10 Tips for Keeping Your PC Cool

Summer is the ideal time to review whether all your PCs are receiving the airflow and proper cooling they require. Doing so will greatly reduce one’s chances of experiencing failure in any number of the heat-sensitive components that comprise a PC.

10 Tips for Keeping Your PC Cool

1. Hibernate When Not in Use

Adjust the setting so a PC will go directly into hibernate mode when it’s not in use. It will give it an opportunity to cool down and will save electricity as well.

2.  Keep Internal Cables Short

Long internal cabling takes up more space and reduces internal air flow. This increases the chance of other internal components getting too hot and failing.

3. Dust Regularly

Dust can clog the air intake grill on a PC, thus increasing the likelihood of overheating internal components. Dust regularly and perform an occasional “look-see” to determine if a PC’s air intake grill is receiving the air it needs.

4. Spot Check Fans

While checking for dust, also make sure a PC’s fan(s) are working as well. A burned-out power supply fan can quickly lead to overheating and equipment failure.

5.  Consider Using Additional Fans

Some PCs have more than one hard drive which means they tend to run hot. If this is the case, consider whether there is space for installing an additional fan.

6.  Check BIOS Temp Settings

Newer PCs often have BIOS temperature settings which can be configured to shut the PC down if a certain temperature has been reached.

7. Provide Plenty of Space for Operation

Some cabinets and desks are not necessarily designed with heat-sensitive equipment in mind. In addition, many users tend to clutter up their desks with papers, office supplies, etc. Be sure that your PC consistently has plenty of air flow below, around, and above it.

8. Use Cable Guards

Some PC cases have their own cable channels to ensure they remain in a discrete place. If your model doesn’t, purchase some cable guards to ensure that the cabling won’t block air flow to the computer case.

9. Go Solid State

Consider replacing traditional hard drives with solid-state drives. Solid-state drives do not contain moving parts. This allows them to operate without generating as much heat as traditional drives.

10. Alternative Cooling Products

For challenging situations consider using any of the following

  • Liquid cooling.
  • Memory heatsinks.
  •  Hard drive coolers.
  • A cooling unit in an empty drive bay.

Want to know more about keeping your computer equipment in top-notch shape? Contact us at PC Geeks today!

Tips for Removing Malicious Software

The convenience of using computers does not come without caveats. At one time or another, the computer user will encounter malicious software—or viruses—inadvertently installed on a device. The most common scenarios are when computer users, who are generally unaware of the dangers of surfing the web, are seeking various types of free programs and eventually land on a website that looks appealing. The site will offer various programs for “free” and when the user installs the software, some type of (hidden) malicious program will be installed along with it—although there are varying degrees of danger the malicious software poses. Sometimes the unwanted software is merely some type of annoying ad that can slow the computer or interrupt computer user tasks. In some extreme cases, however, malicious software will cripple a device or render files unusable. Therefore, using somewhat of a proactive approach where careful vetting of software is done before installation, can save headaches. But when the going gets tough, there are effective procedures for the removal of the malicious software.

Tips for Removing Malicious Software

The starting point will generally depend on the given circumstance, although in some cases it’s abundantly evident what type of malicious software is causing a problem. The following steps can be used to remove malicious software from Microsoft Windows—the operating system that is generally most affected by malicious software. Start with rebooting the computer and when the computer brand logo screen appears, tap the F8 button until the alternate boot menu appears. Select “safe mode with networking.” When the computer is booted into this state, download and install Kasperkey’s TDSSkiller anti-rootkit program and run it. With rootkit type viruses gone, download and run RKILL—this will eliminate malicious, currently-running processes that are “safe-mode aware” and allow normal antivirus programs to run unaffected by malicious software hindrances. Once this is done, uninstall all programs not being used, and programs that were downloaded from sites that are potentially shady. Finally, run reputable antivirus software downloaded or purchased from trusted vendors. Make sure the software’s virus definitions database is up to date before running. After the antivirus runs, reboot the computer and the computer should run without issues, assuming normal maintenance has been maintained.

Please contact us at PC Geeks for assistance.

Building a Gaming PC – A Beginner’s Guide

You have made the decision to venture into the world of building a gaming PC. Good for you! The task may seem daunting at first however, building your own PC is a fun and rewarding experience. Now that the decision to tackle a DIY build has been made, you may be wondering where to begin. Any PC build project can be broken down into 4 major milestones: determining the budget, selecting hardware, assembly, and first power-up. Before diving in, ask yourself the following 4 questions:

  1. How much do I want to spend?
  2. Which components do I choose?
  3. What goes where?
  4. What do I do once my build is complete?

