Why do I have two different wifi connections?

I was at a customer recently and they had a router that broadcasts both the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz frequencies. The router had been set up with the 5.0 being named for their company and the 2.4 was named guest. Each had a different password. They also told me that their printer could not see their wifi but could see their guest network. Even though the printer was on the guest network one of the computers on their network could print to it.

They had recently switched to a new internet service provider and the new company just shipped them a new modem/router and gave them basic instructions on how to get it online. When they saw that there were two frequencies, they assumed it was two separate networks, so they named the 2.4 to guest because they figured the higher number was the better network for their business.

Based on this interaction and the many questions I have received about this I decided to completely explain the difference and how to best use your wifi if you have both frequencies. Th first thing to know is that they are not two separate networks but two different connections to the same network. It is kind of like taking a winding road or a straight road that both take you to the same place.

A 2.4 GHz connection travels farther at lower speeds, while 5 GHz frequencies provide faster speeds at shorter range. So, in your home or office it is helpful to have both. In many home situations the 5.0 GHz connection is used for gaming since these computers and consoles are usually stationary and probably set up near the router. If that is the case the 5.0 GHz connection will be faster which is needed for gaming. But if your gaming machine is not close to your router you might want to use the 2.4 GHz connection to ensure you won’t drop the signal.

When setting up the wifi on phones and laptops I usually tell people to connect to both networks and save the password on each so that as they move around their home or office, they will get the strongest signal at the time and place where they currently are. If you use your wifi on a patio or in your yard you will most likely want to use the 2.4GHz for this since it travels farther.

Now let’s address why their printer didn’t show up on their 5.0 GHz network. Many older components and also many smart devices only see the 2.4 GHz networks. Since these devices don’t need the higher speed and are always stationary, they don’t add the 5.0 GHz capability which probably saves them a few dollars per unit when they are manufactured. Hopefully they pass some of this onto the consumer.

Last year I was setting up a mesh wifi system for a church and they had a number of thermostats throughout that were all managed by a phone app, so they needed to connect to the wifi. While I was setting up their router and mesh system there was a setting that allowed me to combine both the 2.4 GHz and the 5.0 GHz into a single connection. I thought that might avoid confusion in the church about which one to connect to but the combined signal with both frequencies could not be seen by those thermostats, so I had to go back and remove that setting and list both frequencies separately.

I mentioned guest networks in the first paragraph but didn’t really explain them. A true guest network is just a tunnel out to the internet. When someone connects to your guest network, they cannot see your computers or printers. Usually, they can’t even see other computers that are connected to the guest network. This is very important for companies, so their computers are not compromised by hackers through their guest network. Most routers come with a guest network that can be turned on to keep guests’ connections walled off from your network.

If you are not sure if your guest network is separate from your main network or if you need any other help with your wifi network, let me know. I have helped many individuals and companies fix their networks by adding guest networks and expanding the networks with mesh wifi systems.

Think you will understand better if you watch a video? Here is a video version.

Your Current Operating System is No Longer Supported. Please Upgrade Your System or Replace It with a Newer Model.

Whether you use a Mac, or a PC you could get a message similar to this and after that your computer might not run properly and over time many applications might not work. The first question is “why is this happening?” Followed by “What can I do about it?”

Why is this happening? All computer makers are continuously in a battle with hackers that are trying to find vulnerabilities in their systems. This is also why you constantly receive updates. When these vulnerabilities are discovered the operating system (OS) maker creates a software patch to improve the weak area of their software. At the same time these OS makers are trying to enhance the user experience of their OS. Eventually they can no longer keep patching the software and need to replace it with a stronger version. They also must keep up with newer hardware components, so they need to keep these in mind when making the changes. 

Once the software maker realizes they can’t keep up with fixing the holes in their current software, they create a newer version. When this happens the newer version may have capabilities that require a certain processor speed or memory amount that older systems don’t have. These companies decide that they can no longer protect the older systems since they have moved their resources (employees that create the patches) to protecting the newer systems. It always comes down to money. There have been very large companies that have paid these OS makers to continue to support their computers because they have too many of the older systems to be able to quickly replace all of them. But since the rest of us are not paying for this service, our older machines will eventually fall to the side and become obsolete.

