For a device that’s supposed to make life easier, computers sure do involve a lot of work! There’s so much to keep track of that it’s no wonder most people push ahead and forget the routine maintenance until something breaks. Of course, the problem with being reactive is the damage is already done. Photos and files get lost forever in a crash, and information gets stolen in a hack...by then it’s far too late. It’s a bit like closing the gate after the horses have already fled. This is where proactive people come out on top. Thousands upon thousands of homes around the world are using managed services to put computer problems firmly behind them. It’s a done-for-you maintenance program we offer, and here’s why it’s the best choice.
You’re always up to date.
It seems like every second day there’s some new and urgent update waiting to be installed. Whether they’re patching security flaws or adding new features, they seem endless. Sometimes, it goes beyond inconvenient, it gets overwhelming! Even if they do install automatically, they tend to do it at the worst possible moment, leaving you to wait up to 30 minutes when all you wanted to do was quickly check your email. Using our special managed services software, we can make sure your computer’s updates are all finished and done - before you sit down to use it. As part of our service, we also make sure all updates are compatible not just with your hardware, but also with your other software. After all, updates are supposed to make your experience more secure and more enjoyable!
You’ve got super anti-virus.
The best anti-virus is the one that’s up-to-date and running, yet you’d be surprised how many people switch it off or never let it update. While you might be in the habit of scanning files and browsing safely, others in your home might not have the same priorities. Having managed services ensures your anti-virus is always running and dealing with any viruses it finds. As soon as a new virus becomes known, we make sure your system is actively protected against it. We also monitor for cyber-attacks and can alert you before they become a problem.
Your hardware stays healthy.
While a reactive person is always suddenly stuck without a computer when hardware fails, proactive people with managed services have already had the problem fixed. Our special software monitors the health of your hardware, eg, your hard drive, looking for early warning signs of failure. If detected, we can let you know in advance. This means you’re able to get it repaired at your convenience, making sure no files are lost and no other hardware is damaged in a domino failure.
Support is a phone call away.
Just got a new printer and it won’t play nice? Got a weird error popping up? Your laptop won’t talk to the wifi? Our remote support team can help with whatever technology issue has been bugging you and wasting your time. No nonsense advice is just a phone call away, and our team can remotely connect to diagnose and fix many problems. This means you can likely skip the cord shuffle and carting your computer into the shop, and still get your most pressing computer issues fixed.
You’re always optimized.
Whether your computer is actively playing up or not, our monitoring service can keep in touch with your event logs, services and processes and look out for anything that needs correction. This means we’re effectively stopping problems before they get to you, making sure that when you sit down to use your computer, it’s doing exactly what you want.
Put computer problems behind you - get managed services today. Call us at 715-255-0325.
So let’s say that last week when the storms rolled through, your computer was plugged in and your hard drive was damaged. Or maybe your very old system finally died, taking those beloved family pictures with it. Perhaps a friend offered to remove a virus on your PC but reformatted the drive without backing up your information first. You never made a backup, or perhaps you have one but its several months old. Now you're very disappointed with yourself that you didn't do a recent, complete backup of all those important files. Do you have any recovery options?
Yes, in most cases there are options. They will be determined by how badly your hard drive or files are damaged and how much you are willing to pay. Before we examine how to retrieve your data, it would be helpful to first explain how the hard drive stores and erases data.
The hard drive is a small metal case with magnetic discs inside where your data is stored in sectors and tracks. When you delete a file on your computer, the file itself isn't destroyed. Instead, the markers telling the computer where that file is are changed from showing that space as “filled” to showing it “empty.” The computer then allows new information to be written there. The more times a file is written and erased in that space, the harder it becomes to recover the original file.
Remember how your friend reformatted your hard drive and didn't do that backup? Reformatting a hard drive marks the entire drive as “empty” but the information is usually still there. With the proper tools, it is often possible to retrieve the data despite the reformat.
In the case of a “zapped” or failing hard drive, if there's any "life" left to the drive, we may be able to extract some or all of your data. If our efforts are successful, your data can be back in your hands in no time. If we’re unsuccessful, you still have options.
