Downgrade AVG back to the Free version

 

AVG Free Antivirus is a great, free antivirus solution made by AVG Technologies.  Many people use AVG, and I have come across a few clients that have accidentally upgraded their Free version to the Paid 30 day Trial version, causing headaches.

 

downgrade avg

 

The problem occurs when updating AVG Free, and clicking ‘Next’ through a series of screens.  On the “Select your product” screen, AVG have pre-selected the “Internet Security Trial/Full Protection” option, which will upgrade you to the paid trial version of AVG.

To avoid this situation, you need to select the “Anti-virus Free/Basic Protection” button, before clicking ‘Next’.

 

downgrade avg - remember to select BASIC

 

Clients regularly ask if it possible to downgrade AVG back to the Free version.

Yes, if you have accidentally upgraded your AVG Free to the AVG Paid Trial, you can downgrade AVG back to the free edition by starting to uninstall AVG.  During the uninstallation process, you will be given the option to downgrade AVG back to the free version.

 

  • Open StartControl Panel, and then click Programs and Features.
  • In the list of installed products select AVG, and then click Uninstall.
  • Click the option Switch to AVG AntiVirus FREE.

 

An AVG installer will run, and downgrade AVG to the FREE version. Wait for the installation to finish, and then restart your computer.

 

 

USB stick pictures

usb stick pictures

Some clients recently noticed all my memory cards and USB sticks have pictures, making it much easier to identify which stick is which when trying to save a file on to one.

 

This can be performed using Windows autorun pictures.

To complete this, you’ll need a picture in icon (.ico) format.  You can either download an icon file, from sites such as https://www.iconfinder.com or make your own icon from any picture, using an Icon Editor program such as Greenfish Icon Editor Pro.

 

Step 1Verbatim 32GB Store N Go USB

Locate a picture of your USB stick.  I try to find an exact picture of the stick, using a Google Image Search.  In this case I searched for “Verbatim 32GB Store n Go USB”

View the picture, Right click on it and select ‘Save picture as’, and save it to your desktop.

 

Step 2

To transform the picture in to an icon file, I used Greenfish Icon Editor Pro.  The video below demonstrates how easily that’s done.

Save the icon file directly into the USB stick, as ICON.ICO, making sure you save the file in ‘.ico’ icon format.

 

Step 3

Create a text file on the USB stick, called AUTORUN.INF which contains the following code:

[autorun]
icon=icon.ico

 

*Some additional notes about autorun are at the bottom of this post.

Step 4

Finally, I make both the icon and autorun files read only and hidden, using Windows Explorer – selecting both files > Right click > Properties and ticking the Read Only and Hidden check boxes.

 

usb stick pictures - read only autorun

 

 

All done – Just remove and remount the USB drive to see your changes.

 

Video Tutorial

The following video demonstrates how it’s done.

 

YouTube  Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YprCOwTUlns

 

Note: The same method can also be used to identify Memory Cards and Hard Drives.

 

Some notes about autorun:

The autorun feature has many more options, such as the label option, which names the USB stick – eg: “label=MyUSBDrive”.

 

Autorun is quite an old feature, first introduced with Windows 95.  The option commonly abused is the “open=Setup.exe”.  This has been abused to automatically run malicious software, without the user knowing.

This was patched at some point during the life of Windows, and Windows must now be configured to allow Autorun.inf to launch items.

An Autorun command reference is located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autorun.inf

 

Overheating PC tips

Overheating PC - Hot LaptopIn this hot weather we know to keep ourselves, our children and our pets cool, but its also a good time to check on your PC’s health – perhaps its an overheating pc

 

Computers will shutdown when they are too hot, in an attempt to protect themselves from excessive heat damage, but permanent damage can still occur.

 

How do you check the PC’s temperatures ?

The majority of PC’s show their temperatures in the BIOS screen, but this requires a reboot to access it.  It’s much easier to view the PC’s temperatures by downloading and installing SpeedFan v4.49, a FREE tool available from the Tailormade IT Solutions website:

http://www.tailormadeitsolutions.com.au/tools/SpeedFan-v449-Installer.exe

“SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips.”  Source: http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php

 

If you do notice high temperatures, or are experiencing strange shutdowns and outages, this can result in permanent damage to your PC, and reduce its life span.

