Computer & PC Help

HOLIDAY TIME – IT’S RIP OFF TIME TOO!15 Nov

Well it’s that time of the year again when the cyber crooks are looking to get you! So once again I’ve decided to publish my tips and give some information….

First of all to any of my followers – Happy Holiday’s…

Yes its holiday time again and those “nasty” emails are upon us once again.  Here’s my rule of thumb.  If you don’t know the sender be careful because you never know what’s going to happen when you open that email and click on that link.  They say “curiosity killed the cat” well I say “curiosity can rob you blind”

So let’s review… Rule of thumb the IRS, FBI, CIA, Microsoft, UPS, Fed EX, USPS, your bank,  your mortgage company, any other government agency, etc. WILL NEVER, NEVER send you email ASKING FOR ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION!!!!    Should you receive any of this type of mail DELETE IT!  This is called phishing (pronounced fishing ) email.  They are trying to obtain your personal information in order to steal from you.   If you are not expecting a package then why would you get an email from the USPS, FED EX, or UPS?  Well as I said before “curiosity killed the cat and can rob you blind”.  These people are hoping that you allow them to obtain your personal information by clicking on that attachment in that email or clicking on that link because you are curious enough to find out what that email is for.  If UPS, Fed EX or USPS does happen to email you it will NOT ask you for information, it will only state that the package is on the way, and give you a link to track it.  But as I said, if you didn’t order anything, then you should not be receiving and email about it.

Quick story:  I had a client call me up she received one of those email from UPS.  She was expecting a package – but as I said UPS doesn’t send you emails with a link.  When they send email for a package they address it to you and there is their logo on it with the package information.  They just don’t say click on this link and install this.  She clicked the link and suddenly they couldn’t open any of their documents, spreadsheets, pdf’s or database files.  This was and is a disaster for them.  This is a “new” and improved way to steal your money it’s called the Crypto Ransom Virus.  I spoke about this nasty addition to ripping you off on my Facebook page. This one pops up a message telling you that your files have been encrypted and unless you pay you can’t get them back!  Well even if you do pay it’s not a guarantee you’ll get your files unencrypted.  What does encrypted files mean?  Well in a word it makes them unreadable.    And what’s so interesting about this one is it not only encrypts your files on your PC but it encrypts anything else that’s attached to your PC.  So for example say you’re working for a big company and you have a mapped drive to store files on a server if you happen upon this virus you’ve not only infected your computer but the entire computer network you’re attached to.  The only way to get the information back is to have a backup.  Most businesses do but for you home users not so much.  There is no “cure” for this.  You can get rid of the virus but you can’t decrypt the files so basically anything you have is useless.  This particular user didn’t think, and didn’t look at what she was doing.  Within a second of clicking on this link from this phony email she totally destroyed everything on this PC and for this record this was a small business with no backups.   Everything is gone.

My advice is either

a) Get yourself an external drive that you can simply plug into your USB port of your laptop and store whatever you can’t afford to lose on that.  Keep it safe and only plug it in when you are updating it.  So for example, I have one such device I keep pictures and my music on there and anything else I can’t afford to lose. I only attach this to my PC when I’m going to copy more information to it.

B) You can invest some money and use one of those on line backup places.  The choice is  yours. But either way that should help you out.

 

Check out my Facebook page for more details on the crypto ransom virus.

 

This one is always fun… No, you don’t have a cousin, aunt, uncle or for that matter any relative in Sudan, Nigeria, or any other country that is contacting you by email because you just inherited a million plus dollars.  What’s so interesting about this is that you have to pay for your inheritance – really?  And you didn’t win the lottery overseas either especially because you didn’t play!  Also, Publishers’ Clearing House doesn’t email you to tell you that you’ve won they show up. And you don’t have to fill out a form on line that gives your personal information or pay any money to receive your prize.

Here’s on I just received in my email about a charity – nice touch.

From: “Gillian And Adrian Bayford” <adrian@msn.com>
Date: November 14, 2013 at 4:08:36 AM EST
To: Recipients <adrian@msn.com>
Subject: Christmas Donation Funds
Reply-To: bayford17@rogers.com

Send Name, Country,Age,Occupation and Phone number. My wife and i are donating 1,500,000British Pounds to Five people each, as part of our charity donation this month, for details see our interview http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19254228

 

I have no doubt this may be a real story, but they are asking me to send them my information?  That’s not right.  Usually if you want to donate money to a charity you can do it over the web and it’s on a secure website (something secure would be https://… And a lock would appear at the bottom of the screen) So, in this case they are going to just give money to five people – any five people who happen to send the required information?  I doubt that. They just need my name, Country, Age and Occupation along with my phone number? They are going to call me?  Since when do I need to send any charity my information, I just give them a check and that’s that.  And look at the email. My wife and i?  They can’t even spell and no space between the 1,500,000 and British?  Grammar is wrong.  That’s a red flag too.  But I have no doubt people see stuff like this and click the link and give the information out.  I’m sure isn’t the last piece of mail like this that will show up in my in box this holiday season.

