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My personal upgrade to Windows 10

Upgrading your computer to Windows 10 can be a pretty simple task. But there are occasions when upgrading can be a massive headache. And then there is my Windows 10 upgrade. Here's my personal experience upgrading to Windows 10.

My personal upgrade to Windows 10

Let me start by saying that I knew right from the start that upgrading my personal computer to Windows 10 would be a lot of work. But it was something that needed to happen. When I built this system in January of 2013, it was because the original motherboard failed. So I picked up a new motherboard, processor, and memory and reloaded all of the software.

Little did I know that my biggest problem for my Windows 10 upgrade started when I installed all of the software in 2013. I installed Windows 8 instead of Windows 7 that I had previously. All worked well until Windows 8.1 was released. It turned out that one of my major programs, QuickBooks Pro 2010, didn't support Windows 8.1. If I upgraded to Windows 8.1, I would have to upgrade to QuickBooks Pro 2013. It seemed like a waste of time and money, so I decided to wait.

Now let's fast forward three years or so to February of 2016 when Microsoft ends support for Windows 8 (not Windows 8.1). I decided it was time to move to Windows 10. I picked up a new 1TB hard drive and installed it alongside my 1TB Windows 8 drive. I was going to switch boot drive in the motherboard BIOS (Basic Input Output System) temporarily until I got the Windows 10 drive set up. That's when I remembered that my version of QuickBooks Pro 2010 would not install on Windows 10.

So just for the fun of it, I tried to install QuickBooks Pro 2010 inside a Windows 10 Virtual Machine (VM) running on the Windows 8 drive. The installer just wouldn't run. I tried everything, including compatibility mode, nothing worked. So I decided that I could run QuickBooks Pro 2010 inside of a Windows 7 VM. I got the Windows 7 VM all set up and running. Things got busy at work, and I had put my upgrade to Windows 10 on hold. So I disconnected the drive with Windows 10 and kept using Windows 8.

My Windows 10 upgrade got back on track last month when Intuit made me an offer to upgrade my version of QuickBooks. It seems there is a security issue with older QuickBook versions, and Intuit offered me the latest version for 70% off. That was just the thing to get my Windows 10 upgrade going again. I would have lost the integration with Microsoft Word (printing envelops) and Outlook (contacts, e-mail) running QuickBooks inside of a VM. That was something I didn't want to lose.

My original plan was back on. I already had a clean installation of Windows 10 and need to finish installing all of the programs. Yes, it is a lot of work, but a Windows 8 to Windows 10 upgrade isn't possible. And besides the new version of QuickBooks, I had several other software upgrades that I'd been waiting to do. It seemed like the perfect time to do them all.

My idea was to recreate the three (3) partitions and drive letters (C:, D: and E:) from the original 1TB drive using both of the 1TB drives. The C: and D: drive partitions would be on the first (boot) drive, and the E: drive partition would take up the whole second drive. Setting up the disks this way would double my storage space.

Now when I originally started this upgrade in February, I disconnected the old 1TB and performed a clean install of Windows 10 on the new 1TB drive. Once I had Windows 10 installed and drivers updated, I shut down my computer and reattached the old 1TB drive. During this time, I also changed the port that the drives connected to on the motherboard (I wanted the boot drive on port 0).

Now I've done this type of upgrade many times before. The only problem I was having was the motherboard BIOS was having issues with the boot records on the two drives. It didn't help that the disks were from the same manufacturer (Western Digital) and the same size (1TB). The new one was a 'Black' drive, and the old one was a 'Blue' drive. They have the same specs, but the 'Black' drive has a five (5) year warranty, where the 'Blue' drive has only a two (2) year warranty.

It was time to make the changeover. I booted up to Windows 8 one last time and did a software inventory using Belarc Advisor. When it was complete, I printed out a copy for my use. Belarc Advisor gives a full list of all the software installed on your computer. Since I was doing a clean install of Windows 10, I would defiantly use the audit for reinstalling the software.

