Defender – the Anti-Virus for Windows

Defender – the Anti-Virus for Windows

 

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Windows Defender Security Center in Windows 10 Creators Update

 

A lot of times friends and families ask me what Anti-Virus (AV) I use? Using AV depends again on people to people and their preferences and how they use their computers.

For years, I have personally preferred and used Microsoft’s homebrew AV, the Windows Defender. Windows Defender is well known for its light-weight client side application, it gives very little burden to memory unlike most other Anti-virus softwares who are known for memory hogging.

Microsoft ventured into AV back in Windows XP days. It was released as a free download to the OS, called the Antispyware. It did very little job back then, to only monitor spyware threats. Overtime, it became a full featured AV and got a new name, Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft Security Essentials or MSE catered for various threat types including viruses, spyware, rootkits and Trojan horses. Until Windows 8 and later, it was available for Windows Vista and 7. But before Microsoft made MSE freely available, it had released a paid product prior to MSE and Antispyware, it was called Windows Live OneCare.

In May 2006, Windows Live OneCare debuted to public, which Microsoft bought over a company called GeCAD software in 2003.

 

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Image source: Sofipedia

 

Windows Live OneCare was heavily focused on three aspects. Anti-Virus, Personal Firewall and Backup utilities. It was a very good take on core protection for a home user. However within just 3 years it was replaced by Microsoft Security Essentials and stripped out Backup and firewall built into the product and instead relied on the superior Windows Firewall which bundled with Windows Vista and later OSes.

I’ve been using Microsoft Security Essentials and now, Windows Defender since XP days. I’ve personally enjoyed using this product ever since with zero attacks, and literally, zero attacks.

There are 3 important points for me:

  1. Light-weight – As noted above, MSE was and Windows Defender (WD) now is a very light weight software which is very friendly with your computers resources. Its got very small footprint on the storage, and chews up very little memory even on Real-Time mode. There is a spike however only when the scan is triggered.
  2. Out of way – This is very important to me. I’ve used previously Norton Antivirus, McAfee and even AVG over a long period of time. They are good products on their own rights and does the job really well. My issue with them have been that first they were bad at memory management, which they have significantly improved overtime. Second issue was they always made their presence felt. Every once in a while they would pop up alerting you for various things. At times warnings for out of date definition files, or the product is about to expire, or upgrade to a better edition. Granted, warnings like out of date definitions are important but it was too much to handle. The beauty with Windows Defender is you almost forget its existence. It is always there, running in the background doing its job silently without ever troubling you. Just like the other products mentioned above, this too auto updates definitions files but it does it in a way that you never get to know. It is most of the times just updated. Since it is free and the only edition, there is no renewal or upgrade promo pop ups ever. For me this is important.
  3. Baked into the OS – This may not be a key point to some, but it is vital to know Windows Defender is baked deep into Windows 8 and Windows 10 operating system. It disables itself when a 3rd party AV is installed like a good boy, heck they don’t want another lawsuit. Windows Defender not only does scanning of viruses but it is also seamlessly integrated to Internet Explorer and Edge browsers for web activity or files downloads. Most of these features are also available on 3rd party AV, but they don’t come free.

My theory is this. Most AV vendors a lot with their products which is really good, undoubtedly. They do the usual virus scanning, protect you from the web, real-time scan mode, alert on malicious files, in and outbound firewall and some also provide cloud backup option of important files. All these options are fantastic and if bundled all in one, it is a great package. But a great package with a price.

So how do I cope up with all features mentioned above since Windows Defender does not provide everything in one package? The answer lies right in the latest OS you use. If you are running Windows 7 or God forbid Vista or XP. Then you are little out of luck here, there are work around for those OSes too. My focus is Windows 10.

Windows 10 is a very secure OS, there is no two ways about it.

I’ll highlight only a few of many killer security features of Windows 10:

  1. Secure boot – Upon booting (or your computer starting up) Windows only allows signed or trusted executables to run. Any unknown/untrusted program that maybe installed as a virus will not run at the booting process. This helps ensures your OS will boot up to desktop. In olden days, specially XP and prior, if a virus would load at boot times, then your OS would either crash or go into infinite restart loop.
  2. SmartScreen and Edge Browser – SmartScreen technology is a real-time phishing and malware protection. It is designed to protect against social engineering threats and as well as drive by downloads.
  3. Windows Firewall – Backed into Windows since XP Service Pack 2, this guard has incrementally improved and is a strong firewall in Windows 10. In a nutshell, Firewalls protect your computer from all incoming and outgoing connections. Any untrusted outbound connection it tries to make with your PC, it will be stopped by Windows Firewall.
  4. Others include such as Device and Credential Guard.

