Practical Help Library

  • News of the Week

    News of the Week

    Here’s the latest consumer tech news for this week & info we think you should know (updated continuously). Senior Moment: Intel issues patch, then says don’t install it A better one is coming ‘soon’. Intel issued a patch last week for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, but it’s causing some computers to act restart on their own and act wonky. So Intel is now telling us to wait and the will issue a better patch soon. My take on this is […]

  • Windows 10 using DISM

    Windows 10 using DISM

    Windows 10 using DISM: a reader asks… I have a Windows 10 computer that’s running a little wonky these days. I have your recommended security protection, keep up-to-date on Windows Updates and such, so I’m not sure what’s going on. I read online about using a program called “DISM”, can you tell me what that is and how to use it? Per Microsoft, DISM stands for Deployment Image Servicing and Management and is an old-style DOS command-line tool that is used […]

  • Lost my Shortcut Arrow

    Lost my Shortcut Arrow

    Lost my Shortcut Arrow: a reader asks… I’ve been using Windows 10 for awhile now and just noticed that icons on my desktop no longer show the little arrow that indicates they are shortcuts. I don’t know what happened, but is there a way I can get that indicator back? Microsoft windows uses icons – small pictures that represent files or programs. Sometimes the actual file is located in one place on your hard drive and a shortcut is shown […]

  • Auto-renew Unasked

    Auto-renew Unasked

    Auto-renew Unasked: a reader asks… I’m perplexed, my subscription to Bitdefender Total Security renewed automatically, but I didn’t click any buttons or make any changes. Not sure how that happened but, oh well. I read your latest recommendation on Windows 10 security (at but my subscription to Bitdefender is currently active. Should I switch or wait till the subscription ends? The answer to your question (switch now or later) isn’t for me to say. If you’re a frugal sort, then […]

  • Word 2016 Mail Merge – Categories

    Word 2016 Mail Merge – Categories

    Word 2016 Mail Merge – Categories: a reader asks… I use Office 365 and have Outlook and Word 2016 installed. I have all my contacts organized by category. What I’d like to do is a mail merge in Word using just one category of contacts (I’m making a holiday letter). Using the Mail Merge function in Word doesn’t show me a way to filter contacts by category. So how do I do this? Unfortunately, filtering by categories wasn’t included in […]

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    iPhone X Shortcut

    iPhone X Shortcut: a reader asks… I got a new iPhone X a few weeks ago. I transferred over everything from my old iPhone to the new one, and have figured out how to use FaceID. I’m slowly getting used to all the new ways of doing things. One thing has me mystified though: how do I quickly switch between apps? The iPhone X has lots of new gestures that may take a little practice for you to get familiar […]

  • Outlook Contacts

    Outlook Contacts

    Outlook Contacts: a reader asks… I use Outlook (part of Office 365) for my email, calendar and address book. I see that some contacts have an image of the person and some don’t, but I don’t remember how I got those pictures added to Outlook. Can you tell me how to do this? The first thing you should do is collect good pictures as many of your contacts as you can. I suggest you store all those pictures in a […]

  • LastPass Quirks

    LastPass Quirks

    LastPass Quirks: a reader asks… I’m ready to take your advice on using a password manager. Is there anything I need to know about LastPass before I pull the trigger? The LastPass website has a number of tutorials that you should spend the time to watch. Watch the basic tutorial at at You may also want to watch at least some of the screencasts at And the main manual is at If you’re new to password managers, you need to […]

  • Webcam Security

    Webcam Security

    Webcam Security: a reader asks… I am looking at adding a wireless webcam or two to help monitor my home when I’m away. I’m worried about security, but also about the security of the webcams I get. I hear they’re not very secure. Do you have any recommendations? I’ve been looking at the Insteon cameras (and their other home automation gear). Unfortunately, most webcams (also called IP Cameras) on the market come from China, and are horribly insecure. In order […]

  • Your Passwords

    Your Passwords

    Your Passwords: a reader asks… So what’s your current guidance on passwords? It’s a simple 3-prong strategy. First, make your passwords long (the more characters the better, even more than 20). Second, make them unique (don’t use the same password in multiple places), third, use a password manager (software program to help you manage your passwords). The only thing left to account for is any password requirements that specific online destinations have. Some websites require old-fashioned password complexity – meaning […]

  • Where did Airdrop Go?

    Where did Airdrop Go?

    Where did Airdrop Go? a reader asks… I updated my iPhone 6s to iOS 11 and everything is working great. Except for one thing. I can’t find Airdrop anymore! Did Apple discontinue that feature? No, they just did a nice job of hiding the control for Airdrop. When you have the Airdrop menu open, you can choose to either have Airdrop off, open for only your contacts, or open for anyone in range of your iPhone’s Bluetooth connection. Those choices […]

  • Windows 10 Protection

    Windows 10 Protection

    Windows 10 Protection: a reader asks… Ok, one more time, what protection should I use for my Windows 10 computer? Short answer: the built-in Windows Defender supplemented by a subscription to Malwarebytes Premium. Sure, Norton, Bitdefender, ESET, McAfee and others will attempt to convince you that you need their protection, but the truth is that for many/most consumers, Windows Defender does an adequate job. To add another strong layer of protection I recommend you add on a premium subscription to […]

