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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.


Setting up a Network for Small Business

Got a few computers in your office and you’re wondering how to share files, printers and internet between them? You need a network! No longer will you have to walk over to another computer just to share a document or wait for someone to get off a computer just to use the printer. There are other advantages too, like centralised file sharing and easier backups.

While it might be tempting to dive headfirst and set up a office network yourself Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U “certainly recommends network setup be done by a specialist. By default, Windows comes with a local user account, but it doesn’t configure all the settings to properly secure a local network and shared files”. An improperly configured local network can be more of a burden than a benefit, but after reading this article you’ll have a better understand of what to ask an expert to implement in your business.

The first step in setting up an office network is determining how many devices will be on this network. If you have under twenty or employees, each with their own computer, this is considered a small office network. Once you go above a dozen but under one hundred computers, that’s a medium sized network. Anything over 100 is relatively large. This article will focus on small office networks.

Next you need to figure out a way of physically connecting the computers. Wi-fi is popular and easy to set up as there’s no need to lay cables but can be slow if there’s a lot of activity on the network and unreliable if you’re in an area with many other wireless networks. Getting a qualified data cabler in to wire up Ethernet sockets doesn’t cost as much as you think and will ensure reliable and fast networking. The most flexible solution is to connect stationary devices like desktops, printers and NAS units, but also have a wireless network (backed up with Ethernet) for laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Terms like router, switch and access point may come up in your research about networks. What are these things and why do you need them? Chances are you’ve already got all three devices in your office. The box with blinking lights used to access the internet is typically a combination router, switch and wireless access point!

A router is what connects you to the internet. It allows data to go from your office network, out to your ISPs network and from there, out to the big bad internet. A switch sends data within your office network, from computer to computer, computer to printer, or even computer to wireless network. A wireless access point acts like a switch, sending data around your local network, but does it without wires (hence the name wireless access point!).

All-in-one router, switches and access points are quite powerful and full of features these days, particularly the higher end business focussed units from ASUS and Synology, but Anthony Hill says that “depending on how many people will use network determines if you need a separate switch or router and if you’re in a large space, or in a building with lots of walls between devices, you might need a multiple wireless access points for sufficient network quality”. It really is an area where expert advice is needed.

A popular addition to an office network is a NAS – network attached storage. These little boxes contain hard drives and store files in a central location everyone on the network can connect to. Access to the data on the NAS can be finely configured to only allow specific people access to certain files (e.g: pay roll, corporate strategy, etc.), as well as wide open for other files (paperwork templates, active projects, etc.). You can even make these files available remotely so with the right authentication, they can be accessed from home, at a client site or on the road.

A NAS is not only useful for sharing files, but also for backing them up. Copies of data kept on individual computers can be automatically sent to the NAS every hour (or any interval you wish) over the network, so if a computer dies, catches a virus or, a file is accidentally deleted, the lost data can be retrieved from the NAS and business quickly returns to normal. Imagine if all the files your business uses to generate income were lost – it would be a disaster! Including a NAS as part of your backup regime makes sure the backup is automated.

Finally, sharing a printer can mean that instead of buying multiple cheap printers for each computer, everyone can share a single high-quality printer. Most printers are available in models with built-in wi-fi or Ethernet, making connecting them to your office network relatively simple.


Guideline to Formatting and Resetting your MacBook the Correct Way

Whether you’re experiencing technical issues or simply passing your MacBook on to someone new, knowing how to format and reset your MacBook is a valuable skill to know. Luckily, it’s also an easy skill to learn.

According to Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U, “a very common reason people reset their MacBooks is when selling or giving their MacBook to a family member. Doing so clears your personal information from the MacBook and puts it back to the factory settings so the new user can configure it to their own liking”.

Anthony also suggests a reset of your MacBook to “freshen up the system, to clear out any programs and other excess baggage that’s built up over the years that’s slowing your MacBook down”.

How to backup data

Formatting or resetting a MacBook deletes all your data, so even if you are sure there’s nothing you want to keep on your MacBook, it’s a good idea to do a backup anyway. Better to be safe than sorry.

To create a backup, we will use the built-in Time Machine feature of macOS. Purchase an external hard drive that’s the same or larger capacity of your MacBook, plug it in and macOS will prompt you to use the new hard drive as a Time Machine backup location. The backup process will begin once you click “Use as Backup Disk“.

Depending on the amount of data you have, the backup could take minutes or hours, even days. To check the status of your backup, enter the System Preferences, click on Time Machine and you’ll see an estimate for how long the backup will take. Once it’s complete we can start the reset process.

Sign out of services

If you are selling your MacBook or passing it on a new owner, it’s important to sign out of your various Apple services. If you don’t sign out, the new owner may be able to access them, even after doing a reset or the new owner won’t be able to add the device to their iCloud account.

