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  1. malakai1911

    Comprehensive Security Guide

    Comprehensive Security Guide NOTE: As of 1/1/2019 this guide is out of date. Until parts are rewritten, consider the below for historical reference only. i. Foreword The primary purpose of this guide is to offer a concise list of best-of-breed software and advice on selected areas of computer security. The secondary purpose of this guide is to offer limited advice on other areas of security. The target audience is an intermediately skilled user of home computers. Computer software listed are the freeware versions when possible or have free versions available. If there are no free versions available for a particular product, it is noted with the "$" symbol. The guide is as well formatted as I could make it, within the confines of a message board post. ii. Table of Contents i. Foreword ii. Table of Contents 1. Physical Security a. Home b. Computer c. Personal 2. Network Security a. Hardware Firewall b. Software Firewall 3. Hardening Windows a. Pre-install Hardening b. Post-install Hardening c. Alternative Software d. Keep Windows Up-To-Date 4. Anti-Malware a. Anti-Virus b. HIPS / Proactive Defense c. Malware Removal 5. Information and Data Security a. Privacy / Anonymity b. Encryption c. Backup, Erasure and Recovery d. Access Control (Passwords, Security Tokens) 6. Conclusion 1. Physical Security I just wanted to touch on a few things in the realm of physical security, and you should investigate physical and personal security in places other than here. a. Home How would you break in to your own home? Take a close look at your perimeter security and work inwards. Make sure fences or gates aren't easy to climb over or bypass. The areas outside your home should be well lit, and motion sensor lights and walkway lights make nice additions to poorly lit areas. If possible, your home should have a security system featuring hardwired door and window sensors, motion detectors, and audible sirens (indoor and outdoor). Consider integrated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for safety. Don't overlook monitoring services, so the police or fire department can be automatically called during an emergency. Invest in good locks for your home, I recommend Medeco and Schlage Primus locks highly. Both Medeco and Schlage Primus locks are pick-resistant, bump-proof, and have key control (restricted copying systems). Exterior doors should be made of steel or solid-core wood and each should have locking hardware (locking doorknob or handle), an auxiliary lock (mortise deadbolt) with a reinforced strike plate, and a chain. Consider a fireproof (and waterproof) safe for the storage of important documents and valuables. A small safe can be carried away during a robbery, and simply opened at another location later, so be sure and get a safe you can secure to a physical structure (in-wall, in-floor, or secured to something reasonably considered immovable). You may be able to hide or obscure the location of your safe in order to obtain some additional security, but don't make it cumbersome for yourself to access. b. Computer Computers are easy to just pick up and take away, so the only goal you should have is to deter crimes of opportunity. For desktop computers, you may bring your desktop somewhere and an attacker may not be interested in the entire computer, but perhaps just an expensive component (video card) or your data (hard drive), and for that I suggest a well-built case with a locking side and locking front panel. There are a variety of case security screws available (I like the ones from Enermax (UC-SST8) as they use a special tool), or you can use screws with less common bits (such as tamper resistant Torx screws) to secure side panels and computer components. There are also cable lock systems available for desktop computers to secure them to another object. For laptop computers, you are going to be primarily concerned about a grab-and-go type robbery. There are a variety of security cables available from Kensington, which lock into the Kensington lock slot found on nearly all laptops, which you can use to secure it to another object (a desk or table, for example). Remember though, even if it's locked to something with a cable, it doesn't make it theft-proof, so keep an eye on your belongings. c. Personal Always be aware of your surroundings. Use your judgment, if you feel an area or situation is unsafe, avoid it altogether or get away as quickly and safely as possible. Regarding hand to hand combat, consider a self-defense course. Don't screw around with traditional martial arts (Karate, Aikido, Kung-Fu), and stay away from a McDojo. You should consider self-defense techniques like Krav Maga if you are serious about self defense in a real life context. I generally don't advocate carrying a weapon on your person (besides the legal mess that may be involved with use of a weapon, even for self-defense, an attacker could wrestle away a weapon and use it against you). If you choose to carry any type of weapon on your person for self-defense, I advise you to take a training course (if applicable) and to check with and follow the laws within the jurisdiction you decide to possess or carry such weapons. Dealing with the Police Be sure to read Know Your Rights: What to Do If You're Stopped by the Police a guide by the ACLU, and apply it. Its advice is for within the jurisdiction of the US but may apply generally elsewhere, consult with a lawyer for legal advice. You should a;so watch the popular video "Don't talk to the police!" by Prof. James Duane of the Regent University Law School for helpful instructions on what to do and say when questioned by the police: (Mirror: regent.edu) Travelling Abroad Be sure and visit the State Department or Travel Office for your home country before embarking on a trip abroad. Read any travel warnings or advisories, and they are a wealth of information for travelers (offering guides, checklists, and travel advice): (US, UK, CA). 2. Network Security As this is a guide geared towards a home or home office network, the central theme of network security is going to be focused around having a hardware firewall behind your broadband modem, along with a software firewall installed on each client. Since broadband is a 24/7 connection to the internet, you are constantly at risk of attack, making both a hardware and software firewall absolutely essential. a. Hardware Firewall A hardware firewall (router) is very important. Consider the hardware firewall as your first line of defense. Unfortunately, routers (usually) aren't designed to block outbound attempts from trojans and viruses, which is why it is important to use a hardware firewall in conjunction with a software firewall. Be sure that the firewall you choose features SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection). Highly Recommended I recommend Wireless AC (802.11ac) equipment, as it is robust and widely available. Wireless AC is backwards compatible with the earlier Wireless N (802.11n) G (802.11g) and B (802.11b) standards. 