Run Your Business on Your Second Computer

virus[1]Can you remember when you had only one computer? If your answer is; “What do you mean? I have only one computer now.” You are welcome to stop reading here and start shopping. If you do have a second computer, you are welcome to skip the next two paragraphs or read them for your edification.

If you need some advice about buying your second computer, here’s something quick and easy. Buy as much processor speed and memory (horsepower) as you can afford. Get a large screen (again – to the limit of your budget.) Excessive horsepower and huge display dimensions translate into satisfaction that lasts a whole lot longer. There’s more to say on this topic, but you are better off running out to buy something now.
So, go. Get something good, and set it up just like your main business computer, same software, same online data storage access, same cloud-based backup system, etc. Yes, there may be exceptions. But, anything you don’t put on this computer now (like your accounting software, etc.), you’ll have to install later, if disaster strikes.

Assuming we don’t have to go into details about your cloud-based backup plan… You do have that, right? Let’s talk about running your business on the new, “plan B” computer. You really MUST be able to do this, to reap the full benefit of this plan.

If you are wondering what is the point to all of this, I’ll make it for you here. When your main computer fails, you should be able to take it in stride. Or, at least not have it completely ruin your day – given that you can continue to do business on your second computer, while you ponder the cost of repairs to, or replacement of, the original workhorse. Is there an equine theme running through this? Need a break, yet? Now comes the hard part!

You need to make your second computer as close to a clone of your main business computer as possible. Ideally, you would have a second computer in your office that you can simply turn on if your main computer fails. Yes, that’s pretty difficult to achieve. It can be done, but more likely is the prospect of creating some reasonable facsimile for this purpose. This is where that cloud-based storage comes in handy! If you are not using Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or even Carbonite, let’s talk soon. Backup is essential to the survival of your business.

With your second computer in place, you must now conduct regular fire drills. That means every once in a while, perhaps as often as once a week, or at least, once a month, you have to fire up the “plan B” computer and work with it for as long as it takes to convince you that you could, indeed, run your business there. Yes, I’m serious. You need to run your email, open some files, do what you do until you feel pretty confident that you could just keep chugging away at what you do.

Full disclosure: At last count, I think I have ten working computers and I could run my business on at least four of the ten. Three of them have the kind of power and speed I need for my work. And, at least three of them could be substituted for the first three (but, I would curse the lack of performance!) An extreme example, to be sure, but I almost cannot remember when I didn’t have at least two computers. You have to decide if you can live (and work) without your main computer. If your answer is “no”, create “plan B.”

Before You Upgrade to Windows 10

Image source: http://www.komando.com/happening-now/310826/windows-10-worries-7-things-that-wont-work-after-you-upgrade/all

Image source: http://www.komando.com/happening-now/310826/windows-10-worries-7-things-that-wont-work-after-you-upgrade/all

OK, if you’ve been following this trend….

You may know that you should do a bit of cleanup before and after you upgrade. I’m overdue on writing the post for the post Windows 10 upgrade.

But, here’s a new wrinkle. If you are upgrading from Windows 8, you may have more work to do.

There are a few ways to restore the Start menu in Windows 8. It became almost standard practice to install Classic Shell, or some other form of start menu restoration, to solve one of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 – which was, “Hey, where’s my start menu?!?!?” Insert damning commentary about Microsoft’s lack of understanding of real human beings here.

Microsoft’s insolence aside, if you did find a way to create a start menu with some add-on software, you’ll want to remove it prior to upgrading to Windows 10. In some cases, that add-on feature makes the start menu unusable after the upgrade. I know, it’s sickening, right?

Today, I spent hours trying to recover a computer from the malady that is a Windows 10 upgrade, whether you want it or not! I’ve seen several cases where the software installs itself, even though you’ve repeatedly clicked on the, “No, no, never!” response to Microsoft’s insistence.

Oh, and just in case you don’t follow me faithfully, please, please, PUH-LEASE! Back up your data right now. Back it up to the cloud if you can. But back it up on anything you have…. Your spinning hard drive will die. There’s no doubt about this. And, your Window 10 upgrade, if it makes your computer unusable, is pretty close to a hard drive failure. Just do it. Do it now.

 

Forgot To Say, Clean Up AND Back Up!

dropboxYes, I know I have already said (by my count, at least seven times on this blog) you must backup your data. I’ve been saying that for years.

