A laptop can hold your life. If you’re working from home, it’s essential to your income. For students, it’s where you keep all your notes and essays. Plus, there are the personal photos and videos. And you sometimes use it to stream your TV shows, or to video chat with friends and family. You may even make music, create art, or be writing the next bestselling novel on your laptop. So, you want to keep it in great shape. Here are five tips to protect your laptop.
#1 Don’t drop it
Or throw it, or stand on it, or expect it to withstand any serious impact. OK, that’s pretty obvious. You also don’t want to use your laptop in the bathtub or at the pool. Even a simple water spill on a laptop can damage the circuitry. If you do get your laptop wet, immediately turn it off and unplug everything attached to it.
#2 Open carefully
Laptops are getting thinner in every iteration. Some now even have foldable screens. The thinner and more flexible screen may look sleek and cool, but it’s also less rigid, which makes it more prone to damage. Especially on lower-cost laptops, the screen can flex if you open the computer up from just one side.
Yet, many of us hold a laptop in one hand and open the lid with the other. This can cause the screen to twist. Use both hands to open the laptop. Or get into the habit of opening your laptop from the center to avoid flex.
#3 Don’t bedazzle your keyboard or screen
Alright, maybe you weren’t planning on putting faux rhinestones on the screen or keyboard. Still, reconsider any decorations you have thought of adding. Even a keyboard protector (to prevent dust or spills getting into the circuitry) or camera privacy sticker could damage some of the new super-thin laptops. It’s just that there is now so little clearance between the keyboard and the screen.
If you really must have your stickers, put them on the protective sleeve that you get for your laptop.
#4 Disconnect carefully
Your laptop needs a consistent power source. If you damage the power cord connection, you’re done. So, make sure you pull the power cord out straight. Yanking it out sideways could damage the port.
Also be aware of where your power cord is connecting to the wall outlet. If you leave the cord trailing along the floor, someone could trip over it, or it could get caught on a rolling chair. This could not only damage the charging port but even pull the entire laptop onto the floor. That brings us back to #1, don’t drop the laptop!
#5 Keep it cool
No, you don’t have to store it into a refrigerator (please don’t!), but heat isn’t good for your laptop. You’ll want to keep your computer away from external sources of heat.
Again, as the laptops get thinner, they are more vulnerable to internal overheating. Ensure that the laptop’s intake ports are unblocked so that air can flow through and cool the circuitry. You might also blow dust out of the vents using canned air.
Also, avoid placing your laptop on very soft surfaces. A soft, uneven surface is more likely to block the internal fans. This leaves your device unable to regulate its temperature. You could even buy a laptop cooling stand, which provides extra fans to improve air circulation.
Average laptop lifespan will vary between two to five years. Keep your laptop on the longer side of that by taking these tips to heart.
If something does happen to your laptop, give us a call at 218-240-8802. Our IT experts are here to help you find the best laptop for you, upgrade and secure your laptop, or fix your laptop when you need it.
Video gaming is an entertainment for all ages. The main demographic is 18–34 years, but those 34–54 are another big segment – even larger than the under-18 group – although the youngest group may spend the most hours gaming, especially during a pandemic. Regardless, PC gamers of any age want the most powerful, fastest computer they can get.
It’s difficult to beat the Boss Level of that favorite game if your computer is lagging. The horror! If you’re serious about gaming, consider the ideas in this article to achieve your next personal best.
The gaming industry is moving to Triple-A titles. Think Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. These AAA video games are the equivalent of blockbuster movies. They take months to years for massive teams of people to develop, everything about such games is ambitious (even the price!). The graphics and animation are more immersive, the storylines offer hours of content and encourage open exploration, and the games have a grander scale and improved sound design, too.
All that requires more from your computer. Depending on the age of your computer, you may not need to replace it to power the latest, greatest games. Or you could upgrade to a more powerful video card. Adding more random access memory (RAM) might also take a computer up to the Triple-A level.
