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Computer Purchase

Need a new computer? Purchasing a computer for a student?

At this time of the year, many computers are on sale, and people may consider upgrading their computer, or even purchasing a computer specifically for their child. However, instead of purchasing a machine that will last several years, many people choose a computer based entirely on the price tag. This can lead to purchasing another machine a year or two later, as the components in the inexpensive machine lags behind current technology.

A well-designed and well-chosen computer can have a lifespan of five years or even more. Save yourself (and your children!) the frustration of a slow, outdated machine, and save yourself the cost (and frustration!) of frequent replacements by shopping smart. Here are a few of the things we consider when deciding what machine to recommend to a client.

  1. Budget

When considering the computer you would like to purchase, the first thing to keep in mind is your budget. Following that line of thought, remember the computers which have lower prices are likely made with cheaper parts which shortens the lifespan of the computer. A typical price range for a laptop with decent components is $800-$1000. You may be able to find one less expensive than this with a sale price, but keep an eye out for outdated components or quality control issues. When buying any prebuilt system, it pays to read consumer reviews.

Remember to factor software into your budget. The Microsoft office suite is essential for many school and business computers, and students heading to college may need specialized software, such as the Adobe Suite or CAD. While these programs can be expensive, if you are buying for a student, contact their school’s technology department. They may be eligible for a student discount, or even free software licenses.

  1. Processor

The next big component to consider is the processor. The processor is the part that does all of the major computing for the computer. It is important that this runs at a decent speed to ensure your computer runs at a speed you would like it to. In order to check processor speed we use a website called cpubenchmark.com. We enter in the name and type of processor and then it provides a benchmark number used to compare how fast that processor works compared to other processors. An average computer we like to see is around 4000 and typical “performance” computer processors run around 7000 to 10000, not quite the top of the range, but close. Many processors are soldered directly to the mainboard so they are not upgradable, therefore it is important that when you are choosing a processor for a laptop, choose the fastest one that will fit your budget.

  1. Operating system

Some people have a particular operating system that they prefer to use. Are you a Mac person? The Mac vs. PC ads were everywhere for a while. Needs are either based on what software a company runs and the compatibility of that software between operating systems, or your personal preference. The Windows operating systems available include Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. However support and updates ends for Windows 7 in January 2020. If you would like your computer to last several years, you may want to go with Windows 10 unless you have software that prevents you from using this operating system.

  1. RAM/Memory

Many computers, especially less expensive computers, ship with 4 GB of RAM installed. Tech Lab recommends 8 GB as a minimum to have in a Windows 10 PC. However if the computer you purchase meets all your needs except for RAM, an upgrade is usually possible and fairly easy to do.

Some software requires more memory resources. If you are buying for a student, review the requirements for the software they need to purchase, and ensure that the computer you’re purchasing has more than the minimum required.

  1. Hard drives, size or solid state

When you consider the size of hard drive to purchase, you first need to know how much space you are currently using.To find this information on Windows PCs open My computer. Right click on the C: drive and choose Properties. A graph will be displayed which shows you the size of your current hard drive and how much space you are using. If you plan to move your files, music, and pictures to your new computer then we suggest you look at these numbers and consider purchasing a hard drive with at least 1.5 to 2 times what you currently are using so you have room to grow. There are plenty of people who choose 5 to 10 times as much space too, it’s up to you to consider how quickly you might fill the space.

Another option to consider is upgrading to a solid state drive (SSD). This will boost the speed of your computer 2-4 times what a regular hard drive does since there are no mechanical moving parts in a SSD. This might be an upgrade you can choose on a new computer or you could have one installed anytime after purchase by a technician at Tech Lab. The price of a SSD drive can be 3-5 times that of a standard hard drive.

We have had a few clients try using hybrid drives which are a combination of a regular hard drive and an SSD to get a decent mix of both size and speed, but they still don’t have that “near instant response” feel that a good SSD can deliver. Reliability can also be an issue.

  1. Additional features requested- touchscreen, CD drive, screen size, weight

The final thing we consider when recommending a computer for someone is any additional features they are looking for. Some people want a touchscreen while others do not prefer this feature. If you would like a touchscreen feature, we would recommend that you purchase a 2 in 1 computer which can be either a tablet or a laptop. This way you can take advantage of features a tablet offers but also use the device as a laptop when you need to.

CD drives are not always a common feature anymore and not everyone wants or needs one. However this can be solved with an inexpensive USB external CD drive. Other features to consider would be screen size, weight, webcam, and bluetooth capability for all your other connected devices.

  1. Gaming performance/Graphics card

If you are buying a computer for a child or college student, the ability to play games on the computer will inevitably come up. Most of the practices that we suggest above will help a PC’s performance when playing games, but there is one additional component that gaming PCs require: a graphics card.

