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Windows Keyboard Shortcuts to help you save time

A lot of people don’t realise you can use the keyboard on your computer to perform certain tasks. These keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time and make you more efficient.

 

Ctrl + C to Copy

If you need to copy some text, an image or even a URL. You can use the keyboard to do this for you. Instead of highlighting the text or image you want to copy, then right clicking, and scrolling down to copy. You can simply highlight whatever you are trying to copy and pressing and holding Ctrl and C on your keyboard.

 

Ctrl + V to Paste

So, you’ve copied the text or image you want, now you can use the keyboard to paste it. Simply press and hold Ctrl + V to paste it where ever you want to place it.

 

Ctrl + Z to Undo

Let’s say you are typing a letter and you want to undo the last action you performed. Instead of moving the mouse to the Undo button, simply press Ctrl + Z to reverse your last action. To redo something, press Ctrl + Y.

 

Alt and Tab to switch screen

If you’ve got several Windows open, you can quickly switch between them by pressing Alt and Tab (Tab is usually above the Caps Lock key). This will save you having to move your mouse down to the taskbar and selecting the correct Window.

 

Ctrl + F to Find

If you want to search for a certain word on a website or Word document. You can press Ctrl + F which will open a pop-up box where you can type the word you are looking for. In fact, you can see how many times your search text appears.

Want to know how we can help streamline your processes in your home and office? Give us a call on 01543 889 444.


Why do some computers feel so slow?

So your old computer is starting to show it’s age. It takes ages for it to boot up, it’s randomly crashing, and you hate using it. Enough is enough, so you start to think about investing in a new one. But before you do, you might want to think about upgrading your existing machine. Here’s three common reasons why computers aren’t as fast as they should be.

 

Mechanical hard drive

Mechanical hard drives are the most common reason why a PC or laptop slows down. Mechanical hard drives are like a record player, a series of spinning disks arranged in a delicate stack known as a platter. Each disk reads and saves data using a tiny head moving across the disk’s surface. Swapping out a mechanical hard drive for an SSD will give you a serious boost in performance.

 

Not enough RAM

In some cases, the computer does not have enough RAM (Random Access Memory) and is your computers main memory. It allows your computer to do more at once. When you turn on your computer, the operating system, programs and data are stored here to allow for quicker processing. But when the RAM gets full, the processor needs to go to the hard drive, which can slow down your computer.

We recommend at least 8GB of RAM to run Windows and all your programs, and upgrading your memory can be quick and affordable.

 

Bloatware

When you buy a new laptop or PC, most of them come with a lot of pre-loaded software. A lot of this software you will simply not use and can be uninstalled. Also, when you install a new piece of software or hardware, such as a printer, manufacturers will include additional software that can slow down your computer. Again, most of these are simply not needed.

Computerworld recently reported computers without the additional bloatware installed, boot up 104% faster, shutdown 35% faster and on laptops have around 28 minutes of additional battery life.

Don’t let a lagging laptop or PC disrupt your productivity. We can help. Give us a call on 01543 889 444


Protecting your external hard drive

Many people still use external hard drives for backup or portable storage, despite the advantages of cloud computing. If you are still using an external hard drive, it’s important to look after it properly as failure can happen at any time.

 

Avoid knocking the drive

Depending on the type of external hard drive, such as mechanical or SSD, an impact could damage it, especially if it’s plugged in and powered up. If you are using a mechanical external hard drive, a knock could cause the heads to crash against the platter (the bit where your data is stored), which could lead to data loss.

However, if your external hard drive contains an SSD (Solid State Drive), there are no moving parts, so you don’t have to worry about knocking it as much.

 

Don’t just unplug the drive

Never unplug the drive while reading or writing data to the external hard drive. If you do, you risk corrupting the data. Instead eject the drive. You can do this by right clicking on the drive and select Eject. Once you’ve ejected the drive, you can safely disconnect it from your computer.

It’s also important not to pull too hard on the USB cable, as you could damage the connectors.

 

Keep it flat on a table or desk

We see this a lot, external hard drives balanced on something or not set on a level surface. If your desk is knocked, you run the risk of the drive falling (see avoid knocking the drive above).

 

They won’t last forever

Just like the hard drive in your computer, external hard drives won’t last forever. They can also be easily lost or stolen, so it’s a good idea to have a backup of your external hard drive just in case.

