Start of Hilary Term Message from the IT Office

Dear Queen’s Undergraduates,

Executive Summary

  • Do not read at your peril
  • Liquid spills
  • Hard drive failure
  • Malware and viruses


Okay different format for your “Coming Up” email this term. I strongly suggest you read the whole of the text below as it might save you a lot of money, trouble and heartache.


Just a reminder about drinks around computers – put simply – they don’t mix.

We saw three liquid spills on student laptops in Michaelmas term – two were water and one was a milky tea; none of them ended well. We had a further hot coffee spill on a laptop in 0th week of Hilary – not a good start to the year. 🙁


Keep all fluids away from electrical equipment.

If you need to hydrate then stick to water in a sports style drinks bottle which will reduce any spillage considerably.

Sugary and milky drinks are very bad for electrical equipment because sugar creates a short circuit which damages components.

If you get a spill then turn the computer off immediately, turn upside to drain liquid out and leave in a warm dry place to dry out for at least 24 hours. You can use a desk fan to increase evaporation but do *not* use a hair dryer on a hot setting as you *will* melt the keys!


We also had two hard drive failures brought to the IT Office in Michaelmas. One Apple Mac and one Windows 7 machine. We managed to recover most of the data from the Mac (more luck than skill) but the Windows computer had to be sent to a data recovery specialist with an estimated recovery bill of between £200 and £400. If the student had an up to date backup then there would not have been anything to pay as the hard disk would have been covered under the laptop’s warranty.


Keep regular backups. Use online services like Dropbox which sync your files to online cloud storage while you are working online. Also look at online offsite backup solutions like CrashPlan or Carbonite or Mozy. These services cost a few tens of pounds a year and backup your data in small chunks every 15 minutes or so.

Other ways of keeping important essays available to you are online text editors – for example Google Documents (part of Google Drive). Your text is stored online and can be edited via a web browser or smartphone. You can even download the document as a Microsoft Word (.docx) or PDF file format. Give it a try – even if it is just for your first draft / idea capture. I use Google Docs and Google spreadsheets all the time and can share documents with other people for comments and redrafting.


We had a few infections during Michaelmas term. One was serious enough for the University Network Security Team ( OxCERT) to block Internet access to the infected computer which had a Keylogger and was sending everything the user was typing on the machine to online criminals. Unfortunately the user didn’t read (ignored?) my email to them explaining that his machine had been blocked – he just assumed that there was a problem with the network and used another computer. If the infected computer had not been cleaned before going home and then used on home broadband then the criminals would have continued to collect personal data from the student – FaceBook passwords, browsing habits, online banking information etc. The computer did not have any up-to-date AntiVirus software which is probably why it got infected.


Install Sophos AntiVirus software; it is free to all current University members.

Free versions of other AntiVirus like AVG, NOD32 etc do not cut it anymore. If you “really” don’t want to install Sophos then go for “Microsoft’s Security Essentials” package and stay clear of questionable sites. (That isn’t to say you should go to questionable sites with Sophos!)

Finally if your computer just stops working on the network then check your email to see if you have a message from us in the IT Office and get in touch with us just to make sure there isn’t something serious happening with your computer and you have been blocked by OxCERT. (And yes you “can” check your email without your computer  – there are computers in the Moffattt Room, you can use a friend’s computer and some people can get their email on a phone these days! Amazing I know!)

Hope you have a successful Hilary Term 2014!