You’ve probably heard people tell you should back up your computer, or you should have more secure passwords. Good tech habits aren’t just for geeks—they can save you money, keep your personal information safe, and help you avoid frustration down the road. Here are ten tech habits everyone should have.
1. Regularly Audit Your Privacy Settings on Social Networks
You probably already know that social networks like Facebook aren’t the poster child for privacy. Unfortunately, the only way to keep your info private—short of quitting those networks altogether—is to audit your privacy settings every once in a while. Learn what each of those settings does and tweak them accordingly. You might also check out sites to keep up with your privacy settings on all your networks.
2. Know When You’re Paying Too Much for a Product
Technology isn’t cheap, but it doesn’t have to be a complete drain on your wallet, either. There are a lot of myths out there that’ll cost you money—like buying expensive “gold plated” HDMI cables, or buying new gadgets when refurbished ones are just as good. Check out our list of money-saving tech myths for more, and never pay full price again.
3. Keep Your Desktop and Hard Drive Free of Clutter
If your desktop looks like the picture to the left, then it’s time to clean things up a bit. Not only does a cluttered desktop make things harder to find, but if you’re on a Mac, it can even slow down your computer. Once you’ve gotten that messy desktop under control, make it a habit of keeping it organized, and transfer those same ideas to the rest of your files and folders too. The easier it is to find what you’re looking for, the less time you’ll spend frustrated.
4. Avoid Getting Malware (and Spreading It to Others)
We all know viruses are bad, but many of us don’t know exactly how they work—which is crucial to avoiding them. Do a little reading on what a virus is and examine the most common virus myths, then install a good, free antivirus program on your computer (and get rid of any existing viruses while you’re at it). Also, even if you aren’t getting viruses, you could still be spreading them—so watch out for that too.
5. Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
When you’re desperate for Wi-Fi, it can be tempting to connect to that open “Linksys” network or the password-free network of a nearby Starbucks. However, doing so opens you up to all sorts of attacks. It sounds a little tin foil hat-y, but you really should be worried about your security. It doesn’t take any hacking experience to sniff out someone’s Facebook or other credentials, all it takes is a little evil motivation. And don’t think just because a network has a password that means it’s safe—if other users are on that network (besides you and your family members), they can access your data. Stay safe when you’re on public Wi-Fi by turning off sharing and using SSL whenever possible.
6. Be Smart About Hoaxes, Scams, and Internet Myths
The internet is rife with scams, hoaxes, and other misinformation that you probably run into all the time without realizing it. Sometimes it’s harmful—like that fake bank email that gives your identity to scammers—while other times it’s mostly harmless, like a misattributed quote going viral on Facebook. Either way, though, you should try to avoid falling victim to these hoaxes, and help stop the spread. It’s actually very easy to identify these myths online, and just as easy to avoid getting scammed. Just remember: if something seems a little dubious, it probably is.
7. Know What Maintenance Your Computer Needs (and Doesn’t Need)
We all know computers take a little maintenance to run in tip-top shape, but there’s no need to hand it over to some quack to get it done—most of it is easy enough to do right at home. Check out our list of maintenance tasks you need to do on Windows PCs and Macs for more info, or if your computer needs a little more help, read our guides to speeding up, cleaning up, and reviving your Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android phone.
8. Use Secure Passwords
Even if you think you have a secure password, you might be wrong. Yesterday’s clever tricks aren’t protecting you from today’s hackers, and you need to be extra vigilant in this age of constant security breaches. Saving your passwords in a browser is pretty insecure too—so get a good password manager like LastPass and update those passwords for the modern age.
9. Back Up Your Computer
You’ve probably heard people say it a million times, and there’s a reason for it. You always think data loss won’t happen to you, but it happens to everyone one day, and having a good, up to date backup is the only way to avoid frustration down the road. Plus, setting it up is insanely easy and is something absolutely everyone can do, so you have no excuse: start backing up right now. You’ll be glad you did.
10. Search Google Like a Pro
If you’ve ever wondered how we tech geeks know everything that we do, here’s our secret: we pretty much just Google everything. With the right Google skills, you can find information about nearly any tech problem you’re having, and fix it yourself without anyone else’s help. Check out our top 10 tricks for speeding up and beefing up your Google searches to become a search ninja, and avoid frustrating calls to your resident computer tech for advice.