Online Tech Tips 2016-01-14 11:56:55

Back in the days, I wrote an article on how to clear the recent items list in Windows. If you added the Recent Items option to the Start Menu, you or anyone else could see all the files you recently opened!

If you’re a privacy freak who doesn’t want someone else to see what kind of documents you’ve been opening, clearing this list is essential! However, starting with Windows 7, there was a new feature introduced called a Jump List. You can read my previous post to understand how Jump Lists work.

With Jump Lists, that functionality basically moved from the Start Menu to the taskbar in Windows 8 and Windows 10! For example, if you open several Word documents and then right-click on the Word icon in the taskbar, you’ll see the following list:

clear windows 7 jumplists

It’s even worse for something like a web browser. When I right-clicked on the Chrome icon in my taskbar, I was surprised to see a list of my most visited sites and recently closed tabs!

chrome jumplist

If no one else uses your computer, that’s fine, but otherwise it’s like a quick peek into your personal stuff! Obviously, Microsoft created this feature for convenience purposes, so you could easily open a web page you visit very often or file that you had recently worked on.

Each program has to individually support this feature in order to see the list. If a program doesn’t support Jump Lists, you won’t see anything when you right-click on the icon.

Clearing Individual Jump List Items

Now when it comes to removing items in the Jump List, there are a couple of ways to go about it. Firstly, let’s start with removing individual items from the list. An easy way to get rid of one item is to just right-click on the item and choose Remove from this list.

remove jumplist items

Obviously, that’s just for clearing a small number of items. If you remove all of the items, you have to configure a setting in Windows. The procedure for doing this is different depending on what version of Windows you are using. I’ll show you how to do it in Windows 7 and Windows 10.

Turn Off Jump Lists in Windows 7

To prevent Windows from storing and displaying a list of recent items in the taskbar, you first need to right-click on the taskbar and choose Properties.

right click properties

Now click on the Start Menu tab and then uncheck the Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar box.

store recent items

Click OK and all the data stored for recently opened items will be deleted. Now when you right-click on any program in the taskbar, no personal data will show up. Note that this is a good way to wipe out all the stored data and start from scratch.

If you want, you can check the box again and it will begin to store recently opened items, but from a clean slate. Obviously, just leave it unchecked if you never want Windows to store your history.

Turn Off Jump Lists in Windows 10

In Windows 10, the procedure has changed. If you right-click on the taskbar and go to Properties, you’ll see there isn’t even a Start Menu tab anymore.

For Windows 10, you have to click on Start and then Settings first. Then click on Personalization.

personalization

Click on Start in the left-hand menu and then click on the Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the taskbar toggle button so that it says Off.

jump lists windows 10

Manually Clear Jump Lists

All recent items in any Jump List are stored by Windows in a hidden location, which you can get to in Windows 7 or higher by browsing to the following folder location in Explorer:

%APPDATA%MicrosoftWindowsRecentAutomaticDestinations

Copy and paste that into Windows Explorer and press enter. Now you will see a list of files with very long and convoluted names. This is because all the Jump Lists are encoded. Each file represents a list of recent items for a particular programs’ Jump List.

stored jump lists

It’s impossible to tell which entries go with which Jump Lists unless you open the file in a text editor and browse through it. However, since all of the files are just recent items in a Jump List, you can delete all the files and it will clear all recent items on all Jump Lists.

Those are all the different ways you can clear the list of recent items from a Jump List in Windows. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Remove Stuck Entries from Programs and Features

Sometimes even after you’ve uninstalled a program, its entry will remain listed in the Add or Remove Programs or Programs and Features list under currently installed programs in the Control Panel.

This is usually caused by a badly written program that doesn’t properly uninstall itself. The entry is not removed from the registry and therefore remains in the list. If you try to uninstall it again, you’ll most likely just get an error message.

