Should you Leave your Computer on at Night?

Clients frequently ask if they should leave their computer on all the time or turn it off when they are not using it.

Several years ago we would have said to turn their PC off to save power, but with the proliferation of viruses and threats over the last few years, the answer has changed.

Today, anti-virus and anti-spyware applications need regular updating. These updates are often scheduled to run late at night when the computer isn’t in use.

Windows needs to be updated often for security patches. This doesn’t happen daily, but it may happen several times a month, and usually at night.

In addition to the above, you should be backing up your data every day. The best time to do this is at night when you are not using the computer.

Bottom line: Leave your PC (but not your screen) on at night so it is updated properly. But,  restart the computer several times a week to clear the memory.

Tips to Optimize Your Laptop’s Battery Life

Laptop batteries… Ugh! Need I say more? We all know how annoying and unpleasant your laptop experience becomes when you find yourself rushing around for the nearest power source to keep those precious emails and spreadsheets alive.

It seems like the battery life on laptops lasts for only a couple hours, and if you’re doing some heavy work that time can drastically decrease.

So I’m going to share some tips and tricks to keeping the life of your laptop batteries as strong, and long lasting as possible.

Defragment your hard drive
Believe it or not, keeping your computer’s hard drive defragged on a regular basis is one of the key things you can do to improve your battery life.

The more efficient your hard drive works, the less power and time it needs to do its processing, which ultimately decreases the amount of power required to process.

Minimize multitasking
Keep the number of programs you have open and running down to a minimum.

For example, time and time again I see users that have a dozen or more programs running at the same time, when they are only using one or two of them.

Keeping programs that are not needed running increases the load on the CPU and wears the battery down. Try to keep only programs you are working with up, and eliminate anything extra.

Clean the battery
Keeping the battery contacts clean is another key point, and I’m amazed as to how many laptop owners have told me they’ve never once cleaned the terminal posts that connect the battery to the laptop, nor even thought about doing so.

Just like any other electronic device, or piece of equipment, laptops needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Every couple of months or so, you can take a damp cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe down the posts on the laptop, as well as the battery to keep a clean connection and keep the power transfer more efficient.

Make sure the power is off to the laptop, and that it isn’t plugged into the AC power before you start cleaning.

Add more RAM
This may sound misleading, but having more RAM can actually help reduce the power consumption of the laptop by reducing the amount of virtual memory you are using.

Virtual memory writes to the hard drive, which does require more power than writing to the RAM. If you see your hard drive blinking constantly, you could benefit from more memory in your laptop.

Use Windows Power Options
Utilize the features of Windows Power Options. Simply go into Windows Control Panel, choose Power Options, and set your laptop to use the predefined power plan of “max battery.”

This will ensure your laptop is getting the maximum optimization of power usage, while the computer is on or idle.

Turn off unneeded devices
Lastly, you can cut down on the use of external devices with your laptop. For example, if you’re simply doing some photo editing, word processing, or just working in a program that requires no Internet connectivity, shut off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters. If your laptop screen has a backlight, you can turn the brightness down to save power. These types of adapters and devices consume a lot of power, even if you’re not using them.

Another biggie is the fact that people love to charge all their gizmos and gadgets with their USB ports (iPods, phones, etc.) and this greatly affects the battery, and often can drain it in less than an hour.

These tips, along with a regular charging schedule will do wonders for the life of your battery. Remember, it is a best practice to keep your batteries on a regular charging schedule, and you should routinely completely charge and discharge your laptop batteries.

Tips To Optimize Your Computer’s Performance

Has your computer significantly slowed down since you first bought it? Does it seem slower than ever? Is something wrong? These are questions and concerns of many users when it comes to their computer systems.

Almost every day I encounter clients who have these complaints, so I’ve put together a few pointers and best practices to keep your systems running in tip top shape!

All of these tips use system tools that are built right into your Windows operating system, whether you’re running Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, XP, Vista, or Windows 7.

They may vary in location, as well as the look and feel of the applications, but overall they all are designed to do the same things.

