If Windows virtual memory is too low, you can increase it, but there are trade-offs

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Dspenc40229’s PC occasionally complains that it’s running low on virtual memory. “How do I get more?”

Virtual memory, also known as the swap file, uses part of your hard drive to effectively expand your RAM, allowing you to run more programs than it could otherwise handle. But a hard drive is much slower than RAM, so it can really hurt performance. (I discuss SSDs below.)

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Here's what to do when your touchscreen won't work

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Miguel owns a Windows 8 laptop, upgraded to 8.1. But "the touch screen…began to fail sometimes, until it failed completely."

First things first: If you haven't done so already, reboot. Yes, it's obvious, but so many people don't think about it, and it fixes so much.

But it doesn't fix everything. So if the problem remains, follow the suggestions below. I'm assuming your PC is running Windows 8 or 8.1.

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BadUSB: What you can do about undetectable malware on a flash drive

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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After reading about BadUSB, Barbara asked if it was safe to share files through a flash drive. “Would we be safer using a cloud service?”

A cloud service might be safer than a flash drive, although that has its own dangers—especially with privacy. BadUSB shows us that malware can infect and reside in a flash drive’s firmware, which your antivirus program can’t scan the way it can scan the drive’s main storage. It’s like having the malware in your motherboard’s BIOS—except that this motherboard will likely get plugged into multiple computers.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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How to encrypt sensitive data? Put it in an encrypted container

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Abrham Sorecha asked how to password-protect a folder.

You can't effectively password-protect a folder without encrypting it. And strictly speaking, you can’t truly encrypt a folder, because a folder is not actually a container. It just looks like one to the user. The data comprising the files inside any given folder may be strewn all over the drive’s media.

But there are alternatives. You can encrypt every file in the folder. You can put the folder into an encrypted .zip archive, or into an encrypted vault.

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When your ethernet won't connect

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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Laura E. McDonald wants to know why her PC "does not recognize the hardwire connection."

If you've got working Wi-Fi and apparently dead ethernet, the first thing to do is turn off the Wi-Fi. Believe it or not, this might tell you that the ethernet is working. If Windows has access to both, it will give top priority to ethernet, but display the Wi-Fi icon in the notification area. There's likely a hardware switch on your PC for turning off Wi-Fi.

And even if that doesn't solve your problem, it will make the tests below easier to run. You'll see immediately if ethernet is working, which is exactly what you need to know.

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Windows autoloading programs: You don't want too many, but you may want these

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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After reading my article on stopping autoloading programs, Quietone asked “What programs are really needed during start up?”

Most Windows PCs autoload a ridiculous number of programs every time you boot. And as I explained in the previous article, disabling most of them could improve performance. The programs will still be there when you want them, but they wouldn’t be hanging around in RAM, using up resources, when they’re not needed.

But which autoloaders should you not disable? The easy answer is those that really do need to run all of the time to do their jobs. I can’t tell you exactly what they are, because I don’t know your work habits or your hardware. But I can give you a pretty good idea.

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The Windows 10 Technical Preview, keylogging, and you

Lincoln Spector Contributing Editor, PCWorld

Freelance journalist (and sometimes humorist) Lincoln Spector has been writing about tech longer than he would care to admit. A passionate cinephile, he also writes the Bayflicks.net movie blog.
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In its current Technical Preview edition, the next major version of Windows can send your keystrokes and spoken words to Microsoft. Andy Gorfman asked if it will stay that way. “Apart from taking Microsoft on trust, how do we know that [the spyware will be removed].”

Paranoia seems reasonable these days. We know that big-data companies such as Google, Facebook, and yes, Microsoft, gather information about us for commercial reasons. In addition to that, the NSA spies on us, and the big companies may be collaborating with them.

Meanwhile, the Windows 10 Technical Preview Privacy Statement is indeed a scary document. It informs us that “we may collect voice information” and “typed characters.” That’s not what you want in an operating system.

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