DANGEROUS DOWNLOADS

A reader wanted to divide long audio tracks into segments for public talks. We suggested he try Audacity, a free program. It’s been downloaded over a million times. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

The reader got a virus, possibly from downloading it at a non-official site, but it’s hard to be sure. When he told us that, we tried downloading it ourselves, and, whaddaya know, our computer started acting up too. This was a new thing: we had downloaded Audacity twice before, both times on a computer using Windows 7, and never had any problems with it. This time we downloaded it to Windows 8, and had lots of problems. Things change.

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SECOND-HAND PHONES STILL HAVE STUFF

More than 80,000 used phones are for sale on eBay on any given day. The owners think they’ve wiped their personal data first. It turns out, they haven’t.

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GOING AFTER PUP DOGS

Running a malware (bad stuff) program on our test computer picked up over 950 “PUP” files. “PUP,” is short for “Potentially Unwanted Programs.” This triggered the computer to go wild, filling out web addresses with bizarre characters and slowing everything to a crawl.

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ANTI-VIRUS UPDATE

We recently wrote about the free programs, Avast and Bitdefender, just days before the new Avast 2014 came out. The new version is free and instructs you to burn a boot-disk on a CD or DVD. After all, it’s all well and good to have anti-virus protection, but what if your computer won’t start at all? Then you better have a boot disk ready. If you Google “create boot disk,” you can get instructions to burn one to CD or flash drive, but it’s nice that Avast prompts you to do it.

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DEFENSIVE BATTLES

For a good free anti-virus, we’ve long recommended Avast. But PC Magazine recently gave their highest marks to another free program: BitDefender. Now along comes Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014, which bundles BitDefender with a lot of other useful programs. It’s $40, and there’s a free trial download from the web site: Ashampoo.com.

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COMING CLEAN

We heard from a reader who said his PC is “as slow as a stalled car in a parking lot.” (There’s an image for you.) He said his anti-virus program is running well and it’s a relatively new computer. So what gives? Well, he could call AAA to get his car started but he probably wants to deal with his computer first. And his first problem there is he gets a lot of intrusive ads when browsing the web. That’ll slow you down.  Adblock Plus is a free program from AdblockPlus.org and it will take out almost all of those. His second problem is he never clears out his Internet history and other junk files. CCleaner, from We heard from […]

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THE SLUGGISH COMPUTER

A sluggish computer is often sluggish because it doesn’t have enough RAM (random access memory). Go to your local computer repair shop and buy more, it’s cheap now.  If you want to save the installation cost and add the RAM modules yourself, do a YouTube search on “RAM installation.” You’ll see do-it-yourself tutorial for desktops and laptops. Order the RAM modules themselves online and save even more. The free scanner at Crucial.com tells you what type of memory your computer uses. Second, be sure you’ve checked for viruses and spyware, which can really slow down a PC. For free software, we like MalwareBytes.org and Avast.com. Third, uninstall any programs you aren’t using and use the free CCleaner from Piriform.org to […]

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ROOTING OUT A ROOTKIT

Just when you think you’ll never have another virus problem, along comes the dreaded “rootkit.” This one is so powerful it may escape detection by anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. It happened to us.

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YOU TRACKING ME?

Quite a few people seem upset over the possibility that their online activities are being tracked by the government. Yahoo acknowledges they have answered around 13,000 tracking requests from the feds in the last six months, and Facebook and Microsoft have similar numbers. Google’s “Chrome” browser has an “incognito mode,” but warns that you could be under “surveillance by secret agents.”  (Can you imagine what a boring job that must be?) Mozilla Firefox has denounced government tracking and offers add-ons, such as “DoNotTrackMe,” to cover your embarrassing parts.  In an upcoming release, they’ll block the most intrusive tracking cookies by default.

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BULLGUARD TO THE RESCUE

Some may wonder why we recommend free anti-virus solutions like Avast and free anti-spyware programs like Malwarebytes when we pay $60 a year for BullGuard Internet Security. Well, many readers ask for free programs, and we like them too, but we’re willing to pay if something is really good.

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