Clean Up Disk Errors
Every time you improperly shut down your computer, a program crashes, or a power outage happens, your computer creates errors on the hard disk.

Over time, these errors can cause the system to read and write data to the hard drive slower, hence slowing your entire system down. For this, Windows has built in what’s called a disk check.To run disk check simply:

1. Click START > My Computer
2.Choose the drive you want to run the check on, and RIGHT click it, and choose PROPERTIES.
3. In the PROPERTIES box, click the TOOLS tab. In the errorchecking section, press the CHECK NOW button.
4. Choose both automatically fix file system errors, and scan for and attempt to recover bad sectors, and proceed by clicking START.

Delete Temporary Files
Your computer picks up and stores temp files all the time, while you browse the web, work in programs such as Microsoft Word, and even when installing new programs.

Over a period of time, these temporary files can really bog your system down, so you have to be sure to clean them up on a regular basis.

For this, Windows has what’s called Disk Cleanup.

To run disk cleanup simply:
1.Go to START > My Computer
2.Choose the drive you want to run the cleanup on, and RIGHT click it, and choose PROPERTIES.
3.In the properties box, click DISK CLEANUP.

Disk cleanup will calculate how much space you can free up on your hard drive.

After it runs its scan, the disk cleanup dialogue box will show a list of files you can remove from your computer.

The list will include: Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Microsoft Error Reporting Temp Files, Office Setup Files, Recycle Bin, and Thumbnails.

4.From here, go ahead and check all the boxes, and click OK.
5.Disk cleanup will now remove those selected files, and close when it has completed and you are done!

Organize Your Data
Over time, as we install new programs, save new files, documents, videos, pictures, music, etc. data can become what is known as fragmented.

Fragmented files are a huge cause of slow performance. For this, Windows built in the Disk Defragmenter.

Disk Defragmenter analyzes all your files, and organizes them nice neatly in the same locations, rather than randomly spread across your file system.

You should run this utility at least once a month at least to prevent files from becoming badly fragmented.

To run disk defragmenter you simply:
1.Click START > My Computer
2.Choose the drive you want to defrag, and RIGHT click it, and choose PROPERTIES.
3.In the properties box, click the TOOLS tab, and then in the defragmentation section, click DEFRAGMENT NOW.
4.In the disk defragmentation box, select the volume you want to scan, and click defragment. (Typically this would be your C: drive )

Follow these three easy tips, and your computer will stay running in tip top shape for as long as you have the system. Remember it is important to keep regular maintenance on your computers, just as you do on most all mechanical and/or electrical devices.

How To Stop The Number One Cause Of Computer Slow Downs And Crashes!

Wouldn’t it be nice if your computer still ran like it did back when you first bought it? Before you go and buy a new computer try this key maintenance step you can use to put life back into the computer you already have.

Imagine that you start up your PC just to find yourself staring at a blue screen with white writing, termed “the blue screen of death” by those of us who work a lot with Microsoft software. So, you power it down – and when it starts back up, the computer is even slower. Within a few minutes it locks up again.

This happened to a friend of mine. When she asked me what she could do, I asked her if she had ever defragmented her computer. She got that “deer in the headlights” look, so I knew she hadn’t. Defragmenting her PC, after three years of never doing so, took about 14 hours to complete.

One of the main reasons that computers slow down is poor maintenance practices like this. Unfortunately, when you buy a new computer you don’t usually get any instruction on how to maintain it. Poor or no maintenance allows your hard drive to become more and more fragmented which will slow it down over time.

To best explain hard drive fragmentation think of your hard drive as a file cabinet. In this cabinet there are folders with documents (files) in them.

When you need to work on something you open the folder containing the necessary file, pull out what you need and put the folder back. The files go on your desk so you can work on them.

Over time certain files don’t get put back, or they get put back in different places. When this happens on the hard drive it leads to fragmentation. Think of defragmenting as going through the files on your desk, and in the cabinet, and putting them back in order in the correct folders.

Just as staying this disorganized would lead to a significant loss in your own productivity, the same thing happens to your computer. Eventually it causes a crash because of how scattered all of the information gets.

