What is a Microsoft Account?

Customer’s frequently ask me, “What is my Microsoft Account?”. So I thought I would explain with this simple little post.

A Microsoft Account is the generic name given to ALL Microsoft’s services and is used to access thsose services, so if you have OneDrive, Office365, Hotmail, Microsoft Live, Outllook.com, Skype, or Xbox Live then you have a Microsoft Account.

Now we have got that out of the way, I would like to disperse a few myths about a Microsoft Account:

  • You don’t need to setup a new email address to have a Microsoft Account you can use your own pre-existing email address.
  • The same email address will be used to access all these services, you don’t need to create different account details.
  • Yes Microsoft bought out Skype Inc. So if you have an old Skype account you can merge this with your Microsoft Account and then use your Microsoft Account to login to Skype but you do get to keep your Skype name.

Now for some top tips

  • Always set your security info with a telephone number preferably a mobile so that you can easily unlock your account if you forget your password.
  • Login to https://account.live.com to access your account details, security info, billing, subscriptions, etc.
  • If you own a smartphone consider installing the Microsoft Account Authenticator [Google Play] [Apple App Store]. This app lets you quickly and securely verify your identity online, this way more easier and very simple to setup (see video below)

If you have any questions about how to setup a Microsoft Account or securing it, then comment in the box below.

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Cyber Attacks – What To Do?

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Cyber-attacks are on the rise; so, what can we do to protect our identity and keep our information safe? Read my action To-Do-List to keep yourself safe online and out and about.

it was only last week when Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust suffered a major incident after systems were infected by a computer virus and now this week Tesco Bank suffered a sophisticated attack which saw monies taken from 20,000 of its customers’ accounts.

Here are my recommendations to keeping you safe online and out and about.

General Rules

  • Use a quality anti-virus solution and keep it up to date. There is no point scrimping on security here, an anti-virus application will provide several security benefits including malware protection, firewall and browsing protection.
  • Always use a strong password, which is a critical factor of preventing access to your  information. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated either, simply take this famous pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” and ask yourself how many ways can you write just part of this sentence (i.e. “TheQuickBrownFox”, “Th3Qu1ckBr0wnF0x”, or “Th3QBF0x”)? You can use your own sentence and create your own short versions to create your password, there is literally endless possibilities and combinations.
  • Password protect your PC and lock it when you step away, even if you are just visiting the loo.

Safe Browsing

One of the biggest concerns most people have is with safe browsing, but what does that mean? I define it as visiting known websites or searching for information on the Internet. To safely surf the Internet you should follow these simple rules:

  • Never search for a website that you know the address for, always type the fully URL of the website instead of just the name. For example when visiting the BBC website don’t just type “bbc” into a search engine as you are then presented with a mountain of responses to choose from and the first one isn’t always the correct one, instead type “www.bbc.co.uk” which will take you straight to the site.
  • Always use bookmarks for regularly visited websites (i.e. Bank, shopping sites, etc.)
  • Never install browser add-ons, toolbars and extentions when you don’t know what they do, this is one of the major causes of browser hijacking to date.
  • Turn on Pop-up blocker to stop ads and unwanted browser activity and selectively allow only those sites who need them (i.e. your bank might sometimes pop-up a window to present your latest bank statement).

Out and About

Cyber security isn’t just about what you do at home and work on your computers, it is also about what you do when you are out shopping, visiting friends and using your mobile devices. Here are my recommendations to reducing your chances of being cyber attacked when you’re out and about.

  • Check that cash machines haven’t been tampered with, credit card fraud can happen if a criminal has skimmed your card directly from a machine that has been altered to read your card and capture your PIN.
  • Always make sure no one can see your PIN number when typing it in, this should always be observed in shops and cash machines. Don’t be afraid to ask people to step back if they are too close.
  • Lock you mobile devices with a PIN in case you loose it and enable track and trace.
  • Don’t keep PIN numbers written down and if you absolutely have to don’t keep them in the same place as your cards.
  • Never let your card out of your sight, even at your friendly supermarket
  • If someone asks to use your mobile phone in an emergency just ask for the name of the person they want to call and the number and call it yourself, only handover the handset once you are assured you are dialling a legitimate number and talking to real person.

