Saturday, October 26, 2019

Let's Talk Mac

We're often asked what the difference between Mac and PC are, or if Mac's really can't get viruses. In this week's blog we'll answer these questions and a few more.

What are the differences between PC & Mac

Mac’s latest OS update to Catalina

MacOS Catalina‌ is a major update that eliminates iTunes in favor of new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, nixes support for 32-bit apps, adds a new Find My app, brings a new ‌Photos‌ interface, and includes multiple privacy enhancements and other app refinements.
There are also a number of other 32-bit apps that people won’t able to use either, like older versions of Photoshop or Excel. Yet users seem particularly incensed about Word, perhaps because for many of us it’s so integral to daily life.
Before you upgrade to Catalina, you should check to see whether there are any 32-bit apps on your system. To do this, click on the Apple icon on the upper left corner of your screen and select “About This Mac” from the dropdown menu. Once you see the System Information window, click on “System Report.” Then, find “Legacy Software” on the menu to the left, and you’ll find a list of your 32-bit apps.
If you want to keep using those apps, it might be worth finding newer, 64-bit versions. In some cases, as with Word, you’ll have to buy the updated product. However, newer versions may also be free on the manufacturer’s website or you can just find alternatives – for example, you might find Google Docs to be an adequate substitute for Word. If you for some reason need to keep using 32-bit apps, you can purchase software that will allow you to continue using older Mac operating systems alongside Catalina.

Mac’s Time Machine

Time Machine is a backup software application distributed as part of macOS, desktop operating system developed by Apple. The software is designed to work with AirPort Time Capsule, the Wi-Fi router with built-in hard disk, as well as other internal and external disk drives.

What we love about Time Machine is that unlike a PC, Time Machine will back up all of your files AND the programs you've installed. This makes upgrading your hard drive and buying a new Mac very easy from a customer perspective.

You can find more information on how to back up your Mac with Time Machine on Apple's website:

Mac and Viruses & Malware

We used to hear this a lot: “I have a Mac so I don’t need security software. Mac’s never get viruses or malware.” Over the last year or so, we have seen an increase in Mac computers that have both viruses and malware.

How can this be? I’ll explain at a high level.

The hackers that are creating viruses/malware are looking to infect as many computers as possible. As such, they target the most common computer systems, which is currently Windows operating systems.

Essentially, Macs are safer because statistically there are less people using Macs, however over the last few years we continue to see a steady increase in Mac users. As a result, we are also starting to see an increase in Mac’s that are infected with viruses and malware.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Maintenance Tips for your Mac or PC

Prevention is the BEST Medicine

Preventative maintenance for a computer is the best way to minimize issues while extending the life of your computerWhether you have a PC or Mac, there are 4 things that we recommend doing on a regular basis.

1. Install Updates - Installing updates is critical because they often include important patches to security holes. In fact, many of the more harmful malware attacks we see take advantage of software vulnerabilities in common applications, like operating systems and browsers.

How to Manually Update Windows 10
  1. Select the Start (Windows) button from the bottom-left corner.
  2. Go to settings (gear icon).
  3. Select the Update and Security icon.
  4. Choose Windows Update tab in the sidebar (Circular arrows)
  5. Select Check for updates. If there is an available update, it will begin downloading automatically.

How to get Updates for MacOS Mojave or later
If you've upgraded to macOS Mojave or later, follow these steps to keep it up to date: 
1.    Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click Software Update to check for updates.
2.    If any updates are available, click the Update Now button to install them. Or click ”More info” to see details about each update and select specific updates to install.
3.    When Software Update says that your Mac is up to date, the installed version of MacOS and all of its apps are also up to date. That includes Safari, iTunes, Books, Messages, Mail, Calendar, Photos, and FaceTime.

2. Check for Viruses - When you're running a Windows Operating System, we always recommend having an effective and lightweight anti-virus/malware security software. If you have a paid security software installed on your computer they usually run automatic scans in the background. However, if you have a free security software, you usually need to run the scans yourself. If you don't have a security software installed (paid or free) then we recommend turning on the security software provided by Windows. In our experience, having the Windows Defender security software is better than any other free software you can get.

