26th Anniversary of self employment. Financial Services and IT Services.

family-222128_640Today is the 26th Anniversary of me becoming self employed. on 15th January 1990 I stopped working at a bank and became a self employed financial adviser. I had previously worked in pubs and clubs, and for the local education authority in the “computer lab” at the school where I was still a student. I kept up to date on computers and other IT and continued to support family, friends and colleagues.

mobile-971480_640Around ten years ago I started Colin Bowen IT Services, mainly as a way to fix more computers than I had access to at the time, and to generate a little extra income in my spare time (I didn’t have kids then, so I had spare time). I never intended it to become my main business, but over the years the IT services business has grown quite steadily, and I’m now at a point where I don’t have time to spend on both businesses and spend time with my family.

I’m giving up my financial adviser licences in April to develop my IT and computer services business. People can still come to me for financial services, and I will pass them on to other financial services companies that I have dealt with for years, and those companies will provide the advice.

So, I’d like to thank all my existing clients from both businesses. I hope you will continue to come to me for your IT services and financial services needs, and I’ll help you personally or point you towards trusted third parties who can help you. Of course, I also welcome new customers, so please tell people about me, and get in touch if you need help.

Today in Computer Repair

Here’s a run-down of some of the things I’ve been doing today.

2015-06-10 11.27.09I’ve had some old computers laying around for a long time, and since things aren’t too busy this week I was going to take them to the tip. Instead I refurbished them and I’m offering them for sale. Two desktops and one laptop have been cleaned them out, data securely wiped, hard disks tested for servicability, one got a RAM (memory) upgrade. I installed Xubuntu on all three. Xubuntu is an Operating System (like Windows) which works very well on older computers. I tested the startup time on one of them, and I can turn it on, boot it up, and get online to Facebook in one minute 15 seconds. I might keep the laptop to use for the family in the dining room, but the two desktops are being offered for sale. Contact me if you’re interested.

One other computer is a Windows Vista computer, but it has no hard disk. I’ve ordered a new hard disk and I’ll install Windows Vista on it again. I’ve already found a buyer for this one.

2015-06-10 11.37.02The other laptop I worked on today is has a failing hard disk. For weeks the client has been seeing the following message SMART Hard Disk Error. The SMART hard disk check has detected an imminent failure. To ensure not data loss, please backup the content immediately and run the Hard Disk Test in System Diagnostics. Hard Disk 1 (301). F2 System Diagnostics. ENTER – Continue Startup. For more information, please visit:… That’s not a typo, it actually says “Not data loss” instead of “no data loss”. Basilcally, the har ddisk is failing and there is a real danger that the client’s files and photos will be lost. I have backed up the data from this failing hard drive and I’m ready to fit the replacement hard drive, install the operating system, and restore all the client’s data and photos.

Finally, I’ve been trying for a week to get a desktop PC to boot into Windows again but it just won’t. Because it was Windows 7 and had an upgrade to Windows 8 (8.1 now), it doesn’t contain some of the files required to do a “PC Refresh”. I have agreed with the client that I will have to reinstall Windows, and he would prefer to go back to Windows 7. On my advice, he has agreed for me to purchase a new disk drive and install Windows 7 on that, leaving his original disk drive untouched in case the data backup I did didn’t get all of his files and photos. It’s a £50 insurance policy against losing some precious family photos.

I lot of work for a quiet day!

To see other “Recent Jobs”, click here and scroll down.

Your Windows 8.1 installation couldn’t be completed – solved

Your Windows 8.1 installation couldn't be completed - solvedIf you can’t upgrade to Windows 8.1 because you get the message “Your Windows 8.1 installation couldn’t be completed. Something happened and the installation of Windows 8.1 can’t be completed”, then I can help. Just go to http://www.bowenracing.com/ and click the “Get Remote Support Now” link. You can then allow me to log in and fix the problem for you.

 

Payment by Paypal or Credit Card accepted.

SearchGol browser hijack removal

A new client called me in because they had adverts on their search page and pop-ups, and their home page was set to searchgol.com.  These browser hijacks or search hijacks aren’t just annoying, the can lead you to other websites that install more rubbish on your system, and the certainly track your internet searches and browsing history and habits.

I have had lots of this type of thing lately and usually it’s fairly easy for me to remove these search hijacks, but it was the first time I had seen SearchGol.  I removed everything as usual, but each time I restarted Chrome searchgol came back.  Internet explorer was ok, but even unistalling Chrome and reinstalling wouldn’t stop the searchgol redirect from coming back.

[EDIT: I subsequently suspect that Search Protect was being used to prevent the user (and me) from changing the search provider too.  Search Protect can also be difficult to remove]

I tried all the tools and instructions I could find when searching for a solution on Google, but none of them worked.  It had taken much longer than the time I estimated, but I was determined not to give up.  I slept on it, and had an idea.  The next evening I tried it and it worked, searchgol was gone!

I’m usually good at finding a solution on Google, but none of the solutions I tried had worked.  Sometimes, I have to rely on my own brain to solve a problem.

If you have ads showing on your search engine (or search page) then you might have a browser hijack or search hijack.  Contact me and I will arrange an appointment to remove it either in person, or by remote login to your computer.

Fast turnaround for new business client

A couple of weeks ago someone called me from an unknown mobile number while I was with another client.  I returned the call between that client and the next but there was no answer.  This happened again at the next client.  Heading back to the office, I called the number again and got through to someone.  It happened to be someone from the company I advertise through; I am their client, but they were asking for my help.

He explained that they are moving offices and want to get their internet wiring organised.  They have some of the equipment, but their internet wall sockets (ethernet ports) aren’t all working.  Due to the office move and change of internet service provider, they had no internet service at all at the time.  I asked where the office was, and said “I’ll be there in 10 minutes”.

We spent a little time figuring out what it was they needed, and looked at their existing equipment.  We quickly tested a socket to find that it wasn’t connected at all.  I explained that I can sort it all out for them.  This was all he needed to know at this stage.  Later I texted him to say that he doesn’t have to wait for the new internet installation in order to sort out the wiring problems.  He replied that he would be in touch soon to arrange a visit for me to do the work.

I expect to hear from them when they decide where their desks are going and which sockets they need connected.  It will be nice to send them an invoice for a change!

Non-booting PC – and hard disk errors

A client’s PC would not boot up.  The computer was a custom-built PC and the person who built is was no longer in business.

The PC would look like it was going to start, but it would get stuck.  Initially I suspected a faulty sector on the hard disk, thinking a file that Windows needs to start up was corrupt, so I took the PC back to the office to run some disk maintenance and data recovery software (it takes hours to finish).

Before subjecting the computer to hours of data recovery, I checked some other settings.  I found that there were incorrect BIOS settings.  BIOS is the basic system software that (basically) gets the motherboard and physical hardware ready to the point that it can boot into Windows.  I corrected the settings and the computer then booted up properly.  Job done, some might say.

Since I had the computer in my office, I decided to run the disk maintenance software anyway.  When a computer can’t boot properly, you have little choice but to “pull the plug” to turn it off.  Pulling the plug out is not good for a hard drive and often results in data errors.

Hard disks get 1000’s of errors a day, but the hard disk itself usually makes the corrections on the fly.  The software I use makes the hard disk check its entire surface again, refreshing the data and identifying problems that the hard disk itself didn’t know it had.  In this case, the report highlighted that the hard disk was in a worse state than it thought it was.  The errors were corrected, but I have recommended that I run the disk maintenance software again in a few months.  If the report shows that there are new problems with the data, then it would indicate the disk could be failing and I will recommend replacing it before it fails catastrophically.

 

 

Broadband internet troubleshooting

A client called to say that their BT Infinity broadband wasn’t working.  They had spent a considerable time on the phone to BT technical support without any resolution.  This sort of problem is very hard to diagnose over the phone; you need to actually be there to troubleshoot these problems.

I visited the client and tested the PC, then the Home Hub, then the Infinity box.  They seemed to working correctly but there was still no internet connection.  I checked their internal wiring (phone sockets and BT Infinity socket) and that appeared to be in good condition.  My diagnosis was that there was a problem with the BT line outside the property.  They called BT who informed them that there was a charge of over £100 to have a BT engineer come out, but they wouldn’t have to pay the charge of the problem was outside the home.  I was confident that it was a problem at BT’s end, so the client agreed and booked the BT Engineer visit.

