laptop keyboard stethoscope

Top 10 fixes for common PC problems: The best of PCWorld's Answer Line

I’ve been answering questions from PCWorld readers since 1997, and I think I’ve read about every problem that Windows and PC hardware can provide.

But some questions pop up over and over again. Others rarely come up, but nevertheless involve important issues that every user needs to know about. Still, others are unanswerable, and the only advice I can give is to have a professional look at the PC.

Here are 10 Answer Line articles from the last two years that every Windows user should read.

1. Attack of the Blue Screen of Death

attack of the blue screen of death

You’re working on an important project, and suddenly your screen displays nothing but white text against a blue background. If it happens once, you curse, reboot, and hope for the best. But if you’re getting these BSODs frequently, you’ve got a problem that needs fixing.

Brewski13 had such a problem, and I provided advice for diagnosing, and hopefully fixing, the underlying cause.

2. How to recover deleted files

how to recover deleted files screen capture

Now you see them, now you don’t. Files are like that sometimes. 

So where are they? Are you sure you don’t have a backup somewhere? Files can hide in the Recycle Bin and “empty” sectors of your hard drive, even if you've deleted them.

Megan Aitken’s partner lost "a load of photos." I walked her, and other readers, through the steps toward recovery.

3. Introduction to backup

introduction to backup

I don’t get a lot of questions about backup. I sure get a lot from people who should have backed up, though.

Scarcely a week goes by without at least one email from a terrified reader with a crashed disk or an overwritten file. I remember a grad student who lost a laptop with all the notes for his dissertation.

Rickaber asked the right question. Before disaster hit, he wanted someone to explain the basics of backing up. I was happy to oblige.

4. Protect your privacy while you browse

protect your privacy while you browse 2

What once sounded like paranoia is now common sense. Steve asked for safe and secure ways to access the Internet without being tracked by crooks, corporations, and governments.

While there’s no such thing as complete,  perfect privacy or security, you can use plenty of tricks to provide a reasonable degree of anonymity. You can use your browser’s private mode, then supplement that mode with the right add-ons. You can also replace that browser with one designed to keep your real self a secret.

When Steve asked, I explained the options.

5. Speed up a slow PC without buying new hardware

speed up a slow pc without buying new hardware primary

If a once-fast computer has slowed to a crawl, you can’t really blame the hardware. Sure, you can speed things up by adding RAM, upgrading the CPU, or replacing the hard drive with an SSD. But none of those solutions—all of which cost money—address the underlying problem. Your hardware isn’t necessarily underpowered. It’s probably just overloaded.

Gamersim17 complained that his PC was "moving extremely slowly and not performing like it should." I provided advice for identifying and removing the software that slowed it down.

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