Taking Care of Your New Laptop

If you’ve got a new laptop for work, play, or study, it’s important to take a few small steps to take care of it so you can keep your new investment working.

Taking Care of Your New Laptop

Don’t Block Vents

Your laptop generates a lot of heat in its CPU. This heat needs to be vented in order to prevent damage to components on the motherboard. The computer will throttle the CPU if it detects overheating in an attempt to prevent this.

The easiest way to avoid this is to use your laptop on a flat stable surface like a desk or table. Soft surfaces like beds or couches can block the vents.

It’s also a good idea to blow out any dust in the vents from time to time with a can of compressed air, especially if you notice your computer feeling hot to the touch or performance seems slower than usual.

Run Software Updates

Your new computer needs to keep the operating system software and applications updated to keep running smoothly. They’re usually set up to run automatically. Just let them update.

Run Antivirus

Your computer likely came with an antivirus program. If it didn’t there are several options on the market, even for free. This will keep your computer safe from malware.

Avoid Drink Spills

If liquids get into your laptop’s electronics, they can damage the components on the motherboard. That’s why you should try to keep drinks away from your new computer as much as possible. Containers with lids like commuter mugs or water bottles will help prevent spills.

Battery Usage

One of the best features of your laptop is the fact that you can take your work or play anywhere. The annoying part is that battery life can vary. If you find your battery running down quickly, try turning down the screen brightness to a level that’s still comfortable depending on the lighting.

You might also save demanding applications like video streaming or gaming for when you’re plugged into a power outlet. And when you are plugged in, you should use a surge protector to prevent damage from power spikes.

Conclusion

If you follow these tips, you find you can keep your new laptop in good working order for its useful life. If you have any questions or problems, please feel free to get in touch to see how we can help.

Getting the Most out of Your Laptop Battery

If you’re wondering why your laptop battery doesn’t seem to last as long as was advertised, don’t complain to the manufacturer just yet. It could be some of your habits that could be draining the battery. Here are some troubleshooting tips if you seem to be always looking for a power outlet to recharge your laptop.

Getting the Most out of Your Laptop Battery

Screen Brightness

One of the biggest drain on many laptops is the backlight on the screen. If you have the screen brightness turned all the way up, that’s going to deplete the battery than it would with a dimmer brightness setting.

Fortunately this is easy to adjust. Some laptops have an ambient light sensor that adjusts the screen brightness to a level appropriate for your lighting conditions. If your model doesn’t have the feature, simply turn down the screen brightness to a level you find comfortable.

Internet and Media Activity

Another source of battery usage if what you actually do with your laptop when it’s unplugged. Streaming media, gaming, and internet usage will all use up the battery life on your machine.

The obvious thing to do would be to save battery-intensive applications for use when you’re plugged into a power outlet.

Your Mileage May Vary

Laptop manufacturers will advertise battery life under ideal conditions, such as not using demanding applications. So like in car commercials, that “your actual mileage may vary.”

Discharging your laptop fully and then recharging it will shorten the battery life. While modern lithium-ion batteries don’t have a “memory”, they can only handle about 300-500 charge cycles before performance starts to degrade.

This means that if you’re fully discharging your battery every day, it will only last up to a few years. You should plug your laptop in when the battery gets to around 20% capacity.

Conclusion

If you take these tips in mind, you can get the maximum performance out of your laptop battery. If you need service with your battery or any other component in your laptop, please feel free to contact us.

What’s in a PC?

If you’re stuck at home now is the perfect time to build your own custom gaming PC, but where do you start? When I first started building PCs I remember having no idea to where to begin. I researched parts for hours, identifying all the pieces I’d need to build my new machine. I ordered expensive graphics and sound cards, what was, at the time, a lot of memory, and so on. I installed all of my components, Windows, and a game I had been dying to play. I sat nervously while I loaded the game, and as it ran for the first time on maximum graphics, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I’ve never forgotten.

