How to Solve the 8 Most Common Tech Problems Yourself

Forget hanging on that tech support line for hours, if in doubt use the tried and tested method of restarting your computer. Miraculously, it solves a lot of issues.

But if it doesn’t do the trick, below are the top 8 tech support problems and how to solve them yourself.

1. Slow running computer

  • Check to make sure the problem is your computer – buffering videos and slow loading websites may not be down to your computer (it could be your broadband speed, which can be checked using Speedtest.net)
  • Check how much free space you have on your hard drive
  • Use Microsoft’s System Configuration tool and switch off any applications that launch automatically if not needed
  • Remove any programmes you no longer use and regularly use the disk clean up facility and defragment

2. Slow downloads

  • Again check your broadband speeds
  • Make sure you’re not inadvertently downloading something
  • If neither of these work it may be time to call your ISP

3. Constantly restarting machine

  • Make sure you’re not just experiencing a wave of Windows updates
  • Update all your critical system drivers (e.g. graphics card, network card, motherboard)
  • Clean up your machine as dust could be an issue
  • Check for viruses

4. Pop-ups

  • If your browser isn’t open, it could be adware – run a full scan with your anti-virus software, if it doesn’t find anything try Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free (disable your standard anti-virus first)
  • Search online for the name of the advertised product as this may lead you to solutions from other victims
  • If all else fails, do a complete system reinstall

5. Disconnecting Wi-Fi

  • Make sure your computer is in the range of your wireless router
  • Check your PCs wireless card has the latest drivers
  • Troubleshoot through Windows (right click the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and select troubleshoot problems)
  • If it doesn’t work, call your ISP

6. A problem with a website’s security certificate

  • This is probably caused by your computer’s clock because website security certificates sync with your computer’s clock – click the clock in the system tray and select change date and time settings to correct any issues

7. Printer won’t print

  • Check your drivers are up to date, you have enough paper and ink
  • Turn it off and on again
  • Unplug printer and plug back in again
  • Check your print queue
  • Make sure the ‘Use printer offline’ isn’t checked

8 Can’t open email attachements

  • Probably due to you not having the right software to open the file
  • Search the file’s extension to find the right programme

If none of these provide the solution you’re looking for, it’s time to pick up the phone and listen to the on hold music. Sometimes it’s easy to find a solution yourself, but then again there will be times when you’ll have to ask for help.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

 

The 20 Second Wait – A Case Study

One of our customers runs peer to peer Ethernet networking using one PC as the master IT issuesand the others as slaves (where their company documentation was concerned).

This worked well, except when saving Microsoft Office documents as it took 20 seconds to save the document to the master PC.

Our client was ruining jumpers by the truck load, suffering from ‘shiny elbow’ syndrome whilst waiting for the documents to save.

Jumping into the car, we dashed over to their office to check it out. All the settings for peer to peer networking looked fine. We tested Notepad and Word Pad, both of which saved instantly, so we started researching Microsoft Office and their forums for anything that might help.

  • We disabled all firewalls – nope
  • We un-installed the AV products – nope
  • We tried several registry changes – nope

After 4 hours there was only one thing left to try – we set up a test environment with the same operating systems and application software, so we could play to our hearts’ content without disrupting our client’s work, to see if the problem was resolvable.

We set up test machines and within 2 hours had found the problem. The anti virus software had a tick box to allow scanning on LAN files – this should be un-ticked if within a network and in going so, would let data traffic through instantly.

The problem was that the trigger to this box wasn’t working. We contacted the anti virus software support team, who after an online chat session, decided we were right and said their software would be amended on the next release.

We didn’t hold our breath.

But, as soon as the new update/version of the AV software was on general release, we tried the change and it worked and the customers was really pleased as it meant no more shiny elbows!

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Houston, Google Earth Has a Problem: Case Study

Houston, we have a problem’ – probably the most famous line from Apollo 13 and  Windows 7 issues with Google Earthsomething you never want to hear someone paraphrase as it always means trouble.

Recently, it meant trouble for anyone with a Windows 7 64 bit machine who wanted to use Google Earth.

The problem was raised by one of our customers who’d wanted to download Google Earth 7.0 to his new Windows 7 PC.

It should have been a simple and pain free process, which initially it was, but after a few hours things started to go wrong.

After using his machine quite happily, after a few hours he got a message that his hard drive was “very low on space” and that he should do something about it.

In his words it was “…like a time bomb – counting down with big red line on my C: drive.”