Building a Gaming PC - A Beginner's Guide

Determining the budget

The first milestone in the build process requires you to do a little math. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer to how much you need to spend. At the time of this writing, a low to mid-tier baseline for the PC components (minus peripherals) would be ~$500-$600. One major consideration to be made when determining the budget is whether or not you require peripherals (keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc.) If you do, you will need to account for that cost in your budget.

Selecting hardware

A lot of time will be spent deciding how to most effectively spread your budget out amongst the components required to build your new gaming machine. You will need to acquire the following Components:

  • CPU (Central Processing Unit)
  • CPU cooler (only if purchasing an Intel CPU. Modern AMD CPUs include a great stock cooler)
  • Motherboard
  • GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) aka “video card”
  • RAM module(s)
  • Hard drive
  • PC Case
  • Additional case fans for cooling (if your case does not come with any pre-installed)

Pay close attention to compatibility when shopping for components. Further detail is outside of the scope of this post, however, documentation can typically be downloaded from the manufacturers’ websites which will provide all of the detailed information you should need.

Time to build!

At this point in the project, you will be familiar with your hardware and ready to get hands-on. Do not be afraid! This is the fun part. It is essentially building blocks for grown-ups. There are no special tools needed other than a Phillips screwdriver and a couple of cable ties. If you have zero experience inside of a PC, it is recommended to utilize a guide (plenty of video guides available online) or phone a friend who does have experience. Just remember that the CPU pins are very fragile. Otherwise, it is pretty hard to break anything else that you are installing.

First power up

Your machine is assembled, your OS has been installed, and you have a fully functioning DIY gaming PC build. Congratulations! But what’s next? Before you dive into a game of Fortnite or Minecraft, you need to install drivers and update, update, update.

  1. Perform all required Windows updates
  2. Update the motherboard’s BIOS to the most recent version
  3. Download and install all up to date drivers for your components and/or peripherals (GPU is a must)

Now that everything is assembled and updated, go enjoy your new gaming PC! If the task still seems monumental after reading this beginner’s guide, contact us today. We would be glad to help you with building a gaming PC!

5 Budget-Friendly Benefits of Hiring Professionals for Computer Repair

When your computer runs into issues, you should avoid the temptation to handle the situation by yourself. Contrary to what many people believe, hiring experts will be more budget-friendly. Professionals have the knowledge, experience and tools required to ensure the job is done properly. The experts will accurately troubleshoot the problems and provide a lasting solution. But what exactly are the budget-friendly benefits of hiring professionals for computer repair?

Here are a few.

5 Budget-Friendly Benefits of Hiring Professionals for Computer Repair

COST EFFECTIVE

A good number of people try to fix computer issues on their own in order to avoid spending money. However, working with professionals will ensure software programs are installed correctly and minimize the risk of damage to hardware components. Experts will use quality materials and parts, effectively helping you to avoid costly mistakes and repeated repairs. This will save you money in the long run.

DATA LOSS PREVENTION

There is a chance that you store both personal and business data in your computer. Without the necessary expertise and experience, handling computer repairs on your own presents the risk of data loss. Professionals will back up your data before work begins, avoid mistakes that could corrupt your device and ensure all your important files remain intact. The experts will also repair and extract data from a damaged hard drive or one that is infected with viruses.

SAVES YOU TIME

No matter how small a computer issue may be, trying to fix it can be a time-consuming undertaking. Computer experts will use best practices and the right techniques to identify the root cause of the problem and resolve the issue quickly and efficiently. Hiring professionals will leave you with ample time to focus on other tasks as you get your device restored.

MAINTENANCE ARRANGEMENTS

In addition to repairing your computer, professionals may offer other services. For instance, maintenance contracts that include maintenance arrangements will help to reduce the frequency of computer issues and improve the lifespan of your device. This will ensure your device keeps running efficiently and help you keep repair costs to a minimum.

WARRANTY TERMS

Many computer manufacturers will require licensed professionals to service or repair your device. In case of problems during the period when your warranty is active, there is a chance you will get a free repair. If the issue is due to the manufacturer’s fault, you may get compensation in the form of a new device.

