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6 Easy Ways to Boost Security in Microsoft Defender and Windows 10

Windows 10’s built-in security software frequently beats paid antivirus programs in independent tests. It recently scored 100 percent from security-research laboratory AV-Test and is arguably all you now need to protect your PC from malware.

Now called Microsoft Defender (rather than Windows Defender), it’s a deceptively simple set of tools that mostly works in the background. Dig into Defender’s settings, however, and you’ll find powerful features that can increase your PC’s protection against the latest threats. We’ll explain how to unlock them.

1. Detect and Remove Hidden Malware

By default, Microsoft Defender's Antivirus component performs a Quick scan of your system every day. This checks only the folders in which threats are most commonly found.

To run a scan manually, either go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security or type security in the Start Menu search bar and select the Best Match. Select Virus & threat protection and click Quick scan.

To scan more thoroughly, click Scan options and choose Full scan, which checks every file and program on your PC. Alternatively, select Custom scan, which lets you check specific files and folders for malware.

If you suspect your system is infected, but the other scans don’t find anything, select Microsoft Defender Offline Scan. This targets malware that’s difficult to detect, such as rootkits.

Offline Scan works by rebooting into a safe environment to perform a scan outside of Windows, where hidden malware is unable to run. Save your work before choosing this option, then click Scan now > Scan, and your PC will restart.

The scan takes up to 15 minutes. Don’t panic if your screen goes black for a few seconds, as this is normal. If any malware is found, you’ll be prompted to remove it, but otherwise, your PC will boot back into Windows once the scan is complete.

2. Protect Your Files From Ransomware

Ransomware can cause serious problems on your PC, encrypting your files and folders and demanding payment to unlock them with no guarantee that the decryptor will work.

It’s strange then that Defender’s ransomware protection is switched off by default, presumably to stop legitimate programs from being blocked. Fortunately, the feature is easy to enable.

On the Virus & threat protection screen, scroll down to Ransomware protection and click Manage ransomware protection.

Click the switch under Controlled folder access to turn the option on. This will protect your Pictures, Documents, Videos, Music, and Desktop folders, but you can supplement these by clicking Protected folders, then Add a protected folder.

You can’t remove protection from pre-selected folders, but you can let specific programs access them by clicking Allow an app through controlled folder access.

Related: 7 Ways to Avoid Being Hit by Ransomware

3. Automatically Block the Latest Malware

Microsoft Defender offers real-time protection against malware, detecting and blocking known threats using constantly updated virus definitions.

It also safeguards your system against threats that have yet to be identified through a feature called Cloud-delivered protection, formerly known as Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS). This uploads details of suspicious files to Microsoft, to determine whether they’re safe.

The feature is enabled by default, but it’s worth checking in case it’s been turned off by another security program or hidden malware. You should see a warning if this is the case.

On the Virus & threat protection screen, click Manage settings under Virus & threat protection settings and switch on Cloud-delivered protection if it’s not already active.

You should also turn on Automatic sample submission to submit suspicious files to Microsoft for further analysis. This may sound like a privacy risk, but it will only upload program files automatically. If a file could contain personal information, you’ll be asked for permission before it’s sent.

If Microsoft detects that a file is dangerous, it will be blocked not only on your PC but also on other Microsoft Defender users' systems. Think of it as doing your bit for the security community.

4. Block Unrecognized and Unwanted Apps

The May 2020 Update added protection against potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) to Windows Security (in the past, blocking this junk required using a PowerShell command) to complement its existing SmartScreen feature.

To ensure these tools are offering maximum protection, select App & browser control in Windows Security. Click Turn on under Reputation-based protection if prompted, then click Reputation-based protection settings.

The Check apps and files option uses Microsoft Defender SmartScreen to stop unrecognized and untrustworthy programs running on your PC. Although it sometimes blocks legitimate software (which you can choose to run anyway), this should be enabled. However, unless you use Edge, the second SmartScreen option can be switched off.

Under Potentially unwanted app blocking, ensure that Block apps and Block downloads are both selected to prevent bundled junk from being installed alongside other software.

Related: How to Install Windows Software Without the Junk

5. Configure Defender’s Firewall Settings

Windows Defender Firewall automatically blocks incoming and outgoing security threats, so long as it’s properly configured. Click Firewall & network protection in Windows Security and ensure that the Domain, Private, and Public options are all switched on.

The firewall uses "rules" against which all internet traffic is checked. To define your own rules, click Advanced settings and select either Inbound Rules to control data coming into your PC or Outbound Rules to manage data heading out to the network and internet.

You can block specific ports to protect against risky types of web traffic, for example, port 21, which manages file transfers (FTP):

  • Select Inbound Rules and, in the right-hand sidebar, click New Rule.
  • In the New Inbound Rule Wizard, select Port and click Next.
  • Enter 21 in the Specific local ports box and click Next.
  • On the following screen, select Block the connection, and click Next twice.
  • Give the rule a name such as Block incoming file transfers, and click Finish to apply it.

If you experience any problems with a rule you’ve created, select it, and choose either Disable Rule or Delete.

6. Access Defender’s Advanced Settings with ConfigureDefender

Microsoft Defender has many advanced settings that you can’t access via Windows Security but need to unlock via complicated PowerShell commands. This is where ConfigureDefender comes in useful.

This free tool provides a graphical user interface for all Defender's settings, which gives you complete control over your system security. You can easily enable and disable any options you want, from basic settings such as scanning all downloads and attachments to advanced tweaks such as blocking potentially dangerous Office macros and programs on USB sticks.

ConfigureDefender is very easy to use, with one-click options that apply Default, High, or Max protection to Microsoft Defender. You’ll need to restart your PC for its changes to take effect.

Strengthen Microsoft Defender’s Defenses

Although you can leave Microsoft Defender to do its job without changing any settings, there are clear benefits to enabling options that are switched off by default. Not only will this increase your protection against the latest threats, but it means you can customize your security to suit your needs.

