Q: Should I be worried about my smartphone as a source of coronavirus infection? And if so what’s the best way to disinfect it?

— Laura Bryan

A: Anything that you and others touch — or that may have been sitting on your desk when someone walked by and sneezed — can be a likely source of infection. And according to the experts, COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus we’re concerned about right now, can survive on surfaces for somewhere between three and nine days!

So yes, smartphones are a potential source of infection, particularly since we touch them at least dozens of times a day on average and frequently hold them right next to our faces for minutes on end.

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Just as with your hands, soap and water is a good disinfectant. But while your hands can’t be damaged by water, your smartphone can be — especially if it isn’t a water-resistant model — so you’ll want to be careful about not getting soap or water into the phone’s cracks or ports. Remove and wash your phone’s case separately, of course.

And if you don’t like the idea of using soap and water — or sanitizing wipes — on your phone, you can invest in a UV phone sanitizer. They range in price from $30 to $75 and are reportedly very effective in killing 99.9% of germs.

But however you choose to clean your phone, what’s even more critical is how you USE your phone. To minimize contact you can use an earbud, either wired or Bluetooth. And if you’re in a location that won’t bother others, just use the speaker instead of holding the phone at your ear. I work alone at home so that’s how I generally use my phone.


Finally, again, be aware of where your phone is. If it’s exposed to others who may have the virus, it is a source of infection. And don’t set it down where you have reason to be concerned about viruses sitting on the surface. Think public restrooms, ticket counters, etc.

FILE – In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo, a Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. Facebook says a bug in its anti-spam system is blocking the publication of links to news stories about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) NYSB236 NYSB236


Q: Two questions. First, could you provide a primer on how to create Windows user accounts? Second, I currently have an account into which I log in which is an administrator account. You recommend creating an account for logging in which is not an administrator.

Assuming I do so, what do I need to do to ensure that what I do while logged in in the non-administrator account is accessible in the administrator account?

Currently, when I am logged in, I am connected with my Microsoft account. Will that still be the case when I am logged in in the non-administrator account or will I have to switch logins?

— Dick Finger

Our most common work-from-home tech issues are the ones that slow down our productivity: unreliable internet connections, low-quality video calls, software programs that are too narrowly tailored and uncomfortable work stations. (Glenn Harvey/The New York Times)– NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH NYT STORY TECH-FIX BY BRIAN X. CHEN FOR MARCH 18, 2020. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. — XNYT29 XNYT29


A: Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to create new accounts and to administer existing ones.

To create a new account, click on the Windows “Start” icon in the far left of the tray at the bottom of the screen, the click on “Settings.” Next click on “Accounts” and then “Family and Other Users.”

You’ll then be led through a series of steps to create a new user account. The default way is to use a Microsoft account login information, but you can create user accounts without that.

Once an account is created you can manage it — including specifying whether the account should have administrator privileges or not — by going to the Control Panel and launching the User Accounts utility. And whatever changes in privileges you make won’t affect the user’s login information.