You can’t stop this stuff from coming in but you can ignore it by deleting it immediately.  Also, it’s very important to have some type for Virus Protection on your PC, laptop even tablet, anything that you receive and open email on or surf the web.  And yes, a Mac can get a virus too.  See my blog on virus protection vs. Internet Security – there is a difference.

Anything including your phone is a vessel for you to be ripped off. You need to be aware of what you are reading, opening and even clicking on when you’re browsing the internet. KNOW what you’re downloading, and know what you are saying yes to.  I have so many people call me up and tell me that their home page got changed and they don’t know how it happened.  My first question to them is “what did you install”?  So many times I update my “flash, Java, etc.” these are program that you do need, and there’s a check box that says install “Chrome, AVG, some toolbar, change your home page”, etc.  If you don’t uncheck this box it installs.  Again awareness of what you are doing on line is the key!

So my advice to you all this Holiday Season is PAY ATTENTION to what you’re doing on the internet and delete those unknown emails.

 

HAPPY  HOLIDAYS everyone!

Computer & PC Help

AN EXPENSIVE LESSON – LISTEN TO YOUR IT PROFESSIONAL05 May

I want to relay an incident that happened to me this week; the moral of this story is know your IT professional, trust your IT professional and lastly and most importantly, LISTEN to what they tell you especially when it comes to purchases.

I take care of many different clients in many different situations.  This particular client is a business client that I take care of – a few weeks ago the client told me that when the power goes out, the server shuts down.  I immediately said you need to purchase a battery backup – let me know and I’ll come by and install it.  I left it at that.  Now in all honestly, I probably should have been more aggressive in making sure this client did just that but I can’t really do that because I do have a lot going on so I do rely on my clients to do what I ask, especially when it comes to purchases.   Now also please note that I did not tell them I’d buy it because when it comes to ordering little things like that I feel that the client can take that responsibility.  Either the client will order it on line after I tell them what to buy, or just go pick it up at a local store.

I’ve said time and time again, a $50.00 battery can say you thousands of dollars!  Well, I’m sure by now you know where this is going so here’s what happened.  We had a bad storm here one day.  It was thunder, lighting, and much rain.  About 2 pm my phone rings and it was this particular client,  I answered the phone and this voice that sounded a bit panicked told me that there was a flashing amber light on the server and they couldn’t get a picture on the machine.  I asked what happened and they told me that the power blinked and the server rebooted and never came back.  I immediately when into concerned mode but thought maybe there was an issue with the monitor, so I asked questions, trying to troubleshoot on the phone and then I finally told them to change the monitor.  Nothing worked.  I told them to unplug the server press and hold the power button then to plug in back in and try to turn it on.  That didn’t work either.  I told this client I’d be there as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I asked the client to see if they had a backup of their information.  This particular client uses one company for on-line backups – which I’m not a fan of but this client insisted on this service.  I prefer the old fashioned way either tape backup or some type of external drive either in place of an on line company or in addition to an on line company.  This client called the on-line backup company and they did not have the information they needed backed up.  So now this situation is critical – this company (my client) is out of business without that information.

I arrived on site shortly after that.  I looked at this server and tried a few things and nothing worked.  I concluded that the server took a hit and the mother board was fried. Meaning in English the server isn’t coming back up.  Of course the server was out of warranty so I the manufacturer wouldn’t even let me extend the warranty.   So now I’m thinking I hope the disks are ok. I the middle of this craziness, the client informs me that she’s calling someone else because two heads are better than one and maybe the two of us can come up with something.  I’m thinking wow you don’t trust me…  So now I’m pulling out the drives and trying to explain to the client that they need to be prepared, they have no backups and they may have lost all the data if the disks are fried too. That I need to verify the integrity of these disks before I can say anymore.    The client explains to me that this guy is also a network guy and he can help and that he’s bring something to attach to the drive so we can read them.  I’m thinking ok. So in walks this guy he has an external drive reader. I quickly attach this to one of the machines to read the drives.  There were two drives – they were mirrored.  I look at the 1st drive I get in and then it dies!  I can’t read it.  This guy chimes in and say let me try.  He takes the drive and says “sometimes when you shake them you can read them” I’m thinking not a good idea you’re going to make it worse.  Well about 20 minutes later this guy is switching back and forth between the drives to try and read them – nothings working he states these drives are dead you are going to need to take them to a company to get your data off.  Now I’m thinking can’t be – I tell the client please just give me time and let me take the drives and look at them, I have tools.  The client is freaking at this point and screaming because they want this immediately.  I’m trying to explain that this is not an immediate fix and I can’t possibly get a server in here before Monday – this was Thursday.  The client didn’t understand that you just can’t buy a server ready to go off the shelf. I’m trying to explain that this isn’t an easy solution and that I need some time to assess the drives.  The other tech is insisting that the drives are dead – he’s still shaking them and getting no where.  Again I’m pleading with the client please just give me time.  Let me look at the drives and I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know.  The client is insisting that that’s not good enough and in the morning she’s taking the drive to this guy’s friend who gets data off drives.  I’m like please just let me take the drive to work before you do that and let me see what I can do before you do that.  The client is still freaking – I take one drive and leave.

Next morning I take the drive with me – the client has the other drive.  About 8:00 the client calls me to tell me that she dropped off the drive to this place that the other tech told her to go to and she paid $300.00 for them to “push” her to the front and diagnose the drive to first decide if  they can retrieve the data.  I’m truly livid at this point because all I wanted was the chance to look at this before this client spent the money.  The client insisted I didn’t understand her situation – I tried to explain I was fully aware of her situation and that if we couldn’t get this data that they were going to have to start over and they may be out of business.  All I kept saying was please just give me a chance but if you feel more comfortable with the other tech taking the lead on this, I will bow out. The client wouldn’t listen.

So with this in mind I just could have let it go, the client dropped the drive off at the company to recover it from the drive – I realize they could do it but the cost was probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500.00 – $2000.00 and the client still had to purchase a server too.

So I had the drive with me and I have something called a cradle which I slipped the drive into – I did it on a windows 7 machine, the client is still running XP.  And low and behold I was able to read the drive!  I quickly copied the information off and burned it to a CD.  I called the client – The client still didn’t believe me!  I kept saying I got into the drive and I copied what you needed.  Please come here and pick up the disk. The client came to me and asked how come I was able to do that and the other tech couldn’t.  My answer was I have better tools and I left it at that. She took the disk with the data.  Meanwhile for her $300.00 the company didn’t even call yet.  In just a few hours I was able to get the information back.  I didn’t know if the drives were fried – I thought that maybe windows XP just couldn’t read the drives or perhaps something was wrong with the equipment the other tech was using. I didn’t know. But I knew I at least had to try. The client did get the information back and was back up and running by that afternoon on a temporary PC. The client purchased an external drive for backups too and is going to purchase a battery backup for the new server.  We did order a server which should be there in about 10 days.

As a service profession I cannot and will not give you answers to something I don’t know the answers too myself.  I cannot raise your expectations without knowing what the outcome will be – that would be totally irresponsible of me. My client was desperately trying to get me to tell her that everything was going to be fine and that I was going to be able to fix the situation.  I can never tell you that I can get your data, repair your machine, etc. without knowing what the outcome will be. In this case I kept telling the client please just give me time – the client wouldn’t listen because she though I meant I wasn’t going to do anything before Monday.  I felt it necessary to prepare the client for the possibility of total disaster because that possibility did exist.  This client didn’t listen to my recommendations and there was nothing I could do about it.  They didn’t get the critical battery backup, they stopped doing the backups the way I had it set up because they couldn’t be bothered changing tapes and they took matters into their own hands. They jumped the gun and took the drive to a restoration company that didn’t even bother to get back to them!  So in all reality this client would still have been down if I didn’t do what I did!  I’m not suggesting that, taking the disk to such a company was a bad idea, they may have had to do that but this client should have let me do my job first which meant just waiting a little longer.

So moral of this story is if you think the person you hire to do your IT job is not trust worthy find someone who you trust. 

YOUR BUSINESS IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST BACKUP! Remember that rule for everything you do.  If your equipment dies it’s replaceable and it’s not an instant fix either but if you have a backup at least you KNOW you can restore it and you’re not out of business.  Lastly INVEST THE MONEY on the battery backup NOT a surge protector –  it will save your equipment from  taking a hit during a power surge or failure.  Equipment gets old and it WILL need to be replaced, better to do this on your terms and not as an emergency!

Computer & PC Help

MY IMPRESSIONS OF WINDOWS 823 Apr

I had the chance to try out Windows 8 not on Surface but on a Dell Latitude Tablet.  I have to say it was an experience.  There are things I liked about it and things I don’t.  To be fair, this was used in a business setting so it was Windows Pro 8 not RT.  If you are using this for business purposes, get ready to struggle.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it on my wireless network at work. That was because we don’t broadcast SSIDs, don’t get me wrong, it connected to my guest network without a problem and for you home users it will probably not take much effort to connect it your home wireless.  But in order for me to connect it to my wireless network I had to first hook it up to a port replicator and hard wire it to the network.  For those of you who don’t know what a port replicator is, it’s simply a cradle that attaches to the tablet so you can add use a cable to connect to your network along with, keyboard and mouse. I never did connect the keyboard and mouse because I was trying to use the tablet only. So once I got it connect to my network then I was able to get it on my domain.  I mostly used the desktop part because for my purposes that’s what was required.  In our business setting the tiles aren’t practical.  I had to install Office on it and once I got it on the network I was able to do that via a share but I couldn’t get it to recognize and external CD drive.  Next problem I encountered was the fact that you can’t expand some things.  In other words you can’t make them bigger, for example, the TCP/IP properties aren’t expandable, neither are any of the setting in the control panel, or for adding the printer.  This makes it a little difficult to use the tablet with your finger, so I suggest if you are going to use this for business, you should get the stylus (the pen) so you have better control over the “little” things.  Also in terms of the keyboard, it doesn’t automatically pop up, you have to hit the keyboard icon, I think that should be changed.  Next, it took me a while to figure out how to add things to the desktop and I never could figure out how to customize the tiles – adding my own shortcuts to the tiles.

