Reasons to Reboot

We get a lot of calls and emails about computers not performing as expected. It’s amazing what a good reboot can do – if you really do it.

Rebooting cleans up a lot of the electronic junk that builds up as you go in and out of applications, open and close files and content from the Internet. Like anything else that piles up, all the electronic junk blocks access to your disk space and RAM (random access memory) for applications, files, email and Internet browsing. After two or three weeks of keeping email programs, applications and files and websites open, you’ve essentially clogged your system’s electronic arteries.

A reboot flushes all that stuff out of your RAM. One way to characterize RAM is that it’s like a pad of notepaper. When you run out, you need to erase some information on the pad or get another pad. Rebooting is like erasing the paper in the notepad. It lets your computer start with a fresh, clean slate when you restart, and in most cases, that solves a lot of performance issues.

We always ask our clients with performance problems if they’ve rebooted their computers, and they invariably say they have. When we get into their systems through remote access, we see something different. When we get into conversations, some people with laptops think that they have rebooted their systems just by closing the lid for a few seconds and then opening it back up. Others, with desktop computers, think that shutting off the monitor reboots the computer.

Unfortunately, neither of those actions will reboot a computer. Here’s what you need to do. First, save all open files and emails and bookmark web pages if you want to retain easy access to them. Then, close all applications. You should do the same with phones and tablets before rebooting them.

For a PC or Windows-based computer running Windows 10, click the Windows icon on the task bar on the lower left side of your monitor and then click on the “start” icon on the left. You’ll have the option to restart the computer, which will reboot it.

For Windows 8, point your mouse to the lower-right corner of the screen, move it up and click Settings. Click Power and then click Restart.

For a Mac, you can follow this simple, 3-step process:

  1. Press the power button (or press Control+Eject) and, when a dialog box appears, click the Restart button.
  2. Choose the Apple key and then click Restart.
  3. Press Control+Command+Eject (or Control+Command+Power button).

For phones and tablets, you can power off the device for 10 to 30 seconds and then power them back on.

For all computers, you can hold the power button until the unit shuts itself off. We consider this a last resort because it stops the system with an electronic jolt. But if nothing else works, this will do it. Let it stay off for 10 to 30 seconds and then restart it.

Sometimes, restarting in “Safe Mode” allows your computer to perform some diagnostics and verify basic systems are in good working order. With a Windows7 computer, press the F8 key when you turn on the computer, and then use the Arrow keys to navigate to “Safe Mode” and hit enter.

Windows 10 is more involved, but it’s not that hard once you get into the routine. Follow these steps:

  1. Click or tap the Start button, and then the Power button. You’ll see a Restart button. Hold down the Shift key when you select Restart
  2. When you get the full-screen menu with six options, select Troubleshoot>Advanced options>Startup Settings.
  3. Click the Restart to begin the reboot. You’ll get to a Startup Settings option.
  4. Use the Arrow key to navigate to Enable Safe Mode or Enable Safe Mode With Networking

For a Mac, immediately press and hold the Shift key. The white Apple logo will appear on your display. Release the shift key when you see the login window.

Because “Safe Mode” limits your computer’s capabilities, we recommend restarting in your regular mode once you see everything is functioning properly.

We recommend you reboot your systems no less than once a week as a preventive measure. It shouldn’t be much of an inconvenience. We still remember when we had to reboot computers several times a day. If your system is still sluggish after a reboot, contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email for a remote diagnostics session.

Behind Last Month’s Internet Breakdown

We’ve harped for years about the inherent conflict of convenience vs. online security. That conflict reared its ugly head during the distributed denial-of-service attacks, using – maybe – millions of computers to hit some of the world’s largest and most popular e-commerce and news websites.

Investigators have been able to pin part of the cause on hackers using IP addresses commandeered from millions of home devices, commonly called IoT (Internet of Things) – such as interior and exterior security cameras, doorbell and baby monitors, thermostats, etc. – that are increasingly popular with consumers. Too many people install them on their Wi-Fi networks and never bother to change default user names or passwords. That just leaves the door wide open to have their devices hijacked and used for malicious purposes.