  • Fake Email

    Fake Email

    Fake Email: a reader asks… I received an email in my Outlook inbox that I’m not sure what to do with. I’ve attached a screenshot of it and forwarded you a copy of the email. Any advice? First things first, do not open the file attachment! Unless you are already doing business with JMA Architects (supposedly the sender of the email based on the From address) and expecting them to send you something, this is 100% a scam. Your best […]

  • Browser Search Change

    Browser Search Change

    Browser Search Change: a reader asks… For some reason, as of yesterday, when I’m in Safari (on my Macbook), searches are now going through Might you know how I can stop that.  Annoying! You might have been victim of a drive-by search engine change. What happens is you visit a website and it (sometimes if you click on something) changes your default search engine. These can also add extensions or toolbars to your browser. For Safari, it’s easy to […]

  • Streaming Movies

    Streaming Movies

    Streaming Movies: a reader asks… Yesterday a friend told me I needed to get a Firestick…that it would connect me to the internet and allow me to watch first run movies currently in the theaters. I read about Firestick  but I didn’t see anything that says I can watch movies currently running in theaters.  Do you know if that’s true?  The TV I’d connect it to doesn’t have embedded Wi-Fi and I’m not ready to replace it yet. I do have FIOS triple-play with […]

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    Your Processor Leaks

    Your Processor Leaks: a reader asks… I just read about the security bug in Intel processors. Can you give me a quick rundown on what’s going on and what I should do about it? The start of 2018 brought us a new computer security worry. Google’s Project Zero team (and teams at Graz University and Cyberus Technology) discovered a huge security vulnerability with virtually all Intel (and probably AMD and ARM) processors. The vulnerabilities are called “Meltdown” and “Spectre” (there […]

  • Why not Windows XP?

    Why not Windows XP?

    Why not Windows XP? A reader asks… I have a Windows XP computer that’s still working, and I’m not convinced that I need to upgrade to a new computer. All I do is email and surf the internet. No online shopping, banking or social networking, and I don’t have anything on my computer that I consider personal. My computer is slow and a bit cumbersome, but I don’t see why I can’t just keep using it until it no longer […]

  • New Year Purge

    New Year Purge

    New Year Purge: a reader asks… One of my New Year’s resolutions is to clean up my digital life, as you call it. I have a bunch of old cell phones, computers and other stuff that has collected in the basement. None of it is worth anything, so how do I get rid of it? Also, I’d like to go through my files and emails and purge old stuff. Is there an easy way to do that? Your best bet […]

  • I got Airpods!

    I got Airpods!

    I got Airpods! A reader asks… My Christmas stocking had a set of Airpods in them, I’m ecstatic! I have an iPhone 7 and am ready to start using them. Do you have a quick instruction for how to set them up on my iPhone? It couldn’t be simpler! Open the box and unwrap your Airpods. Likely they already have a decent battery charge, but if you want to make sure, plug them into your lightning cable/charger for an hour […]

  • A Christmas Netflix

    A Christmas Netflix

    A Christmas Netflix: a reader asks… I got a gift membership to Netflix for Christmas, yay! It came in an email, so now what do I do?  I have a Firestick connected to my TV, and an iPhone and I’d like to use it on either. So the first thing is to open that email and follow the instructions. That will have you create a user account on with a username (likely your email address) and a password (you […]

  • My Laptop Present

    My Laptop Present

    My Laptop Present: a reader asks… This Christmas my daughter got me a new Microsoft Surface Pro laptop. She was nice enough to ‘set it up for me’, but I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m in my 80’s and don’t do much besides email, facebook (pics of my grandkids!) and occasional surfing the internet. This new laptop has Microsoft Office 2016 on it, and she loaded Adobe Reader and a protection program you recommended (Malwarebytes Premium). Can […]

  • New Roku with Old Gear

    New Roku with Old Gear

    New Roku with Old Gear: a reader asks… I would like to have the ability to use a Roku Express + on my old TV which is hooked up to a home theater system & DirecTV. My TV is a Samsung: Model LTN1735 S which does not have HDMI only RCA video in, S Video, & RCA component (480i). My home theatre system is a Sony DAV-HDX265 which does have HDMI And the DirecTV box is model HR24-100 this also […]

  • Ho, Ho Ho-hum iPhone Slowdown

    Ho, Ho Ho-hum iPhone Slowdown

    Ho, Ho Ho-hum iPhone Slowdown: a reader asks… I heard on the news that apple is intentionally slowing down older iPhones.  Needless to say this seems to be like planning for obsolescence. Argh.  I’d like to learn if apple now being discovered might stop this practice, and which phone models are affected. I notice with the 11.0 upgrade and since my iPhone 6plus has been slower opening any app, and even voice activation like Siri and texting. The story you’re […]

  • Last Minute Gift

    Last Minute Gift

    Last Minute Gift: a reader asks… I always put off my Christmas shopping till the last minute. Now I’m late and need to find something for my significant other. She’s into tech but already has all the toys. Any suggestions? Hmm, not much info on her to go on, but let me try. Here are just a few suggestions in no particular order, probably things she wouldn’t buy for herself but might secretly pine for. Amazon Echo Spot ($130). This […]

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