Watch Out For Fake Anti-Virus Scams

Unfortunately, each and every day good and honest people fall victim to “fake anti-virus” scams. What happens is your computer gets infected with a virus. Instead of throwing up tons of pop up videos, slowing down your computer like crazy, or wreaking other sorts of harmful havoc, it pretends to be anti-virus software.

That’s right, the virus itself pretends to be a good piece of software. The designers of these viruses make them look a lot like what regular anti-virus software looks like. Many of them look an awful like the software you’d find in Windows.

So what happens is you get a pop up alerting you of a virus. In order to get rid of it you need to purchase anti-virus software. But remember it was the virus that presented this fake anti-virus software, so essentially it’s just a shakedown. They’ll remove or at least hide the infection from you as long as you give them your credit card. You just got scammed.

Some versions don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Virus makers can make a lot of money if they truly hide the infection, don’t mess with the computer anymore, and just quietly collect $50-100 each year for the “anti-virus software”.

Others though are more devious and will continue to spy on you. They’ll recommend you uninstall real anti-virus software due to a conflict, or just disable it from running. Now they have your computer in an environment that they control, and can use spyware to show you pop ups and affiliate offers.

The worst case of course is that you just gave your credit card information to a criminal, and now they’re either going to use it or sell your information.

Bottom line: Know what anti-virus software you are running. If anything else pops up alerting you, close down the program and run Malwarebytes and your regular anti-virus – because you do have an infection, just not the one they’re trying to make you believe.

How to Use MSCONFIG

Let’s take a look at one of the most powerful little tools Windows has to offer. The msconfig tool has loads of features, and the power to speed up your computer like new or create more headaches than you have ever seen. Bottom line is, if you know about this tool, you can be very effective at repairing your computer and helping out other people fix computer lock up issues, boot up failures, long boot up times, and general computer slowness. There are several sections in the msconfig tool, and in this lesson we will go through each and talk a little about each one.

First of all, to launch the tool, the steps are very easy – simply click the Start button, and select the run option. Then all you need to do is type “msconfig”, and hit the enter button on your keyboard. What pops up will look a lot like what you see below. We should let you know, this tool is available in most versions of Microsoft Windows right out of the box. If you want to use it for Windows 2000, you’ll need to do a little work to install it.

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The tabs across the top read General, system.ini, boot.ini, services, and startup. The two most important tabs we deal with are the services and startup tab. The three tabs for ini files simply display some information that your computer uses. In some cases, we have had to make edits to the boot.ini when windows is showing there are two versions installed, but other than that you almost never need those. Below we will break down the services and startup tab.

The Startup Tab

Once you click on this tab, you will see a long list of all the programs that are starting up along with your computer. These are programs that constantly run in the background. A long list of programs here can be what leads to very slow boot up time, and general computer slowness due to lack of resources. To the far left you will see the startup item; this is basically the formal name of whatever might be loading. Sometimes you will be able to tell what it is, other times you may need to type the name into Google to see exactly what it is. The next section is Command. This shows you where the executable file is located (the file that launches the program). The third column is location; this tells you where in the computer’s registry the command to start the program is located. Now that we have defined what the columns mean, it’s time to actually talk about how to use the program.

This tab’s power is basically derived from the check boxes you will see to the far left of the startup item. Checking or unchecking an item gives you the power to disable software that may be slowing down your computer, malfunctioning, or conflicting with another piece of software. As a general rule, when people bring their slow computers in to us, this is one of the first areas we look. Often times, there is very little your computer actually needs running – though things like printer drivers, anti virus programs, etc. should be running. That said, there is no need for programs like Microsoft Office, chat programs, quick time, and others to be constantly loaded in your task bar. It just slows your computer down. One quick pass through the msconfig can make your PC boot twice as fast, and typically be more responsive in general – not to mention the power it has to fix software that isn’t working.

A Word of Caution: Before you start disabling all sorts of stuff in your Startup tab, make sure you do your research, find out what it is, and always do 1 at a time. Your computer will need to reboot after each removal, but by only doing 1 at a time, if something goes wrong, you will easily be able to re-enable whatever you disabled, as opposed to trying to figure out which one of the 20 you disabled did it.

Services Tab

The services tab is pretty similar. Instead of showing software that is running with your computer at startup, it shows services that run – things like windows audio and task scheduler. This piece should only be used for troubleshooting purposes. There isn’t much value to going in there and blindly disabling things your computer may need, but it does pay to be aware of items in there at any given time. If something looks suspect, take some time and research what it actually is, and if you need it or not. The system does actually tell you if the service is essential or not, but it’s important that you know for sure.

