Tips & Tricks

Yikes! There’s nothing quite as precarious as a hard drive ready to die. Many times it happens slowly over time; often it happens in one quick swoop. Either way, it’s never a good thing.

The most common sign of a failing hard drive is a “clicking” sound. Your hard drive has moving parts and that clicking sound represents the internal bearings and reading “arms” beginning to break down. Another characteristic of a failing drive is slow read/write activity and strange overall behavior, many times slow access to normal programs. Finally, bad hard drives can invoke the ominous “Blue Screen Of Death” at times.

What is the life span of a typical hard drive? That’s a very tough question to answer. All electronic parts have the same capacity to fail, and it’s simply impossible to predict. However–as a general rule–you should expect at least 3-5 years of life under normal usage. Folks with very sensitive business data or photos on their hard drives should consider replacing their drives every 3 years just to be safe.

This clearly alludes to the importance of data backup. Many businesses have “mirrored” hard drives, which copy the entire contents of one drive over to another. If one drive fails, the other drive is able to take over, and there is no down-time. This is actually an affordable and viable option for home users too.

If you are interested in testing your hard drive’s health, or would like more information on data backup, give us a call. We’ll give you a free consultation and a complimentary hard drive health check.

Cleaning up your desktop and streamlining workflow is always a bonus. If there’s a way to do it quicker and simpler, I’m in!

This week we are featuring a tiny little utility called LAUNCHY. Launchy will help you get rid of all those shortcut icons you’ve amassed on your screen, and decrease the hassle of searching around your system for applications, documents, songs, anything!

Launchy is a wee-bitty little box that hides in the background. When you hit CTRL+SPACE on your keyboard, Launchy pops up. You simply type in anything and it suggests what you’re looking for. It’s amazingly quick and takes almost no system resources to run.

In all fairness, this is very similar what the Windows Vista/7 start orb does. But Launchy is a bit more efficient, very customizable, and utilizes keyboard shortcuts fantastically. And if you’re still using Windows XP, it will be a great addition to your bag of tricks. Give it a try:

Have you ever noticed that your system is making lots of noise and running very slow, but you don’t have any programs running? What the heck is going on?

Enter the Windows Task Manager. The Task Manager gives you a quick look at the general performance of your computer and helps you understand what is happening “behind the scenes”. It provides an overview of running processes, open programs, processor usage and memory status.

To access the task manager, simply click CTRL+ALT+DEL at the same time. In the window that pops up, click the “Task Manager” button. Another simple shortcut is to RIGHT CLICK an empty portion of your taskbar (that bar that runs across the bottom of your desktop) and choose “Task Manager”

Once inside the task manager, you will see several tabs. Under the “performance” tab, you’ll see a graphical representation of how hard your CPU is working and how much RAM is currently being utilized.

Next, choose the “Processes” tab to view all the processes running in the background. This is where you can “END” processes that may be giving you trouble. For instance, if a program is hanging up, you can immediately end it manually, and free up some speed. You can also sometimes stop viruses/malware from running by finding their process name and killing it.

Have some fun and play around with it, but be careful about what processes you end. Killing vital system services can cause your computer to become unstable. Happy Computin’, see you next post!

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Check out her website or give her a call for more details!

What the heck is disk defragmentation? Well, it’s basically the re-organization of data on your hard drive.

Imagine trying to find your car keys in a messy house: it takes a lot longer to find them because you have to sift through all sorts of other “stuff” to get to them. When your hard drive is fragmented, it has to search through thousands–even millions–of files before it can finally call upon the data you need at the moment.

When your disk has been “defragmented”, all the data has been neatly organized and placed in a common-sense area of the disk platter. That way, when you need to access that favorite photo or email, BOOM, you see it right away.

On Windows XP machines, you typically have to defragment manually. Go to START/ALL PROGRAMS/ACCESSORIES/SYSTEM TOOLS/DISK DEFGRAGMENTER. For Windows Vista/7, go to START and type “defragment”. Windows Vista/7 usually schedules disk defragmentation to occur once weekly, so you may not need to worry about running it yourself. But if you just finished moving and organizing a ton of files, it’s a great idea to do a manual defrag afterwards.

Happy ‘Putin

Facebook is an amazing social tool, and it’s fun. Just always remember to be safe about it.

