When you die, what happens to your online accounts if your family can’t unlock your phone? [Ask ZDNet]

When you die, what happens to your online accounts if your family can’t unlock your phone? [Ask ZDNet]

Welcome to another episode of Ask ZDNet.

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In the Mail this week: How to get your digital affairs in order so loved ones can access your online accounts after you die; how to properly operate a water-cooled PC; and why running a windows “debloater” might not be such a good idea.

If you have a question on any of the topics ZDNet blankets, we are here for you. Questions can cover any topic related to work and technology, including PCs and Macs, mobile devices, security and privacy, social media, home office equipment, electronics general public, business etiquette, financial advice… well, you get the idea.

Send your questions to ask@zdnet.com. Due to the volume of submissions, we cannot guarantee a personal response, but we promise to read every letter and respond here to any that we think will be of interest to our readers.

Ask away.

What happens to your online accounts if you die and loved ones can’t unlock your phone?

I fear that using two-factor authentication will cause real problems for the people you leave behind. What is the solution ?

A surprising amount of our business now takes place online, especially financial matters. The good news is that most financial institutions have well-established procedures for handling your untimely demise. If your next of kin can provide a valid death certificate, the person handling the estate may have access to their accounts.

But for most online services, you’ll have to jump through serious hurdles if you can’t provide the proper credentials to log in. Acrobatics can reach an extreme degree of difficulty if 2FA is involved.

If the deceased person’s mobile number is in your family account, you can contact the mobile carrier to have the number transferred to you. If you don’t have access to the account, the executor can contact the cell phone provider to make the transfer. Here are instructions for the three major cell phone carriers in the United States. If you have another carrier, you should be able to find similar instructions on their support site.

Tombstone with login failed message

It’s up to you to put your digital affairs in order so that your survivors can sort through your things once you get rid of this deadly coil.

Jake Albaugh / ZDNet

For other types of accounts, including email and social media, you’ll encounter more serious hurdles. Google, for example, says it may provide content from a deceased user’s account to immediate family members, but will not provide passwords or other login information. Facebook has a similar policy. And Apple makes it clear that the only way it can remove passcode lock for iPhone by erasing the device.

It is really up to you to put your digital affairs in order so that your survivors can sort through your things once you get rid of this deadly coil. The easiest way to do this is to write down your email account username and password and your phone password. if you use a password manager, also include instructions for accessing its contents. Keep this document in a safe place with other important documents, including your will and life insurance policy. And make sure whoever’s left knows where to look for those documents.

Do I need to do anything to make my water-cooled PC work properly?

I bought a gaming PC with a liquid cooling system last year. I regularly clean the dust from the system, including the liquid cooling radiator. But what about the coolant itself? I don’t see a tank to check the level, so I assume it’s a closed system. Should I assume that the cooling system will last the life of the PC? Should I replace the coolant regularly?

There’s probably nothing you can do that stresses a PC more than playing an action-packed full-screen game at high frame rates. All that stress generates heat, which has to go somewhere. A simple fan or two is usually enough on PCs that perform light professional tasks. But rigs with powerful CPUs and GPUs can benefit from liquid cooling systems.

To answer your question, I asked Kyle Harbinger, who has been building and repairing PCs for many years in the Albany, NY area. You can find him on Twitter under @bruns_computers.

In a closed-loop system, no maintenance is needed other than occasionally blowing dust from the heatsink and fans with canned air. A closed-loop system usually has only one cooling block (heat sink) above the processor. The pump sits above the heatsink and then the entire unit attaches to the motherboard directly over the processor. The tubes then go from the pump to the radiator.

In an open system, these tubes would be connected to a reservoir where you can add or change the coolant. Open systems do require some maintenance, refilling the coolant as needed and also replacing it every year or two depending on usage.

On both system types, it’s a good idea to remove the heatsink every few years to clean off the old thermal paste and apply new paste. For really heavy gamers, it may be appropriate to do this service every year, as the thermal paste dries out from the heat. I recommend entrusting this type of work to an experienced computer service/repair professional. I’ve seen a few systems go bad when someone tries to remove and/or replace the heatsink and bonding and it doesn’t get done properly.

If you want to know more about these cooling systems, check out “How liquid-cooled PCs work”, from the good folks at HowStuffWorks.

Is this Windows 11 “debloater” utility safe to run?

A friend recommended a Windows 11 “debloater” utility. He swears it made his PC faster, but I’m skeptical. What is the risk?

For as long as I can remember, people have been complaining about the “bloat” of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. They used to be called performance optimizers, and they were mostly snake oil, in my experience. Utilities that promise to streamline your Windows 11 experience these days tend to be (usually free) scripts that remove apps, disable services, clean up the Windows registry, and change default settings, all in the name of better performance.

On modern PCs with sufficient system resources, you’ll see marginal benefit at best from this kind of indiscriminate scrubbing, and you run a significant risk of causing additional problems that will cost you far more troubleshooting time than you’ll save. in a set. year. I went through user-reported issues on a popular script hosted on GitHub and found a staggering range of complaints, ranging from “breaks sleep mode on my laptop” and “all my desktop icons have become black” to “Most things on my PC are now broken.”

Then, of course, there’s the risk of one of those scripts adding malware, because a popular script was found to do earlier this year.

If you have older hardware that can’t be upgraded, you might benefit from reducing the impact of apps and services running in the background. But you don’t need one of those versatile scripts to achieve this.

As well: How to speed up your old Windows or Mac PC


Send your questions to ask@zdnet.com. Due to the volume of submissions, we cannot guarantee a personal response, but we promise to read every letter and respond here to any that we think will be of interest to our readers. Be sure to include a working email address in case we have follow-up questions. We promise not to use it for other purposes.


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