Fun and games (not) with Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 turns 3 years old next month, and is very much a “Marmite” operating system  – you either love it, or hate it.

We’re not terribly keen on it, things which should be readily and easily available like the Control Panel are hidden away, Cortana is an intrusive PITA, and the seemingly constant, unavoidable updates really are a nuisance.

Since the last big bi-annual update (to version 1803) we seem to have done very little than reinstall printers and scanners, fix broken email accounts, and in more than a few cases reinstall Windows from scratch after the update fails over and over and eventually breaks the hard disk file system beyond repair.

This article from Which? magazine explains the Microsoft update strategy, and goes into some detail of what to do if things go wrong, although we’d recommend contacting us rather than Microsoft if things go wrong.

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/06/windows-10-update-pain-microsoft-must-do-more-for-consumers/

We would certainly agree that Microsoft need to do more to make the upgrade process a lot simpler and not just force updates onto users, and also can’t stress enough the need for a working, tested backup of your data.

Easter holidays

It’s hard to believe that Easter is on us already, or that this is the first post of 2018!

We’re open tomorrow morning until 12.00 or so, then off on Monday & Tuesday (the gates are closed anyway). We will be back at full pressure on Wednesday.

Please have a safe and happy Easter break, whatever you get up to, and don’t eat too much chocolate 🙂

Christmas 2017 holidays

We are going to close on Friday 22nd December at 12.00, and re-open on Tuesday 2nd January 2018.

Many thanks to everyone who has used our services in 2017, all being well we will see you again, just not too soon :).

Please have a happy, safe and warm Christmas and New Year.

Laptops, tablets & cold weather

Now that it appears winter is well and truly here, its not a good idea to leave laptops / tablets / phones anywhere that they can get really cold, such as in the boot of the car or on the back seat.

Very cold temperatures don’t agree with the screens fitted to most of these devices, also if they end up covered in condensation it doesn’t do them any good at all. Best to bring them into the house or office at night, and keep them somewhere away from the cold.

If you do end up with a very cold computer, let it warm up to room temperature before you use it. It will be slow and the screen may well be unresponsive for a while until it reaches a suitable temperature.

Interesting project

We had a phone call yesterday from a bloke looking for “dead” laptop batteries. We normally recycle these, but based on our conversation will now be keeping them for him.

He plans to convert a VW camper van to electrical power, and is using the good cells from laptop batteries to act as the power source. A laptop battery is made up of several smaller batteries connected in series to get to the required voltage, and normally only one or two of these fail.

The idea is to find the good ones and make them into a battery powerful enough to give 100 miles or so between charges.

As we love to make things, and recycle as much as possible, we were happy to help, and will be keeping all laptop batteries which come our way to aid in this project 🙂

New ransomware problem

We are receiving early reports of a new ransomware threat, similar to the “wannacry” outbreak which hit the NHS earlier this year.

This one is known as “Bad Rabbit” and follows the usual ransomware script of locking PCs, encrypting data, and demanding a payment within a short timeframe in order to release the un-encryption password. The initial cost is 0.05 Bitcoin (currently £220.00) although this appears to increase over time. It isn’t recommended to pay the ransom as there is a very good chance that the password will not be forthcoming.

The software seems to be spreading from infected Russian news media sites, and so far has only attacked large networks, but may well spread over time.

As usual, our advice is to have a definite backup in place, keep it seperate from you system when it isn’t in use, and install all updates and patches as they are released. If you do end up infected with ransomware or any other type of malware, turn your computer off at once and bring it to us. We can’t guarantee that we will save your data, but we can minimise the damage at the very least.

Spam emails and phone calls

It has now come to the point when it is almost impossible to tell a spam / malicious / phising email from the real thing (unless of course you don’t have an account etc with the company allegedly sending the email). The days of poorly photocopied headed paper and bad spelling are gone.

In recent days we’ve had four emails from BT (we don’t use them) enclosing our latest bill. All were for differing amounts, which wouldn’t be strange for BT, but on close examination the emails actually came from “btt.ru” which was well hidden in email information but incorrect for UK BT, who are “bt.com”. The “.ru” extension indicates a domain name registered in the Russian Federation.

Other regular contributors are “Apple”, “HMRC”, “Barclays”, “Santander”, “Lloyds Bank” and “Microsoft”.

The usual rule of thumb is to treat these emails with extreme suspicion, don’t click on any links contained in them, and also don’t open any attachments. Delete the email, and if possible block the senders domain. This will limit the amount of spam received for a short time until the spammers switch to using a different domain, when it all starts again.

Another problem are telephone calls from banks and other institutions who once they have called then want you to confirm your identity with them. I have a problem with this, as they have phoned me, asked for me by name, and then want my personal details without any confirmation of who they are.  There have been several frank exchanges of views over this.

Our advice is to treat all email, telephone or text communications with the utmost suspicion, and to delete or ignore anything you are even vaguely unsure of. Sadly it has come to this, but better to be safe than sorry.

McAfee software installation issues

We have never had a lot of time for McAfee security software or its BT counterpart. They slow systems down, and when the months trial version (it comes bundled with most retail computers) or annual subscription expires it usually prevents you from accessing the internet. Whether the “100% virus detection” guarantee actually works remains moot.

Recently one of our clients bought a McAfee renewal licence and tried to install it. In order to do this, you are asked to visit an activation website, log in to or create a McAfee account, provide credit or debit card details for automatic renewal (more on this below) and then, finally, download and install the software.

Unfortunately this process is far from straightforward. When you search for the activation website, it does appear on the first page of results (in Google, anyway), but the top search result, below a paid advert which is also a misleading result, is for a page which looks very similar to the McAfee page, but which offers “help” in installing the software by means of a telephone service. This page is not part of the McAfee website, or affiliated with them in any way.

The page is of course a clever scam, and as happened to our client, once you have telephoned the “help” number results in the scammer taking remote control of your computer, pretending to activate the software, predictably telling you that there is a problem, and offering to fix it for a fee – in this case £60.00. Thankfully at this point we were contacted, and advised that the computer be closed down and the call to the website “support” service ended.

The computer came to us later that day, and we found that the McAfee licence had been registered to an account totally unconnected to the owner, and also that backdoor remote access software and spyware had been installed while “repairs” were ongoing remotely. Use of the software was effectively lost.

As a result, the owner had to buy a further McAfee licence in order to access the software, which we carefully registered to their existing McAfee account after changing the password which was fairly certain to have been compromised. We also removed the malware installed by the scammer.

We also noticed during the installation that it is impossible to proceed beyond a certain point without providing name, postal address, ‘phone number and credit or debit card details. This is to facilitate automatic renewal of the McAfee software in 12 months once the current subscription comes to an end. In smallish print it is mentioned that this is at full retail price (our italics), which will be charged without reminder or notification. There is an option to opt out of this, which we did on our clients behalf, but not without lots of “are you sure?” boxes and a couple of warning emails.

In conclusion, if you must use McAfee software, be very, very careful while activating it online, and also be sure to deactivate the automatic renewal option. Record the details of your McAfee account, and keep them safe.

Based on our experience of it, we cannot recommend McAfee as a security solution. If you must use it, tiptoe carefully through the minefield 🙂

Current issues with MS “Edge” browser

Following the latest Windows 10 update we’ve noticed a few problems with the built in “Edge” browser.  Quite a few of our cleints have reported that is now impossible to open links within emails and one or two have come to us unable to access any web pages at all.

While it is possible to roll back the update within ten days of installation, we’ve found that the easiest fix is to move to an alternative web browser such as Chrome or Firefox, and to make this the default Windows browser. Microsoft are not keen on this, and throw up all sorts of “are you sure?” prompts, but it does fix the problem.

If you aren’t sure how to do this, please ask – it isn’t that difficult, and advice is always free from us.

Closure on Monday 21st August

We will be closed (and unavailable by ‘phone etc) on Monday 21st August.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused.