Windows Essentials

This is my study guide for Windows Essentials. hope it helps.

Microsoft Windows books on Amazon

Table of Contents

Becoming A System Administrator

There are several things that are usually involved in doing this role and its impossible to talk about everything. I want to talk a little about some of the main ones. The order is not too important in which you learn. The main thing is to learn each concept as well as you can.

Building A Home Lab

Your first step in starting to learn is to build a home lab. What I mean by this is to have a computer system or even a separate little network set up in order to duplicate an actual working environment. You can buy small machines. Running virtual machines off of one powerful system is also a good option. Spending a lot of money is not really necessary but it will cost a little. Investing in yourself, with a goal in mind, is definitely worth it.

The idea here is to bring your internet into your home like usual to a router. From there you have a second router connected. That will separate your home and test traffic. From that second router you can connect whatever you want like a sever, workstations, or even a firewall. This will help you jump to system administrator more than anything else.

Study in the way that you learn best. Some people prefer video training while others like to read books. There is nothing wrong with doing both. The important thing is to go over every example and concept as deep as you can. Then you practice it and get it to work in your test environment.

To update this section a little I wanted to add that you can go about this a couple different ways.

  • Buy your own equipment
  • Rent a virtual server

You can do a lot these days with a minimal machine. It does not take a lot of money to get a decent machine. Obviously the better hardware you get the better performance you will have so keep that in mind. If you just can not get anything beefy then don't sweat it too much.

The other option is to just rent your hardware. Doing this by virtualization will often mimic the way you will interact with servers anyway. This is a very common way of doing things. You can setup a virtual router, virtual switch, and virtual storage just like you would at home.

Learn  A Server OS

This is very important. Learning to be a system admin is not really possible if you only use Windows 10 or 7. You have to use Server 2012 or 2016. Unless you have a specific reason to learn something older I would not waste your time. Begin with one of the newer technologies. Server 2016 has just come out so I would recommend taking a look at it if you can.

If you are in school you can get special deals on the software or many times it will be free. Definitely take advantage of this.

Practice setting up Hyper-V, a network, DHCP, DNS, and anything else you can think of. There are even virtual labs for these kind of things with practice exercises.

Use Active Directory

Active directory is one of the great built in features from Windows. While it is not the only way to do things anymore it is still the most common. You will need to learn how to do your tasks using this tool.

It can do a lot of things and so is very versatile, it is basically a way to manage your users. You store information about them here.  It can also provide network services and set policies for users so that software can be assigned correctly.. That is the short form of it. Learning how to do things in it is a must for attaining the jump to system administrator.

One of the ideas behind its flexibility is that you can design your own hierarchy of users. This will probably be different for every organization. It is a good way to manage though.

Active Directory is controlled by domain controllers. There are usually at least 2 of these. Multiples help in case one fails. You do not want your only domain controller to fail. That would be bad.  They are separate computers that act as servers. When information on the network changes on one the other contacts it and syncs the information.

Structure is provided by OU's. That stands for organizational unit. It is what you put your departments or offices in. There are many other ways to organize your network of users and equipment as well.

Assigning Group Policies

This is another feature that Windows has in it. It is part of Active Directory too. Groups are a subsection of it. It is another way to structure your network users and resources. Breaking your users up into groups is a common way of doing things. Enacting separate policies for certain groups is a good way to control what is done on your network. Group policy is a good way to enforce security policies in your organization.

Learning Virtualization

Virtualizing your servers is another must do operation these days. This technology can save you large amounts of money if you are a mid size or larger business or institution. There is really no good reason not to virtualize even if you are a small business too. It will be something that you do 95% of the time. Its just that savings are seen quicker by large organizations. The jump to system administrator can be made easier if you show how virtualizing their environment will save them money.

The trend these days is to buy 1 powerful server that has the capability to expand its storage, processing, and memory. Adding resources to your server is then done as needed. Then you run multiple virtual machines on this same piece of hardware. There can be SQL, Active Directory, Files, just about any software, and your server operating system.

Virtualization allows you to set up systems very quick. Its is very much like keeping system images of different pieces of hardware. If something goes wrong whether hardware failure or virus, you can restore a workstation quickly.

There are several great options these days depending on your environment. In a Windows environment then Hyper-V or VMWare will be your first options and will have the most features. VMWare has the most features but is also the most expensive so be aware of that.

Using Storage Systems

Everyone has data. Learning how to keep it available in case of emergency is a critical task. It can be simple or a very complicated task depending on your business needs. There are almost countless ways to set of storage for your network.

A solid option is using Windows Storage Server. It is, you guessed it, a storage oriented version of Windows server and provides many benefits for the Windows admin. These include lowering your operating costs, using iSCSI targets, print through it, and using it as a backup DHCP server.

Tape drives are still used throughout the IT world. So while useful to learn, you may not want to unless they do so at your job.

The big things these days is learning about Sans and Nas.

I will start with a Nas first. It stands for network attached storage and is just a fancy name for a file server that is attached to your network, which all file servers are anyway or they would not be of much use. One main difference in a Nas is that it runs on different hardware. It also can access the file system directly, is not a regular PC, and is its own unit and usually runs some sort of Linux. Brands such as Synology and IOsafe are my favorites. These work good for small businesses and home owners.

A San is similar in ways but altogether much different. For one, it can be far more complicated. It uses a technology called Fibre Channel. This does not let a user connect to the file system itself. Instead, it uses storage blocks. That is quite different. Naturally it also uses different protocols. It is also faster than a Nas. At home this probably would not matter but larger businesses will notice the difference.

Exchange

In case you will be handling email on site then this is really good to know. If you are using a cloud email system it is still good for your resume. I highly suggest learning as much of it as you can. It can get very involved like most Microsoft technologies. That is because it does a lot and includes a lot of flexibility.

Exchange is for managing your email. Admins will set up mail boxes and configure whatever they need to after that. You might have to learn 2 different versions, which are the standard and enterprise versions. Standard version has a few less features than the enterprise.

While Microsoft now has Office365 in the cloud, many of the same concepts will carry over. Learning either will make the other a breeze. After all, to make the jump to system administrator you have to make yourself as valuable as possible.

I wanted to update this section by saying it is almost always a better idea to use a hosted cloud option these days. This type of email offering is available for almost everything including Exchange. If you have a real need to host your own email that is your business but for most people it will come out cheaper and be a lot less of a headache.

DNS

Knowing the basics of DNS will serve you well no matter where you are. When users have issues accessing the internet this is one of the first troubleshooting steps you will want to use. Use DNS lookup and see what it can tell you.

WSUS

This is Windows Server Update Services. If any of you have had to diagnose updates issues then you will know what I mean when I say how much of a pain this is sometimes. Many people have to wait hours and hours for updates when building a new machine that you do not have an image for. Some people have success by using a variety of tricks to help the situation. Most, however, get no such luck.

WSUS is a repository for Windows updates. Hopefully you never have to mess with it and all of your updates go smoothly. It just doesn't happen like that usually though. So taking all of that into account, it is important to understand how this software works and what to do when you need to troubleshoot it.

SCCM

This is a nice piece of software. It is part of the System Center Suite of products. When you make the jump to system administrator this can be one of your core tools if you choose it to be. It is usually installed with and works well with Windows Server. It can be integrated and used with Active Directory to discover its hierarchy and groups.

You can schedule it to examine your groups for new members too which is really cool. Another cool thing is that its a good backup resource for Active Directory. What I mean by this is that some features overlap. If something is not working in Active Directory then you can use System Center to accomplish the same thing.

Basic Networking

Know how to configure your equipment. Get a good enterprise firewall for your network that will handle spam and act as a web filter. Plan for email spam and how to avoid it. Get a solid antivirus in place. These are the keys you will need to focus on to make the jump to system administrator.

Know how Mac addresses work with ethernet devices. Use them and learn how to use the above software already mentioned along with them to help you with issues. IP addressing is another critical concept. This must be set up and configured correctly. This knowledge is vital for fixing little issues that pop up all the time. Understanding basic concepts like your default gateway should be easy enough for just about anyone.

