How to Automate Common Maintenance Tasks in Windows 10

By Gary Cox

maint.pngJust like with any operating system, keeping a Windows PC running well requires some maintenance. The good news is that you can automate most of the important maintenance tasks, and keep Windows humming along like it was freshly installed.

Windows 8 and 10 Feature Scheduled Automatic Maintenance

First things first. Windows 8 and 10 automatically perform basic system maintenance tasks according to a schedule you can customize. These tasks include things like software updates, security definition updates and scans, disk optimization and defragmentation, and some other diagnostic tasks

You can’t turn this automatic maintenance off, but you can change when it operates, and whether or not it can wake a sleeping PC to run its tasks. By default, Windows runs these tasks every day at 2 AM and wakes up your PC to do so if necessary.

To manage this tool, head to Control Panel > System and Security > Security and Maintenance. You can also hit Start, type “maintenance” into the search box, and then click the “Security and Maintenance” result.

1In the Security and Maintenance window, expand the “Maintenance” section, and then click the “Change maintenance settings” link.

In the Automatic Maintenance window, you can change the time that tasks are run each day, and disable the ability for Windows to wake your PC from sleep to run those tasks. Note that even if Windows wakes your computer to run these tasks, it will put the system back to sleep when it’s done.

Clean Up Your Hard Drive Automatically

If you want to make sure you have plenty of space on your hard drive, and get rid of old files you no longer need, which gets rid of plenty of temporary files and other stuff that doesn’t need to be around anymore.

Windows 10: Let Storage Sense Clean Your Drive Automatically

2Windows 10 users have the luxury of using Storage Sense, a handy little feature that automatically cleans out your temporary files and recycle bin of things that have been hanging around for over a month. Storage Sense was added to Windows 10 in the Creator’s Update (Spring, 2017), and it’s a great tool for automatically cleaning things up safely. It’s pretty conservative about what it deletes, so you shouldn’t run into any problems leaving it turned on.

3To get to it, head to Settings > System > Storage, and turn on the toggle in the “Storage Sense” section.

Click that “Change how we free up space” link right under the toggle to adjust settings.

And no, there aren’t many settings there. Like we mentioned, it’s a conservative tool. You do, however, have other options.

Any Windows Version: Schedule a Disk Cleanup Task

The Disk Cleanup tool has been around forever, and it still works great. In fact, it cleans up more stuff than the Storage Sense tool in Windows 10. While you can run Disk Cleanup yourself every once in a while, why not schedule it to run automatically?

You can use the Task Scheduler in Windows to run a basic Disk Cleanup scan as often as you like, and with a few extra command line switches, you can have it clean even more in an advanced mode. We’ve got a complete write-up on scheduling Disk Cleanup in Windows, so we won’t cover all the steps here. Check it out if you’re interested, though!

Any Windows Version: Use CCleaner For Even More Power

CCleaner is a popular cleaning utility that’s available in both a free and premium version. It works much like Disk Cleanup, but extends even further what it can clean. In addition to temporary and cached files, CCleaner can also clean up data for additional apps, and even clear data for your web browser. It’s a powerful tool, and not one you necessarily need. But a lot of people swear by it.

The premium version ($25) features scheduled cleaning, but you can also use the Windows Task Scheduler to automate CCleaner even with the free version.

Disk Defragmentation Is Already Automated (If It Needs To Be)

If you’ve been using a PC for long enough, you might have gotten into the habit of defragmenting your hard drive. The good news is that this is something you don’t really need to worry about too much anymore.

First up, if you’re using a solid state drive (SSD), you should not be defragmenting your drive at all. It doesn’t help, and just creates additional wear and tear on the drive. If you’re running Windows 7, 8, or 10, Windows automatically disables defragmentation on SSDs.

And, if you’re using Windows 7, 8, or 10, Windows also automatically enables defragmentation on a schedule for traditional hard drives. So, it’s really not something you need to worry about. You can just let Windows do its thing.

