Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Feb 27, 2015
I don’t advertise this all that much but I do minor computer repairs, mainly for people I know, friends of people I know, and of course the neighborhood. It’s not the core of my business or even close, but the little chunk of change here and there doesn’t hurt.
For the most part I can drill down to 5 things that, if people took care of them, would solve 95% of any potential problems that might come their way. I think they’re fairly simple anyway, but if you don’t, it wouldn’t hurt you to have someone do some simple maintenance on your computer here and there to check some of these things for you.
1. Use an antivirus program and then update it from time to time. I shouldn’t have to tell anyone in this day and age how important it is to have an antivirus program, yet I still work on a lot of computers that are missing that essential piece of software; that and malware protection. There are free and paid versions, and depending on how little you know about surfing the web and what “not” to click on should determine what you get; some of these programs also offer malware and spyware protection.
Most antivirus programs have a choice for you to allow them to automatically update, which you probably should select, but first you have to look at the program and find it, which most people don’t do. Most people also don’t go in and set a time for the computer to automatically scan their computers; do that as well.
2. Use a firewall of some sort and update it from time to time. What firewalls do is hide your computer from those folks who might have somehow slipped a virus onto your computer and are now trying to activate it. I don’t want to get too technical, but in essence it cloaks the access you have to the internet and makes whatever the virus folks are sending out miss you.
Of course it protects you from other things as well, such as programs trying to load that you aren’t intentionally trying to load. Updating firewall programs takes just a little more work than updating antivirus, but if you’re on Windows you can think about using their firewall program, which will update itself with no problems.
3. Clean stuff out of your hard drive from time to time. Okay, this one’s going to take some instructions, and it’s geared towards computers using Windows, but Apple computers probably have some similar things.
The first thing you want to do is check your computer to get rid of things that are automatically loading every time you boot your computer that you don’t need booting up then. All that stuff slows down your boot speed and can use up resources on your computer that you could be using for other things.
What you do is click on the Windows button, and in the box that says “Search programs and files” type in “msconfig” without the quotation marks and hit enter. When it comes up click on it and a menu will open. Click on the tab that says Startup.
Everything that’s checked loads up when you boot up your computer. You need to keep things such as your antivirus and firewall programs, and at some point there might be a couple other programs you’d like loaded up when your computer starts. But uncheck everything else, which might be your iPod program, Quicktime, any instant messaging programs, any Adobe programs, and other stuff you might use every once in awhile but not every time you’re on your computer. Once you’re done hit the Okay button; it might ask you if you want to reboot your computer and you will, but not just yet; this is step one.
Step two is to get rid of a bunch of temporary files that you don’t need. Everyone ends up with temporary files on their computer. Almost every time you load a new program it leaves some temporary files. If you opened up something specific on the web and didn’t save it to a specific folder on your computer it’s possible that it’s been captured in your temporary folder.
What you do is right click on your Windows button and left click on Open Windows Explorer. Once that’s open, which will be a large menu, you’ll want to come down to where it says Users. Click the arrow to the left of Users and it’ll show you a bunch of other folders; the one you want will be the one that “doesn’t” say Administrator, All Users, Default, Default User or Public. Some of those you might not be able to open anyway. Whichever folder is left is the one you want; it could be named anything, which is why I told you which ones to ignore.
Click on the arrow to the left of that folder and you’ll see a bunch of other folders once again. Click on the arrow to the left of the one called App Data. Then click on the arrow to the left of the one called Local.
Again you’ll see a bunch of folders, but scroll down to the one called Temp. Click on that folder and you’ll see a bunch of files, possibly some folders in there. Click one file in that area to the right just once, then hold down on the Ctrl button at the bottom left of your keyboard and push the letter A. It will highlight everything in the right side area.
Make sure it’s everything in the “right” side and not the left side, otherwise you’ll be trying to delete everything on your hard drive. If everything you see to the right is highlighted, hit your delete button. It will get rid of everything that your computer isn’t presently using. It will be using a few files in there and it’ll ask you what to do; just click the little box that says “Do this for all current items” and push the Skip button.
