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9 Tips For Keeping your Computer Safe While Using Public WiFi

It’s holiday time again! That awesome time of year when a lot of us like to travel. Whether it’s off to visit relatives or just heading somewhere where we can relax in a different setting for a bit. Of course that means bringing your laptop and cell phone along. Most hotels, coffeee shops, and even restaurants offer the use of free wifi. The big question is, “How do I keep my info safe out there?”

Without getting too into the horrors of what can happen when using public wifi to access and surf the internet, just know that it is a scary movie you definitely don’t want to see. So here are a few pointers to help you stay a little safer while traveling the world this winter.

  1. Make sure that your OS, browser, and antivirus are all patched and up to date.

Before you head off on your adventure, be sure to make sure your computer is ready to go with you.

  1. Turn off sharing.

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For Windows Vista and 7 use the following to turn off public sharing:

  • Go to your Windows Control Panel.
  • Access the Network and Sharing Center
  • Click Change Advanced Sharing Settings.
  • Select the Public

If you are using Windows 10 this setup is a bit different. Give us a call here at No Ware if you would like help setting this up.

  1. Turn on your laptops personal firewall.

Windows Firewall is always on by default, so if you’ve turned it off for some reason, it would be a good idea to turn it back on.

  1. Use a VPN

A VPN, Virtual Privacy Network, is typically a paid service that keeps your web browsing secure and private over public Wi-Fi hotspots. There are a ton of awesome options, so if you need help choosing one, let us know.

  1. Use secure websites for sensitive information.

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The best way to see if the site is secure is to check if it has an “https” address. The “s” stands for “secure socket layer,” meaning the site is encrypted.

Another thing to look for is the “green” padlock on your browsers address bar.

  1. Consider using a secure browser.

There are actually several very good and reliable browsers out in the data stream that can give you automatic encryption. If it is needed. For more info on the latest and greatest, give us a buzz.

  1. Read the “Terms and Conditions” of using the free access carefully

Some wifi setups are actually placed not by the owner, but by their PR firm, and allow you to use it in exchange for you email address and phone number. To get around this you can use your handy dandy “alternative” email address.

  1. Disconnect from the public WiFi when you’re done using it.

This is not only courtesy, to keep from using more bandwidth than you need, but it also keeps “sniffers” from getting access. Bonus, this will also help your battery life.

  1. Just don’t!

You are on vacation! Take some time to do something you wouldn’t do at home. Relax and enjoy sometime away from the virtual world.

Affordable Technology Solutions will be here when you get back, and is always ready to help should anything go wrong with your equipment while you’re away!

 

SSD vs HDD, which should you choose?

Eeny meeny miny moe. Pick a Hardrive by the… Toe?

Ladies and gentlemen, a new era in storage drives has arrived: The Solid-State drive (SSD). Is it time to upgrade, or can we stay with our favorite sixty-year-old technology? Should we even upgrade our storage? Let’s take a look at these different types of drives to see if we can answer those questions:

Hard Disk Drive (HDD) aka “Mechanical Drive”

IMG 1-SSDvHDD

First introduced in 1956, this hard drive was the size of two refrigerators standing side by side and stored around a whopping 5 mb of data. Over the next sixty years as the computer became more personal the size has shrunk down to 3.5 inches and can store up to 12 TB of data. HDD uses what is called “Magnetic Storage” writing, gathering, and searching for your data with a mechanical arm and several other moving parts, roving over several disks stacked inside the unit. The twitching parts of the HDD make it more susceptible to damage and loss of data if dropped, thrown or hit with a hammer. Due to those many automotive parts of the Hard Disk Drive, it is difficult to make them any smaller.

If you are not worried about speed, are on a budget, or need lots of storage space this may be the choice for you.

