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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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It Was Here a Minute Ago: Tips on Finding Lost Files

By Agent Derek M

For many, the most important thing on their computer is their data. Whether it’s photos of family events, small business financial records or a music library, your data is usually more valuable than any other files or software on your computer.

So what should you do if you suddenly can’t find an important file? The first, take a deep breath – it is rare for a file to simply disappear. To keep from overwriting the missing file with any work you currently have open, go ahead and save your current work and close all the programs you have open.

Next, check to make sure the file or files haven’t just been accidentally moved out of their usual directories. Make sure to check the Windows Recycle Bin or Mac Trash folder. If the file is there, you can either drag it out to the desktop, or right-click on the file and click “Restore” in Windows or “Put Back” in OS X.

It is possible that the missing file or files may have been accidentally renamed. Take a moment to check the folder where the files normally live and look for files that were created or modified around the same time the files went missing. An easy way to do this is to sort the files in the directory by “Date Modified” and check those most recently changed. Take a close look at those recently modified ones with unusual or unfamiliar names. You’d be surprised how easy it is to mistakenly rename a file when you are in the midst of your work.

Search the drive

Another option is to do a search of your system for the missing file or files. If you are not sure of the exact name, try using unique words that might appear in the file name or the content of the file itself. Activating a search of your files will vary according to your computer’s operating system. Here’s a breakdown of searching the most popular operating systems.

Windows 8
When Windows 8 and 8.1 were released about a year ago, we made a series of videos about using the new operating system and posted them on our main website. One of the videos is about using search. Take a look to refine your Windows search skills.

Mac OS X
You can use the Spotlight feature in OS X to locate files and folders. To access Spotlight, click the Spotlight icon that looks like a small magnifying glass in the upper-right corner of your screen or in any Finder window. You can also press the Command and Space bar on your keyboard to bring the Spotlight search box up. For more help with Spotlight, visit the Mac Basic: Spotlight tutorial.

Windows 7/Vista
In Windows 7 or Vista, you can use the search box on the Start Menu or any Windows Explorer to locate files or folders. To begin, click the “Start” button on your Windows taskbar to bring the Start Menu up.

At the bottom-left of the Start Menu (or in the upper-right corner of any open Windows Explorer window) you will find a search box that says, “Search programs and files” with a magnifying glass at the end. Enter the terms you want to search for, and a list of items that match will be displayed. The list is dynamic, changing as you add letters or words to your search. For more information about searches in Windows 7 or Vista, visit the Find a File or Folder tutorial on the Microsoft website.

Windows XP
To search for files or folders in Windows XP, click the “Start” button, then click on “Search” in the menu on the right side. When the Search Companion box comes up, click the “All files and folders” option. Type in your search term and select “Search.”

Please note, if you are still using Windows XP you should consider moving to another operating system, as Microsoft has stopped supporting it. Agent Devin put together a video about what this means to XP users for your YouTube channel. We also published a summary of the salient facts on our main website.

If you still can’t locate your missing files, all is not lost. Our dedicated team of Data Recovery Agents specialize in retrieving material from malfunctioning or damaged computer hard drives or storage media (flash drives, memory cards, etc.). They are standing by waiting to help. Stop into a Geek Squad Precinct at your local Best Buy store, or give us a call at 1-866-438-3338. An Agent will work with you to create a data recovery plan customized for your data storage challenge.

Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.

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Categories: Computing | Data | Home Remedies | How To | Technology

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Managing Money Madness: A Guide to Surviving College, Part 2

By Agent Kate B

Many parents of college kids have experienced the dread of having their child message, call or write to say that they need money. Technology now allows us many options to send our cash-strapped kids a little loot.

 

Bank Account Transfer
Before your child goes away to school, you may want to add your name to their bank account. That way, in case of emergency, you can transfer funds from your account directly into your child’s account. This will let you quickly get her the funds she needs while avoiding fund transfer fees. Some banks will even let you use your computer and scanner, or a smartphone to create and make deposits into accounts using electronic images of checks.

