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What to look for in a Computer Repair Business in Wilmington, NC

Before just letting anyone work on your computer and with your sensitive data, ask for references from prior customers. A good reputation takes time and integrity to build and takes a lot less time to tear down as bad news travels faster than good news. I have hundreds of customers in my database from which a potential customer can randomly call to inquire about my abilities as well as my business ethics. I also have accreditation on display in the foyer of my shop for anyone to view so you can feel confident that I not only know what I am doing but am educated in it as well. Do not trust just anyone promising you the most for the least. Usually, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

A computer for sale with Windows 7 Ultimate (which retails for $285.00 alone) and Office 2010 Professional (which retails for around $350) is not going to cost you $200. It is most likely loaded with illegal software which has been hacked to bypass license activation. These hacks can sometimes lead to security holes which can be exploited by malware writers. But at the very least, Microsoft will expose the activation bypass with an update which will be required before you can update to the latest service pack, something that should be updated to as soon as possible to protect your computer from known vulnerabilities.

So, in summation, whomever you choose to do your computer work should be accredited, have plenty of references from which to call for true reviews and be trustworthy, which can be discovered through the references. In addition to these suggestions, here is a list of questions you should ask anyone before they are trusted with your computer. I hope this helps to keep you informed enough to stay away from jack-legs and to get as much life out of your computer as possible.

Questions you should ask and answers you should receive:

  • “How Much do you Charge? Hourly? By the Job?”
    • There are many different billing schemes out there, some more transparent than others. Not every job is predictable to the dime but you should get a general idea about cost based on the technician’s experience. Hourly rates for computer repair in the US average about $60.00 to $100.00. A higher hourly rate than this and you are probably getting the shaft. A rate lower than this and you are probably getting service from someone who is just getting their feet wet in the business, has a “stacking” hourly scheme where they bill services by the hour for each service rendered or does sub-par work including but not limited to ignoring other problems that may require the technician to return… …with another invoice, of course.
    • You should expect to hear something similar to this:“Without seeing it first, I cannot be absolutely sure. But these issues typically run about (X) hours or $(X.)”
    • It is understandable with the many possibilities for explanation of any problem that diagnosis in person may discover a different source of a given problem. However, your technician should never go ahead with a service without explaining costs and possibilities with you first after which your consent should be given before proceeding. Should you suspect that the charges are too high, you are free to do as you would do with your healthcare provider and get a second or third opinion. Hopefully, if it has gotten to this point in the relationship, you have already checked references and established their level of trustworthiness as illustrated above.
  • “Is There a Minimum Charge?”
    • For quick in-and-out services, it may be that there is a minimum charge which falls below a typical service. If so, you’ll want to know before you take your computer in to find that you pay for an hour when it took five minutes.
    • You should expect an answer such as this:“Yes. The minimum shop charge is one hour/minimum bench charge of $(X).”
    • Some shops will have a minimum bench charge that is equal to half of their regular hourly/typical bench charge. They are few and far between but they are still out there. We have even been known to charge nothing for something very minor and non-time consuming.
  • “Any Additional Fees?”
    • The only time an additional fee should apply is when other problems are found or parts are needed along the way as well as the labor involved in replacing the part (possibly an OS reinstall.) This should be discussed with you prior to advancement as discussed above.
    • You should receive an answer such as this:“No, not unless I have to order parts or find some other related problem after which I will discuss it with you first before moving forward.”
    • If you are told that there are other fees, either see them in writing first to judge their veracity or go elsewhere!
  • “Are Your Rates Different for Service Calls?”
    • Typically, service calls are more expensive than in-shop work. This is for many reasons but two main reasons are that the technician must use vehicular resources to get to and from your business/residence as well as the time for that travel. Also, while at your site, the technician can only work on your machine(s). This costs more than if he was in-shop working on yours while also working on several others.
    • You should expect this:“Yes. Our fee for service calls is $(X).”
    • Because of the extra expense associated with a service call, you should expect either a “travel charge” or a %10 – %20 increase in hourly rates. You should also expect to pay a minimum service call rate so, be sure you want them to come to you. Should the rate be twice the shop rate, check with someone else! Also, if you hear a rate that is very low, it is likely to be a “stacking” scheme and as such, may not be trustworthy due to lack of transparency.
  • “Does Your Work Carry a Guarantee?”
    • This is one of the least asked questions we receive but should be one that we hear from everyone. Hardware repairs should definitely carry a 30 to 90 day guarantee. Virus problems are an unfortunate exception as user practices can easily infect a computer in minutes. The important thing to check is that they offer a warranty and then to read it. If the technician cannot produce a copy of his or her warranty on the spot in-shop, then you probably need to take your computer elsewhere.
    • You should expect to hear:“Yes. Our work is guaranteed for(30-90 days).”
    • If you are given a time period less than thirty days, take your business elsewhere.
  • “What Is Your Turnaround?”
    • This is important. You want to know how long you are going to go without your computer. Most services don’t take more than a day or two. Depending on how busy the shop is, it could take a day or two just to get to the bench.
    • Ideally, you would hear:“We typically have a 24 to 48 hour turnaround.”
    • If parts are needed and must be ordered, it could take three to five business days to get them in. Some parts are not available in the US and must be ordered from across the globe. Your technician should explain this to you if this is the case to ensure that it is acceptable to you. There are legitimate reasons why it would take longer than a day or two but they should be easily explained and justifiable which can be resolved with a technician with good communication skills.
  • “Do I need to Pay Anything Up-Front?”
    • Under some circumstances, you should expect to pay something in advance of having work done at your local computer shop. Some people leave their machine to be diagnosed but decide not to have it repaired. This is perfectly acceptable but often what happens afterward is not; they never come to pick it up. At this juncture, if it wasn’t worth repairing, it is highly unlikely that it is able to be resold for recovery of the shop time lost during diagnostics. This causes the business to take a loss and when multiplied by a high volume of intake can become very costly.
    • Some shops may not require a deposit for custom building you a computer but an experienced one will. On too many occasions do customers decide what they want built, the technician orders the parts, builds the computer, installs the OS, sets it up for use and then the customer never comes back to get it. This puts the company in a sticky place of money out and uncertainty about whether the customer will return to purchase but is just a little irresponsible. With a deposit, (you should expect to deposit half of the quote for a new build) the technician can build it at minimal cost, resell it and receive pay for the work put into it should the customer never return. This should also be accompanied by a policy concerning “Abandonment.” Again, If the technician cannot produce this document upon request, you should probably go elsewhere.
    • Answer to Look For:“A small bench fee applies and is taken from the cost of the repair, once you authorize it. Otherwise, payment is not due until completion of service rendered” or “We require a 50% deposit on new builds.”
    • With the previous fee scheme in place, your technician should be able to absorb the cost of parts and wait for the remaining payment until your computer is serviced. If not, you are likely dealing with someone who is less than professional; take your computer elsewhere!
  • “Is All of Your Software Properly Licensed and Do You Provide a Certificate of Authenticity? (COA)”
    • As pointed out earlier, software that is licensed for sale must be paid for to be legal. You neither want the problems that come from an unaddressed vulnerability in your software nor do you wish to be charged with a crime! If the technician cannot produce legal documentation proving the legitimacy of the software on the machine whether selling you the machine or adding it to yours upon request, you should immediately go elsewhere!
    • Answer to Look For:“Yes. I only deal in legal software and COAs or required licensing information along with proper liability releasing paperwork is provided at the time of purchase.”
    • Still, be cautious if it is anything less than a COA. Other forms of paperwork can be produced, misleading you into thinking you are purchasing legitimate software. If you suspect that the technician is being less than honest about licensing, you are likely dealing with someone whose business etiquette is less than desirable; take your computer elsewhere!
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FBI versus Apple iPhone Encryption Legal Debate

Where We Stand

This is NOT a Political but a Purely Logical Matter!


Encryption technologies protect trillions of transactions and exabytes of critical digital information every day and have been in widespread use for the last 20 years. Encryption provides the foundation for trust and security in the digital and online services that improve the lives of billions of people all over the world.

Our ethics contradict the use of “backdoors” or any other means of compromising the strength of tech products for any purpose and we vehemently oppose any law that would compel any technology supplier to weaken the security of their products. We agree with the Information Technology Industry Council: “Weakening security with the aim of advancing security simply does not make sense.”

The Silicon Savior Computer Repair Service bases its position on the following principles:

  • Encryption protects the fundamental rights individuals should have to privacy and security.
    • Encryption protects individuals from identity theft, extortion and political or religious persecution. Backdoors in encryption would undermine freedom of speech and the freedom to conduct our affairs without interference or fear.

