Computers suck…

Owning a computer can be an amazing experience. These tools that have by now become commonplace are opening the world up, and only a user’s imagination is the limit. As with many complicated tools, not many are familiar with the workings of their computers. This can lead to misunderstandings and cause minor panic when things go wrong. the endless debate over whether or not to leave your computer running, defragmentation, Screen savers, and If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Modern computer hardware is robust and has many features designed to keep it working despite user error. Especially useful are the ‘Energy Star’ power-saving features, which allow any user to configure easily their computer to ‘go to sleep’ to save power when not in use, yet be available in seconds when needed. This is quite unlike previous years when it took quite some time for a computer to ‘boot’ to a usable state from a cold start – hence the practice of leaving the computer running all the time. Rapidly cycling the power – working the power switch as if you’re being paid by the click – is a bad idea for many electronic devices, including computers and monitors. If you’re talking about ordinary use, however, the only problems you’re likely to encounter stem from differential thermal expansion. Things get bigger as they warm up and smaller when they cool, and different components in a computer expand and contract by different amounts. The resultant mechanical stress can, theoretically at least, break traces on circuit boards and cause similar havoc. In the real world, thermal problems with personal computers practically never have anything to do with differential expansion, but instead stem from lousy ventilation. Hot components, hard drives in particular, can barbecue themselves into an early grave. But these failures happen pretty seldom, these days, and modern hard drives are very unlikely to suffer motor or solenoid failure on startup. An old drive that’s developed “stiction”, where the drive has a hard time spinning up, should be left running all of the time. But that problem’s never been common and is now close to unknown Now, the only reason to leave a computer on 24/7 without some form of ‘sleep mode’ is if you are running programs such as BOINC, which use ‘spare’ CPU cycles when your computer is sitting idle.

You don’t need to defragment your hard drive very often. Modern Defrag apps which position program data according to how often you use it can, indeed, improve performance a bit, but there’s no reason for even a heavily used computer to be defragmented every week, or even every month. Yes, it’ll be faster if you do. But the difference will probably be tiny. When computer files were first being written to consumer hard drives, those drives were agonizingly slow compared to their modern Serial Advanced Technology Attachment a.k.a. SATA descendants, so sorting the files into neat bundles gave a measurable improvement in speed. Hard drive performance makes very little difference to system performance, on machines with adequate physical RAM. The difference in performance between unfragmented and moderately fragmented drives is small, and the larger the drive, for a given level of file system activity, the less fragmentation it will suffer. Purists or power users who wish to eke a few more percentage points of performance from their highly-tuned setups can still defragment every few months, but the majority of users will not see any marked speed improvements if they do it more than a few times a year.

The screen saver is a modern art form. But what it isn’t, any more, is a way of saving anybody’s screen from anything. In days of yore, monochrome monitors were quite susceptible to a phenomenon known as “burn-in” or “phosphor burn”. An image shown on the monitor for a long time – a default menu, for instance – would burn in as an incurable ghostly image. Some monitors are potentially still susceptible to this, but only if the image has been on the screen for a really, really long time, which is something that just doesn’t happen in most applications. All you need to protect your screen, of course, is to blank it; again, current PCs with their standby features make it easy to save electricity as well as the screen.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What if it is broken, only you can’t tell it is? Tales of woe abound about computer users who’ve been bitten in the past by applying a recommended patch to a piece of software, only to see that software break or foul up something else on their computers. Sounds like a good argument for skipping patches. There’s just one problem. Today, a recommended patch is often, even usually, meant to close a security hole. Not installing it is tantamount to parking your car in a bad neighborhood at 2 a.m. with the windows rolled down. Vendors may release updated versions of software to address problems or fix vulnerabilities. You should install the updates as soon as possible; some software even offers the option to obtain updates automatically.

As we start to use technology more and more as the norm. more myths and stories are going to arise. Do not worry there is always someone out there willing to point you into the right direction.