Q: My Outlook e-mail program has begun blocking newsletters from National Geographic that I suppose some people might consider controversial (the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, for example.) When I click the e-mail to read more or to see more photos, I’m sometimes told that content is blocked. Why is this happening?

Lila Smith, Minneapolis


A: Outlook isn’t designed to block specific content. But, for computer security reasons, it will block some e-mail images and Web links.

That happens because Outlook sometimes considers an e-mail to be suspicious, even though there’s not enough evidence to classify it as harmful. An e-mail may be considered suspicious if it comes from a sender that Outlook doesn’t recognize and has some of the characteristics of a harmful e-mail. (Harmful e-mails typically contain malicious software or engage in “phishing,” which means the sender tries to trick you into disclosing personal information.) Outlook sends these suspicious e-mails to your inbox, but disables any online links they contain.

Why would National Geographic newsletters be considered suspicious? Because they are mass-mailed to thousands of people, just as harmful e-mail is. And Outlook doesn’t understand that you trust National Geographic to send you safe e-mails.

Here’s how this type of Outlook e-mail blocking works, and how you can turn it off:

Photos: E-mailed newsletters typically contain HTML (hypertext markup language) photos that are in fact links to the original photo on someone’s website. If you click on one of these linked photos, you will be taken somewhere on the internet. Outlook considers this suspicious and blocks the linked photos from appearing in an e-mail.

What to do about it: To turn off automatic blocking of linked photos, change Outlook’s “automatic download” settings, add the sender’s e-mail address to your address book and add the sender’s “domain name” (nationalgeographic.com) to Outlook’s “safe sender list.” (See tinyurl.com/y6er5ptf and scroll down to Outlook.)

Links: Outlook disables Web links in suspicious e-mails to deter phishing attacks.

What to do about it: To change that in Outlook’s settings, see tinyurl.com/y2sx3kco and scroll down to “Turn off automatic disabling of links.”


Q: In your recent column about Windows 7 becoming obsolete (tinyurl.com/y45pgxy6), you didn’t mention the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. I’ve read that these updates will make the operating system safe for up to three years beyond January 2020. Is my information about these updates correct?

Lynda Forbes, Minneapolis


A: Microsoft offers Windows 7 Extended Security Updates only to business customers who have volume software licensing agreements. Consumers cannot obtain Windows 7 security updates after Jan. 14, 2020.

As I said in the earlier column, Windows 7 will not be safe without regular Microsoft security updates. These updates cannot be replaced by any antivirus, anti-malware or firewall software. As a result, consumers should stop using Windows 7 by January. The only consumer Windows operating systems that will be safe after Jan. 14 are Windows 10 and Windows 8.1.


E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Include name, city and telephone number.