Windows Explorer Has Stopped Working

Windows No Comments

My brother-in-law has a problem with his Windows 7 laptop. He continually sees the pop-up error message, “Windows Explorer has stopped working”, and the desktop would flicker (killing all file explorer windows) as Windows restarts the process. He cannot do anything productive with the malfunctioning machine. He asks me to take a look.

When diagnosing and fixing a misbehaving Windows system, I do the following:

  1. Clean virus or spyware (aka malware) infection. Virus and spyware could cause Windows to act strangely by damaging critical system files.
  2. Prevent strange programs from running on startup.
  3. Fix file system issues and check Windows file system integrity.
  4. Disable and delete unknown browser plugins. Reset the homepage to a blank tab.
  5. Resolve Windows registry inconsistencies.
  6. Pull the latest Windows updates.

Note: Most of the instructions below are applicable to Windows 8 and Windows 10 with some minor differences.

Death to Viruses and Spyware

Before running the virus and spyware scans, I recommend deleting temporary files to speed up the whole process by reducing the number of files to scan. Launch “Disk Cleanup”, select the primary drive, click on the “Clean up system files” option, select the primary drive again (if prompted to), check all temporary files found, and delete them.

Note: Under the Disk Cleanup’s “More Options” tab, you can delete “System Restore and Shadow Copies”. I don’t recommend deleting System Restore images because that will remove the ability to restore Windows to an earlier point in time. Only do so if your Windows computer is working without any problems and you really want to reduce the virus scan time. (Virus scanners doing a full, not quick, scan will take significantly more time to scan through the System Restore files.)

I run Microsoft Security Essentials (known as Windows Defender in most versions of Windows), update it, and start a quick scan. Updating it successfully is a good sign because some viruses will cripple virus scanners pre-emptively. Security Essentials find no infection. (If you don’t already have a virus scanner installed, I recommend downloading the free Windows Security Essentials.)

I then launch Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, update it, and initiate the scan. Malwarebytes finds and cleans several malware infections. I don’t know whether those infections are serious or not; I’m just glad they are gone. The worst is knowing that even if you successfully clean a virus or spyware infection, it may not solve all the problems because they tend to leave damage behind.

Note: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is free and requires that you manually run it. The paid premium version provides real-time, constant surveillance.

Because I want to make certain that the laptop is clean, I also run ComboFix. ComboFix is a powerful spyware scanner which I’ve used successfully in the past with Windows XP. ComboFix should only be used at your own risk, because it could potentially damage Windows further. If you decide to use ComboFix, download it from bleepingcomputer.com, not from combofix.com or combofix.org. The latter will ironically give you a spyware-infected ComboFix version!

Thankfully, ComboFix completes running and does not destroy Windows 7. Unfortunately, the ComboFix log file is cryptic so while I’m fairly certain that it fixed something, I’m not exactly sure what.

The good news is that after a reboot, Windows no longer displays the “Windows Explorer has stopped working” popup message. So it looks very likely that spyware or malware caused the initial issue.

Say No to Startup Programs

Note: The System Configuration tool (msconfig) was removed from Windows 10. Its functions are incorporated into the Task Manager’s Startup and Services tabs.

Execute “msconfig” on Windows 7 to run the System Configuration tool and look for the Startup tab, which will list the programs launched at boot time. Google any program you don’t recognize. You may see remnant programs, with non-sensical names like “BDsad32Zm”, left by the virus or spyware — just uncheck them. (To reduce the startup time, I recommend unchecking any unnecessary programs like QuickTime and Adobe Reader. They supposedly speed up the launching of these programs, but at the cost of increasing startup time.)

Note: To reduce the startup time further, you can look at the Services tab and uncheck any unnecessary services, like “Distributed Link Tracking Client” (useful only if you link shared files across the network). Alternatively, instead of using “msconfig”, you could launch “services.msc” and disable the service or modify it to start manually, instead of automatically. Windows will start a manual service if necessary; for example, if an automatic service depends on it.

I do not find any strange startup programs on my brother-in-law’s laptop. Malwarebytes or ComboFix may have gotten rid of them already.

System Integrity Or Else

Corrupted files on the hard drive may cause Windows or programs to behave strangely. Thankfully, Windows provides two tools to diagnose this issue: a Check Disk tool (chkdsk) to fix general file system problems and a System File Checker (sfc) to verify Windows system files. (For more info on the System File Checker, see Use the System File Checker tool to repair missing or corrupted system files.)

To use the Check Disk tool:

  1. Click on the Windows start menu icon, input “cmd”, right-click on the “cmd.exe” or “Command Prompt” result, and select “Run as administrator” to launch the command prompt window with administrative privileges.
  2. Execute the following command (first line without the “>”):
    > chkdsk /f

    The type of the file system is NTFS.
    Cannot lock current drive.

    Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another
    process.  Would you like to schedule this volume to be
    checked the next time the system restarts? (Y/N)
  3. Input “Y” for Yes and reboot the laptop. The startup process will scan the hard drive for errors before running Windows.

Note: If you have a second hard drive, you can check it without rebooting; for example, by running the command “chkdsk /f d:” if you have a “D:\” drive.

To use the System File Checker:

  1. Run a “Command Prompt” as administrator (same steps as above).
  2. Execute this command:
    > sfc /scannow

    Beginning system scan.  This process will take some time.

    Beginning verification phase of system scan.
    Verification 100% complete.
    Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
    Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. For example
    C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log

The Check Disk tool finds some file inconsistencies and fixes them. Unfortunately, though the System File Checker finds issues, it is not able to repair them all. This means that my brother-in-law’s laptop has some Windows system file corruption, which is bad.

The “CBS.log” file is large and dense. Microsoft recommends filtering it by running this command:

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

The resulting “sfcdetails.txt” is not too helpful; it doesn’t show the filenames. Here is an excerpt:

2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    00000578 [SR] Verifying 100 (0x00000064) components
2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    00000579 [SR] Beginning Verify and Repair transaction
2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    0000057b [SR] Verify complete
2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    0000057c [SR] Verifying 100 (0x00000064) components
2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    0000057d [SR] Beginning Verify and Repair transaction
2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    00000580 [SR] Cannot verify component files for a3ba03adb219630fa0874057b9609115, Version = 6.1.7601.23418, pA = PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE_INTEL (0), Culture neutral, VersionScope = 1 nonSxS, PublicKeyToken = {l:8 b:31bf3856ad364e35}, Type neutral, TypeName neutral, PublicKey neutral, manifest is damaged (TRUE)
2017-05-08 15:15:49, Info                  CSI    00000582 [SR] Verify complete

Note: Unfortunately, I had used the Disk Cleanup tool to delete the System Restore images earlier. As a result, I am unable to revert to earlier Windows 7 versions which might not have had the system file corruption. I’m not sure, but the System File Checker might have been able to use files from the System Restore images to correct the issues above. Duh.

I’m hopeful that the Windows Update, which we will do later, will fix these corrupted files.

System File Checker To The Max

You may consider running the System File Checker in Windows safe mode. On boot up, hold the F8 key until you see the Advanced Boot Options menu and then select the “Safe Mode with Command Prompt” option. Doing so may allow the System File Checker to repair files that might be in use during a normal boot up.

Additionally, before running System File Checker, you may wish to ensure that temporary files belonging to it (under “PendingRenames” and “PendingDeletes”) are deleted. Those files are protected so you’ll also need to take ownership before you can delete them. Run the Command Prompt as administrator and issue these commands:

cd %windir%\winsxs\Temp\PendingRenames

# Take ownership of files
takeown /f *.*

# Grant file permissions to administrators (assuming you are one)
icacls *.* /GRANT ADMINISTRATORS:F

# Delete the files
del *.*

# Repeat to delete files under PendingDeletes (which is a hidden directory)
cd %windir%\winsxs\Temp\PendingRenames

Note: The Advanced Boot Options menu also has a “Repair Your Computer” item; however, when I select it, I get an error, “The boot selection failed because a required device is inaccessible”. I try inserting both a Windows 7 installation DVD and USB flash drive, but they are not accepted. I think this option depends on having a special repair partition, which is missing from the laptop.

Browser Plugins Be Gone

As a general matter of computer hygiene, I check both the Internet Explorer and Chrome browsers on the laptop. Specifically, I am looking for plugins, extensions, or add-ons that shouldn’t be there. When I find them, I disable and delete/uninstall them.

I also double-check that the default search provider and homepage have not been overwritten. For example, the unwanted SmartSearch plugin loves to set the search provider to Yahoo and the homepage location to its own search website.

I do not locate any unwanted browser plugins on the laptop.

Windows Registry Be Consistent

I install the free CCleaner tool, select the Registry tool, scan for issues, and fix them all. I recommend choosing the option to backup the registry before making changes. That way if it goes horribly wrong (but Windows still works), you’ll have a way to undo the action. Always reboot afterwards to check that the registry changes are okay.