Installing Windows Under Multiple Scenarios

In this lesson, we will be taking a good long look at the steps involved for installing a fresh copy of Windows. There are several fundamental things we need to keep in mind, and every situation is different, so we will try to speak on the broadest terms possible. There are typically 2-3 different scenarios where we would need to load a fresh copy of Windows, and each situation is slightly different, so sharing separate thoughts on each is likely the best way to lay out what you need to be thinking about. We will start with the easiest of scenarios – loading Windows on a brand new computer – and move towards more complicated installs.

Loading Windows on a New Computer

This is always the easiest situation – no file backups to worry about, all your hardware should be in good working order, and things should go smoothly. There are just a few things you should keep in mind the first time you load Windows.

Always keep your driver CD’s close to you in case Windows does not have something preloaded. In most cases, just make sure you have your network card or modem driver handy, because you will want to download all the latest drivers anyway. This brings us to the next point; installing Windows is easy, but after you are up and running, you will want to go and download all the necessary Windows Updates. Be sure to get the latest service packs and any hardware updates they offer.

In most cases, Microsoft will take care of all the driver updates you need, unless you have an aftermarket video card. In that case, if it is an ATI or Nvidia (two of the most common), you will want to go to their website and download the latest drivers to make sure you are getting the maximum performance out of your hardware. It is important to remember new drivers come out all the time, and keeping them updated is an important step to keeping your computer running right. As a general rule, stay away from Beta edition drivers unless you are someone who likes to tweak your system often, as they can cause issues.

Really, after you get all the drivers installed, there’s not much left to do. Simply install whatever programs you need, make sure you have a good virus protection software and anti-spyware, and you’re off and running. We wish all Windows installations were this easy!

Reinstalling Windows on a Crashed System

Here, the situation is a little trickier; you may be dealing with a virus, spyware, or all sorts of other errors. If you follow the same process every time, things should go smoothly. The first thing to do is, if possible take the hard drive out of the computer and plug it into another one to back up the files. Make sure the other computer’s system is running an updated version of antivirus, but other than that, you should be good. If you don’t have the luxury of having another computer laying around with enough free space to back up your hard drive, may have to get a bit more creative, such as burning several CD’s, or buying an external hard drive.

To start the reinstall, you will want to put the Windows CD into the computer and make sure it boots from CD. If you turn your computer on and nothing happens, you will need to go into the BIOS (typically by tapping Del or some function key right when you turn the computer on). You will want to make sure that the boot order starts off with “CD”. Since every BIOS is different, it’s tough to give straightforward directions on where to find this option, but look around – it should be fairly easy to find.

Once you launch the install, there are two ways to reinstall Windows. One involves deleting the current folder Windows is installed in, and the other is formatting and reinstalling. I find that in most cases deleting the current Windows installation works well – all of your files will remain, but it will delete the registry. What that means is that you will have to reinstall all of your programs, as well. If you don’t have to save your files, you might was well do a fresh installation by formatting – but for those who cannot backup their data, deleting the Windows folder is typically the best option.

Loading a Fresh Copy of Windows on a Crashed System

This is usually a worst case scenario, unless of course you have no files that you needed to save. You run it the same way you would as the install on a new computer, except by choosing to format the drive. I always stay away from a quick format, and opt for the traditional one when asked. After you load the fresh copy of Windows, load up the drivers, updates and software. Sometimes systems are at a total loss (and this situation stinks, we know!), but it is what it is, and often times troubleshooting an issue is far more trouble than it is worth. Sometimes you just have to cut bait and wipe it clean. At least your computer will be back at its top performing levels.

Reloading Windows in any situation is a stressful situation; make sure you make regular backups of important files as a user to avoid disaster. That way, if you ever need to wipe your computer clean, you at least have nearly everything safe and sound on a DVD, CD, or flash drive. Making sure you have the latest drivers (and software updates are always something to remember, as well) to make sure you are at the optimal setup. Take your time, go slow, and things will be just fine.

Install Process

Make sure the computer is set to boot from cd. Insert the Windows disk and restart the PC, after it starts a screen should appear saying “press any key to boot from cd”.

Windows will load some drivers and start the Setup Program.

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After the drivers finish loading and Setup starts you will be greeted with this screen.

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Setup is to install Windows, the Recovery Console is where you go to run commands like checkdsk and fixboot.

After hitting setup you will be presented with a EULA Agreement screen.

