June 9th, 2017

Help! My Computer Won’t Show The Login Screen!

My laptop computer gave me quite the headache recently. We had a brief power outage while it was plugged and turned on, after which it quit showing me the login screen after going into sleep mode. It would come up just fine if I restarted the machine, but not if I shut it down completely and then turned the computer back on. Suffice it to say, this was a frustrating problem, as I could not even close the laptop without losing the login screen.

This is why you should always be able to do some basic troubleshooting and tech support on your own equipment when you work at home. Usually it will be easier to solve than this problem was. This particular problem was a massive headache.

Backup Your Files

This kind of problem is the point at which you should think about how good your backup files are. When did you last run a backup anyhow? Now would be a very good time.

I have offsite backup, but decided I really should get around to an onsite backup on an external drive. My old external drive has died. I bought a My Passport portable drive off Amazon, and when it arrived, I started the backup right away. I like redundancy in my backups… plus you don’t have to wait for the download to complete over your internet when you have a local backup.

I’ll skip ahead for a moment and note that I never needed the backup files this time after everything I did to fix this, but I didn’t know this at the time. Better safe than sorry. When in doubt, make a backup.

Search Your Exact Problem And Variations

I searched “windows 10 not showing login after sleep” to see what solutions I would come up with. Lots of suggestions. I also searched every possible issue related to it that I noticed as I went along. This gave me lots of paths to explore.

Run Diagnostics

I realized the problem might have something to do with my profile, as I also started getting messages about my account needing something done so that apps could work between other Windows devices I might use. This was a brand new message to me. I clicked the message and it took me to my account, where I tried to find a problem. It wasn’t very helpful at this point.

There are a number of diagnostic programs you can download from Microsoft when you have these kinds of problems. I tried a number of them, including the Update Troubleshooter, the System File Checker, Startup Repair and I think some others, with no solutions.

Check Other Account Profiles On The Computer

If there are other account profiles on the same computer, log into one and see if the problem persists. If there aren’t other account profiles, make one! This can help you figure out if it’s your profile that is corrupt, or if there’s a problem elsewhere. On my computer, existing accounts could go from sleep mode and give a login screen, but when I tried making a new profile for myself, it still had the login screen problem. Joy.

Whimper. Cry. Reinstall Windows 10.

This is what it came down to for me after a lot of searches, diagnostics, booting into safe mode, and frustration. The one good thing about the whole process is that, aside from the login issue, I could still use my laptop, so I could take breaks from diagnosis and do something else when I got tired of it. A fresh perspective helps sometimes.

But I had to use Recovery to reinstall Windows using the Reset this PC option. This is found under Update & security in your Settings. First pick – the option which did the reinstall but retained my files.

This option does not save everything. Your files are safe, but you will have to reinstall most programs and apps yourself. Fortunately, it gives you a list of removed apps in a file it puts on your desktop after the reinstall. Still, it’s painful.

You can imagine my pain when this didn’t work. Not only that, but it was no longer giving me the restart option, although I could login now after shutting the computer down. Throwing the computer out the window wasn’t really an option, but tempting at this point. I really didn’t want the expense right then.

Fortunately, I didn’t give up immediately. I went to my daughter’s class presentation to give myself a mental break and escape the frustration for a little.

Came back home after getting all the kids from school, and decided to try logging into other profiles one last time. Sure enough, other profiles still worked perfectly. Logged back into mine.

It got better! Suddenly I could see the login screen after sleep with no problems at all. This has continued, so something I did finally solved the problem. I’m assuming it relates to the reinstall, although I really don’t know for certain. I’m just absurdly happy to have my laptop working normally again.

Was This A Warning?

I’ve been joking with my husband that all this was actually a warning from my computer to me about my van. Two days after I got all of this resolved, my middle row van window on the driver’s side was down when I came out to my van. Not a break in. It needed a new regulator. On the weekend, when my mechanic couldn’t get one until Monday.

