Category Archives: Articles

How to restrict access to Task Manager with Folder Guard

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Windows Task Manager is a handy tool that you can use to see the running processes, monitor the system performance, and check the status of the system services, among many other things. On the flip side, with great power comes great responsibility. What if the other user you share share the computer with is not as responsible as needed to maintain the healthy run of your fine tuned machine? For example, Task Manager lets one disable programs on the StartUp list, but what if someone disables a program that you require to be run at all times? You can educate the users, of course, but wouldn't it be nice to prevent the users from running Task Manager altogether and thus prevent them from using this tool to mess up the system?

Folder Guard to the rescue! You can use Folder Guard to set up a restriction that would prevent users from running its executable file. You, the administrator, would still be able to run Task Manager when needed, after entering your password to pause the protection performed by Folder Guard. Here is how to do it:

1. Run Folder Guard as usual to change its protection settings, select the Restricted view of its window, and press the Restrict a file or a folder link:

Folder Guard list of the restricted files and folders

2. When the wizard starts, press Browse for file and select the following file:

C:\Windows\System32\Taskmgr.exe

Select Taskmgr.exe as the file to restrict access to

Press Next and on the Visibility Restrictions page leave the visibility default, which means that Folder Guard will not restrict the visibility of this file. Why? Because for our purposes we don't care if this file is visible or not, what we want is restrict access to this file, not hide it from the view:

Select default visibility for Taskmgr.exe

The next page is where we are actually setting up the restriction that will prevent users from accessing the Task Manager executable file. Select the No Access option:

Restrict access to Taskmgr.exe

Press OK to close the wizard, and then press the Protect or Apply buttons on the toolbar to make the changes we've made to take effect:

Apply changes to the restrictions to Taskmgr.exe

Now you can exit Folder Guard application (confirm that you want the protection to remain in effect after exiting the application).

The last but not least: restart Windows, by pressing the Start button and choosing Power - Restart from the menu. This restart is necessary because Windows might be already using the Task Manager files, before you've set up the restriction. After the restart, Windows will be forced to reload the files, and our restriction would prevent it from doing that.

After Windows has been restarted, if someone attempts to open Task Manager, they will be presented with a message like this instead:

Access denied to Windows Task Manager

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That should stop other users from using Task Manager, but what if you, the administrator, need to use it at some point? You can just pause the protection, and then resume the protection after you are done using Task Manager.

Happy computing!

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Take ownership of your files after access denied due to NTFS permissions

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If you check the properties of the main storage device of your Windows computer, chances are you will see that it uses the NTFS file system. This is a very powerful and flexible system that Microsoft designed to keep your files organized between folders, keep track of which user can open which files, prevent malicious programs from messing up the system files and so on.

When you are coping your files to an external hard drive formatted with the NTFS file system, you may not realize it but you are not only copying the contents of the files, you are also copying their attributes, including the security attributes. Depending on how this drive was formatted, the security attributes could be such that only you, the owner of these files, are allowed to open them, but other users should be restricted from doing that. Usually it all works well, until it does not. For example, if you've purchased a new laptop and attached the external drive to it hoping to get your files as you did many times in the past, but suddenly you are presented with a message saying "access denied":

Access denied due to NTFS permissions

Before we continue, keep in mind that there could be several other reasons for the "access denied" message. For example, if you are accessing a network folder, shared from another computer, the access could be denied because the folder was shared in such a way as not to allow access to your user account. Or, the folder could be restricted by using an access control program such as our Folder Guard. If none of such conditions apply, then most probably the culprit is the NTFS permissions.

Also, a word of caution: changing the owner and security properties of files and folders is a powerful technique that, if used improperly, could lock you out of your files. Don't change the security settings of the system files and folders because you may lock yourself out of Windows itself and prevent your computer from starting properly. If you don't quite understand what's going on with the security of your files, ask someone more knowlegable for help, don't change something you don't understand because that can make things worse! Follow the instructions below at your own risk.