Of course, you don’t have to stick with Window 10’s built-in software if you’d prefer to trust a different company to defend your PC. There are plenty of other reliable and free security suites for Windows that are worth considering.

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iBeesoft Data Recovery Makes Getting Lost Files Back a Breeze

Have you ever had your heart jump into your throat when you realized that you accidentally deleted a file that you're going to need? Whether you lost a work file, an irreplaceable photo, or a home movie, there are some files that we'd rather not lose.

That's where iBeesoft Data Recovery could be a live saver for you. The reasonably-priced software can scan your drive and recover the files you thought were lost to history. You can recover files from a hard disk, SSD, partition, SD card, external drive, RAW drive, USB drive, and just any other storage type.

Imagine the feeling you get when you find something you thought you'd never see again. For $49.95, which is about half the price of similar software from other companies, you can get that feeling with files you thought you'd never see again.

Using iBeesoft Data Recovery to Get Your Files Back

The iBeesoft Data Recovery software is available to download on both Mac and Windows, so you can recover files quickly and easily, regardless of which OS you use.

Once you've downloaded the software for the platform of your choice, you'll need to go through the quick installation process. There aren't many steps required to get the software installed, and you don't need to worry about any hidden software or adware coming with it.

After the install is finished, you're greeted with a screen that lets you launch the scan. You can customize the scan to choose the types of files you'd like it to find, or just let it scan your drive for all lost files. Either way, the scan only takes a couple of minutes to find all of the lost files.

However, if you don't see the files you want, you can perform a deep scan, which will take a lot longer (in my testing, it took about an hour to go through the entire system). This will find far more files, even those with incomplete file properties.

From there, you can browse through the lost files and see if the file you're looking for is retrievable. You can even find files that you have already deleted from your recycle bin. If the file is there, you can click Recover to bring it back to your drive.

Browsing through the files is an easy enough process. You can browse by the path, the type, or the time. If you choose to browse by the type of file, it'll break it down by the types of files you've elected to search for. Going further, it'll even show you different file types, so you can get track down the exact files you need.

If, for example, you wanted to find an AVI file, you could search for videos, then drill down to the different types of videos to see if any AVI files are recoverable.

I found type to be the most useful since I could check for the exact type of file I know I am missing. If you know approximately when the file went missing, you can use the time setting as well. It's definitely nice that that iBeesoft Data Recovery gives you options because finding lost files can be difficult. Having as many possible roads to success will increase the chances you can recover what you need.

Check Out iBeesoft Data Recovery For Yourself

You can actually download and try iBeesoft Data Recovery for free to see if it works for you. Once you've found that it can recover your files, you can upgrade for $49.95, which is quite a good price for what this software can get done. Try it out, and you might find the photo you thought you'd never see again or the video you deleted and wished you'd never have to see again.

Either way, iBeesoft Data Recovery did a great job of finding lots of deleted files in our testing, and it should do the same for you.

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Windows 10 Insider Build 20241 Adds Some Great Features

The Windows Insider branch is a great way to see what's coming to Windows 10, and the latest update is no exception to this rule. In Preview Build 20241, Microsoft introduced some great new features that we'll hopefully see implemented into Windows 10 soon.

Diving Into the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20241

Microsoft made the announcement of the new Insider build on the Windows Insider blog. There's a lot to break down in this update, so let's take a peek at the bigger features coming with this update.

First of all, the update will create theme-aware splash screens for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. These splash screens are what you see for a brief moment when you load an app that's either part of Windows 10 or from the Store. For example, when you boot up Settings, a brief splash screen with a cog on it will appear before the settings load.

Now, the splash screen will care if you have your operating system set to light or dark mode. If it's light, it'll be white; if it's dark, it'll be black.

If you have the update, you can see the effect for yourself in the following apps:

SettingsStoreWindows SecurityAlarms & ClockCalculatorMapsVoice RecorderGrooveMovies & TVSnip & SketchMicrosoft ToDoOfficeFeedback HubMicrosoft Solitaire Collection

The update also brings with it an improved defragmentation tool. It now contains an advanced view checkbox which lists all hidden drives when clicked, as well as better tooltips when a drive cannot be defragmented. You can also refresh the list of drives with F5.

If you're a heavy user of the Narrator feature, the new update will make sure you catch everything. Previously, all updates that occurred while the PC would lock would be dictated on arrival, potentially while you're away from the computer. Now, the Narrator will repeat all the important notifications when you unlock your PC, so you don't miss a thing.

The update includes a huge batch of fixes and some known issues that Microsoft is still working on. Be sure to check out the blog post for the full run-down on what to expect.

Even More Features Coming to Windows 10

If you like being in-the-know on what's coming for Windows 10, you owe it to yourself to check out the Insider build. The latest update to the Insider channel adds some handy new features, and who knows what's coming next?

Windows has been on a good Insider streak. Recently, the company added a new questionnaire at the start of the Windows 10 setup that asks you what you want from your PC.

Image Credit: RoSonic / Shutterstock.com

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How to Install Windows Software Without the Bundled Junk

Free software you download from the web is often packaged with toolbars, trials, and other third-party extras that try to install themselves alongside the main program. These “special offers” can change your browser settings, slow down your system, display pop-ups and ads, and even infect your PC with malware.

Although bundleware isn’t as widespread as it was a few years ago, because software developers now use other methods of funding, it’s still a serious problem. We’ll show you how to download the programs you want, without the unwanted junk.

Decline Bundled Junk Automatically

The simplest way to avoid junk when installing a program is to choose Custom installation and uncheck any bundled offers. However, it’s all too easy to keep clicking Next without noticing these options or to assume they’re legitimate extras such as plugins or skins.

More devious installers make their offers difficult or even impossible to decline, which is how notorious adware OpenCandy became so prevalent a few years ago. Fortunately, there are ways to block these potentially unwanted programs (known as PUPs or PUAs) automatically, in case you miss them yourself.

