Hints and tips about your PC
If you would like to me to keep you up-to-date with the latest threats, and I will add your name to the list; I don't send out any junk or promotional emails!
These tips are here for your benefit. If you want to pass them on to others, please do, but I would ask that you tell people where you got the advice.
For quick tips and advice, go to the top of this page and click the refresh button on the browser, and the tip will change to a new one. There is also a lot of useful information further down the page, and, I have also written articles for the Village Link Magazine which are available on the Village Link page. Most of the information in these articles is still relevant today.
- † Autumn '14 - Dodgy email and how to spoy them
- † Winter '10 - Back it up before you lose it
- † Summer '10 - Yipee, I've won the lottery
- † Spring '10 - Lots of PC tips and advice
- † Winter '09 - What about Windows 7?
- † Summer '09 - So you need a better Broadband Signal?
- † Spring '09 - Don't help them SPAM me
- † Winter '08 - I've got to get a new PC
- † Autumn '08 - My Geriatric PC
- † Summer '08 - How secure is your PC?
Most of the advice offered on this page is, amongst other reasons, a result of problems I have seen on people's computers, things people have done in response to SCAMS and the mistakes people have made in normal use of their PCs. Advice is also given as precautionary measure to help you not to make the same mistakes.
What I have seen most often recently are machines with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of infections. These are not necessarily viruses, but they will cause problems with your machine which may not become apparent for months after you have brought in the first suspect file.
In most cases, they are brought in by the user. usually, a window appears which makes some claim. It could be that your machine has lots of infections, it could be lots of registry issues, or something similar. What most of these windows rely on is you clicking the window somewhere. If the window is a dodgy one, it probably won't matter where you click it, you'll still bring in the infected file, and once there, it will bring in all of its mates. In a few months, there will hundreds of them.
One way to help yourself stay uninfected is to NOT click anywhere on the window. That means don't click Cancel, don't click the red cross either. Any interaction with a bogus window can bring the infection in, so don't touch it!
The other one which appears a lot is still the bogus email. It doesn't matter who it is from, it doesn't matter what it says, what they all have in common, is that they want you to click a link and either download something, or enter your details. Again, DON'T do it. No reputable company is going to ask you to click a link and enter any personal information, and you must always be wary of links within emails, even if it is from someone you know, examine it carefully.
Is the email personal to you? Is the attachment a .zip or a .exe file? A .exe file will install something to you computer, and a .zip file is usually used to hide a .exe file. DON'T click these.
There is a lot more information below which will hopefully help keep you safe.
bogus phone calls, dodgy emails
I have heard of a few people who have received an email, supposedly from BT - but clearly not - telling them to go to a page and input their details, otherwise their email will be shut off, or some other thing will happen, and it usually going to happen soon. This is to make you do it without thinking too long. This is obviously a scam and if you do it, you are giving someone access to your email and possibly anything else for which you have used that email address to register, like Faceache or Twitter etc. many of these emails seem to be targeted at BT users because BT is in te process of updating it's email service
If you are a BT customer you may, or may not, be aware that BT is in the process of updating everyone's email. Not the actual address, but the way it looks when you log in. Having just setup Mrs. Webmaster's email with this new system and I can confirm that it is definitely NOT an improvement. You don't have an option with this and it is really quite a dreadful update.
Some SCAM emails use that to try to get people to click the bogus link and input their email address and password. Despite what the email says, it is a SCAM. BT, and every other reputable company, will NOT email you and ask you to click a link and input your personal information, despite what these emails claim.
I have seen a few of these emails, and to me it is obvious from the very start they are wrong. Apart from the fact that no company will send such an email, the ones I have seen start with 'Hello'. Do you really think any reputable organisation is going to send out an official email and start it with 'Hello'? That is a rhetorical question. Remember, Microsoft are not going to email you to tell you there is a problem with a file. You won't have won a fortune on a lottery you didn't enter. The bank does not want you to go a random web page and enter all of you bank details, no-one has found 18 million dollars in an African bank and wants to share it with you for any reason, and, no matter how many times you forward the heart-wrenching email you were sent, nobody is tracking it or giving anything to charity; amongst others.
The other most common type of Dodgy email has an attachment. These attachments are usually files which end with .zip. The reason they end with .zip is that many email systems will block attachments which end with .exe (anything which end with .exe will install something onto your computer when run). These .zip attachments, if opened, will contain an .exe file. This type of email is NOT a SCAM, it is a Virus and it is likely to do serious damage to your computer's Operating System. (generally a SCAM wants to get and pass on your information, whereas a VIRUS wants to do something much worse - The Webmaster)
DO NOT OPEN these attachments! You have been warned.
You should also be reminded that should a strange window appear on your desktop which you don't recognise, I would recommend that you DO NOT click the suspect window anywhere, including the little red cross, disconnect from the internet and then reboot your PC.
These calls are a SCAM.
Whatever they claim, they are trying to scam you in some way Under no circumstances should you give these people any information at all. My advice is to put the phone down immediately.
It is also worth mentioning again here that no reputable company is going send you an email asking you to go a web page and input all of the account, and/or security details for your account.
Whilst most of these attempts are to do with banking, there are some circulating concerning email accounts, especially BT. If you get such an email, DELETE IT straight away. Under no circumstances should you go to a web page and give anyone your personal details.
I have seen one of these emails and the content is, at least to me, obviously bogus. It is unlikely that the email will be addressed to you by name and the content will be vague and it is unlikely to look very professional. All of that aside, remember that BT is not going to ask you to input your details anyway, they know who you are, so why would they need to ask?
suspicious pop-up windows
it just appeared one day!
Despite my article in the Summer '08 Village Link (Available for download on this site - The Webmaster), I STILL see PCs where I have noticed something on the desktop which looked suspicious to me. When I asked the owner if they installed it many say, "No, it just appeared on day!".
Sometimes an icon may appear on the desktop which wasn't there before. Ask yourself where did it come from? Sometimes you might get a window appearing, usually saying you are infected with something or other. Unless this comes from you Anti-Virus program, it is more than likely not only bogus, but an infection claiming to be something which will help you.
It is important that you DO NOT CLICK IT - ANYWHERE! That means don't even click the red cross in the corner. If you click on it, you will likely bring in further infections My advice would be to disconnect from the internet and then restart the PC.
Sometimes these windows claim to be a Windows Security Alert or words to that affect and offers to fix all the problems it claims it has found by clicking somewhere. What is more likely is that by clicking in the window, you will bring in an infection. Then, surprise surprise, they will ask you to buy their product which will, they claim, fix the problem. Main thing here is that any problems which now exist were caused by them in the first place; or to be more precise, caused by You when you clicked the pop up window.
When you click the link to fix the problems, you will likely be taken to a site where they want you to give them your card details; Don't do it!!
DOs and DON'Ts about Email
Email Etiquette - Netiquette
There are DOs and DON'Ts in emails. Here are some of them...
- Keep the content as brief as necessary
- Reply as soon as possible, preferably straight away
- Do not use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS as this is interpreted as shouting
- Don't write and send an email when you are angry
- Punctuate the text properly
- Make sure you spell everything correctly
- Do not 'Reply to All' unless it is necessary
- If you are sending an attachment, make sure you attach it
- One exclamation mark is enough, ok!!!!
- Don't give out anyone else's email address
Do you send out SPAM?
Let's get one thing straight right now, you wouldn't take all of the junk you get through your letterbox, photocopy it, then post it through the letterbox of everyone in your address book, so why on earth do some people do it with junk email? (That's NOT a rhetorical question - The Webmaster) If you send several people in your address book, the latest joke/verse/video etc. that you had forwarded to you which had probably been forwarded several times before that, and the person you are sending it to has NOT said they want to be included in your list, it could be considered to be SPAM.
