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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.

Create your own Windows font character with Private Character Editor

Updated October 23, 2022

Do you have a company logo or a simple graphic that you would like to use often in a Windows program, like Microsoft Word or Excel? Maybe your line of work has special characters you would like to use but cannot find inside any of the installed Windows fonts? If so, you may want to create your own with Private Character Editor.

Using Private Character Editor (PCE), you can create up to 6,400 unique characters (such as special letters and logos) for use in your font library. PCE contains essential tools (pencil, brush, line, rectangle, and circle) for creating and editing characters and more advanced options.

The Private Character Editor inside of Windows 11
The Private Character Editor inside of Windows 11

There are some pros and cons to creating your characters. Pro: you can insert your unique character into any text line and change its size and color. Con: your special character can only be one color (font color) and is low-resolution. If you're looking for multiple colors and high resolution, you need to use a graphic instead. But if you are looking for a way to insert a single-color logo or unique character into a text line, this might be the answer.

My custom Windows logo character inserted into a WordPad document
My custom Windows logo character inserted into a WordPad document

Now starting PCE can be kind of hard the first time since there is no shortcut to the program. But once you know where it is and how to start it, you're ready to rock and roll. The program name for PCE is eudcedit.exe, and it's located in the Windows\system32 directory. The easiest way to start it up is by using the Run dialog box.

How to open the Run dialog box

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 of the ways to open a 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 eudcedit and select OK.

Things to keep in mind when creating special characters using Private Character Editor.

  • You can choose to link your private characters to all the fonts in your font library (so that any font you've selected can display your private characters). Or you can choose to link your private characters only to specific fonts (so that only the specified font can show your private characters).
  • Using the Select Code dialog box, you can view your entire set of private characters. The Select Code dialog box displays miniature views of all your private characters with their corresponding hexadecimal values.
  • If you want to create a new private character using an existing character as your model, you can copy the current character to the Edit grid and then modify it to suit your needs. Or you can display the existing character in a Reference window alongside your Edit grid for use as a visual reference. You can use any character from any font that is installed on your computer.
  • By default, PCE creates characters using the Unicode character set. If you have installed one of the Asian input languages (such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean), you can also use PCE with the Windows character set.

Once you have created your unique character, you will need to use the Character Map application to copy it to the clipboard, so you can paste it into your Windows program (see video below). You will first need to open the Character Map using one of the ways listed in the following article.

Using special font characters in Windows with Character Map

Once you have Character Map open, you will find your custom character at the top of the Font list under All Fonts (Private Characters).
List of Private Characters inside of Character Map
Insert your custom character as you would any other one.

  1. Left-click the Font pull-down menu and select All Fonts (Private Characters).
  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.

Use the Character Map program to insert your special character
Once your unique character is inserted, you can change its format (color, size, bold, italic, etc.) any way you like.

Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

With Microsoft giving away free Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, the one question that I keep getting asked is, "Should I upgrade to Windows 10?" The real question should be, "Will my hardware run smoothly with Windows 10?" Let's take a look and see if you should upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

When Microsoft first released Windows 10, they had an application called Get Windows 10 (GWT). This program would analyze the hardware and software inside your computer and let you know if there was anything that was not Windows 10 compatible. That program is gone, but the Windows 10 installer will still analyze your computer before starting the installation.

Just remember that even if the Windows 10 installer says everything is compatible, it doesn't mean it will work smoothly with Windows 10. I have seen systems that were completely compatible with Windows 10, but when they got the upgraded, the performance was below what it was with the previous version of Windows.

The first thing we should look at is the hardware requirements for Windows 10. When compared to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, they are necessarily precisely the same for all three versions.

Windows 7 requirements:

  • 1 Gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 Gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Windows 8.1 requirements:

  • Processor: 1 Gigahertz (GHz)* or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • RAM: 1 Gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Windows 10 requirements:

  • Processor: 1 Gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 Gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space:
    • Windows 10 version 1809 and prior: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
    • Windows 10 version 1903 and newer: 32 GB for 32-bit and 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver

So what differentiates Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8? The hardware drivers. Let me explain.

In the past, when a manufacturer discontinued a hardware piece, Microsoft would take the last known Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certified driver for that hardware and incorporate it into the driver's directory for the next version of Windows. The Windows\System32\Drivers directory is the generic driver collection that is inside of the installation media for Windows. If Windows cannot find a driver for a specific type of hardware in the driver's directory, it will go out to the Internet database and look for a suitable driver.

But when a type of hardware gets outdated, Microsoft has been known to remove the driver from the driver's directory after a couple of years. That's when things can get tough. I've have had to go back into previous versions of Windows installation media and extract drivers from older driver directories. I have a customer with a large format plotter that Windows hasn't had a driver for since Windows Server 2003 64-bit. But I have extracted the driver from the installation media and have used it on 64-bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 with no problem.

So what am I saying? It comes down to whether the manufacturer(s) of your hardware is still supporting them with new drivers. If the device is no longer being sold, you can assume that there will be no new drivers for it. Now there are exceptions to this rule. Expansion cards, like graphic/video cards, are one of them. I've found that companies like NVIDIA and AMD will create new drivers for what they call legacy hardware (discontinued hardware).

