For the most part, malware
seems to slip by many, if not all anti-virus products. I have
had machines brought to me with AVG, Avira, McAfee, Norton, Kasperski, etc.
that have been infected with malware and are
affected with the associated registry/system changes and damages.
So what gives?
Aren't we protected if we have an updated anti-virus installed?
a lot of malware and have learned malware patterns and where their
damages lie. I know how malware infections happen and I know
how to avoid them. I also know a secret that the major
anti-virus companies don't want you to know - actual viruses are
very rare and the biggest modern threat is malware. The
kicker is that their products will not stop malware from being installed.
protection is our brain. People can stay out of trouble by
staying in safe areas. It's generally safe to check email, Facebook, shop, and read news. These activities are
safe and you can engage in these without needing to keep your
antenna up with only a few exceptions...
Be on the lookout for and question web links that you are emailed -
even from contacts you know.
Emails accounts still get hacked and when this happens, the victim's contacts
often get harvested and emailed a link with no personal message
other than the link. Trouble often awaits at the other ends of
these links. Question and carefully scrutinize emails that
require or tempt you to click a link or button to either satisfy a
curiosity or to "solve a problem" with an account.
use effectible social engineering to get people to click and
activate a tripwire or trick people to give up private information.
Important - if you get an email that has a zipped attachment, WATCH OUT.
People who know computers sometimes use zip files as a way to send
multiple files inside a single attachment. But businesses like
FedEx, UPS, USPS, PayPal, eBay, the IRS, etc. DO NOT send
PDF "reports" inside a zip file. If you receive an email
with a zipped attachment assume that it contains a malicious
program. Verify the contents of a zip file with the sender
before opening. If you don't know what a zip file is, go
Gone are the days where novices can install software safely.
At the very least, blindly clicking the [NEXT] buttons on the installation screens
will probably change your Internet homepage, default search engine
and add an unneeded toolbar. Read every screen and opt out of
the extras that permits the software to change your homepage or add a toolbar.
downloaded software is downright dangerous. It's wise to stay clear
of software searches and downloads unless you know exactly how the
scam game is played. Most people are not
equipped to deal with the hidden traps buried inside of free
software. Something as simple as trying out a new media player
can leave your computer loaded with undesirable software that will
take an experienced technician to fully remove.
My advice is to keep them off of a computer that you care about.
Give them a ChromeBook or similar. Or create a "Limited"
account for them and forbid them to use your password protected
account with Administrator rights. It doesn't take very long
for a fearless game seeker to trash a
Windows computer. With kids, it's not a matter of "if...
If you are on the Internet and are prompted to update anything,
consider it a trick unless you are adept at recognizing and
installing legit updates. Driver update programs are often
malicious. Do not rely on a driver utility to address a
problem - seek professional help. Legitimate updates from JAVA and Adobe products are
offered to us as our computers start - NOT while on the Internet.
Not sure? Then wait. No update is worth messing up your computer.
As mentioned earlier, be on the lookout for undesired changes and
opt out of those changes when installing legit updates such as those
from JAVA and Adobe.
Generally worthless and sometimes malicious. Stay away.
If you think your computer needs a tune-up, it is probably running
slow because of undesirable software or a heavy antivirus program.
It definitely won't be faster when several "tuneup" processes are
swirling in the background.
If you have a wireless router in your
home so your laptop can connect wirelessly, does your router have
the password enabled?
need to do this so no unauthorized connections to your network can be
made from the outside. Why? The first reason is that any
traffic that crosses your Internet gateway is your responsibility.
An unsavory example is pedophilia material. Those who are involved in illegal
Internet activity know how to not get caught and it doesn't take a genius to
sniff an area for an unsecured network allowing a gateway to the Internet that can't be
traced to them. You get my drift.
Another reason to lock your wireless down is that if your ISP limits your monthly data
throughput, you could be paying extra for a neighbor who is using
your Internet account without your knowledge to download the
complete Beatles catalog. This same neighbor could be sharing
copyrighted material with the world and because it's coming from your IP
address, you are responsible. Have you ever shared your wireless
password with a neighbor as a favor? If your password is still
the same, they may still be using it. Know any good lawyers?
granting someone temporary Internet access is a neighborly thing to do,
but be aware that if you have file sharing enabled, anyone on your
network who is in the same workgroup can access those files. After
handing out your password, be sure and change it after a day or two.