Bank-to-Bank Wire Transfer
If you and your child use different banks, you can get her money using a bank-to bank-transfer. You will be required to know the name of the account holder, her bank’s routing number, and the account number into which the money will be transferred. Be aware that most bank-to-bank transfers involve transaction fees. In the past, these transfers had to be performed during business hours, or required you to call into the bank’s phone support. Many banks now let you to arrange a wire transfer anytime through their websites.

Email or Mobile Phone Money Transfers
Did you know you can send money to your child’s email address or mobile phone? Many banks offer this fairly-new service as part of their online banking package. This service is also available from e-commerce payment processors like PayPal, Alert Pay and Money Booker. You will need to set up an account with the payment processor and connect that account to the bank account that will be the source of the funds. You will then be able direct the payment processor to take a specified amount from your bank account and send it to your child’s email address. Your child will receive an email with instructions of how to access the funds you sent. Seems almost too easy. But it works.

Western Union or MoneyGram
You can also send money online through Western Union or MoneyGram to any Walmart location. When transferring money out of a credit or debit card, the money will be available to the recipient in 10 minutes. Funds transferred from a checking account will be available in four hours. There are fees and restrictions involved in this type of transfer and the person picking up the money will need to present an ID, know the name of the sender, and provide an answer to a secret question before they will be given the money. This is an excellent option if your child needs funds immediately and it is after your bank’s business hours.

Prepaid/ Reloadable Visa/MasterCard
Many banks now offer reloadable pre-paid credit/debit cards that feature Visa/ MasterCard logos. These cards are usable anywhere that Visa or MasterCard are accepted, and can be reloaded by calling your bank or visiting its website. Reloadable cards are accepted in locations world-wide and usually can be replaced if lost or stolen. If you do not have a bank account, you can still get these cards at Walmart and other major retailers. They can usually be reloaded by the retailer who provided the card originally as long as you have the account or card number available.

Be Careful
If you are using an online service, be sure the website or location you are working with is reputable and secure. If you stop by a physical location such as a bank or Western Union teller, be sure to request and keep a copy of the transfer receipt. Finally, be sure to follow up with your child by phone (if possible) to verify that she understands how, when, and where to pick up her funds.

Covert Defender Kate B. reports from a super-secret location as part of the Geek Squad Online Remote Support Quality Assurance Team and leads Geek Squad’s Yahoo! Answers Partnership.

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Categories: Computing | Culture | How To | iPhone | Smartphone

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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Staying Connected to Your Kids : A Guide To Surviving College, Part 1

By Agent Kate B

It’s been happening all over the country the last couple of weeks – parents wondering how to stay in touch with their kids now that they have left home for school or a job. Although it can feel scary at times, here are some tips on using tech to stay connected.

 

Phone
If you don’t know how to use your cell phone to send a text or receive a picture, you might want to sit down with a phone specialist and learn how. Short texts and pictures can be sent through the cellular phone network even when no internet connection is available. These brief messages, pictures of a loved one or favorite pet from home can do a lot to brighten the spirit of a kid who might be a little homesick.

Video Conferencing
If you’re not close enough to visit, you can use your computer and webcam to video-chat with your child using video conferencing applications like Google+ (pronounced Google Plus) hangouts, Skype or Facetime. Most of the video-chat applications allow users to chat using mobile devices like a smartphone or tablet, making them even more convenient for family get-togethers. You could even set up your own video conference so that grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, siblings and others can join in and have a big group meeting on special occasions. Using this connectivity, your child won’t miss Grandma’s birthday celebration even though she won’t be able to make it back home for the event.

Emails
The great things about email is its versatility – messages can be short or long, include pictures or other attachments, and are often transmitted free to an Internet connection anywhere in the world. You can even send email from apps on your phone. Have a talk with your child before she goes off to school to find out what email address she wants you use and how often she plans to check that account. It is likely that she has a number of email accounts and having some understanding of how she uses them will help you understand what to expect in terms of return mail from her. One of the greatest benefits of communicating through email as opposed to regular mail is that it is fast and it is free.