We have partnered with Gillware Data Recovery to perform advanced data recovery. Located in Madison, WI, Gillware specializes in recovering data from even the most troubled hard drives. Gillware will perform an assessment of your drive and send you a list of the recovered files and the cost of recovery. Once you approve, they will perform the recovery and you get your files back. Pricing is dependent on the condition of the drive but there are no fees until you decide how to proceed.
So now that we've examined how to recover your data, let’s discuss proper disposal.
The average home user could drill a few holes in their hard drive and chuck it in the trash. Unless the drive contains work-related files or sensitive personal information, additional special steps to render it inaccessible aren't usually needed.
However, if you are a business or work with highly-confidential data, you will want to take extra precautions. First, what you don’t want to do is throw your computer or hard drive in the trash. Even a failing or newly reformatted hard drive can have data retrieved if it’s found by someone highly motivated to do so. Again, a simple reformat doesn't actually destroy the original data, it will just overwrite it.
There are several ways you can more permanently delete these files without physically destroying the hard drive; they usually involve several “formatting” passes be made and may include random data being written and erased. Yellowstone Computing uses DOD (Department of Defense) recommended procedures to erase hard drives as the first step in disposal. This will render the recovery of the data all but impossible without forensic recovery equipment, and even then, it is highly unlikely that anything useful can be saved. Once this process is complete the drive is taken to a local recycling facility where they are physically shredded.
Please note: This isn't meant to be an exhaustive description of all data recovery options or ways to dispose of a hard drive. This is simply an overview.
If you are already the unfortunate owner of a failed hard drive and you want your data back, or if you wish for us to help you properly dispose of your data contact us, we're happy to help you!
It’s pretty obvious when your computer is already broken, but how do you know when it’s about to break? Even before it falls into a heap and refuses to turn on, or flashes big messages about how your files are now encrypted, you’ll be given multiple hints that something is wrong. Here are the common signs your computer needs repair, sooner rather than later.
1. It’s Running Slow.
Most people assume their computer is running slow because it’s getting older, but it could actually be a variety of reasons. A program behaving badly, a virus, overheating or even a failing hard drive can all cause a massive slow down. You might only notice it when booting up or starting a program, or the problem may have taken hold to the extent that even moving your mouse becomes torture. Sometimes the slow speed is simply due to some newer software that your hardware can’t keep up with.
2. Your System is Running Hot.
A very common sign with laptops, running hot can be both the sign and cause of damage. Computers have fans to blow out hot air so they can cool off their internal components. At the same time, fresh air is drawn in through vents to create an effective cooling system. Unfortunately, just about every vent in a computer can quickly become clogged with dust and pet fur, essentially choking off the circulation and leaving components to overheat. Desktop computers have more space inside to circulate air, but you’ll still need to keep their vents clear. You’ll know your computer running too hot if your system shuts down frequently (safety cutout), the fan is working serious overtime, or your laptop is too hot to use on your lap.
3. Blue Screens of Death Are Everywhere.
A classic Windows error, this is quite literally a blue screen that covers your view. The system will still be running, but something has gone wrong. You’ll be shown some text and an error code, often with Windows suggesting a restart. If a restart fixes your problem, perhaps something didn’t load properly at bootup and your computer had a whoopsie. It’s rare, but it happens. If you’re getting blue screens all the time though, that’s a sign a hardware or software problem needs to be resolved. Your computer will continue to give blue screen errors more and more frequently, so it’s best to take action as soon as you know something’s wrong.
4. It’s Making Strange Noises.
Your computer has a number of moving parts. You’ll know by now which noises it normally makes, from the startup beep to the whirring fan. When your computers starts to make extra noises...that’s when things get interesting. Fans can wear down and screech or grind, hard drives can start clicking, and in emergency cases, you might even hear a zapping noise. None of those are good! Whenever you notice a strange noise, remember your computer parts are all designed to work together and one problem could quickly become many if left unchecked.
5. It Crashes and Freezes.
If your computer is crashing randomly, restarting without you, or freezing up completely, it’s a sure sign there’s a problem. As annoying as it might be, your computer isn’t doing this to drive you crazy - it just feels that way! You might notice it’s showing other signs from this list too because crashing and freezing are what happens when something isn’t just wrong, it’s terribly wrong. The problem could be almost anything, hardware and software both, but it’s always fixable. This is simply your computer’s final way of crying out for repair, desperately trying to get your attention and a little TLC.