If you see the access denied message, the first thing to check is the security settings of the folder you are trying to open. In our example, it's the root folder of the drive F:. In File Explorer, open the This PC folder, right-click on the F: drive, choose Properties from the menu, and finally select the Security tab. Chances are you will see a screen similar to the following:

Security settings restricted due to NTFS permissions

Let's follow the suggestion displayed and press the Advanced button:

Advanced security settings of an NTFS folder

As you can see, Windows has restricted itself even from displaying the current owner of the folder! Fortunately, this is easy to fix. If you are the administrator of the computer, you can take ownership of the folder. Click on the Change text on the second line:

Changing the owner of an NTFS folder

You can type your user name directly in the box or, if you are not sure, press Advanced and then the Find now button to display the list of users and groups, and select your user name in the list (which is User in our example, but in your case it will be probably something resembling your real name, like Joe Doe:)

Selecting the owner of an NTFS folder in the list or users and groups

Press OK once or twice to return to the Advanced Security Settings screen and you should now see the user name you've just selected on the Owner line:

Changing the owner of an NTFS folder

At this point you have selected your user account as the owner, but the change is not effective yet. To make it take effect, check the box that reads Replace owner on subcontainers and objects so that the new owner would be set not only on the root folder, but also on all files and folders under that root, and press Apply. You may see a prompt similar to the following asking you to confirm:

Replace directory permissions of an NTFS folder

Press Yes and after a while you may see the following message:

Windows prompts to reopen properties of an NTFS folder

What it means is Windows is asking you to close the current screen displaying the properties of the folder and open it again, to make it display the changes. Let's do that, by closing the Advanced Security Settings and Properties screens, and then going back to the This PC folder, right-clicking on the drive F: icon, choosing Properties form the menu and selecting Security. You should see a more informative screen now:

Security properties an NTFS folder after taking ownership

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You should be able to see your user name as the owner and also the list of permissions that your user account has over the root folder, with the check marks in the Allow column and none in the Deny column. To adjust these permissions, press the Edit button.

If the screen looks similar to the example above, you are on the right track. But you are not finished yet: you've only changed the permissions of the root folder, you still probably need to change the permissions of the files and subfolders to allow your user account to actually open the files. To do that, press the Advanced button and select the box at the bottom that reads Replace all child permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object:

Change permissions of the files and subfolders of an NTFS folder

Windows may ask you to confirm this action, press Yes to allow it to proceed. If the drive has a lot of files and folders, it may take quite awhile to finish. When all is done, close the Properties window and try to browse the drive and open the files it contains. You should be able to have a full access now, without any "access denied" messages.

If you see a message about a corrupted Recycle Bin, like the following one:

recycle Bin is corrupted after changing the owner of an NTFS root folder

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It's the result of changing the owner: Windows prevents you from peeking into the Recycle Bin created by the previous owner and retrieving the documents from it that used to belong to the previous owner. (It does not know it was you!) Reply Yes to empty the Recycle bin and it should become ready for use by you.

Happy computing!

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How to disable CAPS LOCK key

If you often find yourself typing long lines of text containing nothing but capital letters, you are probably very fond of the CAPS LOCK key. For the rest of us, the CAPS LOCK key is more of a nuisance than help. Fortunately, there is a way to disable this key, so that when you press it accidentally, it does nothing.

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A quick note before we begin: the instructions below assume you use Windows 10, but they should work for the older versions of Window, such as Windows 7, XP, or Vista, as well. Just keep in mind that you may see slightly different messages or commands. Also, if you share your computer with others, this change will affect all users of the computer, not just you.

To stop the CAPS LOCK key from working, all you need to do is make a small modification to Windows Registry. To do that, right click on the link below, and choose Save link as (or a similar command, depending on your web browser) to download the file disable_caps_lock.reg to your computer:

disable_caps_lock.reg

When the Save As screen appears, make sure to change the file type from Text to All files:

Change the Save As type to All files

Now use File Explorer to open your Downloads folder and double-click on the file that you had just downloaded. It should be listed as disable_caps_lock.reg or just disable_caps_lock, depending on your File Explorer settings. Double-click on it and you will probably see a message similar to the following:

Windows warning about reg file

This warning is expected and is valid: you should not open random files you download from the internet, because if someone tricks you into downloading a malicious file, it can really harm your computer.