Letters and Care Packages
Technology is great for helping keep us connected to our children who have gone out into the world, but nothing beats the excitement of opening up a package from home. There’s also something to be said about opening an envelope to find a hand written note from mom or dad with a drawing from a little brother. If you like, you can even use online retailers to send picture post cards, or themed care baskets and packages to your child for exams, holidays or special occasions. Throwing in a gift card for groceries or gas never hurts either. Including a self-addressed, stamped envelope, could be just the hint needed to get her to write you back.

Social Media
If your child is old enough to be leaving home, it is likely she has a social media account through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, StumbleUpon, or Pinterest. “Following” or “friending” your child can help you stay up-to-date on what your child is doing and the things that interest her. Following your child on social media can open up avenues for conversation and help you stay connected. But don’t be surprised if your child chooses not to accept your friend request or blocks you from seeing some activities. Some young people might not be comfortable with Mom liking or commenting on every post on Facebook, or Dad being able to sift through a photo blog of activities and online life on Instragram. If your child does allow you to follow or friend, be conscious that the responses you make to pictures, comments, or posts are often visible to others as well. If you want to stay connected in this way, it’s usually a good idea to keep most of your comments to yourself.

Letting go of your child who is growing up and moving out may be hard, but technology allows you to stay in touch easier than ever before. If possible, communicate with your child beforehand to determine what methods each of you is most comfortable with. Send a text message each day for encouragement, or set up times to face-to-face chat through Skype on a set day and time each week.

And try to send a care package occasionally via snail mail. Don’t forget that no technology replaces a real life, in-person visit and hug!

Covert Defender Kate B. reports from a super-secret location as part of the Geek Squad Online Remote Support Quality Assurance Team and leads Geek Squad’s Yahoo! Answers Partnership.

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Categories: Computing | Culture | Facebook | How To | Tablet

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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How to Prep Your Smartphone for Trade-In

By Agent Derek M

Looking to upgrade your old smartphone by exchanging it with your service provider, trading it in at a local retailer, or handing it down to a friend or family member? You probably don’t want to hand over your data, pics, music or apps with it. Here are three steps you’ll want to take before giving your phone to someone else.

 

1. Back Up Your Data – You may already have your phone setup to automatically sync to an online service like iCloud or your Google account. We have learned you can never be too careful with data and think it’s a good idea to make a manual backup of the data on your phone as well. You can create a backup using the tools provided by your phone’s manufacturer, such as Apple’s iTunes, Samsung’s Kies, or the Windows Phone Desktop App.

2. Perform a Factory Reset – The reset will wipe the phone, deleting your personal data and any apps you’ve installed. It will also reset the phone back to its default state. Each operating system handles this a little differently:

  • Android – Before resetting your phone, it’s a good idea to encrypt your data if you haven’t already. To do this, go to “Settings,” select “Security,” then “Encrypt phone.” Once the process is complete, go back to “Settings”, select “Backup & Reset,” then “Factory data reset.”
  • iPhone – For iOS devices, go to “Settings,” select “General,” then “Reset.” From there, select “Erase All Content and Settings.”
  • Windows Phone – Go to the App list and select “Settings.” Next, you will select “About,” then “Reset your phone.” You’ll then select “Yes” in answer to the warnings about data loss (you did back your data up, right?). This will reset your phone to the settings it had when it came from the factory.

3. Change Account Passwords – For extra protection, change important passwords (e.g., your Apple or Google account) that you may have saved to your smartphone. The factory reset of the phone should remove any saved passwords along with your data, but we recommend clients take this extra precaution. You may also want to ensure that your phone is removed from any services, like Find My iPhone via icloud.com, or as part of the two-factor authorization in your Google Account if you set it up.

Once you complete these three steps, your phone will be ready to safely leave your possession.

For more help with this, see the Tech Tip titled Backing Up Mobile Devices on our main site.

Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

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How to Turn Your Cellphone into a TV Remote

By Agent Gernbacher

Cellphone app developers are our heroes. Their whole purpose in life is to take one of the most useful devices ever manufactured and figure out a way to add functionality. They are the people who put power in our pockets.

