Why Are My Personal Documents on My Employee’s Computer?

As scary as this sounds, I have had this question from many small business owners. Usually, it happens for one of two reasons. They either used their personal Microsoft account to set up an employee’s computer or they used their personal Microsoft Office 365 subscription for their employee’s office applications. Either way you can end up with all of your stuff, no matter how confidential it is, on other computers.

I know Microsoft doesn’t make it easy to set up computers for your employees since they mostly require a Microsoft account to complete set up and you may not have a Microsoft account for the employee yet. I also know it can be a major expense to add Microsoft office onto their computers. But, most small business owners don’t realize they are sharing all of their information when they use their accounts.

When you sign into a new computer with your Microsoft account it will copy everything from your current computer that is in Microsoft Edge and Microsoft OneDrive. So, if you use Edge and save your passwords there you will inadvertently copy them all to your employee’s new computer. This can also include saved credit card numbers and bank logins. If you use OneDrive everything from your Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders will also sync to this new computer. Even if you can get past the required Microsoft account on setup you can still end up with all of your info on this new computer if you share one of your 5 copies of MS Office Family.

So how can you safely set up a computer without sharing your entire personal life with your crew? For enterprise sized businesses there is the option to use MS Azure and the employee’s email account as the business Microsoft account. But very small businesses usually don’t have this as an option since it can get very expensive. Rather than using your personal copy of Office365, you can share a copy with their Microsoft account. If they don’t have one, you can easily create one.

If you are not sure how to do this, it is probably best to call someone like me to assist with this. I can help you find the most economical way to set up the computer for your employees to use and keep all of your personal information from ending up on their machine.

Windows 10 End of Support

In January of 2025 Microsoft will end their general support for Windows 10. This means that after next January, any computers still running Windows 10 will not receive security updates any longer. Due to this, those computers will be more vulnerable to internet attacks since new security issues found will not be addressed in those computers by getting updates. Over time, you will not be able to access certain sites and eventually your browsers will quit working.

None of this will happen immediately and I know there are still people using Windows 7 which has not been supported for years. But if your Windows 10 computer is used for any financial or secure connections, upgrading is a great idea. So, if you are still using Windows 10, it is time to start planning to switch to Windows 11 if your computer will allow it. If that isn’t possible you should start considering getting a new computer.

If you are not sure what version of Windows you have it is easy to tell between Windows 10 and Windows 11. In Windows 10 the start button is four white squares and in Windows 11, the start button is four blue squares.

If you are on Windows 10, click on the start button and then click on the settings menu. Once that opens, click on Updates and it should list if your computer can upgrade to Windows 11. If not, give me a call, sometimes you just need to change a couple settings to be able to upgrade to Windows 11. I can tell you in a few minutes if that is the case or if you need to get a new computer.

If you discover that you do need a new computer, I can help you find one that is powerful enough to handle all of your needs while staying affordable for your budget. I can also help you set up the new machine and migrate all of your data from the old one.

One big question I always get asked is why does this happen? As the “war” between Microsoft software engineers and the bad guys continues, Microsoft has to keep making patches for every version of their operating system that is out there. When you consider that they create new sub versions, usually three times per year, there can be quite a few versions they need to make patches for. For this reason, they make a cutoff date so they can keep the number of versions down to a manageable size. These versions are necessary since there is a steady stream of new and faster hardware being made all the time and Microsoft needs to have software that can take full advantage of those improvements.

I have only mentioned Microsoft because they still have the majority of the market, but Apple does the same thing, it just isn’t reported as loudly. I run into people all the time that have MacBooks that no longer get updates and begin to lose functionality. This is all part of the computer world. The same goes for all cell phones and tablets too.

One extra benefit to upgrading, I recently had a customer that was having trouble with her Microsoft Office, and we ended up uninstalling it to fix the problem. Once it was uninstalled there was an error that kept us from reinstalling it. I upgraded her computer from Windows 10 to Windows 11 and then I was able to install Office again. A new operating system can solve old issues sometimes.

Windows Phone Link Phone Application

One feature that many people really like and always mention when talking about Apple devices is the fact that they connect together and allow you to share files with ease and even answer your phone or text messages on your computer. As an avid PC user, I can see how this would be handy.

For Windows 11 Microsoft has added a new feature. It is called PhoneLink. If you turn this feature on you can connect your Android phone or iPhone to your Windows 11 computer. You can share files, answer text messages and phone calls from your computer and even use your phone’s apps while on your computer. You can also see all of your notifications in the window of PhoneLink and access all of your phone’s pictures.

I recently enabled this feature on my desktop computer in my office. Being able to respond to texts from my computer is much easier. I can even copy links from my browser right into my text messages or take links from a text message and pop it into my browser. I wish I had not fought this. I was aware of this months before I actually added it. I usually don’t jump into new applications; I wait for the bugs to be worked out first.

