Q: I’m in the process of trying to improve the security of the passwords (many of which are the same!) for my many online accounts. The question came up, “What about usernames?”

Do I need to have as secure a username as I do a password? Right now I often just use a simple variant of my name. Should I be doing that or should I think up something harder to guess?

— Ken Talley

A: Yes, if you want to ensure the next-to-highest possible level of security and anonymity on the internet using different user names for your different accounts is advisable.

Do I do it? No.

That’s because I haven’t found any actual cases of problems stemming from hackers discovering one’s user name unless one is also using a weak password.

So I rely on really strong passwords generated by my password manager. And yes, those passwords are unique for each site and account.

Another reason I don’t use unique user names: It’s also the case that some sites require a valid email address as a user name.


So why do I say using different user names is the next-to-highest-possible level of security? Because the only way to be totally secure on the internet is to disconnect your computer.

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I’m not saying that to be glib. The point is that there is no absolute security, so we all have to make personal choices that balance acceptable risk with convenience.

Q: I discovered that I had pics on my very old cell phone. It no longer has a SIM card in it. I Googled this and wasn’t successful following the instructions. In fact, it brought up more questions.

Do I need the SIM card?  If so, would I need to go buy one and insert in order to forward these pictures?

— Mary Cropley

A. No, you don’t need to buy a SIM card to transfer those photos. The SIM card — or Subscriber Identity Module — is used to identify your account so that you can get cell service.


The easiest way to get those photos off your phone is to connect it to a computer via a USB cable. If the phone is powered on, it should open in Windows Explorer.

Q: I have a Wi-Fi 802.11n modem. The internet line is copper wire, and the advertised download speed is 10 Mbps. I tested the download speed on a smartphone and got 14.2 Mbps. 

I would like to get a laptop with Wi-Fi 6. Will it work well on this modem?

— Bob Eder

A: It depends on what you mean by “work well.” It should work fine but you won’t get the speeds your Wi-Fi 6 client is capable of.

The internet speeds you get depend on the weakest link in your service. Your 802.11n modem theoretically maxes out at 300 megabits per second, which is far lower than the 9.6 gigabits per second of a WiFi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) client.  But since your internet service maxes out at 10 megabits per second, that’s the speed limit you’ll experience.

In short, you won’t experience an improvement in internet speed on your new Wi-Fi 6 laptop unless you upgrade your modem and your internet service.

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Q: Where do I look for what kind of Wi-Fi client I have, i.e. 802.11ax? When I look at the network info on the control panel of my HP Envy, I don’t see any numbers like that.

— Gerri Tyler

A: You’ll find that information by going to Device Manager in the Control Panel. Once Device Manager is loaded, scroll down to Network Adapters. Open the Wi-Fi adapter then click on the Advanced tab. It will show you what Wi-Fi protocols are supported.

It can be a little confusing because a lot of different standards are listed. That’s because the latest standard supports all previous standards. So you need to know which is the latest standard supported. To complicate things further, the standards aren’t in alphabetical order — 802.11ax is the current standard, while 802.11n is an older standard.