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.

Parental Controls

The school year will be ending soon, and it got me thinking about all of the parents that still have to work while their kids are home alone. I am sure most parents leave a list of chores or other things that must be accomplished during the day, but many kids will just end up on the computer wasting their time; However, there is a tool that most of us have in our homes that can help keep the computer time to a manageable amount.

What I am referring to is your router. Just about every router sold has some type of parental controls built in just waiting to be enabled and set up. These parental controls can help you limit the amount of time your kids spend on the internet, limit where they can go by blocking certain sites and also certain types of sites, and also set up schedules for when they can use the internet.

I have had customers that used the scheduling function to make sure their kids are not on their tablets after bedtime, you can even set it up to allow more time on the weekend. Some have blocked Facebook or any other social media site until after dinner time to allow time for homework. Most routers have built in filters to restrict any sites that have certain adult content on them. Many have a list of categories that can be checked off to restrict certain content.

If you are not sure of the capabilities of your router, you can google the model number and parental controls and you will probably find a list and instructions. If you don’t know how to access your router, these instructions should cover that also. Even though they are called “Parental Controls”, small businesses can use these to limit and protect their employees and guests while they surf the internet in their businesses.

Most people don’t take full advantage of these high-tech machines. By spending a few minutes setting up your parental controls, you can gain some peace of mind when you are away, and your children are surfing unsupervised.

These controls are not foolproof and might not be perfect fits, but they can help in many situations. If you need more controls than what your router might offer, or you need help implementing this kind of control, please contact me. I have helped many people gain control over when their children go on the internet and what they are able to see.

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.

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 – “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.

Windows 11, Should You, or Shouldn’t You?

Microsoft released their newest version last fall and they have been advertising on television and you might have even seen a popup on your computer either telling you that you can upgrade, or you can’t upgrade. Here are the facts about Windows 11.

First of all, Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 until January of 2025, so you don’t need to stress about upgrading just yet. If you are happy with your current version and you think you will replace your current computer before the support ends in about three years, you don’t have to upgrade. If you are curious and want to take the plunge it is free to upgrade, and you can reverse the upgrade for about ten days after you do it.

Before you pull the trigger, here are some things to consider:
  1. If you have any proprietary software, it is possible that it might not be compatible with Windows 11.
  2. Likewise, if you have any very old software. I have ran across many people that purchased Quicken years ago and never upgraded to a newer version. This could cause issues with Windows 11.
  3. If you run an old version of QuickBooks, this could cause it to stop working. Meaning you will have to purchase the newest version and worry about getting your company file to work in the newer version.
  4. While the user interface is similar to Windows 10, there are differences, and some features are difficult to find and require more clicks to get where you want to go.
  5. Recently There has been a noticeable lag in the file explorer. I am currently trying to work through this on my computer.

I am not trying to encourage or discourage anyone. I am just giving you something to think about. There is one added feature that I feel is great. They have improved on Snap Assist. It still works the same as it always did, but now when you hover over the maximize block on any window, it gives you choices to split your screen into six different layouts that can improve your productivity. This feature alone is enough to make the switch if you struggle with multiple windows at once. You simply click on the layout that you want, and the current window will snap into place and all other windows will be visible so you can choose which ones to add to the layout. If you use two monitors, you could have a different layout on each monitor.

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For more about snap assist, see my video on it

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