New computer recommendations

Updated 5/30/22:

Since you’ll likely be spending the next 5-10 years or more with your next computer, please take a few minutes now to make an informed decision about what to look for in a new computer and accessories – and get the best deal. 

We don’t recommend trying to save money on a refurbished computer. Typically they won’t last as long as a new computer, and are likely less secure due to unpatched processor flaws and are limited in the ability to upgrade to the most recent secure operating system.

Our recommended minimum new computer specifications are:

  • Intel Core i3/AMD Ryzen 5 processor or better. For an Apple Mac computer consider getting an Apple M1 or M1 Pro/Max rather than Intel processor
  • 8 GB RAM or more
  • 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD) or larger
  • Please read New Computer Buying Guide for more detailed information.

If you come across a good deal elsewhere, remember to look for specifications that are a minimum of what’s listed above. We’ve had the best reliability with HP and Dell brands. Keep in mind that cheaper laptops and all-in-ones typically only have a vertical screen resolution of 768 pixels, whereas higher quality and clearer screens are 1080 or higher.

Click on the links below to view recommended computers meeting the minimum recommended specifications noted above at the respective retailer’s website. Some models may be available in-store. Apple Mac computers also available.

Desktop PCs:

Best Buy – Dell, HP – SSD PC Desktops

Costco – Dell, HP Desktops – make sure hard drive is SSD or HDD+SSD

HP Store – Desktop computer towers with SSD

Dell – Desktop computers & All-in-One PCs with SSD

Laptop/Notebook PCs – regular price differences are due to variances in screen size, processor (speed), screen resolution and 2-in-1 convertibility:

Best Buy – Dell, HP SSD PC Laptops

Costco – Dell, HP – SSD PC Laptops

Apple Mac:

Best Buy – iMac desktop

Best Buy – MacBook laptop

Costco – iMac desktop

Costco – MacBook laptop

Apple – iMac desktop – select Apple M1 or M1 Pro/Max chip

Apple – MacBook laptop – select Apple M1 or M1 Pro/Max chip

You May Not be Using All the Great Features of Your Browser

Web browsers are your gateway to the internet or World Wide Web. Browsers contain a lot of features that make your online experience more efficient. This includes things like tabs that allow you to open different web pages at the same time, and “bookmarks” or “favorites” that let you save website addresses so that you don’t have to type-in or search for frequently visited websites. 

Some of the most popular browsers are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, and Opera. These browsers have many useful features to help you get things done with ease. While some features of the browsers are known, others are either unknown or under-utilized,

Here, we’ll discuss some of the great features of your browser that you may not be using yet. 

5 Helpful Browser Features You May Not Be Using

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New option for home internet service – should you switch?

Wireless carrier T-Mobile is expanding their services to include Home Internet in some areas of Reno/Sparks. Assuming you are in their limited service area – should you switch?

Why you may want to switch

  • If you’re on a budget, at $50/month TMHI is less expensive than most AT&T and Spectrum internet plans.*
  • TMHI is available in some rural areas that are under-served by AT&T and Spectrum.
  • If you’re in an area served only by AT&T’s legacy DSL service with speeds less than 6 Mbps, and Charter/Spectrum is not an option.

* Low-income households may qualify for a discount of up to $30/month on internet service from many providers through the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Why you may NOT want to switch

  • Wireless service speeds are more variable and can be less reliable than other wired providers, particularly during peak times.
  • If you’re on a bundled package with AT&T, DirecTV or Spectrum and don’t want to change your TV and/or home phone service.

Internet speeds provided by local home internet providers

The chart below shows a comparison of the speeds provided by the major internet providers. Streaming video needs the most bandwidth (higher speeds), but that number only needs to be as high as 25 Mbps for streaming the highest-quality 4K Ultra HD content.

INTERNET PROVIDERTYPICAL INTERNET SPEEDS – Download Mbps / (Upload Mbps)
AT&T DSL<6 / (<1)
AT&T U-VerseUp to 100 / (Up to 20)
AT&T Fiber100-5000 / (100-5000)
Charter/Spectrum Cable300, 500, 1000 / (10, 20, 35)
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet33-182+ / (8-25+)

If you need help deciding which internet or other service provider is best for you, contact us.

4 Dangerous Scam Text Messages You Should Delete Immediately

Email open rates typically range between 20 and 30 percent while SMS stands at a staggering 98 percent. 90 percent of texts are opened within three seconds of receipt. The average text is read within 90 seconds of receipt while that number is 90 minutes for email. This characteristically rapid response for text messages makes them a popular avenue for SMS scams and phishing – sometimes called “smishing”. Scams after all require that the target respond quickly before they have a change of heart or think their decision through. 

The average text is read within 90 seconds of receipt. That metric is 90 minutes for email.

