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Check your e-mail and more with Mozilla Thunderbird

Looking for an e-mail program that has a ton of features? One that has a calendar, task scheduler and can handle multiple e-mail addresses? Then look no further than Mozilla Thunderbird.

Check your e-mail and more with Mozilla Thunderbird

You probably have heard of Mozilla's popular web browser Firefox, but did you know they also have a really great e-mail program, Mozilla Thunderbird? And it has some fantastic features too.

When it comes to free e-mail programs, normally they lack the features that you would find in the corporate standard Microsoft Outlook. Even the e-mail program that comes with Windows 10, Mail, has a limited feature set.

But with Mozilla Thunderbird you get all sorts of features right out of the box. It includes a calendar, address book and a task scheduler.

Account settings inside of Mozilla Thunderbird
Account settings inside of Mozilla Thunderbird

When it comes to e-mail, Mozilla Thunderbird can handle multiple e-mail addresses (POP or IMAP) and can send mail in either plain text or HTML format. You can also add signatures (HTML or plain text) for each individual e-mail account.

Mozilla Thunderbird also includes an adaptive junk mail filter for each account, you just have to train it using the Junk toolbar. You can also request return receipts, just like in Outlook.

There are also message filters similar to rules in Outlook, so that you can automatically process mail as it comes in. You can also create folder and sub-folders for local storage too.

Now when I compared Mozilla Thunderbird to Microsoft Outlook, I found they both had almost the same features. In fact, Mozilla Thunderbird has a couple features that Microsoft Outlook does not.

One of those features, just like Mozilla Firefox, is the ability to add more functionally with Add-ons. With Add-ons, you can extend what you can do with Mozilla Thunderbird.

There are Add-ons that allow you to connect to a Gmail calendar, sync the address book with Gmail contacts and create custom menus. And if you want to change the way Thunderbird looks, there are numerous themes too.

The only feature that is missing from the current version of Mozilla Thunderbird is the ability to import data from Microsoft Outlook. If you want to import Outlook data, you have to first install Thunderbird version 31.8, import your Outlook data and then upgrade Thunderbird to the current version.

There are versions of Mozilla Thunderbird that run on Windows 7 thru Windows 10, Mac OS X 10.9 thru Mac OS 10.12 and GNU/Linux. For a complete list of system requirements, see the link below.

As with Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird is also open source and free for personal / commercial use. In fact, Mozilla is a non-profit organization that relies on donations.

So, if you find Mozilla Thunderbird useful, make a donation to help support the ongoing development of it. Click here to go to their donation page.

For more information on Mozilla Thunderbird, just follow the links below.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird - system requirements

How to make your computer look and run like brand-new

For most people, there is nothing better than a brand-new computer. But of course, you cannot get a new computer every few months. But you can get that same feeling. Here is how to make your computer look and run like brand-new.

How to make your computer look and run like brand new

For most of us, getting a brand-new computer every year is not financially possible. It would be nice, but realistically it is out of the question. But with a little work, you can get that brand-new feeling from your existing computer.

Looking brand-new

Perception is everything. If it looks new to you, it will feel new to you. And with a little cleaning and maybe a couple hardware changes, it can look brand-new.

First place to start is with the keyboard. Most keyboards are black and will show dirt and grim like no tomorrow. You will be amazed at how a good cleaning will make it appear brand-new.

A really dirty keyboard before cleaning
A really dirty keyboard before cleaning

Now when cleaning your keyboard, you will need to turn off your computer. That way you do not accidentally press the wrong keys. I have seen it happen, especially with laptops with FN keys.

Since most of us actually eat while we work, compressed air can help dislodged anything that may have gotten in between or under the keys. A good spray of compressed air should get rid of the large debris.

When it comes to psychically cleaning the keyboard, remember that liquid and electronics do not mix. Never spray a cleaning solution directly on your keyboard. Always apply it to the cleaning material (cotton swab, paper towel, etc.) first.

Lightly dampen a cotton swab or paper towel with cleaning solution and ring out any excess liquid before you start cleaning. It may take some time to clean all of the keys, but remember how long it took to get them dirty (months? years?).

That same dirty keyboard after being cleaned
That same dirty keyboard after being cleaned

Now if the printing has faded or worn off, maybe it is time to go ahead and just replace the keyboard. Desktop keyboards are easy to replace, laptop keyboards can be a little tougher. For new laptop keyboards, I recommend LaptopKeyboard.com.

When comes to your mouse, the body will get dirty and the buttons get looking worn. The same cleaning technique used for your keyboard applies to your mouse.

If it is a wired mouse, turn off the computer. If it is wireless, turn it off. Clean both the top and bottom with a lightly dampened paper towel. Use a lightly damped cotton swab to clean the optical lens on the bottom.