Regardless of the type of computer repair services you need, hiring professionals for computer repair is always a great idea. At PC Geeks, we are a local and family owned computer repair company. Our technicians have expertise and experience in fixing a wide range of computer issues. Contact us today to find out more and request our affordable services.

How to Keep Your Kids Safe While Using a Computer

Computers can be invaluable to enhance a child’s education, but as with any connection to the outside world, parents much ensure it remains a safe outlet for their kids. Predators, scammers, school bullies, and data thieves know that children can easily be exploited online if protections are not put in place by watchful parents. Here are some helpful tips for parents who want to know what they can do to keep their kids safe and free from harassment while surfing the internet.

How to Keep Your Kids Safe While Using a Computer

Have a Family Computer

It’s much easier to monitor what children are doing and seeing online when their computer use is restricted to a family PC that is set up in a “public” area within the home. The living room or kitchen are ideal locations for a family computer and makes it much easier for parents to monitor what their children are viewing online.

Parents can also employ the use of a password that only they know to ensure their kids aren’t sneaking online when the parents are in the shower or away from home for a few minutes. While it may seem like a hassle to have to put in a password every time their child needs to use the family computer, it’s a small price to pay to ensure they keep their innocence and/or aren’t demoralized by bullies at school.

Parental Control Software

There are plenty of software apps that parents can install on the family computer, so they are in control of their child’s online activities. Popular parental control software includes Norton Family, Net Nanny, McAfee, and many others. When deciding which parental control software to install, parents should consider whether the app does the following

  • It should prevent kids from sharing personal information.
  • Blocks inappropriate content on web pages, social media sites, chatrooms, etc.
  • Logs the child’s online activity including web searches, web pages visited, etc.
  • Has remote monitoring features for parents, including updates and alerts sent to the parent’s smartphone.

Talk to Your Kids

Most parents have had the “stranger danger” discussion with their child. In today’s environment parents also need to include the internet in their discussion when their child is ready to go online. Tell your kids why it’s important not to share information such as their age or their address online, even with people they think they know. Let them know you are able to monitor their online activity at all times, so they don’t become tempted to try out unsavory sites their friends may recommend.

Lastly, limit your child’s internet use to school-related activities and discourage them from becoming obsessed with computer use by providing plenty of other activities and outlets for their excess energy. Playing family board games, going for a walk, playing a game of basketball, making a batch of cookies, or reading a book together at bedtime are all great ways to establish family bonds.

If you’d like more tips on how to keep your kids safe online, please contact us at PC Geeks!

3 Steps Students Should Take When a Laptop Breaks

Most students rely on laptops, notebooks, or Chromebooks to handle their coursework, and with more classes moving online, a computer isn’t a luxury for students — it’s a necessity. If your device fails, don’t panic. By taking appropriate actions, you can reduce your chances of a hefty repair bill while minimizing downtime.

3 Steps Students Should Take When a Laptop Breaks

Pay attention to the symptoms. Listen for unusual tapping or whirring noises, which can indicate a hard drive failure. If the computer displays any error messages, write down the exact text including any numbers or codes. Look for flashing lights or obvious signs of mechanical damage (for instance, a damaged power cord).  Find the computer’s model number and serial number, which can be useful for troubleshooting.

If you believe that the computer is infected with a virus or other malicious program, follow our guide here to attempt to remove the malware. However, if the computer shows signs of physical damage, keep it powered off after you’ve made a list of the symptoms. Operating a damaged computer can result in media damage, file corruption, and data loss.

Back up data (if possible). If your computer still boots, you may be able to copy important files to a flash drive or cloud backup service before performing repairs. Depending on your technical proficiency, you may also decide to remove the computer’s hard drive or solid-state drive to access the data from another machine.

Try to prioritize your most important files, and if the computer’s symptoms seem to be getting worse, turn it off right away.  Don’t attempt to copy files from any device that shows signs of physical damage (for instance, a hard drive that makes clicking or whirring sounds).

If you rely on the laptop, don’t attempt repairs on your own. If you can clearly determine the cause of the failure (for instance, the computer shows an error message indicating a media failure), you may be able to repair the laptop on your own. However, many modern laptops aren’t designed to make user repairs easy; you may need special tools to disassemble the device and access the damaged components. Attempting repairs may void manufacturer warranties, so don’t start unless you have a clear plan in place.

