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Archive for the ‘Computer maintenance’ Category

Frequently asked questions from our customers…

Posted by itsfixed on September 18, 2011

Some questions from our customers helpful tips

At itsfixed, we love
to help you get the most out of your technology. While that usually
means computer repairs, we also often get to educate and provide
information to help people maximise the benefits of their home
computers. In this week’s article, we answer some of the questions that
we have been recently asked…

Q: Do I damage my battery if I leave my laptop plugged in all day?

We get this question all the time. It is quite easy to leave your
laptop plugged in for longer than necessary. In the old days, we used
to use Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries in our laptops, and those would
suffer if they were overcharged. However, these days, we use Lithium
Ion (LiIon) batteries, and these can be left plugged safely. The
batteries have a circuit that detect when the battery is charged, and
after that point, even if you are plugged in, the battery does not try
to charge anymore, hence avoiding any overcharging problems.

So how do you know if you have NiCad or LiIon batteries? The easiest
way is to turn your computer over, and take a look at the battery.
Usually it will be indicated somewhere on the battery. If still unsure,
contact your laptop manufacturer. Generally, and laptop bought in the
last 3 years will have LiIon batteries.

Q: Do I need to completely drain my laptop battery before charging
it again?

Another common question. Once again, this depends on the type of
battery. If you have NiCad batteries, then you do indeed need to drain
the battery before charging, in order to maximise your battery life. If
you have a LiIon battery, draining it all the time will actually be
worse for the battery, so feel free to charge this whenever you want to.

Q: What’s the best way to secure my computer?

There is a lot of personal information on your computer, and it is
natural that you should worry about the wrong person getting their
grubby hands on your computer. There are several options available to
secure your computer – some are easily performed by the average user,
while others require expert support.

The simplest (and most obvious) option is to make sure that you
password-protect your computer. Every time you turn on (or wake up)
your computer, your system should prompt you for a password. Likewise,
if you are away from your computer for a while, your computer should
automatically lock itself, and require a password when you come back to
your computer.

fingerprint sensorOf course passwords work fine,
but are easily hacked. Most modern laptops include fingerprint
recognition. With a few easy steps, you can swipe your finger across
the sensor, and your computer will log you back in. It’s more secure,
and a also a lot easier than having to remember, and type in, your
password every time.

Some laptops even include face recognition, and will automatically
detect your identity when you face your computer, and log you in.

Of course, a really technical thief could still access your data, by
removing your hard disk and accessing the data directly. In order to
prevent this, you can also choose to encrypt the contents of your hard
drive. This will make it virtually impossible for somebody to get to
your data. Of course, setting up and maintaining your encrypted drive
is usually out of the scope (and interest) of the average user, so you
may need to get help to set this up.

Q: If I post information on my Facebook page, will everybody be
able to see it?

Facebook is a wonderful way for you to share information with your
friends. It has got several privacy settings to control who can see
your information. However, most users do not manage their privacy
settings, and as a result can be potentially exposed to identity fraud.

Our recommendations:

  • Be
    careful who you ‘friend’
    – since by default all your friends can
    see what you post, why not taking a bit of thought into who you
    actually allow to be your friend? Do you really want to have that
    person you met once at a party be able to see all your information? Do
    you really want random acquaintances to have access to your intimate
    details? Limit your circle of friends to people who you really trust
    and have a relationship with, and you will minimise your risks
  • Think before you posteven
    after you have culled your friends list to a meaningful size, think
    carefully about what you post. There are always possibilities that your
    account may be hacked one day, or that somebody who is your friend
    today may not be so friendly in the future. Our general rule – only
    post things that you would be perfectly happy for your
    family/work/government to see, and that way you will be safe.

Still need help?

We hope that this article was useful. If you require more information,
or have other questions, give our friendly techs a call on 1300 600 670,
or request help at our website at www.itsfixed.com.au.

We make computer repairs
easy! 

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Make the most of your laptop battery

Posted by itsfixed on September 3, 2011

Get the most out of your laptop batteryextend your battery life!

The great thing about
laptops is that you don’t have to be connected to anything – so you are
free to do what you want, wherever you want. That is, until your
battery dies. Having decent battery life is one of the #1 concerns of
most laptop users, and so we thought we’d discuss how to make the most
of your battery in today’s article.

So you forgot your power cord on your way to an important meeting or
the coffee shop. We’ve all been there. There’s nothing you can do to
stop your battery drain, but you can do a lot to slow its inevitable
demise.
If you’ve got a laptop with a really old battery that drains in a few
minutes after a full charge, there’s not much you can do to make that
old thing last much longer—you’ll probably want to replace the battery
before you do anything else. For everybody else, these tips can help
you keep your battery working at peak efficiency.
 

Obviously we all know that using your laptop drains the battery
- but the #1 culprint, according to Microsoft
is your LCD panel – ie: your display. Other culprits are using
flash drives and USB mice.

What’s not so obvious are the speed your CPU is running at. Most modern
computers slow down and speed up depending on what you are doing at the
time. So when your computer is just sitting there doing nothing, the
CPU is slowed right down, to conserve power, and eventually your
computer will go into Sleep mode. Conversely, if you are doing
something intensive, like watching a DVD, your CPU is sped up, which in
turn drains more power.

Understanding how your battery is drained leads to the solutions for
maximising it. Let’s review.

  1. Reduce
    your monitor brightness
    – how low can you go? The dimmer your
    display, the longer your battery is going to last. Obviously, you also
    need to see your screen, so
    pick the balance that is right for you.
  2. Don’t
    use external devices except when you have to
    -  USB and
    PC-Cards (aka PC-MCIA) use your battery to function, even when you
    aren’t using them!  Have an EVDO card or maybe a USB mouse? 
    Remove them if you can.  Even a memory card reader in your PC-MCIA
    slot uses power just by being in there.  The effect varies based
    on the type of device, but even a few minutes here and there (as you’ll
    see) add up significantly.
  3. Do one
    thing at a time
    – The more you are doing at the same time with
    your PC, the more memory and CPU usage increases.  Both of which
    directly use up battery.  Close any applications you aren’t using,
    even the small ones.  When doing some experimentation, I found it
    more efficient to run a single application at a time, then close it and
    open a new one when ready to move on.  While your hard drive uses
    the battery too, if you are doing anything ‘productive’ you are
    probably hitting the drive on a regular (even if infrequent) basis
    anyway.
  4. Keep it
    cool
    – the hotter your system, the more your battery life is
    adversely affected over the long term. So keep those vents clear, and
    try not to smother your laptop in cushions when using it.
  5. cluttered system trayShut down services you don’t need – do you really
    need to be runing Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google
    Desktop Search, Quicktime and all your other utilities that are sitting
    happily in your system tray? Close as many as you can – this will both
    speed up your system, and maximise your battery life. 
  6. Hibernate,
    rather than Sleeping
    – when not using your laptop, there are a
    couple of ways you can turn it off. You can completely power it off -
    this saves the most battery life, but means that when you want to use
    your laptop again, you need to wait for your computer to boot up and
    log in to windows again, which is too long for most people. Or you can Sleep your computer – which puts it
    into a dormant state, but when you want to use your laptop later, it
    starts up almost instantly. This however, does mean that your battery
    is being consumed, albeit slowly. Hibernate
    is a useful middle ground – your battery usage is significantly
    reduced, and it still boots up in a reasonable time. 

There are other more technical options, such as tweaking your Power
Settings, however you should not try that unless you really know what
you are doing.

Still need help?

If you’ve read through this and still require some help – give us a
call. We’d be happy to help you over the phone at no cost to you. Give
our friendly techs a call on 1300 600 670,
or
request help at our website at www.itsfixed.com.au.

We make computer repairs
easy! 

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How to troubleshoot audio problems

Posted by itsfixed on August 6, 2011

No Audio? Here’s how to repair your computerNo audio? Repair your computer now

Have you ever started up Skype to talk to your family, only to realise that you can’t hear them talking? Maybe you are trying to watch a DVD and can’t hear anything? Our latest guide shows you how to troubleshoot common audio problems.

While our computers are usually reliable, every now and then something can go wrong. One of the more common ones is when your computer no longer produces any sounds. The good news is that 9 out of 10 times, it’s a very simple fix. So you can get your computer repairs underway and get back to what you were doing!

1. Check the Speaker Connections

The most common problem is that there is something wrong with the speaker connection. Maybe a cable has come loose. Or your speakers are no longer working. The easiest way to test this is to plug in some headphones into the same output jack that your speakers are currently plugged into.

2. Check the Volume Settings

Open the volume control window by clicking your "Start" button and then "All Programs." Click "Accessories," then "Entertainment," then "Volume Control." Alternatively, just click on the speaker icon that’s in your System Tray.

Check the volume and mute settings. If any of the mute check boxes have been checked, uncheck them. If this doesn’t work, read on.

There’s a great video on youtube that illustrates this – we have conveniently included this on the right.

 

3. Run the Microsoft Troubleshooter

If you’re still not having any luck, you can try running the Microsoft troubleshooter. This is a piece of software that you can download from their website. Run this software and follow the step-by-step instructions to test your sound configuration.

Try it out: Microsoft Sound Troubleshooter

4. Still no luck? We can help!!

There are several options beyond this, including reinstlaling device drivers, and possibly replacing your sound card. However we don’t recommend you try this without some expert help. If you need help with this, give our friendly techs a call – we would love to give you some tips over the phone, or if necessary, we can come out to your place and make sure that you are safe and secure. Call us on 1300 600 670, or request help at our website at www.itsfixed.com.au.

Computer repairs do not need to be difficult. 

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How to install a driver

Posted by itsfixed on February 20, 2011

Many times we get calls from customers who have got a piece peripheral device that is no longer working (and used to). For example, your wireless printer no longer prints, or your computer no longer recognises when you plug in your digital camera, or your mouse is no longer being detected.

The first thing a tech will do (after checking that you’ve properly plugged the device in, and that the device is switched on!) is reinstall the driver for the device. That tends to fix the problem in most cases, and is actually quite easy to do. This article will show you how.

So what is a ‘driver’ anyway?

A ‘driver’ is a piece of software that tells your operating system (Windows, Mac OS) how to ‘talk’ to a piece of hardware, such as your printer or digital camera. Typically when you buy these devices, you get a CD with it, and that CD contains the driver that you must install on your computer. If the driver is not installed, your computer does not know how to ‘talk’ to the device.

For a more detailed definition, check out Wikipedia.

So if I installed a driver, why am I having a problem?

For various reasons, sometimes the driver that was originally installed gets corrupted or removed. Or maybe your latest Windows update changed something in your operating system, and interferes with the originally installed driver. Or maybe a virus or some other form of malware has infected your computer, and when you remove the virus, you lost the driver.

It’s usually not your fault, and the good news is that it’s quite easy to reinstall the driver.

Steps

1. Find the brand and model number of your piece of hardware. There are several ways of doing this, the easiest is to see if it came in a box and that will give all the information you need. Sometimes the hardware has the brand and maybe even the model number if you can find it.

2. Go to the manufacturer’s website. Usually the website is just the manufacturer’s name plus a “.com” For example, if you had a hp 1100 deskjet, you would go to hp.com. Also, if you had a Msi ATI 1300 video card, you would go to the msi website. If the manufacturer’s website plus “.com” doesn’t work, go to a search website such as google.com, and type in the manufacturer’s name and usually the first result is the website you want to go to.

3. Find information and drivers for your hardware. Once you are at the website, find the support section, this is typically at the top of the screen, and click. Find the text box that tells you to find support for your product or something like that. Type in the product model number and select your product from the search results. Once you are at the product home page, find the section for the list of drivers.

4. Choose which drivers that are best for your computer. There are probably many driver downloads available, so you have to be careful about which ones you are going to download and install. First, find all the drivers that have your operating system listed. To narrow it down more, choose which driver is the higher version number for your operating system. Sometimes it shows 32 bit and 64 bit on the drivers, determine if your computer is 32 or 64 bit and choose from there.

5. Download the drivers. Once you have found the driver for your system, click the download button right next to the driver. Sometimes you will have to go through a series of download links to download it. If you click the download button and your website browser shows the website is trying to download the file, have the browser accept it. In a few seconds, depending on your computer, a box will show up asking if you want to save the file you are downloading or possibly run it, choose save and find a location you can easily find on your hard rive.

6. After the download is complete you must go through the complicated phase of being able to run the driver installation. Go to the wikiHow article on how to burn files to a disk and follow the instructions to put all the driver files you created onto a blank CD-ROM.

