These 4 downloads can ruin a Windows PC

These 4 downloads can ruin a Windows PC

I give a lot of advice about what you should do in your digital life. I give just as much about what you shouldn’t do.

Take, for example, the things you should never Google. No, this is not because these searches are embarrassing. These rogue searches put your security and your wallet at risk. Tap or click for my list of 7 things you should never search for.

Some mistakes ruin your expensive gadgets. Tap or click for 5 dumb ways you’re ruining your smartphone. Looking at you, everyone without a nice phone case.

When it comes to your computer, one errant click can spell disaster. Here are downloads you need to avoid:

1. Pirates never win

You can’t always find what you want to watch on the streaming services you pay for. If you’re stuck, here’s a handy way to see where something great is streaming.

Whatever you do, don’t turn to torrent websites. If you’re downloading from a questionable source, you might be downloading viruses along with your sought-after cinema. One clue you should find a new source? The site you’re using has an incredibly long or unusually-ending URL.

Stick to the ever-growing list of legitimate streaming sites to keep you and your devices safe from hard drive destroying malware. Tap or click for 13 options we handpicked for you. These sites will play ads, but at least they won’t freeze your computer, or worse.

2. Don’t download something you weren’t looking for

Freeware – software that’s available at no cost – can be a wonderful thing. Here’s the caveat: If you weren’t actively looking for a particular program, do NOT download freeware you find on the internet.

It might come to you in an email offer or in an ad on a site you’re visiting. The majority of unsolicited freeware will clog your computer with junk files, give you malware or provide entryways for hackers.

If you weren’t searching for a program, don’t trust anything when it presents itself to you. Try reading reviews or recommendations from sites like mine before you download any freeware at all. Keep your eyes peeled for any unusual activity on your computer after you’ve downloaded something new.

Before you download any free programs, always make a computer backup just in case you need to reformat your device. It’s a pain, but hey, not much is truly free online or offline.

3. Clean up promises can be a big mess

Maybe you get pop-ups and ads about cleaning out your computer’s hard drive. Your computer is full of documents and data you don’t need, the pop-up says, and free software will help you clean it up.

Click on that, hit download, and you might have just infected your PC with malware.

You do need to clean your computer occasionally. In many cases, free PC cleaning utilities come with adware, viruses, or other bits of software that ultimately lag your PC.

There are ways to remove unnecessary files built right into your PC. Tap or click for a guide on cleaning up your computer the safe way.

4. Try before you buy software

Trial versions of software often amount to junk. Before you install any trial software, search using the name of the software and the word review. And there’s another downside to consider.

Let’s say you like the trial software and install the full version. The trial version could remain on your computer and start when your PC does. Make sure you run Disk Cleanup to get rid of any remains.

Here’s how:

• In the search box on the taskbar, type disk cleanup and select Disk Cleanup from the results list.

• Select the drive you want to clean up and then select OK.

• Under Files to delete, select the file types to get rid of. To get a description of the file type, select it.

• Select OK.

Bonus Tip: Disinformation: How social media lies change history

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Keeping you ignorant is profitable, which is why companies, governments and terrorist groups manufacture fake social media posts. Fall for them, and you’re letting strangers inject their lies into your brain. In this episode, I sit down with disinformation experts Kristy Roschke and Emerson Brooking on the scary new shadow industry designed to keep us ignorant, compliant and powerless.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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