Author Archive for CSH – Page 7

Potentially Unwanted Programs

Too many toolbars are PUPs

Everyone has heard of the term ‘computer virus’ and many people have also heard of the term ‘malware’. Unfortunately there is a less well-known term – a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP).

This is software that may be clogging up your computer, yet is not classed as a virus or malware. They can cause problems when they are downloaded and installed, but what makes a PUP different is that when you install one, you are giving consent for the installation.

PUPs typically use up large amounts of system resources because they are running in the background and generally slow down your computer – sometimes drastically. From changing your search provider for no reason, adding toolbars to your internet browser or giving you pop-up adverts, PUPs can be annoying and troublesome. They are also easy to get.

Newer strains are information gatherers, providing data about your browsing habits and other information which is valuable to someone and the information is sent out for data collection purposes. Some are used to spread actual malware. Not all are as bad as this, but they all share an unwelcome trait – you are probably better off without them.

How do you get them?

Sometimes they piggy back onto other downloads, such as from software websites where there are bright green ‘Start Download’ buttons everywhere. You click on the button expecting one piece of free software and end up getting something else entirely or something in addition to what you expected.

It’s not just dodgy toolbars or free software designers either. Some big names bundle well-meaning PUPs in their downloads, for example Adobe Reader can give you the option to download an on-demand virus scanning program unless you spot it on the webpage, or a Java download asking if you want to install a toolbar, change your search engine or other setting when installing the program.

The more dodgy variety of PUP relies on you not wanting to read through the long licensing blurb displayed on the screen (the EULA). By clicking on the ‘Accept’ button, you are effectively giving them permission to install and in the case of the dodgy variety, protection from any legal action.

The question is that it’s easy to click away and miss something – you do need to watch what you click on.

Why do you get them?

“Free” software makers make money from them – for example, every toolbar installed earns them money.

Companies that give you the option to download them in addition to their own product, may also make money promoting the additional software.

PUPs are also friendly with each other, so when you get one it may bring along some of its PUP friends as well, to make some more money on the side.

Won’t my anti-virus program catch them?

Not necessarily. The issue is that technically, a PUP can be legal software in spite of the way it is used and some antivirus vendors choose to be strict about detecting them, whilst others are not so strict. Even if it is not switched on by default, many antivirus programs have a setting to configure the antivirus to look for PUPs, so it’s worth checking yours.

The important thing is to be watchful, especially when downloading and installing programs.

Computer Recovery – for when disaster strikes

Recovering your computer

Windows 10 and Windows 8 have a built-in facility to refresh/reset your computer if you have a major problem, so you can reinstall Windows and use your computer if the worst happens. The problem is that Windows 10 has only 25% market share (as at February 2017) and Windows 8 has even less, 8% – compared to Windows 7 that still has 48% of the market. So if you still have Windows 7, how would you reinstall it?

In the past when you bought a new computer, it came with DVD discs called ‘Recovery discs’ which contained a copy of  Windows software that the manufacturer put on the computer at the factory. These discs were used as a last resort to reinstall Windows and basically put the computer back to the state that it was in fresh out of the factory (that is without your own files such as photographs, etc.) should it be necessary.

In recent years, most computer manufacturers stopped supplying these Recovery discs and instead placed a copy (called an ‘image’) on a part of the computer hard drive. So long as the hard drive and/or the information on it are intact, then you can reinstall Windows using that image instead of a Recovery disc.

If there is something wrong with the hard drive itself, you are stuck with no way of repairing your computer without paying for the manufacturer to send you out a Recovery disc and waiting for it to arrive, sometimes taking weeks. Or worse still, buying a copy of the operating system again.

Luckily, manufacturers put a program on computers that allow you to create a Recovery image automatically. By creating this Recovery image, you are giving yourself that extra chance of reinstalling Windows on your computer, without more cost and delays.

Unfortunately we find that most people do not make this Recovery backup, so we strongly recommend that you find the program on your computer now and create a Recovery image as soon as you can. It’s never too late to get that extra peace of mind and you may be glad that you did.

