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Computers – to most of us – are a relatively simple machines to purchase, operate, and (for the most part) understand. To the average non-tech-oriented consumer, however, they are a scary device that’s made even more frightening by jargon, misconceptions and outright falsehoods.

Today we’re going to set the record straight on 10 of the most prevalent computer myths still in existence.

You Need to Defragment Your Drive Frequently

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Here’s everything you need to know about defragmenting a modern computer: You don’t need to.

Windows computers have a built-in defragmentation utility that automatically runs in the background, on a pre-defined schedule. On OS X, Macs have a file system (OS X HFS+) that automatically defragments files in a process known as HFC – or – Hot File Adaptive Clustering.

Additionally, many modern computers are now shipping with SSD or flash storage 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More that should never be defragmented — it will actually ruin your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More .

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Viruses and Spyware are Slowing Down Your Computer

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Any time a PC user runs into any sort of slowdown, the most common (and incorrect) thing to blame it on is malware (learn about the differences between malware, viruses, spyware, etc. Viruses, Spyware, Malware, etc. Explained: Understanding Online Threats Viruses, Spyware, Malware, etc. Explained: Understanding Online Threats When you start to think about all the things that could go wrong when browsing the Internet, the web starts to look like a pretty scary place. Read More ). While it’s always a possibility that the computer is infected, modern malware is so profit-driven that it’s in the creator’s best interest to keep it running stealthily in the background. As such, you won’t typically notice any performance decreases due to an infection.

Instead, it’s more likely that your computer is slower due to running too may programs simultaneously, unnecessary plugins and add-ons hogging CPU usage, lack of free RAM 8 Terms You Need to Know When Buying Computer RAM 8 Terms You Need to Know When Buying Computer RAM While RAM tends to be fairly easy to find and install, tracking down RAM compatible with your system can prove to be a bit more challenging than a casual user may be expecting. Read More or disk space, or a hardware problem How Heat Affects Your Computer, And Should You Be Worried? How Heat Affects Your Computer, And Should You Be Worried? From time to time, we all get concerned about our computer's temperature. But should we be worried? Read More . Or it could just be that your computer is ageing – these 7 signs will tell you if it’s time to replace it 7 Warning Signs It's Time to Replace your Old PC 7 Warning Signs It's Time to Replace your Old PC When should you buy a new computer? Read More .

Paid “Cleaner” Software Improves Performance

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We’ve all seen the ads that look something like, “Download X-Junk Removing Crapware Program for 300x Faster Speeds.” These programs promise to clean registry errors Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More , download driver updates, uninstall programs that you can’t manually uninstall, or clean your PC of “issues” of dubious origin and purpose.

The truth? This is junk software and it’s never needed, no matter what operating system you’re on.

These programs are commonly used to deliver malware, such as spyware or adware, and rarely do anything beneficial at all – if ever. Registry entries are tiny, and removing them frees up a minuscule amount of space that will have no performance benefit whatsoever Don't Believe The Hype: Registry Cleaners Don't Make Windows Faster Don't Believe The Hype: Registry Cleaners Don't Make Windows Faster Much advice has been given on how to keep your computer running smoothly, as well as how to fix it when it has become slow. We have even published a Windows on Speed guide, written... Read More .

Driver updates? You can download those yourself if and when you’re prompted or run into errors with peripherals.

Paid uninstallers? Not needed. If you can’t uninstall an application completely, the files they leave are usually in the registry, and too tiny to really worry about.

Cleaners? The issues that they actually clear up typically aren’t issues at all, but problems that make it appear as if they’re worth the money – or download.

You Don’t Need Antivirus Software

The two most common reasons for not needing antivirus software are usually: “I’m on a Mac and Macs don’t get viruses,” or “I don’t do anything online (torrent, view porn, visit spammy sites) that would get me infected.”

Both are completely incorrect. You always need an antivirus program.

