Thursday, September 8, 2016

Winning Against Windows 10: Fight Microsoft and Win!

Ever since the release of Microsoft’s “Free Upgrade” to WIndows 10 (which came to and end August 1st 2016), I have fixed dozens of computers for people which had system damage or issues stemming from an unwarranted upgrade of their computer to Windows 10. The upgrade to Windows 10 was free for Windows Vista and Windows 7 users for almost a year, but was supposed to be an optional decision. The end user was supposed to decide on whether or not, or when, to install Microsoft’s “latest and greatest operating system”.

As well all know from either the news, friends, family, or even personal experience, Windows was tricky with this OS upgrade and many people were automatically upgraded without direct and clear consent or without any knowledge until it was too late. If they did agree, some users had major issues with system stability, hardware, and software following the upgrade to Windows 10. Not the smooth process Microsoft said it to was to be... This means repair costs for folks as well as the inconvenience of downtown, as well as lost work and income for business.

Well recently I had a customer whose business computer went down due to a non-user initiated Windows 10 upgrade. The upgrade actually didn't complete correctly, killing the Windows OS upgrade installation (mid-install) requiring the system to be brought into the shop, have Windows 7 re-installed and onsite service to get everything set back up again. Well my client did some research and found a ebook on Amazon called "Winning against Windows 10".

"Winning against Windows 10" is the story of a woman named Teri Goldstein and specifically lays out how Teri fought back against Microsoft (due to a Windows 10 upgrade that messed up her system) and she actually was able to win; forcing Microsoft to reimburse her $10,000!!

Using the book (which gives you the specifics on her court case), my client was able to fight back against Microsoft themselves and was able to get Microsoft to reimburse them for all of the repair costs; onsites and all!

So if you have had any issues with Windows 10 "damaging" your computer and you had to get it fixed and/or can prove lost income from downtime, etc you could get Microsoft to pay you back!!

Any questions or comments?? Feel free to get in touch!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Build Versus Buy a Computer??

Build Versus Buy....

The old debate over whether you should build your own system or buy a pre-built one is an old, long-standing argument that will never be easily washed away. However, there are some benefits to building your own system that can't be weighed in terms of dollars and cents. You may be happier with your own hand-built system, or you may be able to score bargains and rebates that lead to a more powerful computer stuffed with higher quality components than a manufacturer would use.

Building your own PC also gives you complete and full control over that system's components and extendability. Unlike buying an OEM PC, assembling your own gives you the ability to make decisions about when and how you'll upgrade that system in the long run as opposed to simply taking what the manufacturer sells you. For example, you can buy into a new motherboard chipset early and wait to spend money on the next generation of graphics card later, giving yourself a timely upgrade when the moment-or your budget-is right.

Ultimately, while it may be easier to just pull out a credit card and buy whatever's on sale from your preferred OEM, there's something about assembling the components of a system that you've selected for your needs, powering it up, installing your favorite OS, and using it every day that's' incredibly rewarding.

Exerpt from:Henry, Alan. "The Best PCs You Can Build for $600 and $1200." Lifehacker, Tips and Downloads for Getting Things Done., 16 Sept. 2011.

Pacific Northwest Computers 

OSX Finder Crash Loop - FIX

PROBLEM: Your Mac’s finder is stuck in a crash loop Other apps work but your finder crashes and re-crashes indefinitely; even when the system is restarted. Other user accounts may work just fine and even a newly created account will work just fine. Permissions repair through the OSX DiskUtility doesn’t help either.
  1. Start with another user account or create a temporary administrator account. 
  2. Download and install PathFinder (search via Google) for all users. 
  3. Pin the PathFinder icon to your dock. 
  4. Log on with with your usual name and, with Pathfinder, move files that are in your Desktop folder, over to another directory. 
  5. No more Finder crash! 
Pacific Northwest Computers 

Friday, June 5, 2015

How can I keep my computer from getting infected? Pacific NW Computers' PC Security Tips

1. Make sure you regularly run MANUAL scans with your installed security software!
Security Programs We Recommend (Or Have Installed):
  • Avast Antivirus, BitDefender Free, Microsoft Security Essentials
  • MalwareBytes Anti-Malware
  • Spybot Search & Destroy
  • CCleaner
*For direct download links to the software listed above, visit "Pacific NorthWest Computers' Links and Recommended Software" page on our Blog Link below!

