By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

When your pc breaks, there comes a moment when an internal conversation plays out. You may ask yourself if it’s worth fixing or if you should start looking for a new one. Because they never seem to break at a convenient time, it is easy for our emotions to get ahead of us.

In the tech industry, there are many specialties that deal with certain failures of the computer; hardware repairs such as screens, keyboards, jacks, and hard drives as well as software repairs that work specifically to diagnose and fix your programs and operating systems, as well as data recovery which will retrieve data in the case of a critical failure.

By taking the unit to a technician who specializes in these fields they can assess the overall health of the unit and let you know if it’s repairable and if it’s worth it.

We live in a society where everything is made to be quickly used and quickly disposed of. Wrappers, packaging, utensils, even footwear and clothing. However, it becomes a problem when we relegate this same system of stuff in, stuff out to our tech gadgets.

desktop computer for recycling

Americans toss out on average over 2 million tons of tech gadgets yearly, and while that generally is not a significant figure for our overall waste, it is the largest contributor of toxic materials for our environment. Additionally, these products sink close to $100 million dollars’ worth of precious metals such as gold and silver back into the ground.

With so much unnecessary waste, it is imperative to have your unit evaluated before tossing it. Repairs on screens, hard drives, keyboards and operating systems are extremely common and are cost effective when compared to purchasing a new unit. However things such as motherboard replacement on a laptop would not be recommended. If your unit does prove to be a total loss, ask about data recovery and recycling of the unit to help keep our environment clean.

If you have any questions about properly disposing of your tech gadgets please give us a call and we would be happy to tell you the proper steps.

A computer guru with ten years of professional experience. From corporate IT to forensic data recovery, he has seen it all and has the stories to prove it. His hobbies include programming and ice hockey.
By Karim Salmi / BlogData Recovery / 0 Comments

Data recovery services are one of the three natural expansion paths for computer service businesses (the other two being mobile device repair and business IT services). Unlike the other two, information retrieval has a high financial barrier of entry. That’s because storage devices that have failed are usually unreadable by a computer. Indeed, a motherboard knows to communicate with healthy devices but is not even remotely equipped to navigate defective drives. As a result, there are three types of equipment necessary to even have the means to provide this service.

The first is a set of desktop computers with data recovery software. Theses are used to transfer data between healthy drives and manipulate data if necessary. For example, these computers will help retrieve photos and documents that have been deleted or find partitions that have been lost due to formatting or other high level issues. We also use these to transfer data from recovery drives to destination drives. Most computer shops can provide this sort of service.

The second level of service is what we call an advanced recovery. It provides access to failing drives and gives the technician the means to analyze the failure and read the drive in the safest way possible given the damage. You will need a disk imager and a forensic analysis tool such as PC3000 to work with drives that need an advanced recovery. They allow you to do anything from building a heads map to repairing or reconfiguring device firmware. The starter packages for each unit will cost at least $8000 and add-ons will be required to manage the workflow and work with as many devices as possible (including USB interface only drives).

clean room for hard drive repair

The final level of service is clean room recovery. When drives suffer physical trauma, they need to be opened in a dust free environment where a careful hardware swap can take place to restore functionality to the drive. Once healthy again for reading, even if temporarily, the drive is moved to the advanced recovery station to read as much data as possible. An ISO class 5 workbench is required because so much as a spec of minuscule dust could permanently ruin a hard drive. These are also the most expensive recoveries as they require expensive parts, a professional recovery lab and an experienced engineer to navigate the repair and retrieval.

Unfortunately, few organizations provide training in the data recovery field. On the other hand, self training is often impossible due to the financial burden of purchasing the equipment necessary and the high likelyhood of destroying dozens and dozens of drives while attempting to disassemble them.

It is important to develop a standardized workflow and organization method when processing a drive for recovery. From diagnostic to final transfer, drives are likely to move back and forth between various stations to complete each part of the retrieval. Technicians should be constantly verifying the health and speed of the recovery and double checking the integrity of the recovered media. Whenever possible, a recovered file list should be provided to the client for review to avoid costly repeat work.

As usual, if you have any questions about the process, feel free to reach out to our rockville data recovery service.

A computer guru with ten years of professional experience. From corporate IT to forensic data recovery, he has seen it all and has the stories to prove it. His hobbies include programming and ice hockey.
By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

With the popularity of all things connected at first glance you may wonder why anyone would share a device. Everyone seems to have their own phone, laptop or dedicated desktop system. Yet think about how many times the question “Can I make a call?” or “I just need to check my email” has sent you into a cold sweat. Whether it may be site history you don’t want others to see or an obsession with plaid sock pictures you don’t want others to have access to, knowing how to tighten the security on your device can prevent you from looking like you have something to hide.

