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How to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

Updated May 15, 2020

Many people took advantage of the Get Windows 10 upgrade promotion, and some did not. If you are one of those who did not get your version of Windows 7 / Windows 8.1 upgrade for free, you still have an opportunity to do so. Here is how to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

How to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

It has been a few years since Microsoft ran the Get Windows 10 promotion, and now you think you might like to get your version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 upgraded to Windows 10. The question is now, should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

If you think so, I will let you know a little secret. You can still get the upgrade for free. But there is a particular way you have to go about doing it. And there are some prerequisites you have to meet first.

First, your computer needs to be running a legally licensed, not pirated version of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1. The key here is running, as you will need to start the upgrade process from inside of Windows. In essence, you will perform what we call an in-place upgrade.

And since this is an in-place upgrade, you will need to know what edition of Windows you have. Just open a Run dialog box, type Winver and left-click on OK. It will list the Windows edition in the About Windows screen that appears. Here are the upgrade paths.

  • If you have Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, or Windows 8.1 Home Basic, you will upgrade to Windows 10 Home.
  • If you have Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, or Windows 8.1 Professional, you will upgrade to Windows 10 Professional.
  • If you have Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 8.1 Enterprise, you will upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise.

Second, your computer needs to meet the hardware requirements for Windows 10. Most computers running Windows 7 / 8.1 already meet the requirements, but there are exceptions. There are specific graphics processors known to be incompatible.

But the only way you will find out is by starting the upgrade process. The Windows 10 installer will run a check for hardware that will not work with Windows 10 and will allow you to stop the upgrade or continue.

If it turns out that the on-board graphics processor in your desktop computer is incompatible, you can always install an inexpensive (under $50) PCI-e graphics card (if you have an open PCI-e slot). Here is how to add an expansion card to your desktop computer. If your laptop has an incompatible graphics processor, you cannot upgrade it to Windows 10.

But there are a few things I recommend doing before starting the upgrade process. Checking for drive errors, cleaning up your drive, and uninstalling third-party anti-virus/malware software are just a few. And I recommend creating a full backup only in case something goes wrong. Just follow steps #2 through #6 in this article, seven things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10.

Now there is a dirty little secret about upgrading to Windows 10 that nobody ever talks about, and that is the recovery media. Almost every computer comes with a hidden partition that has the original software that came pre-loaded with the machine.

When you perform an upgrade to Windows 10, the setup program will replace it with a copy of Windows 10. So, if you ever want to go back to the Windows version that came with your computer, you will need to create the recovery media before doing the upgrade. Check out the section 'Make the recovery media' in the following article, five things you should do first when you get a new computer.

Now, you have everything you need to take care of, and you are ready to start the Windows 10 upgrade. Since this will be an 'in-place upgrade', you will need the Windows 10 installation media. Let's make it.

The first thing you have to do is download and run the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. This program can do a direct upgrade or create the Windows 10 media (USB or ISO file).
Windows 10 installer what do you want to do screen
I recommend creating the media (either USB or ISO). That way, you will have a copy of Windows 10, just in case you need it in the future.

The next thing you need to do is select what language, architecture, and edition you want to install.
Windows 10 installer select language and edition screen
If the Use the recommended options for this PC checkbox is on the bottom, make sure it has a checkmark inside it. If not, refer to the edition information you collected earlier.

You will need either a blank DVD or a USB drive that is 8GB or larger. The Windows 10 Media Creation Tool will format a USB drive and make it ready to use.
Windows 10 installer choose which media to use screen
If you download an ISO file, you will need to burn it to a DVD. Here is how to burn an ISO file to a disk.

There are a couple of reasons to install from media (USB or DVD) and not the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. The #1 reason is you can always restart the installation if you need to take care of an issue or two.

Once you have the installation media created, you will have to start the upgrade by running the setup program located at the root of the installation media.
Windows 10 setup program in File Explorer
I recommend opening File Explorer and right-clicking on setup.exe and selecting Run as administrator.

