I am often asked by people if they think they have to get a new computer or can their new one last a bit longer? This is often more of a personal choice unless the old computer is dead or near death. Personally I believe that technology should work for you, and that you should not have to wait on your computer any more than absolutely neccessary. However, just running out and buying a new computer can be a somewhat daunting task – what kind of computer? how much memory? how big of a hard drive?, what kind of graphics? All of these answers will of course depend on your own needs, but there are certainly things you can do to narrow down the choices.
Before you decide to take the plunge, you should look at whether your old computer just needs a good computer service and repair. Sometimes, cleaning out the operating system, or reinstalling Windows can revitalize a lagging system, at other time you may be able to add some RAM memory to increase the capabilities and give your computer a bit longer lifespan. Often, people have accumulated many unneeded programs on their computers which may be slowing it down. In addition, spyware, malware, and adware can be hampering your system. Either of these problems can normally be fixed fairly easily with a bit of time and patience.
You might also be holding on to an old Windows XP machine because you are comfortable with it – while XP was a great a pretty stable operating system, it is going on 11 year old now and is just not capable of keeping up with today’s technology on many levels. If you are still using XP, it is definitley time to plan the upgrade – most XP machines (if they were made for XP) will not easily run a later version of Windows due to lack of hardware drivers, so attempting to upgrade these systems is generally not advised.
Windows 8 is due out later this year, and if Microsoft and the manufacturers run the upgrade process as the have in the past, sometimes the best thing to do is wait until they (hopefully) announce the free upgrade of Windows 7 systems bought after a certain date, and then scoop up one of the Windows 7 systems that comes with a free upgrade to Windows 8 (hopefully at a discount as manufacturers often want to clear their inventory before a new version of Windows arrives). Of course if you want the latest and greatest in hardware, waiting until the first (or second) wave of Windows 8 systems might be a good idea.
Windows 8 is going to bring a lot of changes, and some people may not want to take the initial time to learn something new – for those people, I recommend waiting a bit to see exactely what other people say about upgrading. You can test out Windows 8 by downloading the free consumer preview here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview
Unfortunately, in my job I see a lot of computers that have gotten a virus or malware and need to be fixed (and not just PC’s but Mac’s as well lately). While some infections are due to lack of adequate protection – up-to-date antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software, others are due to people falling prey to social engineered malware (fake links on facebook etc), or people accidentally clicking on things, or one of the ones I really dislike – a virus coming in through one of the mass forwarded emails.
It is a misconception that just because you have antivirus/antimalware software that it will protect you 100% – even the best software is hard pressed to protect a computer when someone allows something to come in by clicking ok, yes, or installing questionable software or downloading questionable files (yes, all of the people using limewire, frostwire, or torrent software – you all are at risk every time you download a shared file!). Many times a virus or malware will get onto a computer because someone has installed some ‘toolbar’, ‘searchbar’, screen-saver, coupon printer, rebate searcher, or other such program like those worthless ‘speed up my computer’ programs that are either badly written or are actually malicious and downloads other bad software behind the scenes. **Special note: Almost ALL of the speed up my PC programs are basically worthless and can often do much more damage to your computer than good. Anything that messes with the Windows Registry can damage your Windows installation if it remove the wrong things, and many of them do that!
So what can you do to better protect yourself and your computer from these nasties? Here is a short list of things that I always recommend following to eliminate the most common ways that a computer can get a virus, malware or spyware.
1. Never click on links from social networks such as facebook, or links in emails – regardless of what a link says it is, it can easily be made to hide something else. What you can do is right click on the link, select ‘copy shortcut’ then paste that into the address bar of your browser to see what it really is (or if you have the status bar in your browser enabled, you can often see it there) – if you don’t recognize the link or it looks suspicious – DON’T GO THERE!
