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Issue #657: February 23-29, 2020

Q: Who can I get to reset my business computer and reinstall Windows 10 Pro?

 – Don N.
Niceville, Florida

A:  As a rule, I don’t recommend or endorse specific brands or providers, Don.  However, as with most information these days, a list of computer repair places is as close as the web browser of your nearest Internet-connected device.  Fire-up your favorite search engine, and ask for “Computer Repair Near Me” (without the quotes).  Not only will you get a list of potential places to take your computer, but you should also be able to see ratings and reviews of each business to help you decide which one you want to use.

Before you start down this road, make sure you’re prepared.  You’ll need proof of a valid license key for your copy of Windows, and/or the original installation media that came with the machine.  If you have those, you could actually do the work yourself if you were so inclined.  Also don’t forget: a full re-install of Windows is generally a destructive process, so make sure all your data files are backed up before you (or someone else) begins.

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 Q: I have a very nice laptop (i7 CPU, 16 GB RAM) that I only use when I travel for an extended time and as a backup for my desktop should it fail. It could go a year or more between uses. It sits shutdown and unplugged in the closet until I am preparing for my trip. I plug it in and perform operating system and application software updates and then update various data to match what is on my desktop. I am concerned that between the time I plug it in and the time it is updated that it might become infected. Should I just leave it plugged in all the time to keep it updated? Is there an easy way to safely catch up on updates without risking infection? Am I being overly concerned? Thanks and love your column!

 – Josh L.
Niceville, Florida

A:  This seems like a rather odd question, Josh.  You’re asking whether connecting it to Windows Update is putting it at risk of becoming infected?  But you also wonder if keeping it up, running and connected all the time is somehow safer?  I must admit, your logic escapes me.

So, let me start by saying yes, I think you’re being overly concerned.  Many, if not most computer users (myself included) leave their PCs up and running 24/7.  I personally do this for two reasons.  First, the system is always ready for me to sit down and use it, rather than waiting for it to boot.  Second, as you alluded to, it allows updates to be downloaded as-needed to keep the system fully up-to-date.

This is not an absolute, all-inclusive statement, but in general, malware infestations don’t usually happen just because your computer is connected to the Internet.  And to my knowledge, the Windows Update site has not been a source of malware, even though some of the recent Windows updates have left a lot to be desired.  Internet-related malware infestations usually occur because of visits to questionable or compromised websites, or downloading contaminated files, or opening bogus attachments in e-mails.  You should be reasonably safe connecting just to download updates.

One other thing that you didn’t ask about, but I wanted to mention is that leaving a laptop unplugged for extended periods of time, then powering it up again, followed by leaving it unplugged again is murder on the system’s battery.  Lithium ion batteries tend to go bad when stored in a discharged state. But they also slowly discharge over time, so even if you store it fully charged, eventually it will go dead on its own.  So, if you choose to continue storing your laptop rather than keeping it powered-on, make sure you take it out of that closet every few months and charge the battery back up.

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