Troubleshooting the Home-Gaming PC
Whether you're trying the Triple A game or not, you may run into other problems. A screen locks up, a system crashes, or you see weird graphics or wonky textures in a game. You shoot an opponent with a direct hit, and he takes the win. Any of these problems can ruin your gaming experience.
Various issues cause these headaches for home gamers. Regrettably, they can be difficult to diagnose. The problems might be tied to:
Build Your Own Gaming PC
If you decide it’s time to get a new gaming PC, a popular option now is to custom-build your own. Our experts can do that for you! When you customize your own gaming PC, you get a computer that matches exactly what you’re trying to do.
Don’t settle for a sale computer using lower-quality parts and offering limited upgradability. Avoid buying a brand-name computer pre-loaded with bloatware. Instead, our technician can help you pick the processing and other parts to personalize your system, even down to the color of the fans or console lights.
Choosing the Right Computer Monitor
Your hardware, software, and internet connection shape your computing experience. The last essential piece of the puzzle? The monitor you use.
The first thing you need to consider is what you’ll be using the monitor for most. Gamers will have different requirements than those professionals or families viewing photos.
Once you've determined monitor usage, you'll need to consider various specifications. We’ll discuss six of them below, but these will not all carry the same weight. Again, it depends on how you use your computer.
Simply put, a higher resolution equals a better picture. Resolution describes how many pixels there are. A Full HD 1080p resolution monitor – the industry standard – has a 1,920-pixel width and 1,080-pixel height. That’s a total of 2,073,600 pixels, which gives you a more detailed image.
Typical resolutions include:
This consideration brings size and screen resolution together to find the sweet spot. Think of it this way: the 2 million pixels from 1080p will look different on a 17-inch screen than on a 42-inch one. A greater pixel density results in sharper images. Typically, a 24-inch screen is good for 1080p, but you’ll go up in resolution as your screen size expands. You’ll see a lot of tech gurus recommending you choose a monitor with at least 109 pixels per inch (PPI).
With good color accuracy you can count on the monitor to reproduce colors and shades as intended. This may not be as critical for a general user, but someone editing photographs or creating branded marketing materials cares about this one.
Refresh rate tells you how many times a monitor updates information per second, and more is better. For gamers, it’s particularly important. So, if you’re going to be riding the bus in Fortnite, your response rate should be at least 75 Hz. Some even enjoy 144 Hz for a much smoother visual. Those who aren’t gaming should be fine at 60 Hz.
Response time relates to the time it takes to change the individual pixels on the monitor. While not as important for general or professional users, this matters to gamers. A monitor with higher response time gives the gamer a more immersive experience. A slower response time could mean blurred images in fast-paced action sequences.
There are different types of LCD monitor to select from, too:
Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?
Like a persistent cough or muscle strain that won’t go away, many IT issues prove ongoing. Every time they come back you think about getting an expert’s opinion. Then, the cough fades, you can walk freely again, or your computers are back up and running. You keep on going. Until the next time. If you’re sick of ongoing issues with your IT, look to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for help.
There are many IT ailments that can negatively impact your ability to do work. Let’s consider some of the particularly common ones, and why an MSP is the right prescription.
#1 Network and Internet issues.
Business is done online these days. Not being able to connect to the network and slow connections are frustrating. Without the Internet, how can you do your job? You can’t even check and send emails! Let alone access team documents or enter data into cloud-based accounting software. A lagging network also slows down application and data loading time. It may only be a few moments of thumb twiddling. But add that up over several times a day and multiple by employees. You’re looking at a decrease in productivity that adds up.
An MSP has the know-how to survey the IT environment for what's causing these frustrations. When there’s a problem, they’re at the ready to resolve it and help improve reliability.
#2 Repeated malware infections.
This can mean a couple of things. First, you don’t have effective system and application protections in place. These attacks shouldn’t be able to make it through the door in the first place. With the right firewalls, anti-spam, and protections, you should be able to keep your system on lock down. You don’t have to do this yourself. Your internal IT team has a lot to manage and monitor. Gain expert backup with an MSP reviewing your security protocols to keep the bad guys at bay.
