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How to permanently delete your PC data

Answer: Most people don’t realize that when files are deleted, they aren’t really gone. The operating system removes the link to the file and marks the space free. Until it is overwritten with new information, that file is still on your hard drive and can be recovered by anyone with a little know-how. I recommend using the free program Eraser to permanently delete your data. Eraser writes over files with meaningless data, making the files unrecoverable. The program offers many options for deleting files.

Q. I’ve been trying out some of the free Mac downloads on your site. Now, I need to uninstall some of these programs. I know how to uninstall programs in Windows, but I’m new to Macs. What do I do?

A. Some programs, such as Microsoft Office, install just like they do on Windows. In those cases, there’s usually an uninstaller for removing the app. The uninstaller should be in the program’s folder in the Applications area. Most Mac programs, however, don’t require an installer. Unlike many Windows programs, they’re self-contained. These are the programs you install simply by dragging them to the Applications folder or to the desktop. Uninstalling a self-contained program just means dragging the program folder from the Applications folder, or desktop, to the Trash. Empty the trash and the program is gone. However, that isn’t always the end of the story. Applications can spread files throughout the operating system, and that can clutter your hard drive. It’s much easier to use a free program such as AppCleaner. Once you select a program to remove, AppCleaner automatically tracks down all the remaining data.

Q. I’m concerned about Google’s new privacy policy and how the company is going to track me. Should I be worried?

A. On March 1, Google will roll out a consolidated privacy policy that covers almost all of its products. What this change means in practice is that you’ll be treated as a single user across all Google products. The first thing to note is that this doesn’t change Google’s data-collection policies. Google has already been monitoring almost everything you do online for the past seven years. So, what is everyone upset about? Well, there is no way to opt out of the new privacy system and stick with the current arrangement. Some people worry what might happen if a third party gets ahold of their consolidated information. I’m not too terribly concerned. Google has stored all this information for years anyway with few snafus. If the new privacy policy makes you uncomfortable, however, your only option is to move away from Google products. Use Yahoo! or MapQuest for mapping. Stick with Facebook and Twitter instead of Google+ for social networking. Fire up Microsoft Bing for searches.

Q. My credit card company is offering to protect me against ID theft for $20 per month. Does this actually work, and is it worth it?

A. What this add-on service actually does is monitor your credit and let you know if an application for new credit has been made. You can do that yourself. You can get one free annual report per year from each of the three credit reporting companies. Just go to Stagger your requests to get a report every four months. That’s enough credit monitoring for most people. Remember that under federal law, you can’t be held liable for more than $50 if someone racks up fraudulent charges on your credit or debit card — as long as you report the problem promptly. Under most state laws, you’re not liable for any fraudulent account opened in your name.

Q. I’m about to buy a new HDTV and I see the store gives the option to have the screen professionally calibrated for an additional $200. That sounds pricey to me. Is this a good idea, or can I do that myself?

A. Hopefully, you’ve done your research on that HDTV so you get your money’s worth. Once the TV arrives home, however, you might be in for a shock. Most TVs are calibrated to look great in the store, but those same settings will often look horrible in your home. You’ll need to calibrate the screen for your environment, but you probably don’t need to spend $200 for a professional. All you really need is a calibration disc. You can pop this in your DVD or Blu-ray player and follow the steps to calibrate your set. You can buy a disc for about $30 at a local electronics store and use it over and over. But first, check your DVD and Blu-ray collection. Pixar and Lucasfilm discs often have calibration tools included. Look for the THX Optimizer in the Set Up or Special Features section.

Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit E-mail her at

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