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What to do when your hard drive fails

Your hard drive is one of the most important parts of your computer or laptop because it’s where everything is stored. Your hard drive stores all your programs, applications, files and photos, so it can be very stressful and frustrating if something goes wrong.

Almost everyone encounters a hard drive error at least once in their daily life, so don’t panic – there’s still a lot you can do to remedy the situation if your hard drive fails. But first, let’s take a look at some of the common causes and what obvious signs you can look out for.

What causes hard drive errors


Often, a hard drive failure fix is as simple as knowing what caused the problem in the first place. Hard drives come in two main formats: HDD (hard disk drive) and SSD (solid-state drive). Regardless of which type you have, there are a few common causes of hard drive errors that you might run into, and they are:

  • Electronic – this could be from a surge or fluctuation in power, and is one of the more common things to happen.
  • Excessive heat – if your computer is left in the sun or used for longer periods of time without a break, it can overheat, causing damage to the hard drive.
  • Water damage – yes, if you spill liquid on your keyboard and it gets into your computer, it can damage the delicate electronics inside.
  • Faults in hardware – something may not be working correctly in the mechanics of your hard drive (sometimes known as a ‘manufacturers fault’), yet this doesn’t happen frequently.
  • Corrupted files – likely one of the biggest causes of hard drive errors, corrupted files can happen when you don’t shut down your computer correctly or pull out a USB stick before it has been properly ejected.

What to look out for


If you suspect something might be wrong with your hard drive, there are a few warning signs to look for. You might only find a subtle symptom or perhaps something much more obvious like an error message, but when your computer starts acting strangely, that’s likely the first indication that something needs your attention.

Computer slowing down


If your computer starts working much slower than normal, there could be something happening with your hard drive. This can appear as longer loading times when you click on files or your computer might take extra time to boot up or shut down.

Missing hard drive

If you can’t see the computer hard drive on your computer from File Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac), chances are something is wrong. Similarly, if the hard drive is visible but you can’t click on it or see any of the files or programs, there might be some corrupted files at play.

Noises


Pay close attention to the sounds your computer makes when it starts up. If you hear anything unusual, like grinding or clicking, it’s a sure sign that the hard drive is having some trouble working as normal.

How to fix a hard drive


The most important thing to do here is stay calm. Computers can be fixed and parts can be replaced. There are a few steps you can take at home to try and diagnose the problem before you need to call in the experts for a hard drive failure fix.

Read the error message closely


First thing’s first, if you have an error message on screen, what does it say? Sometimes your hard drive starts to slow down when its almost full, so try clearing out your downloads folder and closing down any applications you’re not using to free up some space.

Run a disc checkup


If you can, run a disc checkup. This will look different for a PC and an Apple Mac, but essentially you can use software to scan your hard drive to look for anything that’s not working or isn’t in the right place.

Turn it off!


Computers are durable but still prone to errors from time to time, so if there’s nothing obvious you can spot, turn your computer off. If you try and backup your data or perform other maintenance tasks, it may just make the problem worse. Then, take it to a qualified professional computer repair centre to help diagnose and repair the unknown issue.

Give the Geeks a call – we love a challenge!


No matter what the issue is, our expert team of Geeks have the know-how to diagnose what’s going on and explain it to you in a way you’ll understand. We take computer repairs seriously and offer on-site help Australia-wide. Call us on 1300 642 213 and we’ll get to the bottom of it.


2021 major tech trends to watch out for

2020 was an interesting year, wasn’t it? While we were all challenged to survive the stay home orders, technology was also put to the test. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom – technology allowed us to work from home, stay in touch with the people we care about and helped us learn how to cope with the uncertainty.

As we head into 2021, there are some big technology trends to keep an eye out for. These trends will have a big impact on how we live our daily lives and the driving force for how we manage change in the face of the unexpected.

Working from home

In early 2020, many businesses around the world had to adjust to stay at home orders at warp speed. Changes that may have taken months or years pre-COVID, were actioned in a few short weeks. So as we move into 2021, we’ll be looking for more than just the setup of a home office, but how technology can work to improve security and storage of data.

Cybersecurity

Speaking of working from home, the Coronavirus pandemic saw millions of employees leave the secure office environment and the number of cyberattacks skyrocketed a whopping 238%. Businesses will need to reevaluate their cybersecurity strategies and find new ways to ensure the safety of their data with so many people working from home on different networks.