Firewalls and how they work are one of the more important things to know in networking. They come in software and hardware varieties. Most businesses use hardware as it is faster to get one going out of the box than configuring software. Hardware is also more expensive though. Software takes a while to get to know and to set up right but good versions are free. There are options as you can see.

Routers are also very important. In a typical installation there will only be a few of these or sometimes even just 1. There can be more if your network is segmented , for example.

Switches are a lot more common. These are distribution amplifiers for a computer network. Usually an office or a classroom will get their own switch to make things simple and keep traffic apart. It makes it easy to fix problems when everything is divided up too.

Scripting With Powershell

One of the best tools to jump to a system administrator is Powershell. It is just about limitless in what it can do. This really needs to be learned. Scripts, especially in a large environment, save a lot of time. They make you become very efficient.

It is free software that comes with Windows. It is easy to learn. There are many guides around too that will help you get started. Currently this is how most administrators make themselves more efficient. Having your environment be consistent is also a huge perk and I recommend anyone that works in the Windows world to start learning this.

Document Your Environment

This includes IP assignments and a network map of your business. Write down everything about your departments. Take note of how everything is wired and where the switches are. Then get the details of what cable is connected to what port. This is typically done with Onenote, Visio, and Excel.

In your network it is a good idea to use diagrams to show where your network closets are in different buildings as well as the rack configuration in each closet. Each router and switch should be labeled and documented in the same place as your diagrams to show where ports are connected to.

Another good idea is to have a current list of all users and their computer names. This makes it easy to use Powershell to remote into a particular machine or just do general maintenance when it is needed on any machine.

Plan Ahead

Once you know your layout and environment then be proactive instead of being reactive to problems. Plan to fix things before they become a problem. Analyze what you have and know when it will be trouble before it actually breaks. This is general patching and updating and I believe should be done religiously. There are much fewer problems when this is done consistently for your users.

Be Patient

If you are coming from  help desk position, it may take some time to make the jump to system administrator. The best thing you can do is keep getting experience, pass some certifications, and learn anything else you can. It is also quite common to move to a junior system administrator as well. This is a position that does less of the admin work.

Conclusion

There is a lot to do to make the jump to system administrator. It is a great job when you can get it. The pay is usually very nice too. It can be quite competitive as well depending on the area you live in. Above I gave a list of topics to learn. Work on your weaknesses. Practice in your home lab every day if possible until tasks become second nature.

 

Protecting Yourself From Ransomware

The reason the older versions of Windows operating systems have been targeted is that they are not updated regularly. This is the main way to protect your computer from ransomware. Some can't even get new updates anymore. People who use Vista or XP need to buy something immediately.

Most people do not update their newer systems regularly either. Updating your system includes your operating system and your applications.

The other unfortunate reason is that many users use pirated versions of Windows. These versions can not get updates at all. They are ripe for exploitation so if you use one then please get a new version or move to Linux.

How Ransomware Works

People get infected by ransomware when they fall for some trick or scam. Their computer usually has to be vulnerable at the same time. The FBI, Microsoft, or the CIA is not going to email you and send you a link to open to pay some money that you owe them. These are just scare tactics so please don't fall for them.

Who Has Been Affected

What is known so far is that this software targets users who run older versions of Windows such as Vista, XP, 7, and 8.1. There were other older versions of server software affected too but they are in the minority. Most people just have to worry about XP and 7.  So far users who run Windows 10 have been safe.

Steps To Protect Your Computer

Now I will get to the basic steps that are required in order to keep your computer system safe. This short list will cover most scenarios. There are several other smaller things you could do but they are harder to implement and more situational. So if you see a slightly different list somewhere that is why I did not include absolutely everything.

  1. Backup your computer regularly
  2. Use good antivirus
  3. Update your system regularly
  4. Remove SMB1 from your computer
  5. Install an anti-ransomware tool
  6. Block port 445
  7. View file extensions

Backup Your Computer Regularly

I probably don't need to say this but having good backups are critical. Having a good backup plan will protect you against ransomware and many other disasters.

A good backup plan is also more than just throwing files on a small USB stick. If you do not know how to implement a good backup plan then you can Google it or pay a professional IT person. It certainly wouldn't hurt for you to learn how to do this though.

If you are going to learn yourself then research the 3-2-1 backup method. It is:

  • 3 copies of your data
  • 2 types of media to have your data on
  • 1 location other than your home

Anyone IT consultant you hire should be familiar with this and will be able to advise you on how to implement it.

3 Copies Of Your Data

Your data can be many things. It includes pictures of your kids, video of family, excel documents, letters you typed out and even game data if that is important to you. My point is that there is many types of data and whatever you have is valuable to you.

Your options to keep it on include:

  • USB flash drive                                              [portable devices but easy to lose, don't really recommend but some people do it]
  • Internal hard drive in your computer        [good option and simple, just add an extra high capacity drive for your storage]
  • External drive made for backups                [this is an external drive, powered and more reliable, usually attached by USB]
  • A Network Attached Storage device           [this is a file server, pre-configured for consumer use, good option for backups]
  • Cloud Service                                                  [this is something like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox]

2 Types Of Media To Have Your Data On

The idea here is to minimize any type of hardware failure. So use either:

  • Your internal hard drive + external drive
  • The internal drive + NAS
  • internal drive + cloud service
  • An external drive + NAS
  • Another external drive + cloud service

1 Location Other Than Your Home

This is for disaster recovery. If there is a flood, earthquake, or tornado then everything in your home could be ruined. I hope that doesn't happen to anyone but IT professionals have to account for it. You generally have two options here.

  • Cloud service
  • Some safe place you can go to like a friends house, work, deposit box or something like that.

It is just somewhere you can safely keep your data that will be on either an external drive or an extra NAS.

Your main consideration here is whether you care or not that another company has your data. It is not a concern for most as lots of people are fine using a Cloud service. If it matters to you though just make other arrangements so you can leave your data at an alternate location. After you are setup then have backups taken frequently so you are protected.

Imaging Your Computer

If able, you should also do this and it is very effective at getting you up and going fast. What this means is that the software takes the current state of your pc including files, apps, and settings and then it clones that over to another hard drive exactly as it is. If something is lost then it is a quick way to restore everything you lost.

There are a lot of companies that sell software like this. Just search for "pc imaging software" in your favorite search engine or call your local pc tech as he should be able to do this too.

Using Raid

Raid is another tool that you can use to mitigate any disasters. It is not a substitute for backup or anything else and should be used in addition to these other tools and services. It is more advanced though and harder to use so be aware that it has a learning curve.

I list this because it will depend on how important your data is. If you are a company your data could be worth million and you will be using all of these tools together.

Use Good Antivirus

Using a good antivirus will also help a lot. Most malware infections come to your computer or network through attachments or other files that antivirus will catch. This is how the Ransomware will enter your computer or network.

Ransomware is not a virus though. This is key to remember. It is important because most people think that JUST using antivirus is good enough. Many times it is not. It is just another layer of protection. The 230,000 computers that have been infected by this malware in a matter of days can attest that antivirus by itself is not good enough. You should use it but not trust it implicitly.

Example are:

  • Bitdefender
  • Webroot
  • Eset
  • Vipre

There are many others but one of those will work. Then remember to regularly update your antivirus because if you haven't updated in 6 months then it will not work when you need it.

Update Your System Regularly

All of the reported machines that were infected have been using a Microsoft operating system. Attackers targeted Windows systems because there are so many more of them and there was much better income potential. That said, if the machines had been updated properly and on a regular schedule then this attack could not have really happened.

When I talk about updating for a Windows operating system I am referring to the Windows updates feature. All of Microsoft's operating systems tries to do this automatically if they are legal versions. The problem is that many people turn this option off or turn their computers off at night. This will interrupt the process and it will get cancelled.