 

It comes with IE 10, don’t get me wrong that’s not a bad thing, unless your company can’t really use IE 10, in my case we are still using IE 8 and you can’t uninstall IE 10 nor can you change the home page either.  I tried, but I never figured that out either. I do think I understand why you can’t change the home page in IE10 or down grade it to 9 or 8 – I think this is because of the tiles update from the home page and the touch screen isn’t compatible with IE 9 or 8, but I could be wrong about that.   If you are on a network and you have GPO’s (group policy objects) it doesn’t process all of them, granted we are still using Server 2003 so it maybe better with 2008 or 2012 server – I don’t know. I never tried to install Firefox or Google Chrome and frankly I don’t know if they would work, I would hope they would.

 

I truly loved the tiles and for a home user it’s awesome.  You see everything and it updates instantly, for example it shows the news, Facebook, email etc. And that I really liked about it.  It’s really easy to use and it’s a nice experience. You just look at the tiles and it’s instant, that’s a nice feature, because you don’t even have to open the app. it shows you a preview before you open it.

 

In my opinion, Microsoft did a good job with the tiles. The desktop part, to me is Windows 7 on steroids, basically it looks the same but there’s no start button.  You have to swipe the sides to get to the controls, the control panel or anything else you need to do, it took me a while to figure out how to add shortcuts to the desktop too. Once you get used to it it’s not so bad.  I happy to say that I was even able to install printers without any problems too. It comes with Microsoft security 2012  for virus protection, I couldn’t install the virus protection software we use because it wasn’t compatible.  I’m not sure what virus protection you can install on it in case you choose not to use Microsoft’s product.

 

So depending upon your needs, this could be a great toy.  If you’re a techie well it’s perfect because you can use it like a desktop PC.  You can install any VPN client and have access to your office. It even has RDP (remote desktop connection)  Imagine you’re on call and your phone rings.  You don’t have to rush home, just pull out that tablet connect to the internet and you’re good to go!

 

I will say this, I did not get to check out any apps or install anything that didn’t actually come with it so for the home user I didn’t get to “play” that much so I can’t compare it to apple IPad, if that’s what you’re waiting for.  But in general my impression of this is it’s pretty nice and I would recommend it if you want to have something that serves duel purposes.

 

Lastly, I haven’t seen a 64 bit version yet and that’s what I’m waiting on a 64 bit tablet version.  If and when that comes out I think that will be my toy.  So if you are thinking about purchasing this go for it, it’s a nice toy.

Computer & PC Help

Internet Security and Virus Protection12 Jan

I get many questions on this subject so I decided to write about this for you.  I get questions like “Am I protected?” “Does my virus protection do the right job?”, “Is my protection enough? “And “Do I have the “right” virus protection?”

Basically all virus protection products do the same thing.  That is, to protect you from viruses and spyware.  The basic difference in the products is how much they ‘tax’ your CPU or simply how much they slow you down.  As you all know my preference is Vipre.  I push the product because it doesn’t slow you down and it doesn’t add time to your already long boot up time.  You virus protection usually loads up when you boot up and then runs a scan and depending upon the brand of virus protection will determine how fast or slow this process takes.  You can always change the setting of your virus protection not to scan on start-up but if you do that just remember to at least run a scan once a week.  Basically your virus protection is only as good as its last update – so update it often, it will tell you when it’s out of date.  Just remember the virus protection plays catch up with the viruses; and sometimes they are ahead of the “game”, but most of the time they react.  Still, it’s important to have virus protection.

Then we have the Internet Security products again basically they all do the same thing.  Do you need such a product?  Well that’s purely a personal preference.  That too has its issues. These products with the built in firewalls can also cause you issues if you don’t understand how to use them.  Basically what a firewall does is block your internet access and unless you “allow” the site it will not let you get to that particular site.  Will that stop you from getting a virus or downloading spyware, in a word NO.

I prefer a free product called WOT – Web of Trust.  This is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.  You have to download this http://www.mywot.com.  What this product does is warn you if a site isn’t trust worthy.  Then it’s up to you to decide if you still want to visit that site.  Is it full-proof? Probably not but it allow you to be aware of what you are visiting on the web.  It’s easy to set up and cost nothing to install.  It will not slow you down either. I recommend it to all my clients.

Your best protection from a virus, unwanted downloads, spyware, etc., is YOU.  You need to be aware of what you are doing on the internet and what emails you are opening.  Think of it like this.  Would you allow someone into your home without asking who it is first when they ring your bell?  Probably not.   Would you allow a repair person to enter you home to repair something if you didn’t call them first?  I doubt it.  So why would you open email from someone you don’t know?  Or open an email that says you are expecting something when you didn’t even order anything?  For example, why open an email from FedEx, Ups even the post office, if you’re not expecting something? Besides these places will NEVER send you mail with attachments to open. They many send you a link with a tracking number.  Also, look at the senders name and address, that will tell you if it’s real or not. Another clue is misspelled words, you usually don’t receive email with misspelled words. Remember, the IRS, Microsoft or even your bank will NEVER send you email asking you to verify who you are.  Why have you won a lottery that you didn’t even enter?  I guess it’s the old saying “curiosity killed the cat” or in this case “curiosity ripped you off”

Your awareness is most important when surfing the internet too.  If something starts to download that you don’t want simply close your browser (IE, Firefox or Chrome) before it starts installing.  READ everything you are clicking on; don’t say yes to something if you don’t know what you are saying yes to.  Would you sign a document without reading it first?  Same rules apply on the net.  Is it safe to buy things on the internet or even do my banking?  Yes it is, but again be aware of what you are doing.  A secure site will appear as https and usually have a lock on the bottom right hand corner of the screen.  If the site isn’t secure, think twice before you buy.  You’ll see the lock when you go to the check out.  Most, if not all banks are secure sites so basically you are safe to do your banking and pay your bills.  BUT remember if your bank site doesn’t look right, it’s probably not right. That’s being aware.