Before you decide to upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer, take a couple of minutes and go over to all of the manufacturer's website(s) and locate the drivers for your system components. A few minutes now can save you hours later. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

With all of that in mind, if the last version of drivers that came from the manufacturer was for Windows 7, then the drivers in Windows 8.1 were Microsoft WHQL certified drivers. And if that is the case, then Windows 10 may or may not come with a compatible generic driver. It may have to go out to the Internet database and find a driver. And if that's the case, you can bet it will be a completely generic driver.

But if the last version of drivers that came from the manufacturer was for Windows 8.1, then the Windows 10 driver will most likely be a Microsoft WHQL certified hardware driver.

Bottom line; if your system or components were built before the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and are no longer in production, I would be skeptical about whether to upgrade to Windows 10. But if your system and/or components were built after the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and may or may not be still in production, there is a good chance that Windows 10 will run perfectly fine. But remember, there will be exceptions.

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

Updated November 3, 2022

When it comes to repairing Windows computers, there are a couple of problems that I get a lot of help requests. One of them is when a computer cannot get updates to Windows. So here are a few of my favorite resources for fixing Windows Update.

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

There are several reasons why Windows Update can fail. There could be corrupted files or folders; the different services that Windows Update requires are not starting, registry errors, etc. The following is a list of some procedures I use to repair Windows Update.

Remember to always restart your computer after running any of these procedures before trying Windows Update again.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

Windows 10 and Windows 11 have several troubleshooters built-in, including one for Windows Update. All of the Troubleshooters are located in Windows Settings. There are a few different ways to get to Windows Settings.

How to access the Windows Update troubleshooter in Windows 11

You can find all of the troubleshooters for Windows 11 in the Settings app. To get to the Settings app, do one of the following:

  • Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and left-click on Settings (the gear icon)
  • Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo + X and select Settings from the Power User menu
  • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + I

The Settings app should open with System highlighted in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column, select Troubleshoot, Other troubleshooters, then left-click on the Run button on the right-hand side of Windows Update.

How to access the Windows Update troubleshooter in Windows 10

You can find all of the troubleshooters for Windows 10 in the Settings app. To get to the Settings app, do one of the following:

  • Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and left-click on Settings (the gear icon)
  • Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo + X and select Settings from the Power User menu
  • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + I

Once you open Windows Settings, select Update and Security, then Troubleshoot in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column, select Additional troubleshooters, then select Windows Update in the right-hand column.

So if the Windows Update Troubleshooter (repair) did not fix the issue, you could attempt to reset the components that Windows Update uses. The following link gives complete instructions on how to manually reset the Windows Update components, plus some additional resources.

Reset Windows Update components

There is another way to reset the Windows Update components. The Reset Windows Update Tool is s script-based application that performs the same functions as the script above. Along with resetting Windows Update components, it can run Secure File Checker (see below), repair invalid registry keys, and repair the Windows system image using DISM (see below).

Reset Windows Update Tool

Check your drive for errors

If you have run the Windows Update troubleshooters (repair/reset) and Windows Update is still not functioning correctly, it's time to do some general system checks. Sometimes there can be an error(s) with the file system that does not allow the troubleshooters to fix the issue(s). I have had this problem many times before. Nothing worse than feeling like a dog chasing his tail. At this point, check your drive for errors by running checkdisk.

Check your drive for errors in Windows 11

Check your drive for errors in Windows 10

Check your drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your drive for errors in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

Once you are done with a checkdisk, go ahead and rerun the Windows Update troubleshooter. First, run the repair troubleshooter and try checking for updates. If it doesn't fix it, run the reset troubleshooter. If Windows Update still won't work, then it is time to check to system files.

Check system files

SFC

Windows has a built-in program called System File Checker (SFC) to check system files for corruption and incorrect versions. SFC is run inside of an administrative command prompt. Just follow the link below for your version Windows for instructions on how to bring up an admin command prompt.

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 11

Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows Vista and Windows 7

SFC is the same in all of the currently supported versions of Windows. Here is the link to the most detailed instructions for SFC (Windows 10, Windows 11).

Check Windows 11 system files with System File Checker

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Once you are done running SFC and have corrected any problems it may have found, try running Windows Update. If it still doesn't work, try running the troubleshooters (repair/reset) one at a time, running Windows Update in between. If you again cannot run Windows Update successfully, it may be time to run the most advanced system corruption repair tools.

DISM (Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11) / SUR (Windows Vista, Windows 7)

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) and System Update Readiness tool (SUR) are the complete way of checking for file corruption in Windows. The link to the instructions on how to run both is below. DISM and SUR are meant to be used by advanced users, so if you don't feel comfortable running either one of these programs, please contact a local computer repair shop like Geeks in Phoenix for assistance.

Fix Windows Update errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

After running either DISM or SUR, check again to see if Windows Update will work. If Windows Update still does not work, it may be time to perform a repair upgrade to Windows 10 / Windows 11.

How to perform a repair upgrade of Windows 11

How to perform a repair upgrade or Windows 10

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

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

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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