Computers: Best computer? It depends

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These days, smartphones and tablets are just as vulnerable as regular computers, and malware is often used to subvert your private accounts. This video will tell you if your phone or tablet has a virus. Kim Komando

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Question: Hi Nick. I purchased a Hewlett-Packard Spectra X 360 10 days ago and I am now reading about the many issues that people say that they have with this computer. Primarily with the short battery life and that it shuts down and won’t turn back on after opening it only a few weeks. It was a bit pricey for me and now I am considering returning it within the 14 days and perhaps buying a Dell or Apple computer. What are your thoughts on this HP computer if any and if you were in the market for a laptop computer in the $1,500 to $2,000 range what would you purchase today. I value your opinion and hope to hear back soon.

Many thanks.

— Renee, Rochester NY  

Answer: The X360 is a pretty nifty computer, Renee, but it does seem to have some problems. Most of them seem to be mitigated by updating to the latest drivers. You can do that by going to HP’s driver download site (https://goo.gl/3SCyR1) and entering your serial number. If there are any updated drivers for your computer, you will see a list. Can’t hurt to give it a try. But if you’ve lost confidence in the computer, you might prefer to return it and purchase something else.

What else is a tougher question. There are an amazing number of options out there right now. Which you buy depends entirely on what you do. A computer for a person who writes phone apps or plays high-end games is a very different computer from one for a person who mostly just surfs the Web and plays a few online games. Dell’s XPS line and Apple’s MacBook Pro line are excellent high-end computers. That’s not to say, of course, that any individual computer can’t have it’s problems, but in general both lines are excellent.

Q: I have an older Toshiba Satellite laptop with cable internet, Windows 7. My preferred browser is Firefox, and it is up to date. One, recently I have found that when I order something online, I cannot always access a website’s shopping cart. It simply stalls at the order page. It is not a regular occurrence, only occasional, and maybe only with certain retailers. Two, on my bank account page, I have access to the usual icons like transfer money and pay a bill. These work fine. However, the “get a statement” icon will not access the accompanying PDF. It just sends me back to my account’s home page. These problems do not occur when I use Google Chrome.

— Dave, Rochester NY

A: The obvious answer, Dave, is don’t use Firefox. But you’d probably like a little more. Okay. Let’s see what we can do.

First, dance The Security Tango (https://goo.gl/ez2Uxj) to make sure you haven’t picked up something nasty. Particularly since Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows 7 (especially on older processors like yours), and you won’t be getting security updates any longer, regularly dancing the Tango becomes much more important. Next, try disabling any add-ons you have in Firefox. Click the menu button (the three parallel lines in the upper right corner — and, yes, it really is called “the hamburger menu”), and click “Add-Ons.” Click on “Extensions,” and disable all of them. Next, click on “Plugins,” and select “Never Activate” from the drop down menu. Then restart Firefox. That may help.

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The problem here is that Microsoft support for Windows 7 ended two years ago. In fact, in January 2016, Microsoft specifically warned Windows 7 users that they choose the platform “at your own risk, at your own peril.” Technically, that’s true, but it’s true of almost anything (for example, you drive a car “at your own risk, at your own peril” every day). The point here is that Microsoft isn’t particularly interested in keeping Windows 7 fully up-to-date, and nobody can guarantee that you’re not missing something.

One thing you can do (which may or may not help; no promises) is to specifically make sure you’re using the latest version of Firefox. Click the hamburger menu, and select “About Firefox.” The “About Firefox” window will open and Firefox automatically will begin checking for updates in the background. If there are any, they will begin downloading automatically. When the updates are ready to be installed, click “Restart Firefox to Update.”

If none of that helps, and you still insist on continuing to use Windows 7, you may find that you’ll have to go to Chrome. Sorry.

Nick Francesco, a.k.a. Ask Nick, offers simple answers for your computer questions. He can also be heard on Sound Bytes during a weekly computer call-in radio show Saturdays on Jazz 90.1 and live online at Jazz901.org. Email questions to [email protected]

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