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HOWTO: Troubleshooting Driver and Startup Issues

    In General, Windows 10 does not require that you mess around with System Drivers. Manufacturers send current driver versions to Microsoft and they are checked and sent out regularly with Windows Update. That said, there are certainly cases where drivers can be updated for some hardware, most notably Video Cards and some more esoteric hardware. In most cases troubleshooting drivers these days is as simple as uninstalling the device (using Device Manager) and rebooting to allow Windows to reinstall. The single biggest problem we see with folks who think they have a driver problem is with installing "Driver Fix It Tools", these are ALWAYS malware.

    Another common thing that causes folks to think their system has problems is Windows Update itself. Some updates can take a few hours to install on slower systems, the user gets impatient and reboots during the process, this often results in a Black Screen which is even more infuriating. Always wait for Updates to install and wait for a few hours for black screens to wake up.

  1. Task Manager (taskmgr.exe)
    1. Task Manager has similar function but different controls in the various versions of Windows, watch for this when you switch Windows versions
    2. Ctrl-Alt-Del is the fastest way to get to Task Manager, from the Start or Search menus you can run taskmgr.exe as well.
    3. You can enable or disable startup items, which requires a reboot after changes.  This is best and most easily done with msconfig.exe however.
    4. You can start or stop Services but not change their startup setting.  This allows you to test if a service is causing a problem.
    5. You can start and kill applications/tasks and processes. To start a new application/task use the file menu.
  2. System Configuration (msconfig.exe)
    1. Changing Startup mode.
      1. The "General" Tab shows the three basic startup modes
        1. Normal - load everything normally
        2. Diagnostic - load only required stuff (minimal)
        3. Selective - Same as diagnostic but a bit more selective.
      2. The "Boot" Tab
        1. Usually "Safe Boot in minimal" is what you are going after here, save the other stuff for the pro's.
        2. Remember to turn "Safe Boot" off (uncheck) after you have setup for the next boot test.
      3. The "Services" Tab
        1. You can enable or disable some or all services here.  I start out with the handy little "Hide all Microsoft services" checkbox "ON" then disable the remaining stuff which will be "third party" (not Microsoft), reboot and see what happens.
  3. Services snapin (services.msc)
    1. You can modify behavior of any service from here, be careful, remember what you do, mistakes can be fatal here.
  4. Safe Mode from the keyboard - F8 (same as "Safe Mode - Minimal" from msconfig "Boot" tab)
    1. Power on the system from cold (not from sleep mode) and be tapping F8, on most systems you will get a startup menu which will have "Safe Mode" as a choice.
    2. Some machines use F2, F10 or F11 to provide a similar menu so you may have to fuss around to find safe mode. 
  5. Device Manager
    1. You can immediately see devices which have failed to start and why they failed (usually).
    2. Disable broken devices while you fix other stuff, right click the bad one, click disable.
    3. You can usually uninstall a bad device (and it's drivers) and let windows try to reinstall it, failing that get the new drivers over at the OEM web site.
  6. Armed with this you are ready to do battle.
    1. System starts but never gets to desktop.
    2. Start up in safe mode using the Function Key method.
    3. Run msconfig.exe from start menu or Task Manager (if Start Menu is broke).
    4. Switch to "Safe Boot - Minimal" and reboot.
    5. If all goes well turn off safe boot minimal and selectively start a handful of services at a time from the msconfig "Services" tab.
    6. Trial and error is the game here.  Start with all Applications off (apps are more likely to cause trouble) and try all services, if it fails shut off all the third party (Hide Microsoft and turn off all remaining) and try again, over and over.
    7. Once you find the trouble makers, determine what they are, download new drivers, uninstall applications, etc etc until you slowly bring your system back to a Normal Startup configuration or just decide you can live without trying to fix it.
  1. Using Event Viewer
    1. Probably the best way to see whats going on is the logs and Event Viewer shows most of those. Some entries are totally cryptic and unintelligible, toss those into a Bing, Yahoo or Google search and see if you can find anything about it.
  2. Anti Virus Programs are so commonly troublesome that you may want to uninstall it as soon as you can get to normal mode, safe mode typically won't let you uninstall applications or run scans.  Windows Defender can't be uninstalled but you can turn it off in it's settings.
  3. Finally: Save yourself a lot of time, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, biting of fingernails and bring it to us.  Experience counts when looking for needles in a needle stack, and some things are simply not fixable and you just need to revert or restore.

HOWTO: Troubleshooting Internet Issues

  1. Know Your Hardware. Modems, and WIFI/Satellite CPE have indicators that provide valuable information, know what they mean and at least what they look like normally, solid, blinking, color, etc.
  2. Reboot Everything. A simple reboot often fixes "stupid computer syndrome", a monthly reboot is a basic maintenance item, do it at your convenience. Modem, WIFI CPE, Satellite CPE, Routers, Access Points, Switching,  PCs, Laptops, Tablets, Readers, Smart Phones, Smart TVs, everything connected to your network.
  3. Using "Process of Elimination" try to narrow down if one system/device is hogging the bandwidth. One system downloading updates, streaming music, streaming a movie or infected by malware can easily use your bandwidth without you knowing it. Big updates are notorious, high quality routers can track individual device usage making this easier.
  4. Scan for Malware. Malware can cause innumerable problems, the least of all, slowing down your Internet. Once you find that one system hogging up everything, scan it,  preferably with multiple scanners as no one scanner will catch everything.
  5. Test your speed using a quality, third party, speed test.  Don't rely on your ISP's speed test, being close to you it won't give you a real picture of your speed.
  6. Run a simple PING sequence to a reliable third party DNS system such as Cloudflare (1.1.1.1) or Google (8.8.8.8). If your ISP has a problem telling them PING times and dropped packet count will alert them to pay attention to you and help them with troubleshooting.

