Capture Screenshots at Defined Time Intervals Automatically in Windows

Screenshots are a great way to capture whatever is on your screen and store it for later use. Sometimes you need to capture a screenshot to remember a password or capture some other pertinent information that you can’t save otherwise.

Other times you need to capture a screenshot and send it to someone else so that they can help you or see what you were doing. Finally, you may want to capture multiple screenshots over a certain time period so that you can see the activity occurring on the computer.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to use a free program to automatically capture screenshots of your computer screen at specified time intervals.

Auto Screen Capture

Auto Screen Capture is an open source utility on SourceForge that has quite a few options for capturing screenshots on your Windows machine. The program works with Windows Vista and higher, including Windows 10.

The good thing about the program is that it doesn’t even require you to install it. All you have to do is download the EXE file and run it. This is great because it doesn’t add anything to your registry or copy files into your system directories.

auto screen capture gui

When you run the program, you’ll see the main interface is split up into a couple of different sections. At the top left is a calendar and below that are the main settings for the program. On the right-hand side, you have previews of each screen connected to your computer. If you only have one monitor, you’ll only see the preview for Screen 1.

By default, the program is set to Demo Mode ON and Schedule Off. This means that when you open the program, the main interface will show up so that you can configure the options. The first thing we want to do is change these settings. Click on the Options button at the very bottom left and then click on Turn on demo mode at application startup to uncheck it. Click on Turn on scheduled screen capturing at application startup to check that option.

screen capture options

The rest of the options are self-explanatory. If you are trying to capture screenshots stealthy, it’s a good idea to uncheck Open this window at application startup, Open this window after stopping the running screen capture session, and Show the slideshow after stopping the running screen capture session. You can also store the screenshots on any drive connected to the computer, including network drives. This is great if you want to install the program on several computers and have all the screenshots saved directly to a server, NAS, etc.

On the Screen Capture tab, the top section controls how often the screenshots will be taken. By default, the program is set to take a screenshot every second, which is a bit ridiculous. If you don’t want all the space on your computer gone in two days, change the timings to something more reasonable like every 30 seconds or every 2 minutes. I would keep Initial capture checked as that includes an additional screenshot of the active window.

The program will create two folders for each day, one with a screenshot of the full desktop and one with a close up of wherever the mouse is located at the time of the screenshot. This is a cool little feature that lets you see the screen in more detail only for the active section of the screen.

Also by default, the program is set to stop after 30 minutes, so if you want screenshots taken continuously or for a longer time, either uncheck the Limit box or type in a higher value. Finally, the Resolution box is set to 100% by default, but you can adjust this setting if the files are too big.

screen capture schedule

If you scroll down, you’ll see you can also set a schedule for taking screenshots. If you want the program to automatically start taking screenshots, rather than you having to manually start the capture process, check the Start capture at and Stop capture at boxes. Screenshots will only be taken during that time period at the time interval you specified above.

Finally, if you scroll down a little more, you can change the image type to something other than PNG. You can choose from BMP, EMF, GIF, JPEG, TIFF and WMF. In my opinion, the best option is JPEG as it will give you the best quality with the smallest size. In my tests, a full desktop screenshot at 2560×1440 was about 160 KB. If I used the PNG format, the same screenshot was a whopping 1.7 MB!

file formats

Click the Start Capture button to start the capturing process. The program should disappear into the taskbar, where it will remain while taking the screenshots. Unfortunately, the best thing you can do to hide it is put it inside the overflow section in the notification area.

auto screen capture taskbar

This program wasn’t created with any kind of stealth mode or anything like that, so if you need discreet screen recording software, this might not work for you. Once some screenshots have been taken, you can easily view them by going to the Slideshow tab.

screen capture slideshow

If you don’t want to view the screenshots in the program, you can also just browse through the folder using Explorer. In my case, the top level folder was the date and then inside I had a folder named 1 and a folder named 5. One contained full-desktop screenshots and the other contained close-ups.

stored screenshots

It’s also worth noting that if you are using Windows 10 with multiple virtual desktops, the program will capture a screenshot of only the active desktop at that time. So if the user switches to desktop 3, you’ll get a screenshot of desktop 3. If they switch back to desktop 2, then you’ll get that desktop in the next screenshot.