When you order something on-line, or have to make arrangements on-line, you usually have to include an email address, check to see if there is an opportunity to tell them NOT to send you any marketing emails. If there is no such opportunity and they start to send you emails, tell them to stop. Just because you give your email address to a company or a person, it should NOT be used as an invitation to send you lots of emails you don't want, and you should remind them of that.
Additionally, Don't just assume that everyone in your contacts list wants to receive all of the junk you get in your inbox, because I know from experience that many of them don't.
When you have, or someone gives you their email address, don't just assume that they want to be included in the list of people to whom you send the latest thing you have received, which may already have been forwarded several times by people who thought everyone in their address book might be interested. Ask people if they want to be included in this group before you start sending them all of your junk!
AND, on a similar note. If you get sent the latest thing which has been forwarded dozens of times, but would rather not receive it, politely ask the sender NOT to include you in their list of recipients; and if polite doesn't work, try being more direct! If they get miffed because you have asked them to stop it, it is they who are wrong, not you! Many people are, in my opinion quite wrongly, too embarrassed to ask others NOT to do it!
AND, following on again! if you are one of the people who is guilty of sending these things, don't get miffed if someone asks you not to do it; most people don't want their inbox filled with SPAM, regardless of who sent it! (See the definition of SPAM below - The Webmaster). I go to a lot of people's houses and most people who get sent this kind of thing say don't want it, but are reluctant to tell the people who send it to stop!
The best way to get round this problem is to ask people, as you give them your email address, not to send you such emails; then you shouldn't have to tell them to stop.
If, even after reading this, you still feel the need to send what you consider to be vital information to several people in your address book, all of whom have expressed a desire to receive it, DO NOT tell them to send it to everyone in their address book. The chances are that there are going to be an awful lot of shared recipients and if some in the loop don't want this vital piece of information - which is likely - they are going to receive it many times and it's your fault!
Consider the following Definition of Spam:
"The recipient's personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients; AND, the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent" You don't have to be selling Viagra to be guilty of sending SPAM!
If you are emailing several people at once you should send the email to yourself and put all the other addresses in the Bcc field so that no one can see the other people's email addresses (More on Bcc further down the page - The Webmaster).
These days many companies or organisations or the like, ask you for you email address. I would suggest that unless there is a really good reason for them to have your email address, Don't give them it; all they will do is send you promotional bumph!
sending group emails
Before I get into the etiquette of sending email properly or the possible security implications, I want to remind people about their responsibilities under the data protection act. Whilst this mainly applies to companies and/or organisations, members of the public should also pay attention to this.
If you have someone's email address because they are a member of your particular club or organisation or things similar, you have a duty to protect these email addresses under the Data Protection Act. By sending emails to groups and NOT using the Bcc field to hide the addresses you are passing on the addresses to third parties and if such an email is then forwarded to someone out with the group, they also get the addresses. While these third parties may also be members of the same collective, that is irrelevant, and there could be repercussions should anyone complain.
All that being said, there are other reasons why you should use the Bcc field in emails.
Many people and organisations STILL send group emails which show everyone who gets the email, everyone else's email address. Then when some of these people forward that email to some of their friends, they then get all of the email addresses in that email. Apart from the data protection issues outlined above, this is really really dangerous as well as being really really annoying. Read on...
Would you let me put your email address on the church web site?
Would you lend me your address book so I can show it to my friends?
Probably not! Why then do people continually send emails to groups of people and give everyone in that group, everyone else's email address?
Some people think this is an unnecessary inconvenience and it doesn't make any difference. They couldn't be more wrong!
Spybots and robots trawl the internet constantly looking for ways to exploit people, and one thing they do is check for emails and addresses so they can propagate infections and SPAM. Many people get an awful lot of SPAM and also get their machine infected and then complain about both.
By sending, and allowing others to send emails where everyone's address is visible to every recipient of the email can be a contributing factor.
