So…are you backing up your computer?

In late 2017 Microsoft released Windows 10 Update 1709.  If you’re a Windows 10 Home user, you were not given a choice to install the update, and may have been subject to some of the issues that this latest update caused.

In the that followed the update we had numerous calls of crashed PCs.  All of them had two things in common.  First, they were Windows 10.  Second, they had just been updated.

In all cases the user data was not accessible.  Although we were able to fix all of them, it was only because we had installed imaging software on them.

Which brings us to the topic of this post:

Are you backing up your computer?

One of the first questions that we ask clients when it comes to their computers is “Is there anything on this computer that you absolutely, positively cannot live without?”.  If the answer is “yes” (which is usually is), we ask how they are backing up.  Most don’t have a plan.

There are several ways to backup a computer, and we’ll discuss each one of them in detail here.

Before we do that, though, let’s break down what your PC consists of.  Whether you’re running a Windows or Linux based PC or a OSX based Mac, your computer has three basic software items:  The Operating System, Programs, and Data.

The Operating System (OS) is what makes it go.  When you push the power button on your computer, the OS starts up.  Programs can’t run without it.  Peripherals couldn’t be installed without it.  Everything depends on the OS.

The Programs are what allow you to do things, like create documents, spreadsheets, edit photos and videos, listen to music, watch music, and thousands of other things.

Data is what you create with programs.  It’s your documents, your spreadsheets, your pictures, your videos, your music, your stuff.  It’s the only item of the three that cannot be replaced, because YOU created it, not the OS creator or the program vendor.

If a computer crashed, we could recreate everything using the OS DVD (or USB) and the program disks.  If your computer didn’t come with a restore DVD, then you will have a problem if the hard drive crashes.  Either way, bringing back the data will be impossible.

So data is probably the single most important thing to back up.  If you do need to reinstall the OS and the programs, be prepared to spend some time with it.

When we setup a backup plan, we offer several different options.

Option 1 – Image Backup – An image backup is just as the term implies.  It’s an image, or picture, of the hard drive.  Using a backup program (for Windows 10 Home we recommend EaseUS Home Backup , for Windows 10 Professional, we recommend EaseUS Workstation Backup – either will work for their Windows 7 or 8.1 counterparts).  EaseUS Backup will allow you to create several different types of backup, including an image backup.

You will need a destination for the backup.  If you have more than 1 computer, we recommend a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.  This is basically an external hard drive that is accessed via your network.  It allows multiple computers to backup to is, as well as store additional data, like music, pictures, videos, that can be accessed by anyone on the network who has the right credentials.  You can also use a USB external hard drive, but that limits the number of computers that can use it as a destination to only one.

EaseUS will prompt you to create a WinPE rescue USB when you first install it.  Make sure you do this, and put the USB thumbdrive in a safe place.  If your hard drive crashes, you’ll need this to restore your PC.

Option 2 – Data Backup – A data backup is a backup of all of your “stuff”, but not your OS or your programs.  EaseUS does offer an option to backup only data, which we recommend in addition to the image backup.  This lets you restore just a single file or folder if you accidentally deleted it.  An image backup restores the entire computer.  Data backup just restores files and folders.

Option 3 – Cloud Backup – The cloud has become part of every computing environment, from enterprise, or business level, to home level.  You’re already using the cloud, whether you realize it or not.  Most smartphones use the cloud to store data, with iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive being some of the more popular cloud applications and storage sites.

In a nutshell, the cloud is storage space on someone else’s network that is accessible only via the internet.  You can’t get to your stuff unless you’re online.  If something happens to your computer your data is not lost because it’s on the cloud.

Our favorite cloud backup system is iDrive.  It’s relatively inexpensive ($79 per year), fully automated, and gives you plenty of storage space (2 terrabytes, which equals 2000 gygabytes, which is more than enough for all of your photos, videos, music and documents).

Once you install the program, it backs up on a schedule that you determine (ours runs at 10:30pm daily) and, once the initial backup has been done (which could take days, depending on how much data you have, and what your upload speed is), it only backs up what has changed since the last backup.

Oh, and it’s not limited to just your computer’s data.  You can backup as many computers as you have, your tablet or iPad, and your smartphone, as long as the total of all the data is under 2 terrabytes (you can always buy more space, but it’s unlikely you’ll need it).

What method should you use?

We use all three.  We have a NAS, and we backup an image and data, and we use iDrive.  We can restore an entire computer, or just a file.

You should use whatever will prevent you from ever having to say

To sum it up…

It’s really pretty simple to get your system backed up, especially if you use the methods we listed.  However, if you need help, or if you didn’t backup and now you need to get your data off your hard drive, contact PCMDX today.  We’ll come to you and get your “stuff” back.




Windows 10 Automatic Upgrades Getting Aggressive

Over the past month Microsoft has been getting aggressive with their Windows 10 “auto-upgrades”.  We call it an auto-upgrade because the user doesn’t seem to have a choice on the upgrade.  They will walk away from their PC and when they come back they’ve been upgraded without doing anything to start the process.

We’re sticking with your recommendation:  If you have Windows 7, stick with Windows 7 until 2020, when Windows 7 comes to end-of-life.  If you have Windows 8, go ahead and upgrade to Windows 10.  Microsoft is giving a deadline of July 29, 2016 as the date of the upgrade being free, so do it before then.

There’s been some adverse consequences for Microsoft for the auto-upgrades.  Some might say these were costly in nature for Microsoft.  Because of this, Microsoft has throttled back on their forcefulness in installing the upgrade, however, this is not been 100% true so far.

Remember, you do have 30 days to go back to the previous operating system, but the reversal doesn’t always work.

Because of this, we’re recommending the following install:  Go to and select the green “Download Now” button.  Download the small file, and then go open it.  This will open up a window that will have to options on it.  The writing initially will be in a ref font and will read “Windows 10 Upgrade is ENABLED for this system!”.  Click on the button at the bottom of the window that reads “Disable Win10 Upgrade”.  The writing will change to “Windows 10 Upgrade is DISABLED for this system!” in green font.  By saving the file, you can always go back if you want to upgrade to Windows 10.

If you’ve been upgraded, and things aren’t working anymore, give us a call.  Some programs are NOT compatible with Windows 10, so be prepared to upgrade if you’ve been upgraded and you can’t go back.

Windows 10 – Update 3.1

Since we just posted a Windows 10 update, and since Microsoft just made some major changes in the Windows 10 upgrade, we didn’t think we could wait a few weeks until our next Windows 10 post, so we’ll call this “3.1” (for those of you that have been around Windows for a while, there’s some humor in this, unintentional of course)

On Monday, February 1, 2016, Microsoft made the Windows 10 upgrade a “recommended update”.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that when Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 perform automatic updates, Windows 10 may be one of those updates, even if you’re not interested in upgrading.

You’re still given an opportunity to stop the install, however, there is the chance of accidentally installing it.  Of course, Microsoft indicates that if you upgrade and you’re not happy, you can roll back to your previous operating system.  We have found that this does not work all the time.

So how do you prevent this from happening?  Go to Control Panel>Windows Update.  Once in the main screen of Windows Update, uncheck the option that reads “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates”.  That will prevent the Windows 10 update from launching.

For now.


Windows 10 – Update 3

The questions about Windows 10 upgrade have not stopped.  We get them daily.

“What do you think of Windows 10?”

“My computer keeps bugging me about upgrading.  Should I?”

“Do you think it’s time to upgrade yet?”

It’s looks very pretty.  No.  And No.

