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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

How to manually install the Windows 10 Creators Update

By now, you must have heard about the Windows 10 Creators Update. There is plenty of information about the new features on the Internet, but nobody tells you how to perform a manual installation. So, let's walk through a manual Windows 10 Creators Update installation.

How to manually install the Windows 10 Creators Update

So, Microsoft has released the latest major update for Windows 10, the Creators Update. With all of the hype about the new features, it was time to check them out.

Now with major updates like this one, I used to install them the day they were released. I hate to admit it, but I went out and purchased Windows 95 the day it was released. Not one copy, but two (floppy disks and CD).

But after having issues with being an early adapter, I started taking the 'wait and let all of the bugs get worked out' approach. There is nothing like spending a couple of hours restoring your primary production computer after a failed update or upgrade.

And to make sure that nothing would happen to my production computer, I decided to use a Virtual Machine (VM). For this exercise, I wanted to work with a vanilla installation of Windows 10. No additional software had been installed, including an anti-virus program.

Now the first thing I did was set up a VM with the most recent version (1607) of Windows 10. I then made sure that it was entirely up to date with patches. I then shut down the VM and backed it up.

If I were upgrading a regular computer, I would use Windows Backup inside Windows 10. And of course, you don't want to forget to make the accompanying System Repair Disk. See the link below for more information on Windows Backup.

Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

Now that I have a known good backup, it was time to start the manual update. I opened up the
The Setting icon on the Start Menu inside of Windows 10
Settings in Windows 10 and left-clicked on Update and security.
Windows Update is the first tab on the left-hand column and is also the default page for Update and security.

In the right-hand column, there is a link below the blurb about the Windows 10 Creators Update being available.
Windows 10 Creators Update notification inside of Windows Update
Left-click on Yes, show me how and it takes you to a page about the Creators Update.

On that page, there is a link labeled Update Assistant.
The Windows 10 Creators Update download link
Left-click on it will start the download of the Windows 10 Upgrade program. Save it on your computer, open the folder you saved it to, right-click on the Windows 10 Upgrade program and select Run as Administrator from the context menu that appears.

The first screen shows me the current version of Windows 10 and what version it will be when the update is complete.
The first screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
I left-click on the Update Now button in the lower right-hand corner.

The next screen gives a compatibly report, and everything is good to go.
The second screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
Before I have a chance to click on the Next button in the lower right-hand corner, the download automatically begins.

The next screen shows me the progress of the download.
The third screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
Before I know it, the download is complete, and the installation begins-time to grab another cup of coffee.

The next screen shows the progress of the update installation.
The forth screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
I love the warning about not turning your computer off like someone would get this far and then say 'forget it' and turn their computer off. But the note on the update taking a while to install is correct.

Finally, after a couple of restarts, the VM comes back to life with the intro screens. You know the ones that say Hi, We didn't do anything with your files.

Finally, the desktop appears with a Thank you for updating page and Microsoft Edge displaying a welcome to the Windows 10 Creators Update info page.
The final screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
The update is now complete.

So how long did the update take? Almost two (2) hours. And remember that this was a vanilla install of Windows 10 that I updated. I would imagine updating a system that has been in use for a while may take longer.

You will notice that the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant was been installed with the update. There are shortcuts to it on the Desktop and the Start Menu. If you would like to uninstall the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant, here's how.

  1. Left-click on the Start Menu and left-click the Settings icon (it looks like a gear).
  2. Then left-click on Apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of apps in the right-hand column until you find the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant.
  4. Left-click on it and then left-click on Uninstall.

Another Android smartphone upgrade

Upgrading my smartphone has never been an easy task for me. Probably because I get so familiar with the way it operates. But there are times when you just have to bite-the-bullet and go for it. So, here's my recent experience upgrading my Android smartphone.

Another Android smartphone upgrade

So, I had purchased my Droid 4 about three and a half years ago, and it worked just fine for the first couple of years. Then it started having battery run time issues and had to be charged every night.

I had thought about just getting a replacement battery, and that would fix the problem. But this was one of those devices that the manufacturer had glued the battery in-place.

