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May 7th


Fact or Fiction? Top 5 computer myths debunked

When a "tech expert" says to buy a computer with more RAM, or that it's necessary to drain your battery completely before recharging it, how do you determine fact from fiction?

There are many self-proclaimed experts spreading misinformation about how to operate technology. Many of these techies have good intentions and are unknowingly perpetuating myths while others may be taking advantage of their less tech savvy patrons.

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There are tons of computer myths out there, but here are five of the most popular ones - debunked.

"Draining your battery before recharging gives the battery a longer lifespan"

According to Apple's guide, not only is it unnecessary to drain your battery before recharging, it's actually worse for the battery. Ideally, when storing your device it should rest at a 50% charge. Leaving the battery dead for too long can allow it to fall into, "deep discharge", rendering it incapable of holding a charge. Leaving your battery in a fully charged state, or keeping it continuously plugged in can also shorten the battery capacity over time.

"Laptops don't get hot enough to pose a serious health risk"

There have been a few reports of individuals developing a condition known as "toasted skin syndrome", a permanent discoloration in the skin caused by keeping a hot laptop on the skin for extended periods of time. Theoretically, this type of skin damage could even lead to skin cancer, although researchers say it would be very unlikely. But just what would it take to develop a condition like, "toasted skin syndrome"?

In one case, a woman treated for this condition had kept her laptop, which she later discovered reached temperatures of up to 125 degrees, on her lap for several hours at a time. Another boy developed the condition after playing video games for several hours a day over the course of a few months. He says that he didn't move the laptop even though he noticed it getting hot.

The best advice is to use common sense. If you feel your laptop getting too hot, remove it from your lap, or use a cooling mat between your lap and the computer.

"A slow computer means you need more RAM"

Adding more RAM won't speed up your computer, but it can keep it from getting bogged down by running too many programs at once. If your computer is starting up slowly though, or running slowly with just one program open, adding RAM probably isn't the answer.

A memory shortage is just one of many possible reasons for a slow PC. Some other culprits could be fragmented hard drives or even viruses and malware. The best course of action when you have a slow PC is to first diagnose the problem with a program like AOL Computer Checkup. That way you can be sure you're addressing the right issue.

"Pulling out a USB is fine, as long as the computer isn't actively writing to it"

If you have a MAC, you are probably familiar with that warning box that appears saying to eject your USB properly before yanking it out, but is it really that big of a deal? According to Lifehacker, most operating systems use something called write caching, which is just a fancy way of saying that your computer waits until it has a number of actions to perform and then fulfills all the requests at once. So while it might seem as though the data has finished writing, your computer might still be waiting for a few more actions to complete. Hitting eject flushes the cache and prevents your data from being corrupted.

Windows PCs often override this feature for flash drives, so you can typically pull out your USB once the information is finished writing; however, it is possible to disable this feature, so the best practice is always to right click and choose the eject option, just in case.

"The best way to protect your sensitive information is to use a complicated password"

While it certainly helps to have a complicated password that is difficult to guess (e.g. not based on a loved one's name, your date of birth, college, etc.), no matter how complicated your password is it could still be susceptible to being hacked. And if you use the same username/password combination for multiple accounts, then having just one account hacked can put the rest in jeopardy.

The obvious solution is to just come up with thousands of different unique passwords and some how remember all of them, right?

For most of us mortals it's challenging enough to remember one password, yet alone a unique one for every account. One easy way to improve your password security is to use a service like ID Vault to help you encrypt and store all of your unique online account information in one place. That way even if one password does get compromised, the rest of your accounts will remain secure.

Knowledge is power

It can be daunting trying to sift through all the myths, half-truths and flat out lies about computers out there, but when in doubt, doing your own research and seeking out the right products and services can go a long way towards quieting so-called "techies" and becoming a more savvy consumer. Now that you know the truth behind these myths, make sure to pass on your knowledge to others.