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A tech cheat sheet that will put the IT guy out of work

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

10 technology basics everyone needs to know in a digital world

In today's increasingly technologically savvy world, those who don't know the basics are being left behind. If you're a self-professed tech dummy, just learn these 10 things to get on the right track.

1. How to set up your computer

Setting up Macs is pretty simple, but less tech-savvy PC users get intimidated by this process because of all the strange-looking connectors, but it's easy. If you're totally lost, have someone show you one time, and as they do, mark the cords so you can set it back up easily if you have to move it.

2. How to download and install software and drivers

Drivers are just software that let other devices talk to your computer, so don't be intimidated. Regardless of the type of software, the instructions may vary by operating system and the program you're installing, but if you read and follow the instructions carefully before beginning, you'll be fine.

3. How to set up email

Setting up your own email is easy. While the exact steps you should take vary slightly depending on your program, in general, you'll need certain information from your email address provider.

  • Email address
  • Password
  • Outgoing (SMTP) port code
  • Incoming (POP3 or IMAP) port code

To get instructions for setting it up in your specific software (called an email client), you can use the software's help section or search for it online.

More: 8 Wi-Fi tips you should be using but probably aren't

4. How to set up and connect to the internet

Setting up wired and wireless routers is essential. Follow the directions that come with your router to the letter, and if you have any problems, most companies offer complimentary phone support for the first 30 to 90 days after your purchase. Make sure you change the name of the device and the password. Also make sure you know how to troubleshoot it in case there are issues.

To log onto wireless internet when you're not at home, you'll need the name of the device and the password (if one is required).

5. How to sync your smartphone or tablet to your computer

Regardless of what kind of smartphone or tablet you have, you can sync it to your computer to back up your data, add or change your music and movies, move files like photos over to your computer for backup and on some platforms, update your software.

6. How to protect your computer (and your friends' computers) from malware and viruses

It's imperative that everyone who uses a computer have antivirus software. For a PC, the type and robustness of antivirus software you need depends on the level of risky behavior (e.g., watching porn) you engage in.

Even though Apple's built-in protections make getting viruses virtually impossible, you can become a Typhoid Mary for PC users. We recommend installing ClamXav — that's what Apple Mail uses, so clearly they're confident in it.

7. How to send files (properly)

Learn to put all your files into a single folder and zip or compress it so you don't jam up people's email or make accessing multiple files a pain. For files too large for email, you should use CloudApp, Box or Dropbox.

More: 9 Apps that help you spy on people and cover your tracks

8. How to back up your computer

An external hard drive is a common way to back up your computer (and store files you can't fit on there anymore). Just make sure if you decide to use it for both, you partition your hard drive. How big a drive you need depends on what you do, but it should be at least a bit bigger than your computer's hard drive.

I like online backup services like Mozy or Carbonite (or one of the file-sharing services above) because you can easily by more storage in a snap, and your data is protected in case of fire, flood or theft.

9. How to find your lost devices

It's easy to lose track of portable devices when you're busy. There are lots of apps on the market, but the most common ones are Find My iPhone and Find My Android Phone. You can also find software and solutions like Prey that will track your computer.

More: 10 Things to know about the new Google Photos app

10. How to secure devices

Your computer's password should be just as difficult to guess (and hack) as your bank password. Also keep your other devices' passwords or passcodes protected. Note that due to a court ruling, it's possible the police can compel you to open your phone with thumbprint access but not an actual code. Not only will using passwords and codes protect your privacy and security, they'll let you control when your kiddos use your devices.

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