The frequency of how often you should clean the dust out of your computer (or laptop) may vary depending on the environment it is used in.
Annual or quarterly cleanings may be acceptable for most machines, while monthly cleanings may be better suited for computers used in areas where there are pets, smokers, a lot of dirt/dust, or if the computer is used on carpet or bed.
Benefits of Keeping Your Computer Dust-Free
Keeping your computer free of dust build up will ensure that your machine is getting the proper air-flow to keep cool. Cleaning the dust out of your computer on a regular basis can help prevent (or resolve) overheating problems, reducing the chances of hardware failure stemming from cooling issues. Continue reading
GoDaddy customers, beware!
There is a new phishing scam making the email rounds this month. Here is an example of what to look for:
Subject: Status Alert: Your account contains more than [number] directories.
Your account contains more than [number] directories and may pose a potential performance risk to the server.
Please reduce the number of directories for your account to prevent possible account deactivation.
In order to prevent your account from being locked out we recommend that you create special tmp directory.
Or use the link below:[innocuous-looking GoDaddy link which really points to a Russian domain]
As a self-professed Nerd, I can attest to one thing: technology is expensive. Now that many back-to-school lists include computers, mobile devices or parts to rehab an ailing family PC, the fall has become a good time to find tech bargains since stores compete to get your business. You can save a few bucks, if you know some “insider” tips.
1. Comparison shop.
There are some great bargain consolidation sites that gather all the best deals from across the Internet and post them in one place. Even if you have your heart set on getting the product at a local retailer, sites like SlickDeals.net and DealNews.com will at least let you know whether or not you’re getting a reasonable price at the “brick and mortar” store.
Users submit deals that they find to SlickDeals and when the post gets a high enough rating (by others confirming that the deal is legit) it gets moved up to the top of the page.
DealNews collects the best deals on Computers, Electronics, Home and Office and more and posts them in an easily searchable format. This is one reason I prefer this site to my old favorite, techbargains.com, which is a little scattered if you’re looking for something specific. Items are posted with photos and detailed descriptions, including any necessary coupon codes to get the deal, allowing you to quickly find what you’re looking for at a great price.
2. Go where the Nerds go.
Ask any Nerd where they buy computer equipment and gadgets and they will most certainly list two sites that you’ve probably never heard of (unless you’re a closet Nerd yourself): Newegg.com and TigerDirect.com. Continue reading
Secret is the latest social media site to garner buzz. It’s different from Facebook or Twitter because you post anonymously to a pool of people gathered from your contact list, or linked through a series of friends-of-friends. You may ponder, “How is it social to post anonymously?” The hot new app is a like a social media masquerade ball and fans insist that the anonymity allows them to be more themselves than when they have to “face” their fellow users.
Anyone who’s used Facebook or Twitter has likely censored themselves at some point or another. By the time you gather a social pool of a few hundred “friends” including relatives, co-workers and neighbors, it becomes apparent that a too-honest observation or comment can step on some real-world feelings.
Many wish they could be more honest about what they think, or engage in more heated political or social debates, but instead post mostly bland, non-confrontational updates. After scrolling through another post about your nephew’s haircut and “the cutest cat video ever,” the rare current event opinion link is tempting to respond to. But most of us defer or comment with a watered-down version of our actual opinion. Sometimes it’d be nice to engage in a real, honest debate without worrying about Aunt Vera disavowing you for your scandalous ways. Continue reading
Has this ever happened to you? You open an “official-looking” email that looks like it’s from your bank, credit card, etc. The message is dire — someone may be messing around with your account, and only clicking on a link to “correct” or “verify” your account information will save you. Hurry! Quick! Do it now! Without even thinking about it, fear of loss drives you to click on the link and supply the information requested (and breaking one of the cardinal rules of online security in the process).
SNAP! You’ve just been reeled in… by a phishing scam. (Don’t feel too bad… lots of smart people fall for the same thing all of the time.) Why? Continue reading
Like most IT pros, I have had plenty of friends and family members ask me to fix their PCs. Although I have always tried to help people whenever I can, I have come to the realization that with a few exceptions it is a bad idea to fix people’s PCs for free.
Don’t get the wrong idea. There are some people that I truly don’t mind helping. I would never refuse to help my wife with a computer problem, nor would I cut off my mother. Unfortunately though, the majority of those that I have helped have abused the situation. As such, this article is a list of ten reasons why I don’t recommend fixing PCs for free.
