Computer Maintenance Tips for Shop Owners and Employees
Computer 'crashes' (or 'freezing') and file corruptions interfere with our software. It's natural (and almost always wrong) to assume that because the computer stopped working while our program was being used that our program is the source of the problem.
(BCSS support does not include computer maintenance and support of other software programs, especially Windows.)
At least one person at your place of business should be proficient in:
- Computer administration, maintenance, permissions and system restore
- Copy/paste, file compression
- Data backup, protection and restoration
- Locating, deleting, renaming and replacing files
- Email, attachments and associated problems
- Browser, anti-virus and PDF program use
The following are some steps to take to determine the source of a problem:
- Viruses: Download a free trial of the best anti-virus program, ESET and run a thorough scan for viruses to rule out this possible cause. If there has been no anti-virus program or free anti-virus, expect ESET to find infections (and remove them).
- Run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool.
- Computer Resources: An older computer with limited resources is a likely suspect. Right click on My Computer and click Properties to view PC resources. Have at least 1 gig of RAM for XP, 4 gigs for Vista/7/8/10. Increase RAM memory to 8-16 gigs and see if the problem stops. This may require the assistance of a local IT service. Ignoring this issue will allow the problem to continue.
- Unneeded Programs: Right click on the Taskbar. Click on 'Start Task Manager' then click on Processes. These are all the processes running in the background. Remove all unneeded programs and stop any programs from running at Startup. Click on Start then Run. Type msconfig then click on Startup. Stop all programs that aren't needed at startup. Common unnecessary listings here are made by Adobe, Google, HP, Java, Groove, QuickTime, Apple, iTunes and all references to 'updates' and toolbars.
- Test the program: BACK UP YOUR DATA then uninstall the program and download/reinstall it from our website (https://www.bestconsignmentshopsoftware.com/demo.htm). (New installations are installed by default at C:\BCSS. Don't restore your data. Run the program. Enter dummy data and test for the error. If there is no error, there is no problem with the program.
- Test Your Database: Restore your data from the last backup. (That will erase any dummy data that may have been entered.) Try the procedure that was producing the error. If the problem persists, it's probable that the data has become corrupted. To test, simply restore a database from a date in time when there was no problem. If there is no problem with the previous database, then the current data files are probably corrupted. Press Send Data (upper right in the program) and wait for a confirmation that 69 or 72 files have been uploaded, then send an email to tech support along with your name, shop name, the program edition and version # (like 5.1.7877, shown in the very upper-left corner of the program screen), and a detailed description of the problem, including the error message (if any). It's easiest to take a picture of the error message(s) and paste them into an MSWord document and send that document as an attachment. (See Windows Help for 'print screen'.) If the program can't be accessed, zip the data folder (C:\BCSS) and send that to tech support with the same information. For large databases (more than 10MB) use a free service for transferring large files (like wetransfer.com). Tech support will respond with repaired data files are a message that data files are not corrupted.
If there is no issue with BCSS and the data files are not corrupted, in all probability the problem is with another program (usually Windows or an anti-virus update), the computer, the network (if any) or the hardware.
A local support technician will charge as much as $100/hour.
(By all means avoid - $100/hour (10-5 M-F) and even higher rates at all other times.)
There are a number of causes of data corruptions. The FoxPro database is a Microsoft product. Problems related to the database should be directed to Windows support or a local IT tech. (Search Google for 'computer repair' and your location.) The data contained in the database belongs to the store (which is responsible for data integrity and maintenance). Problems related to the data can be referred to a local IT tech or anyone who works with databases. Tech support can repair database problems, but this is work beyond our service agreement. A nominal fee of $59 will apply for the repair. Simple instructions will be supplied with the repaired database. If assistance is needed in applying the repaired database, the fee will be $79.
Here are many possible causes of computer 'crashing' and/or data loss and corruption:
Insufficient Computer Resources
The most common cause is RAM memory depletion. In the program, switching from one Work Area (Consignors, Inventory, Sales, etc.) to another causes the tables to be redrawn. This can take some time. The computer (not our software) can crash if the computer doesn't have sufficient resources (power, space, speed...).
RAM ("Random Access Memory") is a form of data storage and 'computing power' used by the computer to process. Insufficient RAM means the computer is being asked to do more than it is capable of doing simply because it lacks this resource. The solution is to take the computer to a local IT store, have them install the correct memory chip for the machine to increase RAM. Vista and Windows 7/8/10 consume 1 gig of RAM alone. Such machines should have 2 if not 4 gigs and computers with large databases and Windows 7/8/10 64-bit can have up to 192GB! (XP-32bit can handle up to 4GB, except for older machines.) (See all Windows memory limits.)
Unnecessary Programs and Files
Most computers have unnecessary programs ("bloatware") installed (taking up disk space) and running in the background (consuming memory). This problem is exacerbated if a Vista or Win7/8/10 machine is running in 'XP Mode'.
- Go to Start then Control Panel then Programs. Remove all unnecessary programs, especially 'toolbars', browsers and games. (Know what you are doing.)
- Reducing the number of programs on a computer reduces the probability of program conflicts. If your computer 'stops working' it might be because of a program update. Windows Updates frequently interfere with other programs. Anti-virus programs are notorious for conflicting with programs. If the computer is not connected to the Internet, remove all anti-virus programs.
- Go to Control Panel > Power Options. For the plan selected, click on 'Change plan settings'. Change display and computer to 'Never'. Click on 'Change advanced power settings'. Set 'Turn off hard disk after' to 2000. Expand 'USB settings' and Disable. Expand 'Sleep' and expand each option. Set 'Sleep after' to 2000, 'Allow hybrid sleep' to off, 'Hibernate after' to 'Never' and 'Allow wake timers' to 'Enable'.
- Go to Start then All Programs then Startup and remove all entries. (These are only shortcut links to programs. Deleting them will not remove programs from the computer but only stop them from starting when the computer starts.)
- Close all programs that aren't being used. See what's running by right-clicking on the Taskbar, start Task Manager and click on the Process tab. Click on the header for Memory to see which programs are using the most memory.
- Right click on Computer and select Manage. Click on Services and Applications then Services. Sort the Status column. Change services to 'Manual' or 'Disabled' to stop them from running at Startup. (Pro users only)
- Run Windows Updates. (See Windows Help.) Updates can be set to run automatically but a common mistake is to set updates to run at 3 a.m. when the computer is never on.
- Don't use your business computer to downloading music or movies or for playing games. As an alternative, download and store such things on an external hard drive.
- Windows 'File indexing' works by extracting information from documents and other files on your hard drive and creating a 'searchable keyword index'. This slows the system. Disable it. (See Windows Help.)
- Hardware installations are actually installations of software (used to tell Windows how to use the hardware). Problems caused by hardware can often be relieved by updating the hardware driver (software). Search Google for the make/model of the hardware + the word 'driver'.
- On the Desktop right click on Computer and select Open. Free disk space on C:\ drive should be at least 20%, preferably a lot more.
- Use Windows Defrag and Scandisk to optimize the hard drive. (See Windows Help.)
Temp Files and Malicious Software (Malware, Spyware, Viruses, Trojans...)
Most computers (especially those connected to the Internet) having tons of temporary files accumulated (taking up disk space). They can also have viruses, malware (malicious software), spyware, worms, trojan horses, rootkits, adware, scareware, crimeware... These infections are certain to invade any computer not adequately protected and MOST anti-virus programs are not adequate. Without protection it is estimated that it only takes 15 minutes on the Internet to become infected.
If the computer starts 'acting up' typically it has either become bogged down with excessive files/programs and/or it has become infected with malware.
- In the web browser, click on Tools then Internet Options. Delete temporary files and set to retain browsing history for 2-3 days.
- Search the computer for .tmp files and delete them. (Be careful.)
- Run Disk Defragmentation. Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. This usually takes more than one hour and often longer. (Alternatively, find the defrag utility by opening Windows Help (Start > Help) and search for defrag.)
- System Restore restores the computer to a prior date that you specify. It is often effective in identifying what happened on the computer recently to cause problems. In Vista and Win7/8/10 click Start and type System Restore in the search box. With XP click on Start then All Programs then Accessories then System Tools the System Restore. Vista and Win7/8/10 will run a Restore Wizard. In XP the process is manual. If the problem is gone after System Restore, look at the actions performed on the computer since the restoration date to see what may have caused the change in the computer's behavior. Quite often a Windows Update is the culprit.
- Use Windows ReadyBoost which comes bundled with Windows 7/8/10. It allows the use of fast memory drives/cards for a high-speed system cache that will boost performance without adding any additional physical RAM. Although this is no substitute for adding more memory to your system, ReadyBoost-compatible devices have much faster read and write access times than hard disks, so they provide speedy buffers for random I/O operations.
All of the above will not resolve issues caused by deteriorated computer components. From the first time the computer is turned on, components like the mother board, RAM memory and the Frontside Bus begin to wear out. This is often accelerated by the lack of protection from power surges and interruptions, by users shutting the computer down with the on/off button (hard shutdown), by dust, jarring, Aluminum Migration & ESD: (premature aging and 'Electro Static Discharge')
Here are other causes of computer problems:
- Loading Order: The order in which the software components of your computer are loaded into memory, at startup each day, can cause a multitude of odd problems.
- Memory Fragmentation: Do you often see the message, "System is dangerously low in resources" If so you are probably suffering Memory Fragmentation.
- Mismatched components
- CMOS Settings: Improper CMOS settings can cause many problems. Changing CMOS settings can also be used to help diagnose some hardware problems.
- Overheating - a common problem with laptops. Make sure the fan is working properly.
In summary there are many things that must function correctly in order for the program to have a chance at running as it should.
These are common mistakes:
- Bringing a computer into the work place that is not a commercial-grade machine.
- Using the computer for non-business purposes, especially Bit torrent downloads and playing music.
- Using no or inadequate protection against viral attacks and power fluctuations.
- Failing to maintain the machine and Windows (anti-virus, upgrades, defragging (the drive and the Windows Registry), removing temp files)
- Failing to understand and manage Vista/Windows 7/8/10 requirements for installing and running software.
If the program does not function properly, it's probably not being given a fighting chance. If you don't have the time or inclination to do a thorough diagnosis and refurbishing of the computer, contact a local computer-repair business or ask us for remote PC assistance.
How to Zip (Compress) Data Files and Send Them to Tech Support
For Windows, Hardware, QuickBooks, the program and the consignment business (accounting, settlements, management):Joy Archer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 972-898-7921 (by appointment)
Send an Email to Support