Geeks in Phoenix

Geek Blog

Create great graphics with Paint.NET 5

Are you looking for an image editing program with more features than any built-in Windows apps? Something between Microsoft Paint and Adobe Photoshop? If so, you should take a look at Paint.NET.

Create great graphics with Paint.NET 5

Having a program that can create professional-looking graphics is essential, and not having to pay an excessive amount for one is critical. You get the best of both worlds with Paint.NET 5. And depending on the version, Paint.NET can be free (more on this later).

Paint.NET is a versatile and user-friendly image editing program that can help beginners and professionals alike create stunning graphics. Some of the types of graphics you can make include logos, social media graphics, website banners, and more.

Now Paint.NET was initially meant to be a replacement for Microsoft Paint that is included with Windows, but it developed into a completely separate project. Paint.NET has a simple, easy-to-use interface that has an easy learning curve.

Paint.NET features rival Adobe Photoshop's features, including support for layers, history, plugins, and multiple file formats. Like Photoshop, Paint.NET has included special effects like blurring, shaping, distortion, noise, and red-eye removal.

I have written about Paint.NET before, and it keeps improving. With this version, there are some really great new features. They include:

  • Support for Windows Ink, including pressure sensitivity for brush tools
  • A graphics section for configuring GPU and hardware acceleration settings
  • A completely brand new plugin system that supports both CPU and GPU effect
  • Multiple new and revised Effects and various changes to the user interface

Now the system requirements have changed. Paint.NET 5 is currently only 64-bit and will only run on Windows 10, Windows 11, Windows Server 2019, and Windows Server 2022. And there are two (2) different options for downloading Paint.NET.

The first option for downloading Paint.NET is free from the developer's website or the Microsoft Store for a fee. The only difference I have found is that the paid version gets updated automatically, but you must manually update the free version. For more information on Paint.NET and to download the free version, follow the links below.

Paint.NET 5

Download Paint.NET 5 (free version)

Create custom Windows installation media with Rufus

Do you want to install Windows 11 but want to avoid using a Microsoft account to sign in? Or maybe you want to install Windows without BitLocker drive encryption. You can do both and more when you use Rufus to create custom Windows installation media.

Create custom Windows installation media with Rufus

There may be a time when you want to customize the installation options for Windows. Whether installing Windows with only a local user account or bypassing the Windows 11 hardware requirements, you might need to create a custom installation media for Windows at some point.

As a computer technician, I have had some experience building Windows images (including drivers and apps) for corporate distribution, and it is a reasonably complex process. It is not something the average computer user would want to do.

Now there are a lot of articles out there that tell you how to modify the registry during the installation of Windows. For an experienced Windows user, these registry tweaks can be tricky to implement.

But what if you could take all of those registry tweaks and incorporate them into an installation media and then use that to install Windows? You can do just that with Rufus. Rufus is a stand-alone program for creating bootable USB drives from ISO (International Organization for Standardization) files.

Rufus works exceptionally well for creating bootable USB drives from Windows and Linux ISO files, as well as for making a bootable UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) USB drive for diagnostics. The list of options for each operating system varies, so here are the customizations you can make to the current version(s) of Windows installation media.

Windows 10

  • Create a local account with username
  • Set regional options to the same values as this user's
  • Disable data collection (Skip privacy questions)
  • Disable BitLocker device encryption

Windows 11 (includes all of the above plus)

  • Remove requirement for 4GB + RAM, Secure Boot and TPM 2.0
  • Remove requirement for an online Microsoft account

To create a bootable USB drive with Rufus, you will need an 8GB or larger USB drive, a Windows 10 or Windows 11 ISO file, and of course, Rufus. Remember that no matter what installation option you choose for Windows, you will need a legitimate product key to activate it.

  1. Download Rufus.
  2. Download and run the Windows Media Creation Tool for your version of Windows.
    Windows 11 / Windows 10
    The Windows Media Creation tool is a stand-alone program and does not require installation. Just start it up. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. Accept the license terms, select the language, select ISO file as the media to use, and then select where to save the ISO file. Let the file download, and then proceed to the next step.
  3. Insert a USB drive (8TB or larger).
  4. Open Rufus. Since it is a stand-alone program, it does not require installation, just start it up. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

On the main screen you will find three (3) sections; Drive Properties, Format options, and Status.
The main screen in Rufus
Under Drive properties, make sure the USB drive you want to use is selected in the Device pull-down menu.

Right below the Device pull-down menu, you will find the Boot selection. Left-click the Select button, navigate to the ISO file you downloaded and select it. Rufus will recognize the ISO file and load default settings based on the operating system.

Usually, the default settings work perfectly, so there is no need to change them. Just go down to the Status section and left-click on Start. The Windows User Experience dialog box appears with the customizations that are available for the version of Windows you are working with.
Windows User Experience dialog box inside Rufus
Select all of the options you want to include in your custom installation media and then left-click on OK. At this point you should be ready to go.

How to repair the Start menu inside of Windows 11

The Start menu has been an essential component of Windows since Windows 95, helping users navigate the various programs and features. But what do you do when it does not work? Here is how to repair the Windows 11 Start menu.

