How Do You Know When Your Systems Are Due For An Upgrade?

Some problems are difficult to spot. They bubble under the surface without getting noticed until it’s too late.

Other problems hit you straight in the face, normally at the worst possible time.

When it comes to your business’s IT, you need to keep an eye out for each of these, as things can get nasty if you don’t stay on top of things.

Keeping your IT updated is a good start, but it isn’t enough on its own. How do you know what to look out for? Let’s look at some of the main culprits.

The slow creepers
Slow computers are a big one, and they’re quite tricky to spot because they gradually slow down over time.

This means that people using them gradually adjust to degrading levels of performance without necessarily being aware that’s happening.

The same is true for software. As staff get used to using slow and buggy tools, it gets normalized and the IT gremlins become accepted as part of their daily life.

It’s always worth fixing slow devices and processes. Speeding them up will let your staff be more productive. And give morale a boost too.

Out of date systems
Another thing that can be difficult to spot is when warranties run out.

On top of official warranties, IT systems also have a separate lifespan for how long vendors will continue to offer updates. Pushing this to the edge can significantly impact features, compatibility, as well as security.

Your customers don’t have much patience for slow or clunky processes.

It can be difficult to measure how much business you lose on the back of this, so frequently auditing your systems is key to avoiding missed opportunities.

Too old to scale
If your IT systems aren’t scalable, there’s a real risk that your business will need to start turning down work because you’re not able to handle swings in demand.

It’s worth bearing in mind that there’s a far greater chance of experiencing big changes in consumer behavior in 2021, both during and in the aftermath of this pandemic.

Also, if you’re running out-of-date IT systems, you’re living with the risk that you won’t be able to quickly adopt new ways of working, as technology changes your industry.

What can you do?
An important first step is to have an IT strategy in place that acts as a foundation for your business.

Instead of reacting to problems as they come up, an IT strategy will help you plan for future scenarios. As well as acting as a solid foundation to help your business make the best possible decisions about the future.

A good IT strategy creates a technology roadmap for getting your business up to speed and keeping it there.

Tax Benefits You Should Reap Before The Year Ends

There are important tax benefits you can only gain by acting before December runs out. Preparing for taxes at the end of the year also puts you ahead of the game, eliminating the last-minute scramble to decipher receipts and new forms, so you can be calm and collected when tax season actually hits.

Perhaps the most important tax benefit small businesses should be aware of is that purchases like IT hardware or computer software that is purchased off the shelf are tax-deductible. Such capital purchases, however, must be dealt with before the new year, or they can no longer be used on your tax return. New special provisions dictate the cost of such equipment must be deducted within the year they were put into service, so you can’t afford to wait until the fiscal year ends and miss the narrow window for this tax benefit opportunity.

Small businesses should also be aware that many tax benefits are dependent on whether your activities are profitable or not. This is because the amount you can deduct for technological purchases changes according to your business’ total taxable income.

Be sure to reference Section 179 rules if you are showing a profit and Section 168 rules if you are in the red. You may even choose to consider if it is in your business’ best interest to be profitable at all, and adjust your inner workings to reflect your best tax advantage.

When making deductions for tech hardware and software purchased this year, make sure your record keeping is first rate. Keep all paper¬work that identifies the equipment, receipt for purchase, and anything that can point to when you actually put the equipment into service.

If necessary, you can then provide copies of that paperwork to the tax agency in the event that there is a question about your deduction. Before filing, if there is any doubt about whether a particular purchase is eligible for a tax deduction, consult with your tax adviser to be sure the necessary points have been met.

Signs Your PC Needs A Tune-Up (Or Replaced!)

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

One of the most frustrating things a person can experience in the office is a slow computer system.

As modern systems get quicker and Internet speeds continue to soar, we really notice when performance seems off.

Watching a video online 10 years ago versus today is a world of difference. Take it back 15 years, and it’s like two different universes.

Yet, we are so used to these speeds and increases in performance that we often assume that there’s something “wrong” with our computer or Internet connection when it slows down. Sure, this can be the case, but how can you tell?

First, you really need to isolate whether your computer system is slow or if your Internet is causing the problems. This is easier than you would expect.

Try loading a webpage. See if there is a delay in your keyboard input. Look for spinning wheels. These are indicative of system processing actions. You can try opening a few documents or pictures stored on your computer.

If there is no delay but webpages load slower than normal, you likely are having Internet speed issues.

