If you’re an avid computer user you’ve come across plenty of free programs in your time. Unfortunately, you can’t trust all free programs as a PC user. Before you hit download you need to do some research to make sure the program is safe. In the meantime, here are a few safe programs all PC users should have, some may be better than what’s commercially available!
Here are 7 highly recommended free programs for PC:
Without the right anti-virus software, you leave yourself exposed to dangerous viruses that can damage your machine. Avast! Is the top of the line free antivirus software for PC. Not only does this program protect your from viruses, but it can also help keep your browsing private, secure your webcam and keep your files safe from false encryption.
Internet Explorer comes pre-installed on all PCs, but that doesn’t make it the best choice for browsing. When it comes to security you want to run Google Chrome. In addition to being one of the most secure browsers, it’s user-friendly and has lots of helpful extensions available. The main downside of Chrome is its high RAM use which can slow down the overall performance of your PC. You can learn more about that here >
As you browse the internet and download files or communicate over email, you’re soon to come across a .zip file. PCs don’t have the capability to unzip these files, so you need a program to do it for you. 7-Zip is one of the most reliable and easy to use programs on the market at no cost.
Speaking of files that PCs can’t read, the media player that comes preloaded on all PCs is very picky about the extensions it will read. Instead of trying to convert videos or digging trying to find the right version, download VLC instead. This program can play videos with almost any extension, not to mention it serves an excellent way to organize your media. Definitely worth the download.
If you find yourself needing to do some mild photo editing you’ll need to find a software to help with that. Instead of investing in an expensive program, try out GIMP. This open-source program provides you with the tools you need to get simple photo editing and design jobs done.
Word processing is one of the primary uses for most PCs but many programs are extremely costly. Save yourself some cash by downloading Open Office. This program mimics the Microsoft programs in functionality. While you won’t get all the tools from the Microsoft programs, Open Office provides all the basics for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more.
One thing all computer users need is an easy way to keep files backed up. A cloud-based storage system is a perfect answer to this. Transfer your files to live in a cloud-based program like Mozy. In the event that your hard drive crashes you won’t lose anything.
If you need any help installing programs, setting up a backup system of just getting your new computer set up, stop in to see us. We’re always here to help troubleshoot or repair your PC.
Email has become a necessary part of life. We use it for work, family and friends, but it’s not always fun and games. Spam email is still a problem on many email providers and can cause harm to your computer and put your identity at risk. To clarify, spam email is not unwanted marketing emails that offer an unsubscribe option, spam emails are emails that try to pretend to be something their not or offer you something sounding too good to be true in an attempt to access your information.
Here are 5 ways you can work to eliminate spam emails:
Change your provider
One of the best ways for you to eliminate spam emails is to switch to using Google’s Gmail feature. Google has essentially the best spam filter you can find. If you aren’t already using Gmail, you can easily create an account by heading to gmail.com and signing up (it’s free!). If you don’t want to completely overhaul your email, you can import any POP3 email account to Gmail to access its high-quality spam blocker.
Train your filter
Almost all email servers these days come with spam filters, but they don’t all catch everything. It’s important to train your filter and mark emails as spam as they come through your inbox. Instead of just deleting emails you think are spam, go through the proper process to mark this as spam. This reports the sender and helps prevent future emails.
The one thing you absolutely cannot do with spam mail is reply. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is too good to be true. Replying simply tells the sender that you’re a real account and will increase the number of spam emails you receive and put you at an increased risk for identity theft. Even if you want to reply asking the sender to remove you from there list, do not do it. Use the proper spam reporting system through your email server instead.
Run through Gmail
If you use a webmail service other than Gmail and aren’t seeing appropriate spam filtering, you still have options. As mentioned above, as long as your email has POP3 support you can forward the account to Gmail for spam filtering. To do this, go to the settings of your existing Gmail account, select the Accounts and Import link and then click import mail and contacts and follow the instructions to move everything over.
If you find emails coming from the same sender again and again and reporting them as spam isn’t doing anything to stop them, you can try blocking the sender. Unfortunately, spam senders often continue to create new accounts to get around this, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. This process will be different for each mail provider but should be pretty simple to do.
If you continue to have issues with your email or are experiencing any other computer difficulties, call or stop by anytime, we’d love to help you troubleshoot.
External webcams can help you video chat with friends and family, record videos and so much more. When a webcam stops working, it’s frustrating to try to figure out what’s wrong. Before you decide it’s time for a new webcam, do a little troubleshooting to get it back up and running.
Here are 5 troubleshooting tips for external webcams:
Like with many electronics, unplugging and replugging a device can be just what it needs to start working again. If you’re having trouble seeing your device on your machine, this can be the quick fix you need to get back to streaming and conferencing again. If you still don’t see your device when you reconnect, try using a different USB drive. This forces your operating system to re-see the device and recognize the drivers.
