Q: Many people I know either put their phones on “Do not disturb” or simply put them in another room overnight, but don’t turn them off. With the exception of when I need an alarm for something, which these days is rare, I usually turn my phone off at night. Is this a bad idea?

Bob Cavanaugh, Vancouver

A: First, I’ll give you my nontech answer. Don’t worry about your battery. All things must pass, and that applies to batteries as well as to us. And while, yes, there are things you can do to extend the life of your battery my philosophy is to focus on the present … especially since the battery-saving measures we can take won’t make that much of a difference.

That said, let’s get techie.

I’m told by those who know more about smartphones than I do that turning the phone off overnight does little or nothing to extend battery life. They say that the single best way to extend your battery life is to not charge it fully. My Samsung offers to cut off charging at 85%. Since I have yet to need that missing 15% before a recharge — and since I don’t need to think about when to charge or not charge — I enabled this feature.

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One thing you may want to do, though, is to occasionally drain your phone’s battery down to zero. That will cause the phone to recalibrate the battery so you’ll have a more accurate readout of how much juice is available. I understand that you should only need to do this once a year.

Q: I’m using Outlook on a Mac. There is some combination of keystrokes I must hit all the time while writing emails that causes the email to be either deleted or archived and/or a completely unrelated email in my inbox to be deleted or archived. Is there a way to disable whatever this helpful feature is?


Mary Metz

A: My suspicion is that you may be inadvertently leaning on the Command key when you’re typing. That’s the key that controls most of the keyboard shortcuts used in Outlook for the Mac.

If you’d like a full list of shortcuts you can use — and that you might be unknowingly using — you can go to idownloadblog.com and search for “Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Outlook on Mac.”

Q: With regard to the reader whose Chrome browser was repeatedly freezing, you might’ve explicitly mentioned one more simple-minded alternative to restarting, which Mr. Diamanti described as his only remedy to “screen freeze.” If an application hangs and it looks like the whole machine is frozen, I often (not always) get relief from using the Task Manager to kill off only that application. It doesn’t always work, but if it does work it saves restarting everything, including anything else he has open besides the browser.

Phil Katz, Seattle

A: Good point. I’ll confess I was thinking more about the cause of his freezing up than about an easier way to unfreeze. Yes, the Task Manager is the primary go-to utility when an application isn’t responding. Also, it sometimes works to right-click on the program’s icon and select “Close all windows.”


Q: I have an old PC desktop with neither microphone nor camera and an external speaker. If my smartphone is too close to the speaker, the speaker becomes noisy.

David Twigg

A: Sounds like there’s some radio wave interference going on. The trick is finding where the shielding is insufficient. I’d start by using better shielded wiring to connect the speaker. If the noise continues the point of interference is either in that old PC or in the speaker itself. I suggest first trying a different speaker.