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

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

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.

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

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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.


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.

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.

How to Prep Your Smartphone for Trade-In

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

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, 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.

Our Birthday Celebration Continues at the NY Stock Exchange

Monday, July 14th, 2014

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 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.

20-Year Ride to Excellence

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

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.

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

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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.

Geek Squad Services Recognized by PC Magazine

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

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.

The Hard Drive: What It Is, What it Does (Part 1 of a 2 Part Series)

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

In the United States, the vast majority of adults drive cars. But most of us don’t really know how they work. Sure, we know to fill it with gas occasionally and how to operate them, but when it comes down to how the engine engages the drivetrain, most of us are at a loss. (That’s why we all have mechanics, right?)

The same can be said of computers. Most people use them, but few know how they work — which is fine. (More work for us!)

Through the many years Geek Squad Agents have helped fix and maintain computers for clients, we’ve found that a little basic computer knowledge helps people choose the right machine for their needs and keep it in top working condition. While most civilians don’t need to know a lot about Ethernet connections, motherboards or power supplies, knowing a little something about hard drives is can be helpful.

With that in mind, we put together a two-part series on hard drives to help. In this first post, we’ll explain what hard drives are and give you a few basics on how they work. Our second post goes into what computer users need to know to keep their hard drives in good shape.

Data Storage
The hard drive is your computer’s data storage device. Most hard drives store data electromagnetically on a rotating  disk coated with a ferromagnetic film (quite a mouthful so far, ain’t it?). Data is written to and read from the disk by a read-write head. The disk stores all the information needed by your computer – the operating system, drivers, software programs and, of course, the data (pictures, music, documents) you create and keep on your machine.

Sound familiar? That’s right, the science of storing information on a rotating disk goes back to the early 1900’s with the gramophone and early record players. Eventually this technology expanded to more than just music. Although much smaller than an old school records, hard drives can store countless songs and information, making it possible to easily carry powerful data-processing machines and ushering in the age of mobile computing..

Hard drives have two basic characteristics that determine their functionality– their size (capacity) and the speed at which they can read and write data (performance). Knowing this is important when selecting a computer to meet your needs. If you need to store a lot of data or use many software programs, getting a computer with a large hard drive — measured in Gigabytes (GBs) or Terabytes (TBs) — is essential. Filling up a hard drive has a negative impact on a device’s performance (and their life span), so when buying a computer it’s important to get one with a hard drive that has plenty of room.

The performance of a hard drive (measured in RPMs and cache storage) will tell you how quickly the drive will be able to write or read data from it. If you use memory-heavy software, or create and manipulate complex files like videos, large graphics or music, a fast drive (with a lot of cache storage) will come in very handy.

Hard disks typically have two different RPM calibrations – 5400 RPMs (most often found in laptops, notebooks, and netbooks) and 7200 RPMS (usually found in desktop computers and servers). The 7200 RPM hard drives are slightly larger in physical size and require a little more power than the 5400 RPM types, but the faster spinning disk allows programs and files to load more quickly, making the whole computing experience a bit faster.

Solid-state Drives
Hard drive technology recently took a great leap forward with the introduction of reliable, more-affordable solid-state drives (SSDs). Unlike traditional hard drives, SSDs use a “flash memory” system (much like USB drives) to store data, eliminating the need for spinning disks and read-write heads. This new generation of SSDs are much more rugged than traditional hard drives and can access data more quickly that their spinning-disk cousins. But they are more expensive as well.  It’s likely to take some time for SSDs to become widely available in consumer-grade computers.

Now you know a little bit more about the hard drive, and what to look for in one that will fit your computing needs. Check out our next installment in this series soon, where we’ll talk a little bit more about how to take care of your hard drive, and protect yourself against hard drive failure. If you have concerns about your current hard drive, we 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. He soon joined the ranks of the Geek Squad Online Support team to defend the technology needs of clients on 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.

Connecting Your Laptop to Your TV with WiDi

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

With the explosion of video content on the Web, many of us are using our computers, at least some of the time, to just watch TV. Video sharing services like YouTube, Web broadcasting sites like Hulu and Netflix, and pay-for-play services like Amazon Prime and iTunes have made our computers a key source of video entertainment in the modern home.

But anyone who has tried to watch a long video with someone else on a laptop knows, all that closeness is, well, close.

Fortunately, Intel and the television industry have solved this problem for you. Many newer TVs come with a WiDi (wireless display) connection that will allow you to connect your laptop to it wirelessly. I recently teamed with the Best Buy video production team to put together a short instructional video on how to link your Windows 8 laptop to a WiDi-enabled TV. Take a look at the video here:

Send What’s on Your Laptop to Your TV

If you are struggling to link the big screen in your house to your computer, chat with an Agent or visit a Precinct at your local Best Buy store.

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.

Support for Windows XP Ends Tuesday

Friday, April 4th, 2014

I know we’ve said this before, but it’s kind of a big deal if you are still using Windows XP – Microsoft will stop supporting the XP operating system next Tuesday (4/8/14). Agent Devin Collins gives some advice in our YouTube video.

If you think you are using Windows XP, we suggest you check on a few things:

  1. Confirm that you are using XP. Microsoft has a web site that will detect if you are running XP. To use the service, go to
  2. Can you keep running XP. If you are currently using XP and would like to continue with it, there will be a number of things you should take into account. The primary concern is the system itself will be less and less secure as time goes on without security updates from Microsoft. For a good summary of these and other issues brought about by the sunsetting of XP support, visit the Microsoft Stops Supporting Windows XP page on our main website. If you want to go ahead using the system anyway, be sure to visit the What to Do If You Want to Keep Windows XP After Support Ends page on our site.
  3. If you want to upgrade to a newer version of Windows but have an older machine, check to see if you can upgrade to Windows 8 by downloading the Windows Upgrade Assistant from this page. Microsoft is selling the Windows 8 system for users of XP or Vista, but does not sell the older versions of the sytem through their normal channels. Although you may be able to find a merchant willing to sell you a copy of the Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating system, be careful that the merchant selling you the software will back it up. Some legitimate resellers may still have valid copies of the system available, but do your due dilligence whenever you deal with software resellers.

As we said in our earlier posts about the subject, continuing to use XP after Microsoft stops supporting is can leave you open to a myriad of challenges, not the least of which exposing your data to cybercriminals. If would like help dealing with the process, we have Agents standing by.

Geek Squad will continue to support clients that stay on XP to the best of our ability and while we recommend moving to a modern operating support that is supported my the manufacturer, for those that are going to stay with XP should follow some instructions we collected to try to minimize the risk as much as possible.

It is hard to walk away from a system that has served us so well, but, to everything, turn, turn, turn….

Agent Tanya B. has been a woman of technology since 2009. When she steps away from her role maintaining the 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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