The speed and regularity of reading and responding to texts is why you should delete scam texts immediately. If they lie around your inbox too long, you could unintentionally click on the fraudulent link at some future date. Scam SMS comes in diverse forms. Knowing SMS scammers’ modus operandi is critical to avoiding falling victim. Check out these types of texts you should get rid of without hesitation.

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How and Why to Use Browser Tabs

The internet is a huge part of our daily lives. Whether you’re communicating with family over Zoom, checking what your friends are up to on Facebook or buying your weekly groceries, you no doubt use an Internet browser most days of the week – either on your computer, tablet or smartphone

Internet browsers have a host of cool tricks and functions that make the browsing experience more pleasurable and straightforward. To make the most of these features, you need to understand what they are and how they work.

One such feature is the use of multiple browsing tabs. Tabs enable you to open multiple websites in one browser, without cluttering your desktop with too many browser pages. Being able to use tabs can enhance your browsing experience and make using the internet much easier. 

Every leading browser has options for tabbed browsing – even smartphones and tablets. 

Tabs are hugely popular – and have a great range of benefits. It’s estimated that the average person has between 2 -3 tabs open at any one point.

Of course, to take advantage of tabs, you need to know how to use them. So, below, we’ll dive into what browser tabs are, why you should use them and how to get started. 

What’s a Browser Tab?

With multiple browser tabs open, you can have multiple websites open at the same time within one browser. Each open website will appear as a “tab” at the top of your browser window. You can use your mouse, keyboard-shortcut or finger to switch between your open tabs/websites.

Why is Using Multiple Tabs Beneficial?

Have you ever signed into a website and then been asked to check your email for a verification code, which you’ll need to enter on that page.

In this instance, you may have wondered if there’s a way to check your email without losing the page you’re on. This is where browser tabs come in.

With multiple tabs, you can keep your current page while opening a new tab to check your email. 

Other use cases for browser tabs include: 

  • When you are writing an email and want to look up a synonym of a word
  • When you have two email accounts and want to switch between the two 
  • When you’re reviewing your stock portfolio and want to research information about a company without exiting your account 
  • When you’re researching airline flights and are comparing providers for the best deals 
  • When you’re multi-tasking – reading the news, ordering groceries etc. 
  • When you want to click a link on a page without losing the webpage you’re on
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How to Browse Privately if You Don’t Want Relentless Advertisements

How to Browse Privately if You Don’t Want Relentless Advertisements

Have you ever looked at a product on an e-commerce website and noticed that, later, an advertisement appears for that same product on another website? 

This is the work of advertising ‘cookies’ and other tracking tools, which monitor your online browsing activities to present you with relevant, targeted advertisements. 

This can be a great thing. Targeted advertisements can help you to discover new products and makes the browsing experience feel more personalized. 

In line with this, 71% of consumers prefer ads to be targeted to their interests and shopping habits, and 3 out of 4 consumers prefer fewer, but more personalized ads. 

However, while some people enjoy targeted advertisements, many also feel like their online privacy is being invaded. A different research study found that 79% of Americans on the web worry about companies infringing their online privacy.

It’s easy to see why. Personal ads can make you feel a little like you’re living in the world of ‘big brother’. Not everyone wants to be monitored 24/7 – and that’s ok. 

Moreover, let’s say you are researching birthday gifts to buy for your partner. Targeted ads mean that your partner could end up seeing an ad about the proposed gift – which would ruin the surprise! 

As people have become more aware of their online privacy, the leading web browser players have released private browsing options. 

Below, we’ll explore how private browsing sessions work – and how you can set one up on your computer.

What is a Private Browsing Session? 

A private browsing session is a feature available in most popular web browsers. When you switch on private browsing mode, your browser creates a one-time, isolated session that is kept separate from your main browser.

While your main browser collects your browsing history and data, the private browser essentially only has a short-term memory. It won’t save any of the data about the websites you visit or things you buy. Once you finish the session, the data is gone for good. 

Going back to the birthday use case, you can see why private browsing is useful! It ensures that no one else who uses your computer can see what you’ve been looking at online. 

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Avoid Online Surveys If You Don’t Want to Be Profiled

The next time you’re browsing on your computer, and you see a quiz on Facebook or another social media site that looks appealing, think before you click.

With the political season back upon us, you need to be aware of how the data you share in these quizzes might be used. 

You might not think that a quiz about your favorite foods or personality type will be beneficial to political parties but, these days, you never know. Any data you share could ultimately be used for political profiling.

What is political profiling?

Profiling is a method of analyzing individuals’ data to classify them into groups or sectors. Political parties have used profiling techniques for decades, but it has entered a new realm in light of the internet.

With tools like artificial intelligence and data analytics, political parties can create detailed profiles about individuals and groups, which could even be used to unethically manipulate their political choices through fake news and social media advertisements.

It sounds scary – and it is! Most of us may remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018. 

