10 stupid computer mistakes we all make



There are thousands of times when I do dumb things that get me and my computer in trouble. I know better but the realization that I’m doing something stupid doesn’t hit me until the very second I click the mouse. Maybe you’re in the same boat.

I don’t have the space to list all 10,014 dumb things I’ve done, so today we’ll narrow it down to 10 of the dumb things we all do.

No. 10: Letting your computer cook in its own juices. Leaving a computer on 24/7 – even a desktop that supposedly can handle it – is just asking for trouble. Let me count the ways. If something goes wrong with your machine’s cooling system you’ll cook it. There are other reasons for turning your computer off. Turning the computer off – completely off – clears it of program fragments that get stuck in memory. Also your chances of being hacked go up in proportion to the amount of time your computer is online, waiting idle online is like equipping a virtual kick me sign.

No. 9: Clicking your way to trouble. Maybe a website promises a download of a free game. Or it could be an email attachment just begs to be opened. Both these actions can open the door to some malicious little program that will scramble your computer’s brains. Think twice before you click. Then think again.

No. 8: Back up a minute. Even those who have back up programs sometimes fail to keep their data up to date. And an amazing number of folks don’t back up data at all. That’s nuts. If a hard disk – even the new solid state ones – had a tattoo it would say “Born to Die.” Your hard disk will fail. And unless you have backed up your data you’ll lose everything – family photos, emails, financial records, you name it, it’ll be toast.

No. 7: Don’t be dirty. A blanket of dust builds up inside your computer over time. And that blanket – like the one on your bed – holds in heat. Heat kills electronic components. So, maybe every six months, you need to open up the computer and use a canister of compressed air to blow out the dust. Just make sure you touch the chassis to discharge any static electricity – a jolt of that can kill delicate components. It’s an easy job. But if you don’t want to do it, get a technician to do the cleaning for you.

No. 6: Make sure things say mellow. Your household current jumps around like a squirrel on drugs. Those crazy voltage fluctuations can ruin your computer. So that’s why you have an uninterruptable power supply (a UPS). Besides keeping your computer running long enough to shut it down normally in an outage, a UPS also filters the power and protects from surges.

No. 5: Living above your station in life. You are practically a computer genius and can fix almost anything. Even if you can’t figure it out yourself there are plenty of sites on the Web that will help you out. So you dive in and start fixing. Hey, you don’t know what’s wrong but you’ll fix it anyway. Before long you are indeed in a real fix. Believe it or not, based on reader emails, the most common cause of computer problems is errant attempts at fixing.

No. 4: The bugs are going to eat you up. There’s a nifty new version of a program you like and it just came out today. So you buy it and install it. All of a sudden your computer doesn’t work as well as it once did. Beware of being a first day purchaser of any new program. There often are bugs that haven’t yet been discovered. Don’t be the person who finds the bugs for the manufacturer. Instead, wait until the program has been out for a few months and the bugs are fixed.

No. 3: Viruses don’t bother me. You either don’t have programs to detect viruses, adware and other malware or what you have is hopelessly out of date. That’s a perfect recipe for disaster. I know it seems obvious but I can promise that I hear – every week – from someone whose computer has been crippled by a virus because of inadequate protection.

No. 2: That hot spot is going to burn you. The coffee shop offers free wi-fi and pretty good coffee. So it’s a great place to do some online shopping and check the bank account. It’s also a great place to get hacked. Free wi-fi spots are almost universally wide open to hackers. Drink the coffee and leave your computer turned off.

No. 1: What a cute password. It’s easy to remember since it’s the name of your pet, or your child, or maybe your favorite sports team. I even knew someone who used the word “password” as their password. Passwords should never contain names or words. Instead they should be a jumble of letters and numbers.

I’ve run out of space but not stupid mistakes. Write me and tell me about the stupidest computer mistake you’ve made. I may print your answers.

Helpdesk No. 3

Q: My wife and I both use the same computer and each of us has an account on that computer. But now, when she clicks on her user icon she gets the following message: “The User Profile Service failed the login. User profile cannot be loaded.” She doesn’t know what she did to mess up her profile and I don’t know where to look. Her documents and pictures were still on the computer but she couldn’t access them. I worked around the problem by creating another user name for her and then clicking-and-dragging the document folder and picture folder from her original user files into her new user name folders. Is there any way to correct her original user profile?

Huell Hargett

A: I’ve seen times when this problem almost magically went away with no help. But you seem to have a more severe problem. There is a fix for this but it’s a bit involved. Luckily there is a Microsoft web page that can talk you through the repair. You’ll find the information here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947215

Q: My mother is 85 and lives in Ohio so she is missing out on a bunch of things her grandkids do. We want to buy her a computer so that we can send her pictures, and visit with her by email and Skype. We will also see her on Skype so we can know she is doing OK. She will be reluctant or perhaps a bit intimidated with the technology so we want to keep things simple. We are trying to decide if we should get her a small laptop computer or if we should go with an iPad?

Bob Wirth

A: I think an iPad will be the easiest and most intuitive gadget for your mom. All this sounds like a great idea by the way.




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