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!

Is There Any Hope If My Computer Won’t Boot?

My Computer Won't Boot
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It’s always a major shock these days if you press your computer’s power button and…nothing happens. Since one of the most common at-home solutions to computer problems is to restart the computer, if you can’t even get it on in the first place, there seems to be little hope of recovery! However, it’s not always a totally lost cause, and even when the computer won’t turn on, a reputable computer repair service like ours can usually still intervene to save the day. Before you bring your device to us, though, here are a few things to investigate.

Power Supply

If your computer or laptop won’t turn on, the problem could always be as simple as a loose plug in an electrical socket or a drained battery. Always check your cord to make sure it’s seated correctly, both in the wall and in your devices power receiver, and if you have a battery-powered device, to give it a little time to charge before trying to turn it on again. If a desktop if plugged in correctly, also check the power-supply switch on the back of the tower to make sure it’s flipped to ‘on.’ If none of these fix the problem and you happen to know you’ve been doing work inside your laptop or computer tower case, it may also be worth checking your internal power cable to make sure it is correctly connected. However, if none of these tricks solve the problem, very likely there is a serious issue with the power supply itself, in which case it’s time to talk to us about a repair

Disk Error

If you can power on the computer but only get an error message about the bootable device, then the problem is a bit more complicated. Either your computer is failing to boot from the harddrive where your operating system is installed, or that harddrive has failed entirely and needs to be replaced. If you are comfortable with accessing the BIOS or Open Firmware of your device to look at the boot order, you can check these problems yourself. On the other hand, if that kind of trouble-shooting feels a bit beyond your paygrade, feel free to contact us for a diagnosis. 

Crash during Boot 

This problem could be caused by either your software or your hardware. We recommend rebooting in Recovery for Macs or running Startup Repair for Windows. This should accurately diagnose any software issues, but if the recovery and repair process fails, then quite likely the problem is rooted in your hardware and you will need expert help like ours to address the difficulty. 

Of course, if you don’t want to deal with any of this, because life is busy or computers are intimidating, we will be happy to help you with any of these concerns for our low diagnostic fee of $49. If a problem does emerge, we waive that fee if you decide to use our services for repairs, so the whole process can be painless and inexpensive for you. Don’t forget to contact us next time your computer won’t boot, as we can always help. 

CES 2020 Happened in January…Let’s Take a Look at the Highlights!

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The world of tech is always changing, and innovators are feeling especially daring at the start of a new decade. That’s why we wanted to give you a look at the new tech unveiled at CES 2020 in January of this year. 

First, let’s talk about the items that we all want to own (whenever they actually appear on the market). There’s the electric bike that operates like a hydrofoil, which means you can ride it on water! There’s also a really cool soundbar from Vizio that isn’t only nice to look at. It also adjusts speaker angles to optimize it for use as part of a home theater or to blast your favorite Spotify playlist.  

Next, there were a couple of tech innovations that might actually make the world a better place. The people behind Impossible burgers came out with a new Impossible Pork. This is key for reducing carbon emissions worldwide, given that pork is the most common form of meat consumed in the most populous parts of the globe. Vegans might even get to enjoy meatless bacon! Another potentially life-changing development for amputees is the BrainCo Dexus prosthetic arm. Controlled directly by the brain and only a quarter of the price of traditional prosthetics, this device could drastically improve the lives of many veterans and persons with other conditions. 

The final area we want to look at is some new tech that might come through ComputerCare’s doors either this year or sometimes in the next decade. We were especially intrigued by Lenovo’s folding ThinkPad. As our customers know, we sell Lenovo products and also provide repair services for Lenovo Think models. Who knows? In the very near future we may be working on repairing one of these cool, convertible, all-in-one folding devices. We stay up-to-date with the latest tech, so if you get your hands on a ThinkPad X1 Fold, don’t hesitate to bring it to us for care and repairs. 

And in the meantime, while we’re still waiting for the tech giants to roll out their new inventions, don’t forget that we’ll take care of your favorite laptop or smartphone or desktop. Our diagnostic fee is just $49, and waived if you choose to repair your device with us. Contact us today for more information. 

It’s the New Year! Time to Form Some Good Tech Habits

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What with the multitude of devices and accounts we are all constantly juggling, it can be easy to slip into less than secure habits with personal accounts, information, and data. That’s why it’s a great idea at the new year to make good resolutions for our technological lives. Here are a few suggestions for you to choose from!

Weak Passwords

It’s a temptation for us all: reuse the same password on every single site we visit. Sure, it’s easier to remember, but it also leaves every single account open to the same hacker. We recommend using a password manager. Some of the best are paid, but even Google offers strong password suggestions and will save them for you. Just sign out of your browser if you choose this option

 Otherwise, someone who accesses your device can simply use autofill to log into your accounts. 