The Windows registry serves as Window’s memory bank. Inconsistencies in it will cause Windows to misbehave. Corruption in it could cause Windows to stop running. As with ComboFix, use CCleaner at your own risk.

Note: CCleaner also offers a tool to find and delete temporary and unnecessary files. I usually use it in addition to the Window’s “Disk Cleanup” tool.

To The Latest And Greatest

I launch “Windows Update”, see that some updates are pending, and start their installation. Then I wait and wait. The progress bar shows zero progress. When I hover the mouse over the Windows Update icon in the system tray, the tooltip message “Windows is downloading updates (0% complete)” keeps appearing. I give up after 30 minutes.

After some research, I find that Microsoft had significantly changed how Windows Update worked on October 11, 2016. If the Windows Update is unable to update itself, then the “0% complete” issue could occur. I download and install the KB3172605 package according to Windows 7 Update solution.

I re-run the Windows Update and this time, the updates download and install successfully, except for one. The single failed update is the “2017-05 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 for x86-based System (KB4019264)” package. The error code is 80073712, which means that the Windows component store is corrupt.

Unfortunately, Windows Update couldn’t repair the corrupt Windows system files.

Ready To Repair

I find suggestions that the standalone System Update Readiness tool could be used to repair corrupt Windows system files. I download the version for 32-bit Windows 7 and run it. It is able to repair some files, but not all.

Note: Windows 7 comes with a built-in DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) tool which contains some of the System Update Readiness tool’s functions. Though the Windows 7 DISM is not as powerful as the Windows 8 or 10 version, you can run it with “DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /Scanhealth” (more powerful parameters like “/Restorehealth” will not work under Windows 7). I still decid to use the standalone System Update Readiness tool instead.

Thankfully, the System Update Readiness tool’s log file, “%windir%\Logs\CheckSUR.log”, is very readable and lists the un-repairable files at the end.

Unavailable repair files:
    winsxs\manifests\x86_a3ba03adb219630fa0874057b9609115_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.23418_none_c3113e25b89565d3.manifest
    winsxs\manifests\x86_microsoft-windows-t..platform-comruntime_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.23375_none_cce17c0fae9f1772.manifest
    winsxs\manifests\x86_microsoft-windows-ie-ieetwcollector_31bf3856ad364e35_11.2.9600.17501_none_4942df405f80bb4b.manifest
    winsxs\manifests\x86_microsoft-windows-t..icesframework-msctf_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.23572_none_7811a73e66577d81.manifest
    servicing\packages\Package_37_for_KB3138612~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.1.mum
    servicing\packages\Package_7_for_KB3138612~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.1.mum
    servicing\packages\Package_for_KB3138612_SP1~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.1.mum
    servicing\packages\Package_for_KB3156017~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.0.mum
    servicing\packages\Package_37_for_KB3138612~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.1.cat
    servicing\packages\Package_for_KB3138612_SP1~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.1.cat
    servicing\packages\Package_for_KB3156017~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~6.1.1.0.cat

Following instructions from How to fix errors found in the CheckSUR.log, I download the packages for KB3138612 (Windows6.1-KB3138612-x86.msu) and KB3156017 (Windows6.1-KB3156017-x86.msu), and place them in the newly-created “%WinDir%\Temp\CheckSUR\Packages” folder.

I re-run the System Update Readiness tool. It repairs the corrupted files belonging to those packages. The resulting log now only shows the corrupted manifest files:

Unavailable repair files:
    winsxs\manifests\x86_a3ba03adb219630fa0874057b9609115_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.23418_none_c3113e25b89565d3.manifest
    winsxs\manifests\x86_microsoft-windows-t..platform-comruntime_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.23375_none_cce17c0fae9f1772.manifest
    winsxs\manifests\x86_microsoft-windows-ie-ieetwcollector_31bf3856ad364e35_11.2.9600.17501_none_4942df405f80bb4b.manifest
    winsxs\manifests\x86_microsoft-windows-t..icesframework-msctf_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.23572_none_7811a73e66577d81.manifest

Unfortunately, I am unable to find a source for the manifest files online or otherwise. My friend has a Windows 7 desktop, but his installation is 64-bit and I need the 32-bit versions.

Upgrade To Windows 7 For The Win

When the System File Checker failed, I was afraid I would have to do it. I fought it, but in the end, it looks like I need to do an in-place upgrade of Windows 7. Effectively, re-install Windows 7 on top of itself. This “upgrade” should replace the corrupted files, while preserving everything else.

Note: I thought that I might avoid re-installing Windows 7 by just re-installing the Service Pack 1 (in the hope that it would be sufficient to replace the corrupted files). Unfortunately, when I attempt to install the Service Pack 1, it fails with a cryptic zero file termination error.

To perform an in-place upgrade, do the following:

  1. Make sure you have the Windows 7 product key!
  2. Run Windows 7 as normal. Log in with an administrator account.
  3. Disable any virus or spyware scanner. To disable Microsoft Security Essentials, go to Settings, Real-time protection, uncheck the “Turn on real-time protection (recommended)” option, and click on the “Save changes” button.
  4. Insert a bootable USB flash drive containing the Windows 7 Professional with SP1 32-bit installer (see instructions on how to create one). Or if you prefer, insert the Windows 7 install DVD.
  5. Run the “setup.exe” on the USB flash drive (or DVD) and click on the “Install now” button.
  6. Select the “Go online to get the latest updates for installation (recommended)” option. (If you don’t have Internet access, you’ll need to choose the second option, “Do not get the latest updates for installation”.)
  7. Accept the license terms and select the “Upgrade” option.
  8. Sit back, relax, and wait. My brother-in-law’s laptop takes almost an hour to do the in-place upgrade. I observed the following: 20 minutes, reboot, 20 minutes, reboot, 5 minutes, reboot, chkdsk, and reboot.
  9. After the final reboot, you will be prompted to enter the Windows 7 product key. Input the product key.
  10. Select the recommended defaults in the following two screens. You’ll then see the normal Windows 7 login screen.
  11. Log in, activate the Windows 7 product key, and re-enable the virus scanner.

After the “upgrade”, I run “Windows Update”. After a couple of minutes, it says “133 important updates are available”. I was afraid of that — looks like I need to install all the updates since Service Pack 1. Two hours later (after 133 updates, reboot, 59 updates, reboot, 3 updates, reboot, 1 update, and reboot), all the updates are installed successfully.

Back to the Past

Over the next hour, two more updates are found and installed. Then an “Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7” update appears which fails to install. What?!

I run the Check Disk (chkdsk) tool. Unexpectedly, it finds some file index errors and correct them all. I run the System Update Readiness tool. It finds some issues and fixes them all. I run the System File Checker (sfc). It finds problems and complains “Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them”. Uh oh, it’s the same problem.

I filter the System File Checker’s log file and one log statement says that the “mvc80JPN.dll” file is corrupt. That file belongs to Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. I download and install the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 runtime, but it does not correct the file. I am not able to find another source online. I am stuck at the same dead end.

Having no choice, I hide the “Internet Explorer 11” update. The “Internet Explorer 10” update appears, it fails to install, and I hide it also. Looks like all Internet Explorer versions depend on the corrupt “mvc80JPN.dll” file.

Over the next day, two dozen updates show up, including the “2017-05 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 for x86-based System (KB4019264)” update. All of them download and install successfully. Eventually, no new updates appear.

For now, my brother-in-law can live without the latest Windows Explorer version. He can use the existing Internet Explorer 8 or the latest Chrome browser. If he uses Internet Explorer 8, he should be okay if he avoids Japanese websites; he doesn’t read Japanese so I don’t think that it will be a problem.

Note: If and when my brother-in-law next encounters a major issue with his Windows 7 laptop, I will probably just do a fresh installation of Windows 10 on it.

And we are done. I hope the above will help you to solve your “Windows Explorer has stopped working” error or other Windows problems.

No Comments

Clone a Big Hard Drive to a Smaller One

Windows No Comments

I had tried out Windows 10 by installing it on a second, bigger 500GB SSD (Solid State Drive) than my existing Windows 7’s 240GB SSD. Having determined that I wanted to permanently move to Windows 10, I decided to move Windows 10 to the smaller drive, overwriting Windows 7.

026GarfieldFirst, to clone from a bigger to smaller drive requires that the bigger drive not contain more data than can fit into the smaller drive. Second, the bigger drive must not have data stored at a location beyond the maximum supported location on the smaller drive. The safest way to satisfy both requirements is to shrink the source partition to ensure that it will fit 100% onto the hard drive.

Disable BitLocker

Before doing anything, I decided to decrypt the drive by turning Bitlocker off. I had tested cloning a Bitlocker-protected Windows 7 drive but it failed with a blue screen on startup, after getting past the annoying Bitlocker recovery procedure (because the hard drive signature had changed). So, I decided that it would be best to decrypt, clone, and then re-encrypt. Turning Bitlocker off didn’t take too long (about 20 minutes) because my Windows 10 was a fresh install with just Office and some other apps (about 35GB in size).

To turn BitLocker off, run “Manage BitLocker” and select the “Turn off BitLocker” option.

Resize Source Partition

So, here’s how to resize the Windows 10 source partition:

  1. Run Window 10’s “Create and format hard disk partitions” application (aka “Disk Management”).
  2. Right-click on the Windows 10 partition and select “Shrink Volume…”.
  3. Adjust the “Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB” until the “Total size after shrink in MB” is significantly smaller than the target hard drive size. (Because my target hard drive is 240GB, I tried to get the partition below 200GB to be on the safe side. Make sure to account for Windows 10’s two system partitions, a 300MB recovery partition and a 500MB EFI partition.)

There may be an upper limit to how much you can shrink the volume. You will see a text, “You cannot shrink a volume beyond the point where any unmovable files are located”, that explains why. Disk Management cannot move files used by system hibernation, paging, and protection (aka system restore) so it cannot shrink the volume past the furthest located of these files.

Note: If you have a non-SSD hard drive, you will want to run “Disk Defrag” (aka “Defragment and Optimize Drives”) first to consolidate the file locations to the head of the hard drive, before shrinking the partition.

Disable System Services

The solution to allow you to shrink the volume further is to disable system hibernation, paging, and protection first.

  • Disable Hibernation
    1. Click on Start, type “Command Prompt”, right-click on it and select “Run as administrator”.
    2. In the Command Prompt, type “powercfg /h off” to turn Hibernation off.
  • Disable Paging
    1. Run “View advanced system settings” to open the “System Properties” dialog, make sure the Advanced tab is selected, and click on the “Settings” button in the Performance section.
    2. Under the Advanced tab in the “Performance Options” dialog, click on the “Change…” button.
    3. Select “No paging file” and click the Set button. (We will need to reboot for this change to take effect.)
  • Disable System Protection
    1. Run “View advanced system settings” to open the “System Properties” dialog and select the “System Protection” tab.
    2. Select the C:\ drive and click on the “Configure…” button.
    3. Check the “Disable system protection” box and click OK. Answer Yes.

Once you have disabled the system services above, reboot (so the paging change can take effect), and repeat the Disk Management steps above to shrink the Windows 10 partition. You should be able to shrink the volume smaller than the destination drive’s size. (If you have more data on the source drive than can be contained by the target drive, you will need to uninstall and/or delete things from the source drive.)

CloneZilla the Drives

We have to use CloneZilla in expert mode (instead of beginner mode) in order to configure it to allow cloning from a bigger to a smaller drive.

Follow the first set of instructions at Clone a Hard Drive Using Clonezilla Live to create a bootable USB flash drive containing the latest version of Clonezilla Live.

Then follow the revised instructions below to clone the drives. (Steps 1 thru 7 are the same. In Step 8, we select “Expert mode” instead of “Beginner mode”.)

  1. Attach the destination drive to the same machine containing the source drive.
  2. Start the machine and boot from the USB flash drive. You may need to press a particular function key to load the boot menu (F12 on my Lenovo desktop) or you may need to adjust the BIOS setup to boot from a USB drive before the hard drive. (If you get offered Legacy or UEFI bootup options for the USB flash drive, choose UEFI.)
  3. On Clonezilla Live’s startup screen, keep the default “Clonezilla live (Default settings, VGA 800×600)” and press Enter.
  4. Press Enter to accept the pre-selected language, “en_US.UTF-8 English”.
  5. Keep the default “Don’t touch keymap” and press Enter.
  6. Make sure “Start_Clonezilla” is selected and press Enter to start.
  7. Because I am copying from one hard drive to another, I select the “device-device work directly from a disk or partition to a disk or partition” option. Press Enter.
  8. Change to “Expert mode” option and press Enter.clonezilla_expert
  9. Keep the first “disk_to_local_disk” option and press Enter.
  10. Select the source drive and press Enter.
  11. Select the target destination drive and press Enter.
  12. Check the “-icds Skip checking destination disk size before creating partition table” flag and press Enter.clonezilla_icds
  13. Keep the default “Skip checking/repairing source file system” selection and press Enter.
  14. Select the “-k1 Create partition table proportionally” flag and press Enter.clonezilla_k1
  15. Type “y” and press Enter to acknowledge the warning that all data on the destination hard drive will be destroyed.
  16. Type “y” and press Enter a second time to indicate that you are really sure.
  17. In answer to the question “do you want to clone the boot loader”, type uppercase “Y” and press Enter. (I need to clone the boot loader so the destination hard drive will be bootable like the source hard drive.)
  18. The hard drive cloning will occur.
  19. When the cloning completes, press Enter to continue.
  20. Select “poweroff” to shut down the machine.
  21. Once the machine is off, remove the source drive and boot from the destination drive. (Or use the boot menu to select the destination drive.)

Thankfully, CloneZilla automatically increase the size of the Windows 10 partition on the destination drive to take up the remaining available free space. (If CloneZilla didn’t increase the partition size for you, you can use the “Extend Volume…” function in “Disk Management” to grow the partition size manually.)

Re-enable System Services

Once you are certain that Windows 10 is working successfully off the smaller drive, you can re-enable the system hibernation, paging, and protection.

  • Enable Hibernation
    1. Click on Start, type “Command Prompt”, right-click on it and select “Run as administrator”.
    2. In the Command Prompt, type “powercfg /h on” to turn Hibernation on.
  • Enable Paging
    1. Run “View advanced system settings” to open the “System Properties” dialog, make sure the Advanced tab is selected, and click on the “Settings” button in the Performance section.
    2. Under the Advanced tab in the “Performance Options” dialog, click on the “Change…” button.
    3. Select “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives” at the top and click the OK button. (We will need to reboot for this change to take effect.)
  • Enable System Protection
    1. Run “View advanced system settings” to open the “System Properties” dialog and select the “System Protection” tab.
    2. Select the C:\ drive and click on the “Configure…” button.
    3. Check the “Turn on system protection” box and click OK.

Re-enable BitLocker

If you want to, re-encrypt the hard drive by turning Bitlocker on. Run “Manage BitLocker” and select the “Turn on BitLocker” option. (I don’t recommend choosing the option to encrypt the entire drive, instead of the used disk space only, unless you want to make sure that no one can recover deleted files. Encrypting the entire drive takes significantly more time, depending upon the amount of free disk space.)

If BitLocker didn’t already ask you to reboot, do a reboot to ensure that the paging change above takes effect.

Note: If you leave the source drive attached, it won’t show up in Windows 10’s File Explorer. Run “Disk Management” and you will see that the source drive’s status is “Offline (The disk is offline because it has a signature collision with another disk that is online)”. To make the source drive visible and accessible, right-click on the source drive’s label (“Disk 1” in my case) and select Online.

CloneZilla Didn’t Work!

I tried using CloneZilla to clone my laptop’s HDD (Hard Disk Drive) to a smaller SSD. Unfortunately, CloneZilla threw an error, “Write block error: no space left on device”. Even though it then completed the cloning process, my laptop was not able to boot off the resulting SSD.

Instead, I attached the laptop HDD and SSD to my desktop and ran the free version of EaseUS Partition Master on my desktop to successfully clone from the laptop HDD to the SSD. Here is what I did:

  1. Install EaseUS Partition Master Free Edition, run it, and click “Launch Application”.
  2. Select the source disk (in the right-hand panel listing all the disks), right-click and choose “Copy disk”. (Alternatively, you can run menu Wizard, “Clone disk wizard”, and select the source disk.)
  3. After the wizard finishes analyzing the source disk, click Next.
  4. Select the destination disk. Next.
  5. Choose the “Delete partitions on the destination hard disk” option. Next.
  6. The wizard should select the same sizes for the destination partitions as the source partition’s (except for the last partition, which should be the Windows partition, if the hard drive sizes are different).
    • On a MBR (Master Boot Record) disk, you should have two partitions, a tiny System partition and a large Windows partition. On a GPT (GUID Partition Table) disk, you will have one or two other tiny system or reserved partitions.
    • Note: The wizard had a problem selecting the destination partition sizes for my laptop’s SSD. It increased the 1GB System partition to 100GB. I had to drag to resize the System partition to a value closed to 1GB (couldn’t get it exactly the same) and increase the Windows partition size accordingly (to eliminate the Unallocated space).
    • If you drag the partition to a small enough size, you won’t be able to see the text inside showing the size. Just rest your mouse pointer on the partition and a popup text will appear with the size info.
  7. Once you are satisfied with the sizes, click Next and Finish. The Partition Master’s disk info will change to reflect the changes you made.
  8. Click the top-left Apply button to make those changes take effect.

If you don’t have a second Windows machine to do the above, you can do a self-migration of Windows 10 from the current disk to another disk using the EaseUS Todo Backup Free Edition. Run it and click the top-right Clone button. More instructions can be found at How to Migrate Windows 10 from HDD to SSD?

