Backing up your data is probably one of the most important things you can do if you own a computer. Yet so many people never back up their data, and the ones who do may not do it consistently. Sometimes, we just have too much on our plates to concern ourselves with another routine, sometimes we’re just lazy, but other times, we just don’t know where to start. Sometimes it takes a major loss of valuable data to kick a person into the mindset that data backups may even be necessary. In fact, some people will lose everything and still not take future precautions. Even worse is when some people fall into the mindset of “It couldn’t happen to me!” Whatever the reason is, it’s important to know that there are backup solutions meant to fit in with busy schedules, many of which require no effort on your part.
The Manual Backup:
This method of backup is usually the easiest to do, but also requires the most discipline to do regularly, thus making it (potentially) the least reliable. Simply dragging and dropping (or copying and pasting) files and folders from a Mac or PC to a second location can do the trick. Backup locations can vary by reliability and cost, from a simple flash drive to a cloud storage subscription, but the end result is the same: if your computer dies on you, the information will be safe elsewhere, as long as the backup is recent. This method has plenty of pitfalls in exchange for its simplicity – questions such as “What exactly are you backing up?”, “How often?” and “To where?” can certainly affect how effective this solution may be. Another question one might ask themselves when exploring data backup options is “Will I be diligent enough to routinely back-up my data?” It’s up to the user to decide whether they have the discipline to keep up with this method of data backup. If you have very specific files that you want to keep safe and you have the time to devote to creating a manual backup, this method may be the right one for you.
There are many programs out there that can back up a computer either on demand, constantly, or on a set schedule. Some of them, such as Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft’s File History, are even built right in to your computer. Features aside, the requirements of such programs are typically the same across both Mac and PC. Typically, they involve nothing beyond a simple, high capacity storage device, such as an external hard drive. An automatic backup is often the quickest method available once its initial setup is complete, as it can run without any input on your part and can move even large sums of data more quickly and efficiently than you can manually. Automatic local backups run at a particular time of choosing be it daily, weekly, or even monthly. Depending on how much data is being backed up, this can take a relatively short amount of time. The downside of such convenience, as with many things that are automated, is the sense of complacency people tend to get into. External hard drives can fail just like the ones inside your computer. Unless you check in on your backup every so often, you may find that your safety net was cut months ago without you even realizing it. Even with automatic backups at your disposal, you will still want to establish at least a semi-frequent check up to make sure your important data is still safe. If you are looking for an easy, low effort solution for your data backups and can remember to frequently check on your backup storage system, the automatic local backup might be the solution you need to keep your data safe.
A local backup can prepare you for almost any situation – from a virus to a corrupted operating system, and even in the event of complete hardware failure. However, what happens if a real-world disaster occurs? In the event of a fire, a flood, or some other serious catastrophe, the loss of years of irreplaceable information can be just as bad as the loss of physical property. For these situations, one of the only truly viable options is a cloud backup. A lot of people find the cloud very confusing, but it’s actually quite simple. It’s simply a bunch of computers owned by a company that you are renting some space on. Think of it like any physical storage rental; if you have some prized possessions that you want to keep safe, or you simply do not have enough room to store everything, you can rent storage from a company to hold them for you. The advantages are obviously that, should anything bad happen locally, your data will be safe elsewhere. Also, since the cloud is connected to the Internet, you can access the information stored there from anywhere, so long as you have your username and password handy. Additionally, like most automatic local backups, cloud storage backups can occur on a regular schedule without any upkeep or direct involvement from the user. On the down-side, for any reasonable amount of storage, most services require you to pay a monthly subscription fee, and should you stop paying, you may lose access to your information. Backups made to the cloud also can’t be as complete as a good local backup. If one of the most important things to you regarding your data is keeping your settings, apps, and software safe in addition to traditional files such as pictures, documents, and emails, this may not be the option for you, or at least, should not be the only option you use. Another thing to consider is that these backups also tend to take longer since the speed at which you can back up your data is ultimately limited by the speed of your Internet connection. Finally, while the issue of complacency and false security for the previous method are definitely still a potential concern, cloud services, since they’re managed by a professional company that you are paying a subscription to, will typically notify you much more persistently if something is amiss. Thus, only the most negligent disregard of their warnings will leave you at risk. At the end of the day, the cloud option’s greatest strength is the fact that it’s decentralized, and thus not in any one place. If you have multiple devices that you need to access important files from anywhere, or if you live in a place that is prone to leaks, storms, fires, or any other natural disasters, the cloud backup option would be advisable. If you live in a place where your internet connection may not be the best, or you are on a budget and cannot fully commit to a subscription fee, then you may want to look at a local backup solution as your data backup choice.