Sign out of the iTunes & App Store by opening iTunes, and clicking “Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer”. Sign out of iCloud by clicking “Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud > Sign Out”. Sign out of iMessage by opening the Messages app and selecting “Messages > Preferences” then clicking “iMessage > Sign Out”.

Enter restore mode

To begin the MacBook reset process, turn your MacBook off (click the Apple menu, then Shutdown). Whilst turned off, hold down the Command & R keys simultaneously and while holding those keys down, turn your MacBook back on. Release the keys once you see an Apple logo or spinning globe. After a few minutes you’ll be presented with a macOS Utilities window.

How to format your MacBook

If you’re selling your MacBook or passing it on, you want to format the MacBook’s drive first. This erases all data from the drive, so make sure you have a backup.

In the macOS Utilities Window, select “Disk Utility” and click Continue. Choose “View > Show All Devices” from the menu bar, select the MacBook’s disk drive (for example: “Apple SSD”) then click “Erase”. Give the new drive a name, select the appropriate drive format type (APFS if available, otherwise Mac OS Extended Journaled) and choose the GUID partition map scheme. Click Erase and wait a minute or two while your MacBook’s drive is wiped.

How to do a factory restore

After formatting the MacBook, close the Disk Utility window. You’ll be placed back at the macOS Utilities window where you can reinstall macOS.

Simply follow the instructions presented to place a fresh install of macOS on the newly erased MacBook drive. When the install process is complete, the MacBook will reboot and start the Setup Assistant.

You can simply turn the MacBook off now and give the MacBook to its new owner. This is what’s called a “factory settings” restore, as this is how the MacBook arrives from the factory.

How to reset your MacBook Pro without losing data

If you just want to do a spring clean of your MacBook or do some technical troubleshooting, you can use the Time Machine backup made earlier to place your data back on your freshly factory reset MacBook.

After you’ve completed the factory restore, instead of turning the MacBook off, continue with Setup Assistant. When you get to the Migration Assistant stage, select “From a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk” and plug in your Time Machine backup hard drive.

You’ll be presented with a list of information to transfer, such as Applications and your Home Folder. Select what you’d like to bring across and select continue. Depending on how much data you have, this could take several hours. When complete, you’ll be dropped back in to macOS, with your files put back just where you left them.


Best Practices for Computer Security within Small Businesses

Computer security has never been a hotter issue than it is today. Data breaches, cryptolockers, malware, phishing – as more and more of our lives and businesses go digital, the more we expose ourselves to sneaky hackers looking to take advantage of us.

As a small business owner it’s easy to let computer security slip as a priority. You’ve got so many other things to do besides fiddle around with some computer stuff. She’ll be right, mate! Right? Well, not really.

Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U says that ignoring computer security could lead to a “worst case scenario where there’s a total loss of your business as data like customer info and orders are deleted, customer data is leaked online resulting in a privacy breach and proprietary company information getting out to competitors”. The consequences of ignoring computer security can be catastrophic.

Backups, backups, backups

Backups are Anthony Hill’s top recommendation for small business computer security. “Make sure you have regular backups, because regardless of how good your internet security software is, it’s not perfect.

With a proper backup regime, you can restore any damaged or stolen data quickly”. Regular backups have proven to be the best way to counter popular ransomware attacks. Instead of paying the ransom to restore your data, simply restore from your backups.

The 3-2-1 rule of backups is a mantra anybody serious about computer security should become familiar with. 3 copies of your data, on 2 different devices or mediums and 1 copy offsite. The easiest way to achieve this is to invest in Network Attached Storage and cloud backup (for example Backblaze or Carbonite). Backups should also be as automated as possible to avoid human error.

Keep software updated

Computer security researchers are constantly poking around popular software packages to find flaws that allow hackers to access your computer. Most software vendors keep on top of these security vulnerabilities and release updates to fix them. Hackers take advantage of known vulnerabilities that have been fixed, but prey on users that are yet to update. Thwart the hackers by keeping your software patched.

Unfortunately, software vendors do end support for their products eventually. Versions of macOS three releases prior to the current version and Windows versions prior to Windows 8 no longer receive regular security updates. If you’re still using those older operating systems, it’s time to upgrade or face the computer security consequences.

Upgrade from basic anti-virus

The built-in free anti-virus software that comes with Windows is fine, but if you’re running a small business and have multiple computers to look after (such as those used by employees), it’s worth investigating a centrally managed internet security platform.

Internet security platforms include not just a basic firewall and anti-virus, but the ability to whitelist software, filter internet access, push out forced regular updates and even monitor what employees are doing on company owned devices – all from a single control panel. Having all these features centrally managed ensures all devices are protected and easy to manage, as opposed to trying to wrangle multiple individually owned devices manually.

Cyber security tips for employees

According to Anthony Hill, “the vast majority of data breaches start with staff”, so it’s vital your employees are trained and vigilant. Your small business computer security is only as good as its weakest link!

