Staff Directory 6370641

Steve Alexander

Columnist/Reporter | Technology
Steve Alexander follows consumer and business technology trends, and writes a weekly question and answer column for consumers.
Recent content from Steve Alexander
PCs that beep during startup are giving off a warning code, although the meaning varies from one PC brand to another.

Alexander: A beeping computer is telling you what's gone wrong inside

If a PC beeps during the boot-up process, that's a warning code.
A cellphone that doesn’t delete e-mails as you intended is likely improperly connecting with a server.

Alexander: How to stop deleted iPhone e-mails from coming back

A phone that's not connecting properly with a server will make an e-mail vanish just temporarily.
BIOS is a key system in a PC that can sometimes conflict with new software and components.

Alexander: Refurbished PCs may need a BIOS update to use new components

The basic input-output system in a PC gets things going, but sometimes clashes with newer software.
Microsoft made it difficult for the average user to replace its Edge browser as the default in Windows 11.

Alexander: Windows 11 not always to blame for browser or e-mail problems

A single-button approach for browser switching is expected to arrive in Windows 11 this year.
There are ways to track an e-mail that you have sent, but none are very reliable.

Alexander: Finding out if your e-mail was received is harder than it sounds

The nice way is to ask for a response. The less nice way is to use a tracking pixel.
Hard drives can crash and leave you scrambling for important data.

Alexander: A PC failure can leave you wondering where all the data went

Data gets spread around a hard drive and retrieving it can be like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.
The choice between a hard drive and a solid-state one is one of the key decisions for a computer buyer.

Alexander: The merits of swapping a PC's hard drive for an SSD memory

Q: I'm interested in getting an SSD (solid-state drive) with computer-chip memory to replace a mechanical hard disk drive. What are the main differences between…
iPads tend to crash when their storage space is filled with data.

Alexander: Crashing apps may mean an iPad is low on memory

There are lots of reasons iPads turn temperamental. Here are a few.
If PC files store slowly, it may be a signal of larger problem

If PC files store slowly, it may be a signal of larger problem

You will need to reorganize your hard drive to solve the issue.
Online services that appear to have taken data off your computer may not have done so.

Alexander: Keep copies of data on your computer and in the cloud

Online storage services also help keep data on your PC.
Having photos and videos disappear on Facebook is a common issue.

Alexander: Solving the mystery of vanishing Facebook photos and videos

It's a common problem and the solution is not obvious.
The disappearing cursor is a common problem on Macs and usually isn’t serious.

Alexander: Why a Mac cursor may disappear and how to fix it

There are many reasons a cursor blips out on a Mac, and the remedies are usually simple.
Typically, a fiber connection should be faster than Wi-Fi. Star Tribune file photo.

Alexander: What's wrong if Wi-Fi is faster than a wired internet connection

A wired connection should always be faster than one over a Wi-Fi network.
There are several ways a printer may conflict with instructions from Microsoft Word.

Alexander: Why Microsoft Word might stop printing, and how to fix it

Part of the problem may be the age of the computer.
Some spam filters are more selective than others.

Alexander: What to do if forwarded e-mail doesn't seem to arrive

Spam filters vary between e-mail providers, and users may need to retrieve filtered messages they actually want.
There are some tricks to stop Windows 11 from downloading on your computer.

There are some tricks if you don't want Windows 11 download

There are several ways to halt Windows 11 until Windows 10 is unsupported.
Web browsers run at different levels because of tasks that aren’t always clear to users.

Alexander: Why a game freezes on Chrome and Edge, but not Firefox

Browsers can be slowed down by all the tasks they're running in the background.
Junk e-mail, or spam, continues to fill in-boxes and the tactics to reduce it are constantly changing.

Alexander: Spam still plagues us, but here are some precautions to take

Changing your main e-mail address to avoid junk mail is probably fruitless.
A reader wonders how to permanently delete photos from a Moto G phone, a version shown at left, and other Android-based models.

Alexander: Making sure that deleted Android phone pictures are really gone

Q: I transfer photos from my Android phone (a Moto G Stylus) to my computer, then delete the pictures from the phone. But the photos…
Some users of Windows 11, it turns out, don’t encounter the automatic encryption that others find bothersome.

Alexander: Some users of Windows 11 Home can avoid unwanted encryption

Readers let us know that some PCs can't engage in the automatic encryption Windows 11 attempts to do.
Turning off encryption in the new Windows 11 can be hard to do, readers note.

Alexander: Turn off the more complex encryption in Windows 11 Pro

Readers react to our tech columnist's advice on turning off automatic encryption on Windows 11.
It sounds counterintuitive, but there’s a reason not to encrypt all data as Windows 11 does.