Disk fragmentation can even shorten the lifespan of your computer because your hard drive works so hard that it wears out faster.

So the one step solution for this part of computer maintenance, run the defragmenting tool that comes with Windows at least once every couple of weeks.

Do this by clicking Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, then click Disk Defragmenter. Choose the disk you want to defragment and click the defragment button. You can also schedule this maintenance inside the Disk Defragmenter application, so you don’t have to remember to run it.

Take care of your hard disk maintenance and you will continue to enjoy the speed you experienced when you first made that investment!

Saving Money On IT: 8 Tips To Speed Up Your Systems, Extend Their Life, And Be More Productive

Sluggish computers got you down? You’re not alone – many people make the mistake of letting their slow computers cost them time, money and headaches. Sometimes, folks will even resort to buying a new machine rather than resolving the slow computer issues.

Here are eight tips that will help you speed up your systems, extend their life, and let you be more productive – all without investing a lot of money or time.

Physical Cleanliness
It is a best practice to clean your system at least once every quarter. You can use a vacuum to clean the outside of the computer case, and keyboard for starters. You should NOT vacuum the inside of the case – this creates static electricity which could damage the system.

Obviously you never want to get the inside damp, wet, or use liquid cleaners on it. The best way to keep the inside clean is to get a can of compressed air. Simply blow out the system fans and any accumulated dust and debris. Fans can become clogged after time, and prevent proper cooling, which greatly affects the performance.

Software Management
Over time, installed software can clutter up the system, and often, installed applications are forgotten about over time. Regularly checking your program list and removing anything that hasn’t been used in a while is another best practice.

Simply go to Start->Control Panel->Add/Remove Programs. From there you can check through the list of installed programs, and decide which ones should go, and which ones can stay.

Start Up (Boot Up)
You may have noticed that the system used to start up a lot faster than it does now. In most cases, this can be easily resolved by clearing out the programs that are set to run at startup.

Most users don’t even realize there are several programs starting up when they turn their systems on. Ideally, you would want as few applications as possible to start up, and then open programs as they are needed.

Simply go to Start->Run>type in “msconfig” (without the parenthesis). This will bring up the Microsoft Configuration Utility. From there, you can choose the startup tab, and get a list of programs that are set to start when Windows is starting up. You can simply check/uncheck which programs you want.

Clean Up The Cache
Every time you visit a web site, the content and pictures are downloaded to a temporary holding area on your hard drive, called the cache. The Internet cache is useful because it helps websites load faster the next time you visit them. Over time, the cache can take up disk space, and cause the system to run slower.

I’d suggest keeping your cache cleared, simply by running a disk cleanup. This will allow you to remove the following: temporary Internet files, downloaded program files, offline webpage’s, files in the recycle bin, temporary files, and “compress old files.”

Disk Defragmentation
Sometimes when you install new programs, or create new data files, the files end up being chopped up into chunks and stored in multiple locations on the hard disk. This is called fragmentation.

Disk defragmentation basically takes all of your files, and arranges them in a logical order. It’s like having all of your files in a filing cabinet scattered, and then re-arranging so everything is in order, and similar files are grouped with each other.

So next time you go to call on a file, data source, program, etc.the specified data is all grouped together making it faster to access and load. This should be done at least once a month.

Antivirus Scanning
We all know the problems that viruses and spyware can cause! Spyware and virus activity is one of the biggest culprits of slow moving computers, and having an active antivirus program doing daily system scans is always a best practice. This will ensure your system’s performance is not at jeopardy due to malicious related software.

Keeping your Windows operating system up to date will ensure you have the latest service packs, security patches, third party device drivers, and many other critical updates to your Microsoft Windows operating system.

Keep Windows Up to Date
Microsoft allows the automatic update and installation of updates if configured properly. Simply right click the My Computer icon, and choose automatic updates tab. From there you can decide what day you want updates to run, and whether or not you want them to be downloaded and/or installed.

Clean The Registry
The registry is a database which stores most of the settings and options for Microsoft Windows operating systems. It contains information and settings for hardware, operating system software, and per-user settings.

CAUTION: In most cases, only advanced users should edit the registry!!