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You definitely do not need to read it each time but I would recommend that you read it through one time.

Upon agreeing to the EULA by hitting F8 you will be shown this screen which contains the detected installs of Windows currently on the system. If it sees no installs due to file damage or from there simply being no OS software on the disk, it will show the drive itself.

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Hitting R at this screen while an install is selected is how you perform an in place install or a “repair” installation. It removes the Windows system files and re-installs them. Leaves the user documents and programs intact, although they may need to be reinstalled anyhow.

Hitting escape indicates that you want to install a fresh copy of Windows.

Performing a Factory Restore

When you buy a retail PC it comes with a way to restore it to the way it was when it was delivered or brought home. This can either be an actual disk or a partition on your hard drive. Usually when you have a restore partition there is a piece of software installed on the PC that will let you create disks to restore the restore partition if you need to swap in a new hard disk.

If your PC came with a recovery partition and no restore disks, you can almost always make your own recovery disks to be used in the event of a hard drive crash.

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In your programs menu there should be a recovery option or a backup and recovery option under system tools. If your manufacturer has included the program it should be there. This is the HP program but it should be similar to most other manufacturers.

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After the image is split it will burn it onto either DVD’s or CD’s. In some cases blu-ray may be used also. The number of disks needed depends on what media you decided to use.

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Once these disks are complete you may store them for use. For best results store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and use jewel cases. If your hard drive ever needs to be replaced you can run these disks to reinstall the recovery partition on your hard drive so that you can use it in the manner you used the old drive’s recovery partition.

Restores will be used when the operating system is damaged beyond easy repair by a virus or when a new drive needs to be swapped in so you can use the computer again. It is the equivalent of a fresh install of Windows, but it is done for you in such a way that is easier and makes sure the software the company installed remains on the PC.

Restores can be accessed by booting off of the disk or by hitting a key during the boot process. You will usually see it listed on the bios splash screen or before the Windows screen.

There are usually 2 types of restores with a factory restore, a destructive restore and a non-destructive restore. Destructive restores delete the contents of the drive and re-installs the OS from scratch. This is for recovering from viruses that you couldn’t remove by hand. Non-Destructive restore installs Windows on top of itself and leaves the user data intact. This would be used if you removed the virus yourself but the system has been damaged to the point that it is unusable.

Running the restores results in a system loaded with new software either just pertaining to the core operating system files (non-destructive) or new files as a whole (destructive).

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The Importance of Backing Up Files

Backing up your files is important. How important, however, is up to each individual and how easily the data is replaced when it is lost. The real way to make inevitable hardware failure the easiest on the user is to have up-to-date and proper backups.

The inevitable does happen, it may not happen to you, but can you handle losing all that you’ve worked on in your pc?

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A fire destroyed this server. Even if you had backed it up to another hard drive it would have been destroyed. An Off Site backup is the only thing that would have saved this data.

For most users, a simple backup or a burned disk is fine. Make sure you have scanned your system for malware before you begin the backups and organize the data on your system the best you can. Better organization will allow you to backup more effectively and lessen the likelihood that you will miss something important. It also makes restoring from backups easier if you lose your data.

There are a few options to back up your files, but before we get to them let’s discuss what you should be backing up onto. Extra hard drives in the machine are good but they are subject to most of the stress that the main drive is subject to. Flash drives are good as they are cheap and you can make multiple copies in case you lose some or they fail. DVDs and CDs are decent as long as you store them properly. This means in jewel cases away from sunlight in a dry area. Properly stored disks will last 10-20 years (maybe more), but f you store them in a cloth case like a CD music collection in a car you can expect half of your disks to be dead and unreadable in 8 years.

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Using external hard drives has been pretty popular for backing up and it isn’t a bad plan. Some of them like WD’s Mybook even come with software for doing regular backups. Other software that helps you to keep your backups current would be things like DirSyncPro or the Windows backup utility.

Some people like to keep clones of their computers available in case they have a hardware failure. This is an idea solution except for the fact that it takes up a lot of room to keep images around. If you are willing to spend the money on storage for your images, having a thorough set of them is an excellent way to keep your data backed up as long as you keep them up to date.

It has also become pretty popular to backup your files online now. Services like Mozy allow you to upload your files to their secure servers. The nice thing is you don’t have to worry about losing data on an old computer when you upgrade to a new one, losing a backup DVD, or even having a backup hard drive go bad. Your files are securely stored online and you can access them from anywhere at anytime. It can also be a great place to just store files you know you need to access from multiple locations, but you don’t want to carry around a flash drive.