Nobody likes to think that it could happen to them, but the reality is that the loss of data could happen to anybody. Most of the time, it’s not due to the user’s negligence, but rather an accident or sudden failure of hardware. The future is digital; most of our most important files from family pictures and professional resumes to email correspondence with clients can be lost if not properly copied over. Gone are the days where a kid can use the age-old excuse of “My dog ate my homework!” Nowadays, it’s more like “A virus killed my computer!”.
It is important to any user of a computer, Mac or PC, to treat their data as something precious. You only need to lose it all once. It is up to the user to take preventative measures to ensure that their life doesn’t come to a halt in case of computer failure. Take a look at your data and your schedule to figure out what type of backups are right for you!
If you want to protect your data and want to know which solution may be the best for you, give us a call at RGB Computer Solutions at 781-749-1130 to see how we can help you keep your precious files safe!
One of the situations we see far too often these days is when a user runs out of storage for their data. With Macs and PCs, storage is definitely on a higher scale from many other devices out there, but many of the problems are the same – too many programs or too much data can quickly fill any storage you may have on your computer. Just as many underestimate how much data they can accumulate in a couple years with a smartphone, many underestimate how much can be accumulated over the life of their computer, which in some cases can go beyond a decade. Although most will never make it to that ten year mark, most systems are kept for several years anyway, and thus the storage needs can far exceed even the most extreme cases elsewhere. You can avoid this problem by choosing the right amount of storage for your digital needs.
The most common group of users to encounter this barrier are definitely the Mac users out there. Especially with how tightly focused many art schools, musicians, and graphics design careers are on the Mac ecosystem, their users, on average, store a great deal of their music, photos, and other media on their Macs – whether for work or personal use.
The problem is exacerbated further by the most common Mac configurations, namely the MacBook line, having relatively small hard drive capacities. The reason for this is that the types of storage many Macs and premium PCs use is much faster and delivers a much more snappy experience, at the cost of being more expensive than their more standard counterparts for a given amount of space. The base model MacBooks frequently have only 128 GB of storage available, and that’s what most people go with without a second thought, as it is the most inexpensive option. While this may sound like a lot, especially when compared to the smartphones we carry with us everyday, it’s important to consider the fact that, on average, many of these Macs are not only far more expensive than their smartphone counterparts, but their users also tend to keep them far longer, as previously mentioned. That’s to say nothing of the fact that many Mac users store complete backups of their entire iPhone’s content on their Macs, in addition to everything else. When you take that factor in by itself, you can see why this amount of space may prove to be insufficient rather quickly.
With PCs, the lines aren’t so clear-cut. With how many different manufacturers there are out there, each producing multiple lineups of different types of Windows-based devices, the narrative tends to break down a little. Many desktop computers and laptops, especially in the lower and middle-range, tend to come with a whole 1 Terabyte of storage as standard. This is far more than most people really need, but is the most cost effective option for a lot of manufacturers. Paradoxically, as you get into price ranges closer to the high-end, and more in line with what you might pay for a Mac, the storage starts to decrease in many models, especially the thin-and-light laptops people are so fond of these days. As mentioned in the case of the MacBooks, this more expensive form of storage starts to become much more common in the higher-end systems available. These types of drives, called Solid State Drives, are much faster and more durable than their classic Disk Drive predecessors – even many older systems can see a huge boost in speed and responsiveness with this type of drive under the hood. However, the price tradeoff is again apparant – every step up in storage will typically run users a good deal of money, thus discouraging people to go any higher than the most inexpensive option.