We’ve talked about the upgrades in our two previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2)

In their latest campaign to convince users to upgrade, Microsoft has taken to SMB (Small to Medium sized Businesses).  They have a Facebook post that features a video that shows the benefits of upgrading to Windows 10.  Here’s the part that bothers us about the video:

About a minute in, the “Microsoft Spokesperson” shows a business how easy it is to upgrade.  He sits in front of the PC surrounded by “employees” of the company, clicks on the Windows button in the system tray, it launches the upgrade process.  The he says “Just agree to the terms and conditions and you’re done!”.  They all go to lunch and by the time they get back they live happily ever after since the Windows 10 upgrade is complete.

OK, let’s get out of make-believe land and back to reality.

We all have done it.  Most of the time we continue to do it.  We’re used to doing it.  What?  Agreeing to the Terms and Conditions without reading them.

But in this case, is it the right thing to do?  Needless to say, we’re required to accept the terms and conditions on any software that we install, but all those pages contain information that may be good to know.  Especially in this case.

Windows 10 offers two types of install, Express and Custom.  Express means you agree to the terms and conditions, and accept all of the default settings.  For those of you who haven’t seen the default settings, many of them include a feature that sends information back to Microsoft.  Microsoft uses this information to deliver a more personal experience.  In the Express settings mode, this includes a variety of tracking software.

Microsoft has said they’ve discontinued the practice of tracking everything.  However, they just released the latest stats on Windows 10:

“Here’s the list of milestones that Microsoft just achieved:
  • People spent over 11 Billion hours on Windows 10 in December 2015.
  • More than 44.5 Billion minutes were spent in Microsoft Edge across Windows 10 devices in December alone.
  • Windows 10 users asked Cortana over 2.5 Billion questions since launch.
  • About 30 percent more Bing search queries per Windows 10 device compared to prior versions of Windows.
  • Over 82 Billion photographs were viewed in the Windows 10 Photo application.
  • Gamers spent more than 4 Billion hours playing PC games on Windows 10 OS.
  • Gamers streamed more than 6.6 Million hours of Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs.”

How do they know this?  Hmmm….

PCMDX clients know that we’re huge advocates of Microsoft, however our main focus is privacy and security.  Yes, if “they” want it, “they” will get it, however, we don’t have to leave the door not only unlocked, but open for them.

No, at this time we’re not recommending that those of you using Windows 7 upgrade to Windows 10.  Those of you using Windows 8 or 8.1 will have to decide if privacy or usability is more important.  We’re writing this post on a Windows 10 laptop (it came with the laptop).  It’s much more user friendly than Windows 8.  But we turned off all of the data mining features that we could turn off.

Is this the best operating system that Microsoft has released?  The word “best” is subjective.  What’s best for you may be different than what’s best for us.  Is it the most feature packed?  Absolutely.  Is it powerful in today’s internet world.  Yes.  If you use a PC to check e-mail, update your Facebook status, and surf the web, then there will be little difference between Windows 10 and Windows 7.

But wait!  Microsoft just issued a warning to those who use Windows 7.

And the latest information tells us that Microsoft will start to make the Windows 10 upgrade a “Recommended Update”.  What does that mean?  Glad you asked.  It simply means that if you have your Windows Update settings set to install all updates automatically, it will install the files even if you’re not interested.  This means if you don’t want it, you’ll have to turn off the automatic update function and go to “Notify me of updates but let me decide to download and install them” in the Windows Update settings in Control Panel.  Which means that you’ll need to make sure you install the important updates at least once a month.

Stay tuned.  Microsoft wants you to have Windows 10.

Windows 10 – Update 2

It has been several months now that Windows 10 has been on the market.  Most PCs that you buy today in stores are going to no longer come with Windows 8.1 with the free upgrade, but with Windows 10 pre-installed.

PCMDX has been working with several Windows 10 computers, including laptops, tablets, and workstations.

Based on what we’ve learned, our recommendation at this time is as follows:

If you have Windows 7, stay there.  You don’t need to upgrade just yet, and some programs (now also known as “Apps” or “Applications”) may not work in Windows 10, even though they do work in Windows 7 or 8.  Many vendors who’s programs don’t work on Windows 10 simply state that they don’t support it, therefore if it doesn’t work, they can’t help you.