I am just beginning to see all of the uses for this, and it is really saving me time. For someone who works in an office this would be fantastic. It was also very easy to set up. You turn on the app on your phone and enable the setting on your computer and follow the prompts and give it a few permissions. It took me less than a minute to get it going. The biggest requirement is to have your phone and computer on the same network.

This PhoneLink is set to automatically start each time I start my computer, so it is always available to me. If you have Windows 11 and would like to set up this feature, I can help you with this but it is pretty easy so you can probably figure it out on your own. While setting up a new computer Windows will ask if you want it set up.

I know a lot of people don’t like to upgrade Windows but if you are on Windows 10 this feature alone would make it worthwhile to upgrade to Windows 11. I can also help you with this if needed.

Whole House Wifi

This is a term that I hear occasionally but what does it really mean? It usually refers to a system that covers your entire house with wifi. The trouble with most routers is that they are only in one location in your house and sometimes that location is in the corner in your basement. Most routers are not in the middle of the house where they could give you the most coverage and even if they are in the right place they probably don’t have the range to reach everywhere in the house.

So how do you cover your entire house with wifi? By using a Mesh Wifi System. This is a system of pods that are strategically placed around your house to cover all areas. The brand I use most even says you can “paint your home in WIFI.” People used to use wifi extenders to do this, but an extender usually creates a new network instead of expanding your current network, so you have to connect to a different network in certain areas of your house. Extenders also don’t come with a phone app, so it is difficult to tell if they are really working or not. Mesh systems only broadcast one signal, but you seamlessly connect to the nearest pod.

The great thing about these mesh systems is that you don’t need to rewire your house to connect all of these pods. They only need to be plugged into an electric outlet and they also need to be in the range of another pod. By using a few pods, you can cover all areas and all floors in even very large homes. Many mesh systems can even reach outside onto outdoor living spaces with special pods that are made for outdoor use and are weather resistant. You don’t even have to know how large the range of each pod is because there is an app that you put on a cell phone that helps set them up.

After fighting with some dead zones in my house for years I recently added a mesh system. I had been putting it off because I was concerned that I might need to reprogram all of my smart devices after changing my network. I was very careful to name the new network the same as my old network and make the password exactly the same. When I turned on the new network all of my devices connected to it automatically except for one printer so it didn’t take long to get everything working.

This not only improved the coverage of wifi in my house it also gave me much higher speed. I was previously using the wifi from my Comcast modem and those don’t have a lot of wifi coverage or speed once you get a few feet away.

There are many brands of mesh wifi systems. I have installed expensive systems and inexpensive systems. I know what works and what is junk. Just because a system is expensive doesn’t mean it works well. If you are considering a mesh wifi system I can help you find the right one for your home. Here is a video where I talk about these systems:

To Protect Your Account, We Need to Authenticate Your Identity.

This can be a devastating message if you don’t have another email address, or a cell phone number attached to your email account. I deal with this often when someone has trouble signing into their email account. Sometimes they might even know what their password is, but the email provider wants them to use two factor authentication to prove who they are.

This recently happened to a customer, and we went through their recovery process, but were not successful in retrieving his account. He did have a phone number connected to his email account, but it was his landline. Since he can’t get a text message on his landline, he is effectively locked out of his email account. Some providers allow calls and texts, but his did not.

I did some research online and we ended up contacting a landline texting company that deals mainly with other companies that want to text their customers reminders, but they don’t want to use a cell phone to do this. The company we found also allows the customer to text back. This is the part that we needed. Before paying for this service, which was about $25.00 for a month, we reached out to their sales department to make sure this would work. The sales rep told us that he gets people doing this all the time. But they never call back to say if it worked or not.

We were not successful in getting the code. Another way to recover your account is to provide more information. Microsoft wanted a lot of other information like have you used this account with Skype or Xbox, who you have you recently emailed back and forth with, what is the subject of an email, and other similar questions. We were not able to answer enough questions to satisfy them.

Needless to say, this has been a hassle from the very first message that his account was locked. All of this could have been avoided by making sure the number attached to his email was his cell phone and not his landline. I know many don’t have a landline anymore, but are you sure the correct phone number is attached to your email? If you have switched phone numbers, which sometimes happens, you could be locked out also. Do you have another email account connected to your primary email account?

The time to check these things is when you absolutely know what your password is, and you have access to it on a trusted browser. This issue crops up when people switch computers, switch phones, and sometimes due to computer updates when your browser is not recognized any longer. This is what happened to my customer.

If you are not sure if you have the proper backup accounts connected to your email, I can help you with this. Please call me to help you recover your email before you lose it. It will save both of us a lot of pain. I can also help you set up another email account to keep you ahead of things. As I mentioned last month, using a password manager can help keep you connected also.

Here is the one I use.

Passwords, Passwords, Passwords!

