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Bad Windows Updates

Posted by on 9:40 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Bad Windows Updates

Microsoft, Please Stop Breaking My PC With Windows 10’s Automatic Updates by Chris Hoffman on March 16th, 2017 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. 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, average Windows users are in big trouble. I, a computer-savvy tech writer, discovered this problem and was able to fix it myself. But how is the average Windows user who can’t access their smartphone’s files supposed to identify the problem and fix it? Remember When the Anniversary Update Broke a Bunch of Webcams? The WPD update is far from the first time Windows has broken hardware on my system. In the summer, I built a new desktop PC and bought various peripherals for it. I included one of the most popular webcams at the time, the venerable Logitech C920. RELATED How to Stop Your Webcam From Freezing and Crashing on Windows 10 A few short weeks later,...

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Microsoft: more people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before

Posted by on 10:22 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Microsoft: more people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before

Microsoft has been targeting Mac users with its Surface commercials recently, and it appears they might be paying off. The software giant claims that November was the “best month ever for consumer Surface sales,” following a number of Black Friday deals on the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft still isn’t providing sales numbers, but the company claims “more people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before.” Microsoft cites “the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro” and its trade-in program for MacBooks for tempting people to switch to Surface. Again, Microsoft refuses to provide numbers but vaguely claims “our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever.” Alongside the Surface sales, Microsoft is also expanding on the availability of the new Surface Book with Performance Base. The most powerful Surface Book is now available in Australia and New Zealand, and will arrive in Austria, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, and the UK early next quarter. Microsoft isn’t providing and sales guidance for its Surface Studio, or any news on when the all-in-one PC will be available outside the US. Source...

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First Look: This is Windows Holographic in Windows 10 – MSPoweruser

Posted by on 10:11 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on First Look: This is Windows Holographic in Windows 10 – MSPoweruser

With the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft is bringing the Windows Holographic Shell to Windows 10 PCs. With Windows Holographic, Windows 10 users will be able to use some of their apps and games in a VR environment via virtual reality headsets from companies like Dell, Acer, Lenovo, and Asus in 2017. Microsoft has already started including parts of Windows Holographic in the latest Insider builds of Windows 10. The company added a “Windows Holographic” app to Windows 10 with a recent Insider build — and with Windows 10 Build 14986 last week, Microsoft has updated the app. We’re able to try out Windows Holographic in a simulation mode in the latest Insider build of Windows 10 and get our first look at the feature. At the moment, there honestly isn’t anything to be excited about as we were only able to open up the Start Menu in Windows Holographic. Apart from that, we weren’t able to do anything else as there doesn’t seem to be any way of interacting with the system at the moment as this is just a simulation. Windows Holographic does, indeed, look very exciting. We’ll likely get a much better look in 2017 once Microsoft releases newer builds of Windows 10 to Insiders. However, for the most part, the Windows Holographic experience should be very similar to what we already have in the Microsoft HoloLens — so if you already own a HoloLens, this probably won’t be very exciting for you. Source: First Look: This is Windows Holographic in Windows 10 –...

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Windows 10’s Defender Hub app shows up on the Windows Store – MSPoweruser

Posted by on 10:14 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Windows 10’s Defender Hub app shows up on the Windows Store – MSPoweruser

  Microsoft has released a new Windows 10 app on the Windows Store. The company’s latest app, Windows Defender Hub, is a simple app that provides the latest news regarding Windows Defender and security on Windows 10. The app pulls articles from Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center website and users can read 6 of the latest articles on the app. If you want to read more articles, you’ll have to open the Malware Protection Center. Help protect your device with the antimalware protection built in to Windows 10. It’s already on your device! There’s nothing to buy, no subscriptions, and no nagware. Windows Defender Hub gives you access to Windows Defender, so you can easily check your protection status or scan your device. Windows Defender Hub also brings you articles from Microsoft about malware and viruses and the latest security trends, even if you use another antivirus program. This new app is likely for the Windows 10 Creators Update which is also expected to introduce a new Windows Defender app with a modern experience. If you are interested in trying out the Defender Hub, you can download it from the Windows Store: Source: Windows 10’s Defender Hub app shows up on the Windows Store – MSPoweruser...