7. After you have put the drivers on the disk and finalized it, you must run the drivers off the disk. This step is necessary on most driver applications because when searching for the driver files, it only looks on the disk drive, not the hard disk drive where you would try to run the application from. Insert your disk into the CD-R CD, Combo, etc bay. Go to computer or my computer and right click your CD drive and then click open. Double click the file in the driver’s folder that is and application and it will start the installation for your wonderful piece of hardware.

Once you have installed the drivers, reboot your computer, and try using your device and hopefully it should work!

I tried all that, but I’m still having problems

Well, at least you tried the basic steps. Beyond this, you probably need to get expert help. The good folk at itsfixed know all about how to setup your device or install your drivers. Give them a call on 1300 600 670 or visit their site at www.itsfixed.com.au.

 

 

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Backup your data online!

Posted by itsfixed on February 12, 2011

We all know that we need to backup our computers. The problem is that it’s a tedious, thankless job, and most people do not back up their data. We hate visiting our clients who have lost all their data and have no backups – it’s really difficult to help them, and hard disk forensic services can be quite expensive.

You may have read our recent article (Backup your computer) in a previous blog. While that provides really sound advice for setting up a basic backup regime, there are also newer technologies that you may find easier.

There are excellent services like Dropbox that allow you to seamlessly backup your data to an offsite location via the Internet. When you install DropBox, it nominates a particular folder on your hard drive to be your ‘My DropBox’ folder. Anything you put in that folder will automatically be synced to the Internet. Even better, if you have another computer, you can have your data synced to a folder on that computer as well!

So why would I use Dropbox?

Here are some other benefits of Dropbox:

1. You don’t have to remember to backup

Dropbox continually synchronises your hard disk with the Internet backup. You modify a file, seconds later, it’s backed up. If you have a second computer, a few seconds after that, your modified file is on your other computer. Easy!

2. You can access your data from anywhere!

Suppose you are not at home, and you really wish you had access to your documents. No problems – go to http://www.dropbox.com, login, and you can get full access to your folders. And when you go home, you’ll see that your computer will have the latest version that you modified while online.

This comes in really handy when traveling overseas, where it is next to impossible to get to your computer.

3. It works on Macs and PCs and phones

Whether you are a Mac or a PC person, Dropbox will work for you. And if you need to, you can even access your Dropbox from your internet-connected mobile phone, such as your iPhone.

4. It’s a great way to share documents

Suppose you want to share some documents with a friend. Maybe you are both working on a project together. With Dropbox, it’s as simple as right-clicking on the folder you wish to share, selecting ‘Share’, entering your friend’s email address, and voila! – your friend now has access to that same folder. You can control access to be read-only, or full access.

5. It’s free!

The best thing about Dropbox is that it’s free! The free service allows you to backup 2.5Gb of data. If you need more, they have paid plans ranging from $100-$200 a year, and will allow you to backup up to 100Gb of data.

So how do I use it?

Here’s a really excellent guide to using Dropbox.

I’m confused – help!

Not a problem. The friendly techs at itsfixed have helped many customers with their backups. Why not give them a call on 1300 600 670, or visit their website at http://www.itsfixed.com.au and ask for help!

 

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How to backup your computer

Posted by itsfixed on November 6, 2010

One of the common problems we see is that our customers don’t back up data. When was the last time you did a backup? Maybe it was the time that your sister was on the phone in tears because she’d lost all of her data? Uh-huh. Thought so.

Relax, you are in the silent majority of people who never back up their computers. We all think that we should. Even us tech-geeks think that. But we forget to do it, or we do it infrequently, or we always mean to get around to it, but never end up doing it.

The good news is that it’s actually quite simple to setup regular backups of your computer. Here’s how:

1. Get an external hard drive

You need to backup your data somewhere – one option is an external hard drive. There are also online backup services like Windows Skydrive, or Dropbox, however we’ll leave that for another article.

If you are going to purchase an external hard drive, the key is to buy one that has the fastest possible interface to your computer. At a minimum, it should support USB 2.0. However, if your system supports eSATA or USB 3.0, then get a hard drive that supports those interfaces. The faster your interface, the faster your backup process.

2. Setup your backups

You’ve got a few options here.