In other words, if you’re unsure of the source of the problem — or if you haven’t backed up your data — leave it to the professionals. Attempting repairs could cause permanent data loss or increase the cost of your repair bill. The safest (and cheapest) option is to take the computer to a qualified repair service.

At PC Geeks, we have the tools, resources, and expertise to address any laptop failure. Whether you need data recovery, virus/malware removal, or you simply want to get your computer into working condition as quickly as possible, our technicians are ready to help. Contact us today to discuss your options.

3 Strategies to Select Your Next Gaming PC

Get Your Game On

If you just want to check your email and social media, and maybe write on a word processor, you probably don’t need to be too picky about your computer. If you are one of the 2.5 Billion people who play video games though, you need a machine that can handle the games you like to play. Here are three strategies for making sure that your next gaming PC will be up to the challenge.

3 Strategies to Select Your Next Gaming PC

Strategy 1: Throw Giant Wads of Cash at the Problem

If you have $10,000 to throw around, you can get the new Maingear F131 with all the bells and whistles. This beast is VR ready, with an Intel Core i9 7980XE processor, 64GB of RAM, Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Graphics card, and a 4TB SSD. Whatever your game, the F131 will probably be more than adequate. Maybe even overkill.

Strategy 2: Find a Computer Suited to Your Play Style

There are a lot of different types of games in the world, so just because a computer is marketed as a “gaming computer” doesn’t mean it is ideally suited for your application. If you are into online first-person shooters or real-time RPGs, the last thing you want is for some 9-year-old punk to pwn you with a lag death. Connectivity is key for those games, which means you will want to invest in connectivity hardware to avoid ping lag, and the latest and greatest graphics card to avoid graphics lag. Of course, those elements aren’t as vital to single-player turn-based strategy games.

If you want to play VR games, then it is essential that you get a computer that is VR Ready. If you aren’t planning to play VR games, though, why pay extra for features that you aren’t going to use?

Strategy 3: Get the Right Tool for the Right Job

If it is tricky to find a computer that does everything you need, without paying for a bunch of features that you don’t, it’s probably because you are a unique person, with unique tastes. Accordingly, the perfect gaming computer would be a unique computer, tailored to your needs. You don’t have to be an expert on the optimal hardware for each game that you like to play, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on features that you won’t use either. Just contact us and tell us what kind of games you want to play, and our experts will build you a computer with everything you need, and nothing that you don’t.

Windows Upgades and That Old Computer

A lot of us have an old computer sitting around the house. You know the one I mean. You were running Vista or Windows 7 on it and never upgraded to Windows 10.  So that old computer has been gathering dust while you explored a new one or maybe the latest smartphone. What can be done with that old computer?

Windows Upgades and That Old Computer

Upgrades

Running old systems, like Vista or Windows 7, that are no longer supported by updates from Microsoft isn’t secure. Hackers love to exploit vulnerabilities in applications and systems that are out of date. You could upgrade that computer to Windows 10 yourself.  Windows 10 is sold in numerous places. There is even a site on the internet where the Windows 10 update is rumored to be still free, even if Microsoft long ago officially ended the free upgrades. But there are numerous system requirements for Windows 10 that old computers often can’t meet.

Linux Distributions

One alternative is to remove the Windows operating system and replace it with a Linux Distribution. These operating systems are lighter, requiring less memory and CPU processing power to run than Windows 10. Not to mention, Linux is open source software and you can download it free. Linux’s light footprint means it is often ideal to run on an older machine. Linux is a bit more hands-on and so is not for everyone. But it is an option to explore.

Other Options

You might not have the time or temperament to fix up that old computer yourself. Quite possibly, if there is a problem with it, the computer can be repaired. Whatever the situation, PC Geeks can assess your old computer. If it’s repairable, we’ll make it work. If it’s possible to upgrade to Windows 10 or put another system like Linux on it, we can do that too. So don’t throw that old machine out. Give us a call today at PC Geeks. We may be able to give it renewed life! And if we can’t, we can build you the new computer that exactly fits your needs.

