Like us on Facebook
Call Us Now! 01286 239 537

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Quick Bytes - 9 Out Of 10 Windows Security Flaws Could Be Avoided By Just Removing Admin Rights

Quick Bytes - The security firm Avecto has just released its security report for Windows operating systems; The report outlines an important result stating that 9-out-of-10 Windows security flaws could be mitigated by simply removing a user’s admin rights.
The security report states that about 85% of critical Windows flaws could have been stopped before they entered your PC and affected the system files. The firm has compared the annual trends and reported a 52% rise in the number of vulnerabilities reported.

The 2015 report explores the vulnerabilities affecting Windows, Office, Windows Server, Internet Explorer, and more. The trends observed are:

1. 85% of all Critical vulnerabilities documented in the report can be mitigated by removing admin rights

2. 99.5% of all vulnerabilities reported in Internet Explorer in 2015 could be mitigated by removing admin rights

3. 82% of all vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft Office in 2015 could be mitigated by removing admin rights

Lots of people don't understand the meaning of administrator accounts, most users by default are "administrators" on their computer. These accounts give the user access to everything and the same privileges are invaded by a malware that strikes your system. So, a hacker can access your private data and modify Windows system files. Most businesses tend to provide lower permissions to their users to mitigate the malware risks.

Stay tuned for a blog post on how to make your computer more secure soon!

Like this Quick Byte? Want more? Be sure to like our Facebook Page for more Quick Tips, HOW TO articles, Quick Bytes, and lots of special offers and free giveaways from your favourite North Wales Computer Shop :) 

Saturday 26 March 2016

HOW TO Speed Up a Windows Folder that Loads Very Slowly

There is a curious phenomenon many of you have likely come across: even with a fast computer, there are some folders Windows loads with agonizing slowness. Fortunately the fix is simple and the results are immediate.

Why Your Folders Load So Slowly

There is a long standing Windows Explorer feature that dates all the way back to Windows Vista wherein you can tell Windows Explorer what kind of content is in specific folders, in order to optimize how that content is displayed.

For example: you can tell Windows Explorer that a particular folder is where you store your music files, and it will present those files in a way most useful for browsing music (e.g. in detailed list format with column options like file playtime automatically enabled). Even if you never tell Windows Explorer what to do, it automatically defaults some folders to various settings (the “Music” library folder is, naturally, defaulted to music-type file display) and then uses a feature called Automatic Folder Type Discovery on the rest. The automatic discovery system is a best-guess as to what is in the folder based on the number of files of various types, last files added, and so on.

When it works, it’s a great feature. When it doesn't work, it’s a rather annoying bug: when a folder with a large number of files is optimized for “pictures”, it immediately churns through all the files in the folder, regardless of whether or not the folder is in thumbnail view, in order to check and refresh all the thumbnails for all the files found therein.

Even on a beefy computer with a modern processor and plenty of RAM, this process can take anywhere from 10-15 seconds to in excess of a minute depending on how many files are in the folder. On older computers it can even completely lock up Windows Explorer (not just the folder in question).

A prime example of this agonizingly slow file-churn-bug in action is the Windows “Downloads” folder which, thanks to that whole Automatic Folder Type Discovery feature, is typically set to picture mode on most computers. If we were placing wagers on what brought you to this article, we’d happily wager that you came in search of a solution to your Downloads folder taking minutes to load and display the files. Don’t worry, we won’t judge your cluttered Downloads folder if you don’t judge ours.

Fortunately solving the problem is as simple as telling Windows to stop treating the folder like an image gallery.

How to Change Your Folder Optimizations

As long as you know where to look, it’s easy peasy to change your folder optimizations. First, locate the folder you’re having problems with. Typically most people only have one folder that is particularly sluggish, but if you have a whole host of folders that are misbehaving you can take a top-down approach and change the settings for the parent folder to apply the changes to all the subfolders.

Once you've located the folder, simply right-click on either the folder itself in Windows Explorer or, if you have the folder open, on a blank area within the Windows Explorer pane. Select, from the right-click context menu, “Properties”.

Within the Properties menu, select the “Customize” tab.

In the customize tab, you’ll find an entry “Optimise this folder for:” with a drop down menu. The options in the drop down menu are: “General items”, “documents”, “pictures”, “music”, and “videos”. Select “General items”.

If you wish to apply the changes to all the folders within that folder, select “Also apply this template to all subfolders” beneath the drop down menu.

Click “Apply” then “OK” at the bottom of the Properties menu. Back in the troublesome folder, press F5 to reload the folder.

The changes should take place immediately and the dreaded waiting-for-folder-to-load time should be long gone.

With a simple little tweak you no longer have to take a coffee break while waiting for your Downloads folder to finding loading.

