It’s not often we blow our own trumpet here at MPM IT.
However, we think reaching this milestone gives us the right to make an exception.
For 15 years we have been helping businesses all over Stowmarket, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and everywhere in between. Our unique ‘pick and mix’ computer support services provide the flexibility small businesses need.
To find out more about what MPM IT can do for you, check out our website, or call 01449 770704.
Technical support is one of those things many see as a luxury rather than a necessity.
They don’t see the point in it until something goes wrong.
You know how annoying it is when your phone, laptop or PC lets you down; it feels as though your world is ending. So imagine what it’s like if you experience an IT failure in your business and you don’t have technical support.
When you bought your computer systems, you probably though the tech support elements were just a nice little earner for the vendor. After all, you’re a dab hand at most technical things; surely you could sort out any issues that crop up?
So what about cyber threats, ransomware, software or hardware failures? How good are your skills then?
Most small business owners do no more than the bare minimum when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity. The FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) reported in its 2016 FSB Business Crime survey that:
29% of its members have been hit by a malware attack
Only 61% of small businesses regularly backup customer data and IT systems
Only 27% store customer data off-site or on a separate device
Are you one of those statistics?
If so you must think about getting technical support in place.
When you look at the cost of professional support against the amount you could lose in downtime or a reputational hit should, it’s a wise investment.
If you are and you would like us to be your IT department and help minimise the risks to your business, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Office 01449 770704, Mobile 07733 262116.
DIY tech support is a daunting prospect even for the most techie minded of you.
However, there are times (especially during the holiday season) when you may have to ‘go it alone’ when it comes to sorting out your PC.
We found a useful blog post on PCWorld.com that addresses some of the most common problems you could tackle alone, but there is a caveat – if you don’t feel happy dealing with it yourself, don’t. You have to be honest about your limitations because if you muck it up, you’re going to make it worse, which is why we always recommend you call in professional IT support.
Try this first
I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but before you do anything else, restart your computer. Matthew Petrie of Falcon Northwest technical support says that most of his customers solve their problems with this simple step.
While you’re at it, make sure that your operating system is fully updated by running Windows Update. Neglecting updates could deprive you of important bug and performance fixes.
If you’re having problems with a peripheral, try switching it on and off. If that doesn’t work, try disconnecting and reconnecting the device. As a last resort, download the latest drivers and perform a full reinstall.
My computer is too slow
The first step to fixing a slow computer is to verify that your machine is the actual source of the problem. Videos that seem to buffer forever, and websites that take ages to load, may not be your computer’s fault. Geek Squad agent Derek Meister claims that many people mistakenly identify a slow system as the problem when “it’s actually not the computer, [but] their broadband connection.” See “Downloads are taking forever” below for instructions on how to use Speedtest.net to diagnose a slow connection.
If the problem is your PC, check whether you have plenty of free space on the hard drive holding your operating system. Windows needs room to create files while your system is running. If your hard drive is maxed out, performance suffers. Now is the perfect time to clear some space.
Microsoft’s System Configuration tool is your next-best bet for tackling slow performance. Many applications launch automatically when your machine boots up, which can stretch out boot time—especially on older, slower PCs. Make a habit of trimming the startup items. Open the tool by pressing Windows-R, typing msconfig, and pressing the Enter key.
Checking the Startup Item and Manufacturer columns is the best way to figure out which potential performance-killers you can safely disable. Avoid messing with any of the services and programs that have Microsoft Corporation listed as the manufacturer. Items such as AdobeAAMUpdater, Google Update, Pando Media Booster, Spotify, and Steam Client Bootstrapper are all fair game. Regardless, err on the side of caution: If you’re not sure what the program or service does, don’t disable it.
Once you’ve made all your changes, click OK and restart the computer. It should boot up quicker and feel noticeably faster.
Downloads are taking forever
Speedtest.net is your best friend when you’re having connectivity problems. Run a speed test to see what your download and upload speeds are—ideally they should be at least 50 percent of your Internet service provider’s advertised speeds, with a ping under 100 milliseconds.