In our experiences over the years, we tend to see a few situations that stand out most commonly, with the bulk of people falling into three distinct scenarios…
One of the most common cases is, of course, the people who mainly use their computer for web browsing and email. For those that do most of their work online, keeping only minimal collections of documents, pictures, or other files on the computer itself, the storage needs are pretty minimal. With the proliferation of video streaming services such as Youtube, Netflix, and Hulu – or just as commonly, music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Google Play Music, many who do most of their work online can get most of their entertainment online as well. Users who fit this bill can expect to need very little storage on their systems, and often even the smallest options will be more than sufficient. An entire class of computer has been built around this scenario, the most well known of which being Google’s Chromebooks – a type of computer that is most often cheap, fast, and lightweight, with minimal storage options that instead rely on the cloud and internet services such as Google Docs to do most of the heavy lifting.
This next case usually encompasses those who store large collections of data on their computers. Be it pictures or videos, music or documents, they are often rather similar to those in the above scenario in terms of how they use their computers from day to day. However, there will often be times in which they might find themselves storing or editing pictures from their cameras or smartphones, or perhaps even dabbling in video editing. Those of us who fit this category will want to invest in the larger storage options available, depending on the computer in question. While the average photo only takes up a tiny fraction of the space on your system, over the course of years (or even decades!) it can be very easy to build up a collection of tens or even hundreds of thousands of photos or other important files. With most systems coming with a 1 Terabyte drive, you’re guaranteed to get a good deal of mileage for your needs. Although, depending on how much you have, you may need even more space over time. Of course, if you’re looking at a Mac or higher-end PC with more limited capacity drives, you should definitely opt for some of the larger options, despite the extra cost, since more storage can easily make the difference in the computer’s viability for the future.
For some people, their computer essentially IS their job, for all intents and purposes – their livelihood and all their work is done through it, and all their files and documentation are exclusively stored there. This is especially true for those in a career in (or going to school for) design or creative fields such as photography, cinema, 3D modelling, or manufacturing. The software for this type of work is usually quite expansive on its own, and many of the files users will work with daily will be quite large. Between RAW photos and high-resolution video, or complex 3D models and textures, even shorter projects can take up a great deal of space. This doesn’t just apply to the professionals in these fields either; very often, even hobbyists and amateurs will encounter problems with not having enough space for their passion. Even when it comes to more casual usage, modern video games can take up a lot of space, too – some modern titles encompass more than 50 Gigabytes a piece. If any of this sounds like you, you’re best advised to go with the largest options available to you. You may even want to consider external forms of storage such as the Cloud or external hard drives. For a relatively modest fee, you can expand the space available to you dramatically.
Beyond just providing more storage, both the Cloud and external hard drives can provide an exceptionally important quality – backup. Especially for the latter cases, having a backup of your data is paramount. Computers can break, hard drives can die, and certain malware can even take your files hostage and hold them for ransom. Even if it has never happened to you before, it can happen to anyone – and in the case of the first two problems, it will happen eventually.
Whatever your situation may be, choosing the right amount of storage for your computer can be more significant than any other detail in a new purchase. It’s important to remember that the computer is a tool, and it’s what that tool is used to do and create that is the most important. Of course, if you’r ever unsure of your needs or are simply looking for some advice, feel free to talk to us at RGB Computer Solutions.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had any number of older computers through the years – from laptops to desktops, they either break down or start to feel too slow to justify keeping. Very often, we end up throwing away computers that are otherwise functional simply because they’re out of date or we don’t like how they run anymore. For some, this can be one of the more irritating situations – it works, so why can’t we continue making use of it?
Enter projects like CloudReady by Neverware, which aims to allow older computers to run like new through the use of software. Rather than attempting to improve a computer’s existing operating performance through optimizations or removal of applications or issues, CloudReady outright replaces your computer’s operating system.
As far as actually noticeable performance benefits go, one can expect to see a number of improvements across the board on a computer that has had CloudReady installed. Faster startup and load times will probably be one of the more noticeable differences – this also applies to how long it takes for the computer to actually become useable after it has started. Second will definitely be application performance; things like web browsing and document editing, in addition to email and even video or music streaming will be a breeze. Multitaskers rejoice, as most systems will handle having multiple tabs open and any of the above happening simultaneously as well. Finally, laptops and desktops alike will, in most cases, exhibit decreased power consumption due to the lower stress on these systems. While not immediately noticeable in desktops, laptops (especially older ones with weaker or more worn-out batteries) will see an improvement in battery life and a decrease in heat output. Finally, while not quite a “performance benefit”, CloudReady is also extremely safe from viruses and malware – even more so than either Windows or Mac OS.
Functionally, CloudReady differs somewhat from its counterparts in the Microsoft and Apple spaces, being Windows and Mac OS, respectively. Most noticeably, devices running CloudReady or Chrome OS are not compatible with programs on either Mac or Windows, and instead rely on web-based programs and apps from the Chrome App Store. For document handling, spreadsheets, and slideshows, CloudReady has the same integration with Google Docs as Chrome OS, which is what most schools work with for student collaboration and class assignments. Files can be stored on the computer’s hard drive like other systems, but the focus on storage for Chrome OS and CloudReady devices alike is Google Drive, Google’s cloud storage. As we’ve gone over before, Google Drive gives 15 GB of storage to users for free for documents, as well as unlimited storage for pictures and videos. Paid plans give more storage if desired, with fairly inexpensive plans offering up to 1 TB of space overall.
The benefit of Chrome OS and CloudReady being connected and managed with Google Drive is that all your documents and pictures are accessible from anywhere, so long as you can log into your Google account. Not only that, but all the apps and settings in CloudReady are synchronized and thus immediately available to you if you’re logging into a new system; whether you’ve just gotten a new Chromebook or you are switching over to a new CloudReady installation, everything will be as you left it.
All-in-all, CloudReady is one of the most complete experiences of its kind available, and is an excellent option for when you need to pep up that old system that’s been sitting in the corner collecting dust. At the very least, this might keep your computer out of the landfill for a few more years. Ewaste, which refers to any electronics that have been thrown away, is one of the biggest obstacles to recycling and waste disposal out there. Many of the components in our computers are either toxic or at least difficult to reclaim or break down. Not only that, but many students and school systems have to buy new computers each year – so save that computer from the trash; even if you can’t use it yourself, consider donating it instead!
We’ve spoken before on the subject of the numerous call center scams that exist for the purpose of convincing people they have a problem and taking their money to “fix it”, but with the increased frequency at which we’ve been hearing about more and more clients being affected, we decided that it would be prudent to go into more detail on the types of blue screen popups and tactics users may encounter.
As we’ve mentioned, on many occasions users might run into a page that is disguised to look like an error or even a Blue Screen of Death.
This type of message can be very jarring on its own, and to make matters worse, it will often be accompanied by a computerized voice making claims about errors or viruses on your computer. However, there are some tells that clearly indicate its illegitimacy. First off, if you take a moment and look at the screen, you can tell that this screen is clearly within the internet browser, which means the computer is still running. In every case, a blue screen is a complete crash of Windows itself, which means everything else will have closed before it can be displayed. Not only this, but it prompts for readers to call a support phone number. Microsoft has no such number that they provide on the blue screen of death. Third, and sometimes most telling, is the lack of proper spelling, grammar, or capitalization on the page. These types of trap pages are oftentimes surprisingly shoddily designed, and will often mis-word or misspell even basic terms. In the case of the example above, the message not only repeats the “Please contact Microsoft technicians” twice, but it also forgets to capitalize Microsoft, while it capitalizes “Immediately” and “Rectify” for some reason. The sentence as a whole also seems somewhat clunky and indicative of “English as a second language.”