A modern graphics card that adds meaningful performance will add from $200-$400 to the price of a PC. On a desktop computer, a graphics card is an easy component to add in at a later date. However, on a laptop, most graphics cards are hard-wired into the system, and are difficult to replace, if not impossible, so it’s important to get a graphics card that will hold up over time.

Buying a computer can be an intimidating process that involves some research, but finding the right computer the first time can save you a lot of money, and your child (or college student) a lot of frustration. If you have any questions about whether a computer is right for you, or if you just want us to find one that’s right for you, please contact us!

Malware: what is it and how to protect yourself

Malware, virus, and ransomware … oh, my!

Many times you hear these words but may often wonder what they mean exactly. Tech Lab is here to provide you further information and to explain ways to protect yourself.

Overview: Malware is the overall term. It further breaks down into virus, spyware, ransomware, Trojans, and rootkits. Malware means malicious software. Malware can spy on you and learn your interests. It then uses the data it collects to sell you something or scare you into buying something. This happens even when you are browsing a shopping website and do not make a purchase but the item you viewed shows up in an advertisement somewhere else while browsing on the internet. There are two main types of malware. The first is ransomware which locks down everything on your hard drive and demands money from you to get your data back. The second is adware which loads websites with advertising from a hacker. When these ads are clicked, the hacker makes money from the ad agency.

Viruses on the other hand are invasive to a computer and are typically executable files. The file first needs to be opened or ran in order to start the infection.

How malware spreads? Malware can spread by downloading malicious programs, visiting suspicious sites or sites that mimic real sites, or opening links in emails. Outdated software or browsers can also aid the spread of malware. Sometimes dangerous code is disguised and injected into ordinarily safe websites or the code is changed as it spreads so it cannot be easily tracked or blocked.

How to protect yourself? 1) Run scans using a well known malware and antivirus software. 2) Make sure your programs are up to date including Windows updates. These files can be critical to the safety and security of your computer. 3) Go slowly through downloaded setup wizards so you don’t install extra items that you don’t want. Watch for extraneous check boxes and UN-check them. Some of this extra software can spy on you and slow down your computer. 4) Do not open every email or attachment. Files that end in .exe and .zip can contain viruses and should be avoided if you are not expecting to receive it.

If you think you have been infected with malware or a virus and would like some assistance cleaning up your computer, please call (414) 208-4682. We will schedule an appointment with a technician to get your machine back in top working condition.

Managed Antivirus Software

We have a new enterprise antivirus and reporting software we recommend to our clients. But first here is some information on the different types of antivirus.

Antivirus is important because it removes viruses on your computer and prevents future infections on your machine. Without an antivirus program, a repair costs 5x more than if you had purchased a product for protection. It is not advised to run two antivirus programs at the same time. They can conflict with each other and reduce your overall protection. New computers come with introductory antivirus protection but it usually expires 15 or 30 days later. You need to either activate it or replace it with your preferred antivirus program.

3 levels of protection service

  1. Free: Installed on an individual machine, may include pop up advertisements, has limited technical support, scans are typically only run on-demand (i.e. when you press the button)
  2. Paid: Installed on an individual machine, more technical support provided, auto scans occur with some running 24 hours a day
  3. Enterprise: Can be installed on all machines in an office or home fairly quickly, monitors all PCs in a corporate or home environment, can segregate & group PCs to know what is going on with each machine and see if virus definitions are up to date, produces reports on all machines

Enterprise antivirus is also known as managed antivirus. Home antivirus including free and paid versions will only show if you are infected and helps you fix the immediate issue. It does not give you reporting features. You can convert from a home to enterprise version of antivirus at anytime.

Several companies offer enterprise antivirus. We can help you install your preferred program whether it is Symantec, Webroot, or another program of your choice. If your antivirus is up for renewal, call us at (414) 208-4682 to see if we can help you reduce the cost of your annual antivirus subscription.

Tech Lab featured in Wauwatosa Now

Tech Lab was recently featured in the Wauwatosa Now in their Business Brief section. The article is regarding our recent move. To see the article click here.

Roger Heindl, president, says, “I’m thrilled we found a place at the heart of the majority of our clients, between Milwaukee and Waukesha. We do all we can to put the needs of our clients first and provide the best service possible. I look forward to serving you and our community from this great central location.”

Ransomware

In the news recently, you may have heard the term “Ransomware.” This particular type of malicious attack is a multilayered attempt to lock you out of your computer, and extort money for the promise to unlock it.