The first thing you will want to do is to set up a guest account. Most users overlook this very simple feature that has been around in Windows operating systems forever. By going through the control panel and “managing user accounts” you can quickly activate the guest user feature so that it is available for immediate or future use. By turning on the account, all password protected files, features and settings will be off limits. If you will have a more regular user, setup a separate user account for this person and make sure they have no Admin privileges. This feature is also great for parents because you can set permissions to block access to certain programs (ie. no internet), files and also set specific time limits. Make sure your own profile is password protected so the savviest users won’t just change the settings behind your back.

children sharing a computer

For phones and tablets, many manufacturers also offer the guest user setting. Some can be accessed discreetly by plugging in a chosen password that will redirect to a limited version (you pre-choose what is accessible) of your home screen and others will be an actual guest user account. In either case, as with your laptop/desktop, it is imperative that you password protect the system or all your careful planning will be wasted.

The second thing you may want to ensure is the privacy of your search history. Browsers such as Chrome offer the ability to search “Incognito”. While this certainly will not keep the very determined from tracking your online activities, for an average snooper using the “incognito” search bar while on Chrome will cover your tracks from their nosy eyes. Keep in mind however, we do not recommend using this technique at work, trust us when we say the IT tech in your office can still see it all!

Third, you may consider encrypting your device. As we will detail in a later post this is not for the faint of heart. If you lose your encryption key, your data is toast. While there may be extremely complicated ways to retrieve it, the road to recovering encrypted data is not a path you want to choose. We recommend using a key you know you will never forget, one no one else will ever guess, and keeping it logged someplace safe in case you do forget.  Some devices also offer automatic formatting to compliment the encryption. Unless you are James Bond, you may want to forgo such an extreme measure especially if you know nosy eyes will attempt to break in. Children and significant others have been known to attempt to crack your password and with this setting in place by the tenth incorrect try your device will wipe everything clean and still be encrypted.

Last, a conversation with a tech in our office may be needed to cover all the bases of your privacy concerns. We can show you which settings are useful, assist you with setting up password protected folders within your password protected profile and per your request store passwords within your client file of our non-networked data base for a small maintenance fee.

Contact us anytime for a privacy assessment and consult!

 

A computer guru with ten years of professional experience. From corporate IT to forensic data recovery, he has seen it all and has the stories to prove it. His hobbies include programming and ice hockey.
By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

I thought I was Protected!

Computer Malware and Viruses are built to be vicious. They have one goal; to make you miserable. Long gone are the days when Viruses only appeared after visiting a shady site. Now just checking the news can plummet you down a rabbit’s hole. You complete one article and another article with a tantalizing header beckons you from the sidelines. It’s on a trusted site so you think nothing of clicking that link, only it leads you far away from the trusted site and lands you in a section you really don’t want to be.  As you begin to frantically search for the little X and close out the tab a notice pops up threatening to arrest you if don’t send an immediate money order. In frustration you may be wondering with all that protection you have paid subscriptions for;

What happened?

Even if your system has separate Anti-virus, Anti-malware programs, pop-up blocking apps and you only head to trusted sites, you can still get infected. Viruses are big business and organized crime groups are targeting you specifically. You fall into a neat little demographic of careful users these organizations can’t wait to sink their teeth into. They know because you weren’t expecting them, you may not have protected your information carefully, thinking your system would never be breached. Once inside, they can gain access to your banking information, tax records, contact lists, personal data such as documents, pictures, video and more which they sell on the black market. Posing at legitimate companies they buy ad slots on trusted sites and make it very tempting to click the link for a little more info. They also send out innocuous emails directly from your trusted contacts (and to them) knowing while you may not open an email from Prince William needing a little help bringing his funds into the US, you may open one from your grandson. Once in, depending on their target you may or may not even know they are there.

image of infected computer

What do I do?

The best thing you can do is to understand how your protection programs work, and to be vigilant about backing up your data. Most Anti-virus/Anti-malware systems work to prevent you from getting infected. However, the moment you give a site or a download permission to enter your computer, harmful or not there is no stopping it. Running your Anti-virus scans later will probably not be helpful because the Virus is now recognized as an approved program. Before you download anything, do research. A quick Google search will tell you whether the “Coupon Generator” or “Weather Bug” is going to be more trouble than its worth. Also, back up your data to an external source. We recommend consistently backing up data to a non-networked drive so in the chance your data is being held for ransom you can comfortably disregard the demands and have your unit professionally cleaned.  

Moving Forward-Tips to remember

Do not give out personally identifying information to anyone online and be aware of your surroundings in the online community at all times.

Do not follow links-whether on Facebook, MSN or anywhere else. Often times these links will only lead you into trouble. The cat video, or Kim Kardashians vacation pics are not worth it.

Do not download anything that comes from an unverified source, particularly if the price tag is free.

Do not ever give anyone other than a trusted computer repair tech access to your computer, particularly if THEY have contacted YOU. Reputable companies will NEVER contact you to let you know your computer is infected, and anyone calling or emailing you to tell you your computer is infected is running a scam.

Do not forget to back up your data. We offer non networked back up drive setups as a service and you can call us anytime to get that arranged.

Do not give access to your user account to anyone. Just because you are a careful does not mean they will be. Give everyone their own User account or invite them to use the Guest account.

In the chance something still does occur despite your diligence we are available 6 days a week so feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email, even if you are just unsure we will be happy to research the problem for you.

 

 

A computer guru with ten years of professional experience. From corporate IT to forensic data recovery, he has seen it all and has the stories to prove it. His hobbies include programming and ice hockey.