If you would like help to create recovery images, give us a call on 01455 209505. We’d be happy to help.

What does Cloud computing mean?

Cloud computing and storage

The I.T. world is full of jargon but it’s surprising the number of people we deal with who have heard of the term “Cloud” computing, but still do not know what it means….and how it could benefit them.

Essentially, when people talk about “Cloud” computing they are talking about a method to store your files on special servers on the internet, instead of just on your computer. Saving them “on the Cloud”.

That way, if something bad happened to your computer, copies of your files would be safely tucked away somewhere else where you could still access them even if you could not use your computer.

Is it just online storage?

It is more than that, as your files could be accessible to you whenever and wherever you may be, so you are not tied down to have to be sitting at your computer to access them. One of the most well-known (and copied) ‘Cloud’ services is from a company called Dropbox.

Here is the way it works – you open an account (which is free up to a certain level of storage) and you install their program. This creates a folder on your computer and if you save something (a photo, document or whatever) in that folder, not only will it be saved on your computer, but also a copy is automatically sent to a secure server for safekeeping.

You don’t have to do anything special or anything that you do not already do – all you need to remember is to save your work in the cloud folder. You can make changes, share the file with other people – you can even do something at work and carry on with it when you get home. And vice versa.

For home users, it’s a great way to back up your important files without having to go through the hassle of setting up backup plans to an external hard drive – it’s automatic.

I’m not sure about saving my files there – is it secure?

Well, governments use it and it’s fair to say that the security at data centres where this is stored, is some of the hardest security around. Although nothing online can be guaranteed to be 100% secure, great lengths are taken to protect the information, including copies in more than one place so if one data centre has a problem, another can take over.

So the term ‘Cloud’ can do more for you than you realise and can be an inexpensive lifesaver – especially for businesses.

If you want help setting up a ‘Cloud’ storage system, please give us a call on 01455 209505.

Windows 10 Privacy

Windows 10 privacy

Since Windows 10 was released, much has been said about the privacy concerns that come with it. Admittedly, some of the concerns have been exaggerated but there is no doubt that Windows 10 collects much more data about you than any other Windows version before it.

One of the concerns relates to ‘Cortana’ the “personal assistant”. Like Apple’s ‘Siri’, ‘Cortana’ collects personal information such as calendar, contacts, location, alarm settings, what websites you view, emails, and more. When you add it all up, there is quite a lot of information about you.

Why are they collecting this much information?

They say that it is to “better serve you”, such as being able to suggest a restaurant nearby, but ultimately it is also advertising data collection. Each account with an email is given an Advertising ID and a profile is created that is shared with Microsoft partner advert networks.

Similarly, OneDrive the online storage service, synchs every time you switch on and gets updates of your internet browsing and wifi details. Even your location is noted by the operating system and the information is passed to “trusted” third parties.

Everyone thinks differently about their privacy – one person may feel that ‘Cortana’ being able to suggest a local restaurant is good enough reason for so much data collection, but another person may feel it’s a little too much.

To be fair, it’s not just Windows 10 though – ‘Siri’ keeps voice recordings for much longer than you would think as back in 2013 Apple announced that they were keeping your ‘Siri’ voice recordings for two years. The digital age has its drawbacks.

What can you do about more control over your privacy?

Go to Start Menu > Settings and open the Privacy section, to look carefully at all the settings that can be switched on or off – there are quite a few of them and some settings may be useful to you, others not so much.

Also, you can still have a local account on your Windows 10 computer rather than one controlled by your email address, which controls the automatic synching of your information.

Microsoft have now taken the privacy concerns seriously and in the so-called ‘Creators Update’ for Windows 10 that is due in the first half of 2017, the privacy settings will be much clearer, simpler and transparent, including a new privacy dashboard which will be where you can have much more control over your information, all in one place.

In the meantime, there’s no need to be looking over your shoulder for big brother, but you do need to at least be aware that a lot of information is collected about you and what you do every day with your computer.

Beware the Google Chrome Font Scam

Google Chrome font scam

If you are using the popular Google Chrome browser and open a website that has text that looks wrong, and then see a pop-up window saying that a font is missing that needs to be downloaded, do not download it – it is a scam being used by hackers!

Needless to say that this is not a genuine message from Chrome and reports are coming in that websites that are infected with this malware are causing text in their webpage to display incorrectly, with visitors using Chrome to see the above window saying that a font was not found and that the ‘Chrome Font Pack’ needs to be downloaded to see the web page properly.

This is a scam and if you download the “Font Pack” you will actually download malicious software. It is believed that the download is monitoring software designed to snoop on your computer – although some cases of ransomware have been using it to encrypt your personal files.

The problem is that this pop-up window looks legitimate and already users in the UK are being caught out with this.

So if you see this font message appear on a webpage, leave the website immediately and whatever you do, don’t download the software!

Windows Vista – end of support

Windows Vista logo

Calling all Windows Vista users – in April this year, Microsoft will be ending support for Vista computers, just as they did with Windows XP back in 2014.

What does Vista end of support mean?

This will mean that Vista computers will no longer get security updates that help to protect them from malicious software and hacking. As was the case with XP, vulnerabilities in Windows Vista can potentially be exploited in the future, placing your personal information at risk.

What if I have an antivirus program – aren’t I still covered?

The problem is that Windows Vista itself – the ‘operating system’ – will be more vulnerable. So whilst you may be protected from the usual viruses by your antivirus program, Vista will no longer get security updates which fix security vulnerabilities.

What can I do?

Unfortunately, most Vista computers are older than the 5-year average life span of a computer, so upgrading to a newer version of Windows on that computer may not prove to be good value for money.

If you intend to look for another computer, we supply Desktop and Laptop computers, and our prices include installation at your Home or Office.

If you would like more information or a no-obligation quote, please call us on 01455 209505 or go to for more information.

Speed up your computer with an SSD drive

SSD drive

Old age creeps up – even if you’re a computer. Eventually, booting up takes so long you not only have time to make a cup of coffee, you could have run out to the local café for the good stuff.

This is the stage where many people throw their hands in the air and start wishing for a new computer. Except your computer isn’t broken and doesn’t need replacing, it’s just….slow.

Time-wasting, focus-losing, frustratingly slow.

Like any machine, computers have parts that wear out – particularly if they have moving parts that are in near-constant use, such as hard drives.

The hard drive is the #1 cause of speed bottlenecks in most computers. Traditional hard drives are made up of a stack of round magnetic platters, spinning at up to 7200rpm, while read/write heads on mechanical arms whizz back and forth.

Eventually, the platters take longer to spin up, unable to reach full throttle, and the mechanical arm becomes sluggish. Which leaves you waiting. And waiting…

SSD’s Can Give Aging Computers A New Lease on Life

The new era of hard drives is here with Solid State Drives – and they have no moving parts. They’re actually a lot like your USB stick that continually takes a beating but still performs perfectly.

Making a simple upgrade to SSD can knock minutes (an eternity) off boot time, as well as streamlining regular computer operations. Some of the benefits are that they’re: –

• Cool – Don’t generate heat, which means other components also run more efficiently
• Durable – No moving parts to wear out
• Compact – A little larger and thicker than a credit card
• Long-lasting – buy a good quality SSD drive and it will last
• Lightning fast – Data is accessed almost instantly
• Suitable for all systems– laptop, desktop and even netbook

Upgrading your tired hard drive to a super-fast SSD can be done within one day.

We can supply and install an SSD for you, as well as clone your existing hard drive to it (Windows, programs and data). A full 12 month parts and labour warranty is included.

Or if you would like a new SSD with a fresh Windows installation (optimum speed boost), we can do that instead.

Book your SSD upgrade today (someone else can watch the kettle boil tomorrow).

