Get your top questions answered.
Q. How do I perform routine maintenance on my computer myself?
A. Besides keeping your digital data in check and making sure that you regularly update your software as necessary, you may want to know how you can keep the system operating properly without the need to open and inspect all of the internal components (this could void warranty on some retail systems). Typically, I recommend that you use compressed air at least once a month to keep the dust levels down. No matter how clean the air is in your home, the computer will collect dust and other fine particles over time. I recommend performing this basic task while the computer is not running, along with doing so outdoors if possible.
Other than dust removal, your computer doesn't really need much in order to function properly. You can clean the outside of the case but use caution and avoid getting any cleaning agent inside of the case. I use microfiber wipes to clean my screens and maybe a damp cloth that is ultra soft if something is really stuck. Screens do have a thin layer of coating to protect the actual panel, but you still want to avoid using anything with fine abrasion such as paper towels or kitchen rags. It is also a good practice to keep your computer in a non-enclosed space, to reduce heat and prevent hardware problems, especially if you're using a laptop!
Q. Why is my computer so slow to start and perform simple tasks?
A. This is probably the question I get most often. There are many reasons why your computer may be exhibiting slow behavior or become unresponsive. Please visit this page for information on how to speed up your system, and how to keep it working correctly.
Q. I think I may have a virus or spyware on my device, what should I do?
A. Firstly, disconnect the computer or tablet from the internet by disabling your network connection. This prevents more infected files from being downloaded into the system. The best way to do this is to simply unplug a network cable, or by turning off a wireless adapter. See this page for information on how to disinfect your system.
Q. My email isn't working correctly, how do I fix it?
A. This is another very common problem. If you're using an email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Postbox, you'll need to make sure your incoming and outgoing port numbers are set properly; that your security credentials are correct. In order to get this information, you may need to contact your service provider and/or reset your settings. If you're still unable to receive or send mail, there could be something wrong with your internet connection.
Q. Why can't I connect to the internet?
A. There are several things that need to be working in order for your internet connection to work properly. For starters, make sure your service is active and that your modem is working. Connect directly to your modem first and proceed to test every piece of networking equipment in between including routers, switches and firewalls. If everything is working but a connection cannot be established, you must look at the issue at a software level. This could simply be a setting of your OS or even your router's on board firmware. By default most settings are set to an automatic value, but this may not always work depending on your environment. Wireless connections may require an additional layer of security to keep unwanted guests out of the network. In this case you'll need to know the login credentials or you wont be able to access the internet.
Q. I am in the market for a new desktop computer or laptop, which is the best?
A. There is not really such thing as the "best" computer. Hardware is constantly being superseded and even the highest end systems can become somewhat obsolete within just a few years. The best course of action when buying a new computer is to decide on your budget and pick and choose which features you require or want. Many machines can serve the exact same purpose so compare systems and read up on what's included in the box. Of course, I can help you build a custom computer that will suit all of your needs for years to come. Please feel free to inquire about custom-built systems and have a look at some of the other services I offer on this page.
Q. Should I use power protection and/or a UPS with my devices?
A. The short answer is yes, if not definitely. Any time that sensitive electronic equipment is being used, which includes computers, televisions, and game consoles, you should at the very least be using a quality surge protection device. “Power stripes” as they are often called protect such devices from electrical surges and fluctuations that could damage internal components. However, I strongly recommend that devices containing sensitive data, like PC’s, external disk drive enclosures, routers/firewalls and anything that implement “volatile” components be connected to a UPS or battery backup system. These devices will quickly switch devices over to an internal battery when power is lost or there is an anomaly in the input current—such as a surge.
Laptops and tablets don’t necessarily require being connected to a UPS because these devices already have an internal battery, however it is still a good practice to connect them to surge protectors if you are able. One other important thing to note about UPS is that you must use a unit that can provide ample battery power for what you need it to; not all are built the same. For example, a computer that uses under 200W of power needs a smaller reserve than say that of a system that uses over 400W or so. This information can be found on the products that you are looking at, either online or on the box, so make sure to buy and use a UPS that can power your gear if the power ever goes out—otherwise you risk the health of both your hardware and data.
