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7 Tips to Protect Your PC

Here is a short article highlighting how you can protect your PC while surfing the Internet.


While I have posted multiple entries on this topic, this article is a quick read and easy to follow.   If you have any tips you would like to add in drop us a comment.




What To Do When Your PC Freezes?

Having your PC freeze can be very frustrating and can be caused by a number of different issues.   Viruses, Games, Hardware Malfunction, Corrupted Windows Files, Bugged Software, Faulty Electric Failure can all cause your PC to freeze in some capacity.   There are different types of Computer Freezes with differing and similar solutions for each one.

To begin troubleshooting your freeze, you must first determine what you were doing when it happened.   Were you playing a game?   Were you watching a video online?  Were you just using your PC normally?  Sending an email?   Did you come back from a break to find your PC frozen?

If you were playing a game and the game has frozen, you may be able to Alt-Tab out of the game or try Ctrl-Alt-Delete, to exit the game.   Some games may crash your PC if they are buggy or if they use a lot of system resources.  Your video card may be working too hard or may need a new driver.   If your PC only freezes when playing a game or some games, then you should consider upgrading your Video Card's drivers or the Video Card itself.  Many of the new games require a powerful Video card and processors as well.  If you are trying to play a relatively new game on an older PC, you could run into problems.    If your computer freezes during a game and you cannot Alt-Tab or exit the game in any manner, then you should hold in the power  button on your machine until it shuts off.

Wait a good 15-30 seconds and turn it back on.    You should only turn off your PC in this manner if you cannot use Start, Shutdown, Turn Off Computer via Windows.     Never directly just unplug your PC from its Outlet or turn off the power strip.   These are not healthy things to do to your PC and can cause serious problems.

If your computer freezes from a virus or an infection, and you cannot use Ctrl-Alt-Delete or Task Manager, use the shut down power button method described above.    Wait 10-15 seconds and reboot the machine in safe mode to see if it freezes in there as well.   Many viruses may not run in Safe mode.    To get your machine to Safe Mode,  once you power it on, beginning hitting the F8 key on your keyboard.  This should bring you to Windows Advanced Start Menu.  For Vista and Windows 7 this will also work.  Choose Safe Mode, if prompted then choose your operating system.  This will be Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7, etc.  Then click on your user name and log into Windows.    You should be able to use windows normally to run your security software and attempt to remove the infection.   If this doesn't cure your problem you may need to consult a professional to fix the PC.

If your PC Freezes when using a specific piece of software, as in Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop then you should make sure you have all the latest updates to the specific piece of software you are using.  Do you have all of the updates for Microsoft Office?   Did you upgrade to the latest patches for Adobe Acrobat?   Many times bugs are found that can cause problems for your software.  These bugs are fixed in patches put out by the software designers to fix these problems.  So it could be something as simple as updating to the latest version of your software.  Like your Security Software, you should keep programs up to date and patched as well.    Try applying the updates and patches.  Does the Freeze still occur?

If your PC Freezes, is not infected, and all of your current software is up to date including Windows,  it could indicate hardware failure or something corrupted in Windows itself.    The first solution you can try is to update and drivers for any hardware on the PC.  If this fails you can attempt to do Repair or Reinstall of Windows.  Be sure to back up your data if possible before doing a Repair or Reinstall of Windows.   If the problem still persists after this then you can be sure it is something hardware related.   Once you have ruled out Software it only leaves hardware.  With hardware it could be anything from a bad Motherboard, overheated Processor, large amounts of dust in the PC clogging Fans.    You can try to open your PC if it is a desktop and clean it out with a can of compressed Air.  Dust and Lint can clog your Fans and make your PC run much hotter than it should.  The PC will shut it self down in self defense to keep cool.   The Freezing could be a precursor to this problem and cleaning it out is always a good idea.    If your PC still freezes after this it is best to have it diagnosed by a professional to determine the cause of the hardware failure.  Depending on how old your PC, it may be best to just purchase a new PC at point.   Replacing a Motherboard on an older machine be expensive.

The best thing about a Computer Freeze is that it usually never results in lost data unless the Hard Drive is completely locked up.   Even if you have to replace your older PC with a new one, you can easily transfer the data over to the new PC so you will not lose your Pictures, Documents and other important data stored on your PC.    Computer Freezes while extremely frustrating and sometimes difficult to diagnose can be remedied in some cases by the average home user.  If not then you should consult a professional who diagnose the problem for you.

Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the week.




Time to Upgrade that Printer?

Is your printer very slow?, does it still print poorly even after inserting new cartridges?  Is your printer older than 5 years old?   If you are answer yes to any of these questions and have an extra $75-$150, you should consider upgrading your printer.

Printers are not very expensive and can usually be installed by the Home User with no assistance from any professionals.   Today's printers are more energy efficient, faster, and very easy to use.  (depending on what you are looking for)   Most of us just need a regular printer to print up documents or family photos.     These printers are very easy to install.  They will usually come with a CD.  Simply insert the CD and follow the on-screen instructions.    Most printers can be set up and running in as little as 30 minutes.    They are usually USB  for connections and also now come with Wireless capability.

One of the many new features on printers is the ability to have the printer Wireless.  This allows everyone in the household or business to be able to print without being wired into the printer itself or even the network.   If you keep your printer in another room of the house but do your best thinking in the bedroom you can effortlessly print from your PC or Laptop no matter where you are.    Setting up the Wireless Printer works the same as adding another PC to your Network.  Most of the printers will automatically detect the presence of the Network.  Just click on your Network and enter in your Password/Passphrase (on a Secured Wireless Network) and the printer is now a part of your network.   Wireless printers are a great addition for those of us who do not like having wires all over the place.

Keep in mind that when you go to buy your printer, it is always a good idea to get some extra cartridges while you are there.  There are two reasons to do this.  First you can ask someone at the store for the correct cartridge for your printer.   Cartridges come in all sorts of sizes and variety, so you want to be sure to get the correct one for your printer's make and model.   Secondly there is a chance that the manufacturer of your printer will give you Starter Cartridges with your printer instead of full ones.  These cartridges will not last very long.  Manufactures do this to save money.   Printing an important document or picture only to run out of ink in the middle of it printing while having no replacement cartridges handy is not going to make you happy.    It is always a good idea to keep spare cartridges especially if you do a lot of printing.  Cartridge prices vary depending on your printer but for most of us, it should cost you about $50 for both cartridges. (Color and Black)

If you are running Windows 7, you should be careful about buying an older or used printer via Craigslist or a garage sale.   While you will save money for sure, your printer may not be Windows 7 compatible.   Be sure to check with the manufacturer of the printer to see if the model is compatible with Windows 7.  If you are buying a new printer in the store you should not have any problems with it running Windows 7.

For $ 150.00 you can get a nice new quality printer, extra cartridges, and the ability to have your printer wireless.   Printers are not very expensive while their quality continues to rise, their price continues to fall.   This is good news for the consumer.    Upgrading your printer is completely optional as your budget dictates, but if you do have to buy one, it is good to know it will not break the bank.   Upgrade your printer today and start enjoying the benefits that a new printer has to offer you.

Thanks for reading and have great rest of the week.




Office 2010 for Free? Yes and No

On Wednesday May 11th  Microsoft is releasing Office 2010 to business customers.  The Residential market gets it in early June.    You may heard that some of Office 2010 will be free for all to use.   Surely you say there must be a catch.   Yes and No.

In response to Open Office and the new Google Online Docs, Microsoft is offering you the use of Skydrive.   www.skydrive.com This allows you to  upload and store up to 25 GB of files.    All you need is a Windows Live account.   Have a Hotmail or Windows Live account already?  Simply go to www.skydrive.com where you will see your Hotmail/Windows Live username.   Once there just enter your regular password and log in.  Once logged in you will see options to Create Folder, Add Folder, and others.     When Office 2010 is available to residential customers in June, you will also be able to use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and a few other Office features all from within Skydrive.    You can upload Word Docs, Spreadsheets etc. all to your Skydrive account.  You will be able to share them with other users and access them from any PC, or Mobile application.

Of course the Free Office 2010 will not come with all the bells and whistles that a paid version would come with, but should be acceptable for most users who do not have any Office applications installed.    You will get Word 2010, Excel 2010, Powerpoint 2010 with the Free Web Apps via Skydrive.

Microsoft will offer it's usual variety of differing suites.    Office Professional includes Word 2010, Excel 2010, Powerpoint 2010, OneNote 2010, Publisher 2010, and Access 2010.  This goes for $499 or $349 for just a product key and no CD.  For most users they will be either using the Home and Student Edition which has Word 2010, Excel 2010, Powerpoint 2010, OneNote 2010, and the Web Apps (skydrive).  This will retail for $149 or $119 for just the product key and no CD.    Or Home and Business edition which includes, Word 2010, Excel 2010, Powerpoint 2010, OneNote2010, and Outlook 2010.  This will retail for $279 or $199 for just the product key and no CD.    The product key purchase will allow you to download Office via the Internet with a license instead of using a CD to install it.

If you are one of the few people still on Dial Up or have an unreliable Internet connection in your area, I would recommend purchasing the CD.   With the exception of having to reinstall Office or if you plan on installing it on multiple PC''s if you get the Family Version, I would recommend just buying the product key and saving yourself the money.    More and more these days programs and software are just downloaded instead of installed from a CD.   Many games now as well can be paid for and just download and installed without any CD.   Without having to pay for the CD or box or printing and other costs, the companies (Microsoft included) have passed on some of the savings to consumers.

Should you upgrade to Office 2010 when it arrives.  If you do not have any sort of Office Applications on your PC, then you should at the very least set up the Free Office 2010 on Skydrive.  Whether you are a regular user of Office or not, it doesn't hurt to have it if someone sends you something important to read.   There is no cost to you to do it so this one is a no-brainer.   Now if you already have Office then it depends on what version you are running.   If you are still running Office 97, or Office 2000, it is time to upgrade to Office 2010.

If you are running 2003, you are right on the line but I would lean toward upgrading to Office 2010 if your budget permits it.  If you are running Office 2007, you do not need to do update to Office 2010.  Of course you are completely free if you wish and but I would at least wait until Office 2012.  I would not spend the money unless I needed too.  When your Office is 10 years old you should be upgrading it for sure.

Office 2010 is another step in new direction for Microsoft in response to compettion and this Free Version of Office 2010 is only a benefit to everyday consumers especially those without any Office applications.

Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the week.




Tips for Online Banking

Recently it was announced that a popular Banking Trojan known as Zeus or Zbot is specifically targeting Firefox users.   See the article from PC World here.


Many of us use Online Banking for it's convenience, accuracy, up to date transactions, and of course the money it saves on stamps.   It does have risks associated with it of course and if you do Online Banking then you need to protect yourself as best you can.    Here are a few tips you can use to protect yourself.

Strong Passwords are essential.   Having a strong password is one of the few things you can do to protect yourself.   See a previous blog entry on how to create a strong password that is easy to remember and difficult to guess.     http://www.zolexpc.com/zolex/blog/?p=87 An easy to guess password only makes the hackers job easier and faster.  It may not be a hacker but could be a jealous partner, or vindictive ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, so make those passwords strong and tough to guess.  The Banks have high security and encryption but you need to do your part as well.   Having a strong password is one way to contribute to that cause.

Another thing to do with Online Banking is check your transactions at the end of each week for anything that you don't recognize or appears suspicious.  The sooner you catch something malicious the less damage will be done.     Also be wary of emails from your bank asking you to provide or verify User name and Password information, unless you have recently required a Password change.    You can always call your bank to verify it before replying.      When it comes to Identity Theft or your Money better to be safe than sorry.

One issue that raises debate is going paperless with your banking statements.  The pros of this are if your house was broken into there would not be any statements listing your information with account numbers or names.   It could reduce your chances for Identity Theft.    It also reduces on paper for the bank, you and is good for the environment.   The only downside I see of this if not having additional physical records or extra back-up.    Having the paper back up could help you in dealing with any variety of banking issues.

Another critical component that relates to Online Banking is making sure your PC is infection free.   If your machine has an infection you should not be doing any Online Banking until the infection(s) have been removed.   There are infections that specifically target Bank User name and Passwords.    Doing Online Banking on an infected machine is asking for trouble for sure.   Make sure your Security Software is up to date and you have the latest Windows updates as well.  If your machine has a virus and you cannot get rid of it, you can always count on ZolexPC to remove it for you.

When it comes to Online Banking be sure to have a strong password, check your transaction history on a regular basis, and be wary of any emails asking for User Name and Password (unless requesting one).  This combined with a clean and healthy machine is your safest bet for Online Banking.   By doing these steps you can be assured that you are doing your part in protecting your interests while enjoying the benefits of Online Banking.

Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the week.



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