Unistack Services — Allow or Disable?

The Unistack Services are a series of services integrated into Windows 10, which allow primarily for the syncing of user data across multiple Windows devices through the user’s Microsoft Account. Additionally, these services also may be related to syncing other user data between Windows 10 apps, such as contacts, calendar events, or ad preferences–it may also be integrated with OneDrive. If you do a little Googling, you will see that many people have had issues with these annoying services.

For those of us who do not use any Windows 10 Store apps, any pre-installed Windows 10 apps, OneDrive, or even a Microsoft account–these services run persistently in the background and eat up system resources. Microsoft went so far to prevent users from disabling these services, that if you view the services tab in task manager, you will find them with a unique name every time you boot up your computer. For example, you may find “MessagingService_xxxxxx” where xxxxxx is a unique and random string of numbers every single time you reboot your PC.

I do not know why Microsoft is literally using techniques reminiscent of malware for their own programs, but this convention makes it difficult to disable these services permanently. Typically, these services can be disabled to some degree by going to Windows 10 Settings > Privacy, then you simply proceed to disable every single privacy setting that Microsoft will enable by default. However, I have found that this does not work on every PC–especially those that must use a Microsoft Account.

You can permanently disable these services by using the registry keys listed below, or download and import the keys in one step using the registry export I’ve compiled here:









If you want to disable XBOX services as well, you can use the keys posted below, or the registry export I’ve linked here:







Please note that I am a gamer and disabling these services has not affected me at all. You can still play your favorite games and use an XBOX controller. These only disable Windows 10 XBOX LIVE-related services.

If any of this helps you out, let me know in the comments. If it causes a problem, I’d be curious to hear what that problem is. I’ve been running my own Windows 10 machines with these services disabled for quite a while and haven’t had a hiccup.

Workstation Cannot Backup to Windows Server

I recently had to troubleshoot a PC that wouldn’t backup properly to Windows Server. At precisely 1% complete, the backup would fail every single time. The only intelligible error I could find was “EspCaptureFailed.”

To fix this issue, I highly recommend running a full checkdisk on your PC. Open a command prompt as an admin and run chkdsk /f /r.

Next, if you are running Windows 8 or newer, go ahead and run the commands to check your Windows image and repair/cleanup if necessary. Again, at a command prompt, run:

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

Once completed successfully, run a system file check.

SFC /scannow

Once that scan is done, reboot if corruption was found and scan again until no further corruption is found. Next comes the fun part, open another command prompt as administrator and run:


list volume

Search through the list and find and unmounted partition labeled EFI, ESP, or it may be blank… However, it will not be the WINRE partition. When you find it, note the volume number (#) on the left. Also, note a letter that is not currently used by Windows to map a drive, we’ll use this below where the (Z) is.

select volume #

assign letter=Z


When diskpart closes out, you’ll be back at a regular command prompt. Run the following command:

chkdsk Z: /f /r

This will scan and you may be prompted if you want to continue. Choose yes and the scan will repair that partition.

Now return to diskpart, select the same volume, and run the command “remove letter=Z” and “list volume” one more time to verify that the drive is unmounted. Now you should be able to quit diskpart and reboot your PC. If your ESP partition was corrupted, it should now be repaired enough to allow for the computer to backup properly.

All USB Devices Suddenly Stop Working After Reboot

What to do when Windows is not recognizing ANY USB devices after rebooting. No keyboard, no mouse, nothing.

A customer called the other day with an interesting problem. She says that her keyboard and mouse isn’t working. Obvious, right? It’s her WIRELESS keyboard and mouse, and the batteries are dead/weak. Easy fix, right?


Let’s get down to the bottom of it, but first, let’s start back about four months ago.
The same customer has a failing harddrive. We clone it to an SSD, configure it properly, and set everything up. It appears to be fine, so we tell her to hold onto the old drive as a semi-backup and she’s good to go.

