Windows Update

How (and Why) Microsoft Blocks Windows 7 Updates on New PCs

Microsoft doesn’t want you to keep installing Windows 7 (or 8) on new PCs. If you try, you’ll see an “Unsupported hardware” message and your PC won’t receive any security updates from Windows Update. Other hardware features may not work properly, either.

Microsoft Now Requires You Use Windows 10 With the Newest CPUs

This is somewhat confusing because Windows 7 is in its extended support period, and is officially supported by Microsoft with security updates until 2020. Windows 8.1 is still in its mainstream support period and is officially supported until 2023. In theory, these operating systems should work fine, even on newer hardware.

Historically, Microsoft hasn’t enforced any sort of hardware limitations for older versions of Windows. Even after Windows 7 was released, you could continue installing Windows XP on the new PC hardware being released, if you liked.

But Microsoft now has a new policy, which they announced at the beginning of 2016. New CPUs will require the latest version of Windows. “Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support,” explains a Microsoft blog post. This doesn’t even just mean Windows 10—it means the latest update to Windows 10, too.

This policy is now in place. If you have a PC with an Intel 7th-generation CPU (Kaby Lake) or AMD’s 7th-generation processor (Bristol Ridge or Ryzen), you’ll see an error message and Windows Update won’t offer your PC and security updates. New CPU architectures will have the same limitation going forward.

Microsoft initially announced that only some computer models running Intel’s 6th-generation CPUs (Skylake) would be supported with security updates, but most PCs with Skylake would be left out in the cold. This came as a shock, as it was announced after some people had already purchased Skylake PCs and installed Windows 7 on them. However, Microsoft eventually backed off on this threat. Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs with Skylake will continue receiving security updates normally until 2020. Instead, Microsoft is firmly drawing a line in the sand with the 7th-generation CPUs.

This policy also appllies to Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Server PCs will need the latest version of Windows Server to get security updates.

“Unsupported Hardware” Won’t Get Security Updates

Here’s what this actually means: Microsoft won’t provide you with security updates via Windows Update if you install Windows 7 or 8.1 on a PC with one of these modern CPUs. Instead, you’ll see an “Unsupported hardware” message that informs you your PC “uses a processor that is designed for the latest version of Windows”.

In other words, Microsoft is saying you should install Windows 10 on these PCs. Windows 7 and 8.1 don’t actually include code that prevent these operating systems from working on the new CPUs. Instead, Microsoft is just blocking…

How to Check for Windows Updates

Annoying as they might be, it’s important to keep Windows updated…just ask the victims of the latest ransomware attack. If you haven’t used your PC for a while or you just want to make sure you’re updated with the latest software, it’s easy to manually check and make sure in Windows.

Press the Windows button or Search button, and type “check for updates” in the box. Then, hit Enter or click on the first result. This will take you to the dedicated Windows Update page in the Windows 10 Settings application (or, if you’re using Windows 7, the Control Panel).

The display will show you the last time Windows connected to a Microsoft server to check for the latest updates. Click the “Check…

How to Check if Your HP Laptop Has the Conexant Keylogger

Many HP laptops released in 2015 and 2016 have a major problem. The audio driver provided by Conexant has debugging code enabled, and it either logs all your keystrokes to a file or prints them to the system debug log, where malware could snoop on them without looking too suspicious. Here’s how to check if your PC is affected.

Why Is My HP Laptop Logging My Keystrokes?

HP says it has no access to this data, and the keylogger in question does not appear to be malicious. There’s no evidence that the keylogger actually does anything with the keystrokes it captures beyond saving them to your PC. However, this could be dangerous, as that sensitive log of keystrokes would be available to malware and may be stored in backups. In other words, it’s not malice—just incompetence.

This appears to be debugging code in the Conexant audio driver, code which should have been removed by Conexant before the driver shipped on PCs. The part of the driver which listens for media shortcut keys automatically logs the keys it sees you press. It was discovered by researchers from Modzero.

How to Check if the Keylogger Is Active

There appears to be different behavior on different HP laptops, depending on the version of the audio driver they include. On many laptops, the keylogger writes keystrokes to the C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log file. This file is wiped at each boot, but it may be captured and stored in system backups.

Navigate to C:\Users\Public\ and see if you have a MicTray.log file. Double-click it to view the contents. If you see information about your keystrokes, you have the problem driver installed.

If you do see data in this file, you’ll want to delete the MicTray.log file from any system backups it may be a part of to ensure the records of your keystrokes are erased. You should also delete the MicTray.log file from here to erase the record of your keystrokes.

Even if you don’t see…

Microsoft issues fix for critical exploit in Windows Defender found by Google

microsoft, google, vulnerability

This weekend, Google Project Zero researchers Tavis Ormandy and Natalie Silvanovich took to Twitter to announce they have discovered a “crazy bad” loophole in Microsoft’s built-in Windows anti-malware software package that leaves your system susceptible to remote attacks.

What is particularly scary is that the attack could take place over email – without even reading or opening the full email.