If your router is not secured, please secure it from people
on the outside and protect yourself. Different brands of
wireless routers are accessed differently - they have different
default login usernames & passwords. Read your manual or do a
Google search on your particular router. It's really worth
learning how to do this and basically there are only two parts: Getting
into the interface and changing the settings.
If you need an in-home wireless router set up or help configuring it
with security, call me - this is what I do. I
will explain as I go along and teach you about your setup so that you will be able to
change your own password, add computers to your network, and even regain
failed connections yourself should something weird happen with your
ISP or equipment.
Knowledge is power.
Name (SSID) -
This is the network name that appears in the list of available wireless
networks. A default name is already used (usually contains your
router's mfg. name). If you want to change the broadcasted name to
something different, I recommend choosing a name that doesn't identify you to
Type - For residential use with best compatibility with "smart" devices
like Internet-capable TV's and BluRay players I like WPA-PSK with TKIP.
Some devices have problems with WPA2-AES
Choose a password that you will remember and no one will guess.
Installation (Part 1: New Printers)
Today's wireless printers install easily
by following the instructions included with the printer.
Often, there is a quick set-up page that will get you started -
removing tape and packing protection.
If you want to access all of your printer's features like scanning, you will want to run the CD that comes with a new printer and
follow the steps. WAIT until the setup software tells you to
connect the USB cable before doing so because this step might not be
Be sure and save your software disk
after your printer is installed. To install the printer to
additional computers, you might need the disk. My non-tech customers have had very few issues
installing their own HP and Lexmark wireless printers. My personal preference is
HP because of their clean and complete scanner interface and flawless wireless
If you are installing your printer as a
wireless network printer, I recommend choosing the option to NOT
share the printer. The reason is that if the printer is on the
network, that means that any computer can print to it over the
network (through the router) as long as the printer and router are
powered on. If you select the option to share the printer and
someone later uses the Add Printer utility to get a printer on their
device, they could install the shared printer instead of the network
printer. For a shared printer to work, the sharing computer
operating as a print server must be powered on.
wireless connectivity issues arise later related to the router
automatically assigning an IP address (DHCP), this can be
permanently corrected by setting the printer up with a static IP
address in the same subnet but outside of the assignable range.
Here's an example: Say your router automatically assigns IP
addresses in the range of 192.168.0.100 to 192.168.0.254. This
leaves the 192.168.0.2 to 192.168.0.99 that can be manually
assigned to network devices like printers.
I realize that configuring a manual IP
address is beyond the scope of many people but there are
instructions on the web. If your printer is here one day and
gone on other days, a static IP address is the answer.
Printer Installation (Part 2: Older USB-Connected Printer)
So in your home you have an older printer
already installed to a desktop computer using a USB or parallel cable.
You have a wired or wireless router and other computers are hooked in
(either by Ethernet cable or wireless). If your current printer is
fine but you are emailing or using a USB drive to transfer files to the
computer connected to the printer, there is a better solution.
With that router connecting your computers you have the potential to
network and from any computer, you can print directly to the printer you
already have installed.
The steps to do this
can be found in numerous places on the web and there are probably some shaky
software solutions out there as well. I'll just give you a very brief list of
things that have to be done to accomplish printer sharing.
Put all computers in the same workgroup or Homegroup - this is a key step in home networking.
Enable "File and Print Sharing" on all participating
computers - another key step.
Share your printer in the Printer Properties window.
Be sure both 32-bit and 64-bit drivers are made available by the
Add (install) the shared printer to the computers which need a printer.
Those are the basic steps but sometimes it's easier said
than done. There are often driver and sharing roadblocks.
Call me for printer-sharing solutions.
Downloaded Software / Toolbars
Most software comes bundled with extras that
you probably do not want. Be sure and look at the
options or advanced options during installs and uncheck
those that do not benefit you. If you aren't vigilant
in this area, your home page and search provider will change
and the program might install resource-hogging marketing
Toolbars should be avoided like plagues.
At best, they only serve to take up valuable space in your web browser
window. JAVA will try to load one and
even Adobe will try to sneak a
McAfee Toolbar and also a virus scanner on your system.