Windows 10 has a “revert back to previous OS” feature.  You only have 30 days from the upgrade to rollback, and   many users claim that this feature does not work when they try it.  We’ve also found it not to work on PCs that we’ve attempted a rollback on.

If you have Windows 8, read on.  In our opinion, Windows 10 is a clear upgrade to Windows 8.  It’s really a cross between all that’s good about Windows 7 and Windows 8.  The most asked for feature is back, the Start menu, but it will take some time to get used to, with some of the changes.  If you’re running programs on Windows 8, you may have a problem running them on Windows 10 if the program vendor has not released an update.

Our biggest issue with Windows 10 is the lack of controlling Windows Updates (WU) without going into some complex settings.  With previous versions of Windows, you were given several options when it came to WU.  You could turn WU off altogether (not recommended).  You could be notified of WU being available, but not download and install them until you’re ready.  You could download them and be notified when they are ready to be installed.  Or you could simply let Windows download and install WU.

Windows 10 doesn’t give you these options.  It simply updates on its own.  Because it may require a reboot, it might give you an option to delay the reboot process if you’re currently working on something.  But it will eventually reboot on its own.

We have a problem with this, and hopefully Microsoft will address it by going back to giving the user options.  The reason we have a problem with this is because every once in a while, Microsoft will release an update that will negatively affect a PC.  This has happened numerous times in the past two years.  When updates are set to Automatically Download and Install Windows Updates, if the update is bad, the user will find that their PC might not function properly.  The user then has to find a way to correct the issue.  Usually Microsoft will withdraw the update within a few hours of it’s release.

Windows Updates are release on the second Tuesday of the month (which is referred to as “Patch Tuesday”).  If there’s a critical update that needs to be installed, Microsoft will release it as needed, but that’s rare.  On Patch Tuesday, all computers set to Automatically Update, will do so, usually around 3am.  By 9am, if there’s a bad update, Microsoft will pull it, but it can take as long as the rest of the day.

We recommend setting your Windows Update settings to Notify but Don’t Download Updates. picking a day AFTER Patch Tuesday to do your updates, like the second Saturday.  Then download and install the WU.  This will give Microsoft time to remove the bad updates.

So, to summarize, we suggest waiting on Windows 10.  If you do decide to do the upgrade, do so knowing that you may not be able to go back unless you do a fresh install of the previous operating system, which wipes out all of your settings, programs and data.  Also, you may want to follow the instructions on doing a custom setup of Windows 10.

We’re still in the first year of Windows 10, so many features of the OS have still to be discovered.  Check back often for Update 3.

Windows 10 – Update 1

If you’re a Windows 7 or Windows 8 user, you may have noticed a new icon in your system tray (the icons next to the clock in the lower right hand corner).

It looks something like this


When you click on it, a small windows pops up that is titled Get Windows 10, and tells you what happens when you proceed.


The instructions are simple.  1 – Reserve your copy of Windows 10.  It’s free.  As in no charge (according to Microsoft).  When you “reserve” it, it prepares to download a 3 gigabyte file to your hard drive (that’s huge, so make sure you keep your computer on, as it will up to a few hours, depending on your broadband speed.  2 – Once it’s on your PC, you’ll be told to upgrade.  You can do it then or whenever it’s convenient for you.  and 3 – Enjoy.

OK, so looks pretty easy, so why not move forward with it, right?


An operating system (OS) upgrade is a HUGE undertaking.  It changes EVERYTHING about your PC and once you’ve installed the new OS, there’s no going back except to wipe out your PC and re-install the original OS, assuming your have a restore partition or the original disks handy.

So before you click “Reserve free upgrade” and begin the process, learn a little bit about the new OS.

NOTE:  We’re asking all PCMDX clients to hold off on the install until we’ve evaluated the new OS on our test machines.  We’ll check out the good, the bad and the ugly and give you a fair, unbiased report on whether it’s worth your time to upgrade.

The history of the Windows OS is why we’re asking our clients to wait.  Here’s a brief summary of the Windows OS:

1980s – 1995 – Although Microsoft Windows existed, it was not a true OS.  It was an interface for the MS DOS operating system, making launching programs easier.

1995 – MS introduced Windows 95, which was a true OS.  It was designed to be Plug and Play, meaning that many devices could be installed without the search for drivers and additional programs.  It meant well, but didn’t accomplish the task and the term BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) was coined.  Constant BSOD were common with Windows 95.  The business clients were introduced to Windows NT, which looked similar to 95, but that’s where the similarities ended..

1998 – 2000 – Windows 95 was replaced by Windows 98 and Windows 98SE, which were superior over 95.  Although BSODs still happened, they happened less often.  On the business side of the OSs, Windows NT 3.5 and 4.0 were taking over the business network due to their user friendly interface and their robust architecture.

2000-2001 – On the consumer side, Windows ME was introduced and on the business side Windows 2000 was rolled out.  ME didn’t gain the popularity that MS expected, with most users sticking to 98SE.  2000 did very well on the business side.

2001 – MS instroduced Windows XP, to date the most popular OS they have every put out.  Although the life cycle of a MS OS is supposed to be 3 years, XP lasted 13 years before it was retired (End-of-Life) on April 9, 2014.  XP came in two flavors, Home, for home users, and Professional, for business users.  Both were based on the NT kernel (the most basic part of the OS), which was must more robust than the previous versions.  BSODs began to appear less and less.

One problem with XP was its security.  In the early XP years, virus writers began to attack Microsoft and XP developed a reputation for being “less secure”.  MS countered this by coming out with Service Packs (SP) every few years.

2006 – Because of the security reputation that XP had, MS came out with Windows Vista.  It came in two types, Home Premium and Business.  It took security to a whole new level, and it gained a reputation for being overly sensitive.  It did have some cool features, like the Aero interface, Plug and Play was improved over XP, but most users, home and business, stuck with Windows XP.  Vista was a dud.

2009 – MS introduced Windows 7.  It again came in two types, Home Premium and Professional.  This OS was a true winner, combining the best of XP and the best of Vista into one.  MS was still supporting XP, though, so the home market transitioned to Win7 faster than the business market.

2012 – MS introduced Windows 8 and lost a substantial share of the home market.  The OS was a radical change from the previous Windows versions and people didn’t like it.  Businesses objected to it, home users wanted to know where the Start button was.  MS thought people were ready for its “Metro” interface of tiles instead of program icons.  MS was wrong.  MS came out with Windows 8.1 which brought some functions of the old interface back, but it was still a totally different OS.

2015 – MS releases Windows 10.  Wait!  What happened to Windows 9?  Windows 9 never happened.  Rumor has it 7 8 9 (sorry, geek humor, won’t happen again…).  Some speculate that Windows 10, because it’s free, will be copying Apple’s OS model.  Apple computers run “OS X”.  X is the Roman numeral for 10.  Apple doesn’t charge for upgrades to their OS, provided the computer can handle the upgrade.  Apple doesn’t change the “X” part, instead giving each new upgrade a name, like Snow Leopard, Maverick, Mountain Lion, Yosemite, and coming later in 2015, El Capitan.

Rumor has it that Windows 10 will be the last Windows released by MS.

So what’s new with Windows 10?  We don’t really know yet.  We’ve heard some favorable reviews, but until it’s released to the public, it’s all speculation.  We believe (hope?) that MS will have done with Windows 10 what they did with Windows 7, which is to combine the best of both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

So here’s what we suggest:  Go ahead and reserve your free copy of Windows 10, but hold off on installing it.  Let PCMDX install it first, test it, evaluate it, and then read our recommendation.  Remember, once you go to 10 there’s no going back, so be patient.  We’ll post on our Facebook page when we have an update on this blog, so make sure you Like us on Facebook.

Meanwhile, if you have questions, please e-mail us at