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Use the Microsoft Update Catalog to find and install Windows drivers and updates

Are you having problems finding Windows drivers for your older hardware? Or have you had an update to Windows recently fail to install and want to install it manually? Then the Microsoft Update Catalog may be just what you need.

Using the Microsoft Update Catalog to find Windows drivers and updates

Sometimes repairing Windows computers can be hard, especially when it comes to drivers and updates. Usually, using the standard means of obtaining drivers (Device Manager / manufacturer website) and updates (Windows Update) is relatively easy.

But there are times when I cannot find a device driver or an update to Windows fails to install. That is when I go over to the Microsoft Update Catalog and see what I can find.

The Microsoft Update Catalog is a collection of Microsoft drivers, hotfixes and software updates like Windows Update. They are the same files you receive through Windows Update.

Just like Windows Update, there are three (3) types of updates: Important, Recommended, and Optional (drivers). The only difference is that you can choose what version you download.

Searching the catalog is relatively straightforward. For failed updates, I use the Knowledge Base (KB???????) number. For drivers, I use manufacturer/model number or the hardware id from Device Manager.

Finding and installing Windows Updates

Now before downloading updates, make sure that Windows Update is working correctly. Check the Windows Update history and see if all updates are failing to install or if it is just one.

If all updates are failing, take a look at this article, Troubleshooting Windows Update problems. If it is only one particular update that is failing, then I would go ahead and download it then manually install it.

First, you will need the Knowledge Base number from the Windows Update history to use for the search query.
Finding and installing Windows Updates 1
Once you have it, type it into the search field and click on Search.

The second thing you will need to know is what version of Windows you have and if it is 32-bit or 64-bit for the search results.
Finding and installing Windows Updates 2
Some updates are specific to one version of Windows. Some are general, across the board, every version of Windows.

Once you find the update you need, click on the Download button. A separate window will open with the update name and link to it. Just left-click on the link and choose whether you want to open it or save it. Since some of these can be rather large, I like to download them to my computer first, then install them.

Finding and installing Windows device drivers

Usually, the Device Manager inside of Windows works great for finding device drivers. If there is a driver for your version of Windows, it can automatically download and install it.

But what happens when there is not a device driver for your version of Windows? That is when you need to look for one for a previous version of Windows. Let me explain.

For example, you find that Windows 10 doesn't have a driver for your older hardware. You check the manufacturer's website, and they do not have one either. Or worse, they have gone out of business.

For this exercise, I will use a Windows 10 computer and a brand-new RAID controller I have had sitting here for around eight (8) years or so. The box indicates the last operating system that was supported was Microsoft Vista, so it is safe to say that Windows 10 will not have a driver.

Usually, the first thing I do is psychically check the device for any manufacturer name or model number. If I can find a model name or number, I use it as the search query in the Microsoft Update Catalog.

If I cannot find anything on the device that identifies it, I install it a computer and start it up.
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 1
I then go into Device Manager and let it try to find a driver. If Device Manager cannot find a driver, I use the hardware id
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 2
as a search query in the Microsoft Update Catalog.

Now I know that there are no drivers for Windows 10, so I have to find one for an earlier version of Windows. I will first look for a Windows 8.1 driver, then a Windows 7 driver, then a Windows Vista, and then a Windows XP driver.
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 3
As long as it is the right platform (32-bit or 64-bit), I should be able to use it.

Once I find a driver, in this case, it's for Windows XP 64-bit, I download it to a folder on my local drive. Now the downloaded driver file will have a .CAB extension, so before I can use it, I will need to extract the data from it.

Once I get the files/folders extracted, I go into Device Manager and select Update Driver. I then select Browse my computer for driver software. From there, I browse over to and select the folder where I extracted the driver files. I also check the Include subfolders checkbox. I then click on Next,
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 4
and Windows 10 installs the driver.

For more information on the Microsoft Update Catalog, follow the links below.

Microsoft Update Catalog
How to download updates that include drivers and hotfixes from the Windows Update Catalog

Manage Mac disks inside of Windows with MacDrive

Even though we primarily work on Windows computers, there are times when we need to access Mac formatted disks. And being able to do that from inside of Windows is essential. That's where MacDrive comes into play.

