TipsHere Are Some Important Tips From Our Support Staff
- Avoid falling for scams that claim your PC is infected. These happen with misrepresented phone calls or online popups that claim to be from Microsoft and give you a toll free number to call. Microsoft does not do these things. These scammers are digital gypsies that only want your money. Never let a stranger remotely take over your computer. They will trick you into believing that a Windows log file indicates problems. It’s a lie. While they have control of your computer they may plant scripts that cause real problems at a later time, copy your personal files, and ask for your credit card number to “fix” problems that don’t really exist. If you know someone that innocently fell for this scam, have them call us at (309) 751-4490.
- New computer viruses and malware are more likely to infect an out of date, unpatched computer.It is important to keep your antivirus program, Java (if your PC has it), and anything from Adobe up to date. Make sure that your PC has critical Windows Updates installed. No antivirus program can stop zero day exploits, as they utilize previously unknown vulnerabilities (See #2 about Sandboxie, which blocks downloads). Many anti-virus programs charge you an annual fee. Avira, Bitdefender Free, 360 Total Security (with Bitdefender and Avira engines added), and Panda Free, are very good free programs for consumers. For Windows 10, Windows Defender is as effective as the four other free AV programs. Panda and Bitdefender are currently excellent subscription antivirus programs. Also, be sure to never let unwanted programs install alongside otherwise good programs by making sure any checkboxes for free offers, trial programs, toolbars, and so on, are unchecked. Never install and run more than one antivirus programs. They will “fight” each other, slow the system down, and generally cause problems. Two is one AV too many.
- Install Sandboxie (download from www.sandboxie.com), setup and then use a Sandboxed Web Browser that will prevent rogue program downloads and system changes. To allow downloads outside of the Sandboxie container, you “recover” them. Sandboxie works best with Internet Explorer, but is compatible with Opera, Firefox, and Chrome. To use it you need to click on the Sandboxed Web Browser icon. This will open your default web browser inside of a “sandbox”. When given an option, after closing the browser, select “Delete Contents”. A small annoyance of Sandboxie is that four weeks after it is first installed a “nag screen” appears on the free version that makes you wait five seconds. Then you click a bar to continue. Do not install programs within a sandboxed web browser without recovering them first. Programs won’t install properly in the sandbox and will be removed when the sandbox is cleared. Your browser will not update when sandboxed. Preventing changes to your computer is the purpose of the sandbox. Keep in mind that from our experience Sandboxie is compatible with over 90%, but not all, of computers. As browsers get updated to improve their own security, and other system changes occur, Sandboxie may stop working on one or more browsers. Go to Sandboxie.com to download updates that should fix issues you may be having. Also, don’t try to make program changes to your browser when it’s sandboxed. They won’t stick. Make browser updates and settings changes in the regular, unsandboxed version to save them. Scamming tricks can still happen in the Sandboxed browser. Just restart your PC and the locked screen will be gone. Do not be tricked by scammers.
- Some malware is automatically downloaded through peer to peer file sharing programs like Ares, Warez, Shareaza, FrostWire, LimeWire, eMule, BearShare, and the various Torrents. Avoid these attractive but very risky file sharing systems. Use legal download or streaming sites only.
- Make frequent backups of your data files. Don’t learn the hard way! We recommend using Macrium Reflect to make full drive images onto a portable hard drive for system recovery in case of drive failure of Windows PC’s. Safely remove the portable hard drive after you have made your backup so it is offline and ready for the next use. If you own a laptop, use an SDHC card for Windows 8.x or 10 File History backups. We recommend multiple backups. You can keep your files safe over the Internet with secure sites such as mozy.com, which gives you 2-GB of storage for free, although they make you dig to find the free download. One Drive and Dropbox also are valuable free tools. You will need a broadband connection for online “cloud” backups. Consider these as secondary backups, because it takes much longer to recover “cloud” backed up files than ones on a portable hard drive in your possession Keep in mind that if your PC is hit with a Cryptolocker or ransomware virus, all your files in mapped drives are vulnerable, even in the cloud. Don’t map cloud drives to your PC.
