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Options for Speeding Up Your Old PC | Apple Valley Computer Virus Removal

Options for Speeding Up Your Old PC

At some point in the life of a new desktop or laptop PC, its operational speed and overall performance will begin to lag. Inevitably, the operating system and hard drive will become burdened with software applications, games, documents, photographs, music, videos, and background processes that will strip away the original speed of the device in a cumulative manner.

Restoring a PC to its original speed is certainly possible; in many cases, the device can be upgraded and reconfigured to improve upon its original state, thereby making it faster.

When you bring your old PC to A Plus Computers in Apple Valley, you will have a few service options to choose from in relation to improving performance:

Upgrade and Optimization

Depending on the age of your computer and how much longer you plan on using it, you may want to consider a hardware upgrade to increase the physical RAM and improve functionality with a solid state drive instead of a traditional hard drive. This upgrade can be complemented with optimization options that may include a fresh operating system installation.

Resetting or Reinstalling the Operating System

In modern versions of the Windows operating system, Microsoft has made it easier for users to reset their computers to previous and optimal states; such is the case with Windows 8 and Windows 10, which have a Refresh function. Windows 10 goes one step further with its Reset option, which is similar to the reset button found in Android tablets.

If your older computer can only handle Windows 7 even after a hardware upgrade, one option would be to start afresh with a reinstallation and restoring a previous backup. If you are looking for even more speed, you may want to consider a modern and lightweight Linux installation instead of Windows; in this case, however, you will have to get used to a different operating system and install new programs.

Optimization Package

Hardware upgrades and reinstalling Windows are not always necessary. The A Plus Computers Optimization Package consists of an analysis and remediation of startup procedures, background processes, archived files, registry issues, page file configuration, and power management settings. In some cases, your hard drive may need to be defragmented; moreover, you may not realize that malware and adware scripts could be slowing down your system. This optimization service is often chosen by computer owners who want an affordable solution; however, upgrades are highly recommended.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Versus Custom Computer Builds | Victorville PCs

Microsoft Surface Laptop Versus Custom Computer Builds

Tech giant Microsoft used to be known as a company dedicated exclusively to software development. In the late 20th century, the company dabbled in hardware with the introduction of input devices such as keyboards and joysticks, which were highly rated by computer users. By 2001, the company broke with its software-only tradition when it released the acclaimed Xbox video game console; from that moment on, Microsoft jumped headlong into the hardware business.

The History of Microsoft’s Surface Line of Computers

It has been a few years since Microsoft introduced its Surface line of portable computing devices. For the most part, the company has been improving its hardware catalog, particularly with the recent release of the Surface Laptop, which has received great reviews for its design, power and portability factor. This portable computer has enough flair and advanced features to compete against the Apple MacBook Pro; the Surface Laptop is a beautiful piece of hardware that seems to be worth every penny, but there is one thing that may hold you back from getting one.

Limited Repair Options with the Suface Laptop

If something happens to your Surface Laptop once it goes past its warranty period, your repair options will be very limited. If you bring your Surface to A Plus Computers in Apple Valley for a hardware-related repair, it maybe difficult to do much. For some reason, Microsoft has designed the Surface Laptop in a manner that is virtually impossible to repair.

According to iFixIt, a website that often takes apart new hardware devices as soon as they hit the market, the Surface Laptop is not a repair-friendly machine. The iFixIt technicians had a hard time opening the designer case because there are no screws to loosen; everything is glued into place, including the keyboard, memory modules, data storage drive, media processors, and virtually every component. What makes this even more aggravating is that the Surface battery is also glued to the case and cannot be accessed unless quite a few components are unglued and removed first.

It seems as if Microsoft’s strategy for the Surface Laptop is to get you to spend up to $1,600 for a sleek machine that you will not be able to repair or upgrade. If you can do without the portable factor, you could order a custom build from A Plus Computers with even more power than a Surface. A seventh generation Intel chip with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB solid state drive would cost you far less than the Surface Laptop, and it would be a desktop computer that you can keep, repair and upgrade at will for years to come.

