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Common Tech Questions Answered

Many of today’s PC problems are easily remedied by users who do not understand the root of the issue.

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Many of the problems that PC users experience every day are annoying, but we learn how to overcome them and move on. But, why? Why do you have to reset a router from time to time? How do I recognize spam email? Do I really need to eject a USB device? The answers are not as hard to find as you would think, so read on to learn more about the common issues we all experience.

Ejecting USB Drives

USB thumb drives have become a common PC accessory due to their small size and large storage capacity. We store just about everything on a USB drive because its quick to use, so why do we have to take the extra step of "ejecting" the drive when my computer reports that everything has already transferred?

The reason is a process called write caching, which is used by your computer to increase performance. In some situations, your computer may report to you that a file transfer has been completed, but in reality, the computer is waiting for a few more tasks to queue up so that it can process them all at once. The act of "ejecting" a drive force the operating system to complete all queued tasks so that the files it said were transferred will actually be there.

This issue is not as prominent in newer versions of Windows as compared to OS X and Linux. So, hedge your bets and take the extra 5 seconds to eject your drive.

Recognizing Email Spam

Most spam emails are easy to recognize right away. When a Nigerian prince is offering millions of dollars or a miracle pill will both help you lose weight and make you filthy rich, the chances are that these emails are spam. However, the most insidious version of spam mail are the ones that are designed to replicate legitimate email. This brand of spam email is called "phishing" and relies on duplicating legitimate emails with hopes of accessing private information.

An example of this is an email which looks like it came from your bank, has the same sender address as you would expect from your bank, as well as includes images and language one would expect from a bank correspondence. However, this fake email links to a pseudo-bank site. When you innocently submit the required information, the operators of the fake site receive the private information instead.

The only way to safeguard yourself from phishing attacks is to double check all URL links before clicking on them. Make sure that the links are directed to the correct locations and if you find a fraudulent link anywhere in the email, trash it immediately.

Resetting Your Router

It happens to everyone; for no rhyme or reason, your internet gets temperamental and the only way to fix the problem is to unplug the router and plug it back in. You know it works, but why?

There are a number of reasons for router malfunctions: it may be a crappy router, it may not be able to handle the traffic, it could be overheating, and many more. Diagnosing the most common issue will help you alleviate the problem.

First, check if the router is overheating. Make sure the router is not in a hot, enclosed space. Consider placing the router on a wooden block or placing it in front of a fan for added airflow.

If the problem persists, update the routers firmware. Just like a PC, the router runs on an operating system that regulates the functions of the router and just like a PC that operating system needs occasional updates. Refer to the owner's manual of your router for the instruction on updating your firmware.

The last option to check for a misbehaving router is to limit connections, especially if you use BitTorrent or Usenet. These programs use multiple connections to achieve high download speeds and your router may not be capable of handling the load. Refer to your router manual for the instruction specific to your router that will allow you to limit active connections.

If all else fails, and this router is still unable to hold a consistent active connection, you will have to replace it.

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