In over fifteen years as a computer technician, I have often come across
misconceptions that people have about computers, many of them unfortunately started or strengthened by technicians,
perhaps due to lack of training. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of these misconceptions out there,
of which we will address just a
few of the more common things heard.
Restarting my computer will cause damage and/or wear it out.
only will restarts not harm the computer, they will actually help it. As you use the computer, information is put
in temp files as well as in a location known as the Swap file, where it can more easily be retrieved for use by the
applications. Closing those applications does not release all of this information, so eventually the computer will
no longer run efficiently, and may even freeze. With standard use, a computer should be restarted at least
daily. Also, if you have a device or program that stops functioning
correctly, one of the first troubleshooting steps should be to restart the
computer. It is astounding, the number of support calls for assistance are resolved by having the user simply do a
speed of a computer is determined by the System Resources.
Truth: Low resources can cause a computer to run
slower, but the speed of the system is not determined by the amount of System resources. Many things determine the
speed, but the most important are the speed and type of processor (e.g. a
Core2Quad will move faster than a Pentium), the amount of memory, speed, and type of RAM, the speed and size of the
hard drive, and the size of the level two cache all have an effect. Some of these can also affect System Resources,
though that is a symptom only. For instance, if a person only has 512 MB of RAM and they are playing games or
running memory extensive applications such as Microsoft Word, Outlook, or a web browser, the system resources will
usually be very low. It isn't the resources, though, that would cause the system to be slow, but rather the low
amount of RAM installed.
MYTH: I don't need an anti-virus program
because I'm using a firewall.
software and firewall software are two different things, designed for different purposes. A firewall is designed to
help prevent unauthorized entry into your computer from the Internet. It is not designed to prevent virus
infection, nor is it able to determine if there is a virus nor to remove one. Always use a quality antivirus
application on our system. This is protection for you, but it is also protection for the people you are in contact
MYTH: I use
freeware and never have adware on my computer.
Software manufacturers are in business to make money, and the development, maintenance, and production of software
is expensive. For this reason, over 85% of free software is funded by advertising (adware). The advertising may be
unobtrusive or it may be "in your face" advertising. However, the chances are excellent that if you are using a lot
of freeware and use it often, you do have adware installed. The exception to this is some promotional programs,
those that are extremely basic, or those that use other gimmicks to get a user to purchase a paid version. By
law, adware must have an End User Licensing Agreement that clearly indicates that ads will be served. This is one
reason the EULA should be read before installing any software. By installing it, you are accepting the terms of the
MYTH: I use a
free anti-virus program so I don't need to pay for one.
Truth: See the
above, and ask yourself how this company makes money. It costs even more to track the hundreds of new viruses that
are produced each week and to put forth the research necessary to find a way to remove them. The best that free
software can hope for is to identify and remove the major threats, but ignore the minor ones. AV software that is
purchased, however, will have revenue to research the new viruses and produce software and updates capable of
addressing them. Free AV software is better than nothing, but a paid yearly subscription may be worth it's
cost to protect your computer if you have anything on it of value.
MYTH: A power
strip is just as good as a surge protector, plus it is cheaper.
Truth: A power
strip is often much less expensive than a surge protector in initial cost, but they are not the same thing and
don't do the same job. Think of a power strip as a glorified extension cord, while the surge protector actually
gives some protection to the computer. If a power surge comes through a surge protector, it is designed to
trip the power, much like a circuit breaker, before the excess power reaches the computer. Losing what you were
working on is preferable to working with a fried computer. Note that most surge protectors will not protect against
sudden massive surges, such as by a lightning strike.
Restarting the computer is the same as shutting it down completely then powering it back up.
Shutting a computer off completely and waiting at least 30 seconds before powering it up again allows electrical
current that is still in the wiring and boards to seep out. Restarting doesn't do this; current is maintained.
Turning a computer off periodically is a very good idea.
wear out faster if you turn them off when they are not in use.
Powering down the monitor isn't much different than turning off the TV. The chances are that there will be many
things that wear out a lot faster than the on/off switch. Turning of the monitor saves money as well as wear and
tear on other internal components. A monitor left on will usually wear out far faster than one that is turned off
when it isn't in use.
There are hundreds of computer misconceptions. Having some working
knowledge of the difference between the truth and myth will give you an edge. This can even save substantial
amounts of money you might normally pay to a technician or computer shop. If you have computer questions,
perhaps the best advice of all is to not be afraid to ask a knowledgeable technician.