By default, Windows defragments traditional drives every Wednesday at 1 AM, if you’re not using your computer at the time. You can customize the defragmenter schedule if you want, but there’s probably no reason to change it.

Keep Windows, Hardware Drivers, and Third-Party Apps Up To Date

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Keeping your PC updated can be frustrating. Windows 10 is a lot more aggressive about using Windows Update to keep itself updated than past versions of Windows—and for the most part, that’s a good thing. If you’re using Windows 7, you’ve got a good bit more control about what updates you apply, and when.

So, while you can’t really prevent updates from happening in Windows 8 and 10 (at least not permanently), you can at least change things like your active hours—when you’re using your computer and it should not apply updates or restart your PC.

Keeping third-party apps up to date automatically is a little more challenging. Some apps have built-in updaters that can download and install updates automatically, others can check for updates and at least notify you, and still others just rely on you to check for updated versions once in a while.

Security software, like antivirus apps, are especially important to keep updated. Most have automatic updaters built-in. Still, it’s important to check up on them once in a while–like before you run a manual scan–just to make sure. As an example, Windows Defender gets regular updates for virus definitions through Windows Updates, but still offers the ability to manually check for updates when you open it up.

There are some third-party utilities out there, like Patch My PC, which can scan all your installed apps, check for updates, and then install them for you, and then there are hardware drivers. If you’ve got the default Windows drivers installed for your hardware, the good news is that Windows Update takes care of updating those automatically. And the truth is, the basic Windows drivers are good enough for most types of hardware. For some type of hardware, like graphics cards, you’ll probably want the actual manufacturer drivers that are kept much more up to date and offer additional features. For those, you’ll have to rely on the manufacturers’ own tools to keep things up to date.

Automate Backups to Keep Your Data Secure

We’ve save perhaps the most important task for last—backing up your PC. Because sometimes bad things happen, it’s important that you have an automated backup routine for your important files.

And there are a number of ways you can approach backing up your PC, depending on your situation. If you’re using Windows 8 or 10, the easiest way to automate your backups is to use the built-in File History feature. Hook up an external drive, turn File History on, and Windows automatically backs up your important files. Not only does it work as a full-featured backup, File History also lets you pull up previous versions of your files.

5Windows 10 also includes the old Windows 7 backup tools, which you can use to set up a scheduled backup to an external or networked drive. You can set a backup routine that backs up specific files or that captures entire hard drives as an image that you can easily restore.

6If you’re looking for even more customizability in your automated backups, we highly recommend taking a look at Macrium Reflect. The free edition lets you create live images of your drives, provides several different styles of backup, and gives you a lot of scheduling flexibility. 7The paid version for home users adds the ability to back up individual files and folders (rather than just an image backup), encrypted backups, and more backup styles.

And while these tools we’ve mentioned are great for keeping local backups of your data, a good off-site or online backup is something else worth taking a look at. Having your data saved at a different location can help protect you against big things like fire, theft, or natural disaster.

This guide should definitely get you started in figuring out how to run common Windows maintenance tasks automatically. Obviously, there are a lot more things you can automate in Windows than we’ve covered here.

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help your business with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”. 

 

What to Look For In a Computer?

by Gary Cox

In 2018 when asking what to look for in a computer we have so many different choices at much lower prices than ever before. So let us start by looking at what is now the typical computer in the home?

desktop

PCs, Laptops and All-In-One Computers

Over the years the computer market has undergone major changes and now PC Desktops, All-In-Ones are not as popular as they were and laptops/notebooks have become more popular, this started to occur once they dropped below the magical $1000 price in 2005.

There are now 3 main groups of computers:

  • Desktop PC – standard and slimline (also called low profile).
  • All-In-One computer such as the iMac or offerings from HP and Dell.
  • Laptops (notebooks) and Netbooks (lower powered less weight) units.