Let’s address the Mac user first. Macs were once rather immune to viruses but it wasn’t due to anything other than the fact it was more time-efficient for virus writers to create infections for Windows-based PCs due to their complete domination of the market. As we start to reach some sort of parity, and OS X continues to gain marketshare on Windows, hackers have taken notice and suddenly Macs aren’t so immune anymore Mac User With Ransomware? How To Easily Remove This "Malware" Threat Mac User With Ransomware? How To Easily Remove This "Malware" Threat The FBI Ransomware didn't only affect Windows users; Mac owners were conned into paying up. Ironically, however, the OSX version wasn't really malware, but merely a browser popup that is easily removed. Read More .

On to the “safe” computer user. You’re never safe using a computer. Each time you turn your machine on, you’re taking a calculated risk that you won’t do anything that results in an infection to your machine. Not viewing porn, torrenting, or visiting fishy websites isn’t enough to keep you safe from all threats. In fact, neither can an antivirus program, but it certainly helps.

Turning Your Computer on and off Regularly Is Bad / Not Turning Your Computer off at Night Is Bad

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There’s no absolute truth here. The fact is, leaving your computer on and allowing it to sleep while not in use is a safe and effective way to keep from having to turn it on and off regularly. System resources used as well as battery drain/power draw is minimal while in sleep mode.

On the other hand, you should turn your computer off from time to time Pros and Cons of Leaving Your Computer Turned On All the Time Pros and Cons of Leaving Your Computer Turned On All the Time It has been one of the most long-running discussions in computing: is it better to leave your PC turned on when you're not using it, or should you always turn it off? Read More if there’s no need for it to be running. Every computer component has a limited lifespan, turning your computer off when it’s not needed will allow the components to last a bit longer.

Deleting Contents From Your Hard Drive Actually Erases Them / To Securely Erase Data, Use a Magnet

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It would be comforting to all of us knowing that anything we deleted from our PC was gone forever. It’s not.

When you delete data, the visible traces of its existence might vanish, but the way data storage works the actual data remains What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? If you've ever experienced a major loss of data, you've probably wondered about data recovery -- how does it work? Read More until it is overwritten.

To keep things simple, think of your data as a footprint on a dusty floor. When you leave the room, your footprints remain, but as more and more people enter, they begin to cover your footprints with theirs. This is pretty similar to how data storage works. Deleted files are marked as available space on your drive, allowing the data to be overwritten. That will eventually happen, but until it does, the data remains recoverable.

To actually erase your data, some suggest using a magnet. This idea would work great if we were still using floppy disks, but with modern HDDs or flash storage devices, a magnet is a rather ineffective way of destroying data. Instead, experts suggest one of two methods:

  1. Use a program that makes multiple passes on your hard drive, and overwrites it with a series of 1’s and 0’s until it’s un-recoverable.
  2. Grab your drill and drill 10 to 12 holes through the drive and be sure to scatter them out rather than drilling in a straight line.

Macs are Better than PCs / Macs are Overpriced Junk

Macs are PCs, just PCs running OS X rather than Windows, or Linux.

The above being true, it’s impossible to say that they’re better than a Windows PC, so I’m not going to touch that one. As a Mac user myself, I think it’s probably best left to get the answer from our Windows Editor, Tina, as she tries out a Mac Apples vs. Oranges: A Long Time Windows User Meets OS X Apples vs. Oranges: A Long Time Windows User Meets OS X What could happen when a long-time Windows user drops their defense and uses a Mac for the first time in years? Read More after being a longtime PC user.

What I can address, however, is whether they are overpriced junk, or even if they’re overpriced at all. While they certainly aren’t budget PCs, the so-called “Apple tax” has been effectively eliminated and the price for most Apple devices is actually quite comparable to their Windows counterparts. For example, if you compare the MacBook Air to higher-end, light-weight, ultra-slim Windows laptop like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, you’ll see that the price is actually quite comparable. The Mac Mini is another great example, as prices between it and comparable units from Dell and others are pretty similar.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 80HE000LUS 13.3-Inch 8GB Soldered Convertible Ultrabook Tablet Touchscreen, Intel HD 5300 Graphics, Windows 8.1 Professional, Light Silver Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 80HE000LUS 13.3-Inch 8GB Soldered Convertible Ultrabook Tablet Touchscreen, Intel HD 5300 Graphics, Windows 8.1 Professional, Light Silver Intel Core M 5Y70 Broadwell Processor (2.60 GHz Turbo, 1.10GHz Base 1600MHz 4MB) Buy Now At Amazon $1,194.98

We even tried to see if it was worth building a homemade Mac Pro, or just buying one online, the results might surprise you To Buy The New Mac Pro Or Build Your Own? The Answer Might Surprise You To Buy The New Mac Pro Or Build Your Own? The Answer Might Surprise You Is the new Mac Pro reasonably priced when compared to a PC you can build yourself, or is the “Apple tax” in full effect? Prepare for a shock. Read More .

To Protect Yourself From Vulnerabilities, Use Firefox/Safari/Chrome/IE

defend your online privacy and security

“X” Browser being safer than “Y” browser is a comparison that really doesn’t have much to do with the consumers who use it. Browsers are simply an execution environment for JavaScript, and as such they’re all equally at risk to exploits and attacks. It’s also important to note that most browser-based attacks are through browser add-ons and plug-ins, not the browser itself.

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To protect yourself, get a good antivirus program that detects online malware as well as local infections.

More (Cores, RAM, etc.) Are Always Faster

More is better… well, usually.

Adding more RAM How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead Suffering from a slow computer? You might not know why and maybe you're trying to fix it in all the wrong ways. Let us help you with tips for a real speed boost. Read More will allow your computer to work a little more efficiently by reducing its dependance on virtual memory Is Your Virtual Memory Too Low? Here's How to Fix It! Is Your Virtual Memory Too Low? Here's How to Fix It! The curse of Windows is its slowing down over time. Often, low memory is to blame. Here is one more way to virtually unburden your RAM. Read More . By doing so, your computer will feel like it’s running quicker.

Cores, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Quality matters, and a high-end quad-core processor will outperform a lower-end octo-core processor almost all the time. Additionally, the word “better” means different things to different users, and while more cores is better in the sense that it runs most programs faster, there are trade-offs in other areas, such as battery life.

While more is typically better, it’s not true all of the time.

Building Your Own PC Saves Money

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Years ago, this was mostly true. Today, a budget PC is most often cheaper to obtain by purchasing a pre-built model. You can still save money building a higher-end machine, but for most consumer-driven PC models, it’s typically better to just buy one when they’re on sale.

That’s not to say that building your own PC isn’t worth it. For those that like a more hands-on experience, or just want to customize the machine to their liking, building your own is probably the way to go. It’s a rather simple process, and one we’ve detailed extensively. Whether you want to build your own mini PC What Makes Mini PCs so Small? And, the Best Mini PCs You Can Buy Today What Makes Mini PCs so Small? And, the Best Mini PCs You Can Buy Today A new generation of mini PCs is making its way into our homes and offices now. Read More , Hackintosh How To Build Your Own Hackintosh How To Build Your Own Hackintosh This "How to Hackintosh" guide outlines what you need to do in order to build a power PC Hackintosh. This guide shows you the way. Read More , a budget gaming PC Custom Budget Gaming PC Build and Giveaway Custom Budget Gaming PC Build and Giveaway How hard is it to get a decent gaming PC without breaking the bank? If you go out and buy yourself a pre-assembled name-brand computer, chances are, it won't be powerful enough to be a... Read More , or a media center that will play anything How To Build a Media Center That Will Play Anything How To Build a Media Center That Will Play Anything I've been building a media centre recently. Actually, scratch that – I’ve been building two. One is a compact device (my Raspberry Pi) running the RaspBMC distribution of XBMC, while the other is a traditional... Read More , we’ve got tutorials to help get you started.

What did I forget? What’s that one myth about PCs that drives you crazy, and you can’t wait to set the record straight? Sound off in the comments below.

Image credit: Frag’d by Everett, Virus by Yuri Samoilov, Shutdown by Acid Px, Death of a Hard Drive by Chris Bannister, all via Flickr

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