Monday, August 17, 2015

Take a screen capture in Windows 10

Windows 10 has several built-in ways for you to take screenshots of your computer. Some of these ways are also applicable to other versions of Windows.

Print your screen

The easiest way to take a screen capture of your computer is to simply press the Print Screen (PtrScn) key on your keyboard.

Pressing this key in Windows 10 copies an image of your screen to the clipboard where you can then paste the image into any application you want such as Microsoft Paint. Pasting an image in Microsoft Paint for example allows you to save the image as a PNG file.

If you don't want to capture your whole screen, you can capture your active window by pressing and holding the Alt key and then pressing the Print Screen key. Alt + PtrScn will copy an image of your active window to the clipboard.

Another useful key combination to help you capture screens on your computer is Windows + PtrScn. This key combination in Windows 10 captures an image of your whole screen and immediately saves it as a PNG file in your Pictures folder under a directory called Screenshots.

If you are using Windows 10 on a tablet without a keyboard, you can also take a screen capture by pressing the physical Windows button + volume down. This method also saves a PNG file into your Pictures folder.

The Snipping Tool

Windows 10 and other previous versions of Windows also comes with this great tool called the Snipping Tool. With the Snipping Tool, you can capture different aspects of your screen, circle or highlight parts of it and save, or email it straight from the tool. You can find the Snipping Tool in Windows 10 under Start -> All apps -> Windows Accessories.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Windows 10: How to boot into Audit Mode

In a previous post, we installed Windows 10 and left you off at the out-of-box experience (OOBE). OOBE is the term given by Microsoft to the experience you get when you normally buy a computer and turn it on for the first time. OOBE runs a user through setting up their computer for first use.

Now let's say you're building a new computer for someone else and you have just installed Windows. You want to install additional features or drivers and test out the Windows configuration first before delivering the computer. You also want your end-user to go through OOBE. What do you do?

Boot into Audit Mode

Windows has this feature called Audit Mode. Audit Mode allows you to bypass OOBE and Windows Welcome to install applications, add device drivers, configure Windows and test your installation with the built-in Administrator account. Once complete, use the System Preparation Tool (sysprep) to prepare your computer for delivery.

To boot into Audit Mode, press Ctrl+Shift+F3 while on the first screen in the out-of-box experience.

Press Ctrl+Shift+F3 here to reboot into Audit Mode.

The computer will then reboot into Audit Mode and automatically login to the built-in Administrator account.

Once logged in, you will see that the System Preparation Tool is ready for you. You can ignore this for now. Install the applications and device drivers you need to and configure and test your Windows installation.

Once done, use the System Preparation Tool to prepare the system to boot back into OOBE. You can choose to reboot the system or shut it down, either way when the computer comes back on, the user will be in OOBE. Check the Generalize checkbox to remove system specific information such as product-keys and specific hardware configurations. This is useful if you are creating an image for deployment on multiple computer in your IT environment.

The end-user will need to enter a product key and agree to the license terms if you Generalize the system.

Windows 10: Installation

In this article, we are going to look at a clean install of Windows 10. This process is pretty much the same as all the other installations of Windows and Windows Server since Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Almost all of the screens look exactly the same as those in previous versions.

To clean install Windows, start by booting your computer with your installation media. Windows Setup will begin and one of the first screen you should see is one where you are required to choose your regional settings. Once done click Next.

Press Install now to start installing Windows. Please note on this screen you also have the option to Repair your computer. We're not going to be covering the latter option in this article.

When asked for your product key, enter your product key. This screen will not appear if your installation media has a product key incorporate in it, for example if using the Enterprise installation of Windows.

If you previously upgraded this computer to Windows 10 during Microsoft's free upgrade period for Windows 10, you can press Skip. When Windows is installed, it will activate automatically.

Before you can continue, you must accept the Microsoft Software License Terms.

If you are preforming a clean install of Windows, select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

Select the hard drive and volume you want to install Windows on. In our example we only have one hard drive where 100% of the space is unallocated. If we selected this drive, Windows will automatically create all the volumes we need to install Windows. If there are existing volumes on your computer, you may want to delete all of them first in order to perform a clean install.

After pressing Next, Windows will now install.

Your computer may restart a few times during the installation process.

Once the installation process for Windows 10 is completed, you will be presented what Microsoft calls the out-of-box experience (OOBE).