  • Encryption is essential for effective cybersecurity.
    • In today’s connected society, even with all the sophisticated technology used to defend against online threats, we cannot be protected against cyberattacks without strong encryption. Today’s cyberattacks are becoming more complex, with sophisticated attackers using multiple points of entry and creative, persistent attacks in their efforts to penetrate even very capable security systems. Encryption is the last line of defense in a holistic cybersecurity strategy that requires multiple layers of protection.

  • Encryption is vital for our modern, Internet-driven global economy.
    • Strong encryption is essential to the integrity of Internet commerce and banking. It protects organizations from industrial espionage and damaging data loss. Ubiquitous, strong encryption ensures consumer trust by preventing online fraud and theft of financial and personal information. Encryption is a key element of the communications technologies that foster economic growth, enable dramatic gains in efficiency and productivity and expand access to and participation in the global economy. The implementation, enforcement and management of backdoors would be impractical and enormously costly to technology companies, stifling innovation and harming their competitiveness in the global economy.

  • Governments should not undermine the effectiveness of legitimate technology.
    • No one government has the ability to demand that backdoors be put into reputable encryption software by every single vendor in the world. Moreover, even if they did, the simple truth is the bad guys will find an encryption tool they can use from some other, less reputable vendor (or create their own). The end result is the same: enormous additional risk and vulnerabilities to law abiding citizens, without meaningfully preventing the activities of the bad guys. Backdoors for some would mean backdoors for all, including repressive regimes, malicious insiders, foreign spies and criminal hackers. Industry experts and non-experts alike with an awareness of the consequences have consistently warned that either outlawing encryption or introducing backdoors will only cause criminals and terrorists to create and use proprietary forms of uncontrolled encryption, subjecting only the law abiding among us to eavesdropping or compromise.

#NoBackdoors

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Malware Faqs

Q: Why should I care about computer viruses? Isn’t it all just a bunch of hype drummed up by marketing departments for anti-virus software companies?

A: No, it is not! If you have not experienced a virus infection as of yet, consider yourself very lucky, especially if you have no Anti-Virus software installed on your computer. The virus threat is not going away. There are lots of people who just love to create havoc with their own virus creations as well as make it a profitable endeavor by obtaining your personal information.

Q: What is a computer virus?

A: A computer virus is a program, (malicious code) designed to spread itself by first infecting executable files or the system areas of hard and floppy disks and then making copies of itself. Viruses usually operate without the knowledge or desire of the computer user but many pose as a brand of anti-virus software themselves and attempt to obtain your credit card information by showing you false infections that it has found and claiming to be able to remove them once you purchase their full version. If you become infected, shutdown your computer as soon as possible and leave it off until a professional can remove the infection(s). The longer you run your computer while it is infected, the more it will be likely to become integrated, the harder it will become to remove and the less the success rate of having a functional operating system upon removal.

Q: What kind of files can spread viruses?

A: Viruses have the potential to infect any type of executable code, not just the files that are commonly called ‘program files’. For example, some viruses infect executable code in the boot sector of floppy disks or in system areas of hard drives. Another type of virus, known as a ‘macro’ virus, can infect word processing and spreadsheet documents that use macros. It’s also possible for HTML documents containing JavaScript or other types of executable code to spread viruses or other malicious code.

Since virus code must be executed to have any effect, files that the computer treats as pure data are safe. This includes graphics and sound files such as .gif, .jpg, .mp3, .wav, etc., as well as plain text in .txt files. For example, just viewing picture files won’t infect your computer with a virus. The virus code has to be in a form, such as an .exe program file, a .pdf file or a Word .doc file, that the computer will actually try to execute.

Q: How do viruses spread?

A: When you execute program code that’s infected by a virus, the virus code will also run and try to infect other programs, either on the same computer or on other computers connected to it over a network. The newly infected programs will try to infect yet more programs.

When you share a copy of an infected file with other computer users, running the file may also infect their computers; and files from those computers may spread the infection to yet more computers.

If your computer is infected with a boot sector virus, the virus tries to write copies of itself to the system areas of removable disks and hard disks. Then, the infected removable disks may infect other computers that read or boot from them and the virus copy on the hard disk will try to infect still more removable disks.

