Watch what you download - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Money

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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: Thursday, April 5, 2012 5:31 pm

“Hi Mike. You were here a while ago and got our computer running like new, but now it is slow again. I would like for you to come by and figure out what happened.”

Does this sound familiar? I quote one of my personal heroes, “And now the rest of the story.”

Computer repair is like a forensics investigation in that when all variables have been excluded as possible sources of the issue, whatever remains must be the offender and the cause of consternation. After a quick assessment of any new hardware that may have been installed, the investigation focuses on newly installed programs. After clicking “Start-Control Panel” and “Add/Remove Programs” (depending on the version of Windows in your computer, you may have to click “Uninstall a Program”). Scan the list of programs stopping to ask “Do you use Inbox Toolbar?” or any odd program displayed and generally the response is “What is Inbox Toolbar?” The program is a suspect to be uninstalled.

At this juncture, I must inject a bit of sanity. Every time I write a column about keeping your computer free of unwanted programs, the next week or so, I am barraged by calls from panicked people about a program they uninstalled and now their computer is not running properly. Here is an easy way to help avoid mishaps.

• Create a system restore point before you uninstall any programs (Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-System Restore). If you uninstall a needed program you can reverse the changes and have the program reinstalled.

• Once the list of programs on your computer is displayed, click the column heading named “Date Modified” or “Sort by Date.” This will display when the program was last used and/or the date it was installed. If it is a program you recognize and want, go to the next one listed. If it is something you are not familiar with, before uninstalling it, do a Google search to find out what it is and what the program does. If you are convinced the program is unwanted, you can generally, safely uninstall it.

After uninstalling any unwanted programs, the focus turns to the Internet browser. Look at whatever browser you are using and pay particular attention to any toolbars you have living under the address box. If half your page is filled with toolbars, your Internet will be slow, period. Why? Most toolbars, if not all toolbars. are constantly collecting data on your Internet habits in hopes of being able to provide the product that will make life better. Why? They want to put more of your dollars in their pockets. To rid your computer of these toolbars you can uninstall them using the procedure outlined above or click “View-Toolbars” and uncheck them in the list displayed on your Internet Explorer. Other browsers like FireFox and Google Chrome are less susceptible to some of the common toolbar collections, but you can still get quite a few if you are not careful.

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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