Boost your laptop's battery
Q. It seems like my laptop battery is losing capacity over time. Is this normal? Is there any way to stop it?
A. Sadly, this isn't uncommon. Most laptop batteries have a lifespan of about three years before they can't really hold much of a charge. For the most part, you can't really bring back any of your battery's capacity, but you can stop it from becoming even worse. If the battery is newer, there are ways to improve it and make it last longer. One good method is to run the laptop on battery power more often. Just don't let your battery dip below 30 percent. Whenever your laptop is unplugged and turned off, keep the battery around 50 percent charge. Heat is a big battery killer, so make sure you keep the battery as cool as possible. Speedfan can check the laptop's internal temperature to make things aren't overheating. Also, avoid leaving the laptop in hot cars or direct sunlight in summer. If you're storing your laptop for a long time without use, remove the battery entirely.
Search alternatives to Google
Q. I use Google for most of my searches, but I've heard it does some shady things concerning my privacy. Are there any alternatives?
A. Google has never been the best search site for your privacy, that's for sure. If you want an alternative solution with many of the same features, check out DuckDuckGo. It doesn't track your IP address or search history, so it can't give it to anyone. That means you won't see results based on your past preferences either. You'll see searches from a broader pool of information.
Memory vs. Storage
Q. I'm buying a computer and the terms "memory" and "storage" have me confused. What's the difference?
A. These two terms confuse people because they both use gigabytes as the measurement. However, they are very different. Storage means the hard drive. That's what permanently stores your files and other information. Get 320GB minimum. Memory is short for Random Access Memory or RAM. It's faster and feeds information directly to your computer processer, but it doesn't keep information when the power is off. The amount of storage you need varies from user to user, while most users will definitely need about 4 GB of RAM, maybe more. If you're looking to install more RAM, use the Crucial scanner to check what kind you need.
How to create bookmarks
Q. I see pages all the time that say "Bookmark our page." I'd like to do that, but I don't know how. Could you explain it to me?
A. Sure! If you're using a Windows computer, go to the page you want to bookmark and press Ctrl+D on your keyboard. For Mac users, that would be Command + D. The page is then automatically saved to your Web browser's bookmarks folder (Favorites in Internet Explorer), which you can manage from your browser's settings menu. If you don't want to use the keyboard shortcut, you can simply click the empty star that appears in the address bar in most browsers.
Free software alternatives that save you hundreds
Q. I just bought a new computer and want to upgrade all my old programs. Unfortunately that's going to cost a ton. Is there a less expensive option?
A. You bet there is. I'm sure whatever programs you own have a free alternative. Instead of buying Microsoft Office all over again, for example, try LibreOffice. It has a word processor, spreadsheet manager and presentation creator that are all just as easy to use as Office. The only thing it's missing is Outlook, which Thunderbird replaces with ease. Instead of spending big for Adobe programs like Photoshop, Illustrator or Acrobat, replace them with GIMP, Inkscape and NitroPDF, respectively.
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 www.komando.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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