In our haste to get new tech set up and going quickly, it’s easy to skip over settings that make a difference to our privacy. Don’t make that mistake. Here’s a list of seven settings tech companies would rather you leave alone.
There are ordinary things we do daily that take months, even years, off our tech’s lifespan. Tap or click for five ways you’re ruining your expensive phone, laptop, tablet and TV.
Some gadgets are security and safety risks too. Scan this list to make sure you and your family are safe.
1. Old phones sitting in a drawer can start a fire
YouTuber Arun Maini, who runs a popular channel called Mrwhosetheboss, has collected every Samsung flagship phone since 2010. He noticed a scary pattern. The phone’s batteries are swelling enough to crack the glass and split the cases.
It’s not just Samsung phones. Any gadget with a lithium-ion battery is susceptible to damage over time. A swollen battery is a serious issue that can lead to fires, injuries, and property damage.
Rummage through your drawers for your old phones, and look for any signs of battery swelling. If you see it, here’s what to do:
• Don’t try to charge a swollen phone. Charging a swollen battery can trigger a fire or explosion.
• If you have an older phone with an easily removable battery, carefully separate the battery from the case. If you have a newer phone, don’t attempt to remove the battery yourself.
• Put the swollen phone in a fireproof bag and contact the manufacturer. You may not be able to exchange an old model or get anything for it. However, at the very least, arrange for it to be recycled or disposed of properly.
When it comes to storing old phones, follow these rules of thumb:
• Turn off the phone and put it in a cool, moisture-free place.
• Charge the battery to 50% if you plan on storing it for a long time. Check the battery every six months or so and charge it halfway.
Maintenance can go a long way in getting more years out of your current phone. Tap or click for my simple guide to properly clean your iPhone or Android inside and out.
2. Outdated routers let hackers in
Your router has a big job: Connecting all your devices to the internet. If you’re using a years-old model, it might not be doing that task safely.
The latest security standard is WPA-3, released back in 2018. If your router is not WPA3 compatible, WPA2-PSK AES is the next most secure option. It’s a sign you need to get a new router.
When it comes to buying a new router, there are three essential factors. Consider your home’s square footage and layout, the number of internet-connected devices you have, and your internet speed. But with so many options, it can be tricky to choose the right router.
Time and Money Saver: Whether you need to cover an apartment or a mansion using a mesh system, we have your back. Answer a few questions, and we’ll pick the best router for you. Take the 60-second quiz here for our handpicked recommendations.
3. There are no more updates
Where there’s an internet connection, there’s potential for hackers to wreak havoc. Security updates keep you safe from cybercriminals’ latest tricks, which is why it’s vital to keep your smartphone, computer and all the rest up to date.
What happens when your gear no longer receives updates? It’s time to upgrade. This is obvious with your phone and computer, but the same holds true for smart speakers, security cams, and anything else using your home network.
Here are a few more ways to keep yourself protected:
• Regularly check your network to see which devices are online and connected. If you see something you don’t recognize, take action. Tap or click here to see how to check all the devices on your Wi-Fi network.
• Consider setting up a separate Wi-Fi network for your devices.
• Always use strong, complex passwords that aren’t easily guessed. Tap or click here to create stronger passwords.
4. It’s on a recall list
It’s not just old devices you need to worry about. Some products make it into our homes with issues that can cause fires, injury and worse.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regularly warns about dangerous products and gives you steps to take if you have a recalled item in your home.
It’s worth scanning their list periodically to see if you own anything endangering your family. Sometimes, you can get a replacement or refund for the recalled product. You’ll find instructions on how to contact the manufacturer there too.
We also write about major tech product recalls on Komando.com. Get our warnings straight to your inbox by signing up for my free Fraud & Security Alerts newsletter. You’ll be glad you did!
5. Old power strips showing wear and tear
Outlet extenders and extension cords pull a lot of duty around our homes. Sometimes a power strip will short and shut off your devices. When this happens, even for a few seconds, inspect the power strip for signs of damage. Look for signs of singe around the outlets. These will appear as rust-colored marks that you might be able to wipe off with your fingers.
Even without obvious signs of damage, old power strips can be dangerous to use. If you have no idea the last time you replaced yours, add it to your shopping list.
There are many things you should never plug into an extender. Tap or click here for 10 dangerous mistakes you might be making.
Try my new daily podcast for more tech smarts
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.
If you can solve this riddle, you belong in the FBI. Well, maybe. Plus, holiday smart speaker tricks, Amazon now allows you to pay with Venmo and Chrome is going away with Windows and browser extensions that take over your searches.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.