If the speeds seem solid, make sure that you aren’t inadvertently downloading or uploading anything. Many torrent downloading programs run in the background and minimize into the system tray instead of the taskbar.
Check your network hardware. Updates for network cards aren’t all that common, but if your card’s manufacturer offers a newer driver, download it. Resetting your router and modem can help with connection problems, too. Most routers and modems have reset buttons, but pulling the power cable for a second or two can do the same thing. Don’t cut the power for much longer, or the hardware may reset itself to factory defaults.
Still having problems? Call your ISP, which can tell you whether the problem is on your end. As a last-ditch measure, the ISP could reset the master connection to your home.
My machine keeps restarting
Hardware problems are hard to diagnose and solve. First, confirm that you aren’t just getting the latest wave of Windows updates, which can automatically restart your computer during installation. Then work on updating all of your critical system drivers. Your graphics card, motherboard, and network card drivers are crucial.
“Sometimes it can be viruses, sometimes it can be adware, sometimes it can be overheating, and sometimes it can be something as simple as making sure your video card is updated,” Geek Squad’s Meister says.
Is your computer making weird noises? If you’re lucky all you’ll need to do is give the machine a thorough cleaning. Modern computers have safeguards that shut down the system if a component is overheating, which can be the cause of frequent restarts when you’re running resource-intensive programs or video games.
Pop-up ads are appearing on my desktop
If you’re not running your Web browser and are still getting pop-up ads on your desktop, you’ve most likely installed adware—a program that displays unwanted ads. Although benevolent adware exists, most of the time adware is up to no good. Getting rid of it isn’t easy. “There’s a ton of little system-utility tools out there that promise to clean up everything, with names like PC Speed-up, PC Speed Pro, PC Speedifier,” Geek Squad’s Meister says. “A lot of times those programs are not going to do much. Some programs will work, others are snake oil.”
Running a full scan with credible antivirus software is your first step. If that program doesn’t find and remove the adware, turn to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free, a great utility for removing all types of malware. Just make sure to disable your standard antivirus software before running it.
“Multiple antivirus programs working at the same time will often result in problems,” Falcon Northwest’s Petrie says. “You only want one active, real-time antivirus scanner installed, but it doesn’t hurt to run an additional ‘on demand’ virus or malware scanner.”
Searching online for the name of the advertised product can sometimes yield solutions from fellow victims. If all else fails, there’s always the nuclear option: a complete system reinstall. It might take a long time, but it’s the only surefire way to remove adware or spyware. Remember to back up all your personal files.
Google doesn’t look right
Browser hijackers are a particularly nasty breed of malware. Such programs take over your Web browser and can stealthily redirect your Google searches and other queries to fake pages meant to steal your personal information or to further infect your system.
Running a real-time antivirus utility is the best way to stay safe. If your browser has already been hijacked, uninstall the browser and use your antivirus program in conjunction with Malwarebytes to remove the intruder.
My Wi-Fi keeps disconnecting
Spotty wireless connections can be a puzzler. Is it your computer? Your router? Your ISP? Try a few things before calling your Internet service provider.
Confirm that your computer is within range of your wireless router. Weak signals mean weak connections. Next, make sure your PC’s wireless card has the latest drivers. Try letting Windows troubleshoot for you by right-clicking the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and selecting Troubleshoot problems.
I keep seeing ‘There is a problem with this website’s security certificate’
Sometimes the biggest problems have the easiest fixes. According to support technicians, the lion’s share of issues are due to an incorrect system clock.
Website security certificates sync up with your computer’s clock. Old computers in particular run the risk of having a dead CMOS battery—the watch battery in your computer that keeps its system clock ticking. Click the clock in the system tray and select Change date and time settings to correct any issues.
