December 1, 2023

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Do I still need a VPN? And does my computer have a group policy for updates? | Q&A with Patrick Marshall

3 min read

Q: Can you comment in your column about using a VPN? There was a recent article in The Seattle Times that, in part, suggested not using one.

Allen Matson

A: Yes, I read that article (It’s time to stop paying for a VPN), too.

And, yes, we are in a transition period. Many sites, especially those of financial institutions, are using HTTPS, which is a secure internet protocol that doesn’t need a VPN to ensure against eavesdropping.

That said, many sites still don’t use HTTPS and hackers could potentially gather information about you and your computer when you communicate with those sites.

As the article noted, if you go without a VPN there are other security steps you should be sure to take, including using two-factor authentication. Most typically, two-factor authentication means that even if a hacker gets your password to a site when they try to log in they’ll first have to respond with a code sent to your phone. If the hacker doesn’t also have the code sent to your phone they can’t get in.

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Read more from Patrick Marshall here >>

I like the suggestion by the article’s author of setting up a free VPN offered by Algo VPN. Unfortunately, setting it up is beyond the expertise and patience of many, if not most, users. If the author sees value in setting up his free VPN why is he arguing that consumers should stop paying for a VPN? For many, the payment allows them to avoid the complications of setting up a free service.

A VPN is an extra layer of protection that requires very little knowledge or effort on the part of the user. So yes, I still recommend use of a VPN when accessing the internet over public Wi-Fi. Is it possible that you could forgo using a VPN and never regret it? Yes, and it’s probably even probable. So it comes down to how much risk you are willing to take.

Q: I am running Windows 10 Professional 64-bit on an HP laptop about 2 years old. I wanted to know if my laptop could be upgraded to Windows 11 (not that I am in a hurry for that) so I downloaded PC Health Check. When I run this program, the first screen says, among other things, under Backup & Sync: “Your organization manages back up and sync settings on this PC. Contact your IT admin for more info.”

When I click on Check Now, I get the message, “Your organization manages updates on this PC.” And I get no information on whether my computer can run Windows 11.

I do not have an organization. I am just a 90-year-old trying to keep his computer up and running. Can you advise how I can get Windows to stop thinking that an organization manages updates on it?

Richard Beckenbaugh

A: Are you the original owner of that laptop? Since you are running Windows 10 Professional it may be that a group policy has been set up that blocks users from performing their own updates.

Here’s how to check group policies regarding updates:

  1. Hold down the Windows key and press the R key.
  2. In the window that pops up type “gpedit.msc” and hit the Enter key.
  3. When the Group Policy editor opens navigate to Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Windows Update.
  4. Look through the 30-plus settings to see if any are enabled and might interfere with an update. Disable any such settings.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time for a specialist to take a hands-on look.

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