The problems with using Dropbox for cloud-only storage

Ørjan Takle asked about storing photos on the Dropbox server without local storage. I’ll also cover Dropbox backup issues.

Dropbox’s primary job is to keep files synced across multiple computers and devices. The idea is that your files exist both locally (on your hard drive or SSD) and in the cloud (Dropbox’s servers). If you boot another PC that’s also set up with your Dropbox account, the files are synced there, as well.

[Have a tech question? As Answer Line transitions from Lincoln Spector to Josh Norem, you can still send your query to]

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POP3 vs. IMAP: Which protocol lets you get all of your email on any device

Wayne Zimmerman’s wife usually reads email on her own PC. But when she tries to read it on her husband’s PC, the messages get mixed up.

I’m going to guess that your wife’s email client software is configured to use the outdated Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) protocol. POP3 worked fine when most people had one computer and no smartphone. But as people use multiple computers and mobile devices to access their mail, it’s ridiculous.

[Have a tech question? As Answer Line transitions from Lincoln Spector to Josh Norem, you can still send your query to]

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Stop videos from autoplaying in your browser

Peggy Deras wants to know how to stop videos from playing automatically when she visits a website. She read my previous article on the subject, and discovered that it no longer works.

For obvious reasons, PCWorld readers in particular hate videos that start playing automatically when a webpage opens. I covered this topic at the beginning of last year, but things change, and it’s time for me to revisit it again.

And no, it’s not hypocritical for a site that uses autoloading videos to publish an article on stopping them. It’s a sign of a healthy separation between editorial and advertising.

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When to choose a password, when to choose a PIN

Chuck asked about the difference between using a PIN or a password. “To me they seem to serve the same purpose.”

Like a password, a Personal Information Number (PIN) allows you to prove that you’re you, so that no one else can access your data. The obvious difference is that a PIN is limited to numerical digits (0-9), while a password can contain numerical digits, upper- and lowercase letters, and punctuation.

But that doesn’t explain the advantages of each.

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Remove that extra operating system and the dual boot

Richard T. Wagner wants to remove Windows 7 from a dual-boot PC, and keep Windows 10. His version of Windows 7 doesn't even work.

Running multiple versions of Windows on one PC gives you more options, but eventually you'll probably want to go back to only one. And when you do, you'll soon tire of that dual-boot menu that pops up all of the time.

You can easily turn off the Boot Menu, but removing the previous version of Windows can be dangerous. These instructions assume you have Windows 10 and want to keep it. With slight modifications, they'll work with other versions.

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5 ways to stop spam from invading your email

Frank Miller (and no, I don’t know if he’s that Frank Miller) asked if there was “a way to stop or reduce the spam mail that I receive?”

Short of cutting yourself off from the Internet, there’s no way to eliminate spam entirely. The best you can do is filter out most of it, and even that has some unfortunate consequences.

Your email client (the local program or cloud-based service you use to access and send email) almost certainly filters spam, moving suspicious messages to a separate folder. But it’s not perfect. Some spam tricks the filter and ends up in your inbox. And some legitimate messages, called false positives, end up in the spam folder.

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3 ways to recover an older version of an existing file

Jim Wilkerson tells me that he “opened a WordPad document that I have been working on for about two weeks…the last ten or so pages were not there.”

You can’t recover an older version of an existing file the way you can recover deleted ones. The file, as it existed last Wednesday, has almost certainly been overwritten by a later version. But hopefully, there may be older versions of that file elsewhere. Here are three places to look.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to]

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