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Performing a Clean Windows Install …

without losing your files, settings and tweaks.

The key lies in preparation.  Here a couple of things you want to do:

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First make sure you know what current programs you want to re-install.

Before you do anything else, it’s handy to have a list of all your currently installed programs so you know what settings to back up, and which programs you want to reinstall later on.

Next backup …

Windows settings

Back up any Windows settings you can so you don’t have to do too much tweaking after you reinstall. The best way to do this is with Windows Easy Transfer, Windows’ built-in migration program for just such occasions.

Documents and files

Just copy these to an external drive or move them with Windows Easy Transfer as described above, though if you back up your computer regularly (which you should), you can always just restore them from your backup later on as well.

Then after completing the Windows re-install it’s time for the restore process.  Basically it’s the opposite of what you did during the backup process.  However what you may not have known is that there are tools out there that can help make re-installs of applications quick and easy.  Keep in mind though that these tools won’t have all the programs you want to re-install.

Ninite

Just check off all the programs you want, and Ninite will create an all-in-one package to install them in one fell swoop.

Chocolatey

 If you’re more of a command line geek, Chocolatey is a handy utility that brings Linux-style package management to Windows. With a few well-placed commands, you can install a ton of programs at once, bypassing the need for all those separate installers.

Portable Apps

Portable apps essentially let you carry all your programs and settings over to another computer with no installation required. You’ll still have to search out each app yourself, but after you do it once, you’ll never have to do it again—every clean install from here on out will be much quicker because you’ll already have half your apps ready to go.

Head over to the source for all the details involved with performing a clean install of Windows.

 

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Flame malware incident causes Microsoft to revamp Windows encryption keys

Granted it’s reactive instead of proactive but looks like a good move by Microsoft.

Starting next month, updated Windows operating systems will reject encryption keys smaller than 1,024 bits, which could cause problems for customer applications accessing websites and email platforms that use the keys.

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The cryptographic policy change is part of Microsoft’s response to security weaknesses that came to light after Windows Update became an unwitting party to Flame Malware attacks, and affects Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems, according to the Windows PKI blog written by Kurt L. Hudson, a senior technical writer for the company.

“To prepare for this update, you should determine whether your organization is currently using keys less than 1,024 bits,” Hudson writes. “If it is, then you should take steps to update your cryptographic settings such that keys under 1,024 bits are not in use.”

Source: Microsoft to revamp Windows encryption keys in face of Flame malware | Microsoft Windows – InfoWorld.

Microsoft Issues Patches For Zero-Day Bug & 15 Other Flaws

Numerous flaws were addressed via patches Tuesday by Microsoft.

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The company also addressed at least 15 other flaws in its software, and urged customers to quit using the desktop Sidebar and Gadget capabilities offered in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

By far the most urgent of the updates is MS12-043, which fixes a critical vulnerability in Microsoft XML Core Services that miscreants and malware alike have been using to break into vulnerable systems. Microsoft had already warned about limited, targeted attacks using this flaw, but late last month an exploit built to attack the XML bug was added to the BlackHole Exploit Kit, an automated browser exploit tool that is very popular in the criminal underground right now.

Other critical patch bundles include a fix for a dangerous flaw in the Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) of Windows, and an update to address a pair of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.

Microsoft also released a FixIt tool to help network administrators block the use of Gadgets and the Sidebar on Windows 7 and Windows Vista systems. “We’ve discovered that some Vista and Win7 gadgets don’t adhere to secure coding practices and should be regarded as causing risk to the systems on which they’re run,” Microsoft said in a blog posting, without offering much more detail about any specific findings.

Source: Microsoft Patches Zero-Day Bug & 15 Other Flaws — Krebs on Security.

Windows 8 Pro Upgrade: Your FAQs Answered

Looks like Microsoft is making a big push to get users to upgrade later this year.

