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If you thought Windows 10 was going to be a great thing but just don’t get it or like it, you can undo it! To avoid reinstalling Windows 8.1 or 7, you just have to undo it within 30 days of the upgrade. Here’s how: click on the Start icon, click Settings, click Update & Security, click on Recovery in the left column. Then click on Go back to Windows 8.1 (or 7 if that is what you had), fill in the reason you are going back, make sure your computer is plugged in if it is a laptop, click another next button and wait. When your computer restarts, you should be back where you were, minus any software you installed in Windows 10. There is the slight possibility you might have to reinstall or reactivate some programs.

Here are some tips for using Windows 10: if you can not get used to Microsoft’s new web browser, called Edge, you can always install Firefox, www.firefox.com, or Chrome, www.chrome.com (click on the download link at the top of this page) and then you can ease into playing with Microsoft Edge, rather than being frustrated with something new that does not work the same as Internet Explorer. And, you can still get that Windows 7 feel by installing Classic Shell from <www.classicshell.net>.

If you are worried about malware on your Mac, Malwarebytes has software for you at <https://www.malwarebytes.org/antimalware/mac/>. Currently this is a free application, but you have to run it manually each time you want to scan your computer. Expect a paid version at some point, for it to be always on and running in the background.

Microsoft has a new update delivery method; it will now use other computers on your network and the Internet to deliver parts of updates to your computer, to spread the load around the Internet. If you have a limited data connection, like a cellular hotspot, then you will want to turn this off. Click on Start, then Settings, Update & Security, Windows Update, and then Advanced options. Select Choose how updates are delivered, and then slide the toggle to turn Delivery Optimization off. When turned off, you’ll still get updates and apps from Windows Update and from the Windows Store. If you’d just like to stop downloading updates and apps from PCs on the Internet, select the option for PCs on my local network.

Data backup and redundancy sound similar in how they protect you but a backup is no good if it is the only copy of your data and it sits on a hard drive right next to your laptop, all scooped up by that enterprising thief. Redundancy means that you would have had another copy in another location; either using a cloud-based backup service or physically taking backup drives off-site. You should avoid having any single point of failure. Similarly, if your Internet connection must always be there, then you should think of having an alternative, maybe setting up your cell phone as a hotspot.

Browser settings backup, USB eject, email fields

Backing up your web browser settings can save time and help you recover from browser infections. If you have spent a lot of time tricking out your browser with custom start pages, particular extensions, extensive bookmarks and carefully configured privacy and forms settings, then you can use your browser’s ability to sync its settings as a way to back up and then recover all, in case you have some malware infection that blows up your browser. This works both in Windows and OS X. In Chrome, you have to sign in to your Google account (you will have to make one if you don’t have one already), and in Firefox you have to similarly sign into a Firefox account. If you use Internet Explorer and are using Windows 8 or 8.1, you can sync all sorts of settings if you use the same Microsoft account to log in. For all of these, there is the usual tradeoff between your sense of privacy and your need for convenience. Remember: keep that sync password someplace safe! And, if someone wants to use your browser to quick check something, have them use one you don’t use; that is another good reason to have multiple web browsers.

Should you always eject a USB drive, or just pull it out? The short answer is: eject. Computers don’t always expect data sources to suddenly disappear, yet that it commonly possible with a flash drive, with it being pulled out when you are in a rush. Although Windows tries to make sure that changes are written back to the drive as soon as possible, it takes only a few more seconds to safely “eject” any USB drive, whether it is on a Mac or PC. It will only take one time of corrupting your data by pulling out the USB too soon for you to realize why safely ejecting is much wiser.

Some email mistakes can lead to more, not less, spam. Often spam has a very “helpful” unsubscribe link at the bottom of a message, clicking it just will confirm that your email address is actually read by a human. Replying does a similar thing, but also “tells” your email program to trust more that email address. Get your friends to not put your email address in the CC field where all the other recipients will see your address, but rather use and teach others to use the BCC (blind carbon copy) field for those “important” mass mailings. And, when you sign up at any site for email alerts, pay attention to what they might do in “renting” out your email address and see if there is any opt out box to avoid having your information shared with other “like-minded” organizations or company affiliates.

Remember listening to radio while you worked but not liking all the ads and fillers? Recast.fm lets you listen to your favorite online radio station, but strips out ads and such, to leave just music. You do have to have a spotify or rdio account, maybe a small price to pay for ad-free listening.