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Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives | PCWorld

Posted by on 10:45 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives | PCWorld

We take a look at the recovery drive, one of the most useful troubleshooting tools included with Windows 10. Source: Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives | PCWorld   You never know when you’ll need a Windows recovery drive, so the time to make one is now—and it’s very easy to do. A recovery drive is similar to the media you’d receive if you bought a pre-built system. Back in the day, PCs would ship with a CD or DVD that included an image of the system as it left the factory. If your PC’s OS went sideways, you could easily revert to the way things were on day one (though you’d lose all of your subsequently created data and applications, obviously). Nowadays manufacturers usually just put an image of the system as it left the factory on a hidden partition of your main drive. A Windows recovery disk builds on this idea. In addition to letting you reinstall Windows, it includes several troubleshooting tools, which can be a lifesaver if your system won’t boot. Some of these tools used to be part of the OS. If your PC failed to boot you were presented with a menu allowing you to try and boot into Safe Mode, or use “last known good configuration.” That’s no longer the case with Windows 10. Now you need these tools to reside on a separate, bootable USB key, and every person running Windows should keep one in a safe place with the label “in case of emergency.” You can easily create a recovery drive using Windows 10’s built-in tool. Here’s how you create one and what it can do for you. First, obtain an 8GB to 16GB USB key. Next, go into Windows’ Control panel (right-clicking the Windows icon is the easiest way) and type create a recovery drive into the search bar. The manual method would be to go to System & Security > Security & Maintenance > Recovery. You may need to enter your admin password to go further. In the resulting dialog box, check the box labeled Back up system files to the recovery drive. With your recovery drive created, you’ll have to boot from it in order to use it. How your PC boots from USB varies according to your PC’s age and motherboard, but typically you can press one of the F-keys during boot to arrive at a boot selection window. From there you select the USB key you’re using, and it should proceed to boot from the recovery drive. When you successfully boot from it you’ll see the following options. Here’s what each of them does: Creating the infrastructure to capitalize on the digital business revolution. The first window gives you essentially two options: Recover from a drive, and Advanced options. What you’ll see when you boot from the Recovery Drive, allowing you to either fix Windows or reinstall it completely. The first option lets you re-install Windows. Note that it says you will lose all your data and installed applications. This is a clean installation of Windows, not a restore from backup or something along those lines. This is the nuclear option, in other words. The second option, which is labeled Advanced Options, lets you fix your Windows installation in several ways, and brings you to the following menu: The Advanced...

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Turn your computer into a touchscreen with AirBar

Posted by on 8:44 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Turn your computer into a touchscreen with AirBar

You won’t be made a fool when you tap your computer screen — so long as you have an AirBar. This new accessory instantly turns your PC into a touchscreen. Source: Turn your computer into a touchscreen with AirBar We’ve all been there — tapping the laptop screen with a finger after forgetting that it’s not a tablet and doesn’t have touchscreen capabilities. But now, you won’t be made a fool of when you tap your computer screen … if you have an AirBar, that is. This new accessory turns your PC into a touchscreen device, because sometimes, using a trackpad or a mouse is just too hard. The flagship device from Swedish company Neonode, the AirBar is now officially available for pre-order in the U.S. It’s compatible with most Chromebook notebooks and PCs running Windows 8.1 or 10, and allows users to “promptly and seamlessly activate touch functionalities on their laptops.” Sleek and lightweight, the thin, matte black bar attaches magnetically to the bottom of your laptop for what just might be the easiest installation of all time. Don’t worry — you won’t have to download any software to get the device to work. Simply connect the AirBar via USB and start touchscreening. The device makes use of Neonode’s patented zForce Air technology, which emits an invisible light field atop your laptop screen capable of sensing touch from fingers (even if they’re gloved), as well as paintbrushes. That means you could scroll down that recipe even as you’re cooking with an oven mitt, or turn your computer screen into a digital canvas. More: Nikon adds Bluetooth, enhanced touchscreen to new D5600 DSLR “We developed this product knowing there is really nothing else like it on the market,” said Remo Behdasht, senior vice president of AirBar Devices at Neonode. “People want touchscreen capabilities, but until now their options were very limited by brand and cost. Our successful pre-order phase was further confirmation of the massive appeal and demand for this device.” You can turn your laptop into a touchscreen laptop with AirBar for $69, and choose from 13.3-inch, 14-inch, and 15.6-inch size options. The device is currently available here, and will also be sold on Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, and...

