HEAT WAVE! Hot weather can stress your older PC or laptop: Avoid expensive damage with a simple cooling system tuneup!

There’s nothing like a few days in the high 80’s or 90’s to put your computer or laptop’s cooling system to the test.  Of course if you have good air conditioning, this all may go unnoticed, but for those who don’t, or if you use your laptop on the road, outdoors, or in public places like classrooms, buses, or subways, rising temperatures outside means rising temperatures inside your computer that could become so critical your system shuts itself down to prevent damage.

How does cooling work in the PC?

Stickynote computer service can help with overheating computers or laptops

Some companies have developed laptop cooling devices that are like a tray that goes under your laptop and has fans that blow up into the laptop chassis. If you are having heat problems this can help but don't skip on blowing out or vacuuming the system's cooling vents!

Your computer’s processor (CPU) generates enough heat in a tiny space, that left uncooled, it would cook itself to death in a matter of minutes,  To counteract this, system designers have come up with a variety of schemes to draw heat away from the CPU thus ensuring that it is sufficiently cooled to operate reliably.  Most CPUs are air-cooled by the combination of a heat-sink (a heat-conductive metal structure designed to draw heat away from the surface of the cpu chip) and a fan that pushes air through the heat sink structure and exhausts the air along with excess heat out through vents in the computer chassis. You can usually locate these exhaust vents on a laptop just by moving your hand around the back and sides of the unit until you feel a gentle rush of warm air exiting the case.  In most cases, there are sensors that measure the temperature of the CPU and cause the cooling fan to run faster when the chip gets hotter, and slower when the chip gets cooler.  The purpose of this fan speed regulation is to balance the cooling needs of the CPU with the aesthetic need for the computer to run quietly and not be a noisy intrusion in the room.

A COMMON SYMPTOM: NOISY FAN

Understanding how cooling works, it’s easy to see how the first sign of a cooling problem is usually that the cooling fan suddenly becomes very loud, and remains on and running at high speed for prolonged periods of time.  This is a dead giveaway that your computer is fighting to stay cool, and in most cases, is losing the battle!

I once had a customer who told me her computer sounded like an airplane trying to take off.  While we had a good laugh over her description, it was no joke when I opened the tower and found the cooling system so clogged up with pet hair and dust that it was a wonder any air was passing through it at all!

In this case, the cause of cooling failure is usually blockage of the air vents or the “fins” on the heat sink where the fan is trying to push air through.  This is remedied by using a vacuum or compressed air (or both!) to clean out the vents, the area around the heat sink and fan, as well as any cowling that may be in place to direct airflow.  This can get very messy and is generally recommended to be performed outdoors so you don’t end up blowing all that accumulated dust and stuff into your indoor breathing space.

What if your PC abruptly shuts down before it even finishes booting up?

If your computer abruptly shuts down without warning during or just after startup, there's a good possibility your cooling system has failed and your CPU is overheating.

I have observed, particularly in older desktop PCs (windows xp vintage), that sometimes plastic clips used to join the heat sink to the CPU surface can become brittle and break causing the heat sink to “pop” off of the CPU.  In this case you may get the high-speed fan sound, but more importantly, the PC may freeze up and become completely unresponsive or more commonly, it may abruptly shut down within 30 seconds to a minute of being started. If this happens, don’t keep trying to start it!  More than a few times starting without the heat sink attached and the CPU will cook itself leaving you with little choice except to go shopping for a new computer.

What if your fan isn’t noisy but you get a warning message indicating an overheat situation, or your pc shuts down abruptly without warning?

It’s not always the case that cooling problems are indicated by a noisy fan.  In fact, a cooling problem could also be indicated by a suddenly quiet fan that used to be noisy or an least noticeably running.  In this case, your fan may have failed and is either barely turning, or has stopped altogether.  In this case, the computer may issue an error messsage, but is more likely to just abruptly shut down without warning after a few minutes of operation.  In this case, the fan usually needs to be replaced.

One time, I was called in to a local dry cleaner to investigate why their computer kept shutting itself down.  When I got there, I found a portable tabletop fan pointing straight into the back of the computer and running at full speed.  The manager said this was the only way he could get it to run without shutting down.  Not surprisingly, when I opened the unit up I found it so packed with lint, there was no airflow at all from the built in fans.  That customer is now on a regular regimen of quarterly cleaning to avoid the inevitable lint buildup.

 

Other signs that a cooling problem may be looming on the horizon…

Groaning – If your computer is making what is described by many customers as a “Groaning” sound, this usually indicates the bearings are wearing out on the cpu or graphics cooling fan.  Replace the fan now because if you just ignore it, rest assured, when the groaning stops, so will your computer!

Pets – If you have pets (including birds), particularly breeds that shed a lot, expect your cooling vents to get plugged up quickly.  Plan on a vacuuming/blowout at least annually, more often if you notice a marked increase in fan speed/noise.

Dusty House – If you’re like me and live in an older or antique house, you know that it’s a constant battle to stay ahead of the pervasive dust that seems to be shed endlessly by horsehair plaster.  Thanks to its constant airflow, your computer’s cooling system is like a magnet to plaster dust and should be blown out at least annually, more often if you notice increased fan activity or are undergoing home renovations that generate inordinate amounts of dust.

In conclusion…

I’ve given you a few different computer overheating scenarios, some that are easy to remedy, and some that may require professional help.  The most common failure, the clogging of vents and heat sink with dust, lint, or pet hair, is forunately also the easiest to tackle on your own if you’re a do-it-yourselfer.  Go to Staples and buy a couple cans of compressed air and use it to blow dust, hair, and other obstructions from your computer’s vents and fans. But don’t forget, do it outdoors unless you relish the thought of breathing in a dust cloud!!!

Try my addiction. It will change the way you see the world!

I have a confession to make.  I am an addict.

scallop shell on beach

This close-up was taken with the camera nearly on the sand and only about an inch from the shell

What started as a young child’s fascination, marveling at larger-than-life photos of ants blown up to monster size in the pages of Encyclopedia Britannica, transformed to full-blown addiction in the mid 70’s when I discovered how to shoot close-up with a super-eight movie camera borrowed from my high-school’s AV department. Back then, close-up photography with a still camera required special lenses and complicated manual camera settings and you’d have to be somewhat of a photo geek to pull it off. However, all that changed with the advent of the highly automated digital camera, and suffice it to say, my addiction has been fueled in recent years thanks to the ease with which such photos can now be squeezed off in rapid succession.

This morning glory "heavenly blue" appears to be lit from within. This was shot about an inch from the flower.

Today’s breed of digital camera, and even some cell-phone cameras now feature fully automated close-up or ‘macro’ modes that make it simple to do and with spectacular results that will have you enjoying your own addiction in no time!  Most digital cameras support a mode of close-up shooting called “macro” mode.  This is typically chosen from a menu or directly selected via a button on the camera and is almost universally indicated by a tulip symbol.

 

This diminutive mushroom was captured larger-than-life in Mansfield's Great Woods by lying on the ground alongside a moss-covered log - well worth the effort.

Now if you have tried selecting macro mode on your camera but found that it won’t focus, it’s probably because you’re shooting your subject from too far away. On most cameras, when macro mode is selected, you need to get your camera lens down close to your subject, usually as close as a couple inches or less from your subject.  Okay, so what does this mean? For me it means a lot of crouching and laying on my belly to get ultimate shots of moss or mushrooms or other miniscule wonders of nature. You can start however by shooting flowers or other objects closer to eye level.  Some cameras are totally automated and will handle everything when macro mode is selected. Some, however, are not so user friendly and will let you choose conflicting settings that give you frustratingly fuzzy results.  Here are a few guidelines to help get you on your way towards being a full-blown addict yourself:

This picture demonstrates the power of macro photography. In the top image, a small pebble can be seen inside the red box. Below is the same pebble shot from about a half-inch from the lens.

– When shooting in macro mode. make sure your camera’s zoom is set to the ‘W’ or ‘wide angle’ setting.  Zooming in while in  macro mode will just confuse many cameras and render out-of-focus results.

– Plan on getting your lens close to your subject. As close as an inch or less. Better cameras will shoot distances to a fraction of an inch. You can experiment with your own camera by placing a penny on your dining table and moving the camera closer and farther away (within inches though) and observing when it will focus and when it will not.

– Don’t expect your flash to be useful for lighting your close-ups because in most cases, your subject will  be so close it will be in the shadow of the lens.

– The effects of movement are greatly exaggerated when shooting close up. Use a tripod or monopod where practical to steady your hand. Trying to shoot a butterfly or bee on a flower? Unless you have a high-end camera, save it for a windless day. Shooting objects up close when the wind is moving them generally will give disappointing results.

– And finally, keep an open mind about your subject. The thing that makes macro photography so fascinating is not necessarily what you expect to capture, it’s the unexpected surprise that gives you that “wow!” photo you may have never thought you could shoot.

Now go find that tulip symbol on your camera and get out there and shoot something amazing!  And if you become addicted?? Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Shooting in macro mode offers unparalleled detail rarely observed by the naked eye. This squirrels stash features marble-sized acorns in crisp detail.

P.S.  To truly appreciate the detail in these images, click them to enlarge!

 

 

 

Computer Geeks vs. Band Geeks: Stickynote Tech Services to Raise Cash in Support of Music Programs at Mansfield Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Computer Geeks vs. Band Geeks: Stickynote Tech Services to Raise Cash in Support of Music Programs at Mansfield Schools

May 1, 2012, Mansfield, MA – Andy Trask, Owner of Stickynote Tech Services (www.stickypc.com) announced today, plans to donate a portion of 2012 service revenue, as well as voluntary donations from customers, to the Mansfield Band Parents Association in support of the Mansfield Public Schools award-winning Music Programs.

——————————————————————————————-

Battery (drumline) from Mansfield Indoor Marching Percussion competing in 2012 NESBA season opener at Dartmouth High School

Andy Trask knows what it’s like to be called a geek. After all, with more than ten years experience making house calls to perform computer repair services, and as the owner of Mansfield-based Stickynote Tech Services, he proudly refers to himself as a Computer Geek in his advertising, on his facebook page, and in person. But long before he became known as a computer geek, and long before the status of “geek” was elevated to a badge of honor worn by the technological elite, it was his passion for playing trombone in the Cohasset High School band that first earned him the title of Geek.

“Back in the seventies, being called a geek wasn’t exactly a compliment. It was pretty much a slur reserved for the musicians and the brainiacs,” says Andy, “the good news however, is that those days are over, and today, being a geek is really pretty cool.”

concert percussion performance

Mansfield High School concert percussion group competes in NESBA season opener at Dartmouth High School. This group eventually went on to take the silver medal at the 2012 WGI World Championships in Dayton, Ohio.

In recent years, Andy the Band Geek turned Computer Geek has turned Band Geek once again, volunteering to play trombone with the Mansfield High School Jazz Band alongside his sons Justin (trumpet) and James (trombone), and as a Band Parent, helping out as a volunteer with other music programs including the 2012 World Championship silver medalist Mansfield High School Percussion Ensemble.

“I see what these kids can do, and I see how many of them apply to, and get accepted into, prestigious schools like Berklee College of Music, and I can’t help but feel a certain pride in the quality of the Mansfield Schools music programs,” Andy states, “and as a 25+ year resident of Mansfield, I know every year it’s a budget crisis of one sort or another that threatens to shrink or kill music programs in our schools, so I was looking for ways besides volunteerism, to help make sure that the Mansfield schools music programs remain a force to be reckoned with. My ‘Aha!’ moment came when I realized I could have my family-owned business not only contribute directly, but also act as a conduit for customers to contribute to help fund those programs through the Mansfield Band Parents Association.”

Marching Band trumpet feature during halftime show
MHS Marching Band performing at                   night football game

 Starting May 1st, 2012, and continuing through to December 31st, 2012, Stickynote Tech Services will donate 1% of all collected service revenue to the Mansfield Band Parents Association. In addition, with each billing, Stickynote customers will have the option of adding a voluntary contribution to their bill, 100% of which will be passed through to the Mansfield Band Parents Association to support music in Mansfield Schools.

How will donations work? Customers can have their donations added directly to their bill. But you don’t need to be a Stickynote customer to donate! Anyone who would like to donate is welcome to do so at http://www.stickypc.com/donate.html where they can securely donate any amount to help with this great cause.

About Stickynote Tech Services

Based in Mansfield Massachusetts, Stickynote Tech Services is a local provider of in-home computer installation, recovery, and repair services, wired and wireless network installation and troubleshooting services, and general personal technology services to individuals, families, and small businesses in Southeastern Massachusetts including the south shore, Cape Cod, south coast, greater Taunton area, greater Attleboro area, lower Route 128, and lower Route 495.

About the Mansfield Band Parents Association

The MBPA exists to support the music and color guard programs in Mansfield Public Schools by raising funds and providing as much help as is needed for these extraordinarily successful programs to continue.  Mansfield school music programs that receive assistance from the MBPA include the Jordan/Jackson elementary school band, the Qualters middle school bands and percussion ensemble, the Mansfield High School competitive Winter Guard, and the High School Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, and competitive Percussion Ensembles including the 2012 World Championship Silver Medalist concert percussion ensemble.

Contact:
Andy Trask, Owner
Stickynote Tech Services
(508) 369-9077
info@stickypc.com
Http://www.stickypc.com
Laura Dunn, President
Mansfield Band Parents Association, Inc.
mansfieldbandparents@gmail.com
http://www.mansfieldbandparents.org

Convert your Honey-do list into a Sticky-do list and Save $20 with a Stickynote Gift Certificate for Mom.