Secondly, educate employees about the dangers of social engineering. Don’t let them keep falling for the pretexts and downloading malicious files. Also, ensure passwords are strong enough to avoid adding another point of entry.
#3 Printing problems.
Many businesses are printing less today, but we’re not done with hard copies entirely. So, when a printer starts whirring, spinning endlessly, or can’t connect, efficiency halts. Know that printers sold at big box stores are consumer grade quality. Avoid printer frustrations with solid business-class printers (which your MSP can identify).
#4 Application overload.
Maybe some of your employees prefer Dropbox. Others rely on their free Gmail accounts. This hodgepodge of options can cause chaos. Staff have difficulty remembering the passwords to all of the accounts they need. So, they simplify, and that makes their accounts more hackable.
Upgrading to business-grade versions of important applications is easier with an MSP. They'll help identify the software that best addresses your business needs.
#5 Aging technology.
You’ve had your current computers for ages. They are slower than you’d like, but you don’t have the time to look for something else. Plus, you can’t imagine having to learn something new. You’re too busy. But aging tech is more likely to fail, which could prove catastrophic if you don’t have the right systems backup.
MSPs know IT. Based on your individual business needs, they can suggest a plan of attack to update the IT and keep it secure. They can also provide backup strategies to prepare for the worst and recover quickly.
Basically, a managed service provider has your back when it comes to IT. Work with experts who focus on technology day in and day out. You’ll typically save money and gain time to spend innovating in your field.
Gain a competitive advantage with the support of an MSP. Check Pro+Tech today!
Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud?
Laptop computers commonly heat up a little in normal operation. Electronic components, including large capacity batteries, become warm in use. Your laptop should never become too hot to handle though. When a laptop turns hot to the touch or starts to sound like a jet engine, it's likely beginning to overheat.
Modern laptops use nearly silent fans to cool components and keep the system is comfortable and safe to use. In some cases, the sound the computer makes is the best tool you have to diagnose its running condition. Excessive heat causes the fans to work harder and faster to compensate. This jet engine sound is one of the first clues you have to indicate all may not be well.
Why So Hot
Because of their compact size and portability, laptop computers are particularly prone to overheating problems. Their tiny footprint puts electronic parts closer together, creates less room for cooling vents and adds a heat generating battery which introduces more hot air into the system.
Most laptops have small fans that suck in cool air, passing it over metal fins to exchange heat from the case. The resulting hot air exhaust is expelled through vents back into the room. This process prevents heat building up inside the machine. The constant air cycle keeps the laptop running cool no matter the workload placed on it.
This process can be interrupted by any number of factors during operation. Alongside cool air, computer fans can also suck in dust, stray hairs, even cigarette smoke too. Smoke in particular contains thick tar which coats the fins, fan blades, and internal components.
Foreign debris inside the machine prevents components from working at their best. Tar, dust, and hair slows down the internal fan and coats the heat generating components and cooling fins. This coating prevents air exchange and keeping components warm as if they were under a blanket.
Causes of overheating
Sometimes the way a laptop is used can cause it to overheat too. Resting a laptop on thick carpets, blankets, or soft furnishings can block vents, preventing the fans from sucking cold air in or blowing hot air out. Leaving the machine running on carpet or furnishings, particularly for extended periods of time, can cause overheating issues and introduce extra dust into the components too.
The best place to rest a laptop while in use is on a hard surface such as a desk, table, or a cooling pad. This allows air free access to the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.
As the computer starts running hotter for longer, its fan will attempt to compensate by running faster and more often. This results in the "jet engine" noise many users report when their computer is struggling to keep up.
Unfortunately, once dust, hair, or tar has already found its way into the machine it is notoriously difficult to clean out. The only way to reset the machine to run cool and quiet is to disassemble the base and clean out its components.