Computer Virus Report for July 2017 | Apple Valley PC Repair

Computer Virus Report for July 2017

The year 2017 has been very active in terms of malware. Aside from the spectacular data breaches and cyber attacks such as the WannaCry ransomware scare in May, multiple virus propagations have been reported by security researchers over the last few weeks. Here are some of the most active pieces of malware reported as being very active in July:

Svcvmx.exe

This adware Trojan is usually bundled with freeware downloads for Windows computers. One instance of svcvmx.exe is packaged along with what is supposed to be a modified version of WinMX, a file sharing program that was popular in the wake of the original Napster craze. Once this adware is installed, it will run in the background and will proceed to generate ad revenue for the developer whenever a browser is active. In the Processes tab of the Windows Task Manager, users may see several entries labeled as “Winvmx Client;” this is designed to trick users into believing that the music sharing program is active.

Diegocosta.stream

This is one of the many video streaming websites that purportedly feature international soccer matches and concerts. In reality, this is a malicious site that executes JavaScript code for the purpose of installing a plugin or an extension that ultimately hijacks Chrome, Edge and Firefox browsers. Unfortunately, the new .stream top-level domain, which was designed to host video streaming service, has attracted quite a few malicious actors.

PrimeUpd

Torrent tracker websites such as The Pirate Bay are filled with movies, music and software packages that computer users agree to share. The problem with these sites is that users put themselves at great risk of installing software bundled with malware such as PrimeUpd, a Trojan that collects browsing behavior for the purpose of surreptitiously serving banner ads and pop-up advertising. Aside from hiding in torrent downloads, PrimeUpd has been spotted in spam email messages.

Jaff Ransomware

This malware variant spread across the United States a few months ago; it was a clumsy attempt at demanding ransom payments from infected users whose files were encrypted and turned into files locked with .jaff, .svn, and .wlu extensions. Many versions of this ransomware featured faulty payment systems, and the decryption key was eventually released by information security firm Kaspersky Labs.

The malware listed herein should be detected and handled by most antivirus programs; however, if you are not able to cleanse your system for any reason, you can contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley to schedule a virus removal service.
Major Computer Repair Lawsuit Filed Against U.S. Government | Apple Valley PCs

Major Computer Repair Lawsuit Filed Against U.S. Government

According to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the United States Department of Justice systematically violated the Fourth Amendments when it allowed the FBI to recruit computer repair technicians to act as informants and turn over data to agents.

The Discovery of Invasive Forensic Searches of Computers

A 2016 investigative report by the Washington Post revealed that Geek Squad, the computer repair division of retail giant Best Buy, the FBI trained and paid technicians and their supervisors to look for certain data stored in the computers of customers who took their devices to be repaired. Geek Squad technicians developed a program to conduct a forensic search of information, which was invasive and inquisitive to the point of looking for deleted files.

What makes the acts committed by the FBI and the electronics chain even more egregious is that they targeted computers that were sent to a central facility in Kentucky for data recovery services; in other words, the FBI felt that customers who wanted to recover deleted files or information stored on a failed hard drive perhaps had something to hide.

A+ Plus Computers Work to Protect Your Data Privacy

At A Plus Computers, respecting data privacy is a must. Computer repair technicians know that information is very valuable for customers; to this effect, data and password recovery services are conducted with a high degree of care and respect. Unless there is an absolute need to verify data integrity in case files have become corrupted, technicians will not open files; in fact, it is not uncommon to call device owners to the shop and ask them to open their own recovered files for validation purposes.

The problem with the Geek Squad and FBI scandal is that computer technicians were snooping on behalf of a government agency, something that is prohibited and can only be done by means of a search warrant. Adding insult to injury is the development of utility software used to search for specific types of data. In other words, the FBI was using Best Buy to conduct fishing expeditions instead of doing police work.
In the end, computer owners do not have to surrender their Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures when they visit a computer repair shop.

Apple Discontinues Repair Support for Many Devices | Victorville Virus Removal

Apple Discontinues Repair Support for Many Devices

If you own certain older models of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or iPhone 3G, Apple will no longer give you repair, service or support. According to an internal document made public in late May 2017, Apple is moving nine hardware devices to its obsolete list, which means that owners of these products will be turned away at the Apple Store and other authorized service providers.