What to Look For in a Laptop – What to Look for in a Computer or All-In-One

allinone

laptop2

Here are some tips on what to look for in a laptop or what to look for in a PC – some considerations to weigh up when you are deciding when to purchase a new computer:

  1. Portability: every computer is a compromise between power and portability. The gaming laptops or desktops tend to be bigger, heavier and more powerful than the standard fare. If portability is required then the obvious choice is a laptop or netbook. Apple MacBooks sell well in portability/weight area as they are light, made of aluminium so therefore very sturdy and thin. Desktops and All-In-ones on the other hand are completely immobile. They need a dedicated area to be setup in.
  2. Power and Price: More power and usually therefore more price means that more room is required inside the computer to avoid overheating. This is a big killer of computers of any design. If you want power then a desktop would be the way to go. Power consumption in a laptop is generally less than an equivalent desktop. This may not necessarily be the case in some NUC (Next Unit Computing) units which are small cubes often 4x4x2” (100x100x50mm). However the monitor needed or used would take more power than a laptop’s monitor.
  3. Screen size: Most laptops are in the 11” to 15.6” range. Some do get to 17” but that’s when they stop. A laptop can usually have an external monitor attached so that could help in some cases for people who like the now standard 19” and up monitors. If that is what you require then check that availability before you buy the laptop.
  4. Flexibility: If flexibility is on your list of what to look for in a computer then a PC is probably best. With a laptop you “get what you purchase”. Other than small changes such as adding more memory (RAM) that would be about it. With desktops you have a vast choice of processors, the amount of memory, several internal Hard Disk Drives or SSDs, more than one DVD/Blu-ray player, choice of video cards and expansion cards. All these latter items are generally unavailable with laptops. If it isn’t built in when you buy it then most likely it’s not available.
  5. Posture: Experts recommend that the computer screen be at eye level and then the keyboard and mouse be at a different level. All this is impossible to obtain with a laptop at the same time, other than adding external monitors, external keyboards and mice, which then makes the laptop not as portable as it once was.
  6. Money: Dollar for dollar, a desktop generally beats a laptop in most cases when comparing such items as:
  • Processor power
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Local hard disk or SSD storage
  • Graphics power
  • Expansion ports
  • Screen size
  • USB, video, etc. – generally more connections
  • DVD/Blu-ray inclusion/availability
  • Expandability (can add things which you now discover you need)
  • Choice of components

Buying a computer does depend on “horses for courses” in that deciding what and where you want to do you computing will eventually depend on what you purchase. The most popular makes for 2017 are listed below.

The top 6 personal computer vendors for 2017

  1. Lenovo with 20.7% market share
  2. HP with 19.4% market share
  3. Dell with 14.6% market share
  4. ASUS with 7.6% market share
  5. Apple with 6.9% market share
  6. Acer with 6.8% market share

We trust that this blog on what to look for in a laptop or what to look for in a computer helps you in deciding which computer you should buy. It may also interest you to know that we custom build computers which offers you a great deal more choice and can be tailored exactly to your needs.

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help your business with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”. 

 

How to Set-Up a PC

By Gary Cox

PCAfter taking delivery of a new desktop PC – whether you bought a branded (i.e. HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, etc.) you need to spend some time to perform an initial or first-time PC setup in order to get it running. This includes plugging in all necessary cables, a monitor (if applicable), mouse and keyboard (wired or cordless), speakers, a printer/ scanner, in addition to setting up the Windows Operating System and productivity software like MS Office, Anti-Virus.

Before you start setting up your PC, make sure you have all the necessary items:

  • PC tower or case: this houses the core components of any computer system and is critical in setting up your PC;
  • Monitor: If upgrading you may already have a monitor and it should work on your new PC, but ensure that it supports the input connection types compatible with your new system Your new computer may be an all-in-one system, where the monitor/ display and speakers are combined as a single integrated device;
  • Mouse and Keyboard: A mouse and keyboard that is connected via USB to control the computer. These can be wired or corded, wireless (including Bluetooth);
    Other peripheral devices such as speakers and web cam.
  • All essential cables such as power for monitor and PC and video connector for monitor.

Connecting Cables

Connecting the various cables for a PC is an easy part of a PC setup. Included in the box that your new PC came in should be a power cable. This cable plugs into a wall socket or power board and into the power supply on your desktop which is usually located at the rear of the case – usually at the bottom, but sometimes at the top. It is fairly easy to spot. Sometimes, there is also an on and off switch next to the plug, which you will need to ensure is in the ON position once fully plugged in.

Monitor Setup

monitorsNext step in the PC setup, is the monitor setup. Depending on what sort of monitor you get there are multiple different cables that go from the PC to the monitor. This includes Display Port, HDMI, DVI and VGA.

Each connection has its advantages and disadvantages; HDMI is restricted to 60 Hz and is generally used for TV’s but works perfectly fine for the usual 60 Hz monitor. Display Port is used for 144 Hz displays, and DVI is an older connection that works fine with 1080p monitors, but usually limited to monitors up to and including 24 inches with a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1600. Keep in mind that all of these cables are digital so they all have the same quality it is just some extra features that make the difference, but the common user see one.

Using cables featuring any of these connection types is straight forward. One side of the plug goes into the monitor and the other into the back of the PC, it is generally pretty easy to tell which plug goes where as they all have rather distinct features. Once plugged in make sure the monitor is plugged in and working.

Connect Peripherals

peripheralsAfter this you must plug-in your mouse and keyboard, this is again fairly easy as they will both be USB and plugged into the back of the PC. Universal Serial Bus or USB has been around for a number of years and is one of the best and most reliable connections and is the only one available for wired and wireless mice and keyboard. Some computers, especially custom-built systems, may still include 1 or 2 older style PS2 connectors (coloured green and purple and circular in shape) for older style mice and keyboards.

Lastly, don’t forget to connect your speakers if you have these as well. Usually, there is a small round socket at the rear of case – often coloured light-green, for you to connect your speaker cable.

Boot Up

After you have done all of this, boot up the computer and make sure that the monitor is working, If something is not working check that all the cables at the back of the PC have been correctly and fully plugged in to the right socket and restart the computer. If a problem still persists contact us at GCComp.

Windows Operating System Setup

osYou then need to follow the on-screen dialogue which will guide you through the Windows Operating System setup. The Windows OS setup can be fairly easy as there are simple questions such as what language and keyboard setup you want. After a few minutes Windows will complete the setup/ installation on your new PC, and you will be successfully up and running.

Connect to the Internet

internetAt this stage of the PC setup you will need to connect to the internet. To do this you have two options, wireless or Ethernet. If your PC has Ethernet only then you must run a cable from your router to your PC and plug it in. If you have wireless capabilities simply find your WI-FI router under the list and input the password. Once connected make sure that your PC is completely up to date as there may be some vital updates that could cause your PC to not work as expected.

Our recommendation is that you opt for a customised setup. That way, you can decide whether to set up your new PC using a Microsoft account, a user password, etc. We strongly recommend that you update the Windows operating system first before installing your other applications and copying across your data.

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help you with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”.

 

How Does Your Business Identify Risky Mobile Apps?

By Gary Cox

mobile2As you are in no doubt aware, BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is taking the business world by storm. This forces employers and IT departments alike to consider the security ramifications of letting employees use their personal devices in the workplace. What’s the security situation of your BYOD policy look like?

While there is a lot of concern over the security of mobile devices and applications associated with BYOD, it certainly still has its merits. Letting employees use their own personal devices can improve morale and significantly improve productivity, since workers might find the ability to work after-hours encouraging. However, all good things have some stipulations, and BYOD is no different. Business owners that take advantage of BYOD must consider the security risks in order to achieve the most productivity with minimal chance of a data breach.

According to a recent study, even businesses that have a BYOD policy aren’t entirely certain how to protect their infrastructure from the various threats unique to BYOD, and how to manage the risk of these elements.

  • 71 percent of enterprises will have a BYOD policy put into place within the next two years. Therefore, it’s safe to say that it’s a growing trend that will quickly overtake your industry, if it hasn’t already.
  • 69 percent of enterprises will put security measures in place to block risky application behaviour within the next two years.
  • 71 percent of enterprises claim that security is at the top of their priority list for BYOD.

While plenty of businesses have every intention of putting a BYOD security risk management protocol into place, this is very different from having one actually established.

  • 55 percent of enterprises don’t have a set-in-stone list of applications that they consider risky for their business.
  • 61 percent of enterprises don’t know what type of application behaviours they should deem risky.
  • 16 percent of enterprises report that their current BYOD policies result in a lower level of application risk.

As previously mentioned, while most businesses have plans to integrate a BYOD risk management policy, they don’t really know how to handle it. This is alarming news, especially considering how simple it is to let a security issue into your network from an employees device.

Handling BYOD is simple and easy to manage with GCComp’s mobile device management solution. Included is a comprehensive mobile security solution designed to keep threats at bay, as well as the ability to whitelist and blacklist certain applications. This keeps them from gathering information that might be sensitive or confidential.

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help your business with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”. 

 

What is Mobile Device Management and How Can It Impact My Business?

By Gary Cox

mobileMany questions arise when it comes to mobile device management. What happens if an employee loses their device or leaves the company? Is your company’s information safe, secure and backed up? Can employees work from anywhere at any time using this service? Mobile device management is a type of security software used to monitor, manage and secure employees’ mobile devices that are utilized across multiple mobile service providers and operating systems.

With mobile device management there are so many opportunities to take your business to the next level. You have the ability to oversee company-issued devices and control how devices are used within your office. Take a look at the benefits of mobile device management and the reasons why your company needs it now.

5 Benefits of Mobile Device Management

Automatic Deletion

With mobile device management you can protect against stolen or lost devices and former employees with company information on their personal mobile devices. You have the capacity to quickly and easily erase confidential information from any device.

Controlled Updates

Having up-to-date systems is vital to the success of your company. With mobile device management these updates can be centrally controlled and audited, protecting your data and devices.

Cost Savings

If your company chooses to permit employees to use their own devices you could see decent savings. Typically, employers are sceptical about people using their personal phones to access certain data because the device is not owned by the company. Though activity must still be monitored, this is an excellent way to save some money by not having to provide devices. Plus, employees feel more comfortable using their own.

Enhanced Security

Assure that your employees are taking the same security steps you are on their personal and company devices by coordinating security provisions. That means things like password regulations, access limitations, and identity management will all have to go through procedural protocols to keep your business safe.

Geofencing

Rest assured knowing that you can regulate and take control of what your employees can and cannot do on their devices while on the clock. By having the capability to monitor all activity, you are connected and can guarantee the safety and well-being of your device at all times.

You can be confident in knowing that a GCComp technician can help you retrieve control of the mobile devices in your company! Provide your business with the flexibility of mobile device management. When you take advantage of these features, you can increase productivity in your organization without compromising the safety of your business. To find out more about this service and how it can benefit your business contact us!

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help your business with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”. 

 

What Cloud Matches Your Needs: Public, Private, or Hybrid Cloud Solution?

By Gary Cox

cloudThe cloud is an innovation which is changing the way organizations handle the storage of their data and application management; yet, some businesses can’t tell the difference between public, private, or hybrid clouds.

GCComp Computer Repair & Maintenance will attempt to explain cloud computing to you in a way which is simple and easy to follow, including the key benefits and disadvantages offered by particular types of cloud-based computing.

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the cloud, according to Steven Vaughan-Nichols of CSC, is that cloud computing is “a bunch of servers.” The clouds themselves aren’t virtual servers, in-and-of themselves. These clouds consist of data stored on virtual machines within secure data centres. He emphasizes that clouds deliver a “user-controlled utility.” Therefore, these cloud solutions are designed to provide users with a certain service that’s treated like any other utility. He cites Appcore, which defines cloud orchestration as “the combination of tools, processes, and architecture that enable virtualized resources to be delivered as a service.”

Just like those fluffy formations in the sky, clouds take on many different forms, depending on what kind of hosting your business prefers.

  • Public clouds: When a business takes advantage of a public cloud, they’re using services provided over a publicly accessible network, usually by an external third-party vendor. Public clouds are particularly useful for start-ups or smaller business ventures, as they are often affordable and readily accessible. This also means that the responsibility of a self-hosted cloud isn’t placed on your business’s shoulders; however, there’s a notable lack of security and control provided by the public cloud.
  • Private clouds: In direct contrast to the public cloud, the private cloud is generally hosted in-house on a private network. This allows for greater data security through the use of security-augmenting devices and applications.
  • Hybrid clouds: A hybrid cloud solution is like the middle ground between both public and private clouds. An example of a hybrid cloud is one which allows your business to host confidential corporate data on-premises in a private cloud, while taking advantage of a public cloud for the roll out of mission-critical applications (i.e. software as a service).

Hopefully, we’ve helped clear up any confusion you might have as a business owner. If you haven’t yet considered integrating the cloud into your computing infrastructure, we at GCComp can be of service. We’ll bring our experience in IT consultation to the table and help you decide which cloud solution is right for your business.

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help your business with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”. 

 

 

What the SMB Needs from a Backup Solution

By Gary Cox

small businessA business owner knows how important data backup is, but they might not have the time or knowledge to seek out the best solution for their business. Unfortunately, disasters can happen when you least expect it, and this unpredictability holds the future of your company hostage. Before jumping into a particular backup solution, think about where your business currently stands, and what options you have available to you.

The Current State of Your Backup Solution
Have you ever taken the time to think about your current backup situation? Even if you’ve never really thought about it, your organization probably has at least some type of backup solution at its disposal. One method that’s commonly used is tape, which stores data on tape cartridges for data restoration purposes. Others that are commonly used (more by the consumer rather than business) are external USB drives or hard disk drives; though, it should be mentioned that these devices don’t particularly cover data backup best practices.

The biggest question that you want to ask yourself when analysing your current backup situation is whether or not it’s what you feel your business deserves. Naturally, you want only the best solution for your data backup needs, and tape has plenty of limitations that can hold your operations back. If your backups are stored on-site, a disaster could destroy them, along with the rest of your infrastructure. Furthermore, tape can take a long time to restore from.

GCComp’s BDR Solution

GCComp Logoƒ 3The best backup solution out there is one that brings about minimal downtime in the face of a disaster, therefore mitigating data loss and lost revenue. This solution can back up your data to both the cloud and somewhere off-site, so that you can get back in action as soon as possible. A comprehensive solution like this might seem out of reach for a small or medium-sized business, but it doesn’t have to be.

Gccomp Computer Repair & Maintenance is skilled at bringing enterprise-level solutions designed to optimize operations to the small business, at a scalable, affordable price. The most comprehensive response to these common issues is GCComp’s Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution, which brings the best of data backup and disaster recovery to bear in one complete package. Our BDR is capable of taking multiple backups throughout the day and sending them to the cloud, and a secure off-site data centre. This lets you access the backups as soon as you need to, like in the event that a disaster prevents your business from functioning properly.

Our BDR is so efficient that it’s even capable of acting as a server unit in the event your current infrastructure goes down. This is useful if the hardware is somehow inoperable, like following a hacking attack or a hardware failure. This minimizes downtime and gives your business enough time to figure out a more permanent fix to the problem, without wasting precious time doing so.

Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help your business with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”.