Much like a car engine, computer components have a designed temperature range in which they can safely and reliably operate without any issues. Extended periods of running above the temperature they are designed for can cause damage, sudden failures, and drastically shorten the designed lifespan of the computer.
Often times seemingly random blue screen computer crashes can be traced back to components that have been overheating inside the computer. As heat builds up, vulnerable components start to fail, sometimes temporarily, in the hotter temperatures.
By the time the computer is rebooted and cooled down the issue is seemingly resolved. Back in operation, the computer heats up once more and eventually crashes again. These irregular crashes are highly inconvenient and can sometimes cause data loss too.
However, these symptoms are minor compared to a complete write-off of the machine. For some users, the first sign that their machine is too hot to run safely is when the motherboard is burnt out or their data storage has been irreparably lost.
If you think a cooling pad will be a good solution for you, consider getting one from our online store.
SSD: Make Your Old Computer Your New Computer
The solid-state drive (SSD) has swiftly become the go-to upgrade to breathe new life into an ageing computer, and for good reason too. An SSD swiftly brings an old laptop or desktop up to date with modern machines in just a single step.
The price of solid-state memory has fallen dramatically in recent years. As costs have dropped, the popularity of the technology has increased exponentially. At one time an SSD was a rare treat for serious PC enthusiasts, now it's cheaper and more readily available than ever. No other single solution is as cost-effective, quick to swap, and impressively effective as swapping out an old hard drive in favor of the faster and more modern SSD.
Out with The Old
The hard disk drive (HDD) is a technology that dates back as far as the 1950s. They became the default solution all PCs would use for decades to come. Most old laptop and desktop machines still contain their original, worn hard drives they left the factory with.
The HDD was a mostly mechanical device. Inside a solid outer casing was a series of spinning disks arranged in a delicate stack known as a platter. Each disk could read and save data using a tiny needle moving across the disk's surface.
The technology looked and worked much like a miniature record player. Like a record player, widely in use at the time that hard drives were developed, the hard drive had some serious drawbacks in their use.
The series of tiny disks and needles that made up the HDD were incredibly fragile. Vulnerable to dust or movement, computers commonly succumbed to hard drive failures that rendered the machine and its stored data unusable. Occasionally, simply moving a laptop while reading or writing data can damage a hard drive's spinning disk.
In with The New
The primary reason to switch to a more modern SSD, on top of their impressive durability, is the incredible increase in speed. The SSD has no moving parts at all, working more like a digital camera memory card than a vinyl record player.
An SSD simply makes the process of retrieving and saving data to storage many times faster. Eliminating the mechanical component, removing the need to move a physical disk, and not needing to physically pick up the data means a much faster and smoother operation.
Computer startup, where the operating system loads all its data from storage, can take as little as one-quarter of the time of a comparable HDD. Additionally, loading regular applications and data from an SSD takes a fraction of time of an HDD.
An SSD completely breathes new life into an old machine. Computers with an SSD replacement for the hard drive feel like using an entirely new machine for a fraction of the cost.
Replacing the main mechanical component additionally eliminates wear and tear working to break down your machine. While an HDD slows over time, degrades, and can eventually suffer mechanical failure; an SSD remains as durable as the day it was purchased.
Ideal Laptop Upgrade
In a laptop setting, the SSD makes complete sense. They require less power than older hard drives, making the most of your battery charge.
In addition, not needing a large disk platter, mechanical parts, or protective outer case means they are about half the weight of a mechanical drive. Making an old machine lightweight brings it another step closer to a modern machine.
They run almost silently too. The familiar click-clack of the hard drive inside a laptop is a thing of the past. Many users comment on the noise their laptop used to make starting up and loading programs. Noisy laptops are a tech throwback we're happy to leave behind.
For many who feel like their old laptop or desktop is showing its age, the prohibitive cost of purchasing a whole new machine keeps them invested in their old one. A simple, fast SSD upgrade can make your old machine new again at a much smaller price. If swapping long startups, and slow load times sounds right for you, consider upgrading to an SSD. You won't look back.
