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Revive Your Slow Computer with an Easy Bottleneck Blitz

Revive Your Slow Computer with an Easy Bottleneck Blitz

Old age creeps up slowly – unless you’re a computer.

Then it seems to happen overnight. One day you’re logging in normally and jumping right into the action, the next day booting up takes so long you not only have time to make a cup of coffee, you could have run out to the local café for the good stuff.

This is the stage where many people throw their hands in the air and start wishing for a new computer. Except your computer isn’t broken and doesn’t need replacing, it’s just….slow. Time-wasting, focus-losing, frustratingly slow. Like any machine, computers have parts that wear out – particularly if they have moving parts that are in near-constant use.

The hard drive is the #1 cause of speed bottlenecks in most computers. Traditional hard drives are made up of a stack of round magnetic platters, spinning at up to 7200rpms, while a read/write head on a mechanical arm whizzes back and forth. Eventually, the platters take longer to spin up, unable to reach full throttle, and the mechanical arm becomes sluggish. Which leaves you waiting. And waiting…

SSD’s Can Give Aging Computers A New Lease on Life.

The new era of hard drives is here with Solid State Drives – and they have no moving parts. Zero.

They’re actually a lot like your USB stick that continually takes a beating but still performs perfectly.

Making a simple upgrade to SSD can knock minutes (an eternity) off boot time, as well streamlines regular computer operations with rapid fire functionality. They’re:

  • Cool – Don’t generate heat, which means other components also run more efficiently
  • Durable – No moving parts to wear out
  • Compact – A little larger and thicker than a credit card
  • Long-lasting – You’re actually more likely to replace your entire system before the SSD wears out
  • Lightning fast – Data is accessed instantly
  • Suitable for all systems– laptop, desktop and even netbook

Upgrading your tired hard drive to a super-fast SSD can be done within one or two days. We can supply and install a 250GB SSD for you, as well as clone your existing hard drive to it (Windows, programs and data). Or if you would like a new SSD with a fresh Windows installation (optimum speed boost), we can absolutely hook you up.

Book your SSD upgrade today.

(someone else can watch the kettle boil tomorrow)

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Do Macs Get Viruses?

Do Macs Get Viruses?

Many Apple owners believe their Macintosh computers are immune to viruses. Apple itself has run ad campaigns promising its computers “don’t get viruses”. And those who have owned a Mac for years, decades even, are particularly prone to believing. After all, nothing’s happened to them yet. Regrettably, Macs do get viruses, and the threat is growing.

For a long time the argument was that cybercriminals didn’t bother to develop Mac viruses. There weren’t enough users to justify the effort. Instead, they’d focus on the lower hanging fruit – PCs running Windows.

Yet Apple’s market share is on the rise, and it’s increasingly common to see Macs in the workplace, especially in creative industries. Plus, there’s a widespread assumption that Mac users are a smart target as they are likely to be better off. So, while Macs remain harder to infect (installing most software requires a password), there’s often a greater payoff.

The research reflects the reality. In 2017, for instance, the iPhone OS and Mac OS X placed #3 and #6 in CVE Details’ top 50 ranked by total number of distinct vulnerabilities. Apple TV and Safari also made the list at #17 and #18, respectively. In 2017, Malwarebytes also reported it “saw more Mac malware in 2017 than in any previous year”. By the end of 2017, the cybersecurity firm had counted 270% more unique threats on the Mac platform than in 2016.

Finding Apple’s Weak Spots

It’s obvious then that bad actors are no longer steering clear. They are actively looking for ways to exploit Macs.

A common approach is to use Trojans. Named after a gift wooden horse that hid an army, Trojans look like something you would want to install. So, Mac users happily enter their passwords to download that application and open the gates to the cybercriminal.

In 2011, for instance, a Trojan called “Mac Defender” took advantage of people’s desire to protect their computers. The fake program appeared to be anti-virus software. Once the users installed it, they’d get an onslaught of pop-up ads encouraging them to buy more fake software.

Trojans get through the gates because you let your guard down. You are taken in by that supposed note from a long-lost friend. You think you want to see that pic of that famous celebrity. All it takes to stop this type of attack is suspicion of everything you might install or download.

A business would want to educate its employees about the importance of:

  • clicking on emails with care;
  • validating the source of any files they plan to open;
  • checking a website’s URL (being especially wary of those with less common endings such as .cc or .co);
  • questioning any promises of Ray-Ban sunglasses for 90% off or the latest iPhone for $29.99.

