How To Recover After Your Email Password Has Been Hacked

How To Recover After Your Email Password Is Compromised

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Your friends are reporting spam and pleas for money originating from your email account and some of your logins aren’t working; you’ve been compromised. Read on to see what to do right now and how to protect yourself in the future.

A compromised password is serious business. A security breach at a minor service you use can jeopardize your more serious accounts if you use weak passwords (or even the same one) across all of them and a security breach at a core service like your email account means it is time to batten the hatches and get your passwords under control.

This guide is full of useful tips for anyone who has to deal with the fall out of leaked password but we’ll be focusing specifically on dealing with the mother of all compromises: a compromised email account. Once someone has control of your email account they can easily gain control of the dozens of other services you use as, for better or worse, email functions as a major key-to-the-castle and qualifying identifier.

Secure Your Email Account

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The absolute first thing you need to do at even the slightest hint that something is amiss is to lock down your account. The second your friend calls you and says “I just got an email from you claiming you’re in London and need me to wire you money” you need to get on your computer and get to work.

Resetting/recovering your password.

You may need to reset or recover your password. The process varies from email service to email service but we’ve gathered up the reset links for three popular email services here to help speed the process along if you’ve found this article via a panicked Google search. You can find the forms for Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail here. All three of the aforementioned services have an option for you to specify not just that you forgot your password but that you believe your account has been compromised.

Change your password to something completely different than your previous password. Make it a combination of alphanumeric characters and if need be temporarily write it down. The important thing is that you secure your email immediately with a strong password. While you are still logged into your email account complete the following steps.

Enable two-factor authentication.

Although your email service may not offer this feature, if it does turn it on. You likely won’t keep it on forever (two-factor verification is kind of a hassle) but while you’re in lock-down mode and attempting to get everything under control it’s nice to know that someone would need to, for example, have access to your mobile phone and your password in order to gain access to your email account. You can read about two-factor authentication for Gmail here.

Go through your email settings with a fine tooth comb.

In addition to changing your password and setting up two-factor authentication you need to go through the settings on your email account to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. Here are several things you need to look at: check your recovery email and ensure that it is set to an email address you control, check your password hints and replace them with fresh questions only you know the answer to, check your email forwarding settings to ensure that however compromised your email hasn’t set it up so that all your future email will be forwarded to a 3rd party.

Regarding password hints: password recovery systems based on hints are notoriously easy to defeat as it isn’t particularly difficult to get basic information about a person like where they were born, what their cat’s name is, etc. (thank you frivolous Facebook quizzes). One easy way to radically increase the strength of hint questions is to make them about someone other than yourself. Answer the questions as though you are your father, a character in a comic book or novel you love, or any other third party that you have a significant degree of knowledge about.

Don’t neglect these three steps and make sure to look at all the settings on your email account to make sure there are no surprises tucked away!

Change Every Password Associated with Your Email Address

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Email addresses function as the proverbial keys to the castle. If someone has access to your email account they also have access to nearly everything else you’ve ever used your email account for—your iTunes login, your Amazon.com account, your credit cards and banking institutions, social media accounts, discussion forums and so on. Now is the time to start changing passwords. We realize this isn’t fun and we realize it’s time consuming if you have lots and lots of accounts. The upside is that once you do it, you’ll have effectively inoculated yourself against this misery in the future.

Get a password manager.

Not everyone uses a password manager and lots of people have their reasons for not doing so including “I’ve got a good memory”, “I don’t trust password managers”, “I’ve got some straight up KGB algorithm in my brain to generate new and awesome passwords”, etc. We’ve heard it all before. If you want to play the “I’ll memorize all my passwords” game, that’s fine. You simply won’t have as strong and varied passwords as someone who uses a password manager. Not using a password manager is like refusing to use a calculator and solving all math problems long hand; there’s no good reason to forgo using a calculator and there’s no good reason to stick to juggling passwords in your head when there are better alternatives.

Whether you use LastPass, KeePass, or another respectable password manager that integrates with your web browser (and thus decreases your resistance to using it), you’ll have a system that allows you to use extremely strong and unique passwords for each distinct login.

Search your email for registration reminders.

It won’t be hard to remember your frequently used logins like Facebook and your bank but there are likely dozens of outlaying services that you may not even remember that you use your email to log into.

Use keyword searches like “welcome to”, “reset”, “recovery”, “verify”, “password”, “username”, “login”, “account” and combinations there of like “reset password” or “verify account”. Again, we know this is a hassle but once you’ve done this with a password manager at your side you have a master list of all your account and you’ll never have to this keyword hunt again.

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Use strong passwords.

If you’re using a good password manager this won’t even be an issue. LastPass, for example, has a built in password generator. A click of a button is all that it takes to generate a password like “Myy0vNncg6dlYrbhVjo1”; add in another click and you can easily associate that extremely strong password with the account.

If you’re not using a password manager there are still some hard and fast rules you should live by when it comes to manually generating strong passwords:

  • Passwords should always be longer than the minimum the service allows for. If the service in question allows for 6-20 character passwords go for the longest password you can remember.
  • Do not use dictionary words as part of your password. Your password should never be so simple that a cursory scan with a dictionary file would reveal it. Never include your name, part of the login or email, or other easily identifiable items like your company name or street name. Also avoid using common keyboard combinations like “qwerty” or “asdf” as part of your password.
  • Use passphrases instead of passwords. If you’re not using a password manager to remember really random passwords (yes, we realize we’re really harping on the idea of using a password manager) then you can remember stronger passwords by turning them into passphrases. For your Amazon account, for example, you could create the easily remember passphrase “I love to read books” and then crunch that into a password like “!luv2ReadBkz”. It’s easy to remember and it’s fairly strong.

Practice Good Password Hygiene Going Forward

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It’s really easy to slip back into bad habits once the shock of security breach has passed. Call it the dentist-effect: you floss and brush like mad before the dentist, you promise yourself you’ll floss and brush after the visit, and three weeks later you find yourself falling asleep on the couch watching Archer with a mouthful of gummy bears.

Staying on top of password management is important and when done correctly protects you from the agony of having to do all this password fixing again (or, worse, losing significant sums of money or becoming embroiled in a legal battle because of what was done with your compromised account). Here’s what you need to do going forward with your old and new accounts:

Always use a unique password for each service.

Think of this policy like having fire suppression systems in every room of a building. If Lab 223 catches fire it doesn’t take the whole structure with it. If someone hacks a game site you visit they won’t also have access to your email (or any other logins associated with your email address).

Change your passwords.

Don’t be resistant to changing your passwords. If you use your email a lot at public Wi-Fi spots, internet cafes, etc. then you need to change it frequently as you are using it in locations where it can be easily sniffed, key logged, or otherwise compromised. If you use a master password manager this process is less painless as you really only need to remember a strong password for the password manager and a strong password for your email (everything else can be managed by the password manager).

