Saying Goodbye to Windows XP

Microsoft’s Windows XP was perhaps the most revolutionary and acclaimed computer operating system of the last 15 years. XP quickly became the industry standard for business computers, and PC users became very accustomed to how it works.

With the reputation that its successor, Windows Vista, acquired shortly after its release in 2007, many users decided to continue using the familiar Windows XP instead of upgrading. Many of these same users also decided to hold off on upgrading to Windows 7 after it was released in 2009, and continued to avoid upgrading after the 2012 release of Windows 8. Throughout this time, Microsoft has continued to offer updates and support for Windows XP, but have announced that this support will finally end as of April 8, 2014. As this date draws closer, it is strongly recommended that users consider upgrading.

So, what does a lack of support from Microsoft really mean for Windows XP users? In addition to a lack of troubleshooting help from Microsoft, 0/S updates will no longer be available for Windows XP. Many updates that Microsoft releases are patches intended to repair specific security problems. The longer a system goes without updates, the more vulnerable it becomes to malware, spyware and hacking, which can potentially lead to problems with data security and/or data loss. In addition to security issues, users may start to experience compatibility issues, as manufacturers of software, printers, etc. will no longer support XP. Many software and hardware manufacturers have already stopped supporting compatibility with XP systems.

Once you have decided to replace your Windows XP PC, your first step should be to check in with your IT consultant. It is extremely important to verify the compatibility of your software and hardware with the new PC that you plan to purchase. The programs and hardware that you are currently using can drastically affect the type of PC that you will need to purchase. In addition to checking the compatibility of software and drivers with your new operating system, the daily tasks that you execute on your PC should be considered in determining the processor, amount of memory, video card, and other components that you select for your new PC.

Today, almost all new computers are manufactured with Windows 8, but Windows 7 machines are still available from some manufacturers. Your first inclination may be to purchase a Windows 8 PC, as it is the “latest and greatest” operating system. While it is a quality operating system, it can take some time for software and hardware manufacturers to catch up with operating system requirements, so the possibility of compatibility issues with your software and hardware still exists.

Thorough research and calls to vendors may be required to make sure that everything will work as expected when upgrading your PC. If we find that there are Windows 8-compatibility issues with some of your software or hardware, Windows 7 computers are still available to order through M&H Consulting. The final Microsoft cut-off date for Windows 7 availability is October 2014. If you need to replace a computer and have questions, feel free to give us a call at 1-866-9MH-tech or email us at support@mhconsults.com, and we will be happy to help you determine your needs for your next PC and assist you in its configuration.

Remotely Supporting Mobile Devices

Remote access is a tool that we at M&H frequently use to provide immediate support to our clients when they have computer issues and questions. Using remote access software, we can instantly connect to our clients’ system and resolve issues as they occur, eliminating the need for the delay and cost of travel time. But what about when you need assistance with a mobile device, such as a tablet, Android, or iPhone? M&H frequently gets requests for remote assistance for mobile device users, either for troubleshooting miscellaneous issues, installing & configuring apps, or setting up email accounts. Generally we are able to walk users through these issues over the phone, but it can sometimes take extra time, and it can also be more difficult for the end user.

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In our constant effort to improve our level of service, we have researched and tested various solutions for remotely accessing mobile devices, so that we can make this process easier for users. After finishing our testing, we have selected a solution that has been shown to be consistently effective:TeamViewer. With TeamViewer, we can connect to, and then control or configure (depending on the type of device) a user’s device remotely. To be ready to take advantage of this support option, we recommend you pre-install TeamViewer QuickSupport on your devices now. This is a free app that can be found in the Android or Apple application stores. Once installed, this app will generate a 9 digit device ID number. Simply open the app on your device to get your unique 9 digit ID number. The next time you need support on your mobile device, you can simply call us and give us your 9 digit TeamViewer ID, and our technicians should be able to connect directly to your device to assist you. If you have any questions about installing this free application, please don’t hesitate to email us at support@mhconsults.com

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Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

With the prevalence of computers in society, many of us rely on them every day of the week. Computers help us effectively and efficiently do our jobs, communicate with friends and family, and provide us with endless entertainment and knowledge at our fingertips. Although they are indispensable, extensive computer use can cause Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI, which is a condition often caused by frequent and recurrent activities. RSI commonly affects upper parts of the body, such as wrists, elbows, hands, forearms, back, and neck. The symptoms of RSI include but are not limited to numbness, tingling, burning, pain, or swelling of the aforementioned areas. Luckily, RSI is preventable; there are specific precautions you can take to minimize your chance of acquiring this disorder.

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Many computer users are using the keyboard and mouse that came with the computer. These devices are usually designed and manufactured with price in mind, not comfort and ergonomics. Consequently, they can cause discomfort and contribute toRSI if used often enough. One solution is to replace them with various products on the market designed specifically with comfort and ergonomics in mind such as the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard and the HandShoe mouse. In addition, most keyboards have retractable height adjustments underneath them (such as keyboard ‘ feet ‘ ), which can strain your wrists if they angle the keyboard too steeply. By flattening the keyboard, and positioning it and the mouse at or below elbow height a more natural and comfortable stance is achieved.

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Your workspace and computer layout is an equally important part of preventing RSI and should not be overlooked. Adjust your chair so that you are sitting up straight, not hunched over, and are able to reach the keyboard with your forearms parallel to the floor. Additionally, the height of your chair and monitor should be positioned at eye level while your feet rest flat on the floor and your knees are bent at right angles. These guidelines will promote good posture, and in turn minimize back and neck strain.

Even with the above preventative measures, using your computer for hours on end can still cause RSI, which is why stretching and taking short breaks throughout the day can be just as helpful. Every hour or so try to set aside a few minutes to stand up, walk around, and stretch any muscles that feel tight or numb. It is easy to lose track of time or just forget to do this; however, there are many free programs available to help remind you to take a break such as EyeLeo (EyeLeo.com) and WorkRave (WorkRave.org), which can be downloaded from their website.

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Being proactive about preventing RSI by implementing the above recommendations will not take a lot of time or effort and is important for every computer user to practice. If you have any questions about preventing RSI, contact us any time at 866-9MBTECH or email us at support@mhconsults.com.