The next big thing

Microsoft promised to release the next big update for Windows 10 this spring, and it looks like we can expect it to start rolling out soon. The update is free for current Windows 10 users.

What’s changed?

This version is called Creators Update and includes enhancements for gamers

The rest of us can look forward to potentially useful improvements, too, including the Privacy Dashboard, which puts all (most?) of the privacy settings in one place. This should make it easier to manage your privacy.

See this article for more information on the Privacy Dashboard. Yes, things are simplified, but it appears choices are more limited.

Windows Updates has been overhauled again. Windows 10 Pro, Education, and Enterprise users will be able to defer updates, just like in the good old days of Windows 7. Windows 10 Home users still won’t be able to do that.

However, we’ll all benefit from the new Windows Update platform which makes updates smaller and therefore faster to deliver.

If you like Cortana, you’ll probably like the enhancements in Creators Update

Apparently, unfamiliar with The Rule of Holes (“When you get to the bottom, stop digging.”), Microsoft has chosen to monkey around with the Start Menu again. This time, they’ve added the ability to create folders on the Start Menu and put tiles into the folder.

Creators Update also offers better control of Themes, and easier access to the area where you can change how things look. 

Settings has been rearranged again, and apparently, it’s harder to get to the old Control Panel now. 

Microsoft’s Edge browser will be improved to make it more like a real browser.

What’s new?

Microsoft is betting heavily that 3D is a thing. The Creators Update includes apps that allow you to capture and work with images in 3D. At some point, although maybe not right away, Edge is supposed to support 3D viewing. 3D viewing of what, exactly, is not clear to me yet.

There will be e-books in the Microsoft Store. If you didn’t know you had a Microsoft Store on your Windows 10 computer, I can’t say I blame you.

Click on the shopping bag icon to go to the Store and get apps. You can get e-books after your Creators Update. But you’ll be reading the e-books in the Edge browser.

On touch screen devices, you already have a virtual keyboard. Creators Update adds a virtual track pad.

Can I get this right now?

Almost right now. But hold your horses.

If you’re using Windows 10 now, you might have already noticed a link in your Windows Update. Clicking on the link will take you to a Microsoft web page where you can sign up for the Windows Insider program

Insiders have early access to Creators Update.

The Windows Insider program is not for average computer users. It is for geeks. You should not run software that is still being tested on a computer you can’t afford to ruin.

If you’re comfortable taking that risk, you can get early access to Creators Update.

Non-Insiders will start seeing this update the last week in March or the first week in April. If you are a typical Windows user and you’re using a typical computer to do typical things,

I suggest installing this update when it shows up for you instead of trying to force it to install early.

Don't get faked out

Before Fake News there was Fake Tech Support. And it’s still here. Don’t get faked out.

Microsoft does not phone you to tell you about viruses on your computer.

They just don’t.

Please don’t fall for this one. They’re not Microsoft. This is the Fake Microsoft Technician Scam.

Don’t touch that dial

Some scams are more convincing than others. One that tends to scare the heck out of people is a popup on the computer saying that the computer has been compromised.

The page shows you a toll-free number to call to get help from a technician. Sometimes it even shouts at you.

This is ALWAYS a scam.

These phone numbers point to call centres that are the same as the Fake Microsoft Technician Scam.

Sadly, these popups are not limited to Windows computers. I’ve seen it on Macs and iPads as well. Bad people hijack a browser and display this terrifying message.

Do not ever call that number. And if you get a little panicked and you do, don’t grant these people remote access to your device.

When you do that, you are giving these guys permission to steal your money.

Don’t google a repair number

Scammers buy ads in online search engines like Bing and Google. When searching for help, you can be directed to legitimate-looking sites promising to speed up, clean up or fix your computer.

They have legit-looking logos. They have toll-free numbers to call. Read more about this here.

These sites can look like a legitimate company. And it’s not just for help with Windows. I’ve seen fake ads for printer software, antivirus programs, and even cable companies.

If you grant them remote access, they will show you a scary-looking page of “errors” from your computer’s Event Log. The idea is always the same: Gain access to your computer and scrape data in the background while they sell you something and get your credit card information.

Find the number of your cable or phone company on the bill. Get the number for printer support from the printer manual. If you must search online for a support number, make sure the site you’re going to is really the support site you want, and not fake technicians.

Uh, oh. This warning might have come too late

If you have been scammed, report the scammer.

If it’s someone purporting to be from Microsoft, you can report the problem here. If it’s fake technical support for another company, report the problem to the real company and to law enforcement. 

Also, if you have granted remote access to scammers, get help from a legitimate computer repair technician. When I receive a call like this, I make sure to remove any malicious software the scammers have installed, any malware that may have been there before, and I try to secure the computer so that it’s difficult for that to happen again.

Once you are sure any malicious software has been removed, you should:

  • Change the password for your computer. If you are signing in with a Microsoft Account, change that password. Write it down!
  • If you don’t have a password for your computer, set one. Write it down!
  • Change your email password. Write it down!
  • Discuss the matter with your bank, credit card companies, and any financial institutions. Be guided by their recommendations regarding cancelling cards or changing account numbers.

Next time someone tries to fool you, remember: The first and most powerful line of defence is…YOU. 

Be careful and be skeptical.

