General Computer Questions

BACKUP YOUR DATA!

If your running Windows XP, Home, Professional or Media Center:

I recommend using a USB external hard drive, these can be purchased at Fry's, Best Buy, Newegg.com, etc...

I recommend backing up your My Documents folder and everything on your Desktop, your Favorites/Bookmarks and your Email.

Also if your run a 3rd party software program such as Quicken. Look in the documentation on how to back up that information.

You can also use the File and Settings Transfer Wizard that is part of Windows, which will back up most of your information but if you have a virus it will also copy that as well so you may not want to use it.

If you are not sure on how to backup something, do a Google search which will usually provide you with information about that.

If you use Outlook XP, 2002, 2003 or 2007 here is the link to download a tool from Microsoft to help you backup Outlook emails:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=8B081F3A-B7D0-4B16-B8AF-5A6322F4FD01&displaylang=en

Here is a link to backup Outlook Express emails:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/270670

Here is a link to backup Windows Mail which is the newer version of Outlook Express:

http://itinfo.mit.edu/article.php?id=8455

If you use Thunderbird here is the link on how to back up your emails and profile:

http://www.iopus.com/guides/thunderbird-backup.htm

If you use web based email (yahoo, hotmail, gmail) you do not need to back that up as it is not stored on your computer but you should take note of your login names and passwords.

If your running Windows Vista (Any Version):

You should backup the Documents, Pictures, Desktop, Music, Downloads, Favorites and Videos Folders.

You can also use the Backup Status and Configuration Tool which is included with Windows Vista.

Your hard will crash eventually, if you do not have a backup and your hard drive is completely dead, you will have to take it to a data recovery specialist. This is usually expensive and they are not always able to retrieve everything, so make sure you do a backup regularly. The MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) for most hard drives is 5 years,
this is an average, some hard drives will last 10 years, others 6 months or less.

Also remember viruses can destroy your data and some are programmed to do nothing but just that.

Does my computer has a virus or spyware infection?

If your computer has an infection it will usually have some symptoms, such as these

  • Runs more slowly then usual.
  • Excessive browser pop up windows.
  • Home page and/or Desktop background has changed.
  • Your current anti-virus software keeps alerting you of a problem, but can't seem to fix it.
  • You downloaded and installed some software, then the problems started.
  • New icons on the desktop relating to porn, free software, anti-virus or spyware removal programs, etc...
  • Alerts you that you have virus or spwyare infection and when asked to fix them, you are taken to a website asking you to purchase some software to fix it.
  • New toolbars in Internet Explorer that you are not sure where they came from.
  • Your computer freezes during the Windows start up or after you log in.
  • You can't seem to connect to certain web pages or you are redirected to a different website then the one you tried to go to.

What increases my chances of getting or having a virus or spyware infection?

  • Someone else frequently uses your computer or there are multiple users on the same machine.
  • You or someone else browses porn websites or downloads free software.
  • You or someone else uses a file sharing program such as Limewire or Kaaza.
  • There is no anti-virus or anti-spyware software installed on your computer.
  • Your computer is plugged directly into the cable modem.
  • You never update your Windows software.
  • You use Internet Explorer.
  • Teens use your computer.

If I have an infection how do you remove it?

I use multiple programs to remove the infection, these are the programs I use most of the time:

  • HijackThis
  • SuperAntiSpyware
  • Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware
  • Avast Anti-Virus
  • MGTools
  • Spybot Search and Destroy
  • BOClean
  • RootKit Revealer
  • ComboFix

These programs in conjunction with my knowledge usually will remove most if not all of the infection, but please remember that once a system has been compromised, there is always the possibility of something being missed during the removal, but usually these programs will take care of it.

Most experts agree that it is not a matter of if a computer will be infected but when.
I can remove it for you but it is up to you to keep it from being re-infected.

Please Note: Sometimes the only option is for me to backup your data and re-install Windows for very serious infections.

Are some infections worse the others? Are some viruses worse the others?

Yes! Some viruses will attempt to log your keystrokes (i.e. the words you type into the keyboard) when you browse certain websites in an attempt to steal your login and password information. Some will also look at your documents and attempt to collect the information in them, such as word or excel documents, whether they are open or not. They will capture the title names of the windows that are open as well to help them figure out what you were looking at when you were typing. Then then send this information across the internet to computers that collect the data. The hackers will then attempt to determine what can be used, such as credit card numbers, address, social security numbers, logins, etc...

Other viruses will attempt to corrupt the data on your computer, for example your documents.

Others will use your computer to attack websites in what is known as a DDOS attack (DISTRIBUTED DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACK) which basically floods certain website(s) with request to access it from your computer and the other computers it has infected so that the particular website cannot respond to legitimate request, rendering that website inaccessible.

Other viruses will use "hidden" functions that are built into windows to send mass emails such as spam with you even knowing it.

Some will open "backdoors" into your computer, allowing a remote attacker to take control of your machine and use it in some way.

These are just some of the things viruses can do but remember the virus will try to do whatever it was programmed to do, and usually has free access to any information on your computer or to use your computer in anyway it was programmed to do once it has infected your machine.