Once you’ve done that close the Explorer window and go to your recycle bin. If you want you can look in there to see everything you’re getting rid of. Then empty your recycle bin, and once you’ve done that close it back up and now reboot your computer. It should be running much faster because it’s not loading up as much stuff, and if you’ve never cleared anything out of your temp folder you’ll have much more space, and if your computer is older you’ll probably notice a little more speed as well.
4. Vacuum any air spaces on your physical computer. If you’ve never done it you’ll notice all this dust and junk around the air holes on your computer. You don’t want any of that stuff getting into your computer and gumming up the works, and you also want to keep it clean so the fan in your computer can keep everything cool.
5. Listen. Every computer has its own sound, or lack thereof, and we all get used to it. If you hear anything out of the ordinary it possibly means you have a potential problem coming. It’s best to be proactive and take some maintenance steps so you don’t lose everything on your computer. You might have to call someone if you don’t have the knowledge of what to do, but get it taken care of as soon as possible. Just because the noise might stop doesn’t mean everything’s fine.
There you go; those 5 steps will help you a lot.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Dec 8, 2011
Some days ago one of my web clients calls and leaves and interesting message on my phone. He says that his hard drive has crashed and he’s lost everything that was on his C drive. The message asked me to call him as soon as possible.
by Tara Hunt via Flickr
Of course by the time I got that message it was late, and I knew he went to bed early. I called him the next morning and throughout the day, as it was Saturday, and never reached him. So I sent him an email, which I knew he’d get on his phone, and told him to reach me Sunday. He did, we talked, and he brought his computer over and left it with me.
The first thing I did was to hook his computer to my monitor and other stuff. Then I disconnected my wife’s computer from the network and booted his up because I wanted to see what it would do. It booted up just fine, and when it was loading suddenly I saw this message saying the C drive had been compromised, and that he could buy some product to help fix the problem.
I’m assuming most people reading this blog know this already, but he had malware on his computer. The reason I disconnected my wife’s computer from the network up front is because I was betting he had malware. There’s no such message ever telling anyone that their C drive has crashed; it just doesn’t work that way. If it had crashed the computer wouldn’t boot up, instead emitting these little beeps that drive someone like me crazy because of their pitch.
How did he get the malware? I have no clue, and neither did he, but often I see this type of thing when someone goes to a website that’s been compromised, they get an initial warning saying something might be wrong with their computer and to “click here” to check it out, and there you go. The uninitiated will fall for it almost every time, and my client would truly be considered one of the uninitiated.
The trick then is to get rid of the malware. His computer couldn’t access the internet, as figures, so I went to my laptop and downloaded a copy of ComboFix, which works wonders with XP computers; there’s no equivalent yet for Vista or Win 7so I’d have had to do a search on how to get rid of it for his particular issue, but for XP ComboFix is the way to go. I loaded it, then it went online to look for updates and it was ready to go.
What you’ll sometimes see is it saying you have some kind of scanner or virus program running. In this case it said he was running Microsoft Essentials, but I know I’d turned it off and I’d also disabled it under msconfig, and rebooted before running the program, so I knew it wasn’t running. ComboFix will still run, but it’ll tell you that it might not work as well; so be it. The program will create a restore point, then do its job, which could take awhile or it might work fairly fast. In this case it took about 25 minutes, but it killed the malware.
The next thing I did was install CCleaner, which a few people mentioned in my post on clearing out browser history, and ran it in both ways. By that I mean I first ran it to look through all the browsers on his computer to clean things out. Good thing I did because it discovered two dormant viruses that it took care of. Then I ran a registry check and it found over 1,300 bad entries, which I cleared up and then ran it again to fix whatever was left.
After that I added an antivirusand a firewall. Thing is I thought I’d added it to his computer last year when I repaired it, then remembered that this was actually a new computer of only a few months that I hadn’t seen before.