What can I do about it? Regardless of the type of system you have; it is important to keep up with these updates and accept it when they roll out a new version (maybe not immediately, but within a few months). By always running the newest version you are keeping your system safer, and you can take advantage of any new features that come out. If you are not sure if you are on the latest version here is how to check. 

On a Windows computer, right click on the start button and choose System. On a Mac computer click on the apple and then about. This will show you the windows or OS version.

Even if you keep your device on the latest and greatest version you may eventually get to a point where your computer will no longer accept the updates due to not having the proper processor speed or not enough memory. If this happens you need to seriously consider getting a new computer since you have probably had your current one for many years. You might be pleasantly surprised at the increase in speed, picture quality and other improvements that a new system can provide.

I have seen many smaller companies and even individuals that are running an older version of software and don’t want to have to purchase a new version since the current one suits their needs. This could be one reason to keep your old system and use it just for this one application. I would not keep using this computer for anything financial or even to go onto the internet. Many times, the older software might run on the newer OS but sometimes it might not. If you do plan to only use this computer for software like this just know that if (when) your computer dies you will then be without this program so you might start looking for a contingency plan in case something happens.

Recovery For Your Computer in Case It Won’t Start

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I get a lot of calls from people when they run an update and now, they can’t boot up their computer.  This isn’t exclusive to just PCs, it also happens to MACs. There is nothing worse than turning your computer on and your system just sits there spinning or the line never finishes going across the screen. While there is nothing you can do to prevent this, there are things you can do to help restore your system when it happens.

If you have a MacBook, you need to make sure that you have a good Time Machine backup before running any major updates. The best thing is to make sure you always have a current backup that way you can always restore from it if you run into this type of issue. If you don’t know how to set up your Time Machine backup, call me, I can walk you through it.

If you have a PC, there are a few ways to protect yourself.

  1. Make sure System Restore is active on your computer. Here is a video that shows how to make sure it is on – I used this on a laptop recently and had it running again in about 15 minutes.
  2. Have a current backup of all files. I recommend an online backup. Here is my favorite one –   I can help you get this set up if needed.
  3. If you have proprietary software or software that is difficult to reinstall it is a good idea to have a system image backed up onto an external drive. With this you can get back to this complete system by restoring this after reinstalling Windows. It can save a lot of time re-doing settings and other time-consuming set up of your software. This is a little involved, but I do offer this service and can set it up for you.

While using these to restore your computer may not be immediate, it will help you keep all of your data, programs, and settings and save you hours of tweaking things to get them back to the way they were. If you need help with recovering your system let me know, or if you want to put these things in place to minimize your downtime if this happens, I can help with that also.

Why is my computer so slow?

This is a question that I get almost on a daily basis. There is no simple answer to that question. It really depends on a lot of factors in your computer. Some of these factors can be changed and improved, but some are just the way it is, and it might be time to buy a new computer.

Here are some of the causes that can be changed and improved:

☑️ Malware on your computer can cause it to run slow. This is usually where I start since this can also cause you a lot of other trouble if the malware is malicious and intended to damage your computer or steal your information.

☑️ Unnecessary programs running in the background can use up precious resources. Many programs think they need to be preloaded into memory when you start your computer. Sometimes they do need this to run properly, but many do not. By limiting the programs that pre-load, you can greatly improve your computer’s performance.

☑️ Lack of memory can limit the number of programs you can run at a single time making your computer run very slow when you max out the memory available. The minimum required memory for Windows 10 or 11 is only 4 GB. If your computer only has this amount, you will quickly max out the memory and run into problems. For minimal use, I suggest 8 GB and for normal to heavy use I recommend 16 GB or more. Memory is fairly inexpensive and can easily be added to most computers. There are some low budget laptops that come with the memory already soldered onto the motherboard and those cannot be upgraded, also every motherboard has a maximum amount of memory that they support.

☑️ Hard drive degradation can also cause your computer to slow down. When a hard drive starts to fail it will run very slow sometimes and normal at other times. As it gets closer to failing it will be slower more often. If it is caught in time, I can clone your drive onto a new drive and bring your very slow computer back to almost new running condition. This is also fairly inexpensive compared to replacing the entire computer.