Do not store your passwords insecurely.

However you store your passwords, do not store them insecurely. If you write them down on a notebook lock it in your firesafe. If you keep them in a password manager, use a very secure password for that manager. If you keep them on your computer in a text document then you must encrypt that text document and not simply leave it in your My Documents folder. Your password list, however it is stored, is the passport to your digital life.

Do not transmit passwords insecurely.

This is a combination of the previous rule and the next rule. Do not email yourself a plain text file of your passwords. It’s the equivalent of writing your passwords on a postcard and mailing them. Anyone who touches the postcard in transit can easily read the passwords. Never email or instant message your passwords for any reason.

Do not share your password.

As well as not sharing your password between services don’t share your passwords with other people. Your friends don’t need to know your password, your boss doesn’t need to know your password, no legitimate company employee from Google or Bank of America is ever going to call you up or email you and ask for your password. Your default stance on password sharing should always be “No.”


At this point, if you’ve followed along, you have a set of unique, strong, and well managed passwords. You have one final task. Pull up your contact list and send an email to all the people who you previously spammed with “Help, I’m stuck in London and have no money…” messages and email them a link to this article. There’s a good chance that, like you were, they’re one bad break away from a password nightmare.

Credit for this post goes to the “How To Geek” website at http://www.howtogeek.com/ and:

Jason Fitzpatrick who is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don’t have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he’s interested.

Transfer Music Between iPads & iPhones

Q. How do I transfer music from my old iPad or iPhone to my new one?

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iTunes

A. If you bought all of your music from the iTunes Store and downloaded it directly to your old iPad or iPhone, you can use the iTunes Store app on the new iPad or iPhone to download all your past purchases again to the second tablet. You need to be logged in with the same Apple ID account you used to make the original purchases, or be set up to use the content with Apple’s Family Sharing feature.

To download songs again, open the iTunes Store app and tap the Purchased icon at the bottom of the screen. Tap the “Not on This iPad/iPhone” button to see a list of all your past iTunes purchases. Tap the cloud-shaped Download icon next to each song you want, or the Download All Songs button at the top of the screen to grab the whole collection.

If you have been using Apple’s iTunes program on your Mac or PC to copy music to the old iPad or iPhone, you can sync the same music library to the new tablet. Just connect the new iPad or iPhone, select its icon when it pops up in the iTunes window and click the Music icon. In the main part of the iTunes window, check the Sync Music box, click the Apply button and then the Sync button. Songs from the iTunes Store that were bought on the iPad or iPhone can also be downloaded again to the computer, and you can use iTunes (or Apple’s iCloud service) to transfer other files by backing up the old iPador iPhone and “restoring” its contents to the new model.

If you have songs on the old iPad or iPhone that did not come from the iTunes Store (or that are no longer for sale there and cannot be downloaded again), you can also use a program like iMazing or Macroplant’s iExplorer to tap into the iPad’s or iPhone’s media libraries and copy the music files back to a computer. Once the songs are on the computer, you can import them into iTunes or your third-party music-management program of choice and transfer them over to the new iPad or iPhone.

Malvertising

What is Malvertising and How Do You Protect Yourself?

Malvertising Diagram

 

Attackers are trying to compromise your web browser and its plug-ins. “Malvertising,” using third-party ad networks to embed attacks in legitimate websites, is becoming increasingly popular.

The real problem with malvertising isn’t ads — it’s vulnerable software on your system that could be compromised by just clicking a link to a malicious website. Even if all ads vanished from the web overnight, the core problem would remain.

You can certainly use Adblock to reduce your risk, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk. For instance, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s website was hacked not once, but 3 times with a malware exploit kit that targeted millions of visitors.

Websites are hacked every day, and assuming that your adblocker is going to protect you is a false sense of security. If you are vulnerable, and a ton of people are, even a single click can infect your system.

Web Browsers and Plug-ins Are Under Attack

There are two main ways attackers attempt to compromise your system. One is by attempting to trick you into downloading and running something malicious. The second is by attacking your web browser and related software like the Adobe Flash plug-in, Oracle Java plug-in, and Adobe PDF reader. These attacks use security holes in this software to force your computer to download and run malicious software.

If your system is vulnerable — either because an attacker knows a new “zero-day” vulnerabilityfor your software or because you haven’t installed security patches — just visiting a web page with malicious code on it would allow the attacker to compromise and infect your system. This often takes the form of a malicious Flash object of Java applet. Click a link to a shady website and you could be infected, even though it shouldn’t be possible for any website — even the most disreputable ones on the worst corners of the web — to compromise your system.

Adobe Flash Exploit

What is Malvertising?

Rather than attempting to trick you into visiting a malicious website, malvertising uses advertising networks to spread these malicious Flash objects and other bits of malicious code to other websites.

Attackers upload malicious Flash objects and other bits of malicious code to ad networks, paying the network to distribute them like they’re real advertisements.

You could visit a newspaper’s website and an advertising script on the website would download an ad from the ad network. The malicious advertisement would then attempt to compromise your web browser. That’s exactly how one recent attack that used Yahoo!’s ad network to serve malicious Flash ads worked.

That’s the core bit of malvertising — it takes advantage of flaws in software you’re using to infect you on “legitimate” websites, eliminating the need to trick you into visiting a malicious website. But, without malvertising, you could be infected in the same way after just clicking a link away from that newspaper’s website. Security flaws are the core problem here.

How to Protect Yourself From Malvertising

Even if your browser never loaded another ad again, you’d still want to use the below tricks to harden your web browser and protect yourself against the most common attacks online.

Enable Click-to-Play Plug-ins: Be sure to enable click-to-play plug-ins in your web browser. When you visit a web page containing a Flash or Java object, it won’t automatically run until you click it. Almost all malvertising uses these plug-ins, so this option should protect you from almost everything.

Click To Play Browser Settings

Use an Anti-Exploit Program to Help Protect Your PC From Zero-Day Attacks
Anti-exploit programs provide an additional layer of security by blocking the techniques attackers use. These solutions can protect you against… [Read Article]

Use MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit: We keep banging on about MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit for a reason. It’s essentially a more user-friendly and complete alternative to Microsoft’s EMET security software, which is targeted more at enterprises. You could also use Microsoft’s EMET at home, but we recommend MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit as an anti-exploit program.

This software doesn’t function as an antivirus. Instead, it monitors your web browser and watches for techniques browser exploits use. If it notices such a technique, it will automatically stop it. MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit is free, can run alongside an antivirus, and will protect you from the vast majority of browser and plug-in exploits — even zero-days. It’s important protection every Windows user should have installed.

