Let’s set the record straight on ten of the most prevalent computer myths still in existence.
For most tech enthusiasts, computers are relatively simple machines to purchase, operate, and (for the most part) understand. However, for the average non-tech-oriented consumer, they are scary devices made even more frightening by jargon, misconceptions, and outright falsehoods.
So, here we’re going to set the record straight by debunking ten of the most prevalent computer myths still in existence.
1. You Need to Defragment Your Drive Frequently.
Here’s everything you need to know about defragmenting a modern computer: you don’t need to.
Windows computers have a built-in defragmentation utility that automatically runs in the background on a pre-defined schedule. On macOS, Macs have a file system (macOS HFS+) that automatically defragments files in a process known as HFC or Hot File Adaptive Clustering.
Additionally, many modern computers are now shipping with SSD (Solid State Drives) or flash storage that you should never defragment—it will actually ruin your SSD.
2. Viruses and Spyware Slow Your Computer Down.
Whenever a PC user runs into any slowdown, the most common and incorrect thing to blame it on is malware.
While it’s always possible that the computer is infected, modern malware is so profit-driven that it’s in the creator’s best interest to keep it stealthily in the background. As such, you won’t typically notice any performance decreases due to an infection.
Instead, it’s more likely that your computer is slower due to running too many programs simultaneously, unnecessary plugins and add-ons hogging CPU (Central Processin Unit) usage, lack of free RAM (Random Access Memory) or disk space, or a hardware problem. Or it could just be that your computer is aging, and it’s time to replace it.
3. Paid “Cleaner” Software Improves Performance.
We’ve all seen the ads that look something like, “Download X-Junk Removing Crapware Program for 300x Faster Speeds.”
These programs promise to clean registry errors, download driver updates, uninstall programs that you can’t manually uninstall, or clean your PC of “issues” of dubious origin and purpose.
The truth? This is junk software, and it’s never needed, no matter what operating system you’re on.
These programs are commonly used to deliver malware, such as spyware or adware, and rarely do anything beneficial at all—if ever. Registry entries are tiny, and removing them frees up a minuscule amount of space with no performance benefit whatsoever.
Driver updates? You can download those yourself if and when you’re prompted or run into errors with peripherals.
Paid uninstallers? Not needed. If you can’t uninstall an application completely, the files they leave are usually in the registry and too tiny to worry about.
Cleaners? The issues that they actually clear up typically aren’t issues at all, but problems that make it appear as if they’re worth the money—or download.
4. You Don’t Need Antivirus Software.
The two most common reasons for not needing antivirus software are usually: “I’m on a Mac, and Macs don’t get viruses,” or “I don’t do anything online (torrent, view porn, visit spammy sites) that would get me infected.”
Both are entirely incorrect. You always need an antivirus program.
Let’s address the Mac user first. Macs were once relatively immune to viruses, but it wasn’t due to anything other than the fact it was more time-efficient for virus writers to create infections for Windows-based PCs due to their complete domination of the market.
As we start to reach some parity, and macOS continues to gain market share over Windows, hackers have taken notice, and suddenly Macs aren’t so immune anymore.
On to the “safe” computer user: you’re never safe using a computer. Each time you turn your machine on, you’re taking a calculated risk that you won’t do anything that results in an infection of your machine.
Not viewing porn, torrenting, or visiting fishy websites isn’t enough to keep you safe from all threats. In fact, neither can an antivirus program, but it certainly helps.
5. Turning Your Computer On and Off Regularly Is Bad / Not.
Turning Your Computer Off at Night Is Bad
There’s no absolute truth here: leaving your computer on and allowing it to sleep while not in use is a safe and effective way to keep from turning it on and off regularly. System resources used and battery drain/power draw are minimal while in sleep mode.
On the other hand, you should turn your computer off from time to time if there’s no need for it to be running. Every computer component has a limited lifespan; turning your computer off when it’s not needed will allow the components to last a bit longer.
6. Deleting Contents From Your Hard Drive Actually Erases Them / Use a Magnet to Securely Erase Data.
It would be comforting to all of us to know that anything we deleted from our PC is gone forever. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
When you delete data, the visible traces of its existence might vanish, but with the way data storage works, the actual data remains until it is overwritten.
To keep things simple, think of your data as a footprint on a dusty floor. When you leave the room, your footprints remain, but as more and more people enter, they begin to cover your footprints with theirs.
This is pretty similar to how data storage works. Deleted files are marked as available space on your drive, allowing the data to be overwritten. That will eventually happen, but until it does, the data remains recoverable.
To actually erase your data, some suggest using a magnet. This idea would work great if we were still using floppy disks, but with modern HDDs or flash storage devices, a magnet is a rather ineffective way of destroying data. Instead, experts suggest one of two methods:
1. Use a program that makes multiple passes on your hard drive and overwrites it with a series of 1s and 0s until it’s un-recoverable.
2. Grab your drill and drill 10 to 12 holes through the drive and be sure to scatter them out rather than drilling in a straight line.
7. Macs are Better than PCs / Macs are Overpriced Junk.
Macs are PCs, just PCs running macOS rather than Windows or Linux. That being true, it’s impossible to say they’re better than a Windows PC, so we’re not going to touch that one.
However, we can address whether they are overpriced junk or even if they’re overpriced at all. While they certainly aren’t budget PCs, the so-called “Apple tax” has been effectively eliminated, and the price for most Apple devices is actually quite comparable to their Windows counterparts.
8. To Protect Yourself From Vulnerabilities, Use Firefox/Safari/Chrome/IE.
It’s also important to note that most browser-based attacks are through browser add-ons and plug-ins, not the browser itself. To protect yourself, get a good antivirus program that detects online malware and local infections.
9. More (Cores, RAM, etc.) Is Always Faster.
More is better. Well, usually.
Adding more RAM will allow your computer to work a little more efficiently by reducing its dependence on virtual memory. By doing so, your computer will feel like it’s running quicker.
Cores, on the other hand, are a somewhat mixed bag. Quality matters, and a high-end quad-core processor will outperform a lower-end octa-core processor almost all the time.
Additionally, the word “better” means different things to different users, and while more cores are better in the sense that it runs most programs faster, there are trade-offs in other areas, such as battery life.
While more is typically better, it’s not true all the time.
10. Building Your Own PC Saves Money.
Years ago, this was mostly true. Today, a budget PC is most often cheaper to obtain by purchasing a pre-built model. You can still save money building a higher-end machine, but for most consumer-driven PC models, it’s typically better to just buy one when they’re on sale.
That’s not to say that building your own PC isn’t worth it. For those who like a more hands-on experience or just want to customize the machine to their liking, building your own is probably the way.
Get Rid of These Misconceptions and Enjoy Your PC
Believing in myths and misconceptions can dampen your overall experience. Besides, why follow stuff that doesn’t even help? So, enjoy your PC to the fullest without worrying about these myths.