This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning come in. There’s a strong need for automated tools and more sophisticated tech to help businesses uncover potential threats online. In 2020, Microsoft and others invested heavily into their cloud security and we predict this trend to continue as new cybersecurity threats continue to surface.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We have more data than ever before that can be used to give us insights into human behaviour and help us meet the needs of a changing world. AI can spot patterns in data that we may miss and self-learning algorithms are set to become even more important, particularly when managing a public health crisis like COVID-19.

As more and more behaviour takes place online, we’ll likely see more AI tools start to be used by businesses to learn from their customers. From shopping habits, socialising and productivity, AI is set to integrate into different aspects of life online in 2021 and beyond.

5G network

There have been a lot of conspiracy theories about 5G making the rounds, and in 2021 we’ll start to see exactly what this network upgrade can do. It’s predicted that it will allow for better streaming of virtual and augmented reality, as well as improve the overall experience of online gaming (particularly cloud-based gaming services like Google Stadia).

Essentially, 5G will make it possible for us to do more on the internet and access it faster, from anywhere. AI and machine learning need real-time access to Big Data to run effectively, so soon it may be possible for this to happen anywhere in the world.

IT compliance

When we talk about compliance, we’re talking about what businesses and individuals are doing to follow the legal rules. For IT, this means the measures taken to increase data privacy and strengthen security for IT systems. Data privacy and cybersecurity are some of the biggest risks facing businesses and these trends are predicted to continue.

In order to keep up with regulations and changes in privacy laws, we may see businesses embracing automation and machine learning in 2021. What we may also see is a rise in the need for IT compliance talent, especially at the enterprise level, to address the need for constant compliance which is set to become the ‘norm’.

Multi-Cloud evolution

It’s mind blowing to think about how quickly the cloud evolution has come about. In 2021 and beyond, we’ll start to see cloud alternatives pop up as one of the major trends in technology. We’ve seen the big players, like Google and Dropbox, dominate the market, but other smaller providers are starting to appear, like Aerobatic and Amazon S3.

With the introduction of 5G and increased capabilities across all kinds of devices, it’s natural that we’ll need more robust and readily available storage solutions to handle all the data we’re creating now and into the future.

Get set up for success with the Geeks


Whether you’re setting up new devices or need to update or adjust your current network security systems, we can help. Give the Geeks a call on 1300 599 521 to learn how you can stay ahead of the curve and harness some of the technology trends above for your home or office.


How to fix and reduce a laptop from overheating

We’ve ALL been there. You’re working away on that big monthly report for work and all of a sudden you start to hear what sounds like a fan going into overdrive. Panicked, you pick up your laptop and it’s super hot to the touch! Your computer starts working slower than usual and you even get the dreaded ‘spinning wheel of death’.

Laptop overheating is a very common issue these days, especially considering how many things we now use our computers for. Work, study, online shopping and even binge watching TV shows and movies – it’s no wonder our laptops get hot! Good news is that there’s a lot you can do to make sure your laptop stays as cool as a cucumber (not literally, of course!).

Why do laptops overheat?

It’s pretty simple: laptops overheat due to a lack of airflow to the machine. An older model laptop might overheat because it’s trying to run too many programs at once, but most newer laptops start building heat simply because their vents are covered or something is blocking the internal fan.

Another cause of laptop overheating is a dying battery. We know this sounds dramatic, but many PC style laptops and older Macbooks have removable lithium batteries that can overheat. A key tip here is to always use the battery until it has almost no charge left, then recharged it. Keeping it plugged into power isn’t great for its longevity and can also attract unwanted heat.

How to check if a laptop is overheating

If you notice the bottom of the laptop heating up, place your hand by the vents and check for hot air. If it’s warm to hot, chances are it’s overheating. If it’s cool or neutral, it’s likely to be working as normal. However, if there’s very little air or none at all (and your computer is running slower than normal) there might be dust clogging the fan or it might’ve stopped altogether.

Cleaning the fan in your laptop is a tricky task, especially if you haven’t done it before. We don’t recommend you fix this issue yourself unless you know what you’re doing, so give us a call and we can get on the case!

How to fix an overheating laptop

There’s one sure fire way to fix an overheating laptop: cool it down. It seems simple enough, but your computer won’t necessarily get damaged if it overheats (unless it continues to stay hot). One of the easiest ways to stop a laptop overheating is to keep it on a hard and flat surface. That way, air can continue to flow underneath your laptop and reach the vents.

Another tactic is to invest in a laptop cooler or cooling pad. These handy stands help keep the air flowing while you’re using your laptop, but make sure you get the right one for your computer otherwise it might make the problem worse.

Ways to reduce laptop heat

As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than a cure’, so let’s take a look at a few ways you can stop your laptop overheating before it can start.

