Monday, 25 September 2017

How to protect your PC from CCleaner hack

How to ensure your PC is safe following an August CCleaner attack that affects 2.27 million users.

CCleaner has been hacked, it has emerged, putting some 2.27 million PC users at risk. CCleaner is a clean-up utility, so the last thing users would expect it to do is add malware to their computers.

The malware, which has been present in the software for the past month, sends various data such as the computer name, IP address, and lists of installed and active software and network adapters to a server in the US.

Piriform, the company behind CCleaner, is adamant that no sensitive data has been targeted, and confirms that it has now shut down this server before any known harm could be done.

How to protect your PC from the CCleaner hack

The good news is that Piriform has already fixed the vulnerability, taken down the server and, for those running the Cloud version (1.07.3191) of its software, the update has been automated.

However, those running the standard version will want to ensure they have updated to the latest version, particularly if they downloaded it in the past month.

The affected software is CCleaner 5.33.6162 (32-bit). Users should ensure they are running version 5.34 or higher.

You can download the latest version of CCleaner from Piriform's website.

If you would rather uninstall CCleaner from Windows 10 go to Start, Settings, System, Apps & Features, then find it in the list and select Uninstall.

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How to move to SD card on Android

We explain how to move apps to an SD card, and how to store files and photos on a memory card in an Android phone or tablet.

Many cheap Android phones come with a paltry 4 or 8GB of storage, and even 16GB isn't really enough for lots of apps, high-resolution photos and videos, plus a music library. Fortunately, the vast majority of Android phones have a memory card slot, into which you can slot an inexpensive microSD card.

What you need to know about microSD

Before you buy one, check what capacity your phone will support. Flagship phones tend to accommodate 128GB or higher, but many cheap Androids accept only 32GB. To be fair, 32GB will be enough for most people. We've tested and rated all the best microSD cards.

Once you've got the microSD card, it's easy to set things up so that it becomes the default place for new apps, photos, videos, music and more. You can switch the storage location within your camera settings or Google Play Music settings, for example. But what about the stuff already clogging up your phone's internal storage?

How to move apps to SD card

First, let's clear up something important: not all apps can be moved to microSD, and some phones won't let you move apps to SD at all. This means phones with just 4- or 8GB of internal storage can still run into problems even with a microSD card if you download and use a lot of apps.

Whether or not an app can be moved to microSD is down to the app developer and, sometimes, the phone manufacturer.

The Galaxy S8 is one of several phones that does allow you to move apps to SD, but you should note that those apps won't be available when you remove the SD card. The screenshots below have been taken on a Galaxy S8 and may look a little different to what you're seeing on your own phone, but the process should be largely the same.

To move an app to the SD card select it in the Settings > Apps menu, then tap on Storage. If you are able to move the app to SD you will see a 'Change' button next to Storage used: Internal shared storage.

Here we've selected BBC iPlayer, which was not preinstalled on the phone and can be moved (preinstalled apps often cannot be moved). Also note our screenshot of Bixby Voice, however, which lacks this Change button and therefore can't be moved.

To move an app to SD tap the Change button and select the SD card option in the pop-up menu. You'll see a screen offering to export the app, warning you that you shouldn't remove the SD card while this is in progress. Tap Move. The transfer will then take place.

It's worth pointing out that many free apps are available that offer to automate this process for you. If you're concerned about storage then adding yet another app probably isn't the best idea, but you can always uninstall it once it has done its job.

Move to SD card greyed out

In older versions of Android you may find the option to Move to SD card will be greyed out, as is the case with the Amazon Music app that is preinstalled on this EE Harrier Mini. These apps cannot be moved to microSD.

Format SD as internal storage

Note that some phones require you to set the SD card as internal storage first, before you can migrate any data. The HTC U11 is an example so you'll need to find the microSD card in the storage section of the settings menu and 'Format as internal'. The process will be similar on other phones.