All four points above and more security features bundle it with Windows Defender and now you have a full featured/complete security solution. Throw in OneDrive and you got file level backup protection that was once offered by Windows Live OneCare or currently offered by Nortons and others.

I personally recommend to my family and friends stay up to date with latest Windows operating system, with latest security updates via Windows Update and built in Windows Defender is all you need for a day to day usage of your computers.

However do note, paid Anti-Virus products, Bit-Defender, Norton, Kaspersky and couple of others have been in the industry for really long and are experts in this domain. They do bring in their expertise in their products and a lot of under the hood features which are really important to certain segment of market/users.

Windows Defender with Windows 10 is a good, friendly, free basic protection to your computer. It is what I use literally for many years and never faced with a virus or malware. The last time I paid for any Anti-Virus product must be more than 10 years ago. Anti-Virus is a product I never think about anymore since Windows Vista and later. Microsoft Security Essential and Windows Defender has served me well over these years. I do however once in a while use 3rd party/online malware scans such as ESET just to make sure everything is smooth.

That’s all for now folks. Leave comments below to let me know what you think about this article.

Surface/iPad – Now (Part 2)

Surface/iPad – Now (Part 2)

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Image source: The verge

In my post, Surface/iPad – Then (Part 1) I gave a brief history on Microsoft’s efforts with phones, Windows and Surface product line up back in the days. Also, mentioned how iPad almost dominated the tablet market. If you haven’t checked that post out already, I suggest read Part 1 first, and then continue reading this post.

Microsoft’s vision has been clear. They want Windows to play a central part in peoples lives. And with Windows 10, they have laid the foundation and working towards it with every new version of Windows they release. For example, with Windows 10 Creators Update, they have baked in Windows Holographic or Mixed Reality framework into the OS. You can read more about it here. What this means, developers can take advantage of the Mixed Reality foundation and start building new experiences (apps) through the HMDs (Head Mounted Displays)

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Image source: tctechcrunch

It is interesting new opportunity for developers, but an opportunity that is yet to be realized. Mixed Reality (MR) is still far from mass adoption, and I don’t think until end of 2018 we shall see a lot of content made specifically for this MR environment. Nevertheless, Microsoft wants to be ready when the wave of MR/HMDs is set and ready for general public. There are still couple of great HMDs already available in the market, such as HTC’s Vive or Oculus Rift. These are some powerful devices with great potential. But Rift, as much as it is good it can only work with a high end laptop.

Well, I am not going to dwell so much on MR. The point is, Microsoft is bringing in all possibilities, be it a productivity space which it has been for years and years, a mobile, MR, Gaming, Internet Of Things or a collaborative device like Surface Hub. All these different computing needs are packed into one Windows, the Windows 10.

And one of the best device to show full potential, optimized Windows 10, is the Surface Pro product line. The Surface family was never a threat nor a competition to Microsoft’s partners, such as HP, Dell, Lenovo and others. In fact, it was an inspirational device for these partners. Microsoft wanted the partners to make Surface clones, they wanted to flood the market with great, premium looking devices, a fantastic choice for the consumers.

Surface devices are premium devices, with a entry level Surface starts from $899. But it is a device made for productive first, play/entertainment second, unlike Apple’s iPad. The iPad as also mentioned in my Part 1 post that it is first a consumption device.

I will share my personal experience with an iPad. I had bought my first and last iPad in 2012, if I am not wrong it was iPad 3 (or marketed as The New iPad). In the start, I played around with the device quite a bit, loaded with tones of apps. I used it mainly for entertainment, for watching movies and Photos. Listening music was once in a while as I prefer listening music on my phones. Other than watching movies and playing games, reading news and tech articles was amazing, and reading and writing emails was also good. But that’s about it. I am a coder, I use Visual Studio, with SQL Server, Access with other applications. And none of these worked with an iPad, of course, it’s a tablet.

I always switched between my laptop (for productivity) and iPad when I am relaxed laying on my bed, sofa etc. After using iPad for 4-5 weeks, I significantly reduced using the device. And came a point when I hadn’t used iPad for nearly 5-6 months straight. It is when I realized that, iPad is not my type of device. The typing experience on a laptop is far greater than on the iPad (even with optional keyboard attached). There was no real work that I could do on the device other than replying to emails, which my iPhone could also do. So why reach for an iPad even for that.