Ready to give your machine a new lease on life? Check out our offer!
Why Do Computers Break?
Why Do Computers Break?
We know computers always break at the worst possible time, but what exactly prompts that failure? It’s easy to think it was something you did since you were using it at the time, but while your online gaming frenzy might cause a temporary crash, normal user actions are rarely the cause of a broken computer.
Accidents happen, but they don’t always mean you need to buy a new computer. As an electrical item, liquid spills are a big problem. This could be anywhere from a spill on the keyboard, going overboard with the screen cleaning spray or even a flood that reaches the computer. Laptop users need to be especially careful when choosing their work surface, as cafes and kitchen tables often have small puddles left behind. If you’re lucky and the liquid didn’t fry the circuits, ongoing corrosion is still likely, as is stickiness to gum up the internal parts. Similarly, a dropped computer isn’t going to be happy, nor is one that’s been knocked around. Even a light thump of frustration can cause loose cables, disconnections and internal damage.
Computer parts have an expected lifetime, especially moving parts like fans or mechanical hard drives. Some computers can run 24/7 for up to a decade, while others can be barely used but fail within warranty. When age is the issue there are usually early warning signs like extra noise or slowing down, but the actual ‘break’ generally happens when you go to turn the computer on, perhaps after a crash or overnight - either it makes a valiant effort before giving up, or nothing happens at all. Sometimes lasting age is the luck of the draw with how it was manufactured, and quality does play a big part in how long it can keep churning.
We like to think electricity is a constant stream that never varies, but computers are particularly sensitive to both surges (too much electricity) and brownouts (not enough electricity). You might notice the lights dimming or flickering during a brownout, or glowing just a tad too strong during a surge. These variations never last long, and they’re not something you can control unless it’s just your house (it’s worth checking with your neighbors), but they can easily break your computer. A surge protector can guard against mild increases in voltage, but brownouts and strong surges will still cause damage.
Overheating is a big contributor to premature computer death. Some computer parts run hot and need plenty of cooling to keep them working. You might not feel it from the outside, but internal components can rapidly build up heat that needs to go somewhere. When your airflow vents get blocked with dust or pet hair, the temperature continues to increase until components literally bake themselves to failure. At set temperatures, the computer will automatically switch off to try and cool down, however the more often this happens and the higher the temps, the more likely your computer is to die.
Hard Drive Failure
Your data is stored on a hard drive, and if you’ve got a mechanical hard drive (most people do), it works a bit like a record player with a spinning ‘platter’ and a needle that reads it. Small bumps, liquid, age, surges and overheating can all trigger hard drive failure. Along with making your computer unusable, hard drive failure means your data is also lost. While sudden breakage might leave you surprised, take note of any strange noises or repeated crashes and back up your data in advance.
Like a car, your computer needs to be serviced. We can check your computer both physically and its software to make sure its running right and will keep on working for you. Bring it in or give us a call : 218-240-8802
:How Refurbished Computers Save You a Bunch (and Get You a Better System)
Refurbished computers are almost like an insider secret - you can get great system specs for a fraction of the price. It’s how many families are meeting their back to school needs and upgrading their old systems, complete with warranty.
There’s one hot tip these people know: a refurb is NOT the same as used. You’re right to avoid those 2nd hand computers you see on Craigslist or Gumtree because there’s a reason that person is selling it! It’s probably slowed to a crawl, making weird noises or flat out broken in a way you’d never discover until too late. Refurbished computers are the complete opposite. They’re computers that have been given a new life, usually with a comprehensive repair, or sometimes they’re brand-new computers that were returned with a small problem like a hard drive failure, so we swap it out and sell it at bargain prices. Occasionally, the computer was even returned simply because the buyer changed their mind, but it’s still essentially brand-new (it might still be in the box!).