My last piece of advice I want to share with you is this, DATA is KING, after all cyber crimes are not just about stealing your money, it’s about stealing your information and the more detailed the information the better. So we must back it up and back it up with a quality backup solution. It is admiral to watch someone backup their data to a USB pen drive or external hard drive only to then loose it or break it. If you get hit with ransomware, lose your mobile device or simply delete your data (accidentally or by malware) the chances of recovery has been increased significantly when correctly backing up your data.

Further Reading

For more help with securing your IT systems, why don’t you give us a call on 0844 334 2020 or email support@rlscomputers.co.uk

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Important information for Plusnet customers

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Planned Network Maintenance – 5th, 7th, 8th December 01:00-06:00

What does it affect?
Broadband connectivity.

How long will it take?
Up to 5 hours.

What does the work involve?
Disconnecting some users on a single link in our network.

Am I likely to notice the work?
Yes, there’s a chance that your Broadband may disconnect during this work, however you would be expected to reconnect automatically.

Is there anything else I need to know?
Customers having problems connecting once the maintenance is complete are advised to cold reboot their router.

Kind Regards

RLS IT Support

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Cold Rebooting Your Router

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Customers sometimes lose connection to their Broadband service and cannot re-connect. This could be due to issues with the line or work that is being carried out. If the issue or work has been resolved you might have to reboot your router in order for it to re-connect, this process is called cold rebooting.

To cold reboot your router follow these instructions.

  1. Switch off your PC and WIFI/network printer (this is not critical but helps with successfully re-connecting your PC and printer).
  2. Switch off your router and leave it for at-least 30 seconds.
  3. Switch your router back on and wait at-least 1 minute until it has settled (re-connected to your ISP).
  4. Now switch on your WIFI/network printer and wait for it to connect to your router (30 secs – 1 minute).
  5. Now switch on your PC.
  6. Test your connection (visit www,bbc.co.uk or other website) or try accessing your emails.

If all is alright you should have successfully re-connected to your ISP, if however you still cannot get access to the Internet, try accessing it with another device (tablet or phone) making sure you are connected to your router.

If that fails, try the above one more time and complete all the processes. If the problem is persistent, contact your ISP and report that you are still unable to connect. Failing that give us a call on 0844 334 2020 for advice.

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Windows Essentials 2012 – End of Life

In January 10, 2017, Microsoft Windows Essentials 2012 suite will reach end of support. So what does this mean to the users and what are the alternatives, you can find the answers here.

Like all things in the IT world, like devices, bits of tech and software applications; all good things have to come to an end. In this case, it’s time for Microsoft’s Windows Essentials 2012 to hang up its coat and say good bye. However, what does this mean to the many people using the applications that was freely available from Microsoft.

What is Windows Live Essentials?

The software suite included “essential” applications that allowed the user to carry out a set of every day tasks on their computer, these included: Photo Gallery, everything you need to organise, edit, and publish your photos. Movie Maker, for making movies from your photos and videos. Windows Live Writer, for creating blog posts in minutes. Windows Live Mail, to manage multiple email accounts, calendars, and your contacts. OneDrive, which allows you to keep your files synchronised on all your devices and Messenger, which was very popular back in the day and allowed users to chat with one another. Most of these applications have been absorbed into the latest version of Windows, however the the main application that will cause many readers a problem will be Windows Live Mail. Windows Essentials 2012

What is the main problem?

Since Windows Live Mail’s introduction back in 2012 email has moved on dramatically, more and more people are now using multiple devices like smartphones and tablets to access their emails and the way those emails are handled has also moved on. Most service providers now use the modern IMAP method of accessing emails instead of the old POP3 method which is less secure and not compatible with users who have multi-devices. So what are the alternatives?

What are your options?

Stay as you are – You could opt to keep using the software, you won’t get support for it and you might find things not working correctly especially if you are using a Hotmail, Live Mail, MSN Mail, Outlook.com and Office 365 email service as Microsoft plans are to move them to one singular Outlook.com system.