Bitdefender has a free web browser add-on or plug-in to help prevent malicious websites from installing malware or trying to phish site login credentials. See Traffic Light at <http://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/trafficlight.html>.

Mac System Preferences you should explore include: set Notifications to Do Not Disturb during certain hours to focus on work; setting up Hot Corners under Mission Control to trigger nearly anything, like putting your screen to sleep; program certain “abbreviations” to expand into full text using Keyboard’s Text tab; and explore what your Trackpad is capable of under each of its three tabs, unchecking actions you don’t find useful.

As more and more laptops come with touch screens, it is important to know that touch screens drain your battery more quickly. Disabling the touch screen does not work, according to research done by laptopmag.com. So, before buying a touch screen laptop, spend some time at the store “playing” to see if repeatedly raising your hand to the screen actually works for you, instead of using a small old fashion mouse.

Don’t forget to have and use at least two web browsers. If you find a website not working in Chrome, for example, try the same site in Firefox, or Safari if you are on a Mac.

Verify the phone number of a caller by looking it up with google. If you are called by “Microsoft” reverse lookup their Caller ID number, 800-123-4567 (or whatever). Legitimate numbers will link to a real page at Microsoft or whatever company claims to be calling you. And, when you end up at a tech support site, look in the address bar to make sure you are at the real company.

Windows 10 upgrades can be “reserved” now for when it is officially released July29th. I would wait until a few months later to actually install it, unless you are not having enough fun in your life. If you have been hoping that it will be different from Windows 8, it will, but it does not go back to Windows 7. If you want that Windows 7 look and feel again, install Classic Shell from classicshell.net.

Signs you do need a new computer: you can’t install the latest operating system or the latest version of your software; you can’t connect your latest gadgets because you don’t have the right ports; it is way more noisy than it used to be indicating fans and motors going out of balance or failing; or you are spending time fixing and replacing hardware on a regular basis, apart from getting malicious software removed. Bottom line, computers are not like cars, older computers just won’t keep up on the Information Highway (apologies for resurrecting an old phrase.)

There is an interesting collection of hard drive sounds, hard drives failing, at datacent.com. Click on the Sounds menu tab and see if you can find the ones that even sound musical.

The 20/20/20 rule is important to learn for better eye health. Every 20 minutes you should look off 20 feet or so, for 20 seconds. Even better is getting up and moving around. Having a window to stare out of helps. If you have trouble keeping to some kind of schedule there is software that can help you, Time Out for the Mac (from dejal.com) or PYV at protectyourvision.org are some of the free programs with options to customize break frequency, duration and actions.

With Windows 10 due to come out this summer and as Microsoft is offering free upgrades for Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers, you might want to check if your PC can handle it. The short answer is that if you are already running Windows 8.1 you should be fine and most all Windows 7 computers I have seen will also work. The free upgrade path only lasts for the first year Windows 10 is out and so you have to decide when you want it. My usual advice is to wait for all the early adopters to find the faults for Microsoft to fix and then jump on the bandwagon in early 2016.

Cut down Facebook notifications to reduce being constantly “annoyed” even though you feel you need to plug into FB all the time. Check under your settings or click on the Notifications “globe” icon and then click settings to find and click on Notifications. Then edit each Notification and set it how you want. If you have a smart phone and use its Facebook app, you should also look at its push notification settings.

Regardless of how fast your computer is, how well you have matched your software to your needs, or how many monitors you have, there are things you can do to improve your computer performance. Pay attention to your body position and take frequent breaks. At night, use f.lux (justgetflux.com) to reduce the “keep you awake” blue part of the spectrum. Try a standing desk. Improve your typing; even though you may be self-taught, touch-typing is still likely to be faster. There are quite a few online tutoring sites. The other part is to speed up your reading speed and learn how to bookmark sites you want to come back or don’t have time right now to read. Memorize shortcuts for any task or action you do repeatedly and frequently. You don’t have to learn all of them, just figure out the most common ones. Finally, there are some tasks that are still faster with paper and pen, not everything must be done on your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Browsers slow down as you keep more tabs open, and there are add-ins to help you with those tabs without just bookmarking them. One that I like is OneTab for Chrome or Firefox, and find it wonderful for keeping available site that I plan to get back to but don’t really want to bookmark as I only plan to read those articles once.

