If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you may be overwhelmed by all the options available. Not only are laptops made by many different companies but they also come in different sizes and price ranges and technical specifications. Now, the first two categories are pretty easy to figure out. If you have a favorite brand that you trust then you don’t have to look at as many laptops. Size is also fairly easy to decide on. If you want a light laptop that you can travel easily with you’ll probably look for an 11″ or 13.3″ laptop. However, for more standard work or video watching a 15.6″ or 17″ laptop might be better suited to your needs.
Generally, the size of the laptop will also affect its price but that is not always the case. However, the size of the laptop is probably the detail you are the least flexible about so it’s best to just stick to something you are happy with regardless of other factors including price.
If you are replacing a laptop that is a few years old and aren’t changing your usage habits then any recently manufactured laptop will be greatly superior to your old machine. This is because we are now using a new generation of processors and a new type of RAM memory in today’s laptops. Effectively, even at the lowest price point possible ($300-$350) you are still getting a machine that out classes your old one significantly.
Price is a tricky metric by which to measure laptops. Just because your laptop costs more doesn’t mean you are really getting your money’s worth in today’s market. There are a few things you can do to make sure the hardware included in your laptop is worth the price you’re paying:
- Make sure you are getting DDR3 RAM and at least 4GB of it. That’s not to say that you need more than 4GB (you probably don’t and can’t put more than 4 to use) but there’s no excuse for not having at least 4GB these days. This will allow your computer to multitask significantly better.
- Check what processor you are getting. Generally speaking, Intel is currently providing 3 tiers of processes. They have their lowest tier which is the I3 series, their midway tier which is I5 and finally they have their strongest processor, the I7 series. Check a website like http://www.cpubenchmark.net/ to see how your prospective processor measures up to other machines.
- Consider the battery life of your laptop. Two hours of battery life is no longer acceptable for most models that are not made for gaming. Find something you are comfortable with and determine whether you can upgrade the battery from a 6 cell to a heavier 9 cell batter.
- Finally, take note of the type of hard drive you are getting. The speed of the hard drive is measured in RPM or Rotations Per Minute. Aim for a 7200RPM hard drive for best performance. The capacity of the hard drive is measured in GB or Gigabytes. 250GB is the lowest you will want. Consider expanding the size of the hard drive if you store many videos or music files (or pictures!).
- If you can get one, a laptop with a solid slate hard drive will be way faster than a typical mechanical hard drive. They are not always available and they will bump your price a hundred dollars or more but they may be worth it if you need the extra performance and loading times (You’ll load Windows in a dozen seconds instead of 50 seconds!)
You may feel the need to ask if certain brands are better than others. We’ve found that most laptops these days are very solidly built and that the risk for a widespread manufacturer defect is pretty low. The best way to get more mileage out of your new laptop is to use it safely and properly and to consider purchasing an extended warranty if it’s available.
This week we take a look at a very popular file storage service called Dropbox. Like most online data “backup” services, Dropbox allows you to store your files on their servers and retrieve them from any web connected device in the world. Online backup solutions can be more reliable than local data backup solutions because these companies are able to provide secure data storage servers that are themselves backed up and protected from catastrophe. However, they are not a bullet proof solution as legal issues may force a company to unexpectedly shutdown all of its servers.
Dropbox is meant to be installed on one or multiple computers. In fact, Dropbox is most useful when you need to use it on multiple devices to share your files. This is because Dropbox not only stores and shares files online but it also stores them on every machine that you link to your Dropbox account. At its most basic, you can tell your desktop to share your Pictures folder with Dropbox. When you save a file in the Pictures folder it will automatically be copied online. Additionally, when you turn on your linked devices, they will automatically download the new files.
As a security measure, having your files stored locally as well as online makes Dropbox a very reliable solution. Just because you can’t get online one day doesn’t mean you can’t access your local files. What’s more is that Dropbox can be installed on mobile devices such as your tablet or smartphone. Setup is a breeze and then the service is fire and forget. Did we mention that it’s FREE to store up to 2GBs of data? If that’s not enough, you can simply refer your friends and earn additional space for each referral. Try it out, you won’t be disappointed.
This is for all the small businesses out there that have had trouble stocking screens because of the thousands of model numbers. For years, we had a slow laptop screen repair process because we needed to open up each laptop to identify what screen it used and then order an appropriate model. In fact, ordering off the model of the laptop alone produced a high fail rate because we’d get the wrong screen every third order. After painstaking cross reference of all the screens we purchased over 4 years, we were able to notice patterns between the screens. For example, a B156XW02 starts with the numbers 156. This number represents the size of the screen (15.6″). The same is true across the board. H101 screens are 10.1″ and B140 screens are 14.0″ across.
Of course, if you asked your vendor for a list of compatibilities they would tell you that they don’t have one or that they simply know from experience. That’s not exactly true. In fact, it’s not true at all. Vendors know specifically what fits and what doesn’t. It’s pretty simple. All you need to do is match up the dimensions of your screen:
- What is the size of the screen diagonally?