Reject Junk Offers Using Unchecky

The excellent free tool, Unchecky, automatically unchecks boxes for third-party offers when you install programs. It also warns you when you try to accept one of these offers, assuming that you must have clicked accidentally.

We’ve previously explained how to use Unchecky to skip bundled junkware, but it may not catch everything, so you should still take care when installing. Also, the program hasn’t been updated for a couple of years (although it’s still completely safe to use), which means it may not detect the latest bundleware.

Block PUPs Using Windows Security

Windows 10’s built-in security suite can block the installation of potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that aren’t considered malware, including bundled junk. To activate this protection, you can either type a command into PowerShell or go through Windows Security:

  1. Click Start, Settings, or press Windows-I to open the Settings window.
  2. Select Update, Security, then Windows Security.
  3. Click Turn on under Reputation-based protection.
  4. Click Reputation-based settings and ensure Block apps and Block downloads are both checked under Potentially unwanted app blocking.
  5. You can also click Protection history to see which PUPs Windows Security has blocked.

Download Clean Versions of Programs

Rather than rejecting bundled offers when you install free software, you can ensure they’re not included in the first place by downloading a “clean” version of the program. Here are the best four ways to source these junk-free downloads.

1. Download From the Developer’s Site

Some free software sites provide their own installers for downloads, which may bundle third-party tools. To avoid this junk, it’s worth going directly to the developer’s own website, where you’re likely to find a choice of download options, potentially including a “clean” version.

For example, the official download page for popular disc-burning program, BurnAware, links to a “free version without optional offers,” below its standard Download buttons.

2. Download the Portable Version

If the developer’s website doesn’t explicitly mention a junk-free download, check for a portable version instead. This will ensure you only get the free software you want because adware and other bundled extras can’t be installed on your system if there’s no installer in the first place (portable “installers” are actually self-extracting archives)

If you can’t find a portable version on the author’s site, try browsing our extensive guide to the best portable apps.

3. Install Clean Software Using Ninite

Ninite lets you download the latest versions of over 100 popular free programs, which have been stripped of toolbars, adware, and other bundled extras. These include web browsers, messaging tools, media players, image editors, security software, and much more, with 64-bit builds automatically selected for 64-bit systems.

Choose all the software you want on the Ninite homepage and click the Get Your Ninite button. Ninite will generate a single EXE file to install your chosen programs, without any unwanted junk. When you want to update the tools you’ve downloaded, just run the Ninite installer again.

4. Install Programs Using Chocolatey

Chocolatey isn’t as simple as Ninite. It runs from Windows PowerShell rather than a website, but it’s even faster at installing clean software. It offers packages for thousands of programs that contain the required installation files, but none of the junk.

To install Chocolatey, first type PowerShell in the Windows search box, right-click the top result and choose Run as administrator. When PowerShell opens, type the following command and press Enter:

Set-ExecutionPolicy AllSigned

Type Y when asked if you want to “change the execution policy” (this is safe to do), then copy and paste the following command into PowerShell to download and install Chocolatey:

Set-ExecutionPolicy Bypass -Scope Process -Force; [System.Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [System.Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol -bor 3072; iex ((New-Object System.Net.WebClient).DownloadString('https://chocolatey.org/install.ps1'))

With that tricky part out of the way, all you need to do to install clean programs is copy their individual commands from the Chocolatey website into PowerShell. For example, to install Adobe Acrobat Reader, enter the following, pressing Y when prompted:

choco install adobereader

You can uninstall any programs you download with Chocolatey in the usual Windows manner.

Related: How to Uninstall Programs on Windows 10 the Fast Way

To avoid nasty surprises when installing programs, you can check their installation files using the VirusTotal online scanner. This lets you scan files for malware and PUPs before you open them, running them through 64 antivirus engines from all the big names in security. Just click Choose file on the homepage and upload the software’s EXE or ZIP installer.

Scans are very fast, instantly displaying results from all the engines, to show you at a glance whether the file is clean (although if only one engine detects a threat, it may be a false positive). You can also check the safety of the download page before you click anything, by pasting its URL into VirusTotal’s search box.

VirusTotal runs completely in the cloud, but it’s also worth installing the VirusTotal browser extension for Chrome and Firefox, to scan download files and links from wherever you are on the web.

Related: 7 Quick Sites That Let You Check If a Link Is Safe

Remove Bundled Junk With AdwCleaner

If you inadvertently install the offers bundled with a program and notice suspicious behavior on your system, such as altered settings or strange messages, you can use Malwarebytes AdwCleaner to get rid of the junk.

This powerful free tool removes browser toolbars, adware, hijackers, and PUPs, and doesn’t require installation. Just run AdwCleaner and click the big blue Scan Now button to detect junk, which you can then quarantine and delete.

Enjoy a Junk-Free Software Diet

Now you know how to detect, avoid, and remove bundled junk, you can download all the free software you want without it compromising the security and performance of your PC.

Windows programs you find on the web are generally cleaner and safer than a few years ago, but there are still certain sources it’s best to steer clear of, to keep your system free of junk and malware.

 

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How to Manually Trigger a BSOD (and Why You’d Want To)

Most of the time, we want our PCs not to crash, but there are those scarce moments where we actually want the system to go into a bluescreen of death (BSOD). If you find yourself in this situation, never fret; there is a quick and easy way to trigger a manual BSOD in Windows 10.

Let's explore how to set up and trigger a manual BSOD and what would drive someone to actually want one.

How to Set Up Manual BSODs in Windows 10

To start, we'll need to do a little bit of setup to enable this feature. Microsoft hid the option within the registry, presumably so people don't accidentally trigger one!

To get started, you need to open up the registry. Press Windows Key + R, then type regedit and press Enter.

Now you need to add a setting to a specific location in your registry. The location depends on what kind of keyboard you use on your PC.

