Curtis Johnstone Curtis Johnstone's Personal Blog

November 11, 2013

Tips for Installing Windows 8.1


Creating a Bootable USB Drive

If you want to install Microsoft Windows 8.1 from a USB drive, you will need to make that drive bootable.

If your USB drive contains the Windows 8.1 installation files (i.e. unpacked from the Windows 8.1 .ISO file).

Option #1: A great tip is to use the Windows Diskpart command line tool (available in Windows 7 – just Start | Run | Diskpart.exe) to mark the USB partition as active.   This is required to make it bootable.  The full instructions are available on Microsoft TechNet here: Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive.  If you have already created a partition on the USB drive, you just need to do the following in Diskpart

  1. Select the disk representing the USB drive:
    • “list disk”  (and note the disk ID of the USB drive)
    • “select disk n”
  2. Select the partition
    • “list part”
    • “select part 1”
  3. Mark the partition as Active
    • “mark active”

Option #2: The Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool can be used:

This tool is used to make a bootable USB drive (or DVD) to install Windows 7 or Windows 7 applications, but it also works to take an .iso image of Windows 8 and create a USB bootable version.

Note: in Step 1 you will want to select your Windows 8.1 .iso file.  During Step 2 when the tool asks you to Choose the media type to create your Windows 7 backup – this is actually the destination of the Windows 8 bootable USB drive!  

You should get a screen like this if it all goes correctly:


Booting from a Bootable USB Drive

Newer laps might have a “Legacy” boot menu and a UEFI BOOT menu.  If you cannot boot to your USB drive, try the UEFI option.

UEFI = Unified Extensible Firmware Interface and is a newer replacement for BIOS.

Windows 8 Will Only Install on a GPT Disk

If you are trying to install on a disk, or partition of that disk, that has the older MBR partition table format, you will likely received this error:

The selected disk has an MBR partition table.  On EFI systems Windows can only be installed to GPT disks.”

You can use Diskpart (see above) to convert the disk from MBT to GPT (“select disk n” and then “convert gpt”) but you cannot do this in a dual boot scenario because when you try to convert it to GPT you will get an error: “The operation is not allowed on a disk that contains a pagefile volume” (i.e. the existing Windows 7 operating system).

See “Windows and GPT FAQ” for more information.

Some folks have found solutions to this if you are really motivated: Windows cannot be installed to this disk. the selected disk has an MBR partition tabl – Windows 8 Errors and Crashes

August 15, 2012

How to Check Whether a User has Microsoft SQL Administrator Permissions

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:38 am

Microsoft SQL has a fixed system administrator role named “sysadmin“.

If a Windows user (credentials) has this role, they have system administrator rights.

The sysadmin role is per SQL instance, not per deployed SQL “server”.

To check whether a user has sysadmin rights to a particular SQL instance, follow these steps (as outlined in

I will summarize them here with a couple of slight modifications:

  1. Start SQL Server Management Studio.
  2. Connect to the SQL Instance.
  3. Expand the Security node, and then click Logins.
  4. Find the Windows User and right-click the user’s name, and then click Properties.
  5. Click the check-boxes to give them these two roles:
    • sysadmin
    • public

July 8, 2012

Norwegian Oil & the Philosopher

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:37 am

August 30, 2011

120 Billion Litres of Water Wasted While Brushing Out Teeth!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:20 am

An interesting tid-bit I always wondered about – how much water is wasted while we do things like leave the tap on while brushing our teeth?

Thames Water estimated that leaving the tap running while brushing our teeth is sending about 120 Billion Litres of water down the drain:

November 11, 2010

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Explained

The best explaination of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) – the artist formerly known as Terminal Services – I’ve run across.  The article explains all the sub-features and ways to access RDS from your client.

November 9, 2010

The Best Free Software

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 10:26 pm

Some great new free Windows software I have recently used:

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials:
    • Simple real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that doesn’t impact the resources on your computer.
    • You must run genuine Windows to get it for free.
    • For WinXP (CPU of 500 Mhz or higher), and Vista, and Windows 7 (CPU of 1 GHz or higher)
  2. Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector:
    • Ensure’s your computer is not subject to security risks because of un-patched software.
    • Simple, fast and does a really good job.
  3. YouTube Downloader:
    • It can download YouTube video’s (in their FLV format) and convert them to other video formats.
    • Careful on the install – De-select the options to Install the Toolbar and to Set your home page to Yahoo!
A guy at the MVP dinner mentioned this piece of software – YouTube Downloader:
It can download YouTube video’s (in their FLV format) and convert them to other video form

September 9, 2010

Windows 7 “XP Mode” Feature

Windows 7 has a great feature called “XP Mode” that is not installed by default, but you can download and install if you have the “Genuine Windows” designation (a valid genuine copy of Windows installed).