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit

Disable or Uninstall Plug-ins You Don’t Frequently Use, Including Java: If you don’t need a browser plug-in, uninstall it. This will “reduce your attack surface,” giving attackers less potentially vulnerable software to target. You shouldn’t need many plug-ins these days. You probably don’t need the Java browser plug-in, which has been an unending source of vulnerabilities and is used by few websites. Microsoft’s Silverlight is no longer used by Netflix, so you may be able to uninstall that too.

You could also disable all your browser plug-ins and use a separate web browser with plug-ins enabled just for web pages that need it, although that will require a bit more work.

If Adobe Flash is successfully erased from the web — along with Java — malvertising will become much more difficult to pull off.

Keep Your Plug-ins Updated: Whatever plug-ins you leave installed, you need to ensure they’re kept up-to-date with the latest security patches. Google Chrome automatically updates Adobe Flash, and so does Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer on Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 automatically updates Flash, too. If you’re using Internet Explorer on Windows 7, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or Safari, ensure Adobe Flash is set to automatically update. You’ll find Adobe Flash options in your control panel or in the System Preferences window on a Mac.

Adobe Flash Player Settings

Keep Your Web Browser Updated: Keep your web browser updated, too. Web browsers should automatically update themselves these days — just don’t go out of you way to disable automatic updates and you should be okay. If you’re using Internet Explorer, ensure Windows Update is activated and regularly installing updates.

While most malvertising attacks take place against plug-ins, a few have attacked holes in web browsers themselves.

Consider Avoiding Firefox Until Electrolysis is Done: Here’s a controversial piece of advice. While Firefox is still beloved by some, Firefox is behind other web browsers in an important way. Other browsers like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge all take advantage ofsandboxing technology to prevent browser exploits from escaping the browser and doing damage to your system.

Firefox has no such sandbox, although other browsers have had one for several years. A recent malvertising exploit targeted Firefox itself using a zero-day. Sandboxing techniques built into Firefox could have helped prevented this. However, if you do use Firefox, using MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit would have protected you.

Sandboxing is set to arrive in Firefox after years of delays as part of the Electrolysis project, which will also make Firefox multi-process. The “multi-process” feature is scheduled to be part of the stable version of Firefox “by the end of 2015,” and is already part of the unstable versions. Until then, Mozilla Firefox is arguably the least secure modern web browser. Even Internet Explorer has employed some sandboxing since Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista.

FireFox


Currently, almost all malvertising attacks take place against Windows computers. However, users of other operating systems shouldn’t get too cocky. The recent malvertising attack against Firefox targeted Firefox on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

As we’ve seen with crapware moving over to Apple’s operating system, Macs aren’t immune. An attack on a specific web browser or a plug-in like Flash or Java usually works the same way across Windows, Mac, and Linux.

As posted on How To Geek

http://www.howtogeek.com/227205/what-is-malvertising-and-how-do-you-protect-yourself/

Credit: Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He’s as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

How To Check If Your Account Passwords Have Been Leaked Online

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Security breaches and password leaks happen constantly on today’s Internet. LinkedIn, Yahoo, Last.fm, eHarmony – the list of compromised websites is long. If you want to know whether your account information was leaked, there are some tools you can use.

These leaks often lead to many compromised accounts on other websites. However, you can protect yourself by using unique passwords everywhere – if you do, password leaks won’t be a threat to you.

Image Credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr

Why Password Leaks Are Dangerous

Password leaks are so dangerous because many people use the same password for multiple websites. If you register for a website with your email address and provide the same password you use for your email account, that email/password combination may be present on a list somewhere.

Crackers can then use this email/password combination to gain access to your email account. Even if you use a different password for your email account, they may try the email or account name and password combination on other websites to gain access to your other accounts.

For example, crackers recently compromised over 11,000 Guild Wars 2 accounts. They didn’t use keyloggers or compromise the game’s servers – they just tried logging in using email address and password combinations found on lists of leaked passwords. Players who reused a password that had already been leaked were compromised. The same will happen for other services that crackers want to gain access to.

Internet Accounts

How To Protect Yourself

To protect yourself against future leaks, ensure you use different passwords on each website – and ensure they’re long, strong passwords. Otherwise, a compromise at one website could lead to your accounts elsewhere being compromised. While compromised websites will generally inform you of the leak and have you change your password immediately, this won’t help much if you’re using the same password on many other websites.

Remembering unique passwords for all the different websites we use can be difficult, which is why password managers can be so useful. We like LastPass, but many people swear by KeePass, which keeps you in control of your data.

Read More:

Checking If Your Password Was Leaked

If you’re curious whether your email address appears on one of these leaked password lists, you don’t have to find a shady download site and download the lists yourself. Instead, you can use a tool that quickly checks for you.

PwnedList is a good one. LastPass now uses PwnedList to monitor whether LastPass account email addresses become compromised. For example, if your LastPass account email address is you@example.com, you’ll get a notification if you@example.com appears on any lists of leaked email addresses and passwords. This only applies to the single email address you use for your LastPass account, not every address you have in your LastPass vault.

If you want to check an email address manually, you can use PwnedList’s website. Plug in an email address and PwnedList will tell you whether it appears on any leaked lists. (Note that you can also enter SHA-512 hashes of your email address if you don’t trust PwnedList with your email address – you can use a tool such as this one to generate a SHA-512 hash.)

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If your email address does appear on a list, don’t panic – this just means you should ensure you’re not reusing the same passwords on multiple websites. If you use the same password everywhere and your email address appears on one (or more) of these lists, you have a problem – you should change your passwords immediately.

LastPass also hosts some tools that allow you to see whether a specific password appears on the leaked lists of LinkedIn or Last.fm passwords. You can actually plug passwords in and see if someone was using them. The results show how weak many passwords are – plug in “password123” and you can see that at least one person was using it as their LinkedIn password.

Linkedin leaked password test


Your email account is the center of your online security – websites generally allow you to change your password as long as you can click a link in an email. If someone else gains access to your email account, it can be game over for your other accounts. Read How To Recover After Your Email Password Is Compromised for more tips on protecting yourself.

LastPass Hacked, Change Your Master Password Now

LastPass Hacked, Change Your Master Password Now

Bad news first, folks. LastPass, our favorite password manager (and yours) has been hacked. It’s time to change your master password. The good news is, the passwords you have saved for other sites should be safe.

LastPass has announced on their company blog that they detected an intrusion to their servers. While encrypted user data (read: your stored passwords for other sites) was not stolen, the intruders did take LastPass account email addresses, password reminders, server per user salts, and authentication hashes. The latter is what’s used to tell LastPass that you have permission to access your account.

According to LastPass, the authentication hashes should be sufficiently encrypted to prevent anyone from using them to access your account. However, the company is still prompting all users to update their master password that they use to log in to their LastPass account. If you use LastPass, you should do this immediately. If you share that master password with any other services, you should change it there, too. Finally, if you haven’t enabled two-factor authentication you should do that immediately here.

We’ve talked about what happens if LastPass gets hacked before. As it stands, it doesn’t seem that this hack resulted in any significant data losses for users. However, it’s still important to take steps necessary to protect your account as soon as you can.

Note: It sounds like LastPass’ servers are getting hammered right now, so if your password change doesn’t go through, check back frequently through the day until it does.

LastPass Security Notice | LastPass Hacked

Software to help you stay safe on the Internet

Do advertisements annoy you ?

Software

Are you concerned about your privacy when you surf the Internet ?

Software

If you answered yes to either of these questions then this list is for you !

Please feel free to click and follow these links to start a whole new Internet experience the way it was meant to be. Using these browser add-ons will protect your privacy and rid you of unwanted advertisements leaving only the content you wish to view.

Happy Surfing !

Resources to help prevent advertisements & block websites:

How To Block advertisements in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Opera
BlockSite for Firefox
NoScriptNoScript FAQs
NotScripts for Chrome
Karma Blocker for Firefox <- intended for advanced users
Flashblock for Firefox
Block Unwanted Ads with Custom MVPS Hosts File
How to Block a Specific Website Without Software

Resources to help protect privacy:

The Best Browser Extensions that Protect Your Privacy
How to Start Your Browser in Private Mode
Disconnect
SafeIP
DoNotTrackMe <- for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer on both Mac and Windows
Ghostery <- for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera on both Mac and Windows
PrivDog
HideMyAss
Free Hide IP
Privacy Badger

Ghostery is a browser tool which allows you to block beacons, trackers, advertising, analytics and widgets.
Ghostery download
Ghostery – How It Works
Ghostery General Options
Ghostery FAQs
How to configure Ghostery to stop Trackers
Ghostery Community Forum

Buying versus Renting Your Cable Modem can Save Money

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Buying versus Renting Your Cable Modem can Save Money

When you sign up for cable Internet service, you need a modem. You’re often asked to choose between renting the modem from your Internet service provider for a monthly fee or buying it outright.

If you’re already signed up for cable Internet service, you may see a “modem rental” fee on your monthly bill. You can eliminate this fee by buying a modem outright.

Update: Comcast has recently increased the modem rental fee from $7 to $10 per month

Considering you can buy a Netgear cable modem for $100, you’ll start saving money in 10 months! After 2 years you’ll have saved $140.

The DOCSIS Standard

Cable Internet service providers don’t create their own proprietary standards to communicate over the cable line. Instead they use the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard. Because DOCSIS is standardized, you’re not limited to the modem your ISP offers to you. You can buy and use any modem that supports the version of the DOCSIS standard your cable Internet provider offers.

You can generally find information about supported modems on your ISP’s website. For example, Comcast offers a DOCSIS Device Information Center that lists modems that will work on their network. You might have better luck just searching Amazon for “DOCSIS 3.0″, finding a model that you like, and then checking your ISP to make sure it’s compatible. Your ISP may have a web page that lists this information for you. If they don’t, call their phone lines and ask them for more information.

Also make sure that you pick a router with gigabit network ports on it, otherwise you’ll be limiting yourself should you decide to upgrade your internet connection in the future. For instance, this Netgear N600 cable modem works with Comcast, has gigabit ports, supports up to 340 Mbps and even includes Wi-Fi, but this $44 Motorola only supports 100Mb LAN connections and doesn’t have Wi-Fi.

The Break-Even Point

How much money you can save depends on how much your ISP charges you for modem rental versus how much you’d pay for the modem up-front. For example, you can get a modem that will work with Comcast for $100 on Amazon — we’ll use that number, although you may be able to get a modem for as low as $50 (although as we noted earlier, they will usually be limited to 100Mb maximum throughput) Many Comcast users have reported than Comcast is now charging them $10 a month per modem rental fee.

$100 divided by $10 per month equals 10 months, so the break-even point here is just under a year. If you buy your own cable modem instead of renting on Comcast, you’d start saving money after about a year. If you can get a $50 modem, you’d start saving money after just 5 months! Check your own ISP’s fees and the cost of buying a compatible modem so you can do your own math and find your own break-even point.

If you plan on sticking with your current Internet service provider for longer than the break-even time, it makes sense to buy your own cable modem up-front and save on your bill in the long-run. On the other hand, if you plan on moving or switching Internet service providers before the break-even point arrives, you can save money by renting the modem from your ISP and returning it to them when you’re done.

Other Considerations

Modems aren’t always transferable between ISPs. In fact, your best option in some areas may be ADSL, fiber optic, or satellite Internet services that don’t require the same type of modem. You shouldn’t buy a modem with the plan on taking it with you when you move — you may not be  able to use it with your next Internet service provider.

You may also want to contact your Internet service provider and ask if they plan on upgrading their system any time soon. If you rent a modem, you’ll get a new one when they upgrade their systems. On the other hand, if you buy a modem and your ISP upgrades to a new standard that requires new hardware to make full use of, you’ll have to buy a new modem and pay the up-front fee again.

Rented modems also get you technical support directly from your Internet service provider. If something isn’t working or your modem dies, they’ll provide free support — well, the “free support” you’re paying for — and replace it for you. If you purchase your own modem from another company, you’ll have to rely on their warranty service if your modem breaks. You may be better off running out and buying a new modem from your local electronics store rather than waiting weeks for the RMA process to get you a working router.

Overall, most people will be better off paying a bit more up-front to buy their own cable modem and avoiding the ever-increasing monthly modem rental fees. On the other hand, if you’re moving or switching to a new Internet service provider soon, renting will probably save you money. Do the math for yourself to decide which is the best option.

Original article posted at How To Geek by Chris Hoffman on 1/2/15

 

11 Tips to Speed up Windows 7

1. Uninstall Bloatware

Uninstall bloatware that came with your laptop or PC.
Or even apps you installed but no longer want. Head to Control Panel | Programs | Uninstall a program and take the hatchet to anything, such as unwanted games, that you’ll never need. Many programs will load processes at boot time and take up valuable RAM and CPU cycles. While you’re in here, you can also click “Turn Windows Features On or Off” and scan the list to see if there’s anything you don’t use. You might also try software like PCDecrapifier and Revo Uninstaller.

2. Limit Start-up Processes

Limit startup processes.
In the Start button’s search box, type MSCONFIG, then head to the Startup tab. You’ll likely see a slew of apps, mostly for system support, but you’ll be able to identify some that clearly aren’t necessary. There’s absolutely no need to have GoogleUpdate or even QuickTime running all the time, for example. Don’t delete those that support your hardware or security, but anything blatantly nonproductive can go. You may have to check the program names online with a site like processlibrary.com to see what they are—they may even be malware. If you want to get more granular, run Microsoft’s Autoruns utility.

