Tag Archives: Microsoft

Download and Install a Clean Copy of Windows with Valid Product Key

This article gives you the information you need to download a clean copy of Windows from Microsoft. All you need is a valid product key.

How to Get Your Product Key
If you don’t have your product key handy, you can get it from your currently installed copy of Windows using either this tool or this tool. I’ve tested both with Windows 7 and they work well.

Why You Might Want to Do This
There are a number of reasons you might want to download a clean copy of Windows and install it over your current version. All you need is a valid product key for the version you want.

One good reason to do this is to replace your crapware burdened laptop or desktop from Dell, HP, … with a fresh and clean one with just the Microsoft components. You’ll need to install the drivers for your PC, but this is usually pretty easy if you have any experience with Windows, or know a friend who does … 🙂 … Major companies like Dell and HP usually have a page that tells you what drivers you need for your exact model and has links to download them. 

Warning About Malware Disguised as Helper Tools
Just a heads-up. If you decide to install a clean version of Windows, do not download a driver installer type program from anywhere but your computer’s manufacturer. Some of those “tools” are really malware installers and will install all sorts of unwanted software on your PC. A colleague at work took her laptop home to install a workstation image I gave her and brought it back full of malware. Rather than worry about how this happened, I just wiped the disk and installed the image and drivers she needed. I’m 95% certain she installed a “helper” tool to get the drivers she needed. It helped her all right … 😉

Another Option for Removing Crapware That Comes with New PCs
Note that if you just want to remove the crapware that often comes with new PCs, there are free tools that make this pretty easy, such as The PC Decrapifier. I’ve used this and it works well. I still prefer a new, clean Windows installation but using a tool to remove a small amount of crapware is much easier and requires very little PC knowledge.

If you have any questions, just ask in the comments!

Be Careful Using Spreadsheets for Serious Technical Work

The Reinhart-Rogoff case makes for an excellent cautionary tale on the dangers of using spreadsheets for serious work and also a great example of science working properly due to the open exchange of experimental data and documents.

Be Careful Using Spreadsheets for Important Work

Warning someone to be careful with spreadsheets sounds like some Captain Obvious level advice, but if you read the article, you’ll see there is some good reasoning behind it. I know from experience that it’s easy to make formula errors, especially during a long slog preparing data and formulas for review. I found and corrected several spreadsheet entry and calculation errors made by the financial/pricing analyst during my work on a recent proposal. This is relevant to both financial pros and people like me who’d rather write a program to do all the calculations and then just output them to a results spreadsheet for distribution. The ease of data entry in a spreadsheet and the temptations to take shortcuts are something to remain alert for.


Windows Clipboard Enhancement Tools

This is a fairly comprehensive article on the available Windows Clipboard enhancement tools. I use Ditto because it’s open source and has lots of functionality, but it’s not the best looking one by far.

Microsoft should include a much better clipboard that they do, but since they don’t. there’s no reason for you not to benefit from one of these third party tools. There should be something here for everyone.


Best Windows Based File Copy Tool

I’m creating a guide to help members of my team at work move from the corporate network to a development network, which will allow us to finally get off Windows XP and maintain our ability to do real development on our laptops. As part of the move to Windows 7, I’m looking into the best tools that complement the built-in abilities of Windows 7 and the various development tools such as Qt Creator, Visual Studio, and Eclipse that we’ll be using. My guide will focus on Windows even though we support Linux and Android as well, because we run Windows on our dev laptops and use VMs to support Linux when possible and dedicated machines on the network otherwise. We of course deploy Android apps to our small set of Android devices for testing.

I’ve been using TeraCopy on XP for awhile now on Windows and highly recommend it. It’s free for personal use and is about $20 if you want to use it commercially. I also run RichCopy, which is a free GUI front end for the RoboCopy utility built into Windows 7. I prefer open source applications wherever possible, but sometimes the proprietary apps are so much better it’s worth the compromise.

Anyway, if you’re looking for good copy enhancements or alternatives for Windows, the articles below are good references.



I will probably be recommending both TeraCopy and RichCopy as good options in my Windows 7 migration guide.

I want to mention one potential replacement for the above tools. Ultracopier is an up and coming open source file copy tool that’s cross platform and written in C++/Qt. I’ll be keeping an eye on this tool to see if it can replace the tools above. Since I use Windows, Linux, and OS-X, and sometimes develop in C++/Qt, this would be a great solution.