Calling the number on the page will get you to a (usually foreign) call center that will walk you through “fixing the problem” and charge you a great deal of money to do so. Refusing to comply once they have connected after a call to them can often lead to them actually messing with your computer in some way, and if the worst happens, they may make your computer unusable. To make matters worse, the page itself usually traps visitors on it with a continuously reappearing notification that prevents you from closing it, leading even people who might know better to call the number just to get control of their computer back.
Thankfully, wrenching control back from these types of pages is not impossible, and any consequences implied by the pages in question are usually empty threats. Three methods might be available to you, depending on your situation.
Method one is available to most users running a third-party internet browser; if you are running Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera Chromium, the option to “prevent this page from creating additional dialogues” will be available as a little checkbox at the bottom of the notification that seems to keep opening no matter how many times you close it. Checking it and acknowledging or closing the notification one more time will prevent it from appearing again, allowing you to simply close the page normally.
Method two is available to all users, but requires you forcefully close the process of your internet browser which, if you keep multiple pages open at a time, can cause you to lose whatever you are doing on the other tabs of your web browser. On your keyboard, pressing CTRL, Alt, and Delete (DEL) at the same time on a Windows PC will allow you to open the task manager. From there, simply choosing your internet browser and clicking on “End Task” will force it to close, allowing you to simply reopen it and continue working. For Mac users, pressing the key combination of Command, Option, and Escape (esc) allows you to activate the equivalent function, “Force Quit”. From that windows, simply selecting the program you wish to close and clicking Force Quit will accomplish the same result.
The “Task Manager” window in Windows 10.
The “Force Quit” screen on a Mac.
Method three should only be used as a last resort. It’s simple to execute, but it can potentially cause problems if you perform it while your computer is updating or installing something, and can at least cause you to lose data if you have any programs open and you are editing documents or files that haven’t been recently saved. In this case, simply holding down the power button on either a Mac or PC will force it to shut down, and the problem should be gone upon restarting it and logging back in.
Now in some cases, especially those in which you may have inadvertently installed something, you might be afflicted with something known as a “Browser Hijacker“, or “Scareware“. These pieces of software are some of the more extreme measures such call center scammers have been using in recent years, and they usually have the effect of automatically defaulting the home page of your internet browser to their own error page, or even going so far as to generate an otherwise inescapable error message upon computer startup. If this is the case, getting rid of such malware can be rather complicated, at which point it is usually recommended that you consult your local technician.
Parents: did you ever keep secrets from YOUR parents when you were younger? Information such as where you went after school, if you were dating anyone, or where you spent your money? If any of this sounds familiar, you are definitely not alone. In those days, however, the exchange of information was a lot more limited, and with some things it was nearly impossible to keep a secret from your mother or father. Unlike those days, there are now far more ways in which kids can hide information from their parents, and in many cases, this information can put them in danger.
Many parents these days probably remember having a hard time getting secrets by their parents when they were younger. They had many tricks up their sleeves – skills they learned, often from being busted by their own parents. Secret contacts, convenient and unexpected schedule changes, random check-ups, or just plain intuition. You might think you had gotten off scott free, but a friend’s parent would tell your parents that you were over their house, or your parents would stop by your own house unexpectedly when you were playing hookie, or one of your friends would slip up and indicate offhandedly that you had actually visited the arcade or the movie theater instead of the book store. Whatever the case, at the end of the day, you would be in trouble. For some, that part is probably the MOST familiar part. But either way, both the rebellious acts, as well as the consequences that came with them, would be valuable experiences. After all, a bird has to stretch its wings sometime, even if that means crashing into the ground on more than one occasion. However, as technology has begun to outpace the rest of society, the amount of information that can be shared online has become far more dangerous to the well-being of many, and kids have only been finding more new ways to circumvent their parents.