802.11ac supports higher speeds and longer distances than the previous standards, making it highly attractive. I generally recommend wireless networking equipment from Ubiquiti or Asus. Use WPA2/WPA with AES if possible, and a passphrase with a minimum of 12 characters. If you are really paranoid, use a strong random password and remember to change it every so often. Alternatives A spare PC running SmoothWall or IPCop, with a pair of NIC's and a switch can be used to turn a PC into a fully functional firewall. b. Software Firewall A software firewall nicely compliments a hardware firewall such as those listed above. In addition to protecting you from inbound intrusion attempts, it also gives you a level of outbound security by acting as a gateway for applications looking to access the internet. Programs you want can access the internet, while ones you don't are blocked. Do not use multiple software firewalls simultaneously. You can actually make yourself less secure by running two or more software firewall products at once, as they can conflict with one another. Check out Matousec Firewall Challenge for a comparison of leak tests among top firewall vendors. Leaktests are an important way of testing outbound filtering effectiveness. Highly Recommended Comodo Internet Security Comodo is an easy to use, free firewall that provides top-notch security. I highly recommend this as a first choice firewall. While it includes Antivirus protection, I advise to install it as firewall-only and use an alternate Antivirus. Alternatives Agnitum Outpost Firewall Free A free personal firewall that is very secure. Be sure to check out the Outpost Firewall Forums, to search, and ask questions if you have any problems. Online Armor Personal Firewall Free Online Armor Personal Firewall makes another great choice for those who refuse to run Comodo or Outpost. Online Armor 3. Hardening Windows Windows can be made much more secure by updating its components, and changing security and privacy related settings. a. Pre-install Hardening Pre-install hardening has its primary focus on integrating the latest available service packs and security patches. Its secondary focus is applying whatever security setting tweaks you can integrate. By integrating patches and tweaks, you will be safer from the first boot. Step 1 - Take an original Windows disc (Windows 7 or later) and copy it to a folder on your hard drive so you can work with the install files. Step 2 - Slipstream the latest available service pack. Slipstreaming is a term for integrating the latest service pack into your copy of windows. Step 3 - Integrate the latest available post-service pack updates. This can be done with a utility such as nLite or vLite, and post-service pack updates may be available in an unofficial collection (such as the RyanVM Update Pack for XP). Step 4 - Use nLite (Windows 2000/XP) or vLite (Windows Vista/7) to customize your install. Remove unwanted components and services, and use the tweaks section of nLite/vLite to apply some security and cosmetic tweaks. Step 5 - Burn your newly customized CD, and install Windows. Do not connect the computer to a network until you install a software firewall and anti-virus. b. Post-Install Hardening If you have followed the pre-install hardening section, then your aim will be to tweak settings to further lock down windows. If you hadn't installed from a custom CD, you will need to first update to the latest service pack, then install incremental security patches to become current. After updating, you'll then disable unneeded Windows services, perform some security tweaks, and use software such as xpy to tweak privacy options. Disable Services Start by disabling unneeded or unnecessary services. By disabling services you will minimize potential security risks, and use fewer resources (which may make your system slightly faster). Some good guides on disabling unnecessary services are available at Smallvoid: Windows 2000 / Windows XP / Windows Vista. Some commonly disabled services: Alerter, Indexing, Messenger, Remote Registry, TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper, and Telnet. Security Tweaks I highly recommend using a strong Local Security Policy template as an easy way to tweak windows security options, followed by the registry. Use my template (security.inf) to easily tweak your install for enhanced security (Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7): 1. Save the following attachment: (Download Link Soon!) 2. Extract the files. 3. Apply the Security Policy automatically by running the included "install.bat" file. 4. (Optional) Apply your policy manually using the following command: [ secedit /configure /db secedit.sdb /cfg "C:\<Path To Security.inf>\<template>.inf" ] then refresh your policy using the following the command:[ secedit /refreshpolicy machine_policy ] (Windows 2000), [ gpupdate ] (Windows XP/Vista/7) This template will disable automatic ("administrative") windows shares, prevent anonymous log on access to system resources, disable (weak) LM Password Hashes and enable NTLMv2, disable DCOM, harden the Windows TCP/IP Stack, and much more. Unfortunately my template can't do everything, you will still need to disable NetBIOS over TCP (NetBT), enable Data Execution Prevention (AlwaysOn), and perform other manual tweaks that you may use. Privacy Tweaks xpy (Windows 2000/XP) and vispa (Windows Vista/7) These utilities are great for modifying privacy settings. They supersede XP AntiSpy because they include all of XP Anti-Spy's features and more. You should use them in conjunction with the security tweaks I've listed above. c. Alternative Software Another simple way of mitigating possible attack vectors is to use software that is engineered with better or open security processes. These products are generally more secure and offer more features then their Microsoft counterparts. Highly Recommended Google Chrome (Web Browser) Mozilla Thunderbird (Email Client) OpenOffice.org (Office Suite) Alternatives Mozilla Firefox (Web Browser) Google Docs (Online) (Office Suite) Firefox Additions Mozilla has a Privacy & Security add-on section. There are a variety of add-ons that may appeal to you (such as NoScript). And although these aren't strictly privacy related, I highly recommend the AdBlock Plus add-on, with the EasyList and EasyPrivacy filtersets. d. Keep Windows Up-To-Date Speaking of keeping up-to-date, do yourself a favor and upgrade to at least Windows XP (for older PC's) and Windows 7 (or later) for newer PC's. Be sure to keep up-to-date on your service packs, they're a comprehensive collection of security patches and updates, and some may add minor features. Microsoft Windows Service Packs Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 with Unofficial Security Rollup Package Windows XP Service Pack 3 with Unofficial Security Rollup Package Windows XP x64 Service Pack 2 with Unofficial Security Rollup Package Windows Vista Service Pack 2 Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Microsoft Office Service Packs Office 2000 Service Pack 3 with the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack (SP3). Office XP (2002) Service Pack 3 with the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack (SP3). Office 2003 Service Pack 3 with the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack (SP3) and Office File Validation add-in. Office 2007 Service Pack 3 with the Office File Validation add-in. Office 2010 Service Pack 1 After the service pack, you still need to keep up-to-date on incremental security patches. Windows supports Automatic Updates to automatically update itself. However, if you don't like Automatic Updates: You can use WindowsUpdate to update windows periodically (Must use IE5 or greater, must have BITS service enabled), or you can use MS Technet Security to search for and download patches individually, or you can use Autopatcher, an unofficial updating utility. In addition to security patches, remember to keep virus definitions up-to-date (modern virus scanners support automatic updates so this should not be a problem), and stay current with latest program versions and updates, including your replacement internet browser and mail clients. 4. Anti-Malware There are many dangers lurking on the internet. Trojans, viruses, spyware. If you are a veteran user of the internet, you've probably developed a sixth-sense when it comes to avoiding malware, but I advocate backing up common sense with reliable anti-malware software. a. Anti-Virus Picking a virus scanner is important, I highly recommend Nod32, but there are good alternatives these days. Check out AV Comparatives for a comparison of scanning effectiveness and speed among top AV vendors. Highly Recommended Nod32 Antivirus $ I recommend Nod32 as a non-free Antivirus. Features excellent detection rates and fast scanning speed. Nod32 has a great heuristic engine that is good at spotting unknown threats. Very resource-friendly and historically known for using less memory than other AV's. There is a 30 day free trial available. Alternatives Avira AntiVir Personal I recommend Avira as a free Antivirus. Avira is a free AV with excellent detection rates and fast scanning speed. (Kaspersky no longer recommended, due to espionage concerns.) Online-Scanners Single File Scanning Jotti Online Malware Scan or VirusTotal These scanners can run a single file through a large number of different Antivirus/Antimalware suites in order to improve detection rates. Highly recommended. Whole