Like this HOW TO? Want more? Be sure to like our Facebook Page for more Quick Tips, HOW TO articles, and lots of special offers and free giveaways from your favourite North Wales Computer Shop :) 

Friday 11 March 2016

HOW TO Dim the Blinding Glare of Your Gadgets’ LED Lights

Just because the manufacturer decided your gadget needed a blinking LED as bright as a car headlight doesn't mean you have to tolerate it. Let’s take a look at how you can dim those brilliant LEDs so your bedroom or office doesn't look like a night club.

For every device we have that features a very subtle indicator light, we have at least ten that feature LEDs so bright you can read by them. We're confident most of you are in the same boat, as more companies than not just love to put a big bright LED on their product.

While you might actually enjoy using the blazing blue LED on your USB charger as a night light, most people prefer to sleep in a darkened room. Even when you’re not trying to catch some shut eye, LEDs can still be intrusive: when you’re watching TV, for example, the glare of a bright LED on the front of your Sky box, game console, or even the TV itself can be quite an eyesore.

Although many people just tolerate the annoying glare, there’s no need to: it’s easy to deal with. How easy? If you've got the skills to put a sticker on something then you've got the skills to banish the blinding glare of your gadgets’ LEDs.

What You Need

Seriously, we aren't kidding. The best solution on the market, short of opening up your devices and attacking the LED connection with a soldering iron, is to simply cover up the offending LED with a simple plastic overlay.

The DIY route involves buying your own blackout material (like electrical tape or vinyl window cling sheets) and cutting them to size.

If your goal is to cover up a bunch of small LEDs, for example, it’s hard to beat a roll of black electrical tape and a hole punch. Lay a strip of electrical tape on a sheet of wax paper, punch your way right down the strip, and you’ll have dozens of little LED-blocking-black dots. If you don't want to completely black out the LED, just use some semi-translucent vinyl or something similar.

Light Dimming Solutions Compared

So how do these solutions work under real world conditions? To showcase how the different overlays and films fully or partially block LED light, we enlisted the help of a USB charger with a blue LED that is shockingly bright!

All photos were shot at the same exposure in the span of a few minutes illuminated only by natural light to emphasise exactly how the light emitted from the LED had changed.

First, let’s take a look at the LED without any overlay.

While the picture does actually kind of do it justice, you really can’t capture just how bright this thing is. It’s so bright that even across a darkened room it will sear your eyeballs.

Let’s take a look at the same LED under the same lighting conditions with a piece of thin vinyl applied.

We’re not gonna lie: we’re actually really impressed with how well a tiny vinyl sticker dialled down the brightness. It’s still visible and still bright enough to see, but it’s no longer bright enough to throw a matchday floodlight worth of light across the room. 

Next let’s look at applying our electrical tape dots.

The electrical tape dots completely black out the LED. Light transmission was reduced to zero. Best of all, they didn't leave any residue when removed. 

So whether you fashion your own from electrical tape or vinyl or anything else you have ling around, it only takes a minute to black out those irritating LEDs (so you can get back to the important stuff like getting a good night’s sleep or enjoying your movie without the TV power button shining in your eyes).

Like this HOW TO? Want more? Be sure to like our Facebook Page for more Quick Tips, HOW TO articles, and lots of special offers and free giveaways from your favourite North Wales Computer Shop :) 

Monday 7 March 2016

HOW TO back up your computer... The best ways

For life's "Uh-Oh"  moments - here's how to recover that accidentally overwritten Word document. 

Everyone loses data at some point in their lives. Your computer’s hard drive could fail tomorrow, ransomware could hold your files hostage, or a software bug could delete your important files. If you’re not regularly backing up your computer, you could lose those files forever.

Backups don’t have to be hard or confusing, though. You’ve probably heard about countless different backup methods, but which one is right for you? And what files do you really need to back up?

It’s All About Your Personal Data


Let’s start with the obvious: what do you need back up? Well, first and foremost, you need to back up your personal files. You can always reinstall your operating system and re-download your programs if your hard drive fails, but your own personal data is irreplaceable.

Any personal documents, photos, home videos, and any other data on your computer should be backed up regularly. Those can never be replaced. If you've spent hours painstakingly ripping audio CDs or video DVDs, you may want to back those files up, too, so you don’t have to do all that work over again.

Your operating system, programs, and other settings can also be backed up. You don’t have to back them up, necessarily, but it can make your life easier if your entire hard drive fails. If you’re the type of person that likes to play around with system files, edit the registry, and regularly update your hardware, having a full system backup may save you time when things go wrong.

The Many Ways to Back Up Your Files

There are many ways to back up your data, from using an external drive to backing up those files on a remote server over the Internet. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each:

Back Up to an External Drive: If you have an external USB hard drive, you can just back up to that drive using your computer’s built-in backup features. On Windows 10 and 8, use File History. On Windows 7, use Windows Backup. On Macs, use Time Machine. Occasionally connect the drive to the computer and use the backup tool, or leave it plugged in whenever your home and it’ll back up automatically. 