What's the solution I hear you ask! STOP DOING IT! As some people will be aware, when I get an email which has several addresses visible and mine is one, I politely ask the sender not to do it.
Don't simply accept that this is going to happen and is OK. It's not OK and you can stop it.
Another ongoing risk are windows which appear out the blue warning your machine is infected and claiming to fix it. If such a window appears, DO NOT click on it anywhere - not even the little red cross in the corner. Best thing to do is disconnect from the internet and reboot the PC.
If anything appears on you PC which you did not put there, ask yourself where did it come from?, if it wasn't you, who was it? Be suspicious of these and other strange happenings!
buying on line
If you intend buying something on line from a company you don't know, check them out first.
Do a search for the company name and complaints. If a company has built up a bad reputation, or is simply out to SCAM you, it is highly likely that there will be a lot of information about them on the web; do a check before parting with any money
If, after checking any company out, you are going to place an order, DO NOT pay by bank transfer, ALWAYS pay by Credit Card.
If any company won't take payment by Credit Card, I would advice not using them.
Be careful about buying from websites which are not UK based as they won't be bound by UK regulations. REMEMBER that just because an address ends with .co.uk is no guarantee that it is based in the UK. If you are in doubt, check the site out. Make sure the writing is consistent with proper English, check the grammar and spelling etc. Whilst these things checks are not guaranteed to spot a foreign site, it can help.
Telephone SCAM 1
There is a SCAM which is becoming more prevalent these days. What happens is this. Someone will call you out of the blue, they will know your name, phone number and address. This isn't unusual given that, unless you are ex-directory, such information is available at www.bt.com. they will make some request regarding your credit cards or debit cards. Of course you, being sensible, will doubt what they say so they will tell you call the number on the back of the credit card, or it could be some other number where you can get confirmation of what they are telling you.
This is where the SCAM comes into play. What they do is they DON'T hang up at their end. You may not be aware, but if someone calls you and doesn't hang up, the call is still active as you cannot cut it off by hanging up at your end; try it with a friend and see what happens. Anyway, unless you actually listen for the dial-tone, you won't notice that you are still connected to the SCAMMERS. They simply confirm what the original caller said and you then do what they want and will lose an awful lot of money.
If you get such a call, I would suggest you hang up immediately, but if you are going to take it further and call the number they suggest, MAKE SURE you hear the dial tone before you dial the number in question otherwise you will get done, then, when you get connected to the real number, they won't know what you are talking about.
Telephone SCAM 2
This SCAM is quite old now but still catches people out.
You get a call from someone saying there is something wrong with you computer, or a windows file, or the computer is running very slowly etc. The first thing is that they don't even know you have a computer, they're guessing, but since most households have a computer, it's going to true most of the time.
What they want to do is sell you computer support, and to convince you that you are in trouble, they often want you to go to the computer and, at the run command tpe something like prefetch or even more convincing, prefetch virus (if you don't know about 'run' they'll tell you how to get to it).
Prefetch is a folder on a Windows PC which holds information about things like the programs you use most and supposedly helps them load faster next time you switch on you PC. It's always there the list it gives can look like garbage. The scammers are relying on the fact that you don't know what this is and will convince you that this is a list of viruses on your PC and only they can save you.
Try it yourself, go to the run command and type prefetch (the run command is in the program list under accessories). By typing prefetch virus instead of just prefetch, you get exactly the same window.
Bottom line is this, if anyone calls you claiming there is something wrong with your PC, HANG UP immediately. If you talk to them, they may convince you there is something wrong, and then they have you and your money.
The latest thing in IT is 'The Cloud', but is it going to be of any benefit to you?
Like most things in IT, this one has been given a name which makes it sound much more impressive than it actually is. For 'The Cloud' read, 'a server somewhere on the internet'. Many companies offer the use of The Cloud for storing data, whether it is for simple storage or a back-up system, and for the privilege of using this service, you are likely to have to pay, usually a monthly fee.
