Microsoft says that Windows 10 is now installed on nearly 500 million gadgets worldwide. It appears the gamble of offering free upgrades to existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users seems to have paid off.
Windows 10 has been around long enough that many of the early kinks have been worked out. However, there are still some frustrating issues hanging around.
That’s why you need to know about these five annoying Windows problems and how to fix them.
1. Stop those annoying notifications
Is there anything more frustrating than trying to get some important work done on your computer and bam, you’re distracted by an unnecessary notification? That seems to happen a lot with Windows 10.
Eventually, the pop-up goes away and ends up in the Windows 10 Action Center. You’ll see notices from such things as social media apps, your email, system updates, and even software updates for programs running on your gadget.
If you want to cut down on what notifications you see, you can. There’s a way to make Action Center only show you information that you want to see. Here’s how:
Open the Settings menu >> tap System >> tap Notifications & Actions. Here you will see a menu with a collection of toggles that control how notifications are displayed.
Here you can toggle off tips about Windows, app notifications, alarms, reminders, and incoming VoIP calls on the lock screen, and notifications on the lock screen. There’s even an option to turn off notifications for individual apps. So if you’re getting tons of annoying notifications from a particular app, simply turn them off.
2. Is Windows having trouble updating properly?
Windows 10 is set by default to automatically download and install updates. However, the process doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes updates get stuck in the middle of downloading or fail to install altogether.
Many times this happens because the downloaded files are damaged. When this happens you will need to refresh the update process and begin downloading new files. Here’s how:
On your keyboard, press Windows + E, this will open the File Explorer. Then, tap (C:) >> Windows >> SoftwareDistribution. You will see a folder with a handful of files inside:
Delete all the files inside this folder. Once you’ve finished deleting these files, reboot your PC and then check for updates to download and install.
DNS can be a headache. It’s one of those aspects of website management that can either be a breeze or take days to sort out.
I should know – I recently spent a week trying to transfer a domain name, which eventually involved failed redirects, htaccess editing and the site going down! Luckily it’s fixed now.
But my experience shows that it helps to understand exactly what DNS is, what aspects of domain management do what, and the correct way to go about managing, moving and redirecting your domains.
In this post I’m going to cover everything I believe you need to know about DNS to manage your WordPress site. I’ll define the key terms and give an overview of how to go about doing different things. I’ll include nameservers, MX records, parked domains and lots more.
The first thing to do before you can carry out domain management is register a domain with a domain registrar.
A domain name is a system used by browsers to access a specific IP address. Your website will actually be hosted at an IP address, but by buying a domain name and pointing it at that IP address, anyone typing your domain name into a browser will be taken to that address. This will be done automatically by your provider.
This could be the same as your hosting company or it might not. The domains I manage are all registered with a different company from my hosting provider. This is because over the years I’ve switched hosting providers as my needs have changed, while my domain registration needs haven’t changed. I’ve always preferred to use UK-based domain registrars as most of the domains I buy are .uk ones, and it’s sometimes not possible (or too expensive) to buy those with registrars in the US. But my hosting providers have been based in Ireland and the US – although I now use SiteGround in the UK.
Most people will have their domains and hosting with the same provider. This makes sense, especially if your hosting provider gives you a free domain with your hosting package. It also means you’ve got only one provider to deal with. But if you experience problems with one or the other, it can help if they’re separate.
For example, last year my old hosting provider was taken over and their service went downhill fast. For a month I couldn’t access my hosting account. A whole month! Luckily because my domains were registered elsewhere, I was able to access those and direct them to a new hosting provider. It was a headache, but not as bad as it could have been.
So whether you keep your domains and hosting together or separate is up to you. If you’re just managing one site, I suggest doing both with the one provider – it’ll be cheaper and easier.
Managing Domains with Your Registrar
Once you’ve bought a domain, you’ll have access to DNS via your provider’s website. DNS stands for Domain Name System, and it’s the tools you use to control where your domain points to.
Before you buy a domain name, check that your registrar gives you full DNS access. Some of the bigger or cheaper providers don’t. I believe every website owner should have full access to all the tools they need to manage their domain, hosting and website – so I strongly recommend you avoid providers like these.
When you access your provider’s DNS management interface, you’ll have a few options. These are the ones you’re most likely to use:
Nameservers – use this to point your domain at another provider. This redirects everything: website, email, FTP – everything. I add custom nameservers to my domains because I have my hosting with a different provider. If you don’t change the nameservers, they’ll default to your registrar’s servers. This is what you need if you also have your hosting with them, so you won’t need to change anything.
A record – by editing the A record, you can direct your domain at an IP address. Use this if you want to direct your domain to an IP address other than the one provided by your domain registrar. It only affects the website, not any email accounts on that domain.
