Author Archives: Andrew

Microsoft Windows Update and Microsoft Security Essentials Won’t Update!

This blog post provides a handful of solutions to fix the Windows Update and Microsoft Security Essentials update issue.

Warning: You use any advice and information within this blog post at your own risk! The writer, nor Small Business Tech are to be held responsible for any problems that occur through actions based upon the advice below.

So I turned my Microsoft Windows Vista computer on and realised it hadn’t updated in a while. So I decided to go and manually run the process. To my surprise I saw the following error:

Windows Update Error

Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running. You may need to restart your computer.

Then via Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) I saw the following error:

Microsoft Security Esssentials Error

Virus and spyware definitions couldn’t be updated. This app couldn’t check for virus and spyware definition updates. Check your Internet or network connection and try again.


What? My Vista computer was truly &*(*! I found my computer wasn’t running the latest operating system updates and the virus database is outdated! Nightmare! It just so happened I had recently upgraded my hard drive, which might be a coincidence. To cut a long (two hours) story short, the solution for me was two-fold:


The solution that worked for me!

Firstly I backed up my important data! Then as an administrator I opened a command prompt and typed sfc /scannow .The software scanned the system and fixed some files. I then did a reboot of the computer.

sfc scannow

Secondly via a command prompt as an administrator I typed net stop wuaserv and pressed enter. Then I typed ren c:\windows\SoftwareDistribution softwaredistribution.old and pressed enter. Finally I turned net start wuauserv and pressed enter. Another reboot and I am able to update again!

A huge thank you to Vicky Maan for the second part of the solution (above), which you can read here.


Other potential solutions.

Now before I reached that two-fold solution I tried out the following, which might work for you. I’ve not included the simple solution of how to turn the Windows Update service off and on. However below are a few other solutions, that you might want to try to resolve this error.


Check your firewall, run malware, trojan and virus scans!

My first thought was whether my firewall was blocking the update process. It is worth investigating whether you or someone else has accidentally blocked the process via your firewall.

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Also you should run a malware, trojan and virus scanner. I ran the Microsoft Windows malicious Software Removal Tool.


Try the Microsoft Fix It software.

I downloaded and ran the free ‘Fix It’ package from Microsoft. It ran quickly and wow it found and repaired an issue with the Windows Update components! Job done, I thought. Alas no, the problem still persisted for me.

Microsoft Fix It


Perhaps try Microsoft’s other tool to fix the issue.

I didn’t get round to trying this tool, but Microsoft also have the ‘System Update Readiness Tool‘.



I’m not saying this blog post is the definitive guide to resolving the Windows Update error, but I hope it saves others time, and you are able to fix the problem within minutes, and not take two hours like it took me!

Encryption Made Easy!

encrypted CDThis blog post is all about encryption for small businesses and freelancers. More specifically this blog post provides some insight into different uses for encryption, and whilst this blog post isn’t aimed at Enterprise level businesses, smaller businesses and home users, should find this post insightful. This blog post does not cover how secure encryption is, nor the types of encryption methods available.

Please note: You use the information in this blog post at your own risk!



Do you have simply passwords or passwords written down in a book? Well these days you can use a password manager such as KeePass to help you manage complex passwords, whilst the passwords themselves are stored within an encrypted file. Then you just need to remember a ‘master’ password, to access your library of passwords. Simple!



Many people worry about their online data, but fail to secure their backups! There is no point having a high security setup on your computer, only for your backups to be insecure. However with the help of Cobain (a Windows app), you can automate your backups, including creating encrypted backups.


Whole machine encryption

Many people would think encrypting their computer is going overboard. However tell that to the people who have experienced data theft through direct access to a computer. I knew a chap who had two laptops stolen within a year. TWICE IN A YEAR!! First someone stole his laptop from his home study, and the second time whilst he was at an airport.

You don’t have to encrypt a whole machine, you could just choose to encrypt a partition, perhaps the OS area or create an encrypted virtual drive for important files and folders. You might want to check out the free TrueCrypt software, which provides a great range of encryption options.


Tablet Computers

Whilst above I’ve been referring to desktop and laptop computers, tablet computers can often be encrypted as well. For example encrypting a Nexus 7 tablet is incredibly easy, as it can be done via the Android OS, but it will take considerably longer to boot up.