- Is it an LED or an LCD CCFL backlight?
- What resolution is the screen? WXGA, WSVGA, WXGA++?
For 99% of your screens, that is all you will need. Occasionally, you need to match up the data cable PIN number as some screens defy the norms (LED screens used in Mac’s tend to be 30 pin instead of the standard 40 pin LED). Then, once every blue moon you will stumble upon a unit that requires a very specific screen and not a compatible version. These laptops are growing rarer however.
So without further ado, here are the common screen types you should stock to cover most of the computers that come through your repair shop:
- LTN101NT02 WSVGA 10.1″ LED
- LP133WX1 WXGA 13.3″ LCD
- LP133WX3 WXGA 13.3″ LED
- HT141WXB WXGA 14.1″ LCD
- LTN141WD1WXGA+ 14.1″ LCD
- LP154WP1 WXGA+ 15.4″ LCD
- LP154WE2WSXGA+ 15.4″ LCD
- LP154WX4WXGA 15.4″ LCD
- B156XW02WXGA 15.6″ LED
- LTN156AT01 WXGA 15.6″ LCD
- LTN173KT01 WXGA++ 17.3″ LED
These screens cover the most popular screens for their size. By far, the most common screen is B156XW02 so always keep a few on hand. Some screens of the same type are more expensive then others. Match their features so you don’t get ripped off. Over the years, we’ve paid over a hundred dollars extra for the exact same screen because we didn’t have all this information.
CCleaner is a tool that can help speed up your computer and clear up your cookies. CCleaner will scan for mismanaged hard drive space, clean up your browser history and cookies and also protect your registry files. Currently, CCleaner can be used to clear up cookies from Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera. To start using CCleaner, simply visit Piriform’s website and click download latest version. Run the file to install the program and follow the screen prompts.
Once CCleaner is installed, launch the program to begin using it. The first tab that is open is the cleaner tool. Here, you can select what items you would like CCleaner to take a look at. If you are unsure, just leave the faults checked and then click on analyze. Over the next few seconds, your computer will be scanned and a summary will be displayed of just how much space will be saved. Click on run cleaner to begin the clean up process.
The next tab is the registry tab. Leave all the items checked and then click on “scan for issues” to attempt to identify missing or corrupt files. Once the scan is successful, click on “fixed selected issues” to remove the problems. In our experience, multiple runs of the registry cleaner have been beneficial.
The third utility tab will present you with 3 options. The first is an uninstall tool to manage the programs installed on your computer. Review the list to identify any unused software that can be removed. The second tab allows you to manage your start up items. These are the programs that run when the computer is first logged in to Windows. Finally, the third tab will allow you to create and manage your Windows system restore points.
CCleaner is a lightweight, fast and powerful tool to clean up and protect your computer. It should be run once a month.
Many computer users seem confused as to what exactly their computer is running and why. If you ask some people what operating system they use their answers will vary from Windows 2010, Windows 2007, Windows Vista and even to facebook. The confusion is probably due to the naming of popular microsoft services such as Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows 7. Here we attempt to clear up the confusion by highlighting the differences.
At its most basic, an operating system is the software infrastructure that manages the computer’s hardware to make it accessible to the user and to programs. In layman’s terms, it is the initial layer of software that makes your computer useable. Your operating system lets you run the computer, manage users, install programs and edit resource management. It also gives you access to all the different hardware inside the computer.
Microsoft has designed various iterations of an operating system called Windows. There are three popular versions right now with one in development. Release dates shown:
- Windows XP (2001. Development has ceased for Windows XP)
- Windows Vista (2006)
- Windows 7 (2009)
- Windows 8 (In development)
Programs on the other hand are installed onto compatible operating systems. For example, if you own a Windows machine then you will purchase software that works on Microsoft Windows. Or, if you use a Mac, you will need to purchase software that runs on Mac OS. It is easier to imagine the difference between programs and operating systems if you consider smart phones. Your smart phone may be running the Android operating system (which is equivalent to running a Windows or Mac operating system on your computer). Then, you download apps on the market to add functionality to your phone. Those are programs.
Some popular examples of programs are skype, itunes, Microsoft Office, Norton Antivirus and Adobe Flash.
Malware Bytes is an anti-malware tool that is very popular because it is both effective and free. However, you are given the option to pay for a consumer license which will expand the abilities of the program to better safeguard your computer. Basically, the free version of Malware Bytes is an on-demand scanner. That means that it only runs when you tell it to. You cannot schedule it to run at set times or to update in the background or anything like that. It must be activated by you. Despite this limitation, the free version removes just as much malware as the paid version.
However, when it comes to computer security the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is completely true. Some infections can push your computer way past the point of even being able to run Malware Bytes to remove the offending trojans. In those cases, your free version of MB will be useless. Then again, if you opted for the paid version of the program, it would allow you to run a live scanning version of the program which would oversee and inspect all actions taken on the computer to keep you safe.