Let’s assume that your Internet is fine. Speed is good, connection is strong. How can we tell if there is something wrong that needs fixed or if it’s just a temporary issue?

Let’s talk about age. The average usable life of a PC is around five years, give a take a year or two based on how good the system specs were at the time of purchase.

For instance, a laptop at a chain retail store might be a great price, but if you buy outdated products to start with, you will definitely have a harder time reaching the target goal of five years of use out of your computer. You can sometimes find a bargain, but a lot of times, you really get what you pay for.

Speaking of getting what you pay for, you may not be an expert, but remember that, while features like touchscreens are nice, they’re not a great help when your system resources are maxed out.

A touchscreen in a laptop is basically a tradeoff for two other specs when it comes to cost. Basically, if you had two identically priced laptops, the one with a touchscreen would have less RAM and a slower CPU, for instance.

Other things can let you know if there is more to it than needing a new PC. Is your lag recent and sudden? How secure are you? Is your operating system up to date?

A recent virus could quickly impact your system. While they don’t always work like this, a quick change in performance is typically failing hardware or an infection.

The best thing to do is to rule out the virus first. Always better to be safe. If you aren’t sure about how to thoroughly check for and remove virus infections, look for someone who can help.

So what if you still aren’t sure? If you are on the cusp of having your computer for four or five years, it might be time to make the call to replace it.

If there is a chance it’s the CPU failing and it’s close in the age range, replace it.

It is a calculated decision, but don’t let trying to save a few bucks for a few weeks longer cause you endless frustration. It may just be time to say goodbye.

Challenges Of Staffing In An Increasingly Tech World

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

“Good help is hard to find.” It’s something you have probably heard before. It has been said for generations.

Hiring fresh graduates is always tough as they are unproven and likely accepting their first jobs in their field. Hiring experienced workers costs more money and they most likely need better incentives to switch jobs.

However, fresh graduates may have more experience with recent industrial developments – and experienced workers may not feel the need to adapt to new innovations until it’s absolutely necessary.

So what happens when all paths forward intersect? Where experienced workers are becoming underqualified as the requirements of their jobs change? Where younger people want more than they are worth because they have general technical skills to go along with their chosen path?

This affects the workforce as a whole, not only IT. Much like any other field, we have our own challenges with staffing as time moves forward. Careers in IT obviously have a broad range of computer skills as a requirement, but there are industries where using a computer wasn’t always needed.

Working retail in today’s world will no doubt require use of a computer for most employees from time to time. Selling insurance? Most, if not all, processing is done on a computer. A loan department at a bank is going to use a computer and so are the tellers. Gas station? Fast food? All are places you will typically see computers and other technology in use.

It can be intimidating when industries like construction move away from pen and paper. Your accountant uses computers, and now you probably will too. Major trucking companies may leave the paper logbooks behind in lieu of digital recordkeeping.

So what happens to the employee at the construction company who has been there for 20 years with no computer skills? He is a foreman and all reporting is now done on a tablet then uploaded over a VPN to the main office every day. It’s a complex new skill to learn, especially when put against those who can operate tech with no effort…and who are asking for the same (or lower) salary.

For some people, they may feel like they have to learn a whole new career just to keep up with their own. As challenging as it is for the veteran employee, the same challenge can be had for a new hire. You face the challenge of not only the day-to-day job duties, but also with learning how to use five new pieces of software.

The challenge for employers is probably the most difficult. Keeping your old employees may be just as hard as finding new ones.

As new systems are implemented, experts of antiquated processes become dispensable if they can’t become acclimated. Hiring a recent graduate gives you an employee who knows those new systems, but they may be too “green” and make mistakes experienced workers already learned, adding stress to the environment.

Depending on the size of the company and the industry, there will always be unique staffing challenges. Not everyone will be forced to use a computer or a tablet for work, or you may not be able to employ someone who isn’t proficient with one. As tough as the market is for job seekers, I’d argue it’s a lot tougher on those tasked with hiring the next class of experts.

One thing that’s clear is that we aren’t going to back-track on technology due to the benefits. For every industry, modernization is becoming a matter of “when” rather than “if.” Employees and employers alike will have to keep up.

How Much RAM Does Your PC Really Need?

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

First off, note that how much RAM (along with the type and speed) that your system supports will depend on your motherboard.

Consult your PC/motherboard manual, or, if your PC was manufactured by an OEM, use a system checker such as the one found on to find out what RAM is compatible with your system.