Newer versions of Windows will detect this problem and actually ask you if you want to remove the entry, which is nice. However, if you’re still running Windows 7 or Vista or XP, you’ll still run into this problem.

uninstall a program

Remove Stuck Programs – Registry

Luckily, there is an easy way to manually remove these stuck entries from the list. It requires some registry editing, so be sure to make a backup of your registry first in case you mess something up.

To open the registry, click on Start and type in regedit. Now navigate to the following registry key and expand it.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall

You’ll see quite a few entries listed, some of which have friendly names and some that have a really long identifier.

registry entries

You can easily identify the programs with the long identifier by just clicking on it and looking for DisplayName at the right. In the above example, you can see one of them is for a program called VMware Tools.

Find the program that is stuck in your program list and then right-click on it in the left-hand menu and choose Delete.

delete registry entry

Now you might be wondering why all the programs you have listed under Programs and Features are not showing up under this registry key? The reason is because you might have 32-bit programs installed on a 64-bit version of Windows.

For all of these programs, you need to navigate to the following registry key where you will probably find a lot more entries:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREWow6432NodeMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall

Here, for example, you will find all the entries for Java, if you have that installed. You’ll also find a bunch of entries for Microsoft Office, if you have the 32-bit version installed. Again, just right-click on the entry and choose Delete to remove it.

Lastly, if the program was installed via a .MSI package, which might be the case in corporate environments, you also should check this registry key:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTInstallerProducts

You’ll need to restart your computer and then open up the list of programs in Control Panel to see the changes. It should hopefully be gone.

Microsoft Fix It Solution

If you don’t want to mess around with the registry yourself, Microsoft has a free Fix It tool you can download that specifically deals with this issue of programs that cannot be completely uninstalled.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/mats/program_install_and_uninstall

The program will run on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.1. It does not work on Windows 10, but hopefully you should never have this issue on Windows 10.

microsoft fix it

Third-Party Tools

Finally, there is one other way to go about fixing this problem and that is using third-party tools. One of my favorite programs for cleaning up the registry is CCleaner because it’s super safe to use. It’s actually the only program I recommend for fixing problems in the Windows registry.

ccleaner

Hopefully, using one of the methods above, you will be able to clear out any entries that were refusing to go away! If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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How to Replace Notepad in Windows with Alternatives

I’ve previously written about some of the best alternatives to Notepad for Windows, but I didn’t mention anything about replacing Notepad altogether. Personally, I find Notepad to be really useful because you can paste heavily formatted text into it and copy out clean non-formatted text.

However, if you never do that and only use Notepad when Windows forces you to, i.e. opening a text document, maybe replacing Notepad with something else will make you more productive. Unfortunately, the procedure to truly replace Notepad is quite long and tedious. I don’t think the benefits outweigh the cost of following the procedure for most people.

An easier way to semi-replace Notepad is to download a Notepad alternative and then just set the new program as the default program for certain file types. Basically, you would go to the Set File Associations dialog and just change all the ones currently defaulted to Notepad. You could also change any other extension to open with your new Notepad alternative.

set file associations

This is obviously a lot easier and a lot safer. That being said, I’m still going to walk you through the steps for actually replacing Notepad with a different program in case that’s really what you want to do.

Before we get into the procedure, you have to check the alternative program to make sure it works all by itself. Firstly, you have to download the non-installer version of the program. For example, if you decide to use Notepad2, first make sure to download the 32-bit or 64-bit program files, not the setup.

notepad2

Unzip the files and you should have a folder with some files, one being the Application file (EXE). Go ahead and copy that one file to your desktop and see if you can run the program.

copy file to desktop

If the program runs without any errors from the desktop, you can use it to replace Notepad. A program like Notepad++ has a bunch of file and folder dependencies and when you copy the EXE file to the desktop, it raises a bunch of errors. So we won’t be able to use that to replace Notepad. Remember, don’t download the setup or installer program when you choose an alternative.

Replace Notepad in Windows

So the first thing you have to figure out is whether you have 32-bit or 64-bit Windows. You can do this by going to Explorer, This PC and then clicking on the C drive where Windows is installed. If you see two folders, Program Files and Program Files (x86), that means you have a 64-bit version of Windows.

