PLEASE NOTE that this is an ARCHIVED policy. Each part is not necessarily still in effect. Please contact us for current rates, times, and policies.
Thank you so much, Kentucky!
PLEASE NOTE that this is an ARCHIVED policy. Each part is not necessarily still in effect. Please contact us for current rates, times, and policies.
Thank you so much, Kentucky!
When we find ourselves in the situation where a customer leaves us an item that contains their personal data, it is our responsibility and duty to find a way to secure that personal data or securely destroy that data. This includes failing hard drives, customer purchases, and e-recycling. These are the established methods here at Computers Plus Repair to handle these situations.
Platters are the round disks in hard disk drives that spin at speeds typically from 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM. They are either metal or coated in metal so that they can store your data magnetically. Desktop hard drives — typically 3.5″ drives — have platters made of solid metal. To prevent them from being read by any but the most serious data thief, even the slightest bend in the platter would cause almost instantaneous destruction when the hard drive is powered on and tries to spend at such high speeds mentioned above. Compare it to when you get a very small “bump” in your car’s tire. At highway speeds, it can make your car feel like it’s going to fly apart! Significantly bending the platters removes all hope of recovering data from that drive.
The platters in laptop hard drives — typically 2.5″ drives — are made of metal-coated glass. It’s lighter so that less electricity is needed to keep those platters spinning at high speeds. Because they’re mostly glass, it is far easier to destroy laptop hard drive platters. In fact, throwing them against a hard surface just might be enough to effectively destroy the platters. Or try a hammer. In essence, if you hear pieces rattling around inside after such a run-in with physics, that drive has been destroyed successfully.
These are drives that cannot be accessed — in part or in whole — through a computer interface for secure wiping.
For these drives, we crush them with our in-shop press or otherwise physically destroy the platters inside the drive, such as by drilling holes into the drive and through the platters.
These are drives that are accessible through a computer interface, are in good health, and are of large enough capacity for reuse.
For these drives, we use a utility to securely erase the contents of the drive. The Linux utility Disks has an option to tap into a drive’s ability to securely erase the disk more quickly and more thoroughly than OS-based measures. The ATA Enhanced Secure Erase method accesses a function that is built into the hard drive itself. Because of the fact that the manufacturer must choose to include it, this option may not be available. These are the steps we follow to utilize this method.
For those drives that are functioning and accessible but are too small or old for relevance, we will use one of the two methods above before depositing in the containers for e-waste.
The nature of hard disk drive technology is one based on magnetism. Magnetic fields aren’t perfectly precise. You can shape them and “aim” them, but they’ll let you down. Neighboring areas on hard drives can be affected by the same magnetic field that’s currently being used to write a 1 or a 0 to a bit. This “residual” effect can lead to data recovery even after the original data has been changed — but it’s still far from easy. Success relies on the data surrounding that bit to still be intact, as well. A single pass of random data would more than likely thwart any common data pilferer.
If you’re trying to avoid three-letter government agencies, however, multiple passes may be necessary. This would actually be more secure than crushing or drilling since those same agencies are becoming more and more adept at piecing back together your broken or bent platters.
How many passes is best? Let me put it this way: almost all of those same three-letter agencies you may be worried about use only three passes. And they’re dealing with state secrets. However, according to NIST and other experts, a single pass of overwriting the data on a drive is enough.
Of course, there are more extreme measures of platter destruction such as degaussing, hard drive shredders, melting, etc. However, for our regular customers, that’s certainly overkill. If the ATA Enhanced Secure Erase is available, we will perform that method. If that’s not available, wiping with all zeros or with random data over a single pass will be more than enough in our customers’ cases.
When there are a significant number of hard drives with data to be destroyed, the time in doing so needs to be considered. To crush a drive, you have to stand at the press the entire time and risk flying parts and pieces hitting you. (Even with the proper personal protective equipment in place, it’s best to avoid them!) The most you can do effectively at any one time is two drives. With our manual press, that’s a lot of time and a lot of elbow grease!
With wiping, we can wipe as many drives at the same time as we have freed drive connectors attached to our computers around the shop. We plug them in, start the wipe in the Disks utility, and let it go. It can take us under a minute to get three or four disks wiping concurrently. Then we go do whatever else, leaving the computer to do its work, and check back in on it at some point later.
Let’s say that one of our techs can wipe three drives per workstation. Wiping using the ATA Enhanced Secure Erase option usually takes 2 ½ to 3 hours. With two computers, that’s six drives wiped at the same time. With three computers, that’s nine drives. With four, that’s 12. We have at least this many workstations available. And setting that up across four computers would take that tech maybe five minutes. Crushing the drives in the press would take longer than five minutes to do only two drives. And there are no messy hard drive pieces to clean up afterward!
The obvious difference between hard drives and SSDs is that one moves and the other doesn’t — hence the name solid state drives. SSDs use a type of non-volatile RAM that has only so many “writes” per chemical cell. The chemical membrane in this cell will wear out — unlike the magnetism in a hard drive.
Because of the finite writes available on SSDs, manufacturers have implemented wear-leveling. The computer the SSD is plugged into may be told it’s writing to such-and-such sector, but the SSD’s internal logic is constantly moving sectors across the NVRAM (non-volatile random access memory) as they are written. This way, no one part of the SSD is worn out before another. And this is the main difficulty to overcome in truly and securely erasing an SSD.
To complicate matters, there’s more space available to the SSD than is available to the external device. This additional space is dedicated to assisting in wear-leveling, the accumulation of bad sectors, and other reasons. So, even if a utility like DBAN is used to write zeros to all the available space of the drive, there’s still a lot of personal data left in the drive.
Therefore, you cannot use any external or OS-level mechanism to securely erase an SSD. [Reference: Securely Erasing SSDs]
Just like with hard drives, SSDs can have a built-in, hardware level mechanism for securely erasing all data on the drive. Refer to the following from Kanguru:
When the Secure Erase command is issued by an SSD that properly supports it, the SSD’s built-in controller resets all its storage cells as empty (releasing stored electrons) including the protected storage service regions, restoring the SSD to the factory default configuration.
Enhanced Secure Erase
Enhanced Secure Erase is device-specific, and how it is actually carried out can vary from drive to drive. In some cases, the Enhanced Secure Erase will overwrite all sectors with a predefined pattern of ones and zeroes. In other cases, the drive has an internal encryption key which is simply destroyed and regenerated.
Access to this feature is usually found in the SSD manufacturer’s software. It can also be found in utilities like Parted Magic. MakeUseOf has a good article relating to this utility and how to actually use it: How to Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It.
Computers Plus Repair currently has no solid opinion on what is effective — outside of shredding the memory chips inside the SSD to fine powder or melting them — for physically, securely destroying SSDs and other NVRAM.
Ransomware has become so rampant, that nearly every phishing email that gets sent today contains this form of malware.
What is ransomware you may say? It is a type of malicious software, or virus, designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
This data comes from PhishMe Inc, a provider of software defense solutions. In its latest report, it found that 97.25 percent of all phishing emails sent during Q3 of 2016 contained ransomware, up from 92 percent in Q1.
Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an email.
Three major trends were identified over the past 3 months according to the report:
Locky ransomware continues to dominate: While numerous encryption ransomware varieties have been identified in 2016, Locky has demonstrated adaptability and longevity. Locky will be remembered alongside 2013’s CryptoLocker as a top-tier ransomware tool that fundamentally altered the way security professionals view the threat landscape
Ransomware encryption: The proportion of phishing emails analyzed that delivered some form of ransomware has grown to 97.25 percent, leaving only 2.75 percent of phishing emails to deliver all other forms of malware utilities
Increase in deployment of ‘quiet malware’: PhishMe identified an increase in the deployment of remote access Trojan malware like jRAT, suggesting that these threat actors intend to remain within their victims’ networks for a long time
The other 2.75 percent of malicious software delivered included remote access Trojans, keyloggers and botnets. These still represent a significant hazard in 2016. Unlike ransomware, so-called ‘quiet malware’ is designed to avoid detection while maintaining a presence within a computer or business network for extended periods of time.
Here’s the moral of the story: Be careful what you click on! Read our Ten tips for Identifying a Phishing Email.
Give us a call and we will get right to work on rescuing your computer. If you pay the ransom to these bad actors, there’s absolutely no guarantee they’ll remove the malware from your computer. Call or email us, and we’ll let you know what your options are.