These updates include security patches to your software. These are particularly important and need to be done as soon as they come out in most cases.

Here is how to check for updates. This should work for just about any consumer version of Windows.

First: go to your control panel

Second: Click on the [System and Security] link at the top left there. You will get to the screen below. Now click on [Windows Update].

If it find updates just hit the [Install] button.

Remove SMB1 From Your Computer

SMB stands for server message block. It is an antique protocol on Microsoft systems that is mostly still enabled by default. While this is a shame there is not much we can do about it yet. The best advice is to tell everyone to disable it.

It should be disabled because this is how the [WannaCry] ransomware did its evilness.

Microsoft realized SMB1 made its Windows machines vulnerable so it released a security patch that came through the Windows update system. 230,000 people,at least,did not do their Windows updates. Unfortunately that is what happens because that is what updates are for.

Here is how to take this feature off of your computer.

First step: go to the control panel.

Second step: Once there click on [Programs]. You will be taken to a screen like this below. Once there click [Turn Windows features on or off].

Third step: You will now be taken to this screen.

Fourth step: Once you see the above window you will want to uncheck [SMB 1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support]. Here is a picture below in case you have trouble finding it.

Install Anti-Ransomware Tool

This is another of those things you can do that helps. They are generally free too which I know people like. There are several companies that make good tools. I use Bitdefender for my antivirus so I use their free tool for ransomware also.

Block Port 445

If this is your pc at home then I would just block this port. This will cause some issues in businesses that run Active Directory so if you are in a business then ask your administrator first to see what he recommends.

This was the main port used in the attack. There are others that will cause issues such as ports 136-139 but those can mess with how your Windows system works. If you do the others steps like I said above then port 445 will be fine.

This port allows remote execution of files on your computer and through your network. If you have a reason to keep it unblocked then you will know enough about how to protect yourself anyway.

Here are the steps to blocking this port. There are a few ways but this is the easiest way.

 

  • Go to control panel
  • Then go to [System and Security]
  • Now click on [Windows Firewall]       
  • Click [Advanced Settings]
  • You will now have this window.
  • Click [Inbound Rules] then [New Rule] which might be n your right. Then click [Port] and hit next at the bottom of screen.
  • From here make sure that [TCP] is checked and [Specific Local Ports] then type the number [445] in the box. This indicates that port 445 should be blocked.
  • Make sure the [Block the Connection] box is checked. Then hit next.
  • Make sure all 3 boxes are checked and then hit next.
  •  Just provide a name for your new rule. I called mine [Block port 445] for instance. Then hit finish and your done.

 

View File Extensions

This is an extra step that will make your life easier when dealing with potential malware. When opening up email or seeing any other type of file sometimes file extensions are not enabled. This means you just see the name of the file but not what type of file it is. Well this is important if it is a type that is executable such as .exe, .com, or .bat.

So enabe this setting in Windows so you can easily see what kind of file you are dealing with.

I don't have Windows 7 so I can't show you pictures but this is easy and you can't hurt anything if you get it wrong. Here are the steps:

  1. Click the Start menu
  2. Type [folder option] and click the option that appears
  3. In the window that pops up, click [View]
  4. Uncheck the box [Hide Extensions For Known File Types]
  5. Then hit [Ok]

Your done after that.

Use Caution

When I say use caution I mean be careful about opening things up when you do not know what they are. Look at every email carefully that asks you to do something. Unless it is your next door neighbor and you discussed something that he was going to send you then you probably should not open it up from your email. Always go to the site on your own to log in somewhere and not the link from an email.

Never Pay

If something bad ever happens, and I hope that it does not, never pay for your stuff. The reason I say that is that most don't get their stuff back anyway. You are just giving the attackers money. Trust me they will not start to be ethical after you pay them. It also just encourages them to do this more and helps pay the cost for them to do it more.

Conclusion

Ransomware can be a real bother. No one wants to lose their pictures or video of their family. Then add the indignity of having to pay money to get them back. Since this is purely a scam, those that pay the money hardly ever get their files back anyway. That just stinks if you ask me. So please take these preventive steps I have talked about above so this never happens to you.

Hints On Using OneNote

I use OneNote every day. I write about products that I enjoy using. Most of us have access to Microsoft Office at work or at home and OneNote is included for free with it. It just makes sense to use it to your advantage. So my examples and ideas are how I use it and from my own perspective. I just wanted to mention that before I started.

Use It For Your Documentation

I document and keep records of a lot of different things. I do it for home and for work. To get started and use it to its full advantage you will want to sign in. Use your Microsoft account or set one up if you do not have one. This allows you to sign in wherever you are to get your notebooks. You can set up multiple notebooks all full with tabs or just use one main notebook. You can have as many notebooks as you want or even tabs in a notebook for that matter. It is your preference on that but if you are new to OneNote I would just use one at first. When you have a use for another notebook it is easy to set another one up.

  • To create a new notebook:
  • Go to top left of screen and click on File
  • Select New
  • Under Notebook Name: name it for the project you want it to represent
  • Then right below that click on the [Create Notebook] button

Make sure and save your notebook to the OneDrive account that came with Microsoft Office. This will allow you to access it anywhere.

I have tabs for Powershell, Bash commands, checklists for hard things to remember, lists of ideas for various things, and projects I want to work on. I have many others as well but I won't bore you with everything. The point is that I document things I need to remember or would be helpful to be able to refer to.

Organizing Your Thoughts

As mentioned slightly before, there are many ways to organize your ideas in your notebook. I have already said that you can have any number of notebooks. Within your notebooks you can have just many sections. Sections are the next logical way to organize your data. They look like tabs on your screen that you can click. They are just to the right of your notebook name. You can make a new section by clicking the [+] sign. You can double click or right click to rename it to whatever you like.

Now within each section you can also have various pages. At the far right and just below your name or the search box there is another part called [+ Add Page]. Click that to add a page to a section.

For each page you can also make a subpage if you want to. To do this just right click your page, assuming you have created one, then select subpage. This is the smallest level of organization that you can do but it should be plenty for most people. Don't feel like you have to do all of this though as you do not. Just do what you need.

Making Notes

OneNote is a note taking app. That is its main function. You can add content to the section, the page, or the subpage. The content itself can be:

  • Typed notes
  • Video
  • Audio recording
  • Handwriting
  • Pictures
  • Files like PDF's

One of my favorite hints on using OneNote is that you can drag a PDF you want to refer to straight into a section. You can do the same with pictures or screen shots too. I do this when someone else has given directions on how to do things. Just take a screenshot and put it in there. I have put map sections in there too. Once that is done I can pull this stuff up on any desktop, tablet, or even my phone. That way I don't have to go find it again.

Content and notes are put in containers on each section. This container is just a box that grows with what you do. You can expand it yourself by dragging from the lower right corner and moving it completely by dragging from the top bar of the box.

Formatting your notes is just as easy. At the top as with any Microsoft product they have many options for fonts, colors, and making things look nice. Be creative and play around with it. For most of mine I prefer to add gridlines like college ruled paper has. That is under the [View] option on the menu.

Color Code Your Thoughts

One of the best hints on using OneNote is to color code sections of text within a tab. Think about what colors you want to use for certain things and do that consistently. If your tabs are long like mine are it will help you find sections and your information much faster. To do this:

  • Select the text that you want to be a different color.
  • A box will pop up to your right after you let up on your mouse.
  • There will be a part for [Font Color].
  • Click the small arrow next to [Font Color].
  • A huge selection of colors will be shown, just click one of the colors.

Another color tip I just thought of is to color your section tabs and screen color. You can do this by right-clicking on a section tab and choose the color option at the bottom. This is a nice way to organize your pages and sections by type. It makes them just look nicer as well.

Using Tags

A lot of people use tags in other programs so this is one of the more familiar hints on using OneNote. This is a good way to cross reference your individual sections and notes together. For example I script a lot using Powershell and I have a section just for it. I have added tags to certain types of scripts that I have in there and I can search just for those types of scripts using that tag.