The start of the Windows 10 out-of-box experience (OOBE).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Turn off hibernate in Windows

For those of you who have played around with hidden and protected operating system files, you may have noticed a hidden file in your C: drive called hiberfil.sys. You may have also noticed that it is quite large. hiberfil.sys is Windows' way of reserving disk space in the event you want to put your computer into hibernation, a power-saving state that allows you to resume full operation faster than it could from a clean boot.

If you don't use this feature and would like to free up some disk space, you can turn this feature off. To turn off this feature, start a command prompt as an administrator and enter powercfg.exe /hibernate off.

Hibernation should now be turned off. To check, run the command powercfg.exe /availablesleepstates. Hibernate should be missing from the list. hiberfil.sys should also disappear from your C: drive freeing up some disk space.

To turn hibernation back on, simply run the command powercfg.exe /hibernate on.

Show hidden or protected files and folders

In Windows, by default hidden and protected operating system files and folders are not shown in Windows Explorer. The below screenshot illustrates what a typical Windows 10 installation looks like when hidden and protect files are not shown.

To show hidden files, in Windows Explorer select the View tab and then click on the Options button. Find the option Show hidden files, folders and drives and select it. Click OK.

Windows Explorer will now show you hidden files and folders.

Protected operating system files are still hidden though. To see these files and folders, go back to Folder Options and find the setting Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) and deselect it. We have also deselected the option Hide extensions for known file types in our example.

As protected operating system files are critical to the operation of Windows you will be presented with a warning asking you if you are sure you want to do this. Click Yes.

Hidden and protected operating system files should now be shown in Windows Explorer. To hide these files again, simply go back into Folder Options and undo the changes you made.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to delete a user profile in Windows

To delete a user profile in Windows 10, the first thing you need to do is log on to the computer with the user profile you want to delete as an administrator. The user profile you want to delete cannot be logged on to at the same time. This process will be similar for other versions of Windows.

Right-click on This PC and click Properties.

When the System window pops up, click on Advanced system settings on the left-hand side menu. Click Yes if confronted by a UAC prompt.

Click the Settings button under the User Profiles section of the System Properties window that pops up.

You should now see a list of user profiles that are on the system. Select the user profile you want to delete and press Delete.

Press Yes in the confirmation dialogue box to confirm the delete.

The user profile should now be deleted.

Please note that deleting a user profile on the system does not delete the user's account on the local computer or domain. If the user logs on again, a new blank user profile is created for that user.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Run an application as a different user

Sometimes as IT professional, to troubleshoot a problem you need to run an application under a different user context. From Windows you can do this while still logged on to your current user account. To do this, press and hold the "Shift" key, then right-click on the application you want to run. You should then see the context menu with a few more options than usual one of which is "Run as different user".

Left: Normal context menu. Right: Context menu with the "Shift" key held.

Clicking on "Run as different user" will bring up the Windows Security dialogue box where you can enter the username and password of the user you want to run your application as.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Master Control Panel (GodMode) in Windows

Since Windows Vista, there has been an interesting feature built into Windows colloquially called GodMode which is still present in Windows 10. This features is the Windows Master Control Panel and it is essentially a shortcut to all control panel settings inside Windows. The shortcut is normally labelled as "All Tasks".

Here it is labelled as GodMode.

To create the shortcut, all you need to do is create a new folder anywhere on your system such as your desktop, name it whatever you want and add the extension ".{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}" without the quotes.

Clicking into it will take you to a huge list of control panel options.

How to create a bootable USB Windows installer

With the recent release of Windows 10, one may find yourself needing to install Windows from a bootable USB. Luckily to create one is a simple process. To start, you will need a copy of your Windows installation media, a spare 4 GB or larger USB and administrative rights to your computer.

We will be using the command line to create the bootable USB installer. In our example, our Windows installation media and our USB is located in the D: and E: drive respectively.

This process works for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 onwards.

Step 1. Format the USB drive

Start the Command Prompt as an administrator and run the command diskpart.exe.

In the diskpart utility, run the following commands. Make sure you select the correct disk (the USB drive), otherwise you can do some serious damage to your system.

DISKPART> list disk
DISKPART> select disk #
DISKPART> create partition primary
DISKPART> active
DISKPART> format fs=ntfs quick
DISKPART> assign

Step 2. Make the USB drive bootable

While still in the command prompt, change to the boot directory of the Windows installation media (e.g. D:\boot). Run the command bootsect.exe /nt60 E: (where E: is the drive letter of the USB).

Step 3. Copy the Windows installation files onto the USB drive

Copy the Windows installation files from the installation media to the USB drive by using the following command xcopy.exe D:\* E:\ /e /f /h in the command prompt. Once the copying has completed, you now have a bootable USB Windows installer.