Some viruses, known as ‘multipartite’ viruses, can spread both by infecting files and by infecting the boot areas of removable disks.

Q: What do viruses do to computers?

A: Viruses are software programs and they can do the same things as any other programs running on a computer. The actual effect of any particular virus depends on how it was programmed by the person who wrote the virus.

Some viruses are deliberately designed to damage files or otherwise interfere with your computer’s operation, some try to transmit your personal information to a remote server while others don’t do anything but try to spread themselves around. But even the ones that just spread themselves are harmful since they damage files and may cause other problems in the process of spreading which will surely manifest in the form of slow operation, freezes, Blue Screens of Death (BSOD) or other undesirable outcomes.

Note: Viruses can’t do any damage to hardware: they won’t melt down your CPU, burn out your hard drive, cause your monitor to explode, etc. Email warnings about viruses that will physically destroy your computer are usually hoaxes, not legitimate virus warnings.

Q: What is a Trojan horse program?

A: A type of program that is often confused with viruses is a ‘Trojan horse’ program. This is not a virus but simply a program (often harmful) that pretends to be something else.

For example, you might download what you think is a new game but when you run it, it deletes files on your hard drive. Or, the third time you start the game, the program E-mails your saved passwords to another person.

Note: Simply downloading a file to your computer won’t activate a virus or Trojan horse; you have to execute the code in the file to trigger it. This could mean running a program file or opening a Word/Excel document in a program (such as Word or Excel) that can execute any macros in the document.

Q: What’s the deal with viruses and E-mail?

A: You can’t get a virus just by reading a plain-text E-mail message or Usenet post. What you have to watch out for are encoded messages containing embedded executable code (i.e., JavaScript in an HTML message) or messages that include an executable file attachment (i.e., an encoded program file or a Word document containing macros).

In order to activate a virus or Trojan horse program, your computer has to execute some type of code. This could be a program attached to an E-mail, a Word document you downloaded from the Internet or something received on a removable disk. There’s no special hazard in files attached to Usenet posts or E-mail messages; they’re no more dangerous than any other file.

Q: What can I do to reduce my chances of getting viruses from E-mail?

Treat any file attachments that may contain executable code as carefully as you would any other new files; save the attachment to disk and then check it with an up-to-date virus scanner before opening the file.

If your E-mail or news software has the ability to automatically execute JavaScript, Word macros or other executable code contained in or attached to a message, I strongly recommend that you disable this feature.

My personal feeling is that if an executable file shows up unexpectedly attached to an E-mail, you should delete it unless you can positively verify what it is, who it came from and why it was sent to you.

The recent outbreak of Facebook email viruses is a vivid demonstration of the need to be extremely careful when you receive E-mail with attached files or documents. Just because an E-mail appears to come from someone you trust does NOT mean the file is safe or that the supposed sender had anything to do with it.

It is often that I explain to my customers the importance of keeping their updates current and attempt to make the process of doing so easier for them. I know, I know… “I’m too busy to keep my computer up to date!” “When I get on my computer, I do so because I have things I need to do right then; I can’t take the time to update!” “I’m not sure if it is legit and I’m scared I’m going to install a virus!” I have literally heard it all. Well, not to worry. We will explore updates and why you should be sure that your entire system is current.

“But wait a minute! I thought you were going to talk about preventing viruses. What does this have to do with that?”

First of all, let me explain how upward of 90% of malware is being installed on and infecting systems every day in a way that is 100% avoidable.

Removal

Okay. So, now you’re infected with some malware. Knowing how you could have prevented it will help you greatly in the future; but for now, how do you get your computer clean?

Well, it can be a daunting task at times but if you’re willing to do some boring scans with a few basic and free tools, you can remove many viruses yourself.

First, you’ll need some of those aforementioned tools. There are many out there from which to choose but some will be found in any computer technician’s arsenal who is worth his or her salt. You should get a flash drive for downloading these tools on to so if you’re infected with malware that is blocking your internet access, you can run the programs you need from the USB drive.

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How to Access Windows 10 Updates

So, unsurprizing as this may be, Windows 10 has changed the way Windows Update is accessed. In this post, we will attempt to answer many of our clients who have wondered how to access this important feature of Windows. While we hope you find this to be informative, this is not intended to be a guide for you to diagnose problems with your computer or to replace a professional technician’s understanding of observations made while performing work on your machine, only to inform you of what you need to know for updating your machines in Windows 10. Since Micro$oft could change things at any time, check back frequently for updates to this article for more information as it arrises!

