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!)

Refurbished Computers: Are They Worth It?

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Maybe you’re in the market for a new computer, but don’t want to shell out the full ticket price for the latest model (an understandable wish after the fiasco of 2020. You don’t want to buy the two-year-old model your friend is tired of, but those recertified items you can buy online are starting to look pretty appealing. Apple, in particular, has its own certified refurbishment program, with devices around $200 less than new models.

Understandably, though, you’re not quite sure what are the pros and cons of a refurbished device. Since we actually refurbish computers for donation and resale, we figured we could walk you through some tips for your buying consideration.

What Goes into the Refurbishment Process?

Refurbished computers are usually devices that were returned too long after their order date and cannot be resold as new, defective new devices which have since been fixed and retested, or items with small cosmetic defects. Some are completely unused, while some have seen minor use and have undergone cleaning, diagnostics, OS reinstall, repairs, and tests to ensure that they are ready for resale.

Should I Buy a Refurbished Device?

As long as you buy from a reputable seller, refurbished devices can be a great way to get a reliable device at a greatly reduced price. Maybe you won’t get the latest generation of the processor, but as long as you don’t need the absolute peak of performance in your computing work, having the previous generation of processor probably won’t make any noticeable difference – except a positive one for your wallet.

Pros and Cons

But in case you want some more informations, here are some factors to consider:

  • Pro: you can get a high-quality computer at a discount just because it’s no longer legally ‘new.’
  • Con: you’ll never know the real reason why a refurbishment was necessary.
  • Pro: most refurbished computers may have never been faulty or even used. A good number are simply returned after buyer’s remorse.
  • Con: there’s usually going to be some unknowns about the computer’s history – for instance it may have been shipped and handled multiple times.
  • Pro: the hardware in refurbished units will have been tested extensively, whereas ‘new’ counterparts are often straight from the factory with little testing.
  • Con: there can be a level of risk in case something goes wrong and you didn’t choose a seller with a good warranty and return policy.
  • Pro: it’s the green choice! Items are not dumped, but instead refurbished and re-sold.
  • Con: the availability of refurbished computers depends on the market, so you may not get the exact device you want.

Takeaways

A refurbished device can be a great deal, but you have to do a little extra work to a) make sure the seller is reputable and offers good warranty and returns, and b) find the device you want. If you’re just needing a general workhorse at a great price, we strongly recommend choosing a refurbished computer. If you need something very specific, then new is always going to be the best choice.

Interested in getting your current computer refurbished so you can extend its longevity and maybe save you from all the above considerations? Send it in for one of our refresh packages!

Get the Most out of Your Computer

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2020 has done nothing if not demonstrate to us how much we all depend on our various devices for work and human connection. Unfortunately, though, the volatile job market also means that maybe we can’t rush out to upgrade to the newest and shiniest computers whenever we want. Maybe you’ve got a trusty old workhorse that gets you through the day, but the one thing you need more of is space on your harddrive. Here’s some ideas for salvaging computer storage until you feel confident making that upgrade in a few months.

External Hard Drive

Maybe you’re worried about the security of the data you work with. In that case, a physical hard drive can be a good way to save space on your device. They can be readily encrypted with free software to make them extra secure, so that only the password-holder (theoretically, you) can access them.

Cloud Storage

If you’re like us and feel like always reaching for that external harddrive when you need to work sounds like a pain, there are lots of great cloud options available. OneDrive comes with the Microsoft Office Suite, so if you’ve got that, you’ve also got access to 5 GB of free cloud storage for all your files. Downside: all the Office products try to force you to save every file in OneDrive, which can quickly eat up your storage. However, if you don’t mind that, like the Office interface, and are willing to pay around $70 a year, you can also get access to 1 TB of storage.

Google Drive is a similar, but more widely available service, since you just have to have a Gmail account to access it, rather than an Office subscription. Also, since Google’s own document-creating software is fairly advanced at this point, if you’re mostly working in word-processing, spreadsheets, and slideshows, you may be able to use Google for all your document creation and storage needs, instead of switching between different suites of software. Up to 15 GB of storage space is free for private users, and 30 GB for Google Suite users, and it’s easy and generally cost-effective to upgrade for more space as needed. An additional perk of Google Drive are the two apps that allow you to access its files directly from your computer, instead of in your web browser. Back up and Sync allows you to store your files on your computer and on the web, while File Stream allows you to store them on the web but sync them to your computer as you need them.

iCloud is Apple’s version of Google Drive, and works very similarly in that it comes with its own document creation suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). Its user interface is also identical to iOS, which is ideal for people already familiar with Apple products. However, free storage space is a bit limited at only 5 GB, with upgrades to 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB coming at different price points.

Of course, we can’t forget the cloud storage OG with Dropbox. Unfortunately, storage space for the free version is now very limited (2GB), but the paid version at around $10/month brings 1TB, plus file-editing capabilities, offline access, and automatic backup of photos and videos.

Free Your Device

As you can see, there are a multitude of options available to help you reclaim your computer’s storage. If you’re clever, you can even use multiple storage solutions for different file types to maximize your free options, or if convenience is what makes you happy, you can pay low monthly fees between $1 and $10, to put every file you own in the cloud – safe, secure, easy to access. That’s a lot better than shelling out a grand right now to get a bigger hard drive in a new computer!

And if you notice any bugs pop up once you’ve cleaned out your storage, don’t hesitate to contact us about our easy refresh service to restore your computer to that fresh-out-of-the-box look and performance.

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?

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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. 

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.