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Are Online PC repairs worth it?

I recently purchased from Inkline Global "PC Repair Clinic" hoping to get my computer fixed on freezes, slow response, etc. I installed it and noticed a slight improvement (not significant) in performance but then everytime I turn on my computer I get another sales pitch for "PC Booster" to improve on speed. I contacted them and asked what's the "PC Repair Clinic" for then? I was told that was a Registry fix. I didn't get the booster, then a new booster is being pitched when I turn on my computer - "Modem Booster". It sounds like an ongoing sales pitch to me. Again I didn't bite. What's going on? Do I have to have all these pieces in my computer to keep it running reasonably well? What's your opinion?

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In my humble opinion

In reply to: Are Online PC repairs worth it?

They are all scams.

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I agree

In reply to: Are Online PC repairs worth it?

I agree, and do not consider my opinion humble in any way when I say they are scams.

These forums alone are riddled with tales of woe from people who have suffered at the "hands" of registry fix/clean programs. The registry rarely, if ever, needs this sort of thing done to it. Anyone who claims otherwise is either trying to peddle useless software or has little to no understanding of what the registry is and does.

Then there's a whole other set of scams in so-called performance boosting programs. I don't care what some program claims, a 56K modem is a 56K modem and there's simply no way to change that. Not that it seems to stop a large number of people from proving good old PT Barnum right when he said there was a sucker born every minute. The more impressive (and I use that word loosely) performance boosting programs will do things that you could have done on your own, like some will switch off XP's Luna UI and revert to the Win9x style interface which requires less processing to render. So at best you're paying for an automation program.

Your problem is that you're looking for a magic bullet solution in lieu of having to put in some actual effort to keep your computer running well. No such program exists. Maybe some day someone will crack the computer as an appliance concept, but that day isn't today and won't likely be any tomorrows for the foreseeable future. So until then, there's simply no getting around the fact that you yourself have to put in a little time and effort now and again to keep things going. That said, here's my list of tips. The list of things to do and not to do are what you really need to pay attention to. The rest is optional or supplementary, though probably still useful.

TIPS FOR A PROBLEM FREE COMPUTING EXPERIENCE
============================================

The more of these suggestions you follow, the fewer problems you should have. They won't solve any existing problems you have, but if you follow them all you should be able to avoid virtually all problems in the future.

Things you should NOT do
--------------------------------
1: Use Internet Explorer (1)
2: Use any browser based on Internet Explorer (e.g. Maxathon and MSN Explorer)
3: Use Outlook or Outlook Express (2)
4: Open email attachments you haven't manually scanned with your virus scanner
5: Open email attachments you were not expecting, no matter who they appear to be from
6: Respond to spam messages, including using unsubscribe links
7: Visit questionable websites (e.g. porn, warez, hacking)
8: Poke unnecessary holes in your firewall by clicking "Allow" every time some program requests access to the Internet (3)
9: Click directly on links in email messages
10: Use file sharing or P2P programs
11: Use pirated programs

Things you SHOULD do
-----------------------------
1: Use a non-IE or IE based browser (4)
2: Always have an up to date virus scanner running (5)
3: Always have a firewall running (6)
4: Install all the latest security updates (7)(8)(9)
5: Delete all unsolicited emails containing attachments without reading
6: Manually scan all email attachments with your virus scanner, regardless of whether it's supposed to be done automatically
7: Copy and paste URLs from email messages into your web browser
8: Inspect links copied and pasted into your web browser to ensure they don't seem to contain a second/different address
9: Establish a regular backup regimen (10)(11)
10: Make regular checks of your backup media to ensure it is still good (12)

Being a considerate Internet user & other online tips
----------------------------------------------------------------
1: Do not send attachments in emails (13)(14)
2: Do not use stationary or any other kind of special formatting in emails (13)
3: Do not TYPE IN ALL CAPS (15)
4: Avoid texting speak or "l33t speak" (16)
5: Do not poke sleeping bears (17)
6: Do not use registry cleaners/fixers/optimizers (18)(19)

Offline tips and suggestions
----------------------------------------------------------------
1: Avoid buying Acer, HP. Compaq, Gateway, and eMachines computers (20)(21)(22)(23)
2: Avoid sub-$500 systems that aren't netbooks or part of some limited time price promotion (24)