PC Scanning ESET Online Scanner Nod32 Online Antivirus is pretty good, ActiveX though, so IE only. There is a beta version available that works with Firefox and Opera. b. HIPS / Proactive Defense Host-based intrusion prevention systems (HIPS) work by disallowing malware from modifying critical parts of the Operating System without permission. Classic (behavioral) HIPS software will prompt the user for interaction before allowing certain system modifications, allowing you stop malware in its tracks, whereas Virtualization-based HIPS works primarily by sandboxing executables. Although HIPS is very effective, the additional setup and prompts are not worth the headache for novice users (which may take to just clicking 'allow' to everything and defeating the purpose altogether). I only recommend HIPS for intermediate or advanced users that require a high level of security. Highly Recommended I highly recommend firewall-integrated HIPS solutions. Comodo Defense+ is a classic HIPS built into Comodo Internet Security, and provides a very good level of protection. Outpost and Online Armor provide their own HIPS solutions, and the component control features of the firewalls are powerful enough to keep unwanted applications from bypassing or terminating the firewall. If you want to use a different HIPS, you can disable the firewall HIPS module and use an alternative below. Alternatives Stand-alone HIPS solutions are good for users who either don't like the firewall built-in HIPS (and disable the firewall HIPS), or use a firewall without HIPS features. HIPS based on Behavior (Classic) ThreatFire ThreatFire provides a strong, free behavioral HIPS that works well in conjunction with Antivirus and Firewall suites to provide additional protection. HIPS based on Virtualization DefenseWall HIPS $ DefenseWall is a strong and easy-to-use HIPS solution that uses sandboxing for applications that access the internet. GeSWall Freeware GeSWall makes a nice free addition to the HIPS category, like DefenseWall it also uses sandboxing for applications that access the internet. Dealing with Suspicious Executables You can run suspicious executables in a full featured Virtual Machine (such as VMware) or using a standalone sandbox utility (such as Sandboxie) if you are in doubt of what it may do (though, you may argue that you shouldn't be running executables you don't trust anyway). A more advanced approach to examining a suspicious executable is to run it through Anubis, a tool for analyzing the behavior of Windows executables. It displays a useful report with things the executable does (files read, registry modifications performed, etc.), which will give you insight as to how it works. c. Malware Removal I recommend running all malware removal utilities on-demand (not resident). With a firewall, virus scanner, HIPS, and some common sense, you won't usually get to the point of needing to remove malware... but sometimes things happen, perhaps unavoidably, and you'll need to remove some pretty nasty stuff from a computer. Highly Recommended Anti-Spyware Spybot Search & Destroy Spybot S&D has been around a long time, and is very effective in removing spyware and adware. I personally install and use both Spybot & Ad-Aware, but I believe that Spybot S&D has the current edge in overall detection and usability. Anti-Trojan Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware Malwarebytes has a good trojan detector here, and scans fast. Anti-Rootkit Rootkit Unhooker RKU is a very advanced rootkit detection utility. Alternatives Anti-Spyware Ad-Aware Free Edition Ad-Aware is a fine alternative to Spybot S&D, its scanning engine is slower but it is both effective and popular. Anti-Trojan a-squared (a2) Free a-squared is a highly reputable (and free) trojan scanner. Anti-Rootkit IceSword (Mirror) IceSword is one of the most capable and advanced rootkit detectors available. 5. Information and Data Security Data can be reasonably protected using encryption and a strong password, but you will never have complete and absolute anonymity on the internet as long as you have an IP address. a. Privacy / Anonymity Anonymity is elusive. Some of the following software can help you achieve a more anonymous internet experience, but you also must be vigilant in protecting your own personal information. If you use social networking sites, use privacy settings to restrict public access to your profile, and only 'friend' people you know in real life. Don't use (or make any references to) any of your aliases or anonymous handles on any websites that have any of your personal information (Facebook, Amazon, etc..). You should opt-out from information sharing individually for all banks and financial institutions you do business with using their privacy policy choices. You should opt-out of preapproved credit offers (US), unsolicited commercial mail and email (US, UK, CA), and put your phone numbers on the "Do Not Call" list (US, UK, CA). Highly Recommended Simply install and use Tor with Vidalia to surf the internet anonymously. It's free, only downside is it's not terribly fast, but has fairly good anonymity, so it's a tradeoff. Keep in mind its for anonymity not for security, so make sure sites you put passwords in are SSL encrypted (and have valid SSL certificates), and remember that all end point traffic can be sniffed. You can use the Torbutton extension for Firefox to easily toggle on/off anonymous browsing. POP3/IMAP and P2P software won't work through Tor, so keep that in mind. Portable Anonymous Browsing The Tor Project now has a "Zero-Install Bundle" which includes Portable Firefox and Tor with Vidalia to surf anonymously from a USB memory stick pretty much anywhere with the internet. It also includes Pidgin with OTR for encrypted IM communications. Note: These won't protect you from Trojans/Keyloggers/Viruses on insecure public terminals. Never type important passwords or login to important accounts on a public computer unless it is absolutely necessary! Alternatives I2P functions similar to Tor, allowing you to surf the general internet with anonymity. IPREDator $ is a VPN that can be used to anonymize P2P/BitTorrent downloads. Freenet is notable, but not for surfing the general internet, it's its own network with its own content. b. Encryption For most people, encryption may be unnecessary. But if you have a laptop, or any sort of sensitive data (whether it be trade secrets, corporate documents, legal or medical documents) then you can't beat the kind of protection that encryption will offer. There are a variety of options available today, including a lot of software not listed here. A word to the wise, please, please don't fall for snake oil, use well established applications that use time tested (and unbroken) ciphers. Regardless of what software you use, the following "what to pick" charts will apply universally. If you have to pick an encryption cipher: Best: AES (Rijndael) (128-bit block size) Better: Twofish (128-bit block size), Serpent (128-bit block size) Good: RC6 (128-bit block size) Depreciated: Blowfish (64-bit block size), CAST5 (CAST-128) (64-bit block size), Triple-DES (64-bit block size) When encrypting large volumes of data, it is important to pick a cipher that has a block size of at least 128-bytes. This affords you protection for up to 2^64x16 bytes (264 exabytes) . 