Keep your laptop out of the heat

That’s right, keep your laptop away from any sources of heat, including direct sunlight. Your laptop is likely made of a combination of metal and plastic, both of which absorb heat easily. Save yourself the headache and stay in the shade!

Use a portable lap desk

If you like to use your laptop in bed or while kicking back on the couch, invest in a lap desk. They’re great because they often have a cushioned base and a hard surface top, perfect for keeping your laptop away from the heat of your body and that air circulating in and around it.

Get lifted!

Laptop stands, or even a book, underneath your computer can do wonders for reducing overheating. Any object, like the cooling pads mentioned above, that can put some space underneath the laptop is going to help immensely.

Get the fan checked out

It might not be anything you’re doing by using the laptop that’s causing the heat: it might be something inside the computer. If it’s overheating regularly and you’ve followed the steps above, give our Geeks a call and book your computer in for a checkup. We can take a look at the fan, clean it and make sure there’s nothing else funky going on in there.

Is your laptop too hot to handle? We can help!

We’re seasoned experts in laptop computer repairs, including internet problems and hardware upgrades. Give us a call on 1300 642 213 and our Geeks will get you back on track in a flash.


5 key benefits of having on-site IT support

Remote IT support is a popular option for many Australian businesses, but it might not actually be the best one. Depending on the style and size of your business, having onsite IT support services can offer a range of benefits, from time and cost savings, to improved efficiency.

In 2020, remote working is on the rise due to COVID-19 but not all workers can and will stay at home once the pandemic subsides. IT support services are a crucial part of business as they help employees stay connected and do their best work, which also aids in keeping valuable data safe from cyber threats.

If you’re considering IT support, it’s helpful to know your options and to consider the benefits of onsite IT support services for you and your team.

What kinds of IT services could I need help with?

IT support can help you with a whole range of technology, hardware and software setup, troubleshooting and maintenance. Common services include:

  • Desktop support
  • Software installation and updates
  • Data recovery and back-ups
  • Cyber security
  • Network configuration, and
  • Hardware (just to name a few).

Options for IT support services

When it comes to getting help with your IT systems, you have a few options. Many IT businesses offer flexible plans that allow you to scale up or scale down as your business changes.

Remote

A common practice in large corporate offices, remote IT support is where an IT technician has the ability to log into your network from another location and take control of a device to troubleshoot, fix an issue or update software.

Virtual helpdesk

This IT support service is a blend of on-site and remote. IT technicians can be sent out on demand to attend to any IT issues raised by staff. It’s like on-site support but you don’t have to hire someone full-time.

On-site

Often considered the traditional option, having on-site IT support services involves a dedicated IT person who works in your team at your office. They can be outsourced from an external company, or you may choose to hire someone full-time as part of your business.

While remote support may initially appear to be cheaper, on-site IT support services have a number of benefits – so let’s take a look at five of the reasons why on-site IT support might be a great option for your business.

1. Encourages staff to ask for help

When there’s an IT technician on-site, staff are more likely to report issues, no matter how big or small they are. This is important because often the small issues can build up to larger ones over time, so catching the little bugs now can save you time and money in future. Plus, it’s often easier to communicate IT problems in person to someone who understands how your business works, than to someone who hasn’t seen your office.

2. Not all issues can be solved remotely

There’s a lot that can go wrong with IT and not all of it can be fixed virtually by a technician. Some issues require in-person help, like hardware. When a computer won’t boot up or perhaps a wire short circuits, it will have to be fixed or replaced by an IT expert. When you have a dedicated on-site IT support person working alongside you, it often provides another layer of reassurance when things don’t go according to plan with your tech.

3. More hands-on support

Mystery sounds and flashing lights can’t be discovered remotely or virtually, only in person. Having an on-site IT support technician ensures you have a dedicated set of eyes and ears to pay attention to and investigate any alerts or warning signs. It’s also quite difficult to describe strange sounds and lights to someone on the phone or in a virtual help desk, which can lead to misdiagnosis of issues or to further problems as a result.

4. Cost (and time) savings

While it may seem like an on-site IT technician would be more expensive than a remote one, there are advantages and cost (as well as time) savings to be had. One of the main savings is travel – with IT support on the ground, you don’t have to cover travel expenses or wait around for help to arrive. This means that more IT issues can be taken care of faster which can ultimately improve work efficiencies and help the bottom line.

5. Quick response

As mentioned, technology issues can be addressed faster with on-site IT support, but the quick response is also due to the technician already being familiar with your operating systems. They don’t need to spend as much time locating the issue or familiarising themselves with your office – they are already a trusted part of your support team.

Need help with your IT? Let the Geeks help!