Office 365 Subscription – You could invest in Microsoft’s Office 365 annual subscription which provides the latest version of the Office suite which includes Outlook. Although there is a price tag to this option (currently £60 for a personal subscription – annually) it does have the benefit of providing the latest version of the Office suite, 1TB of cloud storage and 60 mins of Skype credit per month. You also have the licence to install the Office suite on a tablet device which could be an Android, iPad or Windows.

Outlook.com – If you don’t want to pay for Office annually you can access your emails via the web. This is how most people without Outlook installed on their PC access their emails. However, there are limitations with this method with the interface and does require some thought in some processes like attaching files, however it is free and easily accessible on any web device.

Mail – If you have an up to date PC running Windows 8.1 and above, there is a simple mail app installed. This has reduced functionality and is designed to provide a overly reduced interface to access your emails.

To conclude, if you are using this software I would advise start looking at alternatives and don’t leave it to the last minute especially if you rely on Windows Live Mail for accessing your emails.

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Migrating from Quicken – A User’s Perspective

Customers often ask us to assist in helping them migrate from one application to another, in this case it was migrating from Intuit Quicken. However these changes have their own challenges: this is one customer’s account of her experience.

After more than twenty years of using Quicken for our household accounts, even after the 2006 issue proved to be the last for European customers,quicken I decided enough was enough and I should make an effort to move into the modern age. I thought I must be one of the last dinosaurs, but since so many current budgeting programs give help for migrating Quicken users, accepting their data as HAZ files, there must be plenty of us still roaming around.

So which to choose? I initially picked Home Accountz v3 — and found myself struggling in a bog of trouble. I had that solid rock of support, Rob, at my back to help me import my old files, but straightaway even he had surprises: for instance, we had to import all accounts, the data files, in one go, regardless of whether we still wanted them or not, nor could we use one as a trial run.

In setting up my imported files, my biggest mistake was to assume the account names (eg “Credit card”) implied a group description into which your individual accounts would fit, so I entered all of them under that title. As a result, my three credit card accounts, for instance, all merged into the one “Credit card” account, and our two ISAs became one “Savings” account, so I had to delete them all and start again, entering them as separate files in their own right. Then I was foxed by the fact that the Balances columns bore no relation to either the imported data or bank statements, in spite of all of them being reconciled in the past. (More of that later…)

Standing Orders were Automated Transactions, operated as Recurring Transactions, which I found best to enter manually as automated, and definitely not to “Enter Now”. But all these were just minor details compared with trying to use the program at all.

For a start, it was not just agonisingly slow, but repeatedly stuttered to a complete halt. It was impossible to know when it was simply thinking very, very, slowly or had given up altogether. I was always having to start again. Was it me, was it my computer? Rob downloaded it and had a go in his lab, and lo, it crashed his computer! At that point, I gave up.

Rob did some searching around for me (bless him) and found Home Accounts 4, from EZPZ software, and — mostly — it’s been bliss. It is simple, perfect for domestic use. It has a massive (117 pages) User Guide, which, being anxious and cautious, I printed out, and it is one of the most comprehensive and helpfully accessible guides of any program I’ve come across. You can also use their forum, or even personally email for help, which their advice-guy, John Beachill, answers impressively quickly.

We were able to import only what we wanted, it was easy to set up accounts, and to work with them. BUT. I’ve met the same old problem of weird balances, which seem calculated utterly anew from the original file, in spite of all the contributing data coming through exactly. Since our accounts date from the beginning of time, the total figures are gigantic. I was so puzzled by the first bank account I examined that I simply turned it into a dormant one, and started again from the current date with an opening balance. Then I realised that some at least of the problem might lie in the fact that transferred transactions (for example, paying into a credit card account from a current account) were omitted. Why? They were all there in the imported data. When importing accounts I had carefully not ticked any entries that had been marked as duplicates — had I got that wrong?

I searched the users’ forum without success, so I asked for help. John replied: “When importing transactions the file contains the transactions for a single bank account. If there are bank to bank transfers involved then these would be added from the first file and should then not need to be duplicated when transactions for the other bank account involved in such transfers are imported. So no, you weren’t wrong to untick the duplicates.”

That didn’t really help, so I repeated that no transfers seemed to have gone through, and got this advice: “I see, so none of the transfers between accounts have been imported. Did our software fail to pick them up or did you not tick them to include them?