If you need help deciding on the best hard drive for your computer, give us a call on 01543 889 444


Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update is now available

Microsoft have started to push out their latest version of Windows 10, called Windows 10 May 2019 Update.

 

Windows 10 Update

New features include:

 

  • New light theme
  • Windows Sandbox features
  • Separation of Windows Search and Cortana
  • New UI updates and features
  • Plus many more tweaks and small features

Expect longer than average Windows Update times. If you use a laptop or Windows tablet ensure it’s plugged in and on charge during the update.

It’s always a good idea to back-up your most important stuff before these big updates just in case something goes wrong.

Alternatively, we can do all this for you and ensure the update is properly configured and installed. We’ll also ensure 3rd party apps such as your web browsers are fully patched and the latest drivers are installed.

If you would like us to setup and install the Windows 10 May 2019 Update for you, give us a call on 01543 889 444 and we’ll get something scheduled.


What is the best way to backup your data?

“It’ll never happen to me”, or “We know we should but don’t”.

We hear this a lot when we ask about backup. Whether it’s due to hardware or software failure, or simply because someone deleted the wrong file, data loss is a real threat that must be taken seriously. But what’s the best way of backing up your data?

 

Data backup solutions

 

USB Memory Sticks

Also known as flash drives, pen drives or memory sticks, they are extremely portable due to their size. However, the storage capacity of them is limited when compared to a hard drive. Also, their small size makes it easy for you to lose them.

Not only that, but they are not as robust as other portable storage mediums. We see a lot of snapped or broken USB memory sticks, which could lead to total data loss.

 

Portable Hard Drives

Portable Hard Drives are great, they can hold a lot more data than a memory stick, and designed to be compact and portable. Although they are less likely to be damaged than a memory stick, they are still prone to failure, especially if it receives a knock when plugged in.

 

Cloud Backup

Backing up your data to the cloud means your data is backed up to massive servers in data centres. You don’t have to worry about hardware failure as cloud providers have built-in redundancy (multiple copies of your data) to ensure your data is safe. Cloud backup providers will also encrypt your data as soon as it’s uploaded from your computer, meaning no one has access to it apart from yourself.

One advantage of cloud backup is that it is offsite, so if the worst should happen, such as a flood or fire, your data remains safe.

 

The best approach

The best way of ensuring your data is safe is by having three copies of it; one on your computer, one copy on a portable drive, and another offsite, such as in the cloud.

Need help ensuring your data is safe? Give us a call on 01543 889 444.

 


Mac Computers – The truth about Viruses

We hear it daily, “Macs don’t get viruses” or “I’ve never had protection on my Mac”. While this may have been true in the past, the Mac operating system is vulnerable to infections, especially as more and more people switch from Windows to Mac.

 

Mac Viruses

 

MacOS is more difficult to exploit

The Mac operating system is a UNIX based operating system and uses a type of ‘sandbox’ system, where malicious code cannot get as far or embed itself as well as other operating systems, such as Windows. Apple has also built in certain features such as Gatekeeper where it blocks apps that have been downloaded from the Internet and do not have a Developer ID supplied.

However, that does not mean Macs are completely safe. As more and more people switch from Windows based computers to Macs, cybercriminals are finding ways and exploits to infect Macs.

 

It’s not impossible

For example, back in 2017, cybercriminals hacked into the servers of a popular DVD-ripping and Video Conversion app call Handbrake, and inserted malicious code into the software. When the software was installed on a Mac, it also inserted something called a backdoor into the system. The cybercriminals then could use the backdoor to exploit the infected Mac.

 

We often see some sort of infection

We usually do a quick scan on all Macs just to make sure they are clean and virus free, yet almost every Mac we see has got some sort of infection. In fact, we shared a photo on Facebook last year after a customer told us “Mac’s don’t get viruses”. This machine had over 100 different infections, which we cleaned up and returned with an antivirus solution in place.

If you are concerned that your Mac or even Windows computer has got a virus infection, or need a robust antivirus solution, give us a call on 01543 889 444 to get it booked in.


OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

 

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.

2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.

3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.

4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings.

With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 01543 889 444.


Running Windows 7? You need to upgrade

For those of you who may not have heard, Microsoft Windows 7 and Office 2010, along with other Microsoft products, will soon come to EOL (End of Life) on January 14, 2020 and they will no longer be supported by Microsoft. But what does this actually mean for you?