Is your computer doing these things? Let us fix it for you. Call us at 715-255-0325.
Severe design flaws in modern CPUs were recently discovered and made public. These flaws put users and businesses alike at risk of attacks known as Spectre and Meltdown, where private data can be called up and stolen. Chip manufacturers including Intel and ARM have responded by working with software developers to correct the flaws, however these fixes are affecting computer performance. Discover exactly how this vulnerability works, how you’ll be impacted, and what you can do to protect your systems.
What Are Spectre and Meltdown?
In a bombshell report as we entered 2018, researchers revealed that nearly every computer chip is affected by a set of vulnerabilities called Spectre and Meltdown. The impact is so widespread because it’s not a software issue from one developer, it’s a flaw in the way computer chips were designed. All devices, including those made by Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others, share a similar chip structure. What’s more, the flaws extend to servers, including Amazon Web Servers and Google Cloud.
How Do They Work?
Your computer’s CPU (its brain) does something called “speculative execution”. It’s part of the way processors were first designed, over 20 years ago. When your computer notices you do a task often, it tries to complete that task in the background, so it’s ready before you need it. This speeds up your experience and makes your work easier.
Imagine strolling into your local coffee shop where they know your order is the same every day. Eventually, they anticipate that you’ll be arriving at 8am sharp and have your coffee ready on the counter. However, if you change your mind and decide to order something else, they’ll need to throw that coffee away.
Your CPU is doing the same thing. It’s loading information like your credit card number or passwords, ready for you to do your usual tasks. If you change your routine and that information isn’t needed, your CPU throws it away. Just like at the coffee shop though, the trash doesn’t disappear immediately, so your credit card number and password are simply sitting there in a section of memory called the ‘cache’, waiting to be cleared away.
The Spectre vulnerability allows attackers to trick the processor into performing these speculative operations (loading up your private data), so that Meltdown can scoop it up from the trash.
How You’ll Be Impacted
Fortunately, this vulnerability isn’t easy to exploit, and there have been no known attacks as yet. However, when the researchers went public with their discovery, it also alerted hackers to an opportunity. For them to get access to your system at this level though, they would first need to infect your computer with malware.
Developers Are Releasing Emergency Updates
Most major companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft were able to issue security updates before the flaw was announced. They’re also working closely with Intel, ARM and AMD, the main chip manufacturers, to mitigate the problem via software.
Recall how the flaw exists due to speculative execution, a process designed to speed up your computing experience? The patches and updates are changing the way your CPU uses memory, essentially putting the brakes on this shortcut. Developers are aware that slowdowns will occur but aim to keep the impact to a minimum. Windows 7 and 8 computers will be the most impacted, but Windows 10 is safer from Spectre and Meltdown. Microsoft was quick to release updates for Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and various Windows Server versions. Updates for older operating systems and are not being released.
How You Can Stay Protected
As any attack will first need to come through malware such as viruses, be extra vigilant with your virus protection. Update your antivirus software regularly and set your system to run full scans each week. Likewise, keep an eye out for phishing links that don’t look quite right.
Run All Updates
While nobody likes the idea of their computer slowing down, not even a fraction, it’s better
than having your credit card details or passwords stolen by a hacker. Be sure to run
updates as soon as they are released.
Microsoft has advised that patches and updates aren’t the complete fix to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, suggesting you also update your BIOS and firmware. As this can be a tricky process, we recommend that only trained technicians do this.
Upgrade Your System
If your system is too old and won’t receive an emergency update, you’ll need to upgrade. This might mean switching to a newer smartphone, faster CPU or supported operating system.
Where to Now?
As dire as it all seems right now, this flaw has been around for over 20 years. The sky isn’t falling and there’s no reason to panic. Remember, there have no known instances of a Spectre/Meltdown attack yet, the tech world is simply closing ranks against hackers to ensure your risk is minimized. Developers and manufacturers are working together to help protect your system, and so are we. You’re in good hands.
Our Service Plans can help keep you safe from Spectre/Meltdown.
Call us today on 715-255-0325 to discuss.
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