We service all
brands, which includes Apple and Windows-based systems. That includes
desktops and notebooks, and larger laser and business inkjet
printers. We do everything, from identifying and replacing a
bad stick of RAM, to swapping notebook system boards, to fixing
software issues (including virus removal). We commonly
work on (and are pretty familiar with) many locally-built (Milwaukee
PC, INET), mail-order (Dell, Gateway), and superstore (Compaq, HP,
eMachine) brands. No appointment necessary, just drop-off your
problem child during our normal business hours (10-6 Monday-Friday).
Extended hours are available, too. Just call our regular number (414/963-6336) any early morning, evening, or weekend, and we will be happy to arrange meeting you at the shop. That phone # rings at the shop and home simultaneously, and if we don't answer there it rings-through to our cells. We live just three blocks from the storefront, and are almost always happy to take "Roy Rogers the beagador" (our dog) for an extra walk. Please avoid calling before 6am or after 10pm, though.
Telephone consultations are also always welcome, too. You can try E-Mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), but we find dropping a dime is typically best as there can be quite a bit of back and forth when discussing uncooperative computers.
included. Turnaround is typically 2-3 days, but depends on
parts availability. Other restrictions may apply.
Yes, we fix
Apple iMacs and Macbooks. When it comes to iMacs, the main
failure mode we see is bad hard drives. But any iMac with a bad
hard drive is really an opportunity to upgrade to a SSD (Solid State
Drive). SSD's don't have any moving parts, they store data on
flash memory chips. They're much faster and not susceptible to
the same sorts of mechanical failures that destroy conventional hard drives.
the same thing goes for Macbook and Macbook Pro computers. It
isn't a question of whether the conventional hard drive will fail,
only a matter of when. But again, replacing the conventional
hard drive with a SSD dramatically reduces the time it takes for the
machine to boot and launch applications.
hard drives on portable computers are inherently failure-prone.
That is because people tend to move around with their portable
device, picking-up and then setting-down the machine on hard (table)
surfaces. Newer hard drives keep track of what they call
G-SHOCK's. They have accelerometers and can actually tell when
they are being abused by bumps and knocks. We've seen G-SHOCK
values in the 100's before the drive simply can't endure the final
(big) shock, and crashes.
On both iMacs
and Macbooks we also see just grossly corrupted filesystems on the
hard drives. The underlying hardware itself is fine, but the
sort of table of contents or index that points to the locations of
the files becomes unusable. In those cases we often can just
reload the O/S from scratch.
Oh, and one
more thing when it comes to Apple PC's... We often have
machines come in that haven't been updated since new. They
literally have the same version of OS X as they did two, three, or
four years ago. The problem is, many security updates were
never rolled back to older versions of OS X so users may not be
adequately protected from malicious code. With newer versions
of OS X like Yosemite being free, there is really no reason NOT to
upgrade. Sure, there may be some software compatibility issues,
but they can be checked beforehand. And older Macs may not be
able to run the latest OS X, but they should be running the newest
version of OS X they support.
Oh, and one
more one more thing when it comes to Apple. We also see dead
system boards on Macbooks pretty frequently. The main
contributing factor is (drum roll please) someone spilled something
on the thing. Just a little bit of water on top of one of those
chiclet keyboards and it can be game over.
Here is a tip
for anyone that spills something on their notebook (Mac or
otherwise): Flip it over. That's right, let gravity work
for you. Flip the machine upside down, turn it off, remove the
A/C adapter and the battery (if you can, not all batteries are
user-removable). Now, I know you're going to want to turn the
thing back on after an hour. Don't. You'd be amazed how
long a small bit of fluid can stay trapped between components.
Capilary action draws it between the board and the chips and other
components. No, just leave it off until you can seek
I'm not going
to sugar-coat it, spilling anything on a Macbook can be an expensive
proposition. The way Macbooks are assembled is upside down,
with the keyboard going in first and everything else after. So
replacing the keyboard requires removing the back, the battery, the
drives, the motherboard, and over 100 screws just to remove the
keyboard. And those Apple chiclet keyboards seemingly like to
funnel the water or soda or whatever it was right to the spot on the
motherboard where it will do the most damage.
spill anything on the Macbook. Don't drink near a Macbook.
Trust me, you're better-off dehydrated.
Apple. We get a lot of other brands in for service, too.
Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic, Samsung,
Sony, Thinkpad (which is now Lenovo) and more.
typical failure modes we see on most of these are: Bad hard
drives, bad power (batteries and AC adapters), bad keyboards (someone
spilled something) and track/touchpads, bad LCD panels, bad RAM, bad
optical drives, etc. Okay, we're all over the place. We
really do see it all, though.
about 75% of it comes down to a bad hard drive. And like
I said above, every bad hard drive is an opportunity to upgrade to a
SSD. Well worth doing, provided the unit is otherwise serving well.
batteries and AC adapters can be problematic. You can buy
replacements from local outfits but based on the prices charged, they
seem overly proud of these aftermarket wares. I can often find
a battery for as little as half their inflated prices, and the same
goes for the A/C adapters. I prefer to use an OEM A/C adapter
where possible. Avoid counterfeit stuff manufactured in China,
they can burn your house down. I'm not exaggerating, even the
OEM stuff gets recalled fairly frequently, buying some aftermarket AC
adapter is nuts.
keyboards. My gosh people spill stuff on notebooks.
When it comes to clean-up, I don't mind water so much. Sugary
drinks can be a massive PITA, and often require just a wholesale
replacement of the keyboard. The stuff (sugar water) has a half
life. Each time I clean it, I remove about half of the stick,
but you can never remove ALL of it. Depending on the brand, a
keyboard may only be $25 or $50, it can be well worth the price to
just replace the thing. Keyboards are subject to wear anyhow, a
new keyboard can be a pleasant experience.
touch/trackpads. Well, sometimes these are easy to replace,
other times they are molded into the palmrest and require a rather
expensive part. We never know until we look it up.
Sometimes using an external mouse is the right answer, it depends on
the age of the machine and the parts cost.
panels are sad, just sad. About half we see are physically
cracked, you can see it a mile away. And the owner usually
feels awful for having broken their own machine. And of course
me calling them clumsy doesn't help (I don't actually do that).
Panels can be
anywhere from $75 to hundreds, depending on size and resolution, and
just how commonly they were used in different makes/models. And
we often have people bring machines in that are several years old,
require a $125 panel and $99 in service, and they want to get the
thing fixed. The reality is, it often just doesn't make
financial sense. Some of these machines are pre-Win7, sometimes
they're pretty beat-up. When you can find brand-new machines
going for $300 to $500, putting $225 into a machine that is four
years old may be crazy talk. Not always, mind you. There
are times when a machine may be four years old but was high-end to
begin with. We have to take that all into account (and we do).
Bad RAM is
typically caught during our initial diagnostics. Thankfully
the days of bad RAM everywhere are mostly over. There really
was a time there where much of the RAM being shipped wouldn't even
pass diagnostics brand-new. This probably had more to do with
poor diagnostic tools than anything else. Now we have tools
like Memtest and Memtest86. They are awesome (but not
fool-proof) for finding back sticks. Less than 5% of the
machines we see these days have a bad stick of RAM. Down from
nearly 25% just ten years ago.
All the other
bad stuff is just a matter of good diagnostic work. Each
machine that comes in undergoes thorough hardware diagnostics.
If the machine is dead, we start testing all the individual
components, reseating parts as we go. We do our best to bring
it back to life. We will figure it out and call you with our
everywhere, these viruses. And we find them on Macs too.
Obviously not to the same degree, but we've definitely run into
malicious code running on Macs. Few people with Macs have any
sort of antivirus software. There are some great free apps out
there that won't slow down your machine, we'd be happy to discuss
them with you.
biggest sources of this crapware are: (1) Bogus E-Mail
attachments. (2) Search engine poisoning. (3) Advertising servers.
attachments are those emails that start with carp like "your
FedEx delivery was delayed, please click on the attachment to print
the label and get instructions for retrieving your package from the
depot." Stuff like that. Just don't open
attachments. You even need to be careful even if you EXPECT an
attachment, it may not be what you were hoping for.
A quick story
there. We accept credit cards. We work with a large bank,
with the bank serving as the "processor." We receive
monthly reports via email that tell us what was deposited in our
account. Well, about a year ago I received an email that looked
JUST LIKE one of those month statements I receive. That is
because the ass-hats that sent it basically did a cut and paste of
all the text from a legitimate statement E-Mail.
But instead of
having a PDF of the actual statement attached, it had a virus
payload. It was soooooo well done, I was just in awe. The
guys writing this garbage are really upping their game.
sure way to infect your machine is through a little thing called
"search engine poisoning." The scammers create web
pages that look (to search engines) like legitimate web pages with
information about celebrities or what-not, but the reality is the
page contains a virus payload. So you're searching for
information on Tina Fey and think (by the synopsis on the search
results page) that you're going to be reading all about her private
life, but in fact you're simply going to infect your PC if you visit
security software outfits often discover that as many as 25% of pages
about celebrities also include some sort of malicious code.
And it doesn't
have to be just celebrities. I once had a customer infect her
PC looking for recipes containing oranges (because her daughter loves
oranges and who doesn't?). She was clicking on one link after
another, click click click. Page two of the search results
click click click. And soon enough, a virus.
And BTW, the
malware rarely pops-up as soon as your PC is infected. It is
loaded. Laying low. Waiting. Watching.
Perhaps stealing all your saved passwords and transmitting them to
Russia. But waiting. Then you go to Amazon.com, and the
virus pops up. So now you think Amazon infected your PC.
Nope, the page you were on just ten minutes ago about Tina Fey (sorry
to pick on Tina Fey) that seemed to lock-up and you couldn't close
it? That one infected your PC. They were just employing a
little redirection to make you think the legitimate site infected
the third way to infect your PC, advertising servers. A local
newspaper's website seems especially prone to this attack.
Basically, the ad servers (the servers that provide the advertising
on the webpage you're visiting) is compromised and hackers replace
legitimate ads with virus payloads. Ugh.
what can be done? Well first, the malicious code needs to be
cleaned-off, of course, we need to get back to ground zero. And
we use a ton of tools to accomplish that, it isn't as easy as telling
people "just run program X." We often have people ask
which program we use, like this is simple, but think about it:
If there was a single program that could clean the PC of all
infections and keep it clean going forward, why would there be any
other programs? And the outfit that wrote that app. would have
a market capitalization greater than Microsoft and Apple combined, right?
So it is a bit
more complex, we use a host of applications, some of which we've
created ourselves, to identify new malware and clean it up.
forward, there are three things you can do: (1) Don't open
attachments unless you're absolutely sure they are legitimate.
As I've already said, some of the fake ones are so good they'd be
nearly impossible for the average person to identify. So if
there is any doubt, don't open it. If the attachment isn't of a
sensitive nature, you can always forward it to email@example.com and
we will take a look and let you know if it is legit.
(2) Be very
careful with the search engines. That means Google and Bing and
any of the others. You can use them, they can make finding
stuff at Amazon and Wikipedia much more convenient. But you
can't just click on any link returned without looking at the address
line of where it wants to take you. So if you're searching for
information on Tina Fey (that poor woman) and Google shows you a link
to "Vanity Fair," that is probably safe. But another
address that reads "everything-to-know-about-tina-fey.com"
should be avoided at all costs.
Advertising server infection isn't something you can do much
about. I've seen some security appliances I use for commercial
clients block sites like jsonline.com (site of local newspaper) a
couple of times now, as it was determined an advertisement they were
"serving up" was actually a payload. All I can tell
you is, sites with infected ad servers tend to suffer from this
problem repeatedly. I actually avoid the jsonline.com site for
OH MY GOSH,
I can't believe I forgot to mention this. It is a good
thing you're still reading this, in fact. But likely the #1 way
people infect their machines is loading apps and utilities like Adobe
Flash or Acrobat Reader. People will google "Adobe
Acrobat" and click on pretty much any link returned.
Something like "read Acrobat files" will catch their
attention and they will download and install junkware. When you
need to load something from Adobe, start at adobe.com. If you
want something from Microsoft, go to microsoft.com. DO NOT find
your apps and utilities from sites like downloads.com or
adobe-acrobat-reader.fixitup.com, got it? Again, if there is
any doubt, call us, we won't laugh at you until we hang up the
phone. One quick, free call may save you $50 or $100 to get
your machine cleaned.
What is at stake?
I get this
question ALL THE TIME. Why do these hackers bother?
Answer: Do-re-mi. Money. Green.
Many of these
cons simply involve popping-up a screen saying the PC is infected and
you need to enter your CC information to clean the virus. And
you'd be surprised at the number of people that fall for it.
And they don't charge your card $50 or whatever, they take all the
information you enter and use it to create a counterfeit card which
they then attempt to use for all sorts of fraudulent charges.
But that isn't
the half of it!
I had a firm
call me after a recent virus scare caused them to call their existing
IT outfit to have a 2nd look. Their existing IT people looked
around and then gave them a thumbs-up (everything clean).
later, they received a call from their bank indicating someone had
initiated a bank transfer for $75k (that is seventy-five thousand
dollars!). This outfit asked if I could come give a second
opinion on whether any of the PC's were infected and, as it turned
out, the very first PC at which I sat was, indeed, infected.
Not only that, but examining which ports were in use via a little
utility called CPORTS indicated that someone was logged into the PC
from elsewhere right at that moment.
What to do next?
If you suspect
your PC is infected, turn it off and bring it in. Whatever you
do, don't continue running an infected PC as possible back-doors
allow others to access your files and look for documents that contain
information about the location of your banking and investment accounts.
Recent Service Jobs
Some typical service jobs we perform...
8/30/2016: I'll be back to updating this section with new work soon.
3/15/2016: T.W. Purchased a new machine and had difficulty coping files from his old machine because permissions for some folders had been altered in such a way that they were inaccessible. Instead of wondering whether we were getting everything, I charged $99 to use a data recovery rig (which doesn't care about permissions) to copy the files.
3/14/2016: F.I. (Corporate): Swapped spinning hard drives in server with SSD drives, and moved data. $99. Machine boots and loads data in a snap, and the SSD drives are substantially more reliable than those spinners were. Client supplied his own SSD drives.
3/12/2016: R.S. (Corporate): Was told his network card in a workstation wasn't working. Had him meet me at the shop where I updated his BIOS and network card drivers and things returned to normal. $99.
3/10/2016: V.S.: Several year old notebook stopped booting, she brought it and a new notebook in for data transfer. $99, got all her files copied to her new machine. The new machine has a Seagate spinner in it, so I strongly encouraged replacing that with an SSD in the future. That Seagate isn't going to last the warranty, IMHO.
3/7/2016: M.T. (Corporate): New client concerned about former employee maintaining access to their network. Visited and made sure firewall didn't have any port forwards installed, also made sure none of the machines had remote-access software installed, also found one machine that was not backing-up and fixed that. Went pretty quickly, $129.
2/19/2016: E.P. After trying to get this PC on a network, the machine started asking for a password during elevation, but there was nowhere to enter a password. This one was kinda a long, fun, PITA. Had to enable Administrator account, use that to change the other account's group memberships, make some changes to the registry, and then deactivate Administrator account. $99 and it took the better part of a day but it was a blast.
2/16/2016: T.W. Old PC wouldn't boot, purchased a new PC from Best Buy and after setting a password, could no longer log into the thing (password didn't work). Had to remove his password, transfer files from his old PC, setup some applications, $99.
1/29/2016: A.E. (Corporate): Dell M4800 notebook wouldn't boot after BIOS upgrade. After having a chance to compare it to another machine in their fleet, discovered an interesting BIOS phenomenon with boot order. Was able to demonstrate how to set boot order for successful re-imaging. $50.
1/22/2016: L.M.: Her iMac was booting slowly and her attempt at an El Capitan upgrade failed. Removing hard drive and popping it onto my mac, I was given an "OS X can't repair this drive" message. I installed a new SSD in her iMac and while it was loading El Capitan, made an image of her old hard drive and fixed the filesystem corruption. Then I was able to import her apps and files onto the new SSD. Awesome, and only $219.
1/21/2016: M.C.: A bit of an unfortunate mess, I told a customer that wanted an SSD for their iMac (and they wanted to supply the drive) to get a Sandisk. Turned out the Sandisk would only run in SATA-1 mode (1.5-GBPS) due to a compatibility issue w/ this model iMac. So it wasn't all that fast. Customer exchanged Sandisk for the Samsung he originally wanted (and I told him to skip, due to higher cost) and we're up to SATA-2 speeds. $99 plus a $20 bracket, and it runs very nicely now. All is well that ends well?
1/15/2016: W.G.: Replace a bad power supply in his tower, and suggest an SSD at the same time. About $240 parts and labor and now this seems like a brand-new PC, booting extremely quickly.
1/15/2016: L.K.: Dell Studio notebook dropped-off with an iffy hard drive. Xferred everything to a new 480-GB SSD drive (required about four kick-starts because the old drive was tanking), and also cleaned the plugged CPU cooler. About $275 parts and labor.