Over time, programs can cause clogging of the registry, which will affect system performance; a great tool to run on this would be CCleaner; which is a free download available at http://www.ccleaner.com/.

So if you want to speed your systems, extend the life of your computer, and learn to be more productive with your pc, without spending a bunch of money or time doing so, follow some of these best practices, and you will be well on your way to a more efficient, and pleasant time on the computer.

Your Computer Needs A Spring Cleaning, Too!

Now that it is spring time, I thought this would be a good idea to remind everyone of how important it is to clean out your dirty PCs.

Your computer should be cleaned every three to four months, and more if your office environment is very dusty or dirty. Keep in mind, it’s not just for sanitation purposes, either.

The electromagnetic field put off by your computer attracts dirt, dust, debris, animal hair, and lint – just take a look at the back of your PC near the fan vent. Pretty gross, huh?

It’s Not Just Dirty…It’s Dangerous!
The dust clogging those case openings will cause the processor inside your computer to heat up—and heat is the biggest cause of component failure in computers. That dirt and dust can end up shutting down your PC and costing you real money!

So how do you keep your computer clean and free from dust? The best way I’ve found is to use a can of compressed air. You should also use some eye protection like safety goggles or eye glasses along with a dust mask. I’ve found that the dust that settles on computers is often a very fine type of dust and it easily gets into your eyes and nose if you aren’t wearing any protection.

First and foremost, take the computer outside! Blowing the dust off the computer and onto your desk or office carpet really won’t do much long term good.

When blowing the dust out of the ports, it’s best to use short quick bursts. Also, don’t aim the air directly into the port. Blow the dust out at an angle.

Be careful that you don’t hold that plastic straw nozzle too close to any part of the computer – the freezing cold could damage the components. For best results, hold the nozzle about 3 – 6 inches away from the area that you are trying to clean. Sometimes people think using a vacuum cleaner is better than the compressed air, but I don’t recommend it. A lot of vacuum cleaners come with crevice attachments or other brush heads and the problem is that the plastic can cause a large build up of static electricity which can damage delicate electronic components.

Never spray or squirt any type of liquid onto ANY part of your computer. If a spray is needed, spray the liquid onto a cloth and then use that cloth to rub down the component.

When cleaning the monitor, use a lint-free cloth (like the one you use to clean your eyeglasses). Paper towels, dryer sheets, and other cloths may scratch the monitor. Also, never use Windex or a commercial cleaning product, and never spray anything directly onto the screen. Instead, lightly spray a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water onto your cloth and wipe it down.

We’ll Clean Your  Computer For You!
Want us to do the dirty work? Then just give us a call and ask for our spring computer clean-up service. For just $39 per computer, we’ll clean your system, remove any dust and debris, make sure all of your security updates are installed, and perform an additional 23 essential system checkup steps.

No more grime, germs, or dust bunnies—we’ll get rid of them all as part of our Spring-cleaning special! Just call the office at (734) 457-5000, or e-mail us at info@expertsmi.com, and we’ll make sure your computers shine!

It’s Always A Good Idea To Investigate Computer Noises

In this article I would like to talk about one of the more scary aspects of computers and computer repairs, “Things that go bump in the night.”

As I was lying in bed the other night I heard a noise, and I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. As I got up to investigate, the sound suddenly stopped. When I laid back down the sound started up again, this time I was able to track the sound down.

It was a low level moan coming from my computer.  Thinking I could deal with it later, I shut the computer off and went back to bed.

The next day I returned home from work and was just settling down on the couch when my wife informed me there was “something desperately wrong with our computer.” She said she went to turn it on and it is making a loud noise now. She said she just turned it right off.  Sure enough, I turned it on and the cooling fan on the power supply was moaning away. I let it run for a few minutes and the noise seemed to diminish.

But, I knew it needed to be fixed: Not only do we need access to the internet for email and other things, the wife cannot live without her recipe websites.

I shut the computer down and I opened the case and found that the CPU fan was in dire need of a good cleaning. I cleaned it up and got all the dust bunnies out of it and lo and behold noises are gone.