Replacing the battery meant I would have to carefully pry out the old battery, ensuring not to puncture the battery casing. Have you ever seen what happens when you puncture a lithium-ion battery? It's right up there with the exploding battery issue.

So, when my Droid 4 could not hold a charge for more than a couple of hours, I knew it was time for a change. But when I tried to get the back cover off the Droid 4, I found that the battery had swollen to 150% its original size, it was time to get a new smartphone.

I took a look at what my carrier offered for smartphones. I had three (3) requirements; a removable/replaceable battery, a micro SD card slot, and it had to be inexpensive (damage from accidentally dropping it is a significant concern).

So, I ordered a new Samsung Galaxy J3 and prepared for the move. Even though the battery in my Droid 4 was malfunctioning, the device itself was still functioning correctly. As soon as I got the new Samsung J3, I started the process of upgrading my smartphone.

  1. The first thing I did was back up everything I wanted to keep from both internal storage and the micro SD card. I had to turn on USB debugging to do this. Even though I am going to move the existing micro SD card to my new phone, I still want to back up the data (photos, music, etc.) I have on it.
    View of my Droid 4 inside of Windows 10 File Explorer
    Since this will be the third phone I am using this micro SD card with, I may just reformat it to get rid of any junk I don't need.
  2. I powered off my existing Droid 4 and removed the micro SD card. Since the battery had started to bulge out, getting the back cover on or off was extremely hard. But with a little finesse, I was able to do it.
  3. I tried to connect the new phone to my existing phone carrier's network. What was supposed to be simple turned out to be a little more complicated, but not much. For a day, in my spare time, I tried powering off my old phone and then powering on the new phone. All I keep getting was an error about not being able to connect to a server and to please try again later. I was in no hurry, but I finally called the support number listed on the error screen. After confirming the order number, my new phone finally was able to make a connection and started to function correctly.

After setting up all of my different accounts (Gmail, email, etc.), all that was left was to install all of my apps using Google Play. This process took a little time to figure out, as I wanted to install the same apps on my new phone that were on my old phone, but there did not appear to be a clear way for me to do it. I did finally come across how to do it.

How to install apps from one Android device to another using Google Play

  1. Bring up Google Play in a browser on your computer (sign-in if you are not already).
  2. On the menu on the left side of the page, left-click on Apps.
  3. On the Apps menu, click on My apps.
    View of installed Android apps listed by device on Google Play
  4. Pull-down the All Apps menu and select your old device.
  5. Left-click on the app you want to install on your new device.
    Google Play app information dialog box
  6. In the lower right corner of the app information, you will see a button that says Installed. Left-click on it and bring up the app installation dialog box.
    Google Play app installation dialog box
  7. On the app installation dialog box, you need to choose a device to install it on. When you pull down the device menu, you will see that there is only one device you can install it on. Left-click on your new device and then left-click on Install.

Should you repair or upgrade your computer or just get a new one

Doing computer repair for a living, I get a lot of questions. One of my favorites has to be, "Should I repair or upgrade my computer or just get a new one." So, let's look at whether to repair or upgrade an existing computer or buy a new one.

Should you repair or upgrade your computer or just get a new one

First off, let's start with the three (3) theories I follow regarding computers and their components.

  1. Infant Mortality is the belief that if it runs for a day (24 hours), it will run for its lifetime. It is also the start of what is called the Bathtub Curve.
  2. The Bathtub Curve refers to the expected failure rate of electronics over time, as it resembles an end-to-end section of a bathtub. The failure rate starts high at the beginning of life (Infant Mortality) and then drops to almost nothing until rising again when it fails.
  3. The definition of the Lifetime of computer components, from my experience, is three years from the start of service. At three years or older, it's not if it will break down, but when will it break down. But there are exceptions to this rule, mainly how well you take care of the electronics.

To repair or replace

With that said, let's start with the repair or replace scenario. Most of the time, if the computer (desktop or laptop) is within the expected lifetime, repairing is the best way to go. Now the exception is with the price and availability of replacement parts.