Computer Hardware Benchmarking

Benchmarks are a measurement of performance of a particular part. Benchmarks are usually ran with identical hardware in other spots to minimize the effect of other hardware on the tests being ran.

Benchmarks allow you to differentiate one product from another, so if a $160 hard drive is faster than another, benchmarks help you decide which one you should buy if you want a particular quality. Where these are most prevalent are with processors and video cards, but most everything else gets benchmarked as well.

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As you can see, these 3 cards were benchmarked on the same system and their results in multiple programs are shown against each other.

Review websites like anandtech.com, bit-tech.net, tomshardware.com, hardwarecanucks.com, and many others have a veritable wealth of benchmarking information and testing they have run for companies as “neutral third parties.” That isn’t to say there isn’t bias, there always is, but by checking up on enough sites and reviewing your hardware, you can make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing time.

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Benchmarks aren’t just about hardware, you can see benchmarks for software and drivers as well. These can help you determine what software solution to run to meet your needs.

Properly Cooling Your PC

A piece of the computer generally overlooked, the cooling system, provides necessary support to the hardware that runs your businesses and stores your pictures. A component running at higher temperatures then it is designed to run inevitably shortens its lifespan. If you run silicon too hot, it actually undergoes a process called electro migration and the pathways that were carved into it actually start to melt – greatly accelerating the death of the product.

With the revival of “turbo” technology: Intel’s TurboBoost and Amd’s TurboCore; cooling has once again brought the availability of higher performance based on how well your product is cooled. Intel’s turbo boost will over clock to higher speed grades as long as its temperature needs are being met.

A typical computer case is designed to draw air in the lower front of the case and pull it over the hard drivers; the air is then pulled up from the low pressure created by the exhaust fan on the back. The air travels up across the Southbridge heatsink and is pulled in partially by the video card fan and the rest travels up toward the Northbridge and the CPU heatsink. The combination of the power supply and exhaust fan pull the air up and through the CPU heatsink and send it outside the case.

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Power supply on the bottom arrangements generally are setup to aggressively pull in more air so that the airstream can be divided, and generally are more efficient and cool more effectively.

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Heavy gaming rigs require immense cooling and sometimes require intake fans to be mounted beside them to give adequate airflow.

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Large passive heat sinks can be used, and even sometimes outperform fan based solutions if there is enough airflow. They also give a bonus of being completely silent.

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Larger fans can move more air while running slower than smaller fans. The slower a fan runs the less noise it is going to make. A good set of 120s can effectively cool a standard PC while being nearly silent in the process.

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You can check the temperatures of the various components in your PC with a piece of software from CPUID called HWMonitor. It might not show all of the temps for everything (for instance NVIDIA cards you need to have NTUNE software installed to allow temperature reporting) , but it should give you most of the information you need to make sure your computer is running at a safe temperature.

Replacing Power Supplies

I’d love to hear from you if you have any comments on the first twelve lessons. In today’s lesson, you’ll see how easy it to replace your power supply. Please understand that before you even consider this, you’d have to know that you have a bad power supply.

Before starting, be sure to:

  1. Follow all safety precautions
  2. Never open the power supply itself

Open the computer case and locate the power supply. Disconnect all of the power leads coming from the power supply to the different components of your system, like your motherboard, CD or DVD drives, hard drive and more. Make sure they are all disconnected – to double check, follow all of the leads from the power supply to the end of each. Once it is completely disconnected, you can test it.

Use a power supply testing device (found in our tool kits on our website). Connect the device to the motherboard connection on the power supply. This is used to determine if the entire power supply is bad. You can also use the device to see if you just have a bad power lead by using the other connections. Plug the device in and plug the system in. If the power supply is good, then the device will light up green. If the supply is bad, then nothing will happen. If the power supply is bad, then it will need to be replaced.

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One thing to keep in mind, though, is that when a power supply goes, it can take other components with it. If you replace the bad power supply and things still do not work, your system may require other repairs. Before getting started on the replacement, make sure to follow all safety precautions as regards static, and make sure that no power cords are plugged in. Once that is done, make sure that, again, none of the supply’s power leads are plugged into any of the computer’s components.

Then go around to the back of the computer case and remove the screws that hold the power supply to the case. Keep hold of it so it doesn’t fall as you remove the last screw. Gently take the bad power supply out of the system. Take the bad one with you to the store to make sure you get a new one that is the same size and has at least the same wattage. Bring it back to the case and just reverse the process – slide it back in, hold it in place, replace the screws, and reattach the power leads.