How to repair the Start menu inside of Windows 11

You only realize how much you depend on the Start menu once it does not work correctly. And trying to fix it without being able to access any of the apps on it is hard. But there are ways to get to the tools required to fix the Start menu.

In this article, I want to show you some of the different things you can do to fix a broken Start menu in Windows 11. Most of the apps required for the following procedures can be found in the Control Panel under Windows Tools.

Since the Start menu is not functioning correctly, you must use an alternative way of getting to the Control Panel. Here is the easiest and fastest way to get there.

  1. Open a Run dialog box by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R (click here for more ways to open a Run dialog box).
  2. Type in Control and then left-click on OK.
  3. If viewing the Control Panel by Category, left-click on System and Security, then left-click on Windows Tools. If viewing by Large/Small Icons, left-click on Windows Tools.

Now that you have access to the Windows Tools, let's start with the solution that works most of the time, the PowerShell script.

Use PowerShell to repair the Windows 11 Start menu

1. In the Windows Tools folder, right-click on the Windows PowerShell shortcut and select Run as Administrator from the context menu that appears.

2. Copy and paste the following script into the Powershell prompt and press Enter.

Get-AppxPackage -AllUsers Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

If you get an error message stating the action could not be performed because the ShellExperienceHost is running, copy and paste the following script and press Enter to end the ShellExperienceHost task.

taskkill /ID ShellExperienceHost.exe /F

Then rerun the first script.

3. You must restart your computer for the changes to take effect. Since the PowerShell is open, copy and paste the following into the Powershell and press Enter to restart your computer immediately.

shutdown.exe -r -f -t 00

Check your drive for errors

If the Start menu is still not working correctly after running the PowerShell script, it may be time to check your drive for errors. There are several ways to run a disk check, but the easiest way is through File Explorer.

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + E keys simultaneously to bring up File Explorer.
  2. In the left-side column, left-click on This PC.
  3. In the right-side column, right-click on the drive you want to check and select Properties.
  4. Left-click on the Tools tab.
  5. Under Error checking, left-click on Check.
  6. Left-click on Scan drive.

For all of the different ways to run a disk check, check out 'How to check your drive for errors in Windows 11'.

Check for corrupt system files

If the Start menu is still not working, you might want to check for corrupt system files. To run the System File Checker (SFC), you must use either a Command Prompt or PowerShell with administrative privileges. Open the Windows Tools folder, right-click on the Command Prompt or Windows PowerShell shortcut, select Run as Administrator from the context menu, Copy and paste the following into it, and then press Enter.


If the scan finds corrupt files and fixes them, restart your computer. If it finds errors but cannot fix them, check out our article 'How to check and repair system files in Windows 11' for more in-depth ways to repair system files.

Repair Windows 11 with an in-place upgrade

If all else fails to fix the Start menu, performing an in-place upgrade might be the thing to do. I have seen in-place upgrades fix some of the most annoying problems with Windows. Check out our article 'How to perform a repair upgrade of Windows 11'.

Reset Windows 11

This would be the last resort to getting the Start menu running correctly again. The following article, 'How to reset Windows 11', will guide you through the steps you must take to reset Windows 11.

How to enable the local administrator account in Windows without logging in

Having a Standard user account in Windows is great for security, as it prevents malicious software from installing. But what happens if you need to install software and do not have administrative privileges? Here is how to enable the local administrator account in Windows without logging in.

How to enable the local administrator account in Windows without logging in

I recently had a customer with a somewhat unique problem; she needed to install software on her computer, but her user profile was only a Standard user. She shared the computer with her husband; his account was an Administrator user, and he used a Microsoft account for logging in.

But unfortunately, her husband passed away, and she proceeded to take care of her husband's affairs. In the process, she disconnected his cell phone and deleted his e-mail address. It was not until she needed to install some software on her computer did she realize she did not have administrator privileges.

The easiest thing to do would be to perform a clean installation of Windows. But since there was tax software that she could not reinstall, wiping the drive and reinstalling Windows was the last option.

And since all forms of recovering her husband's Microsoft account were gone, the only thing to do was enable the hidden local administrator account and change her account from Standard to Administrator. Since her account was only a Standard user, using a NET command line was impossible, so this would take a little more work.

Note: The following procedures require Windows installation media, editing the registry, and the BitLocker decryption key (if your drive is encrypted). Editing the Registry incorrectly can cause your computer to have errors and possibly not booting. If you do not feel comfortable editing the registry, please get in touch with a local computer technician for assistance.

The first step is to create the installation media, which will require a USB drive 8GB or larger. You will need administrative privileges to make the media, so you may need to create the media on another Windows system with a user with administrator privileges.

Create Windows 11 installation media

Create Windows 10 installation media

The second step is to check if the drive in your computer is BitLocker encrypted. The easiest way to find out if any of your drives are encrypted is by checking their properties in File Explorer.