What is the difference between a Virus, a Worm, a Trojan
and Spyware/Malware/Adware?

A worm is essentially a virus that does not require you to do anything (download, install, or run any program) to infect your computer. These are what hackers are mostly writing today as they do not require you to do anything to get infected with it.

A virus is the same thing except that you have to do something (run a program, open a attachment, browse a certain website) to get infected with it.

Spyware and Malware (Malicious Software) are basically the same thing and try to monitor your activity while you are using your computer, usually when you a browsing the web, for example, what website you are looking at, how long you were there. It will also try and collect other personal data and send it across the internet to whoever. These are technically not viruses since they do not try to propagate themselves (ie. make more copies of themselves) so they are usually missed by anti-virus programs.

Adware will simply try and take over what advertisements are displayed on webpages that you browse, replacing the ones that were originally there with the ones it wants you to see and it will also usually give you pop-ups.

A Trojan virus once installed will open a "backdoor" into your computer to allow remote access to it by a hacker, it will also try and propagate itself (i.e. make more copies) and infect other machines on your network or across the internet. Other trojans look like legitimate software, i.e. free anti-virus, anti-spwyare, but once installed will try to get you to purchase something, collect your info, give you pop-ups, etc...

In my experience if you have any one of these, you usually will have one or more of the others as well.

My computer crashed have I lost all my music, pictures, documents, emails, etc...?

Probably not, usually your computer just has a software problem causing it not to boot up, etc... and not a problem with the hard drive, which is where all of your data is stored. In most cases I can pull out your hard drive and retrieve your data.
If there is a problem with your hard drive, then I will refer you to a data recovery specialist as I do not specialize in recovering data from broken hard drives.

I lost my restore/reinstall disc that came with my computer do you need these?

No I don't need them if your computer has the Windows Product Key sticker attached to it.
Also some computers will have the restore/recovery partition installed already on the hard drive and you simply need to press a certain key during startup to access it and start the recovery process. DONT START ANY RECOVEY PROCESS WITHOUT BACKING UP YOUR DATA FIRST!

My Laptop/Desktop computer does not turn on, nothing, no lights, what is wrong?

It depends, it has to be diagnosed by me to determine the faulty part. You usually have not lost any data. It takes a day or two to determine what is wrong.

My lcd screen on my laptop is cracked, can you fix it?

I cannot fix your cracked lcd screen, they are not fixable, only replaceable, I can get them NEW for cheap if you need one and install it for you...

My LCD screen on my laptop is blank or dim but the computer turns on.

Shine a bright flashlight into the screen in a dark room, if you can barely see the video on the screen then usually the fluorescent lamp in it is dead or another part called the lcd inverter (which powers the lamp) is dead. I cannot replace the lamp. There are places on the internet that claim they can replace the lamp or the inverter for a $100 bucks, I do not do this though, I don't mess with lcd screens unless it is a simple replacement of the old one. If you can't see anything at all try plugging the laptop into a external monitor and see if it has video there. If nothing still it may have a hardware problem preventing it from booting up.

My laptop turns on but there is nothing on the screen.

Try doing the flashlight test, if nothing then try plugging the laptop into an external monitor (your laptop will usually have a way for you to plug it into a external monitor) to see if it has video there. If still nothing it may have a hardware issue, ram, motherboard, etc... I would need to take a look at it.

My internet connection keeps dropping.

This usually happens if you are using a wireless connection. First thing I would recommend is to power cycle (unplug your wireless router and cable/dsl modem for 1 minute) then plug them both back in. But there could be a few different problems that are causing this. For example, interference from a neighbors wireless router, interference from a portable phone, microwave, etc... Possibly a weak signal, poor placement of wireless router, wireless card driver issue, wireless router could be dying, the cable or dsl modem may being dying or need to be reset or power cycled (turned on off for 1 minute then plugged back in). I have also seen Norton software block connections when it is not configured properly or there are other problems with it. I would first try contacting your internet service provider for help, if they are unable to help you contact me.

I have to jiggle the cord on my laptop or keep moving it to get power or charge the battery.

This is most likely due to a loose DC jack inside your laptop. I can purchase a new one and re-solder it onto into your laptop for you. I charge $75 plus the part which is usually around $30. It takes 3 to 5 business days for me to get the new DC jack. Replacing the DC jack requires a complete tear down (take apart) of your laptop and I do not recommend you try it yourself.

Should I use Internet Explorer or Firefox?

I recommend Firefox because it has less security issues then Internet Explorer. There are technologies that Internet Explorer uses that make it more vulnerable to attack then Firefox. Also Firefox has been proven to run faster then Internet Explorer. Unless you have a specific reason to use Internet Explorer, use Firefox instead. Here is the link to download Firefox.

http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/download.html?product=firefox-3.0.10&os=win&lang=en-US

My computer is running a lot slower then it used to be, why?

Could be a virus/spwyare infection, too many start up programs running in the background, software conflicts, corrupt or incorrect versions of windows system files, not enough free memory (RAM), driver issue, dying hard drive or errors on the drive, hardware issue. Usually though in my experience it is software related. Windows tends to get slower over time, usually due to one of the problems I stated above.

