The latest installment of Windows 10 will be available soon, version 1803. I have advised my clients with Windows 10 Pro to delay the upgrade by up to 120 days so that all of the quirks can be worked out. This option can be set in Start Menu >> Settings >> Update & Security. Users with the Home version of Windows 10 will get the upgrade when Microsoft pushes it out to their computer. This could happen in a period of days to months. As always, Windows users can manually install the upgrade at any time. Make sure you have a full backup of your files using Microsoft’s built in File History or a 3rd party program.
Today’s themes are security and privacy. I hope these tips can make a difference for you.
1. Make sure you have a real billing passcode with your cellular provider
For years cellular providers have used the last 4 digits of your Social Security number as your billing passcode. However, they also allow you to set your own passcode (some sequence of 4 to 8 numbers). PLEASE set up your own passcode with them if you haven’t already. Do you know who is at the other end of the line when you give the last 4 of your SS# time after time? Of course not. They might be a rogue employee or an overseas contractor looking to do you harm. I recently heard two first hand accounts of customers (who happened to be with T-Mobile) who had their cell phone numbers transferred (aka “ported”) to another service without their authorization. With access to their phone number, the criminal was then able to access their bank account via a code that was text messaged to them on the “new” phone. You can only imagine the transactions that followed. This was possible because the bad actor knew the billing passcode on the cellular account with the original provider. It was the last 4 digits of the Social Security number. I have been told that you can also set up your own billing passcode with other companies like Comcast. Stop using the last 4 of your SS#. Act now.
2. Facebook data collection nightmare
The free service they have provided you for over a decade is not free. Chances are, your data has been mined repeatedly since you signed up for the most used social network. By no means am I calling for a mass exodus from Facebook. I have clients who post no content of their own, but use it to stay in touch with family, their community, and organizations they support. There are practical and very positive uses for Facebook. However, you’ve likely seen the news over the past few days. Facebook claims to have been exploited by a data analytics firm that relied heavily on its site for their business model. Frankly, the practice has been going on for years (with many partners) and Facebook has been a willing provider when it suited their interests. Think of all of the games, apps, and surveys you have logged into with your Facebook account. Parts of or all of your entire Facebook profile have been shared with those 3rd parties. It is time for you to tighten the belt on your Facebook profile and privacy.
3. Net Neutrality: Bye Bye
Are you worried about the FCC doing away with Net Neutrality protections? The end is near. Your internet service provider may not be able to know what you do on secure (https) websites but they will be able to sell the data of which websites you go to and use this info for their own marketing purposes. If they take their newfound latitude to an extreme, they could even create tiers of internet service based on usage. Ok, so you want to use You Tube and Netflix? We will charge you more! You can block your provider from seeing your traffic, period. Use a VPN – a virtual private network. A VPN is a service (think of it at as a small program) that runs in conjunction with your internet service. It is easy to turn on and off or just leave on automatically. There are only two VPN’s that I can recommend faithfully. They are Private Internet Access and Tunnel Bear. These services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. They cost approximately $4 to $5 a month. Put the brakes on further exploitation of your data.
I was recently asked by a willing buyer, should I get a desktop, laptop, or tablet?
It certainly depends on the user’s habits and preferences. I think a desktop is wise choice for someone who doesn’t mind doing their work in one place all the time and prefers using a larger screen. The typical desktop monitor is 22 to 24 inches these days. The standard high resolution (meaning everything is smaller) can be magnified or scaled up to give you a very comfortable viewing experience.
Laptops are appropriate for users who want the flexibility to move around a lot (or at least once in a while) and don’t mind a smaller screen. Some laptops can even be purchased with 17 inch screens, in the Windows world, so there may not even be that much of a compromise. There is a wide spectrum of quality in the laptop game. You could pay anywhere from $400 to $2500 for a laptop that works for you. It simply depends on the purpose and features required. As a final note on laptops, I will mention that I have had great experiences buying high quality, business class laptops for clients through the Dell and Lenovo outlets over the years.
