Windows Server Essential Remote App is here!–My Server for Windows 8

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Here is something new from Microsoft! My Server App is a port of the Windows Phone version, and those of use that use the app on Windows Phone know this app is to Access and Manager your Windows Server Essentials, i.e. the Home Server replacement for Server 2012. The functionality is basically the same, but I expect Microsoft to add more features to this app as time goes on. Here is Microsoft’s description from the Store:

Description
My Server for Windows 8 is an application designed to help you keep seamlessly connected to your server resources through devices running Windows 8. With My Server, you can manage users, devices, alerts, and access shared files in Windows Server 2012 Essentials.  In addition, files that you have recently accessed with My Server files continue to be available to you even when offline.

Features
Browse, edit and search files stored on your server
Manage users, devices, and alerts
Share local resources to server or save server resources locally
Access files that you opened recently even without an Internet connection. The changes made offline will be automatically synchronized to the server when online
Playback of media files stored on server

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This is an app to get if you treasure remote access to your files and media on your Home Server. Download now straight away from the Store via the link below.

Source: Windows Store

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The Case of Messed-up Microsoft Security Essentials Install

 

I set out to respond to Mark Russinovich’s blog over his frustration in Installing Microsoft Security Essentials but my response got out of hand so I decided to blog it here as below:

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Yes, a very recognizable situation Mark. I have faced this foe multiple times I can tell you there is nothing more frustrating to troubleshoot and more satisfying after you traced it and fixed it.

But first, my comment on Microsoft OEMs and Crapware: It is time Microsoft take the bull by the horn and stop this despicable activities on the part of the OEMs. They are destroying the Platform with the load of crapware they dump on new systems. One have to wonder if they do this out of malice. I don’t have any other explanation for their actions. They intentionally bog down a perfectly working system with load of things a user will never use. I don’t think its only as a result of financial remunerations. We need to wrest the platform from them and restore sanity.

Now back to MSSE: I have had to remove temporary AVs from family and friends systems so as to install MSSE, and I can confirm your frustration of broken uninstalls.

But where I face the most challenge is when they download trojans on their systems,  and I am eventually called that the system is slow as snail, or downright BSoD on them. Which begs the question, how are they able to download virus and trojans on a system if MSSE is doing its job well? The answer is simple: Social Engineering.

I have made sure on every computer I manage for friends and family everyone run as Standard User! I always create a Single administrator Account called “Admin” in which I do installs and maintenance. But my problem is I always have to give them the Admin account password. I still can’t convince them that they should let me keep the account for them for their own good. Then you get the response, the PC is mine, why do I have to call you every time I have to install something.

So that is my dilemma, secured the OS, but have to give the key to the owner, and most of them are so susceptible to social engineering. The virus downloader always get them to enter the Admin account password. So they install Trojan as Admin, which promptly disables and messes up the AV install.

So, I have adopted a modus operandi, after cleaning out the virus/rootkit/trojan etc, the first thing I do is de-install MSSE with the option to remove all references to MSSE registry keys. Mark, all your efforts in this blog could have been saved if you ran the MSSE install with the /U key. Yup, just:
C:\MyInstallFloder\mseinstall-x86fre-en-us.exe /u

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The /U option puts MSSE in uninstall mode, which removes the keys of the previous installs. After that you can run the Install file normally without the option. I have had success this way time and time again.

But just before the holidays, I got a call from my brother, and you guessed right, infected again. The kids have installed some stupid game via a P2P site. After I chided him for giving the kids the admin password, I got to work. Removed the virus by running MS Standalone System Sweeper, which removed the virus and rootkits with the offline scanning mode.

Then I proceeded to remove the old MSSE Reg keys and perform its cleanup. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t uninstall the old install, neither could I install MSSE anew. I noticed whatever I tried to install fails. I was suspecting the MSIExec was damaged, searched the net till I dropped, I couldn’t find any solution.

I dove into MSSE install log, got some cryptic information of failure, something about AppData. So I went online and perused MS KB sites. I found the gem! The AppData entries was intentionally corrupted by the virus/Trojan!

Normally your AppData key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders\AppData is set to the value: %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming.

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But in my brother’s case the virus set the value to “%AppData%”. So in a CMD prompt, if you try to verify you Shell Folders by typing: ECHO %APPData% you will get “%AppData%” back instead of the normal: C\Users\MyName\AppData\Roaming as shown in that cmd prompt screenshot above.

Clever little bastards! Just by changing that string, they made sure you can’t install anything, you can’t install Updates, you can’t install AVs that will remove the virus. It was a learning exercise for me, but it cost me 3 precious days of my life. I hope with this you guys don’t have to pull out you hairs trying to fix MSSE or MSIExec or any Install issues!

Mazel-tov,
McAkins