3. Add More RAM

Add more RAM.
Windows 7 isn’t has much of a hog as Vista, but if you’re moving from XP, the memory requirements are greater. Here’s a great article to show you how to add RAM

3. Add More RAM

4. Turn Off Search Indexing

Turn off search indexing.
In Vista I, would only do this if I saw the search indexing icon in the system tray and noticed a performance lag, but that notification isn’t present in Windows 7. Of course, if you do a lot of searching, this won’t appeal to you, as some searches will be slower. To turn off indexing, open the Indexing Options Control Panel window (if you just type “index” in the Start button search box, you’ll see that choice at the top of the start menu), click “Modify” and remove locations being indexed and file types, too. If you 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, choose Manage. Then double-click Services and Applications, then Services. Find Windows Search, and double click on that. From this properties dialog, you can choose a Start-up type of Manual or Disabled to have the process silent by default.

5. Defrag

Defragment your hard drive.
Your disk stores data in chunks wherever there’s space on disk, regardless of whether the space is contiguous for one file. Defragging tidies everything up and blocks a program’s bits together so that the reader heads don’t have to shuttle back and forth to read a whole executable or data file. While this is less of a problem with today’s huge hard drives and copius RAM, a slow system can still benefit from defragmenting the disk. Windows 7 comes with a built-in defragger that runs automatically at scheduled intervals. Mine was set by default to run Wednesdays at 1:00 AM, when my PC is usually turned off; so it never got defragged. If you’re in a similar boat, you can either change the scheduled defrag, or defrag on demand. Just type “defrag” in the Windows Start Menu search bar, and click on “Disk Defragmenter.” The version of the utility is improved in Windows 7, and shows more information about what’s happening on your disk than Vista did. The Windows 7 engineering team posted a very in-depth, informative article on the Engineering Windows 7 blog.

5. Defrag

6. Clean Up Your Disk

Clean up Your Disk.
From the Start menu, choose All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Disk Cleanup. This finds unwanted junk and files such as temporary, offline Web pages, and installer files on your PC and offers to delete them all at once. You may even find that your Recycle Bin is bulging at the seams: Mine had 1.47GB I didn’t know was there! This will generally only have a noticeable affect on speed if your machine is getting close to full, however.

7. Clean Up Your Disk

7. Check for Viruses & Spyware

Check for Viruses and Spyware.
You can run the built in Windows Defender or a third-party app. You could start with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware or HitManPro. If you want a paid solution, though, I would start with VIPRE Anti-Virus.

 

 

Malwarebytes

8. Performance Troubleshooter

Use the Performance Troubleshooter.
In Control Panel’s search box, type “troubleshooting” and under System and Security, you’ll see the choice “Check for performance issues.” Run the troubleshooter and it may find the root cause of your slowdown.

9. Performance Troubleshooter

9. Turn Off Desktop Gadgets

Turn off Desktop Gadgets.
Now we come to the tips that require shutting down some of the operating system’s bling. Windows 7 ditched the actual visual sidebar of Vista, but there’s still a sidebar process running. Turn it off by typing “gadgets” in the start menu search bar, choosing “View list of running gadgets” and select each in turn and click Remove to shut any gadgets you can live without.

10. Turn Off Desktop Gadgets

10. Don’t Use a Beautiful Desktop Background

Don’t use a beautiful desktop background.
This will free up extra RAM and therefore boost speed slightly. Right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize, then Desktop Background at the bottom of the resulting dialog window. Set it to a solid color.

11. Turn Off Aero Eeffects

Turn off Aero effects.

Head to the Control Panel’s Performance Information and Tools section, and choose Adjust Visual Effects. Here you’ll find a long list of effects, but simply choosing “Adjust for best performance” will turn everything off. You’ll feel like you stepped back into a decade ago.

12. Turn Off Aero Eeffects

Disclosure: While there are definitely many other tips to speed up Windows 7 that are not covered in this article, these 11 tips have been chosen for their ease of implementation and effectiveness for the average computer user.

 

Fake Microsoft Support Scams Lead to Dire Consequences

For the last nine months, I’ve heard numerous stories from friends, family, and clients about calls they’ve supposedly received from Microsoft. Unfortunately, the calls are all scams that can have dire consequences. If you haven’t heard similar stories, they usually go something like this: a person calls and says that he is a tech with Microsoft that’s contacting you because your Windows-based computer is being monitored by them and is infected with a virus and he wants to help fix it. Over the course of the conversation, he’ll ask to remote into your PC, and ultimately tell you that the level of support required to fix it requires payment and that you’ll have to provide a credit card number. More nefarious scammers will then go the extra mile and install spyware on your machine to snag your passwords and other personal information, which could then be used to access your bank accounts or even steal your identity.

Fake Microsoft Support Scams Lead to Dire Consequences

This just can’t be repeated enough and I encourage all that read this article to spread the word to friend and family alike !

My experience:

Well, I just got off the phone with a couple of these scammers.

Of course, I knew right out of the gate that the call was a sham. The odds of Microsoft ever calling an end-user out of the blue are about as likely as Bill Gates giving away millions of dollars on Facebook because you shared a photo, so that’s the first clue.  But I’m also experienced enough to know when a so-called technician doesn’t know his gigabits from gigabytes, and it wouldn’t have taken long to figure out the caller was full of it anyway.

Just in case you find yourself the target of one of these phone scams, or you want to inform your not-so-tech-savvy acquaintances about the possibility, I figured it would be beneficial to let you all know how the call went down. When I answered the phone, a heavily accented fellow explained that he was with Microsoft and that my ISP has contacted them because a Windows machine using my broadband connection was infected with a virus.  He asked me to go to my Windows PC and requested that I perform some mundane tasks, like opening the web browser, and hitting a couple of websites–all the while telling me what I should expect to see on-screen. I assume this was some sort of half-witted ploy to gain my trust, but there was no chance of that happening.  While the scam-artist was trying to prove his worth, I used the time to check e-mail and other unrelated things, I thought I’d waste as much of the guy’s time as possible, to prevent him from calling someone else and having more success.

Event Viewer
After a while “checking websites” the scammer then had me open Event Viewer. He tried to explain the importance of the information contained in Event Viewer’s logs, and then used a rudimentary scare tactic that I suspect would work on casual PC users. He asked how many entries were in the system log (to which I happily answered 1337!), and tried to convince me that all of those entries were errors caused by the virus. He then took a more dire tone and asked me to check the Security and Application logs (again, I gave bogus numbers of 43 and 666!).

This was the point where the real scam was about to start. The caller used the number of events listed in Event Viewer to claim that the “infection” on my system was more severe than anticipated and that there would be a charge for any tech support services moving forward. He then asked for a credit card number. I refused to give him one and said I would only pay upon completion of the clean-up. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to keep him on the line as long as possible, but I also wanted to see what tactics these low-lives were using to scam people. After my charade, the original caller put me on hold and said he had to forward me to a tech support manager who would continue to help me out.

The second man to take the line then directed me to logmein123.com and asked me to install some remote desktop software. I should point out that logmein123.com is totally legit (and actually a great tool), but the scammer planned to use it for no good. I went so far as to install the logmein123.com remote desktop client, so I could see what a correct user ID looked like, but did not give the caller the correct ID. I fed him some false IDs (again, to waste more time), and ultimately told the caller to megabyte me (in not so kind words) and they hung up after sharing a few choice words. Had I given him the correct ID, the caller would have been able to instantly access my PC.

If I was better prepared and had a virtual machine setup that I could sacrifice for the cause, I would have let the scammers do their thing and let them believe they’d infiltrated another unfortunate soul’s computer, but I wasn’t. It’s a shame too, because it would have been useful to see what (and where) they’d download and install. Regardless, I hope this little bit of information helps. If you’re the recipient of one of these calls, at least now you’ll know they are a scam, and if you have a little time of your hands you can waste the scammers’ time and limit the number of other folks they can prey on. And if you’ve already been targeted, be sure to check your system for malware and report the call to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP

Fighting back

 

Report the scam

Report misleading ads

TrustInAds.org comprises a group of Internet industry leaders that have come together to work toward a common goal: Protect people from malicious online advertisements and deceptive practices.” Report misleading ads here.

Shut down their remote software account

  • Write down the TeamViewer ID (9-digit code) and send it to TeamViewer’s support (they can later on block people/companies with that information)
  • LogMeIn: Report abuse

Spread the word

You can raise awareness by letting your friends, family, and other acquaintances know what happened to you. Although this may be an embarrassing experience if you fell victim to these scams, educating the public will help someone caught in a similar situation and deter further scam attempts.

Tech Support Blacklist

 

This list is being updated on a regular basis from our own investigations as well as from tips we receive from our readers. There are two main objectives with that list:

  • To protect people who are about to call for tech support assistance and want to make sure the company has not already been listed.
  • To provide assistance to victims that have already been conned and are googling the phone number they called or company they interacted with.

If a company is listed below, it meets at least one of the following criteria:

Criteria:

  • #1 Pretends to be working for Microsoft or ‘Windows’.
  • #2 Uses misleading tactics to force a sale (see an example here).
  • #3 Finds viruses, malware or an infection on a perfectly clean system.
  • #4 Validates a fraudulent popup or page as legitimate (see an example here).

List:

Company name and aliases24/7 PC Guard 
Website(s): 247pcguard.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-855-7953
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000001
Company name and aliases365 Tech Help 
Website(s): 365techhelp.co/bng/slow-pc, fastsupport.com
Phone number(s): 1-866-539-8804
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 09/27/2013
Incident ID: 0000002
Company name and aliasesSpeak Support 
Website(s): speaksupport.com, 121usa.com
Phone number(s): 1-800-806-0768
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 10/04/2013
Incident ID: 0000003
Company name and aliasesPC Smart Care 
Website(s): pcsmartcare.com, pcsmartcare.us
Phone number(s): 1-855-569-5945
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 11/27/2013
Incident ID: 0000004
Company name and aliasesPC Mask 
Website(s): pcmask.com
Phone number(s): 1-877-385-1667
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 11/28/2013
Incident ID: 0000005
Company name and aliasesMy Tech Gurus 
Website(s): mytechgurus.com
Phone number(s): 1-866-587-1775
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 12/11/2013
Incident ID: 0000006
Company name and aliasesMegaITSupport 
Website(s): megaitsupport.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-939-3618
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 01/09/2013
Incident ID: 0000007
Company name and aliasesGBM Support
Website(s): gbmsupport.net
Phone number(s): 1-800-492-3960
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 01/23/2013
Incident ID: 0000008
Company name and aliasesClick4Support
Website(s): lickforsupport.net, webtechmasterhelp.com, techsupportcenter.org, techsupportive.com
Phone number(s): 1-855-668-8555
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 292242
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 01/23/2013
Incident ID: 0000009
Company name and aliasesPC Toolkit Pro
Website(s): pctoolkitpro.com
Phone number(s): 1-855-803-1370
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000010
Company name and aliasesiGennie
Website(s): igennie.net
Phone number(s): 1-888-239-4339
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 01/30/2013
Incident ID: 0000011
Company name and aliasesCompute My PC
Website(s): computemypc.com
Phone number(s): 1-800-356-7697
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 01/31/2013
Incident ID: 0000012
Company name and aliasesTechFix Pro
Website(s): techfixpro.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-768-0082
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000013
Company name and aliasesiMax Support
Website(s): imaxsupport.com, fix247.org
Phone number(s): 1-800-247-0830
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 03/25/2014
Incident ID: 0000014
Company name and aliasesInternet Security Protect
Website(s): internetsecurityprotect.com
Phone number(s): (020)-3289-1596
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000015
Company name and aliasesAll In One Tech Support
Website(s): allinonetech.net, allinonetech.us
Phone number(s): 1-800-487-9456
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000016
Company name and aliases1844desktop
Website(s): 1844desktop.com
Phone number(s): 1-884-337-5867
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000017
Company name and aliasesComlogic
Website(s): comlogicinc.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-930-1033
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: 
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000018
Company name and aliasesPC Tech Clinic
Website(s): pctechclinic.com
Phone number(s): 1-855-486-4411
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 152903
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 06/17/2014
Incident ID: 0000019
Company name and aliasesCondis Services
Website(s): condiservices.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-221-6490
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: ISL: 19834912
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 06/17/2014
Incident ID: 0000020
Company name and aliasesaolrisk
Website(s): aolrisk.com
Phone number(s): 1-855-666-8849
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 770772
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000021
Company name and aliases247 Support Experts
Website(s): 247supportexperts.com, 3wayhelp.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-221-1582
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMein: 146794
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 07/14/2014
Incident ID: 0000023
Company name and aliasesSysCare247
Website(s): syscare247.com
Phone number(s): 213-260-2279
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: N/A
Incident ID: 0000024
Company name and aliasesOMG Tech Help
Website(s): omgtechhelp.com
Phone number(s): 855-316-8324
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 642695
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 07/21/2014
Incident ID: 0000025
Company name and aliasesOnVoiceSupport
Website(s): omgtechhelp.com
Phone number(s): 855-316-8324
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 642695
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 07/21/2014
Incident ID: 0000026
Company name and aliasesEcomputer Support
Website(s): ecomputersupport.net
Phone number(s): 1-877-360-0594, 1-855-820-8680
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 432039
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 07/23/2014
Incident ID: 0000027
Company name and aliasesE-Racer Tech (Clean IT PC)
Website(s): e-racertech.com, cleanitpc.com
Phone number(s): 1-855-486-1800, 1-877-648-7339
Affiliate(s): error711971669.com
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 432039
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #4
Incident date: 05/28/2014
Incident ID: 0000028
Company name and aliasesCump Tech Media Pvt Ltd
Website(s): xevoke.com,onlineinstanthelp.com
Phone number(s): 1-855-209-0559
Affiliate(s): onlineinstanthelp.com/malwarebytes-us/download.html
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 186024
Payment processor: CheckOut LTD
Reason for blacklisting: #2, #3
Incident date: 07/31/2014
Incident ID: 0000029
Company name and aliasesFast Fix 123
Website(s): fastfix123.com
Phone number(s): 1-800-832-3088
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: N/A
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #3
Incident date: 08/22/2014
Incident ID: 0000030
Company name and aliasesProcomSupport247
Website(s): procomsupport247.com
Phone number(s): 1-866-456-2763
Affiliate(s): techsupportnumber.us/online
Remote control software: LogMeIn: 162225
Payment processor: FreshBooks
Reason for blacklisting: #1,#2,#3,#4
Incident date: 09/04/2014
Incident ID: 0000031