Most info above derived from:

No Comments

Clone a Hard Drive Using Clonezilla Live

Windows No Comments

I needed to clone one hard drive to another. In the past, I would have used a bootable MS-DOS CD containing an old copy of Norton Ghost 8. This time, I decided to see what is currently available and could be launched from a bootable USB flash drive. I found the open source Clonezilla Live utility, which is a small GNU/Linux distribution capable of running from a USB flash drive and cloning hard drives.

I decided to follow Clonezilla Live’s “MS Windows Method B: Manual” instructions to create a bootable USB flash drive.

  1. Follow these DiskPart instructions to create a bootable USB flash drive. (Clonezilla Live requires the FAT32 format and at least a 200MB capacity flash drive.)
  2. Download the latest stable release of Clonezilla Live. If you have a 64-bit capable machine, select “amd64” for “CPU architecture”. Or select “i586” for 32-bit. Select “zip” for “file type”.
  3. Unzip the Clonezilla Live Zip archive to the USB flash drive.
  4. syslinux_makebootLaunch the Command Prompt utility, change directory to the USB flash drive, and run “utils\win64\makeboot64.bat” for 64-bit or “utils\win32\makeboot.bat” for 32-bit. The “makeboot64.bat” or “makeboot.bat” script will modify the USB flash drive to boot the small GNU/Linux distribution and run the Clonezilla Live utility. (The makeboot utility will display the drive letter to be modified before continuing; please make sure that it is the correct one belonging to the USB flash drive.)

Clonezilla Live will show a lot of options which unfortunately are not easy to understand. The simplest way to deal with it is to accept the default when you are not sure.

  1. Attach the destination hard drive to the same machine containing the source hard drive.
  2. Start the machine and boot from the USB flash drive. You may need to press a particular function key to load the boot menu (F12 on my Lenovo desktop) or you may need to adjust the BIOS setup to boot from a USB drive before the hard drive.
  3. clonezilla_liveOn Clonezilla Live’s startup screen, keep the default “Clonezilla live (Default settings, VGA 800×600)” and press Enter.
  4. Press Enter to accept the pre-selected language, “en_US.UTF-8 English”.
  5. Keep the default “Don’t touch keymap” and press Enter.
  6. Make sure “Start_Clonezilla” is selected and press Enter to start.
  7. Because I am copying from one hard drive to another, I select the “device-device work directly from a disk or partition to a disk or partition” option. Press Enter.
  8. To keep it simple, stay with the “Beginner mode” option and press Enter.
  9. Select the source hard drive and press Enter.
  10. Select the target destination hard drive and press Enter.
  11. Keep the default “Skip checking/repairing source file system” selection and press Enter.
  12. Type “y” and press Enter to acknowledge the warning that all data on the destination hard drive will be destroyed.
  13. Type “y” and press Enter a second time to indicate that you are really sure.
  14. In answer to the question “do you want to clone the boot loader”, type uppercase “Y” and press Enter. (I need to clone the boot loader so the destination hard drive will be bootable like the source hard drive.)
  15. The hard drive cloning will occur. It took me around 10 minutes copying from one SSD to another SSD. (The length of time required to complete the process is dependent on the speed of both the source and destination hard drives.)
  16. When the cloning completes, press Enter to continue.
  17. Select “poweroff” to shut down the machine.
  18. Once the machine is off, swap the hard drives (or remove the source hard drive) and boot from the destination hard drive.

Even though my destination hard drive was twice the size of the source hard drive, the cloned destination partition size was the same size as the original source partition. I then used the free EaseUS Partition Master utility to increase the size of the destination partition (without destroying the data on it). Probably, Clonezilla Live’s expert mode has a setting to adjust the destination partition size.

No Comments

Create Bootable USB Flash Drive With DiskPart Command-Line Utility

Windows No Comments

The instructions below will create a bootable system partition on a USB flash drive, which is exactly the same as creating such a partition on a hard drive. Specifically, I will be using Windows 7’s built-in DiskPart (Disk Partition) command-line utility to create a bootable USB flash drive containing a Windows 8.1 Setup image.

diskpart_usbIf you are interested, here’s the technical reason why our bootable USB flash drive will use the MBR layout and FAT32 format: Computers, including both Windows and Macs, boot using a standard called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which is based upon the EFI specification (Extensible Firmware Interface). (When folks say EFI, they are usually referring to UEFI because all modern computers use UEFI.) UEFI is a replacement for the previous BIOS method of booting up, but UEFI still supports the older BIOS method. The BIOS boot method uses the MBR (Master Boot Record) layout. In addition to BIOS+MBR, UEFI also supports the new GPT (GUID Partition Table) layout. The UEFI specification requires bootable removable media (such as a bootable USB flash drive) to use the MBR layout and FAT32 format.

To create a bootable USB flash drive, do the following:

  1. Insert a USB flash drive with sufficient capacity. (The 64-bit Windows 8.1 Professional ISO image I had is 4.5GB in size and requires at least an 8GB USB flash drive).
  2. Launch the “diskpart” or “diskpart.exe” utility from the Windows Start/Run menu or the Command Prompt. You will be prompted with a popup message asking “Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to this computer?” Answer Yes.
  3. Run the following commands in the DiskPart utility (ignore the comment lines marked by the pound # character):
    # Show all disks (aka drives, like hard drives or removable media).
    DISKPART> list disk
     
    # Select a disk to operate on.
    DISKPART> select disk [number identifying USB flash drive]
     
    # Delete all partitions, resulting in a blank disk.
    DISKPART> clean
     
    # Create a primary partition (using MBR).
    DISKPART> create partition primary

    # Show all partitions (should just be the one newly-created partition).
    DISKPART> list partition

    # Select the primary partition to operate on (only 1 partition exists).
    DISKPART> select partition 1
     
    # Make that primary partition active (aka bootable).
    DISKPART> active
     
    # Format the active primary partition using FAT32.
    # To do a full format, instead of a quick format, omit the "quick" flag.
    DISKPART> format fs=fat32 quick
     
    # Assign a drive letter to the primary partition
    # (just in case Windows didn't already do it).
    DISKPART> assign

    # Quit DiskPart.
    DISKPART> exit
  4. Test by opening the contents of USB flash drive using Windows Explorer. If you get an inaccessible error when accessing the drive, unplug and re-plug it back into the computer. You should then be able to access it.
  5. Insert the Windows Setup DVD or mount the Windows Setup ISO file (I recommend using the free Slysoft Virtual CloneDrive utility to perform the ISO mount).
  6. Copy all the Windows Setup content to the USB flash drive by running the xcopy command from the Command Prompt:
    # Supposing USB flash drive is K: drive and Windows is L: drive,
    # copy all files and directories from the latter to the former.
    # /e = Copies directories and sub-directories, including empty ones.
    # /f = Displays full source and destination file names while copying.
    xcopy L:*.* /e/f K:

And we are done. The resulting USB flash drive should be bootable on both Windows and Macs. I tested the USB flash drive on my Macbook Pro Retina and it booted fine.

Info above derived from Install Windows 7 From a USB Flash Drive.

No Comments

Windows 8.1 Boot Camp on 2015 Macbook Pro Retina 13 Inch

Mac OS X, Windows No Comments

I recently upgraded to a 2015 Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch laptop. I attempted to install Windows 7 using the Boot Camp Assistant, which immediately asked for a Windows 8 or later installation media to be inserted. Darn it. I managed to create and insert a USB flash drive containing the latest Windows 8.1 with Update. After that, the Boot Camp Assistant asked me for the Boot Camp Support Software (Windows drivers). I inserted a second USB flash drive containing the latest Boot Camp Support Software I had manually downloaded from the Apple website, but Boot Camp Assistant still complained that it couldn’t be found. It turned out that for newer Macbooks, I must download the Boot Camp Support Software using the Boot Camp Assistant.

After I overcame the above and other issues, I was able to get a Windows 8.1 Boot Camp working. I’ve documented the steps I took below.

Create a Windows 8.1 Install USB Flash Drive

I used my Windows 7 desktop to create a USB flash drive containing the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Update. (2015 Macbooks only support 64-bit Windows 8 or later.) Because Windows 8.1 setup requires 4.5GB of space, you must use an 8GB or larger USB flash drive; I ended up using a spare 16GB flash drive that I had.

Update: Instead of using the WinToFlash utility below and dealing with its browser plugin spam, use Window’s built-in DiskPart command-line utility to create a bootable USB flash drive containing the Windows Setup.

NovicorpWinToFlashLiteI used the free Novicorp WinToFlash Lite utility to copy the contents of my Windows 8.1 with Update ISO file (alternatively, you can use a Windows 8.1 DVD) to the USB flash drive. WinToFlash will re-format the USB flash drive using FAT32 format before copying the content over.

Note: Strangely, WinToFlash won’t throw an error even if you use a USB flash drive that is too small. I tried a 1GB USB flash drive and WinToFlash completed successfully. So make sure to use an 8GB USB flash drive or larger.