Most external webcams activate through drivers or software on your computer. If your machine sees your webcam, but your webcam isn’t activating, you may have a software issue. The easiest way to resolve the problem is to uninstall and reinstall the software or drivers to get the most updated versions. This process will also remove any bugs in the software. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you can download new software and drivers from the manufacturer's website.
If the problem with your webcam persists, the next step is to move your device to another computer. Plug it into a new machine and follow the proper installation instructions. This process will tell you if the problem is with the device or with your machine. If the problem still happens on a new computer, then you know the external webcam has an issue and may need to replacement.
If your webcam just stopped working recently or you are experiencing additional issues on the computer, the problem may be related to your operating system. If you are running a Windows machine, run a Windows repair process to remove any corrupt files. For Apple computers, repair your operating system by shutting your computer down and holding command + R while you reboot.
Unfortunately, electronics do not last forever, and if the above tips haven’t resulted in a working webcam, it’s likely time to find a replacement. Head to your local electronics shop to find the best solution for your needs.
Webcams are amazing devices, and it’s frustrating when they stop working. If you need help troubleshooting or have found issues with your machine in the process, stop by or call today. We can’t wait to help you.
Most of us rely heavily on our computers for work, entertainment, household management or more. It’s important to take care of them well so they can continue to be helpful and not cause problems. Many frequent computer users often wonder if it’s better to leave their computer on or turn it off at the end of a session.
Here are a few reasons to turn off your computer or let it run:
One reason many computer users want to turn their computer off is to save on their energy bill. Generally, standard computers aren’t a huge power draw, but some custom built PCs can pull more energy. Regardless, if you are trying to conserve energy, either power down your desktop or keep your laptop unplugged when you step away. Always keep in mind the startup time required for your computer. You don’t want to shut down if you’re coming back to work in an hour, it’s just not good time management.
Let it sleep
While you sleep, it certainly won’t hurt or your computer to do the same. Some people swear that their computers run better when they get shut down regularly, and while you’re catching some zzzs is as good a time as any to shut your machine down. Generally speaking, if you’ll be away from your computer for over 8 hours, it’s a good time to power down.
If you’re taking your laptop on the go, it’s a safer bet to shut it down than leaving it running or in sleep mode. While most new computers run solid state hard drives and have fewer moving pieces, you don’t want to risk jostling any parts while you’re on the go. As you move from one meeting to the next or pack up for a cross-country flight, remember to turn your computer off.
One main reason you would want to leave your computer on even when you’re away is if you plan to access it remotely for any reason. You may have a local database or file server you need to jump into from another location. You would still want to shut this computer down every few days when possible, but overall you want to keep it up and running for quick and stress-free access.
Running backup or updates
If you are backing up your computer or installing new updates, it’s often convenient to let them run while you’re away from your computer, so you don’t sacrifice performance. When you need these to happen, set them when you usually have your computer turned off and let it stay on.
Generally speaking, whether you turn your computer off frequently or let it run won’t make a huge difference in its lifespan. If you’re having computer problems that aren’t resolved by turning it off and on, stop by and see us. We’d love to help get your computer back to peak performance.
Windows 10 is a powerful operating system that runs efficiently when left to its default settings. As with most operating systems, however, it can always be improved. By making a few tweaks to your settings you can have your Windows 10 computer running at top speed.
Here are 5 ways to get more speed out of your Windows 10 computer:
Before going any further, check that your computer is running the most recent version of Windows 10. Go to Start → Settings → Update & Security → Windows Update → Check for updates. Install any operating system or driver updates available.
Turn off visual effects
Windows 10 was designed to be visually appealing, which is nice but can also be slowing down your computer. In the search feature next to the start button on your taskbar, search for sysdm.cpl. When the Systems Properties window opens, click the Advanced tab → Performance → Settings. From there select “Adjust for best performance” and click OK. This will stop visual effects and shadowing that may be slowing your computer down.
Adjust power settings
If you are using a desktop computer or usually use your laptop while it’s plugged in, adjusting the power settings may give you a performance boost. Open the Control Panel on your computer and go to Power Options. Once there select the High performance plan. If you want to mess with the settings for this plan, click on change plan settings, otherwise close this window. If you are using a laptop that isn’t plugged in, go back to the Power Options to turn this off as it will quickly drain your battery.
Turn off TSRs
TSRs are programs and processes that run in the background and use your computer's memory. While some TSRs are necessary, not all are and can be causing your computer to slow down. By limiting these and other startup programs, you can increase the speed of your computer. Here’s how to do it.
