Cleaning Your Desktop or Laptop Computer – Inside and Out

Dirty Laptop FanAll computers require periodic cleaning. This is true for both laptop and desktop computers. It’s not just physical dust and debris; there are also junk files, malware remnants, temp files, program fragments and other computer software that needs to be tidied up on a regular basis. Here are the basics:

1. Computer screen: Turn off the monitor and find a dry, clean cloth. The cloth should be non-abrasive and lint-free. Then use the appropriate cleaner and apply it directly to the cloth, not to the monitor. This avoids drips that can damage electrical components. Gently wipe down the screen with gentle pressure. When cleaning a laptop screen, be especially careful not to get drips in the speakers or keyboard. In the absence of a cleaning agent, water can be used, preferably distilled. Otherwise use a non-ammonia based glass cleaner.

2. Keyboard: Use a can of compressed air and spray between the keys. In many cases, this is sufficient to clean out the crud under the keys. In most extreme cases, it may be necessary to pop out the keys with a pen. The underlying surface is then easily cleaned. Removing the keys is not recommended with laptops! However, a laptop keyboard can be replaced by your local computer repair shop. The key surfaces can be cleaned in a similar fashion as the monitor. Again, apply the cleaning agent to the cloth, not directly to the keyboard.

3. Cleaning Inside a Desktop: Most desktop cases are easily opened with a screwdriver or with the simple twist of a few thumbscrews. A can of compressed air can then be used to clean the fans, CPU heat sink, vents, motherboard, expansion slots, etc. Be sure to blow the debris away from the system when possible. If you have a laptop computer it also needs the inside of the case cleaned out periodically but I strongly recommend you take it to a qualified computer repair professional or computer repair shop for this. Tell them you want the fan basins cleaned out and the heat sink taken up and new thermal paste applied. This should be done once every three years and more often if you smoke or have long-haired pets in the house.

4. Clean the computer of‘software debris’: Depending on your preference, Windows has many utilities to keep your computer in good working condition; and, there are also many software programs available to help with this task. These programs tend to do a better job than windows utilities and are easier to use. One example is CCleaner. CCleaner provides a means to fix file problems, registry errors, repair broken shortcuts, delete junk files, etc. Running these utilities once every few weeks is one way to keep your computer running smoothly but it’s not a total solution.

5. Remove Malware: Although this may come as a surprise to many — your antivirus is no match for today’s infections. Some (and often many) will inevitably slip through your AV software. I suggest running a stronger aftermarket malware removal utility such as Malwarebytes to remove minor infections. Furthermore, you should take your computer into a qualified repair shop once a year for a professional virus check and removal.

Periodic cleaning of your laptop or desktop is a good way to keep your computer running smoothly, extend the life of your machine, and increase your overall computer using experience.

History Of The ‘Big 10′ Computer Manufacturers

First Home ComputerDell: Dell Inc. is located in Round Rock, Texas and one of the largest privately owned companies in the world. Dell sells servers, personal computers, peripherals, software and network switches. It also produces several non-computer-related consumer electronic items. By acquiring Perot systems, Dell began providing IT services.
 
Michael Dell began building computers in 1984 from his dorm room at the University of Texas. In 1985, the first Dell-designed computer was produced. The company began expanding globally in 1988. The company’s revenue has grown to ~$56.94 billion. While the company was once publicly held, Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners successfully completed a leveraged buyout on October 30th, 2013.
 
HP: Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Hewlett-Packard was founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in a one-car garage. It is the world’s largest computer manufacturer, just ahead of Lenovo. HP has a vast business and successfully develops and manufactures networking and storage hardware, computer hardware. It also provides extensive computer-related services.
 
Both founders graduated from Stanford University and decided on the name with a coin toss. There was a 50% chance the company could have been called Packard-Hewlett. The company was created in 1939.
 
Lenovo: A large, Chinese company with nearly $30 billion in annual sales, Lenova is headquartered in both Beijing, China and Morrisville, NC. Lenova manufactures printers, scanners, storage, desktop computers, netbooks, notebooks, and tablets. The company was founded in 1984 and originally created under the name, Legend, by 10 engineers.
 
The company initially tried to import televisions, but was unsuccessful. The first foray into the computer world was the development of a circuit board for PCs that permitted to processing of Chinese characters. Lenovo was first publicly traded in 1994. It also acquired IBM’s personal computer business in 2005.
 
IBM: IBM started in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company and was actually formed from the merger of 3 separate companies. The name, International Business Machines was adopted in 1924. IBM is a very large company with over 430,000 employees and annual sales of over $100 billion.
 
IBM first realized success by processing data for clients, including the US government. In 1952, IBM created the first computer to play checkers; this is believed to be the first self-learning system. IBM developed the programming language, FORTRAN, in 1957. Many other milestones were accomplished, including providing assistance to NASA for orbital flights. The first computer systems were developed in 1964. IBM has acquired many companies over the years. IBM’s association with the NSA has hurt its credibility around the world in recent times.
 
