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Resident Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services based in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 9:00 am

The No. 1 computer complaint we get from people calling or emailing us is that their Internet is running slow. Recently, we saw an email from a child who says her computer is running so slow that she cannot even catch up with all the tweets from the stars. We simply cannot have that! So what causes this and how do we speed up our Internet connection?

Internet cookies

The source of poor performance is probably not the cookies stored on your computer. Deleting the cookies on a computer will really only solve one issue, and that is rarely seen, so this will most likely not speed up your computer. This is a standard response by many so-called experts and techs that can be ignored.

What Internet browser are you using?

• If you use Internet Explorer and the computer stalls when you first try to open it, as well as when you are moving from website to website, you are experiencing one of the most prevalent and blatantly insidious examples of data mining and privacy invasions in our generation. When you click on Internet Explorer companies start gathering data, as much data on you and your family as possible before sending you to the website you desire. The next time you open Internet Explorer check out the status bar directly above the task bar in the lower left-hand corner and see how many times it changes status in the course of getting to a website or homepage.

• FireFox has been around a long time and is the choice of most people who are tired of being "data mined." It is free for download at www.mozilla.org. If you download and install FireFox, the first thing you will notice is the speed difference. FireFox starts up very quickly and will take you to your homepage, or most desired websites, in a fraction of the time it takes Internet Explorer. There are some minor settings and add-ons that may need to be installed for all websites to perform properly, but FireFox has made this process straightforward and easy to accomplish. Give it a try and you will notice a huge difference.

• Google Chrome is the third most popular Internet browser and is also a quantum leap away from Internet Explorer in terms of speed. You can download and install it for free at http://www.google.com/chrome. Google Chrome has a very modern, clean look and is most popular with teenagers and young adults mostly because of this look. The speed differences between FireFox and Google Chrome are nominal so it really all depends on your own preferences and comfort level.

Who is mining this data?

Since Internet Explorer is the most widely used Internet browser, it is the most cost effective vehicle for data mining, and also the most easily programmed browser for these means. Marketing and advertising companies program many types of data mining tools into their websites to collect data on your.

How many Internet toolbars do you have going?

Many people we see have three, four or more toolbars active on their Internet browser! Most toolbars give your one or two shortcuts in exchange for allowing them to gather data on your web-surfing habits, email habits, and anything other thing you do with your computer on the Internet. In all fairness, your email and any other secure, log-in required website should be safe from these toolbars, but I am suspicious of toolbars that are always on. You can delete most of these toolbars by going to "Start-Control Panel-Programs" or "Uninstall a Program," and get rid of them. You can also click "View-Toolbars" in your Internet browser and turn them off, but sometimes just turning them off puts them is a stealth mode where they still can mine your data.

How did I get these toolbars?

This is the second most often asked question we hear and the answer is not simple because there are many ways in which you can have these toolbars downloaded and installed on your computer. You need to check very carefully every time you download something for your computer. If there are any checkboxes or radio buttons that are preset to install something, read it carefully and make sure this is something you want. One rule of thumb I recommend is after installing a new program or a download, check your Internet browser for new toolbars or anything different. If you detect something new or different and you did not ask for it, uninstall it.

Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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