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Tech tips

Faster internet, wiping data, password hack: 5 tricks tech pros use all the time

The personal computer has been around for over 40 years. In that time, we’ve adapted to all kinds of platforms and devices.

We’ve learned Microsoft Office, mastered the iPhone, and conquered Zoom. If you’re thinking, “Well, not quite,” tap or click for my favorite Zoom tricks you’ll wish you knew sooner.

What about other tech, like smart speakers? Alexa can do a lot more than turn on the lights. Tap or click for 20 new Amazon Echo uses to try out.

I love sharing skills reserved for pros. You wouldn’t necessarily think to ask about them, but you’ll wonder why no one told you sooner once you know. You’ll find this list extremely helpful, especially if you want your electronics to run as smoothly as possible.

1. Change your DNS to double your internet speed

When your internet connection slows down, you may struggle to find the cause. Is it the router? The modem? Your computer itself? Has a mischievous neighbor broken into your network and started streaming movies all day?

Well, there’s one nifty way to speed up your Wi-Fi connection. Change your Domain Name System or DNS. This system transforms complicated IP addresses into memorable site names. The problem is that some DNSs are more effective than others.

To fix it, you can use Google’s open-source “Namebench” to test whether a particular DNS is working well. Want to learn how to use it?

Tap or click here for instructions on how to use Namebench to double your internet speed.

2. Wipe data from your printer

I know what you’re thinking: You’ve got to be kidding me! What could my printer possibly be storing? Does a printer even have a hard drive?

The truth is, you can probably sell or give away your printer without any real harm. Printers don’t usually store much information, and most of this is erased the moment you switch it off. But some all-in-one printers do preserve a small amount of data, and if you have tax forms or recent banking documents stored in that device, you can bet a hacker wants it.

To be on the safe side, do a “hard reset.” Every printer works differently and has its own set of steps. I’ve got you covered.

Tap or click for details on how to wipe your printer.

3. Destroy your hard drive (literally)

You’ve probably heard that you should erase your hard drive before unloading your computer, and that is absolutely true. Whether you’re selling it on Craigslist, donating it to Goodwill, or giving it away, you’re wise to delete everything from your retired machine.

But what if you’re recycling your computer? Grab some power tools. This is your chance to take your computer apart literally. Do what you will with its components. Dissect the hard drive, drill holes in it, or smash it up with a hammer. That will destroy the data for good. Don’t forget to put on safety glasses.

Tap or click for three ways to destroy an old hard drive.

4. Make an old PC run faster

A used desktop or laptop is a great way to save cash if you don’t need the latest bells and whistles. A word processor, a trustworthy browser and a decent music library are pretty much all many people need.

But computers slow down over time. What happens when you have an older PC, and you want to speed up its operations?

Some techniques are pretty simple, especially for Windows-based PCs. Start by deleting the files and programs you never use. We tend to accumulate a lot of junk that we don’t need, and these can weigh down your system’s performance.

You can also save your photos and videos to a cloud service, which will free up precious hard drive space. Cloud services are handy and affordable, and you can save thousands of high-volume files on the internet. When you eventually invest in a new computer, you can easily fetch those photos later.

But that’s not all. You can also defragment, eliminate malware, and even reinstall Windows.

Tap or click here for 9 smart ways to make your old PC run faster.

5. Hack your Wi-Fi passwords

The default password on your router is some outrageously complicated string of letters and numbers. Unless you have a photographic memory, you’ll probably never remember it.

What happens when your Wi-Fi cuts out, and you completely forget where you put that darn password? Unless it’s printed on the back of the router itself (as many are), you’re stuck. Now what?

A surefire trick is to reset the router to factory settings. Usually, you can find a small pinhole on the device, and you’ll need to use something short and skinny (like a paperclip) to press the button inside for 15 seconds.

This will erase all the information, including the password and the router’s history with your computer. From there, you’ll have to set up the router like it’s a brand-new device.

That might take some work, especially if you’re unsure how to set up your router from scratch. If you’re more familiar with coding, you can consult your hard drive for the missing Wi-Fi password.

It may sound like cloak and dagger, but it’s a straightforward process. On Windows, you can open a command window and use a simple code to retrieve any saved password. On a Mac, you’ll find a similar “Terminal” window.

Tap or click here for the steps and a retrieval guide using a free tool called Reaver.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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