Everybody knows what the standard IT fix is!

Everybody knows what the standard IT fix is! but do you know why ?


When you call up IT Support the 1st question they ask you is "Have you tried restarting the device?

This seems like a flippant response, but rebooting a Device can actually resolve many Issues.

This solution isn’t just limited to Windows computers, but applies to all types of computing devices. You’ll find the advice “try resetting it” applied to wireless routers, iPads, Android phones, and more. This same advice even applies to software — is your internet browser acting slow and consuming a lot of memory? Try closing it and reopening it!

An example of this is Windows blue screen of death. The blue screen was caused by a low-level error, likely a problem with a hardware driver or malfunction. Windows reaches a state where it doesn’t know how to recover, so it halts, shows a blue-screen of death, gathers information about the problem, and automatically restarts the computer for you. This restart fixes the problem.

Windows has gotten better at dealing with errors — for example, if your graphics driver crashes, Windows XP would have frozen. In Windows 7 and newer versions of Windows, the Windows desktop will lose its fancy graphical effects for a few moments before regaining them. Behind the scenes, Windows is restarting the malfunctioning graphics driver.

But why doesn’t Windows simply fix the problem rather than restarting the driver or the computer itself?  Well, because it can’t — the code has encountered a problem and stopped working completely, so there’s no way for it to continue. By restarting, the code can start from square one and hopefully it won’t encounter the same problem again.

Examples of Restarting Fixing Problems

  • Windows is Slow: Let’s say Windows is running very slowly. It’s possible that a misbehaving program is using 99% CPU and draining the computer’s resources. A geek could head to the task manager and look around, hoping to locate the misbehaving process an end it. If an average user encountered this same problem, they could simply reboot their computer to fix it rather than dig through their running processes.
  • Programs are Using Too Much Memory: In the past, Firefox has been the poster child for memory leaks on average PCs. Over time, Firefox would often consume more and more memory, getting larger and larger and slowing down. Closing Firefox will cause it to relinquish all its memory. When it starts again, it will start from a clean state without any leaked memory. This doesn’t just apply to Firefox, but applies to any software with memory leaks.
  • Internet or Wi-Fi Network Problems: If you have a problem with your Wi-Fi or Internet connection, the software on your router or modem may have encountered a problem. Resetting the router — just by unplugging it from its power socket and then plugging it back in — is a common solution for connection problems.

In all cases, a restart wipes away the current state of the software. Any code that’s stuck in a misbehaving state will be swept away, too. When you restart, the computer or device will bring the system up in a clean state, with all the software reloaded.

BT or TALKTALK Engineer Scam

A trend of the past couple of years has been for scammers to contact computer owners directly via telephone in the United Kingdom in an effort to convince them that there is a problem with their PC and they’ll need to pay to have it fixed.  In general, these people cannot fix anything, and instead they merely charge exorbitant fees for absolutely nothing. In other words, they scam you.

The call generally goes something like this:

  1. A foreigner with a thick Indian accent identifies himself as a Talk Talk, BT, or Microsoft Engineer (I have not come across one for Virgin or Sky But be aware as this could happen).
  2. He informs you that you have a number of critical problems with your PC or your router is being hacked and that you will need to have it fixed.
  3. To convince you, he offers to connect remotely and pulls up your Event Log (eventvwr.msc).  He then filters for Warnings, Errors, and Critical events and uses that as evidence that your PC will soon fail to work correctly if you do not pay him to correct it.

The astute among you have probably already sensed that something here is seriously wrong, and it’s not your PC. It’s the fact that someone is calling you to tell you there is a problem with your computer. No one will ever do that. The only way they could possibly know there is a problem is by hacking or guessing.

In this case, it’s mere guesswork, and it’s not even correct most of the time. The Event Log is supposed to log warnings and errors, and even on the healthiest of PCs there are plenty of Error Events that can be safely ignored, as they often don’t amount to anything. The important thing to remember is to never trust someone who calls you about a problem with your PC, and never, EVER let them connect remotely to your PC.

If you do make the mistake of letting them connect, but then you happen to get cold feet and refuse to pay the £180+ they request via credit card, the next thing that happens isn’t pretty. This scammer proceeded to actually follow through on his promise of the PC “not working” if they don’t agree to have him fix it, and so in a few quick steps, behind the user’s back, he enacted what is known as SysKey encryption on the SAM registry hive.

SysKey encryption is a little-known feature of Windows which allows administrators to lock out access so the PC cannot be accessed without knowing the proper credentials. The problem is, unlike other scams, there is no way around the problem; you can’t simply remove the password, as the actual SAM hive has been encrypted entirely by the process. If your Windows installation has had SysKey activated, you’ll see the following message:

Startup Password

This computer is configured to require a password in order to start up. Please enter the Startup Password below.

The window which appears looks like this:

This computer is configured to require a password in order to start up. Please enter the Startup Password below.

The ONLY solution is to find a clean copy of the registry hives from before this occurred. This scammer knew this, however, and as such, he took an extra step to block any repair or recovery attempts: he deleted all System Restore points on the machine, which normally house backup copies of the registry hives.


Apple Icloud Issues

Over the last couple of weeks since apple released an OS update i have had a lot of calls about Icloud. It seems that you are unable to login to Icloud as it tells you the account or password is incorrect, you also are unable to logout of it. This is causing an additional problem for mac Users when shutting down as the system is unable to close icloud. You are able to put your Macs into sleep mode,  It is not a problem with your account it is an issue with the update.

I spoke to apple today about this issue, they are aware of it and are working to resolve it, they recommended keep trying to log in and if another update comes out run it straight away as it will contain the fix.. 

I will keep you updated if i hear any more information.


Phone Call IT Scams

Over the last couple of weeks I have had to fix several machines which have been affected by bogus calls. Please read the following to keep your computer safe.  

If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft saying your computer has errors or viruses, just hang up. Microsoft will never contact you directly unless you have contacted them first.  The purpose of these calls is to get easy money by scaring you into thinking there’s something really wrong with your computer and that they can fix it for you.  These telephone scams - Cold Calls, they CANNOT see your machine - have been going on for many years and the scammers sadly keep robbing innocent people because their success rate is worth their time and effort. These caller’s numbers will be withheld, so that they cannot be traced or identified

This scam is a well-oiled machine which starts off with the alleged Microsoft representative asking you to turn on your computer to perform some checks for errors. They essentially make you open different applications which will give the impression that your machine has problems.
After they have convinced you that there are problems with your machine they will offer to fix it for a cost and then pass you over to one of their “Technicians”. The “Technician” will ask you to install some software. This is remote access software which is usually something like “Team Viewer” or “Logmein”. Both of these applications can be setup to run when you start your machine which means they can then gain access to your machine anytime it is switched on.

Once they have access to your machine they can remove files, install malicious software and generally cause or create issue, which they will then try to charge you to fix.  Please remember that if you follow their instructions you are giving them access to your machine. They have NO ACCESS to your machine unless you allow it.
If you are Worried that you may have been affected by one of these calls then contact us.

Top Tips

People often ask me for advice on how to keep their computers secure so I have put together my top tips to share with you.

Top tips for keeping your computer Safe.

PLEASE,  PLEASE,  PLEASE back up your files. I cannot stress this enough, It's not a computer  health tip,  but it is a sanity tip: When (not if) your computer dies, you're going to want to have a backup of all your documents, pictures, music and anything else you find important.  I would recommend doing a backup of you files once a week or at least once a month. This can be scheduled for a time when your computer is turned on but you are going to be away for a while.

Antivirus software:

It doesn't matter whether you opt for a free product like AVG Free or Microsoft Security Essentials, or spend the money on a commercial product like McAfee or Kaspersky Internet Security. What's important is that you get yourself some virus protection that has a few basic features -- live protection (a real-time shield that will protect whatever you're working on at the moment, not just scheduled scans), and a behaviour-based detection engine that looks for software that is acting suspiciously. All quality anti-virus programs -- even the free ones -- have these essential features. Primarily what you get with a paid product is a more polished interface and better integration with other security tools, so you don't have to run separate updates on various pieces of security software.
Once you pick an anti-virus program, make sure that it is scheduled to download updates and run a quick scan once a day. Set it to run at a time so it that won't interfere with your other computing activities.