Another example is that I have a section for customer I do work for. I use a tag for each customer. I just use their name. So now when they call me I can just search their name in the tags and see their history of work I have done for them.

To use tags just click [Home] on the menu. There is a large [Tag] section at the top middle of menu. Just to the right of the [Heading] box is the [Tags] box. You will see a list of tags that Microsoft thinks is important. There are small arrows for up and down at the right edge of the box. Click those to scroll through their list of tags. To create your own tags go to bottom of list and select customize to make your own.

Microsoft has included so many tags in their list that sometimes they are hard to keep up with. A solution to this is that you can make your own tags. You do this by choosing the [Customize Tags] selection. Just call the tag what you want and hit ok. They should now appear at the top of the tag list for you.

You can also delete any tags that you want. When looking at your list you can select one and see a big [x] on the right. Hit the [x] to delete that tag. Do this if you don't like the tags by Microsoft or no longer need one that you created.

Searching For Content

When you are looking for something you need to search for it. You do this by using the [Search Bar] of course. This is where you search for your tags. The search bar has options though. You should notice a little arrow next to where you type your text at. When you hit that arrow you will see how thorough you want to search for your tags. They are:

  • This section
  • This section group
  • This notebook
  • All notebooks
  • Set this scope as default

When you hit the arrow select one of those first four options then hit it again and select [Set this scope as default]. That will make it easier on you to find things.

Inserting Content

Getting content into OneNote is your goal here and this app makes it easy. I have already talked about typing notes but there is so much more. Under the [Insert] menu option there are a lot of ways to add content. The [Screen Clipping] option is one of the more commonly used. It will grab a screen capture and save it right into your notebook section that your on. This is a good way to keep track of things to visit later like a recipe page or that cool website that has a OneNote guide on it!

Other good options to use are adding pictures, video, and audio recordings. These are pretty self explanatory. You just click the [Pictures] button, for instance, and select the picture you want to add and it is now there in your page. The other options work the same way. There is no right or wrong way, just do whatever makes sense to you. OneNote can adapt to about anything.

One of the things I do a lot is add the date or time to a lot of my notes. This is in the same section just down the tab some on the right.

Adding Files To Sections

I mentioned before this is one of my favorite hints on using OneNote. I do this regularly. When I find things I like I will drag it into a section to look at later. I can then modify it, delete it, or even add to it. It just depends on what I think of it after I read it. I put PDF's in it mostly but occasionally a spreadsheet as well. This can be very handy if you ever need it. You can even modify them right from there.

Emailing Sections

Since this is a Microsoft product it works seamlessly with their other products. A good feature that I like a lot is where you can just email a section to someone else. One of the things I do is keep documentation for difficult installs that take lots of steps. One such installs takes 67 steps to get right. For something like that I definitely want to keep track of the individual steps so I can follow a list when I need to do this.

Someone else was having trouble getting this installed right because he did not keep a list. So I just went to my [Home] button and on the far right there is a large button that says [Email Page]. You just click this and your email program pops up. Add the email address that you want to send it to and they now have it exactly the way you see it. They can even edit it if they need to so they have their own personal notes on it. This is another of my hints on using OneNote that is easy to do and makes efficient use of your time.

Linking Sections

Another one of my hints on using OneNote is linking sections that are related. For example, I have two different sections and they are called Powershell and Windows Commands. A lot of those are usable regardless of which tool you use. Some, however, are not though. I put a link at the bottom of each of those sections that goes to the other section. If I don't find the command and its syntax I am looking for in one section then I can click link at the bottom to take me to the other section. This is faster than looking for the tab. If you do this a lot it just makes sense to link related sections.

Doing Math

You can do some basic arithmetic and data collection within sections. It is very basic though so don't expect much. We are limited to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. While it handles decimals fine, algebra seems to be beyond its capabilities. So think and expect basic and you will be fine. Still, this is a note taking app and most do not even have this functionality. This is not meant to be Matlab lol.

You can do equations via the [Insert] menu which is useful for basic equations.

Adding Passwords To Sections

This is one of those hints on using OneNote you should do if you have anything sensitive on your pages. It is also very easy to do and most other note taking apps do not even have this option. To add a password to a section just right-click the section you want to add security to. Once the menu comes up select [Password Protect This Section]. It will ask you for a password and to confirm it. Close OneNote and re-open it. you will now be asked for a password to see the section. That is a great little feature that more applications should incorporate.

Mobile Usage

I use the mobile app every day also. Just search [OneNote] from the Android or Apple stores. It looks very similar to the desktop version. When I am away from the office I will often add a quick note, a reminder, or document something for later. It syncs almost automatically back to the desktop version in my office.

Conclusion

These hints on using OneNote will hopefully shed some light into this powerful piece of software. It has a good sync service and a nice mobile app you should try as well. They both work very well for me. There are many different ways to use OneNote so don't be afraid to experiment and find your own workflow. This concludes my hints on using OneNote but I have guides on Word and Excel also if your interested.

Windows 10 Accounts

Many people are worried about having to learn Windows 10.  For all the differences you will see, it is still an operating system. When considered from that point of view, it really is not so different after all.

Some things are the same as older Windows operating systems but many others have changed. This is a new Windows. For the most part, it looks and acts differently. I am going to explain as much as I can to help with everything that is different. Windows 10 accounts are no exception either. They are done differently.

User Accounts

Everyone that uses a computer has a user account. This could be an administrator, guest, or basic account for yourself. Sometimes multiple people share the same computer. This is when multiple accounts are more important. It is more secure to have multiple accounts if others use the same computer. Your data will stay safe this way.

Logging In

When you first turn on your computer you will see the login screen. You can select the user, enter a password, or switch users.

Logging Out

When you want to shut down, restart, or log out there is a quick way. Most people open up the start menu but I recommend something else. It is quicker to right click the start menu (windows button on bottom left) then follow then use mouse to highlight and select the option you want to use. If you just want to sign out then hit the [Windows+L] buttons at the same time.

Sign-In Options

Getting started with Windows 10 accounts includes several different sign-in options. They are pretty self explanatory so I will just list them so you are aware they exist.

  • Require sign-in
  • Password
  • Picture password
  • Pin
  • Password Policy
  • Lock Screen

Making Strong Passwords

It is very important to have a password or password phrase that is secure. Everyone knows this. Most people do not know how to create strong passwords, however. Here are a few tips.

  • It needs to be long(10-15) characters at least
  • Uppercase letters
  • Use symbols
  • Make it a phrase that only makes sense to you

If someone on your computer forgets their password you can use any administrator account to reset the password for their Windows 10 account.

Types Of Accounts

There are several different types of Windows 10 accounts. They are:

  • Administrator account
  • User accounts with administrator privileges
  • Basic accounts
  • Guest accounts
  • Microsoft accounts

Administrator Accounts

The administrator account is a super user. This Windows 10 accounts and the programs you run inside it can do anything. This can be risky if you are not an experienced computer user. For example, if you get some malware then that malware has the same privileges as the account you are running as. That is how the administrator account can be risky. These accounts are used to set up computers for other users.

Administrative User Accounts

This is a basic user account that has been granted most of the administrator account powers. It is safer to use from a security standpoint. Most users should create one of these.

Basic Accounts

Basic Windows 10 accounts have just enough privileges to do everyday tasks. This is what most people should use. It will protect you from viruses and other malware. You will not be able to change setting made by an administrator account.

Guest Account

These are for guests. Specifically, this account is for someone who does not regularly use your computer. They can do basic things like check email or browse the web but that is about it. You do not want guests doing much anyway.

The Microsoft Account

These are very nice accounts to have. They can be very flexible. Logging in with a Microsoft account lets you use any computer with Windows 10. You do not have to have a previously created account to use that computer. You can also use software like Office365 and OneDrive much easier. Your settings and files also sync automatically when you use a Microsoft account.

Managing User Accounts

At home, make sure you have access to an administrator account. Creating one is a straightforward process if you need to. This is useful to control what happens on your computer. Most often you will want to activate some parental controls so your kids do not have access to much. Do not share your administrator password with anyone.

Changing Account Types

Changing Windows 10 accounts type is easy enough. You can change an account from administrator to basic and from basic to administrator. This can be useful in some situations.

Enabling Guest Account

The guest account is usually disabled by default. Their is not much need for guest accounts so Microsoft does not want to complicate things. Since it is for temporary users it is also easy to enable. You just open the computer management tool and look under Local Users and Groups. It has very few privileges so you do not have to worry about them messing with settings.

Deleting Accounts

Most accounts can be deleted. Deleting an account will get rid of all the data associated with that account. You will have to weigh the significance of deleting any particular user account. Anyone with administrator access can do this. You will not be able to recover document, pictures, email, or music. Be careful when doing this.

There is an option to save files when you try to delete an account. This should be done if that user has any data in his account.

Using A New Account

Each account will have its own settings. You can have your separate list of programs, files, and customized features on each individual account. When you start your computer up it will eventually come to the lockscreen. You can hit the spacebar, click your mouse, or even roll your mousewheel to access the sing-in page. This is where you enter your password. Hit the [enter] button or click the arrow next to the sign-in box to log in.

You will have no data yet when you first log in. The desktop and user folders will all be relatively empty. Click the menu to see a list of programs you will have access to. This will include productivity software, browsers, and other tools.

A basic account will often have some restrictions. You might not be able to access everything on the computer or make changes to its functionality.

User Account Control 

This system is how user accounts are managed in Windows 10 accounts. Many links in the settings or control panel will need administrator access to use. If you click on one of these links it will ask for an administrator password if you are using a basic account. This is a good safety feature. It will prevent users from accidentally changing key components of Windows. It is especially useful in keeping children from doing things they should not.

Creating Reset Disks 

A reset disk can be very useful. It will allow you to access your system if you have forgotten your password. You will need to do this before you forget your password. This disk is typically an USB drive.

Administrator User

Some programs will want you to have higher privileges for it to work properly. You will need to use this program as an administrator at this point. Right click the app and choose [run as administrator].

No Password To Sign In

This is a bad idea unless the computer is secure in your home and your the only user. You will definitely want this at work or in the public. It is your protection from ransomware and from others. At home it can be an inconvenience for it to lock every 5 minutes when your the only one there. To change this setting:

  • Right click on the start menu and choose setting.
  • Choose the [system] button in the top left of screen.
  • On left hand side choose the [power and sleep] option.
  • Choose to never lock or set a certain time.

Advanced Options

The advanced options for Windows 10 accounts are in the computer management section. Power users and experienced information technology people can use this section to have more control over their computer. To get there you can:

  • Right click the start menu.
  • Left click the [computer management] option.

Account settings are the [Local Security Policy]. Additional security settings can be adjusted here.

Credential Manager

This is a good time to talk storing your passwords since we are talking about Windows 10 accounts. This is done by using the credential manager. Access this by searching credential manager from the Windows 10 start menu. This app will submit your credentials for you when you access certain sites or machines. You can enter them manually or wait until Windows asks you for them.

Conclusion

When different Windows 10 accounts are used the computer feels totally new for each person. Each person can personalize their desktop and the coloring of the system once they are logged in. Having user accounts makes your computer safer. You will need at least one administrator for your computer to control what happens. Everyone should use the most basic account they can to provide least privilege in case accidents happen. Do not forget to make strong passwords and change them occasionally. You will be glad you did.

How To Use Zoom On Windows

Zoom is one of the most popular solutions. It is easy to use and manage. There are many nice features such as screen sharing and built in chat. These are all parts of a unified communications platform. Since it works on a computer, tablet, or phone, it can be used anywhere. Another nice feature is that users can just use audio if they desire. In other words, they do not have to use the video portion.

Your Zoom admin or creator of the meeting will be in charge of security settings and network communications. Most of these are not complex. They are really just common sense tasks but it is easy to forget them sometimes.

Update Browser Or Client

This is the first and most important step. The software has to be kept updated. I would suggest checking for updates every day that you use it. This includes the browser or client. You should know how to update either so you and your participants are safe. Browsers will always have a menu option that will manually check for updates. Often, though, they will let you know anyway if they are out of date. The Zoom client will ask you if you want to check for updates or download a new update, depending on the version you have.

Create New Password

The default behavior of Zoom is to have the same password when a new meeting is created. This is not good but it is done to make it easier for those new to videoconferencing. The correct thing to do is create a new password for every meeting. This includes new meeting ID’s as well as new instances. This keeps old passwords from being circulated by users. They have no ill intentions but hackers like to talk to people and this is one of the ways they can get access to your meeting. Just like your other apps, using different passwords regularly is key to your network security.

Have A Backup Admin

Something I see all the time is a person could be out for the day but there will be no one to take over and help with problems. This is poor planning. If you are running Zoom in your company, then you need to have someone who can take over for you in case something happens. This is just proper network management and it needs to be addressed at every company. You will want them to be able to start new meetings and be able to moderate existing ones also. Basically, backups are good for any part of IT and this is no exception.

Setting Audio

Audio creates a lot of problems with users. I have to help people all the time because they can't figure out how to get sound or let themselves be heard. The problem is that most users are barely able to operate their machines. What I mean is they do not know how to switch between mics or cameras if they have multiple. Most also can not go into their settings and be able to see an issue. So to help with these problems, it is better if the zoom admin sets some of these default settings for the meeting. This means one less thing for a new user to have to do.

Personal Meeting ID

It is a good idea to use personal meeting ID’s. The reason why is that you can let users know in advance and they will not fear phishing scams. These type of scams are very popular now and people fall for them constantly. A hacker will send a false link to thousands of people in various companies and the link will collect your information and possible install malware on your computer. However, if you are expecting a meeting ID and you have been previously told what it is then you have much less to worry about. Treat this as you would email and attachments. Only open and follow if you know and are expecting an invite.

Screen Sharing

This is a good all round setting to use. Sometimes it is much easier to understand a topic if you can see the screen itself. You have the option of turning this off but I do not recommend it. It should be on all the time. It is especially useful when users have questions on how to accomplish some task. The admin can share the screen and show how to do it.

Auto Saving Chat

This is a feature that you will want to be off. While it can be useful, it will upset many people. You don’t want this to happen because you are walking a fine line of privacy issues. The reason why is that most people will not realize this is possible and will not want their comments recorded for others.

 File Transfer

This option should also be off. I would only enable this if you have a very good reason. At this point, you can just enable if you have a reason to. I would have it off by default. Most people have poor bandwidth capacity and file transfers will strain that even more. If this happens, video and audio quality could both suffer. This would be a disaster for your meeting.

Show Meeting Toolbar

This is always a good option. You will want to have this on all the time. Users will sometimes need to adjust settings on their end and they will need access. Since there are a variety of settings, this is very useful.

Removed Participants

If you have a participant that was removed, you do not want them to come back. So this option is important. If you had to remove them, it was for a good reason. Allowing them back in would just be asking for trouble.

Virtual Backgrounds

This is not a good idea to have available for users. While it seems harmless, there will always be someone who pushes the limit. When you are having an important meeting with management, you do not want inappropriate images popping up behind someone when they are talking.

Join From Your Browser

You will want to use this option. The reason why is that many people will not think to download the client in advance. So users will need this option so they can join at the last minute. My users do not ever plan in advance, do yours?

The Browser Is Safer

This fact may not be very intuitive but browsers get updated quicker. This makes them more secure than the clients. Security is the most important topic when we are talking about personal information.

Recordings

This is something you will generally not want to allow. You will want to control who has access to what, and many people will not want their information or comments in front of people.

Know The Settings

This is often never discussed. I do not know why. However, users need to take responsibility for themselves and learn how to adjust settings in any software they use. Now I don’t expect users to know every fine technical detail. I would like it if they looked at all the settings in software they use and became familiar with them. Knowing what they do on a basic level goes a long way to protecting yourself and your data.