  • If you are using Windows 7, you should use its Backup application. Microsoft have a great page that describes how to do this.
  • If you are using a Mac, you can use Time Machine. Apple have great instructions here.
  • Syncback is  a great application that we personally use. 2BrightSparks have instructions here.

3. Keep your backup offsite!

Consider keeping your external hard disk somewhere else. After all, if a thief were to break into your house, they are likely to steal your external hard drive as well. Or if your house were to unfortunately burn down, you would lose both your data and the backup. A convenient place might be your office, or a friend or family member’s place.

4. Consider a two-tiered backup strategy

You may want to also consider having a second hard drive that you keep with your computer, and have it backed up automatically, all the time. And you can backup your ‘offsite’ hard drive once a month. That way, you know you’ve always got your latest data backed up, plus in the event of the unthinkable, you still have your data backed up offsite.

5. Need help?

Need help backing up your computer? Instructions above too complex? The good folk at itsfixed know how to back up your computer. Give them a call or visit their website and they will be able to help you back up.

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Top tips to speed up your computer

Posted by itsfixed on October 9, 2010

Remember when your computer was all shiny and new and everything just worked? Back then, there was no task too difficult, no application that was too onerous, and you never ever saw the hourglass icon.

And then time passed, and your once-compliant computer has started to show its age. You click on the Start button and it takes 5 seconds to even display the Start menu. You can go make yourself a cup of coffee while your computer boots up, where once upon a time it booted up in seconds. Every time you try to do something, you are faced with the dreaded hourglass, and you can hear your poor computer whirring and clicking away as it tries to do your bidding.

At times like this – it can be tempting to throw the whole thing out of the window and go grab yourself a new computer. But before you do – there may be a few things you can try for free before you go and spend your hard-earned cash on a new computer.

The key thing to remember is that over time, your Windows PC will start to accumulate junk. Like that house you moved into 10 years ago, your PC’s attic has now got junk in it, there are unidentified boxes in the garage that you no longer even remember, and its walls are covered with grime and dirt from years of neglect.

So here’s some top tips to help you speed up your computer.

Reclaim your disk space

Imagine if your house had boxes strewn all over it. You wouldn’t be able to get from your bedroom to the kitchen without stumbling over boxes, tripping over things, and getting distracted by the mess. That’s what it’s like for your computer when you allow data to accumulate over time. Cleaning up some disk space can do wonders for your computer.

Windows comes with a very handy Disk space cleanup tool. You can use this to:

  • Remove temporary Internet files.
  • Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
  • Empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Remove Windows temporary files.
  • Remove optional Windows components that you don’t use.
  • Remove installed programs that you no longer use.

There are plenty of great sites out there that will show you how to use this.

  • Microsoft has a guide here.
  • The Elder Geek website has some tips here.

Beyond that, you should also consider uninstalling any applications that you don’t use. These are taking up your valuable disk space! Microsoft have a great guide here.

Finally – empty that Recycle bin! When you delete files, they still stick around, in case you need them. To free up the space, right click the ‘Recycle bin’ icon on your desktop, and select ‘Empty Recycle Bin’.

Don’t run programs that you don’t need to run

Have you ever been trying to do something, only to get interrupted by something else? And then while you’re doing that, something else interrupts you? Before you know it, you’re juggling 10 different things, and it’s getting hard to be good at any of them?

Running too many applications at the same time has the same impact on your computer. Your computer has a limited amount of memory, called RAM (Random Access Memory). That’s a bit like your short-term memory. It tries to use that memory to keep information about all the different applications you are running. So if you’re running Word, Excel, Outlook, several windows of Internet Explorer, that game of Solitaire, listening to MP3s and watching Youtube all at the same time, that may be just a bit too much for your computer. Try closing off everything that you absolutely aren’t doing right now, and you will find performance will improve.

Beyond that, you should also be aware of utilities that are running in the background that you may not even be aware of. Look at your System Tray (the bottom right of your screen). See all those icons? These represent applications that are also running in the background. For example, you may be running Skype, MSN Messenger, your virus scanner, etc. Right click on all those that you know you don’t need to run, and select ‘Exit’ or ‘Close’ from the menu that pops up. If you know how, try to change the program options so that the program does not automatically startup when you boot into Windows.