Q. My laptop won't charge or the battery doesn't last, what's wrong?
A. Mobile computing can be a trade off. On one hand you get the portability and power efficiency but on the other you have a device that is prone to simply wearing out. Batteries and power adapters may need to be replaced and ports can be damaged by surges and other electrical anomalies. Visit this page for information on how to troubleshoot power issues with laptops or tablets.
Q. I can't get my desktop, laptop, or tablet to boot up, what should I do?
A. This can be a hard one to answer, as there are a variety of scenarios that prevent systems from starting correctly. Bad hard drives, viruses, and corrupt memory are just a few to name. Trying to figure out how to get your computer working can be time consuming and frustrating, so I recommend professional support if you're really stuck. If your computer will not boot up because of a software change, it may be as easy as undoing what was done. Other scenarios may require a startup disk or third party tools to fix.
Q. What do I do if my desktop computer won't power on at all?
A. In order for your computer to start there are a few key components that must be in good working order. The main part in question would be the power supply. If this unit has been damaged by a power surge or dust buildup, you may need to replace it. The job is easy enough, but I would recommend having it done professionally, just in case. If the power supply isn't the cause, the problem may reside with the switch or motherboard. In this case, the best option would be to have your system serviced.
Q. There is no video on my monitor, how do I fix it?
A. Identify how your monitor is connected to your computer. This could be a blue VGA port, a white DVI port, HDMI, or DisplayPort. A monitor should only have one of these types connected per device, or there may be issues. If your system features a discrete graphics card, it may need new/fresh drivers installed or could even need replacing. For more information on how to troubleshoot a no video scenario, please visit this page. Alternatively, you may contact me directly for service and advice.
Q. My computer crashes, freezes, resets, or is otherwise conflicted with errors, why?
A. Over time your system may develop these symptoms due to software changes, corrupt drivers, viruses, or hardware failure. The first thing to do is isolate the cause. Install new device drivers, scan for infections, run the computer in Safe Mode, remove all but one memory stick from the motherboard, and test your hard drive for errors. This will hopefully narrow down the problem and make diagnosing easier. Of course, you may need additional help. If this is the case please contact me so we can figure it out together.
Q. How do I fix a broken hard drive?
A. You don't. Hard drives are, in nature, super sensitive devices that can fail with little or no warning. That's just the way things are unfortunately. As with antivirus programs, the answer is to act before something happens. Backup your system regularly and store your most important files on separate disks and devices. If you suspect that you have lost something, don't fear the worst just yet. If you can, remove the hard drive from the computer and connect it to another as a secondary drive. Try browsing the contents of the drive this way and you may still be able to pull data off of it. If the drive is physically damaged, there may be no way to retrieve any files.
For a brief overview on Solid State Drives, please read this article. (updated to include SSHD)
Q. Can I replace or upgrade my desktop or laptop memory?
A. Absolutely. The process is very simple, takes only minutes, and requires just a few tools. The procedure is very straightforward, and typically involves removing the side panel of a desktop or the memory door on the back of a laptop. Once exposed, sticks of memory are easily removed by pressing the tabs on each end. Make sure to replace them with sticks of the same type and speed (i.e. DDR3 1600mhz) or you could run into problems when you go to start the computer. If you are upgrading, make sure the main board will support the capacity and speed of the new memory. Also, don't mix sticks when using a pair or more to ensure stability and compatibility.
Q. Why don't games run well on my computer; can I upgrade my parts?
A. Today's games can use a considerable amount of system resources, which can lead to poor performance, crashing, freeze-ups, blue screens and other general annoyances. This can be a highly complicated issue or a compendium of several complex scenarios, so I suggest visiting the following article that serves as an upgrade guide and reference. If you need any specific information, please contact me.
More topics will be added in the future. In the mean time, feel free to contact me with any additional questions you may have.