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Q&A: How can I tell if my computer is dying?

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Question: I'm seeing a growing number of software glitches on my computer. Does that mean it's time for a new one?

Answer: It depends. If the glitches are coming from a single program, then it's probably just that program. Re-install it or find a replacement. If freezes, crashes and corrupt data are happening in several programs, it could be hardware-related. Use a program like CrystalDiskInfo to check for hard drive trouble. A program like SpeedFan can tell you if your computer is overheating, or if the voltages are way off. Both can indicate hardware failure is on the way.

Stop Google tracking

Q: A friend said that Google is keeping a complete history of my searches. Is that true?

A: Yes, that's true. To see your search history, start by going to Google Web history and sign in with a Google account. You can clear your history. Then click the gear icon and select Settings. Next to where it says “Web history is on” click the Turn Off button. If you want to stop targeted ads altogether, visit the Google Ads Settings page and select the opt-out setting. Essential tweak

Q: I upgraded to Windows 8.1, but it still works the same as 8. I was hoping it would work more like 7. Am I missing something?

A: Windows 8.1 did introduce some features you'll like, but they're not turned on by default. From the Start screen, go to the desktop. Right-click on the Taskbar at the bottom and select Properties. Go to the Navigation tab and check the “When I sign in or close all apps on the screen, go to the desktop instead of Start” option. Now the computer will boot to the Desktop. That will make it feel more like the Windows you know. I would also select “Show my desktop background on Start.” This syncs your Desktop and Start screen backgrounds.

Price check apps

Q: I use my smartphone for price comparisons while I'm shopping, but looking up items online takes forever. Is there an easier way?

A: You bet! Price check apps let you scan a barcode to bring up price information to compare major retailers or online shops. Try Pic2shop, Red Laser and PriceGrabber. Apps like Smoopa reward you for finding and sharing deals.

E-mail Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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