So, I suppose it should never be left unsaid. Clean up your computer, backup your data. Then, if you must upgrade to Windows 10, go ahead. Sometimes it works flawlessly, other times, you’ll know the pain of a fresh new restore of your computer. You may be able to revert to Windows 8 (so I’ve heard, but I’ve not done it myself), but so far I’ve had no success with getting back to Windows 7 gracefully.

If you can wait, please do. Microsoft is allowing you up to a year to accept their free upgrade. By then, or maybe by Christmas, they will have worked out most of the bugs.

Before Windows 10, Clean Up

Maintenance tasks you can do for yourself, which will improve things on your computer, whether you do or don’t upgrade to Windows 10. Here are the first three:
1. Check for malware and clean up junk.
2. Download and run Ccleaner.
3. Run Disk Cleanup and be sure to clean system files.

1. Go to bleepingcomputer.com and download rkill, adwcleaner (AWC), and junkware removal tool (JRT). Run Rkill, to see if you have malware processes running. If it finds none, proceed with running JRT and AWC, in that order. If Rkill does find malware processes running, especially if it finds anything followed by (HEUR), you are going to need to do a bit more work to remove viruses, before you move on. The scope of this article will not cover virus removal tasks.

2. Go to filehippo.com and download Ccleaner. Install it and run it. Here’s an article that will help you with those details.

3. You can run Disk Cleanup (a built in windows utility) by simply pressing the Windows key and typing Disk Cleanup. Click OK and after the first pass, run it again and click on Clean up system files. This will take a few minutes to complete, so be patient.

File-Explorer-Fail-Windows-10If you are reading this last paragraph, please TAKE NOTE! There is no compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 10 and most people who provide computer support will tell you to wait. Several months from now, most of the bugs will have been found and squashed. If you have some time off around the holidays, that might be a good time to get this done. Or, if you are up for something a little scary, upgrade on Halloween!

Thanks, again, Kim!

virus[1]

Image from Kim’s website, click for the original article.

Will full attribution to “America’s Digital Goddess”
– I say, “Thank you, so much!” Kim Komando has been at this a lot longer than I have…

After you read the referenced article (on KimKomando.com), you may find a deeper appreciation for the tech guys and gals who can actually work through all of the steps suggested by her advice!

My advice differs, quite a bit, actually. There are several tools we use to restore your computer to working order. If you want to spend a couple of days learning about malware and what it takes to remove it, I suggest: Bleeping Computer or Malwarebytes websites. The punchline is; right there on the home page of Bleeping Computer:

There are 1018 Virus Removal Guides.

But seriously, folks… If you should find yourself at Kim’s last step (of the 3 simple steps…), where the only solution is to wipe your drive clean and re-install your operating system, I really wish you had called me sooner! Also, if you are not backing up your data, we really need to talk.

3. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS
When a virus won’t go away, or has damaged your computer software past the point of repair, there’s only one solution left. You have to wipe the hard drive and reinstall your operating system.

My next post should be about your second computer. What?
Did you just say you don’t have one? NO-OH-OH! Cringe, heavy sigh.

At Mousehelp, we provide compassionate care for people with computers.
Yes, you can simply search for Palm Desert Computer Repair.
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StackEdit

stackedit verticalSo funny! I thought the name was, “Stacked IT!” – but I see now it is, “stack edit” – so the laugh’s on me.

I’m always happy to make you laugh, even at my expense. Here’s the thing, though. This product has a free version, which I’ve connected to Google Drive.

All I needed was some simple way to back up some WordPress code for the new Save A Pet Website. What I found was so much more! This wonderful tool is a full featured HTML editor that can connect to your website, save your files in Google Drive and/or DropBox, and publish the same document to a bunch of other sites, including Blogger pages and WordPress. Pretty cool, huh?

Yes, I could go on about this, but you’ll just have to see it for yourself. If you need some help getting it set up for yourself, come on into my website, call me and we’ll set an appointment for computer support. I’m always happy to make things work for you.

 

The End Of Windows XP

banner[1]Echoing the description of this page from Insurance Journal (Article By Laird Rixford | March 10, 2014 in Insurance Journal), I’m tempted to make some snide remark about Ostriches hiding their heads in the sand. “If you feel surprised by this news, you should know Microsoft actually announced in 2007 they were planning to end support of Windows XP.”

