Q: I have an unusual request. My 98-year-old mother is missing her 90-year-old brother who lives cross-country. Since he has an iPad, I thought it might be easiest to try to connect them via FaceTime rather than opting for Skype.

I have only Windows products I would be considering for use, either an older Toshiba laptop that which still has Windows 7 on it, or a Dell which has Windows 10.

I know there are apps for converting FaceTime to Windows usage — I am very uncertain about which ones might be safe to use and about any particulars involved in their usage. I am also concerned that I have a very slow internet speed and am wondering if I would need to upgrade to use it.

Can you enlighten me with anything you might know on the subject? I would be most appreciative since I think it would be very meaningful to both of them.

— Mike Unruh

A: Actually, I’ve had the same issue with FaceTime. My wife and her family all use Apple products and they’re very familiar with FaceTime. She had to also install Skype so that we could video chat since I’m on Windows.

When Apple first introduced FaceTime, in fact, the company promised to release a version for Windows as well. Unfortunately, it never followed through.


Yes, you can get FaceTime to run on Windows but it isn’t easy. The only way I’m aware of is to install emulation software that allows you to run Apple’s OSX operating system on your Windows computer. If you want a reliable, well-supported emulation program, such as VMWare’s Workstation. It’s not expensive. The Pro version goes for $40 and a streamlined Player version goes for around $20.

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At the same time, though, if you’re running the emulation software all the time just in case someone wants to start a FaceTime session, you’re using up system resources and you may find slowed performance in your other programs.

So my recommendation is to install Skype, since it doesn’t require any operating-system emulation. Skype is freely available in versions for Windows, Apple OSX, Apple iOS and Android.

Oh, and as far as the internet speed goes, you didn’t mention just how slow it is. As long is you’ve got steady connectivity, however, FaceTime will likely work fine. It doesn’t actually consume much bandwidth. According to Apple, a 128 kbps connection (both upload and download) should do the trick.

Q: With regard to your recent column about wiping data from drives, there is a middle ground between hoping for the best and physically destroying a disk (or using one of the “wipe” programs that are out there) when it comes to making sure your data has actually been erased. That’s to do a reformat.

What I suggest is to change the file system. In the Windows world there are two families of file systems, FAT and NTFS. My suggestion is to reformat the disk to the other one.


Finally, some device types (SSD, for instance) force you to do a “quick” format. The good news here is that the standard tools for recovering deleted data don’t work with these devices. For regular disks where the tools do work, doing a “full” format will cause all of the data on the disk to be written over.

This approach requires you to have some stand-alone media like an installation disk or a system recovery disk you can boot from. And it’s a bit tricky navigating your way around to the “command prompt.” But after that you just type in “format c: /fs=fat32”, or whatever, and your data will be safe from anyone lacking professional grade tools and expertise.

— Patrick J. Russell

A: You’re right. The one caution I’d add for users who choose to go this route is that if you do a quick reformat you’re not actually removing any of your data from the disc and it can be retrieved by a person with the right tools.

In the end, it’s all about trust. And if you don’t trust the recycle center to actually wipe your drive clean then why not download a free disk wipe program and do it yourself?

And, by the way, I completely agree that there’s no need to go to the extreme of destroying drives that can still be used!

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