Scareware and Computer Scams

What is scareware, and what does it do? Since the beginning of this year, our computer repair shop alone has helped at least 10 people who fell or almost fell victim to scareware attacks. In short, scareware is a form of computer attack that online scammers use to scare a computer’s user.  Have you ever had a random popup on your computer saying that your computer is compromised, so you must call or click on something to “fix” the problem? That is scareware. Online scammers first attack the computer’s user using scare tactics to gain access to the user’s computer. So, they often use popups like the one you can see in the image and video below. You can only combat scareware by understanding how it works, and that is the purpose of this article.


Online Scams & Popups

Scareware has evolved over the years. Most anti-viruses are quite effective today in terms of blocking malicious software if the virus definitions are up to date. Also, most users are cautious about what they download from the internet today than 10 years ago, as far as I can tell. In the past, you had to download malicious software first before you had a fake anti-virus popup, saying that your computer was infected.

The goal of scareware has always been to trick the user into taking some action, which included purchasing a fake anti-virus, or to run code that would further compromise your PC, and so on. Today, however, you don’t have to download anything to get a malicious popup on your PC or Mac computer. All it takes is an outdated web browser or a malicious web browser extension for malicious code to exploit your system’s weaknesses, including your system’s notifications. As you can see from the image above, the graphics design on this popup is very convincing! Remember, online scammers are not afraid to use logos from legitimate companies like Microsoft, Amazon, UPS, etc., to look legit.

How Scareware Scams Work

If you see a random popup like the one shown in the image above, know that it’s a scam. Do not, I repeat, do not call the number provided. Go to your trusted local computer repair shop instead to get your PC checked. Otherwise, you can lose thousands of dollars if you panic and make that call. According to customers that we have helped after such scams, here are the main points of how these scams work:

  • They saw the popup, believed it was Microsoft and panicked.
  • They called the number. The “tech support technician” told them not to hang up, not to turn off the computer, or call anyone because their phone was hacked too. In other words, they used more scare tactics to gain compliance from the user.
  •  The “technician” had the unsuspecting victim download software used to access another computer remotely and took over control of the victim’s computer.
  • The scammer would go through some technical charades to convince their victim that there was a serious threat to their personal or financial information. Therefore, they were “so lucky” to be getting the help they needed.
  • When it was time for the victim to pay, the scammer had them pay through a Bitcoin ATM machine or some other untraceable forms of payment like prepaid gift cards, etc.

The Financial Damage

Scareware scams cost people thousands of dollars in financial losses. Popups like the one you see above bypass your security software by getting the user to act. If you only do a virus scan, you may not find anything wrong. The attacker often uses legitimate software to gain access to the victim’s computer. So, if you were a victim of such a scam, you must have your local computer shop clean your computer to make sure it’s safe to use. Otherwise, your computer is not safe to use. If you want to know more about how to protect yourself from online scams check out my Computer Security for Home Users article on this website. Sadly, scareware attacks often victimize our senior citizens. So, if you find this information useful, help us spread the word to help them protect themselves online!  

Preparing Automatic Repair Loop

Is your computer stuck in the dreaded “Preparing Automatic Repair” loop? Don’t smash it yet, there might be hope.  When your PC goes into a repair loop, the first thing you want to do is not panic. If you don’t have a backup or any recent back up of your PC, there might still be a way to recover your files. So do not take any drastic measures. Take your computer to your trusted computer repair shop for troubleshooting instead.

Automatic Repair Loop

Repair loops may start with a message that your system did not start up correctly, or blue screen errors before attempting to repair itself. But even if it fixes itself, you want to have a computer expert evaluate your computer to eliminate the possibility of imminent critical system failures. There are various reasons why your computer can get stuck on a repair loop. Here are the most common reasons why your computer might start attempting automatic system repairs.

Software Related Automatic Repair Loops

We all know that computer viruses and other malicious software can corrupt the system. But what most people don’t know is that third party computer tools like Registry cleaners can also corrupt the operating system by deleting critical system settings. This is why Microsoft advises Windows users not to use any registry cleaning utilities, unless you know what you are doing of course. You can find out more about using registry cleaners here: Microsoft’s support policy for the use of registry cleaning utilities.

Other software related issues that can cause infinite repair loops on your PC are driver issues or Firmware / BIOS misconfigurations, etc. Your local computer expert can help you narrow down the problem and explore the best solution based on what they find.

Storage Related Automatic Repair Attempts

Another reason your computer might get stuck on a Preparing Automatic Repair loop, is hard drive or solid-state drive imminent failure. This is where you need to exercise great caution, especially if you have not backed up your computer. Leaving your computer stuck in a repair loop for too long, or attempting to reset your computer can reduce the chances of successful file recovery. And that is why you want to take your computer to a professional sooner than later. Otherwise, if you don’t need file recovery service, replacing the failing drives and reinstalling Windows can make your PC work as good as new.

