Tech Q&A: Ways to avoid the trackers that follow you online

Question: I use a Windows 10 laptop, the Microsoft Edge Web browser and the privacy-oriented DuckDuckGo and Startpage search engines. When I most recently used the CCleaner program (which finds and deletes unneeded or unwanted software) it found only two Web trackers on my PC, down from the hundreds it usually finds. Why am I detecting fewer trackers? — S.F., Phoenix

Answer: Web trackers are typically put on your PC by commercial websites; they’re designed to learn about your interests and what you might buy (see

If you are finding fewer Web trackers, you might have enabled CCleaner’s “smart cleaning” feature (see It causes the program to automatically clean, or prompt you to clean, your PC and browser. As a result, the PC would accumulate fewer trackers.

Software updates are another possible cause. There might have been security changes made to the Edge browser (see for changes that are in progress) or the DuckDuckGo and Startpage search engines (read about their Web tracker blocking at for DuckDuckGo and for Startpage.)

Clarification: Last week’s column about using safe passwords referred to the 2020 hack of the SolarWinds IT firm, which allowed hackers to spy on the federal government. While the company’s use of a simplistic server password was criticized in Congress, it was ultimately determined that the hackers had used another method to gain entry to SolarWinds’ IT systems, and that the simple password had not been involved.

Question: I’ve lost the use of about a third of my Apple iTunes music, which I keep on two iPods. Due to a (2009) file format change, the older music won’t play on other devices. Will DRM (Digital Rights Management) removal software give me access to this music again? — L.C., Miami

Answer: Yes. Any iTunes songs that were downloaded in 2009 or earlier are protected by DRM, which limits the devices they can be played on. DRM removal software can convert them to MP3s (see, which are not restricted and can be played on nearly any device.

You’ll need to move the music from the iPods to a PC or Mac, the devices on which most DRM software runs. The iTunes program won’t do that, so use non-Apple software for the transfer (see for PC and Mac programs or for PC-only software.)

Question: I didn’t get an instruction book with the iMac I bought three years ago. How can I get one? — M.V-K, Wayzata

Answer: The user manual should be stored on the Mac. In the Apple menu, click “about this Mac,” then click “support.” In the “macOS resources” section, click “user manual.”

But if you can’t find what you need there, go to, click “desktops,” and at the bottom of the page, click “load more results” until you find your specific Mac model. Click the word “essentials” next to your model. Click “table of contents.”