What is not made clear is the time it will take to get you data onto their server. The upload time is dependent on the speed of your broadband and in many cases, the upload speed is going to be around a tenth of your download speed.
So if you want to back up several gigabytes of photographs, it is going to take an awful long time, and remember, you will probably have to pay every month for this.
Without going into all the tech stuff here, my advice for most home users would be to spend around £50 or £60 and get yourself an external hard drive and back up your data onto that.
If you are doing anything on-line and are suddenly asked you if you want to RUN something, make sure you know exactly what it is. Running something means that something is going to be installed on you computer.
If your PC won't start, Get your data off it before you run any recovery discs. Just because it won't start, does not mean your data can't be saved. It is usually quite simple to get the data from a drive as long as the actual drive is not damaged.
If your PC is running much slower than it used to, it could be caused by a few things - see my article in the Autumn '08 edition of Village Link, (Also available for download on this site - The Webmaster). Many times it is either very short on RAM and/or there are a lot of things running which don't need to. If it is one of these, it can be helped to speed up fairly easily and cheaply and you will notice a huge difference. Worth noting however is that a shortage of RAM is much more likely to apply to older PCs as newer ones tend to come with plenty.
Keep your security programs up-to-date, but be careful when letting Windows update itself. Windows often gives you lots of security patches for you operating system and these updates may be necessary to your PC, there are some updates which you don't really need but, unfortunately, they come along with the important ones. I never use automatic updates and instead go to the site and choose which ones I need and hide the others. However, unless you know what you are doing, I wouldn't recommend that to everyone. I have also come across several machines with Vista which have had updates installed and have then failed to start again. In such circumstances, I would consider updating to the current level manually and then switch off automatic updates.
If you have a PC with one of the expensive security programs installed, but you haven't paid for the subscription since it expired, you are at serious risk of infection. There are new threats out all the time and your security programs and OS must be updated regularly to make them effective. Remember though, you don't have to pay for security programs, there are some very good, free programs, if you know where to look.
If you bought a new PC and at the same time bought Office for it, you may not have an Office disc, just a number. If you bought the same thing from Dell, you might not even have a number. While things are working well, this isn't a problem, but if you need to have the operating system reinstalled, you are going to need the Product code to reinstall Office. Unfortunately, the code is stored in an encrypted way inside the registry so you cannot just look at it. Make sure, if you get a code, you keep it in a safe place. If you don't have a code, all is not lost, I can usually recover the code but I need the PC to be able to start.
If you are thinking about replacing an ageing PC but don't want to go to Windows 8, don't worry. It is still possible to get PCs and laptops with Windows 7.
In my opinion, there are certain processors which I would avoided in any new PC as it can cost as little as £30 more to get a good one. If you go to the right place, it is also worth upgrading just the processor, from an i3 to an i5 can be as little as £60, and the boost in performance can be considerable. Bottom line is get advice first!
If you are one of the few people who are still using an old ADSL MODEM to connect to the internet, you should contact you ISP and get them to send you a free router; the ADSL MODEM is unlikely to work should you get a new PC.
even more advice
oops I deleted something by mistake
OK! you deleted a file only to then discover you really need it back. But it's gone forever, hasn't it?
Actually No, it hasn't. Without going into too much technical detail, when you delete something, all you are actually doing in real terms is telling the computer to forget where it is. The thing you deleted is still exactly where it has always been, it's just that the computer can't remember.
Be careful though if you ask to get it back. Some companies will charge you if they get any data back, whether the file you want is there nor not. I also heard of one person who went to a PC store to get data recovered. He got it back alright, but it was raw data. That is, there were no file extensions so he couldn't tell which files were text, or pictures or spreadsheets etc. While that may not seem to bad at first, consider this. I recovered pictures from someone's hard drive and recovered around 25,000 files, most of which were NOT his holiday snaps, the list included every image stored on the computer which included every system image!
I have tried several different programs which claim to be able to recover data and fortunately for me, I was able to try them before I bought them as most didn't work at all well.