1/11/2016: D.O.: Apple Macbook Pro (i7, so fairly new) with performance issues. Would you believe a bad battery? Something so simple causing a jerky mouse pointer, slow loading of apps, all caused by a bad system battery. $49 plus cost of new battery.
1/7/2016: L.H.: Toshiba notebook had right hinge problems. Screw had fallen out and now the clamshell was splitting apart, and DC jack was falling in. Luckily, just one screw post was broken, was able to reassemble and align DC jack. Estimated $99 but charged $49 because it went pretty quickly.
12/29/2015: CC (New Corporate): Called because the Dell GX620 had bad caps. Funny thing is, I just happen to have another GX620 on-hand. So was able to move their hard drive over, reactivate Windows, image the hard drive to a spare (for a backup), and get them running again for $50 (used GX620), plus $10 (used 80-GB hard drive), plus $99 (service). Left old GX620 for me to recap (about $120) to have as a spare. Will also need B&R Automation card (I can find them on eBay) and then they will have a hot spare to prevent the plant from going down again.
12/16/2015: T.C.: Failing 500-GB hard drive, still running well enough to transfer to a 480-GB SSD drive. Setup machine for front-panel USB 3.0 ports as well. About $250.
12/15/2015: N.D.: E-Machine PC with a bad power supply, and a bad capacitor on the motherboard. Swapped power supply and ordered cap. Customer using PC while cap is on order. About $110, including parts and labor.
12/10/2015: N.T.: Wanted us to perform the Win10 upgrade on her machine. Removed a bunch of malware, did the Win10 upgrade, did a bunch of other stuff, works great.
12/8/2015: J.H.: Replaced cracked HP i5 notebook LCD. Though the $150 for parts and labor seemed high for this, they took it to a competitor that quoted over twice as much. And then they brought it back here.
12/4/2014 K.R.: Figured his iMac was a gonner, as it would toss all sorts of kernel errors at startup. Nope, just massive file system corruption. Reloaded the thing with Yosemite and it works better than ever. $99.
12/4/2015 G.T.: Mac Mail stopped working when he connected a new drive for Time Machine backups. Inexplicable. Got his E-Mail working again (the account was offline) and wiped the backup drive and started a new series of Time Machine backups. No charge, he is new to Macs and it only took five minutes.
12/3/2015: HP CPU wasn't worth fixing (bad motherboard) so client bough a new gaming system via parts on Amazon and we put it together and got the hard drive from the HP booting in the new CPU. $99, and now the gaming can resume. Only problem we ran into was that they sourced an MATX case put an ATX motherboard, but we told them what to order and it only delayed things a couple of days.
2/2/2015 T.L.: Client called and said the machine shut-off and wouldn't power back on. And he needed it working ASAP, as employees were unable to work. Diagnosed a bad power supply and had it up and going thirty minutes later (all while the client waited). Less than $100, including the parts.
12/2/2015 N.S.T.: A malware infection prevented browsing and a host of other functions. We cleaned it up, got Windows updates working again, and made sure there was working antivirus software. $99
11/30/2015 S.C. (corporate client): Was told remote-IP phones in Chicago weren't working. Phone server located in Mequon office. Visited office (we have keys) and eliminated IP/routing as issues, identified a bad remote-IP card in the phone server, arranged dispatch of tech from phone supplier. Two hours including travel time, about $250.
11/24/2015 J.D.: Client called and said they were concerned machine was infected. I was able to remote into the PC and determine that their antivirus software had become corrupted. Removed and replaced that, and fixed a host of other issues. $84.
11/20/2015 E.S.: Client's office had upgraded machines and he was given three PC's that were NLN (No Longer Needed). We've been upgrading them with Windows 10, SSD drives, and in some cases a bit more RAM. A great way to continue using a PC for a few more years.
11/19/2015 MCW (corporate client): Brought in a machine with a bad power supply. Ended up upgrading to Win7, new version of Microsoft Office, SSD hard drive, etc. Machine runs circles around anything that can be purchased off-the-shelf.
11/19/2015 J.C.: Lenovo Thinkpad is literally eating itself. Started with trackpad, then keyboard started acting up. Now won't come out of sleep. Tried a clean install of the O/S and got blue screens during the install. Advised client it was time for a new machine. No charge, because we don't charge when there is no solution