Good citizens of technological America, this story is not for you.
Today we honor the louts, the Luddites, and the lazy. Everyone has a little techie vice--raise your hand if you have ever used “password” as a password--but with this outing we're digging a little deeper, calling out the really bad habits that can cause permanent damage to your high-tech psyche.
Without further ado, it’s time to get our hands dirty. We present to you our 25 worst high-tech habits.
1. Avoiding Security Software
So you thought you could get by without antimalware utilities, just by being mindful of what Web links you click and what e-mail you open. How's that working out for ya? Use something--anything--to protect your PC from the bad guys, who are happy to have you as a target. You can even start with free antivirus software.
2. Failing to Back Up Your Computer
The funny thing about people who admit that they don't back up is that they always preface it by saying, "I know it's bad, but..." Listen: All hard drives crash eventually. All of them. Yours will, too. For help, see our simple guide to getting started with backup.
3. Neglecting Offsite Backup
A thief breaks into your apartment and steals your laptop. No problem: You just backed it up last night. Oh, wait, he stole your backup drive too, because it was sitting right next to the laptop. Store your data in multiple locations, with automatic backups scheduled for hard drives kept away from your PC--and make a backup plan to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
Tempting as the offer may be, put spammers out of business by ignoring their e-mail.
4. Replying to Spam
Why do spammers do their dirty work? Because enough people respond to it to make sending junk worth their while. Yes, clicking the "remove me" link counts as a response--though on rare occasions, if a message is clearly from a legitimate brand-name company, using that link is worth a try. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. In addition to following this commonsense advice, you can take an extra step to harness the spam-fighting powers of your e-mail service.
5. Traveling With an Operating Computer
Taking your computer from the kitchen to the living room while it's running? No problem. Taking your running PC from the office, on the subway, for a mile-long walk, and up the stairs to your house? Terrible idea. Spinning hard drives can crash, and computers can easily overheat in cramped quarters. Shut the PC down. (Extra demerits if your hot, whirring laptop is sweating it out in a closed briefcase for the entire ride.) Windows offers custom settings for the power button and lets you tell a laptop to power off when you shut the lid.
6. Using a Laptop on a Bed
Use your laptop in bed all you want--it's when you leave the machine running on your goose-down comforter that the problems begin. Fluffy cushions and the like can block ventilation ports, overheating (and ruining) your PC. Use a lap desk or a coffee-table book to keep some airflow between the two. Plus, you can hurt your body if you're typing in an unnatural position, so pay attention to ergonomics.
7. Printing Everything
You already have a digital record--why do you need to print it out? Even forms that require signatures often can accept a "digital" signature that you create in Microsoft Paint. Save completed files as PDFs for even easier transportation and archiving.
8. Taking a Camera to the Beach
One grain of sand in the shutter or zoom mechanism, and it's toast. If you must shoot beachside, put the camera in a waterproof case or a plastic bag. Better yet, get a waterproof camera.
9. Leaving a Laptop in the Car
Thieves stake out hot parking spots and wait for fancy-pants business types to leave their laptop bags in the car, even just for a few minutes. All they have to is smash a window and grab it, and they're gone in 10 seconds flat. Or, maybe you thought you got smart, and you put your laptop in the trunk, out of sight--too bad you waited until you got to Sketchy Street to do it, where the bad guys watched you every step of the way. Trunks are even easier to pop open than windows. Stow your rig in the trunk before you embark on your trip. Better yet, take the laptop with you, or try a travel lock.
10. Keeping All of Your E-Mail
Every e-mail message you've ever received is sitting in your inbox in chronological order. Congratulations! You now have an unassailable historical record of your communications...and a guarantee that you will never find anything of any importance whatsoever. Use folders or tags to organize your inbox, and be liberal with the Delete key.
11. Failing to Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
Did you know that some people out there still aren't aware that Ctrl-C is copy and Ctrl-V is paste? I'm not saying you need to learn every Alt-Ctrl-Shift combo, but the more Alt-F4s you pick up, the sooner you can go home. Drop the mouse and try a few essential shortcuts for shutting down a PC and more, and several specific shortcuts for Windows 7.
12. Installing Too Much Junk
Why is Windows so slow? You installed three instant messaging clients and seven browser toolbars on your machine. Once some of this stuff is installed, the damage is already done, as many of these apps leave behind traces that are impossible to eliminate. You can try uninstalling as much as possible, but a clean Windows setup is often your best bet.
13. Discarding Receipts
Null's Law dictates that consumer products will always break immediately after the expiration of their warranty--but once in a while they break sooner. You might be able to get the thing fixed...if you saved your receipt. Keep a folder next to your medical records. Once you collect some receipts, you can scan and organize them with the Neat Receipts system.
Next page: Salespeople, and what else not to trust