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How PDAs Work

Other Common PDA Questions
Wireless internet can be accessed through most PDAs.
Wireless internet can be accessed through most PDAs.
©2007 HowStuffWorks

If my PDA is stolen, which seems possible since they are so small, is there anything I can do to protect my personal data?

If you keep your PDA data synchronized with your desktop computer, you'll always have a back-up copy. So if you lose your PDA, you'll still have the data. You can also do several things to lock up your PDA's information. In most models, you can use password protection. There are security programs available, too, that can keep someone from getting to your data. And some applications provide encryption.

How does a PDA work with the Internet?

One thing that PDA makers have done to make their devices work better for Internet access is a process called Web Clipping. Instead of downloading whole Web pages, Web Clipping slices out bits of text information and sends it through the airwaves to your PDA. News headlines, phone numbers, e-mail and other information can be transmitted this way.

Can handheld computers get viruses?

Viruses have infected some PDA models. The Phage virus, for example, overwrites some of Palm's executable files. Several companies have devised anti-virus software for PDAs. If you download programs from the Internet, you can be vulnerable to viruses. You have to watch out for the same things that you would if you downloaded a file to your desktop computer. Be cautious about downloading a file or program that comes from a source you don't know. To find out more about computer viruses, read How Computer Viruses Work.

How quickly will a PDA run out of memory?

The data commonly stored on PDAs doesn't take up much memory -- it's mostly text without images, so you can store a lot before you run out of room. Some PDAs need more memory for their operating systems; and if you use your PDA for e-mail or accessing the Internet, you'll need more memory. If you worry about having enough, you could choose a model that has expandable memory.

If I buy a PDA today, how soon will it be outdated?

PDA development, like the rest of the computing world, moves very quickly. The models available today have more functions and can be less expensive than the models available a few years ago. Eventually, PDAs will merge with cell phones and use a cellular network to communicate via voice as well as text. It is also likely that PDAs will become faster and have more memory as computer technology advances. The key to buying a PDA that suits you is to consider what you will use it for, then buy the model that will fill that need. Think of the function rather than the form. For example, if your primary need is for an organizer to keep your appointments and contacts, you will be able to use any good PDA for years to come. If you are the kind of person who develops "computer envy," then you might look for an upgradeable model and watch for the latest software.

On the next page, you'll find out about PDA software programs that'll make your job simpler and easier.