64 bit windows

You can also just click on Start, type in System, press Enter and then check to see what is listed under System Type.

windows system type

In order to replace Notepad, we have to replace the Notepad executable file that is stored in a couple of different locations in Windows. If you have 32-bit Windows, it’s just two locations. For 64-bit Windows, it’s three locations.

C:Windows
C:WindowsSystem32
C:WindowsSysWOW64 - Only 64-bit Windows

Now we have to go through all of the above locations and delete the notepad.exe file. The procedure is the same for each file, so I’ll only show you once and then you’ll have to do it yourself for the other two.

Navigate to C:Windows and scroll down till you see Notepad. Now right-click on Notepad and choose Properties.

notepad properties

Now click on the Security tab and then click on the Advanced button at the bottom.

security advanced

At the top, click on the Change button next to the Owner. The owner for this file should be TrustedInstaller. If you are running Windows 7, click on the Owner tab and then click the Edit button.

change owner

In the box that appears, go ahead and type in the word administrators and then click on Check Names. It should format it properly with the computer name in front.

check names

Click OK and you should see that the owner now says Administrators instead of TrustedInstaller. In Windows 7, you don’t have to type in anything. You should see Administrators listed at the bottom, so just select that and click OK.

Now you have to exit all of the security screens by clicking OK. Make sure you don’t click Cancel. You should have to click OK twice, once to exit the Advanced Security Settings screen and once to exit Properties screen for notepad.exe. You should be back to your Explorer window.

Go ahead and right-click on notepad.exe again and choose Properties. Click on the Security tab again, but this time click on the Edit button.

edit security properties

Click on Administrators in the list of groups and users and then check the box under Allow for Full Control in the permissions box at the bottom.

add permissions

Now click OK to close the Permissions screen. You might get a popup saying you are changing permissions and this could reduce the security of your computer. Just click Yes to continue. Then click OK again to close the Notepad Properties dialog.

Again, you’ll be back to the Explorer window. Now you should be able to right-click on the notepad.exe file and delete it. Now take your replacement notepad application file and copy it to the C:Windows folder.

copy notepad2

Note that if you have a 64-bit version of Windows, you should copy the 64-bit version of the program. This is not a requirement and if the program doesn’t have a 64-bit version, you can use the 32-bit version and it’ll still work.

You’ll also get a dialog saying Folder Access Denied, but just click Continue and the file will be copied. Now go ahead and rename the file to notepad. Note that you do not have to type in notepad.exe because Windows hides application extensions by default.

rename file

When you rename the file to notepad, you’ll also see that the icon gets replaced with the regular Notepad icon. Don’t worry, the program is still your Notepad alternative, but Windows changes the icon because this is a system folder and Notepad is a system program.

Now you have to go do this one more time in C:WindowsSystem32 if you have a 32-bit version of Windows or two more times (C:WindowsSystem32 and C:WindowsSysWOW64) in you have a 64-bit version of Windows.

The first time takes a bit of time, but the second and third time go by really fast. Once all the original files have been replaced, you can click on Start, type in notepad and then press Enter. Instead of the normal Windows Notepad loading, you should now see your replacement program.

You might get a warning saying that the publisher of this program could not be verified the first time you run it. This is because Windows checks the signature of the EXE file and knows it is not the original file. In this case, just uncheck the Always ask before opening this file box and click Run.

security dialog

Now when you run it again, it should just open fine without any dialog.

notepad replaced

That’s about it! Overall, it works well and you can choose from several different Notepad alternatives when performing these steps. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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What is BD-R, BD-RE, BD-XL and Ultra HD Blu-ray?

Even though most people still have CD and DVD burner drives in their computers, you’ve probably bought a movie that is in Blu-ray format. Due to the cost, you’ll only see Blu-ray drives installed on custom PCs or on higher-end machines from companies like Dell or HP.

