Practical Help Library

  • Desktop Icons Gone

    Desktop Icons Gone

    Desktop Icons Gone: a reader asks… I’ve got a Windows 10 PC, and for some reason, all my desktop icons have disappeared. I usually keep some documents I’m working on sitting on the desktop. Have I lost all those files? Most likely, you haven’t lost the files. There’s a couple of possible solutions. First, you should check that you haven’t inadvertently hidden those desktop icons. Right-click anywhere on the desktop, which brings up a menu. Hover your mouse over the […]

  • HDCP Woes

    HDCP Woes

    HDCP Woes: a reader asks… I have an older LG HD TV and up until now used a Wii as a streaming device using the designated white, yellow and red cables. I found out that some streaming services will no longer be supporting the Wii connection. I am searching for the best device to use in place of the Wii and I am thinking Amazon Fire Stick is one of the best choices. I have already tried a Roku Premiere […]

  • iOS Update

    iOS Update

    iOS Update: a reader asks… I have an iPhone Xs and just saw the latest update pop up. Should I install this update or wait? In this case, you should install the update as soon as practical. iOS 12.1.4 fixes a vulnerability that made the news over the last 10 days or so. A youth figured out there was a serous problem with the Group Facetime feature Apple had recently released. He was able to demonstrate that he could start […]

  • SATA Port Mystery

    SATA Port Mystery

    SATA Port Mystery: a reader asks… I have a Dell Optiplex 7010 with a 500gb SSD and a CD/DVD drive that are using the SATA 0 and SATA 1 ports. I bought a 1tb SSD to add as a secondary drive, and plugged it into the SATA 2 port (my motherboard has three SATA ports). No joy, BIOS sees the drive but Windows 10 doesn’t. I’ve looked all over the internet to find an answer but everybody says the SATA […]

  • Mac Outlook Slow

    Mac Outlook Slow

    Mac Outlook Slow: a reader asks… I have Office 365 running on my Macbook Pro, and Outlook is running very slowly. Also, anytime Outlook is running I get a hooting sound every few seconds. Is there an Office repair feature like there is on Windows? After a few back and forths, it turns out the reader had an email stuck in their Outbox, and that email had somehow been corrupted or mis-addressed. Outlook kept trying to send the email out, […]

  • Gmail Hides My Mail

    Gmail Hides My Mail

    Gmail Hides my Mail – a reader asks… I recently switched to using Gmail for email, and am having trouble finding my mail. People send me email and I don’t see it in my inbox. What gives? The problem you’re most likely experiencing is Google’s attempt to help you organize your email. Google designed the webmail interface to try to keep your inbox clear. So instead of just one inbox where all your incoming mail flows, there are several other […]

  • Quick Text

    Quick Text

    Quick Text: a reader asks… I have an iPhone 7 and I’m often texting the same phrases. Is there a way to streamline this and make it easier to send phrases or sentences I use a lot? Yes, there is and it’s called Text Replacment. You can find that in your iPhone Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Basically what you do is setup a few characters as a ‘shortcut’ that, when you type them, you are offered […]

  • Android Storage

    Android Storage

    Android Storage: a reader asks… Is there a way to mount my SD card as internal storage on a Samsung Galaxy S7 from AT&T running Android 8.0 without rooting my device? Your Samsung Galaxy S7 has a microSD card (aka flash memory) slot built into the device. It was designed for use as portable/external storage and not to replace the speedy internal storage memory of your device, which holds the Android operating system. The primary sticking point (imo) is that […]

  • Backup Mac

    Backup Mac

    Backup Mac: a reader asks… I have a 2017 Macbook Pro with a 512gb hard drive (about half full), running macOS Mojave. My question is, what’s the easiest way to backup my Mac that requires the least amount of work on my part? For almost its entire history, the Mac operating system has had a built-in app called Time Machine which can automatically backup your Mac. The only requirement is to have either a network-attached storage device (like Apple’s discontinued […]

