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6 Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Memorize Now

Posted December 3rd, 2012 by Mark with No Comments

Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

If you have a new computer with Windows 8, you are probably knee-deep in the learning curve, trying to get used to the new interface.  I’ve said before that it’s one giant game of “Go Fish”.  Here are 6 Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts to help you along the path.  They all use the “Windows Key” – usually left of the spacebar, with the Windows logo on it.

1.  Windows Key + E     This bring up the familiar “My Computer” window when you in Desktop mode.

2.  Windows Key + C     Immediately brings up the Charms bar, for quick access to things like Search, Share, and Settings.

3.  Windows Key + D     Switches you to Desktop mode

4.  Windows Key + I      Opens the Settings window, where they hid the Power icon, for example.

5.  Windows Key + X     Opens the Tools window

6.  Windows Key + PrtScrn Key     Saves an image of the current screen to the Screenshots folder in your Pictures folder.

One more – the easiest way to find something is to just search for it.  If you are in the start screen, just start typing the name of what you are looking for.  You can also bring up the Charms bar and click on Search there.  Happy Hunting!

Does Your Computer Have Enough RAM?

Posted November 29th, 2012 by Mark with 1 Comment

If your computer is slower than it should be, it might not have enough RAM.

Folks often confuse RAM (working memory) with Hard Disk (storage).  I like to use this analogy:  Your Hard Disk is like your desk drawers.  The bigger your disk, the more things you can store.  RAM, on the other hand is like the top of your desk.  The more RAM you have (the bigger your desk top), the more files you can have open at the same time, and the bigger the file you can work on comfortably.

To check how much RAM you have, and how much your computer “wants,” do the following:

1.  Open the programs you use most often.  This might include your email, the internet browser, and Word or Excel with a typical file open in each.

2.  Open Task Manager.  To do this, right-click on the task bar at the bottom of the screen and choose Start Task Manager from the menu that pops up.

3.  Once in Task Manager, click on the Performance tab at the top.

4.  On the Performance tab, take note of two figures.

a)  The first one is listed on the left side of the page in the second graph, titled “Memory.”  This graph shows how much RAM your computer is currently using for the programs that are running.  This figure is quoted in Gigabytes, and represents how much RAM your computer “wants” to run your programs.

b) The second figure that is important is the at the bottom of the window, in a section titled “Physical Memory.”  Look for the figure labeled “Total.”  This is the total amount of RAM Memory your computer has.  This figure is unfortunately quoted in Megabytes, so you have to divide by 1,000 to convert it to Gigabytes for comparison purposes.

5.  Next, compare these two figures (how much your computer “wants” vs. how much is “has.”  If your computer is using most or all of its available memory to run your programs, then you need more RAM to get better performance.

For example, on the computer I’m using to write this article, I’m running my internet browser, my email program, and Microsoft Word.  My computer is using 1.78GB of RAM, and I have a total of 8,191 Megabytes (or 8.1 Gigabytes).  So, I’m using about 21% of the available RAM.  This is a good level, leaving lots of “spare” RAM.


Does your computer have enough RAM


If, on the other hand, my computer only had 2 Gigabytes of RAM, and running a common combination of programs used that same 1.78 Gigabytes, then I would be using about 90% of my available memory and should definitely consider getting more RAM.  In this situation, my computer would probably be operating exceptionally slowly because it would be starved for working memory.

RAM is relatively inexpensive, and can be one of the easiest things you can add to make your computer run better (good “bang for your buck”).   Call us if you’d like to add more RAM.  This is an easy single-hour appointment – we’d be glad to help!



Are You Backing Up Your Data?

Posted September 3rd, 2012 by Mark with No Comments

Backup Q&A

Backup Q&A

Q:  Do you have data on your computer that you wouldn’t want to lose?

A:  Ok, that was a trick question – the answer, is of course, “Yes.”

So let’s move on.

Q:  What sort of things can happen that would cause you to lose your data?

A:  The hard disk on which your data lives can fail…sometimes without warning.  It’s a mechanical device that is very sensitive, and it can be damaged by heat, vibration, electrical surges, or it can just plain wear out.

A: Power outages common at this time of year, can damage your computer – especially if it is getting old.

A: A lightning strike on your house or close to you can cause a power surge that can take out your computer (and lots of other devices) in the blink of an eye.

A:  If you have a laptop, you might drop your computer.  A good hit in the right orientation can destroy a hard drive.

A:  You could get a virus that erases your data or encrypts all your files and then offers to sell you the decryption key at an exorbitant price.

A:  You can delete something important accidentally – I see this all the time.

A:  Someone you know and love can delete something important accidentally.

A:  Someone you used to know and love can delete something important not-so-accidentally.

You get the picture.  There are many, many ways to lose important data, but only one to save it.  BACKUP.  Then, BACKUP AGAIN.  Then, KEEP BACKING UP.

Q:  Why don’t most people backup their data?

A:  This is an easy one.  It’s too hard, and it takes too much time.

