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10 digital myths you should stop believing

Yes, there was a time when you could tap the wrong button on a computer and erase its hard drive, but that was a long time ago.

Today’s technology is pretty much fool-proof. But even as tech advances, some people still hang on to outdated tips an IT person gave them years ago, or follow advice that’s just plain wrong.

Well, call us the digital myth busters because we’ve gathered 10 digital myths you really have to stop believing.

1. Apps are the enemy

Sure, pick the wrong app and you could introduce all sorts of malware into your phone. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. People still believe apps drain battery life. Having too many apps can affect your phone’s memory, but not your battery life — unless you keep shutting down and turning them on.

It may sound counterintuitive, but letting apps run in the background is not a bad thing for smartphones. In fact, Android warns if you’re constantly opening and closing apps you can actually hurt your phone’s performance and battery life. The same goes for iPhones. Click here to learn how to properly maintain your smartphone.

2. Staying undercover

Almost all web browsers offer a private or incognito way to browse the internet. But how private are they? They do block a few things from view, such as your search history, autofill fields and cookies — cookies contain small bits of information about your browsing sessions, so by removing them from the equation you become much harder to track.

Be aware: even in incognito mode, your provider can still see your IP address, location, local time and device type, allowing it to build a rough profile about who you are and how you use the internet. Click here to learn how to really stay hidden online. 

3. Macs don’t get viruses

This one has been around for a long time. It’s such a common myth because there’s a fair bit of truth behind it. Apple computers do get viruses, but far fewer than PCs running Windows. It’s not that Macs are a superior product, per se. Yes, they’re Unix-based, which offers its own built-in security features, but they’re also much less common than Windows computers.

Hackers play a numbers game and the odds of successfully hacking a Microsoft computer are higher, simply because there are so many more in use. But that doesn’t guarantee your Mac is safe. Click here to find the best anti-virus programs for your Mac.

The numbers game between Macs and Windows PCs is playing out between iPhones and Androids as well. Recent numbers show up to 99% of mobile malware attacks target Android devices. Tap or click here to learn more about Android malware attacks.

4. Airport X-ray damage

X-rays are a type of ionizing radiation. In large doses, they can harm biological tissue by damaging cell DNA faster than it can be repaired.

Is your laptop or smartphone made out of biological tissue? No. Does it have DNA? No. So can airport X-ray machines damage electronics? No. So just put them in the plastic bin along with your shoes and stop holding up the line. Click here to discover three ways to make international travel a breeze.

5. Not all night

There was a time when charging your smartphone overnight was considered bad practice. But new technology has turned this once good advice into a dated myth. When new batteries reach maximum charge, they have mechanisms to prevent additional charging. That holds true for tablets and smartphones as well.

Theoretically, this is also true for laptops, but it’s still not smart to keep them plugged in all the time. Some batteries can overheat and possibly cause fires. That’s a manufacturing flaw, but don’t tempt fate. Click here to learn the 5 stupid mistakes you’re making that can reduce the life of your device.

6. Reboot daily

Many of us remember a time when good practice dictated shutting down your PC every evening before you left work. Not anymore. You should only completely shut down your computer if it needs an update, it’s acting sluggish or freezes, or you aren’t going to use it for a few days. Otherwise, just put it into sleep mode. This goes for laptops and desktop computers too.

You may not realize how much power it takes to restart a computer. Every time you power back up after a full shut down, there’s a power surge that jolts your hard drive and forces fans and other components to spin. The older your computer gets, the more stressed its components become. Leaving it on and avoiding extra reboots helps relieve some stress on those aging parts. Click here for the pros and cons of your computer on 24/7.

7. A router’s enough

Yes, a router is absolutely necessary to protect your Wi-Fi connection from freeloaders and hackers. But if you think all the protection you need is ready to go right out of the box, think again. Most newer routers have built-in firewall protections in place, but you’ll need to set them up.

Look for features under your router’s advanced settings like NAT filtering, port forwarding, port filtering and services blocking. These aren’t fool-proof, so a software-based firewall will give you even more security.

And don’t stop there. Change your router’s default password, update your firmware and protect your Wi-Fi network with strong encryption. It’s easier than you think. Click here to see one setting you should avoid if you want to keep hackers out.

8. Home security cameras are automatically protected

You’ve taken your smart security cameras out of their boxes, followed the instructions and mounted them both inside and out. You’re all set and your home is protected, right? Nope.

One of the first and most important things you can do to protect your wireless security cameras is to make sure they’re password protected. If they came with a default password, change it — and don’t pick something easy to guess.

Second, if your camera allows for two-factor authentication, make sure you enable it. This is an extra step of protection between you and hackers who want to see exactly what’s going on in your home.

Finally, keep the cameras’ firmware up to date. Firmware is permanent software in your electronics, and it provides low-level control over a device’s hardware. You can usually update the firmware in your cameras by going to the manufacturer’s website on a computer or tablet. Click here to find out what can happen if you don’t secure your Wi-Fi connected cameras.

9. Trash it and it’s gone

If the Securities and Exchange Commission is knocking at your door, or you need to hide some incriminating evidence from a significant other, moving the files to your computer’s trash or recycling file is not the answer. Just because you trashed it doesn’t mean you actually got rid of the file.

But surely deleting a file from the trash or permanently emptying your recycling is enough to banish it for good? Sorry, but that’s not going to cut it either. Everything you put into your computer stays on your computer — even if you can’t see it.

The file will only be deleted when it’s overwritten by new information. Considering the size of hard drives these days, it could be some time until that file is really gone for good. Click here for ways to safely delete data forever.

10. Forced to buy a new smartphone

This myth is more of a conspiracy theory. You know, Apple purposely slows down your old iPhone so you have to buy the latest model, etc, etc. Let’s break this down. Yes, if you add the newest operating system to your old phone, it will slow it down. But that’s because all those new features require beefier hardware to run.

Newer phones have faster processors than older phones, so they won’t lag the way your old model does. That’s just the way it is. Speaking of operating systems, did you update to iOS 13? Tap or click for 9 new iPhone tips and tricks you need to know.

Bonus: All chargers are the same

You can pay thousands for a phone but not think twice about buying a cheap off-brand charger for it. A charger is a charger, right? Wrong. The charger that came in the box with your fancy new phone is the one specially designed for the product.

Cheap chargers are one-size-fits-all and often don’t have the voltage required to work with your specific device. Your battery may end up not getting the juice it needs to fully charge, or even worse, it could permanently damage your battery over time. These cheap chargers can even be a threat to your life. Click here to see just how dangerous cheap chargers and cables can be.

Like our list? Looking for clever tricks and hidden hacks to stay safe and get the most out of your favorite gadgets? Try Kim’s free Tech Tips & How-Tos newsletter.

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