What are the lessons here? One, if you get a warning on your computer and it’s not from a program you know you’re running, don’t click on it. Two, if the message belies the action, such as a message telling you that your hard drive has crashed and yet you’re computer is still running, it’s malware. Three, at the very least disconnect your computer from the internet (if you’re running cable like I am) to help keep things under control. Four, make sure your computer has antivirus and firewall protection.
Oh yeah, a number five; if you go through something like this and have to ask someone else to fix it for you, ask them to clean things out while they’re in there and don’t gripe about the price, since you should have asked up front what it might cost. Even though I didn’t just sit there watching stuff running, it did end up taking me 3 1/2 hours to clean out all the junk on his computer, including all these programs that were automatically running because they’d inserted themselves into his start up files, large temp files from software loads, etc. When he got his computer back that sucker was once again humming like it was new.
You’ve got to protect your hardware; you probably need your computer more than you think you do.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Apr 21, 2010
So, what’s the problem with Palm, the company that brought us all the first real personal digital assistant? I remember back in the early 2000’s when everyone wanted one and needed one; now, you can’t even give away the Palm Pre, their version of a smartphone, and you can’t give away the company either.
This might make me a dinosaur among many of you, but I love having a Palm. Well, I love having one that works anyway. I got my first Palm back in 2001 when my dad first started getting really sick, and I realized I didn’t have any information with me if I were out of town and didn’t have access to my computer, since I didn’t have a laptop back then. Strangely enough, each of my parents had a Palm, way ahead of the game back in the day, but they were traveling a lot and, like me, wanted access to all sorts of information while on the go.
At a certain point in 2005, Palm went in the wrong direction, and that’s probably when things started to fall apart. I actually bought the latest Palm at the time, a heavy monster with a 4GB hard drive that was using technology that no one else was even working on, and that technology was unwieldy and, it seems, unnecessary. Everyone else who was in the PDA game was moving towards cellphone technology instead.
What ended up happening is the fancy Palm, which I actually had to replace twice in one year, just couldn’t support itself, and the entire company started tanking, even though Palm had slightly downsized its expectations and come out with the Palm T/X, which I ended up buying. Palm came into the cellphone game late, and its entry, the Pre, has never caught on.
Now word is that Palm has been trying to find someone to buy the company, but not only are there no takers, but many of the top brass have flown the coop. The guy who oversaw software and services, senior vice president Michael Abbott, is jumping to Twitter, which still hasn’t figured out how to make money off themselves; that says something to me. Palm’s stock price is dropping, 12% on Monday alone. At the beginning of the year Palm estimated it would have $1.7 billion in sales in 2010, but the first quarter only came in around $150 million; ain’t gonna happen.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering what this means for me. I don’t know that any of the smartphones that are out there do what my Palm does, the way I want it done. I don’t know if there are any other PDAs on the market. I purchased a refurbished Palm T/X 10 days ago to replace mine, which lasted 2 good years, and I just sent it back today because suddenly last night the screen decided it didn’t want to play anymore; so much for refurbished stuff, although the guy said he would repair it for me.
Oh yeah, I did try to get the one I have repaired, but they said it was past the time and said I had to buy a new one, around $399, and I balked at that because the original only cost me $130; weasels!
What do I need? Here’s my deal. The main thing is I want something I can sync with my computer and laptop so that I never lose all of my information. I like my calendar feature. I like having my entire address book, with email addresses, birthdays, and any other information I want to add with me. I like setting all sorts of alarms to remind me of stuff (like today, without my Palm, I forgot I had something on the stove for over an hour, and luckily the smoke detector finally went off). The Palm can access wi-fi areas (I don’t have to pay for internet service), can play MP3 files, I can customize its look, I can take my Word or Excel files with me, I can read Adobe files, and it also came with some of the Franklin Covey things I like that let you talk about your values and goals and the like.
So, if you can recommend something that does all of that, I’d be interested. Oh yeah; I don’t want a phone if I don’t have to have one, and I don’t want to have to spend $500 for one either (though I’ll own up to paying almost $700 for the Palm that didn’t end up working out for me; never again). Information please!