1. Future problems are your fault
When a friend or family member asks you to fix their computer, they do so because they do not know enough to fix the problem themselves. Because the person typically does not understand the cause of or the solution to the problem, they probably also are not going to understand which problems are related and which are not. As a result, anything that happens to the computer after you touch it may be perceived to be your fault. All the computer’s owner knows is that the problem did not occur until after you worked on the computer.
2. People may not respect your time
Before I stopped fixing computers for friends and family, I had a big problem with people not respecting my time. Friends would call me at all hours of the day or night and expect me to drop whatever I was doing, drive to their house, and fix their computer right then.
3. Things sometimes go wrong
The third reason why I don’t recommend fixing people’s computers for free is because if you break it, you bought it. I have never personally run into a problem with this one, but I do know someone who brought a friend’s laptop home to fix, only to have his three year old daughter knock the laptop off the table and break it.
4. People don’t value things that are free
People seem to be conditioned to accept the idea that the best things in life are those that are the most expensive. This can be a problem when it comes to fixing people’s computers for free, because your advice might be perceived as carrying no more weight than anyone else’s.
To give you a more concrete example, there is someone in my family who constantly calls me with computer questions. I try to be nice and answer the questions, but often times this person does not like the answer. In those situations this person will tell me that my brother, my aunt, or somebody else in my family with absolutely no IT experience told them the opposite of what I am telling them. Inevitably, this person ends up ignoring my advice.
5. They expect free tech support for life
When you fix someone’s computer for free and you do a good job, you can become a victim of your own success. The next time that the person needs help, they will remember what a good job you did. In the future you may be asked to assist with everything from malware removal to operating system upgrades.
6. People adopt risky habits because they are getting free tech support
This one might be my biggest pet peeve related to helping friends with their computer problems. If a friend or family member assumes that you will always be there to bail them out when they have computer problems then they have no incentive try to prevent problems from happening. As such, they might adopt risky habits or even do some things that just do not make sense.
I will give you a couple of quick examples of this one. I have one friend whose teenage son infected his computer with all sorts of malware while trying to find free adult content on the Internet. The infection was so bad that it took me all weekend to fix. I suggested to my friend that he either keep his son off of his computer, or only allow him to access the Internet through a hardened sandboxed environment. A few days later my friend told me the infection was back. After asking him a few questions, I discovered that he had given his son the admin password so that he could “download something for school.”
The other example was that I once did a hard disk replacement for a family member. I won’t bore you with the details, but the hard disk replacement was anything but smooth. There were issues with everything from BIOS compatibility to the physical case design. After spending all evening working on it, I finally got everything working. By the time that I arrived home I had a message on my voice mail from the person whose computer I had just upgraded. She said that she had let her eight-year-old son disassemble the computer because she wanted him to learn about computers, but he couldn’t figure out how to put it back together.
7. It doesn’t end with computers
Another reason why I don’t recommend doing free computer repairs for friends or family is because the job might not end with computer repairs. Once the person figures out that you are good with electronics they may have you working on other things. For instance, I once helped a neighbor recover some data off of a failed hard disk. Two weeks later he had me on the roof helping to realign his satellite dish.
8. Things can snowball
Sometimes when you fix a friend’s computer for free, the expectations of free technical support can snowball into free support for everyone. I once fixed a computer for someone in my family. When I was done, the person told me that they have a friend who is also having problems and asked if I could look at that too.
9. Your service isn’t just free, it is costing you money
For instance, you are probably spending money on gas to drive to your friend’s house. You might also end up using supplies such as blank media or printer ink. I have even had friends who expect me to supply them with the software licenses.
10. Fixing computers is too much like work
The best reason of all for not fixing friend’s computers for free might be that doing so is too much like work. If you spend all day at work fixing computer problems, do you really want to deal with the same thing when you leave the office?
What is your policy on volunteering your tech skills for friends and family?
You probably already know how important it is to have virus and malware protection on any computer that gets on the Internet, but with so many options it can be difficult to know what you need, and it’s easy to overpay. Here are three free programs that every Windows PC should have installed to stay safe and run smoothly.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a free antivirus program that comes pre-installed on Windows 8 machines and is available for download here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-download. It’s compatible with older versions of Windows, including Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. Once you install the program, cruise through the settings to insure that updates will download and install automatically, and scans will take place regularly and without your input.