My printer won’t print
Let’s assume that your printer’s drivers are up-to-date, and that it has enough paper and ink or toner to print. Try turning the printer off and on. Unplug the printer and plug it back in. Check your printer’s print queue by looking for the printer icon in the system tray and double-clicking it. The print queue shows you the status of each job as well as the general status of your printer.
Ensure that ‘Use Printer Offline’ isn’t checked. Sometimes, printing while your printer is turned off can cause Windows to set your printer to work offline, and that can stall jobs sent later.
I can’t open email attachments
If you have ever encountered an attachment that you couldn’t open, it was probably because you didn’t have the software necessary to view the file.
The usual suspect is the .pdf file, for which you can download a free PDF reader. If your problem involves a different file format, a quick search on the attachment’s file extension (the three letters after the period in the filename) should tell you what type of program you need. If the attachment lacks a file extension (which might happen if it was renamed), adding it back should set things right.
My favorite program isn’t working on my new PC
Before you call tech support, make sure that the software you’re trying to run is compatible with your operating system. Older software might not function on Windows 8, and an app created for Mac OS X definitely won’t run on your Windows PC. A 32-bit program might run on your 64-bit operating system, but it doesn’t work the other way around.
If an online game balks, you might be missing the required plug-ins—Java and Flash are the usual culprits. Most browsers will alert you to install these items if necessary.
These tips are really handy, and we were thrilled to stumble across this post, so make sure you bookmark it for future reference.
However, as we mentioned at the start, please, please, if you’re not comfortable trying to do this yourself call in the professionals.
Everything is taking longer. Your patience is being tried as your frustrations grow.
Do you just accept that’s what happens over time, or do you do something about it?
The answer is the latter, and we have five handy hints to help you speed things up.
This is so obvious you may have already tried it. However, if you haven’t it’s time to reboot.
Putting your PC to sleep helps save power, but it does little else to enhance performance. A reboot will spring clean Window’s brain to give is a fresh lease of life. You can do it every day is your machine is exceptionally slow.
Today, everything is about saving the environment, which is why your PC wants to work as energy-efficiently as possible.
However, it is possible to trade electricity for speed. All you have to do is right-click Start and then select Power Options. Pull down the Show additional plans option and select High performance.
The drawback is that you’ll use more electricity and it will have a detrimental effect on your battery’s performance.
Adjust for best performance
Trading a few aesthetics will also give you a bit more speed.
Right-click Start, and select System. Then in the Control Panel’s left pane select Advanced system settings. In the resulting System Properties dialogue box click the Settings button in the Performance box. In the next box uncheck some of the options or select Adjust for best performance.
When your PC fires up some programmes will automatically start, slowing down performance. Usually, there is a number that aren’t required immediately and therefore can be prevented from autoloading.
To check which programmes are autoloading, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the Startup tab. This will show you all the autoloading programmes. Just right-click any you don’t need on the Startup tab and select Disable.
Bin the tips
Windows 10 likes to helpful and loves to provide you with tips on how you can better use it. The problem is, to get this information, it’s keeping a beady eye on how you’re using your PC, which slows it down.
To turn this feature off click Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions. At the bottom of the Notifications section, turn of Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows.
Tech support is something we all need from time to time.
Whether your printer has stopped working, your PC slowing down or your external hard drive giving up the ghost, you’ll need tech support.
What do you do?
Well, most people reach for Google (other search engines are available) to find a tech support number. Makes sense, right?
If you don’t believe me, here’s a cautionary tale from cnet.com:
[I was] having trouble printing from my laptop to our HP wireless printer, which until a couple days ago was working just fine. Called HP help line and had the most bizarre experience. Previously, when I first installed the printer, I had the best help-line call ever and we were able to solve the problem. This call was among the worst.
The technician hooked into my PC remotely, downloaded a program that was checking for errors, etc., then proceeded to try to sell me their annual service for PC repair, etc., for “only” $199 per year. I could not get the guy off the phone. In fact, after telling him to get the hell out of my computer and hanging up on him, he called me back and harangued me for using bad language and demanding to know how I was going to get my computer fixed without their assistance!
