Monday, March 12, 2018

Run macOS in Windows via Virtual Machine!

With a few downloads, a hand full of steps to follow, you can have a Virtual Apple computer running on your Windows PC. That's right! Your eyes are not deceiving you. You can create a macOS virtual machine using VMware Workstation Player! Have access to the apps, tools, programs that you love about your Apple computer, all on your Windows PC!! No "hackintosh" required.

The link for the tutorial is below and will require you to download and install several programs as well as modify a config file using NotePad. Nothing crazy, but there are quiet a few steps involved. So read carefully and pay close attention to each step.

Link: Run macOS High Sierra OSX via Virtual Machine on a Windows PC!

**A few quick notes regarding this guide!**

  • VMware Virtual Workstation Player us up to version 14. However the needed "unlocker" utility that makes VMware Workstation Player compatible with OSX is ONLY compatible with copies of Version 12 VMware Virtual Workstation Player. So DO NOT download the newest version of VMware Virtual Workstation Player; only use copies of version 12.
  • You DO NOT need an ISO or currently OSX installation media. The tutorial has a link to have to download the Intel version of the Mac OSX virtual machine. This virtual machine is provided courtesy of the excellent fellows at Techsvidrewer.

Thank you for creating such an easy to follow and thorough setup/install guide!!

Pacific Northwest Computers

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cryptocurrency GPU Mining Rig Parts List

Basic Parts List for a GPU Cryptocoin Mining Rig:

*The goal with your motherboard is to have as many PCIe 1x and 16x slots as you can get!
**You can also go with Pentium-Dual core or any other low-cost/low-power CPU's.
***You can use a high-speed thumb drive instead of a SSD or standard HDD if you are going to be using a Linux or any "small footprint" mining software/distro.
****You can go with any 1000+ Watt PSU as long as it is at least Gold/Platinum 80+ Certified.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ransomware; What You Need To Know

With the popularity of the "WannaCry" ransomware bug that went around in early 2017, most folks are pretty familiar with the term Ransomware (aka an extortion virus). If you are not familiar with term, essentially a Ransomware virus is bug that usually gets into a system through an infected attachment via a fake Email. Once the email is opened, the virus activates and immediately starts to seek out and encrypt Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, Pictures, Music; anything it can get it's hands on. It is a VERY destructive type of attack and if not prepared, you could loose all of the precious data that is stored on your computer and connected to your computer!

So what is Data Encryption?

Data encryption is a way to lock a file, or any type of data on a hard drive, very securely. Encryption essentially locks a file with a nearly unbreakable secret password, key, etc. Once a file has been "locked" or encrypted, you need have to have the secret key or password to be able unlock and access file(s) again. The key or password is what enables you to decrypt, or "unlock" the file, and have access to all your stuff again; pictures, documents, music, etc. So what the scammers are trying to achieve with deploying Ransomware is to lock your data up and then extort money from you to get your data back. Essentially make you pay a ransom to get your data unlocked and accessible again.

What can you do to protect yourself from Ransomware attacks?

  1. BACKUP YOUR DATA: Back up your files remotely every day, but only on a hard drive that is not connected to the internet. So long as you back up files on an external hard drive, you won’t lose any information if hit by a ransomware attack.
  2. NEVER OPEN A SUSPICIOUS EMAIL ATTACHMENT: And never download an app that you haven’t verified with an actual store. Read reviews before installing programs.
  3. SCAN ALL DOWNLOADS: Some antivirus programs have the ability to scan files to see if they might contain ransomware. Make use of them before downloading any questionable attachments from email or software from the internet.
  4. EXTRA PROTECTION: If you want take things a step even further, BitDefender does have an Anti-Ransomware security tool you can install and run on your computer to supplement (and work in conjunction with) your existing security software:

What do you do if you have already gotten infected with Ransomware?

If your computer has been attacked by ransomware, you can explore the free ransomware response kit (from ZDNet) for a suite of tools that can help with a ransomware attack.
Pacific Northwest Computers also recommends the following to moderate an attack as well:
  1. Remove the infected machines from the network, so the ransomware does not use the machine to spread throughout your network!! VERY IMPORTANT!!
  2. Decide whether or not to restore from available backups, try to decrypt the encrypted data, or pay the ransom and take it as a lesson learned.
  3. Research if similar malware has been investigated by other IT teams, and if it is possible to decrypt it on your own. About 30 percent of encrypted data can be decrypted without paying a ransom. Some of those tools are listed below:
If the none of the available decryption tools work (or a decryption tool is not available for your specific type or Ransomware) data recovery could be a last resort option. There have been cases where when the Ransomware virus attacks and the data encryption first occurs, the original file is actually copied and then deleted, and the copied file is what gets's encrypted! So we can try to recover those original files!

If you have been hit by a Ransomware virus, you need Ransomware Data Recovery, or you are interested in getting some systems in place to be prepared and protected in the case of a Ransomware attack, feel free to reach out to us!
Pacific Northwest Computers

Jon Pienkowski ~ Owner/Operator

Monday, May 15, 2017

WannaCry Ransomware Virus

The now infamous "WannaCry" ransom-ware virus has been making headlines and scaring a lot of computer users around the world. It is one of the quickest spreading Ransom-ware bugs that has been released to date, but Ransom-ware viruses are not anything new.

Ransom-ware viruses are a type of virus that infect computers, and then prevent the user from accessing the operating system, or encrypting all the data stored on the computer. Then the user is asked to pay a fixed amount of money as ransom to unlock their files, allowing them to regain access to the operating system and their data again. What sets this virus apart is how quickly and widely it has spread.

As of yesterday a Security Professional, Marcus Hutchins, has been credited with stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack from spreading across the globe, by accidentally triggering a "kill switch" found in reverse engineering the virus. So for now, further infection has been stopped. But to prevent any infections from previous distributions of the bug you can do the following:

"WannaCry" Ransomware Guidelines to Stay Safe:

  • Be careful to NOT click on harmful links in your emails! 
  • Even with security software installed, if you open/download an attachment from a malicious email it can and will infect a computer and network! 
  • If you get an email from someone, look at the email address/email header and make sure it's from who it says it is. 
  • Be aware of fraudulent e-mail messages that use names similar to popular services such as PayPal instead of PayPal or use popular service names without commas or excessive characters. 
  • Be wary of visiting unsafe or unreliable sites 
  • Never click on a link that you do not trust on a web page or access to Facebook or messaging applications such as WatSab and other applications. 
  • If you receive a message from your friend with a link, ask him before opening the link to confirm, (infected machines send random messages with links). 
  • Always make have the latest update for your Antivirus; Let me know if there are any update issues! 
  • Make sure your windows have the latest updates to close the gap! 
  • If windows has reported that updates are pending/available; download and install immediately!! 
Further Steps to take in-case you WERE to get infected by the "WannaCry":
  • Make a recovery disk! The WannaCry ransomware asks for $300 or more if you a modified version if you do not pay the creators (in Bitcoin to its untraceable and not refundable) encrypt all of your files on the computer. 
  • If your computer gets infected take it off of your network immediately! The ransomware will spread to other computers on the network! You can restore from a backup. 
  • If you would like our assistance with ANY of the procedures above or would like us to secure your computer and/or network to the best of it's ability, let us know and we can schedule an onsite or remote session for you!! 

More from Microsoft on the bug and associated patches to help prevent infections from WannaCry:…/libr…/security/ms17-010.aspx

Jon-Eric Pienkowski
Pacific NorthWest Computers
(360) 624-7379

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Security & Performance for your PC!!

I get asked all the time, “Jon, what do you recommend for security and performance for my computer?” So I decided to give folks a brief, and to the point, run down of what I programs and tools I use and recommend.

So, core security: I typically use and install Avast Free or BitDefender Free Antivirus (MS Security if Windows 7). Then I always use (and have used for years) MalwareBytes Antimalware and Spybot Search & Destroy. MalwareBytes is a Zero-day exploit and “name brand” bug catcher King and Spybot can find a lot of stuff that normally would get left behind and can also undo damage a virus has caused to your system. But you do not want them to be running all the time, as your Antivirus is providing that protection. MBAM (MalwareBytes for short) and Spybot are just "tools in the toolbox" per say. Include them in your routine scans and cleanings but they will be your go to, if and when a virus gets around your Antivirus. But the basic "run it when you need it" free versions are all you need (unless you have computer with horsepower and speed then let em rip!).
Then with the new variant of malware being “browser hi-jack” bugs, if you get hit with something like that, all those other security programs may not be able to find all of them; or even any of them at all! So that is where ADWCleaner and JRT come in to play. Both are now distributed by MalwareBytes (so that's who you will likely download them from as an FYI), they are specifically browser hi-jack clean-up tools. These tools will find, fix and remove what the other programs cant. Including website re-directions, search engine and homepage hi-jacks, removal of malicious add-ons, and much more.

Then last but not least, lets keep the computer clean of junk!

Class, meet CCleaner. CCleaner; class.

CCleaner has been my go-to performance and clean-up tool for nearly my entire professional computer career. Junk, temp and cache files, prefetch data, DNS cache, delete free space; CCleaner can do A LOT! So to keep things clean and your computer running snappy, I highly recommend it’s installation and use!

You can find direct download links to all the previously mentioned programs, as well as a complete virus removal tutorial just by clicking the link below! Doesn’t get much easier than that ;)
Recommended Software Downloads & Virus Removal Tutorial

As always, if you need any kind of computer or “tech” help, or if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch! This is why I do, what I do :)

Jon Pienkowski 
Pacific Northwest Computers 

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