“XP Mode” allows you to easily spin-up a Windows XP virtual PC.  The primary intent behind the virtual XP image is for Windows 7 Compatibility Mode – being able to quickly and easily run legacy XP applications that are not supported on Windows 7.  There are many other good uses such as if you are trying new software that you think could contain malware or a virus – you get a clean Windows XP machine every time the virtual image starts.

It is called Windows 7 “XP Mode”:

Key notes:

  • The XP Mode is a 500 Mb file which includes the XP virtual hard disk (.vhd file).
  • You will need Windows Virtual PC which is part of the XP Mode download process.
  • I have successfully used the Windows XP .vhd in Windows 2008 R2 HyperV – just create a new VM and point it to the .VHD.
    • You need to install the Hyper-V integration services: select Media | Insert Integration Services Setup Disk from the Virtual Machine Connection window. Note: you will be prompted to upgrade the HAL for the virtual machine and you will need to uninstall any Virtual PC integration add-On first (it will prompt to do this).
  • The XP Mode can be used on a CPU without hardware virtualization.

The original Windows 7 XP Virtual PC (VPC) for compatibility mode allows you turn on Compatibility Mode for a particular application and it will automatically start the VPC.

July 28, 2010

Microsoft Windows Search – Quick Facts

If you are confused about searching on different Windows operating systems, you are not alone.  If you are a Microsoft Outlook user (2007 and greater), the native indexing functionality is required to get the simple and fast Instant Search capabilities in Outlook.

There are 2 native indexing solutions used on Microsoft operating systems:

  1. The ‘legacy’ Indexing Service.  This was used on Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003.  I had issues with it on Windows 2003.
  2. The ‘new’ Windows Search Service.  This is used in Windows 7 and Windows 2008, and I think Windows Vista.

There is a new Windows Search 4.0 available for Win XP SP2+, Windows 2003 R2, Windows Vista SP1, and Windows Server 2008. You can download it here.

You cannot run both the Indexing Service and the Windows Search service on the same machine.

Windows Search Service

Be careful enabling Windows Search on an entire volume (aka disk partition).  This can significantly affect system performance.

For desktop users, you are better to just specify individual locations (folders) using the Indexing Options in the Control Panel.

Note: on Windows Server 2008 R2, this is enabled as a separate feature installed under the File Server role.

More Information & Resources

What are IFilters?

IFilters are components of the indexing service that is able to read a particular type file and expose the associated data to the indexing service. For example, there are default IFilters for a whole bunch of common file types such as Email, Contacts, Word Documents, etc… that have been included with Windows 2000 and subsequent versions.

The native supported file types are listed here:

There are IFilters available as add-on’s available here: Microsoft Windows Search Add-On’s.  There is also an API available for writing your own IFilter if you have been inventive enough to define your own data types.

April 12, 2010

Google Browser Extensions

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:19 pm

Google offers many extensions which add new functionality to your brower:

One I particularly like is “Select to Get Google Maps” extension which allows you to easily generate a Google Map from any address that appears in your web browser:

March 24, 2010

Mayo Clinic Article – Honey: An effective cough remedy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 9:09 pm

Mayo Clinic Question & Answer:

“Is it true that honey calms coughs better than cough medicine does?


from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Drinking tea or warm lemon water mixed with honey is a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. But honey may be an effective cough suppressant, too. In one study, children age 2 and older with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. The honey seemed to reduce nighttime coughing and improve sleep. In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as the cough suppressant dextromethorphan in typical over-the-counter doses. Since honey is low-cost and widely available, it might be worth a try.

However, due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning, never give honey to a child younger than age 1. And remember: Coughing isn’t all bad. It helps clear mucus from your airway. If you or your child is otherwise healthy, there’s usually no reason to suppress a cough. “

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