When Windows 8 launches later this year you’ll be able to upgrade to the pro version of Microsoft’s newest desktop OS for just $40 for a limited time. The deal will apply to a broad base of current Windows users including those running Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. Microsoft had a similar offer during the launch of Windows 7 but this one is cheaper than its predecessor. (Windows 7 upgrades ranged from $50-$100 at launch.)

Another big difference between the Windows 7 and Windows 8 upgrade deals is that you get the pro version instead of the base version of Windows 8. And if you’re a Windows Media Center fan, Microsoft’s Windows 8 upgrade deal will let you download the entertainment center program for free (more on that later).

If you plan on upgrading to Windows 8, here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s limited-time upgrade deal.

Source: Windows 8 Pro Upgrade: Your FAQs Answered CIO.com.

Report: Full Upgrades to Windows 8 Only From Windows 7

Some beneficial information if you’re planning to upgrade to Windows 8.

Microsoft has not yet set a release date for Windows 8, but most analysts expect it to go on sale this fall, most likely in October.

The upgrade paths that Foley’s sources spelled out were the same that Microsoft revealed in February when it released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the first public beta.

Microsoft said then that only Windows 7 PCs are eligible for a full upgrade to Windows 8, one that retains applications, data files, user accounts and Windows settings.

Windows Vista and Windows XP machines can be upgraded to Windows 8 — assuming the hardware meets the system requirements of the new OS — but cannot bring along all the bits. Vista users who upgrade will retain user accounts and files, as well as Windows settings, but not already-installed applications. XP-to-Windows 8 upgrades preserve the least amount in a move: User accounts and files only.

Read the rest:  Report: Full Upgrades to Windows 8 Only From Windows 7 CIO.com.

The long life and slow death of the virtual server

A drawback of the virtual machine world?

Back before we spun up VMs on a whim to handle whatever application or platform we needed, every deployment was painstaking and time consuming. These servers would be carefully built by installing the OS from the ground up, tweaking the BIOS tweaks, installing drivers, and laying the applications or frameworks over all of above. We would back up that server to tape and hope the server would reach hardware obsolescence before it broke down.

In either case, the server that replaced this physical server would almost certainly be different, and the notion of restoring the bare-metal backup on a new physical server often meant more work than just starting fresh on the new hardware. This was especially true for Windows servers. Starting anew was a good way to clear out the cruft of years of operation and begin again with a blank slate.

In the world of server virtualization, the day for the organic refresh never arrives. Virtual servers don’t break down. They don’t become obsolete. They simply keep going, while the physical hardware cycles underneath them throughout their existence. In fact, the only reason to rebuild on a new VM is if the OS vendor has stopped supporting that version and there are no more security updates to be had. Even then, you’ll find a great many instances where that VM will continue to run forever or until it becomes compromised.

Paul Venezia makes some very interesting points.  Read the rest: The long life and slow death of the virtual server | Data Center – InfoWorld.

Why did Microsoft scrap the start button in Windows 8?

An interesting change:

Of all the confounding changes made in the latest Windows 8 consumer preview, few upset people quite as much as .

But what hasn’t been clear is why Microsoft removed the feature, which has been a central pillar of Windows for over a 15 years.

The answer might be obvious: People weren’t using it. In an interview with PCPro, Microsoft program manager Chaitanya Sareen said that as users began pinning more applications to the taskbar, start button usage took a major hit. Instead of going to Start menu to access applications, users were just clicking shortcuts. The taskbar was just too fast and convenient.

Find out what Microsoft put in it’s place:  Why did Microsoft scrap the start button in Windows 8? People weren’t using it | VentureBeat.

Windows Update Agent Issues

From the ISC Diary:

Microsoft has released an Important update to the Windows Update function (Windows Update Agent 7.6.7600.256) because users have been experiencing update issues. Some users experience failed installation with error code 80070057 or 8007041B. Microsoft has provided a “Fix it” tool that can be directly downloaded here for those cases that won’t automatically apply the update and the Knowledge Base article located here.

