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  • Tips for Good Computer Stewardship

    Regular, proactive maintenance will enable you to enjoy a longer, happier life with your computer and all that it has to offer you.  To get the most use out of your computer, follow these suggestions.

     

    Keep your antivirus program updated and running.  Antivirus programs will often automatically update with the newest virus definitions, keeping the regular user safe from catching a computer virus between 96%-98% of any given time.  Understand that there is a constant battle between virus writers releasing new viruses and antivirus software developers creating and giving us updates to protect against them.

     

    Because antivirus programs are, at best, nearly 100% effective, it is possible to get a virus even if your computer has an active and updated antivirus system running.  If your computer becomes jeopardized by a virus, the virus may disable your antivirus program altogether, opening the door for a flood of more new computer viruses to weasel their way into your computer.

     

    Should you suspect that your computer has been compromised by viruses or other malware, bring it to Christopher’s Computers for a check-up.

     

    Regularly back up your data.  If regularly backing up your data is not second nature to you by now, write this task into your “To Do Lists” and schedule regular intervals on your calendar until backing up your data becomes an automated habit you adopt.  The impetus for backing up your data regularly should be thinking about what would happen if you lost everything.

     

    Regularly check your back-up systems.  Checking your computer’s back-up systems means manually looking through your physical backups (such as your external hard drive, or Time Machine, DVDs and CDs that you have burned, thumb-drives, etc.) and logging into your off-site storage (such as DropBox, Carbonite, Google Drive, etc).  From there, be sure to open several documents, pictures and videos to ensure that they are viewable and viable.  Occasionally, you may discover when you are checking your back-up systems that the data you have stored has been corrupted, or is not in a file format that is recognizable or readable.  Regularly checking your data thoroughly will allow you to find out this information and remedy any problems sooner rather than later.

     

    Protect your computer’s sources of energy.

     

    For desktops: Keep your computer plugged into a battery backup.  Minimize the risk of forced or hard shut downs while your computer is on and running if the power is interrupted.  If a computer is forced to turn off by a power outage, you can lose data or software installations can become corrupt.  The computer can even get physically damaged if there is a surge in power.

     

    For laptops: Keep your battery fully charged.  Battery technology is different now than when laptop batteries first became available.  If you still believe it is best to run your laptop battery completely out before charging it back up again, think again.  Read our blog on how to prolong the life of lithium batteries for laptops, cell phones and other devices that you use every day.

     

    Be mindful of your computer’s ports, jacks and cords.

     

    Check to see if each of your ports and jacks work as they should.  Test each USB port, headphone jack, microphone jack, power jack, internet port, camera card slot, DVD player, HDMI port and anything else you may use to plug things into your computer.  If something seems awry, test the port again with a different piece of equipment.  For example, if one of your USB ports does not seem to be working with your thumb-drive, try testing that same USB port with an external USB keyboard or mouse.  This will help you deduce if it is actually the port that is not working or the device you used to test it.

     

    When placing your USB device into your computer, be gentle.  Forcing your USB device into the USB port may bend and damage your computer and/or the USB device.

     

    Check cords for fraying or breaks.  Keep cords unbent and free from being snagged or pulled.  The A/C power jack in the back of a laptop can be repaired when accidents happen, however, it’s no easy fix.  These type of computer repairs are extensive and require opening up the laptop and soldering directly on the mainboard.

     

    Update the list of programs that you use.  It is a valuable use of your time to compile a list of each of the programs that you use with any frequency.  If you are having difficulty compiling a software program list, take a day to mindfully jot down what you do with your computer.  Do you use documents or spreadsheets?  Do you alter photographs and images?  Do you play any computer games?  Keep this list accessible in a printed format.  Include any product keys and serial numbers that you will need to reinstall the program in the future.  A good tool to use is Belarc.

     

    Delete any unused programs.  Look through all of the programs that are installed on your computer’s hard drive.  If you do not know what the program is, or do not recognize it, it is best to leave it alone.  If you do recognize the program and no longer use it, uninstall it.