Every day it seems like there are more and more accounts that you need and every single one of them requires a unique password that is more than ten characters long and contains upper- and lower-case letters, special characters, and numbers but you can’t have any double characters. It gets harder and harder to keep track of all of these passwords and then on top of that some accounts require that you change your passwords every 30, 60 or 90 days. 

I know many people use a password book and they are constantly trying to scratch out one password to add the new one. Every time they get a new account they have to figure out where to write it down since there is no room where it should go alphabetically in their book. They add the date to try to help them keep track of which is the current password. Others use a spreadsheet and make handwritten changes and then go into the digital document occasionally to update it and reprint it.

Maybe you just use your browser’s password manager to keep track of all of those passwords. This is fine until someone gets into your browser and has access to all of your accounts. These are great for remembering your passwords, but they are not very secure. If your computer is unlocked these can be used without any further authorization.

So, what can you do to make sure your passwords are secure and also that you can access them and use them on all of your devices when you need to? You basically have two options. First you can try to remember all of those passwords, which is mostly impossible since they all need to be unique, and you might have more than one email address, so you also have to remember which email goes with which account. The other more realistic option is to deploy a password manager and use it on all of your devices.

Password managers offer the security of having long, unique passwords for all of your accounts while giving you the convenience of only having to remember one password. The next time an account tells you that you need to change your password, your password manager can handle everything for you. It will come up with a new unique password and change the entry in your password manager so it will be correct the next time that you use this account. Most password managers will even sync this change across all of your devices.

I know the initial setup can be daunting, but just think about having to recover all of your accounts if your current book, sheet, or browser gets compromised. The recovery time on that mess would be much worse and you could possibly have information or money stolen in the process.

There are a few different ways to set up your password manager:

  1. Most will allow you to import your information into them. You just need to find out what the format needs to be and copy from your current document, or browser into that format.
  2. Make a day of it. Not much fun, but if you have the time, just sit down with all of your accounts and login to one after another.
  3. Set up as you go. In this scenario you would use your old system and your password manager simultaneously. Each time you need a password, open your password manager and if that account isn’t there you can add it. The downside to doing this is that eventually you will probably have to have a session to do the rest that you hardly ever use.

Once you have all of your passwords in the manager, accessing them and even adding new ones will be much easier. Not to mention how much easier it will be to set up a new device since all you will have to do is add your password manager to the device and all of your accounts will be there automatically.

I know all of us have been dreading this and putting off the inevitable, me included. But it isn’t going to get any easier so the sooner we make the change the better it will be. As always, I am available to help with finding the right product and even helping to import information into it if you need.

I did some research and the password manager that I like and use is Keeper.

How to ensure you never lose access to your email accounts.

Every few weeks, I get a call from someone that can’t access their email address and they don’t know what to do. In most cases, I can help them gain control of their account by using their phone, other email account or information in the emails they have sent to others. This can be a long process and sometimes this just won’t work, and you might lose access for good.

When you rely on your email for communication with friends and family, and to receive your bills and other correspondence from companies it is very important that you can always access this account. For most people this isn’t a concern because they use a password manager and have their account tied to other email addresses and also their cell phone.

If you don’t have your email connected to another email account and your cell phone, you might want to consider doing this. I know some people believe this is just another way for Google or Microsoft or whoever your email supplier is to gather more information on you but there is also a very good reason to accept these connected accounts.

When you have email through your internet supplier like Comcast or CenturyLink, you have an account number with this company, and you pay a monthly fee to them for your internet. Since you have this type of relationship with them, they will gladly help you reset your email account password if you lose track of it. The phone call to make this happen might take an hour or more, but it is possible to do.

When you have a free email account you really do not have a relationship with the company and they do not offer any type of customer service to you. So, if you cannot access your account, you can get completely locked out unless you have other ways to verify your ownership of the email account. This ownership is proven by accounts that are linked to the original account. They may be other accounts that you own or a friend or family members’ account.

It is also very important to make sure this information is always up to date. If you no longer have the phone number or email account listed as your backup information you need to change this information now. Also, if you used your landline make sure the account recovery can call the number and not just send a text message.

I know keeping up with all of this stuff can be a hassle, but not keeping up with this stuff could cause a lot more pain later if you lose access to your email. I have helped many people with this, and it sometimes takes a couple hours to fix it if we can. Save yourself time and money by adding/updating your alternate information on your email accounts. If you are not sure how to do it, I can help. It is a little different for each email provider.

Here is a video about alternate information:

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Ink Subscription Plans

Here is a question that I get often. Should I do the ink plan when I buy a new printer? If you are not familiar, most printer manufacturers now offer a plan to keep you supplied with their ink. They will monitor your printer and automatically send new cartridges when your current cartridges are running low. They typically charge you an amount monthly like $3, or something similar to cover the cost based on your usage. 

