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Large hosts file causes networking issues in Windows 10 #

Network problems encountered include: web browsers crashing, websites not loading, yield symbol appearing over the notification area's WiFi or Ethernet icon, "No Internet, secured", etc.

Solution: disable DNS Client by changing the value data for HKLM\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\Dnscache\Start from 2 (automatic) to 4 (disabled) (recent versions of Windows 10 no longer allow disabling DNS Client via services.msc).

References and more information:

/windows | Sep 30, 2018

A rare new addition to the aging catalog #

Green Award SNOW (Steganographic Nature Of Whitespace) [31k] {S}+ Conceal (and optionally encrypt) messages in ASCII text by appending whitespace to the end of lines. Screenshot

/windows | Jul 13, 2018

Office cannot verify the license for this product #

After cloning a Windows install to a new drive, the following error appeared when launching Word, Excel, or PowerPoint:
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 cannot verify the license for this product. You should repair the Office program by using Control Panel.

Microsoft's own "Microsoft Office cannot verify the license for this product" error when you start an Office app suggests disabling compatibility mode - no change.

Help Desk Geek's Fix MS Office "Cannot Verify License" Error Message offers four methods:

  1. Change time & reactivate
  2. System Restore
  3. Delete or rename C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform\tokens.dat
  4. Uninstall & reinstall Office

none of which worked initially, as the Activation Wizard unhelpfully offered:

Telephone Activation is no longer supported for your product.

Happily, Microsoft published a new number: +1-866-421-7141. Used with method 4 above to resolve.

/windows | Jul 13, 2018

Animated GIF editor for Windows #

ScreenToGIF is billed as a "screen, webcam and sketchboard recorder with an integrated editor". Uniquely, it allows easy editing of existing animated GIFs:

A subtle but deeply gratifying feature is how ScreenToGIF displays the current frame when highlighting a range of frames in the timeline (rather than statically displaying the first selected frame).

Additionally, it's:

/windows | May 21, 2018

Connect to a Windows 10 (version 1803) shared folder from Windows XP via mapped drive #

These steps dumb down security advances made in later Windows versions in order to accommodate XP. Do not use them unless absolutely necessary; even then, do so at your own risk (and joy).

On Windows 10 PC:

  1. Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Network and Sharing Center → Change advanced sharing settings:
    1. Private (current profile) → check "Turn on network discovery" and "Turn on file and printer sharing"
    2. All Networks → check "Turn off Public folder sharing", "Enable file sharing for devices that use 40- or 56-bit encryption" and "Turn off password protected sharing"
  2. If necessary, create a new local user account (e.g., "xpuser") and folder share (e.g., "shared")
  3. In HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanWorkstation\Parameters, create a new DWORD value name of AllowInsecureGuestAuth and set its value data to 1.
  4. C:\Windows\System32\OptionalFeatures.exe → check "SMB 1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support" → OK → reboot when prompted

On Windows XP PC:

You should now be able to map a network drive normally.

If you have trouble with "Reconnect at login" or "Connect using a different user name", consider a batch script in the Startup folder, e.g.,

    ping -n 11 >NUL & REM delay execution for 10 seconds
    net use * /delete /yes & REM clear any existing mapped drives
    net use x: \\WIN10PC\shared

If the Windows 10 and XP usernames and passwords match, you're done!

If they differ, you can simply store the Windows 10 username and password in Windows XP's Stored User Names and Passwords (aka Credential Manager); access via rundll32.exe keymgr.dll, KRShowKeyMgr.

Otherwise, you could specify the username in the script, prompting the user for the password each time (e.g., net use x: \\WIN10PC\shared /user:xpuser *), or you could store both the username and the password in the script (security-wise, not a great idea, but hey, you're still running Windows XP, so... net use x: \\WIN10PC\shared /user:xpuser password).

Sources and more information:

/windows | May 17, 2018

Windows Update failed: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc - System - Error 0x80070002 #

Following a clean install of Windows 10 version 1803 on an HP Notebook (15-ba113cl), Windows Update reported the following error:

Updates failed - Advanced Micro Devices, Inc - System - Error 0x80070002
Updates failed - Advanced Micro Devices, Inc - System - Error 0x80070002

Attempting to automatically update the driver in Device Manager returned:

AmdAS4 Device: The system cannot find the file specified.
AmdAS4 Device: The system cannot find the file specified.