So long, Vista

Like it’s older brother Windows XP, Vista is reaching the end of it’s life. It’s time to move on.

End of the Road for Vista Support from Microsoft

Microsoft will end all support for the Vista operating system April 11, 2017. That means that Microsoft will not provide any updates (including security updates), fixes, or technical assistance for Vista.

It does not mean that your Vista computer will stop running on April 11. Microsoft doesn’t have a big lever to pull and shut your computer down permanently. It means that your computer is less secure in the absence of security updates. Microsoft explains here.

Other types of support end, too

If you’re still running Vista, you might have noticed that you’re getting notices that your browser is out of date, and pop-ups encouraging you to install the most recent version of Internet Explorer. Well, you can’t.

You haven’t been able to do that for years, because mainstream support for Vista ended in April 2012, when updates for Internet Explorer 9 stopped being available. And, Vista is not capable of running a version of Internet Explorer any newer than that.

The workaround, until now, has been to install either Firefox or Chrome. But as Microsoft extended support ends, the updates to those browsers will no longer support Vista. Browser updates generally address security issues. So along with no security updates from Microsoft, Vista users will be using vulnerable browsers.

Firefox will continue to work on Vista until September 2017.

Chrome version 50 will continue to work on Vista, although it’s not clear how long that will be true. What will be a problem for Chrome users on Vista is that Gmail will lose a lot of its functionality on that older version of Chrome by the end of 2017.

The Opera browser appears to be the only major browser continuing support for Vista. I have not been able to discover how long they plan to do that.

Microsoft Security Essentials, the free anti-virus program from Microsoft, will not be updated on Vista when extended support ends in April. If you are still using a computer with Vista on it, you need to make sure your current antivirus product will continue support or you need to find another one.

End of Life dates are not a secret, at least when it comes to operating systems

When Microsoft releases a new operating system, they post the support dates here. Sometimes, as in the case of Windows XP, they provide support for longer than they thought they would have to.

You can see when Microsoft intends to stop support for any operating system by looking at that page. For a thorough explanation of Mainstream vs Extended Support, see this Microsoft FAQ.

To discover what operating system you’re running, click on Start | Computer | Properties or press the Windows Key and the Pause/Break key at the same time. Either method opens the Properties.

Now what?

If you’re running Vista, you need to be preparing to replace it with Windows 10, which is the current version of Windows. You are probably running it on a computer that is at least eight years old, and it’s unlikely that upgrading that computer is going to provide you with a satisfactory Windows 10 experience. 

You should be budgeting for a new computer. We’ll talk more about what to look for in a new computer in a future column.

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. 

Make Windows 10 sing

Every so often I encounter a weird “no sound on my computer” problem in Windows 10; usually, it’s easy to fix.

On a desktop computer with external speakers, make sure they are turned on and connected to the computer in the correct jack.

Usually this is the green jack on the back of the case, but not always.

Next, check that the volume is not at zero or muted. On your speakers, that is probably a knob you have to turn.

You should click the speaker icon on your desktop computer to check it.

On a laptop, disconnect any external speakers, then click on the speaker icon and make sure the volume is not at zero or muted. (Once you’ve solved the problem with the built-in speakers, you can try the external ones again.)

To adjust the volume if you do not see the speaker icon in your taskbar:

Right-click on the Start button

Click on Control Panel | Sound

Select your speakers

Click on Properties | Levels

In the next window, move the slider to the right to increase the volume

When you are happy, click OK

At this point, I generally reboot the compute. Sometimes we get lucky and the problem is fixed!

If that did not do it, try the Windows 10 sound Troubleshooter:

Right-click on the Start button

Click on Control Panel

Make sure you are in Large Icons view

Click on Troubleshooting

Click on Troubleshoot audio playback

Click on Next

Follow the prompts

If that fixed the problem and you want the volume control to show up in your taskbar all the time:

Start | Settings (looks like a little gear) | Personalization | Taskbar

Scroll down till you see Notification Area and click on Select which icons appear in the Taskbar

Find Volume, and move the slider to the right (“On”)

If you have an earlier version of Windows 10, the path is:

Start | Settings | System | Notification & actions | Turn System icons on and off

The rest of the instructions are the same as above

That won’t solve every problem, but it will solve lots of them.


Refresh a page in your browser

Sometimes you need to refresh a page in your browser. Why? Maybe you’re tracking the curling results, or waiting for the bridge scores to be posted, or maybe you want the most up-to-date information on a stock.

One way to do this is close and reopen your browser. But there are two much easier ways.

Easiest: Press the F5 key. This will refresh/reload your page.

Almost as easy: Click on the curved line with an arrowhead. This is the Reload button. It looks a little different in every browser, but it’s always present near the browser’s address bar, and it does the same thing as F5.


Go directly to a new document in Office 2016

You can skip the Word screen that offers you every conceivable template and go straight to a new Word document or Excel spreadsheet, just like we did in previous versions of Office. It’s easy, and it works in Office 2013, too.

Start by opening a Word document, either an existing one or a new one; it doesn’t matter.

Click on File | Options

Click on the General tab if you’re not there already

Near the bottom of that tab, clear the check mark next to Show the Start screen when this application starts

Click on OK

That’s it! Repeat the process for Excel if you like. If ever you need the templates again, click on File | New and you’ll be right back there at the start screen.

More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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