Set up a firewall:

Firewalls control the flow of data into and out of your PC and are essential for keeping out hackers. Most importantly, they prevent any malware (bad programs with viruses and the like) you might accidentally pick up from sending out your personal data over the Internet.
Windows and Mac OS X come with a basic firewall pre-installed.
You can access Windows Firewall in Vista and Windows 7 by going to Control Panel -> System and Security -> Windows Firewall, or in Windows XP by going Control Panel -> Security Centre -> Windows Firewall.
Mac OS X, the firewall options are located in System Prefs -> Security -> Firewall.
At the very least, make sure you have these basic firewalls turned on.

Install a spyware/malware removal tool
Speaking of malware, there are plenty of threats and annoyances out there besides viruses, including spyware (which tracks what you do and where you go online), adware (software that bombards you with unwanted pop-up ads and the like), key-loggers (software that logs all your keystrokes, making it easy to snag your passwords and other personal information) and more.
Most anti-virus applications, especially the paid ones, include some form of malware removal, but I strongly recommend you get a dedicated tool. Apps like Spy Bot and Malware Bytes are much better at removing and protecting against spyware than a multi-function program, so you'll want one regardless of what other security software you have installed.

As an added bonus, some apps, such as Spy Bot, are able to immunize your PC against certain malware apps permanently, and will alert you anytime something attempts to make changes to your systems registry -- one of the major ways such malware hijacks your PC. This is a feature often missing from anti-virus programs, particularly free ones.

Use a password for login:

This is one of the most important steps to take in securing your computer or other accounts. A strong password will help keep your data safe not just from hackers, but also in the unfortunate circumstance that your laptop is stolen.
I recommend you pick a password with a minimum of 12 characters, but more is even better. Your password should include capital letters, lowercase letters, punctuation, numbers, and special characters. You should also avoid dictionary words, pets names, birthdays, or any other personal info that people could easily glean from a social networking site. Also try and add some variety by using numbers in place of letters (3=E, 5=S).

Software Updates:

Usually patches and updates for software are rolled out to add extra features and remove any previous bugs. Keep the option for automatic updates on for all the software you install.

Proper shut down :

All computers have a shutdown option to shut down your Computer please use it to shut down your system and let it close down gracefully. When the system has had updates this can take longer than usual so be patient.

Beware the pesky check mark
When downloading software or registering for anything on the Web, always look for the little check boxes. Sites typically ask if you'd like to register for updates, discounts or additional trial software, and the boxes tend to be checked by default.  An Example of this is shown here:

Adobe Reader is a free software used to view most documents and forms on the web, this site will also download Mcafee security scan plus unless you uncheck the box,  although this is not a bad program it will cause your computer to slow down as you will already have antivirus scanning.  The best advice I can give with these is to read what the check box is offering and if in doubt uncheck it.

If you have any problems please give me a call.
The Computer Lady 

Backing Up

We probably all know that we should back up our data, documents, music, pictures and videos but not all of us know how to do this or why to do it.

What’s a Back Up?

A Back Up is IT language for making a copy of something on your computer. For example you may want to take a copy of all your pictures that are on your computer so should anything happen to your PC you still have your photos. When you take a copy of these files you are “backing up” the photos or files.

Why Do a Back Up?

Doing a backup or taking a copy of photos or files can be really easy to do and it ensures that should anything happen to your PC you will not lose those files and pictures that are so important to you and your family.

How to Do a Back Up?

One of the easiest ways to back up is to copy your files onto a usb pen drive or stick. You simple insert the usb stick into the usb port on your computer, open windows explorer and copy the data that you want to back up. There are also cloud or remote back up functions including Sky Drive, Google Drive, One Drive where you can copy files and photos to a remote location. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to remember where you put the usb stick!

For more information and advice on backing up or copying data please get in touch

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