Tablets (or even Chromebooks) are becoming a more popular choice for a consumer’s computer. I set up a new iPad for a client over the weekend who will be using her iPad Pro as her primary personal computer. I worked with a client today who only uses a Chromebook. With an iPad or Chromebook, you can e-mail, compose documents, share files, edit photos, print (with a compatible printer), shop, do online banking, save files, and organize those files into folders. Your device will be very SAFE compared to a Windows or Mac system. However, you may not be able to run your favorite application for X (whatever X is for you). For example, I like to use a program called The Journal in Windows to write personal journal entries. I would not be able to use this program on an iPad or a Chromebook. The greatest benefit to either of these devices is that you can KISS – keep it simple stupid. As long as you can play within the sandbox, an iPad or Chromebook might just be your future computer.
Please read this message carefully and print as a guide, if needed.
It’s hard to believe, but there have actually been 5 new versions of Windows released since July 2015. All of them have been releases of Windows 10 but each was literally a new version of Windows. Right now you should all have Windows 10 version 1709. It first started rolling out to computers (either automatically or by a deliberate upgrade) in October. Windows 10 version 1803 is right around the corner. It will start being pushed out in April.
Here’s what I think. Windows 10 – 1709 is very stable at the moment. You can confirm that you have it by pressing Windows key + S on your keyboard and then typing in — winver — and then pressing the Enter key.
Let’s delay the new upgrade for a while. Why mess up a good thing? When all the bugs get worked out after a couple months then it will be time for the new Windows 10 – 1803. If you forgot what the 1709 or 1803 mean, they refer to the year and month that the version of Windows was finalized.
Come the summer, July or August, you will be ready for the latest version of Windows 10. You don’t need to be first in line.
Here is how to delay a feature update (aka a new version of Windows) in Windows 10
1. Start Menu
2. Settings (PC Settings if you are still using the Classic Shell Start Menu)
3. Update & Security
4. Advanced options
5. Under “A feature update includes new capabilities and improvements. It can be deferred for this many days:”
6. Set it to 120
8. Leave the days at 0 under the “quality update” section
7. Close the window
Windows 10 is in a good place right now. Let’s keep it there. It’s good to have happy computing experiences without having to think too much. I don’t know why Microsoft thinks they have to push out 2 NEW VERSIONS OF WINDOWS 10 PER YEAR. Fortunately, we have control over the situation. It’s time to put our foot down.
** Big asterisk: You can only delay Windows 10 upgrades if you have the Pro version of Windows 10. If you bought your computer at Best Buy or a big box store, you have the Home (consumer) version. Unfortunately, you have to take the new versions whenever Microsoft pushes them out. It can be a real hassle. If I ordered your computer for you, you have Windows 10 Pro. You can follow the instructions I gave.
Lesson to be learned: I am not in the business of selling computers. However, I like to place computer orders for my customers by choosing major brands like HP, Dell, and Lenovo. These are not the computers sold in stores. Let me order your Windows computer for you next time. I choose the Pro version of Windows because of the update delay feature and additional security enhancements.
1. I found an electrical wizard for you. I want to tell you about Ryan Eriksson from Eriksson Electric. He knows his stuff. Ryan can make sound recommendations but he also believes in respecting the customer’s comfort level. He has a mind for saving on costs when possible. He believes in embracing modern technologies. Ryan replaced three ceiling light fixtures in my home over the past few days. He recommended LED-based fixtures that not only looked great, but are environmentally and budget friendly. Ryan will let his customers buy their own equipment at Home Depot if they choose. He even accompanied me on a trip to Home Depot on Friday and did not charge me for the time. I cannot say enough good things about him. You can call or text him at 860-236-4352. You can check out Eriksson on the web at http://erikssonelectric.com/
2. Dropbox — is probably my #1 favorite computer based service of all time. I have been a user since 2008. At times I have used the free account and at times I have been a paid customer. Dropbox gives you 2 GB of storage for free. Through various “bonuses” I have accumulated from them over the years, I have a 7 GB of storage on my free account. After a quick installation, Dropbox will show up as a folder on your Windows or Mac computer. Within it you can put multiple sub folders to store your files. The beauty of Dropbox is that it isn’t really a backup service although you can use it to back up your files. Dropbox is a file synchronization service. That means if you put a document titled “Vacation Plans” in your Dropbox folder on your Mac / PC, you can also view that document on your iPhone, Android phone, or iPad where you have the free Dropbox app installed. You can also easily share files from Dropbox. Dropbox has never let me down. Get started at https://www.dropbox.com/
3. One Drive — Dropbox is not the only game in town for online file storage and synchronization. One Drive is Microsoft’s answer. It can work on all of the device types that Dropbox works on (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android). One Drive does have a key advantage. At https://onedrive.com you can see your files that you have save, but you can also create and share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents right there in your web browser. The online version of Microsoft Office is about 70% as feature rich as the desktop version of Office, but its so convenient. It probably good enough for most consumer use cases. And its free. Maybe you don’t need to buy Office the next time you are required to. You may be able to get by with https://onedrive.com .