Four months later–PC won’t take input from anything. We’ve tried PS/2 keyboard/mouse, we’ve tried different USB peripherals, etc. Still nothing works. Safe mode won’t work, either, nor booting directly to command prompt. We can’t even do system restores. I did try to manually force a registry restore, which also had no effect.

My boss has the idea to backup all newer files, then re-clone her four-month failed drive backup onto the SSD again. Assuming what is on the old drive still has some integrity and it may require some additional work from me, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea. We try that, and at first the machine boots up and works fine. A few programs want to update, and I update them. Then I copy some of her files over. Everything still works. Then after rebooting a few times–BOOM–no more USB.

After ripping out quite a bit of my hair, I finally had the bright idea to manually copy our remote support program into her startup folder. Then I was successfully able to connect to her PC and take control using my laptop. I immediately check Device Manager, as any good Windows boy would in this situation and I am greeted by something I’ve never, ever experienced before.

SOLUTION: Disable Driver Signature Enforcement on Boot

What was causing this problem? I have no idea.
No updates from Windows, no new application were installed, no obvious hardware failures…
(Except that this person has a house with very sketchy electric, and the PC is not plugged into an UPS)

Ended up doing an upgrade install of Windows atop her current install. She lost no programs, no files.
Everything worked fine after that. So it would seem that some Windows component was corrupted somehow. Why the component continued to corrupt itself over and over, I don’t know.

But if anyone else has the same problem–just hit F8 and disable driver signature enforcement.
Your PC might even be mostly usable after that point. Wish I knew more about would could have caused this issue in the first place. If you know more about it, comment below.

Easiest RemixOS Install (alternative, non-dual-boot)




Items Required:
USB Flash Drive (4GB+)
x86 or x64 PC, with ability to boot from USB
30 Minutes of your Life

1. Download the proper variant of RemixOS for your machine. As a general rule, x86 for machines with <4GB RAM and older specs. x64 for newer machines with >4GB RAM.

2. Use the included executable to prep your flash drive with the image. Make sure you have nothing to lose on the flash drive as this process will format your drive.

3. Insert flashdrive into your computer and set it as your primary boot option; or use the boot menu to select your flash drive.

4. When RemixOS boots for the first time, you’ll be given the option to either go into Resident Mode or Guest Mode. Press [TAB] to enter your options. Hit backspace until you have removed the line “USB_DATA_PARTITION=1”, then type in “INSTALL=1”.

5. The RemixOS installer will appear. Go down to Create/Modify Partitions, and hit ENTER. Select your hard drive and hit ENTER. When asked to use GPT, select NO. Next, use your arrow keys and enter to delete all partitions. Once it only lists FREE SPACE, choose NEW and select PRIMARY. Use the entire disk. Before hitting write, mark the partition as BOOTABLE. After the formatting is done, hit quit.

6. You should now have a single partition on your hard drive. Hit OK to select it. Choose to format EXT4. Choose YES to install Boot-Loader GRUB. Choose skip when asked to install GRUB2 EFI. Choose YES to set the system directory to READ/WRITE.

7. Choose to Reboot, and un-plug your flash drive. Now you can follow through the rest of the install. Use the shortcuts on the desktop and follow the simple instructions on your screen to set up GAPPS and get online.

Refurb.io (and Lenovo X220 tablet) Review

I have used a X201 Thinkpad for work over the last several months, and I really enjoyed it. The old-style workforce Thinkpads with i5s and i7s are very nice machines, and back when they were new, they were very pricey. They are absolutely loaded with features and still perform great with a good SSD, so I was really surprised when I found refurb.io selling the X220 i7 Tablet-Edition for only 299$.

I was very skeptical, considering the licensed copy of Windows 7 Professional alone is well worth a third of the price, but I’m currently very happy with what I’ve received. The X220 Tablet I received seems to be very new. The SSD in it showed hardly any hours logged, and it was aesthetically very clean and free of any damage. Windows 7 64-bit is pre-installed, and it works great.