Make some room
Windows 10 or otherwise, all computers slow down if they are low on storage space. Check for low disk space on your computer by going to Settings → System → Storage. This will show you all your disks and their storage levels. If a disk is close to full, it’s time to make some space. To do this go to Settings → System → Storage and under Storage, select This PC → Temporary files. Check the boxes for Temporary files and Recycle bin and any other unwanted files. Then hit Remove Files and restart your computer.
Navigate back to see your computer's storage to see if this cleared up enough space. If you are still close to tapped out, consider transferring files to an external hard drive.
With these few simple steps, your Windows 10 computer should be running faster than ever. If you are still facing performance issues, call us or bring your computer in. We would love to help you troubleshoot.
Your computer can be slowed down by more than just a cluttered desktop. Dust, dirt and food crumbs can do damage to your computer from the inside out. Keeping your computer clean is an important part of computer maintenance because a clean computer keeps air flowing well and your fan functioning.
Here’s what you need to know about keeping your computer clean:
How often do I need to clean it?
The answer to this question varies depending on where your computer lives. If you work in construction and have a computer on the job site, you’ll need to clean it more often than if you work from home with just your cat or dog. The general rule of thumb is to clean it every 9-12 months.
How do I clean a computer?
The primary rule of computer clean is to not spray liquid on any component, ever. If you are using a liquid cleaner, spray it on a towel first, never directly on your machine. Clean the outside of your machine gently with a vacuum or compressed air to remove debris, but never us a vacuum inside your computer.
Only open your computer in a clean environment and only if you feel comfortable handling the delicate parts. If you feel uncomfortable messing with the inside of your computer, bring it in and we’ll take care of the rest.
What about my keyboard?
A dirty keyboard isn’t going to break your desktop computer, but you do probably want to keep it clean. Keyboards are some of the dirtiest parts of a home. Remove debris from your keyboard by using compressed air. It’s a more efficient and safer way to get out dirt and dust than shaking it upside down. After you’ve clean under the keys, simply wipe the top down with disinfectant spray on a cloth top clean each key.
Do I need to clean my screen?
Cleaning the screen of your computer isn’t required but it is highly recommended. Dust and fingerprints can build up quickly and make it difficult to see what’s on your screen. Never spray a cleaner directly on your computer screen. Use a microfiber cloth and spray screen cleaner on it and then wipe down the screen.
How do I clean the hard drive?
Computer hard drives can’t be physically cleaned, but it’s good to digitally clean them every few months to remove unnecessary files and keep your storage available. Read our tips for improving the spee of your computerfor more about keeping your hard drive clean.
When it comes to your computer, the key is to keep it’s environment clean. Working in an area with low dust is a good start, but remember to not eat or drink around your computer. If you feel uncomfortable messing with your computer, bring it in today and we’ll give it a good clean.
One of the biggest hassles of getting a new computer is transferring all your data from your old computer. Apple created a tool to help minimize the stress of this transfer called Migration Assistant. After your new Mac is all set up run Migration Assistant to get your data pulled over.
Here is how to transfer your content from your old Mac to your new Mac:
Connect the Computers
Run Migration Assistant
When the transfer process is done, login to your new Mac and check that all your content is there. If you run into issues or need help cleaning off your old Mac, contact us today.
So you did the research and decided to buy a Mac. Now it’s time to take it out of the box and get it running. It’s a pretty simple process, but you want to do it correctly. Before you plug it in and attach all your accessories, follow these few steps to get your Mac set up.
Here’s how to get your new Mac ready to use:
Follow the Setup Assistant
When you first turn on your new Mac, it’s best to have access to the internet and be plugged into power. When you turn on your computer by pressing the power button in the upper right corner, the Setup Assistant will start automatically. Follow the program cues. Apple recommends that you activate FileVault, iCloud Keychain and Find My Mac, but all these steps are optional. Only turn on what you are comfortable using.
The Setup Assistant will queue you to set up iCloud, a helpful tool to have especially if you use an iPhone. You can set up your Mac to automatically sync to your iCloud account, so you don’t lose anything, and can easily access it from anywhere. The basic plan for iCloud is free and gives you 5GB of storage. You can opt to purchase additional storage if at any time. If you already have iCloud set up from a previous device, just login.
Customize Your Dock
The dock is the bar that runs across the bottom of your Mac screen and shows icons of your commonly used and open applications. This part of your Mac can be easily customized to meet your needs. Click on the apple in the upper left corner and select System Preferences. On the next screen, select Dock. From there you can adjust the size, where it lives and if you want it hidden or not. Play around with it to find what works for you. You will frequently access this tool as you use your Mac.