IMG 2-SDDVHDD

SDD (Solid State Drive)

Making a premier in the late 2000s as primary drives in netbooks, SDD has no moving parts and can be made as small of ¼ inch.  The no moving parts makes the retrieval and writing of data much faster because the data is stored on microchips. While the basic size of most Solid-State Drive is the same size as the HDD, this technology can be found in memory sticks and data chips. With no jiggling parts, a SDD is safer around the butteriest of butterfingers. Sadly, these beautiful speed daemons are still more expensive than their mechanical brethren, and do not have quite the storage space of the HDD… For now.

Those in professions that that cause you to be on the run or in situations that can cause the occasional fumble; you may want to spend the few extra dollars for the stability of a SDD. The speed is great for content creators like musicians, you-tubers, and graphic artists.

Pick the very best one

If you want lots of space to save lots of memes, have very little money and aren’t prone to gravity; a good ol’ HDD is ideal for you.

If you need things done now, are a bit clumsy or earthquake prone, go for the SDD.

If you need help making the right decision, feel free to reach out to the experts at Affordable Technology Solutions!

Wait… Do Drives have toes?

 

Keeping it cool (Part 2)

A few weeks ago we talked about how to keep your laptop cool. This week we’ll take a look at the “elephant in the room”; cooling that monstrous desktop computer.

Being quite a bit larger than your laptop, moving parts, such as fans and hard drives, have a lot more room in the tower of your desktop PC. This larger size also means that it could (depending on circumstances) take a bit longer for you to notice the effects of unseen heat damage. Unfortunately, these types of computer hiccups usually happen at the most inopportune moments. With (tax season) coming upon us, now is definitely not the time for the old family PC to suddenly go kaput.

Img1pt2Keepingcool

Here are some simple tips to keep your desktop computer nice and cool, just like your laptop.

1.) Keep it clean

The desktop computer does have more space between parts than it’s laptop counterpart, but in the end it is still electrical components in an enclosed space; dust, dirt, and animal hair, still collect inside the case, potentially fouling up the works.  Keeping this gunk blown out with compressed air, and off those many fans, can do a lot toward keeping your computer running smoothly and cool.

It’s a good idea to note here that you never, never, NEVER want to use a vacuum to clean out your computer. The nozzles of vacuum hoses are known to generate static electricity which can absolutely destroy sensitive electric components inside your computer.

Img2pt2Keepingcool

2.) Don’t over crowd

Try to keep the area around your PC clear of bric-a-brac and clutter to keep air circulation flowing freely.  When things are standing, lying, or sitting on the tower you are more quickly to raise the internal temperatures, as well as a nice little dust bunny farm. The side front and back of your computer has vents to allow that wind tunnel wind effect.

It’s also worth it to note that putting your tower inside on and enclosed area, such as a hutch or tight shelf isn’t a good idea either, as that will also severely constrict air-flow.

Img3pt2Keepingcool

3.) Upgrade

As we said in part one, if you have an old mechanical hard drive, replacing it with a shiny new SDD will help pull those core temperatures down. Plus, on your desktop, you’ll probably want all that extra storage! There is also the option of changing the case or CPU fans, or even adding some more. Healthy fans and awesome air-flow, equal healthy computer hardware.

Of course, as always Affordable Technology Solutions in Columbia has your back. We’re here should you have any questions at all about keeping your computer clean, upgrading old equipment, or any other computer related questions that you can think of. We’re always more than happy to help.

 

Uh oh, I spilled something on my laptop

UH OH!

No matter how careful we like to think we are, this can happen to any of us. It only takes a split second to make this catastrophe happen. SPLASH! That mug of coffee, cup of water, or glass of wine is all over your beloved laptop.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself in this mess:

First, take a deep breath, now is not the time to panic, every second really does count.

Next, if your laptop is on, turn it off, unplug it, and remove the power cord.

Now, if you can, detach the battery. If your model doesn’t allow for removal of the battery you can skip this step.

Then, in a well-ventilated room, tent the laptop over a towel or some absorbent surface, like a microfiber cloth, or stack of paper towels or napkins. This allows any liquid that managed to find its way into your laptop to drain out.