I wanted an ultra portable device that could balance my work life plus my entertainment/consumption life which I call, Work + Play balanced life. When I first bought the first gen Surface Pro with Windows 8 I knew this was the device that could fit my needs. Although the mid range model that I had picked (i5, 4GB Ram, 128 storage) was not breeze to use with heavy apps like the ones mentioned above. But I used it a lot more than I ever used an iPad.

Today, I am writing this and all other articles for this blog, while running SQL Server 2016 along with Visual Studio 2017, Edge and Chrome both minimized on my stunning, powerful 2-in1 Surface Pro 4 (which is i5, 8GB Ram & 256 storage). This is exactly the space I want to be at, a device handling both my laptop and tablet needs. The device is not perfect, but the vision is clear, Pro 4 is nearly identical looking device to Pro 3 but improvised in all meaningful ways. Surface Pro 5 should be even better handling these two worlds of Work + Play.

Microsoft does not want you to buy a laptop and a tablet separately. Surface Pro can handle both. This is where Microsoft and Apple have taken different approaches. Microsoft with Windows 10 is trying to do everything with these unique experiences like Surface or with other Surface family products. Apple, wants to make one device to cater for one specific need. An iMac for desktop, MacBook pro for laptops, iPads for tablets, Apple Watch for wearables. It has worked for them, they have made big moolah with this method. Good for them.

2016 has been a good year for Microsoft with their Surface devices. It has brought them profits, the devices are selling well, people have realized an ultra portable device or 2-in-1s are a great offerings by Microsoft and other vendors. Sure, the sales still can’t match that for an iPad, but iPad sales have also stagnated and are at a year over year decline. And looking at the fantastic positive response to Surface Pros, Apple in 2016 also released another Pro device to counter attack the Surface, the iPad Pro.

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Apple wants iPad to be perceived as a productivity machine with iPad Pro. They released two screen sizes with giant screen 12.9 and 9.7. What is the difference between the regular iPad and the Pro? The only big difference in the Pro is the stylus support, or as Apple likes to call it, the Pencil. It is funny how Apple has been shying away from such input methods like the touch screens on the laptops or pen support.

But having no much choice, they had to support the pencil and a keyboard. Why I don’t consider a keyboard as a major play here because, even in non-pro versions there has always been 3rd party support for keyboards. This is just an official keyboard support from Apple for the iPad Pro, no big deal here. Apple pencil is good, specially for graphic artists, painters, architects. But the iPad Pro still carries the same problem I had with the iPad in 2012. I still can’t use heavy apps that I regularly use on my laptop or my Surface Pro 4. You still can’t use Photoshop (not the light version), video editing is not as simple as they demo it on stage during keynotes. Both these Photoshop and video editing require precision, which at the moment can and mostly handled by a mouse. Surface Pen or Apple Pencil can also do little justice to precision but it slows down the workflow. For a professional, things need to happen fast, without compromising on the performance.

The best thing about the Surface in my opinion, is the choice you can make depending on what you are doing. For example, if I am on my desk writing this blog or coding, I can throw in full size Bluetooth keyboard and a mouse, dock it to Surface dock and you can hook up one or more monitors and there you go. A full fledge powerful desktop like PC. You can also deattach the Surface keyboard and use it as a tablet, with 10 point multitouch screen, or write handwritten notes with Surface pen.

 

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Image source: blogs.windows.com

 

This is the power of Surface that some of the tech enthusiasts love. Granted, this is not everybody’s need, which is the majority in my opinion. But it is also evident with the decline of the tablet market and increase in 2-in-1s that users are realizing instead of having two devices, have one which is good at handling basic productivity tasks as well as a bit of Facebook, browsing web, watching Netflix etc.

The advantage with Microsoft or Windows ecosystem, the partners like HP, Lenovo and Dell are selling stunning looking 2-in-1 devices as well with incredible price ranges. It is not a must to go for a Surface device, but there are many Surface looking devices which are equal if not better than the Surface.

Microsoft today stands very firmly with their Surface brands. Surface brands screams premium quality, as well as price. And the reception to the Surface from tech journalists, media, and general public as been pretty solid and positive. This is proved by their next attempt at creating a new category, the Surface Book and recently released All-In-One computer, the Surface Studio. The Surface Studio is so beautiful, so premium, stunning looking device that it can’t be rivaled by any AIO computer today. Look at the launch video below and see it for yourself.

