Buying a new computer?

Choosing the right Gigs, Rams and Specs (Nov, 2018)

Are you ready for a new computer?  Here’s my latest recommendation on what to look for.  Find what you like the feel of and then shop for the best price!  Below are some more recommendations.

First, consider what you’ll use the computer for and make sure those functions work well.  For a laptop, considerations should be made about weight, size and quality of screen, battery life, feel of keyboard, and overall feeling of durability.  We never expect to drop our laptop, but we typically do so over the course of its use.  We also spill milk and soda and coffee!  Who knew that not all motherboards have a plastic covering to protect it from spills??!

Apple vs. PC?  This is personal preference.  I am an Apple fan.  I own a Mac and iPhone.  I also own 3 PCs.  But Macs are about $500-$600 more in cost ($1200+). Unless you have a specific reason you are wanting a Mac (which I could give you several), the best bang-for-your-buck (short and long term) is a quality PC!

The stereotype is that mac users are more “hip” and tend to be younger, where PC users are more sophisticated and older.

For Desktops or Laptops, I recommend Lenovo and Dell highly, Acer moderately, but never recommend HP.  The former are more durable and the parts are made to last longer.  You can likely find a sale at Best Buy or Office Depot for around $500 for the (minimum suggested) specs I recommend below.

When you are shopping, sales people can give you information (but are not incredibly helpful for much more) on the following specs, which I list as a minimum requirement for 2018:

So-DIMM RAM

So-DIMM RAM: Removable and upgradable memory (for speed).  Not to be confused with the CPU, which is fixed and not easily upgradable.

RAM (memory) of at least 8GB.  You’d be smart to have 12GB of RAM but 8GB is sufficient.  Be careful about paying to have them upgrade a machine.  They usually charge double what memory costs.

CPU with Intel i5 processor or faster.  i7 and i9 are faster if you need to do more multi- or heavy tasks.  The i3 series is okay, but it’s probably not worth the savings in downgrading to.  The CPU (or central processing unit) is the part of the computer that you are investing in.  The CPU isn’t upgradable, so you get what you get.  A note about AMD: These processors are usually better suited for gamers, except the latest release of the Ryzen series.

Solid State Hard Drive (SSD).  These are hard drives much like what’s in your smartphone, with no moving parts, which stores your data.  SSD’s will last longer and are a lot faster.  This comes with a cost.  Compared to traditional hard drives (HDDs), they have less space for the money.  In comparison, a new 128GB (gigabyte) SSD (Solid State hard drive) compared to traditional HDD (Hard Drive) could be $100 more and it would have 1/4 of the storage space.  As long as you don’t expect to store lots of video or pictures, a smaller SSD of 256GB would be fine for normal operations.

If you have questions on any of this or want to add your two cents, let me know!  E-mail me at mark@mycomputersolutionz.com

Securing Your Website With a Free SSL

Are they really worth the hassle?

Greetings from the Help Desk!

You have a website but still haven’t purchased an SSL? That’s the thing that makes your website start with “https“ and encrypts your guests’ data.

No one wants to spend more money on their website, yet still wanting more visitors. So here’s some helpful information about FREE SSL’s for you. Or is it?

As you probably know, there has been a change in how websites are displayed. Anyone without an encrypted https and padlock in their web address gets flagged by most browsers as either “insecure” or with an exclamation mark. Not good for business! Also not good for Google ranking either!

Enter: the FREE SSL.  Is it really worth the hassle?

Free certificates actually aren’t new. Plenty of companies have been offering them for a while. It’s just now that these seem more attractive since the online world is moving to a more secure environment. They are, interestingly, just as safe as paid ones. So why would you pay for one every year when you can get a free one, you ask? Good question! There are a couple of good reasons. 