Adding RAM to your computer is not a process that will magically make everything run faster. But it can aid your PC in multitasking and performing intensive-heavy tasks like loading 20+ browser tabs, content creation like editing videos or images, editing multiple productivity documents, and running more programs at one time.

Computers may experience significant slowdowns when running a large number of programs at once with low memory.

If all RAM space has been used when trying to open programs, the computer resorts to using virtual memory on the hard drive, which slows the computer down quite a bit.

Upgrading or adding additional memory can eliminate this problem as the computer doesn’t have to resort to using the hard drive for slower pagefile memory.

How much RAM you need in your computer depends heavily on what you use your PC for on a day-to-day basis and on how long you intend to keep the computer.

If you are thinking of investing in a new machine in the near future, waiting things out until your purchase might be the best bet.

If you already have a computer you love but want to shift gears into a different daily task that requires better performance, then upgrading your RAM as part of the process is a great idea and can breathe some extra life into your computer.

If you use your Windows 10 computer for word processing, checking emails, browsing the Internet, and playing Solitaire, you should have no problem using 4GB of RAM. If you are performing all of these activities at once, however, you might experience a dip in performance.

Many budget PCs come with 4GB of RAM as a base option. If you plan on keeping your machine for several years, then opting for 8GB of RAM is the safer bet, even if you use it for light tasks.

Video and Photo Editing
This really depends on your workload. If you are editing quite a bit of HD video, go for 16GB or more. If you’re working mainly with photos and a bit of video thrown in, 8GB should get you through. Again, in this instance, it may behoove you to opt for 16GB to give yourself more future-proofing headroom as photo and video quality is only getting better with file sizes exponentially increasing and becoming more memory intensive. Editing will work on lower amounts of RAM, but you’ll become so frustrated with the poor performance that you’ll soon start yearning for an upgrade.

In a nutshell, here are some simple guidelines that apply to most PC devices:

  • 4GB: Entry level memory. Comes with budget notebooks. Fine for Windows.
  • 8GB: Excellent for Windows and Mac OS systems. We recommend this for most people.
  • 16GB: Ideal for professional work and the most demanding tasks.
  • 32GB and beyond: Enthusiasts and purpose-built workstations only.

Remember, buying more RAM than you need doesn’t net you any performance benefit. It’s effectively wasted money.

Buy what you need, and spend what’s left of your budget on more important components such as the CPU or faster storage space like a solid state hard drive (SSD) which can be 10 times faster than a conventional hard drive.

RAM And You: How Much Memory Do You Need?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Is there anything as frustrating as experiencing issues with your computer? There are many different performance issues that can affect your experience as a user.

If your computer is running slower than normal (or slower than it should), there are so many things that can factor in. One of the more common causes is system memory being over utilized.

First, we have to understand the different types of “slow” your computer expresses.

If Internet pages are slow to load but programs like Microsoft Word are quick and responsive, your speed issue is Internet related.

If programs are slow, lag out, or won’t respond, you are dealing with a system issue.

In these cases, a restart can be your best friend. If a restart doesn’t help your system, take a look at your resource usage. The task manager will show in real time the usage of your CPU and memory (RAM).

Let’s say your RAM usage is high, even after a restart. This is a problem and you just don’t have enough system memory to support your daily tasks.

How does this affect your system? What can you do about it? How much is enough?

A shortage of RAM on your computer wreaks havoc on the system performance. It not only limits the work that the RAM is capable of handling, but it also affects the CPU and the hard drive performance.

When applications need more than the available RAM, they use virtual memory from the hard drive. The amount of virtual RAM can be increased in your system by increasing the size of your paging file.

While this may help to run your programs, your system performance will suffer greatly.

The virtual RAM your system will use is much slower than physical RAM, causing a bottleneck where you are now reliant on the speed of your virtual memory. This limits the speed of data traveling between the CPU and RAM as well.

We know the RAM is limiting our performance. While the paging file allows you to run the programs you need to work, your system performance will make multi-tasking nearly impossible.

The best thing at this point is to upgrade to more physical memory.

There are some limitations to upgrading your RAM. Operating systems have a maximum supported amount of RAM. This varies from operating system versions, from year to year, as well as 32-bit versus 64-bit.

Your motherboard and CPU could also have a maximum amount of RAM.