Tip Of The Day List

12/21/18
The Start Menu is Keyboard Friendly and Faster

The "Windows Key" on your keyboard brings up the Start Menu, that's it's job. Once open, use the arrow keys to move to the desired option and "Enter" to execute. Keyboard shortcuts are often faster than moving your hand to and from the mouse.

12/20/18
Check and Adjust Notification Center

Notification Center, Action Center, whatever you call it (the text bubble icon on the right end of the Taskbar), can be a great tool if you take the time to set it up the way you want. It notifies you of things from all over your system, alarms, mail, phone, messaging, some useful, some not. Go to "Notifications & Actions" to set up what you do and don't want to see. When it turns ON click it, it could be important.

12/19/18
Quick Desktop Access or Peek

High End Systems can run so many programs at the same time that it can get confusing with so many windows open. Jump to the Desktop with that little Button at the far right end of the Task Bar, right click it to set it's hover view options.

12/18/18
Multi Desktops For Power Users

High Powered Systems have a lot to offer and Windows 10 makes things much easier for Power Users. Multiple Desktops let you arrange groups of active programs to help clean up the clutter. No more full Taskbar, just open another desktop. Use Task View from the Taskbar to get going with Multi Desktops.

12/14/18
Avoid Advertisements on download pages

Downloading software comes with a common hazard, Social Engineering Advertising. Download sites sell advertising space and the advertisers will commonly place ads with "Download Now", "Start Now" and "Continue" trying to make you think this is the download you are after. Watch for this.

12/13/19
New Device? Be Sure To Wipe That Old One

Your Mobile Device or Computer has your Personal Information on it. Even if you don't think it has much be sure to wipe it after transferring your data to a new one. Give it away or throw it away but protect yourself first, It's Your Life. Yes We Can Do That.

12/11/19
More Handy Hotkeys

Windows+Arrow - Snap open app to the left or right side of the screen
Windows+Shift+Arrow - Move current app to other monitor
PrtScn - Take a simple screenshot
Alt+tab - Cycle through open apps
Alt+F4 - Close current app


12/10/18
Ooops, Reopen That Closed Tab

Ever close a tab by mistake? Me too.  Ctrl+Shift+T will re-open the last closed Tab.

12/9/18
Stay Secure When Traveling

Before you travel: Assume every network you connect to cannot be trusted (Public). Use a VPN.  Update OS and Anti Virus. Lock with a strong password. Remove private data you don't need. Install or activate remote tracking and data wipe in case it's lost or stolen. Encrypt the storage device. Turn off Bluetooth and WiFi when not in use. It's YOUR LIFE, don't give it away.

12/06/18
Check Those Browser Addons, Extensions and Plugins

Some Browser Addons, Plugins and Extensions cause slowdowns, malware, adware and innumerable problems, Some are totally cool, but all need to be checked for usefulness, and kept upgraded. Remove the ones you don't use or have no idea what they do.

12/05/18
Always be Aware of Your Privacy

 With Voice and Video Recorders in everyone's pocket you need to also be careful who you talk to and where you are. Confidential information is not for everyone yet everything you say and do is on display for the world.

11/30/18
Use Custom Installs

When installing any new software or operating system always use the "Custom" or "Advanced" Install. It takes more time, you have to answer more questions but you can eliminate all sorts of garbage you don't need and have a look at important privacy settings. If you don't understand something you can safely leave it at it's default setting or take the time to look it up.

11/20/18
Windows Snipping Tool

Need a screenshot without showing your private data? Windows Snipping Tool can get you there. Open Snipping tool or hit Windows+Shift+S, highlight the section you want copied and it gets transferred to your paste buffer, just paste it into any doc, e-mail or paint.  Great for sharing troubles with your tech guy.


11/16/18
Don't Be Fooled

Social Engineering, nothing new here, been around for thousands of years. Scammers, Con Artists, whatever you want to call them, try to trick you into doing something you normally wouldn't do.  Today it's easier for them because you can't see them, using e-mail or social media they pretend to be legit and target millions of people hoping to fool just a few. Don't fall for it, verify people you communicate with, remember, anyone can call himself anything he wants. Your name is NOT unique.

11/14/18
Mute That Noisy Tab

Ever have multiple Tabs open in your Browser and have one of them start playing some ad music or crap? You can easily find a noisy Tab AND Mute it, look for a little "Speaker" Icon on each Open Tab in the Tab Bar, click to mute.

11/13/18
Get Less Search Garbage

Getting too much crap when you search?  Try searching a specific Site like this. In the search window or address bar or Cortana add site:website to the end of your search, something like this:
'how to customize lock menu site:microsoft.com'
This will search over at microsoft.com for 'how to customize lock menu'. Very handy.

11/12/18
Protecting Kids With DNS

There is a new DNS service that claims to protect your devices from numerous malware sites, porn sites, phishing sites and other nasties. This sounds like a great idea but I have yet to try it out. Let me know if you do. The website is https://cleanbrowsing.org/ you can check that out. The addresses they use are 185.228.168.168 and 185.228.169.168, you need to set those as your DNS Servers, set your router to protect your entire home/business.

11/9/18
Windows Options For Fast, Secure Login

Windows has a number of Login options for more secure and faster login than the basic password, Face Recognition, Fingerprint, PIN and Picture. Always set your system account password, it's your data, protect it.

11/8/18
Be Aware Of WIFI and Bluetooth Status

WIFI and Bluetooth, both wireless connection devices, can allow scammers to get in, shut them off when not in use. Wireless connections can often be hacked and exploited, scammers can grab info from your phone or laptop in seconds, don't invite that crap. They also use considerable power, especially Bluetooth, shortening battery life. Airplane Mode is OK for a laptop but on a cell phone you need to turn off WIFI and Bluetooth individually so you can make calls and get texts.

