Skip to main content

Have you ever heard the computer building myth that asserts you should use an anti-static wrist strap when assembling a PC? Sounds true right? After all, static electricity does damage electronics. Except that those wrist straps don’t really make a difference (see below for the explanation). That’s just one of many computer myths and misconceptions that stem from a nugget of truth being stretched. Here are more.

Myth: You Can Mix and Match Memory Kits with No Problem

Say you have a computer with 8 GB of memory and you want to upgrade to 16 GB, so you get another 2 × 4 (8 GB) kit from another manufacturer because it was on sale. Will it work? Probably, but it won’t be optimal. When you buy a memory kit, you’re also buying the guarantee that the manufacturer has matched and tested the sticks of RAM to work together.

Here’s why you don’t want to use unmatched memory:

  • The memory will be stuck in single-channel mode instead of dual channel.
  • The fastest memory module will be slowed down to operate at the speed of the slowest memory module.
  • There’s still a chance that not all modules will work.

Buying two sticks of RAM will mean they are matched and worked together in dual-channel mode. And you want dual channel mode because it provides much better performance than single-channel.* Buying two separate kits of the same make and model memory may not guarantee that they’ll run in dual-channel mode either.

They could be made from different components and have slight—but enough—differences to cause your system to run them in single-channel mode. For optimal performance, always try to use a single memory kit in the capacities you want. If you want to upgrade, replace the entire kit with a new one.

*It seems that the advantages of running memory in a dual-channel configuration have been greatly exaggerated, according to benchmarks done by GamersNexus. While there are advantages for simulation and production work, the vast a majority of users won’t see many benefits.

Myth: A CPU with More Cores is Better

In the vein of “more is better,” many users always want the fastest performance out of a computer, so they choose the processor with the highest number of cores. Having more cores can be beneficial, but only if the program supports them. Besides, hyper-threading gives you the benefits of more cores, without actually having more cores.

Hyper-threading can virtualize multiple cores, so Windows sees a quad-core processor instead of that dual-core unit you actually have. And anyway, not all programs can reap the rewards of multiple cores. Generally, most processes are handled by the first core, with the others only coming into play when needed. For day-to-day gaming and computing, you’ll get more benefit from faster clock speeds rather than additional cores. If you are using a server for virtualization, well, that’s a different story.

Myth: QWERTY Was Created to Slow Typists Down

Alternative keyboard makers often tout their designs as being superior to the standard QWERTY layout because the latter was designed in the second half of the 19th century. According to the myth, QWERTY was designed to slow down typists because the alphabetical layout allowed people to type too quickly, which would cause keys to jam. So to prevent keys from being jammed, Christopher Sholes a filed a patent for the QWERTY typewriter layout.

According to a study done by Japanese researchers at Kyoto University, it is complete bunk. According to the researchers, QWERTY was part of an ongoing evolution of different keyboard layouts that began with a 28-key alphabetical layout. The original operators of typewriters were telegraph operators that found the 28-key layout to be too inefficient.

Myth: You Need Anti-static Wrist Straps to Assemble a Computer

Anti-static straps supposedly protect your sensitive electronic equipment from damage caused by electrostatic discharge (ESD). Makes sense if you don’t want your expensive equipment bricked by an errant discharge. However, most technicians rarely ever encounter issues with ESD when assembling or disassembling computers.

Unless you’ve been rolling around on a carpet, you likely aren’t carrying around enough static charge to pay it any mind. If you want to be overly cautious however, make it a standard practice to ground yourself before working on a computer. To ground yourself, just touch a part of the metal chassis while the power supply is plugged in before touching any component.

Myth: Mac and Linux Computers Don’t Get Viruses

Ill-informed Mac and Linux users sometimes state that they prefer those platforms because they won’t get viruses and other malware. Unfortunately for them, black hat software developers haven’t gotten that particular memo.

Just a few short years ago, a malware known as KitM.A took screenshots of a user’s desktop and uploaded them to a domain. More recently, the Thunderstrike 2 rootkit was a firmware virus that was spread via Thunderbolt accessories. Think twice before assuming Mac and Linux systems can’t get infected by malware.

Final Words

Now that you know these computer“facts” are in fact myths, stop spreading them around. Misinformation does no one any good and in some cases cause people to spend more than they need. Like buying a MacBook Pro over a Ultrabook because of “security” concerns. What other computer myths do you think should be stopped? Let us know in the comments.

Photo by underclassrising.net, taken from Flickr Creative Commons
Wallace Chu

Author Wallace Chu

A self-professed tech hipster that loves computers and music. Uses an iPhone ironically.

More posts by Wallace Chu

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Avatar mochabean says:

    “Myth: Mac and Linux Computers Don’t Get Viruses”

    Yes, it’s technically possible, but compared to Windows, Linux has exponentially less malware developed for it, and exponentially fewer chances to be infected with any.

    On Windows, software is generally installed by downloading an executable installation wizard. Almost all Linux distros distribute software via curated repositories, which is a much, much more secure method.

    • Adam Lovinus Adam Lovinus says:

      Yes. What you said is accurate, but Linux distributions are not malware free. Besides the examples mentioned in the article, users can still be subject to phishing attacks and sites.

      • Avatar mochabean says:

        “Linux distributions are not malware.”

        Of course they aren’t; that’s not what I said at all. I was describing how those distros distributed software.

        “Besides the examples mentioned in the article”

        Both of which only affect OS X, not Linux, as far as I can tell.

        “users can still be subject to phishing attacks and sites.”

        Phishing is social engineering, not malware. It’s prevented with brain cells, not with software.

  • Avatar Matt says:

    The number of malware/viruses that are written for Windows versus other OS’s is in direct correlation to the ratio of Windows computers in use worldwide to the number of other OS’s in use. Windows gets the lion’s share of the black hat community’s attention because 92% of all computers in the world run some version of Windows. Apple owns 6%, and all other OS’s make up 2%. It’s just easier to hit a bigger target.

  • @mochabean is right…the vast numerical difference in possible attacks makes security a VERY reasonable factor in choosing Mac/linux over windows.

  • Avatar Csullivan says:

    ESD damage doesn’t show up immediately, and you definitely don’t need to roll around on the carpet and then immediately grab a computer component for it to occur. You would never even feel the tiny amount of ESD needed to cause damage. That’s why a lot of otherwise intelligent, rational people, including experienced technicians continue to spread the myth that anti static precautions aren’t necessary. Personally, I choose to believe science and not anecdotal evidence. Besides, it’s not that much of an inconvenience to just wear a wrist strap, and they’re cheap. Unfortunately, part of the narrative is that only amateurs need to use ESD precautions, so if you use them, you must not know what you’re doing.

What's your take?