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WITS NEWS sends you free computing advice, news and tips from Willis IT Services



Google Chrome Support Message

posted 7 Apr 2016, 06:21 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 25 Jul 2016, 01:28 ]

Are you still using Windows XP or Vista and seeing this error message for Google Chrome?



You have a few options: 

    1. Do nothing 


Your computer will not suddenly stop working, but will become gradually less compatible with some websites as they choose not to support your computer. 

    2. Change your web browser 


The only web browser that will continue to be updated and supported on older systems is Mozilla Firefox. This is free and very similar to Google Chrome. I can install this for you, or you can download it yourself from this link: https://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/new/?scene=2


    3. Upgrade to Windows 7


This is only possible if your computer is new enough to support Windows 7, which is likely if your computer was built after 2007. However, Windows 7 is no longer available to purchase new, although I do occasionally have old, redundant computers from which a Windows 7 licence can be transferred to. The total cost for this upgrade work is approx. £150.

    4. Replace the entire computer


If your computer is 7-10 years old or more, it may be near to or already past the point where any form of maintenance or upgrades can continue to keep it compatible and useful. Click here to read a recent quote for a new desktop computer, or this page for general new computer advice, including laptops. 

Is your antivirus good enough?

posted 7 Apr 2016, 06:20 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 25 Nov 2016, 01:55 ]

I often have conversations about computer security. Unfortunately, no anti-virus program can offer a guaranteed protection against all problems. 

  • Web Browser. i.e. Chrome or Firefox (must be fully up to date)
  • Advert and popup blocker within your web browser
  • A Firewall (usually the built in Windows Firewall)
  • Safe browsing habits.
The most common types of infections I encounter on customers' computers are malicious programs (AKA malware) designed to not appear as a virus, and therefore to bypass anti-virus protection. This is possible because it is too easy to accidentally install malware when in fact the user thinks they may be installing something useful.

I do however have some techniques you can use to avoid this:
 

Internet Safety

  • Never accept any offers of software that offers to improve or maintain your computer in any way i.e. speed improvements, security, cleaning, boosting etc. They are all scams and do not make proven improvements.
  • Do not search the internet for media that is not legally free i.e. games, live sport TV broadcasts, music, videos. These types of content are only available from reputable sources and normally involve payment i.e. Amazon, iTunes, Sky, BBC.

I can also install some software that can protect against installing some of the above types of malware. I recommend Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. However, there is no software available that can block everything.

  What does an anti-virus protect?

An anti-virus is only designed to block web sites, emails and files that contain hidden software. Malware is generally presented to the user, but designed to trick the user into accepting it. Because the user has accepted it, it is not detected as a virus. The difference between a free anti-virus and paid, is only that the paid product includes other programs besides anti-virus i.e.anti-spam, firewall which you will already have. So it does not protect against more viruses. My previous article from 2012 explains these differences in more detail.

Willis IT Services recommends Avast free anti-virus.
https://www.avast.com/en-gb/index


Upgrade to Windows 10?

posted 30 Jul 2015, 05:03 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 25 Jul 2016, 00:45 ]

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/features

Windows 10 is here. This will probably not come as a surprise to anyone using Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 as a Windows Update installed a nice polite notice back in June nagging you to reserve your upgrade copy! Subsequently I have been asked "should I upgrade?" This isn't going to be a simple answer:

Hardware

Upgrading to a newer version of Windows will never make your computer a better computer. It still has the same hardware. Fortunately most recent Windows upgrades have not imposed a greater hardware requirement, so it won't necessarily be slower.

Support

The main advantage of upgrading Windows is to be compatible with the latest software. However, Windows 7 will be supported until January 2020, and Windows 8.1 until January 2023. By which time, many current computers will be nearing the end of their useful life anyway. Realistically, Microsoft tend to prevent their latest other major software packages from running on Windows as it nears the end of it's support cycle. For example, although Windows Vista is still supported until 2017, you can not install the latest Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and a few other Microsoft programs. So if your computer is relatively new, upgrading to Windows 10 will ensure it stays fully supported for the life of the computer.

Cost

Prior to Windows 8, upgrading to a new version of Windows has always involved a cost. Windows 10 will be free to all users of Windows 7 and 8 if upgraded within the first year. The cut-off date is 29th July 2016. Once a computer has been upgraded, there are no additional costs after this date. After that, expect the upgrade cost to be similar to previous versions. So, excepting the Windows 8.1 minor upgrade, Windows 10 will be the first time that a major upgrade has been totally free. So that's compelling.

Ease of Use

To most of the computer users I encounter and support, the easiest product to use is the one most familiar. Regularly updating requires further learning. I found that with Windows 8, the initial training and setup process was essential in providing users enough basic familiarity to easily achieve all frequent tasks. Windows 10 will be most familiar to those who have used Windows 8. Making the jump from 7 to 10 will require a greater learning curve.

After updating to Windows 10, nearly all computer users will benefit from a short amount of work to improve and personalise the layout. This will make Windows 10 more logical and quicker to use.


Reliability

Unfortunately, approximately 30% of all the computers I service have not upgraded successfully. The problems range from being unable to access the start menu, to being unable to locate any existing documents and other personal data. In most of these situations, no data is lost, and the computer can be repaired.

Some Windows upgrades are far worse however: Upgrading Windows is a major software change. Such changes can highlight problems with hardware, specifically memory and hard drives.

Prior to Windows 10, it was rare to upgrade a Windows version during the life of the computer. This was mostly limited by cost. Upgrading specifically means installing a newer version of Windows over the top of an older version. This keeps all your files and programs. In my experience, this is not as reliable as a clean install. A clean install of Windows involves backing up all your data, formatting (deleting all data), and re-installing Windows and every piece of software required.

In the above case of 30% of unreliable upgrades, only a very tiny percentage can be repaired without a clean install of Windows 10. However, this would be the best method of changing to Windows 10 anyway, so upgrading is worth the gamble.


Features

Windows will always be simply a method of accessing the programs or data that you need. Once you have opened your program i.e Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, the version of Windows is irrelevant and mostly invisible until you require another program. If you spend a lot of time switching between different programs, managing your files, and changing settings, using the most familiar and easy version of Windows can make a big difference. Newer versions of Windows tend to make it easier to do this, but will require learning. You will not necessarily be able to access and manage your programs, settings and data using the same techniques from one version of Windows to another.

Windows 10 includes lots of new built-in software such as the Edge web browser, new Mail, and Calendar apps. Whilst offering a very fast and efficient experience, they lack a lot of the features offered by existing email and web browsing software.

Compatibility

This point is simple: the older the software and hardware you have, the less likely it could be properly supported in Windows 10. Although preview releases have been available since October 2014, the final public version was released on 31st July 2015. There are always some compatibility issues with a new version of Windows as every third party software or hardware company gradually provides updates (or not). Generally, after the first year of problems, feedback, and continued development, an update is released which dramatically improves Windows. In the form of Windows XP, Vista, and 7, these were called Service Packs. Windows 8 was updated to 8.1.

Windows 10 will provide a new, regular stream of improvements called Windows As A Service. The first of these updates was released in November 2015. The following article on Ars Technica investigates the improvements:

This earlier article also explains the new features and bugs from when Windows 10 was brand new:

Conclusion

Upgrade to be supported in the future, and upgrade while it's still free. Be brave with new features if you're curious, or ignore it if the idea of learning everything again is abhorrent. Do upgrade if your computer is quite new, don't if it isn't as it may cause more problems than it solves!

Avast Free licence 2015

posted 29 Jun 2015, 06:59 by WillisITServices WITS

If you are using Avast free anti-virus on your computer, and I installed it for you, now is the time to register for another year's licence as follows:

Firstly, choose the standard protection. The paid upgrade is still unnecessary for the same reasons as I explained a few years back.

Next, if you registered your email address with Avast on a previous year, your email address will be shown and you just need to click Continue to get free licence: 


Otherwise, if this is your first year with Avast since I installed it, you will need to provide your email address and click Register:


Finally, you will be yet again offered an upgrade which can be be ignored by pressing the X in the corner:

To Defrag or not to Defrag?

posted 28 Apr 2015, 04:40 by WillisITServices WITS

Most computer users have heard of the term Defrag, but many will not know what it means:

When your computer stores data on the hard drive, it needs the space to do so.
  • Data is stored in a very random fashion scattered over a hard drive.
  • If the new data is a very large file, there may not be enough continuous space to store it, so the computer has to split up the large file into fragments.
  • These fragments then take longer to find when you request the data back, so therefore your hard drive is now fragmented.
  • Defragmenting puts the pieces back to together and re-arranges the free space after the data, not randomly scattered.

So everyone should do this, right? Wrong.

Find out how much free space you have on your computer:
  • Click Start, Computer (This PC in Windows 8)
  • A bar chart should be shown for your C: drive. If not, right-click your C: Drive and choose Properties to see a pie-chart of the space used.
Also, consider what files you keep on your computer.
  • Large files are more likely to become fragmented i.e. music, photos, videos, games, databases
  • Small files are more likely to have space to be saved without being fragmented i.e. Word and Excel documents, emails.
So in short, you are likely to benefit from defragmenting if you have used more than half the hard drive space, AND you have save a lot of large files.

Still, you might not need to bother!

All versions of Windows since Vista have included an automatic defrag. You can check that this is set by opening the Disk Defragmenter: Click Start, and simply start typing defragmenter. You should see the icon appear for Disk Defragmenter. Click that icon and you should see the following:

However, if you are still interested:

There is an alternative defrag tool to consider as mentioned on my Recommended Software list. Consider this for a more thorough job than the built in Windows tool, and if you are keen to find every possible speed improvement from defragmenting.

Trusteer Rapport - Do you need it?

posted 26 Aug 2014, 02:16 by WillisITServices WITS

This addresses a common question regarding a piece of security software that is recommended by some (but definitely not all) banks. Many of my customers have encountered slowness, errors and incompatibilities that can only be solved by removing Trusteer Rapport (AKA Trusteer Endpoint Protection), so this raises the query - Do you need it?

Trusteer's main purpose is to identify where and how you are using your passwords to ensure that your banking security information is not compromised. If however, you are vigilant in keeping your banking password separate from everything else, and can easily identify whether you are using your bank's genuine log in page, you have already achieved the security measures intended by Trusteer Rapport. Assuming that you also are already using a good, secure web browser and anti-virus, this further removes the need for Trusteer Rapport as you will already be protected from email scams, phishing (fake) websites and viruses.

I have carried out some prior research and concluded that none of the banks insist that you have Trusteer Rapport for any legal insurance against fraud. It is purely optional. It exists mainly for computer users who may not have good security software already installed, although it is hardly a replacement for a good anti-virus and web browser. So to conclude, if you have had to remove Trusteer Rapport, and all your other security is in place, you most likely do not need to re-install it.

How to re-register Avast 2014 for another year

posted 1 Jun 2014, 09:53 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 1 Jun 2014, 14:34 ]

For those of my customers who are using Avast free anti-virus, here is a guide in order to choose the best options.

You should see the following message appear in the bottom-right of your screen. Click Renew Now.


Apart from the above message, the process this year is exactly the same as last year! Please refer to last year's guide:


Are you backing up? Is it easy to use?

posted 15 Feb 2014, 03:10 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 17 May 2017, 07:03 ]

Most people consider a computer backup about 5 minutes after it's too late! Unfortunately no computer is immune from failure. My customers keep important files on their computers, ranging from family photos to business work. I normally ask customers "could you cope if you lost all of those files?". The normal answer is of course "no!".

Some of my more tech-savvy customers are at least proficient in copying files to CD or DVD. However, even a dual-layer DVD holds just 8.5GB of data. All computers now have hard drive capacities of 100's of GB's. Trying to split your data between different discs is not only tedious, it is difficult to keep track of, and trust that your work has been accurate! Some other similarly tech-savvy customers have been copying their data to an external hard drive or USB stick. This has the following issues:
  • Do you copy over the existing files, leaving old files in place that you no longer need? If you move or delete a file, this mistake will leave you with both the old and new versions. That is a lot of mess to clear up if ever need to rely on the backup!
  • How often do you remember to copy your files to the backup? Would it be helpful if you didn't have to remember?
So, a tool for the job is required! Windows has a built in program simply called Backup and Restore (File History on Windows 8 or 10). However, like many other dedicated Backup programs, I have found many flaws in the design:
  • Restore doesn't always work between different versions of Windows.
  • It can only run on a schedule at a specific time. Often this is inconvenient if you are using the computer.
  • Windows Backup software is required in order to read any of your files on another computer.
  • Backed up files can not be read without restoring them to another computer.
  • Options are not detailed enough to be able to back up any data, only the folders that Windows expects you to use.

For the above reasons, I have assembled a combination of a great program and some customisation that allows the following:

  • The backup can run automatically when shutting down Windows therefore not interfering with your work.
  • Alternatively, the backup can wake the computer up from sleep and run at night.
  • Only the new and changed files are copied.
  • A history of changed and deleted files can be kept for a specific time.
  • Backed up files can be easily read on any computer without any additional software.
  • I can configure it to back up any files from any program to any location.
The cost for this is as follows:
  • £18 - One-off payment for the software licence.
  • £20 - £30 for installation.
  • £18 - 64GB USB Stick OR £49 - 1TB Hard Drive

The end of Windows XP and what to do about it.

posted 4 Feb 2014, 12:05 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 13 May 2014, 11:28 ]


A lot of my customers have read that support for computers running Windows XP will end on 8th April 2014, and have therefore asked me what the solution is.

The good news, and the short answer, is: nothing. Windows XP will not suddenly cease to function. Your computer will still work on April 9th, and it's unlikely that you will see any warning messages about the end of official support.

However, it does mean that any manufacturer of hardware or software will no longer be obliged to make their product work in Windows XP. So for instance if you buy a new printer, camera, or download some new software after that date, it may not work with Windows XP at all. On the other hand, this will not be a sudden change, and many things will still be supported.

In terms of software support, Microsoft always focusses support on the latest versions of Windows, even those still officially supported. 

This table shows which versions of Microsoft software will work with each version of Windows.

This is because Microsoft are interested in pushing sales of the latest product. Third parties however, will be much more keen to attain the greatest amount of customers possible, regardless of the age of their computer.

Existing software that does not require updating or an internet connection will continue to work forever. The only software that matters to an older computer is that which needs to be updated regularly in order to work. In most cases this is just your web browser and security software. For those of my regular customers, you are most likely using Google Chrome and Avast anti-virus. Google will be extending support for another year and Avast have a good history of supporting older computers. Windows 2000 is still supported!

But could you just update to Windows 7 or Windows 8? Yes and no: Both can still be purchased, but that costs £75 to start with. The process is not simple however:
  • You can not skip versions when upgrading Windows. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 implies skipping Windows Vista, so you would have to upgrade to Vista first, which is no longer available!
  • Instead of an upgrade, Windows can be re-installed. But in order to replace XP with Windows 7 or Windows 8, all the data would need to be backed up, Windows re-installed, then all your software re-installed and the data restored.
  • Then there is the problem of compatibility. If the hardware manufacturer has not intended for anything later than Windows XP to be used, then the required software may not be available i.e. your sound, wireless adapter or printer may not work.
  • Software compatibility could also be a problem if you have old software only designed for XP i.e. accounting, photo, genealogy, etc.
  • The speed of the computer designed for Windows XP may not be fast enough to run Windows 7 or Windows 8. Upgrades like memory may be available, but may not be enough to prevent a slow computer.
  • Even if you overcome all of the above, you still have an older computer, which will not provide the lifespan of a new one, so it will have to replaced again soon, requiring yet more work.
So the solution? Keep your Windows XP computer well maintained until either:
  • It becomes too old and slow to be useful.
  • Hardware failure renders it uneconomical to repair.
  • You can no longer download a required update.
  • You purchase a new device or software package that no longer works with Windows XP.
There is one final exception: Some computers that were built around 2006/7 were provided with an option to have either Windows XP or Windows Vista, and will run Windows 7 with no hardware upgrades. Upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 now would provide a much longer life than typical Windows XP computers, which are much older and slower.

Avast registration for 2013

posted 31 May 2013, 01:41 by WillisITServices WITS

Dear loyal customers and users of Avast,

Here is a guide, much like last year, to explain what buttons to click to register Avast for another year:

You have probably already seen the following message:


Click on the Continue button. You will be taken to the next screen:

Click the grey Select button for Standard Protection.

As explained last year, I regard the standard protection as completely adequate, partly on the assumption that the features of the paid protection are covered by other programs already on your computer, and partly because there is a very high chance that I have already maintained your computer to a high standard of speed and safety.

The Avast registration process is even easier than before. Next, just type in your email address and click the green Register button: 

Lastly, you will be presented with one final offer to upgrade to a trial version of the paid security suite. It needs to be dismissed by clicking Stay with basic protection:




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