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Dealing With Bad Memories: When RAM Gives You Headaches | PC Repairs

Dealing With Bad Memories: When RAM Gives You Headaches

Of all the components in your computer, random access memory can be one of the most uncertain. If you have a laptop equipped with an optical DVD drive, you can bet that this will be the first piece of hardware that will fail, but this is something that is easy to deal with. A hard drive failure can be catastrophic if you do not have a data backup strategy, but at least you get warnings most of the time. Bad RAM is more of a headache because it directly interferes with the overall performance of your device.

Why Does RAM Fail

RAM is not supposed to last forever; in most cases, it will last longer than a hard drive but not as long as the processor or power supply. In general, you can count on RAM functioning perfectly while your system is still under manufacturer’s warranty, and it may not give you any headaches for a few more years. The problem with defective RAM is that it can be a bit difficult to detect.

On Windows systems, the blue screen of death may be a sign of bad RAM, but this may also be caused by operating system bugs, failing hard drives, or quite a few other issues. In the case of Mac OS X machines, the gray screen of death may be related to bad RAM; on a Linux system running from removable media such as USB drives, kernel panic errors almost always indicate defective RAM.

Symptoms Of RAM Failure

When your PC freezes or unexpectedly shuts down, bad RAM may be at play if it performs optimally upon rebooting the system but gets sluggish later. A strong sign of RAM failure would be corrupted files that were recently created or edited.

There are various ways of diagnosing RAM chips; one of the easiest methods is to remove some of them and test the performance of the machine. Windows has a built-in tool to conduct memory diagnostics that tells you if errors are detected, but this requires physical confirmation by means of testing the individual chips. A better method is to run benchmark tests and use special diagnostic tools.

Once RAM errors are detected, they will not go away unless they are related to improper cooling or excessive dust inside the machine. Fixing bad RAM almost always means replacing it, and this is a reasonable repair in most cases. The best thing about RAM replacement is that it presents an opportunity to upgrade, which will result in sharply improved performance.
Microsoft Previews New Windows 10 Features | Apple Valley Computer Repair

Microsoft Previews New Windows 10 Features

Compared to previous versions of the Windows operating system, Microsoft has shown a greater willingness to roll out improvements and implement new features in Windows 10. The latest preview build of Windows 10 is currently being tested by select users and tech journalists who for the most part seem to be pleased with what Microsoft has accomplished.

The Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17704 was first announced on June 27; the new features and security fixes of this build will likely be available to all users later this year through the Windows Update program.

Here are some of the improvements reported thus far:

New Skype Calling Features

As the flagship communications app for Windows users, Skype has been getting regular improvements over the last few years. This time around, Microsoft has repositioned the button that enables screen sharing so that it is more prominent and easier to reach. The notifications panel has been streamlined, and users will be able to change the look of their Skype app with themes; moreover, snapshots of conference calls can now be taken from within the app.

Screen Sketch App

The Windows 10 Snipping Tool may be enhanced by a new Screen Sketch App in the future. The current build gives users a preview of this new feature, but it is unclear whether it will be rolled out this year or later.

Edge Browser Aesthetics

The new Fluent Design guidelines adopted by Microsoft are being tastefully applied to the Edge web browser, which now sports a look that is flatter and more angular. Automatic play of audio and video files can now be controlled by users, and the Edge hub has been rearranged so that the most commonly made adjustments appear at the top. A few icons have been redesigned for a more colorful look.

Security Improvements

Within the Windows Defender control panel, a new option will allow users to block suspicious behavior emanating from a file or an app that may have bypassed antivirus detection. There’s also a new feature designed to minimize the impact of ransomware attacks; controlled folder access gives users exclusive rights to make changes to files contained therein.

Enhanced Task Manager Information

Users who are interested in assessing the energy efficiency of their devices will be able to glance at the power consumption of processes with two new Task Manager columns. The information provided by these two new columns is based on the CPU, GPU and disk read/write resources utilized.