If you like watching movies on your computer and you have a high-end monitor, then it might be worth the extra cost. However, most people spend money on more expensive HDTVs and therefore most Blu-ray discs you’ll buy today are for movies. Most Blu-ray players are stand-alone devices or they are bundled with gaming consoles.

If you want to start using Blu-ray discs to store large amounts of data physically, then your best option is to simply buy an external Blu-ray burner online. You can get a decent Blu-ray burner that can write at 14X speed for around $50 on Amazon. These cheaper ones will let you burn 25 GB and 50 GB discs. If you spend a little more (around $110), you can get an external Blu-ray burner that supports BD-XL discs, which go up to a whopping 128 GBs.

blu ray disc

In this article, I’ll talk about the different Blu-ray formats and some of their technical specs. Blu-ray discs are a great way to quickly and cheaply backup large amounts of data that would otherwise require a really large cloud storage plan or large external hard drive.

After I bought an HD camcorder back in 2010, I suddenly had hundreds of gigabytes of data sitting on my computer. The first solution was to copy all that data to a 2 TB external hard drive. That worked great and I still do that, but one of my external hard drives failed and I lost a lot of video. Storing all that data in the cloud was too expensive and slow, so I started burning Blu-ray discs.

The great thing about discs is that they won’t fail on you if you take care of them. As long as they don’t get crushed, my data will be safely stored on those discs for a very long time. It’s just another way to keep your data backed up in case of hard drive crashes, which still happen more often than you would think.

Another great reason to buy them is for watching your movie collection on your HDTV. If you have a Xbox One or PS4 console, you can burn your movies onto a Blu-ray disc and play them directly. This is actually a lot easier than trying to stream your content from your computer or NAS to your HDTV, which requires a gigabit connection between all your devices.

BD-R, BD-RE and BD DL

When Blu-ray first came out, there were really only two types of discs: write and rewriteable. BD-R discs are write-only and BD-RE are rewriteable. The standard size for these discs are 25 GB and they only have one layer. These cost about $1 per disc.

bd r disc

After a while, the dual layer Blu-ray discs started to appear. Just like dual layer DVDs, these Blu-ray discs could hold double the amount of data as regular discs or 50 GB in this case. These discs are significantly more expensive at more than $2 per disc.

bd r dl

A BD-RE DL (50GB and rewriteable) disc is even more expensive coming in at around $3 per disc. So how long does it take to burn one of these Blu-ray discs? Well, it all depends on the speed of your burner and the size of the disc. Here is a chart from Wikipedia:

bd drive speeds

BD-XL TL, BD-XL QL, and BD-XL DS TL

Now let’s get to the newer stuff where the really big sizes start to come in. In 2010, BD-XL discs were announced and they come in two flavors: triple layer (TL) and quadruple layer (QL). A BD-XL TL disc can hold up to 100 GB of data and a BD-XL QL disc maxes out at 128 GB.

bd xl

Along with the bigger size comes a bigger price! The BD-XL TL discs start around $10 per disc. It doesn’t seem like the QL discs ever gained any traction because I can’t even find a place that sells them. Seems like the 100 GB discs are the most popular when talking about BD-XL.

BD-XL DS (double-sided) TL is another specification that has been approved by the Blu-ray Disc Association, which will support up to 200 GB, but it will only be cost-effective for commercial uses like data centers, cloud computing, etc.

For consumers, the most you can get with Blu-ray is a BD-XL burner and a BD-XL TL disc, which can store up to 100 GB. That’s still a lot of data on one disc!

Ultra HD 4K BD-ROM

Lastly, the Blu-ray Disc Association announced at the end of 2015 that new 4K Blu-ray disc format will support Ultra HD 4K video up to 60 frames per second. If you haven’t heard about UHD yet, Google it.

Basically, 4K TVs are selling like crazy nowadays, but you might have come across a few that are saying to hold off until 4K UDH sets become available. That’s because these new 4K TVs will support high dynamic range, which allows them to show more colors, more details, and better highlights.

