We downloaded Microsoft's Creators Update for the latest and greatest in Windows 10. It's Microsoft's way of giving you a look at the wonderful things that are coming up for Windows. Why do we do these things? It's our duty.
So the latest Creators Update took an hour to install and then trashed our Windows 10 computer. Programs like PowerPoint and Word wouldn't start. Nor could they be reinstalled. Dead icons appeared everywhere. It wasn't a virus; it was a look at future Windows updates. Thanks.
In the Windows Recovery center, there's a helpful hint saying we should revert to a previous version of Windows 10. We clicked that and reverted. It was like reverse digital evolution. We got a black screen with the message: "Disk failure or boot failure."
So that Windows 10 machine is now buried in the basement next to other dead relatives. It is and was a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion All-In-One that Joy bought five years ago. (Never buy an all-in-one computer, says Bob, who uses an HP laptop connected to a larger monitor and keyboard.) Before it was murdered by Microsoft's Creator Update it had been giving signs of oncoming dementia anyway. Though it uses the same Internet connection as our Google Chromebook, everything it did was deadly slow while everything on the Chromebook was real fast.
"Sic transit gloria," as they used to say back in the Roman Empire. (Gloria always used public transit.) We turned to our old reliable, a refurbished Windows XP machine. Works fine. Cost us $70. The downside, of course, is that it is vulnerable to all kinds of cyberattacks. So the answer is, don't connect it to the Internet.
Though Microsoft officially abandoned support for Windows XP in April 2014, the reality is there are millions of them still in use. Aside from personal users, most automatic teller machines still use Windows XP, and there are probably business and military users as well. Why not? They work fine. Many readers have told us they held on to their Windows XP computers as long as they could, because of their ease of use. We couldn't agree more; all those features added to Windows 10 to supposedly make life easier just made it more complicated.
Because of the recent ransomware panic, Microsoft issued a security patch. They had to. So if we wanted to go online, as long as we get the latest patch and use a lightweight anti-virus program like Avira for older machines, we should be okay.
Our $70 XP machine was purchased from Amazon. It came with the free OpenOffice, which is similar to Microsoft Office, pre-installed and handles the latest Word documents in the docx format, as well as PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheets and other Office programs.
We wrote two weeks ago about the free Belarc Advisor, which tells you the state of your computer. It tells you which updates are critical so your computer doesn't become vulnerable to the bad guys. We suggested just deleting stuff you don't need, like Java.
But as a reader noted, Belarc lists Java as one of the programs needing a critical update, and a list of programs to uninstall in Windows Control Panel shows no Java. Java was listed on Joy's computer but not Bob's, so on Bob's we tried a Java removal tool. The tool didn't work because it said there was no Java. But there was! We found it by doing a search in File Explorer. You can access File Explorer by right-clicking the Windows start button. We decided to leave the Javas alone.
Of course, the reader's main reason for finding out about these problems from Belarc Advisor was to speed up her computer. "It's so slow," she says, "I could take a nap." There are at least 13 reasons for a slow computer. Search on -- what else? -- the phrase "13 reasons why your computer is slow."
No More Tears
One thing WannaCry ransomware victims had in common is they didn't update Windows. The other thing is they failed to back up their files.
One solution is Aomei BackUpper Free, from backup-utility.com. It's like other backup systems but with a twist: If your computer is already infected, it prompts you to make a boot disk, which will let you boot up the computer safely. That didn't work, but it did such a nice job of backup and restoration, we can still recommend it. (You can make a boot disk with other free online tools. Just Google it.)
The backup is made to whatever you named as your backup destination. This can be a flash drive (also called a thumb drive) or a hard drive. (Flash drives with enormous storage -- something like 50 or 100 gigabytes -- can be bought very cheaply now.) You can schedule a backup with Backupper to take place every hour, every day, etc. We liked Backupper better than Google's automatic backup from Google Drive, because it didn't slow our computer. Google gives you 15 gigabytes of free online storage; Backupper is only limited by the size of your storage location.
You can get a 2-terabyte drive, called EasyStore, from Western Digital for around $80 at various retailers. That's 2,000 gigabytes, ideal for people who store a lot of multimedia files. Most of us could make do with 100 gigabytes, which you can get for around $25. (Every column and article we've ever written would take less than one-hundredth of a gigabyte.)
If you're doing a backup for your business, the latest version of Acronis True Image has a lot of fancy features for business users, such as blockchain technology for file verification, electronic signatures, and ransomware protection. However, at $100 a year with a terabyte of online storage, it's more expensive than most, including BackBlaze or Carbonite, a reader favorite, which offer unlimited storage online.
• Video.NationalGeographic.com has free videos. We watched one on the Gobi Desert, one on Albert Einstein and another on how U.S. currency is made. Many are just a minute long. Who knew the Gobi Desert is almost twice the size of Texas?
• "Life expectancy can vary by 20 years." Google those words to see a map with new findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about how where you were born can influence when you die. It says the average person born in Breckenridge, Colo., will live until their late 80s, but the average person born in Booneville, Ky., will die 20 years earlier.
Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
SundayMonday Business on 05/29/2017