Keep your browser clean and look for the opportunity to
"uncheck" the toolbar options whenever updating or
toolbars, the place to start is Control Panel and Uninstall a Program
(Add/Remove). My advice is to remove ALL toolbars. MSN, Ask,
WebSearch (actually, remove ALL WebSearch items), YaHoo!, AOL. You
don't need these toolbars. Learn to use the features already in
your browser like making use of your browser's Favorites (Bookmarks)
Bar, putting your default search to Google, and setting your homepage to
whatever you want.
Replacement Laptop Batteries
Sooner or later, it will be time to replace a failing or
dead laptop battery. Don't just jump on the least
expensive one made for your computer. They are not the
same - neither in quality or performance. Making a
quick decision based on price alone could be a mistake both
in performance expectation and safety.
Besides making sure that it's a quality Lithium-ion (Li-ion)
type and made specifically for your model computer, you
also need a rating that is supplied by the battery's
manufacturer so you can compare different batteries.
Here's the number from which to make performance
comparisons: "Watt Hours" (WH)
few manufacturers rate their batteries by "Milliamp Hours"
(mAH). This is sometimes done to try to disguise a
low-performing battery behind a large number and a large
price-tag. To properly compare batteries, one that has
a mAH rating needs that number converted to HW.
Remember when you said you that
you wouldn't ever use the stuff your math teacher was having
(mAH x battery voltage) / 1000
Once you get the watt hours (WH) on all the batteries that
you are comparing, you can compare quality and size.
Quality comes into effect when your computer's charging
system doesn't recognize or identify the battery.
The battery may still perform but your computer may either
tell you that there is no battery or the meter in your
task bar may give inaccurate readings. Some
aftermarket batteries might not latch securely inside the
laptop and may drop out when you pick it up.
Some higher performing batteries with more cells may not
fit flush with back of the laptop or may make it not sit
This isn't necessarily bad, but it is something of which
to be aware. Having your computer jacked up a bit
can actually be a good thing as far as allowing additional
clearance for your cooling system's air intake and better
ergonomics, but if
your computer barely fits into your carry bag, then you
will not want the extra bulge.
The best sources for this type of information are reviews
from users. The reviews on Amazon.com are great for learning
from the experiences from others - just be sure the review
is for the exact product that you are considering.
With regard to laptop batteries, cheapest will usually get
you a battery that does not last long and quality may be
questionable - but paying more
doesn't necessarily get you the best either. A little
effort can insure a wise choice, so do your homework and
decide on a good balance between price and performance.
For safety reasons, it's usually best to buy from a
manufacturer or authorized reseller.
Windows 10 /
New Computer Setup
In my opinion, new computers sold today are not necessarily
ready-to-go when taken out of the box. First off, you may not
like the operation of Windows 10 but a person with some
know-how, can make your new Windows 10 machine look and feel
very similar to Windows 7 complete with a familiar Start
button menu. Windows 10 tweaking and configuration
doesn't stop by defaulting to a familiar start Menu - you
will probably prefer that common files open with familiar
Windows-based programs rather than the apps.
Other new computer issues...
Companies make money from selling us things that have
reoccurring fees. The Norton or McAfee security
software should be removed and replaced with lighter-running
free programs. Online data backup and online PC
tune-up offers should be declined. These are things a
can show you how to do yourself. One important thing
to do is to make your recovery disks when prompted.
You'll need a 5-pack of DVD-R recordable disks and a Sharpie
permanent marker to label the disks.
Then there are also the hidden
and unneeded background programs that are set to start up every time Windows
starts. Preventing the ones you don't need from automatically
starting will let your
computer run much faster, but knowing
which processes to disable and how to safely
do so requires a bit of
knowledge and experience.
Computers now come with a "reminder" version of Microsoft
Office which works for awhile and then reminds you that
Office will no longer work until you pay a fee for a yearly
I offer a very useful service I call
Computer Setup" to help the owners of new systems. The benefits of this type of
setup and initial cleaning isn't isolated to new computers - older computers can really
benefit as well. I can spot the junk programs that people get
tricked into installing.
A computer configured like I described is easier to
work with, is faster, and is more fun to use.
Laptop (notebook) computers differ quite a bit
from desktop computers because being smaller requires a different
type of construction and a different build-quality of hardware.
In most cases, this means the components are less durable
which requires the laptop to need special care. Look over
the bullet points below.