Finally, if you click on the Keylogger tab, you can set the program to record all keystrokes while the program is running. Just check the Enable keylogging while screen capturing box. The file will be stored in the same location as the screenshots.

enable keylogger

The keylogger is pretty nice in the sense that it actually lists out the program where the keystrokes were recorded. This helps you make sense of all the text in the document.

keylog text

Overall, the program works really well, considering it’s free of charge. It only works on Windows, but that should be fine for most people. If you need screenshots at set time intervals, this is the best program for the job. Enjoy!

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Unlock Password Protected Zip Files

Have a ZIP file that you can’t get into because it has a password on it? If you forgot the password, the only option you have is to try and recover the password using third-party utilities. Depending on which program created the ZIP file (7-Zip, WinZip, etc.) and what type of encryption was used, your chances of recovering the password will vary.

In this article, I’m going to mention a couple of tools that I’ve used to recover a ZIP password on some test files that I created. Hopefully, you’ll be able to access your ZIP file by cracking the password using one of these tools.

It’s worth noting that if the ZIP file is encrypted using AES 128-bit or 256-bit encryption, your only option will be a brute force attack. If the password is very long, you’ll need a really powerful computer to process as many passwords per second as possible.

Also, be sure to check out my other posts on opening password protected RAR files, cracking XLS passwords, resetting Windows administrator passwords, and resetting BIOS passwords.

Elcomsoft Archive Password Recovery

In my opinion, Elcomsoft Archive Password Recovery is the best choice for recovering a password from an encrypted ZIP, RAR, ACE or ARJ archive. The software comes in two flavors: Standard and Pro. The Standard version is $49.99 and the Pro version is $99.

The main difference between the two versions is that the Pro version supports WinZip archives that use enhanced AES encryption and guarantees WinZip recovery with some limitations (must be WinZip 8.0 or earlier and the archive has to have at least 5 files). In addition, it has an additional method of recovery called Password from keys that can be used in addition to brute-force, dictionary and plain-text attacks.

What I like about this program is the number of different methods you can use to recover the password and the different options you have for each method. The toughest situation is when you have a password and you don’t know the length or what kind of characters are included. In these types of situations, you should start with the faster methods before moving on to attacks that will take much longer.

archive password recovery

Once you download and install the software, you’ll see the main interface as shown above. To get started, click the Open button and choose your archive file. By default, the Type of Attack is set to Brute-force and the options that are checked include all capital and all lowercase letters.

Before you click Start, you should go ahead and click on the Benchmark button, which will check the type of encryption on the file and give you an estimate of how long it will take using the current options.

password recovery benchmark

As you can see, it will take about 11 minutes to recover a password that was encrypted using AES 256-bit and by only looking at lowercase and uppercase letters with a maximum password length of only 4 characters. If you choose All Printable characters, the time went up to 2.5 hours in my case. Again, this is only for a short four-character password. The time goes up exponentially as the password gets longer.

If you’re not sure how long the password is, click on the Length tab and increase the maximum password length to something higher. The trial version only works up to four characters.

password length

Obviously, if you have no idea what the password is, checking All Printable and then increasing the length to 10 or higher will guarantee you more success, but it might also take way too long. I suggest starting with only letters up to a higher character count and if that doesn’t work, then add All digits and All special symbols one at a time.

Before you start with a brute-force attack, it might be worth trying a dictionary attack first as that will take less time. Choose Dictionary from the drop-down and then click on the Dictionary tab.

dictionary attack

The program comes with a small, but decent dictionary already built-in. The nice thing is that you can download bigger dictionaries online and use them in the program if you want. Of course, this won’t work if someone used a complex password, but it’s worth a shot since it’s much faster.

Another thing to note is that the whole archive can be decrypted if you happen to have one of the files that are inside the archive. This probably won’t be the case most of the time, but if you do happen to have at least one file that you know is inside the archive, you can use the Plain Text attack to decrypt the entire archive.