How to Turn On Windows Defender in Windows 10
  1. Step 1: Click “Settings” in the “Start Menu”. ...
  2. Step 2: Select “Update & Security"
  3. Step 3: Select "Windows Security” from the left pane and choose “Open Windows Security”.
  4. Step 4: Click "Turn On" under Virus & Threat Protection

As for Mac's, they are less likely to get viruses/malware BUT it does happen. We recommend installing Malwarebytes for your Mac. The paid version runs automatically in the background and the free version needs to be ran manually.

3. Create a Secure Password
  • Figure out something you will easily remember but that doesn't contain obvious words or dates, such as family or pet names and birthdays or addresses.
  • Make sure it is at least eight characters or longer and uses a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (for example, !@#$%).
  • Make it difficult for a thief to discover your password by being creative.
  • We recommend changing your passwords quarterly at a minimum.
4. Backup your Files 

Backups may not sound like a way to keep your computer safe, but if something damages the computer or you have a security problem, you can quickly recover if you have a recent backup of all your data. Hard drives die, computers are stolen, accounts are compromised but if you have a backup, you can at least get all of your data back. Back up consistently and often so if you have a problem, your backup isn't out of date, and you won't lose weeks or months worth of data.
There are many ways to perform a backup, such as both hardware (USB drives and external hard drives) and software (archiving and cloud). Keep backed up data in a secure location.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

DIY Troubleshooting Tips

This week we are going to go over some of the common reasons that people bring their computers to us and some of the things you can do at home to troubleshoot. Of course, we are always willing to do this for you, but we know that sometimes time is of the essence and this can at least help narrow down the issue for you.

Computer Doesn’t Power On

  • First, try a different power cord
  • If that doesn’t work following these steps:
  1. Unplug the power cord
  2. Remove the battery (if the battery is removable without opening the laptop)
  3. Hold the power button down for 30 seconds
  4. Plug in the power cord
  5. Press the power button and see if it will turn on. If it does, then plug the battery back in while it’s on. If it charges then you’re done. If it the battery doesn’t charge then the battery will need to be replaced. If it doesn’t then bring it in and we can do further testing.

  • If your desktop won’t turn on when you press the power button it is likely your internal power supply will need to be replaced. We would recommend bringing it so that we can test it as part of our Free Diagnostics.

Computer Powers on but Nothing Displays on the Screen

  • Connect your laptop to an external monitor – if it displays on the external monitor then your laptop screen needs to be replaced. If an external monitor doesn’t work then bring it in and we can do further testing.

  • Connect your desktop to an external monitor – If another monitor works, just replace the monitor. If an external monitor doesn’t work then bring it in and we can do further testing.

Water/Liquid Spill on Laptop
  • Immediately close the laptop and unplug from power.
  • Bring it in. For our Flat Fee Labor of $79.99 we’ll open it and remove all of the internal parts, clean up, and ensure that any moisture is removed. We let it dry overnight typically then reassemble and see what, if any damage is done.

Laptop Keyboard or Trackpad Not Working
  • Plug in an external keyboard or mouse – if it works then you likely need to replace the one on your laptop.

Unable to Connect to the Internet (Desktop or Laptop)
  • Check to see if any other computers in the house are having the same issue. If they are then it’s either your modem or an issue with your internet.
  • Some laptops have a switch along the edge that will switch the wifi on/off, it may have been switched off accidentally.
  • Sometimes one of the Function keys along the top of the keyboard can control the wifi too, so you'll want to make sure it didn't get pressed accidentally as well.
  • Make sure you're wifi isn't on Airplane mode
  • Connect your computer directly to your modem using an ethernet cable. If you are able to connect to the internet now, this indicates that it’s an issue with your computer. Bring it and we can run our Free Diagnostics to determine what the issue is.

Touchscreen Cracked (Desktop or Laptop)
  • If your screen is cracked but still usable and you’re not ready to replace it but you notice that random things open and it might even look like it’s being touched when it’s not, you can simply disable the touchscreen and those issues will stop.
  • Here are the 4-steps to disable the touch feature on Windows 10:
  1. Right-click on the Start Menu
  2. Select Device Manager
  3. Expand the section for Human Interface Devices
  4. Right-click HID-compliant touch screen and choose Disable

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Some of Our Services & Rates

Here are just a few of our services that you may not know we offer.

