Author Archive for CSH

Protecting your Privacy Online

Protecting your Privacy Online

Maintaining your privacy while using the internet has become more challenging over the years. The recent Facebook privacy scandal made that abundantly clear, with users shocked at how much information had been recorded about them. While it’s almost impossible to enjoy the internet and leave zero digital footprints, there are things you can do to hide your online activities – some more effective than others.

1. Get a virtual private network (VPN)

A fancy name that means that an encrypted connection is created between your computer and the VPN company, so that when you visit a website, the website can only see the VPN company computer – not yours. VPNs aren’t just for business and downloaders now, they’ve gone mainstream and are even advertised on national TV (such as NordVPN advertisments).

The other computer could be in another city or another country, which is why some people use VPN’s to watch movies and programs that you do not get in the UK, as you can get extra content in other countries and can access that extra content if the VPN computer is in that country (although this is usually frowned upon by providers such as Netflix who actively try to block it).

You essentially run around the internet pretending to be another computer in another location. Since your connection is encrypted, even your broadband company can’t see what you’re doing online, making your usage anonymous.

The downsides: Because your internet usage has to route through another computer first, your browsing and download speed could be affected. Some (not all) can be tricky to set up and not all VPNs offer the same privacy levels (the better ones tend to be more expensive). Some websites may even block visits from people using VPNs, so you may end up switching it on/off as required.

2. Go Incognito, InPrivate or Private Window

Most browsers have a private browsing mode, each called something different. For example, Google Chrome calls it ‘incognito’, Microsoft calls it ‘InPrivate’ and Firefox calls it ‘Private Window’. Before you take the name at face value, it’s a good idea to talk about how they define ‘private’.

Unlike a VPN where you can dance around the internet anonymously, private browsing simply means it won’t show up in your browser history, or what you entered into forms. This feature is free, so you always have the option to use it, and it’s actually more helpful than you might think. Common uses include price shopping to reset sale timers, access local-only pricing and overriding usage limits on certain sites.

Some sites use cookies to control your free trials and private browsing can help you get around that.

While private browsing can help keep your internet usage under wraps, it’s not a magic bullet to cover all possibilities. Many people believe they’re invisible AND invulnerable while private browsing, a mistake they end up paying for.

The downsides: It can’t pre-fill saved passwords and it won’t help you type in the website name even if you’ve been there before.

3. Always think about who’s watching

While you might be naturally careful when using a public computer, have you thought about who’s watching what you do on your work computer? Some workplaces have employee monitoring software that tracks all sorts of data, including taking screenshots of your desktop. It helps them create rules about computer usage but it may also provide them with evidence you’ve been breaking those rules.

Stepping out to the internet cafe can be even more risky, as people can install keyloggers that record every keystroke, including your credit card numbers and logins. You’ll never know your activities are being recorded, even if you use private browsing.

The downsides: Being aware of who may be watching? None.

Awareness of the risks and the possibility of being watched ensures you’re more likely to use the internet safely.

Whatever you choose to do to protect your privacy, you’ll still need solid anti-virus and password habits to protect against threat, and to be a smart internet user who avoids suspect websites. Consider the options above as privacy-enhancing measures, not one-stop solutions.

Need help with your online privacy? Give us a call on 01455 209505.

How to Securely Dispose of Old Computers

How to Securely Dispose of Old Computers

Getting a computer can be exciting, but what happens to the old ones? Depending on the age, some people sell them, others throw them out. That’s the easy part – the problem is the sensitive data on them. There are passwords, account numbers, license keys, customer details, medical information, tax returns, browser history…. the works.

Whether it’s for home use or business use, laptops, tablets or desktop hard drives contain a treasure trove of sensitive information that cybercriminals would love to get their hands on. Unfortunately, hitting ‘delete’ on your files doesn’t actually make them disappear, nor does waving a strong magnet over the drive. These mistakes have cost businesses millions over the years.

