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Tips, Tricks & Hot Topics

How to update your Microsoft Outlook contacts from Gmail.
By David Pirog - Posted: May 20, 2014

Stage 1:

  1. Log in to gmail.com
  2. Click the 'Gmail' drop down near the top left and select 'Contacts'

  3. Select the 'More' drop down and pick 'Export


  4. A popup will load. Check the 'All contacts' and “Outlook CSV format' radio boxes


Stage 2:

  1. Select File | Import and Export... from the menu in Outlook.
  2. Make sure Import from another program or file is highlighted.
  3. Click Next.
  4. Now make sure Comma Separated Values (Windows) is selected.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Use the Browse ... button then select the desired file.
  7. Typically, choose Do not import duplicate items.
  8. Click Next.
  9. Select the Outlook folder you want to import the contacts to. This will usually be your Contacts folder.
  10. Click Next.
  11. Click OK.
  12. Now click Finish.

And you're all done.


Can't get in to your Mac, because you forgot your password?
Follow these three easy steps to get back up and running.

By Tony Pirog - Posted: May 17, 2014

Using a pretty nifty trick you can reset a forgotten Mac password without a Mac OS X installer CD/DVD or any kind of boot drive or recovery partiton, and without having an Apple ID. This is basically the be-all and end-all approach if nothing else works, because it’s guaranteed to get you back into a Mac when the other options are not available, and it works in literally all versions of OS X. The steps may seem a little intimidating at first but I assure you it’s easy if you follow them exactly, here is how to do this in three stages:

Stage 1) Boot into Single User Mode and remove a setup file

  • Restart the Mac holding down the Command+S keys, this will take you into Single User Mode and it’s Terminal interface
  • You’ll need to check the filesystem first:
  • fsck -fy

  • Next, you must mount the root drive as writeable so that changes will save:
  • mount -uw /

  • Now, type the following command exactly, followed by the enter key:
  • rm /var/db/.applesetupdone

    reset forgot mac password

  • After removing the applesetupdone file, you need to reboot, type ‘reboot’ and hit enter

Stage 2) Create a New User Account upon System Boot

You aren’t finished, but the hard part is now over – no more command lines, you’ll now be in the familiar Mac OS X GUI to finish the password reset process. In this step we just create a new user account as if you just got a new Mac:

  • Upon reboot, you will be presented with the traditional “Welcome Wizard” startup screen just like when you first get a Mac
  • Follow the welcome wizard and create a new user account – making the account name different from the account whose password you want to recover
  • Continue on and boot into Mac OS X with this newly created user account, this new user account is an Administrator and has administrative access

Stage 3) Reset the Forgot Password via System Preferences

reset mac passwordYou are almost done, now you just need to reset the forgotten user account password using the Accounts control panel:

  • Once you are booted into Mac OS X, click on the Apple logo and then navigate down to “System Preferences”
  • Click on the “Accounts” icon in System Preferences
  • Click on the Lock icon in the lower left corner of the “Accounts” preference window and enter the newly created user credentials, this enables you to change other user accounts and reset other users passwords
  • On the left side user panel, select the user account containing the forgotten password
  • With the user of the forgotten password account selected, click on the “Reset Password” button
  • Enter a new password for that user, be sure to include a meaningful hint so you don’t forget it again!
  • Close System Preferences and reboot the Mac
  • You can now login to the previously inaccessible user account using the newly reset password! All user files and settings are maintained as before the password was forgotten

If you’d like, you can delete the temporary account you created to reset the users password. This is wise for security purposes.

Here’s how this works: by deleting the .applesetupdone file, you are telling Mac OS X to re-run the setup wizard, which by default creates a new user account with Administrative abilities, which can then reset the forgotten password of any other user on the Mac. This is a great trick and excellent troubleshooting technique if you don’t have a Mac OS X installer CD/DVD laying around, which is pretty much the norm as many people tend to lose or misplace the installer disks that come with their computers. We have used this technique to restore various Macs with forgotten/lost passwords, and it really does work.


What Should You Do If Your Email Account Has Been Hacked

By Tony Pirog - Posted: April 10, 2014

    Just the thought of getting our email account hacked is enough to put most of us into a seriously dark mood. "They'll find out so much about me, know where I bank, get the email addresses of my friends and relatives, and on and on."