We’ve supported more than 58,370 businesses across Australia with our professional and thorough on-site IT support services. So if you’re in a pickle and need ongoing or urgent IT help, we can help. Our fees are transparent and there are no hidden costs – get a quote today or give us a ring on 1300 951 836 to discuss what you need.


What is the best encryption for a wireless router?

Getting online via Wi-Fi networks is easier than ever before, but it’s important to understand the risks of what happens when you press ‘connect’. Whether you’re setting up your network at home or in the office, it’s crucial you take the right steps to set up a secure network for you and anyone else who will be using your Wi-Fi.

The first place to start is with router encryption which is a simple yet often overlooked step. There are some settings you need to be aware of, so let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to get up and running safely.

What is router encryption?

When you’re trying to get onto the internet via a Wi-Fi network, most networks typically require you to enter a password. This is essentially what router encryption is – it makes sure that the Wi-Fi network is secure so that not just anyone can connect. Setting up router encryption involves selecting a few key settings and that all-important password from the get-go.

Why do I need an encrypted Wi-Fi router?

By encrypting your router, you protect your network from anyone you don’t want to access it. It will help to keep your data safe and to prevent anyone hacking your network which exposes your data to a number of risks. This is important for the privacy of your information, especially if you’re working with sensitive documents or collaborating in a larger network.

Your router encryption key (aka your password)

Another important layer to the security of your Wi-Fi network is the router encryption key. You can find this key, typically a long sequence of numbers, either on the bottom of your router or on the router setup page when you login to get started. In simple terms, this is your password!

It’s important to change the default password that came with your router to something unique or even memorable only to you. Depending on the router you have, your password might also be referred to as the Wi-Fi Security Key or a WEP / WPA Key. Changing your password to a strong and complex series of numbers and letters adds that extra dose of security to your network so you can have peace of mind that it’s as secure as you can make it.

What settings should I use?

When it comes to setting up your Wi-Fi network security mode, avoid creating an open network. This means anyone will be able to use it and it leaves your systems vulnerable to attack. If your network is open, anyone else near you can download your documents or personal photos, or potentially access your credit card information and logins for other websites.

WEP

Wired Encryption Protocol (or WEP) is easy to configure and widely supported, however it’s an outdated and somewhat obsolete form of Wi-Fi network security. Steer clear of selecting this option as it’s extremely risky and there are other options that are more secure.

WPS

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (or WPS) makes connecting your devices to your Wi-Fi network easier and faster, especially if you’re a little intimidated by all the setting options. It’s typically a small button on the back of your router that you can push to help you connect to Wi-Fi. However, it’s not the most secure option and only works if you’ve set up your password already.

WPA2 and WPA3

This is the standard encryption for almost all commercially available routers. Originally called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the most recent update is the most secure and it’s called WPA3. On your router settings, if WPA3-PSK (Pre-Shared Key) is available, select this one, otherwise WPA2-PSK will be adequate. Selecting WPA2 or WPA3 with a strong and unique password is the best option for your router settings to make your network more secure than if you chose to use WEP or WPS.

Tips to protect your Wi-Fi network at home

You’re likely doing more work from home these days, so it’s important to pay attention to your Wi-Fi network and make sure it’s extra secure. Here are a couple bonus tips to get you on your way.

Turn off your Wi-Fi when you’re away

If you’re planning on being away from home for longer than a day, it’s a good idea to turn your router off. Not only will this save you on your energy bill, you also shut down any possible chances of a security breach while you’re away.

Place your router close to the middle of your house

What this does is offer equal range to all the different rooms in your home and also keeps the range closer to home. This means there’s less opportunity for someone outside to jump on your network and use it.

Keep your router’s software fresh

Make sure you regularly update your router’s software to keep it strong and buffered against attack. Chances are you may have to do this manually as many routers don’t have an auto-update feature, but it’s something to keep on top of and do regularly for the safety of your Wi-Fi network.

Protect your data with Geeks2U

It’s safe to say that in 2020, cyber security has never been more important, especially with remote working becoming more and more popular. But if you’re struggling to set up your wireless router and need a little help, Geeks2U can do it for you.

Our experts in computer and network security can change your default username and password, enable wireless encryption and set up your own unique network name. Give us a call on 1300 642 213 to get it all sorted.


How to Remove Malware From Your Mac or Android

It’s a popular trope that Androids and Macs don’t get viruses or malware, but that’s incorrect. Whilst they may not be as susceptible to them as Windows PCs, there are certainly dodgy apps floating around for all platforms. If you’re unlucky enough to get stung by malware on your Mac or Android device, here’s some tips for getting everything back to normal.

How to Remove Malware From a Mac

Do you know the name of the app bothering your Mac? You can stop it running by launching Activity Monitor (located in the Applications folder) and looking for its name in the list of running apps. Select it then press the X button in the menu bar. Now go back to your Applications folder, find the app in there and move it to the Trash. Good riddance.

If you don’t know what’s causing your Mac to play up, grab a copy of Bitdefender Antivirus or Kaspersky Internet Security from their official websites. The independent testing lab AV-TEST has declared these software packages as the best anti-virus and malware removal apps for macOS.

They do cost money, but usually come with a free trial and do have discounts for multiple Macs and smartphones. For example, protect your Mac, Windows and Android phone with the same software licence. All you need to do is install Kaspersky or Bitdefender, run a scan and follow the recommendations they provide so you can get on your merry way.

If these steps haven’t resolved the problem, it might be time to go nuclear and reset your Mac back to the factory settings and restore data from your backups (you do have a backup, right?). The exact instructions vary depending on the age and type of Mac you have, so search Apple’s support website for full details relevant to your specific Mac.

With modern Macs it’s a simple as rebooting your Mac, hold down the Alt + R keys and follow the prompts. If for some reason the recovery partition is corrupted due to the malware, hold down Option-Command-R or Shift-Option-Command-R and a fresh copy of macOS will be downloaded off Apple’s servers for you.

How to Remove Malware From Android

In general, sticking the apps solely from the Google Play Store and making sure the setting to install apps from unknown sources is disabled should be enough to keep the vast majority of Android-based malware away. But if you’re experiencing an abundance of pop-up ads, unexplained data usage and apps installed you don’t remember installing, you’ve probably got malware somewhere on your device.

There are apps like Bitdefender Mobile Security and Kaspersky Internet Security that can find known malicious apps sneakily running in the background on your Android device. AV-TEST has determined that these are some of the best on the market at detecting the latest malware strains, without slowing down your device in the process. Download them from the Google Play Store and give them a shot. They do cost money, but it’s worth it if you’re the type of person who downloads obscure apps from outside the Google Play Store as the apps will warn you prior to installing if they’re a known risk.

If running an Android anti-virus and malware removal app doesn’t work, you need to reset your phone back to the factory settings. Hopefully your photos and other important data are stored in the cloud so it’s easy to put back once the phone has returned to normal! You should also take note of login information (i.e: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc) so you can log back in to your favourite apps after the restore.

To reset the phone, go into Settings, then tap System > Advanced > Reset options. Tap Erase all data (factory reset) and then Reset phone. If needed, enter your PIN, pattern, or password. To erase all data from your phone’s internal storage (a good idea if you’re suffering from a virus or malware), tap Erase everything. Now you can re-install your apps from the Google Play Store. The process can take anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour depending on the speed and storage capacity of your device.

If your Android device is so far gone that you can’t even get into the settings to do a factory reset, most smartphones let you use the physical buttons on the device to reset it. Most smartphones use a combination of holding down the Volume Up/Down, Home or Power buttons simultaneously, but how long you need to hold the buttons down and which combination of buttons to press for will vary from device to device, so check the website of the device’s manufacturer (i.e: Samsung, Huawei, LG, etc) for specifics information relevant to your model smartphone.


How to format an external hard drive

External hard drives are a great way to easily expand the storage capacity of your computer. Just plug it in to a USB port and away you go. But sometimes you need to format the drive just so you can start fresh and get rid of all the files on the disk, or it came from the shop with an incorrect file system on it.

For example, it is NTFS but you want to use it on a Mac, or is HFS and you want to use it on Windows. Luckily, formatting an external drive is easy.

How to format an external hard drive – Windows 10

Open the Start Menu, type “Command Prompt” and select “Run as Administrator”. A black screen should pop up waiting for you to enter a command. Type in “diskpart” then press Enter. You’re now using DiskPart, which is ready for you to start manipulating disks.

The first step is to see what drives are hooked up to your computer. To do this we use the command “list disk”. Type it in and press Enter. You should see a list of the disks attached to the computer. Disk 0 is most likely the hard drive inside your computer. If that’s the only disk inside your computer, Disk 1 is your external hard drive.

An easy way to check if you’re playing around with the correct external hard drive (particularly if you have multiple), is to disconnect the drive you want to format, run DiskPart, list the disks and take note of the drives listed. Exit DiskPart (with the command “exit”), connect your drive back up, run DiskPart and list the disks again – the new drive is the one you just plugged in.

Now we need to tell DiskPart which hard drive we want to play around with. This is done with the “select disk” command. If your external hard drive is listed by DiskPart as disk 1, you would type “select disk 1”, press enter and be informed by DiskPart that “Disk 1 is now the selected disk”.

To totally wipe everything on the disk, all the partitions, all the disk signatures and any other bits and pieces that can introduce errors we will use the command “clean” (just type “clean” and press Enter). It’ll only take a few seconds. Now that the drive is wiped we need to tell Windows what to do with this raw slab of storage.

Type “select partition 1”, press Enter, then type “select partition 1”, press Enter, then type “active” then press Enter again. This sets up a new single partition filling the entire drive and by marking it as active, we are telling Windows that its allowed to use it for whatever it wants.

The next step is to give this new partition a file system – a method of telling Windows how it should store files on this drive. This is called “formatting” a drive. Type “format FS=NTFS label=External quick” and press Enter. This command creates an NTFS file system (the default file system type for Windows computers) and will give your external hard drive the rather unimaginative name “External”. Depending on the size of the drive this could take seconds or a few minutes.

The final step is to “mount” the drive by assigning it a drive letter. Type “assign letter=w” and press Enter. Now you have a W:\ drive all ready to go and store your data on.

How to Format an External Hard Drive – macOS

Open the Disk Utlity application, located in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Once open, choose View > Show All Devices to bring up a list of all the disks attached to your computer.

Click the disk you want to erase then click the Erase button in the menu bar. If you’re unsure which disk is your external drive, simply disconnect then re-connect the drive and the one that pops up after re-connecting is the one you want to erase.

After clicking the Erase button, you’re prompted to give the new disk a name (whatever you like is fine) select a partition map (select GUID) and a file system format.
You should select APFS here unless you plan on using the hard drive on older versions of macOS that don’t support it (i.e: prior to macOS 10.13 High Sierra). APFS (Encrypted) is recommended if this external hard drive will be moving around often with sensitive data.

By encrypting the drive, if anyone without the password plugs it in to a computer, they won’t be able to see what’s on it. The downside is that every time you connect the hard drive to a computer, you need to enter a password. If you would be upset if someone found your hard drive and poked around its contents, you should select APFS (Encrypted) for peace for mind.

After setting these options, click Erase. Your external hard drive has now been formatted.


The Pros and Cons of the New 2019 Macbook Pro 16inch

Whilst not much has changed in the new MacBook Pro 2019 16 inch compared to its predecessor, there are a few subtle differences those in the market for a new MacBook will certainly appreciate. If you’ve been waiting to upgrade your trusty 2012 or 2013 Retina MacBook Pro but were put off by the 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro’s dodgy keyboard, Apple may finally have a machine suitable for you.

Many people would be cross shopping the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro – so what’s the difference between them? According to Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U, “The MacBook Pro has much higher performance specs than the Air, with a 9th-Gen 6 or 8 core Intel processor, 16GB of RAM and a dedicated AMD Radeon Pro GPU, opposed to an 8th-Gen dual core processor, 8GB RAM and integrated graphics in the Air. If you are looking to do video or graphics intensive work and want the most powerful MacBook ever produced, then the Pro is the way to go”.

PROS OF THE NEW 2019 MACBOOK PRO 16 INCH

You’d think the new 16-inch display would be the 2019 MacBook Pro’s main feature, but it’s the widespread criticism of the previous MacBook Pro’s keyboard that most people were waiting for Apple to respond to. After years of denial about the 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro’s controversial “butterfly switch” keyboard that was notorious for being fragile, Apple has reverted back to a more traditional keyboard that has received widespread praise.

Apple refers to this new keyboard as a “Magic Keyboard”, which has more key travel depth and a robust switch mechanism. This means the new keyboard feels much nicer to type on with improved key feel, plus won’t stop working if a few crumbs get stuck under the keys. As a bonus, Apple also returned the physical Esc key and an inverted-T style setup for the arrow keys. This new keyboard is a dream to use compared to the previous MacBook Pros.

With the keyboard out of the way, now we can discuss the all new 16-inch screen. Apple has managed to increase the display size from 15.4-inch out to 16-inches. It packs a 3072×1920 resolution (up from 2880×1800) and has slimmer bezels. As usual for an Apple display, its one of the most colour accurate screens on the market, boasting support for the P3 wide colour gamut and 500 nits of brightness.

Internally there’s Intel’s latest 9th-generation i7 and i9 CPUs, with either 6 or 9 cores. The base model 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and can be selected with up to 64GB (for the usual hefty Apple price tag). These new CPUs combined with a huge 100Wh battery allow for excellent battery life, with over 11 hours of continuous use a realistic estimate.

