Tech Q&A: Fixing a dead computer, shredding documents, monitoring your kid's smartphone use

Avoid a big tech rip-off

Q. I bought a new TV and the sales guy tried to sell me really expensive cables. I refused, but should I have?

A. Any low-cost cable that's shielded (and most are now) and has basic gold connectors is fine for most situations. If you're dealing with distances over 15 feet or an entertainment setup that costs more than the average American home, cable costs might go up, but most are still overpriced. Learn about four other tech rip-offs you should know how to avoid.

Fix a dead computer

Q. My computer won't turn on. What do I do?

A. Cry. Just kidding. First, make sure the power cable is plugged in securely on both ends and your power strip is working. Plug in a lamp to make sure the wall socket is getting power. See if there's a switch on the computer's power supply (in the back of the computer) that might have been turned off. If all of those check out, then it's time to look at the power supply. Get the steps for that, plus two other common PC problems you can fix yourself.

Does shredding matter?

Q. Does it really matter if you shred bank statements and credit cards before you throw them away?

A. Identity thieves don't have any problem digging through trash, and you never know where your garbage will end up. A thief can easily use a bank statement or pre-approved credit card to open new accounts in your name – or worse. Learn three more things you may be doing that put your financial life at risk.

Speed up phone charging

Q. My phone is taking a long time to charge. Is there any way to speed it up?

A. Plug into the wall for charging instead of a laptop or computer. Turn your phone off, or at least put it in airplane mode, so it isn't using up power on communications. You can also close apps that might be draining power, like social media or games. Get more tips on faster smartphone charging and how to make your battery last longer.

Monitor your kids

Q. My 14-year-old daughter is getting her first smartphone and I want to keep an eye on it. What's a good program?

A. Take a look at the FamilyTime Dashboard app (Android, Apple; free). You can monitor what's going on with the phone, including call logs, text messages, contact lists and the apps she's using. Plus, you can track her location and even lock the phone down for dinnertime. Learn more about that app and others that can help keep your family safe.

Bonus: Compare foods easily

Q. I've recently started a diet and I'd like to compare the nutritional value of food. Is there a site or app that can help?

A. Open up Google on your smartphone or computer and simply type in "compare mashed potatoes to sweet potatoes," or whatever other foods you want. You'll get a nice chart comparing the two foods. Get the scoop on four more practical uses for Google you probably don't know exist.

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 Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at