Fortunately, the registry files are actually text files that you can examine before letting Windows use them. To be on the safe side, press Cancel for now and then right-click on the file disable_caps_lock.reg, choose Open with from the menu, and then select Notepad as the application to open it with (leave the Always use this app to open .reg files unchecked, because you do NOT want to always open them with Notepad, you only want to do that this one time only.)

Now if the same warning is displayed, press Run and you should see the following text within a Notepad window:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,00,00,3a,00,00,00,00,00

As you can see, this file will modify the entry named Scancode Map under the key Keyboard Layout, which is what we expect. (If you see some other entries in the script, and you don't understand what they mean, get someone who knows more about the Registry for advice before continuing.) By the way, if you cannot download the registry file using the link above because your security software prevents such downloads, you can use Notepad and the text above to create such a file yourself.

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After examining the contents of the file disable_caps_lock.reg with Notepad and making sure the contents is OK, close Notepad and double-click on the file disable_caps_lock.reg again. Press Run this time to proceed and you should see another prompt, this time from User Account Control, asking you to allow Registry Editor to make changes to your computer. Press Yes to allow.

(If you don't see such a prompt and Notepad opens instead Registry Editor, it probably means that you had downloaded the file as a Text file. Go back to the top of this article and read the note about changing the type of the file from Text to All files before downloading it.)

After approving Registry Editor to run, it will probably ask you the third time, are you sure you want to continue? (Windows is really trying hard to keep you safe, isn't it?)

Windows Registry Editor prompt to add to registry

Press Yes one final time and then OK the message informing you that the keys and values have been successfully added to the registry.

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You are almost finished, all that's left to do is restart the computer, by using the Start button and choosing Power - Restart from the menu. After the computer is back on, try pressing the CAPS LOCK key, it should not do anything now.

A final note: if you ever decide that you want the CAPS LOCK key to become operational again, use Registry Editor to delete the Scancode Map value from the Keyboard Layout, and after you restart the computer the CAPS LOCK key should start working again.

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Encryptability vs Folder Guard: which one to choose?


Encryptability

Attack-proof encrypted containers

Encryptability protects your data by creating encrypted containers. When you move a file into such a container, it is encrypted with the AES algorithm, giving it the strongest protection known at this time. When you enter the password to unlock the container, it appears as a Virtual Encrypted Disk, with its own drive letter. When a program needs to open a file stored in the container, the file is decrypted on the fly.
Read more about Encryptability...

Folder Guard

Access control without encryption

Folder Guard restricts access to folders and files dynamically, without encrypting them. When a program attempts to open a file or a folder, Folder Guard intercepts the request and checks whether the request is allowed according to the rules set by the administrator. If necessary, it asks the user to enter the correct password before allowing the request to open the folder to go through.
Read more about Folder Guard...

Which security software is right for you?

Absolute protection of data

If you require your files to be available only to you no matter what, then only the strong encryption provides such protection, so the choice is clear: Encryptability. There currently is no usable method of breaking the AES encryption (and no one anticipates that such a method could be developed any time soon.) With Folder Guard, on the other hand, the files are protected only on your computer, where Folder Guard is installed and enabled. If someone has a physical access to your computer and has sufficient expertise, they could remove the hard drive or disable Folder Guard software and bypass the restrictions. In contrast, removing the hard drive protected with Encryptability or disabling the Encryptability software does NOT remove the protection of the files. The only way to access the encrypted files is by providing the correct password, period.

Instant password protection

If you need quick results and easy reconfiguration of the protection settings, then Folder Guard would be the tool of choice. With Folder Guard, you don't need to go through the lengthy process of creating and configuring an encrypted container. Just select the folder you want to password protect, specify the password, and it's protected instantly.

Password protection of individual folders

With Encryptability you create just one password to protect all files and folders you put into an encrypted container. (However, if you create several encrypted containers, each container can have its own password.) On the other hand, with Folder Guard you can assign a separate password to each folder, and you can even create several different passwords, with different access rights, assigned to the same folder. This way, if you want a user only to view the files but not modify them, you give such a user the "read-only" password. If you trust another user to not only view but also modify the files, you give that user the "full access" password.