The first screen that appears tells you that Windows 10 is going online to get updates, drivers, and optional features.
Windows 10 setup program prompting to download updates
If you click on the Change how Windows Setup downloads updates link, you can choose to download the updates or wait until later.
Windows 10 setup program update download options
You will be downloading the updates either way, so it is strictly your call. But I have found that a lot of the errors associated with the upgrade process can be avoided by waiting until the upgrade is complete before downloading and installing updates.

At some point, the installation will check the hardware and software installed. If it finds any incompatible software, like an anti-virus program, you may have to cancel the upgrade and remove the software.

If the installation finds incompatible hardware, you may have to cancel the upgrade to resolve the issue. Either way, you may be able to continue the update, but that depends on how critical the Windows 10 installer finds the software/hardware issue to be.

Once the upgrade is in process, it may take a couple of hours to complete. When the Windows 10 upgrade is complete, the original product key for your old version of Windows will be converted and uploaded to the cloud. It is called digital entitlement.

And if you ever need to reinstall Windows 10, all you have to do is download the latest version using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. It is the one Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use.

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading computer components

Updated May 16, 2020

When doing computer repair for a living, there is one thing I do quite often: replacing and upgrading computer components. Whether it be replacing a hard drive or installing a new graphics card, there is always something you need to consider. So here are a few things you should ask yourself when selecting computer components.

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading computer components

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your motherboard

    Form factor
  • What form factor size does your existing case support?
    If the motherboard you are looking at getting is ATX and your present case only has space and stand-offs for a mini-ATX motherboard, you will not be able to install the new motherboard.
  • Do you have any of the extra parts that came with the case, including stand-offs for the motherboard?
    If you are replacing a mini-ATX motherboard with an ATX motherboard and your case is large enough for it, do you have the stand-offs and screws for the extra mounting points that the new ATX motherboard will require?
  • Do you have the installation media for the operating system and all of your programs?
    When you change out a motherboard, unless it is from the same manufacturer and same model line, odds are you will need to perform a clean installation of the operating system and your apps. If you try and use the existing operating system currently installed with a new motherboard, you more than likely to get all sorts of errors. Be prepared to reinstall the OS and apps.
    CPU socket
  • What is the socket type of your existing CPU?
    You cannot use an LGA1150 processor in an LGA1151 socket.
  • Will the new motherboard your thinking about getting support your existing processor?
    You will need to do your research on the motherboard you are thinking about getting. If you cannot find the information online, give the manufacturer a call. There is nothing worse than getting a motherboard that you cannot use.
    Memory slot(s)
  • Does the motherboard your thinking about getting support your existing memory modules?
    Again, do your research. You have to make sure that everything is going to go smoothly when you do the upgrade.
  • Or are you going to need to get new memory modules?
    If you find out that you will need new memory modules, buy them in pairs (twin-pack, quad-pack). Try to avoid mixing different memory modules if you can. You will also find it cheaper to buy them in twin-packs or quad-packs than as single modules.
    Expansion slots (PCI-e)
  • What do you currently have for expansion cards?
    These include graphic card(s), RAID controller card(s), M.2 adapter card(s), Wi-Fi / ethernet card(s), etc..
  • And what type of expansion slot(s) do they use (PCI-e x16, PCI-e x4, PCI-e x1)?
    Make a note about all of the different PCI-e slots that are used on your existing motherboard and reference it when you are looking at a new motherboard.
    M.2 Slot(s)
  • If your existing mother has M.2 slot(s) and you use them, what form factor, key notches, and interface do they utilize?
    M.2 2242, M.2 2260, M.2 2280? B key, M key, or both? SATA 3, PCI-e 3, or NVMe?
    Internal USB connections
  • What type of USB headers does your current motherboard have?
    USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1 or USB 3.1 Gen 2.
    Internal drive connectors
  • What type of internal drive connectors does your current motherboard have?
    SATA, SATA Express or U.2?
    Power connector
  • What type of power connectors does the motherboard your thinking about getting have (4-pin or 8-pin ATX 12V)?
    Does your existing power supply have the correct connector?