     

    Some programs installed on your computer very well may be unnecessary and unwanted (toolbars, desktop widgets, malware, etc).  Many new computers come with bloat-ware installed.  As you peruse all the programs installed on your computer, you may discover that you have inadvertently downloaded an unwanted program that rode piggy-back on another program you did mean to install.  Deleting programs that you do not need or desire will free up more space for things that you do want installed.

     

    Get your computer’s dust blown out. Keeping your computer free of dust and excessive heat is a key factor in prolonging the life of your computer.  Dust from everyday living will start to collect inside of your computer.  Electronics attract dust.  When dust (pet hair, smoke, etc.) begins to accumulate, it can inhibit proper air flow and reduce ventilation inside of your computer.  If your computer overheats, it will turn itself off without warning to keep from damaging any components.  The processor, or brain of the computer, is at the highest risk for over-heating.  Precautions are built in to regulate the heat inside of your computer, however, if dust is inside of your computer case, no matter how many fans you have, overheating can cause permanent damage.

     

    Owning a computer comes with a few simple responsibilities that, when followed, will prolong the life and usage of your computer and its functions.

     

    If you have any questions, please call Christopher’s Computers at 828-670-9800 or visit our computer store at 549 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC.

     

  • 9 Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

    Whether it is writing a paper for class, a document for colleagues or an article for your blog, there are a few useful keyboard shortcuts that will help save you time and frustration when you are composing on your computer.  Using computer keyboard shortcuts is also especially helpful when you do not have a working mouse, or if your computer seems to be otherwise frozen.

     

    Ctrl-S will Save your document

     

    SAVE OFTEN: This is rule number one when you are creating a document.  Whether you are composing while typing or re-typing a paper document onto the computer to digitize it, saving often while you work will keep ensure your hard work is safely kept in the memory of your computer.  This is especially useful if the power blinks out while you are working, or if your cat decides to walk across your keyboard and suddenly everything you were typing is just completely gone.

     

    Ctrl-X will Cut the highlighted section of text

     

    When you have either a single word, a phrase or paragraphs of information, you can easily cut out one section at a time using Ctrl-X.  Cutting the text will take the selected text out of your document and will keep it on your clipboard until you have copied or cut another piece of information.

     

    Ctrl-C will Copy the highlighted section of text

     

    Highlight a single word, phrase, paragraphs or pages of information and then hold down Ctrl-C to copy it onto your virtual clipboard.  “Copying” your selected text will keep the original document intact and unchanged, unlike “Cutting,” which removes the selected text from the original document.

     

    Ctrl-V will Paste the previously cut or copied section

     

    Wherever the cursor is placed within the document, the most recent “copy” will appear within the document.  Use the Paste option regularly when completing multiple repetitious documents such as address label templates.

     

    Ctrl-P will Print your document to the assigned printer

     

    Be sure that you have your printer already assigned to your computer when you use this shortcut. This shortcut will not work if you do not have your printer networked with your computer.  If you are having trouble getting your printer installed, contact us for help.

     

    Ctrl-Z will Undo your last bit of typing

     

    “Undo” is an especially helpful feature if you’ve highlighted and then deleted a large selection of text by accident.  Often, clicking Ctrl-Z with the Alt tab will allow you to go back and undo more than one step.

     

    Ctrl-Y will Repeat your previously bit of typing

     

    “Repeat” will re-do your undo.  The program will re-type whatever was last input as many times as you re-click “Y” while you are holding down the Control key.

    Alt-Tab will Minimize the document

     

    Utilizing a shortcut to minimize your document makes it easier to navigate through multiple windows and multiple documents that you may be using for a project.

    Alt-F4 will Close the program

     

    If your computer freezes up, the mouse will not work and there is no other way to close your program, hold down the Alt key and press the F4 key in the upper row of the keyboard.  This shortcut will not save any recent work that you’ve been doing prior to closing, so be sure you click Ctrl-S prior to Alt-F4!