11/7/18
Lock Up When You Leave

Don't leave your Computer open to prying eyes when you leave for a break or a day, your personal information or Company Data can be compromised in seconds. If someone does sit down at your system any damage done could be blamed on you, computers log everything.  "CTRL L" will lock your system or "CTRL ALT DEL" will bring you to a screen where you can click "Lock".

11/2/18
Review Your System Logs

Your Computer logs almost everything, errors, events, Internet activity, Program activity, logins and a ton of other stuff.  You should review those logs periodically to catch issues before they become problems.  One of the most important issues people miss is signs of a failing hard disk, you loose everything when it fails and your logs warned you months earlier.  If you don't read your logs at least bring it in for routine maintenance, we certainly will. "Event Viewer" is the tool.


11/1/18
Uninstall Old Software

When you get new stuff don't forget to remove the old stuff. Old software just slows your system, printers, scanners and such install software which loads up on boot then waits for the device to connect, a device which died and will never connect. Go into Add and Remove Programs and Uninstall things from those old devices. Then go into Devices and Printers and remove the old devices there as well.  If you do this before you install your new device you won't remove something new by mistake.

10/31/18
Computers Need Love Too

A twice yearly Computer Checkup will keep your system running smoothly and securely, extends it's life and saves you money. A computer that lasts 4 or 5 years and works well during it's lifetime is more cost effective than one so crapped up you throw it out after a year or two. Routine Maintenance precludes problems and saves money, Just Do It.

10/30/18
Flash Drive Trouble

Flash Drive, USB Stick, Thumb Drive, whatever you call it they can be very handy and very dangerous. Flash Drives can fail, contain virus' and malware don't trust them.
1) Don't insert a USB Drive you've found, throw it away, it may be infected.
2) Don't insert Flash Drives that you don't trust.
3) Don't backup to Flash Drives unless you have multiple copies.
4) Don't use your Flash Drive at work, infections work both ways.
5) Encrypt your Flash Drive if it has sensitive data.

10/29/18
Avoid unsolicited mail (SPAM)

Never respond to SPAM (Unsolicited Mail OR E-Mail) with your personal information. Anyone you do business with should have your account information and never ask for such things as Credit Card, Password, Social Security Number or PIN through Mail. If you have a question look up their number on their web site or phone book and contact them yourself.


10/26/18
Shopping Season, Set Up PayPal


A payment Service such as PayPal keeps your credit card number off of the net, the vendor will never see your Credit Card Number so it really minimizes attacks both computer and human.

10/25/18
Shopping Season, Review Your Credit Cards


Your Credit Card Statement should be reviewed regularly during heavy use, the sooner you see a problem the easier it is to fix or stop.  When in doubt call your Credit Card company.

10/24/18
Shopping Season, Secure your Device


You are no more secure than your computer or mobile device, get a thorough checkup prior to shopping season.  Yes We Can Do That!
http://www.hamsfork.net

10/23/18
Shopping Season, Verify Encryption


Do Not purchase on a non encrypted connection. Verify encryption by the HTTPS Protocol (S=Secure), and some type of browser indicator such as a green Address Bar and/or Lock Icon

10/22/18
Shopping Season Tips:  Verify The Site


Always make sure you are shopping at the site you expect to be shopping at, know where you are. Fake sites are rampant so look at the URL (Site Address) to make sure of where you are. Thieves will create fake sites with a similar look and name to the well known site, Don't Fall For It.

10/19/18
Cool Tools: E-Mail Client

Need a more powerful E-Mail client? Thunderbird can get you there, doing anything Outlook can do except hurt your wallet, it's Free. It looks and feels different than you may be used to so expect to spend some time learning it.
https://www.thunderbird.net

10/18/18
Cool Tools: Web Browser

Want to try another Browser? Mozilla Firefox and Opera are my picks. Both are mature, fast and well behaved. Opera even has a built in VPN if you are really security conscious. They're free, install them both, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.
https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/
https://www.opera.com/

10/17/18
Cool Tools: Office Suite

Need a good Office Suite with full Document and Spreadsheet Processing? Apache Open Office is for you. Open Office can replace Microsoft Office, is more mature, reads and writes more file formats and it's Free. If you are familiar with Word and Excel you'll have no problem with Open Office.
http://www.openoffice.org/

10/16/18
Cool Tools: Graphics Editor

Need a powerful Graphics Editor? GIMP is that tool (GNU Image Manipulation Program). GIMP is an excellent replacement for Photoshop and it's Free. This is a serious, professional Tool, expect to spend some time learning it.
https://www.gimp.org/

10/15/18
Cool Tools: IP Scanner

When you want to know what's attached to your network an IP Scanner is your tool. I use Angry IP, it's fast and simple. Don't be scanning the entire Internet though, The Internet Gods frown on that.
https://angryip.org/


10/12/18
Find Your Lost Device


Enable Remote Track to find and even wipe your mobile device should it be lost or stolen.

10/11/18
Mobile Devices Need Updates Too


Make sure automatic updating is turned ON for your device AND for it's apps. Updates help insure security issues are fixed and new options and features can be installed.

10/10/18
Check App Privacy Settings


Always review the Privacy Settings of any new app you install.  Does it need access to all your personal info? Does it need to track your location? (turn off location tracking and only allow for apps that really need it)

10/9/18
Install Only Trusted Apps


Each Mobile device has a "Store" App built in where you can download "Trusted Apps", Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Microsoft Store vet their apps for malware. You can usually trust these.

When downloading from other sources check reviews, check the vendor, check that it is actively updated and if still unsure Ask A Pro!

