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Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 7?

It is our opinion that if you plan on keeping your computer for more than a year than upgrading to Windows®7 is definitely something to consider. Microsoft® has provided a top 10 reasons to upgrade to Windows® 7 list - Click here to see why they think you should upgrade.
Before you make that decision to upgrade we have a few tools & suggestions to provide you which will help you make your decision.

  1. First it is highly suggested that you run the Windows® 7 upgrade advisor before purchasing any software. Click the following link and then run or to run it later click save and store it somewhere that you can retrieve it at a later time - Upgrade Advisor.
  2. Once you receive the go ahead from the upgrade advisor we highly suggest that before running out and purchasing that Windows® upgrade license you make sure you have all of your original programming software, especially your purchased programs such as Microsoft® Office, etc. You will need this stuff once your system has been upgraded because XP to 7 isn't an upgrade in the traditional sense. See the attached Microsoft® disclaimer flyer conveniently included on the inside cover of your newly purchased software.
    Windows XP Upgrade Notice
    For those of you that would prefer to do some light reading Microsoft® has a 17 page document to take you through the steps of "upgrading your system."
    Windows XP Upgrade Doc
  3. As long as you do not delete any partitions from your computer all of your documents, pictures, etc should remain on the computer as a subdirectory of the Windows.old folder.
    ***Please note that it is highly encouraged that you purchase a flash drive or external hard drive to save all your files worth saving as a just in case!***
  4. Once your operating system has been installed you can go in and tune it up to suit your particular wants and needs. All your files will need to be moved to their new folder homes.
Seems like quite a bit of work, doesn't it? Well it can be, especailly if you have to dig out some old software product licensing! Let us do your system upgrades. We can purchase the software for you or use your purchased software. Your data will be safe and the best part about it is that you wont need to find all of those programs!Give us a call today to set up your appointment or submit our online request form. Information Request Form

Learning About Viruses

What is a Computer Virus?

Viruses can go unnoticed for a long period of time, causing no harm to your computer system. However, some viruses may cause severe damage to data files or your computer's hard disk drive resulting in reformatting your computer's hard drive in order to remove the virus. Viruses can affect your computer's memory, damaging files that are opened when using your computer.
Even if the virus is considered to be a "non-damaging" virus, it occupies the computer's hard drive, memory and CPU processing time which are essential resources needed when operating your computer system.

What is a Trojan Horse?

A Trojan Horse is a program that pretends to be a safe application, showing no results when executed on your computer system, but surprises the computer user with horrible consequences when detected. Unlike a virus, a Trojan Horse does not replicate, but they are similar when causing damage to the computer system.
A Trojan Horse usually operates in the background of your computer as another open program and is accessed by the hacker and controlled by a remote computer system. With a Trojan Horse installed the hacker can manipulate your computer system for their own needs. They can use the infected computer system to attack other Internet user's computers, open-mail relay, add or remove files and programs on your computer, or gain all of your personal information stored on your computer system.

So what are Worms?

A worm is a computer program that duplicates copies of itself which it spreads on its own. Unlike a virus, worms do not infect other computer programs or files. To spread these program copies it has created, the worm virus will attempt to infect other computers within a network, e-mail or through Internet Relay Chat.
The worm virus can also infect several different registry keys, and replace important boot up files. So when you restart your computer it will change the normal boot up file you would use to start up your computer to the worm virus file, so once you are up on your desktop the worm virus is ready to act and spread itself. When trying to eliminate the worm virus, if you do not remove all infected pieces of this worm your infection may continue to become worse.

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So how can I keep from getting Viruses?

The best way to protect your computer from a virus is by installing virus protection (anti virus) software. This software scans your machine (usually when you start it up), locates and removes any viruses that are found. 
It is important to upgrade your virus protection software regularly as new viruses appear every day.

Learning about Spyware

How does spyware get into my PC?

Spyware is usually downloaded with free software (shareware). If you have ever downloaded free programs, or music from the internet, no matter how innocent they seemed, there is a good chance they contained other programs that you didn't expect to install.
The user license for shareware may tell you that other programs will be installed, but these companies rely on the fact that not many people read the legal jumble in the user license.
There are other ways that your privacy can be violated via the internet, such as just visiting certain websites, the use of certain browser toolbars, and from infected email you may have opened.

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What different types of spyware are out there?

There are many groups of programs under the broad term of spyware, lets break down the most popular, and take a look...

Adware: Mainly low risk. These are programs that are quite often embedded in freeware, and mainly display advertising messages to you, in the hope that you will click on them with the possibility that you will buy products or services from their principle sites.

Spyware: Medium to high risk.  Similar to adware, but spyware also transmits data to the relevant companies about your surfing habits, in order to bombard you with more targeted advertising messages.  Spyware can also be more sinister than this, as far as recording personal details such as credit card details, social security numbers, and bank details etc.  It can also open the gateway for other malicious program downloads such as trojans and malware, and is notoriously difficult to manually remove.

Trojans: High risk.  Disguised as something they are not, or hidden in seemingly innocent programs or files as attachments.  Trojan Horses can modify system settings, and perform undesirable functions within your PC.  Many trojans will allow hackers to bypass your existing virus, and firewall protection, and can be extremely difficult to locate or remove manually. 

Diallers: high risk.  These programs 'hijack' your dial-up modem, and force your internet connection via premium rate numbers.  Be wary at certain adult content sites, as this is where these programs are used most aggressively, but not exclusively. Many times they are downloaded with other spyware and adware to try and influence you back to the site, via constant pop-up advertising.

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Browser Hijackers: Medium to high risk.  Will change your home page settings, install unwanted toolbars, place shortcuts on your desktop, add to your favorites, redirect your browser to un-requested web sites, and report your surfing habits back to the parent company.

Malware: High risk. Short for malicious software, software designed specifically to damage or disrupt your system, such as a virus or trojan horse.  Malware programs are specifically written to inflict maximum damage, and potential loss of data from your PC.

Worms: High risk.  These are similar to viruses, yet are completely self-replicating.  This means that, unlike viruses which need to attach themselves to other programs, worms spread on their own, and are able to exploit the backdoor openings that certain spyware attributes can create.  Can be very damaging to your system.   

Key-loggers: High risk.  These programs record your every keystroke, including passwords, bank details, social security numbers etc.  The perpetrators of these programs are out to defraud you in a big way.

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Surely my virus protection would protect me from spyware?

Spyware, and viruses are closely related in as far as they can both cause damage to your PC, and also can allow access to your personal details, via hackers etc.  However spyware tends to install in a totally different way than viruses, and therefore bypasses your conventional virus protection and firewall.

Because spyware and viruses are closely related, they overlap to a degree, so you will find that virus software will 'catch' some spyware type infections, and vica-verca.

In a nutshell, the only way you can be completely protected is by using a good quality virus protection, firewall, and anti-spyware program.

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What can spyware do if my PC is infected?

At best, details of your internet browsing habits will be broadcast back to the owners of the spyware that has been installed on your system.

The purpose of this data gathering is to bombard you with advertising which closely relates to your interests, in order to have a better chance of selling you something.

Certain spyware attributes are malicious, and can cause system crashes, loss of data, or at least a very slow operating system.

At worst your personal details can be stolen and used against you in a variety of ways, such as credit card fraud, personal identity theft for obtaining credit, passports, insurance fraud and the like.

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Isn't it illegal for companies to distribute this kind of program?

Currently there is virtually no legislation regarding the use and distribution of spyware programs.  However government officials in various countries are looking into this, and laws could be passed in the future controlling the use of such programs.

However this could take years, and legislation would not stop the devious software producers, and hackers continuing with illegal activity, so the problem will quite probably get worse, not better.  

What advice can you give to help stop spyware?

We would recommend prevention rather than cure.  Stay away from dubious looking websites, always read the small print in the user license agreements especially with shareware downloads, and install and run a good quality anti-spyware program alongside your regular virus software and firewall.

Also, do not open email and/or attachments to email if you are not completely satisfied with their origin.

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Registry Errors: Causes

Are you unable to open applications on your PC? Has your PC started behaving erratically quite often? Does system startup and shutdown take hours on your system? If yes, then it is time that you give the issue some thought. 90 out of 100 times registry errors are the cause of your PC problems.

You may wonder how Windows registry can cause errors on your system. Well, the registry is the repository that stores on your computer all information about system hardware and software configuration, system and network settings, and user profiles. Therefore, each and every PC activity, such as accessing, installing, uninstalling, working on applications, and configuration change, such as modifying display settings, changing audio level, and changing window size, makes an entry or adds a key within the registry.

Normally, an entry or key when no longer used—after you uninstall an application or close a program—are deleted automatically from the registry. However, at times some of these keys are either left behind and leave vacant spaces or registry holes. Over time, a large number of obsolete, redundant, and invalid entries and registry holes accumulate within the registry causing it to grow at an unwarranted rate. Eventually damaging, corrupting, and fragmenting the registry.

Therefore, next time you cannot open an application and keep receiving an error message, then you must know that a registry error might be behind it.

If you frequently browse the Web and download various freeware programs, audio, and games, then your computer opens up to attacks from malware such as viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware. These malicious programs add embedded keys within the registry. These keys are usually non-removable and cannot be deleted manually. A registry error that is caused due to a malicious entry can cause many serious problems to your system. These entries may change file associations and prevent you from opening executable files and cause system freezes whenever you start working on the system. In more severe cases, registry error due to malware may damage your system hardware and prevent your PC from booting up.