The 10 Most Infuriating Tech Problems

At a breaking point with your electronics frustrations? Instead of cornering your niece at the Thanksgiving table, tackle them yourself (yep!) with this virtual help.

1

You updated the software on your smartphone, and now it sometimes freezes.

broken-smartphone
Photo by James Wojcik

“Typically this happens when too many apps are running, using up the phone’s memory,” says technology pro Jason R. Rich. “Because apps don’t close automatically, you could have 30 running by the end of the week.” To clear them on an iPhone, double-click the Home button, then swipe each app upward. Android instructions vary by brand and model but typically entail pressing the Recent Apps button and swiping left or right. “Some people need to do this every few days and others once a month or so to keep the phone running smoothly,” says Rich.

2

You can’t figure out how to uninstall the preloaded apps on your phone.

If you have an Android phone, go to Google Play and tap My Apps & Games in the left menu, then select the app you want to remove and click Uninstall. “On Apple devices, it used to be impossible to remove preloaded core apps, like Maps, Notes, and Contacts,” says Rich. But now, with the iOS 10 update, you can delete them the way you would any others: by holding your finger on any app icon until they all start to shake, then pressing the X on the unwanted one. Even nonremovable apps can at least be stored out of sight, in one designated folder on your home screen, says Rich. “To create the new folder, just drag one app on top of another, which automatically makes one,” he says. “You can then enter a name, like ‘Unused Apps.’” Move that folder (by dragging it with your finger to the right) to the very last home screen on your device, then press the Home button to save your changes.

3

Your laptop gets so hot, it leaves red splotches on your legs.

Most laptops have fans on the bottom that help circulate air through the machine to prevent them from getting too hot, says Patricia Harris, a Geek Squad agent and instructor in Chicago. “But if you hold a laptop directly on your skin, you may be covering the vents, which puts the brunt of the heat on you and could overheat your machine.” Instead, try using a cooling pad or a lap desk as a buffer. (Harris’s pick: Targus Dual Fan Chill Mat Cooling System, $30, bestbuy.com.)



4

You’ve cracked the glass on your phone.

“If you have an iPhone and insurance through AppleCare+ [from $99 for two years], you are covered for multiple repairs per year after meeting a $50 deductible,” says Rich. “If Apple can’t fix the glass, they will replace the phone.” Similar coverage is available for Android users, but specific terms depend on the protection plan you buy. Don’t have insurance? Then you’re on the hook for a replacement screen. “You’ll pay more than $100 for a new one, unless you buy a generic one from a mall kiosk, which typically costs $70 to $100,” says Rich.

5

You want your tablet to stop changing words you type!!!

There are several functions that autocorrect words, so if you want your device to stop second-guessing you (or do it less often), you need to disable some or all of them, says Rich. With an iPad, go to Settings, select the General menu, then choose the Keyboard option. There, depending on your preferred level of oversight, turn off features like Auto-Capitalization, Auto-Correction, Check Spelling, and Predictive. With an Android device, you can typically turn off autocorrect options by selecting Languages & Input, choosing your keyboard type under Virtual Keyboard, and disabling Auto-Correction.

6

A ton of pop-up ads appear whenever you turn on your computer.

It’s an obvious first step but worth mentioning: Check to make sure your pop-up blocker is on. (With most operating systems, the blocker is typically on by default. But it is possible to turn off a blocker inadvertently.) You can turn on the blocker for most browsers by heading to Settings or, in some cases, Advanced Settings or Content Settings. Choose Popups, then select the option to turn it off. If you’ve adjusted your settings and the messages are still appearing, it’s best to have your computer checked by a pro to rule out a virus, the accidental installation of adware (advertising-supported software), or another software issue.

In addition to installing a pop-up blocker, make sure you have antivirus software (for Macs and PCs), such as Kaspersky Anti-Virus (from $40, staples.com) or McAfee AntiVirus Plus (from $40, staples.com).



7

Your phone battery runs out unusually fast.

Batteries degrade over time, but you can conserve power with some basic behavior tweaks, says Rich. Lower the screen brightness to at least the halfway mark on the slider, unless you need it up high. (If you have an iPhone, go to Settings and choose Display & Brightness. If you have an Android device, you’ll typically find the Brightness option in Settings. But specific steps vary by model, so refer to the user manual.) Avoid using a charger from a different manufacturer—it can mess with the phone’s functionality and cause it to overheat. Other biggies: When you can, use Wi-Fi to access the Internet, and keep your phone from constantly checking e-mail, says Rich. (If you have an iPhone, launch Settings, select Mail, then choose Accounts; under Fetch New Data, deselect Push. If you have an Android device, instructions can vary, but try going to Settings, choosing Accounts, then selecting your e-mail account and turning off Auto Sync.)

8

You have dozens of updates on your computer that you’ve been ignoring.

If they relate to your computer’s operating system—a prompt for a Mac or iOS update, say—you should go ahead and update. “The updates often contain bug fixes, security adjustments, or features to help your machine perform better,” says Harris. One caveat: It’s important to confirm that the ones you’re allowing are authentic. “Don’t approve updates that pop up when you’re browsing on public networks,” she says. Skip any that you’re not familiar with. When in doubt, download the update right from the software vendor’s website instead of clicking on the prompt.

9

Sometimes your tablet’s sound works, and other times it doesn’t.

“Make sure that you haven’t accidentally turned on the mute button [on the side of the tablet] or turned the volume all the way down,” says Rich. If that’s not the issue, the spotty sound may be happening because it’s set to a Bluetooth speaker or headphones and you forgot to switch the sound back to the internal speaker, he says. (For an Android device, click on the Bluetooth option, select Gear, then click to “unpair” devices. For an iPad, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see if it’s connected to Bluetooth.) If none of these fixes work, you may need a technician to step in.



10

Your kids are iCloud-ed to your iPhone, so you get all their music.

If every family member is using the same iCloud account, your devices will sync to the same music library. The easiest way to separate songs is to set up Apple’s iCloud Family Sharing service (free), which allows up to six family members to share all iTunes Store purchases via their own Cloud accounts. You can browse content by family member and set sharing rules to keep some music or media private.

The Tech Pros:

Kay-Kay Clapp, director of communications and outreach for iFixit.com.

Patricia Harris, Geek Squad agent and Geek Squad Academy instructor.

Jason R. Rich, technology expert and author of iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks.

The Apple Communications Team.

The Google Communications Team.