In this event, Cambridge Analytica collected the data of millions of people via an app called This Is Your Digital Life. The app was an online survey that asked users questions about their political preferences and personality traits. All of the answers given in this quiz were then used for data analysis during the 2016 presidential election campaign. 

As a side note, if you’re worried about third parties having access to your data, contact us. We can help you improve your online data privacy and reduce unwanted advertisements. 

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What Is a QR Code Used For?

QR is an acronym for quick response – which makes sense as QR codes respond very quickly to requests to use them. Essentially, a QR code is a square-shaped barcode that you can scan with your mobile phone to load a website or application. QR codes can also be used to load phone numbers, login pages, and Wi-Fi details. 

QR codes have their origin in the business world. They were invented to help improve the speed of supply chain processes. Over the last few years, though, QR codes have firmly entered the consumer world. Most recently, QR codes have become an essential part of the pandemic response, helping to facilitate ‘contactless’ services. 

You may have been to a restaurant and noted a QR code sticker on your table. Your server may have asked you to use the QR code to load the menu instead of receiving a paper one. Similarly, QR codes have also been used for contact tracing to help keep track of COVID-19.

While QR codes are really useful, they can seem daunting if you don’t know how to use them. In fact, a YouGov study found 14% of Americans find QR codes to be challenging to use, with adults over the age of 65+ especially are likely to say so (20%). 

Below, we’ll explain how to use QR codes. We’ll also help you to understand which QR codes are safe to use – and which you should be wary of. 

How do I use a QR code? 

Most mobile phones that have cameras have QR scanner capabilities. If you have an older mobile phone, your camera might not come with this capability. In this case, you should be able to download a QR scanning app from the Apple Store or Google Play. If you’d like assistance with this, let us know, and we can help

Once that’s done, it takes just a few simple steps to scan a QR code. 

  1. Open the QR application or the camera on your phone.
  2. Point your camera at the QR code. Line up your camera so that all four corners of the code are in view.
  3. Click the link that’s presented.
  4. Your phone will now do the work for you! It should automatically take you to the website, application or data attached to the QR code.
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An Antivirus Will Not Protect You from User Error

Cyber security graphic

It would be pretty great if antivirus protected us from all the online security threats out there. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the case.

Often, customers come to us asking if they should purchase a third-party antivirus software rather than use the basic one that comes with their operating system. Our answer to this question always tends to be: stick to the antivirus that comes with your computer. 

Let’s take a look at why below.

What antivirus can and can’t do

Antivirus software works by scanning your devices, applications and files for traces of viruses or malware. Viruses are a type of malicious computer program designed to alter how your computer operates. It can, for example, steal sensitive data or lock you out of accessing your files.

Viruses are scary stuff – and antivirus is vital for defending against these types of threats. However, antivirus isn’t a holy grail. It only protects against one type of cyber security threat. There are a whole plethora of other threats out there that you need to watch out for. 

Human error is the biggest security threat out there today 

Recent research found that a massive 85% of data breaches can be traced back to human error. This means that it’s not viruses or malware responsible for most successful cyberattacks; it’s people. 

As humans, we all make mistakes – and this is what today’s cybercriminals count on. Many of today’s cyberattacks focus on manipulating victims into clicking suspicious links or sharing financial information with a fraudulent entity. Here are some examples:

  • Phishing emails: Phishing emails are fraudulent emails criminals send to their victims. Typically, the email will impersonate a trusted brand. It will ask the victim to either click a link, download an attachment or share sensitive information. There were 241,342 victims of phishing in the US in 2020 – and those are just the ones that were reported. 
  • Clicking on dodgy online advertisements: Malvertising is a type of cyber attack technique where hackers inject malicious code into advertisements. When you click on the ad, the malicious code launches on your device, enabling the hacker to steal your data or even take it for ransom. 
  • Replying to texts from unknown senders: Similar to phishing is what’s known as SMishing. SMishing happens when a cybercriminal sends a fraudulent text to your mobile, pretending to be a trusted entity. The text will usually contain a link, which takes you to a page where you’re asked to share sensitive information – like your bank card information.

The best protection is education

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What Is the Cloud?

"the Cloud" graphic

Once upon a time, the cloud referred to something you’d look up and see in the sky. In the age of technology, though, the cloud is something wholly different altogether. Essentially, the cloud offers a secure way to store and back up your data – things like your documents, files, photos and contact details. 

Before the cloud, you’d store this data on your computer hard drive. While you can still do this, it’s also wise to use the cloud too. This is because if your hard drive fails, then you can still access your data. Also, more of us now use computers and mobile phones. If you use the cloud, then you can access your information from multiple devices. 

In the same way that different companies sell different brands of phones – like Nokia, Samsung and Apple – there are a number of companies that sell cloud storage. The main ones in the consumer space are Apple, Google and Microsoft. 

Below, we’ll dive into each of their cloud offerings, so you can get a better idea of what solution is best for your needs. 

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