Also, if you happen to know the length of the password and anything else about it, you can use the Mask attack. For example, if you know the password starts with x and is 7 characters long, you would enter x?????? into the Mask box on the Range tab.

Overall, this is an excellent program and definitely worth the cost if you need to get into a ZIP or other archive file. On my test file with a short four-character passcode and 256-bit AES encryption, it worked flawlessly and got me the password in just a few minutes.

brute force attack

password recovered

The main thing is to run the program on the fastest computer you have around. The more passwords than can be tried per second, the faster you’ll break into the file.

Passware Zip Key

The other good program that I recommend is Passware Zip Key. The program is only $39, which is a bit cheaper than Elcomsoft. They also have a demo version, but it only runs each attack for one minute, so you really can’t test to see if it works, even on a short password.

However, I purchased it so that I could test it and it worked fine. It’s very similar to Elcomsoft in terms of the attacks, etc. Once you install it, click on Recover File Password and then you’ll see the options below.

passware password recovery

You can choose Run Wizard, which will let you pick from different options if you happen to know anything about the password. This is good if you know the password only contains letters, etc.

password questions

If you click on Use Predefined Settings, it will start with some simple attacks and then automatically move on to more complex attacks. If you click on the Attacks tab at the bottom, you will be able to see all the attacks that will be tried.

types of attacks

Some attacks will take longer than others, again depending on the password length and encryption type. Brute force is the slowest method, so that’s why the programs tries other methods in-between.

recovering password

Lastly, you can choose Advanced: Customized Settings and basically configure everything manually like how the Elcomsoft program is setup by default.

custom attacks

You choose an attack from the list and then click the left arrow button to add it to the queue. You can add several attacks and they will run one after the other. In my case, I choose a brute force attack with a four-character password that contains letters, numbers and symbols. It didn’t take long for Zip Key to crack my test file, which is the same one I used for testing Elcomsoft.

If you plan to purchase Zip Key, please do it using this purchase link. The price is the same, but I get a small cut for recommending the program instead of the company getting all the money. Thanks!

There are a lot of other programs out there for cracking ZIP files, but these are the two that I really liked in terms of ease of use, features and actual ability to recover the password. If you have used something else, feel free to let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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Format an SD Card the Easy Way

SD cards can be tricky little gadgets. They sit in our cameras and cell phones, just waiting for us to take the picture of a lifetime, at which time, of course, they stop responding. While nothing can predict when or where an SD card will die, proper formatting can both lengthen the life of the card and provide the most available space possible.

The SD Association provides an SD card formatter for this purpose. Yes, they recognize Windows has a built-in formatting feature, however, they warn that by using the generic operating system formatter, “optimum performance may not be experienced.” Translation: SD card death and less picture-saving space.

The program can be downloaded on both Mac and Windows. All SD, SDHC and SDXC cards are supported and using a USB SD card reader is recommended for the formatting process.

Once you install and run the program, it initializes with just one small screen.

sd formatter

Make sure you insert your SD card into the reader before you start up the program. The program is smart enough to scan all the drives and find the drive for the SD card. If not, just click the Refresh button. If you’re having trouble getting the card to show up in the dropdown, you might have to install the SDXC driver for that particular type of card.

Next, click Option to select how you want the SD card formatted. A dialogue box appears with a dropdown menu listing three “format type” options. The first, Quick, is simply a standard format that erases the Master Boot Record (MBR) on the SD card. Even though the data cannot be accessed using Explorer or Finder on Windows and Mac, it remains on the card itself.

sd format options

The Full (Overwrite) option will initialize the card and overwrite all the data with meaningless data. This method is more secure than simply erasing the data on the SD card because it is much harder to retrieve previously written data if you overwrite it. This option will take much longer than Full (Erase) or Quick.

The Full (Erase) option deletes the data on the SD card. Using special software and tools, it is possible to retrieve data that was deleted using this method. If the card does not support this method, it will revert to the Quick format.

Under the Format Type dropdown menu is a second menu called Format Size Adjustment that asks if you want to try to increase the amount of space on your SD card or not. Turning this option on will allow you to use the maximum space possible on your SD card. Once you have made your selection, click OK.

