5 hacks the pros use time and time again

In the nearly 40 years that the personal computer has been around, we’ve adapted to all kinds of platforms and devices. The everyday consumer has harnessed the internet, learned Microsoft Office and mastered the iPhone. Every year, electronics companies throw us a curveball, like an arsenal of smart TVs or the ability to send money through Facebook Messenger.

Certain skills are reserved for pros. You wouldn’t necessarily think to ask about them. But if you’re like me and you like technology hacks, you may find this list extremely helpful — especially if you want your electronics to run as smoothly as possible.

1. Change your DNS to double your internet speed

When your internet connection slows down, you may struggle to find the cause. Is it the router? The modem? Your computer? Has a mischievous neighbor broken into your network and started streaming movies all day?

Well, there’s one nifty way to speed up your Wi-Fi connection: Change your domain name system, or DNS, which transforms complicated IP addresses into memorable site names.

The problem is that some DNSs are more effective than others. To fix it, you can use Google’s “namebench” to test whether a certain DNS is working well. Want to learn how to use it? Click here for instructions on how to use namebench to double your internet speed.

More on this...

2. Wipe data from your printer

I know what you’re thinking: You’ve got to be kidding me! What could my printer possibly be storing? Does a printer even have a hard drive?

The truth is, you can probably sell or give away your printer and no harm will befall you. Printers don’t usually store much information, and most of it is erased the moment you switch it off. But some all-in-one printers do preserve a small amount of data, and if you have tax forms or recent banking documents stored in it, you can bet a hacker wants it.

To be on the safe side, do a “hard reset.” Printers are wide-ranging appliances, and each one works a little differently. I’ve got you covered, though. Click here for details on how to wipe your printer.

3. Destroy your hard drive (literally)

You’ve probably heard that you should erase your hard drive before unloading your computer, and that is absolutely true. Whether you’re selling it on Craigslist or donating it to Goodwill, you’re wise to delete everything from your retired machine.

But what if you’re recycling your computer? For hands-on machinists with some power tools, this is your chance to literally take your computer apart. Do what you will with its components. Dissect the hard drive, drill holes in it, smash it up with hammers. That will destroy the data for good. Do take safety precautions. Click here for three ways to destroy an old hard drive.

4. Make an old PC run faster

Some people like to buy a used desktop or laptop because they don’t need the latest bells and whistles. A word processor, a trustworthy browser and a decent music library are pretty much all they want.

But computers slow down over time, especially when they age a few years. So what happens when you have an older PC and you want to speed up its operations?

Some techniques are actually pretty simple, especially for Windows-based PCs. Start by deleting the files and programs you never use. We tend to accumulate a lot of junk that we don’t really need, and it can weigh down your system’s performance.

You can also save your photos and videos to a cloud service, which will free up gigabyte after gigabyte of hard drive space. Cloud services are handy and affordable, and you can save thousands of high-volume files on the internet. You can easily fetch those photos later on, when you decide to invest in a new computer,

But that’s not all. You can also defragment, eliminate malware and even reinstall Windows. Click here for details on how to make your old PC run faster.

5. Hack your Wi-Fi passwords

When an installer sets up your router, he usually hands you some outrageously complicated password with letters and numbers that follow no pattern. Unless you have a photographic memory, you’ll probably never remember it.

So what happens when your Wi-Fi cuts out and you completely forget where you put that darn password? Unless it’s printed on the back of the router itself (as many are), you will never remember the exact combination of letters and digits. Now what?

A surefire trick is to reset the router to factory settings. If there’s a small pinhole on the device (and there usually is), insert something small and skinny, like a paperclip, to press the button inside it for 15 seconds. This will erase all the information, including the password and the router’s history with your computer. From there, you’ll have to set up the router like it’s a brand new device.

That might take some work, especially if you’re not sure how to set up your router from scratch. If you’re more familiar with coding, you can consult your hard drive for the missing Wi-Fi password. It may sound like cloak and dagger, but it’s a straightforward process. On Windows, you can open a command window and use a simple code to retrieve any saved password. On a Mac, you’ll find the similar “Terminal” window. Click here for details, as well as a retrieval guide using Reaver.

What questions do you have that I can answer? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2017, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved. Learn about all the latest technology 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 Komando.com.