If you use a PS/2 keyboard, visit this directory:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetServicesi8042prtParameters

If you have a USB keyboard, go here:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetServiceskbdhidParameters

Finally, if you use a Hyper-V keyboard, you need to go here:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetServiceshyperkbdParameters

If you're unsure what kind your keyboard is, you can safely add the setting to all three of these directories to cover every base. Nothing bad happens if you do that.

When you're at your chosen directory, right-click in an empty white space on the right side of the window. Hover over New, then click DWORD (32-bit) Value.

You'll then be asked to name the new file. You need to give the file a particular name so your computer knows what it does. In this case, call it CrashOnCtrlScroll. Double-check your spelling to ensure no typos slipped in.

Right-click this new file and click Modify. In the window that appears, set the Value to 1.

Once done, close the registry editor. You'll now need to restart your PC so that it loads the manual crash feature.

How to Trigger a Manual BSOD in Windows 10

Now that you've properly set up the BSOD, it's time to trigger one. To do this, you need to hold down two keys that you probably don't remember ever using: Right CTRL and Scroll Lock.

First, hold down the right CTRL key on your keyboard. Do note that your PC won't activate the BSOD if you're holding down the left CTRL key---it has to be the one on the right.

Then, tap the SCROLL LOCK key twice. If you're using a laptop that doesn't have a scroll lock key, you can typically trigger it by holding down the Fn key, then double-tapping either the C, K, S, or the F6 key.

If you do the key input correctly, your PC will immediately bluescreen. You can tell the difference between a manual BSOD and a system-triggered one because the manual BSOD will have the error code "MANUALLY_INITIATED_CRASH." If your BSOD shows this, you know it was your doing and not a freak coincidence.

Why Would You Ever Trigger a BSOD?

Now you know how you can trigger your very own BSOD, the question remains; why would you ever do such a thing? As it turns out, there are at least two valid reasons why you might want to.

First, a manual BSOD is a great way for developers to see what happens to their software during a crash. If a program is writing something to the disk when a BSOD occurs, it could cause serious corruption. By triggering a manual BSOD, developers can ensure their programs won't snarl up after a crash.

Second, it's a good way to see if your PC can generate crash dumps. When a BSOD occurs, the PC creates a log of what went wrong so you can better diagnose the issue. You can activate these dumps by enabling a single feature in Windows 10.

If you want to double-check that the crash dumps appear correctly or an error occurs during the log creation process, you can use a manual BSOD to test things out.

Making Sense of BSODS

Computer crashes are usually something we want to avoid, but there is the rare case where we want to trigger a BSOD. Regardless of your intentions, now you know how to trigger a BSOD at any time.

If you want to be a master at diagnosing bluescreens, be sure to download both WinDbg and BlueScreenView. These programs help break down a crash dump, so you don't need to.

Image Credit: ShotPrime Studio / Shutterstock.com

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How to Connect Your Wireless Printer to Wi-Fi | MakeUseOf

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Wireless printing is an extremely convenient feature of modern printers, but it doesn't always run smoothly. Are you having problems connecting to your wireless printer? Perhaps you're looking for a way to make a cabled printer accessible wirelessly?

Here's everything you need to connect your printer to Wi-Fi and start printing on Windows 10.

What You Need to Know Before Connecting Your Printer to Wi-Fi

The hype would have you believe that wireless printing is as simple as unboxing a new Wi-Fi enabled printer, connecting it to your network and then hitting the print button from an application on your PC.

It is often not this simple.

Before you can print to your wireless printer from Windows, two things need to be done.

  1. The printer needs to be connected to your Wi-Fi network
  2. You need to detect and connect to the printer from Windows

Neither of these processes is particularly difficult, although they differ depending on the printer manufacturer.

Before proceeding, ensure your printer powered up, has ink, and at least a few sheets of paper loaded. Also, remember that while manufacturer instructions are generally the same across their own models, some differences may occur.

How to Connect a Canon Printer to Wi-Fi

To connect your Canon wireless printer to Wi-Fi:

  1. Press Settings
  2. Use the arrow button to select Device Settings
  3. Press OK
  4. Select LAN settings > OK > wireless LAN setup > OK
  5. Wait for network discovery
  6. Select the correct network and click OK
  7. When prompted, enter the password, then OK

Your Canon printer should now be connected to your wireless network. If prompted, print a test page. The IP address should be listed here, which you'll need later.

How to Connect HP Printers to Wi-Fi

To connect a HP Deskjet, Officejet, and any other type of HP printer to Wi-Fi:

  1. Press Home
  2. Use the arrows to scroll down the menu to select Wireless
  3. Press OK
  4. Select Wireless Setup Wizard > OK
  5. Select the correct network, click OK, then enter the password
  6. Confirm the details, then OK for the printer to join the network

When ready, select Print to print a report, or Continue to complete the process. Make a note of the IP address when it is displayed.

How to Connect a Brother Printer to Wi-Fi

To get your wireless Brother printer online:

  1. Press the flashing Wi-Fi button
  2. Press Menu
  3. Press - (Down) to find Network then OK
  4. Next, select the first option, WLAN and click OK again
  5. Press - to select 2.Setup Wizard then OK
  6. In the next screen use the +/- (Up/Down) buttons to search for your wireless network
  7. Select the network with OK
  8. Enter the password using +/- to cycle through characters and OK to confirm each one (this takes a while)
  9. When prompted to Apply Settings select Yes (Up)
  10. Click OK to confirm

Make a note of the IP address when it is displayed.

Connecting to a Wireless Printer in Windows

With the wireless printer connected to your home network, you're ready to find it in Windows and connect.

  1. In Windows 10, hit Windows key + I
  2. Go to Devices > Printers & scanners
  3. Click Add a printer or scanner
  4. Wait while the operating system searches
  5. When your device is listed, select it
  6. Follow the prompts to set up the printer and print a test page

You're done.

If the printer isn't listed, click The printer that I want isn't listed to open the Add Printer dialogue. (You can also use Control Panel > Hardware and sound > Devices and printers > Add a printer.)

