, the next step is to download them. You can download the drivers from the manufacturer's website. Some driver downloads are self-extracting install programs, so just download the driver package.

When you download the drivers, make sure you download the correct drivers for your operating system and system architecture (32-bit or 64-bit). Once you have the driver package downloaded, use an archive program like 7-Zip to extract the storage driver package to a separate folder manually.

Copy the drivers to a USB drive: Next, you must copy the downloaded drivers to a USB drive. Make sure the USB drive is formatted in FAT32 or NTFS format and has enough free space to accommodate the drivers. Create a new folder on the USB drive and name it something like Windows Drivers. Then, copy the downloaded drivers to this folder.

Install the missing storage drivers: Now that you have the missing storage drivers on a USB drive, you can install them during the Windows installation process. Here's how:

  1. Boot your computer from your Windows installation media and proceed through the installation process.
  2. When you reach the Where do you want to install Windows screen, and no drives are shown, insert the USB drive with the storage drivers and click Browse to locate the drivers.
  3. Navigate to the folder on the USB drive where you saved the drivers and select the appropriate driver file.
  4. Click OK to install the driver.

Once the driver is installed, you can proceed with the Windows installation without any further issues.

In conclusion, locating and installing missing storage drivers during a Windows installation from a USB drive is a relatively simple process. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can resolve the issue and proceed with the installation smoothly.

Five free Windows 10 utilities that do not require installation

Some of my favorite programs for performing computer diagnostics are the kind that you just download and run. These applications are simple to use and can be deleted when I am finished with them. So here are some of my favorite portable programs for Windows 10.

Five free Windows 10 utilities that do not require installation

Since I repair computers for a living, I use many different programs during my typical workday. Most of them I can store on USB drives for quick access.

But there are some programs that I like to download before I use them, as they are portable applications and do not require installation. Since they do not get installed, the only way to get the latest updated version is by downloading them.

Some of these programs have time stamps on them and will expire after a certain amount of time. So downloading them when I need them makes the most sense. The hardest thing about downloading them is remembering where you saved them.

All of the applications mentioned in this are article can run on any version of Windows currently supported by Microsoft. And the best thing of all is that they all are free to use.

CPU-Z

Portable program - CPU-Z

This is a convenient utility that displays the details of the installed processor, motherboard, memory, and graphics card in any given computer. This way, you do not have to disassemble a computer to determine what components it has installed.

CPU-Z comes in handy when you are looking to add or upgrade your computer's memory modules. I use it when a customer wants to upgrade the installed memory, as it displays the exact part number of all of the installed memory modules.

There are portable (ZIP) and installable (EXE) versions of CPU-Z and versions customized for particular motherboard vendors. If you are going to use CPU-Z to measure system performance between different BIOS settings, the installed version may be the best bet.

But if you are only going to run it a couple of times, then the stand-alone version will work quite well. All you have to do is extract the files inside of the ZIP archive, and you are ready to go.

For more information on CPU-Z, just follow the link below.

CPU-Z

Advanced IP Scanner

Portable program - Advanced IP Scanner

Have you ever added a new device to your network and then could not find it? That is where Advanced IP Scanner comes in handy. It can scan your network and find network devices, shared folders, and shared printers. You can even use it to access other network computers remotely.

Advanced IP Scanner can be installed or run as a stand-alone program. When you download the program, it comes as an EXE file. When executing it, you have the option of installing it or just running it.

If you are only going to use it a couple of times, then the stand-alone version will work. If you are going to use it regularly, you may want to perform a complete installation.

For more information on the Advanced IP Scanner, follow the link below.

Advanced IP Scanner

Adwcleaner

Portable program - Adwcleaner

This is by far my favorite tool for cleaning up Internet browsers. Just download and run Adwcleaner to remove adware and PUPs (Probably Unwanted Program) from your favorite browser.

Unlike the rest of the programs in this article, when Adwcleaner downloads its latest database, it also checks for a new version of itself. It will download an updated version but does not remove the previous version. It has to be removed manually.

Besides cleaning up browsers, it will also clean up and reset the TCP/IP network stack back to the default settings. And if you only need to run it a couple of times, it can delete itself and all of its quarantine files.

For more information on Adwcleaner, follow the link below.

Adwcleaner

Microsoft Safety Scanner

Portable program - Microsoft Safety Scanner

When it comes to scanning for viruses and malware, Microsoft's Safety Scanner is a powerful utility. Even though the user interface is kind of sparse, the true power is built into it.

Since this program is updated on a pretty regular basis, you will defiantly want to download it when you are ready to perform a scan. Keep in mind that this program is date stamped and will run only for ten (10) days after it was downloaded.

