Want to Recycle an Old Computer Safely? Here’s How.

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If you’re out there trying to do your best to support a healthy environment and are worried about the e-waste you’re generating as you go through phones and laptops over the years, you may be in need of some recycling tips. Obviously, phones are pretty easy, with all the trade-in and refurbishing options available, but computers can be a bit trickier, especially if you use them for work. Keep reading to discover the steps you need to take to safely and securely dispose of an old but still functional computer.

Wipe It Clean

The main concern with computers is how much personal information they can have stored on the hard drive. You may have worked hard to keep things secure while you used the device, but doing so after you give it away or sell it to someone else is a bit trickier. Here’s the basic rundown of what you need to do:

  1. Deauthorize programs that you can only use on one device at a time, so that you can reauthorize them on other programs later. Uninstall programs that require paid subscriptions or may include your personal information.
  2. Delete your browsing history – including cache, passwords, cookies, etc.
  3. Delete all sensitive files. For extra security, on PCs with hard-drives, download a program like File Shredder to find any sneaky files and destroy them. For Apples and PCs with SSDs, encrypt the drive instead. This create a password that only you have access to, so that no future owners of your device can read any leftover files.
  4. Now you’re ready to wipe. Macs, Chromebooks, and PCs all have slightly different procedures for this, but basically it involves erasing and reinstalling the operating system. For PCs, you may need to download a tool like Eraser to complete the process.

Actually Recycling Your Device

Once you’ve gotten your computer wiped, you have several options. You can make a tax-deductible donation of your still-working computer to local non-profit organizations, like schools and libraries.

You can also trade in your device at certain stores for either a discount on a new computer or store credit for the future. A wide-array of online businesses may also offer cash for old computers, but do check to make sure the recycler is an e-Steward or SERI-certified, meaning they do not ship devices to developing nations where underpaid laborers can extract the valuable components.

Sound like a Lot to Deal with?

We get it. That’s why we offer an easy Donate or Regift Refresh package to clients looking to recycle or donate their old computers. You can request this when you submit your ticket for just $90. We’ll save you the time and research needed to make sure you’re wiping your computer correctly, and give you the peace of mind that your data has been securely removed (especially important if your computer was used for business purposes!). Start a service ticket with us today to request this easy solution.

Computer Won’t Boot?

Computer won't boot
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Let’s imagine a scenario where you come down from a peaceful night’s sleep, make a cup of coffee, and head into your home office to get some work done. You punch your computer’s boot button, and…nothing happens. A terrifying prospect. Since we all rely on our computers to bring home the bacon (or beyond meat substitute of your choice), we wanted to go over some tips for data recovery in a pinch.

What’s the Source of the Problem?

The first concern is whether your hard drive is okay or not. Sad to say, if the computer won’t boot because the hard drive is corrupted, you might be out of luck. Our condolences. However, plenty of dead computers actually have an electrical problem, a failing power supply, a corrupted boot sector, or several other problems. In this case, your data is safe, just hard to access since you can’t turn on your darned computer.

There are some techniques for recovering your data that involve a bit of software expertise (plus a computer that actually powers on, which not all dying machines will do), but since we’re a hardware company we’ll focus on the hardware method. Don’t forget you’ll need a good external hard drive to which you can copy your files once you can access the hard drive and see if it’s still working.

The Process

Find yourself a screwdriver and a way of connecting the retrieved hard drive to another device. This connector may be a SATA to USB cable (check your computer’s specs, first, as you may need a different cable depending on the model), a docking station, or a hard drive enclosure – basically something that will allow the extracted hard drive to talk to another computer via USB. Please be aware that getting the right connector is quite important, so you’ll definitely need to do a bit of research on your device before you start the process, so that you can order the correct connector.

