Is It Time To Backup Yet?

BACKUP PC

The correct answer is you ran a backup yesterday or last weekend.  Your answer should never be: We don’t have no stinkin’ backups! We don’t have to show you no backups!

What is a backup?  A backup is another copy of your files in case the disk drive dies.  It can be just the files in your user folder copied to a usb drive or it can be a image backup, made with Acronis True Image that copies the disk in it’s entirety.  An image backup can be restored on a new disk resulting in a working installation of Windows, the programs and your files.
At first thought, you might say you don’t need to protect your pc because there isn’t anything on your computer. Do you have any photos on your computer? If you have taken the time to store items on your computer, these items have some value. Take the time to make a backup. I take photos at all the family gatherings & I don’t want to lose them. I spent the time to record all of my music cds into iTunes. I don’t want to undertake that effort again because it took me months. I don’t have the disks for all my programs & I don’t wish to buy them again so I make regular backups of my personal files. I also make periodic full disk image backups with Acronis that allow me to restore everything if my hard drive crashes.
Backup can be purchasing a USB stick & dragging your files to it. You might purchase a Seagate Free Agent or Western Digital My Passport backup drive. These drives contain software that you install. Once the software is installed, backups occur automatically every time you connect the Free Agent or My Passport to your computer. Plug the drive in at the end of the day or end of the week and backup happens. I don’t recommend using your backup drive for additional storage.
If you have a business, you should sign up for a cloud backup service like Magnusbox. The USB backup drive keeps a single version of your files. Magnusbox keeps every version of each file in your backup. If you need to see the spreadsheet from last quarter, you can pull that up. Since the backup folder isn’t located on your pc, you are protected in the event an encrypting virus locks your computer files.

One of the most common problems I see in the shop is failing hard drives.  Please backup your files before you can’t.  At my office at 4807 Scotts Valley Drive, I can show you how to regularly make backups.

Stop Cleaning & Protect Your PC

PROTECT YOUR PC

What do you mean Stop Cleaning & Protect Your PC? You have an Anti-virus program installed on your pc don’t you?  Do you know which one?  When is the last time it found something? There are 60+ antivirus products one may use. You recognize some of the brand names like Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro & Webroot.  PROTECT YOUR PCYou are supposed to beleive brand recognition says you can trust them to protect your computer.  Or you want to save a few dollars, so you download a free antivirus like Avira, Avast, AVG, Spybot, Ad-Aware or the worst,  Microsoft Security Essentials.  You go about your business and one day a new search engine or home page appears.  You run a scan and clean up the pc.  What is wrong with this?   Your computer was infected and you needed to run a clean up.  Do you know if the infection did any other damage?  For example, can you still run windows updates?  Virus infections often brake the windows update process or leave you with zero internet access.

The better personal computer security product prevents the search engine &  home page from changing in the first place.  I tried many products but I found one I like It can protect your pc just like I protect my own PCs & my wife’s.  The product I installed for us is Emsisoft’s Anti-Malware.  I started using Emsisoft in the Fall of 2013 &  I recommend it very highly.  I offer Emsisoft AntiMalware for $59/3pcs per year.  Even if it costs a bit more than free, installing comprehensive security product protects your pc more effectively.   Is it worth it to stop a sketchy program from collecting & transmitting your personal data or stop an encrypting virus from locking your computer’s files for ransom? These are threats your computer faces everyday. Emsisoft will protect your pc better.  Comparable products Kaspersky & Bitdefender just cost more.  Other Anti-Virus products don’t offer the same level of protection.  So stay with a less effective product or the best product to protect your pc?  A single infection will cost more to clean up than Emsisoft Anti-Malware costs to keep you safe for a year?  Please choose now.

The internet is not safe place. Let Emsisoft Antimalware block the daily attacks on your computer delivered via email and the internet including Potentially Unwanted Products.  The PUP’s are the browser helpers & toolbars that infest many computers today but aren’t quite a virus.  Stop in by my office at 4807 Scotts Valley Drive in Scotts Valley & I’ll set up Emsisoft Anti-Malware to protect your pc.

 

 

Download a System Tune-Up Tool or Get Real Help for Your PC?

System Tune-Up Tool

Let’s get this out front.  I have a low opinion of every system tune-up tool.  Have You seen their ads on TV and the Web? The pitch is that PC Tune-up, PC Pitstop, PC Optomizer Pro, Slimware Utilities, AVG PC Tuneup 2015, et al will scan your PC & make it as fast as it was when you first got it.  Once installed, the program generates a scary report to bully you into purchasing their full featured tool.  They are named to imply they bring SPEED and/or OPTOMIZATION to your Windows System.  They may provide a small measure of relief but there is no reason to run it every day or week because it already fixed everything. Right? System Tune-Up Tool

Many clients swear by CCleaner.  When an update changed the program to run at startup, I stopped using the tool.  A while back, I fell for the hype & purchased Norton Utilities.  I had a 3 pc license but the pc’s never got faster but the program would brag about all of the repairs made.  I uninstalled it. Now my system is faster because I no longer wait for the tune up to run for 20-30 minutes.