With computers over three (3) years old, you have to take a look at the cost of replacement parts and labor versus the price of a new system. If the parts and labor total more than $200, I will usually ask a client at least twice if they are sure they want to replace the part(s).

You also have to look at whether the replacement parts are new or refurbished (a fancy way of saying used). For laptop bases, lids and bezels, refurbished will work quite well. For motherboards and IO/daughter boards, a refurbished unit may or may not work out.

Keep in mind that if a particular component has a flaw that caused it to fail, a refurbished (used) part may also have the same defect and could fail just like the component you are replacing. I've had about 50 / 50 success rate with refurbished parts, with some parts lasting only months and some lasting years.

Hard drives, memory modules, desktop DVD drives, power supplies, laptop displays, laptop keyboards, and laptop fans are standard parts and often need replacement. These parts are generally easy to find and purchase. Laptop parts like hinges, display bezels, display lids (tops), and bases can be tricky. A quick Google search for computer model + part name should yield some results.

The availability of replacement parts

In my experience finding replacement parts, I have found that the computer's age has a lot to do with being able to find parts.

  • If the computer in question is under 1 year old, the only way to get replacement parts is through the manufacturer. And you can be sure that you will pay full retail price for them.
  • If the computer is 1 - 3 years old, the cost of replacement parts should go down, as the supply of parts should get better. At this point, people are starting to 'part-out' failed systems and posting the parts on eBay.
  • If the computer is 3 - 5 years old, the replacement parts will be at their lowest cost. The supply will be high, and you will be able to find multiple vendors carrying the same components. It's a buyer's paradise.
  • If the computer is 5 years or older, the supply of parts starts to dwindle, and prices go up. I had a client who wanted to replace a motherboard with bad capacitors that was fifteen (15) years old. I found one (1) refurbished motherboard at almost $500. We had the board recapped for a whole lot less.

To upgrade or replace

Now when it comes to upgrading a computer, there are quite a few things that you can do to desktop and laptop computers. The one thing with the most bang-for-the-buck is memory. Allot of systems come with a nominal amount of memory and can easily be upgraded.

The problem with upgrading memory is that many manufacturers will purchase smaller memory modules and fill up all of the memory slots with them. For example, let's say you bought a computer with eight (8) gigabytes of memory installed. The motherboard has four (4) memory slots, and each one can handle a 4-gigabyte memory module (max.), for a total of sixteen (16) gigabytes (max.).

But when you open up the computer, you find that instead of using two (2) 4-gigabytes memory modules, the manufacturer used four (4) 2-gigabyte modules. To upgrade the memory to sixteen (16) gigabytes, you have to replace all of the 2-gigabyte memory modules with 4-gigabytes modules. Why do they do it? They can get smaller memory modules cheaper.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Another way to breathe new life into a computer is to upgrade the hard drive. You can go with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) that spins faster or a Solid State Drive (SSD) that has a faster transfer rate. Either of these should give you better performance. Combine it with a clean installation of Windows, and you will feel like you got a brand new computer.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

If you have a desktop computer and like playing games, upgrading the graphics card may be an option. Just make sure you know what the motherboard specification is for the PCIe slot(s) (version 1, version 2, etc.) and use a compatible graphics card. Also, make sure you have enough power connector(s) (6-pin or 8-pin PCIe).

The bottom line

You are the only one who has to decide whether to repair or upgrade an existing computer or replace it with a new one. If it has sentimental value or runs a program you cannot reinstall, then maybe you should repair or upgrade it. But if the cost of fixing it is more than the total value of your existing computer, then perhaps you consider just replacing it with a new system.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

I don't know about you, but keeping my family safe on their Windows 10 computers is priority number one. Sure, you can install anti-virus software and browser extensions, but what about the kids under 18? Here's how to set up Family Safety using Microsoft accounts.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

Years ago, the only way I found to lock down my kid's computers was to add it to a domain and restrict the user permissions. And it did work. But not everyone has a server/domain controller. So, what is a parent to do?

Well, back in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Microsoft had a product called Family Safety. It was part of Windows Essentials, which was a separate download. It worked quite well, but Microsoft dropped support Windows Essentials, and it is no longer available for download.