Since then I’ve built dozens of PCs, mostly from kits, and each time I get that sense of satisfaction, of having put something together that works. Having done it many times now I realize how simple it really is, once you boil it down to the essentials.

What's in a PC?

Motherboard

A motherboard (or mobo for short) is what everything else in your computer plugs into. The CPU (central processing unit) is housed in your motherboard. The graphics and sound cards will fit into (probably PCI Express, a.k.a. PCIe) slots located on your motherboard. RAM will plug into your motherboard. Your hard drive will be connected to your motherboard.

Motherboards have a number of specs you need to be aware of:

  1. What chips does it support? Typically, a motherboard will support a limited number of chips, as they are not one-size-fits-all.
  2. What slots does it support? For a gaming PC you’re looking for at least two, if not four, PCIe slots
  3. How much memory does it support, and at what speeds? The more memory, and the faster the memory, the more fluid your gaming experience will be.

Modern gaming motherboards typically come with LAN (wired and wireless internet) capabilities built-in, so you won’t have to worry about that. If your motherboard doesn’t come with a networking solution you’ll have to buy a network card. Likewise, you may have not on-board audio, or you may have it and choose to buy a more advanced sound card. Other considerations include the number of USB ports.

Power Supply

Buying and installing a power supply is a straightforward endeavor, just make sure it has enough power with all of your new, fancy components installed!

CPU

The CPU (central processing unit) is the brain of your PC. CPUs have a number of cores (the number of things that can be simultaneously processed, more or less) and a clock speed (the number of cycles per second the CPU can handle out of the box). Surprisingly, more cores does not necessarily mean a better gaming machine, because games don’t tend to use all the cores. However, clock speed is very important: choosing an appropriately high clock speed will mean speedy gaming.

Memory

Memory, a.k.a RAM (Random Access Memory) is a confusing subject. There’s so many different types of RAM available, and it can feel overwhelming to a novice. Luckily, memory manufacturers offer tools to help you discover if your RAM will be compatible with your motherboard, e.g. Crucial’s memory adviser or Kingston’s memory search.

There are really only two considerations when choosing memory:

  1. What speed of RAM do you need? High is better for gaming, but make sure it’s compatible with your motherboard.
  2. How much RAM do you need? Again, more is better, but only to a point, and make sure your motherboard can support both the number of sticks and the total amount.

Hard Drive

You’ll need a hard drive on which to install your operating system, not to mention a place to put all of your digital stuff! Considerations for a hard drive are similar to those of memory:

  1. What size hard drive do you need? I’d recommend at least 1TB.
  2. What type of hard drive do you want, spinning disk or solid state (SSD)? Once again make sure your motherboard supports your choice. Odds are your motherboard supports SATA (Serial ATA) devices, which also include CD/DVD/Blu-ray drives, should you want to install one or more.

Graphics Card

This is a fun section, and it’s where most people that are building a custom gaming PC spend the most time. There’s a ton of options, but ultimately it will come down to NVIDIA or AMD, and your mileage may vary no matter your choice.

And Everything Else

You’ve now got everything you need for your custom gaming PC, but you’ll probably want a few more things for comfort and fun.

The Case

Get a case that supports your mobo and your power supply and whatever (and however many) drives you’ve chosen. Cases are a fun part of building a PC, customize to your hearts desire!

Keyboard and Mouse

Don’t forget a good keyboard and mouse. A lot of gamers choose keyboards with mechanical switches as they support more simultaneous inputs, and they feel better.

A good mouse is important too, ensure you get one with a high enough polling rate (e.g., at least 500Hz).

Need Help?

There’s a lot that you can do when you build your own PC, if you’d like help selecting parts for your custom gaming PC, or if you’d like us to build it for you, reach out to us today!

A Newbie’s Guide to Budgeting for a Gaming PC

When it comes to budgeting for a gaming PC build, most newbies don’t do much work here. They tend to just figure out what they can afford, get the parts that look the coolest or whatever they find first and then just put it together. To a lot of new builders, finding the parts isn’t what they’re there for. No, that’s just the annoying bit that gets in the way of them doing the fun bit of assembling their new toy and playing games. And this is fine but by not taking the time to specifically set their budget or shop for particular parts, they are opening themselves up to some potential problems.