Once you have that connector in hand, though, it’s time to wield your screwdriver like a pro (at least, if you have a laptop it is. Desktops often slide apart for even easier access). We recommend googling the disassembly process for your model, as plenty of computers have disassembly instructions posted online. Once your laptop or tower is open, you can locate the hard drive and slide it out of its cage. (If it’s soldered in place, you’re again out of luck, but that’s where ComputerCare can help you out, so don’t despair.)

Connect your extracted hard drive to your second devices and see if you can find the drive folders in Finder/Explorer. If you can get in, congratulations! You just retrieved your data all by yourself.

Sound Intimidating?

We totally get it. Computer repair is not everyone’s cup of tea…but it is ours, so you’re in luck. If you don’t want to deal with these tricky issues of finding the right cable and then working through the whole problem just to meet with failure, open a service ticket with us. We are computer repair experts and can diagnose your computer and get it up and running in no time.

Apple Silicon is Big News, but What is Silicon and Why Does it Matter?

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Intel has been the leader in the processing world for nearly fifteen years – basically forever in tech terms. Their microprocessors power the bulk of commercial computers, with the Core i7 processor being especially famous for its speed and capability. What is a microprocessor, you may ask? For such questions we turn to…Wikipedia! There we discover it is a “multipurpose, clock-driven, register-based, digital-integrated circuit that accepts binary data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results (also in binary form) as output.” Wow. In layman’s terms, it’s your computer’s brain and Intel probably made it.

Then at this year’s Apple WWDC, the company announced their goal to sell their upcoming Macs and Macbooks with their own silicon chips (AKA, microprocessors), instead of Intel’s. Rumor has it that Intel’s struggle to reduce transistor size to 10nm, with the goal of fitting more transistors on a processor. More transistors means less space between them, and thus less resistance, less heat, and greater computing power. Apple also, understandably, wants to establish a common architecture for all of its devices, instead of using its own processors for iPads and iPhones, but Intel for computers. 

So What’s Special about Apple’s Silicon?

Apple will be launching a proprietary ‘system on chips’ (SoC) based on ARM or ‘reduced instruction-set computing,’ which theoretically will allow for more powerful processing without any limitations from the size of transistors. Since the instruction-set is reduced, the processor doesn’t have to deal with the vast number of commands that an Intel microprocessor handles based on its complex instruction-set computing. Unlike other ARM-based systems, though, Apple’s SoC has been designed to handle 64-bit applications, as well as offer advanced power management, machine learning, the Secure Enclave, the Neural Engine, Apple’s own GPU, and much more. Additionally, they will now be able to integrate all their products perfectly, allowing for an even more seamless Apple experience for users.

Any Downsides?

Since Apple is somewhat new to the silicon industry (they only introduced their first microprocessing chip in 2010) compared to Intel (1971), there may be some bugs to work out as they introduce their first range of processors. However, that’s where an expert Authorized Service Provider comes in. If you buy a new Mac with Apple silicon in a few months, and experience some technical hiccups along the way, ComputerCare will be here to help you out. We offer lots of convenient options for maintaining your devices, even with the limitations of the pandemic. And if you prefer to stick with Intel…no worries! We’ve still got your back.

Dependent on Your Computer for Remote Work? Keep It in Tip-Top Shape

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During the work-from-home trend accelerated by the pandemic situation, having a working laptop or desktop computer has become all the more important. That’s why ComputerCare has prioritized multiple solutions for device repairs. At the same time, though, sometimes the best solution is not to have a problem in the first place. Here are some preventative care tips to help you keep your computer running at its best.

Keep It Clean

Besides the importance of sterilizing surfaces as protection against COVID-19, it’s also a good idea to remove dust regularly so as to prevent damage to the many moving parts inside a computer/keyboard. Compressed air is a good tool for keeping things working smoothly. If you’ve got time and feel confident in your skills, you can also (carefully) open your tower or laptop to clean out the dust from fans, heatsinks, and other places where collected dust can cause increased heat and therefore a shortened device lifespan. A soft microfiber cloth is also handy to keep around for cleaning screens without scratching them. 