This mother's day, let Stickynote Tech Services take care of all those annoying gotchas and glitches and whatsamawhosises that plague mom's technology.

 

You know what a honey-do list is.  Now make a Sticky-do list for all the technology to-dos around the house that never seem to get done!

A few strokes of the pen and poof! Look how easy it is to turn your honey-do list into a sticky-do list!

Hey folks, Mothers Day is right around the corner and what mom wouldn’t like her houseful of ill-behaved technology tamed? Make a sticky-do list of all those annoying gotchas and glitches and whatsamawhosises that seem to spring from technology all over the house and then get mom a Stickynote gift certificate!  We’ll come in and before you know it, that sticky-do list will be a sticky-done list!

Order before Mothers Day, May 13, 2012, and Save $20 off of a one-hour service gift certificate!  Get all the details of this special offer and order your gift certificate today at www.stickypc.com/mom.html

Stickynote! Tech Services - not just for computers. We fix doorbells too!

Doorbell don't dingdong? Add it to your Sticky-do list!

Did you know?  In addition to computers, home networks, and Home entertainment systems, Stickynote also specializes in curing some of the oldest technology in your home.  We fix doorbells!  Buzzer won’t buzz? Doorbell don’t dingdong?  Add that to your sticky-do list and we’ll tackle that along with all the other little annoyances your technology has to offer :)

Computer Repair vs. Computer Replace: What makes sense for you?

computer repair picture of up-to-date windows 7 home computer

Is it time for Windows 7 in your house?

Well, it’s finally happened – what computer repair pros have dreaded for years. The cost of buying a new computer has finally dropped to the point where the computer itself has become  disposable, and any decision to repair a computer, even if repairing it simply means paying for a professional virus removal, has to be weighed against the  cost to replace the computer instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating stuffing the earth’s dwindling waste and recycling resources with junked computers, nor am I suggesting that arbitrarily buying a new computer is the cure-all for when things go wrong and the old computer needs repair work.  Rather, I’m pointing out to folks who may not have noticed, that the price of an entry-level desktop computer tower with (humor me and let me get my geek on for a sec here) Windows 7 Home Premium, 4 gigabytes of RAM, and a Terabyte or more of Hard Drive space, is currently retailing for as little as $399- and that’s just off-the-shelf pricing!  With a little shopper’s diligence you may be able to shave another $50-100 off that price. Netbook computers (“mini” laptops if you’re not familiar with the term) have been available in the $249-399 range since introduced a few years back.  Even full-blown laptop computers with normal-sized keyboards and screens (for those of us who’s fingers and eyes are not aging so gracefully), are hovering in the $500-700 range and can regularly be found on sale for as little as $399!

So, armed with this knowledge, let’s explore a couple scenarios, one in which replacement is the best option and another where doing a repair of the existing computer is still the more sensible approach. And then we’ll wrap up with what it means to you, and highlight some of the questions to ask and values to consider when making your own computer repair vs. replace decision:

Scenario 1

Laptop video / motherboard failure:  Let’s take the computer repair call I got last week from a woman in Sharon, MA. She told me the screen on her laptop computer had failed some time ago and that she had been using an external monitor with it, but now, even the external monitor wasn’t working.

Decision: Replace

Instead of signing myself up to repair her computer at a cost of $300-400 to replace the motherboard (which, in this case, would have been necessary because the video card is built into the motherboard), I suggested instead that she buy a new laptop and have me over to set it up, connect to her wireless network, transfer her data from the old computer to the new computer, set up email or other online accounts, and make sure she’s got adequate data backup and virus protection going forward.

Why the decision to replace?

  • Cost of repair close to cost of entry-level replacement computer
  • Casual use of computer (email, facebook, surf the web, and occasional word processing) means low-cost entry-level system would be adequate for her needs
  • New computer would have greater power, speed, and storage capacity
  • New computer would have Windows 7 vs. old computer Windows Vista meaning better compatibility with hardware, peripherals, and software going forward
  • New computer would have 12-month warranty vs. 30-day warranty on repair

In short, had we gone with a repair, she would have spent almost as much as getting a new computer just to get back to being whole. By replacing, although more expensive when you take into account the cost of the new computer plus set-up and data transfer services, has the advantage of moving her forward into the future with greater speed and capacity, a more modern operating system, and a more comprehensive warranty that makes the extra couple hundred dollars well worth it.