If you think that doesn’t sound like HP you’re right, it wasn’t. After Googling for a tech support number, the guy called the first one on the list. As you’ve guessed, it wasn’t HP.
When you’re in a panic and need help straight away, it’s an easy mistake to make, but also a costly one.
Don’t fall foul of fake tech support
There is only one way you can be sure you’re speaking to the right person, and that’s by calling the tech support number on the company’s website.
Yes, it might take a bit of finding, and you might not get the immediate help you want, but at least you’ll know you’re speaking to a genuine tech support team that knows what it’s doing.
Cutting corners is tempting when you’re pushed for time. However, in the long run, it pays to stay calm, think carefully and make sure you’re calling the right experts.
FOBO – or the Fear of Being Offline is not a medically recognised condition, but it can be a real problem.
Modern life is increasingly dependent on the Internet. Managing finances, shopping and communicating with friends and family is all done online.
We rely on apps to give us the news headlines and emails to keep us up to date with projects at work. Downtime is usually spent taking a quick peek at our social networks for a quick fix of humour or gossip.
This obsession with connectivity has a dark side though. Some people experience genuine emotional distress when they lose access to the internet.
In fact, some people even have problems with the thought of not being able to go online.
How do I know if I have FOBO?
If you’re concerned, here are the warning signs:
You take a backup battery and charging cable for your phone everywhere you go
Thinking about losing internet access makes you distressed
You constantly scan for Wi-Fi connections so that your phone is always online
You avoid places where you know the mobile signal/Wi-Fi is unreliable
Your pre-travel research always begins with Wi-Fi availability at the destination
Ultimately, if connectivity is your priority in most situations, you may have FOBO.
The best protection against FOBO is to reduce the risk of losing internet access. This means taking steps to ensure that you don’t lose connectivity in the first place.
Things to consider include:
Choosing a mobile network provider with extensive coverage to reduce the risk of being caught in a blackspot
Installing anti-malware software on your phone and PC to prevent your connection being hijacked or broken
Replacing your router or installing Wi-Fi repeaters throughout your home to boost network coverage and eliminate blackspots
Taking out a roaming Wi-Fi subscription to use national networks like The Cloud when you’re out and about
Planning your travel routes to avoid rural areas with known blackspots
This all might sound a bit daft, but people really do experience anxiety at the thought of going offline. Hopefully these tips will help to manage those concerns.
In the good old days, every new PC came with a recovery CD or DVD, so if things went pear-shaped, you could easily restore things to how they were on day one (although you’d lose any files or applications you’d created).
Today, manufacturers just put an image of the system as it left the factory on a hidden partition of your primary drive.
As reported by PCworld.com:
“A Windows recovery disk builds on this idea. In addition to letting you reinstall Windows, it includes several troubleshooting tools, which can be lifesavers if your system won’t boot.
“Some of these tools used to be part of the OS. If your PC failed to boot you were presented with a menu allowing you to try and boot into Safe Mode, or use last known good configuration.”
That’s no longer the case with Windows 10. Now you need these tools to reside on a separate, bootable USB drive, and every person running Windows should keep one in a safe place with the label “in case of emergency.”
Create your own Windows 10 recovery drive
First, you’ll need an 8GB to 16GB USB drive and insert it into an open USB port on your PC.
Then, go into Windows’ Control panel (right-clicking the Windows icon is the easiest way) and type create a recovery drive into the search bar.
The manual method would be to go to System & Security > Security & Maintenance > Recovery.
If prompted, enter your admin password. In the resulting dialogue box, check the box labelled Back up system files to the recovery drive.
With your recovery drive created, you’ll have to boot from it to use it.
How your PC boots from USB varies according to your PC’s age and motherboard, but typically you can press one of the F-keys during boot to arrive at a boot selection window. From there you select the USB drive, you’re using, and it should proceed to boot from the recovery drive.