Notes
--------

(1) Sadly sometimes this is unavoidable, so only use IE when the site absolutely will not work with any other browser and you cannot get that information/service anywhere else, and only use IE for that one specific site.
(2) Outlook and Outlook Express are very insecure, and basically invite spam. The jury is still out on Vista's Windows Mail, but given Microsoft's history with email programs, extreme caution is advised. Possible replacements include Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, The Bat, and dozens of others.
(3) When it doubt over whether or not to allow some program, use Google to find out what it is and whether or not it needs access to the Internet. Otherwise, denying access is the safest course of action, since you can always change the rule later.
(4) On Windows your options include: Mozilla Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Flock, Chrome, and Safari. I would personally recommend Firefox with the NoScript extension for added security, but it the important thing is to pick one and use it instead of IE.
(5) AVG Free and Avast are available if you need a decent free virus scanner
(6) XP/Vista's firewall is probably good enough for 99% of all Windows users, but other options include ZoneAlarm, Outpost Firewall, and Comodo. If you have a router with a firewall built into it, there is no need for any of the aforementioned firewalls to be running.
(7) Microsoft's usual system is to release security updates every second Tuesday of the month.
(8) Use of Windows Update on Windows operating systems prior to Windows Vista requires Internet Explorer, and is thus a valid exception to the "No IE" rule.
(9) Service packs should ALWAYS be installed. They frequently contain security updates that will ONLY be found in that service pack.
(10) You can go with a full fledged backup program, or simply copying important files onto a CD/DVD/Flash drive.
(11) I'd recommend a tiered backup system. For example, you might have 5 rewritable DVDs, and every day you burn your backup onto a new disc. On the 6th day, you erase the disc for Day #1 for your backup, and so on so that you have multiple backups should one disc ever go bad.
(12) Replace rewritable CDs and DVDs approximately every 3-6 months.
(13) These dramatically increase the size of email messages (2-3X minimum) and clog up email servers already straining to cope with the flood of spam pouring in daily.
(14) If you want to share photos with friends/family, upload them to some photo sharing site like Flickr or Google's Picasa Web and then send people a link to that particular photo gallery.
(15) This is considered to be the same as SHOUTING and many people find it to be hard to read along with highly annoying.
(16) Unless the goal is to make yourself look like a pre-adolescent girl, or someone overcompensating for their gross inadequacies, and you don't want people to take you seriously.
(17) Most REAL hackers are quite content to leave you alone unless you make them take notice of you. No dinky little software firewall or consumer grade router is going to keep them out of your system. So do not go to some hacker website or chat room and start shooting your mouth off unless you're prepared to accept the consequences
(18) Most of these programs are scams, and sell you something you don't need. Most of them report non-issues in an attempt to boost the number of "issues". Sometimes using these programs can lead to a non-functioning computer.
(19) The Windows registry is not some mystical black box of untapped performance tweaks for Windows, that will lead to untold improvements in system performance. Most of the tweaks will lead to very modest performance gains of 1-2% tops, and probably less than 10% all combined. There is also a good chance that you will render your system unbootable if you make a mistake when editing. Registry default settings are set that way for a reason. Just do yourself a favor, and forget you ever heard of the Windows registry unless you are a computer programmer/debugger and your job requires knowledge of the registry.
(20) Acer now owns Gateway and eMachines
(21) HP owns Compaq
(22) Hardware failures seem far more common with these brands than can be considered normal
(23) These companies use cheap labor in Asian countries were working conditions are often what would be considered sweat shops, and are run by brutal dictatorships, which you are supporting by buying from these companies
(24) If you just do some simple math, and realize that the cost of individual components like the CPU are around 25-33% of the total retail cost of the system, and everyone involved in the making and selling of the system is looking to make a profit, how much money can they possibly be making on each system. And if you're only making a few pennies on every system, how much quality control do you really think is going to go into the manufacturing process?

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Basic Protection Needs of a PC or Laptop

In reply to: I agree

Your Do's and Don'ts are certainly well received. Briefly can you name the necessary "must-have" for a computer to at least minimize or attack these invasive "aliens" from weakening the defenses of the system?
My computer background is in the old school (Mainframe) and am trying to keep pace with the modern technology of personal computers.