Other Hardware Related Infinite Repair Loops

One of the downsides of computers with integrated rather than modular hardware, like some laptops have, is that when a component like RAM, the CPU or GPU goes out, you pretty much need a new PC. If that is the case, a computer expert can evaluate your PC for any possible data recovery if needed. Failure of critical integrated hardware is the worst-case scenario that can cause your computer to get stuck on an automatic repair loop. However, if you have a custom gaming or desktop PC, it may still be possible to replace the failing hardware to get your computer working again. It is always best to contact your local computer shop if your computer is stuck on a bluescreen or automatic repair attempts.  Power down your computer by holding down the power button for about 15 –20 seconds and take your PC to your trusted repair shop as soon as you can.

Computer Overheating Problems

Computer Overheating

Is Your Computer Overheating?

Are you having trouble with your computer overheating? Overheating is a problem that can reduce the life of your computer. So, addressing your computer’s overheating quickly can help to extend the life of your computer. Computers generally come equipped with a cooling system to prevent your PC from overheating. But if your PC is overheating, that can be due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Pet hair and dust: dust build ups (including pet hairs) inside your PC can act like insulation that traps heat inside your PC, causing it to overheat. In addition to dust, if you or anyone in your household vape, use a humidifier, or simply live in a humid area, that moisture and humidity can create sticky layers of dust. Therefore, your laptop or desktop may require detailed cleaning to get the stuck-on dust off. Parts of your computer’s cooling system may need replacing in extreme cases.
  •  Dried thermal paste: thermal paste helps to pull heat from your system. Your PC’s thermal paste can dry up over time due to inadequate cooling or high-performance usage of your PC. The consensus is that you should replace the thermal paste on your computer’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) or dedicated GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), every 2–3 years to prevent them from overheating.
  • Poor configuration of system fans: The configuration of system fans helps to direct the airflow to keep your computer cool. When configured incorrectly, your PC’s fans can impede airflow, causing heat to buildup inside your computer. You can fix this by checking and following the installation guide from your system fan’s manufacture, or you can have a professional do it for you.
  • Cooling System Issues: Not all cooling systems are created equal. If your computer is overheating, and dust or bad cooling fans are not the issue, then your PC’s cooling system might be the issue. For liquid cooling systems that can mean a bad or weak pump. Either way, your PC’s cooling system will need to be replaced.      

More Reasons Why Your PC Overheats

The above are just a few reasons why your PC might be overheating. Computer viruses or multiple processes running at once can also cause your computer to overheat. If you have tried e-dusting your computer or replacing the thermal paste, but still have trouble with your computer overheating, take your computer to your trusted local computer repair shop for service.  

How To Speed Up A Slow PC

Do you have a slow Windows PC? In this article, I will cover basic steps to help you speed up your slow PC. Before you make any changes to your PC, you must be comfortable navigating your computer’s settings. Do not make changes to your computer unless you are comfortable doing so. Otherwise, you may risk disabling features that help to protect your PC. So, if you are not sure what to do, take your PC to your local computer guy. With that said, I want you to know that there are other advanced steps to speed up your slow PC before you get to Windows. However, I will not cover those steps in this article to keep things simple. So, let us get started.

How To Optimize Your Slow PC On Startup

The first step to speed up your slow laptop or desktop PC when starting up Windows is by eliminating unnecessary start up items. As you install more apps on your computer, some programs add themselves to the startup process by default. Nothing except your Anti-virus software and apps that you need to load as Windows starts up needs to be in your computer’s startup items. Having too many Startup Apps can slow Down your PC’s startup. Here is how you fix that:

Startup Apps
  • Go to the search box or search icon on the taskbar and search for Startup Apps. If the search box or icon are not showing, right-click on the taskbar. If you changed your mouse’s default settings, you may need to left-click to show the menu instead of right-click. See image below for visual aid. Navigate down the menu list to search. Left-click on search and left-click on the show search box option if it is not checked already. The search box should show up on your taskbar now. So go ahead and search for Startup Apps.
  • Select Startup Apps from the search results. This should take you to a list of Apps that startup when you turn on your computer.
  •  From the list of Apps, turn off anything that has medium impact or high impact on startup, except your security software and any Apps that you want to load when your PC starts. This should help speed up your PC on startup unless your computer has viruses or hardware problems.
Windows 10 Taskbar
Slow PC

