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Another 2 Seagate hard drives failed....

Another 2 Seagate hard drives failed.... what, again? I hear you ask

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Hard drive monitor software

Yes, your hard drive will fail and all the data will be lost, it's just a matter of time.

Based on my experience, hard drives are the component that fails the most out of all the internal PC components (second would be the internal power supply) especially older style platter hard drives, imagine an old record player spinning the and playing the same record for 3 -5 years 24 hours per day that's essentially what the hard disk has to do. 

You should assume that your disk will fail "at any moment" and strategize your backup, duplication or redundancy strategy based on that assumption.

However even with good strategies in place it can still be still painful and expensive when a drive fails. I have recently added hard drive monitoring software to my standard recommendation for mission critical systems and really any other PC that can't be replaced by a simple reimage, "the accounting lady's PC" is a good example of a unique complex system where a disk failure can be very painful and costly.

My recommended software for this purpose is HD sentinel (https://www.hdsentinel.com)

See the screen shot below for an example of the display you can opt to have this open at startup and or monitor and email is there is any issue. Note also for server's its able to "see through" the RAID array and monitor the disks directly*.

For HD sentinel professional:

  • A 5 computer license is USD $53 (lifetime license)
  • or USD $29.95 for a single PC/server

As always investigations will need to be made about licensing and general suitability for your environment.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.

Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Recovering a deleted file

Every now and then I get asked this question:

I deleted my file can I get it back?

[For traditional drives not a SSD with TRIM...] When you delete a file it doesn't actually delete it at all, it just removes the bit of information from the storage "Index" or "table" that records where the file is located and that it exists.

Theoretically if you use some special undelete software straight away and nothing else has happened on the storage device you can get your file back 99% of the time*. 

HOWEVER: as soon as the bit of info in the storage "Index" or "table" is deleted, that also marks that space free and available to be overwritten with data again. Unfortunately that "nothing else has happened on the storage device" scenario seldom exists so there is only a chance that you will be able to reasonably recover the file. As soon as data is written over that spot on the storage it's a LOT more to get the original file back.

So if you want to recover a deleted file it needs to be done ASAP preferably before you start to write more data files to that storage drive.

There are a million undelete software programs out there some are outright virus\malware, some say they are free but aren't, some you have to pay for, and a very few are legit and free. I suggested testing any new and unknown software in an isolated environment before you start installing random internet software in your everyday PC.
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334 Hits
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Issues with Netflix performance?

Issues with Netflix performance? Check your internet speed direct from Netflix by using this Netflix tool:

https://fast.com/

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1611 Hits
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Don't get scammed, hover before you click...

Don't get scammed, hover before you click...

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1569 Hits
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Laptop purchase price vs satisfaction index

Laptop purchase price vs satisfaction index; Although this *is* an accurate indication of my experience in terms of feedback received, this information is meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek. Make your own investigations and consider your own unique needs and preferences and don't rely on this information for your purchasing decisions.
 

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Office 365 support scam (suspected)

If you receive an unexpected support request or offer for help from "Microsoft" its probably a scam. Here is one of the more sophisticated ones, so much so that I cant tell without detailed digging if it is or isn't a scam (well I have a pretty good idea). This content was contained in an attached PDF.

If in doubt don't click, so I have taken my own advice.

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Router reset?

Just like the IT crowd (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2F1rFmyQmY) sometimes the solution *is* turning it off and on again and that applies to the modem router as well.

We sometimes use various phrases to say shutdown and restart, phrases like; Reset, restart, power cycle or reboot. What is meant by all of these is restart or, shutdown wait a few seconds and then start-up again.

What we DON'T mean is reset the device to factory defaults either via a hardware button or via the web interface.
By the way even if Telstra tells you to do a factory reset don't do it then either unless the helpful level 1 Telstra tech support person is planning to drive to your home or office to re-set it up for you.

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3146 Hits
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Metered connections on Windows 10 post Creators update install

Metered connections on Windows 10 post Creators update install:

For Windows 10 Users on tablets and laptops that connect via phone hotspot or other "low download quota" services you need to be aware that there has been a change in the way that Microsoft handle windows updates over "metered connections"

This page tells us that: 

"A metered connection is an Internet connection that has a data limit associated with it. Cellular data connections are set as metered by default. Wi-Fi and Ethernet network connections can be set to metered but aren't by default. Some apps might work differently on a metered connection to help reduce your data usage. Also, some updates for Windows won't be installed automatically." 

As you can see by the description and by the screen shot below, some updates will still be downloaded even over a metered connection. This is a change from previous versions of Windows and may cause you consume more data than expected especially if you use multiple PCs connected to your "low download quota" service. 

You need to be aware of this and ensure that you have enough download quota to cope with the demand.

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2918 Hits
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WannaCryptor protection check utility

ESET /NOD32 have released a small utility which you can use to check if you have the appropriate Microsoft updates that protect you from the NSA EternalBlue Windows vulnerability which includes WannaCryptor and any future copycat malware that uses this vulnerability. 

You can download at the link below and just double click to run. 

It only takes literally a second to do the check. 

https://help.eset.com/eset_tools/ESETEternalBlueChecker.exe

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2778 Hits
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Every PC deserves a UPS

Takeaway message: ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS, as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches).

Edit: This post was written in 2017 and as such products and pricing have changed. However, the general concept about need for UPS coverage for your sensitive electronic devices remains the same.

ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS (uninterruptible** power supply) as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches). 

A workstation or PC UPS will help to protect against hardware failure, database & file corruption and lost time due to unexpected workstation power off events. Additionally (although not really measurable) a UPS can also significantly extend the life of the PC by reducing the voltage fluctuations that come in from the energy company, and the negative effect that low voltages or "sags and brownouts" have on the PC electronics. 

