Sunday, October 30, 2011

Should You Turn Your Computer Off At Night?

Here is a very common question we get asked by our customers. “Should I turn my computer off at night?” 
Some people often think that if you keep your computer on overnight, that somehow malicious “hackers” will try to infiltrate your system. 
The fact is that if your computer is full of malware and spyware, the cyber criminals can access your computer any time it is on, even if you’re using it! Having good anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware programs is vital. If you have these scheduled to scan your computer at night, when you aren’t using it, then it is actually beneficial to keep your computer running during the night time.
The problem with keeping the computer on has less to do with security and more to do with power consumption and lifespan. Although mininimal compared to other electrical devices, computers cost money to run. 
So what’s the solution? The answer is in setting your computer’s power options to suit your usage.
First you should make sure that your monitor is set to turn off when it isn’t in use for a set period of time. The steps are different depending on the version of Windows you are running, but basically you will want to go to the control panel, look for your power options, then change how long it takes before the monitor goes to sleep when the mouse or keyboard isn’t being used. Two and a half hours is safe if you plan to watch movies often and for most people 30 minutes is more than enough time to keep the screen “awake”. 
Another important setting is the standby and hibernate options. These are modes where the computer seems to be turned off, but is actually on but in a low-power state. Here are some basic differences between stanby, hibernate and a full shutdown/startup: 
Standby: fastest to startup and shutdown, consumes the most power, aside from being completely on of course. (Important when running on laptop battery power)
Hibernate: takes longer to shutdown and startup than standby-mode but faster than from a full shutdown, consumes less power than standby but more power than a full shutdown.
Full Shutdown/Startup: takes longest to shutdown and startup, consumes the least amount of power when off.
I set my computer to standby after 4 hours, but the optimal setting varies from user to user. It all depends on when you prefer for your computer to “sleep”. 
I don’t like waiting for my computer to boot up. I usually want to just briefly look at a website or check my emails, something that will take 1 or 2 minutes. It wouldn’t make sense for me to wait two minutes to do something that only takes two minutes. Sometimes I will restart my computer when it is acting up. Standby or hibernate won’t fix those issues.
The only time I do a full shutdown is when I am transporting my desktop computer or when I am putting my laptop away for a long period of time and don’t want the battery to drain. Any other time, I am using standby mode. I don’t use hibernate because it just does not seem that much faster than doing the full restart and does not offer the benefits of the full restart (clearing the ram to make the computer run more efficiently.) 
So should you keep your computer running at night? Probably not. Should you turn it completely off? Not unless you like waiting for the computer to bootup. Should you put it in a lower power state? Yes. Standby works the best in most situations.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Signs Your Computer Has A Virus

Internet surfing and connecting other devices to your computer are the most common ways viruses are able to access your PC. With the increase in the number and severity of malware (viruses, trojan horses, etc), identifying an infection can mean the difference between saving and losing your important data.

Like human viruses, most computer viruses have symptoms which can tip you off that your Laptop is infected. These symptoms are easy to remember and keep a look-out for. The most obvious sign your computer has a virus is the reduced performance of your computer, but other signs may show up earlier, giving you time to back up and save personal data.

Other signs a virus may be infecting your computer are:
  • Applications running stop responding suddenly, freezing the computer and requiring a restart to work.
  • Performance and input response is slow - you attempt to open an application and it takes a long time to open or there’s a delay in mouse clicks & keyboard strokes.
  • Computer restarts on its own while you’re using it - screen freezes and then shuts down or restarts.
  • Unusual error messages and pop-ups - you may notice unusual Windows pop-ups without being online or coming up from the task bar notification area. The pop-ups may ask you to take certain actions immediately (Don’t act on these!) If you follow these instructions you will be in a worse situation so be aware.
  • Your antivirus may be disabled without your permission.
  • Unfamiliar icons or shortcuts may show up on your desktop. Don’t click these either!
  • Unfamiliar Windows system error messages will pop-up.
  • You can’t access devices connected to your computer or they may show up as unrecognized devices.
  • Programs and applications may be unavailable or removed without your permission.
If your computer shows the above symptoms your PC may be infected with a virus. First, Back-up your important files and documents to an external storage device like a flash drive. Next, scan and remove any viruses using your computers anti-virus program.

If your computers anti-virus program doesn’t fix the problem, shut the computer down and bring it to a computer repair professional. They have access to advanced malware removal programs and knowledge that can remove the infection and get your computer running properly.