All that has been taken care of now, and I have warned my husband that I will absolutely scream if the house decides to get in on this. I don’t need more Window problems.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

May 17th, 2017

The WannaCry Ransomware Is A Reminder To Pay Attention To Computer Security

There has been a lot of buzz about the WannaCry ransomware attack because it succeeded in attacking several major companies, including FedEx and the National Health Service in the UK. Overall, at least 200,000 machines were infected. It’s a good reminder that computer security is vital, not only for your home business, but for your personal information.

There are some very basic things you can do that will prevent most attacks of this sort.

Keep Your Computer Up To Date

A security fix in March protected Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows 10, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2016 from this attack. Microsoft has now issued a fix for Windows XP, even though they no longer support it normally.

For Mac or Android devices, keep things updated also. This attack did not target them, but that says nothing for the future.

Have Solid Malware Protection

For reasonably current Windows machines, Windows Defender is a free option that is pretty good. If you have nothing else, make sure it’s turned on. It should just be on your system; you should not need to download it.

BitDefender is a good option as well. I use it on my computers. There’s a subscription fee, but I think it’s worth it.

Use A Password Manager

There are a few reasons why I consider a password manager to be important. I like LastPass. It’s mostly free, and the premium version is very affordable.

First of all, it makes creating unique passwords for each site really easy. The only one I have to remember is my master password, and yes, it’s complex. It can generate random passwords to suit the requirements of any website.

Second, I can access them wherever I need to.

Third, I can share passwords between my account and my husband and kids. This is a paid feature, but it’s worthwhile. It means I can keep track of my kids’ passwords if I should need them, and they don’t have to come running to me saying they forgot.

LastPass considers security very important. They offer two factor authentication as an option, and are quick to respond to issues.

The greatest weakness with any password manager is the end user. If you don’t use a secure master password or if you don’t have your computer security up to date, you risk problems.

Never Open Strange Emails

If you aren’t sure about an email, don’t open it. If you open it, don’t open any attachments or click on any links. If it makes you worry about an account, log into that account by typing the URL in yourself, not by clicking a link in the email.

Secure Your IOT

You probably have a lot more on your home network than laptop and desktop computers. Phones, tablets, smart devices of one sort or another… they’re all potentially susceptible to hackers. You can look into options such as CUJO or similar devices.

Make Regular Backups

If you regularly backup your computer, you will have very little to fear from ransomware. There are a lot of very affordable cloud services you can use to protect your data. I like having offsite backups because they’re likely to be immune to any disasters that happen in my home.

Amazon Prime includes free photo storage. If you want unlimited storage for all types of files, their price is very reasonable. It’s not a complete solution, but it’s a start to protect many of your most valued files.

Google Drive gives you 15 GB for free, and has two levels of upgrades available for very reasonable prices. It’s shared across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos.

If you want something more complete, go for something like Acronis True Image, which can backup your entire hard drive. It’s considered to be among the best solutions, possibly the best. The price is quite reasonable. Carbonite is also a good choice.

You can also make backups on an external hard drive in your home. They’re very reasonably priced.

All of this may seem like a lot to do, but much of it takes just a little time to set up, and is then easy to use. Most things will update automatically and should mostly just work once set up. They’re a huge help with peace of mind.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 3rd, 2017

Include Your Home Office In Your Spring Cleaning

It’s so beautiful where I live right now. The fruit trees are blooming, as are my roses. Some of the bulbs I planted over winter are blooming as well, tulips and irises. It’s spring, which is a good time to get things clean. As you get the rest of your home freshened up and extra clean, make sure that you include your home office. Here are some tips to get you going.

Look Over Your Home Office

How does your home office look right now? Mine has papers from the kids’ school, most of which simply need to be thrown out, as they’re for activities the kids have no interest in. There are candy wrappers on the desk (mom stash? What mom stash?).

There are boxes we pulled out of the garage when we were cleaning it out, and they still need to be sorted and put away. We’re trying not to let the boxes go back into the garage, so no skipping that for “next time.”