Next thing you might want to clean is the monitor. As with the keyboard and mouse, you will want to turn it off, unplug it and let it cool down. Once it is cooled down you can start to clean it.

Just like with your keyboard, you want to start cleaning your monitor with some compressed air. If your monitor is really dusty, you may want to take it outside before clean it with compressed air.

Use the compressed air to clean out all of the ventilation holes in the case. Make sure you get as much of the dust out as you can, as dust does conduct electricity.

Now lightly dampen a paper towel with cleaning solution and wipe the outside of the case. When you get done with that, it is time to clean the screen.

To clean the screen, I recommend using a soap based, not ammonia based, glass cleaner and micro-fiber towels to protect the finish. Never directly apply the glass cleaner to the screen to prevent damage to it.

Just lightly dampen a micro-fiber towel with glass cleaner and thoroughly wipe the screen. Now before it has a chance to dry, wipe the screen off with a dry micro-fiber towel to get rid of any streaks that may have appeared.

Last thing to clean is the outside of computer case itself. Make sure you turn it off and unplug the power cord (desktop computer) or ac adapter (laptop computer) before you start to clean it.

Lightly dampen a paper towel with cleaning solution and wipe down the outside (front, sides, top, bottom and back). If you have any old and faded stickers, this would be a great time to remove them.

To remove stickers, I recommend using an adhesive remover like Goof Off. Just make sure the area with the label is laying completely horizontal, so you can let the adhesive remover sit on it for a little while.

Once you have let the adhesive remover soak in, use a plastic razor blade or plastic putty knife to scrape the label off. If it has been on the case for a long time, you may have to a couple of passes at it before it comes off completely.

When all of the labels are gone, go ahead and clean that area with a paper towel with cleaning solution. You want to get any residue from the adhesive remover off.

Next thing we want to do is clean the inside of the computer with some compressed air. For this step we will need to disconnect all cables that are attached to the computer and take it outside.

Now the procedure is about the same for desktop and laptop computers. For desktop computers, here is a detailed article we did a little while back on how to clean the dust out of your computer.

The same procedures in the article above apply to laptops as well. For a laptop computer, all you have to do is locate the air intake for the cooling fan(s). But instead of a using nonmetallic rod to hold the cooling fan(s), use a straightened-out paper clip.

Running like brand-new

Now that you have the outside and inside clean, maybe it is time to get the operating system and programs cleaned up. Using Windows built-in Disk Cleanup tool is a good place to start.

Windows 7 Disk Cleanup

Windows 8.1 Disk Cleanup

Windows 10 Disk Cleanup

Once you have used the Disk Cleanup program, you can now look at getting rid of some of the programs you no longer use. You will need to get to the Control Panel to do this. The quickest way to get to the Control Panel is by using the Run dialog box.

How to get to and use the Run dialog box in Windows

My favorite (and the fastest way) to bring up the Run dialog box is to press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R keys at the same time. When it appears, just type control and then select OK.

When the Control Panel appears, select either Uninstall a program (category view) or Programs and Features (icon view). You can then start to uninstall the programs you no longer use.

Now if you want your computer to have that brand-new feeling, you can reset Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. The procedure is similar for both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

How to reset Windows 10

But if you really want that brand-new feeling, a clean installation of Windows is the way to go. Follow the instructions in the following article to perform a clean Windows 10 installation.

How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

You can use the same procedures listed in the article above for Windows 8.1, but you will have to download the Windows 8.1 Media Creation Tool.

Windows 8.1 Media Creation Tool

You can also do the same for Windows 7, but you need to have a valid product key to download the Windows 7 ISO Image.

Download Windows 7 Disc Image

What you can do with an ISO file

What you can do with an ISO file

Have you ever downloaded an ISO file and did not know what to do with it? More and more software companies are now distributing their software using ISO files. Here is what you can do with an ISO file.

What you can do with an ISO file

Nowadays, it seems like everyone is starting to use ISO files for distributing software. In fact, ISO files are just an image of a CD or DVD disk. You commonly see them used to deliver software that is bootable.

Now really quick, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. They have a set standard (ISO 9660) for the file system used for optical disks (CD, DVD, BD, etc.).

Even Microsoft is now using ISO files for distributing Windows. If you download Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 from Microsoft, you will get the option of downloading an ISO file.

But once you download the ISO file, what can you do with it? If you are running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 you have basically three (3) options; mount it as a virtual optical drive, burn it to a disk or create a bootable USB drive.

You can also create your own ISO image files. For more information, check out How to create ISO files from your software disks.

How to mount and access files in an ISO file

By default, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have the ability to mount an ISO file as a virtual optical drive built-in. Windows 7 requires a third-party program to mount an ISO file.

