Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Organise your Files and Folders

Monday, August 4th, 2014

FilingYour PC or Laptop is just like a big filing cabinet and, like your filing, if you’re not organised about where you store things it makes it harder to retrieve documents. In addition, if you don’t know where your data is on your hard drive it makes it harder to transfer everything to a new PC or laptop and also make sure your important files are being backed up.

So where do you start? Here are a few hints and tips to help you get going.

Use My Documents

Each User that has been set up on your PC or Laptop will have its own profile. Within this profile a number of default folders are set up for you, which make it easy to file your Documents, Photos, Videos and Music. It’s a good idea to use these folders as a starting point as they will often be used as a default location for applications to save their files to, like iTunes or your Camera.

Create your folder structure

My DocumentsUnder these Top level folders, you can create sub folders to make it easier to find individual items.

To create a New Folder, open up the top level folder and then either select New Folder from the menu bar at the top or right-click and select New >> Folder. Give your Folder a relevant name.

You can then save items in to your new folder.

Libraries

Libraries are not folders in their own right but offers an easy way to access your most used folders.

File iconYour default My Documents, Photos, Videos and Music folders are included but you can add any other folders in too by right-clicking and selecting Add to Library.

This can be useful if you also want to use cloud-based storage such as DropBox or OneDrive, as these can be added in to your libraries too.

Moving your Files

If you want to move files and folders then there are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to select the files or folders you wish to move (use the Shift key to select multiple items) and then copy them (press Ctrl+C or right-click >>Copy); navigate to the new location and Paste (Ctrl+P or right-click > Paste). This will duplicate your items to the new location so you will need to go back and delete the originals when you are sure they have copied.

You can also select your items and use the mouse or touchpad to drag and drop items between folders. This will move items and you need to be sure of where you have ‘dropped’ them as it is easy to move items into a different folder to that intended!

Organise your Programs and Apps

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Download softwareOver time your PC, laptop, tablet or phone can get clogged up with unwanted programs and apps.

We all download or install things either for a one-off use or just to see what they are like and then leave them sitting there.

Although these days most modern systems have ample hard disk space to cope with having these items lying around, some can eat up your system resources and slow down your system by running in the background.

So how can you tidy up your PC, laptop, tablet or phone and get rid of unwanted programs? There’s a few simple steps but do be careful and remember that if in any doubt as to what a program is or does, consult an expert before removing it!

Add or remove programsPC, Laptop or Windows 8 Tablet

Whether you are running Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 the process for viewing and removing programs is done via Control Panel. In Windows 7 this can be found in the Start Menu, in Windows 8/8.1 search for Control Panel. Within there you will find a Programs and Features option.

Open this and it will populate with a list of all the items installed on your device. Look down the list for any programs you know you no longer need. Look out for toolbars or clean-up tools that may have been installed accidently with other programs, printer and scanner software for devices you no longer have etc.

To remove a program, highlight it and click uninstall. Wait for the software to run its uninstall process. It may need to reboot afterwards to complete the uninstallation but you don’t have to do this after every item, work your way down the list and then remember to reboot at the end. You can only uninstall one item at a time and be patient – some items can take a little while and may appear not to be doing anything!

iPhonePhone or Other Tablet

Removing Apps from a phone can be done I a similar way. On the iPhone, simply press and hold on an App’s icon. They will start to move and a cross will appear in the corner of each. Click the cross to remove that App. When finished, press the on/off button to go back to the main screen.

Windows phones are similar, tap and hold the icon then select uninstall.

On an Android device, Visit your device’s Settings menu > Apps or Application manager (this may differ depending on your device). Touch the app you’d like to uninstall, select Uninstall.

Mac App folderMAC

Generally, removal of applications from the Mac OS X is a simple process.

Navigate to the Applications folder and you will see icons for all your installed programs. Simply drag the unwanted program’s icon to the Trash bin to start the uninstall process.

Occasionally, some remnants of a program may remain in the Library folders, one is in the top level of your hard drive, the other is within the Home folder. You will need to search through these folders to find anything related to the program or vendor of the item you are uninstalling. Be careful as there may be similar programs installed which you don’t want to get rid of!

If your device is running slowly and removing unwanted programs, apps and files hasn’t helped we offer a clean up and update service. Click here for more details.