I want to share a printer or network my computers using a wired or wireless connection?

This is easy to setup, I recommend getting a printer that has a network connection, this way it can always be on and there is no need for it to be connected to another computer if you just want to print something.

I want to buy some computer parts, etc... where do you recommend I get them?

I recommend Fry's electronics as they have a large selection and always have stuff on sell or with a rebate. Here is the link to the online Fry's Electronics ads, they are valid at both Fry's locations in Town, the one on Northgate Blvd and also the new Fry's off of North Sunrise Blvd in Roseville. If you see something you want simply write down the Ad# which is located on the bottom or print out the ad, this is VERY HELPFUL when trying to tell the salesperson what you want.

What is a Firewall and do I need one or do I already have one?

Here is a link that you can read that will tell you what a firewall is:

http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/firewall/faq.mspx

Note: If you are using Windows XP/Media Center with Service Pack 2 or 3 then it has a built in Firewall, make sure it is turned on. If you have Norton or some other anti-virus software it may have a firewall built into it. If you are using a wireless router it normally acts as a firewall. Also some cable modems have a built in firewall too. If you are plugged directly into the Internet, meaning your computer internet cable is plugged directly into the cable/dsl modem, and you do not have the Windows or other software firewall turned on, you are at a high risk for getting a worm. A worm is a virus that does not require you to install it or anything.

Where and should I update my Windows software?

If you are running Windows XP Home, Pro or Media Center

http://www.windowsupdate.com

If you are running Windows Vista the the Update Software is Located in the Control Panel and you cannot use the Microsoft Update website.

Yes you should update your windows software, as most of the updates are security updates that will protect you from the latest worms and viruses, etc...


General Questions About Me

How old are you, what are your hobbies, what are you doing, where from, etc...?

I was born and raised in the Sacramento area, I am 35 years old. I am single for now and spend a lot of my time on my computer. Mostly my hobbies are computer, tv and games. I recently achieved the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) certificate in January 2006. I am currently residing in the Arden Area as of May 2007. I have been doing computer service off of Craigslist for a quite some time. I have actually been on Craigslist computer services longer then any other tech posting there. As far as music I like here are some bands: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Rush, Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down, The Who, Nirvana, Alanis Morrisette, Garbage, Korn, etc.... I have been busy lately with computer repairs! Is anybody going to read this? I am working on obtaining my certifications for Vista and also the new A+ and Network + certifications to keep my skills current.

What are some of your favorite sites on the internet?

  • WWW.CNN.COM
  • WWW.SACBEE.COM
  • WWW.CRAIGLIST.ORG
  • WWW.WIKIPEDIA.ORG
  • WWW.TVGUIDE.COM
  • WWW.NEWEGG.COM
  • WWW.NASA.GOV
  • WWW.THEONION.COM

How did you get into fixing computers?

Well I first started off building a website back in the late 90's for my father. I actually had a WebTV back then and I learned to code HTML from the samples I found online. I was originally in customer service but I always thought I was to smart for that so I learned to program using Visual Basic 6.0 and got really good with it and landed a job coding back during the big DOT.COM era. I worked for Apple computer, Earthlink and a company called Iventex which is now defunct. So basically I started off as a programmer and did some phone technical support. Back in the 90's early 2000's everyone was still on dial up and I was trained quite a bit on troubleshooting Windows. I also learned a lot about how Windows works when I was a programmer. In 2003 I studied and received my certificates for A+ and Network + then began fixing computer off of Craigslist somewhere near that time. I have coded in HTML, PHP, MYSQL, C, Javascript and Visual Basic. I no longer build websites except for maybe a basic HTML site for someone once in a while. Although I have coded a few e-commerce websites. I still can do it but I choose not to because of the time involved and the pay is usually small for these projects.

What kind of computers do you have?

I have a Dell Optiplex GX620 that is my work computer. I built it myself using a the Dell case which I found online for $50. It has a Pentium D (Dual Code) 3.4 Ghz Processor, 3 Gigabytes of Memory, a 8600GT overclocked video card and runs Windows Vista Home Premium. It has been a good machine for the past couple of years and has giving me almost no problems. I also have a Pentium 4 3.2E Processor with 2 Gigabytes of PC3700 Memory, Western Digital Raptor 74 Gigabyte 10,000RPM Hard Drive, Memorex 16x Dual Layer DVD Burner and ABIT IC7-G Motherboard with an acrylic see through case. I no longer use it except for doing computer repairs. I also recently just bought a Mac Mini computer which is a great machine for music, videos and pictures. I have a Toshiba laptop also that I use occasionally. You can see pictures of my computers by clicking here.

What do you mostly do for your customers?

These are the three things that I would say I do the most.

    • Spyware and Virus Removal
    • Wireless Network Setup / Resolve Issues
    • Backup data and re-install Windows
    • Replace Hard Drive / Reinstall Windows
    • Add More Memory

I also occasionally do other things but those are the primary things I am asked or required to do.