There are only a couple of choices regarding the types of scans it will perform; Quick, Full, or Customized. Be warned that if you choose a full scan, it can take hours or even days to complete, depending on how much data your drive(s) contains.

Remember that the Microsoft Safety Scanner is for manually scanning for malware and viruses and does not replace the need for a full-time anti-virus program.

For more information on Microsoft's Safety Scanner, follow the link below.

Microsoft Safety Scanner

Sysinternals Suite

Portable program - Sysinternals Suite

With over seventy utilities, Microsoft's Sysinternals Suite has the most extensive set of diagnostics tools. Sysinternals have been around for more than two decades and have become a staple in computer technicians' toolbox.

Every single program in the suite is a stand-alone program and does not require installation. You can download the complete suite of utilities in a single ZIP file or a single utility separately; it is your choice.

Now you have to remember that the Sysinternals Suite does not automatically update any of its programs. But there are script files out there that can download updated files.

There is also the Sysinternals Live service that allows you to run the tools directly from the web. That way, you will always have the latest and greatest version of any of the utilities.

For more information on Microsoft's Sysinternals Suite, follow the link below.

Sysinternals Suite

What file system should you use for your external drive?

With the three top operating systems, it is hard to know exactly what file system your operating system will work with. One file system may be fully compatible (read and write) with your OS, while another may not be compatible at all. So here is a list of the various file systems and what operating systems they work with.

What file system should you use for your external drive?

Windows operating system

  • FAT (File Allocation Table) (FAT12, FAT16, FAT32) - FAT was initially developed for floppy disks and was soon adapted to hard drives and other devices. With the limited file size (4GB for FAT32) and limited volume size (32TB for FAT32), and the ever-increasing size of drives, FAT is now used only for smaller USB drives.
  • exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table) - exFAT was designed as a replacement for FAT and optimized for USB flash drives and SD cards.
  • NTFS (NT File System) - Microsoft introduced NTFS in Windows NT 3.1, and is now the default file system for Windows.
  • ReFS (Resilient File System) - ReFS was created to overcome some of the problems NTFS had with data storage. It appeared in Windows Server 2012, and support for it has been removed from Windows 10.

MAC operating system

  • HFS (Hierarchical File System) - HFS was the original file system for the Mac OS. Over the years, support for HFS has been cut back to read-only in newer Mac OS versions. Starting with Mac OS 10.15, support for HFS was removed.
  • HFS+ (Hierarchical File System Extended) - HFS+ was the replacement for the HFS file system as it supported larger file sizes. HFS+ is still supported in the Mac OS but is no longer the default file system.
  • APFS (Apple File System) - APFS is now the default file system for Mac OS, iOS, and iPadOS.

Linux operating system

  • EXT (Extended File System) - EXT was the first file system designed specifically for Linux. EXT had a file system limit of 2GB and was soon replaced.
  • EXT2 (Second Extended File System) - EXT2 replaced EXT as the default file system for Linux in the mid-'90s. Many versions of Linux still use EXT2 for the file system for USB flash drives.
  • EXT3 (Third Extended File System) - EXT3 replaced EXT2 as the default file system for Linux in the early '00s. One of the main advantages of EXT3 is its compatibility (forward and backward) with EXT2.
  • EXT4 (Fourth Extended File System) - EXT4 replaced EXT3 as the default file system for Linux in the late '00s. There are several advantages to EXT4, including larger volume and file sizes and backward compatibility with EXT2 and EXT3.

Compatibly Index

File System Operating System
FAT Windows (1) Linux (1) Mac OS (1)
exFAT Windows (1) Linux (3) Mac OS (1)
NTFS Windows (1) Linux (3) Mac OS (2)
ReFS Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (3)
HFS Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (3)
HFS+ Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (1)
APFS Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (1)
EXT Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (3)
EXT2 Windows (3) Linux (1) Mac OS (3)
EXT3 Windows (3) Linux (1) Mac OS (3)
EXT4 Windows (3) Linux (1) Mac OS (3)
1. Full read and write compatibility by default.
2. Read only compatibility by default.
3. No compatibility by default.

Note: There is third-party software that can give full read and write access to file systems that are not compatible with an operating system by default.

Conclusion

So if you are looking for a file system for your external drive compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS, look no further than FAT32. It has survived the test of time and is the only file system that can be used without additional software on all three operating systems.

Should you repair or upgrade your computer or just get a new one

Updated June 18, 2024

Doing computer repair for a living, I get a lot of questions. One of my favorites has to be, "Should I repair or upgrade my computer or just get a new one." So, let's look at whether to repair or upgrade an existing computer or buy a new one.

Should you repair or upgrade your computer or just get a new one

First, let's examine the three (3) theories I follow regarding computers and their components.