Concluding this post, your needs could be different than mine. iPad and iPad Pro maybe perfectly fitting your needs, and that is fantastic. I believe, choose something that best fits your needs, and don’t go by my word or someone else or what Microsoft or Apple markets. There is a reason there are different companies offering different computers and tablets, it’s all about range of choices to consumers and businesses to choose from.

The reason for this Surface/iPad blog was not to tell Surface is better than iPad or iPad is better. I have given the purposes of both devices, what their company’s intentions are with their respective products. And how best these devices can fit your needs.

It is evident the Surface Pro works for me, but that could be due to my nature of work, need.

That’s all folks for now. Please let me know what you think about this two part posts, please leave a comment below, share it if you like it.

Till then, enjoy rest of your week.

You can reach me on:

So it is April 11 – Creators Update

So it is April 11 – Creators Update

We kind of knew this date all throughout. However, today Microsoft officially have communicated that Windows 10’s latest update, the Creators Update will be releasing on April 11th.

You can read my post on what’s new in the Creators Update.

The release build will be 1703, where the first two digits represent the year, and last two the month. Though it is releasing in April, they first must have planned to release it in March but delayed it to April.

As CU is finished, the Windows development team should soon start working on Redstone 3. Remember, Creators Update was Redstone 2 and Anniversary Update was called Redstone 1.

I am more excited about Redstone 3 than 2 (CU). As much as Microsoft insists that CU is a big update, which it is, however, for the consumers there is very little meat/features to excite them about. My article “Should I Upgrade to Creators Update” explains why you are better off holding upgrading to CU on day 1 release, unless you are a tech enthusiast like me. Otherwise, there is nothing really exciting to look forward to in the Creators Update.

There are couple of neat features, small but good improvements which I have not mentioned in other posts, include:

  • PnP – Or Picture In Picture, if you use YouTube app in iOS or Android, you probably already know about this feature. It is an overlay of small video window that sits on the corner of the screen while you can explore the main section of the app. Similar feature is now in Windows 10 CU, so if you are Skyping or watching a movie, you can pop out the screen on the side and continue working.
  • Remote Lock – This feature is kind of interesting. It was formerly called Dynamic lock or Windows Goodbye. This is a live connection between your phone and your PC via Bluetooth (BT). As long as you’re in the proximity of the PC, your PC will be open/unlocked. When you walk away with your phone and the BT connection dies, your PC automatically locks.
  • Windows Defender Security Center Dashboard – This will show clear visibility to your PC health, security, and online protection.

That’s it for now folks.

Surface/iPad – Then (Part 1)

Surface/iPad – Then (Part 1)

 

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Image Source: PCAdvisor.co.uk

 

It is certainly one of the most interesting topics in the tech industry ever since the first iPad released in 2010, or the first flop line of Surface Pro and RT in 2012. People tend to enter in heated arguments over which device is better than the other. There is no definite answer to  this, and it all boils down to, what is your need? The best selling tablets, are indeed, Apple’s iPads. But is it the best productivity device out there? You decide for yourself.

In this two part series of articles, I will go down memory lane when the first iPad and the first Surface released. How they competed head to head over the years, what are their unique selling points and why is one device better than the other, in its own right. I’ll also give my own personal opinion, what I feel about the two devices.

 First Gen hardware

With a lot rumors, speculations, the next category defining piece of tech to be out of the gates of Cupertino, California. Apple finally unveiled on April 2010, the first iPad. At first, it looked like a big square iPod Touch + iPhone squashed together. But iPad was more than that.

1stgen-ipad-56a5334b5f9b58b7d0db72bbIt felt solid and premium, and very thin and light at that time. It did some tasks in a very efficient, natural way than the laptops or the smartphones did at that time. It was a true revolutionary device, which was best at, browsing the web, looking at the photos in a whole new way and watching videos on the 9.7 inch device was a treat. It handled mails decently, and listening music (iPod) was also fantastic. I distinctively remember, when my ex-boss in late 2010 had got the first iPad, and I had chance to play around with it for a while. At first, I could not the true essence of the device. All I could think of it as a big giant iPod. But in just couple of hours, it was evident that this piece of hardware in your hands does certain things really well, better than the laptop back in the day.

