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Driver messages that drive you crazy

Q: I keep getting a window popping up on my laptop, which is running Windows 10. It says I have outdated drivers, with an offer to update them for a price. How can I find out if I really do have outdated drivers? How do I know if the window is a legitimate offer or a scam?

A: While free driver utility programs are available online, any aggressive pop-up window that points out supposed issues with your computer and then offers to fix them for a price is trying to take advantage of you. Some of these offers may not be outright scams, but they are trying to make a quick buck by doing something you can do yourself for free. Persistent pop-ups shilling products can also indicate your computer has a spyware or adware infection and needs anti-malware software.

Windows 10 automatically downloads and installs new versions of your driver software through Windows Update, the same system tool that downloads and installs system updates and monthly security patches pushed out by Microsoft. If you have trouble with a certain hardware device (even after an update), you can try manually updating the driver to try to fix the problem.

To update a driver yourself, press the Windows and X keys and select Device Manager from the menu that appears. In the Device Manager window, click a hardware category to open the list, right-click the name of the problematic device and choose Update Driver.

If you still have issues after updating, return to the Device Manager, choose Uninstall Device from the menu and restart the PC; Windows will try to reinstall a new copy of the driver itself. You can also find driver software on the device manufacturer’s website.

How to Make Sure a Website Is Secure

Q: I was browsing online and noticed a small letter “i” in a circle. What does that mean? I use the Chrome browser.

A: The web is full of sites that do not use the strongest security; some browsers — including Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox — now warn users when the page they are visiting may put their information at risk. In Chrome, that “i” symbol indicates a site may not be secure because it is using an unencrypted connection. When you click the “i” on the left side of the Chrome address bar, you can see more information about the site, adjust some settings and possibly see a security warning.

As you may have noticed from online shopping, sites with secure connections use a form of the HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure technology to encrypt data between their web servers and your computer; this helps protect your credit-card number and other personal information from being intercepted by someone else. These sites also have a security certificate from a presumably trusted authority that verifies the website’s identity and protects it from being modified. You typically see a padlock icon and a URL that starts with https:// when you have a secure connection.

Chrome labels sites that use a plain HyperText Transfer Protocol connection (http://) without the encryption factor as “nonsecure,” because a third party could intercept your information — or the site could be masquerading as something else; try adding an “s” to the end of the http:// prefix to see if the site has a secure version. Sites that Google considers dangerous because of major security lapses or possible malicious intent get a red-alert triangle in the address box, and sometimes a full-page warning.

Google announced in September that it was “moving towards a more secure web” and Mozilla recently added insecure password warnings to the Firefox browser. Many sites around the web (including nytimes.com and other news organizations) have also switched to https:// connections.

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