If your system is slow, you may have too many things running at start up.   Skype is a good example.  Microsoft sets Skype to run at startup but I can go days without using it.  If I don’t start Skype at startup, I can still open Skype when I am ready.   Activity monitors for your wireless printer runs at startup.  Dropbox & Google Drive sync.  iTunes checks with Apple for updates.  Reader and Flash check with Adobe for updates.  Java checks in with Oracle to see if there is yet another patch.  Your antivirus needs to get new definitions and check what every other program is up to. Windows checks with Microsoft for updates.   Firefox checks with Mozilla. Chrome checks with Google.  When your system is starting, many things are happening as quickly as the computer can accomplish them. Adding a Tune-Up program is another task to run.  Constant monitoring of your system creates more work to process.  Many of these tasks can’t be affected by a Tune Up program.

If you are not running a bunch of fluff at startup, your pc may have picked up adware, bloatware, bundle-ware, riskware, malware or a virus and need a cleanup to get back to normal.  A tune up program can’t help with any of these item.

Here is what you can do to ensure your system runs well:

  • Install Updates. If you software shows you an update, install as soon as possible. Updates fix software flaws that may allow your computer to be exploited
  • Get Paid Protection for your systems like Emsisoft Anti-malware. Buy the better Emsisoft Anti-malware & Don’t Get Infected ($59 for 3 pc/year). I used to tell people free AV worked well enough but the crooks have evolved.  Will you run Malwarebytes scans manually to help your Avast Free or AVG Free deal with things they cannot?  Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) hasn’t passed an AV Comparatives’ Malware Tests in over 2 years.  My best customers run MSE and McAffee.  Do you want to be my best customer?
  • Develop a method to create separate pass-phrases for every web site login & email account. To make a pass-phrase, take a song lyric or line in book or poem and choose a letter from each word to assemble into your password.  Dictionary words are too easy for the hacking programs to guess. A 8 character password is cracked in 1 second.  You need to use 14 character passwords to be truly safe.  The extra length passwords make the math problem too big for current consumer computers.  Hackers have factored in common misspellings & elite-speak, replacing vowels with numbers like 3 for E or 1 for I.
  • Use a password manager like Sticky Password or One Password to remember your passwords for you. These programs can re-enter your password when you return to your favorite web pages & sync to your phone/tablet or another computer.
  • Search results shows too many alternate sites. If you are downloading Java, it should be from Oracle’s java.com.  When you search, there are paid ads  shown to direct you to install from the wrong website.  Why do they need to pay to get they site shown above the software vendor’s site?  They have something for you!
  • Download Managers that Bundle: You search for a program you need.  You click on the link go to the page.  You click on the DOWNLOAD button and a suggestion that you to use a convenient download manager to download & install the software for you. You click next a couple time and then begin to download.  Next thing, some other program is installing itself too.  When a site forces a download manager, it often changes your browser home page & installs software you didn’t want.  Open the control panel named programs and features.  Click on the date column to sort by the install date & see what was recently installed.

One last tip today: Backup any files you might want if a truck ran over your computer.  You are the IT person for your computers.  You have access to the system so only you can make a backup of your stuff for just in case.

A few weeks ago, I worked on a computer all day but could not fix the windows problems caused by Malware.   The client makes a FULL IMAGE BACKUP with Acronis every Sunday. I restored his backup from the previous Sunday morning as he had prepared for.  He had to change his flight by a day but was able to take all of his work with him because he makes regular image backups.

What is your plan for when the s*it hits the fan?  Where do you backup?  If you backup to a USB drive, you are at risk to the Cryptolocker/Cryptowall family of Ransomware. Encrypting Viruses will attack your computer & any attached drives will also be encrypted.  If you can buy a bitcoin to pay the ransom, will you get your files back?  The alternative is an offsite backup service.  A good offsite backup keeps every version of your files in case you need the spreadsheet the way it looked three updates ago.

If You Still Run Windows XP, You Need a Plan!

WINDOWS XP

I know.  You don’t want to hear it again. Windows XP is dead. It died 13 months ago. You can’t stop.  You need to give up that old slow XP machine, but you can’t.  You can’t really imagine it because you have everything dialing just the way you like it or at least you know how everything works. But YOU Really need a plan to move forward. Do you have the disks to install your programs on a new pc?  Will your software even run on a new computer? What version of windows can you move to?   Vista dies in 2017 and Windows 7 in 2020.  You have heard horror stories about Windows 8 ( but it’s not bad) and Window 10 is coming this summer.  You have a plan don’t you?  You deserve a new computer with a better protected operating system.WINDOWS XP

Windows 7 is the most like XP but you are almost out of time.  The supply of Windows 7 systems is dwindling.  I suspect they will not be available much longer, so don’t dally if you want Windows 7.  FYI: Windows Home versions cannot connect to a windows active directory domains.  If you are buying  a pc to connect to your work network, you probably need a Windows Professional pc.

If you are willing to try Windows 8, you will find a new  START  screen with Tiles.  There is no menu button.  Most system controls are located in different places.  Bounce your mouse pointer off the lower right corner to change, adjust volume brightness  and oher PC settings.  Control panels are hidden behind the lower left corner of the screen.  I use Windows 7 and Windows 8 Pro everyday.  I prefer Windows 8  but my Windows 7 machine had a lot of software I don’t wish to purchase again.

