Tech Q&A: Finding a safe phone charger, choosing the best batteries

Illustration picture.

Illustration picture.

Work-at-home jobs aren’t always what they seem

Q: The holidays are coming up, and I’m looking for some extra money. But so many of these online jobs look like scams. I’d love to do something remote, but how do I know what’s real?

A: One of the most exciting parts of living in the 21st century is how many jobs can be done on the road, or in your living room, or on your own schedule. But you’re right, many of those jobs are fake and will take advantage of you. If you find a help-wanted ad and it doesn’t name the company, skip it. Lack of a legitimate website or logo is also suspicious. Whenever you find a new company, vet it by searching for the company’s name plus “review” or “scam.” The strongest companies already have a well-known reputation, and they usually require you to appear in person: Uber, Lyft and Amazon come to mind. Whatever you do, don’t sign contracts or send personal information until you know exactly whom you’re dealing with. Speaking of the holidays, the world’s largest online retailer is hiring. Click here to learn how to work from home for Amazon.

Which AA batteries are the best?

Q: I noticed that is now selling batteries. How do they compare to the competition?

A: Consumer Reports recently tested 15 lithium and alkaline AA batteries from several brands. AmazonBasics Performance AA Alkaline batteries received an overall score of 71. That’s not very good when compared with the top battery on their list, Duracell Quantum AA Alkaline batteries, which received an overall score of 89. To learn more about different battery types and see how other brands scored, click here to access the list.

Silence the ads on Windows 10

Q: I finally upgraded to Windows 10 on my PC, but ads keep popping up, even though my screen is locked. Is there any way that I can ditch them?

A: First off, I’m glad you upgraded to Windows 10, if only for security reasons. The upgrade also gives you an excuse to take a hard look at your settings. Ads can be frustrating, especially when your computer is essentially off. To kill these unwanted ads, go to Settings, then to Personalization. Hit “Lock Screen” and then “Background.” Now you should see “Windows Spotlight.” Change the settings to “Picture” or “Slideshow.” That will do the trick! Click here to set more essential private settings for Windows 10.

Beware high-voltage phone chargers

Q: I recently lost my iPhone 6 charger, and my coworker has been letting me borrow hers. Then I realized that the charger’s voltage might be a lot higher. Should I be worried about that?

A: You should just replace the cable, and right away. Cheap Lightning cables can be found at almost any electronics store, and most chain pharmacies and gas stations. (Although beware of counterfeit Apple cables; the safest way to get the genuine thing is to buy directly through Apple.) More importantly, stop using the higher-voltage cable. It might work in a pinch, but over-charging is one reason lithium-ion batteries end up exploding. It’s not common, but it does happen, and using a high-voltage cord puts your battery at risk. You might also short out your phone; when this happens to a lithium battery, there aren’t as many fireworks as a full-on explosion, but you’ll still have to get the phone replaced. Click here to find out how to prevent your phone from exploding.

Tossing an old computer can attract identity thieves

Q: I was clinging to my old ThinkPad, but it finally bit the dust. I saw that Staples could scrap your laptop for you for free. Is that a good idea?

A: If your computer doesn’t have any monetary value, sure, bid it goodbye. Office supply stores often run programs that help destroy or recycle your old computer. But before you give your laptop to anyone, even a trusty Staples employee, make sure to erase the hard drive. I don’t mean just deleting files; I mean destroy every piece of data on it. Scavenging old computers is one way that hackers can steal your information, because former owners don’t realize their data is still lingering there. You need to make sure every last line of code is erased. Click here to learn about a surefire way to nuke your hard drive.

From buying advice to digital life issues, be sure to listen or download the podcasts.  Click here to find your local radio station. If you are looking for topics about everything digital that you can listen to on your phone, tablet or computer, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2016, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at