Pros: backing up is cheap and fast. 

Cons: If your house gets robbed or catches on fire, your backup can be lost along with your computer, which is very bad.

Back Up Over the Internet: If you want to ensure your files stay safe, you can back them up to the internet with a service like CrashPlan. CrashPlan is a well-known online backup service we like and recommend, but there are also competitors like BackBlaze, Carbonite, and MozyHome. For a monthly fee, these programs run in the background on your PC or Mac, automatically backing up your files to the service’s web storage. If you ever lose those files and need them again, you can restore them. CrashPlan can also back up to another computer for free–for example, a friend’s computer or another computer you own. 

Pros: Online backup protects you against any type of data loss–hard drive failure, theft, natural disasters, and everything in between. 

Cons: These services usually cost money (see the next section for more details), and the initial backup can take much longer than it would on an external drive–especially if you have a lot of files.

Use a Cloud Storage Service: Backup purists will say this isn't technically a backup method, but for most people, it serves a similar enough purpose. Rather than just storing your files on your computer’s hard drive, you can store them on a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or a similar cloud storage service. They’ll then automatically sync to your online account and to your other PCs. If your hard drive dies, you’ll still have the copies of the files stored online and on your other computers. 

Pros: This method is easy, fast, and in many cases, free, and since it’s online, it protects you against all types of data loss. 

Cons: Most cloud services only offer a few gigabytes of space for free, so this only works if you have a small number of files you want to back up.

While backup programs like CrashPlan and cloud storage services like Dropbox are both online backups, they work in fundamentally different ways. Dropbox is designed to sync your files between PCs, while CrashPlan and similar services are designed to backup large amounts of files. CrashPlan will keep multiple copies of different versions of your files, so you can restore the file exactly as it was from many points in its history. And, while services like Dropbox are free for small amounts of space, CrashPlan’s low price is for as big a backup as you want. Depending on how much data you have, one could be cheaper than the other.

CrashPlan’s client can also backup to an external drive, so it’ll give you backups on your own hard drive and backups on CrashPlan’s servers.

One Backup Isn't Enough: Use Multiple Methods

So which should you use? Ideally, you’d use at least two of them. Why? Because you want both offsite and onsite backups.

“Onsite” literally means backups stored at the same physical location as you. So, if you back up to an external hard drive and store that at home with your home PC, that’s an onsite backup.

Offsite backups are stored at a different location. So, if you back up to an online server, like CrashPlan or Dropbox, that’s an offsite backup.

Onsite backups are faster and easier, and should be your first line of defence against data loss. If you lose files, you can quickly restore them from an external drive. But you shouldn't rely on onsite backups alone. If your home burns down or all the hardware in it is stolen by thieves, you’d lose all your files.

Offsite backups don’t have to be a server on the Internet, either, and you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription for one. You could back up your files to a hard drive and store it at your office, at a friend’s house, or in a bank vault, for example. It’d be a bit more inconvenient, but that’s technically an offsite backup.

In addition, CrashPlan can back up to a friend’s computer for free. So, maybe you could make a deal with a buddy, that you’ll each back up to each other’s computers over the internet–you don’t have to pay a monthly fee, and you both get offsite backups out of the deal. (And because the backups are encrypted, your friend can’t access your data–he’s just storing it for you.)

Similarly, you could also store your files in Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive and performing regular backups to an external drive. Or you could use CrashPlan to back up to both an external drive and their online service, getting both your onsite and offsite backups from the same program. There are a lot of ways to use these services in tandem, and it’s up to you how to do it. Just make sure you have a solid backup strategy, with onsite and offsite backups, so you have a wide safety net against ever losing your files.

Automate It!

All that may sound complicated, but the more you automate your backup system, the more frequently you’ll be able to back up and the greater the odds you’ll stick with it. That’s why you should use an automated tool instead of copying files to an external drive by hand. You can just set it up once, and forget it.

That’s one reason we really like online services like CrashPlan. If it’s backing up to the internet, it can automatically do that every single day. If you have to plug in an external drive, you have to put in more effort, which means you’ll back up less often and you may eventually stop doing it. Keeping everything automatic is well worth the price.

Ultimately, you just need to think about where your files are and ensure you have multiple copies at all times. Ideally, those copies should be in more than one physical location. As long as you’re actually thinking about what you’ll do if your computer dies, you should be way ahead of most people.

Like this HOW TO? Want more? Be sure to like our Facebook Page for more Quick TipsHOW TO articles, and lots of special offers and free giveaways from your favourite North Wales Computer Shop :)