Answers you need to those nagging tech dilemmas
You've got tech questions, here are the answers. Kim Komando helps you make the most of your technology by answering your thorniest tech questions. So if you're wondering what to buy, how to plug it in, or how to fix it, Kim can help.
Uninstall for good
Q. I tried deleting a program from my computer, but it keeps coming back. Is there any way I can get rid of it for good?
A. The problem usually lies in your registry. To clean the old program data out, you can use a program like CCleaner. Stick with the default settings for the best results. Next time you uninstall a program, try a third-party uninstaller like Revo Uninstaller. It does a better job of removing program leftovers. Macs don't have a traditional registry, so you have to clean programs from various places. Try a program like App Cleaner to speed up the process.
Q. I've installed an anti-virus program, but I want to test it. How can I make sure it's working?
A. For anti-virus software, you sometimes have to operate on the “no news is good news” plan. There are dozens of things that claim to help you test your security software, but many of these are scams. You can run the risk of actually installing a virus on your computer, too! Your best bet is EICAR for testing anti-virus and Spycar for testing anti-spyware. They're both harmless text files that are coded to look like viruses so your security software catches them. They won't do any harm if your software doesn't catch them, though. If it doesn't, however, make sure you update it or install a new program that can detect them.
What to delete?
Q. I want to delete some programs to free up some space on my hard drive. What programs should I look for?
A. Should I Remove It? is a good download to help you decide what programs you don't need. It scans all of your programs and ranks them based on what other users have kept or removed. After you've deleted the programs it recommends, use a program like WizTree to see what other programs are clogging up your hard drive. If a program you only use sparingly is taking up a lot of space, search online to see if there is a better, more space-friendly option. If there isn't, decide whether you really need the program enough to justify the space it's taking up.
Stop spam texts
Q. I keep getting the same spammy texts from different numbers. Can I stop these?
A. First, make sure you don't reply. A reply just tells spammers they've hit a working number and you'll get even more spam! Your carrier will usually offer a way to block numbers, but that sometimes costs money. Luckily, there are some apps that can block numbers from harassing you. Google Voice can help you block numbers and mark them as spam. Android-only Mr. Number does the same thing and even features a built-in caller ID so you can screen more effectively.
Create budgeting spreadsheets for free(AT)
Q. I want to make a simple budget spreadsheet, but I don't want to buy Microsoft Excel. Are there any programs that can help me out?
A. Sure thing. First, let me recommend budgeting sites like Mint, as they do most of the work for you. If you want to do it yourself, the free LibreOffice features an Excel-like program in addition to a free word processor and more. Google Docs also has a spreadsheet program. If you need some help creating your documents, Microsoft offers hundreds of free templates that include budget spreadsheets. Just make sure your program of choice works with the .xlsx file format - both LibreOffice and Google Docs do.
Email Kim Komando at techcomments(AT)usatoday.com.