Q: I have a Norton-provided virtual private network (VPN). However, if, for example, I’m interested in a pizza oven and do an internet search, later I get emails and popup ads showing pizza ovens. I thought a VPN allowed you to make anonymous internet searches?
A: Actually, there are several ways advertisers might be getting around your VPN.
The first and most likely is through tracking cookies. If you haven’t blocked tracking cookies in your browser they’ll put little pieces of code on your computer that can track sites that you visit. That code is, in short, attached to your computer and not to your IP address.
A similar thing happens if you browse the internet while connected to your Google account. So if you log in to check your Gmail and you don’t log out Google can track where you’re going.
Finally, you may have inadvertently downloaded malware that is tracking your searches and website visits.
And for users who are employing a free VPN, be aware that companies that offer that service are likely selling your data to third parties, including your IP address and the IP addresses of websites you visit.
Q: I am looking for a new external portable hard drive. My previous drive did not allow me to make a complete copy of my computer – only the documents, pictures, emails, etc. Is this how these drives work or do you have to buy additional software that will work in tandem with the external drive?
— Sharman Williams
A: Beginning with Windows 8, Microsoft has included a built-in drive mirroring feature. To access it hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press the X key, then select “Disk Management” from the list that pops up. Right-click on an empty drive and select “Add Mirror.” Be aware, though, that the drive you’re going to mirror to needs to be at least as large as the one being mirrored.
Q: Will I have to reinstall my anti-virus, Google Chrome and my games if I download Windows 11? I am getting Windows 11 for free and am also wondering how long the download will take
— Judy Bjorlo
A: If you’re upgrading to Windows 11 you won’t have to reinstall your apps or your data. According to Microsoft, most software and accessories that worked with Windows 10 are expected to work with Windows 11.
I do, however, recommend that you backup any data you care about – photos, documents, etc. – just in case anything goes amiss during the upgrade.
How long does the upgrade take? That depends on your computer and even more on your internet speed. It took about an hour to make the move on my Microsoft Surface Book 3.
Q: We are currently running Windows 8.1 and I think it’s time to upgrade to Windows 10. Why has it taken so long, you ask? I am using an older (2003) version of Publisher, Word and Excel. I love this version of Publisher. It’s so easy to navigate and suits all my needs. Can I still run these features with Windows 10?
— Michelle Burnham
A: The most recent version of Microsoft Office, which includes those products, supported in Windows 10 is Office 2013.
I have heard on the grapevine that Word 2003 works on Windows 10 but Excel 2003 does not. Since Windows 8.1 is no longer fully supported I’d urge you to upgrade to Windows 10 and then update those products that don’t work. I think that you’ll find both Windows and those Office products have improved quite a bit over the past 18 years.