How to Stay Safe Using Public WiFi

As more consumers and businesses alike embrace the on-the-go mentality, finding a public WiFi hotspot is easier now than ever before. While there are plenty of hotspots available – about 362 millionto be exact – remember that not every hotspot is trustworthy. Be sure you’re staying safe while using public WiFiwith the following tips from Computer Troubleshooters North Staffs.

5 Tips for Safely Using Public WiFi

Using public WiFi is a quick and often free way to browse the web without eating away at your data plan, but it’s important to remain mindful when connecting to these networks.

1.    Choose Wisely

It’s likely your local coffee shop, supermarket  and even your gym has public WiFi available for guests. While hopping on these networks during your visits can often be perfectly safe, be wary when visiting less-established locations. Before choosing a network to connect to, it’s wise to think twice about your location. For example, a public WiFi hotspot is likely safer at an established store such as a Costa Coffee than in a shopping centre with tons of available networks you don’t recognize. It’s true that no public WiFi is completely secure, but choosing wisely and being a little sceptical are always good tips to remember.

2.    Limit Your Actions Online

After you’ve found a trustworthy network, be mindful about what you do once you’re browsing the web. Checking your social media or reading news articles are generally safe activities, but you should never access your bank account or other personal information in public. If the network you choose is not as secure as you presumed, your most private information could be left vulnerable to a cyberattack.

3.    Visit Secure Sites

While you’re using public WiFi, it’s also a great practice to make sure you’re only visiting sites with encrypted connections. An encrypted connection is more secure than an unencrypted page and makes spying on your web activity much more difficult for potential hackers. To easily spot an encrypted site, check for, “HTTPS://” before any link in the URL search bar. Secure sites are often also indicated by a padlock. An unencrypted site can be identified by displaying, “HTTP://” before the following URL.

The latest versions of some of the most popular browsers, such as Chrome, can help you out here. They have started to warn you when you connect to a site that is not using HTTPS.

4.    Disable Auto Connect

For convenience purposes, our smart phones come with many automated features. However, users often don’t realise all of the data that’s being shared without their knowledge. To avoid automatically connecting to a WiFi network, and perhaps an unsecure one, disable the auto connect feature on your device. If you’d like to disable connecting to a specific network altogether, tap the network on your device and select, “Forget This Network.”

Similar features exist on most laptops. For example, on Windows, 10 when first connecting to a new public WiFi network, uncheck the “Connect automatically” option.

5.    Use a VPN

One of the best ways to protect yourself online, both on public WiFi and your private network, is to utilise a virtual private network (VPN). When using a VPN, your traffic is routed through an encrypted channel owned by the VPN company. With your traffic protected, outsiders attempting to spy on your online activity won’t be able to access your location and other private details about your browsing. With the added security of a VPN, potential hackers will have a much harder time tracking your online movements and stealing your information. To learn more benefits of a VPN and how to pick the best one for you, visit PCMag.

One of the goals of these tips was to help keep you safe when you are using public WiFi to save using your mobile phone plan data. But the mobile phone companies keep adding more and more data to their plans and they have started allowing it to be used for both your phone and your other computers. If you already have loads of data on your plan, why not use it for your smart phone and for your laptop. Look for options to tether your phone to your PC. I posted this whilst on holiday. And instead of using public Wifi I used my phone’s data and stayed completely secure whilst logging on to edit the website.


When it comes to using public WiFi, you can never be too cautious. Consider following these tips for more security or consult with Computer Troubleshooters North Staffsfor additional cybersecurity practices.


How to Solve 5 Common PC Problems Yourself

If you have a computer, you’ve probably had a computer dilemma. The severity of each problem can vary from just having a slow computer to a locked up PC. No matter what the problem is, these issues can be very irritating and get in the way of your work. That’s why I have compiled this list of 5 common PC problems and how to solve them yourself.

Top 5 PC Tech Support Problems:

1. Slow Computer

The initial step to fixing a slow computer is to check that your machine is the actual source of the problem. Videos and websites that are running slow may not be your computer’s fault, but rather the internet connection. Before calling your Internet provider try the tips below.

If the problem is your PC, check your hard drive to make sure that you have plenty of free space so your operating system can run smoothly. If your hard drive is full, it can slow your computer’s performance. In this case, you can empty out some space to boost performance.

Microsoft’s Task Manager tool in Windows 10 (or Windows System Configuration Tool for earlier versions) is another good place to go if you are trying to fix a slow running computer. It lets you disable programs and services that automatically start when you boot your computer – this can cause slow performance. Checking the Name and Publisher columns is the best way to figure out which potential performance-killers you can safely disable. Avoid any Microsoft Corporation services listed as the manufacturer. If you’re not sure what the program or service does, don’t disable it. After you make all your adjustments, click OK and restart the computer. It should boot up quicker and feel noticeably faster.


2. Long Download Time

First, check your network hardware to see if there are any updates available. If there are, download them. Resetting your router and modem can assist with connection problems, too. Most routers and modems have reset buttons, but removing the power cable for a few seconds can get the job done. Don’t leave the cord unplugged for much longer than that, as the hardware might reset itself to factory defaults.