But, I won’t make that comment. Simply note that you can probably find thousands of sources for this information, – actually, About 8,510,000 results – written by many authors in many industries. Why? Because Windows XP was probably one of the best operating systems devised by Microsoft and is still running on millions of desktops and laptops all over the world.

I’ve deliberated on the best way to get this information out to my clients, but now I’ve waited too long and the end is near. Yesterday was “patch Tuesday” and this batch of fixes issued by Microsoft is reported to be the last you’ll get for XP. The next “patch Tuesday” is actually on April 8th – the date they’ve chosen to end support of XP.
It seems to me they should issue one more set of updates, as a parting gift.  But, enough about what I think.

Here is another article, by Kim Komando. I’m not sure she isn’t being facetious with this statement: “If you have an XP computer and just browse the Internet occasionally, without the use of passwords for anything ever, you’re probably fine as well.”

My thinking is a bit more extreme – it goes like this: If you disconnect your XP computer from the Internet and never use it again for any online activity, you’ll be safe from security vulnerabilities. I’m only half-kidding here, because you might run some piece of software that actually has no need for a connection to anything. If all you do is work that is stored on your local computer, you can disconnect and continue merrily on your way.

Call me if you need help with this transition. Windows 7 is two steps up from XP and worth every penny of the upgrade cost. You may need a bit of assistance with learning many of the new features in Windows 7, but for the most part, it is every bit as good and much improved, when compared to XP.

Call me anyway, for any help you need with computing and communications.

So Many Things – Links Provided

This has been one of those days where being pulled in only a dozen directions has produced a trail of website links readers might find interesting. Some of them were collected as part of the research I’m doing for clients, some of them come from research I’m doing for this blog, and still others result from my need to keep up with technology changes as applied to my own computing environment, along with knowledge I need to keep my clients’ computers up and running, to prevent data loss, or to improve performance on all of the computers I’m privileged to service. That’s a lot of “somes!”

Oh, I almost left out one of the best things I found, clear and clever writing from an attorney friend of mine, discussing the fleeting nature of fame and the enduring aspects of constant change. His latest blog article includes the line: “It was all quite jolly.” There’s something you don’t hear everyday!

cumulus globalBy now, you may already know Microsoft is going to retire Windows XP. Looking at information about that led me down a path to other “retired” things by Microsoft, like Live Mesh. I ended up removing Live Essentials from my computer, in an effort to improve performance. This also meshed nicely with a comparison of sync to the cloud service offerings, including Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Along the way, I found this blog, which looks promising and complex, so of course, I’ll save that for later review. Did I mention you might use Sync as a backup strategy? I do.

For your reading pleasure, here is a little snippet of Microsoft tech-speak:
Windows Live Sync was retired February 2013, and remote desktop and peer-to-peer syncing have stopped working. If you still have Mesh installed on a computer, you might see the message, “Sorry, there is a problem with the Windows Live Sync servers.” Thanks, guys. Without your continuing efforts to perplex and confuse, I would not have so much work to do! If you have some time, search, “microsoft confused and perplexed” and wallow in the nearly 7 million results. Or, just keep reading here!

A link to “the daily love” is in my list, most likely, for my personal blogging needs later this evening. You can find that stuff on brianrouley.com – it’s mostly non-technical. Likewise, there’s a link to CreateSpace, where I’m working on a book about blogging and blogger’s topics.

Lastly, and most likely with the highest relevance to what I do for a living, was this link to an Internet Marketing website. I spend a fair amount of time on sites like these, getting ideas from other people who work in my industry. Almost without exception, there are a few pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from this effort.

That is all.

Three Ways To Protect Your Stuff – Part 2, Way 3a and 3b

OK, where were we? Ah, yes, that third way is far more labor intensive and makes far less sense than a cloud based backup plan.
If you came in in the middle of this conversation, scroll down or click here, to see the first part of the article.

The big upside to an external drive is the same as its greatest downside, it’s right there with your computer. On the upside, if your computer crashes, your data is already right there, you only have to plug it into a healthy computer and run the restore process. On the downside, if your computer is destroyed by some natural or unnatural phenomenon, most things nearby are also ruined. Or if your computer is stolen, (this actually happened to one of my clients!) your external drive will also be stolen. You may argue that you use a USB flash drive and keep it in a safer location and I’ll say that’s good, but they are portable and they suffer wear and tear, so there is a greater chance that they will be lost or damaged beyond repair. Enough said; you probably see the number of ways an external drive solution is not the best.

