Monday, October 21, 2019


Updates Are Coming. Is your computer ready?

Windows 10 computers will be receiving the next version update 1909 beginning with the November update cycle, starting November 12. It's not likely your computer will try installing 1909 on the 12th, but you should see it within the first month. If you've paused updates nothing will happen until after the pause date.
Be sure your Windows 10 computer already has version 1903 installed, which should have happened sometime between last spring and now. To check your current version, type the word about in the "Type here to search" box, then click on About your PC. Look under Windows specifications, then version. If it's anything other than 1903, check for updates and let the update start.
If your computer is still using Windows 7 it will still receive security updates until January. After then there will be no further Windows 7 updates and you'll be on your own to protect your computer, your data and your identity from security issues. Adding more (third-party, paid or otherwise) security won't be the answer. Upgrading to Windows 10 or replacing the computer if it's more than 3 years old is the next step.
I'm doing price, specification, and availability surveys on new equipment almost every day now. Prices and availability change almost by the hour. If you'd like current information on what's involved in replacing your computer contact me anytime.

Cathy Contant 315-573-4905

Friday, June 28, 2019


I've had a long-time love affair with CCleaner, and installed and used it on countless computers for many years. I've insisted you all use it, too, but things change and technology improves and it's time to say goodbye to CCleaner.
Background: For some time I've been unhappy with the default settings and the fact there's no internal updater so in order to use the current version you have to download and install it again - which many times resets the default settings to always run in the background, among other annoyances. Like, tricking you into installing third-party software such as Avast - which is no longer necessary but completely understandable when you realize Piriform (CCleaner's developer) was acquired by Avast.
As a free tool CCleaner has performed flawlessly, removing temporary files and cookies and making you feel good about scrubbing your computer. The free version exists mainly to trick you into paying for the "Pro" version - a tactic of many developers and quite justified. Nobody gives away their hard work and long-developed product without hoping for a return. We've skirted their generosity for years (I did pay for my own, however, because they earned it).
But the program became more aggressive, more intrusive and sloppier as versions were pumped out. With Windows 10's tools and better system management CCleaner's usefulness has been effectively neutralized. We've long-known removing cookies and temporary files actually slows down the computer for a short while as these files are rebuilt; we chose to ignore it, telling ourselves cleaning them out was better than not. Optimizing the Windows Registry has become a totally useless endeavor - Windows 10 does a tremendous job now, and has for years.
And who hasn't cursed CCleaner and me in the older days because they had to re-enter their login names and passwords after running CCleaner? I always considered it a good thing, to know and use your current logins and passwords, but for some reason it sent people over the edge at the thought of typing their email address and password in order to get back into Facebook and email. Sheesh.
So, now what? Now, in Windows 10 we simply turn on and configured Storage Sense and let it do the job. BE SURE to configure Storage Sense to never clean your Downloads folder if you save anything of importance there. 
CCleaner - you've been a good and faithful friend, but it's time to move on.
Questions? Want help? Contact me here or at or text or call 315-573-4905

Cathy Contant June 24 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019


Have you received a scary email saying your computer, your email and/or your passwords have been hacked, and you need to follow instructions to pay up or things will get worse? Stop the madness and read on.
First, calm down. You probably haven't been hacked, there's likely no keylogger installed on your computer, and your porn-surfing habits won't be exposed to the masses. Ok, I'm not saying you surf porn, a lot of these scam messages that are trying to get your attention say so. Key word being "scam".
"But, they showed me my password! And, maybe a photo from my computer! And, the email looks like it came from me!" Yes, it's possible you haven't changed your password in years, and they're showing you one they bought from a list of hacked information - maybe from a bank, an account you set up online, or a web site you gave your email address and password to a long time ago - and, of course, you use the same password all the time. Stop it.
Next, go change your email password(s). Now. Just do it, no matter how painful - or get some help to do it.
Next, go ahead and scan your computer if it it will help you feel better. Try AdwCleaner, Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware. See? Nothing but run-of-the-mill adware and spyware.
Lastly, keep your computer up-to-date. Install the Windows Updates, the Ninite updates (more on that in the next post), run CCleaner and some malware scanners on occasion. But don't panic.
Here are some links with more information. Contact me if you'd like help, or reassurance, or both.

Cathy Contant  * 315-573-4905 *

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


You've decided to replace your computer, or buy one for someone you love. Great! This is the best time of the year to make the purchase. 