     

    Practice using these shortcuts for greater efficiency when creating documents on your computer.   In time, these keyboard shortcuts will become a familiar habit and then you will be ready to learn even more:

     

    Ctrl-B = toggle for Bold

     

    Ctrl-I = toggle for Italics

     

    Ctrl-U = toggle for Underline

     

  • 5 Bad Computer Habits To Break

    We’ve all come to recognize our computers as being valuable tools for business and pleasure.  Keeping your computer working well for you requires some awareness and responsibility.  Here are 5 bad habits that many computer users should be aware of and break.

    Not Backing Up Your Data Regularly

     

    This is just tempting fate.  Eventually, all computers will fail for some reason or another.  Whether it is a maintenance issue, longevity or your computer burns up in a fire, computers will not last forever.  However, anything you create on your computer can and should be saved.

     

    Your data includes: pictures, videos, emails, documents, lists, spreadsheets, bookmarks, favorites, etc.

     

    Though programs cannot be saved, they can be easily reinstalled if you have:

     

        The name of the program to re-download or the disk to re-install

        The software installation key

     

    Use Belarc Advisor to help you automatically backup your software installation keys.

     

    Common programs include:

     

        Operating Systems

        Antivirus and other Malware Protection software

        Microsoft Word, MS Office or other word processing program

        Individual programs you may use such as Accounting Programs, Graphic/Picture Editing software, etc.

        Games

        Upgrades and patches to software

     

    If your data is valuable to you- family pictures, business reports, etc. – keep them close to you and backed up in 2 locations: locally on an external device or disk, and off-site (such as in cloud storage such as Dropbox or with an online service such as Carbonite).

    Unorganized Files

     

    Keeping your data organized will help prevent you from being frustrated and inefficient with your time.  The importance of knowing where your data is comes in handy when you need to find it as a reference or to share with someone else.  By default, pictures will be saved in your computer’s “Picture” folder and documents will be saved in your computer’s “Documents” folder.

     

    If you would like to have more specialized places to keep your data, be sure to create new folders and sub-folders and name each of them appropriately.  A good idea to start is to keep one or a couple of Main Folders on your desktop for easy access.  Within the main folders, you can then create sub-folders to further organize your data.

     

    Here are some examples of creating a hierarchy of Folders and Sub-folders for you to more easily navigate your data:

     

    On your desktop:

     

        HOUSEHOLD

        BUSINESS

        PERSONAL

     

    Within each of these main folders, you may want to create sub-folders such as:

     

        Household –> pictures, videos, music, recipes, gardening tips, etc.

        Business –> records, invoices, emails, to-do lists, spreadsheets, etc.

        Personal –> pictures, bank and account information, journal/blog, etc.

     

    To further organize your information, you can continue to create sub-folders within folders ad infinitum.  This is especially handy for organizing pictures, archiving records and categorizing music.

     

    Organizing your data also helps you know where your important information is for when you regularly back it up.

    Un-Managed and Under-Rated Passwords

     

    Passwords are the keys to your private information on the computer.  If you leave your keys laying around or make simply-crafted keys that are easy to replicate, you are baiting fate.   Compromising your password security will cost you undue frustration, time and sometimes even money.

    Tips for managing passwords:

     

        Have different passwords for different sites you use

        Keep a hand-written book of your passwords  and websites associated with them in your home

        Choose difficult combinations of letters, numbers, symbols and cases

        Change your passwords every 3-6 months and write down the new passwords in your book

        For more computer password tips, read our article, “Most Popular Passwords for 2012: Don’t Use These!”

     

    Ignoring Error Messages, Dialogue Boxes And Postponing Updates

     

    It is important to read the information in dialogue boxes before clicking OK, Cancel, Run, Save, Continue or any other options.  Sometimes this results in installing or enabling unwanted programs and add-ons such as malware, ad-ware, toolbars and other junk.

     

    If your computer is giving you an error message that you do not understand, either copy and paste it and put the phrase into a Google Search, or write it down and call Christopher’s Computers at 828-670-9800.  We will help you figure out what is going on with your computer.

     

    When your computer asks you to update a program, be sure that you know these things before agreeing:

     

        Do I recognize and use this program?

        Are there any other programs or applications that are attaching itself to this update that I do not want?