Basically you are your best protection from spyware, virus’s and unwanted downloads.  Often I find stuff on machines and the users ask me, “How did that get there”?  Well basically you downloaded something because you weren’t paying attention to what you were doing.  Users always give me the same answer; “No I didn’t” Well my answer should be is well if you didn’t then someone did because it got installed.  But I just explain the situation and tell them to just be more aware and then I remove it.  How many times have you suddenly realized that your Internet Home Page (the first thing that appears when you open your browser – IE, Firefox or Chrome) has changed? Well this happened because you downloaded something and it changed your home page because you allowed it to do so.  Sometimes things you install from the internet without you even realizing it.  Java, for example will  try to install a tool bar for your browser,  unless you say no or uncheck that box. – See my older blog “How’d that get there?”

So to sum this all up basically install some type of internet virus protection on your PC.  Do you need to install internet security?  Up to you, but basically you should be a novice computer user to get the best out of that product.  What product should you buy?  Again, a personal preference, basically they are all the same and do the same thing.  It’s just a matter of how it slows down your PC.  I recommend Vipre but again it’s up to you. If you want to download a free trial of viper you can do so on my site.  www.awtcs.com Try it and see if you like it – that’s how you decide. Just because a computer manufacturer sells a virus protection with its package doesn’t mean you have to purchase it, you can opt out and buy your own.  But again you are your best protection against viruses and spyware – being aware of what you do on the net is half the battle.  Lastly and to me most important is to download and install WOT (Web of Trust).  It’s a free tool that will make you aware of “bad” internet sites and it will help you to avoid the dreaded viruses and malware.

Hopefully I’ve made you think a little and you will be more aware of what you are doing on the net.  Happy Surfing everyone.

Computer & PC Help

“HELP MY COMPUTER IS REALLY RUNNING SLOW”05 Feb

Recently, I had a friend call me up and complain about computer slowness. He said his machine was just crawling along. He told me it was ok but then it crashed and a friend of his fixed it. Ever since then it was crawling along. I asked him some general question about what I though could affect the speed of the computer. I asked him how much memory he had, how much hard drive space and how old his computer was, along with what brand of computer he had and what operating system he was using (Operating System meaning Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7). All of this will affect speed. Not enough memory will slow your machine down, not enough hard drive space will also affect your speed and of course the age of your computer will affect speed too. The older the machine the more “worn” it becomes and the slower it gets. It’s a good idea to replace your machine at least every 5 years. I do recommend a brand to my clients I prefer based upon my experiences with customer service, replacement parts and longevity of the machine.
Upon my investigation I found that my friend’s computer indeed had enough memory, and enough hard drive space but the machine was a bit old. He was also using Windows XP. So I decided to investigate a little further.
I found the following: He was running Symantec Endpoint Protection – which will somewhat slow the machine but it’s a decent virus protection program so I didn’t believe that was his issue. The fact of the matter is depending upon what virus product you are running will affect the speed of your machine depending upon how it works. You all know by now I recommend “Viper” because it’s not evasive and doesn’t slow your machine – it does the job. So I dove a little deeper and found he was running Spy Bot, Malware Bytes, AOL and AOL virus protection. This to me was a big red flag. You do not need to run multiple virus/malware programs. That’s overkill. Everything scanning at once no wonder why his machine was so slow. If you find it necessary to run all those items then perhaps your virus protection isn’t doing the job. In this case I don’t believe that was the issue – If you use tools like Malware Bytes to remove viruses/spyware remember to uninstall them. Unless you have no protection at all and you wish to use one of them. In addition to that he had AOL and AOL virus protection installed too. I asked him if he used AOL to which he replied he just had mail. I explained that is wasn’t necessary to have the entire program installed and that he could just go to the website and get his mail.
So I tried to remove the “offending” programs, but because all these other programs (Spybot, Maleware Bytes and AOL virus protection) were using up all his computer resources by scanning the machine all at the same time I couldn’t remove them. When I tried to get into Add/Remove programs to uninstall them the machine just “hung” up and I couldn’t do a thing. You all know what I mean. You start trying to move your mouse to click on something and nothing! So I booted the machine into Safe Mode. Safe Mode is a way you can diagnose and fix issues with a minimum amount of background programs running and makes it easier to get around. Upon booting up into Safe Mode, ( you achieve this by tapping the F8 key when the machine boots up) I was able to get into add/remove programs and uninstall the “offending” programs.
My friend remarked to me “that’s it” I say yes just reboot and let’s see what happens. When the machine came back up my friend remarked WOW! I then checked a few more things – I installed WOT (Web Of Trust) http://www.mywot.com/en/download and told him that this would help him to discover dangerous websites and help protect him again malware and viruses. I show him how to use it too. He was happy.
My tips are this…