Apple is also proud of the 2019 MacBook Pro’s internal speakers. There’s 6 of them in this 2019 MacBook Pro and according to reviewers, it sounds fantastic – arguably better than most portable Bluetooth speakers or smart voice assistants like an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Even the internal mic got upgraded with a 3-mic array that according to Apple has 40% less hiss. It still doesn’t replace a proper USB mic, but if you’re in a pinch, the internal mic is no longer a total garbage fire.

CONS OF THE NEW 2019 MACBOOK PRO 16 INCH

The cold war between Apple and Nvidia continues, with AMD’s Radeon Pro 5300M and 5500M GPUs available on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. They aren’t the best performers in the market (Nvidia’s latest GPUs are superior), but you haven’t got any other choice if you want a Mac laptop with a dedicated GPU. Gamers will probably look elsewhere anyway.

The packrats amongst us who need to store everything on their laptops will appreciate the new option for an 8TB SSD. That’s right, 8TB of super-fast solid-state storage in a MacBook Pro. Don’t get too excited though, as that’s a $3,520 option, almost the cost of the laptop itself!

That’s what’s new with the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, but many things remain the same. There’s still four USB-C ports that double as power inputs and Thunderbolt 3 ports. No microSD or SD card slot unfortunately. Dongle city lives another day. The novelty Touch Bar hasn’t changed either, still replacing the traditional function keys. Oddly, the front facing webcam also hasn’t changed, remaining at a low 720p. Considering the price of this laptop, couldn’t Apple spring for a 1080p webcam?

Overall, the MacBook Pro 2019 16 inch fixes most of the mistakes of the previous MacBook Pro. The keyboard is now back to normal, battery life is class leading, the display is better than ever, and performance keeps on ticking along. If you need the fastest mobile Mac around, the MacBook Pro 2019 16 inch is perfect.


How To Make Laptops Last Longer

You’ve arrived home with your fancy new laptop and want to make sure that laptop lasts as long as possible. Good on you for thinking ahead and taking pride in your purchase! A laptop should last you many years if cared for properly. This article will explain some tips and techniques to ensure a long and worry-free laptop owning experience.

Make Your Laptop Battery Last Longer
On the topic of power, did you know that your laptop’s battery is considered a disposable part by most laptop manufacturers? Batteries have a limited lifespan and wear out eventually. A typical laptop battery is good for 500-800 full cycles. A full cycle is when the battery is at 0% and is recharged back up to 100%. Once you’ve done 500-ish cycles, the battery won’t hold a charge anywhere near as well as it used to and will be practically useless.

Anthony Hill says that “the best way to preserve battery life is to avoid discharging it below 20% and keep it plugged in and charging whenever possible”. By not going below 20%, it avoids a full charge and can extend the battery’s useful life. However, if your laptop’s battery is showing signs of weakness and isn’t lasting as long as it used to, they are often replaceable, even in laptops without a removeable battery. Depending on the model, a Geeks2U technician can sometimes help.

A Hot Laptop is a Sick Laptop
Probably the easiest and most overlooked aspect of preventing damage to your laptop is to let it breathe and keep it cool. The CPUs and GPUs inside laptops generate an incredible amount of heat and due to the slim chassis of most laptops these days, ventilating that heat away from the critical components is more important than ever. Long term exposure to high temperatures is likely to increase the chances of a component in your laptop failing and resulting in a costly repair.

Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U strongly recommends to “use the laptop on a firm surface and not resting on a pillow or blanket as this restricts air flow and causes the system to overheat”. If you still feel the laptop is getting too warm, there are cooling stands available that raise the laptop (some are adjustable so you can pick a height that suits you) and have built-in fans that blow cool air around the laptop. Such stands are highly recommended for people doing CPU/GPU intensive tasks on their laptops like video editing or gaming, combined with an external keyboard and mouse.

Clean Your Laptop Regularly
This one is pretty obvious, but dirt, dust, crumbs and other particles can clog up various parts of your laptop. Debris in the cooling vents will block heat escaping and lead to premature part failure. Junk in your keyboard can prevent keys from working and junk in your USB, power or HDMI port weakens the connection between port and cable, making your peripherals or charging unreliable.

An easy way to avoid getting your laptop dirty is not to eat whilst using it. The chances of crumbs from food clogging up keys, ports and spilling drinks on your laptop are going to increase if there’s food around, so eat elsewhere! Anthony Hill also suggests that you “close the laptop when not in use to avoid dust and dirt build up under the keyboard”. You may also store the laptop in a sleeve to avoid further dust and dirt.