64-bit block ciphers only afford protection of up to 2^32x8 bytes (32 gigabytes) so using it as a full disk or whole disk encryption cipher is not recommended. The depreciated list is only because some of you might be stuck using software that only supports older encryption methods, so I've ordered it from what I feel is best to worst (though all three that are on there are pretty time tested and if properly implemented, quite secure). If you have to pick a hash to use: Best: Whirlpool (512-bit) Better: SHA-512 (512-bit), SHA-256 (256-bit) Good: Tiger2/Tiger (192-bit), RIPEMD-160 (160-bit) Depreciated: RIPEMD-128, SHA-1, MD-5. With all the recent advances in cryptanalysis (specifically with work on hash collisions) These days I wouldn't trust any hash that is less than 160-bits on principle. To be on the safe side, use a 192-bit, 256-bit, or 512-bit hash where available. There will be cases where your only options are insecure hashes, in which case I've ordered the "depreciated" list from best to worst (they are all varying levels of insecure). Many older hashes (MD4, MD2, RIPEMD(original), and others) are totally broken, and are not to be used. A quick software rundown, these applications are popular and trusted: Highly Recommended Freeware Whole Disk Encryption TrueCrypt Based upon E4M, TrueCrypt is a full featured disk encryption suite, and can even be run off a USB memory stick. TrueCrypt supports the whole disk encryption of Windows, with pre-boot authentication. Very nice. If you can't use whole-disk encryption (WDE), you can use the TCTEMP add-on to encrypt your swapfile, temp files and print spooler, and you can use the TCGINA add-on to encrypt your windows home directory. (Note: TCTEMP/TCGINA is less secure than WDE, and only preferable if WDE is not an option. WDE is highly recommended.) Freeware PKI Encryption GnuPG (GPG) GnuPG provides public-key encryption, including key generation and maintenance, signing and checking documents and email messages, and encryption and decryption of documents and email messages. Freeware Email Encryption Enigmail Enigmail is truly a work of art, it integrates with GnuPG and provides seamless support for encryption and decryption of email messages, and can automatically check PGP signed documents for validity. (Enigmail requires both Mozilla Thunderbird and GnuPG) Alternatives Encryption Suite (with Whole Disk and Email Encryption) PGP Full Disk Encryption $ PGP provides public-key encryption, including key generation and maintenance, signing and checking documents and email messages, encryption and decryption of documents and email messages, volume disk encryption, whole disk encryption, outlook integration, and instant messenger encryption support. c. Backup, Erasure and Recovery // This section is under construction. Backups Your data might be safe from prying eyes, but what if you are affected by hardware failure, theft, flood or fire? Regular backups of your important data can help you recover from a disaster. You should consider encryption of your backups for enhanced security. Local Backup Cobian Backup Cobian Backup is a fully-featured freeware backup utility. SyncBack Freeware, Macrium Reflect Free SyncBack Freeware and Macrium Reflect Free are feature-limited freeware backup utilities. Off-site Backup SkyDrive (25GB, filesize limited to 100MB), box.net (5GB) SkyDrive and box.net offer free online storage, useful for easy offsite backups. Be sure to utilize encrypted containers for any sensitive documents. Data Destruction It would be better to have your data residing in an encrypted partition, but sometimes that may not be possible. When sanitizing a hard drive, I recommend using a quality Block Erase tool like DBAN followed by a run-through with ATA Secure Erase if you really want a drive squeaky clean. Block erasing is good for data you can normally reach, but ATA secure erase can hit areas of the drive block erasers can't. As for multiple overwrite passes, there is no proof that data overwritten even one time can be recovered by professional data recovery corporations. For moderate security, a single pseudorandom block-erase pass (random-write) followed by an ATA Secure Erase pass (zero-write) is sufficient to thwart any attempts at data recovery. For a high level of security, a "DoD Short (3 pass)" block-erase pass followed by an ATA Enhanced Secure Erase will ensure no recovery is possible. Single-File/Free Space Erase If you are interested in just erasing single files or wiping free space, you can use the Eraser utility. Block Erase For hard drive block-erasure, use DBAN. ATA Secure Erase For ATA Secure Erasing, use the CMRR Secure Erase Utility. CMRR Secure Erase Protocols (.pdf) http://cmrr.ucsd.edu...seProtocols.pdf NIST Guidelines for Media Sanitation (.pdf) - http://csrc.nist.gov...800-88_rev1.pdf File Recovery Software This is kind of the opposite of data destruction. Keep in mind no software utility can recover properly overwritten data, so if it's overwritten there is no recovery. Highly Recommended Recuva Recuva is an easy to use GUI-based recovery utility. Alternatives TestDisk and PhotoRec These tools are powerful command-line recovery utilities. TestDisk can recover partitions, and PhotoRec is for general file recovery. Ontrack EasyRecovery Professional $ EasyRecovery is one of the best paid utilites for file recovery. d. Access Control (Passwords, Security Tokens) // This section is under construction. Secure Passwords //Section under construction. Your security is only as strong as its weakest password. There are a few basic rules to follow when creating a strong password. Length - Passwords should be at least 12 characters long. When possible, use a password of 12 or more characters, or a "passphrase". If you are limited to using less than 12 characters, you should try and make your password as long as allowable. Complexity - Passwords should have an element of complexity, a combination of upper and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols will make your passwords much harder to guess, and harder to bruteforce. Uniqueness - Passwords should avoid containing common dictionary words, names, birthdays, or any identification related to you (social security, drivers license, or phone numbers for example). Secret - If you have a password of the utmost importance, do not write it down. Do not type them in plain view of another person or share them with anyone. Avoid use of the same password in multiple places. Security Tokens Security Tokens are cryptographic devices that allow for two-factor authentication. Google Titan Yubikey 5 Series 6. Conclusion And here we are at the end! I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to read my guide, it's a few (slow) years in the making and I've kept it up to date. This guide is always changing, so check back from time to time. Revision 1.10.020 Copyright © 2004-2012 Malakai1911, All Rights Reserved The information contained within this guide is intended solely for the general information of the reader and is provided "as is" with absolutely no warranty expressed or implied. Any use of this material is at your own risk, its authors are not liable for any direct, special, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages of any kind. This guide is subject to change without notice. Windows_Security_Template__1.10.015_.zip
  2. Brian12

    Malware Removal Guide

    "This guide will help you remove malicious software from your computer. If you think your computer might be infected with a virus or trojan, you may want to use this guide. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to remove malware from Windows operating system. It highlights free malware removal tools and resources that are necessary to clean your computer. You will quickly learn how to remove a virus, a rootkit, spyware, and other malware." Guide: http://www.selectrealsecurity.com/malware-removal-guide I'll be posting updates. :)
  3. We all know that windows 8 is faster and fluid than windows 7. But the workflow (number of clicks to get a work done) and lake of start menu irritates a bit. I recently have reinstalled windows 8 in my notebook. Before that I was using the same windows 8 with all patched. While it was patched, I was feeling little hangup and slowness on using it. Now, I have decided not to patch windows and to work out with it making some tweaks. By editing the system files, I have made windows 8 exactly look like windows 7 but I wasn't feeling comfortable. I am using windows 8 now and it must feel like windows 8. Then I found out, the main thing is - getting used to something. Now, download autoruns and run it as administrator. As it pops up, move to Options >> Filter Options and uncheck hide windows entries. Consider portable apps over installation and those you need to install but you may uninstall them in future, install those through a 3rd party Uninstaller product like Revo Uninstaller. Now, when you will uninstall a installed app, you can uninstall it completely. After this, your computer must run as light as a feather. Edit: You can also use this registry tweak from askvg to make your experience more fluid. P.S. Feel free to ask anything regarding this tutorial :) My sincere thanks to dcs18 for his knowledge.