Devices No Longer Receiving Support from Apple

The list includes two MacBook Air models from 2011: the 11-inch and 13-inch versions. Three MacBook Pros from 2011 are now obsolete: the 13, 15 and 17-inch models. Additionally, the 2009 MacBook Pro, which was a very expensive and popular model, is being placed on Apple’s vintage list, which means that a minimal level of support and repairs will be offered for a limited time before that device is also labeled obsolete.

The iPhone 3GS is another device that technicians at the Apple Store and other repair centers affiliated with Apple will no longer touch. It is interesting to note that some exceptions will be made to this obsolete policy; in California, owners of the aforementioned MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models will get limited support over the next two years, and this is some consolation for device owners living in Apple Valley.

Growing Frustration at Apple’s Service Policies

In recent years, there has been consternation among computer users who are fans of Apple, a California brand that evokes a sense of pride among residents of the Golden State. Although the company’s products are acclaimed for their design, performance, flair, and functionality, the same cannot be said about its service and repairs policies.

As previously discussed in this blog, Apple has been engaged in lobbying activity against legislation proposed in various states in relation to technical service and repairs. Apple is concerned that new laws may compel the company to provide manual and special tools to independent computer repair shops; this is something that Apple has always been opposed to.

Apple likes to exert total control over service and repairs of its products because this is an excellent revenue stream and marketing strategy; however, when the company makes its own products obsolete, this desire for total control becomes draconian and inconvenient for owners of vintage devices such as MacBook Pros.

If you own older Apple products in need of repair, feel free to bring them to A Plus Computers in Apple Valley for diagnostics and service. Unlike the Apple Store or Best Buy, our technicians will not turn you away; instead, they will assess the problem and will do everything possible to fix your devices. Being the owner of a vintage Apple product is a neat experience, and we will do everything possible to help you hold on to your iOS or Mac OSX devices a little longer.

Massive Chipotle Hack Underlines Importance of Antivirus Software | Apple Valley PCs

Massive Chipotle Hack Underlines Importance of Antivirus Software

If you used your credit or debit card to pay for a delicious meal at the Apple Valley Chipotle on Bear Valley Road between March 25 and April 18 of 2017, you might want to notify your bank and issue a fraud alert.

The Attack on Chipotle’s Network Security

A sophisticated malware attack perpetrated against Chipotle Mexican Grill targeted point of sale (POS) terminals in several states, and the company issued a warning to customers who visited certain restaurant locations. Dozens of restaurants were targeted in Southern California, including the aforementioned High Desert location in Apple Valley.

In a lengthy blog post, Chipotle explained that its POS network, which is likely hosted on a private cloud, was breached for the purpose of injecting malware. Upon execution, the malicious code searched for what is known as credit card track data, which is collected from magnetic stripes. The information compromised mostly consists of the card number, internal verification code, and expiration date; in some cases, the cardholder name may be included in the track data.

Protection Against Malware Attacks

POS terminals are essentially computers that have been configured for use as registers or as full retail management solutions; in fact, some small business owners who operate on shoestring budgets can set up their own cash-only POS systems with a desktop or laptop and free software. More advanced POS solutions take advantage of cloud computing and connect to credit card merchant networks for payment processing.

Many POS solutions integrate with CRM and HR systems for the benefit of business owners who wish to manage their companies more efficiently; however, this consolidation of customer and employee data should be properly secured.

The Chipotle hack is one of many spectacular attacks perpetrated against major enterprises in 2017, but this does not mean that individuals should let their guard down.

The Evolution of Hacking Groups & Cybercrime

Cybercrime groups are known to target individuals as well as companies, and malware seems to be getting more sophisticated. In the past, hackers who breached a network or gained remote access to a computer would try to capture all data indiscriminately for future analysis. These days, they are able to write code that locates the data they are specifically looking for.