Once you mount an ISO file as a virtual optical drive, you can then access the files and folders inside of it. Most of the time you will use this feature to run a software installation.

For Windows 7, we are going to use the open source optical drive emulator WinCDEmu. Just download and install it using the default settings. Once it is installed, the process for mounting a ISO image is almost the same as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

Windows 7

  1. Open Windows Explorer by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  2. Navigate to the ISO image you want to open.
  3. Right-click on it and select Select drive letter and mount on the context menu that appears.
    The Mount option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7
  4. On the WinCDEmu screen that appears, select the drive letter you want to use for the virtual optical drive and left-click on OK.
    The main screen for WinCDEmu
  5. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the virtual drive you just mounted. You can now use it as you would with any other physically attached optical drive.
  6. When you are done, you can remove the virtual optical drive by right-clicking on it and selecting Eject on the context menu that appears.
    The Eject option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7

Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer (name changed in Windows 8.1) by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  2. Navigate to the ISO image you want to open.
  3. Right-click on it and select Mount on the context menu that appears. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 automatically assign the next available drive letter.
    The Mount option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  4. Using File Explorer, navigate to the virtual drive you just mounted. You can now use it as you would with any other physically attached optical drive.
  5. When you are done, you can remove the virtual optical drive by right-clicking on it and selecting Eject on the context menu that appears.
    The Eject option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10

How to burn an ISO image file to a disk

The process for burning an ISO image to disk is exactly the same for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Just make sure you have the correct blank media for the disk you want to burn.

For example, if your ISO file is under 700 MB's (Megabyte), it will fit on a CD. If it is between 700 MB's (Megabyte) and 4.7 GB's (Gigabyte), then it will fit on a DVD. If it is between 4.7 and 8.5 GB's (Gigabyte), it will fit on a Double Layer DVD. Anything over 8.5 GB's (Gigabyte) and it is going to go on a BD.

For more information on Megabytes and Gigabytes, check out What is a Bit? What is a Byte?.

Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open Windows Explorer (Windows 7) or File Explorer (Windows 8.1, Windows 10) by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  2. Navigate to the ISO image you want to burn to disk.
  3. Right-click on it and select Burn disk image on the context menu that appears.
    The Burn disk image option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  4. From the pull-down menu on the Windows Disc Image Burner screen, select the optical drive you want to use for burning the disk. You also have the option to verify the disk after it is created. When you are ready, left-click on the Burn button.
    The main Windows Disc Image Burner screen inside of Windows 10
  5. When the optical drive is finished burning the disk, just left-click on the Close button.
    The Windows Disc Image Burner screen verifying the disc has been burned inside of Windows 10

How to create a bootable USB drive from an ISO file

When you want to create a bootable USB drive, you will need one that is empty or one that you do not mind if it gets erased. If the USB drive you want to use has been used before, double check it to make sure there is nothing on it you want to keep.

Remember to use a USB drive that is larger than the ISO file you want to put on it. A good rule of thumb is to use one that the capacity is more than 4GB. I prefer using 8GB or larger.

To create a bootable USB drive will require downloading and installing a separate program. There are several out on the Internet, but here are the two (2) most popular programs.

Windows USB/DVD Download Tool from Microsoft

This free tool is mainly meant for creating bootable Window 7 USB drives from downloaded installation media. It is recommended to only install it on Windows 7, as the system requirements do not list support for Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

Rufus - Create bootable USB drives the easy way

The thing about Rufus is it requires no installation, just download it and it is ready to go. And there are a lot more options including partition scheme, file system and cluster size. You also have more boot options including MS-DOS and FreeDOS.

What is the Microsoft Garage?

Have you ever wondered where some of the ideas for Microsoft programs come from? You know, the apps that are on the cutting edge. There is good chance they started out in the Microsoft Garage.

What is the Microsoft Garage?

The Microsoft Garage is a platform for Microsoft employees to explore new technologies and get their ideas moving in the right direction. Some of the projects succeed and some fail. But one thing is for sure, they are some of the coolest apps around.

First thing you should know is all of the projects are called experiments and are run by one or more Microsoft employees in their spare time. Some are open to the general public and some are by invitation only.

You have to remember that these experiments are strictly just beta tests. Once an experiment is complete, you can no longer download it. But it is a great opportunity to give a developer or team of developers a helping hand with some valuable feedback.

Now the experiments in the Microsoft Garage are not strictly for Windows. There are projects for all different platforms: iOS, Android, Xbox and of course, Windows.

And what is really cool is that Microsoft has even built several facilities at some of their development centers around the world just for the Garage developer teams. Microsoft evens holds special events to help these developers explore new technologies.

Some of the active experiments in the Microsoft Garage include Mouse Without Borders, a Windows based program that allows you to control up to four (4) computers from one keyboard and mouse.