A new threat comes from within the Mac App Store, according to Thomas Reed, a Mac security researcher. When a user tries to install an app on a Mac, a Mac OS program called Gatekeeper checks the file’s code signature. The signature helps certify the app is valid. However, Reed found that cybercriminals could buy a legitimate certificate from Apple, or steal one and trick users. Users would install masked malware that could infect legitimate programs and evade detection.

Key Takeaway

Apple is always working to protect its users from malware. It has measures in place, and user caution can make a big difference, too. Still, it’s not true that Macs are completely safe.

Find out what you can do to protect your Macs and guard against threats. Partner with a managed services provider to gauge your security levels.

Call us today at 885-2410!

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What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

New computers are whisper quiet, seeming to run on pure magic, but after a while computers can start making some pretty weird noises. Clicks, clunks, and about-to-take-off jet noises are the most common, but when should you worry? Your computer has a number of moving parts and even some stationary parts that can make noises. If you’re listening, your computer might be telling you about its current health and how you can help it run smoother, for longer.

When you hear a clicking noise: This could be normal if it’s more like a soft tick. Mechanical hard drives work a bit like a record player with a needle and platter, so you might simply be hearing it spin up and move the needle around. When it starts sounding like a loud click it’s usually the needle hitting the platter too hard or bouncing around. If your hard drive has started making alarming noises, you should bring it in as soon as possible. Just like a record player, scratches that ruin your data are possible, and if ignored for long enough, it doesn’t just skip and have trouble reading the drive, the whole thing can become unusable.

Our technicians can copy the files onto a new drive before it gets to that point, but retrieving data from a destroyed hard drive is rarely achieved without CSI-level expenses. It’s easier and much cheaper to replace the hard drive at the first sign of failure.

When you hear a clunking noise: Unsurprisingly, this one causes certain alarm. Computers aren’t meant to go clunk! It may be a simple matter of a cable having shifted into the path of a fan and getting clipped during the spin. Remember when you pegged a card between your bicycle spokes? It might sound a little like that, skipping every now and then as it’s pushed away and drops back again. If that’s the case, our technicians will quickly secure the cable back where it belongs.

When you hear a jet-engine noise: Most computers and laptops have fans to keep them cool. The fans have to spin to move the air around, and the faster they’re spinning, the more noise they make. We start to worry when the jet-engine noise gets out of hand and it’s not just while you’re playing a resource-intensive game or doing some video editing. Constant jet-engine noise indicates your computer is struggling to cool itself down, perhaps because the fan vents are clogged with dust, your computer is in a poorly ventilated space, or the fan itself is worn. Each fan has ball bearings inside that wear out over time, making extra noise while it does the best it can. Our technicians can replace individual fans quickly and give your system a checkup to make sure nothing else has been affected.

When it’s beep city: Your computer’s friendly beep as you switch it on actually has multiple meanings. It’s not just saying hello. The single beep you normally hear indicates that it’s run a self-test and everything is fine. When your computer is very unwell, you might hear more beeps than usual. This is because each beep combination is a code to technicians, letting us know what’s gone wrong.

Certain beep combinations mean the memory is loose or damaged, others that the video adapter has a problem, etc. If your computer has started beeping differently, let our technicians know so we can decode it and repair the problem for you.

Some noises your computer makes will be normal, others a sign of deeper issues. Even if your computer seems to be operating correctly, a sudden onset of weird noises could mean failure is just around the corner. Taking early action ensures problems don’t escalate, costs are kept low, and your files remain where they belong.

Got some weird noises coming from your computer? Give us a call today at 885-2410

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How to Make Your Photos Last A Lifetime (and Beyond)

How to Make Your Photos Last A Lifetime (and Beyond)

Digital cameras are great, and thanks to smartphones, we have one with us almost all the time. We’re taking more photos than ever before, and building a lifetime of digital data. But despite the enormous value of these photos and videos, most people don’t have a backup. It’s time to shine a light on this essential task and make it a regular habit before those precious memories are gone forever.

If you asked someone what possession they’d save from a house fire, most would say photos, and they’d make a point of grabbing a frame or album on the way out. But with digital photos, you don’t need a fire to lose everything, they could simply disappear in the blink of an eye with hardware failure or theft. There’s no warning, no smoke alarm, and without a plan already in place, no chance to recover the data. It’s time to get set up with a true backup system.