Unfortunately, these high dynamic range 4K sets aren’t coming until 2016 and will most likely be way more expensive than your $700 Vizio 4K set. However, according to the people who have seen it, 4K with high dynamic range makes a significant difference over 1080p, whereas a lot of people say that it’s hard to see the difference between a current 4K set and 1080p, especially on TVs less than 65 inches in size.

Of course, you’ll have to blow up a lot of money. In order to enjoy this awesome resolution, you’ll need a 4K TV with high dynamic range, a native 4K Blu-ray player coming in 2016 and the new 4K UDH Blu-ray discs, arriving on March 1st, 2016.

blu ray 4k uhd

There are currently 4K Blu-ray players on the market, but they are not native 4K, meaning that they simply take a 1080p signal and upscale it to 4K. A native 4K player will set you back at least $400 to $600 in 2016, but will offer true 4K resolution (as long as you buy the new 4K Blu-ray UHD discs too).

Hopefully, this gives you a little more background into Blu-ray technology and where it is going. For most people, it’ll apply to their movies and TV sets, but also for those who own Blu-ray disc drives on their computers. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Lost or Forgot Administrator Password in Windows?

It’s happened to all of us at some point or another: you go to log onto your computer and you type in the password and you get a Password Incorrect message. You try again and it doesn’t work. Then you type it in really slowly to make sure you didn’t mess up any character and it still doesn’t work!

You’ve forgotten your password! It’s never fun forgetting a password, especially if you have a lot of important data on your computer. Luckily, there are tools and methods that allow you to get access to your data without ever needing to know what the original password was.

In this article, I’m going to talk about the different ways I have learned to regain access to a local account in Windows. Note that there is really no easy solution to this problem; you will have to open command prompts, type strange things and pray a lot.

If you are using a Microsoft account, it’s actually a lot easier to reset your password! Just visit the Windows Live password reset page and follow the instructions.

Windows 7 & Windows 8.1 Reset Password

There are actually two ways you can go about resetting a password for a user account in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Both methods work on both operating systems, which is really convenient. The first method uses the Windows 7 or 8.1 installation DVD and the second method involves using a third-party tool. If you don’t have your install CD/DVD, then use the second method.

Method 1 – Windows DVD

Go ahead and grab your installation disc for Windows 7 or 8.1 and pop it into your CD/DVD drive. Restart your computer and boot up from the disc. Note that you might have to change the boot order in your BIOS before the system will boot from the disc.

repair computer

For Windows 7, the first screen will make you pick your language, keyboard, etc. Just leave those as default and click Next. For Windows 8, it will be similar. On the next screen, you’ll see a Repair your computer link at the bottom. Click on that link.

use recovery tools

On the next screen for Windows 7, System Recovery options should find your Windows 7 install. Click on the Use recovery tools radio button and then click Next.

command prompt

Finally, click on Command Prompt to open the command prompt. For Windows 8, after you click on Repair your computer, you’ll need to click on Troubleshoot.

windows 8 troubleshoot

Next, click on Advanced Options at the bottom.

windows 8 advanced options

Finally, click on Command Prompt at the far right.

windows 8 command prompt

Now you should be at the command prompt whether you were using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Now we have to type in two simple commands.

copy files

copy c:windowssystem32sethc.exe c:
copy c:windowssystem32cmd.exe c:windowssystem32sethc.exe

Don’t worry about what the commands do, just hope they work. If you get an error message like cannot find the path, etc., then use a different drive letter than C. For example, type in the same commands, but replace C: anywhere with D:. I had this problem on Windows 8.1 and using D: fixed it. Close the command prompt windows and choose Continue if using Windows 8.1.

Now you can go ahead and reboot your computer and don’t boot to the DVD. Actually, after you run the commands, you can take out the disc and then reboot. When you get to the Windows login screen, go ahead and press the SHIFT key 5 times.

shift key reset password

A command prompt box should pop up on top of the login screen in Windows 7 and 8.1. Here you have to type in one final command to reset the password for the user account:

net user "User Name" newpassword

Note that you don’t need to use the quotes if the username is just one word like John. Since my username is two words, I had to use the quotes. The password can be anything you like. Once you have done this, close the command prompt window and type in your new password to log into your account! It works!