Back It Up

Maybe you’re the sort of dutiful employee who is always busy with other tasks and forgets to have a system in place for backing up files. If you’re working from home, though, having all files and information safely duplicated can be a lifesaver in case something does go wrong with your device. A cloud storage solution usually means you can at least access your documents on your phone, which can be a good way to tide you over if you have an unexpected computer crash.

Organize the Wires

Out of sight, out of mind is the usual state of the many wires that seem to erupt from the back of desktop computers. With a bit of extra time on your hand while you’re working from home, consider using zip-ties or other fasteners to keep everything in place. That way, there’s no danger of getting a foot tangled in a wire and accidentally pulling out an important cord in the middle of a crucial job. 

Give It an Upgrade

Hardware drivers need updates too. If you have downtime while waiting for a remote meeting, check your device drivers to see if any of them have newer versions that can be downloaded and installed.

Now that we’ve realized how dependent most of us are on our devices for our livelihoods, it only makes sense to take time to give them some TLC. Use the tips above to get started, but if something crazy happens, have no fear. ComputerCare can help you out with contact-free repair options that safeguard both your and your device’s safety and security. 

Apple Hosted Its Worldwide Developers Conference Virtually This Year!

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In a move that was unprecedented until the advent of COVID-19, but now is becoming a new standard, Apple moved its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) online for 2020. This is a cool move, since it allows the event to become even more accessible to even more people. And as always, Apple had some exciting news to share about its upcoming developments. Let’s take a quick look, so you can get excited about future Apple products, and then bring them to us when you need hardware support from an Authorized Service Provider!

iOS 14 Is on Its Way

iPhones will get an operating system update later in the year, with three notable changes.

  • Home screen widgets: Taking a page from the Apple Watch apps book, the iPhone will soon have widgets of different shapes and sizes that you can used to populate your home screen in a way that’s more useful to individual users.
  • App library: Tired of swiping through countless pages of apps to look for the ones you only need now and then? Apple has got you covered, as the new library will categorize apps based on categories, so you can find and access them in a more streamlined fashion.
  • Picture-in-picture: as of iOS 14, if you swipe back to the home screen while watching a full-screened video, the video window will automatically float on the screen, so you can continue watching. You’ll also be able to resize the video, including minimizing it into a small button so you can view the entire rest of the screen free of obstruction, if you need to.

Airpods Upgrading to Make Your Work Life More Pleasant

Now that we’re all working at home a lot more, we’ve become really reliant on those convenient AirPods, so it makes sense they’re getting some upgrades. First, the software will let them automatically detect and connect to whichever device is playing audio, instead of making you do it manually.

Additionally, AirPods Pro will soon offer spatial audio tech that can keep track of your head’s location and provide a more immersive, surround sound experience. If you’re tired of tinny sound during the Zoom conferences that have become the new norm, these Airpods should take care of the problem.

Biggest News of All: Apple is Launching Its Own Silicon

Apple has been using its own processor tech for iPhones and iPads for a while now, but up until now had continued to rely on Intel-based processors. The time has apparently come to make the jump and use the proprietary tech for the entire line of computing products.

What does this mean? Basically Apple has ensured that its new processors can handle not just Intel-based applications, but also those from other environments, including Linux. iPhone and iPad apps will now very likely be available on Macs and Macbooks as well, making the Apple experience even smoother and more seamless

As always, Apple continues to lead the way in tech innovation. We are proud to maintain our status as one of their Authorized Service Providers. If you have an Apple device that needs service and still cannot access a Genius Bar in Seattle or the Bay Area, thanks to ongoing lockdown measures, don’t forget to reach out to ComputerCare for help!

Working from Home for the Foreseeable Future?

        

Here are Some Tech Suggestions

Working remotely was already a trend before the pandemic arrived, but now that it’s here, entire industrial sectors have moved to a remote structure. That change is here to stay for at least the next few months (and maybe forever, in the case of a few companies). However, very few of us have our homes set up to double as high-tech business offices, so the transition hasn’t exactly been smooth or easy for the new work-from-home warriors. Here at ComputerCare we’ve done our best to provide support with COVID-safe services, but we also wanted to give some tips on helpful hardware choices.