Sony: The Sony Corporation is primarily in the financial, entertainment and gaming sectors. The computer portion of the business is a relatively small part of the company’s activities. Sony has been a leader in developing optical storage technology and devices, including the introduction of the compact disk in 1983. Sony also introduced the 3.5 inch floppy disk in the same year. Flash memory was also created by Sony in 1998.
 
Sony produced computers in the 1980s, but these were only available in Japan. Leaving the computer market in 1990, Sony re-entered in 1996 with the VAIO brand. A series of tablet products were introduced in 2011. Keeping with Sony tradition they are some of the highest quality computers on the market…
 
Asus: A Taiwanese company, Asus got its start in 1989. Asus is well known for motherboards. Asus was tapped to produce Microsoft’s Origami models in 2006. Asus produced its first laptop computers in 2007. The first model was named the Eee PC. In 2008, the company restructured and formed a division dedicated to PC production. Asus launched the thinnest notebook ever built in 2010, only 19 mm thick.
 
Acer: Another company based in Taiwan, Acer has been building lower-end computers since the late 80s. It was originally a distributor of electronic parts. Over the years, Acer has acquired several companies, including Gateway, Packard Bell, E-Ten, and iGware. Acer produces and sells a wide variety of desktop, notebook, tablet, netbook, and Chromebook computers. Its offerings also include servers and storage solutions.
 
Toshiba: Toshiba is based in Japan and was founded in 1939. The company started in the heavy engineering and equipment industries. Toshiba began manufacturing personal computers in 1986 and has grown into the fifth-largest personal computer vendor in the world. The company is also well known for several Japanese firsts, including the development of radar.
 
Samsung: Based in South Korea, Samsung boasts annual revenue of $270 billion. Its first personal computer, the SPC-1000 was introduced in 1982 and only sold on the Korean market. In 1992, Samsung became was the largest producer of memory chips. It also became the largest manufacturer of LCD screens in 2005. Samsung acquired a portion of the Sony Corporation in 2011 as the result of a joint venture related to LCD technology.
 
Samsung is also in several other industries, including the music business. It has grown into one of the most respected companies in the world. Many believe it will become the most powerful electronics company.
 
Gateway: First known for shipping its personal computers in boxes spotted like cows, the company was founded on a farm near Sioux City, Iowa in 1985. It was one of the first PC companies to successfully sell computers via direct selling. Gateway struggled after the dot-com bust and has struggled to be profitable since. Acquired by Acer in 2007, Gateway ceased all direct sales in 2008. Gateway continues to sell desktop and laptop computers through major retail outlets, such as Walmart and Best Buy.
 

Things to Consider With A Free Email Account

Free EmailWhile there are many advantages to using a paid-email service, there are many great options for those seeking a free email service. It’s not always easy to determine the differences, but a little bit of research can go a long way to finding the perfect service for your requirements.
 
What to look for:
 
1. Security: Where intentional or inadvertent, most of us store a plethora of personal and confidential information in our email accounts. Passwords, bank account / credit card information, and tax returns are just a few examples. Be sure your free email provider has multiple layers of protection.
 
2. Features: What does the service in question offer beyond the ability to send and receive email? How much storage is included? Is there a messaging app? A calendar feature? Is the ability to filter and sort your incoming email important to you?
 
3. Support: Does the provider have a good reputation with regards to help and support? It can be more than a little inconvenient if your email is down and no help is available. If you’re looking for service stability, the more popular services are usually a better bet.
 
Popular Free Providers:
 
1. Gmail: Google is everywhere. It’s difficult to not have a Gmail account. At the very least, a Gmail account is required for any real functionality with Youtube. Gmail includes a messaging and calling feature. There is even the ability to get a unique phone number that can be linked to your cell or home phone. Gmail arguably has the greatest functionality, but limits users to 10 GB of inbox storage.
 
2. Yahoo email: Yahoo email is still very popular, though has fallen out of favor in recent years. Many email users appreciate the ability to avoid the nesting that is forced upon users of Gmail. Yahoo boasts unlimited inbox storage, but lacks the cloud storage feature of Gmail.
 
3. Mail.com: This relative newcomer also has unlimited storage and the ability to utilize aliases to protect your identity. The maximum attachment size is 50 MB, falling between Gmail’s 20 MB limit and Outlook’s 300 MB limit.
 
4. Outlook.com: There’s a lot to like about Outlook’s email offering. Unlimited storage, 300 MB maximum attachment size, and 7 GB of cloud storage. While Outlook lacks Gmail’s video chat feature, it does include aliases, an RSS reader, and social media feeds. Outlook is growing in popularity and many users look to alternatives to Gmail and Yahoo email.
 