If your just not sure what’s going on with your PC or Mac, bring it in and we will run a diagnostics test on all of your internal hardware. We will call you within 2 hours of dropping off your computer to tell you the results and what our recommendations are. If you decide to proceed with the repair, we start immediately and typically have your computer back to you the next day. No appointment needed, just stop by when it's convenient for you.

That’s right, we offer a Flat Fee Labor rate of $79.99, which means we don’t charge you by the hour. In the event that multiple services are required to repair your Mac or PC, then we charge $79.99 for the first service and $39.99 for each additional service plus parts and tax. We are always fair and upfront and will tell you exactly how much the repair will cost before hand so there are never any surprises. No appointment needed, just stop by when it's convenient for you.

We have a trade-in trade-up program. You can bring in any working or non-working Mac/PC laptop or desktop and we will give you a minimum of $25 credit towards the purchase of any computer in our store.

Where do we get our computers? Check back tomorrow and we’ll answer that question.

Our #1 priority is service and repairing the computer you bring in to us. However, sometimes it might cost more to fix your computer than it would cost to replace it with a newer, faster computer. In this case we have affordable options.

The majority of our computers come from school district surplus sales. Because the schools are publicly funded, they are required to auction off all of their surplus, which is how we are able to keep our computers so affordable. We are particular about what we buy and look for computers that were high end when they were new. We test all of the hardware to ensure that everything internally is working as it should, we put in new hard drives, and increase the Ram so that in most cases they run better than a new computer. We are also re-sellers for Best Buy so we also have some higher end options at much more affordable prices than buying new.

We do everything in our power to make sure that you get an affordable computer without sacrificing quality. We offer a 30-day parts and labor warranty on all purchases and we offer extended warranties for just $10 a month. In the rare event that you have a problem, just bring it back and we will give you top priority and fix the problem in house and fast. Your satisfaction is our priority.

Delete a file on accident or is your internal or external hard drive not accessible?
We do free diagnostics to see if we are able to recover your files and typically, we can tell you the percentage of health on the drives and the likelihood of being able to recover the files within just a couple of hours of dropping them off. If we can recover your data, you just pay our Flat Fee Labor rate of $79.99. If not, there’s no charge to you. No appointment needed, just stop by when it's convenient for you.

Do you have old computers laying around that you want to get rid of but want to make sure that none of your information on them can be accessed by someone who might get their hands on it? We take the worry out of recycling. We do a Department of Defense wipe on your hard drive to make sure all of your information is completely destroyed before we recycle it.

Maybe you’ve been hanging on to your old computers because you want to get the data off of them before recycling. We can help you with that too. You can bring in all of your old computers at one time and we will take all of the data off of each of them and put them onto a USB. Rather than charging you for each computer, we count them all as one and only charge our Flat Fee Labor of $79.99. Once we have your data saved onto a USB, we do a Department of Defense wipe on your hard drives to make sure all of your information is completely destroyed, and then we recycle everything. No appointment needed, just stop by when it's convenient for you.

Monday, September 30, 2019

What Version of Windows is on my Computer?

As of January 14, 2020 Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for Windows 7.

What does this mean for you if you're on Windows 7? 
In a nutshell, if you are on anything other than Windows 10 after this date, we would not recommend connecting to the internet with your computer. After January 14, 2020 you will become highly vulnerable to viruses and malware, as there will no longer be security updates, which is why we highly recommend upgrading to Windows 10.

How do I know what version of Windows I'm using?
If you're not sure if you are on Windows 7 or Windows 10, the above pictures can give you a little guidance. 

