3 common computer myths

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Today we’re talking about three things that a lot of people believe to be true about computers, but in fact they are not true.

Computer myths


Myth #1: Turning the computer off, then powering it up again, is a restart. FALSE

I always tell people, you need to restart your computer every day or two. This resets the uptime counter, refreshes the memory, just gives the whole thing a fresh start. And often when I tell them that, the response is, “Oh, I do that every night!” Meaning, they turn the computer off at night, and turn it back on the next morning. But doing that is not a restart. Intuitively, you’d think it would be a more THOROUGH restart, but the opposite is true. You need to click  the Start button, then the power Icon, and then click on the word “Restart”.

the true way to restart


Myth #2: Formatting wipes all the data off the hard drive. FALSE

If you have a portable drive, and you plug it in to your computer, you can look and see exactly what is on that drive. All the files and folders are there for you to look at. Then, if you do a right click on that drive letter and choose “Format”, you can wait a minute until it’s done, and if you look again, you won’t see any files or folders listed there now. They must be all gone, right? Nope. They are still there. Formatting just tells the computer that all of that space is now open for you to put new files and folders on there. So if you have sensitive data on a drive and you’re planning to dispose of it, don’t just format it and assume that data is gone.

formatting myth


Myth #3: If your computer is running too slowly, you must need to defrag. FALSE

This is something every computer tech has heard. A client walks in the door with their computer, and the complaint is that it is running very slowly. “I tried defragging it, but it didn’t seem to make any difference!” That is correct. Defragging will almost never make any difference, for two reasons. First, your hard drive would have to be extremely fragmented in order for defragmentation (the actual term) to make any difference. Second, your computer is already defragging on its own, on a regular schedule. It’s part of the default maintenance that’s already set up in Windows.



Did you believe any of these myths before reading this? Let me know what you think in the comments below!


listen to my podcast in Apple Podcasts


Share this post

7 comments Add your comment »

Get updates when new comments are added. Subscribe to the comments RSS Feed

Robert Gilbert
April 27th, 2020

Leaned #1 in the past six months. Think #3 might actually have been true in the much earlier renditions of the OS. Anyone who watches crimes dramas knows #2 is not true.

Don Adams
April 27th, 2020

I used to believe Myths #1 and #3 until I heard better from you. I was an IT professional for over 30 years and our favorite phrase was “Did you turn it off and then turn it back on again?” Ala the BBC series “The IT Crowd”. Loved that show.

Robert Culp
April 27th, 2020

Wow! I was not aware of any of these myths. I thought all three of them were real until I read your posts here. In the future, I will remember these.
Thanks, Scott for bringing these myths to our attention!
I for one do appreciate it.

George Mesmer
April 27th, 2020

Defragmentation used to work to speed up computers, if I recall correctly, on earlier Window versions. Since I have not experienced slow downs in years, I had completely forgotten about it.
Yes, the correct ‘Restart’ I use frequently. Thanks to you. You taught me 🙂
Not losing/erasing data on “Reformatting” is a new one for me. Hmmm…. How does one erase data on a computer you want to trade in or just pitch? Will boiling it like a crab do it? A hammer attack doesn’t necessarily erase data, right? A strong magnet would scramble it, but you’d have to know where to touch what component.
I love your weekly ruminations. They make me look at things more carefully.

Scott Johnson
April 27th, 2020

To destroy the date, you can use software to actually overwrite the data on the drive. Or you could pull the hard drive and drill a few holes in it.

Jerry Lane
May 6th, 2020

I am not clear re #1. I feel an explanation might be in order rather than just saying it’s not true. How is power off and then back on not even better than restart? Doesn’t power off get you to an initialized hardware state which a restart does not do?

Scott Johnson
May 7th, 2020

You would have to ask Microsoft why they designed it that way. To verify though, check your uptime counter (Task Manager – Performance tab) after a cold boot, then again after a restart. It only gets reset after a restart.