Monday, January 16, 2023

Our Favorite Mac Apps

Here is a basic list of some Mac OS applications that we use and recommend! Leave a comment below if you have a program that you use/love and would like to recommend it! 

Web Browsers

Brave Browser - 3x faster than Chrome. Better protection from Google and Big Tech. Built with your privacy in mind!

Vivaldi - Not sure what browser to use? Vivaldi allows you to use features from various different browsers, including their add-ons! Get unrivaled customization options and built-in browser features for better performance, productivity, and privacy.

Choosy - Choosy can prompt you to select from the browsers on your Mac, or just the ones that are running, so you can decide which browser is right for a particular link.

OpenIn - OpenIn is a native application for Intel and Apple Silicon architecture and allows you to choose what happens when you click on a web link or an email link, and even open specific programs for certain file types! OpenIn can even modify file open requests, and send the application a request to open a parent folder instead of the file. Plus much more!

BitWarden - Secure cloud syncing lets you access your sensitive information from anywhere on any device. Protect your online data using a password manager you can trust. Bitwarden conducts regular third-party security audits and is compliant with GDPR, SOC 2, HIPAA, Privacy Shield, and CCPA standards.

System Utilities

Download and install current, or previous versions, of Mac OSX operating systems:

Macs Fan Control - Mac OS application for real-time monitoring of fan speeds and temperatures. With this app, you can monitor your temperatures, and fan speeds, and help you solve overheating problems like those found on a MacBook Pro. Solve fan noise problems such as those caused by HDD replacement in iMacs and fan speed issues after various aftermarket parts replacements. 

Stats - Mac OS system monitoring software.

Onyx - OnyX is a multifunction utility that you can use to verify the structure of the system files; run miscellaneous maintenance and cleaning tasks; configure parameters in the Finder, Dock, Safari, and some Apple applications; delete caches; remove certain problematic folders and files; rebuild various databases and indexes; and more.

Mac Cleaner Pro - Professional tools for Mac cleanup. Keep your Mac always fast, clean, and organized!

GmsartControlGSmartControl is a graphical user interface for smartctl (from smartmontools package), which is a tool for querying and controlling SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) data on a modern hard disk and solid-state drives. It allows you to inspect the drive's SMART data to determine its health, as well as run various tests on it.

DriveDX - Advanced hard drive health diagnostics, drive health monitoring, and hard drive health testing software.

Disk Inventory X - Disk Inventory X is a disk usage utility for Mac OS X. It shows the sizes of files and folders in a special graphical way called "treemaps".


Malwarebytes AntiMalware (MBAM) - Say hello to smarter, safer protection for all your family's devices. Specifically designed to catch malware on Mac, MalwareByte's threat intelligence & proven technology let you rest easy, knowing that we’re finding and crushing threats that other antivirus software missed. The best part, we do it all without hogging your system’s resources or spamming you with annoying notifications. Finally, cybersecurity that is smart enough for your Mac.

ClamXAV - Whether you’re a home user, business user, or education user, ClamXAV provides effective malware protection on a single Mac or an entire network. ClamAV is one of the oldest Unix AntiVirus programs around.

Clario - Modern protection from more modern threats! Protect your Apple Computer and digital identity from viruses, unsecured Wi-Fi, ID theft, or hacking; in real time. 100% Detection rate!

General Programs

Caffeine - Caffeine is a tiny program that puts an icon in the right side of your menubar. Click it to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen, or starting screen savers.

VNC - Securely access and manage any device, from anywhere!

Sublime Text - Text editing, done right!

The Unarchiver - The Unarchiver is the only app you need to open RAR on Mac. It’s times more powerful than the native macOS utility and supports infinitely more archive formats.

Keka - Mac OS file archiver.

PDF Expert - PDF Expert is a uniquely fast, reliable, and easy-to-use PDF software. PDF Expert packs powerful features into a well-designed and intuitive interface. Effortlessly breeze through any type of PDF-related task!

Software Removal Tools

AppCleaner -  AppCleaner is a small application that allows you to thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps.
Installing an application distributes many files throughout your System using the space of your Hard Drive unnecessarily. AppCleaner finds all these small files and safely deletes them.