Leaving Your Devices Unlocked

As a logical extension of the previous point, instituting locks on your phones, tablets, and laptops can also be a great new habit for the new year. Yeah, it’s a bit more trouble to check Facebook if your phone needs a PIN or face recognition, but it also means that if you accidentally leave your phone behind, no one can get in to snoop around. 

Sharing User Accounts

On that note, no sense suffering if your family or friends forget to implement the above advice! For personal devices that you may share with others, like laptops and PCs, make sure that any guests get their own accounts. Secondary accounts on operating systems are easy to set up and ensure that other users can’t make any mistakes with your files or access administrator privileges, and all your information and data remains secure. 

Forgetting to Update Software

Sometimes it can seem like software companies want us to constantly update and download software, and use more space on our drives for operating systems, etc. However, some of those software updates are actually meant to keep users safe from potential security issues, not to mention these updates also fix bugs, add new features, and improve performance. Yeah, it can mean being forced to shut your device down periodically to install updates, but we recommend taking a coffee break during the fifteen-minute maximum an operating system might need to update, and then enjoying a smoother, safer user experience with your device. 

Failing to Back Up Data

We’ve all had it happen: you are working hard on a project, something goes wrong with a device, and suddenly everything is gone and you have to start over. To avoid the frustration, take a minute to go through your programs to turn on the auto-save feature, and then a few more minutes to connect your data to a cloud service. Even just Google Drive or iCloud can be sufficient and save you from big headaches when the inevitable tech glitches come. 

Sometimes, though, no matter what good habits you develop around passwords, data, and software, a device shuts down without warning or the hardware goes haywire. In those situations, give ComputerCare a call. We are always here to help!

Your Phone’s Lifespan is Five Years – Here’s How to Keep it Going!

        

Due to the lifespan of cellphone data contracts (generally two years), many people replace their phone every two years. However, if one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2020 is to take better care of the environment, one good step to take is to keep your cellphone for its entire lifespan. In 2015, research found that the average smartphone lasts almost five years (4.7, to be exact), but we all know that in reality the battery slows down, the screen cracks, the accessories disappear. So, if you are determined to keep your cellphone going for four years or beyond, read on.

Keep it Clean

As long as our phones still have buttons and internal hardware, they are in danger of getting pretty gummed up, especially as they live inside of our purses and pockets – not to mention our hands. For the surface, you can use a microfiber cloth and cotton swabs to get off some of the accumulated grime. If really necessary, a little isopropyl alcohol can also help, but be sure to keep it away from the various ports that lead to the inner workings. If you want to keep an eye on those parts, please swing by one of our shops, since we can easily open up your phone and make sure everything is clean and dry inside.

Baby Your Battery

Another challenge of keeping your phone alive for five whole years (basically eternity, in the case of tech devices!) is the issue of battery life. All device batteries are designed with a lifespan of a certain number of charges (somewhere between 300 and 500). That means if you constantly recharge your battery to 100%, you could be dramatically decreasing the battery’s overall longevity. Even if you do kill your battery accidentally, though, you can always get inside the phone and replace it, or if that makes you nervous, you can bring the phone to us for expert service.

Think about the Accessories

One part of keeping your phone alive is keeping track of charging cords, headphones, and even cases. The older your phone gets, the harder it is to replace these things. If you lose the charging cord for a three-year old phone, you might not be able to replace it if newer devices have a different charging port. Then it’s time to say goodbye to a perfectly good phone. However, a good phone repair store has access to more hardware than even the internet does, so you can also call us if you need a replacement accessory to see what we can do.

Treasure Your Screen

Of course the most fragile part of any phone is the touchscreen. While you can replace broken screens, in many cases phone insurance companies simply exchange the whole phone for a replacement, which defeats the purpose of keeping your phone alive to avoid e-waste. We recommend always using a case to safeguard against those times when your phone seems more slippery than a bar of soap. We also recommend taking a broken screen to a qualified phone repair service (like ours!), as we may be able to help you actually replace it, instead of the whole device.

In short, while it’s not completely simple to preserve your phone’s life for four-plus years, it’s also not impossible. And hey, who doesn’t like a good challenge! Help the planet and rock your phone from 2016 in 2020. If you need any help keeping it up to speed, just open a service ticket with us, and we can help you out!

My Computer Is Slow Like a Glacier. Here Are Some Reasons Why

my computer is slow
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One of the best feelings in the world of tech is getting a new laptop, booting it up, setting up your preferred environment on the device, and then enjoying its lightning fast speeds. Every program runs like a dream. No task takes more than a few seconds.

Fast forward a few years, though, and suddenly every task is laborious. Your computer is slow as molasses. Programs get stuck mid-process. You find yourself ending tasks a lot and losing work just so you can get unstuck and make progress again. This is the least enjoyable part of being tech-dependent, as we all know. What exactly makes it happen?

Overloaded Hard Drive

Before you bring your computer to a service like ComputerCare to ask why it has suddenly transformed into an electronic turtle, one thing to check is the number of programs installed on your device. Every program takes up a certain amount of space in your hard drive, so every time you add one, it leaves less room for your computer to perform other functions. By opening the list of installed programs on your computer and carefully reviewing it to see what is needed and what is not, you can clear up considerable space on your hard drive to allow it to operate more smoothly.

Insufficient RAM

While a program is actively running on your computer, it is constantly writing information to your random access memory (RAM) for quick and easy access. However, some programs may overwhelm your particular device’s memory capacity, especially if the program is newer and the computer is older. When there isn’t enough storage in the computer’s RAM, the program starts accessing the hard drive directly, attempting to write information there. This causes the hard drive to work overtime, which both wears it out faster and repurposes for fast access, which it is not optimized for. If you bring your device to a computer repair service to be checked, before assuming the problem is with your hard drive, you can ask your computer repair service if you are simply running out of RAM.

Old Age is Old Age, Even for Computers

In the end, though, if you’re asking yourself, ‘Why is my computer slow,’ it could just be old age. This is somewhat less applicable to Solid State Drives (SSD), which do not have moving components, but for computers that work with Hard Drive Discs (HDD), the constant spinning of the components inevitably creates some wear and tear. The physical pieces and parts don’t run as smoothly, thanks to their age and constant use, so they start to slow down.

Often, though, a device’s lifetime can be considerably extended by replacing the hard drive with either a larger HDD or an SSD. If you are concerned about your computer’s slowness and want to chat with some experts, start a service ticket here at ComputerCare, so we can chat about the best options for improving your current device’s longevity, or else upgrading to something more suitable to your needs.

When a Hardware Manufacturer Stops Supporting Your Hardware…

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We’ve all had the experience: a favorite device is chugging along, getting a little slower with new updates, maybe getting a little glitchy, but still largely reliable and familiar. We keep putting off getting a replacement, because we’re managing just fine, but then all of a sudden – the device’s manufacturer decides not to support maintenance for it anymore. This effectively means it has reached end of life (EOL). 

Doubtless this provokes a certain tendency to shake our fists and feel persecuted, but in reality, it’s a perfectly reasonable decision on the manufacturers’ parts. After all, they’ve got plenty of new devices they’ve since released; continuing to provide maintenance, updates, and trouble-shooting for older models becomes increasingly expensive when most customers have upgraded to the newer ones. 

However, that still leaves us with the question of what to do with our obsolete hardware. Since many electronics contain heavy metals and other hazardous materials, they can’t just be tossed in the trash can, but there are a few options for EOL disposal that are friendly both to your wallet and to the planet

Donate

Even if your device is dead as a door nail as far as the manufacturer is concerned, it could still be absolutely perfect in a school or at a library or other community organization. Parts can be recycled for tech classes or custom-builds, or the devices can help children or underprivileged adults learn valuable computer skills. Check in your community to see if any local organizations are in need of old hardware. As an added bonus, such donations are tax deductible.

Sell

Companies who work with electronics (especially older machines) are always in need of parts. Even if the main components in your device are no longer viable, computer repair people might need other things like fans, graphics cards, monitors, cords, etc., to help other clients keep their devices up and running. You probably won’t make a big payday here, but you might be able to resell your old hardware for at least a small return on your original investment in the device.

Recycle

While apparently not all e-recyclers are to be trusted for their environmentally safe practices, if you do a bit of research, you can find certified e-stewards who will accept your devices and dispose of them according to BAN guidelines (BAN being an international electronics recycling watchdog organization). If nothing else, you can always take all your old phones and cords and computers to Staples, which is one such certified e-waste recycler. Can’t get much easier than that! 

However, even with the existence of Staples, ComputerCare knows that figuring out the best option for your device’s EOL disposal, based on its age, condition, and components, can seem complicated. That’s why we partner with several e-waste companies so that we can offer our customers a one-stop solution for EOL asset management. We can help with erasing data and helping you find the best destination for your retired devices (donation, sale, etc.). Contact us today if a manufacturer has announced EOL for one or more of your devices, or you have old phones gathering dust in a drawer. We are here to help you out!