The picture on the LEFT is the Start Menu for Windows 10
- 4-square tiles on bottom left hand corner make up the Start Menu
- When you click the Start Menu tiles appears next to the list of applications

The picture on the RIGHT is the Start Menu for Windows 7 
- 4-colored tiles on the bottom left hand corner make up the Start Menu
When you click the Start Menu you will see a list of applications 

If for any reason you're not sure which one your on, please feel free to call us and we'd be happy to help you. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

4 Tips to Choosing the Best Antivirus Program

4 Tips to Choosing the Best Antivirus Program

1. Lightweight
2. Effective
3. Free vs. Paid
4. Using Multiple AV Software

Lightweight – More important than the size of the anti-virus program is how much memory and processing power that it uses. The reason for this is because, generally speaking your anti-virus is always running in the background. If your anti-virus program uses too much processing power and memory your computer will run slower. The older your computer, the more you will feel the impact of a ‘heavy’ anti-virus program.  

Effective – Unfortunately, there is not one anti-virus program that will keep you 100% free of viruses and malware 100% of the time. Having said that, there are programs that are better at keeping you protected. Be aware that even if the program you’re using does a scan and it says that you are virus free doesn’t mean that you are. When we run a Tune-Up we use 8 different programs/scanners to ensure that your computer thoroughly cleaned and free of viruses and malware.

Free vs. Paid – In our experience free anti-virus program is better than nothing and generally only protects your computer from older threats and provides the minimum protection possible. In addition, we find that you get a lot of pop-up ads marketing their paid products to you. On the other hand, when you pay for an anti-virus program, they stay updated on protecting you from the latest viruses and most of them will automatically run in the background keeping you better protected.

Using Multiple Anti-virus Programs – In this case more is not better. In fact, having more than one anti-virus program installed on your computer at the same time can cause conflicts between the two programs leaving your computer more vulnerable to viruses and malware. In addition, having more than one running at the same time uses a lot of processing power and memory, which may cause your computer to run slow.   

Our Recommendation – We are often asked which anti-virus program is the best. Our recommendation is that if you are running Windows OS, having something is better than nothing. Having said that, the anti-virus program that we’ve had the best experience with is called Emsisoft. It’s effective and lightweight, it protects you from viruses and malware, and is affordable at $29.99 per year.  

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Virus vs. Malware and Everything You Need to Know

What is the difference between a Virus and Malware?
A virus is just one type of malware. The term malware refers to any malicious software, including a computer virus.

Viruses are a specific type of malware designed to replicate and spread, while malware is a broad term used to describe all sorts of unwanted or malicious code. Malware can include viruses, spyware, adware, nagware, trojans, worms, and more. However, because viruses made headlines a few years ago, most security companies focused their marketing on them, which is why they're called "antivirus."

8 Ways You Can Get a Virus or Malware

1.   Accepting without Reading
One of the most common ways a computer becomes infected with a virus or malware is by accepting what you see on the screen without reading it first.
For example:
a.    If your browsing the Internet and an advertisement or window pops up that says your computer is infected or that a unique plug-in is required and without fully understanding what you're getting, you accept or click the prompt.
b.    When installing or updating a program, you're often asked if you want "additional software" to be installed. Often, this option is presented as a check box, which is already checked. So, if you click "Next" or "OK," the program considers that as permission, and installs the software — whether you want it or not. For this reason, you want to be careful when installing software. Make sure to read everything on every screen of the installation process before clicking any buttons.

2.   Downloading Infected Software - When downloading any software (programs, games, updates, etc.) through the internet, make sure you're downloading the software from a reliable source.

3.   Opening e-mail attachments – Generally speaking, you should not open e-mail you were not expecting to receive. Computers can become infected when users open e-mail attachments that contain malicious code. Even if the message is from a co-worker, friend, or family member, always use caution before opening a link or downloading an attachment.

4.   Inserting or Connecting and infected device  - Inserting a CD or thumb drive into your computer can infect your computer with a virus. A common tactic used by hackers to gain access to a network is by leaving out a thumb drive with malicious code on it. Then, when a user puts the thumb drive into their computer, it becomes infected with a virus.

5.   Visiting unknown sites- Anyone, anywhere can create a website. You should be aware of this when you visit a website for the first time, and you're not sure what it is.
A malicious website may have the capability to read files on your computer, transfer malicious files to you, or access your sensitive information. Always be cautious, and beware of any link you receive in chate-mail, or SMS.