How to move photos, video, music and files to SD

The easiest method of moving files to SD is browse to Settings > Storage on your Android phone or tablet, then look for an option to 'Transfer data to SD card'. Not all Android devices have this option, and if yours doesn't you'll need to manually move the files.

The second easiest way to quickly move photos, video, music and other files to a microSD card is to do so using a PC or Mac. Hook up the phone to your computer via a USB cable, then open a new window to browse its contents.

You should be able to see the phone's internal storage and SD card as two separate storage devices. We're using Android File Transfer on a Mac, which shows the Internal storage and SD card on separate tabs.

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How to speed up Windows and make your computer faster

If Windows seems sluggish, you can restore good performance using these simple techniques. Here's how to make your laptop or PC faster.

When you get a new laptop or PC, it always starts up and responds quickly. But as you install apps, games and fill up the hard drive with music, documents and photos it can slow down and even take minutes to start up. There are many things that can make Windows slow, but you should be able to restore most of its original speed without spending any money at all.

But if your laptop or PC has a traditional hard drive rather than a modern SSD, then it can be well worth spending some money and buying an SSD: it's still the single most effective performance upgrade for most people.

Regardless of your computer's hardware, there are various things you can do to speed up Windows, and here are our top tips.

Get rid of startup programs

Part of the reason well-used PCs take so long to start is because of all the applications and utilities you've installed. Many automatically run when Windows starts up, yet most of them don't need to and should only use up resources when you actually need to use them.

At the right side of the taskbar, click the upwards-facing arrow to display the notification icons. Each is a program that loads with Windows. Some are essential - antivirus software for example - but others may not be. Right-click each one and if there is a Settings menu, select it and turn off the option to start automatically with Windows.

Some programs, such as Google Drive, can be manually started when they are needed instead of running all the time.

To disable all the other programs and 'helpers' apps that start with Windows, press Windows+R, type msconfig and click Ok. Select the Services tab, tick ‘Hide all Microsoft services' and see what's left.

There may be services you can live without and clearing the tick box prevents them from running. For example, Firefox works perfectly well without the Mozilla Maintenance Service.

On the Startup tab (use Task Manager - right-click on the taskbar and choose Task Manager in Windows 8 and Windows 10 to find this) are lots of programs that start with Windows. Knowing what to disable isn't easy, but you can use Google to search for items and see if they are necessary, useful or neither of those.

Check for malware and other nasties

It’s advisable to run a system scan to ensure that there are no erroneous pieces of software causing harm and slowing down your machine. If you rely on Windows Defender for your security then you’ll need to go to the Start Menu>Settings>Update and Security>Windows Defender then in the right hand panel scroll down until you see Open Windows Defender.

Click this and then in the next window on the right hand side there are options to run a Quick, Full, or Custom scan. Make sure you won’t need your PC for a little while and opt for the Full version.

Then click on Scan now. If Windows finds anything untoward it will let you know and suggest ways to deal with the issue.

If you use another antivirus package, such as AVG, Norton, McAfee, or similar, you’ll need to launch the program and find the option to perform a system scan. They are usually very easy to discover.

Tame the visual effects

Windows 10 is quite a pretty operating system, with various animations used throughout. While these visual effects afford a sense of style they can also be a source of ponderance on machines that are a little older. Thankfully they are easy to turn off.

Open the Windows Start Menu and type advanced system settings and select the top result. In the window that appears there is a section marked Performance, with a button for Settings.

Click this and a list of the various visual effects will appear. You can either untick the ones you think might be problematic, or simply select the Adjust for best performance option at the top. Remember to click OK to save the changes.

Reinstall Windows

The ultimate speed-up technique is to reinstall Windows. This removes all unwanted software that slows down the PC, erases adware and other malware, clears out junk files and so on.

A Windows disc is needed for old versions of Windows, but Windows 8 and 10 have a built in Refresh option that makes the job easy. In Windows 8 bring up the Charms bar on the right side of the screen and click Settings, Change PC settings.