Where did that stain on the carpet come from?

So much dust and cat hair.

My desk setup still looks pretty good, although I could stand to look at attaching the power strip to the desk. Then I won’t have to worry about cord length for so many things when I use it as a standing desk.

Go over the various points in your home office and decide what is where it belongs, what isn’t, and what could stand to be better.

Sort

Pick a point in your office and start sorting things. Make a pile for trash and a pile for things that belong elsewhere. Test your pens and toss the ones that don’t work. Put things that belong in your office where they belong. If you need to do something else before you can put something away, make a pile for that too.

Throw out the trash and put away the things that don’t belong in your home office.

Clean

Get out your cleaning supplies and get working. Clean the windows. Wipe down your desk, shelves and decor. Move everything. Vacuum or sweep and mop.

Clean your computer too. Get some canned air and blow out all the dust. Use a small paintbrush on the heat sinks. This is pretty easy to do with most desktop computers, but may be a bit trickier on a laptop. A handheld vacuum can be useful to get the dust out once it’s away from the components. A good cleaning can make your computer run cooler and quieter.

Organize

Now that you’ve handled pretty much everything in your home office, is it really where you want it to be? Are things you need daily in easy reach?

Is there anything in your office that causes people to interrupt you? Could it go elsewhere?

In my office, for example, we keep office supplies for the entire family. I have an entire wall of built in cabinets, far more storage than I need for my work. We therefore put all the office supplies in my office.

One thing I’ve done is encourage my older kids to keep more supplies in their work spaces. They each have spaces where they tend to do their homework, and it makes sense for them to have easy access to the supplies they need without interrupting me. My youngest still does best with very limited supplies, as she misplaces them regularly.

Plan For The Future

Consider the things that made a mess in your office. How can you minimize them in the future?

If mail is a problem, for example, build a habit of filing, throwing out or shredding mail as it comes in. Don’t let it pile up on your desk or a counter.

You can do these same steps on your computer and get your life there more organized. Reconsider your computer filing system. Unsubscribe from emails you never read. Use filters to sort your email. This will make it easier to spot the emails that really matter to you.

A clean and organized home office makes it easier to be productive. You aren’t so distracted by the clutter or mess – you can just get to work.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 28th, 2016

What To Do When Your Home Office Is The Guest Room

What To Do When Your Home Office Is The Guest Room

It’s wonderful when you can spare a room for your home office, but often enough it has a secondary function a few times a year. It’s a guest room as well. Your private work space becomes a place for your guests to sleep. You’re out of your perfectly set up work space. What can you do without your home office? You have a few options.

Take The Time Off

You have company, it may already be your plan to take the time off or at least work fewer hours. If your work is flexible enough and you can afford the financial hit or have paid vacation time, this may be your choice.

Taking time off won’t work for everyone. No one expects to always have the day off when company comes over when you work outside the home, so don’t assume you have to do so when you work at home. It’s nice to do when you can afford it and it fits into your work schedule, but it’s not always possible.

Explain To Guests That You Will Need The Room During Work Hours

While you obviously cannot do this while your guests are sleeping, if your work hours are during the day, you may be able to continue working as usual. Explain to your guests that they need to treat you as though you are away at work even though you’re just a room away. It’s what you’d have to do if you had a job outside the home, after all.

Show them the space that you will need to have left alone so that you can work. You don’t want their luggage on your desk or office chair, for example, when you want to start working. Point out things that should not be disturbed.

Set Up A Temporary Office Elsewhere

If your work setup is something you can move, you can work in a different space. This will probably be one of those less than ideal places such as your bedroom. This may be your only choice if you need to work night hours or otherwise cannot use your office space due to your guests.

Just as with your regular home office, do your best to make it a distraction-free environment. The kitchen table isn’t ideal for this reason. You don’t want to be in the middle of everything that’s happening in your home while you have company; you want to be a little away from it so you can be productive.