You could decide to go further, but if you have no encryption in place, it is important you don’t delay. Plus make sure you can easily access your encrypted data, as too many people have forgotten ‘master’ passwords. Though make sure the master passwords are complex!

I hope this blog post has given you much to think about, and shows how easy it is start encrypting your data.

Backup Tips for Freelancers

hard drives

I thought it was time to chuck some outstanding backup tips for freelancers your way. Though naturally these tips are not just applicable to freelancers, but also cover numerous other circumstances.


Give your email a good old squeeze!

This advice is for those using an email client application with messages stored on their computer.

You setup your snazzy all singing and dancing backup solution, only to discover your email backup goes at a snails pace! Perhaps there are ancient emails that can be removed? Especially those pesky emails with their monster attachments lurking in forgotten folders!

Plus if using an email client such as Thunderbird, you can search for emails based upon attachment status, which makes shifting those bulky emails a breeze. Don’t forget to tidy up your ‘sent items’ folder! Also don’t forget to ‘compact’ your email folders afterwards. Hopefully with as little as thirty minutes of dedicated email cleaning, you should have been able to squeeze your email into shape, and thus speed up your backup.


Encrypt your backups!

Be paranoid, be very paranoid! What would happen if someone broke into your premises or accessed your online storage, and took your backups? Can the thief access your data? As well as making sure your backups are as secure as possible to access, you should also encrypt your backup files! This is easily done using 7-Zip or automated solutions such as Cobian.



When you rely on manually backing up your data, you are in turbulent waters, as people tend to forget or not find time. i.e. I’ll do it tomorrow! Instead automate as much, if not all your backup processes when possible. Documents, Email, MySQL, Website files backup processes can all be automated.


Store your backups at different locations!

Never store your backups just at the same location as the original data. What happens if you are hacked, a fire, theft or another hiccup occurs? For example I use a NAS box with two different hard drives (not setup as RAID) for two backups, and store some backups off-site at another location. You need to find a solution that is right for you.

Small Business – Software to Install on a Fresh Microsoft Windows Installation

B&W Laptop

Ever wondered what software you should install on a fresh Microsoft Windows installation within a small business environment? The other day I had to setup a computer with Microsoft Windows Vista. This blog post details the software that I installed on the fresh install and why. All the software mentioned is free for freelance and small business use.


Firewall and virus protection

After I had fully updated Microsoft Windows Vista with the latest patches, I installed the Comodo Firewall and Microsoft Security Essentials software.


Email client and web browser

I’m a big fan of Mozilla and installed the Mozilla Thunderbird email client and the Firefox web browser. Thunderbird is setup to work with two profiles, both of which handle multiple email accounts and I enjoy the ‘offline’ aspect, such as writing draft emails whilst not connected to a network.

Reluctantly Adobe Flash was installed. Next it was time to install some Firefox ‘add-ons’ to help with web browsing and bookmark management. So Flashblock, Disconnect, Adblock Plus and Xmarks add-ons were installed.


Advanced text editing and PDF reading

Long gone are the days of using the standard text editor and Notepad++ was installed, which provides a great range of features, including tabbed text file editing, syntax highlighting and search and replace.

Sumartra PDF was installed and it is a lightweight PDF reader that enables me to quickly read PDFs.


The office suite and image editing applications

I jumped ship from OpenOffice to LibreOffice which perfectly meets my word processing and spreadsheet needs. LibreOffice’s writer package works well with MS Office docs and both the word processor and spreadsheet applications can export as PDF.

Paint.Net supplements my PSP9 needs and is great for quick image editing requirements, such as cropping, resizing and converting to other file formats.


File backup, compression, FTP and sharing

Cobian Backup is used to automate backups to a NAS box and Dropbox is used for sharing documents across devices and with other people.

For file compression I use 7-Zip these days, which integrates well into MS Windows, but also provides advanced features such as file encryption. For password management I use KeePass, which handles hundreds of passwords.

I occasionally need to log into a FTP server and for a long time the FileZilla FTP Client has been my FTP client of choice.


Noteworthy mention!

I’m not currently using TrueCrypt, but probably will be heading back to this encryption application to perform whole disk encryption.


Time to wrap up this blog post

I’m sure I’ve failed to mention some software, but the above collection of software should provide a healthy dollop of functionality and features that a freelancer or small business requires.