CNAME – the CNAME record works in a similar way to the A record but instead of typing in an IP address, you use a domain name. So you would use this to direct your domain to another domain. An example might be if you’ve registered a .com and a .net address (or a local address such as .co.uk) and want to redirect one to the other.
MX record – this specifies the server where you have your email hosted. I always use Gmail for email with my own domain, rather than hosting it at the same place as the website.
All of these can be edited via your registrar’s system, and some can also be edited via cPanel. I recommend using cPanel where possible as it gives you more flexibility.
Redirecting, Adding and Parking Domains
For most website owners, you’ll keep your domain on the servers provided by your registrar and hosting company, and won’t need to make any changes. But if you have multiple domains pointing to the same site, you’re using a different hosting provider and registrar or you’re using WordPress Multisite with Domain Mapping, you’ll need to know how to redirect your domain(s).
Changing the Nameservers
If your website isn’t hosted with your domain registrar, you’ll need to set custom nameservers. Each domain registrar will have a different interface for doing this; my registrar has a dedicated page for each domain that I access via my client area.
Your hosting provider will give you details of the nameservers you should use when you create your account with them: there will be at least two.
How to take control of Windows 10 updates and upgrades (even if you don’t own a business)
Just upgraded to the latest Windows 10? Our to-do list
This article has been extensively updated to incorporate changes in Windows 10. The most recent update was January 17, 2018.
Microsoft delivered Windows Update for Business (a layer of configuration options that controls the free Windows Update service) as part of the very first feature update to Windows 10 four months after its initial 2015 release.
Since then, this much-needed feature has evolved steadily. It allows IT pros to set update policies for an organization. Using settings not available on consumer Windows editions, they can defer and delay updates and upgrades until they’ve been proven safe and reliable.
With the help of Windows Update for Business, you can delay receiving Patch Tuesday updates for up to 30 days. If you’d rather wait a week or two to ensure that an update won’t cause problems on a mission-critical PC, you can set a deferral period of, say, 14 days, giving yourself two weeks to monitor feedback from other users before the update automatically installs.
In addition, you can defer so-called feature updates (the twice yearly major version upgrades) by about four months by opting to wait until Microsoft declares that update ready for widespread deployment; you can add up to 365 days of additional deferral time after Microsoft makes a feature update available to your servicing channel in Windows Update.
Originally, all of these deferral options required the use of Group Policy settings, which are designed for network administrators to manage large groups of machines using Active Directory on a Windows domain.
You can use those same Group Policy settings on your own unmanaged PC, with no domain required, by using the Local Group Policy Editor (Gpedit.msc).
As of Windows 10 version 1709 (the Fall Creators Update), the task gets even simpler, with most Windows Update for Business options now available in the Settings app.
Windows Update for Business requires a PC or device that supports Group Policy, which means you need Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education. The device also needs to be configured for the Current Branch for Business. Neither option is available for PCs running Windows 10 Home, where all updates are automatic.
If you meet those requirements, follow these steps to get started.
Using the Windows 10 Settings app
On Windows 10 version 1709, you’ll find all of the Windows Update for Business options by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Under theChoose when updates are installed heading, you should see these three settings.
Here’s what each of these settings does:
From the first drop-down list, choose a “branch readiness level.” By default, this is Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted), previously known as Current Branch. This setting gives you feature updates as soon as Microsoft releases them to Windows Update. Choose Semi-Annual Channel (equivalent to the former Current Branch for Business) if you want to wait until Microsoft declares the feature update ready for widespread deployment. Typically, this is approximately four months after the update is initially released.
From the second drop-down list, choose an additional deferral time, up to 365 days, for feature updates. This deferral period applies to the servicing channel you chose in the previous setting. The default is 0.
From the last drop-down list, choose a deferral period of up to 30 days for quality updates such as those delivered each month on Patch Tuesday. Here, too, the default is 0.
It’s worth noting that these settings delay the automatic installation of updates. You can override them at any time by installing updates manually.
Using Group Policy
If you are running Windows 10 version 1703 or earlier, or if you are managing a large number of devices on a Windows domain, you can apply Windows Update for Business settings using Group Policy.
In an enterprise deployment, you’ll do all of the following with the Group Policy Editor or with Mobile Device Management software.
If you’re working with your personal PC or managing a small number of devices on a network that doesn’t have Active Directory, get started by opening the Local Group Policy Editor, Gpedit.msc. (If that instruction is confusing, you should stop right now. Seriously.)
Navigate through the Local Computer Policy tree in the left pane: Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update.
These settings have changed significantly over time. In Windows 10 version 1703, there’s an additional subfolder called Defer Windows Updates. In version 1709 and later, the subfolder is called Windows Update for Business.
In either version, you have separate options to defer feature updates and quality updates. Although the wording is slightly different depending on the version you’re running, the specific policy settings are the same. Here’s an example of what you’ll see if you choose Select when Preview Builds and Feature Updates are received in version 1709.
