Teach Me Tech: Simple Answers to 10 Common IT Questions

October 10th, 2014

Some of the most common IT questions seem so simple, and yet, they are still being asked time and time again. Once and for all, we will reveal the answers to 10 of the top tech questions. And if you already know these answers, consider sending this along to some of your less tech-savvy friends or family – you might find you receive troubled phone calls from them a little less frequently!

10. How do I protect myself from viruses?

Shows a Sample Spam Email Message

The best way to stay safe from viruses is to not open suspicious files or emails. If it looks fishy, chances are it is. Failing that, it’s prudent to install an antivirus program such as Norton, AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials, which will run in the background and try to detect any viruses.

9. Why does my laptop battery not last long anymore?

Batteries have lifecycles and if not properly cared for, they will deteriorate quickly. As a general rule, make sure you discharge your battery once a month and try and keep it 40%-80% charged the rest of the time. Leaving it plugged in and fully charged to 100% is actually bad for the battery and will have significant impacts on its longevity.

8. How do I reorganise the apps on my home screen?

With the number of apps we all have nowadays, access to them is so much easier if they are saved in an organised manner on your phone. Simply tap and hold the app icon, and drag it to where you want it. Once set, release it and if you’re using an Android phone, it will snap into place. If you’re using an iPhone, simply press the home button to set it.

7. Why doesn’t my wireless Internet work in all rooms?

Some wireless routers may be running on an older wireless standard (the current one with the fastest transfer, strongest signal and longest range is 802.11n). This means that distance from the router will result in a weaker connection, eventually dropping out altogether.

Sometimes, concrete or brick walls can also cause blockages between rooms and hence weaken the signal. Range extenders can be purchased to try and bridge the distances in your home but purchasing a stronger router is often the better investment in the long run.

6. Do I really need to eject USB drives before I disconnect them?

Even though it may look like a file transfer is done, there might be a small amount of data that is still waiting (as your system tries to do things in batches). For this reason, it’s best to click the eject icon to let the system know that there are no more transfers coming. This will ensure that none of the transfer data is missing or corrupted.

5. How do I find my smartphone if I’ve lost it?

iPhones have a built in application called “Find My iPhone” which you should set up as it will allow you to track your phone and even wipe the data remotely if it has been stolen.

Other apps such as Prey are also very popular (as they allow you to track all your devices) and even include a feature to take a photo of the person that may have stolen it!

4. Is it safe to use public WiFi spots?

The short answer to this is that it is not actually safe to use public WiFi but if you must, try not to share personal information. If you do need to use sites that rely on your personal information, make sure they are SSL secured (you can tell as the web address will start with “https”, rather than just “http”). It’s also a good idea to turn off all of your sharing options whilst on a public network (these options are usually in the Network Settings area of your operating system). Even if the network has a password, remember that other users on the network can still potentially intercept your data.

3. How do I clear my browser history?

Clearing your browser history is easy. The main browsers have a Tools or Preferences file menu so it’s just a matter of going into the menu and clicking “Clear History” or “Reset” (in the case of Safari).

It will prompt you to select whether you want to delete just history or other files – it’s a good idea to delete all the files, such as cookies as well, to ensure a clean slate.

2. How do I backup my files?

Modern operating systems make backing up your files easy. Microsoft Windows has a built in feature called Windows Backup and Apple’s equivalent is called Time Machine.

The first thing you’ll need is an external hard drive to store your backups on. It’s a good idea to buy a large one (they’re cheap nowadays) so that you can store multiple backups with no concerns about space.

Once the hard drive is plugged in, all you need to do is:

Windows: Go to the ‘Backup and Restore‘ option in the Start menu and the wizard will guide you through the prompts to select your disk. Windows will automatically backup your files.

Mac: Go to the ‘System Preferences’ menu and select ‘Time Machine’. Select the backup disk that you want to use and it will complete the first and ongoing backups automatically.

1. How do I keep my personal information safe on the Internet?

These days, we give out information about ourselves and our lives without even thinking about it. Social media has conditioned us to share everything and whilst the obvious things such as banking details and credit card information are always front of mind, we don’t always think about our other information such as photos and status updates. These are likely to live on the Internet forever and can easily fall into the wrong hands in the future (or even be accessed by employers, for example).

The best way to keep your information safe is to not share it in the first place. If you must, always ask yourself what would happen if it were shared with other people or stolen (even the information you may consider to be small or unimportant).

Another thing to be wary of (as mentioned earlier) is using public WiFi networks as other users can often intercept your data and steal your credentials.

Some sites and programs track your IP address (basically your computer’s identifier) and hence your location too, but there are programs that allow you to browse the internet whilst hiding your IP address. They also use cookies to track your browsing history and movements and plugins like AdBlock and Ghostery can help make you anonymous whilst your browse.

Finally, don’t hand out your email address to just any site that asks for it. Make sure you read the privacy policies of sites that want your email address and personal information.

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