  4. Guidemaster: How to buy a Chromebook, plus our best picks The Chrome OS landscape is vast—Ars is here to help you navigate it. Enlarge / There's now a pretty wide range of Chromebooks available—and we've tested a lot of 'em. Valentina Palladino We've tested many new Chromebooks since our guide came out earlier this year, and we've updated our top pick for Fall 2019. Chromebooks dominated the affordable laptop scene in 2018. The same wasn't true just a few years ago, when most were unclear what to do with Google's browser-based operating system. But now, after Chromebooks have successfully infiltrated the education market, users both young and old are familiar with Chrome OS. Chrome OS runs exclusively on Chromebooks, the name for the laptops, two-in-ones, and now tablets that run Google's operating system. If you've used the Chrome Web browser before, you know how to use Chrome OS—the browser is the portal to nearly everything you can do on Chrome OS. Google created an operating system that's simple to use, efficient, and low maintenance in the sense that it doesn't take a ton of power to run a Chromebook well. All of those factors, plus the recent introduction of Android apps into the ecosystem, have made Chromebooks popular with younger users, teachers, and anyone who works and plays primarily within the confines of the Chrome Web browser. As people gravitate to Chromebooks, OEMs have been producing more and more of them. There is a plethora of Chromebooks available now, some at dirt cheap prices and others at premium prices, making it hard to know which you should buy. Luckily, Ars has tested some of the most popular Chromebooks, and we can offer some insight as to which ones are worth your money. Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs. What Chrome OS can do for you, and what it can't do Chromebooks can be solid devices for people who spend most of their computing time in a browser. Chrome OS is ideal for doing things like managing email, writing and sharing documents in Google Drive, streaming video and music, and general Web browsing. Chrome OS' suitability for these types of tasks also means that those who have never used a Chromebook will find it easy to use without much of a learning curve. Android apps add another layer to Chrome OS, allowing you to run your favorite mobile programs, including Spotify, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, and more. The rollout of Android apps on Chromebooks has been slow, and not all Android apps are optimized for the large screens and full keyboards of Chromebooks yet. However, Chrome OS has been made more versatile thanks to the inclusion of Android apps. Affordability makes Chromebooks stand out among most of their competitors. You can get a Chromebook for as little as $199, whereas the cheapest Windows machines run at least a couple hundred dollars more, and similar macOS machines don't even come close in price. Affordability has been a blessing for Chromebook users, but it has been somewhat of a curse for Chromebooks as a whole since many people have the false assumption that all Chromebooks are cheap. Time has proven that presumption untrue as more OEMs have come out with Chromebooks that feature premium materials and better specs. Those devices are more expensive than your average Chromebook, and rightly so. The most expensive Chromebooks run anywhere from $699 to more than $1,000—though not all Chrome OS lovers need a Chromebook with the powerful specs and premium build that those expensive devices have. However, those who know that Chrome OS will fulfill their personal and professional needs may want to shell out more money for a luxury device. But aside from better build quality and more powerful internals, those pricey Chromebooks still run Chrome OS and are not exempt from the operating system's limitations. Unlike on Windows and macOS machines, you can't download and install programs like Photoshop CC or Final Cut Pro. Chrome OS only supports Web-based extensions and Android apps—that's one of the reasons it takes much less power for a machine to run Chrome OS well. Also, most Chrome OS programs require an Internet connection and will not work when the device isn't connected to Wi-Fi. If you don't take the necessary precautions before leaving a reliable Wi-Fi network—like making pertinent Google Docs available offline—your Chromebook will essentially become a useless brick when unconnected. Things to consider when buying a Chromebook Design Chromebooks come primarily as laptops or two-in-ones, so you'll need to decide if you want the versatility of a 360-degree hinge. If you want to use a lot of Android apps on your Chromebook, getting a two-in-one with a touchscreen will be the best option, since you can switch it into tablet mode and use it like an Android mobile device. The same advice goes for those who plan to use a Chromebook as a multimedia device—streaming videos on YouTube and Netflix can be more comfortable when using a convertible in tent or show modes. Chromebook OEMs tend to cut costs by using cheaper materials when making these devices. Most affordable Chromebooks are made out of plastic, but that's not always bad. While they won't have the look or feel of an XPS 13 or a MacBook, Chromebooks made out of plastic or other materials can be just what one needs in an affordable, portable device. Be sure to check the tech specs of the Chromebook you want before you buy it to make sure it has basic features, such as a backlit keyboard, an HD or FHD screen, a non-touch or touch panel, and an included stylus. Depending on the type of device and its price, not all of the features we consider "standard" will come standard on every Chromebook. The same idea goes for ports—you should check to see if your preferred Chromebook has the ports you need. While most come with at least one USB-A port, a few of the newest models forgo USB-A and opt for all USB Type-C ports instead. Some Chromebooks come with additional connectivity options like HDMI ports and DisplayPorts, so consider how you'll use the Chromebook and decide which ports you'll require. RAM RAM, or the amount of memory in a Chromebook, helps the device run quickly when you have many tabs open. Most Chromebooks come with 4GB of RAM, and that will be sufficient for those who use the Chromebook for leisurely Web browsing, YouTube watching, and light Android app use. Those who plan to push Chrome OS further—users with more than 20 browser tabs open at once, Android apps running in the background, all while streaming YouTube—should get a machine with at least 8GB of RAM. Doing so will ensure that the machine doesn't lag as you open more tabs and programs and use them simultaneously. Some Chromebook models can be specced out to have 16GB of RAM, and those typically have optional processor upgrades as well (a base model may have an Intel Celeron processor, but you can upgrade to a Core i3 or i5 CPU if you wish). More RAM never hurts, but only developers or experimental users who want to run Ubuntu, Linux, or Windows on their Chromebooks really need such high volumes of memory. Storage Storage isn't the most important spec in a Chromebook, but it should not be overlooked. Chrome OS works as well as it does because Google expects users to rely (at least partially) on cloud-based services for storage—things like Google Drive, DropBox, and others. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access all of the files you need through those various services. Google Drive even lets you save some documents for offline access now, ensuring you'll be able to work on that paper or proposal even in a dead zone. But every Chromebook needs some onboard storage—those who go Google's recommended route can get by with just 16GB or 32GB of storage. Keep in mind that those levels are similar to those in low- to mid-range smartphones, so your Chromebook will have the same storage capacity as one of those handheld devices. If you prefer being able to save some documents locally, or if you plan to download many apps and programs, you should get a Chromebook with at least 64GB to 128GB of storage. While Chromebooks aren't built for serious photo or video editing, it is possible to do such things with these devices. If you dabble in that at all, you'll need more onboard storage than the rest if you're working off of locally saved files. Price Some choose Chromebooks over other PCs because they are so affordable. Most Chrome OS laptops and convertibles are priced anywhere between $199 to $499, which is a couple hundred dollars less than the most affordable Windows devices (save for the new Surface Go tablet). All of the factors we previously outlined contribute to the price of a Chromebook: design, materials, screen quality, processor, RAM, and storage. A Chromebook that works well enough for most customers can be found at $299-$499, but there will be some who want a device that comes in either above or below that price range. Only recently have OEMs experimented with more expensive Chromebooks. Google owned (and mostly still owns) the luxury Chromebook market with its $1,000 Pixelbook. While it has the slickest design of nearly any Chromebook and specs that beat most other Chrome OS devices, it's overkill for most customers. Nevertheless, we considered the Pixelbook and the newest expensive Chromebooks in this guide. How we tested Real-world work testing: We used each Chromebook for at least one full day as our primary work and play device. This includes working a standard eight-hour work day running multiple Chrome tabs while occasionally streaming video, listening to music, and using Android apps. We made note of any performance hiccups, lag when opening new Chrome tabs, and slowness when loading Android apps and particularly laborious webpages. Ars benchmarks: We ran all of our regular benchmark tests on each Chromebook to measure performance, including Geekbench 4, Google Octane, Kraken, and Jetstream. Ars battery tests: We ran both our Wi-Fi and WebGL battery tests on each Chromebook three times and averaged those scores to come up with an average battery-life estimate. A note on education Chromebooks: Affordability, efficiency, and ease of use have made Chrome OS devices popular in schools and with students. OEMs make education-specific Chromebooks that go directly to schools and are priced to be bought in bulk. Since many of those education-based Chromebooks aren't available for regular consumers to buy, we won't be covering them in this guide. However, don't be surprised if your child comes home with a Chromebook model you're not familiar with, as it's probably an education device. Best overall Asus Chromebook Flip C434 First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Specs at a glance: Asus Chromebook Flip C434 (as tested) Screen 14-inch FHD touchscreen (1920×1080) CPU Intel Core m3-8100Y RAM 4GB HDD 64GB eMMC GPU Integrated Intel GPU Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 Ports 2 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x USB-A 3.1, 1 x microSD card slot, 1 x audio combo jack Size 12.64×7.95×0.62 inches Weight 3.19 pounds Battery 48Wh 3-cell Warranty 1 year Starting price $569 Price as reviewed $569 Asus takes the top spot once again with its updated Chromebook Flip C434. We still like our original pick, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA, but the new model is worth paying $569 if you want the Chrome OS device with the best combination of features and style at a decent price. There are a lot of noticeable differences between the Chromebook Flip C434 and the C302CA—the former has an updated design that makes it look and feel more like one of Asus' more expensive Zenbooks. It has a matte-silver finish with shiny accents on its edges and a new hinge that lifts the machine slightly when in laptop mode. Its full-sized silver keyboard is now backlit and it has a larger, 14-inch display with thin bezels surrounding it. There was nothing wrong with the C302CA's design, but the C434 is up there with the most attractive Chromebooks we've seen. Asus also added a USB-A port onto the side of the C434, which is a much welcomed addition that complements the USB-C ports on both sides of the device. Along with this added connectivity, you also get more power options. Asus ditched the Pentium processor so the C434 starts out with a Core m3 CPU. We originally recommended getting the Core m3 model of the C302CA, and we still believe the a Core m3 processor provides just enough power to get most things done efficiently on a Chromebook. Unsurprisingly, the new Chromebook Flip served me well as my primary work computer for the few weeks I tested it. It's just as speedy and smooth, if not more so, than the C302CA and it can handle multiple open Chrome tabs easily. There's also less lag overall when opening new tabs and programs. Asus also managed to improve upon the Chromebook Flip's battery life, too. Our review unit lasted an average of 11.25 hours on our Wi-Fi test on a single charge, and nearly 6 hours on our WebGL test. That's roughly one hour more than the C302CA lasted on both tests. We also appreciate that the new C434 lasted more than 1.5 hours longer on our default battery test than the C302CA. We know that $569 seems like a lot of money for a Chromebook, and it is on the higher end of the price spectrum. However, all of the useful updates that Asus made to an already stellar Chromebook make it worth the higher price tag for anyone that wants a Chrome OS device that can be their primary laptop. It's price also isn't as hefty when you consider the price of a modern Windows laptop, most of which start between $600 and $800. That being said, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA is still available for $499, making it an even more affordable option for those that want a similar and just as stellar device. The Good Well-designed Chromebook with above-average performance for the price. The Bad Might be slightly too expensive for those used to dirt-cheap Chromebooks. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Best Chrome OS tablet HP Chromebook x2 First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Specs at a glance: HP Chromebook x2 (as tested) Screen 12.3-inch QHD IPS touchscreen (235 ppi) CPU Intel Core m3-7Y30 RAM 4GB HDD 32GB GPU Intel HD Graphics 615 Networking 802.11b/g/n/ac (2x2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 Ports 2×USB-C, 1×microSD card slot, 1×headphone/mic combo Size 11.5×8.32×0.33 inches Weight 1.6 pounds (tablet only), about 3 pounds (with keyboard attached) Battery 48Whr Warranty 1 year Starting price $465 Price as reviewed $465 Other perks Included keyboard and stylus Chrome OS tablets remain novel, but the $465 HP Chromebook x2 already managed to set itself apart from the few other slabs available. HP took its expertise in making Windows notebooks and translated it for Chrome OS, bringing Spectre-level elegance to the tablet's design and just the right internals to make it a more-than-capable Chrome OS device. The slab itself features that special white finish found on Spectre laptops that brings durability and an extra level of scratch-resistance to the device. The 12.3-inch QHD touchscreen is higher quality than most people need on a Chromebook, but it adds to the premium nature of the device. The Core m3 CPU inside the tablet, as well as the 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of storage, support work and play well. After reviewing it, I was convinced that anyone who plans to use a Chromebook for anything more than occasional Web browsing should get a device with Core m3-level power or a comparable CPU. Included in its $599 price tag are its keyboard attachment and an active pen, so you get all the accessories