Small Business Computers: Is Office 365 or Google Docs better?

small business computer appsThe release of Microsoft’s new Office 365 brings great new possibilities for Small Business Computer environments. How?  Wouldn’t it be great if your  business computers could get the power of Microsoft Office, with the convenient web based, cross-platform functionality of Google Docs?

Working on the same documents from your PC, Laptop, MAC, Tablet, or even your phone? How about having your documents in the cloud, accessible from almost any device, anywhere? No more thumb drives. No more setting up special VPN connections to your office network!

If you’ve found yourself using Google Docs on your small business computers for the accessibility, but bemoan its lack of power and features versus MS Office, your problems may be over. The new Office 365 is now both a cloud-based program, as well as a desktop program. So should you upgrade and use Office exclusively, or should you stay with your current version, using Google Docs when you need to? I contrast and compare the two below. [Read more…]

Top 10 Windows Computer Services You Can Disable for a Faster PC or Laptop

Speed Up Your PC or LaptopWant a faster PC or Laptop? Faster startup times and smoother performance? Did you ever wonder about all those background programs running on your PC? Do you need all these running all the time? Here are some tips to help you.

Windows has a core set of programs, called “system services” that must run in the background so that the system can perform basic operations. However, you may not need to have all the services running, and disabling unnecessary services can enhance performance.

Here is a list of 10 services you can disable on your Windows 7 systems that will probably not negatively affect you at all. I say “probably” for a reason. Before you take drastic action, such as disabling a service on your PC, make sure you don’t need the service. This is not a definitive list of unneeded services, just some obvious ones.

Test your changes and undo them if you have problems. Create a System Restore point before making any changes, so you can undo them if you get into trouble. [Read more…]

New “Scareware” Virus Fakes “System Recovery Failure” and Critical PC Issues

We just got a machine in with a VERY NASTY new virus.  We’ve never seen anything like it before.  It throws up fake program called “Windows 7 Recovery”, and displays a warning telling you that a system recovery operation has failed.  It hides all your desktop icons making you think you just lost all your programs and data.

If that’s not enough, it then tells you that either your hard drive, your memory, or both have experienced a critical failure.  Geez…. talk about overkill!  Of course, then they tell you that you can buy their “magic” software that will fix all of that.  Wow, must be some program!  Of course, this is all fake and you must not fall for this scam!

Good News!  It’s just another virus and we have just succeeded in removing it using our usual virus repair methods.  So don’t worry if you get this.  Your PC is okay and your data is in tact.  If you get this nasty virus, we can help you and get you back up and running pretty quickly.

For more information, please visit our Saguaro PC Tech website.  We’re always here to help.

Extending Your Computer’s Life: If Your PC is over 3 Years Old

I often hear the question from my customers, “My Computer is getting old.  What do you recommend I do if I can’t afford to buy a new one?”  Here’s what’s happening and what you can do.

The major issues that deteriorate the performance of older computers are:

1) Insufficient Memory (RAM):

Machines that are in the 3-5 year range of life have low amounts of RAM by today’s standards.  This is because as time goes by, all those Windows updates you’ve been getting have actually made Windows bigger, thus needing more RAM.

You may also have installed new software (programs) over time.  Newer software has more features, and so is often larger than older programs, thus needing more RAM.

2) The Hard Drive:

This is the storage device inside your computer.  It is a mechanical device and like any mechanical device, the more usage you place on it, the more it wears down.  It can become increasingly inaccurate as it reads and writes data, thus causing file corruption, data loss and a slowing down of its operation.  What can you do?

Defragment Your Hard Drive! This will make your hard drive last much longer and help your machine run faster.  Why?…. Over time, the data on your hard disk gets fragmented and spread out all over the disk.  This means the drive has to look all over the place to get your files and has to work much harder, stressing and slowing it down.

All versions of Windows have a built-in defragmenting utility, but in my professional opinion, 3rd party “Defraggers” do a better job.  I like the free “Defraggler” program, made by Piriform Software.