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Google Assistant is Getting Ready to Compete with Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana

Posted by on 11:32 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Google Assistant is Getting Ready to Compete with Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana

ByThe market for personal assistants with conversational user experience is heating up. While Amazon has already launched the next generation Echo in the form of Echo Dot and Echo Tap, Google is busy turning its Assistant more intelligent and smarter than the competition. Source: Google Assistant is Getting Ready to Compete with Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana Starting December, developers will be able to create custom actions for Google Assistant. This will offer a similar experience of developing Alexa Skills for Echo. Google’s strategy of enabling developers to target its Assistant platform will instantly open up multiple channels to developers. They will be able to reach millions of consumers using a variety of devices with embedded Assistant technology. Though Microsoft has a compelling personal assistant technology in the form of Cortana, the APIs are not broadly available. Developers targeting Windows platform can consume the APIs limiting the platform reach. When it comes to winning the niche personal assistant segment, Google has a multi-pronged approach. It is lining up all its assets to ensure that its technology is superior to the competition. Let’s a take a look at the strategy. Google Cloud Machine Learning Google Cloud Platform has a broad range of machine learning tools and services. From image processing to speech recognition to text analysis, machine learning is certainly the strength of Google. Developers will be able to send plain text to Cloud ML to instantly perform sentiment, entity, and syntactic analysis. Google’s support for multiple languages including some of the Asian languages such as Chinese will benefit developers targeting the global...

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Do humans make computers smarter?

Posted by on 11:08 pm in Blog, News | Comments Off on Do humans make computers smarter?

Humans still outperform computers at many tasks, but as AI advances, will our intervention help them or hobble them? It’s complicated. Source: Do humans make computers smarter?   As machine learning makes computers smarter than us in some important ways, does adding a human to the mix make the overall system smarter? Does human plus machine always beat the machine by itself?The question is easy when we think about using computers to do, say, long division. Would it really help to have a human hovering over the machine reminding it to carry the one? The issue is becoming less clear, and more important, as autonomous cars start to roam our streets. Siri, you can drive my car Many wary citizens assume that for safety’s sake an autonomous car ought to have a steering wheel and brakes that a human can use to override the car’s computer in an emergency. They assume – correctly for now – that humans are better drivers: so far, autonomous cars have more accidents, mainly minor and caused by human-driven cars, but I’m willing to bet that the accident rate for cars without human overrides will be significantly lower than for cars with them, as the percentage of driverless cars increases, and as they get smarter. Does human plus machine always beat the machine by itself? After all, autonomous cars have a 360-degree view of their surroundings, while humans are lucky to have half that. Autonomous cars react at the speed of light. Human react at the speed of neuro-chemicals, contradictory impulses, and second thoughts. Humans often make decisions that preserve their own lives above all others, while autonomous cars, especially once they’re networked, can make decisions to minimize the sum total of bad consequences. (Maybe. Mercedes has announced that its autonomous cars will save passengers over pedestrians). In short, why would we think that cars would be safer if we put a self-interested, fear-driven, lethargic, poorly informed animal in charge? A game of Go But take a case where reaction time doesn’t matter, and where machines have access to the same information as humans. For example, imagine a computer playing a game of Go against a human. Surely adding a highly-skilled player to the computer’s side — or, put anthropocentrically, providing a computer to assist a highly-skilled human — would only make the computer better. Actually not. AlphaGo, Google’s system that beat the third-ranked human player, makes its moves based on its analysis of 30 million moves in 160,000 games, processed through multiple levels of artificial neural networks that implement a type of machine learning called deep learning. AlphaGo’s analysis assigns weights to potential moves and calculates the one most likely to lead to victory. The network of weighted moves is so large and complex that a human being simply could not comprehend the data and their relations, or predict their outcome. Alpha (Photo: Google) The process is far more complex than this, of course, and includes algorithms to winnow searches and to learn from successful projected behaviors. Another caveat: Recent news from MIT suggests we may be getting better at enabling neural nets to explain themselves. More: Should your self-driving car kill you to save a school bus full of kids? Still, imagine that we gave AlphaGo a highly-ranked human partner and had that team play against an unassisted human. AlphaGo comes up with a...

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Here are 10 awful passwords that make life easy for hackers

Posted by on 1:07 am in Blog, News | Comments Off on Here are 10 awful passwords that make life easy for hackers