Fine-tune the restrictions

Encryptability offers the "all or nothing" protection: after the correct password is provided, all encrypted files and folders within that container become available. Folder Guard, on the other hand, lets you fine-tune the protection settings based on many factors. You can allow only certain programs to access the protected files, while denying such access to others. Or, you can configure the restrictions differently for different user accounts. If you need such flexibility, choose Folder Guard.

Write-protected or full access

Both Encryptability and Folder Guard offer you an option to write-protect the files they control. You may find such an option useful when, for example, you want the files to be available for viewing or printing, but protected from accidental or intentional modification or destruction. The difference is, with Folder Guard it's you, the administrator, who creates the rules and Folder Guard enforces such rules on other users. With Encryptability, it's the end user (most probably you, but could be someone else who knows the password), who selects the option to write-protect the files and folders at the time when the password is entered to unlock the encrypted container.

Stop downloading programs from the Internet

If you want to add security to your files by preventing users from downloading and running programs from the Internet, then Folder Guard offers you a way to set up such restrictions. (Encryptability does not offer such a functionality.)

Prevent running programs from the external drives

Bad guys know that social engineering attacks are of the most sure ways to get behind the firewalls and security software. If you want to be rather safe than sorry, then you can use Folder Guard to stop running programs from the external drives. (Encryptability does not offer such a functionality.)

Prevent copying files to removable drives

One common way of stealing company files is by copying them to the removable drives (such as flash thumb drives). If you want to protect your files from that, you could use Folder Guard to set up the read-only access to the removable drives. This way, people would be able to read files from the external drives, but copying new files back to them would be restricted. (Encryptability does not offer such a functionality.)

So, which one to choose?

It's all up to you and your specific requirements. If you are not sure, you are welcome to download both Encryptability and Folder Guard and give them a try. They both come with a built-in license for a free use during the first 30 days. If you like one of them better, purchase a license online, and use Windows Settings to uninstall the one you don't want. (No hard feelings!)

Happy computing!

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Troubleshooting software removal problems using MSI files

Many software products use the MSI files to install the program files and configure their settings. (MSI stands for MicroSoft Installer, which was later renamed to Windows Installer, but the MSI name stuck.) This technology is used by many, many software products, including our own Encryptability and USBCrypt. It usually works very well, except when it does not, when some unexpected condition occurs in the middle of an installation, and it breaks things, and leave the software in some indeterminate state, not quite installed, but also not quite removed, and the usual methods of dealing with the problem don’t go anywhere.

If you find yourself in such a situation, the best course of action is to try to remove the broken pieces of the software as much as possible, and start from scratch. The exact steps to achieve that depend greatly on the software product that fails to install, and the kind of the problem that caused it to fail in the first place, but generally the first thing to try is to use the troubleshooting tool offered by Microsoft:

Fix problems that block programs from being installed or removed

(If the link above does not work, try this one. ).

To use the tool, click on the link above and choose to run the program. You should see a screen similar to the following:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting tool

Press Next, and on the following screen select the Uninstalling option:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting uninstalling

It should display a list of the programs that were using the MSI technology; select the program you are having a trouble with (in our example, USBCrypt or Encryptability) and press Next:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting program

It should ask you once again to confirm which program you want to try to uninstall:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting confirm uninstall

Press Yes, try uninstall and after a few seconds it should display a screen similar to the following:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting uninstall problem fixed

It means the problem has been fixed. With other programs this would probably be the end of this step of the troubleshooting. Now you would probably want to try to install the previously failed program again, and if it fails again, contact the appropriate software company for more help.

If you are using this information to troubleshoot our software Encryptability and/or USBCrypt, there are a few more steps to do.

First, if you had both Encryptability and USBCrypt installed, you need to remove both of them (because they share the same encryption driver), even if you had a problem with only one package. To do that, repeat the same steps described above: click on the link to run the Microsoft troubleshooting tool, and follow the same steps, but this time select the other product, Encryptability or USBCrypt:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting program

After both Encryptability and USBCrypt have been removed using the tool above, we also need to uninstall the encryption driver that these two products share. Before you do that though, run Registry Editor (RegEdit.exe) and look for the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ WinAbility Encryption Driver Clients

(Please be very careful when using the Registry Editor! Do not change or delete anything there unless you know what you are doing. If you are not comfortable with it, ask a more knowledgeable fried or a colleague to help with it.)