.@natashenka Attack works against a default install, don’t need to be on the same LAN, and it’s wormable.

— Tavis Ormandy (@taviso) May 6, 2017

The security experts proceeded to say they have reported the issue to Microsoft, adding that further details will be revealed once the bug has been eliminated – and it appears the time has finally come.

The Redmont heavyweight today rolled out a fix for the flaw that is now available via Windows Update. As explained in the report, the exploit resided in the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine and allowed attackers to “execute arbitrary code… and take control of the system.”

Here is how Microsoft summed up the backdoor:

An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could execute arbitrary code in the security context of the LocalSystem account and take control of the system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.

To…

How to Make Windows Troubleshoot Your PC’s Problems for You

Windows includes a variety of “troubleshooters” designed to quickly diagnose and automatically solve various computer problems. Troubleshooters can’t fix everything, but they’re a great place to start if you encounter a problem with your computer.

Troubleshooters are built into the Control Panel on Windows 10, 8, and 7, so practically all Windows users can take advantage of them. On Windows 10’s Creators Update, most troubleshooters are now available through the Settings app.

Windows 10

If you’ve installed Windows 10’s Creators Update, you’ll find these in Settings. Navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot.

As of the Creators Update, the following troubleshooters are available here: Blue Screen, Bluetooth, Hardware and Devices, HomeGroup, Incoming Connections, Internet Connections, Keyboard, Network Adapter, Printer, Playing Audio, Power, Program Compatibility Troubleshooter, Recording Audio, Search and Indexing, Shared Folders, Speech, Video Playback, Windows Store Apps, and Windows Update.

If something isn’t working properly on your PC, the associated troubleshooter may find and fix the problem for you.

Select the troubleshooter you want to run and click “Run Troubleshooter”. Many troubleshooters will run automatically and fix problems they find, while some troubleshooters will suggest various fixes you can choose whether to apply.

The Settings interface doesn’t list every available troubleshooter. For example, it omits the Background Intelligent Transfer service, Windows Media Player DVD, Windows Media Player Library, and Windows Media Player Settings troubleshooters.

These are still available if you need them—they’re just buried in the Control Panel. To find them, open the Control Panel, type “Troubleshoot” into its search box, and click the “Troubleshooting” icon.

Click “View all” at the left side of the Troubleshooting pane and you’ll see a full list of available troubleshooters.

Windows 7 and 8

You’ll find these tools in the Control Panel on Windows 7 and 8. You’ll also need to use the Control Panel if you’re using Windows 10’s Anniversary Update or an earlier version of Windows 10.

Navigate to Control Panel > System and Security > Troubleshoot Common Computer Problems. On Windows 7, click “Find and Fix Problems” instead.

You’ll see a list of the most common troubleshooters you might need.

These aren’t the only available troubleshooters. Click “View All” in the sidebar to view a full list of troubleshooters. Here’s a list of the troubleshooters you…

Microsoft, Please Stop Breaking My PC With Windows 10’s Automatic Updates

Hey Microsoft, could you please stop breaking my PC? The latest WPD driver update released on March 8, 2017 is just the latest in a long string of bad updates. If Windows 10 is going to force these updates on my system, the least Microsoft could do is test them properly first.

Don’t get us wrong: automatic updates are very important for security reasons, and we believe they are a good thing. The problem is that Microsoft isn’t just releasing security updates. They’re making major changes to Windows, and not testing the updates properly. They need to do better.

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Microsoft Just Released a Bad Driver Update, and I Have to Fix It

The latest and most obnoxious update—at least for me, personally—was the “Microsoft – WPD – 2/22/2016 12:00:00 AM – 5.2.5326.4762” update released on March 8, 2017.

Microsoft removed this update from Windows Update, but not until after my and other PCs installed it. As a Microsoft representative explained in a discussion post on Microsoft’s community forums:

“An incorrect device driver was released for Windows 10, on March 8, 2017, that affected a small group of users with connected phones or portable devices. After installation, these devices are not detected properly by Windows 10”

That’s right: Microsoft released a bad driver update that broke the MTP drivers in Windows. MTP is used to access files on connected Android phones and tablets, media players, Windows phones, and some other types of portable devices.

This update seems broken for everyone, so how did it get onto Windows Update in the first place? Driver updates are supposed to be tested through the Windows Hardware Quality Labs before they’re allowed onto Windows Update. Apparently that isn’t happening properly.

Microsoft caught the problem, so that should be the end of the story, right? Nope. Microsoft isn’t going to release an automatic fix through Windows Update to correct the problem. It’s my job to fix what Microsoft broke on my PC, and it’s your job to fix it on your PC if Windows 10 automatically installed the same update for you.

As this is a driver update, there’s no way to “uninstall” it like you would a normal update. Instead, Microsoft recommends you use a system restore point, something that won’t be possible on many PCs, as Windows 10 seems to sometimes ship with System Restore disabled. If you can’t do that, Microsoft invites you to follow a 13-step process involving the Device Manager and several commands run in an Administrator Command Prompt window.

That’s absurd. Worse yet,…