This is the least expensive item I can find from a reputable supplier: 

CyberPower 650VA Backup Utility Powerboard UPS $88 Link. However my experience with those cheap ones is that they last for the duration of the warranty but not much more, I have had to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the past on support costs for "cheap" UPS units that were purchased to save money. 

A better quality unit would be something like this: 

Socomec NeTYS PE Tower Line Interactive UPS, 650VA $101.00 at last check (plus about $30 freight) Link

A premium product option that should last years and years (with replacement batteries every now and then). 

APC SC620I Smart-UPS SC 620VA $303.00 at last check (plus freight - and they are heavy so it can be expensive) Link

UPS power supply units contain a battery similar to a car battery. Like car batteries, they only last for a period of time. Testing the UPS batteries is an important part of system maintenance.

** The word uninterruptible, is a little misleading. Yes, a correctly functioning UPS will prevent interruptions in the event of a short power outage, if the correct size of UPS is purchased you can expect about 20 minutes of battery backup. Before that time the PC needs to be shut down automatic or manually. The higher the overall "load" the less time you have, or, to put it another way the bigger the UPS (measured in "VA") the longer you will have on battery backup.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.
Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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3528 Hits
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Selecting the default sound device on Windows

Your Windows PC, laptop or tablet can have a lot of external devices plugged in that will play sound here are some examples on just one of my PC's: 

  • 3.5mm stereo socket's (headphones, speakers, even 5.1 surround sound systems)
  • USB speakers 
  • USB headphones 
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Other Bluetooth speakers (There is a trick here as well) 
  • HDMI (often combined with video) 
  • Optical (Fibre optic cable) 
  • Coaxial (RCA) 

To tell Windows where to send your sound follow the steps here

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Good (normal business grade) NBN

Good (normal business grade) NBN… in my office:

I'm posting this because I have heard a number of comments about NBN being not much faster than ADSL2, of course it depends what NBN are you talking about; $20 a month, no brand, speed limited NBN or something more substantial?

The above graph shows that the measured download speed is over 2 times as fast as the fastest ADSL2 (and perhaps 3 times as fast as the typical ADSL2)

Upload speed is around 20 times as fast as ADSL2

My 39 days of no internet or phones during changeover is just a distant memory now (mostly)

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FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data

FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data, your network, your identity and your money. 

  1. Don't be an administrator on your own PC for normal day to day work. Create a separate admin account and just be a normal "user" unless required. 
  2. Don't run outdated software; Old versions of Windows, Java, adobe other apps 
  3. Have a good quality antivirus installed, working with a current subscription 
  4. Don't visit undesirable or illegal sites (or if you must; learn enough to mitigate the risk, run in a sandbox, another user account, a Virtual PC, or another PC setup for this task) 
  5. Social engineering - Be vigilant when opening links or emails, unsolicited mail or other peoples USB drives 
  6. (Bonus) Get a good antispam/antivirus system that blocks you from as many threats as possible before they enter your network or PC. 
  7. (Bonus) Use complex passwords that are unique for your internet services
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Passwords should be unique

"Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online
passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was
breached?"

I'm reposting this article from October 2013 even more relevant today than then... 

The recent Adobe hacker-fest has again brought up the subject of passwords so here is my recommendation... 

There are a full set of password rules and suggestions that are already widely recognised as being crucial for online security, see here for a great article: http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2008/06/the-ultimate-guide-for-creating-strong-passwords that pretty much says it all. 

However, particularly relevant for now, you need to ensure that your passwords are always different from each other, if your Adobe password has been compromised you don't want that same password to have been used for your banking. 

Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was breached? 

If you're having difficulty in tracking all those passwords consider a password manager, there are a number of different product options. I use https://lastpass.com/ which is available in a free version or paid if you want the smartphone apps as well ($12 per year).

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How to logoff or switch users on Windows 10

Finding how to logoff or switch users on Windows 10 is less "discoverable" than it could be, I have made a quick guide on how to do this here.

http://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/34-how-to-lock-log-out-or-switch-user-in-windows-10

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Access your virtual machines/servers

If you are a junior IT admin or an administrative staff member that needs to access the servers on occasion *and* you have Microsoft Hyper-V visualization this article may help: (It may just confuse you more as well, sorry about that if that's the case).

Full details here: http://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/33-access-your-virtual-machines-servers

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2478 Hits
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Australia post malware emails

Beware the current run of Australia post malware emails, see below (this one is not really from Australia post). Remember to hover over the link in Outlook with your mouse before you click, in the screen shot below the link goes to a Russian web site: I expect is some sort of ransomware. Click on the link below to see the full post...

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Bad email reminder

See the following emails below sent on to me this morning which look legit at first glance. A good reminder to be careful what you click on,  see the link on the bottom one points off to a file stored on the sugarsync service. I don't know what this file does but I'm guessing that its not a great idea to find out unless you want the rest of the day (or week) off work.

Well spotted.

BadEmail1

BadEmail2

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Buying office 2013

When you are purchasing MS Office its always been the case that if you purchase the OEM version with the computer (original equipment manufacturer version) the software is locked to that computer and can't be transferred to another new computer when it gets replaced. If you spend sometimes as little as $5 more and purchase the retail version from Officeworks or your local computer store you can install that on your new PC when it comes up for replacement time.

Remember that you can only install retail version software on one PC at a time, there are lots of other purchasing options if you need something different.

Microsoft had a go at changing that licensing for office 2013 but then pretty quickly changed back to what we have traditionally had in the past see here for more details on that:

Office2013XfertoNewPC

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3922 Hits
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Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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