One of those new methods is through a new set of secret or otherwise hidden apps, capable of doing anything from hiding pictures and text messages, to disguising themselves as other apps for privacy, to even sending temporary messages that “Self Destruct” after a time has passed. With these new tools at their disposal, gone are the days in which a parent need only look at their kids’ text logs or their internet history to see what they’ve been up to. In this case, the kids have begun developing tricks of their own.
One of the newest and most popular applications is, at first glance, a simple calculator app called “Calculator%“. This application is not just a dummy app, it actually is a fully functional calculator. However, the magic happens when you hit the decimal key, input a series of numbers, which can be set by the user, and then hit the decimal key again. Just like that, the calculator app reveals a hidden space where the user can save information at will, information which cannot be accessed any other way. Beyond this level of functionality, the app is also designed in such a way to protect its user, even if the app is found out, by taking pictures of the person trying to log in, whether they are successful or not, and including them with a time, date, and GPS coordinates of the attempt in a log that cannot be altered. This app in particular has become SO popular that an article about it was even featured on ABC news, analyzing the different ways in which this app functions, and warning parents to keep an eye out for it. Again, to parents, watch for suspicious look-alike apps like these – if they’ve gone through the trouble of setting something like this up, you can be sure that they have something serious to hide.
Another powerful asset to those looking to hide their messages specifically is a unique project called “Kaboom“. This application allows one to post or send messages that have a sort of “self-destruct” timer built into them, which causes them to disappear after a certain amount of time. This does resemble what other apps are already doing, but there are some differences. In the case of Snapchat, users can send images and videos to each other that will disappear after a single viewing. The app is quite popular among millions of people, even many celebrities, and is typically innocent enough, but its temporary nature opens it in some kids’ minds as an excellent means of sharing sensitive information that cannot be saved. What many don’t realize, however, is that receivers can still screenshot the open picture or a frame of the video, and thus save it permanently. On the other side, an app like Wickr offers an entire Instant Messaging service with self destructing text messages. The app is so secure and well designed, that it’s even used among state officials and journalists in oppressive countries to communicate discreetly. Thankfully, it’s not too popular among kids yet, but the potential it represents makes it certainly worth mentioning. What sets Kaboom apart from the former two is that it does not require users to switch to a new app or service to use, and instead allows users to send self-destructing messages through the services they already use. Nearly any major messaging application or social network can be used with the app; this includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, but it also includes forms of communication everyone has access to already, such as Email and Text Messaging. This leaves Kaboom as one of the more potentially widespread methods of discreetly messaging.
Needless to say, this caliber of unmoderated communication that many kids have access to can be very dangerous, and the news is always rife with stories of abductions, kidnappings, or dangerous behavior. Naturally, many parents try their hardest to keep a protective eye on their kids’ online and social activities, but doing so can quickly become a full time job, and with some of the applications above, almost impossible. Thankfully, there are some good practices to follow that can significantly improve one’s chances at keeping their kids safe, and ensuring their security online.
First, the tried and true method of keeping an open contract of communication with your kids is important – talking about a problem with your kids, rather than just jumping right to a punishment, can help them understand why you feel the way you do, and that you aren’t just being completely arbitrary and controlling. Make the problem real; remember, the things you’re worried about don’t actually exist to your kids, and as you might remember, in their minds, they are invincible. Being a resource for discussion, rather than an authority to hide from, can definitely help in removing the need for such apps or secrets in the first place.
Secondly, keep your hands on the reins, but don’t hold them too tightly. As a young adult, I can definitely attest to the fact that I was more likely to fight back the more I felt the prying eyes and meddling claws of my parents in my affairs. Some kids see their parents almost as a government or state of sorts, and romanticize the thought of breaking free from their proverbial shackles. Don’t let them feel like they have anything to hide, as before, but most of all don’t let them feel like they’re being watched. You have to stay involved to keep them safe, but being subtle and non-invasive about it can make them feel a lot more comfortable. Imagine how you might react if some government agency like the FBI showed up and started installing cameras and listening devices around your house. You would protest and act pretty rebelliously too, I would imagine. Keep in mind how you want to be seen; do you want to be the noble Jedi protecting the innocent, or the sinister Galactic Empire, destroying worlds and oppressing the masses?