Related articles
Things to keep in mind when building a custom-built computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your processor / CPU

    Socket type
  • What socket type does your current motherboard have (LGA 1151, LGA 2011, AMD AM3+, etc.)?
    Remember that you cannot use an LGA1150 processor in an LGA1151 socket.
    Motherboard compatibility
  • What processors does your current motherboard support?
    You will need to do your research on your existing motherboard. If you cannot find the information online, give the manufacturer a call. You may need to update the BIOS on your current motherboard to run the new processor you are thinking about getting.

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your CPU cooler

    The space inside of case
  • Does your present case have the room for an upgraded CPU cooler?
    If you are thinking of air-cooled, do you have enough space on top of the CPU for it? If your thinking about liquid-cooled, do you have the correct mounting holes for it? And are you going to need to replace any of the existing case fan(s) to accommodate a new CPU cooler?
  • Does your motherboard have all of the connectors for running a liquid CPU cooler?
    Some liquid-coolers require power from an onboard USB header. Also, does your motherboard have any special liquid-cooler fan headers?

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your graphics card / GPU

    Slot version
  • What version PCI-e slot (2.0, 3.0, 4.0) does your current motherboard have?
    To answer this question, you will need to reference the motherboard manual or specifications online. If you have a problem finding this information, just contact the motherboard manufacturer.
  • What PCI-e version is the graphics card you are looking at getting?
    Again, to answer this question, reference the graphic card manual or specifications online. If you have a problem finding this information, just contact the motherboard manufacturer.
    If the PCI-e slot on your motherboard is version 3 and the graphics card you are looking at getting is version 4, you will have a problem.

Related articles
How to add an expansion card to your desktop computer

    Power connection(s)
  • Does the graphics card you are looking at getting require a separate PCI-e power connector(s)? If so, are they 6-pin or 8-pin PCI-e connector(s), and how many does it need?
    You should be able to find this information on the vendors or manufacturers website. Even the box should have the information on the outside.
  • Does your current power supply have all of the proper PCI-e connector(s) for it?
    Some lower wattage power supplies have only 6-pin PCI-e connectors. Visually check your existing power supply for the type and quantity of PCI-e power connectors.

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your memory

    Slot type and speed
  • What slot type and memory speed does your existing motherboard support (DDR3 2400, DDR4 4200, etc.)?
    To answer this question, you will need to reference the motherboard manual or specifications online. If you have a problem finding this information, just contact the motherboard manufacturer.
    Existing memory compatibly
  • Are you going to added more memory to your current memory?
    The one thing you want to try and avoid when adding memory is incompatibility with existing memory. If you plan on adding a couple of more memory modules, try to use the exact make and model of your current memory. Even though memory from different manufacturers may be the same slot and speed type, their clock timings can be different. So, it is always recommended to use the same make and model of memory in all of the slots.

Related articles
How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your drive

    Form factor and size
  • What size and form factor drive(s) are you looking at getting?
    If you are replacing an existing drive, you should go with one that is the same form factor (3.5", 2.5", M.2, or U.2) and the same size (GB's, TB's) or larger than your existing drive. If you are upgrading your drive to a different form factor (SSD, HDD, or U.2), you need to make sure your current case has a place to mount the other kind of drive (3.5" or 2.5"). If you are upgrading your drive to a different form factor (M.2, mSATA), you need to make sure your existing motherboard has the correct form factor (M.2 2242, M.2 2260, M.2 2280), key notches (B key, M key or both) and interface (SATA 3, PCI-e 3 or NVMe) as the drive you are looking at getting. If you are looking at getting an M.2 or mSATA and your motherboard does not have the appropriate slot, you will need to use an expansion card.

