Q. My hard drive keeps making this strange clicking noise when it boots up. Can I check how it’s doing without opening it up?
A. Yes, but you have to act quickly! That clicking noise could mean a full crash is coming soon. Make sure all of your data is backed up before you do anything else. Next, run a scan with CrystalDiskInfo. This program shows you the statistics that most modern hard drives record. Some of the stats might be a little hard to understand, but the program breaks it down into a simple Health Status meter. This will tell you whether you should be worried or if your hard drive still has some life in it.
Q. I’m tired of getting up to check my phone every time I get a new text. Is there any way to check my texts from my computer?
A. Many ways, actually. If you use an iPhone, you can use Messages to send and receive texts from your Mac. Google Voice works too, but you’ll have to use a different number. Google Voice works on Androids, but MightyText and AirDroid actually use your real number to send texts. Since they send the text through your phone, standard texting rates apply, and your phone needs to be on for the text to send. Most texting apps use up a bit of data, too. Make sure you don’t run over your data limit!
Q. I’m about to buy a new computer. Will the programs I use on my current Windows XP computer run on Windows 7 or Windows 8?
A. I’m willing to bet most of them will. You can double-check with Microsoft’s compatibility checker. Microsoft has plenty of information about older programs and whether they work on Windows 7 and 8. Your programs probably will be in there. If you’re having trouble making something work, try right-clicking the program’s icon and choosing Properties. Find the compatibility tab and then click the “Run this program in compatibility mode for” checkbox. Choose the version of Windows that matches your previous operating system, and it should work the next time you load it. You also can try the “run as administrator” option from the same tab.
Q. I’m thinking about buying a new printer. Should I buy an inkjet or laser printer?
A. That depends on what you need to print. If you need to only print text documents, a laser printer will be faster and give you higher-quality prints. It will be slightly more expensive upfront, but the cost to run a laser printer is much lower. However, if you need to print pictures or print on multiple different styles of paper, the inkjet will cause fewer headaches. Keep in mind that there are sites like SnapFish and Winkflash that can print pictures for you, too. Professional printing like this might save you some cash and time if you don’t print pictures that often.
Q. I use an email account that my Internet service provider gave me for email. Most of my friends use Gmail. Which do you think is better?
A. Third-party web mail, like Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail/Outlook, is usually better than ISP mail. There are a few reasons, but the most glaring is that ISP mail is tied to one provider. If you switch Internet service providers, your mail might not make the jump with you. Plus, web mail works better on most mobile gadgets, has better spam screening and usually offers more storage, too. You can make the switch to Gmail or Hotmail easily with TrueSwitch as long as your ISP is supported. Programs like Outlook and the free Thunderbird can help you switch, too.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.