Share This Page

5 'musts' for owning a computer

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A good number of computer users think the answer to the tech problems they encounter is to ignore the symptoms, upgrade to fancier software or buy a new computer.

Here are five things that won't turn you into a tech guru overnight, but they'll keep your computer running fast, make you more productive and save you tons of frustration. Best of all, they won't cost you a cent.

• Work faster using keyboard shortcuts

Say you're ready to print a document. Instead of using the mouse to move a cursor around the screen and selecting “Print” from a drop-down menu, just hit Control+P on your keyboard.

There are dozens of keyboard shortcuts like this, from pressing Ctrl+S to instantly save the file you're working on, to pressing Ctrl+Z to undo a boo-boo.

It takes a little getting used to at first, but after you try keyboard shortcuts for a while, I guarantee that your mouse will start gathering dust.

• Protect yourself from viruses, spyware

Every computer you own should have an antivirus program, a firewall and an anti-spyware program. Another huge threat right now is security holes in Java, a programming language used by Web browsers to run interactive content.

When a vulnerable version of Java is active in a Web browser, visiting a compromised website is all it takes for crooks to sneak malware on to your computer. In most cases, you won't even know the site is compromised until it's too late.

• Share large files the easy way

Sending large files through email is slow, can hit attachment size limits or fill up recipient inboxes.

Fortunately, there are easier ways to share large files. These three popular sites will get the job done for you: Dropbox, WikiSend and Senduit.

• Fix Wi-Fi problems

First, double-check that the Internet speed you're getting is as fast as what you are paying for. Speedtest.net is a great service that will give your Internet connection a quick speed test.

Make sure your wireless network is encrypted. A sudden drop-off in wireless network speed could be a sign that your neighbors are using your open connection to surf and download files.

If parts of your home are Wi-Fi dead spots or get very weak signals, try placing the router in an open, central location -- away from walls and obstructions, such as metal filing cabinets.

You could also try the trusty beer-can hack. This involves cutting a beer or soda can open with a utility knife to make a parabolic antenna out of it. This offbeat trick can boost your network by two bars or more.

• Perform regular maintenance and make backups

Keep your software up to date. Updates fix bugs and improve the stability of your operating system and programs.

If you spend more than two minutes a day looking for files on your hard drive, it's time to organize your files and clear out old stuff. Freebies like PC Decrapifier and Ccleaner can help you. Keeping a block of free space on your hard drive will also give a speed boost to your operating system.

Email Kim Komandoat techcomments@usatoday.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.