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Tech Q&A: Weighing the risks of outdated software

Steve Alexander, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Science & Technology News

Q: I use Microsoft Office 2007, which I load from a disk instead of my hard drive. After a recent Windows 10 update, most of the icons for my Word documents changed from a blue "W" to an orange "MS."

When I click on those icons, a message tells me that I don't have Office on my PC, then offers to let me try or buy Office 2013.

I checked on Office 2007, and learned that, while it will continue to work, there will be no more security updates for it.

What can I do?

Dave Harris, Colorado Springs, Colo.

A: The way you load Office 2007 is probably the cause. The larger question is whether you should continue to use that program.

Try installing Office 2007 on your hard disk instead of loading it from another disk. That way, Windows 10 will be able to verify that you have a copy of Office, and will allow your Word files to be opened by it.

But should you keep using Office 2007 now that it no longer receives security updates? It depends on your appetite for risk.

If you continue to use Office 2007, you might be the victim of a malware attack in the future (you can read about past malware attacks on Office at tinyurl.com/ycbnbzyr and tinyurl.com/yd2o82e8). But it's not a clear-cut case of "replace or else."

A recent survey showed that many businesses continue to use Office 2007, despite the risk (see tinyurl.com/yaaaroac).

The safer course is to buy the newest version of the program, Office 2016, which will receive security updates until October 2025. But it's your call.

Q: Windows updates seem to be hopelessly stuck on my 64-bit Windows 7 PC. I tried a software fix from your column (see tinyurl.com/yc7m5ekn), but it didn't solve the problem.

In addition, my browsers sometimes can't reach the internet, my two computer screens occasionally go dark and my antivirus software won't update. What should I do?

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James Nelson, Stacy, Minn.

A: Run the free version of the Malwarebytes program to see whether your multiple problems are being caused by malicious software (see tinyurl.com/jsdacdk).

After that, try Microsoft's recently altered fix for Windows 7 updates that get "stuck" (see tinyurl.com/y79u5ekz). In addition, update your PC's software drivers, which enable PC components to communicate with Windows 7 (see tinyurl.com/hgr8zab).

The drivers should also be available from the PC manufacturer's website if you can't get them via Windows 7.

Q: Some people in my senior cooperative have hearing aids with Bluetooth receivers. Is there a device that will connect to a single TV and transmit the audio to all our Bluetooth hearing aids?

Gilbert Mros, Roseville

A: There are intermediary devices that connect to a TV and rebroadcast the audio signal to Bluetooth-equipped hearing aids. But none of them work with all brands of hearing aids. (For details, see tinyurl.com/ybkubnfp).

About The Writer

Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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