Hardware or Software? How to Tell What’s Wrong with Your Device

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Picture this: your computer is acting up and you’ve got an appointment with a computer repair company. You take it in and they run all sorts of diagnostics, only to tell you that everything is working great, and basically you had to pay their diagnostic fee just to be told you have a software problem. Sound frustrating? We agree – so we’d like to offer some tips for figuring out whether you’ve got a hardware or software problem before you have to come in for service.

Signs of a software issue

There are always exceptions to these rules, but for the most part you’ll find that these problems are due to software malfunctions which you should be able to remedy at home:

  • Commands are misinterpreted by peripheral devices (printers, etc.)
  • Frozen computer
  • Failure to open attachments
  • Pop-up ads (this is likely malware or a virus)
  • Issues with app/program performance

Signs of a hardware issue

If you encounter any of the following issues, you probably have a hardware problem. In such cases, you can always try a little DIY (see these tips for ideas), but it’s always the safest option to bring your device to a reputable repair service.

  • Slow downloads
  • ‘Blue screen of death’ or equivalent
  • Corrupt files
  • Slow access to files
  • Sudden computer shut-off
  • Graphics errors (for example, computer screen is jumbled)
  • Unusual noises

When it might be either…

Of course, sometimes you can’t quite tell what the source of the problem is; a few issues could be caused by either hardware or software.

  • Slow computer
  • Constant restarting
  • Slow internet
  • Commands aren’t working for particular programs/apps
  • Peripheral devices aren’t running (correctly, or at all)

In such cases, we recommend checking your drivers, doing a thorough virus/malware check, closing all your programs/apps, and uninstalling recent software installs to see if your problem evaporates. If it did – congratulations! You had an easily resolved software issue. If the problem remains, however, then it’s time to look into your hardware and possibly open a service ticket with your friendly local computer repair company.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling as a Women’s Business Enterprise

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The tech industry has changed the world for us all, but we’ve learned over the past two years that many companies with cutting edge technology still lag behind the times when it comes to women and BIPOC in leadership positions. At ComputerCare, we want to lead by example and help set things right.

On that note, we are proud to announce that under the leadership of our very own Georgia Rittenberg, ComputerCare has been officially certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

The Standards

The WBENC is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping women-owned businesses thrive. They provide the most relied upon certification standard for women-owned businesses, as well as the tools to help them promote innovation, open doors, and create partnerships that fuel the economy.

To become a WBE, one or more women must have unrestricted control of the business, a demonstrated management of day-to-day operations, and a proportionate investment of capital or expertise. To become certified, business owners undergo a thorough vetting process, including review of business documentation and a site visit. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women. Luckily for ComputerCare, since Georgia has been our CEO for more than five years, this requirement created no obstacles to our new status. Our WBENC certification is considered the gold standard for women-owned businesses and is accepted by more than 1,000 corporations, in addition to some states, cities, and other entities.

Why This Matters

As a Women’s Business Enterprise, ComputerCare joins the ranks of nearly 13 million women-owned businesses in the United States, accounting for 42% of all U.S. businesses. This initiative is important to us, not only because it helps us increase the representation and fair treatment of women in the workforce, but also because half of the owners of these businesses are BIPOC women (AmericanExpress). When we support and represent woman-owned businesses, we also support and represent the minority entrepreneurs who lead many of these businesses.

Despite all these positives about women-owned businesses, there is still lingering bias, especially when it comes to securing funding and investors, against women entrepreneurs. This makes them both less likely to apply for business funding and, unfortunately, less likely to receive it than men (Kaufmann Foundation). Because of this, we at ComputerCare think that it’s important to take a stand as a woman-led tech company, to show our clients and competitors that we believe in the power of leadership by women and people of color.

You can also show your commitment to increased equity and representation by working with a women-owned business like ComputerCare. Georgia and all of us at ComputerCare are grateful to all our clients for your support this far in our journey. We hope to travel far with you into a better and fairer future.

