Many of us have one solution to try when something goes wrong with our computers: turn it off and back on again. When that doesn’t work, we panic: “How am I supposed to do anything?” People often turn to a friend or family member for help in the moment. But computer repair is better left to experts.
Calling tech support (if that’s an option) can be time-consuming and frustrating. So, people turn to the nearest teenager or that cousin with all the latest technological gadgets. Think of it this way, though: Driving a car doesn’t mean you can fix one. Having a lot of cars doesn’t show the owner knows what to do when one of those vehicles breaks down.
Consider the investment you’ve made in your computer. Now, ask yourself: when was the last time I backed up? Please, say recently! If not, think about the value of the content you might lose if the computer is not handled with care.
When a computer expert sets out to investigate the problem, they do so with utmost caution. Before doing anything, they’ll know to make a clone of your hard drive. Then, in identifying and solving the problem, they know what is safe to try. They also know what actions to avoid.
The Price of Amateur Fixes
Your family/friend tech support might turn to the internet for help. Sure, Google and YouTube will provide some answers, but context matters. Will your oh-so-helpful friend know which answers are relevant to your situation? Trying different things can be dangerous if the approach isn’t suited to the problem.
Ask any computer repair expert. They’ll have stories to tell about computers “fixed” by amateurs who made the problem worse. They may even have lost data along the way.
Just as you wouldn’t turn to the Web to diagnose cancer, don’t trust just anyone with the health of your computer. Computer repair may look simple, but expert decision-making determines the best solution.
As with most jobs, computer experts draw upon specialized training and hands-on experience. They’re also up on the latest threats, technologies, and solutions. This helps them to diagnose the problem more quickly. They can go in and fix the problem right away, because they’ve seen it before read about the problem. Or perhaps they have colleagues who have done something like this before, or they’ve researched the technology to identify different options. Can your Aunt Sue or friend Frank say the same thing?
Think also of your typical answer when someone asks you for help. You’re human. You want to help, even if you don’t actually know that much about the problem. So, when you ask a family member, they’re likely to say, “sure.” Even when they should be saying, “I don’t know how to fix that.”
When friends admit the repair is beyond them, you’ve already wasted time letting them take a crack at it. Worse, they may actually break your computer or lose important files. You have to go to the experts now for that new part or in the hope of retrieving the data. Meanwhile, you’re not feeling so friendly towards the person who created the new problem, are you? They may also feel annoyed that you didn’t pay them for their services.
Don’t jeopardize your relationships, and avoid doing more damage to your computer. Bypass the friend/family tech support solution and turn to the professionals first.
Fixing a computer isn’t always simple. Get expert help to preserve as much data as you can, and avoid expensive replacements as long as possible.
Have computer problems? We can help. We do computer repairs for a living! And our experts are friendly, too.
Maintain your computer without lifting a finger with Twin Cities PC Repair’s Residential Managed Services! For a device that’s supposed to make life easier, computers sure do involve a lot of work! There’s so much to keep track of that it’s no wonder most people push ahead and forget the routine maintenance until something breaks. Of course, the problem with being reactive is the damage is already done. Photos and files get lost forever in a crash, and information gets stolen in a hack…by then it’s far too late. It’s a bit like closing the gate after the horses have already fled. This is where proactive people come out on top. Thousands upon thousands of homes around the world are using managed services to put computer problems firmly behind them. It’s a done-for-you maintenance program we offer, and here’s why it’s the best choice.
You’re always up to date. It seems like every second day there’s some new and urgent update waiting to be installed. Whether they’re patching security flaws or adding new features, they seem endless. Sometimes, it goes beyond inconvenient, it gets overwhelming! Even if they do install automatically, they tend to do it at the worst possible moment, leaving you to wait up to 30 minutes when all you wanted to do was quickly check your email. Using our special managed services software, we can make sure your computer’s updates are all finished and done – before you sit down to use it. As part of our service, we also make sure all updates are compatible not just with your hardware, but also with your other software. After all, updates are supposed to make your experience more secure and more enjoyable! Let Twin Cities PC Repair maintain your computer’s Windows and third-party updates & patches.
You’ve got super anti-virus. The best anti-virus is the one that’s up-to-date and running, yet you’d be surprised how many people switch it off or never let it update. While you might be in the habit of scanning files and browsing safely, others in your home might not have the same priorities. Having managed services ensures your anti-virus is always running and dealing with any viruses it finds. As soon as a new virus becomes known, we make sure your system is actively protected against it. We also monitor for cyber-attacks and can alert you before they become a problem. Twin Cities PC Repair utilizes an award-winning lightweight Antivirus software named Emsisoft to maintain your computer safely and securely without hogging system resources.