2. Never open email attachments unless you specifically know that the specific person who sent you that specific email was sending you that specific attachement – too often people will get an email from a friend or family member that has an attachment and that attachment is a virus that a virus on their computer sent without them even knowing about it. If you don’t know what it is, and weren’t expecting it – DON’T OPEN IT!
3. Don’t download songs, software, videos etc from file sharing networks – when you use software such as Limewire, Frostwire, Vuze, or other torrent or file sharing software to download things you always take a big risk because you have no way of knowing where exactly the files are coming from, or if they have been altered – even a song can hide a virus or malware within it and it won’t activate until you play it. Also the majority of software ‘cracks’ or ‘activators’ have malicious viruses in them. Not to mention that downloading copywrited material is also illegal
4: Keep your antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software as well as your operating system software up to date! It is always important to update your system regularly as the software updates often carry fixes for security issues that have been found and without them you are much more vulnerable. Also update your OS to the latest version (yes, if you are still running Windows XP you might have to get a new computer, but XP is 11 years old and was never designed to handle today’s internet).
5: Beware programs like coupon printers, rebate searches, search toolbars, browser add-on’s, screen savers, and especially the fix all or speed up pc programs. Many times these programs are either malicous themselves or are so poorly coded that they make it much easier for bad things to get onto your computer – IF IT ISN’T FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE – DON’T INSTALL IT!
If your computer does get a virus, try to remove it with your antivirus/antimalware/antispyware software, or you can try to do a Windows system restore to a time before you got the virus (as opposed to a full computer factory restore which will wipe all your data).
Got a virus or malware and not sure what to do? If you run into something particularly nasty or need some advice on how to get rid of something, or just need great computer service or computer repair, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call.
I have just run into a real nasty new version of a Rogue fake antivirus malware that in addition to screwing with a user’s machine, actually performs a malicious act by hiding all of the users files as well as public shared files on the users computer. I have gotten a few calls from people saying “Help, I lost my files”, or “all my files are gone”. This malicious new virus/malware makes it appear as if the user files have been deleted or wiped off the computer. The files are not lost or deleted though, they have just been hidden.
The Rogue antivirus is a class of malware that pretends to be a real antivirus or antimalware program or some cases I have seen recently a fake windows diagnostic program that says you have memory errors or hard disk errors. In reality these programs ARE the infection. The fake program usually gives you messages that your system is infected or has issues, and tries to get you to either buy a worthless program, or get you to give someone your credit card number. Don’t do either!
To the user, it appears as if all their files – documents, music, pictures, files on the desktop etc have simply disappeared. Don’t worry though, this is not the case. The virus/malware sets a hidden attribute on all the users folders and files and also does the same to public shared folders and files. This can be undone by selectively resetting or unhiding the folders and files that have been hidden **NOTE: Be careful doing this as not all hidden files and folders in your user profile are meant to be unhidden, some are hidden by default and should remain so. If you are unsure of what to do, contact a computer professional to help you.
At Pensacola Computers, we can help you if you are not sure how to do this yourself, and can even do it in a remote session – for help removing viruses and malware, and recovering lost or hidden files visit http://pensacolacomputers.com for contact information.
For those who are still using Windows XP (still quite a few, although that number is rapidly decreasing), here is a short tutorial from Pensacola Computers on how to use System restore in XP Safe Mode. This can be extremely useful when faced with a virus, malware, or any kind of software change that has made using XP in regular mode difficult or impossible. System restore is often the easiest way to reverse the harmful effects of a virus or malware. Always be aware that System Restore, while reversing software changes, does NOT remove files, so even if the virus or malware is not active, the files are still there and must be removed. If you are using System restore due to a virus or malware infection, be sure to run full virus and malware/spyware scans as well as reapplying any needed Windows and software updates. While system restore is not always able to fix a bad virus or malware infection, it is a great first step in attempting to bring your system back to a usable state.
Visit Pensacola Computers Tech Support page for links for the best free and paid for antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware software.