Paid Certificates:

  • Offer a warranty, or protection, in case data is captured and unencrypted by a middle man during transfer. Some protect your site up to $1.5 Million, such as Symantec’s Netsure Protection Plan. If you’re selling a lot of items or passing a lot of sensitive information through the internet, then this may be important.
  • Offer help to install and troubleshoot issues. With free certificates, you’re pretty much on your own if you “trip over the cord and accidentally unplug the Christmas Tree” you may have to have the certificate re-keyed and your website might go off-line.
  • Another reason is so your website can have that green bar (trust issue) with your company name, like you see in many big reputable companies. Check out Twitter.com as an example.
  • The biggest upside to a paid SSL, however, is the length the key will work for until it needs to be renewed. Most paid certificates offer 1 – 2 year options. But with a free certificate, you’ll only likely get 3 months at a time. After that time, the certificate will become invalid. When this happens, your site will basically shut down. There’s a big page that pops up saying that it’s dangerous to enter your site and warns users before proceeding! Really, it looks bad. So then you have to call your certificate issuer and ask it to be renewed. This process can involve several steps for the issuer that may take up to a few days to get taken care of.

If you can afford your site going offline for a couple of days and you’re willing to call the issuer, then this option might be a good one for you.

Having said that, however, I called my host provider (Blue Host) last week and they told me I would NOT need to call every 3 months to have a free certificate renewed. So, perhaps there’s more hope for using this FREE option in the long haul.

It seems like this type of technology should be automatic these days. But in the meantime, I’ll save the time figuring it out and purchase mine.
See more about free certificates at https://ssl.comodo.com/free-ssl-certificate.php
I get no compensation from Comodo, Blue Host and Twitter by mentioning them here. The Comodo, Blue Host, and Twitter names are copy-written and owned by their respective companies.

Latest Spam Tactics

What the bad guys are doing with your leaked information

This particular e-mail I received invoked anger.

What I got looked like other spam messages, but this one was a little different.  It started with the normal junk about my e-mail address being hacked, blah, blah.  It looked like a mass e-mail.  They alleged that they sent the message FROM my e-mail account (which I noticed they didn’t). But then they revealed one of my personal passwords!  Wait, WHAT!?

They said they know the password to log into my e-mail account and then provided “proof” that they actually did.  I was not happy.  How could this be?  How do they know my password?

So after a little digging, here’s what is happening.

This might be the latest tactic to scare people, similar to other scare-ware pop-ups.  The whole point is to get us scared, and then motivated to taking action.  Usually to the detriment of our bank account (ie. they hope we pay them money).

When they reveal your password, they have likely gotten it from a hacked company that you do business with.  Almost every few months we hear about the latest security breach.  Last month, for instance, Facebook announced they’ve been hit again.  They originally said 50 million users were affected, but last week admitted to “only” 30 million users.  They said last week that we don’t need to change our passwords.  Phew.

What companies have been hacked that you do business with?

So there’s a website that keeps track of hacked accounts.  You can search by your e-mail address and see if you are one of those affected.

In my case, Bitly, a company that provides our shortened web address (type mcs.bz in your browser address bar to see what happens.) was hacked.  They stole email addresses, passwords and more.

Some clarification: Like many of you, I use the same password for multiple accounts.  The password they revealed to me wasn’t exactly the password used to check the e-mail address they claimed.  It was a lowercase “J.”  But, in any sense, the password DID MATCH EXACTLY what I had used for Bitly. Now it made sense.  So it was Bitly’s password that needed to actually be changed and not my e-mail.

This security breach happened back in 2014.  But only now are we seeing what the bad guys are doing with the information.

Check to see what companies have been hacked here: https://haveibeenpwned.com

Can I upgrade my memory (RAM)?

The 3 components when buying RAM

If you haven’t added memory yet then most likely yes, you can!  Just to be fair, we are talking about RAM (also referred to as memory), or what will speed up your computer.  All computers have a maximum amount of memory (RAM) that they can run, but usually aren’t at capacity when you purchase your machine new.

Installing RAMRAM, or Random Access Memory, works with the CPU to process your data.  It doesn’t store data long-term.  In fact, once you turn off your computer, RAM dumps it’s memory.  Your hard drive (and a small part of the CPU) stores the data when you turn it off.  The speed of your computer is determined by these 2 components: RAM and CPU.  Since upgrading the CPU can be costly, increasing the amount of RAM is the best first option if there is still room to upgrade.

See how much RAM you have by Right-Clicking on My Computer (This PC for Win 10) and clicking Properties.  It should list the total RAM (usable in parentheses).  That’s all it will tell you, though.  8GB of RAM is kinda the minimum amount needed for basic computing.  Use your computer brand’s website (Dell.com, Toshiba.com, etc.) to research your computer model and find how many slots you have and a total amount and type of RAM it can hold.

 

An alternative to finding out how much RAM you have (and can have) is to use something like Crucial’s RAM checker found here: http://www.crucial.com/usa/en/systemscanner

 

1. Determine the amount of gigabytes (GB) you have and want

Check the specs for your specific computer and buy an equally distributed number of sticks for these slots.  Most laptops have 2 slots and most new desktops have 4 slots.  It’s best to have the same amount of memory per each pair of slots.  For ex. use 2 sticks of 4GB of memory for your laptop to make it have 8GB, or use 2 sticks of 8GB in paired slots to make 16GB.  On a desktop, use 4 sticks of 2GB (or 2 sticks of 4GB) for your desktop to have 8GB.  Just keep them paired.

 

2. DIMM or SO-DIMM?

So-DIMM RAM

So-DIMM RAM (for laptops)

There are two different types of RAM, so check in the specs to be sure to get the right kind.  The most notable are the laptop sticks, known as So-Dimm (small outline dual in-line memory module) or Notebook RAM, found usually in laptops (and some desktop MACS).  These are smaller modules.  Desktop RAM, or DIMM (dual in-line memory module) RAM is longer.

 

3. Check the SD-RAM version

Computers from the 1970s to 1990s used DDR RAM.  DDR SDRAM, also called DDR1 SDRAM, has been superseded by DDR2 SDRAMDDR3 SDRAM and DDR4 SDRAM. None of its successors are forward or backward compatible with DDR1 SDRAM, meaning DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 memory modules will not work in DDR1-equipped motherboards, and vice versa.”

DIMM RAM

DIMM RAM (for desktops)

Most computers today use DDR3 (PC3) or DDR4 (PC4) RAM.  The number of pins will change with these types, as well as the speed of the RAM.  The number PC-1600 or PC-2100 is the clock speed in MHz and doesn’t matter for typical computing today.  Gamers, however, should check with their motherboard manufacturer to see which clock speed to use.

Read the details of the memory to make sure you are getting the right amount.  Below is a total of 16GB of RAM, packed in 2-8GB sticks.  It’s DDR3 laptop (So-Dimm) memory!  RAM exampleThe brand of RAM usually doesn’t matter much.  MACS, however, can sometimes be picky.  I always use Crucial brand RAM in Macs.  But again, check with your computer specs for other options.  Cheaper is usually just as good!

That’s about all there is to it.  Now get a small screw driver and open the back compartment of your laptop and swap out your memory!  Sounds a bit simplistic.  Well. if you need more help let us know by calling or opening a support ticket on our Help Desk.  Best wishes for faster processing!

This article was first seen on the Help Desk of MyComputerSolutionz.com. All Rights Reserved.

 


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Why Is My Computer Running Slow?

We’ve all experienced it.  It wastes our time. Frustrates. Causes anxiety and then temps us to go buy a new one: A slow or freezing computer!

Of course computers never run as fast as when you first bought it, and you understand this.  So you load your new toy with massive programs, new browsers, music, videos, pictures and then, if you’ve not cluttered things up enough, browse the internet and pickup malware, viruses and other un-needed programs!! Great!

 

Here are 8 reasons why your computer might be as  slow as a brick:

1. Programs Utilizing Memory (including programs in the background)

Running programs use memory.  The more robust of a program, the more memory.  This is normal.  But you can’t run every program.  So you may have to decide to either shut down a program or two to free up some memory.

Background programs, however, are usually the programs taking up much-needed memory.  These are programs that are loaded when Windows boots, ready to be used at moments-notice.  But you really don’t need them all readily available.  See all running programs from your Task Manager (click Control-Alt and then Delete to run it).  You’ll see quickly what is using memory.

Task Manager View Windows 10

Task Manager View for Windows 10

Task Manager View Windows 7

Task Manager View for Windows 7

I’d like some help with my computer…

To keep programs from loading automatically (I’m pointing at you Skype), you can either remove them from the “Startup” folder on your computer, or go into your computer configurations (MSCONFIG) and disable it.