So of course, he called in the IT experts to have a look.

Windows Explorer shows that the user directory was the big one, but couldn’t find the files causing the overload. After searching in the hidden files, we found 70Gb of Google Earth files buried in a “Unified_cache_leveldb_…” folder under “AppData/LocalLow/Google/GoogleEarth” directory tree.  Each of them was 2,051 kb in size and had been downloading  since he’d started the programme, one after an other until his hard drive was full.

The moral of this case study is that if you are running a Windows 7 64bit operating system, download an earlier version of Google Earth if you want to use it without having to shout “Houston we have a problem!”

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

What To Do When Network Sharing Becomes Problematic

Network sharing problems aren’t always as they seem – a case study

Solving IT problems
If your PCs had been merrily chatting away over your peer to peer network right up to the point when you changed your router, you’d expect that to be the problem, wouldn’t you.

That’s exactly what one of our clients thought.

They’d been forced to change router because they’d been experiencing serious drop outs with their telephone line. Obviously, they were convinced this was the problem, but our super sleuth senses told us otherwise.

The case began with an early Monday morning call. The client reported that none of their shares were working, so the second user couldn’t get on with their work. We felt that the replacement of the router shouldn’t be linked to the issue, so we got the client to ensure that both PCs were turned on and connected to the new router.

Everything was fine and dandy, both the PCs’ lights shone brightly, but they weren’t showing up in the company workgroup.

After an hour’s deliberation, checking the network settings on both PCs and pinging from one PC to the other – success!

The router was indeed a red herring – the AVG Firewall did it.

It was blocking the link on one of the PCs. When the firewall was turned off, all went back to normal and both PCs could once again happily communicate with each other.

Should you experience a similar problem, this check list should help you find the culprit:

  • Check the PCs are on and logged in
  • Check they are connected to the router and that the router is indicating an active connection
  • Check the Windows network nettings, work group/domain and ensure you have allowed network discovery
  • Check the Windows firewalls are off
  • Check your anti-virus software as it may be affecting performance
MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

IT Troubleshooting – The Case of the Fuzzy PC Screen

As IT consultants, we’re frequently presented with bizarre PC ailments.

One case in particular was that of a fuzzy PC screen.

When we arrived at the client’s office, the PC’s screen looked more like of those magic pictures. You know, the ones you have to stare at to find the hidden image. The only problem here was no amount of staring was going to help.

On top of that, the PC was running very slowly and would frequently freeze.

Our first step was to open up  the PC to see what was going on. In a word – dust. The CPU fan and graphics card fan was choked with it. After giving them a good clean, we closed up and restarted it. It was a slow process and after about 15 minutes the PC froze once more.

So, it was back to the operating table, a quick change of graphics card and then another restart. This time  the screen was OK and although slow, it was up and running (well, more of a walk really).

Next was try and speed things up by clearing out unwanted software. Unfortunately, the PC froze once more and complained bitterly about low disc space.

After running various tests on the hardware components, the fault presented itself – a faulty motherboard.

The moral of this tale? Make sure you regularly spring clean your PC to prevent a suffocating build up of dust.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders
and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

The IT Troubleshooting Detectives – A Case Study

For many IT issues the old adage of ‘switch it off and then switch it back on again’ seems to IT Detectivework. But every now and then a problem will arise that foxes and frustrates you. When that happens, it’s time to call in the IT detectives.

Here’s a case in point:

The case of the beeping and rebooting PC

It was a normal day in the office. The window perfectly framed the balmy blue sky outside and if we listened really carefully, we could just make out the gentle twitter of the birds.

But then the phone rang and everything changed.

The disembodied voice recounted the story of their PC that constantly rebooted, beeped and then rebooted again. Nothing they’d tried worked and they were losing productivity.

We leapt into action and dashed round to help.

While standing in front of the offending PC, they demonstrated the problem. Sure enough it rebooted, bleeped and rebooted again. We put our client’s mind at rest by informing them that the beep was a good sign: it meant the PC was OK. The issue was to discover what was preventing it from staying up.

Our first move was to unplug all the peripheral equipment, just leaving the monitor, keyboard and mouse plugged in.

The PC started up no problem – had we found the problem?

We reconnected the LAN, but as we did so the whole system failed: black screen, rebooting and bleeping. Back to square one.

Upon starting it up again, it loaded OK, the internet was working, but after plugging in the printer the whole system failed again.

We took a moment to look around their office and noticed that the system was running through an old unlimited power supply unit – could that be the culprit?

