If you’ve spent any amount of time around a computer, odds are you’ve heard about the infamous “Blue Screen of Death.” Though if you’ve never experienced it yourself, you might not know what it actually is – and might not be prepared for if and when it happens to you.
The “Blue Screen of Death” can sometimes be referred to as “BSOD” or a “stop error”,and there are a wide variety of reasons as to why it might happen to your computer, but that doesn’t mean your device will never work again. It’s not irreparable, it only means that your computer encountered an error that required it to completely stop in its tracks.
While stop errors are more prevalent with older versions of Windows, it still occasionally pops up, though it’s pretty rare to find on newer versions like Windows 10. One major cause of a stop error is a malfunctioning memory, or a failing Hard Drive. If either of these components happen to be defective or not compatible with the rest of the system, it could result in a blue screen.
Overclocking the CPU or RAM could also cause a blue screen. Increasing the performance of your hardware components past their factory settings in general probably isn’t the best idea, as they can easily become overworked which could lead to some serious damage.
Though of course these stop errors aren’t only caused by hardware disruptions. Faulty or missing drivers mean that the device it belongs to, like your graphics card, can’t communicate with the rest of the computer. So software errors, and even computer viruses can lead to blue screens as well.
While the “Blue Screen of Death” definitely isn’t as terrifying as it looks or sounds, it’s still a serious problem to come across and can be especially stress inducing to those who work from home or haven’t backed up their data in a while. If you ever have the misfortune of coming across a stop error, give your friends at Tech Force a call, we can get your computer back up and running in no time!
With every typical household comes a list of chores meant to keep everything in good working order. Things like cleaning the lint trap in the dryer, changing the water filter in the kitchen sink, and putting gas in the lawnmower are good examples of “basic maintenance” we all do around the house.
Of course, there are also a few things you should be doing every now and again to maintain your computer.
It’s not a bad idea to give the computer a reboot at least once a day. This helps to clear the memory of any inconsistencies, and allows updates to be applied.
Run a quick scan with your antivirus. This can usually be scheduled to occur automatically in the settings tab of most antivirus applications.
Run Disk Cleanup. This finds and deletes all temporary files, duplicate system files, and other nonsense, keeping your computer running smooth and clean.
Make sure that your Backup software is functioning properly. There’s nothing worse than losing your data.
Remember to discharge the battery on your laptop. A lot of us keep our laptops plugged in while we’re using them. This can actually be wearing on the battery, as it generates a constant flow of power to the battery. Best practice is to unplug it while you’re working until the battery reaches about 40% or so, then plug it back in. You never want to let the hit 0% – that could cause problems.
Uninstall applications that are no longer in use. This frees up hard drive space, and helps things run more smoothly.
Run a deep antivirus scan. That could also possibly be scheduled to run automatically.
Check for and install Operating System updates. Most Operating System updates are security enhancements, so it’s always a good idea to makes sure your system is up-to-date.
Check for third-party software updates. The applications that you regularly use are generally updated on a regular basis to patch bugs and add features. Make sure that you have the current versions of these programs.
Every Few Months
De-clutter your email inbox by deleting unnecessary email and spam.
Clean your mouse and keyboard. These can get a little dirty over time.
Check wires and peripherals for wear and tear, and replace as needed.
Clean out the dust from your computer by blowing compressed air into any vents, nooks, and crannies.
Remember to renew your antivirus or Computer Maintenance Plan. These will help you keep things working properly for the next year.
Get your computer a professional tune up. Just like your car needs a tuneup every year, so does your computer.
This is just a sort list of a few of the things you should be doing with your computer to keep it running as well as it can.
Of course, with one of our Maintenance Plans many of the things on this list will be done for you automatically as part of the service.
If you have any questions about how to get the most out of your computer, please feel free to give Tech Force a call at our offices (262) 515-9499.
Contributing to at least sixty percent of all computer repair problems, liquid damage is one of the biggest nuisances for the computer-age office worker. Even if it is easily preventable, there can always be accidents. Here are the four most common types of liquid spills that we see damaging our client’s computers.
The biggest culprit of liquid damage by far has got to be coffee, likely because those of us that work at our computers all day, and likely all night, need a bit of a pick-me-up. The complex cocktail of chemicals and additives in coffee can absolutely destroy a computer’sinner-workings. They can even caramelize the insides of the device – as well as leave a rather nasty odor, due to the dairy products and sugar Many of us add to your coffee.
Water would be just beneath coffee, contributing to about twenty percent of all cases of liquid damage. Oddly enough it really isn’t even the water that does the damage, it’s what’s within the water. A myriad of minerals in distilled or tap water can cause a short circuit, but completely pure, distilled water itself isn’t even a conductor of electricity.
Due to the sugar and acidity in soda and other soft drinks, they’re extra-corrosive oncomputer hardware, causing a lot of the same damage as a coffee spill. It’s probably best to keep any liquid fit for cleaning auto parts as far away from your electronic devices as humanly possible.
Beer and Wine
Surprisingly enough, the alcohol in beer and wine isn’t what damages your computer, in fact it’s pure isopropyl alcohol that a lot of technicians use to clean up the components of a computer. It’s actually the additives to alcoholic beverages that typically do all of the dirty work. Sugars, juices, and food coloring can all do severe damage to the circuitry of your computers or other electronic devices.
What should you do when the inevitable accidents do happen? It’s important to know the precautionary steps to take to prevent anymore damage from occurring. First of all, turn off, unplug the device and take out the battery, as electricity still conducts through it even when it’s powered down. You should also seek the advice of a reputable computer technician, like the ones at Tech Force.
The Internet isn’t the only place viruses can be lurking, waiting to cause harm to you and your family.
The keyboard you tap away at on a day to day basis could be absolutely riddled with germs and bacteria. Not only that, but your other computer peripherals like your mouse, touch pad, touch screen, or stylus can easily collect dirt and grime with just a short time of use. Studies done with spectrum lights have shown that most of the same germs and bacteria that can be found on a toilet seat, public water fountain, and even the bathroom doorknob, can also be found on your mouse, keyboard, touch pad and, especially your touchscreen.
When it comes to cleaning your computer equipment; which you have already spent a good bit of money on, you should definitely exercise caution. These aren’t just like your kitchen counters or the occasional buildup of grime in the shower, so harsh cleaning chemicals won’t do the trick; if anything they’ll probably do more harm than good.
Though most of your peripheral cleaning can easily be done with just a dust cloth, or a can of compressed air – to get at those cookie crumbs and pizza crust chunks stuck between the keys – we strongly advise against the use of most household cleaning agents. The best bet is rubbing alcohol, 90% if you can find it, white vinegar, or a strong ammonia-based window cleaner.
Never spray the peripheral directly, always spritz or pour a little on a dry cloth, you want the cloth damp, not wet. Too much fluid can cause unnecessary drips, that may damage components. Remember, you are washing computer parts here, not a dirty plate after Thanksgiving dinner.
Soft cloths are best used when de-germing more fragile peripherals, like your touchscreen. When cleaning don’t apply too much unnecessary pressure, this can cause the touch components of a touchscreen to squish, or one of the connections on your keyboard to short out or even get stuck in the forever typing position. The idea here is to let the cleaning solution do the work, not elbow grease.
If your keyboard or mouse have a large buildup of dirt and grime, use a cotton swab or Q-tip to get within the smaller cracks and crevices. You can also take a bowl with a small amount vinegar or alcohol, dampen the Q-tip – squeezing out the excess liquid – and then gently clean those crevices.
Mice, touch pads and touch screens have the tendency to get incredibly mucky which can ultimately makes things short out, not connect, and thereby cause them to not work to their full potential. Simple sanitation wipes can do the trick, but sometimes even these have too much liquid, best to squeeze out the excess before tackling any peripheral with it.
Your computer is a working machine with a fan and parts that move constantly, dust buildup makes them slow down and eventually stop altogether, which leads to an inefficient, slow moving device. Giving the inside of the case a good compressed air spritzing is just good household hygiene. Air borne pathogens can easily get caught is the dust bunnies of a fan to come back later to infect your family.
Cleaning the components of your computer can seem a little risky, so if you’re unsure about what you’re doing and think you need some assistance, feel free to call Tech Force anytime!
Our data is everywhere. We have MP3s on our phones, movies on our tablets, books on our Kindles, and stuff for work on our laptops and desktops. This being the case, we sometimes have to wonder if our information is completely safe? Our devices, along with our data, can always be lost, damaged, or even stolen from us.
There has to be a way we can gather all this information in one place, perhaps somewhere we can access from all of our devices. Maybe somewhere we’d even be able to easily share certain files with friends or family. A place where even if we spill coffee in the drawer that holding our backup drive, our data would still be safe.
Cloud Storage, to put it simply, is a folder on a server where you can store your information, and even backup your files. No more desk drawers cluttered with USB sticks, old external hard drives, or even the odd floppy disk or two. Cloud storage is especially useful when getting a new device, making the transfer of data from one place to another easy and efficient.