Useful and Free Microsoft Tools for IT Workers

I work as a developer and architecture guidance lead on a project supporting Windows, Linux, and Android systems. I’m a veteran UNIX developer and have long used many of the best UNIX tools. I thought I knew most of the free Windows tools too, but some of these are new to me and most are worth a look to see if they’ll enhance your productivity.


Sysinternals Tools For Windows Developers

I just ran across this 2010 article detailing some of the Sysinternals tools available from Microsoft. Sysinternals started as a private company run by two smart guys, but their tools were good enough that Microsoft bought the company. The tools are free (of charge) but not open source.

Some of these tools (like Process Explorer) are very popular and used by developers on my team. Others are less known but look like they would be very useful, especially the PS utilities, some of which allow you to identify and kill hung processes. Give them a try.

Helpful Hint – Transferring Data Between Machines

I work as a software team lead supporting a GIS toolkit for Windows, Linux, and Sparc Solaris machines. We often need to transfer large (>4GB) chunks of files between machines of different types, say Windows PC and Solaris workstations. These machines are not always networked together so you can’t always use ftp or another copy protocol to get the job done. The best way I’ve found to solve this problem is to use a USB drive to transfer the data as described below.

  1. Copy the data off your USB drive to a temporary backup location
  2. Reformat the USB drive as one FAT32 partition consisting of 1/4 or 1/5 of the drive and a NTFS partition that spans the rest of the drive.
  3. Copy your backed up data back onto the NTFS portion of the newly formatted drive.

The size of the FAT32 partition depends on the amount of data you will need to transfer between different machine types at a time. We have mostly 500GB USB drives so we format 100GB as FAT32 and the other 400 or so GB as NTFS. Adjust as you see fit.

Many people know (but sometimes forget) that almost all major modern operating systems support FAT32 out of the box. This includes all flavors of Windows, Mac OS-X, Linux, the PS3, and more. So the simple procedure above gives you a chunk of storage that all major operating systems can read and write out of the box while retaining most of the drive formatted as NTFS, which is a superior file system but sometimes requires extra drivers on non-Windows operating systems. Whenever you need to copy from one machine type to another, just copy the data onto the FAT32 partition of your USB drive, connect it to the target computer, and just copy the data over. The primary reason not to format your whole drive as FAT32 is that FAT32 limits file size to 4GB, so if you have files larger than about 4GB, you’ll need to break them into smaller pieces before you copy them to the FAT32 partition and reassemble them later. There are tools for doing this (e.g. http://www.jaist.ac.jp/~hoangle/filesj/ ), but I’ve never found it necessary to use one.

If you don’t have a USB drive or otherwise have a need for very secure data storage, I highly recommend the Aegis Padlock drives from Apricorn. These drives support up to 256 bit AES encryption with a keypad built into them, so there is no software installation needed to use the drives. We’ve had 15 or more of the 500GB version for more than a year and are starting to get the 750GB version, and we’ve had no issues at all with them. Best of all, the drives are less than $200 each, which is a very low price for such a great drive.


Aegis Padlock Drives – http://www.apricorn.com/products/hardware-encrypted-drives/apricorn-padlock-256-bit-aes-encrypted-usb-drive.html

File splitter and recombiner – http://www.jaist.ac.jp/~hoangle/filesj/


Microsoft Continues to Destroy Nokia

This article illustrates how Nokia’s decision to abandon its own offerings just as they were bearing some fruit and ally themselves with Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 is destroying the company. I cannot understand why a company with as many smart people as Nokia could hire a Microsoft exec as CEO and then allow him to almost immediately sell them to Microsoft. It boggles the mind.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 may yet gain some market share, but is getting some of the crumbs falling from Microsoft’s table a good deal in exchange for selling your self-sufficiency and your individuality, your corporate soul?




HP’s Windows 7 slate tablet is official

HP’s Windows 7 slate tablet is official, and it’s certainly no iPad killer. In fact, it looks like it may serve first and foremost as an abject lesson in why it’s a bad idea to work with Microsoft in general and specifically why you should never ever let Microsoft dictate your design. A secondary lesson – if a company insists you put their desktop operating system on a tablet with less power than a netbook, you should run away.