I now have a couple of programs which have worked very well and I have recovered data from laptops, desktop, camera cards and USB sticks.
But what should I do if I delete something Webmaster?
You should not use the computer until you get it looked at, that way, there is less chance of any data being overwritten (Although deleted files are actually still there, the space they take up is then free to be over-written by the system and there is a good chance that this will happen - The Webmaster). Then you should get someone to try to recover any deleted data from the drive as soon as possible. You should be aware however, that there is no guarantee that the deleted files will be recovered, but I have had a lot of success in the past if I have got the drive as soon as possible.
Also worth noting is that in many cases, data can be recovered from a formatted camera card or hard drive. I formatted my own camera card - for test purposes - and then managed to recover every picture from it!
setting up the new PC you have just bought
You have your shiny new PC home and have it out of the box and plugged in ready to go, it's easy from now on, isn't it?
When you get a new PC nowadays, and I make that distinction because things have changed over the last few years, setting up a new PC can take quite a while to do properly.
It is certainly not just a case of switching it on and waiting for Windows to load, there are some things you have to address straight away.
Entering your name is one of the obvious things, but then do you set a password? Whilst Windows recommends you set a password, there are no benefits I can think of for doing it. Windows passwords should not be considered as a security measure. With XP, the password can be removed in a few minutes and only slightly longer with Vista or 7 as it might require a different method.
One of the biggest changes on PCs in recent years is the proliferation of software which comes pre-installed.
Not only are there the usual very expensive security programs, there are programs trying to get you to buy them and more and more games and, whatever make the PC is, there will be an awful lot of their software as well; just go add remove programs (XP), or more likely Programs and Features (Vista or 7) and have a look at everything which has the name of the PC maker assigned to it. Very little, if any, of this is actually needed for the machine to work satisfactorily. On a PC with a clean install of Windows, there is hardly anything running which isn't needed. I wouldn't recommend you simply uninstall all of this, but I am sure you will never need most of it.
There is also the issue of transferring data, setting up email, connecting the printer, scanner etc; if you have a printer and/or scanner which you used on your old XP machine, it is possible that the disc you got will not work, assuming you can actually find it.
What about programs? Do you have the discs for you programs? Do you have the codes for your programs? If you have a PC with a version of Home Student Office on one PC, do have the code so you can use the same one on the new PC; Home Student Office usually comes in a 3 licence version so you can use it three PCs.
If you want to use free software for protection, do you know where to get it? How to configure it properly? How to deal with the software already on the PC? What about Windows updates, program updates etc.
Setting up a new PC can take several hours even if you know what you are doing. If you don't know what you are doing or what to look out for, it could take most of the day. If in doubt, get someone in who knows how to do it properly and you could avoid a lot of problems in the future.
reinstalling windows - what you need to know
Some of the issues above are relevant for reinstalling Windows.
OK! You're PC won't start, or it is heavily infected, or some other reason. Whatever has happened, you need to have Windows reinstalled. That's fairly straightforward isn't it?
Depending on your make of PC, the type of recovery option available and some other factors, the actual act of reinstalling the Operating system can be quite a simple thing to do. However, in reality, and to do it properly, it can be a lot more complicated and time consuming than you may think.
I was at one PC where a family member had helped someone out by installing an updated version of Windows - this was before Windows 7. Unfortunately, they had simply run the windows disc and left it at that! There were no drivers installed, none of the previously installed programs were installed, most of the hardware didn't work, and they hadn't backed up any data; remember, you can usually retrieve data from a PC even if it won't start! In short, it was a disaster!
What had he done wrong?
Some of the main issues are:
- What about all of your data?
- What about the programs?
- Do you know where all the device drivers are?
- Some programs store data in strange places, do you know where it is?
- If it is an upgrade, will the PC actually work with the new version?
If your PC won't start, have you lost all of your data? Not necessarily. In most cases, the data can be recovered even if the PC won't start, but this should be done before you run the recovery disc.
If you bought a PC with Office installed and only paid for the key, you will need that key when you reinstall Office. What if you have lost the key and don't have any discs? That's also not necessarily an issue. The product key can sometimes be retrieved but this is usually only possible if the PC will actually start, and without a product key you could find yourself having to buy Office again.
Do you have all of the discs to reinstall programs should the worst happen? Some programs are available as downloads but many are not and if you don't have a disc, you may have problems.
Some reinstalls install the device drivers at the same time, but many don't and these drivers need to be installed otherwise some of your hardware might not work. Often there is a disc which has these drivers but if there isn't where do you get them?
Outlook and Outlook Express, for reasons only known to Microsoft, put, by default, all of the files containing your emails into a hidden folder. What that means is even if you try looking yourself for these files, you won't see them unless you know where to look and how to make them visible; just for the record, some camera and picture programs do the same thing!
So if your operating system needs to be reinstalled, unless you know what you are doing, best to get someone to do who does know how to do it properly or you could lose a lot of data and functionality.
What you need to know about Broadband?
I suspect that most people reading this will already have broadband, but there may be the odd one or two who are still on dial-up.
I am not going to plug any particular ISP (Internet Service Provider) as you should look at your own requirements and decide from there. However, I would say that I have just left Tiscali/Pipex because of some shocking service and gone to BT.
You should also be aware that on many comparison sites, you will see lots of really good deals on offer, but in many cases, most of the deals, will be unavailable here. In our village, we are on an up to 8Mbps service and will be for a while yet so there is no point applying for a service which offers up to 20Mbps.
Don't go for a package which offers you more than you are going to use as it will probably be more expensive and therefore wasting money. If all you want is broadband, just get broadband. If you are not going to watch TV or make internet calls, don't pay for such a package. For example, the package I have gives me broadband, line rental and free calls 24/7, but you might not need free calls through the day!
If you made the switch to broadband a few years ago, it is possible that you are still using an ADSL MODEM which was supplied by your ISP at the time. ADSL MODEMS are very old and should really be replaced with a wireless router, and it is better to do it sooner rather than later. If you contact your ISP to get a free router, they will probably tie you in to another year contract. There is nothing wrong with that if you have no intention of changing. However, don't pay for it! If they want you to pay for their router, tell them you are going to go to some other ISP as they will give you a free router. I haven't heard of anyone who will want to lose you as a customer for the price of a free router!
If you do have an old ADSL MODEM, it is extremely unlikely to work with any new PC you buy!
What about Wireless?
Wireless broadband connections are great when they work, and to be fair, they do work most of the time.
However, there can be times when your wireless connection is causing real problems. It might be a low signal, you could be losing the signal all together, or you may get told you have limited connectivity. This often happens when Windows resets the IP address to 169.xxx.xxx.xxx instead of the 192.168.x.x you should have. This often happens when Windows takes too long to find the router and it then sets a Windows IP address. That is the cause, but it can happen for no apparent reason and is very frustrating. Most times I have seen this has been when a PC has been made wireless by adding either a wireless card or a USB adaptor.
I have come across several machines which have displayed this problem and getting them to hold the connection can be problematic; if the machine is connecting, it is difficult to diagnose what is causing it to drop, and when it drops, it usually can't even see the network.
I have also seen a few houses where the problem is that the laptop is just too far away from the router to get a good signal.
One of the best, and easiest fixes, is to connect to the router using you electric cabling. There are a few different makers who supply devices for this and, like most things, some are better than others, for a variety of reasons. The ones I use require no setting up - you just plug them in and they work! These systems can supply a hard-wired connection or they can supply a wireless signal to a problem area. Main thing is that just because you are one of those who keeps losing your signal, there can be a relatively inexpensive fix.
Also, before you go buying new hardware to improve your connection to the wireless, find out exactly what the problem is. I was at a house where, although the signal strength was quite low, that wasn't why the laptop kept losing its connection.