There is a lot of outdated or false information about PCs floating around. Our friends at How-to-Geek recently posted an article about some of the the biggest mis-perceptions that seem to linger as truths in many people’s minds. Here is part one of that article.
Computers are like anything else. Myths and urban legends have built up over time, passed from person to person. Some myths once had a grain of truth, but are no longer true thanks to technological progress.
A few myths are simple misunderstandings, while others exist to help people make money from you. Windows alone has many unnecessary Windows-tweaking myths build up around it. No, you don’t need to disable services or delete your pagefile.
Hackers Are Trying to Hack Your PC
Yes, it’s a dangerous Internet full of malware and social engineering schemes out there. But the Hollywood fantasy of a “hacker” actively trying to compromise your PC just isn’t accurate at all.
Attacks are automated. Your computer absolutely could get malware that attempts to log your keystrokes and steal your personal information. You probably will get the occasional phishing email trying to get your credit card number, bank details, or social security number.
But there’s no “hacker” out there typing at a terminal screen, probing for holes in your PC. If something is probing for holes in your PC, it’s probably a botnet probing for open security holes on unpatched computers.
Unless you’re a high-value target — say, at a big business or government agency — there are no hackers out there attempting targeted hacks on your computer. Attackers are taking the shotgun approach.
There Are “Clean” Windows Freeware Download Websites
Yes, Every Freeware Download Site is Serving Crapware.
The Windows freeware download scene is bad and getting worse. Even SourceForge has turned to the dark side. Remember when uTorrent was a great program well-respected by geeks? Well, they’ve bundled software that maxes out your PC’s CPU to mine BitCoin.
All freeware download sites are bad these days. Big download sites like Download.com, Softpedia, FileHippo, and SourceForge often add their own garbage to the freeware they offer for download.
Even the “good sites” host garbage-filled installers. We spoke to the owner of MajorGeeks, and he informed us that he’d have an almost-empty download site if he refused to offer programs bundled with junk software.
If you’re downloading from a program’s official website, you’ll often have junkware pushed on you in the installer, too. Ninite is the only trustworthy centralized Windows freeware site we’ve found, and it offers a fairly limited selection of software.
You Have to Turn Your Computer Off At Night
Shutting down your computer isn’t something you should regularly have to do, assuming you’re using a computer made at any point in the last decade.
No, you don’t want your computer running at full-tilt all night. But putting it to sleep makes it use almost no power, and it’ll be ready to go immediately when you turn it on. On a typical laptop, just closing the lid should make it sleep. Even powerful desktop PCs can use low-power sleep and hibernate modes.
Computers can be set to automatically hibernate after a while, and they’ll use no power in this mode — but all your open applications and work will be ready when you sit down at your computer again. Going through a full shutdown every night and restart the next day isn’t necessary at all and just wastes your time. You might want to reboot occasionally, but you don’t need to shut down every day.
Automatic Updates Will Always Break Your PC
Automatic updates aren’t as scary as they seem. Some people go out of their way to disable Windows updates and even browser updates because they’re worried about things “breaking.” Yes, sometimes Windows updates do break things.
But, overall, automatic updates are good. They close security holes and keep your computer working properly. Breakages are rare. Security holes are a bigger concern — it’s usually best to just enable automatic updates for your operating system, web browser, plug-ins, and other software and have them stay up-to-date automatically.
If you don’t trust a company to responsibly install automatic updates, you probably shouldn’t be running their software in the first place. On Windows 8 and 10, automatic updates no longer force reboots of your PC and are generally less obnoxious. You can also prevent Windows 7 from automatically rebooting to install automatic updates with a quick registry hack.
Internet Explorer is Slow, Vulnerable, Non-Standard, and Bad
Among geeks in the know, Internet Explorer is a joke. Microsoft is even replacing Internet Explorer with a new browser named Edge in Windows 10 to get away from Internet Explorer’s reputation.
No, we’re not saying you necessarily need to use Internet Explorer — we’re still mostly Chrome users here at How-To Geek. But Internet Explorer isn’t the laughing stock it used to be.
In-Use Memory is Bad
Modern operating systems try to use as much of your computer’s RAM as possible. This is true for everything from Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X to Android and Apple’s iOS. Modern web browsers also use quite a bit of memory.
This is a good thing! When data is in RAM, your computer can access it more quickly. It makes sense to leave applications, data, temporary files, and everything else in RAM where it can speed up access times in the future.
Crucially, empty RAM is entirely useless. If your computer does need more RAM for something, it can instantly purge some of that cached data from your RAM to free up space. If you look at your resource usage and see high RAM usage, that’s probably a good thing — as long as your computer or device is performing well.
You certainly don’t want to use a “memory optimizer” or “RAM booster” on Windows, or a “task killer” on Android. These applications purge cached data your RAM, making it look more empty but slowing down your computer.
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