Related articles
How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your case

    Motherboard Form Factor (micro-ATX, ATX, ITX, etc.)
  • What is the form factor of your existing case?
    If the case you are looking at getting is designed for a mini-ATX motherboard, you will not get a standard ATX motherboard to fit in it. Check the case manufactures website to verify the motherboard form factors that will fit in it.
    CPU fan
  • Does the case you are looking at getting have enough space for your existing CPU fan?
    There is nothing worse than getting the motherboard, CPU, and cooler installed in a new case only to find out that you cannot get the side of the case on. Double-check all dimensions.
    Peripheral/expansion
  • Does it have enough front panel connectors for the onboard headers of the motherboard?
    It sucks having USB 3.0 header(s) on the motherboard and not having any or enough connectors on the front of the case.
  • If you have a DVD or BD drive, does it have a 5.25" drive bay in front for it?
    A lot of cases nowadays do not have 5.25" drive bays. If you have a 5.25" drive or drives (CD, DVD, BD), you will need to double-check the case you are looking at getting.

How to power reset your laptop computer

Updated May 16, 2020

Did you turn off your laptop, and now it will not start up again? Maybe you closed the lid, and now it will not come out of sleep mode? If so, you may need to power reset your laptop computer.

How to power reset your laptop computer

This has to be one of the most frustrating problems with laptops, you press the start button, and nothing happens. No lights, no sounds, no display. It seems like it is entirely dead. And in a way, it is. If your laptop computer turned off while you were using it, a power reset would not help. That would be a completely different problem.

The problem is that the system has built-up residual electrical charge in the capacitors. And the only way to get it to run again is to discharge the electrical load. The majority of the time, it is a quick fix. But there are times when it is not a quick fix. Let me explain. This procedure requires that you completely disconnect all power sources, ac adapter, and battery.

If you can remove the battery in your laptop from the bottom of the case, this will be pretty quick. If the battery is inside the laptop case, then it can be tricky, as you will have to disassemble the laptop to get to the internal battery. If you feel uncomfortable about taking your computer apart, please contact a local computer repair specialist like Geeks in Phoenix.

  1. Disconnect all devices from your laptop. This includes docking stations, USB devices, external displays, etc..
  2. Disconnect the ac adapter.
  3. Remove/disconnect the battery. The following steps require access to the battery.
    A laptop computer with a battery that is accessible from the bottom
    If the battery for your laptop is accessible from the bottom, remove it and proceed to the next step.
    A laptop computer with a battery that is accessible by removing the base
    If the battery is not accessible from the bottom, you would need to disassemble your laptop to gain access to it. Before you or a technician takes the computer apart, try step #4 first. If, after trying step #4, your laptop still does not startup, then you may need to disassemble it to get to the battery.
    A typical internal battery connection inside of a laptop computer
    Some batteries connect directly to the motherboard, and some connect via a cable. Depending on the type of battery your laptop has, you may or may not have to remove it.
  4. Hold down the Power button for 15 - 30 seconds. By holding down the Power button, you release all of the residual power left in the laptop. If you had to remove the base to get to the battery connection, place the bottom back on the computer and put it back in the standard operating position. Do not worry about screwing the base back on yet. Once you have discharged the laptop, you will reassemble it.
  5. Connect the ac adapter and plug it into an ac jack. Most instructions for releasing the residual electrical charge will have you reinstall/reconnect the battery first, then connect the ac adapter. If you leave the battery removed/disconnected, you avoid any issue that the battery might have, like low output.
  6. Press the power button. If the problem was a built-up residual electrical charge, your laptop should startup. The only error you might encounter is a warning about the battery missing.
  7. Shut down the laptop. If all went well, your computer started up and booted up the operating system. Just turn it off as you usually would.
  8. Disconnect the ac adapter.
  9. Reinstall/reconnect the battery. If you had to remove the base to get to the battery connection, you can reconnect it and screw the base back on to the laptop.
  10. Reconnect the ac adapter and start the laptop up again.

How to build a computer

Updated May 19, 2020

Are you thinking about building a computer? Have you already got the parts and don't know where to start? If so, I am going to show you how to assemble a computer.

How to build a computer

In a recent article, I discussed things to keep in mind when building a custom computer. There are plenty of websites like PC Part Picker that will generate a parts list. But once you have purchased all of the parts, you'll have to put them all together.