Unfortunately, the first time you run the latest version of WinToFlash, it will install a browser plugin called “WinToFlash Suggestor” which adds advertisements to search suggestions. Go ahead and uninstall this unnecessary browser plugin using the Control Panel’s “Uninstall a program” function.

Note: The Microsoft website has a Windows USB/DVD Download Tool which can do what WinToFlash does. Unfortunately, that tool re-formats the USB flash drive as NTFS. Because the Macbook uses UEFI BIOS boot up which only works with FAT32, the USB flash drive created by the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool won’t be bootable.

Download The Boot Camp Support Software

For Macs released in 2014 and 2015, you must use the Boot Camp Assistant to download a specific version of the 64-bit Boot Camp Support Software for your Mac. Apple does not provide links to manually download all the available Boot Camp Support Software versions. (You can manually download the older Boot Camp Support Software 5.1.5640 64bit for Mid and Late 2013 Macs here and Boot Camp Support Software 5.1.5621 64bit for Early 2013 or previous Macs here.) For 32-bit Windows installation and other options, check Apple’s System requirements to install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp page.

BootCampAssistantWindows8In order to install Windows 8.1, the Boot Camp Support Software needs to be incorporated into the Windows 8.1 Install USB flash drive. The simplest method is to have the Boot Camp Assistant download the Boot Camp Support Software directly to the Windows 8.1 Install USB flash drive.

Note: I tried installing with two USB flash drives, one containing the Windows 8.1 Install and the other containing the Boot Camp Support Software, but the Windows 8.1 setup threw a “No new devices drivers were found” error even after I had manually selected the I/O driver on the Boot Camp Support Software USB flash drive.

To download the latest Windows drivers from Apple:

  1. Insert the FAT32-formatted Windows 8.1 Install USB flash drive.
  2. Run Boot Camp Assistant.
  3. Select the “Download the latest Windows support software from Apple” option. Click Continue.
  4. Select the Windows 8.1 Install USB flash drive. (Boot Camp Assistant requires FAT32 format and at least 500MB free.) Click Continue.
  5. Boot Camp Assistant will copy all the Boot Camp Support Software content (“$WinPEDriver$” directory, “BootCamp” directory, and “AutoUnattend.xml” file) to the USB flash drive’s root directory (which is where the Windows 8.1 setup will expect them to be).

Install Windows 8.1

To install Windows 8.1, run the Boot Camp Assistant and select the option to “Install Windows 8 or later version”. Follow the instructions to create a BOOTCAMP partition. With the Windows 8.1 Install USB flash drive still inserted, agree to restart the Macbook.

On reboot, the Macbook will boot from the Windows 8.1 Install USB flash drive. (If it doesn’t, shutdown the Macbook and power it up while holding the alt/option key. When the boot screen appears, select the USB flash drive’s “EFI Boot” option.)

The Windows 8.1 setup will automatically use the Boot Camp Support Software’s I/O driver to access the hard drive and show the list of partitions. Select the BOOTCAMP partition and allow it to be re-formatted as NTFS. Windows 8.1 setup will then install itself onto that NTFS partition.

After reboot and once the Windows 8.1 initial setup is completed (can take several minutes), the Boot Camp Support Software installer will automatically execute to install the necessary Apple hardware drivers.

Note: The Windows 8 version of Windows Defender is different from the Windows 7 version. Windows 7 Defender only protects against spyware, so the recommendation is to disable it and install Microsoft Security Essentials which protects against virus, spyware, and malware. However, Windows 8 Defender protects against virus, spyware, and malware so there is no need to replace it. (Microsoft Security Essentials can’t be installed on Windows 8.)

All in all, the Windows 8.1 Boot Camp installation went smoothly once I knew to creat a USB flash drive containing both Windows 8.1 and the Boot Camp Support Software.

Some info above derived from:

No Comments

Copy Table From Acrobat X to Excel

Windows No Comments

In Adobe Acrobat 9, I was able to select a table, right-click on the selection, choose “Copy As Table…”, and then paste that table into Excel (right-click on a cell, select “Paste Special…”, and choose “XML Spreadsheet”). In Acrobat X, the same actions result in a one row table in Excel with the column values from all rows concatenated together. The resulting table is useless.

acrobatx_table_copyAcrobat X also provides alternative options to “Save As Table…” and to “Open Table in Spreadsheet”, but those do not work either. They result in the same one row table.

The best guess as to the cause is that Acrobat X incorrectly interprets the table tags. This problem has been known since at least the beginning of 2011 but unfortunately, Adobe has not provided a fix in even the most recent version of Acrobat X. While there are several solutions, including manually altering the table tags (so that Acrobat X would recognize the table) or exporting first to a Word document then doing the copy-paste from Word to Excel, the simplest solution I found was to copy the table column by column to Excel.

To select just the column in Acrobat X, hold down the Alt button and click-drag to highlight one table column. Use the normal copy command (Ctrl-C or right-click on the selection and choose Copy) to copy the column. Do not use the “Copy As Table…” command because it may result in corrupted or missing column values. In Excel, use the normal Paste command (Ctrl-V or right-click on the first field and choose Paste); actually, the “XML Spreadsheet” special paste option won’t be available for selection at all. Repeat the above for each of the remaining columns.

I found the column-by-column copy-paste approach to work great for small tables. If you have a huge table to copy, you may wish to use another method (for example, converting the PDF to Word and then copy-pasting the table from Word to Excel).

The copy-paste table methods described above and others were found in the comments at How to copy/Paste a table from PDF to Excel using AcrobatX.

No Comments

Sharing Applications Between Mac OS X and Windows

Mac OS X, Windows No Comments

In my previous post, Setup Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Windows 7 Boot Camp, and Shared FAT32 Partition, I decided to use Mac OS X as much as possible and in addition to Windows 7. It would be nice if I could use the same applications (or equivalents) on both operating systems. And it would be great if those apps made use of the same data whether running on Mac OS X or Windows 7. Effectively, I would like to share my apps between Mac OS X and Windows 7.

My methods for “App Sharing” in order of preference are:

  1. If both the Mac OS X and Windows 7 application versions use the same data format, then store that application data in a shared FAT32 partition (I had corruption issues with exFAT). If you don’t have a shared partition, you can use a private network share or even a cloud-based drive like DropBox (which introduces some security concerns).
    • My favorite secured information storage apps, Keepass and Truecrypt, run under both Mac OS X and Windows 7 and use the same data files on the shared partition. (Note: I saw some comments that using a large Truecrypt file with Dropbox may have issues such as sync not working 100% or not working in a timely manner.)
    • To a lesser extent, iTunes on Mac OS X and Windows 7 can use the same music and video files on the shared partition. Just run each iTunes and use the Mac OS X “File->Add to Library” or Windows 7 “File->Add Folder to Library” menu option. If you wish to sync your iPod, iPhone, or iPad to either the Mac OS X or Windows 7 iTunes, make sure they share the same library identifier; see my post, Sync an iPod Touch to Two Computers, for instructions.
  2. If the Mac OS X and Windows 7 application versions don’t use the same data format, then they might support cloud sync’ing. My primary concern with the cloud is security, because a copy of my information will be accessible on the Internet and stored in a hard drive belonging to a company which might not always have my privacy as its top priority. It is a lot less secure than just having a local copy on my hard drive. To mitigate this, I will remove all sensitive information before using the cloud.
    • The browser I use, Chrome, supports sync’ing bookmarks, tabs and extensions to/from Google. It’s as simple as going to Settings, “Signing in to Chrome” (specifically, providing your Google account’s username and password), and clicking on “OK, sync everything”. If you sign in from multiple machines, the bookmarks will be merged. To see tabs opened on other machines, create a new blank tab and click on the “Other devices” link at the bottom.
    • The latest version of my favorite note taking application, Evernote, runs on both Mac OS X and Windows and supports cloud sync’ing. For sensitive info, the latest Evernote offers an option to password-protect-encrypt a note. I am using an old, non-cloud-enabled version 2.1 of Evernote for Windows and plan to upgrade to the latest cloud-enabled versions on Mac OS X and Windows 7.
    • My contact information and notes are stored in a Personal Storage Table (PST) file used by Microsoft Outlook for Windows. I found that Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010 for Windows used the same PST file without any issues. And Outlook 2010 for Windows can cloud sync directly to Google Contacts and Notes (Google provides sync tools for Outlook for Windows). Unfortunately, Outlook 2011 for Mac OS X does not use PST and does not support cloud sync’ing directly to Google. However, Outlook 2011 for Mac OS X can sync to the Mac OS X Mountain Lion’s Contacts (new name for Address Book) and Notes applications, and the Contacts and Notes application can cloud sync directly to Google. (If you don’t want to use Google, there is a way to use iCloud instead for the same purpose.)
    • If I wish to sync my contacts and notes in Outlook to an iPhone or Android phone, the above method of cloud-sync’ing to Google Contacts and Notes will help. I can sync contacts and notes on the iPhone and Android phone directly to/from Google. Alternatively, for iPhone, I can use iTunes sync with Outlook on Windows, or iTunes sync with Contacts and Notes on Mac OS X.
  3. If the Mac OS X and Windows 7 application versions don’t use the same data format and don’t support cloud sync’ing, they will usually provide an export/import migration path between the Mac OS X and Windows 7 application versions. In this case, I would just migrate to using the application solely on Mac OS X. In the future, if I need to, I can migrate back to Windows 7.
    • My expense tracking application, Quicken, supports migrating data from the Windows version to Mac OS X version. Because Quicken for Mac OS X may not have the same set of features as for Windows, you will want to research whether the Mac OS X version will fit your needs. I plan to upgrade from Quicken 2003 for Windows to Quicken Essentials 2010 for Mac OS X.