Why hitting ‘delete’ doesn’t help

Data on a hard drive works like a book with an index page. Every time data is written, it pops a quick entry into the index so that when you need it again, it knows where to look. The index is used for files you create as well as system files you can’t even see. Sensible, right?

Except that if you delete a file it isn’t physically deleted – it’s more like changing the index to say that nothing is on page 10 and you can write something else there when you’re ready. But if you ignore the index and manually go to page 10, you’ll find that the information is still there – the file exists until it has been written over.

The only thing that is deleted is the index reference, not the file itself.

Re-using the computer

Most people are unaware that specialized data cleanup is necessary if the computer is to be reused.

A 2016 experiment proved just how dangerous the situation can be when 200 used ex-business hard drives were purchased and 67% held unwiped, unencrypted sensitive data, including sales projection spreadsheets, CRM records, and product inventories. Frighteningly, they didn’t need any special hacking skills to get this data, it was all right there and helpfully labelled.

It’s also not surprising that with simple data recovery tools, people have also been able to access British NHS medical records and defence data, all waiting patiently on a discarded hard drive.

Wiping data before re-use or selling

Data on a hard drive can only be securely deleted if the area on the drive that contains the data, has been overwritten enough. There are specialist tools available to ‘deep-read’ a drive, so the success of overwriting a drive depends on how effectively it has been overwritten.

For example the US Defence Department requires a drive to be overwritten a number of times, including using random characters, (not just ones and zeros as some programs use) before they class the drive as securely wiped.

There are software tools you can get to do it yourself, as well as dedicated security firms, but your best option is to choose an IT business you know and trust as some software does not clear the hard drive sufficiently. With that in mind, a methodical approach is required to ensure not a single drive is left untreated as you don’t want to leave data behind, or even clues that a motivated person could extrapolate any private information from.

We can migrate any needed data, backup the information then securely wipe or destroy the hard drives for you.

Data when disposing of a computer

When we supply new computers to homes or businesses, we copy the data from the old computer and transfer it into the new one, so things like documents, photos, even internet browser favourites are in the same place on the new machine, ready to use. But the old hard drive is still there, containing all the private data that you don’t want to allow into the wrong hands, so what is the best thing to do?

We give the customer a choice. We hand the customer the old hard drive so that they can either keep the drive securely at home, or at their business – not only can they be sure that the information is still secure but this has the added benefit of having a backup copy available, should it be needed.

Alternatively, they can simply destroy the drive and the rest of the old computer can just go for recycling. Computers need to be recycled as they contain metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium which is not intended for landfill or incineration. Also there are metals (including rare and precious metals) which can be recovered.

You don’t even need special equipment to destroy it, either smash the drive or use some other method of physically destroying it, such as drilling – just be very careful! If the drive is a mechanical one with spinning platters, once damaged beyond repair it is highly likely that no-one could get to your data.

Whether you are passing on, selling or just throwing away your old computer, always bear in mind that the hard drive inside it contains important and sensitive data, so you do need to make a decision about what to do with the drive.

Need help with your old hard drives? Give us a call on 01455 209505.

How to Avoid Email Overload

How to Avoid Email Overload

Email has allowed us to send and receive messages more easily than ever before. While this is a good thing, it can also lead to problems. We regularly see people that receive dozens or even hundreds of emails in a day. At this point, it can feel like you’re wasting your entire day dealing with those incoming messages.

Even worse, it makes it difficult to find important messages in your Inbox. You can quickly become overloaded with emails, especially as it is estimated that over 70% of global email is actually ‘Spam’ emails.

So how can we deal with this overload? The first step is to reduce the number of emails you receive overall and then do what few people do – manage what you keep in your Inbox! There are a few ways to do this.

Don’t just delete Spam emails – mark them as Spam first.

We have found that most people just delete spam emails when they receive them, which is the wrong thing to do, as you need to mark them as spam to get them rerouted or blocked altogether. If you don’t, emails from that address will just keep on coming.