Scenario 2

Desktop Motherboard / Hard Drive Failure:  Here’s a case where I was called out to a small business in Seekonk, MA. They were using a “middle-aged” Windows Vista computer as the central computer for the business, running some proprietary business automation functions, and also doing the business accounting via Quickbooks.  When I arrived onsite, the system had no video signal and would not start up.  I performed some diagnostics and recovery and was able to get the system to start up but would not  trust it to run the business at that point as both the motherboard and the hard disk drive were suspect.

Decision: Repair

I explained the repair vs. replace options to the business owner, leaning heavily towards replace until we started talking about the proprietary software that controls specific devices and functions of his business.  As it turns out, the software was also middle-aged, and the original installation CDs were long lost never to be found again.  With the cost of replacing that software running into the thousands of dollars, the decision to repair became obvious.

Why the decision to repair?

  • Cost of replacing proprietary software and/or related devices would cost thousands of dollars
  • Uncertain compatibility of proprietary software with Windows 7.

In conclusion, it was decided to repair the system, ultimately not by replacing the motherboard, but by tracking down and purchasing a compatible used computer online, and migrating the hard drive image from the old computer to the “new” one.

Your Scenario…

Now of course, every situation is different, and you too may be facing a repair vs. replace decision, if not today, certainly in the future.  Here are some important things to consider if you are faced with that decision:

  • What is the total cost of repair, including parts and labor?
  • What is the total cost of replacement, including computer, applications, and services?
  • Would you need set-up & data transfer services or can you handle that yourself?
  • How old is the computer being repaired? For example, does it make sense to stay with the older Windows XP system, or is it time to move to a Windows 7 computer?
  • Do you have original CDs or installation media and activation keys for software that you want to bring forward to a new computer?
  • Is the software you want to bring forward compatible with the newer hardware and/or Windows version?
  • Are you okay with change?  Realistically, a lot of older folks have become comfortable with their existing computers and how they use their computers, and frankly, the thought of change can be disconcerting.  Don’t fret, you’re not alone! This is one of the big reasons for the continued popularity of Windows XP, and is completely understandable.
computer repair or replacement, that is the question

When I saw this log-in failure, I suggested replacing the computer instead of repairing it.

In conclusion, what I’ve found from helping hundreds of customers with this decision is that although costs can play an overriding role, the decision doesn’t always come down to dollars and cents.  I recently fixed an old MS-DOS computer (a mid 1980’s vintage computer… think pre-mouse!) for a gentleman in Stoneham, MA, who used it to do his accounting.  When I suggested the old machine could fail again and he should think about modernizing, he simply responded, “if it fails again I’ll call you again. I’m 76 years old and don’t feel like learning a new computer!”

 

 

SOLVED! Windows Live Mail could not be started. … Windows Live Mail (0x80041161)

When you start Windows Live Mail, you may get an error message that reads: Windows Live Mail could not be started, It may not be installed correctly. Make sure that your disk is not full or that you are not out of memory. (0×80041161)

picture of windows live mail error 0×80041161

It looks bad but Don't Panic!

If you are getting this message, Don’t Panic!  It does not mean all your emails and contacts are lost (phew!).  Below are instructions for how to solve this Windows Live Mail error and get your email back up and running normally in just minutes.

SOLVED: Windows Live Mail could not be started, It may not be installed correctly. Make sure that your disk is not full or that you are not out of memory. (0×80041161)

1. Click the start button (the round windows logo in lower left corner of screen)

computer repair doesn't always mean broken computers. Sometimes you need help with your email or internet connection.

We haven't decided yet, what to do when it rains...

2. In the search bar at the bottom of the start menu type just the word SERVICES and then hit the enter key on your keyboard. This will open the Component Services window.

Note: Depending on your account rights a small box may pop up first asking you to give administrative permission to proceed with this action. If it does, you must click the choice that gives permission.

3.  In the Component Services window, at the bottom of the left-hand column, click “Services” and a long list of services will appear in the middle column.  Scroll down this list of services until you find “Windows Live ID sign-in assistant.” Double-click the windows live id sign-in assistant service and it will open (refer to image below)

repairing windows live mail error caused by disabled service

Windows Live ID sign-in assistant service

4.  In the  “Startup type” field,  if you see “Disabled” or “Manual”, click on that field and choose “Automatic”

5.  Click the Apply button then click OK and also close the Component Services window.

Once you’ve done this, your Windows Live Mail problem should be fixed. So let’s go ahead and start up Windows Live Mail.  Welcome Back and congratulations! You fixed it yourself with a little help from Stickynote Tech Services!

 

 

 

 

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