Moving from Evernote 2.1 for Windows to Evernote 4.5 for Windows and Evernote 3.3 for Mac OS X

Evernote supports export/import but there was an export data format change between Evernote 2.1 and the latest Evernote versions. I found a forum post, New user help-importing Evernote 2.0 files into Evernote 4.1, which indicated that we need to use Evernote 3.1 for Windows to import the old Evernote 2.1 format and then export to the new data format. Actually, I found that Evernote 3.1 was cloud-enabled, so there was no need to export because the imported 2.1 notes were sync’ed directly to the cloud.

Here’s how I migrated from Evernote 2.1 to the latest version:

  1. Run Evernote 2.1 for Windows. There is no need to do an export because the exported “ENExport.enx” file won’t be usable.
  2. Look at the bottom status bar to see the total number of notes. It will say something like “Notes: 272” or “Notes: 15 of 272”.
  3. Quit Evernote 2.1. Do not uninstall it yet because we may need to use it later to verify that all notes were migrated.
  4. Install Evernote 3.1 for Windows (it will co-exist fine with Evernote 2.1). I was able to download a version of Evernote 3.1 from FileHippo.
  5. Run Evernote 3.1 and sign-in. You will need to register for an Evernote account, if you don’t already have one, to use Evernote. Even if you plan to only use locally stored notes, and not the cloud-sync’ed notes, you still need to have an account.
  6. Go to menu File->Import->Evernote 2.x Databases… and select your 2.1 database file “EverNote.enb”, which is usually located under the Evernote 2.1 install directory; for example: “C:\Program Files\Evernote\Evernote 2”. (Note: There is a menu option File->Import->Evernote Export Files… but it will ask for the new .enex export file which we don’t have.)
  7. The import will occur. At the end, I got a warning message saying that some of my imported notes contained “Premium File Attachments” which are not supported under the free account. I didn’t think I was attaching any files that were not in the list of supported free file attachment types (also listed in the warning dialog), so I clicked on the “Restricted Import” button. “Restricted Import” appears to import all notes except the ones that have the premium file attachments.
  8. Once the import completed, a “Data import successful” dialog appeared and asked if I wanted to “Place all imported notes into a synchronized notebook now?” I answered Yes.
  9. Back in the main Evernote window, in the left navigation pane, I noticed a new notebook called “EverNote” under the Notebooks section. There is a sync icon before the name, which I guess means it is synchronized to the cloud. After the name is the number of notes in parenthesis; in my case, it shows as “Evernote (271)”.
  10. Since I had 272 notes in Evernote 2.1, it looks like one note was not imported, probably the one with the premium file attachment. Now to track down the missing note.
    • I checked the log file by going to menu Tools->Options->General->Open Log folder and opening the “AppLog_[date].txt” file. (There is a “SyncLog_[date].txt” but it just contains logs from the cloud sync function, not the import function.) I scrolled to the bottom of the AppLog and saw this message, “272 notes successfully imported”. There wasn’t any message about which note was not imported. Darn.
    • Looks like I have to do a brute-force comparison with the old Evernote 2.1 notes. Thankfully, I filed my notes under many manual categories so it really helped to facilitate the comparison. On Evernote 3.1, in the left navigation pane, I opened up Tags->Manual categories. I started Evernote 2.1 and opened its Manual Categories. Then I checked the count of notes in each category to find a mismatch in the number. I was able to locate the missing note in Evernote 2.1. Strangely, it only had an embedded image and I was able to copy and paste it into Evernote 3.1 successfully. The count of notes in Evernote 3.1 went to 272. Problem solved.
  11. I noticed that all my imported notes had text saying “(needs sync)” in its title. Looks like I needed to synchronize the imported data to the cloud.
    • I was concerned about the 60MB/month upload limit on a free Evernote account. To see the size of my database, I went to menu Tools->Account Properties and Database tab. My notes are mostly text so it was only 2.4MB in size. I think if your data is larger than 60MB, you might need to sign up for the premium account.
    • In that same Account Properties dialog, under the Account Usage tab, I found how much of the 60MB/month limit I had already used; it said “”0.5MB out of 60 MB used” so far. You can also get to this tab by clicking on the “Current Monthly Usage” in the top ribbon-like bar.
    • I clicked the Synchronize button at the top-left to sync against the cloud. The progress was reported in the bottom status bar to the right and looked like “Updating server database, 55% done”. Strangely, “Updating server database” went to 100% about 3-4 times, interspersed with “Updating client database…” progress messages.
    • Once the sync was complete (no more status updates), my notes no longer had the “(needs sync)” text in the title. I double-checked the monthly usage and it still said “0.5MB out of 60 MB used”, instead of the 2.9MB that I expected. Oh well.
  12. Exit Evernote 3.1. If you exit with unsynchronized notes (even notes in the trash), you will see a warning dialog. Just cancel the exit and do the sync and/or empty the trash.
  13. Uninstall Evernote 3.1 and re-install the latest Evernote 4.5 for Windows. You can also install the latest Evernote 3.3 for Mac OS X (from the Mac App Store).
  14. Once you sign-in to Evernote, the notes will sync down from the cloud. You can see the sync progress in the status bar; under Evernote 4.5, to show the status bar, go to menu View->Show status bar.

Sync’ing Contacts and Notes between Outlook 2010 for Windows and Outlook 2011 for Mac OS X

As described above, sync’ing contacts and notes between the Windows and Mac OS X versions of Outlook is complex, involving intermediate applications. I will do a separate post later about how to do the Outlook sync between Windows and Mac OS X.

Moving from Quicken 2003 for Windows to Quicken Essentials 2010 for Mac OS X

Because I use Intuit Quicken as a glorified expense tracking application where I manually input all the expenses and run summary reports, I was fine with using the very old Quicken 2003 for Windows. I used one Quicken file for each year and in the file, I used one account for each month. So, for each year, I could see the trend of how much I spent monthly (accounts listing) and how much I spent per category (itemized report).

From the reviews complaining that Quicken Essentials for Mac OS X is a glorified checkbook with transaction downloads from banks, it looks to be more than what I need because I didn’t want to download transactions from a bank. I don’t plan to provide my bank’s login credentials to anyone! After testing Quicken Essentials, I found that it was fine for my needs: manual expense input works great and the pre-defined summary, trend, and itemized category reports provided the info I wanted.

Unfortunately, to migrate from Quicken 2003 for Windows to Quicken Essentials for Mac OS X, I needed to upgrade to Quicken 2004 for Windows as an intermediate step. How do I know this? The Quicken Essentials’ converter tool told me so when I attempted to open a Quicken 2003 file.

Thankfully, Intuit provides a copy of Quicken 2004 free for anyone who needs to upgrade to Quicken 2005 and later from a version earlier than Quicken 2004. To download and install Quicken 2004 Deluxe, do the following:

  1. Browse to Using an Intermediate Version To Convert Older Versions of Quicken.
  2. Expand “Quicken for Microsoft Windows” and click on “Quicken 2004 for Windows” to download it. (Note: If you use Chrome, Chrome may report that the download page contains malware, but this is a false positive. Ignore it and click on the “proceed anyway” link.)
  3. Once downloaded, run “QW04DLX.exe” to install Quicken 2004 Deluxe.

To upgrade your data files from Quicken 2003 to Quicken 2004:

  1. Locate your Quicken 2003 data files (they come in file sets with extensions .QDF, .QEL, .QPH, and .QSD). By default, the data files are located in the Quicken installation directory under “C:\Program Files\Quicken” or “C:\Program Files (x86)\Quicken”, or they could be under the “My Documents\Quicken” or “Documents\Quicken” folder.
  2. Run Quicken 2004, go to File->Open, and select the 2003 .QDF file. Quicken 2004 will show a “Convert your data file” dialog, so confirm it by clicking on the OK button.
  3. Quicken 2004 will save the original 2003 data files under a “Q03Files” sub-directory and generate the updated 2004 data files (file sets using extensions .IDX, .QDF, QEL, .QPH, and .QSD).
  4. Repeat the above to upgrade other 2003 files.