The client later informed me that it was a problem at BT’s green box in their street, which BT fixed free of charge, and the internet is working properly now.  My charge was less than the BT Engineer would have cost, so the client saved money by calling me in.

My advice is, if you have an internet problem, call me in to troubleshoot and don’t waste your time with calling BT (or Virgin, TalkTalk, or whoever).  I will identify and fix the problem if it’s a problem at your end, or advise you to contact your provider if the problem is at their end.  It will save you time, money, and hassle.

Recent jobs

Nothing particularly exciting, but it was good to deal with such a range of work for one client.

  • Transfer files from an old Windows XP desktop computer to a newer Windows 7 desktop computer.
  • Troubleshoot wireless internet problems.  It’s a long house and the WiFi signal won’t reach all the way, so I have recommended a device which will allow wireless internet throughout the house.  I will go back to install it when it arrives from the supplier.
  • Set up Norton 360 on a new Windows 8 laptop.  Although Windows 8 includes Microsoft’s own free antivirus software, PC World still sold my  client Norton 360 (for £60 I think).  I don’t recommend Norton (or McAfee) on any version of Windows, but since the client had paid for it, I set it up for the her.  I recommended against using their automatic renewal option as it’s tricky to cancel; Norton debit the credit card way in advance of the renewal date, just to make sure they get the money before people get a chance to cancel.  I will arrange to uninstall Norton before the end of the subscription year and install a free antivirus instead.
  • Sort out various iPad problems.  I have seen lots of “incorrect Apple ID password” problems on iPads, iPhones and iPods.  Even changing the password doesn’t seem to resolve the problem sometimes.  Anyway, I fixed the problem and installed Chrome (browser), Kindle, and some other software to help her get the most from her iPad.

Since the client has several other things she wants me to take care of, she agreed to sign up for my monthly CBits Subscription service.  Rather than pay-as-you-go, she will pay a small monthly amount which works out cheaper than paying per visit for most clients.  She gets some other benefits too, like priority service, and if she doesn’t use up all her ‘allowance’ of time, she can call me in to service all her computers, iPad, and phone to make sure they’re all up to date and working efficiently.

 

Internet connection problem – Why it pays to pay me

I went to see a client this morning.  She had no internet.  Yesterday a Virgin Engineer spent two hours at her house and couldn’t get it to work. She then spent three hours on the phone to Virgin who eventually blamed her computer.  She was so stressed that she took the night off work.

I got her back online 35 minutes after I arrived. The problems was an incorrect setting on her Virgin router. I fixed something in 35 minutes that virgin couldn’t fix in five hours!

I then spent the remaining 25 minutes of my one-hour minimum call-out fixing a blue-screen problem (caused by overheating) and speeding up her PC a little.

This ‘can’t get on the internet’ type of problem is very common.  It’s not something the Internet Service Provider (ISP) can easily diagnose over the phone.  It needs someone actually there to see what’s going on and to try things in a logical order.

The ISP will tend to blame the client’s computer (especially antivirus) first, but they could be barking up the wrong tree and wasting lots of time changing the computer settings.  Almost always, the first thing I do is connect my laptop to the modem/router and see if I can get on the internet.  If I can, then it’s likely to be a problem with the client’s computer.  If my laptop can’t get on the internet, then it’s likely to be a problem with the modem or router or a line problem, and the ISP can’t blame the client’s computer.  Either way, we’ve just saved half of the time by ruling out half of the possibilities.

So, next time you can’t get on the internet, call me and I’ll figure out what the problem really is.  The alternative could be spending five hours with the ISP, not getting the problem solved, and losing a night’s money because you’re too stressed to go to work.

Recent Jobs – “Windows Pro Defense” fake antivirus, and data recovery.

Got a call from a new client about 10:30 today. Her (very nice) Sony PC had the “Windows Pro Defence” virus. It’s a fake antivirus program. Looks like they had spent a couple of days trying to remove it. It took me 40 minutes.

I also delivered an external hard disk to another client containing most or all of the six years of their family photos that I spend many days recovering from their laptop’s crashed and damaged hard disk.

Currently working on a Premium Tune-up to clear out and speed up another new client’s PC.