Click Update and recovery, then Recovery. Under Refresh your PC without affecting your files, click Get started.

In Windows 10, click the cog icon on the Start menu to bring up the new Settings app. Click Update & security, then choose Recovery from the menu on the left. You'll see the 'Reset this PC' option on the right.

Free up disk space

Your PC's hard disk slows down as it fills up and uninstalling software helps to free up space giving more room for Windows to work faster. Disk space can be freed up in various ways, and we've written a full guide to finding and deleting large and duplicate files.

You can delete files manually, or install a utility (we recommend some in that guide) to do a deeper search and make the job quicker and easier. There's a right way and a wrong way to use these programs, though.

Select just a few items and clean them, making sure the app backs up the changes. If the PC is working OK, go ahead and clean a few more items, but if it isn't, restore the backup. Do not clean everything in one go because if something goes wrong you won't know where the problem is.

Upgrade your hardware
All of the techniques discussed so far for speeding up the PC take you only so far. They restore the original PC's performance, but this may not be sufficient. An old PC might not be capable of running the latest game or other software you want to use. A five year old model will struggle with the latest games, apps and operating system. For this reason, a hardware upgrade may be required and this will boost the PC's performance beyond its original specification and narrow the gap between your current PC and the latest ones.

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

4 Ways to Take Better Care of Your Laptop’s Batteries

1. Don’t get too attached.

When you plug your laptop in for the first time, you should make sure to fully charge it once to calibrate it. But after that, aim to keep it between 40 and 80 percent. Apple’s customer care says you should do this to “keep the electrons in it moving occasionally.” Wired has a better explanation of whyhere. But the bottom line is, doing this can help prolong your battery life by as much as four times.

I know that’s easier said than done. Just remember to keep an eye on your battery percentage (usually shown in a corner of your screen) throughout the day. If you leave your laptop at home, then shut it down, close it and keep it unplugged on a desk, not a couch.

You should also fully charge and discharge your computer’s battery at least once a month. Set a reminder on your phone or something. You forked over what I assume to be a ton of money for this thing, so paying attention to it once a month shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Stay cool.

Most modern laptops are made with lithium-based batteries, which should be stored in temperatures between 50 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You might not always be able to keep tabs on that sweet spot, so to make things a bit simpler, room temperature is fine.

That being said, there are a few ways you can make sure your laptop isn’t constantly having menopausal hot flashes. You should start by minding its air vents. Most MacBook vents are located on the back of the laptop, near the top of the computer. Whenever you prop your laptop up on your bed, couch or lap, you’re likely blocking the airflow. This, in turn, causes the computer to overheat. And overheating will screw up your battery life.

That’s not to say you should be completely paranoid about keeping it on flat, cool surfaces all the time. But maybe consider moving it to a desk before you fall asleep or head to work.

3. Update, update, update.

Most companies are constantly looking for ways to improve battery life via software updates. In fact, it was one of the main things Apple touted in its OS X Mavericks release last year. You may fear change, but change can extend your battery life. So make sure you have the latest software installed on your computer.

4. Don’t just leave it there.

Maybe you’re in trouble with the law and need to disappear for six months. We understand how these things go. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for correctly storing your computer. You should store it with a 50 percent charge in a consistently cool area. Storing the computer with a fully discharged battery might ruin the battery forever. And storing it with an absolutely full charge might cut the battery’s lifespan short.

Laptop Battery Care

"How do I extend the life of my laptop battery?" is a question we are frequently asked. It's a valid question since laptop batteries are usually expensive to replace.

First of all, how long should your laptop battery last? 2-4 years is generally acceptable depending on how frequently you use and charge the battery. If you travel a lot and use and charge your battery frequently then you might only get a couple of years at the most out of your laptop battery.

Laptop batteries are usually made with Li-Ion batteries and the very nature of Li-Ion batteries is that they have about 300-500 charges and last at most about 4-5 years (shelf life). They also have a self-discharge rate of about 1% per day so you need to be sure to charge them at least every 6 months.