Customise Your Desktop

Monday, July 21st, 2014

If you have a new PC or laptop then you probably want to make it a little bit more ‘you’. There are a few things you can do to customise your desktop to give it a more personal appearance and also be more practical for you to use.

Desktop Background

desktopOne of the more common customisations is to put your own picture onto the background. You can either choose one static image or select a folder and have the images rotating every few minutes.
On Windows 7 or 8 in the desktop view, right-click any spare are of desktop and select Personalize. Highlight Desktop background and browse for the image(s) you want. If you select multiple images, use the settings at the bottom to choose how often to change the pictures.

Screensaver

You can customise your screensaver in a similar way too. From that same Personalize menu choose Screensaver. From the dropdown box choose photos and use the settings button to select your folder of images. Set how long you want the PC or laptop to be inactive before the screensaver kicks in.

Icons

shortcutWhen you install applications sometimes you will get a shortcut to the application appear on your desktop. This is an image you can click on which will open the relevant application. Shortcuts can also be created for documents , web pages and folders as well. Shortcut icons can be distinguished from actual files by the black arrow in the bottom left corner.

If you get too many shortcuts on your desktop you can delete them, either by highlighting and pressing the delete key or right-click and select delete.

You can organise your icons by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Sort By and then the order you want your icons. Right click the desktop and select the view option to auto-arrange your icons and change the size.

Task Bar

Rather than fill your desktop up with shortcuts and icons, a simpler way to manage applications and documents you use regularly is to pin them to the Task bar at the bottom of the screen. To do this, when the application is open, right-click on the icon in the task bar and choose Pin to taskbar. You can also pin individual documents, which can be accessed again by right-clicking the icon in the Task bar.

Windows 8 Charms

Windows 8 CharmsWindows 8 has an alternative Metro interface which displays your documents and program links in a series of colourful Charms. You can still customise this interface by dragging and dropping Charms to change their location.

To remove a Charm, right-click and select unpin from Start menu. To add a Charm for a file or program, use the Search function to find your file or application, right-click on the related search result and click Pin to Start menu. You can Pin and Unpin items to the Desktop taskbar from this command also.

Hopefully this short article has helped you customise your PC but if you would like further information or some training please contact us.

Transferring Photos from your camera or phone to your PC

Monday, July 14th, 2014

cameraThese days it is rare to find anyone with a traditional film camera. Everything has gone digital and, although this offers a cheap and easy way to take and produce photographs, most people don’t want to just have their images stored on the camera or phone they were taken with.

So, how do you transfer your photos onto another device and what can you do with them?

There are generally two methods of getting your images from the device they were taken on to a PC or laptop.

  1. Remove the memory card and insert it into a compatible card reader on the PC or laptop
  2. Connect the phone or camera via a compatible cable (normally USB) or via wireless or Bluetooth

Whichever method you use, the process is similar.

When you plug in your camera or phone or insert the HD card, your PC or laptop will detect the new device and attempt to install the relevant drivers. It will usually do this itself but sometimes you may need to insert the CD that came with your device or download a file from the manufacturer’s website.

The device should then appear within Windows File Explorer like an additional hard drive. Double click on it to navigate through to the location of your photographs. You can then select the images and copy and paste or move these images by dragging and dropping.

PhotosDepending on your Operating System, when the camera or card is detected you may get a box pop up asking if you wish to transfer the images to your Pictures folder and if you want to do this every time the device is connected to your PC or laptop.

Once your Photos are on your PC or laptop you can select to have one as your desktop (right click and select Set as desktop background), select a whole folder to give rotating background images (right click on the desktop, choose Personalize >> Desktop Background and set as applicable) or play them as a slideshow (Open the folder in Windows Explorer and select Slide Show from the menu at the top).

CryptoLocker Ransomware – Don’t get Caught

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Man in despairI am sure most people are aware that there are some pretty nasty bugs and malware being sent around the Internet.

Some hijack your email and send spam to your address book, others are designed to sit secretly in the background and simply use your systems resource and internet connection as a gateway to send spam or process tasks in the background. Some try to steal your identity or personal information either through logging your key strokes or duping you in to entering personal details into a fake website. Some will try to ‘break’ your system by changing settings or files .