     

    Wonder what to update?  Read our article on “Where Did That Program Come From” for more information on the top 3 programs that you should keep updated regularly.

    Misuse of Computer’s Purpose

     

    Your computer is a very delicate, complex and incredible tool.  We often take for granted the value that our computers give us until something goes wrong.  Here are some reminders that sometimes we forget:

     

        Do not use your laptop as a food tray.

        Keep your pets and sticky fingers away from bumping and touching your computer.

        Do not have liquids near your computer.

     

    Respect your computer’s fragility.  Do not stack things on top of your laptop.  Make sure to free paper clips, pens and other things before you close the lid to your laptop.  Ensure your computer has enough ventilation.  Keep desktops from being sandwiched too close to walls, furniture and tightly enclosed areas; laptops to be used on a hard surface away from bunched up clothes and blankets.  Keep your computer’s area free of dust and pet hair.

    Noticing bad habits are the first step in breaking them.

     

    If you catch yourself in one of these bad habits, use the opportunity as a tool to help you break it.  By being aware and being pro-active, you can protect your computer and save yourself much frustration, time and energy in the future.

     

  • How to Prolong the Life of Your Laptop

    3 Tips to Let Your Laptop Live Longerlaptop life

     

    Purchasing a laptop is an investment of your time and your money.  In order to protect your investment, consider these tips:

    Unless you have a solid state hard drive, do not carry your laptop around while it is on.

     

    Your computer is made up of several moving parts, carefully constructed to work in a stationary position.  If you pick your laptop up, turn it upside down, sideways, or carry it with you while these parts are moving (that is, when your laptop is “On”), you risk unbalancing the disk movement in your hard drive.  If your computer’s hard drive falters, or crashes, recovering data may be tricky.  Be sure you Back Up Your Data Regularly.

    Turn off your computer properly.

     

    One sure way to reduce the life of your laptop is to irresponsibly power it down.  This is often an accidental mistake by laptop users.  After clicking “Shut Down” on your laptop, wait a minute to let your laptop fully power down before picking it up, putting it into your bag and moving it around.  When the screen goes dark and the power light is dimmed, you can shut the laptop’s lid and put away the laptop.  There are risks of damaging your hard drive when moving your computer around while it is still running.

    Be aware of your computer’s changes.

     

    Take your computer into the shop if you hear a buzzing or grinding sound, or if your laptop starts to smell bad or like something is burning when it’s on.  These signs are indicative of something starting to go wrong in your laptop.  Be sure you have your data backed up.

    Take your laptop into the shop if it starts to turn itself off or becomes very hot while it is running.  Your laptop will turn itself off to protect itself from allowing the CPU to overheat and malfunction.  This is often due to air-flow constriction within the case of your computer by either a fan being clogged by dust and debris or another component not working properly.

  • How to Prolong the Battery in Your Laptop

    Battery technology has come a long way recently.  We’re all familiar with the standard “Coppertop” nickel-cadmium (NiCad) battery that can be purchased at any gas station or grocery store.  We use these batteries for remote controls, wireless mice and other household uses.  These types of batteries were developed more than 100 years ago.  Though these batteries can be recharged, the rate of charge decreases over time because of something called “memory effect.”

     

    “Memory effect” in batteries is seen when you go to recharge your battery.  If your battery is only partially discharged when you are recharging, the battery “remembers” only a part of its capacity.  This phenomenon affected our decision whether or not to run the battery out of our laptop before plugging it in to be able to recharge it fully, and to prolong the memory capacity for recharging.

     

    The introduction of lithium ion batteries has gotten rid of the “memory loss” problem that our previous generations of batteries were limited by.  Lithium ion batteries are now used in many of our portable consumer devices (such as laptops, tablets and smart phones).  This means that instead of waiting for your laptop to run completely out of battery power before going to plug it back into the wall, you should instead keep your laptop plugged in while it is on and only unplug your laptop when you need it to be portable.

     

    Lithium ion batteries are also better at keeping their charge when not plugged in, do not require the maintenance that NiCad batteries do, are much lighter in weight and have one of the best energy densities of any battery technology.  And best of all, lithium ion batteries are friendlier to the environment because they have no heavy metals.