However, that was pretty much it. It was geared towards an entertainment device, an in-between category created by Steve Jobs, as he said, what was that one device, that was sitting in between a phone and a laptop. He even mocked the low cost, terrible Windows netbooks. A device that was better at doing things on the phone and on a laptop/desktop. That’s where iPad was born. No doubt, it did a few things better than a phone and a laptop, but, that was it. It remained a consumption device, for reading, watching, listening. iPad has pretty much remained the same throughout its various versions, until iPad Pro in 2016.

Microsoft, on the other hand had tremendous pressure from its shareholders, its fans, developers, and the whole tech industry. Microsoft had failed miserably creating a viable third platform with its Windows Phone 7 and 8 series. It was late to the party, by the time Microsoft arrived, people had already moved on with iPhones and Androids. This was a huge problem for Microsoft, and it became a chicken and egg scenario, what comes first?

Since there was no enough audience or users for its platform, the developers completely ignored creating apps for the Windows Phone. Microsoft was in a fix, developers did not see any incentive making apps for them, and users didn’t want to buy their phones because, well, there were no apps. Microsoft once a company that was loved by developers for its Windows (desktop) platform were now shying away from developing anything on Mobile for them.

So unlike Apple’s efforts which worked for them back then, scaling up their matured iOS platform to iPad. Microsoft had to do the other way round, and the hard way. They took their clunky, bulky, humungous Windows OS and started engineering it to fit or, forcefully adjust itself into the new and modern world of touch first, light weight operating system. After the debacle they had with Windows Vista in 2006, they bounced back with Windows 7 which was well received, it was the OS that Vista should have been.

However, in the world of iOS and Android, Windows 7 was becoming irrelevant and it was mostly perceived as business only OS. Don’t get me wrong, there are billion machines out there running some variant of Windows by both home and business users. But it was a transitional period, where mobile and mobile OS was attracting popularity, Windows on the other hand was more of a appliance for home users, to be used for only certain, more complicated computing needs. Mobile devices were the go to device, from browsing the web, to checking Facebook, reading & writing emails, taking pictures, games et cetera, the simple and basics tasks most home users carry out.

In 2012, Steven Sinofsky (former head of Windows division) introduced their new operating system, Windows 8. A sad answer in an iOS and Android world.

 

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Image: Windows 8 in 2012

 

Remember, Windows has always been a mouse and keyboard oriented OS. Even with Windows 7, they tried to make it touch friendly but it was a far fetched wish. It was never designed for it, it was never meant for touch first world. All the million plus applications available for Windows 7 were designed for keyboard and mouse input, for precision mouse clicks, drags and drops, small icons.

Windows 8, tried to change all of that. It was a tale of two Operating Systems (OS) forced to marry and live together happily ever after. But neither the two OSes were happy, they could not perform their core duties properly, and neither were the audiences happy for the two to get together.

Microsoft brought in Metro concept of Windows Phone 7 & 8. The Live tiles user interface. It was a fantastic idea, but only on the paper. The user was forced to live in the new metro world as seen in the image above. The metro was designed for touch first world, there was a new app development model/framework that only ran and lived in the Metro side of the OS. The Live tiles, the fresh new fast and fluid metro interface, faster search, better and contained install/uninstall process of the new apps was all for the better. Except, it threw the user out of the metro UI the moment you clicked on a Win32 app (eg iTunes or Chrome browser) and brought back the old desktop (like Windows 7).

This was the biggest issue with the OS, and people absolutely hated this notion of going back and forth with the jarring UI. If the user wanted to go to start menu (like in Win7), it brings in the Start Screen (metro UI) hiding away the desktop and anything important running on it. So if you had to multitask between these two UI, the work was too much and a lot of moving between the UIs. Heck, they even removed the most loved, used feature, the Start menu button from the bottom left (Windows Orb). It was only brought in back with Windows 8.1 when users made a big fuss about it.

This was the history of Windows, bringing in touch element to Windows 8/8.1 to fight uphill battle with iOS and Android. At that point of time, there were no good hardware devices that could showcase the power of touch in Windows 8. There were no tablets, there were no touchscreen laptops, but, there was this Windows 8 that needed to go out there, and wanted the users to experience the new metro world.

The stage was set for Windows 8 along with a brand new Microsoft device, the Surface.

 

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Image source: forum.kodi.tv

 

Microsoft Surface was a stunning looking device made out of what they called VaporMg magnesium alloy giving it a semi-glossy look.