This method lets you add the printer by name or scan for it on your network. This last option probably won't work if it hasn't already. The easiest way is to use the printer's IP address, which you should have already noted:

  1. Click Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname
  2. Click Next
  3. Input the IP address in the Hostname or IP address field
  4. Check the Query the printer box
  5. Click Next again
  6. Select the printer from the list using the Manufacturer and Printers panes
    Manually add a printer driver in Windows
  7. At this point you can click Windows Update or Have Disk to install the device driver
  8. Click Next to install the driver automatically
  9. Enter a name for the printer and proceed with Next
  10. In the Printer Sharing screen choose Do not share this printer or enter sharing details as needed
  11. Hit Next
  12. Print a test page if necessary, then Finish to complete

With a successful test page print, you're now ready to print from any Windows app.

Installation Problems? Try These Tips!

When a printer won't install or connect correctly, the reason is usually simple. The problem is that working out exactly why the connection cannot be made can prove to be a drawn-out process.

Is the Printer on Your Network?

By default, the printer should appear in Windows Explorer, even if you're not printing to it.

If not, check the printer is powered up. If it is, try the ping command from the Windows command line. To do this:

  1. Hit Windows + R
  2. Enter cmd and click OK
  3. Type ping followed by the printer's IP address
  4. Hit Enter

If this doesn't work, try restarting your printer, then restart your router. Still no change? It's worth restarting Windows at this point as well.

Is Your Wireless Printer Out of Range?

If the printer only occasionally appears online, it could be out of range of your router.

You can check this by comparing its reliability when placed close to the router. Better results will indicate a printer that needs a permanent home within range of the router. Dead zones can result in no Wi-Fi reception in specific parts of your property, so avoid placement here.

Related: How to Eliminate a Wireless Dead Zone

Should moving the printer prove impractical, try a powerline adapter. These are available with Wi-Fi repeater functionality or can simply link your printer via Ethernet to the router via your home's electric wiring.

Use a Different Driver

Often printers are compatible with drivers from older models. If you're having difficulty installing the driver to use it wirelessly, consider finding a driver for a legacy model. It should be a similar printer---e.g., if you have a photo printer, try an older photo printer driver.

A Better Understanding of Wireless Networking Can Help

When setting up a wireless printer, you're connecting the printer to your network, then printing from a PC. Understanding this basic two-step process can help you focus on the task.

With the printer up and running on your network, it isn't only your PC that can print. Any device on your network can send documents and images to be printed.

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How to Connect Your Wireless Printer to Wi-Fi | MakeUseOf

Quick Links

Wireless printing is an extremely convenient feature of modern printers, but it doesn't always run smoothly. Are you having problems connecting to your wireless printer? Perhaps you're looking for a way to make a cabled printer accessible wirelessly?

Here's everything you need to connect your printer to Wi-Fi and start printing on Windows 10.

What You Need to Know Before Connecting Your Printer to Wi-Fi

The hype would have you believe that wireless printing is as simple as unboxing a new Wi-Fi enabled printer, connecting it to your network and then hitting the print button from an application on your PC.

It is often not this simple.

Before you can print to your wireless printer from Windows, two things need to be done.

  1. The printer needs to be connected to your Wi-Fi network
  2. You need to detect and connect to the printer from Windows

Neither of these processes is particularly difficult, although they differ depending on the printer manufacturer.

Before proceeding, ensure your printer powered up, has ink, and at least a few sheets of paper loaded. Also, remember that while manufacturer instructions are generally the same across their own models, some differences may occur.

How to Connect a Canon Printer to Wi-Fi

To connect your Canon wireless printer to Wi-Fi:

  1. Press Settings
  2. Use the arrow button to select Device Settings
  3. Press OK
  4. Select LAN settings > OK > wireless LAN setup > OK
  5. Wait for network discovery
  6. Select the correct network and click OK
  7. When prompted, enter the password, then OK

Your Canon printer should now be connected to your wireless network. If prompted, print a test page. The IP address should be listed here, which you'll need later.

How to Connect HP Printers to Wi-Fi

To connect a HP Deskjet, Officejet, and any other type of HP printer to Wi-Fi:

  1. Press Home
  2. Use the arrows to scroll down the menu to select Wireless
  3. Press OK
  4. Select Wireless Setup Wizard > OK
  5. Select the correct network, click OK, then enter the password
  6. Confirm the details, then OK for the printer to join the network

When ready, select Print to print a report, or Continue to complete the process. Make a note of the IP address when it is displayed.

How to Connect a Brother Printer to Wi-Fi

To get your wireless Brother printer online:

  1. Press the flashing Wi-Fi button
  2. Press Menu
  3. Press - (Down) to find Network then OK
  4. Next, select the first option, WLAN and click OK again
  5. Press - to select 2.Setup Wizard then OK
  6. In the next screen use the +/- (Up/Down) buttons to search for your wireless network
  7. Select the network with OK
  8. Enter the password using +/- to cycle through characters and OK to confirm each one (this takes a while)
  9. When prompted to Apply Settings select Yes (Up)
  10. Click OK to confirm

Make a note of the IP address when it is displayed.

Connecting to a Wireless Printer in Windows

With the wireless printer connected to your home network, you're ready to find it in Windows and connect.

  1. In Windows 10, hit Windows key + I
  2. Go to Devices > Printers & scanners
  3. Click Add a printer or scanner
  4. Wait while the operating system searches
  5. When your device is listed, select it
  6. Follow the prompts to set up the printer and print a test page

You're done.

If the printer isn't listed, click The printer that I want isn't listed to open the Add Printer dialogue. (You can also use Control Panel > Hardware and sound > Devices and printers > Add a printer.)