My recommendations are to choose Full (Overwrite) and turn Format Size Adjustment to ON. Back on the main screen, it should show you the settings you have selected.

sf formatter options

Finally, click Format. You will be asked one last time if you are sure you want to do this. If you are sure, click OK.

final warning - sd formatter

A new dialogue box then displays the status of the formatting process. For the options selected above, it will overwrite the entire card with random data and then format the card. If you are using a larger disk, the process could take a while. Do not turn off your computer or remove the disk until the entire process is complete.

overwrite erase

When complete, a dialogue box appears telling you the results of the formatting process.

sd formatter complete

Overall, the program works well and it will ensure that your card lasts longer and that your data is permanently removed, if you are planning on giving it to someone else. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy!

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Convert a Windows PC into a Virtual Machine using Hyper-V

A great way to save yourself from viruses, malware and spyware is to use a virtual machine to browse the Internet instead of your regular Windows PC. So what is a virtual machine? It’s basically a full copy of Windows that runs inside another copy of Windows called the host.

The virtual version of Windows is just a large file and special software running on your Windows computer (virtualization software) acts as a fake computer so that Windows can run. Anything you do in the virtual machine will not affect your host operating system. So you could download 10 viruses onto the virtual machine and your main operating system would be safe.

What’s nice about virtual machines is that you can reset them. So if you get a virus while browsing in the virtual machine, you can simply reset the virtual machine to the default state when you first installed it and start over. It’s also a great way to increase your privacy because you can simply erase anything you’ve done in a virtual machine.

Before we get started, let’s talk about the requirements. There are many software virtualization tools out there like VMWare, Parallels, VirtualBox, etc., but I’m going to stick with only Microsoft software. In order for this to work, you need two things:

  1. Disk2VHD – A free tool from Microsoft that will be used to convert any Windows operating system from Windows XP onwards into a virtual machine file.
  2. Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 10 Pro – You’ll need the Pro versions of either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 in order to complete this process. Both operating systems have a tool called Hyper-V that can be used to access the virtual file created by Disk2VHD.

It’s also worth noting that even though you can use Windows XP, Vista and 7 as the virtual machine, it’s best if you can convert a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 machine because the highest resolution that Hyper-V supports for those older operating systems is 1600×1200. It’s really annoying and I don’t know why Microsoft hasn’t bothered to fix this issue yet. Anyway, it’s only a problem for those with high resolution monitors.

Convert Windows OS to VHD

Let’s start with the easy part: converting your current version of Windows into a virtual machine (VHD or VHDX file). To do this, download the Disk2VHD tool mentioned above and run the EXE file.

disk2vhd start

When you run it, you’ll see a screen like the one above. There really isn’t much you have to do here other than choose the location where you want to save the VHDX file and which volumes you want to include.

If you have a large hard drive, you can just let it save the file to the same partition as Windows. If not, choose another location like a second hard drive or an external USB hard drive. By default, it’s going to select all of the volumes it finds on your computer, which may not be want you actually want.

In my case, I have several hard drives connected to the computer, so I only want to select volume C:, which is 37.26 GB in size. In addition, you want to make sure to select any other volumes that were created when you installed Windows, most likely the Boot volume and System Reserved volume. These are usually really small: in my case, the System Reserved volume is only 34 MB and the other volume, which has no label, is only 322.08 MB.

It’s very important that you select these other volumes in addition to the main Windows volume because if you don’t, the operating system won’t boot when you load it into Hyper-V. Instead, you’ll get a Boot Failure message! This is because those two extra volumes tell the system where Windows is located and how to boot it.

boot failure

It will probably take some time to create the VHDX file depending on how big your Windows partition is. Once finished, you’ll have one really large file and two smaller files.

vhdx images

Install Hyper-V in Windows 8.1/10

Next, we have to install the Hyper-V tools in Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Pro. If you have the Home editions, you’ll have to upgrade to Pro before you can install Hyper-V. Click on Start and type in windows features.

windows features

At the top, click on Turn Windows features on or off. A window will appear where you can check off extra items you want to install. Go ahead and check the box for Hyper-V. It should automatically check the boxes for Hyper-V Management Tools and Hyper-V Platform also.

