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Tech tips

7 IT questions we get all the time, answered

One of the most amazing results of our high-tech world is the way our lives are all interconnected. Now that we all use many of the same tools, like smartphones and computers, there are a ton of commonalities we can bond over. Take, for example, that one obnoxious inevitability we all deal with: tech issues.

If you ever have a specific issue you can’t find a solution for, drop a question on the Komando Community’s Q&A forum. Our close-knit community of tech enthusiasts can provide some much-needed insight to get your gadgets up and running in no time. Or you can send a message to the Kim Komando Show for a chance to join us live.

However, you might be dealing with a pretty common problem. Before you decide to take that extra step and reach out, scroll down and see if we’ve solved your problem already. Here are seven of the most common IT questions we get — along with easy solutions you can use in a snap.

1. Do I need a VPN if I have antivirus software?

Yes, since they have two different purposes. They’re not interchangeable in the slightest. On a broad level, one provides privacy while the other boosts your security.

A VPN is a smokescreen that hides your internet activity from nosy creeps. An antivirus program is your own personal bodyguard that keeps an eye out for viruses. However, an AV program won’t hide your internet activity. Also, a VPN won’t scan your device for threats.

Basically, they tackle different needs. They can work in tandem, but neither one makes up for the other. Tap or click here to find out how antivirus software and VPNs keep you safe.

2. Is it safe to connect all these devices to my home’s Wi-Fi?

Yes, but you must have a strong password. Don’t use a guest network. Our resident tech genius John says that’s because devices connected to a guest network are generally isolated. They can’t talk to each other.

The whole point of a smart home is to have gadgets that team up to make your life as easy as possible. (Speaking of which, here’s our easy guide on building a smart home at any budget.) So if you’re using a guest network, the opportunity for teamwork is limited. Sure, if your gadgets only need to connect to the internet, a guest network is fine.

But if you’re using gadgets that need to talk to one another, set up your own personal network. And no matter what, never use an easy-to-guess password like Password12345! Tap or click here for five tips for ironclad account security.

3. Why do I have to wait when I restart my router?

There’s nothing more annoying than when your modem or router suddenly screeches to a halt. Streaming videos buffer, webpages won’t load and you’re rolling your eyes into the back of your head. At times like this, you need to restart your router by unplugging it, waiting 10 seconds and then plugging it back in.

Many people are confused about the middle step. “Why wait 10 seconds?” they wonder. “Why can’t I just plug it in immediately? Does it really make a difference?”

Actually, yes. To make a long story short, sometimes, when you unplug a gadget, the power indicator light doesn’t immediately flicker off. That’s because the tiny batteries inside many electronics might not fully drain once you turn them off.

Waiting a few seconds gives those batteries the time they need to fully drain power … and when the power’s drained, the memory clears up. (And when the memory clears up, all of the device’s settings get the time they need to actually reset.)

Of course, the whole purpose of resetting is to fix the problem causing your device’s issues, so just wait 10 seconds. It’s a small amount of time that can make a huge difference. If you don’t wait, you’re just prolonging your tech issues. Tap or click to find out how to reboot your modem as the experts do.

4. I changed my email address but I’m sick of checking my old one. What should I do?

This is a pretty common issue, but luckily it’s easy for you to migrate your emails to and from a new inbox. For instance, if you’re ready to leave Gmail behind, here’s how you can forward your messages to another account:

  • On a computer, sign in to your Gmail account.
  • Click the gear icon on the top right of the screen, then click Settings.
  • Click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.
  • Click Add a forwarding address button and enter the email you’d like to forward to.
  • Enter the email address and click Next, then follow the onscreen prompts and you’re done.

Now, all your Gmail messages will be sent to your new email address. If you have a Yahoo or Outlook account, here’s how to migrate your emails to your brand-new inbox.

While we’re on the subject of emails, you should know that many free inboxes comb through your private emails for data they can sell to advertisers. Tap or click here for a more secure inbox option that lets you take your privacy back.

5. Why do all the sites now ask me to accept cookies? Should I just say yes or try to block them?

It depends on the website. In general, you can accept cookies when you trust the site. But if anything seems suspicious, you’re better off refusing the cookies and searching somewhere else.

That’s because dodgy websites could store malicious cookies in your machine. That could lead to malware infections. (Some websites will even infuse “zombie cookies” into your computer. They’re permanent nuisances that can’t be deleted.) Other cookies could cause spam, private information mining and more.

Tap or click here for three reasons why you shouldn’t accept cookies when you visit a website.

6. I keep getting weird pop-ups on my phone. Do I have a virus?

Sudden pop-ups are a dead giveaway that your phone has malware installed. You may get obnoxious notifications, unwanted reminders or even system warnings. Malware can even add website shortcuts to your home screen or bookmarks you didn’t want. They slow down your phone and can start incurring unexpected charges on your cell phone bills.

Just remember that pop-ups aren’t normal. If the same pop-up follows you no matter what app you’re in, that’s another bad sign. There are a few other red flags of a virus, like your phone using more data than normal or feeling hot to the touch. Tap or click here for six signs your phone is infected (along with steps you can take to fix it).

7. Is using public Wi-Fi really a big deal? 

It is! There’s a chance you’d be fine … but not 100%. And the damage someone could do in a short time is pretty big.

Basically, public Wi-Fi is notorious for its lax security measures. Connecting your personal devices to a public network is super risky. Plus, anyone can use them, which makes you vulnerable to hackers or even hidden malware.

Don’t do it. If they get in, it’s a big deal. Overall, it’s not worth it. Your best bet is to use VPN when you’re using a network you don’t trust. Otherwise, cybercriminals could invade your device. Tap or click here to ditch shady public Wi-Fi and safely connect to the internet.

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