TrashMe - Your Mac is full of files that you consider to be junk, because they are too old, too big or useless to you: incomplete downloads, Windows files, old screen captures… In addition, macOS is creating many large files like app caches, system updates, log reports or Xcode files. When space is precious, you can use TrashMe to remove all these files and recover many gigabytes!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific NW Computers

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Failing CPU AIO Water Cooling Loops

So for a few months now I have been seeing a WAVE of failing CPU AIO loops coming into the shop. A CPU AIO (all-in-one) is a pre-packaged device that will liquid-cool your CPU. It's a CPU water-cooling solution, that can be easily installed into a system without having to heat/bend tubing, install/test fittings, etc. The AIO combines the water block, radiator, tubes, fans, fittings, and pump into an all-in-one (AIO) package.

At first, most of the failing CPU AIO loops I was seeing, were related to iBuyPower systems using their own self-branded water-cooling loops. More recently, however, I am starting to see other CPU AIO loops, from other brands, failing as well. What gives? Why are these loops dying all of a sudden?

That's when it hit me; they all had one particular characteristic in common. 

I noticed that instead of the pump for the AIO being a part of the assembly that is directly attached to the CPU, the pump was actually installed in the RADIATOR!?!

But why would the pump for AIO be in the radiator and not on top of the CPU itself!? 
Having the pump directly on the CPU itself is the most efficient method for moving hot liquid away from the CPU! So what gives?!

Well after doing some research, I have found that the Danish company Asetek, actually developed and owns the patent(s) on what would be considered a modern-day CPU AIO water cooling loop. So when you see CPU AIO loops from Corsair, CoolerMaster, etc. The fundamental loop design is actually licensed from Asetek! Manufacturers may make some modifications, make some improvements, add some features, and add their own brand to the product. But that's it!
The core functions and design of a modern "CPU AIO Water Cooling Loop" are all patented by Asetek.

So what can manufacturers do to increase their profits and not have to pay Asetek any licensing fees??

Well, some manufacturers are deciding to switch to a different design of CPU AIO water cooling loop altogether. Not because it's more efficient, but likely just to avoid licensing feed. So by moving to a design where the main components have been moved around (more specifically the pump) manufacturers don't have to license the AIO functionality from Asetek, and more profits are to be had.

Brilliant! *shakes head in disappointment*

Because of this little money-making move? I am now seeing custom computers that are using these radiator-pump-based CPU AIO loops, and they are clogging/dying left and right. 
So when you are buying a custom-ordered system from a manufacturer, try to pay close attention to the design of the CPU AIO Loop they are using/installing, and make sure the pump used in the loop is located on the CPU itself, and not in the radiator. Even if you have to pay a little more for an upgraded AIO CPU water cooler... It will be worth it in the long run.

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific NW Computers

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Find Your Microsoft BitLocker Recovery Key

So your Windows Computer just recently completed some Windows Updates, or maybe you changed some system settings. But NOW all of a sudden, your Windows computer is asking for a "BitLocker Recovery key" to be able to start your computer!
But you have no idea what BitLocker is, what BitLocker does, nor do you know what to do!

"BitLocker Drive Encryption is a data protection feature that integrates with the Windows operating system and addresses the threats of data theft or exposure from lost, stolen, or inappropriately decommissioned computers."
Which is all fine and dandy if you purposefully set it up, and saved the recovery key information. The BitLocker disk encryption keeps your data safe in the event your computer is lost or stolen. But, more often than not, folks don't even realize that BitLocker is even turned on, and thusly do NOT have any recovery methods ready to go if they were to get locked out!

If your system is asking you for your BitLocker recovery key, the following information may help you locate your recovery key. 

There are several places where your recovery key may be, depending on the choice that was made when activating BitLocker.  If you purposefully turned on BitLocker hard drive encryption, you may have printed out the security key that was created.   Or you may have saved that BitLocker Recovery key information to a USB thumb drive and thusly created a "Recovery USB Key". If so, just use the appropriate recovery method that you have created/saved, to get back into your system!

If you don't have any kind of Recovery Key information backed up or saved, the easiest way to find your BitLocker recovery key is through the Microsoft account you were using on that computer! Your Microsoft account is typically tied to your everyday email address, plus a password that was set up.

