Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Why people suck at taking care of gadgets

Gadget care: Why people suck at tech maintenance By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Almost half of all personal computers in the U.S. are infected with malware -- but a new study shows that 83% of people think their PCs are clean.

Most people don't perform routine maintenance on their computers and tech toys because it's too confusing or it's simply not a priority, according to an "IT IQ" survey released by Staples (SPLS, Fortune 500) earlier this month.

"Technology is complicated, and our tablets and laptops are always advancing," says Jim Cigliano, Staples' vice president of technology services. "People get busy or they get nervous, and they just want their computers to work right."

In fact, 56% of respondents who characterized themselves as "less comfortable" with technology said they feared they would do more harm than good if they tried to upgrade or fix their own PCs.

And those less confident respondents said they would rather visit the DMV or wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic than perform computer maintenance.

But even those who said they felt "comfortable" managing their machines fell prey to myths. Almost half mistakenly thought restarting their computer or running an antivirus program would fix a slow PC.

What to do: If your computer is slow, a RAM upgrade is the best hardware fix. Just $100 worth of memory can make a big difference, Staples' Cigliano says.

An occasional diagnostic check and tune-up can prolong the life of your PC.

"People have to remember that computers are machines -- their parts wear out like the tires on a car," says Arthur Zilberman, owner of Manhattan repair shop LaptopMD.

But just in case your computer goes kaput, it's best to back up your data to an external hard drive or other storage source at least once a week. Staple's survey showed that less than 40% of respondents did so weekly, even though 97% of them use their computers every day.

Nearly one-third of respondents said they have never backed up their computer, or did it less than once a year.

Zilberman warns that external hard drives can also fail, or be destroyed in a fire or a theft. He recommends backing up with a cloud computing service like Carbonite or Dropbox.

"We have people coming in crying every single day over losing term papers and photos," Zilberman says. "They pay thousands of dollars to try to retrieve their data. If everyone backed up, we'd have a lot less business." To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,689.86 -56.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 5,128.28 -0.50 -0.01%
S&P 500 2,103.84 -4.79 -0.23%
Treasuries 2.20 -0.06 -2.78%
Data as of 2:17pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.88 -0.25 -1.38%
Micron Technology In... 18.51 -1.39 -6.98%
Facebook Inc 94.01 -1.20 -1.26%
Apple Inc 121.30 -1.07 -0.87%
Frontier Communicati... 4.72 0.09 1.94%
Data as of Jul 31
Sponsors

Sections

Some families are outraged at the sums they've been offered by Lufthansa as compensation for the Germanwings plane crash in March which killed 150 people. More

Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More

You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More