It’s human nature – even if you know a task is important, if it takes too much effort or is too time consuming, then you just never manage to find time for it.  Life intervenes and the task never seems to rise to the top of the priority list.

Q:  So – how do we fix that?

A:  Another easy one.  You make it EASY.   Even better, you AUTOMATE it so that you don’t have to do anything at all except check to make sure it’s working once in a while.

There are two main schools of backup – Online and Local.  Both have pros and cons but it is better to backup using any method than hold off because you are debating the relative merits of the available choices.

We can help you decide which method is best for you, based on your particular circumstance, then we can help you get set up so that your data is safeguarded.  The end result is that your data will be safe and you can sleep better at night.  Call us today to make an appointment!

Gadgets Be Gone!

Posted July 19th, 2012 by Mark with No Comments

If you are one of the folks using Windows Vista or 7 that use “Windows Gadgets” (those floating desktop applications like the clock, stock ticker, weather forecast, etc.) – you need to do this now.  Seriously.

Windows Gadgets 2

Windows Gadgets


A long-standing, but recently “outed” security vulnerability in Windows Gadgets will likely be used in short order as a way to deliver infections or worse to your computer.  Microsoft’s (and my) recommendation?  Turn them off.

There is a simple method provided by a Microsoft “Fixit” link, here.

To do this, click on the link, decline the “experience survey” if offered, then look for the Fixit link in the middle of the page on the left labeled “Disable Windows Sidebar and Gadgets.”  Click this link, if offered, choose “Run”.  If your browser (like Firefox or Chrome) requires that you save the file first, be sure to click on the saved file to run it.  This file will do exactly what it says, disable the Windows sidebar and gadgets.  When finished, it will ask you to reboot your computer – which you should do.

While Gadgets were never a critical part of the operating system, they were useful.  It’s unfortunate that they chose not to fix the problem.  Be sure to let us know if you have any trouble – this is the sort of thing that can be easily done in a short remote session if you need help.

Do it today!

6 Ways to Speed Up Windows 7

Posted May 24th, 2012 by Mark with No Comments

How to Speed Up Windows 7 and Making Your Computer Run Faster


1. Rein-in those startup programs

Take a look down by the clock in the lower right corner of your screen. Click on the upward-facing arrow if necessary to show the hidden icons. Every icon you see there is a program that is running and using up system resources. The more icons you have there, the longer it takes for them all to start up when you turn on the computer, and the more system resources are being used – leaving less available for the things you want to do.

Speed up Windows 7

Hover your mouse over each icon in turn and read what the pop-up text says. Use this to determine whether or not you need each of these programs. If you determine that you need all of them, then that’s fine – but recognize that each one of them adds to the startup time for your computer and takes away from the resources you need to run other programs.

Speed up Windows 7

If you identify programs that you know you don’t need, then uninstall them (Control Panel, Programs applet) to free up the resources taken up. If you don’t recognize, or you’re not sure about some of these programs, then leave them alone. It’s easy to delete something important if you’re not careful.


2. Make sure your system has enough RAM

Random Access Memory, or working memory, is used by Windows itself and by programs that you run. When you don’t have enough free RAM, your computer will run slowly. To check on your RAM, do this:

- Run Task Manager by right-clicking on the task bar at the bottom of the screen. Choose “Start Task Manager” from the popup menu.

- When Task Manager comes up, click on the “Performance” tab. There are two live graphs shown. The 2nd one is labeled “Memory”. The left side shows the amount of RAM that your computer is currently using. Make a note of this figure. On the computer I’m using to write this, the RAM currently used is 1.49GB (or Gigabytes).


Speed up Windows 7


- Below the graphs is a section labeled “Physical Memory.” The first line in this section is labeled “Total.” Note the figure there. On my computer it says 8,191 MB (Megabytes, which is equal to approximately 8 Gigabytes).


Speed up Windows 7

- Compare these two numbers. In my case, I have a total of 8GB of memory, and my computer is currently using 1.49GB. In other words, I have about 6.5GB of RAM available (8 minus 1.49). This is the space used to run additional programs. You want to have enough free memory so that when you run programs like Word or Internet Explorer, your computer isn’t running out of memory.

- If you find that you don’t have much free memory, then it’s time to add more. Call us for help – this is an easy job.


3. Get rid of unnecessary browser toolbars

Open your internet browser and take a look at everything that is displayed above the actual website you are viewing. There is probably a menu bar, and maybe the address bar where you can see the URL of the web page. Every other toolbar shown is slowing down your browsing. Take a look at what toolbars are there and make a note of any that you can live without. Close and disable them from within Internet Explorer, then uninstall them from Control Panel.

Speed up Windows 7


4. Cleanup temporary files

Use the Disk Cleanup Utility to get rid of temporary files. Open “Computer,” right-click on the C drive, then choose “Properties.” Click on the “Disk Cleanup” button on the “General” tab. Make sure you DO NOT choose to “Compress Files” if that is offered. You only want to delete temporary files. Check the boxes and click “OK.”

