One of the best password managers for your PC, devices, and the cloud

D. asked me to recommend a good password manager.

Everyone who uses the Internet absolutely must have a password manager. Without one, you'll forget some of your passwords. Or you'll use the same password for different sites, which allows a thief who's hacked one password to know them all. Or you'll use simple passwords that are easy to remember but also easy to hack.

A password manager program stores your passwords and other login information in an encrypted database. If you need to log into a website or a secure application, you open the password manager, type the password to your password manager (which is the only password you'll ever have to memorize), and get the information that you need.

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Have a company laptop? Here's how to keep your browsing private

Sj often takes an office laptop home. He wants to know if "the System admin from my office" can see what websites he visits at home.

Virtually all browsers these days have private modes (Chrome calls it Incognito Mode). In this condition, the browser doesn't keep records of where you've been. In theory, and often in fact, you can use these modes and leave no trace of where you've been. (I've discussed these modes in more detail last April.)

But the chance that a private mode will protect you drops considerably on a company computer. It's quite possible that this computer contains software that tracks everything you do on it. (If you're a parent, you may be using similar software to track your kids' browsing habits.)

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How to use Gmail 2-step verification on multiple devices

After reading my article on taking precautions when using Gmail, Bill Snyder asked about accessing Gmail on other programs and devices.

As I explained in the previous article, Google's 2-step verification provides an additional layer of security against hijacked email. Once you've set it up, you won't be able to log onto the Gmail website from a strange computer until you receive a code that Google texts to your cellphone. In other words, someone trying to hack your account would need your password and physical access to your phone.

But you don't always access Gmail through a browser. How do you handle 2-step verification with email software, whether it's a Windows program or an Android or iOS app?

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Why spammers persist despite filters and well-informed users

Matilda Reich asked why, in a world where everyone knows about the dangers of spam, and every email program has a spam filter, these dreadful messages just keep coming.

To put it bluntly, some people don’t get it. As George Carlin put it, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

Spammers don’t even need to count on the less intelligent half of humanity. All they need to turn a profit is a very tiny fraction of the population.

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How to kill unwanted processes and applications that slow down Windows

Bobby Ekwere asked "Is there any free software that allows me to see and disable unwanted programs running in the background?"

Probably, but I know something better than free software for this job: software that comes with Windows. All current versions of Windows come with a tool to help you trim back what's running at the moment.

The look, behavior, and feel of this tool changed drastically (and for the better) with Windows 8. I'll cover Windows 7 and Windows 8 here, but the Windows 7 directions should work reasonably well with XP and Vista.

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How to test the speed of your USB drives

After reading my article on USB 3.0 speed, Mark Gold asked “How can I check the speed of my USB devices, both 2.0 and 3.0?”

You could sit in front of your PC with the stopwatch and time how long it takes to move a 100MB file from an internal drive to an external one. But that’s tedious, prone to errors and not that accurate.

It's better to use benchmarking software, even though that isn’t perfect, either. Every test designed for benchmarking is going to show some biases of its designer—big files versus small files, reading vs. writing, and so on. But any good program will still tell you what drives are faster than others.

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Back up and sync between your home and travel PCs

Carol-Anne Croker wants to know two things: How best to sync files between two computers, and how to back up the more portable PC on the road.

You can sync two or more computers—along with portable devices such as tablets and smartphones—very easily these days. Backing up two computers, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. Fortunately, the way you sync everything can help with the backup.

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

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