To export the Quicken 2004 files to a format compatible with Quicken Essentials for Mac OS X (and Quicken 2012 for Windows):

  1. The Quicken Essentials install CD comes with a Windows converter program (insert the CD under Windows to access it) and a PowerPC converter program (which can only run in Mac OS X Snow Leopard or earlier) which can be used to convert Quicken 2004 files and later for use by Quicken Essentials.
  2. Because I didn’t have a Mac OS X Snow Leopard or earlier machine, I decided to run the converter under Windows. Instead of using the converter on the CD, I downloaded the latest Windows Quicken_converter.exe from Converting to Quicken Essentials for Mac from Quicken for Windows or MS Money: expand the “Convert your data from Quicken for Windows” section, look for the “Quicken_Converter_Setup.exe” reference, and click on the “you can download the converter here” link. (Note: If you use Chrome, Chrome will display a false malware warning which you can ignore by clicking on the “proceed anyway” link.)
  3. Run the downloaded “Quicken_Converter.exe” to install “Quicken Converter 2012”.
  4. Launch “Quicken Converter”.
  5. Select “I’m transferring data from Quicken for Windows”, click “Get Started”, select “Open a data file located on this computer” and click “Select File”.
  6. Select your Quicken 2004 .QDF file and click “Convert it!” in the confirmation dialog.
  7. Once done, you will be asked to indicate the location to save the transfer file to. Click OK and select a directory. I selected the automatically created “Q12Files” sub-directory.
  8. Click Save and the resulting export .QXF file (and a new updated 2012 .QDF file) will be saved to the selected directory. This .QXF can be imported into Quicken Essentials for Mac OS X or Quicken 2012 for Windows. (I also think that Quicken 2012 for Windows can open the updated .QDF file directly.)
  9. Click “Convert Another” and repeat the above to convert other Quicken 2004 .QDF files.

To import the exported .QXF files into Quicken Essentails for Mac OS X:

  1. Copy the exported .QXF files from Windows to your Mac OS X machine. I suggest using the shared partition or a USB flash drive.
  2. Launch Quicken Essential for Mac OS X.
  3. Click “Create a New Document”, modify the file name (with extension .quickendata), and click Save. Quick Essentials will open with an initial blank setup.
  4. Go to menu “File->Import…” option.
  5. Select an exported .QXF file and click Open. Your data will be imported.
    • Note: If you import data from more than a year ago, you might be concern that the import failed when Quicken Essential shows you an empty register. This is because almost all of the Quicken Essentials pages will filter on the “Last 12 Months” (look for the filter bar at the top). You will want to change that to “All Dates” in order to see entries older than one year.
    • To import another .QXF file, go to menu File->New…, type the new filename (without the .quickendata extension) into “Save As:”, click Save, and repeat the import steps above.
    • Note: Unfortunately, we can only import one .QXF into one Quicken Essentials file. If you attempt to import a second .QXF file, you will get a error message saying that it is not allowed.

Besides selecting “All Dates” to view older entries, I noticed that the accounts listing is sorted alphabetically and there is no way to override that. I had to rename the accounts to re-order the list to match my needs; for example, changing “Jan” to “01 Jan” and “Apr” to “04 Apr” so January will come before April instead of after. I also hid some columns that I didn’t use. Unfortunately, I had to make these changes for each account because there was no way to change things globally.

No Comments

Configure Live Mail 2011 for Gmail IMAP (and Yahoo Mail POP3)

Windows No Comments

In my earlier post on Configuring Outlook 2003/2007 for Gmail IMAP, I mentioned that there was a problem with deleting messages. Specifically, when I deleted a message in the Gmail Inbox, the message was deleted from the Inbox but still left in the “All Mail” folder; so it didn’t show up in the Trash. The workaround was to drag the message from the “All Mail” folder to the Trash.

Evidently, Microsoft fixed this Gmail behavior in Outlook 2010 and in Live Mail 2011. To check it out, I downloaded and installed Live Mail 2011. I then started Live Mail and attempted to create a new email account. Below are some hints on configuring Live Mail to use Gmail IMAP.

Note: There is a major downside to using Live Mail 2011 if you receive emails from Facebook. Simply, when you attempt to read an email from Facebook, Live Mail 2011 will crash. I looked into using rules to move emails from Facebook into a folder, but rules only work for POP3 accounts, not Gmail IMAP. (Update: Either Microsoft or Facebook fixed this issue because I no longer see it.)

On the “Add your email accounts” dialog, make sure to select the “Manually configure server setttings” option.

On the next “Configure server settings” screen, select “IMAP” as the “Server type” and make sure to select “Clear text” for the “Authenticate using” option (the alternative “Secure Password Authentication” method is not supported by Gmail).

When you click on the next button, Live Mail will create the Gmail account and perform the initial IMAP folder sync. Once the sync completed, I tested by selecting a message in the Inbox and deleting it. When I checked the “[Gmail]->All Mail” folder, the message was not listed there. And when I checked the “[Gmail]->Trash” folder, I saw the deleted message. It worked! I no longer have to do the “move to Trash” workaround.

After adding several email accounts, I noticed that Live Mail’s account list (on the left in the main window) was not listing the email accounts in the order of creation; they were in some random order. To re-arrange the display order, just left-click on the email account name and select “Move up” or “Move down”.

Another strangeness I noticed was that the “Unread email” folder under “Quick views” would show a duplicate of each new message. Duplicates occur because each new unread message appears both in the Inbox folder and the “[Gmail]->All Mail” folder. You can eliminate the duplicates by hiding the “All Mails” folder. To hide the “All Mail” folder, left-click on it and select the “Hide this folder from list” menu item. After making this change, you should see only one copy of each message in the “Unread email” folder.

If you want to unhide the “All Mail” folder, left-click on the email account name and select the “Show or hide folders…” menu item. Under the All tab, select the “All Mail” item and click on the “Show” button to the right. Hit Ok to close the dialog. You should see the “All Mail” folder under “[Gmail]” again.

For your reference, below are the screenshots for configuring Live Mail 2011 to use a Yahoo Mail POP3 account. (Update: If you don’t have a Yahoo Mail Plus account which is required for Yahoo POP3, you can use Yahoo’s new IMAP access with “imap.mail.yahoo.com” server and SSL port 993. Configure the same as for Gmail IMAP. See the last screenshot.)

LiveMail2011YahooSettingsIMAP

I imagine that the above info is still applicable when configuring Outlook 2010.

These sites helped me to figure out the quirks of Live Mail 2011:

No Comments

Create a Bootable USB Windows XP Installer (Good-bye CDs and DVDs!)

Windows No Comments

Note: I have also used the WinToFlash tool to successfully make a bootable USB Windows 7 installer, both 32bit and 64bit versions.

kingstonflashdrivewinzpMy sister asked me to fix her Compaq Windows XP laptop. I found that the Windows XP Home installation on it was in a weird state. On bootup, it would always show an error saying “One of the files containing the system’s Registry data had to be recovered by use of a log or alternate copy”. And every time I launched Internet Explorer 8, I would get this error, “A program on your computer has corrupted your default search provider setting for Internet Explorer” and the search provider configuration dialog would appear; however, any change I made to the search provider selection was not saved.

I tried to fix both issues above and failed miserably. There were many suggestions on the Internet but none of them worked for me (except re-install Windows). To fix the Windows startup issue, I tried to do a clean boot (setting msconfig to not load any services on startup) but the error stilled occured. I tried to replace the “ntuser.dat” (user registry file) but that made no difference. I even un-installed and re-installed the Windows XP Service Pack 3. No success.

At the same time, I tried to fix the IE 8 error. I un-installed and then re-installed IE 8; the error still appeared. I deleted the IE “SearchScopes” entries in the registry; that didn’t work. I even copied whole IE 8 registry sections from a working machine over to the malfunctioning one. No dice.

I finally came to the conclusion that I had to do a clean Windows XP installation. The problem was the DVD drive on the laptop was broken. So that left me with one option, boot and install from a USB flash drive. I remember looking into bootable USB several years ago and giving up on it because it looked to be too difficult. Thankfully, time has drastically simplified the process of creating a bootable USB flash drive.

The tool I found that made everything painless is called WinToFlash. Just download, unzip, and run the “WinToFlash.exe”; there is no installer setup. Creating a bootable USB Windows installation drive is very simple: you put a bootable Windows CD/DVD (can be Windows XP or even Windows 7) in an optical drive, stick a USB flash drive into a USB port (should be 600MB or larger for Windows XP), run WinToFlash (just use the default Wizard) and select the drive letters assigned to the bootable CD/DVD (or select ISO image file) and the USB flash drive. WinToFlash will copy the Windows CD/DVD content to the flash drive and make the flash drive bootable.

Note: The latest version of WinToFlash is capable of opening up a bootable Windows ISO image directly. However, you can still mount the ISO image instead, and reference it by drive letter in WinToFlash. To do the ISO mount, I recommend either of these two free programs, Slysoft Virtual CloneDrive or WinCDEmu.