Conclusion

Zoom has become an important tool and an esential part of cloud computing for a lot of people! It is very useful and works quite well. It is just important to remember to keep yourself and your participants safe. Networking essentials and proper password management will be the key. Follow these tips to do so and happy videoconferencing!

How To Troubleshoot Printers on Windows

Resolving printer issues has always been an enormous task. It is like this in every organization. There are many reasons a print job may not work. It can be hardware, software, user, or network related.

Testing Different Scenarios

Testing different scenarios will allow you to eliminate issues and find the root cause quicker.

Check the status panel on the printer. You do this to make sure there are no warnings. If there are warnings, we should follow up on this. Then make sure the printer itself is functional. You can do this by printing a test page. This tells you the printer is working. If not, is a networking or software issue.

Next check to see if others can print to this printer. If so, then you know the problem is at the workstation of the user only. If others can not print, then it is time to check the networking.

Checking the networking involves making sure the network cable is plugged in to the printer and the status is good. On the back of most printers where the cable is plugged in, there is usually a status light to show network packets are passing through correctly.

The light is usually green for a good connection and nothing if there is no connectivity. Another technique is to try pinging it. Ping is a network utility for most operating systems. Use this to check if the printer is reachable across the network. If it is reachable, then you have eliminated several causes.

The problem could also be a software issue. This includes the software used to print the document and the drivers for the printer itself. Sometimes users accidentally hit settings in their program that mess up printing. If it is Microsoft Word, for example, check to see that everything looks right in its print menu.

Make sure the print spooler is working. This is often the reason for printing errors. You find the print spooler in Windows by opening up the services app. Just look alphabetically for the print spooler. Start it if you need to or you can choose to restart it in order to reset it. You will need administrator permissions in order to do this usually.

Diagnosing Failed Print Jobs

The very first activity you want to do is restart the user’s device. They get in the habit of leaving their device logged on for months at a time. One to three restarts with some updates in between usually helps a lot of things.

When a print job fails, it can be a variety of issues. The print job can get stuck in the queue. An application could fail. The print job may never reach the printer.

Updating the print driver is one of the first tasks to try. New drivers get released all the time, so this is something to check.

Try printing from another application, preferably one that is simpler in nature. That could be something like a text editor.

Another thing to try is restarting the print spooler. This is in the services app. As always, run all these utilities as an administrator.

Running the Windows troubleshooter can also help. It will usually not fix much, but it can give you ideas to look into. It is worth running if your stumped on an issue.

Get used to running windows updates. We can never do these often enough.

You can also try changing the paper. Users mistakenly add the wrong type of paper for their printer. This can cause hardware issues and malfunctions. Storage of paper is also a problem. Sometimes paper can be stored where it gets too much humidity.

Check the default printer too. Users can get confused about where they are printing to. There is an option in Windows to let the operating system set the default printer. It will change it based on how much you use a certain printer. This can cause issues, so it is usually better to set the default printer yourself depending on what makes sense in your environment.

Power Issues

This can be a tricky issue to diagnose. Usually the user will say it prints most of the time, but it intermittently stops or exhibits other issues that the user has not seen before. If nothing else I have mentioned is the issue, then power can sometimes be the issue.

The reason is that either too much or too little can cause issues with the power supply in the printer. This happens in many businesses and can affect any device. If you suspect this issue, unplug the device so that it is not getting any power and leave it unplugged for a couple of minutes. This will usually be enough time to reset everything in the printer that is power related. After a couple minutes, plug it back in and let it boot up.

Print Servers

There are many print servers in use these days. They mostly make things convenient for everyone involved. It does depend on the server and its roles. If you do not try to get too complex, they are beneficial to your environment. 

Their role is to serve print jobs. Just like a file server, it gives you a lot of flexibility and control. 

Summary

While this is not a terribly long document, I hope there are a few things that are helpful. I know I have a tough time remembering all the little things to check, so having a reference to go by is helpful. That is what this is, just a collection of ideas to run through.

How To Clear The Cache In Windows

In short, clearing your cache fixes problems. It is one of those troubleshooting steps we use when users have trouble. More applications are cloud hosted these days and run from the browser. That means we need to understand troubleshooting browsers more than we had to in the past.

Your browser caches information in order to be efficient. This saves you time because it makes pages load faster. They load faster because the page does not download the resources every single time you access a particular site. So the cache is an area on your drive that holds this information for you. It can include pictures, logos, fonts, and code.

You clear the cache of the browser you are using when a basic operation of that browser fails. Why does it fail, you may ask? Well, it typically fails when those resources that have been cached are changed. When they are changed, there is a mismatch in information. Browsers don’t know what to do at that point. This is a simplistic explanation, but good enough for us.

Clearing the Cache in Edge

  1. Press the <3-dot icon> in the upper right of the Edge browser page

  2. Select <settings> near the bottom of the menu that pops up

  3. Select <privacy, search, and services> near the top

  4. Select <choose what to clear> tab

  5. Select the buttons of <browsing history and cached images and files>

Those two selections will get most of the data cleared in order to fix issues. There are other interesting items on this menu which are useful for other activities but not required.

Clearing the Cache in Chrome

  1. Select the <3-dot icon> in the upper right of the Chrome browser

  2. Select <settings> which is toward the bottom of the menu that pops up

  3. On the far left, select <Privacy and security>

  4. In the middle of the window, select <Clear browsing data>

  5. In the window that pops up, unselect <cookies and other site data>

  6. Select <clear data> in the bottom right of that small window

We could have left <cookies and other site data> selected to remove it as well. However, this will often cause more issues for users. The main thing we wanted to do was clear the cache, which we did.

Clearing the Cache in Firefox

  1. Select the <3-bar icon> in the top right of the Firefox browser

  2. Select <settings> towards the bottom of the menu

  3. On the far left menu, select <Privacy & Security>

  4. On this page scroll down a little and find <Cookies and Site Data> in bold text

  5. On the first line in this section, select the <Clear Data…> button

  6. In the menu that pops up, unselect <Cookies and Site Data>

  7. Make sure <Cached Web Content> is still selected

  8. Select <Clear>

As in the previous section, we do not want to clear cookies unless the user is more advanced and does not mind. I leave this up to them, though. The main issue is in clearing cached web content.

Summary

In this article, examined what cached content is. Then we talked about why we would want to clear the cache on any browser. Last, we went over the steps in actually clearing the cache in the major browsers.

How To Reset A Password In Azure Portal

With admin credentials, go to https://portal.azure.com and log in if it asks you. Select “Azure Active Directory” under the Azure Services section.

In the top search bar, search for the user that you need to help. Select their name from the search results. On the very top line, select “Reset Password”. A field will appear on the right of your window.

In this field, choose your password according to your policy. Then hit reset. You will want to copy this password to your clipboard and send to the user. The user will be required to change their password after the next sing in.

Resetting The Password With Powershell

Resetting a password with powershell is a superior method if you have many tasks to do. This required a Windows machine that is in your domain, an admin account with the proper credentials, and RSAT tools installed.

We can turn RSAT tools on in the “Windows Features” section of your applications if you have Windows professional or Enterprise. This is in your control panel. We can also download them from Microsoft.

You will need to import the AD module into your powershell session. Then you can use the next lines in your console to change the user’s password securely.


$pw = ConvertTo-SecureString “Welcome1!!” -AsPlainText -Force 
Set-ADAccountPassword -Identity jmoore -NewPassword $pw –Reset
Set-ADUser -Identity jmoore -ChangePasswordAtLogon $true

These commands have other parameters you can use. Some environments will have different requirements. This method will also force the user to reset their password when they first log on.

Conclusion

This article goes over resetting a password. We are using the Azure AD system, so this is how we reset a password for a user. I show how to do this using the portal for Azure and also the way in powershell.

Windows Needs Your Current Credentials

Logging in with a pin has been the most common reason I have seen. This will be the most common reason for this message to appear. It is annoying because Windows often pushes you to set up a pin to make logging in easier. Then the message says to login with your current credentials. I don’t know about you, but this has never worked for me. This is because Windows is not helpful and there are better ways of fixing this.

The first thing to do is change your pin. The reason you need to do this is that your original pin was created using an earlier Windows password. So, anytime you have to change your password, you change your pin too.

Also, if you're in a business environment, make sure and sign out of all computers. For example, if you are assigned multiple devices, then make sure and sign out of all of them when you reset a password or pin.

Virus

A virus or some type of malware that messes with your system can cause this error. Viruses aren’t as common these days as they used to be, but this is something to check. You will want to watch this because these programs run in the background and are not immediately obvious. Run a virus scan to eliminate this being the issue. Also keep Windows Firewall activated as it adds another layer of protection. The free tool from Malwarebytes is good also if you do not have a business tool.

File Corruption

This can also cause issues. If your windows system has been installed for a while, files start slowly corrupting. You will start seeing error messages and other oddities in your system. Run the SFC scan tool to check for file integrity.

Changing Group Policy

There is a local group policy application on Windows computers. You can do a lot with it and it is useful. This is one of those occasions. Follow these steps:

  • Open gpedit and group policy

  • Go to computer configuration > administrative templates > systems > logon

  • Select “Always wait for the network at computer startup and logon”

  • Change to disabled, select apply then ok.

Restart your computer after this and see if that fixes the issue.

Authentication Issues

This is weird, but sometimes you just need to re-verify your account. How you do this will depend on your environment. Home will be different from a business, for example. You can try signing out of all your accounts and then signing back into them.

Another thing you can do is go to settings, account, then verify your account. That has also worked.

Conclusion

This error message is very annoying, but here are several things to try. As i uncover more potential fixes, I will add them to here. In this document, we discussed why this can happen as well as some fixes.

Setting Up MFA For A New User

Multi-factor authentication is used in many organizations. It increases your security and protects you against others trying to gain access to your applications. It also protects the company, so it is very important. This article will focus on using phones as the second factor for individuals.

Download The Apps

Go to your app store on your phone and download your authenticator of choice. I will use Microsoft’s app in this example, but Google has an excellent authenticator as well. The apps are called “Microsoft Authenticator” and “Google Authenticator”. They look different on the inside but serve the same function. Later in this document, I will go over each one in more detail.

Enrolling

Here are the steps to enroll using Microsoft Authenticator. I go over each item in more detail in case it is needed by a first time user.

  • Download Microsoft Authenticator from app store on your phone

  • Go to Office.com and log in with your work email and password

  • Follow the prompts until you can add an account

  • Select work or school

  • Follow more prompts until you see a QR code

  • Scan the QR code with your phone camera

  • Hit approve when asked then select done.

If you want more in-depth instructions, keep reading. In our organization, we want to go to Office.com and log in with your work email and use your work password when asked. In the “More information required” page, you will just hit next. When you are asked to “add an account”, you will select “Work or School”. Follow the prompts and you will eventually see a QR code to scan with your phone. Open up your phone camera and place QR code in the middle and fill the shot if needed. You should get a notification on your phone, just hit “Approve”. Follow any other prompts and then select “Done” when you see it. You are now enrolled in MFA with Microsoft Authenticator.

Resetting MFA

If a user changes their phone, they will need to reset their MFA. The user cannot do this on their own. From the IT side, we will have to change some settings.

  • Go to portal.azure.com

  • Search for user

  • Select authentication methods

  • Select Revoke MFA

  • Select Re-register MFA

If you need more detailed instructions, those follow now. The first thing we want to do is go to portal.azure.com and log in with our credentials when asked to. Search for the user in question. On the left sidebar, select “Authentication Methods”. On the top bar, select “Revoke MFA Sessions” and then “Require Re-register MFA”. Now, the user can enroll on their new phone using the instructions at the beginning of this document.

Using The Microsoft Authenticator App

This is a free app from Microsoft and should be in every app store. We can use it for personal or work uses. The purpose of an authenticator app is to prove who you are. This is done by giving information that only you would have access to. It is also useful because you can use it to log in without a password.

It works pretty simply. When you log into an account that is set up, it will ask you to approve the sign in or provide a numerical code for authentication. Your authenticator app will provide this code, so it is easy to find. You just input it where the account asks you to.

When setting up, you can use your Microsoft email or even a third party email from your work. After you log in for the first time, they will ask you to log in with a code. Usually, we do this by text because you already have the app downloaded on your phone. It is super easy this way. After this is done, the app is linked to your account.

If it is not a Microsoft account, then you will hit the three dots button and select “Add Account”. Next, you will select “Other Account”. Go back to the third-party site where you created an account and tell it you want to use an application for MFA. It will give you either a QR code or a numerical code to enter. Name this account in a way that makes sense to you and you are all set.

The Microsoft Authenticator can do even more. You can also use it to autofill passwords and payment information. Just open the app and go to the tab you want to work in. An example is the payments tab. You just fill in your information.

Using The Google Authenticator App

This app works similarly to the Microsoft app. For MFA, it is an excellent alternative. You would use this if you prefer to keep all your apps to one vendor, like Google. It will let you use MFA with a code or just the application, where you hit approve to give access.

One thing to note here, to use an authenticator app, the website has to support its use. Usually, it creates a QR code to connect the app on your phone to the site.

It will be in your app store under “Google Authenticator”. Download and install the app. Close the app and open a browser on your computer. You will then log into your Google account. Use your Google email and password here. Under your account, select the “Sign in and Security” section. Look down the page and select “2-Step Verification”. Make sure it is turned on because this is essential to the app functioning.

Under the “Authenticator App” section, select “Set Up”. Choose whether you have an Apple or Android phone. You will then hit next and when a QR code appears, scan it with your phone camera. That is the easiest way to set things up. You can also use a code, just input it when asked to. Your new Google Authenticator app will generate the code for you.

Now, go to the app again and hit the big “plus” button. Scan the QR code the site generated for you.

Conclusion

In this document, we talked about what MFA is and why you need it. Then I showed you how to enroll using the Microsoft Authenticator. Resetting MFA is easy as well, but takes an IT member to perform. If you need to do this, just ask one of them. Finally, I talked about an alternative, the Google Authenticator. It does MFA just as well. I talked about how to set it up and add an account.

How To Update Windows

When you use Windows, you will need to spend a fair amount of time updating it. While it does some updates on its own, these updates are irregular. Consistency is king when it comes to knowing your device is safe. Malware and scams are prevalent these days. You must be proactive to prevent bad things from happening.

Updating the Operating System

The Windows updates system will generally handle operating system updates. However, it does not always work smoothly. Updates will get stuck and just refuse to install. You will have to apply some manual intervention when this happens. That is why it is important to know how to update your system. If it is not updated regularly, malware will get in and you will be vulnerable to scams. 

 

To update your operating system manually, search updates from your start menu. You should see something called Windows updates. Click on this and hit search for updates. If it finds something, it will generally install it on its own. It does not always install on its own, though. So, it is good to keep an eye on things to make sure everything went as expected. To recap:

  • Select start button
  • Type in updates
  • Select Windows Updates
  • Click search or install

Updating Your Hardware

Updating the hardware attached to your computer is also important. Examples of hardware can include printers, scanners, and webcams. Without regular updates, these devices will eventually stop working. To check their status and do it manually, search device manager from the start menu. Click on device manager after it shows up. You will see devices listed that are physically connected to your computer. You can just right click on them and select update. There are many other entries under the device manager but you can usually leave them along unless you know what they are.

  • Select start button
  • Type in device manager
  • Select device manager
  • Find your device, such as a printer
  • Right click on printer or other device and select update

Updating the Apps

Updating apps is more of a pain for inexperienced users. This is understandable. It is done in a variety of ways. It really depends on the app. Some apps can be updated by going through their menu system. Others, you just have to go to their website and download a new binary. This should go to your downloads folder. You will run that file and follow their instructions.