Alexander: Why you should turn off Windows 11 automatic data encryption

The built-in encryption of Microsoft's new operating system is the equivalent of putting all your belongings in a single room with just one key. What happens if you lose the key?
Not everyone wants to be peppered with invitations to use Microsoft’s products.

Alexander: How to stop Edge web browser promotions in Windows 10

Microsoft's latest OS frequently tries to steer users to its web browser.
Automated tools to fight junk or spam e-mail can go only so far. Users have to take some practical steps to fight the tide.

Alexander: Making it harder for spammers to learn more about you

The volume of spam or junk e-mail can be overwhelming, and automated tools go only so far in the fight against it.
Windows 10 rearranges open windows, a reader noticed.

Alexander: How to prevent Windows from rearranging your screen

The problem affects PCs with more than one monitor, and some that have had software updates to monitors.
A pillow bearing the logo of DuckDuckGo

Alexander: Ways to avoid the trackers that follow you online

A 'smart cleaning' program appears to be working for this reader.
There are ways to protect your home computer against “brute force” and “dictionary” attacks.

Alexander: Protection against 'brute force' and 'dictionary' attacks

Here's what hackers do to get past password attempt limits, and what you can do to safeguard your computer.
Alexander: Using a Chromebook that no longer receives security updates

Alexander: Using a Chromebook that no longer receives security updates

All Chromebooks have an expiration date for when they will no longer be updated. Going beyond that carries some risks.
The photo format in iPhones has to be changed to work with commercial printing services.

Alexander: How to change your iPhone's photo format to print pictures

Since 2017, Apple has let users choose their photo formats inside iPhone.
Dropbox, one of the earliest online storage services, has survived an onslaught of competition.

Alexander: Why Dropbox, grandfather of online storage, is still with us

Other digital storage providers offer more space for free, but Dropbox remains competitive on many levels.
One way to reduce your chance of having your Facebook account hacked is to use an authenticator app.

Alexander: Another solution to prevent Facebook hack is an authenticator app

An authenticator app is different from two-step authentication. Here's how.
With each revision of software, personal computers take a step toward obsolescence.

Alexander: What to do if creeping obsolescence claims your PC

New versions of software, especially operating systems, push computers closer to that day when they are no longer being useful.
Facebook has 2.89 billion users and the company estimates 160,000 accounts are hacked every day.

Alexander: Waiting for the return of your hacked Facebook account

Facebook has a process for linking users with their hacked accounts. But it takes time.
A virtual private network, or VPN, acts as a private tunnel between your computer or mobile device and the internet.

Alexander: Deciding if you need a virtual private network for security

VPNs have many advantages but they aren't necessarily the right answer to keep your data private.
What happens when a PC slows down before a Windows 10 update?

Alexander: Why a PC may slow down if a Windows 10 update is pending

The download process may affect other operations on a computer.
There are several ways to move music files among Apple devices.

Alexander: How to move music among various Apple devices

For a user whose hard drive conked out, the solutions for music portability are plentiful but a bit complicated.

Fixing an iPad that doesn't know your location

  Q: My iPad’s location software says I’m in Springfield, Ill., instead of Minnesota (a 400-mile mistake.) I’ve altered privacy and app settings, but nothing…

Alexander: Sorting through the mountain of data created by PC backups

You can automatically restore all your backed-up files at once, provided that you use the same software that created the backups.

Alexander: A firewall that's 'in the cloud' won't help if you travel

Q: Your column about Comcast's new Xfinity cloud-based firewall (see made me wonder what protection my Windows 10 PC would have if…

Alexander: What's wrong when friends can't play your shared videos

Q: I take videos in the MP4 format on my Android phone, and they play back just fine. But when I send a 20- to…

Choosing home network security software

Q: Comcast has been providing its Xfinity internet customers with the Norton Security Online program for free. But it will drop Norton at the end…

Alexander: Finding the source of Wi-Fi electronic interference

Q: I use a three-year-old Chromebook on a secure home Wi-Fi network. Recently, the Chromebook has been getting disconnected from the internet every day about…

Alexander: Making Google Calendar sync with Android tablet, phone

Here's what you need to check because the Android settings can interfere.
Tech Q&A: Assessing the risks of upgrading to Windows 10

Alexander: What to do if your copy of Windows 10 is obsolete

Microsoft introduces a new version of Windows 10 for consumers every six months, so there are always several flavors.
Alicia Boler-Davis, General Motors senior vice president, Global Connected Customer Experience, speaks about Google’s Android Auto system in 2015.

Alexander: What to do if phone-to-car software link disconnects

When you connect your 2016 phone to your 2020 car via the "Android Auto" software, the age difference may matter.

Alexander: Don't let a new router disrupt Wi-Fi network

The problem may be caused by incompatible settings on the new Linksys router and the HP printer.

