Q: My Dell XPS 8300 PC with Windows 7 doesn’t “recognize” flash drives. It says the software drivers are not installed properly. What can I do?

Tim Murphy, Edina


A: The problem can most likely be solved by downloading new Windows 7 software drivers from the flash drive manufacturer’s website. Try that first.

If that doesn’t work, there may be a problem with your PC. There have been several complaints about the USB ports on that particular model.

Here are some things you can try:

• Some models of the Dell XPS 8300 have USB ports on the top and the back. But, based on other users’ experiences, the ports on the top of the PC can be a problem. Try using the other USB ports instead.

• Occasionally a flash drive won’t work properly if you are using a USB hub, a sort of USB “extension cord” that connects to your PC’s USB port and provides multiple plug-in slots for USB devices. If you’re using the flash drives on a USB hub, try plugging them directly into one of the PC’s USB ports instead.

• Try using the flash drives on a different computer. If they work on another PC with the new software drivers installed, there’s a problem with one or more USB ports on your computer, which means you may want to take the PC to a repair shop or buy a new computer. If you want to know more about why USB ports fail, see tinyurl.com/o4mftyb.


Q: After downloading Apple’s iOS 8.4 operating system to my older iPad (first generation or so), the iPad became almost unusable. Can I reverse the upgrade back to iOS 7, or will I have to buy a new iPad?

Christine O’Brien, Nipomo, Calif.


A: Apple won’t permit you to do an online downgrade from iOS 8.4 to iOS 7. But, depending on the age of your iPad, it may not have been well-suited to iOS 7, either. Second- or third-generation iPads can only use iOS 7 or iOS 8 in limited ways (see tinyurl.com/7ftxrdn). First-generation iPads can’t run either one. As a result, you may have to buy a new iPad. But first check with an Apple store to see if they can help you.


Q: When are we likely to see a substantial number of new Windows 10 laptops on the market?

John Pitrelli, Hollywood, Fla.


A: New PCs with Windows 10 preinstalled will be introduced between now and Christmas. Up to now, many retailers have offered unsold Windows 8.1 PCs with Windows 10 installed or available as an upgrade.


Q: I’m using Windows 7. If I don’t upgrade to Windows 10, will I have to deal with Windows 7 eventually being phased out?

Kathleen Hourigan, Redding, Calif.


A: Yes, Windows 7 will be phased out, but there’s no hurry about upgrading. Microsoft stopped enhancing Windows 7 but will provide free security updates until January 2020.


E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 650 3rd Av. S., Suite 1300, ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.