The Human Side of Hardware

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The first mission statement I wrote for ComputerCare was forgettable. It was on the home page of our payroll and benefits platform, the very first thing an employee would see when they logged on. I doubt any of our employees remembered it, let alone used it to understand our direction. It was long, uninspired and uninspiring, but more importantly, it had nothing to do with our true purpose as a business.  

A few months back, a friend asked me, “What excites you most about the idea of growing your business from 100 to 1,000 employees?” Without pause I responded, “That I would get to have a positive impact on the lives of 1,000 people, instead of just impacting 100.” To accomplish that, ComputerCare would need to grow our customer base and find new revenue streams, but my focus wasn’t about the product we were selling, it was about the people who will get us there.  

The last 12 months brought some changes at ComputerCare, as there have been at most companies that survived the pandemic. We adapted, we evolved, and we grew as a company. It also brought me a deeper understanding of gratitude, a new perspective of what success means, and a sense of purpose that extends beyond ComputerCare’s bottom line. Of course, we need to be profitable enough to make payroll, and to cover our insurance premiums, but now, I am even more dedicated to growing a company that recognizes and values the human capital it takes to get there. And so, our new company mission, which I now realize has been there all along, came into focus. 

In many ways we were already living our mission statement, even before it became official. In April we raised our minimum wage to $23/hr, and by June adjusted our technician wages by up to 15% to properly reflect the market value of their skill sets. I knew we encouraged a unique and diverse workforce, but it wasn’t until launching our helpdesk service, that we discovered 12 languages were spoken within the company, and we could provide support to our customers in all of them.

I don’t know what ComputerCare will look like in 10 years, but I do know who we’ll be. We’ll be a company that emphasizes our humanity and individuality in the decisions and actions that drive our company forward. We’ll be a company that recognizes the positive impact we can have in people’s lives. We’ll be a company in which each one of us plays a part in how we get there.

Tech History Trivia: Dell

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Sometimes all it takes to become an international PC juggernaut is $1000 and a vision. That’s what Michael Dell brought to the table when he founded PC’s Limited at the mere age of nineteen. Since then Dell has grown to become the third largest PC retailer in the world and the second largest in the US. Many businesses operate solely on Dell computer projects, which is why ComputerCare is proud to be an official service provider for the brand.

Exponential Growth

Michael Dell started as a pre-med freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, but he had a genius idea: make a PC company focused on customized products. In 1984, he began building and selling IBM-compatible custom units from his dorm room, but by the end of the school year, he had obtained his $1000 expansion capital from his family and left college for the entrepreneurial journey. 

Within one year, his small company had designed and built the first completely Dell-designed computer system, the Turbo PC, featuring an Intel® 8088 processor running at 8MHz, a 10MB hard drive and a 5.25″ floppy drive. With a new business model that marketed products in national computer magazines for direct sale to consumers with custom assemblies for each unit according to a selection of options. This apparently filled a big hole in the PC market of the day, since the young company grossed $73 million in just one year. By 1987, the company was already able to open its first international subsidiary in the UK.

One Decade to Number One

The 90s was a good decade for Dell, seeing them launch their sales platform online, expand into the Asian market, and opening a second Texas-based manufacturing center. By 1997, less than fifteen years after its founding, Dell shipped its 10-millionth personal computer. 

New workstation and storage products fleshed out the Dell line of products, and allowed the company to announce its plan to open international manufacturing centers in Ireland and Brazil. By the end of 1999, Dell reached these milestones – incredible for such a young company: No. 1 in PCs in the U.S., No. 1 worldwide in PCs for large and medium businesses and No. 1 in worldwide workstation shipments.

The New Millennium

In 2000, Dell’s internet sales reached $40 million per day, continuing their trajectory of success. The following decade saw the company add a whole range of new network, home office, and business products, transforming its business model into a single source of electronics for consumers.