The main thing that is not able to be improved on a computer is the processor. On laptops the processor is actually built into the motherboard, so it is impossible to replace it. In desktops it is possible but hard to find processors that will be compatible with older motherboards. If you have a slow or outdated processor the only option is to replace the computer and make sure you get one with a better processor.

How do you know if a processor is good? The easiest way is to contact me when you are thinking about a new computer. I can help you find one that will fit your needs without buying too much computer. This is a service I offer, and I have helped many people find just the right computer for their needs.

If your computer is running slow, set up an appointment with me and I will evaluate your computer, clean it up and help you decide the best course of action to improve your computing speed. I recently did a video discussing this.

Danger – Electricity

Too much electric current can destroy any electronic if it hits it. Computers, routers, printers, and other similar items are especially vulnerable to this due to the electronic boards inside them. During lightning season, this is especially important. This is the main reason to use surge protectors for all of these types of electronics. The purpose of the surge protector is to stop that surge from reaching your components.

Surge protectors have a fuse inside that will break the connection to the connected devices if it is too powerful. That means you only have to replace the surge protector and not all of the devices connected to it. This is great since most surge protectors are less than $100 and most devices connected to them are many times more expensive.

There is also another benefit to surge protectors. Some come with a certain amount of insurance for the items connected to the surge if it fails to protect them. To find one with this insurance you can look on the packaging or google “surge protector with insurance” I found an APC model on Amazon that has 11 outlets on it and offers $250,000 in insurance for connected devices and it only cost $42.99. Make sure you read all of the fine print, but this is just another reason to always make sure you use a surge protector. Yes, your homeowner’s or renter’s policy would probably cover this as well, but these policies also have a deductible that you must pay.

Most people do have a surge protector on their desktop computers since they never move them, and they are always plugged in. But people often forget to plug their laptops into a surge protector since they normally take it with them. Many people just connect it to the nearest outlet. If you carry your laptop around and you are in the habit of just plugging it straight into the wall, consider getting a small surge protector and keeping it in your bag with your laptop. It could save you a very big expensive headache.

Another great idea is to unplug all devices if there is a nearby electrical storm. Even though the surge should protect your components, why should you take that chance if there is a high potential for a surge in the area. If you are going on vacation and will be away for a week or longer why not unplug all components also. It only takes a minute and might save you from the hassle of replacing things when you get back.

Top 10 ways to get a virus or malware on your computer.

Many times, it is your online behavior that allows viruses and malware to infest your computer.  Here is a list of things that you might be doing that can increase your chances of getting a virus or malware.

10. You visit recipe sites and allow the site to install their “print manager”. It only takes a few seconds to copy the recipe into a word document. Then you can save it or print it.

9. You click on links offering free music.  I had a customer try this and he got a pop up that said, “I just stole your sound”, I had to find new drivers to get his speakers working again.

8. You click on the first result in your search even though it clearly says it is an ad.  Many times, the first result, or the first few results in any search are ads. Usually, they have nothing to do with the company you are looking for. These can easily give you browser hackers.

7. In search results you pay attention to the heading and not the URL above it. The heading can be anything the website owner wants it to be. The URL is their actual website. If it doesn’t match what you are looking for, try another link.

6.  You install software using the Express “Recommended” option rather than the Custom “Advanced” option. In reality the custom option will only ask you a few questions and allow you to say no to extra junk.

5. You allow your young children to use your profile which is an administrator when they play their online games. You can easily set up a standard user for them so they can’t install junk.

4. You follow any links that you get in unsolicited emails. Curiosity killed the cat, and it will kill your computer also.

3. You use a free version of anti-virus. Many times, while I am adding a paid anti-virus to a computer it will find malware in the initial scan that the free version never found. With anti-virus, you always get what you paid for so if you paid nothing, you would get nothing.

2. You always play the goofy games on Facebook to find out, for example, what kind of car best suits you. Many times, these “games” are only wanting to use your information to try and sell you something or worse.

And the number one way to get a virus or malware on your computer – You click on the first “download” button you see rather than reading that this button is actually part of an ad.