This method lets you add the printer by name or scan for it on your network. This last option probably won't work if it hasn't already. The easiest way is to use the printer's IP address, which you should have already noted:

  1. Click Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname
  2. Click Next
  3. Input the IP address in the Hostname or IP address field
  4. Check the Query the printer box
  5. Click Next again
  6. Select the printer from the list using the Manufacturer and Printers panes
    Manually add a printer driver in Windows
  7. At this point you can click Windows Update or Have Disk to install the device driver
  8. Click Next to install the driver automatically
  9. Enter a name for the printer and proceed with Next
  10. In the Printer Sharing screen choose Do not share this printer or enter sharing details as needed
  11. Hit Next
  12. Print a test page if necessary, then Finish to complete

With a successful test page print, you're now ready to print from any Windows app.

Installation Problems? Try These Tips!

When a printer won't install or connect correctly, the reason is usually simple. The problem is that working out exactly why the connection cannot be made can prove to be a drawn-out process.

Is the Printer on Your Network?

By default, the printer should appear in Windows Explorer, even if you're not printing to it.

If not, check the printer is powered up. If it is, try the ping command from the Windows command line. To do this:

  1. Hit Windows + R
  2. Enter cmd and click OK
  3. Type ping followed by the printer's IP address
  4. Hit Enter

If this doesn't work, try restarting your printer, then restart your router. Still no change? It's worth restarting Windows at this point as well.

Is Your Wireless Printer Out of Range?

If the printer only occasionally appears online, it could be out of range of your router.

You can check this by comparing its reliability when placed close to the router. Better results will indicate a printer that needs a permanent home within range of the router. Dead zones can result in no Wi-Fi reception in specific parts of your property, so avoid placement here.

Related: How to Eliminate a Wireless Dead Zone

Should moving the printer prove impractical, try a powerline adapter. These are available with Wi-Fi repeater functionality or can simply link your printer via Ethernet to the router via your home's electric wiring.

Use a Different Driver

Often printers are compatible with drivers from older models. If you're having difficulty installing the driver to use it wirelessly, consider finding a driver for a legacy model. It should be a similar printer---e.g., if you have a photo printer, try an older photo printer driver.

A Better Understanding of Wireless Networking Can Help

When setting up a wireless printer, you're connecting the printer to your network, then printing from a PC. Understanding this basic two-step process can help you focus on the task.

With the printer up and running on your network, it isn't only your PC that can print. Any device on your network can send documents and images to be printed.

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What Are Windows 10 Generic Product Keys? Here’s How to Use Them

Microsoft regularly releases free product keys for the various editions of Windows. Also known as generic product keys or default keys, it is not immediately apparent what they are for or why you should use them.

Will they give you a free copy of Windows? Are the available to use on any machine? And why does Microsoft make them available for free? Let's take a closer look.

What Are Windows 10 Generic Product Keys?

Generic product keys allow users to install any version of Windows on their machines. Each version of Windows has its own key.

Here is a list of all Windows 10 generic product keys that are available in 2020:

  • Windows 10 Home: YTMG3-N6DKC-DKB77-7M9GH-8HVX7
  • Windows 10 Home N: 4CPRK-NM3K3-X6XXQ-RXX86-WXCHW
  • Windows 10 Home Single Language: BT79Q-G7N6G-PGBYW-4YWX6-6F4BT
  • Windows 10 Pro: VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T
  • Windows 10 Pro N: 2B87N-8KFHP-DKV6R-Y2C8J-PKCKT
  • Windows 10 Pro for Workstations: DXG7C-N36C4-C4HTG-X4T3X-2YV77
  • Windows 10 Pro N for Workstations: WYPNQ-8C467-V2W6J-TX4WX-WT2RQ
  • Windows 10 Pro Education: 8PTT6-RNW4C-6V7J2-C2D3X-MHBPB
  • Windows 10 Pro Education N: GJTYN-HDMQY-FRR76-HVGC7-QPF8P
  • Windows 10 Education: YNMGQ-8RYV3-4PGQ3-C8XTP-7CFBY
  • Windows 10 Education N: 84NGF-MHBT6-FXBX8-QWJK7-DRR8H
  • Windows 10 Enterprise: XGVPP-NMH47-7TTHJ-W3FW7-8HV2C
  • Windows 10 Enterprise G N: FW7NV-4T673-HF4VX-9X4MM-B4H4T
  • Windows 10 Enterprise N: WGGHN-J84D6-QYCPR-T7PJ7-X766F
  • Windows 10 Enterprise N LTSB 2016: RW7WN-FMT44-KRGBK-G44WK-QV7YK
  • Windows 10 Enterprise S: NK96Y-D9CD8-W44CQ-R8YTK-DYJWX
  • Windows 10 S: 3NF4D-GF9GY-63VKH-QRC3V-7QW8P

Yes, there is nothing wrong with using a generic product key to install Windows on your computer. However, doing so comes with some significant restrictions.

Most notably, a generic key gives no usage rights. Instead, they are only designed to help you install Windows. Within 30 to 90 days (depending on the key), the generic key will expire, and you will need to add a full retail key.

In theory, Microsoft will never let you activate Windows using a generic key. If you try and activate Windows using a generic product key, you will see the following message on-screen:

We can't activate Windows on this device because you don't have a valid digital licence or product key. If you think you do have a valid licence or key, see Troubleshoot below. (0x803f7001)

Even if you somehow manage to bypass Microsoft's controls (and yes, there are ways of doing that), you will be in breach of the End-User License Agreement (EULA) and could be liable for prosecution.

Why Use Generic Product Keys on Windows 10?

It is perhaps best to think of generic product keys in the same way as you would think of a free trial for a piece of software. Yes, you get access to all the features and can put the app through its paces, but you know you'll need to spend some money at some point to retain access.

They are ideal for people who are building systems or who want to run Windows in a virtual environment.

How to Upgrade a Generic Product Key

If you used a generic product key to install Windows, you can easily replace it with a full retail version and thus obtain a legal copy of Windows without needing to delete and reinstall your operating system.