Congratulations to Blake on his new job with MVC Vehicle Components. And congrats to Seth on his teaching position in Shanghai! We are happy for both of them, but they will be greatly missed!
We’re now looking for an experienced Apple computer technician, and an experienced on-site technician with a wide range of troubleshooting and repair experience, both with excellent customer service skills.
If you or someone you know fits the bill, please send a resume to firstname.lastname@example.org
All you have to do is go like our Facebook page and you’ll be entered into our giveaway.
Help us reach our goal of 1000 likes on our Facebook page. Once we reach it, we’ll randomly choose a winner who will get $50 cash!
Congrats to Jenny H. who won our previous giveaway.
It’s a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users if you upgrade before July 29 of 2016. Also, it is getting much better reviews than Windows 8. Check out our post for more info.
If you have any questions, let us know. Plus, we can help with the upgrade or any issues that may arise.
We have a fancy new water damage cleaning machine & process that successfully repairs water damaged electronics in most cases. Plus, we offer a 6 month warranty on the repair.
We perform IT support for many local businesses. We do a broad range of repairs, installations, data backups & recovery, networking, and other on-site services. Learn more
Get easy cash for your used devices. We buy & sell recent, used laptops, iPads, iPhones and Android tablets & smartphones. Learn more
We also sell new computer parts & accessories.
Remember Computers Plus Repair for any laptop, Apple, or data recovery problems. We offer free estimates and diagnostics!
After much anticipation and hype, Microsoft is finally launching Windows 10 on Wednesday, July 29th. As people become aware of this free upgrade, they will likely wonder, “is it worth the trouble?”
For the long answer, visit PCWorld’s in-depth Windows 10 review. But here’s the short version.
Windows 10 is a free upgrade for current Windows 7 and Windows 8 users upgrading before July 29 of next year, 2016. After this, the upgrade will cost $119. Once you install Windows 10, you’ll keep getting updates through 2025 with no subscription fees or the like.
If you have questions, let us know. We offer free advice, plus we can help with the upgrade or any issues that may arise.
It’s time to upgrade to a newer operating system if you’re still using an Internet-connected Windows XP machine, as XP no longer receives critical security updates from Microsoft. Unfortunately, Windows XP users can’t get a free upgrade, and it’s very likely that the old hardware will not be compatible with Windows 10.
Our recommendation: Buy a new Windows 10 machine or a slightly older Windows 8 computer. Some users who don’t want to upgrade have opted for a safer, cheaper alternative, a user-friendly Linux distribution that will work with your current PC.
Also, remember that Office 2003 will be incompatible with Windows 8 or Windows 10.
Windows 10 is a definite improvement over Windows Vista, but the upgrade won’t be free. A fully updated & patched Vista PC works reasonably well, and will continue to receive security updates from Microsoft through April 2017.
If I still owned a Vista-based PC, I would likely upgrade to a Windows 10 laptop or desktop, or I might save a few bucks and get a new Windows 8 since prices are fairly reasonable.
Make sure your computer meets Windows 10’s hardware requirements if you decide to upgrade an existing Vista PC.
When Windows 8 launched, many tech bloggers advised against the upgrade, if you were happy with Windows 7. Windows 8’s lack of a start menu button and attempt to push tablet style apps to your PC was confusing and befuddling at best.
Windows 8.1 fixed many of the most frustrating issues, but now many critics are saying Windows 10 is a masterful blend of the best features of both Windows 7 and 8.
The start button has returned to Windows 10 by popular demand (and should have never disappeared in most people’s opinion). So the user interface will seem familiar to long-time Windows 7 users.
Though Windows 10 still includes Windows 8’s contentious Metro apps and Microsoft services, it still carries over Windows 8’s under-the-hood improvements: lightning-fast boot times, pooled Storage Spaces, networking improvements, a much-improved Task Manager, OneDrive syncing that carries your preferences from PC to PC, etc. The list of benefits goes on, but now without the odd Start screen, full-screen Metro apps, and their confusing (un)functionality.
There are also new features like the Cortana personal assistant, virtual desktops, and the performance-enhancing DirectX 12 graphics API, which seeks to supercharge future generations of games.
With all the new features, and the low price of free, we think it’s safe to move on from faithful Windows 7.
There is caveat that you might consider if you’re a heavy Windows Media Center user. Windows 10 doesn’t support or include WMC, even if you upgrade from a system that already has it installed.