A Newbie's Guide to Budgeting for a Gaming PC

First, this sort of shopping approach can unintentionally bottleneck your system. If you aren’t picking your CPU and GPU based on relative performance and how much of the budget they consume then you will almost certainly end up with one of the primary pieces of hardware in your machine performing far better than the other which can lead to the performance of the superior part being degraded as it has to reduce the level it runs at in order to accommodate the weaker and slower hardware it works alongside.

There is also the risk of hardware having its support cut. If you buy a motherboard, for example, without researching it and then learn that the manufacturer will be cutting all support for the BIOS that motherboard runs despite a fatal flaw leading to bluescreens on systems using it then you are unlikely to be pleased. This kind of scenario is unlikely but far from impossible and is one reason why you want to do extensive research rather than just picking whatever parts work and running with it.

A general rule of thumb to avoid this sort of problem is that you want to spent 2x as much on your GPU as you do the CPU. This is a gaming PC, after all, and the GPU is what will be pushing all those fancy images to your monitor. It’s also a good idea to have at least double the amount of system RAM as your graphics card does VRAM. If you have a GPU with 8 gigs of VRAM then you need at least 16 gigs of system memory. Of course, these are more of guidelines than hard rules so feel free to alter them if you want. Still, this should give you a basic idea of how to budget for a gaming PC.

If you still feel like you need some help budgeting for your gaming PC build then contact us today!

When to Replace a Laptop Hard Drive

Lifespans vary considerably, but many modern hard disk drives last around five years. You might need to replace your laptop’s drive when you notice these signs of failure:

When to Replace a Laptop Hard Drive

1. If files vanish or become unreadable, a faulty hard disk may be to blame. Filenames might get scrambled as well. However, keep in mind that malware could also trigger these problems.

2. When unusual errors start to appear as you manage files or run software, it’s a possible sign of impending failure. Some messages may report disk I/O problems.

3. Do you experience long pauses when opening files? If so, your HDD might soon fail. Remember that other things can also slow down your computer, including certain anti-virus programs.

4. Peculiar noises may foretell a hard drive crash. Listen for abnormal humming, grinding, clicking or scratching sounds that you didn’t hear in the past.

5. A failing laptop HDD might prevent the operating system from booting when you power up the computer. It may boot a few more times if you restart it repeatedly.

6. When the machine frequently freezes up or displays blue-screen errors, it could need a new drive. This is more likely to happen as you open or save files.

7. If you don’t find any viruses, try running a disk check. This scan may detect bad sectors. Complete failure could be near if it finds many of them.

8. Has your notebook computer simply stopped detecting the hard drive? If so, the unit may need replacement or isn’t properly connected to the motherboard.

Hard disk failure is more likely if you notice any of these symptoms after the laptop suffers some type of harm. For example, it may have overheated or been dropped.

It’s wise to back up your files and take action before the drive completely fails. If you need help diagnosing the problem or replacing hardware, please contact our knowledgeable technicians today.

Why You Should Switch to PC Gaming

Have you ever considered switching to PC gaming? After all, while consoles are a good way to play your favorite games, many of these can be played on PC with even more features and options. While a PC is always going to be more expensive than a console, PCs are cheaper than ever to build. Today even a budget build can outperform consoles while offering more features, a longer lifespan, and much better options for upgrading: after all, not every part of a PC will need to be replaced every time you build a new machine! Furthermore, if the cost of a gaming PC is what worries you, since you probably already need a PC anyway you could spend a little bit extra cash on getting a more powerful PC that you can play games on in addition to use for work and other tasks instead of getting a console.