The one issue I’ve come across so far is that USB 3.0 devices will not work at all–not even at a slower speed. “Unrecognized Device” is shown, and the USB 3.0 drivers supplied by Lenovo appears to do nothing. To fix this issue, simply use a USB 2.0 hub… Problem solved.


Machine Specs:

Lenovo Thinkpad X220 Tablet (on Refurb.io)

-i7-2640 Processor (2.8Ghz, 4 cores), with Integrated HD3000


-160GB SSD (Mine came with an older Intel model; great nonetheless)

-720p Webcam, Tablet-Style Screen and Pen, Fingerprint Scanner


This PC is a fantastic workhorse, and would be an awesome laptop for anyone doing work while traveling–even if that work involves basic 3D-rendering or heavy processing. The tablet-functionality makes it a great choice for engineers, designers, and artists. Although the screen is not massive, the resolution still looks great and simple games run perfectly. For example, I am able to run League of Legends at full resolution with all medium-high settings, without ever dropping below 60fps.

So far I have no complaints about this laptop or Refurb.io. The device was shipped to me on-time and it was packaged well. The laptop itself looked very new and was completely clean. I have not yet run into any issues at all with this device, but at this price I almost expected there to be a gimmick… I’m hoping that Refurb.io continues to sell great refurbished machines at good prices, and I will give them plenty of business!

I am planning on swapping out the 8GB RAM with 16GB, and down the road I may add in a Samsung 850 PRO SSD, so that I can really speed it up. But currently it boots up in twenty seconds and I get a 6.5 in the Windows Experience Index. Awesome for a laptop, especially one at this price and age!

How to Switch to AHCI Mode without reinstalling Windows

Haven’t made a post in a while, as I’ve been very busy with work, but here’s something I had to blog about:

I recently realized that my brother’s PC was running in IDE mode, but he has a semi-new SATA harddrive! If you’ve ever messed with your motherboard BIOS before, and changed from IDE to AHCI mode, you would know that Windows will not boot after making any changes, as it is looking for the non-AHCI drive.

To get around this issue, simply run msconfig.exe and set your computer to reboot into minimal safe mode. Then shut down, change your BIOS settings, save and exit, then boot into Windows. So long as you set it to minimal safe mode, you will get right in, and then you can check device manager! Your storage system will now be set to AHCI mode. Run msconfig.exe again, and change to a normal boot. Shutdown and reboot one more time, and behold–you now have a working Windows install!

I highly recommend that anyone running a modern motherboard with all SATA drives should enable AHCI mode to get the best performance out of their machine. Also, if you’re installing a SSD or cloning an old HDD to an SSD, always make sure that AHCI mode is enabled, as it will make a huge difference with solid state drives.

How To Install A New CPU Without Losing Windows

Sysprep to the rescue!

Anyone that enjoys building computers and upgrading their own rigs has run into the common issue of Windows not booting or refusing to validate after installing a new motherboard/processor. However, Windows (since 7 or so) has a program built-in that can make migration easy.

Sysprep is software included in most Windows installs, that can easily generalize your drivers and prepare Windows for a completely new set of hardware. It’s perfect for moving an old harddrive to a new PC, OR for creating a Windows PC that will appear new to a customer, but has apps pre-installed.

If you are going to upgrade to a new motherboard and processor, Sysprep is your best option for keeping Windows and all your files!


  1. Click START, and go to RUN. If you can’t find run, use the search box. Type “sysprep”.
  2. You want to run Sysprep.exe, which can be found in C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep …
  3. After running the application, a box should appear giving you several options. If you’re simply preparing the PC for a customer, and your drivers are already correctly installed AND you are not going to alter the hardware, choose the “OOBE” mode option. If you’re going to replace the motherboard/processor, or any other hardware that may cause issues which may cause Windows to not boot, check the box for “Generalize.”
  4. Choose shutdown if you plan on unplugging the PC once the process is finished. It will take time, so be patient and have a cup of tea while it loads. When it’s finished, you can rip out your old motherboard or deploy the PC to a new owner’s home.
  5. The next time you turn on the PC and boot from the Windows drive, you will be greeted with a “new,”  clean install of Windows that already has all your apps ready to go! Just install the drivers for your new hardware and you’re ready to rock and roll!