I had to go into the laptop’s BIOS (press F10 for Compaq laptops) to change the boot order to put the “USB Hard Drive” before the “Notebook Hard Drive”. I then rebooted and the laptop booted off of the USB flash drive. The boot menu was a bit cryptic though.

Option 2, “2nd, GUI mode setup, continue setup + 1st start of Windows”, was selected by default so I selected that. The Windows XP logo appeared and the laptop booted off of the internal hard drive, instead of running the Windows XP installer. I rebooted and this time, selected option 1, “1st, text mode setup (Boot from flash again after finished)”. This time, the Windows XP installer was launched. The rest of the installation was the same as when installing from CD/DVD.

Doing a fresh installation of Windows XP did finally “fix” the weird registry and IE 8 errors. Of course, this was like repairing a car with a malfunctioning engine by removing it and sticking in a new engine. The term “repair” or “fix” doesn’t seem to apply in this scenario.

Flash Forward to the Future

The bootable USB flash drive reminded me of when bootable CDs first came out and replaced the multiple floppies Windows installation. Like floppies, the CDs and DVDs will soon disappear; case in point, the new ultrabooks don’t come with built-in optical drives. With the decreasing price of solid state hard drives (which use flash technology), the current mechanical hard drives’ days are numbered.

Take me as an example. Almost two years ago, instead of buying an external 500GB hard drive for backup purpose, I purchased two 32GB USB flash drives for about the same price. The smaller physical size more than compensated for the reduced capacity. And the smaller capacity flash drives forced me to truly identify which of my digital data was important enough to save.

Next, I will look into creating a live Windows XP operating system on a bootable USB flash drive. It will come in handy to repair broken Windows installations or just to quickly retrieve data from an internal hard drive. If the USB flash drive is big enough, I could even make and keep ghost images of internal hard drives on the USB drive. That would be really useful.

No Comments

Recover From The “win64/Sirefef.W” Virus Infection

Windows 92 Comments

boxelderbugRecently, the Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) running on my Windows 7 64bit desktop detected the “win64/Sirefef.W” virus. The “win64/Sirefef.W” (or variants like “win64/Sirefef.Y” and “win64/Sirefef.B”) is a trojan which can install rootkits and other malicious programs onto your machine, in addition to providing security backdoors and other nasty stuff. On my machine, the “Windows/System32/services.exe” file was infected which is really bad because services.exe is used to launch essential Windows Services.

Unfortunately, MSE was unable to clean the “win64/Sirefef.W” virus after detecting it. In the middle of cleaning, the desktop rebooted. On restart, MSE detected the virus again and display a message saying that the machine needed to be rebooted in a minute. A minute later, the desktop rebooted, MSE once again detected the virus and displayed a reboot warning. This cycle looked to repeat endlessly, rendering my Windows 7 64bit desktop useless.

Manual intervention was necessary. Fortunately, I was able to dual-boot the infected desktop to run an older, clean Windows XP operating system. (If you don’t have a dual-boot, see comments for alternative methods to get a clean “services.exe” on your machine; search for JAKiii who updated Andre’s instructions.) More fortunate, I had a clean Windows 7 64bit operating system on my laptop. Using Windows XP, I was able to copy the clean “Windows/System32/services.exe” file from my laptop to the Windows 7 partition on my desktop (I left the corresponding “services.msc” alone). (Note: In the future, if I only had one machine, I would consider having a dual-boot of two Windows 7 operating systems; the first of which is for my day-to-day usage, and the second is a barebones install which is the reference install. I might considering ghosting just the barebone one for easy restore.)

After replacing “services.exe”, I was able to restart my Windows 7 64bit desktop without MSE detecting the virus and forcing a reboot. I then did a full scan with both MSE and Malwarebytes to ensure that the whole machine was clean. I thought the problem was solved, but “win64/Sirefef.W” had damaged Windows 7 by removing security-related Windows services.

I found that the Base Filtering Engine (BFE), Windows Firewall (MpsSvc), Windows Security Center (WscSvc), Windows Update (wuauserv), and Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) services were missing. The “win64/Sirefef.W” virus had deleted their registry entries. To recover, I exported the following registry entries from my laptop and then imported them into my desktop:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\BFE (Base Filtering Engine)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\MpsSvc (Windows Firewall)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\SharedAccess (Required by Windows Firewall)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\WscSvc (Windows Security Center)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\wuauserv(Windows Update)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service – required by Windows Update)

For your convenience, here is a zip file, SirefefMissingServicesRegistryFix.zip, containing the registry exports above and the clean “\Windows\System32\services.exe” file from my Windows 7 64bit Service Pack 1 (SP1) laptop. The registry exports have file extension “.reg” and you can import the services you are missing by double-clicking on them. (For those who don’t have SP1, John in comments provides a link to his services.exe for Windows 7 Home Premium in addition to instructions on how to extract a version from your Windows 7 install DVD. Please make sure to scan the file with your virus scanner before using. That advice applies to everything, including the zip file that I include above.)

There is an additional step to do below but at this point, we need to reboot once so that the registry changes can take effect and Windows will recognize the “new” services. On reboot, Windows will fail to start the Base Filtering Engine and Windows Firewall services. If you attempt to manually start them, you will encounter “error code 5” messages (see below), which are “access denied” errors. The fix for these access denied errors is to add the necessary permissions to the registry for each of the services. (You can try to avoid this reboot, but Windows may complain if you attempt to add permissions for services like BFE which it may not recognize without a reboot. In this case, just reboot and then repeat the add permission instructions.)


Update: Originally, I couldn’t set an NT service name as a user in the registry permissions so I suggested using the “Everyone” user with “Full Control” permission. While that worked, it left a big security hole. Fortunately, gvozden in the comments provided the solution. I have updated the instructions to replicate the original registry permissions exactly (as set on my laptop).

Do the following to add the necessary registry permissions:

  1. Run “regedit”.
  2. Browse to the “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\BFE\Parameters\Policy” section.
    • Right-click on “Policy” and select “Permissions…”. If you see a “BFE” user listed under the “Group or user names” list, you do not need to add it below.
    • Click the Add button, type “NT service\BFE” (it’s actually case-insensitive), and click the OK button.
    • Click the Advanced button, double-click on BFE to edit, and select the following in the allow permissions column: Query Value, Set Value, Create Subkey, Enumerate Subkeys, Notify, and Read Control.
    • Click OK, OK, and OK to close the Permissions dialog.
  3. Browse to the “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\SharedAccess” section.
    • Right-click on “Epoch” and select “Permissions…”. If you see “MpsSvc” listed, you do not need to add it below.
    • Click the Add button, type “NT Service\MpsSvc”, and click the OK button.
    • Click the Advanced button, double-click on MpsSvc to edit, and select the following in the allow permissions column: Query Value and Set Value.
    • Click OK, OK, and OK to close the Permissions dialog.
  4. Repeat the steps above for “Epoch2”.
  5. (Note: I could run the Windows Firewall without permissions set on the following two registry keys; but on my laptop, they were set so I also set them on the desktop just in case.)
  6. Browse to the “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\SharedAccess\Defaults\FirewallPolicy” section.
    • Right-click on “FirewallPolicy” and select “Permissions…”. If you see “MpsSvc” listed, you do not need to add it below.
    • Click the Add button, type “NT Service\MpsSvc”, and click the OK button.
    • Click the Advanced button, double-click on MpsSvc to edit, and select the following in the allow permissions column: Query Value, Set Value, Create Subkey, Enumerate Subkeys, Notify, Delete, and Read Control.
    • Click OK, OK, and OK to close the Permissions dialog.
  7. Repeat the above for the “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\SharedAccess\Parameters\FirewallPolicy” section.
  8. Reboot the machine.
  9. After the reboot, run “services.msc” and check that the “Base Filtering Engine”, “Windows Firewall”, “Security Center”, “Background Intelligent Transfer Service”, and “Windows Update” services are started successfully. The last three services are set to delayed start so they may not have started yet; in this case, you can manually start them.
  10. Run “Check security status” to see what Windows thinks about the security of the machine.
  11. Run “Windows Update” to get the latest security updates from Microsoft.

Note: The “Base Filtering Engine” depends on the “IPsec Policy Agent” and “IKE and AuthIP IPsec Keying Modules” services. Thankfully, the “win64/Sirefef.W” virus left these two services alone on my desktop.

If you prefer the command line, you can use the Service Control Manager “\Windows\System32\sc.exe” command line program instead of the “services.msc” program. Just run the “Command Prompt” as an administrator and input “sc” to see the command line options. Some useful ones I found were:

  • “sc qdescription wcssvc” which returns the human-friendly name “Windows Security Center” for “wcssvc”.
  • “sc query mpssvc” which returns the status for the “Windows Firewall” including recent exit codes.
  • “sc start bfe” which will attempt to start the “Base Filtering Engine” service.

I found the following websites helpful while researching this topic:

92 Comments

« Previous Entries