Introduce a strong password policy (more than 12 characters, no dictionary words, special characters) and provide password manager software to securely store them in. For an additional layer of security, multi-factor authentication tokens such as a Yubikey can be set up for access to important accounts. Using a multi-factor authentication token means any potential hacker needs not only a password, but also a physical token to gain access. This makes it much, much more difficult for unauthorised access.

Institute training to recognise phishing scams. These are emails designed to look like messaging from a bank, a customer, supplier or a fellow employee, but are actually designed to scam your business out of money or access to your computer network. A good way to check if a risky looking email is legit is to pick up the phone and call whoever it is making the request using a publicly available phone number.

Don’t use public wi-fi. Public hotspots can easily be set up as honeypots for hackers to steal information sent wirelessly. Even on legitimate hotspots, hackers can sniff the data going through the hotspot, even if it’s encrypted. The best way to avoid this problem is to provide staff with a mobile broadband device. This way they’ll have internet access everywhere they go, without needing to use risky public wi-fi. If you absolutely must use public wi-fi, at least use a VPN with strong encryption so all communications are secure.

Geeks2U technicians have wide experience in fixing computer and network security across major cities. Contact us now to find out how we can help your business.


Quick and Simple Guide to Keeping Your Laptop and Smartphone Clean

It may sound like just another task to add to your already busy life, but cleaning your laptop and smartphone is vital to ensure smooth operation of these precious devices. Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U recommends that users clean their laptop “every six to twelve months” and their smartphones “as often as possible”.

To get started, follow Anthony’s advice that the “laptop is turned off, unplugged from the charger and batteries are removed if possible”. This article will focus on how to clean a laptop screen, how to clean a laptop keyboard, how to remove dust from a laptop, and how to clean a smartphone.

How to Clean Laptop Keyboard

Keyboards can get extremely grotty, particularly if you eat or drink at your laptop (who doesn’t?!). Without regular cleaning, keys can fail and require replacement. The keyboards on Apple MacBooks sold in the last three or so years are notorious for failing after a few crumbs become lodged in the thin butterfly mechanism under the keys.

The first step is to get a can of compressed air and blow all the dust and loose particles out from around the keys. Tip the laptop upside while doing this if possible, so all the debris falls out. After the dusting, get a damp (but not wet) microfibre cloth and give the keys a wipe. No need for detergent or other cleaners, just water is often enough to remove any stains or marks. For heavier marks and stains, a “Magic Eraser” (white cleaning cubes found in supermarkets) will get the job done.

How to Clean Laptop Screen

You’re probably looking at your laptop’s screen as you read this, just realising how dirty the thing you look at all day is. It’s not unusual for a screen to look clearer and sharper, with richer colours after giving it a good clean after years of neglect. Luckily, it’s quite easy to do.

Like most electronics, a slightly damp microfibre cloth is all you need for a basic clean. Wipe it along the screen, in a straight motion (not circular) and using a new part of the cloth with each wipe. Make sure not to get your cloth or sponge too wet, as moisture can seep between the display and case, which will damage your laptop.

Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide to clean the display, as they can damage the glass or plastic display surface.

How to Remove Dust From A Laptop

Dust can kill a laptop. Literally. Components inside the laptop generate heat and if that heat can’t escape because the fans and vents are clogged with dust they fail, and the repair bill can often outstrip the cost of a new laptop. Dust can also impede performance, as if heat generated by the CPU can’t escape properly, the CPU will throttle its speed down to compensate. If you notice your laptop’s fans spinning wildly, but you aren’t doing anything intensive on your laptop, that’s also a sign of dust clogging up vents and fans.

Purchase a can of compressed air from a hardware or electronics store (Bunnings or Jaycar for example) and give the vents a few short bursts to blow out the dust. There are often vents at the base and sides of most laptops. Anthony Hill recommends that “if the vents are heavily clogged with dust, disassembly may be required by the manufacturer for a deep clean, so internal fans and heatsinks can be deep cleaned, as compressed air probably won’t reach that far inside.”

Smartphone and Tablet Cleaning

Do you wash your hands prior to using your smartphone or tablet? It’s unlikely you do, so that means there’s probably a mini-laboratory full of germs breeding on the glass and metal surfaces of your smartphone. Smartphone cleaning wipes are available at some chemists and are pre-moistened wipes with anti-bacterial fluid that also dries quickly and doesn’t leave a smudge. Don’t use household cleaners as those can stain metals and erode coatings on a smartphone’s screen.

The speaker vents, charging and headphone ports on smartphones can get clogged up with pocket lint and other crud from being in pockets, bags and cases. It’s not uncommon for smartphones to have difficulties charging due to dust bunnies sitting in the charging port, preventing a firm connection between cable and port. Simply get some compressed air and give the ports a blow out every now and then.

By following these instructions on a regular basis, you can ensure your precious electrical devices will run in top condition for years to come. If you’ve let your computer go for a while without a clean and want it deep cleaned by a professional, get in touch with Geeks2U and they’ll be happy to assist.


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