What if this doesn’t help? Then it may be a good time to replace the hard drive.  This gives you multiple benefits.  The most important preserving your data.  If you wait until it fails, you will lose your data, such as your pictures, documents, emails, address books and videos.

The second benefit is performance.  With a new hard disk, you have the chance to reinstall or upgrade your Windows to a newer version.  A fresh installation of Windows gives you a huge increase in performance.  Your PC will “run like new”.  Also, the newer hard drives are faster than older ones, giving you a further boost in speed.

3) Old Software and File Buildup (junk files):

A lot of the software that came with your PC is outdated and is taking up space.  You may also have lots of programs running in the background that you’re not even aware of.  Some of these programs came bundled with programs that you downloaded, but piggybacked themselves into the download and installed themselves without your knowledge.  The biggest culprits here are Toolbars (Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc.).  You should uninstall these unneeded programs, but be careful, if you’re not sure, don’t touch it.  Call a professional computer technician.

Finally, there are many files that get created automatically in the background by the programs you’re running.  These are only temporarily needed, but are left behind even after they’re no longer needed.  Clearing these out with a good cleanup utility, like “C-Cleaner” can help regain performance.  This free utility is also from Piriform Software, the same people that make “Defraggler”.

So there you have the basics.  The two utilities we mentioned can be a great help.  You can find these on our website’s links page, or at CNet’s Download.com site.

Turning Your PC Off – Good or Bad?

Well, it’s both.  This is one of those questions that seems to never get fully answered, as opinions vary.

One thing is certain.  You shouldn’t power your PC off every time you’re done with it.  Cycling the power can damage components because powering up a machine causes a lot of stress on the system.

However, you should turn it off every now and then to clear out the memory and let your components get some rest.  If you have an older (3 years plus) system, you can shut it down at night.  For newer systems, at lest once a week is good. We recommend twice a week if you use it heavily.

Newer systems have better power management and their sleep mode works pretty well, allowing your system components to power down fully or almost fully.  For Windows 7 machines, it works even better.  Still, you do need to shut it down occasionally to clear out the memory.  This will speed up your machine.

If you’re going out of town for a few days, it’s always a good idea to turn it off.  Another good time to shut down is during lightning storms.

For more information, tips and help with other computer issues, please visit our website at Saguaropc.com.

Speed Up Windows 7: Turn off Indexing if You Don’t Need it.

Did you know Windows constantly creates and indexes your data, and that this heavy chore can slow down your PC?

Actually, indexing is good if you have tons of files and you use the built-in Windows Search to find your data.  The indexing makes the searches quick and easy.

But what if you don’t have tons of files and don’t need to do searches to find your data?  Then you might as well reduce the activity of this feature, or disable it altogether.  The result will be a faster computer.

To modify or disable indexing, open the Indexing Options applet in the Control Panel.  Note that if you have your Control Panel set to “Category View”, you will not see it.  Change the view to “icons” (large or small), and you will see the Indexing Options applet.  Upon opening, you’ll see a window showing what locations are being indexed.  Click “Modify” and remove locations (folders, etc.) being indexed.  You might just choose to index only your Documents folder and nothing else, or choose nothing at all.  It’s up to you.  You can even choose what types of files are indexed as well.

If you do want to leave search indexing on, but find that it occasionally slows you down, you can stop its process when you need extra speed. Right-click on “Computer” either in the Start menu or on the desktop, then choose the “Manage” option.  Then double-click Services and Applications, then Services. Find the “Windows Search” item and double click on that.  From this properties dialog, choose “Stop”.  You can also choose the Startup type, setting it to Manual or Disabled.  For occasional use, set it to Manual and it will start indexing the next time you do a search.

Again, if you don’t have many files and you know exactly where you keep them, then disable it altogether and remove all locations.  If you have a very fast PC with for instance,  a Quad-Core processor and over 4GB or memory, this won’t make much of a difference.  Go ahead and leave it on, as you might enjoy using the search feature from time to time.

If you have any questions about this or want help tuning and optimizing your PC, we can help (but only if you live in Tucson, of course).  Our contact information is on the Saguaro PC Tech website.