These services not only make life easier for the casual computer user, but for students, small business owners, or anyone who just wants to be able to access their data from multiple devices.
From the pictures of you last vacation to those top-secret office documents, you can easily store it all on the cloud. This way you can be sure that your most important documents are perfectly safe, even when the most unfortunate happens.
One of the really cool features of storing your data on “the Cloud” is that the data is stored on secure servers, making your data more difficult for cyber criminals to access than it would be on that old laptop that hasn’t been properly cleaned out in years.
The most convenient part? Cloud Storage is typically very low cost and sometimes even completely free! Services like Google Drive are perfect for storing text documents, pictures, or even some of your music collection. With a simple click of a button you can access your files from anywhere in the world!
Now that more and more of our devices are connected to “the Cloud”, it makes sense to utilize this new technology to not only protect our data, but to also make our lives a little easier.
If you have any questions about “the Cloud”, or need help setting up storage for your office, give the experts at Tech Force a call!
Over the last century or so we have watched as some amazing history has written itself into the books. We have witnessed the collapse of nations, the installment of new ideas, and the extremely rapid rise of technology. We have watched as much of this new technology came alive from our favorite Science Fiction books, movies, and television shows.
Here are just a few examples of how we’ve seen science fiction become science fact.
In 1966 a new television show took the nation by storm – Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, showed us a glimpse of what the future could hold. The United Federation of Planets not only strove to create peace on a galactic scale, but it did so using some amazing technology. One of these mind-blowing pieces of tech was a hand held, long range communicator. This tiny little idea and prop inspired Martin Cooper’s genius to bring us the invention of the cell phone almost 20 years after the airing of the first episode.
With a book, and years later a movie, we were chilled and slightly terrified by HAL. Created from the mind of Arthur C. Clarke; HAL, a Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer, was the artificial intelligence that ran an exploratory nuclear vehicle Discovery XD-1 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today we have access to our own HAL-inspired personal assistants: Siri and Alexa; although not as terrifying as HAL, they can at times be just as annoying.
We definitely cannot forget one of the most famous, and prolific Science Fiction writers of the 20th century. Publishing books from 1947 to 1987; and a couple after his death in 1988, Robert A. Heinlein delighted audiences with stories of occasionally utopian and often quirky futures. Many of the things we use today, even some we are still looking forward to, came from his pages. Memory foam, hydraulic beds, water beds, (anyone else picking up on a comfort theme here?) and one that’s just about to roll out – the self-driving car.
From Mary Shelly to H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov to Spider Robinson, the ideas of the future born from these writer’s minds have become a part of a history that points us further toward the future. So, remember next time you are watching Travelers, reading Michael Crichton or Larry Niven, not only are you reading Science Fiction, but you are possibly reading about an idea that might end up an everyday part of your life in the not-so-distant future.
We all love to customize things. We like to make them our own and give them a little touch of our personalities. With our cell phones, we buy colorful cases, download apps, and install custom ringtones. On our computers, we change the wallpaper and screen saver, install or uninstall programs and apps, and even install “extensions” in our web browsers.
Browser extensions, plugins, or add-ons, are small programs that increase or enhance the functionality of your web browser. these little programs can power-up your browser to handle a variety of tasks which most browsers wouldn’t be able to perform. Their ultimate goal, of course, is to make your online life easier and give you a better browsing experience.
How can browser extensions customize my internet experience?
Extensions can modify websites as they appear on your computer through adding, removing, or modifying content. In December 2015 there was a scare about seeing spoilers of the new Star Wars movie. Someone made a web extension that would block these spoilers from being seen until the fan got to see the movie for themselves.
Extensions can also give your online security a boost. Ad blockers like AbBlock Plus or uBlock Origin can blocks malicious pop-up, and keep annoying and potentially fraudulent ads from being displayed. Helping to keep you from falling for some of the more common computer scams.
Extensions can add additional features to your browser. An Extension called Web of Trust adds a safety feature to your web searching This extension shows you if a website is safe on the results page by adding a red, yellow or green dot next to the webpage.
Extensions can even combine with other services or apps. For example, you use Evernote, there is an extension called “Web Clipper” that allows you to highlight and automatically clips notes into your Evernote for use across all your technological devices.
One important thing to keep in mind about using browser extensions is that malicious extensions do exist. The best way to ensure that you don’t accidentally do more harm than good by loading one of these rogue extensions is to make sure that you only download and install extensions from your browser’s own web store.
Another thing to keep in mind is the more extensions you have running at once, the more RAM it takes for your browser to run, so try not to overdo it.
Of course, if you have any questions about browser extensions, or any other computer related question, feel free to reach out to Tech Force. We’re always happy to help!
The first thing any IT guy or gal will ask you when you call him with a computer problem is if you tried restarting. An infuriating question to be asked when you just lost three days worth of work, or that work just won’t save and you have a meeting in 5 minutes. However, a lot of computer problems can be solved by simply restarting the device.
When a computer goes without a reboot for an extended period it becomes prone to a bit of bugginess. These annoyances include programs running at a slower pace than usual, unexpected system freeze-ups, and lagging Internet speeds. That horrible call to the IT guys in the basement can be avoided with a simple daily restart. Here’s why:
Clearing the RAM
A program open and running on your screen stores much of the data required to do so in the memory, and sometimes not all the data is cleared out when the program is closed. This data can clog up your RAM causing “memory leaks”; meaning that there may not be room in the computers short term memory for a new program to open up. When this happens your computer will run slow, glitchy, and the blue-screen-of-death might make an appearance forcing a restart.
A preemptive “off and on again” can flush out all the random, unimportant, and temporary data bogging down your device. This will keep you computer running at the speedy pace you have come to expect.
Many program updates need reboots to complete. This includes your Operating System, whose updates don’t take effect until a reboot occurs. A fresh install or update tends to scatter data in several places, a restart will tidy up the mess and arrange it properly on the hard drive. Some programs won’t even run properly without a restart because the information isn’t where is is supposed to be.
Just like the RAM, a system’s processor can become overworked and overloaded by all the processes that are trying to run at the same time. A quick reboot can provide your CPU with a fresh start, and without all the nonsense filling up the processor's poor little cache.
So now you know why the phrase, “Have you tried turning it off and on again” has become a technological cliché. A quick restart will not only fix some annoying computer issues, and prolong the life of your machine.
Of course, if you’re having any problems that restarting you computer doesn’t solve, give your friends at Tech Force a call!
Nowadays, it seems like we’re just about surrounded by some form of technology at all times. Most jobs even require a little bit of a background with computers, especially desk jobs and the like. While the majority of us are pretty confident in our abilities to work around a desktop, there are small details in plain sight that we don’t always catch. Specifically, the different types of computer mice we work with.
The Mechanical Mouse
It used to be that the only type of computer mice was the mechanical mouse, which harbors a hard rubber ball within that translates its movements along a surface into information, which is then sent to the desktop and allows you to move the cursor around as you please. But, all good things must come to an end, as did this old tried and true mouse.
The Optical Mouse
The most common, and one you’re probably using right now is the optical mouse, which is far more convenient than the mechanical mouse because instead of using a ball that could become dislodged, it uses an LED sensor to detect movements along a tabletop, which is of course sent off into the computer like the former.
The Wireless Mouse
Wireless mice come in two types, the infrared and the radio frequency. Both mice relay signals to a base station wired to the computer’s mouse port. Considering they don’t have a cord to directly connect them to the computer or laptop, both types also require batteries or some form of charging. Even with the small disadvantage of occasionally dying on you, they are very easy to carry around on the go if you’re someone who travels a lot, and there’s the added benefit of not having to deal with messy cordage tangles. Good stuff!
The Trackball Mouse
Similar to the function of the track pad on laptops, a trackball mouse looks a lot like a mechanical mouse placed upside down with the ball facing upwards that you’d move manually with your thumb or index finger. While it definitely takes a while to get used to in comparison to its other mice mutations, but because it stays mostly stationary, it doesn’t need a lot of room, and it likely wont tangle as much as others might. You don’t really see many of these out in the wild any more.
That’s just a very very brief rundown of the different types of computer mice.
If you have any questions, or need any computer help, feel free to give your friends at Tech Force a call!
Avoid exposing yourself to malware: When installing software, always choose the “custom” option.
If given an option to choose a “custom” installation vs. “express”, “recommended” or whatever, always choose “custom”.
Why? Because chances are that they are trying to trick you to installing bundled third party programs, browser extensions, or tool bars (yes, those are still a thing). By choosing a custom installation you can uncheck these unwanted and occasionally malicious installations.
Be careful though, some of these third party vendors are getting a bit sneaky. Hiding or moving the “decline” button or even disguising their installer as a “terms of service” that needs to be accepted.
As always, if you have any questions about how to remove some of these third party problems, want to know whether or not a particular program is safe, or have any other questions at all, feel free to call us here at Tech Force.
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