 

Windows 7 end of support

No more updates
Microsoft will stop releasing updates for these products. While you may think ‘yes, no more sitting around installing all those updates’, it’s actually bad news. Your computer will be left at risk, more vulnerable, open to infection and cyber attacks. Remember the NHS attack in 2017? They were running out dated software.

New software and hardware may not work
As Microsoft ends support, so will other software vendors. Google no longer supports Google Chrome on anything older than Windows 7. Most antivirus vendors no longer support older operating systems as it’s becoming increasingly more complex to support these older systems. You will no longer be able to buy a new off the shelf printer or software and expect it to work automatically.

It is our recommendation that you seriously consider purchasing a replacement computer or upgrade to Windows 10, sooner rather than later! We can supply you a brand new computer and can also transfer your data (documents, pictures, email) and programs from your current computer to a replacement machine and set it up for you. If you want to go down the upgrade route, we can advise and upgrade your computer to Windows 10 for you.

Still running Windows 7 or Office 2010? Call us on 01543 889 444 and we can advise on the best possible upgrade or new machine for you.


Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Many users have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.

Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.

 

Webcam blackmail emails

Where Have the Attacks Come From?

In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true.

In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Myspace all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.

The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.

How to Respond

If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services.

The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack.

That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.

Self Defense On the Web

When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defense. A good password manager makes this practical and straightforward too.

Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere.

Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.

A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.

Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.

If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call to at 01543 889 444 update your security.


There are two kinds of people: those who backup, and those who have never lost all their data

Digital cameras are great, and thanks to smartphones, we have one with us almost all the time. We’re taking more photos than ever before, and building a lifetime of digital data. But despite the enormous value of these photos and videos, most people don’t have a backup. It’s time to shine a light on this essential task and make it a regular habit before those precious memories are gone forever.

If you asked someone what possession they’d save from a house fire, many would say photos, and they’d make a point of grabbing a frame or album on the way out. But with digital photos, you don’t need a fire to lose everything, they could simply disappear in the blink of an eye with hardware failure or theft. There’s no warning, no smoke alarm, and without a plan already in place, little no chance to recover the data depending on how is was damaged. It’s time to get set up with a true backup system.

 

Data backup

Is one copy enough?
You might think saving your information to an external hard drive or USB drive is enough. You’re right, it’s better than nothing, but since the data is stored in only one place, this isn’t a backup – it’s just storage. That drive could fail at any moment, perhaps from age, malfunction or plain old theft.
Often enough, that drive can become lost over the years or even put somewhere ‘safe’ and promptly forgotten! And with the way technology is moving, accessing that data in 5 years might even bring up compatibility issues – some newer computers don’t even have CD/DVD drives, yet hundreds of thousands of homes would still have photos stored on a plastic disc.

Two copies?
You might have your extra storage drive as backup and keep a copy on your computer. This is a better solution, and while you’re protected against device failure, that house fire is going to take both copies up in flames.
Thieves would probably grab the external drive while they’re bundling up your computer too, so again, you’d be left with zero copies. It’s close, but it’s not a true backup system
.
Using The Cloud
The term ‘Cloud’ may just seem a fancy name for storage on secure servers, but we have seen it save many people’s important data and for ease of backup, protection and security it’s hard to beat.
We recommend keeping one copy on the computer/device and another on Cloud storage. Of course, you can also still an external drive as a third copy if you wish (and many in the IT world consider ‘The Rule of Three’ as the way to go) but the best Cloud storage solutions have multiple backups, which is not the case when using an external drive.

The Cloud backup can be fully automated so you don’t even need to worry about remembering to do it. If the day comes that you need your data back, it’s ready and waiting in perfect condition – even if you have been infected with Viruses and Ransomware (depending on your Cloud storage provider). Cloud technology also means your data is far away from any potential fire or flood, it’s secure and with the right company, guaranteed against loss.

No matter what the cause of your data loss, it always has a deep impact, particularly when it comes to precious data like photos. While re-creating some homework or the family budget might just be inconvenient, there’s no way to recreate photos once they’re gone.

Most importantly, it’s a loss that is very avoidable.

If you want help in protecting your data or need help with anything else, give us a call on 01543 889 444.