Now, these are not nice and can be a nuisance to get rid of. Generally, any decent anti-virus product will protect your system and stop these programs from running or at least stop them in their tracks. You can then restore any damaged or missing files from your backup, though normally any data will be retrievable anyway, even in the case of a complete reload of the system.

There is one virus however, which can cause the loss of all your data and files and for which there is currently no known resolution apart from paying a lot of money – and even that will not guarantee a return of your data.

The CryptoLocker virus sits dormant on an infected machine until that system is rebooted. This then triggers a file to run on restart which secretly works its way through your files encrypting them and making them unreadable. Not only will it work its way through your hard drive, but it will search through any mapped network drives or connected USB drives encrypting them also.

Screenshot of Cryptoware warningAs a final nail in the coffin, it will attempt to delete and disable any historical shadow copies, just to make doubly sure you have no way of retrieving your precious data.

Only when it has finished will it display its message on your desktop to tell you your system is infected and with details on how to pay and retrieve the key to decrypt your data.

So, how can you protect yourself? Generally the virus is transmitted via an email attachment. These are appearing more and more genuine and those we have seen include Companies House submission reports, Bank statement notifications, delivery instructions from major courier companies and HMRC tax return notifications. The attachment pretends to be a pdf document but is in fact an executable file which runs and then infects.

Image of Bullguard protection software packageFirstly, do not open or even preview an email you are not expecting from these sort of sources. If in doubt, delete it.

Secondly, make sure you are running up to date, valid anti-virus software. This will help to pick up any known executable files as they run on your system.

Thirdly, there is a small application, written by FoolishIT LLC which can be installed on a PC to help protect against this particular threat. It stops certain file types running in certain locations on your PC. This will help to protect against the virus but may possibly impact some other 3rd party software also. You can download CryptoPrevent from the following page: http://www.foolishit.com/download/cryptoprevent/

Backup imageFinally, make sure your system is regularly backed up but, if you back up onto a USB disk, do not leave this permanently attached to your PC. Depending on how you back your files up, this could become encrypted also should you be infected.

Should you be unfortunate enough to be a victim of this virus, and you simply must try to retrieve your information, you have a limited time to follow the instructions and decrypt your files. Currently, there is no other alternative to retrieving any encrypted data. Success rates vary and paying the ransom does not guarantee your files will be saved. If you do want to take this route, then do not make any attempt to clean your system until you have tried to decrypt your files. If you remove the key files from your system then you could end up having to pay more money or not be able to decrypt your files at all.

For more information on keeping your systems safe and secure, please contact us.

What is Cloud Computing?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Cloud – it’s been a big buzz word in the computing world for a few years now. But what does it mean and do you need it?

CloudBasically, Cloud Computing is where you use software, services or storage through your PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device and that software or storage is not local to your device or network but accessed via the Internet.

Many people have probably been using this for some time without even realising it! If you access you email through a web site rather than downloading it with an application like Outlook then that can be classed as Cloud Computing. If you use DropBox, GoogleApps, Facebook, Twitter – they are all effectively Cloud services or solutions because you are storing or accessing your information via a server and network somewhere else in the World.

As time goes on, more and more applications and solutions are turning to the Cloud to offer customers greater functionality, storage and applications with the customer having to invest in expensive hardware or software locally. As long as you have an Internet connection then you can generally access these services and files.

Cloud services logosIs it safe? You need to treat Cloud Computing and the Internet with care. At the end of the day, if you are using a cloud-based back up service or storing your data in GoogleApps, DropBox or some other similar online service then that storage space is out of your control.

Reputable companies will do all they can to maintain clients privacy and security. Many of them have larger, expensive corporate services as well as the cheaper or free consumer offerings and the last thing they would want to do is jeopardise those relationships with a security scare. However, users need to take steps to secure their data and protect themselves too.

Be aware that many free services offer no guarantee of uptime or protection of your data from deletion or corruption. In other words, don’t rely on a free service as the only means of storage of vital or precious documents or photos.

Make sure your online accounts are secure with strong passwords and usernames and that you change these regularly. Don’t use the same user name and password for everything!