Guidelines for Desktop Computer Start-up Problems

When the power button is pressed on any type of modern, common, personal computing device, the system goes through various stages in order to arrive at what is commonly called the desktop  or home  screen of the computer — where programs or “apps” may be accessed including but not limited to Microsoft Office or Apple Safari. This is typically called the boot-up process.  At any stage of the boot process, something can go wrong, rendering the computer frozen if it does not outright shut down due to faulty hardware. The culprit component of a boot-up problem, although occasionally multiple problems, can be isolated with some time and patience, although it’s generally recommended seeking professional support due to the possibility of enlarging the problem by way of faulty tips, instructions, or general unfamiliarity with computer troubleshooting.

Guidelines for Desktop Computer Start-up Problems

Assuming a working monitor, keyboard, and mouse, common places to check when troubleshooting start-up issues with a desktop computer are the power supply, motherboard, RAM, HDD/SDD (where software is installed), and corrupted operating system files. Swapping the current computer power supply out with one that is known to be both in working order and sufficient for the power needs of the computer can be done to see if it fixes the issue. A faulty computer motherboard can also be troubleshot by swapping out the power supply — if all other components are in working order and a new power supply is installed without fixing the issue, then the culprit is likely the computer motherboard — in some cases, they are not worth fixing although in others, could and should be repaired/replaced due to the high cost of replacing an entire system.  Checking for faulty RAM memory modules can be done by swapping out old ones for new ones — if the problem goes away then the culprit was evidently the RAM modules, although sometimes merely pulling the old modules out and carefully, correctly reseating them fixes problems — if two or more RAM modules are being used, removing the faulty one can fix the issue, although that could cause problems with the program or app being used if it requires a certain amount of RAM to operate.  If the hard drive storage (where the operating system is installed) is suspected as the culprit, there are a number of troubleshooting steps and approaches that can be taken to isolate it, but a common first step includes swapping it out with one that is known to be working and attempting to reinstall the operating system, although this is a relatively lengthy and sometimes complicated task and best left to somebody with experience. With all the hardware ruled out, checking for corrupted operating system (software) files would be the last and final step — a convenient and common way this can be done is by booting up a disc or USB drive, typically with the operating system’s files on it, after which running certain commands will scan and repair the files needed (on the hard drive) to bring the system to working order.

Please contact us for a consultation.

Troubleshooting MacBooks

Computers tend to be like tacos and hamburgers. They all consist of the same ingredients or components assembled together in different configurations and quality. The Apple MacBooks are no exception. For example, a PC (personal computer) that has Microsoft Windows installed has a motherboard, CPU, RAM, a permanent storage device such as a hard drive, a monitor (screen), and a mouse, or trackpad — plus various office-related programs such as word-processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software, for starters. The MacBook also consists of those things, the only difference being the file system type it uses and the operating system design under the hood — at the forefront, the MacBook operating system has most, if not all the same functions and features as Microsoft Windows — they just look a little different on the screen.

Troubleshooting MacBooks

Therefore, when troubleshooting any given problem in a MacBook, the process will more or less be the same as that of a PC laptop.  If, for example, a user is in the home using a Wi-Fi connection for the internet and the connection is lost, the order of troubleshooting would look like the following whether using a PC laptop or a MacBook — although these rules may be broken depending on the experience level of the user and the situation: 1. Reboot the modem. 2. Once the modem is rebooted, reboot the Wi-Fi router. 3. After the Wi-Fi router is rebooted, reboot the computer. This tends to restore the connection in most cases although each case is unique which should be taken into consideration. Other steps and considerations should be taken if the initial attempt to resolve the connection problem does not work, such as adjusting operating system network settings or application (app) settings — the point being made here is that troubleshooting the MacBook is generally the same as troubleshooting a PC laptop.

Another problem arising in the MacBook having a similar troubleshooting process as that of a Windows laptop is problems with performance — particularly sluggishness. For example, ask the following:  Is there enough RAM (memory) installed for the task or application being used on the computer? Is everything on the computer slow or is it only certain functions, e.g., is Apple Safari (internet browser) running slow only or is the entire computer running slow? Are there several “start-up” programs running? These are programs that are set to run as soon as the computer is switched on — if too many programs are running when the computer is switched on, they will use up a lot of RAM which could cause sluggishness while using other programs — the MacBook has a function for disabling programs that are not needed to run at start-up. Another common question to ask is whether there were any changes made to the computer before the sluggishness began — undoing the change, if possible, could resolve the issue.

Making incorrect changes to a computer while trying to resolve an issue could augment the problem. Consulting professionals should be done if not comfortable and familiar with troubleshooting processes. Please, contact us.