you need to use the Chromebook x2 to the fullest. The thick metal hinge bar on the edge of the keyboard holds the tablet securely in place, making it one of the sturdiest detachables I've ever used. With no kickstand to worry about, you can angle the Chromebook x2 freely in laptop mode and swiftly move into tablet mode without trepidation. There are a few minor bones to pick with the Chromebook x2, like the fact that its stylus takes AAAA batteries and that it came out just before Chrome OS supported fingerprint authentication. But if you can overlook those minor indiscretions, the HP Chromebook x2 is both a solid detachable and one of the best-value Chrome OS tablets available now. The Good Solid detachable with accessories included in price. The Bad No fingerprint sensor. Best budget Chromebook Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C330 First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Specs at a glance: Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C330 (as tested) Screen 12.6-inch HD (1366×768) touchscreen CPU MediaTek MTK8173C (1.7GHz) RAM 4GB HDD 64GB eMMC GPU Integrated MediaTek GPU Networking Lenovo Wireless AC (2×2), Bluetooth 4.1 Ports 1×USB-C, 1×USB-A 3.0, 1×HDMI, 1×SD card slot, 1×audio combo jack Size 11.4×8.48×0.77 inches Weight 2.64 pounds Battery three-cell 45Whr Warranty 1 year Starting price $279 Price as reviewed $299 The world is full of low-cost Chromebooks because that's how the landscape began: OEMs made laptops that ran Google's stripped-down OS only as well as they needed to, resulting in many affordable devices. As the category expanded, the differences between good and bad budget Chromebooks became more apparent. Lenovo's Yoga Chromebook C330 has the most important attributes of a great Chromebook at an equally great $279 starting price. The Yoga Chromebook C330 sports a design that's utilitarian but not ugly. While it's not the thinnest Chromebook, it's not very heavy at 2.64 pounds, and it's a convertible, so you can use it in laptop, tablet, tent, and other modes. Its 11.6-inch HD touchscreen complements this design, as do the chunky bezels surrounding it, as they make for good gripping spots when in tablet mode. Available in a "blizzard" white colour, the Yoga Chromebook C330 has a comfortable, full-sized chiclet keyboard with gray keys that pair nicely with the machine's light aesthetic. Its wider edges allowed Lenovo to include an array of ports on the device: one HDMI port, one USB-A port, an SD card slot, one USB-C port for charging, and a headphone jack. That mix ensures a wide variety of possible connections, and those who are already embracing USB-C can make use of their cables or chargers with these devices as well. Aside from the choice of 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage, the Yoga Chromebook C330's specs remain the same across its two available models. It performed as well as you could expect on our benchmarks with its MediaTek MTK8173C processor. It handled my daily Web-based work fairly well, although it was a tad slow in loading webpages in new tabs. It also lasted 11 hours on our Wi-Fi battery test, so it should support you throughout an entire work day. In testing numerous Chromebooks, most of those that fit in the "budget" category of $350 or less had boring, uninspired designs, with lackluster performance to boot. The Yoga Chromebook C330 won't be winning any design awards, but it combines a clean, practical design with decent performance and battery life, all at a price that's hard to beat. Are there even cheaper Chromebooks? Yes. But if you want to spend a couple hundred bucks on a device that will work well enough in most situations, the Yoga Chromebook C330 is a solid choice. The Good Good performance and solid battery life for the price. The Bad A bit chunky. Best for students Dell Chromebook 11 First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Specs at a glance: Dell Chromebook 11 (as tested) Screen 11-inch HD non-touch display (1366×768) CPU Intel Celeron N3350 RAM 4GB HDD 32GB eMMC GPU Integrated Intel GPU Networking 802.11ac 2×2Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 Ports 2×USB-A, 1×HDMI, 1×microSD card slot, 1×lock slot, 1×audio combo jack Size 11.96×8.19×0.82 inches Weight 2.82 pounds Battery Three-cell 32Whr Warranty 1 year Starting price $195 Price as reviewed $249 Parents looking for a Chromebook for their kids need look no further than the $249 Dell Chromebook 11. We tested the consumer version of this notebook, but one of the benefits of it is that Dell makes many versions of the Chromebook 11. The slightly pricier education models have a few extra features geared toward teachers and administrators, but all have the same design, spec variants, and core features. Devices primarily used for school work should be durable, decently powerful, not too distracting, and not too expensive. The Dell Chromebook 11 fits that bill, sporting a simple black chassis that's built to withstand bumps and drops. It doesn't employ the same tricks as other consumer notebooks (ultra-thin bezels, fancier materials, and the like), but that's because it's made for those who want quick, easy, and affordable access to Chrome OS. The 11-inch, 1366×768 screen and full-sized keyboard aren't anything to write home about, but students can complete Web-based assignments and write in Google Docs easily with them. I found the keyboard comfortable despite the keys being just a hair smaller than traditional keys, and the trackpad is responsive and smooth. While it doesn't come standard with a touchscreen, you can customize it with a touch panel if you wish. The hinge on the Chromebook 11 tilts back 180 degrees, allowing students to collaborate more easily with their peers or their parents and teachers. Whether your student leaves this Chromebook at home or takes it to school, it has a good port selection that should suit most environments: two USB-A ports, one HDMI port, a microSD card slot, and a lock slot. All models come with an Intel Celeron processor, but you can customize the Chromebook 11 with up to 4GB of RAM and up to 32GB of storage. The highest configuration, which includes a touchscreen, costs $309—still within the originally acceptable price range for a Chromebook. But if you can live without the touchscreen, our review unit costs just $249 and should serve students of all ages well. The Good Affordable, even when specced out to the max. The Bad On the small side. Best for families Acer Chromebook 14 First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Specs at a glance: Acer Chromebook 14 (as tested) Screen 14-inch 1920×1080 IPS non-touch display (16:9) CPU Intel Celeron N3160 (1.6-2.24GHz) RAM 4GB HDD 32GB eMMC GPU Integrated Intel HD GPU Networking Wireless 802.11 ac MIMO (dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2 Ports 2×USB-A 3.0, 1×HDMI, 1×audio combo jack, 1×power port Size 13.43×9.31×0.67 inches Weight 3.42 pounds Battery 3950mAh Warranty 1 year Starting price $279 Price as reviewed $299 A device that serves an entire family needs to have universal appeal, and the $299 Acer Chromebook 14 has that. We liked this device for multi-person use primarily because of its size—14-inch devices hit a sweet spot that most people enjoy. It's not so small that grandma will have trouble seeing things on its screen, but it's not so big that it becomes cumbersome to tote around the house. The device's all-metal design is quite sturdy: its palm rests don't feel flimsy, and its lid and chassis don't bend or give when force is applied. While it's not a convertible, its lid tilts back 180 degrees to give you more flexibility than other laptops. Its edges taper, getting wider as you move farther back on the device and providing space for two USB-A ports, one HDMI port, an audio combo jack, a power port, and a lock slot. We also like its 14-inch 1920×1080 IPS display—it's