Whether you are using an email program or just getting your email through a web browser, if you get a spam email, mark it as spam. That way your email program will automatically put it straight into your ‘Junk’ email folder and your email company will do the same if you are using an internet browser.

Restrict who you give your email address to.

Many people have at least two email addresses – one for everyday use for family and friends and one that they use just for giving to companies that they do business with. For instance, it can be useful to give a separate email address when buying things, such as at shops or online, because that way your personal (or business) email address doesn’t get so cluttered with commercial emails trying to sell you something.

Don’t forget that many companies also sell on your email address to their ‘selected partners’ that you have never dealt with before, so you may get even more emails from companies you have never even heard of.

It’s important to think carefully about who you give your email address to. For example, if you enter a lot of contests, this often automatically subscribes you to several email campaigns. If you type your email into every popup box asking for it, these add up. Reduce who you give your email to.

Unsubscribe

Go through your Inbox and unsubscribe to newsletters that you never read. If you haven’t opened one of their emails in months, chances are that you’re probably not going to start to any time soon. Similarly, if you are getting emails that you are not interested in any more, unsubscribe – it should only take seconds to do.

Turn off notifications from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest – if you like emails from these networks, then at least adjust the settings so they email you highlights once a week or month rather than allowing them to spam your Inbox several times per day.

Do you need that notification?

If you receive emails that contain information that you can find elsewhere, switch those notifications off. For instance, you might run an e-commerce website that sends an email for every sale. If your website already has a record of this, you don’t need it in two places.

Make sure not to use your email as a to-do list. When you need to remember to do something, put that on a list elsewhere such as an online calendar, to help clear up your Inbox. If this is a hard habit to break, at least make a folder for things you need to do and move emails there and out of your general Inbox.

Change your email habits

Change your own email sending habits. If a topic is complex and will require a lot of back and forth conversation, consider discussing it in person or over the phone. Sending fewer emails will reduce how many you receive in return. Remember that you don’t need to respond to every email you receive. A response indicates a willingness to continue to conversation.

Resist the urge to send messages with a single word like “Thanks!” or “Ok” and you’ll notice others will stop sending you similar, unnecessary messages. When sending group emails, you can also remind others not to use “reply all” unless it’s information relevant to the entire group.

Start clearing emails out

This is the big one, that everyone just keeps putting off!

Start emptying out your Inbox and getting rid of any old emails you don’t need to keep. Using the word “need” is deliberate – you have to be selective about the emails that you keep. Delete old calendar invites, advertisements, or any emails where the problem has already been resolved. Respond to any messages that can be answered within only a few minutes.

Archive messages where you can so they are not clogging up your main Inbox – you can search and find these later if necessary – this has an added bonus because it can actually speed up Outlook if your archive folder is not open all the time. Put other emails into folders based on the type of email and the priority level.

From now on, all of this can be automated. You can have receipts automatically go into a receipt folder, calendar invites go into another, etc. A cluttered inbox can lead to your mind feeling just as cluttered so free up your Inbox to create more time for yourself. Let email overload become something of the past.

If you need help with your emails, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Why You Need 2-Factor Authentication

Why you need 2-Factor Authentication

You hear about hacks all the time, whether its major websites who have had data leaks containing email and passwords, or computers getting infected and login details for bank accounts and credit cards being obtained. In the worst cases, identity theft occurs because it is an easy crime to commit with a high reward.

Why Passwords are Not Enough Anymore

In 2018, the passwords you used to trust to keep the bad guys out of your accounts, are simply not enough anymore. Cyber attackers now use methods such as ‘phishing’ (pretending to be trustworthy), ‘pharming’ (redirecting to a fake website), and keylogging (monitoring keyboard strokes) to steal your password. Some have the power to test billions of password combinations.