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Installing Optical Drives

I hope you are enjoying each lesson of my computer basics report so far. Remember, that we have a Computer Repair Mastery Video Training Course that comes with step-by-step videos showing you all the details. It’s not nearly as expensive as you might think. It’s under a hundred bucks, which is less than any single fix at your local PC repair shop. Where in the world can you get some of the most exhaustive, made for beginners, PC repair training for less than a hundred bucks? Nowhere but here. You’ll save thousands over time by being able to fix your own computers. Alright, on with today’s lesson…

At the end of today’s lesson, you’ll be able to install CD and DVD drives even if they have burners. To install a new drive, you must first:

  1. Follow all safety precautions
  2. Be sure to have physical room in your case for a drive Locate an open bay inside your computer case.

All drives need two connections to function and interact with your computer: Power Cable and Data Cable. You’re likely to come across SATA power and data cables these days, although if you’re working on an early-2000 and older computer, you might see molex power connectors and IDE data ribbon cables. SATA is a newer technology than IDE. As of 2013, we’re currently on SATA 3.0 which is capable of transferring data at 6GB/s.

You will need a SATA or IDE cable to connect a drive. Some IDE cables have two spots that will allow you to plug two different drives in with just one cable. Choose a plug on your ribbon cable to attach your drive to. Then go over to your drive itself and look at the back. Make sure the small white plastic jumper is set to cable select. If the computer won’t see the drive it may need to be set to master or slave depending on how the drives are layed out. Sata cables do have jumpers sometimes as well but they are not for setting drive priority but for setting transfer speeds. The Sata drive controller itself handles the drive negotiation.

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Jumpers may be different depending on model but the basic ideas are the same.

To install, first use a screw driver (make sure you and the screwdriver are grounded before proceeding) and knock the slot cover out of the front of the case if necessary. Slide the drive gently into the slot and make sure the screw holes line up. Using fine thread screws screw the drive into the case and tighten them. You will typically only need a screw in the front and one in the back to make sure it is secure.

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Next, cable the drive by connecting it to the IDE cable. Make sure the IDE cable is also connected to the motherboard. Locate a power cable (any one will do) and pop that into the drive as well. Some drives use another type of cabling called SATA. This drive’s cable is not a flat ribbon drive like an IDE cable is. For a SATA drive, you must also determine if you have a slot and cable available for the drive. SATA cables can only be plugged in one way, so line it up correctly and plug it into the motherboard.

If your power supply does not have a SATA power lead, you will need to get an adapter. Connect the power lead to the adapter and SATA power lead, and then connect it to the drive. That’s all it takes to install CD and DVD drives. Remember that my Computer Repair Mastery Video Training Course shows these steps to you in detailed video format.

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Installing Extra Memory (RAM)

RAM handles all of the information your computer is running at one time. The more RAM you have, the better off you are. To upgrade or replace your RAM, the first thing to do is determine what type of RAM your system uses to make sure you get RAM that is compatible with your system. RAM comes in a few different types.

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How to determine if the RAM you want to install is compatible with your system:

Many people would tell you that opening up your rig and looking would be one of the easiest ways to tell what kind of RAM you have, but that only works if you really know what each type of RAM looks like. I propose an easier solution. If you visit www.cpuid.com and download CPU-Z you can check the memory tab and easily tell what memory is running in your PC. Not only that but you can use this utility to check your CPU, check the motherboard, RAM timings, and much more. It really is quite handy.

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Locate your RAM slots. Each slot will have little plastic arms that lock the RAM sticks into place. Snap them loose and carefully remove the stick of RAM from your system. Most RAM sticks should have a label on them. The label will tell you what kind of RAM it is. You can either take the whole stick to the computer store with you, or look it up online in order to find more of the same type of RAM. To install the RAM, simply put it back in the slot, and gently push until it clicks.

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Make sure the notches on the stick of RAM line up with the notches in the slot. When it clicks, the arms will either snap back themselves or you can close the arms manually. To add more RAM, repeat that process with the other slots. That covers the actual physical installation of RAM. Once it is installed, boot the computer up and make sure that the system is recognizing the new or additional RAM. It’s that simple! If you feel the need to have video assistance, I have the perfect program for you.

Our Computer Repair Mastery Course offers step-by-step instruction through hands-on, HD video and a 158-page text book.

If you don’t know how much RAM you need or where to get it we recommend using Crucial, they have a lifetime warranty and we have been using their products for years. How much RAM will help your system? Consult the Crucial Memory Calculator.