HP's Software and Driver Downloads page for this laptop inexplicably does not include chipset drivers. However, thanks to Paul_Tikkanen's answer in Missing unknown driver ACPI\ASD0001\2&DABA3FF&2 (which took longer than a few seconds to find, hence this post), the error was resolved by downloading and installing the AMD Chipset Drivers (revision 18.10.0418, released 4/18/2018) directly from AMD.

/windows | May 13, 2018

Playback Windows events and activities via timeline tools #

(Note: This post is not about Windows 10's new Timeline feature (but don't miss Windows 10 Timeline Forensic Artefacts and WxTCmd, a parser for the Windows 10 Timeline database.))

Replay / rewind Windows events and actions to:

Unlike the lengthy forensic and incident response tools listed below, Nir Sofer's LastActiviyView runs on a live system within seconds, reporting:

In 2014, Thomas Weller combined LastActiviyView with a host of additional Nirsoft utilities to create Live System Timeline Builder, which builds a super timeline of a running Windows machine in seconds. The unified view includes results from:

While Live System Timeline Builder comes packaged as an installer, the resulting folder (%PROGRAMFILES(X86)%\WelliSolutions\LiveSystemTimeLineBuilder\) is completely portable; you just need LiveSystemTimelineBuilder.exe, EPPlus.dll, and the Providers subdirectory.

You can even update the Nirsoft apps in Providers as well (the latest RegDllView, 1.60, does not appear compatible, so stick with the included 1.58).

If you have more time to dig, there are a number of exhaustive (and time-consuming) timeline tools focused on forensics and incident response:

* Unlikely that they erased all (if any) traces.

/windows | May 11, 2018

Rename Windows user account and profile folder #

This post has been moved to the docs section for posterity.

/windows | Mar 22, 2018

Windows 10: Restore classic blue solid color Desktop background #

In Windows 2000 and XP, the default solid color Desktop background was a serene shade of blue:

Windows 2000 and XP blue solid color Desktop background

Hue: 141
Sat: 115
Lum: 105


Red: 58
Grn: 110
Blu: 165


Hex: #3A6EA5

The "Windows Classic" theme in Windows 7 used the same color, but there was a slightly darker blue default color available in the Solid Colors menu, which was still available in Windows 8.1:

Windows 7 and 8.1 blue solid color Desktop background

Hue: 142
Sat: 203
Lum: 60


Red: 10
Grn: 59
Blu: 118


Hex: #0A3B76

Inexplicably, Windows 10 not only removed these calming blue tones and replaced them with 24 largely garish colors, but also failed to provide any option for customizing colors in the main Settings menu (right click Desktop > Personalize > Background: Solid Color). Happily, the classic Desktop Background applet is accessible via Run > control /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper. Not only can you select the Windows 7 darker blue, but you can also create custom colors by clicking "More...".

UPDATE: The day after this post, Microsoft released Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which includes a "Custom color" option in the main Background settings window. Click "More" to enter RGB, HSV, or hex values.

/windows | Oct 16, 2017

Download Windows and Office ISOs from Microsoft #

quickly and easily with Jan Krohn's Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool:
"This tool allows an easy and comfortable way to download genuine Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 disk images (ISO) directly from Microsoft's servers, as well as Office 2007, Office 2010, Office 2013, Office 2016, and Office 2011 for Mac.*

"In the past Microsoft provided disk images for many of their products through their subcontractor "Digital River". These downloads were pulled in early 2014. Afterwards, Microsoft made a limited selection of downloads available on their TechBench site. Our tool accesses that TechBench site, and unlocks a large number of hidden download files on it."

*In my testing, only Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Insider Preview, Office 2013, Office 2016, and Office 2016 for Mac were available. However, there is this promising note on Jan's website:

"Removal of Windows 7 and Office in Version 5.00: These downloads have been blocked by Microsoft. We're working on an update."

/windows | Jun 03, 2017

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