And there is Face Swap for Android and iOS devices that, as the name implies, allows you to take a photo of your face and apply it to another photo.

Also noteworthy is the What Dog experiment, that as the name implies, tells you what breed a dog is. Just take a picture of a dog and What Dog will identify the breed.

So, if you would like to help in the development of some really cool apps, take a look inside the Microsoft Garage. You might be surprised by what you find.

Microsoft Garage

How to handle a tech scam

It happens to all of us. You get a pop-up on your computer screen or a phone call telling you that your computer is infected. More than likely it is bogus. So here is how to handle a tech scam.

How to handle a tech scam

Tech scams have evolved over the years. They first started out as random phone calls, but have quickly progressed to using pop-ups in web browsers. And the one thing they all have in common is that they try to scare you.

Who hasn't gotten a phone call from someone saying they are from Microsoft or Windows Support. At one point in time, I was getting 2-3 per week. But they started to slow down when Microsoft started to prosecute companies for using their company name.

So, then they started to use ads on websites to scare you. Since the majority of ad networks do not actively monitor the ads that get displayed, sneaking in a malicious ad is not that hard.

Now I am talking about ads that open up a new browser tab or window that claims your computer is infected. Some of them will have an animated image that shows files being scanned or even play an audio file saying your computer is infected.

The bottom line is they want to gain access to your computer. If they can get remote access, they can literally hold it for ransom. The following is a true story.

A customer called one day telling that they had a pop-up appear telling them that their computer was infected. Believing that they were from Microsoft, they called the phone number and gave them access to their computer remotely.

During the remote session, the customer realized it was a scam, hung up the phone and disconnected from the Internet. They then called me. I showed up and started to clean up their computer.

But the first time I restarted their computer, it came up with a system lock. The tech scammers had put a lock on the computer in an attempt to get them to pay to unlock it.

Luckily, I was able to restore the registry from a couple of weeks earlier and got the computer unlocked. But it could have been a whole lot worse.

Now there is one important thing you need to remember, Microsoft will never contact you, either by phone or a pop-up web page.

How to handle a telephone tech scam

This is an easy one to spot. The name on the caller id will usually be something simple as Tech Support or something similar. I have even seen scammers use disposable cellular phones that just display a name, like Joe Blow.

Now the advice I always give for spam e-mail applies here, if you don't know the person, don't open the e-mail. Same thing holds true for phone calls. If you do not recognize the name displayed on the called id, don't answer it. If it is important, they will leave a message or call back.

If you do happen to answer the call, it is alright to just hang up. They cold called you, you don't have to waste any time talking with them. Now if I'm feeling like having some fun, I'll tell them things like "I don't have a computer", "I don't have Internet access" or my favorite "Which computer are you talking about?".

But if you really want to know if they are bogus, do a search on Google for their phone number. Make sure to use the complete 10-digit phone number (1??????????).

The phone number for a legitimate company will always appear right on top of the search results. You would be amazed at some of the results I have gotten.

How to handle a web-based tech scam

As I talked about earlier, web-based tech scams usually come from third party ads that are displayed on trusted websites. The ads bring up another browser tab or window. And sometimes they will open a browser in what is called kiosk mode (full screen with no toolbars / title bar and no way of closing them).

Now you can close a browser in kiosk mode by using the keyboard combination Alt + F4 (closes the active window). Or you can close a browser by using Ctrl + Alt + Delete and selecting Task Manager. Once Task Manager appears, right-click on the browser name (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) and select End task.

Of course, if all else fails, you can always just turn your computer off. Wait about 15 seconds or so before you start it back up. Once it is booted back up, open the same browser that you had the tech scam appear in.

You should get a warning about how it did not close properly and it should ask if you want to open the previously opened tabs. Ignore the warning, do not open any of the previous tabs and you should be good to go. You can always run a scan with your anti-virus software just to make sure everything is good.

I get asked quite often why the installed anti-virus program did not stop the web-based tech scam. It is because the scam was not a virus, just a malicious ad.

The bottom line

I can never say this enough, never give a scammer remote access to your computer! As long as they cannot get inside your computer, they cannot do any harm.

So, what can you? For phone tech scams: Use your caller id to screen incoming phone calls. If you do not recognize the name, let it go to voice mail.

For web-based tech scams: Install an ad blocker in your browser. Adblock Plus is probably to most popular ad blocker. If you encounter a browser page or pop-up that tells you your computer has been compromised, close the browser using one of the methods listed above. And never call the phone number shown on the page.

And if you feel like taking it a little further, you can always report the scammers to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The FTC has a fairly simple on-line complaint form. Just make sure you have the company name they used and the phone number they called you with or displayed on your screen.

Federal Trade Commission

FTC Consumer Information on Phone Scams

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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