Finally, make sure you read the terms and conditions before signing up to an online service to see if there are any restrictions on what you can upload or use the service for, the amount of storage you will get or the bandwidth you will have for access and if the company retains any rights to ‘interrogate’ or view your data.

Finding your way around Windows 8.1

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Win 8_1

Windows 8.1 is the new operating system from Microsoft. Released in October 2012 it caused something of a stir with it’s new ‘Metro’ interface but as time has gone on, and with the release of 8.1, it has proven to be a stable system and, if you spend some time finding your way around, not so different to use after all.

The Metro Interface was definitely designed with touch screens in mind. The large Charms display your applications boldly. Some Charms, such as those for social media or email applications, can also display current content and alerts, so everything you need is there as soon as you switch on your PC, laptop or tablet.

Navigation is via a combination of swiping in from the sides on a touchscreen or moving the mouse cursor to the corners of the screen. For example, top-right or bottom-right will show you Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. Bottom-left will take you back to the Start screen.

For users that prefer a more traditional view, the Desktop charm will take you into a more familiar desktop environment.

desktop

 

There is no Start Menu but clicking the Windows icon, bottom-left will show you all your available applications as Charms. Any applications you use regularly you can pin to the Taskbar by right-clicking on them and selecting pin to Taskbar.

For those that like the more technical aspects, in the Desktop view the Windows logo key Windows-logo-s +Z will bring up a menu with more technical utilities such as Control panel and Command Prompt.

menu-trimmed

 

In Windows 8.1, Search is a very good way to find any files, applications, settings or virtually anything you require. Move the mouse cursor to the top-right, or swipe in from top-right, and type in whatever you are looking for. If you are in the Metro interface you can just start typing and it will automatically open the Search box.

search

For many more details on the various key board and mouse shortcuts available and finding your way around Windows 8.1, Microsoft have produced some great guides, which can be found at
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-8/mouse-keyboard-whats-new
and
ttp://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-8/getting-around-tutorial

Life after Windows XP – What will happen when Microsoft stops support?

Monday, January 6th, 2014

As we are all aware, everything comes to an end eventually.  That includes your white goods, your TV, that lovely bottle of wine and your PC’s and laptop’s.

Microsoft has announced that the Windows XP Operating System (the software that runs your PC or notebook) will become end of support in April 2014.  Basically this means that after next April they will no longer provide any of those updates that it keeps prompting you to install (but which keep your system safe from all those little security loopholes that people have found!).

Windows XP logoWhy?

Well, XP was initially released 31st December 2001 so has been around for over 12 years!  In technology terms that’s an awfully long time and it has been superseded by 3 further editions of Windows!

What will happen in April 2014?

  Your PC won’t suddenly stop working next April if you are still running XP.  However, Microsoft will no longer offer any form of support.  This means that if a hacker finds a loophole in the software they can exploit with a virus for example then Microsoft won’t issue an update to fix that loophole.  Also, they won’t fix any further faults that arise with the software or any compatibility issues.

What does that mean for me?

If you are using Windows XP then we would strongly recommend looking at upgrading your software to a current Operating System.  After April your PC or laptop will be open to any vulnerabilities that hackers and viruses decide to exploit.  Nobody knows exactly what effect this will have or how quickly, however, it would be wise to be prepared.

Windows 8 laptopWhat can I do to protect my system , data and identity?

If you are looking to replace your PC or laptop anyway then we would suggest doing it before April and then you’ll not get caught out. Have a look at our current laptop, tablet and PC offers as a guide.

Due to the age of XP it is likely that most machines are going to be of quite an old technology and not up to running the latest Operating Systems.  However, if you happened to buy a top end machine then it may be possible to just upgrade the Operating System software rather than having to replace the whole machine.

If you really can’t afford or don’t want to upgrade or replace your PC or laptop then make sure that it is fully patched up to date by going to http://update.microsoft.com in Internet Explorer and following the instructions.  Make sure you have a valid, paid for anti-virus product installed which is activated and up to date.  Finally, be savvy when using email, the Internet or working online.  Be careful of clicking on links in emails that you don’t know for sure where they have come from.  Avoid clicking on pop-ups when surfing the Internet and be aware of anything that seems unusual when online banking, filling in forms online or if the PC becomes slow or starts to crash regularly.

