30 tech myths debunked

Even for a techie, it sometimes becomes difficult to tell fact from fiction -- so here is a collection of some popular misconceptions and our explanations to help clear the air.

Go to the Start menu, click on Run and type "convert C:\windows mac_OS" and wait for 10 minutes and restart. This hidden command will convert your regular Windows PC into a Macintosh with Leopard. You didn't really believe this, did you? For the record, that is just plain impossible. But then, there are several myths floating around about PCs and gadgets that actually seem plausible. Some are just bad practical jokes (like e-mails saying Microsoft or AOL would donate money for every forward sent) while some are distorted facts. Even for a techie, it sometimes becomes difficult to tell fact from fiction — so here is a collection of some popular misconceptions and our explanations to help clear the air.

Correct Computing

A higher wattage SMPS always draws more power: A 600 Watt power supply does not necessarily consume more electricity by itself than say, a 300 Watt model. The higher rating only means it is capable of delivering more power when the system requires it — and at those times, of course, it would draw more power from the mains. However, during idle or periods of lower power draw from the PC, when the requirement is, say, 250 Watt, both the power supply units will consume equivalent amount of electricity. The amount of electricity consumed by the power supply for the same amount of demand from the PC also depends on the efficiency rating, which is independent of the Wattage rating. For example, a 500 Watt SMPS having an efficiency of 70 per cent can effectively deliver 350 Watt to the PC and an efficient 450 Watt unit with an efficiency of 77 per cent can match it.

Owning an all-in-one is like having a DTP center at home: Well, technically yes. After all, you can print, scan and make copies. So, on the face of it, it does look like you need not visit your neighborhood photocopier. But, once you account for the cost of ink per page, you will realize that using your home all-in-one for all tasks is not financially viable. This is especially true for cheaper inkjet models. Printing or copying an A4 sized sheet with black only text can cost you anything between US$0.07 to $0.12, depending on the printer, the mode used, etc. A photocopying shop will charge you less than $0.05 with the bonus being better print quality as well. With each purchase of a cartridge, your wallet keeps getting thinner!

A 64-bit OS will make computing twice as fast as a 32-bit one: A 64 bit operating system (OS) (and programs) has the potential to be considerably faster than a 32-bit one. But that's in theory. In real world terms however, for any performance improvement, the applications must also be 64-bit compatible. A 32-bit program will run fine on a 64-bit Windows, but you won't see any improvement in performance. A way in which a 32-bit program can benefit from a 64-bit OS is when the system has more than 3GB RAM, in which case the OS will be able to address the entire memory and make it available to the program if needed. Generally, you need a 64-bit version of your program running on a 64-bit OS to harness the full capacity of your 64 bit CPU.

You always need to 'stop' a USB device before unplugging it: This is another of those statements that's valid only under certain conditions. The idea behind saying this is to ensure that the USB device is not unplugged while data is being read from or written to it. Doing so would corrupt the file being transferred. But, if the device is idle, there is no need to go through the 'Safely Remove Hardware' drill. Note that in Windows Vista however, if you have set a USB flash drive to act as a Ready Boost device, you will need to 'stop' the device before unplugging it. For other devices such as keyboard/mouse, printers / scanners, etc., you can just unplug them provided they are not currently in use.

Switching off power without shutting down damages the PC: This must be one of the oldest debates about PCs. Many users till this day believe that switching off power without shutting down will cause physical damage to their hard drives. Our colleagues in the US PC World Test Labs conducted an informal test — they ran 30 iterations of a test, turning off a pair of systems running Windows XP without first shutting down Windows. Each time documents were left open in Word, outlook, and Quicken. After turning each PC back on, Symantec's Norton Disk Doctor and Windows disk checker found no errors. The applications suffered no problems as well. You will suffer data loss if data is being currently written (or if your work is not saved) while pressing the power button. However, if your computer hangs, and you are in a hurry to get it working, you need not be paranoid before pressing the reset button.

Repeated on-off cycles reduce the useful life of the PC: While it is true that certain components of your PC have a fixed number of start-stop cycles, those numbers are high enough not to cause worry. Microchips (including the CPU and those on the motherboard), CRT monitors and hard disks especially, have a rated number of times they can be turned on and off. Shutting the PC down when its use is not required for an hour or more will save power and even reduce component wear and tear. For example, for hard disks, this number is 50,000 or more. So, even if you switch the hard disk off and on ten times a day, after three years you would be close to 10,000 cycles, five times lesser than the rated number.

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Kailas Shastry

PC World India

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