Some of the applications and games that users add to their accounts can be dodgy. Many times, you are giving that specific application express permission to see private details about your own profile as well as your friends’ profiles. Similarly, those applications may themselves contain security vulnerabilities that can be compromised by hackers.

Another cautionary tale: when you come across a friend inviting you to “Check out this video”, or some other random website, be careful. Many times that very friend has had their address book hacked, and the bad guys are trying to direct you to a website that will eventually install a virus on your computer.

No need to be paranoid–just make sure your Facebook security settings are setup properly, and be wary of things that seem out of the ordinary. Happy Facebookin’!

Sometimes the font and size of your screen is too small to read comfortably. Here’s a quick tip to zoom your screen:

Hold down the CTRL button on your keyboard while scrolling the wheel on your mouse. One direction zooms in and the other direction zooms out. This works on almost any windows program and on any browser.

You can see clearly now!

Many customers don’t realize that computer support can be
initiated “remotely”. This means that we can access your computer from our office, and you can watch us work while it happens. You can even talk to us on the phone during the session. It’s very convenient for both you and us, and the service charge is generally less than on-site support.

To initiate a remote support session, Auburn Computer Help will ask you to install a small, safe utility on your computer. Once everything is setup, you can watch us fixing your computer as it happens.

Remote session is available by appointment, and in some cases we offer remote support on weekends and holidays if you have an emergency need.

Any questions? Email
or Call us! We’re here to help.


(530) 305-7545

I’ve known several friends who have given up on their old clunker PC’s and forked out big dough to buy a new system.  What some of them didn’t realize is that upgrading their existing computer may have been a better, cheaper choice.

Have you ever opened up your computer case and taken a look inside?  Many of the parts you see in there can be removed and replaced by newer and faster components. It’s not rocket science…it’s really very simple.  There are some things to learn about compatibility and what not, but most of the time you can run down to your local electronics store and buy the replacement parts right off the shelf.

Let’s say you want your video games to play faster… you can purchase a “discrete” graphics card for around $100 and pop it into your system. Do you want some surround sound speakers to play your music? Grab a high-end sound card and chuck it into a empty slot…boom. Do you simply need your computer to operate faster? Many times it’s just a matter of adding more “RAM” or “memory” to your computer. RAM is quite commonly the easiest of all upgrades, and often times the cheapest way to get better performance.


Upgrade Suggestions

  • RAM (memory)
  • Higher Capacity Hard Drive
  • Second (additional) Hard Drive
  • Video Card
  • Audio Card
  • TV Tuner
  • Dual Monitors
  • Webcam
  • Wireless Card

Whatever the case may be, upgrading is a simple process, and it may help you avoid the high cost of purchasing a new computer. If you are interested in bringing your clunker back to life, give us a call and we’ll walk you through it. Who knows, you could turn that old PC into a nice web surfing computer for the kitchen, a backup server, even a media player for your big screen TV. The possibilities are numerous…

Backing up sensitive data should be a top priority for ANY computer user.  The average person has thousands of important documents, photos and videos that typically exist on one single hard drive.  If that drive fails—or your operating system crashes—all of that data can be lost forever.

Strangely enough, most computer users never backup their stuff. Many folks think that it’s a complicated process…but actually, it’s not!

Setting up a backup regimen is simple, and involves nothing more than an external hard drive, some software, and a couple hours to configure things. Good backup software will run in the background at regular intervals and do all the work for you. Once you set things up, you never have to bother with it again.

If you’re a businessperson or anyone else whom relies very heavily on your system throughout the day, there is second option:  synchronizing.  If you have another computer available, you can setup to have all your vital programs and data carbon-copied from one system to the other.  If one crashes, just walk over to the other computer and continue on with being productive.

Finally, there is the new “cloud” backup that has become very popular. The word “cloud” is just another word for “online”, and it refers to your data being backed up to a server computer somewhere out in the wild, wild internet. Companies like Dropbox, Carbonite and Sugar Sync offer various plans for about $100/year. The upshot of cloud backup is that you can access your data from any computer in the world, and you can typically “share” that data with friends and colleagues at your discretion.

Give us a call if you’re interested in a backup solution custom tailored to your needs. And always remember:  the sting of lost data remains long after the comfort of procrastination wears off!


Backup Basics:

  • Buy an external hard drive
  • Install and configure backup software
  • Synchronize to another computer
  • Upload to a cloud service