Patrick Marshall answers readers’ questions on personal technology.
Q: I need a way to access files on my home computer while I’m traveling. What’s the simplest, most reliable solution?
— David Ketchum, Whidbey Island
A: Consider setting up a cloud storage account and configure your computers to sync files through the cloud with each other.
Using a cloud service to store and sync files has several advantages.
Most Read Business Stories
- Tall buildings out of timber? In the face of climate change, Seattle encourages it VIEW
- Amazon workers have mixed reactions to Bezos' carbon-neutral pledge VIEW
- A.I. 101: What is artificial intelligence and where is it going?
- Changes at Whole Foods — and lack of communications — prompt concerns among some employees
- Consultant extorted $8 million from Seattle cryptocurrency startup, feds charge
First, you don’t have to leave your home computer on while you’re traveling.
Second, you’re automatically making safe backups of your data: If you backup your data to an attached external drive, a fire, flood or other disaster would wipe out everything.
Finally, you can access your files in the cloud from any computer via a Web browser.
Many cloud storage services, including Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, offer an amount of free storage that many users will find sufficient for their data: Both OneDrive and Google Drive are offering 15 gigabytes of free storage, though Microsoft has said it’s going cut OneDrive’s free storage back to 5 gigabytes in 2016.
An alternative way to access not only the files on your home computer, but also to run applications on that computer, is TeamViewer (www.teamviewer.com). Once you’ve configured TeamViewer on your home computer to allow remote control — access is password protected — you can log in to the computer as long as it is on and connected to the Internet.
TeamViewer also offers tools for chatting, file transfer, and controlling audio. In short, you can use the program not only to retrieve data, but to effectively perform tech support and teach users.
By the way, TeamViewer can be downloaded free if it’s for personal use.
Q: Do you know of an organization interested in “antique” software?
I found a box in the basement this week that contains several disks and manuals from 1984! They include Flight Simulator, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, PFS File, PFS Report and Graph, Multiplan, Microsoft Chart and Project, and from about 1988 PC-MOS 5-user operating system.
Proves that if you live long enough everything gets old around you …
If you know of an organization that wants this stuff for free, great. If not, it goes in the garbage.
— Frank Mitchell, Seattle
A: Very cool. I remember most of those programs! And it’s very thoughtful of you to look into donating the software.
I recommend that you first try going local — the Living Computer Museum (www.livingcomputermuseum.org) on First Avenue South near the Starbucks building. If it isn’t interested, you might try the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley (www.computerhistory.org).
Q: I was, quite frankly, outraged when I learned my 3-year-old Dell XPS 8500 is not supported for Windows 10. Are you kidding me?
I have a 6-year-old Toshiba laptop that upgraded, no problem. Meanwhile, the free Windows 10 upgrade icon sits in my Windows 7 task bar begging for attention. Why is Microsoft pushing me to upgrade when Dell isn’t supporting it?
I can envision the finger-pointing between Microsoft and Dell when I tried to find out who is responsible for this consumer debacle. Can you provide clarity behind this situation?
— Bill Schreiber
A: I’m sorry for your aggravation. The root of the problem is that it’s not feasible for a new operating system to support all older hardware. And, in many cases, hardware manufactures may decide not to upgrade drivers for older hardware to make them compatible with the latest version of an operating system.
If, for example, there are only a handful of a particular older model of computer —- especially if that computer doesn’t have enough memory or other resources to run the new operating system — the manufacturer is not likely to invest money on having new drivers written.
As for Microsoft nagging you to update the computer, I agree that the company could have found less irritating ways to inform consumers. But in delivering notices to Windows 7 computers, there’s no way for Microsoft to know whether that specific computer is compatible with Windows 10.