enable hyper v

Click OK and let Windows install the features. You will also have to restart your computer. Once you boot back up, click on Start, All Apps and then scroll down to Windows Administrative Tools. You should see Hyper-V Manager listed there. You can also just click on Start and type in Hyper-V to search for it.

start menu hyper v

Configuring Hyper-V

Now for the fun part! Let’s get started with Hyper-V. Go ahead and open the Hyper-V Manager and you’ll see a blank workspace.

hyper v manager

At the far left is the server, which should be the name of your computer. In the middle section are the list of virtual machines and checkpoints. On the right, you have a dynamic menu that changes depending on what item is selected in the left-hand sections. To get started, select the computer name at the far left.

new virtual machine

Now at the far right, click on New and then Virtual Machine. This will bring up the new virtual machine wizard. The first step is to give your virtual machine a name.

virtual machine name

Next, you have to choose the generation for the virtual machine. If you are converting a 64-bit version of Windows to a virtual machine and your computer hardware supports UEFI, go ahead and choose Generation 2, since that allows for more advanced features. Use Generation 1 for 32-bit versions of Windows or if your machine is using legacy BIOS. Generation 2 also supports wide-screen displays when virtualizing Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

If you have no idea what all that means, just choose Generation 1 to be on the safe side. Note that if the virtual machine fails to boot, you can easily just delete it and start this process again. Select a different generation and see if it boots up properly. Deleting the virtual machine inside Hyper-V does not delete your original VHDX files.

virtual machine generation

On the next screen, you have to choose the amount of memory you want to assign to your virtual machine. I left it at the default value of 1024 MB, but you can increase it if you have enough RAM available on your host machine.

virtual machine memory

Go ahead and skip the Configure Networking screen for now because we will have to do that later. For now, just leave it at Not Connected. On the Connect Virtual Hard Disk screen, you need to select Use an existing virtual hard disk.

connect virtual hard disk

Click the Browse button and select the VHDX image that represents your actual Windows partition. This should be the really big VHDX file. We will have to manually add the other two VHDX drives after the wizard, which I will show further down. At this point, review the summary and click Finish.

Now you should see a new item listed under Virtual Machines. If you click on this, you’ll see a bunch more options in the right-hand pane also.

start virutal machine

To start the virtual machine, select it and then click on Start. The State column will change to Running. Next to view the virtual machine, click on Connect. If you did this now, you’ll see that error message that I mentioned at the beginning of the article: Boot failure. We still need to add the other hard drives.

Select the virtual machine and click Turn Off. Then click on the Settings link. On the left hand side, you should see IDE Controller 0 and IDE Controller 1. Click on the Controller 0 first. If you chose Generation 2, you will see SCSI Controller only.

ide controller

You will see that the first VHDX file we added in the wizard is already listed. Now we have to add the second and third files. Make sure Hard Drive is selected and then click Add.

add second vhdx

The Location box should automatically choose 1 since the 0 slot is taken by our first VHDX file. Each IDE Controller only has two slots available for adding drives. Click Virtual hard disk and choose your second VHDX file.

Now click on IDE Controller 1 and then click the Add button again. Do the same thing here, but choose your third VHDX file.

add third vhdx

Now that we have all three VHDX files attached, we can click OK and start up our virtual machine. This time you should hopefully get a screen with Windows loading!

windows running in hyper v

Configure Networking

Lastly, we need to setup networking for the virtual machine so that you can connect to the local network and to the Internet. To do this, click on Virtual Switch Manager at the top of the right hand menu.

new virtual switch

Click on New virtual network switch and then select External from the list box. Finally, click on Create Virtual Switch.

external virtual switch

Give your virtual switch a name if you like and then choose the correct network from the dropdown box. If you have more than one network card, choose the one that is connected to the network and Internet. Once your switch has been created, we need to tell the virtual machine to use it. To do that, click on the virtual machine in Hyper-V manager and then click on the Settings link in the right pane.

configure network switch

Click on Network Adapter and then choose the new virtual switch that you created in the previous step. That’s it! Now when you start up your virtual machine, it should get network access via the host computer.

