Some files need encryption and some files don't

Andre De Beer asked if certain files on his hard drive need encryption. Some do and some don’t.

If you’re like the vast majority of PC users, you have no need to encrypt everything on your hard drive. Before you decide to encrypt anything, ask yourself this: What would you lose if criminals or the NSA got their hands on these files? If the answer is “nothing,” those files don’t need encryption.

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

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Take precautions when using Gmail—or any other email service

G. Jitchaku asked me if Gmail was “safe.” That’s a very broad question, so I’m offering a very broad answer.

Nothing in this world is ever entirely safe, and that goes double for anything that lives in the cloud. If you use Gmail, your mail could be read by someone other than the intended recipient, or your account just might get hijacked.

That’s the case with every email service. Whether you use Gmail, Outlook, or your ISP’s email service, you need to protect yourself. I’ll concentrate on Gmail here, but the basic advice applies to any mail service.

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What to do when a second hard drive bricks your PC

Mahenthiran K installed a second hard drive into his PC. The computer should still boot from the original drive, but it doesn’t boot at all.

When you install a second hard drive in a PC, it shouldn't get in the way of the original drive’s boot process. Of course, there’s often a big gap between what should happen and what does happen.

Let’s see if we can fix this problem.

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USB 3.0 speed: real and imagined

This story has been updated.
When Don Stovicek set out to buy a fast USB 3.0 flash drive, he discovered that the advertised speeds fell well below even USB 2.0’s official capabilities.

The now-aging USB 2.0 standard can theoretically transfer data at a very high 480 megabits per second (mbps), or 60 megabytes per second (MBps). That’s impressive, but not as much as the newer USB 3.0, which can handle up to 5gbps (640MBps)—over ten times as fast as the 2.0 maximum.

Why is it that the current crop of USB 3.0 flash drives don't deliver full USB 3.0 speed? Most of them max out—according to manufacturer specifications—at 100MBps (800mbps) or less. In a casual search, I only found one, the Mushkin Enhanced Ventura Plus, that advertised a read speed of 200MBps (1.6gbps). That’s still less than half USB 3.0's maximum.

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How to stream media from your PC to your HDTV over WiFi

Nik keeps his PC downstairs. But he wants to watch videos stored on that PC on an HDTV that’s upstairs. What’s the simplest way to do that?

There’s actually an open standard for sharing media files across a home network. It’s called the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), and you probably already have everything you need to use it.

First, some definitions: The device that sends the stream—such as a PC—is the DLNA server. The device that receives the stream—such as an HDTV or something connected to the TV—is the DLNA renderer (I really hate that term; player or receiver would be much friendlier). Both devices must be on the same network.

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Don't use the same external drive for backup and storage

Marios Papadopoulos stores media files on a 1TB external hard drive. He asked about using the same drive for backup.

Technically speaking, there's no reason why you couldn't use the same hard drive for backing up your internal drive and storing overflow data that don't fit on your internal drive. But doing so is a really bad idea.

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

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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.

6. Is one antivirus program really better than two?

one antivirus program is better than two

Arcticsid made the mistake of installing one antivirus program on a new PC that already had another.

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