Third, if it seems to be turning into a real problem, you can always enforce your rules technologically, too. Don’t use passwords on your devices; they’re often easy to guess, and if you enter them around your kids enough, they’ll know them in no time. Instead, use something they can’t fake. Namely, many popular smartphones and tablets these days have fingerprint scanners; those can’t be tricked by the press of a few buttons. For those devices that don’t have fingerprint scanners, applications often exist that can allow you to log in with other more secure means. Any device with a camera will usually have the capability of working with a facial-recognition app, and some devices have other unique password-substitutes such as knocking a rhythm on the screen or drawing a pattern with your finger. While fallible, these latter methods are much harder to guess or remember to an observer than a passcode.
Beyond this, you can secure devices against the installation of applications on their own devices by a few means. In the case of a Mac or PC, making their account a standard user account one while keeping an administrator account locked with your own credentials on the same computer will require them to ask you to install the application from your own account, giving you a chance to see it for yourself prior to installation. For Android and iOS devices, where having multiple accounts on a personal phone or tablet does not make sense, you can register your child’s account for the app store under your own, and invoke the requirement of your approval for all app purchases or downloads. This is where the above methods of keeping your own devices secure is especially important, as all this is for naught if your kids can simply get into your accounts and give “your” permission.
As a parent, keeping your kids safe can be difficult, but there are always options available to you to make the job easier. If you have questions or concerns about these types of applications, as well as the methods by which you can better protect your children, feel free to call us at RGB, or contact your local technician.
For many parents out there, keeping a watchful eye on the types of content their children are exposed to online is an order of high priority. To reflect the importance of this task, both Microsoft and Apple have stepped up to the plate with their own parental controls systems built right into the latest versions of Windows and Mac OS.
In the case of Microsoft, the parental control system for Windows 10 has been improved and revised somewhat from previous iterations, and is now controlled primarily through the Microsoft Accounts. Parents will set up an account for their children, and add it to their “Family”, which is a sort of administered account group. Special steps are taken to ensure the account is properly classified, allowing parents to provide the right level of protection based on the child’s age range, among other factors.
The “Child” account, once set up, is registered under the “Parent” account’s contact information for recovery purposes, just in case the account gets hacked or the password is forgotten. The parent also has the option to receive weekly activity reports regarding what the child has been up to, what sites they’ve visited, etc.
By selecting the “Manage Family Settings Online” option under the “Accounts” and “Family” settings menu, parents will be redirected to a webpage that will allow them to disallow access to inappropriate websites, as well as restricting specific undesirable, but not explicitly “Inappropriate”, websites from access. Beyond websites, the control system can also limit applications and games to specific age ranges and rating levels, or similarly, on a subject by subject basis.
In addition to Application access controls, the control panel also has the capability of limiting access to the computers during specific times, and even has functionality for restricting the total time on the computer for a given day to a specific number of hours. These types of settings are geared toward enforcing bed times and keeping kids from spending too long on the computer on school days and the like.
For Apple, setting parental controls is similarly simple, but there are a few differences. To start parental controls, the parent must obviously choose or add a child account. However, in this case, the “Managed” account does not necessarily have to be an online account, but can instead be localized to only that computer in particular.
Once the parental control system is enabled and one or more managed accounts are chosen, parents have control over many of the factors their Windows counterparts do. These include setting which applications can be used, what websites can be accessed, and the time during which that user can log in.
Beyond a blanket filter of websites the computer deems objectionable, the parent can customize what they don’t want the child to see, allowing certain websites to be blocked or allowed in particular. Alternatively, it can act with a whitelist instead, blocking every website except the websites provided on the list.
In addition to this, Mac users can also affect control over what items can be purchased in the different app stores available, as well as who the user can email or have contact with.
All in all, both systems have their merits, and with keeping children safe on the internet, parental controls have come a long way.