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Our Suggestions for the Home User

The focus of this page is really for the residential customer although some of it will apply to the small business environment. We will keep this current as trends develop in hardware and software.

Backup Your Hard Drive

  • The single most important suggestion we can make to a personal computer user is to backup at least the critical data on your hard drive on a regular basis. Mechanical hard drive failure and malware can make your photo collection, music, unfinished novel, letters, email etc.. unrecoverable. Hard drives fail including new ones.
  • People think a hard drive should last for ten years, so why should I worry about it. Everyone has an old 5 gig drive that works just like new, right? Well maybe. But I would not explicitly trust any hard drive even right out of the box. We replace hard drives every week that are less than four years old and even less than six months old. One day they are working (though quietly failing), the next day you go to boot your computer....nothing!
  • The most difficult telephone call to a customer we have to make is to tell them we cannot access their hard drive and that everything on it is probably lost unless a specialized data recovery company can get at it. Data recovery services are expensive and will not guarantee any success. However, we always make sure a customer knows they have this option.
  • Backing up hard drives has now become a critical problem with the widespread use of digital cameras. More people are embracing digital photography versus film-based and building up large collections of photos on their computers. In many cases we are also seeing home digital video being saved to the hard drive.
  • We see large music collections on hard drives all the time, sometimes thousands of tracks. A great deal of time has always been spent on these collections. We are also now seeing movie and television files now that hard drives are getting larger at such reasonable prices.
  • So what to do?? At the minimum backup critical photo, music, document etc.. collections to DVD's or at least CD's on a regular basis. You can also use USB flash drives. The next step is to purchase an external hard drive/enclosure and backup onto it. If you are not sure of what to buy or how to operate it, call us, we will be happy to sit down with you and make sure you your backup device and software is working correctly. The next step is to back up your entire hard drive by making an image of it. Images, when restored, can return your computer to its functioning state and file content before a catastrophic failure occurred. You can do this yourself using either Symantec Ghost or Acronis True Image software (we use both). Alternatively, Blackhawk Computer Services has a backup service available to make an encrypted image of your hard drive on a regular basis.
  • If you know you need to backup your hard drive but are confused by the alternatives, please call us.
  • Improve Performance By Adding RAM

  • One of the most effective steps in improving computer performance is to add RAM to your computer. We recommend 1 gigabyte of RAM for Windows XP computers and 2 gigabytes for Windows Vista computers and 4 gigabytes for Windows 7 computers. One of the reasons that older computers are more sluggish today than when purchased, all other things being equal, is that security software is getting more complicated and requiring more system resources. Beyond that, all computers get loaded up with software over time that users want to use and have access to. This requires more RAM.
  • Adding RAM depends on the number of memory slots on your motherboard, which will be wither two or four for desktops and two for laptops.
  • Adding RAM yourself can be simple if you are experienced or a nightmare if you are not. We have had a customer short out their motherboard with static electricity playing around with the RAM in their computer. If you are going to replace the RAM yourself, make sure you are grounded!! If you are not sure how your computer is configured and need help, call us.
  • All RAM is not created equal; there are clear quality considerations in the purchase decision. We always recommend higher quality, higher priced RAM. It just saves money down the road.