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Jimmy's guide says it all

In reply to: Basic Protection Needs of a PC or Laptop

but if you want specifics, I would say 1 to 4 of his "Things you SHOULD do", and all of his "Things you should NOT do".

But to limit it like that is to say that all other items are not important where they are, as they all count towards protecting our computer.

You may notice that every item listed is about what 'you' should or should not do, and that is very significant. We are the weak links in our computer's security, and we are the ones who let the defences down for whatever is likely to attack our computers.

Mark

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At an absolute minimum

In reply to: Basic Protection Needs of a PC or Laptop

At an absolute minimum, you need some kind of AV program, a basic firewall, and to get as far away from Internet Explorer as you possibly can. The firewall that comes with XP is perfectly fine, and the free AV programs are probably just as good, maybe better in some ways, than the large suites. Think of that like the equivalent of getting the oil changed in your car every so often and maybe rotating the tires. There's a lot more you SHOULD be doing, but that is the absolute bare minimum you can get away with.

As I already stated, there are no magic bullet solutions. My list is a pretty bare bones essentials guide as it is. It will only mitigate the risk of malware and other issues, it's not a fool-proof system. Maybe it's time to consider that looking to only do the absolute minimum is what caused your need to post here in the first place, and that if you had been a little more diligent, things might have been different. When it comes to security, you get out of it what you put in. My list already IS the minimum you should be doing. It's the equivalent of locking your doors and windows at night.

Just a possibly interesting bit of trivia, but the most common failure of home alarm systems, is people forgetting to turn them on.

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ok...

In reply to: I agree

A lot of good advice here, but I'm curious. Exactly how does using Outlook or Outlook Explorer, or any particular e-mail client "invite spam"?

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Simple

In reply to: ok...

Simple... I will admit I probably need to revise that section a little, but Outlook and Outlook Express still quite happily load remote images embedded into emails by default last I checked. So say the URL for a given image is encoded with some kind of tag that is associated with a specific email address in a database on the other end. All you have to do is match the unique identifier to an email address and you know that address is actively being checked.

Lists of email addresses are valuable enough to spammers, but if you have a list of verified "live" addresses, that's worth several times more.

Mozilla Thunderbird I know makes you actually click a button or manually change a setting for ANY remote content to be loaded. Scripts, images, any kind of plugin related content like Flash. All blocked by default.

There are a lot of clever little ways you can get information from someone via email. You could embed a small flash animation which will then report back. Since you've probably cleared Outlook/Outlook Express and Flash through any firewall you might be running, and since it was embedded into the message, not downloaded, it must be safe, right? Virus scanner didn't find anything wrong with it, and since all it has to do is ping a specific URL a single time, it's not like you'll see massive amounts of traffic flowing out of your computer. Even a seasoned security professional could easily miss this easily. These are just a couple of ideas off the top of my head, and I'm not half as clever as some of the people thinking up new ways to invade people's privacy.

It also used to be that Outlook and Outlook Express would load scripts embedded into messages by default, but after about a decade of that particular "feature" being exploited mercilessly by spammers and scammers alike, Microsoft did finally plug that particular hole.

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about that

In reply to: I agree

Actually, most manufacturers use sweat shops so you will be supporting sweat shops whatever company you buy from. And Dell is much worse than Acer at hardware failures.

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Tell that to my brother.

In reply to: about that

A few cracked laptop hinges has them disagreeing with you. At the office we have far more Dell failures but given that 99% of the gear is Dell, any statistician would tell you why this is.
Bob

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Fair enough

In reply to: about that

Fair enough on that probably every manufacturer out there uses some kind of near slave labor in order to provide us with cheap goods. We'll have to agree to disagree on the rest.

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All failures here.

In reply to: Are Online PC repairs worth it?

When my machine reaches the point I need help, it is never accessible "online." These scams are common today promising far too much and leaving a trail of machines worse off than before.

To make matters worse, there are a few that install monitoring software. Why would they do that except to collect the usual passwords and let's be frank here. They are after your money.
Bob

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