    But, if you get hacked, don't dwell on the negatives for too long. The sooner you take some simple actions, the better.

    Here are three simple steps you should follow:

1. Get into your email account ASAP and change your password

Log onto the website of your email provider and change your password. Make sure the new one is long and strong. Use a mixture of upper and lower cases, numbers, punctuation marks, and symbols. Don't use real words or family names. The longer and more complex you make the password, the harder it will be for a hacker to break it.

2. Check all your online accounts

If you use your email account and the same password as the username and password for online accounts -- such as Amazon or Facebook or your banking -- change those accounts also to keep them synchronized, as well as for security..

3. Make sure you can access your email on all your devices

Make sure you can access your email in all your usual places, such as Outlook and Mac Mail, on your phone, tablet, and desktop. You will have to enter the new password on each device.


When Apple tells you your main logic board is bad

By Tony Pirog - Posted: August 2, 2013

    Is the Apple Genius Bar telling you your logic board needs replacing? Do they want $1,400 for the repair? We may be able to save you $1,000! Please call us for a second opinion. You won't regret it.


My computer freezes and hesitates. What should I do?

By Tony Pirog - Posted: May 9, 2013

    When a program on your computer seems to freeze, don't try to force things right away. Wait a few minutes. This happens to me at least once a week, despite the fact that I'm running on a beast of a computer that's kept in tip-top condition. Exactly that just happened to me today. I was trying to copy some text from a file, and everything went screwy. I couldn't save, I couldn't cancel, so I jumped on Facebook for 5 minutes, and when I went back to the frozen app, everything worked fine. I call these hiccups. The operating system gets confused for a bit, but rights itself after a while. It happens to most everyone regardless of how new or powerful their machine.

But it happens all the time!

    If it happens often and you're forced to restart your computer, then you might consider bringing it in. These kinds of symptoms are usually an indication of a damaged hard drive, and could result in loss of data. Please don't wait until your hard drive crashes.


MacOS vs Windows vs Ubuntu...
Which is better? Which should you use? Why?

By Tony and Dave
Posted: March 7, 2013

We've observed that MacOS is slow, clunky and cumbersome compared to Windows. Whenever we've installed Windows on a Mac, it ran much faster than MacOS. Unfortunately for Microsoft, even though Windows (and especially Windows 8) is clearly the vastly superior product in terms of speed, and because it's so widespread, the virus coders target it almost exclusively, and so, I persevered with MacOS for my daily email and web browsing.

Recently a customer had us install Ubuntu Linux on his computer and that got me thinking. So, I decided to install it on my Mac Mini. We were literally blown away by how much faster and smoother it is than MacOS! I have a 2009 Mac Mini with a Core 2 Duo processor, a Solid State Drive, and 8 GB of ram, yet Apple's OS was sluggish and, at times, unresponsive. Now I can feel the speed! No slow-downs, no freeze-ups, everything runs smoothly, and it's fast (unlike MacOS), which is what I expected from a computer with these specifications. I'm telling you Mac users, unless you have specialized software on your Mac that doesn't exist on Ubuntu, come to us and let us do you a favor by installing Ubuntu Linux on your machine. You WON'T regret it!

In fact, if you're a Windows user, and you want to avoid viruses, Ubuntu is 100% safe (unlike MacOS which is mostly safe), and we can even install your Microsoft Office and many other Windows apps in Ubuntu seamlessly! Even if you want to keep your Windows, don't worry you can have both. Perhaps you'd like us to install it on your machine? If so, we're your team. Call and ask for details.

Finally, don't forget we can repair computers from anywhere in the continental USA. You can currently ship anything that fits into a USPS medium flat rate box for under $11. If you have friends or relatives downstate, or in another state, please let them know. Why go to a local amateur or pay big box prices when shipping is so cheap?

Thanks everyone!

Tony, David and Mike


How to rebuild your iTunes library
iTunes icon

A customer came to us looking to clean up his iTunes duplicates and rebuild his iTunes library. As we searched the web for answers, we found that no one seemed to have a good solution so we ended up figuring it out for ourselves.

What follows works on a PC, but we are confident the same technique can be used on a Mac.

