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The 12 biggest technology myths

Find out the truth behind tech's tallest tales

The internet is a breeding ground for lies, half-truths, and misinformation, especially when it comes to technology. We've dug up some of the web's most notorious nuggets of conventional wisdom to see which hold up to scrutiny and which are merely urban legends.

You're safe if you visit only family sites

If your PC has ever had a virus, you probably know about the raised-eyebrow, mock-judgmental looks you get when you tell that to other people. After all, if you had been a good little PC user and stayed in within websites aimed at all ages, you would have been safe, right?

Not so, says Avast Software, makers of Avast, a popular antivirus suite.

"For every infected adult domain we identify, there are 99 others with perfectly legitimate content that are also infected," its chief technology officer, Ondrej Vlcek, reports. Vlcek also said web users are far more likely to see infected domains with London in the name than sex.

So porn alone doesn't necessarily mean you're opening yourself up for infection. Which makes sense - porn-site operators depend on subscriptions and repeat visitors to do business, and infecting your customers with spyware isn't the best way to do it.

If you find yourself on a generic-looking website with popular search keywords in the title, or a site that's rearranging your browser window, you're likely to end up stuck with some malware - whether it's about porn or about hotels in London.

Warning: 4, Outrageous

You should regularly defrag your hard drive

Your hard drive has to decide where to write your files on the drive platter, and as you fill up the drive, your files will be scattered more and more widely across the platter. This means that the drive's read/write heads take longer to find the whole file, since they take more time skipping around the platter to find the different parts of the fragmented file. However, this state of affairs isn't an issue these days, for several reasons:

Hard drives are bigger. When your hard drive capacity was measured in megabytes, fragmentation was a big deal. Not only did the drive's read/write heads have to move all over the platter, but the space freed up by deleting old files was also scattered, and new files could be dispersed across the small gaps between larger files.

People now generally have more hard drive space and use a smaller overall percentage of their drive, so the read/write heads don't have to move as much.

More RAM and optimised OS' help. Newer iterations of Windows have done a lot to reduce the impact that a fragmented hard drive can have on a PC's performance. According to the engineers who worked on Windows 7's updated Disk Defragmenter tool , Windows' file system allocation strategies, its caching and pre-fetching algorithms, and today's relative abundance of RAM (which permits the PC to cache the data actively in use rather than having to write repeatedly to the drive) minimises fragmentation delay.

Solid-state drives don't need to be defragmented. SSDs don't have a drive platter or read/write heads that need to go searching around the drive. In fact, defragmenting is generally not recommended for SSDs because it wears down the hard drive's data cells, shortening the drive's overall lifespan.

You don't need to go out of your way to defrag. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, the system automatically handles defragging. By default, defragging happens at 1am every Wednesday, but if your PC isn't on or is in use, the process will occur in the background the next time the machine is idle. It will stop and start automatically, too, so don't worry about interrupting it.

We didn't notice a difference. When PC Advisor's sister title PC World last tested disk defragmentation, they took a heavily used, never-defragmented system from the PCWorld Labs, ran speed tests before and after defragging, and found no significant difference.

Warning: 4, Outrageous

NEXT PAGE: You probably know this, but...

  1. The truth behind tech's tallest tales
  2. The smartphone grip of death
  3. Expensive HDMI cables
  4. LCDs are better than plasmas?
  5. Are inkjets more expensive than laser printers?
  6. Refilled ink cartridges will ruin your printer
  7. Is IE less secure?
  8. You're safe if you visit only family sites
  9. You probably know this, but...


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