This can be helpful since you can actually budget your ink usage and not have to shell out close to $100 when your ink finally runs out. It is also nice not to have to worry about ink and it just shows up at your door. But there are a few things to consider before you actually go down this road.

 Once you sign up for these plans, you CAN’T just go to the store and purchase ink if your supply doesn’t arrive in time or if you get a defective cartridge. You can only use the ink that they supply. I had a customer that had this happen. His current cartridges dried up because he hadn’t printed anything in a while, so he decided to just run to the store and buy some ink. His printer would not accept the store-bought ink even though it was made by the printer manufacturer. He had to wait for his shipment from the manufacturer.

You must keep your printer connected to the internet to use the ink plans. If you disconnect from the internet and use the USB connection your printer will not work.

If you cancel your plan, the cartridges you currently have will not work. You have to go to the store and buy ink. All ink plan cartridges belong to the manufacturer and the empties must be returned to them.

There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to these plans. If you do a lot of printing, you should buy a laser printer. The cartridges for laser printers last a lot longer so you will run out less often and you should have plenty of time to purchase more when your printer notifies you that the cartridges are low.

Another newer option is the “tank” printers that don’t use cartridges. Instead, they have a tank for each color ink, and you just fill the tanks from ink bottles which are a lot less expensive. This seems like an efficient way to do this. I have seen a few instances where the tank gets clogged and this can be a hard thing to fix, but this is not a common problem. 

If you need a new printer and just have questions about what brand or what type of printer to buy, call me and we can discuss it. There is no single answer. It depends on your needs and your usage.

Desktop Dos and Don’ts

I have talked a lot about how to keep your laptop running great, but I haven’t spent much time talking about things to keep your desktop running smoothly. Here is a list of items to consider when placing and working with your desktop. I recently did a video about this.

One of the most important considerations for desktop longevity is the location of your desktop. Many desks come with a cabinet for your tower, so you don’t have to look at all of the wires that are connected to it. If you have a cabinet like this in your desk, make sure it has some openings for air flow. Even though desktops usually have a lot of room inside the tower they can still get very hot and start to damage the components. There are fans in the tower to move air and keep the computer cool but if it is sitting in a closed cabinet that air has nowhere to go.

Some people have their computer tower sitting next to their desk. This solves the airflow issue but opens you up to other possible issues. Make sure it isn’t sitting in direct sunlight all day. This can also cause overheating.

 Make sure your computer tower is not right under an open window. If it rains the computer could short out due to the moisture. Being right below a house plant can also be a problem if the water leaks out of the plant.

Regardless of where you keep it, make sure the area is free of dust and dirt. This is especially important if you have pets that shed. The holes in the computer tower are there for airflow and your computer could overheat if they get clogged. Inspect the tower occasionally for excess dirt in the airflow holes. If the holes look clogged up you should disconnect everything from the computer, take it outside and use a can of air to clean it up. You can even take the cover off and blow out the inside. As always, I am more than happy to help with this if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself. Doing this every few months can keep your desktop computer running smoothly for years.

Lastly, make sure that regardless of where it is located that it is plugged into a surge protected power strip. This is one of the biggest issues with computers. If there is a power surge due to lightning your computer could be destroyed if there isn’t a surge protector in the way.

Is My Internet Down?

How can you tell what is really going on with your internet? Is it the router? Is it just your computer? I get these questions a lot, so I decided to break down exactly what you need to do to get the answers and get your internet working again.

Is it your Router? – To determine this, you need to do some homework before your internet goes down. Whether you have a modem/router that was supplied by your internet service provider (ISP), or you purchased your own equipment, it is important to know what it looks like when it is working correctly so you can easily know when it isn’t working.

When your equipment is working correctly, look at the lights and maybe even write down what lights are lit up and what color they are or even take a picture with your cell phone. With this information, you can easily look at your equipment and know that there is a problem because the one light on your Comcast router is orange instead of white for instance.

This is the first question I ask when someone calls with internet issues. What lights are lit up and what color are they? If the lights look different, your first step is to restart your equipment. This is usually done by pulling the power cord out and then plugging it back in. Just know that it will take a few minutes to completely boot back up, just like your computer. Many times, this will fix the issue. If the lights are still not correct, now is the time to contact your ISP for help.

Is it just my computer? – If you check your router and it seems like it is working properly after a restart, it might be a problem with your computer. If you have other devices connected to the internet, are they working properly? This is the easiest way to tell if it is a computer problem. Maybe your computer just lost its connection to the internet. 

Here are the icons that show internet connectivity. Look in the bottom right corner on the taskbar:

Descriptive graphic of internet signal icons

Based on this picture, if you should be on wifi and you are not, just reconnect it. If you should have an ethernet connection, check both ends of the cable. Many times, these simple things will solve your problem. If it still won’t work, call me and I will help you troubleshoot further.