How To Optimize Your Computer’s Drives

Another way to speed up a slow computer is by optimizing your computer’s disk or disks. To use an analogy, a computer’s disk is like a sock drawer with different colored or assorted brands of socks. You may have your socks nicely organized and easy to find at first. But if you stop organizing the socks in pairs over time, it will take you longer to find a matching pair of socks, right? A computer works in a similar way. It finds things faster if the resources that it needs are easy to find. This is the purpose of optimizing your computer’s storage drives. Optimizing your computer’s drives is one of the easiest ways to speed up your slow PC. Here is how you optimize your computer’s drives:

  • Go to the search box on the taskbar just like you do to find the Startup Apps.
  • Search for Defragment and Optimize Drives and select the matching results. The Optimize Drives window should popup.
  • Select the disk that you want to optimize from the list and then click on the optimize button to run disk optimization. This can help to speed up your slow laptop or desktop computer if there are no major problems with your computer.   
  • You can schedule disk optimization to run weekly if this option is not already set by default.
Optimize Drives

If the steps above do not help to speed up your slow computer, take your computer to your local trusted computer expert for additional help. A slow computer can be a sign of a serious computer-related problem. If your computer is older than three years, or someone spilled liquid on it, you want to back up anything important if you know how to do a computer back up. Otherwise take it into your local computer shop. As I mentioned earlier, there are other ways to speed up your slow computer, but those usually require a bit more technical expertise. If you live within Clark County, Washington or the Portland Oregon Metropolitan area and you need help speeding up your slow PC, check out PC Rescue Wiz.

Solid-State Drive Upgrades

SSD Upgrade, A Fix For Slow PCs

Are you tired of struggling with a slow laptop or desktop PC? Do not waste your money upgrading your computer’s RAM. Get a solid-state drive upgrade instead. RAM upgrades seemed to be the “fix-all” solution for slow PCs before solid-state drives. But, with newer laptops and desktop computers coming with at least 6 or 8GB of RAM, if your computer is slow, chances are you do not need more RAM. If your computer is much slower than before, you want to take it to a computer expert sooner rather than later. A slow PC can be a sign of malicious software, or it can be a sign of imminent hardware failure. So, take your PC to your local computer repair shop for service.

Solid-state drive upgrade

Computer Speed Factors

There are three main factors that determine your computer’s speed. They are the speed of your processor (CPU), RAM (data processing memory), and then the storage memory. Before solid-state drives, most PCs used hard disk drives for their storage memory. Solid-state drives (SSDs) entered the computing scene around 2010. Back then, they were quite expensive for not that much storage space, and unstable compared to the hard disk drive. Fast forward to 2023, solid-state drives are very dependable and affordable. Of course, there are other computer performance factors, like caching, network card speed, and graphics processing. But the core PC performance factors are the CPU, RAM, and the Read/Write speed of your computer’s storage.

Why Get a Solid-State Drive Upgrade

Drives are the computer’s storage component. Hard disk drives (HDDs) are the older version of computer storage that use spinning disks to store data. This makes them slow and prone to wear and tear. On the other hand, solid-state drives are made from memory chips which have no moving parts. To put it simply, the performance of SSDs is based on controlled input and output flows of electricity. This is what makes them faster than mechanical drives.

Assuming that there is no malicious software or imminent hardware failure, bottlenecks on either the CPU, the RAM, or the storage memory can cause your computer to be slow. If your computer’s processor has at least two physical cores above 1.8GHz speed, with 6–8GB of RAM, yet it takes 5 minutes or more to start up, the problem is usually the speed of your computer’s storage. So, if your computer is slow, and it still has a mechanical drive, I highly recommend that you get a solid-state drive upgrade to fix your slow PC.

The Benefit of Solid-State Drive Upgrades

Having done so many PC upgrades myself, I can tell you that solid-state drives are as good as advertised. One of the benefits of upgrading to an SSD, if you do not have one already, is quicker start up times. Most laptop and desktop PCs will only take seconds to boot up after upgrading to an SSD. Your Apps will also become very responsive and start up quicker, if not instantaneously. Unlike hard disk drives, solid-state drives are more impact resistant. So, you have much less risk of data loss if the cat or dog decides to jump on your lap and knock down your laptop, or something like that.

SSD Upgrade Service Orchards Vancouver, WA

If you live in the Vancouver, WA and Portland Metro area and you need help upgrading to a solid-state drive, check out PC Rescue Wiz. We offer a free assessment to make sure your PC qualifies for a solid-state drive upgrade. We will also optimize your PC to make sure that you get the most from the upgrade. And, if your drive is accessible, we can migrate your system and data files (as-is) to the solid-state drive, so you will not lose anything. However, if your PC’s current drive is failing, we cannot guarantee that we can get all your files. But you will get nothing short of our best to ensure a successful PC upgrade. Feel free to stop by our shop during business hours or give us a call if you need help upgrading your PC to an SSD.

M.2 SSD Upgrade