3. Disconnecting Wi-Fi

Spotty wireless connections can be a tough one. Is it your computer? Your router? Try a few things before contacting your Internet service provider or the supplier of your Wi-Fi router is it is not your ISP.

Windows Network Diagnostics may not always solve your problem, but it will usually point you in the right direction. Verify that your PC is within the range of your wireless router. Weak signals mean poor connections. You should make sure your PC’s wireless card has the latest drivers. Try allowing Windows to troubleshoot for you by right-clicking the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and selecting Troubleshoot problems.

4. Printer Won’t Work

If you’ve already checked that your printer’s drivers are up-to-date, there is enough paper, ink or toner, then try these tips:

First, turn the printer off and on. Next, unplug the printer and plug it back in. Check your printer’s print queue by looking for the printer icon in the system tray and double-clicking it. The print queue gives you the status of all jobs and the overall status of your printer.

If your printer connects to your network over Wi-Fi, make sure it is still connected and check that Wi-Fi signal is strong enough. You could try moving the printer closer to the Wi-Fi router to see if that helps.

The print queue can help you with troubleshooting printer problems, just make sure that ‘Use Printer Offline’ isn’t checked. Occasionally, printing as your printer is turned off can prompt Windows to set your printer to work offline, and that can delay jobs.


5. Unable to Open Attachments

First, remember to be careful when opening email attachments. Be sure you know who they are from and only try opening them if they are expected.

If you have ever been challenged with an attachment that you couldn’t open, it was most likely because you didn’t have the software required to view the file. Prior to Windows 10, if you didn’t have Adobe Reader or another PDF-compatible program, you couldn’t open any PDF attachments, which are very common. The Edge web browser built into Windows 10 has the ability to open and show PDF files, so this should not be a problem any more.

If your problem involves a different, less common file format, look at the three letters after the period in the filename and search the web for that to discover what type of program you need.

I hope this guide to solving common PC tech support problems yourself will help you get your computer running swiftly and smoothly. If you require further computer help or support, please contact Computer Troubleshooters Norths Staffs.

We provide technology service solutions with unmatched customer service for both small business and residential clients

How to spot the phish

We’ve all received those phishing scam emails. They try to pretend they are from big, well-known companies and they try to entice you into clicking on a link. Then the criminals will try to get hold of a legitimate username and password. Or worse, they try to install malicious software on your computer, like ransomware. They used to be easy to spot, by their bad grammar and poor spelling. But they are getting more sophisticated.

Here’s one I received this week. Looks like a real email from Sage. The logo is right. The grammar is perfect. And so is the spelling. One of the links in the email even goes to the Sage website. But the one in bigger text does not. It goes somewhere unrelated to Sage, probably a hijacked website belonging to someone who was not careful about their website security.

This email from Sage looks OK – but take a closer look

This email came to a Gmail account and Google’s spam filters correctly identified this as suspicious and sent it straight to my Spam folder. But this does not always happen, and if you don’t have a spam filtering service in place, it may never happen. So here are a few questions to ask to help to spot the scam.

  1. Do you do business with the company?
  2. Am I expecting an email from them?
  3. Who is the email actually from?
  4. Where does the link go to?
  5. What is the grammar like?

If you don’t do business with them or you weren’t expecting something from this sender, you should immediately be suspicious. You can usually check who the email is actually from. On the face of it, this email says its from Sage, but if you look more closely…
… you can see it comes from an address totally unrelated to Sage. So the email system of that address may have been hacked. Gmail on the web often shows this address but if your email system doesn’t, look for an option like “Show details”.

Try to work out where the link goes. In Gmail, you can usually do this by hovering over the link with the mouse. This may not be as easy within an email program or on a phone, so you might want to adopt the “better safe than sorry” approach and don’t click on links in emails like this.

Finally check the spelling and grammar. Even though they have been getting better, there’s still a lot of scam emails with really poor grammar out there.

Email is a great tool for business communications and most businesses could not work without it. You can get protected by using the right email service with good spam/phishing filters, or by adding an email filtering service to your existing email. But above all:

Be sceptical!

And get in touch for help and advice on keeping your IT systems safe and secure.

Disaster! (and handmade pies)

What’s wrong with this picture?

Obviously not taken by a professional photographer … Yes
Shows how messy that corner of my office is … Yes!
Very boring subject because the screen is blank … Getting warmer!!

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Google Drive Office Plug-in and Really Slow Excel

I use Office a lot. And I use Goole Drive a lot. Yes, don’t all shout at once! I know it’s just been rebranded to Google Backup and Sync. But not as far as Office is concerned.

The plugin that Google built to simplify using Google Drive with Office applications is still called the Google Drive Plugin for Office. It gives you an additional location to save files directly to Google Drive from the File Save As and some extra options to directly work with files on Google Drive even if they are not synchronised to your local PC. That could be handy I thought. But I never really used it. Because all my stuff is synchronised locally.

When Excel started to misbehave, especially when it was taking 45 seconds to a minute to close, I didn’t think of this plugin I never used.

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