10/8/18
Secure Your Mobile Device


It's unlikely your mobile device will be hacked, it's more likely you will lose or forget it. Enable Automatic Screen Locking! Protect your phone with a strong password or bio-metrics (fingerprint).

10/5/18
Don't Drink and E-Mail


There are so many ways E-Mail can come back and bite you, always slow down and think about it before you E-Mail. Emotions mixed with the ease of E-Mail (and social media as well) do not usually end well and emotions are terribly hard to relate when writing. Slow Down! Draft that message on Notepad or your word processor, spell check it, read it through, have a cup of coffee or simply use the voice feature of your phone, call and talk, your tone of voice relates so much more than the words ever will.

10/4/18
E-Mail Auto Complete, Another Troublesome Friend


Everyone loves auto complete, it's everywhere, spell checking, word processing, spread sheets, browsers, everywhere, it's great until it isn't.  When you use auto complete with your E-Mail "To" lists you can easily insert the wrong address.  Watch It!


10/3/18
E-Mail Distribution Lists, Another Troublesome Friend


Distribution Lists are a single E-Mail address which is used by a server to send E-Mail to a list of people, it's common in groups and such. Send one E-Mail and 10,000 people get it, handy until that wasn't your intent. Be careful when replying to someone on a list to not send it to the list address and watch when using auto complete that a list doesn't come up by mistake.


10/2/18
E-Mail Is Not Private


Remember postcards? E-Mail is like that, pretty much anyone can read it. E-Mail has virtually no privacy protections and once you send it you can't get it back and you can't control who sends it to someone else, it's in the public now. Work computers and e-mail can be monitored by your employer and e-mail can be used in court.  If you need privacy use the voice feature of your phone, call instead of e-mail.


10/1/18
E-Mail Reply, A Troublesome Friend


Be very careful when you "Reply" to an E-Mail, this can be a friend and your worst enemy, know how it works.

To - this is a list of recipients who will get the mail, the person or persons it was intended for, everyone sees this list.
CC - Carbon Copy, this is FYI, they see the mail and the "To" recipients see that they saw it.
BCC - Blind Carbon Copy, same as "CC" except the people in the "To" and "CC" list won't know.
Reply All - This is the trouble maker. When you use "Reply All" it sends your reply to everyone in the "To", "CC" and "BCC" lists And if that isn't bad enough if someone you "BCC'd" does a "Reply All" then everyone else will know you had "BBC'd" that person.

In general, I recommend that you never use "Reply All" unless you know exactly what you are doing, it's very dangerous.

9/28/18
Different Passwords For Different Accounts

Many folks, too many, use the same password for everything, BAD IDEA. If your password is cracked, bypassed, shared or stolen, every account is now vulnerable. At the very least you will need to reset every account, at the worst you loose it all.

9/27/18
Use 2 Step Verification

Turn on "2 Step Verification".  Basically this forces you to very that it's really you by texting a code to your mobile device or e-mail that you must respond to.  Usually used when making critical changes and when logging in from another device.

9/26/18
Secure Your Password List


We all have a list of accounts and passwords, Protect It!

1) A paper list should be in your fireproof safe.
2) A digital list should be encrypted, use "Save As" to encrypt your personal stuff with a password.

9/25/18
NEVER Share Your Passwords


Keep your passwords secret, never trust someone to keep it secret for you.

1) If you must allow access to a password protected document or account, change the password to something simple before allowing access, then change it back to your strong password later.
2) If you must share a password by e-mail follow step 1 above but never transmit the word "password" or "passwd" in the e-mail, remember e-mail is not secure, this is particularly important if you use g-mail.


9/24/18
Use Strong Passwords


Strong Passwords include:
1) 8 or more characters
2) A combination of letters, capitols, numbers, specials (like $)

NOT:
1) Words from the dictionary
2) Names
3) Dates


9/21/18
Different Browser for Different things

Using one Internet Browser is fine but sometimes you just need to use something different. Here's a quick look at the popular Browsers in my personal preference order. Many features are turned off by default so have a look at the settings when you first install any program, turn on the favorites bar, import your favorites/bookmarks, check your privacy settings, learn how to start "in-private" browsing if you value your privacy.

1) Edge - fast, easy, no muss, no fuss, well integrated, default Windows 10 Browser.
2) Firefox - Faster than most, many add-ons and extensions, mature, generic, works well for general use.
3) Opera - fast, built in VPN (best privacy), mature, generic, works well for general use.
4) Internet Explorer - Good old IE, well known by most people, old, slow, doesn't run some new tech.
5) Chrome - fastest, many extensions, doesn't run some tech, Google Marketing Privacy Issues (beware).

I advise using Edge and Firefox for general use, when one won't work the other will, set your default to one of these.  Some webmasters just hate Microsoft and exclude Edge and IE compatibility, Firefox can get past this in most cases, some require Chrome which has privacy issues sending data to Google. I always advise against installing any Google related software due to it's marketing vs privacy issues.

FYI, I use Firefox as my default, with it's "Containers" extension. This reduces targeted advertising.

9/19/18
Disasters Happen, Be Prepared

Two days, two disasters averted, minimum downtime, no data loss, that's what I call being prepared. Save Time and Money, repair expensive systems and always, always Backup.

1.Corporate server attacked by Ransomware. Transfer operations to another corporate server over VPN, recover data from backup to that server and wait for a few days for the new server to come in to transfer back, minimum downtime, no data loss, no ransom paid.
2.Company NAS (Network Accessible Storage), primary backup device, failed. Troubleshoot and repair with new power supply, no downtime, no data loss.

9/14/18
Desktop Buyers Guide

Time for a new Desktop System? Business productivity down? Need a bigger screen and keyboard? Switching to Internet Streaming for Home Entertainment? Really Bad Ass Gaming? Decide your spending limit according to your wants, needs and budget then give Us a call, there are so many options one could write a book.