just the right size for multi-person use, allowing a few people to gather around the laptop and watch a video or work on a project together. The display has a low-reflective, anti-glare coating on it as well, so it won't be marred by environments with a lot of harsh light. Family members can also video chat with relatives and friends using the 720p Webcam that sits atop the display. With the latest Chrome OS update and Google Duo, the Chromebook 14 makes for a convenient video chat device as well as an impromptu photo booth. The device has a full-sized chiclet keyboard that is spacious and comfortable to type on. The right Backspace key is a tad shorter than usual, but otherwise there's nothing abnormal about this keyboard. Both kids doing their homework and parents sending after-hours emails will find it to be a good typing companion. The Chromebook 14's internals are what you'd expect in a low- to mid-range device: an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of storage. Performance matched these specs, running Chrome OS well but slowing down a bit when faced with multiple open apps or tens of open Chrome tabs. It's a solid machine that won't break the bank and has the right design, size, and specs to serve parents and kids alike. The Good Sold chassis with 14-inch screen that's ideal for multi-person use. The Bad No USB-C. Best premium Chromebook Acer Chromebook Spin 13 First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Specs at a glance: Acer Chromebook Spin 13 (as tested) Screen 13.5-inch FHD+ (2256×1504) IPS touchscreen CPU Intel Core i5-8250U (1.6-3.6GHz) RAM 8GB HDD 64GB GPU Intel UHD Graphics 620 Networking Intel Dual Band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac W-Fi, Acer Nplify 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 Ports 2×USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, 1×USB-A 3.0, 1×microSD card slot, 1×audio combo jack Size 12.19×9.68×0.67 inches Weight 3.5 pounds Battery 54Whr Warranty 1 year Starting price $699 Price as reviewed $899 Out of the few high-end Chromebooks available now, Acer's $899 Chromebook Spin 13 stood out for combining premium build quality and powerful specs at a relatively good price point. The all-metal convertible looks handsome with its steel-gray finish and shiny, silver metallic accents. It's complemented by a 2256×1504 IPS touchscreen that has a 3:2 aspect ratio, making you scroll less to see more on its high-quality display. Acer sacrificed thinness and lightness to make the Chromebook Spin 13 more powerful. Even so, it's not particularly heavy at 3.5 pounds, making it easy to bring with you when you're traveling to and from meeting places. Its edges are just wide enough to include two USB-C ports, one USB-A port, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack, and Acer hid an EMR stylus in a housing that sits at the bottom-right corner of the chassis. A Chromebook two-in-one with an all-metal design, FHD+ touchscreen, comfortable keyboard and trackpad, and included active pen is enough to make many take notice, but Acer sweetened the deal by making the Spin 13 one of its most powerful Chromebooks. It can be powered by Core i3 and i5 processors, giving it strong performance that bested almost all others on our benchmark tests. Our review unit had a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage, which is more than enough for even Chrome OS power users. Needless to say, it handled my daily Web work without any hiccups, loading tabs and Android apps swiftly and rarely lagging even when I pushed it to its limits. It also lasted more than 11.5 hours on our Wi-Fi battery test, so it should support you throughout an entire work day easily. Along with Chrome OS tablets, premium Chromebooks are the new "it" thing. Google's Pixelbook isn't the only high-end Chromebook anymore, and users should expect to see a number of pricier Chromebooks debut in the coming years. Out of the few currently available, Acer's Chromebook Spin 13 has the best mix of luxury design, high-end specs with solid performance, port selection, and extra perks like the included active pen. Its price range truly seals the deal: while you could spend up to $999 on this Chromebook, you don't have to. The most affordable Spin 13 gives you a Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage for $699—a reasonable price for a device like this with specs that will be suitable for most Chromebook users' needs. The Good High-powered Chromebook with many models at reasonable prices. The Bad Slightly heavy. Best for on-the-go professionals Google Pixelbook First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Unsurprisingly, the $999 Pixelbook is the most Googly Chromebook available (aside from its tablet sibling, the Pixel Slate), and professionals will love it for its uncompromising power and modern design. While it starts off more expensive than most Chromebooks, at $999, that base model gets you a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. Those specs are more than enough to support those who push Chrome OS to its limits, so they will support all professionals even during the busiest times. Specs at a glance: Google Pixelbook (as tested) Screen 12.3-inch 2400×1600 (235 ppi) QHD LCD touchscreen OS Chrome OS CPU Intel Core i5-7Y57 RAM 8GB HDD 256GB SSD GPU Intel HD Graphics 615 Networking 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2x2 (MIMO), dual-band (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2 Ports two USB Type C ports (charging 4K display out, data transfer), headphone jack Size 11.4-in×8.7-in×0.4-in Weight 2.4 lbs Battery 41Whr Warranty 1 year Starting price $999 Price as reviewed $1,199 Other perks Pixelbook Pen (not included, extra $99) The Pixelbook's recognizable design also helps it stand out in the sea of relatively bland Chromebooks. Google spared no expense with this two-in-one, outfitting it with a metal chassis, clean white palm rests, and a glass portion on the lid, and silver and gray accents throughout. At just 10.3mm thick and weighing 2.4 pounds, the Pixelbook is also thin and light enough to slide unassumingly into your bag or under your arm when you tote it from meeting to meeting. Its hinges allow it to bend back 360 degrees so you can use it in multiple modes and make use of its 2400×1600 touchscreen comfortably. If you don't want to spare any expense yourself, you can spring for the $99 Pixelbook Pen to use with the convertible. It's a solid stylus that makes sketching, note-taking, and general handwriting input on the device easier, and you can use its side button to search with the Google Assistant's help. Just press and hold the side button while circling text, photos, and more on the screen to have the Assistant look up more information about that content. But you will have to keep an eye on that Pen, as there's no way to secure it to the chassis of the Pixelbook. OEMs may be trying to make their own versions of the Pixelbook, but it's doubtful that any of them will make a Chrome OS device with a style as distinct as that of the Pixelbook. The device is made better by Google's most recent Chrome OS updates, which make all Chromebooks significantly more intuitive to use in tablet mode thanks to more tappable elements, the new launcher tablet home screen, and other new features. Google's partnerships with numerous Android app developers have produced better experiences for those programs on Chrome OS, and other developers continue to optimize their apps for Chrome OS. While the transition certainly hasn't been fast, it points to a promising future for Chrome OS ahead of its already popular existence. The Good Sleek design with powerful base specs. The Bad Stylus costs $99 extra. Source: Guidemaster: How to buy a Chromebook, plus our best picks (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
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