Across Our Desk this Month

February 2019

Be the boss of your software. We are big proponents of the judicious use of freeware.  Virus protection, graphics editors, music players and little make-your-life-easier utilities such as calendars and calculators are old standbys – easily available, quick to install and, best of all, free.  Sometimes, however, there is no substitute for an expensive commercial title.  Tax preparation software, genealogy programs and office suites, for example, do sometimes come in free versions but often for a variety of reasons you have to spring the money for the real thing.

A point of confusion arises when it becomes time to retire the computer where commercial software is installed.  Many people expect that they can simply copy a program from the old machine to the new one, in the same way as they would be transferring their data.  Worse, other users assume that they will have to buy a new copy of that expensive program for installation on the new computer.  Neither notion is correct; the good news is that you probably don’t have to go to the expense of buying the program again, but the bad news is that the process is just a bit more complicated than simply copying it.

Commercial software usually comes with a “product key” also called “activation key.”  If you bought an installation disk this key would have been printed on the package.  If you Activatedownloaded the installer, the key was probably emailed to you for use at the time of installation.  We hope we are not conveying bad news when we emphasize the importance of keeping that key safe for future reference.  One time that you will need it again is if the program becomes corrupted somehow and has to be reinstalled.  Another time that the installation key is required, paradoxically, is for the purpose of uninstalling the program, because you now wish to install it on a new computer.

By the way:  A technician can often help you find that lost product key; it is usually stored hidden somewhere in your computer.

The strategy is to go to your uninstall utility to remove the program from the old computer, entering the product key when required, and to install it in the new location, again using the product key at the right time.  The following article uses the example of Microsoft Office to illustrate the process:


A confusing current Windows update is causing a lot of grief. Several of our clients have been calling us to report that their computers seem to have locked up, with nothing but a big blue screen describing some gobbledygook about “Voice Recognition.”  There appears on first glance to be no way to escape, and many people assume that they have been attacked.

In fact, this is a very poorly designed (but legitimate) Windows update, focused on your computer’s security settings.  You must scroll down through several screens, making choices onVoice each one regarding how several apps and programs will respond to your computer use in the future.  Actually, most users have told us that they emphatically do NOT want these increased interactions – targeted ads, for example – and so their response is  to select the “No” response for every choice.  Unfortunately, even when you have clicked on the “No” box, you must then click on “Accept,” which on the surface seems to be a contradiction.  Rest assured that “Accept” means simply that you are satisfied with the choice you have made on this particular screen.   It’s hard to imagine how Microsoft could possibly have made this more obscure!

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