It featured a kickstand, a Surface Pen, an optional but important keyboard and came preinstalled with Windows 8. It was the first from Microsoft a 2-in-1 device, that, if used without a keyboard was a tablet, and if a keyboard is attached, converts into a laptop (so to say).

Surface was released in two flavors, there was the Surface Pro, which ran the full blown Windows 8 Pro, that could run modern/metro apps as well as the classic desktop applications. And then there was a confused, younger sibling, called the Surface RT (more confusingly, meant RunTime). The Surface RT, would look and feel like the normal Surface or Windows 8 in it, only to know that, it only ran modern/metro apps. So all those classic, yours truly Win32 apps that you came to love, would simply not execute on the Surface RT.

Cutting the long story short, the result of forcing Windows 8 down peoples throat, putting out Surface RT which many people bought thinking like there was nothing wrong with it, and the first gen of Surface device which was at that time not understood well by the people, specially the consumers. The result was, a whooping $900m (aprox) write-off. There were so many Surface devices that was dusted on the shelves, in warehouses.

The biggest culprit for this loss in my opinion was, one, the Windows 8, two, Microsoft did not explain/advertise it well what really was Surface RT.

Throughout 2010 to 2013 and partly 2014, iPad did really well, so much so that, in 2012, Tim Cook (Apple CEO) said in an interview that “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are not going to be pleasing to the user.” He meant, you cannot put a tablet and a laptop together, and of course, it came from someone who were selling their Macbooks and iPads in millions.

This was a brief history on the two companies, two products. I will continue writing on the topic in my next article, “Surface/iPad – Now (Part 2)“.

In part 2, I will essentially be discussing where the two products stand today, and the two companies. I will be discussing how Surface product line has shaped up, and what made Apple to change it’s strategy and make something closer to a toaster and a refrigerator, I mean, the iPad Pro.

Till then, have a great day.

You can reach me on:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irfaan-wahid-18962915

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/irfaan.wahid

Backup Strategy

Backup Strategy

 

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Image source: pinnacledelivery

The year was 2004, I had just finished my last semester in the college and transferred the only documents required for the submission to my thumb-drive. Right after the transfer, my desktop machine just gave me the famous BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) and rebooted. What happened next was a total disaster. Apparently, my computer’s hard disk for some reason that I cannot recall, had crashed, miserably!

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One can rightfully assume, what must I have gone through, with all my year long work, project files, assignments etc, just vanished. The lesson I learned the hard way that day, was, always have a backup!

There are various types of backup options, and I will not be discussing each one of them. And the backup strategy that fits for me, may not work for you. I will outline what has worked best for me for past several years, including in between another total PC disaster. You may pick up items that suits your needs from this article, and apply your own strategy that you are comfortable with.

World before Cloud

After my sad little story, I started backing up all my files and folders to the secondary partitions. This wasn’t the best option either. But, I had to have some form of backup where if at least Windows collapses, I can fresh install the OS and recover my data from the secondary partition.

My primary backup tool, since Windows XP days has been the built in Backup/Restore software. It did a pretty decent job till I moved to Windows Vista in 2006. Vista had improved Backup and Restore utility significantly and it did what I was looking for back in the day. From Vista to Windows 7, I continued using the built in software for all my important work.

 

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My daily backup would include, all my data sitting under the Library of the account I am logged in with. This would include, Documents & Settings, Pictures, Videos, Desktop, Favorites (for IE). I knew, most of my important data is sitting in one of the folders mentioned here. This, however varies from person to person. Some people like to store most of their data in a folder created in C drive. For example, C:\mydata. I personally do not like this practice because Windows by default, looks into directories or libraries for files and folders. You have to be really specific to let Windows know, during backup specially that my data sits on C drive, or elsewhere. Not a big issue, but, just not what I do.

I used to backup on my WD 20GB external hard disk back in the day. However, now, I am using still a WD, My Passport with 2TB of storage.

In this, goes my all important files, folders. I am still using the built in software for backup, but for Windows 10 Pro. The tool is still incredible. After the initial backup which can take several hours depending on the amount of data you have, the next incremental backups take between 30-40min, again, depending on the data you are backing up. I normally don’t backup Music & Videos in the same backup as my Important files. I want the size of my files backup to be as small as it can be. Throwing Videos and Music in it, can take the backup size into TBs.

My advise, always have an offline backup saved onto an external hard disk for your critical files and folders. I used to take daily backups through Windows Backup/Restore tool, but with Cloud advancements, my approach to take backups changed, and it changed for the better.

