Technology

What to do when your mobile gadgets think you’re somewhere else

The internet doesn’t always seem to understand where your mobile devices are located. There’s a fix for that.
The internet doesn’t always seem to understand where your mobile devices are located. There’s a fix for that. Getty Images

Q: I bought my HP laptop in Arizona and purchased my iPhone 6s Plus in Oklahoma. But when I do Internet searches, the PC and the phone usually think that I’m in Dallas. What’s wrong?

Kenneth Maxwell, Prairieville, La.

A: I suspect that both devices are using the same wireless router, and that the router’s IP (Internet Protocol) address mistakenly indicates that it’s in Dallas. Such location errors are common.

How could that happen? An IP address, which identifies your router to the rest of the Internet, is assigned by your Internet service provider. While the IP address number is supposed to reflect the geographic area of the device using it, the databases that associate a particular IP address with a specific location aren’t always up to date. As a result, your assigned IP address could make your router appear, to the rest of the Internet, to be in Dallas. And that could result in your being shown search results for Dallas.

Here’s how to check if your router is the problem: Use your iPhone’s cellular connection to do a search. Because you are connecting to a local cellular tower instead of your wireless router, the search results should be from your area, not Dallas.

If the router is at fault, push its reset button, which will cause it to revert to its factory settings. Then set up the router with your PC again; that should result in your Internet service provider giving the router a different IP address that may correctly indicate your location.

Alternatively, try shutting off the router for several hours (or days) to see if it will acquire a new IP address when you turn it back on. If that doesn’t work, download the latest router software update from the manufacturer and see if that causes the router to receive a new IP address.

Q: Windows 10 downloaded by itself onto my laptop, which previously had Windows XP. Since then, I’ve had difficulty finding information stored on the laptop, such as a Microsoft Excel file containing the values for my extensive stamp collection. What can I do?

Ken Dahlager, Eden Prairie, Minn.

A: What you’re describing shouldn’t be possible. Microsoft offered a free, automatic Windows 10 upgrade only to PC owners using Windows 7 and 8.1. While Windows XP could be upgraded, the process was neither free nor automatic.

Assuming that it happened anyway, the information about your stamp collection has been erased from your PC. That’s because Windows XP can only be upgraded to Windows 10 via a “clean install,” in which the new operating system overwrites everything on the hard disk. So unless you backed up your PC’s data before the upgrade, it’s gone.

Q: You said chip-based credit cards are safe without special card holders (see tinyurl.com/h48ckq6). We have had fraudulent charges on two of our chip cards in three months.

Barb Berggren, New Brighton, Minn.

A: It’s more likely that your card information was stolen, along with others, from a company with which you did business. Stolen card information can be used to make fraudulent online purchases, which don’t involve the card’s chip.

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