RAM sticks come in different memory quantities as well and each slot in your computer may have a maximum, as well as an overall system maximum as well. A single stick of RAM can be 512mb or 8gb and anywhere in between.

RAM also comes in many types that can vary based on your specific motherboard. Upgrading your RAM can make your system run better, but there are many things to factor in when you upgrade your RAM.

So how much RAM do you need? It varies for everyone, but the more programs you use, the more RAM you need.

If you are buying a new computer for modern business, a minimum, of 8gb is strongly recommended and 16gb is even better. If you run many programs, especially things like graphic and video editing software, you may want more. If you are upgrading your current system RAM, similar rules apply.

Your tasks and usage dictate your needs; don’t be afraid to give yourself one of the best performance upgrades out there by adding more memory to your system.

What Are The Seven Basic Parts Of A Computer?

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

People usually notice performance issues in their computers after five to six years. When that starts to be the case, a hardware upgrade can be a real boost to both performance and the computer’s lifespan. Where do you even begin when upgrading a computer, though?

Even though their inner workings can seem complicated, computers are actually made up of a few key parts.

Core Upgradable Components – RAM
Random-access memory comes in small removable cards (or “sticks”) that are inserted into the computer’s motherboard. RAM modules usually come between two and four gigabytes each, used in sets of two.

In a computer, RAM holds the code and data actively used by the CPU. Every program you have open takes up a certain amount of space in RAM. For example, using an Internet browser with 8 tabs open takes about 1 gigabyte of RAM.

Using up 95-100% of RAM capacity will usually cause the computer to crash, so it’s something you want to avoid. Adding more RAM to a computer will allow the user to have more programs running at once.

Hard Drive
The hard disk drive (HDD) stores the operating system and all user files on several small disks, called platters, stacked on top of each other. They are read by a mobile arm, much like record players.

Hard drive performance is determined by how much data the manufacturer is able to fit on each platter (areal density) and how fast the platters spin (RPM). Usually, the only public number is the RPM, either 5400 or 7200. A 7200 RPM hard drive is about 30% faster than a 5400 RPM one.

If you want real performance though, you need a solid state drive (SSD). Solid state drives are five times faster than 7200 RPM hard drives. They just have a little less storage capacity and can be more expensive.

Graphics Card
The graphics processing unit (GPU) handles graphics and image processing. Most business computers don’t have one since they just use database or word-processing applications. However, if you use any graphics intensive programs like computer-aided design (CAD), computer-generated imagery (CGI), or digital content creation (DCC), you will see a massive performance boost after installing a graphics card.

Other Parts In A Computer – CPU
The Central Processing Unit is the core of the computer. Every action taken by the user or a program is processed one-by-one in a CPU thread. Modern CPUs have multiple cores so that it can have more threads running at once. Four cores are the standard amount now.

CPUs are the main source of low performance on older PCs, especially if they were bought for a fairly low price to begin with. However, changing a CPU often requires changing the motherboard as well. Therefore, it is not a cost effective solution versus buying a new computer.

The motherboard is a large circuit board that all other PC components connect to. It is basically the framework that turns all of those pieces into a working computer.

The case refers to the outer shell around all of the components. Most cases come with several cooling fans installed. The main thing to remember about cases is that the smaller the case, the hotter the computer will be.

Power Supply
A small box with its own fan that runs power cables to all of the other parts. More expensive computers usually come with better power supplies, which is a good thing considering the severe damage that can occur when a power supply fails.

How Your Old PC Is Costing You Money

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

We all know that electronics become outdated almost as fast as you can purchase them, but what if I told you that holding onto that six to ten-year-old machine could be costing you just as much money as upgrading to a newer model?

Just like with any technology, the parts get smaller, more efficient, cheaper to buy, and cheaper to run. It could cost you real money in several ways: machine downtime, a sudden replacement when it crashes, paying an employee to redo their work after a failure.

Additionally, if a machine is extremely slow, tasks can be unnecessarily drawn out while employees wait for the computer to respond.

Then consider energy efficiency. That computer from 2008 could be using a 300w power supply that isn’t very energy efficient. Add an older, larger processor that is power-hungry to the mix and that 300w power supply is working at half capacity at 60% efficiency.

The use of other hardware – like your DVD ROM drive, USB, and video cards – can pull more power too, raising electricity costs.

Most computer manufacturers today plan on customers upgrading their technology within 3-6 years to keep up pace with the ever-changing software industry. Let’s say that, six years ago, you built your own machine with an almost top of the line CPU, more RAM than you needed, and a nice, fast hard drive.