Beyond that, Microsoft provides a tool called MSCONFIG that you can use to control what applications are allowed to start when you startup Windows. If you are feeling brave, you can try using that – there’s a great guide at Online Tech Tips here.

Keep your system clean

Remember when your kids had a party at your place, and brought all their friends over? After they left, the place looked like a disaster. There were all kinds of messes created that you did not even have anything to do with. Now, that’s exactly what happens when your PC gets infected by Malware like viruses or spyware. Over time, your computer has several uninvited guests that leave all kinds of messes – some are even malicious while others slow you down. You need to ensure that you’ve got your system protected, by making sure you have antivirus software running and kept up to date.

itsfixed has a great two-part guide on how to deal with malware:

  • Part 1 describes the various types of malware out there, and how to deal with it
  • Part 2 tells you how to keep your system clean.

Shut it down every night

Every time you reboot your computer, you start from a fresh slate. All those balls that were being juggled are put away neatly ,and when you reboot, there are none in play. Shut your computer down every night (as opposed to putting it to sleep, or hibernating) and you will find that your computer will respond better.

Get professional help!

The tips on this page are for the average non-expert computer user. If you’ve tried all the tips above, and you’re still not experiencing any improvements, you may want to consider getting professional help. There are many other techniques available to a professional, and in most cases, they will be able to make your computer get back to its original state of glory. And you will definitely spend less money than purchasing a new system, plus you don’t have to worry about migrating all your data to a new computer.

Computer running slow? Are you spending more time waiting than working? itsfixed has friendly technicians that will get rid of your frustration. f you are in Sydney,Brisbane or Melbourne, we would love to help you. Call us on 1300 600 670 or check out our ‘Speed it up’ page.

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The idiot’s guide to Viruses, Malware, Trojans and other nasty stuff (Part 2)

Posted by itsfixed on October 2, 2010

Last week we defined the various types of malware that are out there waiting to get you when you least expect it. “So that’s great, I now know all about malware”, I hear you say.. “but what the heck do I do about it if I’m infected?”.

Never fear, help is here. Removing viruses or cleaning malware from your computer is never an easy task, but there are some standard steps that you can take before you need to get in professional help. Please note that the steps described below are what we feel the average computer owner can do. Advanced techs have far more tools at their disposal.

Also please note that the advice here is simply that: advice. There is a chance that you could make things worse. If you are not sure – get someone who knows what they are doing to help you out!

Step 1: CCleaner.

CCleaner is a great tool that will clean out your PC. Download this (by clicking here) and install. Run it with the default options. If it finds anything that it recommends cleaning out, do so. Repeat this for each account that you have on your PC (ie: log out, log in as each other account, and re-run CCleaner).

Step 2: Malwarebytes

MalwareBytes is another free tool that will scan your PC for known malware and clean it out. Download this (click here) and install, and then run with default options. Once again, just like with CCleaner, clean out whatever Malwarebytes recommends.

Step 3: Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft have a tool that checks for malware. Download it here and run it.

Step 4: Update your system

Go to Windows Update and make sure that your system is running with the latest of all patches.

Did it work?

Hopefully your system is now free of malware. But it’s quite possible that this was not the case. There are more advanced guides out there online, but please be aware that a lot of them require you to have good technical know-how in order to follow those guides. If you aren’t sure what you are doing – you could make things much much worse. If you’re not sure – you would probably be better off calling someone for help.

Having difficulties with computer viruses? Need to remove malware? Seeing pop-ups everywhere? If you are in Sydney,Brisbane or Melbourne, we would love to help you. Call us on 1300 600 670 or check out our malware help page Virus and Spyware Removal

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The idiot’s guide to Viruses, Malware, Trojans and other nasty stuff (Part 1)

Posted by itsfixed on September 26, 2010

If you’ve used a computer for more than a few months, you’ve probably picked up the fact that there are lots of nasty things out there that have it in for your computer, and more importantly for you. This article will tell you about the various dangers out there, and more importantly, how to protect yourself from them. Computer repairs of a malware infected machine can be quite daunting, and you want to avoid having to remove a virus as much as possible.

I’m confused – what do all these terms mean?