To change items in the start-up folder:

Mac: Applications / Systems Preferences / User Groups / Login Items, then uncheck unneeded programs. Delete desktop icons you don’t use by trashing them or, in the case of files you’ve saved to your desktop for convenience, reorganizing to the appropriate folder.

Windows 8 and 10: Windows key + X / Task Manager / Startup tab, then right-click on the programs you want to remove and select Disable.

Windows 7 and older: Start button, then search for System Configuration. Go to Startup tab, then uncheck each of the programs if you don’t want starting when the system boots up.

To use MSCONFIG on a PC, type “msconfig” (without parentheses) in your Win 7, 8 or 10 search bar.  Right-click on the program and choose “Run as Administrator.”  Select “Yes” to allow the program to make changes to your system.  Then click the “Start-up” tab.  You can deselect any programs checked that you want to stop from auto-loading.  Be careful to only uncheck ones that you recognize.  Click “Ok” and then allow the computer to reboot if needed.

When you run out of memory using only one or two programs, it may be time to add memory (RAM) to your computer (but not so fast!).  This is an easy process, but becomes expensive on laptops and newer systems.  You can easily spend $100 on memory, so make sure you don’t have another issue going described below.  To see how much memory you have, type “My Computer” in the search bar and Right-click on the folder (My PC for Win 10).  Choose Properties.  This will display how much RAM you have installed.  It’s recommended to have a minimum of 8GB using today’s technology.

 

2. An Overactive Virus Scanner

Virus under microscopeSome virus scanners take up a lot of memory.  If you have one, you’ll know it because if you pause a scan, everything speeds up.  You’ll also see in the Task Manager how much memory it’s using when running.  It might be time to consider another (lighter-weight) virus scan program.

 

3. A Full Hard Drive

It’s recommended by many in the computer world that you keep 10% of your hard drive free.  Some people claim this number to be as much as  25%, but I’d shoot for 10% or more.  Type “My Computer” in the search bar and click on the folder (My PC for Win 10).  Look for the C: Drive and it will show how much space is being used, as well as the amount of free space.

 

4. Malware or Virus

Yup, these use up memory.  Some even are created to lock your computer up.  Usually we see PCs that have several instances of malware that are slowing things down.  The best thing to do is run your virus scan and then another malware scanner, such as Malwarebytes or AdwCleaner.  This usually is all that’s needed.  For more specific viruses (or Trojans), there are Trojan removal tools.  Search Google for the issue you are having and you may find lots of discussion about it.  Be sure to only download a removal tool from a known source, otherwise you may just be downloading yet another virus!

 

5. Rogue Programs

These are the ones that get downloaded without you knowing with a “free” program you have downloaded.  Free games are notorious for including other programs without your clear knowledge.  You can delete these by heading over to “Installing/Uninstalling Programs.”  From there, click the top of the column under Date Installed.  Then look for the date that you noticed the slow-down and remove programs that either have no author or installed the same day a game was installed.  Be careful in this window, though, since some strangely-named programs are running by Microsoft to run Windows.

 

6. Failing Hard Drive

Sometime reported as what sounds like pebbles in your hard drive!  A noisy drive is a failing drive.  Back things up quickly and don’t keep your computer on unless you need to, until you’ve replaced it.  Drives range from $50 to $300 or more, depending on the capacity and whether it’s a rotating or newer Solid State drive (similar to Flash Memory, like your smartphone uses).

 

7. Bad Memory Module (RAM)

This is fairly uncommon, since a bad module usually won’t let you start your computer to begin with.  There is built-in and third-party software to check your memory.  Search for “memory test” for this option.

 

8. Failing Processor (CPU)

The worst case scenario is a failing processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit).  This is connected to the motherboard to run your machine.  There are very few ways to test for this, so stick to the above suggestions.  As last resort, you can put in a used (or new) CPU into your machine and see if it improves the speed.  Unfortunately, the price of a new processor may be closer to the price of getting a new machine.

 

Bonus

Special Web Browser Note: If you are having issues with just your web browser, you may have too many extensions installed.  All your other programs work fine—but when you open up your Google Chrome or Firefox, things slow to a crawl.  This isolated issue usually has to do with too many add-ons or plug-ins running in your browser.  But it also can also mean you have malware or a virus.  Try disabling all of your add-ons and restart your browser.

Get help with a slow computer…