Small Office File Sharing

When everyone in the office needs access to the same files and you are trying to avoid having multiple copies and versions of those files, things can get a little confusing.  Many companies think that you need a full-blown server or other expensive plans to accomplish this task.  In reality, there are a few options for this that are fairly simple, no cost or low cost, and won’t compromise security at the same time.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Rather than getting a server for several hundred or even thousands of dollars, you could use an existing computer to hold your files and map a drive to all users.
  • Use a “cloud service”
  • Network attached storage (ethernet or USB)

These ideas are very low cost, but the sharing is not concurrent.  This means that if I save my changes to a document and you have the same document open, you won’t see my changes and when you save your copy, my changes will be lost.  For most people, this isn’t a huge deal and with a little communication, you can keep this from being a problem.

If you have employees that are usually out of the office, you can set up a VPN (virtual private network) so they can access the files from anywhere if they have an internet connection for their computer.

While these solutions can help you share files more effectively, you still need to have a backup plan that protects you from hard drive failure and natural disaster or theft.

I know this article has been short, I only wanted to show that there are other options for file sharing rather than the traditional expensive server.  I would be happy to discuss your individual needs and make a recommendation for your company.

What is Defragging and do I need to do it?

When I am performing a tune-up on someone’s computer, they almost always ask me if I am going to defrag their computer.  This is a term many people have heard of but most don’t know what it is or why it should or shouldn’t be done.

The process of defrag is to fix all of the fragmented files on a spinning hard drive.  Each time you write to (save a file to) a hard drive, it places it in the same spot where it was saved before.  If the area is not big enough for the entire file, the rest of the file will be saved in the next available spot.  Over time, all of your files will be in pieces scattered across your hard drive.  This increases the time it takes to access these files. 

Fragmentation is usually not noticeable unless your hard drive is more than 75 percent full.  Regardless of how full your drive is, Windows is already regularly defragging your drive on a regular schedule unless defrag has been disabled or if your computer is not turned on when the defrag is scheduled.

I mentioned only spinning hard drives above, because solid state drives really don’t require defragging because they access your files in a different way and the fragments don’t affect the speed.  Solid state drives can only be written so many times before they fail, so unnecessary defragging could shorten the life of solid state drives.

Although this has been an overly simplified explanation, I hope this has given you a better understanding of defragging.  If you have other questions about this, or need help determining if defrag is indeed scheduled on your computer, I can help with that.

What to do when Microsoft calls…

This has come up a couple of times lately with my customers.  They receive a phone call from someone who claims to be from Microsoft.  This person tells them that there is a problem with their Windows installation on their computer and they need to log in and fix it.

This is what is known as a phishing scam.  Most of the time the person that is called hangs up on the caller; but every so often, they find someone who will listen and follow their instructions.  They will then gain control of this person’s computer and wreak havoc on the machine.  I have heard stories of people paying these scammers hundreds of dollars to “fix” their computer.

These scammers are very convincing, and they will not take no for an answer.  They will continue to demand that you let them fix your computer.  The only way to shut them up is to hang up the phone; even then they will probably call back in the future.  I was at a customer’s house when they received one of these calls, so I got on the phone with the scammer.  I told him that I was the Tech for these people, and I knew he was a scam.  I also told him that Microsoft does not make these types of calls and there was nothing wrong with this computer.  He still would not break from his script to attempt to gain control.  I finally hung up on him.

Here are the facts about Microsoft.  They do not know your phone number.  They cannot monitor the Windows installation of every computer.  They will not call you unless you have called them, and you are in the middle of working with them on a solution to a problem you know you have. 

This also goes for Dell, HP, Toshiba, and any other computer manufacturer.  My dad did find a way to stop them recently when they called him.  He told them they were mistaken because he doesn’t have a computer.  They did not have an argument for that one.

Remember, if you receive a call from any company that you did not call first and they try to get information or access, hang up the phone and call that company at a number that is published for that company.  If you have allowed a company access to your computer and they damaged it or you think they may have added some type of spyware on it, call me.  I have recovered systems that have been damaged by these scammers and I can help you too.

So, How Many Extensions Does Your Browser Need?

This blog post is a remake of one I did years ago titled “So, How Many Tool Bars Do You Need?” Since Internet Explorer is dead and gone, there is a new threat to browsing, toolbars are no more, but extensions have replaced them.

When I have a customer tell me that their internet is running slow, the first thing I do is check to see how many extensions their browsers have. I have seen some with more than 10 extensions. The biggest problem with these extensions is that they use up your memory and can act as browser hackers and can cause damage to your system or even track your keystrokes or gather your sensitive information. Some of these will redirect you to their websites and create pop-ups and pop-unders.

These are usually downloaded when you try to download something else and you don’t find the real site for your download. Examples that I see a lot are package tracking and maps. When you go to track a package, make sure you are on the carrier’s site and not some generic tracker. Also, with maps make sure you are on Google maps, Mapquest or a real map site.

