To Firewall or Not To Firewall….

September 14, 2010

If you have ever installed a fully featured Antivirus program, or another security program, you may of been presented with an option to install a firewall, thereby disabling the standard firewall built into Windows.

What is a firewall, and should we keep the Windows firewall, or use the 3rd party software firewall?

A firewall is a hardware of software application that blocks unauthorized access to a computer or network.  It also lets the right kind of access in or out, meaning you can still access the internet and applications you need.

For most small businesses and home users, a software firewall application is suitable.  For larger networks, or high security, a robust hardware solution may be the answer.

There are arguments for using or not using the built in firewall in Windows.

  • FOR – The windows firewall is automatically configured and turned on by default.  You don’t have to do anything to start it up.
  • AGAINST – Microsoft Windows is a huge target for hackers.  They are always looking for ways to find ways into the system.  It may be harder to attack a system with another software firewall running.
  • FOR – If you have a hardware firewall application, or the firewall setup on your router, it does not hurt to keep the Windows Firewall running on your individual computers.
  • AGAINST – A company that specifically makes security software is focused on the purpose of security.  A 3rd party firewall application typically provides greater protection, though it does require more interaction and configuration.

Whatever your decision is, having a firewall running on your computer(s) is a good idea.  There are thousands of viruses, worms, and other threats floating around in cyberspace.

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Defragging Your Disk

July 20, 2010
inQuo Computer Support in Salt Lake City, inQuo Computer repair Salt Lake City, inQuo computer support in Utah, inQuo computer repair in UtahIt seems like everyone knows that you should Defrag your disk on a normal basis.  Heck, even my grandma knows that.  She does it on a daily basis, as she sits and watches the entire process very closely.

But do you know why?

Hard drives are basically thick disks, with many moving parts inside of them.  As you save files and programs to the hard drive, your operating system keeps track of the location on the actual disk those files are saved.  But eventually, this process begins to break down, and the files are scattered all over the disk.  This can lead to crashes, slow startups and freezing.

It is a good idea to perform a Disk Defragment once in a while.  Not every day, like grandma does, but maybe once every couple of months.  The defrag process can take a long time, so it is a good idea to run defrag when you will not be using the computer.  The steps below illustrate how to run this utility for Windows users:

  1. Click Start–All Programs–Accessories–System Tools–Disk Defragmenter.
  2. Highlight the (C): drive and click Analyze.
  3. The Analyze tool will determine if the drive should be defragmented.  A window will appear stating that the drive should or should not be defragmented.
  4. Click the Defragment button to start the process.
The process can take many hours, and it is not recommended to use your computer while the program is running.  Once the process is complete, reboot the computer before you start using it again.

Fret not Mac users.  You can also resolve many issues with a good old fashioned defrag.  Mac users may be affected by more issues when your drive starts getting 60% full or higher.  There is a great software program that can make the defrag process easy enough for grandma to use, called iDefrag.


Plugging the Holes in Internet Browsers

June 29, 2010

Everyone knows that you should use antivirus software to protect your computer, but did you know that your internet browser may be letting viruses and malware infect your system anyway?

Whether you use Internet Explorer, Firefox, or even Google Chrome, there will be vulnerabilities in your browser.  It is important to keep your software up to date with the latest security patches and updates.

  • To keep Internet Explorer up to date, use the Windows Update program that is built into windows.  Click START–ALL PROGRAMS–WINDOWS UPDATE to manually check for updates.
  • Mozilla Firefox will automatically notify you of any important security updates and makes it easy to stay current.  To manually check for updates, click HELP–CHECK FOR UPDATES from the Firefox window.
  • Google Chrome is easy to update as well.  Just click the “wrench” icon and choose ABOUT GOOGLE CHROME.  At the bottom, you will see a message that states “Checking for Updates”.  If an update is found, it will notify you.

Simply updating your web browser is not enough.  Any of the programs or “Add-Ons” you have installed inside your browser also need to be updated.  Recently, some very popular Add-On applications like Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash have created vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Firefox.