So all you need to do is use another computer or a tablet, or even your cell phone, and sign in to your Microsoft account to find your recovery key. This is the most likely place to find your recovery key! 

If you are NOT able to find any sort of recovery key, you would be looking at having to reinstall the Windows Operating System to get the system functional again. But, since the hard drive is encrypted, data backup nor data recovery would be possible.

If we can be of any assistance with this type of problem or issue, please don't hesitate to reach out!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific Northwest Computers

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Data Privacy & Data Security In Today's Digital Age

How to Become as "Invisible" as Possible In Today's Cyberage

I have been getting a lot more questions from customers lately with regard to online data privacy and data security.
"How can I keep my online accounts more secure?"
"I would like to surf the internet as anonymously and as privately as possible. How can I do that?
"I found some personal information online, and would like it removed! How do I do that?"

So I decided to write a post covering the basics of online privacy, how to improve your safety and security when online, and how to get personal data removed from the internet (if at all possible).

Limiting Personal Data From Getting Online & How To Use The Internet More Securely/Privately:

  1. Delete all social media accounts, take-down any/all personal/professional sites (blogs, websites, etc), and delete or depersonalize any/all types of online accounts. These sites have been used for years for obtaining personal information, gathering information for social engineering attacks, and even identity theft! 
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • Forum Accounts
    • Other Online Accounts (ie) News Sites, Game Sites, Online Stores, etc.
  2. Remove all (or disable) unnecessary apps from your Smartphone, Tablets, eReaders, etc. 
    • Do not install apps that collect any type of personal data, or unnecessarily require you to create an account just to be able to use the app. Also, downloading and installing "THIS AWESOME FREE APP" is the #1 way for a company to easily collect data about you.
  3. Search for any personal information listed on "Data Broker" websites and submit a request for your information to be removed. 
  4. Use a VPN for any and all web surfing; preferably a no-logging VPN like Private Internet Access.
  5. Use a web browser that has your privacy in mind from the get-go. A very popular privacy-oriented web browser that is widely used is the Brave Browser. By default, the Brave Browser blocks website trackers and advertisements. It also has an incognito mode for even further private surfing, private search features, and even some VPN connection features. It's a great program for privacy conscience users.
  6. You can take things a step further and use the Tor Browser and the Tor Network to access and surf the internet. When using the Tor network, you are using a decentralized network that routes traffic through multiple servers (or "nodes") and encrypts the transmitted data each step of the way. It's quite secure and great for anonymity! Sounds amazing, right? Why isn't everyone using it? Well, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to get set up and connected to the Tor Network, and the speed of the network can be quite slow. But if security and privacy are your goals, Tor is the go-to for anonymous, encrypted internet use. This also makes it popular among nefarious people...
  7. To take things even a step further, you can use a USB Thumb Drive-based Linux operating system for privacy-oriented system usage and web/internet usage. Though you would still likely want to use a VPN as well as a secured web browser. But this is a great option to have a "temporary" bubble to use. Tails is a portable Linux OS that is my go-to if I need to use a system that is foreign to me, but I need to securely access online data or securely log in to online accounts. All without leaving a trace behind on the host system! It technically could also be used as a day-to-day OS for those wanting even further their security/privacy.
  8. If you are worried about using public Wifi, the easiest option is to get a Mobile Hotspot plan through your cellphone provider. Most cell phones are capable of creating their own Mobile Hotspot that other devices can then connect to. If that is not an option with your cellphone, then getting a physical Mobile Hotspot from your cellphone provider would be the next best thing. Speeds may not be great! But you will be using your own personal/private network when out on the go.
  9. Create a "generic" email account that has very little personal information associated with it, or even go as far as to use a fake name! If what you are sending via email is secure/critical, you can use an encrypted email service such as ProntoMail. There are also "Burner" email services that are temporary! You could create and use a somewhat personalized email for a job interview or something more official, but it would just not be permanent. I believe that ProntoMail premium is capable of providing this feature at a cost. But there are some free-ish services such as Temp-Mail and GuerrillaMail that you can use as well.
  10. Use an encrypted text messaging/messaging service such as Signal or WhatsApp
  11. Use virtual/burner credit cards for online orders. That way, your actual credit card information can't be intercepted or stolen! is a great example of a free/paid-for provider of this type of product/service.