Step by step instructions:

  1. Move your iTunes library out of your Music folder (Desktop seems like a reasonable place to move it to.)
  2. Check that the Music folder is empty then open iTunes. It will create a new empty iTunes library.
  3. Exit iTunes.
  4. Delete all the files in the old iTunes base folder (iTunes Library Extras.itdb, iTunes Library Genius.itdb, iTunes Library.itl, iTunes Music Library.xml, and "sentinel.")
  5. Modify the old iTunes music as needed (remove duplicates etc.).
  6. Move the old iTunes library back to your system Music folder.
  7. Open iTunes.
  8. Click on "File", then on "Add Folder to Library," then drill down to your Music folder and select it.

iTunes will now rescan your music folder and rebuild the iTunes library with your modified content.

That's it. You're done! Enjoy your music.


Follow these steps if you want your computer to run faster, longer...
By Tony Pirog.
Posted: April 28, 2011
Image representing Ninite
Over time, as you install more and more programs, you notice that your computer begins to get sluggish. This is preventable if you take a little extra time during the install phase. Almost every program you install will add unnecessary components that start and run in memory every time you boot your computer. What we want to do is minimize the number of programs that run automatically, and prevent those unnecessary extras that get installed when you choose "Express Install."
Here's the easy solution: Go to http://www.ninite.com and see if the program you want is listed there. If it is, select it (and any other programs you might want), download the installer at the bottom of the page, and run. It will install the latest version, without any extras, or unneeded toolbars (like Bing, Google, Yahoo, and Ask). You can also select programs that are already installed to upgrade to the latest version.
If your program isn't listed on Ninite, just follow these simple rules of thumb:
  1. If the installer asks you to choose something like "Express install" or "Custom Install", or in any other way gives you the option to choose the components, always select "Custom" or "Choose ...". DO NOT select "Express" or "Install All".
  2. When you are choosing what to install, carefully uncheck any and all of the following: "Google Toolbar", "Ask Toolbar", "Yahoo", "Bing", "Real Networks", or anything that says "Toolbar."
  3. Complete the installation.
This will keep your browsers uncluttered too.
That's all for now folks!
Check out our new Remote Virus Removal Service HERE

Backing up your data: What YOU need to know.
By Dave and Tony Pirog.
Posted: April 5, 2011