Basic/General Scanning Procedure:

  • Before running any scans with any of the installed security software, be sure to FULLY update the software FIRST.
  • After updating the security software, perform the deepest and most thorough scan that the software is capable of. This is usually labeled as a FULL or COMPLETE scan.
  • DELETE or QUARANTINE any and all of the security software’s findings.
  • Make sure you DON’T download and install any scanner/security software that solicits you to download and install its software. These scanners are blacklisted because of their questionable reputation.

2. Make sure your Windows is ALWAYS up to date!

  • An unpatched Windows is vulnerable and even with the “best” Antivirus installed; malware will find its way through.
    So visit to download and install the latest updates.
  • Be sure to download and install all CRITICAL and SOFTWARE updates! You also may have to do several “passes” of Windows updates before all the available updates/patches are actually installed.
  • Verify that your version of Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 has the most recent service pack installed. If this is not currently installed on your system, the Windows Update website will recognize this vulnerability and request you to download and install any available Service Packs and other needed updats.

3. Stay away from questionable sites.

  • This is one of the main causes why a computer gets infected. Visiting cracksites/warezsites – and other questionable/illegal sites is ALWAYS a risk. Even a single click on the site can be responsible for installing a huge amount of malware. Don’t think: “I have a good Antivirus and Firewall installed, they will protect me” – because that’s not true… there is no “Magic Bullet”. Before you know it, your Antivirus and Firewall may already be disabled because malware already found its way on your system.

4. Be careful with email attachments!

  • Malware spreads via email as well, especially email attachments. The most common ones are emails telling you that your computer is infected and that you can find the removal tool in the attachment, emails telling you that your password has changed and can find it in the attachment, emails with product codes in the attachment from software that you purchased (which you didn’t), emails with attachments that are so called “Security Updates”, etc. etc.
  • Don’t trust any emails like the ones listed above. Don’t even attempt to preview/open them and delete them immediately instead! It may also happen you receive an email from someone you know, but with a questionable attachment present and strange content in the e-mail’s message. In this case, this person – or someone else who has your address book in his/her address book – is infected with malware (worm/spambot) and sends these emails without being aware of it.
  • Don’t click links in emails from someone you don’t know, because these links can redirect you to sites where malware gets downloaded and installed.

5. When surfing the internet…

  • Use Google Chrome or the FireFox web browser as your MAIN internet browser. These browsers does not use ActiveX controllers or BHO’s (these are programs that are a standard feature’s of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and are “exploited” vulnerabilities that hackers use to infect computers). If a specific website (such as a financial institution website) may require Internet Explorer to be used in order for you to view their site, then use Internet Explorer. But for that specific website ONLY!
  • Don’t click on links inside pop-ups. ALWAYS close the windows via the "X" for the window vs. clicking "Cancel" or any other 'escapes' in the pop-up.
  • Download software off of the internet from websites you know and trust. A lot of free software comes bundled with other software, including malware.
  • Be careful when you are viewing videos online. Especially when you get a pop-up asking you to download a “Codec” to be able to watch the video. By default, your media player should already have the necessary codec installed to watch online videos. In the case that you’re prompted to install an additional codec while trying to watch a move online (or downloaded), it is most likely a false alert and this so-called codec may install malware.
  • Don’t install plug-ins (ActiveX) if you’re not certain what it is or why it is you need it. (Unless you are attempting to perform Windows/Microsoft Updates).
  • Glubble is a great FireFox add-on if you want to manage the sites your kids are allowed to see.

6. Watch what you download!

  • If you want to install certain software, always go to the developer’s site to download the software. Then you can be sure you’re downloading and installing the right software. Be aware of the fact that certain software (especially freeware) may contain/come bundled with extra software including spyware and/or adware. So only install when you’re sure they are OK.
  • The use of Torrent sites, Game Patches and Mods, Emulators; really anything "Free" is always a risk. Unless the download/host site is a reputable site, you can never be sure what you are exactly downloading. A file you are looking to download or have downloaded isn’t always what it’s made out to be.

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific NorthWest Computers

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PNW Computers' Favorite Mac Apps

PNW Computers' Favorite FREE Mac Apps

VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Titanium Software ~ OnyX
OnyX is a multifunction utility for OS X which you can use to verify the start up disk and the structure of its system files, to run miscellaneous tasks of cleaning and system maintenance, to configure some hidden parameters of many of Apple’s applications, and more.

Titanium Software ~ Maintenance
Maintenance is a system maintenance and cleaning utility for OS X which you can use to run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance: repair permissions, run periodic scripts, rebuild the databases, delete Application, Font and System cache, and more.

Derlien Software ~ Disk Inventory X
Disk Inventory X is a disk usage utility for Mac OS X 10.3 (and later). It shows the sizes of files and folders in a special graphical way called "treemaps".
If you've ever wondered where all your disk space has gone, Disk Inventory X will help you to answer this question.

smcFanControl is MUST HAVE for keeping your Mac running cool. smcFanControl lets the user set the minimum speed of the built in fans; so you can increase your minimum fan speed to make your Intel Mac run cooler. However in order not to damage your machines smcFanControl doesn't let you set a minimum speed to a value below Apple's defaults.

ClamXav is a free malware scanner for Mac OS X. It uses the very popular ClamAV open source antivirus engine as a back end and has the ability to detect both Windows and Mac threats.
ClamXav can be setup up as passive or active: scan only the files you tell it to or your entire hard drive, whichever you prefer; you can also choose to activate Sentry to monitor your hard drive and scan new files as they arrive.

CCleaner is the number-one tool for cleaning your Mac. It protects your privacy online and makes your computer faster and more secure. Easy to use and a small fast download.

FreeMacSoft ~ AppCleaner
AppCleaner is a small application which allows you to thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps.
Installing an application distributes many files throughout your System using space of your Hard Drive unnecessarily.
AppCleaner finds all these small files and safely deletes them.
Simply drop an application onto the AppCleaner window. It will find for the related files and you can delete them by clicking the delete button.

With coconutBattery you are always aware of your current battery health. It shows you live information about the battery in your Mac and iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) including:
  • Age of your Mac, iOS device and battery
  • How often the battery was charged
  • Your battery health (capacity in relation to the original capacity your battery had when it left the factory) and much more...
gfxCardStatus is an unobtrusive menu bar app for OS X that allows MacBook Pro users to see which apps are affecting their battery life by using the more power-hungry graphics.

The Unarchiver is a much more capable replacement for "Archive", the built-in archive unpacker program on Mac OS X. The Unarchiver is designed to handle many more formats than Archive Utility, and to better fit in with the design of the Finder. It can also handle file names in foreign character sets, created with non-English versions of other operating systems. I personally find it useful for opening Japanese archives, but it should handle many other languages just as well.

Monolingual is a program for removing unnecessary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least OS X 10.10 (Yosemite).

Hanynet ~ NoobProof (or WaterRoof) Firewall Software
NoobProof is a very easy tool. When you start it the first time you have a service list and you can choose to "allow" or "deny" connections to those services. So you have only to decide which service to allow, and then check "Activate NoobProof". You can also add selective "allow" and "deny", and you can delete or add new custom services in service list.
WaterRoof is a very complex and powerful tool, which allows you to configure almost every aspect and option of "ipfw". And more, you can list/manage active connections or network files, do graphics log analysis, configure your mac as a router with bandwidth management with tasteful rules and tons of other options. You need a good knowledge of "what a firewall is", and you should also have at least a basic ipfw knowledge.

TeamViewer - QuickSupport Remote Access Software
*What PNW Computers uses for remote support!
TeamViewer is the All-In-One Software for Remote Support and Online Meetings.
Remote control any computer or Mac over the Internet within seconds or use TeamViewer for online meetings. 

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific NorthWest Computers

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Microsoft Internet Explorer Vulnerability ~ Fact and Opinion

As you have most likely heard, Microsoft is scrambling to fix a major bug which allows hackers to exploit flaws in Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. The company has also confirmed it will not issue a fix for web browsers running on Windows XP after it formally ended support for the 13 year old operating system back on April 8th.

The vulnerability was discovered by cyber security software maker FireEye Inc. which stated the flaw is a ‘zero-day’ threat. This means the first attacks were made on the vulnerability before Microsoft was aware of it. FireEye also revealed a sophisticated hacker group has already been exploiting the flaw in a campaign dubbed ‘Operation Clandestine Fox’, which targets US military and financial institutions.

FireEye spokesman Vitor De Souza declined to name the hackers or potential victims as the investigation is ongoing, only telling Reuters: “It’s unclear what the motives of this attack group are at this point. It appears to be broad-spectrum intel gathering.”

For its part Microsoft has confirmed the existence of the flaw in an official post:

Now, Internet Explorer has always been a vulnerable browser and has exploits created/identified against it everyday. This is why for YEARS I have pushed my customers to use an alternative Web Browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. As previously mentioned, both of those web browsers are safer to use than Internet Explorer and are both immune from the recently identified exploit!

What makes this recent vulnerability stand out from the others, and why this particular vulnerability is making all the headlines, is that the problem is pretty widespread; affecting 1 in 4 Windows based computers and ALL Windows XP systems.

A Temporary Fix
While Microsoft rushes to fix the bug, FireEye gave concerned users two workarounds .
  1. Use another web browser other than Internet Explorer
  2. Disable Adobe Flash. “The attack will not work without Adobe Flash,” it said. “Disabling the Flash plugin within IE will prevent the exploit from functioning.”
*Adobe has released a new patch/update for their Flash Player! Allow the Flash Player to update or manually download and install the latest version here:

No Hope For Windows XP
Microsoft has confirmed that no fix will be rolled out for Windows XP because support has officially ended and there are no plans to make an exception. It states:

“An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information.”

The company’s advice to Windows XP users has remained the same for some time: upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 or buy a new PC. It has also repeatedly sent a pop-up dialog box to reachable Windows XP machines with the following end of support notification.

For users unsure whether their existing XP PCs can support Windows 8, Microsoft offers a software tool called ‘Windows Upgrade Assistant’ which can be downloaded here:

If you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific NorthWest Computers

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Online Data Backup Solutions

Pacific NorthWest Computers is a reseller for several different online backup providers and recently partnered with BackSync. BackSync Backup is a secure online backup and recovery solution with unlimited retention, centralized management and industry leading features. Small to Medium Business who are looking for Enterprise class backup at a fraction of the price. We don’t waste your time by offering consumer grade products re-branded with a “Pro” label.

BackSync Backup Features:
  • Exchange 2000 thru 2010 - Database, Mailbox and Mail item level restore 
  • Synthetic Full Backup - Exchange Database and regular file backups 
  • VMware ESX/ESXi – Guest level backup of licensed servers 
  • Microsoft SQL 2000 thru 2008 
  • SharePoint - 2003 thru 2010 and WSS 
  • MySQL Server 
  • Oracle Databases 
  • Active Directory and System State 
  • Open File Backup 
  • Normal Flat File Backup- Select disks, folders and files 
  • Network Drive Backup – Agent-less backups of other computers 
  • NAS (Network Attached Storage) Backup 
  • Outlook PST files 
  • Windows Registry 
  • Native Clients for Windows, OS X and Linux 
  • Backup to Local Disk, NAS, File Share or Online 
  • Unlimited file retention 

BackSync Backup Security
  • Encryption – Up to 448 bit strong encryption. 
  • Transmission – Backups are transmitted via a secured encrypted (SSL) link to the backup server. 
  • High Availability – All data is stored on high availability RAID storage networks with the ability to replicate around the world. 
  • Data Center- Backup servers are located in secured SAS70 Type-II data centers that are staffed and monitor 24x7x365. These facilities have redundant cooling, power and Internet. 

BackSync Backup is Simple!
  • Automated – Backup jobs can be scheduled from every minute to once a year or continuous as the files change. 
  • Continuous Data Protection (CDP) – Live monitoring and backup of files and folders for continuous data protection. (Great for laptops and mobile workers). 
  • Retention - Retain data on a per backup job basis up to 10 years for both live and deleted files. 
  • Consolidation – Backup as many computers as you want under a single account for easy management. 
  • Rapid Restore – Restores are performed quickly from the client. Larger restores can be done in in the data center and delivered or shipped directly to you. 
  • Easy to Manage – All backup clients and servers can be managed from a web browser. 
  • Seeding – Large initial backups can be quickly seeded with a USB drive into the data center. 
  • Reporting – Each client maintains detailed reports on every backup with the option to send notifications. 

If you are looking for a standard/non-commercial data backup services, here are some of our top picks!

  • provides unlimited and inexpensive data storage solutions; starting at $5 a month.
  • If you went with a business package, from Carbonite you would have the easiest access to your data as well; you could access data from any type of device. You could also use it like an online file storage/access portal as well! Unlike some of the other online data backup providers, Carbonite does provide backup services for iphones and ipads!
  • SOS's Online Backup plans aren't the cheapest but it's hard to compare apples to apples in this industry. For example, SOS's continuous data backup feature, which backs up a new version of a file the instant it's changed, is a killer feature that I haven't seen elsewhere!

There are other "alternative" solutions such as NAS Drives (Network Accessible Storage Drive) and other alternative services like Google Drive, DropBox, SkyDrive, Etc. But we will get into those later :)

Let us know if you have any questions or comments!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific NorthWest Computers