Although Chipotle has not released more details about the recent attack, it can be safely assumed that hackers were not only able to breach the network but also plant malware that was not detected immediately. Preventing intrusions and detecting malware are the most essential features of antivirus software, which must be installed and properly updated in all the computing devices you use. If you would like to learn more about keeping your computers and mobile devices safe, contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley today.
Understanding the Windows Recovery Environment | Apple Valley PC Repairs

Understanding the Windows Recovery Environment

Windows 10 can be hardly described as a lightweight operating system; it is actually very sophisticated, complex and quite demanding in terms of hardware requirements. When Windows 10 is installed on an underwhelming hardware platform, certain performance issues may prompt users to seek PC tuneup utilities.

The Necessity of a Windows Recovery Environment

Microsoft has been developing the base code that makes up Windows 10 over the last three decades, and a substantial motivation for their engineering is to tackle issues created by third party programs. The Windows specialists at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley cannot reasonably suggest to all Windows 10 users to refrain from using utility software on their devices; however, it is worth mentioning that there should be less of a need to use such apps these days.

With the above in mind, some PC repair utilities that are freely downloadable do not work well with some Windows 10 installations and hardware configurations. Such utility apps were quite popular in the days of Windows XP and Vista eras, but some of them are known to “brick” Windows 10 devices, particularly tablets.

Unlike the Blue Screen of Death, the inability to boot is something that Windows 10 can detect and manage on its own by means of the Windows Recovery Environment, more commonly known as WinRE.

Benefits & Functions of Windows Recovery Environment

Ideally, WinRE should come up on its own after Windows 10 has failed to boot to the login screen or to the desktop. If your device has failed to boot once, you should allow this failure to take place two more times by completely unplugging your computer and letting it run out of battery if it is a mobile device. In some desktop computers, you can invoke WinRE by pressing the F2 or F8 keys after the BIOS sequence.

WinRE presents you with a friendly blue screen with the options of turning off the device, continuing to Windows 10, troubleshooting, or using an external device such as a recovery USB drive. The troubleshooting section offers options such as System Restore, which is highly recommended. System Image Recovery may or may not be available; this would depend on whether your device had enough storage during the initial Windows installation process to create a backup.

If you are not able to get to WinRE or if a successful boot does not materialize from the troubleshooting options, your best bet would be to contact A Plus Computers and speak to our technicians. Thankfully, many Windows 10 issues can be repaired and the condition of the device can be improved to prevent future issues.
Windows 10 and the Blue Screen of Death | Apple Valley Computer Repair

Windows 10 and the Blue Screen of Death

One of the most unpleasant and infamous aspects of the Microsoft Windows operating system is the ominous Blue Screen of Death, commonly abbreviated as BSOD. Although Windows 10 and the Creators Update do a very good job of preventing this error from happening, there is always a chance of users running into it by no fault of their own.

Once you see the BSOD, Windows 10 will not continue operating until the system goes through a reboot sequence. In many cases, you will be able to start up again without consequence and may not see the dreaded blue error screen for a long time. There is a certain randomness associated with the BSOD, whereby it is caused by a software or hardware issue that cannot be easily replicated.

If you run into the BSOD more than once a week, you should bring your computer, laptop or tablet to A Plus Computers in Apple Valley for diagnostic and repair. Alternatively, you can also follow the recommendations below:

Backup Your Data

Although Windows 10 will do everything possible to save your personal and application data up to the BSOD point, you should always have a backup option available. The best data backup methods are external; this means that they are driven by a utility that sends data to USB drives, external hard drives or remotely to the cloud. If you would like to learn more about backup options, our technicians can help you choose the solution that best fits your needs and budget.

Record the Event and Error Code

Assuming that you are seeing the BSOD frequently, think about the sequence of events right before the screen is displayed. Perhaps you were trying to print a document or connect to a gaming network. If you see an error code at the bottom of the BSOD, write it down or take a clear picture with your smartphone. If you bring the error code to A Plus Computers, fixing the issue will take less time.

Check Your Updates

Microsoft intends to keep Windows 10 as its flagship operating system for years to come. This means that the company will constantly improve Windows 10 by means of updates just like it did with Windows XP. Even with these updates, you may still encounter BSOD situations if you install a printer, external webcam, graphics card, or other components. If this is the case, you may want to update your drivers by using the search bar in the Start Menu and typing “installed updates.” Windows will take you to the Control Panel menu so that you can update the culprit drivers.