Speed up Windows 7


5. If you are currently using Internet Explorer, consider trying Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome instead.

Both Firefox and Chrome load pages a bit faster than IE, and a new browser will not be encumbered by any toolbars or other add-ons that might have accumulated along the way with IE.


6. Scan for viruses and malware.

If you haven’t run manual scans in a while, take the time to do so now (make sure you update first!) Viruses or malware running in the background can certainly slow down your computer.

It should go without saying that you should have a good backup before making any big changes to your computer. If you’re unsure about any of this or would like us to just come and do it for you, just give us a call at (412) 480-9969 – that’s what we’re here for!

How To Make Your Internet Connection Faster

Posted April 28th, 2012 by Mark with 2 Comments


Make your internet connection faster

Does your internet connection seem slower than it used to be?  This is a common problem, but it can sometimes be fixed with just a few simple steps.  To tackle this project, we need to be a little methodical – - ready?  Let’s go!

Steps to Make Your Internet Connection Faster

  1. To start with, let’s find out how fast your internet is.  Go to This Site and click on a couple of locations to independently measure your speed.  Take the average of at least two destinations for your download and upload speed, and write it down.
  2. It’s also helpful to know how fast your internet is supposed to be.  To find out, you’ll need to call your internet provider (e.g. Verizon, Comcast, etc.)  They will often be a little hesitant to give you a number, but if you press, you should be able to find out that the service in your area, for example, is 10 megabit down and 3 megabit up.  Now, move on to the next step.
  3. If the speed you got in Step 1 is within 10% of the speed of your service (Step 2), then stop.  You are getting what you are paying for.  If you want or need faster internet, you’ll have to upgrade your service.  A quick call to your provider will let you know what your options are.
  4. Still with us?  Ok.  That means we can likely help.  Let’s start by unplugging the modem and router (if you have one).  If your modem has a battery backup, you’ll need to make sure you take the battery out to get a complete restart.  Leave the devices unplugged for a minute or two, then put that battery back in if you removed one and plug the devices in again.  After a couple of minutes, reboot your computer and check your speed again (Step 1).  If your speed is now within 10% of your rated speed, stop.  You’ve fixed the problem!  Remember this trick and do it a couple of times each year.
  5. If your speed still isn’t what it should be, then it’s time to do some maintenance on your computer.  This is something we can do easily in a remote support session, so call us at 412.480.9969  if you’d like to arrange one.
  6. If your computer is all cleaned up and your speed still isn’t what it should be, then it’s possible there is a problem with your service.  Call your provider again and give them the results of your speed test.  Ask them to test your connection from their end.  Sometimes they can fix the problem easily, or send a technician out to check your cables, etc.
  7. Lastly, if the provider says everything is working ok from their end and your service is good, then there is a deeper problem that should be addressed.  Call us for help.


Reinstalling Windows

Posted April 20th, 2012 by Mark with No Comments

Reinstalling Windows

If your computer’s hard drive fails, or you have a particularly nasty virus, we might have to reinstall Windows for you.  This is one of the more involved and expensive routine services we do – but it’s not obvious why.  To help illustrate, here is a quick rundown of the steps involved in this task:

Basic Steps to Reinstalling Windows

Backup the data – this includes Documents, Email, Pictures, Music, Videos and everything on the desktop.  This can take anywhere form just a few minutes to hours depending on the amount of data you have.

Scan your data – If you had a virus infection, a separate scan (or two) is run on your backed-up data to make sure it is clean.

Backup the product keys for Windows and Microsoft Office to make sure these can be reinstalled and correctly activated.

Backup all of the system’s hardware drivers.  There are drivers for the motherboard, wired and wireless network, audio, modem, video, mouse as well as several others that vary from computer to computer.

Format (completely erase and reset the file system) your existing or a new hard drive.  This process can take a couple of hours on a large hard disk.

Install Windows – Depending on your computer, we may have to order recovery disks from the manufacturer to complete this task, which can add several days to the procedure.

Reinstall all of the system drivers and troubleshoot any problems that may arise (no sound, the video isn’t right, etc.)

Load all available Windows updates so your system is “completely patched”.  This process can easily take several hours.  For Windows XP, for example, there are over 300 updates to bring a fresh install current.  For Windows Vista expecially, this is an involved process requiring many reboots and installs.  Windows 7 is the newest version, so has the fewest updates, but there are still several dozen available.

Install and update antivirus software, iTunes, Email software, various addons like Flash and Java, reinstall Microsoft Office if you had it originally.

Reinstall the backed-up data

Reconfigure email, import backed-up messages & contacts, etc.

Check to make sure everything is ok and functioning.  Typically, there are several adjustments we make to the Windows settings to make your computer more efficient.

We typically charge between 2.5 and 3 hours labor for this process, but the actual project can take several days depending on the complexity of the particular install.

As always, call us at (412) 480-9969 if you have any questions about your computer.  We can help!