We asked an IT expert about the biggest mistakes millennials make with their tech

People really don’t look after their computers

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Carl Marx is a world-weary IT engineer who has been running IT repair businesses for 20 years and has seen IT ALL. By “IT ALL” we mean exactly what you think we mean. Hidden hard drive porn. So much hidden hard drive porn. Aside from internet filth though, he’s still shocked by how little tech owners look after their kit — from busted laptops to PCs crawling with viruses (and actual spiders — more on that later). Computers arrive into his workshop in a state of physical and software disrepair on an almost hourly basis and leave all shiny with cartoon sparkles radiating from the screen.

We sat down and asked him our burning tech questions (while heavily hinting that our own laptops needed some TLC).

So Carl, I haven’t had my PC looked at since I bought it four years ago — if I was one of your clients, what would you be politely advising me while screaming internally?

Well, if you were to buy a brand-new car today, your instinct would be to wash, service and maintain it as best you could. You wouldn’t use your car every day for four years and expect it to perform faultlessly without service or maintenance. Just like a car, you need to maintain your computer or laptop at least once a year. A reputable IT support company will be able to remove old software, ensure your operating system is up to date, and generally keep the computer running well. They will also clean the interior of the computer. Over the years, computers suck in all manner of dust, from carpet fibres to animal hair. We also often see spiders who make their home in this warm cosy environment. Remember, a professional IT company knows their job, is up to date with the latest software and hardware issues and really is worth the hourly labour fee.

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What are the biggest errors young people tend to make and then not realise until it’s too late?

Security and backup. The amount of times we’ve had students arrive a day before a deadline having lost all their files or young businesses who have lost every shred of their client data without any anti-virus or back-up setting in sight is concerning.

How do I go about ensuring I’m never in that nightmare situation?

First and foremost, keep your anti-virus protection up to date. Ensuring you have adequate virus, spyware and malware protection is essential to the health of your PC and to your personal data. If you choose free anti-virus, you will normally have complete protection, but this comes with the costs of “upgrade” pop-ups. Paid anti-virus starts at around £25 per year. Not exactly expensive for the safety of your bank details or protection of your online identity.

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Backup is the next most overlooked option. The common problem with data loss is how easy it is to forget to back up your work. Just because you have saved your important thesis, or accounts or holiday photos to the computer hard drive, does not mean it will be there tomorrow. There are many causes for data loss, including hard drive failure, virus attack, physically dropping the computer and many more. Backup or cloud software costs from as little as £6 per month and, once set up, your data will seamlessly sync with the cloud to back up your data without your intervention. There is no excuse not to back up. Data restore is eye-wateringly expensive- you’re looking at anywhere between £300 and £600 to recover files that are easily protected for the cost of two coffees a month.

What would you say is the biggest problem people still fall victim to?

Email security – it’s unbelievable how many people still fall for email scams. In this modern day of digital communication, unscrupulous people who don’t want to work for a living, feel they have the right to help themselves to your hard-earned money. The most common scam to extract money is via email. Whilst the days are gone of the badly written email from a distant prince who has left you millions and simply wants your bank details to transfer the money, much more professional and elaborate scams are growing like mushrooms. Email costs the shyster nothing and millions of emails can be sent within a few hours. The idea of these scams is to either gain access to your personal data or to your money. Your digital identity is worth an enormous amount as just your date of birth can be used to open bank accounts, credit cards or provide details for a false identity.

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You’re right actually, I still receive scam emails in my inbox, which I must admit do throw me off. Any top tips?

  1. Never open an email from a bank. UK banks DO NOT send emails asking for details or with links to click. Any link within this kind of email will likely lead you to a clone banking site, with the sole purpose of obtaining your login details.
  2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Whilst an old caveat, it is one of the best ways to prevent getting scammed by email.
  3. Ignore obvious attempts to blackmail. The most common scam at the moment is an email that claims to have gained your password from “certain” websites you may have visited. These emails even provide you with the password (which is normally one you used years ago and was actually gained from a breach of either Talk Talk or LinkedIn).  Don’t respond, delete, get on with your life.

Any final words of wisdom?

Protect your data with different passwords! The average computer user visits thousands of websites every year, and more and more sites require a login. How many of you use the same or similar passwords for these sites? When did you last change your password? Whilst it is a pain to have to remember different passwords, various free “password vault” software solutions are available to store your different login credentials. This software is secure and will prevent the need for hidden written password lists. Use a random password generator (Google it) to ensure your passwords are complex and different.

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Computers are part of our life and when your home or business PC/laptop doesn’t work, ask yourself, could I have prevented this? You’ll kick yourself if the answer is yes. Look after your electronic friend, protect your data and give a little love and care to the black box that holds your digital life.

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