  • Noise-Cancelling


    Noise-Cancelling: a reader asks… I am looking for musician style earplugs so I can listen to music keeping the fidelity while making it quieter. Any recommendations? I’ve looked at several expensive options such as from Bose – do you think they’re worth it? Over the years I’ve tried out a number of hearing protection devices, from simple foam earplugs to yes, those fancy powered Bose noise-cancelling earbuds. The driver for this research has been hearing sensitivity and protection. Hearing loss […]

  • New Year’s Resolutions

    New Year’s Resolutions

    New Year’s Resolutions: a reader asks… I want to start off 2019 right, what things should I do to keep hackers and scammers at bay? I think one of the most important things to do at this point is to have good online security. With modern operating systems, your computers are generally much more secure than before, so less likely to be compromised. The concern these days is keeping your online accounts secure. This includes your email account, your social […]

  • Refurbished Mac

    Refurbished Mac

    Refurbished Mac: a reader asks… I saw a refurbished Mac Pro 15” on Nextdoor that someone is selling for $400. It has 750 GB. The OS is Mac high Sierra 10.13. (15-Inch, Mid 2010) Refurbished Feb 2017 New 750GB SATA 2.5″ internal hard drive from Western Digital w/2 year manufacturer warranty New 8GB RAM Module Fully Tested – New OS High Sierra Installed. 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 Mint condition with all work receipts and original packaging. Is it safe […]

  • Win10 Version 1809

    Win10 Version 1809

    Win10 Version 1809: a reader asks… I heard that Microsoft had pulled the latest Fall Update to Windows 10 due to lots of problems. But my computer is now telling me that version 1809 is ready to install. Should I do this now? According to, the Fall Update has been fully released and can be safely installed on your system. But just because Microsoft says you can, should you? I think it would be just fine for you to wait […]

  • Mesh Wi-Fi

    Mesh Wi-Fi

    Mesh Wi-Fi: a reader asks… I have a fairly large home and have been using a Linksys router with Wi-Fi. There are several dead spots in my home, and I want to get full wireless coverage, but I don’t want to have to run Ethernet cabling to setup Access Points. I’ve been reading about Mesh networking, and wonder if it’s time to consider this. Thoughts? Mesh networking for consumers has gotten a lot better lately, and it’s certainly time to […]

  • HDCP Explained

    HDCP Explained

    HDCP Explained: a reader asks… I have a home theater system and wanted to add an Amazon Firestick to it. I have an available HDMI port on my receiver, and my other video sources work ok (cable box, DVD player). But I can’t get the Firestick to work reliably – I can usually see the video on my TV screen, but can’t hear the audio through my surround sound speakers. I read some of your other articles and am thinking […]

  • Gmail Signature

    Gmail Signature

    Gmail Signature: a reader asks… I’m new to Gmail. I’m having trouble figuring out how the interface works. Can you give me a few pointers? Specifically, 1) how to I add or change a signature that goes on each outgoing email? 2) how do I get all the messages to show in the order they’re sent (not nested together)? Gmail has a very powerful interface, although with that power comes some complication. Everything is controlled from the various Settings inside […]

  • Install Windows 10

    Install Windows 10

    Install Windows 10: a reader asks… I’m about to build my next computer, and will need to install Windows 10 on it. Can you tell me the best way to go about this? I previously wrote about this in my article Win10 Recovery USB. The same process for creating a recovery USB thumbdrive is used to create a Windows install thumbdrive (it’s really the same thing). Basically, you’re going to get a thumbdrive, download an app, then run the app to […]

  • Airdrop Caution

    Airdrop Caution

    Airdrop Caution: a reader tells a true story… I was at a high school recently where some kid used the iPhone’s AirDrop to send everyone at the school a picture of a swastika. Yes, the kid got in trouble, but it became a really serious issue mostly because everybody with an iPhone had AirDrop turned on to allow anyone nearby to send pictures. You should warn folks about this! Yes, there are risks of exposure to unwanted images by having […]

  • Flat Design Complaints

    Flat Design Complaints

    Flat Design Complaints: a reader asks… Ok, I’m going to rant here (sorry). I’m seeing this problem on my iPhone, and on my computer in various programs including Microsoft Office. The problem is that the design of buttons I can click on has changed. Now instead of visual buttons, all there is showing is a link with a word. Often I can’t tell if that’s a clickable link or not. Everything on screen is now devoid of shape or other […]

  • Email Won’t Deliver

    Email Won’t Deliver

    Email Won’t Deliver: a reader asks… I am trying to send E-Mails to some clients who work in [foreign country] but they keep getting returned. I personally checked the format with them but the E-Mail still bounces. I use GMail. What should I do resolve this? Gmail (and almost all other email service providers) doesn’t impose any delivery restrictions when you’re sending email to any recipient world-wide. Some countries may impose delivery restrictions, as well as some email service providers, […]

  • Overloaded iMac

    Overloaded iMac

    Overloaded iMac: a reader asks… My 2015 iMac is running very slowly. Web pages are not loading and characters being typed are taking a long time before they appear on the screen. Is there something I can do to solve this? Fortunately, I got more information from the reader, in that the iMac was equipped with 8gb of RAM and a Fusion hard drive. That and the recent pattern of usage for this iMac pointed to the issue. When I […]

  • Is my iPhone Too Old?

    Is my iPhone Too Old?

    Is my iPhone Too Old? a reader asks… I have an iPhone 5 I’ve been hanging onto for awhile. I know it’s old, but is it now too old? I hung onto it because it’s small enough for me (I’m petite with small hands) and does everything I need to do, make phone calls, text, email, snap pics and occasionally surf the web. All the latest iPhone models are too big. Unfortunately, I cracked my screen and I guess it’s […]

  • A New Laptop for Me

    A New Laptop for Me

    A New Laptop for Me: a reader asks… Ok it’s finally time for me to get a new laptop. My old Dell (Windows 7) is getting crunchy, some keys don’t work, Windows 7 is no longer supported, and I want something faster. Can you give me some ideas on what to get? I don’t do much more than surf the web, email, use MS Office 365, listen to music and watch Netflix on my laptop. I live in Fairfax and […]

  • MS Office Repair

    MS Office Repair

    MS Office Repair: a reader asks… I have a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 and have installed Office on my Windows 10 PC. It’s been working fine for months now, but suddenly I’m having problems. Word won’t open, when I start it, it begins to load and then stops. The loading window goes away and trying again doesn’t do anything. What should I do? Microsoft Office has a repair function built-in to the installer program. You need to open your […]

  • iPhone Video Share

    iPhone Video Share

    iPhone Video Share: a reader asks… I would like to share a video with someone that I shot on my iPhone, but it takes a long time to prepare the video for sending, and I want them to have the full-resolution, not a compressed version – so they can watch the video on their big-screen TV. How can I do that? Your iPhone’s Share feature has multiple ways to share things. The most obvious is to send someone a copy […]

  • Travel Voltage

    Travel Voltage

    Travel Voltage: a reader asks… Hi there! I live in the USA and am traveling to the UK soon, staying in hotels mostly. I want to use my iPhone, iPad and Mac, along with their various chargers, Is there anything special I need to do or buy? When traveling internationally, you will encounter different types of plug styles, and more importantly, different voltages and cycles (that’s the rate at which alternating current switches, expressed in cycles per second). In […]

  • Blocking Junk Calls

    Blocking Junk Calls

    Blocking Junk Calls: a reader asks… I’m starting to get a bunch of junk phone calls on my mobile (iPhone) these days. Sometimes there’s a foreign voice on the other end, sometimes it’s a recording, and sometimes they just hang up. I’ve learned that anytime there’s a delay of more than a second before hearing a caller’s voice, it’s always a junk call, so I hang up after a second of silence. But they keep calling and I know it’s […]

  • Windows 10 Helpers

    Windows 10 Helpers

    Windows 10 Helpers: a reader asks… I have a 1-year-old Windows 10 computer that’s starting to work slower and slower. I’ve been considering using a utility like CCleaner to clean it up and wonder if there are other utilities you think are better? Let me just stop you right there. Pretty much all the 3rd party utilities that purport to make your computer work better, faster, and clean up junk are a waste of time and money. Back in the […]

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