Quite often, refurbished computers start their life as business machines, built to the latest specs with business-grade components. When the budget or lease says ‘replace the computers’, that’s what the business does, whether the computers need it or not. There’s nothing wrong with them and they’ve likely been babysat by a corporate IT department who kept them in perfect condition every day. These are great machines that are still plenty fast for home use, both desktops and laptops. Plus, because business-grade components are more durable than the consumer ones, the entire system has been built to last longer and perform better, often up to several years without a problem.
Rather than send these impressive machines to landfill, they are going to be checked and necessary components are going to be replaced and a clean operating system will be re-installed. Next, the machines are going to be put through a stack of verification tests, then packed up ready for their new home. When you talk to us about buying one, we’ll always make sure you get a system that not only keeps up with your needs now, but gives you breathing space for the next few years too.
What are the benefits?
Some people think that refurbished computers are more likely to break, when in truth, in some cases they’re actually more reliable than brand new. Manufacturers have an expected failure rate, a percentage of computers that go straight from the factory to buyers who discover their expensive new system is dead-on-arrival or breaks within weeks. A refurbished computer has already stood the test of time and it performed without missing a beat. By the time it’s gone through our checks and repairs (both required and pre-emptive), a refurbished computer is better than new.
If you need a better computer on a tight budget, let's chat!
Loving your External Hard Drive
.Loving your External Hard Drive
External hard drives free up storage, offer portability, and provide a lifeline in case of computer disaster. It pays to take good care of these compact, convenient devices.
Here are some helpful strategies.
1. Don’t knock the drive.
Depending on the type of drive you have, impact could damage it. The hard drive’s mechanical drives work a little like a record player. Envision a spinning platter and a needle reading it. Note, you don’t have to worry about this with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as there are no moving parts.
2. Don’t pull.
You can damage the drive port with a hard or sideways yank on its USB plug. Remove the device cable with a gentle pull. It’s best to unplug the drive cable when it’s not in use. Then, when you are reconnecting the external drive, inspect the connector before plugging the cable back in. Look for any damage, debris, or corrosion to help maximize the device’s lifespan.
3. Don’t skip steps.
You may be in a hurry, but always take the time to remove the hard drive from your desktop before physically unplugging it. On Windows, you’ll usually right click on the drive and press Eject. For Macs, you can drag the drive icon to the recycle bin (which changes to an eject button). Never unplug the drive while moving data to or from the hard drive unless you want to risk data corruption.
4. Don’t suffocate the drive.
Ever put your hand on the hard drive after prolonged use? It’s hot. Don’t immediately store it away in a bag or tight space. Give it some time to cool off first.
When it’s out, and in use, keep the drive’s vents clear of other objects so that it has some airflow. Set it on a flat, level surface. Avoid placing it on paper, towels, or other cloth items that could add to its heat levels.
5. Don’t take the drive swimming.
OK, you’re probably not going to do that. Yet it’s our way of reminding you that condensation is an enemy to your hard drive. Hard drive failures can be caused by environmental factors such as temperature and air quality too.
6. Don’t expect immortality or invincibility.
A hard drive isn’t going to last forever. They aren’t built for that. They can also get lost or stolen. Don’t let one external hard drive be the only place you are backing up your data.
Have a backup on your computer, on the drive, and a copy in the cloud. Then, you’ll always be ready to move on to a new drive that you will love with the same care and consideration outlined above.
We have external hard drives for sale in our online store. Click here to start shopping.
5 Signs Your Computer is Crying Out for Repair
It’s pretty obvious when your computer is already broken, but how do you know when it’s about to break? Even before it falls into a heap and refuses to turn on, or flashes big messages about how your files are now encrypted, you’ll be given multiple hints that something is wrong. Here are the common signs your computer needs repair, sooner rather than later.