If the WinAbility Encryption Driver Clients key does not exist, it’s fine, close Registry Editor and continue. If this key does exist, rename it to some thing else, by right-clicking on the key, and choosing Rename from the menu. Give it a different name, for example WinAbility Encryption Driver Clients – old. Close Registry Editor when done.

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting uninstall driver

Now run the Microsoft troubleshooting tool once again and this time choose to uninstall WinAbility Encryption Driver:

Microsoft MSI troubleshooting uninstall driver

Continue with the troubleshooting tool as before until it’s finished. Now you may want to run the Microsoft troubleshooter one final time and make sure that none of the three products of ours are listed there (Encryptability, USBCrypt, or WinAbility Encryption Driver).

Now we should be done using the troubleshooting tool. Before trying to reinstall the software though, one last step to do: run File Explorer, navigate to the folder C:\Program Files and look for the subfolders there named after each of the three programs we are dealing with, Encryptability, USBCrypt, or WinAbility Encryption Driver. If any of such subfolders exists, rename them by appending -old to their names. That is, rename the USBCrypt subfolder to USBCrypt-old, Encryptability to Encryptability-old, and WinAbility Encryption Driver.1.2.3.4 to WinAbility Encryption Driver.1.2.3.4-old (the actual version numbers would be different of course.) If there are folders named USBCrypt-backup and Encryptability-backup, rename them as well by appending -old to their names, too.

At this point the possible problems with the MSI installations should be fixed and the remnants of the failed installs moved out of the way.

Restart the computer (don’t skip this!) by pressing the Start button and choosing Power – Restart from the menu, then download fresh copies of Encryptability and/or USBCrypt, and run the setup file(s) to install the software again. If the previous troubleshooting steps has been completed successfully, the installations should finish successfully this time.

What about all those -old subfolders you had renamed with File Explorer you might be asking? After the products have been installed successfully, the -old subfolders are no longer needed, you may want to delete them with File Explorer.

Happy computing!

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Encryptability: Compare Personal and Business Licenses

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We offer two kinds of licenses for the continued use of Encryptability: personal and business.

The personal license is available for purchase at a discount, and it entitles you to use Encryptability for the home, personal use only. For example, you can use Encryptability under the personal license to create Virtual Encrypted Disks to keep your personal files: documents, photos, videos, tax returns, financial records, and so on.

However, if you use Encryptability to encrypt any files related to your business or employment, you must purchase the business license.

The functionality of Encryptability under the personal or business license is the same, except that when Encryptability is registered with a business license, it gives you additional choices of the encryption algorithms:

Algorithm available with: Encryptability personal licenseEncryptability business license
AES-128YesYes
AES-256YesYes
Twofish-128 Yes
Twofish-256 Yes
AES-Twofish-512 Yes
XTS modeYesYes
CBC mode Yes

AES-128 stands for Advanced Encryption Standard  with 128-bit key, and AES-256 selects the same AES algorithm but with the 256-bit key.

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Twofish-128 stands for Twofish  algorithm with a 128-bit encryption key, and Twofish-256 means Twofish encryption with a 256-bit key. Finally, the choice of AES-Twofish-512 gives you the cascade encryption  algorithm that is a combination of AES-256 and TF-256 with the effective key length of 512 bit.

The XTS encryption mode  is considered the best choice at the time of this writing. Business customers can also select the CBC mode  which is an older standard that has some deficiencies, but may be required for compliance with some requirements you might have.

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Solved: How to add Group Policy and Local Security Policy to Windows 10 Home

If you like to tweak various hidden settings of Windows 10, you've undoubtedly encountered many methods that mentioned the use of Group Policy editor (GPEdit.msc) or Local Security Policy editor (secpol.msc). However, such tools are only available for the Windows 10 Pro users and if your edition is Windows 10 Home you are out of luck: if you tried to use nay of these tools, you have probably encountered an error message saying they were unavailable. If this situation was frustrating to you, you would be glad to know that both Group Policy and Local Security Policy editors are actually available in Windows 10 Home, they are just not configured for use. (Those Microsoft marketing people can sure find sneaky ways to nudge you toward upgrading to the Pro edition of Windows, don't they?)