Reusing passwords might be more risky than you think Source: Here are 10 awful passwords that make life easy for hackers Many people are making things easy for hackers because of their simple passwords, new research suggests. Tech experts analysed the masses of passwords leaked during the Yahoo data breach and other recent cyber-attacks . Jeff Yan of Lancaster University and other authors said reusing similar passwords across many sites made users more vulnerable than they may realise. They said the risk of criminals using snippets of personal information to guess passwords for specific individuals – rather than just generic passwords anyone might use – had been underestimated. The 10 passwords to avoid Computer keyboard But their research also includes a list of the 10 most common passwords among people with Yahoo accounts. The most common password is 123456 – with 12345678 and 123456789 also popular. The second most common is “password”, followed by “welcome” and “ninja”. Others making up the top 10 are “abc123”, “sunshine”, “princess” and “qwerty”. The authors say many people actually use their names, birthdays and phone numbers or variations of them in their passwords too. “This is a serious security concern” Their paper reads: “Targeted online guessing can exploit not only weak popular passwords, but also passwords reused across sites and passwords containing personal information. “This is a serious security concern, since various personally identifiable information and leaked passwords become readily available due to unending data breaches. “Existing password creation rules and strength meters take no account of the targeted online guessing threat, which is increasingly more damaging and realistic.” Dr Yan said: “Our results should encourage people to vary the passwords they use on different websites much more substantially to make it harder for criminals to guess their passwords. “This work should also help inform Internet service providers looking to introduce more robust security measures to detect and resist online guessing.” Dr Yan co-wrote the paper with Ding Wang, Zijian Zhang and Ping Wang of Peking University and Hinyi Huang of the Fujian Normal University in...

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IT departments becoming ‘obsolete’

Posted by on 10:12 pm in Blog, News | 0 comments

Cloud computing, smartphones and as-a-service software products are killing off the traditional, ‘dark days’ IT department, says printer manufacturer Brother. Source: IT departments becoming ‘obsolete’ Online services and workers choosing the tools they want to work with, rather than employees being dictated to by in-house IT experts, means the IT department’s functions are now primarily redundant, says Japan-based Brother The printer maker refers to IT departments’ control over technology as “dark days” in its web-based advertorial feature in the British national newspaper the Telegraph in September. “Does the cloud and mobile era mean we can do away with the IT department completely? To a large extent, the answer is yes,” Brother writes. Brother is promoting its own version of as-a-service in the advertorial—it has a managed print services solution that promises to rein in printing spending for organizations through pay-for-what-you-print. However, the company does make some interesting points. Teams running in-house networks and infrastructure, upgrading software, and deciding what kinds of computers and equipment should be purchased is “obsolete” now, it says. “Firms instead rely on online services, and employees choose the devices they want to work on.” Brother doesn’t mention that the employee-adoption of cloud services hit a glitch recently. Cloud security firms Elastica and Blue Coat observed in a study that employees storing documents in self-chosen cloud services, something called Shadow IT, were creating security holes. Blue Coat Systems said it even found proprietary cloud documents through Google searches in some tests. There’s no going back The genie has clearly been let out of the bottle, though. Cloud offers convenience to workers, and because workers are increasingly tech-savvy, they don’t need—or think they need—to be told what to do by tech experts. Brother goes one step further than acknowledging the simple allowance of employee IT interference and says technology “should no longer be locked away from the end user.” It also says “heads of departments across the business” should make the technology decisions because they’re the ones who understand the requirements best. IT departments perceived as irrelevant That statement, indeed, ties in with what appears to be happening with business digitization in general: As enterprises adopt digital overall and technologize their business plans, their IT departments can be excluded from the loop—the team is not considered relevant. IT isn’t driving major companywide directional changes at the disruptive tech level—it’s the CEOs doing that. So, IT is perceived—rightly or wrongly—as being unimportant. “Technology is now so integral to every business across all sectors that anyone in a leadership role must act as chief information officer to their team or department, as part of their everyday remit,” the printer company adds. In other words, one shouldn’t wait for IT to propose solutions. More, somewhat amusing friction for IT is Brother’s statement that “the HR or sales director is not doing their job properly” if they don’t investigate appropriate technology. Of course, as we all know, tech isn’t easy. Even if images of bulbous, puffy clouds and glossy deep-color screens are marketed as things that will make one’s life sublime and glorious, they probably won’t. So, the smartest IT executives, and the ones who will be in demand, will be those who go along with the employees self-chosen equipment, as-a-service and mobile dreams—and will simply pick up the pieces when it...

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Facebook & Real-World Friends: What’s a Healthy Balance?