If you don’t understand any of these items, I would be happy to explain further. Or you can watch this Youtube video

I also have a subscription newsletter that covers things like this on a monthly basis. If you know someone that is vulnerable to scams this would be a great resource for them. If interested here is a link to subscribe to it.

Safe Surfing While Traveling or Working from a Public Place

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Summertime and the living is easy… Except many of us keep working even on vacation. Even if we don’t work, we still lug our laptops along and check email or other things. When we work from home, we are working on a fairly secure network. It has some type of encryption and a password. We don’t normally give this password out to very many people so that limits the possible people that could be on it.

This isn’t the case when traveling or even when you are down at your local coffee shop. Many public wifi systems don’t have a password and the ones that do usually have that password posted on the wall for all to see and use. In the coffee shop it is fairly obvious who is on the wifi, you can see all of the other customers sitting at tables with their computers open. When you are sitting in your hotel room, it isn’t so obvious, and you might even feel safer since you can’t see anyone else on their devices. Since you can’t see who else is on this network, you should be very concerned. Who knows what anyone could be doing in their room? With no one watching them they could be using some hi-tech equipment and watching your every move.

So how can you protect yourself when you are on public wifi? You need to add a software VPN. They are not very expensive, and they are fairly easy to set up. In fact, some anti-virus software comes with a VPN built in, you only need to turn it on. When you get onto an open or public wifi system you should immediately turn on your VPN. This will shield your computer from those on the same network that want to snoop on your computer.

Years ago, I had a customer that was retiring, and his goal was to spend months at a time in South American countries. His fear was sitting in an internet café and someone stealing his banking info. We set up a VPN for him and he made several trips and never had an issue.

If you want a recommendation for a VPN, please reach out to me, I have experience with a few and can help you get it set up. If this article was too long and you didn’t read it, (TLDR) here is a link to my YouTube channel where I discuss the same thing.

While you are on my channel, please subscribe so you won’t miss any of the videos that I post.

Bringing New Life to Old Computers

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Something that I am constantly working on is slow computers. I regularly get calls from people saying, “my computer is very slow, is there a way to speed it up or do I need a new one?” My answer is always “well, that depends.” As long as the processor isn’t ancient or low powered (kind of like a car engine – like the 3-cylinder models from a few decades ago) we can probably make it faster.

I usually ask them to get me information about the processor, memory and storage capacity of their computer and based on that information I can tell them if it can be upgraded or not. The upgrade that I am talking about is cloning their existing drive onto a new solid-state drive (SSD). Traditional hard drives are a number of discs stacked on top of each other and they run at about 6000 revolutions per minute. After a number of years these discs can get corrupt, and the response time gets worse as the corruption grows.

I recently worked on a computer that would take about 15 minutes from hitting the power button until you could actually work on the computer and even then, it was still sluggish. After about 45 minutes this computer would finally start moving normally. I tried to tune up the computer by scanning for malware, optimizing the memory and removing any unnecessary programs that could slow it down but none of that helped. Looking at the processor I found that it was a fairly current and a fairly fast processor, so this was a good candidate for cloning the drive.

I took the laptop home with me and removed the hard drive and loaded it into a dock connected to my computer; I also loaded a new SSD into the dock. The process of cloning takes an exact copy of the old drive and places it onto the new SSD. When the process was finished, I installed the new SSD into the laptop and turned it on. The bootup which was taking more than 15 minutes completed in less than a minute and I was able to log in and start working on the laptop right away.

The difference is really this dramatic. In addition, the cost is only a fraction of the cost of a new machine, so this upgrade is usually a no-brainer. I have done this for many people that were reluctant to give up their computer for fear they wouldn’t get it back for many days, but I normally run this cloning overnight and get it back to the owner the next morning. 

If you are contemplating whether or not to get a new computer, give me a call and we can discuss this as a possible way to get a lot more life out of your current machine.

How to Extend the Life of Your Laptop Battery

Laptop use has steadily increased since they were first created and today there are many more laptops sold than desktops. According to an article on makeuseof.com – “In 2019, desktop sales totaled 88.4 million units compared to 166 million laptops. That gap is expected to grow to 79 million versus 171 million by 2023.” We all know that laptops are much more convenient than desktops due to the portability of laptops. Add to this the fact that some advertise their batteries will last more than a dozen hours before needing a charge and the number of people getting laptops is no surprise.

