So…are you backing up your computer?

In late 2017 Microsoft released Windows 10 Update 1709.  If you’re a Windows 10 Home user, you were not given a choice to install the update, and may have been subject to some of the issues that this latest update caused.

In the that followed the update we had numerous calls of crashed PCs.  All of them had two things in common.  First, they were Windows 10.  Second, they had just been updated.

In all cases the user data was not accessible.  Although we were able to fix all of them, it was only because we had installed imaging software on them.

Which brings us to the topic of this post:

Are you backing up your computer?

One of the first questions that we ask clients when it comes to their computers is “Is there anything on this computer that you absolutely, positively cannot live without?”.  If the answer is “yes” (which is usually is), we ask how they are backing up.  Most don’t have a plan.

There are several ways to backup a computer, and we’ll discuss each one of them in detail here.

Before we do that, though, let’s break down what your PC consists of.  Whether you’re running a Windows or Linux based PC or a OSX based Mac, your computer has three basic software items:  The Operating System, Programs, and Data.

The Operating System (OS) is what makes it go.  When you push the power button on your computer, the OS starts up.  Programs can’t run without it.  Peripherals couldn’t be installed without it.  Everything depends on the OS.

The Programs are what allow you to do things, like create documents, spreadsheets, edit photos and videos, listen to music, watch music, and thousands of other things.

Data is what you create with programs.  It’s your documents, your spreadsheets, your pictures, your videos, your music, your stuff.  It’s the only item of the three that cannot be replaced, because YOU created it, not the OS creator or the program vendor.

If a computer crashed, we could recreate everything using the OS DVD (or USB) and the program disks.  If your computer didn’t come with a restore DVD, then you will have a problem if the hard drive crashes.  Either way, bringing back the data will be impossible.

So data is probably the single most important thing to back up.  If you do need to reinstall the OS and the programs, be prepared to spend some time with it.

When we setup a backup plan, we offer several different options.

Option 1 – Image Backup – An image backup is just as the term implies.  It’s an image, or picture, of the hard drive.  Using a backup program (for Windows 10 Home we recommend EaseUS Home Backup , for Windows 10 Professional, we recommend EaseUS Workstation Backup – either will work for their Windows 7 or 8.1 counterparts).  EaseUS Backup will allow you to create several different types of backup, including an image backup.

You will need a destination for the backup.  If you have more than 1 computer, we recommend a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.  This is basically an external hard drive that is accessed via your network.  It allows multiple computers to backup to is, as well as store additional data, like music, pictures, videos, that can be accessed by anyone on the network who has the right credentials.  You can also use a USB external hard drive, but that limits the number of computers that can use it as a destination to only one.

EaseUS will prompt you to create a WinPE rescue USB when you first install it.  Make sure you do this, and put the USB thumbdrive in a safe place.  If your hard drive crashes, you’ll need this to restore your PC.

Option 2 – Data Backup – A data backup is a backup of all of your “stuff”, but not your OS or your programs.  EaseUS does offer an option to backup only data, which we recommend in addition to the image backup.  This lets you restore just a single file or folder if you accidentally deleted it.  An image backup restores the entire computer.  Data backup just restores files and folders.

Option 3 – Cloud Backup – The cloud has become part of every computing environment, from enterprise, or business level, to home level.  You’re already using the cloud, whether you realize it or not.  Most smartphones use the cloud to store data, with iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive being some of the more popular cloud applications and storage sites.

In a nutshell, the cloud is storage space on someone else’s network that is accessible only via the internet.  You can’t get to your stuff unless you’re online.  If something happens to your computer your data is not lost because it’s on the cloud.

Our favorite cloud backup system is iDrive.  It’s relatively inexpensive ($79 per year), fully automated, and gives you plenty of storage space (2 terrabytes, which equals 2000 gygabytes, which is more than enough for all of your photos, videos, music and documents).

Once you install the program, it backs up on a schedule that you determine (ours runs at 10:30pm daily) and, once the initial backup has been done (which could take days, depending on how much data you have, and what your upload speed is), it only backs up what has changed since the last backup.

Oh, and it’s not limited to just your computer’s data.  You can backup as many computers as you have, your tablet or iPad, and your smartphone, as long as the total of all the data is under 2 terrabytes (you can always buy more space, but it’s unlikely you’ll need it).

What method should you use?

We use all three.  We have a NAS, and we backup an image and data, and we use iDrive.  We can restore an entire computer, or just a file.

You should use whatever will prevent you from ever having to say

To sum it up…

It’s really pretty simple to get your system backed up, especially if you use the methods we listed.  However, if you need help, or if you didn’t backup and now you need to get your data off your hard drive, contact PCMDX today.  We’ll come to you and get your “stuff” back.

 

 

 

The Art of the Trojan

“Hi, I think my computer has been hacked.  Can you help me?”

This is probably the most common call we receive from PC clients on a weekly basis.  The correct term is most likely not “hacked”, but “infected” with some sort of malware, or malicious software.

Malware comes in many different varieties, including viruses, worms, and Trojans.  The main difference between these is that a Trojan needs your help in doing its job.  Without you doing something, like clicking on a link or opening an e-mail, the Trojan is completely harmless.

Here’s a great article detailing what a Trojan is, and how it works.

Now, how do you stop a Trojan?  The easiest way is to NOT DO WHAT IT WANTS YOU TO DO.  Over the past few days a Google Chrome Trojan has been making the rounds.  If you’re using Chrome, you’ll go to a web site and a second window will open displaying the Chrome logo along with “Urgent Chrome Update”, and a download button.

Chrome_scam_8-1-2016 1-43-21 PM_half

Chrome won’t update this way, however, the bad guys are hoping you don’t know that and will simply click on the blue button.  Before clicking on any link, look at the address bar, or hover over the link to see where it takes you.  If you’ll look at the red arrow, you’ll see that it’s on a site called ahtaeeredidit (dot) org.  Does that sound like Chrome or Google (owners of Chrome)?  So what do you do?  First, don’t click on it.  Second, close the window or tab.

If you do click on it, the result will be that you’ll get infected with the Trojan, which can be something that you won’t even realize is happening (your computer becomes a surrogate sender of Spam), to all of your important files becoming encrypted and, unless you pay a ransom to the sender of the Trojan, losing your files.  This is called Ransomware.  As always, we recommend a good backup of your system.

Remember, by hovering over a link you can see where it wants to take you before you click on it.  If it looks garbled, confusing, or simply suspicious, DON’T CLICK ON IT!

PCMDX specializes in both malware removal or, even better, malware prevention.  Using the right software, we can prevent most malware from even happening, including Trojans.  We say “most” because there are new attacks being developed daily, so the second thing we highly recommend is doing a good backup.

We recommend two types of backup.  First, an image backup, and second a off-site cloud backup of your files.  Ask yourself this question:  “Is there anything on your computer that you absolutely, positively cannot live without?”  If the answer is yes and you don’t have a backup plan, contact us today.  It’s cheaper than you think and far less costly than if you lose your files to computer failure or malware attack.