What You Should Know About Hard Drive and SSD Data Recovery | PC Repair

What You Should Know About Hard Drive and SSD Data Recovery

The growing popularity of cloud computing, flash memory storage and “always-on” personal computing devices are leading some individuals to believe that hard drive failure is a thing of the past, and this can be a problematic misconception. While it is true that solid state drive technology has vastly improved over the last few years, this does not mean that these storage devices are impervious to hardware failure.

Solid State Drives Are Not Immune to Breakdown

The misconception about SSD storage is related to its lack of moving parts. With legacy hard drives, failure can often be heard or felt. The click of death associated with hard drives is heard when the actuator component repeatedly tries to recover from a critical error. Depending on the brand and build, spinning hard drives can be quite noisy when they enter an irretrievable error state; a knocking or clicking sound indicates physical failure while whirring sounds are more indicative of logical issues. At any rate, these noises signal the end of life for legacy hard drives.

With SSD hardware, there are no audible indicators of critical errors or impending failure; however, users can tell things are going wrong when they notice that their systems are not working properly. When files refuse to open or applications no longer execute on SSD devices, this could be related to bad blocks, which are the equivalent of bad sectors on spinning hard drives. One problem with SSD devices, particularly those installed on tablets and modern laptops, is that malware apps can be coded to create bad blocks, thereby leading to a high risk of data loss.

Preparation Against Data Loss

There is no true formula to figure out the longevity of SSD or legacy drives; nonetheless, drives that have been operating for longer than eight years are more likely to fail. It should be noted that hard drive failure does not automatically render data inaccessible. Data recovery is a service that focuses on rescuing data from storage devices that are no longer functional, and it can be a virtual lifesaver in many cases.

Whether a spinning hard drive is emitting the dreaded click of death or an SSD component is no longer functional, data recovery may be an option. When the operating system installed on the failed hard drive is no longer booting, data recovery technicians may be able to boot the device from RAM using special tools; other situations may require disassembly and clean room techniques, but the bottom line is that data should not be considered permanently lost upon hard drive failure.
Microsoft Begins Withdrawing Windows 7 Support | A+ Computer Repair

Microsoft Begins Withdrawing Windows 7 Support

The most popular desktop and laptop operating system in the world is being gradually and quietly abandoned by its developer. A recent column published by Computer World magazine explained that Microsoft had blocked the Windows Update feature on PCs powered by Pentium III processors, which essentially indicates that the company will no longer support those older machines. Moreover, Windows 7 users who visit the Windows Community online forums are noticing that their questions are no longer being answered by Microsoft representatives.

The issue with Windows 7 installations on Pentium III machines is that they do not support a feature known as Streaming Single Instructions Multiple Data Extensions; when a May 2018 update was rolled out, some users lost network connectivity after installing the patch, which prompted Microsoft to promise that the issue would be fixed in future updates. The issue was never fixed; instead, Microsoft published a technical article recommending Pentium III users to either upgrade their hardware or run Windows 7 inside a virtual machine. After publication of this article, access to Windows Update was cut off for owners of Pentium III hardware.

Time to Upgrade From Windows 7 to Windows 10

Windows 7 has been around for nearly a decade, and it continues to be a leader in terms of market share; in April 2018, this operating system was installed in more than 47 percent of all personal desktop computers, business workstations, and laptops around the world, which means that it is more popular than Windows 10. Even though Microsoft has actively enticed users to upgrade to Windows 10, many have chosen to stick with Windows 7, particularly those who operate older hardware.

When Windows 10 was released, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 users would still receive updates and support until January 2020; for this reason, blocking updates for individuals who own older hardware seems harsh and arbitrary. While it is easy to understand Microsoft’s business strategy to push all users into Windows 10, those Pentium III users chose to stay with Windows 7 because their machines did not meet the hardware requirements of Windows 10.

Upgrading to Windows 10 is highly recommended; if your PC is powered by a Pentium III processor, you may want to think about getting more recent hardware that supports this operating system. You can also keep your old computer operational by backing up personal files and installing a version of Linux that runs faster and smoother than Windows 7.
The State of Custom-Built Gaming Computers in 2018 | Apple Valley Computer Upgrade

The State of Custom-Built Gaming Computers in 2018

A few months ago, an editor at the respected PC World magazine published an article suggesting that true video game enthusiasts, who are more commonly known as gamers, would be better off purchasing off-the-shelf computers than ordering custom-built gaming computers.