Note: Before following these steps, you first need to purchase a retail version of a Windows product key. You can buy them directly from the Microsoft online store. Some third-party sellers may also have legitimate keys available, but we cannot guarantee they will work.

When you are ready, open the Settings app and go to Update and security > Activation > Upgrade your edition of Windows > Change product key.

A new box will pop up on the screen, and you will be prompted to enter the retail key that you just bought.

If your key is legal, the activation process will begin. The process could take anything from a few seconds to several hours, depending on how busy Microsoft's servers are.

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What Is the Difference Between CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM in Windows 10?

When your PC starts reporting errors, slowing down, or misbehaving, you can use Windows 10’s built-in diagnostic tools to try and fix the problem. CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM check the health of your hard drive and repair corrupt files, but the three tools work in different ways and target different areas of your system.

CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM are system tools and you can run all three. But this can prove time-consuming and unnecessary for your specific problem. We’ll explain when and how to use this trio of troubleshooting tools.

When You Should Use CHKDSK

CHKDSK (Check Disk) is the first Windows diagnostic tool you should try if your PC starts acting strangely. For example, if it hangs while shutting down or becomes frustratingly slow.

CHKDSK scans your entire hard drive to find and fix errors in files and the file system itself. It also checks your drive for bad sectors (clusters of data that cannot be read) and either tries to repair them or tells your system not to use them.

Windows may run CHKDSK on startup if it detects a problem with your hard drive, sometimes for innocuous reasons such as improper shutdown, but also more serious ones including malware infection and impending drive failure. However, it won’t actually fix any issues until instructed to do so.

To prevent future errors and potential data loss, it’s worth running CHKDSK manually at least once a month as part of your PC maintenance routine. You can use one of the following methods:

1. Run CHKDSK through File Explorer

You can run CHKDSK from the command prompt. If you’re uncomfortable with using the Command Prompt, open File Explorer, click This PC, then right-click the drive you want to check and select Properties.

Select the Tools tab and then select Check in the Error checking section.

If Windows determines that everything is running smoothly, it will suggest that you don't need to scan the drive. To run CHKDSK anyway, select Scan drive.

The scan may take anything from a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the size and state of your drive. Once complete, CHKDSK will either tell you that no errors were found or if it does find any, it will suggest you fix them.

2. Run CHKDSK from the Command Prompt

For greater control over the disk-checking process, you should run CHKDSK from an elevated Command Prompt.

Type cmd into the Windows search box, then right-click Command Prompt at the top of the results and select Run as administrator.

In the Command Prompt window, type chkdsk then space, followed by the name of the drive you want to check. For example, chkdsk c: to scan your C: drive.

Press Enter to scan for errors in read-only mode, which means no changes will be made. To make changes, you can use parameters with the CHKDSK command. Here are two you can use to fix problems.

  • To make CHKDSK fix the problems it finds, type chkdsk /f c: (for your C: drive).
  • To scan for bad sectors as well as errors, type chkdsk /r c:.

If you’re unable to run these commands because “the volume is in use by another process”, Command Prompt will offer to schedule the scan for when your PC restarts.

In addition to these scans, there are many other useful CHKDSK features in Windows 10 that are well worth exploring.

When You Should Use SFC

Whereas CHKDSK finds and fixes errors in the file system of your hard drive, SFC (System File Checker) specifically scans and repairs Windows system files. If it detects that a file has been corrupted or modified, SFC automatically replaces that file with the correct version.

Knowing when to use SFC is usually more obvious than with CHKDSK, which depends on a hunch that your hard drive isn’t behaving correctly. If Windows programs are crashing, you’re getting error messages about missing DLL files, or you’re experiencing the dreaded Blue Screen of Death, then it’s definitely time to run SFC.

Open an elevated Command Prompt, by running the tool as an administrator. Then type the following and press Enter:

sfc /scannow

SFC will perform a full scan of your system and repair and replace any files that are damaged or missing, using versions from the Windows component store. The scan can take some time, but make sure you leave the Command Prompt window open until it’s complete.

If you only want to scan but not repair corrupted system files, type:

sfc /verifyonly command

Once SFC has finished scanning, you’ll see one of three messages:

  • Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations. This means that whatever’s causing your PC problems isn’t related to a system file.
  •  Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them. This should hopefully mean that your problems have been solved.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them. This means that system files are to blame, but SFC can’t replace them. Try running the tool again in Safe Mode. If you still get the same result, don’t despair: it’s time to use DISM.

When You Should Use DISM

DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) is the most powerful of the three Windows diagnostic tools. Although you shouldn’t usually need to use the tools, it’s the one to turn to when you’re experiencing frequent crashes, freezes, and errors, but SFC either can’t repair your system files or is unable to run at all.

While CHKDSK scans your hard drive and SFC your system files. DISM detects and fixes corrupt files in the component store of the Windows system image so that SFC can work properly. Create a backup of your drive partition before running DISM, just in case something goes wrong.

As with CHKDSK and SFC, you’ll need to open an elevated Command Prompt to run DISM. To save you the time and risk of performing repairs unnecessarily, you can first check if the image is corrupted without making any changes. Type the following command and press Enter:

Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth

The scan should only take a few seconds. If no corruption is detected, you can run a more advanced scan to determine if the component store is healthy and repairable, again without making any changes, by typing:

Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth

If DISM reports that there are problems with the system image, run another advanced scan to repair these issues automatically. DISM will connect to Windows Update to download and replace damaged files as required. Note that the process may take up to 10 minutes and hang for a while at 20 seconds, but this is normal. Type this command:

Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Once the scan and repairs are complete, restart your PC and run SFC again to replace your corrupt or missing system files.

Fight Corruption and Win

Now that you understand what CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM do, running one or more of these Windows troubleshooting tools will hopefully help you fix your PC.

If you’re still having trouble, perform a System Restore. This will restore your system files, settings, and programs to a time when they were working properly. If your system wasn’t damaged when the restore point was created, may solve your corruption problems.

