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Know Your Computer - Windows Bugs and Fixes

A truth be told episode about sales tactics used by anti-virus companies to scare you into buying their products.

Steve Smith, host of your Technology Questions Answered, talks about the truth about why your computer can't explode because of viruses and spyware.

Episode #2-01 released on September 18, 2011

Welcome to the first episode of season two, of Technology Questions Answered. Today, I'll be explaining three key pieces of information you need to know before taking any computer oriented advertising seriously. Whether it be on television, newspapers, radio, even within your own security software. I'll also explain to you what some of the most common tactics are in advertising.

Let's start with the normal process of computers. There are many factors, besides viruses and spyware, that can potentially lead to a computer slowing down over time. Let's start with the most common, normal usage. Using a computer causes the files to fragment over time, this includes the commonly undefragable system files. There are some defragmentation software solutions that may allow you to do so, this we will get into in another episode. Besides fragmentation, let's look at software solutions that load at startup, this includes but is not limited to software with security functions, iTunes, Quicktime, instant messengers, etc... Then there is cosmic radiation that is always flipping bits on our equipment, yes, the sun does have something to do with your computer slowing down. The size and available space on a hard drive can also slow your computer down. The ram can be slowing down with time as it powers on to its end. Let's not forget the hard drive itself can be dying slowly over time. Hard drives that have many errors in communication tend to take longer to boot, load, and retrieve data on the surface. You can also have defective driver sets in your computer that can cause your computer to slow down. Unused hardware in your computer can also slow down your experience. And, this is all if it happened one at a time, you can have many of these problems, and if your really unlucky, all of them.

What can you do to speed up your experience on your computer? Try a full format of your hard drive, and reinstall Windows, or whatever operating system your using. Doing this usually brings the speed way back up. Think of it as bringing your computer to the spa. Everything realigns, and when all the updates and newest drivers are installed, it will run like a dream. You can also buy a new hard drive, with faster port speeds, and with more buffer memory. If you have Linux disc like Ubuntu laying around, you can also test your ram modules to see if they are the cause of the slow down. You can use Spin Rite v6.0 from GRC.com to test the hard drive to see if your hard drive isn't throwing too many errors before communicating the data demanded by the processor. If you can, you can also try to run a benchmark on your graphics card to see if your performance is up to par with the equipment, or it could be that your power supply is failing, and you may want to test it. You can also be trying to run a piece of software that requires more speed and memory than your currently capable, remove those.

Now, I haven't said anything about viral infections or spyware, because most people can tell when they have a virus, or the anti-virus you use already told you so. Probably, something you downloaded from a place you weren't suppose to go, or a friend, or family member did something similar. Now, the anti-virus companies would love you to believe that all viruses can cause enough damage to break your computer, and the fact is, its just not true anymore, at least, not by itself. You need a computer that is badly built, or already on the verge of destruction for that to happen. If your computer has a heat issue, and you've got some kind of Bot-net forcing your computer to send massive loads of e-mails to reinfect other computers, you'd potentially have the risk, there is just one problem with this scenario. Computers for many years, have had thermal sensors and safety zones, your bios is programmed to turn off your computer in the case of imminent heat damage. Now, what about laptop batteries, those things have caught fire before, not anymore. Newer laptop batteries have hardware based safety chips designed to prevent damage to the battery and the host device.

Now, you may be wondering, what does it take to break a computer. Again, usage, misuse, static, power issues from the wall outlet which includes high and low voltages. Now, anything that has to do with lightning, static, or unbalanced power sources can break a computer. Normally by either shorting out all the connectors, some of the connectors, or in rare cases, causing a low enough amount of electricity to pass causing the fans to slow down, causing the hardware to heat up, wait a minute, computer just turned off in protection mode. Pieces do die from heat, but usually because of a protection system failure, not a virus.

So, did I make my point yet?

Anti-viruses, anti spyware software, etc... all want your money, and its OK. But, keep in mind my personal issue here. My problem is, they tell you that if your computer is slow, you have a virus, and you need their product to keep your computer from exploding. Mind you. viruses no longer have access to the parts of the motherboard they used to have access to, to achieve that. Those viruses were called kill switches. They no longer pack the same punch, as before.

Now, anti-virus and anti spyware companies are going to try to get you to buy a commercial solution that makes them money, instead of those free solutions. There is no valid difference between the two, at least, not enough of a reason to pay for one. Whenever your infected, you still have to format your hard disk to be absolutely sure that your system contains no viruses or spyware. Virus and spy ware developers tie into important system files that you can not get rid of, in your system, without rendering the operating system inoperable. Now, they are betting on the fact that either you actually believe that the anti-virus or anti spyware can get rid of it, or you just don't care that much about your computer. Either way, most of the time, viruses continue to live on in your computer until you do a full format of your hard drive surface.

Now, what about those commercials on television, or the advertisements on the internet. The ones that say that those people who would use a free solution have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Let's get something straight, if you infect your computer, you infected your computer, not your computer technician. This is what is known as a code 18, a user at fault. Most computer issues are not derived from the actual computer, but the user. Trying to run something that could never run on your computer doesn't mean you computer doesn't work, it means you don't know what you have and your trying to bypass normal function. The nice thing about free software is, that it is usually sold by exactly the same companies that make the commercial versions. The extra tools and services may look impressive, but those will slow down your computer.

Want to know a good way to hack a computer, cause it to have memory errors. Then find out what it has left in the buffers when it crashes. Black hat hackers have been using this trick in order to get into computers by forcing the error to load a script into memory allowing them to get the information they want. What can possibly make this easier, programs that load the memory, like beefed up anti-virus and anti spyware solutions. All this time, the advertisements are telling you that if you don't install their application, your computer is going to explode. Does this make you wonder about who exactly is the good guys and bad guys in this market.

So let's get crystal clear here. Your computer can't explode, catch fire, die permanently because of a virus, or spyware, unless your computer was going to die anyway. And for those who have packed their laptops in cases without turning them off. Yes, your laptop can die from the heat, but it is more likely, you drop it first when you open your bag.

So, from now on, don't believe everything they tell you, and yes, you can buy their software, if you like, just don't let it be the reason that your scared your computer is going to die because of a tiny piece of illict software.

Next week, I'll be talking about vector graphic design, and the difference between bitmap and vector graphic design. And, as usual, I'll also be getting you more free software to play with.

If you want to interact with the show, send in your questions, comments, suggestions, and / or stories to tqa@zedaxis.net or head over to our web-site at http://tqaweekly.com/images/ where you can find all my episodes, show notes, downloads, and more.

Thank you for listening to this episode of your Technology Questions Answered, don't forget to subscribe to the show, tell your friends and family, have a great day, and stay safe and online.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions