Desktop vs Laptop: Which is Right for You?

Desktop vs Laptop: Which is Right for You?

Which would best work for you – portability or functionality?

Laptops have become the go-to choice for most people in the market for a new computer. They’re sleek, portable and heavily advertised. But are they the best choice for your needs? Before you buy your next computer, take a look at these considerations – you may discover you’ve been dreaming of a desktop all along!

How portable do you need it to be?

Hands down, laptops are easier to move around than a desktop. You can pick them up, pop them into a backpack and away you go. That doesn’t mean desktops are bolted to the floor, just that they’re not designed to take on holidays or go with you to the local cafe. With that portability though, comes a trade-off: thin and light means your computer performance takes a hit. The more powerful your laptop, the bigger and heavier it is, and you won’t enjoy lugging that weight around all day. If that’s got you leaning towards an ultra-portable, consider this: The smaller and lighter your laptop is, the weaker it is. In fact, some laptops struggle to run the most basic apps. Fortunately, when you do choose a desktop, cloud technology means your data is mobile, even if your main computer isn’t.

What balance of power and price do you need?

The bottom line here is that a desktop will always give you more power for less money. Their larger cases allow for bigger and better components, with more effective systems to avoid overheating. Even the most powerful laptop is going to be hotter than its desktop equivalent, and much noisier too. If you’re using power-hungry software like games or video editing, we recommend choosing a desktop. The heat control alone is worth it as frequently overheated laptops don’t survive long.

Desired screen size

As laptops are designed to be portable, screen sizes are usually small, around 11-15”. Larger, more powerful laptops often go up to 17”. Desktop monitors however, start at 17” and average at 22”. These larger sizes give you more space to work in, options to tile your applications and multi-task, and even sit back and watch an HD (or even 4K) movie. They also allow for nice big text and images, with a better ability to choose the visual experience that suits your needs. If you’re after a large screen size without the actual desktop computer, all-in-one PCs are a great option with many offering impressive screen quality.

Your working comfort

Many people buy a laptop only to get home and find it’s a pain in the neck – literally! The traditional laptop design means you’re always looking down at the screen which can put a strain on your neck. You can try to raise the screen by placing the laptop on a stand, but then the keyboard is out of easy reach. The smaller keyboards and touchpad designs may also leave you more prone to repetitive strain injuries. Many people end up connecting their laptops to external monitors, keyboards and mice, simply so they can work in comfort. Desktop computers on the other hand, allow you to create the perfect working environment for your needs and even cater for other family members. Monitors are usually height adjustable, keyboards and mice are wireless, and you’re able to place the desktop on the floor out of the way. If you’re on your computer for more than short bursts, your body will appreciate you choosing a desktop.

Are you looking for flexibility?

When you choose a laptop computer, it’s like ordering from a set menu. You get this brand, in this design, with these specifications. Changing out parts for repair or upgrade can be difficult and expensive as there’s not a spare inch of space. Some parts are extremely hard to get to, which can turn a simple swap into a deal breaker. The extra space inside a desktop gives infinite flexibility for upgrades over time and fast repairs. This means you’re able to easily pop in more powerful components for a fraction of the price and extend the life of your computer by years.

Come talk to us about your next computer and we’ll find the right one for you. Call us now at 01904 894 123
Can Private Browsing Protect You Online?

Can Private Browsing Protect You Online?

You may be great at using the internet and can google up a storm, but have you considered who might be watching?

This article talks you through 3 privacy-enhancing options that help your online activity away from prying eyes.

Maintaining your privacy while using the internet has become more challenging over the years. The recent Facebook privacy scandal made that abundantly clear, with users shocked at how much information had been recorded about them. While it’s almost impossible to enjoy the internet and leave zero digital footprints, there are things you can do to hide your online activities – some more effective than others.

1. Get a virtual private network (VPN)

VPNs aren’t just for business and downloaders now, they’ve gone mainstream. Once set up, it creates an encrypted connection from your computer to the VPN providers computer. The other computer could be in another city or another country. When you visit a website, it can only see the VPN computer – not yours. You essentially run around the internet pretending to be another computer, in another location. Since your connection is encrypted, even your ISP can’t see what you’re doing online, making your usage anonymous.