Some extensions are extremely helpful and make your internet experience better. I use the Webroot extension which helps when searching by telling me if a site in the search is potentially dangerous. I also use WikiBuy which saves me money on internet purchases by finding the best deal. Many people use Grammarly to ensure proper grammar in their gmail.

How do you know if you have extensions? They are visible on the top right side of your browser, see example below.

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

The extensions are the green checkmark over to the W. I have only three on my browser.

How do I get rid of the extensions that I don’t want? I created a how-to video to show you how to remove these, it was easier than a long description and many pictures. Here is the link. Remove Extensions

Computer Updates How important are they really?

We have all seen the annoying pop ups that tell us that Windows, Java, Adobe, iTunes, or some other important program needs to install an update.  They always seem to happen at the worst time. 

But are they really necessary?  That depends on which updates you are talking about from which applications.  Some are very important to the workings or security of your computer while others will only affect the quality or some other aspect of your computing experience.  Let’s look at the major updates that you will be prompted to install.

Windows updates: When you get the notice from Windows, they usually list the number of updates and then they break it down into critical and other.  Of course, you want to install the critical updates but look at the others; they might be for items that you don’t use or need.  If that is the case, there is no reason to download those updates.  It won’t hurt your computer to install them but why waste the time and storage space if they are not necessary or even used?  Failure to install the critical updates can sometimes leave your computer vulnerable to attacks that have been discovered; besides, they usually correct some glitch that has been a problem. Windows also has VERSION UPDATES, These come out twice a year and are a major update that can change the look and feel of Windows, and might have new features. I tell people to wait a few months before installing these. They often have glitches that can cause damage to your system. It is best to wait until these glitches have been fixed.

Java updates: According to a message displayed on their downloads, Java runs the things that run your life.  It is used in almost every type of electronic gadget.  Unless you have a situation like a friend of mine who can’t update her Java because her work requires her to connect to a server that has an older version and they won’t update it, you should install the Java updates.  If you don’t install these updates, eventually you will begin to have internet problems and possibly not be able to use the internet at all.  These updates don’t usually take very long, and you can continue to work while they install in the background.  One thing to be careful of with Java and a few other updates is adding on extras.  I have seen Java updates that want you to install the toolbar or Mcafee virus protection.  You don’t need more toolbars (they just slow you down) and it isn’t good to have more than one Anti-virus running, this can also slow you down.  Read the install page carefully and uncheck the boxes if you don’t want their extras. Java is slowly fazing out, so if you have a new machine, you might not have Java installed and will not have to worry about these.

Adobe updates: There are two major kinds of updates by Adobe, Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader.  Adobe Flash updates will help you view videos and other animations online.  These are usually important and sometimes you won’t be able to access a site unless you update flash.  Adobe Reader is used for viewing PDF files online and offline.  It doesn’t update very often but it is usually necessary to accept these updates also.

Apple:  There are two kinds of Apple updates, QuickTime and iTunes.  QuickTime deals with video and other animations so these are important to update.  iTunes updates usually take a long time and are very large.  I usually wait until iTunes forces me to update.  A better idea would be to update at the end of the day or if you know you will be away from your computer for awhile.

Other updates: Most printer companies and a lot of other software companies ask you to sign up for updates when you install their programs.  For all of these it comes down to how much you use the program and how sophisticated the software is.  If you do sign up for the updates you can still cancel them when they prompt you to update.  If the updates can run in the background or they don’t take too long it would probably be a good idea to install them.

Has Your Computer Been Infected With Adware?

I get this question a lot. Here is what I tell people.

What to look for if you think your computer has been infected with adware:

All of a sudden, your computer is running very slow and your web browser (Edge, Google Chrome or Firefox) won’t load or takes a very long time.  Once your browser does load the familiar home page has been replaced by a different page and the search bar doesn’t say Google or Bing but some new search company.  There are also annoying pop-ups all over your pages.

Yes, your computer has been infected, but where did it come from?  Most likely you went to an unfamiliar website and it told you that you need something installed to run the video or some other element of their page.  If this happens, be very careful what you click on.  They sometimes use icons that look similar to the big names like Adobe.  If they want you to install “flash player” it might be their product not Adobe’s.  Don’t follow their link, instead close the page and go to and download the real thing.  After you install it, go back to the same website, if it still tells you that you need their “flash player”, find another website to view whatever it is that you want to view.

This is one way these deceptive advertisers gain entry into your computer.  The purpose is to force you to use their search engine which gives them higher rankings and they can charge more for advertising.  They also open the door to others that want to give you more pop-ups and other unnecessary programs.  They also might include programs that keep track of your keystrokes in hopes of stealing your SSI# or banking information.

How to protect yourself:

Pay attention to your homepage (the page that loads every time you open your web browser).  If it changes without your knowledge, your system has been compromised.

If you try to go to a specific website and you are redirected somewhere else, your system might be compromised.

If you notice advertising where you didn’t see any before, your system might be compromised.