  • Make sure you have enough memory in your machine. What’s enough memory? Well that depends upon what your running on the machine. As a general rule I like to have at least 2 gigs of memory for windows XP and 4 – 6 gigs of memory for Windows Vista and for Windows 7. You may not think it makes a difference but it does. Ask anyone who’s had a slow machine what happens when they get a memory upgrade
  • Make sure you have enough hard drive space. Too often I see people running machines with less than 1 gig of hard drive space. They can’t save very much and they can’t update their machine. When you download windows updates it does take up hard drive space. Think of it like this. You have a box which will only fit 12 cans in the box but you are trying to shove 14 cans in this box and you can’t close the box. The operating system needs room to operate. At a minimum you should have 2 gigs of space free at all times. If this means you need to purchase an external drive and move your music and pictures off, I recommend you do so.
  • Computer Age. Yes it makes a difference. If your machine is over 5 years old you need to purchase a new one. Over time things wear out, and generally the heat from the machine will wear out the parts. Besides the technology is constantly changing and as the operating systems get updated they need more and more resources from the machine. In terms of brands I recommend that you do your homework. Ask friends what they are using and how they like it. How they like the customer service of the company. Ask your PC professional what he or she thinks and what they recommend too. A salesperson in a store or on line wants to sell what they have so make sure you’re educated.
  • Look at what you have installed on your machine. In this case my friend has 3 programs scanning his machine and it was using up all his resources. I recommend going into add/remove programs and looking at what you have installed. Uninstall anything you KNOW you do not use. DO NOT uninstall anything you don’t know. If you’re not sure ask your PC Professional to help.

As I said my friend was over joyed his machine was running again with a good amount of speed. I was happy he was happy. Another job well done and another satisfied customer! See my Facebook page to see what he said.

Computer & PC Help

ITS HOLIDAY TIME PART II – INTERNET SECURITY03 Dec

Once again it’s that time of the year when everyone is looking to “rip us off”  and it’s up to us to be smarter than they are.  Let’s talk security.  Virus protection is a very important element in preventing you from getting “ripped off”.  Just the other day I was working on someone’s PC and  upon checking there virus protection,  ( making sure it was up to date because your virus protection is only as good as the update that is applied)  I noticed that there were 116 blocked threats.   I showed this to the user and the response was I don’t know.   I only visit two or three sites the user told me.  “Really?” I said, well then, how did this happen?  You may be visiting one or two sites but how many pop up ads are you clicking on and what exactly are you downloading?  The user had no clue.

So my first advice to everyone is AWARENESS!!! Look at what you are downloading and be aware of the sites you are visiting.  A very good tool for those of you using Firefox is WOT (Web Of Trust) it’s free and its actually part of Firefox.  It will alert you to a less then trustworthy web site. To obtain this simply go to the Firefox menu, click Add-Ons and do a search for WOT.  You’ll have to register but it’s very worth it.  It will make you aware of less than trustworthy websites.  They have WOT for Internet Explorer. Just do a search for WOT and you should be able to find it or click this link, its for all browsers www.mywot.com/en/download. You will have to install it for Internet Explorer and then for IE 9 you’ll need to enable it. Its simple and IE 9 will prompt you to enable it just look at the bottom of your screen after installing it. You’ll see a green circle appear on the top right side of IE after you install it.

This is the time of year when you are probably are receiving many emails telling you you’ve won money or you have someone seeking money or someone is in desperate need or some agency is trying to tell you that you have an outstanding bill that you need to pay.  My advice is DELETE it immediately it’s bogus.  Also FEX-EX, USPS, and UPS will never ever email you about a package.  They will either send you a letter or they will call.  That goes for the IRS, FBI, CIA, YOUR BANK,  and of course my favorite Microsoft.  They will NEVER send you email.

IF you are making purchases on line for this Holiday Season be extra careful to make sure that website is legitimate. Most websites when you check out your purchase will have a little lock displayed on the bottom right of your screen – that means it secure. Be careful if you don’t see that lock. Also, do not use your bank card on line to make purchases. Think about that, if someone steals that they have direct access to your bank account. Use a credit card, that’s your best bet.

As for Charity’s again they will never solicit you via email they will use the post office.  Too often people just open mail from someone they never heard of and if it says “click here” they click.  Surprise!  You now have a virus and maybe spyware and that is a problem.  A virus will make your PC life miserable.   It can slow down your machine, delete your pictures and, hijack (meaning you can only visit one site) your browser. Ask anyone who’s had one.  Spyware is more complicated that can lead to big problems such as someone getting into your bank account.  Spyware or Malware is bad that can lead to someone actually getting your passwords and using them too.  My first question to my clients when I discover malware is are you doing on line banking?  If that answer is yes I advise them to change that password immediately and check their accounts too.

