The Straight Story On Screen Savers


Q. I remember reading somewhere that screen savers are unnecessary. But my tech support person insists I’m wrong, citing as proof the fact that screen savers are so popular. Who’s right?

A. Well, you’re both right—although his argument that screen savers’ popularity proves his claim is specious, at best. Screen savers, as you know, kick in after a few pre-set minutes. The original purpose of the ever-changing screen saver image was to prevent a static image from burning itself into the screen’s phosphors. However, today’s monitors are virtually immune to this danger.

While people may still think they must use them (and they are fun and decorative), they have evolved to be very useful for another purpose: to protect your data—not your screen. For example, if you leave a document on your screen and step away, anyone walking by can see it. If you set your screen saver to engage (and disengage) with a set of password keystrokes, you can have both privacy and security with an entertaining screen image.

Beware of “free” screen savers. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there are no (or very few) free screen savers. Most have some sort of advertising built in.

To set up a third-party screen saver (that is, other than those provided as a Windows default), click on Start, Control Panel, Display and click on the Screen Saver tab. You can select the interval before the screen saver kicks in and, if you wish, add a password.

If want to add a third-party screen saver, just use the application’s built-in setup program; it’ll install the file in the proper Windows folder.

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