If you need more in-depth help with virus removal, malware removal, computer service, or computer repair here in Pensacola Florida, please give Jeff at Pensacola Computers a call today at 850*390-4242
Most people who have watched TV or listened to the radio have heard the ads touting the amazing incredible website that will help fix everything wrong with your computer and help your slow system to immediately speed up and run like it was brand new – well all I can say, is beware! I have had the unfortunate users of such software come to me with computers that wouldn’t boot to Windows, or that were freezing up and crashing all the time after using this software. While it is certainly true that spyware/malware/viruses can slow down your system, and removing them will certainly help the performance, using these ‘fix all’ software solutions can often cause more problems than they fix – as a matter of fact, the free ‘diagnosis’ they offer has nothing to do with finding spyware, malware, or viruses.
One thing I find very interesting is the disclaimer in the Terms of Service on doublemyspeed.com: “ANY MATERIAL DOWNLOADED OR OTHERWISE OBTAINED THROUGH THE USE OF THE WEBSITES IS DONE AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND YOU WILL BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM OR LOSS OF DATA THAT RESULTS FROM THE DOWNLOAD OF ANY SUCH MATERIAL” In other words, if you use their software and it hoses your system, too bad, they did warn you after all. The other bit I find interesting is this part: “CyberDefender EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT OF PROPRIETARY RIGHTS. WITHOUT LIMITATION, CYBERDEFENDER AND THE PROTECTED PARTIES MAKE NO WARRANTY THAT THE WEBSITES OR ANY SOFTWARE DISTRIBUTED THEREFROM WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, THAT THEY WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED, TIMELY, SECURE, OR ERROR-FREE, THAT THE RESULTS OBTAINED FROM THE USE OF THE WEBSITES WILL BE ACCURATE OR RELIABLE” – so basically, they won’t provide any kind of warranty for their product, and they certainly don’t claim that their software or results it gives you will be secure, error free, accurate, or reliable. So then tell me, why in the world would I ever spend money on their product????
One of the worst things is their Registry Cleaner which can definitely cause irrepairable damage to your system if it removes the wrong things from the registry. Granted, back in the days of Windows 95/98, a lot of registry errors could have a significant performance impact on your system, however in today’s world of high RAM and multi-core processors, registry errors of the kind that this software usually fixes have a negligible impact on most systems, and the risk of the software removing a critical registry entry is too great to justify the results.
The truth is, many machines just need a simple cleanup of malware/spyware, and some tweaking of startup programs to run better. Then of course there is the fact that your old Windows XP machine with 256MB of RAM will NEVER be able to keep up on the internet of today due to the much increased demands. Remember, Windows XP is about 10 years old, and when it was released the internet was pretty much all text based. Today the internet is multi-media rich with all kinds of add-ons running – Java, Toolbars, Browser helpers, etc. and older computers just don’t have the hardware or software to keep up.
Basically what this website does is con you into running a pretty much worthless registry scanner that will of course show massive errors on your system (which in reality may or may not be errors, and even if they are errors they have a negligible impact on your systems performance if any impact at all) – then if you decide you want to fix these inconsequential errors, you will be taken to a website where they want you to spend $39.98 for a basicaly worthless product, then they want you to buy their CyberDefender antimalware/antivirus software for $29.95, and then of course ad $14.97 for a cd with a copy of your software (you can burn your own CD for about 25 cents). All in all, it is just another company trying to make a quick profit off of anyone who believes their overhyped ads. My opinion: the software is a total waste of money, and you take a risk of totally messing up your machine by using it – not to mention, trying to exit out of the ‘free scan’ software just leads to pop-ups and opens their web page, and you have to confirm multiple times just to uninstall the software! Stay away from this product!!
Of course, this is just my opinion, take it for what it’s worth, but there is no way I would ever recommend this software to anyone – EVER!
For links to Free Software such as Malwarebytes, Spybot S&D, and AVG Free that can help you keep your computer malware and virus free and keep it running faster, visit the Tech Support page at PensacolaComputers.com