It used to be that you could use your cellphone to make a phone call, tell the time and maybe send a text. Now, thanks to app developers, you can use your phone as a metal detector, a Tricorder (yes, a Star Trek Tricorder ), a guitar tuner, a level, car finder, metronome and currency exchange calculator. Talk about multi-functional! With the optics provided by the camera, the input flexibility of the screen and the device’s location/orientation sensors, your average smartphone can do a lot of things. All it needs is the right piece of code. Which is where the app developers come in.

One of the handiest apps that we constantly use in our house is one that turns my phone into a TV remote control. With two preschool-aged sons, keeping track of the remote is even harder than it used to be. But since I always have my phone in my pocket, having it double as a remote is a huge time saver when we finally get a chance to sit down and watch some TV after we wrangle the boys to bed.

Agent Emily H. and I recently put together a video showing how to turn your Samsung cellphone into a TV remote. If you have as much trouble keeping track of that remote as we do in our house, you might want to check this out.

Watch other “How-to” videos on our YouTube channel

Agent Gernbacher has been wrangling misbehaving and unruly Home Theater, PC, and Car Audio technology for the last 15 years. When he is not out saving the world as a Secret Weapon for the Geek Squad, he is preparing his little ones to take over the world, making people laugh with his ridiculous eyebrows and personality, pretending to moonlight as a chef or raging to whatever sounds he can find on the Internet.


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Categories: Home Theater | Smartphone

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Best Buy Honchos Visit Minneapolis Geek Squad Academy Camp

By Agent Tanya B.

As anyone who has worked at a Geek Squad Academy Camp will tell you, it is sometime pretty hard to get the campers to take a break from their projects and focus on something besides Lego robots or game programming for a few minutes.

It is always fun to watch the kids dig into their work at the camps, to see them become absorbed in the problems they are trying to solve and work together to create solutions they are proud to show off. Because all the camp instructors are Agents, we know the absorbing nature of tech work. It’s fun to give the Junior Agents tools with which they can feed the tech appetites.

So it was a little challenging when we asked the participants in the camp we held at the Minneapolis Public Library a while back to put down their work for a second and give some attention to some older people who came by to see what they were doing. Best Buy CEO Hubert Jolly, Best Buy’s President of Services Chris Askew and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges stopped by the recent Minneapolis camp to chat with the participants and get a look at the projects they were starting. The Best Buy leaders and Minneapolis Mayor spent a few hours observing the camp sessions and shared lunch with the campers.

“It is humbling and inspiring,” Chris Askew said, reflecting on his visit, “to be around a group of young people so engaged in discovering the possibilities of technology. Our Agents do such a good job showing the campers how it’s cool to be a Geek.”

A good time was had by all. And the campers didn’t seem all that upset by the interuption.

Hubert Jolly, Chris Askew and Mayor Hodges with Academy campers.

Special guests posing with the camp instructors: Mayor Hodges is in front of Chris Askew (left) and Hubert Jolly (right)

Go to the StarTribune website to read an article about the camp.

More information about Geek Squad Academy is available at the camp website.

Agent Tanya B. has been a woman of technology since 2009. When she steps away from her role maintaining the Geeksquad.com website, Tanya is either at the gym, walking her dog, or gaming with the other Agent B. Having moved to corporate from Florida last spring, she’s trying really hard to not complain about the cold too much.

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Categories: Culture | Home Remedies | News and Events

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Monday, July 14, 2014

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Our Birthday Celebration Continues at the NY Stock Exchange

By Agent Tanya B.

In honor of Geek Squad’s 20th birthday, Commissioner Chris Askew, a number of Agents from across the country and a couple of Best Buy Blueshirts rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday, July 14.

 

The Agents and Blueshirts were invited to join Chris at the NYSE in recognition of their outstanding customer service and commitment to maintain the highest standards of Geek Squad’s brand and culture. Chief Inspector Michael Sherwood and Deputy Commissioner Ronnie Hill also made the trip out to Wall Street with the crew to ring in the new trading day. Chris and team had a great time and were honored to oversee the beginning of a new week at the most important financial center in the free world.


Front row, left to right: Double Agent Lindsey Schnase from Bismarck, ND, Agent Rebecca Waller from Minneapolis, MN,Blue Shirt Milana Shakhnazaryan from New York City, Chris Askew, Precinct Agent Cody Halvorson from Reno, NV, Blue Shirt Regina Barresi from New York City, Covert Agent Cheryl Dorgan from Long Island, NY. Back row: Agent Shawn Hinton from Chino, CA, Ronnie Hill, New York Stock Exchange official, Agent Kaleb Pfaff from Olathe, KS, Michael Sherwood, Agent Cody Parker from Minneapolis, MN.

Check out the video of Monday’s Geek Squad ringing the opening bell on the NYSE YouTube channel.

Agent Tanya B. has been a woman of technology since 2009. When she steps away from her role maintaining the Geeksquad.com website, Tanya is either at the gym, walking her dog, or gaming with the other Agent B. Having moved to corporate from Florida last spring, she’s trying really hard to not complain about the cold too much.

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Categories: Computing | Data | Facebook | Technology

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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20-Year Ride to Excellence

By Agent Williams

My, how time flies when you’re having fun.

Seems like only yesterday Geek Squad was just a small band of irreverent technophiles making one little corner of the world free from techno-stress. Then we wake up and realize it’s our 20th birthday. Whoa!

Twenty years is a long time – especially in technology.

 

Consider that in 1994:

  • Yahoo! was created.
  • Netscape released its first graphical browser.
  • Sony introduced the Playstation video game console.
  • Microsoft released the Windows 3.11 operating system.
  • 3.5 inch floppy disks (holding 1.44 MB) were the data transfer medium of choice.
  • Though there were alternatives (plasma, LCD and projection TVs), the overwheming majority of TVs in circulation were cathode ray tubes.
  • Cell phones were shaped like those walkie-talkies you see in old WWII movies.

Geek Squad was started by a University of Minnesota student who rode a bicycle around campus to fix computers and earn extra cash. Focused on being early for appointments, flat-rate pricing, explaining things in simple terms and solving the root issue, that student – Robert Stephens – quickly had a growing business. He attracted clients by making tech support accessible, turning the uniforms, the vehicles, and the persona of Geek Squad “Agents” into a brand the endures to this day.

As we grew to 30-odd “Agents” covering Minneapolis-St. Paul – with offshoots in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago – we caught the eye of Best Buy. And in 2002, when a Minnesota test pilot demonstrated how a strong “client-focused” repair experience could improve customer satisfaction, Geek Squad “acquired” Best Buy. (Or maybe it was the other way around.)

Just two years later, Geek Squad computer support rolled out to all Best Buy store “Precincts” in the U.S. and Canada, and later to European markets, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. We gained notoriety by meeting the needs of normal human beings and of celebrity clients like U2 and The Rolling Stones. We were also blessed with coverage by national news media like Time, Newsweek and CBS 60 Minutes.


The original Geekmobile and OG Agents. Left to Right: Nate Bauer, Markus Foster, Jason Negard, Ryan Smith,
Jack Fischer, Darby Ballis, Lee Rocchio. Inside the car: Michael Sherwood and Ron Gabrielson.

Currently 21,000+ strong, our expertise has expanded well beyond computer diagnostics and repair. We have added skilled Autotechs (mobile installation), Geek Squad Repair Agents (repair services) and Installers (Home Theater installation). Our computer repair capabilities gave rise to a 240,000 square foot computer repair facility – Geek Squad City – in Louisville, Ky. And with the advent of Geek Squad Online Support’s “Covert Ops” team, clients now how the option of getting help from the comfort of their homes.

But credit for the growth of Geek Squad really belong to the front line – the Agents. Our Agents are a unique breed. We recruit for three core attributes (curiosity, ethics and drive), along with strong people skills and technical brilliance. And it shows in the Agents. With an intense focus on delivering an exemplary experience, they look beyond surface issues to help clients make the most of their technology.

As we celebrate our 20th birthday, let’s tip our hats to the Agents who are out there making it happen every day. Where would we be without them?