Overheating PC - Adding Thermal Paste to the CPU

Thermal Paste being applied to a CPU

 

Tailormade IT Solutions recommends and provides PC maintenance services that investigate and resolve overheating PC issues, including:

Dust Removal Dust is a great insulator, and cleaning out that build up of dust inside the PC will help it breathe better and run cooler.

Fan ChecksEnsuring your internal PC fans are not damaged, and are working correctly and effectively removing heat from the PC.

CPU Thermal PasteThe PC’s brain, or CPU, generates a lot of heat.  Checking and reapplying the Thermal Paste on the CPU can assist heat removal from this important component.

Additional CoolingInstalling upgraded or additional heatsinks and fans, including water cooling for extreme desktop PCs.  Laptop owners can also purchase laptop cooler pads.

 

 

Please note that the following method of cooling your PC is NOT recommended.

Overheating PC - How NOT to cool your PC

 

Overheating PC - Tailormade IT Solutions

Surfing Safe on the Road

Surfing Safe on the Road

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Windows 8 God Mode folder

Windows 8 God Mode folder - Windows 8 Logo

 

Everyone likes the idea of a cheat mode, or “God Mode.”  You may not be aware that Windows 8 (and Windows 7) contain a hidden settings menu in their depths.

 

Windows 8 God Mode folder is a hidden menu containing a wide range of settings for Windows 8 operating system.

 

To activate a God Mode folder, you just need to create a simple folder and rename it to a specific filename with a code.

Once created, rename the folder from ‘New Folder’ to this exact code:

GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

 

 

This short video demonstrates how to access a wide range of settings in Windows 8 by creating a God Mode folder

 

 

Backup

Backup Routines

 

BitTorrent Labs has just released a new tool called BitTorrent Sync, which is used to sync files/folders from one PC directly to another.  It works differently to cloud based products like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft Skydrive.

With a variety of backup options now available, its surprising that many users don’t consider backing up important data until its too late.

In this post, Tailormade IT Solutions discusses backup options and some of their pros and cons, including their ease of use, safety, security and suitability.

 

Tailormade IT Solutions can configure a backup routine that ensures your data is safe.

 

Copy Files Locally

I’ve met users who simply plug in a USB drive and copy data from their computer manually.  For example, copying the My Documents folder to a USB drive, CD or DVD.Backup to USB stick

Pros:

  • Simple.

Cons:

  • User has to remember to backup regularly;
  • backup data is held on-site and susceptible to physical loss.

 

Automated Backup – Locally

The next step would be an automated backup solution.  Data is a lot safer if the backup routine is automated and regular.  These backup routines typically work at a certain time, and copy information to a USB drive.  Users should disconnect the backup drive when not in use.

Pros:

  • Set and forget peace of mind.

Cons:

  • Data held on-site.

 

Automated Backup/Sync over Network

If you have multiple computers, your can set one aside as a backup PC, and configure all other computers to backup at a certain time to that location.  This can work locally or through the internet, using the new BitTorrent Sync tool.

BitTorrent Sync Logo

Pros:

  • Set and forget peace of mind.

Cons:

  • Data held on-site.

 

Automated Backup/Sync to Cloud

Using cloud storage providers (such as DropBox, SkyDrive or Google Drive) to syncing folders has become very popular.  These services allow you to automatically sync a folder from your computer to a internet server.  With your login details, the server can be accessed from any computer in the world.

Cloud storage providers offer varying levels of service and security, but they also retain ownership of your data in the fine print, and  commonly limit the sizes of files you can upload, and/or total server size.

Pros:Backup - Cloud Storage providers

  • Data is held off site, and accessible from anywhere in the world.

Cons:

  • Data held by cloud providers is owned by cloud providers.

 

 

 

If you need an IT professional to configure a backup routine for you, contact Tailormade IT Solutions

Windows Media Centre Volume too low

Windows Media Centre Volume too lowDo you find yourself using VLC Media Player to play video content, because the Windows Media Centre volume is too low, even when set to maximum ?

