Ask Leo! #444 – Saving downloaded programs, Using Windows file compression, Safe backups and more…

The Ask Leo! Newsletter

*** Featured

How do I reinstall downloaded programs?

I recently downloaded and installed an application. It works just great, but having no CD, how do I reinstall the program in the event of a disaster?

There are several possible answers to reinstall downloaded programs that depend on exactly what it is you purchased and where you purchased it from.

The good news is that there’s rarely a reason you would ever lose what you purchased, as long as you took a few precautions.

Let’s look at what those precautions might be.

Continue Reading: How do I reinstall downloaded programs?

Should I use Windows File Compression?

I was wondering if I should run the Disk Cleanup utility and select the Compress Old Files option to use Windows File Compression. It is currently taking up 14372KB of space. Should I compress old files?

While you’re only asking about the Disk Cleanup utility, I’m going to talk about Windows File Compression in more general terms. Using file compression to save space is nothing new, even when it’s native in the file system used by Windows. Whether or not it makes sense to use isn’t necessarily a slam dunk.

In fact, without knowing more, I get to use all three of my favorite answers:



It depends.

After you’ve finishing beating your head against the computer, read on, and I’ll explain why I say all three. We’ll also discover that later versions of Windows itself have made a not-too-subtle suggestion as well.

Continue Reading: Should I use Windows File Compression?

*** Answercast

AnswerCast 107 - Safe backups, broken monitors, restoring computer, too many updates and more...

Do you want to copy your entire computer or backup online? Wondering what compacting your email means or why an external monitor stays blank? Looking for mysterious time on an email or a hacker? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

Listen Now!
(Includes the raw transcript on which the articles below were based.)

Why is Microsoft Security Essentials constantly saying potentially unprotected?
The "potentially unprotected" warning seems fairly common in situations where you really are still protected. I'll cover several theories as to why it might appear.

Continue reading: Why is Microsoft Security Essentials constantly saying potentially unprotected?

Is my data safe in an online backup program?
Whenever we use an online service, such as an online backup, we’re trusting that they’re doing what they say they do: keeping our information secure.

Continue reading: Is my data safe in an online backup program?

Why are emails I receive five minutes out of sync?
Outlook doesn’t keep its own time. Outlook uses the system time. The real issue here is understanding where the "time" comes from when you receive an email.

Continue reading: Why are emails I receive five minutes out of sync?

What good are image backups if I can't restore an old backup to my new machine?
Image backups are excellent protection against almost all forms of data loss. They're not really intended to make transferring to a new computer easier, though in rare circumstances they can come in handy for that too.

Continue reading: What good are image backups if I can't restore an old backup to my new machine?

Can I simply copy everything on my drive in case something bad happens?
There are in fact utilities that can do an actual clone of your computer, but I would prefer you move to a more traditional image backup system.

Continue reading: Can I simply copy everything on my drive in case something bad happens?

What does it mean when my email program asks if it should compact my email?
Compacting should be completely transparent. It makes files smaller and potentially makes access of email a little faster. There is one dramatic exception.

Continue reading: What does it mean when my email program asks if it should compact my email?

What's the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn't get discs?
If you don't have installation or recovery media then you'll need to take additional steps to prepare for the day you might need to reset to factory settings. Additional steps using software that I hope you already have.

Continue reading: What's the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn't get discs?

Why doesn't my external monitor work?
You plug a new monitor into a laptop with a broken screen and still can't see anything! You may need to tap a few magic keystrokes to turn it on.

Continue reading: Why doesn't my external monitor work?

How do I find who hacked my email?
It's natural to want to find who hacked your email and why. Begin by recovering your account and securing it. But then, just let it go. There's almost nothing you or I as individuals can do to find out who hacked you.

Continue reading: How do I find who hacked my email?

If I copy a file to another drive will it be fragmented the same way?
Fragmentation is about how a file is stored on a disk and is not preserved across a copy. In fact, in some cases you can defragment a hard drive using copy.

Continue reading: If I copy a file to another drive will it be fragmented the same way?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week


Compression is the process of running data through a mathematical algorithm which results in data that contains exactly the same information, but ideally using less data, i.e. resulting in a smaller file.

The key to any compression algorithm is that when decompressed the original data is recovered, exactly.

Most often we compress data contained in files on our computers. A compression program such as WinZip, 7-zip, gzip, WinRAR and many others, reads the file to be compressed, runs the data it contains through the compression algorithm and writes the result to a new, typically smaller file.

A compression algorithm is that mathematical function, of which there are many; zip, rar and gzip are three common examples. Any program that understands a specific algorithm can typically compress or decompress files interchangeably with other programs that understand the same algorithm. Many programs, 7-Zip being one good example, have the ability to understand several different compression algorithms.

Many compression programs, WinZip and similar being examples, double as file archiving programs. In addition to compressing files these programs bundle multiple compressed files into a single output file, referred to as a compressed archive.

It’s worth noting that all compression algorithms have worst-case scenarios where running data through the compression algorithm produces a result that is larger than the original. While possible, with most common algorithms it’s actually relatively rare.

Word o' the Week features a computer term or acronym taken from the Ask Leo! Glossary. If there's a word you're not sure of and would like to see defined, click here to let me know.

*** Featured Reader Comments

Can I install Windows XP on a machine that comes with Windows 8?

Ken B writes:

There are a couple of other choices:

First, if your computer supports it, you can install "XP Mode", which is Microsoft's "official" way of running XP within Windows 7 (and, I assume, 8). xp-mode-in-windows-7

Second, though this may be "too techie" for many people, is to install a "virtual machine" on your system. I have used Oracle's "VirtualBox" to run numerous operating systems on my system. (There are other VMs out there, but this is the one I'm using.)

Yes, this requires that you find a legal XP install, but you would need that no matter what method you use. (Microsoft's "XP Mode" includes a legal copy.)

I happen to like choice 2, because it lets me run multiple systems on a single box. (Of course, I'm a geek, so I like having things like MS-DOS 6, Windows 3.1, Windows XP, and several flavors of Linux available at the click of a mouse.)

I'm a fan of approach #2 as well, though as you say it is a bit techie. Unfortunately I don't believe XP Mode is available in Windows 8. (Though I would assume it's preserved if you do an upgrade install of Windows 8 on top of Windows 7.)



Is it safe to use a mobile banking app over an open Wi-Fi connection?

Michael writes:

Even if a tablet/smartphone app is using SSL that does not mean it is being used correctly. Lots can go wrong and a couple studies have shown that it does go wrong. App developers make some brutal mistakes.

A VPN is a good idea but not perfect. While it should protect you from snoops in your immediate vicinity, the VPNs available to consumers do not offer end to end encryption. I have tried using a VPN on both Android 2.3 and 4 and its a big pain. I ran into assorted coding errors by Google that my VPN provider had to work around. And on Android 2.3 it required entering two passwords to make a connection.

In contrast VPNs on iOS worked great for me.


Does installing lots of programs destabilize my computer?

James writes:

I slightly disagree with Leo.

Installing software can sometimes also cause problems. Not rot, but it seems that so many programs these days like to put themselves into StartUp or the Run registry key so that they run when you boot up your computer.

They say they are doing you a favour by pre-loading some components of the software so that it runs faster when you go to use the software. But the reality is, sometimes you are just turning on your computer to check your email and don't need five different programs to take the time to load up into memory or check for program updates (e.g. Flash) and slow down your computer.

I recently started from scratch on my Windows XP computer and I took the time to evaluate how I used that computer (I also have a laptop that I use regularly) and look at what software I was putting back on the machine. If another piece of software duplicated a task, I only installed one. I only use Excel on my laptop, so I didn't bother to install Excel on the XP computer, for example.

What I ended up with was a cleaner machine that is quicker to boot up so I can do what I really turned the computer on for, not what some software vendor thinks I might want to do.

Actually you raise a very good point with respect to start-up pollution.



*** Thoughts and Comments

You broke my server!

Actually, I'm going to blame registry cleaners (yes, registry cleaners) for breaking the Ask Leo! server last week.

No, I didn't run one (the server runs Linux where there is no registry), but shortly after the newsletter came out last week the Ask Leo! server buckled under the load.


I think a lot of people wanted to read all about registry cleaners, and many wanted to leave their opinion. There was no shortage of opinions on the topic. Smile

So, imagine that your computer was slowing down or had a problem of some sort, and there was a dial on the side of it that you could adjust. In fact, three dials: number of CPUs, amount of RAM and amount of disk space. Simply by adjusting those dials you could give your computer more (or less) of those resources.

That's why I like virtual machines and virtual servers. Over the weekend I twisted a (virtual) dial, and the Ask Leo! server rebooted and came back up with twice as much RAM (the real culprit in last week's problem, I believe), a second CPU and a bunch more disk space.

Virtual servers like those that I use, actually live on significantly more powerful hardware that typically has many CPUs, oodles of RAM and buckets of disk space. When the virtual server is created a portion of the available physical resources are dedicated to the virtual machine. "Twisting the dial" means nothing more than changing the allocation.

Pretty cool stuff.

And a shout out to the folks at LiquidWeb's Storm On Demand, the server hosting that I use, for rebooting my server each time it failed, before I even noticed.

See you next week,

Leo A. Notenboom
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