If you upgrade from a version of Windows with WMC installed, Microsoft will at least provide you with some alternative source of DVD playback later this year. In the interim, VLC is free and a great option.
Also, if you’re a current or future Xbox One user, it has replaced WMC in the living room as far as Microsoft’s concerned, and it is upgrading to Windows 10 anyway.
Yes. Go ahead and upgrade. Reserve your download here. There is no reason not to, unless you’ve purchased Windows 8’s optional Windows Media Center add-on pack and don’t want to lose access to that software.
View the Windows 10 FAQ for more info
These are for a pre-released version of Windows 10 and are subject to change.
If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 on your PC or tablet, here’s what it takes.
We’ll keep you on like-to-like editions of Windows. For instance, if you are using Windows 7 Home Premium, you’ll upgrade to Windows 10 Home.
Do you need to recover your data after a hard drive failure, replace a failing hard drive, or create regular backups of your data? Give us a call. We are glad to help.
We offer the following services in our Lexington repair shop:
We perform data recovery in Lexington KY on a regular basis for customers who have failed hard drives or have been unable to access their files due to malware, viruses or data corruption. If your computer is having problems, give us a call or come by our store. We are glad to help you out.
We can also help you set up a regular backup plan to keep your important files safe in the event of hard drive failure or other mishaps. It’s always good to have backups of important information.
Be careful with the coffee. As we all know, liquids and electronics don’t mix very well. Spilling a simple glass of water on your laptop’s keyboard can damage the main circuitry of the computer. Though, a lot of water spills are not catastrophic if the user takes the appropriate steps. For instance, turning the computer off immediately, removing the power cord and battery if possible and letting it completely dry out (in rice or silica gel) for at least 3 days on average. It’s best to take the computer apart so it can dry in areas where air may normally have trouble reaching it. Also, if soda or a sweet drink spill on it, the computer will benefit from a professional cleaning as soon as possible, especially since soda contains corrosive acids. Turning the computer off and unplugging it still apply.
So try to keep food and beverages away from your laptop or computer. We’ve met many people who wish they had!
Keep an eye on the kiddos. Perhaps it’s safe to say small children and certain electronics don’t mix very well either. As cute as the little ones can be, they are sometimes rough on things. Many LCD screens, hard drives, data and hinges have fallen victim to accidents by children. Although, we can fix or replace almost all internal components, the best repair is prevention.
If the kids are old enough to use the electronics, you can use some measures to help prevent accidents. For instance, try having a designated safe, low traffic area for laptop use. This will help prevent accidents.
Ensure good airflow so it doesn’t overheat. This is very important to a hard drive’s longevity. If a hard drive temperature often exceeds its upper limit, the drive’s life can be shortened and cause premature mechanical failure.
Computers and laptops have fans installed to prevent overheating and damage to the system. But sometimes people may not be conscientious of keeping the fan free from obstructions and dust to maintain enough airflow. If your hard drive has failed due to overheating or other causes, we can salvage important data in most cases and transfer it to a new, replacement hard drive.
We provide a free dust cleaning for most fans and cooling components with any other paid service (nicotine damaged computers are extra since they require more than a thorough dusting).
Be careful where you store it. Accidents happen, but sometimes they can be avoided by keeping them in a safe place. For instance, leaving a laptop on the floor or on a chair where it could easily be trampled over, kicked, sat on, or dropped should be avoided whenever possible.
Dropping a laptop or jarring it while the hard drive is running can cause damage to the internal parts of a hard drive – as well as other parts of the laptop, like the LCD screen. We have seen many a casualty in this fashion.
Remember that old age and long-term use is a common reason for hard drive failure as well. Even if you treat your computer perfectly it will still fail one day and you will likely want to have a backup plan set up for your important files.
Got files you’d hate to lose? Make backups of important data. You’ll save time in case of a mishap or hard drive failure, and it will help you to avoid a great deal of frustration!
Ask us. We can help. We offer data recovery, back up solutions, external hard drives, memory upgrades, virus removal, and more.
Computer Virus Removal in Lexington KY
The skilled virus removal technicians at Computers Plus Repair in Lexington have extensive experience and success in removing all kinds of computer viruses and malware.
One of the most common computer services we perform is virus and malware removal, including removal of rogue security software which is becoming increasingly common (see below for a definition of terms and prevention).
Our virus removal service is quick, guaranteed, and competitively priced.
See our price list or request a quote; or call us at 859-523-5355
First we diagnose the severity of the problem through observation of the computer’s symptoms. Then, we utilize one or more of a number of diagnostic scanning and removal programs. In more severe cases we remove the hard drive and connect it to one of our computers to run the scans externally. This way, the malware can’t prevent removal programs from scanning and removing the infected files.
In a few cases, where there has been substantial damage done to core Windows system files, we recommend a data back-up (if desired) and a re-installation of the Windows operating system. In this case, the computer’s software would then be restored to a similar condition as it was when the computer was new.
We guarantee our work for 30 days, but you can be free of viruses for much longer if you take some of the precautionary measures discussed below. Also, refer to our post about our top recommended free software, which includes some of our anti-virus software recommendations. We also sell some more robust anti-virus programs in our store. Feel free to call us or stop in with any questions. We are always glad to help. Read more
A new piece of pesky malware is making its rounds. Often identified as “Trojan.Cryptowall”, it is a Trojan that encrypts your computer files making them inaccessible. It then requires payment to have the files decrypted and to remove Cryptowall.
The threat typically gets installed by clicking links in spam emails, via exploit kits hosted through malicious ads or compromised sites, or by other malware.
This is a nasty piece of malware. As always, we recommend users to be very careful what links they click on and to avoid suspicious websites. In about 30% of cases we have been able to successfully restore access to some or all of users’ files after removing Cryptowall. The remaining option is a system restore to remove the treat.
We do not recommend paying the ransom as directed by Cryptowall. There is no guarantee that the scammer will give you a decryption key to unlock your files, and the threat still remains. If your computer has been taken over by this frustrating piece of malware, give us a call or bring in your computer for us to take a look. We are glad to help.
Computers Plus Repair in Lexington, KY: (859) 523-5355
Once Cryptowall is installed on your computer, it creates several registry entries to store the path of the encrypted files and the program runs each time the computer restarts. It encrypts files with certain extensions on the computer and creates separate files with directions on how to allegedly acquire the decryption code.
This threat attempts to convince you to pay money to get the passkey to free your files. It uses a number of different schemes to encourage you to pay the ransom. Of course after the scammer gets your money, he is under no obligation to release your files.
Another variation of Cryptowall is termed Trojan Cryptodefense. Cryptolocker is a similar piece of malware.
In Cryptowall spam campaigns, the email will usually contain an attachment to an infected file along with a message that tries to coerce the user to download the file. The spam email might say the attachment is an purchase invoice, an undelivered package reminder, or a fax alert. If you open the attachment, your computer will promptly be infected with Trojan.Cryptowall or a variation of it.
It can also be transferred through exploit kits on compromised websites or malicious ads. The Rig exploit kit and the Nuclear exploit kit are two kits that have been used to compromise users’ computers with Cryptowall.
Cryptowall was designed to prevent you from opening your files so that it could attempt to require payment in order to regain access. It does this by encrypting a large number of files on the computer with public/private key encryption using a very strong 617 digit or 2048-bit RSA key.
Once it has your files on lockdown, Cryptowall displays a ransom message via text document or HTML page. It may also warn that the decryption key will be deleted after a certain amount of time in order to pressure the you into paying quicker. The scammer may demand hundreds of dollars, and the amount may increase after a certain amount of days.
The message will then give a link to a website where the scammer wishes to take payment. These sites are usually hosted on the anonymous Tor network, which scammers often use to hide their identity. The threat has asked the user to install a Tor network browser in order to access the site, but newer versions of the threat do not require the user to do this. The user may have to pay using an anonymous currency such as bitcoin to help shield the attacker’s identity.
Even if you pay the ransom, there is of course no guarantee that the scammer will give you a decryption key to unlock the files.
Looking for a computer for work, school, or personal use? We have several affordable laptops, including an Intel i3 Toshiba Satellite with Windows 8 for $389, and a refurbished i7 iMac Apple computer in great condition for $1099! Come by or give us a call to check our inventory. (859) 523-5355 (check out the photos below)
M-F: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sat: Closed (COVID-19)
Closed Most Holidays (Call ahead )
After-hours time slots are available by appointment.