The downsides:

Because your internet usage has to route through another computer first, your browsing and download speed could be affected. They can be tricky to set up and not all VPNs offer the same privacy levels (the better ones tend to be more expensive). Some websites may even block visits from people using VPNs, so you may end up switching it on/off as required.

2. Go incognito

Most browsers have a private browsing mode, each called something different. For example, Google Chrome calls it ‘incognito’, Microsoft calls it ‘InPrivate’. Before you take the name at face value, it’s a good idea to talk about how they define ‘private’. Unlike a VPN where you can dance around the internet anonymously, private browsing simply means it won’t show up in your browser history, or what you entered into forms. This feature is free, so you always have the option to use it, and it’s actually more helpful than you might think. Common uses include price shopping to reset sale timers and access local-only pricing and overriding usage limits on certain sites. Some sites use cookies to control your free trials and private browsing can help you get around that. For example, some news sites limit you to 5 free articles a month unless you pay. Private browsing can extend that trial quite easily!

The downsides:

It can’t pre-fill saved passwords and it won’t help you type in the website name even if you’ve been there before.

3. Think about who’s watching

While you might be naturally careful when using a public computer have you thought about who’s watching what you do on your work computer? Some workplaces have employee monitoring software that tracks all sorts of data, including taking screenshots of your desktop. It helps them create rules about computer usage but it may also provide them with evidence you’ve been breaking those rules. Stepping out to the internet cafe can be even more risky, as people can install keyloggers that record every keystroke, including your credit card numbers and logins. You’ll never know your activities are being recorded, even if you use private browsing.

The downsides:

None. Awareness of the risks and the possibility of being watched ensures you’re more likely to use the internet safely.

While private browsing can help keep your internet usage under wraps, it’s not a magic bullet to cover all possibilities. Many people believe they’re invisible AND invulnerable while private browsing, a mistake they end up paying for.

You’ll still need solid anti-virus and password habits to protect against threat, and to be a smart internet user who avoids suspect websites. Consider the options above as privacy-enhancing measures, not one-stop solutions.

Need help with your online privacy? Give us a call at 01904 894123!
What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

Has your computer started making a weird noise? In this blog post, we’ll let you know what sounds to be on the lookout (or ear-out) for.

What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

New computers are whisper quiet, seeming to run on pure magic, but after a while computers can start making some pretty weird noises. Clicks, clunks, and about-to-take-off jet noises are the most common, but when should you worry? Your computer has a number of moving parts and even some stationary parts that can make noises. If you’re listening, your computer might be telling you about its current health and how you can help it run smoother, for longer.

When you hear a clicking noise

This could be normal if it’s more like a soft tick. Mechanical hard drives work a bit like a record player with a needle and platter, so you might simply be hearing it spin up and move the needle around. When it starts sounding like a loud click it’s usually the needle hitting the platter too hard or bouncing around. If your hard drive has started making alarming noises, you should bring it in as soon as possible. Just like a record player, scratches that ruin your data are possible, and if ignored for long enough, it doesn’t just skip and have trouble reading the drive, the whole thing can become unusable.

Our technicians can copy the files onto a new drive before it gets to that point, but retrieving data from a destroyed hard drive is rarely achieved without CSI-level expenses. It’s easier and much cheaper to replace the hard drive at the first sign of failure.

When you hear a clunking noise

Unsurprisingly, this one causes certain alarm. Computers aren’t meant to go clunk! It may be a simple matter of a cable having shifted into the path of a fan and getting clipped during the spin. Remember when you pegged a card between your bicycle spokes? It might sound a little like that, skipping every now and then as it’s pushed away and drops back again. If that’s the case, our technicians will quickly secure the cable back where it belongs.

When you hear a jet-engine noise

Most computers and laptops have fans to keep them cool. The fans have to spin to move the air around, and the faster they’re spinning, the more noise they make. We start to worry when the jet-engine noise gets out of hand and it’s not just while you’re playing a resource-intensive game or doing some video editing. Constant jet-engine noise indicates your computer is struggling to cool itself down, perhaps because the fan vents are clogged with dust, your computer is in a poorly ventilated space, or the fan itself is worn. Each fan has ball bearings inside that wear out over time, making extra noise while it does the best it can. Our technicians can replace individual fans quickly and give your system a checkup to make sure nothing else has been affected.

When it’s beep city

Your computer’s friendly beep as you switch it on actually has multiple meanings. It’s not just saying hello. The single beep you normally hear indicates that it’s run a self-test and everything is fine. When your computer is very unwell, you might hear more beeps than usual. This is because each beep combination is a code to technicians, letting us know what’s gone wrong.
Certain beep combinations mean the memory is loose or damaged, others that the video adaptor has a problem, etc. If your computer has started beeping differently, let our technicians know so we can decode it and repair the problem for you.

Some noises your computer makes will be normal, others a sign of deeper issues. Even if your computer seems to be operating correctly, a sudden onset of weird noises could mean failure is just around the corner. Taking early action ensures problems don’t escalate, costs are kept low, and your files remain where they belong.

Got some weird noises coming from your computer? Give us a call today at 01904 894 123
5 Ways to Love Your Laptop (and Make It Last Longer)

5 Ways to Love Your Laptop (and Make It Last Longer)

Laptop computers are one of the most fragile pieces of tech you’ll ever buy, but they also receive the roughest treatment.

Extend your laptop’s life with these five easy tips.

Avoid sharp movements during use:

While some newer laptops have an SSD drive with no moving parts, many laptops still have mechanical drives which work a bit like a record player. It has a head which is like a record player needle, and a data storage platter like a record. The head hovers just microns over the surface of the spinning disk and a knock can cause them to collide. Just like a deep scratch on a record, whatever data was on that section will be corrupted and lost. Make sure you always power down the laptop before moving it or packing it away.

Keep it cool:

Your laptop has 2 sure ways of telling you when it’s too hot – the fan and auto-shut off. Each component in your laptop is generating heat, and the harder it’s working, the more heat each creates. The fan runs to blow that heat out the vent and keep the components cool enough to continue operating. Because there’s no clear temperature indicator, your fan volume is the best guide to monitoring laptop heat. While the laptop is working hard (and getting hot), the fan will spin faster and louder. It’s not uncommon for it to sound like a hair dryer at times! Help it out by keeping your fan vent clear of books, blankets, and other blockages.

Respect the cords:

Inside those robust looking power cords are a bunch of delicate wires, begging you to be gentle. You’d think they should be able to take a beating, get bent, twisted and run over with chair wheels, but unfortunately not. Keep cords clear of sharp or flat-edged items, and when wrapping for transport try to mimic how it came out of the box. Wrap the cord gently around itself or the power adapter and secure with Velcro or similar.

Carry it in padded style:

Look for a bag that not only fits your laptop but also provides padding. Your system will endure countless bumps and bangs as the bag is moved around, even with careful use. Ideally, your bag has bottom, side AND top padding, as well as a waterproof outer. If backpacks aren’t your style, look for padded or hard-shelled sleeves.

Back it up:

Laptops give us fantastic mobility but as mentioned above they’re quite fragile. While a backup won’t make your laptop components last longer, it will make minor repairs that much easier. You’re more likely to take it in for a service if your data is accessible elsewhere, and of course, in the event of accident or theft, you’re fully prepared. Consider an off-site backup for additional protection, so no matter what happens with your laptop you still have your important files.

Call us on 01904 894 123 to give your laptop a life-extending service.
Your free antivirus may not be the best choice for your PC.

Your free antivirus may not be the best choice for your PC.

ALERT: Your Antivirus May Be Letting You Down

Your free antivirus may not be the best choice for your PC.

The best way to avoid a computer virus is by using common sense, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be safe from attack.

Even the most careful user can find themselves infected in an instant and spreading the virus faster than a sneeze in flu season. It’s why antivirus software is still the first package we install on all systems – because you never know when you’ll be attacked. But should you choose free or paid antivirus?

Advertising:

Much like a free app making its fortune with in-app purchases, the free antivirus software will push for payment. Expect popup boxes pestering you to sign up to the paid version at least daily. Some free options will also try to change your browser homepage and default search engine, an inconvenience you may be stuck with. Paid options are more respectful and largely invisible unless they’ve detected a problem.

Effectiveness:

It’s fair to expect your antivirus to detect malware, and testing showed that in a head-to-head battle free and paid are about equal at catching known infections. And therein lies the kicker: generally speaking, free antivirus needs to have recorded a virus to its library before it can detect it. Paid antivirus is more likely to identify and stop a new virus. It essentially bases the detection on suspicious behaviour, source and attributes, a far more effective method of detection.

Features:

Free antivirus options are usually created from the paid version, taking out everything except the bare minimum. In your paid version, you can expect advanced features like spam filters, firewalls, parental controls and secure web browsing. Some paid antivirus will also update your other software packages, forming a more secure protection against attacks. For example, you might view a malicious image file that takes advantage of an exploit in your PDF software. Unfortunately, hackers have advanced beyond simple tactics and it’s not just about avoiding email attachments anymore.

Support:

Free antivirus options are the most popular choice because they’re… free. Obviously.  This also means there’s generally no support available. If there’s a problem or conflict with another program, you may find yourself without protection until it can be resolved. Paid antivirus options usually include telephone support, ready to help with problems ranging from installation to system diagnostics.

Ease of use:

Depending on what you use your computer for, this may be an important concern. Free antivirus options are easy to install and use, but are very limited in their flexibility. They come as-is, meaning you can’t pick and choose what it monitors or how it reacts. For example, users occasionally find it necessary to disable ALL protections in order to install a network game. Paid versions are more likely to allow you to adapt the way it runs, switching features on and off as required.

Free antivirus is fine for very basic protection, those on a budget or those with an older PC. In these cases, something is always better than nothing. But we generally recommend you go with a paid antivirus to defend you from the new attacks that are released daily and to ensure you’ve got solid protection that will make a real difference to your digital safety.

Talk to us at 01904 894 123 about upgrading to a paid antivirus.
Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Here’s why you should never skip that Windows Update notification.

Stories about hackers and virus attacks seem to be making the news almost every day, and many of these news stories include tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim. One common theme among these tips is making sure your Windows operating system up to date.

Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Every day hackers are trying to figure out new ways to break into Microsoft Windows and once they do find a weakness, they try and find a way to spread it. This could be through a malicious email attachment or even something that spreads without your involvement.

Updates Explained

Whenever Microsoft discovers a potential flaw, they push out a small piece of software to all Windows computers running a supported version. If set correctly, your computer will check if there’s any updates or patches and install them automatically. In new versions, this usually happens when you’re shutting down or starting up, and doesn’t impact your experience at all. Unfortunately, some users will manually disable or delay their updates, creating a risky situation.

The update may include security patches, drivers or a simple tweak to address bugs or issues with Windows. Sometimes, they even include new features or applications to improve the stability of your operating system. They’re a good thing!

Not All Versions Get Updates

Some older operating systems are no longer supported, which means unless there are extenuating circumstances, Microsoft won’t issue any new updates. Not a single one – generally, if cybercriminals discover a flaw after support ends, they’re free to exploit it.  For example, Windows XP support ended in 2014, and Windows Vista just ended in April this year. The moment an operating system is retired it becomes a playground for cyber-criminals.

It’s not just Microsoft walking away from these old versions either. Third-party software like the Google Chrome browser will still work, but they’ve also stopped supporting old versions with crucial updates and patches. It might seem like everything is working fine because your anti-virus isn’t pinging in alarm, but it just becomes a case of risk, upon risk, upon risk.

What to do with older Windows

As much as you’re comfortable with your older version of Windows, each time you boot up you’re exposing your system, important files and entire network. It only takes one weak entry point in the chain to allow malware into all connected devices. That could mean your photo storage, media centre or even smart appliances. It’s not worth it – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista (or older), you need to update to a more modern operating system ASAP. Give us a call to upgrade your computer.

We can also monitor your system remotely and apply your Windows updates with our Managed Services packages, ensuring you are always up to date and protected. Give us a call at 01904 894 123