“Make a backup in case you need to go back to your current position. Try importing again from the same file. Transactions that have already been imported should come up as matched to reduce the risk of importing them twice. Concentrate on any transfers you spot. Based on the account you are importing the transactions into, think about whether the transfer will be paid in or out for the bank account. You should then be able to select the other bank account, assuming it already exists, from the Category dropdown. You can then just tick those transfers and import them.”

Simple, yes? I offer this to anyone who has the same problem, but at the moment, I can’t face re-importing everything. It may be lazy, but for purely personal, domestic records, it seems to me easier to repeat my first solution, and start the accounts again with a correct opening balance. I won’t have lost any information other than balances (dates, what bought where, memos etc), and that’s my only reason for looking back.

It’s still a mystery to me why both the programs provided weird balances (because presumably other people must be managing all right!) But apart from this, I’m quite happy to battle on with Home Accounts. Wish me luck.

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Issues with 4G and Digital TV signals

We have received recent reports that customers are losing their digital TV signal. This might have something to do with 4G signal in your area. Digital TV and 4G mobile services both use parts of the same radio 800 MHz frequency spectrum that is used by some 4G services are next to frequencies used for Freeview. This may cause interference to your Freeview service.

Some providers like EE have noticed the problem and advise that you check with the at800 service, which has been setup to deal with households where TV reception may be affected.

For more information, please visit:
DigitalUK website at http://help.digitaluk.co.uk/article.aspx?article=7993&p=153 or the at800 website at https://at800.tv/

Watch this video to explain more:

Content courtesy of:

https://at800.tv/
http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/

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TIME TO SAY GOODBYE TO WINDOWS VISTA

Windows VistaWindows Vista was the Marmite of the Windows OS family, it introduced many features that carried on in to Windows 7 which became the adopted and the OS of choice. The quirky features of Vista tried to make it a fun tool with some practical elements. However, it quickly got replaced and in fact it is now three generations old being replaced by Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. This article explains why it is essential to say goodbye to Windows Vista and move on to Windows 10.

As I write this article, I have received in one week several calls from customers asking “why am I getting, no longer supported messages for Google Chrome and Internet Explorer?” Well the answer is simple, the chances are you are using Windows Vista and software manufacturers are keen to move away from it. As you read consider this, “why am I hanging on to Vista ?” Vista is slow, sluggish a beast sent in to test man’s metal to see if he (or she) could handle the change and with a blink of an eye we were given Windows 7, the most stable and loved OS to date.

To boot, hardware manufacturers will be following suit and ending support for Vista, this means if your printer, scanner, camera, sat-nav, etc. fails and you need to buy a new one, you would have to check that it is supported for use with Vista.

So what are your options?

  • One thing you can do is go back to your original purchase and check to see if you were given a dual load for both Windows Vista and Windows 7, some manufacturers gave away both, which means your PC, laptop or netbook is already compatible to run Windows 7 if you haven’t got a dual load system, you could purchase a Windows 7 upgrade (IF you can find one). However, you are only making a single jump up and will still be two generations behind.
  • Buy a new PC system, this is by far the most sensible option, it saves time and money trying to get a square peg to fit a round hole  struggling to find replacement parts for your old system. There is one caveat, when you upgrade your PC you might have to upgrade your other tech, mainly this would be your printer as the jump from old to new is so significant because of WIFI compatibility and the need to print from iPad’s and other mobile devices.

I know what you are thinking, “Why don’t I just download Windows 10, it’s FREE?“. Well the answer is this, Microsoft have only provided the free upgrade for users of Windows 7 SP3 and upwards, this is because Windows 7 was the more stable release, with the right hardware requirements to take the upgrade. Again I hear those cogs working away and thinking, “OK so if I upgrade my PC to Windows 7, I can get the FREE upgrade to 10?“. Well although we haven’t tried this (to date), I can only go by my previous experience and say unlikely, this is because Microsoft leave a trace to the previous OS version meaning it knows the origins of the source OS making it almost unlikely that this would work, however it has not been tried and tested.