How can I tell if my computer is infected?

Virus infection

One of the common questions we are asked, is how to tell if a computer is infected? Some computer viruses are getting ‘clever’ by deliberately making themselves as stealthy as possible, so that they can do their work without you ever knowing.

Luckily, most of them can still be spotted, if you know where to look or what to look for – especially if there is a combination of symptoms.

Computer is running slow?

The general rule is that computers tend to get a bit slower over time just in normal use, so you need to be careful here. The more that computers are used and the older the technology in them, the more likely it is that the computer will take a little longer to do things than when it was new.

If however, your computer gets slower in a short period of time, that is a possible indication that something is amiss.

Where has my search engine gone?!

You switch your computer on, you want to do an internet search and suddenly Google, Bing or whatever search engine you normally use, is no longer there.

Although some people can inadvertently change the search engine in their internet browser, the majority of cases we see are that the search has been changed without your permission. This is classic computer malware behaviour (malicious software).

Unfortunately in many cases it isn’t a simple task to get rid of them by changing the setting back to what it should be, because they tend to reinsert themselves.

Pop-ups, pop-ups and more pop-ups!

If you are getting pop-up windows appearing, particularly advert-style ones, then again this is a classic symptom that you may be infected.

These annoying windows can appear even though you may have switched off pop-up windows in your internet browser and are usually scam-type infections, trying to convince you to spend money on computer programs and the like.

New icons on your desktop

Quite often we see icons on customer desktops that the customer has no recollection installing – particularly for so-called optimisation or driver update programs.

Many free downloads contain links to other software that is downloaded at the same time and whilst this extra software may not be classed as a virus in itself, they are classed as ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ and are automatically removed when professional technicians disinfect a computer. They were installed without your express permission, are hoaxes or simply don’t really do what they say that they do.

If you suspect that your computer is infected, give us a call on 01455 209505 and we can check your computer for you.

Google Calendar in Windows 10

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 has a built-in Calendar app which you can use to schedule appointments and reminders, but if you are a Google Calendar user, you can still use that service with your Windows 10 computer.

To integrate your Google Calendar with Windows 10, open the Windows 10 Calendar app by clicking on the Start button and selecting Calendar from the list on the left or the tiles to the right. When open, on the left-hand side is a cog icon – click that icon to open the Calendar app settings menu.

When open, click on ‘Accounts’ on the right-hand side and then ‘Add account’. Select Google from the drop down list, just sign in with your Google details and the Google Calendar will synch with your Windows 10 built-in Calendar, allowing you to use both.

You may find that the synch times between the two may not be as quick as, say, your smartphone to Google, but you can still use your Windows 10 computer with your Google Calendar, rather than be stuck with the built-in Calendar.

You can also use other Calendars, for example iCloud too.

Too many toolbars

Popular internet browsers

A ‘Toolbar’ is an extra piece of software which inserts itself into the top of an internet browser and looks a part of it.

These toolbars can add search functions, links to various programs, online services and much more. They are easily available, usually free and are made to sound as though they are things that you cannot do without.

The thing is, you can do without them and we recommend that you avoid them if possible – even if they are from well-known companies.

There are a number of reasons for this. One is that every time you start up your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc.)  the toolbar will also load and install itself into the browser. This can not only slow the loading of the browser in the first place but can also slow down the loading of websites, as some toolbars monitor the content of each web page and that information needs to be processed in the background- which slows things down.

This monitoring is another reason to avoid them – usually deep down in the terms and conditions (that no-one reads) is a clause that says that you give the toolbar permission to track what you are doing on the internet and send this information to a third party, either for adverts or something else.

Another practical reason to avoid them is that some are just badly designed and written. They can interfere with legitimate uses of your internet browsers and can even stop them functioning at all in some cases.

In extreme cases, we have seen multiple toolbars in customer internet browsers and this can not only slow the browser down, but also the computer itself.

When you can bookmark your favourite sites, you may want to look at your toolbars, to see if you really need them.