Your hardware stays healthy. While a reactive person is always suddenly stuck without a computer when hardware fails, proactive people with managed services have already had the problem fixed. Our special software monitors the health of your hardware, eg, your hard drive, looking for early warning signs of failure. If detected, we can let you know in advance. This means you’re able to get it repaired at your convenience, making sure no files are lost and no other hardware is damaged in a domino failure. Let Twin Cities PC Repair keep tabs on and maintain your hardware to ensure a clean bill of health!
You never miss a backup. The worst part of a crash or hack isn’t the financial cost, it’s losing your files forever. Many people have their entire collection of photos stored on their computer, plus important family files, most of which can never be replaced or recreated. Whether it’s a report just created, a recipe handed down for generations or a novel you’ve been working on for longer than you’d care to admit, managed services ensures your backup is working correctly. Backed up files are ready to go when you are, and losing files to corruption, failure or theft is a thing of the past. We’ll maintain your backup sets and make sure they are in safe keeping!
Support is a click or phone call away. Just got a new printer and it won’t play nice? Got a weird error popping up? Your laptop won’t talk to the WiFi? Our remote support team can help with whatever technology issue has been bugging you and wasting your time. No nonsense advice is just a click or phone call away, and our team can remotely connect to diagnose and fix many problems. This means you can likely skip the cord shuffle and carting your computer into the shop, and still get your most pressing computer issues fixed. If you sign up for our Residential Managed Services, you will have a convenient communication app right on your desktop which communicates directly to your technician.
You’re always optimized. Whether your computer is acting up or not, our monitoring service can keep in touch with your event logs, services and processes and look out for anything that needs correction. This means we’re effectively stopping problems before they get to you, making sure that when you sit down to use your computer, it’s doing exactly what you want.
Inver Grove Heights Residents – Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail. Many users have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.
Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.
Where Have the Attacks Come From?
In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true.
In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, and MySpace all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.
The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.
How to Respond
If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services.
The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack.
That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.
Self Defense On the Web
When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defense. A good password manager makes this practical and straightforward too.
Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere.
Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.
A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.
Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.
More Than A Virus, Common Malware to Watch Out For…
The term “virus” is often used to describe many different types of infection a computer might have. Virus, when used as a blanket term, can describe any number of potential computer programs. What these programs have in common are they are typically designed to cause damage, steal data, or spread across the network.
Malware describes software designed to act maliciously on a personal computer. The name ‘malware’ is a shorthand for ‘malicious software’ and describes exactly what it is. A computer virus is a single type of malware that can cause harm to your PC, but it is only one of many.
Short for advertising-supported software, adware is a type of malware that delivers advertisements to your computer. These advertisements are often intrusive, irritating, and often designed to trick you into clicking something you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.
Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make up costs. Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and made excessively difficult to remove.
Spyware is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their knowledge or consent. Often installed in the background, spyware can collect keyboard input, harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.
Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing spyware themselves instead of the software or application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the data stolen is acted on in the form of fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts.
In technical terms a computer virus is a form of malware that is installed inadvertently, causing damage to the user. A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins, and bank information from the keyboard. It might steal data, interrupt programs, and cause the computer to crash.
Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform tasks remotely for hackers. The first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs should be running. A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem.
A particularly malicious variety of malware, known as ransomware, prevents the user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid. Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until the full ransom is paid.
Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.
Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email, or a vulnerability in the computer system.
Among the most common type of malware today is the computer worm. Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system. Often these programs cause harm to their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers, and using up all the available resources.
One of the key differences between worms and a regular virus is its ability to make copies of itself and spread independently. A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment; worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.
Are registry cleaners a good idea? You have likely been alerted by popups while browsing the web. These, often flashing, advertisements claim your computer has more than a thousand errors requiring urgent attention to fix. Perhaps helpfully, these popups offer a solution to cure your computer with a click of the mouse. Buttons marked “fix now” appear to offer a simple fix to all your computer troubles.
These advertisements are often described as Registry Cleaners, or by a few other names that attempt to convince the user they will somehow clean or improve their home PC. Within the IT industry they are known as “scareware”. They are software designed to convince you that your computer has problems it might not have.
Are they trustworthy?
Almost all popups and advertisements that use banners saying “Fix now for free” are not trustworthy at all. They are little more than a scam attempting to take your credit card details, PC data or both. At best these programs might claim to scan your computer and show a convincing list of plausible sounding computer problems. Using this, they will ask for payment to “fix” these problems to get your PC back in shape again.
At worst these advertisements can be downright malicious. Some may attempt to use fake warnings and scare tactics to trick customers into installing spyware on their own computers. When installed, spyware will attempt to steal information in the background. Attackers may use this technique to steal usernames, passwords, emails, and credit card details. Sometimes the first sign a user has that something is wrong is when a virus scan detects software doing something it shouldn’t be.