I am sure nearly all of us have experienced noises from our computers. Some noises are normal. Although a computer is mostly solid state electronics, there are a few components that move, and as any computer engineer can tell you, if it is a “moving part” it will eventually fail.

Along with the cooling fan in the power supply, computers have cooling fans on the processor, and case mounted auxiliary cooling fans that provide additional cooling. All of these fans can and do occasionally fail. Cleaning does not always fix them and they have to be replaced.

The next component that moves and is subject to wear and tear is the hard drive. As I’ve explained in previous articles, this is where your important data and files are stored. As the disks inside the drive spins at a very high rate of speed they can eventually wear out and hit what is called the seek head. Once this happens damage to the disk’s surface can result in a loss of data.

We call hard drives with this condition “serious clickers” due to the fact a clicking noise is very audible during the process of the seek head moving across the disks.

If your computer is making any funny noises, make sure not to delay getting it fixed, serious problems can result from failure to address and repair noisy fans and clicking hard drives. Tech Experts has a staff of trained certified professional technicians to help isolate and eliminate these “noises in the night.” Give us a call at (734) 457-5000.

Tired of Dumping Money Into Your Network?

Read On To Discover How You Can Make Those Darn Things Finally Pay Off!

If you ask most business owners why they invest in computers and technology, you will hear things like “to increase employee productivity,” or “to improve customer service” or even to lower operating costs, make information more accessible, and give them a competitive advantage.

But the question is, are the computers in your office actually contributing to your productivity, or do they act as a money-sucking stumbling block to your businesses success?

In this dog-eat-dog world, you cannot afford to have anything slowing you down or interfering with your day to day operations. Especially the tools you rely on in your computer network. If you want to learn how we can help you experience fewer interruptions, problems, and downtime, AND lower the overall costs associated with your computer network, then you’ll want to know about our “Experts Total Support” plan.

This program was designed specifically for small business owners that do not have a full time IT staff taking care of their computer network.

For a small, fixed monthly fee, we will monitor and maintain your computer network 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make sure all systems are running at peak performance. We’ll also make sure critical network maintenance such as security and virus updates, backups, and system optimization happens when it should to avoid bigger, more expensive problems from happening.

Our Free 60 Minute “Technology Tune Up” May (Finally) Make Your Computers Pay Off

To introduce this new program to all of our clients and prospects, we are offering a free, 60-minute “Technology Tune Up” to the first five businesses that contact us this month.

In less than 1 hour, we can come in and examine your computer network, talk to your employees, and provide a very revealing analysis of all the under utilized or overlooked capabilities being wasted in your current computer system. We’ll also look for security loop holes, check your system back ups and virus protection, and look for other hidden problems lurking in the background, waiting to turn into bigger, more expensive disasters.

After doing this analysis, we can not only advise you on how to improve the speed. reliability, and security of  your computer network, but also on ways you can improve your overall office productivity.

Normally we charge $297 for this type of service but we are giving it away FREE as a special promotion this month to demonstrate our “Experts Total Support” plan. To secure your spot, simply call our offices at (734) 457-5000 or e-mail us at info@MyTechExperts.com and we’ll schedule a convenient time for us to come out and conduct this tune up.

No Risk, No Obligation, No Hassles

You will be under zero obligations to do or buy anything if you sign up for a FREE Technology Tune Up. This is just our way of introducing our new network maintenance program to you and we certainly don’t expect everyone to sign up.

So what are you waiting for? Call us right now while you’re thinking about it. Remember, we are only giving away five tune ups on a first come, first serve basis so call now while there are spots left!

This offer will expire as soon as we have five companies signed up, or on August 29th. Call today!

How to Declare Freedom from Slow Computers, Downtime, Viruses, Hackers, and Computer Problems Finally and Forever!

Are you sick and tired of worrying about the security of your network against the latest spyware, virus, or hacker threat?

Would you like to have peace of mind knowing that your backups are working properly and storing your data in a secure, easy to restore format?

Do you want your network to always be “up” and running fast?

