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.
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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Refurbished computers are almost like an insider secret – you can get great system specs for a fraction of the price. It’s how many families are meeting their back to school needs and upgrading their old systems, complete with warranty.
There’s one hot tip these people know: a refurb is NOT the same as used. You’re right to avoid those 2nd hand computers you see on Craigslist or Gumtree because there’s a reason that person is selling it! It’s probably slowed to a crawl, making weird noises or flat out broken in a way you’d never discover until too late. Refurbished computers are the complete opposite. They’re computers that have been given a new life, usually with a comprehensive repair, or sometimes they’re brand-new computers that were returned with a small problem like a hard drive failure, so we swap it out and sell it at bargain prices. Occasionally, the computer was even returned simply because the buyer changed their mind, but it’s still essentially brand-new (it might still be in the box!).
Quite often, refurbished computers start their life as business machines, built to the latest specs with business-grade components. When the budget or lease says ‘replace the computers’, that’s what the business does, whether the computers need it or not. There’s nothing wrong with them and they’ve likely been babysat by a corporate IT department who kept them in perfect condition every day. These are great machines that are still plenty fast for home use, both desktops and laptops. Plus, because business-grade components are more durable than the consumer ones, the entire system has been built to last longer and perform better, often up to several years without a problem. Rather than send these impressive machines to landfill, we check and replace necessary components and re-install a clean operating system. Next, we put them through a stack of verification tests, then pack them up ready for their new home. When you talk to us about buying one, we’ll always make sure you get a system that not only keeps up with your needs now, but gives you breathing space for the next few years too.
What are the benefits?
You save a LOT of money: You get yourself a great computer that’s been set up and checked over by an expert technician, for significantly less than the cost of buying new. Add in the fact that when you score a refurbished business computer you’re also getting more durable, higher-quality components that will last you for years longer than the off-the-shelf consumer model, it’s a clear win. We always recommend that when you see a refurbished deal that’s got you smiling, you act fast – it won’t sit around waiting for you!
Covered by warranty: A warranty is always included with our refurbished computers, giving you value plus peace of mind. It’s your guarantee that buying refurbished was a great decision. Problems are extremely rare since your computer has been through stringent checks, but if anything pops up that’s giving you trouble, we’ll fix it fast. Forget the delays and hoop jumping you might get with your other warranties, we stand by ours with rapid action.
You’re saving the environment: Fewer machines end up in landfill and fewer resources are used for unnecessary manufacturing. When you consider each computer requires a certain amount of precious metals to be mined, plastics to be created, packaging created from multiple materials and all the associated flow on effects of shipping, refurbishment is the right choice for the future. While you might not personally see the environmental impact of your decision to buy refurbished, rest assured the planet appreciates it!
Are they reliable?
Some people think that refurbished computers are more likely to break, when in truth, in some cases they’re actually more reliable than brand new. Manufacturers have an expected failure rate, a percentage of computers that go straight from the factory to buyers who discover their expensive new system is dead-on-arrival or breaks within weeks. A refurbished computer has already stood the test of time and it performed without missing a beat. By the time it’s gone through our checks and repairs (both required and pre-emptive), a refurbished computer is better than new.
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