Then I went into the BIOS and changed the boot order so that Windows 10 drive booted automatically. Once Windows 10 was back up and running, I needed to get my files off of the old drive. I had already created the new C: and D: drives/partitions on the new drive, so I just copied over the contents of the old D: drive (which was now H:) to the new D: drive. The contents of the third partition (E:) on the old drive would have to go onto an external drive temporarily.

A screen shot of the Disk2vhd user interface
A screenshot of the Disk2vhd user interface

At this point, I have two of the original three partitions/drives recreated (C: and D:). It was time to take care of the original C: drive. To be on the safe side, I decided to create an image of it. I downloaded the latest version of Disk2vhd from Microsoft (it's part of the Sysinternals Suite) and proceeded to create an image of the C: drive. When it was complete, I copied the image over to an external drive along with a copy of the AppData folder from my old profile.

It was now time to delete all of the original partitions on the old 1TB drive and reformat it into just one partition/drive (E:). Reformatting the drive erased all of the partitions and the original Master Boot Record (MBR). That solved the problem with the motherboard not knowing what MBR to use at startup. Now that the E: drive was back in place, I copied all of the files I had put on the external drive.

Attaching a VHD file inside of Disk Management
Attaching a VHD file inside of Disk Management

Everything from here on out was downhill. The only issue I had was a disk collision warning when I first attached the VHD in Windows 10. Windows 10 wrote a new disk signature to the VHD file, and all was good. Now all I had to do was reinstall all of my software.

The Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

Nobody likes to have to reinstall Windows. Nobody. It has been a significant headache with finding or creating the recovery/installation media and finding or reading the product key from the Certificate of Authenticity (COA). But with the Windows 10 online upgrade, things just got a whole lot easier.

 Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

There may come a day when you may need to repair or reinstall Windows 10. In previous versions of Windows, you had to create the manufacturer's branded recovery disks or use the hidden recovery partition to reinstall Windows. Or maybe you were one of the lucky ones that got an OEM disk. Either way, you had to have the original operating system installation media from the manufacturer to perform a reinstallation.

The huge problem was a lot of people didn't know they needed to make the recovery disks. They only found out after their hard drives crashed. At that point, they have only two choices; contact the manufacturer to find out if they sell the recovery disks. Some do, some don't. But the cost for replacement recovery disks will be less than the second option, which is to purchase a new installation disk.

If you're one of the millions that have upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 online, you now have a digital license. You can use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft to create either a bootable USB drive or an ISO file. You can then use the ISO file to create an installation DVD. And the cool thing is that you can make the installation media on another Windows 10 computer, just in case your computer will not boot.

All you need for hardware is a USB drive (8GB or larger) or DVD burner and a blank single-side or double-side DVD. What you need to know about your version of Windows 10 is what language, what edition (Home, Pro, etc.), and what architecture (32-bit or 64-bit). Most consumers use the Home edition as the Pro edition does cost more. Unless you specifically order your computer with the Pro edition or your computer is part of a domain, it's probably the Home edition. And most computers nowadays run 64-bit versions of Windows.

The next thing is the product key. In previous Windows versions, when you installed the operating system, the product key was stored on the hard drive. With Windows 10, when installing the operating system, the product key is stored on the cloud. So, if you are doing a clean/repair installation and Windows 10 has already been activated on that specific computer, you will not need to enter a product key when prompted. You can click on the I don't have a product key link, and Windows 10 will automatically activate when it gets online. It's one of the coolest features of Windows 10 you hope you never have to use.

For more information on the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft, follow the link below.

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

How to manage Windows 10 Virtual Memory

Updated June 22, 2020

Optimizing Virtual Memory in Windows has always been an easy way to fine-tune the performance of a computer. When I started working with Windows computers in the 90s, the measurement of memory was Megabytes (MB), now it's Gigabytes (GB). The calculation contained in this article is for Windows computers that have 8 GB or less of memory. If your system has 16 GB or more of memory, you can give this Virtual Memory calculation a try, but you might find that letting Windows automatically manage the paging file will work. Give it a try and let us know how you make out in the comments below.

Your computer has two types of memory, Random Access Memory (RAM) and Virtual Memory. All programs use RAM, but when there isn't enough RAM for the application you're trying to run, Windows temporarily moves information that would usually be stored in RAM to a file on your hard disk called a Paging File. The data temporarily stored in the paging file is also referred to as virtual memory. Using virtual memory, in other words, moving information to and from the paging file, frees up enough RAM for running programs correctly.

The more RAM your computer has, the faster your programs will generally run. If a lack of RAM is slowing your computer, you might be tempted to increase virtual memory to compensate. However, your computer can read data from RAM much more quickly than from a hard disk, so adding RAM is a better solution.

If you receive error messages that warn of low virtual memory, you need to either add more RAM or increase your paging file size so that you can run the program on your computer. Windows usually manages this automatically, but you can manually change the virtual memory size if the default size isn't large enough for your needs.

If you have more than one drive in your computer, you can have more than one pagefile. If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a Hard Disk Drive (HDD), I recommend placing the paging file on the HDD, as Windows is continuously reading and writing to the virtual memory. This wear and tear can shorten the life span of an SSD.

How to calculate Windows 10 Virtual Memory / Paging File

There is a formula for calculating the correct pagefile size. The Initial size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of total system memory. The Maximum size is three (3) x the initial size. So let's say you have 4 GB (1 GB = 1,024 MB x 4 = 4,096 MB) of memory. The initial size would be 1.5 x 4,096 = 6,144 MB and the maximum size would be 3 x 6,144 = 18,432 MB.

How to change Windows 10 Virtual Memory / Paging File

All the information and links you will need are going to be on the System page.

  1. Bring up the System page by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause
    • or
    • Open File Explorer by left-clicking the manilla folder icon on the Taskbar or pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E simultaneously. When File Explorer is open, right-click on This PC and select Properties on the context menu that appears.
  2. Make a note of the installed memory (RAM)
    System page inside of Windows 10
  3. Click on the Advanced system settings link
  4. Click on the Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box
    System Properties dialog box inside of Windows 10
  5. Click on the Settings ... button in the Performance section
  6. Click on the Advanced tab of the Performance Options dialog box
    Performance Options dialog box inside of Windows 10
  7. Click on the Change ... button inside of the Virtual memory section
  8. Deselect the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives checkbox
    Virtual Memory dialog box inside of Windows 10
  9. Select Custom size and enter the initial size and maximum size using the calculation shown above
  10. Click on the Set button

Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

Updated October 5, 2022

Have you ever had a problem finding some of Windows' built-in administrative tools? Don't you wish you could have them in one easy-to-find location? You can do just that and more with the Microsoft Management Console.

Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

The Microsoft Management Console (MMC) is a program you can use to create and save collections of administrative tools called Consoles. Consoles contain items such as snap-ins, extension snap-ins, monitor controls, tasks, wizards, and documentation required to manage many of the hardware, software, and networking components of your Windows system.

Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 11
The Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 11

Here is a list of some of the more useful MMC Snapins:

  • Computer Management
  • Device Manager
  • Disk Management
  • Event Viewer
  • Link to Web Address
  • Performance Monitor
  • Print Management
  • Services
  • Shared Folders
  • Task Scheduler
  • Windows Defender Firewall

Using the Run dialog box to start the Microsoft Management Console

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

For all the different ways you can bring up the Run dialog box, check out How to get to and use the Run dialog box in Windows.

In the Run dialog box that appears, type mmc and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. When the Microsoft Management Console appears, it is time to add some content.