After unplugging everything and re-plugging it all into the wall sockets, no system start-up.

So there it was, the culprit was the faulty power supply unit.

After the client had this refitted all the problems vanished.

The result: a happy client and productivity restored.

All in a days work for the IT detectives.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders
and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Getting to Grips with Your WiFi–How’s Your Signal?

forumIn our last post on Getting to Grips with Your WiFi, we looked at how to undertake a network survey to ensure you get the best possible signal.

But what happens if, after carrying out a full survey, you still can’t find the ideal location for your router to receive uninterrupted wireless coverage?

Well, there are a few other options available to you.

1. Upgrade your router

This is an option if you have signal everywhere, but just a bit lower in certain spots. The added range of an 802.11N router may be what you’re looking for.

2. Upgrade your router and adapters

If you’re looking for a better range with added speed, your best bet would be to upgrade both your router and adapters.

3. Repeaters and extenders

Placed half way between the router and your receiving computer, these units pick up the wireless signal from the router and retransmits it to the rest of the house. However, it’s worth remembering that they can also cut your network speed in half.

4. Extended range antennas

The theory behind these its that the antennas focus the transmission into a more direct pattern, therefore improving the strength of the wireless signal where you need it.

5. Powerline networking

Available in both wireless and wired versions, these adapters send network signals through your home’s electrical wiring to rooms that are out of range. Consisting of two plug-in units, one connects to your current router and wall socket, while the other plugs into the wall socket of another room.

6. Phoneline networking

This works in a similar way to the powerline, but through your existing phone lines in your home.

7. Second or third access point

You could also try adding a second or third Access Point (Wireless Router set to AP mode) to your network.

All of these options can be used in isolation or in combination with each other, giving you a vast range of options to find which on works best for you.

Your exact needs will depend on the layout of your home, so if you’re unsure which way to go, contact your local IT specialist who will be able to advise you accordingly.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Make Your Laptop Battery Work Longer

batteryHow many times have you been out and about with your laptop and the battery gives out? Normally it happens at a crucial moment during a meeting, half way through a document or when you need to send out an important email.

To help you get the most out of your laptop battery, here are a few suggestions to help you wring the most out of each charge.

Flat as a pancake

If you have a laptop with either NiCD or NiMH batteries fitted, allow them to go completely flat before recharging them.

If, like many people, you use your laptop for long periods of time on mains power rather than on the battery you will be shortening its life. If you want to work from the mains, remove your battery altogether and store it in a discharged state.

Li-ion batteries are usually unaffected but if you leave your laptop on mains power without cycling them then their useful life time is reduced substantially.

Screen

Bright screens use up a lot of battery power so turning the brightness and contrast-control down as far as you can will help your battery life.

If you’re not using it, turn it off

You won’t need every component on your laptop all the time so make sure you turn off internal/external modems when not in use. Plus, leaving your PC card modem plugged in can reduce your effective battery time by up to 25%.

You should also remove PCMCIA cards when not in use.

Turn off AutoSave

This one is for the brave. It’s a bit of a risk, but if you’re careful to monitor your battery’s power level, you can avoid unnecessary disk accesses.

Say farewell to helpers, wizards & other automatic features

Your laptop has numerous software functions that automatically format text, check spelling, and recalculate your spreadsheet and they all draw down power. If you can do without them, turn them off.

Use a disk-caching utility

If you install a utility program like Norton Utilities or SmartDrive you can cut down on disk-accessing time.

Your laptop’s cache saves the most-often used or most recently used information to a special virtual memory cache. So, rather than battery-depleting hard-drive accesses, the computer uses the information in the cache instead.

Clean Leads

Here’s one you may not have thought of before.

Every month, clean your leads (silver or gold metal strips on end of battery) with rubbing alcohol to make sure your battery is making a good clean contact with the leads in your system.

These are simple things to do which can make a big different to your batteries life span. So if you want to minimise the risk of an embarrassing premature battery switch off, follow these tips.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

SSL–Keeping Secure Online

computersafetyWhat is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer protocol and was created by Netscape to ensure secure transactions between web servers and browsers.

In a nutshell, it uses a third party, a Certificate Authority (CA), to identify one end or both ends of the transaction.

So the question has to be asked, if it is easy for some extension applications to access people’s data when on a website that doesn’t use SSL, why sites don’t use SSL for all their pages?

Well, the answer is that in the past it’s come down to a matter of computing resources.

