Is your computer slow? Browser add-ons may be to blame

Is your computer slow? Browser add-ons may be to blame

When you are ready to include some new browser add-ons, take the time to plan ahead to avoid some simple but potential hassles. Think of Browsers as interface programs between you and the Internet.

Some examples of common browsers are: Internet Explorer, (the Big Blue IE), which comes included with Windows, and is the most common; Safari, which comes with Mac; Mozilla’s Firefox, and Google’s Chrome. Most computer people use Firefox. Computer geeks have a joke that IE is only good for one thing: downloading other browsers.

Browsers are like forks

It’s best to think of browsers as forks. They both come in different styles. Some forks work better with some foods than other forks, and some food websites work better than others. Mostly which you choose to use is simply a personal preference.

However, if you are reading this and you only have Internet Explorer (IE) on your computer, you should absolutely download two more today. If IE crashes, you won’t be able to download any more browsers. Now do you get the joke? IE is the browser that is primarily impacted by add-ons. We sometimes see IE as completely inoperable and unable to be fixed without a reload.

What is an add-on?

Add-ons are the tool bars, search bars and personalization you put on your browsers. Favorites are the most common form of personalization (add-on) for a browser. All browsers have bookmarks/favorites and more. Most users have a ton of other stuff added that they don’t need such as multiple search bars.

Add-ons started out as things to help you (favorites, magnification, home page, etc.,) and have morphed into damaging programs that redirect your search activities, report back your key strokes, slow down your computer and sometimes crash it completely.

Think before you download

Many people over the years have told me, “I’ve had a computer for years and never had a problem like this. I don’t go to any of those kinds of sites.” I hear this all the time. No, these users are not going to those kinds of sites. They could be looking at something as innocent as recipes and coupons, and get bombarded with a virus.

Some coupon sites ask you to download a coupon printing program – that becomes the add-on. It slips past your anti-virus program because it is not really a virus. It doesn’t run in the operating system and piggy backs on your browser as a helpful little program you just approved. The next thing you know, your computer is running slow, and you are being redirected to some other site.

Recipe sites suggest you download a program to print the recipe: a bad idea. Your computer has the ability to print. It always did. Why add a program to do that? Every other website can do that without a program. Just saying!

Use big name websites

Personally, I use recipes.com and I have no issues with it. I generally suggest sticking with big name websites that get paid for ads, and don’t need to be underhanded. Not just for recipes and coupons, but for news, medical information, movies etc. Don’t randomly click links to unknown sites. Stay on the beaten track. Don’t wander down alleys. Bad things can happen to your browser and your bank account!

Who is initiating?

Want to know if something is a scam? Ask yourself this question: Who initiated this transaction/communication? If the answer is you, then proceed. If it the answer is not you, then you stop.

When your computer suggests you do something without you requesting it, it’s never good. Let’s say you call your bank and ask for a statement copy sent to your email. You get an email with a statement copy. You initiated this request and it’s probably fine to open the email. However, if you get an email from your bank suggesting you click a link for the bank statement you didn’t request, don’t do it.

Using the same logic here, if a website suggests you need to update your Java or Adobe Flash, don’t.  It might be true, but the best way to manage that is to go to Adobe.com and update it there. If you update from a website, you don’t know what you are getting.

Updates are necessary

We still occasionally  run into someone who believes updates will break your computer. The opposite is actually true. All programs depend on communication at the same level. When one program does not update, it has trouble interfacing with complimentary programs.

Additionally, most updates are security related, and help protect you from everything we just talked about. So visit your Microsoft site and all the other sites directly for your updates. Doing them yourself will protect you and keep you from being tricked by websites that lie to you.

About this Experts Contributor: Susan Kadar is the owner of Your Computer Friends an Angie’s List Super Service Award winner for three years running.  Your Computer Friends has been providing Computer Repair services in Wilmington, NC since 2006. Connect with Your Computer Friends at their company website.

As of July 25, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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