Then we have a service you need to know about…

It’s called our Experts Total Support plan. This program gives you fast, 24-7 computer support, maintenance, and monitoring for one low, fixed monthly rate without any surprises, hidden costs, or the expense of a full time IT staff!

Why Do you Need This?
Having a secure, reliable computer system is no longer a luxury for businesses today. If you can’t access your e-mail, financial information, client database, or other critical data, you’re OUT of business.

Plus, you must keep your data secure from corruption, loss, and theft; if you don’t, it could not only cost you dearly in downtime, but it could also cause your reputation harm when customers find out your network (and their data) has been compromised, stolen, or lost forever.

How Does It Work?
The concept is simple. For a fixed monthly fee, we will monitor and maintain your computer network 24/7, 365 days a year. We will make sure your anti-virus, spyware, and security patches are up to date. We’ll monitor your network for looming problems that could turn into downtime or data loss such as hardware failures and disk space problems.

We’ll also watch your backups to make sure they truly are running and not giving you a false-positive reading, and we’ll constantly optimize the health and overall speed of your network. After all, nothing is more frustrating than a slow computer!

Last (but not least!) we’ll be able to provide remote support through a highly secure Internet connection to provide almost instant support whenever you need it. No more waiting around for a technician to show up!

FREE Network Check gets you Started…
If you want to find out how our Experts Total Support plan can help your business, call us for a FREE Network Health Check. At no charge or obligation, we’ll come onsite and…

  • Look for incorrect network configurations that show up as unexpected downtime, application errors, printers not working, e-mail problems, etc.
  • Assess your current security against data corruption, theft, hardware failures, power outages, computer viruses, worms, hacker attacks, spam, and even employee sabotage.
  • Scan for spyware that is secretly stealing your company’s bandwidth, jeopardizing the speed of your computer system, and embezzling confidential information about your company.
  • Check your data backup system to ensure it is working properly and accurately backing up all of the critical information you NEVER want to lose.
  • Diagnose slow, unstable PCs and perform a quick network “tune up” to make programs load faster.

When we’ve finished, we’ll give you a network ‘report card’ that will reveal any weaknesses in your security or trouble spots on your network that could lead to bigger (more expensive) problems.

Normally we charge $297 for this, but if you call during the month of July, we’ll give it to you for FREE as our gift for introducing our Experts Total Support plan. Again, you are not obligated to sign up for this program or pay us anything for this service—but you have to hurry!

To get signed up now, call 734-457-5000 or go online to www.ExpertsTotalSupport.com.

Three easy Steps to get Seven Years of Hassle Free Service From Your Laser Printer

Printers – the necessary evil of every office. From paper jams and error messages, to problems like smearing, misfeeds, and ghosting, printers can really make your blood pressure rise.

Plus, it’s easy to sink thousands of dollars into maintenance and repairs. If you want to avoid common printer problems AND save yourself a small fortune on replacements and repairs, follow these 3 easy steps:

Keep It Clean
There is no faster way to gunk up a laser printer and cause printing problems than by letting it get dirty.

On a monthly basis, use compressed air to blow out the inside of the printer. Remove the toner cartridge for better access, and don’t forget to do the back if it is accessible. It also helps to take a vacuum to the outside. If you print labels or use any other type of specialty media like transparencies, use rubbing alcohol to clean the rollers inside the printer.

Do Your Maintenance
You can almost infinitely extend your printers lifespan by doing the regular maintenance suggested by the manufacturer.

This includes replacing rollers, filters, and occasionally replacing the fuser (the printer’s internal furnace.) Here’s a little money-saving secret: you only need to do this type of maintenance at 1.5 to 2 times the manufacturer’s usage recommendation.

So, if the manufacturer says to replace rollers every 100,000 pages, you really only need to do so every 150,000 to 200,000 pages.

Use a Surge Protector
Nothing will send your printer to the bone yard faster than an electrical surge caused by lightning or other issues on the power grid.

When internal components are fried, it is often cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to fix the existing one. It is easy to protect yourself with a $25 surge protector. DO NOT plug a laser printer into a UPS or other battery backup system. The printer’s power draw is too much for a battery to handle.