  1. Open File Explorer using one of the following:
    1. Left-click on the File Explorer icon (manilla folder) on the Taskbar.
    2. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + E at the same time.
    3. Use the Power User menu by right-clicking on the Start Windows logo button and selecting File Explorer.
  2. In the left-side column, left-click on This PC.
  3. In the right-side column, check the icons for the drives. Drives that are encrypted should have a little padlock in the icon.

If your drive is BitLocker encrypted, use the following link to log in to your Microsoft account and find your recovery key. If another person set up your computer, they might have the recovery key inside their Microsoft account. Once you get the BitLocker recovery key, print it out or write it down for future use.

Locate my BitLocker recovery key

Next, you will need to boot up your computer using the installation media. The easiest way to do this is to use the Advanced Boot Options. Make sure you have the Windows installation media connected to your computer before proceeding so that it will appear as a bootable device listed in the Advanced Boot Options.

How to get to Windows 11 Advanced Boot Options

How to get to Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options

Once you get to the Advanced Boot Options, select Use a device and choose the media you created earlier. Your computer will restart and boot from the installation media.

  1. When the Windows Setup dialog box appears, left-click on Next.
  2. On the following dialog box, left-click on Repair this computer. At this point, you may be prompted for a decryption key. Input it in the space provided and continue.
  3. On the Choose an option page, left-click on Troubleshoot.
  4. On the Advanced options page, left-click on Command Prompt.
  5. In the Command Prompt, type regedit and press Enter.
    Starting the registry editor from a command prompt
  6. In the Registry Editor, highlight HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE in the left-hand column.
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE selected in the registry editor
  7. With HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE highlighted, pull down the File menu and left-click on Load Hive ....
    Load hive selection in the registry editor
  8. Locate the local drive that has Windows installed on it, then navigate to the Windows>System32>config folder.
    Drop down menu showing the Windows folder location
  9. Left-click on the file named SAM (Security Account Manager) and select Open.
    Selecting the SAM hive to load
  10. When prompted for a Key Name, give it a unique name (we used TempSAM) and select OK.
    Load hive key name
  11. Expand the registry hive you just attached, and navigate to:
    The registry editor open to the F binary value
  12. Double-click on the F binary value to edit it.
    The default 00000038 binary value
  13. In the Edit Binary Value dialog box that appears, change the value at 00000038 from 11 to 10, then select OK.
    The modified 00000038 binary value
  14. Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer.

The local administrator account should now appear as a logon option and has no password by default.

How to manually change the default location of user files in Windows

Are you having problems changing the location of your user files? Did you uninstall OneDrive, and now your personal folders are all screwed up. Here is how to manually change the default location of user files in Windows.

How to manually change the default location of user files in Windows

Being able to change the location of user files has to be one of the coolest features of Windows when it works. But there may be a time when you encounter an error when trying to move a folder location. The most common error is 'Can't move the folder because there is a folder in the same location that can't be redirected. Access is denied'. This error relates to the folder redirection done when OneDrive is used and often appears when you uninstall OneDrive.

Note: The following procedures require editing the registry. Incorrectly editing the registry can cause system instability and even failure to boot. If you do not feel comfortable editing the registry, please get in touch with a local computer technician for assistance.

Yes, truth be told, the special user folders are merely just registry entries and can be easily changed. But it is highly recommended to back up the registry first. So I want to show you how to back up the registry, change the location of your user files, and restore the registry if necessary.

How to open the Registry Editor in Windows

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    1. Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R
    2. 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
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type regedit and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

How to backup the registry

  1. With the Registry Editor open:
    1. Highlight Computer in the left-hand column to backup the complete registry.
    2. Highlight the key or value you want to backup.
  2. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and left-click on Export.
  3. Select the location and a descriptive file name for the backup file, then left-click on Save.

How to change the default user files location in the registry

  1. With the Registry Editor open:
  2. Navigate to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
    The user shell folders registry keys in Windows 11
  3. In the right-hand column, right-click on the Name of the key you want to change and select Modify... from the context menu.
  4. Enter either the default settings for that folder from the table below or the path to the actual folder (C:\Example\Docs). Make sure the actual folder exists before changing the folder key.
  5. Log off or restart your computer for the registry change to take effect.

Default user shell folder settings

Registry key name Folder Data (default value)
{374DE290-123F-4565-9164-39C4925E467B} Downloads %USERPROFILE%\Downloads
Desktop Desktop %USERPROFILE%\Desktop
Favorites Favorites %USERPROFILE%\Favorites
My Music Music %USERPROFILE%\Music
My Pictures Pictures %USERPROFILE%\Pictures
My Video Videos %USERPROFILE%\Videos
Personal Documents %USERPROFILE%\Documents

How to restore the registry

  1. With the Registry Editor open:
  2. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and left-click on Import.
  3. Navigate to the location of the REG file you want to import and left-click on it.
  4. Left-click on the Open button. You should get a confirmation screen telling you successfully imported the file.

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.

Check out our reviews

Geeks In Phoenix LLC, BBB Business Review

Customer service is #1

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.

Like Geeks in Phoenix on Facebook

Follow Geeks in Phoenix on Twitter

Watch Geeks in Phoenix on YouTube