Why You Should Switch to PC Gaming

Flexibility

“Flexibility” in one word describes some of the major advantages of a PC. Flexibility in parts and upgrades means that you can build a PC with some parts for a budget around $500 and then upgrade that same machine over time to outperform every console on the market without having to replace everything. Flexibility in performance means that, unlike with a console, you can adjust the settings of your games to maximize performance and graphics. Why settle for 30fps at medium settings at 1080p on a console when a PC that isn’t too much more expensive can do 60fps with much higher quality graphics at the same (or higher) resolutions? Meanwhile, the computer itself is extremely flexible: not only can a Windows PC play games but it can also be used for work, browsing the web, chatting with friends across the globe, and innumerable other tasks- not to mention that you could even make your own games! There’s also flexibility of controls: on PC not only can you change what each button does, but you can also change what you’re using to play your games: you can use a keyboard and mouse, a joystick or steering wheel, console controllers, and much more – some of which are better suited for different genres than console controllers are. For example, a mouse and keyboard setup for a first person shooter is much, much better than a controller.

True Backwards Compatibility

Unlike consoles, a PC offers true backwards compatibility. You can install games that are over twenty years old like Unreal and Half-Life and play them with little to no issues, and some other games that are older can work on your PC with some adjustments and workarounds. Even though some may need a little work to make them run perfectly on modern systems, this is already an improvement over consoles that do not allow much backwards compatibility (if any at all). A PC can offer a nostalgia trip at any time without having to pull out another old console or PC to play your favorite games of old.

Exclusives: Games and Genres

For the most part, the exclusive games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were somewhat lacking, whereas the PC has hundreds (if not thousands) of exclusive games and genres. For example, pretty much all strategy games are exclusive to the PC, like the Total War games and the Civilization games. A lot of indie games see good success on PC, too, whereas on console only a few have done particularly well. Furthermore a lot of older classic games are either PC exclusive or have their best versions on PC. Some good examples of this are the first two Thief games, the Half-Life series, the Unreal games, and Deus Ex- all of which are classics and feature either only PC versions (like the Thief games and some of Half-Life’s expansions) or feature vastly inferior console ports (like the PS2 ports of Deus Ex and Half-Life and Unreal Tournament’s Dreamcast and PS2 port).

Conclusion

While PCs are more expensive than consoles, they offer significantly better value for their utility, flexibility, backwards compatibility and the exclusive games and genres that find homes only on the PC.

Do you have any questions about PCs or PC gaming? Do you want help picking parts for a potential build, or do you want your computer built by our highly qualified professionals? Contact us today at one of our locations!

We’re taking preventive measures at each PC Geeks location!

The safety and health of our customers and employees is our top priority. We’re taking preventive measures to keep each PC Geeks location clean and maintain a healthy environment. If you’re having issues with your computer, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

We’re taking preventive measures at each PC Geeks location!

The safety measures listed on the CDC’s website are very important as we continue to address this ongoing situation and as we do our part to help prevent the spread of illnesses. Therefore, please continue practicing good hygiene and following these preventative actions:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Keep your distance from others if possible.
  • If you are feeling sick, please stay at home!
  • Call ahead before you go to the doctor and tell them about your symptoms.

We are more than happy to help our customers during this time! Please give us a call. We’re happy to help with any computer related issues.

The Best Gaming Computer Is the One You Build Yourself

PC gaming can be hard, historically we have had to fight with hardware and software in order to run games on the limitless configurations an open platform like the PC allows. Today’s PC gamers can do a little less troubleshooting and a little more fragging as computer parts and drivers become less esoteric and more standardized. But to some the thought of learning to build their own PC keeps them locked into video game console upgrade cycles or searching the internet to find which company builds the best gaming computer.

The Best Gaming Computer Is the One You Build Yourself

You can look at any other article about why it is better to build your own PC and you’ll find reasons like keeping costs down and having control over each component. Why pay for parts and features you don’t plan to use? We have better cooling options for high performance systems. But I think there are some more abstract reasons to build your own PC as well.