Laptop Choices

We’re not just saying this because we’re an authorized Apple service provider, and a Lenovo partner, but we believe that you can get your best results in the work-from-home environment with a powerful, work-optimized laptop. The 2020 MacBook Air gives you the option of working with a quad-core Core I5 processor, which can handle multiple tasks and heavy-duty applications at the same time, while still giving a small, lightweight device you can move around the house with you. Lenovo’s ThinkBook 14S gives you the same advantages for a much lower price, if your budget is tight during these challenging times, but also sacrifices some screen resolution quality in the process. Bonus: ComputerCare can help you with repairs and service for either device if problems arise!

Standing Desk

Sitting down all day and then sitting down all night when you’re stuck at home can be a real bummer (and not great at your health). Investigate companies like Autonomous and Fully Jarvis for various price points and options for desks that convert from sitting to standing depending on your needs on any given day.

Monitors for Better Work Flow

Even if your primary computer is a laptop, sometimes being able to hook it up to a secondary monitor so you can establish a better workflow or look at documents while simultaneously working in a different program makes all the difference in the world to your quality-of-life at work. We suggest a reasonably priced HP model to get you started. That way we can also support you in case of any difficulties that arise with the hardware.

Don’t Sacrifice Video Quality

Now that almost all our jobs rely heavily on video calls, it might be a good idea to upgrade from the webcam integrated into your laptop. Logitech tends to be a highly recommended brand, but is maybe just a teensy bit hard to get a hold of right now! You can check out this article for some other good quality suggestions.

These are strange times, and we know that working at home isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. We hope these suggestions may help you upgrade your experience and handle your workload more easily. And as always, we’re just a few clicks away from providing support for any hardware issues you may have.

Disinfecting a Laptop: Do It without Ruining It!

Disinfecting a Laptop
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Last month we talked about caring for your Apple products, so as to keep them from becoming viral hotbeds. This month we want to make sure to cover the procedure for those of us who use hardware from other companies, especially including Toshiba, HP, Asus, and Lenovo, as they have authorized us here at ComputerCare to help customers with their devices. Doubtless after weeks of working from home, too, our laptops are all a bit dirtier than they used to be. Let’s talk about getting them clean.

First Step: Don’t Cause Damage in the Name of Cleanliness

Even though hygiene is important, we also have to draw a line when cleaning and disinfecting a laptop. Windex or Lysol might seem powerful, but they’re actually overkill and can damage the display or finish on your laptop, especially if an oleophobic coating is involved.

What You Can Use

Isopropyl alcohol is probably your best bet. It is less harsh, even though it still has people divided (and who knows when we will be able to get it again, anyway, given how many people hoarded it two months ago!). A best practice to make sure to safeguard your device is to make a solution of half 70% alcohol and half water (preferably distilled to prevent stains) and then use a microfiber cloth to apply that – very gently!

Never spray any cleaning solutions directly onto your laptop. By applying with a microfiber cloth, you avoid the danger of having excess liquid run through cracks into the internal hardware and wiring. Start with the keyboard, since it’s usually the dirtiest, and then move on from there so that you don’t spread grime from your keyboard onto already clean surfaces. Compressed air will also help you clean the connectors, ports, and other openings. Even if coronavirus is hiding inside, no one’s putting their face against their computer’s ports, so it’s probably safe!

Final Tip

Before doing any of the above procedures, be sure to power off your laptop and unplug its AC adapter. As always, when working with electronics and liquids in any form, it’s best to avoid the risk of electrocution to yourself or the device.

Questions or concerns? Not sure your device is having problems because it’s dirty or because it’s hardware is faulty? Contact us today. We have easy, COVID-safe procedures that allow you to drop off and pick up repaired devices with confidence, so you can send your laptop our way for both repairs and a complete sanitation!