That’s brings me to passwords.  I’m speaking of banking passwords, credit card website, even your Facebook page and things like that.   You should be using complex passwords – not your birthday, you anniversary date, your children’s birthdays’ etc.  Too easy.  You should using complex password not your name either!  Complex meaning a combination of letters and numbers and symbols.  That doesn’t mean you can’t spell out a word and remember it for example the work enterprise – if I was going to use this for a password I’d use 3nt3rpri$3 perhaps or maybe the word password for example (and no I don’t suggest your use password for a password)  I’d use it as P@$$w0rd something like that.  This makes it a bit harder to crack or simply harder for someone to steal.  I use the example of would you leave your car with the doors open and the keys in the ignition?  Of course not because you’re asking for someone to take it.  Well the internet and security works the same way.

Those of you who work in businesses and are always complaining about your IT people and there rules, you should know that it’s for your protection. One of my business clients  insists upon screen savers that lock the machines so after a period of idle time the screensaver kicks in and the desktop is locked. Every time I visit that client I hear the same thing from the users.  “This is annoying, my screen locks and I have to keep logging back in”  I always ask them how they’d feel if someone got on their machine and did some malicious things   So this one is for all of you who complain about stuff like that.. For whatever reason one of the users left the machine on and the screensaver didn’t come on because the user disabled it, the user said it was annoying.   Well this user left the machine on and someone got on the machine and when to porn sites, and downloaded viruses wreaking havoc on the machine.  I found four viruses that destroyed some of the users the documents and spreadsheets they had saved.  This particular virus disabled the virus protection too.  It was a mess to say the least. Not only that, but the only thing that saved this user from being fired this user wasn’t there at the time this happened.  But you can see what a problem this caused.  If the user didn’t disable that simple protection then this wouldn’t have happened.

So my advice again is listen to your IT people they know better.  Regardless if you are in your home or your office your IT people know better.  You need to look before you click ok and you need to really look at what you’re click on.  You also need to be aware of the websites you visit.  If something doesn’t appear right it’s not.  Just close the browser and start again.  Too often people don’t even realize they are infected with malware until it’s too late.

My advice is simple:  KEEP your virus protection up to date; if it’s expired either re-new it or purchase something else and be aware of what you’re doing on line.  That’s your best protection.  AWARENESS.  Same with email if you don’t know the sender don’t open the mail DELETE IT.

Visit my Facebook page and leave me your comments.

Happy Holiday’s Everyone!

Computer & PC Help

ITS HOLIDAY TIME LETS RIP YOU OFF WITH EMAIL20 Nov

Its Holiday time and scams are in full swing. So, this month I want to blog about those emails that show up in your in box. I mean the ones telling you that you have a package being delivered, you won the lottery, you have a long lost relative that left you money, you are going to get hired for a job and you have unauthorized access to your bank account.

Now I can tell you almost absolutely that the IRS, FBI, CIA, and Microsoft will never email you and ask you to click here and enter your personal information, (Social Security Number, bank account number, name and address).  You never ever will get an email with an attachment from UPS, USPS or FedEx asking you to open this because suddenly you have a package that you need to claim.  Did you even order anything???? If you did happen to order something the company you ordered from will more than likely send you an email telling you that your package is on the way and you can track it from a link provided.

This is probably more of what you’ll receive if you ordered something

Dear  your name,

Your order #xxxxxxx has been shipped!
Click here to view a printable receipt for insurance purposes.
Click here to log into your account to place a re-order.
(If this was a UPS or FedEx order there would be a link and a tracking number within this email- not an email from UPS or FedEx)
Your package should be arriving within 3 to 7 business day(s).
Order Number: xxxxxxxx     Status: shipped

Customer Name: Your name
Email address: Ilene@awtcs.com
Shipping Address: xxxxxx
City, state, zip
US
Payment Method: xxxx– authorizenet
Shipping Method: USPS
SUBTOTAL: $xx.xx
SHIPPING: $0.00
PROCESSING: $5.41
DISCOUNT: -$4.70
ORDER TOTAL (USD): $xx.xx

Your credit card has already been charged for the above amount. Charges will appear on your statement as ‘LensDiscounters.com’

Should you have a question about your order, or about other OptiContacts.com products, please reply to this message and let us help.

Regards and thanks for your business!

Customer Service
xxxxxxxs.com
www.xxxxxxx.com
1-888-xxx-xxxx

NO you have NOT be chosen to try out a laptop from Dell, take a survey and keep that laptop.  Yes, suddenly out of no where your name came up and now Dell is sending you a Free laptop – no strings attached.

I can also tell you that you have not been hired by anyone, especially when you didn’t even apply for a job,  and you SHOULD NOT take a check have it routed into your bank account so when it clears, you can pay the difference back to the employer.  More than likely that employer (scam artist) will clean out your account because you gave him your information.

Lastly, don’t work from home either, you cannot make money that way.  The only people who make money from that are the ones who hire you.

Below is an actual email that showed up in my in box from CitiBank (well at least that’s what it says).  The problem here is:

  • a)      I don’t have an account with Citibank
  • b)      The bank (Any Bank) would NEVER notify me or you by email about unauthorized access.
  • c)      Oh sure, reconfirm my account information – NO you never reconfirm bank information. If I actually did have an account with Citibank and I did this, rest assured I wouldn’t have any money in my account after I finished reconfirming this information…

Take a good look at this, it really looks good but don’t be fooled.