The term malware refers to malicious software that is designed to secretly access your computer without your consent. Once this software has access to your computer, it can do a variety of things. Once you are infected, computer repairs can be very difficult. You can remove a virus if you are persistent and willing to do some hard work – but it is easier to avoid it in the first place.

Malware comes in many flavours:

  • Viruses - These are programs that when run, have the ability to self-replicate by infecting other programs and files on your computer. These programs can have many effects ranging from wiping your hard drive, displaying a joke in a small box, or doing nothing at all except to replicate itself. These types of infections tend to be localized to your computer and not have the ability to spread to another computer on their own. The word virus has incorrectly become a general term that encompasses trojans, worms, and viruses.
  • Spyware – These are programs that monitor your activity or information on your computer and send that information to a remote computer without your knowledge. This could include information about your surfing habits, or even your bank account details!
  • Worm – A program that when run, has the ability to spread to other computers on its own using either mass-mailing techniques to email addresses found on your computer or by using the Internet to infect a remote computer using known security holes.
  • Trojan – A program that has been designed to appear innocent but has been intentionally designed to cause some malicious activity or to provide a backdoor to your system.
  • Hijackers – A program that attempts to hijack certain Internet functions like redirecting your start page to the hijacker’s own start page, redirecting search queries to a undesired search engine, or replace search results from popular search engines with their own information.
  • Adware – A program that generates pop-ups on your computer or displays advertisements. It is important to note that not all adware programs are necessarily considered malware. There are many legitimate programs that are given for free that display ads in their programs in order to generate revenue. As long as this information is provided up front then they are generally not considered malware.

So how do I protect myself from malware?

Prevention is always better than the cure. You don’t really want to try doing computer repairs for malware. So it’s a good idea to make sure that you are informed about the best ways to keep yourself safe from malware.

Here are a few simple rules.

1. Educate yourself about what you should and should not view on the internet.

The majority of people who were infected with malware were infected due to a lack of knowledge and clicking on things they should not. Here’s some things you should never do:

  • Never open attachments from someone that you do not know. Especially from spam emails
  • Never open attachments that end with the extension .exe, .com, .bat or .pif.
  • If you visit a site and a popup appears saying that your computer is unsafe, ignore it! These are gimicks that are used to make you click on the ad which then can potentially install unwanted malware.
  • When a you go to a site and a popup occurs, many times they will make them look like a normal Windows message box in order to trick you into clicking on them. Instead just close them by clicking on the X.
  • Do not visit porn sites, warez sites, or crack sites. These are almost always a surefire way to get yourself infected
  • If you use P2P software, make sure you are careful about what you open. Malware is all over the P2P networks.
  • Read the license agreement for any software that you install. Many free downloads are offered with spyware and other programs that you DO NOT want on your computer. Reading the agreement may help you to spot them.

2. Use Antivirus software

It is very important that you have antivirus software running on your machine. This software will monitor all files that you try and access, including programs, attachments in emails and will alert you if they are suspicious. Don’t forget to update the software frequently. Most have an automatic update feature, by which they will periodically check the Internet for updates and update themselves.

There are plenty of excellent solutions out there, including free ones like Avira, AVG, Avast and commercial paid ones like McAfee and Norton.

3. Run an Antispyware program

Just as you installed and use an antivirus program, it is essential these days to use a Spyware protection and removal program. These programs can be used to scan your computer for spyware, dialers, browser hijackers, and other programs that are malicious in nature. If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, Windows Defender comes pre-installed – just make sure that you are running it. Else you can download it from Microsoft’s site here.

4. Keep your operating system up to date

Your operating system provider (Microsoft, Apple, etc) will periodically issue patches that you should deploy on your computer. These will contain the latest protection in the operating system. Windows users can go to Windows Update, while Mac users can go to the Apple Security Site

5. Make sure that you are running a firewall

If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7 or Windows XP Service Pack 2 or beyond, your firewall is enabled by default. If not, make sure that you enable this. There’s a great tutorial on how to manage firewalls on BleepingComputer’s website.

Oh no, I’ve been infected. What do I do now?

Stay tuned for the next part in this article.

Having difficulties with computer viruses? Need to remove malware? Seeing pop-ups everywhere? If you are in Sydney,Brisbane or Melbourne, we would love to help you. Call us on 1300 600 670 or check out our malware help page Virus and Spyware Removal

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