Alexander: What to do if your PC's System Restore breaks

Fortunately, there are several ways to fix this.
In this Jan. 11, 2010 file photo, a display for Microsoft's Windows 7 is shown at the National Retail Federation's convention in New York. Users still

Alexander: Tech tricks to keep using Windows 7 are risky

While that sounds good, it's not practical. If you have a Windows 7 PC, upgrade or replace it.

Alexander: Cloud storage can help you recover from a hacked PC

It would be only a temporary setback, because such online services keep backups of previous versions of your files.
IPhone 6

Alexander: What to do if you can't copy your iPhone photos

Q: I have an iPhone 6 that has no storage left for photos. To avoid paying for extra photo storage space on iCloud, Apple’s online…

Alexander: Windows 10 is five years old, but not going away

Q: Windows 10 is now five years old. How much longer will Microsoft provide critical updates for it? And what comes next? A Windows operating…

Alexander: Strategies to keep spam from flooding our inbox

It's better to use an internet provider with a good spam filter.
Facebook requires you to provide a different “primary” e-mail address for each Facebook account.

How to make Facebook 'let go' of an e-mail address

There are two ways to change which e-mail address goes with which account.

Alexander: File problems may not stem from Windows 10

A damaged program looks to be responsible. It's time to stop using it.

Alexander: How to prevent, and fix, a balky external drive

If three different external drives have failed to operate properly, your PC must be the source of the problem.

Alexander: Proving who you are with multifactor authentication

It reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of someone impersonating you to gain access to your personal information.

Alexander: Fixing a PC slowed down by security software

Instead of making buying recommendations for commercial products, here is some general advice to consider — including which software to avoid.

Alexander: Reducing smartphone photo quality to save space

Manufacturers sell phones partly by touting high-quality cameras, so they haven't been anxious to help customers lower the quality of photos, which would make photo files smaller.

Alexander: Windows 10 updates are creating new problems

Gmail is being sabotaged by a recent upgrade to Windows 10's Mail app, with not all users being able to rescue their vanished e-mails.

Alexander: Windows 10 expired free upgrade offer still works

Q: I converted my Windows 7 PC to Windows 10 in 2016, when Microsoft was offering the upgrade for free. But I didn’t like Windows…

Alexander: How to keep an idle Web browser connected

  Q: I use the Safari web browser on my MacBook Pro, and typically have several tabs (separate screens showing different web pages) open at…

Alexander: Fixing wireless printing on a mesh Wi-Fi network

Mesh networks use multiple Wi-Fi antennas to blanket a large house with a strong wireless signal. But this convenience comes at a price.

Alexander: What to do when a fast PC gets hot

There are some actions you can take, but they may not eliminate the heating problem entirely.

Alexander: How to share Windows 10 files with other PCs

Q: We have two Windows 10 PCs and would like to share documents and photos between them. On our Windows 7 PCs we would have…

Alexander: How being online renews Office 365 PC apps

Q: In your column about Microsoft Office 365 (see, you said the user “must go online at least once every 30 days…

Alexander: Reaching the limits of unlimited storage in Google Photos

Another problem: The Google Photos settings on your PC don't match those on your phone.

Alexander: Pros and cons to choosing online or offline software

The choice you make will revolve around cost, convenience and the way you like to work.
Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s Messenger are among the most popular apps for making video calls

Alexander: How to make video calls on a PC or a Mac

Three popular videochat options are easy to use, work on most computers.

Alexander: Home network can cause video delays on Zoom

Q: During Zoom video calls, my screen image follows my actual movements very slowly. If I move my head or speak, there's sometimes a delay…

Steve Alexander: Photo sharing is complicated by privacy issues

Q: I use an online Google Photos account to back up the pictures on my Android phone. Our desktop PC also has access to the…
Video chat software and services handle conversations well, but there is just enough time lag in them that it's difficult for users to play music with

Alexander: Video call sound quality limits music

After last week’s column on PC and Mac video calling (see, several readers wanted to know if the sound quality could be improved.…

Alexander: Caller ID said she called, but she didn't

Q: I'm getting calls on my iPhone 5 from people asking why I called them, even though I didn't. Apparently, my number shows up on…

Alexander: Backing up an iPhone while moving photos to PC

Uploading photos from your iPhone to Dropbox can use a lot of data.

Alexander: Sending iPhone pics to a voice-run Echo Show

Q: My sister, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and doesn't have a phone, recently got an Amazon Echo Show that plays music and shows photos…

Alexander: Avoiding risks when moving to Windows 10

Q: The older apps on my Windows 7 PC, such as Office 2007, don't run correctly on my new Windows 10 laptop. As a result,…