KARAOKE APPA 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.

Downloading free programs is perhaps the number one way people mess up their computers. If it doesn’t sound right or look right, don’t download it. Many anti-virus programs will flash a warning message on the screen if they detect the free program trying to download something extra. The bottom line in that kind of situation is to skip the free program and pay to get an authorized version or a substitute.

In this case, for example, the reader turned to “Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio,” a $60 program he is very happy with. We used the free trial version of this program and it worked great. It has tutorials for everything you might want to do, such as split and combine audio files, or publish your creation to the web. Unlike most tutorials, a hand will point where you need to click. It’s $60 at SonyCreativeSoftware.com/audiostudio. That’s where you can find the free trial. If you want it to buy it outright, you can get it for $20 less at discounters like Amazon, CoolSavings or Newegg.

When something bad happens right after downloading a new program, use the Windows “System Restore” utility to take the computer back to the day before or even weeks before. This doesn’t delete any files, just recently downloaded programs. To find it in Windows 8, tap the Windows key and type “help.” In previous versions,  go to “start” and “help,”  then type “system restore.”

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