Manage Mac disks inside of Windows with MacDrive

Now in repairing computers, we are often asked to recover files from old drives and transfer them to external drives. Sometimes they are two (2) different formats; NTFS (Windows) & HFS+ (Mac). And since Mac and Windows computers don't natively read and write to each other's disk format, having MacDrive is a necessity.

With MacDrive, you can read and write to Mac formatted drives inside of Windows. And since MacDrive works so seamlessly with Windows, you might not even notice you are using a Mac formatted drive. The little Apple drive icon kind of gives it away (but you can turn it off).

The Mac drive icon inside of Windows File Explorer
The Mac drive icon inside of Windows File Explorer

It can also perform various disk management tasks, including formatting and repairing Mac disks. It can also burn Mac formatted CDs and DVDs.

View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 10 Disk Management without MacDrive installed
View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 10 Disk Management without MacDrive installed

View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 7 Disk Management with MacDrive installed
View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 7 Disk Management with MacDrive installed

MacDrive supports USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, eSata, SATA, IDE, SCSI, and Fibre Channel drives. It also supports legacy drives like Jaz, MO, and ZIP.

You can mount Mac OS partitions on Boot Camp systems. And you can also go through Time Machine backups. It even works with Mac files without an extension.

You can access all of the MacDrive tools from either the built-in Disk Management Window or inside Windows Explorer. And you can directly access working files straight from your favorite programs.

MacDrive comes in two (2) versions; Standard and Pro. The Standard version is more geared to the everyday user. The Pro version has more advanced features like mounting RAID sets creating Mac ISO files.

MacDrive is compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 (32-bit & 64-bit). For more information on MacDrive, follow the link below.

MacDrive from Mediafour

How to quickly free up space on your hard drive

Are you getting a low disk space warning in Windows? Or maybe you have been prompted to delete a previous version of Windows to gain some disk space? If so, here's how to quickly free up space on your drive.

How to quickly free up space on your hard drive

We have all been there. You are working along, and all of a sudden, a little dialog box pops out and tells you that you are low on disk space. It used to happen a whole lot more years ago when drives were smaller. But it is scary when it does pop up.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup user options in Windows 10

Now one way to free up some disk space quickly is to use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility. If you click on the Low Disk Space warning, it brings up Disk Cleanup with default settings.

The default settings for Disk Cleanup are pretty good and will do the job. But there are more advanced settings that can clean up even more files; you have to know how to get to them. You can also run Disk Cleanup as a Scheduled Task. Check out the links below.

Clean up Windows 7 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up Windows 8.1 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Manually delete temporary files

The Run dialog box inside of Windows 10

If you are looking to delete the temporary files/folders quickly on your computer, here's a down-and-dirty quick way to do it. All you have to do is bring up a Run dialog box.

How to open a Run dialog box

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

Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10:
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, cut and paste or type either:

  • %temp%
    (user temp folder)
  • %systemroot%\temp
    (system temp folder)
and then select OK. If you get a prompt telling you that you do not currently have permission to access the folder, click on the Continue button. File Explorer will open and display the contents of that folder.

Now highlight one of the files and then press the CTRL + A keys at the same time to select all of the files/folders. Right-click on them and select Delete. If you get a prompt about permanently deleting the files, left-click on Yes. If you get a prompt telling that a file is still in use, make sure the Do this for all current items checkbox is selected and then left-click on Skip.

Turn off hibernation

Turn of hibernation

If you still need to free up some space, you can disable hibernation and delete the hilberfil.sys file. That should give you a few more gigabytes of free space. You will need an administrative command prompt to run these.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

Once you have an administrative command prompt open, just cut and paste or type the following into it:

  • powercfg.exe /hibernate off
    (turn off hibernation)
  • powercfg.exe /hibernate on
    (turn on hibernation)

Graphic Visualization Tools

Now when it comes to finding large files or folders, nothing can beat an excellent visual treemap. Instead of the usual file/folder data like you see in File Explorer, a graphic visualization tool shows file/folder information using blocks. The larger the square, the bigger the file/folder.

SpaceMonger version 1.4.0

Years ago, I started using a graphic visualization tool when I had a client that all of the desktops began running out of disk space. Using a visualization tool, I found the network deployed anti-virus clients were downloading new virus definitions, but they were not deleting previous versions.