Small businesses and home users are not usually aware of Virtual Machines.  In a nutshell, a virtual machine can run a copy of your XP system on the new Windows Machine in addition to what ever you run on the new operating system.   Windows Pro 7 has an optional download.  Oracle acquired Sun’s Virtual Machine & you can try for free.  There are also several commercial VM products that have tech support like VMware.

If you need help finding a path forward, consult with a professional.  It will save you money in the end because you won’t purchase computers, parts or software that won’t work for you.  I want my customers to have what they need.

Steve Harris,

Scotts Valley Computer Repair

Change Your Password Today!

Hi Folks,

Have you changed your password lately?  Last week, I read PC World article about passwords posted on the internet last year.  In all of these articles, some people’s internet life are in serious peril because they don’t 1) use a strong password & 2) don’t change passwords often.  In 2011, the most common password was password.  In 2013,  123456 is the most common password.  If you use a password like this, You need to change your password today.

I hope you are not using simple number strings like our example because several stings starting with 1234 through 1234567890 all made the worst password lists.  Simple dictionary words don’t fair any better against the hacking tools in use today.  Replacing the e with 3 doesn’t work anymore.  Hackers programmed that in.   Several new passwords hacks point directly to the Adobe breach (suspected to be 100+ million user accounts) with Adobe123 and photoshop making the list.  Read the PC World Article here.  PC World used this report from Splashdata.

The low hanging fruits are picked first.  Hackers keep several password listing files that they use to break in to a site. They use machines configured with multiple hi-end video cards.  These custom systems are able to test over a million passwords per minute. Hackers are always learning from each other’s exploits.  When hackers break into Target or Linked In or Sony Playstation Network, they often post a large sample of the passwords they stole online.   It is a brag book to prove they got in & took login data.

The online posts are helpful to other hackers to update the list of millions of passwords they test when hacking into sites.    Security researchers also examine the lists to determine the relative strength of internet passwords. Once they have your login on one site, they can try your username and password at retailers websites. What if you have one click purchasing turned on in Amazon & they add a new shipping location & go shopping!

To wrap up: You need to Change your passwords today.  Or do yourself a favor and buy a password manager to keep track of them for you.  Splashdata, LastPass or 1Password are the top of the heap for password managers.  I use 1Password on my devices.

Reinstall Microsoft Windows: It’s Not What You Think

Remove My Malware or Reinstall Microsoft Windows? 

Many people think it’s a no brainer.  Just Reinstall Windows.

Will I be able to reinstall Microsoft Windows for you?   

  • If it’s Windows 7 or 8.  NOT XP. Windows XP retired in April 2014.  Vista Retires in 2017.  Windows 7 Retires in 2020.  > Upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.
  • Can you read the serial number on your Windows Certificate of Authenticity?  On laptops, the COA sticker is on the bottom & gets worn off by your fingers when you grab your laptop. 
  1. If  the Microsoft COA cannot be read, you COA number can be extracted from your working copy of windows.
  2. If the COA number cannot be retrieved or fails Microsoft authentication, you a Legally Obligated to BUY a new Windows License.
  3. The  non-compliance fine Microsoft seeks is $10000-$100000!  I won’t risk it.
  • Do You have the disks for your computer?   I can reinstall Windows. I don’t own copies of your other software. I need to use your disks reinstall any other software.  It cannot be extracted from the old windows installation.   Programs must be reinstalled in the new Windows environment to work correctly.

Reinstall Microsoft Windows or as I call it: The Nuke & Pave.

Manufactures include a factory reset option to reinstall microsoft windows but your disk is formatted in most cases, ERASING ALL PERSONAL FILES (documents, downloads, bookmarks, music, pictures & movies).   Again, not most people’s desired result.

Do you have a backup?  It is strongly recommended that you have a backup before proceeding with the Nuke & Pave.

Remove the Malware

  • I remove the Malware & Viruses. I use proprietary techniques & commercially available tools to complete the removal.
  • If You don’t have Malware protection, I recommend Emsisoft Anti-Malware
  • After the Malware is removed, You get your computer back with working programs & all your files. No one can promise that your computer is free from infections for life.  You can go back & do the same thing that infected your computer again. 

Updates

If YOU don’t update your software, You Will Become INFECTED.  You need to update Microsoft send you updates for Office, Skype &  Windows.  You are responsible to update Adobe: Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, Shockwave & Air. Oracle Java will show an update is ready by putting an orange coffee cup in your system tray.  Java needs the most updates.  Some programs auto update like Mozilla, Chrome & your antivirus. 

Best Tip:  Make a backup.  If you cannot be bothered, sign up for Backblaze.com or prepare to loose everything.  ALL Hard Drives Fail.

Best Tip2: Only a top rated product like Emsisoft AntiMalware can keep up with today’s threats.  I use it and now I’m a reseller.

Best Tip3: If you can learn keep your computer’s software up to date, you stand a chance of steering clear of virus traps.