Q. My computer is over 12 years old. It can’t work with Windows 10. I believe I accepted Microsoft’s original overtures to install it last year but can’t remember. They continue to try and update the computer with more updates for Windows 10.
How do I stop them from doing this? Still working at 71, but I don’t have a budget for IT help.
— Patrick Burns
A. You can prevent your computer from trying to install Windows updates. You don’t say what version of Windows you’re currently running, so I’m not sure about which specific set of instructions to give you.
For Windows 7, click on the Start button then click on Run and type in the field that pops up “services.msc.” In the window that pops up, scroll down until you see the “Windows Update” entry. Double-click on it, then click on the Stop button in the Service Status section, then in the Startup Type field select “Disabled.” Finally, click the OK button and you should be gold.
Q. Since I also am serious about security when traveling, I took an offer from Bitdefender for their VPN at $30 per year. It appeared to work great until I tried to go on Macys.com for shopping. They blocked me. I tried a few other sites and many of them blocked access.
Bitdefender had no answer, so I got a refund from them and tried NordVPN, which has great reviews and costs around $100 per year. One touted advantage is that they have over 8,000 IP locations to work with. Not only did Macys.com block me, so did Amazon.com, Netflix.com and many more.
I contacted NordVPN tech help and they said to simply pick a different IP, a fairly simple process in their GUI, at least for me.
My wife is not a computer person, just a user. She would not be able or willing to play IP address bingo just to shop on Amazon, for example.
Someone on NordVPN’s forum said I should just use my cellphone as a hot spot while traveling. Even though Verizon would charge me extra for more GB of data, it would still be lower cost and less aggravation than NordVPN (or most others) for the amount of travel we do.
— Eric Hammond
A. There are some very good reasons some websites — especially those dealing with sensitive information, such as banks — block VPNs. For security reasons, security-conscious sites want to be able to know where users are coming from.
When you subscribe to a VPN all your internet traffic is encrypted and is run through the VPN’s server, so instead of seeing your IP (internet protocol) address, the site sees the VPN server’s IP address. But VPN services use a limited number of servers, so it’s not a big deal to track their IP addresses and block users employing those servers.
Using your cellphone as a hot spot is a reasonable alternative. It’s a (relatively) secure connection so you may not need the additional security of a VPN.
My strategy: Like you, I use cell service for secure internet connections on the road. When I have a good Wi-Fi connection but it’s public, I’ll use my VPN, knowing that I won’t be able to connect to certain sites.
The trade-off? The public Wi-Fi is free while the cell data costs. As you suggest, you have to balance your costs. Does the amount of time you spend traveling justify subscribing to a VPN for doing internet business over public Wi-Fi? If your data needs are limited, your best option may be using your cell services as a hot spot.
Note: I recommend using virtual private networks when using public Wi-Fi to access the internet. VPNs encrypt all communications between your computer and other computers, including websites, on the internet. That means that hackers that access the network traffic over the public Wi-Fi — which is ridiculously easy to do — can’t make any sense of your communications. But some users have reported problems connecting to certain websites when they’re using a VPN.
Frank Mitchell, of Seattle, reports that he has been able to access some “reluctant” sites while using his VPN by simply switching the server his VPN is using. I tried his trick and found that it worked for me, too, for some sites. But it didn’t generally work for highly secure sites, such as banks.