Unauthorized Access Notice

From: “alerts@Citibank.com” <alerts@Citibank.com>

Add to Contacts

To:

EMAIL SECURITY ZONE
Secure Member
ATM/Debit card ending in: 7590
Citi Alerting Service
Unauthorized Access


Unauthorized Access Notice

We recently have determined that different computers have logged on to your Online Banking account and multiple password failures were present before logons.

We now need to re-confirm your account information with us.

If this is not completed by November 18, 2010 we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely, as it may have been used for fraudulent purposes.

We thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
Please click here

immediately to verify your identity and automatically reverse the change.

E-mail Security Zone
At the top of this message, you’ll see an E-mail Security Zone. Its purpose is to help you verify that the e-mail was indeed sent by Citibank. If you have questions, please call 1-800-374-9700. To learn more about fraud visit Citibank.com

and click “Security” at the bottom of the screen

ABOUT THIS MESSAGE Please do not reply to this Customer Service e-mail. For account-specific inquiries, kindly call 1-800-374-9700 (TTY: 1-800-788-0002) or visit citibankonline.com

.

Citibank, N.A. Member FDIC. Copyright © 2010 Citigroup Inc. Citi with Arc Design and Citibank are registered service marks of Citigroup Inc

A few simple rules with email and internet safety.

  • 1 – Your mother knows best:  If it’s too good to be true then it’s not true
  • 2- If you have to spend money on something for a fee then chances are it’s a scam.

For example you never should pay someone to get you a job. Or a processing fee for you paper work with the prospective employer.

  • 3- NEVER.  I mean NEVER;  give out any personal information from an email that you receive.

Think about this… Would you give a stranger the keys to your house, with your credit cards and bank account information on your kitchen table?

NO, then the same applies on the internet.

Yes there will be times when you are ordering things on the internet that you will have to give credit card information but in those cases there should be a lock on the bottom of the screen it will appear on the bottom right side of the screen and there will be some indication that the site is secure too.

Be aware of what you open – you won’t even know that anything has happened until it’s too late.  Spy-ware, Trojans etc are easily installed without your knowledge when you open those attachments, click on those links and install things without knowing what  you’ve installed.  If you suspect that you have a virus, spy-ware etc, call a tech to come and look at the machine.  I don’t recommend those internet sites that scan your PC for free.  Again, you are giving the keys to you house with your credit card information and bank account information on the table.

Lastly, if you don’t know the sender of that email delete it that’s the best thing to do.

Happy Safe Holidays to all!

Computer & PC Help

HOW’D THAT GET THERE?10 Oct

I hear this question time and time again when I go to service PC’s. People complain that the machine is running slow. Most of the time they mean they are having trouble browsing the internet. I usually open up the browser and find tool bars everywhere. I usually ask, “Why did you install these tool bars?” and the answer I usually get is. “I didn’t, How’d that get there?”

So I here’s my tip on installing those “hidden extras when you update or download something from the internet”
I always tell people READ EVERYTHING before you hit that Next button.. So here’s my example of what to look for. Everyone gets those Java Orange Icons for updates located at the bottom right of the screen. Most of you, If not all of you click on that Orange Icon to update Java, but did you know that there’s a toolbar that will install if you don’t un-check the box? See my example.

Here's an example of a tool bar that will install if you don't uncheck that box

If you un-check that box (see example) the toolbar will not install in your browser. Do you know that most of the time when you download something from the internet it will install a toolbar or perhaps an advertisement? All you need to do is slow down and READ everything. You are in control to decide what gets installed on your PC and what does not.

By following this simple tip you’ll make your internet browsing experience hassle free and you won’t suddenly ask the question “How’d that get there?”

Computer & PC Help

Battery Backup or Surge Protector?27 Feb

I have one simple rule about a battery backup… BUY IT!

You spent so much money on the PC, you need to protect it from Power surges and power failures.  A surge protector will not protect your machine as well as a battery backup.

When you install a battery backup the battery backup takes the “hit” and not your power supply or your PC. So many times people call me and tell me that their PC is dead.  I ask them what happened and they tell me there was a lightening storm or the lights suddenly went out and came back on and “now my PC is dead.”  That’s when it too late for the battery backup.

If you have that battery backup, it will give you 15 minutes to shut the machine off properly and save yourself a big headache.

Computer & PC Help

My PC just Blue Screened27 Feb

Most of the time when a PC blue screens it is caused by the last thing that was done.

For example:
You just installed a new camera and suddenly you got a blue screen.  Or you just installed a new printer and you got a blue screen.

Most of the time, you can simply turn off the machine, wait about 10 – 20 seconds and turn it back on and it will be fine.

If you turn it back on and it’s still blue screening just unplug or uninstall the last thing you installed on the machine.

Reboot it again and if it still blue screens then, leave it alone and call “A Woman’s Touch Computer Services”  We will diagnose and figure out what causes that blue screen.  Your data is important to you and we make every effort to make sure your data is protected.

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