Performing Windows Update in Windows 10

First, open your new but somewhat familiar to pre Windows 8 users start menu and do as follows:

Once your settings module is open, click on “Update and Security.”:

Click on “Check for Updates” in the following window:

Windows will then check for updates on demand:

Windows will then download any updates, if available, and then install them as well. If there are none you will see the following screen:

Pretty simple, we know, once you know where to find it!

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Upgrading to Windows 10

Well, as predictably expected, we’ve been receiving a torrent of queries regarding Windows 10. In this post, we will attempt to answer many of the questions we’ve received regarding Micro$oft’s latest Operating System release. While we hope you find this to be informative, this is not intended to be a guide for you to diagnose problems with your upgrade, only to inform you of some of the caveats we have discovered by going behind others who have upgraded and had problems, as well as some of our own experience with upgrading machines to Windows 10. Since this is an exhaustive subject that continues to reveal more as it unfolds with time and even more experience, check back frequently for updates to this article for more information!

For Those Who Need to Catch Up

So, you may have noticed a new icon in your taskbar in the recent months that wasn’t previously there. It would look something like this:

At this point, you should click on “Check Your Upgrade Status” and check the PC for any possible compatibility warnings like so:

Continue according to the illustrations to follow:

You should have a screen showing something like this:

If there are any software incompatibilities, the software will be listed with a recommendation for it to be uninstalled. If there is a hardware incompatibility, you will be presented with information such as this:

In this case, you would not choose to upgrade until the hardware manufacturer has released a compatible driver for your Windows 10 upgrade or bring it in to us and we may be able to provide a workaround. Otherwise, you may return to the “Check Your Upgrade Status” item in the menu and you will have the following screen should your Windows 10 Upgrade be ready for installation:

You could choose at this point to click the “Ok. Let’s Continue” button and follow the onscreen prompts to upgrade your Windows 7 or 8.1 machine to the latest Windows 10. However, there are several things we have found helpful to do prior to the upgrade.

  • Check for the latest update for your video driver through device manager.
  • If none is found, go to the manufacturer’s website to verify that a more recent driver version is not available.
  • If one is available, install it and reboot your system.
  • Run Windows Update and install any important updates as well as the two optional updates there for Windows. NOT Silverlight, Skype or any other updates that are not specifically for the Windows OS!
  • Reboot once again after the updates install.
  • You may now attempt your upgrade!

We have found that many antiviruses are removed or dysfunctional after the upgrade. You may choose to uninstall your antivirus prior to the upgrade and then reinstall it immediately afterward. The latest version of Avast is Windows 10 compatible and we recommend it highly over its competitors.

We have also found iCloud to cause screen flickering problems. We suggest uninstalling it prior to the upgrade. It may then be reinstalled afterward. iCloud will most likely produce a folder permissions error as well. If you are not familiar with file permission settings, we recommend bringing it in to us to resolve!

There also seems to be a change in the way Windows 10 handles network file shares. This is more involved than we will get into here. Let it suffice to say that, if you use network file sharing, offline file synchronization or any network locations for mapped drives or shortcuts where files are stored on the network rather than on your machine, you should probably have us come out to do this upgrade for you to ensure you have access to these resources after the upgrade is complete.

The latest widespread issue being experienced by Windows 10 early adopters is a critical error message stating that “Start menu and Cortana aren’t working. The dialog box will look like so:

This issue is acknowleged by Microsoft as reported here. The repair that is working to permanently fix this requires launching powershell and using command line. it is quite involved and we recommend bringing your machine in to have it fixed in-shop. Until then, we have found that many will sign out as suggested by the dialog box and sign in to find the error persisting. Instead, after signing out, go to the lower right-hand corner of your sign-in screen and click on the power icon. From the choices, select “Restart.” You should come back to your desktop without the error, at least temoprarily. Eventually, when you have a few hours where you can go without your machine, bring it to us for the solution that is working for the vast majority of Windows 10 users we have worked with.

Following the precausions will render the best upgrade results possible. Also, as we run into new issues, we will document them here for your viewing and edification. Remember! An informed decision is a better decision. And we want your experience with your computer to be the best it can be. So check back here often for updates to this post along with our recommendations for each scenario.

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