Whether you're looking for a desktop or laptop, the minimum and recommended specifications are the same. If you'd like in-depth information to help you decide on form factor (laptop or desktop), check out my wordy posts from last year. You'll find important factors that are still relevent today. 

Perhaps the biggest question today is which is more important to you - speed or storage space? A computer with a solid-state drive (SSD) will be a great deal faster than the old-style mechanical drives, but will be more expensive and have a lot less storage space. RAM is not storage space; storage is where your data lives - photos, music, documents, etc. 

Now that you know what type of computer you want, here's what to look for and where to find it. 


Many people are interested in using email, going to Facebook, maybe doing some banking, bill-paying or shopping, and looking at some pictures. You may think that's not much, so you don't need anything more than a $300 computer, but here's why you do. 

Before you get to log into Facebook or look at your email your computer is loading programs and checking for and installing updates. That takes a certain amount of horsepower, storage space and time. The cheaper the computer, the fewer horses, the hotter it runs, the smaller the storage space and the longer it takes to start up, load the background apps, then open a browser and go to the place you want. 

What runs in the background? Security software, office suites, printer software just for starters. Maybe you like music running in the background, having your email and Facebook open while you check out Pinterest. To do these tasks without dragging your new computer will need at least:


RAM: 8 GB. 12 or 16 is better, 4 is unacceptable. 
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5 or i7; i3 has long ago jumped the shark. No Celeron processors, and I'm not a fan of AMD.
HARD DRIVE: If you're going with a less expensive, more storage space computer, 500GB or 1TB. If you're ready to step up to fast on/off, fast loading of programs, fast file transfers, faster all-around performance, go for the SSD. 128GB is too little space, in my opinion, unless you truly store nothing on the computer and use online storage for everything (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, etc.
WARRANTY: Typically 1 year. Some "great deals" come with only 90 days' warranty; you can buy more. Also, check to understand how the warranty works. Do they send a technician to you or do you have to mail the machine into a service facility, or take it back to the store for service? You can pay more to get better services. 
BRAND: For reliability, quality and ease of service I like Dell, and have even relented on HP these days. I'm not going to mention here which manufacturers to avoid, but you can call me. If it's made by anyone but Dell or HP we should talk before you spend your money. 


MID-RANGE: For most users. Expect 3 to 5 years' use. 8GB RAM, Intel Core i5-8th generation processor (yes, it matters; 7th generation and below are much slower) and 1TB hard drive ranges from about $500 to $600. Expect a 1-year, mail-in warranty. This will not be a speed demon; it will get you where you want to go. 

BETTER: Faster performance, longer life. 12 or 16GB RAM, Intel Core i5-8th or i7 processor, 256 or 512 GB solid state hard drive - $650 - $800. 

BUDGET: Slower performance, shorter life. Try not to spend your money on anything less than this: 8GB RAM, Intel Core i5, 500 GB hard drive - $400 - $450. 


You can buy good computers online or from a local retailer like Best Buy, Staples or Walmart – and they sell increasingly online. While you're deciding what to buy, also think about the seller. Generally, if you buy directly from the manufacturer's web site you'll get to configure the computer the way you want instead of picking whatever the store thinks will sell. Sometimes you get a better deal (components plus price plus warranty) buying direct. Ask for discounts! At Dell, there’s likely an employee, AAA, AARP or other discount you can get in on. Sometimes you find a great buy at a big box store - but only if you know what your minimum requirements are and stick to them.   

If you buy your new computer at a retail store you're likely to get a sales pitch for additional software, services and warranties. You don't need to buy any additional software (unless you insist on Microsoft Office or QuickBooks, etc.) and you don't need any additional security software. Windows 10 includes a decent security software solution and the for-pay suites are unnecessary. See my post on WHY YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY SECURITY SOFTWARE


There’s a lot of stuff on your old computer. How does it get to your new one?
It depends. If you have anything you don’t want to lose on your old computer and aren’t sure how to move files let someone do it for you. Even if your old computer is dead it might be possible to get some data from it.

ASIDE: You *are* backing up anything you don’t want to lose, right? See my post on Why and how to back up your data here: BACK UP YOUR DATA
If you haven’t done any backups and still want your photos, documents and music, let’s talk.