When cleaning your laptop, use a light damp cloth without any chemicals on it. For the laptop screen, purchase dedicated screen cleaning wipes from your local supermarket to get rid of stubborn fingerprints. A can of compressed air is useful for blowing out dust and crumbs from the keyboard, ports and ventilation areas on a regular basis.

Be Gentle With Your Laptop
Unless you’ve got a military-spec super rugged laptop, dropping, hitting or manhandling your laptop is a bad idea. When transporting it, Anthony Hill’s experience in the field tells him that “using a padded case will help avoid accidental screen damage when out and about”. It’s incredibly easy to have a bag knocked around when travelling and if your laptop is inside without much padding, the laptop will absorb the damage. A well-padded bag will keep your laptop safe.

One of the most common faults on a laptop is the power socket wearing out or getting damaged. It’s by far the most frequently used socket on the laptop and as a result, is the first to fail. If your charging socket dies, your laptop’s usefulness falls to zero. Repairs of the charging socket can be pricey too, so it’s best to avoid this scenario by gently inserting and removing the cable and to ensure when it is plugged in, the cord isn’t a trip hazard.


What is Data Backup and Why is it Important?

Of all the computer maintenance activities out there, having a backup of your important data is the one you really, really should take seriously. Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U, says that “lightning strikes and cryptolockers are the most common forms of data loss” he sees on a regular basis. Precious family photos are lost forever. Vital business documents vanish along with the money they would have generated. It’s events like these where you’ll be grateful to have planned ahead and made a backup.

What is a backup anyway? It’s simply a 2nd copy of the original file. If the original file disappears you get the copy of the file you made earlier and put it back where it belongs. If you want to a proper backup however, you need to become familiar with the 3-2-1 rule: three copies of the data, two of which are local but on different devices and one copy off-site. The 3-2-1 rule should be your mantra if you want a backup you can trust.

Both Windows and Mac include built in backup software. On Mac it’s called Time Machine and in Windows 10 it is File History. Both require the use of an external hard drive or network drive to store data on. There are also 3rd party software options that provide more advanced options. Carbon Copy Cloner, Arq and Super Duper are popular on the Mac. Acronis, Veeam and EaseUS are useful for Windows users.

External hard drives are cheap and easy, but for laptop users in particular, it’s worth investigating network attached storage, also known as a NAS. These little boxes sit on your home network and act as a hard drive that you don’t need to plug in to your computer as they’re always available. This avoids the scenario where you forget to connect your backup drive at the same time you realise you deleted a file or your computer breaks!

By enabling Time Machine or File History, you now have two copies of the data, but the data is still on-site (no good if your house burns down!) and because it’s connected to your computer, technically are not on difference devices. The easiest way to fill in the gap in your 3-2-1 quest is to use cloud storage services.

As more premises in Australia get the NBN and have access to fast upload speeds (e.g: 20mbit+), cloud storage is finally feasible for home and small business users. OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and iCloud Files are popular cloud storage options. Backblaze is also highly recommended due to its low price and comprehensive breadth of backup options.

When selecting an off-site backup location, Anthony Hill reminds us that “depending on the sensitivity of their data small businesses need to be aware of how their data is stored on external servers. For example, privacy regulations and differences between local and overseas jurisdictions”.

Despite how important our data is these days, not everyone has a backup. When a hard drive fails or a super important file is deleted and no backup exists, there are ways to get that data back. This process is called data recovery and depending on the circumstances of the file no longer being accessible, can be relatively routine (e.g: an accidental deletion that’s noticed immediately), expensive (e.g: broken drive) or painstakingly slow, risky and expensive (e.g: fire or flood).

Software like EaseUS and Recuva can restore accidentally deleted data if you’re quick to notice. The software doesn’t cost much and is easy to use, but only if you stop using the computer right away and can connect the disk with the missing file to another computer for retrieval. Broken hard-drives that fail (a very common experience) or damaged drives can be operated on in a clean-room by technicians, but this can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and the process isn’t guaranteed to retrieve your data.

Smartphones are often forgotten as a device that needs to be backed up, but they hold so much important information like photos, contacts, text messages and notes. For most people, if they lost the data on their smartphone they’d be devastated! Luckily smartphones are also easy to backup.

iPhone users should enable iCloud backups immediately, so all their data is kept safe. It’s just an option in the iPhone settings. Take note, automatic daily iCloud Backups will only occur when your iPhone is on wi-fi and connected to a charger. You’ll also need to pay for extra iCloud storage space, as Apple only gives you 5GB for free. Android users can use Google Drive to back up the contents of their smartphone to the cloud. Google provides 15GB for free (which includes emails stored in Gmail), with the option to purchase more space for a monthly fee should you require it.


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