Power Button. With most factory
configurations, this is the power-on
button and NOT the power-off button (unless you have gone
into the options to change its function). With most laptops, pressing
and quickly releasing only puts it to sleep. To safely power-down a
laptop set at its defaults, you should go to Start>Shutdown and
do a "software shutdown". Unless your laptop
is locked up, you should never hold the power button in until it
shuts off. This is a no-no and will eventually cause major
Heat. The cooling systems engineered
laptops are usually adequate but minimal and you don't want to do anything to
impede their operation. Typically, there is a system fan that is
controlled by a thermostat. Heat is dissipated away from the
CPU and video chip to something that looks like a small radiator.
The fan blows fresh air across the radiator's fins, thus removing
heat. The fresh air intake is on the bottom
of the computer close to one of the far corners and the exhaust
opening is on the side or back edge
adjacent to the intake. It is important that the intake
opening on the bottom and the exhaust on the side are never blocked. This means that it
should never be operated on soft, conforming surfaces like beds or
pillows and if
used on the lap while sitting, your leg should not block the
opening. A flat surface is best.
Movement. People usually think
"portable" when thinking about their laptop. Yes - portable
when it's OFF. Extreme caution in regard to movement should
be taken when the laptop is powered on. Inside the laptop is
a device called a hard drive that contains the operating system
and the user's data. Inside the hard drive is a metal disk
which is constantly spinning at high speeds
and is being read by a metal needle similar to a record player
A jolt or sudden movement while the laptop is on WILL damage the
drive and WILL result in failure. Failure here means loss of
data and a non-functional operating system. I tell my
customers that if they have to move their notebook computer while
it is running, treat it as if it were a tray of antique china.
I also tell them to always have their irreplaceable data backed up
to a 2nd drive separate from the computer - because of their
nature (durability and treatment), laptop internal drives are
prone to failure.
Hard Drive Failure.
Continuing from the above paragraph... because
hard drives used in laptops are typically less robust than the
drives used in desktops, they are more susceptible to failure.
There are often telltale signs that a drive is getting ready to fail
and acting on these signs can allow you to save your data and even your current
setup/installation. Visual signs to look for include blue
screens at startup or during operation and also freeze-ups during
operation. Audible clues can be any noises coming from the
drive. Laptop drives are usually located in one of the two
corners close to you and are normally quiet. Actually, most
laptop drives do make a low-level "chatter" as the heads read the
disks but the noise is rarely loud enough to be easily heard
through the palm rest. Listen for audible clicks, loud reading chatter, or a medium-pitched
steady alarm tone.
These last signs (especially the clicks/ticks or tone)
mean that drive failure is imminent and if your computer is on, you should back up your
irreplaceable data immediately. I mean right now because the
Titanic may be sinking. Because time may be running out,
save items in order of importance. It will take more time to
copy larger files and given that your media might already be
synced to an iPod or mp3 player, you might want to wait and copy
your Music and Videos (My Music, My Videos) until last. If
you have them in your Documents (My Documents) folder, don't forget folders like TurboTax, QuickBooks, or
Quicken. Your data files/backups are in these folders and if saved,
these programs can be restored like you last left them. After the important contents of your
Documents folder have been copied, power down your computer and
call a tech. A failing drive that is not completely toast
can be accessed, copied to new drive, and everything will be good
again. If you are not comfortable copying these files or are
unsure of their location,
please call me.
Power Adapter/Charger. This is one of the
weakest points of a laptop and also probably the most important
this is the energy source. The juice. Crunching the charging jack
will ruin your computer or necessitate expensive repair so
extreme care should be taken to make sure the plug that goes into
the computer is never pulled sideways while plugged in. The
cord that comes out of the computer should always be straight
(never kinked) and never exposed to stress. The points where the wires go into the adapter "brick" should be monitored so
they are never kinked - either in operation or when in storage.
Don't tightly wind and wrap the cables - instead, secure and store them
loosely with no sharp kinks in critical areas like shown below.
If your power jack has been damaged, I do this type of
system board repair.
Dirt/Food/Contamination. Avoid having
food or liquids in proximity to your laptop. If used in a
dusty environment, use a keyboard protector. Crumbs and dirt
accumulating in the keyboard tray will not stay loose and dry and over the
course of changing humidity levels, debris under the keys can turn
into a sticky mess that usually cannot be easily cleaned.
