Q: Can you explore the best way to store digital photos for the long term? I am currently downloading from our iPhone XR by connecting them to a 2017 HP laptop with a Seagate 2 TD SSD.

Also, can you recommend photo management software that can remove duplicate photos? I do most of my editing on my iPad and also backup to Google Photos.

— Don Pappe

A: There are no surefire means of storing anything digital for the “long term,” but it sounds like you’re on a right track. First, I like solid-state drives for longer-term storage simply because they have no moving parts and are accordingly less susceptible to failure. Still, SSDs can fail so if you really want to play it safe you’ll want to make more than one backup.

And don’t make the mistake of keeping your drive in the same place as your computer. If there’s a fire or a flood you could lose both. In short, for things you really don’t want to lose, keep two backups in different locations.

My strategy is the same as yours: to back up both to an SSD drive and to cloud storage. The SSD drive is faster for uploading and downloading and the cloud storage is safe from any physical catastrophes that may strike my home or office.

As for your second question, I haven’t tried programs that remove duplicate photos but I do know that there are quite a few on the market and some of them are free or at least free to try. You can find an extensive list here: st.news/marshall0314 .

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Q: About twice a year I need a phone number of someone. I don’t need a monthly subscription to a service. Every time I search for a “White Page” service for a one-time look up, I get a service that will allow you to look up one number but you have to sign up for a $15-a-month service, which you can cancel if you call a certain number. We all know how that goes. You call a number which never answers or gives you a runaround. I refuse to get bogged down in that spiral.


Is there a legitimate site where you can look up one number for a price and not have to sign up for a subscription that you don’t need.?

— Richard Hawes

A: I wish there was a good answer to your question! I have not been able to find a free service for locating phone numbers. And I haven’t been able to find a simple way to pay for a single search. The closest I’ve come is some services that offer to do your first search for one dollar and then you pay a monthly subscription that you can cancel at any time. Yes, I do know how that goes …

So I’ll pitch this one out to the readership: Anyone know of a better way to find phone numbers?

Q: I have Oracle Virtual Box running on an old Compaq laptop with Windows 7. On Virtual Box I have virtual machines running Debian and Ubuntu. If I connect to the internet using the Linux virtual machines, is there any way for malware to propagate from the VM environment to the Windows 7 environment? I am wondering if this configuration isolates my laptop from internet malware designed to attack Windows 7 vulnerabilities.

— Brian, Sammamish

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A: Computer security is all about degrees of safety. Is it possible to a hacker to gain access to your laptop running Windows 7 if you’re connected to the internet via a Linux virtual machine? Yes. Is it likely? No, it is relatively unlikely.


There are viruses and malware out there that can affect Linux, so as soon as you connect to the internet you are potentially exposed. As a result, there are antivirus and antimalware programs for Linux that you can install to provide additional security.

At the same time, it’s no surprise that there is a lot more malware out there designed to attack vulnerabilities in the more popular Windows operating systems. So yes, any layers you can put between Windows 7 and the internet will provide extra protection. That’s especially important since Microsoft is no longer updating Windows 7 with security patches.

Again, 100 percent security is not possible. So the question is how much do you want to spend in time and money to attain a given level of security?