Agent Williams joined the ranks of Geek Squad in 2007, earning the badge number #13337 and the alias “Agent Leeet Sauce”. Now Agent Williams protects the internetz from the Geek Squad Magic Castle. When he’s not policing unruly technology (or eating cookies) he can be found making music, chasing down his badge (it’s been on a trip to the stratosphere) or riding his imaginary pet unicorn.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

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The Hard Drive: Cleaning and Defragmenting (Part 2 of 2)

By Agent Ryan G

In this second post in our series about hard drives, we discuss what computer users need to do to keep the heart and soul of their computers in good shape.

 

In our experience, drive failure is one of the most common reasons why computers stop working. Like most machines, the hard drive in your computer can be damaged by mishandling or poor maintenance.  Taking the proper steps (listed below) will go a long way toward helping keep your computer in good working condition.

Maintaining Your Drive

Hard drives are one of the few mechanical parts of your computer. While most drives are pretty well sealed, keeping your computer in clean, dust-free areas – especially when it is running – definitely will help keep your machine running smoothly. Spraying a little compressed air through the fan area of the computer (while not running, of course) helps prevents the buildup of harmful contaminants.

Dropping your computer is really hard on hard drives, as it can damage or misalign the head of the hard drive, or affect the disk’s ability to rotate inside. Although hard drives (particularly those in laptops) are much more rugged than they used to be. for the sake of your hard drive, try to always use your computer in relatively stable locations.

Defrag your Drive

Over time, the hard drive can become “fragmented,” slowing down performance. Defragmenting your hard drive can help improve its performance by rearranging the data on it in a way that makes it easier for your computer to access it. Computers running newer versions of the Windows operating system (Windows 7 and up) have a Disk Defragmenter that runs on a schedule, taking care of this problem for you. For older versions of Windows, you’ll have to manually run the Defragmenter program. Got a Mac? Macs usually don’t need to be defragmented. (It can be done, but is a pretty complicated process.) If you are a Mac user and really want to know, check out this post in the Apple Support Communities section of the Apple website.

One clear sign of a failing drive is hearing the drive spin. If you start to hear your hard drive spinning or the sound changes over time, your drive may be failing. Back up your data immediately, and consider having the computer looked at by a professional.

So remember: by keeping your computer dust-free, on your desk, and your hard drive defragmented, you’ll be doing a great deal of the work to keep your computer running along, happy and healthy. (If you have concerns about your hard drive, Geek Squad have Agents standing by to help.)

Agent Gordon enlisted in the Geek Squad back in 2008, where he held the position of Counter Intelligence Agent, protecting the people of Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis, MN. Soon enough, he realized that the online space was calling — and he joined the ranks of the Geek Squad Online Support team to bring his support of clients to the Information Superhighway. In his free time, Agent Gordon spends countless hours receiving plenty of vitamin D from the illumination of his monitors while gaming late into the night.

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Categories: Computing | Data | How To | Laptop | Technology

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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Geek Squad Services Recognized by PC Magazine

By Agent Williams

One of the personality traits we look for in Agents is a certain amount humility. Oh, we can overlook a bit of trash-talking when it comes to video game battles, but we have always felt it important that Agents don’t get too full of themselves. Which isn’t easy, considering all the technological disasters we help client address. But trying to stay out on the bleeding edge of this ever-changing field is enough to keep any technologist humble.

Which is why we all have a bit of a hard time when anyone expresses appreciation for the work we love to do. Last week we were notified that PC Magazine made us the “Editors’ Choice” for consumer tech-support services. In particular, the magazine’s editors cited our low monthly fees, plentiful resources and “vast staff” as the primary benefits we provide to civilians seeking relief from their techno-stress. The reviewer, Michael Muchmore, constructed a test plan that he put the Geek Squad and a number of other tech-support operations through and graded us based on his experience. He concluded “Geek Squad is head and shoulders above the other help services I’ve tested.”

See, now I’m blushing…

Check out the article on the PC Magazine website:
System and Performance: Geek Squad

Agent Williams joined the ranks of Geek Squad in 2007, earning the badge number #13337 and the alias “Agent Leeet Sauce”. Now Agent Williams protects the internetz from the Geek Squad Magic Castle. When he’s not policing unruly technology (or eating cookies) he can be found making music, chasing down his badge (it’s been on a trip to the stratosphere) or riding his imaginary pet unicorn.

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Categories: Computing | News and Events | Technology

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