- Never click on a link or an attachment in an e-mail from anyone, unless you expected a file from them. It may unknowingly be trouble, as spammers and bad guys have no qualms faking any email address. Web based e-mail services, like Gmail, and Outlook.com, are imperfect, but keep their spam and virus filters as up to date as possible. Web mail offers the advantage of running under Sandboxie where you can right mouse click on links and select “Open in new tab” to prevent infections from being unleashed on your computer, but only if you always surf the web with the sandboxed web browser and don’t recover possibly infected items.
- Do not change the CMOS or BIOS settings (done at PC start up by pressing the Delete, or other specific, key when prompted on screen) unless you are certain you know what will happen and what you are doing. This is not an area to experiment on as some incorrect settings will prevent the PC from booting.
- Contrary to popular belief you can create problems by arbitrarily hitting various keys. There are key combinations that cause actions. You will become familiar with keyboard shortcuts over time. They are usually shown next to menu selections that have associated keyboard shortcuts. For example, pressing the Ctrl and the C keys at the same time will copy into memory text, and/or graphics, highlighted or selected in a program. Ctrl & V pastes the text (or graphics) into the same or another program.
- Only you are responsible for proper use of your computer. When unsure how to do something in Windows, check the help files built into every Windows program and the operating system itself, or simply use Google, Bing, StartPage, or DuckDuckGo to learn what to do. StartPage and DuckDuckGo do not track your searches, unlike Bing and Google.
- Use a battery backup/UPS (uninterruptible power supply) with desktop computers to ensure clean power enters the PC and to prevent shutdown, which can corrupt files, during brown outs or power outages. A minimum power rating of 350 VA is recommended. One of the main reasons to use a UPS is to prevent power supply stress during periods of voltage drops, which occur most often during the summer. If your power completely stops, the UPS will give you about five minutes to save your work and shut down the PC. You will have peace of mind after you put one to use. A UPS battery normally lasts three to four years. With laptops, use a laptop cooling stand for optimum longevity.
- If you start hearing clicking or dull clanging sounds from your PC, or see warning messages that the hard drive needs files backed up and replaced, the hard disk drive is failing. Back up all data immediately and have the drive tested and replaced. Or, turn the PC off and call us at (309) 751-4490 to do the work for you.
- Avoid falling for phone call scams that claim your PC is infected, or Internet scams that do the same and ask to remotely take over your computer. Microsoft does not do these things. These scammers are digital gypsies that only want your money. Never let a stranger remotely take over your computer. They will trick you into believing that a Windows log file indicates problems. It’s a lie. Call us at (309) 751-4490.
- Perform basic weekly maintenance. Run ccleaner, do a quick defrag on a hard disk drive or TRIM (quick optimize) on an SSD, and Malwarebytes (click the Scan Now button, it will update automatically and run a full scan that may take 20 minutes or so) to help clean junk out of your system. Malwarebytes Free will try to get you to pay for an upgrade that you do not need. Don’t click on any buttons other than Scan Now.
Macrium Reflect 6 or 7 – Recommended Steps to Make a System Image onto a portable (or networked) drive.
1) Open the Reflect program.
2) Click on the underlined “Image this disk…” under the drive you want to back up. It should contain a “C:” partition.
3) A new box appears. In the bottom half of it, under Destination, select the portable hard drive where the image will be saved to. With the “Folder” option selected, click on the “…” button to the right. A new window will appear. From here, select the drive or folder where the image will be saved, then click “OK”. If you already ran the program it will show the last location saved to.
4) Un-check “Use the Image ID…” box and enter a name for the system image. Click “Finish” after providing a file name. We recommend using the PC’s name and the date for the file name. Doing this lets you use the same portable hard drive to store easily identifiable images from multiple PC’s, allowing for easier disaster recovery.
5) On the next window, make sure “Run this backup now” is checked. Un-check “Save this backup as an XML…”, then click “OK” to begin the system image.
Need help? Call us at (309) 751-4490 and let us help solve your problem.