If you’ve experienced this issue let the ISC know.

Windows Server GUI on way out

The GUI for Windows Server will eventually be no more.  Here’s what Don Jones, over at RedmondMag.com, had to say about this eventuality.

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  • The full GUI experience on the Windows Server OS is now optional. Software meant to run on a server should not assume a GUI will be there, nor should it take for granted any of the many other dependencies that the full server OS has traditionally included. My analysis on this: It’s Microsoft’s shot across the bow. You’ll see a stronger position on this sometime in the future — maybe a few years off, but sometime. They want server apps to assume they’re running on what we used to call “Server Core.”
  • The recommended way to run the Server OS is without the GUI. Didja see that? No, you don’t have to think it’s a good idea — I’m not pushing acceptance. I’m pointing out what’s happening. These are the facts on the ground.
  • Microsoft has taken a (what I think is a very good) middle-ground step by introducing a “minimal GUI” mode in the server OS. That means you can have your GUI tools on the Server OS, as well as on your client computer, provided those GUI tools play by a few basic rules and don’t assume too many dependencies (like the presence of IE). They’ll have the full .NET Framework at their disposal, for example, which should help — especially if they’re tools based on the MMC architecture. So this gets you a “lighter” version of the Windows Server OS, but still lets you manage right on the console.My opinion, for what it’s worth: Anyone who thinks “minimal GUI” mode is anything more than a holding measure is crazy. To me, this clearly says Microsoft is trying to get us off the console for good. They know we’re not ready to give it up completely, so this is them trying to wean us off. Maybe I’m wrong on this — it’s happened before — but it sure seems that way when I look at the big picture.
  • Notwithstanding the “minimal GUI” mode, Microsoft is recommending to software developers to not assume a GUI will be present. The full, rich GUI experience happens on the client. Not allowed connect to your servers from your client computer? The suggestion appears to be “rethink your architecture.”

In other words make sure you know command line interface and how to remote into a server because before long that will be your only way to access Microsoft Server.

My opinion is that Microsoft is pointed toward a world of “headless servers:” Minimal functionality from the console, rich management from a client computer. This is a step in that direction, and it’s intended to put us, and software vendors, on notice. Me, I’m going to take the hint. I hope y’all do as well. Windows Server “8” is a chance to start getting on board with what Windows will become — it’s not throwing us directly into the fire, but I think we have to take the opportunity to start adapting to this new direction.

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New Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

in Adobe Flash Player.

English: Logo for Adobe Flash Player

Image via Wikipedia

When it comes to malware exploits, Adobe’s Flash and PDF software can’t seem to catch a break recently.

Recently a vulnerability was found in both Mac and Windows versions of Adobe’s Acrobat and Reader products that could allow an attacker to crash the programs and gain control of the system. So far only attacks on Windows machines have been found, but Mac systems could be affected as well.

Now two similar vulnerabilities have been found in Adobe’s Flash Player, which likewise could result in arbitrary code being executed on the system.

The flaws were found by a Russian vulnerability research company and advisories have been issued.  So what is the vulnerability?

Apparently the vulnerability bypasses antiexploitation features in Windows such as DEP and ASLR, and can get around the Internet Explorer sandbox (there is no information on how other browsers handle the issue).

While Intevydis has so far shown the exploit on Windows machines, apparently it works in OS X as well.

The vulnerability, as of December 9, had only been partially addressed by Adobe.

So far Adobe has only addressed these exploits for version 9.x of its Reader and Acrobat products for Windows; fixes for the other versions are due in about a month’s time. Adobe has not yet issued a response to the current findings regarding Flash Player.

If one heavily  utilizes Adobe Flash Player, it may be wise to find an interim alternative to block unwanted Flash considering this:

Unlike malware that is directly downloaded to a system and scanned, these malware attempts run through the Flash Player or Adobe Reader programs themselves, making it harder for malware scanners to detect them.

So should Adobe be moving faster to address this issue or is the risk overstated?

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