This may be the most important article you will ever read by us!
We know your computer data is important to you. If you haven't done anything about it yet, what's stoppng you? Give us a call. We'd love to help.
Here's some food for thought:
THE PROBLEM
Scenario 1
Customer's desktop crashed and they called us. Their baby was 3 years old and all their baby pictures, from the day he was born, were on the hard drive. They had no other copy! We came armed with our trusty "hard drive to USB" adapter and a laptop, connected them up and there were the pictures, just sitting there nice and pretty. We had other work to do, and the customer told us to leave the pictures till later. We said, "No, let's do it now." So we got the pics copied off first and then we finished the rest of the work. By the time we came back the hard drive was dead and couldn't be revived. The customer almost lost 3 years worth of precious baby pictures!
Lesson #1: Back up your data!
Scenario 2
Customer came to us with a portable hard drive that crashed. He was pleased with himself because he did make a backup. Only problem was, he deleted the originals! Doh! The only copy he had was on the portable drive, and that drive crashed.
Lesson #2: Maintain at least two copies of your data!
Scenario 3
Customer thought he was covered because he had "RAID mirroring" on his computer. Right. All that means is it saves all your data to two disks at the same time. If the main operating system disk fails, all you have to do is replace it with the copy, insert a new one and you're back in business. Problem is he counted on that and didn't have any other backups. Somebody had given him some horrible advice! Long story short, he lost some really important data, and there was no way to get it back.
Lesson #3: One backup solution may not be enough.
SOLUTIONS
RAID Mirroring: This is primarily a quick way to get back up and running and should never be depended on for backing up your data for several reasons. What it doesn't do, is protect your data if the computer is destroyed or stolen. Like any on-site backup solution, a fire, flood, lightning strike, theft of the computer, or other catastrophic event could leave you with no backup at all. This is where keeping multiple external drives and online backup come in.
Multiple external hard drives: We encourage our business customers to buy two portable hard drives, swap them out and take one off site once a week. Then, if their system crashes for any reason they buy a new computer and reload their data fast. If the on-site portable drive gets stolen or damaged, they can bring in the other one while their computer is being rebuilt, repaired or set up, and quickly restore their data without losing more than 7 days worth.
Online backup: Covers the worst case scenario when all on-site hardware has been damaged and up to 7 days of data has been lost. Downloads from off-site locations can be slow, which is why we recommend the portable drive option. The off-site backup by our preferred vendor keeps as constant, complete, up-to-date copies of all your files as possible and allows for the recovery of that lost 7 days of data.
Call us at 888-847-2955 or 630-447-9067 to talk about our recommendations for online backup. Even if you're confident of your backup plan, it might be good to call us in to check it over. It can't hurt to get a second opinion.
Disaster Recovery Plan: Our "Multiple External Drives and Off-site Backup" strategy is low-cost, assures virtually no data loss, and results in minimal disruption. The worst case disaster recovery scenario looks like this:
  1. Buy a new computer or repair the damaged one.
  2. Restore your data using the off-site portable drive.
  3. Make up the balance from the online backup site.
Image copy of system hard drive: The final option we offer and recommend to our business customers is to clone their system hard drive and take it off-site. In the case of a complete system meltdown or hard drive crash, the drive can be brought in, mounted and the system back up and running in no time.
Forensic data recovery: This is what happens when you haven't got a backup. We have a customer who paid a technician to set up their backup, and so thought they were set. When their hard drive crashed they found out that the backup plan didn't work and they were stuck with all their business data on a broken hard drive. They sent it to a lab and paid in the region of $2,000 for forensic recovery, their system was down for 2 weeks, and some of their files were never recovered. Even if you pay through the nose for recovery you can't guarantee all your data back from a damaged drive.
SUMMARY:
For business customers we recommend the following backup strategy:
  1. Clone the hard drive to be kept off-site.
  2. Multiple portable hard drives with nightly backups, swapped out weekly. Nightly backups have to be monitored in case something prevents them from running.
  3. Online backup using our recommended vendor.
  4. Purchase and install uninterruptable power supplies for each computer.
For residential customers recommend at least:
  1. Buy a portable drive.
  2. Set up a nightly backup.
  3. Don't delete the original files from your computer.
It's still a good idea to sign up for online backup. Seriously, one backup really isn't good enough.
No one is twisting your arm, but if you don't act, and your hard drive crashes we'll be delighted to take your money to recover the data. We prefer if our customers and clients are educated and knowledgeable enough to know better though. Please do yourself a favor: spend the time and implement a backup plan so that you won't need to panic when calamity hits. We've told you what needs to be done, so what's stopping you?
CONTACT US:
Call if you need help setting up the right backup plan for your needs and budget, or if you need someone to review your current backup plan. Once again, our number: 888-847-2955 or 630-447-9067.

Computer Hardware Recommendations
Posted on March 11, 2011 by Tony Pirog

We just received an email from TECHNIBBLE (a web site chock full of great information for Computer Technicians) discussing computer (and computer peripheral) brands. They had asked their readers to tell them their opinions, and the results of the survey were presented.

People often ask us our opinion on which brand is best, so we thought this would be a good time to present a summary of the technibble results for non technicians, with our comments added (in blue).

Most Liked Hardware Brands:

Laptops:

  • Lenovo/IBM - Enthusiastic agreement. “These computers are built to never break and they use the best quality parts. If you buy a Lenovo it's almost like buying a Mac as far as parts quality is concerned” – Dave
  • ASUS - Interesting. We see very few, so we defer to our colleagues and endorse ASUS.
  • Toshiba - Hard to believe. This is probably the second on our list of most repaired brands.
  • Dell (mid-high priced stuff) - We definitely endorse the high end Dell machines.

Hard Drives:

  • Western Digital Black (Most highly recommended)
  • Western Digital other
  • Seagate

Printers:

  • Epson – We love our Epson Workforce 600 All-In-One.
  • Samsung
  • Xerox
  • Brother (Laser)
  • Canon
  • HP (high end) - see below for why we do not recommend low-end HP's.

Most Hated Hardware Brands:

Laptops

  • HP/Compaq - No surprise there. This is number 1 on our list due to the sheer volume of HP's we consistently see needing repair.
  • Sony- No surprise here either.
  • Acer/Gateway/eMachines - Even though all made by Acer, we don't see many “Acer” brand machines. Gateway however tend to be problematical.

We rate HP number 1 on our “worst list,” followed by Gateway. We're not huge fans of the cheaper Dells either.

Hard Drives

  • Fujitsu
  • Maxtor
  • Hitachi

Printers

  • HP (low-mid end): “Support is dismal, the drivers are bug ridden and bloated (often many hundreds of megabytes in size) and the running costs (ink etc.) are high.” - Agreed.
  • Lexmark

Brand Specific Comments:

Acer/Gateway/eMachines/Packard Bell

Gateway, eMachines and Packard Bell are all owned by Acer so these have been grouped together. These brands were hated across the board because of their low quality hardware.

Apple

Apple was in the middle with the Computer Technicians. Most people said that Apple generally has excellent support but if your hardware fails out of warranty, its probably going to be an expensive endeavor to fix it. Some people did express their displeasure of the overall price of Apple hardware.

Brother

Brother laser printers got a few mentions both good and bad. However, there were more people saying they liked Brother laser printers than those who said they didn't like them.

Dell

Many technicians didn't like their weird custom built hardware but they did say that they had fairly good support. Some technicians liked the fact that Dell usually provides restore CDs to make a technicians job easier. The readers also mentioned that their high end server and enterprise products were great.

Epson

Good reliable printers, streamlined drivers and cheap running costs.

Hewlett-Packard/Compaq

HP seemed to be hated by just about all of the Computer Technicians who responded with the exception of their high end server and enterprise products which are apparently very good. The low end HP printers seem to be the main cause of the hate towards HP. The support is dismal, the drivers are bug ridden and bloated (often many hundreds of megabytes in size) and the running costs are high. Most technicians said to avoid HP at all costs.

Lenovo

Lenovo makes good and study laptops. Many technicians said they just don't see them fail much.

Lexmark

Lexmark received a lot of hate, mainly for their printers poor build quality, bad drivers and even worse support.

Samsung

Samsung laser printers got a few mentions as being great, low priced but reliable printers. Some readers said they didn't like Samsung printers and laptops.

Seagate

The battle between Seagate and Western Digital was interesting. Some users said that they hate Western Digital hard drives and will only ever buy Seagate, while others said they love Western Digital and will never touch a Seagate.

Toshiba

Toshiba laptops has some good mentions, especially their mid-price and higher models.

Western Digital

Same as Seagate. However, many technicians that said they liked Western Digital hardware specifically mentioned the Western Digital Black product line.

Xerox

Xerox was mentioned a few times by the readers saying that their laser printers are great.

Final Thoughts:

These results may be slightly skewed against some of the bigger names. When a Technician says that they see a lot of failed Acer laptops come into the shop, we need to keep in mind that there is a huge amount of Acer laptops out there. One person mentioned this skewing of results by giving the following example:

"It's like saying 90% of the cancer victims in Seattle, WA, worked at Boeing. Well, 90% of the people in Seattle WORK at Boeing."

Having said that, some brands such as HP was on just about everyone's hate list. So although HP is very common, being on everyones hate list is quite telling about the brand.


IM (Instant Messaging) Web App recommendation
(Posted January 4th, 2011)
Do you use Instant Messaging a lot, but don't always have your favorite software available? Want to use Instant Messaging but your boss doesn't permit you to install the software? Are you frustrated and lonely during the work day because you can't keep in touch? Here's what we use: http://www.imo.im. Try it, it's free, and you can sign in to all your favorite IM apps.

Note: you can also download it to your Android phone using the Market app. I have it and it works great!

Open Office, an excellent alternative to Microsoft Office
(Posted December 19th, 2010)
So long as you don't use Microsoft Outlook (we do not recommend Outlook as there are many great alternatives that don't get you locked into paying Microsoft forever), Open Office is free, legal and Open Source and can do just about anything Microsoft Office can do.
Click on the image below to download it now:

 
We have to make some simply configuration changes to make Open Office compatible with Microsoft Office. (You only have to do this one time!):
  1. Open any Open Office App.
  2. Click on "Tools" and select "Options" from the dropdown.
  3. On the next screen, click on the "+" next to "Load/Save".
  4. Under "Load/Save" click on "General".
  5. Then on the right at the bottom of the pane, select the three document types (text, spreadsheet and presentation) and choose "Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP", "Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP", and "Microsoft Powerpoint 97/2000/XP" respectively.
  6. Then, right above these, uncheck "Size optimization for ODF" and "Warn when not saving in ODF..."
  7. Finally, click on the OK button
That's it! Done! Enjoy!