Method 2 – Third-Party Tool

If you don’t have a Windows installation DVD, you can download a free tool called Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor. Scroll down to the section that says Download and choose either the ISO image or the USB install. If you can boot your computer from a USB stick, that would be easier since you have to burn the ISO image to a CD/DVD if you download that.

download tool

Again, you’ll have to change the boot order on your computer in order to boot from CD/DVD or USB drive. When you boot up to this tool, you’ll see the following screen. This method is definitely a little more technical-looking, but it’s really not hard. Mostly, you just have to press Enter.

step 1

On this screen, just press Enter. You’ll see a bunch of stuff scroll across the screen and then it’ll end with a prompt for Step 1, which is to choose the installation. It should find this for you automatically and will have Select:[1] at the bottom. Just press Enter here also.

select 1

For Step 2, it will ask you to choose which part of the registry you want to load. In our case, it’s the Password reset [sam] option, which is 1 and already selected. So again, just press Enter.

password reset

For Step 3, you have to choose which hive to work on. Again, the option we need, Edit user data and passwords, is 1, so just press Enter again. Like I said, it looks scary, but mostly it’s pressing Enter.

step 3

Finally, at step 4, we actually have to type in something. Here, we need to select the username that we want to clear the password for. Instead of typing the username itself, type in the RID value that is listed to the left of the desired username.

step 4 choose username

In my case, the RID associated with my user name (Aseem Kishore) was 03e8. So I typed 03e8 and pressed Enter.

step 5 clear password

Now, you’ll be asked what you want to do with that user. The first option is Clear (blank) user password, so type in 1 and then press Enter. This time around make sure you actually type in the number 1 instead of just pressing Enter. It should be very fast and you’ll see some stuff written that won’t make any sense. Don’t worry about all of that, just look for Password Cleared written somewhere. If you don’t see if, don’t worry, just keep going.

step 6 save data

We have one last thing to do before we are done. At the prompt, go ahead and type in q to quit and then type in q again to quit one more time. After the second time you type in q, you’ll see that it says Step 4 – Writing back changes. Here you have to type y to write the changes.

edit complete

You should make sure that it says EDIT COMPLETE. This means that everything was written correctly. When it asks you if you want to do another run, type in n for no. Now you can restart your computer by pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE. You may need to remove the CD/DVD or USB stick in order to boot to Windows normally.

That’s about it. If everything worked OK, you should be able to login into Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 without a password!

Windows 10 Reset Password

The procedure for Windows 10 is very similar to that of Windows 8, but requires slightly different commands. To get started, follow the instructions I have above for Method 1 under Windows 7 and 8.1 until you get to the command prompt. Follow the directions for Windows 8.1 as those are the same for Windows 10.

Once you get to the command prompt, type in the following commands:

windows 10

move d:windowssystem32utilman.exe d:windowssystem32utilman.exe.bak
copy d:windowssystem32cmd.exe d:windowssystem32utilman.exe

Close the command prompt and then click on the Continue button to load Windows normally. Go ahead and take out the CD/DVD or USB drive before you reboot. At the login screen, you have to click on the ease of access icon at the bottom. This will pop up a command prompt window.

windows 10 ease of access

Now at the command prompt window, we use the same command like we used for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Windows 10 reset password

net user username newpassword

Again, you’ll need to use quotes around the username if it is more than one word. For example, if the user name is Aseem Kishore, you would type in:

net user "Aseem Kishore" newpassword

Now close the command prompt window and simply type in your new password and you will be logged into Windows 10! It’s amazing that this trick works, but I tested it out and it worked like a charm.

Hopefully, this will get you back into your Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 computer. Note that if you don’t have an installation DVD, you can download them from Microsoft. Check out my previous post on downloading Windows 7, 8 and 10 legally. If you have any questions, post a comment. Enjoy!

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