The mechanisms used by ransomware can be intimidating to understand, and becoming the victim can be frustrating. In essence, a computer victimized by ransomware is locked, and cannot be accessed by anyone but the person who holds the key. Ransomware attackers will often try to extort victims for money in exchange for the key. Ransomware demands will usually ask for payment in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

Ransomware can infect a computer through most of the same avenues as other viruses and malware. You can stay protected from ransomware by using safe browsing practices, up-to-date operating systems, and malware and antivirus programs.

Ransomware sometimes masquerades as a law enforcement action, such as a demand from the FBI to pay a fine. In our experience, no ransomware demand is legitimate. Tech Lab does not endorse paying ransomware extortion in any case. We consider paying ransomware demands to be encouraging and directly funding acts of computer terrorism. Tech Lab will not assist our clients in facilitating ransomware payments. However, we can help you with your computer in other ways.

If your PC has been attacked by ransomware, or you would like to take precautions against it, please contact us! We can help you set up backups, and deploy security tools that will protect you or your company from ransomware. Let us consult with you to help you understand the risks of ransomware, and how to minimize them. Read More »

We’ve Moved!

We are excited to announce that Tech Lab has moved to a new location in Wauwatosa! Our new address is:

11617 W. Bluemound Rd.
Unit 3
Wauwatosa, WI 53226

Moving a business from one location to another can be a complicated process, fraught with logistical challenges. You want to be up and running as soon as possible at your new site, so your employees can start work right away and your customers can expect the same level of service starting the hour you open your new doors.

Moving a business also raises some unique technical challenges. Business computers rely on a stable environment to properly share files, report activity, and remain secure. Moving them from one location to another can cause unexpected issues. However, following these three simple steps can ease the process and help make sure you are up and running as soon as you open your doors.

  1. Inventory
    Before you move, check your inventory! You need to make sure all your computer equipment is accounted for, before you can move it or deploy it. All the preparation in the world won’t help if you are missing critical equipment and don’t even know it! Even in a small business, properly tracking each computer system will help you deploy at your new location in an organized way.
  2. Backup
    Before you pack up, back up! If a system gets damaged in transit, you want to make sure you don’t suffer any data loss. Offsite and Cloud backups can be a lifesaver if a computer doesn’t survive a move. Additionally, a properly managed offsite backup gives you access to your files even if the computer you need isn’t deployed yet at your new location.
  3. Plan Your Network
    Getting your network up as soon as possible is vital to getting your business running. From internet access, to file sharing, to application hosting, your computers need to talk to each other for your business to operate. Properly planning your network for your new site will help you get running fast. Make sure the new site has proper wiring and that you have all the network equipment you will need, especially if you are expanding! Make sure you contact your new site’s internet provider and get a proper internet connection set up so you can stay connected from Day 1.

If you plan to move your business, Tech Lab can help. We can get your systems backed up and ready to move. Once you’re there, we can help you get your network wired, configured, and running. Tech Lab will also make sure all your computers are present and accounted for and properly set up. Contact us to help make your move smooth and painless!

Spring Clean Your Computer?

Warmer temps are here and spring is in the air. You may be working to deep clean around your home and want to bring some freshness into your life.

One area you may not consider cleaning is your computer. If your computer is running slower than it used to, it may be because your computer has built up items it does not need and it is bogging down your computer. Or you may have picked up a virus or malware which can slow down computers as well. Tech Lab can provide you with a PC tune up or assist you with virus and malware removal.

Maybe neither of those situations fit you but your computer is still slower than you would like. Options exist to speed up your computer. One way is to replace your current hard drive with a solid state drive. This drive works using electrical parts instead of mechanical parts so it operates at a faster speed. Another option is to increase the amount of memory or RAM in your system. This isn’t always necessary but may help to improve performance.

If you are not ready to invest in a new computer, your PC can be refreshed with these simple improvements. Tech Lab can help you choose which parts will give you the best increase in speed. So as you clean up your home remember to clean up your computer too!

Social Media Digital Dilemma?

Have you ever had questions about social media? Would you like an account for Facebook or Pinterest but are not sure how to create one?

Join Tech Lab at Heritage in West Allis on Thursday, February 23 at 2pm for a session on Social Media. You will create an account for Pinterest, learn about the program, and learn more about Facebook. Hands on workshop time will also be given where you can ask experts questions and get personal assistance with your technology struggles. Guests should bring their own device with them. Call 414-302-9700 to register!

We cannot wait to see you!

Digital Dilemma Sessions

Join Tech Lab with Synergy HomeCare at Heritage in West Allis on Thursday, January 12 at 2pm for a session on an Introduction to the Internet. You will learn how to navigate, search, and Brain Health games. Hands on workshop time will also be given where you can ask experts questions and get personal assistance with your technology struggles. Guests should bring their own device with them. Call 414-302-9700 to register!

We cannot wait to see you!