There are a number of steps involved in properly preparing your computer, though you can certainly take it out of the box, plug it in and log into Facebook. It's a mistake, but you can do it. Or, you can pay the store retailer to do a minimal job or I'll do a thorough job for you - and transfer your data and install the computer and printer, if you like. 

If you'd like to discuss what computer might work for you, let's talk. I can help you pick it out, get it for you, transfer the data from your old computer to the new one, install all the necessary updates and applications, create the recovery media, help get your email and other accounts working and even plug it all in for you. Or any part of it. We can even do most or all of it via remote.

This information is the product of my 30+ years' experience buying, selling and servicing computers. No one pays me to recommend their product - which means I'm free to tell you the truth, as gleaned from my service files. 

Cathy Contant              315-573-4905

Tuesday, June 26, 2018



by Cathy Contant -  315-573-4905   Last Updated October 2 2018

Running some simple tasks regularly will improve the performance and extend the life of your computer while reducing popup reminders and likely, your stress. 

I've developed my cleaning and maintenance routines over the last 30 years. 
You can look through the archives of this site and find several posts on how to update and maintain your computer. Like everything in life, things change. Here are my latest step-by-step recommendations on how to keep your computer up-to-date and as safe and fast as possible. 

If I set up or serviced your computer, I installed all the tools you need. Don't be fooled by ads for programs that claim to speed up or clean your computer, or install up-to-date drivers. In fact, think about and research any additional programs before installing. If you find something missing I'd love to know and to add it to my routine installation. 

I use free applications that I've tried and tested for years. While some have a pay and free version, I've found we only need the free version. I avoid the pay versions not because I don't think they're worth the money or the developers shouldn't be compensated for their work, but because the "Pro" or pay versions install themselves to run all the time in the background, using memory, processor cycles, Internet bandwidth and collecting tracking data without providing enough additional benefit to warrant the negatives. Donate to their development fund if you like, but don't allow the programs to run all the time. 
Also see my post on third-party security software here. WHY YOU DON'T NEED FOR-PAY SECURITY SOFTWARE

Microsoft and other developers and manufacturers constantly release updates to the software and hardware that make your computer work. Generally, Microsoft starts pushing out monthly updates on the second Tuesday of each month (aka "Patch Tuesday"). Not all computers will receive the updates on that day; they are spread out over several or even many days. You can check for Windows Updates anytime - see below. First, you should know we're now encountering some issues with Windows Updates, particularly on Windows 10 with huge changes like the Creators Updates. 

The industry has done a great job convincing us to turn off or allow our computers to go into sleep or hibernation, and the default times are set quite short. While this may save some energy, it also prevents the computer from downloading and installing big updates. The next time you turn on your computer it starts again with the automatic updating process - which slows down the computer and confuses and annoys you with sluggish performance.

To avoid this problem, leave your computer on and connected to the Internet for at least an hour on a regular basis. Restart it when prompted to allow the updates to finish installing themselves. And manually check for and install updates so they're not hijacking your computer when you want to use it. 


Windows 10 - type power into the "Type here to search" box (aka Cortana). Click on Power and sleep settings and adjust the sleep time. The screen can turn off whenever you like, but don't let it go to sleep in less than an hour or so. 

Windows 8.1 - click the magnifying glass to search, type power, then click on Power settings. Adjust as needed. 

Windows 7 - click the Start button (lower left corner, usually), then type power in the "Search programs and files" box right above the Start button. Choose Power Options under Control Panel. Click Change plan settings next to your power plan and adjust as needed.


CCLEANER - open CCleaner, click the Run Cleaner button in the lower right corner. When finished, close. Don't worry about installing every update. CCleaner doesn't have an internal updater and must be downloaded and installed new with every update released. It's very easy to click the wrong link and find yourself with a trial of the for-pay version. I'll update it anytime I work on your computer. 

DATA BACKUP - Only you know how important the data you've saved to your computer is to you. Or, how far back you'd have to go to recreate your Quicken file or family history records. You may think your photos are all on your phone so you don't need to back them up on your computer, and maybe that works for you. Data backup is a big, important subject that deserves its own post, and 

The short version is, if you'd miss it after a computer crash, it needs to be backed up somwhere. Use Carbonite or another online backup service, an external drive, Dropbox/OneDrive/iCloud/Google Drive or best, a combination of all three. 