Hopefully, this article helps you take your current PC and convert it into a virtual machine that you can run on the same PC or another PC if you like. There are lots of things that can go wrong in this process, so feel free to comment if you run into problems. Enjoy!

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How to Repair Corrupted or Damaged AVI Files

Have you ever downloaded a video and gotten an error message that the file could not be played because it is damaged or corrupt? There are many reasons why a video file could become corrupt ranging from bad sectors on a hard drive to electromagnetic interference to power failures to torrent problems, etc.

Luckily, most damaged AVI or MPG files can be fixed because the problem is normally related to the index. If the index is repaired, then the files can be read by the media player again.

In this article, I’m going to talk about a couple of programs that can help you repair corrupt video files. Note that you might end up with a smaller file or with parts of the video missing when using these tools, so make sure to create a backup of the original file.

wmp encountered a problem

Also, if you end up using multiple tools, make sure to always start off with the original file for each program. Performing multiple repairs on the same video file using different programs could lead to more corruption!

It’s also worth noting that I specifically didn’t mention a couple of programs that you might run across online because of various issues. Digital Video Repair by Rising Research showed up as having malware when I ran it through VirusTotal.

Another program called File Repair that claims it can repair files of all sorts, but it didn’t repair my test AVI file and therefore wasn’t really worth mentioning for this article.

DivFix++

DivFix++ has been around for a long time and does a really good job of repairing AVI and DivX files. Once you download it, go ahead and extract all the files and then run the EXE file.

Click the Add Files button to choose your video file and then click on the Check Errors button to have the program scan to see if there are any issues.

divfix gui

In order to fix the file, go ahead and click on the Fix button. In my instance, it gave me an error count of 0, but the video was still not playable because I purposely messed up the index.

Even so, when I clicked the Fix button, it instantly repaired the file and created a copy because I checked the Keep Original File box. It will output the repaired video in the same directory as the original video file.

fixed video file

I could also tell before I even played the video that the file was repaired because Windows was showing me a thumbnail of the first frame rather than a generic video icon. Go ahead and give this program a shot first because it usually works.

VLC Media Player

If you already have VLC Media Player installed on your computer, then this might be the better option because it has the ability to repair the index for an AVI file.

When you open the damaged file, you’ll get a message asking what you would like to do: Build index then play, Play as is, or Do not play.

vlc fix avi file

If you have a bunch of files that are having this problem, you can have VLC automatically fix the file when it is played by going to Tools and then Preferences. Click on Inputs and Codecs and then choose Always Fix next to Damaged or incomplete AVI file.

inputs and codecs

Now whenever you open a damaged AVI file, it will automatically fix it temporarily and play the video. Note that it does not actually modify the original video file itself, instead it just fixes the issue in memory and plays the file.

Remo Repair AVI

Remo Repair AVI is a free program to download, but will try to charge you a whopping $70 when you go to save your repaired video. This is just a ridiculous price and because of the way the program is currently coded, it can easily be bypassed.

Download the program, install it and then run it. Click the Browse button to select your video file and then click on the big Repair button.

remo repair

Now don’t worry about clicking on Save or Preview because the program has already repaired the file and simply saved it to a hidden folder on the computer.

First, go ahead and open Explorer and configure it so that you can see hidden files and folders in Windows 8 or Windows 10. If you’re running Windows 7, click on Organize and then Folder and Search Options.

folder and search options

Next, click on the View tab and then click on the Show hidden files, folders and drives button.

show hidden files

Now navigate to the following folder on your hard drive:

C:Program Files (x86)Remo Repair AVI 2.0$tp

Here you should see a file called $tp and it should be the same size or very close to your original video file. The file won’t have any extension so it’ll look like a default document.

hidden temp file

Go ahead and copy this file to anywhere you like and then just rename it to anything you like, but make sure to put an .AVI extension to the end. For example, I copied mine to the desktop, right-clicked on it, chose Rename and then typed in MyVideo.avi. BAM! You can now play the repaired video just fine.

Hopefully, one of these three methods will get you a repaired and playable AVI video! If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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