It’s Our Great Clients Who Make Our Job Worth It

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Weathering the COVID-19 Pandemic with Kindness

At the end of March, 2020, as the COVID pandemic forced us all to stay home and find new ways to cope with business, we at ComputerCare brainstormed how we could continue to help our walk-in clients. Apple Genius Bars had closed, as had the Best Buy Geek Squad. At the same time, the new work-from-home workforce needed even more tech support, thanks to increased reliance on their devices to stay connected and get their jobs done. Suddenly that cracked screen on an iPhone, or that recurring screen-of-death on a laptop or tablet became major obstacles for clients, instead of just moderate annoyances they could worry about later. Now they found themselves struggling to maintain their workload in settings their jobs weren’t designed for, without the same support and assistance that more visible essential services received on the front lines.

With this in mind, we at ComputerCare tried to help out. We had to balance our own concerns for employee safety with our clients’ need for assistance, so we invented a hygienic and secure drop-off system for our Bay Area and Seattle locations. Walk-in clients became drop-by clients. After they created an appointment with us, they received access to a locker reserved for their device, and then once the device was ready to go, it was returned to them through the same easy (and easily sanitized) route. We put a lot of effort into this solution and found that within a few days of being up-and-running, we already had increasing numbers of clients needing our help. We have kept our noses to the grindstone and done as much as we can to make sure our services are speedy and safe for our clients’ sake. 

Client GiftsAnd then, without any expectation on our part, something wonderful started happening. Client gifts began showing up as thank-yous. After one lady picked up her device, we found a box of specialty candy for us in her locker. A gentleman gave us two bottles of hand-sanitizer (which we all know is as rare as diamonds these days!) since he had extra and knew we could use it. A client who makes masks also had a stash of n95 masks at home; he decided that since he could make his own mask for safety, he would offer us the medical grade ones. Considering that we are handling devices all day long and then trying to remember not to touch our faces after, this gift especially made us realize how thoughtful people really are in difficult times.

Client GiftsAs we all know, the world is completely topsy-turvy right now, and things we took completely for granted, like feeling safe at work, are no longer something we can count on. At ComputerCare, as we work hard to make sure the WFH workforce can have at least one reliable option for hardware support and repairs, we have felt the strain of these changes. We are happy to put in the effort, since we know our clients are also dealing with the complete change of their work life, loss of access to important services, and perhaps job insecurity about being able to keep up in the new environment. At the same time, though, it can be discouraging for our techs to feel on edge all the time about potential exposure to the virus, and it can be daunting to deal with the extra work created by making sure the procedure is safe for our clients, too.

Client GiftsThat was why these gestures of kindness and consideration in the form of client gifts are making such a big impact. Our whole organization feels humbled and grateful to be working with and for such generous clients, who take the time to express their appreciation in such concrete and helpful ways. It makes us realize how much community matters. We have tried to help others, and now they are trying to help us. That cycle strengthens us, even as we all deal with our struggles. 

Now we want to share this story as our way of saying thank you. At ComputerCare, we are touched and encouraged to know that we work for such great people. We know you, our clients, have your own set of difficulties and frustrations to deal with, so the fact that these client gifts showed up to thank us for smoothing your path even a little bit really warms our hearts. Our promise is to stay open, offering safe support and service, for as long as the crazy situation lasts.

Keep Your Phone Clean and Your Health Protected

Cleaning Apple Devices
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If the last few months of COVID-19 developments have taught us anything, it’s that hygiene is way more important than we thought (and we already thought it was important!). In the interest of keeping ourselves and others safe now and in the future, we felt it was a good time to review how we should all be cleaning our devices. We’ve talked about this before, but this time we wanted to focus on Apple products specifically, since we are an Authorized Service Provider, and since Apple products come with their own ins and outs that are a bit different than PC or android devices. 