Even though most of us purchase laptops, many of us still use them like desktops and this can reduce the life of the battery and in some cases cause damage to the laptop. Laptops were made to be very portable, so it isn’t necessary to always be plugged in to power. In fact, if you always leave it plugged in you are definitely doing a disservice to your laptop and could be causing damage.

If you have a laptop and almost always use it at your desk, you should unplug it occasionally and allow the battery to drain. This will keep the battery from failing or losing its length of charge. I usually recommend charging it to 100 percent or close to it and then unplugging it and allowing it to completely die or at least get below ten percent before plugging it back in. When you keep it plugged-in all the time the battery will become damaged and won’t hold a full charge and sometimes won’t hold any charge.  

Occasionally I see laptops that start to have a bulge from the battery expanding due to always being plugged in. I worked on a Macbook that the entire bottom was beginning to pop off of the laptop. I removed the screws that hadn’t popped yet and when I removed the bottom the laptop swelled even more. It took me over half an hour to safely remove the battery without damaging other components. I believe this laptop was in danger of the battery exploding. See below. The silver battery is expanding and broke out of the plastic that encased it. The black plastic should be flat and even with the laptop frame.

I recently did a video about battery life and went into further explanation you can see it here or in the embed below.

National Backup My Computer Day

Yes, this is actually a thing. I guess there is a day for everything anymore. March 31st was National Backup Your Computer Day, so I decided to give some insight into what is a backup and what isn’t. Many people use OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox and think they have a backup. In one sense this will help you recover your files if your computer dies or is stolen, but it isn’t a true backup. It is a sync.

With a sync, the cloud service keeps an exact copy of your documents and each time you make a change on your device it will change in the cloud. For the most part, this is great except for a couple instances:

  1. If you have the sync turned on and you delete your computer copy, it will also delete your cloud copy. Years ago, I had a customer that used Dropbox to share documents with employees and she figured this was also a great way to back it up. One day she had to fire an employee that had access to this cloud, so she got the employee’s computer and proceeded to delete the drop box from it. This also deleted all files stored in the cloud version of her Dropbox. Luckily, she figured it out fairly quick and Dropbox was able to help her restore the files. If she had signed out of the drop box on the employee’s computer first, this would not have happened.
  2. If you get ransomware and it encrypts your file, it will also encrypt your cloud. With a true backup each time there is a change to a file it saves it in addition to the old copy of the file. This can be helpful in catastrophic ransomware issues or if you simply overwrite a file. I got a call one day because a customer could not open any files on his computer. Upon further discussion I learned that when he tried to open a file, he would get a pop up telling him how to purchase the “key” to fix this situation. It would only cost about $800 to purchase the key. He had opened a file that looked like it came from FedEx and it had encrypted his entire computer. Since he was connected to their server, I told him to immediately disconnect from the internet and also to disconnect the server from the internet. When I got to his office, I first checked the server and the virus had already infected about 20% of the files on the server. Luckily, this company had a true backup, and I was able to retrieve all of the infected files. If they were using one of the sync clouds, they would not have been able to recover their files.

When you have a true back up, the process is different. It is a one-way process, not a sync. It also keeps previous versions. It is like putting all of your files in a box and sealing it up and then putting it on a shelf. Then you make a few changes and those get put in another box and also get put on the shelf. The boxes don’t care if you delete a file or change a file the previous boxes are unaffected, but the changes will be in a new box on the shelf. Later on, if there is an issue with a file or many files you can go to a previous box and retrieve the files.

There are also a few kinds of backups. Most work like the cloud services where they charge a certain amount of money for a certain amount of backup storage. If you go over the limit you have to pay more. The one I recommend does it a little different. They charge by the computer, a fixed dollar amount regardless of how much you are backing up. I had a customer with two external drives connected to her computer. They were each 4 TB and my backup didn’t care as long as it was attached to this computer.

Watch this video I made about this:

If you want more information about this backup solution, you can call me or just use this link to get it for yourself.