How much storage do you really need?
Q. I'm shopping for a laptop. It seems like the amount of hard drive storage goes up with the price. How much do I really need?
A. Most non-professional users will be fine with 250 to 320GBs of storage. For example, 250GB can hold more than 30,000 average size photos or songs. If you're planning on storing movies, then you definitely want to upgrade to at least 500GB, maybe even 1TB. Granted, this is all for conventional hard drives. Solid-state drives rarely have more than 256GB, and those aren't cheap. If you want to buy a laptop with an SSD, buy as big as you can afford and then consider investing in cloud storage like Google Drive or an external hard drive.
Tech gear to avoid this Christmas
Q. I'm not very hip on what gadgets to buy my kids and grandkids. Are there any gadgets I should avoid getting for them?
A. Feature phones, GPS Units, netbooks and pocket camcorders are all firmly on the "don't buy" list. Add to that budget Android gadgets like tablets running 3.0 (Honeycomb) and free smartphones running 2.3 (Gingerbread). If you're buying an Android gadget, make sure it runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher. Also on their way out are 17-inch laptops. Stick with 13-inchers for everyone but the most advanced techies on your list. Entry level e-readers like the original Kindles are not that great either. The premium versions are only a few dollars more.
Bring back the Start button in Windows 8
Q. I just upgraded to Windows 8 and I like it, but I really miss the Start button. Is there any way I can bring it back?
A. You sure can. Classic Shell will change the Windows 8 desktop mode to include a Start button and Start menu. You can even customize the way the Start button and icons in the Start menu look. If you want even more customization, try Start8 . It offers features that make Windows 8 much more user-friendly if you're not using a touch-screen display. Both of these downloads can add some customization to older versions of Windows, too.
Clean up embarrassing posts online
Q. I've said a few things on social media I'd really like to take back. How do I delete them from the Web for good?
A. Deleting them isn't too hard, but it's not always permanent. For example, you can delete or edit a post on Facebook just by hovering over the post and clicking on the X. However, there's still the chance that someone took a screenshot and could upload it. The same is true of Twitter and other social media networks. Plus, your data may still end up in search results or Web archives. In that case, you'll need to email the hosting company or the user posting your comments, but it's their decision to remove it, unless it's a legal concern. The best advice I can give you is to think before you click Send. Just like spoken words, items posted online are hard to take back.
Speed up a sluggish Mac
Q. My three-year-old iMac is starting to slow down a little bit. Do you have any tips to give it a speed boost?
A. Sure. Click on your Finder in the Dock and go to Applications>>Utilities>>Activity Monitor. This shows you what's running and how much of your computer's resources are being used. Try to turn off resource-hogging programs that you don't use often. If you like what they do, try to find other versions that don't bog down your system. Now, go to System Preferences>>Users & Groups. Select your username and click the Login Items tab. Uncheck any items you don't need to run at startup. If these two tricks don't give you the speed you need, it may be time to upgrade your hardware.