1. It’s running slow. Most people assume their computer is running slow because it’s getting older, but it could actually be a variety of reasons. A program behaving badly, a virus, overheating or even a failing hard drive can all cause a massive slow down. You might only notice it when booting up or starting a program, or the problem may have taken hold to the extent that even moving your mouse becomes torture. Sometimes the slow speed is simply due to some newer software that your hardware can’t keep up with.
2. Your system is running hot. A very common sign with laptops, running hot can be both the sign and cause of damage. Computers have fans to blow out hot air so they can cool off their internal components. At the same time, fresh air is drawn in through vents to create an effective cooling system. Unfortunately, just about every vent in a computer can quickly become clogged with dust and pet fur, essentially choking off the circulation and leaving components to overheat. Desktop computers have more space inside to circulate air, but you’ll still need to keep their vents clear. You’ll know your computer running too hot if your system shuts down frequently (safety cutout), the fan is working serious overtime, or your laptop is too hot to use on your lap.
3. Blue Screens of Death are everywhere. A classic Windows error, this is quite literally a blue screen that covers your view. The system will still be running, but something has gone wrong. You’ll be shown some text and an error code, often with Windows suggesting a restart. If a restart fixes your problem, perhaps something didn’t load properly at bootup and your computer had a whoopsie. It’s rare, but it happens. If you’re getting blue screens all the time though, that’s a sign a hardware or software problem needs to be resolved. Your computer will continue to give blue screen errors more and more frequently, so it’s best to take action as soon as you know something’s wrong.
4. It’s making strange noises. Your computer has a number of moving parts. You’ll know by now which noises it normally makes, from the startup beep to the whirring fan. When your computers starts to make extra noises...that’s when things get interesting. Fans can wear down and screech or grind, hard drives can start clicking, and in emergency cases, you might even hear a zapping noise. None of those are good! Whenever you notice a strange noise, remember your computer parts are all designed to work together and one problem could quickly become many if left unchecked.
5. It crashes and freezes. If your computer is crashing randomly, restarting without you, or freezing up completely, it’s a sure sign there’s a problem. As annoying as it might be, your computer isn’t doing this to drive you crazy - it just feels that way! You might notice it’s showing other signs from this list too because crashing and freezing are what happens when something isn’t just wrong, it’s terribly wrong. The problem could be almost anything, hardware and software both, but it’s always fixable. This is simply your computer’s final way of crying out for repair, desperately trying to get your attention and a little TLC.
Should I Upgrade or Buy a New Computer?
Well, it depends – mostly on who you’re asking! A department store salesman will always recommend a new one, but when you get down to the nitty gritty with a trained technician, you’ll often discover you have more (and cheaper) options than you thought.
Start by taking stock of what you’ve got. Sometimes an upgrade simply isn’t worth the trouble and it’s painfully obvious. For example, if your car is 30 years old, demands a constant supply of special fuel and you can see the road whizzing by thanks to the ‘custom’ holes in the floor…it’s time to replace the rust-bucket! However, if your car is decently modern and in reasonably good condition but happens to stall at stop signs, a few quick fixes can be just what the mechanic ordered.
If your computer does need to be replaced, chances are you already know this. But if you’re not sure and some days it could go either way, this will help. We’ve put together a walkthrough of the most common upgrades and the impact they’ll have:
Video card upgrade: It might not be your computer that’s getting old. Instead, games are getting more and more demanding. The days of stick-figure animations are gone and lifelike 3D is the new normal. With that improved experience comes a huge strain on your computer’s resources. If you have a gamer in the house, you can often super-power your computer with a single component – a new video card. For hardcore gamers, it’s actually a necessity, as some new games refuse to install if the video requirements aren’t met. Love smooth animations and responsive gameplay? We know all the best games out now (and in the works) and can match you with the right video card.
Hard drive upgrade: New hard drives are a popular option, both in size and speed. Running out of space is less of a problem now, but speed is a major concern. You’ve no doubt sat there twiddling your thumbs and urging a file to hurry up and copy. Many upgrades are to an SSD (Solid State Drive) that has zero moving parts and can find/transfer data in a flash. They even make booting up lightning fast! And you’ll have the choice of keeping your old drive for general storage, complete with all your existing data.