Computer Repair and Your Right to Privacy | Victorville Data Backups

Computer Repair and Your Right to Privacy

There may come a time when your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone will need service and repair, which means that you will have to turn over your device to experts such as the technicians at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley. Should you take precautions with regard to privacy before leaving the equipment?

Keeping Your Data Secure During Computer Repairs

Your right to privacy is something that our shop technicians understand very well. When it comes to privacy, we have to recognize that we live in difficult times; earlier this year, unsealed court documents revealed that the Geek Squad section of Best Buy, one of the largest electronics retailers in the United States, had conspired with the FBI to carry out snooping and copying of personal data stored in computer devices left by unsuspecting customers to repair.

What is troubling about the FBI and Best Buy relationship is that it amounted to surveillance without probable cause or even a search warrant. In fact, legal analysts who have followed this case believe that most judges would not have issued warrants because the vague reasons given by FBI agents were egregious. Still, Geek Squad technicians agreed to be FBI informants.

Understanding Your Rights Against Surveillance

The Geek Squad/FBI case has uncomfortable echoes of the mass NSA surveillance program that came to light due to the whistleblowing actions of Edward Snowden. The trust between government agencies and the public has been broken, and the Best Buy incident exacerbates the situation.

Let’s say your Windows 10 laptop is acting up and you are concerned about your privacy. If you do not wish to provide a login password, you should create a standard or guest account for the technicians to use; in this fashion, you can log out of your Microsoft Account completely and let our technicians work without having access to your files.

If you have further concerns and have time to stay in the shop, we may be able to coordinate a session whereby you enter the login credentials so that our technicians backup your data in a manner that respects your privacy. From that point on, you may instruct our technicians to either perform a clean Windows 10 install with proper configuration, or you may even request for a secure deletion of sensitive data that we have already backed up.

Your privacy is very important to us; if you would like to learn more about secure backups and data encryption using the Microsoft BitLocker utility, contact A Plus Computers today. Safeguarding your data privacy before your computing device requires repairs is always a good idea.

Why Some Cheap Computers May Lead to a Cheap Experience | Victorville Laptops

Why Some Cheap Computers May Lead to a Cheap Experience

In the world of personal computing, you often get what you pay for. We live in an era that is being propelled by a consumer electronics revolution; entry level smartphones and tablets can be found on store shelves for less than $100, and a similar situation can be observed in relation to the desktop and laptop sector.

Inexpensive Computers Increased Computer Access

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project from a few years ago succeeded not only in the classroom but also in developing countries where plunking down between $300 and $400 for a Chromebook is easier said than done. The OLPC project was considerably improved by the arrival of the Raspberry Pi educational computer; similarly, a number of computer manufacturers are seeking to provide very affordable products to fit even the most constrained budgets. Unfortunately, some of these products are falling short of their intention and lack compatibility with modern times.

Michael Nuñez, a journalist who writes for the respected recent tech news website Gizmodo, recently reviewed the Mission One, a mini desktop computer destined for developing markets. The Mission One highlights the problems faced by consumers seeking affordable devices that lack the performance and quality expected of modern personal computing.

Issues With Very Cheap Computers

The Mission One sells for $250 and is powered by a dual-core Intel Celeron CPU that runs at 2.17 GHz on 2 GB of RAM. Although this may sound like it should be enough for an entry-level computer, the Mission One has problems related to motherboard design and its proprietary operating system, which is based on Linux. There are also issues related to some of the pre-loaded proprietary apps that seem to have been loaded hastily. As a result, this cheap computer delivers a cheap experience.

In his review, Mr. Nuñez points out that $250 may not be a lot, but it can purchase a Chromebook or something along the lines of an HP Stream 11 mini PC. This is not to say the Mission One does not have redeeming qualities; the bamboo case is very stylish, and there is always the chance of upgrading to a better Linux version that can be further improved with software packages and apps.

For the price of a mini PC or a Chromebook, you might be able to upgrade an existing desktop with more memory, a modern operating system and a faster hard drive. If you are interested in learning about your hardware options, contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley today.