Cloud Backups

cloud-backup-2There are several good and affordable cloud backup solutions available. And that is a topic of discussion on its own. Different cloud providers, their advantages and disadvantages, sync client and performance, pricing. I’ll be writing about it in my follow up article to Backup Strategy.

 

I will discuss how I make sure my data is safe and stored in multiple locations.

On Premise/Offline backup: As already discussed above, my first point of backup is done locally, using Windows tool, with an external hard disk. The backup is schedule to run every Saturday. This takes care of the changes of files take took place during the week. So in the event, my computer decides to crash, and I am offline. I can always count on the backup done on my external WD drive.

Cloud Sync: My primary cloud provider is Microsoft OneDrive (formerly Skydrive). I have about 1.5TB storage on my OneDrive. The free tier only provides 5GB of storage, which I bet is not enough for many users. I am also a Office 365 subscriber, which not only gives me additional 1TB, but also latest version of Microsoft Office (Word/Excel etc), Skype free minutes. There are three options available for Home users in O365.

  1. Office 365 Home: This is what I am using, and it costs $99.9 per year. Which is a fantastic offer. It includes 2 of my most important elements, 1TB OneDrive storage and MS Office, for up to 5 licenses. Meaning you can install Office on 5 different computers. Its got other important benefits, check out this link for more info on this tier and the one below.
  2. Office 365 Personal: This has got all the benefits as Point 1, except that MS Office can only be installed on 1 PC or a Mac. This tier costs $70.
  3. Office 365 Home & Student: This is mostly geared towards Students, who need latest Microsoft Office. Bare in mind, this tier only has MS Office, and does not include OneDrive storage, or the other perks found in other tiers. This is also allowed for 1 PC or a Mac. This is a one time purchase and costs $150.

For cost benefit, tier 1 is what I would recommend.

I have configured OneDriveSyncOneDrive client on all my machines. The configuration includes, again, all my important documents and settings. All my files and folders, are automatically synced to OneDrive on the cloud. This also means, every time I change a file, it is automatically pushed to the cloud, and pushed back to all my other PCs connected to OneDrive. This gives me assurance, if I have left a document mid way on Machine A, when I get back home and log into Machine B, I will get my same document back where I left off in Machine A. This is huge for me on a number of reasons.

I work on a lot of reports, coding, blogging. All these documents/files are saved on one machine and synced to the cloud. And when I am home, all my files are back to me where I left them, how I left them, and I continue working on those files.

Secondly, since, my data is not tied to my local hard disk or computer. All my primary and important files are up in the OneDrive cloud. So if an incident like 2004 happens again, I don’t have to worry. I simply either, bring the same PC back online, or if I am getting a new PC, I install OneDrive client, and all my files and folders are synced to my new computer, seamless, automatically. This has been tried and tested, several number of times. This works, it just works!

Some users may say, the performance of OneDrive sync is not all that good. I would agree with you if we were in 2014 or 2015. But everything after 2016, has significantly improved. My files sync real fast. They download real quick.

This is on the PC side. If you own iOS or Android device, there is an app for OneDrive too. Just like the PC side, I also rely heavily on OneDrive app for the phones. My daily driver is an iPhone 7 Plus, and all my 5,000 plus photos & videos are uploaded automatically to OneDrive. This feature is so important to me that I cannot insist enough. We all like taking photos & videos for those precious moments in our lives. And we cannot miss a chance to lose them.

On the Photos & Videos front, I have taken one extra step. Not only my Photos & Videos from my iPhone backed up to OneDrive, but they are also pushed to even a superior service for Photo management, this is called Google Photos.

Google Photos handles Photos and Videos like no other. OneDrive does a pretty decent job too, but Google Photos does this job in a far better way, than OneDrive could imagine. I will write about Google Photos later, and how it manages this task so well.

To sum it all up, my recommendations are:

  1. Offline Backup: Ensure you have either daily/weekly backups of your crucial data. The Windows 7, 8 or 10 built in Backup/Restore app is good enough. No need to go purchase some Pro backup app. Make sure, the backups are done on an external hard disk.
  2. Mix it up with the Cloud: My personal preference is OneDrive, but there are other options too. Including Dropbox, Google Drive. Whichever you are comfortable with, go with it. All are solid services by their respective vendors. Syncing files up to the minute is the way to go, in this cloud enabled world, with multiple devices that we carry every day.
  3. Photos & Videos: Again, this is my personal preference, uploading your photos to OneDrive & Google Photos. Having duplicate copies of not only your files and folders, but photos & videos is important.