So how can you care for your laptop battery to get the maximum life out of it?

1.) Always use your laptop on a hard surface.

Laptops are portable and it's easy to set your laptop on your lap or on your bed and use it at your lesiure. That's one of the benefits of having a portable computer. Flexibility. But if you want to extend your battery life you have to watch out for overheating your laptop.

Heat is one of the biggest obstacles to battery life longevity. Your laptop computer fan cannot circulate the air properly when your laptop is sitting on soft surface.

2.) Do not keep your laptop battery installed when you use your laptop on AC for an extended period of time.

While your laptop is undoubtedly using a smart charger to charge your battery even a constant trickle charge over months can reduce your battery life. For best results, only charge your battery when you need to charge it, don't leave the laptop battery plugged in all the time.

More importantly than the trickle charger affect is the 'storage' of a Li-Ion battery at elevated temperatures. The optimum storage temperature for a Li-Ion battery is at 0 deg. C. The optimum storage charge level is about 40%. Unfortunately we tend to store fully charged and at the temperatures found in a running laptop you'll find a significant reduction in battery performance after only 12-18 months.

3.) Use a full charge cycle before recharging

Li-Ion and NiMH batteries (which most laptop batteries are), do not have a memory which you might find in NiCad batteries. However, each chemistry has a limited number of charge cycles, so use a full charge cycle before re-charging to maximize your battery usage.

Because this may be very difficult to manage, you'll need to consider the cost-benefit ratio for keeping track of how far discharged the battery is before you charge it again.

4.) Be careful where you store your laptop

This goes back to the heat issue. Don't leave your laptop in the car where it can get very hot. Batteries hate heat and your laptop battery will go on strike permenantly if you expose it to too much heat.

Remember that all laptops are not created equal. You may have gotten 4 hours from your last laptop while on battery, but your new laptop might pull more juice to run that gaming quality processor, or the power hogging programs you're running now. Read your owner's manual to find out what you should expect from your laptop battery and be sure to compare apples to apples when purchasing a replacement battery. Not all laptop batteries are made to the same specs. We recommend buying a battery that has at least as much capacity as your original battery (that's the mAh rating), and preferrably the same chemistry as well.

If you simply aren't sure what to get, check with a professional. Our customer service staff are trained to know how to compare batteries and they are happy to help find the right fit for your laptop.

How to improve laptop battery life

There are things you can do to extend your laptop's battery life. Some you might be doing already, but there are others you may not. Here's how to improve laptop battery life.

1. Dim the screen

By far the biggest power drain on most laptops is the screen. Or, to be more specific, the screen’s backlight. This is what enables you to see the colours on an LCD screen, and some older laptops have power-sapping fluorescent backlights. Modern laptops have LED backlights, but even these use a fair amount of juice.

Dimming the screen brightness can add 30 minutes or more to your battery life. Virtually all laptops have keyboard shortcuts to adjust the brightness. Typically, you’ll hold the Fn key and press one of the function keys in the top row, or one of the cursor keys labelled with a sun symbol.

If not, hold the Windows key and press X. This will open up the Mobility Center where you can change the brightness, and this works in all versions of Windows.

2. Change the power settings

By default, your laptop might be set to Windows’ ‘Balanced’ setting rather than Power Saver. In the Control Panel search for Power Options and check which Power Plan is selected. Don't forget that Windows uses different power and performance settings depending on whether it is running on mains or battery power.

You should find a battery saver option, and it's simply a case of selecting it and closing the window. If not, click on 'Show additional plans'. If there's still nothing, you can customise a power plan by clicking Change plan settings next to a profile.

You should set the screen to turn off after a couple of minutes, and set the laptop to sleep if nothing appears to be happening after five or 10 minutes.

If you delve into the advanced power settings, you can tweak things to your liking, setting when the system hibernates and which components should use their maximum power saving profiles (including, on some laptops, the graphics card and Wi-Fi adapter).

3. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

If you’re not using them, disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Both radios can use a fair amount of power, so it makes sense to turn them off when you’re on battery power. Most laptops have a switch or key combination to disable Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth can be trickier.

4. Don’t leave your laptop on permanent charge

Lithium-ion batteries are relatively clever in that they can’t be overcharged, but it’s not good for the long-term health of your battery to leave your laptop always plugged in to the mains. Some manufacturers (including Sony and Lenovo) provide a utility which limits the battery from fully charging.

This helps to prevent battery degradation and means you can leave the laptop always connected to the mains. When you want to use your laptop on battery power and get maximum battery life, disable the limiter and allow the laptop to charge to 100 percent.

5. Disconnect remove unnecessary peripherals

Leaving a disc in your DVD drive is a sure way to reduce battery life, as it might spin up whenever you launch a Windows Explorer window or access the Save option in an application.

Any USB accessories you leave connected, such as portable hard disks or USB web cams will also draw power, so disconnect them if they’re not needed.

6. Get a second battery

We mentioned this at the start, but why not invest in a spare battery? They’re available for many laptops, and you might even find that your laptop can accept a higher-capacity than was supplied originally.

Other laptops allow you to remove the CD or DVD drive and install a second battery in its place.

If your laptop doesn't have a removable battery then consider buying a universal laptop battery that comes with a variety of ‘tips’ to suit just about any laptop. You simply charge it up, choose the appropriate tip and connect it to your laptop’s power socket when the internal battery runs low. The external battery charges the internal battery or, if you remove the internal battery, powers the laptop directly.

7. Buy a new battery

Contrary to popular belief, laptop batteries are consumables – like printer ink. Batteries aren’t designed to last the lifetime of the laptop, and that’s why – if you check the small print on the warranty statement – you’ll probably find that the battery isn’t covered, or is guaranteed for a shorter period than the laptop.

8. Upgrade to an SSD

Mechanical hard disks, which are still common in laptops, require a fair few watts to spin their platters. A solid-state drive, on the other hand, uses less power as it has no moving parts.

9. Switch to internal graphics

If your laptop has an AMD or Nvidia graphics chip, there’s a good chance it will also have integrated graphics (usually Intel). In theory, it should be set up so the powerful graphics chip is only used when playing games or running demanding applications, but you should check whether this is the case.

As with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, manufacturers sometimes offer a utility to manually switch between graphics chips. You may have to reboot, but most modern designs allow you to switch on the fly.

10. Manage your memory

If you’re the sort who has 10 or even 20 tabs open in your web browser, you’ll benefit from longer battery life by culling those tabs. The same goes for running lots of applications at the same time.

When you run lots of programs, or have lots of photos open in an editor, you’ll use up all the free system memory. Anything extra has to be ‘paged’ to the hard disk, which as we’ve said, is a mechanical device in many laptops.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The iPhone 8 back glass is more expensive to fix than the screen

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus' most obvious design change is the switch to a glossy, glass back. There was a chance this glass would be priced at or around the same price as a cracked screen under AppleCare+, but that's apparently not the case: AppleInsider confirmed today that a broken back won't qualify for a $29 screen replacement. It'll instead be subject to an "other damage" fee of $99 (plus tax).

Apple gives users two screen replacements and two miscellaneous damage incidents at the $29 and $99 price respectively. After that point, the damage price jumps to $349 for the iPhone 8, and $399 for the iPhone 8 Plus. So basically, don't crack your phone's glass or else you're going to be dishing out lots of cash. AppleCare+ costs $129 for the iPhone 8 and $149 for the iPhone 8 Plus.

We don't have pricing for the iPhone X’s repairs yet. We know Apple will charge $199 for its warranty program, but the company hasn't said how much it'll charge for a screen replacement or broken glass. We can probably assume a new screen will cost more than $29, as the screen is already supposed to be somewhat limited in supply. Cherish the original screen or pay up, I guess.

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