Keeping your data around for the long-term means that you should understand a bit more about how long different devices or media might last. Hard drives, solid-state drives, USB flash drives and CD/DVD discs are the physical options you have to keep your data with you. For short term, consider flash drives for data you are just moving around or want to keep for some months or up to a year. Conventional and solid state drives should be good for five years, less if you are using them all the time. It is not clear if solid state drives will loose data if just kept on the shelf. CD/DVD discs were originally thought to last 100 years or more, that estimate has been dropping as people buy cheaper discs and disc burners are becoming cheap. No matter what medium you use, you need to check it a couple of times a year and copy it to something new when needed or maybe every five years. If you don’t, you might find that ten years later you no longer can read your 3.5” floppy diskettes, for example. Cloud storage is only as good as the life of that company providing you that service. So, how long do you want those digital photos to hang around?

If you are counting on a surge protector to absorb power spikes you should be replacing them at least every five years, and more frequently if power spikes have tripped them. Each power spike degrades the surge protection, so review how many times one has tripped and saved your devices, then buy replacements as needed.

Should you eject external storage devices, like USB drives, before pulling out the plug? There is a reason for that warning on the Mac when you pull out that flash drive without having ejected it or dragged its icon to the Trash icon. The Mac tries to improve flash drive responsiveness by not immediately writing date to that external device. The trade off is that you might loose data if you don’t force the Mac to finish that writing up. Thus, you need to eject that flash drive to ensure no data lose. I always eject hard drives, even in Windows, just to make sure I don’t loose data, it is one of those two second tasks that makes life safer.

Facebook’s face recognition or “suggestion” can be turned off. When your Facebook friends upload photos, software is running to recognize and suggest matching faces and yours might be one. Although you can’t prohibit being tagged in photos, you can turn off Facebook’s ability to suggest you as a match. Since it is turned on by default, you have to open up Settings, among other places, under the slightly darker upside down triangle in the upper right of the top blue bar in FB. Then click on “Timeline and Tagging” and look for “Who sees tag suggestions…” and click on the Edit link to its right. Change it to “No One” and click the Close link. Then you are good. While you are in Settings, take a look around at the other sections to see what else you could actually control.

You can automate Mac settings based on your location by using the free app Control Plane. When you have a Mac laptop, there are times you actually go to different locations, with different printers, sound muting needs, file sharing changes, maybe even turning on password prompting. With Control Plan you can set up different contexts for Control Plane to recognize your location and thus change what happens when you “enter” or “leave” that location. No surprise, it is at http://www.controlplaneapp.com/

SEO (search engine optimization) can be the life and death of some websites. There is a large, not always honest, industry around how to push certain sites to the top of Google results, using a variety of methods to make a site look well linked and “popular.” Google is working to measure and grade sites on their actual truthfulness so that those with more accurate and relevant information to your search, will rise to the top. This should help push down many of those sites that game the Google system but only exist to deliver ads or even malware.

When using public computers, like those at the Library, or even a friend’s, it is good to follow certain rules when using them. When you use your webmail account, make sure to uncheck the little box that keeps you logged in. And, actually log out of any site you use, don’t just close the browser window. You don’t want someone else to have fun on your Facebook account. To avoid having to clear the browsing history, use a private or incognito browsing session. And, take a second to think about what you are doing on this “unknown” computer, can it wait until you get back to your own?

Here is a roundup of good security mantras from the pros. Strong, unique passwords and two-factor authentication do make it much harder to be compromised. New devices are not automatically more secure; always check for updates after unwrapping anything that uses any kind of network. All software will have vulnerabilities, and even though SSL connections may have flaws, using SSL or HTTPS connections on the web will make you just that much safer. Intricate cyber attacks are very unlikely; many of those massive data compromises actually start with one human “gaining” the trust of another to achieve data breaches. So, use strong, unique passwords, keep software updated and uninstall software you don’t use, use HTTPS or SSL connections, and learn something new to keep from going crazy.

Here are some lesser-known computer specs that affect performance. Processor cache is a fast memory place used by the processor for recently, frequently used data, so the more the better for each of the different levels. Hard drive speed, often 5400 or 7200 RPM can affect how fast programs load and this is why solid state drives (SSD) can be so wonderful. SSDs are around four to five times more expensive per GB of storage but that can make it a wonderful upgrade as most decent processors from three or four years ago are still good if you can feed them data fast enough. And, there is always the issue of RAM, whether it is enough and whether you have enough. As many of the less expensive computers use RAM for video tasks, reducing screen resolution make improve the perceived speed of things showing up on the screen. Maybe you don’t want to buy that 4K or HD monitor without making sure your computer, new or old, can handle all those pixels.