Multiple acquisitions and forays into new areas of business such as data centers and enterprise solutions allow Dell to continue to grow and expand in the global marketplace. In 2016, Dell combined with EMC (a successful data storage and enterprise solution company) to become Dell Technologies, one of the top five PC and business hardware companies in the world.Do you power your business on Dell products, or manage your Bay Area or Seattle side hustle on a Dell PC? Either way we can help you with maintaining and repairing your device(s). Get in touch today to talk about our business services for Dell computers.

Tech History Trivia: Lenovo

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Compared to some of our other brands (Toshiba and HP, anyone?), Lenovo is a much younger company – founded in 1984. That doesn’t stop it from being a highly successful enterprise, however, and one which we are proud to represent as an authorized seller and service provider. So how did the world’s current top PC maker rise so quickly to its position?

The Early Years

Lenovo started out with a completely different name when it was founded in Beijing by Liu Chuanzhi and a team of ten engineer friends. Very creatively, they named their start-up ‘New Technology Developer, Inc.,’ and got to work designing business technology and trying different development avenues, with varying levels of success. By 1988, however, they had won the highest National Science-Technology Progress Award in China for developing a circuit board that allowed IBM-compatible personal computers to process Chinese characters.

At this point, they realized that they needed a snazzier name and rebranded themselves as ‘Legend.’ In 1990, they launched their own PC to considerable success, leading them to focus all their efforts on that market.

Growth in China: 1990-2004

Over the last decade of the millennium, Legend worked on developing more computers, first releasing a consumer laptop in 1994 and cornering more that 40% of the Chinese computer market. 

In 2000,  Yuanqing Yang was appointed CEO. He had been with the company since 1989, at age 25. The company founder Chuanzhi stepped down from being president to join the board of directors. Under Yang, the company released DeepComp 1800, the 43rd fastest computer in the world at the time.

The IBM Connection

While Legend was experiencing its Chinese growth spurt, American computer behemoth IBM had been steadily developing its line of personal computers and laptops. In 2003, when Legend began to look beyond the Chinese market for more opportunities, the company decided to rename themselves yet again for international branding purposes. Usher in the era of Lenovo.

In 2004, Lenovo paid $1.25 billion to acquire IBM’s personal computer division. This suddenly leapfrogged them to third place in the global PC market, which understandably came with some growing pains. Yang was replaced as CEO by two Americans in a row, but in 2009 returned to (and has remained in) the position. His remarkable character as a corporate leader is evidenced by his decision to distribute several personal bonuses to company employees, instead of keeping them for himself. 

Clever partnerships with World Expo and the Olympic Games gave Lenovo a leg up during the aughts, and by 2013, the company had become number one PC seller in the world, with over 75 million ThinkPads sold. Lenovo has since branched out into servers and smartphones, but their Think and Idea product lines remain some of the most recognizable and reliable PCs on the market. 

If you are a proud owner of a Lenovo Think model and need a tune-up, a repair, or even an upgrade to your machine, don’t hesitate to reach out to ComputerCare today for authorized service.

Tech History Trivia: HP Inc.

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In 1934, two Stanford electrical engineering graduates met on a camping trip. That was the beginning of what we like to refer to as Bill and Dave’s excellent adventures. The two men quickly became friends and decided to collaborate. They rented a property in Palo Alto, CA, in 1938, with Bill and his wife living in the house, and Dave taking the shed out back (cozy!). Meanwhile, the two men got to work on their electronic inventions in the garage with just $538 in capital (~$10,000 in today’s money). 

It doesn’t necessarily sound like an auspicious beginning…so would you be surprised if we told you that Bill and Dave actually sported the last names of Hewlett and Packard, respectively, and were founding one of the most influential tech companies in the world?

Here’s How It Went

Bill and Dave started by inventing an audio oscillator for testing sound equipment. This maybe wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that a teeny-tiny company called Disney (ever heard of them?) called up to order eight of the machines for getting theaters ready to play Fantasia

This break allowed the two men to enter a formal partnership in 1939 and move out the following year into rented buildings. The young company worked on providing benefits for its employees, such as bonuses and health care. Things developed slowly, however, since Bill went to serve in the Army during World War II.

After the War

In 1947, Bill and Dave incorporated the business. They had entered the field of microwave technology, oscilloscopes, and high-speed frequency counters. The company continued to develop innovative ways to decentralize decision-making and empower individual divisions in the company as self-sustaining organizations. In 1957, the company went public, with all employees receiving HP stocks. 

The following year, HP acquired a graphic recording company, which became the basis of its forays into the world of printers. The company went international and by 1962 made the Fortune 500 list. In 1963, they developed a frequency synthesizer to be used in deep-space vehicles. Atomic clocks, LEDs, and spectrum analyzers soon followed.

The First Computers

In 1966, the sheer necessity of keeping up with their own family of programmable test and measurement devices prompted HP to develop a computer as a versatile instrument controller. It was the first ‘plug-and-play’ device on the new computer market, since it was designed to interface easily with a wide array of customers’ laboratory instruments. 

Two years later, they released the world’s first ‘personal computer,’ which stored programs on a magnetic card and could solve science and engineering problems ten times faster than most other machines. This milestone was followed by breakthroughs in the world of business computing, calculators, and even a digital wrist instrument in 1977 (sorry, Apple, looks like HP beat you to that idea!). 

A Legacy of Innovation

From the early 80s onward, HP has been capitalizing on its legacy of innovation to develop personal computers, handheld devices, ink and laser printers, laptops, and finally rack-mounted servers (and, would you believe it, all before 1993). With this kind of history of innovation and reliability, you can imagine why we at ComputerCare felt motivated to become an authorized service provider for all HP business model computers. 

If you’re in need of service for your HP business devices, don’t hesitate to start a service ticket today

Tech History Trivia: Toshiba

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There you are, typing away on your Toshiba machine, never supposing that you’re working with the product of one of the oldest tech companies in the world! Turns out that the company’s roots are almost 150 years old and it has been at the forefront of the electronics and communications industry ever since.

Pre-1900

One of the parent companies that eventually merged to become Toshiba as we know it today was Tanaka Seisakusho,founded in 1875 and later renamed Shibaura Seisakusho, the first Japanese engineering company to manufacture telegraph equipment for the country. Meanwhile, in 1890, another company, called Hakunetsusha and later renamed Tokyo Denki, was founded to manufacture lightbulbs (after the founders also casually built the first power generator in Japan!).

1900-1939

The important connection that eventually led to these two parent companies merging was actually with General Electric. In 1905, GE acquired 51% of Tokyo Denki and, in 1910, 24% of Shibaura Seisakusho. This made sense because the two companies both manufactured a selection of light and heavy electrical equipment, and the connection with GE allowed them to introduce Western tech into Japan, leading to great successes for both.

Their similarities and membership in the Mitsui Bank group of businesses eventually led the two companies to come together during the war years as the single Tokyo Shibaura Denki company in 1939, and their name was quickly transformed into the easier portmanteau To-Shiba. They specialized in creating electrical home appliances that reduced the use of iron and steel, needed for war purposes, but incorporated new developments in electrical technology.

1940-1983

The company dealt with the challenges of the war by becoming a military supplier for radios and other electronics, and then expanded quickly in the decades following by exporting goods to Southeast Asia and eventually founding overseas headquarters and manufacturing subsidiaries to handle growth.

The economic downturn of the early 70s brought a halt to growth, however, and instead prompted the company to look inward to research and development, leading them to create Japan’s first color video phone in 1971 and word processor in 1978. In 1983, they rebranded themselves by the name everyone used and we all recognize: Toshiba.

1984-present

Toshiba established itself as a leader in Japanese electronics by its invention in 1986 of the first laptop personal computer in Japan. It focused resources on semiconductors and expanded its PC business. From 2001 to 2005, in cooperation with Sony and IBM, Toshiba helped design the Cell Broadband Engine, an advanced computer chip that can be used in applications as diverse as supercomputers, HD TVs, and Playstations. Toshiba has its own line of laptops based on this Cell processor.

Today Toshiba manufactures a variety of including DVD players, digital video recorders (DVRs), printers, copiers, lighting products, medical imaging equipment, surveillance systems, liquid crystal display (LCD) devices, and (of course) laptop computers. And that’s where ComputerCare comes in. We are authorized to perform warranty repairs on Toshiba’s laptops, meaning you can rely on us for support during these crazy times. Learn more about our services here.

Worried Your Hardware Might be Failing?

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For many of us, our work lives now depend on the health and longevity of our devices, especially our trusty laptops. That means that when a problem crops up, it can cause a bit of a crisis, which is why we felt like you could use some tips for checking to see what the problem is. Yeah, a reputable computer repair company (like us!) will either offer free diagnostics or waive the cost if you stay with the company for repairs, but sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the wait to see what the problem is, or you want to try your hand at some home computer repair. 

Here’s how home diagnostics work…

If you have a PC

PC computers running Windows 10 have two diagnostic tools, one for system tests and one for memory tests. The first is called Performance Monitor and can be called up by a quick Cortana search. The window that pops up will have a left hand navigation menu, where you can navigate to Reports>System>System Diagnostics>[Computer Name]. You’ll find a detailed description of checks on your computer hardware, software, CPU, network, disk, and memory, along with a long list of detailed statistics. 

To test the RAM specifically, you’ll need to run Windows Memory Diagnostic. Press Windows+R to open the run window, type mdsched.exe in the field and press enter. Windows will prompt you to restart your computer, so the test can run, and show you the results when the device reboots. If they don’t appear automatically, you can also find them by right-clicking on the Start button, choosing Event Viewer, and then navigating in the new window to Windows Logs > System to find the most recent file called MemoryDiagnostic.

If you have a Mac

To run hardware diagnostics for Apple products, you begin by shutting down your computer and unplugging everything from its ports, except any of the following which apply: mouse, keyboard, display, ethernet, and power cord. Then restart the computer and immediately press and hold the D key. Release when a progress bar or language choice option appears. (If you already have a device with Apple Silicon, the process is a bit different: press and hold the power button, release when you see the startup options window, and then press Command-D on the keyboard.)

After the progress bar has completed, Apple will show the diagnostic results on your screen, including one or more reference codes for specific issues which you can check here. Restart your Mac once these are recorded. If you want to investigate service options, you can also click on the ‘Get Started’ link on the diagnostics result screen to be taken to a webpage with more information.

Running these simple tests on your devices can save you a lot of time and worry in the long run (for example, if your problem turns out to be related to software, you won’t have to come in to talk to a hardware specialist like ComputerCare). They can also empower you to talk to technicians at computer repair companies with more confidence. In any case, if you diagnose a hardware problem on your device, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to discuss repair and replacement solutions! We are always here to help.

Choosing a Reputable Computer Repair Company for Your Business

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For some companies it may make sense to dedicate internal resources to IT and have your own computer repair, decommissioning, and hardware specialists on site. For others, however, especially as much of the workforce remains at least partially remote, the best solution is to contract with a third-party computer repair expert to provide IT and device hardware support. As just that kind of expert service, we at ComputerCare feel qualified to help you look for the IT support company that best fits your company’s needs in these strange times.

On-site vs. Off-site Support

Probably the first question we advise you to answer is whether your business model would be best served by keeping an IT expert in house or by contracting with an external service that handles repairs, upgrades, etc., in their own location. Some factors to consider include your business footprint. IT work takes space, especially at high volumes, and you may not have the resources to store the parts, pieces, equipment, and spare devices needed to make the magic happen. On the other hand, if you do have the space and a workforce heavily reliant on their devices, the quick turnaround of having someone on-site can make all the difference in the world. At ComputerCare we offer both models of support, but not all computer repair companies do, so this is definitely a factor to consider when contracting with a third-party service.

Remote vs. Local Support

If you’re not quite sure how to provide IT and hardware support to employees who may now work entirely from home, this is definitely an issue to bring up with potential contractors. Do you want your employees to drive into the office every time they need to drop off a work device for repairs and pick up a spare model? If not, does that mean you have to ship computers back and forth or hire a delivery person to handle these issues? Talk to your computer repair service provider about customizing your support services. From our own experience, we can assure you that we understand and respond to your struggles as a business owner. That’s why we have lately developed some new services, including storage and maintenance of spare devices, and free home pick-up and delivery for our clients’ employees. Difficult times call for innovative solutions, so check with your prospects to see what they can do to streamline the repair process for you and your remote workforce.

The Importance of Trust

Perhaps more important than all of the above, though, is knowing you can trust your IT partner to provide high quality repairs and maintenance for your company devices. Is the company you’re considered qualified/authorized/certified to provide you the services you need? At ComputerCare, we’ve taken a lot of pride in becoming an Apple Authorized Service Provider and an HP Authorized Service Partner, working with Dell, Acer, and Toshiba to become authorized to repair their products, and even receiving a Premier Service Award from Lenovo. These are the kinds of qualifications you want to look for in a trustworthy IT support service. Since almost anyone can repair devices in their basement or garage, knowing that a business has made the effort to establish a reputation and relationship with tech companies can put your mind at ease when it comes to contracting with them for your hardware support needs.

These are strange times and needs of business owners are changing. It’s time to advocate for yourself and look for partners who can give you the solutions you require. And if you’re located in the Bay Area and Seattle, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us regarding our pandemic-specific client support options. (We can also provide on-site services for large businesses in the US, Ireland, or Europe.)

Thinking of a New Job in Tech?

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Maybe your resolution for 2021 is to jump into the tech field so you can follow your passion. Maybe you’re struggling with the post-pandemic job market and can’t help but notice that tech is a pretty stable industry at the moment. Maybe you’re just doing normal job-hunting after finishing up college, etc. Whatever the case, we’re not alone in thinking that tech is an area with a lot of potential for almost anyone.

The Tech Industry is Broader than Coding

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, ‘This sounds great and all, but I don’t know how to code and I’d like a job now, not four years in the future after I graduate from a computer science program.” Have no fear. We’re here to reassure you that there are plenty of other opportunities within a broad-ranging and thriving industry like tech. Analysts, researchers, customer success specialists, designers, marketers, writers – all these positions and more exist within the field, meaning you can have a pretty satisfying career, even if until now you thought that C was just a letter in the alphabet.

Read between the Lines of Job Postings

A lot of people (sadly, especially women) look at a job posting and interpret the language to mean that they aren’t qualified. They don’t bother to apply and miss out on some potentially awesome job opportunities within the tech sphere. Maybe you don’t have a Computer Science degree specifically, but you did study electrical engineering with some computer science classes. Maybe you don’t feel that you have a ‘proven track record’ in a specific skill-set, but you have actually studied it and know your way around. Go ahead and apply anyway! All the above fancy-sounding requirements mean is that the company is looking for people with skills and experience, which you most likely have.

Practice Desirable Skills in Your Free Time

Maybe you do actually want to code, but that wasn’t the focus of your degree. Use the fact that you’re most likely stuck at home right now to take an online course or use free resources to practice skills like coding or web development, familiarize yourself with desirable software such as the Adobe suite, learn how to build or repair devices, or even just polish your resume and interview skills.

2021 is off to a rough start in some ways, which may make it seem daunting to jump into a new field, but at least we know that all things tech are in high demand right now. We think it’s the perfect time to be dusting off your skillset and your resume to get into a great job in the tech industry. (P.S.: Check out our open positions, too!)