If you’re like the majority of people, you use the same password for several websites. That means anybody who has figured out that password has access to everything you’ve logged into with it. In a time when it is extremely easy to look up what a person named their first pet or high school mascot thanks to social media, such security questions aren’t much help.

Consider how a jewellery store operates. They don’t simply keep their valuables locked away with one key. There are alarms ready to be triggered, motion detectors, and sometimes even bars on the windows. Your data is valuable, just like jewellery. You need more than one line of defence to protect it.

What is 2-Factor Authentication?

In the computer world, your second line of defence after your username and password combination is called “2-factor authentication.” 2-factor authentication is a way to double check a person’s identity by sending a text or email code to confirm that the person logging in, is the genuine person. No code – no login.

It is sometimes referred to as ‘multiple-step’ or ‘multi-factor’ verification, depending on the company using it.

This can be enabled every time a person logs in or just under certain circumstances. For example, signing in from a new device or different country might trigger 2-factor authentication.

Many of the services you may already use, such as Facebook, Gmail, and more, have 2-factor authentication options already. If your bank has ever sent you a special code through text or email to enter before logging in, you’ve already used a type of 2-factor authentication. They can also be in the form of a smartphone app or a physical electronic dongle.

2-factor authentication is absolutely crucial for online banking, email, and online shopping such as Amazon or PayPal. It’s also a must-have for cloud storage accounts (like Dropbox or Sync), password managers, communications apps, and productivity apps. This is especially true if you frequently use the same passwords for different websites and apps.

When should I use it?

Clearly, as much as possible. Some may consider 2-factor authentication unnecessary for social networks, but these are actually very important to keep safe. For ease, a lot of websites and apps allow you to sign up through your Facebook or Twitter account so you need to keep these networks safe, so that somebody with your password can’t suddenly get into every account you have linked.

The point of using 2-factor authentication is to make hackers’ lives harder and prevent them from getting into your accounts. If they have captured your login username and password, they still need a second device to get in, especially when the computer or phone they are using has never logged into your account before. This makes it significantly more difficult for anybody to breach your account.

Plus, if you receive a notification with a special code to enter for logging in, and you weren’t trying to log into that account, you have a good signal that somebody else was trying to get in. That means it’s time to change that password and be grateful you had 2-factor authentication.

It’s unfortunate that there is currently an abundance of skilled hackers ready to take advantage of those unprepared. Luckily, you can still stop them -even if they have your login information at hand. 2-factor authentication is one of the easiest methods to keep your accounts safe.

If you want help in securing your accounts, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Telephone Fraudsters are Back in the Area

Due to a sharp rise in the number of calls we are getting about telephone fraud, where criminals pretend to be broadband companies in order to connect to peoples computers, we thought a reminder would be useful – and hopefully you will not be caught out.

A few years ago, TalkTalk made the news after admitting that they had been hacked and large amounts of customer private data had been accessed illegally. At that time there were a number of scammers pretending to be from TalkTalk, phoning people trying to get remote access to their computer by saying that they were infected or their emails had been hacked.

Unfortunately, the scam continues and the same scammers can pretend to be from BT, Microsoft or any other well-known and well-used company. The idea is to convince people into allowing them to access their computers to either create a problem (to pretend to fix), to syphon details to be used later in ID and bank fraud, or just to scare the customer into handing over money.

Scammers are back

We are currently seeing an increasing number of cases where scammers are using the BT excuse. They call out of the blue, say something like your broadband router has a problem or that your computer has a virus or other issue. In many cases they are so believable that they may accidentally mention something that may actually be true, for example that you have had issues with your email.

Once they have connected to your computer, unknown to you they actually cause the damage that they are pretending to help you with, and/or put something on your computer that seems to support what they are saying.

Big companies like BT and Talk Talk have hundreds of thousands of customers, so the criminals doing this scam can pretty much guarantee that they will get an actual customer if they ring enough people.

How to identify its a fraudulent call

Remember that legitimate companies would never call you to ask for passwords or any other personal information. They will not contact you out of the blue to ask to remotely access your computer for any reason.

If you have an actual broadband problem for example, no broadband company will call you first – its up to you to report it.

Similarly, no-one can tell if you have a computer virus, so if someone calls saying that, you know that they are fake.

What to do if they call

If you do get a call from someone saying that they are from BT, TalkTalk or any other company, no matter how believable they are, do not let them access your computer under any circumstances.

They can do this in a number of ways, for example getting you to download something or getting you to go to a specific website, where they can initiate a download without you knowing.

Go to the genuine company website, get contact details and call them, to make sure that the person you are talking to is genuine. Never click on a link or go to an address that they give you – always use the genuine website address yourself.

Also, remember that remote connections can be used legitimately too and you should not be put off using it – just be especially careful who you allow to connect remotely to your computer.

One of the worst things we see is that having been conned, many people cannot believe that they have fallen for it. If you have been conned by these people, do not be too hard on yourself about it. They have had plenty of practice and can be extremely believable, with people from all backgrounds falling for the scam.

If you think that you may have already been scammed or want help, give us a call on 01455 209505.

The Best Way to Buy New Computers

Best Way to Buy New Computers

You’ve decided to buy a new computer and whether it’s for your home or your business, you can almost taste the excitement as you think about those sleek new machines and how much faster things will be. There’s just one thing left to do: actually choose which one. That’s where it gets tricky.

Most people pop out to their local superstore and look at the display models, then get overwhelmed when the salesperson starts throwing jargon words like “CPU” and “RAM” around. Unfortunately, that scenario can end up with you (or your business) having the wrong computer.

Here’s why, and what you can do instead.

Most retail salespeople are minimally trained:

Unsurprisingly, salespeople are trained to sell! They may (or may not) have an interest in computers and they’re certainly great at reading the marketing to you, but primarily most are there to shift boxes. Their goal is to make the sale, earn the commission and go home happy. You getting the computer you (or your business) needs and that 100% suits your purpose, isn’t necessarily so high on their priority list.

They’re also not equipped to understand the way you or your business works, nor do they have the time to find out. You’re also more likely to be upsold extras you don’t need but will rapidly drain your budget.

Compatibility can be a problem:

While you probably know having both Mac and PC together can lead to compatibility issues, did you know even switching brands within your PC network can sometimes cause issues? Salespeople don’t know what your current setup is at your home or business but they may still make recommendations based on assumptions and hopeful guesswork. Even the number and types of ports available on retail computers may cause a problem once you’re setting up.

The last thing you want to do is end up with a collection of wobbly adapter plugs as you attempt to course-correct and make-do if something presents a problem. Any time you (or your employees) create workarounds, efficiency is guaranteed to take a dramatic hit.

It’s best to skip the drama and get the right computer first time around.

Buying through an IT provider instead need not be more expensive:

A good IT provider will go to your home or office and make sure that the equipment you get is the right one for you and your needs. This means that not only will potential issues be minimized (such as printers or other devices no longer working with a newer computer) but it also ensures that you are not paying for computer equipment that you do not need. After all it’s nice to have the latest ‘super-speedy go-faster super PC’, but why spend the extra money if you will never ever use half of its power?

For example, as we are not commission driven, we make the effort to find out what you need and give a no-obligation quote based on the best price available from distributors. Prices can literally go down overnight, which is why we can keep prices down as we do not keep stock which may have been bought at a higher cost.

An IT provider will also be able to set the new computers up, ready to go with the exact software you need. They can strip out all the bloatware (unnecessary programs and trial software that come pre-installed) and configure your new computers to work correctly from day 1.

You (and if a business, your employees) will be able to enjoy their new systems and take full advantage of the productivity boosts you paid for. That means internet working, internal network connected, programs playing nice with each other, and yes, even printing without problems!

If you would like help with your next purchase – give us a call on 01455 209505.

Why a Business Website needs to be HTTPS

Why Business websites need to be HTTPS

You may have noticed many business websites now have a green padlock in the address bar next to the letters ‘https’. Until recently, you’d only see that on shopping or banking sites, but it’s now become the expected norm for all business websites – even if you don’t ask people to log in or enter credit cards.

Simply put, the ‘s’ in https stands for ‘secure’ and means any data sent and received by the website visitor is encrypted. It’s an essential feature for e-commerce sites, but why have all the info-only websites started using https too?

The New Google Rule

As of July 2018, Google will mark your page as insecure unless you’re using https. It’s a movement they started a few years ago to make the internet a more secure place by default. Since Google pretty much rule internet search and increasing security is always a good idea, businesses have been gradually switching over.

Without https protection, someone with access to your internet connection, whether from digital eavesdropping or hacking, could intercept the information. They could also place malware onto otherwise legitimate sites and infect innocent visitors. That’s why eighty-one of the top 100 sites online have already switched to https and a strong majority of the web is following suit.

The Browser Bar Says It All

In the same way a green padlock in the browser bar indicates a trustworthy site, you can expect non-https sites to be marked with a “not secure” warning. Previously, users had to click an information symbol to actively investigate non-secure sites. The shift to plain sight markers will be most noticeable on Chrome, however it’s expected that other browser developers will follow suit.

Visitors may be concerned when landing on your site and seeing that the connection isn’t secure. The fact that you may not be asking them to log in, enter personal details or payment is irrelevant. You may not be asking them to enter anything at all, but perceptions matter.

Eventually that warning will be changed to an alarming red as Google declares war on unsecure sites. As the common understanding is that a warning = bad, you may get more visitors bouncing away within seconds or even contacting you to report that your site has a problem.

SEO Boosts for Secure Sites

Google is taking its commitment to safe web browsing further by favouring https. That means that their search algorithm is taking your site security into account, preferring to display results that it knows will protect users from hackers. Since https status gets the nod, you may find yourself climbing in the ranking while other businesses scramble to catch up. It really is a win-win situation.

What to Do Next

In an ideal world, your site would have a secret switch on the back-end that you could flick over and suddenly be https, but it’s a little more complicated than that. In fact, you may have already noticed some sites experiencing trouble with the migration. When the setup goes wrong, users don’t see your website with a little warning in the corner, they’re blocked by a full page error and offered a return to ‘safety’ (away from your site).

The easiest way to make the move to https is to contact your IT technician or web developer, as they’ll be able to make sure you’re keeping Google happy and displaying that green icon.

Need help migrating your site to https? Call us on 01455 209505.

6 Clear Reasons to Switch Your Business to Cloud

Switch your Business to the Cloud

Has your business embraced the cloud yet? Yes, it’s another piece of techie jargon that you hear every now and again but it really can help businesses – big and small. As we move closer to 2019, it’s estimated that approximately 83% of business traffic will involve cloud applications – a trend driven largely by smart decision making.

When cloud applications first came out, nobody really understood what the cloud was or how it could help their business, but as the technology improved, so did the secure and flexible solutions available to you. Some of the most common cloud applications are accounting software such as Quickbooks, as well as the Microsoft Office 365 package.

Instead of being seen as alternative options, cloud applications are now clearly viewed as the next logical step. Here’s why:-

Your data is safer

While it can give you a sense of comfort to hear your storage drives whirring away, the risks are less appealing. External hard drives, Network drives and Servers all have a vulnerability – they could crash, drives become corrupted, or a breach could see your data held hostage under a ransomware attack. Of course, there’s always the standard fire/theft/flood scenario to consider too.

With cloud applications, your data is safely tucked away in ‘Fort Knox’-style data centres, complete with robust backup replacement systems in case anything goes wrong. As part of their service guarantees (usually 99.9% uptime), your cloud solution will have technicians on-site whose sole job is to make sure that when you need to use the application, it works.

We can help you choose the safest, most robust solution with the best performance.

You’re always updated

Gone are the days of trying to work out compatibility between program versions and accidentally corrupting files. Cloud applications are updated automatically on all devices, and unlike when you run an update on a local computer, the process is almost instant. This is because the update is actually running on their end, at the data centre and not on your machine, slowing it down. With this advantage, you’re always up to date with the latest features and security patches, no matter how busy you are.

You’re free to move around

One of the best ways to increase efficiency is to remove restrictions around when your employees can do their job. With your new cloud application, they won’t have to wait until they get back into the office to send an invoice, follow up with a customer or even make a record-breaking sale – they can do it wherever, whenever.

This flexibility opens up a world of possibility and can literally hand you a competitive edge. All your employees need is an internet enabled smart phone, tablet or laptop, so you’re even saving money on tech. There are tons of ideas on how your business can take advantage of this freedom.

Collaboration is easy

Since all the data is held in one place, your employees can collaborate with ease. Nobody gets locked out of files because someone else is using it and changes appear in real-time for multiple users. By having a single version of a file, ideas can flow faster, results become more valuable. It may sound like a simple benefit, but we know how frustrating it can be for staff to collaborate without the right tools to support them.

All you need is internet

Considering how fast modern internet speeds are, this is usually a non-issue. It simply needs to be stable and meet a standard speed. If you’re concerned, we can run checks to make sure it will be a smooth transition for you. Because it’s internet based, the cloud application works with your established network, whether it’s wired, wi-fi or cellular (or a hybrid).

Some businesses also choose to have mobile 4G set up in case the internet goes down, that way the connection automatically switches over and downtime is completely avoided.

Business size doesn’t matter

Cloud applications are a great option for both Small AND Big businesses. Smaller businesses only need to subscribe to single user licenses, while larger businesses enjoy the multi-user license savings. Skipping the cost of per-computer installations and choosing between per-user, per-site or per-use options.

We can help you choose the application and cost-saving model that suits your business best.

Talk to us about your cloud options and lock in the advantages! Call us on 01455 209505.

Windows 10 Updates and Avoiding Problems

Windows 10 logo

On our travels visiting customers, we find that Windows 10 Updates can cause a lot of aggravation and some severe problems. Here is some information that may help to reduce issues.

Window Updates has had a chequered history, with most people finding that whilst Updates are a ‘necessary evil’, they can also be a pain in the neck. Whether the computer decides to update itself at the wrong (usually the worst) time, breaks something when you reboot or just doesn’t reboot at all, Windows Updates can be very frustrating.

The problem is that they are needed and Windows 10 now forces you to have them.

What you can and cannot do with Updates

Windows Updates in Windows 10 can also be a pain, although updates in 10 are treated very differently from previous versions – such as the fact that you cannot switch Updates off, as in previous versions of Windows. Although in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise versions, you can delay the updates, you cannot stop them. (Go to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options to delay Updates).

(Yes there are hacks found on the internet which may stop them for a period of time, but it is not recommended).

What you can control about Updates

Have you had a Windows Update interrupt you whilst you are working? A welcome change in later versions of Windows 10 is that there is now a setting which allows you to tell the computer when it must not interrupt with an update. (Go to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update and set your ‘active hours’).

Why are Updates different in Windows 10?

Windows 10 is classed as ‘Windows as a service’. Amongst other things, this means that the traditional “new” version of Windows no longer happens, so don’t expect Windows 11 any time soon.

What Microsoft has done is to add and change features in Windows 10, but essentially keep it as Windows 10. This means that instead of brand new versions of Windows, Windows 10 itself will be updated to the latest version, (much like Apple updates its devices) – and it’s this feature update that is causing the most issues, particularly on older computers.

Also, individual updates are now bundled into what is called cumulative updates – in other words, it’s all or nothing.

What can be done to minimise Update problems?

Much of what you can do is common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who either put things off or just do not do it.

Back up! Back up your important files – Photos, Documents, whatever – you need to protect them.

Power – if you are using a laptop, make sure that it is plugged in at the wall and that the lid is left open. Much of the time, battery power alone is not enough to provide power through an update and the battery running out will have the same effect as switching it off part way through the Update.

Never, ever interrupt the Update– when the computer screen says “do not switch off” it means it. If an Update is interrupted it can cause significant damage to Windows, as Updates deal with important system files.

Be patient – updates can take a long time (hours in many cases). For example, if you have left the computer on overnight for the update to take place, but when you go back to it there is nothing on the screen and you cannot do anything with it, don’t switch it off, call a technician for advice.

Windows Updates are here to stay and hopefully you will not be in the situation where an Update has ‘broken’ something.

If you do need help with a Windows Update issue, give us a call on 01455 209505.

What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

Listen out for computer noise

New computers are whisper quiet compared to older models as they generally have quieter components, but after a while computers can start making some pretty weird noises. Clicks, clunks, and about-to-take-off jet noises are the most common, but when should you be concerned?

Your computer has a number of moving parts and even some stationary parts that can make noises. If you’re listening, your computer might be telling you about its current health and how you can help it run smoother, for longer.

When you hear a clicking noise:

This could be normal if it’s more like a soft tick. Mechanical hard drives work a bit like a record player with a needle arm and platter, although in this case, the ‘needle’ arm never touches the platter, it just reads it. So you might simply be hearing it spin up and move the needle arm around.

When it starts sounding like a loud click it’s usually not good news. If your hard drive has started making alarming noises, you should bring it in as soon as possible. Just like a record player, scratches that ruin your data are possible, and if ignored for long enough, it doesn’t just skip and have trouble reading the drive, the whole thing can become unusable.

Our technicians can copy the files onto a new drive before it gets to that point, but retrieving data from a destroyed hard drive is rarely achieved without CSI-level expenses. It’s easier and much cheaper to replace the hard drive at the first sign of failure.

When you hear a clunking noise:

Unsurprisingly, this one causes certain alarm. Computers aren’t meant to go clunk! It may be a simple matter of a cable having shifted into the path of a fan and getting clipped during the spin. Remember when you pegged a card between your bicycle spokes? It might sound a little like that, skipping every now and then as it’s pushed away and drops back again.

If that’s the case, our technicians will quickly secure the cable back where it belongs.

When you hear a jet-engine noise:

Most computers and laptops have fans to keep them cool. The fans have to spin to move the air around, and the faster they’re spinning, the more noise they make. We start to worry when the jet-engine noise gets out of hand and especially when it’s not just while you’re playing a resource-intensive game or doing some video editing.

Constant jet-engine noise indicates your computer is struggling to cool itself down, perhaps because the fan vents are clogged with dust, your computer is in a poorly ventilated space, or the fan itself is worn. Each fan has ball bearings inside that wear out over time, making extra noise while it does the best it can.

Our technicians can replace individual fans and give your system a checkup to make sure nothing else has been affected.

When it’s beep time:

Most computers have a friendly beep as you switch it on but these beeps actually have multiple meanings. The single beep you normally hear indicates that it’s run a self-test and everything is fine. When your computer is unwell, you might hear more beeps than usual. This is because each beep combination is a code to technicians, letting us know what’s gone wrong.

Certain beep combinations mean the memory is loose or damaged, others that the video adapter has a problem, etc. If your computer has started beeping differently, let our technicians know so we can decode it and repair the problem for you.

Some noises your computer makes will be normal, others a sign of deeper issues. Even if your computer seems to be operating correctly, a sudden onset of weird noises could mean failure is just around the corner or at the very least, something needs investigating. Taking early action ensures problems don’t escalate, costs are kept low, and your files remain where they belong.

Got some weird noises coming from your computer? Give us a call today on 01455 209505.