Desktop systems differ from laptops and tablets in that they are not battery powered. Being stationary gives a few advantages, upgrade-able, more powerful, more storage, reduced cost.

Budget - It's cheaper to build a desktop than a laptop, that's pretty simple. A low end system will cost about $50 less than an equivalent laptop. A high end system can be several hundred $ cheaper than an equivalent laptop. $1200 - $1500 is the sweet spot for most users, business users can get away with a bit less as they usually rely on servers to do the heavy lifting. A good Mid Range system that can play big games, won't slow you down with Quicken and has a nice big monitor will run about $2000. High end Gaming systems expect to spend $3000 - $8000, sounds steep but keep in mind the new video cards can cost $2000 alone (and you can have more than one).

Upgrade - Most desktops use standard components which are highly competitive saving you $, hard disks can be added to get more storage, video cards are replaceable (important for gamers). Low profile systems are less expandable but take up very little space, a nice chassis can last 20 years or more by doing incremental upgrades over the years. Water cooling, lighting, style, so many options.

Power - Laptops are limited in power by cooling ability, that's pretty simple, once unleashed in a desktop chassis your computer can help heat your house. 1500W power supplies, water cooling, multiple CPU's, multiple GPU's, yup the big systems can get hot. PS, water cooling is quieter than regular cooling.

9/13/18
Laptop Buyer Guide

Time for a new laptop? Back to school? Christmas Gift? Birthday? Kick Ass Gaming?
Decide your spending limit according to your wants, needs and budget then do a little on-line shopping.

Budget:
$0 - $500 - this is a toy, you can barely get a good phone for this, don't bother unless you want a toy.
$500 - $1000 - this is a better toy, it will do what a good phone can do plus have a big screen and keyboard.
$1000 - $1500 - now you're talking, this is the sweet spot for your average consumer level laptop.
$1500 - $2500 - This is what you really really want, it will easily replace a desktop.
$2500 - $8000 - This is gaming and engineering level, big boy toys ;)

What to look for:
CPU Intel i7 and i5, AMD Ryzen and A Series.  Intel is mainstream, AMD is budget. The more Cores the better.
SSD (Solid State Device) >256GB for performance and HDD (Hard Disk Drive) >1TB for storage.
RAM - 8GB Minimum, 16GB good, 64GB Gaming.
Video - Most have integrated Graphics and for most things this is fine.  AMD or Nvidia have too many models to list here.  Look for separate GPU for gaming.

Who to look for:
MSI, ACER and ASUS have many great machines with little or No adware, bloatware or junkware installed. I advise avoiding Dell, HP, Toshiba, Sony and most other mainstream dealers to avoid their sales and bloat crap.

Where to go:  I typically advise Newegg for best pricing and shopping guarantee.

9/12/18
Stop Sharing Stupid Stuff


Sharing things you find on The Internet is one thing but sharing things you see on Facebook is totally dangerous. Competitions, give a ways, "help this sick ...", "I'll give money if you ...", "You are a genius if ..." "share this ..." are sure signs of scammer activity. Scammers and "Like farmers" start these stupid posts to gather personal information, when you share them you share your friend list and your friends friend list and on and on. Now I will admit there are a number of valid business related posts that give away stuff, some even ask you to share, I don't like it but it does happen, use common sense here.

Keep in mind that the US Govt. is now examining election tampering primarily caused by off-shore Trolls sharing their stupid stuff and people re-sharing this crap. Use your common sense here, share things you know are true, share your life experiences, but STOP SHARING STUPID STUFF.

9/11/18
Learn To Use Your Network

DSL, WiFi, Satellite or Optical Internet Service have one thing in common, The Router. Your router creates and secures your network for you to use as you wish, whether you access your private network with WiFi or Ethernet doesn't matter, learn how it works, configure it and keep it secure.

Connect one printer for everyone to use, if your printer doesn't have Ethernet or WiFi you can share it from the computer it's connected to.
Connect a Backup Disk, even a small NAS (Network Attached Storage) can backup several computers.
Connect a Media Storage Device, share your music, photos, videos and docs with all your devices. A big NAS can serve as both Media and Backup Storage.
Guest Networks allow friends to access the Internet keeping your LAN (Local Area Network) private and secure.
A Router VPN (Virtual Private Network)can protect your entire network (at the expense of ease of browsing).
Router Access Rules can enforce child access times and web site blocking.
Router Logs can let you examine activity.

9/10/18
Help Your Computer Live 10 Years or More

Power Issues are your computers worst enemy. A high quality UPS (Uninterruptible Power Source) can fix that.

Ever notice when your light bulbs burn out? They pop when you turn them on, applying power causes a current surge which damages the bulb. Ever notice your lights "dim"? Line power can fluctuate, these "brown outs" also cause high current issues and are particularly hard on motors in furnaces, washers, dryers, reefers, etc. Same with your computer, it will last longer if you never turn it off AND protect it with the active protection of a UPS.

A good UPS is an insurance policy, they have their own warranty (usually 3-5 years) and offer a guarantee on protected equipment, yup, if lightning blows your gear they pay for your gear. Don't confuse a UPS with an extension cord, a UPS has active power conditioning and a battery for brown outs and black outs.  Make sure your UPS can handle the load you want to protect, printers for instance are really hard on a UPS and need a much bigger size than a computer or TV or X-Box or router or switch. Yes We have those in stock.

9/7/18
Tired of Fake News? Setup RSS Feeds

Social media is full of "Fake News" and Opinion based censoring. All the major social media platforms censor what you see based on their opinion. What can you do to get Real News? Use RSS Feeds to get the story. It's free, it's easy, and it gets the news directly to you.