Is one copy enough?

You might think saving your information to an external hard drive or flash drive is enough. You’re right, it’s better than nothing, but since the data is stored in only one place, this isn’t a backup – it’s just storage. That drive could fail at any moment, perhaps from age, malfunction or plain old theft.

Often enough, that drive even becomes lost over the years, put somewhere ‘safe’ and promptly forgotten! And with the way technology is moving, accessing that data in 5 years might even bring up compatibility issues – some newer computers don’t even have CD/DVD drives, yet hundreds of thousands of homes would still have photos stored on a disc.

Two copies?

You might have your extra storage drive as backup and keep a copy on your computer. This is a better solution, and how most people store their data, but it still isn’t enough. While you’re protected against device failure, that house fire is going to take both copies up in flames. Thieves would probably grab the external drive while they’re bundling up your computer too, so again, you’d be left with zero copies. It’s close, but it’s not a true backup system.

The rule of three

We subscribe to the backup rule of three. Just reading this may sound like overkill, but tech is fragile and device failure is a constant risk. We recommend keeping one copy on the computer/device, another on an external drive, and a third copy as last resort tucked safely away in the cloud. The cloud backup can be fully automated so you don’t even need to worry about remembering to do it. If the day comes that you need your data back, it’s ready and waiting in perfect condition. Cloud technology also means your data is far away from any potential fire or flood, it’s secure and with the right provider, guaranteed against loss.

There’s a saying in the IT industry: “There are two kinds of people: those who backup, and those who have never lost all their data”. No matter what the cause of your data loss, it always has a deep impact, particularly when it comes to precious data. While re-creating some homework or the family budget might just be inconvenient, there’s no way to recreate photos once they’re gone. It’s a loss that hurts for a long time, but it’s also so very avoidable.

If you value your data, give us a call at 885-2410 to implement a well-rounded backup system.

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LetMeIn101: How the Bad Guys Get Your Password

LetMeIn101: How the Bad Guys Get Your Password

Passwords are essential to your cybersafety. You know it, but if you’re like the rest of the digital society, you probably have dozens of passwords to remember. It’s a lot. So, you might take shortcuts. Taking advantage of your laissez-faire attitude is one way bad guys access your passwords.

Incredibly, there are still people out there using “password” or “123456” in their access credentials. Some people don’t change the default passwords on their devices. So, anyone can pick up a router, look at the sticker identifying the password, and access that network.

Tip: Avoid the obvious passwords! When you have to create a password, make an effort. When it’s time to update a password, do so. Steer clear of simple, easily guessed patterns.

Cybercriminals can also guess your password. With a little bit of research about you online, they can make some informed guesses. Common passwords include pet names, birthdays, and anniversaries. These are all easy to find via your social media accounts.

Tip: Be careful what you share on social media! Don’t befriend strangers, as you are giving them access to a goldmine of info for personalizing an attack on you.

If that doesn’t work, criminals may try brute force. They might script an automation bot to run thousands of password permutations until they get a hit. The software will try a long list of common passwords and run through dictionary words to gain access.

Tip: Use a complex password with numbers, letters, and symbols or a passphrase. A passphrase is typically at least 19 characters long but is more memorable, as it unique to you.

The criminal may also be working with info from a data breach. In early 2019, a security researcher found more than 2.7 billion email/password pairs available on the Dark Web. Criminals accessing that database could use the data as a starting point, as many people duplicate their passwords across accounts.

Tip: Use a unique password for each site. Yes, that’s overwhelming to remember, and that’s also why you should use a password manager to keep track of it all for you.

Criminals can also access your account if you’ve used a hacked public computer. The bad guys may have installed a key logger on the computer. The logger records every key you press on the keyboard. Or they might have compromised a router or server to be able to see your information.

Tip: Be cautious about your online activity on computers or networks you don’t trust.

Of course, there’s one more method of getting your password that we haven’t addressed yet. It’s the familiar phishing attack. For instance, you get an email that looks like it was sent by your bank. Phishing typically has an urgent message and a link that directs you to what looks like a credible page.

Tip: Pay attention to who is sending the email and hover the mouse over the link to see where it goes. If you are concerned about your bank account, for example, open up a browser and type the URL manually rather than clicking the link.

These tips can help you to protect your valuable passwords. Still, setting up a password manager and amping up your internet security can help too. Need support getting ahead of the cybercriminals?

Contact our experts today! Call us at 885-2410

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