Are Custom Gaming Rigs No Longer Worth It?

The argument in the aforementioned PC World article was presented with a heavy heart; the author clearly prefers custom-built computers for gaming, but he is concerned about the current trend of overpriced graphics processing units and memory. Powerful GPU cards and high-performance RAM kits have been experiencing shortages and pricing surges due to the great interest in mining Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

While it is true that cryptocurrency miners are hording GPUs and memory that are traditionally used in gaming rigs, the current situation mostly affects do-it-yourself gamers whose hobbies extend to building systems themselves; these are passionate individuals who spend considerable time searching for hardware components on Amazon and eBay, but they are running into high prices and few options.

Pre-Built Computers Leave Much To Be Desired

Even with the current memory and GPU situation, it is difficult to support PC World’s advice and recommendation to gamers at this time. Major computer manufacturers such as Lenovo and Dell can certainly strike better deals with GPU suppliers because they purchase hardware components in bulk, but their pre-built gaming systems are often not in line with the expectations of hardcore PC gamers.

An entry-level gaming PC may only cost a few hundred dollars more than the new Microsoft Xbox One X console, but the performance may not be sufficient to handle the highest settings of major PC games being released these days, particularly those coded to run on virtual reality platforms. Moreover, some of the low-end gaming PCs equipped with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPUs may carry the three GB version instead of the six GB card that gamers crave.

In some cases, off-the-shelf PC gaming systems may not offer too many opportunities for future upgrades, and this issue can be explained by the manufacturers’ intention to guide buyers towards more powerful options that will end up costing more.

At A Plus Computers in Apple Valley, our custom-built computer specialists have established good relations with hardware suppliers who are able to provide GPUs, memory and other special parts at reasonable prices. It may take a few more months for manufacturers to adjust to the demand created by cryptocurrency mining, but this does not mean that PC gamers should give up on their wishes to build the custom rig they really want.

How to Get the Most Out of Google Chrome | Apple Valley Computer Repair

How to Get the Most Out of Google Chrome

The endless battle over web browser supremacy is currently being won by Google Chrome. It has been more than 10 years since Chrome surpassed Microsoft Internet Explorer in terms of global market share, and this dominance is expected to continue growing as more Chromebooks, which only work with the Chrome browser, become more popular.

Aside from being the most ideal browser to access popular Google services such as Gmail, Maps, and Docs, there is another reason why Chrome is the world’s leading browser: its comprehensive catalog of extensions that can significantly increase functionality and productivity.

Even though Google officially deprecated the apps section of its Chrome Web Store in late 2017, many developers transformed their apps to extensions; furthermore, Google started pushing progressive web apps, which are next-generation web services that take advantage of Chrome’s structure and offline functionality.

Getting the most out of the Chrome browser boils down to installing the right extensions, and here are a few you should consider for your desktop or laptop:


This is the app that United States President Donald Trump, known to be a big fan of Twitter, should be using. TweetDeck works like a dream with regard to managing your favorite feeds, composing updates, engaging with others, and uploading multimedia content.


If you are partial to a certain layout and color scheme when browsing the internet, you can apply your preferences to every site you visit after installing the Stylish Chrome extension.


As a great example of the direction that progressive web apps are taking, Polarr is a full-fledged image and photo editor that fives Photoshop a run for its money. This app also features some offline functionality.


The best note-taking tool on the internet works better as a Google Chrome extension. With Evernote, anything you observe or create can be instantly recorded in a variety of digital formats, and it can also be dynamically shared with others for collaboration projects.

AdBlock Plus

This extension does more than just block those annoying online ads that seem to take up entire web pages; AdBlock Plus also deals with those pesky behavioral marketing cookies that follow you all around the web.


Imagine being able to get all your calls, messages and notifications right within your browser; this is exactly what happens when you install Pushbullet. With this extension, you can even send and receive traditional text messages and share links without touching your smartphone.