NINITE UPDATER - Run this 2 or 3 times monthly. If I've worked on your computer you'll find the Ninite Updater shortcut on your Desktop or in the Service folder. Open it, give it permission to run, and let it update a whole list of common, basic applications installed on your computer. It won't install any third-party software, won't ask you to make any decisions and works beautifully. If you see a popup to update Java, close that message and run Ninite instead. The Java popup updater might trick you into installing a toolbar, security scan or other software you don't want nor need. 

MALWAREBYTES (MBAM) - open Malwarebytes, click Scan on the left, then click Start Scan. If it finds anything allow the program to quarantine and then run SuperAntiSpyware. 

SUPERANTISPYWARE (SASW) - open SuperAntiSpyware (I know, dumb name - but good product). Click the link that says "Click here to check for updates" and allow the updates to download and install. Then click Scan this computer and choose either Quick Scan or Complete Scan. If it finds any Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs), click the boxes to delete them. If it finds only cookies, that's good - delete them. 

If MBAM and SASW find and quarantine anything other than cookies we should talk - and possibly run more tools to further clean your computer. 
MANUFACTURER UPDATES - Most manufacturers have recently been releasing more hardware (driver) updates and BIOS updates. Conventional wisdom in the past told us to leave everything alone unless there was a problem. That's no longer the case. Processors have been compromised and these updates help close the security holes. 

DELL: If you have a Dell computer you should find SupportAssist in your Programs. There is a recent update to SupportAssist itself, and if yours is unresponsive it needs to be removed and the new version installed. If SupportAssist is running properly you'll see a notice offering to run a system checkup where drivers are checked for newer versions and other optimization tasks are run. Do allow this to run and install the new drivers if found. 

HP: HP's support helper is called SupporAssistant, and runs pretty much as Dell's version. Run it, allow any new software to install, and read the messages. 

Other manufacturers may provide an automated update assistant; check your programs for a folder with the brand of your computer and run it if found. 

Check for and install Windows updates at least monthly. If you see a shield on the power button, allow the updates to install and shut down the computer. Don't wait - things tend not to work right while the system is waiting to install updates and restart. 

Windows 10 - type updates into the search box, then click Search for updates. Click the check for updates button and allow anything found to install. Restart if prompted.

Windows 8.1 - click the magnifying glass, type updates and choose Windows Updates. Install all. 

Windows 7 - click the Start button, scroll to Windows Updates and follow the prompts. 


TUNE UP - Have your computer serviced at least twice yearly. I can connect to your computer via remote a lot easier than you can drag it back and forth to my office and a lot less costly than having me sit in your living room for a few hours. If you do drop it off I can run more thorough tests and cleaning overnight - but for a periodic checkup, remote works for most of us. 

That's it - a few things you can do to help your computer run better. if you have questions about any of these items please contact me and we'll discuss. I don't charge to talk with you; I'd rather prevent a problem than fix it. 

If you know someone who's struggling with their computer or could use this information I'd be glad to have you pass it along or have them contact me. 
Text, email or call anytime. I'll get back to you as soon as possible. 

Thanks to all for your continued patronage!

Cathy Contant

Monday, June 4, 2018


If you're using Windows 10 and have installed the recent April 2018 Creators' Update, you may be seeing a warning about your Drive E or Drive F is low on disk space. Don't panic - it's a known issue and can be quickly solved. Or, you can wait for Microsoft to install a patch. 
Here's how you can fix it. If it looks like you don't want to do this, contact me and I can do it for you remotely.

Cathy Contant 315-573-4905

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Are you wondering if you should reboot your router after all the warnings about VPNFilter malware? Quit wondering and just do it.
It's simple, it takes less than ten minutes, and you should be rebooting it anyway every once in a while. Here's how:
1. Unplug the power cord from the back of your cable or DSL modem.
2. Unplug the power cord from the back of your router.
3. Wait two minutes, then plug in the cable or DSL modem.
4. Wait two more minutes, then plug in your wireless router.
5. Wait five minutes or so, then go back online.
HOWEVER - rebooting isn't enough to fully protect your devices. You also need to turn off remote administration, and change the router admin password (NOT the WIFI password), and install the latest firmware. If I've worked on your router lately you should already have the latest firmware. If you don't know, it's easy to check - contact me for more info or look it up at the manufacturer's web site.
Still wondering whether you should be worried? Check your modem manufacturer and model number against the list of those known to be affected. In the Ukraine.