Howto - The are many news sources such as Associated Press (AP) and Reuters which feed stories to the media. The media takes the story, edits it to fit their opinion and gives it out as "news".  You can quickly bypass this spin by going directly to the source and "subscribing" to their RSS Feed. First, poke around and pick the source you like. For this TOTD I'll pick Reuters (what I use). Go over to the web site of the source you like and look for their RSS Feeds, Reuters has theirs at this URL https://www.reuters.com/tools/rss.  RSS Feeds have a special Icon rss feed icon, look for it. Copy the URL of the feed you want and paste in into your Favorites or Favorites Toolbar. From then on that link will show the top stories, you can see the headline and click to read the story.  Need help? Give us a call.


9/6/18
Microsoft Never Calls You

The number of cold calls claiming to be Microsoft has really jumped recently (we answer several a day).  There is simply one thing to say about these calls, THEY ARE A SCAM.

Microsoft will never call you, no reputable service company will call you, no Anti Virus company will ever call you, this is ALWAYS A SCAM.  Never allow anyone you don't know to access your computer. If you do allow a scammer into your system you will loose data, privacy, security, and anything they can find in seconds, they can lock up your system and hold it for ransom. Don't fall for it.


9/5/18
Dropped Calls? Get a Cell Phone Booster

Cellular signal is pretty iffy around here. Fix that with a good Cellular Signal Booster.

Howto - There are two types of signal boosters, fixed and mobile.  Have terrible reception in your home or business? Grab a fixed booster.  These mount outside your building and bring the signal inside, amplify it, and connect multiple phones. These are great for remote homes, business' and inside metal buildings. Dropped calls or no signal on the road or in the field? Grab a mobile Booster.  These mount in your vehicle bring the signal inside and amplify it, depending on brand and cost these usually support only one phone.

We keep Boosters in stock as well as many cellular phone accessories, chargers, and cases.


9/4/18
Google, Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Be Careful With Cool Stuff

Computers have some really cool things to make your life easier, the most useful is something you use every day, "Search". A computer can dig through tons of stuff and find just what you want in a matter of seconds. Your Smart Phone is a Computer, with a Cellular Phone shoved in, which brings The Internet to your fingertips wherever you are, these are fun times we live in. BUT with all this cool stuff comes the responsibility to use it safely.

Telling Cortana or Siri to get directions to a restaurant is totally cool and easy BUT allowing them to listen to every word you say is dangerous, there have already been instances of recorded conversations being sent to contacts that the user had no idea had been sent. Turn OFF Auto Detection of key words such as "Hey Siri" and "OK Google", if your computer can hear and react to a voice command like that it means it is always listening and there is always the possibility that a mistake will happen. Set your search engines to react to a finger pressing a button or icon. Don't use voice commands? Check your setup to make sure these things are turned OFF. Just love your auto voice detect? Just be aware of the privacy issues that it presents.

8/31/18
It's NOT The Computer, It's The Software

Show your computer a little love, give it a checkup twice a year to keep it running like it was new. A good maintenance program will extend the life of your computer saving you $ over time. Don't throw away that slow computer, bring it back to life with a checkup.

The average computer costs about $1000 to $1500 and will generally last about 4 years, a high end system can easily last 6-8 years or more. Technology changes, routine system updates, software updates, virus and malware scanner updates, all add to the work your system has to do, above and beyond the work you need to do.  Now add in all the accumulated trash, errors caused by viruses, malware, pups (probably unwanted programs), crapware, adware, bundleware, and bits and pieces of programs running in the background, it's no wonder your system slows down a few days after you buy it and after a year or two you want to throw it out.

That's when we can help save your money, spend $100 a year on Routine Maintenance, keep that system running like new.  Even a brand new computer can be cleaned up of all the manufacturer adware and can benefit from our Routine Maintenance Program. Give us a call 307-877-6612.

8/30/18
Protect Your Personal Information

Now that folks are starting to see how invasive companies are into our personal information, all the news, law suits and congressional inquiries going on, lets look at some steps you can take to avoid data collection. Protecting your personal information is difficult, if not impossible, but there are many things you can do to help yourself.

1.)Avoid Public Mail servers such as Google and Yahoo.  The big search engines market your private information and it makes sense for them to read your e-mail as well, and they do.
2.)Change your default search engine.  Search Engines examine your searches and cookies to glean information for advertising and marketing.
3.)Change your DNS to 1.1.1.1. You can configure your router to protect all your systems from DNS snooping.  1.1.1.1 is the NEW Cloudfront DNS System, they don't snoop and they delete their logs every day.
4.)Clear your cookies. Set your browser to clean up your cookies, history, downloads, etc, when you close your browser. Cookies are what causes lamp ads to come up on Google the day after you purchased that new lamp.
5.)Use "InPrivate" Browsing.  Most Browsers can be started in "InPrivate" mode which basically doesn't store your browsing session, deleting cookies, history, temp files, history etc. and disables toolbars and extensions. Firefox has a nice extension just for this called "Multi Account Containers" and a "Facebook Container"
6.)Use a VPN. A "Virtual Private Network" hides your location in the world by spoofing your IP address. VPN's are a pay service so expect to pay. The Opera Browser has a built in VPN (and it's free).


8/29/18
Backup, Backup, Backup

Your computer won't boot up, "Hard Disk Fail". Now what? All your pictures, mail, recipes are still there so you take it to your computer guy, we have a look and ooops, too bad, your hard disk is bad and you'll need a new one, you have a backup right? Nope? Say goodbye to those baby pictures.

You only need to backup your personal data, games and programs will need to be reinstalled anyway so no problem there, and there are many ways to backup. Most users usually just need to backup documents, pictures, videos, favorites and downloads, these locations will have your personal stuff. Business users may have that same list as well as servers with databases that need to be protected.