NOTE: If you are going to use this functionality to refurbish a PC, make sure you delete all personal files and users from the PC before allowing anyone new to use the PC. Sysprep only removes temporary files and prepares Windows to look new again–all files and users will still be there!

Battery-Life Optimization for Android

If you own any Android-OS devices, odds are that you wish they had better battery life. Although smartphone-sized processors, RAM, and internal storage have all seen significant advances over the last few years, batteries have been left behind. To make matters worse, our new hardware is often drawing more power, and Android OS itself has become so advanced that it is not as efficient as it once was. Although standout devices exist (Samsung Note 3, for example), the majority of Android-OS smartphones and tablets have battery lives that do not meet the expectations of their owners.


How can I squeeze the most juice out of my battery?

  1. Do some research on a custom ROM for your device. Do a Google search for your specific device’s model number and seek out reliable sources for a custom or enhanced stock ROM. Make sure that battery efficiency is listed as a benefit of the ROM.
  2. Prepare your device for a new ROM. This means doing a backup of all your apps, contacts, etc. Use your Google account to sync; double-check your settings to make sure it has synced recently.
  3. Make sure that you have correctly upgraded the recovery for your device with a custom recovery. Most people prefer the TWRP recovery, which provides a really clean interface with touch-screen controls.
  4. Install the new ROM, and immediately root the new ROM with SuperSU. For the entire process of flashing your recovery, installing a new ROM, and rooting, you can likely find a guide specific to your phone online. Take every precaution you can, and follow guides closely; you alone are responsible for upgrading or bricking your device!
  5. Download Xposed Frameworks for your device and install using your new recovery. Make sure your device is supported and that you’re installing all the correct versions. After installing through recovery, install the .apk portion of Xposed after rebooting.
  6. I highly recommend using Greenify and Amplify. Both of these apps, combined with their respective Xposed Modules, are extremely effective in lowering your idle battery usage! Neither app requires root permissions or xposed to be installed, but if your system is rooted with Xposed, you will benefit much more from what they have to offer. I also recommend buying the full versions of these apps–the full versions have additional features that are certainly worth a few dollars.
Even if you cannot root your phone, install a new ROM, or install Xposed, you can still install Greenify and Amplify… Both apps can make a significant difference in the life of your battery without any significant loss in performance.

My current phone is a Oneplus Two, and, although I was initially upset about the battery life of the device, with root permissions, Xposed, Greenify and Amplify–I have nearly tripled my idle battery life.


Oneplus Two Review

After waiting far too long for my invite to order the Oneplus Two, I finally woke up one morning to see an invitation email in my inbox, and immediately started debating whether or not it would be worth it to ditch my Oneplus One in favor of the newer model. Considering the simple fact that the Oneplus Two is significantly more expensive than the One, I naturally expected it to be a significantly more powerful device. Although I am satisfied with the phone, I do assert that, in its current state, it is not as powerful as the Oneplus One, and the new “OxygenOS” is far too simplistic compared to the extremely-customizable and hacker-friendly Cyanogenmod OS that was pre-installed on my Oneplus One.


In terms of raw performance, the Oneplus Two is an awesome smartphone. Apps load instantly, games never lag, the speakers are extremely loud and clear, the camera takes gorgeous photos, and the new USB-C charger both charges very quickly and allows for absurdly high data throughput. Many people would be perfectly pleased with the phone as it is, but I am not certain it is worth paying more than 100$ (including shipping), when the Oneplus One is almost as a good in every single category.


