Walt Mossberg

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Synchronizing Bookmarks in Firefox

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about synchronizing bookmarks in Firefox among multiple computers, balancing performance and price when buying a computer and permanently deleting files.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

I was wondering if there is software or a plug-in that would allow me to synchronize my bookmarks in Firefox among multiple computers. I’ve looked but couldn’t find anything.

You can add functionality to the Firefox Web browser by installing small add-ons called extensions. Some of these are designed to synchronize bookmarks among multiple Firefox-equipped computers, over the Internet. I haven’t tested any of them, so I can’t recommend any particular one. But here’s how to find one.

In Firefox, go to the Tools menu, select Extensions, and then click on the link at the bottom of the window that says “Get More Extensions.” This will take you to a Web page filled with extensions and other add-ons of every type. In the search box, type in the word “synchronize,” and you’ll see some choices. You can also browse the category at the left of the page called “Bookmarks.”

Will a high-end computer perform concurrent multiple office tasks (i.e., Word, Quicken, Internet search) faster and more efficiently than a budget computer?

Sure, because a high-end computer, costing more than $1,500, will have more memory, a faster processor and faster internal pathways through which data can flow. Budget models, costing under $500, have slower, smaller, more bare-bones versions of these components. However, there’s a middle path. If you don’t need the very fastest switching among windows or concurrent programs, a midrange, $600-$800 computer with at least 512 megabytes of memory should do the trick. It will handle concurrent programs and switch between them with a delay so slight as to be fine for most users.

How do I delete files on a computer so that they can’t be recovered by anyone else?

When a file is deleted on a computer, the actual contents of the file aren’t immediately wiped out or overwritten. They can still be recovered by an expert, or even a mainstream user with the right software. To completely delete a file, you need a utility that overwrites the space on your hard disk formerly occupied by the files with multiple layers of nonsense data.

On a Mac, this function is built as an optional deletion method. On a Windows PC, you need to obtain an add-on program that does this. The best one I’ve tried is Window Washer from Webroot, available for $30 at webroot.com. It has multiple functions, but the one you need is the “bleaching” function, which permanently erases files.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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