How to add or remove Microsoft Management Console snap-ins

  1. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and select Add/Remove Snap-in
  2. In the list of snap-ins that appear, left-click the snap-in you want to add to your console and then left-click on the Add button
  3. If prompted, select either Local computer or Another computer. If you choose Another computer, you will have to browse your network for that computer. Be sure to select the checkbox for Allow the select computer to be changed when launching from the command line.
  4. Then left-click on Finish. This will bring you back to the Add/Remove Snapin screen. When you finish adding snap-ins, left-click on the OK button in the screen's lower right-hand corner.

How to add, edit, or remove a Microsoft Management Console Taskpad View

  1. Open a previously saved console, right-click on the console name and left-click either New Taskpad View, Edit Taskpad View, or Delete Taskpad View from the dialog menu that appears. If you do not have any Taskpad Views already inside the console, the only option that will appear is New Taskpad View.
  2. If you are creating a new Taskpad View, the New Taskpad View Wizard will appear. Just follow the prompts and choose the Taskpad default settings. If you don't like how it looks, you can always go back and edit the layout later. If you select a Taskpad View, the general settings and associated tasks will appear.
  3. When you finish creating a new Taskpad View, you can create a new task to go inside it. If you edit an existing Taskpad View, you can go to the Tasks tab and select the current Tasks.
  4. When adding new tasks, the New Task Wizard will appear. Just follow the prompts and select the command type you want to use. You can run a command from a menu, run a script or program, open a web page, or open a tree item from your MMC favorite list.

When you are finished setting up your console, don't forget to save it in a place where you can quickly access it, like your Desktop.

Using special font characters in Windows with Character Map

Updated October 23, 2022

Have you ever wanted to insert a letter or symbol into a Windows document that you could not find on your keyboard? Maybe a copyright, trademark, or tolerance symbol? You can do just that and more with Windows built-in Character Map.

Believe it or not, but Windows fonts can have more characters than your keyboard has keys. Most Windows fonts do have more characters than your keyboard can create. And that doesn't even include the unique font characters you can create with Private Character Editor. So how do you access and insert these characters? By using Character Map.

Character Map inside of Windows 11
Character Map inside of Windows 11

Character Map is one of those hidden gems inside Windows, that once you find it, you wonder how you lived without it. I remember first using Character Map inside Windows 3.1 and was amazed at what font characters I could insert into a Microsoft Word document. And the cool thing is you can add them to almost any Windows program (HTML editors excluded).

Character Map inside of Windows 3.11
Character Map inside of Windows 3.11

How to start up Character Map

You can start Character Map in two different ways: Windows built-in shortcut or from the Run dialog box.

Character Map in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Apps
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Windows Tools
  4. Left-click on Character Map

Character Map in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Apps
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Windows Accessories to expand it
  4. Left-click on Character Map

Character map in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

  1. Swipe in from the right side of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charm bar
  2. Left-click on Search button in Charm Bar.
  3. Left-click on Apps in Search.
  4. Type Character Map in the Search field on the Search pane
  5. In the results on the left-hand side, left-click on Character Map.

Character Map in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Programs
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Accessories to expand it
  4. Left-click on System Tools to expand it
  5. Left-click on Character Map

Using the Run dialog box to start Character Map

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, type charmap and select OK.

How to insert a special character into a document

  1. Left-click the Font pull-down menu and left-click the name of the font you want to use.
  2. Left-click on the special character you want to insert into the document.
  3. Left-click Select and then left-click Copy.
  4. Open/switch to your document and left-click the location in the document where you want the special character to appear.
  5. Left-click the program's Edit menu or right-click the location where you want the character to appear and select Paste.
  • Many programs allow you to drag and drop special characters into documents. To do this, click the character you want to copy. When the character appears enlarged, drag and drop it into the open document.
  • If you do not delete previously copied characters in the Characters to copy box, they are copied along with any new characters you select.
  • If a private character does not appear correctly in a document, select the character in the document, and change its font to match the font you chose in Character Map.

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