Double-click a single setting from this list to open a dialog box where you can define policies for the current PC. The Group Policy options let you do everything I described in the previous section using the Settings app in version 1709. (It also includes options to configure devices for different Windows Insider Preview rings.)
If you’re not experienced with Group Policy, note that for your update and upgrade schedules to be honored, you have to change this policy setting to Enabled. Set it to Disabled (or back to Not Configured) to restore default Windows 10 update settings.
Regardless of which method you choose, the end result is the same. If you set the delay for quality updates to one or two weeks, you can then watch carefully after each batch of Patch Tuesdayupdates arrives. If there are no problems, your updates install after the general public has tested them for you. Setting the “Delay updates” value to 30 days effectively puts you a month behind the general population.
If you discover that a pending update is potentially troublesome and you want to prevent it from installing after your deferred installation date, you can use the Pause button. In Windows 10 version 1709, this setting is below the Windows Update for Business settings, under the Pause Updates heading. Slide that switch to On and the updates will be blocked for another 35 days.
Using the Local Group Policy Editor, click the Pause Quality Updates starting check box and enter today’s date. This action effectively blocks all updates or upgrades; the machine will remain paused until you specifically clear the Pause check box (or reverse the associated policy). You can’t delay forever, though; after 35 days, updates resume automatically installing.
Note that definition updates for Microsoft’s security programs cannot be deferred. (If you install a non-Microsoft security program, its update controls take over and Microsoft’s definitions are not downloaded.)
Ironically, one Group Policy option available only in Enterprise and Education editions causes these settings to be completely ignored. If Allow Telemetry is set to 0 (that is, set to the lowest possible level), then Windows Update for Business settings have no effect.
There’s no shortage of confusing terminology in the computer biz. With the advent of malicious software, more terminology has been created that only make things less clear.
The good news is that it’s not really that difficult; in fact, you needn’t understand most of the details (besides, not everyone agrees on theexactmeaning of each definition).
Let’s run down a few terms.
The most important term to know ismalware, which is short formalicious software.
The name says it all: malware is any software that has malicious intent — destroy data, send spam, hold your data for ransom, steal your information — it doesn’t matter. It’s all malicious, it’s all software; thus, it’s all malware.
You’ll findmalwareused as a catch-all term for all flavors and varieties of software that intend some kind of harm.
In the human body, avirusis an organism that replicates, or makes copies of, itself and overwhelms the body’s defenses, making it sick.
When applied to computers, the term “virus” is very similar.
A computer virus replicates itself in some way so as to spread within the computer, usually injecting itself into other programs within the computer.
A computer virus makes the infected computer “sick”. In the computer sense, “sick” can mean poor performance, crashes, lost files and data, or more.
Very technically, the termvirusdoes not necessarily imply that a piece of malicious software will replicate itself to other systems. In general use, it’s assumed.
Spywareis a type of malicious software intended not to do damage, but to collect information, or “spy”, on you. Spyware might monitor and report back on your browsing habits and the programs you run, or access and send other information stored on your machine. One canonical form of spyware is the keystroke logger, which, as its name implies, records your keystrokes (and often more) and uploads this information to a third party.
Awormis a program that replicates itself to other computers. It does so by infecting media, such as USB drives, that make contact with multiple systems, transmitting itself over a network somehow, or otherwise copying itself from one computer to another.
Very technically, again, the termwormdoes not necessarily imply malicious intent or behavior, other than the replication. In practice, malicious intent is generally assumed.
ATrojan horse— often just a “trojan” — is a program that claims to be one thing but is, in fact, another. It uses that deception to gain access to a system that would not be given, were the true intent known.
A trojan horse is not a virus per se, but it may carry them. For example, there are trojans that claim to be patches for various problems, but instead (or in addition) install malware. Software obtained from manydownload sitesis often a type of trojan, using the promise of the software that is desired to install additional malicious software that is not.
I think ofphishingas a kind of email-based trojan horse. It’s email thatlookslike it comes from some official site, such as your bank, PayPal, or eBay, but actually comes from someonepretendingto be them. They typically use some technique to fool you into thinking they are an official site of some sort, so you hand over sensitive information, like your username and password. Once you do so, they steal your other information, often leading to hacked accounts, identity theft, or worse.
Regardless of the terms used, protect yourself
The terms are important, but they’re less important than being aware that malicious software — malware — exists, and taking the steps you need to take to keep yourself safe.
We shouldn’t have to, of course. Hackers shouldn’t exist, and operating systems and other software should be designed to perfectly protect us. The pragmatic reality, however, is that it remains our responsibility to keep our guard up.
What does that mean? — it all boils down to using common sense, keeping your software as up-to-date as possible, and running up-to-date anti-malware tools regularly.