There are numerous free email providers, many more than listed above. Be sure to examine all the options before making a choice. Compare features, security, and support to find the one that is the best fit for you.
 

5 Myths About Your Antivirus Software Suite

virus removal louisvilleIn this day and age, nearly every computer user has had the misfortune of dealing with some type of computer malware –although some don’t know it. In my computer service career I have rarely run across a machine I can’t reveal some type of malware infection on. I’d say about 80% of the computers I see at my shop have at least one malware infection. When I tell people they usually respond in shock with “WHAT . . . . but I have antivirus software . . . how can this be?” My answer – very easily.
 
That’s why I wrote this blog post — to shed a bit more light on the subject . . . . and a few other misconceptions surrounding the programs that are SUPPOSED to prevent malware infections.
 
1. There’s no such thing as a 100% effective anti-virus program. There are literally thousands of new malware programs being released each day. It can take time for the developers of your antivirus program to develop methods for dealing with these new programs. In the interim – you can be infected.
 
2. No antimalware program can replace good web browsing and computer management habits. It’s not just downloading pirated copies of expensive software or movies from file sharing sites or pornography where all infections come from. This is a myth. They are often rolled into relatively benign free utilities that most people think will help them in some way, shape or form. It can be difficult to determine if such files are safe, useful utilities (some are) or actually serving as a virus-spreading mechanism.
 
Other popular places to get infected are sites where there are free games, music, apps, movies, recipes, or anything else you don’t have to pay for. Often times malware and virus infections will come in through these websites as drive-by downloads and slip right past your antivirus software.
 
3. Antivirus software is both proactive and reactive. The software available today is able to use heuristics to examine the behavior of a computer file. Even if a specific known virus isn’t identified, the file can still be determined to be malware. This is a great method of early detection when dealing with new malware but not even close to 100% effective.
 
4. Files and software on your computer that have been damaged by malware can’t always be repaired. While it is possible for a highly skilled computer repair shop owner to remove the infections from your computer completely repairing all your files or software to their pre-viral state isn’t always possible. That’s why back-ups are so important!
 
5. One is better than two. Never do this, period. Anti-virus software is very heavy software and running two antivirus programs simultaneously slows system performance to the extent it can actually expose your compromised system to infections.
 

Insidious CryptoLocker Virus – Back up your files NOW!

cryptolocker virus removal louisville kentuckyCryptolocker is the nastiest virus I’ve seen in my computer repair career. It ups the ransomware stakes by encrypting your files and holding them hostage until you pay the ‘ransom’. Understand that your files can be lost forever. The virus is most commonly spread through email attachments. Phishing attacks have also been used against companies.
 
You might be thinking that someone will certainly break the encryption and put an end to the problem. However, the encryption is an asymmetric RSA that requires both a public and a private key. The public key is used to encrypt the files and the private key is used to decrypt the files.
 
Keep in mind that this is the same type of encryption that the US government uses, and by most accounts, the NSA is unable to break this style and level of encryption! Without the private key, there is no way to unlock your files. The types of files that are encrypted vary with the particular variant of the virus. But the virus appears to target businesses, based on the targeted file types but also affects many non-business users as well.
 
The current cost to release your files is $300 but I’ve seen some variants of the virus seeking up to $500. Paying the ransom might or might not be successful in releasing your files. Many times it is NOT. I would not suggest paying the ransom. The success rate of recovering files this way is not high. The lesson here? Back up your files. Period. The virus infection, like other virus and malware infections can easily be removed by a qualified computer repair shop for around $125. The problem here is the encrypted data. If you data is backed up – although you’re not perfectly protected against the infection – you’re protected against data loss. See my blog for more articles on how to back up your data.
 
A new version of the virus, referred to as Cryptolocker 2.0 was recently discovered at the end of 2013, though the original version is still in full-force. Both versions asymmetrically encrypt files with particular file extensions and then request a ransom.
 
There are a few differences:
 
1. The earlier version uses RSA-2048, while 2.0 uses RSA-1024. However, the latter claims to use RSA-4096.
 
2. 2.0 only accepts Bitcoins for the ransom payment. The previous version accepts Ukash, MoneyPak, cashU vouchers, or BitCoin.
 
3. 2.0 was programmed in C#. The original Cryptolocker was programmed in Visual C++. This strongly suggests that the original programmers were not part of the new version.
 
4. Cryptolocker didn’t attack video and music files; the latter version does.
 
Experts are uncertain whether the same programmers created the 2.0 version or if it is merely a copycat. Though most believe it is was not created by the original programmers. There is one certainty; both can be detrimental to your files. Avoid opening email attachments unnecessarily, back up your files at regular intervals, learn good web-browsing habits — and run an effective and up to date anti-virus program.
 

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