Finally, Malware Bytes is very easy to use. You will be prompted to check for updates every time you open the program and then you will reach the scanner page. Once there. you can select whether to perform a quick scan, a full scan or a flash scan (paid version only). The quick scan will check your windows folder and user files such as your application data folder where most malware roots itself nowadays. The full scan will check absolutely everything on your computer. The flash scan will check live processes
While there is no definitive answer to this question, there are some general guidelines which can help you choose the best browser for your internet experience. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: no one recommends using internet explorer. It is the most widely used browser in the world because it comes standard with your computer. However, it is also the most targeted for security vulnerabilities for exactly that reason.
Speed and ease of use are a big consideration these days. In that department, Google Chrome and Opera lead the way for sheer performance. Most other browser features have now become standard for all the major players: website speed dial, tabbed browsing and session saving come default. However, we have noticed that not all browsers render websites the same. This means that some websites might look better or run more smoothly with difference browsers. If you run into problem in one browser, try opening the website in a different browser.
Finally, we would recommend trying them all out. We prefer Google Chrome because of its speed and excellent customizability. It integrates very well with skype, the google voice addon and gmail. However, we use firefox for website analysis and development because of a larger library of tools suited for website work.
I would say that in the vast majority of virus cases you will know right away that you are infected. This is because most viruses will block your internet access by activating a proxy or by preventing executable files from being run (such as programs and malware removers). Effectively, without online resources or the recourse of running an anti-virus, most viruses will leave you unable to act against them.
Some other viruses are designed to trick you into paying the author money to remove the malware they got onto your computer. To that end, these rogue “anti-virus” programs needs to be visible for you to act on them. They pop up with a window showing a virus scan in progress which is picking up hundreds of malware items. These reports are fake and you should not act on them.
Any unexpected pop ups or strange changes to your computer will alert you to the possibility of an infection. Sometimes ads will open non-stop or your background will be changed to something silly. In more severe cases, all of your personal documents will disappear from your computer and appear to have been “deleted.”
Remember that unsolicited changes are a sure sign of some sort of problem. Unless your favorite program just received an update and is now acting up because of it, the error messages on your computer are probably accurate. Simply contact a professional to have your computer cleaned up. Always have your anti-virus running and keep your subscription active with daily updates!
The cloud is a relatively new term to describe a pretty old computer concept. Basically, “the cloud” is an easy way to describe online file storage. Imagine that you have hundreds of pictures and albums that you want to share or have easy access to. You subscribe to an online service like www.flickr.com and upload your pictures. Suddenly, you can share your photos by simply providing a link to your album. Even better, you can view and manage your files from any computer in the world (provided you have an internet connection).
While online media storage is what most people are referring to when they mention “the cloud” it should be noted that there are numerous other applications for this sort of network configuration. Cloud based computing can help businesses streamline their IT solutions by proving their employees with access to programs that aren’t locally hosted or managed. Basically, this means that a central server (or ‘the cloud’) can let a user run Microsoft Word without having to install the program on the user’s machine. This can even be used for other web applications such as online banking or e-commerce.
The advantages of cloud computing are increased efficiency, centralization and security. Every business needs to backup its data. How many times is enough? On how many mediums? How secure are the backups? To answer these questions, a business or individual would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars implementing servers and network infrastructure. Host companies that manage and offer cloud services can spread out all of these costs across their millions of customers.
Is the cloud safe and secure? Yes. It is far more secure and reliable than a home made solution. However, there are concerns over the privacy of your data and the sustainability of the host company. In light of the recent megaupload.com shutdown, it is strongly advised that you use multiple backup solutions just in case!
The best time to get a fresh and secure start on your new computer is right when you buy it! Have you ever wondered what you should be doing to “protect” your new computer and make sure it works? It’s pretty simple: your computer needs to be secured against malware, optimized for performance and then protected from failure.
Installing a strong anti-virus to keep your computer safe should be the first thing you do with your computer (before even going online). We recommend Avast anti-virus because it is easy to use even for beginner users and it is also very effective (not to mention free for home use!). Your computer may already have a sponsored trial of some anti-virus installed. In that case, we recommend removing the trial version and installing your preferred solution.
The best way to optimize your computer from day one is to simply have a clean installation of Windows installed. That means installing a fresh copy of Windows without the 70 additional programs (known as bloatware) that your manufacturer might have pre-installed for you. These programs clutter up your desktop and slow down your computer. If it is not possible for you to install a fresh copy of Windows, then we suggest taking the time to remove all the bloatware that came with your system.
This is the most important step. You should setup an automatic data back-up solution to safeguard your personal data against loss. Once that is done, you should make sure that System Restore points are being created. To do so, go to Start Menu -> Control Panel -> System -> Advanced System Properties ->System Protection -> Configure.
Voila! You’re done! Make sure to download the basic programs you need to use your computer such as Adobe Reader for PDF files and Adobe Flash to view videos online.