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Common Computer Misconceptions

Many people harbor misinformation about typical, Windows-based PCs (personal computers) as well as Macs (made by Apple). This is understandable – how can one be expected to know everything about computers? Here are five common computer misconceptions that should be clarified for average users.

COMMON MISCONCEPTION #1: “If I strike a “wrong” key on the computer, I can erase everything or ruin the machine so it will need major repairs…”


Striking a wrong key on the computer to erase everything or cause major damage is something even the roughest computer user would have trouble doing. As long as you read the screen and understand what you are clicking, you should be in good shape. Cancel out if you are not sure, then ask someone in the know if you question anything that appears on your screen out of the ordinary. Most computer systems are relatively user-safe in that regard, provided virus protection is in place as well as two other main protections: a firewall and spyware protection.

Inadvertently hitting the “delete” key or “backspace” key, for example, might erase some of your data, such as a typed-in resume or e-mail, but it won’t cause any major problem other than the time you will need to re-create the document, but if you catch your error, most of the time you can UNDO your mistake – try pressing CTRL and, keeping it pressed, tap the letter Z key (this is the keyboard shortcut for UNDO). Another technique that often works is to press the ESC (escape) key on the keyboard to “break out of” a problem. Often, your work returns, ready and waiting for you to continue. If not, however, take a deep breath and bravely try again to reconstruct your data, if you miss out on UNDO, or if ESC does not work.

COMMON MISCONCEPTION #2: A Mac is easier to use than a PC.


A Mac has some advantages over a PC. For example, at this time, it is less prone to viruses and hacker issues since it is not Microsoft-based. However, if you have used a PC for years and are switching to a Mac for this and the other notions that the Mac is easier to use, you may be in for some surprises.

For example, the right-click technique used on a Windows-based PC does not exist on a Mac. You also need to re-train yourself for common, everyday tasks that you were used to doing on the PC. Depending upon your comfort level with technology and your patience, you may find some of these types of adjustments frustrating until you pass the peak in your individual learning curve.

Also, some software you may have been used to using on a PC may not exist for the Mac. Do some research ahead of time.

COMMON MISCONCEPTION #3: I already have virus protection with the software that came with my computer, so I shouldn’t have to worry about virus protection for as long as I own the computer.


If you either 1) paid extra for a full, usually year-long subscription to an antivirus program from such a company as Symantec’s Norton Antivirus, McAffee, or Kaspersky, or 2) had the vendor install a full version of a free-of-charge antivirus program such as AVAST, AVG, or CA, and you are aware that it is your responsibility to install updates to the virus protection program, and you keep your subscriptions up-to-date, then you should be fine.

However, if the above is not the case for your computer, this probably is, instead. Often, new Windows-based PCs come equipped with what is called “bloatware,” or trial software programs. These programs often give the vendor a break in price, which is often passed to the consumer; however, trial software such as virus protection software, often expires after a set period of time, usually within 30-90 days. Usually, the trial virus protection program prompts you for continuing the subscription for a fee, and many consumers ignore the prompt.

If the software expires and no longer collects updates, it becomes obsolete and cannot detect newer viruses that have entered the Internet since the expiration date.

Consumers at this point can opt to continue to use the virus protection software installed on their machine by extending their subscription usually for a fee, or they can uninstall it and choose to get another antivirus program. Some ISPs (such as Time Warner’s “Roadrunner”) may offer a free virus protection program with your subscription, but you must ask about it as it is not included in your Internet service unless you do so. Having more than one virus protection program is not recommended since these programs tend to conflict with one another. Have, instead, only one virus protection program that you choose to install and keep up-to-date.

Regardless, it is important to understand that the computer user must initiate and take charge of virus protection in some way.

COMMON MISCONCEPTION #4: I must have “Microsoft Office 2007” installed on my new computer since I have “Microsoft Windows Vista.”

STATUS: Not necessarily.

Often, new computer users who purchase a brand new Microsoft Windows-based PC, assume incorrectly that their computer automatically includes a full version of “Microsoft Office 2007.” This incorrect connection often has to do with the fact that Microsoft manufactures both the operating system (“Windows XP” or “Windows Vista,” or soon-to-be-released “Microsoft Windows 7”) AND “Microsoft Office 2007.” However, these two products are entirely separate – one is your operating system software, and the other is practical use software for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. Usually, both are not bundled together unless the consumer consciously pays extra up front for one of the various full versions of “Microsoft Office 2007.”

On many new computer systems, a trial version of “Microsoft Office” is installed, giving the user 25 uses of each of the individual programs included in the product (typically, “MS Office Word 2007,” “MS Office Excel 2007,” and “MS Office PowerPoint 2007”). At the end of the set number of uses, or anytime before, the user is prompted to enter a product key, which is a series of numbers obtained from a purchased version of the product.

In many cases, a new computer system may include a free program called “Microsoft Works,” or Corel’s “WordPerfect” as an alternative to “Microsoft Office 2007.” These products are not as powerful as “Microsoft Office 2007,” but often do an adequate job of providing word processing or spreadsheet use. If a user does not want to purchase “Microsoft Office 2007,” another option exists to download a free, comparable program called OpenOffice.org, a “free and open productivity suite,” self-described on the website.

COMMON MISCONCEPTION #5: My pictures and documents are safe to store on my computer’s hard drive.


How many of us have heard of someone’s hard drive crashing or of a computer failure, or an electrical storm reeking havoc on a PC, or other similar scenarios? Computers are machines, and as such, are prone to break-downs, just like cars. To fully trust your computer’s hard drive to permanently store YOUR data, your important pictures, letters, spreadsheets, and other user-created material, is not practical.

Instead, store your data in at least two places, one of which is NOT connected to your computer at all times. In other words, BACK UP your data. Yes, you can store your data on your hard drive, but also store it at least one other location. This would be your backup. Make sure your backup data works, and you can restore it. You can choose to backup your data to CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, and online storage places as well as flash drives. Learn more about backing up your data by typing “backup” in the Windows Operating System’s help field.


Always keep in mind that technology is ever-changing, and that using technology is a lifelong learning experience requiring an open mind and flexible habits to best meet your needs as you use computers in years to come.

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