If you notice any of these things happening to your computer, you need to act quickly to prevent more damage.  The programs that have been installed need to be removed, but they hide in other places also.  The best thing to do is call me and I will remove all traces of these damaging programs.

A Few Recent Scams that I Heard About

As time goes by there are more scams designed to take your money. In just the past couple weeks, I have seen all of these. Please share these with everyone, especially anyone that would be vulnerable to the scams.

  1. Tampered Bank Account – People are receiving emails from Bank of America and other large banks telling them that due to recent suspicious activity their account has been frozen, and they need to login here to correct it. Many times, these people don’t even have an account with the bank, and they become concerned and follow the link, or if they do have an account, they think this is legitimate and follow the link. Some of these links can be keyloggers that will then infect your computer and keep track of your passwords etc. At the very least these links are to a page that looks like your bank, but it is not. It is just a page to capture your username and password. If you receive an email like his from a bank that you use, contact the bank through some other means. Call them on a number you have elsewhere or google the bank.  If you do not have an account with this bank, you can call them and verify that they do not have an account in your name, but NEVER FOLLOW THE LINK IN THE EMAIL.  This scam also works with Amazon, Ebay and other retailers.
  2. E-mailing for Cash – My wife recently received an e-mail from a former co-worker’s e-mail account that said she was traveling with her husband and they had some trouble and lost everything they had and needed $2500 to get home.  Of course, my wife did not believe this since this former co-worker is not the type of person to travel like this and the text of the e-mail did not sound like something this person would write.  She sent an e-mail to this person but didn’t reply to the e-mail that she had received.  Sure enough her former co-worker wasn’t traveling and knew nothing about this except that she had received a few similar e-mails asking her about her travel situation.
  3. An elderly friend recently received a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild and said they had gotten into trouble in Mexico and needed $1500 for bail money.  This person became confused and did send the money before they checked with this “grandchild’s” parents to verify the story.  They did get taken and so do many other seniors by this scam.
  4. Phone scams are very popular, I frequently get robocalls from a number that claims to be my utility company telling me that due to no payment my service will be cutoff in 30 minutes unless I pay now over the phone. Since I always pay this bill, I know this is fake and I just hang up. If you get a call like this and you are not sure if your bill is paid, hang up and contact your utility company through a published number. Please know hat your utility company normally doesn’t call you, they will send you a letter. The IRS, Social Security or your local sheriff or police department will not call you and demand money over the phone.
  5. I have also heard of people setting up a fake Facebook page impersonating someone who has many friends and trying to add the person’s friends to the new account for the purpose of exploiting those friends in the future.  If you get a friend request from someone who is already a friend, contact that person another way to verify if the request came from them.

These bring up an important point about Phishing scams; they send out thousands of e-mails and constantly make phone calls looking for their victims.  Make sure your loved ones are aware of these types of scams and make sure you always check with a known source if you receive an e-mail, phone call or request similar to these.

6 Signs You’ll Need To Replace Your Laptop

1. Your OS Won’t Upgrade to the Latest Version

When your laptop isn’t able to upgrade to the newest operating system, it’s because it has outdated parts, that won’t be able to handle the requirements of the new OS. It’s time to save everything important on your machine and move onto a new one. Laptops can last 5,6, even 8 years, but then it’s time to move on.

2. Your Machine Frequently Crashes

If your machine crashes multiple times a month, run a virus scan and a software diagnosis to look for a software issue or a malware problem. Sometimes you just need to update the software that’s causing the crashes, or take care of the malware that’s causing the trouble. In case the latest versions of the software are not compatible with your laptop’s specs, you should replace your laptop in order to avoid more crashes and the chance to keep losing your work.

3. The Laptop Battery Won’t Charge or Dies Quickly

A laptop’s original battery may last 4-5 years. After that, you can replace the battery, but it will not be a successful method forever. If your laptop battery is experiencing charging or other power issues, then the problem could be your laptop. When the replacement battery models are being discontinued by the manufacturer, that’s usually the sign of you need a new laptop.

4. The Screen Gets Damaged

Laptop screens can’t be replaced easily. Once the screen is damaged, then most likely the entire laptop will have to be replaced. You could still use the laptop with an external monitor, but that would nix the portability of your machine, which most of the time the best feature of a laptop. It’s a great solution to save your files before you move onto your new laptop.

5. Clicking Noises Coming from the Hard Drive

Any weird noises coming from inside the machine are signs that your laptop might be nearing the end of its life. Clicking noises are usually a sign that the hard drive is failing. You should back up your files right away and go to a repair shop. 

6. Your Laptop Overheats

Overheating is a sign that the fan inside your laptop isn’t working properly or stopped working overall. Fans are difficult to replace, so depending of your laptop’s make and model and the pricetag of the part and work, you might be better of shopping for a new laptop.

If you need help determining if your device can be saved, or it’s really time to buy your new laptop, call me at (720) 219-6720, I service the greater Denver area. Duane McHodgkins, owner and technician at Duane’s Reliable Computer Services