Remove Personal Data From the Web

  • Data Removal Request: If you live in a state that has a "Digital Privacy Act" that requires companies to remove personal data if requested to do so, then search for any and all personal information and keep track of where it is all listed. Then reach out to those companies/services directly, and ask them to have your personal information removed or for you to be "opped out". If they do not follow through with your request, and your state DOES have a "Digital Privacy Act" or Law in place, then you can contact the FTC and/or your State Attorney General's office to report that company/service.
    Here’s a List of Data Broker Sites and How to Opt-Out of Them
  • OneRep -As cheap as $9 a month, OneRep is an automated removal service that covers over 150 data broker sites for your provided personal data.
  • DeleteMe - This service is a little more expensive at $10.75 a month, but is also highly rated for being able to remove personal data. Their system is automated as well, but where they are a "step above" is that they have actual employees that will assist with private data removal. Not all data broker services respond well to automated requests. So this is where DeleteMe stands out above the pack! That extra dollar or two could go a long way...
  • Legal Removal Request - If a removal request has gotten you nowhere, and the FTC and/or your State Attorney General is not able to help. There is legal action you could still take! You would need to find an attorney who is familiar with internet law. A lawyer could try to obtain a court order to remove your private data. That court order could then be presented to the website or a search engine (such as Google) and your data will either be removed from the website, or the URL containing the data will be omitted and blocked from search results.
  • Dark Web data is nearly impossible to have removed. It's the wild west of the internet, and the folks that use the Dark Web for nefarious things simply do whatever they want. Even if you were able to find and contact a dark web site that has your personal data/info, that alone could make you a target for further attacks and exploitation. You can't change your address obviously. But you can change your email, and phone number(s).
  • Government sites are exempt from these data removal requests as some information is public domain/public record.

Securing Your Online Accounts

In this day in age, just having a password is not enough to keep your online accounts secure, and hackers out of your accounts. Even if you do everything in your power to keep your login information secure, data breaches happen to big companies all the time! So even with your due diligence, your data can still be leaked and exposed in a data breach, data/network attack, etc.

But there are a few ways you can fight this!
  1. Use 2-Factor Authentication
  2. Use a USB Security Key
First off, it is HIGHLY recommended that you set up and use 2-Factor Authentication on all online accounts that you can. If you don't know what 2-Factor Authentication (or 2FA) is, you may actually already be familiar with this security technology. You know when you log in to your online banking on a new or different device. The bank will likely give you a call or send a text message with a code to confirm you are who you say you are. That is 2-Factor Authentication! Since 2FA has been around for a while now, calling/texting your phone with a code can be compromised. To take things a step further, you can download and use an Authenticator App on your smartphone, to generate account access codes whenever you may need them!

Both Google and Microsoft have their own Authenticator Apps. Surprisingly enough, Google (as of this post) doesn't let you back up your associated accounts and security keys. You can transfer them, however! But if you lose your phone, break your phone, or get a new phone (and forget to transfer your Authenticator data), you could get locked out of your very own accounts! So I tend to find myself recommending Microsoft's Authenticator App for creating, storing, and accessing 2FA security codes. Microsoft's Authenticator App has a backup feature and you can easily backup, transfer, and restore all of your 2FA account information if needed. This can be a lifesaver...

Now, if you want to take your account security to the NEXT level, you could purchase and use a hardware-based USB security key. A USB security key is a device that works on the same principal functions as 2FA. But instead of getting a phone call or text message with a security code, or having to use an authenticator app. You would physically plug in a USB device to gain access to your associated online accounts! So in order for you, or anyone else, to be able to get into an account that is associated with your USB Security Key. The USB Security Key would be physically plugged into the device needing account access, and then you would have to touch the USB Security Key with one of your fingers for account access to be granted. This would make it nearly impossible for anyone to exploit the phone call/text message codes, try to fake an authenticator app code, etc. The USB Security Key would have to be directly plugged into the device, and then touched for access to be granted to an associated account. Yubikey is the maker of the security keys that I have used personally, and I highly recommend their products! They make different models that have different interface types, including NFC, USB-A, USB-C, and Apple's Lightning connector.

The one downside to using a USB Security Key, however, is that you have to physically have the key with you in order to gain access to your accounts. If you lose your key, or it gets stolen, then whoever has possession of your key will then have access to all of your associated accounts. Yubikey does however allow you to disable a USB Security key in the event that something like that happens, however!
So if you do decide to start using a USB Security key for your online accounts, it's important to keep that key in a safe place, and have an alternative way of accessing accounts in case your key is ever lost, stolen, or damaged.
Some folks (myself included) purchased a second USB Security key that is all set up and ready to go but is kept stored in a safe place, just in case anything happens to the primary USB Security key.
You could also use an Authenticator app in addition to your USB Security key. An authentication app would serve as an alternate way of accessing your accounts if ever needed.

The bottom line is this: If you decide to use a USB Security key for your online accounts, just make sure you keep it stored someplace safe and secure. Also, have alternative/redundant account access in place. That way, if you lose or damage your USB Security key, you can still get into your accounts!

With the implementation of even a few of these tips, you can greatly improve your online privacy and security!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific Northwest Computers

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Had a Data Breach or Experienced a Computer/Network Hack or Attack?! Here's What To Do!

What To Do If You Have a Data Breach or Experience a Computer/Network Hack or Attack!

Despite your efforts to control access, track assets and create secure procedures for your network, online accounts, and computer systems. Data breaches, Server Attacks, Network Attacks, Account Hi-Jacks, you name it! It can happen, and it does happen. Knowing what to do if you suspect or actually have a problem can make the difference between a minor inconvenience, and a disaster that interrupts your ability to do business! The following steps can help you recover after a breach or hacking incident. The faster you can recover, the sooner you can get back to business!

  1. Stop the Breach/Stop the Attack:
    Isolate any devices or systems that have been identified as being a part of the breach and/or attack. If the hacker has used an email or account to access your systems, close them down to prevent further damage. If a specific computer is infecting other systems on the network, disconnect its network connections and get it offline. Ultimately, the faster you can restrict access to the systems, computers, and or accounts that have been affected, the less damage a hacker can do.

  2. Examine the Damage:
    You’ll need to determine the extent of the damage and which systems,  accounts, or users are suspected of being compromised, and which systems are confirmed secure. When you know what has actually been accessed, and what/who has been attacked, you will be better equipped to deal with the overall situation.

  3. Restore your Systems:
    Once the threat has been addressed, you can restore your systems, network, etc so you can continue your normal day-to-day work. If you have a DRaaS or BaaS system in place, your provider will be able to help you recover any lost, stolen, or deleted data quickly. If you don't have any backup systems in place for your critical data, try to work with your in-house IT team to attempt data recovery, and get things back up and running as fast as possible. If you realize you are in over your head, engage with an IT solutions company like Pacific Northwest Computers to help remedy security issues and implement data protection plans for the future.

  4. Perform an Audit:
    Determine how your systems, online accounts, email accounts, etc were accessed. Go over your response to stopping the breach, and the effect the attack/response had on your business. Once you know the answers to those questions, you can make better decisions on how to move forward and be better prepared for the future.

  5. Learn From Your Mistakes:
    After the initial shock has passed and your system is back on track, work with your IT team and or an outside IT company such as Pacific Northwest Computers, and establish a plan to prevent further issues, as well as set up any further needed "safety nets" to limit downtime, enable a quicker response, and prevent any data loss as well as have a system to get data back as quickly as possible. This will lower your risk of further attack as well as better prepare yourself if another attack was to occur. That alone is worth the peace of mind!

    For example, If your attacker got in via your email or by exploiting a poorly chosen password, retrain employees to better protect your network. If the attacker used a lost or stolen device, you may need to address inventory tracking. If data was stolen, held for ransom, etc. you have a backup plan for all of your important and critical data! Plus much more.

As always, if you need help with anything, just give us a call, send us a text, or send us an email!!

Pacific NW Computers

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Enable Modern Authentication for Office 2013 & Outlook 2013(On PC)

Enable Modern Authentication for Outlook 2013

A common problem that I have been coming across lately is that since Microsoft increased the security for their Office 365 email services back in August 2022, I have been getting a lot of customers whose Outlook 2013 software will consistently ask for (but will not accept) the user's email account password. This problem is due to the fact that even though Office 2013 does support Modern Authentication, it's actually OFF by default!
Well, I finally found Windows registry modification instructions direct from Microsoft that ACTUALLY work! Applying these Registry modifications to your computer will activate Modern Authentication for your Office and Outlook 2013 software!
You will need to make some registry modifications, however... So back up your system's Registry information BEFORE making ANY modifications! 

Proceed at your own risk!

Method #1

Microsoft Office 2013 installed on a Microsoft Windows computer, does support Modern Authentication. But it needs to be enabled; as it is turned off by default! It was a more advanced security feature that was not as widely used at the time. 
To turn on the Modern Authentication feature, you will need to configure the following registry keys:
  1. Open "Registry Editor"
  2. Navigate to the Registry Keys below.
  3. Create a new "DWORD (32bit Value)" for each entry listed below.
  4. After creating each new "DWORD (32bit Value)", double-click the "DWORD" entry you just created and change its "Value" to 1.
Key Type: DWORD (32bit Value)
Value Name: AlwaysUseMSOAuthForAutoDiscover
Value: 1

Key Type: DWORD (32bit Value)
Value Name: EnableADAL
Key Type: DWORD (32bit Value)
Value Name: Version
Value: 1

Method #2

  1. Make sure that Outlook and any other Office software applications are closed.
  2. Open up the "Notepad" application; specifically Notepad! Do not use Word or Wordpad, etc.
  3. Copy and paste the following text into Notepad:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Exchange] "AlwaysUseMSOAuthForAutoDiscover"=dword:00000001

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Identity] "EnableADAL"=dword:00000001

  4. Save the file with the file extension ".reg" instead of ".txt" in a location that's easy for you to find. For example, C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Desktop\Office2013_Enable_ModernAuth.reg.
  5. Open File Explorer (formerly known as Windows Explorer), browse to the location of the ".reg" file you just saved, and then double-click it.
  6. In the User Account Control dialog that appears next, click Yes to allow the app to make changes to your device.
  7. In the Registry Editor warning dialog that appears next, click Yes to accept the changes.
  8. Next, you will need to sign out of your user account and sign back in for the change to take effect. You may even want to just restart your computer.

That's it! 
The next time you open Outlook, you should get the modern authentication login pop-up where you can enter your email account login information, and your Outlook email should work again!

Pacific Northwest Computers

Friday, October 14, 2022

Recommended PC Apps, Programs, Tools & Utilities! *UPDATED*

A basic list of software tools, and utilities that we use and recommend!
We will update this list as much as possible! 

Tools and Utilities:

  • Hirens All-In-On PE/USB Boot Disk - Great bootable utility with TONS of diagnostic software; password recovery, data recovery, disk & boot loader repairs, various diagnostics, and MORE!
  • BleachBit When your computer is getting full, BleachBit quickly frees disk space. When your information is only your business, BleachBit guards your privacy. With BleachBit you can free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and discard junk you didn't know was there!
  • GParted - GParted is a free partition manager that enables you to resize, copy, and move partitions without data loss. Some repair capabilities as well.
  • Memtest86 - MemTest86 is a free, thorough, stand-alone memory test for x86 architecture computers.
  • Offline NT Password & Registry Editor - This is a utility to reset the password of any user that has a valid local account on your Windows System.
  • HFSExplorer - HFSExplorer is an application that can read Mac-formatted hard disks and disk images. It can read the file systems HFS (Mac OS Standard), HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) and HFSX (Mac OS Extended with case-sensitive file names), including most .dmg disk images created on a Mac, including zlib / bzip2 compressed images and AES-128 encrypted images 
  • DiskInternals Linux Reader - Access files and folders on Ext, UFS, HFS, ReiserFS, or APFS file systems from in Windows.
  • Ext2explore - Ext2Read is an explorer like utility to explore ext2/ext3/ext4 files. It now supports LVM2 and EXT4 extents. It can be used to view and copy files and folders.
  • IsoBuster - IsoBuster is actually a CD/DVD and BD/HD DVD data recovery software that can interpret, open, and extract various CD/DVD/Blu-ray disk image files, including DMG.
  • WinDirStat - WinDirStat is a disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool for various versions of Microsoft Windows.
  • CutePDF Writer - CutePDF Writer is the free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a "printer subsystem". This enables virtually any Windows applications (must be able to print) to create professional quality PDF documents - with just a push of a button! ALL FOR FREE!
  • Sumatra PDF Viewer - Sumatra PDF is a slim, free, open-source PDF reader for Windows. Sumatra has a very minimalistic design and is nowhere NEAR the security risk that Adobe Reader can be. Simplicity has a higher priority than a lot of features with Sumatra. It's small, secure, and starts up very fast.
  • Piriform Recuva - Accidentally deleted an important file? Lost something important when your computer crashed? No problem! Recuva recovers files deleted from your Windows computer, Recycle Bin, digital camera card, or MP3 player. And it's free!
  • RStudio Data Recovery (Paid For) - Empowered by the new unique data recovery technologies, R-STUDIO is the most comprehensive data recovery solution for recovery files from NTFS, NTFS5, ReFS, FAT12/16/32, exFAT, HFS/HFS+ and APFS (Macintosh), XFS, Little and Big Endian variants of UFS1/UFS2 (FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD/Solaris) and Ext2/Ext3/Ext4 FS (Linux) partitions. It also uses raw file recovery (scan for known file types) for heavily damaged or unknown file systems.
  • CloneZilla - Clonezilla is a partition and disk imaging/cloning program similar to True Image® or Norton Ghost®.
  • Macrium Reflect -  Are you looking for free backup, free cloning, or free disk imaging software? Macrium's Reflect Free is one of the best no-cost solutions on the market.
  • Microsoft Windows OS Media Creation Tool(s) - You can use installation media (a USB flash drive or DVD) to install a new copy of Windows, perform a clean installation, or reinstall Windows.

Security Software:

What is a rootkit!? A rootkit is a program or a program kit that hides the presence of malware (or itself) in a system. A rootkit for a Windows systems is a program that penetrates into the system and intercepts the system functions; Windows API. It can effectively hide its presence by intercepting and modifying low-level API functions. Moreover it can hide the presence of particular processes, folders, files and registry keys. Some rootkits install their own drivers and services in the system and they also remain “invisible".  

Software Sites:

  • - Great "update-all-at-once" site that lets you install/update multiple programs without dealing with individual installers, prompts, etc. One download, one install; as many programs as you like!

Let me know of any issues with links!

Pacific Northwest Computers

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Get Cash Back On Spending & Increase Your Credit Score!

Here are a few tips to help put some of your hard-earned money back into your bank account and wallet, and ALSO increase your Credit Scores!

  1. I highly recommend using the website NerdWallet to find good credit cards, banks, loans, retirement plan ideas, etc. I have been using this website for YEARS and is such an excellent resource to better spend AND save your money!

  2. Use cash back store cards for companies like the Amazon Store Card. It's not a full fledge credit card, so you can ONLY use it at that specified retailer. With Amazon specifically, you will get 5% back on all that you spend/buy (this does not apply to financed purchases, however). It's an over-glorified version of the espresso stand punch card. I typically get around $1000 back every year just by funneling payments through store cards like this!

  3. If you drive a lot, go out to eat a lot, etc. Get a credit card that gives you cash back on those purchases. I personally love my Costco Visa card as you get cash back on Gas, Food, Costco Purchases, and a lot more. Another example, I have an American Express card that I use just for my cell phone bill and also gas, because I get 5% cash back on those payments through Amex as well. With Costco, I get around $500 back every year; with Amex about $100.

  4. If you have money saved and just sitting in a regular old bank savings account, think of putting that into a ROTH IRA or a Certified Deposit; or even a high-interest (and thusly high balance) savings account. Something where your money can sit AND earn interest as it just sits; there are other options as well. But the premise is to earn money as your savings just sit. *Roth IRAs are complicated but you can typically remove what you have personally invested without penalty.

  5. People with credit scores in the 800s use less than 5% of their available credit. So if you had a $8,000 credit line, you use only $400 at a time. While people with scores from 701 to 750 have 27% credit utilization. So don't go maxing out your cards!! Responsible purchasing, on-time bill payments, and low credit usage will get your scores up FAST and HIGH!

  6. If you create an account with each of the Major Credit Bureaus, they sometimes have a "spending scanner" available on the user's account page. This "spending scanner" can scan your bank accounts for purchases that can be applied to your credit score! I jumped my score through Experian by 10 points just by using their "purchase history spending scanner"! But, only do this if you feel comfortable letting these companies access and scan your bank accounts... Is a Better Credit Score Worth Exposing Your Bank Data?

  7. Lastly, and MOST importantly, set up weekly automatic bill pay through your bank or through your card account for any/all of the cards that you have set up. That way you don't get hit with a big ol' bill at the end of the month, or accidentally spend more than you have.

These are just a few tricks that I use to better spend and save my money, and I just wanted to share some of what I have learned. Hopefully, it's not a bunch of "I already know that" kind of stuff...
Hopefully, you found at least 1 thing useful from this post  

Feel free to comment/share any other tips and tricks you might have!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

IT Advocacy Services - We Can Be Your Technology Advocate!

What Is an IT Advocate?

An IT advocate is an individual who supports and advises clients with their IT product/service needs, as well as any other technology-related needs. Not everyone has, needs, or can afford a CTO or a dedicated System Administrator to help with, and represent, their business. But now, you can hire Pacific Northwest Computers to represent your company in those roles, if and when that need ever arises! 

The IT Advocating Services that Pacific Northwest Computers Provides, Include:

  • Liaison Responsibilities
  • Investigate, Document & Resolve Product or Service Issues With Vendors/Providers
  • Refer & Consult Clients on Recommended & Needed Technology Products/Services
  • Conflict Resolution & Mediation with Vendors/Suppliers/Etc.
  • Crisis Management & Crisis Prevention/Response
    • Malware Attack Investigation, Documentation & System Improvements
    • Data Breach Investigation, Documentation & System Improvements
    • Data Loss Disaster Assistance, Policy Development & Data Loss Prevention System Development
  • Information Technology Professional Witness for Legal/Court Cases
  • Help Set Up Appointments for Needed Services or Support From Vendors/Providers
  • Warranty Exchange/RMA Support
  • Termination of Service(s) Support (Software Vendors, Services, Etc)
  • General IT/Technical Advising
  • HIPPA Consultation
  • Technical Documentation Services
    • Reading & Understanding Technical Documentation 
    • Reading & Understanding Service/Setup Material & Instructions
    • Implementing Needed Technical Procedures for Products & Services
  • "On-Demand" IT Administrator/CTO Services: 
    • Develop policies and procedures
    • Recommend the use of technology to enhance products and services for a client's internal operations, as well as their customer's experience.

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific Northwest Computers

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Xbox Elite and PS4 Controller PC Gaming Issue - Keyboard Keeps Popping Up!

When gaming on a PC with a Xbox, Xbox Elite, or PS4 controller, a virtual keyboard opens when pressing the left stick!

A virtual keyboard that pops up when clicking the left stick on an Xbox controller (or even a Playstation Controller), is specifically related to a Steam App gaming feature called "Big Picture Mode".  Somehow this feature can get triggered outside of Steam if it just happens to be running in the background, and it can affect other controllers/games as well.

Here is how to fix the issue!

  1. Go into "Settings" in the Steam App
  2. Click on "Controller" near the bottom
  3. Next, you want to click on, and open, "Desktop Configuration" settings
  4. When the settings window opens, you will see the left stick has the "Show Keyboard" setting mapped to it
  5. Click where it says "Show Keyboard" in the Left Thumbstick mappings list
  6. At the bottom of the mapping window that opens up, click where it says "Remove"
  7. Then close the "Desktop Configuration" settings window
  8. Close out of settings all together
  9. That should remove the problem permanently for you!

Jon Pienkowski
Pacific Northwest Computers