  1. Infant Mortality is the belief that if it runs for a day (24 hours), it will run for its lifetime. It is also the start of what is called the Bathtub Curve.
  2. The Bathtub Curve refers to the expected failure rate of electronics over time, as it resembles an end-to-end bathtub section. The failure rate starts high at the beginning of life (Infant Mortality) and then drops to almost nothing until rising again when it fails.
  3. The definition of the Lifetime of computer components, from my experience, is three years from the start of service. At three years or older, it's not if it will break down, but when it will break down. But there are exceptions to this rule, mainly in terms of how well you take care of the electronics.

Another factor that has to be included in assessing whether to repair or replace is the life cycle of the operating system (Windows). For example, Windows 10's end-of-life date is October 14, 2025, and if the system you are looking at repairing or replacing does not have the hardware required to run Windows 11, repairing it may be questionable.

Many of my customers would prefer to invest in a new computer that will run Windows 11 than replace failing hardware in a computer that will soon lose support for security patches and updates.

To repair or replace

With that said, let's start with the repair or replace scenario. Most of the time, repairing is the best way to go if the computer (desktop or laptop) is within the expected lifetime. Now, the exception is with the price and availability of replacement parts.

With computers over three (3) years old, you have to consider the cost of replacement parts and labor versus the price of a new system. If the parts and labor total more than $200, I usually ask a client at least twice if they are sure they want to replace the part(s).

You also have to consider whether the replacement parts are new or refurbished (a fancy way of saying used). Refurbished will work quite well for laptop bases, lids, and bezels. A refurbished unit may or may not work for motherboards and IO/daughterboards.

Keep in mind that if a particular component has a flaw that caused it to fail, a refurbished (used) part may also have the same defect and could fail, just like the component you are replacing. I've had a 50/50 success rate with refurbished parts, with some parts lasting only months and some lasting years.

Hard drives, memory modules, desktop DVD drives, power supplies, laptop displays, laptop keyboards, and laptop fans are standard parts and often need replacement. These parts are generally easy to find and purchase. Laptop parts like hinges, display bezels, display lids (tops), and bases can be tricky. A quick Google search for computer model + part name should yield some results.

The availability of replacement parts

In my experience finding replacement parts, I have found that the computer's age has a lot to do with being able to find parts.

  • If the computer in question is less than one year old, the only way to get replacement parts is through the manufacturer. And you can be sure that you will pay the full retail price for them.
  • If the computer is 1 - 3 years old, the cost of replacement parts should go down, as the supply of parts improves. At this point, people are starting to 'part out' failed systems and posting the parts on eBay.
  • If the computer is 3 - 5 years old, the replacement parts will be at their lowest cost. The supply will be high, and you will be able to find multiple vendors carrying the same components. It's a buyer's paradise.
  • If the computer is 5 years or older, the supply of parts starts to dwindle, and prices go up. I had a client who wanted to replace a motherboard with bad capacitors that was fifteen (15) years old. I found one (1) refurbished motherboard at almost $500. We had the board recapped for a whole lot less.

To upgrade or replace

When it comes to upgrading a computer, there are quite a few things that you can do to desktop and laptop computers. The one thing with the most bang for the buck is memory. Most systems come with a nominal amount of memory and can easily be upgraded.

The problem with upgrading memory is that many manufacturers will purchase smaller memory modules and fill up all of the memory slots with them. For example, let's say you bought a computer with eight (8) gigabytes of memory installed. The motherboard has four (4) memory slots, and each one can handle a 4-gigabyte memory module (max.), for a total of sixteen (16) gigabytes (max.).

But when you open up the computer, you find that instead of using two (2) 4-gigabyte memory modules, the manufacturer used four (4) 2-gigabyte modules. To upgrade the memory to sixteen (16) gigabytes, you have to replace all of the 2-gigabyte memory modules with 4-gigabyte modules. Why do they do it? They can get smaller memory modules cheaper.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Another way to breathe new life into a computer is to upgrade the hard drive. You can go with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) that spins faster or a Solid State Drive (SSD) that has a faster transfer rate. Either of these should give you better performance. Combine it with a clean installation of Windows, and you will feel like you got a brand new computer.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

If you have a desktop computer and like playing games, upgrading the graphics card may be an option. Just make sure you know the motherboard specification for the PCIe slot(s) (version 1, version 2, etc.) and use a compatible graphics card. Also, make sure you have enough power connector(s) (6-pin or 8-pin PCIe).

The bottom line

You are the only one who has to decide whether to repair or upgrade an existing computer or replace it with a new one. If it has sentimental value or runs a program you cannot reinstall, then maybe you should repair or upgrade it. But if the cost of fixing it is more than the total value of your existing computer, then consider just replacing it with a new system.

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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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.

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