Now there are a couple of different graphic visualization tools out there. I first started using SpaceMonger but have since moved over to SpaceSniffer. It does not require any installation (unzip and go) and is entirely free (but donations are recommended).

SpaceSniffer Version 1.2.0.2

Now right out-of-the-box SpaceSniffer can be a bit overwhelming with all of the information it provides. But with a couple of changes to the configuration, SpaceSniffer can open up just the way you like.

Now be careful not to go crazy and start deleting folders/files in the Windows folder. I know that it is one of the largest folders on the C: drive, but resist the urge to delete anything inside of the Windows folder. I would focus on the size of the user(s) folders/files. For more information on SpaceSniffer and how to use it, follow the link below.

SpaceSniffer, find lost disk space the easy way

How to create ISO files from your software disks

Updated January 20, 2021

So over the years, you've been purchasing software on CD's / DVD's and now have quite the collection. So what do you do with all of the media you are no longer using? How about creating ISO files from them? Here's how to create ISO files from your software CDs / DVDs.

After working with computers for over twenty years, I've managed to amass quite the collection of software disks. One of my biggest problems is that I'm not particularly eager to throw away software disks. You never know when you might need them again.

Now in my book, there are two kinds of disks; Keepers and Tossers. Software that you paid for is a Keeper; software that comes in the mail/paper is usually a Tosser.

I'm old enough to remember the AOL disks used to come in the newspaper (1 gazillion free hours!). The AOL disks were always quite colorful and made a great wall collage or mobile.

Now I realize that properly stored CDs/DVDs can last quite a long time. I have some CDs that are around 20 years old, and I can still read them with my Windows 10 computer. So why would you want to change?

Well, first off, disks can get damaged. You can use a unique tool to buff it out if you scratch the bottom of a disc. But if scratch the top of a disc, you can damage the layer that stores data. Geek Tip: To destroy the data on a CD / DVD before throwing it away, scratch off all of the top layers of the disk with a sharp object, like a nail.

Second, not all devices have nowadays have CD / DVD drives (tablets, netbooks, and ultra-thin laptops). Not having an optical disc drive can make installing older software on a newer computer a bit of a problem. So what is the solution? ISO (International Organization for Standardization) files.

ISO (.iso) files are an archive file format for optical disks, like CDs and DVDs. They contain an exact sector-by-sector, non-compressed copy of a disc. All you need is a computer with a CD/DVD drive, your original disc(s), a program that creates ISO files, and plenty of free space on your hard drive.

Here's a list of a few free programs that create ISO files.

AnyBurn

Casper ISO Creator - CMM Solutions

The Official ImgBurn Website

CDBurnerXP: Free CD and DVD burning software

Once you have created your ISO files, you can do some cool things with them. Archiving your ISO files is the first thing you probably want to consider. External drives (flash, portable, or desktop) are great for storing ISO files. I've taken several small ISO files and burned them on to DVDs for off-site storage.

Now, what can you do with an ISO file? Sure, you can make a new CD / DVD using an ISO file. This feature is built-in to Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. You can use a program like Rufus if you want to burn an ISO file to a USB drive. And if you're using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you can even mount (open as a virtual drive) an ISO file and install directly from it. Great for when you don't have a CD/DVD drive.

How to burn an ISO file to disk inside of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to create a disk from.
    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Burn disc image.
  4. Insert a blank disk into the CD / DVD drive.
  5. Left-click on Burn.

How to mount an ISO file as a virtual drive inside of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to mount as a virtual drive.
    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Mount.
  4. Locate the new drive inside of File Explorer and use it as an actual CD/DVD drive.

Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

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 that 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.

The Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 10
The Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 10

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 Diagnostics
  • Print Management
  • Services
  • Shared Folders
  • Task Scheduler
  • Windows 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, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10:
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 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/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 lower right-hand corner of that screen.

How to add / edit / remove a Microsoft Management Console Taskpad View

  1. Right-click on the name of the console 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 are selecting a Taskpad View, the general settings and tasks associated with it will appear.
  3. When you finish creating a new Taskpad View, you can create a new task to go inside of it. If you edit an existing Taskpad View, you can go 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.

Free computer diagnostics

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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