A Built-In Malware Scanner Within the Google Chrome Browser | A+ Computers

A Built-In Malware Scanner Within the Google Chrome Browser

A great portion of malware, the malicious software applications coded by hackers and unethical developers, consists of adware and spyware, which in turn are malicious applications coded that seek to take advantage of internet browsers.

Quite a few malware applications are coded to target Google Chrome, the most popular browser in the world; fortunately, this browser has a built-in functionality to protect against these malicious apps. Updated versions of Google Chrome include a program developed by ESET, a respected internet security firm that is known for its popular antivirus software solutions. ESET’s products can often be found installed at internet cafes in European cities.

Tools to Secure Your Computer

The ESET app installed within Google is not visible to users; it operates in a manner similar to a background process as it scans computer systems for malware. The app is formally called ESET Software Reporter Tool, and it pretty much works like an antivirus program, although it does not remove malware automatically. This app activates itself and prompts users to remove infections, which may include:

  • Browsing trackers
  • Browser helper objects
  • Malicious system optimizers
  • Adware
  • Behavioral marketing trackers

It should be noted that this app reports its findings to Google, a function that may not sit well with all users. In some cases, users may not want this app to run periodically because it ends up consuming significant computing resources and slowing down the entire system, particularly when other antivirus and malware scanning programs are already installed.

The settings and behavior of the ESET software reporter tool can be controlled by means of entering chrome://settings/cleanup on the Chrome browser bar. Chrome will typically run this scan late at night, but you can perform a manual scan by clicking on the “Find” option that can be seen on the “Clean Up Computer” page. This is the same page that will allow you to decline sending a report of the scan top Google.

It should be noted that completing the malware removal process will require confirmation from Windows 10, and you may also need to restart your computer to complete the process. While this malware checker is a good tool to have installed in your system, it is mostly geared towards protecting the Chrome browser. Your system should also have a main antivirus program installed for good measure.

If your computer is running unusually slow while using Google Chrome, the malware checker could be the reason. If it runs slow continuously, there may be other factors at play. Contact A Plus Computers if you have questions about malware detection tool.

What You Should Know About the Latest Windows 10 Update | Victorville Computers

What You Should Know About the Latest Windows 10 Update

The first major Windows 10 update of 2018 started rolling out in late April with an interesting name change announced by Microsoft. Many computer users were expecting to download and install the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update; however, Microsoft decided to change the name to Windows 10 April 2018 Update. The reason for the name change is not officially known; there was some speculation about this update not being as feature-rich as the 2017 Fall Creators Update, however, this does not seem to be the case.

What Windows 10 users should know about the April 2018 Update is that it should not be ignored. If your desktop, laptop or tablet has been getting regular updates without major issues, there is no reason why you should skip this one. To be on the safe side, here are a few things you can do to prepare your system:

File or System Backup

If you do not already have a backup routine in place, this will be a perfect time to set one up. Forget about backing up to a partition in your hard drive; your important files should be backed up to a secure cloud folder or to an external drive. If you navigate to the Settings menu of Windows 10, you will find a guided backup method within the Update & Security option. To be on the safe side, you can also create a full system image; our Windows technicians at A Plus Computers can help you with this process.

Make Room for the New Update

Windows 10 updates tend to be pretty large and are known to install in systems where there is not a lot of space left. The average size of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, for example, was about 3.5Gb. To clear up some drive space, you can use the Windows 10 Disk Cleanup utility; if this still leaves little room for the update, your computer may need to be optimized, which is something we can certainly help you with.

Disconnect External Devices

To ensure that the update process is as streamlined and uncomplicated as possible, you may want to disconnect printers, scanners, cameras, external drives, game controllers, and all other peripherals; just be sure to reconnect them after the process is successful so that the right drivers can be installed.

