Q: We have a family need to create Facebook accounts for ourselves to enable contact with certain relatives. We are loath to do this. I just don’t trust Facebook very much.
We use Firefox as our browser and have it set to delete cookies upon exit. We also have the DuckDuckGo browser add-on, which at least blocks trackers.
I see Firefox has a Containers add-on where designated web sites are launched in a “protected” environment. Cookies and such will be loaded in an isolated space then deleted upon exit from the site.
Do you have any info or opinion on this containers feature?
— Alan Caswell, Seattle
A: You sound like me.
Yes, I like Firefox’s Multi-Account Containers. Here’s why.
Cookies can make web browsing easier and a lot more efficient. When you revisit a website, the data stored in a cookie may be used to customize the site according to preferences you previously selected. The cookie may, for example, record which pages on the site you visited, what items you may have left in a shopping cart, credit card numbers that you used on the site, etc. If you don’t allow cookies to be stored on your computer, each time you visit the site you have to start over.
The problem, of course, is that cookies also carry certain risks. For one thing, a hacker may be able to access those cookies and the potentially sensitive data they contain. Also, tracking cookies can compile records of where you’ve been browsing. Tracking cookies are often used to target advertising, but they may also be used for more nefarious purposes.
That’s why in the past I was willing to put up with the inconvenience of forgoing cookies altogether.
Firefox’s Multi-Account Containers, however, offer a welcome compromise. Basically, the feature separates web storage into “containers” that are isolated from each other. If you visit a site and accept its cookies they will be stored on your computer but they won’t be visible to, or accessible by, other sites you visit. If, for example, you have one container for Facebook and a separate container for a newspaper site, neither site will be able to access data about your activities on the other site.
Unless you specifically configure the browser to delete cookies, however, they won’t be deleted when you leave a site. The whole idea of the containers is that you can safely store cookies because they will be isolated in their container.
Q: It’s time to refresh my old HP PC with a new one. Normally I have had all my files and software transferred at the retailer, but that isn’t going to happen this time.
Do you have a suggestion for a semi-literate computer user on how to DIY?
I have all my data backed up with Norton but am not sure about the software. From my superficial understanding Windows will not transfer software, only data, but are there third-party products that will?
— Tom Butler
A: The go-to program for moving software from one computer to another is LapLink’s PCmover Professional. You can check it out at https://web.laplink.com/. It has a price tag of $59.95.
Q: I have a SATA drive from a long-gone PC that I’d like to access. Could you recommend a USB drive carrier that I can plug into my current Windows 10 PC?
— Neal Steik, Lynnwood
A: I haven’t tested SATA-to-USB adapters, so I can’t make a specific recommendation. But a quick search of the internet will return a number of options. Do make sure you select one that accommodates the specific SATA drive you have. Some adapter only support SATA III, while others support all earlier versions of SATA.