Patrick Marshall: Duplicate files, time for a new computer
About third-party page elements, eliminating duplicate programs and choosing a new computer
Special to The Seattle Times
Q: Are you familiar with an application called Ghostery? I am told it will block Meebo and other offensive toolbars from appearing on my PCs.
— Joe Black
A: Actually, I use Ghostery myself. It's a free extension for all the major Web browsers that tracks third-party page elements — which are tracking your Web browsing, delivering advertising, employing widgets — and allows you to block them.
As for the Meebo toolbar, however, I don't think Ghostery is going to do anything about it. First of all, Meebo isn't downloaded to your computer. It's a toolbar used by certain websites. You should only be seeing it when you visit those sites. Some of those sites allow you to turn off the Meebo toolbar.
Q: I recently purchased another of many Dell desktops and laptops over the years. I bought another desktop (with Windows 7) when the previous one started to develop issues after four years. To prepare, I backed up everything from the old desktop and then downloaded everything onto my new desktop.
Unfortunately, the new desktop is much slower than the old one. I suspect that when I backed up and then downloaded the stuff from the previous desktop, I may have created a number of duplicate programs on my new desktop. When I review the programs I find what seems to be many duplicates, but I am not sure. Any advice as to how I can eliminate any duplicates and any unneeded programs?
— Jim Suthers, Woodinville
A: I believe you're on the right track. When you back up data to move to a new computer, you shouldn't back up programs. The programs will actually need to be installed on the new computer. That's the only way the operating system can know they are there and how they are configured.
I suppose you could simply delete all those duplicate applications. But you'll need to make sure you're deleting the correct one. If you delete the one that has been registered with the operating system, you won't be able to launch it.
If it were me, I'd use the restore utility to restore the computer to its out-of-the-box state. That should also clear up any performance issues. If you still are experiencing problems, it's time to scan for viruses and malware.
Finally, go to your backup and only restore data files.
Q: We have owned a Mac OS X version 10.4.11 for seven years and like it very much. However, since we probably will need to buy a new computer in the near future, we are in a quandary. We are only interested in email, word processing and the Internet, of course. Maybe storing some music. After reading about the new Mountain Lion system with all the features we do not need, what computer or device should we look for? We are dinosaurs: no cellphones, no iPads, iPhones, tablets, etc. Is this mission impossible?
— Arlette Claussen
A: If you like what you've been using and you can afford the higher cost of Apple equipment, I'd just stick with it. The extra dollars do get you very well-designed and durable equipment. And even if you switched platforms, you'd be buying into an operating system that offers more tools and capabilities than it seems you're looking for.
Unless there's an overriding priority, such as compatibility with equipment at work or a tight budget, what I generally suggest to people when they ask what platform to choose — Apple, Windows, Linux — is to check what your friends and family are using. They're generally your first line of technical support.
Of course, if your needs are really limited as you indicate, you can save some dollars by selecting the right device, regardless of which operating system you choose.
You might be able to get by with a tablet and a keyboard, an ultrabook or even a netbook. These don't have large screens, they're not expandable and they don't offer built-in DVD drives, but it sounds like you may not need those things.
Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/qa.