 

My favorite way to update apps is through a package management system. Package management systems are normal in Linux distributions. They need to be in Windows systems too. In the next section, I discuss one of these package systems.

 

Chocolatey Package Management 

Chocolatey has been around for a while now.If you are inexperienced, I would recommend one of the above methods first. It is certainly easy to learn, though. It was created for the easy installation and updating of apps on Windows. It works much like package management on Linux. Go to https://chocolatey.org/install and follow the instructions. I recommend using Powershell as your shell. Set it to non-restrictive. Then, just run the command they give you in the codeblock. Use the copy button to send it to your clipboard and paste it into your Powershell window and hit enter.

 

After it is installed, you can do things like:

choco install firefox

choco install googlechrome

choco upgrade firefox

choco upgrade all

choco uninstall googlechrome

 

So, you can see how much more convenient that is. With a simple command, you can install or update any app. I do recommend trying this for yourself.

Conclusion

In this guide, we talked about updating the various components of your computer. They are each important. Doing these tasks are important in preventing malware and scams that cost you money. Lastly, we talked about package management and how to get started using it on Windows.

How To Boot Windows 10 To Safe Mode

When Windows 10 or 11 stops working for some reason, getting into safe mode can help. Very often, a driver, graphics setting, or program is malfunctioning. Safe mode lets Windows run using the most basic functionality. Once you are in, you can start diagnosing the issue.

 

Getting Into Safe Mode

First, I will just list the steps to get you in. If you are curious, you can read the more elaborate description afterwards.

 

  • Open setting by pressing the Windows button + I
  • Select Update & Security
  • On the left, select Recovery
  • Under Advanced Startup, select Restart now
  • On the blue screen, select Troubleshoot
  • Next, select Advanced Options
  • Under this screen, select Startup Settings
  • Select Restart
  • Press 4 to enter safe mode

 

After it restarts, you should be in safe mode. From here, you can see what works and what does not to eliminate possible causes.

 

Exiting Safe Mode

To exit, you can just restart your computer again.

 

Working In Safe Mode

Now that you are in safe mode, it is time to check some things. The first thing I would check is the device manager. You can open settings and search for it there. Once it is open, look to see if there are any yellow or red indicators. If so, you will need to update the driver for whatever it is. 

The next thing I would try is checking your graphics card. If you have a separate graphics card, Nvidia or AMD, it should have a diagnostic program built into its software. Run this and see if there are any issues with it. 

After that, you will want to check your data drive. You will need to make sure it still has sufficient room on it and that your operating system is not corrupted. This used to be a bad problem with mechanical drives but the issue has got a lot better with SSD and newer drives. 

 

Conclusion

In this guide, I have shown you how to get into safe mode. I listed the steps with any pertinent information required. Then we talked about some of the steps you can do to check things out. This list is not exhaustive but I listed the most common issues. Hopefully, it helps anyone that has trouble getting into your computer. 

Backup Windows 10 With System Image

In this guide, I am going to use the tool built into Windows. It is called System Image. This is a pretty good tool that has some good options. System Image lets you backup your settings and files easily. 

Creating The Backup

This process creates an image file for the backup. To start the process, open the control panel. You can use the Windows search feature to search for it. From there, select System and Security. Now, click Backup and Restore. On the left, select Create A System Image. Make sure you have an external drive connected. Then, just follow the on screen directions. You will choose where to backup everything and what to backup on your computer. 

The backup will take a while to complete, so be patient. Once done, you can make multiple copies of your image file to put on other drives. You can also upload it to a cloud service.

  • Connect external drive
  • Open control panel
  • Select System and Security
  • Select Backup and Restore
  • Select Create A System Image
  • Select Next and choose location

Restoring Your Files

If something ever happens to your computer, you have to restore it. The first thing you have to do is boot into Windows. You use a USB drive for this. It takes a Windows 10 .iso file and a tool like Rufus. Search Rufus in your browser. It is easy to work with. Once you have a bootable drive, use it to boot into the Windows menu.

Follow the on screen directions and hit next. Then, select Repair Your computer. Click the Troubleshoot option and then the System Image Recovery button. Select Windows 10. Once your backup file is detected, click Next. On the following screen, pick the latest backup file you have. Then, just follow the directions by hitting next and restore. Windows will now restore the backup file you had created and everything will be the same as of that date.   

  • Connect bootable USB with image file on it
  • Follow on screen directions and hit Next
  • Select Repair Your Computer
  • Click Troubleshoot
  • Select System Image Recovery
  • Click Windows 10
  • Select Next
  • Wait for image file to be detected then hit Next
  • Select latest file you have
  • Hit next as needed and then Restore
  • Wait for it to be finished

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about backing up your Windows 10 computer. This is often needed because a drive can go bad and you will lose all of your files on it. Afterwards, we discussed how to restore your image file back to your machine.

Find Your MAC Address In Windows

Your MAC address is very important. Your MAC address is a label for your computer. It is a unique hex number associated with your network card. Therefore, it is critical for any networking application to be able to identify this. Sometimes they will even ask for it. Also, you can search and maintain records of your computers by using this unique number.

 

Settings Menu

This first way to find your MAC address in Windows is through the settings menu. 

  • Open up Settings in your start menu
  • Click Network and Internet
  • Select Advanced Network Settings
  • Select Hardware and Connection Properties
  • Select the connection you want, whether wireless or a lan connection
  • Your MAC address will be listed

 

CMD or Terminal

This is the easiest and quickest way. Use your start menu to open up either CMD or Terminal depending on your windows version. Type:

Ipconfig /all

Hit enter. 

You will get output that is divided up into physical, wireless, and even virtual. Look at whatever you are using. If you are connected to the wireless at a cafe then look under the wireless portion of the output.

If you didn’t connect to any wireless you probably have a network cable connected to your computer. In this case, look under the physical section of the output of the CMD/Terminal window.


How To Use The Task Scheduler In Windows

There are many things in Windows that we can automate to make our lives easier and more efficient. This can include emails, running programs, executing scripts, or generating reports. There are so many things you can do. You can even combine the previous actions together.

 

You can automate a lot of different things. You can base the triggers on time or if some other action occurred. The task scheduler can do all of this for you. You can create, manage, and monitor your tasks within this portal. You can define your triggers, set any conditions if needed, and define actions for each task that you want.

 

The task scheduler operates around a set of tasks, triggers, and actions. A task is a specific action or set of actions that you want to automate. An example is opening a program.

 

Triggers determine when a task should happen. You can set these up for just about any time period. An example is hourly, daily, or weekly. You can also base a trigger on a user log in or startup. There are many other possibilities.

 

Actions are what happens when the trigger condition is met. Starting scripts and sending emails are more examples that you could do once a trigger condition is met. 

 

To start a task with the task scheduler:

  • Start task scheduler from the start menu or search for it
  • Select Create Basic Task on the right side of the window
  • Name it and provide a description
  • Choose a timer period that you want on the next screen
  • Select the action that you want to do
  • Answer any other questions the menu asks
  • Then just hit Finish

To automate a task, it is a rather simple process. Follow the directions the scheduler asks of you. The left side of the task window is a list of the current tasks you have defined. There will be nothing there if this is your first task. When you choose to start a task creation, the wizard will guide you.

 

It is helpful to give the task a descriptive name. It will help you remember what it is for. The triggers can be based on any time setting, feel free to experiment with this. This new task will now appear in the task library on your left. The task scheduler will continue to run this task as long as your computer is turned on and active. 

 

There are some nice advanced features too. Triggers can be based on any system event, like a user logging in. You can combine the triggers to get some very refined actions. You can define a trigger at a particular time when a certain user is logged in. You can also run a script across the network like when you need to run an update script. 

 

You can also edit, monitor, and disable tasks at any time. To edit a task, go to the task list and select it. Then run through the process again if you want to change any variables. There will be options on the right side to enable and disable as needed. You can delete the tasks just as easily.