6.   Not running the latest updates - Many of the updates, especially those associated with Microsoft Windows, are security oriented. Always keep your operating system and programs up-to-date.

7.   Pirating software, music, or movies - If you or someone on your computer is connected to a file distribution network, and copyrighted music, movies, or software is downloaded or shared, you may be at risk.

8.   No antivirus/malware software - If you're running a computer with Microsoft Windows, we highly recommended you have some form of antivirus and malware protection. This software can remove any existing viruses and spyware, and it helps prevent future infections.

5 Ways to Prevent Getting a Virus or Malware

1.   Install an Anti-Virus/Malware Software - Having an effective and lightweight software is the first step; maintaining it is the second. Free anti-virus software is better than nothing, but keep in mind that it’s not the best solution. Microsoft does provide a security package for “free.” It’s free in that if you have Windows on your machine, you are granted access, but you did pay for your Windows license. Many users aren’t aware of this program, but it’s actually decent protection.

2.   Keep Your Operating System Up to Date - Whether you are running Windows or Mac operating system, keep it up to date. Our computers connect to our files, printers, or the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection. Therefore, it’s important that your Wi-Fi requires a password to access it and that the password is strong.

3.   Think Before You Click - Avoid websites that provide pirated material. Do not open an email attachment from somebody or a company that you do not know. Do not click on a link in an unsolicited email. Always hover over a link (especially one with a URL shortener) before you click to see where the link is really taking you. If you have to download a file from the Internet, an email, an FTP site, a file-sharing service, etc., scan it before you run it. A good anti-virus software will do that automatically, but make sure it is being done.

4.   Don’t Use Open Wi-Fi - When you are at the local coffee shop, library, and especially the airport, don’t use the “free” open (non-password, non-encrypted) Wi-Fi.

5.   Use Multiple Strong Passwords - Typically, we use the same email address or username for all of our accounts. Those are easy to see and steal. If you use the same password for everything, or on many things, and it is discovered, then it takes only seconds to hack your account. Use a strong password. Use lower case, upper case, numbers, and symbols in your password. Keep it easy to remember but difficult to guess.

8 Ways to Know if your Computer Has a Virus or Malware

1.   Slow performance - If your PC is taking longer than normal to start or programs are taking ages to open, then your PC may have a virus. If your computer’s performance is sluggish, check first that it isn’t due to a lack of RAM memory or hard disk space. If not, the culprit may be a virus.
2.   Your antivirus software is disabled - Some viruses are designed to disable your computer’s protection. So, if you can’t open or install an anti-virus program or your firewall, your computer may be infected.  
3.   Your friends say they’ve received strange messages from you – This is rampant among Facebook users today. For instance, you might receive a message from a Facebook friend telling you that they’ve found a video with you in it and they’d like you to check it out. Don’t! This is an example of just one way that the virus/malware can spread.
4.   Slow or No internet connection – Some viruses are designed to block your Wi-Fi connection. If you are confident that your hardware and service is fine, then you may have a virus.
5.   Annoying ads/pop-up messages - Unexpected onscreen ads are a typical sign of a virus infection. Not only are they annoying, other malware may lurk inside poised to wreck further havoc. Never click on a suspicious pop-up – even if it says ‘a virus was detected’. This is an example of rogueware, which asks you to pay for a program to remove a fake virus but may in fact allow even more malware to be downloaded.
6.   Crashes and error messages - If programs start opening and closing automatically, your system freezes or shuts down for no reason, or you see odd error messages, then you may have a virus infection.
7.   Excessively active hard drive - An excessively active hard disk where it makes continual noise or constantly spins – even though you’re not using your computer nor have any programs running – can be a sign your PC is infected with a virus. If you suddenly find yourself with low storage space on your hard drive, you might have a virus.
8.   Your browser homepage changed without your knowledge – If you’re normal homepage is Google but one day you open your internet browser and it takes you to a different homepage, you may be infected.

What Should I Do If I Have a Virus or Malware?
Install and run an anti-virus software program to remove malware. Then set the software to automatically scan your system on a regular basis and keep it up-to-date to protect against the most recent threats. 

What Antivirus/Malware Software do you use?