Encrypting all traffic to and from your server takes a lot of processing power which for many sites would require extra hardware resources and therefore more cost. Plus it would also have an impact on the visitors’ browser because that will have to do more work when receiving SSL pages. This obviously has a knock on effect for low powered clients like mobile phones.

But more recently both server and client side computing power has increased which means more sites are now able to use SSL. This includes pretty much all the major webmail providers.

However there are still many popular sites that don’t use it – Facebook and Amazon to name but two. Mind you when using Amazon you do have to re-enter your password before you can actually buy any products or change shipping address so an attacker is unlikely to be able to do anything nasty even if they did manage to hijack your session with amazon.

But for sites without SSL or the re-entering your password method are still vulnerable. If someone impersonates you on Facebook they could download all your contacts and send them messages pretending they are coming from you, change your details, view all your pictures and even change your privacy settings without you realising it.

At the end of the day, if the site you’re visiting shows http:// rather than https:// in the address bar, you’re potentially vulnerable. It’s worth bearing in mind.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Inkjet Cartridge Refilling–Avoiding Problems

printer

Everyone wants to be a bit greener these days and refilling your inkjet cartridges is one way of doing just that.

But refilling them can lead to problems with print quality and cartridge life.

This post talks you through some of the most common problems and tells you how to get round them so you and your inkjet cartridges can live a long and happy life together.

Don’t let the cartridge dry out

Inside inkjet cartridges (with a built-in print head) is a foam sponge. If wait too long to refill your cartridge you run the risk of this drying out. The sponge will go hard and ink dries and clogs the micro holes of the printer head.

This will result in inconsistent light and dark print and a reduced number of prints per refill.

To avoid this, refill your cartridge as soon as it’s out of ink or, preferably, top it up after every 200-250 sheets to make sure it always has ink and that the sponge can’t dry out.

It is possible to unblock a cartridge should the worse happen:

  • Place half a cup of hot tap water and bleach (50/50) in a saucer or shallow dish.
  • Hold the print head of the cartridge in the solution for 2 –3 minutes to hydrate and loosen any dried ink and allow the ink to flow through the print head nozzles.
  • Once cleared you should see ink bleed out (gently wipe it dry) – repeat if necessary.

It’s best to do this with an empty cartridge. Once cleaned add a small amount of ink to the cartridge to test the print quality. Then insert the cartridge into the printer and run it through its print head cleaning cycle.

Keep the print head clean

By keeping the print head clean you will increase the possible number of successful refills.

Gently clean the print head with a soft cotton cloth or cotton bud (don’t use tissues) dipped in water. Then snap the cartridge in and out a few times to get a good connection.

How to avoid ‘colour mixing’

When you’re filling a tri-colour cartridge the last thing you want to do is put the wrong colour in the wrong chamber.

To avoid this, get 3 tooth picks and dip them into the chambers – deep enough to pick up some of the ink. Then when you know which chamber holds which colour, mark the cartridge accordingly so you don’t make a mistake.

No back to back cleaning cycles

It is important to give your cartridge chance to get some ink flow after cleaning. So, once you’ve completed a cleaning cycle print 3 or 4 pages of a colour image. If it’s still not looking great repeat the cleaning cycle and then print a few more pages. Keep doing this until you get a good quality print.

Purge

The purging cycle isn’t the same as the cleaning cycle (if you don’t know how to do it read your printer manual). Basically during  the purge cycle, all the jets in the cartridge are heated and then cleaned from the inside out.

Watch the resistors

Resistors (they control the current to each outlet jet) are the reason behind a cartridge’s limited refill life.

If your cartridge runs out of ink, the resistors can overheat and then they’ll burn out and fail. The result is wavy, slanted print. If this does happen the only thing you can do is ditch that cartridge and buy a new one.

The pressure’s on

Refilling ink cartridges can change the equilibrium inside them and may therefore need time to adjust.

Some require you to re-pressurise them using a plastic squeeze bottle which blows air into an air hole. Others just need to be allowed to sit for a while before they can be re-inserted into the printer.

Air pockets

Some sponge filled cartridges can develop air pockets at the bottom of the cartridge block the flow of ink. Centrifugal force is the answer.

All  you have to do is:

  • Wrap the cartridge in a cloth
  • Place it in a plastic bag, head or exit ports pointing down
  • Swing the cartridge down towards the floor rapidly several times
  • A spot of ink should be visible from each chamber. If not do it again.

General maintenance, such as the steps above, will help extend the life of your refillable inkjet cartridges.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.