Antutu doesn’t lie. Immediately after turning the phone on and making sure it was fully updated, I installed 64-bit Antutu and ran some benchmarks. Right off the bat, my Antutu score was 44279, which is nearly 4000 points lower than the 48345 that my OnePlus One scored. Is this a massive difference? Is it obviously detectable in normal use? Of course not. But the fact that this device has worse battery life and worse overall benchmark scores really bothers me.


Battery life on the Oneplus Two is somewhere around 12-16 hours idle, or 4-6 hours of nonstop intense applications. This is a bit depressing considering how happy I was with the battery life of the Oneplus One… But–it is true that allowing root access and installing Greenify may double the maximum amount of idle time. I would have expected this device’s OS to have significant battery life management options, but alas, there are almost none. Even getting to battery-saver mode is obnoxious as it is only accessible through the options rather than through a dropdown or shortcut. Although the Oneplus Two has a slightly larger battery–3300mAh vs. 3100mAh–my old Oneplus One was much more efficient and, with any premium “upgrade,” it is very frustrating to realize that the older model was better.


I cannot say enough good things about the camera on the Oneplus Two. It has better autofocus capabilities than any other phone I’ve seen, and it has many interesting features such as slo-motion video, integrated instant-gif-making, etc. The flashlight LEDs are quite bright as well, and, in tandem with magnifier apps, the Oneplus Two makes a wonderful digital magnifier. Even with the standard camera app, tiny objects can be magnified and captured in gorgeous high-resolution photos.


One of the most obnoxious and, honestly, infuriating aspects of my upgrade to the Oneplus Two was the fact that my SIM card (the same one I just removed from my Oneplus One) is completely incompatible without modification. The One uses MicroSIM, the smaller version of the original SIM card, and the Two uses NanoSIM, the newest and tiniest SIM card variety. This incompatibility can be overcome by simply using a premade .pdf guide and cutting your own MicroSIM very carefully to create a NanoSIM card… Although this does work, it is not for the faint of heart or those that couldn’t also work part-time as a 3rd class brain surgeon. If you’re worried, take your SIM card and have it transferred by a professional. Honestly–Oneplus should have made this more apparent–and, since they already knew I had purchased the Oneplus One just months before, it would have been nice to receive a warning that my  MicroSIM would be incompatible with the new phone.


The fingerprint scanner is a wonderful addition to the Oneplus Two smartphone. I love the simplicity of not having to type in a code, but also the security as well. I know that these scanners are easy to spoof by someone that knows what they’re doing, but I’m not really all too concerned, and I am confident that the fingerprint lock is more than secure enough for my needs. The scanner is very fast and can take a reading from many different angles. I’m impressed with how intelligent the scanner is.


Perhaps my biggest gripe with this phone is the abysmal OxygenOS. Although it looks pretty in some places, it adds zero functionality and only subtracts from the massive amount of features that Cyanogenmod boasted. Simple things, like modifying the dropdown drawer, are not available at all. Even the Android (stock?) clock widget with weather is nowhere to be found; the only included digital clock has no weather option. There are no performance profiles, and even auto-brightness is missing. There are so many missing features that I’ve enjoyed on Cyanogenmod OSs for years that it is really upsetting… I’ve read online that there are Xposed frameworks that can return this functionality and unhide certain options, but I really don’t think that should be mandatory on a device like this. Why hide options like this when the majority of your customers are tech-minded folks?


It’s easy to find things to complain about when you’ve been let down, but with all honesty–if I had not already used the Oneplus One, I would be really impressed with the Oneplus Two. I genuinely hope that in the future the Oneplus team will continue to modify and provide substantial updates to their OxygenOS. I want to see more customizability and  performance options; they know that many customers aren’t fully satisfied with the battery life… Perhaps they will be able to provide solutions in time, and I will certainly update my review when they do! I see this phone being wondeful for the future of smartphone VR, and I will be playing with TrinusVR and other programs in the near future and comparing that with my experiences with the Oneplus One. The USB-C cable, for example, should mitigate lag and allow for a much better experience in USB-bottlenecked streaming applications like TrinusVR.


