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Kim's column

5 tech myths you should stop believing

Like the old wives’ tale telling you not to go outside with wet hair or else you’ll catch a cold, everyday gadgets come with a lot of bad or dated advice. Most people will be surprised by at least one of these debunked myths, which is why I’ve listed them below.

Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve been doing these things religiously, because they’re widely held beliefs, and many have a grain of truth. But you may also find some relief in their inaccuracy. After all, even technophiles have their superstitions.

1. Turn down your phone’s brightness to extend battery life

You’ve probably heard that adjusting the brightness of your screen to the lowest setting is the best way to save battery power. Although it’s true that reducing the brightness can help, it’s not the best solution. It’s better to use your phone’s “Auto Brightness” setting.

Auto Brightness makes your phone’s display adjust to different lighting conditions. The next time it’s dark outside, you won’t be tempted to crank the brightness up. And this gradual, controlled change actually saves battery life.

The brightness of your screen isn’t the only thing contributing to your depleting battery power. Your phone is constantly downloading information, whether it’s to check email, show ads on a site, update an app or stream music. You can take control.

Click here to set up your phone for the best battery life possible.

2. Private browsing is really private

When you use your browser in incognito or private browsing mode, your browser doesn’t remember what sites you visit or store any cookies from your travels. Private browsing mode is a great way to shop for a surprise gift for that special someone, log into multiple social media or shopping accounts on the same site with the same browser, or avoid seeing targeted ads.

Once you close the browser window, it’s supposed to be like you weren’t even using it. Unfortunately that ”supposed to” can get you if you aren’t careful. Some people think that private browsing protects them against any spying, snooping or tracking, and that just isn’t true.

Click here for four reasons private browsing isn’t as private as you think.

3. Go to every site to get the lowest airfare online

Most airfare money-saving tips have to do with the airline itself, and the way these fares change over time. But this belief has to do with your browser, and how it communicates with flight-booking websites. When you visit a page, the website remembers that you visited before.

Many travel bargain-hunters believe that this awareness causes the prices to climb steadily because you have already expressed interest in a given itinerary. It’s no secret that there are a lot of details about your life contained in your browser’s cookies. That’s why this is one trick you need to try.

Click here for the one browser setting to book a cheaper vacation.

4. Buy third-party chargers

There you are at the corner drug store, looking at a bunch of cables coiled behind a locked glass door. You left your charger at home, you’re late for a meeting, and you need to charge your phone. But didn’t you hear something about chargers wreaking havoc on your device? This thought is only half-true. There are plenty of third-party chargers that work perfectly well with your phone.

Look for brand names like Belkin or Monoprice, which manufacture accessories specifically for Apple and Android devices. What you should avoid are “knockoff” chargers. These are cheap replicas, and they might not have any brand name at all. These aren’t just bad chargers; they can short out your phone or even start fires. Click here for a list of accessories never to buy on Amazon.

5. Pull the plug when your computer freezes

We’ve all had it happen. You’re doing something on your computer, whether it’s an important project, some aimless browsing, or trying to beat your high score on Solitaire, and without warning, everything freezes.

You wiggle the mouse, click the buttons a few times, tap some keys on your keyboard and nothing. Your 21st-century piece of technology is as useless as a pet rock. What do you do next?

Some people think they have to pull the computer’s power plug or flip the switch on the power strip. Instead, simply hold the computer’s power button for five to 10 seconds, and it will restart with less disruption than a complete power loss.

At this point, you may need to troubleshoot the problem. There are basic steps you can take that don’t require an IT degree.

Click here for basic software and hardware troubleshooting tips to bring new life into your PC.

Want to hear more myth-busting technology truths? Be sure to listen or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

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