     

    Have questions? Feel free to contact the experts at Christopher’s Computers. Not only can we service a dead battery but we are the leading Asheville Computer shop for general PC sales and services.

  • Check Your Backups

    When Do Most People Back Up Their Computers?:

     

    Your data is irreplaceable.  You’ve spent time collecting and sorting your information: pictures, work documents, music and videos.  Remember to check your data backup systems on a regular basis.

     

    If you are a business, daily backups should occur.  For less active computer users, weekly or monthly backups should be double-checked.

     

    It’s a smart idea to have 2 backup systems in place.  We suggest having one physical backup of your data, such as burning to disk, or copying your data on a separate hard drive.  You can also have cloud storage for your data.  Services are available from companies such as Carbonite or Mozy.  We also like to use a free service called “DropBox” to share and store information in the cloud.

     

    Call Christopher’s Computers if you have any questions about how to check your backup systems.

     

  • Love Your Computer

    If you are like most of us, you use your computer every day.  More often than not, your normal   routine consists of checking your email, researching information, and connecting with others.  You use your computer to work and to   play.“More than 8 in 10 Americans under age 60 currently use a   computer at home or work (81%)” (Source: www.npr.org/programs/specials/poll/technology/)Most people do not consider how valuable their computer is to them until something goes wrong with it.  Christopher’s Computers urges you to regularly maintain your computer throughout the year.  Pro-active care for your desktop and laptop will lengthen the life and reliability of   your computer.  We suggest that you remember to have us:

     

        check that your data is backed up

        blow out the dust from inside of your case

        update your critical software

        make certain that you are protected on the internet

     

    When your computer goes down, Christopher’s Computers helps   solve complicated computer problems with swift and professional repair   options.  We take time to relay to you what is going on with your   computer while it is in our shop.  Offering the most   valuable and viable computer solutions that we would use ourselves, our   ethical standards are extremely high.  We know that your computer is of vital importance to   you, and we have a 48 hour turn-around guarantee for repairs*.

     

    *Special order parts may take longer

     

  • Where did THAT program come from?

    We have worked on many computers and had their owners tell us that they have no idea where certain software installed on their system came from.

     

    Our advice when installing anything on your computer is this:

     

    Read first.

    Think about what you are reading.

    Then click.

     

    Essentially, what we are advising users is that most of the issues that they have are self-inflicted.

    Most software issues (Viruses/Malware and unexpected software) on their system was unknowingly installed by the user.  To give the end user some credit, it isn’t really their fault.  Unfortunately, some of the software and software updates that get installed on users’ systems, attempt to package other software with them.

     

    Below you will find three examples of commonly installed software and their installation screens.  Shown in these screen shots are the additional software that would be installed automatically if you just flew through the installation without really reading and without DE-selecting that you wanted this additional software.  Do you have McAfee Security Scan software on your computer?  Want to know how it got there?  If you updated your Adobe Flash Player software and didn’t pay attention, then YOU installed McAfee Security Scan.

     

     

     

     

     

     Have you installed or updated Adobe Shockwave Player?  If you didn’t pay attention, then YOU installed Norton Internet Security.

     

     

     

     

    Installed or updated Java lately?  If you didn't pay attention, then YOU may have also installed the Ask Toolbar.  In addition to the software installers listed in this article, I have seen others attempt to additional software as well.

     

     

     

    You will also find many of these ‘additional’ programs get installed when you install “Free” software.  Free games and utilities are notorious for bundling unwanted extras that will slow your computer down and cause unwanted results.

     

    If you find that you are a victim of this type of software ‘bloat’  Christopher’s Computers can help you to get your computer clean again and performing like it was new.

     

    Remember:

     

    Read carefully first.

    Think about what you are reading.

    Then click.

     

Want to get tips and tricks from computer experts?

Tips and Tricks

Be sure to check back here for more pro computer tips to be added.

Tips and tricks for getting the most out of your computer, keeping it healthy and running fast, while also protecting your important data.

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