In some cases, a Windows update may result in your system becoming unstable. If this happens to you, we can help you revert the process and troubleshoot the issue for a proper installation.
Laptops and the Risk of "Evil Maid" Attacks | Victorville Computer Repair

Laptops and the Risk of “Evil Maid” Attacks

In computer security circles, there is a growing consensus about the growing complexity of modern exploits and vectors of attack. There was a time when IT security experts could easily determine or detect if someone had tampered with a laptop; however, the sophisticated threats in use these days make this determination more difficult, particularly in the case of “evil maid” attacks.

Be Aware of “Evil Maid” Attacks

When laptops are physically tampered with in settings such as hotel rooms and airports, they are said to have been breached by an “evil maid.” These situations are more likely to happen in hotels where laptops are left unattended for a few hours; other settings for evil maid attacks would be at airports and during conferences. The attackers in these cases will gain physical access to a laptop by posing as housekeeping staff, airport security personnel or conference attendees.

Evil maid attacks are not random; they are generally sophisticated and expensive activities that seek to extract high-profile information from the laptops carried by journalists, executives, attorneys, activists, and politicians.

In a recent article published by The Intercept, a website that specializes in activism, the disclosure of secret information and leaks, tech journalist Micah Lee explained how he set up a “honeypot” laptop to invite evil maid attacks at hotel rooms and airports over two years. Using various detection tools, Mr. Lee came to a few conclusions:

  • First of all, he could not determine with absolute certainty if his laptop was compromised.
  • Second, he determined that full disk encryption is one of the best protections against potential evil maid attacks.
  • Finally, laptop users who handle extremely sensitive information may want to use secure operating systems that boot from USB drives such as The Amnesic Incognito Live System, known as Tails, or Whonix.

When a clever evil maid attacker realizes that a laptop has full disk encryption, he or she will still have at least one more software or hardware exploits to apply so that the system can be compromised the next time the laptop is accessed.

Protection Against Laptop Tampering

If you want to learn more about full disk encryption and securing data stored on your laptop when you travel, contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley. With a solid system configuration that includes encryption, VPN, two-factor authentication, biometrics, or even a secure operating system such as Tails, your data will be safer against evil maid attacks.

Recycling Entrepreneur Sentenced to Prison in Windows Licensing Case

Recycling Entrepreneur Sentenced to Prison in Windows Licensing Case

A businessman engaged in the recycling of old computers has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling CDs intended to restore computers to their factory settings. Eric Lundgren commissioned a CD and software factory in China to manufacture 28,000 recovery CDs that often come with desktop systems manufactured by Dell.

Lundgren planned to sell recovery CDs to computer repair shops in Florida for a profit of about $0.25 per sale. The software tools loaded in each of these CDs can usually be downloaded from websites operated by Dell and Microsoft; in most cases, they include a copy of the Windows operating system as well as data rescue utilities; in all cases, computer users still require to input the product activation code that came with the original system.

Were Lundgren’s Actions Illegal?

Federal prosecutors and Microsoft argued that the value of each CD was almost $300; however, these discs are normally provided for free if the originals were thrown away as long as the system is still under warranty. Lundgren argued that he did not try to profit from piracy; instead, his intention was ostensibly to offer computer users an affordable and convenient way to repair their systems, thus reducing the ongoing rate of electronic waste, which happens to be his entrepreneurial focus.

Electronic waste is a problematic aspect of modern life. The internet revolution and the high demand for new consumer electronic devices have resulted in the issue known as e-waste, which is estimated to produce almost 10 tons of discarded items each year. There are several factors that worsen e-waste, and one of them happens to be computer owners who are not aware of the range of repair options available to them.

Without proper maintenance, desktops and laptops will eventually present issues that get in the way of optimal performance. Eventually, computer systems may become seemingly inoperable, and this is when the problem of e-waste starts; with so many computing devices found at store shelves for reasonable prices, it is very tempting to buy new systems instead of repairing existing ones.

As metric tons of e-waste continue to accumulate in landfills around the world, it is important to support efforts to reduce this accumulation. If your malfunctioning computer system is only a couple of years old, think about repairs and upgrades before throwing it away. At A Plus Computers in Apple Valley, our technicians are skilled in recovering data and restoring systems to their factory settings; contact our shop for more information.

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