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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you delete a file, the data doesn’t actually go away—even after you’ve emptied the Recycle Bin. The actual bits remain written on the drive until some other disk activity writes over them. Even when you format a drive, the files are still there for those who want and know how to read them.
That’s good news if you’ve lost some files. It’s not so great if you truly want a file to go away, or if you’re giving away an old PC and to want make sure that your private records won’t be accessible. You have to take special steps to protect yourself.
I give Rommel advice on how to remove files so that no one can get them.
As I just said, nothing lasts forever. And that includes you and me.
When we die, loved ones will need access to our bank accounts, email accounts, and the encrypted parts of our computers. So, despite the generally good advice about not sharing passwords, there is one big exception. You must find someone you can trust with that information, and make sure they can access your various passwords.
No reader ever asked about this issue. Nevertheless, I shared these tips with readers.
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