If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, I do recommend the Oneplus Two if you are interested in the cutting edge and are willing to pay a pretty penny. Features like the fingerprint scanner and superior camera are unique (at this price) to this phone. However, if you can settle on just having a powerful device and not every bell and whistle, then the Oneplus One would be my recommendation. For a case, I highly recommend the TUDIA Ultra Tough Ominix Case, it is very durable and appears to be thicker than the current Otterbox cases. I also recommend investing in a long and flexible USB-C cable, especially if you are interested in VR.


Comments or questions? Post below!

Windows Antivirus in 2015

Should I pay for a subscription antivirus?

What antivirus is best for a typical user?

Windows, and PCs in general, have evolved quite a bit in the last decade or so. Viruses, although more pervasive than ever, are actually easier to avoid so long as the user is informed. I have a theory that I have tested extensively over the last decade, and it may save you a lot of money: it is simple–do not depend on antivirus to keep you safe, and be proactive!


Why are subscription antivirus services a scam?

  1. Most subscription-based antivirus are active protection, and work by constantly scanning your memory and hard drive for dangerous files. They do not usually use passive techniques to prevent viruses from gaining foothold, and these active methods are often ineffective and will slow down your computer significantly by constantly taxing your resources. They often have false-positives, which means that the antivirus may quarantine or delete files that are mistakenly identified as being dangerous.
  2. Antivirus subscriptions are expensive. Many claim to provide “total support” or “full protection,” but in reality these are false and exaggerated claims. You should not pay 50-100$ a year for a service that simply will not keep you safe and will degrade your user experience by slowing down your computer.
  3. Antivirus subscription services want you to think that you need their service to be safe, but in reality the best antivirus is you. By simply using a few free antivirus and anti-malware programs that employ passive protection and avoiding clicking ads or going to unsafe websites, you will be much safer and your PC will run at full speed.


What do I suggest?

  • Start with a clean copy of Windows. If your current PC is very infected with viruses, the easiest way to get back to normal is to wipe it clean and start again.


  • Use Ninite.com to install/update critical software quickly and securely. Make sure Windows is also fully updated, and that it continues to update regularly; this will patch security holes in the OS and also manage the anti-malware software that is built into modern Windows OS.


  • I highly recommend installing Spybot Search and Destroy 2, and Malwarebytes. If you absolutely must use active protection, Avast! Antivirus has a free version that is decent. Spybot has an immunization function that will keep malicious code from running, and you can manually activate both programs to perform an active scan when you need it. They will not scan without your permission. All are free, but you can pay to support and have access to additional features.


  • Use Google Chrome as your web browser and install the Adblock extension. I also highly recommend using Greasemonkey and installing anti-malware/adware plugins. Unchecky is another great piece of software that can keep you safe.


  • Be proactive and vigilant. Do not click ads and never download files from mysterious emails. Keep in mind that you should never download a file to participate in a survey or print coupons–any website that demands you do so is trying to cause you to download malicious software.


  • When downloading programs from the internet, be certain that you click the correct “download now” button, and not an ad. When you begin downloading the file, make sure the filename matches the filename on the download page.


  • When installing programs, always watch out for boxes checked, which may give the installer permission to install other unwanted programs, toolbars, or default homepages/search engines.


  • It doesn’t hurt to occasionally check your Windows startup applications, and make sure that nothing suspicious is going on. Check my Msconfig post for details. It also doesn’t hurt to use software like CCleaner to regularly sweep your PC of temporary files, and to scan for registry issues. A clean PC is a happy PC!


All Recommended Downloads


Tech Support, Tech Advice, and Reviews

%d bloggers like this: