Regular Windows Computer maintenance

6 10 2009

The second Tuesday of each month is Microsoft Patch Tuesday – this is a good time to plan for other maintenance since you probably will already need to reboot. The updates usually don’t show up until the afternoon, so you may want this maintenance to occur on the Wednesday after the second Tuesday of every month – as odd as that sounds.

Preliminaries – Has the machine had any issues with extreme slowness or other erratic behavior? Other than running a backup, I wouldn’t do the other maintenance issues below until I was sure that I knew the backup was good, and had an idea of what was going on.

Backup – this of course assumes that you have a backup plan and sufficient disk space. I would run the backup manually just to make sure it is working even if it is scheduled to happen automagically.

Disk cleanup / registry scan/cleanup – I run a free tool called ccleaner. When you install it pick the minimal options to prevent it from putting a bunch of other stuff on your computer. Keep an eye on free disk space, it is easy for that to creep up on you, this tool, carefully used can manage some of that.

Microsoft Update – not just Windows update – make sure the updates are installing, even if they are scheduled to happen automatically.

Antivirus update – I’ve used a number of difference AV products throughout the years, and all have their pluses and minuses. The key is to pick *one* to use per machine and to only have one installed. Uninstall other products and convert to “Microsoft security essentials” for most situations a free tool is good enough.

Other software updates – it is easy to forget about other updates, but now that Microsoft patches regularly this is where the malware can sneak in and mess up your computer. Review the applications in your add/remove programs control panel (if you don’t need some and you know what you are doing – remove what you aren’t using) and check to see if any updates are available.

Antivirus / Malware scan – presumably your built-in tool is updating and doing this automatically. If you aren’t noticing any issues, doing a manual scan after updating is probably sufficient.
I’ve probably forgotten a few things but this is a good start.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Or you can just buy a Mac…





Have you backed up your computer today?

6 10 2009

I know, I know – this is as much fun as being told you need to exercise, floss or eat right. That doesn’t make any of them less important. Well have you backed up? If not why not? Ideally you should have several different kinds of backups – a regular local backup to a disk or NAS, and a “offsite” backup.

Funds tight? Looking for a freebie? You could just back up your most vital files with a free backup service. Usually you are limited in how much you can backup, but hey it is free. Mozy, iDrive, aDrive, boxstr, skydrive and others provide free online backup. I’m not necessarily endorsing any of them, and you have to watch out for scams, but this is a reasonable and free way to backup your Windows (and Mac) computer.





Cisco IOS updates – lessons learned

6 10 2009

One of the things I’ve learned the hard way about Cisco updates is that several things can (and usually do) go wrong if you don’t pay attention to what is going on.
1. Using the wrong IOS to update – if you pick one that lacks features (or one that disables features) you need, your router or switch will “die”. There is no easy way to learn this, you just have to figure it out. Pick carefully grasshopper.
2. Not having enough space – IOS will usually tell you before you start copying that you are out of luck, but that usually leads to the next problem…
3. Deleting files you really need – I thought I was smart – my router didn’t have enough room to fit everything so instead of worrying about it, I just formatted flash and I was ready to copy. The problem is that format destroys vlan.dat – a file you probably need. Don’t delete or format if you don’t know what you are doing. Or even better, if the device has a place for a compact flash card, get a bigger one and use it and have multiple IOS images!
4. Crapping out on a TFTP transfer – One thing about having a far flung network is that you quickly learn how slow and unreliable your connections are — !!!00!!!000!!!! If you don’t know what that is, then this comment may be wasted on you. Think about what you are doing and try to put the files as close to the updated device as possible. USB stick plugged into the device is best, or a machine on the local LAN if USB doesn’t work or isn’t an option. You will thank me later. !!0!!0!!0000!0!





Speed up your computer – getting to the source of the problem

6 10 2009

This is a windows based tip.
One of the frustrating things about computer speed issues is trying to figure why the computer is so slow. A lot of time can be spent playing with all sorts of things and not really getting to the heart of the speed issue. Is it hardware, software or all the stuff that I’ve installed?
So what is my tip? Time your computer startup (to get objective data) and then set your computer to boot into safe mode (using f8 at startup, or by selecting the option in msconfig) and time it again. If it is not significantly faster then it is likely a hardware problem. If it is significantly faster then it a software problem. How you deal with these sorts of problems differ so for now I will leave it at that.





"Updates were not configured correctly – reverting changes." – Have I said I how much I hate Windows lately?

17 07 2009

I cannot tell you what the cause of the problem is but I can tell you how I overcome the problem! Like all of you I suffered with  “Updates were not configured correctly.Reverting changes.” Then I thought that if I download the “updates” in small batches, i.e. 2 to 4 at a time, then if there is 1 update that is causing the problem then I have narrowed it down! In fact by doing this “ALL” updates downloaded and installed without any problems! Has I said earlier: if there were any problems then at least by process of elimination you could identify the Rogue download and probably recieve an error code which you could have worked from! I sincerly hope this helps!

Trying to set up a few new Windows 2008 server VMs – all built at the same time and one decides to go into this black hole ‘randomly’. Thankfully someone else already met this brick wall and found a way to pound it out – o n e b r i c k a t a t i m e.





Patch Tuesday fun…

14 07 2009

Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for July 2009

In addition to these there is also an unpatched exploit that should only affect Office 2003 unless a machine has Office Web components installed (see http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=7287252C-402E-4F72-97A5-E0FD290D4B76&displaylang=en )

Check to see if Office 2003 or the above web components are installed on any of your machines, and use the temp fix at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/972890 to disable the vulnerability.