Company name and aliasesAmerican Tec Help
Website(s): americantechelp.com
Phone number(s): 1-800-984-9830
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: LogMeIn:
Payment processor: N/A
Reason for blacklisting: #1,#2,#3,#4
Incident date: 11/06/2014
Incident ID: 0000032

Company name and aliasesLiveTechOnCall, Live Tech On Call, AVIVO LLC
Website(s): livetechoncall.com
Phone number(s): 1-888-456-7041
Affiliate(s): N/A
Remote control software: TeamViewer
Payment processor: N/A
Price: $509.97
Reason for blacklisting: #1,#2,#3,#4
Incident date: 12/10/2014
Incident ID: 0000033

 

Where can you still find a PC running Windows 7?

By for The Ed Bott Report |

Summary: If you want a PC running Windows 7, where do you look?

Skip your local office superstore or big-box retailer and go where the business buyers go.

In those channels, you’ll find that Windows 7 never went away. In fact, it’s not just alive, it’s thriving.

The manufactured kerfuffle over HP’s decision to promote a few Windows 7 PCs on its online Home & Home Office Store is an attempt to stir up a fuss over something that every savvy business buyer knows already. Windows 7 doesn’t need to make a comeback, because it never left.

In fact, it’s easy to find PCs running Windows 7. All you have to do is shop in the right channels.

This morning I conducted a thorough check of business-focused PC channels. As expected, I found a huge assortment of Windows 7 PCs available for purchase there.

As I noted yesterday, those Windows 7 PCs are a drop in the bucket at HP’s consumer-focused online store, which currently has a grand total of three Windows 7 desktops on offer, with 33 distinct Windows 8 and 8.1 desktop machines on offer.

But you get a very different story if you visit HP’s Small and Medium Business site. Or if you check in with U.S. archrival Dell, which also has a separate online store for Work and Business PCs.

On those sites, Windows 7 continues to be well represented. This isn’t a change from last year or a reaction to Windows 8. It’s business as usual.

When I checked last May, HP’s business side had 120 Windows 7 desktop and notebook PCs on offer, almost three times the number of Windows 8 PCs in the business store. Today, the total number of models is down slightly but the percentage is equally skewed.

Dell isn’t quite as unbalanced, but you can still choose from more than 60 discrete Windows 7 options in the Desktops and All-in-Ones and Laptops and Ultrabooks sections. You’ll even find high-end Windows 7 machines under the Alienware brand, traditionally aimed at gamers but certainly fit for business use.

Here’s the raw data.

Table: Which operating systems are available on Dell and HP business PCs?

Operating System HP Dell
Laptops/Ultrabooks/Tablets
 Android   1   0
 Chrome OS   4   0
 Windows 7 65 38
 Windows 8.x 17 85
Desktops/All-in-ones/Workstations
 Android   0   0
 Chrome OS   0   0
 Windows 7 31 23
 Windows 8.x   4 36

Your options get even more interesting if you visit some of the big online sites that specialize in serving the commercial channel, businesses and educational institutions. HP and its other archival, China’s Lenovo, sell extensively through commercial sites.

Take CDW, for example, one of the biggest business-focused resellers around. I went to CDW’s Computers section this morning and searched for downgrade in the Desktop computers category. That produced 378 results, all with Windows 8 Pro licenses downgraded to Windows 7 Pro.

First on the CDW list is the HP Pro 3500, a solid if slightly staid desktop PC with a 3.2 GHz Core i5 (Ivy Bridge), 4GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

 

If you want something beefier, you can get the EliteDesk 800 G1, with a Core i7 4770 (Haswell), also downgraded to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

In fact, at CDW 9 out of first 10 machines on the list of desktop PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled as a downgrade are from HP. Out of the top 20, 14 are from HP, with Lenovo getting 5 models and Acer getting a single mention.

These aren’t crappy machines, either. In all, CDW has 69 configurations available with Core i7 CPUs and Windows 7 downgrades, including a nice-looking Lenovo small-footprint PC, the ThinkCentre M93p 10AB, which has 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD, Bluetooth 4.0, and a Windows 7 downgrade.

Even the consumer-friendly Newegg, a favorite of PC hobbyists and DIY system builders, has lots of choices available: Search for Windows 7 downgrade and you get a list of 27 desktop and notebook PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed, ranging in price from $398.00 all the way up to more than $3,900 for an HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation with a Haswell Core i7, 32 GB of RAM, twin 256 GB SSDs, and AMD FirePro graphics.

It’s true that PC retailers aimed at consumers tend to push the newer, touch-enabled Windows 8 devices. But don’t assume that means you can’t track down a Windows 7 box. At the most consumery retailer of them all, Best Buy, you can still find PCs running Windows 7. When I searched at BestBuy.com in the Desktops and All-in-ones category, the filtering tool told me it has 369 Windows 8 machines to choose from, as well as 227 Windows 7 options, including choices from third-party sites that sell through Best Buy.

Personally, if I were going to buy a Windows 7 PC today I would look for one that includes a Windows 8 Pro license and has been downgraded to Windows 7 Pro by the OEM. That configuration gives you the flexibility to upgrade to Windows 8.1 (or, presumably, 8.2 or 8.3, if those versions arrive in the next year or two) for free. If you buy a PC with a Windows 7 license and decide later that you want to upgrade, you’ll have to pay dearly for the privilege.

The bottom line: Windows 7 never went away. It continues to be widely available today, just as it was before Microsoft released Windows 8. Under Microsoft’s normal sales lifecycle, OEMs would be prohibited from building and selling new PCs when the two-year anniversary of Windows 8 rolls around in October 2014. We’ll see what happens then, however. I won’t be surprised if Microsoft extends that date.

About

Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades’ experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications.

The Planet’s 24 Largest Social Media Sites

Social media transcends geography, and the sheer scale and diversity of audiences on the sites makes them tremendously important.

It’s no longer all about Facebook. Instead, users in some of the biggest countries are gravitating to regional sites. Others are heading en masse to U.S.-based networks, meaning that some of the largest social sites are global communities first and foremost.

Microsoft Warns of Windows XP Malware Spike

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2013-11-05

malware

Windows XP holdouts may soon face an explosion of malware that targets the unsupported operating system, cautions Microsoft.

The company is ending support for its enduring, 12-year-old desktop operating system on April 8, 2014. On that date, “Microsoft will no longer provide support for Windows XP users. This means that customers and partners will no longer receive security updates to the operating system or be able to leverage tech support from Microsoft after this time,” wrote Jeff Meisner, editor for The Official Microsoft Blog, in an April 2013 post that served as a reminder that users had a year to prepare for the XP support sunset.

Now, armed with historic data, the company is turning up the volume on the importance of migrating from Windows XP.

Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, said in an Oct. 29 Microsoft on the Issues blog post that XP is living on borrowed time. “Microsoft Windows XP was released almost 12 years ago, which is an eternity in technology terms,” he wrote.

Rains added that “inevitably there is a tipping point where dated software and hardware can no longer defend against modern-day threats and increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals.” With Microsoft no longer expending resources to keep those threats at bay, hackers and malware coders will go gunning for XP, Rains said. And he has data that backs him up.

“In the two years after Windows XP Service Pack 2 went out of support, its malware infection rate was 66 percent higher than Windows XP Service Pack 3—the last supported version of Windows XP,” Rains said. XP, while still officially supported, already trails its successors in malware infection rates.

According to the company’s data, Windows XP, Vista 7 and 8 “all had roughly similar malware encounter rates—between 12 and 20 percent,” said Rains. “But Windows XP systems had an infection rate that was six times higher than Windows 8.”

When Microsoft drops support in five months, users and organizations still running the OS will face a very different online security landscape from that of the operating system’s inception.

Lone hackers “developing malicious software from their basements in the 1990s” are a thing of the past. Today cyber-criminals are sophisticated, “well-funded underground organizations,” said Rains. Often leveraging “large-scale malware automation,” they “are motivated by profit or seek to cause real financial or political harm.”

Further, Microsoft’s own efforts to harden its newer operating systems may give malware coders pointers on attacking Windows XP. Rains predicted that when his company releases “monthly security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will try and reverse-engineer them to identify any vulnerabilities that also exist in Windows XP.”

This echoes Rains’ warnings from this past summer. In an Aug. 16 blog post, he wrote, “Since a security update will never become available for Windows XP to address these vulnerabilities, Windows XP will essentially have a ‘zero-day’ vulnerability forever.”

Dust, a computer’s worst enemy and what to do about it !

So I have dust in my computer, why is this important and what should I do about it.

One important aspect of owning a  computer that is often overlooked is internal dust buildup. Dust is attracted to the inside of your computer like a magnet and will get into the computer and buildup on and around all the sensitive electronics that make your computer run properly. Dust inside a computer insulates the sensitive electronic components and causes a heat buildup of abnormal levels and gradually degrades the circuits and chips underneath all that dust and thereby causes intermittent and usually unexplainable problems and even complete failure.(see pictures below) Most commonly the fans inside a computer become clogged with dust and cannot operate at peak efficiency or in some cases at all. When the fan doesn’t work, the electronic components it is protecting overheats and in time this will cause it to fail and ultimately cause your computer to crash !

Dusty ComputerComputer killing dust

 

 

I recommended that the inside of a desktop computer be cleaned at least two times a year and up to four or more times if you live in an area that is prone to a lot of dirt,dust,cigarette or cigar smoke and or pet hair.

The procedure is simple and quick. A can of compressed air can be picked up at your local office supply, hardware, or camera store and will do nicely, just don’t spray the air with the can upside down otherwise you may get exposed to harmfully cold chemicals that may cause injury to you and the computer.

After carefully making a note of the locations, disconnect all of the cables from the back of the PC. Most desktop computers have only one or two screws that hold on the side or top panel. Take the desktop outside or into a garage to clean it. This will help keep the excess dust from accumulating near the desktop area and being drawn back into the computer, later. A dust mask should be worn for those that are prone to dust allergies. The areas to target, inside the desktop case, are the heat sink over the CPU (Central Processing Unit), the heat sink over the GPU (Graphic Processing Unit) and any other heat sinks found inside. Also, all fans should be cleaned thoroughly. Each fan should be blasted with the can of air until it spins up to speed. This helps remove dust and tests fans, as well. If a fan will not spin fast while it is being subjected to the force from a can of air, it should be replaced. The power supply should be cleaned, also. The power supply is usually located in the back and upper portion of the case (for a tower), the fans of some power supplies are inside and cannot be seen clearly. Again, use the can of air and blow through the vents of the power supply. The fan will spin and the dust will be forced out.

Conclusion: Regular dust removal will significantly prolong the life and performance of your computer and provide you with a better overall computing experience and best of all fewer visits to the computer doctor…..

If you still own a Windows XP computer it’s time to upgrade !

Windows XP support has expired as of April 8, 2014, that will include both security and non-security hot fixes, free or paid support options and online technical content updates. There are still many Windows XP users that still won’t upgrade their operating system by April 8, 2014, they would rather wait till Windows XP no longer works, keep reading to discover why this is a poor choice and why you must upgrade before the clock runs out !
XP Logo
What is the risk of still using Windows XP after the cutoff date?

Without security updates using Windows XP will be like having a door made of swiss cheese without anyone to patch the holes that would let would-be attackers get into your computer. Once they have identified the vulnerability they will attempt to develop code that will exploit it and then pass it around to every would-be attacker as well as use it to infect your Windows XP computer. There is antivirus software out there to help protect and fix infected computers however that is not an effective one-size fits all solution to the real dilemma and challenge which is now you will never know with confidence that you can trust your computer with Windows XP on it without those critical monthly security updates. As a result, the security features that are built into Windows XP will no longer be sufficient to defend against modern threats.