Apr 13, 2016

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For a couple of months, the podcast of today’s show will be here. Recent shows are here.


Paul was in the studio. Glenn was in Richmond but didn’t call in.


Over the years, this show has suggested the use of an anti-virus on your PC. However, Paul had proposed that an anti-virus not be used with the Mac. Though Macs do get viruses they are rare and the cost and effort of using an anti-virus is not worth it, Paul said.

Though recommended in the past, Microsoft Security Essentials shouldn’t be used. Its ability to protect has deteriorated in recent years and has been pretty much abandoned by Microsoft. Windows Defender is not very good either, Paul said.

Once your subscription to the anti-virus you’re using has expired, uninstall it and install the currently suggested program called Avast. You don’t double your security if you run 2 anti-virus programs at the same time and they can conflict with each other. There is a free version of Avast, and the licensed version is a reasonable $19. The free version is good for a year. Avast is rated pretty high for catching viruses.

When downloading Avast, as well as other software, look for a button that says something like ‘customize’. Using it will allow you to select what options are included. For Avast, Paul suggested you select file shielding, updating, and browser cleanup. You don’t need anything else.

When installing Avast you’ll be asked to register the program by providing an email address. Paul said he’s not gotten excessive volume of email from the company but this is good occasion to use a throwaway email address: not one you use for serious emails.

A couple of Paul’s clients have recently received warnings from their anti-virus about a program called Open Candy that pops up ads. It’s not strictly a virus but belongs to a category that Avast calls PUP, potentionally unwanted programs. Paul suspects the site freefilesync.org is what sneaks Open Candy onto computers.

It’s a good idea to occasionally open your anti-virus program and do a full system scan, Paul said. You usually have a choice of scanning just the executable files (ones ending in .exe, .com, .bat, etc.), but do a full scan instead.

Just because the anti-virus finds something doesn’t mean that malicious software is running. It could just be something in a ‘temp’ folder that got cached while you were surfing the web and has been there for a couple of years or more. Paul said he’s not seen an well-known anti-virus remove software that it shouldn’t, when you ask it to correct the problems it’s found, but be sure to do regular backups just in case.

In backing up your machine, ideally you’re storing your personal stuff, the files you created, not the programs used to compose those files (Microsoft Office for instance). What you want to backup is what you find in C:\users on a machine running Vista, Win7, Win8 or Win10.

To find out how big a drive you need to backup your data, right click on the folder C:\users and left click on ‘properties’. The hard drive should be at least twice as big as the number you see under ‘properties’, according to Paul. <He never did explain why>.

He mentioned some of the things under ‘Users’ that you don’t need to backup: temporary intenet files, profile for Firefox, the folder under ‘applications data’ called ‘Chrome Temp’ if you use the Chrome browser

Flash drives are very handy for doing backups, but get brand name flash drives like San Disk, the cheap ones are not worth the savings. You can get a 32gig flash drive on Amazon for under $20, Paul said.

Doing a backup is not as simple as dragging the ‘Users’ folder to the backup drive. There are always some files that are open and are being used by an application program or Windows itself. Dragging the Users folder to the flash drive will copy files just fine until it gets to one of the open files, at which point the whole operation stops and you’re back to square one. The solution is to use a backup program.

Some hard drives, like the ones by Seagate, come with reasonably good backup software. And in the past Paul has recommended programs like Syncback, and Cobian. He now suggests using freefilesync (be sure you don’t go to freefilesync.com). It lets you manually configure what gets backed up.

To configure freefilesync look for the red funnel-shaped icon. It’s the filter for selecting what gets backed up. Paul mentioned some files that Windows keeps open all of the time: ntuser.dat and userclass.dat. Set it so the program does not try to back these up.

Not all flash drives are created equal. Paul suggested getting the fastest drive compatible with your computer. Userbenchmark.com has software to test solid-state hard drives; hard drives, USB flash drives, RAM and graphic processors. <They also aggregate data from the public who’ve used their software and make it available on their site. If you’re thinking of buying a certain drive, check its specs first.>

Paul suggested buying 2 flash drives for backups. Label one A and the other B. Then do a complete backup to each and thereafter alternate doing backups to each. Be sure to keep the drives in a secure place <in separate areas of your residence, in my opinion>.

After you do a backup, <or any time you write to a flash drive> don’t just pull the drive out of the USB slot, eject it first. There’s usually an icon for external media in the system tray (lower right) to ‘eject’ a portable drive. Or you can look under ‘computer’ to find the flash drive in question and then right-click it and then click eject. This will make sure all of the files have finished writing and are closed. Shutting off the machine will do the same thing. This is good to know if you keep getting a warning that the drive can’t be ejected due to it being in use and you can’t figure out what’s using the drive.

After the backup, Paul said take the flash drive to another machine and make sure the backed up data can be read from it.

The USB socket is a bit fragile, he said. Don’t keep anything plugged in if it’s avoidable, especially in laptops. They can get banged around, which can result in a broken connector.

Getting back to anti-viruses, Paul said none of them get any better than about 95% and catching malware because the malware keeps changing and they just can’t keep up. Ransomware is especially pernicious. It encrypts the files on your hard drive and makes them unavailable until you pay a ransom to have them decrypted. This is where it’s important to keep backups. Ransomware can’t touch a flash drive that isn’t plugged into your computer. And if it does get to your A drive backup, there’s always the B drive.

Though this will likely be on the Fleamarket show tomorrow, Paul said someone has a jukebox for sale. If interested call 916-215-6230.

Nick called to suggest that USB drive encryption be a topic on a future show. Nick said he buys USB drives that come with encryption software. The drive brand is Cruzer Micro. He said another one is the San Disk Ultra 3.0 flash drive. He thought encryption is a good idea because the small drives can be easily lost. Paul added that the encryption won’t save you from ransomware. Once you plug in the flash drive and type your password to open it, the ransomware can read and write to it just like any program.

Ron called. He has dead iMac and wants to get the hard drive out of it. Paul said he’ll have to pull the face glass off of it. Paul suggest suction cups which you can get at Grocery Outlet as part of towel hangers: the type that you can suction-stick to a wall. They’re not ideal, use a bit of soap to help them stick. Put one on the front face of the iMac and one on the back face and pull at one corner. He also said to go to ifixit.com to get instructions on how to disassemble the computer.

Scott called from Southern California. He has a Macbook Pro that he got in last December. He said the screen sometimes goes a dark gray and he has to do a “hard stop with the power button” to get it working again.
– It a hardware problem not software
– I may have bad memory chips. Take out the chips and put them back in. Check the site ifixit.com on how to do that.
– Reset the PRAM (programmable random access memory).
– Google the words: reset smc. Follow the instruction to reset the System Management Console.
– Disconnect any peripherals that aren’t vital.
– Scott said he has Apple Care (a warranty program). Both guys agreed it’s a good idea to check with Apple before doing anything.
– Google the words: mac video error. On the results screen click the Google tag called ‘images’ and see if any of the images match what you’re getting.
– Take a picture of problem you see on the screen. The picture with a time stamp will prove to Apple that you’re still within the warranty period when the problem happens.
– The other thing to try is to blow out the computer with compressed air. It may be an overheating problem.

Last Updated 12:10 AM 4-14-2016