Now begin removing all peripherals: mouse dongle, external hard drives, flash drives, if you have an external wireless card take that little fella out too. Basically, if you plugged it in to your laptop, remove it.

It is important that you not remove your laptop from this tent position for at least 48, preferably 72 hours.

(Warning: Turning a laptop on before it has had a chance to completely dry increases the chances of shorting the components inside. Also, while it might seem a good idea at the time, do not use a blow dryer to try and dry your laptop out faster. This dry heat can severely damage some of the internal components.)

Okay, now you can panic… Just kidding. There really is no need.

Affordable Technology Solutions has seen this a thousand times, and can get you set straight in no time at all.

 

Keeping it cool (Part 1)

Imagine it: Late one night, while you’re chilling on the couch with your laptop in your lap – where, given the name “laptop” you would think it belongs – watching the latest season of “Supernatural” and you begin to think to yourself that the special effects in this episode are more realistic than normal, because just as the Winchester Brothers light up the latest corpse it seems that you can actually feel the heat on your legs.  Unfortunately, that is not Netflix setting your lap on fire, that is your computer overheating.

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Overheating is one of the main reasons that people end up losing the use of their laptop and Netflix buddy. I will say this as gently as possible: Fellas, if you let an overheating laptop sit on your lap too long, studies have shown that it can cause infertility also.

2keepingcool

Fortunately for us engineers are working on a way to prevent this overheating issue through nanoelectronics. Unfortunately for us, this breakthrough is a few years away.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways that you can keep your laptop from setting your pants on fire:

1) Keep it clean

Inside your lap top is a huge PC tower slimmed down and shoved into a tiny area. Dust, dirt, and worst of all animal hair collect inside and have no way out. Get this gunk cleaned out on a regular basis can do a lot toward keeping it cool.

Keepingcool3

2) Upgrade

If you’re using an older laptop odds are that it has an old mechanical hard drive (HDD). Replacing it with a Solid State Drive (SDD) can help bring those temperatures down a bit. Less moving parts means less heat generation.

3) Cooling Pad

Keepingcool4

These are nifty little devices that lift up your computer for better air circulation, some even come with fans to help move the air along. There are many different varieties of cooling pads available, all for about what you’d pay going out to dinner and a movie.

Don’t get burned, if you have any questions, your friends at Affordable Technology Solutions in Columbia are here to help you (and your laptop) stay cool.

 

Coming up with a secure password is easy!

password

It is time to change your password

What is it about these words that cause you to draw a blank every time? The brain almost shuts down, since your current password seems to be the only “good” password that you can think of. You need something hard to hack or crack, yet easy for you to remember, but you’ve already used “Love”, “Password1234”, your child’s name, your pet’s name, you neighbor’s pets name; this list goes on and on as to what you cannot and should not use. Fortunately, with a little creativity, you can face this “emergency” like a pro.

It’s simple, most of us have a favorite quote that we like, perhaps a motivational is hanging on the wall by your desk. This can be your password, always. Here’s a perfect example:

One of my favorite quotes is “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” By Henry David Thoreau.

We can change that to 4direction2Dreams!: four words then “direction,” 2 words “Dreams” with a capital D and an exclamation point because you are happy to have remembered.

Or we could try Go7.live4imagined: “Go”, seven words, a period, “live” four words, “imagined.”

Even Go7.6HDavidT would work beautifully.

You don’t have to just use quotes. Almost any sentence can be used for this formula; like a favorite song lyric, or the title of your favorite book. Nothing too fancy, but it meets all requirements. The reminder is on your wall, or something you tell yourself all the time. All you need to remember is the quote and which words you used. Easy peasy!

If you’re having trouble coming up with a secure password, or want to learn more about keeping your computer as secure as possible, give the folks at Affordable Technology Solutions in Columbia a call.

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