3a. Regardless, we press on with two ways to use your external drive to back up your data or your system. Actually, those are the two ways. You can use whatever backup program you like, or the one that came with your external drive, to complete a data only or a full system backup. The learning curve on this is pretty flat and you can figure it out in one session.

3b. another way you can get a full system backup is to use a disk image utility. I’ve been using a product by StorageCraft for several years now and it does a flawless job of creating an image of the entire drive. You can even use this image to completely restore a failed computer, with all programs and settings intact, on another computer, even if it is not the same make and model. This same backup and restore process can be used if you are installing a larger hard drive in the same system. If you are only moving data from an old computer to a new one, this image transfer will ensure that you have not left behind some obscure directory of data files essential to little things like email or contacts.

Yes, we could go on about all of the ups and downs of backup and restore processes here, but those are the three ways, including part 3, a and b!

Almost any technical person will agree that any kind of backup is better than none. There must be survey results available on how many tech people would agree that cloud backup is a better approach than on-site or external drive backup systems. However, there is always that security concern with the cloud. And, businesses that deal with sensitive information may have restrictive guidelines with data management that prevents the use of cloud-based systems. That’s material for another article.

Find a way to protect your stuff. Implement it immediately. That proverbial rainy day will come and you’ll be glad you brought an umbrella!

Three Ways To Protect Your Stuff

You collect stuff on your computer. In the latest versions of Windows, it’s all under your user profile, and in Libraries on Windows 7 and 8. Libraries are pretty nice shortcut management tools for your stuff, introduced in Windows 7. The standard set contains your documents, pictures, music, and video files. Under your user profile, a.k.a., your personal folder on Windows 7, you’ll also find important folders, like Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, and possibly others, related to applications like Google Drive or Dropbox. Saved Games and Searches and Links are also here, but are likely less important to the task at hand.

Protecting your stuff means you’ll still have your precious photos and documents if your computer should fail. And, yes, this is YABA (Yet Another Backup Article), but one that is focused on what must be done if you are going to rebuild, upgrade, or revert to your old OS after an upgrade, on your current computer. Such is the life of users in the Windows world. There is simply no guarantee that your data will remain intact after any change to your OS, so it’s a good idea to continually either synchronize it, or back it up, with cloud based services. For the purpose of this article, synchronization means you use more than one computer to access your files. Backup means you will have to execute a restore process to get your stuff back on the computer, after you’ve made changes to the OS.

For my money and time, synchronization makes the most sense. Because I use at least four computers to do my work, I need my data to be the same in several locations. This may not apply to you, but there is great comfort in knowing that if one of my computers should fail, I can simply carry on with one of the few remaining units, while I decide on how to replace the one that failed. If you have more than one computer – for some of my clients that means one desktop and one laptop – synchronization will simplify things for you, and provide one of a few forms of data backup. Dropbox and Google Drive and SkyDrive all perform this function. A detailed description of those services does not fit the scope of this article. However, consider synchronization to be the first of three ways you can protect your stuff.

You may use any one of several cloud based backup solutions. You can simply search; “cloud based backup” and read all about it. Carbonite gets a lot of attention and seems to have many affiliates, as I hear people on radio and Kim Komando constantly pitching for the company. MOZY is probably its closest competitor, in terms of similarities. Most lists of cloud based backup solutions include synchronization providers, so consider my premise of having to do a restore, versus already having a synced directory. Again, you’ll have to do your homework here. I’m testing iDrive and will likely try out Amazon’s S3 solution in the near future. This second way of protecting your stuff is best for someone who has only one computer, or who does not see the need for the benefit of synchronization.

The third way of protecting your stuff is the old tried and true external drive implementation. In my opinion, this is the least reliable and most labor intensive method, but it is still way better than nothing. It is tempting to simply end things here, since I don’t recommend this choice, but it makes sense to review image backup versus file and folder backup. Consider this parts 3a and 3b, as your external drive system may be used in at least two or more ways.

I’m publishing this post at 8 a.m., and will continue later with an expansion on that last point. For now, I’m off to help a client with backup of his system prior to reverting back to an older OS!

Enjoy. 10/26 8:03