Windows XP screenshotHow do I know if I have Windows XP?

  If you are not sure if you are running Windows XP on your PC or laptop it is simple to find out.  Firstly, when you first turn your machine on then you should see an image displayed showing the operating system that is being loaded (Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 etc).  If you miss this (as it can flash by quite quickly!) you can hold the mouse over the My Computer icon on the desktop, click the right mouse button and select properties.  A window will appear showing your computers properties including the operating system.

What if my machine becomes infected with a virus and I lose access to my data?

 Depending on the impact of the virus, you may be able to run a variety of software to remove it. But if are worried about doing this yourself, most IT Support companies offer a service to deal with such problems. Please do take a look at the Virus Removal Service that we offer.

Forget the mouse – keyboard shortcuts

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Have you ever been completing a monotonous task that involves typing a bit then moving the cursor to another area of the document? Been typing a long document and have to keep stopping to click on different toolbars and options?

Maybe something has gone wrong and the mouse has stopped working.  Do you carry on regardless or have to stop everything because of a faulty mechanical rodent?

Don’t worry, help is at hand.  Do you know it is possible to access almost every menu, option and tool on your computer with the press of a key, as well as the click of a mouse button?  Here are a few of the most used options which should help make life a little easier.

The Windows Key – this can be found on most keyboards to the left of the space bar.  It has the Microsoft Windows symbol on it. This will open the Start Menu and you can then navigate using the cursor (arrow) keys (to the right of the main keyboard).  When you have highlighted your item, press enter.  To open a sub-menu (like All programs) press the right arrow.  Don’t have a Windows key? Control + Escape does the same thing.

Selecting text – Use the Shift key.  This can be found to the bottom right and left of the keyboard with an upwards pointing arrow on it.  Hold the Shift key down and at the same time use the cursor (arrow) keys to move along the text.

To select whole words, hold Shift + Ctrl and use the cursor keys.

To select whole lines use Shift + End or Home (can be found to the top right of the main keyboard section)

Copy, Cut & Paste – once you have selected your text you may wish to copy or cut it to do this use Control + C to copy or Control + X to cut.  To paste the text back use Control + V

Menus – most menus can also be accessed via the keyboard.  Any time you see a menu item with a letter underlined, this is the shortcut key for that item when used with the Alt key (next to the spacebar).  This will vary between applications but in Microsoft Office for example,  Alt+F will open the file menu and allow you to scroll down through print, save etc. If you are using Office 2007 or 2010, just pressing the Alt key will show you all the relevant keyboard short cut keys. Ctrl+P will open the print menu and Ctrl+S the Save menu in almost all applications.

Made a mistake? Ctrl+Z will undo your last action and Ctrl+Y will redo it. How many actions this will work for depends on the application but it can be a useful ‘get out of jail’ card!

Moving between documents – pressing Alt+Tab will take you through all the documents you have open.

The right-click menu. Some modern keyboards have a special key to the right of the spacebar for this, it has a symbol like a square with horizontal lines and an arrow, but if you don’t have this key it can also be accessed using Shift+F10.

The F (function) keys are located along the top of the keyboard and all have their own uses both on their own and when used in conjunction with the Shift and Control keys. F1 will usually open Help for the application you are in, F4 will close the application, F5 will refresh the view you are looking at.

Hopefully this has given a taster of the options available!

Problems with BullGuard Internet Security Suite and latest Microsoft LiveMail updates

Monday, October 25th, 2010

We have been made aware of an issue with BullGuard anti-virus spam filters and Microsoft LiveMail.  The latest LiveMail updates have a conflict with the Bullguard splam filter.

After installation of the updates the conflict means that you cannnot access LiveMail.

Disabling the BullGuard Spam Filter will allow LiveMail to start working again.

As a permentant resolution, Bullguard recommend that users upgrade to Version 10.  This can be downloaded from http://download.bullguard.com/BullGuardDownloader.exe

If you have already uninstalled BullGuard then the latest version can be downloaded from the following locations.  You will need to re-enter your account information and key code to activate the full version.

http://downloads.bullguard.com/BullGuard_100.exe (for 32-bit)
 http://downloads.bullguard.com/BullGuard_100_x64.exe (for 64-bit versions of BullGuard).