If you’re concerned that allowing Security Essentials to run automatically will slow your system down, rest assured that it has very little impact on your computer’s resources. It’s also one of the most user-friendly security programs around, with a simple interface and easy to use features.
Recent antivirus tests have indicated that while Microsoft Security Essentials does a great job removing viruses, it is beginning to lag behind some of its competitors in quickly detecting new viruses and malware. This would indicate that Microsoft isn’t keeping the software as up to date as in the past. If you’re willing to take on a somewhat more complicated application in order to gain a bit in protection, consider checking out Avast Free Antivirus (free).
Why do I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials foremost if Avast is more effective? Because if a product isn’t simple and fully automated, you won’t be as likely to use it. The best antivirus is one that you install and never have to look at again, and Microsoft Security Essentials fits that bill. Also, because it’s created and updated by the same company that created your Windows Operating System, Security Essentials seamlessly integrates into Windows, making it one of the best virus removal tools for Windows PCs.
When a new virus or malware program hits the nets, it’s commonly referred to as “zero-day” or “zero-hour” malware. Our favorite software application to find and shield you from the newest bugs that traditional antivirus programs typically miss is Malwarebytes (free and premium versions available). Malware Industry Analyst Adam Kujawa explained how Malwarebytes works to Lifehacker contributor Alan Henry: Continue reading
Researchers at FireEye security have discovered a vulnerability in all current versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that would allow a “threat actor” to run code on a target’s system without their permission. According to FireEye, this security “hole” is being used to attack financial and defense organizations in the U.S.A.
Shortly after the vulnerability was discovered, FireEye passed their findings on to Microsoft, who subsequently posted a security advisory regarding the bug. Microsoft recommends “enabling a firewall, applying all software updates, and installing antimalware software.”
However, other organizations advise more dramatic measures. The threat is so serious that the U.S. Government has issued a statement advising people not to use Internet Explorer. This is one of the only times the Department of Homeland Security has issued such a warning.
Despite my “Nerd Dude” credentials, I’ve had to call technical support many times in my life, and I can’t say that it’s always been a pleasant experience. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few things that can make the experience less painful. The next time you need to make that call, here are some ways to assure it’ll go more smoothly.
Computers, routers, printers and, frankly, most electronic devices, can get buggy after long periods of use without a break. It never hurts to do a full system shut down and restart to see if that fixes the problem before you call tech support. Whenever I have trouble with my Internet connection, I make a point to cycle the modem and the router off and back on again before I call my ISP, and inevitably it’s one of the first things that the technician asks me to do. Might as well save us both some time.
While you’re at it, run through your repertoire of basic troubleshooting before you pick up the phone. If your computer is “acting strangely,” sometimes the simple answer is a virus or malware. Update your antivirus protection software and run a malware scan. Continue reading
Whether your reliable old PC was finally beaten down by the kids this summer, or you are springing for a new laptop for your back-to-schooler, ‘tis the season of new computers. Before you plug and play that new PC, take these steps to ensure your computer runs optimally from the beginning and to protect your investment for years to come.
Step 1: Get rid of the junk programs. Anyone who has booted up a new, off-the-shelf Windows PC can attest to the deluge of junk programs that come pre-installed to the average Dell or HP machine. Widely known as “bloatware,” these are programs that you’ll probably never use. They’re installed mainly because the computer’s manufacturer was paid to install them on your machine. They take up space, slow your system’s boot-up time and compromise performance. Not only that, but they’re really annoying – they pop up all the time, take up your bandwidth downloading updates, and are rarely useful.
The cleanest way to get rid of the junk is to wipe your hard drive and install a fresh version of Windows. It’s the pathway that most tech professionals choose. The hard part for most people, however, is that your new PC probably didn’t come with a Windows disk or even a recovery CD. Most of the functionality of your video card, USB ports and touchpad come from drivers that may or may not be included with Windows. If these functions aren’t immediately restored, you can be stuck spending hours tracking down the drivers you need.
Another option is to use a program called PC Decrapifier. Simply download the program and it will automatically sweep your system, identifying likely bloatware and offering you the option to confirm its removal. Continue reading