When you successfully boot from it, you’ll see a screen that offers a Troubleshoot option. Click on that, and you will see the following: Recover from a drive, and Advanced options (and possibly Factory Image Restore, if available).
The first option lets you reinstall Windows as a clean installation, which means you will lose all your data and installed applications.
The second option, which is labelled Advanced options, lets you fix your Windows installation in several ways, and brings you to the following menu:
System Restore: Use this to revert your PC to a happier time when things were working normally. This does not affect your data, but it does affect installed programs as it replaces the registry with an earlier version.
System Image Recovery: If you’ve used the image backup tool in Windows 10, this would be where it would come in handy. You can restore the image of your PC at the time you created the image, which includes all your data and installed programs at that time.
Startup Repair: This is sort of a “black box” in that it tries to fix whatever issue is preventing the system from booting, but it doesn’t tell you what it’s doing or, if successful, what the problem was. This is the first thing you should try, as it’s the quickest and least invasive.
Command Prompt: This can be useful for a wide array of tricks and tactics, most especially running the SFC /Scannow command to scan and fix corrupted system files. We all know the command prompt is a wizard’s toolbox, and if you know what you’re doing, the possibilities are almost endless.
Go Back to the Previous Build: Though worded a bit cryptically, this lets you revert your PC to the previous build of Windows, meaning the one before whatever update turned everything pear-shaped.
As you can see, it’s quite useful to have one of these recovery drives handy. Do yourself a favour and make one now.
Should you be opting for a solid-state drive (SSD) or a hard disk drive (HDD)?
They both do the same thing – storing data so you can save your documents and install operating systems and applications – but in different ways.
To help you decide whether to remain a traditionalist and stick with the HDD or embrace the new kid, SSD here is a bit more information.
What is an HDD?
HDDs have been around forever; well, at least since the early days of computing. Although technological evolution has brought with it a few changes, an HDD still works in the same was as it always has. They use a magnetic head moved by a mechanical arm to read and write data on one or more storage platters.
What is an SSD?
An SSD is a storage device that reads and records data on flash memory, a medium that uses transistors to represent the ones and zeros that make up digital information.
They have been around for decades but didn’t become commonplace until the early 2000s, when prices came down to affordable levels for the masses, and the technology grew more mature.
What are the benefits of SSDs?
The thing that sets them apart from HHDs is that they have no moving parts, which means they are:
Faster – SSDs don’t have a moving arm to slow them down. That makes them faster at things like random read/writes (about 200 times faster), data access times (about 100 times faster), and even sequential read/writes (about 5 times faster), which significantly improves overall system performance
Energy efficient – SSDs consume less power because they don’t need cooling. Mind you; the difference isn’t as big as it was because HDDs continuously improve their efficiency and SSDs do more internal housekeeping
More durable – thanks to the lack of moving parts, SSDs are better able to operate in harsh environments, where they are more resistant to shock, vibrations, and high temperatures
Therefore, SSDs are an excellent choice for high-performance users and their laptops, as well as for application servers with demanding I/O requirements.
Are there any downsides to SSDs?
SSDs don’t last forever; after you’ve overwritten a block enough times, it will wear out.
Some early SSDs had the reputation of giving up the ghost without warning, but since 2012 consumer SSDs have become far more reliable. Even though we don’t have to worry about SSD reliability as much as before, as of 2016 the price per GB is still high compared to spinning hard disks.
What about consumer vs. enterprise SSDs?
Enterprise SSDs are expensive, but because they use more durable single-level cell (SLC) technology that can last longer than the more consumer-oriented multi-level cell (MLC) and triple-level cell (TLC) flash technologies – that’s not surprising.
You’ll also find that enterprise drives have a much higher terabytes written (TBW) limit, rating companies give to their drives to indicate how much data you can expect to write to them before you start experiencing trouble.
Now for the big question – should you buy an SSD?
Right now SSDs are at the point where their reliability is excellent, and prices are finally within reach for many users, even if the price per capacity is still a bit high for some. So yes, now would be a superb time to invest in an SSD.