From our point of view, it’s what happens when we get lazy and sloppy because we are so tuned into convenience. And, a DDoS attack can be the least consequential problem for you, personally. The hacker can gain control of your device and peak into your house at will – and even change your thermostat settings.

Users are not the only sloppy parties in this turn of events. The device manufacturers share the blame because they don’t require you to reset your user name or password as part of the installation process. After all, they don’t want the blame for your inconvenience, and we think that’s wrong. They can require you to reset user names and passwords as part of the installation process.

You can help prevent these DDoS attacks by making sure you change user names and passwords for the devices during the installation process. You can further protect your privacy by making sure your Wi-Fi network has a good, strong password. Too many people leave the default user name and password on their routers, too.

We should note that businesses, including professional services providers, can be just as lax as home users. We’ve had client systems hacked because their system administrators did not set up stronger log-in credentials.

We strongly urge everyone to have somebody look at their networks and IT systems and procedures once or twice a year. This may not be a comfortable analogy for some people, but even though you brush your teeth and floss every day, you still maintain better health when you visit the dentist once or twice a year for a cleaning and exam.

If you avoid the visit because of expense, it’s costlier – and more painful – to fix the problem instead of preventing it. What would be your cost for system downtime and repairing security breaches? Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to find out what our security audit would cover for you and to set it up. In today’s world, you can’t afford to overlook any possible weakness.

Holiday Cheer from Microsoft and Apple

Microsoft and Apple have put some new, high-price goodies on the market for the holidays. In a word, they’re getting “touchier” as tablets get more computing capability and computers use more touchscreen technology.

If you’re looking for an apples-to-apples comparison…no pun intended…maybe that should be oranges-to-oranges comparison, that may be tough. Both are pricey and feature Intel i5 and i7 processors. Each will do fine for those willing to spend the money. That said, here’s what we like and what you can expect.

Microsoft is heavily promoting its Surface Studio as a highly creative tool for design tasks that have long been associated with Macs. A tablet that acts like a computer, it starts at $2,999 and can go up to $4,199, and it can be used with a variety of tools, including the Surface Dial and Surface Pen, which enable you to draw on the screen. Because it’s a Microsoft product, it comes with Windows 10 Pro and a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office.

The Studio has four USB 3.0 ports (one high power port), a full-size SD™ card reader (SDXC compatible), a mini display port and a headset jack, and it has a high-resolution display and graphics card for artistic and gaming applications.

If you don’t need all the Studio’s computing power, you can choose the Surface Book at $1,499 or the Surface Pro 4 at $899. The trend we see is that mobile users who need more computing power and the flexibility of a tablet for mobility and touchscreen/keyboard capability will be looking more closely at a Surface.

Microsoft is also rumored to be planning to release a Surface phone in the spring of 2017.

The MacBook Pro doesn’t have the Dial or a pen, but its more advanced models have the Touch Bar, which is a strip just above the keyboard. It’s more like something you would find on a tablet. It appears and disappears as needed to give you shortcuts to the controls, sliders, menus and tools that relate to the task at hand. As you tap, swipe or drag the Touch Bar keys, you see the results of your actions. Touch Bar can help you access favorite websites in Safari, answer (or reject) incoming FaceTime calls or get predictive suggestions of the words you may want to use when writing, just like with iOS devices.

With Touch Bar opened to outside app developers, you may see it for many apps, and you can still use versions of the physical function keys, such as for adjusting screen brightness or speaker volume, that used to reside above the keyboard.

MacBook Pro has a big track pad, which we rate as a plus, and the 15-inch model has four USB-C ports — that double as Thunderbolt 3 ports — which can be used for Thunderbolt, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGI, and charging. The USB-C ports are new technology. The basic 13-inch model only has two USB-C/Thunderbird 3 ports. This means you may need a dongle to attach certain hardware. There’s no SD card reader, which could be a problem for photographers.

We’ll have a MacBook Pro in a few weeks, and we’ll see how it’s all set up.

If you’re thinking about either or both of these systems, contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to discuss how you plan to use it and your budget considerations. We’ll also be able to guide on what to expect when integrating your purchase(s) into your home or office network – and among multiple users.