Posted by on 10:31 pm in Blog, News | 0 comments

Online social interactions are tied to longevity, as long as those online connections foster real-world social ties, new research shows. Source: Facebook & Real-World Friends: What’s a Healthy Balance?   It turns out that logging into Facebook to put a heart emoji under a photo of your best friend’s new baby may actually be good for you — provided that you also actually follow through in the real world, perhaps by buying a coffee for that frazzled new mom. New research shows that a moderate use of social media is linked with living longer, if that use helps strengthen real-world connections. “Interacting online seems to be healthy when the online activity is moderate and complements interactions offline,” study author William Hobbs, a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University in Boston, said in a statement. “It is only on the extreme end, spending a lot of time online with little evidence of being connected to people otherwise, that we see a negative association” between Facebook use and mortality, Hobbs said. In the study, Hobbs and his colleagues used a computer program to match the name and birthdate on the Facebook profiles of 12 million people living in California with public records such as birth and death certificates from that state. The study participants were all born between 1945 and 1989. After the researchers made those matches, they removed the names of the people in the study group to protect their privacy, according to the findings published today (Oct. 31) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An algorithm tallied up how many times, over a six-month period, people engaged with others online. Then, the researchers determined whether the participants were still alive, or had died by the end of the study period. They took into account the participants’ age, gender and other factors that could influence their likelihood of dying during the study period. The team found that people who used Facebook more often tended to live longer than those who didn’t. Of course, it is possible that some common factor (such as poor health or economic status) that the researchers did not take into account made people less likely to use Facebook, and that such a factor also made them more likely to die during the study period, the authors noted. The researchers also found that those people whose social networks were average or slightly larger than average were less likely to die during the study period than those who had the fewest “friends,” the researchers found. People who shared more photos — meaning that they were potentially doing more social activities — also had lower odds of dying during the study, the researchers found. But the researchers also looked at the nature of the participants’ online posts, and here the relationship was more complicated. Some types of posts, such as putting up a photo, implied that the participant had real-life interactions with others, whereas other posts, such as adding comments to other people’s posts, did not imply that any real-life interactions took place. People who had either a low level, or a high level of online-only activity had higher rates of mortality than those whose posts suggested more balance between their online-only interactions and their real-life interactions. “Happily, for almost all Facebook users, what we found...

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13m Working Computers Discarded By Brits In The Last Five Years

Posted by on 11:21 pm in Blog, News | 0 comments

A fifth (21%) of Brits have thrown away at least one working computer in the last five years in favour of a newer model, according to new research from Crucial. Source: 13m Working Computers Discarded By Brits In The Last Five Years . Based on UK population figures from the ONS, this means that more than 13.87m computers have been binned in the last five years by Brits, according to the company. More than two in five (45%) of those that binned their PCs did so because it had slowed down, a third (32%) said it took too long to turn on and 29% said that their computer kept freezing. The survey of 2,000 people, conducted by Crucial, found that more than a third of Brits (36%) threw away their PC because they wanted a more powerful, newer model. Just 18% gave their old computer to someone else, 14% recycled it and only 6% gave their system an upgrade with new internal components. “The cost of upgrading can be as much as 10 times less expensive that buying a new computer, so consumers are missing a trick by opting for an expensive replacement instead of a simple, cheap upgrade.” Jeremy Mortenson, Crucial memory product line manager, commented: “One of the leading contributors to landfill waste in the UK is e-waste, created by disused or discarded technology including household appliances like old PCs. Our research shows that people are ditching working systems because they’ve slowed down, take too long to turn on and freeze all the time, all of which can be easily fixed. Brits are choosing to spend excessive amount on purchasing new computers when they could be getting a brand new machine for as little as £40 with a simple upgrade that doesn’t require any technical skills.” One in five Brits (21%) have unused working computers sitting at home, which could be upgraded to give them a new lease of life, Crucial says. On average, Brits have owned two computers in the last five years and are seemingly replacing their PCs much more regularly than business users. According to leading IT managers, the average business computer lasts 3 to 4 years before being disposed of (Data from March 2016 survey of 353 IT decision-makers in the U.S., U.K., Germany and France. Survey conducted by Spiceworks and commissioned by Crucial.) Jonathan Weech, Crucial solid-state drive (SSD) product line manager, added: “The rapid evolution of technology makes it easy to believe that if your computer isn’t new, it’s old. The research suggests that UK consumers are buying new systems more regularly than businesses, whose PCs will be used daily and more intensively. “It’s not clear why this is the case, but one factor could be that consumers are using sub-£500 computers that lack internal memory and fast storage. These computers tend to come with between 4-8GB of memory and slow mechanical hard drives, when you could install 16GB yourself to improve as well as install an SSD to improve performance and extend your PCs life.” He continues: “This perception of new and old encourages people to settle for expensive fixes like a new computer. Few people realise that a memory upgrade will increase the responsiveness of their system and how fast applications and programmes run, whilst an SSD will make...

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