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In any case, this article is intended to show how to create a simple batch file (using Windows Notepad) that would perform the necessary configuration to enable Group Policy and Local Security Policy editors for use in Windows 10 Home edition.

Before you continue, though, a word of CAUTION: the instructions below worked for us in out test lab at the time they were being prepared, but they MAY NOT WORK for your specific computer configuration. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PROVIDED "AS-IS" WITHOUT A WARRANTY OF ANY KIND. BY CHOOSING TO USE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION, YOU ASSUME THE ENTIRE RISK OF SELECTION, APPLICATION, AND USE OF THE INFORMATION. INDEPENDENT OF THE FORGOING PROVISIONS, IN NO EVENT AND UNDER NO LEGAL THEORY, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, TORT, CONTRACT, OR STRICT PRODUCTS LIABILITY, SHALL WINABILITY SOFTWARE CORPORATION OR ANY OF ITS SUPPLIERS BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON OR ENTITY FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF GOODWILL, WORK STOPPAGE, COMPUTER MALFUNCTION, OR ANY OTHER KIND OF COMMERCIAL DAMAGE, EVEN IF WINABILITY SOFTWARE CORPORATION HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. THIS LIMITATION SHALL NOT APPLY TO LIABILITY FOR DEATH OR PERSONAL INJURY TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY APPLICABLE LAW. IN NO EVENT SHALL WINABILITY SOFTWARE CORPORATION'S LIABILITY FOR ACTUAL DAMAGES FOR ANY CAUSE WHATSOEVER, AND REGARDLESS OF THE FORM OF ACTION, EXCEED THE AMOUNT OF THE PURCHASE PRICE PAID FOR THE SOFTWARE LICENSE OR ONE UNITED STATES DOLLAR, WHICHEVER IS THE GREATER.

IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO FULLY ACCEPT THE RISK OF USING THIS INFORMATION, STOP HERE. If you do agree, BACKUP YOUR ENTIRE WINDOWS SYSTEM INSTALLATION before continuing.

Let's create a simple batch file that would perform the tasks needed. With File Explorer, navigate to the folder where you want to store the batch file. It could be almost any folder, for example the Downloads folder should work just fine. Now select all text in the box below (by clicking it with the mouse and pressing Ctrl+A), then press Ctrl+C to copy the text.

Now use Windows Start menu to run Notepad and press Ctrl+V to paste the text you've just copied into an empty Notepad window. Finally, use File - Save As on the Notepad menu to save the file to the Downloads folder. Give the file an appropriate name, such as Install-GPEdit.bat (make sure that the name ends in .bat) and, before pressing the Save button, make sure to select All files in the Save as type list:

Saving Install-GPEdit.bat file

Now back to File Explorer, right-click on the file you've just saved and choose Run as Administrator. You should be prompted to enter any key to continue, or you can press Ctrl and C at the same time to abort the procedure if you've changed your mind. If you do want it to proceed, press any key (the Enter key should work just fine), and after a few seconds the Group Policy and Local Security Policy editors should be installed and available for use with your Windows 10 Home computer:

Running Install-GPEdit.bat file

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To verify the success, press the WIN+R keys and enter gpedit.msc as the command to run. If it opens the Group Policy editor window, it worked. Now try the same WIN+R keys but this time enter secpol.msc as the command. Congratulations, you can now tweak your Windows settings and policies just like Windows 10 Professional users do!

Happy settings tweaking!

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File too large for USB drive? Here is how to fix it.

If you've encountered an error while copying a large file (4 GB or larger) to a USB drive that has plenty of free space, reporting that the file is too large, it's probably because the USB drive has been formatted with the FAT32 file system that has a limit on how large a file it can have.

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There is an relatively easy fix for the problem of a file being too large for the USB drive: you need to change the file system of the removable drive from FAT32 to a more modern system, such as exFAT of NTFS.

Before you proceed, check the USB drive you are about to modify for any important files of yours, and if it has some, copy them out of the drive to some other location (such as the PC or a different removable drive). This is necessary because changing the file system of a drive will automatically erase its contents.