That same machine will now have trouble keeping up with a machine of lesser quality.

This is partly due to the way software coding has changed, but also how electronic architecture has improved. The processors have gotten smaller and take less power, but work harder, faster, and more efficiently.

This shift in technology efficiency directly translates into more money left in your business account due to your employees being able to work more efficiently.

You also have to factor in data security once computers stop accepting essential critical operating system updates due to the lack of storage space.

Or how about that new graphic design software or CAD software you need to run that you can’t install because you don’t have enough RAM or a 64 bit operating system?

Once you need the 64-bit operating system, your RAM should be upgraded to run the operating system more efficiently.

The upgrades needed for older machines can pile up quickly.

The above principles apply to your company servers as well. Maybe even more so because of the amount of work they do and the data they store. In a server, the hard drives never stop spinning, the processors never stop processing.

You may have purchased an $8,000 server for your business, but if it was 12 years ago, it’s probably doing you more harm than good now. That server could be costing you more money in service calls for the issues that pop up or frequent, disruptive power cycles.

When buying IT equipment for your business or personal use, you should never buy something that is “just enough.” Not because it can’t do it, but because it will work harder to do the work, using more power to do it.

Think of it like a truck: a small truck CAN pull that new camper you bought, but a bigger truck will pull it more safely while costing you less money in fuel in the long run.

How To Keep Your Computer Speedy As It Gets Older

Evan Schendel is a help desk specialist for Tech Experts.

As a computer ages, it inevitably becomes slower. Applications and files can slow down a PC as quickly as dated hardware or too much heat or dust can. Preventive maintenance is the first and most important step to keeping a computer running as swiftly as it did on day one.

Extraneous Files

A computer’s storage can only hold so much and leaving it to sit and rot – especially if you browse the Internet frequently – can slow the system down to a snail’s pace.

Simply by using the programs on a machine, a computer can amass files that, if not removed, can add up to multiple gigabytes of unused and unneeded data. These do, however, tend to clean themselves up in time.

Unused applications, however, can take up space and slow down a system. Keeping in mind what applications you do and don’t use, and deleting the latter, can really help a workstation run much faster.

Dated Hardware

Bar none, the hardware parts of a PC are the most important pieces of a system. After all, it’s the system itself.

So, what do you do when hard drives begin failing and other mechanical nightmares begin plaguing your workstation? Replacing a system is easier than upgrading pieces of it at a time, but what are the benefits of replacing over upgrading and vice versa?

A PC tends to last five to seven years if well-maintained, or three to four if left in disrepair. Replacing a computer every five years may be easier in the short term, but computers aren’t free and the costs can add up if you are replacing more than one system.

Upgrading pieces of the computer cost only the part, but you would end up having to replace it yourself or have another person do it for you.

Additionally, you may run into limitations on how much you can upgrade based on your other hardware’s or software’s compatibility.

Upkeep of these parts is also important, so keeping the hardware installed cool and free of dust will extend the lifespan of the workstation quite noticeably.


Malicious files are an obvious culprit when a computer is running slowly and, most of the time, it’s a fair assumption. There are any number of viruses that could slow a computer down drastically, but in turn, there are many programs that help defend against them too.

Suspicious links and files received in emails or from sites you should be dubious of can, and likely will, infect your computer. Steer clear of these sites and ensure all links you click on are trustworthy.

Certain applications also may contain trojans, which lurk in your system for an extended period of time, only to reveal themselves when a certain application or service runs. Other applications can help spot and remove these before they even have a chance to set in.

Many things can slow a computer down, but proper maintenance can keep it running like new for years. If you haven’t kept decent care of your computer and it’s running slowly, some of these causes, or even all, may be the reason, giving a starting base in fixing the issues at hand.

What Are The Signs Of A Failing Hard Drive?

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

As a network engineer by day, I can say that have seen a lot of hard drive problems and, if they’re not taken care of properly, they can cause a severe technical headache. It is important to notice the signs that are present to you and, fortunately, there’s several to note.

Sluggish performance of your workstation is one of the main issues. This can occur without warning and it can even seem like a virus or cause a blue screen of death (BSOD).

Another sign is your PC or workstation making clicking or grinding noises. This can cause a read failure to occur and cause the drive to be inaccessible, which in turn causes data loss. [Read more…]