Memory/RAM upgrade: Some cheaper computers are underpowered from day 1. In truth, most of the ones in the department store could use at least an extra 4GB of oomph! Sometimes though, even a great computer falls behind as new applications come out and need more resources. Adding extra memory can revive your existing computer and set it up for a couple more years of happiness.
Where to draw the line: There are other upgrades such as the CPU, which is basically the brains of the computer; and the motherboard that all the parts plug into…but once you’re in that territory, it really is time to go for a full replacement. You’ll save money by getting a computer that meets your needs and can grow with you.
What’s Best for Your Computer: Shut Down or Sleep?
Most homes are trying to reduce power costs by turning off lights and appliances, but do the same rules apply to computers? After all, it requires more than flicking a switch on your way out the door. Some people believe you should shut down after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer - ever. Others simply want to make sure the pages and apps they left open are still there waiting for them. So, who’s right and what are they really doing?
Back when computers were clunky behemoths that took a long time to start, you’d go nuts at the person who shut it down when it was your turn. If you have an older computer, maybe you still do. Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.
When it shuts down, the system goes through and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It’s a methodical process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 100+ intentionally ordered steps. If there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off, it means the steps aren’t followed and damage is possible. The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but use minimal power. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent. When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.
Reasons to Shut Down
A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is a tick for the environment. But shutting down is about more than saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a cyber-attack. For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.
Reasons to Sleep
Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down... it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget. Windows updates still run in the background, so that’s okay, but it’s important to note that your computer might get stuck waiting for a reboot that never comes. Those pending updates may stack up, ineffective until it either forces a reboot or becomes unstable enough that you give in to a restart.
The best method is….
Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, we recommend shutting down at night when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds - speed and stability.
Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?
Remember the awe you felt when you turned on your new computer and it loaded in a flash? Your computer was the envy of your friends and you weren’t afraid to bathe in that glory. Button on, ready to go, those were the days!
After a year or two though, it doesn’t seem to be quite as zippy…no, you’re not imagining it. It really has slowed down, not just in comparison to newer models and your expectations…There’s a measurable drop in speed and power that has nothing to do with worn out parts. The good news is a little maintenance can have that baby cruising at top speed again. Let’s take a leisurely walk through the system and spot the culprits:
Start-up applications: It’s super convenient to have Skype start automatically and your anti-virus too. In fact, many of the applications starting themselves with the computer are essential to your experience. But some of them are getting a little too ‘helpful’.
For example, iTunes helper loads in the background to speed things up when you connect your device – but if you can’t even remember the last time you ran iTunes on your computer, then it can go. Programs like that are holding onto a portion of your processing power and adding to your speed issues. The average home computer automatically loads around 75 programs at start-up!
Temporary junk: Computers are kind of messy. They leave temporary files and snippets of information all over your hard drive, each action leaving a trail rather like a roaming toddler with a sticky sandwich. Every webpage, every image on that webpage, every program you run and every game you play leaves something behind.
It may be the tidbits of information called “cookies”, saved game files, auto-restore files or even a log so that you can hit the undo button 100 times while it remembers your actions for you.
The more junk your computer builds up, the slower it gets.
Viruses and malware: These infections sit in the background consuming resources while doing various nightmarish things. They may be spying on your actions, stealing your information or reaching out through your network to infect others. Occasionally, the impact is limited to seeing your computer slow to a crawl, however the flow-on financial costs of an infection can easily reach into the thousands.
Bloating: With every new version of software comes a new set of features, introductory sequences and design improvements. The problem with this is the application becomes larger and larger with each new version, requiring more system resources to install and run – and slowing your computer down.
Just like a car, computers need regular maintenance - we offer a Tune-Up service to bring your computer back to its original speed and extend its life.
Give us a call at (218)-240-8802 to book in a Tune Up.
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