After double-checking to make sure it's OK to erase the removable drive, while it's still attached to the PC, open the This PC folder, right-click on the USB drive in question (make sure it's the correct one!) and choose Format from the right-click menu. When the Format screen appears, select exFAT or NTFS from the File system list:

Changing the file system of a USB drive by formatting it

If you are not sure which one to choose, select exFAT: it has more support from non-windows device manufacturers, so if for example, you would want to use the USB drive with a Mac or Linux computer, chances are they will be able to open the files from the drive without any additional tweaking. If, however, you intend on using the drives with older Windows computers, such as Windows XP, then select NFTS, because exFAT is a relatively new format that may not be recognized by the old computer.

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While you are deciding on which file system to select, you may also want to enter a Volume Label for the drive, such as Photos, or Movies, or some other short text to remind yourself what this drive you are going to use for. This label will be displayed in the This PC folder next to the USB drive letter.

Another option to select is Quick Format: if it's on, the file system of the drive will be replaced with the new one without erasing the whole drive, which would be much faster then performing a complete erase.

Press Start to begin the formatting, and when it's done, press Close to dismiss the Format screen. Now you should be able to copy large files to the USB drive even if they are larger than 4GB without encountering errors.

Happy file managing!

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Forget your WI-FI password? Find it in Windows 10 settings

If you need to connect a new device to your WI-FI network, but you can't remember the WI-FI password, because your Windows laptop connects to it automatically, and it's been too long since you had to enter the password, you can easily find out the stored password using the Windows Settings app.

Click on the Windows Start buttons, choose Settings, and click on Network & Internet. When that screen opens, select Status in the left pane, and scroll down to the Network and Sharing Center link:

Network and sharing center link

Click on Network and Sharing Center, and on the next screen click the link to your wi-fi connection:

WI-FI connection properties link

On the WI-FI Status screen, press the Wireless properties button:

WI-FI Status wireless properties button

Finally, on the next screen select the Security tab, click on Show characters, and the wi-fi password should become visible in the Network security key box:

WI-FI password is displayed in the Network security key box

Now you can use this password to connect another device to your WI-FI network.

Happy web surfing!

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What is FAT32 maximum file size limit?

If you'd tried to copy files to a flash drive formatted with the FAT32 file system, you had probably discovered that while the drive worked perfectly for smaller files, it would give an error for large files (such as videos):

The file is too large for the destination file system

If you were wondering why an otherwise perfectly good drive would refuse to accept large files, it's most probably because it was formatted with the FAT32 file system, which has a rather low limit for how large a file it can have. This limit is 4GB-1, or exactly 4,294,967,295 bytes. If a file is larger than that, the FAT32 file system can't store it, and an attempt to copy such a file to a FAT32 formatted drive gives an error.

How to work around the FAT 32 max file size limit

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One way to solve the FAT32 file size limit is not to use the FAT32 file system at all: there are more recent systems to replace it, such as exFAT or NTFS. If you only intend to use the drive with your PC, then either of these systems should work just fine. If you plan to use the drive with non-microsoft devices, then exFAT would probably be a better choice, because exFAT system is supported by a wider range of third-party manufacturers. For example, if you format a micro-SD card with exFAT, chances are your Android phone would be able to recognize it, too.

It's quite easy to change the file system using your PC: you just need to use the format command on the drive. The most important thing to remember is that changing the file system destroyes any existing files on the drive, so before you begin, attach the drive to the PC and make sure it contains no important files of yours. If it does, save them for later by copying them out of the drive to some other folder on the PC.

To actually change the file system, open the This PC folder, right-click on the drive in question, choose Format... from the menu, and finally select the desired file system on the Format screen:

Formatting a FAT32 drive with a different file system

After the formatting is finished, your drive should be ready to accept files larger than 4GB limit with no problems.

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What if formatting the drive is not an option for some reason? In such a case you could still use a FAT32 formatted drive, for example, to transfer a large file between two PCs, but you need to split such a file into several chunks, smaller than the 4GB limit. Unfortunately, Windows does not have a built-in command to split a file into parts. However, you should be able to do that with a third-party tool such as our AB Commander, that offers, among many other tools, the Split and Merge commands designed specifically for such a task. (A free 30-day trial is available, no credit card required.)

Happy file managing!

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