Do I need to clean the registry?
The Windows system and various applications installed on your PC do leave files stored on your computer. These files can stay behind or go out of date even after the application that initially made them has been removed. These files can use up a little space on the hard drive and generally cause minor clutter within the system.
Despite the large amount of “scareware” and fraudulent computer cleanup scans out there, legitimate applications designed to clean your system do exist. This can be something we cover and is often done as a single small part of a complete computer tune up. Keeping up with out of date files and freeing up unused space is worthwhile and can be considered “good housekeeping”. The vast speed boosts many online advertisements claim to unlock by simply moving files around are almost always false.
The home computer, however, is commonly upgraded and can be boosted by more conventional means. If the speed of your PC is no longer up to the task, there are ways in which we can unlock far greater gains than simple housekeeping chores.
Relatively low-cost hardware components such as memory can often be added to boost the speed of even an older PC and unlock a new lease of life. Upgrading the computers RAM can double the working memory available to the operating system. With extra memory, many programs can keep more information available to work with. This upgrade reduces loading times and increases the computers ability to run more programs at once.
Another common speed boosting upgrade involves how we store and load data from the computer. Switching from an older style mechanical hard drive to a modern Solid State Disk (SSD) can bring down the startup and loading time of any PC.
Loading data from the hard drive is very often the slowest part of a computer, the bottleneck in an otherwise very fast system. Because an SSD does not use any mechanical components the time to access the disk is nearly instant when compared to older, mechanical hard disks.
Safe Speed Boosts
These upgrades offer boosts in speed to rival a modern system at only a fraction of the cost originally paid for the computer. Upgrading the RAM, swapping to an SSD, or doing both will provide an instant, dramatic, and safe improvement to the speed of your PC.
Why Using a Registry Cleaner Won’t Speed Up Your PC or Fix Crashes (Read more…)
How to Tell if You’ve Gotten Hacked… Being hacked is the single biggest fear of most computer users. Many believe the first sign of strange behavior or errors on their PC is a sign hackers have taken control. But are hackers really inside your machine, stealing your information? Or should we be on the lookout for more subtle signs? What does being hacked really look like?
There is an important distinction to make between being hacked by a person and being infected with a virus or malware. Virus software and malware are automated processes designed to damage your system, steal your data, or both. There are of course ways that we can defeat these processes, but what if we are instead hacked by an individual?
Logins not working
One of the first steps a hacker might take would be to change the computers passwords. By doing so, not only do they ensure future access to the account, they prevent you from accessing the system to stop them. For the hacker, this is a crucial step that keeps them in control. With this in mind, we always want to make sure to keep on top of our own login details and how often we change them.
Security Emails or SMS’s from online services
Many services track which device and location you logged into your account from last. If your account is accessed from a new device or a different country it might trigger an automated email or SMS to ask if this new login is your own.
If you have logged in using a new computer, tablet, or phone; an email that asks “hey, is this you?” need not be cause for alarm. If you haven’t, it may be time to investigate further. This service is an important part of information security. It may be a key first step to identify someone else gaining access to your account.
Bank accounts missing money or strange transactions
Most commonly today, hackers commit crimes to steal money. The end goal for hackers is typically to profit from their crimes by taking money from people online.
It always pays to keep a regular eye on your financial transactions to make sure you know what money is coming and going from your account.
You may see a large sum missing where hackers have attempted to take as much as they can in a single transaction.
Alternatively small, hard to notice transactions may appear. These often account for small purchases where attackers have tested the details they have to make sure they work.
Sudden loss of cellular connectivity
Network interruption is a symptom that few people expect but occurs commonly when hackers attack. Many banks and online services use a security feature known as Two-factor authentication. To do this they send a short code to your phone or app when you log in. Two-factor authentication is ideal in most cases and a great boost to security.
Hackers can try to work around this by calling your mobile service provider to report your phone as lost or stolen. During this call, they will request your phone number be transferred to a new sim card that they control. When your bank sends its regular two-factor authentication code to the number registered, it goes instead to the hacker who may be able to log in. From your perspective phone service will simply stop working.
Keeping vigilant and maintaining security
These are only some of the modern techniques that hackers can try to use to gain access to your accounts. It pays to be extra vigilant and pay close attention to the signs and signals that indicate you may have been hacked.
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You’d be right in thinking it’s hard to program a computer virus that can spread across the world in a flash – we’re talking days of constant desk-jockey nerd-work. So why do they bother? Well, it generally comes down to 3 reasons: Money, showing off their skill, or to simply being a jerk. While showing off or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is fascinating.
Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses:
Bank account theft: Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.
Ransomware: Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re at their mercy. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently.
Ad swappers: A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit, or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities.
Bitcoin mining: You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to rent out other people’s computers.
Botnets: Certain infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected bot computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year.”
Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online gaming accounts. All those digital items that you fought so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!
Give us a call at (651) 456-8655 to make sure your computer is secure and protected.
Should I Upgrade or Buy a New Computer?
Well, it depends – mostly on who you’re asking! A department store salesman will always recommend a new one, but when you get down to the nitty gritty with a trained technician, you’ll often discover you have more (and cheaper) options than you thought.
Start by taking stock of what you’ve got. Sometimes an upgrade simply isn’t worth the trouble and it’s painfully obvious. For example, if your car is 30 years old, demands a constant supply of special fuel and you can see the road whizzing by thanks to the ‘custom’ holes in the floor…it’s time to replace the rust-bucket! However, if your car is decently modern and in reasonably good condition but happens to stall at stop signs, a few quick fixes can be just what the mechanic ordered.
If your computer does need to be replaced, chances are you already know this. But if you’re not sure and some days it could go either way, this will help. We’ve put together a walkthrough of the most common upgrades and the impact they’ll have:
Video card upgrade: It might not be your computer that’s getting old. Instead, games are getting more and more demanding. The days of stick-figure animations are gone and lifelike 3D is the new normal. With that improved experience comes a huge strain on your computer’s resources. If you have a gamer in the house, you can often super-power your computer with a single component – a new video card. For hardcore gamers, it’s actually a necessity, as some new games refuse to install if the video requirements aren’t met. Love smooth animations and responsive gameplay? We know all the best games out now (and in the works) and can match you with the right video card.
Hard drive upgrade: New hard drives are a popular option, both in size and speed. Running out of space is less of a problem now, but speed is a major concern. You’ve no doubt sat there twiddling your thumbs and urging a file to hurry up and copy. Many upgrades are to an SSD (Solid State Drive) that has zero moving parts and can find/transfer data in a flash. They even make booting up lightning fast! And you’ll have the choice of keeping your old drive for general storage, complete with all your existing data.
Memory/RAM upgrade: Some cheaper computers are underpowered from day 1. In truth, most of the ones in the department store could use at least an extra 4GB of oomph! Sometimes though, even a great computer falls behind as new applications come out and need more resources. Adding extra memory can revive your existing computer and set it up for a couple more years of happiness.
Where to draw the line: There are other upgrades such as the CPU, which is basically the brains of the computer; and the motherboard that all the parts plug into…but once you’re in that territory, it really is time to go for a full replacement. You’ll save money by getting a computer that meets your needs and can grow with you.
Is your computer letting you down? Give us a call at (651) 456-8655 to help you with upgrading or selecting a new computer
URGENT ALERT: 143 million Customers Exposed in Financial Data Breach
Credit reporting company Equifax has just revealed that its databases were hacked in a large-scale breach affecting millions across the US, UK & Canada. While no hacking event is ever good news, some are easier to ignore than others – this isn’t one of them. The sensitive nature of the exposed data now requires immediate action for all those even possibly affected.
The short version: Equifax is one of the three main organizations in the US that manages & calculates credit scores. To do that effectively, they have access to almost every piece of financial data for adults in the country, plus pretty much anyone who’s lived/worked in the US. We’re talking social security, tax file numbers, drivers’ license, credit card numbers…the big stuff. On July 29, Equifax disclosed the breach, stating that hackers had repeatedly gotten in through a vulnerability in the web application from mid-May to July of this year.
If you’re an Equifax customer: As scary as all that sounds, what’s done is done. Equifax, cyber-security experts & law enforcement officials are on the case, working to minimize the long-term damage.
The best action now is to protect yourself against fallout:
Go to: http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your data may have been affected. There was some news that this site was delivering random results, but Equifax announced it has been corrected. At this stage, it’s safest to assume everyone with a credit history has been impacted, so unless that link gives a definite ‘no you’re safe’ response, continue with the following recommendations.
Claim the Equifax free year of credit monitoring & identity theft insurance (if you’re a US resident). If you’re not eligible, consider sourcing your own. As the hacked data will continue to circulate for some time, also consider extending your credit monitoring for a few more years.
Keep a close eye on your finances and accounts. Check for notifications of new credit applications, monitor your statements and bills, and immediately report any suspicious activity or sudden change in billing.
Change all your passwords to be strong, unique and long. Any of the stolen data may give hackers a free pass into the rest of your bank accounts, email and personal information.
Add two-factor authentication where possible. This is when an account demands a second layer of authentication before allowing access or changes – getting the password correct isn’t enough, the hacker would also need to get the special code sent by SMS.
Consider freezing your credit report. This makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts under your name, as access is completely restricted until you choose to un-freeze.
Need help with your passwords? Give us a call at (651) 456-8655 or email us HERE