Whatever your solution may be, discuss it with your guests before they arrive so that they’re prepared to deal with the reality of you working at home. Many people have trouble understanding that working at home is just like working any other job, and that they need to let you work. If they need a lot of reminders, try to have another family member help keep them away as you work. You do not want to get in trouble with your job if you can’t keep a quiet work environment due to guests, so if that’s a need, be very clear about why you need quiet and why there are no exceptions, not even to tell you they’re headed out to do something for the day.

Of course, if you can be interrupted, tell them that too, and tell them how much or when. Let them know if too many interruptions will lengthen your work day or give you other problems.

Hopefully, you will have enough time off work that you can enjoy your guests. Make sure your needs and their expectations are discussed in advance so that you don’t have a lot of problems when your guests are in your home.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

July 13th, 2016

My New Home Office Is Up And Running! SmartDesk Review

My New Home Office Is Up And Running! SmartDesk Review

It took longer than planned, but my home office is finally set up. Things took longer than planned due to a delay of shipment on my desk, but now I’ve got it! It’s so nice finally having a room where I can work and not be surrounded by the kids.

My desk is a sit-stand SmartDesk from Autonomous. So far I love it. The controls are easy to use and the desk goes up and down smoothly and quietly. There are programmable settings so that I can choose a height for it at the touch of a button. I like the way the desk looks, too.

smartdesk controls

I could wish for some desk drawers, but in my office they aren’t all that necessary – I have a wall of cabinets and drawers in here. Something right at the desk would be nice, but I can always get a file cabinet for that purpose.

standing deskThe desk is stable even though it’s on carpet. My carpet has excellent padding under it, which is nice when I stand. No matter the height I put the desk at, it doesn’t wobble at all. I’ve heard wobble is a problem with some standing desks, but that’s not a problem I have with mine.

Setup was a bit challenging but not all that difficult. The directions were almost entirely in picture form and it was sometimes a little hard to see what to do next. About all you have to do is put the screws in the right place, so it’s not that hard to figure out.. The desk is very heavy, so I had to have my husband help with parts.

The really neat part for me was that I was able to go out and pick up my desk directly from Autonomous. They’re currently located less than 10 miles from me in a town called Mentone. That saved me the shipping fee, which was a nice price break. That wasn’t an actual deciding factor for me in the purchase, as I had already decided on this desk, but it was a wonderful bonus.

I bought the most basic desk, but Autonomous offers some interesting upgrades for those who want more features. One accessory kit offers things such as a speaker, USB charger and wireless charger, while the other offers an AI Personal Assistant, Smart Home Controls and more. The top is real wood – mine is just painted black but you can have white, oak or walnut, or even a bamboo top. The price was only $299, which is much cheaper than other sit-stand desks of similar quality. Some options will increase the price.

My cats aren’t certain what to think of my SmartDesk. They’ve each had a ride on it, which didn’t frighten either very much but I don’t think they liked it either. I’ve put a folded blanket on one corner of the desk so that a cat can nap on my desk without being much in the way – we’ll see if that works or not. As my cats follow me everywhere in the house (I can’t even use the bathroom alone), I wanted to have a spot for them.

I will be adding a monitor to my current setup. I use a laptop right now, and while I can put my SmartDesk into an ergonomic typing position, that leaves the screen lower than is ideal. It should be easy enough to find a monitor and monitor arm to add to my setup. Eventually I’m thinking desktop computer and dual monitors but my husband isn’t yet convinced that I need to upgrade that much. We’re trying to go easy on spending (still getting used to the expenses of home ownership), but it will eventually come to the “this is a business expense, not a personal purchase” point, when I know it will be easier to afford.

My office chair is nice too. Comfortable and a bargain I couldn’t resist – $5 at a garage sale. It was a little dusty but works perfectly and is in great condition now that I’ve cleaned it up.

All in all, I love my new home office setup. I may decide to add a cat door so I can close the door without the cats scratching at it, but otherwise it’s working well.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.