First and foremost, there is a very satisfying feeling in sitting next to a machine you have built yourself. I feel like a mechanic restoring a hot rod or a jet pilot sometimes when my rig is purring next to me as it blasts out frames. You can feel some pride in those buttery smooth graphics and that whisper quiet cooler when you have assembled and tuned it all yourself. It’s like the difference between a toy that will get discarded when something newer comes along and your favorite pair of broken in jeans and that can even go a long way in easing buyer’s remorse when you think about how much it cost! On top of all that, by building a PC you’ll start learning a new skill set that is in ever more demand in today’s economy. As automation becomes more feasible the only jobs left for humans may be in IT…or to dial back the doom and gloom: you’ll be on your way to being the “computer guru” at work or among friends.

In the end the decision is yours. Some of us won’t have the time or the technical skill to build a PC. Others just prefer the convenience of buying something factory made. But for my money, the best gaming computer is the one I’ve built myself! For more information on creating the best gaming PC for you, contact us today at PC Geeks!

Processor & Memory Harmony in Electronic Music

Today, computers play a vastly major role in making music, especially within the EDM genre. Having the right components at your disposal will make the difference between a great performance or a massive technical meltdown. No relationship within your machine is more valuable and important than the one between the CPU and RAM memory. These two factors alone can completely halt the creative process of electronic music when not working in harmony.

Processor & Memory Harmony in Electronic Music

The CPU (central processing unit) inside your computer is the main brain and function creator for the entire system. All main processes and actions for the computer to take are stored here until needed. The RAM (random access memory) recalls the information needed from the CPU, letting it know what processes should currently be running. The CPU can only run as many processes as the RAM allows, so naturally, an increase in RAM will yield more processes being rendered at the same time.

This is a very important factor for Electronic Music, as many of the computer-based plugins are very RAM heavy and can take a toll on the CPU over time. Having a great amount of memory in your computer will allow the CPU to run multiple plugins at once without lag or sacrifice in speed. As a rule of thumb, most DAW programs for music making require a minimum of 8 GB RAM now to keep up with the processing speeds of modern CPU’s. When just starting out, a 4-core CPU with 8 GB RAM is the proper configuration to understanding how your current plugins handle in relationship to one another. Over time, the ideal system to meet all needs as far as music production are concerned will include a CPU with 6 to 8 cores accompanied by a 32 GB RAM chipset.

Regardless of the genre of music you choose to make with your computer, it is always important to make sure the processor and memory harmonize well together. Doing so helps to eliminate one of the many roadblocks creatives face when transferring ideas into a digital stream for the world to hear.

Contact us today for more information!

Why it’s better to Custom Build a Gaming PC

When it comes to a gaming pc, there are two main choices: buying a prebuilt computer or building your own. In general, the ideal choice is to custom build a gaming PC due to a combination of factors which make it the ideal choice.

Why it's better to Custom Build a Gaming PC

#1. Price

When you compare the price of buying all the parts for a computer and building it yourself to purchasing a machine with general specs, building your own is generally cheaper. Not to mention that it is far easier to get a computer with the exact specifications you want by building it yourself than it is by trawling through various computer stores in search of one that fits your needs.

#2. Customization

In general, building your own PC gives you a lot more options on what you would like to include in your system than buying one does. In general, most pre-built computers use a limited selection of parts with little in the way of choices. If a prebuilt computer does offer the option to change certain parts, it will be with an extremely limited number of preselected parts.

Building your own system gives you so many more options as you can literally choose from every single part on the market to customize your machine as much as possible, and for a fraction of the price most prebuilt part changes will run you.

#3. No Bloatware

One of the main problems with prebuilt systems is that they tend to come with a lot of useless software that you don’t want or need and just takes up unnecessary space, forcing you to spend hours removing these useless programs when you get your computer. If you build your own computer then there is no bloatware to speak of and you can just get started right away without having to spend time removing useless programs.

If you’re building a new computer then let the experts help you out. Head on over to PC Geeks for all the latest tips when you’re ready to  custom build a gaming PC and all the best parts for building a computer and more.