  • To check for updates for Add-Ons in Mozilla Firefox, click on TOOLS–ADD-ONS.  Click the FIND UPDATES button.
  • Unfortunately, Internet Explorer makes it a little harder to update the Add-Ons.  Click TOOLS–MANAGE ADD-ONS.  This will list all of the Add-Ons that are installed.  Make a note of each one.  Open the following website and search for each add-on:  http://ieaddons.com/en/
  • Updating Add-Ons, or Extensions in Google Chrome is fairly easy and straightforward.  Click the “Wrench” icon in the top right-hand corner, then click EXTENSIONS.  Click the “Plus” sign next to the header DEVELOPER TOOLS.  Now click the UPDATE EXTENSIONS NOW button.

Remember, updating the security of your computer is a never-ending process.  By making sure the things you use the most are updated, you should be relatively safe.


The Weird and Wonderful Safe-Mode!

June 22, 2010

This article works better if you hum the tune to “The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” from the musical Cats.

Spend any amount of time talking to a computer nerd, and you will probably hear them talk about booting in “Safe-Mode”. Ask them why, and they may act like a magician guarding a sacred illusion.

inquo computer support in utah, inquo computer repair in utah, inquo computer repair in salt lake city, inquo laptop repair in salt lake city, inquo laptop repair in utah, inquo apple repair in utah, inquo apple repair in salt lake cityHere at inQuo, we like to shake things up. So now, for the first time ever, we are letting you in on the secrets of nerdy magicians.

Safe-Mode is a diagnostic tool that allows you to boot up a computer (Windows or Mac) with a minimal set of drivers and functions. By scaling down the amount of services and drivers that run, you may be able to boot the computer up when otherwise it would not power on.

When a computer is plagued by viruses and malware, and is crawling along slowly, Safe-Mode may be the only hope. As computer technicians, using Safe-Mode is a must when removing viruses. Many of the protocols and programs that viruses and malware use have been disabled in Safe-Mode, allowing the tech to remove the pesky malware much easier.

Safe Mode can also be used when opening certain programs. On a Mac, you can open most Microsoft Office programs in Safe-Mode. This is useful if you are experiencing issues opening certain documents with corrupt fonts, a known issue with a Mac.

The popular internet browser, Firefox, also has a Safe-Mode option. If the browser has been compromised by viruses, Safe-Mode is a good way to temporarily get around the issues the virus may be causing.

So Safe-Mode is where it’s at for troubleshooting and fixing problems. No more will your eyes start glazing over when your favorite computer nerd starts spouting lingo and acronyms. You are empowered with knowledge! Now go out into the world, and use Safe-Mode for good, not evil!


File Extensions – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter

February 2, 2010

For no reason, a baby dressed up as an elephant.

We are not talking about taxes here.  File extensions are the three or four letters that appear after the “.” on files.  .doc, .gif, and .pdf are a few examples of file extensions.

So what are they, and how can I open them?
  • Microsoft Office documents end in a variety of extensions, depending on the application and version you are using.
    • .doc and .docx are Microsoft Word documents for version 97-2003 and 2007, respectively.
    • .xls and .xlsx are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets  for version 97-2003 and 2007, respectively.
    • .ppt and .pptx are Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for version 97-2003 and 2007, respectively.  .pps files are PowerPoint Presentations that do not require the user to have PowerPoint installed.
    • Microsoft offers free converters and viewers for people that have older versions of Microsoft Office and want to open a file saved in the latest version.  You can check out those applications here.
  • The Adobe suite of products includes several graphics programs and the popular Acrobat program, that reads and creates .pdf files.
    • .pdf files are created with Adobe Acrobat.  Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free program that you can use to view PDF files.  You can download reader from Adobe’s website.
    • .psd and .psf files are both Adobe Photoshop graphics files.
    • .ai and .eps files are opened with Adobe Illustrator.
  • Other Files
    • .exe files are executable programs and installers.  Be certain you know the author of any .exe files you open, as some viruses and malware can be installed using .exe files.
    • .zip and .rar files are compressed files, usually containing more than one file that has been shrunk down.  Again, be careful in opening these kinds of files.
    • .bmp, .jpg and .gif are all graphics file extensions, and there are many programs available that can view or edit those files.
    • .iso is a disk image file.  Those kinds of files are usually burned onto a blank dvd or cd.  There are some special applications that can open these files to view the contents.
    • .avi, .mov, .mpg files are all video formats.  Some programs like Windows Media Player and Quicktime are both free, and can play several different file types.
    • .mp3, .mp4 and .wav files are all sound and music files.
Generally, when you install a program like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, it will tell your operating system that it is the default program to open various file extension types.  Sometimes, a file type is not registered with Windows or Apple.  You can manually choose the program to use for specific file types.