So, if you think that Family Safety just faded away, you would be wrong. Microsoft has taken all of the original program features and added them to its Microsoft account interface.

All of the same great features are there. You can still filter what websites your kids can visit and restrict access to certain apps and games. You can also set what time(s) your kids can use their Windows 10 computer. You can even set the appropriate age for the apps and games that can be accessed.

Now there are some requirements for using Family Safety in Windows 10 that may be a bit disturbing. Everyone, you, and your child need to have a Microsoft account. That, in itself, is no biggie. But your child will need an email address to create a Microsoft Account.

I don't know many five-year-old kids that have an email address, but if you create and monitor it yourself, you should be alright. You don't have to let them have access to it. They will only need the Microsoft account email address and password to log into Windows 10.

If you are looking at ways to protect your family when they are online, using Microsoft accounts is one way to go.

How to set up Family Safety in Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

  1. Log into your personal Microsoft account. If you don't have one, then you will need to create one.
  2. Once you log in, look along the top menu bar and click on the tab named Family.
  3. Under Your Family, click on Add a child.
  4. Enter your child's email address and click on Send invite. If they don't have one, create one by clicking Create a new email address for your child. If you do that, then you'll be creating a Microsoft account at the same time. When you have your child's account all set up, you will still need to send them an invite. To protect your child's privacy, Microsoft does charge a small one-time fee ($.50) to verify your identity.
  5. Once they (or you) accept the email invite, then you can start configuring their online settings.

What your child sees and can do when they log into their Microsoft account

What your child sees and can do when they log into their Microsoft account

  • Manage sign-in preferences, just like a standard Microsoft account.
  • Edit personal information like gender, State, ZIP Code, and time zone.
  • Edit payment information. It only applies to their account, not yours. You can add funds to their Microsoft account through your account. They can also redeem codes and gift cards.
  • Edit their Xbox profile if they have an Xbox account. If not, they can create one.
  • Edit their Skype profile if they have a Skype account. If not, they can create one.

What you see and can do when you log into your Microsoft account

What you see and can do when you log into your Microsoft account

  • Recent activity. This section is where you can view your child's activity in a week by week format. You can also turn on or off weekly activity email reports.
  • Web browsing. You can turn on or off the blocking of inappropriate websites. You can create a (white) list of allowed sites and a (black) list of blocked websites. You can also only enable websites on the approved list, but your kid's computer will need the Windows 10 November update (11/16) or newer version installed for this option. And Safe Search is turned on, and InPrivate browsing is turned off by default. Now all of these web filters require that your kid only uses Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. You can disable the use of Firefox and Chrome under Apps, games, and media.
  • Apps, games, and media. Here you can block inappropriate apps and games. This section applies not only to Windows 10 but also to Windows Phones and Xbox One. There is a pull-down menu that allows you to select the appropriate age for your child. This section will dictate some pre-configured settings which will enable or disable certain features. You can also view the list of blocked apps and games. If you want, you can also remove any program you feel should not be on the list.
  • Screen time. This section is where you set up the times your kid is allowed on the PC. There is a grid broken down by the week's days along the side and hours of the day going across the top. When you activate the time limits, the default time periods are triggered (7:00 AM to 10:00 PM). You can manually add, remove, or modify any of the periods, and you can have multiple periods per day.
  • Purchase and spending. This section is where you can add funds to their Microsoft account for use at the Microsoft and Xbox stores. There is also a pull-down menu that you can choose what types of apps and games your child gets; all games and apps, only free games and apps or none. You can also enable or disable receiving an email when your child gets a new app or game.
  • Find your child. With this feature, you can locate your child using the GPS inside of their Windows 10 Phone. If they don't have a Windows 10 device, you cannot use this feature.
  • Xbox privacy settings. This section I found only to apply to the logged-in adult account, not your kid's account. It is probably best to do the editing of your child's Xbox profile under their login.

Customer service is #1

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Diagnosing PC problems can be time-consuming. From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes can take some time. We base our in-shop service on the actual time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

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