As a work around, you could use VLC media player which includes a feature to artificially increase volume of a video to 200%

But why, when this simple fix will mean you can continue to watch content with loud volume within Windows Media Centre.

  • In Windows, right click the speaker icon in the system tray, and select Playback Devices.
Windows Media Centre Volume too low

Click image to zoom in

  • Double click your default output device.
  • Click the Enhancements tab.
  • Tick the checkbox for Loudness Equalization.
  • Click Ok to close, and return to the Desktop.

 

Finally, in Windows Media Centre, select Settings from the Tasks menu, then select TV / Audio and tick the checkbox for Auto Volume.

Windows Media Centre Volume too low

Click image to zoom in

 

Note: VLC Media Player is great software, which is very useful when content is out of sync.

Ransomware

ransomware

What is ransomware?

Ransomware defines a category of malicious computer software that encrypts the users data, demanding a ransom be paid to the software creators.

Recently, ransomware has become more common, and means your backup routine is more important than ever.

 

Is ransomware common?

Dozens of victim businesses have gone public detailing how thousands of dollars had been lost paying ransoms to unlock encrypted data — or in lost productivity by choosing to cut losses.

In the last 6 months, many Australian businesses have had their data held to ransom:

Firefly, a small family owned business in Avondale Heights, did what many of us fail to do – maintain regular, tested and “air-gapped” backups on a drive which was kept physically separate from the PC network.

 


A video by Symantec

 

How does ransomware infect?

Many of these ransomware attacks have occurred initially by visiting through malicious websites which deliver malware using drive-by-download or by opening malicious email attachments / clicking malicious links.

The attackers then breach the company network by brute-forcing open RDP credentials. The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) function, which allows remote access, is commonly unused and should be disabled (on port 3389).

 

How to protect against ransomware

A few simple steps will reduce your chances of being infected with ransomware:

  • Ensure your computer system has the latest update patches installed.
  • Be wary of opening email attachments and clicking links in spam emails, or installing software from untrusted sources.
  • Be wary of visiting websites that suggest you need to update/install software, drivers or video codecs.
  • Backup important data !!!

Once your data is held to ransom, there are only 3 options: 1. You can pay the ransom demanded, which is generally $3000-$5000 and provides no guarantee that your computer/files will be returned to you; 2. Attempt to crack the encryption using a decryption tool, or 3. Completely wipe and reinstall your system from backups.

Clearly just having a backup stored on a USB drive that is always connected is not safe from the attackers.  You need to remove external hard drives, or they will attack them and lock them down too.  For many businesses, a sensible “air-gap” solution is to ensure backups are taken off site, as this also prevents against data loss in the event of fire.

Panda Security have released a ‘Panda Ransomware Decrypt‘ tool.

Ransomware

Note: There is also fake ‘Australian Federal Police Ransomware’ which behaves in a similar fashion: Locking the computer and demanding money, with the attackers pretending to be Australian law enforcement officials.  The lock screen looks fancy (shown below) but would the AFP accept Ukash ?

AFP Ransomware

“AFP” Ransomware – and they accept Ukash ?

TPB AFK

TPB AFK logo

 

On 8th February 2013, a new documentary was released directed by Simon Klose.  The documentary “TPB AFK – The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard” is based on the lives of the three founders of The Pirate Bay – Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm.

Of course, The Pirate Bay is one of the best known file-sharing brands and the site has a well-earned place in Internet history.  Swedish filmmaker Simon Klose has documented part of their struggle as they are targeted by several court cases over the years.

What not many people know is that the three founders of The Pirate Bay often pretended to get along in public, but had some big fallouts in private. This becomes quite apparent in the documentary.

TPB-AFK is the first film to premiere both online and at a major film festival, and can be downloaded and shared for free.  The full film is released under a Creative Commons license onto The Pirate Bay and other BitTorrent sites.  3 versions of this documentary are legally available for download from the Pirate Bay website.

The film runs for 122 mins.

YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTOKXCEwo_8

Torrent Link: https://oldpiratebay.org/torrent/6243351/TPB-AFK-2013-720p-h264-SimonKlose

Here is the trailer for the documentary, called TPB AFK.

TIS Logo