  • Microsoft – In Windows, if you open a file that is not associated with a program, it will automatically pop up a wizard that will allow you to browse and choose the program.  There are detailed steps here for Vista, and here for XP.
  • Apple – The process is similar for a Mac.  Here are some detailed instructions.

The Best Shortcut Keys – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 10

December 18, 2009

Have you ever seen someone that seems to be able to make their computer do incredible things just by using several combinations of keys?  It’s not magic.  Those keyboard commands are available to everyone, and here is a list of our favorites.

Microsoft Windows and Office

  • F1 Key = Help
  • CTRL+ESC = Opens the Start Menu
  • ALT+TAB = Switches Between Programs
  • ALT+F4 = Quit Program
  • CTRL+C = Copy
  • CTRL+V = Paste
  • CTRL+X = Cut
  • CTRL+B = Bold
  • CTRL+U = Underline
  • CTRL+I = Italicize
  • CTRL+A = Select All
  • CTRL+HOME = Top of Page
  • CTRL+END = Bottom of Page

Windows Boot Options

  • To access the computer BIOS setup, try pressing any of the following keys as soon as the computer boots up. (only access BIOS setup if you are sure of what you are doing) = F2, F10 or DEL
  • Boot into Safe Mode = Start tapping the F8 key as soon as the Windows logo appears on the screen (you may want to start tapping the key when the computer is turned on, even if you get error beeps)
  • – Once the Start-Up screen appears, use the arrow keys to select Safe Mode.

Apple Mac

  • COMMAND+E = Eject Disc
  • COMMAND+K = Connect to Server or Share
  • COMMAND+C = Copy
  • COMMAND+V = Paste
  • COMMAND+X = Cut
  • OPTION+SHIFT+COMMAND+ESC = Force Quit Applications
  • CTRL+EJECT = Shutdown Command Window

Apple Boot Options

* Hold down the OPTION key while booting = Displays all bootable volumes
* Hold down the SHIFT key while booting = Safe Mode Boot
* Hold down the C key while booting = Boot from disc
* Hold down the T key while booting = Boot into Firewire connection


Defragging Your Disk – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 6

December 18, 2009

It seems like everyone knows that you should Defrag your disk on a normal basis.  Heck, even my grandma knows that.  She does it on a daily basis, as she sits and watches the entire process closely.

But do you know why?

Hard drives are basically thick disks, with many moving parts inside of them.  As you save files and programs to the hard drive, your operating system keeps track of the location on the actual disk those files are saved.  But eventually, this process begins to break down, and the files are scattered all over the disk.  This can lead to crashes, slow startups and freezing.

It is a good idea to perform a Disk Defragmenter once in a while.  Not every day, like grandma does, but maybe once every couple of months.  The defrag process can take a long time, so it is a good idea to run defrag when you will not be using the computer.  The steps below illustrate how to run this utility for Windows users:

  1. Click Start—All Programs—Accessories—System Tools—Disk Defragmenter.
  2. Highlight the C:/ drive and click Defragment.

The process can take many hours, and it is not recommended to use your computer while the program is running.  Once the process is complete, it is recommended to reboot the computer before you start using it again.

Fret not Mac users.  You can also resolve many issues with a good old fashioned defrag.  Mac users may be affected by more issues when your drive starts getting 60% full or higher.  There is a great software program that can make the defrag process easy enough for even grandma to use, called iDefrag.