Q: I’m looking at buying a new laptop and have two questions. First, which brand(s) do you consider the best quality? I’m leaning toward a Dell. Secondly, regarding the CPU, I’m trying to decide between Intel i5 and i7. I am an average user and don’t do any high-end gaming. What is the difference between these two?

David Charles

A: The major brands are all pretty comparable and I’d feel very comfortable with any of them. Of greater importance is how you like the look and feel of specific models. After all, you’re likely to spending quite a chunk of your waking time touching and looking at whichever model you choose. And yes, there are differences — display size and resolution, keyboard tactile response, etc. So I always recommend that people get hands-on before buying.

As for processors, as you might suspect there are differences in performance. If you’re just doing email, web browsing and streaming movies, an i5 processor should be good enough. But if you’re gaming, editing videos, or other processor-intensive chores you’d want to move to an i7 or i9 processor. And yes, as you move up the scale, the prices go up along with the performance.

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Q: After reading your recommendation for Browser Guard in your article today in the Times, I went online to download the Browser Guard app. This message came up:

Browser Guard is endorsed as a perfect tool that protects your browser against threats. However, during installation of said program, other bunch of unwanted application may also get inside the computer. It is noticed that Browser Guard are spreading malicious software or PUP.”


Do you still recommend this program?

Paula Cramer

A: After receiving your email I found that there is another program on the market called Browser Guard and, yes, some sites have tagged it as being the source unwanted software downloads. The text you sent me is from Malwarefixes.com, and it does not identify the manufacturer of the Browser Guard they tested. (I’d also be cautious about accepting advice from sites that display poor grammar.)

That Browser Guard program is NOT from Malwarebytes. The Malwarebytes Browser Guard browser extension does not install unwanted software. So just make sure that you’re installing the Malwarebytes Browser Guard add-on to your browser rather than downloading any program.

Yes, I still recommend the Malwarebytes Browser Guard extension for Firefox.

Q: I just purchased the latest Microsoft Surface Go 2 for use away from my secure personal home router. A Microsoft agent told me during my purchase that Windows 10’s security features mean I won’t need a virtual private network when browsing on public Wi-Fi in airports, coffee shops and the like and when accessing my Outlook accounts. (I will also be running Malwarebytes.) Is this accurate? If generally true, to be safest, should I avoid logging on to financial accounts?

Michael Winkelhorst

A: I think there must have been a misunderstanding on one end or the other. Unless the Surface Go 2 offered a built-in, always-on VPN I would most certainly recommend installing a VPN for accessing the internet over public Wi-Fi, especially if you’re sending or receiving sensitive information, such as passwords and banking transactions.

I couldn’t find anything in Microsoft statements or advertising about not recommending a VPN when using public Wi-Fi. And, in fact, Microsoft provides detailed instructions for how to set up a VPN for its devices.