General Cleaning Dos

For cleaning your Apple devices, you want to use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive fabrics (e.g., terry cloth washcloths), towels, paper towels, or similar items. Prioritize cleaning with cloths dampened slightly with water only, since there’s no danger of water damaging the finish of the product (although if you are disinfecting, see the steps below). While cleaning avoid excessive wiping or scrubbing, which might cause damage. 

Also, be sure to unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables, so as not to break anything or damage electrical connections while cleaning. On the same note, you want to keep liquids away from the product.

General Cleaning Don’ts

In general, cleaning your Apple devices is fairly easy thanks to their smooth surfaces and high quality materials. You do not need to use strong bleach-based or abrasive cleaners. You also do not need to spray any kind of aerosol or other cleaner directly onto your device, as these may get into the ports and cause damage. Please note that damage from liquids is generally not covered by Apple warranty. 

Disinfect Your Device and Other Accessories

The most important thing here is to turn off and unplug your device before attempting to disinfect anything. Since this process uses a damp cloth, you don’t want to get moisture in any electrical connections. If your device is wireless, remove the battery to avoid any danger of electrocution or damage. Next, take a damp disinfectant wipe (Lysol or Clorox are good brands) that does not contain bleach and gently wipe down the hard, non-porous surface of your device, keyboard, mouse, etc. Follow up with a damp, soft, lint-free cloth, and finally with a dry, soft cloth to make sure the surface is completely dry. If your disinfectant wipe happens to be very wet, make sure to squeeze or wring out the extra moisture. If visible moisture pools on the device, be sure to wipe it up as quickly as possible. 

If you have any questions about the best procedure for cleaning your Apple device (or any other) feel free to call our office for advice. We all want to boost our hygiene practices, but we also don’t want to ruin our electronics in the process!

Stuck at Home with a Broken Device? Not Anymore

        

ComputerCare’s COVID-safe drop-off system is here to help the new WFH warriors

Understatement of the new decade: the situation is really tough right now. Now that the Bay Area and Washington State have locked down to protect us from the spread of COVID-19 (thank you!), so many of us are working from home, trying to keep ourselves and each other safe. But what happens when the phone or laptop that allows you to be a crucial part of the WFH taskforce suddenly develops a problem? If this were a few days ago, when Genius Bars and Geek Squads had all shut down, you’d be stuck. Today, though, ComputerCare has a solution. We are proud to announce the initiation of our completely COVID-safe service process! Outside our offices in Santa Clara and Seattle, we have installed secure drop-off lockers where walk-in clients can now safely deposit their devices for service and repair.

Our New COVID-Safe Service Process

Clients simply need to fill out a service ticket for Seattle or the Bay Area. Your email confirmation will contain COVID-safe drop-off instructions, so you can drive to our Seattle or Bay Area ComputerCare location, find the correct locker and enter the combination code in the padlock to leave your device inside. 

After we diagnose your device, we will contact you to explain the service and, for out-of-warranty repairs, collect your payment method. Then, as soon as your device is ready, we’ll email you to confirm your preferred pick-up date. The day of your scheduled pick-up, you will receive an email with the correct locker and combination. Please note that turn-around times may be slightly lengthened, but we’ll do our best to get it back to you as fast as current circumstances allow!

Our Safety Measures

To safeguard you and our technicians, you will not interact directly with anyone during the drop-off at our lockers. Surfaces will be wiped down by our employees with disinfectant after each use to ensure proper sterilization practices are taking place. Signage will also be posted to remind you to maintain a ten-foot distance from anyone else at the lockers. 

At the same time, to make sure your devices are protected, the padlock combinations will be changed after each use. Phone support will be provided throughout the whole process, updating you on receipt, diagnosis, invoicing, and repair of your device. We can also be reached in case of technical difficulties with the lockers. 

No matter what happens, ComputerCare is going the extra mile to provide the COVID-safe support you need to work from home with all your devices in tip-top condition. If you already need a device repaired or just want more information about your options, visit our information page!