This is it for now. Let me know what you guys think about this article, and how I can improve my area of topics, next topic, whatever. Leave your comment in the comment sections.

I presume, my next article will focus on Windows 10 Creators Update and its key features.

Till then, have a great day.

You can reach me on:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irfaan-wahid-18962915

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/irfaan.wahid

Twitter: @irfaanwahid

Stalking Windows 10

Stalking Windows 10

Hello everyone, my name is Irfaan Wahid and this is my first article on LinkedIn.

I shall be writing weekly articles focusing on technology, and closely following, in my opinion the four tech giants, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google. This does not mean I will not write about other tech biggies, but I also believe these companies are driving the tech industry forward.

I will be introducing myself in other/follow up posts. For now, let’s dive right into today’s headline.

Some of us may already know Microsoft’s soon to be released Windows 10 Creators Update, expected to release early April has got nice new features, which I am going to be highlighting in just a bit. This is a third major update since Microsoft released Windows 10 in July 29 2015.

First major update was back in 2015 November dubbed November Update (or codename Threshold 2), second update was in August last year called Anniversary Update (Codename Redstone 1). We now approach third and first update of 2017, known as Creators Update (Codename Redstone 2).

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Windows 10 Creators Update, why is this an important update?

Few highlights:

  1. 3D and Mixed Reality – With this new update, Microsoft has baked in what was previously known as Windows Holographic platform (Hololens??) into Windows 10 CU (Creators Update). What this means, Windows will now support virtual, augmented reality and holographic computing right out of the box. Currently the only true augmented reality headset is offered by Microsoft known as Hololens, with a whooping price tag of $3,000 targeted at developers. I was fortunate enough to test this headset at the Microsoft event in Nairobi, and trust me, it was amazing! Windows 10 CU is also replacing one of the most loved app, Paint with Paint 3D. Paint 3D is nothing but Paint on steroids. It incorporates elements to create a 3D painting/images and publish it to web (Remix3D.com/or print it with 3D printers. Developers with CU can start leveraging these new technology and use it in their own apps and with the upcoming Windows 10 CU certified headsets by third party OEMs such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo. Headsets offered by these partners will be priced @ $299 going up.
  2. Games – Microsoft has been pushing gaming to its Windows 10 platform, and with CU, it even brings in more features. One nice feature for hardcore gamers is broadcasting your play via Beam service (which also Microsoft owns).
  3. Sharing and Caring – Well, with CU you can now easily connect and share with people you care about the most. Although one of the most loved MyPeople feature has been stripped out of this update for Redstone 3, which allowed your favorite contacts to be pinned on your taskbar where you could easily chat, share files among others. We hope this feature makes a come back in RS3.

There are tons of new features and improvements throughout the operating system. Some subtle but important updates include:

  • E-book support, you can now read E-Pubs and PDF right in Microsoft Edge in a nice reading view.
  • Tabs aside, You can put aside Edge tabs when the list grows big, to clean up the clutter and bring them back when you need them.
  • A new section in Windows Store, we already have Music, Games and Movies & Tv, the new addition is, “Books”. Well, not a very cool feature, but heck, it’s good to have it finally in Windows. This will be no different to Amazon’s Kindle store and I wonder why would people jump with Books store offered by Microsoft. We will have to wait and watch this space.

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  • Mails, Photos, Maps, Cameras have all good improvements here and there.
  • UI improvements, Start menu/start screen now supports folders. You can now combine multiple app tiles in a folder, just like the walking dead platform Windows 10 Mobile. Windows 10 with CU now supports this too.

 

There are many more things to write about for Windows 10 Creators Update, which I will be in follow up articles.

I am a Windows Insider, which means I get to test latest and greatest features ahead of time than what I call the “Normal” users. The current build of Windows 10 Insider sits on 15055, which also means we now get very few builds from now on. This is normal as we approach the RTM or Release To Manufacturing of Windows 10 Creators Update, we are now few weeks away from getting the final build of CU.

From what I have been reading and talking to a few techy friends, Microsoft is targeting April 11th as the General Availability (GA) of Creators Update.

I am super excited for Creators Update and will be writing a review on it very soon.

That’s it folks for now, I will be writing more articles on various other products, tech companies and discussing trends, tips and tricks.

-Irfaan Wahid