I said this before and so I am going to say it again, “the computing market is like no other (except maybe the car industry); it is constantly growing, changing and evolving. Last time I checked a burger was just a burger and a washing machine was just a washing machine. However the PC market changes and when it does we can embrace and move on, or simply sit back and let it pass us by.”

The key point is Microsoft are ending support Windows Vista SP2 in 11 April 2017 and therefore it makes it difficult for us in the industry to support something that software houses no longer support themselves.

We can supply a new PC, laptop or tablet loaded with Windows 10 and a subscription to Office 365 for home or business, also complete all your data transfers, safely and responsibly wipe and scrap your old unit.

For more on the life cycle of Microsoft Windows please visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/lifecycle

Rob Lucas MSc MBCS

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Changes to the Broadband Migration Process

As a Broadband provider we wanted to let all our customers know about changes in the process of switching your Broadband provider. From the 20th June; there will be no MAC needed to transfer broadband services, as part of this, the switching time is now a minimum of 10 working days.

For further information:

These changes are being made to simplify the migration process and to make it consistent with the way that telephone lines are migrated.

From the 20th of June you will no longer require a MAC to switch from one provider to another,  migrations can be done simply by placing an order with the new provider. The single signup journey will no longer request a MAC.

In addition to the removal of the MAC there has been a change to the time it takes to process the orders. A migration will now take a minimum of 10 working days to complete. This allows the losing provider two weeks to stop the migration completing if it is believed to be unsolicited.

This change has come about as a result of an Ofcom decision to simplify the migration process and apply the same rules that are currently in place for switching telephone services. These rules will be applied to all providers and leave the onus of the switch on the gaining provider. The losing party will simply receive a notification stating that the service is migrating away.

Any information in regards to this can be found on the Ofcom website. you can also read an interesting article posted on the ISP Review website here.

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How To Get Windows 10

Microsoft have now announced how end users can obtain an upgrade to the new Windows 10 Operating System. The new release will be on July 29th 2015 as a free download for anyone running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 and will only be available for 1 year.

If you are still running Windows XP then you will not be eligible to upgrade and you would have to purchase a license. Windows 10 Home will set you back $119 (just over £77 under the current exchange rate), and Windows 10 Pro will cost you $199 (just over £129). However please note, these are just US pricing and there are no current UK or international pricing at time of writing this article.

How Do I Get Windows 10

If you can remember the article I wrote about “GWXconfigmanager Linked to Windows Patch KB3035583“? Well this is where it now comes into play. In order to get Windows 10 (code-named: GWX) you must have this patch installed, next you have to “reserve” your copy to be entitled to it, here is your To-Do list:-

  • First, you must be running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1, and you must have installed the Windows update KB3035583, which you can check yourself in your Add/Remove programs > View Installed Updates
  • In your system tray (the lower right corner near your clock) you should see a new icon displaying the Windows logo.GWX - Get Windows 10
  • Click that icon, and a window will pop-up that explains how the free upgrade works. Once it’s available, Windows 10 will automatically download onto your PC. You’ll need approx. 3Gb of hard drive space and a good Internet connection, you will receive a notification after the download is complete. Meanwhile, you can scroll through the various screens of the GWX window to read more about the new OS.

GWX1 - ScreenshotGWX2 - ScreenshotGWX3 GWX4 - Screenshot GWX5 - Screenshot GWX7 - Screenshot

  • When you’re done, simply click the button to reserve your free upgrade.
    The reservation screen asks for your email address so you can receive the notification. Enter your email address and click the Send confirmation button. You can now close the GWX window.

GWX8

  • Should you change your mind and wish to cancel the reservation, just click the Get Windows 10 icon again. Click the menu bars in the upper left corner to display the options and click the link for View Confirmation. Then click the link to Cancel reservation and click the button for Cancel reservation to confirm your choice.

What You Need to Know!

Please be advised, by opting to install Windows 10 I would strongly advise you follow these tips:-

  • Backup your essential data BEFORE installing the upgrade.
  • Check with your software and hardware manufacturers that the kit you have is compatible with Windows 10.
  • Make sure the specification of your PC meets the requirements for the new OS.

For further support on upgrading to Windows 10 please contact us on support@rlscomputers.co.uk.

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