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5 must-read tech questions answered

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You've got tech questions, here are the answers. We helps you make the most of your technology by answering your thorniest tech questions. So if you're wondering what to buy, how to plug it in, or how to fix it, we can help.

Permanently erase data from your computer

Q. I'm giving away my old computer to my nephew, but I don't want him to see any of my files. I can just delete them from the Recycle Bin, right?

A. Wrong! Deleting data from the Recycle Bin doesn't really remove it from your computer. The files are still there for anyone with the right knowledge and tools to find. The easiest way to get rid of them is to delete your User Account. For Windows, go to Start>>Control Panel>>User Accounts. Now, select your User Account and click the Delete Account link. You may have to sign in as the administrator to do this. Macs users should go to System Preferences>>Accounts.   

Click the lock icon in the lower left corner and enter the administrator username and password. If yours is the only user account, you will have to create another so you can delete the first one. If you want be absolutely sure your files are deleted, use Eraser on Windows and Permanent Eraser on Macs.

Prepare your phone for an emergency

Q. If I'm in an accident, how do first responders know who to contact? Is there anything I can put in my phone to tell them to contact particular people?

A. Absolutely. First responders recommend you have some contacts saved in your phone with the abbreviation "ICE," which stands for In Case of Emergency. So, it would look like "John Smith ICE" or "ICE Jane Smith." There are also some apps that can help you set up an ICE contact list. Check out ICE 123 on iPhones and ICE on Androids. Of course, these should compliment an ICE card in your wallet, not replace it. If you don't have an ICE card, you can find a free template from the American Automobile Association.

Stop your computer from becoming a zombie

Q. I got a notice from Microsoft that my computer was involved in something called a botnet. What does this mean?

A. Bad news. A botnet is a large group of virus-infected computers controlled by a single hacker or hacking group. Infected computers are often called zombies. A botnet can be hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of computers strong. Hackers use botnets to send spam email, attack websites, funnel stolen money overseas and more. Fortunately, it's easy enough to leave the botnet. Run a scan with MalwareBytes or your anti-virus software of choice. Once you clean up the virus you were infected with, make sure you're running security software like avast! or Avira to prevent a future infection.

Improve your mobile typing skills

Q. I bought a phone without a slide-out keyboard, and I feel like I'm wasting a lot of time typing. How can I speed up?

A. It just so happens I do know a few tricks. First, a stylus or voice-to-text app could be a lot faster for you. You could also try another keyboard like SwiftKey on Androids or Big Finger Keyboard on iPhones. As for actually speeding up your personal skills, training games like Type It! or TapTyping can help. You might try holding the phone a different way - two hands isn't always the best! If your fingers are bigger, try holding the phone in one hand and typing with the index and middle fingers of the other. Try a few different ways to hold your phone before you get comfortable.

OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice

Q. I need a productivity suite, but I don't want to pay for Microsoft Office. I see two popular free options - LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Which one is better?

A. Oddly enough, the two programs are almost the same. Here's the story: OpenOffice was created by old tech giant Sun Microsystems. When it was bought by Oracle, Oracle stopped paying attention to OpenOffice and eventually turned the rights over to another company. Many of the people who liked working on OpenOffice broke off and created LibreOffice using the same code, although they've improved it quite a bit. Both programs are good, free alternatives Microsoft Office. However, I tend to tell people to stick to LibreOffice, since it receives more active development. If you want to switch at some point, they use the same types of files so it won't be a problem. Plus, they also read and save Microsoft Office files.

Copyright 2013, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.


Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit: http://www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free email newsletters, sign-up at: http://www.komando.com/newsletters.