Tweak Your Trackpad
The Trackpad on your Mac is a crucial tool. Just like the dock, it can be customized to the way you use your computer for the best experience. If you’re new to Mac, you may need to tweak this over time. From the apple in the top left corner select System Preferences and then open Trackpad. Take some time in the next window to play around with the different settings and find what you like and don’t want.
Install Accessories and Software
If you use an external keyboard or mouse go ahead and install those and any other accessories now. At this time, install any software, such as Microsoft Office, as well. You want to get your Mac set up in a way that’s custom , so you feel comfortable using it. You can also take some time to browse the App Store and install a few apps that may be helpful. If you don’t have a Microsoft Office license, try out Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
Working on a Mac can feel very different if you’re new to the interface, but with some simple exploring, we think you’ll feel at home in no time. If you find a glitch during setup or have any other questions, reach out today. We would be happy to help you troubleshoot.
Bluetooth devices can give you an external keyboard, wireless headphones, a mouse and much more. Since computers are limiting the numbers of USB ports on a device, Bluetooth is becoming necessary. However, as with many technologies, it doesn’t always run smoothly.
If you are having trouble connecting a Bluetooth device, here are a few things to check on:
Turn It On
Before you start trying to pair your Bluetooth device to your computer, turn the device on. Most Bluetooth devices run on batteries to keep them wireless. If the device doesn’t turn on, try plugging it in to charge the battery or putting new batteries in.
Make it Discoverable
When pairing Bluetooth with your computer, both devices need to be discoverable. Many speakers and simpler devices are always discoverable, but your computer may not be. If you are running Windows 10 and have Bluetooth enabled, then you should be in good shape. If you are having issues, go to Settings > Device > Bluetooth and click “more Bluetooth options.” On this window, you can select the option to make your PC discoverable.
With Bluetooth devices, there is a difference between pairing and connecting your device. When you pair your device to your computer, you’re telling your PC that you trust the device. Once the device is paired, you need to be connected for it to work. To pair a device, follow the instructions to put it in pairing mode so you can find it from your computer. If you are having issues connecting a paired device, visit Settings > Device > Bluetooth to forget the device and then go through the pairing process again.
Windows comes with generic drivers for Bluetooth, but they may cause your connected devices to work poorly or not at all. If you are having issues with multiple Bluetooth devices, check for an update to your drivers. Go to Settings > Device > Bluetooth and select the Drivers tab to see if you have updates available.
Bluetooth is a short-range technology. Devices need to be close to each other, think in the same room, to connect and work well. If a speaker is crackling or your computer can’t see a device, check that they are in the same room or try moving them even closer.
Bluetooth is brilliant technology and should work seamlessly. If none of the tips above resolve your problems, come in today and we’ll take a look at your computer.
Your laptop is a critical part of your life, but you sometimes feel stuck trying to find an outlet because your battery seems to last for just an hour or two. Before you blame your computer, look at the technical specifications from the Apple website to see if your battery is underperforming. If it is, there are a few things you can do to stretch your battery life.
Here are 7 tips to improve your Mac battery life:
Energy Saver Settings
Click on the battery icon in the status menu at the top right of your screen and select “Open Energy Saver Preferences.” Here you can control the sleep settings of your Mac to improve your battery life. Set your display to sleep when you are idle so it temporarily turns off the backlight and saves battery power. You should also select the option to dim the display when disconnected from a power source.
Chrome, one of the most popular internet browsers, is not doing your battery any favors. Chrome requires a tremendous amount of RAM causing your machine to work harder than it needs to. When trying to extend your battery life, use Safari because it’s optimized to work with your Mac and won’t drain your battery as quickly as Chrome.
Dim the Lights
Your Mac gives you control over screen and keyboard light brightness. When you are disconnected and trying to extend your battery life, dimming these lights helps get you more life. Dim your screen by pressing F1 and dim your keyboard light by pressing F5.
If you can live without pop up notifications, then turn them off for the sake of your battery life. Go to your System Preferences and select “Notifications.” From there you can choose which apps you would like notifications from, or set your computer to do not disturb to turn off all notifications for a set period.
Update Your OS
The newest Mac OS, High Sierra, fixes a known battery issue that incorrectly displays how much power remains on your battery. By updating you’ll have better knowledge of how long your battery lasts. This tip may not increase battery lifespan, but it will save you from unexpected shutdowns.
Bluetooth, WiFi and location services all run in the background and can drain your battery. When you’re away from an outlet turn off as many of these services as possible to get a bit more time on your charge. Bluetooth and WiFi can be turned off from the status menu. To turn off location services open your System Preferences and select “Security & Privacy.” Select location services from the menu on the left and unclick “Enable Location Services.”
Battery life decreases over time, but these tips can help you get more time on each charge. If your battery isn’t charging or dies in under an hour, come in to see us.