SuperAntiSpyware: An excellent companion to your anti virus software
(Posted December 10th, 2010)
No matter what anti virus programs you have, SuperAntiSpyware is fully compatible and will keep you that much safer from being afflicted by some demented hacker's idea of fun.
Click on the picture below to download SuperAntiSpyware free edition:
 


What to do if you are flagged as having an Un-Genuine copy of Windows 7
(Posted August 5th, 2010)
 
For those of you who installed the Microsoft Windows 7 Activation Checker update (KB971033) you can still uninstall it. The reason users such as you may want to do so is because it is rumored that this update creates a new process/service that will slow down your system and that it may monitor the user. Some consider it to be "malicious software."
Click HERE to download instructions.

XP Repair install
(Posted August 15th, 2010)
  1. Boot the computer using the XP CD. You may need to change the boot order in the system BIOS so the CD boots before the hard drive. Check your system documentation for steps to access the BIOS and change the boot order.
  2. When you see the "Welcome To Setup" screen, you will see the options below:
    This portion of the Setup program prepares Microsoft Windows XP to run on your computer:
    To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER.
    To repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console, press R.
    To quit Setup without installing Windows XP, press F3.
  3. Press Enter to start the Windows Setup.
    To setup Windows XP now and Repair Install , press ENTER. do not choose "To repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console, press R", (you Do Not want to load Recovery Console). I repeat, do not choose "To repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console, press R".
  4. Accept the License Agreement and Windows will search for existing Windows installations.
  5. Select the XP installation you want to repair from the list and press R to start the repair. If Repair is not one of the options, END setup.

Tune up your startup programs: XP, Vista and Windows 7
(Posted February 23rd, 2010)
  1. Go to Start (windows orb in Vista, 7)
  2. Click on Accessories, and then Command Prompt
  3. Type "msconfig" and hit enter.
  4. Click on the "Startup" tab.
  5. Uncheck any programs you don't need. (If you don't recognize it, you probably don't need it.)
  6. Click the OK button.
  7. Reboot and you're done! Should speed things up a lot.

Click on the Avira logo below to download our recommended free anti virus program. Select the "Personal - Free" edition.
(Posted December 3rd, 2010)
Avira

Disable UAC (User Account Control - that annoying prompt every time you try to change anything) in Vista
(Posted September 21st, 2009)
  • Launch MSCONFIG by from the Run menu, or from a Command Prompt.
  • Click on the Tools tab. Scroll down till you find "Disable UAC". Click on that line.
  • Press the Launch button.
  • A CMD window will open. When the command is done, you can close the window.
  • Close MSCONFIG. You need to reboot the computer for changes to apply.

IE8 Running Slow? Try This:
(Posted September 20th, 2009)
Many people who install IE8 complain that it runs very slowly, sometimes completely bogging down their systems. This type of behavior usually signals a problem with system resources, but there may be a simple fix. Run this simple command from RUN under START, or from a Command Prompt:
    regsvr32 actxprxy.dll
This re-registers the ActiveX Interface Marshaling Library, an obscure DLL that most people (even Microsoft experts) have never heard of. (Note that if you try this using Windows Vista, you must do this from an elevated Command Prompt window; type cmd in the Start menu Search box, right-click the Cmd.exe shortcut, and then choose Run As Administrator.)
I did this on all my computers, and the results were astonishing. IE8 is stable as well as performing faster. Best of all, it starts faster. You know that irritating "Connecting" message? It is virtually eliminated.

Windows XP Registry Hacks:

    1. Right mouse on the links.
    2: Save to computer.
    3: Double click to add to your registry.

Cool Dark XP Themes
(Posted November 7th, 2009)
  • Download, unzip and run the executable. Then go to themes, and choose Royale.
    Royale Blue Theme
  • Download, unzip and open "Read Me.txt" then follow the instructions. Must install Royale theme (above) first.
    Royale Black Theme

Free Windows Apps:

Browsers.
(These are all better than Internet Explorer!)