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How to Fix a Disk I/O Error in Windows | MakeUseOf

How often do you take offline backups of your important files? Once a month? Once a year? Here's another question: How often do you check that those backups are still working? I decided to do just this recently. When I connected my external drive to my laptop, up popped an I/O device error.

I couldn't immediately access the drive. My heart sank. Nearly ten years' worth of photos were lost.

But, all is not lost. Here are five ways to fix an I/O device error, without losing any files in the process.

What Is an I/O Device Error?

Input/Output device errors are quite common. They're usually a hardware issue, such as a faulty cable, a glitch with your hard drive or SSD, or a misconfigured driver. There are more than a few different methods to fix an I/O device error. Better still, most of these fixes only take a few moments and are quite easy to complete.

1. Restart Your Computer

Before you start the I/O device error fixes, there is one thing to try first. Restart your system, then try again. A reboot can fix a range of errors without having to do anything complicated or time-consuming. If the I/O device error persists, head to the other fixes below.

2. Check Your Cables and Connections

The first thing to do, before worrying, is to simply adjust the cables. Reseat the cables connecting your external drive to your computer. Do this at both ends. If you're using a USB flash drive, try disconnecting and reinserting, then trying again.

If it doesn't work, use a different USB cable, and try again. Unsure if the cable is good or not? Connect the cable to a different external device and connect it to your system. If it works, you know that the cable is good.

3. Try an Alternative USB Port

Try an alternative port if the USB cable is working but switching out the USB cable doesn't fix the I/O device error.

Most modern systems have more than one USB port as so many devices rely on a USB connection. Furthermore, check your USB ports are clean. If it is dusty or dirty, give it a gentle blow to remove any lingering lint and then try again.

4. Run CHKDSK and SFC

While I/O device errors are caused by hardware, we can attempt to use an integrated system tool to fix the issue. The chkdsk tool verifies file systems and fixes file system errors.

Press Windows Key + X to open the Quick Access menu, then select Command Prompt (admin). If the Command Prompt option is no longer there (replaced by PowerShell), don't worry. Just complete a Start Menu search for Command Prompt, then right-click and select Run as administrator.

Next, type chkdsk /f /r /x [your drive letter here] and press Enter. The scan could take a while, especially if there are many sectors requiring repair.

If CHKDSK doesn't return any errors, you can move onto the Windows System File Check (SFC), another integrated system tool.

But, before running the SFC command, it is important to check it is working properly. To do this, we use the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool, or DISM.

Like SFC, DISM is an integrated Windows utility with a wide range of functions. In this case, the DISM Restorehealth command ensures that our next fix will work properly.

Work through the following steps.

  1. Type Command Prompt (Admin) in the Start menu search bar. Then right-click and select Run as administrator to open an elevated Command Prompt.
  2. Type the following command and press Enter: DISM /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth
  3. Wait for the command to complete. The process can take up to 20 minutes, depending on your system's health. The process seems stuck at certain times, but wait for it to complete.
  4. When the process completes, type sfc /scannow and press Enter.

5. Update the Device Driver

Another option to resolve an I/O disk error is updating the device driver. Windows 10 should update all of your drivers, all the time. Sometimes, drivers slip through the net.

Input device manager in your Start Menu search bar and select the Best Match. The Device Manager contains information on all of the devices on your computer. From here, you can update individual drivers for a specific piece of hardware. In this case, you can update the driver for your storage device, resolving the I/O disk error.

  1. Select Disk drives to unfurl the options. Right-click the drive with the I/O device error and select Update Drivers.
  2. Select Search automatically for updated driver software. The process will begin scanning for any driver updates both on and offline.
  3. If an update is available, install it, then restart your system.

Update Your System

You could also check for any system updates waiting for installation. Press Windows Key + I, then head to Update & Security > Windows Update. Download and install any pending updates.

6. Change Your Drive Letter

One quick fix for the I/O drive error is to change the drive letter for the storage hardware. If Windows fails to assign the drive a letter for some reason, an I/O disk error is one of the errors you might encounter. You can use the Computer Management system tool to assign a new drive letter for the drive.

  1. Input computer management in your Start Menu search bar and select the Best Match.
  2. Head to Storage > Disk Management in the left column.
  3. Right-click the drive with the I/O disk error and select Change Drive Letter and Paths > Change.
  4. Assign a new drive letter using the dropdown list, then press OK.

Restart your computer, then attempt to access the drive again.

7. Use Speccy to Check Drive Health

If the two easy fixes don't work, we can check the overall health of the hard drive using free system specification program, Speccy.

Download: Speccy for Windows 10 (Free)

In the left-hand column, select Storage, and scroll down to find the corresponding drive. They're normally well labeled. Scroll down to the S.M.A.R.T drive specifications table.

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. The in-built hard drive monitoring system reports on various hard drive health attributes. As you can see, Speccy gives each monitoring metric a rating. You need to check the following metrics:

  • 05: Reallocated Sectors Count
  • 0A: Spin Retry Account
  • C4: Reallocation Event Count
  • C5: Current Pending Sector Count
  • C6: Uncorrectable Sector Count

Want a startling fact? A Google study found that in the 60 days following the first uncorrectable drive error, the drive was on average 39 times more likely to fail than a similar drive without errors.

To be fair, the Google study also concludes that S.M.A.R.T ratings are of limited usefulness in predicting impending drive failures---but can still give a good general indication of drive health. With this in mind, if any of the metrics above show errors (or many errors across several metrics), you should seriously consider backing everything up and replace the drive.

Now, this doesn't necessarily immediately solve your I/O device input error. But it might indicate what is going on.

No More I/O Device Error

One of the above fixes will resolve your I/O device error, allowing you access to your data once more.

An I/O device error isn't always the end of the line for a hard drive. Though, it is a good indicator that something is afoot. And in many cases, it isn't worth waiting around to find out if the error is the beginning of something more sinister.