Free & Unlimited Photo Storage From Google

Do you take lots of photos, but have no idea how to organize and back them up? I had the same problem. I have an Android phone and my wife had an iPhone, plus we had a Samsung Android tablet and and iPad. Not to mention the years of photos we had taken and scanned- terabytes of photos- that were scattered on desktops, laptops and external hard drives. There was no easy way for us to backup and access all the photos from all our various devices. And the thought of possibly losing them someday due to a broken hard drive or a natural disaster was terrifying.

cloud-devices-pcoverhaul

Google has a complete photo management system that solved the problem for us. It’s easy to use and free. It also offers an unlimited amount of storage, although the file size and is slightly reduced (about 40% or so). The reduction in size does reduce the quality of the photos, but if this is only a backup and not your only copy of the photos it won’t matter much.

pcoverhaul-googlephotos

For smartphone users, the Google Photos app is very easy to install, and works equally well for both Android and iPhone. Install the app, and associate it with a Gmail account (or open a new one for free).  If you’re an iPhone user, Google will automatically back up all the photos in your Camera Roll, and all the new photos you take whenever you are in wifi range. Android users will also be able to select any number or all of their folders containing photos.

pcoverhaul.com google photos

 

With the desktop app, your Desktop, My Pictures, My Documents and My Videos folders (and subfolders) are selected by default. You can add as many additional folders as you’d like. In this example I have added two folders from my mapped P drive that has all my photos on it.

2015-11-30_20-23-48

 

2015-11-30_20-31-32If you have a large number of photos on your computer, the desktop loader may take days or even weeks to get them all uploaded.

The Google Photos Desktop App will continue to run in the background until it catches up, and then it will automatically add new photos as you save them.

In my case, I selected some very large folders and have over 46,000 pending, so it’s bound to take a while.

By logging in to the same account on the app on all your devices- Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, Mac computers, Windows computers- the photos and videos from all those devices are all in one place.

For example, I created a new google account just for my family, installed the app on both my wife’s phone and mine, and then installed the desktop app. She can now log in from work and see photos I have taken while I am home with the kids during the day. And we can both access all those years of old photos that we took with our various digital cameras, as well as all the photos and documents I’ve scanned. Everything backed up in one place, for free.

While it certainly isn’t a full-featured editing app, the editor features a basic set of tools for enhancing your photos. Perfect for a quick correction before you post something online.

Using the autofix feature, I did a quick edit of this underexposed picture of my house.

pcoverhaul google photos edit 01b-large
Before (left) and after (right) using the autofix feature in the Google Photos editor.

 

Changes you make when editing are applied to the version of the image that’s stored on Google Photos in the cloud, while the original on your device remains untouched.

pcoverhaul google photos multiple file select
Select multiple files by dragging your finger across the screen
pcoverhaul google photos sharing
Share your photos in dozens of ways. Copy the file link for pasting into a message, or share directly into email, app or upload to social media.

Sharing the files is simple and easy.

Just select the file or files you want to share, click on the share icon, and choose how you want to share it. If you want to select a bunch in a row, you don’t have to do them one at a time. Choose the first one, then drag your finger to the last one and Google Photos selects them all.

The Assistant feature in Google Photos is truly amazing. The app chooses certain photos and works some magic with them. In some cases, it may stylize them (think Instagram filter), or add a frame. If photos are similar, the assistant may group them together into a collage. Panoramas will be created by stitching together individual shots if they line up correctly. And if you have pictures taken close enough together in time, the Assistant will throw them all together into an animated GIF file. You can save any of these creations right to your account, or delete them with a swipe of your finger.

Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for "things" found in photos.
Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for “things” found in photos.

The search feature gives you several options to find your photos and videos.

If your photos have names, or are in folders with names, those names are searchable.  But Google Photos goes further by using an algorithm to identify things in your pictures even if they aren’t named. A search for “cat” brought up hundreds of photos of both our current cat and our two previous cats.

Google Photos also gives you the option of searching by category. Here you can see it has displayed faces of some people it found in my photos. Clicking on a face shows all the other matching faces, and you can easily assign a name to any face you choose.

The places category is based on location data in the photos themselves. If you don’t have location data turned on, Google will still try to figure out where a photo is taken and put it in your places file. Somewhere like Cinderella’s Castle at DisneyWorld is going to be easy for the system to identify, for example.

The “things” category is a sort of hodgepodge, and isn’t totally accurate, but can be helpful if you only want photos with the Christmas ornaments, for example, and don’t want to sort through every picture you’ve ever taken at Christmas to find them.

At the bottom you can search your videos, as well as recently added photos, your Google Drive, and any of the creations you have saved with the Assistant feature.

 

 

 

Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for "things" found in photos.
Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for “things” found in photos.

 

I’m very familiar with the delete feature, because I often take photos in burst mode and end up putting the phone back in my pocket before the lock goes on my phone, resulting in dozens of dark blue and black photos.

Deleted photos can be recovered for 30 days, then they are gone forever. You can also go into your trash and permanently delete them whenever you’d like.

 

 

 

Google Photos does all of that and more, and will probably continue to add more features over time.  If you only need to back up photos and videos, this may be the solution for you.

 

World Backup Day

Have you backed up your data recently? Every day people and businesses lose huge amounts of
valuable data because they fail to run a backup of their files. World Backup Day is set aside
as a reminder to back up those important files.


If you have files that are important to you and can’t be easily replaced or recreated, you should have some sort of regularly scheduled backup. Hard drives can crash. Computers can be infected with malware and viruses. And your smartphone can be damaged, lost or stolen. Losing irreplaceable and valuable documents or photos with no way to recover them is a nightmare scenario.

pcoverhaul-files

No matter how new or secure your smartphone or computer is, it’s important to back up your
files, because even new hardware can fail. Some polls have shown that almost 40% of people
don’t have any type of backup at all, and another 15% only backup 1-2 times a year.

Malware and viruses infect roughly 1/3 of the world’s computers. There’s a whole class of
viruses that will lock your files and hold them for ransom. In most cases, even paying the
ransom won’t get your files back. If you have a current backup, you can completely wipe your
computer’s hard drive to rid it of the virus and restore your files from your backup copy.

The hard drive on your computer can also fail or crash. In those cases you may be able to recover the files by sending them to a professional data recovery lab, but that type of service is expensive. Depending on the exact problem, the cost could be anywhere from $300- $2000 and you may not even get back 100% of the data.

This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.
This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.

Any natural disaster that strikes your home or business can damage or destroy your computer and with it, your files. Fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes can eradicate your data permanently with no chance of recovery.

Computers can be stolen, whether they are laptops, desktops, or even servers. Your data may or may not be valuable depending on who the thief is. In many cases, they wipe the hard drives to conceal who the original owner is before they sell the computer, so even if you can recover the system, your files may be gone.

More than 3 million smartphones were stolen last year- that’s more than 100 smartphones stolen every minute, each day. Another 1.4 million phones are lost every year and never recovered. Smartphones are prime targets for thieves because even more so than computers, smartphones hold loads of personal information like banking and credit card info, photos, emails, and even your whereabouts thanks to GPS location. The thief may be after your
identity or financial information and not your documents or photos, but you’re going to lose them regardless of the motive. Phones are also small and easy to conceal in a pocket or handbag, and they have a high resale value. And the first thing they will do is wipe it clean of all traces of your files.

There are dozens of other things that can happen to your files. A regularly scheduled backup
gives you peace of mind in those situations. There are several methods you can use to backup your files.

An external hard drive.
An external hard drive.

If you’re backing up a computer and have a relatively small amount of data, you can use a USB flash drive. If you have larger amounts of data you probably want to use an external hard drive. External drives are portable so they can be thrown in a laptop bag or backpack. They also allow quick access to all your files at once. There are downsides to external drives though. The drives are affected by all the same things computers are- they can be lost, stolen, damaged by natural disasters, get infected by malware and viruses and they can have mechanical failures. If your data is very valuable you should use more than one external hard drive.

Cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive/Google Photos are popular for both smartphone and computer backups. They give you a small amount of space for free, and can be
accessed from anywhere on any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, PC, MAC). The problem is, one glitch and your files are gone, because there’s only one copy of your files there. If you accidentally delete a file, that deletion gets synced up to the cloud and there’s no way to get it back.

If you have an iPhone, you can back it up right to your computer using iTunes. This is nice because you only get 5 GB of space in iCloud so all your files may not fit there. Your computer probably has a ton of free space, and an iTunes backup is a complete backup of all your photos, videos, music, documents, SMS messages, call logs, contacts and apps. If you ever lose your iPhone or upgrade, just plug the replacement into your computer, open iTunes and you can restore your entire configuration from your last backup.

A Cloud Backup Service is different because it offers the ability to keep multiple versions
of your files, so if Tuesday’s backup is corrupted or encrypted from a virus infection, or
deleted by mistake, you can get the files back from Monday’s backup. You do have to pay for a
backup service like that, but if the data is important or irreplaceable, it’s well worth the
cost. If you have a large number of files to back up, you’ll find cloud backups are slower than backing up to an external hard drive. And if you ever need to retrieve a large number of files it may take hours or even days to pull them down from the cloud.

A sound backup solution would combine all these methods.

The accepted rule for backup best practices is the three-two-one rule. It can be summarized as: if you’re backing something up, you should have:

  • At least three copies,
  • In two different formats,
  • with one of those copies off-site.

    pcoverhaul-google+photos
    I use Google Photos to automatically back up photos from both my smartphone and my wife’s phone whenever we are in WiFi range.

I have multiple external hard drives for my most important files, which happen to be photos. These are backed up daily. Everything is also backed up to the cloud via Google+ Photos and Amazon’s Prime storage service. I also burn Blu-Ray discs so I always have a “negative” that can’t be deleted, and store a copy of these with a relative. Both my smartphone and my wife’s smartphone are set to automatically backup to Google and Amazon whenever we have WiFi access.

Whatever method you choose, please be sure you backup your files. If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start, I’ll be happy to help you out.

 

 

CryptoWall 3.0

Simply put, this type of virus is devastating. CryptoWall (and the rest of the CryptoLocker variants) will encrypt (lock) your files and demand a ransom to get the key.

cryptowall

Files affected are usually photos, documents, music, and movies.

So far, there’s no way to crack the encryption (unlock the files) without paying the ransom, and there’s no guarantee the hackers will give you the key even when you’ve paid. The ransom can be anywhere from $400-$600 and with every new variation it’s going up.

pcoverhaul-cryptowall2.0

The best way to prevent infection is to have a current backup of your files. Once the virus is removed (or once you wipe and reload the computer), you can restore your files. Most antivirus programs can remove the virus, but that won’t help you get your files back.

 

Repair or Replace?

All hardware will fail at some point. The typical lifespan of both laptop and desktop computers is in the 3-5 year range, and according to this study by Backblaze, 90% of hard drives will last 3 years, but after that there’s a 12% chance per year that your drive will die (always keep current backups).

If this is your home computer, you may want to make different choices than if these are business computers. Often you can delay replacing a home computer until a good deal comes along, and you may have other devices to fill the void in the meantime if you are waiting for a repair. But in business, time lost waiting for a repair can offset any potential savings.

So should you repair or replace?

This handy infographic by Lexicon Technologies shows there can be a decent amount of money saved when making the right choice between repairing and replacing broken technology.

replace-or-repair

 

Infinit- File Sharing App

Infinit – This very useful little app lets you “send any file in less than 4 seconds”.

pcoverhaul- infinit 2

Simply create links to your files that can be shared anywhere on the web-  Facebook, Twitter, via email, SMS messages or online forums.

pcoverhaul- infinit 1

You’ll have a dedicated inft.ly webpage for your files and you can grant access to anyone you choose. Infinit uses P2P Bitorrent technology so your files are not stored on a server where they can be accessed by any unauthorized users (like the recent celebrity icloud hack).

pcoverhaul- infinit 3

Here is a more complete list of features-

pcoverhaul- infinit 4

 

It’s fast, free, and unlimited, so check it out.

 

 

 

How safe is your online data?

You may have heard about the latest celebrity phone hacking scandal involving stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande and Kate Upton. The photos were stolen from Apple’s iCloud service, and not the phones themselves. Many of the celebs had already deleted the photos and videos from their iPhones, some of them a year or more ago, but they still had those files backed up on iCloud. Hackers use a variety of methods to get into iCloud accounts, from brute force attacks to trying easy to guess passwords, since iCloud would not lock you out if you guessed wrong a certain number of times.

screen shot 2014-05-19 at 9.54.52 am-1

In the case of these particular celebrity photos, they have been floating around on the “dark net” for quite some time before they were finally leaked publicly.

Though it hasn’t yet been confirmed that the pictures came from iCloud accounts, reports have speculated that the hackers used a recent tool called iBrute, which can repeatedly try different combinations of passwords on Apple’s Find My iPhone service until one of them works. Once Find My iPhone is breached, it is possible to access iCloud passwords and view images and other data stored in a user’s iCloud account. Apple had previously allowed an unlimited number of password attempts on the Find My iPhone service, but it has since limited it to five attempts, making the iBrute tool ineffective. [TheVerge]

You may or may not have intimate photos and videos you want to protect from prying eyes. Even if you don’t, think about all the sensitive information you may have in your email and private messages on Facebook and other social media sites. There’s probably some stuff in there you’d rather keep to yourself.

So what can you do to protect your private files and conversations online?

First, accept that virtually everything we do now electronically can be hacked or compromised. It may only be  a curious spouse, but it could be an ex, a co-worker, or a professional hacker.  The best way to keep someone from gaining access to sensitive data  is not to put it online in the first place.

For data that you DO share, the first thing you should do is have a complex password that nobody can guess. “Password”, “123456” or your telephone number are not going to cut it. As this Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe demonstrates, substituting numbers and symbols for letters is still easy for a sophisticated software prgram to crack. 

Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe

For example, Bruins?Win?Habs?Lose! will not be easily cracked by hacking software and is easier to remember than Bru1n5W#nH4B5L0s3. Phrases make a password more complaex without being too hard to remember. And if remembering is an issue, try a free password manager like LastPass.

Another thing you can do is enable two step verification. This means in addition to knowing the password, the person trying to get into the account has to have access to some kind of device like your phone. where a code may be sent to verify your identity.

ZDnet has this great info on how to set up two step verification for some of the most popular services:

Apple iCloud

  1. Login to My Apple ID.
  2. Pick “Manage your Apple ID and sign in”
  3. Select “Password and Security”
  4. Under “Two-Step Verification,” select “Get Started,” and follow the instructions.

Note: Be aware that when you change your Apple ID to two-factor authentication, it’s a one-way journey. You can only change your password afterwards by using the two-factor method.

Dropbox

  1. Sign in to Dropbox.
  2. Click on your name from the upper-right of any page to open your account menu.
  3. Click “Settings” from the account menu and select the “Security” tab.
  4. Under “Two-step verification” section, click “Enable.”
  5. Click “Get started” and follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to re-enter your password to enable two-factor verification. Once you do, you’ll be given the choice to receive your security code by text or to use a mobile app.

Google Drive

  1. Login to Google from this link.
  2. Enter your phone number.
  3. Enter the code that you’ll get from either a text or a voice phone call.
  4. Follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to get a new code for each PC or device that uses any Google services. For some services, such as Gmail when accessed on an Apple device or by a mail client or some instant message clients, you’ll also need to set an application specific password.

Microsoft OneDrive

  1. Login to your Microsoft Account.
  2. Go to “Security & Password.”
  3. Under “Password and security info,” tap or click “Edit security info.”
  4. Under “Two-step verification,” tap or click “Set up two-step verification.”
  5. Click “Next,” and then follow the instructions.

Note: Microsoft may require you to enter a security code that the company will send to your phone or email before you can turn on two-step verification.

Many other services now offer two-step authentication. Here are ZDNet articles detailing how to set it up onFacebookTwitter, and Google.

 

What Files Should I Backup?

I am constantly reminding people to keep regular backups of their files, but what does that really mean? There are hundreds of folders and sub folders on your computer, so which ones should and shouldn’t be backed up?

pcoverhaul-files

 

First of all,  let’s talk about the software you can use to run the backup. There are lots of programs you can use to back these files up. New computers often have some sort of backup software installed and some external hard drives come with pre-installed backup software as well. A backup feature is also sometimes built in to some of the large antivirus suites. But if your computer or external drive doesn’t give you a backup option, don’t panic. If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8 or Windows 10, a backup feature is built in.  And of course there are several great free backup tools out there, like Redo Backup & Restore, Create Synchronicity, and Free File Sync. It’s not important which backup software you use, just be sure to get one that you are comfortable using and use it or schedule it to run regularly.

Free File Sync's interface. The 'Source" drive is shown on the left, the "Target" on the right.
Free File Sync’s interface. The ‘Source” drive is shown on the left, the “Target” on the right.

 

And one more important note-  one backup is never enough. That external hard drive you are using to back up your files is likely going to be in the same location as your computer in order to run these backups. If you have a theft, a natural disaster like a fire or flood, or a power surge fries your computer, chances are the backup drive will meet the same fate. So the key is to have a backup that’s not located wherever your computer is. Most people use a cloud backup for this. If you are confused about the cloud, it basically just means it’s kept on a server outside of your location. Free services like DropboxGoogle Drive, Box,  JustCloud, and Microsoft’s Skydrive (soon to be Onedrive) may be enough if you only have a few Gigabytes of data to back up. If you have a large amount of data, paid services like iDrive, SOS Online backup, or even Amazon’s Cloud backup solution are a better option. They allow you to upload very large document, photo, video and music collections (or whatever else you need to store) to a secure account and usually the cost is under $10 a month. Spending $100+ a year to backup your data may seem like a lot of money, but when it’s compared to the $1000-$1600 data recovery companies usually charge to attempt to get your files back after a hard drive crash, it’s a very good investment. DVD or BluRay media also make an excellent backup for files that won’t be changing, like years of older photos. these can be put in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or even given to a friend or family member to keep at their place so you will always have a copy “offsite” so to speak.

 

Carbonite's different plan options for home users.
Carbonite’s different plan options for home users.

 

Before we select the folders to back up, there are some hidden folders we need to be able to see, so you should change your settings to make them visible. You can do it manually, or I have a handy little script you can download that will do it for you.

You can manually show hidden files too.

Click on START->COMPUTER->TOOLS and then select the Folder option button.

To show hidden files in Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, select Tools, then Folder Options
To show hidden files in Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, select Tools, then Folder Options

 

Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.

Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.
Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.

 

Finally, the files you should backup.

Files to back up for Windows XP
Files to back up for Windows XP

 

♦  Documents: Your documents folder is an obvious choice. This folder can be a catch it all for some people, with files of various types from actual documents, resumes, tax forms, to downloaded exe files, photos and subfolders created by programs on your computer. Depending on which version of Windows you have, this may also be called “My documents”.

♦ Photos & Videos: The “Pictures” or “My Pictures” folder and the “Videos” or “My Videos” folder are the most important folders I back up. Most of us have been using digital cameras for at least 10 years now and don’t have any negatives to fall back on if we lose these originals (like we did in the old days). Unless you are a professional photographer these have no monetary value, but preserving these memories is priceless. I back these up to disk and the cloud, but also burn a DVD at the end of each year as a set of permanent negatives. Mine are BluRay discs, which cost roughly $1 each but it’s well worth it knowing every photo ever taken of my children are safely stored away.

♦Music: “Music” or “My Music” folder.  –My Mp3 collection is huge and includes stuff I ripped from CD years and years ago, songs I converted from cassette of my old high school bands, and download music. If you use Itunes, this is where the Itunes data is stored for your music, playlists and apps.

♦Application Data: “AppData” or “Application Data” folder. This is that hidden folder we need to back up. The subfolders inside here contain settings and preferences for your software, as well as your PST file for Outlook that is used to store all of your Outlook data, including your emails, contacts, calendar, and more.

♦Bookmarks: For Internet Explorer, these are stored in “Favorites”. If you use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, there are in a subfolder of your AppData folder.

Of course, you can always just back up your entire User profile. The downside to this is you use more space and end up backing up lots of temporary files, but it’s one way to make sure you get every file you need without missing anything. This could be found at C:\Users\Username in Windows 7, 8  or Vista, and C:\Documents and Settings\Username for Windows XP.

You can back up the entire user profile. This is the default Administrator profile in Windows XP.
You can back up the entire user profile. This is the default Administrator profile in Windows XP.

 

Don’t bother backing up the “Windows” or “Program Files” folders, since you can’t restore your Operating System or your programs without completely reinstalling them.

 

 

 

VLC- The only Media Player You Will Ever Need

At some point, everyone runs into a problem opening a multimedia file (usually a video) . VLC player can solve most of these problems. It has a simple interface that’s very user friendly, but also enough extra features to keep you happy if you’re an advanced user. You can drag and drop music or videos into the player, use the file menu to open them, or click on them in Windows explorer once you have selected VLC as your default player for that file type.

The basic VLC interface. You can drag and drop any audio or video file right into the player or use the File menu.
The basic VLC interface. You can drag and drop any audio or video file right into the player or use the File menu.

 

Multimedia files are coded a certain way when they are created, and your multimedia software decodes them. This is done using software called a CODEC, which stands for CODE/DECODE. Widows comes with some codecs by default for the file types most used by windows. As you install other multimedia software, like CD and DVD burning software,  Itunes, or other media players,  you pick up new codecs and expand the file types your computer knows how to open and play.

There are all-in-one codec packs out there on the internet that try to provide all the codecs you will ever need for every possible file type, but they often come bundled with toolbars and other unwanted software. You don’t want that junk cluttering up your computer.

VLC player comes with a slew of codecs built in, and no configuration is needed to get them to work. VLC will open all the common audio and video filetypes and includes support for subtitle files.

A list of video file types VLC will play for each Operating System. Courtesy of videolan.org
A list of video file types VLC will play for each Operating System. Courtesy of videolan.org

 

VLC includes support for subtitle files if your video includes them. Even if you’re not going to watch something in a different language the subtitles can be useful. I’ve used them when my infant son was asleep and I couldn’t have the sound at my normally preferred earth shattering volume. They can also be used to decipher the dialogue in scenes that are just plain hard to hear.

Turning on subtitles is easy. Right click on the video and navigate the menus to Subtitle->Sub Track-> and then your language,
Turning on subtitles is easy. Right click on the video and navigate the menus to Subtitle->Sub Track-> and then your language,

 

One of my favorite features is the equalizer, under the extended settings button. There are separate controls for both audio and video tweaking.  I use this for brightening up older videos or home videos that are not the highest digital quality, but there are dozens of options starting with the basic brightness, contrast, saturation, hue and gamma controls. But it was also let you make the image negative, turn it sepia, rotate it, and even add a logo or watermark to it. Not bad for a free program!

Before the equalizer is used, the picture is fairly dark.
Before the equalizer is used, the picture is fairly dark.

 

The above image is before using the equalizer on the video. You can see the difference below after a few minor tweaks to brightness, contrast, gamma and saturation.

The red arrow points to the equalizer button. You can see a notable difference once I've tinkered with the settings.
The red arrow points to the equalizer button. You can see a notable difference once I’ve tinkered with the settings.

 

In the event that your audio and video are not matching up, there’s a submenu here for synching them together.

Easily fix audio and video that are out of synch
Easily fix audio and video that are out of synch

 

And VLC player give you the option to take a screenshot of any part of your video. Just go to the video menu and look all the way at the bottom.

Capture an image of the screen by using the Take Snapshot option in the Video menu
Capture an image of the screen by using the Take Snapshot option in the Video menu

 

You can set the default save location, file type and naming scheme for your snapshots under the Tools -> Preferences -> Video menu, shown highlighted here.

Snapshot settings
Snapshot settings

 

There are literally hundreds of other features to explore if you are into that sort of thing. Or maybe you want to simply watch a  movie and not have to do anything but click and drag. Either way, VLC player is the best free media player to suit your needs.

 

 

CryptoLocker Ransomware

CryptoLocker Ransomware looks similar to the FBI MoneyPak Virus and other MoneyPak Viruses. It locks down your computer and then asks for a ransom to unlock it.

Cryptolocker

The major difference is, with other ransomware viruses, the virus can be removed and you get your files back. With CryptoLocker the  encryption used is 2048 bit RSA – very strong encryption. The key to decrypt your files is stored on a remote server at the hackers location. It is virtually impossible in this case to break the encryption. You have 3 days to pay the ransom and get your key, or the hacker’s server automatically deletes your decryption key and your files remain locked forever.

command-control-message-10-29-13

If you pay the ransom  your payment will be verified, which can take 3-4 hours to complete. Once the payment has been verified, the infection will start decrypting your files. This process also takes quite a long time.

Since removing the infection will not get your files back, the key with this virus is to prevent infection and/or make sure you have a backup of your files. In some cases it’s also possible to recover your files from a Shadow Copy, which means you have to make sure you have System Restore turned on. If you don’t have a backup of your files, the only way to get your data back is by paying the ransom, so make sure you have some type of backup.

Nick over at FoolishIT created a program designed to protect you from CryptoLocker, called Cryptoprevent. If you  don’t think you can operate the program, or if you’ve been infected, please contact me .

 

 

Should I Remove it?

One of the duties I perform most often for customers is cleaning out unwanted programs from their computers. Sometimes they are afraid to delete the program because they’re not sure if they may need it and other times they simply don’t know how to remove the program.

This is where Should I Remove It comes in. This small, free program scans your system and then helps you decide which programs to keep and which ones to trash.

pcoverhaul-shouldiremovescan

The next screen lists the programs you have installed on your computer, and displays a bar graph that shows which programs other users have uninstalled.  In my example, many users have chosen to uninstall the ask.com toolbar (a wise choice!).

pcoverhaul-shouldiremove-results

Click the uninstall button and walk through the uninstallation of your program.

pcoverhaul-shouldiremove-uninstall

 

Your computer now has a little less clutter installed on it.