Having liquids in spilling range is an invitation for disaster.
Canned air meant for computers should be kept on hand for
periodic cleaning (see images below). Power-off the laptop and blow the
keyboard out while it's turned on its side. Also blow air
into both fan openings (intake and exhaust alternatively) to remove dust that
has accumulated on the fan blades and the internal radiator's
Stickers. I have a personal distaste
for those little manufacturer's emblems (Windows, Intel, AMD,
NVidia, Energy Compliant) that
adorn the palm rests of new laptops and I recommend removing them
as soon as you are satisfied that you are going to keep the
laptop. The labels on the bottom are important so LEAVE THOSE
but the ones on top can be peeled off with a fingernail (nothing
sharp). The remaining glue can be removed with an old cloth
sprayed with WD-40. Don't use a commercial adhesive solvent like GooGone
because it might melt your laptop.
Besides being icky, dirt on the display and keys can cause scratches to
the display's surface when the laptop is closed and it is subject
to vibrations like being transported in a vehicle. My preferred cleaning
solution is 50% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol combined with 50% distilled
water. I keep this in a labeled spray bottle and to clean a
display, I spray a clean, soft cloth and gently wipe (don't squirt
directly on the display or keys. When wiping the keys with
this damp cloth, make sure none are pulled off by being
caught by the cleaning cloth. Laptops being transported
should be in a padded case or wrapped in bubble-wrap to protect against shock and
ideally, it should be held vertical unless a soft thin pad is
inserted between the closed lid and body to keep the keys from
contacting the display.
Take care of your laptop and protect it from abuse
and damage. The precautions above may seem obvious but
following them strictly
will allow your laptop to last a long time and stay in new,
A backup is a copy and that's the simple definition.
There are different levels and purposes of backups and all
of these purposes include being able to restore
irreplaceable data in the event of a computer disk failure
or accidental damage or deletion. By irreplaceable
data, I mean pictures, documents, your personal files.
Some types of backups are extensive and allow us to restore
our whole system quickly - other types are simple and
protect certain data folders like pictures and music.
If you own an iPod or iPhone and use iTunes, you already
have a backup by having your music in two places - one copy
is on your handheld device and the other is on your
computer. This is good because if you lose your iPod
and have to buy a new one, the iTunes program on your
computer will put your old music library on a new iPod.
If something were to happen to your computer, you could
install iTunes on another computer, sync your old iPod to
the computer and the music library on your iPod would be
used to rebuild the library on your new computer.
Backing up digital photos isn't usually automatic.
The process of doing this manually can be unclear especially if you use
imaging-managing software like Kodak EasyShare. To
make a backup copy of any group of files (digital photos are
files), you have to know where they are.
If you think you have a backup process already set up but
don't really know the details, chances are your files aren't
really being backed up properly.
One example is if
your business uses QuickBooks. During installation,
QuickBooks prompts the user to set up an automatic backup.
The problem is that if the person installing QuickBooks
isn't crystal clear about where the backup should be
pointed and when it is to occur, they might not have
a recent backup that will be accessible should a hardware failure occur.
QuickBooks does have a pay subscription backup service where
they purport to keep your customer database safe but my
single experience with this QuickBooks service showed me that
it is lacking, unreliable and their tech support is untrained
and dangerous. I would not recommend it.
It's best if you manage your own backup pointed toward your
own external storage device.
business customers that use QuickBooks, I set up the
automatic backup properly to a drive that is not on the
computer. I prefer to set up QuickBooks to backup
automatically every time it is closed - saving
the most recent five or ten sessions. I then show the user
how to verify that the backups are occurring as scheduled.
There are similar ways to automatically backup someone's
user data (pictures, documents, videos, music, etc.) but
like QuickBooks, this must be configured properly and
regularly monitored to ensure it is occurring. An automatic backup
can be as simple as a manual "copy and replace" routine of the
contents of a single folder once daily and can be as comprehensive
as setting up a RAID configuration or saving a periodic
image of the computer's whole hard drive. Most of my
customers can fall somewhere in the middle with a daily
backup being made to an inexpensive external drive.
If you have irreplaceable data on your computer
are concerned about not having a
backup copy of your important files and wish to have an
automatic backup set up, consider calling me or someone who
can look at your situation and recommend and set up an
appropriate backup process.