4. Google Drive — I should also mention Google Drive which is most comparable to One Drive. If you have a Google / Gmail account, you should check out Google Drive. It is an online storage and sync service, but that’s not all. You can also create and share documents using Docs (Word equivalent), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint). As with One Drive, you can also collaborate on documents live with other people. If you and I were working on a proposal together, we could both edit using Google Drive. Google Drive was first to the game with this collaboration technology, but Microsoft is catching up fast. Put on your jacket and Drive at https://drive.google.com
My Windows clients are divided. Some of them use a paid, 3rd party anti-virus. The others use Windows Defender which is the built in solution provided for free with Windows 10.
It’s my aim today to end the division. I think for most of my clients, typically age 55+ consumers, small biz, and small non-profit users, the Windows’ own Defender is more than adequate. There I said it. I think that a lot of you do not need to pay to renew your anti virus whether it be ESET, Avira, etc. the next time it expires. The best security strategy is good defensive computing. Your anti virus solution is just a tool, not the tool in your overall security plan.
However, I will offer a caveat. Paid solutions like ESET are a good choice if you like having the comfort of a US based phone number to call when you have security concerns. They have been very respectful to my customers over the years. The only other anti virus that I think may be worth paying for is PC Matic. Some of you may have seen their TV commercials. Unlike nearly every other solution on the planet, PC Matic is an American company. That may mean something to some users. This company also uses a unique approach to block harmful websites. They also offer prompt support.
For most Windows users, the built in Windows Defender will be just fine. Only pay for anti virus if that provider offers something you really want.
Part I — The Hardware
Most of you have data (pictures, documents, songs, and videos) that are important to you. You want this stuff backed up. In addition to any possible online backup / sync services you might be using, the foundation of your backup scheme should be a local, USB connected external hard drive. These drives are cheap and compact in size. You should have at least one and possibly more than external hard drive to back up to.
You can’t go wrong with the Western Digital My Passport drives. Here is an Amazon link for easy ordering. http://amzn.to/2DgHXyE A 1 TB drive will cover basic needs. Get a 2 TB or larger if you have a lot of data to back up. These backup drives should be replaced every 2 to 3 years. If its been that long, order yourself one or more.
Part II — The Software
Windows does not have great backup software built into the operating system. Mac users have a built in app called Time Machine from Apple. However, there are some great utilities for Windows that are available at no cost should you want a 0 dollar option.
First, you have to decide if you want to do a CLONE BACKUP or SYNC BACKUP. You may want to do both. Let me explain. A clone is an exact copy of your hard drive. A clone can be restored from if your computer crashes or dies. Your computer can be fully restored to its last backed up state from a clone backup. It is possible to restore just a folder or a file from a clone backup, but it takes a couple of steps. The main purpose of a clone backup is to restore the entire computer. My baseline for clone backup software is Macrium Reflect. Despite the “Mac” in the name, they are a Windows product. This is the backup software I have installed on many of your computers right now. The free version works nicely for many. Some of my clients have opted for the added benefits of the paid version. https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
A SYNC BACKUP is going to compare files and folders between your computer’s internal hard drive and external hard drive and make sure they are identical. For example, if you have a folder called Documents on your computer with 300 documents and sync it to the external drive drive you will also get a folder called Documents with 300 documents. Future synchronizations will only update the changes that you’ve made. Sync backups are very accessible to you. You can simply go into your external drive in File Explorer at any time to drag files out or work with them on the drive. You can easily restore individual files and folders from a sync backup. It is a drag and drop process. A sync backup is not meant to be used to restore your entire computer. You could also take your external drive with the sync backup and easily use it on another computer. My favorite utility for sync backups (Mac and Windows versions available) is called Free File Sync. https://www.freefilesync.org/
Whether you use one or more backup drives, do a clone backup, sync backup, or both — please back up to an external drive. Buy new drives regularly. Get professional help should you need it.