Howto - Windows comes with a backup program, it's simple, you just plug in your backup device of choice and run the backup program, it'll ask a couple questions and that's it. Home users with very little data can get away with a couple flash drives, got lots of data or several computers, an external hard disk or a networked Hard Disk makes backup effortless after it's setup.  Business users need to be a bit more involved with their backup, a better, multi-disk, high capacity device and periodic checks, perhaps even a multi device, off-site setup for critical data in the event of a disaster (fire, flood etc).  Your mobile devices generally use google or apple accounts to automagically backup your pics and stuff, but check that it's setup correctly.

Backup, Backup, Backup.  It's cheap and easy, pictures can never be replaced and customer data loss can ruin a business.


8/27/18
Beware Free Software

"You Get What You Pay For" is sage advice in the software world, most free software does what it says but comes with the baggage of adware and malware. There are exceptions though as some of the best software is free, OpenOffice (office suite), Firefox (browser), Thunderbird (E-Mail) and Linux (OS) to name a few.

People are always looking for free stuff, the most common being things to fix your computer, this is probably the worst of the freeware as there isn't a program out there that can "fix" your computer, it takes several tools and a person to get a corrupted system back online. People often think drivers are the problem and here again the malware folks are lurking, don't trust anything except OEM (go to dell.com or hp.com etc.), these days Windows 10 will keep those updated through Windows update. Video and Music tools are another dark hole, rippers, converters and such are chock full of malware. Buyer Beware, Do Your Research.


8/24/18
Wired or Wireless, Depends on The App

Let's bring The Internet to your home or business, what we call "Internet Service". There are 2 wired choices, DSL and Optic Fiber and 2 wireless choices, WIFI and Cellular Packet Data.

The bottom line here is, wired is fast and reliable, wireless is inexpensive and convenient. You can have a wireless access point to provide local wireless in your home or business. Smart Phones access The Internet anywhere they can get service and can even create a "hot-spot" for other devices to connect too with a limited distance.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) - most common, uses your phone line for speeds up to about 20 Mbps (Million bits per second). DSL is generally quite able to provide 2-3 movie streams and good quality gaming. Best choice for most homes and small business'.
Optic Fiber - At over 100 Gbps (Giga or billion bits per second) this is the big boy but it's expensive. New to our area so you may need to get on a list for install.  If you can afford it or are running a business this is the way to go, multiple streams, low latency (great gaming) and brand new glass fiber to your building.
WIFI - Basically radios provide around 20 Mbps service and many things can affect the quality. Rain, snow, lightning, buildings, trees, an errant mobile radio a disgruntled neighbor or someone being a jerk can cause interference which makes wireless the least reliable.  Using simple, inexpensive radios makes it the least expensive. 1-2 movie streams are usually doable but you will see buffering due to intermittent drops even with 1 stream. Budget choice for home and small business for basic browsing and e-mail.
Cellular Packet Data - Virtually every cell phone provides some sort of Internet access.  This Internet service is the least reliable but totally convenient.  In metro areas packet data can stream movies and music, in rural areas not so well. This is most useful for general communication and when it works it's great.

8/23/18
Don't Trash that Old Computer, DONATE it

Have an old system sitting around waiting for the dump run? Refurbish that old boy and donate it to someone. Any Windows 7+ system is still good these days and once refurbished, quite capable of providing home or business computing, Internet, Office apps, E-Mail, and School work. One of our Non-Profits or a student would be happy to snap it up.
You've probably seen our refurbs on Facebook and may have questions so here's the scoop. Those usually come from someone buying a new system and rather than throwing away the old one give it to us. We give it a clean Windows install (removes personal info), full set of Windows updates (over 300 at last count), drivers and necessary Internet apps (Java, Reader, Flash, Silverlight, DirectX, IE11), install Open Office (Free Open Source Office Suite) and Thunderbird (Free Open Source Mail Client) and offer it up "FREE to good home or non-profit OR for $ if you can afford it". They are always snapped up for free, usually by the non-profit orgs here in town.

8/22/18
Take out the Garbage

Removing things that you don't need will help speed up your system. Uninstall programs you don't use, clean up your Desktop, clean up your Startup Tasks.

Howto - A cluttered Desktop slows you down all day, move things to your Documents, Pictures, Downloads folders where they belong. Open explorer and simply drag and drop.
Uninstall programs you don't use but be careful, don't uninstall something if you don't know what it is. Click "Start" type "Add or Remove Programs".
Many things startup on boot, slowing the boot as well as the daily work.  Click "Start" type "Startup Tasks".  Note that things you turn off here can be turned back on if you need it.
After all that do a "Disk Cleanup". Click "Start" type "Disk Cleanup".

8/20/18
Protect Your System with a Virus AND a Malware Scanner

No single Anti Virus or Anti Malware Solution will protect your system from everything, you need one of each, Virus AND Malware scanner.  The problem you run into with this is when the two scanners conflict and this happens often, especially with commercial Virus Scanners.  The rule here is use a good virus scanner and a good malware scanner.  The top virus scanners are generally fine along with the top malware scanners, since they have different (but similar) jobs they usually get along.

Howto - Use one of the top virus scanners (Windows Defender, Norton, McAfee, Sophos, Eset, Kaspersky) and update and run a full scan to make sure things are clean.  Reboot and install a trial version of one of the top Malware Scanners (Malwarebytes AntiMalware, Spybot Search and Destroy).  Update and scan to grab up anything the virus scanner missed.  Work your system a few days and if it looks good you can upgrade to the Premium Version of the malware scanner. No wasted money here.

Our favorite combination: Windows Defender and Malwarebytes AntiMalware. Defender comes with Windows 10 and is free, updates itself with Windows Update and works well.  Malwarebytes AntiMalware has a free trial version and a Premium Version (we carry that in stock).

8/19/18
Cut, Copy, Paste, With Keyboard Shortcuts

There are many Keyboard Shortcuts that can really speed things up and make daily use of your computer much easier. Remember in a previous post I mentioned everything is an "object"? Well you can group objects together into one big object and using Shortcut Keys, do things like cut, copy and paste from one place or program to another.

Howto - Lets say you want to copy text from an e-mail into a Facebook post. First using your mouse place the cursor at the beginning of the text you want, hold down the left mouse button and "drag" it to the last of the text, highlighting it along the way.  This creates an "object" (highlighted text) which you can now copy into the "paste buffer" with "Ctrl-C" (hold down "Ctrl" key and tap "c"). You won't see anything happen but it did. Then move to the place where you want the text to be placed (the post window in Facebook), position the cursor with your mouse to the spot where you want the text to be and "paste" it in with "Ctrl-V".  Also you can right click objects and find "copy" and "paste" in the "context sensitive menu" (yay right click) and the "delete" and "insert" keyboard keys do the same thing. Here's a short list of common keyboard shortcuts.

Ctrl + A    select All
Ctrl + X    Cut selected object
Ctrl + C    Copy selected object
Ctrl + V    Paste selected object
Ctrl + Z    Undo an action (ooops button)
Ctrl + Y    Redo an action
Alt + Tab    Switch between open apps
Alt + F4    Close the active item or app
Windows        open Start Menu
Windows + A    open Action Center
Windows + C    open Cortana in listen mode
Windows + L    Lock your PC
Windows + D    display/hide the Desktop
Esc        Stop or leave current task

See the full list here https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12445/windows-keyboard-shortcuts

8/18/18
When in Doubt: Reboot

When your computer or phone is being stupid try this simple fix, Reboot.

We know it sounds like a cop out but you'd be surprised how often it works.  Sure, there are times when a reboot won't work and times it doesn't make sense, but it does give your system a chance to put everything back together. Here's why, if you have malware, a virus, some poorly written program, too many programs running, memory getting low, an older system you're nursing along until it dies, an update installing, etc etc, it gets the chance to close everything up, wipe it's memory and put the basic system software (Operating System) back together. It's simply a first step to troubleshooting any computer, try it, reboot once a week.

8/17/18
Right Click Everything

Use the Context-Sensitive Menu to find shortcuts to things you want to do.  Right Click (right hand side mouse button) everything and you'll start learning how Windows works, what things are, what you can and can't do. Click an item or Click off of the menu to close it.

Howto - Everything you see in Windows is considered an "object" and every object has "properties", things you can do or settings you can change or look at. Your Desktop, the Taskbar, Program Icons, files, Apps, Everything, has a "Context Sensitive Menu".  A "Right Click" activates this menu and it will pop up with items particular to that object. Every object will have a different menu of things you can do.  The Menus "Content" depends on what you are doing (context). For instance, right click on an Icon on the desktop and in most cases you'll see you can Rename that item, right click on the desktop itself and there will not be a Rename option.

8/16/18
Windows Search can find Anything

Use Windows Search (Cortana) to find files, settings and programs quickly and easily.

Howto - Click "Start" icon (lower left on desktop taskbar) or "Windows" key on the keyboard (Windows Logo Icon) then just start typing.  You can ask a human readable question like "what time is it?", or a document name like "resume" or an application name like "word" or a program name like "msconfig".  Windows will display a list of search results which you can click to choose or just hit "Enter" on keyboard if the one you want is highlighted.  If it can't find anything applicable on your system it will search on The Internet using your default browser and search engine. For instance, type "internet" into Windows search and you will see Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox (any browser you may have installed), Internet options settings like block popups, and delete history, and stuff over at Microsoft Store.  Keep in mind every system is different, your results may vary.
 
8/15/18
Better Facebook News Feed - Sort It!

Facebook provides 2 ways to sort your News Feed Posts and Group Posts:

    1. Top Posts - this sort shows "the most popular posts from friends", this is basically what Facebook thinks you want or should see. This is the default sort.
    2. Recent Posts - this sort shows "posts from friends, Pages and groups in the order that they were posted".  This is what most folks want to see.
Howto - YOUR News-feed, In the Right column, next to "News Feed" click the More icon "..." click the setting you want and check this as it will revert to the "Top Posts" setting.
Howto - Group page, scroll the news feed column (middle one) down to where the posts start, at the top left is a Heading "Recent Activity" and a drop down icon, click the icon, click the setting you want.

Contact Us
(307)-877-6612
cst@hamsfork.net
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Basic Service Rates

We do maintenance and support by remote control for your convenience. If necessary we may require the system to be brought to our shop (in house).  Onsite, Server and MultiUser environments billed at standard hourly rate only.

$49 Quick Check
You stay home, we work remotely to clean up common crap related to malware, spyware and identity theft and check for common system problems such as hard disk failure

$129 Routine Maintenance
This is our comprehensive yearly maintenance we recommend for every computer. We can start this maintenance remotely and if something bad happens you may need to bring your computer to us, takes 2-3 days usually.

$69 Virus Malware cleanup
Comprehensive virus/malware cleanup

$149 System Reinstall
Backup your data, perform a factory restore or OEM install, install all updates and software, restore data.  Some options may not be possible.

$69 Data Backup/Restore
Create System Restore Disks or basic
Backup of your personal data to CD, DVD or Flash Media (if <4GB).  We can usually recover data from failed system as well.

$39 Software Install
Software install 1 package per workstation (remote or in house).

$39 Hardware Install
Hardware install 1 item per workstation.

$79 HOURLY RATE
Our Standard Rate for remote or onsite Service, single or multiuser environment.  Overtime or weekend at standard 1.5x rate.