In this article, I am going to assemble a computer from all the separate components. If you don't have all of the tools or are kind of scared of possibly making a mistake, please contact a local computer shop and have them assemble it for you. If you live in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, feel free to give us a call.

Tools required to build a computer

Tools required to build a computer

  • Anti-static wrist strap
  • Wire ties
  • Snipers (for trimming wire ties)
  • Needle nose pliers (optional)
  • 3/16" nut driver (for stand-offs)
  • #1 Phillips screwdriver
  • Thermal compound (may or may not be required)

Building a computer step by step

Cable management is one thing you will need to keep in mind as you are building your computer. Take the time to secure all wires, even if it is temporary.

Don't be surprised if during your assembly that you have to cut and replaced some wire ties. When you perform cable management, this is normal. Just make sure you have plenty of extra wire ties handy.

And remember to put on the anti-static wrist strap and attach the clip of it to a metal portion of the computer case before you start building your computer.

  1. Unpack the computer case.
    Unpack the computer case
    Make sure to do an inventory of all the parts (screws, drive caddies, etc.) that come with it.
  2. Install the I/O panel in the rear of the case.
    Install I/O panel in rear of case
    Be careful installing the I/O panel as the metal edges can easily cut your hand.
  3. Install the stand-offs for the motherboard.
    Install the stand-offs for motherboard
    Some cases have stand-offs built-in, others do not. If your case does not have them built-in, check the hole pattern on the motherboard or the motherboard manual to ensure you have the stand-offs in the correct locations. Hand tighten them using a 3/16" nut driver.
  4. Install the motherboard.
    Install the motherboard
    You may have to work it a little bit to get it under any tabs on the I/O panel. Then attach it to the stand-offs using the supplied screws.
  5. Install the CPU.
    Install the CPU
    Make sure you have the notches in the CPU aligned correctly to the socket on the motherboard. Refer to the motherboard manual for the correct way to secure the CPU in the socket.
  6. Install the CPU cooler.
    Install the CPU cooler
    If you are using a new cooler, it will have thermal compound already applied. If you are rebuilding an existing computer, you will need to clean any current thermal compound from the CPU and cooler. Then you will need to apply a new layer of thermal compound. Just spread a thin coat of thermal compound across the entire surface of the CPU. A business card works great.
  7. Install the memory modules.
    Install the memory modules
    The modules will have a notch in them, so they will only go into the slot one way. Check the memory modules against the memory slots on the motherboard for the correct orientation. Also, refer to the motherboard manual for the proper installation order.
  8. Install the case fan(s).
    Install the case fan(s)
    Some cases come with fans already installed, and some don't. If you have to install the can fans, make sure you have the airflow correct. The airflow should go from the front of the case to the rear of the case. The fans have directional arrows printed on one side of them. Once installed, connect them to the appropriate fan header(s) on the motherboard. Refer to the motherboard manual for the locations.
  9. Connect the front panel connectors to the motherboard.
    Connect the front panel connectors to the motherboard
    Refer to the motherboard manual for the locations of all the pins (power button, power LED, hard drive LED, audio jacks, and USB jacks) for the connectors.
  10. Install the drive(s).
    Install the drive(s)
    Depending on your case, you may have separate carriages or combination carriages for Solid State Drives (SSD) and Hard Disk Drives (HDD). If you are installing an M2 SSD, refer to the motherboard manual for the correct location. If you are also installing CD / DVD drive(s), you may have to remove knock-out metal panel(s) from a 5 1/2" bay in the front of the case. Be careful, twisting it back and forth to break it free, as the metal can be sharp and cut your hand.
  11. Install the cables for the drive(s).
    Install the cables for the drive(s)
    Refer to the motherboard manual for the port location and numbering. If you have M.2 drive(s) installed, check the manual to find out if it shares resources with any of the SATA ports. You will want the primary (boot) drive to be attached to port 1.
  12. Install any expansion cards (graphics, Wi-Fi, etc.).
    Install any expansion cards
    Refer to the motherboard manual for the locations of the PCI-e slots. Here is an article we wrote about installing expansion cards.
  13. Install the power supply.
    Install the power supply
    Depending on the power supply, it may or may not have the power cables already attached. Route the wires thought the case making sure not to cut them on any sharp metal edges.

Make sure to trim all of the wire ties, and remove the protective film from the case. Attach the keyboard, mouse, monitor, and go into the BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) to verify and change any of the settings. Refer to the motherboard manual on how to do this. When you have finished editing the BIOS settings, you will be ready to install the operating system.

How to speed up Windows 10 using ReadyBoost

Updated May 20, 2020

Are you looking for an inexpensive way to give your Windows 10 computer a boost in performance? Do you have a USB flash drive and a spare USB port on your computer? Then ReadyBoost in Windows 10 might be a perfect solution.

How to speed up Windows 10 using ReadyBoost

If you have never heard of ReadyBoost, it is a program that caches files that are frequently used by Windows 10. It stores the cached data on USB flash drive(s) or SD memory card.

ReadyBoost utilizes a service called SuperFetch. SuperFetch uses an algorithm to determine which files should be stored in the cache. The cache can include system files, application files, and user documents.

When Windows 10 needs to access any of these frequently used files, it goes to the ReadyBoost cache instead of the disk drive. If a file gets changed on the disk drive, it also gets changed in the cache and visa versa.

Now it is recommended that you use only USB flash drives for ReadyBoost for desktop computers. You can use a USB 2 or USB 3 port, but since a USB 3 port has a faster transfer rate, I recommenced using one if you have one. But you can use an SD memory card for a laptop computer, as long as it has a fast-enough transfer rate.

And you can use more than one (1) USB flash drive for ReadyBoost. The recommended ratio between the ReadyBoost cache and system memory is 1:1 to 2.5:1.

So, if your computer has 8GB of memory, you could create a ReadyBoost cache between 8GB and 20GB. But you could use a 32GB flash drive and allocate all of it to ReadyBoost.

Keep in mind that ReadyBoost was developed for use with Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and not Solid State Drives (SSD). HDD's are known to have slower read and write times than SSD's.

ReadyBoost requirements for Windows 10

  • Minimum free space per flash drive/memory card: 1 GB
  • Maximum free spade per flash drive/memory card: 32 GB
  • Minimum transfer rate: 3.5 Mbit/s.
  • The flash drive/memory card format: NTFS

To make sure that your computer is ready to use ReadyBoost, you will need to make sure the SuperFetch (Windows 10 version 1803 or earlier) or SysMain (Windows 10 version 1809 or later) service is running. To check the status of the SuperFetch / SysMain service, follow these steps:

  1. Open a Run dialog box by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R.
  2. In the Open field type services.msc and then click on OK.
  3. Scroll down the list of services until you find either:
    • SuperFetch
      The status of the SuperFetch inside of Services console
    • or
    • SysMain
      The status of the SysMain inside of Services console
  4. Make sure it is running and set to start Automatically.

You are now ready to set up a USB flash drive or SD memory card for use with ReadyBoost. Just insert the drive into a spare USB port or SD card slot and follow the instructions below.

How to turn ReadyBoost on or off inside of Windows 10

  1. Insert the USB flash drive or SD memory card you want to use with ReadyBoost.
  2. Open File Explorer by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  3. Navigate to the USB flash drive or SD memory card you want to use with ReadyBoost.
  4. Right-click on the drive you want to use for ReadyBoost.
    The context menu for a USB flash drive with Properties highlighted
  5. From the context menu that appears, left-click on Properties.
  6. On the Properties dialog box, left-click on the ReadyBoost tab.
    The ReadyBoost tab inside of USB flash drive Properties dialog box
  7. Once the system has analyzed the drive, select the options you want to use.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

At Geeks in Phoenix, we have the most outstanding computer consultants that provide the highest exceptional service in Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Arizona. We offer in-shop, on-site, and remote (with stable Internet connection) computer support and services.

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